DISCLAIMER.. This is just a silly post of a fictitious fella BEFORE all things COVID-19. Since then the Glacial reopening of churches in Minnesota has me willing to attend almost any church just short of those that handle.. SNAKES.
IMAGINE there's no COVID ..
it's easy if you try..
No SOCIAL DISTANCE restricts us..
No FAUCI sayin' "yer gonna die!"
IMAGINE all the people ATTENDING CHURCH today..
You may say that I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
when STREAMING CHURCH is done
- John Lennon Worship Band
But I digress.. remember a time when all the churches were open. Fundementalists, Catholics, Lutherans, to Pentecostal and everything in between including a few Name it Claim it Prosperity Gospel venues all doin' their Sunday thang. As the drinking phrase goes.. What's your poison? Ok, poison is not a good analogy, but the point is remember a time where you could go ANYWHERE that fits your denominational bent. Ah, the good ol' days where have they gone?
So onward and forward I go to days of yesteryear (ok, yestermonth) where some guy (not me) does not want to go to church. His attitude and thoughts are captured below..
I could tell this was going to be a very bad day to go to church. Just getting out of bed was tough enough.. and the Sunday paper was calling my name…. “psst fella, over here… read me!” My Social Media apps are calling too with Sunday morning memes and silly cat pictures.. psst, did you see this one. .. and how else am I going to stay informed if I don't get my news from 'friends' posting on Social Media.
AND.. The coffee is brewing, and it called out to me too.. “hey guy, slow down.. it’s Sunday.” So, I listened to the voices.. I grabbed the paper, my smartphone, a BIG cup of coffee.. and I was ready for ..no-action.
Now I am a good Christian man, but sometimes as the leader of our family it is important to declare a family day!.. meaning.. we stay home from church so we can spend time together bonding. Ok, ok.. family day is actually code for I WANT TO STAY HOME AND NOT SHOWER UNTIL NOON… drink a pot of coffee, and read the Sunday funnies, and the sports section.
Well I may be the head of the house, BUT my wife wants no part of 'family day'. She wants to leave the comfort of our home and sing with the other blessed saints at our church. Sing? I don’t like to sing, and I know the people I go to church with, and while they are nice people.. SAINTS they AINT.
So off we go to church leaving my Sunday morning paper and my coffee at home. “goodbye paper! Goodbye coffee!”… We have often traveled this familiar road to that familiar church with a backseat loaded with our darlin’ children who set the mood by bickering and fighting the whole blessed drive to church… which put me SOOO in the mood to worship. NOT! So here I drive on lamenting a ‘family day’ lost.
We arrive at the blessed house of God and are immediately greeted by overzealous handshakers welcoming me like they thought I wanted to be there... instead of drinking coffee with by BFF the Sunday Paper.
In the Fellowship Center they do have coffee.. but it is not STARBUCKS, or even Folgers. I like my coffee strong and black, but my church serves it in the traditional big ALUMINUM DRUM that has been used but not cleaned since the Eisenhower Administration. This is not real coffee, and a couple cups of this brew only makes the service to come only seem more unbearable.
After the formalities of church coffee and donut holes we move to church sanctuary. We have no theater seating at our church but instead use traditional wooden (with no pads) church pews where I sit and pray for a sliver free service. The sanctuary is not really so crowded, but I am a big guy, and the ambiance falls short in comfort to sitting in MY living room drinking MY coffee, and reading MY Sunday paper.. in MY PJs!! scratching myself anywhere I itch… BUT I DIGRESS… again!
The Worship Leader at church is a bit over the top, and his Las Vegas flair certainly is noticeable during his rendition of ‘The King is Coming’.. This only serves to bring the ‘worship wonders’ out of the wood work. I don’t sing so ‘goodr’, and my sense of rhythm is that of a badger with back spasms. IT’S NOT PRETTY… But no worry.. we have all the charismaniacs to make up for me… performing for style points again. We have Bullwinkle, the six-shooter, a lady who appears to have WINGS, and then I have to get the seat behind this guy with the plumbers backside with hands raised high. It is like the Worship Circus has come to town.
Even when the people are not hootin’ and hollerin’ they are peculiar.. AND past Sunday mornings have not been free of controversy. Before the 'The Covid' there was the Great Head-Lice Epidemic of 1994. The Cal Ripken of ushers who should have just taken a sick day instead of infecting and grossing out the parishioners one communion Sunday in 1998. AND .. with regards to our church being full of grace.. well NOT to the repeat offenders.
The offering/guilt plate is of course passed which I with a smirk said..”no thanks, I am trying to cut back on giving.”
My smirk moves to a cringe at the sight of the preacher as he saunters up to the pulpit… armed only with one lapel microphone and the word of God… both which he seems to overuse.
Pastor words and mannerisms are direct, and passionate, but with his zipper accidentally was left wide OPEN that less than holy smirk returns to my face and I PRAY “Dear God please keep me from giggling!” Nothing sounds sillier than a big man giggling at church!
So there you have it. I do hope and pray there are jewels in my crown someday when I get to Heaven because on this day.. I WAS AT CHURCH worshiping with the saints when I wanting to be home worshiping God in my own way with my new VR Church System.
signed some anonymous guy
Now, I must say again. I am not that guy. In fact I was in church today happy to be worshiping with other believers who while respectful of Covid concerns was open. It was refreshing to be back in church.
America is not back to normal, but I pray we are smart, careful, but unafraid as we gather together as we are commanded by scriptures to do.
May God bless you all today even if you resemble the above mentioned anonymous guy.
Let me start today with a good ol' Protestant Brag.
I have attend church most every week, and not just Sunday mornings, I often go 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 36 years! You see, I AM ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS.
Besides going to church, I work hard, pay my bills, and have endured rush hour traffic that would tempt Mother Theresa's to swear like a sailor.
I aspire to be like Jesus and so again.. I am a pretty pretty good guy. BUT.. (NEWS FLASH) I am really any better 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 TV ads.
CURElanta may be right for you. <pause> BUT.. some taking CURElanta "may experience tingling toes, a bloody nose, itchy ears, swollen rear, and.. in extreme cases DEATH or worse.
Our Flawed Folk disclaimer could be .. In some cases those attending Flawed Folk Fellowship experience involuntary hand raising, amen vocalizations and often the compulsive utterance of a hallelujah. On other Sundays sermon snoring may occur.
All silliness aside.. there are two recurring comments you hear regarding us Flawed Folk.
I confess I am happy to be a part of Flawed Folk Fellowship. There is no better place to worship & give thanks to our God for the blessings 'and trials' of this life. There is no place to be than worshiping God together sharing and praying to our loving Father who cares. To become a community of other flawed believers in our sincere attempt to be a church family.. aka the body of Christ.
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.
I was reading recently about Martin Luther nailing his 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. Luther's 95 theses brought attention to corruption in the Catholic Church. Luther appealed the Pope in 1517 to stop the practice of squeezing ‘indulgences’ from parishioners as ‘down payments’ on heaven, and/or petition God to limit the time their dead loved ones spent in purgatory.
I know the Catholic Church still encourages indulgences but I believe they describe these gifts as part of turning our attention from our sins and to God's church. I can't say I completely understand this, but that may be just my protestant upbringing speaking up.
Anyways Catholics and Protestants should all agree our salvation is found only in Jesus Christ as our savior, then loving God and serving others with our lives. The giving of money or other form of indulgence will not affect our status in the next life.
Anyways, back to indulgences. We protestants sometimes are flippant about the Catholic Church and their history with indulgences. But how does that 'speck' scripture go? Be careful about pointing out the speck in someone else's eye when you have a beam in your own.
So I take a glance inward at the Protestant Church, and observe some possible big buck 'indulgent' items I am not just talking about the Prosperity Gospel Churches and the lavish lifestyles of their Leaders (ie Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn), but even many of the church programs (Mega & not Mega) in our cities? Are they a ministry serving God or a monument to the Church itself.
Of course it goes without saying God's house is special. We are to be reverent and generous in the space and resources we use for church, but the Gospel Message should never focus on a building or be concerned with numbers. But some churches appear to believe in buildings and cry they need xy & z to grow the church, and put up a good and proper Sunday morning SHOW. Q. Do we really need three huge video screens, and stream to other locations all over the city to share God's Good News? Maybe.. but maybe not.
It is obvious by the collective gasp of those reading this blog I now have stepped on many toes of those attending church in America. Still I am concerned too many church growth programs are the product of 'Church Consultants' focusing on numbers but lite on discipleship. They say "To grow the church you must promote the church,, and to promote the church you need a building program. Then to promote the program the pastor should write a book, and/or your need your own buzz words to 'market/brand' your ministry. And to function properly you will need xy & z to share the Gospel giving that old book (aka Bible) a modern kick." True? Maybe, or maybe not
Note: funny Jesus did not need xy & z, he just lived and taught God's Truth to a hurting world, and He did it without 3 big screens, A worship band, or a building of His own.
I observe many well intended building programs are built around a series of services focused on exciting church growth news followed by a series of sermons on giving. These services focus on what we do is special, dare I say anointed. No one does quite like we do! True? Maybe, maybe not.
The focus during this time is on giving above and beyond normal in 'faith' for this cause of God through testimonials of ordinary folk blessed by the church WHEN they gave more. The congregation is 'gently coherced' over the next several weeks leading to a special 'Sunday of Giving' with a special service where the whole congregation is invited to come forward and drop their pledges (indulgences?) into special baskets at the front of the church.. where it is visibly clear who participated in giving and who did not. All while the Worship Band plays. True? Maybe, maybe not
So my question is.. Did I just participate in a Protestant Indulgence? No, we are not like in Luther's day giving an indulgence to the church to get a loved one out of purgatory (or worse).. but are we giving to God or a monument to man? Do we desire to be a seeker friendly church that is a mile wide and 6" deep where people can comfortably attend, never convicted, never challenged to go deeper but again comfortably 'entertained' as they ease through life attending the weekly Sunday Worship Show eventually to Hell... or is my church something more?
Now let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with a Mega-Church with multiple sites where the service is streamed. I confess I stream sermons from the convenience of my home, and have attended churches with great preaching where the message was streamed from another site. But something with all this does not sit well with me. It may be just my preference, but maybe something more. Feels too often to be the Cathedrals of Man. Indulgence much? Maybe, maybe not.
For those who read this and are indignant that I am implying you are participating in protestant indulgences. Please don't be. If what your church does is all about God. Having 3 big screens at the front of your church is not the issue, and if the programs and efforts meet the community in very real ways bringing them closer to God, and if you are growing disciples.. then keep doing what you are doing.
But if your church is focusing on being cool & trendy then maybe you need a reset. Is this what God really wants, or is this what I convinced myself God wants?
Final confession. It's easy to throw stones at Glass churches.. BUT I am a bit of a hypocrite as I have and still do justify purchases that I want, are good, and convinced I need.. but.. I don't really need and should not afford. Kind of a personal indulgence where I may not be taking directly out of what I should give/tithe to the church, but indirectly that is exactly what I do. I even may pray to God about a purchase, but since God did not speak to me with a clap of thunder I may go ahead with my 'self-indulgent' purchase. My choice may not be bad, but is it the right choice. I like to think I am getting better about this, but I know I am a work in progress.
So no condemnation here of self or the church here. Just honest questions about priorities. Each of our personal priorities and the priorities of the collective church.
So I pray today for our churches are not just comfortable social quasi spiritual gatherings where on judgment day we cry "Lord, Lord".. but God replies.. "I never knew you". Mt 7:21-23 I pray our churches to be houses of worship, outreach, and discipleship that are not about being the cool church, but being the House of God. And I pray for myself and those of you who struggle with self-indulgence. May the Church and our lives listen to God's voice and to all things To God be the Glory.
Jeff (a tad self-indulgent) Larson
Making Sense in Life. The more things change, the more they stay the same. With this 2020 Coronavirus pandemic holding us captive my mind wanders to a range of intellectual and theological topics. Some of my thoughts are 'relatively' deep (for a cartoonist) while other thoughts just dip their toes in the shallow end of the kiddie pool of intellectualism.
My shallow thoughts might be.. "What does my dog Cooper dream about?" or "Why is it snowing in April?" Answer to the snow question is "You live in Minnesota, you dummy."
Now what I consider a little deeper topic is .. 'Is God really fair?' No, not just saying He is fair afraid of what others in the church think, but is God really fair.
So in my mind wanderings I was thinking about the story in Genesis where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. This is absurd, maybe even pagan. Could this have been a moment where Abraham replies to this seemingly grotesque request.. "If you are a loving God, why are you asking me to do such a murderous thing? If you are God, you are no longer my God."
No, Abraham while troubled by God's request did not question God, or debate Him. He proceeded to be obedient to God to the point of killing his son. This is when God said "STOP", and provided a lamb to sacrifice in Isaac's place. WHEW!
My wife and I watched the 1979 movie Jesus on Good Friday this year. It was remastered and included this story of Abraham and Isaac explaining Jesus (the Lamb of God) took the place for our sins just as God provided a lamb to take the place of Isaac. I love this analogy of Biblical proportions.
Now let me take this 'trusting God' thing a step further as I think out loud and type. Let's start with God is perfect, good and just in all He does. We are His creation that He can do with us whatever he chooses, and then realize God's Love and His Wrath are both attributes of God. note: read 'Knowing God' by J.I Packer for a better understanding of who God is. Finally, there is eternal life for those who accept Jesus as their savior, and Hell for those who say NO to God.
Well then we can question.. Is life an even playing field? We do not have the same opportunities, circumstances, or aptitudes to know God, or even more specifically know who Jesus is. To this I think honestly is NOT just, loving, kind, or FAIR! It seems at it's best to the judgment of a God who could be described as indifferent. This is a God who says "I am God and I will do whatever I want." If this is true my response is equal parts of being afraid, sad, and maybe appalled.
But maybe it is like the sacrifice of Isaac, or Jesus dying on the cross for my sins. I don't understand why, but in these examples I see God's love for those who are faithful. A lamb provided in place of Isaac, and Jesus in place of a sinful mankind.
But.. I still know life is not fair, and beyond this life the opportunities to know Jesus or even know there is a Jesus are not fair. This is true, but like Abraham we are called to be faithful and obedient to God even when we do not understand.
All of us will some day come right down to the end of life (young or old) and for some life has been blessed while others it is seems cursed. This is where we are called to be obedient, pray. and trust God like Abraham did when asked to sacrifice his only son.
I believe I am sharing is a glimpse of truth at least for me. I don't find my self debating deep theological issues with great theologians.. but it is an important part of my faith journey. To seek God and to TRUST God.
I believe God cares beyond this life for those injured by injustice even when I do not understand and/or are troubled by God's direction.
My prayer is to be faithful, humble, but not shaken by pandemics or 'worse'. I believe in both the goodness and sovereignty of God, and we are to trust God for this life and the next that He will make all things fair and right in the end.
Jeff (thinking deep thoughts with my theological water wings on) Larson
Just one day after Jesus Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, we find Jesus suffering 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 leaves 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.
Jesus, fully God, fully man (He 2:17)
We cannot fathom the mindset of Jesus at this time, but from a human perspective I believe Jesus experienced the elation of his triumphant entry that first Palm Sunday all while knowing that would happen over the next week. While his crucifixion, and resurrection later this week shocked his disciples, this was all a part of The Father's Gospel Plan of Salvation for mankind (see Isaiah 53).
note: If I was Isaiah and I just finished writing Isaiah 53.. I would.. DROP THE MIC!
So Jesus knowing what this week would bring, the shameful conduct in the Temple, and the fig tree bore no fruit were the realities of this sinful and broken world just one day removed from that first Palm Sunday celebration.
These are normal emotions for any of man or woman since Adam & Eve but deeper and more complex for Jesus who knew no sin while being fully God and fully man.
Holy week is one of those times where my silly cartoon images feel out of place as a medium to communicate God's Heart and His truth. My prayer is that these sketches and comments convey the absurdity of man when compared to what is Holy, and NEVER distract from the message of Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
May God find us faithful while living in a world of barren fig trees, and churches with tables to be flipped. In all things to God be the Glory.
Back in the day when my wife and I were raising our 3 kids.. attending church was a given.
But.. there were those Sundays (not too many) where we slept in late, or the MinneFROZEta winters were very Minnesota (very cold) like. On those Sundays we might declare 'A Family Day'. A day free from the harried pace of getting 3 kids ready for church, and free of policing the 'energy' of our 3 darlin' kids in the backseat of our car to and from church.
Now on a 'Family Day' we would gather the children, and read a couple Bible stories from this great Picture Bible we had. We would then discuss the story and lessons learned, and take time to pray. Really, we did take time to have real church and it was not used as a 'Get out of Church Free' card.
Now fast forward to the Spring of 2020, and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has us on lockdown. I don't know how long this will last, and not here to argue pandemic v PANICdemic only know this is our new reality.
The good news is in our modern streaming world there is the best church worship, and sermons available from all all the best worship leaders and preachers.
So in our church lockout/down state we are presented with the new and improved 'Family Day'.
They may not call it a Family Day, but hey.. I know Family Day when I see it. And in this new stream all world I can even attend services of my church online.
With this 'Family Day' available my wife and I chose to attend (stream) the 9 AM service.. and to make our attendance even more realistic we were 10 minutes late.
Worship at our church is always good, and we enjoyed watching familiar faces from the worship team lead 4 or 5 familiar songs focusing on God. Worship was not just a label for the time they led us in song, worship was the attitude of their heart. I confess during this time I did not stand or raise my hands, but I did worship.
This was followed by a time where we could participate in giving a tithe and/or offering. Of course no physical or virtual offering plate was passed, but there they still laid on a virtual 'guilt trip'. <insert dramtic pause, and eye roll, and gasp here> KIDDING, KIDDING, there was no pressure to give but instead the true privilege and opportunity to give as another way to worship our God and support the Church we belong to. Also what was nice is that I typically give online to our church and did this per usual.
Next, our pastor shared a sermon that was timely for 'such a time as this' (homebound, stir crazy, with more than a hint of uncertainty).
After the service concluded, my wife and I prayed together. It was time well spent in our Homebound Church state. It was like our old Family Day declarations from years gone by, but this time Family Day was mandated by the Governor of Minnesota.
While we miss attending our church, and pray life returns to normal soon, until then we are thankful for attending our church today in our PJs with bed-hair, with me slumping in my easy chair while drawing cartoons.
May God bless you all during this trying time. I pray God meets your physical and financial needs as well as strengthens your spiritual health.
This can be a time where we trust our God and to seek His will like never before.
This can be a time where we read our Bibles, meditate on it's words, and stay quiet as we listen for God to speak.
Jeff (wearing my 4pm PJs) Larson
Invertebrate: an animal lacking a backbone, such as an arthropod, mollusk, annelid, coelenterate, .. and some forms of Christians.
But first a bunny trail>
With all things COVID-19 related it is easy for everyone including Christians to hyperfocus on this very real health risk. So hyperfocused that we almost forget to breath. Almost.
But the world does not truly go on hold. Life is still lived and as Christians we should not lose focus on Jesus and living out His truth. The evening news does not give you truth.. it gives you what will get you to watch their 'shows'. Cynical much? you ask. No, I think of it as being realistic.
So no matter, we all of course need to be careful, stay healthy but this is NOT the Black Plague. Stay informed, but don't swallow the bait cast out every night at 6pm at your favorite news fishing spot.
<End of bunny trail
Now put down your Purell for a moment and let's talk about the Church. Not the buildings where we all gather in, but those good folk called to be the body of Christ.
A strong body will have bones, muscles, a heart pumping, brain thinking, lungs breathing, and we have eyes, ears, nose to enhance our senses to the world around us. This is why the body analogy works well in describing the Church and how it should function. All parts of the body are different but important.
So here is my concern of the day.. the church appears to suffer at times from a hardened and/or weak heart.. and our brain perplexed while attempting to blend God's truth into a 'very' secular world view (a true square peg in a round hole dilemma). Of course we should instead share how this very secular world needs to align with God's Truth.
AND.. then my cartoon mind smriks.. Maybe the Church is an invertebrate? Spineless, unable to stand up in this sinful world.
At the very least the church appears to be slouching.. and maybe the slouching is because it has no spine.
Spineless Christianity? I am 62 years old guy with chronic back issues. Images of my spine a few years back indicated I have several bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and arthritis that give me at times considerable pain. So The Bad News is.. I have pain. The Good News is.. I have a spine!
But I have grown fond of my spine.. not sure I could live without it. LITERALLY.
So goes the same when we talk about the Church Body. The Church must have a spine (stand unflinching with God's Truth with no apology) or I believe will die.
Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. .. John 15:18-19
AND THEY DID hate Jesus for sharing God's unflinching loving truth. Not in rude manner we 'Christians' sometimes are known for, but the kind of love/truth where Jesus spoke more about Hell then He did Heaven. It matters eternally what we believe, what we say, or DON'T say.
But, we the Church worry, dare I say is afraid.
People won't like me and/or laugh at me. They will label me just another judgmental hypocritical bigot. I'm cool, really.. but ..
Hmmm.. let summarize my concern with these attitudes.. Any Church (or person) without Biblical convictions.. that does not follow Christ teachings, listen to the Holy Spirit cannot truly worship/obey God and.. is maybe not really a Christian. And certainly appears to be a 'Christian Invertebrate'
To exist in a luke-warm compromised Oprah Winfrey morning blend of religions that serves self with at best a wink and a thumbs up gesture towards Heaven will not get you to Heaven, and certainly not lead others to God.
So what better time than now to grow a SPINE. In the midst of the pandemic panics, partisan politics, border & homeless crisis, racial tensions, failing marriages, and LGBTQ confusion we (The Church) best grow a spine. I MEAN NOW.
It has been a long time since I was a student in Biology class but I am pretty sure our physical bodies cannot grow a spine. And I can't go to a body junk yard and pick up a spine that is used but in pretty good condition (no arthritics, or bulging discs) to replace my aching back.
But in contrast I believe any church body with a repentant heart desiring revival, and obedient to God's unchanging Truths (His Word) can be restored by God for His glory.
A Church Body with a Heart/love for God & others, with hands and feet serving God and others, and our minds renewed (Ro 12:2) and obedient to God's unchanging truths .. God will bless us as we stand tall and straight for God in this crooked world.
And just like that. Viola' - The Church has a spine again.
May God bless you and the Church to be seeking Him. May He find us faithful, standing straight for His truth in this twisted secular world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Mt 5:16
Jeff (aching back) Larson
Life again reminds me we are all so very busy with days filled and choices to be made. Sometimes I feel like a contestant on the Price is Right TV show and I randomly choose door number #3 today.. and hope for the best.
So to help guide our life decisions I would like to suggest the Closed Fist and Open Hand approach.
But.. a serious dilemma occurs when we mix our Open Hand and Closed Fist views. Just think if an alcoholic who continues to drink, a marriage without fidelity, or if I decide not to pay my bills on time.. or pay them at all. All are a recipe for disaster.
Of course, Open Hand and Closed Fist views are rubbed in our faces when we turn on the evening news where Washington is filled with Closed Fists ready to punch political opponents in the nose.. or lower. I guess this is what Washington calls 'reaching across the aisle'.
Now finally, how's the old Open Hand v Closed Fist working with God's people? From my vantage point, not so good. Just a glance on my Twitter account I could imagine..
Seriously, the church can be a prickly place. Not just your basic Predestined v Free Will, eternal security, or are Infant Baptisms ok debates? There are more serious divisions where when we do not agree on the interpretation of a passage of scriptures then someone must be a HERETIC... when maybe we really don't know and simply disagree. But then to be fair again.. some teachings are heresy.
God save us! No really, GOD SAVE US!
Now take it with a grain of salt that you are reading a blog from 'a grownup' who draws cartoons, but the following is my exhaustive (or exhausting) guide to Closed Fist and Open Hands in the Church.
The reason for writing today's blog was fueled by ongoing battles among well known evangelicals, and then watching the 'Christian' media and 'Christian' social media fanning the flames that divide us.
Of course I do believe in addressing sin and true heresy in the church. BUT.. I pray for a biblical approach.
Sigh.. Maybe from time to time I will just open my clenched fist and slap myself.
I am not positive today's blog is helpful, but the spirit of it is on my heart. May God use my fumbling words to speak truth or the desire for us all to seek truth.
May God bless you in your busy lives. Be true to God, stand for Him, know your Bibles, have good friends, and eat all your veggies. :)
Jeff ( in between a slap, tickle, & a fist fight) Larson
"I am off to pick a fight." is one of my favorite lines from one the movie.. ‘BraveHeart’.. not to be confused with Brave-Bird. see picture -->
BraveHeart is the story of William Wallace of Scotland fighting for the FRREEEDOMM against the oppressive rule of England. At one dramatic scene from the movie BraveHeart the Scots who were greatly outnumbered by the English are about to do battle. The well armed, well trained English did not take this rag-tag Scottish army seriously. But then after declaring.. “I am off to PICK A FIGHT.” .. in rides William Wallace (Mel Gibson) on his horse to mess with the peace negotiations between the Scots and England.
I won’t get into the details, but Wallace taunts and mocks the English until.. yes THERE WAS A FIGHT… and the Scots win!
The significant message of this movie is a call to do what is right no matter the cost, even the cost of maybe their lives.
Of course as modern day Christians we are not called to look for a fight, but we should NEVER be afraid to FIGHT for God's Truth. We answer to God, not to man. Some may cry out.. No, no, not the Crusades again…I go to church, I am a good person.. Please no Crusades 2019 unless they are like the Billy Graham Crusades. Billy Graham is good and I don't remember him in a fight.
Others recall.. "Jesus was about love. That's the Jesus we like.. the one about love. we don't associate with Christians who speak out against abortion, Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, or the LGBTQ like claims that there are more genders than Baskin Robbins has flavors of ice cream (31). Then the media beats their drum of secular outrage with stories about the dangerous bigoted 'religious right'. They guilt many for wanting to build a wall, owning a gun, or for even being white. Why should I feel guilty that my parents were white? Then every election year like lemmings we are pressured to run full speed off either a republican or democrat/socialist cliff following our political allegiances before considering God's Truth.
We are afraid of the fight if we are political, pro-Israel, or against Sharia Law lest we be labeled a Islamophobe. Please I am not one of THOSE Christians. I am a good person, who never makes waves.. I am like Jesus who is about love.. remember? All this pressure to conform and fear of a fight with our society railing against traditional Christian values melts many into doing their best Piglet of Winnie the Pooh fame (a devout pacifist).. as we fret and worry stammering “Oh d-dear, oh d-dear!!.
But let's slow down and consider a couple examples from our Bibles.
David, leveled the giant Goliath, and cut off his head for daring to mock God. There was no peace negotiations with the enemy of God, and there was victory for David standing up against this Pagan.
and the best example..
Jesus the Son of God...
To summarize the example of Jesus, and how this should set with his church.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated Jesus before it hated you. If you are of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but Jesus chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19
Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Most likely we are not called to a literal bloody nose like fight, or to be the church version of Antifa.. but never EVER back down from living and teaching God's truth.
Important Note: Picking a Fight is also the fight for THOSE IN NEED, and the LOST? What good is our faith if it is only about our own well being?
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
May God bless each of us today as we pursue and defend God’s truth. May God smile at, and bless our sincere efforts to serve Him and others, and lovingly correct us when we fall… and may God bless us and use us in ways that are BEYOND OUR DREAMS.
Jeff (bruise like a peach) Larson
note: With us all in the fight for God's Truth, let's calm down the internal fights in the church. We should stand for God's word to be honored in the church and while there are differences in the body.. The cry of "heretic" is overused by those we differ with.
* 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
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson