Good News and Better News… May 1st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I spent the weekend with the “Life of Brian”–once again reminded to “always look on the bright side of life.”

Yes, Brian is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Frostproof, Florida. Aside from being personable, gentle and caring, he has intelligently chosen to embrace the work that is set before him and enjoy it instead of complaining about the difficulties or lamenting its limitations.
That is remarkable. (So therefore, I did.)

Because of this spirit which radiates from him, the congregation allows itself to believe that they are not boxed in to either a social or a religious format that makes them run around in circles like gerbils looking for a wheel.

I must tell you–any church that advertises that it is presently on the path of righteous pursuits may very well be deluded. We are all intoxicated by an environment which challenges us to be rough and tumble instead of kind and merciful.

Very simply stated, that must change or nothing will happen.

If we truly go into a deeper study of the Word, we will end up as Paul did, proclaiming that the only commandment that’s necessary is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we pursue an existence of prayer, we will find, as Jesus taught, that our best supplications are done in the closet, without letting anyone know that we are seeking divine guidance.

It really comes down to a simple back-and-forth:

What should we slow?

What should become quick?

I use the word “slow” because none of us are without silliness and foolish iniquity, so we will occasionally slip up. Right now we are obsessed with the notion to be quick to judgment and slow to love. For some reason, we insist that this is a sign of maturity, caution or caring for our loved ones. Because of this, the people in our society sometimes look like they’re sniffing the room for nasty odors instead of including the inhabitants of the room.

We are quick to judge yet slow to love.

And no matter how much you learn about the Tabernacle of David, the death of Christ or the Apocalypse, you will make no progress in the Kingdom of God until you become quick to love and slow to judge.

Matter of fact, if I were pastoring a church, I would teach on that subject for at least six months–until everybody in the congregation, including the toddlers, was fully aware that the mantra of our mission was “quick to love and slow to judge.”

This does not mean that prayer, worship, fasting, giving and study have no merit–it just means they have no muscle. They do not bust through the cement of the walls we are building between each other. The only thing that will do that is love and a refusal on our part to judge others.

So the good news is this: if we can learn to be quick to love, even if it seems a little awkward at first, at least we will be stumbling in the right direction.

And the better news is, if we are slow to judgment, we can begin to tear down the dark image of the Christian faith, which has turned us into prudes instead of proof.

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 47) Increase and Decrease … March 26th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

June in Nebraska is a celebration. It is a festival of survival.

Until the end of May, winter threatens to clamp down on any enthusiasm about the arrival of warmer weather. But by June, the monster of frigid temperatures and the obstruction of snow drifts have melted away, leaving behind fields blossoming with corn, sunny skies and the threat of blistering heat.

One local once conjectured that the reason most Nebraskans were so easy-going was because “everything that happens around them is so extreme.”

They wouldn’t dare over-react–to a blizzard or a heat wave.

It was on the third Sunday in June, right when people were beginning to think about the upcoming July 4th celebration, that he came walking into the back of the church.

At first Meningsbee didn’t recognize him. He certainly didn’t remember him being so tall–six foot two, as it turned out. Dark brown hair, chiseled chin, hazel eyes and weighing in at a military 183 pounds was Carl Ramenstein, the young hero who had rescued Meningsbee months earlier in Chicago, from the onslaught of some challenging questions.

As Carl had explained, he had a cousin in town and he came to spend a couple of weeks, having recently graduated from seminary.

Carl fit right in. Everybody loved him. He grew up on a farm, worked on a ranch, liked fishing, knew the working end of a plow.

All the kids adored him because he played so hard. All the old ladies straightened their buns when he walked in the room. And the men pulled out their war stories. It took only one Sunday for Carl to become part of the atmosphere, attitude and heart of the Garsonville Church.

So when two weeks passed and it was time for him to leave, the folks begged him to stay. It turned out to be tremendously beneficial, considering that on the following Wednesday, a little boy about five years old fell into an abandoned well just outside town. Carl spearheaded the rescue effort.

He was in the local newspaper and had dinner invitations enough to last the rest of the year.

But Carl was not interested in all the praise. Carl loved God. In a season when such devotion from a man of his age seemed unlikely, or maybe even suspicious, his legitimate warmth and appreciation for the heavenly Father was demonstrated in how well he treated his children.

Carl loved people.

Meningsbee stood back–astounded. You see, Meningsbee wanted to love people and every once in a while mustered the spirit to do so. But Carl possessed a streak of conviction that every human he met had been waiting for the chance to meet him so that Carl could pass on a blessing.

It was the most amazing mixture of confidence and humility that Reverend Meningsbee had ever seen.

Young women were literally following him around town, just hoping he would turn and give them a smile, and although fully aware of their attractions, he was careful not to put himself in dangerous situations where rumor could give way to scandal.

The people took a liking to Carl.

Carl took a liking to the church.

The church was taking a liking to the community, and the people, who had been sitting on the fence, trying to decide what it felt about the Garsonville Church, were now beginning to trickle in, one by one, and find a place of peace and fellowship.

Matter of fact, one older gentleman took Pastor Meningsbee aside and said, “My dear parson, you had a good idea, but you’re a rather odd little fellow. There’s nothing wrong with that–but Nebraskans are not completely familiar with odd and try not to do much that resembles little. That boy coming to town–well, he’s taken your words and turned them to life.”

Meningsbee smiled, not knowing how he should react.

Although some folks were waiting for the dark side of young Ramenstein to come creeping out, Carl took the opportunity to sit under the teaching, simplicity, honesty and common sense of Meningsbee, and grow taller and stronger.

So Carl kept delaying his departure until finally, one of the deacons of the church said to Meningsbee that he’d better “hire the boy or lose him forever,” because somebody certainly was going to grab him.

When Meningsbee said that the budget would not tolerate it, ten families stepped forward and offered to increase their pledges so that Carl could stay.

So it was on the seventh Sunday after his first visit that Carl Ramenstein was ordained as the Assistant Pastor of the Garsonville Church.

There was a party with joy all through the town.

The following Sunday there were twenty additional visitors, some of whom said they had just been “waiting around to see if they were smart enough to hire him.”

Right after the ordination, Meningsbee realized that he had never heard the young man preach. Carl never asked for the pulpit. It never came up. Carl may have been the first minister ever hired without having to offer three points.

The folks immediately dubbed him “Pas Carl,” for Pastor Carl.

He was a breath of fresh air.

He was a summer miracle.

And he was here to stay.

Now Meningsbee had to get used to sharing the attention.

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