Shaken but not Stirred

By Sarah Parham –

Everything from air travel to celebrating holidays to childhood education to church life has undergone dramatic shifts. As we watch the evening news, it seems as if our worlds are being completely shaken. 

But are they? I have a framed quote on my desk right now from James Bryan Smith. It reads, “I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights. I live in his strong and unshakable kingdom. The kingdom is not in trouble, and neither am I.”

In other words, while our worlds are being shaken, the kingdom is unshakable. The kingdom is unshakable precisely because it is ruled by an unshakable king, who has an unchanging mission: to save and transform humanity and all creation. We need never to worry about transitions of power in the kingdom. There will not be a new administration, or a new cabinet with new priorities. The priorities of the kingdom will forever remain the same: to seek and save the lost. This is good news! We ourselves, somewhat lost in these transitions, have a mission. 

There are three moments in scripture that come to mind when I think of our world being shaken. The first is when Moses met with God on Mount Sinai in Exodus 19. The Scripture says that “the Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai” as smoke covered the mountain, and the entire mountain trembled, and a trumpet sounded. This scene is enough to put the fear of God into the most skeptical among us.  And yet, God is descending for the purpose of meeting with his people. Yes, it is terrifying, and yes, the earth is shaken, but God is coming down!

The second moment that comes to mind is at the crucifixion. Matthew 27 tells us that at the moment when Jesus gave up his spirit, there was an earthquake which split rocks and opened tombs. 

The third shaking is found in Acts 4. Immediately following a prayer meeting, the place where the believers had gathered was shaken, in a move of the Spirit reminiscent of Pentecost found in Acts 2. 

All of these shakings have two things in common. First, they are at moments when God is working to draw close to his people. At Sinai, he was making a covenant. Same was true at Golgotha. In the prayer meeting, God is filling his people with his Holy Spirit. 

Second, in all of these moments, the mission of God is clear. At Sinai, the people were chosen to be God’s blessing to the nations. On the cross, Jesus died in order to bring all nations to himself. At the prayer meeting, the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit to proclaim the word of God and to live as signs of the kingdom. 

So, these days, as we sense that our world is being shaken, we can look to the heavens – to the realm of the kingdom – and ask how God would like to come close for the sake of his mission. We can rest assured that our king has not changed, nor have his priorities. 

“As far as you can, hold your confidence,” writes poet John O’Donohue in his book To Bless the Space Between Us. “Do not allow confusion to squander this call….” This call, to proclaim boldly the word of God and to live as signs of the kingdom, is far too important to be lost in the shaking.  

In fact, when the world shakes, what is unshakable becomes even more clear. Like a chimney standing tall, unrattled, and unmoved after an earth-moving tornado, God’s call to his people remains. Let us not squander our call. In the unshakable kingdom of God, the rule of the king is unchanging, the power is steady, and the mission is always the same.

Sarah Parham serves as senior director for domestic mobilization at TMS Global. She is also co-moderator of the TMS Global podcast – Thy Kingdom Pod: Living in the Unfinished – that goes deeper into kingdom living in the here and now. To learn more visit www.tms-global.org. 

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