The teachings especially in the New Testament are full of figures of speech that if taken literally would be reason for a great deal of angst in our lives. Here are just a few.
But thankfully these are much more than figures of speech for those who place their hope in God. These are words holding important life changing/saving truths.
Finally let me leave you with a phrase I don't think can be found in our Bibles. This phrase is maybe not a figure of speech, but words that also have a double meaning when they are wielded together.
When the dreaded 'Fine, Whatever' combination is muttered by a wife.. well it is anything but FINE, and WHATEVER is the last thing you should consider.
May God bless your day with clarity, with purpose, a strong understanding of God's word, and nary a FINE, WHATEVER mentioned to you husbands.
I was 'praying anxiously' the other day. Of course praying anxiously is an oxymoron bigger than a skinny baptist preacher.. BUT God reminded me I am called to be FAITHFUL IN the moments that make up my day not FAITHFUL FOR a moment in my day.
I guess this is obvious to everyone else, BUT for me it was an epiphany.. and my calling.
I should not longer worry about being recognized as the Farside of Christian cartoonists (lol, in my dreams).. but instead focus on being Faithful in Word and Deed in what every day presents to me.
Faithful is not just when everyone is watching. We are called to be faithful to God in words, emotions, deeds, and our thoughts.
May the Lord find us all faithful in big and small ways including every nook and cranny of that makes up our days.
Jeff (work in progress) Larson
How does my resume look? Am I qualified? Can God really use a NOBODY with nothing to offer? What if my self-esteem is in the DIRT of my Monday - Friday RUT where my abilities and influence never seem to make a difference for God.
Oh sure I attend church most every Sunday, and my wife and I even host a Small Group bible study every other Sunday night.. but what difference does any of that make? Who am I? Hi, my name is Jeff and I am NOBODY.
Then I reflect back over my years in the work place. I have traveled on a seemingly random career path. As a young man I worked as a logger in rural Wisconsin, then moved to the big city where I was a computer programmer/analyst, and not so many years ago I was the owner/manager of a sports officials management business.
After selling my sports officiating biz overal several years I coasted into early retirement while driving school bus part time on the side. I find officiating sports and officiating school kids on a big yellow bus are very similar.
Side note: There was one summer while between jobs I was a PAPER BOY (for God?) delivering the daily newspaper.
All while through my years in the work force I have continued my hobby/passion of cartooning..finding out it is not a successful 'get rich quick' scheme or a cash cow though I better known for my cartoons than I am for any of my proffessional accomplishments.
Then to further feed this 'I AM NOBODY' theme there was a time when I received an actual letter in my mailbox declaring my 'nobodyness'. Well, actually worse than nobody.. the letter said I was DEAD. This letter was from my bank addressed to Jeffrey DEAD Larson instead of Jeffrey DEAN Larson.
I am not sure if that was a typo or a snarky comment on my personal credit so I did quick check my pulse, and good news.. I was not dead.
Good News? I am not dead. Bad News? I am nobody!
So I turn to God's word for encouragement and inspiration in hopes to find a glimmer of hope that I am not a NOBODY, but rather a somebody. I was quickly reminded of great Bible nobodys turned to somebodys
By God using these very flawed men to serve him in great ways it demonstrates it has always about God's message and not the messenger.... so maybe there is hope for a NOBODY like me.
NOBODY(s) for JESUS.. sounds more like a label for a Christian support group than a battle cry to serve God. Can't you hear our Battle Cry?
Who are we? nobody.
The mighty mighty.. Nobodys?
Who am I without God anyways? BUT an equally good question is.. WHO AM I WITH GOD? What is possible?
This is not to say God will use me to part any Red Seas, raise any dead, or become the Billy Graham of Christian cartoons, .. but
I believe if I am willing, God will bless and use me in ways that are beyond what I could dream.
The one thing I am daily reminded is.. this life is not about me. It is about loving God with all my heart soul and mind and caring for others. To be faithful in the moments presented to me each day and then God can and will use me in little subtle ways for sure, and who knows maybe in big ways. I am sure there is a sea that needs parting somewhere.
May God bless and use each of you as you are faithful to HIm in ways that are always beyond our dreams and all that God intends.
Have a great day. Smile lots.. and enjoy life!
Jeff (NOBODY) Larson
Not so long ago there was a GEICO commercial featuring a Sumo figure skater with the tag line "Sumo Wrestler figure skating? Surprising! What's not surprising is what you can save on car insurance by switching to GEICO."
This is the kind of kind of absurd humor my Back Pew mind can appreciate and has inspired a few GEICO-esque cartoons
"Heavy Metal Yodeling?" Surprising. What's not surprising? How much money you could save by switching to GEICO."
I am still waiting for GEICO to call me back on this 'creative' concept, but so far..
'I hear crickets'.
So then I take a look at my collection of cartoons and found very quickly three more Heavy Metal cartoons. They are...
I believe with these cartoons I have demonstrated a GEICO like absurdity that I embrace. AND.. I believe there is very little if any spiritual message from these toons, but..
I will give it a try.
Heavy Metal Yodeling, Polka, Sunday School with Ozzy Ozbornagain .. surprising!
what's not surprising is God's Amazing Grace covers all our sins.
It's not surprising because we are loved with the perfect love of our Heavenly Father.
Ok, it's maybe not GIECO material, but the John 3:16 promise of Salvation beats the best of insurance plans.
So I pray today that each of you experience God's Amazing Grace, the promise of His presence in your lives today, and the promise of Heaven in your future.
Jeff (surprised often) Larson
God's Spirit moving in me is more than my conscience making me feel guilty about late night snacking.. and of this I AM GUILITY.
The Spirit of God leads, the Spirit intercedes. Yea, though I walk through the Valley of Death I will fear no evil, for your Spirit is with me. Psalms 23
I believe the Spirit is that tug on my heart, the gentle unspoken word convicting me of my sins that is truly a gentle touch on my soul.
The Spirit of God indwells in my being when and where I make room for Him.
The Spirit of God will not share my heart with unclean thoughts, and sinful ways like Felix and Oscar from Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. So make room for God's Spirit and to be led by Him.
Savor time spent quiet and alone with the very Holy Spirit of God.
Pray for clarity of mind and spirit, and strength in times of pain and discouragement.
Seek God's Spirit in your life daily, and without exception.
And.. do not grieve God's Spirit with sinful compromise in thoughts, desires, and/or actions.
Pray to hear His words impressed on your very soul, and Lord find us obedient to the promptings of your Spirit, and
Empower us when we are weak for your Glory.
And then truly.. I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
Jeff (quiet in spirit for a change) Larson
Render.. to provide or give (a service, help, etc.).
In the days of Jesus, the Roman Empire was the most ruthless political, social, and military power in the land. Their motto.. DON'T MESS WITH ROME, it won't end well.
The religious power at this time was in the clutches of those disapproving rigid rule keepers extra ordinaires.. The Pharisees enjoyed heaping frustrating layers of tedious legalism on top of God's simple, beautiful loving truths. Matthew 23:24
Then along comes Jesus sharing the perfect Gospel message of love and hope. John 10:10
On one day the religious leaders ask Jesus a trick question to trap Jesus with his answer. "Teacher, should we pay taxes to Caesar?".. Jesus replied "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Matthew 22:20-22 This was the original drop the mic moment before there were mics.
Meanwhile today in America our government is becoming a 'big brother' political & social power propped up by the main stream & social media. Their motto.. DON'T MESS WITH BIG BROTHER.. just like Rome, it won't end well.
Today's religious powers are a blend of world religions and the progressive 'Church' movement. They promote a collective faith (a higher power). They do not consider Christian Bible is not considered inerrant, and the beautiful truths on life it's pages are revised or redacted to fit their 'tolerant and evolved versions' of truth.
Then along comes the True Church sharing the perfect Gospel message of love and hope. Mark 16:15
So if we are asked a loaded question like.. "Who do you obey?.. Reply.. "Render unto America what is due, but give to God what is God's. Then.. drop the mic.
This blog message was born out of conversations with my wonderful wife Mary. Our country now has a new president and while some are excited America is headed in a new direction, others are very concerned.
Make no mistake there will be big changes, BUT.. no matter which side you are on remember the true message of Hope is in the Gospel message and not in American politics. No need to confuse love for country with love for God, and no need to become confused where our hope lies. It is in Jesus.
It is eternally more important to get the Gospel message right, than to get the tax code right.
May God bless each of you to stay true to the course of the Gospel message and place your hope and purpose in the Gospel message.
Jeff (Secretary of Crayons in the new Biden Administration) Larson
Narcissist - a person who has an excessive interest in or admiration of themselves.
Today, a narcissist is a term thrown about to describe politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and pro athletes who appear to live a self-adoration existence believing they MUST share their 'enlightenments' to us 'common folk'. How else could we carry on?
Unfortunately, I believe narcissism is alive and well (actually a sickness) in the Church where 'celebrity' preachers' tweak God's Word for the itching ears of the masses seeking entertainment not God. These preachers are more concerned with offending society than God. note: never tweak God's Word, and never come to church for entertainment. Luke 18:10-14
Narcissism in the church exists when...
Also, a subtle church narcissism can be fueled by insecurities. We skew our thoughts often fueled by anxious busy minds, and/or hurt feelings to where we lose sight of God. These self preservation fears will drive us inward, and away from God's will as much as any of the above ego-motivated narcissism. Sadly none of us are exempt from the pull of 'Christian Narcissism'.
note: Of course Christian Narcissism is a oxymoron of Biblical proportions. The behavior of Narcissism is anything but Christian, but makes for a catchy title.
Recently my wife and I started a small group Bible study with friends from our church. We are reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer .. and in this short book Tozer prescribes the cure for Narcissism.
This is my prayer for God's Church. To pursue His Truth, and to serve in the church and in the world in ways that make us the Body of Christ. We (the Church) are one body with many parts (denominations, giftedness, talents) and designed for the Glory of God.
Jeff (one body, many aches) Larson
Gloom, despair, and agony on me.. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery.. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.
Gloom & Despair could be a paraphrased excerpt from Ecclesiastes penned by King Solomon.. but.. in fact they are the lyrics from the silly country ditty of the same title.. Gloom Depair and Agony on me. by Buck Owens & Roy Clark. This tune was played as part of a regular comedy sketch on the TV show Hee-Haw where hillbilly folk lamented their dire circumstances.
For those of you too young to know, or trying to forget.. Hee-Haw was a television variety show featuring country music and corny but clean humor with the fictional rural "Kornfield Kounty" as a backdrop. It aired on CBS from 1969 to 1971.
note: If you have not figured it out by now, I am your go-to source for obscure TV and movie trivia. You are all very welcome.
Gloom & Despair could also be the mantra for 2021. I thought 2020 was bad, but.. 2021 is not starting out so great either. We still have Covid wearing masks, we still have Civil unrest, racial tensions, we have a nation very much divided, and (in my opinion) a church that looks more like the world than it does Jesus.
All is lost, gloom and doom, and life is so bad I would feel 'lucky' to call our circumstances hopeless. Are we all LOSERS living in Loserville USA?
No offense intended, but I am positive to some degree or another this is true. BUT.. no matter the circumstances, and/or blunders we make individually or collectively we can purposefully choose to repent and return to God.
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." 1 John 1:9
Our hope is not in politicians, or a social justice agendas, our hope is in Jesus.
note: Jesus is not a cliché', Jesus is truth, He is our salvation. He came to Earth, was our perfect example and teacher for life. He lived, and died on the Cross, and rose again so that we might live.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
So for all us losers in Loserville, the question of the hour is.. If God is for us, who can be against us? Ro:31 This is easily one of greatest rhetorical questions EVER!
Instead of the worry and angst that goes along with living imperfectly in this imperfect world in a very imperfect year 2021 .. we can have peace and perspective from our God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7
This peace comes when we.. love God with all your heart soul and mind and others as yourself. All of life hangs on those two commandments. - Jesus, Matthew 22:36-40
I think the Apostle Paul was the king of contentment that rose above circumstance. No place Gloom, Despair, or Agony on me, deep dark depression, excessive misery in the eyes of Paul. Only loving God and serving others.
So today I pray.. May God bless each of you in 2021 with a gloom and despair free attitude knowing ..
My help (your help too) comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.. Psalm 121 1
Amen, and amen!
Everyone loves Top 10 lists. So today I will share my Top 10 Ways to Die in the Bible. note: By top 10 ways to die I am talking about moments that make a fellow shout "OWEE, OWEE!"
To qualify for this list the death must meet the following 3 Criteria..
So here we go,
Honorable mentions go to Eglon, the enemies of Samson, and the victims of the infamous Jars & Trumpet militia.
Your list may be different than mine, and in fact please write me your favorite ways to die from the Bible. It could make my next list.
Let me close today's ramble with the topic of 'Near Death' Experiences
In sharp contrast to top 10 ways to die we have Near Death experiences. No not the 'out of body' stories we read about, but instead our 'sinners saved by Grace' kind of experience.
When we realize our best is a filthy rags Isaiah 64:6 before God, but with a repentant heart we can receive this Amazing Grace of God we move from 'near death' an eternity in Hell to eternal life with our creator in Heaven.
There are great stories of loved ones who gave their lives to Jesus on their literal death beds. These loved ones are very much like the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember Him, and Jesus replied "Today you will be with me in Paradise". Luke 23:43 Both moved from near death to eternal life with a repentant heart receiving God's Amazing Grace.
Now, that's the kind of 'near death' experience I'm talkin' bout'.
I pray God's blessings on your lives today. I pray you all have the promise of Heaven in your future. All roads do not lead to Heaven, and being a pretty good guy or gal, and/or just believing in a higher power is not good enough.
Choose Jesus today if you have not already. We are all going to die (deep Back Pew insight, lol), know it matters eternally what we believe and where we place our faith. I place my faith in Jesus Christ, and I pray each of you do also.
If you have not, know.. If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness 1 John 1:9
Jeff (Not dead yet) Larson
If we took a poll on our favorite books of the Bible, you may hear the Gospel of John, Psalms, Proverbs, James, Philippians, but I am quite sure Leviticus is NOT in the top 10, or 50, or maybe 65 books of the Bible. But this year, I have discovered Leviticus Rocks.
No I am not talking about an archeological dig dated back to the time of Leviticus.. I am talking about recent important lessons God's Spirit has taught me while reading the book of Leviticus.
Leviticus.. All those seemingly archaic lists of dos and don'ts regarding the bugs, rats, owls, or lizards you cannot eat do NOT make Leviticus a page turner unless you are in a through the Bible reading plan and by turning pages to get on to the next book of the Bible. Unfortunately the next book is the book of Numbers which starts out with a Census taken on the twelve tribes of Israel. "ROLL CALL, everybody get in line and count off by one. Zzzzzzz...."
This year is I believe my 5th year on reading through my Bible in one year, and second year in a row. Last year I did it chronologically, this year I return to a mix of Old and New Testament each day. For me, reading through my Bible provides me context that I otherwise may miss. I do also enjoy other studies, books by popular Christian authors past and present, BUT I find God speaks to me best when it is just me and His word.
And this year I am loving Leviticus. Livin' la-vida-Leviticus!
Leviticus deals with the significant for the nation of Israel in the years right after being miraculously freed (including the parting of the Red Sea) from slavery in Egypt. These Levitical laws included the details of animal sacrifices to the Lord, strict requirements for priests, punishments by stoning, and much more. All these and more are difficult to fathom while living in our modern world of 'cheap grace' that follows celebrity preachers with a what happens in 'America' stays in 'America' attitude.
But this year reading Leviticus God spoke to me regarding his Holiness, and the importance of these animal sacrifices done in great detail was a true reverence to God. Ok, today in our land of PETA, animal sacrifices are not easy to grasp, but Levitical sacrifices were written for a world much different than ours, BUT..
the same reverence for God and doing what is pleasing in the Eyes of the Lord is still relevant. But for today, Jesus took the place of these sin offerings.
Even the scriptures on stoning in certain situations I understand now making sense. In one case a man blasphemed God, and was to be put to death by stoning. Today, that line for stoning those who blaspheme God would be very long and run waaay around the corner. And I agree on face value STONING seems very harsh.
But think of it.. In a time shortly after this man was miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt by the very hand of God now decides to blaspheme Him. I don't pretend to know the mind of God, but this man would be in my eyes the poster child for mocking God. and GOD IS NOT MOCKED. Leviticus 24:10-23, Galatians 6:7
I think without the stoning part our society angers our loving God with our cavalier smug attitude judgments of God himself. We don't just have questions about God, we judge Him. We lower in our eyes the creator of this world who exists outside time in space to our blip in time existence. Think of it, the very creator of this universe being deemed wrong by our 'pea brained' insights on justice. We judge God as not loving even though mankind's free will is the root cause of all pain and death. WHAT ARROGANCE.
Then laws about qualifications for being a High Priest. .. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. Leviticus 21:18-20
Ok, as a cartoonist I of course find humor in this, BUT.. in truth the importance of the High Priest being set apart and special speaks to today's cavalier by comparison selection of preachers (men of God).
This world of is a glut of celebrity preachers, hot preachers, easy grace preachers, new age / progressive preachers making these Levitical laws on High Priests wise by comparison to our low standards for today's 'supposed' men of God.
Ok, I am not sure how well this blog is received today. I don't believe I have convinced many to make Leviticus their favorite book of the Bible, but I pray what I have shared gives some much needed context for this often cringe-worthy book of Old Testament law.
There is a song by Mercy Me, Word of God Speak.. let me share the lyrics of this song below, and I pray these words give us perspective on the Power of God's Word and His Spirit in using these words to speak life into us.
"Word Of God Speak"
I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say
Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak
I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice
[REPEAT CHORUS 2x]
I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
Link to Play song-> Word of God Speak
My prayer today is for each of us this year to put in our most high regard, God's Word. I pray we are quiet enough to hear God speak to us by His Spirit these words of Life.. even in Leviticus
Word of God Speak!
Jeff (Levitical low priest) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson