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!