First off for Covid-19 and this no good very bad year 2020 I claim Psalms 91:2,5-6
2 I will say of the Lord,
He is my refuge & my
fortress, .. 5 YOU WILL NOT
FEAR the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the
darkness, nor the plague that
destroys at midday.
Now onward and forward I go with today's blog..
Like a curbside garbage collection, Bring out your Dead was the title of a skit from Monty Python’s movie ..The Search of the Holy Grail. The setting was ‘Medieval Times’ where the Black Plague is running through the land. Those of you who have not seen this bit are rightfully cringing.. and it is dark humor done only Python can do.
Well in my cartoon brain I segue to.. 'Bring Out Your Dead' is the message of the Gospels. Again, I am NOT making fun of sickness or death, but SIN is the Spiritual Black Plague on mankind since Adam .. separating man from our sinless God.
Then the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls out ‘Bring out your Dead!’ and I will give you LIFE.” In fact Jesus said..
"The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10
HOPE where there was despair, and LIFE in place of death.
I must admit in the face of this truth .. I am not always living the victorious life God intends because I am a bit of a worry junkie which flies in the face of the peace that passes all understanding that God intends for me (see 2 Corinthians 10:5, and Philippians 4:7) I am good at borrowing trouble from tomorrow and if not careful with all that borrowing.. I build up a 'trouble' debt!
BUT I WANT LIFE AND WANT IT TO THE FULL! Not full like a protestant at a potluck dinner.. but instead full of God's peace and perspective and love that goes beyond any earthly circumstance.
So today is a good day to Bring out the dead in my life.. confess my fears failures, sins and trust that God's Grace, and be assured He is ALL THAT I NEED. Jesus is LIFE in a world that is DEAD.
Like Lazarus physically rising from the grave we are made spiritually alive in Christ.
Oh Death where is your victory?
Oh Death where is your sting?
I Corinthians 15:55
May God bless each of you with LIFE TO THE FULL.. motivated by a love for God and others.
Jeff (I'm not dead yet) Larson
THIS LIFE is filled with awkward moments. For example,
Ok, TMI I know, but in reading my Bible I discover I am not the only one with awkward moments to deal with.
There were miracles a plenty.. in my Bible leaving mouths hanging open speechless at the power of God. But of course as a cartoonist and self-declared humorist awkward silence in between the verses retelling these stories are a fine place for a awkward one-liners. For example, when..
all of the above and more from the the very pages of our Bibles cry.. AWKWARD!
BUT.. that was THEN.. This is NOW
The above are just a few moments that make me collectively cringe, smirk, and then realize the more things change the more they stay the same.
Today's world is still so very awkward in response to this life and God. We as Christians are to be in this world but not to be of this world, but awkwardly we attempt to do both. We reason.. 'Jesus is love so I should be about loving others'.. BUT.. in doing so we embrace the sins of this world. AWKWARD.
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15
So I pray we all stand strong for our God.. unwavering examples of His truth, and do so in love. To stand faithful in our words and deeds is to honor God and be a testimony to mankind.
May God bless and use each of you this day in ways that are beyond your dreams and even in the awkward moments of life.
Jeff (sitting awkwardly in the Back Pew) Larson
The Bible in many ways is a RULE BOOK FOR LIFE, but beyond the Bible lists of Dos and Don’ts I find JESUS LOVES ME. Not actually beyond this but wrapped around these rules for life is the truth Jesus loves me.
The Bible also includes many great and powerful acts of God ..
In the Old Testament there was..
In the Gospels Jesus ..
but.. with all these jaw dropping miracles they all are just very loud clanging cymbals with the great truth Jesus loves me and He loves you!
Jesus loves me, this is know.. cute Sunday School song, but.. why would the creator of this world love? It’s a miracle.
While It is nearly impossible to get to know the preacher in any modern day big church (no knock on big) but in contrast our omniscient, omnipresent creator is involved with His creation to the point where all the above mentioned miracles and all the details in between occurring from Genesis 1 through this moment is NOT indifferent to His creation, though mankind often walks the other way, God is always there. <-- side note: I just completed a 72 word run-on sentence of truth.
The words in our Bibles shout the truth of a personal God who loves us enough to send His us his son. From the Old Testament stories of providence, to the gospels of Jesus Christ, to the Acts of the first church, to the Revelations to John of what is to come... these are all LOVE STORIES from a loving God!
An indifferent God would not be so involved or patient with mankind and it's often prone to wonder actions of free will.
So In this 24/7 world of distractions from our creator, let’s realize JESUS LOVES US, and live out in response God's two greatest commandments. Love the Lord your God will all your heart, soul, and mind and others as yourself.
Jesus love me this I know! Go figure! Peace be Still! Jesus love me this I know! The rest is details.
Jeff (Jesus loves me this I know) Larson
sidepoint: I bought a coffee coaster that says.. Jesus loves you, BUT I'm His favorite. While this is of course not true ( He loves us all the same ) but I thought it was a cute smirky coaster.
As a kid, Star Trek was a favorite of mine. Not Captain Picard, the ‘real’ Star Trek with Captain Kirk Spock, Bones, and Scotty. Who every week would pursue ‘Space.. the final frontier.. to boldly go where no man has gone before!’
Now fast forward about 50+ years and I can be found watching the National Geographic channel where frequently they do segments on our universe (SPACE) and beyond.
Very cool stuff, and if you have not noticed.. it is a very big universe.
I am amazed when watching these shows the passionate pursuit to understand this truly infinite universe. Are there little green men on mars? Was everything we know created from the BIG BANG? What is a black hole, a super nova, dark matter… and much much more. Think of all the man hours and the MONEY spent in the pursuit of .. Captain Kirk’s Final Frontier.
National Geographic channel also has many shows where archeologists and theologians seek truth in the great stories of our faith. What is a very interesting bit of IRONY of biblical proportions is that astronomers, theologians, and archeologists all should find at the end of their pursuits is a creator who in my opinion is the God of our Bibles.
So while Captain Kirk spoke that space is the final frontier, .. to explore the creator of the Universe instead of the Universe using scientific and Biblical evidence is the FIRST but most overlooked frontier.
Is there a God? Then is this God the God of our Bibles?
AND.. if a decision is made that there is a God, what is to be our relationship with Him? Is it personal, or is God a lofty distant deity?
Is there a spiritual realm beyond the physical elements in front of us? Is there a Heaven and Hell? AND..
Is there need for a SAVIOR for this world? John 3:16
Personally, I believe in.. one God and He is the God of our Bibles. I believe He is personal and His love and grace for each of us is beyond my comprehension. I believe He is omniscient, omnipresent, and the creator of this vast universe that astronomers and Captain Kirk boldly pursue.
I believe there is a way to God and it is through Jesus Christ the son of God (John 14:6), and that finding Jesus and accepting Him as our savior is the most personal eternity changing discovery anyone can make.
Jesus loves me this I know.. and Amazing Grace how sweet the sound. The first is a classic children’s song/truth and the second is one of the great hymns/truths of our Christian faith. To know these songs and to live them is life, and everything else is .. trivial pursuit.
I know needing a Savior sounds like church speak, but it is simply the truth that we all need a savior. We may pretty good folk, but to ignore the pursuit of our creator and realizing we need a savior should not be put off (Romans 3:23).
My prayer is for those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior. It is as simple as speaking to God and to acknowledge your desire to understand and know Him. It is to realize we need him as our glaring humanity is weak even when we are pretty good folk.
Blessings.. and may the force (aka God in Star Wars speak) be with you on this final and most urgent frontier!
Jeff ( Frontiersman? ) Larson
In the month of August in the year 2020 I celebrate my 63rd birthday, my 36th wedding anniversary.. AND it is my 57th anniversary for accepting Jesus into my heart ironically while sitting in the Back Pew of a little country church during Summer Bible School in my home town of Cable Wisconsin. John 3:16
Q. Should a fella receive a Gold Watch on my 50 YEAR 'Jesus in my Heart' Anniversary? asking for a friend.
Seriously, this was truly a cornerstone moment in my life. OK, I admit at age 6 I had neither a grasp on theology or anatomy but it was the very real beginning of my Christian journey.
Now 50+ years as a follower of Jesus Christ I am still a work in progress. I have made my share of compromises, bad choices, and had many regrets over the years.
But I look back fondly at that day in 1963 when I accepted Jesus in my heart. He has been there through all my ups and downs. I may have wandered a ways on my Prodigal Son vents a few times, but He was always there for me when I return.
So on this August day in 2020 I look forward to the next curve on life's road, and see the sun and son shining in my life. I am not ready to get off the ride, and the reward of Jesus in my life is better than any old Gold Watch.
Jeff (50+ in the Back Pew) Larson
It is common knowledge in the church that all those who accept Jesus Christ as their savior automatically receive an eternal life insurance (ELI) plan protecting them from Hell Fire . This ELI plan is a must for all those who value eternity.., I highly recommend it. No monthly premiums to remember, so why not sign up today.
But, besides the ELI policy featured in the Gospels I was concerned regarding the life and health insurance needs for an extremely violent Old Testament. What happens what tragedy strikes?Then after researching Google and after about 7 red bulls at 3 a.m. I uncovered the little known but powerful insurance plan known as the Aflack Apocrypha Comprehensive Insurance Plan (AACI). AACI covered the following significant Bible moments and more..
Other probable insurance claims I noticed were..
So there you have it.. The Aflack Apocrypha (AACI) . This was the original 'We know a thing or two cuz we've seen a thing or two' insurance company.
Note: I am pretty sure this illustrated blog/writing/policy outline will NOT become an accepted part of the canon of scripture, but I am ok with that since I confess.. I never googled the Alfack Apocrypha.. I made it up.. (insert shock & awe here). I don't drink red bulls, and I certainly at my age am not up at 3 a.m. unless I have to pee. TMI TMI
note: If you have great Health, Dental, and Vision insurance now.. GREAT.. but if you don't have the assurance of Heaven in your future (John 3:16).. then you are under-insured. There is only one way to Heaven (John 14:6). In this case there is no better time than NOW to give your life to God.
May God bless you with health and good insurance on Earth... and the promise of someday Heaven with our Jesus.
Jeff ( Insured by Grace ) Larson
I Remember back when I was a kid in gym class and did not want to be that last kid chosen for a team? Well I don't like to brag (as I puff out my (almost) 63 year old chest, not my gut it puffs out on it's own) but I was not that kid. I loved sports and was a decent athlete even if the game was dodge-ball I was always a solid pick. Of course if there was a robotics team back then I may have been been that last pick, then placed on the 'my brain hurts' injury reserved list.
We can all breath a sigh of relief God does not operate that way. He seems to like the odd ducks, and unlikely picks to be on his team, even LEAD his team. Hmm.. I might even be chosen on God's robotics team. :)
So here is a partial list of those God chose for his team.
Noah was Mr. 'if you build it they will come'. These were the paraphrased words of God from the book of Genesis as 600 year old Noah is chosen to craft an Ark with his 100 year old sons. And.. not just any Ark, an Ark in the desert.
Abraham was a spry 75 years old or so when called by God to pack up the Winnebago (figuratively speaking) and hit the road.
So much for the Golden Years. "I will make you a mighty nation you." Thus saith the Lord.
A mighty nation?.. Abe and the Mrs. were past the age of having their own kids, so unless God is talking about some 'Mighty Nation' app for his smartphone then he did not know how this was going to happen.
Moses, the exiled (for murder) prince of Egypt is working in a land far far away as an overqualified sheep tender when God speaks to him from a burning bush.
"Moses .. you and I are going to free the children of Israel." Ok, mostly I will but do I have a job for you." - Thus saith the Lord.
I don't know about you, but I would not have chosen a guy on the run for murder who smells like sheep.
Speaking of sheep, how about the Shepherd boy chosen by God to slay Golaith, and later becomes king!
A 5'8" 145 lb Junior College linebacker has a better chance trying out for the Chicago Bears than David did in defeating a Giant.
The safe money was all bet on Goliath, but God chose David and that is what mattered.
Then off to the New Testament..
How about the choosing of who would be the mother of our Savior. Mary was blessed among woman and obedient to God. Jesus father would be carpenter. Our Heavenly Father picked Mary and Joseph to be mother and father of Jesus.
Then we have the choosing of the 12 disciples. Budding theologians they were not. Jesus chose a bunch of fisherman and a few other rag tag everyday folk to be with him as the Gospel message of salvation was shared.
How about that moment when the thief asked Jesus to remember him in Heaven.
"This very day you will be with me in paradise." were the words spoken by Jesus to the thief on the cross shortly before he died.
The spiritual resume of this thief from what we know was pretty light, but that is how big God's Grace is.
Now it's time to choose an Apostle to lead to share the gospel message to the world. Who would God choose #1 in the very first 'Missionary Gospel Draft'?
The number one pick is Saul of Tarsus.. Saul? The same Saul who recently could be found attending the stoning of Stephen? Yep, that Saul. Yes God chose Saul aka Paul. That is all that mattered.
"Saul why do you persecute me?" were the blunt words of Jesus from a blinding light while Saul was on the road to Damascus.
"I've got good news and bad news. First the bad news.. your cushy leader of the Pharisees job is going away. The good news.. You will be my very first Missionary." - Thus saith the Lord.
I may be going out on a limb, but I don't see many literal burning bushes, or blinding lights on my horizon, but I do believe I am chosen and capable.
Not that it makes sense based on our relative and limited qualifications, but in fact we are all chosen by our loving Heavenly Father. Chosen not only to be a part of God's Kingdom, but also to serve in big and small ways.
So do not keep God in a box, and a lid on what is possible with regards to the blessings and opportunities to serve.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:8
Just like Isaiah, be listening for God's leading in big and small ways, and when God calls on you.. reply "Here am I. pick me! pick me!"
May God bless and use you in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS and all that God intends.
Invertebrate: an animal lacking a backbone, such as an arthropod, mollusk, annelid, coelenterate, .. and some forms of Christians.
But first a bunny trail>
With all things COVID-19 related it is easy for everyone including Christians to hyperfocus on this very real health risk. So hyperfocused that we almost forget to breath. Almost.
But the world does not truly go on hold. Life is still lived and as Christians we should not lose focus on Jesus and living out His truth. The evening news does not give you truth.. it gives you what will get you to watch their 'shows'. Cynical much? you ask. No, I think of it as being realistic.
So no matter, we all of course need to be careful, stay healthy but this is NOT the Black Plague. Stay informed, but don't swallow the bait cast out every night at 6pm at your favorite news fishing spot.
<End of bunny trail
Now put down your Purell for a moment and let's talk about the Church. Not the buildings where we all gather in, but those good folk called to be the body of Christ.
A strong body will have bones, muscles, a heart pumping, brain thinking, lungs breathing, and we have eyes, ears, nose to enhance our senses to the world around us. This is why the body analogy works well in describing the Church and how it should function. All parts of the body are different but important.
So here is my concern of the day.. the church appears to suffer at times from a hardened and/or weak heart.. and our brain perplexed while attempting to blend God's truth into a 'very' secular world view (a true square peg in a round hole dilemma). Of course we should instead share how this very secular world needs to align with God's Truth.
AND.. then my cartoon mind smriks.. Maybe the Church is an invertebrate? Spineless, unable to stand up in this sinful world.
At the very least the church appears to be slouching.. and maybe the slouching is because it has no spine.
Spineless Christianity? I am 62 years old guy with chronic back issues. Images of my spine a few years back indicated I have several bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and arthritis that give me at times considerable pain. So The Bad News is.. I have pain. The Good News is.. I have a spine!
But I have grown fond of my spine.. not sure I could live without it. LITERALLY.
So goes the same when we talk about the Church Body. The Church must have a spine (stand unflinching with God's Truth with no apology) or I believe will die.
Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. .. John 15:18-19
AND THEY DID hate Jesus for sharing God's unflinching loving truth. Not in rude manner we 'Christians' sometimes are known for, but the kind of love/truth where Jesus spoke more about Hell then He did Heaven. It matters eternally what we believe, what we say, or DON'T say.
But, we the Church worry, dare I say is afraid.
People won't like me and/or laugh at me. They will label me just another judgmental hypocritical bigot. I'm cool, really.. but ..
Hmmm.. let summarize my concern with these attitudes.. Any Church (or person) without Biblical convictions.. that does not follow Christ teachings, listen to the Holy Spirit cannot truly worship/obey God and.. is maybe not really a Christian. And certainly appears to be a 'Christian Invertebrate'
To exist in a luke-warm compromised Oprah Winfrey morning blend of religions that serves self with at best a wink and a thumbs up gesture towards Heaven will not get you to Heaven, and certainly not lead others to God.
So what better time than now to grow a SPINE. In the midst of the pandemic panics, partisan politics, border & homeless crisis, racial tensions, failing marriages, and LGBTQ confusion we (The Church) best grow a spine. I MEAN NOW.
It has been a long time since I was a student in Biology class but I am pretty sure our physical bodies cannot grow a spine. And I can't go to a body junk yard and pick up a spine that is used but in pretty good condition (no arthritics, or bulging discs) to replace my aching back.
But in contrast I believe any church body with a repentant heart desiring revival, and obedient to God's unchanging Truths (His Word) can be restored by God for His glory.
A Church Body with a Heart/love for God & others, with hands and feet serving God and others, and our minds renewed (Ro 12:2) and obedient to God's unchanging truths .. God will bless us as we stand tall and straight for God in this crooked world.
And just like that. Viola' - The Church has a spine again.
May God bless you and the Church to be seeking Him. May He find us faithful, standing straight for His truth in this twisted secular world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Mt 5:16
Jeff (aching back) 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
As the final week of Jesus continues, we find Jesus frustrated with more than just a case of the Mondays. This special Monday he enters the temple where it was reduced from being God's House of Worship to a first century Holy Land Mini Mall.
Of course in my Back Pew way of looking at things I have imagined and illustrated a few of these temple violators. There were The Temple ..
All these and more turned the temple into as Jesus called it "a true den of thieves". So I guess frustrated was a true understatement as I will call Jesus state of mind The Temper in the Temple.
After turning over a few tables Jesus left the temple not in the mood for encountering a 'fig-free-fig-tree' which he promptly cursed. This was a lesson NOT LOST on his disciples.
It is not fair to assume the mind of Christ, but from my human perspective I imagine Jesus did feel the elation of his triumphant entry that first Palm Sunday.
Then Jesus frustration of this broken world where on Monday the Temple was shameful, and the fig tree bore no fruit.
Simple emotions for someone like me but deeper and more complex for our Savior as his foretold arrest and crucifixion were only days away.
While my cartoons are a smirky look at very real biblical events my prayer is we remember the Holy Week. Remember and honor the amazing truth of salvation realized between that first Palm Sunday and that first Easter morning.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson