Supersized and drive through meals ... delivered freaky fast your way that are finger lickin' good. These are a few fast food 'conveniences' for our fast paced lives in the fast lane. I am guilty of participating in both ordering my share of supersized McArtery Clogger Value Meals, and using the drive through for lunch, lattes, and my banking needs. Life is busy and there is a time and a place for fast food, and fast service but there is a time and a place to SLOW DOWN.
Now as I segue to my faith journey.. I find awkward parallels to our fast food society.
1. I want the blessings on my life supersized now please,
2. I sometimes pray like I am using a drive thru window. I don't even slow down to say hello to God but place my order/prayer list with the angel stationed at my drive thru prayer window. And..
3. my patience for His answers rivals my belief that microwave popcorn still takes waaay too long.
Moral of this blurb is.. God does listen to and answer my freaky fast faith moments (sometimes that is all I have), BUT how much better my perspective is when ..
There will be those times where freaky fast faith is all we have time for, but let's purposefully slow down and make time with God that is more than a microwaved/reheated moment of spiritual nourishment. Maybe a home cooked God's Family Meal... with desert.
Hmm.. I am getting hungry.
May God bless and use each of you for His glory in SUPERSIZED ways
Jeff (McBack Pew) Larson
I am reading through my Bible again this year and learning so much. One of the interesting facts I have been reminded of is the number of different kings of Israel or Judea that there were.
Some bad, some just plain evil (see Ahab in toon on the right), others good.. but even good kings were often reported to being good EXCEPT for leaving up a few Temple Idols here or there.
Now when Josiah became king he was 8 years old! That's a year younger than my grandson Everett, and while he is a great kid.. he is not ready to be king. Anyways, Josiah was a good king and did what was right in the eyes of the Lord 2 Kings 22:2.
One of the great undertakings of Josiah was to clean out the Temple of the Lord of all the idols to Baal, etc. please read below..
2 Kings 23: 4-8 4 And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven . He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel. 5 And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens. 6 And he brought out the Asherah (pagan goddess idols) from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. 7 And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah. 8 And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beersheba. And he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one's left at the gate of the city.
Wow!.. Now if I was king of Israel I would like to think I would NOT tolerate temple idols. Get your cow statues, pagan idols, and yes no more prostitutes in the temple. That should be a given.. and don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. GET OUT!
But in our modern world of so many idols.. who am I kidding?.. and where should I start? We may not keep our idols in the temple (aka church).. then again maybe there too. Some churches seem much more a moment to a denomination (sparing no expense) or to a minister (man or woman) who has clearly taken center stage and prospered while God is somewhere in the back.. maybe.
But how about idols in my own life. In my home, and/or in my heart. This society offers so much to worship that is not in any stretch of the imagination.. God related.
Where is my worship? Where is my focus? Am I in a constant attitude of prayer 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 or in a constant attitude of self indulgence absorbed reading box scores from last night's sports?
I do love my sports and can spend hours following my favorite teams (Packers, Brewers, Bucks, Badgers, etc).. and I do like movies. Neither sports or movies are bad, BUT.. I can spend too much time and emotion watching sports, and/or maybe watching a movie out of curiosity that ends up having zero redeeming value.
So.. what is your idol? Career, fitness, status, and/or leisure? Maybe it is even a vice like DRINK (that was one of mine for about 15 years).
No matter, it is time to clean out those pesky temple idols in our lives. Time always to reexamine our hearts for compromise who or what we choose to worship. You may say "just checked, and no temple prostitutes in my life." but maybe lust and/or the dark power of porn has a hold on you. In all these things and more let's give them up. Throw these idols out of our lives.
If you think the Bible is dry and difficult to read, church is honestly boring, and you find no real interest in spiritual things, I would challenge you to go deeper. If you are in awe of this amazing world from the wonder of nature, to the infinite cosmos.. know there is a creator.
So my question is 'What is more fascinating and breathtaking.. to study more about the CREATION (our world, the cosmos), or the CREATOR of of our world and the cosmos.
May God bless each of you in your lives. May He be real to you and the focus of your worship.
Jeff (cleaning out my idol junk closet) Larson
There are those grey overcast days where I think the sun will never shine again. Maybe a little foggy, drizzling still morning but then a spot on the clouds glows and just moments later the sun peeks out. I now see the sun and feel it’s warmth. Amazing how that feels especially on that cool grey day, but sometimes as quick as the sun appears the clouds return and the sun is gone and so is it's warmth.
This glimpse of the sun describes often my pursuit of God. I read, and pray and the story of God and the Gospel message makes sense. This time of clarity is beyond refreshing until.. circumstances and the world distract me, along with my inconsistent pursuit of God until my perspective is clouded and poof my moment of clarity is gone.
Does that sound familiar, or am I the only one? A simple check on Twitter and Facebook and the social media posts of Christians and I will conclude this line looking for Glimpses is a very long line. I am among friends.
In my defense I find Isaiah 55:9, and 1 Corinthians 13:12 . I feel like Winnie the Pooh, a Bear of very little brain creator of cartoons attempting to grasp Almighty God creator of the Universe. Advantage God
It does not seem fair to have only glimpses. I even have my fair share of questions about God himself and the inerrant of His Word. note: While I have questions, I want to be clear I choose to place my trust and hope in Him and the answers found in His Word.
Short bunny trail... Now being a guy, I like gadgets.. so I am thinking maybe if God would give me a remote control for 'glimpses from God'.. then I could hit PAUSE when His light shines and I see.. if I could only make these glimpses longer. -sigh- ok, I checked Best Buy, and there is no such remote - end of bunny trail-
So again, I realize in this life I cannot and will not fully understand so many things, but when those clouds part that glimpse of God like the sun through the clouds on a grey day is priceless. This glimpse of God's truth, and love speak to me like the warmth of the sun. My shoulders relax, there is sudden clarity and perspective. Lord I pray for more glimpses, and I pursue these glimpses by quieting myself, focus on God's Truth in His word, pray without ceasing, listen to worship music, spend time with other believers, and serve others.
No matter how cloudy your day is in this broken world of sickness, conflicts, family issues, greed, racism, and/or POLITICS (please pass the bucket).. pray for Glimpses (and more) of God and His purpose and perspective.
Find peace in knowing the Lord as your Shepherd Psalm 23, and the live out Phil 4:8 dwelling on and pursuing what is good.
May God bless each of you this day with more than glimpses of Him that pierce the clouds in your life and this DARK world. And.. rest in the promise of what He will reveal to us fully someday.
Jeff (glimpse chaser) Larson
Note: The Apostle Paul given a tad more than a glimpse of the sun/Son on that road to Damascus. On your Damascus Road.. wear SUNBLOCK.
During this pandemic shutdown, I have come to realize how very LOUD our society was. Oh there is now less to do, less to watch, and less to fight about, and HEY.. THEY TOOK AWAY MY SPORTS! But we are still Loud while Home-bound .. once we turn on the evening news.
AND in the midst of this Shutdown we are becoming a little (or lot) stir crazy. The rush is removed from rush hour traffic while the din of sports, entertainment, and misc. life have been reduced to .. sports reruns (zzzz), and movies of the good ol' days before social distancing. I even treat watching Gilligan's Island reruns like it was the original Survivor series! My money is on Gilligan getting voted off.
The blessing for me of this shutdown, is before the government shutdowns are lifted and we return to the 'smack down' of 24/7 Election coverage.. I have been listening to audiobooks
One of my current listens is a biography on the life of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood up to Hitler and the Nazis. It is very interesting listen, but I have found disturbing parallels between Nazi Germany in the 1930s with America in the year 2020. While you may think this is a grand conspiracy theory of someone in a state mandated lock-down.. I respectfully disagree, and so let me share a few social parallels..
In response to Hitler and Nazi Germany Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote..
So as we move back towards the din and distraction of normalcy let's not lose sight of what God has been teaching us in the Silence of this Shutdown.
As believers we cannot be silent. We need to stand tall and strong in our obedience to God proclaiming the Gospel. And remember part of these loving words and actions is to speak loving truth. We cannot be compromising of God's Truth even when our secular society reacts with any of the above 'Social Parallels' to Nazi Germany.
Finally, remember the words of Jesus
May God bless and speak to you in the Silence of the Shutdown. May you fill your stir crazy moments with prayer, and God's Word. Tune out the voices of the world where blame for the pandemic and the panic of the pandemic can consume our thoughts. Our God is sovereign, and soon this shutdown will be over. Let's take this time to be a spiritual reset so when the world is running full tilt again.. our spirits compass points to God alone in a way that the din of society cannot alter.
In all things (including shutdowns), to God be the Glory. Amen
Jeff (Shutdown but not Shut off) Larson
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
Genesis 1 - In the beginning, God spoke the universe into existence. Some of those present claimed they heard a loud crackling sound like thunder, but most simply described it as sort of a.. BANG.. actually a BIG BANG!
At this point let me be clear, I am not here to discuss Old Earth v New Earth theories. This would be above the pay grade of this cartoonist, but what I will say is .. God created and it was GOOD!
Genesis 1:1-31 To summarize, this daunting project was completed in 6 days where Day 1: DAY , NIGHT , the SKY were spoke into existence by our Almighty Creator.
Genesis 2:1-3 Then on the 7th day God rested. In contrast I installed a bathroom floor in our town-home recently and I rested on the 5th, 6th, and 7th days and while it turned out nice it was not Hubble Telescope spectacular like God's Universe.
Those first 6 days His creation included the sun, stars, land, waters, and all the creatures in the sea and on land were created.
To rule over the lands and seas God created MAN Genesis 2:7 in His own image from the dust of the Earth followed by creating WOMAN from man's 'spare rib' declaring it is not good for man to be alone. Genesis 2:18
To which Adam declared.. "Hey beautiful, where have you been all my life?"
Then God commanded Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply".. to which Adam quickly started working on his times tables.
This creation story is all recorded into the Bible book of Genesis. While many Cosmologists believe the Big Bang was the creation of EVERYTHING from NOTHING followed by billions of years of random collisions and explosions resulted in our ever expanding universe, all the planets including Earth including life with all it's complexities.
Ok, I believe you can collide a chocolate bar with a jar of peanut butter and end up with a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup.. but this Universe has too moving parts + complexities that are bound together with rules and order for me to believe EVERYTHING came from NOTHING.
So I choose to believe there must be an intelligent design behind creation. For me, I believe in a divine creator that exists outside the confines of time and space. I believe this Intelligent Design is described in the Bible Book of Genesis.
May God bless each of you greatly in your pursuit of truth. This is important stuff, and a foundation for life. If there is a God then the pursuit of Him is a greater science than can be found looking through any microscope or telescope. Bigger than Star Trek's five year journey exploring the stars.
Jeff (little bang) Larson
A while back our pastor gave a sermon on getting to know God by reading our Bibles regularly and systematically. During this very good sermon our pastor joked that the most read books of the Bible are Genesis and Matthew, because our inspired intentions in January to read through our Bibles fades once we are through Genesis, and Matthew. (Leviticus has killed many a Bible study ).. then the next year we are back in Genesis and Matthew. I call this bible study plan.. The BEGINAGAINS.
I must be honest and say I have followed the BEGINAGAIN plan many times and not until 2003 did I completely read my Bible from cover to cover AND I CARTOONED THRU IT TOO! Note: Neither Billy Graham or the Pope could say they cartooned through the Bible. Then in 2018 lightning struck again as I read through my Bible from Genesis through Revelations. YEAH ME!
Now here I am starting out 2020 in the BEGINAGAINS using a chronological Bible with the intentions of getting past those tedious Dos and Don'ts highlighted in Leviticus.
Now for many reading through the Bible from beginning to end is not appealing and I understand that. My wife is one of those good folks. In fact I was told in a men's group about studying it is wrong to simply read the Bible through in a year. I DISAGREE.. for me reading through my Bible in order gives me a context and flow of stories and cultures that I may otherwise miss. This is NOT the only right way to read my Bible but it is a way that works for me.
No matter if you use tried and true(?) BEGINAGAINS Bible study, or topical study, or other method the important message is to be in God's word. DAILY!
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Oh we will have questions, and we will not understand it at times. Creation, Noah and his Ark floating on a universal flood, parting of the Red Sea, Elijah riding a chariot of Fire, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, the feeding of 5,000 on fish and chips leftovers, the raising of the dead, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the end time prophecies. All these subjects and many more challenge our reasoning while we scratch our collective heads, and even question what we believe. BUT I have found honest questions are different than doubts, and reading my Bible gives me answers to where I build my faith and love in God.
WHERE SHOULD I PLACE MY FAITH?
Of course in the end we are each challenged regarding where we will place our faith. Will it be science alone, a progressive secular world view, Christianity, or another of the worlds religions. I choose to place my faith in the God of my Bible and this is where I place my hope.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
May God bless each of you in your spiritual journey, and I pray that we all make a priority of reading God's word and be wise in where we place our faith and our hope.
New Year's Blessings
Jeff (BEGINAGAIN) Larson
note: Please understand I respect those who disagree with me (even on the existence of God). My intentions are simply sharing where I place my faith.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson