Good News and Better News… November 13th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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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 They will never be outdated but unfortunately, they will also never be regaled as “trending.”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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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 8)… August 19th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I am wondering if Christianity can become a mission, cause and lifestyle instead of slinking back into the profile of being “one of the major religions of the world.”

The decision lies around the word “learning.”

For some reason we have taken the simple message of “love your neighbor as yourself” and complicated it with doctrines, forming a morass of misunderstanding.

If we think that faith and hope are even close to charity, we have misconstrued the message of Jesus. Jesus came to turn love into a lifestyle.

He taught in parables whenever he was with the masses, expecting to motivate them to believe for mighty things. Only when the disciples complained about being confused by the stories did Jesus teach them further. His goal was to get these disciples out on the road as quickly as possible, to share their hearts with other people.

Otherwise we have the quandary found in II Timothy 3:7, which describes a church which is “ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” Jesus said his “way is easy and his burden is light” and that the Gospel is so simple that a “wayfaring man” can understand it.

Why do we believe that writing 3,000 new books on church practice will promote revival?

Perhaps I am the hypocrite speaking to the hypocrisy, because I, too, scribe my essays, trying to uncover some hidden meaning.

There is no hidden meaning. Just as we would not hide the groceries from our children to find out how determined they are to avoid starving, God certainly has not withheld peace of mind, contentment and joy from his offspring.

The church spends too much time teaching and not enough time sharing.

That’s troubling.

We keep studying the Old Testament–which really wants to study the New Testament. As Jesus said, Abraham yearned to see the Messiah. Yet we think one more classic tale, another seminar or a sermon series taken from a different angle will suddenly alert the congregation to its true soul.

There are three things that matter. They are what make you a Christian or separate you from the Kingdom of God:

  1. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  2. Don’t judge people.
  3. Multiply your talents.

The pursuit of these three things will keep us busy for a lifetime. Trying to figure out what the Apostle Paul meant or what I Peter was connoting or if Hebrews was really written by Timothy will not make good disciples.

We think interactive church is having people stare at a screen and sing songs. Interactive church is actually when humans offer a testimony, which builds up other brethren to share, embracing and encouraging each other.

It is troubling.

We have become a church of learning instead of a body of sharing. Until that changes … we will be as boring as we seem.

 

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 4)… July 22nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Still a bit troubled.

It’s this whole thing about salvation: “By grace you are saved through faith.”

The Apostle Paul shared this sentiment, and it set in motion the essence of the Protestant movement, so that today we are most concerned about the salvation of the soul.

Meanwhile, the emotions, the mind and the physicality of the church members wane, having no better effect than those in the world.

I suppose a case can be made that once we are eternally rescued and given a place in heaven, temporary years on Earth don’t seem quite as valuable.

Of course, one could have that opinion if one had not read the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus was intent on having God’s will done on Earth as it is in heaven.

He believed in personal responsibility.

He challenged his followers to go the second mile.

He told us that those who have purity of heart– emotional clarity–would see God.

He asked us to think about the world around us and how it works.

And certainly, he challenged us to be born again–not merely accepting the frailties of our genetic code, but rather, setting in motion a transformation which makes us “new creatures.”

The church offers soul salvation and then wonders why many people opt for “off-campus” emotional healing, renewing of their minds and physical exercise with healthy eating.

If salvation is a gift, why are we told to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?

If salvation is a gift, why did Jesus tell Zacchaeus that he had “achieved” it by giving back the money he had stolen?

Imagine how powerful the Christian church could become if we simply taught that the salvation of our souls is an eternal work, demanding the grace of God to inaugurate our emotional healing, renewing of our minds and enhancement of our DNA.

It is troubling.

It is troubling that the church contains people who are going to heaven … yet having a hell of a time getting there.

 

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Jesonian… June 24th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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“Go.”

But where?

Into all the world, Jesus said as he was about to ascend into Heaven.

Although most theologians like to focus on the Ascension based upon Jesus’ arrival to “sit at the right hand of God the Father,” I would like to discuss what we have called the “great commission”–to go into all the world.

Was it not actually the ludicrous commission? After all, Jesus had traveled with his twelve disciples for three-and-a-half years. He knew they were Jewish, bigoted, disrespectful of women, indifferent to children and completely bound to their home base. How could he possibly anticipate that these immovable religious boys could ever take a message anywhere?

There were three keys to the success of the early church:

  • The Holy Spirit
  • The Apostle Paul
  • The destruction of Jerusalem

If you remove any one of these elements, Christianity becomes a cult of Judaism, therefore suffering the fate of the Jews when the Romans destroyed their Temple.

Peter, Andrew and John had no intention of doing anything but hanging around Jerusalem and aggravating the Pharisees. (You may notice that I left out James because early on he mouthed off and lost his head–literally.)

So the Holy Spirit arrived on the Day of Pentecost and gave Peter the boldness to speak about the murder of the Messiah in front of Jews visiting from all over the known world. Three thousand of them were saved that day, went back to their homes and began the process of reaching the entire planet.

Meanwhile, a Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus became quite adept at killing Christians, therefore terrorizing them. He was on his way to crippling the movement when Jesus signed him up on the road to Damascus, to take the message to the Gentiles. Why? Because the original twelve were not going to do it.

And even though Paul was a Pharisee, he was a rabble rouser–a fire-brand of intellectual and spiritual energy. He found himself criticizing the original disciples because they would not eat with the Gentiles, deeming themselves better.

Paul took the Gospel to the Greeks, and since the Romans always followed everything the Greeks did, they made excellent evangelists. He ended his life in Rome, teaching, knowing that the Romans were going to reach the Germanic tribes and the Germanic tribes would evangelize the Angles and Saxons, and the Angles and Saxons were going to climb into boats, land on rocks near Plymouth and begin a new nation called America, which would generate the technology to reach the whole world.

To ensure that those “stay-at-home disciples” would eventually leave Jerusalem and follow in Paul’s footsteps, Jesus warned them about the coming destruction of Jerusalem–to make sure they left town before the Romans arrived with their deadly foreclosure.

By 70 A. D. there was no Jewish synagogue, race or movement. Christianity survived because the followers of Jesus literally “headed for the hills.”

In the process of touting the power of prayer, the value of meditation and the worth of Bible study, we need to understand that Jesus intended us to be a “go” people.

He wanted us to view the world as a whole instead of just our little village, and he desired that his children would be the most tolerant, non-bigoted, caring and clever people on the face of the Earth.

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Jesonian… April 15th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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A Saturday many, many years ago, the beaten, bruised and bloodied body of Jesus of Nazareth lay still in the darkness of a borrowed tomb, as his spirit communed with the angels and his mind reasoned over the unfoldings of a truly abundant life.

We are not privy to those thoughts.

Matter of fact, all we know of the life of Jesus comes from four major biographers who borrowed pieces from one another, and each, in his own way, had an agenda to offer insights to please his readers.

There is no autobiography.

So we aren’t sure of the emotion in the words attributed to him. Therefore theologians decipher and agnostics disembowel the remnants of the script left to us of this magnificent life.

Yet every once in a while, we get a deeper glimpse. Such is the case in Matthew the 23rd Chapter, Verse 37-38:

“Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Thou that killest the prophets and stone them which are sent unto you. How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

The great debate over the centuries has been whether Jesus was Jewish or whether he came, in a certain sense, to abolish Judaism in favor of the New Covenant.

If you study the writings of Martin Luther, you might begin to believe that the Great Reformer was anti-Semetic. Yet in many evangelical churches, there seems to be a return to Jewish traditions, including them with their Christian rituals.

What did Jesus feel about the Jews?

What was the heart of the matter?

First and foremost, you must understand, for Jesus to include Gentiles and Samaritans in his movement immediately made him an outcast from the Jewish religious community.

Matter of fact, the Jewish Council that condemned him to death granted him none of the courtesy that was normally extended to brethren.

The reality that Jesus did not believe that the Jews were special because they were the “children of Abraham,” but rather put forth the opinion that God “could take stones” and make offspring of Abe, certainly did not put him in favor with those of the Zionist profile.

Yet John tells us that he “came to his own and his own received him not.”

When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, he did use the phrase “we Jews.” It is the only time he did, but he certainly had a kindness and favorability for those who lived in Judea and Galilee.

But Jesus was a man of vision–the Gospel would never reach China or the Native Americans if it were left in the hands of the Jews. The Jewish people had already aggravated the Romans to the point that the annihilation and dispersion of their kindred was inevitable, if not imminent. The Gospel would only survive in the hands of the Greeks and the Romans, who would take it to the rest of the world.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that when the early church was trying to force Gentile converts to comply with Jewish practices, the former Pharisee condemned them and called them “Judaizers” for limiting the scope and power of the message.

In the two verses recited above, Jesus announces the fate of Judaism.

It is in a coma.

It is left desolate and abandoned.

It is awaiting a day when it can be awakened and all the promises given by the prophets can be fulfilled.

But for a season, it was set aside in favor of salvation and “loving your neighbor” being shared with the entire world.

Basically, if you want to sum up Jesus’ feelings on Judaism, it’s very simple: Jesus loves them.

He just does not believe they’re “chosen people.”

There are no chosen people–just people who choose well.

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Good News and Better News… April 3rd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Perhaps a good definition for foolishness is to pursue an answer which you already have acquired, hoping that this time you will get a different response.

It’s kind of like when religious people ask, “What would Jesus do?”

I guess the concept is that his desires and inclinations may be such a mystery that we need to go to fasting and prayer to attain them.

Actually, all the church would have to do is ask the question, “What did Jesus do?”

It’s not like his life is a secret. He didn’t withhold his preferences from us. And it’s not like he didn’t lay out a road map for both his personality and his heart–whether it was about politics, where Jesus made it clear that he had no preference–any Caesar was as good as any other Caesar. And in the realm of social matters, Jesus was clear about the existence of the natural order, but if that is altered by human free will, we are not to judge others who choose a different path.

Jesus certainly made it clear that women were equals, though his church today continues to forbid them place and purpose.

So I guess we continue to pose “what would Jesus do?” so that we can slam enough scriptures together, out of context, to make it look like Jesus would agree with us.

What Jesus liked was obvious: humility, endurance, personal responsibility, faith, compassion and honesty.

What Jesus did not like was equally as obvious: hypocrisy, pretense, superiority, laziness, prejudice and over-emphasis on family and culture.

We could make great strides in the church if we ceased pretending that we are bewildered about the mind of Christ. Shoot, the Apostle Paul told us that “we have the mind of Christ.”

So why not use it?

Here’s the good news: Jesus is an open book. (Four of them, in fact–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.)

The better news is that when you study his character, you find out that he offers the only path which leads to peaceful coexistence among human beings.

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