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
This is how James 2:2-3 looks for me in Minnesota->
Seriously, my wife and I attend a great church in Minnesota with no 'true' mistreatment of Packer fans. The worship music is worshipful, and the preaching is TRUTH straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and easy on the ears. It is a friendly congregation represented by a nice mix of demographics.
It is a GOOD CHURCH!
Next, let me share again I am 6+ years sober after it became apparent I was an alcoholic.
I was a MESS.
I was headed on the wrong road but I thank God for grace found with my family and especially my wife and HIS restoration of my life.
During my recovery time I attended a recovery program for a while and in contrast to my 'good church' where the worship, preaching, and presentation on Sunday's is clean and sharp.. this Celebrate Recovery program was messy.
These were people 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 led to finding 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). It's not just us alcoholics who are MESSY. Isaiah 64:6
To be very honest, I don't like a mess or messy people. I like happy Christians with no deep dark secrets and/or sins (at least not shared). I like a 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 if is a beautiful mess.
But my Bible teaches me differently about the mess..
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners (THE MESSY) came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mt 9:10-13
If one part suffers (is messy), every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor 12:26). and again..
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 (messy) 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 (messy) man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” James 2:2-3
So I pray today to be a witness and friend to all I meet. To be welcoming and grace filled in my words and actions with others. And I pray I to be will willing and faithful in serving others even when it gets messy. I pray to embrace this beautiful mess knowing the mess I have been saved from. God is so good even when we are a full blown prodigal mess.
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 America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess inside and outside our church walls while standing firm in His Truth.
Jeff (still a little messy.. but sober) Larson
The ants go marching one by one hooray! hooray! The marching of the little people is what makes this world work. You see there are presidents, kings, superstar athletes, CEOs of major corporations, and then there is me. There are men of great strength, Hollywood celebrities, super models, great authors, and there is me.
So where do you fit into this world? Are you a superstar or a worker bee? Do you run a major corporation or are you just part of life's ant farm? Truth is I like it here on the farm. Just another face in the sea of faces.. and you know what they say.. all ants look alike.
I have not polled any ants or bees, but I think the message they have is being about the business that needs to be done, and not being jealous of the queen bees or the bossy foreman of your ant farm staff.
So how does that fit in with the body of Christ? Selfless service and simply doing what needs to be done no matter if you are the next Billy Graham, the next church janitor, or even.. a cartoonist!
Whether you are the head of a corporation, work in the mail room, or a server at the local pie shop. What if you are a mom buried with the responsibilities of caring for your preschool children, or a teacher of 4th graders, or a senior widow woman slowed by old age? All one body of many parts, and all parts important. 1 Corinthians 12
The list of possibilities go on and on.. , BUT..
What a life this could be if we were all happy living in God's ant farms or being His little worker bees. A life not burdened with the status of man but instead living for the Kingdom of God.
God's Bugs? what a high calling! Maybe the bar should set a bit higher, lest the classic Hymns for us 'bugs' be The Ants Go Marching One By One, Hooray! and the Flight of the Bumblebee.
note: This is not a call to a life of underachievement where you settle for less than what God has called you, but simply a call to be useful and to serve as God leads in the moments that make up each day.
My prayer for each of today is to be true to who God made us. This makes God smile, and leads us to a place of contentment and success.
Jeff ( a bit buggy ) Larson
When I am weak.. you make me strong. When I am blind, you shine your light on me.. and I will never get by standing on my own abilities. – This is the lyric of one of Casting Crown’s songs and it makes me smile.
The KINGS of this world delegate to those like me who are COGS, and I am OK with that arrangement. The Kings we all know about but us Cogs are the every day folk who are vital to the world functioning.. and when the world struggles to function the optics shine on the bad king/leaders of countries, states, cities, companies and the church. But know while the world sees the kings.. the importance of us cogs goes unrealized.
Politicians, superstar athletes, movie and rock stars are the kings of our pop culture. We all know who they are. We are a society of hero worship, BUT.. the cogs? Not so much. No posters on walls to recognize a teacher, custodian, factory worker, computer geek, etc etc.
Everyone from these factory workers, stay at home moms, custodians, teachers, and the rest of us little people (including cartoonists.. maybe) are the ones that make the world work. We all fly under the radar with very little fanfare.
While this world’s measure of a man’s worth is.. his bank account balance, his home on a lake, fame, a trophy wife or two, and a really hot ride for someone my age.. Unfortunately it IS NOT traditionally based on how many colors he has in his coloring box, but if it was my answer would be 64 bright and shining Crayolas.
It is amazing the complexity of society, and how each of us are wired differently but together with our own set of gifts are called to serve God and others to make society function. We are all the hands and feet of Christ in our jobs, families, churches, and society.
Some are gifted to be kings and God bless those kings they are gifted to be leaders as God uniquely wired them.. BUT in the same way God has wired so many COGS too. The body of Christ is made up of many parts as called by God to serve Him and care for others.
The good message of this ramble is how we each have our own unique calling by God to serve Him, and all our unique abilities are important.. even if you are armed only with 64 crayolas and a vocabulary that includes the under appreciated word… UM.
One body many parts, all are important, and DO NOT measure your worth by the world's yard stick because man’s measurement of success is as confused as America converting to the metric system!
Be a KING or be a COG, but do it for God's glory and obedient to who God made you.
Love God with all your heart, and others as yourself.. the rest is trivial pursuit!
MEGA 'UM' BLESSINGS!
Jeffrey 'Cog' Larson
Lukewarm Coffee (LWC) exists in a land between hot and cold where room temperature is king. Welcome to the Twilight Zone of brews. LWCs most often was once a well intended piping hot cup of coffee but then was forgotten or ignored. They 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 cup of LWC near me to help wash down the meds before my head explodes.
Of course our Bibles speak often on the topic of coffee (ie Hebrews hahaha), 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 it is an honest question.
What if honestly my thoughts, and passions revolve around ME?.. What if my resources, and my prayers feature ME?.. What if the movie of my life stars ME? and I attend church not with worship in my heart and mind but instead it has become my weekly good deed ritual for pretty good guys . Then maybe I am a LWC believer.
So in my 'Spiritual 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 DO NOT be indifferent about the creator of this world or others in need.
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 like the old saying ‘That fella is so Heavenly minded, they are no Earthly good.’ This describes a person is so in to church and ‘churchy’ things that they don’t add much value or function outside of church walls. He can barely change a light bulb let alone the oil on his car.
Over the years I have smirked at a person or twenty that fits that description, BUT I have come to believe the irony is actually there are too many people are so EARTHLY minded to be much HEAVENLY GOOD.
It's just too easy to be caught up in this pace and 'stuff' of life (good and bad) to where God is put on the back burner. Instead of starting my day quiet before God, reading my Bible, and prayerful I often clutter my life with the very real demands of work, family, rush hour traffic, and.. maybe what is on the TV and become simply more EARTHLY MINDED than HEAVENLY GOOD.
The real irony is.. When I drift from God is NOT when I am too busy or stressed but instead when life is good. No immediate worries or concerns so I relax my dependence, praise and appreciation of God to again become so earthly minded... and erroneously feelings of being self sufficient. Maybe even a little bit proud.
So while I don’t want my life to look as out of place as an Amish folk high rollin' in Las Vegas.. I do want my spirit, and life to start and end with God. A place where my personal faith shows through in all that I do and say.
My prayer for all of you is that this day and always be a life in love with God, and a life where God is not fit in around the details of the day. That sweet spot where our minds on God/Heaven impact our lives on Earth.
May your life be blessed and USED by God in ways that have both Heaven and Earth in mind.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Mt. 6:10
Be 'Blessed and Used' of course in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS and all that God intends for you!
Me, myself, and I. Me.. me.. me. , What about me? , What's in it for ME?
A while back I heard a sermon where the pastor described the Me-Monster. I have to admit I don't recall much of the sermon, but I remember it was good AND it impressed on my cartoonist brain to sketch in my sermon notes The Me-Monster.
So I brought Mr. Me-Monster home scanned him into my computer and did a little Photoshop extreme makeover on him all so I could share his surly mugshot with you. Without further delay Ilet me present.. The Me-Monster. Ta-da!
The Me-Monster is an ugly fella, and even his open mouth resembles an M, and the back of his throat an E. The disturbing thing about this Me-Monster is that when our motives, focus, and actions are focused on .. SELF.. any of us can become a pretty gnarly looking creature too.
There are plenty of attention seeking folk out there that flaunt there success and perceived self-worth without a speck of humility. They live in a world where success is measured by the car they drive, the neighborhood they live in and that lovely lake home up north. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of these things unless it inspires a me-centered ego trip.
Now on the other hand I have more of an econo-sized Me-Monster. My monster is does not get identity from a high profile existence, but did show up recently as I became unemployed.
What do I do now? What will my friends think of me? What do my wife, and my adult children think of me?
Of course it is important to learn from life's pitfalls, circumstances, and/or blunders.. And it is ok to hurt when bad 'stuff' happens. These are opportunities to move do my best, learn and move forward.
I will confess in the past I have wallowed pretty low during difficult times. I struggle with anxiety and depression from time to time (which I am pretty sure neither are NOT listed in the 'fruit of God's spirit).
Panic and Despair have in the past injured my self-esteem and worth and all fed my Econo-Me-Monster .
I share this because my wife told me recently how proud she is of how I am handling my current unemployed state. She can see I am sad, but not going to a low place, and that I am seeking God during this time. I must confess those where precious words of affirmation to ME from the woman I love,
I could ramble on about ME as I am prone to do, but wanted to conclude with again God's two greatest commandments. 'Love God with all your soul and mind and others as yourself.' Mt 22:37.
What if I focused my life on these words of Jesus? Then all the details and trimmings of this life while nice would be trivia to a life well lived... and no Me-Monster.
So I pray for God's Holy Spirit to lead me, and for me to trust His direction so that I can SERVE Him and others. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and finally in all things to God be the glory!
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams. May our lives be about God's Kingdom and not ours. And may you be Me-Monster free.
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) 62 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!
Then off to the New Testament..
"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.
"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.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson