God in the ordinary

There are a lot of very ordinary days, very quiet ones, at this stage in our lives.  Nothing to write home about.  A simple list of tasks accomplished represents the day, at least to all outward appearances.

What did I do today…

–pedaled 40 miles with my honey, to keep us in shape, body and soul
–peeled apples for a crisp
–made a quick dish of fresh applesauce with roadside apples
–beat up a pan of fresh hot buns for supper with company
–threaded my way around another row of pine needles out on the porch in the late afternoon sun,  shaping a wee basket, while the coolness of fall invited thoughts of Thanksgiving on the way…
–sat here at my laptop wondering what to say this week, what is the Lord teaching me?
–and got distracted from my ponderings to research hand eczema and what to do about its persistent and maddening itch!

These are the externals, this is what you would have seen if you were here today watching… pretty uneventful.

But then there are the quiet unseen things—the ‘aha’ moments of reassurance that I am just where God intends for me to be.  He has purposes for me here in these simple quiet days.  He doesn’t give all the answers to our questions and frustrations but He gives peace.   And that is enough for now.

Pine Needle Basket #2

Even in the ordinary days God is at work  directing, influencing, leading, sustaining, enabling—not just in my little world but in His whole universe! It’s sometimes just a matter of learning to see the unseen, to hear the inaudible, and to believe He is who He says He is.

And in the backdrop of my daily-nesses lie the grand truths that make it all worth living.  I woke up with these lyrics in my mind:

…Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.1

And snatches of these verses too which I looked up to get straight:

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.2

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own. 3

And on a very ordinary days these are thoughts to ponder that go far beyond the ordinary!


Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.  Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory my dwell in our land.


1    It is Well with My Soul –Horatio Spafford

2   Rock of Ages Augustus M. Toplady

3   And Can It Be that I Should Gain –Charles Wesley

The Tenth Leper

Ten lepers cried  out to Jesus for mercy.  They could not come near so they called out from a distance—“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Jesus heard, and He had mercy.

He sent them to the priest to diagnose their condition.  Only the priest could declare them clean and sanction their re-entrance into society.  On the way their leprosy vanished. They were new men, on the surface anyway.

But only one had a heart change.  He came running back to the One who alone could see beneath his skin and give him a whole heart.

This story is told to children as a lesson in being thankful.  We should always say ‘thank-you’.  I read it one morning this week to my granddaughter.  She was called to breakfast before I could deliver the moralistic punch line. It’s probably just as well.  But I was left pondering this story.  What does it teach us?

This tenth leper was more than just thankful.  When he looked down at his hands and recognized he’d been healed, he made an ‘about-face’ and “praising God with a loud voice”, he rushed back to Jesus and ‘’fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.”  He was a man transformed from the heart into a worshipper of the one true God.  He had been doubly an outcast, both a leper and a despised Samaritan, but Jesus being no respecter of persons had extended mercy to Him.  His response was a demonstration of his faith and because of it Jesus declared him ‘saved’, made whole.

It seems to me in reading this story that there is more here than a mere physical healing.   For the other nine lepers this was the case; they were happy to trot off to the priest and be declared fit for society.  But this one returned to Jesus and was declared ‘saved’—fit for fellowship with God!  If I read correctly between the lines of this story, he was not only healed of leprosy, he was forgiven–made clean inside and out.  He had only to cry out for mercy and then to acknowledge the One who extended it as His rightful Lord.

Leprosy in the ancient world was regarded as a judgment of God for a person’s sin.  It was incurable, loathsome and progressively deadly.  It was a scourge that made an outcast of its victim.  The leprous person was to ‘wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose’.  He was to ‘cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean” lest he come in contact with anyone unawares.  He was sentenced to live alone. “His dwelling shall be outside the camp.”  (Lev.13:45,46)  Leprosy is an apt description of the incurable nature of sin.  From almost imperceptible beginnings it spreads destructively till its host is destroyed, without ability to free himself.

No wonder Jesus made a point of healing lepers, demonstrating that even the grossest of sins is not beyond his reach to heal and forgive. This is a poignant reminder in light of the scandals being unearthed by the media these days.  Christian men, trusted leaders,  are among those whose private lives have been exposed by the hackers of a website promoting adulterous liaisons.  Sin cannot stay hidden anymore than leprosy’s infective virus can remain symptomless.

“The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.” I Tim.5:24

But in the wake of sin’s exposure there is hope that the lepers so exposed will cry out for mercy and find forgiveness, and that those sinned against will find the grace to forgive, knowing how much they themselves have been forgiven. ( Luke 17:3,4)

Like leprosy, sin is a great leveler. Leprous Jew and Samaritan alike lived as outcasts from society. Even so no one of us stands ‘better off’ than another and beyond need of mercy. ( ‘All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory’)  Apart from God’s mercy we are all lepers for life, disfigured from God’s original design, cast out of the garden and out of fellowship with God and with others.  None can stand tall at the Cross, worthy of Jesus’ favor.  But all can cry out for His mercy.  All can find forgiveness and newness of life.

In the boundless mercy and acceptance offered in the Gospel is a haven where strength is found to say ‘no’ to sin and “yes” to the Spirit who points us to the way of escape and  to Christ. There is no hope for the weak to pull themselves out of the mire of sin anymore than for a leper to heal himself.  But in Christ there is mercy and strength and forgiveness again, and again as we learn to walk humbly with our God.

These then are the things I read between the lines of this simple children’s story:

  • I am never so weak and helpless that I cannot call out for mercy, nor so ‘together’ that I don’t need it!
  • It is never too late to do an ‘about face’ and fall at Jesus feet in awe-filled gratitude. He has freed me from the ravaging clutches of leprosy so that I can live near Him, rejoicing in His abundant forgiveness, forever. This is the right response to His mercy.
  • Not only is being thankful a good idea,  it’s a declaration of faith in God, and a worshipful posture.

Have I bowed at Jesus feet in awe-filled thanks lately?


Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.  Jer.17:14

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

…and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Acts 15:9

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Knowing God

I have a lot of head-knowledge about God.  I’ve read His Word all my life.  Once-upon-a-lifetime before marriage and family I even earned a Bachelor in Biblical Studies; I learned some Greek, picked my way through the ins and outs of Biblical exegesis, worked my way through most of the books in the Bible with inductive study questions and godly teachers to guide the way.  And of course, where human teachers fell short, there was the Spirit to apply the living word to my heart.  He’s still about that business.  Why then am I not the spittin’ image of Jesus by now?!

Truth is, there are blind spots—hard-hearted places where the water of the Word is repelled like water off a duck’s back.  I may see your blind spots, may suspect you’re heading for trouble in some area or another because of some chronic behavior based on a belief that needs changing…But by definition I am blind to my own blind spots.  Deaf to the Spirit in these areas.  Slow of heart to believe and so to live out the truths that would transform these areas in my heart.

Too often I have been content with knowledge about God without seeking to really know God.  Knowledge for knowledge’s sake—so I can ‘know it all’, puffs up.  The true knowledge of God applied to the heart will have the opposite effect.  Consider Job: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye see you;  therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:3-6

This week I’ve started reading J.I. Packer’s KNOWING GOD, a perennial classic.  I’m sure I read it back in Bible School days but it’s time for a refresher!  Packer writes out of a conviction that the Church of God is weak and ineffective because they are ignorant of their God—ignorant of His ways and of how to commune with Him. But he writes in a hopeful, helpful and ultimately practical way, which I’ve found very encouraging.

It has been convicting in a life-giving way to reflect on my own knowledge of God. Has my acquaintance with God kept pace with my knowledge about Him?  Does my life give evidence of being one who knows her God well?

Packer outlines several of these evidences. He says these things will be true of those who have gotten to  know their God:

  • Neither their achievements or their hardships will matter in comparison with the value of knowing God.  All these are nothing compared to the gain of knowing Him.  They won’t bemoan their ‘crosses and losses’ or be pre-occupied with what-might-have-been; these things are insignificant in light of knowing God. ‘Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…’ Phil.3:8,9

I think of the psalmist who said: Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. –Ps.73:25  Can I say that wholeheartedly?  Only by faith that God will make it so in my life.

  • People who know their God have great energy for Him. “…but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.” Dan 11:32  This is first seen in the energy with which they pray for His Kingdom to come, His will to be done (see Daniel’s example). “People who know their God are before anything else people who pray.”  If we have little energy for prayer and little practice of it, can we say we know God?
  • The way we pray is the best evidence of our view of God. Those who know Him will have great thoughts of Him! What do our prayers express about the littleness or greatness of our knowledge of God? (See Daniel 2:20ff)
  • Great boldness for God will accompany those who know God. Once convinced of a course of action they ‘smilingly wash their hands of the consequences.’ (Oswald Chambers) It matters little what others think or what consequences await. (Consider Daniel and friends in Babylon)
  • Great peace of mind and contentment marks those who have known God. They know they are known by God, and that this relationship guarantees God’s favour to them in life, through death and on for ever. In life or death they are the Lord’s glad servants. How comprehensive is my contentment?

I read these things and am acutely aware of my fledgling knowledge of God despite years of ‘knowing’ Him.  But this is precisely the first step toward reversing this trend!   Packer’s words are not condemning but prescriptive. He doesn’t end the chapter till he has  given two strong encouragements.  They are first steps in knowing God rightly:

1. Recognize what is lacking. Learn to measure your knowledge of God, not by head-knowledge, or even service for God but by how you pray and what goes on in your heart. Ask the Lord to reveal your impoverishment in this area.

2. Seek the Saviour. He invites us into His company. We know God through seeking and finding Jesus. Those who seek Him wholeheartedly will surely find Him.

But the best gem of all was this practical piece of advice and instruction:

How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God?

The rule for doing this is demanding, but simple. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.” 22

Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes  and promises of God.  It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God.  It’s purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let his truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart.  It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace.” 22

And so, little by little I am using my Bible reading times not just to increase head knowledge but to consciously interact with God about what I am reading, to admit my reactions to the text, to praise Him for the qualities I see of Him in its pages, and to ask Him to fulfill His Word in my life and those He puts on my heart.  It is a small start toward putting all this head-knowledge to use in a living relationship.  And I am encouraged to press on to know my God.



“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.” Hosea 6:3

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God…”
I Cor.2:12

And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true;
and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. I Jn. 5:20

Listen for it. Listen for Him.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?

These words jumped from their immediate context (I Cor.6:19) to arrest my thoughts one day  not too long ago and their significance keeps echoing in my heart…

Have I fathomed this? The eternal, Almighty, Holy-holy-holy God has sent His own Spirit to take up residence in this very perishable, earth-bound, sin-prone shell that I inhabit.  He has in fact designed it for His habitation  and because of His presence here I have been given the chance to showcase His glory.  (I Cor.6:19-20)  It’s unfathomable.

And yet,  surely there are day-to-day, moment by moment implications to this reality?!  Too often I live oblivious to them, not so very unlike Eve who took for granted getting to walk and talk with God in the Garden and soon was listening to the wrong voice in her ear…

That voice did not come from one who had her best interests at heart,  although he knew her interests very well. He also knew her vulnerabilities, better than she knew them herself—or she might not have wandered so far alone…She might not have been so eager to listen to a stranger… At first perhaps she listened out of curiosity, or wonderWho’s ever seen a talking snake?!  But the first words from his mouth should have clued her in that this was an enemy: “Did God actually say?”
This beautiful enemy was a poser; pretending to care about her interests, he only used them to exploit her.

I know this story backwards and forwards but I don’t often transpose it to my own backyard and the temptations that play on the mental swingsets there… For this is my enemy too. He (and his hordes) knows my interests… knows I’m eager to be ‘righteous’, to learn to pray ‘well’, to be ‘good’… How might he exploit  even these interests to distort my understanding of God and prayer and righteousness?  The direct approach might not do—the enticement to blatant immorality.  But perhaps, clothing himself as an angel of light, he might suggest I focus on technique, or on trying harder, or on shaming myself into action? Or he might suggest I read just one more book before I get started—a book on prayer, of course.  And then ‘tsk-tsk-tsk’ when I show no signs of improvement.  And “do you really think God is pleased with you ‘as-is’?  You really had better get your act together, pray more, try harder… maybe then…”  We could really get this swing-set in motion, he and I, with my  vulnerability to do-it-yourself-righteousness and my incorrigibly distorted view of prayer as dire duty more than relationship.   I may not even need his help.

But I do need help to avoid the pitfalls of my nature, that’s just it.  And before we took that excursion into the Garden and my being not so very unlike Eve… I was considering the implications of having Almighty God dwelling in my earthly tent—this body of mine.  Here is one of them.  He is present, my HELPER, there to nudge me away from error and into truth.  He is there beneath the undercurrent of life’s busy-ness or idle-ness, there in the moment of temptation, there always, acting on my behalf for His great glory.

I like the way Richard Lovelace describes a normal relationship with God in his book:  Dynamics of Spiritual Life—“…as we move through life the presence of his Spirit is the most real and powerful factor in our daily environment; …underneath the momentary static of events, conflicts, problems and even excursions into sin, he is always there like the continuously sounding note in a basso ostinato.’

I had to look up that term.  It’s the musical term used to describe a repeated theme of notes in the bass line of a composition that undergird the variations in the upper notes.  I like that—the Spirit always there, sufficient for everything we face.  Our constant companion.

And I find these days that I want to be more attentive to His presence, more sensitive to His promptings, more responsive to His corrections. (This too is His Work! )  He is at work in each of us more than we realize—prompting, enabling (to do what God calls us to do), directing, reassuring, illuminating truth, assuring of the Father’s love, making our lives to be salt and light… It’s all too easy to miss Him and to arrogantly chalk our successes up to our own cleverness, to attribute pleasant surprises to ‘coincidence’, to thank our ‘lucky stars’ rather than the God ‘in whom we live and move and have our being’!

What if instead we assumed God’s Spirit’s work in us and responded with hearts of gratitude, awe, and praise—like the melody notes above the steady voice of the basso ostinato?  How different would our days be if, with humble hearts and  ears inclined to believe, we listened for the bass line of the Spirit, listened ready to say “Yes! I see. Yes, you’re right. Yes, Jesus is amazing!”; listened at the sink, in the car, at the desk, in the line and believed Him to be present…

For myself, I suspect it would save me from a great deal of useless self-effort, self-reproach, and just plain self-ish-ness.  I suspect it would lead more readily to a glad repentance and a new way of praying—without ceasing, with joy.  And I suspect this kind of attentive listening would begin to develop in us all a more humble dependence on the One who alone can produce spiritual growth in us.  We can attempt to do all the right things, to grow ourselves up, but apart from the Spirit’s illumining instruction and empowering we are hopeless orphans. This is not God’s intention.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” Jesus said. Jn.14:18

Again I found Lovelace’s insights helpful:

“We should particularly recognize that growth in holiness is not simply a matter of the lonely individual making claims of faith on the basis of Romans 6: 1-14. [“We know that our old self was crucified with Him…consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”]  It involves moving about in all the areas of our life in dependent fellowship with a person:  “Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh…” (Gal.5:16 NASB).  When this practice of the presence of God is maintained over a period of time, our experience of the Holy Spirit becomes less subjective and more clearly identifiable, as gradually  we learn to distinguish the strivings of the Spirit from the motions of the flesh.” –Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p.131

I have a little object lesson here I’d like to suggest.  What follows is an audio recording of a familiar classical piece.  It is a great example of a sustained ‘Basso Ostinato’.  The opening bars introduce the theme.  Listen for it, and keep listening for it as the melody progresses. As you listen think of how the Holy Spirit is always at work in the score that is your life-song, sustaining the rhythm, performing His designs to perfect God’s  will in your life.  Listen for it.  Listen for Him.


For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Rom.8:6

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Rom.14:17

“… For we are the temple of the living God.” II Cor.6:16

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?…”


P.S. If you, like me, sometimes  get side-tracked by notions that are not from the Spirit, may I offer this excerpt from the writings of John Owen, a highly regarded Puritan theologian (1616-1683).  I have found it very helpful. He suggests four ways we can distinguish the leading of the Spirit from other impressions.

  1. The leading of the Spirit, he says, is regular, that is, according to the regulum: the rule of Scripture. The Spirit does not work in us to give us a new rule of life, but to help us understand and apply the rule contained in Scripture. Thus, the fundamental question to ask about any guidance will be: Is this course of action consistent with the Word of God? 
  2. The commands of the Spirit are not grievous. They are in harmony with the Word, and the Word is in harmony with the believer as a new creation. The Christian believer consciously submitted to the Word will find pleasure in obeying that Word, even if the Lord’s way for us is marked by struggle, pain, and sorrow. Christ’s yoke fits well; His burden never crushes the spirit. (Matthew 11:28-30)
  3. The “motions” of the Spirit are orderly. Just as God’s covenant is ordered in all things and secure, (2 Samuel 23:5) so the promised gift of that covenant, the indwelling Spirit, is orderly in the way in which He deals with us. Restlessness is not a mark of communion with the Spirit but of the activity of the evil one. Perhaps Owen had particular members of his congregations in mind when he wrote:

We see some poor souls to be in such bondage as to be hurried up and down, in the matter of duties at the pleasure of Satan. They must run from one to another, and commonly neglect that which they should do. When they are at prayer, then they should be at the work of their calling; and when they are at their calling, they are tempted for not laying all aside and running to prayer. Believers know that this is not from the Spirit of God, which makes “every thing beautiful in its season.”

  1. The “motions,” or promptings of the Spirit, Owen says, always tend to glorify God according to His Word. He brings Jesus’ teaching into our memories; He glorifies the Savior; He pours into our hearts a profound sense of the love of God for us.

–This excerpt is taken from The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen
by Sinclair Ferguson

Are you awesome?

I am troubled this week at how subtly and persuasively the gospel of the Glory of Christ can be subverted to be all about the glory of man.  The God who created the heavens and the earth is truly awesome.  But how flippant we’ve become with the use of this word.  Now we’re being told we too are awesome! I’ve been considering this…

There’s a new gospel afoot. It is the gospel of the glory of man, and it is not good news.  Oh, it sounds good.  Who doesn’t want to be praised for their inherent beauty, paid homage for their worthiness,  exalted as awesome, and generally made much of?   But this is not the true Gospel.  It is a creeping deception that smacks of its forefather.  Lucifer was cast out of heaven for such audacity—wanting to share God’s glory, wanting praise to come to him for his God-given beauty.  God will not share his glory with another.

He will not be rivaled.  Man exists for God’s glory, not He for ours.

The Gospel is all about the beauty of Jesus—the perfect wedding of grace and truth in the perfect God-man. It is about God made flesh in order to redeem sinful man from the death that is their due.  It is the ‘gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’  ‘What we proclaim is not ourselves, Paul said (II Cor.4:4,5).  The ultimate culmination of the Gospel will be the summing up of everything in Christ.(Col.1:19,20)  Every knee will bow, willingly or otherwise, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.  “Worthy is the Lamb”  will be our song. We know this and yet the modern understanding of the Gospel has been infiltrated (hijacked?) to legitimize our own desires for glory.

Just this week I read these quotes:

“Jesus is not a window showing us who we can become, He is a mirror showing us who we already are.”

And what is recommended in the aftermath of personal sin?  Not acknowledgement that our guilt is real.  Not confession that we have sinned. Not a glad and humble repentance. But just :“Stop it! You are way too awesome to be acting like that. You are acting below your nature.”

This is nothing more than self-delusion, an appeal to our insidious pride.  It is an effort to brush off the  indignity of  failing/falling.  After all, we are awesome (?!).

Where do we find this view in Scripture?  How have we so reduced God’s awesomeness as to unashamedly count ourselves worthy of a share?

We’ve come a long way from Moses’ posture before God:

And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

And we’ve missed the point of God’s awesomeness in taking for Himself a depraved people and doing for them great and awesome deeds.  Look at God’s response to Moses:

And [God] said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

God’s work in and through His people is meant primarily to display His own Awesomeness, not ours.  We are special only by virtue of Him having chosen us, not by our own merit:

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making for yourself a name for great and awesome things, in driving out nations before your people whom you redeemed from Egypt?
I Chr.17:21

David understood this:

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? … And what more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant. For your servant’s sake, O LORD, and according to your own heart, you have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things.  There is none like you, O LORD, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.  And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making for yourself a name for great and awesome things, in driving out nations before your people whom you redeemed from Egypt?  I Chr.17:16,18-21

Has the New Testament changed all that?  Or did these men who walked with God  just suffer from a poor self-esteem so that they just never really understood how awesome they were?

It’s not that there aren’t Scriptures that speak of the glory of man,  but ours is a reflected glory, not ours to boast in. Yes, we are made in the image of God.  Yes, we have been ‘crowned with glory and honor’ (Ps.8)   Yes, we can become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ through the fulfillment of God’s promises in us. (II Pet.1:4) Yes, God “has called [us] to his eternal glory in Christ” (I Pet.5:10) and yes, Jesus even said He gave His disciples the glory that God had given Him(John 17:22).

What do we make of this?  Are we then such awesome folks that we should really spend more time and energy reflecting on our greatness till we have overcome our feelings of inadequacy and bolstered our self-esteem sufficiently to vanquish all guilt and shame?  Is this what Scripture commends?

Let’s be sure to counter-balance these passages with those that liken man to grass and worms and the like, all transient and insignificant things.  For instance, All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever.” I Pet.1: 24,25 (See also: Is.2:22Ps.144:3,4)

Or this from Isaiah: “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. ” Is.41:14 14  [BTW–For a superb message on this theme see John Piper here: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/fear-not-you-worm-jacob ]

Yes, we’ve been crowned with glory and honor and those who have put their faith in Christ are destined to be glorified with Him (Rom.8:17), but this is not a glory revolving around us. How can it be? Ultimately all glory must return to its Giver.  He is the Source of anything we may glory in.

Psalm 8 is a particularly relevant passage dealing with the magnificence of God and the derived glory of man.  You will be familiar with it:

 “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory above the heavens…when I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers…what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that your care for him?” 

The verses that follow present an interesting opportunity for the modern generation.  We are so inclined to find reasons to glory in ourselves. We update our profiles, keep the status of our ‘goings-on’ up-to-date, and post our blogs, always fishing for compliments, praise and assurances that we are significant.   But we sometimes fail to recognize and rest in the real source of our significance.  Here it is outlined:

“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field…” (Ps.8:5-7)

Here is the God of all Creation putting the very works of His hands into the care of mankind.  He has vested us with significance.  We can revel in this incredulous glory, stewarding the work of His hands in humble gratitude, and conclude with David: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”  OR we can pat ourselves on the back feeling quite mighty and go fishing for human affirmation of our special-ness. The choice is ours.  Our response will reflect who is the Lord of our lives.

I come back often to Jesus’ words to the Pharisees.  They came to Him to find fault, while glorying in their own significance by way of heritage (Abraham and Moses!) and of meticulous rule-keeping.  They lived for the praise of men, such an ephemeral glory, but missed the only source of glory that lasts:

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”, Jesus asked. (Jn.5:44) We would do better to take our cues from Jesus who lived for His Father’s glory, not His own.  He refused to seek or ‘glory in’ the praise of men (Jn.5:41).  The result:  He received glory and honor from the Father expressed in these words: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (II Pet.1:18)  Isn’t this the ultimate glory we crave—knowing we have brought God pleasure by yielding our lives to His will.

This is the glory we will revel in through all eternity—the glory of God, and the knowledge that we have inexplicably been invited to participate in this glory by yielding to His work in us.  He has created us in His image, redeemed us through faith in His Son, and shaped us through all the events of our lives into the likeness of His Son.  He has used us to do precisely the ‘good works’ He ordained for us and in the end there will be ‘a crown of glory’ not to our praise but to His.  We get a sneak preview in Revelation  of what will come of those crowns:

“…the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Rev.4:10,11

It is a glorious privilege indeed to be invited to reflect such a glory.

I savored again this week C.S.Lewis’ explanation of how the glory we crave intertwines with the very glory God has promised us.  He notes how quickly praise received turns to deadly self-admiration but suggests that behind this desire for glory is a desire to please the One who created us.  In Heaven we will have escaped this ruinous habit of glorying in ourselves and will be able to receive God’s praise: “Well done, good and faithful servant”  with the innocent delight of a child.  We will gladly return the glory back to the One who alone is worthy.  But let me give you Lewis’ own words:

…I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment—a very, very short moment—before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex for ever will also drown her pride … Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself; “it is not for her to bandy compliments with her Sovereign.” I can imagine someone saying that he dislikes my idea of heaven as a place where we are patted on the back. But proud misunderstanding is behind that dislike. In the end that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised. (C.S.Lewis, The Weight of Glory,1942)

What a glory that will be! What an awesome God we serve.


For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. … You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. Deut.10:17,20-21

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,  but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jer.9:23,24

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  I Cor.1:28-31

For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. II Cor.10:18

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth visible and invisible.. all things were created though him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Col.1:16-18

“…when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. II Thess.1:10-12

“…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” I Pet.4:11


Just a sampling from John Piper’s message: You Worm, Jacob.
[It is available in audio and written transcript here.]

“Satan has master-minded a phenomenal victory in the American church. By teaching us through a thousand lectures and articles and books that we are too valuable to be called worms, he has made it impossible for us to sing “Amazing Grace” with truly amazed hearts. The more beautiful and valuable man is made to appear, the less amazing it is that God should love him and help him.

The gospel of self-esteem is healing our wounds very lightly. The wings of self-worth that carry us briefly out of fear will quickly weary and drop us in despair some day…”—John Piper