Light In A Dark Place—A Reprise


Particularly memorable for me is a scene in C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle. A group of dwarfs have followed the band of Aslan-followers into a rundown shed.

Inside Lucy, Peter, and the other Aslan-followers find sunlight and growing things. It’s like Narnia of old. The dwarfs, however, huddle in a corner, afraid and wary.

The children try to coax the dwarfs out of the huddle they’re in with some fresh fruit. However, the dwarfs grouse and complain about the dark, about the smelly hay Lucy is trying to force on them. In the end, they remain blind to the beauty around them while the children who follow Aslan move further up and further in. The walls of the cottage are simply gone. All of Narnia, newer and better, is before them.

Whatever C. S. Lewis intended with that scene, I think it accurately portrays the difference between those of us whose spiritual eyes have been opened and those still blinded—by sin, and doubt, the world, riches, worries, the idol of self-effort, what have you.

The thing is, none of us can do a single thing to restore sight. We can plead with God to restore sight, but we can’t do it. Not for ourselves and not for anyone else.

So, do we pray for the blind and walk away?

Not if we take seriously what Jesus said.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16).

It seems to me our job is to shine our light—not in a closet, but out in the open where people are looking.

I think that makes some of us uncomfortable. Maybe we mix up what Jesus said about praying in secret and giving in secret with doing good works. Our prayers and our alms-giving are not supposed to be done in a way that has people noticing what we’re doing.

But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Matt. 6:3-6).

So prayer and giving—in secret. Good works—out in the open.

But there’s another key. When our good works get attention, they ought not earn us applause. Our good works should spur others to give God glory.

That’s the other part that makes us uncomfortable, I think. How do we get people to credit God, not us, for something we do for His kingdom?

The “ah, shucks, it wasn’t much” approach comes across as false humility and in the end belittles the good work and consequently the one receiving it and God who should receive the glory.

The Apostle Paul didn’t seem to have this problem. When he healed a lame man in Lystra, the people started calling him and Barnabas gods. Their response?

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God (Acts 14:14-15a, emphasis added).

Perhaps we get confused about who’s light we’re shining, and that’s why it feels uncomfortable to us to deflect praise to God.

If someone handed me the keys to someone else’s car, should I stand around hemming and hawing as if somehow to refuse to take the keys that don’t belong to me is an embarrassment? Why would it be embarrassing? They don’t belong to me. It’s just a straight, matter of fact. “Oh, perhaps you misunderstood,” I’d say. “Those keys aren’t mine. They belong to someone else.”

So with praise that belongs to God.

The source of the light in this dark world is God Himself which is why the praise should be His.

This article is a revised version of one that first appeared here in May, 2011.

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God, The Same Yesterday, Today, And Forever


Misty_Morning_-_geograph.org.uk_-_903235_by_Joe_McCartneyI think most who identify as Progressive Christians believe God is the same yesterday, today, and forever—which is how the Bible describes Him. But when they read the Bible, or at least when they hear other people talk about the Bible, they determine that the Old Testament shows God as different from the New Testament. Consequently, only one testament or the other can reveal the true nature of God.

Of course the mistakes in that line of thinking are many, starting with the idea that the Old and New Testaments differ in their revelation of God. Both show Him to be sovereign, loving, just, righteous, holy, omnipotent, merciful, omniscient, gracious, forgiving, patient, and on and on. The Progressives have this snapshot of God as WRATH in the Old Testament and Jesus as LOVE in the New. It’s a false dichotomy, and a sincere look at what Jesus taught and what the prophets and the psalms reveal, should make that clear.

What can we say about the differences in the Old and New Testaments? Is one accurate and the other false? Categorically, NOT. Both are accurate and both are true.

It would be helpful to remember what “testament” means. In theological terms, it means “agreement,” specifically God’s agreement with His people. So, while God does not change, His agreement with His people does.

Until Jesus came, the agreements or covenants God established were most often (but not always) conditioned upon humankind’s response: if they did certain things, God would bless them, but if they did certain other things, they put themselves under God’s curse.

Adam and Eve essentially had such an agreement with God. If they obeyed Him, they would live, and if they disobeyed, they would die. Abraham had a covenant with God, and so did Jacob and Moses and David and Solomon. In truth the Abrahamic covenant was with his descendants, too; the Mosaic covenant was on behalf of the people of Israel; and God’s agreement with David was with those in his lineage, culminating in Jesus.

And Jesus initiated a new covenant, a new agreement.

And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. (Matt. 26:27-28)

Paul referenced the new covenant on more than one occasion. He wrote of it to the church in Corinth, for example:

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant. (2 Cor. 3:4-6a)

The writer of the book of Hebrews went to some length to explain the new covenant and how it differed from the old:

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says,
“BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD,
WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT
WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH;
NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS
ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND
TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT;
FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT,
AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD.
“FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:
I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,
AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS.
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD,
AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.” (8:6-10; see also chapters 9 and 10)

I don’t want to get sidetracked with a long explanation about the old and new covenants, but it’s important, I think, to understand that God is exactly the same in His character from everlasting to everlasting. But that doesn’t mean that He treats every person the same way or that He deals with every people group the same way.

I think in this age of “tolerance” we’re looking for uniformity. Nothing is “fair” unless we all have the exact same hand dealt to us. Then, and only then do we think it’s fair because it’s now up to us to do with that hand whatever we can.

Such a silly notion. If that were the accurate view of justice, then none of us could be smarter than any one else. We couldn’t be more athletic or better singers or taller or ambidextrous or more mechanical or . . . well, anything that could be perceived as an advantage. We have to have that same hand to play as the next guy.

In contrast to that silliness, God seems to delight in working with people that have a disadvantage. David was the youngest in his family, Abraham didn’t have any sons, Ruth was a widow, Joseph was a slave. The whole nation of Israel, in fact, God said was not His pick because they were more numerous or stronger or more righteous than the other nations. In fact, He said the opposite was true.

He used the small and weak in order that we could all see Him at work. It’s hard to take the credit for a victory when we’re outnumbered, when the other army has more advanced weapons, and when they have the tactical advantage. In those circumstances, when God brings the victory, we can only say, Praise God!

No matter what, though, God’s point and purpose is to make Himself known. He says it over and over again. He wanted Israel to display His glory to the nations. He wants His Church to make disciples of the nations. Always God has done what He’s done that we might know Him, even when what He did was to kick His children out of the garden He’d made to be their home, or exile them from the Promised Land, or give His Son as a sacrifice that all who believe might be reconciled with Him.

Our ways aren’t God’s ways, so we don’t always recognize what He’s doing, especially if we expect Him to treat everyone the same, or worse, if we expect Him to act the way we would act.

But no mistake. The Progressives have it right: God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. However, we need to believe what He’s told us about Himself and stop looking for Him to behave the way we think He should. After all, He is God, not an idol we can move from place to place or dress up in purple if it suits us.

He is the sovereign, and He tells us what is righteous. How dare we shake our fists at Him or tell Him He was wrong to judge people whose heart He knew intimately. Who are we in comparison to who is He?

I’m not perfect in love or goodness. I don’t know all truth. I’m certainly not sovereign or all powerful. And if it comes right down to it, I am most certainly not the same yesterday, today, and forever. I’m more like a vapor that appears for a little while and them vanishes away.

Not God. He’s as sure as His word, and His word abides forever!

Christ, The Mediator Between God And Man


Communion_TableBecause author and friend Mike Duran has been exploring a theological position termed inclusivism, I’ve been reading Scripture with this view in mind. As a review, inclusivism agrees with the traditional view of salvation—that Christ’s sacrificial death paid the price for sin and that salvation is only through His atoning work.

Where inclusivism departs from the established evangelical position, is that actual belief in Jesus is not necessary. Rather, a person, particularly someone who has not heard the gospel of Christ, may be covered by His blood without knowing it, if he lives according to the light he’s been given through general revelation.

With this idea in mind, then, verses such as John 14:6 in which Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,” are explained as applicable to the means by which a person is saved and not how that person must come to God.

As I said, now that I’m fully aware of this theological position, I’m reading Scripture anew. I can see how a person holding the inclusive view can then interpret many of the clear statements of Scripture in that light—not stating what a person must do to be saved but what God will do (apply the blood of Christ to him on the bases of his following to the best of his ability the light he has been given).

The problem as I see it is that a person must arrive at the position of inclusivism apart from Scripture in order to interpret certain passages in this way. Scripture itself, as a meta-narrative, points to Christ and Christ alone.

In fact, Jesus is the Light and therefore the means by which a person is reconciled to God. Scripture states this plainly more than once.

For instance, after John introduces Jesus as the True Light, he said,

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12, emphasis here and in the verses to follow are mine)

Then towards the end of his book John gives the purpose for recounting the details about Jesus’s life and ministry:

these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).

Shortly after feeding the five thousand with a few loaves of bread, when Jesus was teaching about eternal life, the people asked him the key question: what do we have to do? Jesus’s answer was clear:

Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:28-29)

When Peter first preached on the Day of Pentecost, the people responded with a question to which Peter also gave a clear answer:

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-38)

Paul and Silas had someone ask almost the exact same question:

After [the jailer] brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Interestingly, the only thing the latter two answers have in common is Jesus. But the sum of the two is clear: to be saved a person must believe in Jesus, repent, and be baptized in Jesus’s name.

Many evangelicals today understand baptism to be the public profession of faith in Christ, not a work that earns salvation. But even those who don’t adhere to “believer’s baptism” nevertheless correlate baptism and the saving work of Jesus. In other words, baptism is not a work that earns a person favor in God’s eyes, nor is it a service that indentures God to save. Rather, it is an identifying act enjoining the work of Christ on behalf of the person being baptized.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he clarifies his answer:

if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Rom. 10:9-10)

Peter clarifies his in the first epistle bearing his name:

knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Jesus also expanded on His statement:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”

Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:32-35)

The significance here is that inclusivism lacks any such clear scriptural basis. At best those who hold this position apply a reinterpretation to passages pointing to Christ’s redemptive work, removing the “belief component” which is so clear in the scriptures above.

Further, Jesus, the gospel writers, and those who penned the epistles identify Jesus as the unique link between God and humankind. For instance, John states, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).

Jesus made that same point:

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9)

Paul states emphatically in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Peter says, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

The point then is that Christ, as the perfect High Priest, brings reconciliation between God and those He saves.

The inclusivist view, however, inverts this work of Christ so that God, through general revelation, brings sinners to Christ in order to cover them with His blood.

It’s true that God has chosen those who are His and that He has called His children, and yet salvation—the work that justifies a sinner before God—is Christ’s work. To say that God draws sinners in order to apply Christ’s blood without them knowing it is to ignore Christ’s purpose—to explain God, to show us the Father, to mediate, to serve as the High Priest.

The inclusivist view has no place for this part of Jesus’s work. In so truncating Christ’s role, it reduces His glory, and in the end, God’s glory, because it is through Christ that He is glorified:

. . . so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11b)

Published in: on May 16, 2014 at 2:55 pm  Comments (12)  
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Fiction And Glorifying God


The last few blog posts I’ve made the case for a different understanding of what it means to glorify God based on a Bible study of the word. I’ve come away from that believing we Christians generally have a fuzzy understanding of the term, and consequently a fuzzy understanding of what we should do if we want to honor and magnify God.

In addition, I’ve become mindful of a variety of other interactions with God which Scripture mentions — ones that seem to have found their way into the general catch-all into which we’ve turned glorify. Undoubtedly some will look at this exercise as needless parsing, a type of word game with little meaning.

However, I’ve come to believe that fuzzy thinking keeps us from intentional action. Consequently, a vague sense that I’m to glorify God in everything I do actually leads me to do nothing purposefully to that end.

Now I understand more clearly what Jesus was talking about when He said we are to let our light shine. The point is that others will see our good works and glorify our Father. This seems quite purposeful.

In addition, I see a host of other related, but not identical, activities we as believers can and should do. We are to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects” (Col. 1:10a).

We are to draw near to Him (James 4:8a), grow in our knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18), give him praise (Heb. 13:15, Rev. 19:5) and thanks (2 Cor. 9:11,12). We are to exalt Him (Ps. 99:5), obey Him (Acts 5:29), and trust Him (John 1:12). Above all, we are to love Him (Matt. 22:37).

These things are not fuzzy. They are specific and require me to be intentional. What, for example, must I do if I am to draw near to God? What pleases God? For what am I to thank Him?

Do I do these things, or is my life sort of a general whatever — the spaghetti against the wall approach, hoping something will stick and consequently glorify God? I’d say that latter approach is the way I’ve lived most of my Christian life.

But I’ll admit, I want my writing to be different. How? My overriding goal has been to give God glory, and by that I meant I wanted others to see Him more clearly as a result of what I write. I see that now as exalting God. The idea is to lift Him up so others can see Him more clearly.

How does a novelist accomplish this? I believe it comes back to being truthful about God.

As I see it, God has done this new thing in my life: He rescued me from the dominion of darkness and transferred me to the Kingdom of His beloved Son. How can I not want to tell my friends and neighbors, my family and co-workers, about this great inheritance I now have? Especially knowing that my God is generous and is willing to give that same inheritance to any who believe.

Would I skulk about and hoard an inheritance of untold jewels and gold coins? I hope not.

So I see my role as a writer to be that of Truth teller — the greater Truth that resides outside the box of the limited perspective of finitude. In the process, I trust that God will work through my stories to accomplish His purposes.

From time to time I find verses in Scripture that seem to apply to my writing. Not so long ago, I added Psalm 40:3 to the mix:

He put a new song in my mouth,
A song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the LORD.

I’ll be honest. I could easily get bogged down with what it is I’m doing — praise? thanks? exaltation? glorification? honor? I don’t think the name is the important thing. I do think I need to be intentional, purposeful. It’s why I shared this verse with the group of people who are praying for me.

Last thought (I heard that sigh of relief! 😉 ). I think it’s possible for all of us, writers and others, to intentionally do good works or sing a New Song and never know, this side of heaven, whether others are seeing and as a result, glorifying God or trusting Him. That’s OK. It is enough that I can leave in His hands the results of that which He has entrusted to me.

Published in: on August 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm  Comments (5)  
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Glorifying God Isn’t What We Think, continued


You’ve seen it, maybe even said it. A young child in a situation apart from his parent, acts in an especially responsible way, and an adult responds by saying, Your mama raised you right, or some such thing. The child was the one who did the good deed, but the parent was the one receiving the honor.

I believe that scenario best shows the way “glorify” is used most often in the New Testament.

One definition of the Greek word doxazō which is most often translated as glorify is this: “to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged.” As I see it, that definition best fits the context of the verses related to people glorifying God.

Because of the miracles Jesus performed, people who witnessed them acknowledged God’s dignity and worth. Because of our good works, people around us will acknowledge God’s dignity and worth.

Here are some general observations then.

1) The Christian can glorify God but can also do good works that cause others to glorify Him.
2) Good deeds don’t themselves glorify God; instead, they give others the opportunity to glorify Him.
3) Glorifying God is a “third party” activity. The one doing the good works isn’t the one giving glory.
4) Glorifying God is something done for a visible act, not a private, personal attitude.
5) If God is to be glorified, those watching have to see and recognize, not only the act, but God as the source behind it.
6) Glorifying God is more than calling attention to Him because people can do so in a negative way — it is showing Him in the best light possible.

The Christian isn’t limited to glorifying God. That may sound strange, but I think this is the crux of what I’ve discovered. “Glorifying God” has become a catch-all phrase for every time a Christian mentions God’s name.

I wouldn’t be surprised if those people picketing funerals with horrible signs proclaiming God’s judgment think they are glorifying Him. They are not. Even if they are saying something true, their lack of love and compassion does not magnify God.

Athletes who say they want to praise to God in an after-game interview aren’t giving God glory. I’m not saying they shouldn’t identify themselves as people who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, but the fact that they make that public statement is no different than me putting a license plate frame on my car that said “Jesus is Lord.”

After so identifying, what comes next is what matters. Good works? Or behavior that defames God’s name?

And writers? I think I’m ready to tackle that question next.

– – – – –

Other posts in this series include “Glorifying God Means What Exactly?”, “More Thoughts About Glorifying God,” and “Glorifying God Isn’t What We Think.”

Published in: on August 8, 2011 at 8:03 pm  Comments (3)  
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Glorifying God Isn’t What We Think


I’m tenacious, you might think, or bull-headed, known to flog dead horses from time to time. 😉

For many Christians the topic of glorifying God is moot: We’re supposed to glorify Him in everything — move on, already!

Except I decided to take a look at what Scripture says about glorifying God, and I don’t see this “in everything concept.”

As friend Mike Duran commented in my first post on this subject, when the Bible talks of people who are righteous or godly, the idea seems to be that their entire lives were to be pleasing to God.

Yea, verily, to quote the King James Version of Scripture!

But my study of the word “glorify” leads me to believe that this particular response to God is distinct from pleasing Him and even from praising Him or thanking Him.

The main word translated “glorify” and its various forms appears sixty-three times in the New Testament. Those uses include the shepherds glorifying and praising God after they saw Jesus, as the angels told them they would; the crowd glorifying God after Jesus healed a lame man; the mourners glorifying God when Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead. In fact, the majority of the uses of the word are this type.

John expands the use somewhat. He refers to Jesus not having been glorified yet (7:39) and then later, His having been glorified (12:16). He also talked about the Father glorifying His name and then glorifying the Son.

In reference to us, John says that whatever we ask in Jesus’s name, “that will [Jesus] do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (14:13).

Besides this idea which we associate with prayer, John says in the next chapter: “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (15:8). This verse seems in harmony with what Jesus said recorded in Matthew 15:6 about letting our light shine so men could see our good works and glorify our Father.

Peter also echoes this idea: “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:12).

Clearly, good deeds or works or fruit ignite the act of glorifying God and, according to John 15:8, themselves glorify God as a sign of our discipleship of Christ. With that exception and one other, the actual act of glorifying God itself seems to be a response, an intentional, verbal, and spontaneous honoring of God.

The other exception is Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians “to glorify God in your body (I Cor. 6:20). The context here is quite specific though — that of keeping away from sexual immorality.

I come away from this quick study thinking that praise and glory are linked closely but are not synonymous; that good works offer others an opportunity to glorify God and as they signify my discipleship to Christ, glorify God directly; that living a sexually pure life glorifies God.

While some choices I make, such as my eating habits, what I watch on TV, how I manage my money, or how I spend my Sunday might please God, I don’t think I give Him glory by them or cause others to glorify Him because of them. Non-Christians can eat well, choose wholesome entertainment, and stay out of debt, too. In so doing, they do not bring God glory — not the kind Scripture records in the New Testament.

I can grieve the Holy Spirit by poor life choices or I can please God by good ones. But glorify Him? I think that’s a different something.

Maybe I’m hair-splitting, but I can’t help but think that fuzzy thinking on this subject has led some writers to believe they can show their character saying grace before a meal and feel as if they have glorified God in their story.

Does someone glorify God by putting a “Jesus saves” bumper sticker on their car? Or holding up a “John 3:16” sign at a football game? I don’t think those things stack up with the good works Jesus or the Holy Spirit did that caused people to glorify God in the first century. I don’t think they come close to the glory that living a sexually pure life gives God.

So is it possible for a writer to glorify God in his fiction? That question is still on the table, isn’t it. 😉

– – – – –

Other posts in this series include “Glorifying God Means What Exactly?” and “More Thoughts About Glorifying God.”

Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 7:15 pm  Comments (10)  
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More Thoughts About Glorifying God


As Mike Duran so astutely noted in his comment to my first post about glorifying God, I did not touch on the actual topic of his post which sparked my thinking on the subject — how writers can glorify God in their writing.

I’m getting there, I think, but won’t make it today, I’m pretty sure. I’m still not settled in my mind about what glorifying God means for the average Joanna Christian. I’m pretty convinced the verse we use to say we are to glorify God in everything has been yanked out of context and isn’t a good proof text for what I’m actually to do.

So I’ve gone back to Scripture to see what other verses can give me instruction. I’ve also thought more about the verse in Matthew (Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”) that gave Jesus’s take on the subject. What “good works” today cause me to glorify our Father who is in heaven? Here are a few:

* Gracia Burnham testifying of God’s love and provision and desire for the salvation of the Abu Sayyaf terrorists who kidnapped her and her husband, resulting in his death after more than a year of captivity.

* Katie Davis leaving the security of “the normal college kid life” to begin caring for orphans in Uganda.

* The Pickersgills from my church, he with ALS, speaking before their Fellowship group and then via video before the whole church, six or so months before he died, praising God for His provision in the midst of their suffering.

* Most recently, a friend of mine, via email:

Last July 13Th. 2011, I was coming down a ladder so that I could move it to a better spot and missed the last two rungs and fell back on the cement and fractured my lower back in two places.  I think I remember something like that 37 years ago if I am correct.  Oh well.  The Dr. said that it was two new fractures but in the same area.  NO SURGERY.  Thank the Lord.  With my seizures in 2009 and the latest one March of 2011.  The D.M.V. has taken my license away for a while and now recovering from the fall.  The Lord has me where He wants me. 
 
Therefore I have come to believe that.  If there is a single event in all of the universe that can occur outside of God’s sovereign control then I cannot trust Him.  His love may be infinite, but if His power is limited and His purpose can be thwarted, I cannot trust Him.  Paul, said however, “we can entrust our most valuable possession to the Lord.  2 Timothy 1:12.
 
The Lord has brought me back to this truth. “The sovereignty of God is the one impregnable rick to which the suffering human heart must cling. The circumstances surrounding our lives are NO ACCIDENT: they may be the work of evil, but that evil is held firmly within the mighty hand of our sovereign God.
 
Thanks to a wonderful God.

God, who doesn’t always heal or shower riches upon the most needy or rescue the captive, nevertheless will not fail us or forsake us. When I see people living out that truth, and telling others how great He is because of it, how can I not glorify His name!

Maybe their good works glorify His name. Maybe my praise as a result of their good works glorifies His name. Maybe it’s both. All I know is, that’s what I want to sign up for. I want people to see God and know Him more clearly because of my life and because of what I write.

Published in: on August 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm  Comments (9)  
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Glorifying God Means What Exactly?


Once again author and friend Mike Duran has asked a thought-provoking question on his blog, this time How Do We “Glorify God” in Our Writing? If you take a look at the comments, you’ll see there are some remarks nearly as long as the original post. The subject of giving God glory is no small one.

Mike started out with a straightforward statement about a Christian’s need to glorify God:

Of course, I realize that Christians are to glorify God in everything they do.

    So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31).

Odd as it may seem, that oft repeated idea caused me to pause, first because of the supporting verse, then because of the broad term “in everything.”

I recently had occasion to look at the issue central to the passage containing the “do all to the glory of God” verse. Paul has just finished giving an argument about eating or not eating meat offered to idols. Here’s the immediate context:

If one of the unbelievers invites you and you want to go, eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience’ sake. But if anyone says to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; I mean not your own conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks?

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Clearly the verse in question is referring to a specific scenario. Paul’s conclusion, in essence, was this: Make your decision to eat or not eat, to drink or not drink, or whatever else, on what will glorify God.

The popular view of this verse, however, has become something like this: Christians are to glorify God in whatever we do. I’m a Christian, so whatever I do brings God glory.

As I see it, this latter interpretation doesn’t account for the context and actually makes the verse say something it doesn’t say.

But I’m also wondering about the idea of giving God glory in everything we do. I believe the in-context understanding makes it clear that “everything” means everything specific to Paul’s discussion. But even if that were not so, I’d have the same kind of struggle inherent in the command, “Pray without ceasing.”

I spent some time looking up what the Bible says about bringing God glory to see if other passages gave an “in everything” slant. The clearest passage defining what it means to glorify God seems to be in Matthew 5:16.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Throughout the New Testament, people responded to miracles and other “good works” by giving God glory. The way the passages read, it seems as if this was verbal and immediate.

For now, I’m left with these thoughts:

1) It seems good works can and should spark others to give God glory.

2) Giving God glory is something we communicate, one person to another.

Some people argue that Scripture teaches all creation glorifies God, so I’ll throw in a third point:

3) Psalm 19:1 (The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands) indicates, as does Romans 1, that creation declares something about God. I think this is different from “giving Him glory.” Rather it’s a statement of fact. God has glory; creation reveals His glory. The full moon, for example, is glorious, consequently the one Who made it is revealed as a glorious Creator.

What are your thoughts?

Published in: on August 3, 2011 at 6:30 pm  Comments (18)  
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Light In A Dark Place


Particularly memorable for me is a scene in C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle. A group of dwarfs have followed the band of Aslan-followers into a rundown shed.

Inside Lucy, Peter, and the rest find sunlight and growing things. It’s like Narnia of old.

They try to coax the dwarfs out of the huddle they’re in with some fresh fruit, but they grouse and complain about the dark, about the smelly hay Lucy is trying to force on them. In the end, the dwarfs remain blind to the beauty around them while the Aslan-followers move further up and further in.

Whatever C. S. Lewis intended with that scene, I think it accurately portrays the difference between those of us whose spiritual eyes have been opened and those still blinded — by sin, the world, riches, worries, the idol of self-effort, what have you.

The thing is, none of us can do a single thing to restore sight. We can plead with God to restore sight, but we can’t do it. Not for ourselves and not for anyone else.

So, do we pray and walk away?

Not if we take seriously what Jesus said.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16).

It seems to me our job is to shine our light — not in a closet, but out in the open where people are looking.

I think that makes some of us uncomfortable. Maybe we mix up what Jesus said about praying in secret and giving in secret with doing good works. Our prayers and our alms-giving are not supposed to be done in a way that has people noticing what we’re doing.

But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Matt. 6:3-6).

Good works, then, must be different if they are to be done to attract attention.

But there’s another key. When our good works get attention, they ought not earn us applause. Our good works should spur others to give God glory.

That’s the other part that makes us uncomfortable, I think. How do we get people to credit God, not us, for something we do for His kingdom?

The “ah, shucks, it wasn’t much” approach comes across as false humility and in the end belittles the good work and consequently the one receiving it and God who should receive the glory.

The Apostle Paul didn’t seem to have this problem. When he healed a lame man in Lystra, the people started calling him and Barnabas gods. They’re response?

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God (Acts 14:14-15a, emphasis added).

Perhaps we get confused about who’s light we’re shining, and that’s why it feels uncomfortable to us to deflect praise to God.

If someone handed me the keys to someone else’s car, I wouldn’t stand around hemming and hawing as if somehow to refuse to take the keys that didn’t belong to me was an embarrassment.

Light in this dark world — may I always remember the light source is God Himself which is why the praise should be His.

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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