never out of reach


TRex

This has long been one of my favourite memes. Poor little T-Rex, limited in his love expression by his super short arms! 🙂

But even with the longest of arms, we often fall short of expressing the depth or degree of our love for others. The phrase “to the moon and back” gets well used because we’re so desperate to find a measurement sufficient to communicate all that we would hope to.

In Isaiah 59:1 is written …

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.

When I recently came across this verse in my reading I immediately thought of T-Rex and his restricted love! I imagined God – who is quite large in my vision of Him – with teeny tiny arms. Exaggeratedly miming His attempts to reach us. “I can’t, my arms are too short!” It’s a comical thought, but this is essentially the message of the text. Why would we doubt the reach of God’s love and His capacity (and desire) to save us and help us? Do we really think His arms are that short and His hearing is that bad?

In our more intellectual or theological selves we might answer “no!” Of course we know His arms are long and His ear is inclined to us. But in our hearts? In our difficult times, in our pain, our loss, our grief and our burdens we can sometimes not feel this truth to be real. We can feel far from God. We can feel unworthy of His love. We can feel alone or abandoned. We can feel we are beyond redemption.

Be reminded again today of the truth. God is not like a T-Rex! His arms are long and His reach is sure. His love knows no boundaries or limitations. He has done through Jesus all that is needed to make us lovable and reachable. His ears are open to our call.

 

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the resurrection changes everything!


When Jesus walked the earth He made some pretty outlandish claims and statements. He upset the religious and political leaders of the day – confusing them with His parables and stories, inciting them by confronting their fastidious laws and self-righteousness; defying them by prioritising the love and care of others over strict observance of the Sabbath. He said He was the Way, Truth & Life, the Bread of Life; the Living Water. He ate with sinners, healed untouchables; offered forgiveness to law breakers. 

This Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the time when all these statements and actions find their fulfilment. Just two days before, He had been brutally tortured and murdered and laid to rest in a sealed tomb. All of His teachings and declarations had a great big question mark over them. Could He really be “the Life” if He was dead? 

What dark days they must have been. 

And then He rose from the dead!!! Putting a massive exclamation mark on everything. He said He was the resurrection …and then He resurrected! 

The resurrection changes everything. The truth it reveals beckons us to respond by receiving its power and surrendering our lives to all Jesus would seek to do for us, in us and through us. 

serve one another – an example to follow


“I have given you an example to follow” – these are the words of Jesus to His disciples, to us, and the very core of discipleship. Jesus is our example of how to live and love, how to follow after God’s heart and pursue His mission, ministry and purpose.

Except these words were said by Jesus after He washed the stinky, gross feet of His disciples. Removing His Rabbi robes, wrapping a towel around His waist – the uniform of a servant, and kneeling on the ground to pick up one disciple’s calloused, dirty, smelly feet after the other – washing and drying them. (The story is recorded in John 13.)

I have given you an example to follow.

Sure, Jesus says His disciples should also wash the feet of others as He has done, but His call to follow an example is greater than that.

Think like Jesus

The text tells us that Jesus is filled with a sense of who He is and Whose He is and SO He gets up from the table and goes to wash the disciples’ feet.

That’s a completely different way of thinking. It’s a way of thinking about power, about position,  authority, about influence, about knowledge, about privilege, about entitlement, that is completely different to our own natural thinking on these things. Position and power for us can mean you think you are to be respected, treated differently; honoured. Our ‘celebrity’ culture is such that a person’s status or fame or notoriety becomes something of a free pass – you get the better seats, the table in a ‘booked out’ restaurant – all the bowing, scraping and pandering to your every need and whim.

Jesus THINKS differently. He sets us a different example.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus HAS the power, authority and influence. He just didn’t consider it something to leverage for Himself – for His own gain. Instead He set it aside, He gave it up … He took off the robes and He put on the servant’s towel. He humbled Himself enough to become human … but then He went even further and died a criminal’s death – the lowest of the low.

Jesus THINKS differently.

Love like Jesus

Verse one set up this whole foot washing scene through the lens of Christ’s incredible love for His disciples … for us. He had come to the world because of love. He had walked with them in the years of His ministry in love. This was the night before He was going to be crucified for the sins of the world because of love. And here in this room as He washed the feet of each one of them … it was again, an act of love.

And, of course, we see as He did go to the cross – this incredible demonstration of His love for us.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

Jesus lay down His life for us out of love. This example that Jesus portrayed for us in the washing of the disciples’ feet was MAGNIFIED in the work He did on the cross. Stooping down. Bending low. Getting in amongst the dirt and stink and messiness. Using His power and authority to serve and elevate.

And our call is to let His love in us compel US to great love. To be so stirred by the needs of people around us and so captivated by the picture of others that GOD has – people of infinite worth and preciousness to their Heavenly Father – that we would respond by setting ourselves aside. Stooping low. Humbling ourselves. Putting others before us. Letting go of pride and self. Lifting our attention from us and our own needs and our own hurts and our own desires. Leveraging whatever power or influence or authority we might have for those who have none. Laying down our lives.

Jesus’ example is love.

He calls us to THINK like Him, to LOVE like Him and to RESPOND like Him.

Respond like Jesus

These two serving examples are pretty useless in terms of an actual activity to repeat.

Most of us can wash our own feet! We probably (hopefully) did it in the shower today or will tonight. If I showed up at your place and you proceeded to try and wash my feet I would probably be offended that you thought they stunk or that you were worried about me making your floors dirty or something – it certainly wouldn’t feel like an act of service. In fact, those who don’t like people touching their feet would probably leave rather than subject yourselves to a foot washing. It’s not a helpful illustration in that sense.

And neither is dying on the cross. There are very few opportunities we have to actually give our physical life for another’s. And certainly not in a way that would buy any sort of eternal security or salvation.

So when we look at this idea of ‘Responding like Jesus’ we have to look at the principles rather than the practice.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

We have to see that we are called to RESPOND … in humility, grace, forgiveness, generosity, compassion and mercy. We have to consider meeting needs of a practical nature – it might not be dirty feet but it might be a long lawn or overwhelming financial issues or a broken down car or a ministry opportunity. We have to consider meeting needs of a spiritual nature – to be prayed with and for, to be led to Jesus, to be helped to understand the saving message of Christ, to be grown in faith and obedience. And we have to consider meeting needs of an emotional nature – the need for companionship or a hug or advice or support through a difficult time.

We won’t be asked to give or do as much as Jesus – but we do need to be prepared for the fact that it will cost us something. Laying down ourselves by virtue does cost.

It will inevitably cost us time. It’s a blessed thing when you can serve someone else without impacting your own schedule – but it’s unlikely! It might be costly to your family, to your finances, to your study schedule, to your sleep – that’s what ‘laying down your life’ might mean. Completely setting yourself aside for the purposes of considering someone else. It’s big.

Serving costs us because loving costs us – it costs us something of ourselves.

Jesus says “I have given you an example to follow” … to serve one another in love.

Think like Jesus. Love like Jesus. Respond like Jesus.

LOVE YOUR BODY for what it can do

I was a super active kid. My Dad jokes that I never got in trouble from him because I never stood still long enough to be told off!

I started in gymnastics when I was 4 and my coach called me Elastic Girl. I loved athletics and had long-held records for high jump and long jump in my primary & secondary schools. As a teen I could “sit & reach” 24cm beyond my toes. I played every school sport a girl could play – spending many days at inter-school competitions for volleyball, hockey (!), softball, tennis – you name it! I made it to district and state competitions in swimming and athletics. I was AIS coached for hurdles. I loved to dance. I had great explosive strength and speed and was also highly flexible. 

I would race my brothers on the beach in summer or on bikes around the court where we lived. I loved swimming but would spend most of my water time trying to beat my “number of somersaults under water” record or perfecting back flips off the edge. 

I don’t remember ever thinking about my body for anything other than its functionality. And for that, I loved it. I was strong and fit. Agile and athletic. 

My thighs & glutes were large and muscly which made shopping for pants difficult, and my arms weren’t thin like my friends rather they were defined and my shoulders were too broad for some tops. But I was able to rationalise that in my mind. Those clothes were made for thin girls, not athletic girls. I’d find another style more suitable. 

It wasn’t until I was in my late teens and early twenties that I started to consider a different perspective. When “athletic” became code for overweight. When not fitting into certain clothes became more about not fitting in. When the opinions of others filtered through to make me self-conscious. When I was told I couldn’t attend an event because I wasn’t attractive enough. When someone told me I looked chunky in my basketball uniform. 

I suffered with an eating disorder for almost 8 years – the consequences of which lingered longer still. 

I’ve been thinking about this as I sit by a pool on holidays feeling particularly fat. There’s no where to hide when it comes to swimwear and there’s no shortage of slim and taught bodies to show me what the other can look like. And there’s truth to it, I am overweight. There’s no denying that I’m carrying more weight than is healthy for my frame. 

But then I remembered. I remembered the 30 minutes of rock scaling around the island’s point, the multiple 40 min bike rides in scorching heat and up killer inclines. I remembered that despite some aches and pains I’ve walked thousands of steps each day, I’ve perched on the back of a motorcycle; swum in a pool. I love what my body can do. I want to shed weight so my body can DO more without pain or restriction. 

Young girls – love your body for what it can do! It can cartwheel and flip. It can run and leap and twirl. Love your strong legs and your powerful lungs. Love your energy. Love your freedom. Love your balancing and stretching. Love your brain and your smile. Love that your arms can give squeezy hugs and throw a ball and build things. 

Women – love your body for what it can do. Love that it carries your heart and sustains your ability to love and give generously. Love that it feeds your mind and leads you to ingenuity and creativity. Love that it can grow an entire human person and push it out and sustain its life – your body is amazing! Love that it can walk and ride and jump and dance. Love that it can self-heal (it can self-heal people!!!). Love the fatigue it feels from busy days, the blissful feeling of rest or a nice hot cleansing shower. 

Love your body for what it can do. 

Encourage others to love their bodies for what they can do. Let’s raise a generation of young women who love what their bodies can do more than what they can look like. 

What do you love that your body can do?! 

Go on. 

Say it. 

why you should HATE porn 


The harmful impacts of porn on those consuming it, those creating it and those affected by the consequences of addiction ought to cause a degree of alarm. The ready availability and ease of access to pornographic material requires intentionality to stand against the insidious nature of its reach and consequences. 

  • It makes public what should be private 

Pornography makes ‘entertainment’ out of activities that ought to be personal and private. It is so counterintuitive to have doors on bedrooms, curtains on Windows and do not disturb signs on hotel rooms and then watch by choice the exact actions we would deem necessary to discreetly protect. 

  • It turns real people into mere objects 

Most porn depicts women as existing for the pleasure and gratification of men. As porn access and use escalates there is an increasing dehumanising of all involved. It trains watchers to disconnect from any sense of empathy, care or interest in the people as people (someones’s sister or friend) and to see them only for the functions they perform. The societal impacts of this are being documented as devastating. 

  • It promotes sex without intimacy

Sexual exploration and enjoyment is designed to be an expression of intimacy and a catalyst for deeper intimacy between loving, committed adults. Pornography is such a perverse distortion of this design intent, depicting sex entirely devoid of relational connection or love and often without consent. 

  • It normalises rape and sexual violence

Over 88% of pornographic content depicts acts involving violence or force. Non-consensual sex and aggression (inflicting real pain) against women is not only condoned but portrayed as enjoyable for the women. Doctors report an alarming number of young girls presenting with severe anal damage and associated complications as a result of rough and inappropriate sexual activity. 

  • It is a common but poor sexual educator 

Young people are viewing porn before they have even had their first crush or kiss and well before any formal education from schools (or even parents). They are exposed to an insane level of sexual learning before their brains are even able to process what they’re seeing or the reactions it illicits in them. It is shaping the sexual appetite and expectations of people who are often without a counter-message about the truth of healthy sexuality and intimacy. 

  • It is as addictive as any drug 

Addiction to pornography is a well-documented, life destroying scourge. Research reveals impact on job retention, financial security, educational success, family/relational health and general mental and physical wellbeing as the result of an all-consuming obsession with watching porn. Like any drug, an increasing amount or level of stimuli is required to achieve the same degree of arousal, enjoyment or release. Some youth have reported watching more than eight hours of porn per day!

We should HATE porn. For the gross distortion it is of something innately precious. For its numerous negative and destructive consequences. For the themes of dishonour and abuse of power. 

This website is a useful resource for education, advocacy and also practical support to fight sexual/pornographic addiction. Check it out – fightthenewdrug.org   

I just want to be loved!

I watch the Bachelor/Bachelorette. There, I said it. It’s true. I do.

It’s a circus of surreal and unreal displays of fully grown adults literally competing for the attention and affection of another. Like, literally. Inevitably, every contestant has their ‘aha’ moment of realising that they are, in fact, literally competing with others for the attention and affection of another. This generally causes them to doubt themselves, their decision to go on the show, their worth as a human (particularly compared to the others) and, well, pretty much everything.

Ultimately, quite probably through tears, they will reveal what is really at stake for them.

“I just want to be loved!”

“Am I lovable? Will someone ever love me? What do I need to do to be loved?” These and other questions come spilling out that speak to the very depth of their cry, in fact, the cry of every human heart.

We are all looking for love. We all want to be loved. We all want to believe we are lovable.

It’s part of our creation design that we desire such deep and fulfilling, belonging and love. In the image of God we were created to find this need met in intimate relationship with Him. Instead, the brokenness of our sin leaves us with that void unfilled or partially filled and so we go searching. We look in right places and wrong places. We look to people, to substances, to success, to service, to wealth …everywhere and anywhere to know that we are loved and valued. To have that need met. To feel that rest in belonging and peace in affirmation and acceptance.

The need is strong and ultimately, it can lead us to do stupid things. It can lead us to obsess over perceived sources of this love. It can lead us to set aside wisdom and convention to pursue behaviours or spaces that see this need met. This need is the driving force of addictions like pornography, gambling, drugs & alcohol and workaholism. It can be an underlying cause of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self harm.

We just want to be loved.

For personal reflection … what does the need for love look like in your own life? Where do you go to meet those deep needs of your heart? What actions, behaviours or thoughts do you recognise stem from this need? 

AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU – #5 Grow in Humility

Without a doubt the greatest enemy of good, healthy, thriving relationships is … you!! It’s me! Ourselves. Our self-focus and our pride will, time and again, derail our ability to do relationships well.

We easily identify that in other people – in fact, you’ve probably even said it before in a heated exchange or about someone “all you do is think about yourself” or “why can’t you ever just admit that you’re wrong”!?

Pride is an expression of our selfishness because it is birthed out of our desire to either improve the way we feel about ourselves or protect the way we feel about ourselves. Continue reading

AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU #2 Grow in GOD’S LOVE

When it comes to relationships, to loving other people, you can’t give what you don’t have.

If you’re finding people hard to love and you’re finding relationships are difficult to manage … maybe part of that is that you don’t fully get what love is all about. Maybe it’s because you don’t have a lot of experienceobserving or receiving real love in action? Maybe we don’t fully ‘get’ GOD’S love? The more you understand of God’s love towards you and others, the more that fills you up and overwhelms you, the more that will overflow from you.

You can’t give what you don’t have.

In Luke 15 we see an incredible snapshot of what God’s love looks like. Jesus tells three stories. Firstly the one about the lost sheep – you know, where the shepherd who has 100 sheep notices one missing and leaves the 99 to go searching for it … and then He tells the story of the woman who loses one coin of the ten she had and virtually turns her house upside down to find it … and then there’s the story of the prodigal son or the patient father – who waits patiently and hopefully for his wayward child to return.

All three of those stories end the same way … they end with a celebration!!! Each of them calls their friends and neighbours and says “Rejoice with me!! Something that was important to me was lost and now it’s not!”

Jesus uses that context to tell us that Heaven throws a party when one of us who was lost is found. ALL of Heaven throws a party when one person who is far from God turns back towards Him. Just for one! God loved the world (and the one) SO much, that He sent His only Son to pay the price required to restore us to Himself (John 3:16) – translation – God loved you enough to sacrifice His own Son so that He could have relationship with you! YOU matter to God. And, from the stories Jesus told we can see that in God’s economy PEOPLE MATTER – every one matters … every single one gets a party! Everyone who has wandered off is noticed and missed, everyone who is lost gets searched for, everyone who returns is welcomed and embraced … every ONE matters to God.

And that means YOU and it means ME and it means everyone that we meet – incidentally as we go about life or those that we DO life more closely with … everyone matters to God! If we are able to view people through that lens it will change how WE love, it will change how we do relationships. How we understand God’s love for us and for others changes how we love and connect with other people.

As far as it depends on you … do you LOVE deeply, selflessly, passionately, committedly? Does the way you love look like God’s love? Does the way you love other people reflect how much they matter to Him?

#1 As Far as it Depends on You (read now)
#2 Grow in God’s Love
#3 Grow in Understanding (read now)
#4 Grow in Forgiveness (read now)
#5 Grow in Humility (read now)
#6 Grow in Persistence (read now)

How far can I go?

When it comes to the topics of “Sexuality and Relationships” and youth and young adults the two most frequently asked questions are “How will I find ‘the one’?” (refer last week’s post on making decisions) and the big one “How far can I go?”

How far can I go? It seems like a pretty reasonable question. “Where is the boundary? Where is the line that I shouldn’t cross? Tell me what I can and can’t do – define it for me and then I can manage my behaviour accordingly.” Continue reading