There you have it.. My Back Pew list of Ponderings. One part resolutions, one part repentance, and all parts pondering this world, the church, and each one of us.
I pray sincerely we are not conformed to this world as prayerful, obedient children of God FIRST and foremost. Let's be known for being kind and understanding of others in and outside the church and not for snarky Facebook posts (guilty). I pray we are unwavering from His Truth (our Bibles), and obedient to share God's Truth in a world that will call us judgmental hypocrites. Never apologize for sharing God's Truth because these words (even when hated) are real love.
Blessings as you ponder
Jeff (the wandering ponderer) Larson
I am 63, and now wear hearing aides. Boo, hiss..I don't like to wear them but just like my bi-focaled glasses they do help. I now hear sounds (especially high pitch sounds) that I otherwise miss.
And now in 2020 with our Covid masks I miss the facial expressions and the sounds of the voice of those speaking are muffled, and so when not wearing my hearing aides communication is a bit muted and frustrating.
Like this, when I pray.. but am not still or quiet to hear his voice what I hear from God is also muted.
Muted at times by my own busy mind and compromised/selfish motives. God speaks, but do I hear His voice.
Ok, for you Minnesota Viking fans this is a foreign concept. Super Bowl? Minnesota? Winning? Like oil and water. but c'mon Minnesota use your imagination.
Sorry, I could not help myself. - signed anonymous Packer Fan
But I digress..
The point is.. we need more QUIET and less NOISE.. to seek intentional quiet times where we turn off our 24/7 media blitz on the senses. Be still and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10
Oh it's easy to be pulled down stream by the current of societies raging information river. I love all modern gadgets, and the ease of communication, and the instant resource of Google searches... But lost in this is the QUIET. How can I hear the Voice of God over the 'DIN' of our society?
Please realize the importance of hearing God's Voice is true wisdom in a world that is.. foolish. Why should we seek ANYTHING above the QUIET to the Voice of God?
AND.. there is no better time to commit to being quiet today. In fact that the 2020 elections is proving to be a Clanging Cymbal Symphony described in Corinthians 13:1.. NOW IS THE TIME to turn off the TV, do waaaay less social media.. and BE STILL to hear God's Voice instead of the angry voice of man. ie MSM, Fox, Reality TV, etc etc.
We had the grandkids sleep over the other night. We watched a very funny movie, played games, drew pictures, played outside, and went on a hike. AND while this was great fun and we love them when they leave the house goes quiet. It's a very good quiet for us grandparents with only a trace of legos and toys in the yard.. but it is quiet. I love them more than the world, but.. I do also like QUIET.
I pray what I have shared makes sense. There is no greater pursuit than to know the creator of this world.
May God bless each of you on your journey to hear God's voice.
Jeff (hearing aides in) Larson
That is not a fair question.. I know people may say church is boring, but God? boring? I would not say that, but then look how He stacks up with our 24/7 Entertain me NOW society.
Let's start with SUNDAYS:
Football - You can spend the afternoon sitting on the 50 yard line cheering your team as they play their hated rivals on a beautiful fall day doubly blessed with vendors who for a few dollars deliver to you your favorite snacks and beverages.
Church - You could spend Sunday sitting on a hard wooden pew in Church singing a hymn or EIGHT, listening to a sermon where the vendors are replaced with ushers who also take your money but there will be no food for you!.. Advantage.. FOOTBALL
Food Glorious Food:
Dining Out - The world offers wonderful dining opportunities of all cuisines whether you dine out, drive through, or have your meal delivered right to your door.
Church Potluck - Church offers the infamous potluck dinner where there are more ways to fix a macaroni casserole/hotdish than there are stars in the sky. Advantage: DINING OUT
Reality TV Superstar Kim - has over 20 million twitter followers with the focus on I guess watching Kim be Kim? and Kim is worth millions!
Mother Theresa - She ran hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis; soup kitchens, dispensaries and mobile clinics; children's and family counselling programs; orphanages, and schools... BUT still no Twitter followers, and no signs of prosperity displayed in her life. So based on Twitter stats and $$.. Advantage: KIM
God's Word - The bible teaches God's never changing loving truth for mankind, and there is but one God. This Truth not everyone can handle.
Secular World View - Our society teaches truth is a relative state of being up for interpretation by progressive thinkers. This world is polytheistic where there are many ways to find god and/or truth. Based on the appearance of inclusiveness (though Col Jessup scares me)..
Cosmology v Theology:
Cosmology - Cosmology is the science of the origin and development of the universe. With an annual budget for space exploration of around $18 billion in the US, Resources like the images from the Hubble Telescope are used to support their studies.
Theology - This is the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Of course there is no annual US budget on Theology. Resources like the bible are used to support these studies. If money means anything.. Advantage: NASA
The above examples are a bit over the top but with a thread of 'humanistic truth' (please note humanistic truth is an oxymoron). How can the church compete with the glitz & glam, the look & presentation, and budget found in our 24/7 self serve society?
What if part of the next year's $18 billion NASA budget was spent on understanding our creator rather than His creation?
So in conclusion: God is not boring, but the little box we attempt to put him in is pathetic. Maybe more accurately our attempts to understand God are BORING... weak.
What if there was a spiritual revival of our nation where we pursue God like a spiritual Hubble Telescope? I know one thing.. we would not be bored.
May God bless each of us today free from society's buffet for the senses, but instead pursue what is important. To love God and care for others (God's two greatest commandments Mt 22:36-40) is anything but boring!
For the sake of today's blog let me share a story back when I assigned sports officials for local sporting events. Dateline, 9/18/2013
I have a confession to make. Yesterday I did NOT brush my teeth. Gross? .. yes kinda gross, I agree with you.
You see I work from home assigning sports officials for area sporting events. In the month of September I cover sports for everything from football, soccer, volleyball, baseball, and basketball.
So yesterday was especially busy and I was on the phone and/or my computer from 7am (like an assignor telemarketer) assigning open games, and updating the ongoing changes to our schedules. This continued until 4pm when I left home to officiate two soccer games.
End result was another VERY busy day where I did not stop EXCEPT to eat a quick lunch AND so.. I forgot to brush my teeth.
It was not a great feeling.. as my teeth reminded me when I was reffing soccer at about 5pm that they did not get any TLC today.
Good news my teeth will not rot away in a day.. and besides them not feeling clean, and breathe that was less than fresh... I will be fine. Now if I continue to neglect my teeth I will suffer with cavities, gum problems, infections, all resulting in losing my teeth and then on to my future eating a truly pureed diet featuring oatmeal and pudding.
Hmmm, now let me do an AWKWARD segue to the land of the spiritual?
Just like neglecting my teeth.. if I miss spending time with God my life begins to get messy. My perspective is less than fresh and if perspective could smell like 2 hour old onion infused bad breath.
So I can go a day or two without slowing down for time with God with life being for the most part busy as usual, BUT the longer away the more I notice a difference. Maybe others notice, maybe not.. but definitely I notice.
THE MORAL OF TODAY'S BLOG?
May God bless each of you with good dental health supported with dentists, orthodontists, and insurance as needed.. AND.. don't forget to FLOSS!
Also may you also be blessed with a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. May you realize the comfort of His perspective and provision in your lives that is fresh and never stale.
Jeff (brushing in the back pew) Larson
More 'minty fresh' scriptures below
If I remember correctly, today (August 8th) is the birthday of my good Richard (Dick) Ludzack, and Dick was 6 days my senior as I was born on August 14th. He was a lifelong friend as we grew up in the same home town and attended the same church, played sports together, and both participated in each other's weddings. Dick passed away suddenly a number of years ago, and at that time I wrote my own memorial of his life. I would like to share it again today about a life well lived.
THE ONLY CHOICE THAT MATTERS 10/12/2003
I traveled home yesterday to visit my mom and was greeted by the news that a life long friend of mine was killed the day before in a work related accident. This friend was Dick Ludzack, and his dad Karl Ludzack also passed away last January. Please pray for Dick’s wife Tammy, his kids, and for his 10 other brothers and sisters, and mom. It is kind of news that knocks the wind out of his many friends, and hits even much closer to home for his family.
Dick was a great guy, and though we have not talked all that often in the last few years.. I consider him a true friend. He was a good man who loved God and his family.
Dick was one of the guys that as a youth I sat with in the Back Pew of the church. He was also one of us guys that could not sing. NONE OF US COULD. We called it the sin of our parents. You know, when the people asked Jesus why a certain man was blind.. was it because of his own sin or the sin of his parents?? Well there was a core group of guys in our church, and NONE were blessed with the ability to sing. Some of us sang… but we pushed THE JOYFUL NOISE UNTO THE LORD concept to it’s limits. So the joke among a few of us guys was.. Jesus was it our own sins, or the sin of our parents why we can’t sing? The answer we have concluded.. was.. IT MUST BE OUR PARENTS. Lol
So back to the serious sobering point of these days. Dick was a good man, a good family man, and faithful to God. Though he will be missed.. Dick’s life was a success. Never to trivialize the loss to his family, and friends, but Dick lived his life right.. he loved the Lord, and is in Heaven now. Dick who lived only to be 46 (same age as me) was faithful with the time he had on Earth.
None of us know how long we have here in this world that is a blend of joy and pain. Where there is so much good, and so much tragedy.. so in the end it ETERNALLY makes a difference the choices you make in life. Dick chose wisely.
I pray we are faithful in making the same decision. May the Lord protect each of you.. may he give us all the perspective that is only his.. may his comfort and love be felt by us all, and may we all know Jesus.
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” James 2:2-3
James 2:2-3 This is how it looks for me in Minnesota-->
Let me start by sharing my wife and I attend a church that we really like. It is a friendly congregation represented by all age groups. The worship music is well done, and the preaching is straight from God's word in a manner that is both challenging and easy to listen to. The people are friendly and welcoming even in this season of all things COVID-19.
Next, let me share I am over 5 years sober now after it became apparent I was an alcoholic where drink was becoming a growing compromise in my life (off and on) for about the previous 15 years. It did not ruin life, but I was headed on the wrong road, and my addiction to a buzz was growing and dangerous. I thank God for his healing in this area and for the love and grace of my family.. especially my wife... and of course my God.
I never did attend a recovery program until about a year ago when I attended a Celebrate Recovery program for a few weeks to see if it was right for me at this point in my recovery.
Well, in contrast to my 'good church' where the worship, preaching, and presentation on Sunday's is clean and sharp.. this Celebrate Recovery program is messy.
These are people who are struggling. Some have been sober for 15+ years, others are celebrating not have a drink for 30 days, or less. Some are people who have been in and out of treatment, and/or suffering the consequences of their addictions by losing their drivers license, jobs, or family. Stories of jail-time, and restraining orders were common. Many were in the place where they were not drinking but now dealing with the void in their lives where once was a buzz. This group is a mess, but .. a Beautiful Mess
What makes this group such a beautiful mess is their journey starts and ends with a return to God. Not just a 'higher power' but the only true power, the God of our Bibles. This is our only hope for the alcoholic and ALL of the rest of humanity (aka sinners).
Life not so long ago..
Now after 5+ years of being sober, I look back on my journey to where I am now. I did not realize what a fragile mess I was.
So this all makes me reflect on James 2:1-2. I am ashamed to say I honestly don't like the mess or messy people. I like happy Christians with no deep dark secrets and/or sins. I like the well orchestrated church service and an attractive congregation that looks like .. church people should look? I don't know if I want my church to be messy, even a beautiful mess.
So here I am convicted, and I thank God for this conviction. I now desire to be in the mess, and I will blend nicely as I am a mess. Together we love and support each other. Where one hurts all hurt, and when all rejoice we rejoice together (1 Cor 12:26).
God desires to RESTORE US to become the healthy body of Christ. After church I don't want to be the guy looking past the guy or gal out of place to find my usual friends where I am comfortable. I don't know exactly how this conviction on my heart will play out, but I pray God would speak to me and change me to serve him among the beautiful mess that are the people Jesus would be spending his time with.
May God bless you, care for you today, and use you to serve Him in this very messy world. I pray for revival and restoration in our chaotic 2020 America. I pray His church is sensitive and caring for the beautiful mess inside and outside our church walls.
Jeff (plenty messy still) Larson
note: Recovery is not just for the alcoholic, it is for everyone that struggles with the very real issues of life. Depression, co-dependency, anger, sex addiction, anxiety/fear, etc. I pray we allow ourselves to be honest, and allow God to restore us from what ever has compromised our lives.
Well, I cannot stop Father time.. or in my case grandfather time. I will turn 63 this month, 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, and I no longer drink alcohol (5+ years sober). 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 (vertebraes all stacked up but with a few cracks and crumbles.
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 arrangements and/or 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' are 60+ years old 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 senior citizen) Larson
A strange title indeed. There was an AT&T commercial a while back where this guy in the suit is sitting at a table asking a bunch of little kids what is better FASTER or SLOWER? They all agree faster is better. One little girl explains faster is better or else you might be bitten by a werewolf and then you will say.. wawawawawawa.. which means I wish I was human again! The man in the suit stammers.. "what?"
note: If you don't remember this commercial, it is a must watch. click here-> wawawawawawa
Well I think I have similar state of mind when I can become so overwhelmed by the challenges of the year 2020 to where I lose all perspective. Frustration, discouragement, and yes anger with this world gone bonkers clouds my thinking. Some days I become a brooding, and sputtering little black rain cloud with the fruit of God's Spirit windblown from my countenance finding myself much like the girl in the AT&T commercial saying.. "wawawawawawa.. I wish I was CHRISTIAN again."
Moments like these leave me stinging.. and feeling badly about myself. I know I did not lose my place in Heaven because of my discouragement but I don't exactly feel like a victorious Christian either.
Good news ALWAYS is God's Grace is there for me AGAIN. I can pick up and start again to become intentional in my pursuit of God where I see God, and I see HIS purpose (Matthew 6:10) before I see mine. I desire to truly love God and keep him always center in my life and realize when I am weak (and I am often) HE makes me strong (Philippians 4:13).
What if my faith was NOT ABOUT ME but instead ALL ABOUT JESUS? What a difference this would make in me realizing and taking in the truth.. 'I AM A CHRISTIAN saved by His Grace and loved by Him.' What if His Church (all believers) loved God, the church, and the world.. with God as primary focus? Wow, that is a beautiful and big WHAT IF. But is my prayer.
Personally I know this prayerfully would reduce those feelings where I tongue in cheek 'wish I was Christian again'.
May God bless your lives with knowing the promise of salvation, and peace that passes all understanding even in this 2020 world where peace is the last word to describe it.
Jeff ( Thankful today ) Larson
There are those grey overcast days where I think the sun will never shine again. Maybe a little foggy, drizzling still morning but then a spot on the clouds glows and just moments later the sun peeks out. I now see the sun and feel it’s warmth. Amazing how that feels especially on that cool grey day, but sometimes as quick as the sun appears the clouds return and the sun is gone and so is it's warmth.
This glimpse of the sun describes often my pursuit of God. I read, and pray and the story of God and the Gospel message makes sense. This time of clarity is beyond refreshing until.. circumstances and the world distract me, along with my inconsistent pursuit of God until my perspective is clouded and poof my moment of clarity is gone.
Does that sound familiar, or am I the only one? A simple check on Twitter and Facebook and the social media posts of Christians and I will conclude this line looking for Glimpses is a very long line. I am among friends.
In my defense I find Isaiah 55:9, and 1 Corinthians 13:12 . I feel like Winnie the Pooh, a Bear of very little brain creator of cartoons attempting to grasp Almighty God creator of the Universe. Advantage God
It does not seem fair to have only glimpses. I even have my fair share of questions about God himself and the inerrant of His Word. note: While I have questions, I want to be clear I choose to place my trust and hope in Him and the answers found in His Word.
Short bunny trail... Now being a guy, I like gadgets.. so I am thinking maybe if God would give me a remote control for 'glimpses from God'.. then I could hit PAUSE when His light shines and I see.. if I could only make these glimpses longer. -sigh- ok, I checked Best Buy, and there is no such remote - end of bunny trail-
So again, I realize in this life I cannot and will not fully understand so many things, but when those clouds part that glimpse of God like the sun through the clouds on a grey day is priceless. This glimpse of God's truth, and love speak to me like the warmth of the sun. My shoulders relax, there is sudden clarity and perspective. Lord I pray for more glimpses, and I pursue these glimpses by quieting myself, focus on God's Truth in His word, pray without ceasing, listen to worship music, spend time with other believers, and serve others.
No matter how cloudy your day is in this broken world of sickness, conflicts, family issues, greed, racism, and/or POLITICS (please pass the bucket).. pray for Glimpses (and more) of God and His purpose and perspective.
Find peace in knowing the Lord as your Shepherd Psalm 23, and the live out Phil 4:8 dwelling on and pursuing what is good.
May God bless each of you this day with more than glimpses of Him that pierce the clouds in your life and this DARK world. And.. rest in the promise of what He will reveal to us fully someday.
Jeff (glimpse chaser) Larson
Note: The Apostle Paul given a tad more than a glimpse of the sun/Son on that road to Damascus. On your Damascus Road.. wear SUNBLOCK.
Most of us remember the story of Jesus telling Peter to walk on water, but as 'Pete' noticed the VERY REAL waves about him and as the seeming nonsense of walking on water began to sink in.. so did Peter.
When I was younger I thought “Oh Pete of little faith, I would have done cartwheels on the sea with my perfect faith of Jesus intact”. But now after wading around in the seas of life’s experience.. I see the waves in my life are just as real as those literal waves Peter faced 2000 years or so ago, and at best I look like Gilligan hollering for SKIPPER!..
but of course this analogy falls flat as I am not comparing the Skipper with Jesus... and I am too 'husky' to be Gilligan... BUT I DIGRESS!
So with my assessment that my faith is often at best an undersized mustard seed as I choose to get out of the boat and trust God. I may sink at times like Peter but.. the same Jesus who calmed the seas, healed the sick, fed the multitudes,walked on water, and rose from the grave is my answer to life’s figurative (but VERY REAL) waves of health, finance, family, or fear.
I could expound on this fact, as like many of you I experience seasons of waves, and tests that put my trust in God to the test.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart soul and mind and lean not unto your own understanding .. in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. Pr 3:5-6
EASY WORDS to say.. DIFFICULT WORDS to comprehend just like walking on water MAKES NO SENSE.. but I choose to believe both to be true.
May God bless each of you this day in your journey. May we all learn to trust God when life is great, when life is difficult, or when all seems lost.
Trust in the Lord as your providence, Trust in the Lord as your source for answers, Trust in the Lord for blessings, and Trust in the Lord for perspective that is beyond the limits of any circumstance.. so even when the waves swell and the storms rage.. we can give the triumphant shout..
SURFS UP Blessings!
Jeff (flappable) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson