Find grace within.

Upside Down

Intimacy and provision for the poor in spirit

We have trouble with Kingdom principles. Maybe if we didn’t expect things to be a certain way it wouldn’t be an issue. Maybe if we weren’t forced to deal with all our insatiable curiosities and menacing desires, maybe things would be different. But this is the circumstance we find ourselves in.

We would hope a solution exists. Maybe one day we’ll find it and realize that things aren’t the way they should be. Or maybe we will settle with the idea that the way things should be is truly the way things are.

Maybe we’ll find ourselves content. Maybe not. Maybe we think life should be simpler than it is. Complex should not be a word associated with other words such as grace, mercy, love or forgiveness.  If something is true and honest enough to be associated with any of these great words, should we not also find simplicity? At least that would be a world we could agree with and function graciously within.

However, the opposite rings true often. The act of forgiving is not always simple. Offering grace, granting mercy or loving the seemingly unlovable, are not actions that align themselves with our nature, at least not the nature with which we were born.

Certainly, if the Kingdom which God designed is upside down, we are right side up and full of controversial opposites.

Admitting our ineptness isn’t easy. Our faults and failures – and they are many – define who we are and influence who we will become.

The closer you get to Jesus, the more you are confronted with your inability to do anything apart from Him (John 15:5).

The more experience you have in the Kingdom of God, the more you realize it will never be exactly what you want, but it will always be exactly what you need.

When we experience the Kingdom of God, we find a moral standard that does not cater to our will or emotions but benefits our souls, and our souls always crave more than our will and emotions can ever provide. The soul can only be satisfied when it is living, owning and immersed in the Kingdom of God; a kingdom that is most certainly upside down.

It is the place where up is down, black is white, in is out and your wants and needs are as polarized as oil and water. You’re not always content in this Kingdom. You don’t always agree with this Kingdom. This Kingdom doesn’t always make sense, and a battle of semantics, wills or argumentative banter will never be won there.

It is a kind Kingdom whose mission is non-negotiable and unrelenting. This does not appeal to some. We become antsy. We become discontented. And what happens when we become discontent with God’s Kingdom?

We build our own.

Sure, it’s not as big or as safe or as capable, but it’s ours and sometimes that’s all that matters. The paper-thin walls of our kingdom are only provisional, but they’re ours. The leaky ceilings and damp rooms are far less than ideal, and far less than what God’s Kingdom offers, but we choose to live there because it is ours.

Unfortunately, our kingdom is a very lonely place. There are thousands of kingdoms out there, why should a person choose yours? Yes, they may come and visit, but they, much like you, will always choose their own kingdom in the end.

Your kingdom loses its attraction rather quickly. Kingdoms are built and destroyed every day and yours is no exception.

God’s Kingdom, however, does not define itself by its inhabitants, as many cities do. God’s Kingdom is defined by its Creator.

Living in God’s Kingdom may mean that you loosen your tight grip on control. It may mean that you accept the role of prince or princess instead of king or queen.

God’s Kingdom revives the rattle-boned soul in ways your kingdom never will, even if it is upside down.

Welcome to the upside-down Kingdom of God. It is full of unexpected twists and turns and surprising endings. Jesus, the King of the Kingdom, offers a new, yet ancient, perspective on things you will encounter daily. This is a wonderful Kingdom, even if it is upside down. It will not necessarily be what you want, but it will most certainly be what you need.

It won’t be your Kingdom, but it is yours to experience, and it is filled to the brim with blessings that come from uncanny places. We find the ideal description of this upside-down Kingdom in the Beatitudes. The beatitudes are a series of “blessed are” statements found in Matthew 5:3-12.

Throughout this series we will explore some of the beatitudes and the true blessing it is when we experience it through the lens of the Kingdom of God. They may seem like opposing concepts — at first glance, but while God’s Kingdom may feel upside down at times, it always provides what we need.

Beatitude #1: The Poor in Spirit

“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:2-3 ESV).

Seldom will you meet a person who desires poverty, although they do exist. If you were to take a stroll down skid row in Los Angeles, California you would certainly find more than one person who embraces a homeless lifestyle. They chose to live this way. There are also hundreds of young people who embrace the nomadic way of life and travel from Washington state all the way to California. They desire poverty, although they may declare it is not poverty at all. It is freedom.

Yet, freedom of this nature is costly. The absence of basic physiological needs, as well tragically unsafe environments, can cast a heavy burden on the body and mind. But this is not the type of poverty Jesus was referring to.

There are several types of poverty. There are those who are economically poor. Perhaps they’ve lost their job, mismanaged their money or never took to saving. We would say they are poor because they lack the resources to provide for their physical needs.

Then there are those who are mentally or emotionally poor. Their minds have been assaulted by life and they no longer find themselves capable of believing they can do anything good. It’s an impoverished state of mind which affects not only our attitudes but also every choice that follows. People who find themselves mentally impoverished have one of two choices. They can look to their own resources, will and ambition to pull them out of the muck, or they can look to God for His help.

The poor in spirit are those who understand their sad situation and look to God – and God alone – for their sustenance.

  • He is their provider.
  • He is their savior.
  • He is their comfort.

God can take the situation they are in and turn it for their good. Those who are poor in spirit are blessed, not because they are without hope or help, but because they are positioned for intimacy and provision.

James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (NIV).

Favor. That is something we can’t earn or manipulate God into giving. It’s His to distribute as He wills. One thing is certain –

While we cannot force God to give us favor, we can certainly position ourselves to receive it.

God is actually looking for you! 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (NIV).

God is looking for those who have embraced their need for a savior and submitted everything to Him. They recognize that without Him, they are nothing, will never possess anything of eternal value and cannot in any way save themselves.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, because they will find the One who is also searching for them. In a moment, your lack is met with His abundance, and you find more in God than you could ever find through your own efforts.

Nobody wants to be poor, not mentally, emotionally or economically. Yet in God’s upside-down Kingdom, our self-aware impoverished state is what truly gives us access to the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Warrior and Child

Why you need both on your journey with Jesus

The Warrior & Child

Before He was a lamb on the cross, He was a baby in a manger. Be honest — when you think of the manger scene, don’t you think about a cute, cuddly, cooing little baby Jesus? When you see a newborn baby, you don’t think, Wow, look at that mighty, powerful, warrior! No, most of the time you say, “Aww … she (or he) is perfect. They look just like … (insert the name of the parent you like the best).

In reality, you can look at Jesus and see both a warrior (lion) and a child (Son of God). He is both in tandem. In 1984, Christian musical artist Twila Paris released a powerful song titled, “The Warrior is a Child.”

Here are a few of the lyrics:

Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
I’m strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears

They don’t know that I come running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child

The song is sung from the perspective of a believer, but it could easily be about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Many theologians believe Mary was between 12-16 years old when Jesus was born. There is a good chance she still felt like a child compared to the adults who surrounded her. What a weight to carry at such a young age.

Considering your relationship with God, you will always be the child, no matter how much you try to project the warrior within. Jesus instructed us to become more like a child.

“He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2 NIV).

God is waiting for the child in the soul of each warrior to run to Him. We must each become a child who is willing to sprint back to Him regardless of what we’re wearing, where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, what we’ve spoken or who we’ve become.

To live as a warrior seems far cooler than to live as a child. It can be a natural response to years of bumps, bruises, fights and let-downs. It’s easy to cling to the warrior, viewing the child as weak and ineffective. But oddly enough in God’s upside-down kingdom, the child is what is required to conquer the nations.

The irony is the warrior and the child must co-exist. One without the other accomplishes little. They balance each other. Too much child and nothing is conquered, although great intentions exist. Too much warrior and aggression overcomes obedience. You conquer but you don’t think about the ramifications.

The child keeps the warrior focused on what’s right; the warrior keeps the child from shrinking away to inactivity.

It’s an important fact to know, because sometimes we have to drop our swords and allow God to minister to the child within.

Children behave in such wonder during the Christmas season. As we get older our identity can appear more warrior than child, but very few things are as precious as seeing a child open a present on Christmas morning. They express such purity, such expectation. They may tear off the wrapping paper like a warrior, but their countenance is one of a child.

There are times to be a warrior. There are times to take ground and conquer the enemy. Nothing illustrates this more than Jesus’ return in Revelation 19:11-16.

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords” (NIV).

He was clearly a warrior, but he was also clearly a child. John 5:19 says, “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does’” (NIV).

He was fully dependent on His father. Some would say that a child who is fully dependent on their father has not fully matured, but in the Kingdom of God this isn’t the case.

We were not created to mature to a place where we no longer need our Father God.

We are always dependent upon His grace, mercy, kindness and love.

This Christmas season as you journey toward Christ, begin by evaluating your dependence on Him. It’s okay to be a warrior, but you are required to be a child. He wants you to cast every care on Him (1 Peter 5:7). He wants you to pray to Him without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

The best warriors know how to follow their leaders’ commands. The best children know how to honor their parents. Jesus was able to make the warrior and child at peace within the heart of the believer, both able to be summoned as the circumstances demanded.

Warrior and child. Lion and Lamb. Both were in the manger that beautiful night, and both are also in you.

When you think about the hardship Jesus endured, even at birth, you can’t help but appreciate the Father God that much more. He did not take the easy road because He understood it’s a road most of humanity would be unable to relate to. Instead, Jesus’ journey was fraught with stress from day one.

When you come to a season that should be joyful, should be fulfilling and should be celebratory, but you feel none of those emotions you can be tempted to feel like a failure. Refuse to succumb to your emotions and instead, be led by the Spirit as Jesus modeled.

Jesus may have had every right to feel ashamed of his financial or social status, but He didn’t have time for that. He was overcome by purpose. He had battles to win! While it’s tempting to dress yourself permanently in sheep’s clothing, sometimes you have to be a warrior. Sometimes you have to fight for the life you want — the life He has for you.

That night in a manger a baby was born, a perfect lamb and a perfect warrior. On your journey to Christ there will be times you rest in His presence and times you engage in spiritual warfare. Our prayer for you this Christmas is for you to be graced with the discernment of who you must be when it’s required of you.

If you missed the first or second blog in this special Christmas series, you can find it here – Nicely Wrapped – Is your heart an attractive gift to God? and here – The Joy Box

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