Last we chatted, Abraham was healing from.. a ‘MINOR procedure’.
Next in chapter 19, Abraham is met by three men and welcomes these visitors into his tent to allow them to rest out of the heat of the day. Abraham then tells Sarah to bake some of her world famous homemade bread while he gets some red meat cooking on the grill.
After dinner, the visitors informed Abraham that Sarah will have a son one year from now. Well Sarah was listening at the entrance and LAUGHED to herself since she was so old. The guests heard her laughing and reminded Abraham and Sarah that this is not too difficult for the God who created the world. After this the three men left, and headed towards Sodom (aka Sin City).
Sodom and Gomorrah
Now Sodom and Gomorrah were the twin cities of evil, and God had enough with their behavior, and tells Abraham he is going to destroy them. But Abraham humbly bargains with God to spare these cities if there could even be found 10 good people. This is an interesting negotiation, and a great example of God hearing our pleas, and being sensitive to them. The prayers of a righteous man is heard by God with Abraham, and this is still true today.
Next the two angels arrive in Sodom and Lot pleads with them to come into his home and off the streets because it was not safe there. They wanted to spend the night in the City Square, but did agree to come to Lot’s home.
After dinner, the men of this wicked city came asking Lot to send out these men so that they could have sex with them. Lot being the good host.. good host??? says “no.. don’t do this evil thing, BUT.. you can have my two virgin daughters.” This is another one of those jaw dropping moments that transcends culture, and to compound the level of wickedness, the men yelled back.. “get out of our way Lot.. we want the men!”
Lot and his Family flee
So these angels, blind these evil men, and then told Lot to warn his family that the Lord is about to destroy these Old Testament sin cities. In the morning, Lot, his wife, and two daughters flee the city while his future son-in-laws thought Lot was joking and stayed behind.
Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed
So the two men/angels took Lot and his family and led them from the city, and once they were safe, and they were all instructed.. “don’t look back.”
Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur from the sky and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah completely while an emergency weather alert was issued 'it's gonna be a hot hot day'.
finally as Lot and his family ran for their lives, Lot’s wife looked back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Her last words were.. "I think I left the oven on".
After this display of God’s wrath and the there was an investigation by the local CSI TEAM finding an empty Improve Our City suggestion box at the city limits. Many years later an archaeological dig found a road sign verifying the existence/location of the ancient city of Gomorrah. The sign stated simply.. 'What happens in Gomorrah, stays in Gomorrah'.
Of course Lot’s life was a mess, and there are more stories following this judgment regarding Lot and his daughters that are further examples of a depraved society.
Moral of the story? God's Grace is amazing and free, but not.. cheap. You cannot put a price on God's Grace.. but know we must turn from our sins and never look back.
Jeff (No Salt Please) Larson
Aretha Franklin sang her signature hit R E S P E C T in 1967 as a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who demands the"respect" of her man.
Now 40 years later Aretha's cry for R E S P E C T has been hijacked and ratcheted up with evening news 'shows' reporting/exploiting headlines of sexual misconduct (and worse), bullying, systematic white supremacy, white privilege, (white bread), racism, reverse racism, envy, greed, hatred, and our Universities filled with melting fragile snow-flake students claiming 'micro-aggression' by the man. Whoever the man is.
Don't get me wrong, injustice is a serious matter, but truth often is lost in our GUILTY before proven INNOCENT 'intersectional' virtue signalling society.
The above mentioned microaggressions are defined as the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In fact in today's progressive thinking.. if I disagree with your views I can consider your words 'an act of violence' towards and can retaliate with real violence like a punch in the nose, or key your car door, or worse.. So beware!
By this 'standard' I have been microaggressed as a white man with a rural Wisconsin upbringing lacking economic opportunities or exposure to a racially diverse culture. Now that I am older I am again microaggressed for wearing bi-focals, and hearing aides by my younger better seeing, hearing, and looking co-workers.
Truth is I am NOT microaggressed, and I believe it is all 'microaggressed-hogwash'. Life is good but has never been a level playing field. So let's all determine to.. BUCK UP BUTTERCUP!
But back to Aretha's call for RESPECT.. Why do we make RESPECT so complicated? In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus taught us the two greatest commandments ‘Love the Lord your God' with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind .. and.. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'.
If I truly love my neighbor my words and deeds will demonstrate respect, and a nice byproduct is it's difficult to feel micro-aggressed if my focus is on God and others.. leaving little time for all things ME.
As I mull over this blog, I remember a couple years ago I had a job where my boss and I had honest mutual dislike for each other. I believed I was disrepected and mistreated leading to a mutual parting of the ways. Looking back I know I should have handled this better. Love God? check, love this boss? I did not appreciate, or RESPECT him so loving him like myself wasn't happening.. but it should have. I put my hurt ego over humbling myself and representing Christ. So my prayer coming from this bad experience is to get my eyes off of ME, love God, and care for others... even when the others are bosses from a no good very bad day.
So today I pray we all love God with all our hearts, and uses each of us to be the hands and feet for those who are in need, even maybe your enemies. (note these are God's two greatest commandments, not two greatest suggestions) May our hearts, words, and actions always be compassionate and RESPECTFUL to others in this hurting world, and I pray for God's loving presence and perspective when we are disrespected and/or mistreated by others.
Jeff (micro-REgressing?) Larson
p.s. On a lighter note, I would like to share a clip regarding Injustice inherent in the system at the time of King Arthur. Repression Inherent in the System. <-- click here for a chuckle
Note of Clarification
The following blog commentary is about the little word 'BUT' ..but.. it is not to be confused with the word 'BUTT' (aka bottom.. aka buttocks, ) which always makes Minions laugh.
I recently read a quote by Tim Keller on Twitter.. 'Repentance is crucial for renewal and restoration', and full disclosure honesty is required for true repentance.
Very true, BUT it is often easier to say "I am sorry, BUT.." then insert my favorite excuse/rationalization of what I am supposedly sorry for. Here are a few I am sorry BUTs.
Next let me share a couple gender specific 'sorry but' prayers.
(see cartoon on the right)
Hmmm, maybe we should raise the bar and strive to do better than either of the above man, or woman's prayers.
Back to Tim Keller's words of wisdom. 'Repentance is crucial for renewal and restoration', and full disclosure honesty is required for true repentance. Not much wiggle room for any sorry buts.
BUT.. Hey I am a pretty good guy. I go to church, love my wife and stay out of trouble.
But who am I fooling? Not God. He knows my secret doubts, rage, anxiety, envy, mumbled profanities, and other more quiet rebellions against what I know is right in my heart. I have too often compromised time, resources, and talents that were truly a gift from God. This does not include bigger sins (ie alcohol) that almost killed me. For all these and more I am sorry.. no buts.
Mark me down as a work in progress.
What would be possible if we all were truly repentant and inspired by the love of God? It could be a revival this fallen world needs.. like.. NOW!
May God bless each of you on your spiritual journey, where you are blessed and used by God in ways that are beyond your dreams. My our hearts be repentant, and open to receive the promise of God's Grace.
Jeff (no buts about it) Larson
Life again reminds me we are all so very busy with days filled and choices to be made. Sometimes 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 our life decisions I would like to suggest the 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.
Of course 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, know your Bibles, have good friends, and eat all your veggies. :)
Jeff ( in between a slap, tickle, & a fist fight) Larson
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” James 2:2-3
<-- James 2:2-3 This is how it looks for me in Minnesota
Let me start by sharing I attend a good church that I really like. It is a mix of all ages, from college students through senior citizens. The preaching is straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and at times entertaining. The worship is performed by talented musicians and the words and atmosphere are both.. worshipful. There are 3 big screens up front to assist in this modern presentation of church. Our motto is no perfect people allowed. It is a welcoming church where you are greeted at the door, there is care for the little ones, and classes for all the kids through teens. Ways to connect and become involved and a place to ask for prayer are presented each week. My church is attractive, welcoming, and like I said, I really like my church.
Then on Monday's recently I started attending a Celebrate Recovery program at a different local church (my church does not offer one). I am over 4 years sober now after it became apparent I was an alcoholic where drink had compromised my life for about the previous 15 years. It did not ruin it, but I was headed on the wrong road, and my addiction to a buzz was growing and dangerous. I thank God for his healing in this area and for the love and grace of my family.. especially my wife.
So anyways, I never really attended treatment when I quit, but now 4 years later found myself in a Celebrate Recovery program which my wife attends with me. She does not have a problem with alcohol but supports me and encouraged me to attend for my own well being and to give back and support others in this struggle.
Well, in contrast to my good church where the worship, preaching, and presentation on Sunday's is clean and sharp.. this Celebrate Recovery program is messy. These are people who are struggling. Some have been sober for 15+ years, others are celebrating not have a drink for 30 days, or less. Some are people who have been in and out of treatment, and/or suffering the consequences of their addictions by losing their drivers license, jobs, or family. Stories of jail-time, and restraining orders were common. Many were in the place where they were not drinking but now dealing with the void in their lives where once was a buzz. This group is a mess.. such a beautiful mess.
What makes this group such a beautiful mess is their journey starts and ends with a return to God. Not just a higher power but the only true God of our Bibles. This is our only hope for the alcoholic and ALL of the rest of humanity (aka sinners).
Now after 4+ years of being sober, I look back on my journey to where I am now. I did not realize what a fragile mess I was and am still recovering from. I went bankrupt, had to sell my home and my business and start over. I was wounded deeply and felt a void of what do I replace the buzz of alcohol with. I was a Christian through all this, I prayed & read my Bible, but was still a mess. Maybe God saw me as a beautiful mess.. I think my wife saw me that way. I was a mess but oh how important I was to her and how much she believed in me and loved me.
So this all makes me reflect on James 2:1-2. I am ashamed to say I honestly don't like the mess or messy people. I like happy Christians with no deep dark secrets and/or sins. I like the well orchestrated church service and an attractive congregation that looks like .. church people should look? I don't know if I want my church look like any mess, even a beautiful mess.
So here I am convicted today.. and I thank God for this conviction. I now desire to be in the mess, and I will fit in as I am a mess.. together we are a beautiful mess that God is in the process of restoring. After church I don't want to be the guy looking past the guy or gal out of place to find my usual friends where I am comfortable, and I don't want to be the guy who stays home on Monday nights instead of attending Celebrate Recovery group with my beautiful mess.
I don't know exactly how this conviction on my heart will play out, but I pray God would speak to me and change me to serve him among the beautiful mess that are the people Jesus would be spending his time with.
May God bless you, care for you, and use you to serve Him in this world that is a mess. I pray for revival and restoration in America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess that we are a part of.
Jeff (what a mess) Larson
note: One person commented last night.. If the church was honest, the seats in Celebrate Recovery would be full. It is not just for the alcoholic, it is for everyone that struggles with the very real issues of life. Depression, co-dependency, anger, sex addiction, anxiety/fear. I pray we allow ourselves to be honest, and allow God to restore the mess in our lives.
"You always, and you never" has been the muttering mantra of exasperated parents since like.. FOREVER. Typically it goes something like this. "Billy, you ALWAYS leave your homework until the last minute!" or "Susie you NEVER get through dinner without fighting with your sister."
I must confess, my mom & dad never said to me, "Son, you ALWAYS do your chores without us even asking, and you NEVER complain about it."
But after High School, I moved out on my own and out of ear shot of my parent's 'you ALWAYS or YOU nevers'. I was now living in the land of grown ups, working a grown up job, and married a wonderful 'grown up' Christian woman. I made no time for any weak you ALWAYS or you NEVER accusations.. UNTIL my marriage introduced a new 'strain' in the form of the dreaded Honey-Do-List. And though my wife is very patient with me, it is fair to say Jeff ALWAYS need to be reminded to work on 'the list', and Jeff will NEVER finish it.
But to fair, a honey-do-list has no real end.
Then kids entered our lives and I discovered the Lion King 'circle of life' for Norwegians regarding those timeless you ALWAYS and you NEVER comments. I remember specifically my son Curtis ALWAYS having a reason/excuse for everything. I nicknamed Yanna Nobutt a fictitious Yugoslavian Tennis player because whenever his actions were in question he would reply "ya, I know, but.." then followed with his excuse de jure.
Truth is my kids were pretty good, and though there were plenty of times where they tried our patience and boundaries.. I did learn that You always and you never.. is not the right message.
In hindsight I also recognize the irony of me lecturing my kids about homework considering I was jjust a C+ B- student who ALWAYS missed too much school, and NEVER did his homework. Then to show God has a sense of humor.. I married a school teacher!
Now while this all makes good fodder for my smirking blog as I reminisce on my lifetime of you ALWAYS & you NEVER moments, the truth is.. it is simply not good practice. It implies a basic hopeless scenario, and no one wants to hear the you ALWAYS & you NEVER scolding.. this certainly is NOT the Gospel message of Grace.
So I pray each of you have a great day knowing God ALWAYS keeps his promises (Deuteronomy 7:9), and He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
AND.. no matter your big or small prodigal son/daughter moments, your failures, your down moments, your rebellions, your SINS. are ALWAYS forgiven as our Heavenly Father rejoices in our return and forgets he NEVER gives up on you. (read the Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32)
ps. While my Honey Do list is as endless as the universe itself, this morning I replaced a bad electrical outlet, hung a flag pole outside, put down a first coat of paint in our downstairs family room/office, and worked in the yard transplanting ferns and trimming branches. I am finishing this blog while my bride is away browsing neighborhood Garage Sales..Fortunately, she does not read my blogs so this will be our secret.
Breaking Bad was the hit TV show on AMC a few years back where unassuming high school chemistry teacher and family man Walter White evolves over 5 seasons into someone truly bad.
Maybe.. Not since God tossed Satan out of Heaven has there been a comparable BREAKING BAD moment.
Walter White's life was a slippery slope of compromise, and his white lies evolved into massive cover-ups. Walter White changes over these few years into a ruthless big time meth producer responsible for countless murders, and in the end, he dies alone, his family is destroyed, and the wake of his truly bad choices on those around him was far reaching for both innocent and guilty. Even those who survived DID NOT live happily ever after but were truly Badly Broken.
note: For those of you contemplating binge watching Breaking Bad on Netflix please disregard the previous paragraph. MY BAD
Ok, so far there are three obvious lessons learned
1. Don't cook Meth,
2. Don't Murder, and
3. Don't trust criminals to keep secrets.
But Breaking Bad is actually the story of mankind and from the very beginning it seems to be BAD is what we do. Since the very beginning our sins great and small, and our attempts to cover them up is the common plot line for lives we live.
EVEN OUR BIBLES are filled with Breaking Bad moments of literally biblical proportions.
Then let's fast forward to a few more contemporary Breaking Bad paths we travel today..
Comfort and Hope for your BB Moments..
But no matter your flavor of Breaking Bad there are so many great scripture truths of comfort and perspective.
1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.
AND if/when we fall.. know the grace of our Heavenly Father is perfect. No matter how great or small your prodigal son or daughter moment.
May God bless each of you on your journey.
I live in the beautiful state of Minnesota, and one of my favorite places here is on the North Shore of Lake Superior. I can sit on the rocky coastline and listen to and watch the peaceful waves as they roll in. So soothing to my mind and spirit and in stark contrast to the rush hour pace of life back in the city.
But there are other times where the winds and waves are stormy. Just last October 2018 there were strong winds and spectacular waves crashing into the shoreline. I did not have time to venture North for the 3 hour drive to see this example of nature on display, but the news and social media shared many pictures like the one on the right->
My fascination with waves is ironic since I don't like the waves in my life. Of course the waves in my life are a ripple in my kiddy pool existence compared to others, but still they are real, and they affect me.
The answer of course is Jesus who calmed the literal stormy seas with three words "Peace be Still".
There was the other time when Jesus walked to his disciples on the sea, and Peter following Jesus instructions stepped out of the boat on to the waves defying physics and walked on the water too, UNTIL he put his focus on the very real real waves instead of Jesus who both walks on the waves and calms the storms.
So I need to remember any financial, family, or health crisis I may face is not greater than our Jesus who calms the literal and figurative seas. Even when the waves are from our own mistakes, Jesus is still the answer.
Impossible situations do not exist for the creator of all things and master of the seas. Jesus does not look at any circumstance and think .. "Hmm, this one is going to be a challenge."
Personally, I am an alcoholic (sober now for about 5 years) but there were about 15 years where drink compromised my life. I thank God for grabbing my hand while I was sinking like Peter into my stormy sea. From here I found God's Grace, and a path for restoration.
That's just one piece of my story, but I know everyone has their own story filled with ups and downs and waves. Some waves we are to enjoy as part of God's creation like the peaceful waves rolling in on the North Shore of Lake Superior, while other waves we need the master of the waves close by. In these stormy waves, and when you feel you are sinking know God is with you. Be prayerful, dillegent in your obedience to God, and focused on Jesus knowing He is your safety in all circumstances.
My prayer today is God bless and use each of you to find peace even out on the waves.
Jeff (water wings) Larson
Simply put I think I deserve the BEST in life. I deserve all that life can offer, and more! I deserve a wonderful wife, kids that make me smile, dogs that don’t eat food off the kitchen counter, and a cat that does NOT hack up hair balls. I deserve true friends, a healthy family, a rich church heritage, and I deserve HEAVEN.
You may be wondering if have been sippin’ from the ‘Name It, Claim It’ and/or ‘Prosperity Gospel’ koolaid. Well, I do claim God's promises and a prosperity that is measured in Heaven but not necessarily in this life.
So let me clarify, I am a pretty good guy. I work hard, love my family, and love God. Complicating my relative goodness is my ability to make bad/wrong choices (aka sins).
Oh I know what is right and wrong in God's eyes but I have compromised 'the best' that God intends for me, and at times I have not been good at all.
BUT good news for us all is God’s grace and blessings in our lives is available in ways that are BEYOND OUR DREAMS. This means I don’t have to live in regret of past mistakes, and what the devil (there really is one) plans for bad in my life… God can use and bless in ways that I never saw coming. Our Heavenly Father is good and kind, and PERFECT. As far as the East is from the West so are my sins forgiven!
No more hiding of sins.. no more hiding my faults.. I DESERVE better than this. So when I fall, and I might just fall again this very hour.. I will get up.. I will do my best, and I will trust in God while motivated by my desire to Love God with all my soul, heart, and mind, and to love others as I love myself.
You see I DESERVE a life uncluttered by thoughts and worries focused on me. I DESERVE a life free from guilt, and not reluctant to ask for forgiveness.
I DESERVE the very best in life.. PROSPERITY measured in service.. HAPPINESS uncluttered by circumstances, a CLEAR CONSCIENCE because of God’s limitless grace.
Now most of you probably do not let your mind wander in circles like mine obviously does like a hamster in a wheel, but for those who are tired, depressed, sick, burdened with the weight of the world.. YOU DESERVE MORE. You deserve the best that God has to offer. His best for you may or may not be fame and fortune, health and adventure… but HIS BEST which you deserve is the peace and perspective that passes all understanding or any circumstance.
They say money can’t buy you happiness, but it helps calm the nerves… BUT whether rich or poor, famous or obscure, fat or skinny, or any other nook or cranny of this world’s class system.. we can be content… and living unafraid, and enjoying the lives we have in ways that are beyond what we have yet to experience.
There is a scientific study claiming we only use 10% of our brain.. well I believe we as believers experience only a fraction of the blessings God wants us to experience… and only a fraction of the blessings WE DESERVE as his children.
May God bless each of us with lives blessed by God in ways that are NEVER limited by our abilities, but are truly BLESSED BEYOND OUR DREAMS and as God intends, and what WE DESERVE as his children.
important note: I do realize all our righteousness is as filthy rags Isaiah 64:6. The point of sharing 'getting what i deserve' is not a focus on my relative goodness, but instead on God's Grace and love that is greater than all my sins. Romans 5:20
This is the name of a great song from Matthew West with words of truth and perspective for those traveling through life's 'valley of the shadow of death' (Psalms 23).
Below is an excerpt of lyrics from this song. Note: A link to the video is at the end of this email.
Hello, my name is regret .. I’m pretty sure we have met .. Every single day of your life I’m the whisper inside That won’t let you forget.
Hello, my name is defeat .. I know you recognize me .. Just when you think you can win I’ll drag you right back down again ‘Til you’ve lost all belief
Oh, these are the voices. Oh, these are the lies. And I have believed them for the very last time
Hello, my name is child of the one true King. I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, I have been set free. "Amazing Grace" is the song I sing. Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I am no longer defined .. By all the wreckage behind ..The one who makes all things new Has proven it’s true Just take a look at my life
I am a child of the one true King
Video of Hello My Name is .. by Matthew West
Like most folk, I have regrets for a number of missteps, and fall on my face moments.
But for these past faux pas and for the ones ahead of me that I will still make God's Amazing Grace and perfect love relaxes my shoulders and perspective returns to me with a smile.
I am a child of the one true King.
And so are you.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson