Hmmm.. sounds like a lesson for the Karate Kid (ie wax on wax off).. BUT IT IS NOT!
Life is busy, and every day in our busy lives is filled with choices. 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 my life decisions I have incorporated a 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.
Let me be clear, 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, follow His Word not the words of man, have good friends, and eat all your veggies. :)
Jeff ( in between a slap, tickle, & a fist fight) Larson
Lukewarm Coffee (LWC) exists in a land between hot and cold where room temperature is king. It is the 'Twilight Zone' of brews. Most LWCs were once a well intended piping hot cup of coffee until forgotten or ignored. They (LWCs) are the 'stale donuts' of the beverage world.
And last I checked, neither Starbucks or Dunn Brothers feature lukewarm coffee. GO FIGURE! Not not even for a niche target market of very plain boring people dressed in old sweats, bed hair, and a 2 day beard eating plain white bread from the bag while demanding their LWC.
NO ONE wants lukewarm coffee, and I believe the only acceptable use for it is .. when I have a splitting headache with two Excedrin in my hand and I spot a half a cup of LWC sitting around from this morning to wash down the meds before my head explodes.
Of course our Bibles speak often on the topic of coffee (ie Hebrews hahaha.. old joke), and even tackles the specific topic of LWC in Revelations 3:15-16 where the angel of the church of Laodicea speaks out..
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (like a cup of lukewarm generic instant decaf coffee with non-dairy creamer and a sweetener substitute).
note: If you did not guess, the part in parenthesis was not from 'The Message'.. I added it myself to emphasize my LWC point.
But there is a very sobering interpretation of this scripture. Being a LWC believer (even with sweetener added) is not a safe place to be. Will lukewarm get me to Heaven? Well, the whole God spitting me out of His mouth is a pretty clear NO... IMO.
God is not amused by half-hearted devotion. In fact God sounds frustrated, dare I say disgusted in Revelations 3:15-16 when we are only playing church.
So I read this passage and look at my life. I am a good guy, no major ( or minor ) crimes, I go to church most every week. I love God, my family, and have good friends making this life good.. for ME, BUT.. am I actually living a lukewarm cup of decaf and a stale donut communion lifestyle? I like to think not, but this is an honest GUT CHECK.
So in my 'Hot Coffee Analogy' how would an angel of God describe you? Hot, cold, or a 3 day old LWC brew with cream curdling at the top?
I am NOT saying being anything less than the next Billy Graham or Mother Theresa is lukewarm.. but please LET'S NOT be indifferent about the creator of this world or others in need. Frankly being OK is LWC.
My bigger concern.. I observe the Church as a whole is so seeker friendly to the point where attendance numbers and a great Sunday Worship 'Show' are their primary measure of spirituality. Our motto is 'Give the people what they want? ' instead of 'give them what they need.'
Read John 6:60-63, 66-69
When many of his disciples heard it (Jesus teaching), they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (The Truth? You can't handle the Truth!) 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. ..
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him (so NOT seeker friendly of Jesus). 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him (with Hot Coffee Faith), “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:60-69
Using today's Seeker Friendly church model (with the motto no one get's burned with LWC).. was Jesus a failure?
My prayer today is God will bless and speak to each of you. May we listen to His voice and serve Him like never before in a way that is anything but lukewarm.
Jeff (aspiring to be a Grande Latte) Larson
I have a continued concern for the American Church that is caught between THE ROCK and a HARD WORLD.
This WORLD mocks Christians as
In response, THE CHURCH claims our ROCK is Jesus... and sing 'A Mighty Fortress is our God', but our knees shake as we become hyper-introspective based more on the world's judging lens instead of God's loving truth.
We apologize and/or hide our views when God's unchanging truths do not fit nicely with our secular society. We go mostly silent as not to stir the anti-Christian hornet's nest world view. We don't like people to call us names.. who would. So we become like a deer caught in society's pious headlights and honking horns.
This HARD WORLD demonstrates a compromised view of a life equally cynical of Christians and mocking of our God.
"The Church is more afraid of offending the world than offending God". - A W Tozer
So the choice is ours. Serve God or appease man. Stand up for God's Truth or attend a Sunday Social club we call church and live our muted lives as Christians in name only.
Only one life 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last. - Charles Studd
Truth is GOD'S TRUTH is not lost... not in the Church, not in the world. God cares deeply both for his church and for a world that does not know him.
This is our opportunity to make a difference not just attending church but being the church.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col 3:17
Oh we will stumble but get back up again where Jesus is our Rock while living in this Hard World. Don't be caught in between THE ROCK and this HARD WORLD. Instead stand on THE ROCK. Psalms 18:2
I pray as always His church (we the people) turn daily to God, seek Him first,.. love HIm with our lives, serve Him in all that we do, and love and care others like Jesus did. May God find us faithful, bless us, and use us in ways that are beyond our dreams and for His Glory only.
side note: See below a good barometer for life.
“Rules for Self Discovery:
1. What we want most;
2. What we think about most;
3. How we use our money;
4. What we do with our leisure time;
5. The company we enjoy;
6. Who and what we admire;
7. What we laugh at.”
― A. W. Tozer
Labor Day to me marks the last day of summer as it falls nicely on the first Monday in September.
MY LABOR.. over the years has included such occupations as grounds keeper on a golf course, Logger, convenience store attendant, computer programmer, sports official, and school bus driver. Now in my 63rd year of wandering this Earth I am semi-retired while driving the above mentioned school bus. .. oh, and I draw a cartoon or two or three.
another kind of labor day ----->
So with Labor Day here I am reflecting on these sobering social & economic times where the response to Covid-19 has complicating the employment and budgets of many. With this and more muddling my life I am choosing to AGAIN claim the great scripture..
Trust in the Lord with all my heart, in all my ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.
TRUST is a little 5 letter word (infinitely better than any 4-letter profane word) and the above scripture should be spoken out loud in my opinion. I can reflect on the words all I want, but I then need to come to the conclusion to Trust God. In my opinion it would not be trust if it was easy.
Just like walking on water for Peter made no logical sense, neither do the answers to the many of the troubles we face. Walking on water is of course a miracle and not a parlor trick or slight of hand.. er.. slight of foot.. BUT maybe the answers to my prayers are your prayers are no less a miracle even if they appear to be more subtle.
For example when a person prays for a tragic family situation that seems hopeless and rolling out of control BUT prayer intercedes and life no longer is hopeless but is back on track.. that may be GOD'S SUBTLE MIRACLE. When you have no way of paying your mortgage and the deadline is here, and you work so hard, and you prayer so hard, then TRUST God.. and somehow the funds are available.. it may be a subtle miracle of God.
On the sobering side of prayer we do find man has free will and sometimes must accept that God's will and his providence is bigger than any circumstance. Bad things do happen to good people. This is a fallen world with much sadness and tragedy. We do hurt, we are fragile, there is sickness, and we all will die.. BUT this does NOT discount the the loving miracles of God.
I believe it was Albert Einstein who said "Coincidences are miracles where God wished to remain annonymous."
Of course right after Labor Day we return to rush hour traffic, work, or school, but as I reflect on Labor Day.. I hope and pray for a day to regroup and recoop our energies for another season of trusting and serving our Lord. Let's take the lid off of what is possible when we trust God.
I pray today for God's care to be on display in big and small ways. Where we are truly BBYD = Blessed Beyond our Dreams. May God find us obedient on this Labor day and those other 364 days too.
Jeff (not breaking a sweat today) Larson
Sometimes Christians are just so smiley and so ‘Ned Flanders-like’ happy I could just slug-em. I know the joy of the Lord is my strength, but what’s with the ‘goofy-grins’?
I heard a good sermon a while back about the Fruit of God’s Spirit. You know.. love, joy, peace.. blah, blah, blah… and included in this list is JOY which I happen to misplace from time to time in my life..
Real Joy is not a serene surreal spiritual experience, but instead every day rubber meets the road with a pot-hole or two along the way experience.
Real joy is independent of circumstance. Most of us may not have your state of joy challenged by jail time, but joyful despite bumper to bumper traffic is instead our modern day challenge. Joy is even independent of having Covid-19.
How about joyful when doing the dishes? How about joyful and QUIET while doing the dishes?
How about.. Can I be joyful when
.. it appears God procrastinates, or
.. when my financial status and credit rating are less than (MAYBE WAAAY LESS) than perfect?
.. how about joyful when like today.. I have back spasms.
Yes.. joy is found in the difficult, tedious, stressful, and despite pain.
Can I be joyful when my relative prosperity can only be measured by God? … or can I be joyful when I have been married for what seems like one bazillion years! After a bazillion years of marriage your newlywed young love and passion is slowly replaced with something that includes a few disagreements (aka fights), money & health issues, raising kids without a road map, and living your til death do us part marriage with too often more questions than answers.
BUT.. we can learn so much from Jesus about joy. I don’t believe Jesus was the subdued passive image of joy and God that we often stereotype.
I believe Jesus was both passionate, and expressive. Jesus knew when it was time to be serious, worshipful, diligent all while being the friend of the common folk all while never compromising God’s values or God’s truths. I believe His joy was found in being faithful and unwavering to the Father in all circumstances.
Children loved Jesus, and sinners were attracted to Him because of his teaching was the perfect blend of truth with hope. The Pharisees hated Jesus for this very same teaching of perfect truth with hope.
The Gospels are full of Jesus telling great stories with purpose that resonated with man, but maybe Jesus laughed out loud and told great jokes. Maybe ‘milk comin out yer nose jokes.’
<pause> Ok, scratch that last one, that goes beyond even the goofy grin category of joy.
My point is that Jesus was real. He did not need to be vulgar or crass to be noticed, but he certainly would not be confused with Ned Flanders. It was not a somber sober demeanor that attracted people to Jesus, it was a man who loved life and lived his life with a joyful passionate purpose that honored God the father and cared for His fellow man.
I won’t even digress ‘long’ on my next point, BUT Jesus turned water into wine AFTER all the wine was gone. He did not make Welch’s Grape Juice, it was wine. Point is .. maybe Jesus liked to laugh and have fun with friends.. and we should to. PLEASE NOTE.. THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT OF DRINK (I personally don't drink anymore as I was not very good at it.. or too good at it..BUT I DIGRESS) .. I am just thinking out loud.
So where do we find Joy today?
Now with all of the bad news in our world right now.. my joy is challenged. I think of the Covid-19 related issues, racial tensions, hatred, greed, the media who lie as easy as they tell the truth, and all this stirred by the 2020 elections.
All of this and what I see as the Church (Christians) who are not salt and light. A church that compromises God's loving firm truth with the compromised views of our secular society. A church that lives in fear and too often is more concerned with offending the world, than offending God. A church that lives in Fear instead of Hope.
note: I am not pointing a finger at others here.. as I am a part of the Church. This is a sober reminder to love one another while we love and obey God.
Now back to the answer of the question.. Where do we find joy today? Know that joy is not found in who wins the upcoming elections. There are consequences to our actions, our votes, and in the direction our country chooses.
Our joy is found in the Lord through difficult times. It does matter that we love and obey God, but even if the whole world chooses NOT to obey God.. we must stand strong with Him always. Through good times and bad.. Joy is ultimately and eternally found in obedience and love of our God.
So there you have it. Maybe there is a world of Christian existence that is somewhere between a Ned Flanders goofy grin, and those Christians who look like they are in pain in church.
How will those people survive in Heaven when they learn they will have to be happy. So ‘Smile Mon!’
Joyful Christians without goofy grins? I know it will be a challenge, but we are just the people to do it.
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams. I pray you find joy in the Lord in every circumstance.
Jeff (silly smirking) Larson
What happened? Was I out for 5 minutes when everything changed? Didn't up used to be up and down .. down.. not the other way around? And I am pretty sure too that WRONG is now the new RIGHT.
Let's start with a few easy Wrongs declared Right from where I sit observing our society.
So you see.. Wrong is the new Right.
We are numbed and dumbed down to vulgar language and violence in movies, TV, and pop/hip hop/rap music. Sex before marriage, and teen sexuality is assumed not discouraged.. in fact sex without boundaries is encouraged. Everyone claims to be a victim, or bullied which muddies truth of those who truly are victims and/or bullied. AND anyone who voices a contrary view is expressing HATE SPEECH.
The #MeToo movement, terms like toxic masculinity, white privilege, systemic racism, and systemic police brutality often dilute if not poison truth and justice. Note: There is only God's Truth & God's Justice and it is for all. Then we throw the old KKK in with the new rage (literally) Antifa (anti-fascists? not!). They are nothing more than masked domestic terrorists. And BLM black lives matter is a statement that is true just as all lives matter, but the organization BLM is a Marxist hate group.
We are a culture who on one hand munch on popcorn while being entertained by horror, violence, the occult, or the sorted story of a serial killer, BUT.. think that our 2nd amendment rights are the root of all evil. Wrong is new Right.
Now in 2020 the Wrong is the new Right has been amped up with the reality of Covid-19. I will not go into my opinion about what should or should not be done, but I will say it has divided us.. and divided the church. We too quickly condemn each other over this virus. We can't just disagree on the solution we decide to label each other naive or selfish.. and these feelings become something maybe just short of hate. This is Wrong, but this Wrong is also the new Right.
Even in the church simple choices of right and wrong are more carefully handled than a suicide vest by a bomb squad whose only training was using the old 'Operation board game'. We are so deathly afraid to call sin.. a sin in fear others will judge us as judgmental.
My concern/observation is The church (as a whole) is 1/2 afraid to speak truth in love afraid of the mess it may cause, and the other 1/2 appears to be like the frog in the boiling pan of water slowly cooking in our new boiling Baptismal Jacuzzi unaware the temp is rising. We are no longer salt and light as commanded in Mt 5:13-16, but excuse this compromise with the broad brushed statement.. We are about love, Jesus is love.
I agree Jesus is love, but his love included speaking directly about sin. He may have called the religious leaders a brood of vipers, but he also lovingly spoke truth to the woman at the well. How would Jesus have been loving if he did not speak the whole truth? In fact I believe Jesus referenced Hell 46 times. Hell is the scary truth regarding sin.
Same with Paul, he was loving but so direct about sin not because it was on his legalistic DO NOT DO list but because sin is harmful to the body and soul.
Let's even be more basic about TRUTH. We as Christians believe there is one way to Heaven and that is Jesus. To share this truth should be the most important truth we can share. BUT agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc would disagree. So do we quit sharing this truth because it might offend.. but let them go to Hell?
Do we just gently say, well we all believe generally in the same thing 'higher power' so.. peace be still.. Or remain silent because I respect your feelings so much that I would rather let you go to Hell for eternity than offend you today on Earth. This is so very Wrong, and.. the new Right
I also believe there is a growing population in the church that doubt the Inerrancy of the Scriptures. It's understandable to have questions on Bible issues we do not understand, but it is alarming to doubt that it is truly God's word. -Insert Head Slap here-
MY OWN MESS - Let me be very clear, I am such a sinner.. aka made 'lotsa' mistakes. I have trouble with my temper, watched movies and laughed at jokes I should not have. I have made compromises, told altered truths (aka lies) and all the other goodies that many of us do.
I am also a man who compromised too many years with alcohol (aka alcoholic), and it was ruining my life. I share the cartoon on the left that is typically received understandably with collective cringes as it is NOT FUNNY, but it is was becoming my story.
So in response to my drinking my wife expressed to me in love and sometimes the appropriate amount of anger "YOU NEED TO QUIT DRINKING. This is not good for you, it is not good for your family." So my question is.. was my wife intolerant and judgmental of me as a person, or was she directly and loving me tell me my alcohol use was hurting me and my family?
Well, I believe I would be dead now if I continued drinking. And.. to be honest I did not always welcome her words and would soften them by saying I would do better next time, but bottom-line my wife's loving admonishment CHANGED MY LIFE. I thank God for my wife and my three adult kids who lovingly told me truth. Changing a Wrong in my life to make me return to doing Right.
So in this world where WRONG is the new RIGHT how shall we participate? In our society compromised by ignorance, arrogance, and self we need to stand firm, in love and always stand for God's Truth.. because as they say.. Two Wrongs don't make a Right.
May God bless each of you to boldly go each day into a world that may hate you for saying RIGHT is still right, and WRONG is still wrong.
Thank you for indulging me sharing this topic of societal angst that is on my heart.
I am one of those folks who likes my food ever so slightly overcooked. I like the cheese on my pizza to be golden.. a 'dark' golden, and toast my bagel dark so to contrast with a spread of cream cheese. I want my bagel to CRUNCH when I bite into it. And I like DUSK.. where the sun has just dropped peacefully below the western horizon but before the black of night,
Of course choosing dark over light in the tasty matters of food or sunsets is fine, but in matters of the SPIRIT.. always choose the LIGHT.
This Present Darkness is a Christian novel by Frank Paretti published in 1986 showing the reader a view on angels, demons, prayer, and spiritual warfare while demons and angels interact and struggle for control in our lives and communities. And though this book was fiction, I believe this battle is real.
Of course there is obvious DARKNESS in this world, but I am surprised by many Churches maintain a Frog in the Boiling Pot perspective on life where God is fit into societal norms rather than the other way around as God intends. The temp is going up, but we the church are too often oblivious... and actually enjoying this Jacuzzi of the soul.
"In God We Trust" may be the official motto (for now) of the United States of America, but in this world's shadows we move closer to a Godless reality found in Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
How else can explain our society where
All this madness happens and honestly I am not sure the church knows how to handle it. I observe many if not most churches are afraid of secular man and public opinion rather than afraid of disobeying God.
If anyone espouses traditional Christian values we are deemed judgmental, hateful bigots or worse. But what of that? They hated Jesus first for telling loving truth, so why are we afraid to be hated for the Gospel?
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-21
So these very words of Jesus make it clear.. It matters what we believe, our choices matter. JESUS WAS NOT TALKIN' TOAST. We are commanded in loving firm truths to stay in the light by Jesus. He does did mince word and the world hated Him for it.
So I prayer God finds us IN THE LIGHT, living in obedience to His word, loving and truthful in our words and deeds with others, and never lingering in this world's shadows.
Enjoy this life in the LIGHT.
Jeff (dark toast please) Larson
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
In this world of Essentials we have ..'Essential Oils' (5 quarts of motor oil?).. the 'Essential Van Morrison' album compilation, and now ..our government in Pandemic lockdown mode determines which businesses are 'essential'.
The disturbing twist of secular PANICdemic irony is this list of essential businesses include liquor stores, and Planned Parenthood while church gatherings are too 'risky' aka non-essential. In some states you can buy 'weed' (dude) but you can't buy weed killer (garden store).
It is a good thing Mother Theresa is not serving today in my home state of Minnesota where her 'willy nilly non-essential' orphanage and leprosy mission works would not be tolerated.. unless these lepers and orphans also tested Covid-19 positive.
It is obvious by my sarcasm I bristle over our Government's mandated (but ever changing) good, bad, &ugly list of essentials,non-essentials, and social distancing guidelines. But though I bristle I have remained law abiding through my clenched teeth and grumbled tones.
Then I heard a little sermon snippet of 'sunlight' from a Pastor in South Bend Indiana (Pastor YPJ). The just of it his message was to be prayerful & smart in our response to Coronavirus but remember our focus is on Revival not Survival.
With this bit of sunlight in mind, I may listen to Dr Fucci, and weed through the ever changing CDC labyrinth of scenarios, but in none of them do I find hope. Societies message is temporal and 'non-essential' by the Gospel message is life, hope for today and tomorrow, and essentially essential.
I will be smart, I will be safe, but I will not live in fear.
May God bless and use each of you this week in ways that are beyond your dreams. May you feel His protection and love that transcends the fears of men... May we find life in His Words, and a Revival of our hope.
To paraphrase an old Superman slogan.. "This is a job for Supernatural Man" filled by God's Spirit.
Jeff (The Essential Back Pew) Larson
During this pandemic shutdown, I have come to realize how very LOUD our society was. Oh there is now less to do, less to watch, and less to fight about, and HEY.. THEY TOOK AWAY MY SPORTS! But we are still Loud while Home-bound .. once we turn on the evening news.
AND in the midst of this Shutdown we are becoming a little (or lot) stir crazy. The rush is removed from rush hour traffic while the din of sports, entertainment, and misc. life have been reduced to .. sports reruns (zzzz), and movies of the good ol' days before social distancing. I even treat watching Gilligan's Island reruns like it was the original Survivor series! My money is on Gilligan getting voted off.
The blessing for me of this shutdown, is before the government shutdowns are lifted and we return to the 'smack down' of 24/7 Election coverage.. I have been listening to audiobooks
One of my current listens is a biography on the life of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood up to Hitler and the Nazis. It is very interesting listen, but I have found disturbing parallels between Nazi Germany in the 1930s with America in the year 2020. While you may think this is a grand conspiracy theory of someone in a state mandated lock-down.. I respectfully disagree, and so let me share a few social parallels..
In response to Hitler and Nazi Germany Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote..
So as we move back towards the din and distraction of normalcy let's not lose sight of what God has been teaching us in the Silence of this Shutdown.
As believers we cannot be silent. We need to stand tall and strong in our obedience to God proclaiming the Gospel. And remember part of these loving words and actions is to speak loving truth. We cannot be compromising of God's Truth even when our secular society reacts with any of the above 'Social Parallels' to Nazi Germany.
Finally, remember the words of Jesus
May God bless and speak to you in the Silence of the Shutdown. May you fill your stir crazy moments with prayer, and God's Word. Tune out the voices of the world where blame for the pandemic and the panic of the pandemic can consume our thoughts. Our God is sovereign, and soon this shutdown will be over. Let's take this time to be a spiritual reset so when the world is running full tilt again.. our spirits compass points to God alone in a way that the din of society cannot alter.
In all things (including shutdowns), to God be the Glory. Amen
Jeff (Shutdown but not Shut off) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson