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
Breaking Bad was the hit TV show on AMC a few years back where unassuming high school chemistry teacher and family man Walter White evolves over 5 seasons into someone truly bad.
Maybe.. Not since God tossed Satan out of Heaven has there been a comparable BREAKING BAD moment.
Walter White's life was a slippery slope of compromise, and his white (no pun intended) lies evolved into massive cover-ups. Walter White changes over these few years into a ruthless big time meth producer responsible for countless murders, and in the end, he dies alone, his family is destroyed, and the wake of his truly bad choices on those around him was far reaching for both innocent and guilty. Even those who survived DID NOT live happily ever after but were truly Badly Broken.
note: For those of you contemplating binge watching Breaking Bad on Netflix please disregard the previous paragraph. MY BAD
Ok, so far there are three obvious lessons learned
1. Don't cook Meth,
2. Don't Murder, and
3. Don't trust criminals to keep secrets.
But Breaking Bad is actually the story of mankind and from the very beginning it seems to be BAD is what we do. Since the very beginning our sins great and small, and our attempts to cover them up is the common plot line for lives we live.
EVEN OUR BIBLES are filled with Breaking Bad moments of literally biblical proportions.
Then let's fast forward to a few more contemporary Breaking Bad paths we travel today..
Comfort and Hope for your BB Moments..
But no matter your flavor of Breaking Bad there are so many great scripture truths of comfort and perspective. Here are two.
1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.
AND if/when we fall.. know the grace of our Heavenly Father is perfect. No matter how great or small your prodigal son or daughter moment.
Let's agree to fix our minds on the Will of God, not our own. Let' agree to seek His voice, and not the voices in this world. I pray God blesses His people with repentant and obedient hearts. Lord your will, not my will be done.
May God bless each of you on your journey.
Jeff (not so bad) Larson
Last we chatted, Abraham was healing from.. a ‘MINOR procedure’.
Next in chapter 19, Abraham is met by three men and welcomes these visitors into his tent to allow them to rest out of the heat of the day. Abraham then tells Sarah to bake some of her world famous homemade bread while he gets some red meat cooking on the grill.
After dinner, the visitors informed Abraham that Sarah will have a son one year from now. Well Sarah was listening at the entrance and LAUGHED to herself since she was so old. The guests heard her laughing and reminded Abraham and Sarah that this is not too difficult for the God who created the world. After this the three men left, and headed towards Sodom (aka Sin City).
Sodom and Gomorrah
Now Sodom and Gomorrah were the twin cities of evil, and God had enough with their behavior, and tells Abraham he is going to destroy them. But Abraham humbly bargains with God to spare these cities if there could even be found 10 good people. This is an interesting negotiation, and a great example of God hearing our pleas, and being sensitive to them. The prayers of a righteous man is heard by God with Abraham, and this is still true today.
Next the two angels arrive in Sodom and Lot pleads with them to come into his home and off the streets because it was not safe there. They wanted to spend the night in the City Square, but did agree to come to Lot’s home.
After dinner, the men of this wicked city came asking Lot to send out these men so that they could have sex with them. Lot being the good host.. good host??? says “no.. don’t do this evil thing, BUT.. you can have my two virgin daughters.” This is another one of those jaw dropping moments that transcends culture, and to compound the level of wickedness, the men yelled back.. “get out of our way Lot.. we want the men!”
Lot and his Family flee
So these angels, blind these evil men, and then told Lot to warn his family that the Lord is about to destroy these Old Testament sin cities. In the morning, Lot, his wife, and two daughters flee the city while his future son-in-laws thought Lot was joking and stayed behind.
Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed
So the two men/angels took Lot and his family and led them from the city, and once they were safe, and they were all instructed.. “don’t look back.”
Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur from the sky and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah completely while an emergency weather alert was issued 'it's gonna be a hot hot day'.
finally as Lot and his family ran for their lives, Lot’s wife looked back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Her last words were.. "I think I left the oven on".
After this display of God’s wrath and the there was an investigation by the local CSI TEAM finding an empty Improve Our City suggestion box at the city limits. Many years later an archaeological dig found a road sign verifying the existence/location of the ancient city of Gomorrah. The sign stated simply.. 'What happens in Gomorrah, stays in Gomorrah'.
Of course Lot’s life was a mess, and there are more stories following this judgment regarding Lot and his daughters that are further examples of a depraved society.
Moral of the story? God's Grace is amazing and free, but not.. cheap. You cannot put a price on God's Grace.. but know we must turn from our sins and never look back.
Jeff (No Salt Please) Larson
FIELD OF STREAMS (Ge 6-9)
If you have ever seen the movie Field of DREAMS you will know it’s about an Iowa farmer who hears voices telling him to plow under his corn crop and build a baseball field where the ghosts of old pro players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, would play. Now of course, the neighbors and the town folk think he is nuts, and that he is risking his farm for the sake of old baseball players that no one can see but himself.
The decision for this Iowa farmer to listen to whispering voices saying, “If you build it, they will come”, and then to build a ballpark without having a real explanation of what this is all about takes some faith. So what about Noah?
The Bible tells us that Noah was a righteous man, and faithful to God in a world of sin.
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. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Genesis 6:5-6
and so God tells Noah, If you build it, they will come. Genesis 6:13-21 in this case THEY are a literal ‘boat-load’ of animals.
If you think an Iowa farmer got funny looks plowing under his crop/ livelihood, so that he could build a ballpark, I am sure that's nothing compared to Noah building a humungous boat in the middle of a desert. It became Noah’s “Field of Streams”.
Of course this Desert Ark Building attracted some serious ridicule, or at the very least a few chuckles and smirks from the town folk.
Noah builds this ark out of cypress wood. It is 450 feet, 75 feet wide, and 40 feet tall.
Next, please note the Ark Project was constructed by 600 yr. old Noah with the assistance of his 100 year old sons.
Think about it, Noah was approximately 10 times older than me, and his three 'boys' were 3 times older than my two sons.
Anyways, the ark is built, and then the collection and storing of the animal pairs begins.
Let me add a little perspective here..
Also illustrated below are a few more boarding the Ark highlights.. including the demise of the Unicorn.
GRAB YOUR UMBRELLA
Once the animals were all boarded, God seals the Ark and the skies opened up which not one local Weather channel predicted, and those left behind did perish. These flood waters go higher and higher until on I believe the 40th day the highest mountains are covered.
I know the question sometimes arises as to whether or not this was a local or world widen flood. What I do know is it was a WHOLE LOT OF WATER.
LIFE AT SEA..
So now there is a time where God floats the boat. Loaded with animals of every kind I cannot imagine how this all worked out. I am challenged to get my one rescue dog out several times a day to ensure he does not do his 'bizness' on the carpet so 'say-no-more' bout' waste management on this sea sick petting zoo. But on the bright side the excursions and amenities not found on any other Cruise line, and since they would be in the Ark for I believe 371 days, they might as well make the best of what Noah's Luxury Cruise had to offer..
ALL ASHORE THAT'S GOING ASHORE!
Finally the the waters subsided and the ark settled on one of the mountains of Ararat .
Once it became safe to leave the Ark, the animals were let go, must have been as interesting as the boarding), and shortly there after the first pooper scooper was invented.
In all seriousness now, this was the new beginning for manking, and God signed with a RAINBOW His promise that he would never destroy the Earth by flood again.
Noah was a righteous man, and lived to be an incredible 950 years, just 19 years less than longevity king Methuselah.
THIS WAS ONE CRAZY BOAT RIDE..
I have to be honest the story of Noah, the Ark, the boarding of every animal two by two, all culminating with a Flood killing all life leaves me scratching my head. BUT just like the flood was an act of God, so was this animal control process. So I must distinguish between hard to understand and don’t believe. I believe, but can I tell you how it happened.. NOPE. It's as they say.. 'above my pay grade'.
I believe God hears our honest questions, and our lack of understanding, and in reply he may simply say, “Of course you don’t”.
One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 55:8,9 where God declares, “My ways are not your ways. Neither are my thoughts your thoughts. For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways than your ways and my thoughts than yours.”
So again.. when I don’t understand – but still I believe!
CUTE STORY? SOBERING TRUTH? or both?
In summary, the story of Noah has today often is told as a children’s story. Christian Gift Shops have cute figurines of Noah, and his Ark all filled with smiling animals. Also, in my cartoon world the story of Noah's Ark is loaded with silly fodder. BUT the story of Noah has a sobering message balancing perfectly God’s providence for the faithful and obedient with harsh judgment of a wicked world.
The story of Noah and the ark is our story
This is a world of great sin where the hearts of man (just like in Ge 6:5-6) appears to be on evil all the time. The Great News is those who love God receive His Amazing Love & Grace… but again realize.. HOW WE CONDUCT OUR LIVES MATTERS ETERNALLY. if we choose self over God than our eternity is the same as those outside the Ark. We may not get all wet by a supernatural Great Flood, but we will be just as lost, just as judged, and just as damned.
May God bless each of you to be faithful and obedient to God while living in this self indulgent world.
Jeff (wearing my waterwings today) Larson
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 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 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
After creating the world God placed Adam and Even in the beautiful Garden of Eden (aka paradise), and in the center of this garden was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil Ge 2:17 which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat of its fruit. A Great setting for a Garden Party, until.. it was ruined.
So how do you ruin a Garden Party?
Rain, snow, gloom of night (mailman stuff), or maybe forget to send out the invites to your party? Of course snow & ice might happen here in Minnesota (paradICE), but not in paradise (Eden), so how Adam & Eve ruin this Garden Party?
Genesis 2:19-20 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
So as Senior Garden Engineer Adam did his best Dr. Doolittle imitation and talked to the animals naming them one by one. What a daunting task, but 'in the beginning' the streaming library on Netflix was limited, there was no Sunday football, and this task was assigned before Eve arrived with her 'Honey Do List(s)' so he had plenty of time to name a 'couple animals'.
Ok, admittedly all the animals are not pets, but I know my one little rescue dog could get into the right amount of mischief to ruin a garden party. Either chewing up something that is not his, sneaking food that is not his, or.. leaving little doggie-doo 'presents' that are his and I have stepped in.
But we do not read any animals (even a mischievous rescue dog ruined the Garden Party.
So if it wasn't the animals, then who was to blame?
Genesis 3:1-7 So next enters ‘ The Snake’ aka Satan, and the snake tempts Eve that eating fruit is a good thing and she does, and offers it Adam and he eats too.
In defense of Adam, though he did disobey God (being a married man myself) I remember early in our marriage my wife made a special dinner and she asked if I liked it and I foolishly answered "it was ok, but not my favorite".. This landed me on thin ice, and the waters below were icy cold!
But I digress.. So they both eat the apple, and all of a sudden they feel a draft, as they realize they are naked.
Naked, and uncomfortable (sounds like a Discovery Channel reality show) and more uncomfortable in a draft than a 1960's hippy was getting a draft notice from Uncle Sam!
In case of the hippy, he burned his draft card and headed to Oh Can-a-daaa Eh!, In contrast, Adam & Eve realized they were drafted while being naked.
There was no Old ‘Testament’ Navy, GAP (except between the leaves!), or levi's stores in the Garden so Adam & Eve being naked went for the ‘obvious’ line of clothing.. FIG LEAVES?
Ge 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
But.. this 'Fig Leaf' line of fashion had at least a couple serious drawbacks.
1. Leaf blight, and squirrels, and
2. Fig Leaves were simply not all that flattering. No woman when asking how she looks, wants to hear the words.. "You look like a SHRUB".
And now seeing the bigger picture outside of the world of fashion, Adam & Eve realized life would never be the same. Sin caused a host of irrational emotions.
Ge 3:8-9 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
The Invention of the Blame Game..
Naked and afraid Adam & Eve were playing 'Hide & Seek' with God. This is where the time honored (or dishonored) 'Blame Game' was first used. First Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and the snake did not have a leg (literally & figuratively) to stand on!
This my friends is how you ruin a Garden Party!
About a week later a CSI investigation corroborated the entire Genesis 3 account.
So the fall out from this original sin was the snake, woman, and man were cursed and Adam & Eve were then EVICTED from the Garden while Willie Nelson played 'On the Road Again' in the background.
Since Genesis 3, our sinful flawed nature has compromised what God has intended for our lives.
The Sin Parallel
Adam & Eve chose to disobey God, eat the forbidden apple and then try to hide from God. While we may not live anything close to Paradise, the 'sin parallel' is the same. .. our sins are our willful choice that separate us from God, and then we hide! It matters what we do, say, and/or think, and our disobedience in big or small ways lands compromises the good God intends for us.
GOOD NEWS IS.. God's Grace is as they say AMAZING. He will accept us back after any big or small prodigal moments when we truly repent. BUT please note.. God will not be mocked.. an insincere whoopsie attitude towards our sin move us further away from the safety and blessings God intends for us.
My prayer today all of us to pursue a greater love for our God. To be in a place where obedience to our loving Heavenly Father is a natural expression of this love. May God impress on our hearts His love for us, He desires the very best for us, and realize His Word is a light to guide us in this dark world.
Jeff (weeding my garden) Larson
Final Garden Notes.. It was a strange new world in the Beginning ripe with a few more cartoon musings.
What happened? Was I out for 5 minutes when everything changed? Didn't up used to be up and down .. down.. not the other way around? And I am pretty sure too that WRONG is now the new RIGHT.
Let's start with a few easy ones from where I sit observing our society.
So you see.. Wrong is the new Right.
We are numbed and dumbed down to vulgar language and violence in movies, TV, and pop/hip hop/rap music. Sex before marriage, and teen sexuality is assumed not discouraged. Everyone claims to be a victim, or bullied which muddies truth of those who truly are victims and/or bullied. AND anyone who voices a contrary view is expressing HATE SPEECH.
The #MeToo movement, terms like toxic masculinity, and white privilege too often dilute if not poison truth and justice. Then we throw the old KKK in with the new rage (literally) Antifa (anti-fascists? not!). They are nothing more than masked domestic terrorists.
We are a culture who on one hand munch on popcorn while being entertained by horror, violence, the occult, or the sorted story of a serial killer, BUT.. think that our 2nd amendment rights are the root of all evil. Wrong is new Right.
Even in the church simple choices of right and wrong are more carefully handled than a suicide vest by a bomb squad whose only training was using the old 'Operation board game'. We are so deathly afraid to call sin.. a sin in fear others will judge us as judgmental.
My concern/observation is The church (as a whole) is 1/2 afraid to speak truth in love afraid of the mess it may cause, and the other 1/2 appears to be like the frog in the boiling pan of water slowly cooking in our new boiling Baptismal Jacuzzi unaware the temp is rising. We are no longer salt and light as commanded in Mt 5:13-16, but excuse this compromise with the broad brushed statement.. We are about love, Jesus is love.
I agree Jesus is love, but this love included speaking directly about sin. He may have called the religious leaders a brood of vipers, but he also lovingly spoke truth to the woman at the well. How would Jesus have been loving if he did not speak the whole truth? In fact I believe Jesus referenced Hell 46 times. Hell is the scary truth regarding sin.
Same with Paul, he was loving but so direct about sin not because it was on his legalistic DO NOT DO list but because sin is harmful to the body and soul.
Let's even be more basic about TRUTH. We as Christians believe there is one way to Heaven and that is Jesus. To share this truth should be the most important truth we can share. BUT agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc would disagree. So do we quit sharing this truth because it might offend.. but let them go to Hell?
Do we just gently say, well we all believe generally in the same thing 'higher power' so.. peace be still.. Or remain silent because I respect your feelings so much that I would rather let you go to Hell for eternity than offend you today on Earth. This is so very Wrong, and.. the new Right
I also believe there is a growing population in the church that doubt the inerrancy of the Scriptures. It's understandable to have questions on Bible issues we do not understand, but it is alarming to doubt that it is truly God's word.
-Insert Head Slap here-
MY OWN MESS - Let me be very clear, I am such a sinner.. aka made lotsa mistakes. I have trouble with my temper, watched movies and laughed at jokes I should not have. I have made compromises, told altered truths (aka lies) and all the other goodies that many of us do.
I am also a man who compromised too many years with alcohol (aka alcoholic), and it was ruining my life. I share the cartoon on the left that is typically received understandably with collective cringes as it is NOT FUNNY, but it is was becoming my story.
So in response to my drinking my wife expressed to me in love and sometimes the appropriate amount of anger "YOU NEED TO QUIT DRINKING. This is not good for you, it is not good for your family." So my question is.. was my wife intolerant and judgmental of me as a person, or was she directly and loving me tell me my alcohol use was hurting me and my family? Well, I believe I would be dead now if I continued drinking. To be honest I did not always welcome her words and would soften them by saying I would do better next time, but bottom-line my wife's loving admonishment CHANGED MY LIFE. I thank God for my wife and my three adult kids who lovingly told me truth. Making a Wrong in my life a new Right.
So in this world where WRONG is the new RIGHT how shall we participate? In our society compromised by ignorance, arrogance, and self we need to stand firm, in love and always stand for God's Truth.. because as they say.. Two Wrongs don't make a Right.
May God bless each of you to boldly go each day into a world that may hate you for saying RIGHT is still right, and WRONG is still wrong.
Thank you for indulging me sharing this topic of societal angst that is on my heart.
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson