In this world of Essentials we have ..'Essential Oils' (5 quarts of motor oil?).. the 'Essential Van Morrison' album compilation, and during this last year while in Pandemic lockdown mode our government determined/MANDATED everything else that was 'essential'.
In a disturbing twist of irony our secular society determined essential businesses were liquor stores, and Planned Parenthood while church gatherings were too 'risky' aka non-essential. In some states you could buy 'weed' to smoke (essential) but could not buy 'weed killer' (non-essential) at the local garden center.
So I ponder what if Mother Theresa lived during this covid-19 'pandemic' in my home state of Minnesota? Would her orphanage and ministering to lepers be considered risky? And how about JESUS CHRIST.. Would Jesus wear a mask (WJWM)?
My sarcasm is obvious as I bristle not over the health risks of Covid but rather our Government's mandated overreach regarding the good, bad, & ugly list of essentials, non-essentials complete with social distancing guidelines.
During the pandemic I listened to a sermon snippet from a Pastor on Facebook. His message was "be prayerful & smart in our response to Coronavirus but remember our (the church) focus is on Revival not Survival."
Societies message is temporal and 'non-essential' . note: liquor stores and planned parenthood are so very not essential, but the
Gospel message is essential and filled with lasting hope for today and tomorrow.
So now after a year of the Gospel according to 'Zoom' I see church beginning to limp forward moving away from 'safety being our God' and our spiritual diet consisting of You-Tube sermons.
And while.. Zoom and streaming has it's place for most of us being together face to face in a full church worshiping God looking to God and not to be entertained is what church is called to be.
And worshipping with masks is a muted sad expression of what God intends and sounds more like a chorus of 'Charlie Brown's teachers' than a choir of angels.
So I choose not live in fear and believe the church is essential. I pray the world soon leaves their masks behind, and the 'next' COVID-19 like panic (I predict Climate Change) does does not become a social and political wedge dividing our society and the Essential CHURCH.
May God bless and use each of you in ways that are beyond your dreams.
May you feel His protection and love that transcends the fears of men, and their politics.
May our safety, life, revival and hope be found in His Words, His church, and not in a mask or overbearing 'big-brother' government mandate. AND..
May God's Essential Church have an uncompromised revival.
Jeff ( Essential Back Pew) Larson
I just finished reading the book 'The Danger of Shallow Christianity' by AW Tozer (can never lose by reading Tozer) where he in one chapter spoke on the dangers of living out of prosperity and adversity. One is self sufficient, one is hopeless. BOTH are wrong thinking.
Prosperity by the world's standards (money, status, lifestyle) have never been a 'problem' in my humble life. But prosperity can lead to the wrong thinking of self-sufficiency, and an air of superiority.
Adversity can be found on the other end of the spectrum of prosperity. Adversity can challenge us on to persevere through the challenges of life, or instead fuel anxiety, doubts, and even a sense of dread.
Now while prosperity has never been a 'problem' for me.. or even on the radar for me.. but adversity I can relate to. Don't get me wrong, life is good, but I have no illusions of being self-sufficient as my bank account can attest to. Also, I do relate to issues of doubt and insecurity.
Anxiety and depression are emotional first cousins that have come to visit me more frequently than I would like to admit.
Then let's add the realization I am not getting any younger. I am 63, wear bi-focals, a 'couple or 20' pounds over my ideal weight, and arthritis now speaks to me which I hear fine without the aide of my hearing aides.
Then, outside my control are societal ills including IMO oppression by Covid-19 related government mandates with more than a dash of 'Big Brother', political unrest, voter fraud, and a truly Godless media gaslighting lies while suppressing truth all to promote their own biased narratives.
We also have Social Media (ie Twitter & Facebook) actively suppressing conservative and traditional Christian free speech by allowing certain views to be spoken and others are 'fact checked into oblivion'.
It's not fact checking at all but is manipulating the public conversation by banning (ie fact checking) conservative and/or traditional Christian voices. THIS fans the flames of FEAR.
At the core of this suppression is not actually the politicians, but the 'we the people' who voted these partisans into office.
While I agree we all have the right to vote our conscience, but the problem is too many and too many in the church itself do not vote with a Christian world view.
We want to be 'progressive', and want the world to like us so we act like the world.
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19
Too many in the church support
So the people in our country and in our churches (including me).. worry me.
This is The Smell of Fear in 2020
I share all this because I don't think I am alone. Many if not most of us face challenges that we did not sign up for. Our individual situations and/or challenges may be our own doing, or out of our control. It could be a diagnosis that compromises your life. It could be a lost job that was or was not your fault. Maybe problems in your marriage or with your children or grandchildren that break your heart. Maybe the issue is a vice/addiction. So we become afraid... and we can smell the fear.
The issue front and center for me today in November 2020 where Covid-19 is king, and FEAR is our God. It is dividing our nation, our families, it is suffocating our churches as we live muted lives zooming our faith instead of in person as God wants us to be. I know Covid-19 is a risk for the elderly and those with compromised health issues, BUT shutting down our economy and our freedoms have a cost too.
Through all this I know God to be the answer in my life. I believe He is loving, and NOT indifferent to any of our situations.
From Job to the Prodigal Son God was faithful and caring. Look through the Gospels and read Jesus teachings, and look at his examples where He listened, wept, He healed, and He was truth in love, and even on the cross he promised paradise to the thief on the cross next to him.
What a blessing it is to serve our loving God. The creator of the Universe is intimately interested in each us and our fears.
I pray God's blessings and providence for his church today, and for a lost world that needs to know our loving Savior. As the slogan goes No Jesus, Know Fear. Know Jesus, No Fear.
As I roller coaster through the amusement park of life past the sideshows of a bearded lady, the two headed cow and the tattooed sword swallowing vicar I realize again.. LIFE IS A RIDE.
My rollercoaster existence leaves me at times exhilarated while other times ready to BARF. These twists and turns in my life do expose my Dr Jeffrey and Mr. Hide (like a less sinister version of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde) personality quirks. I am Dr Jeffrey when all is good, but Mr Hide but rises up as my rollercoaster dips and there is a big bend up ahead.
AND yes I did mean to say Mr. Hide (not Hyde).. 'Good grief I am cartoonist not a monster’.
My alter ego Mr. Hide unfortunately appears when my "I'm ok facade" is threatened to be exposed by my collection of insecurities, mistakes and bad choices. Better to hide and live to fight another day.. or something like that.
Mr. Hide wants others to see me as a success. A man with a career, admired, and a man of status, and dashing good looks. Mr. Hide promotes the illusion that he is confident, funny, never depressed, and has never struggled with substance abuse. Oh there are many other things Mr. Hide hides from others, but you get the idea.
Right now as I type I am in one of times I want to hide. An unfair circumstance mixed in with a dash of my special brand of stumbling/bumbling has me looking for a hiding place. And HEY IT'S 2020 and no better year to want to HIDE.
LOL, I guess sharing it in my blog is not a very good hiding place.
But while I want to hide, or at least get away I know none of my circumstance surprised God. I am sure He did not slap his forehead and declare.. "Wow, now that's a new one."
Anyways, I choose to put my trust in God. I could quote a ba-zillion verses about God's love for me, but I will keep it simple and share the oft quoted Psalm 23.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Another reason not to hide.. God's people.. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
So today I pray God bless, care, and restore each of you when life seems to have replaced your highs with lows. Remember.. If God is for ME, who can be against ME? Ro 8:31
Jeff (over exposed?) Larson
I wrote this blog a couple years ago, and found it fitting today more than ever in 2020.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
With this great scripture in mind, I feel sometimes like I am serving 60 years to life in the Alcatraz of my Mind. Instead of holding every thought captive obedient to Christ I may wander and become a captive to my thoughts.
In these times my weary brain becomes lost in the tasks of another anxious day living in this very broken spinning out of control world leaving me frazzled, weary, and downright .. pouty.
Now pouty may be cute when it is my 4 year old granddaughter, but when it is 63 year old Jeff.. just ask my wife Mary, it's not cute.
So what do I do? I read aloud again 2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
To be very frank, 2020 a dumpster fire of a year. It is the year of Covid-19, race tensions rivaling the 1960s, anarchist groups like Antifa, and BLM , and civil disobedience all wrapped up in an Election year where the MSM has become the National Enquirer with an agenda that has little to do with reporting the news. When STORY is more important to the MSM than TRUTH, we have a problem.
So how does 2 Corinthians 10:5 fit in to 2020? I believe It fits in perfectly.
When 2020 shouts "PANIC.. It's the end of the world!".. I must take that panic and make it obedient to Christ. My prayer is to be found faithful and trusting in Him now more than ever.
This will be my life long process of returning to this scripture truth when my anxious, jealous, lazy, angry, compromised etc etc thoughts occupy the podium in my brain. Christ must be the answer.. He is my hope. So here ya go Jesus.. THANKS!
May God bless each of you this day where God's perfect Truth & Love is the answer when your thoughts are have you locked in the cell next to mine on the Alcatraz of your Mind.
Most of us remember the story of Jesus telling Peter to walk on water, but as 'Pete' noticed the VERY REAL waves about him and as the seeming nonsense of walking on water began to sink in.. so did Peter.
When I was younger I thought “Oh Pete of little faith, I would have done cartwheels on the sea with my perfect faith of Jesus intact”. But now after wading around in the seas of life’s experience.. I see the waves in my life are just as real as those literal waves Peter faced 2000 years or so ago, and at best I look like Gilligan hollering for SKIPPER!..
but of course this analogy falls flat as I am not comparing the Skipper with Jesus... and I am too 'husky' to be Gilligan... BUT I DIGRESS!
So with my assessment that my faith is often at best an undersized mustard seed as I choose to get out of the boat and trust God. I may sink at times like Peter but.. the same Jesus who calmed the seas, healed the sick, fed the multitudes,walked on water, and rose from the grave is my answer to life’s figurative (but VERY REAL) waves of health, finance, family, or fear.
I could expound on this fact, as like many of you I experience seasons of waves, and tests that put my trust in God to the test.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart soul and mind and lean not unto your own understanding .. in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Pr 3:5-6
EASY WORDS to say.. DIFFICULT WORDS to comprehend just like walking on water MAKES NO SENSE.. but I choose to believe both to be true.
May God bless each of you this day in your journey. May we all learn to trust God when life is great, when life is difficult, or when all seems lost.
Trust in the Lord as your providence, Trust in the Lord as your source for answers, Trust in the Lord for blessings, and Trust in the Lord for perspective that is beyond the limits of any circumstance.. so even when the waves swell and the storms rage.. we can give the triumphant shout..
SURFS UP Blessings!
Jeff (flappable) Larson
My wife and I have a rescue dog named Cooper and I have written a 'beautiful' poem that captures my life with him.
Ode to Cooper
Cooper is our little rescue dog;
there's no doubt he LOVES my wife Mary,.
BUT despite the fact I 'm the one who rescued him;
.. for me.. Cooper remains wary.
I so want Cooper to love me too..
but he's a work in progress..
You see Cooper does not trust me ..
leaving me judged without due process.
Thank you, thank you
But then I stop and realize.. I am SORTA a rescue dog too.
For example, in this big old bad world I might turn on the evening news and .. I get uneasy as I can sense the tension EVERYWHERE, so I start to growl at partisan politics as I pace the room.
My demeanor only gets worse as these 'News SHOWS' spew this world's hatred, racism, and violence all wrapped in their biased narrative void of truth leaving me ..
out of control barking my panic and distrust of this world.
This state of panic and unease over just the evening news can leave me in reality wary of my God. He is my perfect loving Heavenly Father, Jesus my Savior, and the Holy Spirit my comforter. My God is my RESCUER from both the evening news and anything else found in this broken world.
So just like Cooper I need to chill. Chill and realize this broken world is the result of man's own free will, and compromised desires. This brokenness was never a part of God's plan.
So chill Jeff, and realize in God I have hope, a future, and a plan for happiness. So Jeff.. No more barking.
May each of us find our hope (our rescue) in the loving Heavenly Father who sent his son Jesus as our savior, and his Holy Spirit as our comfort.
note: God is still our rescuer even when we bark.
Now if Cooper would only understand that about me.
Jeff (Rescued) Larson
In this world of Essentials we have ..'Essential Oils' (5 quarts of motor oil?).. the 'Essential Van Morrison' album compilation, and now ..our government in Pandemic lockdown mode determines which businesses are 'essential'.
The disturbing twist of secular PANICdemic irony is this list of essential businesses include liquor stores, and Planned Parenthood while church gatherings are too 'risky' aka non-essential. In some states you can buy 'weed' (dude) but you can't buy weed killer (garden store).
It is a good thing Mother Theresa is not serving today in my home state of Minnesota where her 'willy nilly non-essential' orphanage and leprosy mission works would not be tolerated.. unless these lepers and orphans also tested Covid-19 positive.
It is obvious by my sarcasm I bristle over our Government's mandated (but ever changing) good, bad, &ugly list of essentials,non-essentials, and social distancing guidelines. But though I bristle I have remained law abiding through my clenched teeth and grumbled tones.
Then I heard a little sermon snippet of 'sunlight' from a Pastor in South Bend Indiana (Pastor YPJ). The just of it his message was to be prayerful & smart in our response to Coronavirus but remember our focus is on Revival not Survival.
With this bit of sunlight in mind, I may listen to Dr Fucci, and weed through the ever changing CDC labyrinth of scenarios, but in none of them do I find hope. Societies message is temporal and 'non-essential' by the Gospel message is life, hope for today and tomorrow, and essentially essential.
I will be smart, I will be safe, but I will not live in fear.
May God bless and use each of you this week in ways that are beyond your dreams. May you feel His protection and love that transcends the fears of men... May we find life in His Words, and a Revival of our hope.
To paraphrase an old Superman slogan.. "This is a job for Supernatural Man" filled by God's Spirit.
Jeff (The Essential Back Pew) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson