Good News and Better News… November 21st, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Fifteen friends and family joined us yesterday at the Summit Heights United Methodist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, to celebrate and fellowship over our final gig of the year.

What a year.

Twelve states, thousands of people and memories to last a lifetime.

The Summit Heights congregation was a beautiful human concoction of simplicity and joy, with a great sense of humor–guided by a bright, hopeful and forward-thinking young man named Todd.

So when I took the stage to begin the morning with our prelude, there was an eagerness and energy in the air. I thought to myself, This is what God wants. He wants His children showing up to His house ready for cookies and milk instead of thinking they’re going to have to stomach the medicine.

As I continued in the service, an abiding notion suddenly permeated my mind.

God is not going to do anything without us.

We can pray, we can study, we can hope, we can criticize the world, we can judge others–and God will ignore our feeble, religious efforts. For God is not going to do anything without us.

When Jesus wanted to feed the five thousand, he required the five loaves and two fishes from the disciples.

When it was time to preach the good news, he sent them out two by two.

When desiring to make wine, he requested water.

When people came for healing, he told them that their faith made them whole–and when their faith was absent, it says he was not able to heal many.

And certainly when God wanted to save humanity, He found a willing woman to bring the Savior into the world.

I don’t know why we’re so afraid to become involved in our own life, ministry, outreach and salvation–but it will take our spirit, our countenance and our heart to transform America from its angry position of self-absorption, back into one nation that truly is under God’s guidance.

What kind of spirit?

It’s a spirit of repentance. “I could be wrong and because that’s possible, I am prepared to change.”

What is the countenance?

It is a full-faced expression of joy, which shows that we’re aware of life’s pain, but we realize it can only be conquered through good cheer.

What is the heart?

It is a heart of compassion–letting everyone know that because we have weaknesses, we feel a tender kindness to those like ourselves, who find themselves weak.

It is my prayer that Summit Heights will take on the power of the Gospel, which is: “Christ in me, the hope of glory.”

 

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Good News and Better News … July 4th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Effort 1He was Saul of Tarsus, who after a dramatic Damascan conversion, began to travel the ancient empire under the stage name, Paul the Apostle.

He once said, “By grace you are saved through faith.”

Little did he know that this quote would become one of his greatest hits. Matter of fact, the doctrine of grace, which emerged from this statement, is preached every Sunday.

The validity of the statement is powerful. The salvation of our souls is a free gift from God through the love, mercy and sacrifice of Jesus. It blooms the potential of eternal life. But it doesn’t tell us what we’re supposed to do with our emotions, brains and bodies through this process called human life.

Because those who live on grace, hoping it will cover a multitude of their annoying practices, do very little to promote the expanse of the Christian message.

This came to me yesterday when I arrived at the Effort United Methodist Church near the Poconos in Pennsylvania.Good News Effort 2

Effort.

What a great word.

It is ridiculous to think that Jesus took the time to preach the Sermon on the Mount about character, bearing fruit, loving your neighbor, avoiding hypocrisy, channeling your lust and respecting the planet if he wanted us to merely lounge on the cushion of grace.

Belief in Jesus does give you salvation, but to live on Planet Earth, we require sanity. Sanity is achieved by accepting the Gospel of Jesus to free us from fret, worry, pride, prejudice, anger and fear. It simplifies our emotions so that our minds can be renewed and we can gain strength.

Religion does not grant us this peace.

Religion wants to give comfort to the convert and condemnation to the world.

It’s when we take grace and blend it with effort that we meld the alloy of faith–certainly trust in God, but also reliance on “Christ in me, the hope of glory.”

In the long run, there are two salvations–there is the salvation that is a free gift of God through acceptance of Jesus.

Good News Effort 3And there is a salvation which each one of us, individually, “works out with fear and trembling” as we journey, simplifying our lives with joy and understanding.

I had a monumental time yesterday with the folks in Effort.

They did put up an effort.

They showed up on July 4th weekend, when they could have gotten by with “pew hookey.”

They listened to this stranger expose new ideas about abundant life.

And they allowed themselves to be impacted rather than insisting that grace eliminates any need to learn.

The good news is that we are saved by grace through faith.

But the better news is that we save our sanity by taking the beautiful Gospel of Jesus and putting some Effort into it.

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