G-Poppers … February 17th, 2017

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G-Pop stumbled upon another one of those YouTubes, in which a renowned atheist was railing against the wickedness of God, contending that the Almighty was heartless and uncaring, allowing pain and suffering–especially among innocent children.

G-Pop watched the whole thing.

He hates name-calling. But people do it.

The Good Book itself has some notorious passages, which are rather vicious in marginalizing the value of anyone who disagrees. Such a verse is found in Psalms 14:1, where we are told that those who do not believe in God are “fools.”

We pridefully quote that little piece of sonnet, fully believing that it is the mindset of the Universal Diety, who is so offended by His detractors that He decides to ridicule them.

G-Pop wants to ask, “Don’t you think that’s highly unlikely? If You really are God, how much more of an ego boost do you need?”

Now I would contend that the gentleman sharing his unbelief on the Internet is very consecrated in his negativity. Matter of fact, I will go so far as to say that people who are atheists have a more clear idea about their disbelief than many Christians have regarding their true belief.

But I will also tell you that denying God is foolish. It doesn’t make you a fool; it’s just a foolish assessment of available information.

Because creation–the Universe–is a blending of cosmic and chemistry. And when you assume that the God of the Universe is merely dealing in a cosmic format of emotion, paralleling humans, then you fail to recognize the Great Physicist and Chemist He must truly be.

It’s called an eco-system. We talk about it all the time. Even atheists do.

Atheists don’t seem to object to the fact that the lion eats the antelope and God doesn’t intervene.

They don’t lament the hundreds and thousands of species on Earth that go extinct every day simply because they became unacceptable to the chemical environment.

Atheists don’t seem to note that the power of free will, which they freely use to express their disdain for divinity, also gives everyone else permission to praise or reject anything they want.

Atheists fail to surmise that just because a substance or creature doesn’t appear to have any other value than the one science has presently assessed it, that sometimes, through knowledge, we discover that icky-sicky bread mold can become the miracle drug, penicillin.

The Creator had a huge job. How can you make a world that is chemically challenged, balanced, engaged and even in some cases forbidding–and still insert a cosmic energy which allows for improvement, excellence and discovery and mercy?

His answer to that was to make humans.

Humans, who had a little bit of the jungle, but also a bit of the divine, were to be the caretakers, the explorers and the researchers of life, to make it more pleasant for everything.

But in maintaining free will in these creatures, He also opened the door to the possibility that greater knowledge could generate greater evil.

A balance was struck.

Sometimes a maniac will roam the streets, kill children, and we scratch our heads and wonder why God didn’t stop it, while simultaneously ignoring the corps of policemen who track down the murderer and imprison him.

Nothing can be understood in life if we view it only from a cosmic perspective.

Our journey also is not clear if we consider it only to be chemical. Much of what we used to think was good has proven to be evil. Much of what was once deemed worthless is now studied in laboratories and has become the latest treatment in fighting cancer.

God suffers under the burden of being smarter than those around Him. Because of that, He has to field their grievances, which are often based on misunderstanding or a complete lack of comprehension.

It is foolish to try to deny the existence of a cosmic God who is also a Chemist. He has done His very best to provide protection for the Earth by humans, who were created in His image.

That is, if they will just consider that they were created.

 

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Good News and Better News… January 30th, 2017

 

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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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G-Poppers … August 26th, 2016

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G-Pop just wasn’t sure it was relevant.

He wanted to share a story from the Acts of the Apostles from the Good Book, but was concerned that when it comes to the Bible, many people are looking for religion instead of reality. Yet the parallel to our times was so strong that he decided to take a risk.

The tale is rather obscure and rarely spoken of in church circles. It’s about a fellow named Simon, from Samaria. He is described as a prominent man with great influence and appreciation among his peers. When the disciples of Jesus appear, sharing their message of love and hope, praying for the sick and bringing the Holy Spirit to the masses, Simon is impressed by the anointing and intrigued at the opportunity.

So he approaches Peter. He says, “How much would it cost for me to get the Holy Spirit?”

To a man who believes that material things provide all security, it was logical for Simon to think there was a purchase price for anything and everything. We’re even told that Simon professed to be a believer–but what he was interested in was absorbing the power.

G-Pop would like to pause for a moment and parallel this with Hillary and Donald.

Both of them claim to be Christians, feeling the need to acquire that support and even be immersed in the community. But simultaneously, they deny the power of the message of Jesus of Nazareth and his lifestyle.

  • Jesus did not verbally attack his enemies.
  • Jesus did not subjugate the poor.
  • Jesus did not think that lying was an option.
  • Jesus did not believe that one person was better than another.
  • Jesus did not contend that the Jews had an edge over the Gentiles.

Yet we have two candidates running for President who purport to be followers of Jesus, and are not bearing fruit of his mission in their everyday lives.

Returning to the story, when Peter was offered money by Simon, who was referred to as a Sorcerer, his reply was very blunt. “Take your money and go to hell.”

Today the response given by the Christian community and evangelicals to the Presidential candidates is quite different. It’s because they don’t believe in the insights of Jesus and are looking for a political solution.

What would happen if the Christians in this country stood up to Hillary and Donald?

Because when Peter challenged Simon, there was a happy ending.

Simon repented.

Hillary and Donald will continue to assert that cutting, hurting, attacking, back-biting, gossiping and lying are viable ways to become the leader of our nation until people who treasure faith stand up and say, “To hell with this.”

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 13) The Back Door… July 24th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

“I know what you want to hear, and honest to God, I’d love to give it to you. Matter of fact, I must have picked up the phone half a dozen times this week, to call one of you and share my heart and feel comforted by your listening ears and what I’m sure would have been your kind words.

But I can’t.”

(A universal frown emerged on the collective countenance of the congregation.)

Meningsbee continued.

“I want to, but do you understand? There are things more important than what I want. Things more important than what you want. I can tell you that I went to Sammy Collins’ house on Monday night–made my famous beans and weenies–and prepared for whatever God would set before me. Patrick was there but no one else. I mean, Sammy and his wife were there, but that was it.”

(A deeper frown)

“You’re going to want to know why, or maybe you already know and I’m just being stupid here. Maybe you heard a lot more than I think. But I can’t share without betraying what I believe, what I hold dear and what makes me who I am.

I don’t think I’ve ever explained to you about my faith. I mean, I’ve shared it with you, but probably never explained it. Since none of us know what really happens when we die, everything we talk about in this sanctuary is theory. There are Christians who believe they’re right no matter what, but since no one has gone beyond death and come back with a completely unbiased report, we’re really doing this whole thing grasping at the air.

Can I be honest? It’s why lots of people give up.Their desire to be something or do something suddenly exceeds their comprehension of belief, so they split the scene.

Listen, I made my peace with God a long time ago by making sure that if He doesn’t exist, it doesn’t make any difference to me.

You might think I’m getting off the subject. Maybe I am. But really, it’s all the same point. I can’t tell you what happened at Sammy Collins’ house because it goes against who I am–who I’ve decided to be. Who I think I need to be to make sense to me.

You see, I sat down one day and decided what I would need to be if there were no God or heaven. I would still need to make a case for myself. After all, I’m here. Whether it was a miracle of creation or a process of evolution–TA-DA! Behold, I have arrived.

Even if I found out that God was all made up, I would have to include people. They’re around, you know. Except on Monday night at Sammy’s house.”

(A refreshing, hearty laugh.)

“You can’t live without running into folks. So you should make sure the cushion you keep between you and them prevents bruising.

And also, daggone it, while I’m here I might as well be creative. If you’re going to do everything the same all the time, you’re going to start hoping for heaven, which… Well, you know. We’re not sure.

And I’ve always believed in respecting life. If it’s alive, it deserves a chance.

See, I call this my back door. When I get discouraged or you guys piss me off, I go there–to that back door–and I open it up and I imagine a world without God and realize that it still would require His spirit. Does that make sense to you?

Well anyway, much as I would like to tell you my story and share my disappointment, I can’t. Because the God that’s in my heart is certainly real, whether the God of the Universe is or not.

You know, it’s funny. I’ve never told this to anyone before. I’ve never spoken it out loud–mainly because I thought it made me look like a freakin’ atheist. I’m not, though. I believe it all. I’m just ready, in case it’s not exactly what’s been advertised. I’m prepared to make sure that the things I would have done get done. And one of the things is to keep what happened Monday night to myself.

If it’s any comfort, if I was going to tell anybody, it sure would be you cool dudes.”

Everybody laughed.

But then something strange happened. Two or three, and then five or ten people rose to their feet, came up and hugged Meningsbee with tears in their eyes.

The emotion he had been holding back all week long suddenly burst, and the good reverend fell to his knees, weeping.

The rest of the congregation joined the others around him, sprouting their own tears. Even four or five visitors stood on the perimeter with misty eyes.

Reverend Richard Meningsbee didn’t ponder what was happening.

He just let it happen.

 

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Good News and Better News … April 18th, 2016

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Good News Antioch

Yesterday it was my joy to share my heart with dear souls in Antioch, Tennessee.

In the Book of Acts, it informs us that Antioch was the first city where the new believers in Jesus were referred to as “Christians.” It was meant to be a derogatory term, thrown at this new movement by the arrogant Greeks, who were trying to connote that the people who believed in the Nazarene were just a bunch of “little Jesuses.”

In other words, they had no mind of their own.

I didn’t talk about this to the people yesterday because I figured that over the years they have probably grown weary of the reference. But it did help me realize that the term “Christian” has become synonymous with going to church, or being religious, instead of being like Jesus.

Jesus frustrated religious people. After a while they got tired of being frustrated, so they decided to murder him.

Even though your average church-going people will admit that attendance is dwindling and that people seem to be “leaving the steeple,” they still insist that there’s basically nothing errant with what’s going on behind the stained glass windows.

Here is something I have learned:

If it’s not working, it’s probably not going to get better just because you keep doing it. And if it’s not working, the first step is to admit it’s broken, and then commit to getting it fixed.

The problem in the church is simple–it is a body of believers working under a false premise. The false premise is that we please God by gathering to worship Him.

Jesus made it clear that we please God by being the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

Can you see the difference?

So as I leave Antioch, having had a tremendous morning of fellowship with these dear friends, I can offer them a simple suggestion:

Do one thing.

Yes–just start pursuing one thing that’s different from what you’re doing now. And make sure it doesn’t resemble anything like the present menu offered in church.

Maybe you could adopt one family in the community every week, take $150 and buy them groceries and shoes for the kids. Put a committee in charge of this endeavor.

Then on Sunday morning you can share, having something for prayer time other than weddings, funerals, births and sicknesses.

How about challenging twenty people from your congregation to volunteer just one hour a week in area nursing homes, food banks or homeless shelters–and then have them testify of their encounters.

Maybe the pastor could do the same thing–or take a small part-time job to increase his or her humanity in the community. Play guitar? Start a cover band and play at the local bar on Saturday nights prior to the Sunday services.

Take something that is non-church but filled with Jesus and act it out in your community every week, and see if something doesn’t bloom.

It’s not complicated. I could probably sit here for another twenty minutes and pop off more ideas.

But the notions have to come from the congregation and be a source of excitement to them to make it work.

If we don’t develop a sense of mission about bringing the heart of Jesus to our community, we will gradually implode from over-reverence or bickering from the choir about which anthem should be used for the Introit.

Jesus was simple:

Find a way to be loving, and then go act it out.

So as I leave Antioch, filled with a spirit of joy from encountering these delightful “little Jesuses,” I tell you that your good news is that all you need is one thing to do that is not religious, and that will bring real people into your presence.

The better news is that you’re not responsible for the fruit.

Just the seed.

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Good News and Better News … March 28th, 2016

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All the holy books

It would only take me a few moments to point out the verses from the Good Book that are often used in solitary context to promote gender bias, prejudice, ignorance, arrogance and selfishness–and truthfully, those who stump these verses outnumber my simple faith.

So I am a bit confused when Muslims pretend they are bewildered by what causes the zealots within their ranks to interpret the teachings of Mohammed in a way that fosters terrorism.

Yes, it really is a source of aggravation to me that a Muslim woman will sit on television with her head covering, sharing that the Muslim faith has nothing whatsoever to do with anything but peace and love.

I will tell you–most Christians are not concerned about peace and love. Many of them only want to go to heaven while keeping the club as exclusive as possible.

So let’s stop all the bull crap.

Muslims know what their book says, just like I know what my book says. And some of the things in my book make me nervous–especially when they are isolated by mean-spirited people who are determined to hurt others.

Likewise, the Koran has passages that welcome the decimation of the infidel.

So it’s time for us, as intelligent, evolving, loving and giving people, to realize that religion needs some restrictions.

After all, we have already done this. Even as we insist that religious freedom is holy in this country, we certainly do not tolerate human sacrifice in a religious service, nor have we granted tax exempt status to the Ku Klux Klan, even though they insist they’re the white Christian church.

We cannot live on a planet that allows people to worship a God who is anti-human.

I will give you three examples. This trio of holy principles must be honored in every religion–otherwise, it is not a true expression of faith, but rather, a secret plot against mankind.

When you tell me you have a religion, I have three questions:

1. What does your God think about women?

Since women are at least half the planet, if they aren’t given equality in your religion, then your belief must be ignored.

2. What does your God say about free will?

If your religious observance contends that we are all bound by destiny, God’s will and God’s law instead of choosing our decisions for ourselves, then you will eventually start hearing voices telling you to kill off the competition.

3. What does your God think about judging the lives of others?

For if you’re following a deity that is more concerned about the “jot and the tittle” instead of the “tot and those who have little,” then I will tell you that you will gradually try to eliminate the sinners, thinking that you’re pleasing the saints.

If religion does not provide equality for all, free will for each one of us and the righteous position of being able to make our mistakes without being judged by others, then it is really not a belief in a Creator, but rather, pursuing an avenger.

That’s the good news.

Please don’t tell me you are baffled by how religion hurts people. Instead, follow some better news:

Start encouraging belief in a heavenly Father who honors men and women, offers free will and refuses to allow us to judge.

 

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G-Poppers … January 29th, 2016

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Jon close up

G-Pop had a rare moment.

He asked his grandson, “What do you think about your classmates at school?”

“Most of them don’t like me,” said the young man, dipping his head in disappointment.

“How many kids are there?” asked G-Pop.

“About twenty-five,” said the grandson.

G-Pop continued. “So is it thirteen? Sixteen? Or all twenty-five who don’t like you?”

The young boy squinted at G-Pop. “I don’t know how many,” he replied, a little aggravated.

“So how do you know it’s most?” G-Pop posed.

In a country that runs its programs by polls, the word “most” becomes overly important and eliminates the discovery of truth.

  • Most women are…
  • Most blacks do…
  • Most Mexicans come to our country for…
  • Most men think…
  • Most Christians believe…
  • Most Muslims pursue…
  • Most Wall Street executives are…
  • Most politicians…
  • Most girls…
  • Most boys…
  • Most countries…
  • Most vegetables…
  • Most meat…

Most of the most.

The word “most” is used as a safe way of being prejudiced, while falling back on data which is often tampered with by bigots who want to prove their point.

“Most” is probably the most dangerous word that has come into our society, even though calling it the most dangerous might be part of the problem.

Here is a fact:

Human beings don’t do anything predictable. They are basically content to leave well enough alone, even if they find that status to be unsatisfying.

Yes, stagnancy is always preferable to both goodness and evil.

So the reason we introduce the word “most” into our dialogue is to convince the crowd around us that we are part of the plurality, not tied into a minority, which is obviously wrong as seen by their weak numbers.

G-Pop points out that this presidential election is more concerned with polls than ever before. And the polls never agree because the polls never ask the right question of the right people at the right time.

If we are going to be people of vision, faith and creativity, we have to eliminate the word “most” from our daily conversation, or we will terminate the flexibility of races, religions and personal effort.

Most gay people aren’t anything.

Most Christians are not locked up in a box.

And most Muslims don’t blow up buildings, as most Mexicans don’t rape.

But if you can convince people that “most” of the subject at hand is a threat, then you can also mob them together to attack all.

G-Pop waited for his grandson to produce the number of kids in his class who did not like the little fella. He could never come up with an actual count, because it was just easier to assume that most of them were against him.

The only way to live as a human being and be successful is to admit to yourself that the next encounter and the next experience is mercurial–because it’s controlled by human beings, who are “mostly” individuals.

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