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?

Advertisements

Tips for new Christians

You have joyfully given your heart to God. Now what?

ONE: Pray, like, all the time.

When you’re just starting out, it’s tempting to throw yourself head first into all the ‘stuff’ of religion: Christianity, more than being a Christian. It’s understandable, you’re late to a party that’s been going on for two thousand years. It never works, though, and has the added kicker of distracting you from how much it isn’t working because you’re so busy being religious.

The most important thing about Christianity and being a Christian is having a relationship with God, and relationships take work. You can’t know the Creator if you don’t talk to him. Don’t fret too much about how to pray, the mechanics of it, or about intercession or the like. Praying is just talking to God. So talk to him! Get to know each other. God’s there all the time anyway and, would you believe it, he actually likes hearing from you?

There aren’t any ‘off-limit’ feelings or topics when it comes to praying. Just look at the Bible, God’s seen it all before. You can pray while doing anything. It shouldn’t just be a slot in your day, you know, right after you’ve read your Bible or just before you fall asleep. It’s basically a never-ending text conversation. Some days it will feel like God’s all ears; at other times, it will feel like you’re having a conversation with a cactus. That’s what feelings do: they change. But God is constant, and he gets your messages even when it feels like they aren’t going through.

TWO: Get a good Bible.

There’s a lot of debate (scholarly and otherwise) about just what a ‘good’ Bible is. My advice is to ignore all of it. Don’t worry too much about theology and translation, just choose a Bible that resonates with you. A big part of having a good relationship with God is having a positive relationship with his Word. So while that big ESV Study Bible may impress the hell out of everyone, if reading it makes you want to throw yourself into a waterhole, that just misses the point entirely. A study Bible is a good investment, but reading the Bible shouldn’t be a chore, so for now just find a Bible version that communicates God’s story to you clearly.

Don’t try to ‘stuff it all in’ at once, either, which is tempting when Newbie you joins a study group of people who have been doing this God thing for years. Bible study is a lifelong thing, and the stories, themes and theology contained in the Bible are vast. You don’t need to ‘earn’ salvation by being able to answer a pop quiz on the Old Testament. Reading the Bible isn’t so much a history lesson as it is a journey. And lucky us, we’ve got a companion in the form of the Holy Spirit. All you need to do is show up and read.

THREE: Find a church, join a church.

Most people assume that you come to God via the church and for a large chunk of the population, sure, that’s true. But in a post-Christian world (which is a really pretentious way of saying that the days of ‘assumed Christianity’ are behind us and that our society is increasingly plural and secular), more and more people are coming to God—or coming back to God—in ways that often circumvent churches entirely. The Internet and social media play a large part in this: there are countless devotional websites, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, blogs, tumblrs, Pinterest boards, daily prayer and devotional e-mails, Bible and Bible-reading apps, podcasts, and television shows, all which can make you feel ‘plugged into’ Christianity as a whole.

On the downside, it often means that, post-conversion, people aren’t ‘plugged into’ local bodies of worship. Initially it may not be a problem—there is a lot of material you can burn through on your own—but eventually, usually around the time you hit your first hurdle as a new (or renewed) believer, the lack of a physical support group can hit you pretty hard. It’s a nasty come-down from the first few months of that ‘spiritual high’ and, unsupported, could take a chunk out of your faith life.

This, of course, is where a church and church family come in handy. It’s pretty intimidating, especially if you’ve been unreligious for a while, or if it’s all new to you, but just go. Find a place where you are comfortable and the people are friendly. You might have to ‘shop around’ for a church. Don’t feel too bad about it. Look, no church is perfect and never will be—it is, after all, by definition a gathering of sinners—but it’s important that you find a place that clicks. Trust your gut on this one.

This might just be the Methodist in me, but a great thing to do when you’ve found a church is to join a Bible study group. There’s no quicker or surer way to get to know a church and its people, and from there it’s short work to join in on other activities.

FOUR: Christianity is actually pretty hard.

There’s a tendency, when you first convert and the Holy Spirit is just flow, flow, flowing, to assume that that feeling is going to last. The good news is that it doesn’t: after a reasonable amount of time, God cuts back on the high and the harder work begins. The journey is different for everyone, but just know that it is a road we all travel, and the road leads to spiritual maturation. It’s like taking the training wheels off your bike so you can cycle faster and more freely.

It’s just not always easy to be a Christian. You will doubt whether there is a God. Others will doubt you, and whether you can really do this ‘Christian’ thing (or if you should). You often lose people. You often lose your sense of self. Saying goodbye to old you isn’t going to be a clean break. It costs a lot of re-evaluation, repentance and downright scary change, and you aren’t always going to be sure that it’s worth it.

Spoiler alert: it is. Even a pretty bad day with Jesus is better than a good one without him.

FIVE: You are going to mess up so, so badly.

Old you is the worst kind of ex. Old you is not going to leave you alone. You are going to take old you back sometimes, and you are going to regret it. Old you will still visit, call, poke you on Facebook, and generally be a pain in the behind. Old you will sometimes be very reasonable, even persuasive—after all, old you likes all the same things you did.

The thing is, there’s no way to get rid of old you entirely while you are still on earth, so it is always going to be a struggle. Always. Some days will be easy, very easy; others, not so much. What I don’t want you to do is sweat it. You are going to mess up, so very badly. You are going to be the Worst Christian Ever. Fine, alright. What you do need to do is go back to God each and every time. He hasn’t gone anywhere while you were off with old you. He’s kept the lights on, waiting for you to come back home. Go back in. Repent. Be loved. Start all over again. Grace will heal the stubbed shins that come from bumping around in the world.

Do you have any advice for new Christians? Is there anything you wish you’d known when you were just starting out?

Prayer Monday | January 2014

Dear Lord

I acknowledge that the reality of your love is so much bigger than the doubt of my emotions.

I am so grateful that you, creator of the universe, love me as personally and intimately as you do.

I pray to walk my life with you, Lord, and to never forget that it is a journey to something more.

I pray that, as I walk this path, enough of your light will shine through my brokenness to illuminate the journeys of the people around me.

I pray for the wisdom to realise how foolish I really am.

Thank you Lord, Father, Creator, Friend, for your endless mercy and generosity and grace. Direct me in all I do.

Amen.

Top Ten Posts for 2013

Welcome to YMHM, where we are finally a mere semester away from an actual, can-you-believe-it degree! “About time!” some would say, and by ‘some’ I mean ‘all’. “All of my family.”

I know my posting lately has been lazy sporadic, so I thought I’d compile a list of YMHM’s top ten posts for 2013. I know the suspense is killing you, but please, try to remain calm:

  1. Grace: one size fits all.
  2. Four degrees of love.
  3. Sixteen fun ideas for attending a new church.
  4. Questions.
  5. Friday Funny for August thirtieth.
  6. Virtues.
  7. The God who is.
  8. God’s joy.
  9. Ruminations from the back pew: happy clappin’.
  10. Good Christians.

If you’re curious about the posts or articles I most enjoyed reading, check out my reblogs tag. You can also take a look at this post, in which I worship at the altar of longform.org. As a bonus it has a super weird graphic, so there’s that to look forward to.

How was your 2013? Personally I am convinced that time is a lie, but you know. I try to be open-minded about these things.

Thank you for skimming reading this blog this year. I truly appreciate every like and every comment, especially those that are not trying to sell me medication for erectile dysfunction.

I wish you and yours a very happy, blessed Christmas. May you not be the biggest screw-up at your family dinner. May the food be good. May your arch-nemesis not attend the Christmas service and if they do, ignore you first.

And remember: keep it classy.

A gif about eating pants.

I just call them “pants” but okay.

The God who is

I’m reading Jack Hayford’s “Manifest Presence”. At one point he talks about how we worship God simply because of who He is. Hayford references Exodus 3:17, in which God tells Moses, “I Am Who I Am”. I Am—well, I thought, if that’s good enough for Moses, it’s good enough for me! Then I read the whole third chapter of Exodus. This is the burning bush episode where God reveals Himself to Moses and sends him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. And “I Am” definitely wasn’t enough for Moses: he spends most of the chapter going, “but…”
 
Several things strike me about this section. The first thing is that God alone is reason enough to be obedient. The second is that we always second-guess this. The third is that even when we do, instead of picking someone else for the task, God equips us—with staffs that turn into snakes and well-spoken brothers. But He equips us: He never does pick someone else to send.
 
You have been chosen. That’s the long and the short of it. There are things that God wants only you to do. Yes, there’s probably someone else out there who is better qualified, readier, more faithful, less doubtful–but they aren’t you. And it’s you God needs.

No ifs or buts about it. He Is.

Ruminations from the back pew | Sunday November 3, 2013

Ruminations from the back pew

There is a curse—they say may you live in interesting times.

I’m reporting back to you from a very dramatic Sunday service this week.

Our society rests on a very fragile bedrock of unspoken agreements: killing is bad; let’s all try not to do that. It is good that people have access to food, water, and shelter. Do not make eye contact with someone you’ve run into at a public venue after you’ve already exchanged hellos. Know when your pew has been purloined; under no circumstances try to negotiate its return.

What will the world come to when we just start chopping and changing these time-honoured traditions, Handsome and Polite Asian Family? You mongers of seat displacement? Just where do we draw the line when someone’s pew hogging is challenged, even rebutted?

The times we live in, I tell you.

Anyway, after my unforeseen departure from the back pew, I ended up next to the tannie who fell asleep during a service a few weeks back. I think my presence spurred her on to new levels of awakeness, so there’s that. And it was nice not sitting through a church service alone for once. If introversion isn’t Hell, it’s pretty close to it.

Someone collapsed during the service. I looked around just in time to see his head bounce off the pew in front of him, and there was a second of horrified humour before it was just horror and that helplessness particular to bystanders. Leon the Swaziland Missions Trip guy, you and your wife, family, and friends are in my prayers, all the more so because I feel like a massive jerk.

The whole episode, plus the recent death in our family and the funeral of one of my mother’s co-workers we attended yesterday, has settled heavily on my heart. Fittingly, the minister at yesterday’s funeral spoke about how we need to look beyond the grave. But graves are pretty deep, though, aren’t they?

Oh, awkward turtle moment of the week: the funeral was held in a Reformed Church (they’re also known as the Doppers). It was my first time at one of their services so, after the first hymn, when some folks remained standing for the prayer, I did, too. I only noticed during the closing prayer that this is apparently a men-only thing.

Rights

So I literally, if accidentally, stood up for feminism. Ahem.

What was your Sunday service like?

Prayer Monday | October 28, 2013

deargod

A Prayer on Monday

Lord, it’s Monday. It’s not everyone’s favourite day: back to school, back to work, back to all the chores. Yet each day is a gift, each day is an opportunity. Each day is special.

Help me to make the most of this day. Help me in my work. Help me in my relationships. May you be glorified in my life, this and every day.

Amen

“Morning by morning, O Lord, I lay my requests before you, and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:3

(Adapted from here.)

(A Very Late) Prayer Monday | September 17, 2013

Lord God, take my hand. It’s me, begging you to take my hand. Just for today. Lift me up into the light of your love, so that I may see the reflection of my face in yours. Restore me to sanity. Fill me with your grace. Amen.A Prayer for the Hardest of Times

Friday Funny | August 30, 2013

Friday Funny | August 2, 2013

CakeHave a great weekend!