Jesonian–Troubling (Part 6)… August 5th, 2017

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It is troubling.

Yet I must profess to you that no one has greater joy and regard for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross than I do. It is my salvation and it rattles my consciousness to a sensibility of my own sinful nature and the grace of God.

That being said, I fear that the church has become “atone-deaf.”

Nearly desperate to land on a universal message for Christianity which can be compactly shared at a moment’s notice, we have placed too much attention on a hill called Golgotha, and not nearly enough tender loving care with a Sermon shared from a Mount. In doing this, we have contradicted things we know about the nature of God in order to fulfill the doctrine of the propitiation of sin.

For instance, God ordained free will for humans. Yet we’re led to believe that “from the foundations of the world” it was pre-destined that Jesus would be killed on a cross.

When God spoke through the Old Testament prophets, He declared that He wanted mercy, not sacrifice. Yet for some reason we decide that He changed His mind and adopted human sacrifice as the symbol of His covenant.

As a writer, the first thing you learn is to be faithful to your characters. You can’t manipulate the plotline by causing your character to do something completely beyond the scope of his or her nature, just so you can advance your story.

God gave us free will. We chose to kill Jesus.

God hates sacrifice. He took the death of Jesus and transformed it into our salvation.

What was meant for evil, He made good.

Atonement should be a central theme in the Christian message. It is powerful. It is priceless. But by no means should it be preached so loudly that it makes us deaf to the greater matters of the kingdom–tenderness, responsibility, excellence, consolation and tolerance.

What can we do to keep the death of Jesus in perspective?

I have always received the gift of Calvary as my salvation and a license for me to go out and salvage. How? First, deal with my own appetites and also multiply my talents. Once I become the salvager–the “light of the world” and “the salt of the earth”–I have the ability to transfuse the energy of salvation, pass it along to others and see them reborn.

The conclusion? As a saved soul who has become salvaged and a saver, I fulfill the purpose of me being rescued.

We’ve got to start listening again. We have to stop trying to fulfill denominational doctrine and instead, emphasize the character of God.

Jesus lived for thirty-three years to give the human race a chance to accept his message. He used stories; he used confrontation. He used healing; he used mercy.

And at the end of it all, we used crucifixion.

God, in His infinite grace, chose to take the blood that we shed and make it a symbol of our salvation rather than a further curse of our rebellion. It’s remarkable.

But if we want to find the heart of Jesus, it is not at Calvary.

It is in the words, deeds, actions and anointing of his life.

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Good News and Better News… July 31st, 2017

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I was sitting in the nursery of the Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee, Florida, between services, snacking on some fruit which had graciously been provided by Pastor Giuseppe and glorious souls who have a knack for putting together such compotes, when I was struck–or perhaps just “pwanged”–by a simple revelation.

The world is always moving. It is our job to note the direction.

Just because the pace seems harried, leaving us all in the flurry of busyness, does not mean that we’re trudging forward. Sometimes we go backwards, often it’s just side-stepping right or left. We even become distracted by hitting a wall and continuing to push instead of stopping long enough to find a way around it.

Church is still a beautiful thing–it’s just that in the present march of humanity it seems irrelevant.

For we classify information that comes our way into three categories:

1. Philosophical.

This ranges from our educational system, to reading books, to listening to someone explain the value of a gluten-free diet.

2. Religious.

Once again, this could be anything from a Bible conference to a yoga class to hearing a testimony about someone’s ordeal or joining with others in prayer over some nasty bit of business that’s come along.

3. Necessary.

Every single day of our lives, we alter the gauge on what we feel is necessary for our existence. This explains the tremendous success of Amazon and Wal-mart. These companies have made it friendly to come and buy things we want at reasonable rates, and in the case of Amazon, have them delivered to our door without even needing to leave the comforts of the breakfast nook.

Candidly, if a piece of information is not necessary, we deem it useless. Once something becomes useless, it only receives attention if it can prove–even temporarily–that it has the value of Wal-mart or Amazon.

So something beautiful, like church, which at one time was considered necessary because it initiated relationships, faith, music, cooperation and a sense of community, has now been completely shoved to the rear by the collision of social media and the rising tide of agnosticism.

When I went into the second service I took the realization with me. I discovered that being philosophical or religious bored even those individuals who still remained in the holy sanctuary.

Give them what’s necessary.

When Jesus came to Earth, the common people were slaves to the Romans and subjected to criticism from the religious system.

Jesus told the people they were “the salt of the Earth, the light of the world,” but that they needed to take responsibility for their lives and not wait for either the Romans or Judaism to save them.

He made the message of God necessary. He referred to it as “daily bread.” He told people to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and to “take no thought for tomorrow” but to live for today.

You will never meet a more promising group of people than I encountered at Nativity. But I will tell them that until the message they share is necessary in people’s lives, a philosophical or religious content will leave folks cold–staying at home and watching television.

The good news is that Christianity can still be about Jesus.

The better news is that he came to give us life–necessary life–and it more abundantly.

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Catchy (Sitting Three) And Then There Were Three … June 25th, 2017

 

Randall Caron and Landy Loren were Matthew’s partners in S.E.E.D.S.

Randall was Matthew’s junior, a gentleman in his thirties–skinny, with the energy level of a mosquito, and the greed to match. Matthew always lamented that Randall seemed to lack sufficient conscience to balance his ego. But it was hard to argue with his productivity and the ruthlessness he employed to plump the bottom line.

Landy was a woman in her forties, which she coyly referred to as “fortyish.” She was short and pudgy enough to disguise a fading attractiveness which had once dazzled young men and now left the same suitors satisfied with conversation.

The three partners met every morning at 9:30 to discuss upcoming projects and share a cheese Danish, an English muffin and an Irish coffee—a personal nod to continental cuisine.

On this morning, Matthew wasted no time, feeling idle chatter should not trump a two hundred and fifty million dollar proposal.

“I got a call.”

“And…?” said Randall, with a crumb or two of muffin creeping out the corner of his lips.

“It was a lawyer,” Matthew continued.

“Uh-oh,” inserted Landy.

Matthew interrupted. “No. A good lawyer, if such is possible.”

“A good lawyer?” questioned Randall. “What would that be?”

“Good in the sense of. . . well, good in the sense of money.”

“A lawyer offering money instead of demanding payment?” questioned Landy.

“Freak show, huh?” Matthew smiled.

“Where did you ever get that saying, ‘freak show’?” Randall asked, irritated.

“College.”

“Well, it’s weird,” said Randall. “Kind of gives me the willies.”

“The willies?” Matthew chuckled. “Now, that’s weird.”

“Sorry–works for me,” Randall responded.

“Anyway,” continued Matthew. “It seems that old man Harts—you know, the billionaire that died a couple of weeks ago?—left two hundred and fifty million dollars for some advertising agency…”

Randall almost spilled his Irish coffee on his gray gabardine slacks. “You’re shittin’ me.”

“What do you mean? Who? You mean us?” Landy could not contain her excitement.

“Maybe…” Matthew said tentatively.

“Maybe?” Randall leaped to his feet. “I’d do anything for two hundred and fifty million dollars.”

“Sit down. Now, tell me what you’re talking about,” Landy demanded.

Matthew leaned back in his chair and dropped the remaining portion of a Danish into his mouth. “Here’s the catch,” he said as he brushed his hands to dispel morsels of sticky crumbs.

“There’s always a goddam catch,” said Randall, sitting back down.

“For two hundred and fifty million dollars I might put up with a hundred catches,” said Landy.

“The old fart wants some agency to take two hundred and fifty million dollars to promote—are you ready for this?”

“Stop stalling and tell us,” interrupted Randall.

“…to make Jesus popular again.”

“What?” Landy gasped.

“Popular with who, or is it whom?” asked Randall.

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I guess popular with everybody,” said Matthew.

There was a sudden stillness—not reverential, but more a stomach-aching quiet that ensues upon seeing two hundred and fifty million dollars tumble into a bottomless cavern.

“What a crock.” Randall finally broke the silence.

“Who could do that?” Landy asked.

“You mean make Jesus popular?” Matthew smirked.

“Yeah,” replied Landy. “I mean, Jesus is Jesus, right?”

“Well, there’s our slogan,” said Randall with a grin.

“No, I’m serious,” said Landy. “I mean, if you’re looking at him like a product…you know what I’m saying? There are only certain things you can do with it.”

“New and improved…” ticked Randall.

“Misunderstood and now finally revealed…” added Matthew.

“Under new management,” concluded Landy.

“Okay, I’ll grant you, it’s bonkers,” said Matthew. “But it is two hundred and fifty million dollars.”

“I don’t care if it’s two hundred and fifty billion dollars,” said Randall. “It’s impossible, therefore it’s immoral to take the money.”

“Ahh. Suddenly a man of principle,” said Matthew.

“The main principle I’m interested in is the principle in my bank account,” said Randall. “But…”

“Can we get back to the proposal?” Landy broke in.

“You’re not taking this seriously, are you?” Matthew was shocked.

“I can think of two hundred and fifty million reasons to be very serious,” said Randall.

Matthew got up and walked across the room. “I was just making conversation. I mean, obviously, I told the guy we weren’t interested.”

Randall leaped to his feet. “You what?”

“Without asking us?” Landy challenged.

Matthew sighed. “Come on, guys. It’s ridiculous. You said it. Jesus is Jesus. The product is worn out. I mean, for instance, what could you do with Quaker Oatmeal?”

“Lace it with grass. I don’t really care. For two hundred and fifty million dollars we could at least try,” said Randall. “I mean, someone’s going to get that money. Why not us? We can fail at this just as well as anyone else, and have a few dinners and a new swimming pool at the same time.”

“I want a Lexus LE,” said Landy.

Matthew strolled across the room and sat back down. “Don’t you think it’s kind of creepy—I mean, weird—to take money that you know you’re just spending because the project you’re working on is—well, it’s non-promotable.”

Randall sat down beside him and patted him on the leg. “Maybe not. What do we know? I mean, are we theologians? Why don’t we do this–why don’t we express an interest? Why don’t we ask for, say, a hundred thousand dollars in advance to do a feasibility study?”

Landy crossed the room.  “A feasibility study? Go on.”

“Yeah, you know,” said Randall. “Subcontract. Ask for a few ideas. Take some surveys. Who knows? It might be fun.”

“Fun?” asked Matthew flatly. “And you’re not worried about your immortal soul?”

“Hell, I sold that years ago for stock options in Microsoft.” Randall downed the last bit of his Irish coffee and winked.

So it was decided.

Randall called up the lawyer, Mr. Tomlinson, who readily agreed to release a hundred thousand dollars for a study on the feasibility of making Jesus more popular.

Contacts were made for slogans, surveys were passed out to testing groups and a panel of theologians was invited. The date was set a month in the future when all the participants would gather and share their ideas.

Hopefully, divine ideas on how to promote the founder of Christianity.

 

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Jesonian… February 18th, 2017

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Christianity is not a religion–it is a lifestyle.

It is based upon the human example left behind by Jesus of Nazareth. Any attempt to build the Kingdom of God on doctrines, practices, rituals, worship, attendance, prayer, Bible study or fasting will flail, because the Kingdom of God is within us.

In other words, until we tap ourselves–our passions, our errors and get our questions answered–there really is no Kingdom of God.

Or maybe better stated, it’s a theory.

To emphasize this, Jesus told us that God is our Father.

Once we realize that He is our Daddy and not the smoke at the top of the mountain, an angry disciplinarian, the Force, or just karma, we can then predict what God’s reaction will be in situations due to His paternal instincts.

  • As a Father, He is certainly not going to plan our lives for us. Any dad who would do that would be considered a first-class asshole.
  • As a Father, He’s not going to give up on us, disown us, or throw us out in the desert with a canteen.
  • But as a Father, He will institute chores for us to perform–and by our faithfulness, evaluate our present mindset.

Jesus came to show us the Father.

We should be studying the life, ideas, tendencies and predilections of the Nazarene. Instead we focus on His arrest, trial and death.

In doing so, we attempt to divert the Christian message from being a revelation of the Father to a pre-destined, pre-ordained human execution in order to acquire blood atonement.

Actually, the crucifixion makes so much more sense when you realize that the Father was hoping his children would be more receptive–but still made a pathway of salvation for all of us through the courage and sacrifice of our elder brother, Jesus.

It is not that dissimilar to the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, who is thrown into a pit by his brothers, left for dead, only to redeem those same brethren in Egypt after he gained power, rescuing them from destitution.

Nothing good happens in the Christian church until we realize that the entire ministry of Jesus was about showing us the Father.

Even in the midst of the agony of the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

So if you’re wondering why religion is leaving you flat, and church seems redundant and meaningless, it’s because invented ideas have been passed along and given primary importance, while the congregation thirsts for the relationship with their Father promised to them by Jesus.

It is time for us to show Jesus to the community–so he can reveal the Father to all of us.

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Good News and Better News… January 16th, 2017

 

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If you don’t have the right outlook, you better “look out,” because trouble’s coming.

Everybody knows that.

But sometimes we think we can maintain a bad attitude and still expect good results.

Or we believe it’s not necessary for us to do any more than we’ve already done. God, Nature and people should just be happy we showed up.

Jesus doesn’t mingle well with other religions.

For instance, there’s no such thing as a Christian Buddhist. Jesus taught us to feel; Buddha suggested it was completely unnecessary. Never the twain shall meet.

There is no such thing as Judeo-Christian. Moses espoused an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and Jesus required that we creatively find ways to love our enemies.

And there is certainly no spiritual common ground between Christianity and the Muslim faith. Whereas the Muslims are the children of Abraham and the followers of Mohammed, Jesus was quite insistent that He existed long before either of them.

Christianity is not a temperamental faith, but it is a faith that addresses our temperament. And if you’re going to assist human beings in achieving their goals and becoming better citizens, you must first and foremost teach them to open their hearts.

Yes. We are all emotional people.

It doesn’t matter what culture you come from–any attempt to disguise or dampen the emotions will leave the individual imbalanced.

So if we try to have church without giving everybody an emotional experience, what we’re really advertising is a study group with hymn singing.

No wonder we’re having some trouble with attendance.

  • People need to connect.
  • They need to feel.
  • They need to realize that someone else in the room cares about them.

The Bible needs a face. Yours will do.

But right now, we spend too much time spiritualizing, meditating and promoting Zumba classes. All these things can be wonderful, if they undergird an emotional experience.

Our outlook comes from our feelings, maturing in our spirit, renewing our mind and affecting our life choices.

The good news is that Jesus said “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

The better news is that when we plump up the abundance of our heart with feelings of goodness, we just talk better.

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Ask Jonathots… September 8th, 2016

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I had to do a short talk in speech class and wanted to chat about my church experience, but I felt I had to offer a disclaimer about Christianity: “I’m a Christian, but I don’t hate you.” I would love to stop having to do that. How?

Every single week, Americans go and spend money at Wal-Mart, even though it is pretty well known that their products are manufactured through cheap labor, often with the mistreatment of the employees. Should we stop shopping at Wal-Mart because the company has chosen practices that disregard the workers in other countries?

You can feel free to do so, but Wal-Mart is not going to be affected by your decision.

Or you can come to the conclusion that the only responsibility you have is to make sure that your life, your aspirations and your interactions with other human beings are free of intimidation and unfairness.

You’re not responsible for Wal-Mart.

You are responsible for you.

It’s very important that each believer in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth understand that the religious system that represents him is guilty of excess, greed, indifference and at times the subjugation of the poor. The system has drug its feet on issues of human rights and racial and gender equality.

Yet to stop attending a church, turning it over to the indifferent, is failing to capture an opportunity to quietly change the atmosphere.

If enough people show up at the religious system and refuse to merely act in ritual and repetition, then eventually, because the religious system likes to collect offerings, it will have to change in order to accommodate the new spirit.

For instance, I only buy groceries at Wal-Mart. Why? Because most of the products that come into the grocery department are not grown in sweat shops. It is a small consideration but still a difference.

And I don’t refuse to go to the church because it is filled with hypocrisy and vanity, but instead, I go to encourage my brothers and sisters and fellow-humans to be of good cheer, lighten their load and give a damn.

So I suppose if I were standing in front of your speech class, I would say:

“I’m a follower of Jesus. He thinks we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus was fine until the committee showed up–just like the United States was a great idea until politics corrupted it. But I neither give up on Jesus nor the United States just because those who scream the loudest are ignorant. I am a follower of Jesus. I don’t make a very good Christian, because I’m just not religious.”

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Jesonian: The Jesus Factor … June 8, 2014

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It’s not that I’m intolerant or spiritually bigoted; it’s just that I don’t think I could believe in God if it weren’t for Jesus.notebook

  • Jehovah strikes me as a bit fussy.
  • Allah is too particular for my taste.
  • The gods of Olympus are pretentious.
  • Buddha offers an enlightened path–yet I need more.
  • Confucius says a lot of things.
  • Shinto offers possible doings.
  • And candidly, I get lost somewhere in the thousand deities of the Hindi.

So when I sit around in discussions, and people begin to explain how all the religions of the world get chopped up and put into a blender to make a pious “smoothie,” I quietly retreat and allow them their amalgamation while I pursue my simple friendship.

Even though somewhere along the line, Christianity has relegated the person of Jesus to the status of Savior and Coming King, I still have the magnificent words of his traveling companion and best buddy, John, who told me, with great certainty, that the Word became Flesh and dwelled among us.

Yes, it’s important to know that Jesus is a word. He is not merely the culmination of ancient Jewish prophesy, but instead, came to fulfill and complete wisdom through his philosophy. There is much I read in the Old Testament and Koran which are not earth-friendly. They are not people-considerate. But in the mind of Jesus, I find a will that can be done on earth as it’s also equally achieved in heaven.

Trying to preach Jesus without talking about the essence of his ideas and impetus of his teachings is merely promoting Judaism with a silent Messiah.

He wasn’t only the word, though. He was made flesh. My journey in finding the Jesus Factor demands that I discover his humanity. If his only purpose for donning a human body was to be sacrificed for our sins, then certainly that could have been achieved by allowing King Herod to murder the infant Christ. But instead, he lived thirty years as a family man and three years as the voice of the people. That’s worth studying, don’t you think?

And not only did the word become flesh, but he dwelled among us.

Yes, it’s my job to find Jesus’ spirit. I’m encouraged in that quest by being told that the same spirit that occupied him can fill my heart. I am also told that he gave us all the power to become the sons of God.

It’s rather ironic that a Christianity that cuddles up too closely to other religions loses the most significant portion of its appeal–Jesus.

I am not looking for a God to believe in so I can separate myself from the rest of the people on earth. I want a God to believe in so I have a reason to enjoy, understand, appreciate, tolerate and embrace my other brothers and sisters.

Jesus gives me that.

Could I do it without him? I would find it difficult to find an ancestor or historical figure who had the compassion, insight, earth-savvy and eternal focus that I find in his person.

It is the Jesus Factor.

He is the word–so I will find his philosophy.

He became flesh–so I will find his humanity.

And he dwelled among us–I will find his spirit.

It is what I call Jesonian.

I can recommend it. Or you can feel free, with my love and blessing, to pursue your favorite blending.

 

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

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