You probably have noticed at your church that ladies tend to be more active in times of musical worship than men. At first, I thought it was just because most worship songs sounded like a love ballad from a girl to her boyfriend... But turns out, there's more to the story.
At one particular church, I was feeling the pressure to not engage because no other man was. But after turning my attention toward heaven, I began to notice a phenomenon. Other men followed. And others followed them.
So I started to ask the question, What kind of worship is for men? Is it a particular flavor? Is there some sort of biblical example for how men ought not only to look but how they ought to participate in worship? Let’s go to the Word:
Recently I was standing on the front row of an affluent church in the South as the worship leader began the service. I usually sit on the front row, especially when I am going to be speaking. One contrast to itinerant ministry VS pastoring is the lack of consistency stylistically. Having become accustomed to a particular culture and energy, it can be a bit off-putting at first to stand in an entirely new and different context. This particular Sunday, not only was I standing in a less enthused environment than I might have expected, I had also come through a rather tiring week. All to say, I simply wasn’t “feeling it” that day.
My affinity for the front row has much to do with the ever-present distractions that latecomers and new parents provide combined with my ADD. Knowing this of myself, my habit is to face forward no matter what I hear behind me. But what I was about to see this Lord’s Day would retain my dumbfounded attention for the next 2 worship songs including their 17 bridges. I saw men. Hundreds of men. Standing. Silent. Hands clasped together in their front like they were groomsmen or secret service agents at an auspicious event.
This simple hand gesture that was unanimously embraced by the men of this church revealed so much not only of their church, but of the culture of worship in the United States. Hands clasped together at our front, especially for men, is a subliminal message we do not even realize we are sending. It protects a weak area while signaling that we recognize this isn’t the time or place to cross our arms in a display of aggression or defiance. It reveals a timidity, uncomfortably, and feeling of vulnerability without a word ever being spoken. Some were singing. Most were staring. All were signaling: this praise and worship isn’t for us.
As a man, I love studying the life of David. He was a brilliant military mind. He was not afraid to pick a fight. He was strong. He was brave. Yet even amidst the many monikers of manhood and kingship, the hallmark of his life, my favorite title, he was a “man after God’s own heart.” David was a passionate worshipper and seeker of the face of God. He was a skilled harp player. He is a multi-platinum record, best selling psalm writer. Maybe that’s why he was uniquely qualified and gifted to teach men about worship and demonstrate his teachings in the process.
The life and reign of David is near it’s end in 2 Samuel 24 and David is about to step into some extraordinarily dangerous waters. He has demanded that the people and armies of the nation of Israel be numbered. We take censuses and polls all the time, but David is balking against an Exodus 30:12 principle that basically states that you only number things you own. And since God owns the nation of Israel, you don’t need to count them, you need to count on God. David’s numbering of the people and armies before his death was an act of pride in an attempt to credit his own leadership or possibly discern apart from seeking God whether he had the power to accomplish one last military feat against a neighboring nation. Regardless, David is overtaken in pride. But what I love about this man is just as quick as he succumbed to the temptation of Satan, his heart was broken in sensitivity toward God in his awareness of sin. (Man after God’s own heart. Not perfect. But prayerful.)
Skip toward the end of the chapter when David heads out to the threshing floor of Arauna to offer sacrifices on an altar to God. Though Arauna tries to bless David with free land and free sacrificial animals as a gift. David’s response in what makes the story. “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord that cost me nothing.”
Today I write to the men, both young and old. I write to those who are raising men. I write to the churches that are hemorrhaging men. A relationship that does not cost you anything is not worth anything. And just like the costly box of spikenard poured on the head of Jesus by the woman, men are likewise compelled to an authentic worship that may cost you something (but will reveal your everything in Christ.) Since real men are wired to “pay.” I want to reveal your opportunity to work on your worship as David reveals what it may cost you:
1. Worship will cost you everything.
2 Samuel 6:14
And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.
No reservation. No hesitation. David gives not some, but all of his might to God in worship. I don’t know about you, but I’m not much of a dancer. I didn’t grow up dancing. I’m not good at dancing. And I’m not saying you necessarily have to do backflips across the room holding your worship flags and balancing the offering plates. But I am suggesting that authentic worship, even for manly men, is going to require some energy.
David’s linen ephod is historically a form-fitting garment. Not much is hidden here. And rather than encourage all men to adopt the painted on skinny jeans accompanied by smedium shirts from the Baby Gap, I’d encourage us to adopt this concept metaphorically. Real worship is not the absence of insecurity and vulnerability, it is preoccupation with the presence of God. For worship or the lack thereof, men will one day pay. You much choose whether you will spend your energy now willingly, or spend eternity wishing you had.
2. Worship will cost you your heart.
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
Notice David’s offering is “freewill.” Meaning, he brings it to the Lord of his on volition. As a former worship pastor, myself, I remember the struggle of feeling like I had to do 2 or 3 fast songs just to get people’s attention. There were the freewill few on the front row who would have jumped, clapped, and sang were I leading with a kazoo. But my goal was to usher the frozen chosen on the remaining rows into the throne room of an awe and awareness of God’s presence. I’d instruct, “Clap your hands.” “Lift your hands.” “Sing out!” “Focus on these words!” Eventually, you’d get a few of the deacons or front second row leaders who would begrudgingly (at first) participate in musical worship (after a few moments of awkward direct eye contact with me.)
And once you have the men on your team, you have the whole family. Wives, sons, daughters, and other men follow other men’s lead, first. So, what if we had some men who God designed to be family leaders decide to be worship leaders from their place in their row? What if men’s seeking and response to the presence of God was freewill and not forced? The church would be turned upside down. Our families would be turned upside down. Men, I know you’re strong and tough. But by yourself, you’re not strong enough. God would love to help you keep your home, but first He must conquer your heart. The worship account will be filled by something/someone. Without the investment of worship in your family, you open up their future to a gamble with Satan.
3. Worship will cost you the spotlight.
2 Samuel 6:20–22
 And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' female servants, as one of the vulgar fellowsshamelessly uncovers himself!”  And David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD—and I will celebrate before the LORD.  I will make myself yet morecontemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes…
I know this is the one every man was excited about. If you are not a clapper, singer, dancer, or hand-lifter you cringe at the thought of a spotlight. You avoid those things to keep people from looking at you. Well, I have good news and bad news right now. But it really is a matter of perspective.
Bad news: people are going to look at you. In fact, David shows us that when we abandon our pride in pursuit of God’s presence, people may very well misunderstand and mock us. Worshipping God will illuminate others to your presence as a single light in a room of darkness.
Good news: David says we get to grow deeper in this thing…more and more. Because it’s not about us. “It is before the Lord.” And if our worship is real, it may cost us our anonymity in the congregation, but when people look at us, the spotlight will really be on the reason for our worship. Jesus. In our 2 Samuel 24 passage, let us not forget that a threshing floor is a high, visible place. It is where the wind catches the chaff and whisks it away. Much like worship serves as the platform for God to get rid of the flakey stuff in our hearts and lives. Oh, and small little detail. The threshing floor where David now stands is in the neighborhood where Abraham would offer Isaac in worship, where David would provide for his son to build a temple to worship, and where God would offer His Son so that you can worship.
Real worship is a product of the price Jesus paid for our sin. And the more we realize how much we do not deserve to worship, the more passionately we will worship. Men who do not realize that worship is not about them do not participate in it.
The participation and presence of men in worship speaks volumes.
Likewise, the absence of men in worship speaks loudly.
Men, worship is hard work.
But it’s worth it…
Your family is worth it.
Your church is worth it.
JESUS is worth it.
For 12 summers now I have been involved in the leadership of multiple youth camps. I saw it every week; each time a different spin on the same story, but Dillon's struck home with me. Dillon was a pastor's kid who had never known a time apart from church. He held prominent positions across the board of his church ministry opportunities. He was a leader among teens, and respected by adults. He said all the right things, and lived his life the right way. But Dillon had a big problem. He was lost.
Gripping the back row with beads of sweat running down his face, he stared intensely at the floor. The sermon was not even about salvation, but a war was being waged in his heart and mind. When the invitation was given, as heads bowed, I saw him sneak to the front and bow at the altar's far right edge...hoping no one would see. After a few moments, I followed with my Bible ready. I kneeled down beside this body that was shaking violently, and after we exchanged stories and opened up the Scripture, Dillon accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior.
Moments later he stood before a group of teens and said something like this: "I've fought this for years, you know....Scared out of my mind that people would judge me or mock me. I'm a preachers kid who everyone believes is saved. As a little child I made a profession of faith. I don't listen to the wrong music, I don't go to the wrong places, and all in all I thought I had it under control....But tonight I confessed my sins and have invited Jesus to be my Lord and Savior...."
That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I didn't hear another word he said. All of a sudden my mind envisioned that Mark 10 passage of Scripture where stands the rich young ruler. He is inquiring of Jesus how he might inherit eternal life. In other words, "how can this thing be handed to me? (Inherit) Jesus replies with the commandments, to which the rich young ruler says, "All of these have I observed from my youth." Jesus said he lacked one thing. "....come, take up thy cross and follow me."
Dillon and this rich young ruler have a commonality with many lost "Christ followers." They have made a PROFESSION of Faith. No, not a testimony in church; rather, they have transformed their faith into a profession....a job. Professional Christians.
Real Faith is not a job title or position you hold. Real faith is not based on performance. Furthermore, salvation doesn't come from a magic prayer. Many treat faith as a job which they acquire through a professionally worded prayer application. Often, for the 1-2-3 repeat after me prayer people, serving Jesus is nothing more than routine because "it's what we are supposed to do." It's our job. (And boy, are we good at it!) We wear the uniform on the outside while doubting on the inside. We do our duties mostly for our own satisfaction, not because we're seeking the glory of God. We spout cliches, but we don't build the kingdom. We go to the church, but we are not the church. You know what Christ is? A job. An employer we clock in for and clock out of. And hopefully, if we do a good enough job, we'll get a regular paycheck of blessings.
What is salvation then?
Romans 10:9 speaks of salvation coming by way of a confession. Not to a man in a box. The word confession means so much more. To confess is to concede or acknowledge. I need a Savior. To own or admit truth. Why? Because I am a sinner. And to acknowledge one's faith in and declare adherence to. A relationship that is made public without fear. (Matthew 10:32)
There are lost people every day who live by professions of faith. Professions that are little more than a vocation that requires knowledge, who's body is engaged in an occupation. They know, do, and say the right things: a form of godliness. But deny its power because their relationship is not genuine. (2 Timothy 3:5) It is not a cross-bearing, Christ following, sell-everything, sold out life. It's still all about the act.
Are you "professing" Christ like it's your job, or are you confessing Christ because He is your life?
Why would we ever believe that a 'gospel' that lacks the power to transform and consume us here on earth would have the power to transport us to heaven? I would submit to you that Christ is Lord of all in our lives, or not at all. You don't get to clock out. You don't get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you like and don't, for we only truly believe the parts we obey. In a day of surfacey, fake, professionals...isn't it about time we gave the world something real?
If you're ready to explore THAT kind of faith....I'd love you to join me here:
If you are a fan of NBC’s comedy series “The Office” you will remember how the fiancé of Dunder Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott is spending all of his money. He turns to his trusted accountant, Oscar, who advises that the best solution at this point would be to declare bankruptcy. Breathing a sigh of relief, easily confused Michael turns to the office staff, and as loudly as possible proclaims, “I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY.” Michael did not yet realize that in order to enjoy the benefits, bankruptcy is more than a declaration, it’s a lot of work.
The children of Israel have escaped the bondage of Egypt and are on their way toward the land of milk and honey. God has orchestrated incredible, undeniable miracles that led to their deliverance. Only the King of Heaven could split the waters of the Red Sea and lead his children by a cloud or fire across on dry land. Reaching the summit of a mountain, Moses ascends to receive the commandments of God before returning to the people.
With the patience of a husband waiting in a running car at 6:05 on his wife who was told 6 sharp, minutes seemed like an eternity, and the people began to wonder if they would ever see Moses again. The Exodus passage reveals they put off their gold earrings into the hands of Aaron who fashioned a golden calf idol for the people to worship. Exodus 32:5 (KJV) 5 And when Aaron saw [it], he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow [is] a feast to the LORD.
Holy. Cow. Notice that their declaration was unto the Lord. But their desire, the focus of their worship, was unto a golden cow. Declaration apart from desire is as destitute as asking God to bless food from the Golden Arches to the nourishment of your body. There’s an inescapable contradiction. That which is not healthy will not become nourishing simply because you say the right words. Verse 10 says this caused God’s anger to wax hot against the people He had just delivered.
You and I are not much different; maybe even worse. We don’t have to melt our jewelry to build an idol. We reveal what we worship by where we spend our money and our time. Most of all, we reveal our faith by our focus. Sure, we attend our church’s cookie cutter “worship experiences” as if we get credit or church points for going. All the while, our thoughts are with the game or food to follow. Our mouths say phrases like “this is the day that the Lord has made” while our desire is fixed upon the careers and customs that we have made.
From this idolatry we must repent, and Psalm 19:14 has the answer:
Let the words of my mouth, AND the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. David suggests that both our words and our thoughts are visible in the sight of God. So if our mouths say one thing while our heart says another, the omniscient God sees the hypocrisy. So, my friend, have you ever stopped to think about what you think about?
The reason our Christianity lacks traction is because we’ve boldly declared a faith on Sunday that eludes our focus on Monday. This Michael Scott faith not only appears humorous and foolish to the onlookers in our offices, it saddens the heart of the Omnipotent. God is less interested in you showing your faith by your words, and more interested in showing your faith by your works. Declaration + Desire = Delight
Oh how I wish I lived in a TV series. Actually, all I really want is just the theme music. How cool would it be if you had an orchestra or something following you around that began to play slow dramatic music just before something bad happened to warn you. Wouldn’t walking down an ordinary hallway be extraordinary if you had upbeat, in-step happy music? Imagine that business meeting or school presentation that could sway the hearts of millions if only delivered atop the most compelling soundtrack. Likewise, ministers since King David have understood that contrition, contemplation, or consecration before God are enhanced atop the backdrop of music. Music makes everything easier.
That’s probably why we make the most dramatic proclamations during times of musical worship. Insert tweet about how the Planetshakers are shaking my world right now. Tears of acceptance like raindrops easily flow during Laura Story’s “Blessings.” Oh, what a contrite heart of repentance we lift before the Father during that closing song. Faith flows boldly during anything by Elevation Worship. But brace yourself...I’ve got some news. God requires obedience all 168 hours of the week, not just the 2 you spend at church. If we don’t really mean it, why sing it? The evidence God is in your worship has little to do with emotion and everything to do with what happens when the music ends.
I understand if you need to take a moment to let this earth shattering truth sink in before returning to finish the article. Rededicating your life was beautiful all 14 times you went to summer camp. All to Jesus you’ve surrendered every single week during that compelling convocation your pastor so skillfully gives. But here is what God has to say about it in 1 Samuel 15: 22 to king Saul. “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
The prophet instructs our daily modus operandi with this simple phrase: “To obey is better than sacrifice.” As a little kid listening to the radical testimonies of former drug addicts and prison inmates, I often sat in wonder, pondering and planning for the testimony I would one day bring. I told my dad once, “I’m gonna get me a testimony one day.” And sadly, I did.
For years I faked it. I masked a most wicked heart trapped by the bondage of addiction and adultery with valiant motives and ministerial monologue. I hurt people. I missed the mark. And then, one day it happened. In a worship experience. God broke me. Though my testimony over the reflective stylings of the keys and atmospheric pads was beautiful, I would have much preferred consistent obedience over emotionally charged surrender.
I’m not downing the terrific testimonies yet to come. I hope our social media feeds can be filled with ethereal backed stories of transformation. What I’m getting at is, you don’t have to wait for the music to bow before the master. And if you’re living that “boring” life of consistent service to the Lord, be aware, that’s God’s favorite song. Better than your bestie riding shotgun with a Spotify subscription on shuffle; when obedience is your story, the still small voice of the Savior will be your perpetual soundtrack.
Recently, a word has surfaced that indicates surprise, a sudden heightened awareness, and often fear. Maybe you’ve heard it. The word is “shook.” [I was laying in bed when I heard a loud noise, so now I’m “shook.”]
When I first heard it in context, the clues surrounding it made its definition easy to surmise. And I just imagine it probably originated with a person who shares a similar childhood to me. As a kid/teenager when dad or grandpa said something, their words were law. And at times, if obedience was delayed, one might be awoken from a daydreamy sort of daze by two large hands on either shoulder jolting you to awareness. Now with wide open eyes and fixed attention, you might describe that feeling of alertness as “shook.”
Our world today is shaken by so many things. Natural disasters have us in a panic. Mass shootings leave many living in fear. Political upheaval in all parts of the world stir a frenzy of emotions that motivate negatively charged actions and social media posts. WebMD results have thousands on their death beds during allergy season. And Dr. T.V. Expert has soccer moms everywhere smothering their kids with the organic supplies intended to save them. Both literally and metaphorically, our world lives in an alertness or fear of just about everything. And therein lies the problem. “Just about.”
Once you arrived at chapter 9 in the book of Acts you will find some interesting facts about the local church. Through their influence entire areas come to know Christ. The power they possessed had the world convinced these Christians were supernatural deities. Acts 17:6 describes them as “these that have turned the world upside down.” In fact, in Acts 4:31, “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” From the walls of Jericho in the Old Testament to the ground in Jerusalem in the New Testament, when Christians walk in the power of God, everything and everyone around them is shaken.
In John 14:12, Jesus makes a declaration that we would do “greater works than these.” That the believer, the church today would walk with more power and influence than the ground shaking wall breaking power we read about in Scripture. How is this possible? Because in Matthew 28:2, after the death and burial of Jesus, after 3 days the promise was fulfilled. The ground began to shake. The stone was rolled away. And the same power that took death’s sting of sin and resurrected our Savior now lives in us! Jesus said “I AM the resurrection.” In other words, resurrection wasn’t just something Christ did. It’s who he IS! #shook
When we truly recognize and live in the power of Resurrection, “whatever will come our way, through fire or pouring rain, and with whatever tomorrow brings: WE WON’T BE SHAKEN.” BUT the world around us certainly will be. The church has become content with shaking hands when we have the ability to worship in such a way that the foundation of our very culture is shaken. Paul and Silas praised their way out of a prison cell one night, and they serve the same God I serve! Walk in that boldness today. Then brace yourself. Something is about to get SHOOK!
Tommy: “Hold on a second! I don’t have a problem with lust!”
God: “YOU don’t have a problem with lust?”
Tommy: “No! I can stop any time I want….”
I’m giving you the whole chapter to read today. Rather than try to develop illustrations, I’m just going to comment a few explanations below some of the verses. This is by no means an exhaustive commentary, but simple points to think on today:
5 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
THEREFORE: Chapter 4 tells us that Christ and his completed work on the cross have delivered us from the bondage of the law and refocused us toward His grace.
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
If your faith is in an outward expression rather than an inward impression, you don’t have faith in Christ.
3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Be careful of those who are tied to the law, or as Paul sometimes referrers to it as “the tradition of men.” Those people tend to be hypocrites because they want to pick and choose which parts they believe and don’t. If you’re a debtor to some of the law, you’re debtor to all. And I promise there’s a whole lot of Old Testament commandments you don’t want God to enforce today!
4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
The greatest commandment, Jesus says, is twofold: Love God with all your heart, soul, and body – and love your neighbor as yourself. In other words, EVERYTHING about the Christian life is motivated by a godly definition of love.
7 Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?
8 This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.
9 A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Just like a little tiny bit of leaven causes the whole cake to rise, a little bit of sin affects the entire body.
10 I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
Trouble makers have their own day of trouble coming.
11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
The words “cut off” are translated into modern English: I wish those who cause problems would emasculate themselves. Trouble makers tend to reproduce themselves, and Paul says that needs to stop.
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
Our liberty in Christ is not to live however we want, but rather to be FREE to serve one another.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
We fulfill the entirety of God’s law when we love one another. God’s definition of love: sacrifice and service. One of two things are true about me and you. We’re either loving or we’re hating. “Bite and devour one another…” Sadly, the church is often known for eating its wounded and devouring its own members.
16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
LUST… turns out that is not just a word for sexual desire. But the lust of the flesh is the polar opposite to the leading of the Spirit. Check out what God says that entails:
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Here’s another translations listing of words: 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[e] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
My friend, you and I both have a problem with the lust of the flesh. God needs to chisel it away. And when he does, our life will reveal:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is
love,… agape… love in action
Joy… gladness…even when I’m unhappy, I have Jesus’ joy.
peace, … tranquility, fearing nothing
longsuffering….patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance
Gentleness… integrity and kindness
goodness…uprightness of heart
faith…the conviction of God that is equated with action
23 Meekness…strength under control
temperance… the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, esp. his sensual appetites
against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
You have murdered your own desires.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
If we’re saved, lets act like it!
26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Don’t desire the applause of men, because they are worth absolutely nothing. Don’t push another soul toward anger. And stop comparing yourself.
Just like Tommy we must recognize that God is shot-gunning an array of bullets toward so many areas when he uses the word “lust.” We may not struggle with ALL of them, but surely each of us struggle with at least one of them. Today, let God chisel away at you so he can reveal His Son.
God: “You’re lazy…but you pretend to look busy…”
Okayyyy God. Ouch! Watching the video this morning and it didn’t just step on my toes, it punched me in the gut. Then, I laughed as I reflected on the childishness of this concept in our lives. Remember back to your school days when the class would be in disarray, then someone shouted “the teacher is coming!” Everyone would grab their pencils, look down at their books and pretend to be busy. I remember at my first secular that when the owner would come, he had a tendency to check the craziest places for dust. And when he surely found it, if you weren’t busy before…you were now!
Maybe it is because of scenarios like those that we have elevated, exalted, and worshipped the concept of “busyness.” When we ask someone about their week, more times than not, we receive answers similar to, “its been so busy!” In the American Church culture, we applaud busyness. But is busyness really best?
In Mark 6:31, we find that people have been coming and going so steadily that the disciples hadn’t even had time to eat. Jesus gives them some instruction that would sound unusual to you and I. Come into a quiet place and rest. Psalm 46 instructs us to be still and know that He is God. And since the creation of the world, the 10 commandments, on into today – the principle of the Sabbath is mandatory to a successful Christian’s life. Personally, I take Monday as my Sabbath. I don’t do any work relating to my field of ministry. I don’t often answer the phone. And I don’t check my email. In fact, when I sin against my Sabbath, I find my entire week thrown into a tizzy of busyness rather than the Lord’s business.
Some mock the idea rest, and worship activity over productivity. But what you’ll find in Scripture on into secular psychological studies is that when we fail to rest. When we focus more on staying busy than we do staying focused, we become busybodies. Lazy people who pretend to look busy. 2 Thessalonians 3:11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. In other words, there are some people causing problems among the people (walk among you disorderly), not pursuing biblical priorities or corporate vision (working not at all), but seem to be super busy because they say that they are, and you always seem to be hearing their name or seeing their face in an unpleasant way (but are busybodies.)
My pastor gave me this list of 15 ways to spot a busybody that he recently preached through:
1. They love to make others business, their business.
2. They hide their motives behind a false calling.
3. They always involve themselves in things they are not qualified to fix.
4. They care more about feeling needed than they do meeting needs.
5. They are abrasively opinionated, even when they are not asked.
6. They use social media as “binoculars” to “spy on the neighbors.”
7. They dominate conversations in order to control the narrative.
8. They are offended when their advice is not needed or heeded.
9. They are fueled by gossip but use phrases like “prayer request” and “important information” to cover their addiction.
10. They have no trouble lying in order to get out of what they created.
11. They say made up things like “they said” or “people have come to me.”
12. They have an uncanny ability to recognize weak people but avoid authority figures.
13. They constantly defend themselves.
14. They have an agenda to destroy people.
15. They are mad right now and think I’m talking to them.
Our prayer today:
God, help me be busy about YOUR business and realize that my neighbor’s business is none of my business. Lord, I realize that if I’m pursuing the principles of scripture and passionately serving the church I won’t become a busybody.
God: “….you compare yourself to others instead of me…”
You’ve probably had a parent tell you at one time or another, “NO! We’re not ‘keeping up with the Joneses!” My chemistry professor’s last name was “jones,” but he dressed like a chemistry professor… there wasn’t a soul trying to keep up with him! Why were my grandparents always using this phrase? Because they realized that comparison is the death of contentment.
Say it out loud, right now: Comparison is the death of contentment.
Did you know it is impossible for us to be happy and envious at the same time? And in this world of social media, television, and magazines if you DON’T struggle with feelings of envy, you’re probably in the running to become a saint. We all fall prey to comparison’s trap in one form or another. We see everyone’s amazingly edited photos. We note the perfect families online; the perfect churches on their facebook pages. But no one ever posts about the struggles, they only post the highlights. Somebody reading this email needs is going to find emotional release when you realize that you’ve been comparing your behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight real! STOP IT! How?
Galatians 6:4: But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
You were created to be YOU, not someone else. To compare myself to my brother is no different than comparing apples and oranges. 10 years ago when I started in bi-vocational ministry, I wasted so much time trying to be my hero. I dressed like him. Talked like him. And even tried to preach like him. God seemed to be blessing him, so I figured if God was going to bless me I had to be just like him. When I would fall short, I’d ask the question, “what does he have that I don’t?” The answer: INDIVIDUALITY!
We often spend so much time trying to BE someone or something else, that we forget to be ourselves. If I spent all my time being Pastor George or Pastor Greg, who was out there being Jon? - Paul says to prove your own work. Do your best! 1 Corinthians 10:31 –…whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God! And if I’ve done my best, I’ll have personal satisfaction. Contentment. Fulfillment in Christ. I’m being chiseled into HIS image. So rather than look like Joe, I’m going to compare myself to the one I’m striving to look like. JESUS.
1. Comparison is the death of contentment
2. Don’t compare my behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight real.
The main memories I have of my biological mother (God gifted me with a wonderful grandmother and step mother) is her incredible ability to go from zero to passionately angry in 2.5 seconds. In fact, she was pretty well known for this. It didn’t take much, and before you could escape, the head would tilt, the forehead vein would pop out, the face would turn red, and the shrill sound of her soprano voice would fill the air. What often made these scenarios humorous was her famous line, “I DO NOT LIKE SCREAMING!!!!” Though, if you knew her, you surely doubted the sincerity of that statement. Anger was her spiritual gift. It sprouted in her life on the daily. And before you hate on me for mentioning her, or fee sympathy for me for living with her, hear this: I’m so thankful for that screaming, angry woman now as I look back.
God surely used that unstable and crazy environment to help shape my temperament into what it is today. It takes so much to make me mad. In fact, its near impossible to tip that anger scale for me. But when it has happened, I’ve had to evaluate where it started and how it sprouted. And with a deeper understanding of what anger is, and where it comes from in my life, it has given me a deeper understanding of where others, even my mother, are coming from when they have an anger episode. The deeper my understanding, the deeper my reservoir of mercy.
God continues chiseling away at Tommy, and all of a sudden he hits a deep one.
“Anger, I created the emotion but you use it in the wrong way.”
If mercy is a well we must draw from, anger is a volcano, springing up, that we must flee from. Anger always reveals what is going on in the heart of the matter. And the HEART of the matter is always the heart of the matter. I used to joke that I wished my mother had a red warning light that would start flashing 30 seconds before her “click” moment. While that light might not be visible to anyone else, did you know that unrighteous anger does have some “warning lights” that begin to flash, indicating a malfunction in our spiritual drive?
Before we dive in, let me answer the question that YES, there is righteous anger. The emotion you feel when you witness cruelty, injustice, or sin. Righteous anger does have a role in the Christian’s life, but that will be a discussion for a whole other day, since that’s not the area that we need some chiseling in.
Ed Chinn writes, “Burning or prolonged anger is a warning light that something is out of balance in life. Anger is closely tied to feeling threatened. A sense of threat, real or imagined, usually arises out of a perception of oppression, humiliation, injustice, physical danger or just a lack of control over our environment and circumstances.
Guilt can also trigger anger. For example, if we know or feel that we've violated the law (biblical, moral, or civic), we may live under a cloud that God or the IRS or the sheriff is about to get us. That lack of control over our circumstances can make us angry.”
Ultimately, the hot lava of anger erupts when our pride is damaged, our control is taken, or our conscience is convicted. Anger quickly becomes a sin that is the fruit of a deeper rooted sin. God created anger as an emotional drive toward action because angry people tend to become active people. But, so many of us misuse it. We have so much sin, bitterness, and pride in our hearts that our actions are ill intentioned. So what are the warning lights for this destrictive anger? How can we avoid the sin?
1. LISTEN FIRST – talk last. Don’t speak until you’ve listened. Ignorance is often a most passionate communicator.
James 1:19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
2. LET GO. Anger ferments into bitterness and boils into foolishness.
Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
3. LEVERAGE KINDNESS. When there is gap between what we expect and what we experience, we get to choose what we fill the void with. Trust or distrust. What we fill the gap with reveals our depth of spirituality. Love believes all things…it gives the benefit of the doubt. Proverbs 19:11: "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression." In other words, balance gives a sense of discretion in life. And, it is the mark of wisdom to be able to overlook perceived transgressions.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
God, please give me strength to listen before I speak.
Lord, I am not you, so holding on to anger only damages me and other’s image of you when they see me. Help me to let go of my frustrations and reject my irritations in the moment.
Father, you’ve been so kind to me. Help me extend that benefit of the doubt to someone else today. Let them see you in me.
One of my least favorite lines from this entire video is also one of my most favorite. In between exchanges in conversation between Tommy (insert your name here) and God, an ultimatum of sorts is issued. God asks, “talk…or chisel?”
Which will it be?
…because it’s either one or the other. Talk about doing for God, and letting God work in us… or actually putting our “money where our mouth is” if you will.
Nehemiah has got to be the most perfect example of an action-oriented man. I would challenge you to read the first few chapters today. Seriously. In chapter one we see a man who is broken hearted over the walls of his home being in shambles. Without walls, the people lived in constant danger of further attack. A city without borders is no city at all. So for the first chapter, you find Nehemiah in prayer.
He goes before the king, as was his duty, at the beginning of chapter 2. I’d love to spend hours explaining the miracle that takes place in the king’s heart by granting Nehemiah’s many requests, but God wants us to notice something. Most of us “pray about something” and we never put feet to our “faith.” We HOPE that everything will get better. We HOPE that God will do something. We HOPE that people will turn out right and the walls will be rebuilt, but the average Christian church today will spend countless hours in discussion…and absolutely zero time in actual doing. Pastor Craig Groeschel, pastor of the largest and fastest growing church in the United States pointed out in his leadership podcast that many churches hamper their success and slowly die by way of endless meetings, discussions, and votes with little to no action to follow. Be it in the church world or in the Christian’s life, prayer is GREAT. But, genuine prayer is a prerequisite to the faith that will follow. TALK or CHISEL?
As with any project ordained by God, opposition came out of the woodwork. Who knows exactly how the word spread, but somehow it did, and in Nehemiah 2:10, Sanballat and Tobiah are grieved exceedingly that a man has come to seek the welfare of the needy (being that they were nobility.) And right there…that’s where I personally struggle, and where most of us often stop. When someone doesn’t like what God has called us to do, we cease and desist. But verse 11 is one of my favorites in this narrative. Even among the talk, Nehemiah writes, “so……I came to Jerusalem.” Opposition will always accompany opportunity. So, TALK or CHISEL?
All of a sudden, the number of opposers grows. Sanballet mocks the Jews, and speaks to his brethren, the army of Samaria, and Tobiah. They accuse Nehemiah, once again proving that we are never more like Satan, the accuser of the brethren, than when we accuse. Then, he calls into question a few things:
a. Identity – “what do these feeble Jews?” … turns out the accusers are the feeble ones, though.
b. Insecurities – “ will they fortify themselves?” … why should this matter to them? Because when someone else’s insecurities are fortified, it reveals my own.
c. Invocation – “will they sacrifice?” – They call into question their form of worship. Pharisees and Idol worshipers are the first to call into question the worship of another.
d. Improvement – “will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish?” – Those who harbor sin within their hearts will never grasp the concept of revival and restoration. And what they do not understand, they will seek to hinder.
Now, in Nehemiah 6, the list of opposers has grown AGAIN! Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and THE REST of our enemies… They call for Nehemiah to cease building the wall and come down to the plain of Ono to “discuss the situation with him. Lets just talk about these building plans you have, Nehemiah. But Nehemiah says, “why should the work cease while I leave it and come down to you?” TALK or CHISEL?
Nehemiah understood that the enemy will never come to talk to you, they always want you to come “down” to them. Friend, can I warn you, OH NO! DON’T GO TO “ONO!” My papa used to say, “don’t argue with immature people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
And now, after Nehemiah refuses to stop fixing the brokenness four different times, they send an “open letter.” It reads, “It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king…and now it shall be reported to the king according to these words.” They even asked Nehemiah to meet with them in the temple in order to spiritualize it…even though their plan was to kill him.
Note a few things about those who choose to talk:
a. An Open Letter – when anyone wrote a letter in this time, the final step was to seal it closed with a wax seal so that the writer and the reader knew the contents. Why send an open letter? Because they were more concerned with everyone knowing what they thought rather than the truth being told. TALK
b. “It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it:” - You’ve heard the phrase, “consider the source.” Can I translate that King James phrase into modern vernacular: It is reported on the internet, and my cousin’s neighbor said it was true.” TALK
c. “You think to rebel against the king” - the imagination of the unrighteous talker is limited to the boundaries of their own secret struggles and sins. TALK
d. “And now it shall be reported to the king…” In other words, “if I can’t get my way, I’m telling mom on you.” TALK
e. “Let us go into the temple…” Not all who come with ‘holy intentions’ are genuine. Since the snake and the fruit in the garden of Eden, the enemy always disguises the most clever attacks under the mantle of spirituality. 1 John 4 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God:” TALK
At the end of chapter 6, with men who worked with tools in one hand and weapons in the other to get the job done, the enemies are cast down and having to admit that the structure now built was wrought of God. Nehemiah chose the chisel over talking, and God took care of the enemies. Obey God, leave the consequences to him. The power, blessing, and presence of God cannot be faked. If we must choose between Talk or Chisel… like Tommy, my prayer is that we too might say, “I choose the chisel.”
Rebuild the walls.
Revive the stones.
Restore the people.
Reach the broken.