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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Jesonian … October 7th, 2017

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It is nearly impossible to be Jesonian–a true follower of the heart of Jesus–without fully comprehending that there are two Gospels. Shall we name them the “Galilee Gospel” and the “Jerusalem Journey?”

It is the reason theologians struggle with the message of Jesus, finding themselves complicating it so that the dual approaches can co-habitate within one faith. But it’s an error to do so.

Jesus had one message but two missions. His two missions were:

  1. To bring the message to fulfill the love
  2. To present himself as the doorway to fulfill the law

In Galilee he talked about life–abundant life. He lived with his disciples in joy–fully. He spoke of God as a Father and all of us as brothers and sisters. He explained the dangers of anger and lust. He clarified that the things we do to other people are recorded as actions performed to God. It was human–everyday fodder for feeling and believing.

But to fulfill the Law of Moses and welcome the Children of Abraham into his mission, he labored among the stringent, inflexible Jews, trying to reason with them and gather them together under a new understanding. These religionists had “jot-and-tittled” themselves into frantic insecurity about the purposes of God, and even, to a degree, agnosticism about the existence of Jehovah.

The Jerusalem Journey was filled with thinking, musing, mulling, wondering, questioning and attempts at compromise. It was a futile effort to afford political correctness to a manifesto meant for the whole world, and not merely designed for one hundred miles of landscape in the Middle East.

Did Jesus know that the Jews were going to reject him?

Did Jesus know it would end so badly, with his execution on a cross?

You can debate that all you want, but we are certainly aware that he reached a point where he had to relent to the conclusion that you can’t “put new wine into old wine skins.”

The problem in today’s church is that we focus too much on the Jerusalem Journey and don’t thunder the celebration of the Galilee Gospel.

Too much musing, too much debate, too much thinking and too much meditation.

It’s time for us to return to the Gospel of Galilee, when life was abundant and joy was full. It’s an easy message to remember: go, do, give, be.

  • Go unto all the world.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Give and it shall be given unto you.
  • Be perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

Such a message offers redemption for failure, while simultaneously providing exhortation to challenge indifference.

There is a danger that we in the church will stall–trying to fulfill the law instead of fulfilling the love.

Stop thinking so much about it.

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Good News and Better News… July 31st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I was sitting in the nursery of the Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee, Florida, between services, snacking on some fruit which had graciously been provided by Pastor Giuseppe and glorious souls who have a knack for putting together such compotes, when I was struck–or perhaps just “pwanged”–by a simple revelation.

The world is always moving. It is our job to note the direction.

Just because the pace seems harried, leaving us all in the flurry of busyness, does not mean that we’re trudging forward. Sometimes we go backwards, often it’s just side-stepping right or left. We even become distracted by hitting a wall and continuing to push instead of stopping long enough to find a way around it.

Church is still a beautiful thing–it’s just that in the present march of humanity it seems irrelevant.

For we classify information that comes our way into three categories:

1. Philosophical.

This ranges from our educational system, to reading books, to listening to someone explain the value of a gluten-free diet.

2. Religious.

Once again, this could be anything from a Bible conference to a yoga class to hearing a testimony about someone’s ordeal or joining with others in prayer over some nasty bit of business that’s come along.

3. Necessary.

Every single day of our lives, we alter the gauge on what we feel is necessary for our existence. This explains the tremendous success of Amazon and Wal-mart. These companies have made it friendly to come and buy things we want at reasonable rates, and in the case of Amazon, have them delivered to our door without even needing to leave the comforts of the breakfast nook.

Candidly, if a piece of information is not necessary, we deem it useless. Once something becomes useless, it only receives attention if it can prove–even temporarily–that it has the value of Wal-mart or Amazon.

So something beautiful, like church, which at one time was considered necessary because it initiated relationships, faith, music, cooperation and a sense of community, has now been completely shoved to the rear by the collision of social media and the rising tide of agnosticism.

When I went into the second service I took the realization with me. I discovered that being philosophical or religious bored even those individuals who still remained in the holy sanctuary.

Give them what’s necessary.

When Jesus came to Earth, the common people were slaves to the Romans and subjected to criticism from the religious system.

Jesus told the people they were “the salt of the Earth, the light of the world,” but that they needed to take responsibility for their lives and not wait for either the Romans or Judaism to save them.

He made the message of God necessary. He referred to it as “daily bread.” He told people to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and to “take no thought for tomorrow” but to live for today.

You will never meet a more promising group of people than I encountered at Nativity. But I will tell them that until the message they share is necessary in people’s lives, a philosophical or religious content will leave folks cold–staying at home and watching television.

The good news is that Christianity can still be about Jesus.

The better news is that he came to give us life–necessary life–and it more abundantly.

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Good News and Better News… May 8th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Breeders and needers

I am speaking from a spiritual sense.

Breeders are people who find personal satisfaction in joy, mission and composure, and are prepared to deal with those who come their way who may not have the correct balance of what we call normal human behavior.

They are merciful because they know the need to obtain mercy.

They are meek because they’ve already gotten their down payment on the inheritance of the Earth.

They don’t need encouragement to be gentle–the gentleness of God’s spirit has already convinced them of the wisdom of such behavior.

Needers, on the other hand, are folks who come to church with vice, variance and viciousness intact, and try to use God’s grace to cover their insufficiency rather than becoming the “light of the world and the salt of the Earth.”

It’s really simple:

Needers scare people away.

Breeders make an emotional and spiritual connection with their fellow-humans and birth fellowship.

As long as we insist that God doesn’t really care how good or bad we are, just that we have signed a salvation card and our names are written in the Book of Life, we will continue to frighten those who might find comfort in the Gospel, affronting them with members who have the maturity of a pen of pigs.

It’s time to talk realistically about Christianity.

We are on the verge of falling victim to the stereotypes that other religions have procured for themselves.

“All Jews are cheap.”

“All Muslims are terrorists.”

“All Hindus have a spot on the middle of their forehead.”

“All Buddhists eat humus.”

The Gospel of Jesus has a chance to speak a unified message to a diverse world. It is so desperately needed that writers like myself will risk being attacked by the needers in an attempt to lift up the breeders.

What are the characteristics of breeders?

They are salt. Tasteful. Sensitive.

They are light–illuminating instead of shocking the world around them.

Good works. It’s impossible to be humble without them. If you try to use humility without having good works, you just come across honestly inept.

Here’s the good news: Jesus is prepared to give instruction, permission and shortcuts to those who want to live dynamic, joyful and abundant lives.

And the better news is that needers can become breeders if they will develop the desire to connect with others instead of remaining frightened and insecure

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Good News and Better News… December 26th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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My Christmas morning:

  • Four tiny little ones
  • One twelve-year-old
  • A teenager
  • Eighteen adults
  • And six dogs marauding about, sniffing at presents.

It was all held in a lovely, but somewhat square-footage-impaired house in East Nashville.

Although most people consider Christmas to be a holiday season which they either enjoy or complain about trying to get through, I contend that Christmas is a microcosm of life as it should be. It’s a collision of giving and receiving, organizing and finding yourself surprised by a slip-up, and having a crunch of humanity around you which requires you to be open-minded and willing to adapt.

For instance, in the course of our morning, well over a hundred presents were opened.

Also, one of the young men decided to use it as an occasion to propose marriage to his girlfriend–an amazing precedent.

And there were moments of silliness followed by junctures of tenderness, concluding with decisions to stay energetic enough to survive the gauntlet.

The adults made themselves flexible to appreciate toys opened by Santa believers and the subtleties of certain gifts which needed to be explained because they only had significance to the recipient.

Then, in the midst of the festivities and the brunch following, we discovered that one of the guests just lost his grandma. She had passed away in her sleep.

Quiet–and amazing it was how quickly it settled on the room, even among the children. A time to feel and consider the magnitude of such a departure.

Tears.

Gentleness.

Allowing ourselves to transition from one emotion to another without trauma or drama, to return to eating and enjoying one another as life insisted on pushing forward. I heard one person declare the day a “miracle,” but actually, it’s the way our lives are meant to be lived: in abundance.

Abundant opportunities

Abundant problems

Abundant relationships

Abundant attempts

Abundant failures

Abundant successes

And abundant gratitude

The good news is that Christmas is a time for abundance.

The better news is that the baby in the manger came to give us life, and it more abundantly.

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Good News and Better News … October 10th, 2016

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good-news-holly-sign-facesWhether you’re promoting the idea that Mexicans are rapists or insisting that your political opponents should be stuffed in a basket labeled “deplorables,” you have basically failed to recognize the central meteoric truth of life on Planet Earth:

Our human journey is about getting along with humans.

The ministry of Jesus is capsulized in how we treat others. Also, our relationship with God is determined by how well we welcome those who have been deemed worthless.

When I arrived at the Holly Calvary Church to meet the energetic and engaged Pastor Cliff and his congregation, I was fully aware that nothing I have to share has any value if I am a grump.

Yes.

  • I am my Gospel.
  • I am my message.
  • My facial expression is what I think God feels about people.

And my attitude is certainly my theology.

During one of the prayers, a word came to my mind: exceedingly.

good-news-holly-sign-namesLooking back on the past week in America, there have been people who are exceedingly mad. They want to get even. They want to hurt somebody. Their energy is fueled by fury.

There are people who are exceedingly sad. They’ve given up. They’ve decided to settle. Despair has become their cry for retreat.

What we desperately need–and what I shared with the good folks in Holly–is the message of Jesus: rejoice and be exceedingly glad.

What does that mean? Why isn’t “glad” enough? Why does it need to be “exceedingly?”

Because mad and sad people try to cover up their true motivations with missions which seem to be legitimate. So if our gladness doesn’t spill out of us like cold water from melted mountain snow, then it will be difficult to set ourselves apart from those who snarl and sigh.

Pastor Cliff is encouraging his church to get back to the Word of God. I agree. That “Word” is personified in the lifestyle of Jesus. He is the Word. And he wants us to be glad.

How do we know when we’re being glad?

  1. We decide to love everybody even if it seems ridiculous.
  2. We refuse to judge anybody even if it appears necessary.
  3. We determine to help everybody find their abundant life.

I truly believe if the absolutely amazing individuals I met yesterday in Holly will generate love, stop judging and aid their brothers and sisters in finding life, which is grounded in the Word, they can also be free of religious chains.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that “exceedingly glad” does come with the additional benefit of personal smiles and inner joy.

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Good News and Better News … September 12th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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milford-c-c-comp

There is certainly nothing more representative of the heart and mind-set of Jesus than compassion.

Arriving yesterday in Milford, I felt that gentle enthusiasm from Pastor Doug, his wife Marianne and the gathered souls.

They yearn to reach others.

Matter of fact, next Sunday they’re going to invite the community in to join them for breakfast, casting aside the trappings of religion, and making themselves vulnerable as human beings.

Yet in the midst of needful outreach to the community, we must be aware that the church was never intended to be a refuge to nurse the wounds or the grudges of purposely “little people.”

The message of Jesus is clear:

  • Heal the sick
  • Help them discover abundant life
  • And make sure everyone is free indeed

So even though we want to be forgiving and kind, we must remember three very important attributes of Jesus’ ministry:

1. Jesus refused to tolerate complainers.

The Pharisees didn’t have a good word for any good word. They didn’t realize that their hypocrisy was their problem, not Roman domination.

2. Jesus was not too available.

People had to ask about him. The lepers had to seek him out, and some determined souls even had to knock through the ceiling of the house to lower down a comrade for healing.

Jesus required people to make a personal emotional effort so he could make their encounter effortless.

3. Jesus was looking for faith.

Even though the dictionary may not agree, the opposite of faith is complaining. Once you begin to complain, you are proving that your circumstances determine your good cheer. Faith is the ability to deal with difficulty and laugh at it while waiting for fresh opportunity to come your way.

If we can incorporate this into our compassion for those who are non-complaining, seeking answers and bringing their faith, such as it is, we can become a church.

But when we extend grace to those who have been touched by the mercy of God and have decided to growl at the environment and people around them, then we’re wasting our time on souls who have plotted to be out of sorts.

The good news is that Jesus has compassion.

The better news is that compassion is much more effective with those who are not demanding it.

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