Good News and Better News … March 19th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I can be a brat.

I must confess it, because sometimes it’s obvious. I get used to my own voice, own thoughts, own beliefs, and then everything else seems to dim in comparison.

I know a lot of bratty Christians. They are people, like myself, who are quite dissatisfied with the religious system and its cantankerous and stubborn practices, which keep people from pursuing personal excellence.

I can be a brat. I even caught myself criticizing the inception of “Christian movies” that offer an alternative to existing Hollywood fragmentation, presenting my thesis that these religious flicks are too filled with pat answers and unrealistic scenarios.

Actually, I suffer from the mindset of a predecessor who also had the name John. John the Disciple came to Jesus, explaining that they had come across a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and when the disciples demanded the gentleman come and join their flock and follow, he refused.

John was infuriated. Not only did this gentleman rebuff any attempt to get in step with the program, but he felt he had the right to have a separate outreach other than theirs.

When I read this, I had to giggle. At this point, Jesus hadn’t died or resurrected, but there was already an independent work based on his teachings. We were already starting denominations before there was even a church.

When I read John’s complaint, I feel great empathy.

Why can’t this guy just come and be part of us? Certainly Jesus will be pissed off by this rip-off artist and sue his ass!

You see, John was being a brat, too.

Jesus gives a fascinating response. It’s in two parts:

1. Leave him alone.

2. Those who are not against us are for us.

My dear friends, I don’t believe in either of these statements. I am convinced that if you leave false ideas alone, they just get “falser” (which, by the way, I know is not a word.)

And I don’t believe that simply because someone uses the name “Jesus,” they are my brother or sister.

But I am wrong. I’m also a brat–because there is one thing we know for sure:

Whatever rendition we have come up with of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth is the daily comedy material shared by the angels and God in heaven. They certainly laugh at us.

For no one will end up being right. We’ll all be surprised at how the universe actually functions and “clicks together.”

So what is the point of getting self-righteous and bratty? I have developed two guidelines:

A. Love your neighbor as yourself

B. Don’t judge and don’t even think about judging others.

Those who do not hold these principles in supreme position are not my enemies–just not my comrades. Jesus tells me to leave them alone. It will play out.

He’s so right.

So the good news is, since every one of us is basically ignorant, there’s no need to be a brat.

The better news is, if we leave people alone who don’t agree with us, it gives us more time to enjoy the fellowship with those who share our hearts.

 

 

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Ask Jonathots… September 13th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I have some very intelligent conservative friends, but they seem like they will give up all logic concerning this election. Why will they give up their logic just to see their candidate prevail?

During a very brief period of deprivation, I ended up living on a farm with a fine gentleman who generously afforded me a chance to regain my feet.

I was grateful for the mercy. I wanted to help.

One day I asked him if there was anything I could do, and he led me over to some firewood. He requested that I stack it up against the side of the house. I agreed.

I had never done this before. So when I came to the side of the house, I saw two wooden planks on the ground, and thinking they were castaways, I removed them so I could place the wood in neat piles. Try as I might, I could never get the wood to stack correctly, and every time I thought I had figured out the right angles, it would slide down and fall to the side. I worked on it for three hours but made little progress.

When my benefactor returned, he asked me where the boards were that were supposed to be lying on the ground near the house. I explained I had removed them because I thought they were unnecessary. He laughed.

He said, “You need the two boards down on the ground. Otherwise the wood won’t stack right. The ground is too uncertain to keep things straight.”

Such is the case in this election year.

In an attempt to stack up ideas, goals, agendas and proposals, we have removed the planks that make everything work.

Very good people have ignored their basic truths in an attempt to elect their candidate. But you see, when you remove the boards–the principles and abiding notions of humanity–the ideas just don’t stack up.

I do not know what your planks of principle may be. I only have two:

  • No one is better than anyone else.
  • Don’t judge.

When I lay those down as the foundation for my thinking, my ideas and opportunities begin to stack up better. If I remove them, I find myself becoming too partisan, selfish, self-righteous and unfortunately ignorant.

Your conservative friends, just like your liberal ones, have decided to ignore the fallacies of both candidates. Why? Because they foolishly believe that the end justifies the means.

In an attempt to appoint Supreme Court justices, secure the borders or even promote the overuse of entitlement, they have abandoned the planks.

So my best advice in handling these last days leading up to the election is for each and every one of us to find our planks of purpose again, and then stack up these candidates in relationship to them.

For me, I would have to ask which candidate is the least offensive to “no one is better than anyone else” and “don’t judge.”

Based upon that decision, I would make my selection.

So when you talk to your friends–be they conservative or liberal–start the discussion by asking them what are the two greatest planks of their principles.

Then stack the wood accordingly.

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Good News and Better News … October 10th, 2016

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good-news-holly-sign-facesWhether you’re promoting the idea that Mexicans are rapists or insisting that your political opponents should be stuffed in a basket labeled “deplorables,” you have basically failed to recognize the central meteoric truth of life on Planet Earth:

Our human journey is about getting along with humans.

The ministry of Jesus is capsulized in how we treat others. Also, our relationship with God is determined by how well we welcome those who have been deemed worthless.

When I arrived at the Holly Calvary Church to meet the energetic and engaged Pastor Cliff and his congregation, I was fully aware that nothing I have to share has any value if I am a grump.

Yes.

  • I am my Gospel.
  • I am my message.
  • My facial expression is what I think God feels about people.

And my attitude is certainly my theology.

During one of the prayers, a word came to my mind: exceedingly.

good-news-holly-sign-namesLooking back on the past week in America, there have been people who are exceedingly mad. They want to get even. They want to hurt somebody. Their energy is fueled by fury.

There are people who are exceedingly sad. They’ve given up. They’ve decided to settle. Despair has become their cry for retreat.

What we desperately need–and what I shared with the good folks in Holly–is the message of Jesus: rejoice and be exceedingly glad.

What does that mean? Why isn’t “glad” enough? Why does it need to be “exceedingly?”

Because mad and sad people try to cover up their true motivations with missions which seem to be legitimate. So if our gladness doesn’t spill out of us like cold water from melted mountain snow, then it will be difficult to set ourselves apart from those who snarl and sigh.

Pastor Cliff is encouraging his church to get back to the Word of God. I agree. That “Word” is personified in the lifestyle of Jesus. He is the Word. And he wants us to be glad.

How do we know when we’re being glad?

  1. We decide to love everybody even if it seems ridiculous.
  2. We refuse to judge anybody even if it appears necessary.
  3. We determine to help everybody find their abundant life.

I truly believe if the absolutely amazing individuals I met yesterday in Holly will generate love, stop judging and aid their brothers and sisters in finding life, which is grounded in the Word, they can also be free of religious chains.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that “exceedingly glad” does come with the additional benefit of personal smiles and inner joy.

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G-Poppers … September 9th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sometimes G-Pop forgets.

He is suddenly overwhelmed by the nasty, cantankerous, mostly-cloudy conclusions, and then drenched in the negativity.

Weathering the storm.

What G-Pop forgets is that there are two worlds: the world around him and the world of his undertaking.

It is so easy to get trapped into believing that significant change can be accomplished by arguing, fussing, preaching or evaluating the lives and actions of eight billion other people.

But we’re all human. We want everything, everywhere, to be just fine. And by “just fine,” we mean “to our liking.”

There is only one world. It is the world where we live and have some sense of contribution.

But to keep on that straight and narrow of wisdom, G-Pop realizes that certain ideas need to be honored on a daily basis:

1. No one is better than anyone else.

Even if you have information to the contrary or discover evidence which contradicts such a noble notion, be intelligent enough to ignore it.

2. Don’t judge anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Even if you feel you have the backing of eternity or a stack of holy books, laugh at your inclination to be superior.

3. Stop thinking big.

It sets your mind to enormous expectation which causes the smaller opportunities to escape your vision. Life is not about a magic wand which causes dreams to appear, but rather, a pile of bricks, which we put in place one at a time.

4. Laugh.

It’s better than crying, and even if weeping comes for a season, be prepared for it to turn into giggling. Taking things seriously only puts you in serious trouble.

