Unfortunately, I can be a moody fella, and being moody my wife informs me is not one of my endearing qualities. I have low moments where my introspection GOES ROGUE leaving my self-worth a bit tattered.
Just a couple weeks ago I was in one of those funks, but am happy to report I am 'prayerfully' doing much better. Then a fragment of scripture came to mind which led me to a Google search locating... Psalms 8:3-5.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 Who is man that You are mindful of him, 5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
Mindful of me? You see this is my struggle. I believe in God, as from the micro-level cellular miracles of our bodies to the infinite world of the Cosmos it all screams to me... THERE MUST BE A CREATOR.
But for me, it is more work to realize this amazing creator cares about me. Who is Jeff that God is mindful of him?
So at least for the day, the clouds have parted and I see God as my Heavenly Father, mindful of me. The great creator of all loves me, and I like that.
Then to round out my little spiritual exodus the song "Mighty To Save" came to mind. Here are the lyrics.
Everyone needs compassion... A love that's never failing... Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness... The kindness of a Savior... The hope of nations
Savior, he can move the mountains,... My God is mighty to save... He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation... He rose and conquered the grave... Jesus conquered the grave
So take me as you find me... All my fears and failures... Fill my life again
I give my life to follow... Everything I believe in... Now I surrender
Savior, he can move the mountains,... My God is mighty to save... He is mighty to save
Forever author of salvation... He rose and conquered the grave... Jesus conquered the grave
Shine your light and let the whole world see .. We're singing for the glory of the risen king Jesus
This song is about the full circle relationship with God as He intends. No matter if I am lost in introspection or feeling invincible I will need compassion, kindness, and love of the God of our Bibles. He is that loving Father, He is Jesus our Savior, and He is the Holy Spirit who brightens up any DARK and/or hopeless situation. Our God is mighty to Save.
May God bless each of us where the realization of a Savior who both moves mountains, and is mindful of each and every one of us.
Jeff (child of God) 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.
The Return of the ME-MONSTER
It's the summer of 2022 and it is .. The Return of the Me-Monster! Like a B-movie horror flick sequel, He (Me) is back, and bigger than ever!
Me, myself, and I. Me.. me.. me. , What about me? , What's in it for ME?
The Me-Monster is inspired by a sermon I heard a few years back The Me-Monster on when our self-focus becomes.. excessive.
Mr. Me-Monster is an ugly fella, and even his open mouth resembles an M, and the back of his throat an E.
And.. when our motives, and focus demonstrate a ME-FIRST attitude our mis-focused spirits can be just as ugly.
Turn on the TV and we see ME-Folk flaunting success, possessions, and attitudes of self-importance everywhere. You don't have to look far to see celebrities, athletes, and politicians out there in front of the camera sharing their pious golden nuggets of 'truth' to the masses fawning for adoration... all while you can hear the wind whistling through their ears past their empty thoughts.
Even in the Church.. beware of teachings with promises of health, wealth, and SELF. Be your best you now instead of first focusing on the worship and obedience to the God we owe everything.
Today's measures success are the car you drive, your home, career, a trophy wife or hubby with good looking kids on the honor roll, and captain of their sports teams. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of these things unless it is the product of a me-monster me first priorities.
Personally I have more of an econo-sized Me-Monster. My monster does not get identity from a high profile existence, nor does my life check all the boxes above of how society measures success, but my me-monster still likes to be known even if on a budget.
You see, I care what others think about me, and to be viewed as successful. I desire to have friends, and of course I seek the love of my wife, my children, grandchildren, and I do not want to be known for my past failings.
Again, I should desire to seek God to know His love and Grace, and to seek God's approval instead of the approval of our Me-First society.
In fact any level of success or any talents I have are from the Lord. So who is any man to boast.
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1 Cor 4:7
Heavenly Father I pray for your Spirit to lead your people to demonstrate a servant's heart focused on KNOWING YOU and caring for others.
'Love God with all your soul and mind and others as yourself.' Mt 22:37.
May God bless and use each of us in ways that are beyond our dreams for His glory not our own. May our lives build God's Kingdom and not our own. And may you be Me-Monster free.
The Apostle Paul lived free of Me-Monsters -->
Never Never Hardly Everland (NNHELand) is a magical land where WE are all ok, and THEY are not.
In NNHELand we live by our three core Statements of denial.
In NNHELand we can even reference our Bibles for a feel better about myself fix.
- Well at least I never tried to 'give away' my wife like Abraham.
- Well at least I never was 'saved by a prostitute'.
- At least I get along with my neighbors better than Samson did.
- Well, I know I married better than Ahab.. and married less than Solomon.
More 'I aint so bad after all' pick me ups can be found by attending church by rubbing elbows with real life folk. The saints and the 'aints' who again are.. ' obviously not as good as you'.
- I never have drooled into a dish at a church potluck. (I have seen this happen)
- I know the difference between figurative and literal unlike some.
- I do NOT think out loud.. most of the time
We all know Neverland is fictional and there is no Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, or Captain Hook, but also it is better to realize NNHELand is a land of make believe as in reality we are all sinners saved by Grace.
Truth be told the stories of flawed men and women of the Bible, in history, and today used by God who served God despite circumstances, limitations, and/or failings is inspirational.
Abraham the Liar - Becomes The father of a Nation
Moses the Murderer - Delivered Israel from Slavery
David the Shepherd Boy - Defeats the Giant, and becomes King
Noah the Boat Builder - saved mankind from the great flood
Peter and his sinking Faith - Was the Rock Jesus built his church
Paul the persecutor of the Church - Becomes the first great missionary of that same church.
No need to hide out in NNHELand as we are all sinners but.. saved by God's Grace. Instead be faithful in the big and little ways in your life so God can bless and use you in ways that are beyond your dreams... unless you believe you are blessed to build an ark.. that one has already been done.
Jeff (Never Never Hardly Ever Sleeping in Church) Larson
Stay in your Lane bro..
As a guy.. I am a TV Commercial aficionado. While I respect my wife.. when it comes to TV Commercials hands-down I have a deeper appreciation for their .. art.
Case and point is a TV commercial by AT&T where a tattoo artist tells his client he is just an ok tattoo artist but not good one. Then the concerned client questions the tattoo artist not drawing the image before inking the real tattoo.. and this 'just ok' tattoo artist tells him "Stay in your lane bro."
Funny stuff, and it makes me smile every time it pops up on TV.
Message of this commercial? Don't settle for just ok.
But hidden in this TV ad.. I have gleaned a spiritual correlation. OK, you have to look very very closely but I swear there is one.
When I talk to (aka pray) God, I am not talking with a just an OK deity.. I am talking with the 'only' Creator of this World. Omniscient, Omnipresent, and our perfect loving Heavenly Father.
So when I vent (aka pray) to God my busy mind fretting about never ending pandemics, inflation, midterm elections, my family, friends, and mix it all up in a big bowl of worry with more than a splash of media hype.. I tell God "I don't know how this is going to all work out."
And this is when God whispers to me.. "Stay in your lane bro."
But unlike a 'just ok' deity our God is sovereign. He has this bowl of worries of mine along with everyone else's favorite rage or anxiety recipe and though mankind has again made such a mess of things.. He was not caught off guard. He is not surprised, and NEWS FLASH none of this is a ripple in God's great plan.
Note: I do want to be clear there are consequences for anyone and/or nation's actions and/or rejections of God, but still there is peace in knowing God is sovereign.
Another NEWS FLASH.. this life, our moment in time is not about us.. it is about each of us being faithful in word and deed as we hear God say "stay in our lane bro, I got this".
I will confess, I struggle in understanding this. It's not that I doubt God is sovereign but that He allows the free will of mankind to make a mess and so what am I to do.
So with this in mind, I will pray to our God who is good. I pray we then love Him with our words and deeds knowing God answers our prayers.
And finally, I pray..
Heavenly Father bless and use each of us for your glory in ways that only can be described as beyond our dreams.
Remember God loves us.
Jeff (changing lanes often) Larson
Persecution for my faith? I think the closest thing to persecution I encounter for my faith is attending church on a miserable cold MinneFROZEta Sunday morning while 'Old Man Winter' mocks me for leaving my warm home to worship with the frozen faithful.
Or maybe the fact that I am a Green Bay Packer fan living in the state of Minnesota Viking fans. Besides that.. persecution is a little on the light side in my life.
No Christians being fed to literal lions these days.
Persecution 2000 years ago looked much different. After the first Christian movement begins at Pentecost in Acts 2 the church grows. In response the religious establishment of the day is outraged and fights them for the next 26 chapters of Acts.
Now fast forward to today .. I am sitting in my warm home in a country that has allowed me freedom to worship. While the outside temperature may go below zero in the Minnesota winter months I have my gas fireplace warming me as I type.
But.. is Persecution on the rise? I do see a disturbing trend in the news that alarms me where traditional Christian values are under attack.
As Christians we should be unwavering and unapologetic of the gospel message. If we really believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Jesus. Jo 14:6, then shame on us as believers when we are fearfully silent as to not draw attention to God's Truth.
We are so careful to not call wrong.. wrong (in love) as we fear that society will label us the religious alt-right hate group of the month.
Our words and actions should be the evidence we are living out God's two greatest commandments. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and care for others in need and love them as ourselves.. even when persecuted for our faith.
May God find us faithful and full of His Love, and in all things we do. I pray God's people do not live to please man but instead to honor God.
To God be the Glory!
Jeff (Chick-fil-A eating) Larson
A Profanity Diet
I mention often we live in a society where crass is considered clever, profane is provocative, and Christian Values are considered hate speech. One obvious example of this is this world believes the all purpose F-bomb or mother F-bomb is a trendy adjective.
While the F-bomb may be today's most popular profanity there are so many other profanities that do not need to be listed now. The point is these are NOT just words and profanity is of ‘dumbing down’ our communication skills. Hip hop lyrics, comedians, and emphatic politicians feel the need to use profanity to make their point.
note: Studies have proven an individual's IQ is lowered by 15 points every time they use the F-Bomb
-follow the science-
Note: Even Assyrian Captains from the Old Testament struggle -->
Confession: While my vocabulary is not a clever plethora of profanities, or compares with above mentioned Assyrian Captain neither would I describe it as a pristine mountain stream.
And.. I am surprised how we Christians blend into this profane world.
We are called to be salt and light, but we curse, rage, drink like the world. We laugh at jokes, watch movies, and use language that does not honor God.
This world is like the BORG (from Star Trek) and the church is being assimilated.
This is not a guilt trip it is a gut check!
So join me today on a ‘PROFANITY DIET’. You know.. at least cut back on blue cloud of words emissions.
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... Phil 4:8 .
We don’t need to using an okely dokely vocabulary like Ned Flanders on the Simpsons, or sound like Pa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, BUT neither should we be confused with the sailor on shore leave.. unless you are Popeye. Popeye is cool, just sayin'.
To be certain no one is going to Hell or even made to stand in the corner by God for blurting out words only 4 LETTERS LONG.. but the next time you are cut off on the road let your words be few and your actions honor God.
May God would find us Salt and Light as He commands instead of assimilating into our big ol' Crass Culture BORG... and for those who do not struggle with '4 letter words' I commend you.
Jeff (sometimes 'blurting' in the Back Pew) Larson
Final Note: I love movies that are edited by network TV where profanity is edited to say words like 'friggin' or 'bull shoot' These less than creative edits can reduce Joe Pesci in a mob movie to sound like my sweet wife Mary.
Dr. Jeffrey and Mr. Hide
As I roller coaster through the amusement park of life past the sideshows of a bearded lady, the two headed cow and the tattooed sword swallowing vicar I realize again.. LIFE IS A RIDE.
My rollercoaster existence leaves me at times exhilarated while other times ready to BARF. These twists and turns in my life do expose my Dr Jeffrey and Mr. Hide (like a less sinister version of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde) personality quirks. I am Dr Jeffrey when all is good, but Mr Hide but rises up as my rollercoaster dips and there is a big bend up ahead.
AND yes I did mean to say Mr. Hide (not Hyde).. 'Good grief I am cartoonist not a monster’.
My alter ego Mr. Hide unfortunately appears when my "I'm ok facade" is threatened to be exposed by my collection of insecurities, circumstances, mistakes and bad choices. Better to hide and live to fight another day.. or something like that.
Mr. Hide wants others to see me as a success. A man with a career, admired, and a man of status, and dashing good looks. Mr. Hide promotes the illusion that he is confident, funny, never depressed, and has never struggled with substance abuse. Oh there are many other things Mr. Hide hides from others, but you get the idea.
I do recall from time to time where I want to hide. A circumstance mixed in with a dash of my special brand of stumbling/bumbling has me looking for a hiding place.
But while I may want to hide, or at least get away I know none of my circumstances surprise God. I am sure He did not slap his forehead and declare.. "Wow, now that's a new one."
Anyways, I choose to put my trust in God. I could quote a ba-zillion verses about God's love for me, but I will keep it simple and share the oft quoted Psalm 23.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Another reason not to hide.. God's people.. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
So today I pray God bless, care, and restore each of us when life seems to have replaced our highs with lows. Remember.. If God is for ME, who can be against ME? Ro 8:31
Jeff (hiding in the Back Pew) Larson
Rich Man, Poor Me
"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
AWKWARD.. Then and Now
THIS LIFE is filled with awkward moments. For example,
Ok, TMI I know, but in reading my Bible I discover I am not the only one with awkward moments to deal with.
There were miracles a plenty.. in my Bible leaving mouths hanging open speechless at the power of God. But of course as a cartoonist and self-declared humorist awkward silence in between the verses retelling these stories are a fine place for a awkward one-liners. For example, when..
In all three instances someone awkwardly got wet.
all of the above and more from the the very pages of our Bibles cry.. AWKWARD!
BUT.. that was THEN.. This is NOW
The above are just a few moments that make me collectively cringe, smirk, and then realize the more things change the more they stay the same.
Today's world is still so very awkward in response to this life and God. We as Christians are to be in this world but not to be of this world, but awkwardly we attempt to do both. We reason.. 'Jesus is love so I should be about loving others'.. BUT.. in doing so we embrace the sins of this world. AWKWARD.
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15
So I pray we all stand strong for our God.. unwavering examples of His truth, and do so in love. To stand faithful in our words and deeds is to honor God and be a testimony to mankind.
May God bless and use each of you this day in ways that are beyond your dreams and even in the awkward moments of life.
Jeff (sitting awkwardly in the Back Pew) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson
Back Pew - Draw Close to God
116 pages of cartoons of 'Clean Humor & God's Truth'
CRITICS ARE SAYING..
Laughter is just a CLICK away