Good News and Better News… October 16th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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The world curses

We praise

The world complains

We sing

The world divides

United we stand

The world judges

We forgive

The world’s mean

We are kind

Yet for some reason, because there is a screaming dialogue constantly going on, promoting “might makes right,” we become tempted to curse, complain, divide, judge and be mean.


When we don’t, we feel like limp, leftover losers.

Please observe the picture inserted.

This is a bowl of some leftover something-or-other that we had several days ago, and enjoyed thoroughly–so much so that we thought we might reheat it and have a second go at it. We didn’t. So because it sat around, it got old and eventually became unidentifiable. Once I got the picture, I threw the leftovers away.

The Jesonian–the lifestyle of Jesus–is not a practice of being defensive. We’re not supposed to wait until the world curses to praise, nor should we wait until the whole world is erupting in meanness to express kindness. If we do, we appear to be leftovers.

It may not sound very practical to approach North Korea with diplomacy. It may seem unrealistic. So we are ready to enter a third conflict, already entangled in two unwinnable wars. It’s the thrill of the kill, which is always much more intriguing to those who are not going to be killed or have to do the killing.

The church has lost its heart–and the heart of the church is Jesus. The soul of the church is God, the mind of the church is the Holy Spirit, and the strength of the church is the Body of Christ, working together.

We’ve lost our heart.

No longer do we thoroughly believe in the Golden Rule. We think it might be a great idea, but has no application–just a doctrine for limp leftover losers.

We piously believe we’re better than those who are cloying and clawing their way to the top–but then we buy magazines to read all about who they dissed, who they hurt and who they’re sexually involved with.

Being in love with Jesus is more than dipping your head in reverence to the cross. It’s lifting your head in respect to a message–and it’s holding that head high, knowing that evil cannot win. It’s just too greedy. It eventually chews off its own leg.

There will never be a replacement for praise, singing, standing, forgiving, and kindness. It is what the victors do after the vanquished have failed.

The good news is that we have a message.

The better news is, the message always ultimately wins.Donate Button

 

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Good News and Better News… October 9th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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This weekend was the Fall Festival at the Emmaus Lutheran Church in Orange City, Florida. Also appearing, on the under card, were Cring & Clazzy.

Please understand, I am not lamenting having second billing. After all, the church does use the occasion to raise funds for a very worthy cause.

It’s just that in this season of mediocrity colliding with confusion, the church can no longer take an approach of “business as usual,” as it prepares for the Pumpkin Patch sale, while the huge hand basket arrives to take everybody to hell.

What are the needed adjustments?

What is the responsibility of the fellowship of the followers of Jesus in this season of turmoil and tribulation?

The first and foremost principle that we as Christians and churchgoers need to understand is the power we possess, instead of complaining over our inability to affect circumstances.

One of my sons contacted me this weekend in frustration and said, “Pop, what can we do?”

From his message I sensed that he had a real heart to make a difference, but all he sees are gray walls of discontentment closing in on him. Perhaps the answer is so simple that it escapes those who are trying to participate in complex study. Here’s the path:

Stop trying to do what you can’t do.

In the pursuit of equality, we believe that everybody, everywhere, has equal ability for everything. What could be more ridiculous?

About fifteen years ago, I was traveling with my family band. During a performance, I turned to the audience in speaking about my oldest son’s bass guitar playing, and shared that Jesus was impressed, because “my boy plays bass guitar better than Jesus.” It was a jocular toss-off, based upon Jesus himself saying that “greater things would we do because he goes to the Father.” But it offended the pastor, who insisted that if Jesus wanted to play bass guitar, he’d be the “best bass guitar player in the world.”

We have become defensive. Desiring to do everything, we’ve ended up doing nothing. Keep in mind that perseverance is a virtue–but “stubborn” is a vice.

God the Father has given Mother Nature to us to clarify what we are good at and what we aren’t. If you have tried to do something five or six times and failed on each occasion, number seven is not going to work either. Although you may find testimonials of people insisting it was on the 28th occasion of launching their idea when it finally worked, God is pretty merciful. He lets us know when something is growing and when something is dying.

So that’s my message to the people of Emmaus and also to the folks who faithfully read this blog.

Stop trying to do things you can’t do.

It opens the door for others to perform their talent and magic, while you watch. And then they can step back and allow you the platform for your gifts.

We will continue to flounder in a series of projects, proposals and even prayers–unless we begin to assess what we do that actually works, and what we continue to chase, hoping it will catch fire.

The good news is that each one of you has gifts that have market quality and human ministry.

The better news is, if you will stop trying to do what you can’t do, you’ll have so much more time for what you do well.

 

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Good News and Better News… October 2nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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She was a sweetheart.

During my two presentations at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Clermont, Florida, I got a chance to meet this delightful woman.

She bounced up to my book table and engaged in conversation. About halfway through our exchange, her face got a little more serious and she asked me, “How do we rate? I mean, you go to places all over America. How would you rate our church?”

I knew she wanted a serious answer, yet I wasn’t going to placate her nor was I going to try to place some burden on her heart by pointing out an inadequacy.

“You’re kind of right in the middle,” I said.

She started to smile, then squinted and replied, “Well, that’s not very good.”

After nearly forty-five years of traveling America and sharing in a vari=ety of venues, many of them churches, I will tell you what makes a good church. It begins and ends with the word “generous.”

One of the most chilling statements Jesus offered to his disciples, and to us who would follow his message, was “to he who much is given much is expected.” So it’s a little optimistic to think that you’ll receive eternal salvation while lounging on a heavenly hammock. So here are the three things that make a great church:

1. Generous space.

Sanctuaries are too cramped. They’re confining. This stifles the sensation of freedom. Since your church probably is not filling up the sanctuary for every service, take come pews out. Create room. Make people aware that they have the freedom to extend their legs and arms. Give children a place to crawl.

Clear everything unnecessary from the platform. There should be room for three or four people to stand side by side easily.

If you give air to the room you give air to the people to give air

2. Generous face.

If you’re not going to talk to someone, don’t peer from a distance. It’s creepy. And when you walk up, don’t stay too long, but do make eye contact while you’re there.

We met a fabulous brother named Joe at Shepherd of the Hills. He was not an “average Joe.” He was loving, giving, kind, and made us believe that we had a primal place in his present consciousness.

No one expects you to be a counselor or long-lost friend from high school, but grant folks the dignity to enter your generous space and receive your generous face.

3. Generous grace.

You have no right, privilege or scriptural authority to probe into the lifestyles of those who worship next to you. Share the Gospel of Jesus and let the Gospel do its work. The Holy Spirit is much more adept at convicting people than you are with your gossip. I don’t care what you hear about people. I don’t care what you think about people. At no time do you, I or anyone else have the permission to judge anyone.

It is possible for any church in America to become a Jesonian church–a Jesonian Catholic, a Jesonian Baptist, a Jesonian Methodist, a Jesonian Lutheran, a Jesonian Pentecostal–but it requires you to take on the heart of Jesus instead of pounding your favorite theological nails.

The good news is that Shepherd of the Hills Church has this delightful lady who is not willing to subsist in the middle.

And the better news is, if you make your church a generous space with a generous face, offering generous grace, you will grow.

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Good News and Better News… September 25th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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From my expression in the picture, you might think I’m sad. Not so.

Actually, I’m just thoughtful.

I am at a complete loss at knowing why God enjoys working with humans. I don’t get it. He favors us, He loves us, He trusts us to communicate His ideas. I, for one, would have selected talking raccoons–unusually clean and cute.

But not God. No–people.

Because that is the case, it is useless to ask Him to kill off our enemies. We become absolute jerks when we wish that tragedy or difficulty would befall those who stand against us. And certainly, we are fools in attempting to make some folks less valuable.

Since we’re not going to change God’s mind about His devotion for the human race, we all need to develop a plan. Otherwise we will literally find ourselves outside God’s will.

How can we trust people who are just as devious as we are if we actually admitted we were? What is the game plan going forward?

  • Bigotry has failed.
  • Culture is just another way of expressing bigotry.
  • Politics has created the “great divide.”
  • And religion fosters self-righteousness.

The truth of the matter is, if I can wrap my mind around being a “work in progress,” I might just be able to allow you to be one, too.

If I think that because Mommy and Daddy raised me and I bought a house and I pay my bills and stand up for the National Anthem, that there isn’t much for me to learn, then I will probably be a thorn in the side of my fellow-travelers.

Springing from that thoughtful expression came the following conclusions:

1. Start telling the truth.

Who knows? It might catch on. Make it a game. Every time you lie, deduct a dessert from your menu. And even if it doesn’t become a fad, at least you can tell yourself that you aren’t a liar.

2. Divide the world into two groups–people you know and people you don’t know yet.

Any further division is prejudice.

3. Don’t be afraid of what comes out of you.

Some of it will be crap. Some of it will be inspirational. If you’re willing to sift, question, converse and contemplate your feelings instead of embracing them as long-lost relatives, you have a chance of catching your own insanity before it races down the street naked, offending others.

The good news is that because you are a “people” you get included in the blessing that God loves the world.

The better news is, if you will just sit down and consider your life instead of shouting it through a bull horn, you might just end up justifying His faith in all of us.Donate Button

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Good News and Better News… September 18th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Optimism is completely useless in sharing the Good News. It always hopes for positive results which are only determined by the audience and the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, pessimism is a meaningless, funky choice. After all, what value is there in preaching the end of the world while the doggone thing is still revolving?

I think Paul Simon summed it up best in his song, “The Boxer” when he wrote: Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

So if you want to be a bearer of good tidings, you must keep two essentials in mind. These were in play when I went to Tampa Bay to do two concerts, one at the Sun City Center United Methodist Church and the other at Atonement Lutheran in Wesley Chapel. I was hosted by two fine gentlemen–Kevin and Scott–both of whom desire to see something good happen in our time.

But over the years, you learn that passion, deliberation and organization are not enough. Talent falls short, and patience is a virtue which often fails to impress the meandering mob.

Two things to keep in mind if you want to make a difference: make it clear and make it good.

Honestly, if you don’t come with quality, don’t expect to get any kind of ear turned in your direction. So stop trying to do things that are difficult, believing they’ll be impressive in the long run. Find things you can accomplish well in almost any circumstance, and perfect them.

I am not the best anything. I never will be the best anything. But I can always get better at my best.

That’s our job. Make it good. It’s time for us to stop apologizing for what we present under the guise that “since God is in charge, and He loves us all, He’ll forgive a few sour patches.”
Tain’t so, my brothers and sisters. We’ve got to make it good. And then, you’ve got to make it clear.

To do this requires simplifying your message so that everybody in the room, from six to ninety-six years old, knows exactly what you’re trying to say. Some folks will still try to twist your words to their advantage, but there’s not much you can do about that, so don’t worry.

If you want people to believe that “love your neighbor as yourself” works, you need to say it five times and provide three good
examples.

And then do everybody in the room a favor: Don’t try to make another point. Three-point sermons leave two points forgotten and one point confusing.

So my time in Tampa Bay was lavished with lovely, inspiring people who benefitted from my presence because I determined to not be either optimistic or pessimistic, but instead, made it clear and made it good.

So therefore, the good news is that life is not hopeless, filled with ungrateful human beings who are beyond redemption.

The better news is, as Paul Simon said, we need to give them things they can hear and don’t disregard.

 

 

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Good News and Better News… September 11th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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For the first time in a ten-year stint of writing this column–every single day–yesterday I missed posting.

It wasn’t because I was lazy (though I’m quite acquainted with lethargy.)

It certainly wasn’t because I ran out of ideas. My mind dances its way to the next folly and adventure.

It was because of Hurricane Irma.

Everyone will have a story about the storm, but I will tell you. this is one atmospheric disturbance that absolutely despised Internet. She was like an old grandma walking into your room, finding out that once again you were checking out naughty websites, and it was her duty to unplug you.

So I gave in.

There’s the thought. At what point do we give in? At what juncture does “inconvenience” become “impossible?”

Is there a station in our lives when we’re just being bratty and don’t want to do anything, or is Mother Nature literally “shuttin’ down the show?”

I know there are people who are critical of our generation. I’m sure it goes back to prehistoric times, when the grandparents of the present cave-dwellers complained that their children no longer liked to scrawl pictures on the walls.

Yet, I don’t think the folks living on Earth right now are bad people. With all the cosmic clowns dancing across the Big Top of the present circus, we still have not found anyone as rotten as Attila the Hun or Adolph Hitler.

It is a time to rejoice–not because everything is good, but rather, because the tragedies and disasters that have made their way into our lives have not crumpled us.

We have not given up.

We bought sandbags, purchased too many supplies and hunkered down–to survive the best punch that nature could give us.

We are pretty amazing, in our awkward and redundant way.

So I stopped being a fussy big-butt yesterday and allowed myself to just be another creature of nature, learning to submit to the climate that the heavenly Father had provided.

After all, there’s no such thing as a pleasant complainer and no one has ever given a reward to the “righteous bitcher.”

So the good news is that with the grace of God, a little help from our friends, and the support of the Great Cloud, I will post this to you today.

And the better news is, trials remind us of how good a fan feels.Donate Button

 

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Good News and Better News… September 4th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Is peace merely the absence of war or a majestic anointing to dissuade all conflict?

This question crossed my mind Sunday morning when Janet and I had the privilege of sharing our program at Peace Lutheran Church in Palm Bay, Florida, under the able leadership of Pastor Paul. Although the folks were hesitant at first to open their hearts to “us strangers,” in no time at all the glory of Spirit filled the room with reconciliation, realization and renewal.

It was good. It felt good.

Which brings me to my point this morning. Even though we may exalt ourselves for being extremely intellectual or even spiritual, we actually spend most of our lives being prompted by our feelings. Some would insist that this predilection is our weakness, but I have discovered that our emotions are what endear us to the Creator.

So when anyone steps into Peace Lutheran Church, they are taking the pulse of the heartbeat in the place.

Is it a sanctuary for redemption minus the fussiness propagated by our society? Is it warm with human smiles–aglow with care, and just lit up by the notion that “all things work together for the good for those who love the Lord?”

Only after we feel good about a place do we actually look around to see.

We notice faces. We observe actions. God forgive us, we become spies at our present location. Are we critical? Unfortunately, yes.

This is why there must be a belief system on Earth that understands that we’re constantly letting our light shine before all men. There is no backstage for the journey of faith, nor are we given a dressing room. There is no time to learn lines because all the daily setups are improvisational.

  • The world is looking.
  • The world is critical.
  • The world must see evidence for what it feels.

And finally, if we like what we feel and we’re pretty satisfied with what we see, we’re ready to hear.

As we know, faith comes by hearing, so it is the responsibility of every believer to bring peace to our quadrant by providing a faith that can be seen and felt.

That was our message yesterday. We must stop insisting that merely opening the doors to a house of worship promotes brotherly love, good will or recognition of our Creator.

No–if people don’t feel it they will never see it.

And if they don’t see it, they won’t hear it.

So the good news is that by the time I left Peace Lutheran I felt them and I saw the love of God. They let me eyeball their soul.

And the better news is, I can now trust what I hear from them.

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