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This last month I was one of the millions of people who sat and watched as Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle.  I love weddings in general, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint with all the pomp and ceremony and glamour, not to mention the incredible promises of covenant to one another.

I’ve been intrigued by the social media frenzy stirred up by Bishop Michael Curry’s passionate preaching.  Voices of admiration rang out almost as loudly as some in the christian camp booing him for not giving a full enough rendition of sin and its penalty.  Whilst I can understand where some are coming from, I’ve got to say I thought his message was timely, beautiful and profound.  As I understand from scripture, God is love – and so I’m not convinced that we can ever overemphasise the incredible world-transforming nature of it.

Listening to him preach and reading over some of what’s been commented has led me to scripture again to look at love.  I’ve been musing over Paul’s words in Ephesians 3 and am more convinced than ever that God’s heart for the world and for His people is to be totally and utterly overwhelmed and immersed in His love.

Here’s Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 –

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (NKJV)

A few thoughts on these verses –

  1. Let love be your foundation

Our roots are in love – that’s where everything starts in our journey with Jesus.  Sometimes I think we’ve tried to rewrite the Gospel so that God’s motivation toward us becomes more sin and judgement focussed, but the best known verse in the world remains true in direct opposition to this sort of thinking – it was because God so LOVED the world that He gave His son.  Let’s not muddy the waters by trying to get theologically clever.  Let’s be clear – the gospel story is rooted in one emotion and Paul’s prayer springboards from that place of rooting and grounding:  Love.  It’s not a flimsy fickle sort of love.  It’s not a here today, gone tomorrow kind of love.  It’s a world-transforming, cross-bearing, death defying sort of love.  And it’s on offer to you and me.

  1. Let love be your comprehension

Starting in love, Paul prays that we would be able to comprehend it.  That our minds will be stretched to understanding the incredible proportions of it.  That our thinking would be inundated with this emotion from the heart of the Father.  The gospel has you rooted in love, now let’s journey in understanding it, in filling our minds with the truth of it, in trying to grasp the extent of love that our Papa has for us.  It’s a study that is so vast that it blows our minds (and boxes of thinking) wide open.

  1. Let love be your experience

Paul’s words are provoking because though he prays that we comprehend the love of God in verse 18, he’s clear in verse 19 that it goes beyond comprehension.  No matter how much we study and learn of the love of God it will never be enough because it is so much greater than our minds can fathom.  Comprehending His love is a worthy and important pursuit, but it’s an insufficient one.  God wants to journey us so that the love that we start in and work to understand is a love that we enter into an experience of.  He wants to take us from being merely students to the wonderful privilege of being sons – the first focusses on learning, the second on relational experience.

Where are you in your journey with Jesus?  You may be someone who is trying to grapple with the idea of whether God really cares about you, or you may be just starting out on getting to know Jesus and are getting your feet planted firmly into His awesome love.  Wherever you are, let me encourage you today – His love is so beautiful to read about and think about, but was never intended to be just a theological concept.  He is inviting us to experience Him and His heart, to meet His affection which is beyond any box we’ll ever be able to hold in our minds, so vast that it is breath-taking in wonder and depth.  Let’s step in a little deeper today and invite Him to come and do what He has always intended – to show off with His love so that we come face to face with His affection and are undone in His presence once again.

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Being married to a prophet has provoked me into a bit of a crazy wild journey with Jesus.  When I first started getting to know Julian, he would tell me of some unbelievable encounters with God that He was having and if I’m completely honest, I would find it a bit annoying because I wanted to experience similar crazy encounters too but I thought that they were somehow only ‘reserved’ for those who are prophets.  As if being a prophet meant that Julian could enter into a realm that was out of bounds for me – just an ordinary christian (is there any such thing?!).

Over the last few years, I’ve realised just how wrong that kind of thinking is.  Firstly, as children of God we are ALL created to know Him and hear Him and experience Him – that’s not a privilege reserved for prophets, but a reality on offer for all believers.  Secondly, the very reason Jesus gave gifts of prophets (alongside the other 5 fold gifts spoken of in Ephesians) was not to create a kind of tiered system in the body where some people are ‘super christians’ and get to do the stuff and the rest of us just stand in awe of them, but rather so that those people could equip and empower the body to do the very same things they do.  That’s the point of having grace gifts of apostles and prophets and teachers and evangelists and pastors.  Not to have them on pedestals where they do the work of ministry, but instead where they multiply and reproduce the supernatural DNA that they carry to those around them, so that the whole body is raised up to do the work of ministry.

In other words, Julian’s experiences are not meant to make me feel left out and jealous of how he gets to do fun stuff and I don’t, but rather they are meant to invite me and provoke me and empower me into experiences of my own with God.

Realising Jesus’ intention in giving gifts of people to the church has revolutionised how I anticipate what God wants to do with me.  No longer do I hear a story from someone with an amazing gift and think ‘Oh I wish that I could do that!’ but rather now I think ‘Woohoo! That must mean that I get to do that!’.

Every testimony and story you hear of wild encounter and supernatural moments are not meant to make you feel left out, but are meant to draw you in.  

What stories have you heard that make you yearn for more?  They are not simply stories, but are rather invitations whispered by your good, kind Papa who is holding out His hand and inviting you into the more of who He is.  Are you listening?  Are you ready to dive in deeper?  There is nothing that you have heard or seen in the christian world that is reserved for someone else more gifted or more ‘chosen’ than you.  We are all children of the same Papa who sees us all as His favourite.  What is He wanting to say to His favourite today?

 

This blog was originally posted on frequentsee.org

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I think it’s Bill Johnson who said ‘The reality you’re most aware of, is the reality you will reflect’.  It’s a statement that has stuck with me.  It’s the statement that inspired me some years ago to spend a whole lot of time on youtube watching videos of Kathryn Kuhlman and David Hogan and other men and women of God who see God move in incredible signs and wonders, many of whom are completely eccentric, but who carry something incredible in terms of friendship with Holy Spirit (a lesson in not letting packaging offend us, but in looking further to see the gold in people).

I want Kingdom reality to be the one I reflect more than worldly reality.  I want signs and wonders to be a norm in my life.  I want the supernatural to be instinctive for me.  And so my aim and desire is to immerse myself in the world of the Kingdom – whether by praying or reading or singing or watching videos of people who are ‘doing the stuff’ so that my time is spent plunging my head and heart and senses into a more wonderful world than I can ever imagine.

Recently I was reading through the book of Acts and was inspired in this journey of Kingdom experience again when I read these words –

‘… for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard…’ (Acts 4:20).  What I see and hear, is integral to what then comes out of me.  In other words, the reality I’m most aware of, is the reality I will reflect.  And so I’m provoked again to spend time seeing and hearing afresh.  How can I expect to speak and live fresh bread if I’m not seeing and hearing it?  I can’t pick at dry leftover breadcrumbs and expect to birth anything fresh.  This isn’t just challenging for me as a preacher (although it certainly is provoking!), but this is about me as a woman, me as a mum, me as a friend and wife and daughter.  If I want my words and life to carry life, I better spend time with the One who gives it.

So here’s my challenge to us all today.  What are you spending your time seeing and hearing?  Because whether or not you want to, you will be speaking it.  So let us make sure what we see and hear is worthy for us to speak it.  Let us immerse ourselves in the reality of another world.  The world we were made for.  The world we are joined to.  And the world we have been given authority to reflect.

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find it all too easy to forget where I am.  I can go through days forgetting the fact that although what I see of my surroundings with my human eyes is earthbound, in actual fact i’m sitting totally joined with Jesus in Heavenly places.  Totally joined with Him.  So intertwined that there is not a single moment of my day where it’s possible to untangle myself from Him.  If He’s on a throne, then so am I.  If He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1), then so am I.

This morning i’ve been musing over what it actually means to be seated at the Father’s right hand.  When scripture mentions the words ‘right hand’, what is it that the Word is trying to communicate?  Doing a search through the Bible to open up the significance of ‘right hand’ is a seriously encouraging read.  Ephesians isn’t simply trying to tell us our direction from the Father but rather trying to open our eyes to the overwhelming Kingdom resource that we’re sitting in.

Take Genesis 48 for example, when we read of Jacob blessing Joseph’s children,  his right hand was so significant that where he placed it was where the lion’s share of blessing, birthright and inheritance would go.  Then look at Exodus 15 – from His right hand comes so much power that the enemy is shattered & wiped out.  At His right hand are pleasures evermore (Psalm 16), a place of refuge (Psalm 17) and source of support (Psalm 18).  His right hand is filled with righteousness (Psalm 48) and brings deliverance and salvation (Psalm 60, Psalm 98).  From His right hand comes creative power (Isaiah 48).  The Son of His right hand is one who He makes strong (Psalm 80).

We are the sons and daughters of His right hand.  We are literally sitting in the wild and uncontainable current of His blessing, favour and inheritance, His power and deliverance and covering of refuge, His spine-strengthening joy and life-giving pleasure, His heart-cleansing righteousness, His ability to create all things from nothing and to bring forth what is seen from the unseen.

Whatever your earthly world looks like today, know this: His enemy-shattering power is all over you.  His favour and blessing of birthright rest on you.  His arms of comfort and support and refuge surround you. The power to create hovers expectantly over you. You are the sons and daughters of His right hand and He will bring you strength.

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I recently read an incredibly sad and provoking book entitled ‘Half the Sky’ by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  It is a book all about women, documenting how women are the most oppressed people on the planet today.  It shows oppression to be not only the horrors of human trafficking, but a wide range of experiences where women are told they are somehow less or smaller than the men around them.  It’s a heart wrenching read, but also one of mobilising the reader to action.  It’s the sort of book that makes you want to stand up and change the world because surely when God created woman, He did not intend for her to be oppressed and held down but rather to lead and shape the world around her.  He did not make her small and insignificant, but placed her in a place of honour in creation – alongside man – to rule the world (Genesis 1:28).

About a decade ago if you had asked me what I believed God’s intention was for women I wouldn’t quite know how to answer you.  As a child I grew up thinking that girls were equal to boys in every way.  I believed that I could be or do anything.  In my late teens I had a conversation at church that shook that belief in me.  A conversation that left me questioning what God’s heart really was towards women.  And that conversation – painful and confusing as it was at the time – was an incredibly helpful one in hindsight as it set me on a journey of study and encounter.  I wanted to come to a place of peace in my heart – to understand what God’s intention is for me as a woman and to understand what scripture says about my role.

I’ve written the points below as a brief summary of some of what i’ve read and understood from scripture.  I hope this post will be an encouragement to many – that the God of the Bible is FOR women and is not interested in holding them back.  I hope also that this post may make some readers think again about some of the scriptures that may have been used to suggest that God has placed a lower ceiling on women than He has on men.  In the end, I hope that whatever your view on the role of women, you will find me not to be offensive but rather passionate and ultimately full of love for both those who agree and disagree with me.  I think that God is much more interested in us loving each other within our different opinions than proving our point to be correct but doing so in a way that lacks love for one another.  I hope the former will be true of me.

Please bear in mind that i’m not trying to write this post as a conclusive thesis on the matter – i’m writing with my two children under two around me… makes for a somewhat chaotic writing process!

For the purposes of brevity, i’ve summarised my view on the role of women down to three main headings:

1. Equality from Eden to eternity

2. Jesus loved to liberate women

3. Paul loved strong women

Equality from Eden to Eternity –

In Eden we see that Adam and Eve both had a mandate together to rule over and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28). Adam didn’t rule Eve to then rule the earth.  They were equal co-rulers.  Before the fall, men and women were created to rule alongside one another.  There’s no hint of hierarchy.  There’s no hint that Adam was the main ruler and Eve the subordinate.

Some have tried to use the word describing Eve – a helper (Genesis 2:18) – to insinuate that her role was somehow a deputy to Adam.  But if we look into the word helper (in Hebrew: Ezer) we realise just how absurd that insinuation is.  The word does not have the connotation of inferiority but rather of adding strength.  In the Old Testament, the word Ezer is most consistently used of God – the point being that it is a word describing someone who is bringing much needed strength rather than someone who isn’t important enough to be the main leader.

Others have tried to use creation order as their basis to prove that Adam had more authority than Eve.  There’s not much logic to this however.  If anything, creation becomes more complex and authoritative the further on in order.  The animals came before both Adam and Eve.  That doesn’t give them greater authority, but rather the opposite!  I certainly don’t claim this to prove that Eve had more authority than Adam, but neither do I find justification for claiming the opposite.

Jumping ahead from Eden, right through to eternity, we catch a glimpse in the New Testament again of God’s desire to see men and women standing alongside each other – together in equality to rule and reign.  Men and women are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), seated in Him (Ephesians 2:6) and reigning with Him (Revelation 5:10), the focus no longer our gender but our one-ness in Christ (Galatians 3:28).

I wonder why, when God created men and women to rule together from Eden to eternity, we would think that His intention for our present age is any different?  Why would we think that God would introduce hierarchy as His intention now when hierarchy is not His intention either in Eden or in the Kingdom fully come?

Jesus Loved to Liberate Women –

If Jesus is to show us the heart of the Father, then we see that Papa God loves to liberate women and see them flourish in roles that some would reserve only for men.  Jesus let Mary sit at his feet (Luke 10) – the posture of a disciple – scandalising everyone around Him as He redefined what a woman could and couldn’t do.  He catapulted the Samaritan woman into being the first evangelist (John 4) and used Mary as the first witness to His resurrection (John 20) – completely disinterested in the fact that this would make the testimony of His victory weaker to those who saw women as somehow less able than men.

Jesus’ encounters with women consistently lifted them up and honoured them.  I wonder if this is true of us who represent Him?  I’m not talking about patronising or flattering women.  I’m talking about allowing women to walk in authority – as Jesus did – despite what the traditions around us may think.  His example is both encouraging and provoking.

Paul Loved Strong Women – 

I love reading through Romans 16.  It’s a chapter where Paul honoured those who laboured with him in the gospel.  The chapter is full of affection, admiration and respect.  The remarkable thing about that chapter is that Paul names several women within it.  He is not offended by their strength, not taken aback by their gifting, not scandalised by their positions of authority.  He honours them:  Phoebe, Priscilla (who interestingly is named before her husband Aquila in case you are still adamant that order connotes authority), Mary, Junia (who alongside her husband Andronicus is named as outstanding among the apostles), Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Julia.  Women who were deacons, apostles, co-labourers in Christ.  No hint of hierarchy or male dominance in Romans 16.

It’s interesting to me that we largely ignore how Paul loved and affirmed strong women who had authority in Romans 16, ignore how he didn’t put any gender qualification on operating in gifts of the Spirit including teaching and leadership (Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) or in holding offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher (Ephesians 4) all in favour of a handful of verses he wrote to a church that was struggling with false teaching and so needed specific, corrective insight (1 Timothy 2).

I find this sad because 1 Timothy 2 is no more authoritative on the role of women than the other verses, it’s just that it gets much more airtime.  It’s tragic that people defend holding women back by claiming that they are just following the ‘plain reading of scripture’ when what they mean is that they are following an inadequately shallow reading of 1 Timothy 2:11+12 whilst ignoring the ‘plain’ reading of Romans 16 and Galatians 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, let alone taking into account the broader brush strokes in scripture of the heart of God and Jesus’ example towards women.

This blog will become far too long if I go too in-depth on 1 Timothy 2 but let me just say a few things to whet the appetite –

  1. The word translated authority in 1 Timothy 2:12 (authentein) is an incredibly complex word.  This is the only time it is used in the Bible.  The normal word for authority (exousia) is used multiple times by Paul elsewhere but here he chooses the word authentein – we would be in error if we did not see this as a caution in how we are to translate the word.  This has led many well respected academics and theologians to point to authentein not being a word meaning just authority but rather a word with the connotation of grabbing or usurping authority.
  2. The word translated as silent or quiet in 1 Timothy 2:11 by many is the greek word ‘hesychia’.  Outside of Paul’s teaching on women, this word, or its Greek root ‘hesychios’ are found in four other places in the New Testament – 1 Timothy 2:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:12, Acts 22:2 and 1 Peter 3:4.  In all these contexts, the word conveys a sense of being at peace/at rest/peaceable rather than having a low level of volume!  It would seem that Paul’s instruction is that women learn in a way that is at rest rather than resisting or argumentative towards instruction (this fits well with the general tone of the surrounding passages about encouraging unity and peace rather than division).
  3. Even without the complications around translating ‘authentein’, 1 Timothy 2:15 should make us aware that this whole passage simply cannot be interpreted at a cursory glance.  There is no way of getting away with a ‘plain reading’ of 1 Timothy 2.  If you walk away at a shallow reading of the chapter, you will walk away in error.  Many have done this with the teaching on women.
  4. The context of the book of 1 Timothy is I believe a great key in its interpretation.  It was written by Paul primarily to correct the false teachings being propagated in Ephesus.  It was not a letter laying out his core, timeless beliefs (which would be more true of the book of Romans for example), but rather a letter trying to correct specific errors in a specific community.  If we mistake Paul’s applications to a specific community as his principles for all communities, we run the risk of falling into great error ourselves.

There is much more that I could say on these headings, let alone all the other headings i’ve left out!  But, let me finish this post by saying this:

The more I read and study scripture, the more I realise that God loves women.  God’s heart is to liberate women.  He wants full expression of life in women as much as in men and has put His incredible authority on women as much as on men.  He has called men and women together to manifest Kingdom life all over the earth.  He is not the author of misogyny but rather is a proud Father cheering on His daughters (and sons!) to bring heaven to earth as heirs of His Kingdom.  Isn’t it time we as the church joined the cheers of our Father for women to be powerful and beautiful and all they were created to be?  Isn’t it time we honoured the Priscillas and Junias and all the rest among us?  Romans 8 tells us that all creation is longing and waiting for the full revelation of the children of God.  I think it’s time to set our women free.

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I’ve got to be honest, I got really grumpy with God this week.  Grumpy to the point where I must have resembled my toddler having a tantrum about not getting whatever it is that he wants.  Grumpy to the point where I was accusing Him of not caring and not being all that He’s promised He will be.  I think God must have used up extra patience from His storehouse on me this week…!

The thing is, it’s been a tough few weeks – battling illness in our home, children not eating or sleeping (or both!), multiple visits to different medical professionals and scary diagnoses being mentioned and looming threateningly overhead.  The levels of pressure have been up and the number of hours of sleep have been low.  That’s a dangerous combination right there.

And so, after another night of broken sleep my frustration and hurt and disappointment and weariness came tumbling out in some big questions – ‘Where are you God?! Why aren’t you breaking in? Don’t you care? We feel like we’re drowning over here!’  In all honesty, it felt good to let it out.  It wasn’t my prettiest moment, but it was real!  The funny thing is, even as the accusations were coming out of me, there was a deeper truth holding me steady in my heart, aware that the questions were rising out of my flawed perspective and sleeplessness rather than a new found discovery of flaws in Him.  But it did my heart good to let the hurt out so that I could invite truth and affection in.  Once i’d spent my hurting emotions fully, I was able to just be still for a while and as I did that, of course I could hear Him speaking into my circumstances.

I was reminded of 1 Kings 19:11-13 when Elijah is waiting to encounter God, but God is not in the dramatic earthquake or wind or fire but rather in a quiet gentle whisper.

The truth is, i’m a woman who likes breakthrough earthquakes – quick, epic turnaround moments where the landscape of my circumstance changes drastically in just a few moments.  And of course God does work that way at times, and I really love it when He does!  But the reality is, that’s not the only way He brings breakthrough and life.  Some of His ways are more subtle, quieter and less dramatic.  It’s easy for me to miss the whisper when i’m hoping to see Him in the earthquake.  But this week, after my outburst, God has graciously been pointing me to all His whispers of breakthrough in the last season.  Whispers of incredible loving family and community who have surrounded us and given us strength.  Whispers of health improvement in small increments where it’s easy to overlook the improvement because it’s not complete… but it’s improvement nevertheless!  Whispers of miraculous energy levels even despite shockingly low levels of sleep.  Whispers of smiles and giggles from poorly children where love and joy has overpowered illness.  The list goes on and on when I start to adjust my lenses.

So i’m writing this this morning with my circumstances having been somewhat improved but not yet completely restored.  But i’m smiling and full of hope knowing that God is whispering to me even now and that every moment of my setting is a set up for me to encounter His goodness if i’ll just stop and be still and let the whispering God envelop me again.

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Just a quick thought today –

Recently I was reading Matthew 6 and something so simple yet incredibly encouraging jumped out at me.  If we don’t understand the Father, we’ll think we have to bring something ‘worthy’ to make Him listen to us – in Matthew 6, Jesus talks about reliance on clever and long winded language.  But in reality, if we are basing His listening to us on anything we have to offer – be it gift, strength of faith, impressive eloquence or anything else we can think of, then we simply have not understood Him.

As He teaches, Jesus here makes a step from the incorrect belief of gentiles that long prayers lead to being heard and simply says instead – your Father knows.  Your Father is listening not because of anything you can bring.  He listens simply because He is your Papa and He knows.  He knows your needs.  He gets it and He gets you.  He’s listening not because of what you can convince Him of.  He’s listening because of who He is.  He is your Papa and His heart is for you.  A little further on in Matthew 6, Jesus teaches against worry and does so again on the basis of relationship.  He is your Father.  And you are valuable to him.  Not because of what you do, but because in making you His child He gave you value.  Full stop.

So today as you go to Him – whether in hurried prayers in the midst of thousands of demands, or whether in hours of glory and soaking up His goodness, understand this:  He’s listening to you.  Not because of anything you are or aren’t doing, but simply because He’s your Papa and that’s what He does.  He really is just that kind.

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For a little while now i’ve been thinking over the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.  It’s an epic story – almost unbelievable – yet it really happened!  My focus hasn’t been so much about Jesus and the incredible miracle He performs, but rather His disciples and their role in the whole thing.  I’ve been trying to put myself in their shoes, trying to imagine how they felt as Jesus asked them to do something so completely ridiculous as feed a crowd of more than five thousand people with someone’s pitiful packed lunch.

Can you imagine it?  Matthew 14 tells us that Jesus and the crowd are in a desolate place – there’s no hope of relying on anything in that setting to bail the disciples out when Jesus asks them to feed the crowd.  The disciples are faced with thousands of hungry people… a crowd that are so hungry that they may well be tipping into the well known phenomenon of hanger (the meeting point between hunger and anger!) at any moment!  And as they face this crowd that may well turn into a rioting mob pretty soon, Jesus is asking them to do the impossible.

Just at the point when things probably seemed like they couldn’t get much worse, Jesus gets everyone to sit down so there’s an increasing sense of expectation, prays over five loaves and two fish and then breaks them up and hands the pieces (which when divided by 12 can’t have been much more than one handful each) to his disciples.  At that point the disciples must have been looking into their hands and then looking up at the crowd wondering what on earth Jesus expected them to do.  Was this some kind of painful, un-funny joke?  It’s actually quite an embarrassing moment if you think about it.  They must have been so nervous as they made the walk from Jesus towards the crowd, they must have been calculating how many crumbs they could break their handful into and wondering how many people they could possibly placate before the crowd would start rioting in disappointment and frustration.  Surely not an easy moment for them.

I wonder at what point the multiplication happened.  At what point did the disciples realise that the pieces just kept remaining in their hands even though they were handing them out.  Please note that there’s no mention that the disciples had any help carrying the food which presumably means that the multiplication didn’t happen all in one go at the beginning so that the disciples knew there would be enough for everyone, but rather must have happened in the process of them walking from one person to another which meant that they required faith to keep going until the very last person’s needs were met.

It’s remarkable to me that they did it.  That they agreed to Jesus’ crazy plan.  That they obeyed even when what they held in their hands right up until the very last second was painfully small.  The fact that they did walk from Jesus to the crowd with such meagre supplies tells me that they must have been convinced enough about Jesus’ heart for them and ability to do something amazing (although my guess is they had no idea what kind of miracle was about to take place), to make them walk forward into the crowd, rather than finding the quickest route out of that desolate place.  The disciples must have believed that Jesus was for them.  That Jesus wouldn’t set them up for failure in such a horrible elaborate way.  That Jesus wouldn’t ask them to do something if He didn’t have some kind of plan up His sleeve.  They must have had enough faith in who Jesus was for them to empower them to walk towards an otherwise pretty certain beating up.

I’m so inspired by what the disciples did.  At the beginning of this year as i’m looking at a busy diary and fresh challenges (some fun and some definitely not so fun!) and increasing demands on what i already feel are meagre resources, i’m provoked by the faith of the disciples to meet the challenge head on.  They knew Jesus enough to know that He isn’t mean.  They knew Him enough to know that He isn’t a fan of cruelly setting up to fail those who trust in Him.  They knew Him enough to know that He cared about them and that when He put them in crazy situations it was because He wanted to do through them equally crazy miracles!

So, at the beginning of 2017, as i look at the packed lunch in my hand and feel the nudge of Jesus to walk forward and feed thousands with what surely is not enough, i’m challenged to believe that His heart is for me.  That He loves me.  That He’s not setting me up for some kind of spectacular defeat, but rather catapulting me into the wonderful realm of the miraculous.  I’m provoked to press myself ever deeper into His heart for me so that the crazy situations i find myself in, the situations that feel horribly overwhelming, suddenly become opportunities for increase and Kingdom breakthrough.

What resources are you holding in your hand at the start of this year and what situations are you facing that far outweigh your ability? Rest assured, it’s a set up.   A wonderful, God-filled, Kingdom-favoured set up.  He’s going to do the impossible and He’s going to do it through you.

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This morning i was thinking again of the story of Jesus and his disciples in a boat in the midst of a storm.  Remember that one?  Jesus is fast asleep while his disciples are understandably terrified as the storm rages all around them and the waves are breaking in, filling the boat.  They think they’re going to drown and are wondering why Jesus isn’t doing anything to help.  They find him asleep and wake him with these words, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ (Mark 4:38)  And Jesus amazing, wonderfully gets up, speaks to the storm and suddenly everything is quiet and still again.  He then turns to the disciples and asks them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ (Mark 4:40).

Often i have read these words and thought that Jesus was asking the disciples why they didn’t have faith that He could calm the storm, but i’m not so sure that that’s what He’s getting at anymore.  I think that Jesus’ question as to whether the disciples had faith is in relation to their earlier question – ‘Teacher do you not care that we are perishing?’ – which in fact was a question of love not of power.  They weren’t asking whether Jesus could calm the storm, they were asking if He cared enough to do so.  ’Do you not care that we are perishing?!’… ‘Here we are in the midst of a storm and you are fast asleep as if you don’t care enough about us to do anything about the waves that are about to overwhelm us!’  And Jesus turns to them, having quieted the storm, and asks them why they are afraid and if they still have no faith.

If 1 John 4:18 is right, perfect love drives out all fear.  Jesus sees the disciples are afraid and the reason is that they have not fully understood His perfect love and so in the midst of the storm, fear rushes in because their hearts are crying out with questions about His heart and whether it has enough affection for them to meet them in their most vulnerable space.

I wonder how many who read this today are finding themselves in the midst of a tumultuous storm.  I wonder how many of us in our brokenness are crying out with questions about God’s heart towards us.  There’s nothing quite like the combination of a storm and a sleeping God (or so we assume because of His seeming lack of breaking through) to make us question whether we really are that important to Him and whether He cares all that much for us.  The enemy loves to jump into the boat with us and shout in our faces that God doesn’t really love us and the storm is proof of it.  Oh but don’t listen to the enemy – he is a liar.  His only intention is to deter you from your destiny.  Let me encourage you, even in the midst of the most terrifying of storms: GOD LOVES YOU.  His heart is full to overflowing with affection for you.  He sees you.  He hears you.  Even in the midst of your storm, He is putting in motion His plan to make all things work for your good and has dispatched His goodness and mercy to be your unwavering companions.  Take heart, stand tall, lift up your weary head and let the warm rays of His steadfast love light your way ahead.

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In my quest to stop ‘playing it safe’ in life, i’ve been asking myself some hard questions about what i believe God has created me to do and how i’m positioning myself for it. It’s not good enough to fill our journals with prophetic words that people have given us and simply wait for them to happen. God invites our involvement. And whilst only God can bring the words to full fruition, our role is that we would position ourselves in faith for them and, crucially, when an offer of a compromise comes along, refuse to settle.

The Devil’s aim is to try to derail us from our prophetic destiny and to do so he often uses one of the three Ds:

Distraction –

If the devil can get you looking in any other direction, he will. Whether it be sin, or just getting busy with life, or even other ‘good’ pursuits – as long as it’s not the reason you were created, he’ll happily lead you there.

Discouragement –

He loves this one. Whether it be by intimidation or by causing delay, if the devil can he will try to sap all the courage from you so that you won’t have the heart left to pursue your destiny. Look at the life of David – he had to overcome both the in-your-face intimidation of Goliath and the long years of waiting in Saul’s shadow in order to step into the fullness of his destiny as King of Israel. Intimidation and delay both have one purpose in the mind of the devil: discouragement.

Diminishment –

If he can’t succeed in either of the above, he’ll go for a compromise to diminish your impact. His plan is one of containment – if you have to pursue your destiny, he’ll try to get you to stop at a lesser stage than the one you were created for. Look at Moses for this one. God tells him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and when he tells Pharaoh that, Pharaoh initially says no and then starts offering Moses a compromise instead –

Exodus 8 – ‘If it’s worshipping your God you’re after Moses, why don’t you just do that in this land? I’ll let you worship, but just stay in Egypt’

Exodus 10 – ‘Okay, okay, if you have to leave Egypt, why take all the bothersome women and children with you – they’ll only slow you down anyway – why don’t all you guys go alone instead?’

In both cases, the enemy’s intention was clear – if Moses insisted on pursuing his destiny, then an offer of a compromise would have to be made so that at least there would be a diminishing of the effect of his destiny.

I feel like often we are good at spotting the first two of the enemy’s tactics, but sometimes stumble at the last hurdle. Maybe we feel like close enough is good enough, or are nervous to hold out for the fullness of what God’s spoken – what if it doesn’t come to pass and we’re left with nothing to show for all our trouble? But let me tell you, both of those thoughts are whispers directly from the enemy’s camp. Don’t pay him any attention – he’s a liar!

Don’t lose heart! You were made for greatness and the enemy knows it. Keep fixing your eyes on Jesus, keep listening to the voices of those who have gone ahead all standing witness to the faithfulness of God. He who called you knows what He’s doing. Refuse to turn aside, refuse to let your knees get weak, refuse to settle for less than the full prize. Keep your eyes straight ahead, for just beyond the horizon, just beyond all the enemy’s scare tactics, you’ll see the sun in all its glory rising.

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