Good News and Better News … January 29th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Somewhere stuck between pissed off and tuned out, I waddle and wheeze, waiting for a needful kick in the butt, which I pray will actually be a whack of love.

For I am a human being. I look a lot like a monkey, but my Daddy is the King of the Universe (paternity test yet to be performed).

While we wiggle and struggle over the language of piety, politics and purpose, most of the human race is looking for a pleasant path to eating a good meal, while trying to get along.

Everything is too damn complicated. Matter of fact, writing this essay creates the risk of heaping another helping of opinion onto the stinky pile accumulated behind the house.

Can we simplify?

As far as I know (and I could be wrong, but not just because you think so–there would have to be some merit to your objection) every one of us needs:

1. A start of heart.

If we don’t feel, we don’t have any feeling. If we have no feeling, we have no empathy, and without empathy we start treating people like dogs (or even worse, because we kind of like dogs).

2. A goal of soul.

Even if there were no God we would have to invent one in order to lift our behavior above eye-gouging and tooth extraction.

I need a soul. I need to know you have one. Otherwise, if you get in my way, you could start looking like a cockroach and I might be tempted to strap on my killin’ boots.

3. A lane for the brain.

Parents, culture, family, schooling and misgivings have built cement freeways in our cranium. Unfortunately these roads don’t always take us to a healthy place. We need a lane in the brain to keep us from being insane.

4. A wealth of health.

I’m talking about your best health. If you’re like me, you’ll probably never be as well-structured as an Olympic athlete. But you can be the best pudgy, healthy rendition of the model that’s been provided for you.

These are the four things we’re all concerned about when we aren’t bitching. Once we begin to complain, life becomes too pat. “It’s your fault because it couldn’t be my fault because I have no fault.”

As you see, this is not a very fruitful profile.

So the good news is, if we will stop trying to change the world by preaching, the better news is, we might just start finding so much commonality that we are sympathetic to one another.

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Good News and Better News … December 18th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Christmas takes my breath away because it removes the stale air of predictable behavior and infuses the pure oxygen of the beauty of life.

It took a baby in a manger to address my childishness–because I am guilty of making the unimportant valuable, as I set aside the truly significant parts of life, praying in my soul that one day I will be able to give them their due.

Heft.

Yes, Jesus said there are “weightier matters” in life–things with girth, depth and breadth, which need to be addressed before all others, but are often ignored in favor of the pursuit of solvency.

It’s absolutely ridiculous.

The difference between religion and faith is that religion is satisfied to perform a service, and faith requires our full mustard-seed.

The weightier matters:

Mercy.

Mercy is not a lip-service devotion, but a proving ground, where those things that make us uncomfortable are forgiven so that we might retain human souls within the borders of the Earth.

Justice.

Escaping our family, clan, kin and even our country to catch a world-wide vision of equality within our race.

Faithfulness.

It is more than telling the truth and escaping the lie, but rather, making sure that the truth endures so that the lies don’t have a chance to gain root.

There is no season like Christmas.

There is no time during the year when “good will toward men” is considered a plausible possibility. There is no other occasion when redemption is viewed as a message rather than a human sacrifice.

The good news is that God weighs matters and gives them importance.

The better news is, if we place our concerns on the scale, we will know what value to give to each and every offering.

 

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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… September 4th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Is peace merely the absence of war or a majestic anointing to dissuade all conflict?

This question crossed my mind Sunday morning when Janet and I had the privilege of sharing our program at Peace Lutheran Church in Palm Bay, Florida, under the able leadership of Pastor Paul. Although the folks were hesitant at first to open their hearts to “us strangers,” in no time at all the glory of Spirit filled the room with reconciliation, realization and renewal.

It was good. It felt good.

Which brings me to my point this morning. Even though we may exalt ourselves for being extremely intellectual or even spiritual, we actually spend most of our lives being prompted by our feelings. Some would insist that this predilection is our weakness, but I have discovered that our emotions are what endear us to the Creator.

So when anyone steps into Peace Lutheran Church, they are taking the pulse of the heartbeat in the place.

Is it a sanctuary for redemption minus the fussiness propagated by our society? Is it warm with human smiles–aglow with care, and just lit up by the notion that “all things work together for the good for those who love the Lord?”

Only after we feel good about a place do we actually look around to see.

We notice faces. We observe actions. God forgive us, we become spies at our present location. Are we critical? Unfortunately, yes.

This is why there must be a belief system on Earth that understands that we’re constantly letting our light shine before all men. There is no backstage for the journey of faith, nor are we given a dressing room. There is no time to learn lines because all the daily setups are improvisational.

  • The world is looking.
  • The world is critical.
  • The world must see evidence for what it feels.

And finally, if we like what we feel and we’re pretty satisfied with what we see, we’re ready to hear.

As we know, faith comes by hearing, so it is the responsibility of every believer to bring peace to our quadrant by providing a faith that can be seen and felt.

That was our message yesterday. We must stop insisting that merely opening the doors to a house of worship promotes brotherly love, good will or recognition of our Creator.

No–if people don’t feel it they will never see it.

And if they don’t see it, they won’t hear it.

So the good news is that by the time I left Peace Lutheran I felt them and I saw the love of God. They let me eyeball their soul.

And the better news is, I can now trust what I hear from them.

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Good News and Better News… April 17th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jesus was the Good Shepherd. (Well, I guess He still is, since no one else is qualified or particularly interested in the job.) He spent his whole life trying to find a way to be a caretaker for sheepish human souls.

It began with thirty years of family life–a mother, father, sisters and brothers trying to get along in cramped quarters, being hunted down daily by poverty.

Then, when he felt a stirring in his soul to do more, his desires were struck down by the locals, who insisted he should remain the “carpenter’s son.”

So he moved a little bit down the road to a town called Capernaum, and started a house-front church–Peter’s house. It became very popular–so much so that the folks literally started tearing the walls out.

But then his family got wind of his doings, thought he was crazy and came out to take him home. A little bit of scandal. Suddenly the citizens of Capernaum were not quite as interested anymore.

So Jesus turned to his handful of disciples and said, “Well, let’s take the show on the road.”

He became an evangelist. Since he figured no one in Galilee or Judea was particularly interested, he went to Samaria. He met a woman who helped him build energy and in no time at all there was some excitement and thrilling deeds in the works.

Unfortunately, when he returned back to Samaria shortly thereafter, they wouldn’t let him share anymore because they found out he liked Jews–and they hated them.

He decided to return to Galilee to live off the land and just see who came in. Eventually there were seventy of them–one of those church sizes that is so common today.

Jesus motivated them, sent them out two by two, and their work was so successful that within a few months, Jesus found himself teaching five thousand people–an unbelievable growth spurt.

Jesus had himself a mega church. He was not only leading them but also feeding them. But when he began teaching them about personal responsibility, and the fact that his congregants needed to be on a spiritual journey to have the heart of God toward humanity, they objected. Matter of fact, they got angry, started “splits,” and before you know it, Jesus lost 4,988 members.

He was left with twelve.

That’s a pretty drastic dip. I would think he would have had a tendency to question his technique, method or even wisdom. But Jesus went the other direction. He continued to minister to the twelve disciples, but he focused on three: Peter, James and John.

And although the Good Book says that five hundred witnesses saw him after the resurrection, only 120 were around for the Day of Pentecost.

But Jesus had even shrunk his vision of the three “best friend” disciples down to one.

Yes, on a cool morning by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus stood by the water with Simon Peter and said, “Feed my sheep.”

When it turned out that Peter got a little weary, Jesus appeared on a back road near Damascus and told a chap named Saul of Tarsus, “Stop fighting it. You are meant to be a messenger.”

So even though thousands and thousands of people came Jesus’ way, encountered his message, some even walking away with miraculous healings, he intelligently placed focus on two fellows, who made it their mission to teach the parishioners around them to become disciples–and to change the world.

The good news is that the Gospel is not about building churches and getting attendance. It’s about making disciples.

And the better news is that a contented, fulfilled, excited and creative disciple can reach millions.

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Good News and Better News… March 6th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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jesus-politician

They were known as the Herodians.

They were one of three political parties that stumped around in Jesus’ time, completely enveloped in a cloud of self-importance.

Unlike their counterparts, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Herodians had quietly given up on the power of Jewish tradition, scriptural integrity and even the intervention of God. They had decided to seek a more “earthly” solution. In doing this, they proclaimed that Herod was the Messiah and the King of the Jews. This immediately eliminated a need to wait for anything, believe in anything outrageous or follow commandments which seemed to be a dead-end street.

It was the Herodians who actually put the nails in Jesus’ hands.

Both the Pharisees and Sadducees were so frightened of the people that they were never able to come up with a plan to trap Jesus. It was only when the cunning Herodians, with their defiled political thinking, came on the scene, that a plot was put in place to put an end to the “Jesus question.”

I bring up the Herodians this morning because we have a similar situation in America. The church has flirted with politics for years, feeling that it gave them some sort of pass to “big-town thinking.” Yet somehow or another, the religious system was able to keep itself from becoming the whore to Washington.

Then somewhere along the line, we gave up on faith.

We gave up on “love your neighbor as yourself.”

And to a huge degree, we gave up on Jesus.

We started looking for a secular leader to represent us–an imposter–so we once again have come up with a scheme rid ourselves of Jesus.

This is why we’re so confused. It’s why worship has a feeling of vanity and purposelessness to it. Numbers are dropping. The young people are uninspired, and the clergy teeter between fanaticism and apathy.

It is time for us to identify the Herodians, expose them as the quitters they are, and once again give our faith, hope and charity a chance to do its mystery.

Here’s the good news: Jesus is not political.

Here’s the better news: He’s still in the business of loving people and saving souls.

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Good News and Better News… January 30th, 2017

 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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good-news-lighthouse-point

I had the privilege of sharing in Lighthouse Point, Florida.

What a fabulous name. Opens the door for all sorts of clever interpretation–especially for a writer who might become overly exuberant.

But what struck me was that we were returning for our third occasion to be sponsored by Pastor Gabe, in yet another of her assigned churches.

She is a dynamic woman. Let me change that. She is an outstanding person–a breast cancer survivor, a minister, an individual with a delightful sense of humor, and also, as I found out yesterday, enjoys watching reruns of “West Wing.”

During a conversation with Gabe, she mentioned that this present church was about the same size as all of the other churches she had pastored.

Kind of small.

Although she did not express any sadness or misgiving about the size, I thought to myself, “We live in a country that thinks the bigger things are, the better they are.”

Although that might apply to hamburgers and ice cream cones, it certainly does not come to play in discussing a church.

For you see, a church is not an organization, a meeting hall, a service or a club. A church does not become more impressive because there are more butts in seats.

A church is a place where those who are seeking maturity can come together to strengthen one another.

Factually, I don’t know if you can do that with more than a hundred people at a time. You can jam fifteen thousand Christians into an auditorium, but it doesn’t mean that a single-mindedness of joy and faith will be produced.

Yes, the purpose of the church is to encourage people to “grow to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Jesus.”

Whenever you gather more than three or four hundred together, you’ve got to have a program with praise band singers and create some sort of atmosphere of worship, hoping that somewhere over the coffee and donuts provided in the fellowship hall, human conversation might somehow ensue. But that’s not who we are.

We need fullness.

In the human experience, fullness occurs when we allow ourselves to feel. So when I go into a church and people are reluctant to express emotion, I know they’ve convinced themselves that they’re in a worship service instead of a fellowship.

We also need to reach a certain measure.

What is that measure? A sense of survival. After all, we will never succeed if we can’t first survive. We learn to survive by hearing the testimony of others–like Gabe, who herself survived the horror of disease.

We realize we are not alone. For after all, there is nothing lonelier than being in a room with ten thousand people and knowing nobody.

And finally, church should grant us stature.

In other words, we know we can grow. Why? Because we just testified to people about our new discovery.

This is the atmosphere that was intended for the church of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • I can feel
  • I can survive
  • I can grow

And what Pastor Gabe, and all of us, need to celebrate is that the church is not noteworthy because of its sanctuary. It becomes the light of the world because it lights up its members.

The good news is that America is doing well because people like Pastor Gabe are on the job, with an attention to detail and a care for fellow-travelers.

The better news is that we in the church become a highly functioning organism when we motivate the souls around us to grow “to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Jesus.”

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