Good News and Better News… August 21st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I had the night off from my gigs.

I decided to take in a church service at a small pioneer work where I’m staying. It is called Renaissance Fellowship. It touts the uniqueness of being a Christian church focused on the arts. Since I’ve been known to have a brain cell or two tuned in that direction, I was titillated.

The church is held at a community center and has about twenty-five folks who attend. The people are typical “church.” About 35% of them are excited, involved, busy scurrying around, and the rest of them have the appearance of folks arriving for a seminar on an unknown subject, with the promise that they might get free passes to a restaurant at the end.

Renaissance suffers from what every church suffers from. In trying to find God, they accidentally kill passion.

The pastor, a young man in his early forties, has a delightful desire and talent for sharing his thoughts. You can tell he is still deeply involved in the pursuit of God and the salvation of human souls, but growing a bit worn around the edges in all the well-doing. It happens to all of us.

But I heard something I liked. I heard rumblings that sounded like possibility.

Even though his message was plagued with too much preaching to the soul and teaching to the brain, I sensed that he’s beginning to reach for the heart.

For you see–human beings are not really spiritual. We aren’t thoughtful. We are emotional.

It doesn’t matter if it’s about work, play, a football stadium or church–the evidence that we are impacted is always an emotional outburst.

So I speak with great clarity to this pastor and tell him to keep reaching for the heart. Go ahead and abandon preaching to the soul and teaching to the mind. No one cares what Abraham, Moses, Joseph or any of the old patriarchs did. If the stories do not relate to family, Wal-mart and the Internet, they will not touch the hearts of American people.

Instructing the brain by pointing out clever pieces of information may once have been a path of probability, but no longer. Our brains are inundated with too much information, and of course, way too many posts on Facebook about nothing.

  • Reach the heart.
  • Touch the heart.
  • And demand a heartfelt response.

It is the only way people are healed. As Jesus said, “If you say to this mountain, be removed, and you do not doubt in your heart, it shall be done.”

The soul, the brain and the body have nothing to do with moving mountains. It is a heartfelt action.

Although I’m sure they are delightful and blessed people, many of the folks at Renaissance were doing their best imitation of being church cardboard cutouts. But becoming a church of artistry will require that the congregation that’s already there–tiny as it is–become emotionally excited with its own faith.

If it doesn’t, they will be just an average church that occasionally puts on plays.

The good news is that the Gospel is an experience of the heart.

The better news is, the pastor of Renaissance Fellowship and his congregation have a great opportunity to become heartfelt.

I have confidence in them.

For you see, the pastor is my son.Donate Button

 

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Remedy … September 16, 2012

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Iron-poor, tired blood.

I remember hearing that phrase as a kid. It was used to introduce Geritol commercials. Being young, I had no idea what they were talking about, but supposedly you could drink this fluid and your blood would be less fatigued and suddenly gain some sort of iron will. I didn’t care. I figured people who was old enough to be interested in the iron content of their blood probably should prepare to die instead of drinking Geritol.

But as I travel around the country, I now realize that our entire nation is experiencing some tiredness. Let’s refer to it as weary.

The politicians think they have a handle on it by insisting that the country has become exhausted by trying to keep up with the rigors of a failing economy. I don’t think so. I just don’t believe that people deteriorate emotionally because they lack money.

Religious people think the drop in enthusiasm and passion is due to secularism infiltrating our society with anti-Christian values and the removal of God from our dialogue. First of all, it’s hard to remove God from our consciousness when He opens every day with a brilliant display of sunrise. Also it’s difficult to make a case that this country is lacking in spiritual possibilities when there are churches everywhere, religious programming proliferating both the airwaves and the Internet, and faith being touted at the forefront of nearly every political debate.

I think we’re tired because we don’t know how sneaky sarcasm is. We deceive ourselves by insisting that we are not sarcastic, have not become cynical and have somehow avoided all temptations to do so, without realizing that sarcasm and cynicism do not ask our permission for entrance, and once introduced, are never far away.

We are continually bombarded with the fatigue of wondering when things will actually pan out the way they are supposed to, or when promises made to us by friends and family will come to fruition instead fo being followed by, “I’m sorry. I forgot.”

We deceive ourselves because we think that merely by avoiding an eruption of anger we have eliminated the problem and moved on. But often the absence of anger is the infusion of cynicism. The act of  avoiding a fit of rage can leave behind a residue of despair that makes us less capable of being fresh and willing the next time around.

Some people call this maturity; other people refer to it as realism. God calls it weary. And when we grow weary in well-doing, we give up right before blessing has a chance to be delivered to our doorstep for our benefit.

Every time we are disappointed or failure comes our way, we must realize that there is more to receiving self-healing than just deciding to not be upset. Sarcasm and cynicism hang around long after we seemingly have gotten over the frustration of not getting what we desired. Once sarcasm and cynicism enter our beings, we just feel tired.

I saw this as I traveled the country this year–good-hearted, loving, gentle people who just didn’t have the will to take one more step toward possibility because sarcasm and cynicism had taken hold of their lives and drained the last little bit of youthful optimism from their hearts.

You cannot ignore your disappointments. You must produce a remedy. Otherwise the secret killer of true faith will overtake you and leave you sarcastic and cynical.

Matter of fact, I will go so far as to say that must of the humor produced in our television programs is sarcasm, and cynical in nature. Most of the commentary by the pundits on the news programs reeks of sarcasm and cynicism. Dare I say that nearly all of the advertisements in the political campaigns are actions of pummeling the opponent with sarcasm and cynicism.

Jesus had one of those days. The movers and shakers in his society had unmercifully hassled him, bringing up ridiculous charges and asking him to follow minute little tasks to prove his value to the religious community. They wanted “signs from heaven.” They demanded “evidence.” They wanted to be convinced. They had iron-poor, tired blood. They were cynical and sarcastic and had no idea that this disease had permeated their souls.

Jesus needed a remedy. He was in danger of becoming just as cynical and sarcastic about these opponents as they were about their own lives. He took a three-step cure.

1. He thanked God. He thanked God for his present location; he was grateful.

The notion that we would be better off in different circumstances is, after all, a mere theory. All we ever know is our present status.

2. He acknowledged the importance of where he had landed. It seemed that his message was not going to be well received by the wise and prudent, so rather than fighting and kicking against his dilemma, he welcomed the audience that God gave him and accepted his market.

We spend too much time wishing that we had a better outlet for our ideas and talents, and lose the opportunity set before us, which actually is our field.

3. And finally, he placed himself among those who were simple–babes.

Nowadays, everyone is trying to be too sophisticated. We think there’s a power in being all-knowing and filled with information. Sometimes it’s just better to believe in what you’ve got and work with it, instead of waiting for the next bus to come along and take you to the promised land.

The weariness in our country is due to the sarcasm and cynicism that permeates our politics, our religion, our arts, our entertainment and even our family life. (Is it not a dangerous cynicism that causes us to believe that men and women cannot find a way to communicate, while strangely enough, we still insist that “it’s all about the family?”)

I go to sleep tonight in Logansport, Indiana, not desiring to be anywhere else. I do not feel that I would be more successful performing at Wembley Stadium in front of forty thousand people. I do not need my latest book to be on the best-sellers list of the New York Times. I do not contend that my present status is inferior because it’s not world-renowned. I know that in every season a message comes forth that must spend time in solitude and obscurity before it ever has a chance to be heard and received.

I will work on me. I will employ the remedy, and I will keep my life from becoming weary–inundated by sarcasm and cynicism.

Do you feel tired? Have you watched yourself get more weary? Understand that sarcasm and cynicism don’t leave until you show them the door.

To do so, you have to locate yourself and be happy that you’re there.

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Since I Am Not… May 12, 2012

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No, I am not a Republican. I have many friends who are. Likewise, I am not a Democrat–although I am honored with an equal number of comrades from that camp. I just don’t believe that the discoveries we make as human beings can be limited to one single point of view.

I realized many years ago that as an earth creature, I, as Jesus said, am bestowed with heart, soul, mind and strength. Each one of the political parties, in some way, shape or form, tries to lessen the effects of one or more of those four attributes of the human experience. It is not malicious–it’s just the way the traditions, platforms, platitudes and practices of their particular organization has viewed things over the years.

Since I am a heart (emotions), soul (spiritual), mind (intelligence) and strength (a body), I have no difficulty understanding that this nation we live in has basically the same four parts. So I will tell you how I view my patriotism and you can see what you think about it. I am not trying to evangelize or even promote my ideas. It’s just that I do not see them at work in the political parties–they are too busy trying to maintain distinctions between each other, and therefore, alienation from each other.

The heart of America, to me, is our sense of good cheer and fair play. This is what sets us apart from the rest of the world, which often stumbles on humor and compassion instead of pursuing it. When the United States can’t laugh at itself and fails to have a merciful attitude towards those in need, we’re no different from any other country. The heart of America is our good cheer and fair play. We have comedy clubs so we can go and celebrate that experience. We have even learned to laugh to escape the excesses of pain. What is missing from the parties is a sense of humor about themselves and fair play towards each other. I will not participate. The heart of America is good cheer and fair play–and when we become overly cranky or selfish, we just suck.

The soul of America is our deep, abiding belief that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” Honestly, we have abandoned it many times in order to target specific groups out of prejudice. But we are the only country in the world that is a bastion for the idea that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” This is why I have made that statement my slogan for my touring in 2012. I am often bemused when I share it in front of audience members and the first response is silence, as the concept assimilates into their sensibilities, and they try to figure out if they actually believe it or not. There is no doubt that Hitler and his regime would still rule the world if he had actually believed that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” What brought him down was not a lack of power or technology, but rather, his incessant bigotry, which caused him to be paranoid towards those who worked around him, making him suspicious of their motives, and prompted him to commit genocide on an entire race of people. We should take heed. We are a nation of immigrants, Therefore, we cannot piously discuss how we’re going to close our borders to the rest of the world. Obviously, we cannot have a policy of allowing people to come into the country without some sort of procedure–but the answer to the question has to contain the initial agreement that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” It is our soul–and when we start competing with each other for supremacy, we lose any part of God that may have been with us at our founding.

The mind of this nation, in my opinion, is the Bill of Rights. How ingenious it was of those who ratified the Constitution to immediately realize that the main danger in interpreting the document would be to limit personal freedoms to gain corporate improvement. The Bill of Rights is a reminder that the United States is primarily a country that extols freedom above all else. Neither political party is willing to accept the Bill of Rights in its entirety. Each one of them wants to limit the power of the individual to make choices  for him or herself.

And finally, the strength of our country is our creativity. We don’t have a history of discussing ideas, but rather, with experimenting and implementing them, and letting them evolve until they become functioning parts of our system. When you take away creativity in medical research, you end up with miles and miles of red tape instead of possibilities for healing for those who are struggling with disease. When you take away creativity from government, we pass laws that are a mere shadow of what was actually needed to generate change. When you take away creativity from the arts, you become a nation which culls through the repertoire of previous eras to try to make the latest revival of something that’s already been done. And when you take creativity away from spirituality, you end up with a religion that clumsily interferes in people’s lives instead of enhancing them. We built this nation through creativity and we will destroy it if we begin to believe that we have enough.

So, as you can see, that’s why I am unable to become a Republican or a Democrat. Neither party will hold these four principles as sacrosanct, or even recognize their importance.

But it is why I love this country.

  • We have a heart of fair play and good cheer.
  • At our soul is the consecrated notion that “NoOne is better than anyone else.”
  • We have a mind that puts a Bill of Rights–freedom of the individual–before corporate greed or political avarice.
  • And we have a strength that is based on building a reputation through our creativity instead of force of might.

My contention is that if we return to these principles, we can also return to a sense of mission that gives us place in this world as “a city set on a hill for all to see.”

So let me know what you think. But please do not bore me with false claim that any of the political parties “hold these truths to be self-evident.” I learned a long time ago that you cannot establish a philosophy merely based upon how you disagree with your opponent. In a matter of seconds, I can give you three things that the Democrats have done that I agree with and three things the Republicans have done that I likewise concur over. I can also give you long lists where I oppose both of them.

America has a heart, a soul, a mind and a strength–just like me. Because after all, America is me.

  

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