Good News and Better News… October 9th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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This weekend was the Fall Festival at the Emmaus Lutheran Church in Orange City, Florida. Also appearing, on the under card, were Cring & Clazzy.

Please understand, I am not lamenting having second billing. After all, the church does use the occasion to raise funds for a very worthy cause.

It’s just that in this season of mediocrity colliding with confusion, the church can no longer take an approach of “business as usual,” as it prepares for the Pumpkin Patch sale, while the huge hand basket arrives to take everybody to hell.

What are the needed adjustments?

What is the responsibility of the fellowship of the followers of Jesus in this season of turmoil and tribulation?

The first and foremost principle that we as Christians and churchgoers need to understand is the power we possess, instead of complaining over our inability to affect circumstances.

One of my sons contacted me this weekend in frustration and said, “Pop, what can we do?”

From his message I sensed that he had a real heart to make a difference, but all he sees are gray walls of discontentment closing in on him. Perhaps the answer is so simple that it escapes those who are trying to participate in complex study. Here’s the path:

Stop trying to do what you can’t do.

In the pursuit of equality, we believe that everybody, everywhere, has equal ability for everything. What could be more ridiculous?

About fifteen years ago, I was traveling with my family band. During a performance, I turned to the audience in speaking about my oldest son’s bass guitar playing, and shared that Jesus was impressed, because “my boy plays bass guitar better than Jesus.” It was a jocular toss-off, based upon Jesus himself saying that “greater things would we do because he goes to the Father.” But it offended the pastor, who insisted that if Jesus wanted to play bass guitar, he’d be the “best bass guitar player in the world.”

We have become defensive. Desiring to do everything, we’ve ended up doing nothing. Keep in mind that perseverance is a virtue–but “stubborn” is a vice.

God the Father has given Mother Nature to us to clarify what we are good at and what we aren’t. If you have tried to do something five or six times and failed on each occasion, number seven is not going to work either. Although you may find testimonials of people insisting it was on the 28th occasion of launching their idea when it finally worked, God is pretty merciful. He lets us know when something is growing and when something is dying.

So that’s my message to the people of Emmaus and also to the folks who faithfully read this blog.

Stop trying to do things you can’t do.

It opens the door for others to perform their talent and magic, while you watch. And then they can step back and allow you the platform for your gifts.

We will continue to flounder in a series of projects, proposals and even prayers–unless we begin to assess what we do that actually works, and what we continue to chase, hoping it will catch fire.

The good news is that each one of you has gifts that have market quality and human ministry.

The better news is, if you will stop trying to do what you can’t do, you’ll have so much more time for what you do well.

 

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Good News and Better News… August 14th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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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… 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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