Glory For Me!

Glory For Me!

That which gives you your sense of worth
is your glory.

“Glory!” What comes to mind when you hear the word? I think: jaw-dropping awesomeness, perfection, God, and Christmas. “Glory!” What do you see? I see angels, white and blinding light, glitter and sparkles. Glory. It’s one of those Bible words that we don’t use much nowadays, unless it’s December and we’re singing about it. But the word does appear in the Bible over and over. I was seeing the “glory” theme so often that I decided I’d better take a closer look and understand what is actually being said.

The glory of God is easier to define, even from a brief dictionary definition. glory – n. 1 high renown or honor won by notable achievements 2 magnificence; great beauty; a thing that is beautiful or distinctive; a special cause for pride, respect, or delight. Granted, this only scratches the surface of what the prophets and apostles mean when they speak of God’s glory but at least our understanding is pointed in the right direction. What really threw me was the passages that quote a human being saying “my glory”. What is that about? Take Psalm 16, for example, where we listen in as David alternately prays to God and talks to his own soul. Towards the end he says,

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices…”

Now, if you are using a modern paraphrase, you probably won’t see the word “glory” here. The translators have accommodated our self-imposed, limited vocabulary. I’m sorry about that because I think the meaning intended in the original manuscript holds layers of richness that contextualised translations miss.

One commentator, Matthew Henry, explains that “our glory is that within us that makes us different from the beasts”. Our tongue, our ability to speak, distinguishes us from animals. Therefore, in the case of Psalm 16 David audibly, with speech, rejoices in the Lord. But speech is not our only distinguishing characteristic. There’s a deeper layer of meaning to “glory”.

We differ from animals in that we are aware of the self. We think about our self. We consider our image and we ponder the level of satisfaction we have attained. We are conscious of our self, of our soul. So now I invite you to read Psalm 84 with that in mind. Notice that in David’s self-awareness, he directs his soul to God. David is the king! He sits on a throne and lives in a palace! But this is not where he finds his worth. “The Lord will give grace and glory”, he assures his soul, “no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” We see here, then, that “glory” also carries the meaning ‘the weight of significance, honor, esteem’. And here is the point. David, for all his talents, skills, wealth and power derived the weight of his significance from the Lord who gives it to those who trust in him! What freedom this truth has given me from the bondage of self — of having to assert myself, to protect and look after the measure of my worth and significance!

Do you see the powerful truth here? If you trust in the Lord Jesus your identity, self-esteem, value and worth is wrapped up in him. He shares his glory with you. In Him you live and move and have your being. Our personal glory is centered in our Savior, the only truly Glorious One.

Now, when you read your Bible and come across the phrase “my glory”, don’t rush over it. Amplify the meaning with “my esteem” or “the weight of significance” and catch a glimpse of the further glories that await you and I! Go to John 17 with this in mind and you’ll be blown away! Christ’s glory, which He has given to us, is for the purpose of unity among us, His followers, to the end that the world may know God sent Jesus. I am identified with Christ, sharing in his worth, not to realize my self but to manifest the truth of the gospel, God’s glory, to the world! Genuine significance lies in an absence of pride in the “me” that I love, and finds its pride and worth in God’s glory.

There is an old hymn I sang as a child that comes to mind. Sing along with me (or say it) and in your mind think “significance or esteem” when you sing “glory”.

When all my labors and trials are o’er, and I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore, will through the ages be glory for me.

[chorus] Oh that will be glory for me, glory for me, glory for me. When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me!

When, by the gift of His infinite grace, I am accorded in Heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face, will through the ages be glory for me. [chorus]

Friends will be there I have loved long ago; Joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet, just a smile from my Savior, I know, will through the ages be glory for me. [chorus]

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Perplexed, but

Perplexed, but

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart…we are perplexed but not in despair …
II Corinthians 4:1, 8

Perplexed: baffled, bewildered, there is no accounting for it. Perplexed – it suggests humility; accepting that I don’t have all the information. Therefore, I will wait. “Perplexed but” suggests hope. There is light at the end of this tunnel. The situation is still in process. There is an answer, a response, a reason, and I simply don’t know yet what it is. Closure will come, in time. Therefore, I need not despair. Despair has made the decision, passed the judgement and pronounced in all its pride, “This is the final word. It is hopeless. I quit. It’s the end.”

One element of ministry that perplexes me chronically is the language barrier. Mary invited a few ladies to her house for a simple Bible study. I was to show them how to read for comprehension leading to life transformation. Though church go-ers, they had rarely read the Bible with the expectation of understanding it. My role in the group was a small one, and was made even smaller by the fact that the ladies and I did not share a common language. So, Mary recruited one of her sons, a young adult with English language ability, to interpret. Through him, I gave the brief instruction. They were to read the story, repeating it until everyone understood the content. Then they were to say what the text tells us about God, about humans in general, and about themselves in particular. The young interpreter caught on immediately and began adding his own responses. He later told me he could imagine doing this kind of study with his friends.

The next week, another one of Mary’s young sons interpreted. Like his brother, he engaged in the process until, soon, I was completely left out of their conversation!Forgetting to interpret for me, he joined them in their study and helped them look for the meaning in the text by answering those three, key questions. We were in Mark’s gospel, hearing about the dinner at Levi’s house. Jesus was there as a guest, rubbing shoulders with the despised tax collectors and sinners. “What do we learn about Jesus here?”, I asked, in English. Only my interpreter heard me.

The complex language situation, the fact that various languages are spoken and each woman I know feels strongly that I should learn hers, is chronically perplexing. These “language wars” bewilder me. What’s more, the nature and duration of our assignment here does not lend itself to intentional language acquisition. To choose, then, not to learn a local language works death in me. It isolates me, prevents me from engaging in what I have always considered “viable ministry”. I lose my default mode of communication – verbal. It’s like seeing and hearing everyone through a thick wall of foggy glass. This is so perplexing as to lead, in the natural, to despair.

“We are perplexed but we don’t despair”, declares the apostle Paul. I’ve learned that the slide downward from perplexity to cynicism/despair happens as I begin to look for a way to avoid perplexing situations. I do this when I turn my thoughts towards my personal, unmet “needs”.  I need: to play my cello, a choir to sing in, a class to teach, to express myself, a better way to use my abilities, a better ministry plan … Did you notice that the great missionary Paul never went that direction? He doesn’t run back to the things that gave him widespread credibility and affirmation. Instead, he is proud to carry about in his body the death of the Lord Jesus. This death to self is at work in him to bring life to those who are being saved.

The response tumbled out of my young interpreter’s mouth, “Jesus was friendly! People, especially sinners, liked to be with him and he, with them! I never knew that! I, and all my friends, believe Jesus to be very serious and not someone you would want to be around. Now I see that he would even probably like to be with us! Hey, can I keep coming to this study?”

Wow! And now I see how this death in me is working life in Mary’s family. Her sons may not have responded to an invitation to attend a youth Bible study. But because their mother needed an interpreter, and they like to use English, they were poised for the Spirit to touch their hearts through the living word of God. Seeds were planted and, who knows, they may lead a movement of young people who become transformed by the gospel. My weakness could actually be God’s Plan A to train up a particular godly leader!

Whatever role you and I currently have – as followers of Christ we are, by vocation, ambassadors of reconciliation within our respective spheres of influence. I especially think of the mommies among us – ambassadors to your children, husband and all who cross your doorstep. You have probably laid aside a part of you in order to minister to your family – maybe you left a fulfilling career, the mental challenge of academia or the applause of an audience and all the personal affirmation and identity these things bestow. When you are perplexed beyond words, bewildered and baffled by the death of that brilliant side of you, wait! Don’t despair! Don’t insist on reasserting that self. Let perplexity work humility. Turn your thoughts to consider what Christ gave so that you could have life. Consider the death to himself that Paul embraced, for the sake of the young believers. Consider how putting to death your demand for personal satisfaction is working life in your children, your friends, your co-workers, and in your own soul.

Your and my perplexities are light compared to the eternal weight of glory awaiting us!

Philippians 3:4-7; II Corinthians 4:7-18; 5:18; Colossians 1:24

Let Them Eat Meat!

Let Them Eat Meat!

While on our home assignment some dear friends took us out for dinner. This was no small expense for them, we being a family of 7 with four growing boys. What’s more, this brave couple chose a steak house and said, “Order whatever you want.” Naturally, one of our young carnivores chose the largest, most expensive steak on the menu. Like many families on limited income, I didn’t cook much red meat so when the boys had a chance for some real man-food, they took it, much to my embarrassment.

But nothing compares to the Namibian meat eaters! Game (think kudu, oryx, eland) biltong (like jerky only better) is a routine snack. Game, as well as beef, are main staples of the diet here. Whereas in other African countries you can buy peanuts, roasted corn, coconut fudge, sugar cane or samosas from curb-side vendors, in Namibia you buy Russians (I don’t refer to people trafficking but to the local version of our Polish sausage), or bits of grilled beef. Recently an acquaintance returned from a hunting trip. My husband was invited to the ritual in which all real men participate: dressing the game and butchering, mixing the marinade and putting the biltong meat to soak. My man came home with pounds of game filet and a tub full of marinating strips, which he hung to dry according to instructions. What will last us for months, would disappear after a few weeks in the more carnivorous households around us. These folks know how to chew meat. To say they desire it is an understatement!

I am looking for people who crave God’s word like that. People who chew on the meat of His truth revealed with an insatiable appetite. If you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, desire the pure milk of the word, just like a newborn desires milk, so that you can grow. The apostle Peter so pleads with the first century church-goers. (I Peter 2:1-3) We live among a people who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. The good news of salvation has come to them. They have said “It is good!” They share in the benefits of grace in belonging to a local church: they are baptised, partake of the Lord’s supper, they are comforted by prayers and visits when they’re sick, are helped in trouble and, seemingly most important, they are guaranteed a well attended funeral service officiated by an ordained minister when they die. Yes, they taste of the good gifts God bestows on His covenant family.

Peter, as well as the other apostles, urge the people in all the places they preach to go on from tasting to desiring. He longs for them to crave God’s word the way a baby desires to nurse. He thrives on this milk until he grows up and wants to chew. Peter says that this should be the church’s response to the tasty morsels of grace they sample. The gracious gifts of God’s presence among His people should stir up a yearning, a hunger and longing after Him and His strong words, like it did for David (Psalm 119:9-16). He exhorts them to grow up and chew on the meat! They should be returning continually to the word and meditating on it, storing it up in their memory, pressing it into their heart and bringing it to bear in their lives. They should be filled richly with Christ’s word in order to teach and correct one another; to comfort and encourage one another. (Colossians 3:16-17) Their counsel should come from Scripture (Ps. 119:25). Husbands should be showering their wives with God’s word (Ephesians 5:25-28) and building their marriage and homes according to God’s ordinances.

But instead, these converts to the faith, these tasters, were absorbing themselves in comparisons, divisions and criticisms. They were full of malice, envy and hypocrisy because they contented themselves with tasting, just lounging on the fringes of grace. They stopped short of actually feeding on God’s word— they had no craving or desire for it. Those noble people of Berea, however, loved God’s word and fed on it, instead of preying on each other. And so they discovered the truth and believed that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.

This past Sunday in Rundu, a local minister declared to his congregation that their denomination is unwell. This dear man of God has recognised that neither the laity nor the ministers yearn for God. Most disregard His word, rarely read it (or hear it read) and meditate on it even less. They, too, like those early Christians dispersed throughout Asia and the Mediterranean, are absorbed in controversies, rumors, fear of the spirits and idolatries of their past. Most, it seems, do not hunger to know Christ, and so they lack wisdom, godliness and the graces that abound in one who nourishes his soul on the word. They are unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ, shortsighted, blind, and have forgotten that they were cleansed from their old sins. They attend church, but they are unwell. Their souls, in fact, are in great danger. (See Hebrews chapter 6.)

Our soul’s meat is the everlasting, unchanging word of God. “Father, as a dear pants for the water; as a newborn cries for milk; as a hunter craves meat, may we hunger for you. May we nourish our soul on the solid food of your word. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who makes your word alive and active to convict us of sin, bring us to repentance, comfort us, teach us, guide and nourish us, to make us healthy in spirit. The kudu filets in my freezer will run out one day. But your word, your truth and satisfying nourishment, will last forever! Amen and amen.”

A soul that thirsts for God, is a soul that hungers for His word. Don’t ever apologise for eating The Meat. Choose It. Rejoice over It. Savor It. Desire It. Over and over again.

II Peter chapter 1; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35; Psalm 119:57