Jesonian … April 28th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3656)

“Accept Christ.”

A vast majority of the evangelical churches in America hold this decision sacred. They contend that people must discover their sinful nature, repent, be baptized, and receive Christ as salvation.

So strong is the inclination to evangelize that the fundamentalist church is successful only at birthing children into the Kingdom–and then abandoning them to cultural, lifestyle and family traditions.

Most churches do not talk about Jesus. He is relegated to prayers, salvation and communion–as “the Christ.”

There is the Christ who offers eternal salvation, and then there is Jesus, who grants us a lifestyle which enables us to see God’s will “done on Earth as it is in heaven.”

The religious system must be addressed and corrected over major errors–three doctrines of Jesus that he fostered while on Earth, which the religious hierarchy has set aside in favor of following “the Christ:”

1. There must be racial equality through racial interaction.

Jesus broke all the boundaries of prejudice and bigotry by including Samaritans with Jews and Gentiles with Hebrews. This is not optional. As long as we have a “black church” and a “white church,” we are propagating the principles of Dixie, which launched us into the Civil War.

Purposeful efforts must be made to integrate the church.

The black church and white church need to mingle, no matter how much they think they are culturally different. They must become spiritually one.

2. Gender bias is unacceptable.

Jesus included women in his ministry as evangelists, financiers and confidantes. The church refuses to accept women as equals and continues to propagate a religious misogyny which is completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

Women should preach, women should teach, women should do everything that men do without restriction.

3. Free will must be established.

The church is becoming more and more Calvinistic–believing in pre-destination. In so doing, we lose the gospel of Jesus. After all, there’s no need for me to love my neighbor as myself if everything is pre-determined. There’s no purpose in being concerned about what I sow if what I reap has already been factored in. The removal of free will in deference to God being in charge of everything–in control of all decisions–has rendered the church an insipid bunch of Bible-readers who are more afraid of the devil than they are their own inconsistent behavior.

Nothing will be accomplished in the Christ-centered church until the Jesus-focused people get rid of racial barriers, gender bias and a belief in destiny, which precludes us from making our own choices.

It’s wonderful to believe in Christ if you follow Jesus.

It’s not wonderful to believe in Christ if most of the time you use your life on Earth to ignore Jesus and follow the tenets of your community.

*****

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Catchy (Sitting 32) The Prophet Has No Honor…January 21st, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3559)

It was a starry night in Las Vegas. The weather was perfect–just warm enough that you wanted to be out and about, but not so hot that you would avoid getting close to someone you loved.

It had been such a refreshing day that Jubal decided to take the evening’s meeting and put it out in an abandoned Little League ball field, offering hot dogs, corn on the cob and great rock and roll.

The word spread like creamy peanut butter. By 6:30 P.M., for a 7:30 starting time, there were nearly three thousand people gathered. Jubal had expected a good crowd, but nothing of that magnitude.

Hot dogs were soon gone, and there were only “cornless” cobs. People didn’t care. Those who brought food shared, and those who didn’t were careful not to over-stuff themselves. About halfway through the musical portion of the show, Jubal ceased in mid-drumming and walked to the microphone.

After about ten seconds, as the band stopped and the audience grew silent, Jubal spoke.

“I just have never understood it,” he said. “If you go to the church down the road, they’ll hand you some bread and wine and tell you it’s what Jesus did at the Last Supper and what he wants us to do to remember him. They seem to completely forget that he did something else that fateful night. He took off all of his clothes, wrapped a towel around his waist, and got down on his hands and knees and washed the feet of his disciples.

“It blew their small-town minds. They viewed him as the Messiah.They thought he was better than them. They believed he was God–and it was beyond their comprehension that God could kneel down and do such a menial task.

“Jesus told his disciples to do it in the future. Wash feet, that is. And in so doing, communicate our commonality as people, and the gentleness of our spirit.

“But don’t get freaked out. I’m not going to take my clothes off…”

A boo and then a groan went through the crowd.

“Oh, stop it,” said Jubal, looking officially red-faced. “I brought along water, I’ve got these basins and wash cloths, and I’m also gonna wear my swimsuit.”

He held it up, displaying it for the audience. “I don’t swim much, so I just picked this up at Dollar General on the way over. How’s it look?”

There were some whistles and catcalls.

Jubal giggled. “Again–stop it!”

Everyone laughed.

“As I’ve told you before many times, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just feeling my way. And I feel like taking this water and washing some feet. If you want to, help yourself.”

Jubal jumped off the stage to the ground, filled a basin with water and headed out into the crowd. People backed away like the wind had blown them to the side.There was a deep respect for Jubal’s words, but apprehension over such intimacy.

Finally a little girl came up, plopped down and sat cross-legged on the ground. Jubal pulled out her feet and started washing them as the people stared in amazement.Then he did another, and another.

Having waited for one of the policemen who had been sent to watch over the gathering to remove his shoes and socks, Jubal sponged his feet, and many in the audience burst into tears. Nowhere on earth was there a more beautiful sight.

A few people here and there began picking up basins, filling them with water and heading out into the crowd. Soon there was a new practice–one soul would wash the feet of another, and they, in turn, washed the feet of the person who had blessed them.

It was very quiet in a noisy sort of way.There was a sweet hum and mumble of conversation, and the sound of weeping, and some laughter. It went on for thirty minutes. Forty minutes. Then an hour. No one was growing weary. No one was looking at a clock. No one was concerned about a lack of hot dogs and corn.

Everyone seemed to realize they would never in their lives be any closer to other human beings than they were in this moment. The most amazing part of the whole experience was that most people completely lost sight of Jubal–they didn’t even pursue having him wash their feet. They became intensely focused on one another.

Jubal found himself standing next to Matthew, who was watching, shaking his head in disbelief.

“Did you get your feet washed, Matt?” asked Jubal.

“Had two offers,” said Matthew. “But I’m holding out for the free manicure.”

Jubal laughed. He didn’t push it. He knew very well that the scene was beyond Matthew’s comprehension. He just allowed his buddy to receive it in the moment.

In the midst of this explosion of human contact, there was a sudden interruption. Standing on the stage was Prophet Morgan.

He grabbed the microphone and screamed, “Matthew 23! 23! Matthew 23–23!”

He kept repeating it over and over again.

Matthew turned to Jubal and asked, “Is he talking about me?”

“No,” said Jubal. “It’s the scripture where Jesus said if they tell you the Christ is over here, don’t go.”

“Well, that’s kind of shitty advertisement,” said Matthew. “What are you gonna do?”

Jubal walked over to the sound man and whispered in his ear. Suddenly it appeared that Prophet Morgan was still screaming but no one could hear him.

“What’s going on?” Matthew asked.

“I didn’t want to hurt his feelings,” explained Jubal. “So I kept the monitors on so he could hear himself, but turned the house speakers off so the people could still enjoy their experience.”

Matthew didn’t know exactly what that meant, but the problem was solved. Prophet continued to rant from the stage, but nobody else was able to make out his words. After about two minutes of hate and rage, Morgan left the stage, climbed into his sports car and took off.

Matthew turned to Jubal. “What are you gonna do about that, my brother?”

“I don’t know,” said Jubal. “I want to give him space, but not enough to destroy himself.”

“He hasn’t been the same since he did those interviews,” Matthew noted.

Jubal shook his head. “Nope. He feels like a traitor. I keep telling him that nobody’s upset–but he sees disapproval where there is none.

“Well he really went crazy,” Matthew inserted, “and they started calling him Profit Margin.”

“That was screwed up,” Jubal replied.

Matthew nodded in agreement. “You know–he’s just a young fellow but he’s had a helluva life.”

“Yeah,” Jubal acknowledged. “But we all have. You see, here’s the key, Matt. When you get a free tour of hell, it’s a good idea to come out of the experience, find heaven somewhere and make sure you never return to the fire.”

Matthew smiled, looking around the ball field. “How do you plan on stopping this foot thing?”

Jubal laughed. “I don’t know–but I’m thinkin’ if we had some more hot dogs and corn on the cob, we could certainly steer their interest.”

**************

The next morning, a Nevada highway patrolman found a sports car sitting by a huge rock near the edge of a cliff. The ignition was still engaged, but the car had run out of gas.

Inside was one man, his body leaning against the steering wheel–quite dead.

