Choosing to glorify God clears up the gray areas

I run a publishing company with two very good friends. It’s a little side business we decided to try last year, and it’s growing. It actually might be getting close to becoming a “real” business soon, and while that’s exciting, it also means a lot more challenges. Some I expected and others I didn’t.

The publishing company has a blog that the three of us update weekly, and we wanted to do TV and movie reviews. No big deal, right? Well, a legal situation in the middle of this year prompted us to start looking into the legality of using images we don’t own. Like stills from movies or television shows. It’s a big, confusing mess of legalese, and really all it amounts to is that the whole thing is sort of gray.

So what does that mean? It means you have to make the best, wisest decision you can with the information you have. Sure, you can wing it. You can guess. But that’s a surefire way of making the wrong choice. You need to think, to look at your goals, study the law, and make your decision.

Ever realized that following Jesus is sort of the same in some ways?

OT37RD9KJNToday’s verses are 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

The Bible is very clear on the important aspects of following God. Who God is. Who Jesus is. The work of the Holy Spirit. Salvation by grace through faith. Eternal security. And many others. But there are other areas that aren’t as black and white. There are other areas some people call gray. And navigating the gray areas is often the biggest source of conflict between believers.

The law is very clear about some things, and it’s a bit fuzzy on others. Best example? Modesty. Should women only wear skirts? I’m not sure if this is as big a deal today as it was 15+ years ago. When I was in high school, it was the only discussion (or it felt like it was). Jeans and slacks and trousers are considered by some to be immodest when worn by women. But the other side of that coin? What about women who live in states like Kansas where the wind never quits blowing? Have you ever tried to wear a skirt and work outside in Kansas wind? Modest isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind.

But there’s no verse in the Bible that says women shouldn’t wear pants. The Bible just instructs us to be modest. And modesty (to a certain extent) is a matter of preference. And that’s where an understanding of the spirit of the law needs to go into effect. What is the point? What is the truth? Why is modesty important, and what should we do achieve it?

That’s when you need to start studying. You need to start digging and asking questions. You need to look for the answers because they aren’t always obvious. And you might not ever find an obvious answer, and it’s at that point when you need to take what you know about the Bible and about who God is and what He expects and make the best choice you can.

Don’t cheap out on this, folks. That’s a quick way to get yourself in a heap of trouble. If you don’t know what to do, study. Read the Bible. Search for the answer. Get council from someone at your church who you trust. Listen. And pray. Talk to God and ask Him what you’re supposed to do. And then–choose.

It all comes down to glorifying God in everything you do. That’s how you can clear out the gray areas. That’s how you can figure out what you’re supposed to do when the answers aren’t presenting themselves easily. First and foremost, do everything for God’s glory. That means obeying His Word in letter and spirit–in letter for the instructions that are obvious and in spirit for the expectations He has for our lives.

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Copyright 2015 AC Williams LLC

Don’t be afraid of commitment

While I was camping in the wilds of Colorado last week, I woke up in the middle of the night and had to go to the bathroom. At home, it’s pretty easy to get out of bed, tromp downstairs to our 100-year-old home’s single bathroom, and then return to bed. But when you’re camping?

First, it was freezing. Either low 40s or high 30s, so I had lots of layers on, and lots of layers always make it more complicated to navigate when you’re bundled up inside a sleeping bag. But I didn’t just have my sleeping bag. I also had a gigantic fluffy TARDIS blanket that I’d cuddled up with inside my sleeping bag because even with all my layers on, I was still freezing. Second, once I managed to get out of the sleeping bag, I had to put my shoes on, unzip the first layer of my tent, unzip the second layer of my tent, and get up off the ground. I needed my flashlight too and my extra sweatshirt. Once all that was accomplished, I still needed to hike then 1/8th of a mile (or so) to the vault toilets.

That was just to get there. Getting back into the sleeping back took just as much work. The lesson I learned? No matter what you’re doing when you’re camping, whether it’s sleeping or cooking or walking or even getting up at night, it takes commitment, because everything you do takes 10 times the work.

Copyright 2015 AC Williams LLC

My tent set up at Happy Meadows Campground, west of Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Colossians 3:23-24.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Our world today is scared of the word commitment. Granted, it is a scary word and an even scarier concept–to be devoted to a principle or an ideal or a person or a company. It takes a lot of trust and a lot of forgiveness sometimes, and it takes a lot of work. A lot of work.

Being committed to something, person or object, requires that you care about it more than you care about yourself and your personal ambitions. Being committed means that you’re not selfish. When you’re willing to go all in for someone or something, it means that no matter the cost, you’ll do what’s necessary.

It’s important to do what God says matters, but there isn’t really a Bible verse that says what job you should work or what career you should pursue or what college degree you should get. God’s given us each our own skill sets and dreams and desires, so we each need to do what we think He’s calling us to do as individuals. The end goal just should be to glorify Him in all that we do.

See that word? Whatever? Whatever you do, do it like you’re working for God. Whether it’s work or church or family or friends, whether it’s your relationship with your parents or your kids or your spouse, whatever you’re doing today, do it the way God says is right. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you. Maybe you think it will open you up to ridicule or make you a target. But if God says it’s right, do it. It doesn’t matter what people say.

That’s what being committed means. You do it even if it isn’t fun. You do it even if it means more work for you. It’s not about what you’ll get out of it. It’s about how much glory you can give God before, during, and afterward, trusting that the reward God will bestow is worth far much more than anything you can earn down here.

God’s looking for people who will do what He asks. You can ask questions. You can have doubts. Just don’t give up. Don’t let the amount of work facing you convince you that it won’t be worth it. God makes everything worth it.

Your light can only shine in one of two directions

I live in an old house, and sometimes we have power outages. Not because of a storm or anything. Sometimes the power just goes out. That’s why we keep a stash of candles readily available in case the power goes out at night time, because until you’ve lived in the country, you don’t know pitch black.

On one hand, it’s incredible because you can see every star in the sky. On the other hand, it’s disconcerting because you can’t see that hand in front of your face–or the skunk in your driveway that’s feeling threatened by you because you’re out watching stars. You get the picture.

In a dark room, it’s incredible the amount of light a single candle can put out. It’s incredible how far light can travel. So just imagine being in a completely pitch black room with a candle burning. How would you react if somebody put a basket over that candle to block the light? Would that relieve you? Probably not.

DSC_1667Today’s verses are Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Jesus compared His followers to candles shining in the darkness. Bright, burning flames that shine and are visible for miles and miles, all pointing to God. There are a couple of different ways to take this set of verses, and mainly the one I hear most frequently is for living a Christ-like life. And that’s so true. But I think there’s more to being the light of the world than WWJD. God made us each individuals, specifically gifted and specially designed to do something awesome for God.

Jesus wanted His followers to shine for God. That meant taking their talents and gifts and using them for God’s glory. Not hiding them out of fear of rejection.

In my experience, most people think that following God and having fun can’t happen at the same time. There’s this idea that if God wants you to do it, you should be miserable, that following God should be a lifelong sacrifice that requires you to never have fun and never enjoy life. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth!

God created us to have specific talents and abilities, and that means He wants us to use those talents and abilities. Why else would we have them? Otherwise what’s the point? You have a special talent or skill and you hide it in a basket so nobody can see it? What sense does that make?

But a word of caution. Jesus didn’t say to use our gifts so that we could become rich and famous. No, we’re to use our gifts to bring glory and honor to God. That means if you have a gift, don’t forget Who gave it to you.

So does that make famous people bad or wrong because they used their gifts to obtain wealth? Not at all! There’s nothing wrong with being compensated for something you’ve achieved, but as a Christ-follower, the spotlight shouldn’t be your goal–shining the spotlight on God should be your goal.

The light you shine with your gifts and talents can only go one of two directions–either pointing people toward God or pointing people toward yourself.

Jesus wanted God to get the glory for His life, and we should want the same thing. We should want our accomplishments and our talents to reflect God’s creativity and His grace and love and power, and everything we do should point to Him in a way that other people want to know Him.

So don’t hold back. Do your best. Shine as bright as you can and be loud about it. But remember Who gets the credit.

Ladybug in the wheat - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Defining glory

I grew up in the church. From cradle to pew to stadium seating, I’ve been in church my whole life. I’m quite comfortable around church culture, but as comfortable as I am there, I try not to stay there. Because let’s be honest: church culture isn’t really relevant to the rest of the world.

But even when I’m trying to expand my boundaries and get out of the church mentality, I sometimes slip back into a nasty habit of using common religious words and phrases that confuse people. It’s the same with any other culture. Groups of like-minded (or not-so-like-minded) people who spend a lot of time together create words and phrases that mean something to them, and when they try to communicate outside their little comfort zones, no one else understands.

I’m a copywriter for a marketing team. I and the other writer in the team often discuss the merits and disadvantages of comma usage, and we quite frequently use terms like nonessential and clause and reductionist. And if you aren’t a writer, or if you aren’t interested in grammar at all, those won’t mean anything to you.

It’s the same with the church. Baptism by emersion. Sanctification vs. Justification. Passing the plate. Fellowship. Giving your heart to Jesus. Terms and phrases like these make little sense outside the church.

Ladybug in the wheat - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Ladybug in the wheat – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 143:11.

For the glory of your name, O Lord, preserve my life.
    Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress.

I’ve always loved the phrase,For the glory of your name. There’s just something moving about it. And it fits nearly any situation that you’re going through.

If you’re happy, it’s for God’s glory. If you’re sad, it’s for God’s glory. Whether you’re gainfully employed or not, it’s for God’s glory.  And so on and so forth. But let’s be real about it; no one really knows what it means. It’s just one of those churchy phrases that is great to tack on to any sentence to make you sound like a better Christian.

What does it mean to live for God’s glory? To suffer for God’s glory? To rejoice for God’s glory? What is glory?

Glory is placing value on someone or something by your actions.

If you own an expensive vase or a rare portrait, you’re going to want to display it in a way that brings attention to it. You’re going to want set it up in a place where the light is just right, where people see it and recognize how priceless it is. That is bringing glory to that object.

If you are given the opportunity to host a famous person in your home, you would give him the best room, feed him the best food, make sure he had everything he needed. And you would introduce him to people with the utmost respect, making sure they know who he is and what he means to you. That is bringing glory to that person.

We don’t hesitate to bring glory to priceless objects or famous people. But when it comes to bringing glory to God, we usually find something else to talk about.

Maybe we just don’t know how. Because it’s easy to bring glory to something other people can see. It’s easy to bring glory to a person who can prove their great works. But bringing glory to God is kind of a different story, isn’t it? How can you glorify Someone who nobody can even see? You can’t very well put God on a shelf and shine a light on Him. You can’t very well take Him to a party and introduce Him to all of your friends. Not literally at least.

But what you can do is recognize Him as your motivation.

That’s what it means to live for God. That’s what it means to glorify God with your life. If He is your motivation, your purpose, your reason for living, that brings glory to His name. That makes people stop and listen up because if you can live and suffer and rejoice and maintain that God is your motivation for living the way you do, people will pay attention.

Some people live for money and material wealth. Some people live for people, social interaction and political influence. Some people live for themselves. But if your driving factor for living is give God the credit for everything, not only will other people notice a difference in you, but you will also experience a satisfying life. Because all the money and all the friends and all the selfishness in our culture can’t bring you peace like God can.