Friday, August 19, 2011

Living in God's Upside Down Kingdom

“I think I’m going to be sick. What was she saying? What was I supposed to say?” It was as if my head was submerged under water. I could hear her speaking to me but couldn’t fathom what she was saying.

As I stood in my kitchen that day and listened to my dear friend yell at me, I wondered how we could have gotten to this place.

We had been doing life together for about 5 years, my friend and I - having babies, hanging out as families and doing ministry together. We were the only two women in a world of men and we were allies. But our roles had recently changed and she did not like the decisions I was making. We were no longer allies or even friends and my heart was breaking. Why couldn’t we just work this out? Why did it have to be like this? Didn’t she know me well enough that she could trust that I had her best interest at heart?

I watched as our friendship blew up in my face and could do nothing to stop it.

I met with a mentor as I wrestled through what God wanted me to do in regards to our relationship. As we were discussing the situation my mentor made a statement I’ve never forgotten. He said, “What you’re seeing here, Kristi, is the purest form of legalism – she is saying “it’s my way or the highway”. God’s answer to legalism is grace. And I believe God has given you an extra measure of grace to reach out to her and draw her back into fellowship. But with that grace I believe that God is calling you to take the higher road, to humble yourself and go to her and seek to restore your friendship.” I remember thinking at the time, “This is completely opposite of what the world would tell me to do. The world would say, ‘she did you wrong, run as far away from her as possible. You shouldn’t allow yourself to be treated like that.’” But I knew in my heart he was right, that God was calling me to lay down my life for her and to go to her in humility and grace.

I wish I could tell you that our relationship was restored but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. But what I do know, is that I did what God was calling me to do even though it was completely upside down from what the world would say I should do. And through my obedience He blessed me.

In Matthew 5, Jesus talks about what it looks like to live in His Upside Down Kingdom. Listen to His Words . . .

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
(Matthew 5:3,10 NLV)

Jesus goes on to say further in the chapter, “But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. . . You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:39-40, 43-44 NLV)

When we follow Jesus, He calls us to a higher path - a road less followed, a road of radical obedience to His WAY.

The world will tell you that you will be walked on if you do things His way that you will be trapped and misused, if you hold to that kind of lifestyle.

But Jesus says that living in His Kingdom sets us apart and shows the world that we are different! The truth is that when we live in His Upside Down Kingdom we experience a life of true blessing and freedom!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Treasure Hunt

My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5(NLV)

I was privileged to grow up in a great Christian home. From the time my parents brought me home from the hospital, I was in church. I grew up listening to the stories of the Bible, memorizing verses, doing Bible drills (a practice of helping children know where to find verses in their Bible) and singing songs – like the B-I-B-L-E and Onward Christian Soldiers.

I was saturated in Bible “lingo” and as a young adult (to be perfectly honest) was bored and tired of it. I knew I needed to be in God’s Word, to spend time with him but when I would open up the Scriptures, my heart would scream, “I already know this. I’ve seen this a thousand times! How can I get anything new from it?” It was a raging battle within my soul – the pull to do what I knew everyone expected of me and the pull to give up.

My mind was like one of those tea cups at Disneyland that spins around and around, “Why is this so hard? It shouldn’t be like this but I don’t know how to get out of this vicious cycle.” And just like those tea cups I was becoming sick of the struggle.

That battle raged within me for many years and it wasn’t until God took me through a painful break up with a close friend that I began to see things differently.

The day of my transformation is forever stamped upon my heart. I was sitting out in our back porch journaling about my frustration with my husband . . . He wasn’t loving me the way I thought I should be loved.

And as I was telling God, “I just want him to WANT to be with me!” and I felt God whisper to me, “That’s how I want you to love me!”

“You want me to WANT to be with You?!”

Just like I didn’t want my husband saying to me, “Well I would rather spend time with the guys but since you insist, I guess I’ll spend time with you.” God didn’t want me to say, “I really would rather be reading this book or watching this TV show but if you insist I guess I’ll drag out my Bible and spend time with you.”

It was the light of truth that finally pierced the darkness of my soul and I got it! I picked up my Bible and began to read. It was like I had a new Bible, one I had never read before! My OLD Bible had become NEW. I began to realize that this Bible was God’s communication with me. These words weren’t just great truths to read, they were HIS Words to me! My heart was overwhelmed with this Truth!

Over the years I have read the Bible from cover to cover and I’m becoming more and more convinced of the truth in Proverbs 2(NLV) . . .

Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God.

God and His Word are truly a treasure worth hunting for! Won't you join me in the HUNT?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pickin' Blueberries

I got up early on Saturday morning, at least for me it was early, to pick blueberries. I love this time of year in Michigan when all the fruit begins to ripen. And I love blueberries!

I felt a bit nostalgic as I carried my buckets out to the berry patch.

When I lived in Alaska we would pick the most wonderful wild blueberries. A group of us would hike out to the berry bushes swinging our pails. The only thing we had to be concerned about was whether we were sharing our blueberry patch with a bear. And as we walked home, after picking, we would whirl our buckets around and around. The goal was to keep the blueberries in our pail – it was pretty easy for me since I ate most of mine before I got home!

When my family moved from Alaska to California there were no more blueberries to pick and I was brokenhearted. So you can imagine my joy when I moved to Michigan as an adult and found out there were blueberries to pick!

This morning, I tied my bucket around my waste and began to
pick . . . There is something wonderful about a blueberry patch. The bushes are tall and it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one around. This morning I felt the wind brush my shoulder and listened to the quiet chirping of the birds. In the distance I heard a father talking to his son as he picked. It was so peaceful and quiet and the bushes were loaded with berries in various stages of ripening - some were green, others a deep red and finally, the ones I wanted - a dark blue. I plopped a berry in my mouth and enjoyed its sweet goodness. Could life be more perfect?

As I picked my way through bush after bush laden with fruit, I was reminded of the verses in John 15:8-10 (NLV) When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”

I couldn’t help but wonder, “Am I producing fruit? Is it the kind of fruit that Jesus wants in my life? Am I laden down with fruit like these bushes or are there just a few berries?

I can get discouraged in my walk and feel like I’m not producing much of anything. I struggle with self-centeredness, pride and the need to be in control. But God reminded me out in that blueberry patch that I need to REMAIN in Him. To once again place myself at His feet, to seek Him first in all I do and rest in His love.

What about you? Are you remaining in His love? Are you trying to produce your own fruit or are you letting God do the work in you? Are you discouraged with how little you’ve grown and how far you have to go?

Remember, it’s God who is at work in you. You just need to REMAIN!