Jesonian … August 11th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Astonished.

It is the word that Saint Matthew selected, in his Gospel, to describe the reaction of the audience which heard Jesus of Nazareth share the Sermon on the Mount.

Some synonyms for astonished:

  • Shocked
  • Confounded
  • Bewildered
  • Astounded
  • Flabbergasted
  • Startled
  • Stunned
  • Dumbfounded
  • Blow your mind

Astonished is a word that combines impressed and alarmed.

It is the way Matthew perceived the mood of the hearers.

He added that they felt that Jesus had more “authority” than the scribes. As you probably know, the scribes were not the Pharisees. The scribes were the local ministers in charge of writing and reading the Law of Moses.

The style they imparted in sharing those ancient words was: read, said, dead. When the scribes read, they said what was exactly there–as dead as they possibly could, so as not to add too much flavor.

So as you can see, it was not a roaring accolade, to say that Jesus exceeded the knowledge or enthusiasm of the scribes.

The importance to the verse is that the people departing that day were “astonished.” What do people do when they’re astonished?

On the way home, as the afterglow disappears, they begin to pick at the corners of great ideas until they disassemble them, convincing themselves that these principles are implausible.

How do we know this is true?

Most of them do not follow Jesus down the hill, but instead, go to their homes, where they justify their disbelief.

Meanwhile, Jesus, who has just delivered the most radical, truthful and practical message ever heard on Earth, descends the hill, and is greeted by one leper, who asks for healing–who had probably missed the sermon.

After twenty-two years of traveling with my dear friend Janet Clazzy, to thousands of churches, I will tell you this:

It is very possible to stir up a congregation, and even their local shepherd, to the point of astonishment.

You can raise dead spirits that haven’t been alive since Grandma and Grandpa sat in the pews.

You can get people to clap, think, react, smile, and even do their best impersonation of loving one another. But you can’t go home with them.

And home is where they rationalize all their present actions–to avoid the horror of repentance.

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Ask Jonathots… August 11th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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There’s a lot of terrible things going on in the world lately and I don’t want fear to have control over my decisions. How do I make sure I am moving forward in freedom instead of fear?

Life is a tug of war between action and thinking.

We spend much of our early training fine-tuning our brains to make quality decisions based on knowledge, and therefore, hopefully low-risk adventures.

The difficulty with this approach is that thinking your way out of situations is unlikely. Normally we work our way out.

Human beings become afraid when we convince ourselves there’s nothing we can do and our minds become dumbfounded with anger and helplessness.

One of the things a person of faith is supposed to possess is an understanding that “going the second mile” gives us an activity to perform while we’re waiting for better options.

For after all, none of us are very good at sitting patiently by and waiting for the next bus of opportunity to come our way.

This is why Jesus said to “take no thought.”

If it turns out you can’t change the circumstances around you, thinking about it won’t improve things in the least, but instead, will drain the remaining hope and ability you might possess.

So whenever you run across a situation, you should ask one simple question: What can I do about this?

If the answer is “nothing,” make sure you distance yourself from the quandary and stop musing. But if you get a clear revelation about what you could contribute, insert it quickly and get the good vibrations that come from being involved.

How about an example or two?

Poverty.

You cannot make poor people comfortable all over the world, but you can be generous within your circle. That generosity not only radiates out, encouraging others to be more open-minded, but gives you a sense of completion.

Violence.

There’s probably nothing you can do about gun control in this country, but you certainly can control the amount of animosity and intimidation that you allow to be around you. Once again, you set in motion the possibility of trickling down to others while satisfying your soul’s need to improve matters instead of being afraid of the monsters.

Take action, not thought.

It is the best way in the world to chase away your fears and plant the seeds of solution.

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Fulfil or Destroy… May 13, 2013

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Good requires nothing of evil. On the other hand, evil desperately needs good to give up and lose heart. It puts evil in a disadvantageous position–always sniffing around great ideals to see if anyone is despairing.

So what is evil?

I will tell you this–it has a beginning, a middle and an end. If you allow it to start, it is very difficult to stop it.

The beginning of all evil is cynicism–mainly the contention that people are just no damn good. It doesn’t matter if it’s said by a jaded comedian or a preacher trying to save the lost. Anytime we attack human beings, trying to prove how stupid they are, how immoral they are, how destitute they are, how ignorant they are or how useless they are, we are setting a master plan in motion–to degrade us to evil.

Perhaps this is the only thing that religion and secularism have shared in common throughout history. They have both concluded that mankind is perniciously flawed, incapable of progress. Even though it contradicts the gospel of Jesus, which insists that the Kingdom of God is within us, it gains a tremendous following because we get to attack others while insisting that we’re not “quite as bad” as they are.

From that beginning comes a middle and the middle of all evil is always politics. And what is politics?

Well, since people are stupid and incapable of doing what’s right, somebody must step in and control them, bringing about more orderly results. Of course, this appears to be a powerful position, so cynical men who are on their way to evil vie for it. They argue, debate and bring everything to a standstill, making it seem even more likely that we’re all doomed to be dumbfounded.

Politics is not limited to government. There’s politics in religion, politics in romance, politics in education. Any time we believe that we can control our future by carefully plotting strategy and discussing it in a committee, we are on the verge of some sort of evil plotting.

So as you see, the beginning of evil is cynicism. The middle of evil is the muddle of politics. And the end is a resignation towards terminating the world.

Yes, all of our prophets, whether they be of global warming or the second coming of Christ, are yanking us towards an emotional quagmire of hopelessness. So what’s the point of pursuing excellence?

This is not limited to Bible-thumpers. Every movie in Hollywood made about the future contains some form of anarchy or cannibalism. It is evil. It is the opposite of what God intended when He placed a garden east of Eden and told us that we could tend it and be successful.

One day Jesus told his disciples, “I have not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

Jesus was probably the greatest revolutionary that ever lived. He turned the world upside down–but not by using cynicism, politics or preaching doom and gloom. He told people they were the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He told them to be perfect, even as their Father in heaven was perfect. And he told them to love their neighbor as themselves.

So be careful as you pursue your little tirade of righteousness–that you don’t accidentally slip into the TRUE axis of evil. You can always identify it: it begins with cynicism, in the middle transforms into politics and in the end is darned tootin’ sure that the world is going to blow up.

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