Tag Archives: glory

Humility in Confidence

Last week, I had a chance to share God’s Word before an audience of over 300 students and faculty at Makerere. The topic assigned to me was Mentoring and I had a lot of fun preparing and presenting it. After speaking, I received a ton of positive feedback on all aspects of it. I’m not going to lie, I enjoyed receiving praise and grew a lot in my confidence as a speaker and teacher of God’s Word.

How does one remain humble after receiving so much positive feedback? It’s easy to be humble when the vast majority of my affirmation comes from my mom (whose encouragement I am continually grateful for); it’s slightly more difficult when feedback from a number of sources tempts me to believe I really am all that.

I don’t believe confidence and pride are synonymous. Pride is much too tricky to be that simple. I’ve known people who took pride in their lack of self confidence. I’ve struggled with pride my whole life and I know there’s more to overcoming it than self deprecation.

Here are a few practices in my life that I hope, by God’s grace, to help me remain humble even as I grow in confidence in the ministry God calls me to.

Recognize the source of all gifts: 1 Corinthians 4:7 has recently become one of my favorite verses. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians rings true to me. It’s not a lie that I have a gift for public speaking and of teaching. But on what merit did I receive these gifts but by God’s grace and His providence.

I am very blessed to have grown up in my family. I grew up watching my dad, who is a much better teacher than I am. I grew up watching him teach publicly in the church, and had the privilege of having him explain scripture to me often as a new Christian. Only by the greatest pride and self-delusion could I deny his role in my development. My mother is also gifted as a teacher and so by nature and nurture, I am who I am. I didn’t earn my heritage, but am simply a recipient of blessing.

Rejoice with other great speakers: One sure testimony of pride is jealousy. So often, my heart wants to grumble when someone else gets the spotlight. The day after I spoke, a good friend of mine was invited to speak at a lunch hour session and he did a great job. That meant that the same people who had been complimenting me now shifted their attention to him. I had to make an intentional decision to affirm his ministry and to be sincere about it.

I love how Paul responded to the ministry of another leader in the church in Corinth. Apollos served faithfully and skillfully so that people began to choose between Paul and Apollos. Instead of getting into the debate, making a case for himself, Paul responds to point attention back to God. “Who then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed as the Lord assigned to each… So neither he who plants and he who waters are anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

We as Christians frequently claim that only God deserves the glory for His work among His people. We corroborate our belief in that when we allow Him to use someone else to do what we feel we also could do just as well, if not better.

Seek to constantly grow in my gifts: The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 speaks to anyone who has been given responsibility for anything in God’s providence. We are stewards of all we own, accountable to God for how we use it. Notice that the master wasn’t satisfied with a simple return of his money by the third servant. He expected investment, development and growth. How proud and ungrateful are we when we think we have arrived and don’t invest in developing what God has given us?

Some of you know I’m a big fan of (read: obsessed with) the New England Patriots football team. The team’s quarterback- a player who could retire today and be guaranteed a spot in the hall of fame- is a great role model of this. In post game conferences, he will regularly talk about needing to improve as a player and as a team. Fourteen years into the game, he still has a tutor teaching him to improve his throwing in the offseason.

Recognize the limit of my responsibility: In the book of John, Jesus teaches the disciples about His vision for the church after His death, resurrection and ascension. He tells them, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father… He will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning.” Essentially, He tells them that evangelism will be the work of two entities: The church and the Spirit. Who will actually bear the responsibility of bringing about transformation and salvation? The Holy Spirit; not us (John 16:8-11).

Ultimately, as a teacher of God’s Word, my job is to introduce people to Jesus through whatever topic and scripture I teach on. Whether I do a great or horrible job, the responsibility is on the Spirit of God to bring true vision of Christ’s glory, repentance and transformation. My pastor uses the analogy of a pencil. Nobody in the history of written communication has ever praised a pencil for any work of literature produced. It’s easy to see when a writing utensil doesn’t perform up to standard, but when it does its job well, all the glory goes to the author. May we seek simply to be worthy tools in the hands of our master.

Ultimately, the task of remaining humble is one of prayer. These principles in themselves have no ability to control the deceitful self-aggrandizing of the heart. Only God, through reminder of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) and the piercing of His Word (Hebrews 4:12) can restrain and purify the heart.

From Christ and through Him and to Him are all things.

To Him be glory forever


Show Me Your Glory

From time to time, I doubt God’s presence with me. Not necessarily that I question His existence, but it seems that, with all that we talk about God’s power, there should be more dazzling displays of His hand at work. Most of the time, however, life seems to follow a fairly normal, predictable pattern. Unpleasant surprises outnumber those events one might consider miraculous. I can’t help but occasionally ask, “What if I’m in this by myself?”

It’s not as though my faith has been unfruitful. I’ve grown in character and discipline since I became a Christian, and finding my identity in Christ has freed me to enjoy being myself. I love being a Christian even with the sacrifices and the ongoing self denial. I evangelize because I have experienced love and grace in knowing Jesus. The community of believers, known globally as the church, continues to be a regular witness of Christ to me.

Still, I have moments of doubt. So lately, I’ve taken to asking myself a question I frequently asked atheists in conversations at McMaster: what would it take to believe without reservation? What evidence would remove all doubt in my mind that God is with me? This question is effective in evangelism because it reveals our incredible capacity to explain things away. No external evidence is enough to make one believe something the heart rejects. It is therefore necessary to engage the heart, not simply the senses to overcome doubt.

I recently came upon a character in scripture who also wrestled with thoughts about God’s departure from his ministry. Moses was a person who got to see God at work in epic measure. He met God at a talking bush, crippled a world super-power with ten plagues, and brought about the freedom of a nation from slavery. He followed a sky high pillar of cloud and fire, walked across a sea without getting wet, ate bread from heaven, drank water from a rock and generally had the most exciting ministry in the history of mankind.

Then the people screwed up in a big way and pissed off the Most High God. God backed down from destroying them, but Moses still faced the reality of going without God and it scared him. He had an assurance that God would not leave him, but he wanted more. In Exodus 33:18, Moses asks, “Please show me Your glory.”

What an unbelievably bold request. And what an amazing prayer to imitate. It’s possible that many of us are too willing to go ahead with God’s work without assurance of God’s presence. I know I often am. I break down ministry into a set of skill and practices that I can perform to get decent results. I think I ask too little of God in ministry. What if I asked God, like Moses did, to show me His glory? What would happen? What would I see?

I don’t believe that routine and normalcy in ministry are signs of unfruitful ministry. Doubt isn’t a an indicator of God’s absence. It can be, however, a reminder to ask God to do what only He can do. Tough times can be a challenge to pray big.

Think about it: God doesn’t scold Moses for his request, but grants it. And in God’s reply, we can see how God desires to reveal His glory to His people.

And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” – Exodus 33:19

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.  -Exodus 34:5-8

It’s remarkable that God displays His glory by talking about Himself. It would have made a lot of sense for God’s glory to show itself in thunder and earthquakes and other awe inspiring phenomena. Intuition tells us that we’re supposed to be awed by the display of God’s glory. More than awe, however, God’s glory as seen in this passage is a revelation of God’s character.

For Moses, God’s glory was seen in the undeniable experience of who God is. His goodness passed before Moses and His name was proclaimed. This view of God’s glory is echoed in the New Testament. Jesus prays, “I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do… I have manifested Your name to the people whom You gave me out of the world.” (John 17:4,6). In Christ, we are said to have seen the glory of God (John 1:14), an idea expounded in these words from Hebrews: He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1:3).

God’s glory is ultimately relational. Experiences of His glory lead us to know Him more. On the mountain with God, Moses was given knowledge of God, which resulted in worship. It wasn’t power detached from revelation; not simply a miracle. Peter saw Jesus’ transfiguration but denied Him three times at the crucifixion. It wasn’t until he was filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts that he received power to be a witness.

God’s glory is both an external and internal witness of God’s presence. To simply request an internal manifestation of God’s glory- peace, joy, and a real sense of intimacy with God- is to ask too little of Him. Similarly, we cannot be content simply with external signs- salvation, miracles, providence and provision. God wants to engage our heart and our senses.

Moses saw God’s glory on the mountain and was empowered to continue in the ministry God gave to him. I want to see more of His glory and be energized to fulfill my assignment. I don’t want to move until I know He is with me. But when He engages my heart and my senses with the reality of His presence, I know I can move mountains.

All things from Christ, through Him and to Him. To Him be glory forever.

This Is My Worship

This summer, in addition to preparing to go to Uganda by raising support, I’m taking a part time summer job to help make ends meet. God was so good in providing work even though I started job hunting after the summer had already started. I get to work outdoors helping customers load heavy purchases into their vehicles, among other physically demanding tasks.

Let me rephrase that…

This summer, in addition to preparing to go to Uganda by raising support, God has called me to worship Him by working a part time job this summer. In His timeless sovereignty, He has decreed that I will work outdoors helping customers load heavy purchases into their vehicles, among other physically demanding tasks, for His glory.

That is my worship!

Paul teaches this mindset towards work in Colossians 3:23,24. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

For some context, these verses come directly after instructions from Paul for husbands to love their wives, children to obey their parents and slaves to obey their masters, not only when they’re around but with sincerity of heart. According to Paul, how we function in the roles we’re assigned in life should have everything to do with our fear, honour and reverence of God.

For me, it’s easy to worship God by serving in ministry. Ministry activities come naturally to me. It’s also easy to sing songs and study the bible. It takes discipline to get into the habit of taking regular quiet times with God, but if you can get into the rhythm it becomes a lot less difficult.

Six hours into the workshift is around when worship becomes difficult. That’s when everything hurts and a customer comes for help with loading ten 75-80lb bags of rocks. It’s when a sweet older lady takes her time opening the trunk after you’ve already lifted her order and love is not what wants to come out of my mouth. That’s when the place is quiet and a twenty minute break hidden behind a large pile of stuff seems tempting.

But this is my worship. My work is an offering to the God who redeemed my life at the cost of His, and in that claimed ownership of my entire existence. This body is not my own, to do as I please. God, who calls me to rest (Sabbath) when I crave work, also calls me to work when I crave rest. In all things, He demands His glory in my life.

One story that comes to mind is David in 2 Samuel 24. After he incurs the wrath of God by taking a census, he’s told by the prophet to offer a sacrifice at a specific spot which is owned by some dude. The old David would have had him killed and taken his wife land, but this is the new improved David. Dude offers to give David the land for free, and David’s response amazes and challenges me. He tells the guy, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing” (Verse 24). Instead of taking the easy out, David determines to bear the full cost of his offering to God. To give God any less than the best of his personal worth would have in unacceptable.

See I don’t want my life of worship to God to be all about what was easy or fun or simply the best use of my talents. I thank God for all he’s done in preparing my heart to go to Uganda for a year, but that wasn’t a particularly tough decision. I’m giving up a lot to go, but I’m inspired and excited by the work God is already doing there and the idea of being a part of it.

It wasn’t my plan to work this summer. If I had made better decisions during the school year, I wouldn’t have to work. But by God’s grace He has blessed me with an opportunity to worship in  a way I never would have planned. I’m going to be the best employee I can be, not because I like my supervisors (and they’re really nice people), but because I’m doing it to God.

The verses from Colossians 3 don’t end with the command, but include a promise. There is an inheritance that we will receive as a reward. I’m not sure exactly what it’ll be. Perhaps it will be the blessings that flow from developed character; maybe it’s material blessings or open doors; or maybe something in heaven after the end of my life. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I trust God that it will come and it will be good.

For this summer, part of my worship involves carrying heavy stuff.

Soli Deo Gloria

Pride: The Struggle is Real

I struggle with pride. I know what I’m capable of accomplishing and it’s very easy for me to trust in myself. I know what I’m good at; I know what other people are bad at. Pride is something that comes naturally to me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been good at almost everything I’ve ever attempted: school, sports, socializing and, for the most part, faith have always come very easy for me. I’m not looking to brag (I don’t think), but I’m hoping to give some context to my reflection for this week.

Because of my pride, I fear failure. Ego is a very fragile thing and very easily shattered. I’m the kind of person who generally doesn’t try anything unless I know I’m good at it. I’m very sensitive to cues that I might be less than adequate. I’m constantly comparing myself to others, mentally calculating how I stack up against those in my environment. Even now, I’m hoping my confession doesn’t make you think any less of me. This is my reality, my constant struggle. Every waking moment, I must war against a mindset that demands my glory at all costs.

Pride has many appearances. This week, I saw it most clearly evident in a surge of jealousy towards a Christian brother. He was getting an opportunity to do ministry in a context that I particularly enjoy, and I found myself becoming upset. In that moment, it mattered little to me that he was being used by God to bless others because it wasn’t me being used. For a moment, my desire to feel needed was more important than the edification of another.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. -Philippians 2:1-4

What does it mean to “do ministry”? To minister is to serve. Paul describes a humility that makes the needs of others more important than ours. This is the antithesis of pride. Pride is selfish by nature: its focus is completely on self. Pride thinks about what I can do, how I am being perceived, if I am getting praised, whether I can make myself stand out even more. Paul speaks of humility as counting others more significant than oneself.

I’m struck by the words Paul uses to open up this section of discourse. Essentially he tells us, if we are to claim any experience of God, we must walk in unity. Unity is built through humility. Pride is not only detrimental to our personal walk, but to the unity of the Church. Pride divides because it makes us seek our individual good above the good of the community.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. -Philippians 2:5-8

Humility in its purest form was modelled to us by Jesus. This is the message of the gospel. God, in Jesus, became man and suffered death for our good. No human in history has had more justification for pride than Jesus, and yet He died the painful death of a common criminal for us. If God could elevate the needs of treasonous sinners above His own, how much more is required of us who are recipients of His grace and called to be His followers? The solution to pride is to be reminded of the gospel again.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11

What should be our primary motivation for killing pride? God’s glory. God is on a mission to redeem mankind and free all creation from the curse of sin. At the end of time, He will bring about a new heaven and earth and unite all creation under the banner of His worship. Today, He calls us to be His hands and feet building His kingdom. We pray for His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We don’t lose our individuality but leverage our unique gifts to proclaim His great name. Our pride, our glory can only get in the way of that. We kill pride by remembering the gospel and we kill pride for the sake of God’s glory.

Yet pride is more resilient than headless cockroach and has more rebirths than the Batman franchise. Pride doesn’t ever really go away; it simply hides in new disguises. I’ll likely struggles with pride until the day I die, fighting a constant battle to remember the gospel. And because I don’t think I’m the only one that fights this battle, I’d like to conclude with a wonderful scripture for meditation.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
-Psalm 139:23-24