Then it happened... and no one thought it would. In fact, they didn't even believe that it could... If you were a Jew in the days of the prophet Ezekiel, the common belief was that the "kabod" the visible representation of the glory of God neither would or maybe even could depart from His temple. But if you've been reading with us, chapter by chapter, you've noticed that idolatry that provokes God to jealousy inhabits the halls of the temple and the hearts of the people. This idolatry made it "not His" - and judgement is coming - but as the chariot comes to escort the glory away from Jerusalem, I see some contextually Old Covenant principles about God that certainly parallel the New Covenant and His temple - which is not longer a building - it is the believer.
1. From Glory To Glory
And I looked, and there in the firmament[a] that was above the head of the cherubim, there appeared something like a sapphire stone, having the appearance of the likeness of a throne. 2 Then He spoke to the man clothed with linen, and said, “Go in among the wheels, under the cherub, fill your hands with coals of fire from among the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in as I watched.
Ezekiel is recording all the means by which Israel will be judged. Sword, Wind, Famine, and Fire (2 Kings 25). And the fire that would destroy came directly from the glory of God, for the glory of God. Yahweh refuses to share His glory with anyone or anything. Being provoked to jealousy, even by the idol of Jealousy mentioned in chapters previous, God will ultimately receive the glory by destroying every hindrance to the knowledge that He is LORD. A second temple will be built in years to come, and rebuilt again just prior to the days of Jesus' ministry on earth, but the kabod, the glory of God would never again indwell a temple...that is, until the very presence of God - in the person of Jesus - would walk in to the temple and begin the process that would tear the veil. His death and resurrection would mark the emptiness of the Jewish religion. His teaching would mark the destruction of the Jewish temple. And light a fire in the hearts of all who call upon His name. The fire which comes from God's glory - to God's ultimate glory.
2. Blotted Out or Burned
I think it is interesting to note that these coals that come from the glory of God blot out the sins, consecrate, and prepare the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6. Yet, in this instance they destroy and judge the wicked. God's glory works in much the same manner today. The righteousness that is brought about by the Holy Spirit will burn the conscience of the wicked. When truth is preached and practiced - it is divisive and revealing of the heart.
3. God Is On The Move...PAUSE
3 Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the [c]temple when the man went in, and the cloud filled the inner court. 4 Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the Lord’s glory. 5 And the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard even in the outer court, like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks.
This is descriptive. You have to see it. You have to hear it. You have to feel it. God's glory moves to the threshold. Even the court is filled with the brightness of His glory. Women who are worshipping idols...missed it. Men who are worshipping idols...missed it. Priests who are looking in this exact direction facing the sun...missed it. Can you imagine this sound and this sight and still missing it? I can. For so long I was fixated on all the wrong things. In the right place. But like the priests of Ezekiel's day, I was so fascinated with the shiny things that I neglected to chase the glory of God. God is on the move. The sound of his going is all about us. And if we are not careful, we will miss it.
But the gracious thing about God is that He pauses. "WAIT! I don't want to leave yet. I love my people. Does anyone see Me? Does anyone hear Me?" Imagine that final look through you gave your first home once the moving truck was loaded up, just before locking the door. It's empty - but you can see all the memories of that special place flash before your eyes. One last glance. A touch to the door frame. A singular tear...knowing something better is coming. And....goodbye. God pauses as if to allow the priests or the people to recognize His movement and repent. But they only have eyes of idols. So, God is on the move. Ezekiel saw. But no one else did.
4. If It's Yours - It's Not His
As a fourth generation preacher's kid, I've seen my family fight particular battles that I, too, as a pastor and church consultant have had to fight. Church facilities all over our country have "sacred cows" that "shall not be moved." "My great uncle built that communion table." "My aunt paid for that pew." "My momma donated that carpet." "I paid for that...not you." I've had to look in the eye of many a "saint" and say these words: "If it's yours...take it home. The only things I want in this building are the things that belong to God."
Oh friend, it's more than icons that we idolize. We've made an idol of traditions as well. And I want to be loud where the Bible is loud and quiet where the Bible is quiet. We've called it "God's House" and "The Lord's Day" but if our pastor or church goes a direction we don't like, preferentially, we'll find another church that does it our way. That's the problem. God's glory refuses to dwell among people who do it "the old time way," "the new age way," "grandma's way," and especially "my way." If it's yours...it's not His. God's glory manifests itself exclusively in the gatherings and in the hearts of those who worship Him - HIS WAY.
5. It's Above Them
18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the [i]temple and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted their wings and mounted up from the earth in my sight. When they went out, the wheels were beside them; and they stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.
Saddest reality of this chapter. Ezekiel writes an ironic statement that English cannot fully express. Best way I can put it is - because Israel thought God's glory was a common commodity...Just another "thing" that God is obligated to because we call ourselves His people and this is "His temple...." Because they callously went through the temple rituals while chasing after idols, even in their hearts, God's glory was "above them."
In these days of corona virus quarantine - in the year 2020 - God has given the church a great opportunity to reset. To chase after Him. To consecrate their hearts. To remove the idols of jealousy. And to seek His glory. He's cleared the stage. He's temporarily burned our opportunity to gather in many instances. No shiny things. No sacred cows. No preferences. Just pure community. Prayer. Fasting. Depth in the Word of God. - or - none of those things. Some will attempt to over lay a digital version of their own tastes during this time. That's because God's glory is over their heads.
Oh that we would be consecrated afresh with a coal from the fire of God's glory.
Let it melt away all impurity and idolatry.
That we might Remember. Repent. And see Relationship Restored.
verse 6: "then it happened..." God's glory is about to leave the building.
1. Kids Ministry Vids
I started here on purpose. There is a massive content void, especially on YouTube for kids content. You may even have noticed the new feature on YouTube uploads that asks “is this made for kids?” Because 4 year olds are navigating the platform using the “speak search” feature. I just saw my little cousin tap the red button and say, “Videos of Paw Patrol.” So, if you thought that GenZ had too much screen time and free time before - it’s only that much more time right now.
Corona virus time is a wonderful time for children’s teachers to make little Bible studies. Teach songs. And give step by step instruction on crafts using materials that most families would have around the home. If you’re a little more technologically advanced, use PhotoBooth’s free green screen feature on your MacBook, or the green screen feature on iMovie to do “on location” teachings from Noah’s ark to the garden tomb.
PRO TIP: Challenge each kid to make a Youtube video with their siblings of a Bible story from their perspective using the barbies or other props they have at home right now. Post them. Raise up a generation of content creators. (These video posts would make great social ads for your church.)
2. Youth Ministry
Sports and homework excuses for missing out are completely gone. Capitalize on that! This is the time to record IGTV longer form teachings for your students. Guess what? Students who don’t even attend your group (yet) will be watching these. For devotional type content, (because now students have the time to have their personal devotions) upload a YouVersion verse graphic post with your text as the caption. Ask the students to comment “DONE” once they’ve read it - and share it to their story. Or, utilize blogspot, a free google blog feature you can link to from the IG bio. Hey, this is even a great time to connect with the parents via email. Your first Wednesday back is going to be like a massive family reunion.
Have small group discussions via google hangouts, zoom, or the iPhone’s newer “Group FaceTime feature.” This is the time to disciple those small group leaders you’ve been meaning to pour into. Hey, this is the time to connect on a personal basis with every student who’s ever attended your group.
PRO TIP: Now is the time to make that TikTok account for 60 second little “truths.” You’ll have time to learn the platform. Your students will have time to watch. Make the videos fun. PLUS - get your students to record some content you can share on the youth account. It will be hilarious. And again, you’re raising up a generation of content creators.
3. Family Ministry
We’ve been preaching for years about the need for the family dinner table and family devotions. Now is the time to begin those habits, even if just for a few minutes a day. But, what are some conversation starters for dinner? What are we supposed to read as a family? How do we study the Bible together or pray together?
In walks you, the guide. The Yoda to their Skywalker. The Mary Poppins to their Mr. & Mrs. Banks. You’ve created family devotion guides with questions to discuss as a family. Whether these are simple, written guides, videos you create, or RightNowMedia links. The possibilities are endless. You’ve created a prayer guide. You’ve given 1 fun, conversation starter question for dinner each night or a game the family can play together. The church continues to be the family’s greatest advocate.
PRO TIP: These make great social posts people can interact with and share photo evidence of their family’s fun in the comments. (Boost these to engage with more families in your community.)
4. Corporate Worship
There has been a little abuse, lately, of the verse “not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together.” If you can text that family member “I’m there in spirit.” Or if you can Skype into a meeting and still “be there...” Why can’t we gather together via facebook live, Youtube live, or Life Church’s free streaming platform for churches.(Instagram & TikTok are great places, too.) This isn’t a permanent solution. But it is a temporary opportunity to utilize wisdom for the health of the church both spiritually and physically.
Even online services in the coming days are going to need to shift. Filming the worship team and preacher on the stage certainly have their place. But, if we aren’t able to gather together, maybe a more effective model would be your worship leader leading us in some acoustic guitar/piano songs from his living room before the pastor speaks to us from his. It helps us all feel like we are in this together and not “missing out” on something. Don’t worry, this isn’t something we are going to “grow accustomed to.” Have you met our kids? Yeah, we’re ready to be back with the church, in person, farrr away from our kids. And if people refuse to watch the online service regularly while trapped at home, they probably weren’t engaging with worship or the Great Commission in person either.
PRO TIP: What a great time to teach on hope, peace, the great commission, discipleship, bible study, parenting, etc. (It’s literally a great time to preach and teach on just about anything. You have a captive audience that are not worried about where they are heading for lunch in some cities.)
5. Out With The Old - Plan For The New
As a pastor, I hate meetings. Especially unimportant ones. One main reason I hate meetings is because it’s near impossible to accommodate everyone’s schedule. Not anymore. This up-to-8-week transition is a fantastic time to cancel some gatherings or ministries that you’d been wanting to cancel for a while. It’s also a great time to have meetings to plan the new things you want to start. Everyone’s schedule is fairly free these days. I have a rule when it comes to stuff in my house/closet. If I haven’t missed it in the 6 or more weeks I haven’t used it…or if I forgot I even had it…it’s time to throw it away.
PRO TIP: This is a great time to see who’s all in and who was only in ministry for the clout and stage time. The certainty of budget cuts or reprioritization in these days might be the perfect time for that staffer, deacon, or member who’s been hanging on like a booger on a nose hair - to go. They’re in and out. They make a lot of noise. You know they used to be there for a reason, but now they garner unwanted attention. (Is he talking about the booger or the person??? …yes)
6. Everything Social
Social media is a window and an outlet. It is a window into your ministry that the public will most certainly try to look through before ever showing up at your front door just like you do with hotels and restaurants. Now is the time to strategize and implement a digital strategy. Question posts. Prayer requests. Community focused content. And boosting that content means boosting not only your digital engagement but also your live attendance.
As far as the outlet is concerned, people spend too much time on facebook these days anyhow. Even more now during corona virus time. It’s time to stop their scroll with digital content they can plug into each day and recharge on. Q&A videos. Bible studies. Prayer guides. Scripture readings. And that’s just the surface of how deep you could go! (Notice announcements weren’t listed there.) Need help figuring this out? Email me!
These are scary days. Pastors are supposed to “live by faith.” But that faith is typically supplied by the faithful giving of God’s people. That’s also how we continue to pay the mortgage on the church property. The light bill. Buy supplies…. and most importantly, it is through faith-filled giving that we provide for the needs of the hurting and vulnerable in our community.
Now is the time to highlight that last one. Gently reach out to every giving unit and encourage them to become online givers. Not just “to” the church, but “through” the church. This is a great way to continue the mission of the church digitally and physically. Allow your church to be a place that even the community can give as you highlight the people you’ve been able to help during this difficult time.
PRO TIP: Rebel Give and Tithely are amazing resources!
The point of all of the above is the central point of the church anyway. To be a community that glorifies God and fulfills the Great Commission. From facebook groups to Google Hangouts, from livestreams to instagram stories - THIS IS A KEY TIME TO BUILD COMMUNITY. We’re building the kingdom not just castles at this point. We’re letting our city know that we care and we’re doing something about it. We’re letting our people know that we love them and we’re showing them that. We’re allowing the church to be what it was intended to be - the central hub for life, community, and maybe even communication.
And all that happens in groups…in circles…not rows.
THIS IS YOUR MOMENT, CHURCH!
If you’d like help dissecting any of these, I’d love to schedule a call with you.
Email me at: email@example.com
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.