Jesonian … August 18th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3768)

There was an old gospel song that used to get the hometown folks clappin’ and snappin’. It had a lyric which proclaimed, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.”

I grew up in a small town that believed, like most small towns, that if the world behaved like they did, there would be eternal peace. But since the world didn’t behave, all the children needed to be careful going into the big city, or worse yet, into the world.

Matter of fact, like most small towns, over half of my graduating class still lives within ten miles of the place where they got their first kiss.

It’s easy for people who have religion to attack the world. Matter of fact, there are many preachers who wouldn’t have anything to share if they couldn’t criticize the world, sin and the souls around them. Even those practitioners of philosophies which portend to have more open-mindedness will still gladly join into a conversation of discussing how damnable things are on the planet.

Sometimes I wonder how it’s possible to be so in love with God and so hateful of the home He’s given us.

Now I remember. I forgot the lyrics: “This world is not my home.”

It makes me wonder why Jesus prayed that heavenly things be done on Earth.

God is a good Father. As a good Father, he knows His children. And the Earth is filled with His children.

He understands that the world is stuck in a rebellion resembling a sixteen-year-old: snotty, bratty, selfish, indulgent, unappreciative–but certainly unwilling to go anyplace else. That’s a sixteen-year-old.

So maybe we should walk away from our gospel songs and even our theology and take a careful look at what Jesus said about the world.

Two things:

1. “In the world you have tribulation.”

I suppose you could blame God for that–not because He steps back and lets things happen, but because He gave us free will. Honestly, if I had created beings that possessed as much intelligence as humans, I would have curtailed free will.

It doesn’t make sense. For people to have imaginations from the time of their youth, but for those musings to be generally evil, doesn’t bode well for blessings to flow across the land.

But it was God’s way.

He made us smart, with the ability to choose to be stupid.

Therefore, at one time or another, somebody is always being stupid, which makes it seem like all matter is about to fall apart. Jesus called this “tribulation”–a sense that things never find peace or settle down.

Now most religionists love that particular verse about tribulation in the world. Matter of fact, they stop right there and use it as a platform to preach against every sin that comes to their minds. They never factor in the second thought that Jesus had on the world:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. And He didn’t send His son into the world to condemn the world, but so that they could choose to be saved (paraphrase).

Of course, the key coupling there is “so loved.”

Not a passive appreciation.

Not a duty of being a parent of something you wish you could abandon.

But a deep emotional commitment, free of condemnation.

So here’s the truth of the matter, although I don’t want to anger some gospel song writer: this world is my home, for the time being, and I am passing through.

My job is to have good cheer when I see the tribulation, and make sure, through my face, my actions and my tenderness, that those around me know exactly how much they are so loved.

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Good News and Better News… April 24th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3287)

I’m a sucker for kindness.

If you’re going to give me some bad news, do it with a smile. I just don’t buy into this concept that the more grumpy, frowny-faced and serious you are, the better chance you have of passing for a grown-up–or for that matter, making God think you’re truly an observant disciple.

I once wrote a gospel song which had a line about arriving in heaven, which was, “Bursting through the gates, a’laughin’…” (Now whether that will be a chuckle of relief or a belly laugh of victory, I plan on arriving to meet my Father with good cheer.)

So when I came into the doors of Wesley United Methodist Church in West Melbourne, Florida, and saw four beautiful human beings sitting there just smirking, with joy in their eyes, welcoming me–well, I felt good. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

Sometimes I think we believe church is a place where we need to feel bad before we feel good. I’d like to skip that step, if you don’t mind.

Now, the church building itself is wide open, like it wants to wrap its arms around you and give you a hug.

Yet it started the day before at sound check when I got to meet Pastor Doug. He’s one of those guys that when you encounter him, you immediately realize you like him simply because he doesn’t lead with a bunch of suspicion, and he actually appears to have an interest in your life. I got tickled because they were having a spaghetti supper on Saturday night and Doug was going to be imitating Elvis Presley.

Now, can you beat that? A good preacher who loves people and doesn’t mind a nice pair of blue suede shoes.

So the next morning, when it came my turn to share my little piece of myself with these darling souls of the kingdom, I just decided to be joyful and honest. My dear Lord, what we could do in this country if our leadership would be honest and joyful, and if that didn’t work real well, they became joyful and honest.

The people of Wesley UMC allowed themselves to be touched so then they were ready to reach out and touch others. I even had one lady who gave me the “Grace” of a wonderful shoulder rub. I can’t guarantee that you’ll get the same treatment–I mean as far as therapeutic muscle relaxation–but I will tell you this: Pastor Doug has these people ready to enact what the Gospel is all about: Love your neighbor as yourself with a special emphasis on making sure that those who love Jesus double-love one another.

So, for convenience, let me box up my conclusion.

Here’s the good news: you should arrive at church with a heart ready to be encouraged.

And the better news is, if we start preaching the Gospel again the way Jesus taught it–which is mingling our own humanity with mercy for others–then we’re going to have a great opportunity to leave encouraged.

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