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 I attend a good church that I really like. It is a mix of all ages, from college students through senior citizens. The preaching is straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and at times entertaining. The worship is performed by talented musicians and the words and atmosphere are both.. worshipful. There are 3 big screens up front to assist in this modern presentation of church. Our motto is no perfect people allowed. It is a welcoming church where you are greeted at the door, there is care for the little ones, and classes for all the kids through teens. Ways to connect and become involved and a place to ask for prayer are presented each week. My church is attractive, welcoming, and like I said, I really like my church.
Then on Monday's recently I started attending a Celebrate Recovery program at a different local church (my church does not offer one). I am over 4 years sober now after it became apparent I was an alcoholic where drink had compromised my life for about the previous 15 years. It did not ruin it, 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.
So anyways, I never really attended treatment when I quit, but now 4 years later found myself in a Celebrate Recovery program which my wife attends with me. She does not have a problem with alcohol but supports me and encouraged me to attend for my own well being and to give back and support others in this struggle.
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.. such 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 God of our Bibles. This is our only hope for the alcoholic and ALL of the rest of humanity (aka sinners).
Now after 4+ 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 and am still recovering from. I went bankrupt, had to sell my home and my business and start over. I was wounded deeply and felt a void of what do I replace the buzz of alcohol with. I was a Christian through all this, I prayed & read my Bible, but was still a mess. Maybe God saw me as a beautiful mess.. I think my wife saw me that way. I was a mess but oh how important I was to her and how much she believed in me and loved me.
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 look like any mess, even a beautiful mess.
So here I am convicted today.. and I thank God for this conviction. I now desire to be in the mess, and I will fit in as I am a mess.. together we are a beautiful mess that God is in the process of restoring. 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, and I don't want to be the guy who stays home on Monday nights instead of attending Celebrate Recovery group with my beautiful mess.
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, and use you to serve Him in this world that is a mess. I pray for revival and restoration in America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess that we are a part of.
Jeff (what a mess) Larson
note: One person commented last night.. If the church was honest, the seats in Celebrate Recovery would be full. It 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. I pray we allow ourselves to be honest, and allow God to restore the mess in our lives.
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5
This was the report card for mankind by God just before He commanded Noah to build an ark. The letter grade for having the inclinations of your heart being only evil all the time got them a.. F! They failed! Mankind did not even show up for class or open a book (figuratively speaking). There was no extenuating circumstances to consider so get ready, and be sure to update your flood insurance policy cuz it's gonna rain.
Evil all the time.. what does that even look like.? I would guess there would be your garden variety envy, greed, racism, and hatred fueled by a self indulgent 'hell bent' looking for the next high' attitude in drink, sex, and/or any other means imaginable. Evil all the time.. folk are gluttons for all forms of pleasure with no boundaries. Their motto was something like .. 'What happens in Genesis 6:5, stays in Genesis 6:5.'.
Now fast forward to our modern lives. I cannot imagine a society where evil all the time is there every inclination. <insert reflective pause> Unless.. I turn on the evening news. Then I might declare .. 'whoomp there it is.'
Maybe 'evil all the time' is an unfair assessment life today, but we are exposed to a very secular 24/7 stimulus overload with very little time left over for worship of our God. This is not the road God intends for us.
Of course evil all the time is not a description of the church and God's people and outside the church just to be honest does not make someone evil.. BUT I see society as a whole being like 'frog in the boiling pot' unaware of how hot the water is. Cooked in his Jacuzzi while drinking a pitcher of margarettas.
Insert REVIVAL here!
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
I know 2 Chronicles was also a very long time ago, but I believe the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 to restore any person, or nation who has fallen is true today.
So what if.. we had a revival and we loved and focused on God in a way that was contagious? What if every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only God all the time. Then God would hear our prayers, forgive our sins, and heal our land.
May God bless each of you today in our pursuit of God and for a revival that changes the world.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson