Jesonian… May 20th, 2017

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“A certain lawyer.”

This is how the King James Version of the Good Book describes a chap who comes to hear Jesus teach. We do not know his real name, but we are made aware of his agenda.

So was he “a certain lawyer” because he was identical to the other lawyers around him, or was he referred to as “a certain lawyer” because he had a legal mind–already made up and sure of itself?

As the story unfolds, we find that actually he’s a bit of both. He’s on a mission. His job is to take his intellect, his knowledge of Mosaic law and his wit, and trip up the bumpkin would-be prophet from Nazareth.

He crafts a plan. It’s the classic trap. He asks Jesus “how to gain eternal life.” He figures this will cause the over-wrought preacher to launch into a series of crazed statements which are easily contradicted by existing spiritual philosophy. Imagine how astounded he is when Jesus defers to him.

“What does the law say? How do you read it?”

The lawyer was not expecting this response, but seeing the crowd of people, he thought it would be unwise to be absent a reply. He grabs a safe answer. (That’s what “certain people” do. Even “certain lawyers.” They grab safe answers.)

He said, “You should love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.”

To which Jesus replied, “Fantastic! Go do that.”

The certain lawyer is embarrassed. He has been out-maneuvered by a former carpenter. He has been managed. He has been handled. He gained no additional information, and made the audience think he was completely in tune with the teachings of Jesus.

So he does something truly dastardly–he tries to justify himself. Every lasting malady happens when we come across a reality and explain why we’re already doing something else.

The certain lawyer (who is losing certainty by the moment) asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

In other words, there must be some restriction. Jesus is not talking about Gentiles, is he? He’s not referring to nasty whores and thieves?

“I need you to clarify. And in the clarification, it is my hope that you will foul up, so I can go back to those who hired me, and have a good laugh concerning me bettering the Galilean.”

Jesus doesn’t miss a beat.

He tells a story about a man who fell into a situation where he was robbed and beaten. He immediately establishes that those who “the certain lawyer” respected–a priest and a Levite–passed by and did not help the bleeding fellow. Instead, he offers a hero. He introduces a Samaritan–which by the way, to that “certain lawyer” was even worse than a Gentile–who comes to the aid of the gentleman, binds his wounds, takes him to an inn and then leaves real money behind to make sure he’s cared for until he recuperates.

Jesus directs the story. In politics, they refer to it as “controlling the narrative.”

A lawyer who thought he was so smart was side-stepped; trapped by question from Jesus which could only evoke one logical response. Upon finishing the narrative, Jesus asks the certain lawyer, “Who was neighbor to the damaged man?”

The lawyer was surrounded by people, and the answer was so obvious that any hem-hawing or parsing of words would make him look foolish, not thoughtful. So he splurted out:

“The neighbor was the one who showed mercy to the wounded man.”

And even though the “certain lawyer” had hoped that the end of his dialogue with Jesus would leave the Master speechless and him dominating, instead Jesus turns and as he walked away, says, “Go and do thou likewise.”

There must have been a chuckle throughout the crowd.

The humiliated, foiled, aggravated and convicted lawyer left to go lick his wounds.

Over the next few weeks, he devises his own story–a retort he should have given to Jesus. Why do I feel that? Because the Gospel writer never told us his name.

The “certain lawyer” didn’t matter. He was a prop–a vehicle to share wisdom.

A story for the ages: The Good Samaritan.

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Cracked 5 … May 16th, 2017

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Other Names Considered for Jesus (and also the ones who proposed the “handle”)

 

A. Temple Tumbler–presented by the sarcastic Pharisees after Jesus “turned the tables” on them.

 

B. Winey Boy–a quickly devised name by some very drunken souls in Cana who suddenly found themselves slurping a burgundy made out of water

 

C. Jim Bay Luben–a proposal by the Southern Galilean Baptists, who were hoping it might promote Jesus to be more like his cousin, John

 

D. Carpo the Carpenter–a business-package idea by the Nazareth Chamber of Commerce

 

E. Bastard–a never-dying rumor by old, disgruntled Nazarenes who were “month-counters” for Mother Mary.

 

 

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Good News and Better News… April 17th, 2017

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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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Jesonian… January 28th, 2017

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Jesus knows us because He was us. (What a great title for a praise band song).

He didn’t come to Earth to stand afar and consider our befuddled actions from his undergirded, divine nature. He was human.

He learned, he grew and he found favor through trial and error. I didn’t make that up. That’s what the Gospel of Luke says.

So by the time he reached his thirty-first birthday and was sharing the Sermon on the Mount, he had a firm comprehension of the human reaction to life.

It is in four phases:

  1. We feel
  2. We muse
  3. We think
  4. We do

There are folks who reject their feelings, muse over their failures and go to their brain–only to find it a library chock-full of old information, and therefore end up doing things repetitively, wondering why they can’t change.

Our emotions exist to tell us what we feel. They are not definitive, they are not final–they are sensors.

Our spirit is there to muse–to add that gentle balance that “all things will work together to the good.” Muse is the root word of music. The spirit should be the soundtrack to our solution. Sometimes it takes an hour; sometimes it takes a year. I suppose there are even things that take a lifetime.

But when we enter the third phase, we must be careful. We think.

Contrary to popular opinion, the mind is dangerous. Why? Because it is already programmed. It has our culture, our bigotry, our training, our prejudices and our false statistics. It’s the reason Jesus told his disciples, “Don’t think so much.”

Because if you come across a problem, feeling it may be a difficult one, and you muse over it in your spirit, but then decide to seek an answer in your brain, you’ll consider data that is often only worthy of the trash bin.

But do we put it in the garbage? No.

So when we start thinking, we start worrying, which negates our spirit and frustrates our emotions. We literally do the first thing that comes into our head–and it’s often wrong.

So what did Jesus suggest? What is the Jesonian?

Take your feelings to your spirit and muse over them until you get the music of wisdom–either from God, your own fresh experience, or even the counsel of others. Then move on that tuneful wisdom and do what’s right. At this point you can come back and renew your mind. It’s like putting another book in the library.

Your brain starts gaining flexibility.

The Sermon on the Mount is not a wish list by a religious boy who came from God, possessing an advantage. It is the observation of a man who lived in a household with at least six other brothers and sisters, worked as a carpenter, flushed out some bad demons in the wilderness, and was prepared to look at life as it really was … instead of trying to think he could handle everything.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 20) Twenty-One Steps … September 11th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

Sunday morning in Nebraska was a living and breathing confirmation of the wisdom of the Creator God–to set aside a day of rest.

With nothing to do but prepare homemade waffles, walk the dog and dress for church, the citizens of Garsonville breathed a collective sigh of relaxation and relief. For just a little while, life became slower, and the craziness of the 21st century was mollified by simplicity.

That morning, Meningsbee barely got seven steps into the door of the church before Matrisse grabbed his arm and pulled him down to whisper in his ear.

“Kitty is gone.”

He pulled back so he could look into her eyes. She just sadly shook her head.

Realizing he couldn’t stop to converse any more, he made his way toward the sanctuary, where after a few feet he was nudged to the side by Bob Harborhouse, one of the original church members on the pastor’s selection committee. He was also one of the people who left over the fearful prospect of sitting closer to the front of the church. Meningsbee remembered that during his trial sermon, Bob introduced himself as a “groomsman carpenter,” explaining that by day he took care of a stable of horses and at night, he was in the first stages of starting his own furniture company–all original designs.

Bob said to Meningsbee, “I’m back with my family and about ten other people from the old church, but I do want you to know that Sammy Collins has begun his own congregation with about fifteen individuals who are meeting this morning at his house.”

Trying very hard to disguise his disappointment, Meningsbee nodded and headed into the sanctuary. Right before entering the holy of holies, he was once again stopped, this time by Theresa, the volunteer church secretary. She explained that someone had vandalized the women’s bathroom. It appeared that the scoundrel had poured two bags of marshmallows down the toilet.

Having no immediate clever come-back, Meningsbee nodded and told her he would make the announcement.

So as he inched his way up the middle aisle to the front of the church, looking at what was really a pretty good attendance, he wondered what conversation in his first twenty-one steps into the house of God could be addressed.

But before he could get started, Mark Layton, a former member of the church and also a history teacher at the local middle school, stood to his feet, firing a challenge.

“Reverend Meningsbee, I know you think you know what you’re doing, but before you came to our town, we were just a small country church with gentle ways and hopes for better lives for our families. Since you’ve been here, we’ve had division–and now there are three congregations meeting where once there was just a single body of believers. Do you really think that division is the work of God?”

There was some hissing and booing from the other members, who had come to church for a more enlightened experience, but Meningsbee quickly silenced the naysayers.

“Mark,” Meningsbee said, “When I was a young boy, my mother bought a brand new vacuum cleaner. It was quite a contraption. It had all sorts of shiny, silver metal pipes that came with it. They were extensions, so she could do various things to sweep up corners and such. I was only six years old, so I took one of those shiny metal pipes and quickly discovered that it was the perfect size for me to take a ping-pong ball, stick it inside and place my mouth over the end of the tube, and blow out really hard, and pretend I had a dart gun.”

The congregation laughed.

“It was great fun,” Meningsbee continued. “Then one day I picked up one of my ping-pong balls and it felt a little funny in my hand, like it was bigger. You know what I mean? But I tried to put it inside that metal tube anyway. It barely fit. But the worst part of it was, I couldn’t blow it out. Now, I probably should have told my mom or dad that I messed up one of the metal pipes on the new vacuum cleaner, but I was scared. Being a kid, I just hoped it would work out. It didn’t. And later, when my mother tried to sweep the floor, the machine didn’t work because of my little ping-pong ball mistake. They took it to the repair shop and received a gloomy report. Because the metal tube I had put my ping-pong ball in happened to be attached to the engine of the sweeper–and without that tube, well, the whole mechanism was basically useless. But the repair man was able to tell them that there was a ping-pong ball in there that he couldn’t get out unless he cut the tube in half. Well it didn’t take my parents too long to figure out where the ping-pong ball might have found its origins. They took me to the side and asked me why I didn’t tell them that I had made a mistake. I looked at them with tears in my eyes and said, ‘I just wanted everything to be all right, the way it was.’ You see, Mark, it wasn’t all right. It still looked like a vacuum cleaner but it didn’t work. Something was stuffed up inside, blocking the suction. When I arrived at this church, you had all the right equipment, seating, and even pretty good doughnut choices for the after-glow service.”

More giggles.

“But it wasn’t a church. Maybe it was a club. Maybe it was a way to escape and pretend we were better than the world around us. You can make up your mind on that. But the Book of Hebrews tells us that a church is a place where we come to strengthen one another. Not just praise or worship or gather to sing or say all the right words. So here’s my opinion: if we have to disrupt the eighty-eight souls who came to this church to try to reach the thirteen hundred who never have, then so be it. In my mind’s eye, it’s a small price to pay. So Mark, you are welcome to join us in worship this morning, or please–do not feel condemned or criticized if you would like to leave now that your question has been answered.”

There was a moment of silence. The people were absolutely still. At length, a softer, more tender Mark Layton piped up.

“I’m listening.”

Church continued.

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Jonathan’s Latest Book Release!

PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Ask Jonathots … March 10th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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You hear it all the time: “She got that talent from her mother…” Is talent actually inherited?

No.

I suppose I could just stop there, but maybe you would like some clarification.

Let’s start off with a definition for talent: Talent is a capacity for success.

Simply having talent does not guarantee us prosperity.

  • It is a capacity.
  • It is a potential.
  • It is an opportunity.

It is an even playing field for those who are willing to work hard, allowing them to use some natural inclinations.

There can be physical attributes that are passed along through the DNA system. Maybe these specific “pluses” make it easier to pursue certain directions in life.

But talent is and always will be the realization of a dream through the pursuit of focused labor.

Therefore, people who have no history of music in their families can become dynamic examples in the art form.

All things being fair, our Creator never intended that privilege and preference would be infused into anyone. The gifts that God gives to human beings lie in the discovery of our inner strengths, our weaknesses, and learning how to balance these to our advantage.

Of course, if you surround a child with hammers and nails from the time he is five years old, the chance that he will grow up to be a carpenter is heightened. But he also might grow up to be an itinerant preacher who changes the world.

Be grateful for the fact that talent cannot be attributed to anything but your own faith, the desires of your hope and a really well-put-together and disciplined work schedule.

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … February 24th, 2016

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PoHymn Feb 24

Come With Me

Come with me, young Nazarene

Far away from the caustic scene

To live, to share another day

Escape the voices of disarray

Before they steal your mind

And treat your soul unkind

Remember the shores of Galilee

Thoughts were fluid, hearts were free

Come away to our special place

And teach us to love the human race

For they want to eat your skin

Drink your blood, remit their sin

An aching desire to be divine

Needing wisdom, seeking a sign

Trapped in a tomb of dead men’s bones

Muttering commands, misguided drones

Just this once, follow me

Time to leave Gethsemane

Crippled, anger in their eyes

Slaves to tradition, children of lies

Messiah has come, Messiah need live

The world must receive what you have to give

Run with me, Jesus, do not delay

Don’t take the time to stop and pray

Surely this cup must pass from you

God’s will is life, this is true

Hurry, Carpenter, they’ve brought the nails

Let’s make sure their plan fails

They’ll be here soon to do it again

Make you a sacrifice for their sin

Please, oh, please, keep the message alive

And grant the Earth a chance to thrive

But you sit calmly and patiently wait

For freedom of choice to seal your fate

Death with honor is poorly stated

But life with retreat is over-rated

You waited too long, young Nazarene

Your spirit willing, theirs just mean

So they return each Sunday just about eleven

To confirm their souls are bound for heaven.

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