I was 'praying anxiously' the other day. Of course praying anxiously is an oxymoron bigger than a skinny baptist preacher.. BUT God reminded me I am called to be FAITHFUL IN the moments that make up my day not FAITHFUL FOR a moment in my day.
I guess this is obvious to everyone else, BUT for me it was an epiphany.. and my calling.
I should not longer worry about being recognized as the Farside of Christian cartoonists (lol, in my dreams).. but instead focus on being Faithful in Word and Deed in what every day presents to me.
Faithful is not just when everyone is watching. We are called to be faithful to God in words, emotions, deeds, and our thoughts.
May the Lord find us all faithful in big and small ways including every nook and cranny of that makes up our days.
Jeff (work in progress) Larson
I shared recently the Bible story where a mysterious voice saying "If you build it, they will come." happened way before the movie 'Field of Dreams'. This was when God spoke to Noah instructing him to build it (an Ark) and they (the Animals) will come two by two.
Next big event IMO in the book of Genesis paralleling pop culture was when the phrase 'Home of the Whopper'. Let me share how this pop culture phrase was coined way before a single Burger King fast food joint existed, and certainly before America's presidential election process. Let me explain.. but first..
ON THE ROAD AGAIN!
In Genesis 12 Abram enters the Old Testament story. Abram is maybe a spry 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 marriage, 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!!
So there you have another story of a very flawed man used by God in great ways. 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
There you have it.. My Back Pew list of Ponderings. One part resolutions, one part repentance, and all parts pondering this world, the church, and each one of us.
I pray sincerely we are not conformed to this world as prayerful, obedient children of God FIRST and foremost. Let's be known for being kind and understanding of others in and outside the church and not for snarky Facebook posts (guilty). I pray we are unwavering from His Truth (our Bibles), and obedient to share God's Truth in a world that will call us judgmental hypocrites. Never apologize for sharing God's Truth because these words (even when hated) are real love.
Blessings as you ponder
Jeff (the wandering ponderer) Larson
The Wow Factor paraphrased - is an experience and/or observation that grabs your attention and holds it.. as you exclaim "WOW".
For me, I love sports. The speed, power, finesse, strategy, and teamwork of great athletes and teams playing to win the game. The thrill of victory and agony of defeat was the tag line for the old 'Wide World of Sports' show, and this all makes me go.. WOW!
It also love Art. Ok, not true art.. but cartoons. You may never catch me in an art gallery perusing the works of Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, or Leonardo de Vinci, because I save my WOWs for Gary Larson - The FarSide, Berke Breathed - Bloom County, Bill Watterson - Calvin & Hobbes, and Jim Unger - Herman. WOW!
side note: one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time my wife bought me The Complete Farside collection (3 volumes) in hardcover. While many may think, "WOW, what a wasted of time and $$, but for me it was simply.. WOW!
Others love beautiful music. Music is that Wow their lives while I am busy checking my TV for a game while drawing Back Pew cartoons. It may be a symphony, jazz quartet, rock & roll, hymnfest, or a modern worship service there is for most of music that makes us go Wow. Of course I am old enough now that hip-hop, pop, and rap leave me shaking my head, cringe, and mutter "people like this stuff?.. wow."
Of course Disco, and Polka music I will just say.. no comment.
Next, let's travel further from the center of my universe as we look up at the night sky mesmerized by the stars while our planet Earth orbits around a blazing ball of burning gas (not Washington DC,.. it's the sun) realizing we are only one planet of 8 or 9 planets orbiting this sun and all this is part of The Milky Way Galaxy in an ever expanding universe all with order all functioning with precise science and math.. which the collective scientific community responds in one voice.. WOW!
- note the above is an 89 word runon sentence... WOW.
Did I choose your WOW tirgger? Well no matter if it is science, music, art, sports, or watching the Wheel of Fortune ( I like the wheel) realize all WOWs come from our creator.
Don't get me wrong, our Wow moments are real and there is no need to apologize for shouting wow (unless you are in church, or during a funeral).. BUT step out further to realize our God is the source of all things WOW.
If we don't we miss the point of this big ol' Beautiful world. Life is not about me, my passions or hobbies.. LIFE IS FOREMOST ABOUT GOD, and the worship and adoration he deserves.
How great is our God! WOW!
Thank you God for your amazing creation that is your handiwork, and thank you for your love and grace in this life, and the promise of eternity with you our wonderful creator.
Spiritually speaking.. It's so easy to wander into the shadows, and then closer to real Darkness if I am not careful.
Darkness can be a conscious choice or found on the slippery slope when I browse on the internet, or the movies/tv shows I choose to watch.
Darkness can also be found in watching the 24/7 BAD news channels where all is a world of conflict, hate, and unabashed Godlessness. .. thus saith the media.
Using this Darkness outline most of us would agree.. 2020 is dark. This darkness goes beyond the politicals, or the fear of Covid-19. The darkness in 2020 is VERY spiritual.
In 2020 we have 'progressed' to where the word of God is questioned, the goodness of God is questioned.. and God is judged. And for the most part anyone who stands as the word of God is true and unchanging are considered part of the problem. This is a year where the progressive church process, and the Emergent Church are making inroads, and respectfully but firmly I say.. This is not from God, and this is DARK.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
This world of darkness is far from God (and we are all a part of this world) and need TRUTH.. and the only truth is God's word. God's word is the lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path Psalms 119:105 to navigate in this dark world. This world needs a savior because we are sinners not just a spare tire when life goes flat.
In God's light we should recognize we are sinners (churchy word?), we need to repent (churchy word2), and walk out from a life in darkness and into a life in God's Amazing Grace (His light). This is NOT what the world, or even much of the church teaches anymore. This I am ok, and you are ok and God loves you just the way you are is darkness and will lead many to Hell. We are only ok, and find joy in obedience to God (living in His light).
So the choice is mine, and the choice is yours... Light or Dark? If we are talking toast, you can have it your way. If we are talking about our spirit, attitude, or life choices .. stay in the light.
May God bless and use each of you to shine his Light in a Dark world.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
Note: It is one thing to walk through any 'Valley of Death' (Psalms 23) due to circumstances.. it is another thing to go there on a field trip ON PURPOSE.
Hmmm.. sounds like a lesson for the Karate Kid (ie wax on wax off).. BUT IT IS NOT!
Life is busy, and every day in our busy lives is filled with choices. I feel like a contestant on the Price is Right TV show and I randomly choose door number #3 today.. and hope for the best.
So to help guide my life decisions I have incorporated a Closed Fist and Open Hand approach.
But.. a serious dilemma occurs when we mix our Open Hand and Closed Fist views. Just think if an alcoholic who continues to drink, a marriage without fidelity, or if I decide not to pay my bills on time.. or pay them at all. All are a recipe for disaster.
Of course, Open Hand and Closed Fist views are rubbed in our faces when we turn on the evening news where Washington is filled with Closed Fists ready to punch political opponents in the nose.. or lower. I guess this is what Washington calls 'reaching across the aisle'.
Now finally, how's the old Open Hand v Closed Fist working with God's people? From my vantage point, not so good. Just a glance on my Twitter account I could imagine..
Seriously, the church can be a prickly place. Not just your basic Predestined v Free Will, eternal security, or are Infant Baptisms ok debates?
There are more serious divisions where when we do not agree on the interpretation of a passage of scriptures then someone must be a HERETIC... when maybe we really don't know and simply disagree. But then to be fair again.. some teachings are heresy.
God save us! No really, GOD SAVE US!
Now take it with a grain of salt that you are reading a blog from 'a grownup' who draws cartoons, but the following is my exhaustive (or exhausting) guide to Closed Fist and Open Hands in the Church.
The reason for writing today's blog was fueled by ongoing battles among well known evangelicals, and then watching the 'Christian' media and 'Christian' social media fanning the flames that divide us.
Let me be clear, I do believe in addressing sin and true heresy in the church. BUT.. I pray for a biblical approach.
Sigh.. Maybe from time to time I will just open my clenched fist and slap myself.
I am not positive today's blog is helpful, but the spirit of it is on my heart. May God use my fumbling words to speak truth or the desire for us all to seek truth.
May God bless you in your busy lives. Be true to God, stand for Him, follow His Word not the words of man, have good friends, and eat all your veggies. :)
Jeff ( in between a slap, tickle, & a fist fight) Larson
I am 63, and now wear hearing aides. Boo, hiss..I don't like to wear them but just like my bi-focaled glasses they do help. I now hear sounds (especially high pitch sounds) that I otherwise miss.
And now in 2020 with our Covid masks I miss the facial expressions and the sounds of the voice of those speaking are muffled, and so when not wearing my hearing aides communication is a bit muted and frustrating.
Like this, when I pray.. but am not still or quiet to hear his voice what I hear from God is also muted.
Muted at times by my own busy mind and compromised/selfish motives. God speaks, but do I hear His voice.
Ok, for you Minnesota Viking fans this is a foreign concept. Super Bowl? Minnesota? Winning? Like oil and water. but c'mon Minnesota use your imagination.
Sorry, I could not help myself. - signed anonymous Packer Fan
But I digress..
The point is.. we need more QUIET and less NOISE.. to seek intentional quiet times where we turn off our 24/7 media blitz on the senses. Be still and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10
Oh it's easy to be pulled down stream by the current of societies raging information river. I love all modern gadgets, and the ease of communication, and the instant resource of Google searches... But lost in this is the QUIET. How can I hear the Voice of God over the 'DIN' of our society?
Please realize the importance of hearing God's Voice is true wisdom in a world that is.. foolish. Why should we seek ANYTHING above the QUIET to the Voice of God?
AND.. there is no better time to commit to being quiet today. In fact that the 2020 elections is proving to be a Clanging Cymbal Symphony described in Corinthians 13:1.. NOW IS THE TIME to turn off the TV, do waaaay less social media.. and BE STILL to hear God's Voice instead of the angry voice of man. ie MSM, Fox, Reality TV, etc etc.
We had the grandkids sleep over the other night. We watched a very funny movie, played games, drew pictures, played outside, and went on a hike. AND while this was great fun and we love them when they leave the house goes quiet. It's a very good quiet for us grandparents with only a trace of legos and toys in the yard.. but it is quiet. I love them more than the world, but.. I do also like QUIET.
I pray what I have shared makes sense. There is no greater pursuit than to know the creator of this world.
May God bless each of you on your journey to hear God's voice.
Jeff (hearing aides in) Larson
I guess by strict definitions I am a protestant, but technically more of a protestant MUTT.
Actually I would like to be simply defined as a CHRISTIAN thank you very much. I am not being a rebel, but I don't fit nicely into any denominational box. I respect the views of others, but have to come to my own conclusions on all the nooks and cranny faith issues.
And let me be clear I am not judging anyone elses choice of 'box' unless.. you have a SNAKE in it.
So with this in mind I place all I have learned from God and his church and it all fits nicely in 'My Faith Box'.
The next challenge is fitting My Faith Box into the ever changing Post Modern Society box aka the PM Society box. This is a big box with lights and sounds. Inside their is a society of blended cultures with ever changing faster than a speeding bullet technology, and much much more. All the bells & whistles of the PM Society box are distracting and often attractive BUT I need to be careful when fitting My Faith Box in the PM Society Box. This can be messy.
I believe a classic Billy Graham message shared.. We are called to be in the world, but not of it.
And certainly not a frog simmering in a pot of secular values.
So In this PM Society box I find things like.. The internet. Which is both an incredible resource for
The internet also offers the ever evolving social media kit at no extra charge where I can text, Tweet, post on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TicTok, or blog.. Blog? Sounds like a cheap horror movie from the 1950s.. 'The Attack of the 50 Page Blog'.
In our PM Society box I can also stream music, videos or even sermons (if I am feeling particularly spiritual ) of any big name preacher or subscribe to Cyber Clyde's Bed Hair Pod Cast. Rumor is Cyber Clyde is trending... maybe.
This can all be done from the convenience of my office chair while donning the same gym shorts, tank top, and bed hair just like Cyber Clyde.
When PM Society is not on the computer it is on your smartphone, or surfing HD TV with a bazillion (I actually counted and there are actually ONE bazillion) sports, news, and movie channels.
In PM Society Box people buy meals, high buck coffees and lattes through a drive through window... or have them even delivered to their door. They will soon even have their groceries delivered by little retail drones. I can't wait til they do appliance deliveries via drones. When that happens I am canceling Cable TV and just following the Home Delivery Channel.
My Faith Box is now feeling a little agitated and stimulated at the same time. So far I am having trouble keeping all this PM Society box stuff out of My Faith Box. I see a TV remote is in my Faith Box, and an Amazon Prime Card. In fact I think grease from a leaky fast food bag from the PM Society box is soaking into the corner of My Faith Box and sadly I like the smell. I kind of like some of this PM Society stuff, and it is easy to justify their place in my Faith Box. I THINK I NEED HELP.
OK, I may not be so desperate that I need a Faith Box Exorcism, or an Exterminator, but I could do some spring cleaning... here in November.
My serious prayer is to have an honest Faith Box, with the word of God in it that never changes and a prayer list that is ever changing. In this box I pray I do not confuse my political beliefs are important but should never be confused with my Faith.
I want to be in this world but not of it.
This world (aka PM Society Box) is a mess! It is filled with noise, smells, and sights that are often far from God. It is a box that NEEDS GOD, not religion of man, but needs GOD THE CREATOR and JESUS OUR SAVIOR.
In this world now, in the PM Society box is needed a return to God's Truth. WE NEED A REVIVAL.
Regarding Revival: I listened to a sermon a while ago by Louie Gigglio and he said "Where there is pain, where there is a mess this is where a revival can happen". No one has a personal revival when life is going perfect. So by this definition this world is ready for a revival, and better year in need of a revival is this hot-mess Covid-19 compromised 2020.
OK, probably I took the box analogy a bit too far about a half a blog ago, but if you are still with me I pray God inspires in us a love for Him and His ways that make us truly salt and light in a PM Society box that is in contrast bland and existing in the dark like a mole eating rice cakes.
Jeff (All Boxed in) Larson
A while back my wife Mary and I were reading Max Lucado's book He Still Moves Stones. Let me paraphrase the words of Max.
The honest prayer of a hurting man, the feeble prayer of a righteous man.. the awkward prayer of the average joe/jane, the timid prayer of those emotionally/spiritually broken down.. the sincere prayer of a sinner, EVEN a 'pathetic prayer of Jeff' .. HAS GREAT POWER and WONDERFUL RESULTS.
This is my rambling paraphrase of..
James 5:16.Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. , and gleaned from the truths found in ..
Mark 9:14-29 where the power of God is found not in what we can do but instead when we pray.
Max also writes ..Our prayers may be awkward, our attempts may be feeble. BUT since the power of prayer is in the one who 'hears' it and not the one who 'says' it, our prayers make a difference.
That is great news for folk like me who can get lost in my real or perceived problems juggling them in my head all while I pray.. awkwardly. These sincere prayers are highlighted with fumbling words sounding confused, anxious, and kind of pathetic.
So do you ever say pathetic prayers. I am sure you don't, it's only me right? But I would like to suggest when we feel lost and/or pathetic simply cry to God "HELP! I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!" That's OK, because God does.
I actually have my prayer list hanging on a bulletin board in my office. This simple list of very few words is mostly family, friends, my church, our country, and this tumultuous world.. and gives me a visual perspective that my issues pale by comparison.. LIFE IS NOT ABOUT ME and when I pray for others and trust God I find a peace that was not there when my prayers revolved around ME.
Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So let's all agree to bring our prayers to God even when our words are fumbling and our spirit is weak. Speak to God when you feel forsaken, alone, desperate, when your thoughts are riddled with doubts.. AND when life is good (do not let your guard down) . Our perfect Heavenly Father hears our word and His spirit intercedes for us.
Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
May God bless all of you today with the promise of .. when life is difficult.. God says, "Don't worry, I got your back.
Jeff (praying in the Back Pew) Larson
ps - With the 2020 elections upon us.. our prayers are needed. It matters how we vote, and who we vote for BUT our trust is in God alone, not in any man or woman.
So I pray for the people of our nation to return to God. I pray that the Christians of this nation stand strong for God's law, and become more concerned about offending God than offending man.
Hey.. you know what? I can no longer TOLERATE you INTOLERANT Christians.
You are un-WOKE, anti-LGBTQ right wingers who are Neanderthal in your treatment of women and her right to.. 'choose'. You are bible thumping, gun owning nut jobs voting blindly Republican every election like lemmings heading off a political cliff.
The only progressive thought in your life is considering a Progressive Insurance policy.
Ok the above rambling is my 'semi' exaggeration of the average 'progressive' Joe Secular. While I have overstated the views of 'Joe', the negative perception in society and fueled by the media is very real.
This whole INTOLERANCE label is concerning me. I agree when the heart and mind of the church becomes judgmental we are merely legalistic in our words and actions... living breathing CLANGING CYMBALS, 1 Cor 13:1. BUT when we truly love God, we naturally honor Him with obedience in our words and actions. Truth in Love where we do not force our faith on others, BUT in all our ways acknowledge him first.
So this all leads me to my INTOLERANT JESUS. Of course Jesus healed the sick, the blind, the lame, and raised the dead. BUT he also lovingly told TRUTH to a compromised world. Jesus admonished his disciples, spoke frankly to the rich young ruler, the woman at the well, and instructed Nicodemus he must be born again.
Jesus also shared clearly the ONLY way to Heaven, "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me". John 14:6. In all his words and actions Jesus was TRUTH IN LOVE. The end result, the world rejected him and Jesus was crucified by basically the same people who were praising him just 5 days earlier.
Let me leave you with the words of my 'INTOLERANT JESUS' to his disciples in John 15:18-25 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 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. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
I pray we remember these words as encouragement to stand strong for TRUTH, but but but also to remember to be Truth in Love always.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson