I am one of those folks who likes my food ever so slightly overcooked. I like the cheese on my pizza to be golden.. a 'dark' golden, and toast my bagel dark so to contrast with a spread of cream cheese. I want my bagel to CRUNCH when I bite into it. And I like DUSK.. where the sun has just dropped peacefully below the western horizon but before the black of night,
Of course choosing dark over light in the tasty matters of food or sunsets is fine, but in matters of the SPIRIT.. always choose the LIGHT.
This Present Darkness is a Christian novel by Frank Paretti published in 1986 showing the reader a view on angels, demons, prayer, and spiritual warfare while demons and angels interact and struggle for control in our lives and communities. And though this book was fiction, I believe this battle is real.
Of course there is obvious DARKNESS in this world, but I am surprised by many Churches maintain a Frog in the Boiling Pot perspective on life where God is fit into societal norms rather than the other way around as God intends. The temp is going up, but we the church are too often oblivious... and actually enjoying this Jacuzzi of the soul.
"In God We Trust" may be the official motto (for now) of the United States of America, but in this world's shadows we move closer to a Godless reality found in Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
How else can explain our society where
All this madness happens and honestly I am not sure the church knows how to handle it. I observe many if not most churches are afraid of secular man and public opinion rather than afraid of disobeying God.
If anyone espouses traditional Christian values we are deemed judgmental, hateful bigots or worse. But what of that? They hated Jesus first for telling loving truth, so why are we afraid to be hated for the Gospel?
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3:19-21
So these very words of Jesus make it clear.. It matters what we believe, our choices matter. JESUS WAS NOT TALKIN' TOAST. We are commanded in loving firm truths to stay in the light by Jesus. He does did mince word and the world hated Him for it.
So I prayer God finds us IN THE LIGHT, living in obedience to His word, loving and truthful in our words and deeds with others, and never lingering in this world's shadows.
Enjoy this life in the LIGHT.
Jeff (dark toast please) Larson
I like the old saying ‘That fella is so Heavenly minded, they are no Earthly good.’ This describes a person is so in to church and ‘churchy’ things that they don’t add much value or function outside of church walls. He can barely change a light bulb let alone the oil on his car.
Over the years I have smirked at a person or twenty that fits that description, BUT I have come to believe the irony is actually there are too many people are so EARTHLY minded to be much HEAVENLY GOOD.
It's just too easy to be caught up in this pace and 'stuff' of life (good and bad) to where God is put on the back burner. Instead of starting my day quiet before God, reading my Bible, and prayerful I often clutter my life with the very real demands of work, family, rush hour traffic, and.. maybe what is on the TV and become simply more EARTHLY MINDED than HEAVENLY GOOD.
The real irony is.. When I drift from God is NOT when I am too busy or stressed but instead when life is good. No immediate worries or concerns so I relax my dependence, praise and appreciation of God to again become so earthly minded... and erroneously feelings of being self sufficient. Maybe even a little bit proud.
So while I don’t want my life to look as out of place as an Amish folk high rollin' in Las Vegas.. I do want my spirit, and life to start and end with God. A place where my personal faith shows through in all that I do and say.
My prayer for all of you is that this day and always be a life in love with God, and a life where God is not fit in around the details of the day. That sweet spot where our minds on God/Heaven impact our lives on Earth.
May your life be blessed and USED by God in ways that have both Heaven and Earth in mind.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Mt. 6:10
Be 'Blessed and Used' of course in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS and all that God intends for you!
Back in my working days.. I would sometimes say with a smile.. "I never met a sick day I didn't like." And let's be real, no one wants to waste a sick day with strep throat, or a 102 fever. It makes more sense to be 'a little under the weather' and call in sick when the sun is shining.
Looking back I realize so many followed MY LEAD that Human Resources departments across the country coined a more user friendly term.. PTO (personal time off) days.
So I personally believe I was the catalyst in the creation of PTO. No more calling in and fake coughing.. no more intentional weak voices. Now with PTO you can simply call in to work with a strong voice and say .. "I'm not gonna come in to work, there is Netflix binge watching that needs my attention.
So for all of you that have benefited from PTO ..
YOU ARE ALL WELCOME.
Don't look at me that way.. Are you saying you never feigned a sick day? Hmm.. how about did you ever take such a day off and called it a 'mental health day'? Ok then, at least I was not claiming to be 'sick in the head' .. LIKE YOU!
But more far reaching than any random sick or PTO days you may have there is a much more concerning is the today's headline where Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) has been declared a global pandemic by the Center of Disease Control, and the World Health Organization. This sobering bit of news has put our lives on hold until further notice.
In response to COVID-19 were are closing of schools, stores, restaurants, sporting events, churches, and about everything else you can think of. The practical affects of this troubling news are the shortages of canned goods, cereal, and.. toilet paper. TOILET PAPER?
side note: I heard someone say if you are hoarding TP you most likely have a greater 'problem' (rogue IBS?) than catching COVID-19.
But very seriously.. the real health risks of Coronavirus are not to be ignored. My understanding is those especially at risk are over 65 years old, or with compromised immune systems.
BUT.. honestly I am even more concerned with the over-zealous domino overreach of governments, schools, churches, etc etc.
This will fuel far reaching economic and societal problems that may be more serious than the very real health risks. The longer this continues the greater damage is done.
So I pray.. for God's protection, and His wisdom to be displayed in ALL our leaders at all levels, and that it is not reduced to a partisan issue instead of it being an American issue.
So I pray ALSO.. for a return to God as this is a time where we can be quiet (we are like on a government timeout). This is a time to pray, read God's word, and then.. pray some more. A time to un-clutter our lives, our minds, and unplug from many of the subtle entrapments of our modern life. Maybe.. LESS is MORE.
Share and talk with friends about important issues, and about life. Pray for God to speak to you and to others without the 24/7 din of life. Spend more intentional time with family regaining perspective on what is important.
Let go of things.. minimize the madness, rethink your financial priorities, and just say no to the evening news SHOWS/PROPOGANDA.
AND of course be careful to stay safe and healthy without letting Corona run your lives.
Also, I have heard it said more than a few times..
I am concerned that our society and even the church is more focused on a possible pandemic than a pending panDAMNit. (Maybe a poor choice of puns, but you get my point.)
May God bless and protect all of you during this time. May the peace of God be realized in your lives through this pandemic and anything that comes our way.
Jeff (not even a sniffle.. yet) Larson
With this all being said I would not be a true Christian cartoonist if I did not also share what I will call...
' All Things ILL in The Back Pew'
Where do you think you are going (or yer goin' for us rednecks at heart).? Honest question that can be asked of most of us. And many times the answer is.. "you can't get there from here."
This is true on many a road trip where I was lost, or took what I thought was short cut. This is true for many a college graduate looking for a high paying job in Corporate America with a Masters degree in 'Cartoon Art History' with a minor in 'Bagpiping'. Or being mountain climber aspiring to climb Mt. Everest, but afraid to leave your home state of Nebraska. Or taking a road trip from California to Hawaii. In all these cases and more.. the answer is .. you can't get there from here.
While these may be absurd and hopefully amusing examples, there is a more alarming examples in today's culture. I observe a concerning trend in church as a Sunday social club where we go to be fed/entertained every week but never go deep, but do not devote my life to God except to be a pretty good person. Will being a pretty good person get me to Heaven, or does God expect more of me? Where do I think I am going? Heaven? This is not a pointing my finger at anyone else before I point it at myself. Is my life foremost about ME, or is it about my God? Honestly, what is my answer?
The following are a few scripture passages, that are convicting and give clarity to this question? Where do I think I am going?
I Never Knew You
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Mt 7:21-23
What good is it to love those who love you?
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Lk 6:32-36
So based on the road I have chosen for my life.. am I going to Heaven or not? How about you? It matters eternally what we believe so choose the God of our Bibles. There is no other God.
But many are Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or simply believe in a 'higher power' and so we all believe basically the same thing, right?
I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, Is 45:5
Now you may argue with me that I am wrong, but this is what I believe. So the answer for me to the statement we all believe in basically the same thing is.. If you want to get to Heaven.. You can't get there from here.
So take these words for what it is worth. I am sure I am preaching to the choir for the most part, but even us in the choir need to daily turn to God, serve Him first and foremost in our lives.. go beyond being a good person. And for those not in the choir, I respect where you are at, but prayerfully take to heart the issue of Eternity. It matters what you believe and where you place your faith. Placing your faith in Jesus, and pursuing God first in your life, then with regards to eternity, and Heaven.. You CAN get there from here.
May God bless and use us all with our lives for his glory. Amen.
Jeff (a little bit lost sometimes) Larson
important note: The alternative to not getting to Heaven from here.. is Hell. It is our choice alone. Heaven is the free gift from God to those who place their hope and lives in Him. Hell is the awful other choice we all are allowed to make. There is no home (eternal existence) in between for being simply a good person.
Location, location, location are the three rules of Real Estate. I have found this true in my own life as a homeowner, and all the way to eternity.
The other week our pastor was going through a study in Nehemiah about rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Not making a political statement about walls here, but my cartoonist brain pictured Nehemiah looking like a certain president who I won't name (but rhymes with BUMP) in building this wall and having Persia pay for it.
The rebuilding of this wall detailed in Nehemiah 3 included a number of gates. There was the Fish Gate, Old City Gate, Valley Gate, Fountain Gate, and <insert drum roll here>.. the DUNG Gate.
Now I can see building a home in a new development at 2003 Fountain Gate Circle, or living in a 2-story home at the end of a cul-de-sac at 156 Old City Gate Way, or a split level home on 1 acre of land at 927 Fish Gate Drive, maybe a fixer-upper at 633 Valley Gate Place, but a home address of 102 Dung Gate Rd? I guess that is where people lived before they could live on the 'wrong side of the tracks'.
Over my almost 62 years I have lived in a number of homes and locations, and my wife and I have now have settled into a town-home near our kids and grand-kids. I jokingly call it our final resting place.. meaning I DON'T WANT TO MOVE NO MORE!
I have never lived the so called 'good life' in a high status neighborhood, but God has been good and every house we have lived is blessed with good memories (and a few bad) of faith, family, and friends.
Of course some day we all have the promise of Heaven.
You could say Heaven is a (Pearly) gated community where all are invited, but.. only those who choose Jesus Christ may enter. He is the ONE WAY to Heaven, not one of many ways so it matters what we believe and where we place our faith.
My prayer today is that your location in life includes Jesus Christ. It matters not to God if the location of your physical home today is a mansion or you are literally on the wrong side of the tracks. Our true home and joy should not found in the approval of man, but the approval of your Heavenly Father.
May God bless and use you greatly today even if you live at 102 Dung Gate Rd.
Jeff (Down-sized) Larson
Heaven Already? It seems like only yesterday I was 6 years old when I accepted Jesus into my heart in Summer Bible School in the very little town of Cable Wisconsin.
"Ok then, I am still here doncha know" <--Minnesota Speak but there will be a day when I will say Heaven already?
Truth is no matter if I had made the trip to Heaven as a child or if I am cut down in the 'prime of life' at age of 100.. it is a relative thing.
So Heaven already?.. is the appropriate question with eternity in mind when my time arrives.
This side of Heaven is a drop in the ocean of eternity. Imagine life free from this broken planet of pain, strife.. and certainly no 24/7 News Channels/Shows! That all by itself sounds like Heaven.
It was Just a year ago my mom at age 88 passed away and the answer to the question 'Heaven Already?' was NOW. Maybe not on a Stair-lift to Heaven through the clouds, but I still hear Heaven is great.
- can't you just hear the Led Zeppelin Worship Band playing?
In Heaven is my mom with no more pain, glasses, hearing aides, diabetes, walker. This makes me smile.
This makes me ponder my Heaven Already day. No more back pain, bi-focals, hearing aides, arthritis, or any of the many other ailments I am prone to mumble about. I think I have even been operating for a few years with my personal 'check engine light on'.
So on my Heaven Already Day I will be.. Jeff 2.0 I can't wait for the upgrade!
Thankfully Heaven is not like my cartoon world of Heaven where everyone is halo'd up and wearing white robes (a daunting laundry robe task I am sure) while wandering around in clouds. Good news, I am pretty certain Heaven is much better.
In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:2
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Mt 25:34
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,”What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:7-9
While these scriptures do not dismiss the pain and suffering of the dying, nor discounts our grieving hearts, but the promise of Heaven will be realized for all who love God.
May God bless and comfort each of you with this unimaginable promise of Heaven. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Colossians 3:2
Jeff (on a holding pattern) Larson
Well, I cannot stop Father time.. or in my case grandfather time. I will be 60 in 10 days, and if the calendar did not tell me that.. my body reminds me often.
I can't complain though, or rather I shouldn't complain. I am in many ways healthier than I was even just a few years ago. My blood pressure is very good, my weight is down 35 lbs from it's high water mark of 257, and I no longer drink alcohol (should'a figured that one out a long time ago). Now on the flip side, I now have hearing aides, a stronger bi-focaled eye prescription, and I describe through exaggeration my spine as a shaken up can of Pringles.
Along with grandfather time shouting into my new hearing aides, he reminds me of my mortality. When I was 20 this was never a subject I gave much thought to, but that was 40 YEARS AGO.
Ok, so far I have pondered getting older so let's move on to the topic of .. DEATH, and also.. ETERNITY. Oh great you are thinking, now Jeff is going to share his funeral home collection of cartoons. WRONG. :) I don't have funeral home cartoons.. yet. What I do want to share is the hope of Heaven. Not like I hope I win the lottery, but a infinitely better reward than a lottery, and with certain (100%) odds of Heaven.
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”
Oh death where is your victory, where is your sting? These are also the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:55) not Edgar Alan Poe. Paul continues.. 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Of course, this life does not guarantee us 80, 60, or 20 years, and no matter and our lives are a mere drop in the ocean of eternity. We cling to this life on Earth so tightly and that seems only right, but let's not hang on too tightly where we lose sight of Heaven.
May God bless each of us with real joy during our lives on Earth even when 'we' become 60 with hearing aides, bi-focaled eyes, and a spine like a shaken up can of Pringles. Sorry, I digressed. May God find us faithful in the moments that make up this life.
Jeff (achy breaky almost 60) Larson
I am not complaining.. I guess most would not say lovely and Hell in the same sentence, but as a cartoonist it means I was working on cartoons regarding the 'other' land down under.. WAY DOWN UNDER. These cartoons all reside in my BP HELL page.
So while the sun shines brightly here on a warm summer day in Minnesota I am in my office airbrushing Satan a nice a shiny red, and tidying up the road to Hell (Route 666).
Of course Hell is anything but funny, and I believe it is real. I don't know what it is or what the torments are, but I do know I don't want to go there. At the very least I fear it is the complete absence of God. An absence that has never fully been experienced during any lives on Earth. That alone is good enough to keep from playing close to the line.
This concludes my deep theological views of Hell.
I observe a favorite parlor game for protestants is deciding who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. This is an topic subject to ponder, but thankfully those choices are made by our perfect loving God. His judgments are fair, and his grace is truly amazing.
Consider The parable of the worker (Mt. 20:1-16) who was hired at the end of the day but still received a full days pay. Or the Thief of the Cross who was saved by Jesus moments before his death. Think about how powerful this Grace is to save a man that we know nothing else about except he was a convicted thief. Not much of a resume if judged by man, but he was NOT judged by man, he was saved by God's grace.
This Amazing Grace redeems lives and saves souls from Hell, and this same Grace that saved that Thief on the Cross is the same 'Amazing' Grace that saved me when I was six years old in Summer Bible School... and is available to anyone on any journey.
May God bless each of you this day with His presence, His love and Grace that is there when you are on the mountain top or deep in a valley.
Jeff (Back Pew) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson