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The Upside Down Kingdom

Yesterday, my family and I sat to play a new board game as my oldest, Bradley, pulled a card with this challenge: 

“Say the alphabet backwards in 30 second or less.”

I started the timer as we watched my brilliant son’s brain go into overload. Attempting to sing the ABC’s song in reverse order, it was a jumbled mess. It reminded me of a powerful truth: Once you’ve learned a version of reality, it is difficult to see differently. 

From our fall in Eden up to the time of Christ, the human race learned and taught the next generation “the way things work.” Empire. Ego. Look out for # 1. Nobody’s gonna care for you like you. And then Jesus came to town and flipped our alphabet inside out and upside down. 

“The meek inherit the earth.”

“The last will be first.”

“The humble are exalted.” 

“Those who are brave enough to admit they are weak will walk in strength."

In almost every way imaginable, life in the Kingdom of God defies the rules of every other kingdom. As you and I seek a new song that breaks free of the tired incantations of consumerism and orphan laments, here are three truths God has been refining in me anew.

Life Comes Through Death

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35

Notice that Jesus didn’t merely say, “I came to die so you don’t have to.” Jesus’ death saves us from our needless self-destruction, but to truly follow Him, something most assuredly has to die. 

Following Jesus means death to “my” way. 

Jesus declared to the Father, “not my will, but yours be done.” Following Jesus means bidding adieu to the “ME life.” The “ME life” is “feeling, thinking, and doing whatever I say makes me happy.” We are often perplexed that people in the Old Testament could make idols out of statues, bowing to worship them, but the truth is, we do the same thing. The difference is that our idols look like mirrors. We have turned self-rulership into the highest form of good. Think about it. What is the greatest act of “bigotry” or “hate” in modern culture but to in any way fail to agree or applaud what another person or group says “makes them happy?” That’s the “ME life,” and it has to die. 

The Gospel means surrendering every path of living as a consumer so that we might live consumed by Jesus. We are not our own. We were bought at a price. And I promise, we don’t actually want all of the things we say we desire. At our deepest core, every fiber of our being is longing for our Creator. And His arms are open wide, ready to receive us in giddy delight, but we will never be able to see Him as long as our demands ascend the throne.

Fullness Comes To Empty Vessels

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

The way of the world is “living my best life,” as masses actively pursue everything they desire with the best of their time, energy, and resources. We spend our riches to curate our self-defined dreams, giving scraps of our leftovers to those in need. This isn’t only viewed as normal. The people who do this are applauded for their generosity. Contrast this with the way of Jesus:

Sacrifice your life and lay it down. (John 15:13)

Spend yourselves for the poor. (Isaiah 58:10, Philippians 2:5-8)

Choose a “fast” that goes beyond surrendering the comfort of food for a day into a life that sacrifices to passionately pursue justice for all. (Isaiah 58:5-14)

Love your literal global neighbor as if it is your literal self. (Matthew 22:36-40)

The sad truth is that many of us who are “resenting God” for not giving us “fill-in-the-blank” are the very ones so deeply drowning in the abundance of His blessings and in the rich history of His faithfulness. All too often, our pursuit of gifts have obscured our eyes from simply delighting in the Giver. Understand, I’m not just preaching at you. I’m confessing as me. I have done this, and I’m ready for the deeper caverns of my heart to be emptied that He might fill every space I surrender with His presence. 

We Go Fastest by Moving Slowest

The final truth about the upside down Kingdom that is stirring in me these days has to do with our pace. Notice I didn’t say merely that we go farthest by going slowest. That’s true, too. But somehow, in the things that will really matter for eternity, we actually also go FASTER in the Kingdom when we move slowly. We see the heart of our Father more clearly and the fruit of His Kingdom manifested more abundantly when we move at the pace of relationship with God and others. 

“Abiding” with Jesus bears fruit that will never be tasted on fields of “Striving.”

Why? Because Jesus actually paid it all. We aren’t needed to complete the work of redemption, and yet somehow we are gloriously invited to the front lines with our King as servants, friends, disciple-makers, and reconcilers. Creation doesn’t need to see how hard we can work. They desperately need to be invited back into delight by seeing it on display in our love of God and our pursuit of them.

Kingdom rest looks like…

  • Sabbath: We accomplish MORE when we regularly prioritize a day to rest.

  • Relationships: We go deeper when we walk slower, choosing to be present where we’re present.

  • Intimacy: We run in the Kingdom when we sit at Jesus’ feet.

  • Peace: When we will “be still,” we will know all over again, He is God.

I’ve been listening to a new worship song that captures the pace of an upside down Kingdom well. You, my friend, desire Jesus deeply. And He adores you. As you seek to take the next step in living in the way He calls life, I speak peace over you — peace to surrender, peace to serve, and peace to slow down

“I wanna have 

Slow feet, slow plans

Steadfast in patience

Rid me of my quickness

I’ll be soon to listen

It seems as though the slower I go

The faster I arrive”

— “Slower I Go,” SEU Worship

Questions for Reflection:

Is there anywhere I’ve told God I won’t be happy unless I get it my way? Where is He calling me to surrender?

Am I spending my life filling “me” with lesser treasures that ultimately won’t matter? Where is it time to spend myself for His Kingdom?

Am I running in places God desires for me to be resting? Who/what am I running past? What one step could move me further by going slower this week? Listen to “Slower I Go” by SEU Worship. 

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