On a recent Sunday, the speaker encouraged us to share with others what Jesus has done, or is doing in our lives. In the sermon’s context this proved to be a wonderful answer to a question that continually hounds me. That question has to do with helping and exhorting other members of God’s kingdom concerning blind spots or weaknesses in their lives, while realizing that I am also imperfect. Too often I’m eager to critique the specks in others’ eyes. What I heard on this particular Sunday suggested a more positive approach. Instead of primarily wielding rebuke, I want to testify to how I believe God has graciously opened my eyes in a few areas. As others are aware of God removing the beams from my eyes, they may be more open to allowing God to work at the specks in their eyes.A large timber obstructing my view is bitterness over my disastrous attempt at a teaching English career. Jesus continues to whittle away at my angst, and to show me that forgiveness and trust are the paths to peace and resolution. Like every other blind spot in my life, this one is still a work in progress and a quick fix is elusive.
Religious selfishness is another log that Jesus has graciously been chopping at for some time. I covered an aspect of this in greater detail in an earlier post, but in brief, Jesus has shown me that salvation is much more than the evangelical revivalism’s self-centered concept of it. Salvation is an ongoing process of ever increasing selflessness and imitation of Jesus Christ. It’s not just a ticket to heaven. It is much more than just my personal wants and wishes, but involves the vast and deep manifestation of every aspect of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus has revealed to me that my surrounding local space and my participation in it is very important to the kingdom of God. Our culture’s suburban, individualistic, driving-centric ethos blinded me to His “local” call on my life. What does this mean in practical terms? It means we make an effort to actually know and relate to next door neighbors. It means gathering with believers nearby, and being aware of immediately local and community ministries. Even though we are surrounded by typical Lancaster County churchiness, a mission field full of needs exists in the blocks around our home. God desires that we be the answers to the prayers and heart cries of our local community. I know this will involve some tough counter-cultural selflessness, but Jesus continues to prod me in this area.
Jesus has shown me that american capitalism is not His ideal economic system. Everything He taught concerning money, I am discovering contrasts with what is considered common sense in our system. I have much to learn yet, but I’m sensing God’s continual nudging in a direction that is both frightening but exhilarating. My ongoing prayer is that I find the courage to be as economically “not-of-this-world” as He wants me to be.
The world’s ecology is meant for our nourishment, but Jesus has revealed to me that it is not meant solely for my enrichment, especially if it hurts others. Creation testifies to God’s amazing creativity and love. When we destroy and exploit it so we can be the king of the money-hill, a key witness to His glory and care is diminished. I have discovered that stewardship and conservation are meaningful ways of realizing the kingdom of God in the here and now.
Jesus has shown me that top-down political and cultural power cannot bring the kingdom of God into existence. It may help at times, but the humble, ground-up approach yields the truly effective and lasting fruition of God’s ideal for earth and mankind. Voting ‘christians’ into influential positions actually seems to produce the opposite effect than their supporters intend. I still struggle with being as a-political as God would have me be, but a place of surrender and courageous nonresistance beckons.
God has revealed to me that the mega community entertainment centers passing as ‘churches’ are not His ideal for the body of Christ. These cumbersome temples do make a big outward impression and appear to stand as testaments to cultural influence, but their contribution to Kingdom of God priorities is debatable. I’m grieved at the years I thoughtlessly participated in smaller versions of this american church trend. I am troubled by the years I spent thinking church was mostly about gathering in big groups in multipurpose buildings to get a weekly emotional lift by listening to talented public speakers and rockin’ musicians. Does this mean I shun and don’t fellowship with believers who feel differently? No, but I see church life and ecclesiology in a different, less flashy light.
Jesus has revealed to me that a fascination with end-times speculation can be dangerously distracting and/or even misleading. Yes we are to be prepared and expectant of His return, but we need to be very careful about the directions that particular interpretations lead us. If a particular system of “biblical” prophecy is causing us to look less like Jesus in what we think and do, we are on dangerous ground. If the priorities of God’s post-resurrection, New Testament era Kingdom are losing out to other imaginings, I fear we may be fooling around in the anti-christ’s camp.
Despite all my doubts and unsure wanderings, God has filled me with a hope, a passion and a vision of His Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. This fire still hides under the basket sometimes. I don’t want it to be a showy, emotional and short-lived zeal, but glimpses of God’s true vision for earth, humanity and His followers are gripping my heart. A vision of heavenly life where the weak are considered mighty, the poor have more than enough, the meek rise over the powerful, the rich lose their crutch, the doves triumph over the violent and true beauty obscures the garish and mediocre. Thank you Jesus for showing us the ideals of your kingdom, and help me to be faithful in helping You bring that vision to fruition here on earth as it is in heaven.
Photo is photoshopped version of this photo provided by duncan via Flickr.