Good News and Better News … March 5th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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A Jesus mask: Putting the face of Jesus on things we have decided are nice, easy, positive or comfortable.

In doing this, we attempt to transform the Gospel into a social message which is palatable for our chosen lifestyle, never really asking ourselves if it has a universal flavor.

Honestly, I almost didn’t write about this today–there are so many examples that I didn’t know how to isolate them off to the number of paragraphs you would be willing to read–but I trust that you might be willing to do some investigation on your own. So let’s look at three of the masks:

1. If you work real hard, you can get whatever you want.

You hear this on every talk show. During the Olympics it became a mantra. The variations, like “dream big, get big” pepper the common dialogue of the average day.

We put Jesus’ face on it. We decide it sounds like Jesus. But Jesus spoke a startling phrase: “To those who have, more shall be given, and to those who have not, even the little they have will be taken away from them.”

2. Giving to the poor is the highest form of charity.

It makes for a great nightly news story–some individual or organization passing sandwiches out to the homeless, complete with a hygiene kit of toothbrush, toothpaste and a small washcloth.

We’re moved to tears. We put a Jesus mask on it.

But Jesus said “the poor you have with you always.” They’re not going to go away. “Do for them what you can” but don’t make it an all-encompassing mission.

Poverty is more than a lack of things. It is often a lack of understanding.

3. God has a wonderful plan for your life.

Now we’re really crying, because even though we’re going through these huge problems, in the long run God will pluck us out of our pain and place us on higher ground. Unfortunately, although we put the Jesus mask onto this concept, his message was quite different.

Jesus said, “Except ye repent, you will perish.” In other words, ladies and gentlemen, you are in the middle of an evolving situation and an evolving planet, so you’d better evolve or you will dissolve.

Jesus is not against positive thinking. Jesus just wants us to understand that thinking good thoughts and clinging to them by faith is not the same as “letting your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.”

The good news is that the Gospel is meant for humans.

The better news is, the Gospel makes us better, not things better.

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What You Get Is What You See… December 22, 2011

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Jonathan in Miami

He handed me a pamphlet. He was obviously very proud of it. It was an advertisement for a seminar on leadership–twenty-four weeks. I glanced down and read the first line written on flap one.  “Training leaders is a complex process.” I felt a big “uh-oh” shudder through my soul. I knew the gentleman was well-intentioned but he had committed the cardinal sin of motivating and working with people. He began his spiel by making it clear it was hard–or as he phrased it, “complex.”

I do not know when it became a symbol of intelligence to portray the follow-through on a plan as being difficult. I guess we feel more noble when there’s some pain associated with our ultimate pleasure. I suppose we fear that unless there are some bruises, there’s no evidence that we’ve survived a conflict.

It just doesn’t work.

When Jesus came to earth, he tried to explain to the religious leaders that they had made everything so difficult that no one could possibly achieve it, let alone desire to pursue it. Simultaneously these same religious leaders failed to offer assistance to their flailing congregations on how to survive the processes.

Jesus said his way was easy. He said, “Come and I’ll give you rest.” He told us to stop worrying. He encouraged us to count the cost and if we found out we couldn’t do it, just to discover a way to make peace with ourselves over our present lacking.

Making things complicated does not make them better. Do you hear that? It is a two-fold problem caused by a two-headed monster. The problem is that most people want to control their lives when the best we can hope for is to contribute. I am fully aware every day as I walk into the great arena of humanity that I certainly do not have all the answers and may not have any. What I have is a backpack of talent and a jug of grace. Those are my two great offerings to humankind–a backpack of talent, which hopefully I have tried and tested and can confidently assert as being intact and ready to go–and a jug of grace, which I am ready to pour out to others for their foibles (and to myself when some of my efforts turn comical).

I am a contributor, not a controller. I would dare say that most people are not happy unless they feel they have control over their lives–and the absence of control is not only inevitable, but may actually be necessary for us to maintain emotional balance, spiritual maturity and mental health.

The reason we feel that life is complex is that deep in our inner parts, we think that when push comes to shove, it will be all up to us. We do not anticipate that other contributors will come along and bolster our contribution to a mutual conclusion. Why is that?  It is caused by the two-headed monster which prompts us to believe that we need to control instead of contribute. Here’s why:

1. “I need to be perfect.” Of course, we aren’t. So when we fall short of the glory of our own expectations, we are forced into a profile of lying to make things look better. Even though people will say they are not perfect, they will go ahead and stomp and stump to make themselves look righteous in every endeavor. Freeing oneself of the need to be perfect–or even to come close–is allowing your being to contribute to a potential blessing instead of trying to control the final score.

But the reason we feel the need to be perfect is the second head of the monster:

2. “We believe that God has a plan.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Almost Biblical. Part of us wants God to be manipulative so we don’t have any responsibility. But how could God have a plan?? He created human beings and gave them free will and then told them that He loved them no matter what, fully aware of their capacity to fall short of the glory of His ideal. If God really had a plan and we kept  turning in “incompletes” in His class, then aren’t we speaking of a salvation endeavor that is doomed to failing grade? God cannot work with human beings and have a plan. Let me reinforce that. I can’t work with human beings and have a plan! Can you? Because if I have a plan and insist on maintaining every iota of its premises, I will end up hating everyone I work with and privately want to kill them.

  • God gives free will.
  • Free will breeds eccentricity.
  • Eccentricity produces evolution.
  • Evolution sparks change towards the more workable.
  • More workable ideas lead to greater understanding and easier labor.
  • Easier labor lends itself to peace of mind
  • And peace of mind takes us right back to God.

This is the glorious circle of life.

So even though my friend thought he was being extraordinarily deep by claiming that training leaders was a complex process, unless he simplifies it down by teaching people to become contributors without needing to control, and that perfection is not necessary to participate because God has not locked into a plan, waiting for us to measure up, he will end up laying a foundation and never constructing a house.

Life is not “what you see is what you get.” Rather, life is “what you get is what you see.”

In other words, today’s opportunity shows up and the fruit of that possibility is borne out only through how we see it and decide to contribute to it. I realize this morning that my day will unfold. My reactions are unknown even to the heavens and the best I can do is contribute, surrendering the foolish notion of controlling.

Contribute. Don’t control. Stop trying to be perfect. Settle for using your talent and extending your mercy–and rejoice because God doesn’t have a plan.

Because if He did … He would probably have to snuff us.

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Merry Christmas! Listen to Jangled, below — the snazziest mix of Jingle Bells, Carol of the Bells and Silver Bells you’ll ever hear!

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To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!

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

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