Mitchell Richards [Words]

Month: July, 2011

The Gospel of Toothbrushes

I got suckered in to buying a six dollar toothbrush the other day when I was grocery shopping. I knew I needed a new one, so I went to the toothbrush isle and looked at row after row of toothbrushes. Normally, I’m a 2-pack for $0.97 kind of guy, but I was feeling a little edgy that day or something, ready for a change. You’d be amazed at how many different kinds of toothbrushes there are; my usual go-to basic value ones, electronic ones, some that reach to the very back, ones with tongue scrubbers, some that play music in your mouth, some that gently massage your gums, soft bristles, hard bristles, rubber bristles. It’s insane, really. I just want to brush my teeth. And somehow, out of all these choices, I landed on the Oral-B Pulsar with “vibrating bristles for a deeper clean, breaks up plaque between teeth”. Six dollars is a lot to spend on a toothbrush, but the way I see it, six bucks is not a lot to revolutionize your life. I left the toothbrush isle with a feeling that this Pulsar was specifically designed for me, that it had everything I needed in a toothbrush, and maybe even more.

Advertisers want you to believe that you don’t choose the product, but that the product chooses you. The Pulsar chose me.

Out of probably 75 different types of toothbrushes, I felt like it chose me. Like a child coming home from a good experience at the dentist with a sample-sized tube of sparkly toothpaste, I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out.

In a few months though, the bristles will become frayed, the battery will die, and I will find myself back on the toothbrush isle, looking to satisfy my dental needs and desires yet again.

This is how I treat the gospel of Jesus too.

I stand in an isle and look around at all of the different choices and variations, denominations and churches, and I make my decision. There are evangelicals, charismatics, conservatives, reformed, Lutherans, baptists, liberals, gay-friendly, gay-hating. There’s Westboro, Lifechurch.tv, Mars Hill, and Lakewood. There are churches that meet in gymnasiums, strip malls, bars, and old arenas.

The church wants you to believe that you didn’t find them, that they…I mean Jesus…found you.

You’ll walk out of a place after hearing a sermon, and believe that this church was specifically designed for you, from the way they make your coffee just right, or by the way they all wear TOMS shoes and dress like you, you believe it was made for you.

We feel as if when we find the right church or the right preacher, that all of our problems and sins will melt away like tartar and plaque buildup.

Church is not the gospel of Jesus.

The gospel of Jesus is the gospel of Jesus.

It amazes me how many bells and whistles we can throw on to Jesus and his simple gospel. This, coming from a Christian writer where it’s sort of my job to throw the bells and whistles on Him, make Him really relevant and cool for you. I think we have a problem of searching too hard, looking too deep, and ignoring the parts we don’t like in the Bible. Now, Jesus said some weird things, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it’s that complicated, is it? I mean, it’s not a code or anything, there isn’t fine print anywhere. But we go around picking and choosing, and often times adding, what we like the best to custom build our own gospel like it’s a tooth brush or something. This one vibrates and has rubber bristles, and this one allows me to be a hippy and just love everyone. This one fights cavities, and this one helps me sleep at night knowing that God is in charge of making me rich. This one has hard bristles, and this one allows me to keep my image, to let me party on the weekends, and keeps me from telling my friends about Jesus.

And we will stand in the isle until we find the gospel that fits us just right, and we take it and put it in our basket.

If the gospel of Jesus were really like a toothbrush, I think it would be a costly but basic toothbrush. It wouldn’t have bright colors or be battery operated. It would be costly, but once you got it, you’d understand why it was worth it.

The gospel of Jesus cannot be tailor made into a gospel where we feel comfortable and at ease. It has to be uncomfortable and unstable, because Jesus loves being weird like that. It is not “a little of this and a little of that” it’s the whole thing. You can’t pick and choose the kind of Jesus you want to worship. You can’t worship the hippy Jesus of the New Testament without worshiping the wrathful God of the Old Testament. And you can’t worship the hippy Jesus without worshipping the Jesus in Revelation that comes back with a sword and kicks some ass.

Show me that toothbrush.

I, like 99% of the things I write about, write this to you because I struggle with it as well. I love the part where Jesus talks about his love and grace and how is yoke is easy and his burden is light, but tend to skip over that part where he talks about separating the sheep from the goats and how the goats go to hell. I love where he talks about how I’m forgiven, but not so much when he tells me to forgive others and to confess my sins.

But, I have to take the whole gospel in.

Advertisers and churches want you to believe that they have what you need, the thing that will make your life easy and perfect. They want you to think that they have what will fix your marriage, your bad breath, and your gas mileage all with one product. But if you can somehow manage to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of advertisements, to walk away from the isle of pitches and promises, you’ll find a God ready to show you his product, his gospel, his way, his Kingdom. It might not be what you are searching for, it may not fix your gingivitis, it might not fit you like a glove, it won’t be easy, but it will be good, and it will be the gospel of Jesus.

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Runt of the Kingdom

I overheard a story on the radio the other day about this prince who was about to get married to a princess and how it was a big deal because in the past, people had described the prince as kind of a playboy. It was also a big deal because the country had hopes that the prince would bear a son that would eventually become the king because his royal family line was very respected. The radio host mentioned though that the prince has already had a son or two, but out of wedlock. I found it very interesting that sons born out of wedlock, even though they are still apart of the royal bloodline, are not heirs to the throne, that even though the kid was the first born son of a prince, that he himself would never become a prince.

All of this got me thinking about how I am a child of God. When I was growing up, I used to hate cheesy stuff like that, being a “child of God”. It makes me think of all those songs we sang about God and children in Sunday school. It’s weird to think of God as a parent, but maybe that’s because I don’t have any kids, and I can’t relate to a God that is a father. But I suppose that is for the best, because if I have no idea how to relate to a Father, and I have no idea what it means to be a father, then I have no other option than to be a child.

Now that is something I can handle…being a child.

Being a child is part irresponsible and part beauty, with a dash of confusion. It is a wonderful blend really. Putting myself in the position of child sort of takes a lot of the pressure off from being a good kid. I was kind of a punk to my parents growing up, and to this day, in the aspect of being a child of God, I am still quite the punk really.

The cool thing about God, and being his kiddo, is that God doesn’t have illegitimate kids. He doesn’t have kids out of wedlock. All that he has made for us, that’s ours. Sort of like in the movie, “The Lion King” where Mufasa (ooooooh say it again) takes Simba up to Pride Rock and shows him his kingdom, the kingdom that Mufasa had prepared for him, the kingdom that Simba would one day take over. Mufasa said that everything that the light touched would be Simba’s someday. Simba was just kind of a runt then, a kid, he didn’t have much to hang his hat on, only that he was a prince and an heir to the throne.

You and I, we are heirs to the Kingdom that God has in store for us. The most amazing part though, is that not only do we get the Kingdom, we get to usher it in. We bring the Kingdom with us wherever we go. We are the sons and daughters of the King, the royal bloodline runs through our veins.

There comes a point however, when we have to stop being runts. God can’t be constantly changing our poopy diapers at 26, which I confess, I may be guilty of (not literally of course). Good kings present and give their kingdom, evil kings take their kingdom. When I am stuck being the runt child of God, I am withholding the Kingdom for the rest of the world, I am being a taker and the Bible has quite a lot to say about people who clutter the Kingdom with confusion and selfishness.

God is offering us His Kingdom right now, not when He dies, because He never will, and not when we are “ready” for it, because we never will be. Right now. His Kingdom is ready. The Kingdom has been prepared for us, and we are the ones, the children of His resurrection, who get to bring it in.

Jesus says that the coming Kingdom is sort of like a net being cast out to catch fish. When the fishermen pull up the net and take their catch to the shore, they separate the good fish and the runt fish.

My fear is that I am being too childish with my responsibilities, that maybe I am a lot like the “playboy prince” I mentioned earlier. That maybe I’m holding up the coming Kingdom by being the runt.

As children of God, it doesn’t mean we are kids, at some point we have to step up, and step into the Kingdom that has been prepared for us. I sort of like the way Simba had to do it, running around in the wilderness for a while until he hears rumors of his kingdom is disarray. At first, he doesn’t know what to do, he is happy in the wilderness with his buddies and no responsibilities, but there comes a point when he has to step up, and bring back the kingdom.

Jesus brought the Kingdom, and since His resurrection, the Kingdom isn’t what it used to be.

That’s where the children of the King come in, it’s our job to restore the Kingdom, to give it new life. As the children of resurrection, it is our job to continue what Jesus started. Sure, there may be a lot of darkness in what we see around us, but according to my calculations, light defeats darkness 100% of the time.

House of Heroes “Field of Daggers”:

“I see a new day coming, maybe tomorrow, woe to the king of nothing.
I see a clean blood running, brothers of sorrow, here is your Kingdom coming.
Here is your Kingdom coming! Who holds the key?

He was and is.
He is and is to come.
He was and is.
He is and is to come.

He holds the key.”

And I think as children to the King, we have a copy of that key, the key to the coming Kingdom.