The sumptuous burden of glorifying God

Garden

Lately the Holy Spirit has been prompting me to ask myself whether the things I do glorify God. In 1 Peter 4:10-11 we read

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.

In Colossians 3:17 it says

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

But I find Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 the most challenging:

 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”

Because not only are we told to do everything that we do to the glory of God, we’re told to do it not just for own sake, or for God’s, but for the sake of other people.

This is a concept that I’ve had trouble with for a long time, this idea that we’re responsible to others. Oh, intellectually I know that we are called upon to spread the Good News, to be the salt and the light, to be a sort of God flavour to the masses. I’ve managed to avoid this responsibility (and it is a responsibility) of “not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” by saying well, you can be as fragrant a Christian as you want, but you can’t make people believe; that’s something between them, God and the Holy Spirit. It’s a sort of horse/water situation.

But you’ve still got the responsibility to try and lead people to the water, and we do that by dent of how we are living our lives–every aspect of our lives, not just the ones we want people to see, or the ones we take to church or put up on our Facebook.

Which brings us back to the question, Is what I’m doing glorifying God?

It’s a scary question to answer. I think that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to follow through on this prompting for such a long time, because when you ask yourself, Does this glorify God? and the answer is “no”, there’s really no excuse or reason to keep doing it, is there? So much of our lives are filled with these non-glorifying worldly fillers. Often they are small things, things you can “slip past” God, things you don’t even think about. But you’re used to them. You’ve attached some kind of value to them. Heck, you might even enjoy some of them. But if you sit yourself down and get honest, you know that they don’t serve any other purpose than to distract or distance you from your Lord.

It’s not a guilt thing, this question. The Holy Spirit isn’t standing there with a ruler, ready to whip out an admonishment. It’s gentle. It’s a mountain stream. It’s asked kindly, and it’s kindly meant. Worldly fillers are just that–worldly fillers. They have no eternal import. They don’t really matter. But the things that do glorify God? They glorify Him now; they glorify Him always. That’s the difference.

We need to be careful with this. A lot of us think the best way to answer this question–Does this glorify God?–is to cut out anything that might be fun. Our reasoning, whether we acknowledge it or not, is that we think God isn’t fun and therefore God hates fun; fun is sin. Which is ridiculous. You know what glorifies God? Laughter, enjoyment, love, care, hugs and kisses and giggles and enjoying His creation, whether that creation is a magnificent skyline or a magnificent meal. Glorifying God is consciously, continuously turning whatever activity you’re doing into an altar for Him. Yes, some activities won’t make the cut. You can’t glorify God and, say, gossip about someone simultaneously. But it’s probably less than you think, and eventually you won’t miss what you have had to sacrifice anyway because the reward is more of God. And if we accept that our Creator is a loving, caring Father, brother, and friend, we realise that more of God is more than enough.

So it is with confidence and faith and joy that I can ask you: Do the things you think, speak, and do glorify God?

Prayer Monday | March 3, 2014

A Prayer for Grace

from Carmina Gadelica

I am bending my knee

In the eye of the Father who created me

In the eye of the Son who died for me

In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me

In love and desire.

Pour down upon us from heaven

The kindness of Thy forgiveness:

Thou who art uppermost in the city

Be Thou patient with us.

Grant to us, Thou Saviour of Glory

The fear of God, the love of God, and His affection

And the will of God to do on earth at all times

As angels and saints do in heaven:

Each day and night give us Thy peace

Each day and night give us Thy peace.

Prayer Monday | November 25, 2013

prayer

“My First Thought”

Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.

For your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:

For the love with which You love mankind:

For the love with which You love me:

For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:

For the indwelling of Your Spirit in my heart:

For the sevenfold gifts of Your Spirit:

I praise and worship You, O Lord.

Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;

Keeping me chaste in thought:

Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:

Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:

Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:

Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:

Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:

Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.

Through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

–John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer

Prayer Monday | November 4, 2013

God’s joy

God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,

from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed.

As roses, up from ground.

Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,

now a cliff covered with vines,

now a horse being saddled.

It hides within these,

till one day it cracks them open.

–Rumi

Prayer Monday July 8, 2013

Stream

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

(Psalm 51: 10-13 NIV)

Praying from the Bible has the advantage of cutting through all the hooha and getting to the kind of prayers God most wants us to pray.  Check out these articles and blog posts if you need some inspiration:

Have a great Monday!

Reblog: The Honeymoon Has To End: Your Church Ain’t Perfect – J.S. Park

There will be a moment when you will hate your pastor’s smug little face and his grin and those quirky Christianese catchphrases out his grinning smiley mouth.

You will eventually resent your church.

You will hate the music, the seats, the bulletin font, the ushers, the way they force the offering plate in your lap, the self-promoting announcements, the tacky jumbo screen.

I mean just three months ago, you loved your pastor.  You were excited at church.  You loved the praise team.  But that moment comes when everything is too loud and too shrill and suddenly grating and irritating — and we think our best option is to leave.

The moment you find out your church isn’t perfect can be very disorienting.  Your pastor curses?  He watches Breaking Bad?  The praise team went out for a beer?  There’s gossip in the church?  How dare they.

We go from idealism to optimism to pessimism.  It’s inevitable.

*

Sometimes we wait for the pastor to make some theological mistake so we can justify our anger.  I’ve done it too.  I fuel my resentment with every last straw.  I build my precious hate-tent and mentally argue with the sermon and find all the ways I could make this church better.

I get tired of doing this.  I think many of us who secretly hate our churches just forget that the honeymoon has to end, and that the church was messed up long before we got there.

If the church isn’t messy, then it’s not a church.  That’s why God calls us to be in a body of other people: to endure with those we would never hang out with, to persevere with different preferences, to overcome our loss of patience and our growing frustrations and our silly hang-ups, to really love others when we least want to.

There’s no real love that doesn’t push past the initial illusions of perfection.  The real kind of love that Jesus aims for is the kind that embraces the ugly underside of our faults and flaws, and looks not at who we should be, but could be.

I’m praying we are not so quick to force undue pressure on our pastors, churches, and fellow believers.  I hope we don’t pick on our human nature as a reason to quit.  Jesus didn’t do that to us, either.

Reblogged in its entirety from The Honeymoon Has To End: Your Church Ain’t Perfect – J.S. Park.

Reblog: Experience, the most sacred part of life | h.b. allaman

Experience is the most sacred part of life. Our experience. My experience. Your experience.

We walk with Christ. We follow Jesus. We experience Jesus. He is with us at every step, in every experience. What we experience, it’s the heartbeat of everything in our lives. It makes us who we are. It gives us context and perspective. It shapes how we see things and influences what we believe.

Experience is what Jesus uses to integrate us, to make us whole. Sometimes it feels like fragmentation, or worse, disintegration. But that’s the beauty of redemption. God takes all the pieces, every single experience, every fragmented shard, and he uses each and every one to shape us into our whole and integrated self. That makes every experience sacred, every piece of us holy. Even what we label as depraved, it is sacred to God. Even those experiences we see as horrific and evil, God makes them sacred. He redeems them.

I’m not saying an evil act is good or sacred. I’m saying the experience is sacred. It’s sacred because I experienced it. It’s sacred because a human bore witness to it. It’s sacred because it was experienced by one created in the image of God. That’s what I think Paul is talking about in Romans 8. Nothing can separate us from our Source. We are not alone. We are never alone. No matter what we experience, God is there, and because of his Presence in our experience, what we experience becomes sacred.

An evil act can fragment us. Abuse can disintegrate. But God integrates and heals and makes us whole. And part of that wholeness has to include the dark shadow-filled experiences because the whole is the sum of all parts. If some parts are removed or thrown out or destroyed, there can be no whole. I think that’s where we get it wrong. We try to become whole without all the parts. We believe we must war against ourselves, destroy what we’re told is depraved or sinful or weak or not God’s design. But we cannot get rid of some parts and still reach wholeness. Wholeness requires all parts to be present.

Look at every person in the Bible. Not one is without shadow. Thomas had doubt. Jacob had a limp, and Moses had a lisp. David had adultery and murder. Sarah had to laugh. Rachel and Leah had rivalry. Tamar had rape. Joseph had slavery and prison. Every single person had a flaw or a dark side or a happened-to-me moment. And not one story ends with God taking it away. Jesus even kept his scars.

God doesn’t want perfection. He wants our heart. He makes a person whole, not by eradicating parts but by integrating every part into one. Wholeness is the absence of nothing. Wholeness means nothing is absent. All parts are present, and they must be to make the whole.

Whoa! Read the whole post: Experience, the most sacred part of life | h.b. allaman.

Reblog: Psalm 61- Breathing Room » The Registered Runaway

(I’m reblogging the whole post. It’s that good.)

I’ve broken up with God more times than I can count.

There were nights when I explicitly spelled out- in all the swear words, why I had enough. Why I no longer believed or was done trying to. He didn’t love me, I muttered, so I wouldn’t love Him back.

There have been months on end that I considered myself closed off from God altogether, even if I didn’t make that directly clear to him.

You don’t need to be in your Bible, listening to worship music, praying out loud to be apart from God. You just need to be reflexively blocking him out of your thoughts and feelings, like He’s not even there.

And I know I’m not alone in that. Believers that hold to an unbreakable life-long consistency are few and far between. We walk away- we walk back, shaking off all the things we didn’t even know were killing us at the time.

On Facebook, God and I have always had an It’s Complicated kind of relationship, because that’s been my journey. I walked away when I was ashamed. I walked back when I hit the floor of my loneliness. I ran far far away when the church folk said I didn’t belong. I went full steam back when a new church held me closer than any had before.

There have been times when my own unkindness toward myself has kept me away from God. I was my own worst enemy and left alone, I could really do a number on myself.

I know that David isn’t talking about this kind of resting place, he’s referencing the shelter of God. But I write in reaction to what I’ve read and this hit on something I had been thinking about.

And what if my walking away is that resting place? What if, when the church becomes too painful, God becomes too confusing and scary, He sets aside a place where I have to face my own reflection and understand how horrible I’ve been to myself? Where I can understand that until I love who I am, the world will still be able to crush me. Where I can understand that even at my very most self-loving frame of mind, it is still incomparable to His adoration for me.

Brennan Manning, the author/speaker/preacher/also the guy that has reunited Christ and I more than anyone in the whole world, gave a series of talks in 1996 at Seattle Pacific University and he spoke on how the greatest evil in our lives is self-rejection. More than greed, lust, every destructive thing relates to this. Nothing separates us more than when we believer we are the bottom of the dumpster. The crap of the creator.

And he quotes something from Paul Tillich. Something that quickened me into a desire to walk, jog, then sprint forward into the story of a Jesus that loves me.

“The beginning of faith is in accepting that you are acceptable.”

Accepting that in my own jadedness, bitterness, cynicism, pet peeves, offensive action, self-condemnation, laziness, busyness, my low and high, my deep and wide Jesus accepts me wholly, loves me fully, madly embarrassingly falling on his face happy in love with me.

Even when I walk away, He’s there, providing a place of rest, a place of renewal.

Reblogged from: Psalm 61- Breathing Room » The Registered Runaway.

Reblog: When It’s Not Enough – CulturalSavage

Days like Monday though, they are a whole other beast. Days like Monday claw at my skin and bones, leaving me laying on the floor in a hoodie and pajama pants, head covered, eyes closed, wanting to sleep and never wake up. Depression like that leaves me with hours of nothing, trapped in my own head and the ropes of sorrow and despair tightening around my wrists, looping into a noose around my neck. On days like this, my medication isn’t enough.

Neither is Jesus.

I know that’s not what I’m suppose to say. I’m suppose to talk about how Jesus is there for me in my darkest times, how he brings me hope and peace, how I can survive this depression because of him. But today, if i was to say that I would be lying.

Depression makes me lonely, and Jesus isn’t in the room when I can’t get up off the floor. There is some sort of cognitive assent that he is everywhere, but the theology of an omnipresent divinity doesn’t make me not want to cut my flesh to feel something better than emotional pain. The words of Christ about his sending of the Spirit so that his peace would be with us does nothing for me when I’m too sad to move. The memories of times with God’s presence, of leading congregations in worship of Jesus, of illuminating the scriptures to people, these memories do nothing to comfort me. In the utter, bleak smothering of weight, sadness, pain, and lifelessness what can I do to find comfort?

I’m tired of the assumptions that I can fix my self, that I can find my own comfort, that I am capable of surviving days like my hard Monday.  Do you have any idea how much pressure that puts on the one in their suffering? It’s hard enough to get out of bed, to get a glass of water, to interact with my family, and you expect me to find comfort, something that is utterly devoid from my current experience? The only comfort I can think to find is a bottle of strong booze, a blade on my skin, or forcing my self to stay asleep hoping it might just be over. In these moments, I am incapable of comforting my self.

I need you.

Hear this very carefully: you are not the missing piece to my happiness. I don’t expect you to magically snap me out of my depression and set me back into real life. I don’t expect you to know what to say or what to do. I don’t expect you to even want to be around me when I am in the middle of these hard days.

But I need you.

Please read the whole post. It’s bravery in action: When It’s Not Enough – CulturalSavage.