Good News and Better News … April 11th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Grays Chapel

Yesterday I was at Grays Chapel United Methodist Church.

It is located in a place called Grays Chapel, North Carolina, which has been granted the blessing of a name despite its size.

I liked them.

I’m not so sure they liked me at first because after all, I was a stranger. Because I was a stranger, I was therefore suspect.

Isn’t it interesting that most of the problems that come to us in life are hatched by friends and family? Rarely are we inundated by a predicament brought about by someone we don’t know.

That said, I had to make a decision on what I wanted to say to these fine folk. I mingled my words with songs, music and a bit of humor.

Yet, it is important to have a core message.

My core is so simple that it probably leaves some people attending my events a little disappointed–because I fail to attack the right people or praise those usually deemed worthy. So my success rate is very good, but is also plagued by the lack of having an adequate enemy we can all hate. Matter of fact, you can boil down what I have to say to the following:

1. The Gospel is good news.

I know people can find bad news in the Good Book, but I’ve never been one to try to turn it into the “Bad Book.” Maybe that makes my mission seem a little too simple or fluffy.

I don’t care.

People get enough bad news without having me set up my equipment and blare it from the PA system.

2. Jesus lived a human life.

Every attempt we make to turn Jesus of Nazareth into Apollo– who was purported to be half god and half man–makes him none of either.

The power of the life of Jesus is that even though he was driven by a calling and anointed by Spirit, he was bound by flesh.

It makes what he has to say much more pertinent to our lives, instead of him coming across as some professor from heaven, wonkishly trying to explain how things work to a bunch of dumb students.

3. Run from what’s complicated.

I do it all the time.

I meet individuals who think it takes a committee meeting to turn on a light switch. They spend more time discussing the Rules of Order than ordering someone to step in and rule.

Jesus said his way was simple and easy. My thought is, whenever things are is no longer falling under that gentle approach, they are probably also no longer Jesus.

So that’s the good news I had to share with the people of Grays Chapel. I don’t know whether it impressed them. Perhaps they wished I would attack the Republican, curse a Democrat, or whisper a stance I hold on what people should do in their bedrooms.

I don’t care.

The good news is:

  • The Gospel is good news.
  • Jesus came to be human.
  • And life is not meant to be complicated.

Oh, by the way–there’s one piece of better news:

Don’t leave love.

No matter how much you get tempted to redefine your commitment to the human race with some other emotion than love, abandon it. Even when you disagree or you think something is evil, don’t leave love.

May God find each one of us in a loving state of mind … when He, and He alone, decides to judge the world.

 

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Good News and Better News … April 4th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News and Better News Woodmont

It’s 9:53 A. M. and time for me to go into the sanctuary at Woodmont United Methodist Church in Reidsville, North Carolina, and share the little bit I know. (Fortunately, it’s only an hour, or I would quickly run out of smart stuff.)

There’s nothing terribly impressive about me, so as I get out of my wheelchair to hobble and creak my way over to the piano bench, the gathered host of God probably feel more pity than enthusiasm.

It doesn’t matter.

They have spent the whole week being overwhelmed by politicians, pundits and individuals of all shapes and forms who believe in establishing their prowess through dominance.

So as I look out at my soon-to-be friends, I feel compassion–because they’re man-handled.

They are continually manipulated, coerced and even criticized into believing that “might makes right,” and “the loudest always gets to be the proudest.”

They are peppered with the message that it is an “I” against an “I”–and teeth are made for biting.

Yet with all the promotion of this philosophy, the world still falters–with terrorists now telling us that God thinks we should be blown up, or at least shot multiple times with bullets.

So in that sacred moment, I realize that the House of Jesus needs to be a safe haven from the stupidity of prideful demolition.

Man-handling. What is it?

1. “You gotta fight. Stand up for yourself! Speak your mind. It’s a free country. If you don’t defend yourself, people will walk on you.”

But even in a room filled with just a hundred voices, if everybody speaks up for him or herself, nobody gets heard.

So my message?

Stop fighting and wait for an ingenious idea from the Holy Spirit, to handle the next situation.

Also, the man-handlers want you to know:

2. “Life is complicated.”

If they don’t convince you of that, how can they sell you the improved product, the new book, the fresh idea or the present political candidate?

So I decided to tell the folks at Woodmont to simplify.

After all, I never saw anybody get anything done in a better way because they complicated it. Even if I were an ant, my job would be to find the shortest distance to get the crumbs to my nest.

