Glory, or Not, In the New Normal

Abraham was blessed to be a blessing. Us too!

The complete breakdown in ancient Israel was their forgetting about blessing the nations in Abraham. Too often, much of our “walk” with God shows up as an inward focused spirituality.

If my spiritual life is anything less than a calling it is less than spiritual. I often find myself retreating to a cup of coffee sprinkled with a few chapters of the Bible and a quick prayer before doing my own thing while hoping God will bless it. At least for one more day.

This morning I was again reading Paul in Ephesians. Written during his second imprisonment and prior to his execution. He’s busy admonishing readers of his letter to remain true to the fullness of their calling. Also reminds them that Jesus is able to do more than we can ask or expect. All this in the shadows of his imprisonment and reminder to not lose heart “at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”

What’s it mean, Glory?

What? How could Paul’s tribulations be the glory of the churches in Ephesus. Or, our glory, too?

Found myself dumbfounded by one man’s imprisonment posing as another’s glory. That was when I read the word glory in the sense of fame or honor. No Greek scholar, me. I dug out my trusty interlinear Bible and it’s links to a dictionary. Found that the Amplified Bible perhaps translated the passage best, ”So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you.”

Paul gave us all reason to praise God for what he suffered and how he saw it as opportunity for the gospel—remember the palace guards and members of Caesar’s household?

Beyond that, his understanding that all things actually do work together for good to those who are called according to his purpose. That thought brings me back to his admonition to walk worthy of our calling in the first verse of chapter four. It’s in the calling that our walk with God finds meaning. The prison gig, even execution, was part of Paul’s calling in Christ. What’s yours?

Engaging the New Normal

Heavy on my mind is the world we’ll face as we exit COVID-19. You’re probably tired of reading stuff about this pandemic but don’t stop reading because this is not about a pandemic but a “brave new world.”

So far, we’re not doing too well with all this. Facebook is filled with folks trying to wrap themselves in slogans about faith and positive thoughts. Others whine about having to wear masks or inability to frequent their favorite restaurant. We seem to forget that people are still talking about the “Spanish Flu,” which happened 102 years ago. They’ll be talking about the “China Virus” 100 years hence.

The last pandemic changed the economy, medicine and the way people respond to each other. This will too.

Medicine is going online. As is education. I’m ordering fresh produce delivered from Walmart. Some folks tremble to get back into church buildings where they won’t be able to hug or even shake hands. The world has changed. Others say they won’t return too quickly out of caution, myself included. Still others, nearly 30 percent according to one survey, say they prefer church in their living room—they don’t want to return to the big box.

To Glory or Not?

No matter what, the future brings major adjustments to us all. Will it turn out for our “glory?” Will there be reasons to praise God for guiding us into paths that expand his kingdom? Will we pout about the world forever changing or will we rejoice in the tools, technologies and new leaders we’ve discovered during the down time? It’s up to you and me to turn our calling into our walk.

I love feeding this blog. Love, even more, the comments it receives. If you appreciate my efforts, please respond in the comments box, below. And, it wouldn’t hurt if you’d share a link via social media. Thanks for reading!



18 thoughts on “Glory, or Not, In the New Normal”

  1. “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the GLORY of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His GLORY will be seen upon you.”
    ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭60:1-2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

    [Emphasis mine]

  2. Ralph, I have enjoyed thinking with you for more than 30 years, and your ideas NEVER get old. You keep pointing ‘church’ back to its (our) assignment. You continue to be the antithesis to church-thought. Thank you for ALWAYS challenging, always calling us to more.

  3. Pam Keselburg

    Great teaching!
    Just maybe God wanted us to learn to be Shut in With God and to worship Him in our homes not just in a building called church. We are the church!!!

    1. So true. Many congregations are discovering that church never depended on a building in the first place. In more pleasant times parks, even bars have been used as meeting places for microchurches. Now the church is moving online. Different look, still the church and Jesus is still on the throne.

  4. Johan Barnard

    Great perspective and so true. That God would use this season to reveal His Glory by calling the church to it’s original assignment to be light in the darkness and not just light amongst light.

    1. Thanks Johan, so many are “rediscovering” disciplemaking. Perhaps because it is the only way to keep a congregation together. Perhaps as a means to overcome isolation. But certainly as a tool for discipling outsiders into the family. So happy all this came after the inventions of smartphones, Facebook, Zoom, etc.

  5. The Internet began leveling industries about 10 years ago

    1st is levelled the music industry – by people downloading music for free the business model was upended. New businees model became “paying” for a ticket at a really good show

    2nd it leveled the movie industry – people pay to watch movies in their homes now – ticket sales continue to spiral down – new model is at home entertainment

    3rd it leveled the retail industry – goods are ordered online – delivered in a truck – new model is online / old model is toast because of overhead

    4th it is leveling the education industry – people used to pay tuition to hear experts in brick and mortar opine . New model eliminates overhead

    5th it is leveling the healthcare industry as doctor visits move to zoom and a fee based model

    6th is is leveling the banking industry. Currency becoming entirely electronic within 10 years.

    7th it is leveling the church industry – for the last 100 years in north america the church has aquired land and built buildings. The internet has made the messages of good pastors something people can watch at home – so why give 10% of your money to pay for a piece of land and a staff?

    WHY? Because the price point of information is going to zero because of technology- 0$. As in FREE. People who understand the implications of this will adapt early and adjust long term strategy. Those who do not will be left with a journal full of tears and standing in line at the free counseling clinic.

    What does this mean for “churches?” Those with their own culture, their own cash, and their own content will soar. Those who have actual real friendships built around real relationships who find a real problem to solve in the world like addressing food, water & housing will soar.

    The bible speaks of Isaachar would “understood” the times. Never been a better moment to understand & adapt before you get eatin.

    Have a great day Ralph!

    1. Wow Ryan, spot on!
      I’m working on a book, part of which includes the democratization of various industries brought on by recent technology. Some companies are beginning to open private universities to train people to work for them. Think of McDonalds or the real estate industry and then project that to the big tech companies. Heading down this path, the church has begun a shift away from it’s total dependence on seminaries (and the expense they bring) to disciplemaking and now disciplemaking via Facebook and Zoom. It’s a brave new world–scary at times but Jesus is still on the throne.

  6. Ralph,
    Thanks for wise words for us individually and as church leaders. I want to live so that whatever comes it does turn out for His glory and the advance of his church. I see that in you. Blessings!

    1. Thanks Larry, exciting to know that Light and Life Christian Fellowship prevails beyond gangs, poverty and now this. You are an example for many of us!

  7. Hi Ralph really enjoy this message this really inspires me and others to stay focused on what really matters.

  8. As usual my friend you are spot on about the world changing and the church having to do things differently. And it’s good to know that you’re still a “monomaniac with the mission” and that hasn’t changed. And I hope it never does!
    Drucker wrote:
    “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”

    1. Thanks Aaron, I may be a maniac but you’ve been a maniac’s accomplice. Without you all that happened in Hawaii since 1983 would never have existed. Still remember how scared we were praying under that tree in the rain for someone to rent us a building and get our church off the beach on Sundays. It’s really never so difficult to adapt if we keep eyes on Jesus.
      Looking forward to your guest blog in a few weeks.

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