Saturday, May 9, 2015

ISI 8: Bringing God Glory

[This Bible Study starts here.  And remember that my answers to some of the questions are in [brackets].]

Icebreaker Question:
What are some things that you are passionate about in life, that really spark your enthusiasm?  What are some of your “soapbox” issues, the issues that get you fired up, that you have strong feelings and opinions about?

Open With Prayer

Read Lesson and Verses:
            Psalm 96:4, 8:  “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise . . . Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name . . .”

            John 14:13:  “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”

            1 Corinthians 10:31:  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
            God is worthy of praise and glory!  Jesus’s goal was to bring glory to the Father!  We need to do everything for God’s glory! 

            But do we really esteem God’s glory as much as we are supposed to?  As much as God does?  (Or do we just say that we do?)   

            When I was a teenager, I thought God was kind of selfish and self-centered to be so concerned with His glory.  (Just being honest.)  I mean, Wasn’t He here for us?  Aren’t we super important?  And who actually demands to be glorified?  This was before I was humbled by His holiness. 

            But now I can’t help but want to bring Him glory, to see Him glorified in my life above all else.  Because I truly understand that He deserves the glory just because He is who He is.  He is not some peer of mine that is looking to soothe His ego or pump Himself up a little by seeking glory for Himself.  He doesn’t need to be pumped up because there is no more “up” to go to.  He is at the top.  He is the most glorious Being there is.  He doesn’t need to be glorified to feel better.  He deserves to be glorified simply because of who He is.

            Once I got that straight – and once I learned that I was not so big and that I really needed a strong, glorious heavenly Father – I, too, became concerned with His glory.  I became concerned with making sure that all the things I did reflected His glory to others and that He delighted in the way I was living.  I wanted to honor Him for the holy God that He is and I wanted to thank Him for loving me anyway. 

            Nowadays, in general, I don’t think that God’s glory is as much of a priority to us as it should be, as we act like it is.  Because I believe that there are very few Christians who have really sought to humble themselves before God.  And we can’t really glorify Him if we are not humbled before Him. 

            We can act like His glory is our main concern.  We can build big, beautiful churches “all for Him.”  We can buy fancy cars and fancy clothes because “What a good God we serve; He has blessed us so much.”  We can talk about how “it was all God’s doing” when something good happens in our lives, even if we have gone down our own path, without Him.   We can do things to try to bring Him glory, like singing at church, talking to others about Him, keeping our homes nice and respectable-looking.  We can even go out and find big, glamorous exciting ways to “serve” Him, and then say it was all “for Him,” when deep down it really wasn’t, when we are not even really living for His glory in the small, daily things. 

            But if we are trying to glorify Him without a humbled heart then we are really working for our own glory or trying to fool God and others, trying to earn brownie points or be impressive. 

            A falsely humble person will crumble under the trials of life, when things are not going their way and no one is impressed by what they have or do. 

            But a truly humble person is one who has learned to trust in God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness so much that they can still bring God glory in the hard times, when they don’t have what they want or “need.”  And they are content with being invisible and letting God’s glory shine.  They are content being the clay pots and letting God use them as He will.  And they run to God – not away from Him - when everything falls down around them and they hurt badly, because they know that they have nowhere else to go, that He is all they really need.  A humbled person is all about God and His glory, no matter what’s happening in their life! 

Small Roles and Tiny Contributions

            In our society, we try to reach high, to do big things to impress others.  We don’t like being given small, menial jobs.  We don’t like tiny, “insignificant” roles.  Even Christians want the fun, attention-grabbing jobs.   We hold up those who go on short-term mission trips as great examples of people who are sacrificing themselves to do “God’s work” and bring God glory.  But we overlook the parents who spend their lives raising a special-needs child or the ones who have taken in an elderly parent or who are going to the same unsatisfying job every day to make money to support their family.  Are they any less God-glorifying, just because their role or job is menial, overlooked, unglamorous?

            The funny thing is, we would celebrate and applaud someone who goes overseas as a missionary to take care of the needy people there, but we overlook those who are taking care of the needy people in their own town or home.  But are they really any less of a missionary than the ones who do that same job overseas?  Is their mission any less important or God-glorifying?

            [Don’t get me wrong, I also applaud missionaries.  I am not belittling their work.  I think that those who do mission work in needy places will have great rewards in heaven.  And they are also reaching people who, because of their need, might be more open to the gospel in ways that affluent, self-centered, take-the-Bible-for-granted America is not.  So their efforts might produce more results and effect more people for the Lord.  (And there is a difference in my mind between long-term missions work and fun, short-term "vacation" kinds of missions trips.)  

            But I also want to acknowledge the sacrifice and the faithfulness of those who do their “mission work” in their own home or town.  I think they can feel overlooked or like their efforts are not as important.  But we have work to do for God wherever we are.  Wherever God puts us, we are missionaries.  Are you living like it?] 

            We live like God is only present in the grand things.  Like His presence is felt more in the exciting moments and the big accomplishments than in the boring, small ones.  We feel like we are more favored by God, more blessed, and like we please Him more when we are given new, exciting, glamorous jobs in the spotlight.  I mean, isn’t He the big God of big things?   

            But you know what?  He is also the God of the little things.  Of the boring, daily jobs.  Of the small tasks.  Of the desert times and long waits and hard trials and “prison” periods. 

            But we don’t want to believe that God might actually give us small roles or might put us on the sidelines or might give us tedious, menial, daily jobs that no one notices.  We don’t like to think that He might ask us to give up our exciting dreams and our big plans for ourselves so that we can follow Him into the barren deserts to become lowly shepherds.  We can’t imagine that He would ask us to praise Him and bring Him glory in such a tiny way.  We’d rather have more and bigger and better. 

            But there are times that this is exactly what God asks of us!  And you are not going to hear that in the advertisements or the motivational speeches.  But you will find it in the Bible. 

            There was Joseph who was left in a prison (not to mention captivity) for years for something he didn’t do.  He certainly didn’t get what he “deserved.”  And yet, he was responsible for and faithful in making the most of prison-life, doing his best for God’s glory anyway, instead of just pining for greater things. 

            How about Jeremiah?  He was God’s spokesman for decades to a rebellious people.  That was his God-given role.  He was called to sacrifice his life and his comfort to be a witness (alone) to people who would not listen to him, who would persecute him.  Talk about a discouraging job.  Being called to be a failure.  (But not in God’s eyes!)

            Daniel lived in captivity for decades and was required to serve the captors.  Not his idea of how his life would go.  But he still faithfully followed and served God, even with his altered dreams and goals and plans. 

            Moses lived a humble life as a backwoods shepherd for decades, giving up the palace life.  And then led rebellious, grumbling Israelites around the desert for the rest of his life, dying in the desert before making it to the Promised Land. 

            Paul traded his life as one of the haughty, powerful, spiritually-elite in order to become a fool for Christ, spreading God’s Word (which he had fought against in his earlier years), while much of the time facing opposition, persecution, imprisonment, etc. 

            Because of his faith, John was banished to an island to die, where he ended up writing the book of Revelation. 

            How many of these people, when they were young, had bigger dreams for their lives?  Ideas and plans of what would make them happy and fulfilled?  How many looked forward to glamorous jobs and exciting opportunities and a full life?  How many thought they would serve God in big ways?  Bringing Him lots of glory through grand gestures? 

            But these godly people of the past were asked to take lowly roles and positions.  To “settle for less.”  To glorify God in disappointing circumstances and hidden ways.  To let go of their dreams and follow God into the hard times.  To get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

            God wasn’t just the God of the big things and big times, but of the boring, daily, difficult things and times, too.  And these people knew it!  And they knew how to do their best for God’s glory, no matter their position or job.

            “But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 
            Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’”  (Mark 12:42-44      

            Do you ever feel like your contribution to the Kingdom doesn’t really make a splash?  Because it is so small and unflashy, compared to others?  Do you ever feel like your spiritual accomplishments might seem laughable and pitiful?  Like you just don’t measure up?  Like others are bringing God lots of glory with their bigger roles but you are making Him shake His head in shame because you have such an insignificant role?

            I know I do. 

            When discouragement gets the best of me, I feel like I am the most pitiful of all believers.  I try and try to “live Christ” in so many ways, but no one really sees it.  My efforts and accomplishments seem so minor compared to others. 

            I make it a point to show interest in people and to reach out and give them a listening ear when they need it because I know how it hurts to feel overlooked.  I helped a man pick up the blueberries he dropped all over the floor of the store while everyone else walked past.  (I know how embarrassing it is to be the only one on your hands and knees cleaning stuff up.)  I bought a chicken for the man who waited in line with just a hot, ready-to-go, cooked chicken, but who realized his store card expired when he got to the front of the line.  I feed and love my family every day and try to raise wise, godly, thoughtful children.  I do my best to do my best as a homemaker and neighbor because I know that this is where God has me at this season in my life.  I write things that I hope will draw others to God’s love, truth, and healing, and I keep writing despite the fact that no one that I know wants to read it.  I struggle daily to accept certain discouragements with grace, to remain thankful and content despite a broken heart, to let earthly trials become spiritual lessons, to live for eternity, and to let God be my all when others let me down. 

            These contributions don’t really make any big difference to the world.  They don’t really amount to anything or change lives and hearts like I wish it did.  No one really sees them or would consider them noteworthy.  And others – fellow church-goers who serve at church, sing in the choir, or have some sort of niche that is their ministry - would probably snicker if I told them about these “contributions” to the Kingdom.  They would pat my head and say, “Well, now . . . Isn’t that cute?  But why don’t you run along and the leave the Kingdom work up to those of us who are doing the important jobs, the ones that matter and that make a difference?” 

            This widow’s offering didn’t measure up to what others gave.  It wasn’t going to make any big difference to the church, by earthly calculations.  Compared to the abundance that others gave, hers would be considered pitiful.  No one even noticed her offering, her sacrifice. 

            But Jesus did!

            And when He did, He didn’t see two tiny coins, barely worth a penny.  He saw a great sacrifice, a contribution greater than what anyone else gave.  Because she gave her all.  She didn’t have much to give but she gave what she had.  And while it might have been almost nothing by earthly standards and compared to what others gave, it was a huge contribution on heaven’s scales and it would make a huge difference by eternal standards.  Even if no one else saw or noticed her tiny offering, Jesus saw it, blessed it, and was incredibly touched by it.  It was glorifying to Him and it mattered greatly to Him!  Enough to point it out to others.

            Now compare this to the religious elite in Mark 12:28-40.  Jesus says that they have flowing robes, sit in the important seats and places of honor, they have lots of houses (taken from widows), and pray long, showy prayers.  They obviously have status, power, and wealth.  They seem spiritual, important, and wise, like they have it all together spiritually.  If people look at their accomplishments and their standing in the spiritual community, they would think, These are the people to be like, to emulate.  They are bringing God so much glory.  A poor widow’s two coins are laughable compared to the contributions of these great religious giants! 

            Yet Jesus says that those “teachers of the law” – those religious giants who seemed so godly and accomplished – would be punished severely!  Whereas, the widow who wasn’t noticed and didn’t matter to others was noticed by Jesus.  And blessed! 

            Some of the greatest successes in the world’s eyes are actually great failures in God’s eyes.  And some of the greatest failures in the world’s eyes are actually great successes in God’s eyes.  I guess the key is, Whose eyes are we looking through?  By whose standards are we judging “success”?

            It doesn’t matter if we don’t have a lot to give or if others notice or if others give more or if they have bigger roles.  It doesn’t matter if our skills don’t match up and if we can’t accomplish the great things that others can. 

            What matters is not if we stand in a position of great influence, power, and success in front of others but if we stand in humility before the Lord!  What matters is not what others see but what the Lord sees!  What matters is not what’s in our wallets or on our list of accomplishments but what’s in our hearts!  What matters is not what we gain but what we give!  If we are faithful to give whatever we have for Him!  To give our all for the Lord, to do our best for His glory no matter what we do, to work at it with our heart because we are working for Him!   

            This issue is close to my heart right now.  I have tried to do the big, grand things, and my efforts have fallen flat.  I have taken those short-term missions trips that were glamorous and exciting, feeling like I was really doing something great for God.  And I had great plans of getting my degree and working as a counselor, helping many people find healing.

            But now, I am in one of those “small job” periods of life.  I am a mom.  It’s my job.  It’s what I do.  I wash the same dishes every day.  I do the same, never-shrinking piles of laundry every day.  (Okay, maybe more like every other day. . . Alright, maybe every third day, if I’m being really honest.)  I have to make breakfasts and lunches and think up seven different dinners every week that will please six people with different tastes, listening to the same complaints about what we are having for dinner night after night.  I have to do math and reading and other schoolwork with the kids, checking progress and grading papers and praying that God helps me do my best to grow my boys up academically since I am not just their mom but also their teacher.  (God help me!)  And I have to do this every day, waking up the next day and doing it all over again, with no weekend breaks, no vacation, no pay raises or promotions, no punching out at five o’clock, and no overtime pay. 

            And I know that, to the world, it is not glamorous or exciting.  But to me, it is my mission right now, my God-given role, no matter how trivial the daily jobs seem to be and how little I feel like I have accomplished.  And I have been learning that it’s not about the role we have, but it’s about doing whatever we do for God’s glory.  

            “ . . . whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

            “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  (Colossians 3:23)

            These verses do not say that we have to go out and find big jobs that bring God lots of glory.  They are saying that we are to glorify God in the jobs we currently have, in the daily things we do, no matter how big or glamorous or public they are.  We can wash dishes for His glory.  We can make dinner for His glory.  We can go to the same boring job every day for His glory.  We can be kind to our neighbor for His glory.  We can be a backwoods shepherd or a prisoner or an exile on an island for His glory.  It’s not about adding some new task that seems more glorifying to Him.  It is about doing the same things we already do and living the life we already have, but changing our reason for doing it. 

            As a mom, I should not be washing dishes or making food to get appreciation from my family or just because it’s my duty.  I should be doing it – to the best of my ability and with a thankful heart – because I know this is the job God gave me today and because it glorifies Him when I do it with all my heart.  It should be enough for me to know that He is watching me and that He cares about how I do it and that He will reward my faithfulness someday.  (And I wouldn’t trade this job – being a mother - for anything.  I am absolutely convinced in the core of my being that this is where I need to be for now.  And I am thankful for this job and this role.  It might not mean much to the world, but it means the world to me.) 

            It doesn’t matter how big, exciting, or fulfilling the job is; it matters how we do it and if we are doing our best for Him.  I think this is why God (through Paul) could tell the slaves, “obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  (Colossians 3:22-24) 

            And it’s why He could tell the masters of the slaves, “Provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.”  (Colossians 4:1)

            It’s not about being the slave or being the master.  It’s not about your position or your circumstances.  It’s about doing your best at your current job, in your current role, to please God and for His glory and because you know that He is watching you and will reward you accordingly.  (That's not to say that God thinks slavery is okay or that He doesn't care about unfair treatment of slaves.  It's just saying that whenever you do your best in whatever your life is, He is pleased with you and will reward you.  Because you are really working for Him.) 

            The mother or kindergarten teacher or garbage man or store clerk who is humbly and faithfully doing their best at their job out of thankfulness and for God’s glory is as honoring and pleasing to God as a president of a business or a leader of a huge organization or an overseas missionary who is faithfully, humbly, thankfully doing their job for God’s glory.  (Read that again!) 

            There are no small jobs in God’s kingdom! 

            If we are not living for God’s glory, we are living for ours.  And our lives will not be honoring to Him.  It does not bring Him glory when . . .

            1.  We build up our treasures or successes on earth, pursuing “happiness” instead of joy in the Lord.

            2.  We are discontent when things don’t go our way or we don’t get what we want. 

            3.  We compare our roles and contributions to others, instead of being more concerned with how God sees it.

            4.  We excuse or rationalize our bad choices.

            5.  We put on a good Christian performance to be noticed by others.  (False humility) 

            6.  We think we are worshipping God by singing loudly and emotionally, yet we are not living out our worship in a life that honors Him. 

            7.  We do not see Him for who He really is, clinging to our own ideas of who He should be or who we want Him to be.

            8.  We “work” to glorify Him or to impress Him while holding back parts of our hearts and keeping up walls.  We still live out of our fears, instead of living out of His love and out of love for Him.  (God cannot be fully glorified by a person who doesn’t fully trust Him or love Him, and who doesn’t let Him fully love and heal them.) 

            9.  We are still living self-sufficiently, in our own power and wisdom.  Maybe we want to glorify Him and hope that our lives do, but we are not living in dependence on Him.  And this will cause us to crumble under the trials, because we are doing it in our own, tiny strength and wisdom.

            10.  We don’t put in the time and effort to seek His Will and to learn to listen to Him.  We just do what we think is glorifying, but don’t talk our lives and choices over with Him. 

            11.  We don’t let Him prune off things that don’t bring Him glory.  We glorify Him as best we can without having to let go of or weed out certain, unglorifying parts of ourselves and our behavior. 

            12.  We do “just fine” with lazy spiritual disciplines and we squander our spiritual gifts and opportunities. 


            But if we are truly humbled people and living for His glory . . .

            1.  We will want to meet with Him in His Word and in prayer and all throughout our day because we need Him.

            2.  We will find Him and His goodness everywhere, in everything.  And be thankful.

            3.  We will still glorify Him when prayers are not answered the way we want. 

            4.  Worship will become more than just singing at church.  It will be honoring Him with everything we do, big things and little things.  (No amount of singing at church can make up for lifestyle that is dishonoring to Him.  But even gardening or doing the dishes or going to your same boring job every day can be worship if you do it with the right heart attitude.)

            5.  We will seek to be pruned.

            6.  We will be concerned that our life always reflects His glory because He deserves it and because other people are watching.  Their hearts and lives are at stake.

            7.  We will not want to steal His glory because we know that everything should point back to God. 

            8.  We won’t be as concerned with how many positions we fill in church and in society or with how big and exciting our job is.  We will be more concerned that we serve with the right attitude and for the right reasons.  (Which means that we’ll only and always do what God calls us to do, even if they are small and mundane tasks that we have to do over and over again every day.  But we will do it to the best of our ability because it glorifies God.)

            9.  We also won’t be as concerned with what happens after we obey as we will be with just making sure that we obey.  We will know that our job is to obey and His job is to use our obedience as He wills. 

            10.  We will use our talents to bring Him glory. 

            11.  We’ll live with an awareness that we do not only glorify Him on earth, to other people, but also in the spirit realm.  So what we do in private matters.  Angels and demons are watching us.  But which ones are patting their leader on the back saying, “Look at what he or she just did or thought.  That brought you a little more glory.”?

            12.  As we face our trials, we will lean on His strength and wisdom, and we will trust that He is sovereign, that He will guide us and carry us through them, and that He will eventually work it all out for good.  We will be able to say, “You are God, I am not.  I trust You.  Your Will be done.”  Even when times are tough and He says, “No.”

            13.  We will take our stand for Him, even in the face of opposition and mocking and persecution.  But we will know that it’s not our duty to force Him on anyone.  Just to live for Him in our own lives.

            14.  We will hold our possessions, our successes, our accomplishments, and even other people loosely because we will know that nothing in our life is really ours, to be used for our own pleasure.  But everything is God’s, a tool in His hand to do with what He wants.  For His glory and kingdom!


Zeroing in on Pruning

            I mentioned our resistance to being pruned vs. our willingness to be pruned.  How we respond to God’s pruning will tell us a lot about our relationship with Him. 

            Throughout our lives, we will find ourselves being pruned over and over again as God continues to weed out anything that doesn’t bring Him glory and that isn’t for our best.  And this isn’t always easy.  We like things to be our way.  We like holding onto certain ungodly or selfish things.  We want certain freedoms and pleasures. 

            But in order to grow in righteousness as Christians, to reach wholeness, and to get to the point where everything is about God’s glory, we need to be pruned . . . 

            - of selfish motives and goals

            - of envy and bitterness

            - of unreasonable expectations of ourselves, other people, and the Lord

            - of “idols of the heart” 

            - of the walls that keep God from fully entering our hearts and minds and lives

            - of pride and self-inflating behaviors and attitudes, of ways we try to "steal" His glory  (In Daniel 4:28-37, King Nebuchadnezzar tried to steal God's glory by refusing to give God glory for the kingdom he ruled, refusing to acknowledge that God is the one who gives people their authority.  And what happened?  God gave him over to insanity for a time.  Until the king acknowledged that God was ultimately in control and deserved the glory.  Do we dare to think that God is not as protective of His glory during our times and in our lives?)

            - of our phony, polished, “I’m such a great Christian” facade so that we can reach humility and true brokenness before the Lord

            - of “good enough” so that we can strive for “best”

            - of habits and pursuits and behaviors that are morally-questionable or out-right ungodly

            - of misconceptions that we have about faith, ourselves, life, and God

            - of lazy spiritual disciplines and the comfortable-ness that keeps us parked on the side of the road in our spiritual growth

            - of our pursuit for fulfillment in anything outside of God

            - of our “need” for earthly success, approval, and appreciation so that we can get to the point where we are content with knowing that God alone sees and cares and values us and will reward us in the end

            - of so many more things not listed here.

            Sometimes pruning comes through gentle guidance and insight.  Sometimes it comes through the times when God has to discipline us.  Sometimes it comes when times are sweet and when we desire growth.  Sometimes it comes through the struggles and when we are fighting, kicking, and digging in our heels the whole way.  Sometimes we never even see it coming.  And sometimes He has to prune off things simply because it’s not the right timing.  But there is always a reason for every cut God makes.

            There are so many seasons of life.  And every season of life prunes us and grows us in different ways, bringing its own challenges and spiritual priorities, goals, and lessons.  And we need to fully, deliberately live within the season God places us in, letting Him prune off whatever doesn’t fit for the time being. 

            We need to focus on the tasks at hand, learn the lesson of the moment, let go of the things He takes away, grab onto the things He asks us to grab onto, say “no” when it’s required, say “yes” when He directs us to, accept His “no” in patient trust, wait on the Lord when necessary, and glorify Him wherever we are.   

            Being pruned – of things that don’t bring Him glory and that don’t fit with the season of life we are in - will happen all during our spiritual lives.  (And if you think you are doing “good enough” in your Christian life – that there is no area you need to grow in and nothing else God needs to prune off - ask Him to reveal to you the next step for you in your spiritual growth.  You might be surprised.) 

            Growing in our faith and maturing as Christians is a life-long process, full of many painful lessons, challenges, and prunings.  But the end goal of all of this is to become more Christ-like, more whole, more healed, more humble, more firmly rooted in Him, to help us have more impact for God’s Kingdom, and to bring Him more glory.  Because everything that doesn’t bring Him glory and that isn’t about His Kingdom and His righteousness will burn up in the end.  And He is more concerned with developing eternity than He is with the temporary. 

            Are we?       

            Our purpose in this life is to find Life in Him, to love Him, to praise Him, and to glorify Him, and to let Him love us.  Because we need it and because He deserves it.  It’s what we were made to do!  Our goal should not be to see ourselves glorified here on earth, but to live in Him and with Him and to bring Him glory, that others may find Life, too.  We need to be concerned about building eternity . . . not a nice, little, satisfying life in a place that will burn up in the end.        

            And the best way for us to glorify Him is to remain vitally connected to Him, to offer Him whatever we have to offer Him (even if it’s just a one-penny offering), and to do our best in whatever job He gives us, whether it’s something big (like running for a political office) or something small (like serving meals to our hungry kids).  It’s about magnifying Him, singing His praises, fulfilling His plans through our obedience, and bringing Him the most glory possible wherever we are!

            If you only have a penny to offer, then offer it to the Lord with your whole heart.  A loving smile for a stranger.  A listening ear for those who hurt.  A kind word to someone who needs encouragement.  A prayer for someone in need.  A meal for the hungry.  Forgiveness for the guilty.  Making someone else feel like they are important.  Helping the elderly lady carry her bags.  Caring for the sick.  Faithfully doing the unglamorous daily jobs that no one else notices or appreciates.  These are one-penny offerings that matter.  Because Jesus notices and He is honored by our faithfulness to give whatever we have!  For His Kingdom and His glory! 

            “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”  (Matthew 25:34-36)  

            “ . . . whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  (1 Corinthians 10:31)

             “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  (Psalm 51:17) 

            “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 12:7)

             “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”  (Colossians 3:23)   


1.  Does this topic trigger any thoughts or questions you want to share?  Any other Bible verses?

2.  What are some of the things that make you think of God’s glory?  (Such as sunsets, hummingbirds, etc.  Anything that speaks of God’s glory to you personally?)
            [My answer:  I definitely see God’s glory in my children and in my garden and in the critters in my yard.  Since my life is very small and mundane right now – just staying home and raising my kids – I am learning to find Him most in my own family and backyard.  I find myself praising Him for being such a good, creative God when I tend to the wonderful tomato plants that I raised from seed, or watch a hummingbird visit the zinnias, or see a happy sunflower, or watch my children laughing with each other.  I am humbled just knowing that He has blessed us that much, with such wonderful gifts.
            And I’m also reminded of His glory when I wake up really early and all is quiet and still.  It’s peaceful and I get to spend a few minutes in complete silence in God’s presence before I start my day.  And then I get to watch the world wake up and I am reminded that this day is another blessing and that God is waiting to share it with us.  And my kids come down to give me a hug first thing in the morning – making me think of how much God values it, too, when we run to Him first thing in the morning – and all feels good.  (And then, of course, each day has its own troubles, but it’s all the more reason to start my day with God.)  He really is a good, generous, amazing God.]

3.  What do you think of the lists above?  The wrong ways we treat God’s glory?  The things that show that we are truly humbled and living for His glory?  Share your thoughts about them and any changes or additions you would make to them. 

4.  What do you think about the list of things we need to be pruned of?  What would you add?

5.  Why might we resist being pruned?  And do you have any examples of times God pruned you or times you resisted being pruned?  What happened?   

6.  Why does God deserve all the glory?  Why should it be one of our highest goals?  And what other goals/priorities should be really high on our list?  Which shouldn’t be that usually are?
            [Other important goals are seeking humility and righteousness and God’s Kingdom, the souls of other people.
             Obedience is also huge.  God’s plans get done through our obedience.  He is always trying to guide us in the best path possible, but it is up to us to listen and obey.
            Contentment no matter the circumstances of life is important.  If we can learn this difficult, elusive lesson – to rest in God, even in the pain and the trials and the long waits – then we have learned to really trust Him, to wait for His leading, and to glorify Him and find joy in the present, even when things are not what we want them to be. 
            I have wasted so much time and energy stressing too much about things not being what I want them to be.  And that not only destroys peace and joy, but it makes it hard to be patient and to wait for God’s timing and to be thankful with what I have.  Contentment starts now or it never starts at all.  And, my goodness, how I have been learning that lesson, through the hard times.  But I don’t regret it at all.  It is such an important lesson to learn. 
            And this leads into another important goal – thankfulness.  We need to learn to live in a state of thankfulness, no matter what.  When there are trials, we need to look for the silver linings.  When times are tough, we need to dig for the hidden blessings.  When times are good, we need to remember Who made it so.  Whether it’s trials or smooth sailing, we need to be able to say as Job said:  “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”]      

7.  What are some other ways that we might bring Him dishonor or fail to bring Him glory?  How about ways we bring Him honor and glory?  How about you personally?

8.  Have you met (or do you know an example of) a truly humbled person who is working for God’s glory?  How can you tell?  What stands out about them to you?  Contrast this with someone who is falsely humble? 

9.  Do you think our level of humility has an effect on if God is glorified or not?  If so, how?  And can you think of examples?

10.  How does our obedience and attitude affect God’s glory, for good or bad?

11.  Do you think our spiritual disciplines affect or relate to God’s glory at all?  If so, how?

12.  Some Christians seem to think that living like a somber-faced, suffering martyr is the most humble way to live and like it’s most glorifying to God.  Is this the way God expects us to live, or are they living under a delusion?  Is it more glorifying to God, or is there a degree of self-glorification there?  Is God somehow less glorified if we enjoy our work and our life?  And where is the balance between enjoying life, suffering for the Lord’s sake, and bringing God glory? 

13.  Is being a missionary more about the where you are serving and the job you are doing, or is it more about how you do your job and Who you do it for?  Do you agree with me that we are all missionaries, no matter where we are?  What are some ways we might fail to live like a missionary wherever we are?  And how might we do things differently if we lived like it?

14.  Do you think Christians have a hard time accepting and doing the small, unnoticed jobs?  Why?  And should we be bothered about the “small jobs” or “small roles” or our “small contributions”?  Why or why not?   

15.  How can we glorify God in the small daily tasks that most of us are called to, at home, at church, at work? 
             [We need to remember that no matter what God has called us to do – big jobs or little jobs – He is our Employer.  We are working for Him.  And He gives us the jobs that He wants us to do.  And the best thing we can do is work at it with our whole heart, knowing that He is watching, that what we do and why we do it matters to Him, and that He will eventually reward us according to our faithfulness in doing what He asked of us.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a big job or a little job or if we get any kind of recognition here on earth.  He is watching us and He will reward us in the end.  Our job matters – even if it’s just cleaning house every day – because He gave it to us.  And He wants us to do our best for His glory.]

16.  Does what we do for God’s glory matter if no one else sees it but God?  If so, do we have a hard time accepting this and why?  (Meaning “Do we want to be noticed by others?”)  Any examples from your life?
             [I have had to struggle with this one, especially as so many things that I have done have gone virtually unnoticed by others.  I would wonder, “Does what I do matter if no one sees it?  Does God get any less glory if others never see what I accomplished?”
            And I had to come to the conclusion that my job is simply to be faithful in doing what I think God has called me to do.  His job is to use it or not use, as He wants.  And instead of getting upset that it’s not being noticed by others, I need to learn to be content with God’s right to use my efforts and accomplishments and obedience as He wills. 
            Think of Jeremiah who was called to do a job that would fail, who was called to speak to people who wouldn’t listen or appreciate what he was doing for God.  Does that make his obedience any less glorifying to God?  God has His reasons for asking us to do things that seem to fail on earth, in our lifetimes.  But it’s not always our job to know the impact that our obedience will have.  It’s just our job to obey.  
            And no matter what happens on earth, I think God is still glorified through our faithful obedience in the spirit realm.  Satan is watching.  Angels and demons are watching.  And what we do, even behind the scenes or in the privacy of our own homes, either glorifies Him or not.]   

17.  Is it hard to glorify God when we are facing unanswered prayer or a long wait for an answer?  What do these times bring up in us?  And how can we glorify Him during these times?  Any examples?
            [These are some of the hardest times in my life, the long waits for an answer and learning to accept when prayers are not answered the way I want.  These times make me struggle deeply with my faith and my understanding of how God works.  But I think we can best glorify Him during these times when we let them drive us closer to God, when we open up our hearts in honesty with Him and pour out all of our doubts and fears and feelings.  Trials and long waits are the best times to let God expose what is in our hearts, to prune us of wrong motives, pride, idols, etc., and to learn to let God be God.  They are the times that humble us and mature our faith.  And that is super glorifying to God.] 

18.  Can “Christian service” and living the “good Christian” life end up being unglorifying to God?  Or is it all glorifying to Him, even if we do it for the wrong reasons?
            [I think our service can be glorifying to God, even if it is done for the wrong reasons.  Because God can use anything for His glory.  And it may touch someone’s heart or inspire someone else, even if they cannot see what is really in our hearts.  We are imperfect people, so we will do things imperfectly and for the wrong reasons.  But God can still use that.   
            But hopefully, we are growing in our faith.  Hopefully, we are letting God prune us so that we can produce more fruit later.  Hopefully, we are letting our hearts and motives and priorities be purified by the Spirit as we seek righteousness more and humble ourselves before God.  Because I think it is even more glorifying to God when we grow in our faith and become more and more like Him, when we put selfish motives and desires behind us, and when we draw ever closer to Him with a humble heart that wants to glorify Him out of thankfulness for His love. 
            Once again, this is a process, a life-long journey.  And it takes time and thoughtfulness to move from glorifying Him with just our actions and choices to glorifying Him with our attitudes, motives, and heart too.] 

19.  I have heard it said that there shouldn’t be Christian celebrities because being a celebrity is self-glorifying and they cannot glory God the way He should be glorified.  What do you think about this?  Is it possible to glorify God and be a celebrity at the same time?  What are the risks and are they too great?

20.  I said, “God cannot be fully glorified by a person who doesn’t fully trust Him or love Him, and who doesn’t let Him fully love and heal them.”  What do you think I mean by this?  And what are your thoughts on it?

21.  What are some unglorifying things that Christians in our society are doing?  And what are the effects of this? 

22.  What kind of unglorifying things do we try to get away with in the privacy of our own homes?  If we were truly concerned with doing everything for His glory, what changes might we have to make in our lives and homes?  Any examples from your own life?
            [I think we try to get away with watching, reading, saying, or listening to things that are not glorifying to God.  And we excuse it with “Oh, it won’t affect me.  I’m a strong enough Christian to handle it.”  But it’s not so much about if it affects us, but if it brings God glory or not. 
            I think we would stop doing a lot of things or throw a lot of things out if we always had “does it bring God glory or not” as our measuring stick.  There are so many movies and television shows that condone things that are opposite of what God wants for us, and yet we support them by watching them.  Or maybe we gossip and use “our concern for what someone else is going through” as our excuse.  But is that honoring to God or the other person? 
            What about eating junk when God has given us a plethora of real, healthy food?  Do we show proper concern and thankfulness for our bodies by treating them well and taking care of them?  Do we make sure to value our children while they are at home, making them the priority that they should be and treating them like our closest mission field, or are we more concerned about seeing our dreams fulfilled and getting what we want for ourselves?  Do we practice thankfulness or bitterness?  Do we take or do we give?  Are we storing up treasures in heaven or on earth? 
            These are just a few things to consider when we are looking at whether or not our whole lives glorify God.]   

23.  Think through your day.  What kind of practical things can you do throughout your day to bring God glory?  What makes these things glorifying to God?  (Think of things that might not specifically seem “God-glorifying” but that can be, such as taking a vacation with your family, eating healthy, putting up a bird-feeder, getting enough sleep, etc.?)

24.  What are some ways that you feel you are already bringing God glory?  (I know that we don’t like to share these positive examples because it feels “unhumble,” but let’s encourage each other by our examples, if we have good ones.  We are not trying to sing our praises; we are trying to help each other along on our spiritual journeys and encourage each other.)

25.  “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” (Matthew 12:7)  How might this verse relate to God’s glory?

26.  How do you define “worship”?  (Is it just singing at church?)  How do you define “honoring God”?  What is the “right heart attitude” that turns anything – even dish washing – into worship, into something that honors God and brings Him glory?  What are some ways you worship and honor God? 

27.  What are some things that make you feel close to God, make you want to sing His praises, or make you stand in awe of Him?  How can you add more of this to your life?

28.  What are some times when we think we are worshipping God but really might not be?  (Such as singing in church while our hearts are filled with bitterness.)  Do you think God feels honored and worshipped by this?  (Come up with other examples.)  What makes something worshipful or not? 
            [I think our heart’s attitude and motive makes all the difference.  If we spend our days raising our kids, it can be worshipful and honoring to God if we do it out of thankfulness for the family He gave us and if we put our best into it because we want to bring Him glory.  However, doing the same jobs but with a bitter, resentful heart that wishes you were doing something else is not honoring to God.  Serving at church because you feel like you “have to” is not the same thing as doing it because you are trying to obey and honor God.  Whatever we do, we are supposed to do it for the glory of God.  This means doing our best for Him.  Or at least doing our best to do our best.  Because, let’s face it, some days are just harder than others.] 

29.  How have you been able to use your talents and interests for God?  What are some other ways you can use these to honor God?  And what are some unused talents and interests that you have that you might be able to honor God with?  How?   

30.  Since the Lord’s Day is a day of rest and worship, how do you think that day is best spent in order to honor the Lord?  (Back in the day, absolutely NO work was done that day.  Should it still be that way?  Is making dinner for your family considered work?  Gardening?  Cleaning house?  Travelling?  Is what’s acceptable for that day different for everybody, or is there a standard to follow?)
             [My personal thought is that God wants us to set aside one day a week to rest from regular work, from running in the rat race.  And He wants us to enjoy that day and the blessings that He gave us.  If we spend that day enjoying His presence, His gifts, and the people He put in our lives, then we are using it wisely and honoring Him. 
            For me, gardening is not “work” even though it takes a lot of effort.  It makes me feel more alive and thankful.  So I believe it’s fine for me to do it on the Lord’s Day, especially when I am working alongside my husband as the kids play in the backyard.  And maybe we’ll go for a walk later in the day and grill out.  That, to me, is the perfect way to use the Sabbath.  Enjoying my family and God’s creation. 
            However, being trapped inside all day doing dishes and laundry is not restful or recharging for me.  It’s just plain work.  It would be a poor use of the Sabbath to do those jobs that day.  However, occasionally in the spring, I feel a real burning inside of me to do some spring-cleaning.  And that is refreshing to me.  So that might be a good way to use that day. 
            I guess I would boil it down to what is refreshing and recharging to you?  What makes you feel alive, thankful, and close to God?  Do those things that day and leave the work for the rest of the week.  The Sabbath is a gift from God; enjoy it as such.]

31.  Do you sense that God is challenging you about anything in this area? 

32.  Are there any other thoughts or questions that you want to add?