Good News and Better News… July 24th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3378)

Sunday morning, bright and early, I headed off with my buddy, Janet, to St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Melbourne (even though the words “bright and early” should never appear in the same sentence.)

Over the years, Ms. Clazzy and I have learned a very important lesson: those who have gathered in a church are not there to see us, no matter how much we’ve been advertised. And they’re not necessarily there to learn about God, either.

They are accustomed to gathering. It is a tradition. Each one has his or her reasons for being there–ranging from preparing the coffee to loving the organ music, to appreciating communion, to getting stuck with usher duty.

So it is ridiculous for the two of us to think that we will come in and move mountains, or even rearrange dirt piles. Our job is simple–and made easier by the kindness of those who assisted us with our equipment and by the tender spirit of Pastor Blaine Johnson.

We are to be grateful for those who’ve attended, encourage what we see that’s positive, and gently address what’s missing.

Without the initial burst of gratitude for what is available, you immediately becomes the eternal brat who is never satisfied unless you get your own way.

Do I wish there were more people at St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, since there aren’t.

Do I wish I was going to larger churches than St. Timothy Lutheran Church? I don’t give it a second thought, because I’m not.

I am grateful for all the souls before me.

Then there are things that come out which are delightful and positive. There are people who greet you even though they have never seen you before. There is a sense of organization that lends itself to progress instead of chaos. Opportunities.

Yet in the midst of Jan and myself being grateful and reveling in the positives set before us, some missing spaces are obvious. Shall we refer to these as an absence of the presence?

  • An absence of the presence of jubilation.
  • An absence of the presence of radiant joy.
  • An absence of the presence of personalizing the message of Jesus to our own endeavors.
  • An absence of the presence of giggling.
  • An absence of the presence of the hand clapping which symbolizes confirmation of inner glee.

Just quietly ask the question, what’s missing?–and then allow the Spirit of God to offer suggestions.

So while grateful for the congregated and my celebration of the positives, I talked to them about passion–the ability for the heart to stimulate praise instead of relying on the memory.

Did we make progress? Will next Sunday’s service at St. Timothy reflect any of the energy of the visitation?

It’s a foolish question; irrelevant.

Because the good news is that Pastor Blaine and the fine folks of St. Timothy found it in their hearts to invite us to come and share our talents.

And the better news is that God, in His infinite wisdom, leaves it up to each individual soul to determine what he or she will do with what has been seen and heard.Donate Button

 

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Good News and Better News… July 17th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3371)

Church attendance is dropping.

The statement is so widely accepted that no one is objecting, nor considering the ramifications.

We are absolutely terrified if the ocelot become an endangered species, but barely flick an eyebrow over losing an intricate part of our society–the church.

Those who hate the church smile in a bit of wistful glee, and those who still attend look around at the empty room, shrug their shoulders and quietly head to the altar for communion.

If the American church dissipates to nothing, what are we losing?

We are forfeiting a place where once a week we can come and admit that we’re sinners. The humility does us good.

Also, it’s a location where we can rejoice over being forgiven.

Where else in America do you sit in a room and sing with other people?

How about the message? A lesson on the power of good.

It gives us the chance to be quiet. Everything roars around us–and we have a tendency to roar back.

When I was growing up, I was suddenly around kids from other school districts, who became my “church friends.”

It gives me a chance to think about possibilities other than myself.

While I’m trying to stay awake, I have the realization that I’m part of something.

I have to look for a shirt that matches my socks.

I find myself giving.

I also am put in the position to receive.

I’m actually leaving my home for something other than shopping, games, movies and dinner.

I am in a room full of people who will pray for me.

When church is done right, I can question. I can doubt. I can shout.

I can see, hear, feel and touch the gospel.

We certainly should be concerned about baby seals–they are a part of creation.

But if we allow the church to go the way of the dodo bird, we should stop wondering why things are not flying high and straight.

The good news is, there is still a church out there.

The better news is, that church is waiting for our unique input.

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Good News and Better News… July 10th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3363)

There’s only one rule.

Everything else is suggestions based upon respect to that principle.

The one rule is simple: love your neighbor as yourself. It also has a valuable addendum: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In other words, while you’re loving yourself and your neighbor, you’ll probably end up doing something, so start learning to:

Do for two.

Me and you.

So powerful is this rule that it has intelligently been dubbed “Golden.” It is not a thought. It is not a point of discussion. And it is not debatable based on our particular definition of “neighbor.” Matter of fact, it affords us the expansive notion that these others we are to “do unto” include dogs, cats, trees, the sky and the entire cosmos. (He that has an ear, let him hear.)

But this Golden Rule cannot be replaced, displaced or even considered equal with other practices.

For instance, I believe in prayer. Sometimes it’s very helpful in assisting me to love my neighbor as myself. But it is not a substitute.

I like to read the Good Book. It gives me insights on better ways to communicate with my neighbors. But reading is not living.

Going to church offers fellowship and encouragement to pursue the goal–yet attendance to such a worship experience does not guarantee adherence to the ultimate truth.

Jesus did not die for the sins of the world–he died for the Golden Rule. Because without it, the world is beset by sin.

I just thought I should mention this to you today, just in case you were getting caught up in recent spiritual fads and Biblical chicken tracks.

The good news is, there is a rule.

The better news is, when applied, the gold makes us all rich.Donate Button

 

 

 

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Good News and Better News… June 26th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3349)

It is a tale of two Mounts.

One is called Mount Calvary, where the Prince of Peace was crucified at the bequest of angry religionists and indecisive politicians who were bound and determined to maintain the status quo.

The other mount was a place where Jesus came face-to-face with the human race and made his case.

He talked about personal responsibility–how we are responsible for our own lives, responsible to study Mother Nature, responsible to take care of one another, responsible to curb our anger and lust and responsible to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the Earth.”

Yet the American church is totally obsessed with Mount Calvary, spending countless hours teaching all congregants about the atoning gift of the blood of Christ and even sharing a meal of remembrance.

The other Mount–the Mount of Message, the Mount of Human Transformation–is parsed and referenced, but rarely presented as the necessary philosophy for human beings to get along.

Although we should never forget the courageous sacrifice of Jesus on Mount Calvary, we must realize that what sets Jesus apart from Buddha, Moses, Mohammed and any other religions icon, is that he taught us to use our talents, love one another and remain in good cheer instead of blaming other religions, cutting off the lifeline of our emotions, or spending countless hours pleading with the heavens.

The answer to this dilemma is easily understood by paraphrasing a comment from Jesus. He once said, you shouldn’t leave this one undone, but you should pursue the “weightier matters” of life.

Amen.

Once I understand that Jesus was so enthralled with the propagation of his message that he was willing to die for it, I can go back into those simple, practical axioms and find the way, the truth and the life.

For you see, the good news is that Jesus died for our sins.

The better news is, before he died, he taught us how to live.

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Good News and Better News… June 19th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3342)

Dislike–deciding to “diss” liking.

In the pursuit of what we call love, and even unconditional love, we’ve reached a point where we just don’t like each other anymore. We have the appearance of Atlas carrying the world on our shoulders because we feel compelled by our civilized natures to be as calm as possible.

We “diss” liking. We claim great affection for souls around us while privately rolling our eyes, communicating that they are annoying.

So when I arrived yesterday morning at the Ruskin United Methodist Church, I was looking for people who like each other. Because here’s the truth–a paraphrase of John the Apostle: I don’t think you can love God if you don’t like people.

It seems that God is really proud of His creation.

I know we portray an anxious deity, constantly perturbed over our sins, but since He gave us the ability and even the permission, I seriously doubt that He will be terribly upset when we occasionally go errant.

The greatest arrogance, the most self-righteousness, and perhaps the sin of all sins, is to believe that human beings are not worth liking.

  • It’s in our government.
  • It’s in our religious system.
  • It’s in our movies.

We are training ourselves to be suspicious, and failing to acquire great moments of human fellowship that just demand a little bit of mercy and grace.

I’m not one to advocate looking in the rear view mirror and assuming that the past was better than the present, but I will tell you, if there was any era when people were given the chance to excel without being pre-judged, then we might want to reach back into that span of time and regain some of that tenderness.

For the good news is, God likes people.

And the better news is, He loves those who like them, too.

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Good News and Better News… June 5th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3335)

It was my distinct honor to join forces with Ms. Clazzy to share at the Village United Methodist Church. The congregation is pastored by a firebrand voice of our generation named Andrea.

As she prayed, spoke and exuded, there was a spirit of anticipation mingled with anxiety, letting me know that she was of a mind to see our world experience a true revival of sanity.

Yet, as is often the case, we human beings tend to get tripped up in the trappings. We stumble.

We become convinced that something which has lasted no more than a couple of decades was imparted by God Himself, and that we have the responsibility to follow it with divine accuracy.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I think Pastor Andrea fully understands that church is a decision to lose fear to choose cheer.

It’s what Jesus instructed people to do. When they came to him, trembling, frightened and glum, he repeatedly told them, “Be not afraid. Be of good cheer.”

Nothing of any quality happens in the human experience as long as we’re fearful and it deters our cheerful.

So how do we lose our fear?

How do we lose anything? We lose things because we accidentally forget them or we decide to forget them.

The same thing is true with fear. Although we’ve acquired it, it has proven to be ineffective for daily use. We can get sentimental about it, we can accidentally forget it, or we can decide to forget it.

To accidentally forget it, just get yourself involved in something that is earnestly interesting and proves itself to be enriching to your feelings.

To decide to forget it, find a good burial place. Have a ceremony. Invite others to be there when you walk away from what terrifies you.

There is so much maintenance required by fear that it smothers our love. Once our love is destroyed, we become timid animals living in the jungle.

Once you lose your fear, then you can choose cheer. And the best way to do that is liven up the efforts that you enjoy, and when given opportunities, pick the happy one.

Even if for a season you put issues on the back burner that other people think are very important, you should pick the happy ones. You’re trying to train your heart to rejoice again. To do that you have to rid yourself of unnecessary causes.

I can truthfully tell you, I was thoroughly impressed and blessed by being in the presence of such delightful saints on Sunday, and I can also honestly tell you that I hope Pastor Andrea will teach these people to lose fear and choose cheer.

The good news is that the loss of fear is a doorway to love.

The better news is, a life of good cheer allows us to share our love without any fear.

 

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Good News and Better News… June 5th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3328)

Last night at the Renaissance Fellowship, I was privileged to be part of a holy collision. It wasn’t the “moon in the seventh house and Jupiter aligning with Mars.” Much more practical than that.

It was a blessed event, in which “willing” brushed up against “working” and satisfied “waiting”–the human trinity of possibility.

Without people being willing, it is useless to share things that are working. And if workable concepts are not being instituted, the sense of waiting in our souls lingers, rendering us frustrated. But when willing meets working, it satisfies waiting.

Foolishly, we’re all waiting for something.

How in the world waiting ever became a virtue baffles me–because waiting can be done by the foolhardy or the wise. There’s nothing particularly noble about it–matter of fact, it can degrade into first-class laziness. After all, what is the difference between waiting and stalled?

That’s where willing has to step in and become the big brother. In other words, we’re not only waiting for something to happen, we’re also willing to accept applications. They don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be what we’re praying for. Just able to be used to get us to our next place where we can stand in our faith.

You can tell you’ve grown spiritually when you know that complaining in any form can’t be justified.

Matter of fact, many of our prayers are glossed-over complaints. We lament to God instead of petitioning Him. We plead angst in His direction under the guise of just being worried and concerned.

Somewhere along the line, those that are “waiting upon the Lord” must renew their strength by being willing.

Willing to run and not be weary.

Willing to walk and not faint.

Suddenly–when willing shows up–working ideas seem to leap from the cosmos into the field of our vision. Hope does not spring eternal, it becomes an earthly possibility.

And when human beings who are waiting for some specific answer allow themselves to be willing to adapt to possibilities, then a Gospel full of working ideas can be preached and change the world.

Last night, people who quite obviously are waiting on promises suddenly became willing to enjoy themselves in the moment, and consider a temporary blessing, taking a rain check on their future hopes–and because of that, they were infused with working mercy, tenderness, excitement and insight.

It was magnificent.

But unless people become willing, nothing works. And when things don’t work, our waiting is absolutely futile.

So the good news is, it turns out that waiting is made much more tolerable by being willing.

And the better news is that willing people are ready to get to work.

P.S. Pictured is me with my grandson, Jonathan. (I’m the one in red.)

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