Good News and Better News… November 20th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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As we drove to our weekend gig, we crossed Tampa Bay, and Janet was able to quickly snap a fuzzy picture of a fish jumping out of the water.

A moment in time.

The truth is, in the climate of our present social insurrection, human souls everywhere are attempting to leap out of the murky waters of despair. It just isn’t very fun…being unhappy. Even when other folks around you insist that they,too, are miserable, that particular form of fellowship is quite unfulfilling.

The problem is, we think the Bible has all the answers, and if we pass it along to lost souls, they will be able to find their way to salvation.

It’s similar to being hired by a corporation and having the rule book passed to you, thinking that the regulations which have been jotted down should be able to guide you through the daily activities of your workplace.

Everybody knows the company manual has nothing to do with the success of enjoying your job. It’s all about your manager and how he or she uses the rules to generate a friendly, human, creative environment.

Here’s a simple statement: Christianity is just a bag full of beliefs until we come along and agree together on a philosophical approach and implement tho
ideas.

So you see, I placed in today’s article a picture of an empty church. I think that’s where we need to start.

Our churches may not be full of people, but they are full of religion, practices, traditions, and preferred culture. Most of this has nothing to do with the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus.

We would do better to imagine our churches empty–and start from scratch to build an environment of people who are accepting, understanding, filled with good cheer and ready for both evolution and revolution.

The fish are jumpin’–but there’s no one there to catch ’em.

We’re too busy maintaining our traditions and our worship style. We want people to become “church folks”–so they have to accept the culture to fit in.

It is time for the church to ‘manage’ itself better, and create an atmosphere which I shall dub “compassionate chaos”–where mercy is revered much more than sacrifice.

The good news is that Jesus gave us a lifestyle, not a religion.

The better news is, if we will empty our church of too many pre-conceived religious practices, we can fill it with actual living human beings.

 

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Good News and Better News… November 13th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3490)

In the midst of a furor of a nightmare of screams, it is nearly implausible to discern the whispers: the soft, gentle pleadings of the Spirit within us, to find ourselves and pursue a precious path.

We become the victims–the auditory slaves of foolish men and women who have succeeded in providing us decibels without hope.

It’s loud.

It’s brash.

It’s bloody.

It’s irreverent.

It’s irrelevant.

And it’s often meaningless.

But the sheer brute blast of this storm of stupidity seems to be the cultural forecast, threatening to blow us all away.

Into such a climate Jesus of Nazareth also came.

Just like us, he was surrounded by mayhem–a nasty empire, brutal religion, vendettas, bigotry, prejudice, gender bias and ignorance that rebuffed knowledge.

He chose not to yell.

He found a space and made his place.

If you’re determined to be recognized, wealthy or even famous, you will be worthless to this time–because the natural flow of human degradation will determine whether you will be ushered in for consideration, and unless you are willing to be as crazy as the world around you, you will probably be considered unnecessary.

But…

You can find your space and make your place.

  • Jesus was profoundly simple.
  • Jesus was deemed uneducated because he chose this path.
  • Jesus was mocked as unaware because he would not join into the political fiasco and the religious ramblings.
  • He was simple.

He offered three ideas to humanity which still trigger our best efforts and initiate the only march to beauty that we have ever marshalled:

1. Consider.

Stop being sure. Don’t recite all the things you learned as a young’un. Don’t repeat the bigotry of your benefactors. Consider. Consider your life, consider an intelligent approach–even consider a lily.

2. Watch.

Sometimes he said to go ahead and while you’re doing that, pray. But always watch. Don’t be so quick to pull the trigger on your support. Listen for the buzz words that talk of healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and creativity.

Watch what is before your eyes carefully instead of merely lining up for the next I-Phone.

3. Cheerful.

“Be of good cheer” is the match. It lights a fire that warms instead of burns. For after all, joy is the best treatment for insanity.

These were the three messages of a simple man. They will never be outdated but unfortunately, they will also never be regaled as “trending.”

It will take you and me to close our ears to the screams, and listen to the whisper of “consider, watch and be of good cheer.”

The good news is that living such a life is far less exhausting.

The better news is, only this simple life is truly fulfilling.

 

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Good News and Better News… November 6th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Some years back, I finished writing my novel, “I’m…the legend of the son of man”–Jesus telling his own story.

To a large degree, in the publishing world, it’s “have book, pack bags.” In other words, “hit the road, Brother Jack”–and share with people what your volume has to say.

Fortunately for me, Janet Clazzy had recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and for some inexplicable reason, was interested in collaborating in music and a business partnership. She had only one request. Having been raised in the mainline denominational church, she thought it was time for someone to go to the United Methodists, the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians and such, and share a candid message of invigorating hope.

My reply was, “We can be like evangelists to those denominations.”

She grimaced a bit as her eyes glossed over in disbelief. I understood her quandary. The word “evangelist” hardly has a powerful interpretation in the mind of the American people. There have been too many fakes, too much greed, not to mention scandal and immorality, for anyone to take the term seriously.

But I was referring to the position as outlined by the Apostle Paul to Timothy so many centuries ago. You see, Paul explained to the young minister that the day would come when there would be so many misinterpretations, confusions and false teaching that congregations would be sick of hearing all the mess–therefore it would be difficult for anyone to endure, or even recognize, sound doctrine.

After this, Paul makes an interesting insight. He tells Timothy to keep his head, be willing to endure some hardship and to do the work of an evangelist–because the evangelist is the bearer of glad tidings. He is a giver of peace and hope. He is an exhorter to higher standards. And because of his journeys, he offers the children of God an insight on what is going on in the world around them.

So we launched on our journey–that was 22 years ago.

Since then, Ms. Clazzy and I have crisscrossed the country ten times, ministering in thousands of churches and in front of hundreds of thousands of people.

Yet we have never been able to claim our title as “evangelists to the Methodist, Lutherans”–or any other array of denominations. Honestly, the word scares most of the pastors.

We thought about freshening up the term by using the word “messengers,” but thought it was too common.

Enthusiasts: We knew it was too weird.

Proclaimers: Of course, then everyone wants to know what you’re proclaiming.

Jubilators: That was the most bizarre of all, though I later used it as a title for one of my novels.

We realized it was our job, mission and goal–as one book turned into others and music compiled–to bring “times of refreshing” to the church.

So that we have done.

If you are brave, you can call us evangelists. If not, you can fall back on the hyper-safe “special guests.”

But our slogan is concise and has not changed over the years:

Travel light, bring the light.

Here’s the good news: it has worked beautifully, gloriously and fluidly for over two decades.

And the better news is, we’ll see you soon.

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Good News and Better News… October 30th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I have participated in thousands and thousands of …

Now, what shall I call them? For if I refer to these as “performances, shows or gigs,” religious people will give me the holy frown of disapproval because I have trivialized the spiritual significance.

But by the same token, referring to my efforts as ministry, worship leading or any other divine terminology makes me reek of pretension.

Of course, worst of all is the safe, but vanilla describer, “presentation.”

I run into the same problem when I try to decide whether to say a robust “Praise God” or a timid “thanks be to God.”

Do I go for the full dunk in baptism, or settle for some other plunk?

Should communion be unleavened bread, or a golden loaf?

Wine or Welch’s grape juice (which many denominations insist was Jesus’ preference)?

And I think the most intimidating crossroads of all is settling whether our Christian faith is ground in social commentary or revivalism.

That’s why the tambourine is pictured today. A tambourine can scare a Lutheran or a Methodist to death–almost as much as a printed bulletin with liturgy makes a Baptist tremble.

It just doesn’t seem to occur to us that defining the word “ministry” requires taking a long gaze into the lifestyle and actions of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus was both contemplative and flamboyant.

He had the strange notion that the profile for what he did in blessing others was contingent on what they needed, and not confined to the Book of Common Prayer.

So to one person, he said, “Be healed.”

He touched lepers.

He spit on someone else.

He stuck his fingers in another person’s ears.

And he shouted to raise the dead.

He would have upset a lot of people.

Jesus didn’t worship miracles; he didn’t minister miracles–he performed miracles.

He showcased the Gospel in stories, told with colorful description and high-flung gestures.

The church has lost Jesus because it has focused on either social gospel or revivalism.

Jesus was the Son of God, who came to teach us how to get along with each other–with a tambourine in his hand.

So the good news is that we need both social commentary and revivalism.

The better news is, when we actually mingle the two, we suddenly become more relevant.

 

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Good News and Better News… October 23rd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Yesterday we celebrated with the folks at the Belleview United Methodist Church. Well, at least with those who were willing to celebrate.

Of course, that’s always the case.

Jan and I are just “two drifters, out to see the world.” And of course, there’s an awful lot of world to see. But there are some common themes.

The religious system that has taken hostage the church of Jesus Christ somehow or another has convinced itself that it can build a congregation by using prayer, Bible study and worship. Even though diminishing numbers in the pews contradict this fact, those who have spent more time in seminary than in the mainstream of America continue to blindly lead the blind right into the ditch of oblivion.

Fortunately, we have the example of Jesus, who offered people abundant life, full joy and peace of mind. You remember his words, right?

“I have come to give you life and it more abundantly.”

“I have come that your joy might be full.”

“I bring you peace–a peace the world cannot give.”

What would happen if we actually started focusing our message, our ministry, our efforts and even our artistry toward abundant life, full joy and peace of mind?

Aren’t these rather desirable offerings for those who find themselves clad in human skin?

But there are still those who feel that if they whisper the name of God, bow their heads repeatedly and tiptoe through the sanctuary, the heavens will flash a big smile of approval.

Not for me.

I will continue to promote the idea that the Gospel was meant to be shared by humans, for humans. Therefore, any idea that angelic or pious approaches will reach the human family is ludicrous.

The good news is that abundant life, joyousness and peace of mind are still appealing to people.

The better news is, it just happens to be what Jesus wants us to share.

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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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