Invertebrate: an animal lacking a backbone, such as an arthropod, mollusk, annelid, coelenterate, .. and some forms of Christians.
But first a bunny trail>
With all things COVID-19 related it is easy for everyone including Christians to hyperfocus on this very real health risk. So hyperfocused that we almost forget to breath. Almost.
But the world does not truly go on hold. Life is still lived and as Christians we should not lose focus on Jesus and living out His truth. The evening news does not give you truth.. it gives you what will get you to watch their 'shows'. Cynical much? you ask. No, I think of it as being realistic.
So no matter, we all of course need to be careful, stay healthy but this is NOT the Black Plague. Stay informed, but don't swallow the bait cast out every night at 6pm at your favorite news fishing spot.
<End of bunny trail
Now put down your Purell for a moment and let's talk about the Church. Not the buildings where we all gather in, but those good folk called to be the body of Christ.
A strong body will have bones, muscles, a heart pumping, brain thinking, lungs breathing, and we have eyes, ears, nose to enhance our senses to the world around us. This is why the body analogy works well in describing the Church and how it should function. All parts of the body are different but important.
So here is my concern of the day.. the church appears to suffer at times from a hardened and/or weak heart.. and our brain perplexed while attempting to blend God's truth into a 'very' secular world view (a true square peg in a round hole dilemma). Of course we should instead share how this very secular world needs to align with God's Truth.
AND.. then my cartoon mind smriks.. Maybe the Church is an invertebrate? Spineless, unable to stand up in this sinful world.
At the very least the church appears to be slouching.. and maybe the slouching is because it has no spine.
Spineless Christianity? I am 62 years old guy with chronic back issues. Images of my spine a few years back indicated I have several bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and arthritis that give me at times considerable pain. So The Bad News is.. I have pain. The Good News is.. I have a spine!
But I have grown fond of my spine.. not sure I could live without it. LITERALLY.
So goes the same when we talk about the Church Body. The Church must have a spine (stand unflinching with God's Truth with no apology) or I believe will die.
Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. .. John 15:18-19
AND THEY DID hate Jesus for sharing God's unflinching loving truth. Not in rude manner we 'Christians' sometimes are known for, but the kind of love/truth where Jesus spoke more about Hell then He did Heaven. It matters eternally what we believe, what we say, or DON'T say.
But, we the Church worry, dare I say is afraid.
People won't like me and/or laugh at me. They will label me just another judgmental hypocritical bigot. I'm cool, really.. but ..
Hmmm.. let summarize my concern with these attitudes.. Any Church (or person) without Biblical convictions.. that does not follow Christ teachings, listen to the Holy Spirit cannot truly worship/obey God and.. is maybe not really a Christian. And certainly appears to be a 'Christian Invertebrate'
To exist in a luke-warm compromised Oprah Winfrey morning blend of religions that serves self with at best a wink and a thumbs up gesture towards Heaven will not get you to Heaven, and certainly not lead others to God.
So what better time than now to grow a SPINE. In the midst of the pandemic panics, partisan politics, border & homeless crisis, racial tensions, failing marriages, and LGBTQ confusion we (The Church) best grow a spine. I MEAN NOW.
It has been a long time since I was a student in Biology class but I am pretty sure our physical bodies cannot grow a spine. And I can't go to a body junk yard and pick up a spine that is used but in pretty good condition (no arthritics, or bulging discs) to replace my aching back.
But in contrast I believe any church body with a repentant heart desiring revival, and obedient to God's unchanging Truths (His Word) can be restored by God for His glory.
A Church Body with a Heart/love for God & others, with hands and feet serving God and others, and our minds renewed (Ro 12:2) and obedient to God's unchanging truths .. God will bless us as we stand tall and straight for God in this crooked world.
And just like that. Viola' - The Church has a spine again.
May God bless you and the Church to be seeking Him. May He find us faithful, standing straight for His truth in this twisted secular world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Mt 5:16
Jeff (aching back) Larson
Back in my working days.. I would sometimes say with a smile.. "I never met a sick day I didn't like." And let's be real, no one wants to waste a sick day with strep throat, or a 102 fever. It makes more sense to be 'a little under the weather' and call in sick when the sun is shining.
Looking back I realize so many followed MY LEAD that Human Resources departments across the country coined a more user friendly term.. PTO (personal time off) days.
So I personally believe I was the catalyst in the creation of PTO. No more calling in and fake coughing.. no more intentional weak voices. Now with PTO you can simply call in to work with a strong voice and say .. "I'm not gonna come in to work, there is Netflix binge watching that needs my attention.
So for all of you that have benefited from PTO ..
YOU ARE ALL WELCOME.
Don't look at me that way.. Are you saying you never feigned a sick day? Hmm.. how about did you ever take such a day off and called it a 'mental health day'? Ok then, at least I was not claiming to be 'sick in the head' .. LIKE YOU!
But more far reaching than any random sick or PTO days you may have there is a much more concerning is the today's headline where Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) has been declared a global pandemic by the Center of Disease Control, and the World Health Organization. This sobering bit of news has put our lives on hold until further notice.
In response to COVID-19 were are closing of schools, stores, restaurants, sporting events, churches, and about everything else you can think of. The practical affects of this troubling news are the shortages of canned goods, cereal, and.. toilet paper. TOILET PAPER?
side note: I heard someone say if you are hoarding TP you most likely have a greater 'problem' (rogue IBS?) than catching COVID-19.
But very seriously.. the real health risks of Coronavirus are not to be ignored. My understanding is those especially at risk are over 65 years old, or with compromised immune systems.
BUT.. honestly I am even more concerned with the over-zealous domino overreach of governments, schools, churches, etc etc.
This will fuel far reaching economic and societal problems that may be more serious than the very real health risks. The longer this continues the greater damage is done.
So I pray.. for God's protection, and His wisdom to be displayed in ALL our leaders at all levels, and that it is not reduced to a partisan issue instead of it being an American issue.
So I pray ALSO.. for a return to God as this is a time where we can be quiet (we are like on a government timeout). This is a time to pray, read God's word, and then.. pray some more. A time to un-clutter our lives, our minds, and unplug from many of the subtle entrapments of our modern life. Maybe.. LESS is MORE.
Share and talk with friends about important issues, and about life. Pray for God to speak to you and to others without the 24/7 din of life. Spend more intentional time with family regaining perspective on what is important.
Let go of things.. minimize the madness, rethink your financial priorities, and just say no to the evening news SHOWS/PROPOGANDA.
AND of course be careful to stay safe and healthy without letting Corona run your lives.
Also, I have heard it said more than a few times..
I am concerned that our society and even the church is more focused on a possible pandemic than a pending panDAMNit. (Maybe a poor choice of puns, but you get my point.)
May God bless and protect all of you during this time. May the peace of God be realized in your lives through this pandemic and anything that comes our way.
Jeff (not even a sniffle.. yet) Larson
With this all being said I would not be a true Christian cartoonist if I did not also share what I will call...
' All Things ILL in The Back Pew'
Our Father who is in Heaven, GREAT is your name.. Your kingdom come, your WILL be done ON EARTH as it is in Heaven.
As many of you know this is the start of the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:9-13), and is what I believe God is impressing on me today.
Your Will on Earth? So how is that working out?
Christian Tweeters are all quoting the same Bible and while there are honest differences, tweets tend to be divisive as tweeters congregate in their own denominational or theological camps/gangs?.
With all the tension I am looking for an MMA pay-per view event with Catholics v Protestants to determine once and for all.. who really is saved? It can't be the both.. can it? I mean, one of the two must be on the fast track to HELL. Or will there be a Pro(testant)-Wrestling match with a high flying Beth Moore coming off the top rope attempting to way-lay John MacCarther.
kidding, I think.
But while I DO LIKE TO DIGRESS.. let us now return to the LORD'S PRAYER. God your will be done on Earth.. starting with me.
Through my life (I am 62 now) I have prayed "Lord show me your will for my life." many times. At times regarding big decisions and that is a good always to seek the Lord and His will, but I am just recently realizing often the prayer"what is your will for my life?" is me-centric. Prayers focusing on the right job, house, finding Mrs. Right/Larson, or even a car purchase.
Looking back I wish I could have heard an audible voice from Heaven telling me if I was close. :)
God could be heard from the Heavens with the words.. "Warmer, warmer.. hmmm.. colder, colder.. now you are FREEZING. Which I literally now realize is maybe how I ended up in Minnesota. Get it? colder, colder freezing.
Truth is (insert light bulb moment for me here) The prayer "Lord what is your will for my life?" should be more specifically.. "Lord how can I serve you today, show me what I can do for your kingdom." "How can I be that part in the Lord's Prayer helping God's Will be Done.
Again, I swear I am just this week realizing the extent of this truth. I could cry over my 62 years wandering with one foot planted firmly in the wilderness and the other foot only tip toeing into the promised land much like the Children of Israel wandered for 40 years before crossing the Jordan.
But I console myself with.. I am a pretty good guy. I have lived a life faithful to God (most of the time) I attend church every week (most of the time), and I am not the type of sinner you will find someday featured in a scandal on the evening news, or the topic of a murder mystery on Dateline.
Most of my sins lie most everyone fly 'mostly' under the radar. Then again much of my serving God flies under the radar too. Not in the humble way, but in a underachieving way.
An honest tombstone for me might read..
'Here lies Jeff.. he loved God, but also loved himself a bit too much.'
Not a catchy tombstone eulogy I must admit.
Even this little Back Pew Ministry.. I am blessed to be used by God in a way that He uniquely wired me. And the feedback I receive is most always positive.. but then even in my world of cartoons I can take my eyes off of humbly being used by God in this small way to praying for God to bless The Back Pew into being.. The FarSide, or Calvin & Hobbes of Christian cartoons, complete with a modest OR.. substantial income "SHOW ME THE MONEY!"
But in recent months I have been diving deeper into my Bible, and reading challenging Christian books and points of view via sermons on Youtube or other streaming apps. And my selection of music is mostly worship music replacing my large classic rock playlist.
These recent months pursuing God deeper have not resulted in an exorcism of my old self, but it has become both a convicting and inspiring journey where today my prayer is .. "Lord what is your will for my life going forward? How can I serve you? Lord help me NOT to bury my talents in the sand, but instead do my part so YOUR will is done on Earth as it is in Heaven. AMEN."
I write this hoping it does not take any of you 62 years to figure out God's will for you is to serve Him. But if it does, 62 is not too late. Love God, Serve God where your will is God's will.
May God bless you all in this journey of discovering who you are intended to be in God's Plan and for his Kingdom on Earth.
Jeff (slow learner) Larson -->
If you sneeze, I will politely respond "Bless you." If you sneeze again.. you are on your own as I adhere to a strict one blessing per sneezer rule. This is not negotiable.
But sneeze blessings are not the topic of the day instead a Father’s Blessings, and ultimately God’s blessings. These blessings I want, and like I say often in The Back Pew .. ‘BlESSED beyond my DREAMS’. I want Prayer of Jabez supersized blessings.
It seems just like a chapter ago Isaac was just a boy, but now in Genesis 25 Isaac is all grown up and with his wife Rebecca has twin boys. The first to enter the world was Esau, and right on his heel literally (Ge. 25:25) was Jacob.
These boys were like so many brothers as they were very different from each other. Esau grew up to be a scruffy/hairy outdoors type who loved to hunt. Jacob on the other hand was not scruffy, and liked to hang out in the kitchen with maybe a reputation as a mamma's boy.
The Father's Blessing
Next we are introduced to the power of the Father’s Blessing, and especially the blessings set aside for the first born in this case.. by beating brother Jacob in the 'birth canal dash' was scruffy/hairy Esau.
I am not sure how or why they worked the way they did in the Old Testament, but it seems like the 'Father’s blessing' had the power to make or break the future of the ‘blessee’. It was like winning the family inheritance lottery.. and there were no TAKE BACKS.
The Blessing Plot Thickens
So one day Esau comes in from hunting famished and is met by his brother Jacob. Esau is so desperate for food, that Jacob talks Esau out of his birthright since Esau replies, "what good is my birth right if I die today from starvation."
note: It appears Esau was a great hunter, but a bit of a drama queen.
I don’t know exactly follow how the whole birthright and blessing stuff worked in those days, but I am thinking this birthright transfer should have required a signed agreement witnessed and stamped by a notary public.
ie The first party (Esau) agrees to relinquish his future blessing reserved for the first born to the second party (Jacob) in exchange for one bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup.
Esau sign here
Jacob sign here
Notary sign here
Date enter today's date
I am not sure if today this birthright exchange for soup arrangement would hold up even in front of Judge Judy, but in Genesis 25 it set the stage for the Ol' Birthright SWITCHEROO.
Isaac is very old!
As the story continues, their father Isaac is getting very old, he is nearly blind and his health is failing. Isaac recognizing his days on this earth are numbered and so wants to give his blessing to his first born son Esau before he hears Heaven's Angels singing 'Happy Trails to you'. and 'When the Roll is called up Yonder'.
So Isaac asks Esau to hunt, and then fix him some wild game for him and at that time he will give Esau his blessing.
Well, Rebecca overhears this and wants this blessing to got to her favorite son (and kitchen apprentice) Jacob. So while Esau is out hunting, she comes up with a planso simple, so ingenious, but with more than a hint of .. WHAT?
Mom schemes to put animal skins on Jake’s arms to appear hairy like his brother Esau.
As strange as this sounds.. this plan works and Isaac though he was suspicious thought it was Esau, and in the end gives Jacob THE BLESSING OF THE FIRST BORN. The Ol' Birthright SWITCHEROO is complete!
Of course being a cartoonist, and a dog owner I wonder.. WHAT IF the FAMILY DOG wanders on to the scene before the walking talking/lying carpet remnant Jacob and receives the blessing of the first born?
The Dog is hairy, Esau is hairy, and the gggruff voice it could be Esau with a cold. Hmmm.. WHAT IF?
But I digress as no dog wanders in, and Jacob gets the blessing and skips town just before Esau returns from hunting. Esau fixes a fine dinner of wild game along with a bottle of Desert Merlot. He walks into to see dad ready to receive the blessing of the first born WHEN…
It's like Déjà vu all over again for Dad. -The Prophet Yogi Berra
Isaac exclaims.. “Hey, weren’t you just here?... er..aaaa.. didn’t you already come for your blessing?.. I mean.. I mean.. HEY WAIT A MINUTE!”
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?
This is the moment when the light bulb goes on enough for Isaac’s dim eyes to realize.. HE GAVE THE BLESSING TO THE WRONG SON!
I hate when that happens!
Esau is of course distraught and cries out .. “Bless me too!!.. what about me!!??” In response Isaac hold out his right arm limply and says..
“It’s empty.” no blessing for you, but we have some lovely parting gifts.
Ok he did not say those exact words, but Isaac is very clear .. the blessing of the first born has been given.. given to Jacob. Like a winning lottery ticket, THERE WAS ONLY ONE!..
So this caper of the misplaced blessing is over.. without me understanding the blessings of Isaac, except the fact that there are no take backs. The fact is God did intend for Jacob to be blessed as he continues to bless the descendants of Abraham as promised, through Isaac, and now Jacob to continue the promise of a great nation.
Moral of the story for us today? Be faithful like Abraham so that God can bless and use you as part of his plan. Whether you are the first born, that dreaded middle child (kidding), the baby, or you are adopted.. God loves you, and has a plan to bless & prosper all who love and obey Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 "'For I Know The Plans I Have For You' Declares the Lord, 'Plans to Prosper You and Not to Harm You, Plans to Give You Hope and a Future.
Psalms 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
May God find us faithful and full of love for the one true God, and blessed by him in ways that are beyond our dreams.
Jeff (first born) Larson
Before I discuss the Old Testament guide to 'FINDING A WOMAN' let me give a Genesis update where in Genesis 20 where Abraham AGAIN lies. He is not even original as he tells Abimelek king of Gerar that Sarah is his sister. So Abimilek took Sarah into his house .. until God spoke to him in a dream with the words "You are a dead man walking for taking a married woman from my prophet."
But God showed mercy on Abimilek as he had not come near her yet. The next day he gave Sarah back and Abe tried to explain himself in verse 12 ..
Well, technically she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.
<insert reflective pause here>
Sounds like an episode from the Reality TV show 'The Real Housewives of the region of the Negev between Kadesh and Shur'.
Let me note again.. Sarah was some kind of sport to go along with this. Don't think this plan would fly right with my wife Mary.
Also, why do Kings and Pharaohs in the book of Genesis want 80+ year old women? Not judging, just sayin'.
Next in Genesis 21 we learn Sarah becomes pregnant in her old age. This was before gender reveal parties so Abraham and Sarah had to wait the traditional 9 months before they exclaimed "It's a boy, and we shall call him Isaac."
In celebration then passed out blue cupcakes, and drank blue kool-aid... cuz boys are BLUE and girls are PINK.
Now onward and forward we go..
Do you remember Hagar in Genesis 16, The fact that she had a son with Abraham now complicated life. Tensions and jealousy rose between Hagar and Ishmael with Sarah and Isaac, so Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away.
I obviously do not understand this whole dynamic or know how to justify this.. except I do know that Hagar and Ishmael were not how God planned to bless Abraham but through the birth of Isaac.
This story is harsh, but in these verses we learn God heard the cries of Hagar and was with the boy. 17 ..the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven "Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying ..Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
Next, in Genesis 22, God tests Abraham by instructing him to sacrifice son Isaac whom he loved dearly.
.. but God finds Abe faithful in this test from God and God stops Abe from sacrificing Isaac and instead provides a lamb to be sacrificed.
Note 1: I confess I may have threatened to kill my boys when they were acting out as teenagers.
Note 2: Isaac being saved was very good news for the literal future of Israel.
Note 3: Not a good day to be a lamb stuck in a thicket.
Note 4: The above threats to kill my sons was a figure of speech
Moving forward in reading Genesis 22:21 we are introduced to my favorite names in the Bible.
Uz and Buz (not Buzz LIghtyear) the sons of Nahor.
Not much is said about these two fine young men leaving this cartoonist with time on his hands to imagine they were chick magnets and they had a cousin named.. Fuzz.
Maybe, maybe not.
Now back to Abraham. He is now well over 100 years old, and Sarah passed away Genesis 23. So of course Abraham feels the urgency of finding his son Isaac a wife before his days are over too. How is Abraham going to be the father of a nation with more descendants than the stars in the skies if his son never goes on a date?
"So Isaac my son, you need to go outside and stop playing video games all day. Say hi to a girl, they won't bite. Go find yourself a nice Jewish girl, settle down, then go forth and MULTIPLY! Maybe, maybe not
If the story in Genesis 24 was today, Abe could help Isaac set up an ad in the personals, sign up for a E-Harmony site, or Jewish Mingles, order a MAIL ORDER BRIDE, check the church bulletin board, or.. attend an old faithful church potluck where the dishes are HOT just like the ladies. Maybe, maybe not.
Since dating life in Genesis 24 was a tad more primitive than today with zero wi-fi, Abe decides to help his son out. Oh great, that is just the news any young man wants to hear.. Dad is finding me a woman of my very own. What I am trying to say is.. While I may have never been a major-mover with the ladies I never stooped to asking my dad for dating advice. I love you dad, but this was not going to happen.
To make this process even stranger-er, Abraham insisted his chief servant 'promise' to find this woman.
How is this promise secured you may ask?
No instead Abraham says.. “Hey fella, put your hand under my leg and swear.”
<insert dramatic pause here> I beg your pardon? Come again? Is this an advanced version of the old 'pull my finger' joke?
Aah those good old (testament) days. You just never hear anyone say anymore.. "put your hand under my leg".
note: I have a very good friend Bryan Anderson, and if he asked to put my hand under his leg you could be assured I would SWEAR. "Oh bleep, that was creepy!" Then I believe I would be deemed ceremonial unclean by my church for at least 7 days. maybe, maybe not
So Abraham’s servant does swear to Abraham to follow his instructions and finds the lovely Rebecca. It was truly love at first sight? er aaa.. meet?.. er aaaa… arranged marriage.
She agrees to return with Abe's servant and leave her family to marry Isaac. And they all lived happily ever after. Well at least through Genesis 24.
After the deal is done.. Abraham gets busy himself. He marries again and his new bride has more 6 kids. Finally at a very youthful age of 175 Abe breathes his last though they say he never did look a day past 155.
The lesson I see again in these Genesis stories is how God is faithful even when man even when we makes decisions that leave me more than scratching my head (ie Abraham). This is good news for me, and you too. I make more than my fair share of mistakes, and while my faith is not on par with Abraham.. I am blessed knowing God honors my desire to obey Him.
Life will never be about being the perfect Christian. Perfect Christians are like the Loch Ness monster.. folk lore at best.
I pray God finds us faithful, and I pray for His blessings and providence in our lives as we daily love and obey Him with all our heart.
Jeff (My wife is NOT my sister) Larson
Last we chatted, Abraham was healing from.. a ‘MINOR procedure’.
Next in chapter 19, Abraham is met by three men and welcomes these visitors into his tent to allow them to rest out of the heat of the day. Abraham then tells Sarah to bake some of her world famous homemade bread while he gets some red meat cooking on the grill.
After dinner, the visitors informed Abraham that Sarah will have a son one year from now. Well Sarah was listening at the entrance and LAUGHED to herself since she was so old. The guests heard her laughing and reminded Abraham and Sarah that this is not too difficult for the God who created the world. After this the three men left, and headed towards Sodom (aka Sin City).
Sodom and Gomorrah
Now Sodom and Gomorrah were the twin cities of evil, and God had enough with their behavior, and tells Abraham he is going to destroy them. But Abraham humbly bargains with God to spare these cities if there could even be found 10 good people. This is an interesting negotiation, and a great example of God hearing our pleas, and being sensitive to them. The prayers of a righteous man is heard by God with Abraham, and this is still true today.
Next the two angels arrive in Sodom and Lot pleads with them to come into his home and off the streets because it was not safe there. They wanted to spend the night in the City Square, but did agree to come to Lot’s home.
After dinner, the men of this wicked city came asking Lot to send out these men so that they could have sex with them. Lot being the good host.. good host??? says “no.. don’t do this evil thing, BUT.. you can have my two virgin daughters.” This is another one of those jaw dropping moments that transcends culture, and to compound the level of wickedness, the men yelled back.. “get out of our way Lot.. we want the men!”
Lot and his Family flee
So these angels, blind these evil men, and then told Lot to warn his family that the Lord is about to destroy these Old Testament sin cities. In the morning, Lot, his wife, and two daughters flee the city while his future son-in-laws thought Lot was joking and stayed behind.
Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed
So the two men/angels took Lot and his family and led them from the city, and once they were safe, and they were all instructed.. “don’t look back.”
Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur from the sky and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah completely while an emergency weather alert was issued 'it's gonna be a hot hot day'.
finally as Lot and his family ran for their lives, Lot’s wife looked back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Her last words were.. "I think I left the oven on".
After this display of God’s wrath and the there was an investigation by the local CSI TEAM finding an empty Improve Our City suggestion box at the city limits. Many years later an archaeological dig found a road sign verifying the existence/location of the ancient city of Gomorrah. The sign stated simply.. 'What happens in Gomorrah, stays in Gomorrah'.
Of course Lot’s life was a mess, and there are more stories following this judgment regarding Lot and his daughters that are further examples of a depraved society.
Moral of the story? God's Grace is amazing and free, but not.. cheap. You cannot put a price on God's Grace.. but know we must turn from our sins and never look back.
Jeff (No Salt Please) Larson
I shared recently the mysterious voice saying "If you build it, they will come." happened way before the movie 'Field of Dreams' when God spoke to Noah instructing him to build it (an Ark) and they (the Animals) would come two by two.
Next big event IMO in the book of Genesis was when the phrase 'Home of the Whopper' was coined way before a single Burger King fast food joint existed. Let me explain.. but first..
ON THE ROAD AGAIN!
In Genesis 12 Abram enters the Old Testament story. Abram is maybe 85 years young, his bride Sarai is maybe 70. The Lord tells Abram .. “Road Trip.!!.. pack up the Winnebago”. So Abraham loads a destination of Canaan into his GPS and says goodbye to Sweet Home Haran with Lynard Skynard playing in the background.
HOME OF THE WHOPPER!
The next thing you know Abram was in Egypt with his wife Sarai while there was a famine in the land. While in Egypt, Pharaoh spies Abram's wife Sarai who rumor has it was a 'fetching' 70 year old hottie. So Abe tells a little fib that Sarai is his sister as he is afraid they will kill him to take Sarai as their wife. Ok, that is not a white lie this is a WHOPPER of a lie.
So Pharaoh takes Sarai into his palace, and treats Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels out of the exchange.
side note: I am not sure my wife in Sarai's place would have been such a good sport.
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
side note 2: While Abraham would become known as a great man of faith, Honest Abe was our 16th president and never confused with this Abram guy pawning his wife off in Egypt.
After Egypt, Abe travels to southern Canaan as a very wealthy man with cattle, silver, and gold. But tension arose between Abram and his nephew Lot because there were simply too many animals for the land to support. So Abe says to Lot, “Let’s not bicker over land. If you choose the land to the left, I will go to the right, and if you choose the land to the right, I will go to the left.” And Lot chooses the land in the direction of Sodom which could have been named LOT VEGAS!
In chapter 14, there were battles, but I gather that military tactics were a bit primitive. One particular lesson learned is still taught in the Soldier’s Field Manual at WestPoint stating a soldier should always avoid the short cut across the TARPITS.
During all this time, the Lord often reminds Abraham that he will be blessed by God so that to try to number his descendants will like trying to count the grains of sand on the shore, or the stars in the skies. There was of course the minor problem that AARP collectors Abram and Sarai had no kids.
So now the plot thickens as Sarai (the good wife) says to Abram, “Why don’t you sleep with my slave girl Hagar?” I have a couple of Back Pew comments with this part of the story.
1. When I think of Hagar, I think of that Viking cartoon character Hagar the Horrible.
2. My wife has never offered me a slave girl to sleep with! Of course if she did I would say very politely, “Why Mary, thank you very much for this most generous offer, BUT (with the vision of Hagar the Horrible in my head) I’m good.” I may not be a great man of faith like Abram, but my momma didn’t raise NO DUMMY!!
But Abram ignores the tell tale warning signs that this idea is DUMBER-ER than a bag of hammers, and wanders out onto THIN ICE IN THE HOT DESERT and says more than howdy-do to the lovely miss Hagar.
Hagar now becomes pregnant by Abram and Sarai lets Abram have it by probably saying something like, “I told you to sleep with her, but not SLEEP with her!” To which Abram so eloquently in his defense says, “Huh? What? But you said!!! I thought I could.... Huh?”
As you can read in chapter 16, this arrangement is nothing you ever see discussed on Focus on the Family, Oprah, or even The Jerry Springer show. These chapters are NOT in the Bible as an example how to model the perfect marraige, but to instead show us God is faithful and caring for Abram and Sarai even when they do really dumb things. Fortunately for all of us, our foolish choices are covered by God’s grace and goodness.
In chapter 17, God says to Abram to change his name from Abram, to Abraham. I wonder if this was so that he could start fresh and people would not know he was the guy who lied that Sarai was his sister, and slept with his wife’s slave girl. Sarai also has her named changed to Sarah. Then near the end of the chapter 99 year old Abraham is circumcised. This profound scripture emphatically reminds me not to complain about my own aches and pains. And all men collectively shout AMEN!!.. and .. YOWTCHEE!!
I thank God for His love and grace not dependent on my perfection. I pray God finds us all faithful in words and deeds and willing to hear God's voice when He calls us.
Jeff (my wife is not my sister) Larson
FIELD OF STREAMS (Ge 6-9)
If you have ever seen the movie Field of DREAMS you will know it’s about an Iowa farmer who hears voices telling him to plow under his corn crop and build a baseball field where the ghosts of old pro players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, would play. Now of course, the neighbors and the town folk think he is nuts, and that he is risking his farm for the sake of old baseball players that no one can see but himself.
The decision for this Iowa farmer to listen to whispering voices saying, “If you build it, they will come”, and then to build a ballpark without having a real explanation of what this is all about takes some faith. So what about Noah?
The Bible tells us that Noah was a righteous man, and faithful to God in a world of sin.
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Genesis 6:5-6
and so God tells Noah, If you build it, they will come. Genesis 6:13-21 in this case THEY are a literal ‘boat-load’ of animals.
If you think an Iowa farmer got funny looks plowing under his crop/ livelihood, so that he could build a ballpark, I am sure that's nothing compared to Noah building a humungous boat in the middle of a desert. It became Noah’s “Field of Streams”.
Of course this Desert Ark Building attracted some serious ridicule, or at the very least a few chuckles and smirks from the town folk.
Noah builds this ark out of cypress wood. It is 450 feet, 75 feet wide, and 40 feet tall.
Next, please note the Ark Project was constructed by 600 yr. old Noah with the assistance of his 100 year old sons.
Think about it, Noah was approximately 10 times older than me, and his three 'boys' were 3 times older than my two sons.
Anyways, the ark is built, and then the collection and storing of the animal pairs begins.
Let me add a little perspective here..
Also illustrated below are a few more boarding the Ark highlights.. including the demise of the Unicorn.
GRAB YOUR UMBRELLA
Once the animals were all boarded, God seals the Ark and the skies opened up which not one local Weather channel predicted, and those left behind did perish. These flood waters go higher and higher until on I believe the 40th day the highest mountains are covered.
I know the question sometimes arises as to whether or not this was a local or world widen flood. What I do know is it was a WHOLE LOT OF WATER.
LIFE AT SEA..
So now there is a time where God floats the boat. Loaded with animals of every kind I cannot imagine how this all worked out. I am challenged to get my one rescue dog out several times a day to ensure he does not do his 'bizness' on the carpet so 'say-no-more' bout' waste management on this sea sick petting zoo. But on the bright side the excursions and amenities not found on any other Cruise line, and since they would be in the Ark for I believe 371 days, they might as well make the best of what Noah's Luxury Cruise had to offer..
ALL ASHORE THAT'S GOING ASHORE!
Finally the the waters subsided and the ark settled on one of the mountains of Ararat .
Once it became safe to leave the Ark, the animals were let go, must have been as interesting as the boarding), and shortly there after the first pooper scooper was invented.
In all seriousness now, this was the new beginning for manking, and God signed with a RAINBOW His promise that he would never destroy the Earth by flood again.
Noah was a righteous man, and lived to be an incredible 950 years, just 19 years less than longevity king Methuselah.
THIS WAS ONE CRAZY BOAT RIDE..
I have to be honest the story of Noah, the Ark, the boarding of every animal two by two, all culminating with a Flood killing all life leaves me scratching my head. BUT just like the flood was an act of God, so was this animal control process. So I must distinguish between hard to understand and don’t believe. I believe, but can I tell you how it happened.. NOPE. It's as they say.. 'above my pay grade'.
I believe God hears our honest questions, and our lack of understanding, and in reply he may simply say, “Of course you don’t”.
One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 55:8,9 where God declares, “My ways are not your ways. Neither are my thoughts your thoughts. For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways than your ways and my thoughts than yours.”
So again.. when I don’t understand – but still I believe!
CUTE STORY? SOBERING TRUTH? or both?
In summary, the story of Noah has today often is told as a children’s story. Christian Gift Shops have cute figurines of Noah, and his Ark all filled with smiling animals. Also, in my cartoon world the story of Noah's Ark is loaded with silly fodder. BUT the story of Noah has a sobering message balancing perfectly God’s providence for the faithful and obedient with harsh judgment of a wicked world.
The story of Noah and the ark is our story
This is a world of great sin where the hearts of man (just like in Ge 6:5-6) appears to be on evil all the time. The Great News is those who love God receive His Amazing Love & Grace… but again realize.. HOW WE CONDUCT OUR LIVES MATTERS ETERNALLY. if we choose self over God than our eternity is the same as those outside the Ark. We may not get all wet by a supernatural Great Flood, but we will be just as lost, just as judged, and just as damned.
May God bless each of you to be faithful and obedient to God while living in this self indulgent world.
Jeff (wearing my waterwings today) Larson
I found a web site which lists the oldest people living today. When I checked it I read of a lady who was 115, and another that was 125, and then some lady I think from Peru that was supposedly 140! There was a picture of this lady and, yes, she looked every bit of 140. Of course I am not sure how we can really know she is that old (count her wrinkles like the rings on a tree?), but there is no doubt she is very, very old.
So segue back to Genesis after Cain kills his brother Abel we move on to a ‘a whole-lotta-begetting’ going on. God’s command to “go forth and multiply” was one command mankind took to heart well beyond just knowing simple math facts!
But old in Genesis is a relative thing. People in Genesis times lived to be sometimes 800 or 900 years old.
Adam lived to be 930 years old after God created him on the 6th day Genesis 5:5. His son Seth was 912 Genesis 5:8, Noah later on in Genesis we learn lived to be 950 years, and the long in the tooth award winner is .. Methuselah... the oldest man in the history of .. HISTORY. Methuselah was cut down in the prime of life at the age of 969 Genesis 5:25-27
I figure if I eat my veggies, drink milk, get 8 hours of sleep a night along with daily exercise and in only 908 more birthdays I will have Methuselah beat. That will be in the year.. 2928 when I am neighbors with George Jetson.
They say you are only as old as you feel and I find this to be very little encouragement some days when feeling 'Genesis5esque' old. Maybe not Methuselah old, but at least somewhere in the mid 500s. and to think they did not have Ibuprophen.
The other interesting pattern of this was how old people were still.. um.. still.. ‘begetting’. While one of today’s serious society concerns is teen pregnancies, this was not the problem with society recorded in Genesis.
In Genesis 5 it was not unusual for a couple to wait 70 to 500 years old before starting a family. I guess those 500 years were spent playing golf, world travel using up frequent flyer miles, paying off the mortgage(s), credit card debt, or marking hot yoga off their bucket list.
Maybe women in Genesis 5 wanted a career as a shepherdess, garden mogul, or working as a Mary Kay Cosmetics specialist before settling down and having kids.
Note: This parenting trend even held true even after Noah came onto the scene.
At age 500 Noah had three sons, and when he was about 600 years old when the Lord told him to start his Desert Ark Marina, and from what I read his sons helped with this process.
Ok, so picture this - 600 year old Noah, and his three 100 year old sons building a very big (BBIIIGGG) boat. Five hundred years old!? That would be like Columbus still being around, and working with those old people I found on that web site to build an ark. Of course Columbus may understand boats, BUT.. HE’S VERY OLD AND VERY DEAD, and those people from the website are VERY OLD and will be dead soon enough.
I do believe these stories we read about in Genesis, but in our modern world I have trouble picturing this Old Testament culture. But then again, I suppose IF Noah reappeared in the desert near the city of Las Vegas (aka Sin City), he would most likely sigh and say, “I better get busy building another ark in the desert again because society is certainly going to Hell.” (insert pun here).
Let me close these early chapters of Genesis with a few more images sharing a Back Pew perspective.
So while it is hard for me to grasp the fact that I am 62.. a Methuselah like age (969) boggles the mind. But like so many things in the Bible, just because I don’t understand does not make it not true.
From Genesis through Revelation I find the evidence and promise of God’s love and grace.
From the Garden to the Flood to the Cross all the way through life today sitting in my Back Pew there is this promise and evidence of a loving God.
May God bless each of you today in ways that are beyond your dreams. I pray you place your faith and hopes in the one true God of our Bibles.
Jeff (Methuselah like aches & pains) Larson
So Adam and Eve leave Eden, and start a family with their two fine boys Cain & Abel. The Bible does not tell us too much about the boys lives, but that Cain liked veggies, whilst Abel tended animals. These both seemed like wonderful career choices as Silicon Valley technology opportunities were limited at this time.
All is fine and good livin' La-vi-la-Genesis until Cain and Able were to bring their gifts to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s gift, but rejected Cain’s. For this Back Pew cartoonist, this provided an interesting moment between these boys debating the health risks of too much red meat.
Admittedly Cain did overreact when his ‘garden salad gift’ was rejected by God by killing his brother. No more Red Bull energy drinks for Cain.
When God asks Cain what happened to his brother he gives the time honored answer. “Am I my brothers keeper?” and perhaps then deflected from his guilt mumbling about his PETA membership being disrespected.
So there you have it. Adam, Eve, a Garden neglected, and two boys that fight. God's creation is certainly off to a fine start.
Sin and the fall of man was inevitable, and was the result of man's free will choice just as our sins are.. but moving from apple eating to murder was a big jump on the sin meter.
The consequences of sin for Adam & Eve was they were evicted from The Garden of Eden, and for Cain became a homeless wanderer.
THE GREAT NEWS is that neither Adam's eating apples, Cain killing his brother, or any other creative sin of man is NOT beyond the redemption found in GOD'S GRACE.
My prayer is we all learn from these Genesis lessons of free will rebellion gone horribly bad. Most of us I like to think will never commit murder, but our sins great and small are all selfish rebellions of emotions and ignorance that fly in the face of God's will.
When this happens, and it will.. return to God just like the prodigal children we all are.
Repent and accept God's free gift of grace. If we don't repent we will be like Cain.. a homeless wanderer of this Earth and missing the greater purpose intended for each of us.
Jeff (not a murderer) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson