Let me start today with a good ol' Protestant Brag.
I have attend church most every week, and not just Sunday mornings, I often go on Wednesdays too. I accepted Jesus into my heart at age 6, was baptized at age 14, and have been married to a wonderful Christian woman for almost 38 years! You see, I AM ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS.
Besides going to church, I work hard, pay my bills, and have endured rush hour traffic that would tempt Mother Theresa's to swear like a sailor.
I aspire to be like Jesus and so again.. I declare.. "I am a pretty pretty good guy." BUT.. (NEWS FLASH) I am really any better than those who never darken the door of a local church. Let's just say I am a lifelong member of the 'Flawed Folk Fellowship'.
The friendly members of 'Flawed Folk Fellowship' are known for their welcoming slogan 'No Perfect People Allowed' but this also could serve as a disclaimer much like you hear at the end of one of those prescription med TV ads.
CURElanta may be right for you. <pause> BUT.. some taking CURElanta "may experience tingling toes, a bloody nose, itchy ears, swollen rear, and.. in extreme cases DEATH or worse.
Our Flawed Folk disclaimer could be .. In some cases those attending Flawed Folk Fellowship experience involuntary hand raising, amen vocalizations and often the compulsive utterance of a hallelujah. On other Sundays sermon snoring may occur.
All silliness aside.. there are two recurring comments you hear regarding us Flawed Folk.
My prayer for each of you today is to find your own Flawed Folk Fellowship. To share, and support each other in our struggles, and to worship together the one true God of our Bibles is priceless.
Jeff (faulty) Larson
In Jesus final week there were many who failed him. His disciples fled, The priests fumed, the crowds jeered, Pilate washed his hands of the whole deal, but there was only one who BETRAYED Jesus. When I think of the major players as the last week of Jesus on Earth played out.. Judas was the one who betrayed our Lord.
I wonder about Judas. He was one of the 12 disciples, he watched the same miracles, he listened to Jesus teach and disciple, and he witnessed Jesus compassion and love for the common man. So what went wrong in Judas mind? Was he ever truly a follower of Jesus? Why was he selected to be one of the 12 disciples?
We can all speculate about the condition of Judas heart, but in the end I find myself feeling empathy for him.
You see if my sins and failures were recorded in the Bible I would be embarrassed, but to be the one who betrayed Jesus… how could a person live with that? ..
and so Judas decided he could not and.. hung himself.
Once again, NOT FUNNY STUFF.. this Easter week. The Bible records the dinner at Simon’s when Mary bathed Jesus feet with expensive perfume, but Judas was upset with what he regarded an extravagant waste. This perfume could be sold and the money given to the poor!
Then the following week Judas conspires to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of sliver. This became his price for INFAMY.
So was Judas truly a bad man or simply a man that slid down the slippery slope of compromise? We will never be faced with an opportunity to 'directly' betray Jesus like Judas did, BUT.. I believe we should all beware of our own slippery slopes that we wander on to.
Our slippery slopes may never be recorded in a book, and certainly not the Bible, BUT.. if we are not careful we may betray Jesus in words and/or actions.
Like Jesus taught.. “What you did (good or bad) to the least of my family, you did it to me.” I believe the lesson Judas betrayal is infinitely sobering, BUT.. the lesson of Matthew 25:31-46 is just as sobering. Sobering, but so very encouraging too.
When our hearts are focused on Jesus first (not a cheap cliché), then our focus leaves ourselves, and what we do for the least in God’s family will make God smile. God’s plan is simple, we only make it complicated our compromised hearts.
Finally.. WHAT IS JUDAS REPENTED of this betrayal? He did not, and was lost in the despair of these dark moments, but WHAT IF? We will never know, but I believe God’s Grace would have saved Judas. There is no dark place, there is no wrong path we can take that can not be reached by God’s perfect love and forgiveness.
May God bless each of you this Easter season. May our lives make God smile! May we recognize that God's grace can rescue any of us no matter what dark path you find yourself on. There is no betrayal that God will not forgive and so there is hope for all of us. It is a hope for forgiveness and complete restoration for the repentant heart.. AND hope for a life yet to be realized and blessed by God.
Jeff (saved by Grace) Larson
NEWS FLASH: Their are no original ideas. Despicable Me was a 2010 animated film featuring super villain Gru and his minions.. that through the lives of three orphan girls Gru's heart grows much like the Grinch to where he finds love and turns from being.. Despicable. So Gru was despicable until love changed him forever. Well, I am very Gru-like. Let me try to explain.
I often share as a qualifier of my life.. I AM A PRETTY GOOD GUY. No murders, bank robberies, I do not belong to any gang, and .. I have not been featured on Dateline in a double murder mystery where my wife and dog mysteriously disappeared.. and foul play is suspected of ME. In fact my wife Mary and my dog Cooper are upstairs as I type. BUT..
Looking back over my life there are times God's Spirit reveals my life long sin nature and it disturbs me. So many secret sins, compromises big & small, and selfish actions that looking back I ponder 'was I ever really saved?'
And looking forward why do I believe I will go to Heaven? Daily I seek the Lord but am burdened by selfish, lazy, and anxious thoughts. How can this existence of mine assure me I receive God's Grace?
But this is the answer.. GOD'S AMAZING GRACE covers all my known and secret sins. To be WASHED IN THE BLOOD, and forgiven through the RESSURECTION of Jesus 2000 years ago. Yes while earthly thinking so underserved, but this is how AMAZING His Grace & Forgiveness is.
note: washed in Jesus blood is more than church speak.. there is true power in the shedding of His blood.
"Lord forgive them for they know not what they do!" were the words of Jesus while hanging on the cross after hours of beatings and as the crowd mocks Him. This was God's Amazing Grace and forgiveness for sinful men that day and a promise for despicable men like me.
So with this promise I daily turn to Him repenting of my sins while seeking His will be done. My despicable sins big & small with attitudes compromised by self and ignorance are forgiven. By this despicable Jeff receives God's Amazing Grace and the burden of my fallen ways is lifted from me.
This is the promise for any of you who feel despicable. My prayer is for each of us to daily pursue this relationship with our creator, and realize the greatness of His love.
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
This is how James 2:2-3 looks for me in Minnesota->
Seriously, my wife and I attend a great church in Minnesota with no 'true' mistreatment of Packer fans. The worship music is worshipful, and the preaching is TRUTH straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and easy on the ears. It is a friendly congregation represented by a nice mix of demographics.
It is a GOOD CHURCH!
Next, let me share again I am 6+ years sober after it became apparent I was an alcoholic.
I was a MESS.
I was headed on the wrong road but I thank God for grace found with my family and especially my wife and HIS restoration of my life.
During my recovery time I attended a recovery program for a while and in contrast to my 'good church' where the worship, preaching, and presentation on Sunday's is clean and sharp.. this Celebrate Recovery program was messy.
These were people 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, but .. a Beautiful Mess
What makes this group such a beautiful mess is their journey led to finding God. Not just a 'higher power' but the only true power, the God of our Bibles. This is our only hope for the alcoholic and ALL of the rest of humanity (aka sinners). It's not just us alcoholics who are MESSY. Isaiah 64:6
To be very honest, I don't like a mess or messy people. I like happy Christians with no deep dark secrets and/or sins (at least not shared). I like a well orchestrated church service and an attractive congregation that looks like .. church people should look? I don't know if I want my church to be messy, even if is a beautiful mess.
But my Bible teaches me differently about the mess..
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners (THE MESSY) came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’[a] For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mt 9:10-13
If one part suffers (is messy), every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor 12:26). and again..
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 (messy) 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 (messy) man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” James 2:2-3
So I pray today to be a witness and friend to all I meet. To be welcoming and grace filled in my words and actions with others. And I pray I to be will willing and faithful in serving others even when it gets messy. I pray to embrace this beautiful mess knowing the mess I have been saved from. God is so good even when we are a full blown prodigal mess.
May God bless you, care for you today, and use you to serve Him in this very messy world. I pray for revival and restoration in our chaotic America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess inside and outside our church walls while standing firm in His Truth.
Jeff (still a little messy.. but sober) Larson
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only 'evil all the time'. Genesis 6:5
This was in the comment section of mankind's first report card. Just before God commanded Noah to build an ark he mailed out the letter grade for having your every inclinations of mankind's heart being evil all the time. It was big ol' fat F!
Think of it, just a few chapters after God created all things in six days declaring it good.. Mankind botched it up by rarely showing up for class or opening a book (figuratively speaking).
Another way of looking at it.. If this was mankind's Genesis 6:5 job review.. They were getting the boot.
Mankind did much worse than taking a highlighter and a notepad home for personal use. They were too often no shows in attitude, and effort... and maybe mixed in a little embezzling. aka Evil all the Time!
There were no extenuating circumstances to consider. They were outside of God's favor, and Noah's big boat. AND..in desperate need of a good flood insurance policy.
Evil all the time.. what does that even look like.?
I would guess there would be your garden variety envy, greed, racism, and hatred fueled by a self indulgent 'hell bent' looking for the next high' attitude in drink, sex, and/or any other means imaginable. Evil all the time.. folk are gluttons for all forms of pleasure with no boundaries. Their motto was .. 'What happens in Genesis 6:5, stays in Genesis 6:5.' Hmm, that slogan sounds familiar.
Now fast forward to our modern lives. I cannot imagine a society where evil all the time is there every inclination. <insert reflective pause> Unless.. I turn on the evening news. Then I might declare .. 'whoomp there it is.'
Is 'evil all the time' is an unfair assessment life today? I know there is good in this world and good people.. but there is a powerful Godless 24/7 stimulus smorgasbord for the senses ready to be indulged that does not play well with any true worship of God.
But what about the church? I could not say evil all the time is not a good description of the church and God's people, but compromise all the time maybe is. Too often 'The Church' the church is in a comfortable compromise with the world. They think they are in a Jacuzzi of peace with the world, but are unaware they are more like the 'frog in the boiling pot' willing to compromise God's timeless truths under the guise of being inclusive.
Insert REVIVAL here!
Is there an answer?
BUT.. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
I know 2 Chronicles 7:14 was written a long time ago to the nation of Israel, but the promise to restore and heal our lands of the repentant heart I believer are true today. True for any rebellious nation, compromised church, or the individual who has lost his way.
God's Grace is that big.
May God bless each of you today in your pursuit of God and for a revival that changes the world.
Ok, I confess to start a blog with the title REPENT is a good way to lose followers and a call to REPENT coming from a cartoonist carries less weight than your garden variety tele-evangelist.
And if I say.. "Repent Sinner." I sound like the evangelical version of a dog owner with a rolled up newspaper (in his case a Bible) ready to slap his dog (a lost soul) across the nose for a piddle accident, or WORSE! (ie sin).
Unfortunately today the cry to REPENT is caricatured as a double dose of judgment by the churchy self-righteous. BUT I have instead been impressed with the Gospel truth that REPENTANCE is the first step in the healing/restoration process.
Most times there can be varying levels of shame from my life's faux pas (aka sins), but the Bible teaches us we cannot experience the restoration found in God's Amazing Grace without saying that most difficult and humbly word.. SORRY (aka repentance) and mean it.
Clear as mud?.. Then let stir the mud..
A MARRIED MAN'S Repentance..
When I fight (I know I am the only one lol) with my wife. Even if I believe she is wrong/unfair/unreasonable/irrational/emotional, but respond with a few choice 'terse' words.. in this I know I am wrong.
And.. Even if 'by chance' I am right in the argument (aka fight), my words and tone are still WRONG, and I should not delay in apologizing. Ok, and while I am at it be sincere.
And, there were times I was wrong standing on the right side of a spat. Like the time I bought a new computer (cuz boys like toys) without asking Mary's permission or discussing our budget. I had my justifications, but was kind of hoping I would not have to go there and Mary would maybe not notice. Well she did notice and I stood there with that 'kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar' look.
As it ended up it was a perfect time to say I was sorry (repent) hoping Mary forgives me and let's me keep my new computer. :) She did, with a roll of her eyes while shaking her head as she told me.. "Just tell me next time, I am not that scary."
Now this marriage repentance scenario holds true in almost all aspect in life. In the workplace, in rush hour traffic, raising kids, even in church. In most cases a few well placed I'm sorrys could go a long way.
Then we come to our relationship with Almighty God. When we take time to understand God is both our all powerful creator and perfect Heavenly Father.. it should bring us to a place of adoration, worship, and obedience. By reading His word I realize how far short I fall in being obedient. So I feel regrets and shame but know.. if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all our unrighteous acts 1 John 1:9
Like the prodigal son coming home we too are met by the Father (cuz He loves us so much) who is running to meet us on the road home from our prodigal ways. Luke 15:11–32
God is not like that dog owner ready with a wrapped up newspaper poised to whomp us when we piddle (figuratively speaking of course). He loves us.
So did I help improve your impression on that Old Time Religion call to REPENT? I pray so, and I pray each of you experience God's Amazing Grace and restoration found when we humble ourselves and REPENT.
REPENTANCE it does a body (and soul) good.
Jeff (semi-retired & fully repentant) Larson
Never Never Hardly Everland (NNHELand) is a magical land where WE are all ok, and THEY are not.
In NNHELand we live by our three Statements of Denial.
1. At least I never ... (insert excuse here)
2. I am not as bad as... (so-in-so)
3. I’m sorry BUT... (insert here rationale making your apology unapologetic)
In NNHELand we can even reference our Bibles for a feel better about myself fix.
- Well at least I never tried to 'give away' my wife like Abraham.
- Well at least I never was 'saved by a prostitute'.
- At least I get along with my neighbors better than Samson did.
- Well, I know I married better than Ahab.. and married less than Solomon.
More 'I aint so bad after all' pick me ups can be found by attending church, and rubbing elbows with real life folk. The saints and the aints who again are.. ' abviously not as good as you'.
- I never have drooled into a dish at a church potluck. (I have seen this happen)
- I know the difference between figurative and literal unlike some.
- I do NOT think out loud.. most of the time
We all know Neverland is fictional and there is no Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, or Captain Hook, and also it is better to realize NNHELand is a land of make believe as in reality we are all sinners saved by Grace.
Truth be told the stories of flawed men and women of the Bible, in history, and today used by God who served God despite circumstances, limitations, and/or failings is inspirational.
Abraham the Liar - Becomes The father of a Nation
Moses the Murderer - Delivered Israel from Slavery
David the Shepherd Boy - Defeats the Giant, and becomes King
Noah the Boat Builder - saved mankind from the great flood
Peter and his sinking Faith - Was the Rock Jesus built his church on
Paul the persecutor of the Church - Becomes the first great missionary
No need to hide out in NNHELand as we are all sinners saved by God's Grace. Instead be faithful in the big and little ways in your life so God can bless and use you in ways that are beyond your dreams.
Jeff (Never Never Hardly Ever Sleeping in Church) Larson
Am I really good? Am I good enough for Heaven?
Hmmm.. well honestly I would say I am a pretty good guy. I did not keep a good tally of my bad behaviors versus good choices on my pocket abacus , but I still attest I am 'pretty good and not so bad'.
But no matter how good or bad I am, getting into Heaven is always about God's Grace and not about my relative goodness. His grace is sufficient. 2 Corinthians 12:9
So in my case, being pretty good never felt so.. good.
So rest easy there is no entrance exam to get into Heaven. You will not need to know the names of at least 10 of the 12 disciples, or know the names of the sons of Nahor in Genesis 22.
hint: Their names rhyme with fuzz.
At the Pearly Gates you will not be greeted by a Gate Keeper suspecting you of smuggling in contraband (ie devils food cake?).
The only question asked in 'Pearly Gate Redneck speak' will be
"if yer kin.. yer in."
note: This email is not a battle cry for mediocrity, or to strive to only be 'good enough', but only to clarify our goodness is tentative when compared to our perfect creator.
Our best is simply not good enough
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God Romans 3:23
our righteousness are as filthy rags Isaiah 64:6
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
This was great news for any thief on a cross, cartoonist (me) sitting on his office chair, and for station you are in life. AND.. There is no better day than today to get right with God.
Jeff (not nearly Good Enough) Larson
I would not claim I have a great memory and I am horrible with names. I confuse and/or forget names often, embarrassingly often.
But what I do remember clearly are my past mistakes/blunders/boo-boos and/or 'sins'. These memories are clear and hard for me sometimes to let go.
This 'Jeff Larson blooper reel' when played can spur on all sorts of regrets often accompanied with those ucomfortable feelings of shame and failure... BUT.. this is NOT what God intends..
for as far as the East is from the West so are our sins removed. Ps 103:12 from us once I ask forgiveness. This is good news for regret laden fellow like me.
I do need to ask forgiveness and be truly sorry and not saying sorry through clenched teeth, but once that is done.. forgiveness is full and complete.
The bible teaches us we are forgiven and God remembers our sins no more.
He will again have compassion on us.. you will cast our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19
This of course does not imply God is forgetful, but simply our sins are forgiven and we they should no longer be a weight on our hearts or minds.
Again.. If we confess our sins, God forgives us and remembers them no more.
The point is they are GONE so let your mind find peace in this great truth.
My prayer today is that God bless you with the assurance of His love. He forgives and forgets your every transgression, and he answers your prayers like the perfect Heavenly Father he is.
And.. He can and will restore you and I both in ways that are beyond our dreams.
important note: Not all regrets are due to past sins. Our honest mistakes, limited abilities, wrong choices, bloopers that were not sins can also haunt us.
Please read Isaiah 40:28-31, and Psalms 23 for messages of hope that is in our loving Heavenly Father.
Not so long ago there was a GEICO commercial featuring a Sumo figure skater with the tag line "Sumo Wrestler figure skating? Surprising! What's not surprising is what you can save on car insurance by switching to GEICO."
This is the kind of kind of absurd humor my Back Pew mind can appreciate and has inspired a few GEICO-esque cartoons
"Heavy Metal Yodeling?" Surprising. What's not surprising? How much money you could save by switching to GEICO."
I am still waiting for GEICO to call me back on this 'creative' concept, but so far..
'I hear crickets'.
So then I take a look at my collection of cartoons and found very quickly three more Heavy Metal cartoons. They are...
I believe with these cartoons I have demonstrated a GEICO like absurdity that I embrace. AND.. I believe there is very little if any spiritual message from these toons, but..
I will give it a try.
Heavy Metal Yodeling, Polka, Sunday School with Ozzy Ozbornagain .. surprising!
what's not surprising is God's Amazing Grace covers all our sins.
It's not surprising because we are loved with the perfect love of our Heavenly Father.
Ok, it's maybe not GIECO material, but the John 3:16 promise of Salvation beats the best of insurance plans.
So I pray today that each of you experience God's Amazing Grace, the promise of His presence in your lives today, and the promise of Heaven in your future.
Jeff (surprised often) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson