"He who dies with the most toys wins." This quote was attributed to flamboyant millionaire Malcom Forbes in the 1980s.
You can't take it with you." In stark contrast Jesus taught in the story of the Rich Young Ruler in Mt 19:16-26.
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
While it was clear no big ol' hairy humped desert beast could pass through an eye of any needle, the 'eye of the needle' Jesus refered to was a small gate in Jerusalem where a camel could only pass through if it stooped and had its baggage removed. Not impossible but difficult, and the camel could take it (anything) with him.
Now I should be safe from being convicted by the teaching of the rich young ruler as I grew up in a lower middle class home and my 'wealth' since then is barely a blip on any money radar. BUT.. Wealth is a relative commodity, and I believe there is a lesson here for all of us.
ME ME ME ME FIRST!
I may not have wealth, but.. I am convicted there are things that keeps me from really following Jesus? How about you?
Maybe our toys, hobbies, sports, friends, family (yes family), or simply maintaining my comfort keeps me from being ALL IN FOR JESUS?
I desire to put God first.. but there is a lot of ME in me. I like, I want, I slip up, and am afraid of messing, and/or give up my time to serve Him..
SO I KNOW.. whether a 'Rich Man' or a 'Poor Man' it is clear to me we daily need to say to God I am yours. This pursuit of Him is through prayer, Bible (God's word), fellowship, and an intentional effort to serve Him in big or small, whether rich or poor, in sickness and in health (like a marriage vow).. all to the Glory of God.
My prayer is all of the RICH and POOR folk of God be faithful in the lives we live and the resources we are blessed with. May we all be about the business of sharing Jesus to a world that is lost as 'One body, many parts'.. God bless y'all!
Jeff (relatively poor and content) Larson
Lukewarm Coffee (The LWC) is that Twiligtht Zone coffee existence between hot and cold brews where a well intended piping hot cup is forgotten or ignored. And last I checked, Starbucks does not feature LWC anywhere on their menus. Nor is there a coffee target market serving drab people wearing old sweats, doning bed hair, with a 2 day beard eating plain white bread from the bag who is demanding luke warm coffee.
NO ONE wants lukewarm coffee, though I have .. it is GOOD when I have a headache and I spot a half a cup of LWC sitting around from the morning to wash down two Excedrin.
Also note this concern of LWC is a big enough that God speaks 'directly' to the topic in Revelations where the angel of the church of Laodicea exclaims..
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth (like a cup of room temp generic instant decaf coffee using a non-dairy creamer and a sweetener substitute). Revelations 3:15-16
note: the excerpt in parenthesis was not from 'The Message'.. I added it for my LWC emphasis.
But there is a very sobering message in this scripture. Being a LWC believer (even with sweetener added) is not a safe place to be. Will a lukewarm faith get me to Heaven? Well, the whole God spitting me out of His mouth seems to be a pretty clear NO.
God is not amused by a half-hearted devotion or playing church when our worship and love is deserved.
Next let's move to the LWC Fellowship Center (aka Church) where I observe being seeker friendly with attendance and the Worship 'Show' have become a misguided measure of spirituality. 'Giving the people what they want instead of what they need is lukewarm at best.'
This, while hearing sermons that nothing more than a 'be a better you' pep talk without starting with a repentant heart. Note: Getting my heart right with God trumps getting what I want.
Next, read John 6:25-59 where Jesus speaks clearly to His followers ..
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.
When many of his disciples heard it (Jesus teaching), they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (The Truth? They could not handle the Truth!) 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him (Jesus message was not very seeker friendly). 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him (with a Hot Coffee Faith), “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
So in this LWC world with LWC churches, I pray we follow God with a Hot Coffee Faith just like Peter. Truly , "Lord, to whom else shall we go, You have the words of eternal life."
I am, you are, and we the Church are called to be the the salt and light and THE HOT COFFEE for this world serving lukewarm flavorless substitutes for truth.. in the dark.
May God bless and use you in ways that are BEYOND YOUR DREAMS for HIM!
Jeff (aspiring to be a Grande Latte) Larson
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only 'evil all the time'. Genesis 6:5
This was in the comment section of mankind's first report card. Just before God commanded Noah to build an ark he mailed out the letter grade for having your every inclinations of mankind's heart being evil all the time. It was big ol' fat F!
Think of it, just a few chapters after God created all things in six days declaring it good.. Mankind botched it up by rarely showing up for class or opening a book (figuratively speaking).
Another way of looking at it.. If this was mankind's Genesis 6:5 job review.. They were getting the boot.
Mankind did much worse than taking a highlighter and a notepad home for personal use. They were too often no shows in attitude, and effort... and maybe mixed in a little embezzling. aka Evil all the Time!
There were no extenuating circumstances to consider. They were outside of God's favor, and Noah's big boat. AND..in desperate need of a good flood insurance policy.
Evil all the time.. what does that even look like.?
I would guess there would be your garden variety envy, greed, racism, and hatred fueled by a self indulgent 'hell bent' looking for the next high' attitude in drink, sex, and/or any other means imaginable. Evil all the time.. folk are gluttons for all forms of pleasure with no boundaries. Their motto was .. 'What happens in Genesis 6:5, stays in Genesis 6:5.' Hmm, that slogan sounds familiar.
Now fast forward to our modern lives. I cannot imagine a society where evil all the time is there every inclination. <insert reflective pause> Unless.. I turn on the evening news. Then I might declare .. 'whoomp there it is.'
Is 'evil all the time' is an unfair assessment life today? I know there is good in this world and good people.. but there is a powerful Godless 24/7 stimulus smorgasbord for the senses ready to be indulged that does not play well with any true worship of God.
But what about the church? I could not say evil all the time is not a good description of the church and God's people, but compromise all the time maybe is. Too often 'The Church' the church is in a comfortable compromise with the world. They think they are in a Jacuzzi of peace with the world, but are unaware they are more like the 'frog in the boiling pot' willing to compromise God's timeless truths under the guise of being inclusive.
Insert REVIVAL here!
Is there an answer?
BUT.. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
I know 2 Chronicles 7:14 was written a long time ago to the nation of Israel, but the promise to restore and heal our lands of the repentant heart I believer are true today. True for any rebellious nation, compromised church, or the individual who has lost his way.
God's Grace is that big.
May God bless each of you today in your pursuit of God and for a revival that changes the world.
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
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson