Max Lucado wrote a book in 1994 titled ''When God whispers your name'. It is a great read with his usual humor and spiritual insights, but my question is..
What happens when God whispers my name but .. I am hard of hearing, or maybe God simply remains silent?
Not so many years ago I weathered personal hurricane force storms in back to back years. My finances, health, and spirit were challenged and I didn't know if I would survive the first year's storm only to be windblown and tattered the next year too. I have never despaired more in my life.
Let me tell you I literally cried (sobbed), and cried out to God for HELP. I wanted God to calm these storms, but my prayers were met with His resounding SILENCE.
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Ps 10:1
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Ps 22:1-2
I admit my cries to God were not as eloquent as when David penned the above Psalms, but I shed enough literal tears to warrant flood insurance.
Side note on Crying:
When a woman cries we feel empathy as her deep emotions touch our hearts.
When a man cries it sounds like a wounded Badger caught in a trap trying to gnaw off his leg in a short sighted attempt to escape his pain. Those in ear shot want to put that badger out of his misery, and thecrying men.. STOP IT!
but I digress..
Now back to my storms..
During these stormy times I discovered God's providence/answers were found in His silence. During my storms I needed to experience the full impact of my situation including my mistakes and their circumstances.
God was with me the whole time, but pain and reflection was important for me to grow on a true path of restoration. A genie in a lamp with three hot wishes available was NOT what I needed.
Life rains on the just and the unjust Mt. 5:45, the Jeffs and the unJeffs!
We all know the story of Peter walking on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on those very real waves.. and began to sink.
Just like Peter those the very real waves in my life overwhelmed me because I did not put my trust in the man who walks on water and calms the seas.
The good news is I endured those stormy years and learned over time how faithful and loving God was and is.
The details of my storm(s) are not important except to share a lesson learned when God seems silent. “Be still, and know that He is God." Ps 46:10
Be still, be faithful, be listening, be prayerful, and peaceful even when you experience God's Resounding Silence.
Jeff (actually wearing Hearing Aids) Larson
Ok, I confess to start a blog with the title REPENT is a good way to lose followers and a call to REPENT coming from a cartoonist carries less weight than your garden variety tele-evangelist.
And if I say.. "Repent Sinner." I sound like the evangelical version of a dog owner with a rolled up newspaper (in his case a Bible) ready to slap his dog (a lost soul) across the nose for a piddle accident, or WORSE! (ie sin).
Unfortunately today the cry to REPENT is caricatured as a double dose of judgment by the churchy self-righteous. BUT I have instead been impressed with the Gospel truth that REPENTANCE is the first step in the healing/restoration process.
Most times there can be varying levels of shame from my life's faux pas (aka sins), but the Bible teaches us we cannot experience the restoration found in God's Amazing Grace without saying that most difficult and humbly word.. SORRY (aka repentance) and mean it.
Clear as mud?.. Then let stir the mud..
A MARRIED MAN'S Repentance..
When I fight (I know I am the only one lol) with my wife. Even if I believe she is wrong/unfair/unreasonable/irrational/emotional, but respond with a few choice 'terse' words.. in this I know I am wrong.
And.. Even if 'by chance' I am right in the argument (aka fight), my words and tone are still WRONG, and I should not delay in apologizing. Ok, and while I am at it be sincere.
And, there were times I was wrong standing on the right side of a spat. Like the time I bought a new computer (cuz boys like toys) without asking Mary's permission or discussing our budget. I had my justifications, but was kind of hoping I would not have to go there and Mary would maybe not notice. Well she did notice and I stood there with that 'kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar' look.
As it ended up it was a perfect time to say I was sorry (repent) hoping Mary forgives me and let's me keep my new computer. :) She did, with a roll of her eyes while shaking her head as she told me.. "Just tell me next time, I am not that scary."
Now this marriage repentance scenario holds true in almost all aspect in life. In the workplace, in rush hour traffic, raising kids, even in church. In most cases a few well placed I'm sorrys could go a long way.
Then we come to our relationship with Almighty God. When we take time to understand God is both our all powerful creator and perfect Heavenly Father.. it should bring us to a place of adoration, worship, and obedience. By reading His word I realize how far short I fall in being obedient. So I feel regrets and shame but know.. if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all our unrighteous acts 1 John 1:9
Like the prodigal son coming home we too are met by the Father (cuz He loves us so much) who is running to meet us on the road home from our prodigal ways. Luke 15:11–32
God is not like that dog owner ready with a wrapped up newspaper poised to whomp us when we piddle (figuratively speaking of course). He loves us.
So did I help improve your impression on that Old Time Religion call to REPENT? I pray so, and I pray each of you experience God's Amazing Grace and restoration found when we humble ourselves and REPENT.
REPENTANCE it does a body (and soul) good.
Jeff (semi-retired & fully repentant) Larson
Am I really good? Am I good enough for Heaven?
Hmmm.. well honestly I would say I am a pretty good guy. I did not keep a good tally of my bad behaviors versus good choices on my pocket abacus , but I still attest I am 'pretty good and not so bad'.
But no matter how good or bad I am, getting into Heaven is always about God's Grace and not about my relative goodness. His grace is sufficient. 2 Corinthians 12:9
So in my case, being pretty good never felt so.. good.
So rest easy there is no entrance exam to get into Heaven. You will not need to know the names of at least 10 of the 12 disciples, or know the names of the sons of Nahor in Genesis 22.
hint: Their names rhyme with fuzz.
At the Pearly Gates you will not be greeted by a Gate Keeper suspecting you of smuggling in contraband (ie devils food cake?).
The only question asked in 'Pearly Gate Redneck speak' will be
"if yer kin.. yer in."
note: This email is not a battle cry for mediocrity, or to strive to only be 'good enough', but only to clarify our goodness is tentative when compared to our perfect creator.
Our best is simply not good enough
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God Romans 3:23
our righteousness are as filthy rags Isaiah 64:6
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
This was great news for any thief on a cross, cartoonist (me) sitting on his office chair, and for station you are in life. AND.. There is no better day than today to get right with God.
Jeff (not nearly Good Enough) Larson
I would not claim I have a great memory and I am horrible with names. I confuse and/or forget names often, embarrassingly often.
But what I do remember clearly are my past mistakes/blunders/boo-boos and/or 'sins'. These memories are clear and hard for me sometimes to let go.
This 'Jeff Larson blooper reel' when played can spur on all sorts of regrets often accompanied with those ucomfortable feelings of shame and failure... BUT.. this is NOT what God intends..
for as far as the East is from the West so are our sins removed. Ps 103:12 from us once I ask forgiveness. This is good news for regret laden fellow like me.
I do need to ask forgiveness and be truly sorry and not saying sorry through clenched teeth, but once that is done.. forgiveness is full and complete.
The bible teaches us we are forgiven and God remembers our sins no more.
He will again have compassion on us.. you will cast our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19
This of course does not imply God is forgetful, but simply our sins are forgiven and we they should no longer be a weight on our hearts or minds.
Again.. If we confess our sins, God forgives us and remembers them no more.
The point is they are GONE so let your mind find peace in this great truth.
My prayer today is that God bless you with the assurance of His love. He forgives and forgets your every transgression, and he answers your prayers like the perfect Heavenly Father he is.
And.. He can and will restore you and I both in ways that are beyond our dreams.
important note: Not all regrets are due to past sins. Our honest mistakes, limited abilities, wrong choices, bloopers that were not sins can also haunt us.
Please read Isaiah 40:28-31, and Psalms 23 for messages of hope that is in our loving Heavenly Father.
So Adam and Eve leave Eden, and start a family with their two fine boys Cain & Abel. The Bible does not tell us too much about the boys lives, but that Cain liked veggies, whilst Abel tended animals. These both seemed like wonderful career choices as Silicon Valley technology opportunities were limited at this time.
All is fine and good livin' La-vi-la-Genesis until Cain and Able were to bring their gifts to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s gift, but rejected Cain’s. For this Back Pew cartoonist, this provided an interesting moment between these boys debating the health risks of too much red meat.
Admittedly Cain did overreact when his ‘garden salad gift’ was rejected by God by killing his brother. No more Red Bull energy drinks for Cain.
When God asks Cain what happened to his brother he gives the time honored answer. “Am I my brothers keeper?” and perhaps then deflected from his guilt mumbling about his PETA membership being disrespected.
So there you have it. Adam, Eve, a Garden neglected, and two boys that fight. God's creation is certainly off to a fine start.
Sin and the fall of man was inevitable, and was the result of man's free will choice just as our sins are.. but moving from apple eating to murder was a big jump on the sin meter.
The consequences of sin for Adam & Eve was they were evicted from The Garden of Eden, and now for Cain became a homeless wanderer.
THE GREAT NEWS is that neither Adam's eating apples, Cain killing his brother, or any other creative sin of man is NOT beyond the redemption found in GOD'S GRACE.
My prayer is we all learn from these Genesis lessons of free will rebellion gone horribly bad. Most of us I like to think will never commit murder, but our sins great and small are all selfish rebellions of emotions and ignorance that fly in the face of God's will.
When this happens, and it will.. return to God (repentance is good for the heart) just like the prodigal children we all are.
Repent and accept God's free gift of grace. If we don't repent we will be like Cain.. a homeless wanderer of this Earth and missing the greater purpose intended for each of us.
Jeff (not a murderer) Larson
Gloom, despair, and agony on me.. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.
Gloom & Despair could be a paraphrased excerpt from Ecclesiastes penned by King Solomon.. but.. in fact they are the lyrics from the silly country ditty of the same title.. Gloom Depair and Agony on me. by Buck Owens & Roy Clark. This tune was played as part of a regular comedy sketch on the TV show Hee-Haw where hillbilly folk lamented their dire circumstances.
For those of you too young to know, or trying to forget.. Hee-Haw was a television variety show featuring country music and corny but clean humor with the fictional rural "Kornfield Kounty" as a backdrop. It aired on CBS from 1969 to 1971.
note: If you have not figured it out by now, I am your go-to source for obscure TV and movie trivia. You are all very welcome.
Gloom & Despair could also be the mantra for 2021. I thought 2020 was bad, but.. 2021 is not starting out so great either. We still have Covid wearing masks, we still have Civil unrest, racial tensions, we have a nation very much divided, and (in my opinion) a church that looks more like the world than it does Jesus.
All is lost, gloom and doom, and life is so bad I would feel 'lucky' to call our circumstances hopeless. Are we all LOSERS living in Loserville USA?
No offense intended, but I am positive to some degree or another this is true. BUT.. no matter the circumstances, and/or blunders we make individually or collectively we can purposefully choose to repent and return to God.
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." 1 John 1:9
Our hope is not in politicians, or a social justice agendas, our hope is in Jesus.
note: Jesus is not a cliché', Jesus is truth, He is our salvation. He came to Earth, was our perfect example and teacher for life. He lived, and died on the Cross, and rose again so that we might live.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
So for all us losers in Loserville, the question of the hour is.. If God is for us, who can be against us? Ro:31 This is easily one of greatest rhetorical questions EVER!
Instead of the worry and angst that goes along with living imperfectly in this imperfect world in a very imperfect year 2021 .. we can have peace and perspective from our God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
This peace comes when we.. love God with all your heart soul and mind and others as yourself. All of life hangs on those two commandments. - Jesus, Matthew 22:36-40
I think the Apostle Paul was the king of contentment that rose above circumstance. No place Gloom, Despair, or Agony on me, deep dark depression, excessive misery in the eyes of Paul. Only loving God and serving others.
So today I pray.. May God bless each of you in 2021 with a gloom and despair free attitude knowing ..
My help (your help too) comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.. Psalm 121 1
Amen, and amen!
It is time again for New Year's Resolutions. Promises to eat less, exercise more, live on a budget, and simply be a better person.
side point: Why is it in a year we don't move on to PHASE II of this year's resolutions and become a nutritionist, cross-fit athlete, financial advisor, and/or become the next Billy Graham? Instead we unabashedly repeat our past failed resolutions. - askin' for a friend -
Of course resolutions are mostly 'tweaks' in the lives of mostly good folk. Everyday people who could lose a pound or two, watch less TV, or tweet less... but never hear anyone say they resolve to be involved in less felonies. And it safe to say Hitler, Stalin, and Hannibal Lector were not typical New Years Resolution kind'a guys.
Not a smidge of curbing evil in their resolutions as evil continues to do evil while good folk like you and me tweak our lives with resolutions. But then a serious question..
Why would good folk need a Savior?
Sure dictators, serial killers, bank robbers, and IRS agents NEED A SAVIOR after all they are REAL major league sinners. But, most of us are just New Year's Resolutions kinda sinners? I mean, should I go to Hell because I need a 'tweak'... or because I tweet?
Truth is I am a sinner, and sorry to inform the rest of you, but you are sinners too. There is no doubt we all need a savior. We are the reason Jesus Christ died on a cross a sinners death in our place.
I still contend I am not a bad person, and most of what everyone sees of me supports this, BUT you don't know my quiet selfish thoughts played out in subtle selfish ways. You don't know the anger I feel at times, or the little white lies I may convince myself are truth. You do not know my desires, or bitterness, or the pity parties I sometimes throw for myself when I am down. You don't know the wasted moments that have accumulated in my life.. you don't know.. but I know, and God certainly knows.
So again, I am not such a bad person.. but I certainly am a sinner, it's just that my sins don't make the evening news... AND I certainly need a savior.
So how about you? I am sure most of you are pretty GOOD PEEPS too. You are probably just a couple Resolutions (tweaks) from being GREAT peeps. You may not even admit to as many private attitudes and actions of sins that I do, but.. I will go out on a limb here and say with confidence.. You too need a savior.
Let me close with a parable Jesus taught about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector..
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
I do thank God for a life that is good, and for this New Year filled with opportunities. I do resolve this year to lose a few pounds, be more productive, and exercise, and repentant with the prayer of the tax collector.. "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"
May God bless all of you GOOD PEEPS this New Year. I pray for God's very best in your lives as you serve Him. I pray His church seeks His will like never before, and that 2021 is a year of resolutions, repentance, and and a revival (the 3 Rs?) that is long over due.
Note of Clarification
The following blog commentary is about the little word 'BUT' ..but.. it is not to be confused with the word 'BUTT' (aka bottom.. aka buttocks, ) which always makes Minions laugh.
I recently read a quote by Tim Keller on Twitter.. 'Repentance is crucial for renewal and restoration', and full disclosure honesty is required for true repentance.
Very true, BUT it is often easier to say "I am sorry, BUT.." then insert my favorite excuse/rationalization of what I am supposedly sorry for.
Here are a few I am sorry BUTs.
Next let me share a couple gender specific 'sorry but' prayers.
Back to Tim Keller's words of wisdom. 'Repentance is crucial for renewal and restoration', and full disclosure honesty is required for true repentance. Not much wiggle room for any sorry buts.
BUT.. Hey I am a pretty good guy. I go to church, love my wife and stay out of trouble.
But who am I fooling? Not God. He knows my secret doubts, rage, anxiety, envy, mumbled profanities, and other more quiet rebellions against what I know is right in my heart.
I have too often compromised time, resources, and talents that were truly a gift from God. This does not include my bigger past sin (ie alcohol) that almost killed me. For all these and more I am sorry.. no buts.
Mark me down as a work in progress.
What would be possible if we all were truly repentant and inspired by the love of God? It could be a revival this fallen world needs.. like.. NOW!
May God bless each of you on your spiritual journey, where you are blessed and used by God in ways that are beyond your dreams. My our hearts be repentant, and open to receive the promise of God's Grace.
Jeff (no ifs, ands, or buts about it) Larson
Q: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God? <pause> A: Hmmm, maybe. What are we talking about, I mean I need some context here before I swear.
Ok, I do not believe this type of answer would fly well in a court of law. Truth is truth, and I should not be afraid of the truth. Right? Or can't I handle the Truth?
How about outside the court of law where I do not have to swear on a bible? Can I fudge or tweak the truth so it does not look so blessed incriminating? I mean to say.. that check is really in the mail.. almost. :)
What if a wife asks her hubby: "Are these pants too tight?" In this case, be truthful.. BUT choose your words wisely so they are not your LAST.
On the flip side if a husband asks: "How do I look?" There is a better than 75% chance the hubby will receive the whole (blunt as a 2x4 to the face) truth and nothing but the unfiltered truth.
For all of the above and more truth in love is a beautiful thing. Truth is not always convenient, and it may sting a little or A LOT, but avoiding the truth will not make it go away. In many ways TRUTH PURIFIES. Truth provides light to shadows, and clarity + context to motives, and agendas.
Side Note: I believe there will be a harsh judgment some day on today's media that is motivated by agendas and narratives instead of reporting truth. Half truths are in reality a LIE.
But also the church (we are the church) are called to share the good news (THE TRUTH) of Jesus Christ 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. To not share this gospel message of salvation would be unloving. To share a message that 'Jesus is love and wants to help you' but not share a message that convicts us ALL of sins (yes sins) instead of preaching we are all pretty good folk.. is a false narrative much like the above mentioned media.
Think about it,, If there is ONE WAY to Heaven through Jesus Christ then we must preach Christ always in our words and deeds. Do not apologize for this truth! If you believe in Heaven and Hell then as family, friend, neighbor, and/or citizen we cannot remain silent when the Truth of Jesus is eternally important.
While this subject of deep down nook and crannies of our lives truth feels a bit intrusive it must be a cornerstone to our faith. We should embrace truth in love for ourselves and others, and share the truth the only way to Heaven is Jesus Christ.
My prayer today is for us all to be truthful and loving in word and deed. Remember, 1 Corinthians 13 shares all is meaningless (including Truth) without love. In all things, To God be the glory.
Jeff (mostly-honest?) Larson
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
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson