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
Q: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God? <pause> A: Hmmm, maybe. What are we talking about, I mean I need some context here before I swear.
Ok, I do not believe this type of answer would fly well in a court of law. Truth is truth, and I should not be afraid of the truth. Right? Or can't I handle the Truth?
How about outside the court of law where I do not have to swear on a bible? Can I fudge or tweak the truth so it does not look so blessed incriminating? I mean to say.. that check is really in the mail.. almost. :)
What if a wife asks her hubby: "Are these pants too tight?" In this case, be truthful.. BUT choose your words wisely so they are not your LAST.
On the flip side if a husband asks: "How do I look?" There is a better than 75% chance the hubby will receive the whole (blunt as a 2x4 to the face) truth and nothing but the unfiltered truth.
For all of the above and more truth in love is a beautiful thing. Truth is not always convenient, and it may sting a little or A LOT, but avoiding the truth will not make it go away. In many ways TRUTH PURIFIES. Truth provides light to shadows, and clarity + context to motives, and agendas.
Side Note: I believe there will be a harsh judgment some day on today's media that is motivated by agendas and narratives instead of reporting truth. Half truths are in reality a LIE.
But also the church (we are the church) are called to share the good news (THE TRUTH) of Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. To not share this gospel message of salvation would be unloving. To share a message that 'Jesus is love and wants to help you' but not share a message that convicts us ALL of sins (yes sins) instead of preaching we are all pretty good folk.. is a false narrative much like the above mentioned media.
Think about it,, If there is ONE WAY to Heaven through Jesus Christ then we must preach Christ always in our words and deeds. Do not apologize for this truth! If you believe in Heaven and Hell then as family, friend, neighbor, and/or citizen we cannot remain silent when the Truth of Jesus is eternally important.
While this subject of deep down nook and crannies of our lives truth feels a bit intrusive it must be a cornerstone to our faith. We should embrace truth in love for ourselves and others, and share the truth the only way to Heaven is Jesus Christ.
My prayer today is for us all to be truthful and loving in word and deed. Remember, 1 Corinthians 13 shares all is meaningless (including Truth) without love. In all things, To God be the glory.
Jeff (mostly-honest?) Larson
DEATH.. by Cartoon.. While there were preexisting conditions, it was THE CARTOON that killed him. - CDC (Center of Deceased Cartoonists) Dr. Foopie
Dateline: 11th Century BC
CAUSE OF DEATH:
Later testing determined VIC did not die from bump on head and not from his head being severed, but instead it was .. COVID-19. Kidding, kidding, I could not help myself.
Truth is .. the VIC was Goliath who met his demise in the form of the shepherd boy David armed with a sling, a few choice stones all endorsed by the very POWER OF GOD.
BUT.. I digress... as this event should be classified as.. DEATH BY CARTOON.
Let me share a few more memorable DEATH BY CARTOON Bible moments.
Note: From the beginning through this very day, only Enoch, and Elijah have been given a 'hall pass' from God to cheat death. In the case of Elijah, he lived even though he was not wearing his seat belt.
Everyone else gasped their last breath and succumbed their inevitable demise.
- Sisera died from a tent stake splitting headache.
- Eglon was run through.
- Noah's neighbors could not tread water for 40 days and nights.
- Jericho Guards fell down go boom.
- Abimelech's world was rocked
then on to the New Testament where
- Lazarus DEAD!.. then not dead
- Jesus died then of course rose from the grave. while the ..
- The Thief died on the cross next to Jesus, but then HEAVEN! Truly Amazing Grace
finally we read about..
- Death riding on a horse and in need of a tic-tac.
DEATH .. more than a macabre theme for Halloween, or the chilly exit from out time on this Earth. For believers death is the beginning to LIFE eternal.
Oh death where is your victory? Oh death where is your sting? I Corinthians 15:55
Since I probably will not leave this Earth riding a chariot of fire, and I know this life is just a drop in the ocean of eternity. I will grieve when loved one's die, but I pray always for perspective that includes eternal life for those who love God. Then death truly has no victory, death has no sting.
May God bless each of you with the peace of eternal life with God. May we gain a glimpse of the big picture with a perspective outside our circumstances and pain we may endure. May the promise of a peace that passes all understanding become real to each those who choose to follow our God.
Jeff (still kickin' in the Back Pew) Larson
As a kid, Star Trek was a favorite of mine. Not Captain Picard, the ‘real’ Star Trek with Captain Kirk Spock, Bones, and Scotty. Who every week would pursue ‘Space.. the final frontier.. to boldly go where no man has gone before!’
Now fast forward about 50+ years and I can be found watching the National Geographic channel where frequently they do segments on our universe (SPACE) and beyond.
Very cool stuff, and if you have not noticed.. it is a very big universe.
I am amazed when watching these shows the passionate pursuit to understand this truly infinite universe. Are there little green men on mars? Was everything we know created from the BIG BANG? What is a black hole, a super nova, dark matter… and much much more. Think of all the man hours and the MONEY spent in the pursuit of .. Captain Kirk’s Final Frontier.
National Geographic channel also has many shows where archeologists and theologians seek truth in the great stories of our faith. What is a very interesting bit of IRONY of biblical proportions is that astronomers, theologians, and archeologists all should find at the end of their pursuits is a creator who in my opinion is the God of our Bibles.
So while Captain Kirk spoke that space is the final frontier, .. to explore the creator of the Universe instead of the Universe using scientific and Biblical evidence is the FIRST but most overlooked frontier.
Is there a God? Then is this God the God of our Bibles?
AND.. if a decision is made that there is a God, what is to be our relationship with Him? Is it personal, or is God a lofty distant deity?
Is there a spiritual realm beyond the physical elements in front of us? Is there a Heaven and Hell? AND..
Is there need for a SAVIOR for this world? John 3:16
Personally, I believe in.. one God and He is the God of our Bibles. I believe He is personal and His love and grace for each of us is beyond my comprehension. I believe He is omniscient, omnipresent, and the creator of this vast universe that astronomers and Captain Kirk boldly pursue.
I believe there is a way to God and it is through Jesus Christ the son of God (John 14:6), and that finding Jesus and accepting Him as our savior is the most personal eternity changing discovery anyone can make.
Jesus loves me this I know.. and Amazing Grace how sweet the sound. The first is a classic children’s song/truth and the second is one of the great hymns/truths of our Christian faith. To know these songs and to live them is life, and everything else is .. trivial pursuit.
I know needing a Savior sounds like church speak, but it is simply the truth that we all need a savior. We may pretty good folk, but to ignore the pursuit of our creator and realizing we need a savior should not be put off (Romans 3:23).
My prayer is for those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior. It is as simple as speaking to God and to acknowledge your desire to understand and know Him. It is to realize we need him as our glaring humanity is weak even when we are pretty good folk.
Blessings.. and may the force (aka God in Star Wars speak) be with you on this final and most urgent frontier!
Jeff ( Frontiersman? ) Larson
Today, I am sharing a memory from a couple summers before all things COVID-19 when LIFE began FLASHING before my eyes.
Life Flashing before my eyes..
In 7 short days I have experienced highs and lows, laughter and tears, life and death. I know most of all of us have weeks like this, but last week was my turn.
On Tuesday August 9th my Aunt Marie passed away unexpectedly at the age of 87. She was very special to me, Marie (known as Babe) was loved and will be missed of course by family and friends. We all grieve and are sad for our loss, but celebrate her arrival to Heaven where she is reunited with family, friends, and most importantly JESUS.
This is the paradox of the Christian experience where our existence moves from life on Earth, to death, then to Eternity in Heaven for those who love the Lord.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Revelations 21:4
Then Friday morning August 10th my long awaited (9+ months) expected third granddaughter Reagan Holland Larson arrived. SHE'S A KEEPER!
This of course is the best kind of news, and holding her the following morning was a perfect healing touch for my grieving heart.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL.. Over these same 7 days my wife's family were in town for a reunion. There are six siblings in the Laun family.. ages 83, 82, 79, 77, 60, while my wife is the itsy bitsy BABY at age 57.
All six siblings were here with their spouses along with a smattering of kids and grandkids. Activities included sight seeing, a picnic, paddle boat ride on the Mississippi, and a (heart attack free )baseball game of sorts with players ranging from age 6 through 77.
This was a great time of celebrating family and heritage. All are doing well and actually still like each other. - Who knew families still like each other these days. -
Health of all siblings is good, but if some nefarious sort targeting senior citizens robbed us the highlight of their booty would selling our hearing aides on the black market. The only negative me spending that many days with Mary's family is that I ate waaay too much. I know, I don't have to eat so much, but.. mind your own business.
So there you have it, what a week. Life Flashing before my eyes? .. or as Mufasa from the Lion King explains.. This is the Circle of Life.
This Life is messy, including roller coaster moments wanting you to exit the ride, or 'hurl'. From birth through the family reunions to that day until this ride stops .. this life is a gift from God.
If you don't know Jesus, if you don't have a relationship with God.. now is the time to say YES to Him. Say YES acknowledging Him as savior of your life, and giving Him the proper place in your life. This life is flashing and will be gone before you know it.. then eternity.
I pray we all choose wisely, it matters eternally.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
May God bless each of your lives with joy in your journey. Remember always to love God, enjoy the big and little things of this life, love &care for others with the promise of someday Heaven for those who love Him. Because this life is FLASHING and then in the blink of an eye .. eternity.
update: Now 2 years later and life is still messy but good. My now 2 year old beautiful granddaughter Reagan has a smile that melts me. All my sibling-inlaws are doing well, and God is so good even in this most ugly of years 2020.
Where do you think you are going or 'yer goin' for us rednecks at heart? Honest question that can be asked of most of us. And many times the answer is.. "you can't get there from here."
This question holds true on many a road trip where I became lost, or took what I thought was short cut.
This is true for many a college graduate looking for a high paying job in Corporate America with a Masters degree in 'Cartoon Art History' with a minor in 'Bagpiping'. Or that
mountain climber aspiring to climb Mt. Everest, but afraid to leave his home state of Nebraska. or
taking a road trip from California to Hawaii.
In all these cases and more.. the answer is .. you can't get there from here. While these may be absurd and hopefully amusing examples, there is a more alarming examples in today's culture.
I observe a concerning trend in church becoming a Sunday social club where we go to be fed/entertained every week but never go deep. We do not devote our lives to God except to be a pretty good person. Not exactly a high calling. Will being a pretty good person get me to Heaven, or does God expect more of me? Where do I think I am going? Heaven? This is not a pointing my finger at anyone else before I point it at myself. Is my life foremost about ME, or is it about my God? Honestly, what is my answer? Umm.. easier to talk about politics in church than my honest commitment to my creator.
The following are a few scripture passages, that are convicting and give clarity to this question? Where do I think I am going?
I Never Knew You
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Mt 7:21-23
What good is it to love those who love you?
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Lk 6:32-36
So based on the road I have chosen for my life.. am I going to Heaven or not? Am I a true follower of Christ or just another 'church goer'? How about you? It matters eternally what we believe so choose the God of our Bibles. There is no other God.
But many are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or simply believe in a 'higher power' and so we all believe basically the same thing, right?
I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, Is 45:5
So sincerely wrong is still wrong.
Now you may argue with me that I am wrong, but this is what I believe. So the answer for me to the statement we all believe in basically the same thing is.. If you want to get to Heaven.. You can't get there from here.
So take these words for what it is worth. I am sure I am preaching to the choir for the most part, but even us in the choir need to daily turn to God and consider seriously.. Do I serve Him first and foremost in our lives.. going beyond being a good (church goer) person? And for those not in the choir, I respect where you are at, but prayerfully take to heart the issue of Eternity. It matters what you believe and where you place your faith. Placing your faith in Jesus, and pursuing God first in your life, then with regards to eternity, and Heaven.. You CAN get there from here.
May God bless and use us all with our lives for his glory. Amen.
Jeff (a little bit lost sometimes) Larson
important ETERNITY note: The alternative to not getting to Heaven from here.. is Hell. It is our choice alone. Heaven is the free gift from God to those who place their hope and lives in Him. Hell is the awful other choice we all are allowed to make. There is no home (eternal existence) in between for being a pretty good person.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson