How To Handle Personal Praise

What parents in their right minds would let their college freshman spend Spring Break in New Orleans? (“Let’s talk about this!”) Yet our son Matthew and his friends were not going there to party, but to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina—more than six months after its devastating landfall. Matthew couldn’t begin to describe the damage, exacerbated by months of rotting and infestation of vermin, but the most revolting thing they encountered were the insides of refrigerators left untouched for over half a year, and with no power source to cool and preserve even the most imperishable of contents. Can we even begin to imagine? These common kitchen appliances are not meant to be the end point of the cycle from harvest to consumption, but a brief stop along the way. Like streams of water or electrical circuitry, they are means of movement.

In a way, we, too, are designed to be conduits—God fashioned us to be conduits of praise, not its endpoint. “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness,”1 celebrated the psalmist. He understood the temptation to accept from others glory that is not rightfully ours—to let personal praise stagnate in our soul instead of flowing through us to God, where it belongs. “The crucible for silver, and the furnace for gold, but a man is tested by the praise he receives,”2 wrote Solomon. He understood, as well, our tendency to let praise spoil into pride. For as Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”3

Then how do we resist the temptation to harbor praise that ultimately belongs to God who blesses us in the first place? How do we keep pride from rotting and spoiling inside? Paul, again: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”4 We are called to good works,5 yes, but not for our own praise, rather as Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”6 We were created for God’s glory7; it is in Him that all praise rightfully resides. Then “let the one who boasts boast in the Lord”8 —may we humbly and gladly pass along to Him the glory He deserves.

Father, may I never accept glory that belongs to You, but forever be a conduit through whom praise flows to its rightful place—Your throne. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Psalm 115:1
2 Proverbs 27:21
3 1 Corinthians 4:7
4 1 Corinthians 10:31
5 Ephesians 2:10
6 Matthew 5:16
7 Isaiah 43:6-7
8 1 Corinthians 1:31


Invisible Weapons and Incredible Warriors

“Oh, no, you don’t!” protested our neighbor as she wrested our lawnmower from the grip of a would-be thief. My wife Peggy had walked up the street and, knowing she would return in just a matter of minutes, left our garage door open. He may have been watching, for in that slender sliver of time a man backed up our driveway, strolled into our garage and proceeded to load our mower onto his truck bed. Watching this unfold, our neighbor Janice1 confronted the man. “What are you doing?” she demanded. “They said I could borrow it,” the man replied. Not satisfied, Janice countered wisely, “Who said you could borrow it?” The man had no reply, obviously exposed, so acting on our behalf Janice took authority over him who had none. Armed only with truth and conviction, she seized our mower and wheeled it back to our garage. The man jumped into his truck and sped away.

Jesus taught that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”2 He spoke of the evil one, of course, our “enemy the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”3 He would rob us of understanding, faith, joy, and ultimately life itself. Like the man in the truck, he waits for “an opportune time,”4 yet also like the man in the truck, he has no authority over what is not his. For it is Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.”5 And “[we] belong to Christ.”6 Living in Him—and He in us—we have “authority to . . . overcome all the power of the enemy.”7 We are heirs with Christ, so it is crucial that we “know . . . his great power for us who believe.”8

Then we live in His authority to serve His purposes. Grounded in Him, we “stand against the devil’s schemes” and “struggle against the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”9 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world,” wrote Paul, “On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”10 For we wield truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer.11 Armed with these weapons and empowered by the authority of Christ, we stand immovably before the evil one and proclaim confidently to this would-be thief, “Oh, no, you don’t!”

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. —James 4:7

Father, You have put us in Christ, and in Him, we are made strong. Embolden us to pick up Your Kingdom weapons and stand confidently against our enemy. In the name of Christ and in the power of the Spirit we pray. Amen.

1 Name has been changed for this post.
2 John 10:10
3 1 Peter 5:8
4 Luke 4:13
5 Ephesians 1:21
6 1 Corinthians 3:23 NASB
7 Luke 10:19
8 Ephesians 1:18-19
9 Ephesians 6:11
10 2 Corinthians 10:4
11 Ephesians 6:14-18


The Road Who Leads to Life

There we were, at the dead end on “the Road to Nowhere.” Literally. Vacationing last month, Peggy and I had heard about this highway that abruptly halted just a few miles outside of Bryson City, NC, a gateway city to the Smoky Mountains National Park. The original plan drawn up in the early 1940s called for a road to reach Fontana Lake, but for a variety of reasons construction stopped, never to resume. Our curiosity got the best of us—besides, nearby trailheads beckoned these two eager hikers—so we ventured forth to see for ourselves. Along the way were signs of lingering local resentment; one billboard read, “Welcome to the Road to Nowhere. A Broken Promise. 1943—?” Three-generations later, disillusionment over hopes denied still boils over in anger.

In His “sermon on the mount,” Jesus said two life pathways lie before us—one is broad and its gates are wide; the entrance to the other is narrow and its path is constricted.1 The first way, though wide and easy, “leads to destruction,”2 He warned. Can you imagine the bewilderment and dismay its travelers will have upon arriving at such a destination? It is unthinkable; no description is adequate. Thankfully, the other path “leads to life,” although, tragically, “there are few who find it.”3 Then where is this narrow and difficult path; how do we locate its trailhead? Fortunately, Thomas stopped and asked for directions for us all: “How can we know the way?”4 Jesus’ answer would forever mark the narrow road to life. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” He replied, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”5 Jesus is the gate and path that lead to life. He is the way, and we can trust Him, for there are no broken promises in God.

Then what joy awaits the arrival of all who sojourn this living path! Isaiah gives us a glimpse in this prophecy that ultimately foretells our life in a new and everlasting Messianic age:

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it . . . Only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. —Isaiah 35:8-10 NIV

May this be our vision and our message as we walk in Christ, the road Who leads to life.

Father, in You there are no broken promises. Grace us to walk the narrow path—Christ Jesus, who is the Way and the Truth and the Life. In His name we pray. Amen.

1, 2, 3 Matthew 7:13-14 NASB
4 John 14:5 ESV
5 John 14:5-6 ESV