I Remember back when I was a kid in gym class and did not want to be that last kid chosen for a team? Well I don't like to brag (as I puff out my (almost) 63 year old chest, not my gut it puffs out on it's own) but I was not that kid. I loved sports and was a decent athlete even if the game was dodge-ball I was always a solid pick. Of course if there was a robotics team back then I may have been been that last pick, then placed on the 'my brain hurts' injury reserved list.
We can all breath a sigh of relief God does not operate that way. He seems to like the odd ducks, and unlikely picks to be on his team, even LEAD his team. Hmm.. I might even be chosen on God's robotics team. :)
So here is a partial list of those God chose for his team.
Noah was Mr. 'if you build it they will come'. These were the paraphrased words of God from the book of Genesis as 600 year old Noah is chosen to craft an Ark with his 100 year old sons. And.. not just any Ark, an Ark in the desert.
Abraham was a spry 75 years old or so when called by God to pack up the Winnebago (figuratively speaking) and hit the road.
So much for the Golden Years. "I will make you a mighty nation you." Thus saith the Lord.
A mighty nation?.. Abe and the Mrs. were past the age of having their own kids, so unless God is talking about some 'Mighty Nation' app for his smartphone then he did not know how this was going to happen.
Moses, the exiled (for murder) prince of Egypt is working in a land far far away as an overqualified sheep tender when God speaks to him from a burning bush.
"Moses .. you and I are going to free the children of Israel." Ok, mostly I will but do I have a job for you." - Thus saith the Lord.
I don't know about you, but I would not have chosen a guy on the run for murder who smells like sheep.
Speaking of sheep, how about the Shepherd boy chosen by God to slay Golaith, and later becomes king!
A 5'8" 145 lb Junior College linebacker has a better chance trying out for the Chicago Bears than David did in defeating a Giant.
The safe money was all bet on Goliath, but God chose David and that is what mattered.
Then off to the New Testament..
How about the choosing of who would be the mother of our Savior. Mary was blessed among woman and obedient to God. Jesus father would be carpenter. Our Heavenly Father picked Mary and Joseph to be mother and father of Jesus.
Then we have the choosing of the 12 disciples. Budding theologians they were not. Jesus chose a bunch of fisherman and a few other rag tag everyday folk to be with him as the Gospel message of salvation was shared.
How about that moment when the thief asked Jesus to remember him in Heaven.
"This very day you will be with me in paradise." were the words spoken by Jesus to the thief on the cross shortly before he died.
The spiritual resume of this thief from what we know was pretty light, but that is how big God's Grace is.
Now it's time to choose an Apostle to lead to share the gospel message to the world. Who would God choose #1 in the very first 'Missionary Gospel Draft'?
The number one pick is Saul of Tarsus.. Saul? The same Saul who recently could be found attending the stoning of Stephen? Yep, that Saul. Yes God chose Saul aka Paul. That is all that mattered.
"Saul why do you persecute me?" were the blunt words of Jesus from a blinding light while Saul was on the road to Damascus.
"I've got good news and bad news. First the bad news.. your cushy leader of the Pharisees job is going away. The good news.. You will be my very first Missionary." - Thus saith the Lord.
I may be going out on a limb, but I don't see many literal burning bushes, or blinding lights on my horizon, but I do believe I am chosen and capable.
Not that it makes sense based on our relative and limited qualifications, but in fact we are all chosen by our loving Heavenly Father. Chosen not only to be a part of God's Kingdom, but also to serve in big and small ways.
So do not keep God in a box, and a lid on what is possible with regards to the blessings and opportunities to serve.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8
Just like Isaiah, be listening for God's leading in big and small ways, and when God calls on you.. reply "Here am I. pick me! pick me!"
May God bless and use you in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS and all that God intends.
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
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.
Then Jesus 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 mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson