By Joaquim Braga, PhD
Biblical Counseling Interim Department Chair
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
God’s glory is a central theme of Scripture. As John Piper has succinctly put it: “The vindication of God’s glory is the ground of our salvation, and the exaltation of God’s glory is the goal of our salvation.” Difficult as it is for us to fully capture what God’s glory means, we commonly understand it as the perfect beauty of the Triune being who created all that there is. Thus, to speak of God’s glory is to speak of His perfection, His majesty, His holiness, His character, His literal awesomeness (oh how have we cheapened the meaning of this last term, much to our own detriment).
To “glorify God,” therefore, means to highlight, proclaim, draw attention to, display, showcase, show forth, declare God’s intrinsic worth as a being of unmatched beauty and perfection. For instance, when I forgive someone who has hurt me, I am glorifying God because through that sacrificial gesture of forgiving another, I am demonstrating to the world something that is beautiful and true of God Himself, namely His grace and mercy. Likewise, when I enjoy a beautiful, sunny day at the beach with a grateful heart, I am glorifying God by acknowledging Him to be a creative creator and a giver of good things to His children. Or when I continue to trust God after some personal tragedy that defies all comprehension, I glorify Him by declaring that against the limitations of my unbearable pain, I still believe Him to be all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing.
We can (and should!) indeed glorify God with all we say, think, feel, and do. This is why the apostle Paul commanded us to do all things to the glory of God, including whether we eat or drink. Think about that for a second. Even behaviors as mundane as drinking and eating, which we often do without giving them a second thought, can be done to God’s glory. This is quite a liberating and empowering thought. If I can display God’s glory no matter what I am doing, no matter where I am, no matter how small the task, no matter who is watching me, no matter what!, then nothing about my existence needs to be wasted. On the contrary, all about me matters because all about me can and should engage in what matters the most: to glorify God, or to display His unmatched beauty!
The pile of dishes on the kitchen sink.
Those tasks at work that are as tedious as they are pointless.
All those groundhog days.
Your pain, your suffering, your struggle with sin.
Both your failures and your successes.
All. Absolutely all about you (I don’t think I can overstate this point: there’s no exception!) can have meaning and purpose—it can matter infinitely—because it can showcase the beautiful face of our loving Creator and Redeemer. And nothing, absolutely nothing, matters more in life.
What mundane action or sacrificial choice will you use to glorify your Creator today?
Dr. Joaquim Braga, PhD
Biblical Counseling Interim Department Chair
There are many reasons why Christianity doesn’t make sense to me. A righteous, all-good, all-powerful being that allows the existence of suffering and evil. A chosen nation, supposed to be a channel of spiritual blessings to all other nations, that is engrossed in worshiping a golden statue shortly after being miraculously delivered from the most powerful nation of the time. A Creator-King who is born as a helpless baby in a stable, literally in the middle of nowhere, destined to become the Redeemer and Savior of all. A divine kingdom supposed to change the world that is entrusted to twelve (make that eleven) unimpressive, mostly uneducated men with all sorts of spiritual blindness. An eternal being who experiences death for the sake of creatures who do not want to have anything to do with him in the first place. My list could go on and on.
I am making my way through the Gospel of Mark, and the other day I read a passage that reminded me, yet again, of how upside-down kingdom logic is when compared to the ways of this world.
“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on’.” (Mark 12:41-44)
If you stop and think about it, there are several things about this passage that are upside-down. Take a closer look at who Jesus is using as an example of spiritual discernment and worship. This unlikely model that we are supposed to emulate has three fundamental things going against her according to society: she’s a woman, she’s a widow, and she’s poor! Both in Jesus’ times as well as in ours, these are traits that would encourage the elite to ignore and even despise this woman. Her gender makes her inferior and voiceless, her marital status makes her helpless and needy, while her poverty makes her empty-handed and devoid of anything good to offer.
(By the way, we could also assume this woman is also advanced in age since she’s a widow. But since she already has plenty going against her, let’s not add this one more thing to our list. We can safely say we have at least three significant strikes against her.)
Everything about this person screams of scarcity. Not enoughto give. Not enoughto matter. Not enoughto make an impact. Not enoughto be noticed. Not enoughto be special or significant. Not enoughto justify her existence.
And yet… Jesus draws our attention to this unlikely heroine of faith.
Jesus sees her. He notices her. He finds her example so moving that he draws the attention of the disciples to her, this unimpressive embodiment of scarcity who only had a few measly coins to give.
Yes. Christianity doesn’t make a whole lot of sense according to the ways of this world. And that, my friends, gives me great hope and consolation.
I am not that different from this poor middle-eastern widow who lived thousands of years ago. I constantly find myself caught between two equally undesirable places: feeling like too much(I’m a burden, carrying on myself too much guilt, too much shame, too many mistakes, too many flaws) while also feeling like not enough at the same time (not enough faith, not enough discipline, not enough commitment, not enough accomplishments… my list could go on and on). Let me tell you: feeling like too much and not enough all at once is a maddening way to exist.
Too much bad stuff and not enough good stuff. That’s how I often feel about myself when my spiritual gaze drifts off of Jesus, which it often tends to do.
And I’ll say one more time: AND YET!
And yet Jesus sees me. Jesus tells me that I don’t have to have an abundance of anything the world deems worthy in order to please him, in order to be noticed, in order to matter, in order to make a difference, in order to be loved. Jesus tells me that he took upon Himself on the cross both my abundance of bad stuff as well as my scarcity of good stuff. Jesus tells me that in Him I am made anew. Jesus tells me that whatever little, unimpressive things I have to offer (ultimately myself) matters greatly to Him!
The truth is this: Whenever I give Jesus my two little coins from a place of trust and love, I put a smile on His face. And He looks at me and reminds me yet again: “Son, it’s not your two coins that I am after. It’s you that I want, scarcity and all.”
I love a good story. I especially love it if the story is of epic proportions where the underdog, an unassuming hero, encounters unimaginable peril to accomplish some noble goal such as, let’s say, saving the world! Among such grand stories of many dangers, adventures and sacrifice, Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings trilogy stands as one of my very favorites. Oh, my good man (sorry Hobbit!) Frodo, who chose to leave the tranquility of the Shire to go to a distant land, throws a ring in the fire, and once and for all stops Sauron, Middle Earth’s greatest enemy! Did you know what all of your quest would put you through, Frodo? Could you even imagine how your decision to say yes to that call would forever change you? Did you know the cost in advance? And—had you known—would you still have said yes if you could go back and choose it all over again? In the end, was it worth it, Frodo?
We left a comfortable life in Dallas roughly nine months ago. And after just a few months in Brazil, I’ve come to realize that Dallas was our Shire. Sure, Texas was not devoid of problems. We struggled with stress. I myself at times felt overwhelmed with the demands of life and with my own demons. My wife and I still had our occasional marital problems. But… still… Dallas was safe, predictable, and comfortable. No matter how stressful things got, our Texan Shire was filled with delightful family times at the Dallas arboretum, Target runs, and delicious Starbucks drinks conveniently ordered in advance from an app so I wouldn’t have to bother talking to another human being at the ungodly early hours of my morning. Oh, and lest we forget, how do I even tell you how much we miss Amazon prime. Oh, sweet, sweet Amazon—we could purchase almost anything through your website and have it delivered to our doorsteps within two days (or within an hour, if you live in a place like Dallas!). We also miss our dog (Oh George, how we miss you!) and our beautiful house.
So you don’t think I’m super shallow, our Shire also included a wonderful church with gospel-centered preaching that is second to none, not to mention a wonderful small group that my family and I had been a part of for several years. Those people were our friends, our community. Our Shire. We miss all of that.
Unlike Frodo, we didn’t leave our Shire behind to literally save the world. We came to Brazil to fulfill a lifelong dream of serving here. I don’t stand behind a pulpit every week preaching to the masses, nor do I think I ever will. Much of what we do is somewhat invisible, behind the scenes. Our ministry is small, translating counseling related resources into Portuguese, meeting with folks one on one, and leading small workshops.
There’s nothing about counseling that is flashy. Our story does not include magical rings or enchanted beings, but it is still epic. It is my epic narrative where my family and I, unlikely “heroes” that we are, get to make sacrifices for the sake of others. To bring to them something or someone, who can indeed save their lives.
It’s been a slow process, but during these past nine months I have felt the Lord waking up my soul from the slumber of comfort and convenience that marked our lives back in the U.S. Waking up is wonderful and difficult, invigorating and scary, all at once. But when you leave your Shire, your soul wakes up to deeper realities that changes you and allows you to see life (and yourself) from a completely different perspective. And there’s no going back. And there’s nothing better.
Please, please don’t misunderstand me. I am in no way saying that enjoying the comforts of life in our wonderful America is wrong. Nor am I saying that you have to leave your home to leave your Shire. All that I am trying to do is to invite you to consider some fundamental, life-changing questions that only you, in your heart of hearts, can answer. No one else can do that for you.
Are you constantly bored with the life you are leading?
What comforts, what safety, what predictability, what pleasures have you left behind for the sake of being part of something greater than yourself?
Are you willing to leave your Shire for the sake of the gospel?
Are you living your epic story?
If Jesus Himself left the Shire of heaven to destroy the ultimate enemy and save us, how can we—His followers—do any less?
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)
“Christian community is the place where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us.” – Henri Nouwen
Relationships are essential to God’s very nature because He himself is a relational being who has always existed as a triune being with eternal interactions of love, intimacy, empowerment, and service between the Father, Son, and Spirit. It is no surprise, therefore, that relationships are also essential to the Christian life. Because we are created in the image of a triune, relational God, we simply cannot be healthy as Christians while living in isolation. Every aspect of the Christian journey involves others in the Body in some capacity, from our very conversion to our sanctification.
Just like the disciples grew in their relationship with Jesus in the context of their relationships with each other, we too are called to become conformed to the image of Christ by loving, serving, encouraging, admonishing, accepting, submitting, and forgiving one another—just to name a few!
Whether you are a Calvary student or someone from the community, consider enrolling in our upcoming Group Counseling intensive class, which will be offered September 27-29. This course may be taken for credit or personal enrichment. In this class, you will learn the Biblical foundation’s group counseling, as well as practical skills to lead small groups effectively.
To find out more about this and other seminary counseling courses, contactDr. Joa Braga.
This previous weekend Dr. Smith, Associate Professor and Program Director for the undergraduate Biblical Counseling Department at Calvary University had the opportunity to attend the regional IABC (International Association of Biblical Counselors) conference at Life Fellowship Family Bible Church in Westminster Colorado. Dr. Smith not only had the opportunity to hear from some wonderful speakers, but he also was able to meet some vendors and speak to prospective students and their parents, about Calvary University and the Biblical counseling program with Bill George, the VP of Enrollment Management for the new Calvary University Innovation Center campus located in Fort Morgan Colorado.
In addition, Dr. Smith also had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Ed Bulkley, president of IABC and share some of the opportunities for Calvary University and IABC to work together in developing a partnership in equipping the next generation of Biblical counselors to serve in the local church. Some of these opportunities include a potential Biblical counseling conference with IABC and Calvary University. Implementing some of the requirements for IABC certification in our undergraduate and graduate programs, and a possible training center in the future for others who are seeking IABC certification.
The Alumnus of the Year award is given annually to a Calvary graduate who has shown faithfulness in his or her service to the Lord. This year the President’s cabinet has chosen to honor one individual and one couple based on their outstanding qualifications. Last week I shared about our first honoree, Alice Thompson.
Dr. Keith and Pat Miller
Our next honorees for 2018 Alumni of the Year are Dr. Keith and Pat Miller. The Millers were both born and raised in Illinois. Dr. Miller likes to tell people that he grew up near Normal, Illinois, but now he lives close to Peculiar, Missouri! They each trusted Christ as Savior as children and dedicated their lives to ministry as teenagers.
Dr. Keith and Pat Miller and I posed for a picture after Commencement.
Pat’s father worked for Moody Bible Institute, and that is where she attended and met Keith in 1966. Keith says that he had three goals at Moody – to know the Word of God, to learn about being a pastor, “and Lord, if possible, could I please find a wife!” God answered all three! Pat says she had three desires for her future spouse – of course, he needed to be a believer, he needed to be headed to full-time ministry, and “please God let him be tall!” Keith graduated from Moody in 1968, came to Calvary Bible College, and completed his bachelor’s degree in 1969. Pat graduated from Moody in 1969, and they were married that summer. They then headed off to Dallas Theological Seminary where Keith earned his Master’s in 1973.
The Lord then took the Miller family to Michigan where Keith served as a youth pastor for a couple of years. Keith’s first senior pastorate was at a church in Iowa, followed by one in Nebraska, and finally at Argyle Bible Church in Colchester, Illinois, from 1983-1994. During that time, Keith earned his doctorate from Dallas Theological Seminary as well. Over the years, God blessed the Millers with four children who are all now married and have added 10 grandchildren to the family. One son and one son-in-law are currently pastors in the Kansas City area.
Serving at Calvary
Keith had a long-time desire to teach in a Bible College, so he contacted Calvary about the possibility in 1993. After the usual procedures, Academic Dean Tom Bonine called Dr. Miller in February of 1994 and extended the call to come and be Chair of the Pastoral Studies Department at Calvary Bible College. Dr. Miller was thrilled to receive his class schedule and find that his very first class to teach would be Old Testament Survey. Through God’s perfect timing, the Dean of Women position was also open at Calvary. Pat felt as if God had been preparing her all her life for working as dean. It was a dream job for her, and she held that position for fourteen years.
While serving as Dean of Women, Pat began to take seminary classes in Biblical Counseling, and she graduated from Calvary Theological Seminary in 2000. Eventually Mrs. Miller was asked to direct the undergrad Biblical Counseling Program. The transition was wonderful and very fulfilling for her. She has continued in this role for the past ten years. Keith became Chairmen of the Bible and Theology Department in 2015. He has also served as interim pastor at ten different churches since 2002.
After 24 years at Calvary, Dr. and Mrs. Miller retired in May. They are looking forward to traveling and seeing what the Lord has in store for the next chapter of their lives. When asked what she appreciates most about Calvary, Pat said, “Of course, THE STUDENTS! Hands down they are why we are here and why we stayed. It has been a delight to know so many students and see God use them. They have encouraged us greatly, and we love them.” Keith said that he has appreciated the awesome opportunity to stand before his students and teach them the Word of God and, for the pastoral majors, how to preach and what to expect as pastors. Calvary will not be the same without the Millers, but we are glad that they will always be part of the alumni family. It is a great pleasure to recognize them today for their service to Calvary and honor them as 2018 Alumni of the Year.
The Millers both shared a few words after accepting the award.