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 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 and said that she felt we had outgrown our home and that God wanted us to know that we didn't need to worry, we just needed to pray about it. It was to be the first of many prophetic words 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 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 I could to make it inviting and practical for that season. But we also made sure 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 we sensed God leading us to. We simply took 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 what had been - 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.
Anyone with a passion for writing knows the frustration wrapped up in those two words; in having something to say but no way to express it.
For me, there is a joy in language, in shaping and crafting words to convey something to a reader that draws them in to a new understanding, an experience or revelation that they may not have ever accessed otherwise. So writers block is like a prison of frustration, a wall where I am trapped with fragments of thoughts but no way to connect or communicate them. If I stay in that prison long enough I can start to believe the lie that those fragments are not valuable enough to fight for, that maybe there's a reason I don't have the right words.
A while back I learned a principle that I have permission to feel anything that God feels, and I also have permission to not feel anything He doesn't. So when I have fear or anxiety I picture the Lord, the laughter lines on His face from an eternity of being amused by the plans of the enemy (Psalm 2) and I remember if He's not worried, I don't have to be either. Fear, confusion, panic, being stuck, are all things he has no concept of, so I'm free to eliminate them from my reality, by just asking what He sees or experiences that replaces those things.
There are things I would like to erase that He does experience, though. Rejection. Grief. Suffering. All of these things He entered in to willingly for our sake, so now they can be my invitation to experience an understanding and new layer of His closeness and perfection that I couldn't have otherwise. So, writers block? I have to say, it's not something I'd ever consider the Living Word to have experienced.
While I was wrestling with this recently, I read this verse in 2 Samuel 22:25:
God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes.
What if God has a story - your life - that he's burning with love to rewrite? This is a God who literally rewrites history (read Genesis 18:12 where Sarah laughs in disbelief at the promise of a child, yet in Hebrews 11:11 her story is rewritten and her legacy recorded as a hero of faith).
What if you are a beautifully and intentionally crafted thought in the heart of God that He's longing to communicate and parade to those who need to see?
What if the "writers block" He experiences is not self-doubt or fragmented thinking but a closed book in our hearts?
Can I encourage you today as I say to my own heart, gently but directly, "Open up. Expose yourself to His eyes. Let Him rewrite the pages that make you want to keep this from being seen."
His rewriting not only gives perspective, it restores innocence. He redeems completely whatever we give Him access to, He just can't help Himself.
Today I chose to open my book again to the Author of Life, and in doing so we both walked out of our "writers block" experience.
Touching down in Auckland airport last week, my husband and I realised that not only did it feel like we were coming home, but also that we were away from home. Such a weird feeling, yet it gives a bit of insight into our world and where we find ourselves.
Two and a half years ago, we moved our family over the other side of the Pacific Ocean to Seattle, Washington. Had I known what would follow, would I have still said yes, or would I have run in the other direction?
Do you ever stop to consider where you’ve come from to get to where you are today?
There’s something beautiful about looking back, not to live in the past or to wish it were the good old days, but to see all that God has done.
I think about who I was before I said yes to stepping out into the unknown. I knew what trusting God meant, I mean, I had grown up knowing who Jesus was from a young age, attended a Christian school, been involved in various areas of leadership in church, but little did I know how much that trust would be tested.
I think about Ruth, in the Bible, when she found herself presented with the opportunity to follow her mother in law to a foreign land. She had just lost her husband, brother in law and father in law, and had to choose whether to go back to what she knew, or to step into an unknown path ahead of her.
Her response is recorded for us:
“but Ruth embraced her and held on…….Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge.”
As we journey in our walk with Jesus, we get presented with these intersections of decision: an opportunity to continue on with what we know and what is comfortable, or to pursue Jesus in the unknown.
There have been moments and days in the last 4 years, where I have wondered what the heck I’m doing, did we really make the right decision to leave everything we knew? So many things that when weighed up, could easily point to us going back to where we came from.
However, the more I say yes to Jesus and to following where He is leading me and our family, the more at peace I find myself. I believe God has written a story for each one of us, a story that invites us to trust Him with our lives, to trust that He knows us better than anyone else.
The beautiful part about Ruth’s story, is that you see God’s fingerprints all over it. In chapter 2 we read:
“So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers and she ‘happened’ to come to the
I love how it says, “she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz”. Boaz goes on to show her favour and ends up being her future husband. When we trust Jesus with our lives and we truly want to follow after ALL that he has for us, He shows up time and time again, in the places of our lack, to remind us, that it’s not about us, but that HE is all we need.
Ruth’s story concludes with her being married to Boaz, and to becoming the great grandmother of King David, being a woman included in the lineage of Jesus.
The beauty of being part of the story God has written for you is that it’s not just about you! Ruth’s journey ended up not only having a direct impact on Naomi, through provision and a whole new family, but her legacy became part of something so much bigger, pointing to the story of Jesus.
Where in the story do you find yourself? Have you let God in to write your story, or are you fighting to write your own? Are you at an intersection where God is inviting you to trust Him more in the unknown? What’s on the other side of saying yes to Jesus - who’s lives are yet to be impacted through your story?
He is the best author, and He knows you better than anyone else. He is so trustworthy.
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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