Hmm, where to start..
Hmmm.. yes I think that sums up what I believe. I started writing today's blog with the title 'NICE TRY' which is an apt description of my beliefs. Like I noted above, God's ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Is 55:8-9), and in my most lucid moments.. I see dimly what God will one day make clear (1 Cor 13:12).
So this is what I believe which is important to ME. What do you believe? What is God teaching you about truth? Do what I believe and what you believe fall in line with God's Truth?
and.. I believe it is important for everyone to pursue a serious 'NICE TRY' understanding and appreciation of God. This is not an issue anyone should put on the back burner of life. We owe God at the very least to make a NICE TRY... and for eternity's sake we owe ourselves.
May God bless each of you today where Covid-19 and more just keep piling on more questions than we have answers. I pray for peace, and the Holy Spirit's leading us to truth and answers for all of life's questions, and to a place where we feel God's love and peace like never before.
Jeff (Trying to be Nice) Larson
During this pandemic shutdown, I have come to realize how very LOUD our society was. Oh there is now less to do, less to watch, and less to fight about, and HEY.. THEY TOOK AWAY MY SPORTS! But we are still Loud while Home-bound .. once we turn on the evening news.
AND in the midst of this Shutdown we are becoming a little (or lot) stir crazy. The rush is removed from rush hour traffic while the din of sports, entertainment, and misc. life have been reduced to .. sports reruns (zzzz), and movies of the good ol' days before social distancing. I even treat watching Gilligan's Island reruns like it was the original Survivor series! My money is on Gilligan getting voted off.
The blessing for me of this shutdown, is before the government shutdowns are lifted and we return to the 'smack down' of 24/7 Election coverage.. I have been listening to audiobooks
One of my current listens is a biography on the life of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood up to Hitler and the Nazis. It is very interesting listen, but I have found disturbing parallels between Nazi Germany in the 1930s with America in the year 2020. While you may think this is a grand conspiracy theory of someone in a state mandated lock-down.. I respectfully disagree, and so let me share a few social parallels..
In response to Hitler and Nazi Germany Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote..
So as we move back towards the din and distraction of normalcy let's not lose sight of what God has been teaching us in the Silence of this Shutdown.
As believers we cannot be silent. We need to stand tall and strong in our obedience to God proclaiming the Gospel. And remember part of these loving words and actions is to speak loving truth. We cannot be compromising of God's Truth even when our secular society reacts with any of the above 'Social Parallels' to Nazi Germany.
Finally, remember the words of Jesus
May God bless and speak to you in the Silence of the Shutdown. May you fill your stir crazy moments with prayer, and God's Word. Tune out the voices of the world where blame for the pandemic and the panic of the pandemic can consume our thoughts. Our God is sovereign, and soon this shutdown will be over. Let's take this time to be a spiritual reset so when the world is running full tilt again.. our spirits compass points to God alone in a way that the din of society cannot alter.
In all things (including shutdowns), to God be the Glory. Amen
Jeff (Shutdown but not Shut off) Larson
Making Sense in Life. The more things change, the more they stay the same. With this 2020 Coronavirus pandemic holding us captive my mind wanders to a range of intellectual and theological topics. Some of my thoughts are 'relatively' deep (for a cartoonist) while other thoughts just dip their toes in the shallow end of the kiddie pool of intellectualism.
My shallow thoughts might be.. "What does my dog Cooper dream about?" or "Why is it snowing in April?" Answer to the snow question is "You live in Minnesota, you dummy."
Now what I consider a little deeper topic is .. 'Is God really fair?' No, not just saying He is fair afraid of what others in the church think, but is God really fair.
So in my mind wanderings I was thinking about the story in Genesis where God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. This is absurd, maybe even pagan. Could this have been a moment where Abraham replies to this seemingly grotesque request.. "If you are a loving God, why are you asking me to do such a murderous thing? If you are God, you are no longer my God."
No, Abraham while troubled by God's request did not question God, or debate Him. He proceeded to be obedient to God to the point of killing his son. This is when God said "STOP", and provided a lamb to sacrifice in Isaac's place. WHEW!
My wife and I watched the 1979 movie Jesus on Good Friday this year. It was remastered and included this story of Abraham and Isaac explaining Jesus (the Lamb of God) took the place for our sins just as God provided a lamb to take the place of Isaac. I love this analogy of Biblical proportions.
Now let me take this 'trusting God' thing a step further as I think out loud and type. Let's start with God is perfect, good and just in all He does. We are His creation that He can do with us whatever he chooses, and then realize God's Love and His Wrath are both attributes of God. note: read 'Knowing God' by J.I Packer for a better understanding of who God is. Finally, there is eternal life for those who accept Jesus as their savior, and Hell for those who say NO to God.
Well then we can question.. Is life an even playing field? We do not have the same opportunities, circumstances, or aptitudes to know God, or even more specifically know who Jesus is. To this I think honestly is NOT just, loving, kind, or FAIR! It seems at it's best to the judgment of a God who could be described as indifferent. This is a God who says "I am God and I will do whatever I want." If this is true my response is equal parts of being afraid, sad, and maybe appalled.
But maybe it is like the sacrifice of Isaac, or Jesus dying on the cross for my sins. I don't understand why, but in these examples I see God's love for those who are faithful. A lamb provided in place of Isaac, and Jesus in place of a sinful mankind.
But.. I still know life is not fair, and beyond this life the opportunities to know Jesus or even know there is a Jesus are not fair. This is true, but like Abraham we are called to be faithful and obedient to God even when we do not understand.
All of us will some day come right down to the end of life (young or old) and for some life has been blessed while others it is seems cursed. This is where we are called to be obedient, pray. and trust God like Abraham did when asked to sacrifice his only son.
I believe I am sharing is a glimpse of truth at least for me. I don't find my self debating deep theological issues with great theologians.. but it is an important part of my faith journey. To seek God and to TRUST God.
I believe God cares beyond this life for those injured by injustice even when I do not understand and/or are troubled by God's direction.
My prayer is to be faithful, humble, but not shaken by pandemics or 'worse'. I believe in both the goodness and sovereignty of God, and we are to trust God for this life and the next that He will make all things fair and right in the end.
Jeff (thinking deep thoughts with my theological water wings on) Larson
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.
2020 unfortunately will be remembered as the year of the State Mandated Palm Sunday Covid-19 Shutdown. But my wife and I did watch online watch as our church Grace Church in Roseville streamed the April 5th 2020 Church Service.
While it was not the same as meeting at the physical church building with our friends and other believers, my wife and I streamed church in the comfort of our living room dressed for comfort while sipping coffee and sharing a muffin.
Good news is.. that first Palm Sunday a pandemic was not part of God's narrative. Instead just as recorded in the Gospels, Jesus triumphant entry traveled the streets of Jerusalem on a donkey with the crowds shouting Hosanna.
So here we go.. 2000 years ago Jesus sends a couple of his disciples to get the donkey for his ride by telling the donkey owner... "The Master has need of it."
Note: The chosen donkey did take offense to being called 'IT'
The crowds cheer as Jesus begins his procession down the palm branch laden roads of Jerusalem. Even some tourists from up North could be heard declaring Jesus king in their own special way.. doncha-know.
Side Point: It is a sobering irony to realize the crowds this first Palm Sunday shouting HOSANNA, were screaming CRUCIFY HIM!.. just 5 days later.
While most of the crowd this first Palm Sunday were celebrating Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem the Religous leaders in attendance were miffed.
I would call them the Palm Sunday Pouters.
The were mostly of these crowds honoring Jesus and most likely jealous of Jesus sweet ride.
The Donkey Speaks..
Also caught up in the celebratory crowd was the Donkey Jesus rode who foolishly thought the crowds were cheering him!
BUT just a couple days later this same donkey was over his embarrassment and back at his stable could be found bragging and signing autographs with the other barnyard folk.
A Dumb Donkey's regrets..
And let me not forget to tell you about the donkey who turned down the chance to be that Palm Sunday donkey because it the time coincided with watching Mr. Ed reruns.
He later lamented in high drama ‘On the Stable Front’ "a life wasted as a bum when he could have A CONTENDER!"
I pray God finds you blessed this Palm Sunday and that we all slow down to appreciate the significance of this entire Holy Week.
From this triumphant entry of Jesus on Sunday, to the dark brutal Crucifixion of Jesus on Friday, and finatlly the unspeakable joy of our Risen Lord. This was all part of God's perfect plan for a fallen world that needs a Savior.
Remember if you don't shout Hosanna, the Rocks may just do it for you.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson