During our men’s fellowship in God’s Word yesterday – we’re in Hebrews now – we were all impacted at one point when Daniel Porter pointed out: “We were never intended to retain the glory!” By the very nature of being created beings, another of my friends two days ago pointed out, we do not ultimately retain the glory. My Dad’s few words as well has been pointing me to this beautiful mindset before the LORD. When he’s helping his patients – he’s a dentist – he makes a point to be an encouragement to them. He pulls away enough to hear them here and there. Then, once he has his hands back in their mouths, he affirms them where appropriate or makes them laugh while he fixes their mouths. Outside of those tooth-fixing moments, he converses with his team of employees and his patients. The more I think about how he operates his days (pun intended), I’m really impressed by how little he talks about himself. He’s a constant highlighter of the grace in others’ lives.
Whose grace is he highlighting? Well, our Savior’s of course. He spends his thought and prayer life thinking about others too. I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve more and more wanted this blog to be a context for honoring others. My dad’s practice of this is so refreshing. Many of our interactions are often pointing out the grace we’re seeing around us in the county. This of course is the Christian practice of honoring one another in brotherly/sibling love.
Another Dan from our group, Dan Mueller, was encouraging me and my testimony of God’s grace in my fight for purity and taking all internet access off of my phone. He pointed out how as we seek to be pure in heart before the LORD, we find joy in the blessing of the LORD, not material blessings but a joy in a more constant awareness of God’s presence. Daniel Porter encouraged the two Higgs young brothers who are heading off to college next week with this: “Practice the presence of God.” Walking in an awareness of God’s presence through one another and even through non-believers and circumstances and joys and trials, aware of His presence in His Word to fill us and shape us, aware of His attention to our prayers and thoughts. The more we seek to rid our lives by HIs power and through His means of the idols so quickly distracting our worshipful gaze, the more we will experience God kindling our affections for Himself.
Finally, as we run into the presence of our God through his myriad of means of grace, we are more pure in our handling of glory humanity enjoys giving and getting. Daniel pointed out that worshiping God is the best context for our hearts to reside. As we press our hearts into a place of constant worship and devotion to our Awesome God, we stumble over ourselves less and we press into His intentions for our lives all the more. Having an attitude of worship and awe before our God avails us to more consistent celebration of Him mercies and glory and less fearful attention to what others think of us. When others point out where we could use growth, we more readily respond with, “Oh, totally! Thank you for your attention to my life! Thank you for caring enough about me and God’s honor to actually say something!” Not that we respond so innocently very often or easilly, but you’ve encountered those moments with beloved siblings in Christ. You’ve approached them with a concern, and you’d thought you really might offend them with your concern. You thought about it and really felt your concern was worth sharing, but you thought maybe you were out of line to present it. Once shared, they quickly embraced that it may be from the LORD or that it was for sure from Him and right for them to pray over. Either way, their response wasn’t ultimately about them, right? They responded well to a concern for them because they saw it as a kindness from God ultimately showing up through a sibling in Christ.
The reason for this turn toward the end of this post is that this is supposed to be about the Gospel on the ground. What does being a conduit of grace and glory before our Holy and Gracious God ultimately look like? One big area I am realizing is key is for believers being able to mingle and bend and humble ourselves, love on each other, pray for each other, ask for forgiveness and forgive, let go of bitterness, show random and planned acts of kindness and compassion around us to the closest of friends and to total strangers, and look for opportunities to do things that no one sees and yet truly bless those we love or those we’re tempted to resent and everyone else in between.
As a fun wrap-up, I’d like to challenge each of us to look for a few opportunities and take action to be a conduit of grace and glory this week before the LORD. One fun way to practice this could be this: Plan some small ways to bless someone in your neighborhood with your family/friends where that person/family won’t know you and your loved ones did the act of kindness. This is more about being a conduit of grace. Being a conduit of glory can be trickier. We get credit for things often because others in our lives are applying the biblical principle of outdoing one another in showing honor. Yet, as the encouragements come in, we have to press those back up to the LORD in gratitude for His use of our lives, and we can point each other to Him by expressing how grateful we are for God’s work in our lives. Neighborhood acts of kindness are often nearly impossible to be done without our neighbors’ knowledge of who was involved. Gifts on the doorstep can work with a sign saying, “With love from your neighbors.” Or, you could go ahead and make your presence known by inviting your neighbors over for dinner one household at a time.
I wish I could say Carrie and I are great examples of this activity… or, maybe that would be me grasping for glory… I can say God has given us cool experiences through the years to seek growth in this in the various neighborhoods we’ve lived in around the US. Mostly we’ve gotten to just try our best and enjoy friendship with neighbors who are believers and non-believers. We’ve enjoyed their kindness and attention to our needs more often and have felt so encouraged and loved on, no matter their faith-orientation. It’s sobering to remember that God pays attention to our lives through various creative means, neighbors, service providers, products, weather, tools, and here we return back to His Word. I know this is one of my longest posts, but I’m kind of in thought development mode here. It’s my 34th year alive on this earth, and I’m the ripe entering my mid-30’s age of 33. I desperately want what Dan mentioned yesterday to me as I played my piano in the old warehouse while it was being hammered on by a bunch of guys I’m really growing to appreciate. I want to be pure in heart before…
… You, LORD. Along with my siblings, I want to run after You, walk in Your grace and friendship, celebrate Your kind attention on my life, and increasingly be a conduit of Your grace. May any affirmation of this from others be quickly thrown back up to You as I join my siblings to worship You and Your awesome worth! You are truly more beautiful than ANYONE EVER! We are caught up in our celebration of You and Your worth. May we more and more readily have a gaze out into the contexts You’ve placed us in, a gaze of love and compassion, a gaze that is steady and attentive to the needs of those You’ve given us as family, friends, and neighbors. May we also have our gaze steady and constant toward the Heavens, awaiting our Savior! Purify our eyes to see things with an eternal perspective and a purity that allows us to see things as they really are as we sit, stand, and walk in Your presence day-in and day-out. We love You, LORD!