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.

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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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