All Wrapped Up… December 28, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2104)Bible wrapped

The gospel works.

That’s why we call it “good news.”

On the other hand, our culture is not nearly as efficient. It is often a cult of cop-out convenience.

I don’t wish to become brash or harsh, but I do want to say that there is an ongoing danger of people wrapping the culture of our country in the pretty paper of the Bible, tying it up with the bow of “God and country.”

Let’s make some distinctions:

1. The gospel teaches “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Our culture, on the other hand, promotes the idea, “do unto yourself while including others.”

2. The gospel teaches that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” Meanwhile, back at our culture, it is promoted that we are all unique, and therefore different.

3. The gospel: “give and it will be given unto you.” The culture: “get what you can and give to others as you can.”

4. “Don’t judge others.” There’s the gospel. In the culture, we preach, “Don’t allow yourself to be judge.”

5. Continuing on with the gospel: “to he who is given much, much is expected.” We have a three-word cultural mantra: “cut yourself slack.”

6. And finally, the gospel teaches that “whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” Yet the popular philosophy in our culture is, “After we reap, we will get around to sowing” with a sidebar of, “It’s not my fault.”

So in an attempt to hold people in a church, we create a surrogate–impregnating faith with our culture.

  • Our sermons are laced with grace, absent any responsibility or guilt.
  • We teach that God has “a wonderful plan for our lives” in order to stay hip with all the fantasy and Hobbit movies.
  • We insist that “God will supply all our need” without warning people that He does expect us to show up and be involved.
  • We pretend we can love the sinner and still hate the sin.
  • We literally screech that God’s salvation and grace is free to all, leaving us with believers who are bound to a culture, habits and lifestyles that are not fulfilling.

I don’t see anything wrong with wrapping the gospel up in what is culturally pleasing. You can use all the technology, all the music stylings and all available data to sparkle the message in a contemporary way. But when you start preaching the culture in the name of the gospel, you are flirting with disaster.

So how do you know when you’re in the presence of the gospel?

You’ll hear a message that teaches us to believe in God … while taking personal responsibility for your hunk of the kingdom.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

In Secret … December 9, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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desk clerkIt happens every once in a while.

As we tour across the country, it becomes necessary to have a single overnight stay in some town for the sole purpose of resting, relaxing and getting ready for the next day’s drive. We refer to it as a “sleep stop.” There are three goals:

  1. Find a comfortable motel
  2. Carry in as little as necessary, since you’re not setting up for an entire week.
  3. Make it as reasonable a location as feasible so as not to bust the piggy bank.

So when we arrived in Knoxville, Tennessee, at our sleep stop, Jan was confronted by the innkeeper, who explained that the room would be more expensive than originally stated. Jan, being an excellent business woman, lodged a complaint and asked the lady at the front desk to honor her original quote.

It wasn’t a big deal–no large argument. But a negotiation ensued, and as with most compromises, both parties were dissatisfied.

So as we were unloading into our room, I handed Jan the money to cover the extra price our host felt was needed for our occupancy. It wasn’t necessary. The room was already ours, legitimately.

But it wasn’t ours righteously.

Let me tell you, my friends, there are three ways to believe.

There is the belief we proclaim to others. This is what we call “church”–quoting the Good Book and tried and true hymns, to inform our neighbors that we are good folk and excellent Americans.

Secondly, there’s the belief we apply. This is a convoluted mixture of what God says, what we think, what Mom and Dad taught us, and the pressure put on us by society to conform to the present norm.

But last, there is the belief we allow to reach into our “secret place.” This is the room within the house of our faith, where we spend most of our time, closet our fears, and determine our future–based upon our own thoughts and feelings, many of which we would never be able to share with others.

I have learned over the years that Christianity does not work unless it reaches into this private compartment.

For some of the rudest and meanest people I have ever met have just come from church, proclaiming the goodness of God.

Likewise, many of the more confused, frustrated and mentally unstable individuals I’ve encountered over the years seem to have a terrific testimony about their relationship with the Almighty.

But I’ve never met anyone who allows their philosophy to reach their “secret place” who isn’t humbly satisfied with the experience.