5. Don’t stop believing, but don’t rely on it.

Believing has an unrighteous tendency to wait too long before determining to do something. If you want God to know that you believe, start working with what you already have.

You see, sometimes G-Pop forgets these things. The bickering causes him to become cynical, or worse, proud.

When G-Pop lives in his own world, change actually seems possible.

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Jesonian: The Rule of the School … November 15th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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The latest piece of pseudo-intellectual drivel seems to be the jaded proclamation, “People don’t change.”

It’s especially disheartening when coming from the mouth of a prison warden, a psychiatrist or a minister.

I suppose we could take this entire essay to discuss the validity or over-simplification of such a decree. Matter of fact, as Christians we could cite that even though the disciples spent at least 38 months with Jesus of Nazareth, the amount of personality and ethical change inside each one of them was questionable.

Peter may have confessed his faith, but he was still prone to over-exaggeration and eventually, denial.

James and John may have ceased to be fishermen, but maintained much of their prejudice, wanting to kill a group of Samaritans.

Thomas certainly had a conversion experience, which he often chose to doubt.

And Judas was elected treasurer, only to betray his position… and his friend.

So it is obvious to me that Jesus was the Christ, but not necessarily able to completely change goats into sheep. No, it seems that we get lost in that process and end up basically being asses.

Yet I must tell you, if I thought that change was impossible, I would not be able to tolerate the mediocrity of the world around me.

So what is the truth?

Actually the truth is a coagulation of two principles. Whatever you are, whatever you were, whatever your inklings or whatever your genetics, you can be transformed by a pair of unchanging and necessary conclusions.

We call the first one the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Yet I must tell you, that single concept becomes merely idealistic if you don’t take the “rule to school.”

In other words, if you do not allow the truth of the Golden Rule to enter your daily activities, you will worship the premise as you simultaneously defile it.

There has to be an application for the cleansing power of “love your neighbor.” This is found in John the 8th Chapter, verse 15. Jesus makes a simple statement.

He says, “You judge according to the flesh. I judge no man.”

We do become different people when we realize that “loving our neighbor as ourself” is the survival mode for human interaction, and that the only way to apply it is to never judge anyone.

You may feel an inclination towards a lifestyle, a genetic predisposition, or have just developed habits which seem to cling to you like feathers in the wind, but you can still be completely reborn by realizing that loving your neighbor is refusing to participate in any judgment about him or her.

Are you ready for some truth?

  • Jesus did not believe in adultery, but he forgave an adulterous woman.
  • At no point in the Gospels will you find a situation when Jesus supported gay marriage, yet I guarantee you–he would never condemn a homosexual.
  • It would be difficult to make a case for Jesus being pro-choice, but it would be equally as difficult to think that he would forbid a woman the right to choose.

I am often confused why we think it is necessary to hold a conviction and then force others to comply.

For instance, I do not like alcohol and never have. Yet I would be completely against Prohibition.

I think smoking marijuana is granting yourself a license to be inept in the name of recreational drugs, but by the same nature, I think it’s wrong to condemn and incarcerate those who want to puff.

An obvious way we can all change is to admit that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the essential chemical compound of life, but the only way to take that rule to school is to refuse to judge anyone.

It is never all right, and certainly is never God-ordained.

Even though the Apostle Paul had his experience on the road to Damascus, by the time he got on the road to Corinth, he had somewhat turned back into an officious, overly opinionated Pharisee.

But there is one thing he never lost: the realization that we are to love one another … which means expressing mercy instead of judgment.

 

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Jesonian: Judgeless… May 24th, 2015

   Jonathots Daily Blog

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At an early age, I awoke from a theological nightmare, quickly realizing that Christianity was not about relating to a composite of Moses, David, Abraham, Joseph, Jesus and the Apostle Paul, but rather, an intriguing study of the personality and character of a Nazarene carpenter, who became a philosophical, healing Redeemer.

I dubbed this pursuit Jesonian.

One of my earliest revelations in this quest was that Jesus did not judge.

This was not an assessment on my part or a consensus of his actions. He said it.

“I do not judge. If I did judge, it would be righteous and fair, but I do not judge.”

To confirm this, he dealt with Herod the Great, who as the story goes, was guilty of killing babies. Infanticide. Yes, it is said that Herod slaughtered all the children two years and under in Bethlehem. Jesus never mentions it.

Jesus also coexisted with the Romans, who arguably might be considered the most hedonistic and cruel dictators of all time. His response concerning them was, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

He was criticized for befriending tax collectors, who were traitors to their Jewish brothers and also thieves, levying extra penalties without legal right. He welcomed them as disciples.

He constantly had to dodge the attacks of the Pharisees, who had turned spirituality into an exercise for profit and gain. He told his disciples to “honor their position, just don’t follow their doctrine.”

And of course, his response to sexual immorality was to rescue a woman who was caught in adultery and was about to be stoned by the tenets of Mosaic Law. He snatches her from death, forgives her and gives her the opportunity to “go and sin no more.”

He further enraged the pious prudes around him by saying that the prostitutes would enter the kingdom of God before the religious leaders.

So surrounded by baby killers, hedonists, injustice, cheats, liars and sexual immorality, Jesus decided not to judge.

Stop and think about that.

You see, it’s not that I don’t have opinions.

It’s not that prejudices don’t scream inside me for justification.

It’s the fact that my example–Jesus–felt no need to judge the world nor condemn it, but instead, quietly offered a lifestyle alternative which he died to validate.

 

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Jesonian: Initially Involved… January 25, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Much to the chagrin of many religious people, Jesus was not born in America, nor does he have a palatial home in Nashville, Tennessee.

Not only does this rule him out from being voted President of the United States, it also demands that we recognize that he lived as a person two thousand years ago, among impoverished people who were cruelly dominated by an Empire and under subjugation to a religious system which believed that any variation of personality was proof of infestation of a demon.

All science was considered witchcraft and anything that was contrary to the top ten commandments and the many interpretations that had occurred since their unfolding was deemed “Gentile.”

So during the short-lived campaign of “What Would Jesus Do?”, the question, rather than stimulating debate and revelation, left most twenty-first century Christians baffled and frustrated.

What seems safer to us is to worship Jesus instead of follow him.

The difficulty with that is that mere reverence of “the Christ” leaves no footprint of the Jesonian in our own generation.

So please allow me to share the text abbreviations of the philosophy and thoughts of Jesus of Nazareth, which have survived the sands of time and continue to pop out of his teachings with prevalence. They are:

  • DJ
  • PR
  • MT
  • KOGIWM

If you can remember these four, you can pretty well apply a wonderful grid of how you want to “initially” become involved in your society while still maintaining the integrity and power of the message.

DJ: Don’t judge.

Don’t even think about judging. Don’t insert thoughts and scream that they’re “just opinions.” The minute you find yourself discussing another human being, run from the room as if you’ve just discovered that your leg is on fire.

No amount of judging is permitted in the Jesonian philosophy.

PR: Personal responsibility.

Jesus made it clear that most of our problems are caused by assuming that others have offended us, God needs more prayer from us or “the devil’s out to get us.” Just living your own life in your own space and working on your strengths and foibles is enough to keep any mortal busy for the time allotted.

MT: Multiply talent.

You have ability. Lamenting that it is not enough or pretending it doesn’t exist is what leads to the kind of resentment and jealousy that makes us spend too much time petitioning God instead of counting our blessings.

Try new things, and when those fail, try more.

KOGIWM: The kingdom of God is within me.

Every time I look outside myself to discover the purposes of the universe or the potentials for spirituality to impact my world, I have looked too far.

If it’s going to happen it needs to start with me.

If it’s going to start with me, I need to recognize that God is not only with me, but He’s entrusted the message to my care.

Here’s a simple statement to remember: In the pursuit of the obscure, we obscure the pursuit.

Anyone who tells you that prayer is the key to heaven forgets that we spend an awful lot of time on earth before our reward.

DJ, PR, MT, KOGIWM

It is a quick capsulization of how Jesus lived and also how he would continue to live … whether in Birmingham, Alabama, or Hong Kong.

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