Before I get to today's message I would like to share the following COVID-19 Anthem performed by the John Lennon Worship Band back in the days of all things Pandemic. This was before churches reopened across Minnesota at glacial speeds. Back in the day of closures when I was ready to attend almost any church just short of those that handle.. SNAKES.
IMAGINE there's no COVID ..
it's easy if you try..
No SOCIAL DISTANCE controls us..
No FAUCI sayin' "yer gonna die!"
IMAGINE all the people ATTENDING CHURCH today..
You may say that I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
when STREAMING CHURCH is done
- John Lennon Worship Band
But that was so 2020.. now churches were open again. Fundamentalists, Progressives, Catholics, Lutherans, the rest of them Pentecostal folk including a few Name it Claim it Prosperity Gospel venues all doin' their Sunday 'thang'.
As the drinking phrase goes.. What's your poison? Ok, poison is not a good analogy while those 'snake handlers' are still out there, but the point is now we can go ANYWHERE that fits your denominational bent.
So onward and forward we go where your stereo-typical guy (not me) does not want to go to church. His attitude and thoughts are captured below..
- the 'some guy' Sunday morning monologue
I could tell this was going to be a very bad day to go to church. Just getting out of bed was tough enough.. and the Sunday paper was calling my name…. “psst fella, over here… read me!” And my smartphone loaded lock stock and barrel with Social Media apps stream (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TickTok, Instagram, etc) and all call to me with Sunday morning memes and silly cat pictures.
AND.. The glorious morning coffee is brewing, and it calls to me too.. “hey guy, slow down.. it’s Sunday.” So, I listened to the voices.. I grabbed the paper, my smartphone, a BIG cup of coffee.. and I am ready for ..no-action.
Now I am a good Christian man and I realize it is Sunday, BUT sometimes as the leader of our family it is important to declare a family day!.. meaning.. we stay home from church so we can spend quality time together bonding.
Ok, ok.. 'family day' is actually code for I WANT TO STAY HOME AND NOT SHOWER UNTIL NOON… drink a pot of coffee, and read the Sunday funnies, the sports section, and watch funny cat videos on my phone.
Well I may be the head of the house, BUT my wife wants no part of 'family day'. She wants to leave the comfort of our home and sing with the blessed saints at our church.
Sing? I don’t like to sing, and I know the people I go to church with, and while they are nice.. SAINTS they AINT.
So off we go to church leaving my Sunday morning paper and my coffee at home. “goodbye paper! Goodbye coffee!”…
Next, off we go down that familiar road to that familiar church to see familiar church folk with the backseat of our family car loaded with our darlin’ children who set the mood by bickering and fighting the whole blessed drive to church… I am now SOOO in the mood to worship. NOT! as I lament a ‘family day’ lost.
We arrive at the blessed house of God and are immediately greeted by overzealous handshakers welcoming me like they thought I wanted to be there... instead of drinking coffee with by BFF (the Sunday Paper).
In the Fellowship Center they have coffee.. but it is not STARBUCKS, or Folgers, or even SANKA! I like my coffee strong and black (like a middle linebacker), but my church serves it in the traditional big ALUMINUM DRUM that has been used but not cleaned since the Eisenhower Administration.
This is not real coffee.. it is CHURCH COFFEE, but I down a couple cups of this caffeine fix to stay awake during the upcoming service, but this comes with some .. bladder side effects.
After the formalities of church coffee and donut holes we move to church sanctuary. We have no theater seating at our church but instead use traditional wooden (with no pads) church pews where I sit and pray for a sliver free service. The sanctuary is not really so crowded, but I am a big guy, and the ambiance falls short in comfort to sitting in MY living room drinking MY coffee, and reading MY Sunday paper.. in MY PJs!! without the risk of slivers…
BUT I DIGRESS… again!
Our Worship Leader is a bit over the top, and his Las Vegas flair certainly is noticeable during his rendition of ‘The King is Coming’.. This only serves to bring the ‘worship wonders’ out of the wood work.
I don’t sing so ‘goodr’, and my sense of rhythm is that of a badger with back spasms. IT’S NOT PRETTY… But no worry.. we have all the 'charismaniacs' to make up for me… performing for style points again.
We have Bullwinkle, the six-shooter, a lady who appears to have WINGS, and then I have to get the seat behind this guy with the plumbers backside with hands raised high. It is like the 'Worship Circus' has come to town.
Even when the people are not hootin’ and hollerin’ they are peculiar.. AND past Sunday mornings have not been free of controversy.
Before the 'The Covid' there was the Great Head-Lice Epidemic of 1994.
The Cal Ripken of ushers who should have just taken a sick day instead of infecting and grossing out the parishioners one communion Sunday in 1998. AND .. with regards to our church being full of grace.. well NOT to the repeat offenders.
NEXT..The offering/guilt plate is passed which I with a smirk I say.. ”no thanks, I am trying to cut back on giving.”
PREACH IT BRUTHA'
After the above tithes & offerings are collected Pastor 'whatz his name' saunters up to the pulpit… armed only with one lapel microphone and the word of God.
Pastor words and mannerisms are direct, and passionate, but with his zipper accidentally was left wide OPEN that less than holy smirk returns to my face and I PRAY “Dear God please keep me from giggling!” Nothing sounds sillier than a big man giggling at church!
The service ends without incident, and I return home to my 'family day' lost. The magic is gone, and I have missed almost half of the Sunday Afternoon game of the week. ARGH!
I do hope and pray there are jewels in my crown someday in Heaven because on this day.. I WAS AT CHURCH worshiping with the saints (lol) when I wanting to be home worshiping God in my own way with my new VR Church Gaming System.
- THE END of the 'some guy' Sunday morning monologue
Now, I must say again. I am not that guy.
Truth be told, I look forward to Church most every week. It is the gathering of Christ's followers to first and foremost worship Him... and this fellowship of flawed folk is the REAL Church intentionally loving God, each other, and others as ourselves.
May God bless and encourage each of you today even if some weeks you resemble the above mentioned 'anonymous guy'.
Jeff (donning another Pajama Day look) Larson
The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts discovered in 1946/47 at the Qumran Caves. These scrolls are considered to be a keystone in the history of archaeology with great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the oldest surviving manuscripts of entire books later included in the biblical canons.
In another lesser known cave (Bob's Cave) was discovered the following 'manuscripts' scribed (aka scribbled) on five napkins from a popular first century delicatessen Shapiro's Deli. These napkins are covered with what is believed to be the fingerprint smudges in mayo and DNA samples of the one and only Apostle Paul. Of course the authentication of these 'Napkins from Bob's Cave' has their doubters as we unfortunately don't have a sample of Paul's DNA for a true match. So I will go with my gut feeling to their authenticity. If you disagree .. suit yourself.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #1'
Hi, my name is Paul and let me tell you a bit about myself. Before I ever traveled any dusty Damascus road I was a big shot Pharisee who went by the name of Saul. The last thing I was .. was a Christian. In fact I was in charge of putting an end to this original 'Jesus People' nonsense.
As a young man, I even checked coats during the Stoning of Stephen. Acts 7:58
It was said about me in Acts 9:1-2 that I breathed out murderous threats against the disciples of The Way. I sought to find any (men or women) who belonged to this new movement, and take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
We were NOT on the same team!
This was my life's mission.. my purpose until that day on that road to Damascus when I saw the light (both literally & figuratively). Of course my momma always said don’t look directly into the sun or you’ll burn out your eye balls.. well.. momma was right.
But this light stopped me dead in my tracks like a traffic light on main street .. and there was a voice from the light calling me by name “Saul (my friends used to call me Saul).. why are you persecuting me?” These were the words of truth from Jesus and they cut me to the core. Acts 9:3-5 This light, this voice, this Jesus had my full attention.
So here I am blind as a bat with cataracts and have to be led the rest of the way to Damascus. This is where I met God and to show God’s ironic sense of humor. I resigned from my position as ‘Chief Church Prosecutor / Persecutor’ and make a 180 degree change now sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to both the Jews and Gentiles.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #2'
Once my sight returned I could not stop preaching Jesus Christ. I was of course at first received cautiously by Christians who were unsure of my motives as my whole breathing murders and threats up until this point made a negative impression. GO FIGURE.. , and my whole 'Jesus loves me this I know' attitude was now also a 'mystery wrapped in an enigma' with my Pharisee Lodge brothers.
But in time Christians saw my passion for Jesus was real, and the Jewish community realized this was not a Pharisee mid-life crisis. My life would never be the same. It was a very dangerous, but miraculous time to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but this would be my journey/mission for the rest of my days.
There was even a time where differences between myself and Silas resulted in us prayerfully and respectfully going different directions while still both serving the same God. There were some who were concerned that we would not come to agreement, but we liked to use the little word denominations to accommodate 'the church' being described as one body of many parts. Not sure this will ever catch on. Anyways..
It was a time to sing , and a time of high drama , and a time to stand up to share truth that Jesus is the Messiah!
Side note: I also remember when a young man named Eutychus fell asleep during one of my sermons, fell from a balcony to his death, but .. got better?
Anyways let’s just say from this day forward this young man was known as the unofficial patron saint for those who ‘sleep in church’ . And no hard feelings towards Eutychus, I tend to get a little long winded when I preach.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #3'
It was the Tale of Two Ministries where it was the best of times, and the worst of times. It was a time of both great revival and great persecution. And no matter the price or personal loss the gospel message of Jesus Christ must be told to both the Jews (God’s chosen people) and also the Gentile (that is everyone else).
It was a time where zealous anger of the religious establishment had me arrested while others plotted my death .
Of course prison life, and being hated by those in power was not on my 'bucket list'.. BUT God was able to use these times to share his Gospel truth like only He could. While I suffered, God gave me peace that none of this was about me, but It was about sharing the greater hope in Jesus Christ.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #4'
I even endured a storm at sea , and was shipwrecked on the island of Malta. I believe the name of the boat was the S.S. Minnow, and if not for the courage of the fearless crew we would have all perished . Special thanks go out to the Skipper and his first mate.. who I think the professor called.. Gilligan.
Then while around a fire on this island I was bit by a poisonous snake . Of course God protected me again.. I shook off the snake and the only frustrating after affect was that several of the crew took this as a sign to start a ‘Snake Handler Church’. Oh brother!
After 3 months on this Island we set sail again and made our trip to Jerusalem where again I could plead my case for Jesus and the truth that he was the son of God who came to earth, lived, was crucified for our sins, and was resurrected, and now is in Heaven with the Father.
excerpt from Bob's Cave 'napkin #5'
What a great honor for God to choose me the once great hater of the church to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ! God is so good, and I am blessed.
To sum it all up after the Damascus Road I was blinded, beaten, hated, ship wrecked, snake bit, and had a discount punch card for all my time spent in jail… BUT truth be told.. I was too busy serving to really notice.
These were the best years of my life.
My prayer today is that God blesses each of your lives with opportunities to serve Him and others in ways that make your lives full and complete. In ways that are beyond your dreams.
Be faithful in the moments that make up your day, and may your happiness never be measured in comfort or wealth but in service to God and others. When you discover this, then you also will be living the best years of your lives.
Ok, there you have it. The Apostle Paul's life summed up on 5 (2000 year old) delicatessen napkins. I am not sure why the world is not convinced of their authenticity. Ok, other detractors of these 'manuscripts' note they were written in English and included cartoons.. but I still believe. MAYBE.
Anyways, we do not need these 5 napkins to prove out the life and times of the Apostle Paul. We have the book of Acts, and all his letters/epistles recorded in the New Testament. The true and beautiful message of Paul's life is one of a calling from God to know Him and to serve Him. I believe all have this calling in big and small ways. As recorded in 'napkin #5' (maybe).. we are ALL called to be faithful in the moments that make up our days. Obedience to this call is where true joy and fulfillment comes from.
May God bless each of you and find you obedient to His call on your life to where you are living the best years of your life.
Jeff (best days ever) Larson
First off for all years like 2020-2021 where Covid-19 madness reigns I claim Psalms 91:2,5-6
2 I will say of the Lord,
He is my refuge & my
fortress, .. 5 YOU WILL NOT
FEAR the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the
darkness, nor the plague that
destroys at midday.
and while I am at it.. I claim it for 2022 too.
Like a curbside garbage collection, Bring out your Dead was the title of a skit from Monty Python’s movie ..The Search of the Holy Grail. The setting was ‘Medieval Times’ where the Black Plague is running through the land like like.. black plagues do. Those of you who have not seen this bit are rightfully cringing.. as it is dark humor done as only Python can do.
Well in my cartoon brain I segue to.. 'Bring Out Your Dead' as the message of the Gospels. Again, I am NOT making fun of sickness or death, but SIN is the Spiritual Black Plague on mankind since Adam .. separating sinful man from our sinless God.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt 11:28-30
As luck (bad luck) would have it I just recently returning home after a one week stay in a local hospital with a post back surgery infection. After opening me up again, and cleaning out this infection I was sent home with a 90 day supply of IV-antibiotics meant for especially nasty bacteria. After my 7 day hospital 'spa' I am now on the mend at home with time to ponder with my Medicare state of mind (I turn 65 this summer) reminding me I am closer to the end of life than my prime. Thankfully, God's Word is the perfect prescription for any 'Not Dead Yet' existence.
Like Lazarus physically rising from the grave we are made spiritually alive in Christ.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5,
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7
By taking every thought captive, we will find the peace of God for our spiritual lives in need of resurrection.
Now I do not claim I was near death during my recent 7 day hospital stay, and the only bright light I moved towards was the night nurse as she delivered my 2 a.m. meds. There was no DEATH VIGIL called but I was plenty sick and miserable like only a 65 year old man can moan.
My stitches down my spine are still red and tender, and to sit or lay comfortably is not easy, but as the fella from the above Monty Python skit so profoundly exclaimed.. "I am not DEAD yet."
Note: Each day I feel a little better, and though my patience is tested I am thankful for doctors, family, and friends that bless me with their care and prayers.
Oh Death where is your victory?
Oh Death where is your sting?
I Corinthians 15:55
May God bless each of you with LIFE TO THE FULL.. no matter your state of health or place on this life's timeline. May your days be motivated by a love for God and caring of others.
"The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10
Jeff (not dead yet) Larson
Ah yes, another fishing opener observed.. from my living room recliner.
Here we are May 14, 2022 after the last two years in Minnesota our fishing openers have been 'Covid-compromised'. But this year fishing opener has begun with the only lines I will casting are FISHY-FISHING one liners from my Back Pew dock (aka the above mentioned living room recliner).
While I am may not be a fishing expert or theologian, I am not blind to the fact that the Bible is full of fishing stories, and enough fish that with a few small loaves could feed a multitude. So let's get started.
Fishing Tips from the Old Testament...
All the way back at the Red Sea Fishing Opener of 1446 BC we find a couple local fisherman Lester & Willie dropping at their favorite fishing spot.
This is the same spot the fished every year, but.. WHAT THE.. here in their favorite spot on the Red Sea they find the sea is for lack of a better term.. PARTED.
Not only PARTED but right smack dab in the middle of this DRY LAND part there is a large group of people scurrying from one side to the other. THIS CERTAINLY IS GOING TO SCARE ALL THE LITTLE FISHES.
The only fish Lester & Willie saw that day was a very startled sea carp that jumped from their side of the parted sea to the other side reuniting with his family. In the end, it was a fishing story unlike any other until 'Finding Nemo'.
In the book of Joshua, the ol' parting of the waters scenario happens again on the River Jordan leaving the fish high and dry and easy pickings for even a novice fisherman to reach his catch limit.
Of course when you are talking BIBLE BIG FISH STORIES you must be talking about Jonah.
The story of Jonah swallowed by the big fish brought all new meaning to LIVE BAIT. But after three days on Jonah's facebook page he was found to have changed his status from Fish Bait to Fish BARF.
Jonah became the story of the tale of the one (Jonah) that got away told by .. FISH.
Fishing Tips from the MASTER
So far we It does not get any better than FISHING with the MASTER. Jesus knew where to fish for FISH, MEN, and even MONEY.
Not only was Jesus the master Fishing Guide, he also demonstrated how to feed a hungry multitude (about 5,000) with just a few fish and loaves of bread.
It is fair to say SATAN also likes to FISH. He is fond of his patented HOOK & NO RELEASE technique often using BOLOGNA as his bait of choice. Seems today there are lots of people who like these bologna baited hooks
There you have it, everything I know about fishing has been gleaned from the Holy scriptures, and filleted with my Back Pew filter and served up for each of you with a side of tartar sauce.
Of course this blog is free of any real fishing tips CUZ I don't fish. My complete collection of fish and fishing cartoons can be found by clicking here--> FISHING TOONS
Have a great summer fishing for fish, and to clarify again for you single gals FISHING FOR MEN is a figurative teaching referring to evangelism, and not a CHRISTIAN DATING SERVICE.
As a guy.. I am a TV Commercial aficionado. While I respect my wife.. when it comes to TV Commercials hands-down I have a deeper appreciation for their .. art.
Case and point is a TV commercial by AT&T where a tattoo artist tells his client he is just an ok tattoo artist but not good one. Then the concerned client questions the tattoo artist not drawing the image before inking the real tattoo.. and this 'just ok' tattoo artist tells him "Stay in your lane bro."
Funny stuff, and it makes me smile every time it pops up on TV.
Message of this commercial? Don't settle for just ok.
But hidden in this TV ad.. I have gleaned a spiritual correlation. OK, you have to look very very closely but I swear there is one.
When I talk to (aka pray) God, I am not talking with a just an OK deity.. I am talking with the 'only' Creator of this World. Omniscient, Omnipresent, and our perfect loving Heavenly Father.
So when I vent (aka pray) to God my busy mind fretting about never ending pandemics, inflation, midterm elections, my family, friends, and mix it all up in a big bowl of worry with more than a splash of media hype.. I tell God "I don't know how this is going to all work out."
And this is when God whispers to me.. "Stay in your lane bro."
But unlike a 'just ok' deity our God is sovereign. He has this bowl of worries of mine along with everyone else's favorite rage or anxiety recipe and though mankind has again made such a mess of things.. He was not caught off guard. He is not surprised, and NEWS FLASH none of this is a ripple in God's great plan.
Note: I do want to be clear there are consequences for anyone and/or nation's actions and/or rejections of God, but still there is peace in knowing God is sovereign.
Another NEWS FLASH.. this life, our moment in time is not about us.. it is about each of us being faithful in word and deed as we hear God say "stay in our lane bro, I got this".
I will confess, I struggle in understanding this. It's not that I doubt God is sovereign but that He allows the free will of mankind to make a mess and so what am I to do.
So with this in mind, I will pray to our God who is good. I pray we then love Him with our words and deeds knowing God answers our prayers.
And finally, I pray..
Heavenly Father bless and use each of us for your glory in ways that only can be described as beyond our dreams.
Remember God loves us.
Jeff (changing lanes often) Larson
Persecution for my faith? I think the closest thing to persecution I encounter for my faith is attending church on a miserable cold MinneFROZEta Sunday morning while 'Old Man Winter' mocks me for leaving my warm home to worship with the frozen faithful.
Or maybe the fact that I am a Green Bay Packer fan living in the state of Minnesota Viking fans. Besides that.. persecution is a little on the light side in my life.
No Christians being fed to literal lions these days.
Persecution 2000 years ago looked much different. After the first Christian movement begins at Pentecost in Acts 2 the church grows. In response the religious establishment of the day is outraged and fights them for the next 26 chapters of Acts.
Now fast forward to today .. I am sitting in my warm home in a country that has allowed me freedom to worship. While the outside temperature may go below zero in the Minnesota winter months I have my gas fireplace warming me as I type.
But.. is Persecution on the rise? I do see a disturbing trend in the news that alarms me where traditional Christian values are under attack.
As Christians we should be unwavering and unapologetic of the gospel message. If we really believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Jesus. Jo 14:6, then shame on us as believers when we are fearfully silent as to not draw attention to God's Truth.
We are so careful to not call wrong.. wrong (in love) as we fear that society will label us the religious alt-right hate group of the month.
Our words and actions should be the evidence we are living out God's two greatest commandments. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and care for others in need and love them as ourselves.. even when persecuted for our faith.
May God find us faithful and full of His Love, and in all things we do. I pray God's people do not live to please man but instead to honor God.
To God be the Glory!
Jeff (Chick-fil-A eating) Larson
For all you do, this day is for you!... HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY.
I know this is not the case for everyone, but I was blessed with a loving mom who taught me well, and raised me to love Jesus.
I then married my beautiful wife Mary who was/is the mom of our three kids (all grown up now) with love and faith .. and this all led to us to having 5 wonderful grandkids that make my life full.
And.. for all you other good moms out there know you are loved and appreciated.
Being a mom includes that 'beautiful moment that a mom-to-be first felt life in her womb, or were overcome with joy and.. morning sickness, followed by showing a baby bump, and next those days 'this bump' feels like 4 sumo wrestlers riding in a Volkswagen bug on a 9 month trip across the country with no air conditioning on a bumpy road with stop and go traffic.
Finally the little bundle of joy is born, and moms all discover you are working for that bundle. When your baby is hungry, wet, poopy, tired, or bored.. this precious child has your attention on speed dial.
Oh you cannot wait until your child can walk, and entertain themselves a little as you ponder how to re-claim a few moments for yourself, but this you will learn oh silly girl is just an illusion.
Doing dishes, cleaning the kitchen floor, and even taking a bath is no longer an act you are allowed to do by yourself, because your children know you would want them there.
This is all because how much they love you.
Next on to those years of schooling where you tag team raising your children with the educational institution of your choice.
This is a 12+ year process getting them from grade K through High School (note: Beware the teen years!) and beyond as you still are mom preparing them for that big old scary world out there with the hopes of someday in the back of your mind they will married and deliver to you.. grandchildren.
This is a good time to stop to ponder I just spent my whole life waiting for .. grandchildren? REALLY?
Okay, I embellish of course as this is a beautiful journey filled with joy and yes some pain. It may not be what you signed up for, but being a mom is more than you could ask for.
So no matter if you are a mom, or where you are on this journey know being a mother is a true high honor, and a most significant role in this life. You are so appreciated, and loved.
Jeff (momma's boy) Laron
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson