Ready, set, go! These are the words spoken to start a backyard or neighborhood race, but NOT an Olympic 100-meter race. I think they use a pistol. But for today's ramble, I 'ready, set, go' will suffice as I discuss the race called 'LIFE.'
Of course, in 'LIFE,' the goal is NOT to finish fast (aka die young), but instead run a good race (2 Timothy 4:7) and live life to the full (John 10:10).
READY SET GO... Life starts at conception, and in about 9 months, there is a new born baby. But as we all know, babies are not very FAST.
But no matter if babies are slow out of the gate (they sleep a lot) it is our READY SET GO starting point.
So go already... GO!
My 'ready set go' baby moment was in August 1957. I was raised by loving Christian parents, gave my heart to Jesus at age 6, and was baptized at 14, all while my family attended a small-town church where I learned to love Jesus.
After this, I did my version of grown-up life by getting a job, falling in love, getting married, having kids, and owning a dog or two. Dogs are important.
Important Note: I was (and am) a pretty good guy., but any 'pretty good guy or gal' lives any of us live is a relative existence when compared to others instead of God's Word.
Over the years, I have made several observations
Mistakes will be made on everyone's LIFE journey. Poor choices and unfortunate circumstances can leave us at times with overwhelming regrets and burdens. BUT... God's Grace redeems a repentant heart. Do not be anchored to your past. With Jesus, there is hope for us all. God listens and answers prayers in big and small ways. Trust in Him, and don't dwell on your past.
And WHEN not IF you fall, it's never too late to begin again knowing God loves you (John 3:16).
Ready, set, GO already as you prayerfully ... Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8.
No GPS is required...
And it goes without saying...avoid the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Route 666, even if society's GPS recommends it as the easiest and fastest route. Instead, be on the less traveled narrow road using God's Word and prayer as your guide that leads on the right path for this life and someday Heaven. Mt 7:13-14.
This ends my 'Ready, set... GO!' summary of life. It matters eternally how you run this race. I pray we all run it in a way that shows our love for God and others.
May God bless and lead each of you on your own 'Ready Set Go' journey. Whether you live to be 100 or not, this life is a blink of an eye. Finish Well.
Jeff (Already 66 years down this road! YIKES!) Larson
Cliff Notes are... A summary of a much longer work designed to allow a student to quickly learn the key points of the longer work.
So would... Cliff notes on Cliffs be... don't jump off them?
Now let me segue to a couple mentions of cliffs in God's Word.
Psalms 118:13, the Psalmist writes... I was right on the cliff edge, ready to fall, when God grabbed and held me.
Luke 4:29, we read of the unruly mob wanting to kill Jesus by throwing him off a cliff.
Also, Matthew 18:6 implies the dangers of being a Millstone Diver on a seaside cliff, and...
Matthew 7:13 shares the dangers found on the broad road most everyone travels.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
So far, you are thinking... Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Okay, so far, my cliff notes on safety are... Avoid cliffs, and do not travel the wide accessible road to destruction our secular world travels.
Therein lies the problem, IMO. Today's society is a LEMMING SOCIETY into the abyss, just like an infamous LEMMING 'pilgrimage.'
From my vantage point, sitting in the Back Pew, being a lemming is nothing to brag about.
First, he is part of the rodent family, and his claim to infamy is his suicidal cliff-diving method of population control.
While we are not literal lemmings, our society does possess many lemming traits. Despite the many red flags of dire consequences, we tend to follow the crowd. It is the temptation of choosing the easy but ultimately foolish way. Let's fit in with the crowd/mob and not make waves until you ironically fall to the crashing waves below. Note: We all have a little lemming in us.
But the Bible teaches us instead of the lemming way to renew our minds.
Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In other words... Repent of our cliff-diving lemming ways.
Too often, 'Christians' apologize, go silent, or become embarrassed rather than stand up for Jesus. We go with the flow in this crass society, waste money like our neighbors, and keep up with the Joneses as much as possible, leaving little time or money to honestly love God or care for others. Maybe even wandering near a spiritual cliff.
And maybe we are not near a cliff, but what do we do when we see others on an eternity path that does not lead to Heaven? We may not join them, but we certainly do not warn them of this 'eternity cliff.'
I do pray for something more. I pray to be on the path that leads to Heaven. I pray the attractions and distractions of this world do NOT drag me along to where I never intended. I pray we remember we are here to honor God with our lives.
May God bless and lead each of you today. Be still and listen for his leading, read His Word, seek his will, obey God only, and avoid the way of the lemming as he looks for that 'perfect' cliff.
Jeff (just say NO to Lemmings) Larson
The Bible is a fantastic collection of God's inspired Word for mankind, including many great and mighty acts of God. Here are a few noteworthy unforgettable God moments.
In the Old Testament, there was.
In the Gospels, Jesus ...
This Bible is also a RULE BOOK FOR LIFE with directions for conducting ourselves and for success, covering almost every situation we may face. But these Bible lists of Dos and Don’ts and the above-mentioned mighty miracles of God are only a clanging cymbal without the truth Jesus loves me.
Jesus loves me; this, I know... is a cute Sunday School song, but why does the creator of this world love me? It’s a miracle.
Getting to know the preacher in any big church is nearly impossible today. In contrast, our omniscient, omnipresent creator is involved with His creation to the point where all the miracles mentioned above and all the details between Genesis 1 through this moment are NOT indifferent to His creation. However, mankind often walks the other way; God is always there.
The Bible's words shout the truth of a personal God who loves us enough to send us his son. From the Old Testament stories of providence to the Gospels of Jesus Christ, to the Acts of the first church, to the Revelations, to John of what is to come... these are all LOVE STORIES from a loving God!
An indifferent God would not be involved or patient with mankind, and it's often prone to wonder actions of free will.
So, In this 24/7 world of distractions from our creator, let’s realize JESUS LOVES US and then live out God's two greatest commandments in response. Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, mind, and others as yourself.
Jesus loves me. This I know! Go figure! Peace be Still! Jesus loves me. This I know! The rest is details.
Jeff (Jesus loves me, this I know) Larson
Side point: I bought a coffee coaster that says.. Jesus loves you, BUT I'm His favorite. While this is not true ( He loves us all the same ), I thought it was a cute, smirky coaster.
Ever console yourself regarding your behavior, words, judgments, and/or circumstances that make you look bad by qualifying these moments with the following.... “Well, at least I am not like so-in-so."
With these simple words, I prop up my relative goodness by comparing myself with someone I deem as more flawed than me. And just like that... WHAM BAM my life is graded on a gentle self-affirming curve.
Using this self-affirming yardstick, let me share a few 'at least I never' moments from the Bible and today for you to measure your goodness. Are you ready? Let’s get started.
The Old Testament
The New Testament
Of course, these 'at least I never' examples are only here to make you smile, as any comparison to another person is a flawed yardstick at best.
Instead, we are called to Love God with all our heart and love others, not compare (i.e., 'at least I never' ) with them.
Also, concerning our goodness... We are not so good.
Our sins are as scarlet, He makes them white as snow. Isaiah 1:18
for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by HIS GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24
AGAIN... all are Justified freely by His Grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus! This is our hope and promise from God and not by comparison to anyone you are 'at least not like'.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
May God bless and comfort you with these promises of God's Grace for a repentant heart and where you no longer look to rely on any 'at least I never' yardstick.
Jeff (at least I do not attend a snake handler church) Larson
I remember back when I was a kid in gym class and did not want to be the last kid chosen for a team. I don't like to brag, but I was not that kid.
I was a decent athlete, and even if the game was dodgeball, I was always a solid pick. Of course, I may have been that last pick if there was a robotics team back then.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief. God does not operate that way. He seems to like the odd ducks, misfits, and unlikely picks to be on his team, even leading his team.
Need proof? Below are just a few God chose for his team.
Speaking of sheep, God chose a shepherd boy named David to 1. slay a giant named Goliath and 2. become the first great KING of Israel!
Then, off to the NEW TESTAMENT.. where Jesus did not choose men right out of seminary' as his disciples. Their resumes referenced talents such as 'fishing' and 'tax collecting' but not a youth pastor or worship leader credential to be found. Seminary background, maybe? Lol, not so much. Not even experience as the side ushers at the Temple. So, without checking their LinkedIn profiles, Jesus simply said... "Follow me."
And remember Jesus' words to the thief on the cross... "This very day, you will be with me in paradise." shortly before he died.
Noting the obvious: Being a thief is NOT who we 'good Christians' would choose. At the very least, we might require a probationary period, yet Jesus did just that. He 'chose' the thief for his team. That is how big God's Grace is.
Next, God chooses the very first 'Missionary' to share the Gospel with the world!
"With the first pick, in the first round of the first Gospel Missionary Draft, I choose Saul of Tarsus." These are the paraphrased words of Jesus as Saul travels the Road to Damascus. His actual words were, "Saul, why do you persecute me?" which included a blinding light.
WHAT? This same Saul was Pharisee of Pharisees and was recently spotted checking coats at the stoning of Stephen? Yep, that Saul.
... Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest Acts 9:1
Serious Red Flag- I believe choosing a guy breathing threats and murder against the disciples was a RISKY choice, but that's just me.
Now, fast forward a couple thousand years and some changes to 2023.
I have not experienced a literal burning bush while walking my dog or a blinding light on my way to the Grocery store, but I still believe I am chosen and capable.
Not that it makes sense based on my relative and limited qualifications of cartooning (aka coloring between the lines), but in fact, we are all chosen. Chosen not only for eternity in Heaven but also to serve in big and small ways now.
So do not keep God in a box or a lid on what is possible regarding the blessings and opportunities to serve.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8
Just like Isaiah, listen for God's leading in big and small ways, and when God calls on you... reply, "Here am I? Pick me! Pick me!"
May God bless and use you in ways BEYOND YOUR DREAMS and all that God intends.
Jeff (Chosen.. go figure) Larson
"I am off to pick a fight." is one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies... ‘Braveheart’... not to be confused with Brave-Bird.
Braveheart is the story of William Wallace of Scotland fighting for the FRREEEDOMM against the oppressive rule of England.
In one dramatic scene from the movie Braveheart the Scots who were greatly outnumbered by the English are about to do battle. The well-armed, well-trained English did not take this rag-tag Scottish army seriously. But then after declaring... “I am off to PICK A FIGHT.” rides William Wallace (Mel Gibson) on his horse to mess with the peace negotiations between the Scots and England.
I won’t get into the details, but Wallace taunts and mocks the English until... yes THERE WAS A FIGHT… and the Scots win!
The significant message of this movie is a call to do what is right no matter the cost, even the cost of maybe their lives.
Of course as modern-day Christians we are not called to look for a fight, but we should NEVER be afraid to FIGHT for God's Truth. We answer to God, not to man. Some may cry out... No, no, not the Crusades again… I attend church most every week, and I am a good person, and I bruise easily.
Please no Crusades 2024 unless they resemble the Billy Graham Crusades. Billy Graham was a terrific evangelist, and his crusades did not end up in any bloodshed.
Others will say... "Jesus was about love." That's the Jesus we like... The one about love. We don't associate with Christians who speak out against icky stuff like abortion, Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, LGBTQ rights, and the claims that there are more genders than Baskin Robbins has flavors of ice cream (31).
Then the media beats their drum a secular/pagan outrage with stories about the dangerous bigoted 'religious right'. They guilt many for wanting to build a wall, owning a gun, or just being white. Why should I feel guilty that my parents were white?
Then every election year like lemmings we are pressured to run full speed off either a Republican or Democrat/Socialist cliff following our political allegiances before considering God's Truth.
We are afraid of the fight (or ill-prepared for a fight).. afraid to stand for our FAITH. If we are political, pro-Israel, or against Sharia Law lest we be labeled as Islamophobic white patriarchal evangelicals. Please I am not one of THOSE Christians. I am a good person, who never makes waves. I am like Jesus who is about love.. remember?
All this pressure to conform and fear of a fight with our society railing against traditional Christian values melts many into doing their best Piglet 'the pacifist' of Winnie the Pooh fame.. as we fret and worry stammering “Oh d-dear, oh d-dear!!."
But let's slow down and consider a couple examples from our Bibles.
There was David who leveled the giant Goliath and cut off his head for daring to mock God. There were no peace negotiations with the enemy of God, and there was a victory for David empowered by God's Spirit standing up against this 'puny/giant' Pagan.
And the best example is Jesus the Son of God.
To summarize the example of Jesus, and how this should set with his church.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated Jesus before it hated you. If you are of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but Jesus chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:18-19
present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2
... seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
Most likely we are not called to a literal bloody nose-like fight/crusade, and certainly NOT the church version of ANTIFA.. but we must NEVER EVER back down from living and teaching God's truth. NOT AFRAID OF A FIGHT, or maybe even PICK ONE.
Important Note: This is NOT an endorsement of the so-called peaceful protests of 2020. All this misguided SJW angst-turned-rage mob (even in the church) is not of God. So put down that brick... AND instead, be ready and willing to Pick a Fight for and/or Serve THOSE IN NEED and the LOST? What good is our faith if it is only about our own well-being?
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
May God bless each of us today as we pursue and defend God’s truth. May God smile at, and bless our sincere efforts to serve Him and others, and lovingly correct us when we fall, and may God bless us and use us in ways that are BEYOND OUR DREAMS.
Jeff (bruise like a peach) Larson
Note: With all our fights for God's Truth, let's calm down the internal fights in the church. We should stand for God's word to be honored in the church, and while there are differences in the body... The cry of "heretic" is overused to describe those we differ with. Making secondary issues into primary issues is SIN.
Even those of us who are not big Joel Osteen fans have to admit we desire what Joel writes in his best seller... 'Your Best Life Now'. Living a life that reaches its full potential, I mean, who does not desire to be successful, fit, prosperous, lacking for nothing, and maybe with a smidge of power. To have, and lack for nothing while unleashing the inner you. LOOK OUT WORLD!
But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
At face value, there is nothing wrong with living life to your full potential. Being disciplined, hard-working, and resourceful are all admirable attributes. In fact, they are Godly attributes, aren't they?... But maybe this is putting the personal success cart before the Kingdom of God horse. Where in living 'Your Best Life Now' do I fit the seeking God's Kingdom FIRST part?
My point in writing this is NOT just a slam directed at a Joel Osteen mantra but also little ol' Christians like me who live a more traditional Christian theology. Do I, do I... Seek God first?
It is very much like the Lord's Prayer Matthew 6:5-15 where Jesus starts with... "Our Father who is in Heaven, great is your name. YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." All this Jesus prays before getting to the ME portion of the Lord's Prayer... "give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our debts as we forgive others, and lead us not into temptation."
I love Matthew 6:33 as it tweaks the focus of my day to seek God's kingdom first. To worship, love, and serve Him throughout my day. I even want to live my best life now but this must start with His Kingdom and His people.
To love God with all my heart soul and mind and others as myself. Living my best life now where my faith produces works (James 2:14-26 ) of service.
So my prayer is for His people to seek His kingdom first. May God bless and lead each of you on this life journey.
I am lamenting the last couple of days where I find myself HELD CAPTIVE by CIRCUMSTANCES outside my control. I have listed a few of these circumstances mostly outside of my control, but there are more... many many more.
Below is my Reader's Digest abbreviated version...
The circumstances of a corrupt government that is at best cordial to Christians but more times hostile.
The circumstances of a corrupt/greedy Health Care system that is out of control hellbent on $$ and becoming government controlled. Q. When has government control of ANYTHING been a good idea?
The circumstances of a world of war, hate, and distrust.
Then in our culture...
The circumstances of this a culture where we have a PRIDE MONTH celebrating sin.
The circumstances of a society that cannot even tell you 'What is a Woman', and feels the urgency to declare its pronouns.
The circumstances where biological men (identifying as women) compete against biological women to the ruin of women's sports.
The circumstances of GREED where our desires for more are fueled by envy and the lust for pleasures of all kind.
Then in the church...
The circumstances of a 'Christian' church culture is divided over secondary issues and refuses to unite on the primary issues of loving God and caring for others.
The circumstances of a 'Christian' church culture that is more afraid of offending the ways of our pagan culture than offending our Creator.
The circumstances where 'Christians' on social media declare heresy constantly like the boy who cried wolf.
and finally in my heart...
The circumstances where I do not see the trees from the forest in my spiritual journey. Where the above distractions and more block me from feeling the warmth of God's presence.
SO... this was my morning. This world's circumstances clouded my vision and my struggling spirit with angst strained joy from me.
But as I discussed my circumstance-beaten spirit with my wonderful wife Mary. We stopped and prayed for all of the above and more and for specifics in our lives and with our friends and family and their circumstances.
We said amen, and for all we know none of our circumstances miraculously changed. But my spirit changed to where His Spirit impressed on me that cares for us outside above and through any circumstance of this broken world. THIS IS WHAT I BELIEVE.
So no deep thoughts of course in this post, but I want to encourage any of you burdened that our God knows and cares for us. May God bless each of your lives where you daily seek His presence in His word, and in prayer. Pray not only for your circumstances but let's be still and listen. For we know... OUR GOD IS ENOUGH
Ironically, I am reposting this old blog in what our country now calls PRIDE MONTH where all things LGBTQ++ are celebrated by our society gone AMUCK! This being said, this post is a standalone comment of silliness on a moment in time in my life not so long ago.
No, there has never been any gender dysphoria in my life which is all the rage now. I believe you are either a man or woman which is defined by the sex you are born to (PANTS CHECK), and that is that. This blog will not challenge/debate this biblical truth. PERIOD.
But let me take you back to a time in my life not so long ago when I worked from home while my wife rushed off to work every day to her job as a school teacher. For me, there was no punching a clock or fighting rush hour traffic only a time of prolonged coffee drinking and the weighty decision of when/or if I got dressed for the day.
Pajama Day was a regular celebration in my at-home workplace environment.
I remember back during this time on a typical morning the alarm goes off. My wife Mary hops out of bed ready to begin another day of molding young minds (or are some kids just moldy minds?). Anyways, though I work from home I pop out of bed too so to spend time with Mary and maybe make myself useful. So I shuffle downstairs, start the coffee, let the dogs outside to do their 'dootie' then back in they come to be fed.
My wife soon after joins me downstairs to drink coffee, eat some toast, and exchange a little small talk about the upcoming day while the fog lifts from our sleepy brains. After a few minutes my wife starts back upstairs to finish getting ready but on her way up asks with a smile. “Honey, would you fix me a lunch?”
Fortunately for her, I have grown fond of her and was happy to make myself useful. So off to the kitchen, I go where I make a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, lettuce, and tomato, with mayo just like Mary likes. I also pack a small bag of chips and a couple cookies because she is sweet.
Just a few minutes later Mary rushes back downstairs grabs her keys, a lunch (made with love), and gives me a quick kiss as she heads out the door... This is when I say to her in a very 'needy' tone...
“Call me later... I miss you when I don’t hear from you! ”
<insert dramatic pause here>
“Call me later... I miss you when I don’t hear from you.” What kind of REAL man says this? I can still see those words hanging in the air ( like a cartoon bubble) when it hits me...
I HAVE JUST BECOME A WOMAN!!
This was concerning. I mean. I do not suffer from the above-mentioned gender dysphoria, I do not watch Ellen, Oprah, Dr. Phil, or follow the Kardashians or Bruce/Kaitlyn 'gender-bender 'Jenner. This "Call me later, I miss you when I don’t hear from you.” moment in time I found a bit... CREEPY.
The good news is my wife and I are true partners, and while I share this story with a smirk our roles as husband & wife, and father & mother are not blurred. Ephesians 5:21-33 is our happy goal for a happy marriage.
I pray you all have a very blessed day as I must leave you now to clip coupons, and then do my nails. Well, there I go again!!
Jeff (not confused... REALLY!) Larson
In 2023, the Grand Marshal of any big parade would be sitting in a 'nice ride'. Maybe a CORVETTE CONVERTIBLE or some other equally impressive car.
But 2000 years ago Corvettes were scarce, and the sweet ride of choice In Jerusalem for any proper parade or 'triumphant entry' was a... DONKEY. Go figure!
And it was 2000 years ago when Jesus sent a couple disciples to request his 'sweet ride' with the words... "The Master has need of it."
And with this 'sweet ride' secured, the triumphant entry begins. The crowds cheer as Jesus rides down the streets on this 'choice' donkey. Even some OUT STATE tourists could be heard declaring Jesus was King in their own special way...
note: It is IRONY of Biblical proportions to realize the crowds on Palm Sunday shouted HOSANNA, then five short days later the crowds shouted CRUCIFY HIM!
Now back to that first Palm Sunday while most were celebrating King Jesus' triumphant entry there were a few with bad attitudes I would describe as the 'Palm Sunday Pouters'.
These Pouters were the religious leaders of the day who were mostly indignant about these crowds honoring Jesus while a few others were simply jealous of Jesus sweet (donkey) ride.
Remember.. a good donkey was the Corvette of Jesus day.
This was how Holy Week began 2000 years ago (give or take a few cartoons). But that jubilant Palm Sunday would be followed by the Jesus arrest and crucifixion by Friday...But Sunday was coming when Jesus was resurrected that first Easter morning.
Jesus' death and resurrection signed the completion of God's Salvation plan for sinful mankind. This... is God's Amazing Grace.
So I pray just like that first Palm Sunday we shout hosanna in worship and honor our savior Jesus Christ. Remember if you don't shout Hosanna, the Rocks may just do it for you.
Palm Sunday Blessings,
<-- note: this poor donkey laments turning down being Jesus Palm Sunday donkey. He coulda been somebody.. instead of a dumb donkey!
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson