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.
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!
On October 31st (Halloween?) 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. Luther's 95 theses brought attention to corruption in the Catholic Church.
Luther appealed to the Pope to stop the practice of squeezing ‘indulgences’ from parishioners as ‘down payments’ on Heaven, and/or petition God to limit the time their dead loved ones spent in purgatory.
I know the Catholic Church still practices indulgences but I believe these gifts are seen as part of turning our attention from our sins and to The Church. I can't say I completely understand this, but that may be just my protestant upbringing.
Anyways Catholics and Protestants should all agree our salvation is found only in Jesus Christ as our savior, then loving God and serving others with our lives. The giving of money or anything resembling an indulgence should be an act of service to God not affecting our status in eternity.
Anyways, while we protestants sometimes are dismissive regarding the Catholic Church and their history with indulgences... but how does that 'speck' scripture go?
Be careful about pointing out the speck in someone else's eye when you have a beam in your own.
So 'INDULGE ME' as I share possible Protestant Church Indulgences?
It goes without saying God's house is special. We are to be reverent and generous in the space and resources we use for church. God does love a cheerful giver, but let's not lose sight of the Gospel Message compromised by the giving of protestant indulgences to men or buildings of men. Everything we have belongs to the Lord. Hebrews 10:2
Jesus said after clearing the Temple. “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of 'indulgences?'” Mt. 21:13 MSV (mega standard version)
ALSO.. beware our indirect indulgences outside of church where we justify indulging our wants that feed our social status and in the church. aka Indulgences of comfort and/or ego.
So I pray today for all believers that we return to a true pursuit of God not compromised by indulgences of self, churches and/or ministries. I believe this topic is an issue for us all to consider. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Mt 6:21
May God bless each of you and the churches you attend. No person or church is perfect, and when we stumble I pray we return our focus again to Him and His Gospel Message.
Jeff (getting off his soap box now) Larson
Of course we all know the Ten Commandments Moses brought down from the mountain.
These Commandments if obeyed would solve most if not ALL of societies Ills.
Paraphrased loosely 1. worship only God, 2. no idols, 3. don't take God's name in vain, 4. honor the Lord's day, 5.respect mom & dad, and.. 6-10. don't kill, commit adultery, steal, curse, tell lies, or covet.
These 10 Commandments are simple but profound directions from God to honor our creator and play well with others. Why would anyone disagree the 10 Commandments?.. unless of course you are the ACLU.
Now while I would never command anyone except my dog (though he does not always listen) I have opinions on everything and so I would like to add a few suggestions.
These suggestions are not delivered on stone tablets, but instead on this one digital blog via the web.. cuz stone tablets would cost too much in shipping charges.
But I digress..
BEHOLD... The Five Suggestions -
There you have it.. Five Suggestions that while they pale in comparison to the Ten Commandments you must admit.. but hey I'm Jeff not Moses so it's the best I can do.
May God bless your day with God's Truth, and obedience of His loving commandments.. and while you may not listen to my 5 suggestions.. at least you guys listen to your wife when she says you are not going out in public looking like that.
Jeff (out of suggestions) Larson
Our Father who is in Heaven, GREAT is your name.. Your kingdom come, YOUR WILL be done ON EARTH as it is in Heaven.
As many of you know this is the start of the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:9-13), and is what is not a part of this prayer to gloss over.
Your Will on Earth? So how is that working out?
With all the tension among believers I am looking for an MMA pay-per view event featuring Catholics v Protestants to determine once and for all.. who really is saved? It can't be the both.. can it? I mean, one of the two must be on the fast track to HELL.
Or will there be a Pro(testant)-Wrestling match with a high flying Beth Moore coming off the top rope attempting to way-lay John MacCarther.
But while I DO LIKE BUNNY TRAILS.. let us now return to the LORD'S PRAYER. God your will be done on Earth.. starting with .. Jeff.
Through my life (I am 63 now) I have prayed "Lord show me your will for my life." many times. At times regarding big decisions and that is a good always to seek the Lord and His will, but I have come to realize this prayer "what is your will for my life?" can become me-centric.
Prayers focusing on the right job, house, finding Mrs. Right/Larson, or even a car purchase wanting God's can become my own little Prosperity Gospel prayer rather than 'thy will' pointing to God's kingdom (souls saved, and a society honoring Him)..
Looking back I wish I could have heard an audible voice from Heaven telling me if I was close. :)
God could be heard from the Heavens with the words.. "Warmer, warmer.. hmmm.. colder, colder.. now you are FREEZING. And so I guess living in Minnesota and being COLDER is about what I deserve.
Truth is (insert light bulb moment for me here) The prayer "Lord what is your will for my life?" should be more specifically.. "Lord how can I serve you today, show me what I can do for your kingdom." "How can I be that part in the Lord's Prayer helping God's Will be Done?
What would that look like if God's will was being done by those of us in the church? What if we were faithful in the moments that make up our days? What if we truly worshipped God in words and deeds with our eyes first on God then on the needs of others? What would that look like.
Even my little Back Pew Ministry. I am blessed to be used by God in a way that He uniquely wired me. but even in my world of cartoons I can take my eyes off of humbly being used by God in this small way to praying for God to bless The Back Pew into being.. The FarSide, or Calvin & Hobbes of Christian cartoons, complete with a modest (OR.. substantial) income. "SHOW ME THE MONEY!"
In recent years I have become more intentional in pursuit of God. While I am and always will be a work in progress and not resulted in an exorcism of my old self, it has become both a convicting and inspiring journey where today my prayer is .. "Lord what is your will for my life going forward? How can I serve you? Lord help me NOT to bury my talents in the sand, but instead do my part so YOUR will is done on Earth as it is in Heaven. AMEN."
I write this hoping it does not take any of you 63 years to figure out God's will for you is to serve Him. But if it does, 63 is not too late. Love God, Serve God where your will is God's will.
May God bless you all in this journey of discovering who you are intended to be in God's Plan and for HIS Kingdom on Earth.
Jeff (slow learner) Larson -->
Neither rain, nor wind, nor gloom of..
Be still, and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10 SAY NO MORE, SAY NO MORE
note: the LGBTQ item above is the only one I made up.
Simply put, any ills our ill society can throw at us... with God's Help .. will not make me flinch.
.. as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Blessings, Mister Jeff Larson
note cartoons below from a simpler day reminding me when a Potato could be Mister Potato, when one mask was one mask too many, and when I knew the secret to being content.
I shared recently the Bible story where a mysterious voice saying "If you build it, they will come." happened way before the movie 'Field of Dreams'. This was when God spoke to Noah instructing him to build it (an Ark) and they (the Animals) will come two by two.
Next big event IMO in the book of Genesis paralleling pop culture was when the phrase 'Home of the Whopper'. Let me share how this pop culture phrase was coined way before a single Burger King fast food joint existed, and certainly before America's presidential election process. Let me explain.. but first..
ON THE ROAD AGAIN!
In Genesis 12 Abram enters the Old Testament story. Abram is maybe a spry 85 years young, his bride Sarai is maybe 70. The Lord tells Abram .. “Road Trip.!!.. pack up the Winnebago”.
So Abraham loads a destination of Canaan into his GPS and says goodbye to Sweet Home Haran with Lynard Skynard playing in the background.
HOME OF THE WHOPPER!
The next thing you know Abram was in Egypt with his wife Sarai while there was a famine in the land. While in Egypt, Pharaoh spies Abram's wife Sarai who rumor has it was a 'fetching' 70 year old hottie. So Abe tells a little fib that Sarai is his sister as he is afraid they will kill him to take Sarai as their wife. Ok, that is not a white lie this is a WHOPPER of a lie.
So Pharaoh takes Sarai into his palace, and treats Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels out of the exchange.
side note: I am not sure my wife in Sarai's place would have been such a good sport.
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
side note 2: While Abraham would become known as a great man of faith, Honest Abe was our 16th president and never confused with this Abram guy pawning his wife off in Egypt.
After Egypt, Abe travels to southern Canaan as a very wealthy man with cattle, silver, and gold. But tension arose between Abram and his nephew Lot because there were simply too many animals for the land to support. So Abe says to Lot, “Let’s not bicker over land. If you choose the land to the left, I will go to the right, and if you choose the land to the right, I will go to the left.” And Lot chooses the land in the direction of Sodom which could have been named LOT VEGAS!
In chapter 14, there were battles, but I gather that military tactics were a bit primitive. One particular lesson learned is still taught in the Soldier’s Field Manual at WestPoint stating a soldier should always avoid the short cut across the TARPITS.
During all this time, the Lord often reminds Abraham that he will be blessed by God so that to try to number his descendants will like trying to count the grains of sand on the shore, or the stars in the skies. There was of course the minor problem that AARP collectors Abram and Sarai had no kids.
So now the plot thickens as Sarai (the good wife) says to Abram, “Why don’t you sleep with my slave girl Hagar?” I have a couple of Back Pew comments with this part of the story.
1. When I think of Hagar, I think of that Viking cartoon character Hagar the Horrible.
2. My wife has never offered me a slave girl to sleep with! Of course if she did I would say very politely, “Why Mary, thank you very much for this most generous offer, BUT (with the vision of Hagar the Horrible in my head) I’m good.” I may not be a great man of faith like Abram, but my momma didn’t raise NO DUMMY!!
But Abram ignores the tell tale warning signs that this idea is DUMBER-ER than a bag of hammers, and wanders out onto THIN ICE IN THE HOT DESERT and says more than howdy-do to the lovely miss Hagar.
Hagar now becomes pregnant by Abram and Sarai lets Abram have it by probably saying something like, “I told you to sleep with her, but not SLEEP with her!” To which Abram so eloquently in his defense says, “Huh? What? But you said!!! I thought I could.... Huh?”
As you can read in chapter 16, this arrangement is nothing you ever see discussed on Focus on the Family, Oprah, or even The Jerry Springer show. These chapters are NOT in the Bible as an example how to model the perfect marriage, but to instead show us God is faithful and caring for Abram and Sarai even when they do really dumb things. Fortunately for all of us, our foolish choices are covered by God’s grace and goodness.
In chapter 17, God says to Abram to change his name from Abram, to Abraham. I wonder if this was so that he could start fresh and people would not know he was the guy who lied that Sarai was his sister, and slept with his wife’s slave girl. Sarai also has her named changed to Sarah. Then near the end of the chapter 99 year old Abraham is circumcised. This profound scripture emphatically reminds me not to complain about my own aches and pains. And all men collectively shout AMEN!!.. and .. YOWTCHEE!!
So there you have another story of a very flawed man used by God in great ways. I thank God for His love and grace not dependent on my perfection.
I pray God finds us all faithful in words and deeds and willing to hear God's voice when He calls us.
Jeff (my wife is not my sister) Larson
Narcissist - a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.
Today, a narcissist is a term thrown about to describe politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and pro athletes who appear to live a self-adoration existence believing they MUST share their 'enlightenments' to us 'common folk'. How else could we carry on?
Unfortunately, I believe narcissism is alive and well (actually a sickness) in the Church where 'celebrity' preachers' tweak God's Word for the itching ears of the masses seeking entertainment not God. These preachers are more concerned with offending society than God. note: never tweak God's Word, and never come to church for entertainment. Luke 18:10-14
Narcissism in the church exists when...
Also, a subtle church narcissism can be fueled by insecurities. We skew our thoughts often fueled by anxious busy minds, and/or hurt feelings to where we lose sight of God. These self preservation fears will drive us inward, and away from God's will as much as any of the above ego-motivated narcissism. Sadly none of us are exempt from the pull of 'Christian Narcissism'.
note: Of course Christian Narcissism is a oxymoron of Biblical proportions. The behavior of Narcissism is anything but Christian, but makes for a catchy title.
Recently my wife and I started a small group Bible study with friends from our church. We are reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer .. and in this short book Tozer prescribes the cure for Narcissism.
This is my prayer for God's Church. To pursue His Truth, and to serve in the church and in the world in ways that make us the Body of Christ. We (the Church) are one body with many parts (denominations, giftedness, talents) and designed for the Glory of God.
Jeff (one body, many aches) Larson
Drawing a line.. is a topic I can so easily relate to. Drawing lines, and coloring inside those lines.. and viola' I have a cartoon. Everybody loves cartoons.. ok, some of us more than others, but hey.. it's what I do.
Now the beauty and curse of a cartoon it allows me the liberty of exaggeration. Exaggeration in a world with big noses, bellies, expressions, and points of view. The lines drawn in cartoons are just outside the lines where reality exists and in this world, I am among friends.
So while I like cartoons and the work of great cartoonists they are obviously not likely found in an Art Gallery.
True art draw lines along with colors and shadows that are amazingly true to the subject of their creation.
This world of true art exists in sharp contrast to my world of cartoons with the above mentioned exaggeration of lines, shadows, and colors to distort truth for the purpose the humor or illustrate a particular point of view.
So then we come to God's Word, His never changing Truth. There are clear lines drawn within it's pages of right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate. The pages of our Bible's are TRUE ART. These lines are perfect with a message that is both honest and loving.
Of course using my finite mind I struggle at times to grasp the depths of these truths and honestly at times DO NOT UNDERSTAND what I am reading.. BUT.. never the less these NEVER CHANGING truths are constant, flawless, and does not need the collective so-called enlightenment of any man from Adam through this very minute including a certain cartoonist from Minnesota.
Here in lies the dilemma.. I observe a trend in today's church to believe the perfect lines of God's unchanging truths need to be redrawn. Too many believe the Bible is outdated and in order to fit God's word into their 'evolved cultured' sensibilities they in effect redact passages they do not agree with and/or use scripture out of context to fit their narrative. These man 'inspired' efforts draw new progressive lines and proceed to color outside the perfect lines of God's inspired word. These efforts make a cartoon out of God's perfect loving Bible truths.
Let me share examples of these sharp contrasting lines
SIMPLE RIGHT & WRONG
GENDER & MARRIAGE
LUST & ADULTERY
CARING V SELFISH
We are called to of course be sensitive, compassionate, and loving regarding all issues of the day but this includes God's firm loving Truths. Remember true love is found only in these firm Biblical Truths.
And.. the next time someone tells you "I like Jesus but not Christians because Jesus was about love. Christians are mostly judgmental, hateful, bigoted, sexist, patriarchal homophobes." In response to this read them Luke 12:49-5
Not Peace, but Division Luke 12:49-53 49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Finally, if we are not careful even those of us who are not progressives allow God's lines to be changed into a caricature at best, or even worse into a big ol' ugly cartoon instead of the beautiful piece of art God's Word is. STAY INSIDE THE LINES, LIVE INSIDE THESE LINES.
May God bless each of you with discernment regarding God's Truths while being salt and light in bitter dark society.
Jeff (Drawing lots of lines) Larson
I just finished reading the book 'The Danger of Shallow Christianity' by AW Tozer (can never lose by reading Tozer) where he in one chapter spoke on the dangers of living out of prosperity and adversity. One is self sufficient, one is hopeless. BOTH are wrong thinking.
Prosperity by the world's standards (money, status, lifestyle) have never been a 'problem' in my humble life. But prosperity can lead to the wrong thinking of self-sufficiency, and an air of superiority.
Adversity can be found on the other end of the spectrum of prosperity. Adversity can challenge us on to persevere through the challenges of life, or instead fuel anxiety, doubts, and even a sense of dread.
Now while prosperity has never been a 'problem' for me.. or even on the radar for me.. but adversity I can relate to. Don't get me wrong, life is good, but I have no illusions of being self-sufficient as my bank account can attest to. Also, I do relate to issues of doubt and insecurity.
Anxiety and depression are emotional first cousins that have come to visit me more frequently than I would like to admit.
Then let's add the realization I am not getting any younger. I am 63, wear bi-focals, a 'couple or 20' pounds over my ideal weight, and arthritis now speaks to me which I hear fine without the aide of my hearing aides.
Then, outside my control are societal ills including IMO oppression by Covid-19 related government mandates with more than a dash of 'Big Brother', political unrest, voter fraud, and a truly Godless media gaslighting lies while suppressing truth all to promote their own biased narratives.
We also have Social Media (ie Twitter & Facebook) actively suppressing conservative and traditional Christian free speech by allowing certain views to be spoken and others are 'fact checked into oblivion'.
It's not fact checking at all but is manipulating the public conversation by banning (ie fact checking) conservative and/or traditional Christian voices. THIS fans the flames of FEAR.
At the core of this suppression is not actually the politicians, but the 'we the people' who voted these partisans into office.
While I agree we all have the right to vote our conscience, but the problem is too many and too many in the church itself do not vote with a Christian world view.
We want to be 'progressive', and want the world to like us so we act like the world.
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
Too many in the church support
So the people in our country and in our churches (including me).. worry me.
This is The Smell of Fear in 2020
I share all this because I don't think I am alone. Many if not most of us face challenges that we did not sign up for. Our individual situations and/or challenges may be our own doing, or out of our control. It could be a diagnosis that compromises your life. It could be a lost job that was or was not your fault. Maybe problems in your marriage or with your children or grandchildren that break your heart. Maybe the issue is a vice/addiction. So we become afraid... and we can smell the fear.
The issue front and center for me today in November 2020 where Covid-19 is king, and FEAR is our God. It is dividing our nation, our families, it is suffocating our churches as we live muted lives zooming our faith instead of in person as God wants us to be. I know Covid-19 is a risk for the elderly and those with compromised health issues, BUT shutting down our economy and our freedoms have a cost too.
Through all this I know God to be the answer in my life. I believe He is loving, and NOT indifferent to any of our situations.
From Job to the Prodigal Son God was faithful and caring. Look through the Gospels and read Jesus teachings, and look at his examples where He listened, wept, He healed, and He was truth in love, and even on the cross he promised paradise to the thief on the cross next to him.
What a blessing it is to serve our loving God. The creator of the Universe is intimately interested in each us and our fears.
I pray God's blessings and providence for his church today, and for a lost world that needs to know our loving Savior. As the slogan goes No Jesus, Know Fear. Know Jesus, No Fear.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson