* note: I repost this blog every so often as a reminder of the importance of Church *
Let me start today with a good ol' Protestant Brag.
I have attended church my whole life, and not just Sunday mornings, I often am there again on Wednesdays too. I accepted Jesus into my heart at age 6, was baptized at age 14, and have been married to a wonderful Christian woman for almost 35 years!
Besides going to church, I go to work, pay my bills, and drive in rush hour traffic that would test Mother Theresa's inner goodness. I aspire to be like Jesus and so I am a pretty pretty good guy, BUT.. (NEWS FLASH) I am not so perfect. I am not really any better (or worse) than those who never darken the door of a local church. Let's just say I am a lifelong member of the 'Flawed Folk Fellowship'.
The friendly members of 'Flawed Folk Fellowship' are known for their welcoming slogan 'No Perfect People Allowed' but this also could serve as a disclaimer much like you hear at the end of one of those prescription med ads on TV.
ie.. CURElanta may be right for you. <pause> BUT.. some taking CURElanta "may experience tingling toes, a bloody nose, itchy ears, swollen rear, and.. in rare cases internal combustion.
Our Flawed Folk disclaimer could be..
Flawed Folk Fellowship might be right for you. <pause> Some attending FFF have reported involuntary hand raising, amen praising, the impulsive utterance of a hallelujah roar, or even a 'manly' Sunday sermon snore.
While I of course share this with a smirk.. the Church is really flawed. Every church, and every body who sits in the front or back pew, or a folding chair are hopelessly flawed. Some call the Church a collection of hypocrites. We hold up a Biblical standard, but often fall miserably short of that very standard. BUT for all us flawed folk there is the God's Grace.
Note: Our primary reason for Church is to Worship God, and not to compare our own relative spiritualities or note each others flaws.
Oh the worship may not be perfect, and the sermon may sometimes wander, but there is no better place to be than in God's House. To sing God's praise even with my 'flawed' friends and welcome visitors to this priceless mess.
My prayer for each of you today is to find your own Flawed Folk Fellowship. To share, and support each other in our struggles, and to worship together the one true God of our Bibles is priceless.
Jeff (slightly flawed) Larson
Persecution for my faith? I think the closest thing I encounter to persecution for my faith is going to church on a miserable cold MinneFROZEta Sunday morning while 'Old Man Winter' mocks me for leaving my warm home to worship with the frozen faithful.
Or maybe the fact that I am a Green Bay Packer fan living in the state of Minnesota Viking fans. Besides that.. persecution is a little on the light side in my life.
No Christians being fed to literal lions these days.
Persecution 2000 years ago looked much different. After the first Christian movement begins at Pentecost in Acts 2 the church grows. In response the religious establishment of the day is outraged and fights them for the next 26 chapters of Acts.
This first century church perseveres through REAL PERSECUTIONS that make my 'Minnesota Winter Windchill' feel like a warm summer breeze.
Now fast forward to today .. I am sitting in my warm home in a country that has allowed me freedom to worship. While the outside temperature may go below zero in the Minnesota winter months I have my gas fireplace warming me as I type.
But.. is Persecution on the rise? I do see a disturbing trend in the news that alarms me where traditional Christian values are under attack.
As Christians we should be unwavering and unapologetic of the gospel message. If we really believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Jesus. Jo 14:6, then shame on us as believers when we are silent.
We are so careful to not call wrong wrong (even in love) in fear that society will label us the religous alt-right hate group of the month.
Our words and actions should be the evidence we are living out God's two greatest commandments. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and care for others in need and love them as ourselves.
May God find us all faithful and full of His Love, and in all things we do. I pray God's people do not live to please man but instead to honor God.
To God be the Glory!
Jeff (Chick-fil-A eating) Larson
As the final week of Jesus continues, we find Jesus frustrated with more than just a case of the Mondays. This special Monday he enters the temple where it was reduced from being God's House of Worship to a first century Holy Land Mini Mall.
Of course in my Back Pew way of looking at things I have imagined and illustrated a few of these temple violators. There were The Temple ..
All these and more turned the temple into as Jesus called it "a true den of thieves". So I guess frustrated was a true understatement as I will call Jesus state of mind The Temper in the Temple.
After turning over a few tables Jesus left the temple not in the mood for encountering a 'fig-free-fig-tree' which he promptly cursed. This was a lesson NOT LOST on his disciples.
It is not fair to assume the mind of Christ, but from my human perspective I imagine Jesus did feel the elation of his triumphant entry that first Palm Sunday. This followed by his frustration of this broken world where on Monday the Temple was shameful, and the fig tree bore no fruit.
Simple emotions for someone like me but deeper and more complex for our Savior as his foretold arrest and crucifixion were only days away.
While my cartoons are a smirky look at very real biblical events my prayer is we remember the Holy Week. Remember and honor the amazing truth of salvation realized between that first Palm Sunday and that first Easter morning.
The author of the book of Hebrews does not mince words when he wrote
.. it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of NOT LISTENING! ... You ought to be teachers by now, yet here you are needing someone to go over the basics on God.. AGAIN! You need MILK, and Milk is for BABIES! Hebrews 5:11-14 (MSG).
BUT then again.. there are plenty of meaningful scriptures exhorting us to have the the faith of a child.
Mt 9:14 (LIV) Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me! Never send them away! For the Kingdom of God belongs to men who have hearts as trusting as these little children’s.
and how about...
Mt 18:2-4 (lIV) Jesus said, “Unless you turn to God from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. and then Jesus continues.. Therefore anyone who humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
even Max Lucado chimes in when he wrote in one of his books.. "Play hard, laugh loud and leave the worries to the Father."
Ok God so which is it? Be like a child or grow up? Drink Milk and eat my Wonder Bread, or grill me a T-Bone Steak?
Before God answers that burning question let me take time for some Introspection..
They say When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Then by my reasoning.. if I have a glass of milk.. make a Milkshake?
There you have it.. I am neither profound nor insightful all in one simple 'Jeffism'.
Seriously, I know God wants me to trust and love Him like as a child I did my own mom & dad.
Also God wants me to grow up, and not end up a spiritual baby or even a lazy spiritual teen living in my Heavenly Father's basement playing video games while this hurting world is in need of spiritual grown ups (men & women of God).
Love God with all their heart soul and mind and others as themselves. Spending time in God's word daily and in a constant attitude of prayer/conversation with God is the two step formula in becoming a spiritual grown up.
May God bless each of you in your faith journeys. Trust in God with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understandings. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Jeff (Vanilla Milk Shake Drinking in the Back Pew) Larson
lyThe Lord's Prayer Matthew 6:9-13
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
These are the perfectly chosen words of Jesus covering everything we should pray for. .. EXCEPT when my busy mind and my eyes are on me and not primarily on God. All of sudden I have added a Prologue using an extra small font, then emphatically use ALL CAPS, bold and underlined fonts to emphasize the compromised (self) attitude of my heart.
I cringe as I have turned The Lord's Prayer into something that more resembles a ransom letter then it does a humble loving prayer to my creator.
Lord's Prayer Prologue
Our Father who is in Heaven hallowed (whatever hallowed is) is your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
(NOW 'MY' REAL PRAYER STARTS)
GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD!! (and.. the other stuff I WANT)
FORGIVE MY SINS (and THE MESS I MAKE OF LIFE),
as we forgive those who sin against us.
and lead me not into temptation, but
DELIVER ME FROM EVIL (aka keep me out of trouble even when I am looking for trouble).
For yours is the power and glory forever (YOU CAN DO IT!)
My point is to remind myself that The Lord's Prayer is short, but so powerful. It opens the doors of our lives and gives them to God, and if anything we should get stuck on the beginning of the Lord's Prayer as we find ourselves in awe of our loving creator.
Our Father who is in Heaven, Hallowed (GREAT) is your name! Your Kingdom come, your will be done on Earth (in my life, in my family, your church, our nation) as it is in Heaven.
Also, The Lord's Prayer expands easily to cover the miriad of moments and issues that need God's attention. My family, my attitude, health issues, our nation, where I put my hope, where I put my trust (God), and the choices I make. Also confession of and prayers for help regarding areas of temptation and compromise I entertain. And don't forget to be forgiving of others! But all of this and more are covered in the Lord's Prayer.
This is my prayer for each of you. May we all pray to Him in a way that is God centered not self centered. There is no greater call than to be a servant of God. Think of it, the creator of the world. Like the old Navy recruitment slogan 'It is not just a job (to serve God), it is an adventure.'
Blessings on your Adventure
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson