A card arrived in my letterbox today. Filled with words that overflowed from a generous heart, it touched me deeply. I felt seen. I felt known. I felt appreciated and I knew that I held in my hands a precious gift...
These are the words God impressed upon my heart when I asked Him recently what it looked like for me to live in light of His everlasting and indestructible Kingdom. And they've continued to reverberate in my heart on a daily basis ever since.
I am, by both nature and nurture, a generous person. Growing up with parents who despite their own lack, continually had open hands and open hearts, I learned from a young age the beauty of cultivating a generous spirit. Yet, it's an attribute that I have struggled to give full expression to at various points in my journey.
We have never been materially wealthy. A combination of some unwise decisions in our youth, coupled with our obedience to pursue a call to ministry, has meant that the budget has seldom balanced, and we have had to daily trust God for what we need. For whatever reason, God has also chosen to position us in some of the more affluent parts of our city, and consequently, I have found myself continually confronted by what others have the ability to do and to give. In the face of their apparent abundance, I have often allowed lack and my perfectionist tendencies to close my hands and my heart, believing the lie that I have nothing of value to give.
Christmas - the time of giving and receiving - can amplify these lies and the accompanying anxiety that I do not have enough to offer.
But here's the thing that God keeps graciously and repeatedly reminding me of: radical generosity, kingdom generosity, is not based on what we do or don't have, but on what He has. It lives rooted in the truth of His abundance and His goodness.
Every single one of us faces poverty in some area of our lives. Whether external or internal, we all experience the frustration of our own limitations. But radical generosity is not hindered by such lack. It takes what we do have and sees it as a seed to sow - a seed that when we release in partnership with Him, will be multiplied beyond our wildest dreams.
He multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow.
Fear would try to tell us that if we release the little we do have, we will not have enough. It tries to scare us into clutching at our time and possessions, into closing off our hearts. But God's Kingdom doesn't work that way - it knows nothing of lack. When we release what He has given us, he simply expands and multiplies it.
I've discovered that we don't have to wait until we feel like we have accumulated or accomplished enough to be generous. We can start right where we are, trusting in the goodness of the One who always has enough.
Scripture is full of acts of generosity. Some of them carried extravagant price tags like the perfume that Mary poured out upon the feet of Jesus or the thousand burnt offerings that Solomon sacrificed to God, while others could have easily been overlooked and seen as insignificant - like the few coins that the widow popped in the offering box or the young boy's lunch of bread and fish. What they all have in common is that God commended the heart with which they gave to Him.
You can't attach a price tag to true acts of generosity. Their worth has nothing to do with their monetary value. They are defined by the heart of the giver to minister to and bless the recipient.
In writing this, I have found myself reflecting on the generosity that I myself have been a recipient of recently. Generosity that has sprung up in spite of lack and limitation in the giver's own life.
Like the friend who gave me money to buy something to wear to an event I was running when I knew she needed new clothes herself.
Or the friend who often texts me about what she has been praying for for my children when I know that she is currently knee-deep in a crazy mothering season.
Or the friend who faithfully sows $5 out of every paycheck into this ministry when I know she is still waiting for her own financial breakthrough.
Or the woman who became a friend after reaching out to me when she heard I was writing a book and she didn't want me to feel alone in the process like she had.
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
Each of these gifts have given me an even greater gift - the gift of presence. Their acts of generosity towards me have been a statement that they see me and desire to identify with my need, with my season, with my heart.
Presence is the gift Christ offers you and I each and every day. It's the gift that we remember as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. The gift of Him dwelling among us and within us. The gift of Emmanuel, God with us.
And it's the gift that we also get to give if we will choose to push past the lies and limitations of our circumstances and simply open our hands and hearts to those around us.
Radical generosity is a spirit. It is the fruit of living according to the reality of heaven and not the reality of our circumstances. It is a pouring out of ourselves knowing that He will pour back into us all that we need because He never runs out. He never runs out of resources and He never runs out on us.
This Christmas, let's give the gift of presence. It costs nothing and yet everything.
What does radical generosity look like for you today?
I am not the greatest gift giver. I struggle to choose the ‘right’ gift for people.
When my husband and I started dating, he would buy me over the top gifts that I always felt like I could never live up to. One such gift was a custom-made surfboard. I’d watched the movie Blue Crush, a surfer girl movie and had subsequently decided that I wanted to learn to surf, so he thought he'd encourage my aspirations. Let’s just say I’m not a pro surfer now!
I always felt like I could never repay the outrageous gifts he gave me. I wish I had realised back then that his gifts were simply an expression of his love for me and that he didn’t expect anything like it in return.
I was reminded recently of a Christmas song I love, The Little Drummer Boy. A young boy has been invited to come and bring a gift to the king, a gift to Jesus, and his response is, “I have no gift to bring….that’s fit to give the king.”
Have you ever found yourself in the same shoes? I think the reason I love this song so much, is because it resonates with how I have felt at times, just like that little boy with no gift that is fit for Jesus.
But the song doesn’t end there - the little boy looks down and sees what he had overlooked, what was right in front of him all along and asks, “Shall I play for you, on my drum?”
Picture this young boy standing before Mary and Joseph, standing in the presence of the newborn king, Jesus. He’s been invited in to give his gift and I’m sure he is feeling inadequate, unprepared, and under-qualified to even be in the presence of this king. Maybe he doubted whether his gift would be enough, but his longing to offer something, anything, compelled him to offer what he had.
Mary nodded her approval, and the boy continues,"I played my drum for him, I played my best for him”.
The little drummer boy’s confidence rose a little and a smile appeared on his face as Mary nodded to him that they would love to hear him play. You mean I get to play my drum for the king?
My daughter Evelyn, who is 4 1/2 (and the sunshine of my life), recently sang to me one of the lines from a Christmas song her class is preparing for their end of year concert. The words were so precious, “The best gift I can give Jesus is me”.
What if, that really is the truth, that in all my exhausting, striving efforts to bring my best to Jesus, all he really wants is ME?
What if the whole point of this song, is that the gift that the little boy brought for Jesus, was just him? Him on his drum, singing to the king?
I don’t know where this Christmas finds you, or what circumstances you are walking through, but I do know that whatever your life looks like, God still wants you. You are the gift that He desperately wants to receive this Christmas.
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”
As I present to Him myself, the gift He offers me in return is more than I could imagine.
He not only reminds me who I am, He offers me His love, grace and peace. That day, the little drummer boy left having encountered Jesus, and that changed everything.
Jesus invites me to come as I am - to let Him receive me into His family. But the beautiful truth is that in the coming, in the giving of myself, I am forever changed by the gift He then offers me. Himself.
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum.
I am feeling hemmed in with no means of escape, not even a handy fire exit. I stand before God with all my insecurities exposed knowing the only way ahead is to go ‘through’ the pain, ‘through’ the hurts and ‘through’ it all. I am on a journey of obedience and self-discipline as I surrender my heart and my will to God. But let me tell you a secret – my spirit is rejoicing, even though my flesh is complaining.
A couple of years ago my son celebrated his birthday at the “Escape Rooms” in Auckland. As a group they were locked into a ‘themed’ room patiently following a series of clues and puzzles which provided keys to enable their exit. I find this concept very relatable right now.
“I am in (the Biblical) Joseph’s Prison” I wailed to the Lord, aware of the restriction and confinement I’m in. “It’s not a comfortable place, it’s confronting and it hurts – a lot.”
“No, you’re not; you are in a Refinery” I heard the Holy Spirit reply.
A Refinery? What did this mean and how did it apply to my present situation?
Wikipedia enlightened me “A refinery is a production facility composed of a group of chemical engineering unit processes and unit operations refining certain materials or converting raw material into products of value”
I had to smile (albeit with some derision) at that last sentence. Basically, I’m a lump of shapeless clay on the potter’s wheel being crafted into a product of value by the Master Potter - God. I realise my job is to stay put and allow Him to mould me into what He plans to make. I can’t pipe up and say “Actually I’ll be a Port Merion vase please” or “A nice soup bowl”. The Lord knows what He’s fashioning and He’s doing the refining.
Aware that God is making something beautiful of my life sings to my heart and my spirit. I am not in a dark depressing Prison with only a visiting sparrow hopping onto my window ledge for company. No, I’m in a place where I’m being converted into something of value, purified, refined and sanctified by the God who loves me and wants the very best for my life.
I hope to bring encouragement to you also. Maybe you are feeling like you are in a tight restrictive place which doesn’t make sense as you navigate pain and disappointment. Or perhaps you have some unanswered questions. I believe that the work God began in us He will fully complete! Friends, please stay put on the Potter’s Wheel. You are his Masterpiece.
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
Once moulded the finished piece of pottery is placed in the hot Kiln oven. This process in the furnace serves to increase its strength and set its shape. You and I cannot grow without this refinement, or be free without God going deep into the painful recesses of our hearts.
At times I have wanted to give up, leave the ‘Refinery’, jump off the Wheel and get out of the hot Kiln oven. But where would I go? What would I do? And what would it achieve? The truth I’ve found is that God is the only one who can fill the void in my heart and soul. My happiness can only be found in Him. Throughout this season He has been showing me who He is, His constancy, faithfulness, love, grace and mercy. My part is to have faith in the process, faith in the Master Potter’s work.
The Refinery is indeed a place of testing and affliction, but I’m seeing it as a pivotal point where major life changes happen. Affliction sucks; it’s pressurising and brings up the ‘stuff’ within us that the good times conceal; but without it, how can there be any transformation?
As I was writing this piece, I paused to look up the Greek meaning of the word affliction, a laugh escaped from my lips at God’s humour. If you re-read the first sentence of this post you will see just what I mean.
The meaning? Oh yes - “Used of a narrow place that hems someone in, no way of escape.”
God is at work in my – our – lives.
“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”
We had a team day at work recently where actors came in with pretend problems, and we had to practice “active listening” for four minutes. The idea was that we would be asking questions to understand their perspective and situation. I was proud that in about 40 seconds I had figured out the cause of the issue and solved the problem.
When it was time for me to get feedback on the exercise, I was surprised that they told me I had only listened enough to decide what I would say in response. Their impression was that I had asked questions to find out and fix the problem but had not been seeking to understand the person.
I agreed with the feedback but secretly thought I’d done the more efficient and loving thing by getting to the solution faster than anyone else.
Fast forward a few weeks, my husband and I shifted in with a friend to save money while we build our new home. It’s pretty embarrassing to admit, but I was really struggling with the transition to a smaller space, an older kitchen and feeling like one of my biggest passions (cooking and entertaining) had been taken away as I didn’t have the environment to relax and enjoy it.
I was sitting in my room, wrestling with the grief of letting go of having space with my husband, of the time and expense of the house, along with a bunch of other (let’s be honest) first world problems. I hadn’t talked to God about any of it, as I was too embarrassed to ask Him to change my situation - I already knew the problem bigger than the situation was my lack of gratitude. Gratitude for everything I had and would have in the future. I knew that if I showed him my heart, admitted that I was feeling trapped and stuck, that he would tell me to get over myself and be grateful.
So I began to say out loud all the things I was thankful for, and as I did, I saw in my spirit the scene from John 11:32-36 where Jesus approaches Mary on His way to raise her brother Lazarus from the dead. He knows that in about 3 minutes time Lazarus will be alive and all the mourning will be over. But the King of all creation, the solution holding, miracle making God, stops and weeps with her. Because he saw pain in the eyes of His friend. Because He understands.
Then the vision changed and I saw him walking toward me, arms outstretched. No words were spoken but in His eyes, I saw pure compassion. Permission to feel. Released from guilt, and totally understood.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Many of us are trained to analyze problems and create solutions. We forget that our life with Jesus is relationship. Religion tells you that you are a project to be completed or a problem to solve.
Religion has a goal of defending ourselves or setting other’s straight. Religion wants messy things cleaned up. But relationship, above all, wants to discover your thoughts and feelings - no matter how messy. God wants to understand you.
Jesus will never move quickly to the solution at the cost of relationship. He doesn’t struggle with four minutes of active listening! His desire to understand the depths of your soul was so strong, that He took on human flesh to experience first-hand what it’s like to walk this earth. Then he took up residence inside your heart to experience first-hand what It’s like to walk in your shoes. There is nothing you could experience that He has not felt. You cannot fathom how deeply He understands.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Can I encourage you today, whatever you’re walking through, instead of looking at your heart like a problem to solve or a project to be completed, to let Love’s loudest voice be one of understanding. Give Him a chance to actively listen, He never grows tired or weary.
Side note- but definitely worth mentioning- I am writing this from an apartment one block from the beach that my husband and I have been generously gifted for a week. His understanding no one can fathom!
I love watching my kids try new things. My daughter Evelyn, who is my only girl and the baby of our family, has a little code sign for me to let me know she is doing ok in new situations. Most recently, watching her try out soccer - where might I add, she is the only girl on the team - she will be in the middle of her lesson, and then look back at me to make sure I’m watching and give me a big two thumbs up! She waits until I respond back with a thumbs up also. Even as I write this, it brings tears to my eyes, because I know she has so much trust that I am there loving her and supporting her, that she knows she is going to be ok. I have to admit, I’m sure there have been times I have had my head down checking my phone or something, and I’ve missed it, but as I was thinking about that very thing today, I was reminded that we have a God who is so near, who is on the sidelines cheering us on and giving us a big thumbs up back, as we walk out our days.
And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power. Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.
I love this whole passage, but the phrase that caught my attention, was this…
“and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.”
I started to ask myself, “Where is my resting place?”, and “How does having the love of a heavenly father as my resting place, change the way I do life?”
On a daily basis, I have to remind my kids, my boys especially, to eat their breakfast. They would quite happily get ready for school without thinking about eating. I’m not sure how this happens, as I need breakfast in the morning or I’m grumpy, but I keep reminding them that they have a big day ahead of them, and they need to start it off with something good to fuel their bodies and give them the energy to accomplish what’s in front of them.
How often do I find myself navigating life on drive mode? Things to get done, places to be, people who need my attention… yet this verse reminds me that I too need the right source to fuel my days. I love that the posture Paul describes as our source, isn’t one of striving or meeting an expectation. Quite the opposite, the posture is one of rest, and not resting in our own achievements, but in ‘the resting place of his love’.
As I am writing, I get a sense that God wants to bring many of His girls back to the resting place of His love as their source. Rest has been a hard thing for me to learn, if I’m honest, and one I am still on the journey of learning. I find it hard to truly rest, and not have ten million thoughts going through my head.
But what if we truly walked out each day from that posture of rest? I know the days I do, feel so much more productive and my eyes are just open to see things from a different perspective. There are for sure going to be days that we don’t get it right, and where we start to strive again, but I’m so thankful for a heavenly Father who draws me back and reminds me who I am in Him.
Read the first few verses of Psalm 23 with me:
“The Lord is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough. He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet break of bliss. That’s where He restores and revives my life. He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honour to His name.”
Did you hear that? His footsteps of righteousness. That’s a trail we can’t carve out on our own, that’s a trail He invites us to follow Him down.
I don’t know about you, but I need a daily reminder to rest in Jesus and what He has already done for me, that no performance of mine is going to change or alter, that He doesn’t need another driver, He’s got the wheel and we can trust the direction He’s going.
Jesus I thank you right now for who you are, that you invite me into a journey of resting in you. I invite you into my mess, into the difficulties that I just can’t see past, into my every day life. Thank you that you are with me, and that I don’t walk alone. Thank you that I am SO loved by you, that nothing I can do changes your love for me. Amen.
I grew up in Church and I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I even played 'Church' with the neighbourhood kids and my toys - Mum had to put some rules in place though when I started taking up an offering!
As a pastor's kid, and later becoming a pastor myself, Church has always been an integral part of my life. I've never woken up on a Sunday and thought, "Should we go to Church today?" because we've usually been the first there and the last to go.
That is until recently.
Two years ago, I resigned from my pastoral role. A year later, we felt God calling us out of the Church family that had been home for some 18 years. Both these changes required a lot of letting go and a lot of grieving. They caused me to do a lot of reflection and wrestling over this beautifully messy thing we call 'Church.' And all this wrestling saw me pull back.
At first I pulled back to process. To rest. To heal. This was wisdom for my season.
But then I pulled back because I felt alone. I felt adrift and I didn't know where I fitted anymore
Dave would head off to services with the kids without me. I just need some time alone with Jesus I'd tell him.
And honestly, I welcomed the extra time a Sunday with no rushing around gave me!
Yet the more I pulled back, the more empty I felt. Because we are not just called to relationship with God, we're also called to relationship with His people. No matter how hard it is. No matter how messy and complicated it gets, we are called to belong to a family and you can't belong from a distance.
So I've been taking small yet deliberate steps back towards committed community. I'm rediscovering what it means to belong and all the blessings that go with that.
The writer of Hebrew tells us this:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We hold tight to Him, but we must also hold tight to one another. The Passion Translation renders this passage beautifully saying:
This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.
These verses, are not a denial of the mess that will inevitably come wherever people in all their human frailties gather together, but they are a promise that in the midst of that mess we will find beauty. We will find encouragement and hope. That we will be spurred on to keep doing the good things that God is calling us to do both individually and collectively.
Over the past two years, I have been reminded just how deeply we need one another. Just how much I need the encouragement of others and also how much I am renewed and transformed as I reach out to those around me. How coming together to worship recalibrates my heart and keeps me focused on the truth that it's not all about me, it's about Jesus. It's about establishing His Kingdom here on earth.
Yes, I can listen to podcasts and watch services online. I can open my Bible and create an atmosphere of worship in my home with the music I put on, and I am so grateful these mediums are there for when gathering with others is genuinely not possible. But they were never intended to replace community.
Community is where I am discipled and refined, It continually gives me opportunities to become more Christ-like as I learn to love and serve like He does. Community is also how we show the world what it means to belong and just how powerful the love of God is.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
If you, like me, have taken a step back from meeting with other believers, if a season has turned into a lifestyle, can I encourage you today to reconsider. To be brave and try again. You will not find perfection but in your obedience to God's command to meet together and to love one another, you will encounter blessing.
Please note that in writing this I am aware that Church is not a building but the body of Christ, and as such, has many varied expressions. Acts 2:42-47 gives us some of the practices that should characterise a healthy expression of Church and it is commitment to a group of believers that meets to fulfill these purposes that I strongly encourage you to pursue.
It had been a particularly trying night. My sons had been fighting with me, and each other, and I’d been doing everything in my power not to yell back. The last thing I wanted was to add to the chorus of ‘stop it’ and ‘don’t’ and ‘aarghhh!!!’
My job is to be the calm one, right?
Calm, yet firm. In control, aware of my emotions, centred… The parent, not the oldest child. Yes, the parent – not the pushover.
I was trying – and failing, fast.
The minutes were racing towards their designated bedtime and my heart was pounding with either excitement at the prospect of ‘me time’ or the adrenaline of trying to wrangle two argumentative boys. Don’t know which. Either way, we were nearly there.
My nine-year-old was ramping it up more than usual, pushing back on my every request, pushing his brother, pushing every boundary.
“Maybe you need to get to bed earlier tonight,” I said. “You seem very tired…”
“No! I’m fine!” he yelled, before knocking over several toys in his path.
“What’s going on with you, Tom?” I said.“You seem really angry.”
At that point he started crying; sobbing…
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” he said. “I can’t stop this attitude. I keep having this attitude, and I don’t know how to stop…”
It’s a rare moment when a child confesses to an attitude problem.
As he continued to tell me about his ‘issues below the tip of the iceberg’, which included some mild bullying at school, and a general feeling of ‘not fitting in’, it made me think about my own ‘stuff’. Often my behaviours stem from deeper concerns too, and I don’t always take the time to address them.
Recently, I said goodbye to a church I’d been part of for over six years, and it was hard. I also changed workplaces after being at the same publishing company for close to 15 years.
Change is hard. Really hard.
And I think all of it has affected my emotional responses to my family, in subtle ways.
We all have worries and concerns that are simmering under the surface, and we tend to react by either melting down or shutting down. But the best thing we can do for ourselves when our behaviours take us by surprise, is to stop and question them. To do a bit of digging. And engage in a bit of raw honesty.
Sometimes we need to admit that ‘our attitude’ may be connected to something else… something deeper. Something which needs the hand of God on it, and the Spirit’s gentle guidance as we go to the Word and ask for fresh insight.
For me, working through all the changes in my life over the last 12 months has meant creating dedicated time with God where I talk freely and openly about how I’m feeling and what I’m struggling with. And he’s been gently leading me back to Scripture, where I’ve found refreshment and nourishment for the road ahead.
I’ve been able to admit my weariness and entrust my fears and concerns to him as I’ve spoken out loud – or written down in my journal – the words of God and allowed them to minister to my tired heart.
What are some of the areas of your life that need a bit more ‘digging’ with the help of a ‘gardener’ who knows you through and through?
John 15 says:
"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."
We depend on Jesus for everything, starting with our very lives – “for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Only Jesus can bring the healing and wholeness that we long for. Only Jesus can help us live fruitful lives for His glory.
Let’s pray that we’d have eyes to read between the lines of our lives and see what God needs us to see and faith to trust Him in the times and places that require pruning.
Lord, help us not to carry our ‘stuff’ alone. Help us to have the wisdom to take it to you; to engage in Scripture; and allow you to direct our thinking so that our attitude and actions are transformed. Help us to receive your grace for each new day, as we dig up all those things ‘under the surface’ and bring them into your glorious light. Help us to abide in you each and every day and be willing to serve you with our whole selves.
In Jesus’ name I pray,
Of late, my devotional reading has been the writings of the great Puritan Pastor and preacher Richard Sibbes (1577-1636). During his lifetime he was referred to as ‘the heavenly Richard Sibbes’ and it was said of him that when he spoke ‘it was as if his words were dropping from heaven’. When he died at the age of fifty-eight, his epitaph was: ‘Of this blest man, let this just praise be given, Heaven was in him, before he was in heaven’.
I wondered what it would be like to have this as my epitaph? (Not just yet though!) I have been blessed to be around people, influenced by some, who seem to carry the presence of heaven. We hear a lot about this subject in books, teachings, and worship songs etc. that speak about bringing heaven to earth. Sometimes it comes across as almost too mystical, intangible and disconnected from life.
Sometimes Christians have been derided as being ‘so heavenly minded, they are no earthly good’. The reality should be that we are so heavenly minded that we are every earthly good. In the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, before instructing them about what it means to live the Christian life, he lets them in on the secret, the key to living a life as a believer in Christ that will impact every sphere of their life and influence.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
The key to staying spiritually alive, connected to Christ and being every earthly good is essentially recognising that we live from a position of having been ‘raised with Christ’. We are resurrection life people. We live and outwork our faith from the resurrection side of the cross. To outwork this and walk in it, we must set both our heart (affections and will) and our mind (thinking, understanding, perceiving) on ‘things above’.
In simple terms, we must live from heaven to earth and be so heavenly minded we are every earthly good. Jesus had this in mind when He taught the disciples how to pray (Matt. 6:9) and when He told them to ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ (Matt. 6:33). The New Testament makes it clear that we are people of two realms – heaven and earth, but we are citizens of one – heaven (Philippians 3:20). Believers are referred to as ‘aliens and strangers on earth…in the world’ (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11) and we are therefore to ‘live our lives as strangers in reverent fear’ because one day the Father will hold us to account for our lives (1 Peter 1:17). Heaven is our home, we are visitors here.
These verses effectively reveal where our truth-view and perspective on life should derive from; what our point of reference should be – ‘things above’. Heaven is our starting point and pattern for how we see and relate to our world, ourselves and others and it should determine how we speak and act towards people and life. It should be the filter through which we evaluate life.
I like the way the following people translate this verse:
He must be heavenly minded here on earth and so help to make earth like heaven.
‘You must not only seek heaven; you must also think heaven.’
This is not something passive and mystical; it is something we set our hearts and minds intentionally to seek. The word set conveys the idea of ‘craving something, seeking in order to find - by meditating on, thinking on, aiming at, striving after’. It can also be translated ‘think’ or ‘have this inner disposition’. We are called to pursue the things ‘that are above’. We must be intentional about it and ‘set our hearts, set our minds, on things above’ to know heavens perspective on life, so that we influence what happens on earth. It is a proactive, constant persevering with all our heart and mind for the things of the Christ and the kingdom of heaven. It is a passionate pursuit of seeking to live and think from heaven’s perspective.
How do we do this? How can we learn to see our world, the circumstances we face, and the people we encounter through heavens eyes? The Father has given us two primary means - the Scriptures – the written Word of God and the Saviour Jesus Christ – the living Word of God. God has given us His Word that reveals His mind, heavens reality and perspective. Later in this same chapter of Colossians, Paul tells us to ‘let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (verse 16). In Jesus Christ we see heaven on earth in action, in the flesh, displaying our Heavenly Father’s heart and mind to a lost and hurting world.
For us to set our heart and mind on things above, we need to soak them in the Word – the written and Living Word of God.
Imagine if we did this...
Imagine if heaven was in us before we were in heaven...
Imagine how different our earthly sphere of influence could be...
As a girl I loved building sandcastles; armed with my bucket, spade and imagination I would construct a castle replete with turrets and towers, windows and bridges, a surrounding moat of water and carefully placed decorative shells to top it all off. Once complete I would stand back to admire my work of art. However, the inevitable tide would advance up the beach only to remove my precious sandcastle bit by bit; how sad I would be seeing my masterpiece collapse and disappear into nothingness.
The fact is, that no matter how good that sandcastle looked, or how intricate or creative – it could not withstand the incoming tide. Why? because it had no solid foundation to keep it standing there. This is also true in our own lives, anything that is built on a foundation of sand is not secure and will be washed away when storms, rains, tides and tempest come.
Let me be honest with you. I’ve had a very tough 5 years and this year has surpassed itself on the toughness scale. I’ve wondered how many more mistakes I could possibly make; I’ve not understood what’s driven me to do the crazy things I’ve done and I’ve been all at sea seeing my ‘sandcastle’ washed away.
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
There are painful consequences when we dis-obey God’s word, when we justify our own behaviour and do not surrender our hearts and lives fully to Jesus. Yet, my faithful God has removed from my life, that which needed to be removed. He has shown me He truly is who He says He is. I grieve and repent for what I have done yet marvel at his faithfulness and His promise to build me up again, with my foundation built on Him alone.
The Lord appeared to us in the past saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again.”
God in his mercy and grace has been exposing the areas of my life that have been built on the wrong foundations. Through the storms and the rising tides, I have learned first-hand there is only one I can trust. Only one that has my best interests at heart – only one that is my true rock in this life: Jesus. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand.
I am aware of God’s discipline as a true loving Father. The struggle and suffering are hard, but oh, let me tell you, I have seen the goodness of God. He has rescued me and set me upon the solid rock.
Have you felt like your life has slipped so far that God cannot reach you or change your situation? That you have made so many bad decisions and wrong choices that you cannot be re-routed? Let me tell you now - that is a lie. You may have failed. But you are not a failure. God is in the business of restoring and rebuilding. Let Him rebuild your life with your foundations set on Jesus, the Solid Rock.
Building a sandcastle maybe easy and fun. There you are at the beach on a balmy sunny day with no storm in sight, armed with your bucket, spade, shells and not a care in the world. But building spiritual foundations; building on a rock is about faith, obedience, commitment, determination, blood, sweat and tears.
But once you build on the solid Rock, on foundations that will not be shaken - no matter the storms you have to weather, no matter the tides that rise above your neck, this true foundation will not be washed away. There true security is found.
Let me leave you with the first verse and reprise from the old classic hymn by Edward Mote, and pose these questions to you – where is your hope? What foundation are you building on?
My hope is built on nothing less
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
The days here have been getting warmer and smatterings of spring blossoms have been making an appearance amongst the barren winter branches. Yes, it might still be winter, but spring is making her imminent arrival known.
I've found this rhythm of the seasons, the heralding of the beginning of something new whilst still in the middle of the prior thing, to be a pattern in my own life.
I have sensed that a move is coming long before it has eventuated
I have felt the shift in the spirit that signifies a breakthrough is coming long before it has been made manifest in my circumstances
I have dreamed dreams and felt the stirring of calling long before I have been ready to steward it
In Isaiah 42, God tells us this:
"See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you."
Perhaps you're more familiar with a similar declaration in Isaiah 43:
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I have found that God announces things to us - invites us to hear His heart and His plans - before it's time for them to be realised so that we can recognise their unfolding and be ready to partner with Him.
However, in my own journey, this early heralding has often been a source of frustration and I have become so forward focused that I have failed to be present and enjoy the season that He has me in.
Several years ago, it became clear that we had outgrown our house as a family. What had once been a spacious place now felt like a place of confinement, and while I was restless, a move was outside of our resources, so truthfully, I hadn't seriously entertained it. But after speaking at a woman's event (where I should say I didn't mention the size of our family or our living situation), a lady came up to me afterwards and said that she felt we had outgrown our home and that God wanted us to know that we didn't need to worry about it, we just needed to pray about it. It was to be the first of many prophetic words that we would be given about a move and a spacious place. The actual move would come two years later.
As these words began to roll in in quick succession, I felt sure that a move must be imminent and my attitude both towards my house and maintaining it deteriorated. I began to rationalise that certain things didn't matter anymore because 'we would be moving soon.'
But after a year, it was clear that the move was not a 'now' thing. We still believed that it was what God was promising us, but that He had spoken it when He did to offer us hope that things would not always look the way that they did; that there were things for us to look forward to in our future.
So I began to focus on the now. To be present in my home. To do all the things that I could to make it inviting and practical for that season. But we also made sure that we were ready for when God gave the green light for a move. We decluttered and hired a skip; we did what we were able to to make a move financially feasible; we began to look at houses in the areas that we sensed God leading us to - simply taking one step at a time while still staying firmly planted where God had us for that time.
At the beginning of this year, what we had earlier 'heard' God announce, was realised as God worked in miraculous ways to not only make a move possible, but to exceed all expectations that we had had for a new home. 'Hearing' in advance enabled us to perceive and partner with what God was wanting to do. It also readied my heart to be able to release - to forget the former - and embrace the new.
This, and several others experiences of 'hearing' something before its time, have taught me that we must both treasure what God is saying to us about the future and where He currently has us. Both are precious, and just as the seasons share a period of time as they crossover, we can hold both the present and the future in our hands.
What has God spoken into your future? What does it look like for you to partner with what He has promised while staying planted in your present?
Be encouraged that even if you cannot yet see how His promise could possibly be realised, that He is the One who makes a way in the wilderness landscape of our lives - who causes the barren branches to burst forth with new blooms of beauty.
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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