I am seeking His kingdom

Seeking, Worrying and Money

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. … Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:24-25, 27, 33 NIV

What can I add to Jesus’ beautiful, soul-piercing words?  I find myself at a loss, perhaps because these verses are so convicting to me.

Worry is a familiar enemy of mine, one that feels like a friend.  And I often … far too often … worry about the stuff Jesus lists in these verses.  And, at least for me, worry masquerades as “repsonsbile parenthood.” I sit and ponder how my husband and I can provide better for our kids or about which situation would make life easier.  But isn’t spending tons of mental energy on those questions just worry in disguise?

Jesus clearly tells me here that I should not be seeking a more comfortable life.  I should instead spend my time thinking about, striving for, the things that advance his Kingdom.  And sometimes, perhaps even often, seeking God’s kingdom first makes life more uncomfortable. Less ideal.

And yet, he tells me to do it – to seek His Kingdom before I seek my own comfort, before I seek the things money can buy me.  And he promises that he’ll provide for my physical needs if I’ll just stop focusing on them.

Jen and I started this week with the end of the passage I chose for today.  And I’ve been dwelling on it ever since.  Jesus tied “seeking his Kingdom,” which sounds so lofty and spiritual, to two very common-place, tangible “don’ts.” Don’t worry.  Don’t seek money. Period.

And I need to remember that.  How about you?

I am seeking His kingdom

The Splendor of the Kingdom

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Isaiah 6:1-4, NASB

We began this week with a trip to Disney World–and I’m going to go back there. (No, this is not a plug for the Magic Kingdom–I am not in anyway associated with Walt’s magical world). Hopefully you’ll indulge me the trip.

By way of explanation, I was thirty before I finally made it to Mickey’s amazing spread, and while I’m sure you’ll laugh at this story, because most do, that’s okay. I like laughing.

My first glimpse of Cinderella’s castle was magic–even in my third decade of life. Truly, I was in awe. (I know, I need to get out more. Someday maybe ill see the real castles in Europe. But for now. . . ) I’ll never forget the night my husband and I strolled up Main Street USA just in time to watch the evening fireworks launch over the castle spires. I actually (pause. Here’s where the laughter usually comes. Truly, I don’t mind.) cried. Like real tears. Cried.

Once you’re recovered I’ll explain. I’ll hum “I stand In Awe” while you shake off the last of your chuckles.

I stood at the base of that pretend palace with leaking eyes thinking of the throne room of God. I watched as the best that human imagination and wealth and splendor could set before me–and it was impressive–and thought “God, if we can do this, what will your throne room be like?”

It thrilled me to tears.

I am seeking His kingdom

God’s Kingdom: Worth the Price

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid: and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44 NASB

He was 18 years old and brilliant.  He went to college on a full-paid scholarship, hotly pursuing his chemistry degree on his way to medical school.  He was going to become a researcher, discover cures for diseases, and retire at the age of 40 as a multi-millionaire. He was on a path to wealth, fame and several very large houses. He had friends.  He had potential.  And he was miserable.

Why? The boy knew God wanted something different for him.  Just a few years before, in a little country church, the Holy Spirit had whispered to his heart that he was to be a missionary. And that made no sense at all.  So he ran as far and as fast as he could, grabbing for what the world told him was right.

But God pursued.  When he was 20, he drove home to his parent’s house, parked his car and walked to the dead end of the dirt road.  He laid down in the dust and stared up the stars flung across the Oklahoma heavens.  God had ordered those stars, created each of them, placed them perfectly in the vast universe. Surely, a God who displayed such precision in the galaxies could order one young man’s life. Surely that God could be trusted. The stars blurred and the tears ran into his ears.  The boy’s dog licked his face while he sobbed.

“Ok, God,” he said to the night.  “I will go be a missionary. But you have got to change my heart, because I don’t want to do it.”

He stood up, wiped the dirt off his jeans, and started down a far different road.  He changed his major, because he didn’t trust himself to get the chemistry degree and not use it. He went to seminary instead of medical school.  By the time he got there, God had indeed changed his heart.  The man had become passionate about missions.  And God met the new desires of his heart when He sent him to Africa.

His first house was a mud hut.  He drove a borrowed pick-up truck. He spent his days weeding rice fields, swinging machetes and learning a tonal language.  He lived without electricity or running water.  He lived in sweltering heat.  He lived where it just simply isn’t fun to live.

What had this man done?  He’d sold all that he had – his potential, his dreams, his major, his golden goals – to buy a field with a treasure hidden in it.  He had chosen to give it all up to fully seek God’s kingdom.

The choice was hard to make laying at the end of that road with his dog.  It was harder still to live. And, remaining true to that choice did not depend on the man’s continent of residence. So, when God led him back to the States, he continued to hotly pursue God’s kingdom first, which often brought him heartache and struggles.  Many times over the years, he’s wanted to turn back.

But he hasn’t.

Because my husband is a Kingdom seeker.  He knows that the treasure in that field is worth the price he paid for it. 

I am seeking His kingdom

The Task of Seeking

Truly I say to you whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18

His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven . . .

What does it mean to be seeking His kingdom? How do I seek that which I cannot see? Pursue that which I cannot understand?

I watch. I listen. Jesus taught many things. He taught about love, about forgiveness, and relationship. But he spent a lot of time teaching about His kingdom. And He left instructions . . . keys of sorts to what His will is.

Not a screen play for my life–(insert here a booming Charlton Heston voice) “and in 1999 Jennifer Jerome will marry Anthony Rodewald . . .” Maybe those details are written in His book–probably–but He didn’t leave that one open for me.

What he did leave, however, is beneficial for life and godliness. He left the example of His earthly life recorded in the gospels. He left some specific instructions–“believe in the Son and be saved,” “love The Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,” and “seek first the kingdom of God.”

What about the common living? Those details of our lives that make up our days? How do we seek His kingdom in the ordinary business of life?

Here are some rapid-fire nuggets gleaned from Matthew 18-19:

Love the young believers, guide them in truth and do not hinder their walk with Jesus.

Seek the lost as though they were a precious treasure, because they are.

Reconcile to one another, apologize when you’ve caused an offense, and forgive when you have been offended.

Remain true to your vows, and hold others’ vows as sacred as well. Honor your commitments, even when it is not easy.

Love the children and show them Jesus.

Put your stuff in its proper place. It won’t make it to the kingdom, so treasure the things that will.

A weighty list. One, I think, that will give me plenty to seek after on a day to day basis. But most importantly, one that will keep my focus ever on the task He left: to seek His kingdom first.

I am seeking His kingdom

I am Seeking His Kingdom: A Joint Post

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33, NASB

 From Jen

The Magic Kingdom is a blast. We took our two older children a couple of years ago, stayed in one of Disney’s resorts, and were treated to one of the most memorable, fun weeks we’ve had so far. It was an expensive trip–we saved for a couple of years to be able to go, but we loved it, and the girls did too. It was totally worth it.

 Jesus often taught about His Kingdom. In Matthew 13 we find several parables to give us a picture of what that Kingdom is like. One that stands out to me is that of the buried treasure. What did the man who discovered that secret do? He sold everything so that he could buy that land, secure that treasure.

 Jesus is saying, “Seek me, my Kingdom, like that.”

 Let nothing be more valuable. Forsake everything else to lay claim to my Kingdom. It’s that important, that precious. And it will be more than worth it.

 It’s hard to imagine pursuing something with that kind of devoted passion–especially when we can’t see the object of our quest. Except, well, our girls had never been to the magic kingdom before that trip, and yet they knew, without seeing it, that it would be worth the wait and worthy of their unquenchable enthusiasm. Maybe I need the same child-like delight. Because Jesus clearly promised that His kingdom would be worthy of every imaginable sacrifice–and then some.

From Susan

I grew up just down the highway from the Magic Kingdom.  My parents took me to Disney World every year of my childhood.  In junior high, I marched with my band down Main Street right in front of Alice in Wonderland on her giant mushroom. In high school, many of my classmates worked at the Magic Kingdom.  Not me.  I worked at Sea World. So, I went to Disney on their free tickets, and they came to see Shamu on mine. I am a Floridian, of those who do Disney World without a map.

Even so, the Magic Kingdom has never lost its magic for me.  If I had met Jen’s daughters before they left Nebraska for their vacation, I would have told them, “Oh yes.  The Magic Kingdom is definitely worth the wait, the savings, and the sacrifice.  Take it from me.  I lived there.”

Which is Jesus’ position in Matthew 13.  He tells us all those parables because He knows the wonder of His own kingdom.  He’s lived there. And he’s trying to convince those of us who have not yet left Nebraska (or Texas, or Florida, or West Africa or Vietnam) that it’s worth it.

“Sell everything you have to obtain My kingdom?  Absolutely worth the price.  Give up earthly pleasure and position to get there?  Yes, ma’am.  You won’t be disappointed.  You may not have seen it yet, but I have.” 

And more than not needing a map to His Kingdom, Jesus is the map.

“Lord,” Thomas said, “We don’t’ know where You’re going.  How can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:5-6 HCSB