My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” James 2:2-3
James 2:2-3 This is how it looks for me in Minnesota-->
Let me start by sharing my wife and I attend a church that we really like. It is a friendly congregation represented by all age groups. The worship music is well done, and the preaching is straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and easy to listen to. The people are friendly and welcoming even in this season of all things COVID-19.
Next, let me share I am over 5 years sober now after it became apparent I was an alcoholic where drink was becoming a growing compromise in my life (off and on) for about the previous 15 years. It did not ruin life, but I was headed on the wrong road, and my addiction to a buzz was growing and dangerous. I thank God for his healing in this area and for the love and grace of my family.. especially my wife... and of course my God.
I never did attend a recovery program until about a year ago when I attended a Celebrate Recovery program for a few weeks to see if it was right for me at this point in my recovery.
Well, in contrast to my 'good church' where the worship, preaching, and presentation on Sunday's is clean and sharp.. this Celebrate Recovery program is messy.
These are people who are struggling. Some have been sober for 15+ years, others are celebrating not have a drink for 30 days, or less. Some are people who have been in and out of treatment, and/or suffering the consequences of their addictions by losing their drivers license, jobs, or family. Stories of jail-time, and restraining orders were common. Many were in the place where they were not drinking but now dealing with the void in their lives where once was a buzz. This group is a mess, but .. a Beautiful Mess
What makes this group such a beautiful mess is their journey starts and ends with a return to God. Not just a 'higher power' but the only true power, the God of our Bibles. This is our only hope for the alcoholic and ALL of the rest of humanity (aka sinners).
Life not so long ago..
Now after 5+ years of being sober, I look back on my journey to where I am now. I did not realize what a fragile mess I was.
So this all makes me reflect on James 2:1-2. I am ashamed to say I honestly don't like the mess or messy people. I like happy Christians with no deep dark secrets and/or sins. I like the well orchestrated church service and an attractive congregation that looks like .. church people should look? I don't know if I want my church to be messy, even a beautiful mess.
So here I am convicted, and I thank God for this conviction. I now desire to be in the mess, and I will blend nicely as I am a mess. Together we love and support each other. Where one hurts all hurt, and when all rejoice we rejoice together (1 Cor 12:26).
God desires to RESTORE US to become the healthy body of Christ. After church I don't want to be the guy looking past the guy or gal out of place to find my usual friends where I am comfortable. I don't know exactly how this conviction on my heart will play out, but I pray God would speak to me and change me to serve him among the beautiful mess that are the people Jesus would be spending his time with.
May God bless you, care for you today, and use you to serve Him in this very messy world. I pray for revival and restoration in our chaotic 2020 America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess inside and outside our church walls.
Jeff (plenty messy still) Larson
note: Recovery is not just for the alcoholic, it is for everyone that struggles with the very real issues of life. Depression, co-dependency, anger, sex addiction, anxiety/fear, etc. I pray we allow ourselves to be honest, and allow God to restore us from what ever has compromised our lives.
(revised and formerly entitled 'My Painful Introspection')
PAIN IS EVERYWHERE.. and our God alone is they answer.
There is pain in our own bodies, our minds, and our souls. Pain is found inside our own families, our friends, and everywhere else if you turn on the news and see all the angry hateful hurting people of our country and this world wanting relief from pain. With this in mind let me share..
My Painful Introspection.. by Jeff Larson (deep thoughts)
For those of you that know me, aches and pains have been my lifelong companion & complaint. I have migraines, a bad back, and these days I spend more and more time discussing life with my good friend Arthur Itus (arthritis). It tell Art what I would like to do, and he tells me why I can't.
Of course PAIN IS a relative experience, as I know the headaches, and bad back I suffer with are trivial by comparison to what others suffer with. None the less these are MY pains and THEY DO HURT... and this is MY blog. :)
But seriously, many of the important lessons I have experienced in life have involved pain. It may be dealing with physical pain, or lessons found the other side of (painful) blunders, stumbles, and/or bad choices. Or even deeper yet are the lessons I found in the death of a close friend or family member.
I believe the problem of PAIN & SUFFERING is the source of the age old question. If there is a God why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?
This is valid question, but for me I see a 'dangerous beauty' in this broken world where God the Creator allows his creation (you & me) the opportunity to persevere and succeed despite our state of brokenness.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
This Dangerous Beauty is found as we are allowed to choose right from wrong in big & small ways, and even good from evil.
There is danger in choosing poorly, and if we do not persevere.. BUT
there is beauty in prayerfully choosing well, supporting each other, to persevere, and trust God when bad things happen to good people... when it HURTS!
I believe Faith, Family, and Friends (in that order) is how God intends to comfort and heal this world of hurts. I seek God as my compass and my only worship, and I thank God for the blessing of family and friends where we can love and support each other as God intends.
May God bless and provide for each of you this day with love and grace when you are hurting physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually. While pain can be very discouraging, but may we as believers (His Church) be God's comfort and healing for others in this broken/hurting world.
Jeff (ibuprofen infused) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson