Jesonian–Troubling (Part 11)… September 9th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Most troubling.

I was a very naive, impressionable fifteen-year-old boy with a volatile battle between carnality and spirituality raging in my soul. I was very enamored with the pastor of my local church.

He had baptized me. In many ways, he had befriended me. And he had welcomed me into the small-town church, which was now growing because young people were bumping up against each other, carrying the fellowship they felt at school into a second Sunday morning experience.

I had also made another friend. He was a young minister from a different denomination–a forbidden one–who was cool, cared about me and loved rock and roll music.

So when I was talking to the pastor of my “every week church” about this young fellow, he suddenly frowned and warned, “Stay away from him. He preaches a social gospel.

I did not know what that meant, nor did I ask. But it sounded really bad. And the delivery was enough to nearly make my heart stop. “Social” could be “socialist,” which was communist. Don’t want any of that. So I cut off all ties with the young minister, much to his chagrin.

For you see, my pastor taught redemption. “The blood of Christ cleanses from all sins.”

And later on in my life, as a young man, I ran across those who preached “the full Gospel.” They believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and miracles were just as available to believers today as they were in the time of Peter, Paul and Mother Mary.

The bizarre fact is that these three renditions of the Gospel of Jesus–social, redemption, and full–don’t generally get along very well.

It is troubling.

It’s what makes the evangelical church anemic–because it lacks social passion along with personal motivation.

It makes the “social Gospel people” appear to read from a book that in many ways they no longer believe in.

And often the “full Gospel people” contend that without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you don’t have the presence of God working in your life.

It’s really quite befuddling.

  • Because you can’t start a fire with just a match.
  • Nor can you ignite a flame with kindling.
  • And no fire is possible minus oxygen.

It is the joining of all these forces that makes fire ablaze.

Therefore, to follow Jesus, you must have a social consciousness that shares a redemptive message, believing that God is still in the business of healing and moving by the Spirit.

Why would we want anything less than that? Why would we want to focus on one of these factors of fire, yet end up flameless?

Troubling.

I deeply believe in the social Gospel of Jesus. I believe there’s no need for me to bring my gift to the altar if I am not reconciled with my brothers and sisters. I believe I am to be the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

But I also believe that when I have obvious, evident weakness, it is the redemption of God’s grace, through the life-saving blood of Jesus, that pulls me through. But once I am redeemed, I am compelled, challenged and exhorted to trust that the same spirit that dwelt in Christ also dwells in me.

My gospel should be full.

And when it is full, redemptive and socially aware, I become of value to myself, mankind and the heavens.

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Good News and Better News … May 23rd, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Cross Plains

When I was twelve years old, a school buddy invited me to his church for a night of revival, with the tease of a delicious pot luck dinner preceding the event.

I was thrilled.

Of course, I was interested in the pot luck dinner, but much more excited over the chance to see my friend far away from school books and blackboards.

The revival was held at his home church–a Pentecostal Baptist.

I didn’t know much of anything at that point in my life, so I can’t tell you a lot about the evening’s activities, except that at one point during the sermon by the guest evangelist, he paused, staring at the audience with bulging eyes, sweat dripping from his brow, and proclaimed, “God’s grace cannot be earned, nor can it ever be lost.”

The reason I remember this statement is that it evoked an explosion of cheers, applause and “hallelujahs.” The folks really liked it.

Of course they did.

We all deeply enjoy free stuff.

The idea that none of us had to work on our salvation or had any chance of losing it just because we went on a “lying spree” was certainly intoxicating to the spirit.

But unfortunately, when you put no expectations on human beings, generally speaking, you get no production.

When I visited Fishersville United Methodist Church yesterday, I was struck by two outstanding realizations:

  1. These were some lovely, intelligent and caring people.
  2. But left to themselves, they can be lazy, uncaring and unfeeling.

I will tell you that no Creator with the intelligence to make a kidney which enables us to pee would ever let human beings think they did not need to be involved in their own lives, or even their own salvation.

We certainly wouldn’t do that with our children: “I love you, Johnny, so you don’t need to do any chores or clean your room because my affection is enough.”

If we did that we would be in danger of raising a criminal or a politician.

It is important to realize that God loves us.

But He’s also provided a purpose for life, where we learn to take responsibility for ourselves and save some extra time to assist others.

I refer to it as “sanity saves.”

If you do not stay involved in your own life, with an awareness of what you need to work on, your brain will deteriorate to the point that learning ceases to be possible. Then you’re stuck with what you know and nothing else.

God gives me a “sanity save” every day.

My mind is renewed by the celebration of knowing that the Gospel that Jesus preached is not only a message to make me Heaven-worthy, but also Earth-friendly.

It gives me sanity and it saves me from becoming an emotional and spiritual bum.

Without these sanity saves, we start relying too much on chance, fear or a presumptuous faith to carry us through difficulties, instead of using principle, prayer and the power of learning to grant us the wisdom to overcome.

As the folks came to my table yesterday, I found myself conversing with an 89-year-old World War II veteran. He was standing next to a nine-year-old boy.

They both came to chat with me. I looked into their eyes and saw the same thing. There was a sparkle of enthusiasm with the moisture of repentance.

It is what makes us powerful human beings–that which excites us should make us repent. And the repentance stimulates more excitement.

Sanity saves: when we take the salvation provided and turn it into a lifestyle that considers others.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that God’s grace is never deserved, but does offer us lives of sanity.

 

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Confessing… October 10th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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XXIII

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

In an attempt to avoid guilt, we have generated many words and terms to escape the responsibility of telling the truth.

It’s really lying, but now it comes under the guise of “padding your resume, misinformation, mis-spoke, you misunderstood me” or what I call promo talk.

Promo talk is when the real story is not big enough to match our ego.

So we elaborate, and in the process we end up proving that we’re ashamed of the extent of what we’ve done.

It all comes from a basic insecurity which is grounded in a deception:

God, you and that damn piece of bad luck screwed me.

Because it’s not proper or kind to be so blatant, we choose instead to embellish the details of our successes and deny the elements of our failures.

I am guilty.

I have known it for many years, and I have gradually attempted to pull myself out of the abyss of the procedure.

But it’s tricky.

  • I’ve lied about my education.
  • I’ve lied about my relationships.
  • I’ve lied about the extent of my impact.
  • And I’ve lied about not lying.

It’s all because I refuse to look at the beauty of my journey and realize that God’s grace is sufficient for me–without addendum.

I’m sorry. Yes, I am so sorry that I haven’t let the facts speak for themselves.

After all, I will not become more powerful by flexing mythical muscle.

I will not become more intelligent by claiming false degrees.

And I will not become more valuable by elaborating on my qualities.

Promo talk is lying. It doesn’t seem that way because everybody does it. It appears to be just good business.

But good business becomes bad business when we have to cheat ourselves out of the simplicity of standing on our record instead of jumping up on the soapbox and screaming to be heard.

 

Confessing barbershop singer

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Jesonian: This Ole’ House … July 6, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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housePictured is a house I ran across in Janesville, Wisconsin, during my touring. It is owned by somebody, but unoccupied. There are no people on the premises because the residence is broken apart, the windows are shattered, and the general appearance is deteriorating.

A thought came to my mind. What does the owner think when he drives by the possession? Does he remember former times, when the edifice was beautiful and a source of joy to a family? Or does his mind race with ideas on how to renovate the surroundings, making them livable again and restoring the glory?

Or I suppose a third choice is that he turns their head away so as not to deal with the eye-sore.

I think this is the situation we face in the church.

We know that people are supposed to be changed. An encounter with Jesus historically, and certainly Biblically, always resulted in some sort of massive transformation.

But often, it seems the best we can offer to the congregant is the chance to give a testimony about how bad things were or how great things will be someday “when we all get to heaven.”

In the pursuit of showing compassion, we may have accidentally drained the actual passion out of the soul and faith of the believer.

For after all, we spend so much time talking about God’s grace and so little time reminding people that Jesus told folks it was their faith that made them whole.

Matter of fact, it doesn’t take a theologian’s understanding to comprehend that Jesus was in the business of making abundant life for people on earth, not just in heaven.

You can the teachings of Jesus balance beautifully on two axioms:

  1. He that endures to the end will be saved.
  2. Go the second mile.

After all, what got Jesus very excited was when people showed initiative, reached out and touched the hem of his garment, had faith for their servant to be healed, or lepers who tracked him down to gain cleansing.

He admired initiative. Dare say, he rewarded it.

Removing such initiative from our faith in an attempt to establish the supremacy of God is unfortunately the way we remove the glory from God, which He would receive from people praising our good works.

Jesus is to appreciate that he was a teacher who wanted to impart a lifestyle, not just a salvation plan.

I don’t know whether that house in Janesville will ever be restored, but for it to happen, someone will have to admit that it’s messed up, the glory days are not coming back and there’s no guarantee that the future holds promise for miraculous renovation.

It will need work.

We do need endurance. And we do require the energy and excitement to go the second mile.

So don’t rob people of the blessing of having Jesus speak to them admiringly: “Your faith has made you whole.”

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Full of Wonder … September 16, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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watchLife is usually so full that we wonder if things are going to work. Yes, those are the building blocks for wonderful.

Without the pressure and often intimidation of a challenging schedule, there is also an absence of the possibility of great benefit and blessing.

I ran headlong into this scenario yesterday. I arrived at a church where things were very busy. After all, there was a boy who needed to be baptized, church ladies who required thanks for all their work putting together delicacies, finance procured for the congregation, the “pray” needed “luded” and the “dox” needed a bit of “ology.”

It kind of squeezed me into a corner of limited time and  I felt like an accordionist in a polka band who thought he was coming to perform for a bar mitzvah but ended up gigging at a circumcision–cut short.

Being a human, my first inclination was to be frustrated. Now understand–this was not directed at anyone else, it was just that my “full” didn’t seem to be heading towards “wonder.”

I took a deep breath–literally–then set into motion a process I have grown accustomed to using when my humanity wants to become unraveled in public.

1. Less is more, if less is given a chance. In other words, whatever time I use, I should use wisely and excellently.

2. Don’t be in a hurry when you haven’t got enough time to waste. The three crazy demons that infest humanity, causing us to look inept, are hurry, worry and flurry. (They tend to clump, by the way.)

3. Rejoicing is more attractive than lamenting. Being grateful for the opportunity to have any opening in life is much more powerful than complaining about the portion provided.

4. Focus on people, and God will show up. After all, nobody out in the audience knew what I expected, so any complaint coming from my lips would make me look absolutely ridiculous.

5. Nothing is personal unless you take it personally.

6. Do well. Sometimes the spotlight only hits you for a minute. Be ready.

7. And finally, don’t expect–but do be prepared.

I just exercised my human right to buy some time and do things better instead of freaking out and doing things poorly and making excuses about my lousy presentation.

You know what? It ended up being a great day, even amazing.

For the reason that God’s grace is sufficient for us is not just that He gives us favor because we’re His children–it’s because He gives us full schedules, where we wonder if things are going to work out.

And when they do, we discover the true definition of “wonderful.”

 

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