And finally, all the man-handlers want to make it clear that:

3. “We’re all different.”

Since nowadays it’s basically considered to be ignorant to be a bigot, we hide behind the disguise of “cultural choices” to promote our prejudice.

In other words, since “blacks like things done a certain way,” that’s why they hang out together, and “Chinese people prefer chopsticks instead of forks.” But rather than this teaching tolerance, we’re just promoting isolation.

My answer to the man-handlers is to find commonality among us all.

The forefathers said there is such a thing as the common good.

Here, here.

So as I got ready to strike my first note and begin the service, what crossed my mind was that these people really need to be “God-handled.”

Since I possess no divine qualities whatsoever, I chose to imitate the heavenly Father’s personality profile.

I brought mercy. Mercy-handling.

That’s the good news.

And the better news is that being merciful gets much easier when you realize that you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing.

Therefore you have a desire … to be generous to others.

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“Ifing” Way: Part 2… October 27, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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If bigger

What if a voice of sanity had risen up at various stages in the story of human history, to offer a challenging view when craziness was about to win the day?

If …

Dad arrived just in time.

His youngest son was already primed and ready to run out the door to go see his older brother to try to reconcile hurt feelings. The siblings had never really been close, yet the bond of family had always meshed them with a sense of loyalty. But recent events had exacerbated the tenuous feelings, generating a volatile situation. A simple misunderstanding had turned into a sense of rejection, culminating in a looming burst of rage.

When the incident happened, Dad stepped between them to prevent violence, but the younger son, having a more optimistic nature, believed all that was needed was a good conversation. So he had privately decided to go off on his own, without any counsel, to see his brother at the work site so they could “rummage through their feelings” and arrive at resolution.

Fortunately, Dad came on the scene–just in time.

“Where are you going?” Dad asked.

The young man paused for a second, wondering if he could possibly deceive his father and achieve his own purposes, but then realized that was contrary to his heart.

“You know where I’m going. I’m going to make peace with my brother.”

The father smiled. “I know that seems like a good idea to you, and far be it from me to be against peace, but your brother is a complicated man and his emotions and thoughts are not privy to you, and therefore not available.”

The young man frowned.

Sensing his son’s disagreement, the father continued. “We could talk about this all day and we wouldn’t agree. What I would like you to do is trust me. If I end up being wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it. But I would like you to leave your brother alone for a while, until you and I agree on a better time. Because if you go and see him now, all you’re going to do is remind him of the pain of the conflict, and perhaps incense him over the idea that you appear to be the better brother because you’re trying to make things right. I want you to promise me–based upon our friendship and bond–that you will stay away from him until things are better.”

The young man objected. “But how can things get better if we don’t make them better?”

The father patted him on the shoulder and said, “Son, sometimes things don’t get better. But if we interfere, we can make them worse.”

He gave his younger son a hug. The boy agreed to stay away from his older brother until such time as was deemed appropriate.

As it turned out, the conversation never actually happened. The two brothers, who had never been particularly close, maintained a distance throughout their lives. They learned how to be appropriate during family gatherings, and gave each other proper respect and space.

Cain and Abel never became close friends.

But because Adam took his position as a father and intervened in a dangerous situation … no one had to die.

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Godfusion … July 28, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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People are immediately turned off if you make them feel ignorant or if you make things too complicated. So in our time, religion and atheism have joined forces to turn God into a confusing dilemma—alas, an unnecessary pursuit. A fresh wave of agnosticism in this country portrays those who have a belief in a divine being as being backwoods, unintellectual or just generally speaking, lacking the fetchings to ever place them at the front of the line. 

In retaliation, a very conservative religious surge presents God as a complex Being with stringent demands, unusual tastes and apparently insecure enough to constantly need the confirmation of our love and devotion. 

It seems bizarre to me that these two should unite to create a climate in which spirituality is chilly, to say the least. 

God is dead.  

That’s what some people claim. Even if it’s not true, no one wants to be around a deity who is even on the verge of dying. Is God so old that He’s out of touch with anything our younger generation might consider valuable? 

God is mean. 

Some people would insist that it’s not an inherent rudeness but rather, an unflinching desire for morality at all costs. 

God is Jewish. 

Yes, we have the joining of Jews and Christians—once again to the alienation of the Muslim community—instead of the purity of a Christian faith which keeps itself focused on the lifestyle of Jesus instead of cautiously clinging to the tenets of the Old Testament

God is busy. 

There are those who feel the Supreme Being just has too much going on to be interested in the meager affairs of His human creation. 

God is needy. 

Yes, we are told that He’s a jealous God and will have no other gods before Him (even though I don’t know why that would be an issue, since He insists that He’s the only God…) 

All of these converging contradictions create a Godfusion—a frustrating misrepresentation of our Creator, which leads people to either run away in horror or smirk at the notion of Bible stories

Who is God? Let us start off with three simple insights: 

  1. God is not much use to us if He doesn’t like humans. Any belief that contends that He is miffed, distant, demanding or bewildered by our choices and make-up is a bizarre notion, considering that He was so meticulous in creating us.
  2. God, being a Spirit, needs to find a way to communicate to us, who are in flesh and blood, by devising a persona that is earth-friendly. I don’t know what you call this Being—I know him as Jesus. And even if there wasn’t a carpenter born two thousand years ago, we would need to come up with one to help us relate to a Spirit and help bring that blessing to us in a human way.
  3.  God is of little use to human beings if he isn’t fatherly. Any discussion about the Divine that takes us into a belief that He is irrelevant to human life because He is beyond our comprehension, or we are so beyond the comprehension of religion that we have become irrelevant to faith leaves us alone and fatherless. 

It is time to understand two very important things about moving our faith, our beliefs and our ideas forward: 

  • We need God. Without Him, it is virtually impossible for us to grasp the brotherhood of mankind. If we’re not related to a common Father, then we’re just warring tribes, looking for reasons to get enraged so we can set our war machine in motion.
  • If we don’t have a God, we begin to believe that this life is all that matters, and any time we’re only given one choice, we not only lose our motivation, but we also begin to lose the desire for excellence.

Be careful of the Godfusion in our country today, instigated by both atheists and religion, to chase our Father from us and coronate either a clown or a dictator. We need a Father who is in heaven. Earth cannot be a jungle—it was created to be a garden.

And until we get back to the Garden, we will be in danger … of flirting with extinction.

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A Life-Driven Purpose… May 25, 2013

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It’s really simple and not complicated at all.  If you’re waking up this morning in Moore, Oklahoma, your life has become free of entanglements–defined.

If the tornado missed your house, then there is a deep responsibility in your soul to go outside and do something for your neighbors, who were not quite so fortunate.

If the tornado blew your house away, yet you are still alive, you feel a deep sense of gratitude–and don’t have to be concerned about remodeling anymore, but can have full confidence that you are in the middle of a building project. Be prepared to receive help from those neighbors whose houses did remain firmly on their foundations.

If you were injured, you should sit back, relax, and let the beautiful healing process take shape before you concern yourself with anything else–in order to give your very best efforts to the next endeavor.

If you lost your life, you are presently in a heavenly home with no memories whatsoever of the struggle below.

If a loved one has died, your life, for this season, will be refined by allowing grief to bring out the good memories so that when you do finally press on, joy can come in your morning.

Yes, the people of Oklahoma have experienced a tragedy. But there isn’t one person in that town who would tell you they wish they were dead. That kind of nasty attitude only comes from people who have taken their lives for granted. No one in Moore, Oklahoma, is taking his or her life for granted.

In an odd sense, it is a gift when our journeys become defined by our need. Our purpose becomes obvious: Live on–because life is precious.

I have no argument with my conservative friends until they start saying life on earth does not matter. It does.

I have no fuss with my liberal friends, as long as they don’t try to convince me that one form of life is more precious than another. It isn’t.

Jesus came to give us life. Jesus came to give us abundant life. We were never supposed to live as underdogs–biting at the ankles of the rich and prosperous, but rather, discovering the very best pattern for doing things and then creatively finding a way to enact a glorious plan.

If church isn’t about life, then it starts to be about death. If all we have to offer is heaven, then we’re asking people to endure an awful lot of earth, which usually diminishes the enthusiasm for eternity.

Tomorrow morning I will be in Mabank, Texas. We’ll talk about life. That is one of the best ways we attribute honor–and even pray for the folks in Oklahoma. By joining them in the pursuit of the appreciation of life, we tell them that we get the message: even when nature blows you away, you need to blow back–with your best heart–and live large.

It’s about life. It’s about abundant life. And it’s about abundant life that brings full joy. So is it possible to be in Moore, Oklahoma, today and be joyful?

Yes. Especially if you realize you still possess life.

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