“Where abouts are you from?” The most common question I get asked, followed by “Why are you here?” Most people aren’t ready for the real answer, so I reply with “I am from Washington State, in the US. Here working with a local church called Centre 61.” Stating my country of origin tells people a lot about who I am.
As a result of my birthplace I speak American English, eat American foods, celebrate American holidays, have American customs, and enjoy American citizenship. I don’t normally use Wikipedia as a resource, but I did like its definition of citizenship. It is a “relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection.” A citizen of the US can vote, hold a job, can’t be kicked out, and is awarded protection from the country if needed while traveling abroad. However, in return for the benefits of citizenship, we are expected to be in allegiance with our country; treason is not taken lightly.
I am now an American expatriate because I am no longer living in my native country. I sought permission to reside and work in the United Kingdom. My residence here, however, does not change my nationality. I still hold an American passport and receive all the same benefits of American citizenship (I can still vote, have a bank account, work for a US company, and receive protection if needed). My language, customs, celebrations, and food are still American in nature. In essence I brought America with me when I moved.
But America isn’t my true origin. I came from a place before that. This is my second home. Jesus said in John 17:16 “They are not of the world just as I am not of the world.”
Philippians 3:20 tells us where we are actually from: “For our citizenship is in heaven…”
Ephesians 2:19 “Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” (NKJV)
The Passion Translation says, “So, you are not foreigners or guests, but rather you are the children of the city of the holy ones, with all the rights as family members of the household of God.”
If we take the definition of citizenship above, being citizens of Heaven (the Kingdom of God) means that our allegiance is to God and in return we are awarded his protection and benefits (see Psalm 103:2-4).
How do we take hold of our true origin and citizenship?
For what purpose?
Now let’s take this one step further. If I were to come into Northern Ireland and attempt to take over the ruling government, after being laughed at, I would be arrested and deported. If I brought an army with me it would be an act of war. But dear fellow Citizens of Heaven, we have been tasked with taking this domain back. It was ours, we had rule and dominion but we gave it away in the Garden of Eden. Satan is the prince of the air of his Kingdom of Darkness. But that is all he is. A prince. Our Kingship trumps his prince-ship (is that a word?) any and every day. Revelation 1:6 and Ephesians 2:6 make it clear that we rule with Christ and have the authority and power to dispossess Satan of his kingdom. We are supposed to take dominion everywhere we go. We are not to be citizens of this world, submitting to the prince of this land in how we think, what we believe, and how we live. To do so is actually a betrayal of God’s Kingdom. We are the conduit through which Jesus uses his matchless power to continually subdue everything to himself.
We are not to be sweet little passive residents of this world. We are actually supposed to be intentionally and [spiritually] violently taking the kingdom by force. We are not subject to the laws of Darkness. We owe no allegiance to this world. Jesus actually intended for his Church to behave like an army of warriors coming against the powers of darkness to take back the Kingdom we lost. Jesus has restored us to the position as rulers with him, we can either choose to act the part, or sit back faithlessly watching as Darkness takes over in our families, finances, health, and nation.
I love what Emma Stark says about the church, the ecclesia, in her book The Prophetic Warrior.
"'And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church [ecclesia], and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:18–19).'
Ecclesia was first used by the Greeks as their word for a kind of people’s parliament—the legislators or governors in the land. When the Romans conquered the Greeks, they adopted this word as a military word. The ecclesia was the military’s specialized task force that made things look Roman. For example, if a building didn’t look Roman, they would ensure it was Romanized. The Romans also added a discipleship aspect to ecclesia, Romanizing through education, government, family, and culture. They understood how to disciple a nation. The Romans wanted to change the entire culture, thinking, and actions of any nation that they conquered. They wanted it to look like, think like, and function like Rome.
Jesus therefore says to us in Matthew 16 that we are the ecclesia—the spiritual legislators and the governing senate. It is our job to make our land look like Heaven. God is calling to His ecclesia at this time and asking us what we are going to do about the problems the world faces. We should not be looking at our political governments because the solution is found in the ecclesia, the Church. The Church is the determining factor for what happens in the nation."
What are you waiting for?
I am not here in Northern Ireland to make it look American. I am here to “Heavenize” this land (I’m just making up new words today!). For long enough the world has had its way here in Northern Ireland. But as our fellow citizens of Heaven have been praying and fighting for so long here, we are seeing a shift in the atmosphere of this country. The sick are being healed, the demonized are freed, the lost are being saved. The culture of Heaven is invading the church and taking over.
It is time for all Expats of Heaven to remember our origin and restore our minds to the nature we had in Christ before the beginning of time. Let’s prove to the world the “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” by remembering our birthplace and re-learning the ways of God’s Kingdom and take the nations back!
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Wind, bone chilling cold, rain, and green—both places have that in common. Despite having lived in Ireland before, there are many things here in Northern Ireland that are very different from the big city living of Dublin. Newcastle is a small seaside town, tucked in by the Irish Sea and the Mourne Mountains. Outside the small town is farmland as far as you can see. Big farms, small farms, sheep farms, cow farms, and crops. Things are done differently here. No one is in a hurry to do anything. You can stop and talk to just about anyone anywhere; shops close at 5:00, many aren’t even open on Sundays. Your eggs come from the farm down the road, and everyone is a cousin to someone else you know. It’s like a step back in time! It’s quite pleasant and I am in no rush to leave it. But the adaptations were intentional and took effort (3 months in and they still do).
What is the key to adapting? Renewing the mind. I remember when this concept really hit me and made sense. Fortunately I got it early on and it really unlocked an ease to the process so far. I was driving down a narrow road, heading to the grocery store, and I got stuck behind a large tractor. They’re everywhere here. It’s a rare day to not see one on the road. The tractors are massive, the wheels are the height of my car, they have bright flashing lights, and they are often pulling trailers (my favourite one was bringing his Christmas tree home in one!). They don’t drive fast and they take up the entire lane. On the rural roads there is no way around them, you just drive behind slowly, waiting for them to turn off the road. I was starting to get frustrated and some not-so-nice thoughts about the country started to creep in. But then I remembered that one of the things I love most about this country is the beautiful green rolling hills, dotted with sheep and cows. You don’t get farmland without tractors! Immediately I found a value in the tractors and the patience to drive slowly once again.
While there are many things here that don’t make sense to me (like why we still don’t have internet at our house), there are many things that are just different. I found myself resisting some things just because they were different than I am used to. But when I learned to stop and look for the value in the difference my perspective changed, and I was able to adapt to and appreciate the cultural differences. This is what renewing the mind is. It’s changing your thoughts, perspective, and belief on a matter.
Americans have a bad name in many countries because of the approach many take to new cultures. “If it’s different than I am used to, it’s wrong!" This has caused a lot of hurt on the mission field as well. We were strongly cautioned to be aware of this and not fall into this pattern. But Christians can fall into this anywhere. Why is there such a prevalent mind-set that we know everything we need to know about God, his Word, and the Church? Why does someone having a different revelation or understanding of something challenge us so much? Could it be that there is more to a topic than we know already? If God is infinite, is it possible that you don’t yet have full understanding?
Whether you know it or not, God is calling you to deeper revelation of him and his word every day. Your PhD in theology doesn’t impress him. Your learning disabilities don’t deter him. Your born-again age doesn’t matter. Our upbringing, experiences, teaching, even our own understanding of the scripture can lead us to conclusions on a matter that don’t align with God’s truth. There’s always more!
The culture of Heaven looks nothing like the cultures of the Earth. There is an adjustment period for everyone coming out of the world’s culture into Gods. Take the disciples for example. They were in the world, doing their thing, running their businesses, living their life how they had been taught and how their parents had lived for generations before them. Jesus called them out of their world into his. There were different rules, words, beliefs, and practices. It took some time for them to adapt. But look at them, they took the Gospel to the ends of the known world! They forever changed nations and cultures. What if they had been unwilling to renew their mind? They wouldn’t have sent a single demon fleeing, one fever running, or saved a single soul. What was the key? Jesus taught, corrected, instructed, and empowered them. They tried new things and failed. They tried again. Failed some more. Jesus didn’t give up on them. He immersed them in the culture of Heaven. Then he left the message of the Gospel in their hands. They continued until their death to seek the “more” that God had for them. They didn’t stop pressing in. They were humble and willing to learn.
Get used to Different!
So, what is your excuse? When something doesn’t work the way it is supposed to, God isn’t the problem. What are the mindsets still keeping you from your “more”? More freedom, more breakthrough, more healing, more peace, more joy, more wonders, more fruit? God wants to take you further out of the culture of this world and deeper into the culture of his Kingdom, where every thought is taken captive, every lofty argument against God is torn down, every lie is kicked out.
Look at the story in Matthew 17, starting at verse 14. A man had brought his son to the disciples to be healed of epilepsy. The disciples couldn’t do it. “It must not have been God’s will!” Nope, Jesus simply rebuked the demon and it fled. So, why couldn’t the disciples do it? Jesus told them (verse 20-21) that it was their unbelief, and the solution to their unbelief was prayer and fasting. Why? Because in prayer we commune with the Father who reveals his wisdom to us. If we are listening, He will teach us. In fasting, we are emptying ourselves, removing the clutter of our flesh. We don’t gain more power in fasting, but we gain a stronger connection to the One who empowers us. Jesus did what he saw the Father doing, and said what he heard the Father saying. Make sure your lines of communication are clear. If you believe something contrary to scripture, how you will be able to partner with God when he wants to do that thing? Much of the reason for our fruitlessness is that we just don’t believe what he said. We are still in bondage to lies and false teaching. Maybe God is ready to do something different!
"Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth;
shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the
wilderness and rivers in the desert." - Isaiah 43:19
Different isn’t bad. It’s like the slogan for The Chosen series “Get used to different.” What is God challenging you into? What different thing does God want to do that is making you uncomfortable? It’s time to value the shift to the new culture and leave the old one behind.
Don’t get caught up in the discomfort of culture change. Let God take you to new places, new heights, and new freedoms. Don’t fear getting stuck behind a tractor or having to do your shopping before 5:00. You will eventually appreciate it!
The Kingdom of God does not need your resolution!
New Year’s resolutions are becoming a thing of the past. “New Year, New You!” slogans were created to motivate people to join a gym and boost the bottom line of businesses, whose only motivation was to capitalise on people’s self-rejection and insecurities. It’s not 2005 anymore…or even 2022!
Welcome to 2023: God, the Church, even your family doesn’t need anymore insecure, self-centred resolutions. The Kingdom of God doesn’t need good intentions. It needs people who are transformational and revolutionary. If you want to be relevant, purposeful, useful, and powerful in 2023 then drop your “New Year’s Resolutions.”
A 91% fail rate
I get it, you don’t want to stay the way you are right now forever. You recognise weaknesses, have new goals, or maybe are bored with the status quo. But change is hard. Even well-intentioned change. Most people lose momentum before the change becomes permanent. According to this website, only 9% of people achieve their resolution. Those aren’t world-changing statistics!
For most, the desire to change is rooted in rejection (from self or others), insecurity, and/or pride. Be honest with yourself. If you really evaluated the reason behind the last personal resolution you made (eat less, read more, pray more, give up social media, etc), it was because you wanted to be “better” (slimmer, smarter, richer, prettier, etc) than you are right now.
Resolving in your mind to do something limits you to the power of your will. Resolutions come from your own strength, are based on your previous failures, and result in your own glory (or lack there-of).
Resolutions are OUT, Transformation is IN!
I am going to simplify this down to one simple, essential key to lasting change: a transformed mind. Transformation is really what you’re looking for. I said it was simple, I didn’t say it was easy!
Know who you are, forget who you are not!
As a son or daughter of God you possess every spiritual blessing, spiritual gifts, and the nature of Christ. You lack nothing. This is where that all-important key comes in for your lasting transformation: renew your mind about who you are, leaving behind who you are not.
Pay attention to the words used in scripture to describe you (italics added):
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:9-10
“…put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24
“ …since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…” Colossians 3:9-10
“…as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 Peter 1:3-4
Do you see it? It’s already been done! You have been made new already! It was the work of Christ on the cross that did all the work to make you everything you need to be. And do you know what else it makes you? Loved, accepted, adored, beautiful, and worthy. It’s not your works in this new year that will be make you more loved, more beautiful, or more significant. It is the work that He has already done. You must only meet one condition: to be in Christ. No other conditions apply to attain being made new, perfect, and lovely.
Steps for Success in 2023
A renewed mind comes through the Word of God; both logos and rhema words.
“And not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
Step 1: Take the old thoughts captive. You must search out with Holy Spirit to find the thoughts you have about yourself that the Father does not have about you. You cannot afford to think anything about yourself that He hasn’t first thought about you. This will be a life-long process, but He is so faithful, he will continue to reveal and work this out as you submit to him and meet with him in the secret place.
Step 2: Replace the thoughts (lies) with Truth.
“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;” Psalm 139:17-18
Here David is saying that the Father’s thoughts toward him cannot be counted they are so vast, but they are a treasure to be prized and cherished. Do you know what his thoughts towards you are? Spend time with Him and ask Him; read the Word and let it wash over you.
Step 3: Radiate the Glory of God. As you begin to renew the thoughts you have about yourself, the old man gets put to rest, and what comes to the surface is the reflection of the glory and image of Christ (see Romans 8:29). We are to live from this identity, not into it by trying to attain it through good or right works. You are the expected manifestation of the glory of God (sit on that for a while! Colossians 1:27). A son or daughter living from true identity will change the world. The lost, hurting, and sick of this world are waiting for an encounter with Jesus through you. This will bring more change to the world than any resolution ever can.
Happy Transformational Year!
So this year live from the perspective of you who are, not who you are not. Spend more time in the secret place with the Lord because you are a son or daughter, not to become one. Better your physical health because you already are the temple of the Holy Spirit, you don’t have to make yourself worthy of it. Pursue the passions the Lord has given you because he has already favoured you to be successful, you don’t have to earn it. God has already secured your finances, you can live from financial peace, not for it.
May this new year be the year that you live from your new self, already perfected in Christ. Let the striving for perfection end, and the confidence of your acceptance, power, and authority in Christ begin.