Just one day after Jesus Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, we find Jesus suffering 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 leaves 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.
Jesus, fully God, fully man (He 2:17)
We cannot fathom the mindset of Jesus at this time, but from a human perspective I believe Jesus experienced the elation of his triumphant entry that first Palm Sunday all while knowing that would happen over the next week. While his crucifixion, and resurrection later this week shocked his disciples, this was all a part of The Father's Gospel Plan of Salvation for mankind (see Isaiah 53).
note: If I was Isaiah and I just finished writing Isaiah 53.. I would.. DROP THE MIC!
So Jesus knowing what this week would bring, the shameful conduct in the Temple, and the fig tree bore no fruit were the realities of this sinful and broken world just one day removed from that first Palm Sunday celebration.
These are normal emotions for any of man or woman since Adam & Eve but deeper and more complex for Jesus who knew no sin while being fully God and fully man.
Holy week is one of those times where my silly cartoon images feel out of place as a medium to communicate God's Heart and His truth. My prayer is that these sketches and comments convey the absurdity of man when compared to what is Holy, and NEVER distract from the message of Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
May God find us faithful while living in a world of barren fig trees, and churches with tables to be flipped. In all things to God be the Glory.
Back in the day when my wife and I were raising our 3 kids.. attending church was a given.
But.. there were those Sundays (not too many) where we slept in late, or the MinneFROZEta winters were very Minnesota (very cold) like. On those Sundays we might declare 'A Family Day'. A day free from the harried pace of getting 3 kids ready for church, and free of policing the 'energy' of our 3 darlin' kids in the backseat of our car to and from church.
Now on a 'Family Day' we would gather the children, and read a couple Bible stories from this great Picture Bible we had. We would then discuss the story and lessons learned, and take time to pray. Really, we did take time to have real church and it was not used as a 'Get out of Church Free' card.
Now fast forward to the Spring of 2020, and the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has us on lockdown. I don't know how long this will last, and not here to argue pandemic v PANICdemic only know this is our new reality.
The good news is in our modern streaming world there is the best church worship, and sermons available from all all the best worship leaders and preachers.
So in our church lockout/down state we are presented with the new and improved 'Family Day'.
They may not call it a Family Day, but hey.. I know Family Day when I see it. And in this new stream all world I can even attend services of my church online.
With this 'Family Day' available my wife and I chose to attend (stream) the 9 AM service.. and to make our attendance even more realistic we were 10 minutes late.
Worship at our church is always good, and we enjoyed watching familiar faces from the worship team lead 4 or 5 familiar songs focusing on God. Worship was not just a label for the time they led us in song, worship was the attitude of their heart. I confess during this time I did not stand or raise my hands, but I did worship.
This was followed by a time where we could participate in giving a tithe and/or offering. Of course no physical or virtual offering plate was passed, but there they still laid on a virtual 'guilt trip'. <insert dramtic pause, and eye roll, and gasp here> KIDDING, KIDDING, there was no pressure to give but instead the true privilege and opportunity to give as another way to worship our God and support the Church we belong to. Also what was nice is that I typically give online to our church and did this per usual.
Next, our pastor shared a sermon that was timely for 'such a time as this' (homebound, stir crazy, with more than a hint of uncertainty).
After the service concluded, my wife and I prayed together. It was time well spent in our Homebound Church state. It was like our old Family Day declarations from years gone by, but this time Family Day was mandated by the Governor of Minnesota.
While we miss attending our church, and pray life returns to normal soon, until then we are thankful for attending our church today in our PJs with bed-hair, with me slumping in my easy chair while drawing cartoons.
May God bless you all during this trying time. I pray God meets your physical and financial needs as well as strengthens your spiritual health.
This can be a time where we trust our God and to seek His will like never before.
This can be a time where we read our Bibles, meditate on it's words, and stay quiet as we listen for God to speak.
Jeff (wearing my 4pm PJs) 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
The Wow Factor, I would paraphrase as an experience and/or observation that grabs your attention and holds it.. big time.
When I was young I was a decent athlete, and fell in love with sports. The speed, power, finesse, strategy, and teamwork of great athletes and teams playing to win the game.
The thrill of victory and agony of defeat was the catch phrase for the old Wild World of Sports show, and this all makes me go.. WOW!
It also goes without saying (though I am saying it) I love Art. Ok, not true art.. I love cartoons, and have doodled cartoons ever since age five.
You will never catch me wandering into an art gallery pondering the works of Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, or Leonardo de Vinci, BUT.. I save my WOWs for Gary Larson - The FarSide, Berke Breathed - Bloom County, Bill Watterson - Calvin & Hobbes, and Jim Unger - Herman.
In fact one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time my wife bought me The Complete Farside collection (3 volumes) in hardcover. For most folks this is a waste of time and $$, but for me.. WOW!
Others are enthralled by the world of beautiful music. Personally I enjoy listening to music ranging from Jazz to Rock & Roll, Hymns to modern Worship.
But.. I don't sing so good, can't clap my hands to a beat, or even play a Kazoo. Music is that Wow for many.. but for me I am sorry but I am checking my TV for a game while drawing Back Pew cartoons.
Now as we travel further from the center of my universe we find many looking up at the night sky mesmerized by the stars while our planet orbits around a blazing ball of burning gas and realizing we are only one planet in one galaxy in an ever expanding universe all with order and functioning with more science and math that you could shake a stick at (real old saying that means ALOT) .. and the collective scientific community responds in one voice.. WOW! <-- note this was an 83 word runon sentence.
Did I choose your WOW tirgger? Well no matter if it is science, music, art, sports, or watching the Wheel of Fortune ( big fan of the wheel) realize all WOWs come from our creator. Our Wow moments are real and there is no need to apologize for shouting wow (unless you are in church, or during a funeral).. BUT step out further to realize our God is the source of all things WOW.
If we don't we miss the point of this big ol' Beautiful world. Life is not about me, life is not about my passions and hobbies.. LIFE IS ABOUT OUR GOD, and the worship and adoration he deserves.
How great is our God! WOW!
Thank you God for your amazing creation that is your handiwork, and thank you for your love and grace in this life, and the promise of eternity with you our wonderful creator.
I grew up in a good God fearing church in rural Wisconsin where the people loved and worshiped God. The joy of the Lord was real but if you were raising your hand(s).. they be expectin' you to have a question.
Since then I moved to the big city where more than a smattering of city folk in their city folk churches raise there city folk hands.
So it was only a matter of time for my close to the vest worship styling succumbed to the hand raising masses.
I started with one hand raised slightly about waist high, with a quick look to my left and right to be sure no one was watching me.. cuz I might be doing it wrong. Then one hand raised but still slightly below shoulder height, palm open of course. About 6 months later I ventured out to raise one hand above my head but only for a split second so that no one thinks I just have a question... Then quickly my hand is raised again this time for half a chorus. Finally both hands above my head high like Jesus just ran 80 yards for a touchdown!
My Worship Metamorphosis is complete!
Think of it like learning to ride a bike. You start out with both hands on the on the handle bars.. then try riding with one hand, then finally big and bold you are riding with no hands. Pretty, pretty cool.
Same thing with worship hands. You start out with both hands on the chair or pew in front of you. Then over time you let go with one hand, then finally both hands raised! Warning: The first time I raised both hands I lost my balance and fell over and skinned my shin.
Ok, I have rambled long enough to where I forget again what is true and what I made up for fun. Fact? Fiction? Hmmm, think of it as a 'hybrid of truth'. Truth be told I do not recall falling over during worship, though one of my butt cheeks did fall asleep on a particularly hard chair at our church. But that is a topic for another day..
What I do know that worship is a time to express our adoration to our loving Heavenly Father. Whether I choose to raise my hands, or remain seated with the above risk of a cheek going numb..
Posture is optional, but Heart is essential.
Note: Besides learning to raise my hands during worship I am also an accomplished 'worship watcher' (much like bird watching) always observing and collecting worship stylings. Let me share a few. There is..
Oh there are many more.. but I leave you all with one final request of any fellow 'worship watchers'. Please report back to me any 'creative' worship styling(s) you have observed so I can capture them with my vivid 64 pack of Crayola Crayons.
So until then.. Keep Calm and Worship on!
Jeff (Two Hands Raised High) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson