Invertebrate: an animal lacking a backbone, such as an arthropod, mollusk, annelid, coelenterate, .. and some forms of Christians.
But first a bunny trail>
With all things COVID-19 related it is easy for everyone including Christians to hyperfocus on this very real health risk. So hyperfocused that we almost forget to breath. Almost.
But the world does not truly go on hold. Life is still lived and as Christians we should not lose focus on Jesus and living out His truth. The evening news does not give you truth.. it gives you what will get you to watch their 'shows'. Cynical much? you ask. No, I think of it as being realistic.
So no matter, we all of course need to be careful, stay healthy but this is NOT the Black Plague. Stay informed, but don't swallow the bait cast out every night at 6pm at your favorite news fishing spot.
<End of bunny trail
Now put down your Purell for a moment and let's talk about the Church. Not the buildings where we all gather in, but those good folk called to be the body of Christ.
A strong body will have bones, muscles, a heart pumping, brain thinking, lungs breathing, and we have eyes, ears, nose to enhance our senses to the world around us. This is why the body analogy works well in describing the Church and how it should function. All parts of the body are different but important.
So here is my concern of the day.. the church appears to suffer at times from a hardened and/or weak heart.. and our brain perplexed while attempting to blend God's truth into a 'very' secular world view (a true square peg in a round hole dilemma). Of course we should instead share how this very secular world needs to align with God's Truth.
AND.. then my cartoon mind smriks.. Maybe the Church is an invertebrate? Spineless, unable to stand up in this sinful world.
At the very least the church appears to be slouching.. and maybe the slouching is because it has no spine.
Spineless Christianity? I am 62 years old guy with chronic back issues. Images of my spine a few years back indicated I have several bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and arthritis that give me at times considerable pain. So The Bad News is.. I have pain. The Good News is.. I have a spine!
But I have grown fond of my spine.. not sure I could live without it. LITERALLY.
So goes the same when we talk about the Church Body. The Church must have a spine (stand unflinching with God's Truth with no apology) or I believe will die.
Jesus said, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. .. John 15:18-19
AND THEY DID hate Jesus for sharing God's unflinching loving truth. Not in rude manner we 'Christians' sometimes are known for, but the kind of love/truth where Jesus spoke more about Hell then He did Heaven. It matters eternally what we believe, what we say, or DON'T say.
But, we the Church worry, dare I say is afraid.
People won't like me and/or laugh at me. They will label me just another judgmental hypocritical bigot. I'm cool, really.. but ..
Hmmm.. let summarize my concern with these attitudes.. Any Church (or person) without Biblical convictions.. that does not follow Christ teachings, listen to the Holy Spirit cannot truly worship/obey God and.. is maybe not really a Christian. And certainly appears to be a 'Christian Invertebrate'
To exist in a luke-warm compromised Oprah Winfrey morning blend of religions that serves self with at best a wink and a thumbs up gesture towards Heaven will not get you to Heaven, and certainly not lead others to God.
So what better time than now to grow a SPINE. In the midst of the pandemic panics, partisan politics, border & homeless crisis, racial tensions, failing marriages, and LGBTQ confusion we (The Church) best grow a spine. I MEAN NOW.
It has been a long time since I was a student in Biology class but I am pretty sure our physical bodies cannot grow a spine. And I can't go to a body junk yard and pick up a spine that is used but in pretty good condition (no arthritics, or bulging discs) to replace my aching back.
But in contrast I believe any church body with a repentant heart desiring revival, and obedient to God's unchanging Truths (His Word) can be restored by God for His glory.
A Church Body with a Heart/love for God & others, with hands and feet serving God and others, and our minds renewed (Ro 12:2) and obedient to God's unchanging truths .. God will bless us as we stand tall and straight for God in this crooked world.
And just like that. Viola' - The Church has a spine again.
May God bless you and the Church to be seeking Him. May He find us faithful, standing straight for His truth in this twisted secular world. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Mt 5:16
Jeff (aching back) Larson
Our Father who is in Heaven, GREAT is your name.. Your kingdom come, your WILL be done ON EARTH as it is in Heaven.
As many of you know this is the start of the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:9-13), and is what I believe God is impressing on me today.
Your Will on Earth? So how is that working out?
Christian Tweeters are all quoting the same Bible and while there are honest differences, tweets tend to be divisive as tweeters congregate in their own denominational or theological camps/gangs?.
With all the tension I am looking for an MMA pay-per view event with Catholics v Protestants to determine once and for all.. who really is saved? It can't be the both.. can it? I mean, one of the two must be on the fast track to HELL. Or will there be a Pro(testant)-Wrestling match with a high flying Beth Moore coming off the top rope attempting to way-lay John MacCarther.
kidding, I think.
But while I DO LIKE TO DIGRESS.. let us now return to the LORD'S PRAYER. God your will be done on Earth.. starting with me.
Through my life (I am 62 now) I have prayed "Lord show me your will for my life." many times. At times regarding big decisions and that is a good always to seek the Lord and His will, but I am just recently realizing often the prayer"what is your will for my life?" is me-centric. Prayers focusing on the right job, house, finding Mrs. Right/Larson, or even a car purchase.
Looking back I wish I could have heard an audible voice from Heaven telling me if I was close. :)
God could be heard from the Heavens with the words.. "Warmer, warmer.. hmmm.. colder, colder.. now you are FREEZING. Which I literally now realize is maybe how I ended up in Minnesota. Get it? colder, colder freezing.
Truth is (insert light bulb moment for me here) The prayer "Lord what is your will for my life?" should be more specifically.. "Lord how can I serve you today, show me what I can do for your kingdom." "How can I be that part in the Lord's Prayer helping God's Will be Done.
Again, I swear I am just this week realizing the extent of this truth. I could cry over my 62 years wandering with one foot planted firmly in the wilderness and the other foot only tip toeing into the promised land much like the Children of Israel wandered for 40 years before crossing the Jordan.
But I console myself with.. I am a pretty good guy. I have lived a life faithful to God (most of the time) I attend church every week (most of the time), and I am not the type of sinner you will find someday featured in a scandal on the evening news, or the topic of a murder mystery on Dateline.
Most of my sins lie most everyone fly 'mostly' under the radar. Then again much of my serving God flies under the radar too. Not in the humble way, but in a underachieving way.
An honest tombstone for me might read..
'Here lies Jeff.. he loved God, but also loved himself a bit too much.'
Not a catchy tombstone eulogy I must admit.
Even this little Back Pew Ministry.. I am blessed to be used by God in a way that He uniquely wired me. And the feedback I receive is most always positive.. but then even in my world of cartoons I can take my eyes off of humbly being used by God in this small way to praying for God to bless The Back Pew into being.. The FarSide, or Calvin & Hobbes of Christian cartoons, complete with a modest OR.. substantial income "SHOW ME THE MONEY!"
But in recent months I have been diving deeper into my Bible, and reading challenging Christian books and points of view via sermons on Youtube or other streaming apps. And my selection of music is mostly worship music replacing my large classic rock playlist.
These recent months pursuing God deeper have not resulted in an exorcism of my old self, but it has become both a convicting and inspiring journey where today my prayer is .. "Lord what is your will for my life going forward? How can I serve you? Lord help me NOT to bury my talents in the sand, but instead do my part so YOUR will is done on Earth as it is in Heaven. AMEN."
I write this hoping it does not take any of you 62 years to figure out God's will for you is to serve Him. But if it does, 62 is not too late. Love God, Serve God where your will is God's will.
May God bless you all in this journey of discovering who you are intended to be in God's Plan and for his Kingdom on Earth.
Jeff (slow learner) Larson -->
Before I discuss the Old Testament guide to 'FINDING A WOMAN' let me give a Genesis update where in Genesis 20 where Abraham AGAIN lies. He is not even original as he tells Abimelek king of Gerar that Sarah is his sister. So Abimilek took Sarah into his house .. until God spoke to him in a dream with the words "You are a dead man walking for taking a married woman from my prophet."
But God showed mercy on Abimilek as he had not come near her yet. The next day he gave Sarah back and Abe tried to explain himself in verse 12 ..
Well, technically she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.
<insert reflective pause here>
Sounds like an episode from the Reality TV show 'The Real Housewives of the region of the Negev between Kadesh and Shur'.
Let me note again.. Sarah was some kind of sport to go along with this. Don't think this plan would fly right with my wife Mary.
Also, why do Kings and Pharaohs in the book of Genesis want 80+ year old women? Not judging, just sayin'.
Next in Genesis 21 we learn Sarah becomes pregnant in her old age. This was before gender reveal parties so Abraham and Sarah had to wait the traditional 9 months before they exclaimed "It's a boy, and we shall call him Isaac."
In celebration then passed out blue cupcakes, and drank blue kool-aid... cuz boys are BLUE and girls are PINK.
Now onward and forward we go..
Do you remember Hagar in Genesis 16, The fact that she had a son with Abraham now complicated life. Tensions and jealousy rose between Hagar and Ishmael with Sarah and Isaac, so Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away.
I obviously do not understand this whole dynamic or know how to justify this.. except I do know that Hagar and Ishmael were not how God planned to bless Abraham but through the birth of Isaac.
This story is harsh, but in these verses we learn God heard the cries of Hagar and was with the boy. 17 ..the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven "Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying ..Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
Next, in Genesis 22, God tests Abraham by instructing him to sacrifice son Isaac whom he loved dearly.
.. but God finds Abe faithful in this test from God and God stops Abe from sacrificing Isaac and instead provides a lamb to be sacrificed.
Note 1: I confess I may have threatened to kill my boys when they were acting out as teenagers.
Note 2: Isaac being saved was very good news for the literal future of Israel.
Note 3: Not a good day to be a lamb stuck in a thicket.
Note 4: The above threats to kill my sons was a figure of speech
Moving forward in reading Genesis 22:21 we are introduced to my favorite names in the Bible.
Uz and Buz (not Buzz LIghtyear) the sons of Nahor.
Not much is said about these two fine young men leaving this cartoonist with time on his hands to imagine they were chick magnets and they had a cousin named.. Fuzz.
Maybe, maybe not.
Now back to Abraham. He is now well over 100 years old, and Sarah passed away Genesis 23. So of course Abraham feels the urgency of finding his son Isaac a wife before his days are over too. How is Abraham going to be the father of a nation with more descendants than the stars in the skies if his son never goes on a date?
"So Isaac my son, you need to go outside and stop playing video games all day. Say hi to a girl, they won't bite. Go find yourself a nice Jewish girl, settle down, then go forth and MULTIPLY! Maybe, maybe not
If the story in Genesis 24 was today, Abe could help Isaac set up an ad in the personals, sign up for a E-Harmony site, or Jewish Mingles, order a MAIL ORDER BRIDE, check the church bulletin board, or.. attend an old faithful church potluck where the dishes are HOT just like the ladies. Maybe, maybe not.
Since dating life in Genesis 24 was a tad more primitive than today with zero wi-fi, Abe decides to help his son out. Oh great, that is just the news any young man wants to hear.. Dad is finding me a woman of my very own. What I am trying to say is.. While I may have never been a major-mover with the ladies I never stooped to asking my dad for dating advice. I love you dad, but this was not going to happen.
To make this process even stranger-er, Abraham insisted his chief servant 'promise' to find this woman.
How is this promise secured you may ask?
No instead Abraham says.. “Hey fella, put your hand under my leg and swear.”
<insert dramatic pause here> I beg your pardon? Come again? Is this an advanced version of the old 'pull my finger' joke?
Aah those good old (testament) days. You just never hear anyone say anymore.. "put your hand under my leg".
note: I have a very good friend Bryan Anderson, and if he asked to put my hand under his leg you could be assured I would SWEAR. "Oh bleep, that was creepy!" Then I believe I would be deemed ceremonial unclean by my church for at least 7 days. maybe, maybe not
So Abraham’s servant does swear to Abraham to follow his instructions and finds the lovely Rebecca. It was truly love at first sight? er aaa.. meet?.. er aaaa… arranged marriage.
She agrees to return with Abe's servant and leave her family to marry Isaac. And they all lived happily ever after. Well at least through Genesis 24.
After the deal is done.. Abraham gets busy himself. He marries again and his new bride has more 6 kids. Finally at a very youthful age of 175 Abe breathes his last though they say he never did look a day past 155.
The lesson I see again in these Genesis stories is how God is faithful even when man even when we makes decisions that leave me more than scratching my head (ie Abraham). This is good news for me, and you too. I make more than my fair share of mistakes, and while my faith is not on par with Abraham.. I am blessed knowing God honors my desire to obey Him.
Life will never be about being the perfect Christian. Perfect Christians are like the Loch Ness monster.. folk lore at best.
I pray God finds us faithful, and I pray for His blessings and providence in our lives as we daily love and obey Him with all our heart.
Jeff (My wife is NOT my sister) Larson
I shared recently the mysterious voice saying "If you build it, they will come." happened way before the movie 'Field of Dreams' when God spoke to Noah instructing him to build it (an Ark) and they (the Animals) would come two by two.
Next big event IMO in the book of Genesis was when the phrase 'Home of the Whopper' was coined way before a single Burger King fast food joint existed. Let me explain.. but first..
ON THE ROAD AGAIN!
In Genesis 12 Abram enters the Old Testament story. Abram is maybe 85 years young, his bride Sarai is maybe 70. The Lord tells Abram .. “Road Trip.!!.. pack up the Winnebago”. So Abraham loads a destination of Canaan into his GPS and says goodbye to Sweet Home Haran with Lynard Skynard playing in the background.
HOME OF THE WHOPPER!
The next thing you know Abram was in Egypt with his wife Sarai while there was a famine in the land. While in Egypt, Pharaoh spies Abram's wife Sarai who rumor has it was a 'fetching' 70 year old hottie. So Abe tells a little fib that Sarai is his sister as he is afraid they will kill him to take Sarai as their wife. Ok, that is not a white lie this is a WHOPPER of a lie.
So Pharaoh takes Sarai into his palace, and treats Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels out of the exchange.
side note: I am not sure my wife in Sarai's place would have been such a good sport.
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
side note 2: While Abraham would become known as a great man of faith, Honest Abe was our 16th president and never confused with this Abram guy pawning his wife off in Egypt.
After Egypt, Abe travels to southern Canaan as a very wealthy man with cattle, silver, and gold. But tension arose between Abram and his nephew Lot because there were simply too many animals for the land to support. So Abe says to Lot, “Let’s not bicker over land. If you choose the land to the left, I will go to the right, and if you choose the land to the right, I will go to the left.” And Lot chooses the land in the direction of Sodom which could have been named LOT VEGAS!
In chapter 14, there were battles, but I gather that military tactics were a bit primitive. One particular lesson learned is still taught in the Soldier’s Field Manual at WestPoint stating a soldier should always avoid the short cut across the TARPITS.
During all this time, the Lord often reminds Abraham that he will be blessed by God so that to try to number his descendants will like trying to count the grains of sand on the shore, or the stars in the skies. There was of course the minor problem that AARP collectors Abram and Sarai had no kids.
So now the plot thickens as Sarai (the good wife) says to Abram, “Why don’t you sleep with my slave girl Hagar?” I have a couple of Back Pew comments with this part of the story.
1. When I think of Hagar, I think of that Viking cartoon character Hagar the Horrible.
2. My wife has never offered me a slave girl to sleep with! Of course if she did I would say very politely, “Why Mary, thank you very much for this most generous offer, BUT (with the vision of Hagar the Horrible in my head) I’m good.” I may not be a great man of faith like Abram, but my momma didn’t raise NO DUMMY!!
But Abram ignores the tell tale warning signs that this idea is DUMBER-ER than a bag of hammers, and wanders out onto THIN ICE IN THE HOT DESERT and says more than howdy-do to the lovely miss Hagar.
Hagar now becomes pregnant by Abram and Sarai lets Abram have it by probably saying something like, “I told you to sleep with her, but not SLEEP with her!” To which Abram so eloquently in his defense says, “Huh? What? But you said!!! I thought I could.... Huh?”
As you can read in chapter 16, this arrangement is nothing you ever see discussed on Focus on the Family, Oprah, or even The Jerry Springer show. These chapters are NOT in the Bible as an example how to model the perfect marraige, but to instead show us God is faithful and caring for Abram and Sarai even when they do really dumb things. Fortunately for all of us, our foolish choices are covered by God’s grace and goodness.
In chapter 17, God says to Abram to change his name from Abram, to Abraham. I wonder if this was so that he could start fresh and people would not know he was the guy who lied that Sarai was his sister, and slept with his wife’s slave girl. Sarai also has her named changed to Sarah. Then near the end of the chapter 99 year old Abraham is circumcised. This profound scripture emphatically reminds me not to complain about my own aches and pains. And all men collectively shout AMEN!!.. and .. YOWTCHEE!!
I thank God for His love and grace not dependent on my perfection. I pray God finds us all faithful in words and deeds and willing to hear God's voice when He calls us.
Jeff (my wife is not my sister) Larson
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
A while back our pastor gave a sermon on getting to know God by reading our Bibles regularly and systematically. During this very good sermon our pastor joked that the most read books of the Bible are Genesis and Matthew, because our inspired intentions in January to read through our Bibles fades once we are through Genesis, and Matthew. (Leviticus has killed many a Bible study ).. then the next year we are back in Genesis and Matthew. I call this bible study plan.. The BEGINAGAINS.
I must be honest and say I have followed the BEGINAGAIN plan many times and not until 2003 did I completely read my Bible from cover to cover AND I CARTOONED THRU IT TOO! Note: Neither Billy Graham or the Pope could say they cartooned through the Bible. Then in 2018 lightning struck again as I read through my Bible from Genesis through Revelations. YEAH ME!
Now here I am starting out 2020 in the BEGINAGAINS using a chronological Bible with the intentions of getting past those tedious Dos and Don'ts highlighted in Leviticus.
Now for many reading through the Bible from beginning to end is not appealing and I understand that. My wife is one of those good folks. In fact I was told in a men's group about studying it is wrong to simply read the Bible through in a year. I DISAGREE.. for me reading through my Bible in order gives me a context and flow of stories and cultures that I may otherwise miss. This is NOT the only right way to read my Bible but it is a way that works for me.
No matter if you use tried and true(?) BEGINAGAINS Bible study, or topical study, or other method the important message is to be in God's word. DAILY!
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Oh we will have questions, and we will not understand it at times. Creation, Noah and his Ark floating on a universal flood, parting of the Red Sea, Elijah riding a chariot of Fire, the Virgin Birth of Jesus, the feeding of 5,000 on fish and chips leftovers, the raising of the dead, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the end time prophecies. All these subjects and many more challenge our reasoning while we scratch our collective heads, and even question what we believe. BUT I have found honest questions are different than doubts, and reading my Bible gives me answers to where I build my faith and love in God.
WHERE SHOULD I PLACE MY FAITH?
Of course in the end we are each challenged regarding where we will place our faith. Will it be science alone, a progressive secular world view, Christianity, or another of the worlds religions. I choose to place my faith in the God of my Bible and this is where I place my hope.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
May God bless each of you in your spiritual journey, and I pray that we all make a priority of reading God's word and be wise in where we place our faith and our hope.
New Year's Blessings
Jeff (BEGINAGAIN) Larson
note: Please understand I respect those who disagree with me (even on the existence of God). My intentions are simply sharing where I place my faith.
I confess #IHATEHASHTAGS is not the most endearing blog title, but my purpose is to focus on a Biblical response to the glut of #movements in our VERY SECULAR society.
This messy world is inundated with Virtue Signalling / Social Justice Crusaders all whipped up into a frenzy by the media and social media with images, sound bites, tweets, etc, which often lack context promoting 'feelings' over 'facts', agendas over truth. Collectively I will label these the dreaded #SJWCRUSADES (social justice warrior crusades).
These #SJWCRUSADES exist in a land where everyone is a victim, and/or bullied into a fragile 'snowflake' condition barely able to function. Their victim status paralysis is someone else fault when 'feelings are hurt', and/or they were made to 'feel uncomfortable' which is considered an 'act of violence' against them. Who is to blame? Mostly, Men.. more specifically WHITE MEN. And the luck of the draw, I was born a white male have continued that status for my entire life. So.. sorry? I guess for something I did or didn't do inherently because I am white? and male?
Important note: I am not insensitive to injustice, but am concerned with a #SJWCRUSADE response to injustice, and where they place hope. For me, I would like to place my hope in the following Bible Basics..
Getting back to the (Bible) Basics..
Welcome to the #SJWCRUSADE Jungle..
#metoo, #churchtoo, #BLM, #believewomen, #toxicmasculinity, #whiteprivelege, #woke, #lgbtq, #prochoice, #abortionisawomansright, #impeach45, etc etc.
In most of these movements GUILT, MOTIVES, and PRIVILEGE are assumed.. and terms like INTERSECTIONALITY are spewed out (yes spewed). But honestly most #SJWCRUSADES add nothing to justice not already covered by God's Word and common sense, and #SJWCRUSADES often have their own agenda that perverts truth.
So with this in mind, onward and forward to societies #SJWCRUSADES parade of Injustices.
1. Respect Women (#believewomen, #metoo, #churchtoo, #toxicmasculinity)
I believe all these #SJWCRUSADES have hijacked/injured truth where guilt is assumed (and very public) because we must #believewomen. After all.. Why would a woman lie? A. Because for women, just like men Romans 3:23 applies.
Slavery, racism, and discrimination based on the color of your skin is foolish sin. Please note, when the Bible speaks of slavery it was a different culture and the meaning of the term slave was very different from what it means today. The Bible never condoned slavery as we think of it today, or any bias against anyone based on the color of their skin.
3. Abortion (#prochoice??, #abortionisawomansright)
There are ZERO valid arguments for abortion. Science and common sense tell us the unborn child is a beautiful human life and to be #prochoice is at it's heart a deception of truth or worse. There is a beating heart, there is the developing body of the unborn child. The birth canal is not the arbiter of life... conception is. And abortion needs to be seen for what it is.. the ending of this life by violent methods.
4. LGBTQ & Gender Issues (#lgbtq)
It matters what we Christians believe on these issues. Of course Christians should respect, appreciate, and love those who are LGBTQ, But.. we should not turn a blind eye to ANY sinful sexual lifestyle from infidelity, porn, adultery, and including LBTQ issues where the scriptures are so clear.
Again, The pursuit of Justice and Truth are biblical. Justice where we are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and where a just punishment is delivered to the truly guilty.
Though I am sure I have ruffled feathers of some of you. My point in blogging this is God's Word is perfect and loving truth and justice for all and #SJWCRUSADES are too often misguided 'very secular' tools with man made agendas.
My prayer is for God's people to know and obey His unchanging truths. Be wary of any Trojan Horse Crusade that claims to seek justice, but have hidden agendas that may not include truth. May God bless each of you with peace and perspective that is from Him and is totally #FREE.
Jeff ( I like hashbrowns not hashtags) Larson
aka The Northwoods Good Samaritan of 2001. This is a story near and dear to my heart that I like to share most every December.
Back in the December of 2001 on the roads of ice and snow near Hayward Wisconsin a young mom with her preschool children loaded in the family car was heading home to the nearby town of Drummond when along the road she spots an older man with the hood up on his car.
This was a typical bitter cold December day, but though she has her young children with her she is impressed to stop and see if she can help.
As she pulls over the old man approaches her car. She cautiously locks her doors and rolls down her window slightly to ask if she can help. The old man does not speak, tries to open the door, then reaches inside his coat.. making her all the more uneasy.
The old man pulls out a small keyboard from his jacket and plays a pretyped short message explaining he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) so he can not speak. He then types needs a ride into town. The young woman opens her car to the old man she does not know and drives him home.
This old man was my father Walter Larson, and the young woman was Jen Herricks, and Jen was the the Good Samaritan of Northern Wisconsin 2001. I wonder how many cars drove by before Jen stopped to help. How many macho northwoods guys in their 4x4 trucks drove by too busy to help an old man stranded on a bitter cold winter day? Maybe none, but maybe too many. But no matter, my dad was cared for by someone with a family car, and a kind heart.
Jen later explained to my mom that she thought my dad was an angel. There are a few explanations for this observation but no one before this had described my dad as an angel. A good guy for sure, but an angel? .. hmmm. No so much.
Maybe there was an angel standing alongside my dad that cold December day, or the the peace dad demonstrated just months before passing on to Heaven. Either way today this was certainly a divine appointment with an angel named Jen.
I love the gospel passage Mt 25:35-40ish “You fed me when I was hungry, you clothed me when I was naked.” Well if the gospels were written today they would also say “you gave me a ride when I was an old man when my car broke down on a winter road in Wisconsin. For when you do these things for the least of my people, you do it for me.”
So Jen gives my dad a ride home. He offers her money, she refuses, and they go their separate ways. NICE STORY, BUT IT IS NOT OVER!.
A few weeks later my folks receive a Christmas card from Jen wishing and praying the best for them. This was nice touch too, but... THE STORY IS NOT OVER!
My dad passed away from his battle with ALS just a couple short months after their December encounter. The funeral was a celebration of the good man my dad was, and his reward in Heaven. 'Irony' or providence has it Jen and her family began attending my mom & dad's church in Cable Wisconsin still not realizing the connection.
After a short period of time it became clear to Jen that my mom attends this same church.. and so Jen contacts my mom. This began a friendship that continued until my mom passed away in December 2016.. 15 YEARS later. This friendship continued after Jen's family moving 70 miles away, and my mom later moved 150 miles to the Twin Cities. I mean, c'mon this took this good Samaritan thing too far.. they must have actually become close friends. Correction they were the best of friends.
When Jen came to visit my mom it is with hugs and kisses that are reserved normally for family. Her kids called her Grandma Nell, and many of the trips included sleep overs in my mom's little apartment This friendship God has provided Jen those 15 years my mom as a ‘seasoned’ Christian woman to talk and confide in.
My mom as I mentioned passed away in December 2016, but you can not take away the blessing of that God orchestrated ride 15 years ago for my dad, or the wonderful friendship over the next 15 for my mom and for Jen. God is good even through the tough times.
Thank you Jen.
So as Christmas approaches, please take time to slow down and notice the angel appointments in your life.
Drawing a line.. is a topic I can so easily relate to. Drawing lines, and coloring inside those lines.. and viola' I have a cartoon. Everybody loves cartoons.. ok, some of us more than others, but hey.. it's what I do.
Now the beauty and curse of a cartoon it allows me the liberty of exaggeration. Exaggeration in a world with big noses, bellies, expressions, and points of view. The lines drawn in cartoons are just outside the lines where reality exists and in this world, I am among friends.
So while I like cartoons and the work of great cartoonists they are obviously not likely found in an Art Gallery.
True art draw lines along with colors and shadows that are amazingly true to the subject of their creation.
This world of true art exists in sharp contrast to my world of cartoons with the above mentioned exaggeration of lines, shadows, and colors to distort truth for the purpose the humor or illustrate a particular point of view.
So then we come to God's Word, His never changing Truth. There are clear lines drawn within it's pages of right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate. The pages of our Bible's are TRUE ART. These lines are perfect with a message that is both honest and loving.
Of course using my finite mind I struggle at times to grasp the depths of these truths and honestly at times DO NOT UNDERSTAND what I am reading.. BUT.. never the less these NEVER CHANGING truths are constant, flawless, and does not need the collective so-called enlightenment of any man from Adam through this very minute including a certain cartoonist from Minnesota.
Here in lies the dilemma.. I observe a trend in today's church to believe the perfect lines of God's unchanging truths need to be redrawn. Too many believe the Bible is outdated and in order to fit God's word into their 'evolved cultured' sensibilities they in effect redact passages they do not agree with and/or use scripture out of context to fit their narrative. These man 'inspired' efforts draw new progressive lines and proceed to color outside the perfect lines of God's inspired word. These efforts make a cartoon out of God's perfect loving Bible truths.
Let me share examples of these sharp contrasting lines
SIMPLE RIGHT & WRONG
GENDER & MARRIAGE
LUST & ADULTERY
CARING V SELFISH
Of course, no one wants to be labeled the uncaring bigoted judgmental Christian stereotype. So while we need to be sensitive regarding all issues of the day including today's hot-button topics (racism, abortion, homosexuality, and gender identity, etc etc ) we need to blend this with God's firm loving Truths . Remember always speak God's truth with love, but 'flip it' to realize love is found only in God's Truth.
And.. the next time someone tells you "I like Jesus but not Christians because Jesus was about love.. but Christians are are judgmental, hateful, bigoted, sexist, patriarchal homophobes.. . Read them Luke 12:49-53
Not Peace, but Division Luke 12:49-53 49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Finally, if we are not careful even those of us who are not progressives allow God's lines to be changed into a caricature at best, or even worse into a big ol' ugly cartoon instead of the beautiful piece of art God's Word is. STAY INSIDE THE LINES, LIVE INSIDE THESE LINES.
Note: I am not casting stones here as I am convicted and reflective on my own past & present spiritual compromises, and prayerful God will guide me with his truth and find me obedient.
May God bless each of you with discernment regarding God's Truths while being salt and light in dark empty society. Be strong for the Lord as we answer to God.. not man.
Jeff (Drawing lots of lines) Larson
Aretha Franklin sang her signature hit R E S P E C T in 1967 as a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who demands the"respect" of her man.
Now 40 years later Aretha's cry for R E S P E C T has been hijacked and ratcheted up with evening news 'shows' reporting/exploiting headlines of sexual misconduct (and worse), bullying, systematic white supremacy, white privilege, (white bread), racism, reverse racism, envy, greed, hatred, and our Universities filled with melting fragile snow-flake students claiming 'micro-aggression' by the man. Whoever the man is.
Don't get me wrong, injustice is a serious matter, but truth often is lost in our GUILTY before proven INNOCENT 'intersectional' virtue signalling society.
The above mentioned microaggressions are defined as the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In fact in today's progressive thinking.. if I disagree with your views I can consider your words 'an act of violence' towards and can retaliate with real violence like a punch in the nose, or key your car door, or worse.. So beware!
By this 'standard' I have been microaggressed as a white man with a rural Wisconsin upbringing lacking economic opportunities or exposure to a racially diverse culture. Now that I am older I am again microaggressed for wearing bi-focals, and hearing aides by my younger better seeing, hearing, and looking co-workers.
Truth is I am NOT microaggressed, and I believe it is all 'microaggressed-hogwash'. Life is good but has never been a level playing field. So let's all determine to.. BUCK UP BUTTERCUP!
But back to Aretha's call for RESPECT.. Why do we make RESPECT so complicated? In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus taught us the two greatest commandments ‘Love the Lord your God' with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind .. and.. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'.
If I truly love my neighbor my words and deeds will demonstrate respect, and a nice byproduct is it's difficult to feel micro-aggressed if my focus is on God and others.. leaving little time for all things ME.
As I mull over this blog, I remember a couple years ago I had a job where my boss and I had honest mutual dislike for each other. I believed I was disrepected and mistreated leading to a mutual parting of the ways. Looking back I know I should have handled this better. Love God? check, love this boss? I did not appreciate, or RESPECT him so loving him like myself wasn't happening.. but it should have. I put my hurt ego over humbling myself and representing Christ. So my prayer coming from this bad experience is to get my eyes off of ME, love God, and care for others... even when the others are bosses from a no good very bad day.
So today I pray we all love God with all our hearts, and uses each of us to be the hands and feet for those who are in need, even maybe your enemies. (note these are God's two greatest commandments, not two greatest suggestions) May our hearts, words, and actions always be compassionate and RESPECTFUL to others in this hurting world, and I pray for God's loving presence and perspective when we are disrespected and/or mistreated by others.
Jeff (micro-REgressing?) Larson
p.s. On a lighter note, I would like to share a clip regarding Injustice inherent in the system at the time of King Arthur. Repression Inherent in the System. <-- click here for a chuckle
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson