Glory

“Any good artist who has learned his craft well, whether it’s speaking, singing, playing or acting, can bring out whatever emotion they desire to fit the agenda at hand.” 

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 I am the Lord, that is My name;
And My glory I will not give to another, Is 42
:8

Glory, a fleeting thing that much of the world seeks. It can be called fame, popularity, stardom, and it seems a strange phenomenon, that so many seek it—live for it and will do anything to attain it. I think that’s why social media has taken off—if gives everyone a potential platform to become somebody—internet fame—and the glory we suppose it will bring.

Any Warhol famously said back in the 60’s, I believe, shortly after he got famous for painting very large pictures of canned food— “Everyone has their 15 minutes of fame.” I think even he realized how ridiculous it was that people would make such a big deal out him for painting Campbell soup cans and Ketchup bottles. I think about that often when there are people who are suddenly all over the news or TV and radio and then they’re gone, never to be heard from again. Their fame might last years, or a day or two—15 minutes.

Glory is fleeting, and dangerous. But that’s a topic for another day. I want to focus on the Lord’s glory, the source of true glory and the only one worthy of that glory. I wonder how often the lust for glory interferes with the work of the Lord in the church? How many times God wanted to reveal his glory, but could not or would not because the one seeking to release it was doing it for their own advancement? Or he was not given any room to reveal his glory because of all the noise being generated by the artificial glory being conjured up by the techno wizardry of the modern church?

It’s something I know I have to always be on guard about in my own heart. God will not be eclipsed. As soon as we get in the way of God’s glory, he just moves somewhere else. We try to keep it simple here in our church. For one thing we can’t afford a lot of gadgetry, but it’s more than just not overwhelming the senses with sights and sounds, it’s keeping Jesus the main thing—”Jesus Christ and him crucified.” That has always got to be the core of our message because aside from that it’s just entertainment and manipulation.

In the words of Hank Williams JR. “Can you make folks cry, when you play and sing, can you moan the blues, have you paid your dues, can you bend them guitar strings? . . .Cause let me tell ya boy, If you’re big star bound let me warn  you it’s a long hard ride.” 

Any good artist who has learned his craft well, whether it’s speaking, singing, playing or acting, can bring out whatever emotion they desire to fit the agenda at hand, but only God can change hearts and set the captives free. Church is not theater, church is a place to gather with the saints, to be fed, to be encouraged, strengthened and challenged, and most importantly, a place to worship the God of creation, to hear his voice, to feel his touch and to see, hear and feel his glory revealed in us, those he has called.

Otherwise it’s just us, and we will get on each other’s nerves and let each other down— guaranteed. But it’s not just us, is it? So let’s keep praying for the glory of the Lord to be revealed more and more in our churches, and in our lives—expect it.

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Mat 18:20

Expect Jesus to show up

We’ve read the stories of revivals past where God healed and delivered and actually saw the Shakina glory fall and encompass a crowd. We have witnessed sporadic healings ourselves even here, yet we often assume it’s just hit and miss and it must have been the prayers of someone else, maybe the person next to me… but still, we don’t expect a miracle.

I think maybe we expect Jesus to show up, but we don’t count on it. We still put the pressure on ourselves to pray right, to preach right, to worship right—intensely enough, spontaneously enough, to have our hands in the right place or whatever. We think we need to somehow conjure up the Lord’s presence.

We don’t conjure anything; witches and mediums do that. And we don’t manipulate emotions; actors, singers and poets do that. We simply need to invite the Lord and expect him to show up. Not just to watch, but to participate and even help. It’s not the words, the motions or the music, those are more to get us to focus on recognizing the Lord’s presence. The Lord shows up when he sees that our hearts desire him to do so. And that we expect it, not because of who we are, but because that’s who he is.

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On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” . . . John 2:1—3

Notice it doesn’t even say here that Jesus went to the wedding or that he was at a wedding. Just that there was one and that Jesus was invited. That’s all John needed to say, the fact that Jesus was there was just assumed then—he was invited so of course he was there. It was expected.

And, by the way, he just happened to turn the water to wine, saving a family severe humiliation—since he was there anyway.

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Whose Glory?

 

Church is not entertainment…Abstract burning cross

Those of us who live out of town sometimes take for granted just the ability to see the stars. There are many places in the world where you cannot see even a single star for the lights of the city, there are people who have never seen the milky way, the Big dipper, Orion’s belt or even the planets of our own solar system—have never seen a falling star or even a satellite streaking across the sky.

I’ve been camping even with people from Billings who marveled at seeing the Milky Way for the first time and I think: “How sad that you grew up not knowing what you were missing right above your head.” I know I never stop being amazed at the glory of the heavens as we are blessed to live far from any bright lights up on our hill in the middle of nowhere. Often we’ll come home late from somewhere, or when I’m leaving for work in the early morning and just look up on a clear night and say: “Wow.”

There is just nothing on this earth that compares to the grandeur of the lights the Lord has put in the heavens, especially knowing just how unimaginably far away and spread out all those lights are—and we are seeing but a tiny fraction of them.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

Back on the Heyu-cow Ranch I used to go out in the evenings just before I went to bed during calving season to make the rounds to see if anything was calving. I would do a head count as the cows would all be bedded down in or near the barn for the night and if there were any missing I would know that they had gone off somewhere to calve so I would go look for them to make sure they didn’t need help.

I always loved being out there in the night because it just seemed like I could see every star in the heavens and after my eyes adjusted to the dark. Even without a moon I was always amazed at how much even just the stars would light things up. There was even a couple of years there when we had a couple of comets in the sky that were visible for weeks on end it. One year it was Hale Bopp and I don’t remember the name of the other one but they were both pretty awesome— this huge star with a big illuminated blur behind it that was the tail.

It must have been the late 90’s I guess. But anyway, I would head out into the pasture to find the cow with my flashlight and the moon and stars for a guide. I remember always wishing I could turn off the big security light we had near the house because, as nice as it was to have light right near the house, it just messed me up everywhere else.

I always had to be careful not to look back towards the house when I was out searching in the dark because even from a few hundred yards away, once my eyes had become good and adjusted to the dark, if I looked at that bright pinpoint of light in the distance it would hinder my ability to see anything between me and that light.

All I could see was that light of the lights from the house and nothing more than a few feet beyond. I really like not having one of those obnoxious security lights where we live now because I can walk right out the door and look up and see the stars,  I don’t have to walk out away from that fake light.

When I had the power company install that light back at the ranch I thought: “Yeah, it will be nice to have a nice bright light out here.” And it is nice to be able to walk out and see the car or look out and see what might be prowling around too near the house, but what it really did was prevent us from being able to see the big picture. Ironically— the bigger the light the less you can see.

That’s why the big cites can’t see a single star in the heavens, they just have bright light after bright light on top of bright light: “Isn’t this grand, we have the whole city lit up and we can see everything!” No, you can’t. All you can see is what you have created, and what you have created is pretty paltry and pathetic compared to the glory of the heavens and the beauty of nature that has yet to be spoiled by anything that needs an artificial light to illuminate it with your garish light.

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Maybe you’ve figured out where I’m going here. We build our churches and we build‘em big and beautiful. We do research and hire experts to figure out the best lighting to set the right mood in the various parts of the church, the best way to illuminate the worship team, the preacher. We spend thousands of dollars on spot lights, lasers, and things that go flash and change colors and create an environment that makes you say Wow! —as we appear out of the smoke like we just descended from heaven itself.

Many churches do not want any windows in the sanctuary because heaven forbid we should have any light coming in that we cannot control. And what do we get? An artificial glory, a pale representation of what is available if the Lord would just be welcome to reveal his glory.

Our paltry little lights leave us ignorant of the real glory of the heavens and even diminish our view. Our best attempts to glorify God are paltry and pathetic in comparison to what the Spirit of God can do himself if we just get out of the way.

…will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 2 Cor 2:8

The ministry of man is nothing compared to the ministry of the Spirit, the temple of this earth is but a representation of the true temple in heaven just as we are nothing but representatives of God. Sincere though we may be, empowered and anointed though we may be, it is still just a shadow of the real thing—no matter how hard we try to conjure up glory and inspire glory, we are looking through a glass darkly.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.      1 Cor 13:12

I don’t fault the pastor or worship leaders for this, it’s the culture, and it is easy to get caught up in the technology of putting on the best show you can. But that’s the problem, it’s become a show, because that is what people expect, and pastors have come to believe that that is what keeps people coming back. It’s not just church leaders who need to rethink what it means to see the glory, so does the rest of the church.

Next time you are in church ask yourself: Why am I here?— Church is not entertainment, church is Jesus’ time to minister to us, so that we can be Jesus to the rest of the world—get out of his way and let him.