The Good Life as Poor in Spirit

Passage: Matthew 5:1-3

5:1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. 5:2 Then he began to teach them by saying:
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.


In the leadin essay, we covered that the first portion of the beatitude is best understood as “[You are fortunate if you] are the poor in spirit…” and that spiritually poor here is in the sense of being beaten down and dependent on external support.

Are you a non-believer beaten down?  Are you a hurting Christian?  This beatitude is meant for you.  God gave Jesus these words to speak and then gave two men (Matthew and Luke) to present these words to you.  Yes, specifically to you (even though there are six billion persons and growing who are all “you”).  Do you sense this giving?  I deeply hope that you do, because the gift is deeply personal.

The pain of being beaten down to nothing – beaten by life, by life changing illness, by family strife, by relational pain such as divorce, by being fired, or any of the myriad ways life hurts us – and knowing that you are powerless before this wave of hurt guts your ability to respond.  How is it fortunate that you have been gutted?  Clarity.

Clarity is the ability to see things as they really exist.  This is true for the non-believer who disregards God’s gift of grace followed by purpose in their lives.  Pain can bring someone to God when no others can make a difference.  The pain produces clarity.

The second part of the beatitude is something that needs to be seen with clarity by Christians.  “…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”  Who is being spoken of here?  Believers.  What is the clarity here?  With Jesus beginning his ministry, the assault on Earth began.

When we read the beatitudes and many other verses, we often are hunting for favorable promises that say the pain will end soon.  Especially when we are in pain, we want the pain to end.  This beatitude does not offer such a resolution to the pain.

What we are offered here is something different.  Perspective.  In our pain, we are given by God through Jesus and then by Matthew the perspective that believers have (currently possess) the kingdom.  What value does this perspective of possession gives us in our pain?  The value is context.  The context can be seen in a metaphor.

Accepting Christ does not put you in the court of Yahweh (although your prayers reach there).  Accepting Christ puts you on the equivalent of World War II’s Omaha beach and then in the 30 foot hedge rows of the French countryside beyond the beach.  Christ cast out demons during his earthly ministry.  In doing that he was battling the forces that rule this planet.  Recall that Christ’s first action in his ministry was to directly battle Satan.

If you understand that the Kingdom of God is involved in a war, then life’s struggles look different.  This perspective opens the door to the possibility that our pain is not punishment, is not the act of a vindictive God, is not the fate of having been abandoned by God.  It is the nature of this world in this time.  God through Jesus landed on Omaha beach 2000 years ago.  Through his Holy Spirit he now empowers us to move through the metaphorical fields and hedge rows of France as we take his Kigndom into the larger world.

Just as those soldiers fought unexpected and seemingly insurmountable difficulty (pre-invasion reconnaissance showed hedge rows, but not that they were 30 feet tall and impenetrable), we encounter unplanned, exhausting trials.  Our pain in these trials is often larger than us.  It is larger than me.  It is larger than you.  It is larger, because it is tied to this war.

The pain and challenges overwhelm us, because they are in fact overwhelming.  Anyone would be overwhelmed.  The size and scope of our pain is tied to cosmic realities that we cannot see and cannot cope with…on our own.  We have to be part of something large enough to handle the pain – “…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”  That “something” is the Kingdom of God.

Not only is the war between the kingdom and Satan brought to us by Christ hitting the beach 2000 years ago, the resources of the Kingdom are ours…when we access them.  Being poor in spirit means you have reached the awareness of the scale harm and help that you are caught in.  Truly horrible things feel horribly larger than us, because they are horribly larger than us.  The scale imbalance between us and debilitating events is real.  We really are that small.

The help, however, is larger than the harm though.  The Kingdom in its full size is a vast place.  The Kingdom’s presence on this Earth unfortunately is fairly small.  The Kingdom’s presence extends on Earth where we take it.  The help of the Kingdom exists on Earth.  It is here.

Yet, this help must be sought.  Sharing ownership in the Kingdom means having critical resources at critical times.  Yet, we must pick them up.  Unfortunately, many Christians wait extended times before accessing the resources of the kingdom.  We tend to fumble around in dismay, rather than quickly reach for Kingdom resources.  What are these Kingdom resources?

Speaking your troubles to a seasoned Christian friend – the Body of Christ contains fellow soldiers.  Asking for prayer – you can receive supporting fire (to use an artillery metaphor) on strongholds and attacks.  Praying – you can speak directly to the commander, to your commander.  Reading your Bible, especially the Psalms – you can listen to how other humans handled battles and how they were supported.  Remembering God’s actions in your life – you can recognize early training and how those times may now give you clarity.  Asking others how God has helped them – you are not alone and you can ask for advice and draw on support.  Requesting the laying on of hands – you can request direct assistance and encouragement.  Asking for anointing – you can ask for power.  Telling yourself the truth – you can choose to stay in clarity about you and your situation.  Telling yourself the truth from Scripture – you can counter the fifth column of your sin impacted self as it tries to weaken and deceive you.

Notice every sentence in the list above begins with a verb.  Wars are active things.  The response to war is also active.  Passive response occurs as well, but active response is required.  Wars demand active responses.  Otherwise, they run over you.  Yes, clarity is the first victim of war,  The normally simple and clear become incredibly difficult.  The normally difficult become impossible (to paraphrase a dictum of war).

It is possible to be given back clarity and perspective by a risen Savior that is victorious in this war.  That giving comes from his Word and his Body. Embrace the external supports of the Kingdom.  Join the battle.  Act.  This pain has a companion. Christ. He is with you.

What is the Good Life?

Passage: Matthew 5:1-12

5:1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. 5:2 Then he began to teach them by saying:
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. 5:12 Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.


Soul Search Essay

I have highlighted in other essays that what work and business can confer on a person is not the “Good Life.”  Money.  Status.  Power.  These are not the good life nor are they inherently good or positive.  (They are also not inherently evil, but pursuit of them creates a lot of evil.)  So, what did Jesus offer as the characteristics of the disciple’s good life within his kingdom (i.e. prior to his second coming)?  He offered the Beatitudes.

Matthew’s reporting of the Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) and Luke’s reporting of a similar set of Beatitudes (Sermon on the Plain) provide critical illustrations of the Good Life in the kingdom we now inhabit.

In the English translation you own and use, you may see the word “Happy,” rather than the term the NET uses above, which is “blessed.”  The actual Greek word (which transliterates as “makarios”) can be translated blessed, happy, fortunate, etc.  The critical thing to understand is that the verb does not mean happy the way Americans understand happy.  It means something closer to “you are in fortunate circumstances when…” or “God has gifted you with….”  This is critical in understanding this list from Jesus.

So, if Jesus did not come to bring you power, wealth, and status in society and business, what did and does he bring?  Also, if he does not see power, wealth and status as positive states, what states does he directly say are positive?  The Beatitudes answer these questions.

I will cover these in several essays, but first please read what is below with the following questions in mind:

How can these be part of a good life?  What is good about each item?  Does my life reflect any or all of the beatitudes?  What does my tally of the Beatitudes say about my life?

The first half of each Beatitude describes a specific life state.  So, if you are in the following state or states, this is part of a disciple’s good life:

“[You are fortunate if you] are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”  Spiritually poor here is in the sense of beaten down and dependent on external support.

“[You are fortunate if you] are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  To be mournful here refers to the state of experiencing an objective emotion caused by being in a retched, horrible situation.”

“[You are fortunate if you] are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ Meek or weak here is not an attitude, but a position of powerlessness, either due to lacking power or (and this is important) due to having power, but refusing to use it for your own ends.”

“[You are fortunate if you] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Hungry and thirsty for righteousness means a continuing personal and consistently intentional submission to the radical remodeling of your life, relationships, opinions, character, conduct, personality, behavior, in short every single thing about you; nothing withheld.”
In a prior essay, I shared the logic behind the paragraph below:

“[You are fortunate if you] are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Merciful here indicates a method of engaging others by seeing an offender’s point of view regardless of whether the person harmed you directly and violently or indirectly with subtlety. Your seeing into this person’s experiential world leads not only to not gloating over harm that comes to the offender, but instead you empathize with the offender and forgive him or her.

“[You are fortunate if you] are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  Pure in heart here means that you long to live the life God has for you where the longing is emotional, willful, behavioral and cognitive (i.e. Heart in Hebrew conception includes all of these elements)

“[You are fortunate if you] are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”  Being a peacemaker means acting to bring about interpersonal peace in an evil world dominated by evil in relationships.  (Note that this is not peace at any price.)

[You are fortunate if you] are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” Righteousness here refers to an internal God-given state that enables public demonstration to non-Christians of your chosen allegiance and reliance on Jesus; it is living publicly as Christ’s ally and messenger; it is staying and living out your salvation created otherness. In short, true discipleship will (not may) produce persecution.

“[You are fortunate] when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.”

Reading just the first half of each Beatitude is not likely to produce responses such as, “Of course!  Sure that has to be part of the good life.”  Reading the second half of each is more likely to produce such a response since these portions are more affirming and comforting.  These halves cannot be split though.

The first half of each beatitude is what leads to the the second half.  When this fact is considered, many disciples struggle with the expectations Christ sets out in the Beatitudes.  The idea that the ‘good life’ incorporates such difficult and painful things seems like a mockery of the term “good Life.”  How can being poor in spirit, mourning, weak, persecuted be ‘good?’

The following essays attempt to shed some light on this.

I recognize (from some feedback) that my essays are challenging.  They require a fair amount of thought to understand.  I intentionally weave multiple concepts together, which makes the writing dense. If I need to clarify something, leave me a comment.  My writing is pointless or worse than pointless if it is not understandable.

Clarity belongs to the reader, yet the writer must create it.  Only the reader, however, can shine light on a lack of clarity.  I welcome that light.

Why I Write

Some may wonder why I would chose a passage in Isaiah for this essay; the very first essay.  Also, some may wonder why I write such hard essays. If you have read beyond this one, you know that each one probes pretty deep.

My role in the church has become that of a confronter, a forth teller, a prophet.  Yes, I know many, many people are self appointed confronters.  I am not one of those.  I do not like what I have to do.  Friends can testify that I agonize over these essays.  I have been formed into a prophet by pain.  I have no special status.  I have no new revelation.  I do have, however, views of old revelation that can challenge you to become an active disciple; a participater in God’s plan.

I chose Isaiah, because he is the towering figure of the Old Testament prophets.  He gives more insight into the Father’s plans than almost any other prophet.  He is also the prophet I most identify with.

No, I am not a towering figure.  Indeed, too many portions of my life look more like felled trees than anything else.  In Isaiah, however, I find a man that I think saw things as I have come to see them.  He was heart broken by the realities that he saw around him (as I am), but where Jeremiah emoted about these types of things, Isaiah thought about them.  I think very deeply about most things in life.  It is a side-effect of childhood abuse.  My sense is that Isaiah also digested deeply what God shared with him and what he saw his fellow Israelites doing.  I believe Isaiah sucked meaning from life as I seek to.

When I look at the messages of the American Evangelicals around me, I am distressed.  (In this age of the Internet, TV, radio, rapid travel, etc., “around me” is quite broad.  I am not speaking of just the message of people local to me, but of people hundreds and even thousands of miles away.)  What distresses me is the frequency in these messages of what Dietrick Bonhoeffer called cheap grace in his seminal book “The cost of Discipleship”

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

So often I hear Evangelicals so eager to convince people of God’s wonderful love (which is indeed wonderful) that they deceive the newly saved on the cost of discipleship.  Discipleship is expensive.  It is extremely expensive.  The newly saved need to be slowly introduced to this reality.  It cost chunks of who we are – surrendered and destroyed beliefs, lost hopes, death of dreams, deeply disturbing emotions – to be a disciple.  The extraction of those chunks is painful.  Salvation was free.  We pay in pain to be disciples.  That payment is called sanctification.

Sanctification seems hellishly expensive,…until we are far enough along to reap the benefits.

I believe people need to know this.  We lose people from the faith, because they think the hellish expense is unique to them.  It is not unique to them.  Anyone who pursues discipleship is in for very rough times. Why will we not tell them this?  We, as Evangelicals, routinely nice people in the back.  We are so nice that we cheapen what Christ did.  Yes, he saved us.  In doing that he started a counter-offensive against Satan.

Someone has to be the hard man.  The man or woman who does this is willing to be a prophet; to take the truth of the war to the saved.  A prophet in my meaning is a forth-teller.  Someone, empowered by God’s gifts to present expensive grace; true grace to God’s people.  The grace that requires,…requires…change.  This is generally a man or woman who has suffered enough to recognize the horrors of the niceness deception.

Being hard means holding people’s valued things up and saying, “Really?  Have you really thought about this.  This thing you value is a horror, not a beautiful thing.  You need to think through this deception and what it does to you and those you love.”

Being a hard man means telling people that Christ brought a war into focus in their lives at salvation.  The war was always there.  Prior to salvation, we were behind enemy lines with an enemy whose tactics are founded on deception. His deceptions extend to us and make it easier to ignore the war.  Sidelining us via deceptions limits the expansion of the Kingdom.  With our salvation, the war comes into our inner world.  The deceptions and deceit Satan’s minions direct at us becomes more intentional and insidious.  The war for who you are is well and truly on.

I have been made into such a man who confronts these things.  It took decades of pain, confusion and wrestling to make me this man.  Being a prophet is not an honor.  It is definitely, definitely not something to seek.  Being a prophet means failing.  It means knowing you are going to fail and knowing deeply the consequences to those who reject you.

Prophets are the pointy end of the spear.  They carry the unwanted message to people committed to avoiding truth and if the prophets are like Isaiah, they experience the message in full and living color. Prophets get sent to people who will not listen in order to carry to these folks unpleasant and painful messages.

Who wants to do that?  To start out knowing you will lose?  To experience mourning over others when they refuse to listen. To look in people’s eyes as they blithely deny the consequences of rejecting you and your message as a prophet.

I tried to convince God before I ever began writing this blog that it was pointless.  No one would read beyond the first essay.  I was wrong.

Isaiah accepted the role of prophet, then learned what he signed up for.  He signed up to confront the powerful and lose, to challenge the masses and be ignored, to see with God’s eyes and be heartbroken.   Isaiah learned and learned deeply the expense of grace.  Yet, Isaiah’s losses are our gains.  Christ quoted from Isaiah frequently.  Why?  Isaiah participated in the plan.

That is what I am trying to do.  That is why what I write is so hard.  Participation is hard, because it is discipleship.  I am participating.  Please participate as well.

It is in Hard Grace that You Become a Deep Souled Disciple

Passage Matthew 11:20-30

11:20 Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles, because they did not repent. 11:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 11:22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you! 11:23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day. 11:24 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!”

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children. 11:26 Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him. 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 11:29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 11:30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”


Soul Search Essay

In a prior Soul Search Essay on this passage, there was a statement, “It is in hard grace that you become a deep souled disciple.” Verses 11:25 – 30 have to do with hard grace when considered in the context of Christ’s mission. How can I make this assertion?

These verses reveal a deep conversation between Jesus and his Father. In this conversation, Jesus celebrates their relationship and the purpose given to him by the Father. Before that, however, Jesus celebrates the absence of critical insight and awareness for certain humans. Which humans does he cite as lacking this insight?    The intelligent and wise.  Why these two groups?  What is it about them that causes God to hide information from them?

They are the ones with answers.

The value of intelligence and wisdom is in supplying answers. Intelligence can give insight, but it is an insight heavily influenced by many factors.  We are taught to use intelligence.  In that teaching, we are trained to focus on some things and ignore others.  Who teaches has a major impact on how we use intelligence.  The teacher’s biases make a huge impact on the use of intelligence.

Wisdom is a slightly different animal.  It can be understood as the application of intelligence plus a large fund of knowledge to life in a productive way. Again,though, the source of the large fund of knowledge imparts a critical set of filters and assumptions.  For most Americans the fund of knowledge is created in education and life experience.  I mean the reason you go to school is to learn stuff, right?  Also, the value of a long time working in a field is experience, right?  So, we tend to ascribe intelligence and wisdom to those who can produce answers that agree with our filters (this is known as “confirmation bias”).

Wisdom can be understood as this, but this is not Godly wisdom.

Godly wisdom is the application of God’s revelation to life.  Godly wisdom is built on deep understanding of God’s revelation and intimate participation in the application of the revelation to life.

Why do I keep using phrases like “…intimate participation…?”

“No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him.”  Where did this statement come from?

It can from a very intimate conversation between Jesus and his and our Father.  The verses recount an intimate conversation.  No additional audience is identified.  In fact, this appears to be a prayer from Jesus to the Father.  A conversation about Jesus and the F

What about participation?  The prayer is a statement about Jesus’ participation in the Father’s plan.  Jesus acknowledges the authority given to him and then how he will use it.  Jesus is affirming his participation as a Kingdom citizen.

The Kingdom will be extended, because the Father and Son participate with each other.

Why point that out now?  Why point it out after pointing out how Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida did not participate with Christ?  This is a private conversation.  Why bring the readers into it?

This is fundamental to the Kingdom.  Bringing people back into the intimate conversation within the Trinity is fundamental to what the Kingdom is.  Back?

What happened in the cool of the evening in the garden before the fall?

What happened after the fall?  The intimacy was broken.

Everything became hard.  Discipleship is hard, because everything is hard.  We are saved, yet sinful.  We are healed, yet sick,  We are loved, yet lonely.  We are disciples, yet rejecteors of personal truth.

We do not like the inherent tension of the Christian life in this world.  We like answers.

Answers give seeming safety.  Answers give reassurance.  Answers give control.  Answers give power.  Answers give us hell.

Am I saying there are no answers?  No.  The primacy of answers are the issue.  The source of answers are the issue.  The spin we put on answers is the issue.  The denial of tension is the issue.

We do not want God’s grace to be hard.  We want it to be our answer.  We want grace to be our possession.  In that possession, we want grace under control.  No too hard.  Not so soft we cannot feel it.  We want…our…grace; not God’s grace.

Christ’s conversation is intimate, but “,,,hidden….” is a hard word.  God’s grace is hard.  It involves death and rebirth; not just future death and rebirth.  Death and rebirth happen here and now while we feel it.  Yet,…yet,…like Christ, when the offer is extended, we have the power to participate or not.

Left in the Dirt & the Use of Radar

Passage: Matthew 11:20-30

11:20 Then Jesus began to criticize openly the cities in which he had done many of his miracles, because they did not repent. 11:21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 11:22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you! 11:23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day. 11:24 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!”

11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children. 11:26 Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will. 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him. 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 11:29 Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 11:30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”


Soul Search Essay

As noted in the prior essay, The verses 11:20-24 speak that Capernum’s, Bethsaida’s and Chorazin’s time has passed. Jesus has left and these cities closed their windows of opportunity. Fundamental and deep consideration was not given to the love gift Christ offered. The gift was left in the dirt, because it was radically different than the audience’s presuppositions. The gift was seen as either inconvieniant, angering, confusing, or subject to use for selfish agendas. None of these emotions or beliefs can keep the window open, the radar up and us responsive to Christ.

Learning to move past inconvienence, anger, confusion, or selfish agendas as reactions to the demands our kingdom citizenship brings to us is an inherent part of discipleship. We can leave challenges in the dirt as believers just like the non-believers of the three cities left salvation in the dirt.  Why?  We reject that discipleship is difficult.  We like the rewards of salvation, but we reject that hard discipleship is in and of itself very, very rewarding.

In your life, God acts. Grace occurs every day around you as a Christian (or a non-Christian). Being a Christian does not automatically keep God imposed opportunities from being misread or ignored. Sometimes the voice is quiet. Other times?

Other times, the message is in a fast moving 2X4 impacting your face. Grace at times is hard to endure. A 2×4 to the face hurts. It leaves a communally visible m ark. It is in hard grace that you become a deep souled disciple.

Christians choose to be disciples or they are fire-insurance-Christians. Fire-insurance-Christians accept Christ as savior and never act as citizens of the kingdom. Disciples see God acting and participate. They participate in the Kingdom. Often – in belief, thought, choices and behaviors – fire-insurance-Christians are indistinguishable from non-Christians,  This especially obvious in business. (This assertion goes back to earlier Soul Searching where we talked about the spiritual influence of business concepts.)

Disciples grow in Christ-likeness in all venues of their life, including their work. Fire-insurance-Christians float with the tides that swirl around them. They are tied to the non-Christian culture around them; indistinguishable from the non-believer; immune to kingdom business just a few feet away. The latest cultural tides carry them along.  Many people see this and decry TV, movies, music, the definition of a family as symptomatic of cultural infections.  Why are business and work ignored?  For the same reason Ba’al and Asteroth were ignored by most Old Testament Israelites.  Rain and crops affected survival.  So, can business.

With no income, literal hunger becomes real.  To risk the loss of all your income by resisting, or even more boldly, refusing the business culture that you are in?  That seems like madness.  Why would I anger those who sign my paycheck?

 

Consider this – Can you be convicted of being an active disciple of Christ in your business life? Convictions in a court are based on observable facts (in theory in human courts ). In the past 5 years, 10 years, 20 years are there sufficient observable facts (not your intentions, but facts) to convict you of kingdom citizenship?

If the answer is “No,” thank you for your honesty. Now, consider how to change this.

If the answer is “Sometimes,” how can you expand these times. You have a positive track record, extend it. Do what has worked before, then add new things.

If your answer is “Yes,” I am ecstatic or deeply fearful.

You are either that rare person (such as Job) who sees God’s actions around you in business and participates in those Kingdom actions that Christ calls you to or you are deluded.

An answer of “No” or “Sometimes” can keep a window of God’s imposed love open. These answers recognize a need at least. Need can trigger consideration, but consideration must be maintained. I call this maintenance “Grace Radar.”

Grace Radar is a deliberate set of repeated choices to look for God’s Kingdom activity in all of life. This means Grace Radar is a discipline that must be developed through consistent use. At its simplest, it is a short prayer about anything that grabs your attention, something like, “Lord, what are you doing in this situation and what part do you have for me.” He may have no part for you other than being a witness.  He may, however, have a pivotal part for you to play.  Pivotal to you.  Pivotal to others.

Much like radar, if you sweep 360 degrees, you will get lots of targets. Learning to distinguish targets you are assigned to attend to takes time and practice.

If you choose to not turn on Grace Radar, then the default Christian (and non-Christian) radar remains on – threat radar and/or appetite radar. Threat radar looks for any challenge (even God actions) and seeks to neutralize it.  Appetite radar views others and situations as sources solace, nourishment or value. Perceiving God’s impositions as threats leads to one thing – closing windows on challenging grace opportunities.  Perceiving God’s impositions with appetite radar simply feeds the appetites, which easily become idols.

Sometimes God accepts our closing this window. Often that acceptance does not have the type of public declaration found in this passage in Matthew. If we close a window with God, his acceptance is often silent.

Does Jesus disrupt your life? At their most basic level, these soul search essays are an intentional attempt to disrupt you. They are intended to cause you to / consider what is in Scripture and how you respond to it unconsciously. The hope is that making the unconscious conscious helps you become mindful of what you actually do and think. The hope is to bring mindfulness to the inherent war that God’s Love started. Salvation parachutes you into an externall and internal war.  With that mindfulness you can choose, rather than react within these wars.

Of course, you may already be mindful and thereby willfully opposing God.  Christians do that.