I didn’t need to give that lady at the front desk any more money to satisfy her requirements.

I needed to give her the money to satisfy the yearning … in my secret soul.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

Whosoever… June 18, 2012

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“In a perfect world …”

I hate that phrase. It has to be one of the major cop-outs that has sprung into the lexicon of our generation as a universal excuse for falling short of pursuing excellence or often even achieving adequacy. Here’s my opinion. In a perfect world, we would stop saying, “In a perfect world.”

We keep stockpiling great ideas into an arsenal for storage which we call “the ideal.” I’ve even seen things go into this building to be put on mothballs that used to be functioning parts of society’s thinking.

The most recent one to be stuck in the closet is “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus used it as a symbol of defining the faith he was establishing among his followers, and now we look upon it as something that is impossible to achieve or the ideal that should be done, which we fail at, and therefore required repentance.

Somewhere along the line, we need to recognize that ideals cannot be abandoned without a death toll in the human spirit. I think that’s the problem with the word itself–most of us read the word “ideal” and break it up into two words: “I deal.”

  • “This is the way I deal with that situation.”
  • “This is the way I deal with people who are different.”
  • “This is the way I deal with frustration.”
  • “This is the way I deal with immorality.”
  • “This is the way I deal with telling the truth.”
  • “This is the way I deal with being friendly and open to others.”

When you redefine truth, you always come up with a lie. It’s just the way things are.

Let me give you an example. Yesterday I had the honor of sharing at a church that has three services. Now, they do not have three services because each one is so large that the capacity of the building would not hold them. No, all three services could fit into their sanctuary. There’s another reason that three services have been constructed. Some people in the congregation would say it’s because each group has a different taste in worship–but honestly, that isn’t really the case. Matter of fact, many churches which once had traditional and contemporary services are now blending them in style–but keeping them separate in time slots. So what is the reason for a church to have three services, when combining all three would not fill the room? It’s just the way we deal with our own prejudices.

Yes, there is a silent prejudice in America that cannot be spoken, cannot be shared, cannot be discussed and certainly cannot even be acknowledged. We no longer go around throwing stones or lynching people, but instead, use the sophisticated action of the delineation of our tastes in certain matters to create boundaries between each other. Candidly, there are just people in one service who do not care to be with people in another service because…

Well, I don’t know all the reasons. Honestly, maybe they don’t know all the reasons. Maybe it’s political. I often realize that the services I minister to on any given Sunday are divided right along political lines. The Republicans come at 8:30 and the Democrats at 10:30. Now, it’s not advertised that way, nor presented philosophically. It’s just understood. There are some people who don’t care to be with other people because of what they would view as an “intelligence gap.” It’s too cruel to call people “dumb,” so we substitute. “Simple.” “Country.” “Southern gospel.” “Working class.” “Blue collar.”  All words of prejudice, which trigger in the minds of those who silently hold those principles to be true, that these folks are not completely suitable for interaction.

It was the problem in the south in the 1940’s and ’50’s. Black and white people greeted each other congenially in the streets. They worked together. At first sight, you would have thought there was no difficulty between the races in Dixie whatsoever. The problem came when people of color would accidentally cross a line where prejudice had been drawn, and for some reason they forgot, or just didn’t know, and they suddenly became “uppity.” And then, what was once a very relaxed atmosphere between the races exploded into ferocious anger. Most black people in the south had no idea what the boundaries of “uppity” really were because it would change from time to time, based upon the discretion of the domineering white race.

Here’s what I know–we need some place in America where “whosoever” actually means “whosoever.” We need a place where silent prejudice is confronted as being a bit of silliness and foolish thinking. Honestly, not every person I meet on any given Sunday is particularly to my liking. I probably would not want to spend a week in the Poconos camping with them. But I can share a pew. I can share my heart for an hour. I can break down my bigotry and allow myself to believe that God loves them just as much as He loves me–and therefore God wants me to love them as much as I say I love Him.

Without this, the church is just another locale for silent prejudice, where we segregate off from one another, insisting that it’s just a matter of “preference.”

No one wants to be confrontational on this issue. I certainly don’t want to be known as the poster child for pointing out the silent prejudice existing in the American church. The anger that would be unleashed on such a crude whistle-blower would be almost beyond comprehension. I’m just telling you that I will no longer participate in such an irrelevant and irreverent maneuver.

I need to learn to not only preach, “NoOne is better than anyone else,” but also bathe that philosophy in the acid test of my dealings with humanity every day. I personally was at all three services on Sunday. I experienced the three different congregations. And I will tell you this–the only difference among them was in the level of tolerance they had for anything different from themselves–because if they didn’t like people in their own congregation, they certainly didn’t express any favor towards me. After all, I was a stranger. And if they had a heart to love others, I was blessedly included.

So it doesn’t come down to a choice between hymns and choruses, or organ and guitar. It is really an issue of whether you’re going to pursue the ideal, allow your own prejudice to be exposed, or whether you’re going to create a false world of “I deal,” where all of your prejudices are allowed to stay in full bloom and fill up the garden, forbidding the introduction of other different plants.

Yes, the first thing I would do to change the existing religious system is expose the silent prejudice that blocks us from allowing the “whosoever” ideal of Christ to be enacted. It means that in one accord we would have to admit that we still bring our own fussiness into the mix instead of allowing ourselves an opportunity to interact with people who are different from us.

After all, it’s only for an hour. It won’t kill ya’. You don’t have to go out to Sunday lunch with ’em. But if the church cannot establish itself as a “whosoever” district, we have nothing better to offer than the local bar, which divides itself into beer drinkers, whiskey connoisseurs, and wine sippers.

The first problem in America is silent prejudice. It allows us to maintain the insanity of our grandparents’ bigotry, while appearing to still be intelligent and open-minded.

I have told you many times, I still see color. I was raised that way. But I have learned to pretend that I don’t. I’ve learned how to pretend that it’s righteous that I don’t. And in the process of pretending, I have become a pretty good actor.

“Whosoever” means everybody. And don’t you agree–there should be one place in the world where you can go, where whosoever is not just an ideal, but a reality.

   

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Redlands… May 21, 2012

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I keep searching.

Every week I climb into my big, black van and go from town to town across this expansive country, trying to find a spark of revival. (I do take the precaution of bringing along my own “matches”…)

And when I speak of revival, I’m don’t mean merely a spiritual awakening, but rather, a complete human awakening, fueled by spirit. I will not bore you by telling you about the disappointments along the way. I have never been one to belabor the darker edges of the quilt of my experience. What I would rather do is tell you how encouraged I was yesterday.

I arrived in a church that had rejected complexity in preference to simplicity. They relished communication over the repetition of mere religious practice and liturgy, and they had enough vulnerability that even a stranger such as myself could come in, and as long as I was willing to be equally as transparent, they were of a mind to listen.

It’s not really very complicated. It’s all about ingredients. If you talk to four or five chefs about spaghetti sauce, each one will tell you what elements he prefers prefer to make the ideal concoction. Some want more oregano. Others insist on large doses of basil. Of course, there’s a strong contingency that will tell you it’s all about the garlic. These are all issues of flavor. The truth of the matter is, you can’t make spaghetti sauce without tomatoes. And in our society, emotionally, spiritually and mentally we lead so strongly with taste that we forfeit the tomatoes. Yesterday in Redlands, I discovered a lovely group of souls who were still focusing on the main act.

  • For instance, I talked to a trombone player from the band, who lamented that there was not printed music in the bass clef for his particular instrument–BUT he was still playing. Unlike so many other folks, who have given up playing in the band due to the lack of perfect conditions, he still remained–tootin’ away.
  • I met a women who had recently lost her husband, but rather than making that the focal point of her communication, she uses the experience to spring off with greater concern and love for others.
  • I met a fine fellow with a great interest in independent films, who transfers that passion for the movie industry into his own interpretation of how his life in the spirited realm should be revealed.
  • I saw young humans sitting in the front of the church instead of texting in the back, allowing themselves to be affected by a good thing instead of resisting it simply because it came out of an older vessel or sounded like God-talk.
  • And I met a pastor, excellent at golf, and successful in taking the same energy and intelligence he uses in perfecting his back swing, bringing it into the church service as he claps his hands during the songs and rejoices over being with his congregation–a “holy in one.”

Last night, as I mused over these comrades, I realized that they had discovered a simple procedure that makes spirituality work. It is the blending of three words: need, ability and power.

Although many churches are persistent in expressing how much we need God, it rarely gives us the impetus to tap our abilities and grant us the power of our own conviction. Then there are the more out-of-the-box religions that focus on the power without insisting that we perfect our abilities or ever express need in any way, shape or form. Both approaches leave us void of what is necessary to use our humanity effectively.

No, it’s getting things linked in the right order that gives you the kind of results that allows you to remain human without being obnoxious, while still touching the heart and mind of God. Here’s how I see it–the way I think it should work, confirmed yesterday with my visitation to Redlands:

1. A need to do better. Human beings become ugly when they cover up their inadequacy with false bravado–self-sufficient. They become equally as grotesque when they insist that they’re constantly needy, devoid of any goodness whatsoever. It’s just the admission that we have achieved something, but upon closer examination, we have a heart’s desire to do it better. it makes us sexy. It makes us happy; it makes us powerful. And mostly, it makes us tolerable to those of our own species.

2. An ability to pursue a goal. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But there are many folks who can not remain faithful to a plan simply because they feel more intelligent when they are critiquing it, ignoring it or trying to prove why it won’t work.  Just having the willingness to learn how things work, shutting your mouth and pursuing to the best of your ability may be the definition of godliness. I know this–what we call faith is really when need and ability sign a peace treaty. Faith is the magnificent emergence of a new energy created by the convergence of admitting our need while still pursuing our abilities. And as the Bible says, “without faith, it’s impossible to please God.” Some religions are too needy. Therefore, their adherents are always repenting–reluctantly. Some theologies are too arrogant about personal domination. The result is that those who follow that philosophy end up making claims to everyone else around them, who are privately hoping they fail.

 But when you combine need and ability, you get faith. And then faith gives you the third element:

3. A power to change YOUR world. You need to stop trying to change MY world. Also, you need to relieve your mind of any Pollyanna notion that you’re going to change THE world. Faith gives you the power to change YOUR world. As Jesus said to all the people who came to him, “Your faith has made YOU whole.” My faith can’t make anyone else whole. But it does give me the power to be a light to those who desire to escape the darkness.

When you get those three things placed in the correct order, human beings are really delightful, God seems like a wonderful next-door-neighbor, and the universe is absent a devilish vendetta against you.

Redlands, I hope you continue to understand how wonderful you are in your innocence. And if you do forget, perhaps you can refer back to these words I have shared this morning.  Because when you take a need to do better and mingle it with an ability to pursue a goal, you get the power to change YOUR world.

And the fact of the matter is, if we singularly change enough worlds … who knows? Maybe someday we can surprise the planet and change the whole blessed thing.

 

  

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Simon’s Son… April 5, 2012

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From Safford, Arizona

Simon fathered a boy–a delightful young lad–his only son. “Proud” could not possibly describe the experience that occurred in Simon’s soul over having such an opportunity–to have an heir and a young, fertile mind in which to plant great ideas and dreams.

He taught the boy to love God, because without the love of the Divine, the appreciation of the earthly is often tainted. He taught his son to be loyal to his family. After all, there is nothing greater than family. He instructed his fine pupil in the value of loyalty to your country–being willing to stand up for liberty and independence. He shared with him that generosity to the poor is a great way to please God and also a signal to your neighbors of the purity of your motives. He taught his son that government interference in the choices of its citizens should be limited, allowing for the population to grow, prosper and expand.

He was pleased when his young fellow grew into a man and offered his talents to the resistance party. Even though his child was not a warrior, he possessed great skill in communication, negotiation–and also had a knack for finance. After all, even freedom fighters need an accountant.

He was a bit surprised when his son ended up in Bethabarra by the Jordan with a new movement that promoted the idea that repentance and immersion in water replaced debate and standing up against tyranny. Yet he never questioned him. After all, all young people go through phases and as he got older, he would return to his moorings and roots.

But when his son chose to join forces with a Galilean, it was time to object. Simon was a proud citizen of Kerioth, a town in Judea.  Now, Simon did not feel that Judeans were better than Galileans, but the natural pecking order in both the physical and spiritual worlds seemed to have produced such evidence. Galilee was poor, absent loyalty to the country and too preoccupied with sustenance to be of much use to the common good. Judeans were faithful to both God and country, and were prepared to do whatever was necessary to free themselves from the interference of government and the tyranny of foreign influence.

But Simon loved his son. He realized that there is a season of reflection, when every man questions his values and wanders into the oblivion of possibilities for a brief season, to then return to the righteous struggle.

Simon loved Judas. Nothing could change that love. He was proud that Judas had found a place of high regard in this new movement, one of the top twelve–even though it was spawned in Galilee.

But today he had received news that his hope and dream–his prodigy and the symbol of his destiny–was dead.

Simon decided to make a journey to Jerusalem to try to trace the last days of his beloved Judas. It was difficult to find anyone who would talk to him. Apparently those associated with the new movement had escaped into private chambers or were completely unwilling to meet with the father of the man they knew as a traitor.

A traitor. Simon could not imagine his Judas betraying anyone. Loyalty to family, country and God had been the bulwark of their household philosophy.

Finally one of the women from the Nazarene‘s camp–a lady named Mary of Magdala–agreed to meet with him. He was a little uncomfortable to be discussing such important matters with a woman, but decided that something was better than nothing. He had only one question.

“Who killed my beloved son?”

Mary paused, eyeing him carefully, contemplating how to share the truth. She had no desire to hurt this father’s feelings. She had no wish to bring judgment on a man who was once a friend and now lay dead by his own hand. The delay troubled Simon, agitating his soul.  He asked again.

“Tell me, woman.  Who killed my Judas?”

Mary drew a deep breath. “I don’t know. And sir, I’m glad I don’t know. For Judas loved his country, but in the midst of his affection and devotion, his country changed. Judas loved the poor but didn’t realize that they would never go away and that merely casting coins in their direction was not a resolution to the problem. Judas believed in a religious system that was evolving from true Godliness to a safe Godliness that included greed and too much nationalism. Judas was my friend–but he forgot how to be a friend to the one who befriended him the most. So when our master asked him to stretch his mind and expand his heart to believe in things he did not yet comprehend, Judas returned to his training, his instincts and his security instead of abandoning them for the quest for the Kingdom of God.”

 Simon was aggravated. “You didn’t answer my question. Who killed Judas?” he asked.

Mary, without pausing, replied, “Religion. Tradition. Fear of being out of the mainstream. Insecurity. Selfishness. Hurt feelings. Jealousy. Nationalism. Wanting revolution instead of revelation. Money. Acceptance. And … probably mainly horror over being different for a season, to be right forever.”

Simon tried to interrupt, but Mary continued. “Your son betrayed. You see, it wouldn’t be a betrayal if the end result had been the betterment of mankind. But our master, Jesus, called him the ‘son of hell.’ I remember when I heard those words come from his lips, I thought to myself, ‘This is too harsh.’ But then I realized that hell exists whenever we believe that God is merely in heaven and not in the hearts of our brothers and sisters. And anyone who tries to stop God from loving people instead of just statues, countries and causes becomes hell’s son.”

Simon departed without saying another word. This woman was obviously deluded, as females often were. He went back to Kerioth feeling cheated and robbed of his only begotten son. Was there any truth to Mary’s words? Had he failed as a father? What was wrong with believing in God, family and country? What was wrong with objecting to government interference? What was wrong with being a patriot?

Six months later Simon passed away, still grief-stricken over the loss of his son. He never got to hear the words of Jesus. The only thing the name “Jesus” meant to him was that the son he had raised to be a good Jew was dead–because he had followed this teacher.

Simon had a son. He named him Judas–in honor of the great warrior who had fought for the Jewish people, Maccabees. His son grew up to be a man–a dastardly deceiver–the one who betrayed the Prince of Life.

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

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http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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