Jesonian … December 16th, 2017

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A day in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Although most theologians would like to focus on the 24-hour period leading up to his crucifixion, the Gospels do offer us other examples. One of the primal outlines is found in Matthew, Chapters 12 and 13. You may feel free to read it–I will not tax your spirit or patience by parsing it verse by verse–but there are six things that become clear from perusing the story line.

1. Jesus was not a theologian.

His disciples walked through a field of corn, and even though it was forbidden by religious edict to eat it–especially on the Sabbath–they partook. Jesus defended them to the Pharisees, who were ready to leap upon the activity to prove the unworthiness of Jesus’ Kingdom movement. During this exchange, Jesus makes a profound statement: “The Sabbath is for man.”

It is geared for us, in order to replenish, rejuvenate and renovate our thinking.

2. Jesus was not a rabbi.

He strolls into a synagogue and disrupts the service by healing a man with a withered hand. He is accosted for this untimely interruption, and replies, “Each one of you will save a donkey from a trench, but you won’t do anything to help this fellow.”

Yes, Jesus was guilty of interrupting the flow of worship.

And contrary to the common patter:

3. Jesus was not a Jew.

Not only did he break the Jewish laws, taunting them in doing so, but we are informed that he was a voice, a spirit and a teacher in whom the “Gentiles could trust.”

Even though his proximity to Jerusalem might generate the assumption that he was a Son of Abraham, he made it clear that he was around “before Abraham.”

Shall we press on?

4. He was certainly not a traditionalist.

The religious leaders believed he was satanic. They swore he was casting out demons by the power of Satan. Of course, none of them could cast out a demon, but Jesus made it clear that he had come to destroy the works of the devil and that they needed to be careful not to mock the moving of the Holy Spirit just because it was inconvenient to their case.

So Jesus is not a theologian, a rabbi, a Jew or a traditionalist. And by the way:

5. Jesus was not a family man.

When interrupted by his mother, brothers and sisters during a time of ministry (because they wanted to take him home, thinking he was crazy) Jesus turned to the crowd and claimed them as his new family.

Yes, Jesus might find it difficult to be in a church service, welling up over allegiance with people simply because of shared DNA.

So as Matthew describes a day in the life of Jesus, when he defies theologians, upsets a rabbi, walks away from Judaism, breaks traditions and sidesteps family involvement, he ends the discourse by establishing who the Nazarene really was.

For the Master sat down and told a story: “The sower went forth to sow seed.”

6. Jesus is a sower.

He’s not concerned about isolating off perfect soil, but merely casting the seed in the direction of any possibility.

A day in the life of Jesus will let you know that his message was human, geared for humans, addressed to humans, human-friendly and human-saving.

He discarded religion in favor of the reality of those souls God sent his way.

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Jesonian … December 9th, 2017

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To the classic question, “Were you born in a barn?” I can truthfully answer, “Matter of fact, I was.”

Although my good friends, Matthew and Luke, did a charming job relating the circumstances of my coming into this world, many layers and textures of the actual tale were left out in favor of a concise sharing, a Hollywood ending with all the participants–shepherds, wise men, angels and Holy Family–lined up in a row for a photo op.

Certainly beautiful and even miraculous, the actual unfoldings were different. I did not learn all the factors of my birth in Bethlehem until I was twelve years old. Mary and Joseph wisely chose to withhold some of the more frightening aspects of the experience from my ears until I was of an age when I could at least attempt comprehension.

But following a trip to Jerusalem, where I was particularly disobedient to them by chasing my curiosity instead of using my common sense, they sat down one night along the trail and spilled.

First, let’s understand that a young girl getting pregnant without a husband was always met with shunning or stoning. Mary’s simplicity and piety did not spare her from the wicked tongues of the gossips.

Joseph felt pressure. We’re told that an angel spoke to him, but Joseph never confirmed that with me. He said he was tortured in his dreams and finally realized that he loved my mother more than he wanted the approval of the town elders.
He did not need to make the journey to Bethlehem with Mary–he could have represented on his own to give the information about the taxes. He brought her because he was afraid to leave her alone.

So they made a fifteen day journey to a little town outside Jerusalem, which had no significance in their lives other than the fact that some “Great-Great Somebody” was born there and Joseph happened to be part of that clan.

When Mother and Father were unable to access lodging in the houses surrounding the town square, they quietly slipped into the stable, hoping not to be discovered. The innkeeper found them huddled in a corner among the animals, and when he saw that Mary was hopelessly pregnant, he chose to leave them alone rather than interfering.

They were stowaways in an animal shelter.

The birth was difficult because Mary was so small, weary from the journey–and both of them completely inexperienced with the process.

No shepherds arrived that first night. No angels sang. Nothing but grunting animals, relieved parents because the baby actually came out whole, and a chill in the air disguised by the heated odor of the stable’s occupants.

The next morning Joseph went to try to find food, and both of them realized there was no place for them to go. They would need to stay where they were for eight days to fulfill the Jewish law on circumcising the baby, so they remained as quiet as possible, hoping the innkeeper would leave them alone.

Three days passed with them scrounging for food, tucking themselves away in the farthest corner of the manger. It was on the fourth night that some shepherds did arrive. They looked perplexed, abashed and completely out of their element. They explained that they had been spoken to from the skies and told to come to find a baby in a stable.

It made no sense. Matter of fact, there was a sniff of alcohol on all three of them which hinted that the visit from heaven might have come from a flask. But Mary and Joseph listened politely, and it made for great conversation over the next few days while they waited for the circumcision.

Arriving at the temple on the eighth day, they were accosted by two very old, wild-eyed individuals–one man and one woman–who claimed the gift of prophecy. They told Mary and Joseph that the baby was going to be great and amazing. Even though Mary and Joseph wanted to believe the words, they feared the utterings were coming from dementia rather than another dimension.

Then things became really difficult. There was no need to go back to Nazareth. The presence of the baby would only increase the gossip.

So Joseph talked to the local carpenter and secured a single room in his home in exchange for work. The job included repair work, masonry and even some garbage collection.

They found contentment, until Joseph was awakened by an angel. (This time he really believed it was an angel.) He was told to leave Bethlehem to protect me from danger. When Joseph told me the story, he said it was the hardest decision he had ever made. It seemed illogical, for they had been in the carpenter’s home for a year-and-a-half and had found some peace of mind. Leaving seemed futile, if not insane.

Before departure could be executed, there was a visit from foreigners–those wise men mentioned in the Gospel story. They brought gifts. They inserted finance into a family that was about to be on the lam from the law. It was certainly timely.

The visitors explained about a star in the sky, but Mary and Joseph never really understood the significance, nor the tie-in.

During the journey to Egypt and the next six years of exile, I developed a separation anxiety. I just never felt part of anything. When Mary and Joseph started having other children, I didn’t feel like a brother. It was more like I was an intrusive uncle or a foster child.

This haunted me my whole life. I never felt quite secure with my surroundings. There were times I left the fellowship with my disciples to slip away and get my head straight, so I wouldn’t come off like a crazy man, nervous and frustrated.

Even though Egypt saved me from King Herod, the rejection hung in my mind throughout my life. I had to be careful not to get offended by the treatment I received. I learned mercy because I had no sense of mercy being given to me.

It became especially strong, and nearly violent in my soul, when Nazareth rejected my ministry, and then my mother and family thought I was crazy. I had to walk away from them.

You see, Christmas is a different tale to me.

It’s a story like many stories in the sense that God’s hand is not completely obvious in the moment, and is only unveiled through the endurance of his followers.

God picked the right pair. For if Mary had been prissy, Joseph would not have been able to manage without her. And if Joseph had been too conventional, Mary would never have been able to muster a companion. They needed each other.

Christmas is a miracle story–about God allowing people of faith to use their faith to do faithful things, to see their faith make things whole.

So Merry Christmas.

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Jesonian … December 2nd, 2017

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Whenever you’ve done it to the least of these, my brethren, you’ve done it to me.

This seems to be one of those idealistic, philosophical utterances of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. Most people nod their heads in agreement, while secretly pre-repenting over not doing it.

But it is not a statement.

It’s a puzzle–a riddle.

It’s an intertwining ball of confusion leading us to a universal realization.

First of all, let us understand that Jesus, who walked with equality among Jew, Greek, Roman and Samaritan, did not believe that anyone was “the least.” So him phrasing the word “least” was ironic rather than iconic.

Since he didn’t believe anybody was the least, we are given a bit of misdirection. Jesus was suggesting that we, as humans, are obsessed with subjectively examining those around us, with the goal of finding our level of superiority.

Because we don’t want to hunger and thirst for righteousness, we live off the fat of our own arrogance. In other words, “I am better than you because I say that I’m better than you–and everyone in our clan believes we are better.”

Nowadays we pass this prejudice off as culture, or loving our family, or appreciating our home town. It’s the Red States saying they are more righteous than the Blue States, and the Blue States claiming the Red States are imbeciles.

There are no least.

So Jesus traps us in the maze: “Since you think these people are least, then you need to realize they are me, and the only place you will find me is in them. I will not be available to you in your favored few. You will only be able to discover me in those you deem least.”

So if you think black people look like monkeys, if you want to find Jesus you’d better show up with some bananas–because he will situate himself right in the middle of the black race and evaluate you on how you treat them.

If you think women are weaker vessels and stupid, Jesus will grow a vagina. Yes, Christ will only be accessible to you through the female.

If you think gay people are destroying America, then be prepared to find Jesus as a flaming queen with a thick lisp.

And then, based upon how you handle this information–how genteel and kind you are–your true spirituality will be rewarded.

For Jesus told us that if we love those who love us, we are no better than the heathen. Anybody can do that.

But if we insist there is an inferior race, an abominable people or just folks that are “no damn good,” then we will need to go to the prisons, the hospital wards and the whore houses to really find the Master.

It is a nasty trap.

Perhaps it would just be easier to cease believing that anyone is least–smarter to drop the arrogance that keeps us in ignorance, where God has no tolerance.

The least of these my brethren is not actually a group of people. It is a gathering place for all of our bigotry–where Jesus is waiting for us so that we can find him and be blessed.

As soon as the church starts teaching a progressive message–that no matter how unique our fellow-humans may turn out to be, none of them are least–we will be at the mercy of cozying up to those we deem intolerable.

There are no third world countries.

There are no human abominations.

There are no inferior races.

There are no least.

If you believe there are “least” in the world, be prepared to journey to them to find your Master.

He will be sitting there–right in the middle of the people you hate, waiting for you to repent and find Him.

 

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Jesonian … November 25th, 2017

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Aggressive apathy.

Seems like a contradiction–maybe even what they refer to as an oxymoron. How can apathy be aggressive, when by definition it avoids commitment, conflict or even connection?

But when apathy becomes the path to avoid deeper commitment, it will need to be defended whenever circumstances warrant greater involvement.

Jesus fell victim to aggressive apathy on two nasty occasions–when people chose to disregard and disavow the power of his calling.

Please keep in mind that miracles were a part of Jesus’ ministry. It wasn’t all Biblical text and parables. Yet even though there were certainly signs and wonders that followed him, apathy was still in the works.

The first instance was in Nazareth, when he had the audacity to announce the extent of his calling, the purpose of his message and the power of what was about to ensue to his hometown folks.

What did aggressive apathy do? Personal attacks.

  • “Who does he think he is?”
  • “He’s just the Carpenter’s son.”
  • “He doesn’t even have education.
  • “Why should we listen to him?”

When apathy becomes a communal mindset, it will feel the need to defend itself–sometimes violently. For if you remember the rest of the story, they push Jesus to the edge of a cliff, ready to throw him off and kill him–simply because he suggested that present circumstances were going to be changed.

In a second incident at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus asked a crippled man if he wanted to be healed. The fellow launched into a litany of excuses and complaints about why it was just not plausible. Jesus heals him anyway–and the man ends up turning on Jesus, and rats him out to the Pharisees, who were angry about a healing on the Sabbath.

In both cases, Jesus found himself in danger.

Once apathy has become the charter of a community or a segment of people, they will aggressively use whatever is necessary to maintain their autonomy of blandness.

Jesus said we should learn from his life–and that also includes his mistakes.

As Christians, believers and even artists, we need to understand that once we offer our gifts and our message, if they are met with lukewarm response, to further labor in the malaise of nothingness is to risk triggering aggressive apathy, leaving us ridiculed, if not wounded.

Later on in Jesus’ ministry, he learns from these mistakes.

When the Samaritan village doesn’t want to let him in to minister, he just goes to another town. And when the five thousand depart because he offered a perspective they found distasteful, he doesn’t do anything to chase them down.

Apathy by its nature is not violent. But it is alive–and any living thing will fight back if you try to kill it.

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Jesonian … November 18th, 2017

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Those that are not for us are against us.

Those that are not against us are for us.

These seem to be two contrary thoughts–even a contradiction. Yet Jesus said both of them.

And due to a lack of understanding, the soldiers of the cross all line up behind one campaign or the other.

Some churches firmly believe that the Gospel is under attack by a sinful world, manipulated by Satan.

Other churches insist that people are basically good, and it’s up to us to help them through their hard times so they can find themselves.

We even divide our political parties along the same lines. Devout Republicans tend to favor isolation, and the Democrats are proponents of intervention.

We also see this clearly with James, John and Judas. James and John were isolationists. When they came to Samaria and the people rejected them, they were angry and suggested the folks should be destroyed for their lack of hospitality.

Jesus rebuked them and said they didn’t understand what spirit was working inside them.

Judas, on the other hand, criticized Jesus for spending money foolishly instead of taking the funds and using it to feed the poor. Jesus replied to him that the poor were never going away, and if we try to resolve poverty, we’ll end up angry and bitter. He said the best we can do is offer what we can afford.

The battle still rages today:

Are we going to be a church of isolation, a country of isolation, or should we favor intervention, both spiritually and politically?

What is the way of the Earth? What is the true message of the Gospel?

Did Jesus come to isolate off a group of believers, or did he come to intervene in the lives of everyone?

Neither.

The Gospel interrupts.

It offers an alternative. It sheds light and produces salt as evidence of another possibility.

The Gospel interrupts the process by offering a more common sense, logical, easier and gentle approach.

When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they asked him what he thought they should do. He doesn’t answer specifically. He says, “If you have no sin, you should feel free to cast the first stone to kill the woman.”

The Bible says at this point, he turns around, stoops and fiddles in the dirt with his finger. He leaves it to them to come up with the right answer.

It is rather doubtful if we can live in a world that is an Internet click away from covering 25,000 miles, and believe we can isolate ourselves from other nations.

It is equally as ridiculous to contend that our intervention–taking over the circumstances of nations–will do anything to generate permanent resolution.

Jesus has called his church to be an interruption. While enjoying our lives of simple Gospel bliss, we offer an alternative to others through our example and our generosity.

We interrupt.

Jesus said, “I didn’t come to bring peace. I came to bring a sword to divide people.”

The ultimate interruption.

To be a Jesonian believer is to understand that isolating ourselves from others does not alleviate being at the mercy of their insanity, but also understanding that intervening and thinking we can feed all the poor is equally as unstable.

What we can do is interrupt.

In the process of living a full, joyful life, we brush up against others, and in doing so, we plant the seeds of better notions. For after all, people are not changed by being ignored or controlled.

They must see our good works to glorify the Father in heaven.

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Jesonian … November 11th, 2017

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Throughout the history of Christianity, a debate has raged over Jesus’ humanity and divinity.

Early in the 20th Century, a doctrine arose which found favor with many people because it stressed that Jesus was 100% human and 100% divine. The fact that this blending is ridiculous didn’t come to anybody’s mind at the time, and so the concept endures. If you study heresy and false teachings, you will find that most of the error centers in on trying to make Jesus too heavenly, instead of focusing on his humanity.

I think the clarifying statements are found in the Book of Hebrews. Allow me to give you three which center my mind on the fact that Jesus of Nazareth lived a completely human life, while filled with the Spirit:

1. “He was tempted in all ways like we are yet found without sin.”

2. “He was touched by our infirmities.”

3. “He learned obedience through the things he suffered.”

That list just describes a typical human life. After all, nobody talks about how grumpy Uncle Ed was after he’s dead; likewise, the notion that “Jesus was perfect” was not touted during his lifetime.

The truth is, Jesus’ actions were found to be perfect. In other words, after the passage of time and working out of circumstances, we can say that he lived a perfect life.

Needless to say, when we’re told he “learned obedience,” it is perfectly understandable that he did nor arrive with it. Like all of us, instruction was in order.

But if you go to the statement, “touched by our infirmities,” a definition is in order. What are the infirmities of all human beings?

A. We get physically sick.

B. We get emotionally depressed.

C. We get spiritually misguided.

D. We get mentally confused.

These are our infirmities.

And since Jesus was touched by them, if we would take the time to more carefully study his life instead of working so desperately to discover a new twist on communion, we might just welcome in a new generation that would be blessed and astounded by His choices.

Now, I will not bore you with my many rambling examples of how Jesus suffered under these infirmities. To me, that’s what church and your search should be about.

Christianity could advance its cause by studying Jesus.

Did Jesus become physically ill? There are numerous activities that have no explanations–like him slipping into the wilderness for seclusion, or the fact that he waited four days to come and tend to his friend, Lazarus. Was he sick? Under the weather? Fighting off the “Galilee bug?”

We can make a good case for him being depressed. After explaining to 5000 people that he was not going to be their caterer, but that they needed to come to “learn his ways,” the Bible says they all left him–except the twelve. In a moment of true humanity, he turned to those twelve and said, “Will you go away also?”

Was Jesus ever spiritually misguided? I think choosing Judas to be a disciple, and on top of that the treasurer of the troop, was at least spiritually optimistic. And the faith he put into the man at the Pool of Bethsaida, who didn’t really want help–but Jesus healed him anyway and then the fellow turned into a snitch and sided with the Pharisees–shows that he was a bit misguided.

Was he mentally confused? He certainly stayed too long in Nazareth–so long that they resented him and tried to kill him. And I think he was a little confused by his upbringing and prejudice, when he called the Syrophoenician woman “a gentile dog.”

The Gospel writers had no problem including the foibles of the personality of Jesus in their story lines–and he was apparently fully aware of some indiscretions, because he came to John to be baptized. Was it just pretense, or did he have things he regretted?

We are also told by Jesus that we would do greater things than he did–because he was going to the Father to cheer us on.

If the church wants to survive the present dispersion, it needs to bring the focus back onto Jesus–his style, his personality, and his humanity. In doing so, he can become the Elder Brother we so desperately need, and he can truly fulfill his mission … which was to show us the Father.

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Jesonian … November 4th, 2017

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On hundreds of occasions, I was sitting backstage in my Green Room in a church somewhere in America, waiting for the program to begin, when there would be a timid knock on the door and the sponsor would appear, and he or she would awkwardly and sheepishly say, “Well, there are not many people here, but it will be worth it if you reach even one person.”

I often found myself smiling approvingly, as if I agreed with the bizarre statement. Let me make it clear. It was never worth the effort, the spirit, the energy and the creativity that Ms. Clazzy and I mustered to reach “just one person.” It is ineffective, it is inefficient, and therefore it certainly is not the will of God.

Jesus punctuated this point in Matthew 23:15. If you ever read that chapter, you will find that Jesus is extremely pissed off. He has reached the end of his ministry and he’s nauseated by the religious system, which has not only blocked his efforts, but has left the people impoverished, physically and spiritually. He accuses the religious leaders of exhibiting great pretense over traveling land and sea to preach their foolish doctrines, and when they finally gain a convert, they turn the poor son of a bitch into “twice the son of Hell” as they are themselves.

Amen and Amen.

Our religious system has taken a message that God sent through Jesus to reach humans, and has replaced it with a human message which is continually trying to please God. Therefore, our congregations are emotionally immature, spiritually stunted, mentally confused, physically tempted, and pleading for other folks to come to the sanctuary and be equally as damaged, in order to help defray the cost of the mortgage on the church building.

Religion sucks. There’s no other way to say it.

God intended to bring an abundant life which was suited to humans, not abundant rules, regulations and commandments that scare them away.

Church has become a place where we train people to be so heavenly that they become hellish. It is a hiding place for the insecure, the demented and those who feel a need to establish their superiority over their fellow-man.

Are you religious? You should find out. Here’s what religion believes:

1. God matters more than people. (The Bible makes it completely clear that how we treat people is what God believes we feel about Him).

2. People are evil. (Actually, people are encumbered with the knowledge of good and evil. Through spirited instruction, they can let the goodness win.)

3. Evil is powerful and often wins. (Evil is trapped in the atmosphere of Earth, and historically never wins.)

If you believe any one of these three things listed above, you are religious, and being religious, you will develop a childish reverence to God and a growing distaste for people.

You will find yourself cast into the role of “twice the son of Hell.”

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