Glory

“I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”      ~ Abraham Lincoln

 Recognizing God’s glory and his irrefutable claim on the ultimate place in our hearts can be a deal breaker for many when it comes to believing or not. I have personally experienced seeing this in people and the inevitable negative fallout that ensues for everyone around them as they continue down a path of unbelief. If they had to share their accomplishments with God, recognize their weaknesses before God or give him any credit for the smallest good thing that they feel only they had accomplished, then they would completely reject the thought of believing in God.

 If we are unable to imagine or think in spiritual terms, we can’t possibly give God his rightful place in our hearts.  “. . . where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21   If we don’t have this spiritual knowing, this supernatural awareness, then, it’s easy to reject even the notion of God.  Having a spiritual comprehension of an entity beyond ourselves that we cannot see, is a gift from God that we receive if we seek him with a faith that can be as small as a grain of mustard seed. This mustard seed of faith can result from receiving a miracle or witnessing God’s love and respect for others in someone’s life.

Writing a chapter about God’s glory is daunting in its scope.  I would want the person who doesn’t believe to at least entertain the possibility that as you look back over your life and can trace a pattern of good events – life altering events – that it could be the evidence of an unseen Force who knows you better than you know yourself to place in your life an even better course of action than the original one you were pursuing. These are miracles. Belief in miracles takes a spiritual consciousness that comes from God when we exercise our faith. It is then up to us what we will do with this awareness. Will we nurture it and allow it to grow or just let it die so we don’t have to be accountable to anyone or anything beyond ourselves. 

The prophet Isaiah, believed in God but he couldn’t possibly imagine the immensity of the living God who called into being, sustained and guided his nation, Israel, till one day during a time of dark uncertainty in his life.  His king, Uzziah had just died of a terrible disease – leprosy- during the final years of his reign. King Uzziah was anointed the king as a youth of 16. He started out well enough in his faithfulness to God and because of that God helped him.  He did many great things for his people and became famous. In II Chronicles 26 we find this recorded about him: “In Jerusalem, he made devices invented for use on the towers and on the corner defenses so that soldiers could shoot arrows and hurl large stones from the walls. His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful.”  Toward the end of his reign as it descended into ruin, the people had become more and more rebellious against God.  Their land was glutted with idols as they worshipped the deities they made with their own hands. The year was 742BC.  Isaiah was a young man who was faithful to God and as he stood on the threshold of his life’s work, God gifted him with a vision beyond breathtaking, that changed his life: 

Isaiah 6:1-4

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ’Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’  At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” 

The following quote helps us understand the impact this experience had on Isaiah’s ministry:

“The vision of the Lord enthroned in glory stamps an indelible character on Isaiah’s ministry and provides a key to the understanding of his message.  The majesty, holiness and glory of the Lord took possession of his spirit and, at the same time, he gained a new awareness of human pettiness and sinfulness.  The enormous abyss between God’s sovereign holiness and human sinfulness overwhelmed the prophet.  Only the purifying coal of the seraphim could cleanse his lips and prepare him for acceptance of the call: ’Here I am, send me!’ . . . (verses 5-6) For Isaiah, the vision of God’s majesty was so overwhelming that military and political power faded into insignificance. He constantly called his people back to reliance on God’s promises and away from vain attempts to find security in human plans and intrigues.  This vision also led him to insist on the ethical behavior that was required of human beings who wished to live in the presence of such a holy God.”  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

Another case in point would be Saul of Tarsus in the book of Acts.  He was known as a religious, educated man, yet according to Scripture, God had to forcefully get his attention through an extreme experience and cause him to be blind for three days.  

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.

‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’  ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered. 11 The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’ 13 ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name. 17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, ‘Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.”  Acts 9:1-22 NIV

The non-believer would see this as a vengeful God who would make someone blind in order to force them to believe.  When the Scriptures talk about darkness into light, not-believing to believing in a miraculous moment, it can be difficult to understand for many who lack spiritual awareness.  The Holy Spirit must be a part of this process.  When you read the scriptures that Paul wrote after that experience, it is obvious that there was a re-born newness of life that Saul experienced to be able to see with new eyes and a new spiritual consciousness. It was through the Apostle Paul and the other apostles that Jesus Christ established His church and the absolute life-giving pattern for us to follow today. 

God’s full impact on our life is beyond our human awareness.  We are unable to imagine the extent of him. 

In 2016, a documentary about the beginnings of the internet was produced by German filmmaker Werner Herzog.  In the 50’s and 60’s a government security program was created.  The computer was the outcome.  In the beginning it filled a room with its size.  Today we can hold that technology in our hands.  The first message sent from one computer to another one 400 miles away was “LO” because the computer system attempting to send the message “LOGIN” crashed before it could be completed.  “Lo and Behold” is the logical name given to this documentary which is in itself a prophetic sign of what was to come.

The Internet’s takeover of the global communication landscape was almost instant in historical terms: it only communicated 1% of the information flowing through two-way telecommunications networks in the year 1993, already 51% by 2000, and more than 97% of the telecommunicated information by 2007. Today the Internet continues to grow, driven by ever greater amounts of online information, commerce, entertainment, and social networking.”  Wikipedia   

The earliest internet directory which had subscribers listed twice, once for their name and once for their address, was around an inch thick. Today, a directory of everyone on the internet would be 72 miles thick.  No one could have possibly imagined something like we have today in the computer and internet and the way it has brought the world together.   

Just as this communication technology has skyrocketed in immensity beyond our imaginations, there are spiritual truths in existence that are incrementally coming into our awareness that we couldn’t possibly imagine with our finite minds, subject to limitations.  Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we cannot grasp the miraculous concepts that God wants to share with us.  I believe that I have only scratched the surface of understanding what and who God truly is. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.  More than anything, God is a loving parent.  He brings us along gently and slowly so that we can absorb all the “ah-hah” and “light bulb” moments he has in store for those who seek to know him and worship him.  If we closely look at the almost invisible world around us that sustains our physical existence, we will find undeniable evidence of kingdoms within kingdoms that have order and are connected to one another through a common Creator.   Even God’s special family, Israel, after all they had seen with their own eyes of their living God, the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, he had to plead with them to recognize and choose him:

19  “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV

Not just the unbelievers, but God’s own followers have problems with their belief in all things. 

In the last part of “Lo and Behold” Herzog spoke of the possibility and even the next step of the internet was for it to become invisible as it embeds our lives.  The examples that were given were walking into a room and instantly the light, temperature and mood would change to our personal specifications – a futuristic world.  The Amazon Echo that connects you to “Alexa Voice Service” online is one form of the beginnings of that capability.  Toward the end of the documentary, Herzog queried the experts he was interviewing to consider that the world-wide web could dream of itself and the possibility of it having its own consciousness, its own set of rules, something called Artificial Intelligence, something you would long for in an idol you created.  

 I immediately thought of the connection I have with God through his Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, invisible to the physical eye but real with the capacity to give me everything that I need to make me happy and feel fulfilled in ways that are uniquely meaningful to me. 

“. . . my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19 NIV

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” I Chronicles 29:11 NIV

“You’ve been created by God.  And if that wasn’t enough, you’ve also been created for Him.  As a result, there’s an internal homing device riveted deep within your soul that perpetually longs for your Maker: An internal, Godward magnet pulling your being toward Him.  Stamped in God’s image, we know that there’s something we attach to, something we fit with, someone we belong to, somewhere called home. That’s why we come from the womb equipped for connectivity with God, prewired to praise.  And that’s why, from the youngest age we begin to worship.   We arrive in this world as objects of divine affection, miraculous receptors designed to bring him pleasure.  If only everyone could know we’ve been created by and for God!  If only we could all comprehend that we’re precious to Him, housing mirrored souls designed to reflect His glory.” Taken from “The Air I Breathe” Louie Giglio.

When we talk about glorifying God with our lives it’s important that we understand the Hebrew meaning of “glory”.

Steven C. Hawthorne has a blog online and has written “The Story of His Glory”.  I would recommend that you find it online and read it.  He offers the Hebrew understanding of “glory”:

“Don’t be thrown off by the religious-sounding word ‘glory’. Glory is the relational beauty that every person’s heart yearns to behold and even to enter.  The word ‘glory’ in scripture refers to the essential worth, beauty and value of people, created things and, of course the Creator Himself.  The Hebrew word for glory is a word meaning weight, substance, and at the same time, brilliance or radiant beauty.  To glorify someone is to recognize their intrinsic worth and beauty, and to speak of the feature in a public way. To glorify God is to praise or to speak of Him openly and truthfully.  Glory is at the heart of true worship throughout the Scriptures: ‘All nations whom you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord; and they shall glorify your name.’ Psalm 86:9.. . When we look at it all from God’s viewpoint, the grand love story finally makes sense: God is not just loving people.  He is transforming them to become people who can fully love Him.  God is drawing people as worshipers to offer freely to Him their love-inspired glory.  God can be loved only when He is known. That’s why the story of the Bible is the story of God revealing Himself in order to draw to Himself obedient worship, or glory, from the nations.  With God’s passionate love at the core, the Bible is truly the story of His glory. . . The rationale for mission seems simple enough: Since God is supreme, every creature should bow down in subjection.  But can this really be the logic at the center of the universe?  Our hearts won’t buy it.  There is something more.  The Scriptures are loud about the truth that God is love.  God calls people to love Him with all that they are.  Where is God’s love, and ours, in response?”   Hawthorne

In this writing, Hawthorne makes the point about our ultimate salvation – that it is not to be seen in terms of what we are saved “from” rather what we are saved “for” that really matters. 

Some people still get hung up on God being a “jealous” God.  “ Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden.  For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” Deuteronomy 4:23-24 NIV    “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.”  Isaiah 42:8 NIV 

There is an interesting story in the book of I Samuel 5 that dramatically demonstrates these references. “After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained.That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.” I Samuel 5:1-5

God will not share his glory with the idols we create to take his place.  Every plague in the Exodus story of Moses was meant to fly in the face of every god that Egypt had created with their own hands to worship.  1. Water into blood – “Hapi” – god of the Nile; 2. Frogs – “Heket” – god who looked like a frog was their god of fertility;  3. Lice –  “Geb” – Egyptian god over the dust of the earth; 3 & 4 Flies and gnats – “Khepri”- Egyptian God of creation, movement of the Sun, rebirth, had the head of a fly and “Sekmet” goddess of power over disease. 5. Death of cattle and livestock – “Hathor”-Egyptian Goddess of Love and Protection, usually depicted with the head of a cow; .6. Boils and sores on livestock and Egyptian people – “Isis”- Egyptian Goddess of Medicine and Peace Egyptian Plague; 7. Hail and fire – “Nut” Egyptian Goddess of the Sky; 8. Locusts from the sky – “Seth” god of storms and disorder and “Osiris” god of crops and fertility;  9. Three days of complete darkness – “Re” The Sun god – the pharaoh was considered to be the son of “Re”;  10. Death of the Egyptian first born – “Min” – god of reproduction and “Isis” goddess who protected children.  Again, God will not share his glory with the idols we create to take his place.

Now, we ask the important question -Does God share His glory with us? Internet  blogger Jeremy Penwarden offers this answer:

“God has said, ‘I will not give My glory to another’. This scripture is taken by many and twisted out of its context to make many other scriptures a lie. I recently saw the following quote which prompted my writing of this blog: ‘Now get this clear: the vessel never becomes the liquid, nor the liquid the vessel. I add this because we humans are so proud that there creeps into us the idea that we can be deified. That is blasphemy. There is no such thing as self-deification, except that of Satan, the pseudo-God, and what we share with him. The divine can dwell in the human, but forever the human is the human and the divine the divine. God has said, “I will not give My glory to another. That is the vital importance of the vessel illustration: we are forever the container; He is that which we contain. That relationship never changes.’  Norman Grubb –The Key to Everything.  (Penwarden’s response) Moses’ face shone so bright with the glory of God that he had to wear a veil [Ex 34:29-34]. God seems to be happy to share his glory with Moses. Then we have John 17:22. ‘The glory that you have given me I have given to them’.  Jesus (God) giving His glory to us. What is the verse quoted above? Isaiah 48:11. But what is the context? From verse 1 God is talking about the things he did. Then he says in verse 5 I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’ So here the contrast is between saying God did it or my idol did it. Clearly the idol is the ‘another’ God will not give his glory to.  Now consider Isaiah 60:2: ’For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.’ God’s glory will be seen upon us – maybe it’s just lent to us and not given? Another scripture to consider is Rom 8:16-17 ‘The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be GLORIFIED with him.’  Now let’s consider if we remain mere human. John 1:12 those who believe are given the right to become sons of God, NOT born of flesh but of Spirit. . . .And not a mere container separate from the content – 1 Cor 6:17 ‘But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.’ So we are in Christ – 2 Cor 5:17 again calls us IN Christ – so He is the container and we are the contained, yet Col 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  So He is in us, we’re in Him and we’ve so joined with him that the two can never be separated.  And yet again, we have Christ in US our hope of glory – clearly the glory of God being given to us – unless we claim that the Christ in us has first been stripped of His glory!!!  2 Cor 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another – for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Here Paul is remembering Moses’ face shining with the glory of God. It comes from the Lord, so God is doing this – transforming us into the image of the glory of God in an increasing way. I am NOT forever a container – I am forever a son of God.”  Jeremy Penwarden

The Scriptures are clear that God has created us with a purpose to not only glorify him with our lives but to be endowed with his glory as we transform into the new creatures spoken of in II Corinthians 5:17 NIV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Especially, throughout the Old Testament, God makes it quite clear about how he feels about his creation especially in his interaction with Israel.  For a better understanding, read about his love for Israel, and how they were intended to display to the world who he truly is and draw the world to him through their faithful living.  Isaiah 43:1–7:

“But now, this is what the Lord says—  he who created you, Jacob,

 he who formed you, Israel: ’Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you;  I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, ‘It is true’ ‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” Isaiah 43:1-10 NIV

 “Glory” has been written for many purposes but one important one is to raise the spiritual intelligence by dispelling the fear message of hell-fire and brimstone, a God of anger and vengeance, a God who wants to use shame, guilt and fear to keep us under control and on the right path.  When John the Baptist called everyone to repent – repent and be baptized- we need to consider what he meant by this.  In his time the Greek definition of “repent” or “metanoia” the Greek word, had a much deeper meaning than just turning from your sins.  “It doesn’t mean just being sorry for doing bad things, it means to “go beyond the mind into a larger mind – the heart and mind of God.”    These are the words that Reverend Maggie Kramer at the Raymondville UMC used to present this concept and further stated that “God is inviting you to a new way of feeling, seeing and hearing”.  When Christ was baptized, the heavens opened and God’s Spirit descended like a dove to show the world that “Here I am, coming into your life so you can become the new creation that I created you to become, filled with my Spirit, no longer looking back at the old life weighed down with guilt, regret and shame but co-creating with me and sharing my glory.”  Only the message of the unmerited grace of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can reach the heart that cannot see and has not felt the quickening of the Spirit.  That message is most powerful when it is witnessed in our lives for the unbeliever to see and experience.  That is when it becomes real. “Each of us is connected in the inner man (being) to a vast sea of consciousness – the Spirit – it is called.  We were in the beginning with the Father, that which is Spirit. From beneath the deeps in this vast sea of consciousness by which we are connected to every other human being –whether we are conscious of it for not – our connection with every other human being comes to our consciousness only when we are born again and when we see clearly our relationship with our heavenly Father, which in turn induces an understanding of our essential relationship and involvement with our fellow man.” Arthur Oakman, author and minister.

 “Listen to me, Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he;  I am the first and I am the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,  and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together . . .  “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.”And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with his Spirit. This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed from before me.” Isaiah 43:11-19 NIV

The life and words of Jesus Christ have transformative power for the seeker because Jesus has a heart for that person who feels misunderstood, unfairly treated and is a victim of those who abuse their power to be lifted up in the eyes of the world, many times in the name of religion. Jesus says “But many [that are] first shall be last; and the last first.”  Mark 10:31 NIV

In John 17, in Jesus’ prayer to His Heavenly Father regarding his disciples then and now, He clearly states God’s intention for His creation:

“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”  John 17:16-23 NIV

It is my prayer that we will be the message of glory and unmerited grace for everyone in our life – our family, our co-workers and our community as we live out daily the kingdom of God that has been placed in us.  It is the only Way. 

“1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.”  Psalm 98 NIV

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