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
Remembering a BAD DREAM - In the fall of 2016 I woke up from my night's sleep crying from a horrible dream where I relapsed into the use of alcohol, and my wife told me I should leave.
Horrible dream? .. that's an understatement. It was still very dream like, but the thread of my past (the alcohol) shook me. It was not a horrible dream, it was a TRUE NIGHTMARE. And it was just 18 months after my last drink.
But then even as I became more awake and realized it was just a bad dream the song by Big Daddy Weave 'I am redeemed' came to my mind.
Alcohol was becoming something that is more and more in my rear view mirror, and my wife loves me (go figure). So I smiled big, became completely awake kissed Mary on the cheek and got up wanting to listen this song by Big Daddy Weave and blog the great truth. I AM REDEEMED.
That was four years ago, and I still have not had a drink. (Thank you Jesus, and Mary.. in that order)
Ok here Jeff goes again.. he is a cartoonist not a preacher, and not even much of a good-er'r writer. This is all true, but again more importantly .. I AM REDEEMED.
This is more of an uplifting message for me and many of you than any smile for a day cartoon. So with this intro,
let me share the lyrics for I AM REDEEMED.
link to youtube video of this song can be found -> HERE
Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me "son
Stop fighting a fight that's already been won"
I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed
All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, "Child lift up your head"
I remember oh God, You're not done with me yet
I don't have to be the old man inside of me
'Cause his day is long dead and gone
I've got a new name, a new life I'm not the same
And a hope that will carry me home
I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
Oh God I'm not who I used to be
Jesus I'm not who I used to be
'Cause I am redeemed
Thank God, redeemed
My prayer is that each of you realize YOU ARE or YOU CAN BE redeemed. All the prodigal son or daughter must do is come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and you are REDEEMED. Forgiven, the prodigal son or daughter. Praise God.
Jeff (redeemed in the Back Pew) 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 my wife and I attend a church that we really like. It is a friendly congregation represented by all age groups. The worship music is well done, and the preaching is straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and easy to listen to. The people are friendly and welcoming even in this season of all things COVID-19.
Next, let me share I am over 5 years sober now after it became apparent I was an alcoholic where drink was becoming a growing compromise in my life (off and on) for about the previous 15 years. It did not ruin life, 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... and of course my God.
I never did attend a recovery program until about a year ago when I attended a Celebrate Recovery program for a few weeks to see if it was right for me at this point in my recovery.
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, but .. 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 power, the God of our Bibles. This is our only hope for the alcoholic and ALL of the rest of humanity (aka sinners).
Life not so long ago..
Now after 5+ 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.
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 to be messy, even a beautiful mess.
So here I am convicted, and I thank God for this conviction. I now desire to be in the mess, and I will blend nicely as I am a mess. Together we love and support each other. Where one hurts all hurt, and when all rejoice we rejoice together (1 Cor 12:26).
God desires to RESTORE US to become the healthy body of Christ. 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. 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 today, and use you to serve Him in this very messy world. I pray for revival and restoration in our chaotic 2020 America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess inside and outside our church walls.
Jeff (plenty messy still) Larson
note: Recovery 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, etc. I pray we allow ourselves to be honest, and allow God to restore us from what ever has compromised our lives.
I wrote a while back about GETTING WHAT I DESERVE from God. I shared in this blurb I deserve God's Grace, I deserve His Love because I am a child of God and God the Father is the perfect parent, and even as an imperfect parent myself I would always forgive and forget and strive to be patient and graceful towards my kids no matter their mistakes.
This GETTING WHAT I DESERVE writing was met with mixed reviews as some shared Grace is a gift we do not deserve, and our goodness is as filthy rags in comparison to our creator. This is also true.
Here in lies for me the PARADOX as both seemingly contradictory statements are true. We are all God's children, and He desires each one of us choose Him, BUT I know first hand my weaknesses my failures, my selfish desires are sometimes far from the heart of God.
I could ramble on about this topic and may do so another day, but today I will use the PRODIGAL SON as a great story of this paradox. This rebellious son chose his own way with his own free will and was allowed by the father to separate his life and choices totally from the father. During this time he was still the son and was loved, but far from doing anything remotely obedient or loving.
Once the prodigal son hit bottom, he grieved his poor decisions and with his same free will CHOSE to return to the father who welcomed him NOT with scolding words of disappointment BUT with open arms and love and a celebration of a son who was lost but is now found. My son was lost but now is found.
This prodigal son was both selfish, sinful, rebellious, and also loved beyond description by his Father. Both aspects of the son were true.. he was a walking talking (smelling like a pig pen) paradox... and so are we.
Our very best is NOTHING compared to our Heavenly Father. He deserves and desires our love and appreciation but we have the choice to 'GO PRODIGAL' on Him. Isn't it great to be loved like this. Unconditional love that welcomes us back when we blow it.
Of course you may be like the other son who has NOT wandered far from home and was good, BUT please take on the heart of the father when those who have suffered prodigal moments have returned. We should celebrate the return of a brother or sister, and not EVER shake our heads comparing our relative goodness. Note: The very best of any of us is still truly filthy rags compared to our Father. Not shaming anyone, but the very best virtuous, moral, giving, talented, gifted orators are clanging cymbals without God's love. So be thankful, stay humble, and rejoice with others and with the Father always.
This PARADOX is the heart of the gospel. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 Two seemingly contradictory statements that are both beautifully true.
May God bless and use you today no matter if you are the good rule following child of God OR.. the prodigal who has wandered away YET AGAIN. Both of you are His children and you are loved, and you DESERVE HIS GRACE if you choose it.. because that is what perfect love does. Accept this paradox from God.
Jeff (A living Breathing Back Pew Paradox) Larson
The Back Pew believes it is ok to have a sense of humor and still be allowed in Heaven.
I am such a work in progress as my daily emails make clear. Today as I THINK OUT LOUD typing my thoughts, reflections, fears, anxieties let me share MY GRACE REALIZED.
A while ago I saw the movie Amazing Grace detailing the passionate enduring battle of William Wilberforce against a society and commerce built around slavery. Blacks were treated as cargo stored on ship like lumber, and the depth of this cruel time in history was the inspiration of a slave ship captain's repentance and writing the great hymn Amazing Grace. This movie was an eye opener for someone like me who's relative discomfort in life is misplacing the TV remote. I can never truly grasp the unspeakable ABUSIVE history of slavery, and while if there was a movie about my spiritual journey it may not be called Amazing Grace, BUT it could be called ‘A GRACE REALIZED’.
My GRACE REALIZED are those moments of peace.. where no matter my sins (aka mistakes in judgment, choice, vices), no matter my short comings I realize I AM A CHILD OF GOD. God’s Grace is not limited by a 30 return policy or 'pre-existing conditions'. LIMITS ON GRACE are from man (and woman), misguided churches, and the evening news.. BUT never from God.
Like many of you I am the product.. or byproduct of a world cluttered with rush hour traffic, bumper to bumper, a dog eat dog work world where GRACE IS RARELY REALIZED or shared. For having 60+ years of life experience I feel like such a slow learner… BUT this brings me back to the reality of a GRACE TO BE REALIZED. It is always there.. but without a paradigm shift of an oppressed mind towards God.. I will remain an underachiever.
So today I encourage each of you to accept God’s love, believe His words (our Bibles), and smile mon’ because you can and I can be refreshed and energized by A GRACE REALIZED. May God bless each of you in this journey where you love God with all you have, and love and care for others! May a ‘Grace realized’ for each of us be more than the name of the organist at our church, or.. the name of your church.
A Grace UN-realized is a life sold short of what God intends and what we desire!
Thus saith.. JEFF
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