Who Deserves the Praise?

Imagine working for a boss who never thanks you for your effort. Say there is an important project with a looming deadline, and the whole team makes personal and professional sacrifices to make certain that the project gets completed on time and with superior quality. The owner of the company arrives and throws a big celebration party for your boss – but the team isn’t invited. You hear rumors of awards and bonuses being lavished upon your boss – but the team gets nothing. You see your boss in the hallway and congratulate him on the job well done – but he does not acknowledge that you or the team had anything to do with his accomplishment.  I think you get the picture. And what do you think of your imaginary boss?

You might stay at that job if you have devotion to the work the company does. You might stay because you need to provide for yourself and your family. But I’m pretty sure you won’t stay out of love for your boss. And the sense of injustice you feel toward the situation is not caused from a lack of humility or selflessness on your part. It rubs you wrong because the boss is prideful and the situation isn’t an honest representation of the work that’s being done.

Contrast that with a story a friend of mine shared yesterday. She had worked at a thankless job for years – often fielding complaints and rarely hearing gratitude. She was a teacher. At midlife she made a career change and came to work for a man who recognized the value of each person who contributed to the success of his business. He went out of his way to appreciate the “least” with simple words of thanks.  And he noticed and was thankful for the good work my friend was doing. That happened years ago, but it holds deep meaning for her even now. She said, “I would have done anything for that man.” His appreciation for her effort caused her to want to freely give more effort.

Now listen to this:

I looked again. I heard a company of Angels around the Throne, the Animals, and the Elders—ten thousand times ten thousand their number, thousand after thousand after thousand in full song:

The slain Lamb is worthy!
Take the power, the wealth, the wisdom, the strength!
Take the honor, the glory, the blessing!

Then I heard every creature in Heaven and earth, in underworld and sea, join in, all voices in all places, singing:

To the One on the Throne! To the Lamb!
The blessing, the honor, the glory, the strength,
For age after age after age.

The Four Animals called out, “Oh, Yes!” The Elders fell to their knees and worshiped.

The saved in heaven are a part of that crowd. And they are all, of one heart, praising the Lamb of God. There are several such descriptions in Revelation of this type of praise session bursting out around Jesus. This one is recorded in Revelation 5. And that leads me to believe this:

He alone is worthy of all the glory and all our praise.

“Well, of course!” you might say. “Any christian knows that.” We know it in our heads, but do we know it in our hearts?  Is that what comes out of our mouths?

Have you heard “God helps those who help themselves”? Or a similarly themed, “I have to do my best and God will do the rest.” Or “If you want to be saved, you have to keep all of the commandments – or at least try.”  Now I’d like you to consider this: If  when I get to heaven I’ve done 10% of the work to be saved and God has done 90%, where’s my praise? Or if I’ve been very strong-willed and able to pull off 45% and God picks up the other 55%, don’t I get more accolades than the person who could only put in 10%?  Or if I’ve disciplined myself severely and become perfect, obeying every commandment, don’t I deserve … all…the praise?

If I deserve some level of praise and instead all the glory and praise goes to Jesus, God would be dishonest, prideful, and unjust at best.Why would we want to spend eternity with a God like that? Why would we go along with that… for ever? The problem isn’t that we’re currently too selfish to accept that arrangement. The lopsided praise seems wrong because it would be against the very proclaimed nature of God for Him to accept that kind of praise if He wasn’t actually worthy of it.

However, if … if indeed we are in heaven 100% because of the gift of Jesus Christ, then and only then is He worthy of all the glory and all our praise.

And then He is a good, good God for being worthy of the praise and for accepting it.

So, if Salvation isn’t at all tied to what I do, “What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? ” Paul asked that very question in Romans 6.  And here was his immediate response, “Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

As we consider the love of Jesus, the Holy Spirit will increase our understanding of the Father’s heart, and we will respond to His love (John 12). We will desire to spend time with Him, and He will work in our lives to change us as we do so (Philippians 1, John 15). As we look to Him, we will be healed (Numbers 21, John 3). Our desires will be changed (2 Corinthians 3) and doing the will of our heavenly Father will be a natural response (Psalms 37).

So what about the law? It is a tutor, teaching us the nature of God and showing us how it differs from our own nature (Galatians 3). It is a mirror, allowing us to look at ourselves and realize our need of Jesus (James 1). That isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime look in the mirror. It is a daily look, a daily repentance, a daily dependence on Jesus. When we contemplate our lives and recognize where we’ve fallen short of the mark, a God-dependent response isn’t “I should be a better Christian than that. I need to try harder at that tomorrow.” But rather a God-dependent response sounds more like, “I failed to rely on You, Jesus. I believed a lie about You when I acted in opposition to Your way. I have sinned against You. I repent of my self-reliance. I repent of not trusting You in that area of my life today. I want to know You more, Jesus. Draw me to You. Help me to see You more clearly. Create in me a clean heart.” (Psalms 51) You see, we don’t spiritually mature out of our need for Jesus. But rather we realize our need for Him more as we grow (John 15).

There certainly is a reward for choosing to be a rule-follower and acting in kindness toward others. You are much more likely to live a life of freedom rather than imprisonment by doing so. You bring peace to yourself and to those around you. You enjoy a sense of stability and harmony with the world. But if you were hoping to do good things in order to contribute to your salvation, Jesus says, “You’ve already gotten your reward here on earth.” (Matthew 6)

Yes, in Revelation we are told “Here are they who keep the commandments of God” (Revelation 14:12). But I take that as a statement, not instruction. One cannot decide to keep the commandments in order to be in that group – or we would indeed deserve some of the praise that is lavished on Jesus in heaven. Rather, by deciding to follow Jesus every moment of every day, He will work in our lives to cause us to keep the commandments of God. For the commandments will be kept, but they are to be kept in spirit and in truth – not just in letter. (Romans 7, 8)  No amount of personal effort allows us to keep the spirit of the law without a new life in Christ. It is Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1).  It’s not that the glory I deserve pales in comparison to the glory Jesus deserves. It’s that He deserves all the glory.

Jesus is the hero of every story.

He deserves the praise!

And that’s good news!

25 Things

25

  1. I’m finding joy, freedom and peace in discovering who I am in Christ and allowing God to grow me rather than trying hard to be the person I think I should be or must be.
  2. The hands-down, single most redefining process in my life has been that of getting a tiny grasp on righteousness by faith. The situations God has been able to use to take me down this path defy my logic.
  3. As I increasingly embrace righteousness by faith, I am more able to allow me to be me, God to be God, and you to be you. It’s called boundaries.
  4. Simple pleasures for me would be a drive in the country, a book and a hammock, an iced coffee drink, a campfire, wandering through an art gallery, or a walk in the woods.
  5. I have a hard time turning my brain off at the end of the day if there is an unsolved puzzle buzzing around in it.
  6. Life is a bunch of unsolved puzzles.
  7. Since becoming single, I’m more relaxed around married men than single men.  Married men create no puzzle.
  8. My ideal set of vehicles would be a big ol’ pickup and a sleek, classy convertible.
  9. I’ve lived in 5 states and don’t know where to call home. I’m most emotionally attached to WY but there is no logical reason for me to call it home.
  10. I’m not very motivated by the quest for money or impressed with social position. Ironic for a doctor, but true.
  11. I more often tackle my fears and hurts than I flee from them ~ after I get done denying they exist.
  12. I believe most everyone is doing the best they can in life. But sometimes their best is detrimental to my well-being and their having good intentions doesn’t necessarily make a thing good for me. I believe God can read hearts and will honor their good intentions. He offers me the same grace.
  13. I still experience growing pains. Boy howdy!
  14. I’m finding the hardest part of parenting is the stopping part.
  15. Life is full of ironies. The hardest things are generally the most rewarding. Recognizing my weaknesses is a strength. Letting go allows me to fully attain.  My spiritual growth has resulted in my life looking less traditionally spiritual. Ironic.
  16. I like playing with boy toys (you know… guns, ATV’s, 4WD’s, tools… ~ sheesh ~ ).
  17. It never ceases to amaze me how my kids can be so much like me sometimes and the spitting image of their dad at other times.
  18. I’ve always wanted to explore Alaska. Wild places call me.
  19. My ideal house would be a cabin in the mountains or woods with a lake nearby.
  20. I enjoy the arts.
  21. My best memories from childhood include fishing and camping with my family.
  22. A writing project will distract me from my work most any day ~ like today.
  23. I’m grateful for my past ~ as tough and messed up as it’s been at times ~ because it’s brought me to where I am.  It’s been worth it.
  24.  I’ve always been sincere. But many times I’ve been sincerely wrong.
  25. I used to think I could and should do great things for God. Now I understand that it’s God who does great things for me – most of which are not seen and can’t be touched with your hand. The best I can do for Him is simply share what He’s doing in my life so others might choose to get to know Him for themselves.

IH8Mud

If you are a Cruiser fan, you may also enjoy Moving Forward in the Rear-View Mirror.

“I am a Cruiser widow” my post began.  I joined IH8Mud.com looking for information.  It’s a website dedicated to the exchange of information for Toyota die-hards.  My husband had been a member for years and spent hours during the cold winter months scouring the site to gather more knowledge from those in-the-know.  He did his research before embarking on any project with the Cruiser.  I was certain I could find some answers there.  What had he been doing out in the shop with his “baby” while I cared for our babies in the house?  I wasn’t sure.  But I was pretty sure somebody on IH8Mud could probably help me.  Not only was I right, but I got much more than I could have ever imagined. The members describe themselves as a “close-knit” group and an on-line “community”.  That they are.  They are many in number and varied in background but come together with a singular purpose- to share their love of Toyotas.  The support and exchange of information that I gathered there resulted in my having a few visitors on Sunday; one, a pilot from CO who is a “forum lifer” and has completed several Cruiser projects of his own; another, also a forum subscriber who turned out to be a neighbor a few blocks from me who is good with pictures, computers, and knows a few other Cruiser guys in the area; and a third, my neighbor’s friend who is a car enthusiast and came along for the ride. “Wow!  He bought genuine Toyota bolts!”   “The frame on this thing is in incredible condition!”  “Ohhh….a complete set of door seals.”  And the exclamations went on and on.  “If a vehicle just looks fancied-up on the outside, it needs to be sold on eBay.  If it’s mechanically sound and a solid vehicle in the guts of it, list it on IH8Mud.  I can tell he took meticulous care of it.  He did it the right way.  He got it the way it should be on the inside before worrying about the outside.   The bonus with this one is that he already did all the research and gathered the parts needed to also make it fancied-up.  Somebody just needs to finish putting it all together.  This is as close to a “barn-find” as one can get these days.  Wow!  This one definitely needs to sell on IH8Mud.”

As I listened to the admiration the “gear heads” had for his work, I felt a renewed appreciation of my husband and his skills.  He was self-taught.  He sand-blasted, welded, patched and painted.  He rebuilt engines and axles.  He got us home over a mountain pass pulling our Scamp, floating the gears in the FJ40 after the clutch broke at the start of a weekend excursion.  While replacing the broken clutch piece he also replaced all the hoses that were accessible while doing the job – just because.  He designed and obtained the parts for a tail gate and swing-away tire/ cooler carrier which his welder friend fabricated.  He was careful and precise.  If he was going to do something, he was going to do it right.  He invested in quality.  He was more concerned with the inside workings of a thing than the outside beauty of it.  That’s a commendable quality in a man.

A couple of the forum subscribers took the effort to search for Jeff’s username on IH8Mud so they could see what he had been chatting about and maybe help me out by that means.  I had tried several variations that I thought might be his name but with no luck.  Someone else found it for me.  And so I got to read all of his 46 comments.  There weren’t any posts about his latest accomplishments or pictures of the fine work he’d done.  I saw our Scamp listed for sale.  It sold in September 2007- one more thing God took care of before we knew we needed it.  I saw him looking for front mud flaps for the Lexus which explains why I don’t have running boards on it.  I saw him posting problems and asking for solutions.  And, surprisingly, I saw him write on the forum encouraging someone he had never met to seek to know the God of heaven who loves him so much that He offers eternal life to all those who believe in Him.  And my heart was moved.  Jeff lived his personal life the same way he worked on his car.  He was quiet about his walk with God.  It wasn’t all “fancied-up” on the outside.  He had been doing his homework and getting the “parts together” for years.  The changes in his life were occurring in the “guts of it” – not always obvious to the outsider, or, even the insider.

Another blessing from the weekend came as a totally unexpected surprise.  Now follow this one closely because it is so hard to believe.  The forum subscriber, who turned out to be my neighbor a few blocks away, stopped by the car enthusiast’s house to pick him up before coming to look at the vehicle at my house.  His friend’s wife was also on her way out the door, headed to a graduation party.  She pulled out of the drive first.  Imagine their surprise when the forum subscriber proceeded to follow her as they both headed to their separate destinations.  The graduation party the car enthusiast’s wife was attending was at my next door neighbor’s house.  She’s good friends with my neighbor.  After spending time at the party, she came over to my driveway where the “pit crew” was gathered.  She wanted to introduce herself.  Totally unbeknown to me, at the request of my next door neighbor she’s been faithfully praying for me for the past 1 1/2 years.

God is good… and faithful… all the time.  Who would have thought I would be reminded of that through a website called IH8Mud.com?