It was Prophet Morgan.

The preliminary diagnosis by the Nevada crime scene investigator was death by carbon monoxide poisoning. Apparently, Prophet sat in his car, unaware that he was being killed.

Yet taped to his windshield was a note. It read:

“I’m sick of being sorry. Or is it that I’m sorry I’m sick? Sometimes I want to be dead. Sometimes I am dead. Since I was a child, I’ve been abused by religious fanatics who said they loved God–but really hated people. I am a mess. It’s a mess I don’t want to deal with anymore. Father, into your hands I commit my mess.”

 

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Jesonian … November 11th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3487)

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Throughout the history of Christianity, a debate has raged over Jesus’ humanity and divinity.

Early in the 20th Century, a doctrine arose which found favor with many people because it stressed that Jesus was 100% human and 100% divine. The fact that this blending is ridiculous didn’t come to anybody’s mind at the time, and so the concept endures. If you study heresy and false teachings, you will find that most of the error centers in on trying to make Jesus too heavenly, instead of focusing on his humanity.

I think the clarifying statements are found in the Book of Hebrews. Allow me to give you three which center my mind on the fact that Jesus of Nazareth lived a completely human life, while filled with the Spirit:

1. “He was tempted in all ways like we are yet found without sin.”

2. “He was touched by our infirmities.”

3. “He learned obedience through the things he suffered.”

That list just describes a typical human life. After all, nobody talks about how grumpy Uncle Ed was after he’s dead; likewise, the notion that “Jesus was perfect” was not touted during his lifetime.

The truth is, Jesus’ actions were found to be perfect. In other words, after the passage of time and working out of circumstances, we can say that he lived a perfect life.

Needless to say, when we’re told he “learned obedience,” it is perfectly understandable that he did nor arrive with it. Like all of us, instruction was in order.

But if you go to the statement, “touched by our infirmities,” a definition is in order. What are the infirmities of all human beings?

A. We get physically sick.

B. We get emotionally depressed.

C. We get spiritually misguided.

D. We get mentally confused.

These are our infirmities.

And since Jesus was touched by them, if we would take the time to more carefully study his life instead of working so desperately to discover a new twist on communion, we might just welcome in a new generation that would be blessed and astounded by His choices.

Now, I will not bore you with my many rambling examples of how Jesus suffered under these infirmities. To me, that’s what church and your search should be about.

Christianity could advance its cause by studying Jesus.

Did Jesus become physically ill? There are numerous activities that have no explanations–like him slipping into the wilderness for seclusion, or the fact that he waited four days to come and tend to his friend, Lazarus. Was he sick? Under the weather? Fighting off the “Galilee bug?”

We can make a good case for him being depressed. After explaining to 5000 people that he was not going to be their caterer, but that they needed to come to “learn his ways,” the Bible says they all left him–except the twelve. In a moment of true humanity, he turned to those twelve and said, “Will you go away also?”

Was Jesus ever spiritually misguided? I think choosing Judas to be a disciple, and on top of that the treasurer of the troop, was at least spiritually optimistic. And the faith he put into the man at the Pool of Bethsaida, who didn’t really want help–but Jesus healed him anyway and then the fellow turned into a snitch and sided with the Pharisees–shows that he was a bit misguided.

Was he mentally confused? He certainly stayed too long in Nazareth–so long that they resented him and tried to kill him. And I think he was a little confused by his upbringing and prejudice, when he called the Syrophoenician woman “a gentile dog.”

The Gospel writers had no problem including the foibles of the personality of Jesus in their story lines–and he was apparently fully aware of some indiscretions, because he came to John to be baptized. Was it just pretense, or did he have things he regretted?

We are also told by Jesus that we would do greater things than he did–because he was going to the Father to cheer us on.

If the church wants to survive the present dispersion, it needs to bring the focus back onto Jesus–his style, his personality, and his humanity. In doing so, he can become the Elder Brother we so desperately need, and he can truly fulfill his mission … which was to show us the Father.

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Good News and Better News… October 30th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3476)

I have participated in thousands and thousands of …

Now, what shall I call them? For if I refer to these as “performances, shows or gigs,” religious people will give me the holy frown of disapproval because I have trivialized the spiritual significance.

But by the same token, referring to my efforts as ministry, worship leading or any other divine terminology makes me reek of pretension.

Of course, worst of all is the safe, but vanilla describer, “presentation.”

I run into the same problem when I try to decide whether to say a robust “Praise God” or a timid “thanks be to God.”

Do I go for the full dunk in baptism, or settle for some other plunk?

Should communion be unleavened bread, or a golden loaf?

Wine or Welch’s grape juice (which many denominations insist was Jesus’ preference)?

And I think the most intimidating crossroads of all is settling whether our Christian faith is ground in social commentary or revivalism.

That’s why the tambourine is pictured today. A tambourine can scare a Lutheran or a Methodist to death–almost as much as a printed bulletin with liturgy makes a Baptist tremble.

It just doesn’t seem to occur to us that defining the word “ministry” requires taking a long gaze into the lifestyle and actions of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus was both contemplative and flamboyant.

He had the strange notion that the profile for what he did in blessing others was contingent on what they needed, and not confined to the Book of Common Prayer.

So to one person, he said, “Be healed.”

He touched lepers.

He spit on someone else.

He stuck his fingers in another person’s ears.

And he shouted to raise the dead.

He would have upset a lot of people.

Jesus didn’t worship miracles; he didn’t minister miracles–he performed miracles.

He showcased the Gospel in stories, told with colorful description and high-flung gestures.

The church has lost Jesus because it has focused on either social gospel or revivalism.

Jesus was the Son of God, who came to teach us how to get along with each other–with a tambourine in his hand.

So the good news is that we need both social commentary and revivalism.

The better news is, when we actually mingle the two, we suddenly become more relevant.

 

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Good News and Better News… August 14th, 2017

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For some ridiculous reason, I occasionally get embarrassed by being happy. I give in to the pressure to act adult, disgruntled, and get tempted to complain about my problems. This is not my nature–I normally have a bubble in my soul which releases a fresh batch of ooey-gooey jubilation.

Yet this seems to bother those who wonder if I have any sensibility about the pain in the world or the suffering in some country they are barely able to pronounce.

I have been called to “brighten the corner where I am.” I am not in Afghanistan. I am not even in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Yesterday I found myself in Haines City, Florida, at the Lamb of God Lutheran Church with Pastor Joe, sitting and sharing with some of God’s wonderful flock.

I was not sheepish. I shepherded these dear souls through a journey laced with the human essential of good cheer. Say what you will about church but it has one function and one alone: find other human beings on the journey and fellowship with them.

Therefore, the byproduct of every experience taking you into into the House of God should be good cheer. For in the world, you only have tribulation, so we need some place to go where we can be of good cheer. It must be the church.

We must stop thinking that the arrival of Cring & Clazzy was a “breath of fresh air,” but instead, understand that stale air is not acceptable.

We cannot go from sucking in oxygen to inhaling fumes. As a congregation, as people, as children of God, as sane humans, we must stand up and demand good cheer:

  • Good cheer in the singing
  • Good cheer in the liturgy (if you have it)
  • Good cheer in communion
  • Certainly good cheer in the sermon
  • Good cheer in the benediction

And even good cheer when you reach the vestibule and discover that your favorite donut has already been eaten by the kids, who were released too early from children’s church.

I talked to some of the most intelligent, caring people you’d ever want to find. I just wonder whether they have the gumption to demand that the church be what it was meant to be–a safe place where we encourage one another, even so much more as we see the world going crazy around us.

The good news is that the world is full of tribulation, and therefore offers no harbor.

The better news is, we can be of good cheer if we start demanding purpose instead of settling for anemic programming.

 

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Good News and Better News… July 24th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sunday morning, bright and early, I headed off with my buddy, Janet, to St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Melbourne (even though the words “bright and early” should never appear in the same sentence.)

Over the years, Ms. Clazzy and I have learned a very important lesson: those who have gathered in a church are not there to see us, no matter how much we’ve been advertised. And they’re not necessarily there to learn about God, either.

They are accustomed to gathering. It is a tradition. Each one has his or her reasons for being there–ranging from preparing the coffee to loving the organ music, to appreciating communion, to getting stuck with usher duty.

So it is ridiculous for the two of us to think that we will come in and move mountains, or even rearrange dirt piles. Our job is simple–and made easier by the kindness of those who assisted us with our equipment and by the tender spirit of Pastor Blaine Johnson.

We are to be grateful for those who’ve attended, encourage what we see that’s positive, and gently address what’s missing.

Without the initial burst of gratitude for what is available, you immediately becomes the eternal brat who is never satisfied unless you get your own way.

Do I wish there were more people at St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, since there aren’t.

Do I wish I was going to larger churches than St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, because I’m not.

I am grateful for all the souls before me.

Then there are things that come out which are delightful and positive. There are people who greet you even though they have never seen you before. There is a sense of organization that lends itself to progress instead of chaos. Opportunities.

Yet in the midst of Jan and myself being grateful and reveling in the positives set before us, some missing spaces are obvious. Shall we refer to these as an absence of the presence?

  • An absence of the presence of jubilation.
  • An absence of the presence of radiant joy.
  • An absence of the presence of personalizing the message of Jesus to our own endeavors.
  • An absence of the presence of giggling.
  • An absence of the presence of the hand clapping which symbolizes confirmation of inner glee.

Just quietly ask the question, what’s missing?–and then allow the Spirit of God to offer suggestions.

So while grateful for the congregated and my celebration of the positives, I talked to them about passion–the ability for the heart to stimulate praise instead of relying on the memory.

Did we make progress? Will next Sunday’s service at St. Timothy reflect any of the energy of the visitation?

It’s a foolish question; irrelevant.

Because the good news is that Pastor Blaine and the fine folks of St. Timothy found it in their hearts to invite us to come and share our talents.

And the better news is that God, in His infinite wisdom, leaves it up to each individual soul to determine what he or she will do with what has been seen and heard.Donate Button

 

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Good News and Better News… April 10th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3273)

I grew up in a church which contended, believed and insisted that baptism was only to be performed through immersion. No “sprinklin’ on the head” for our parishioners. It had to be a full, “ear-washin’, born-again, dunkin’ hullabaloo.”

Our church also believed that communion needed to be served every Sunday, not every once in a while, leaving a congregation spiritually malnourished due to the fact that they had not sufficiently partaken of the wafer and juice.

There were also other fragments of doctrine which were enforced by numerous sermons, as the minister often mocked other ways of thinking, which he deemed heresy.

Even nowadays, every single church on every corner has some pet portion of the Good Book they feel supersedes all others, and sets them apart as the “true Chosen of God” instead of the errant rabble.

Although the mainline denominations, such as the Methodists, will smile at you and promote their flexibility, they still would never think about saying “hallelujah,” clapping their hands, or allowing for the possibility of the miracle of healing in the middle of a service. I guess we need Pentecostals for that.

Every single fragment of a once-noble, unified body of Christ is positive that they are the heartbeat of the Gospel.

Over the years it has become very simple to me–I don’t give a tinker’s damn what people believe. I watch how they act.

Some of the most intolerant, inflexible and mean-spirited people that I’ve worked with over the years seem to possess the most intense Bible knowledge. And other folks, who the righteous would consider to be damnable sinners, have taken the time to wash the shirt on their back before they gave it to me.

Of course, there are all sorts of Christians out there who will tell you that I’m promoting a Gospel of works rather than grace. Actually, all I’m saying is that I can’t thoroughly confirm that grace is at work unless the recipient is gracious.

I’m not so sure people are forgiven if they can’t forgive.

And I definitely don’t see them possessing the Spirit of God when they’re prejudiced against other people.

If you want to find out if a man, woman or child is a Christian, take one morning of your life and work on a project with him or her. Then go back and look at what the fruit of the Spirit is. Because if memory serves me, it is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

When I see those virtues at work, I begin to believe in what people say they believe that they truly do believe.

When I run across grouchy, short-tempered, fussy, back-biting, gossiping and aggravated individuals, I think they are disconnected from their beliefs, even though they seem to be very proficient at quoting scripture.

Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me how you act. And if that has too much “works” in it for you, then go cuddle up to your dead faith.

The good news is that Jesus said “by their fruits you shall know them.”

The better news is that a Gospel that can be acted out is much easier to imitate than trying to mouth holy words.

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