Catchy (Sitting 46) Liary… April 29th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3658)

Carlin Canaby was the only son of Joshua and Myrtle Mensterhall, itinerant evangelists who toured the south, holding revival meetings in Southern Baptist churches.

Carlin was born in a tiny town in Mississippi and by the time he was two years old, was singing “Jesus Loves Me” to congregations to help promote his father and mother’s ministry. He was as cute as a button, but became more and more unfastened as he got older, and was privy to the hypocrisy of the whole process.

His mother and father were often cheated out of offerings, as churches insisted there was some errancy in the message which caused them to dock the payment. But more often than not, there was no explanation at all–just a paltry sum handed over after fourteen days of work.

This never seemed to hamper Joshua’s enthusiasm to “preach the Gospel to every living creature.” That is, every living creature unless they were black, Hispanic or involved in some untoward practice viewed as heinous by the religious system he revered.

Carlin’s mother, Myrtle, had the personality you would expect from someone named Myrtle. She was nervous, uptight and deathly afraid of anything that resembled a germy speck of dirt. She played just enough piano to accompany Joshua’s incompetent singing.

The pair had very little appeal, and even though revivals were scheduled to last for two weeks, they were often cut short due to lack of attendance.

Still, everything went along reasonably well, with biscuits, grits and gravy provided by the local churches, until Myrtle became involved with Reverend Rudy. Reverend Rudy was a chunk of a man, with a girlish giggle and a prancy walk. He loved to lean down into the faces of young boys and ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up–with a big whiff of tobacco bouncing from his breath.

Carlin didn’t like him. He especially found him distasteful when he walked into the room and discovered that Reverend Rudy was very interested in his mother’s groin. Rudy pretended to be dabbing off some imaginary coffee which had spilled on her lap, but it was obvious to the thirteen-year-old Carlin that there was more going on south of the border than picking cotton.

Sure enough, 24 hours later, Reverend Rudy and Myrtle announced their intentions to pursue a life together, just as soon as a quick divorce could be acquired from Joshua Mensterhall.

Carlin’s dad was devastated. He had lost a wife, a piano player and an accountant to try to keep the wheels of the Gospel somewhere in the middle of the dirt road.

And even though Joshua was not the unfaithful one, word spread that he was “a divorced man,” so the revivals lined up for the future canceled, one at a time.

Myrtle made it clear that she didn’t want the boy, so Joshua took Carlin, and for a season they were homeless, panhandling and street preaching.

One day an old black gentleman named Carlton Canaby happened by while Joshua was pontificating to passers-by on a particularly difficult passage from Jeremiah. The Negro gentleman asked him what he was trying to accomplish. Matter of fact, they decided to have coffee together, careful not to enter any restaurant, but instead, getting styrofoam cups from the local gas station, and heading for a nearby park.

Joshua poured out his heart to Canaby, who ended up being a reverend himself, with the National Baptist Church. (This was the Negro outgrowth from the Southern Baptist.) Pastor Carlton decided to invite the pale preacher in, to hold a meeting. Even though many of the parishioners at Pastor Canaby’s church objected to a white man preaching–especially one teetering in an adultery situation–the friendly pastor insisted, and Joshua and Carlin were scheduled in for a two-week revival, complete with eats.

Joshua was horrible. Being a white man raised in the south, he thought himself superior to those he was teaching. On the third night, a young man in the congregation rose to his feet, interrupting the sermon time and said, “You don’t know much about colored folks, do you?”

Those in attendance burst into laughter and Joshua stood, red-faced and defensive. Canaby came forward, easing the tension, and said, “Our brother is here to learn, to heal, to grow and to be himself without apology.”

For some reason, this touched the heart of Joshua Mensterhall. He burst into tears and fell on his knees, pleading to the heavens with an anguished cry. The congregation surrounded him and the true revival began.

It lasted for two months, until one night, after the service, Pastor Canaby was abducted by some angry white men in a pick-up truck. They did not approve of mixing races, so they took Canaby into the woods and hung him from a tree. Fortunately for Reverend Canaby, they had twisted the rope too tight around his neck. It caught on his shoulder muscle, which sustained his life until others arrived and cut him down.

But he was never the same. Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen from the hanging, or just a good old-fashioned dose of fear. He retired into his own soul, where he seemed to receive some comfort.

Shortly thereafter, Joshua died.

Carlin was made a ward of a missionary family named Richardson. They were traveling on mission to Equador. Carlin hated every minute of it. He nearly burst in anger, waiting for his eighteenth birthday so he could run away and start his own life.

When he did, he rejected the name “Richardson” and “Mensterhall,” and took on the name “Canaby,” in honor of the brave dark man who had befriended a bewildered white minister and his frustrated son.

Since that time, Carlin had made it his life work to expose hypocrites with his organization, “Liary”–which was defined as finding a way to tell the truth in the most pleasant way possible, without flirting with the lie.

Carlin had recently received a phone call from a notable businessman, asking him to intervene in the Jubal Carlos campaign, to assist by softening some of the blows of disapproval that were coming over assumed scandals.

This is what brought him to the hotel, where he found an extremely defeated Matthew Ransley.

Matthew immediately liked Carlin, but Jubal Carlos was quick to express his disfavor. Jubal didn’t like anything associated with lying–even if it was an attempt to prevent its severity.

Matthew found himself in a war: one in his heart, his soul, his mind and the excesses that were gradually eating away at his body.

He thought to himself, I wonder how Carlin would spin my life? What positive things could he find that would sweeten my tale?

It was obvious there was a transition coming. Would it take them deeper into the discovery of Jesus, or just make them another clever organization with a hint of charlatan?

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Jesonian … April 7th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3635)

Every story is better told and more effective when the facts are allowed to line up in a reasonable order.

Such is true of the Gospel of Jesus.

Theologians spend so much time proclaiming him the Son of God that they lose the fragrance and uniqueness of the Son of Man. In an attempt to make the tale “super” they lose all of the “natural.”

The average person going to church is deluded by an array of facts which just don’t add up to a crucifixion.

One of those great misconceptions is that Jesus was extremely popular. There were certainly occasions when his crowd appeal spiked, but it always revolved around three stimuli:

A. Was he doing miracles?

B. Was he feeding people?

C. Did it look like he was the Jewish Messiah?

Whenever the populace became convinced through these three “signs and wonders” that God was going to save them from the Romans, they rallied around Jesus. Whenever it was obvious that he was intent on sharing a more universal message which included people that were not Jewish, they slipped away.

Let’s look at some facts:

1. Jesus was rejected by his home town, Nazareth, and never able to return again. Not only was he ignored, but threatened with death–dangled from the edge of a cliff.

2. Even though Jesus held a great revival in Samaria with the testimony from a woman at a well, when he returned to the city, he was forbidden to enter by the town fathers because they found out he also ministered to the Jews.

3. When he fed the 5,000 in Galilee, the hordes followed him for a while–until he told them this was not a food pantry, but rather, that his words and life were the message they were supposed to “eat.” They all departed–except for the twelve.

4. Over and over again, interest sparked with the Pharisees, but when Simon, one of their number, invited him to a special meal, the Pharisee snubbed Jesus and treated him like an outsider.

5. After the resurrection, it is recorded that over 500 people saw Jesus–witnesses of the miracle. But on the Day of Pentecost only 120 remained. Kind of a drastic drop-off.

I guess we feel the need to believe that Jesus was greatly appreciated by the people in his generation, and taken to be crucified only by a handful of powerful critics.

It’s just not true.

We are told that most of the time he dealt with twelve disciples–and he focused on three of them, to be the core leaders. We have some idea of the size of a normal following of Jesus when the scriptures let us know that he sent seventy out to share in his name.

If you are trying to give credence to the message of Jesus by pointing out how enthralled the Jewish community and the Roman oppressors were, then you will be sadly disappointed when you read the actual accounts of his mistreatment and the number of individuals who desperately tried to ignore him.

We’re even told that John the Baptist’s disciples did not believe in him.

Jesus had a model. It’s very simple: Develop a hot core of followers and let them radiate the message.

Nowadays we are so eager to build up numbers in the sanctuary that we fail to build up people. Jesus basically spent three-and-a-half years working on twelve human beings.

  • One of them betrayed him and killed himself.
  • Another denied him, and was prepared to leave the work.
  • Yet another one doubted that a resurrection was possible.

Do not despair–Jesus suffered the same slings and arrows of human apathy that you and I encounter every day. He just had a great system. So when he left the planet, there was a handful of people who knew what he taught, knew what he stood for and were prepared to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to give them the power and insight to take the Gospel to the whole world.

*****

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Jesonian … March 17th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Setting the stage:

Jesus is in the beginning of his ministry. Fresh. Optimistic. Sharing high-sounding principles to what most people might consider a low-brow audience.

One day he is interrupted by the arrival of elders from a near-by town. They are Jewish leaders. The strange thing about the situation is that they have been sent by a Roman Centurion to intercede on the behalf of his servant, for healing.

The elders waste no time. They interrupt Jesus, testifying about the quality of the character of this Centurion.

“He is a friend of our nation. He even built us a synagogue,” they tout.

Most Romans were considered by the Jews to be conquering terrorists–not that different from ISIS in our day. So for the elders of a Jewish town to bear testimony for a Roman Centurion was not only peculiar, but inspirational.

Jesus drops what he’s doing and heads off toward the servant.

Then another strange thing happens. The Centurion rethinks his position. He obviously has a keen mind, and realizes that if Jesus enters his home–the domicile of a Roman–he could ruin his ministry for all time. It would be a disgrace to be in the house of a Gentile, and Jesus would be considered unclean.

So he suggests that Jesus just say the word, proclaiming the healing. The Centurion cites that he lives by commands all the time.

Jesus is astounded. Jesus learns from him, and says he has “never seen so great a faith in Israel.”

So Jesus says the word, and the servant is healed.

It’s a beautiful story. It lets us know several things.

1. The Gospel is not a Jewish Gospel.

2. It is possible for people of all races to get along as long as they show respect to one another.

3. The power in faith is in always simplifying your belief instead of complicating it.

But let us consider a possible scenario:

Such a man as the Centurion certainly, in three year’s time, moved up in promotions. Because he got along so well with the occupied people, he would be very valuable to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. There would be a very good chance he would end up in Jerusalem.

In the Holy City, he would have been given authority and respect, and placed in charge of difficult situations–maybe a predicament like carrying out a capital punishment during Passover week–because we are told that there is a Centurion at the cross.

Just for the sake of discussion–what if it was the same man? What if he arrived at his job early that morning and discovered that he was supposed to escort a prisoner to Golgotha–three of them, actually–and crucify them before six o’clock that night?

What if he was shocked to find that one of them was Jesus, the young man who had healed his servant three years earlier?

What should he do? His heart is torn apart. Yet to try to rig an escape would be complete death for Jesus, himself and many other innocent people.

What is left to him?

The keen mind is set in motion. The Centurion realizes they’ve already taken Jesus and beaten him, and that the Temple guards had cruelly mistreated him. There’s only one thing left for him to do–a single mission to honor the one who healed his servant. He tries to make the end easier.

After all, somebody gave the command for Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross.

Someone allowed John and his mother, Mary, to be near the foot of the cross to listen to his words and encourage him.

Someone kept the soldiers from tearing his Jesus’ apart, and instead, gambled for it–with him possibly winning the prize.

Someone knelt down, and as they nailed his hands, tenderly looked in his eyes, to comfort him.

Somebody asked them to be careful when they dropped the cross in its place.

Somebody grabbed a long reed and put vinegar and medication on it for him to drink when he was thirsty.

There was compassion at the cross.

And if it was the same Centurion, he did the best with what he had, to make things better than they might be.

Maybe that’s the definition of faith–doing the best with what we have, to make things better than they might be.

And when the Earth shook, the skies darkened and Jesus took his last breath, could it have been the same Centurion who looked up at his friend on the cross, and said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

*****

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Good News and Better News … March 12th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3609)

“There’s blues in the pews.”

A quiet resignation to what is deemed to be an acceptable despondency: “Just a few more weary days and I’ll fly away.”

Motivated to only share a Gospel that gets us to heaven while maintaining a cultural grouchiness on Earth, the church is not ready to tear down the gates of hell.

Instead, the American church spends too much time tearing down one another. Congregations often act like they’re in the middle of a mine cave-in, where there’s a shortage of oxygen and those around them seem to have too many nostrils.

Abundant life and an existence filled with joy seem to be Biblical promises of a coming kingdom instead of the Kingdom of God, which is declared to be within us.

There’s blues in the pews.

It won’t do any good for us to ignore it. There’s no reclamation by refusing to discuss the problem out of political correctness. After all, there are some subjects we are not supposed to broach. For instance, it’s not proper to complain that a funeral is too long nor that Grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey is too dry. And it’s completely unacceptable to insist that for some reason, this year Santa Claus was too cheap.

But if we are willing to quietly consider the situation, we could come up with three realities which create some of the blues in the pews:

1. This is what we do.

Even though the Bible says “the Lord’s blessings are fresh daily,” we continue to warm up leftovers and pass them off as new recipes.

2. This is who we do it with.

We get to know each other too well. It invites criticism. And because no fresh blood is being infused, we “clot up” in disrespect and confusion.

3. Simultaneously, we are defensive about how it is done.

It may not make us happy, but “God bless America, we’re gonna keep on doing it because we’ve always done it this way.”

There will be blues in the pews until we realize that church is not meant for God–it’s meant for His people. It’s a place intended for fellowship–where folks can mourn, consider and embrace.

The good news is, Jesus left us a beautiful example of what church should be–for those around him said, “We have never seen it in this fashion before.”

The better news is, it stands to reason that if we follow the example of Jesus, we just might start getting “Jesus results.”

 

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Jesonian … January 20th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3558)

A growling grouchiness tends to fester my soul every time I sit down in front of some sort of clerk who wants to ask me questions so that he or she can “punch me into their system.”

I have a natural inclination to turn and run full speed out of the room, thus “unplugging.”

Systems don’t work.

Now, I know over-generalized conclusions such as this one are frowned on by people who want to remain congenial and open to all parties, but once any organization or movement acquires a mortgage, as far as humanity is concerned, they usually become no damn good.

Rules are established, guidelines are formulated, temperaments are discussed and limitations established.

I don’t care if the system is taking care of the poor, preaching the Gospel or electing candidates to office–just the presence of the instinct to follow an “inner office memo” filled with stipulations stifles creativity and smother passion.

Nicodemus came to see Jesus by night-Step 1 of any system.

Play it safe.

Nicodemus did not know whether his friends would approve of him interacting with the rogue Galilean, so he “came by night.” I’m sure he thought he was smart. I’m sure he believed he was more open-minded than his buddies, who wouldn’t come at all, even if it was pitch black.

He begins his dialogue with Jesus by trying to coerce a mutual sense of equality from the Nazarene–Step 2 of a system. “We know you’re a teacher sent by God.”

(Just like us…)

Every system wants to make everything the same for everybody, because if it isn’t, it’s just not fair–and if you acquiesce to one person, then everyone wants the same consideration.

I am not a conceited man, but my mission is not the same as the pastor of some United Methodist church in Wisconsin. I am not better than him–but I have been given more. And the scriptures tell me that because I’ve been given more, more is expected of me.

Jesus doesn’t mince any words with Nicodemus. He doesn’t give in to the equality theory, but tells Nicodemus that he “must be born again.” The cleverness of the statement–the parallel of spiritual rebirth to original birth are ignored by this scripture peruser.

He does what people always do to someone who apparently wants to rock the boat–he mocks the simplicity. He makes fun of Jesus suggesting that an old man could go back into his mother’s womb. He might even have chuckled at his own reference. He is convinced that in a world of black and white, it is necessary to strictly honor the available colorations.

Jesus explains to him that it’s an uncomplicated concept and challenges Nicodemus to walk more in his intelligence instead of marching in beat with the purists. Jesus says, “If I tell you of Earthly things and you don’t understand, how could I ever tell you of heavenly things?”

Then, as always, the system is offended, and begins to denigrate the concepts which lead to the conclusion of personal responsibility.

It is so much easier to be religious if you believe God is in control, has a plan for your life, is moving angels and demons back and forth and has already won the battle. It becomes a bit more intricate when you realize the Kingdom of God is within you.

Nicodemus departs, unimpressed. Matter of fact, later on the scriptures refer to “some of the Jewish leaders” who privately had sympathy for Jesus and his Kingdom movement, but were afraid to speak up.

Nicodemus found himself trapped. When the Council decided to have a meeting to put Jesus on trial, and Nicodemus objects to them indicting the Master without hearing him, they dismiss Nicodemus. They ask if “he, too, is a Galilean.”

He says nothing more. He is silenced.

You will never make strides in your spiritual life or truly understand the humanity of Jesus and the mission he had to save souls as long as you hide behind vespers and prayers.

Jesonian is a lifestyle.

And Jesus spent his life being the champion of the human race. To do so, he had to dodge many systems and ignore those who were locked up in the mindset of the moment instead of grasping the born-again heart of those who were fully aware that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.”

 

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Catchy (Sitting 30) Visiting Hours…January 7th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3545)

Jo-Jay’s memory of her past two weeks was like a jigsaw puzzle dumped out in a dark room. There were moments when she was almost able to connect thoughts, but then, as she described it, a dark cloud would come over her consciousness, stealing the information.

She was certain of three things: she woke up in the middle of the Amazon jungle, she was rescued by missionaries, and somebody named Joshua was a son-of-a-bitch.

Jubal and Matthew listened patiently, but were unable to garner enough story line to pursue any solution. Jo-Jay was still weak from her bout with disease, and agitated over being abducted, abused and thrust to the point of death.

There was a fourth thought which she shared with Matthew and Jubal. She believed Michael Hinston was involved in some sort of conspiracy against the “Carlos Revival”–that’s what the press was beginning to call the movement which was quietly sweeping the nation. Some had referred to it as “Jubal-ation” but Jubal was careful to play down the silliness, while trying to bring to the forefront what could be accomplished simply by believing instead of cursing.

“So what do you think Michael’s got to do with this?” Matthew asked with a furrowed brown.

“You don’t believe me,” squealed Jo-Jay. “I can see it written all over your face. Do you think I’m crazy?”

Matthew reached for her hands but she pulled away. “I don’t think you’re crazy,” he said. “I just think you’ve been somewhere you never intended to be which led to you getting a disease nobody knows anything about, which took you to the brink of death. So yeah. I guess you’re allowed to be a little eccentric.”

Jubal stepped in to soften the conversation. “I think we should listen to her. I think she’s got a story in her mind and if we hang around long enough, we’re gonna get all of it.”

Matthew was pissed. “Oh, you do. So you think we should sit here and listen to a person who’s just come back from the dead explain to us in a common-sense way the logic we should pursue.”

“You’re such a little shit,” said Jo-Jay.

“I’ll have you know I’m a big shit,” Matthew retorted.

Jubal laughed–not because it was particularly funny, but he thought laughter might tenderize the moment.

Jo-Jay swung her legs over to the edge of the bed. “I’m telling you. There’s something about Mikey, Joshua and something else called the CLO that’s just not right.”

Jubal leaned forward and asked, “Why would these people care? What difference does it make to them? Why would anyone try to hurt you simply because we’re off here goofing around with the Gospel?”

Matthew chuckled. “Now there’s our title. Forget about this Carlos Revival thing. ‘Goofin’ Around with the Gospel.’ We should go with that.”

Jo-Jay would not be deterred. “You guys can joke all you want to. You didn’t wake up with a snake kissing your cheek.”

Matthew frowned. “Do snakes kiss?”

“With lots of tongue,” said Jubal, laughing at his own joke.

Jo-Jay reached for a glass of water and nearly drank it dry. “I don’t know what to tell you fellas. I think we’re all in trouble. After all, if we knew what trouble was, we would avoid it. It’s trouble because we never know what it is, right?”

Matthew smiled. “You know, I came close to understanding that. Listen, Jo-Jay, I never particularly liked Mickey. Or Michael. But I don’t believe he would do anything to hurt you.”

Suddenly from the doorway came the voice of a new visitor. Standing there, in a three-piece suit, with a bright red tie, hair slicked back, holding a bouquet of roses, was Congressman Michael Hinston. “So why don’t you like me, Matthew?”

Matthew was stunned. Jubal, anticipating a violent reaction from Jo-Jay, moved closer to her bedside.

“Speak of a son-of-a-bitch, and there he is,” she said breathlessly.

“Well, this is awkward,” said Michael. “Actually, I was just coming to pay my respects and see how you were doing. But I sense that I am not welcome.”

“Who is the CLO? Who is Joshua? Why are these people trying to stop us? What’s wrong with what we’re doing? How did I end up in the Amazon jungle? And why, for the love of God, are you standing here in my room?”

Jo-Jay spouted her array of questions. Michael turned to walk away, but Matthew stood quickly and grabbed his arm. “I guess this is how she wants you to pay your respects,” he said.

Michael turned, and with great sincerity, responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have my own opinions on what you guys are doing. I think it’s foolishness. I think it’s going to upset the wrong people.”

Jubal stepped forward. “And who are the wrong people, Congressman?”

“You are very young,” said Michael. “To you, everything is black and white. It’s not really that way, you know. I thought when I came to Washington I would be involved in compromising. Most of my time is spent attempting to thaw out frozen thinking, so that maybe a single drop of inspiration can be achieved.”

“What a crock,” said Matthew. “And what an attempt to avoid this issue. Jo-Jay thinks you’re dirty. Are you dirty, Congressman? Michael? Have you hooked up with some really bad dudes? Did they pay you well to betray your sister?”

“My sister?” asked Michael.

“Yes,” Jo-Jay said. “That’s what you used to call me in college. We were all brothers and sisters.”

“We were also constantly drunk,” Michael inserted. “So I can’t really be certain what I felt one way or another. But I’m here–something tugged at my heart to come and see you, wish you well.”

Matthew walked over to the window and stared out into the night. “This is just crazy. Think about it. The guy who Jo-Jay thinks might have put her in a jungle prison which nearly took her life is now standing in front of us–and we’re trying to discuss whether we got too drunk in college. Yes, Michael–you are a politician. You have learned to avoid the truth at all costs.”

Michael turned and looked at Jubal. “You know, you do look a little like Jesus. Not the Jesus people would be comfortable with, but probably the way he might have looked when he was here on Earth. If he was here on Earth. There are many schools of thought.”

Jubal patted Michael on the shoulder and said, “Many schools of thought. But faith demands that we all graduate to some sort of belief.”

Michael stepped back. “I don’t like where this is going,” he said. “My common sense tells me it’s time to go. If I may leave the flowers–by the way, they’re not poisoned–and just wish you…Well, wish you all well.”

Jo-Jay stood to her feet for the first time, wobbling to the side and falling into Jubal’s arms. She regained her footing, stepped forward and pointed her finger at Michael’s chest. “I know who you are. And as soon as I figure it out…”

She paused. Michael was waiting for a conclusion, and when it didn’t come, he looked at Matthew, then at Jubal, hoping for further explanation. He shook his head, then patted Jo-Jay’s shoulder. “Get well. Sickness is a crazy thing. I remember when I had kidney stones. I thought the devil was in the room, whispering in my ear.”

Jo-Jay leaned forward, nearly fell again, held up by Jubal. She whispered, “Maybe that devil is still talking to you.”

In the midst of a very tense moment filled with uncertainty and the unpleasant smells of a hospital surrounding, a bright-spirited nurse’s aide entered the room, announcing, “I’m sorry. Visiting hours are over.”

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Jesonian … January 6th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3544)

Sitting my eleven-year-old self down right in the middle of the Junior High Sunday School class, my attention was riveted on the astounding, emerging breasts of Terry and Linda.

All at once I was startled by some words that came out of the mouth of our schoolmarm-deacon’s-wife teacher. She was reading the names of the twelves disciples when she stated, without flinching, “James, the Less.”

It just piqued my curiosity–so much so that I raised my hand to ask a question. She was so flabbergasted at seeing a student express interest that she paused for a second, and then finally acknowledged me.

I asked, “James the Less? Who made him ‘Less?’ And who has the right to call him that?”

She was stymied. My particular question was not covered in lesson book under “potential points of discussion.”

I waited for her response. At length, she replied, “Well, I don’t know for sure, but maybe it’s because he wasn’t as important as the other James.”

This infuriated me. A God in Heaven who thinks some people are more important than others? How can He be “no respecter of persons” when He’s keeping a private list of “Faves?”

I objected, and all at once some of the other students (who had been deep in Sunday-morning comas) began to listen, and agreed with my concerns. What right did we have to call this James “the Less” and give the other James more value?

Even though this was many years ago, I had been trained in a spiritual communism. Amazingly, we still tout these concept even today.

Everyone is the same, as far as their worth.

Everything that everyone does is just as precious as what another person does.

Of course, this is total foolishness.

I do expect my airline pilot to have more expertise than the city bus driver. I’m not taking anything away from the bus driver, but I am asking the airline pilot to take his job very seriously, and to show up with integrity and deeper knowledge.

We must understand that James the Less was given that name on Jesus’ watch. Jesus had three disciples he favored over the other nine. Favored in what way? Whenever he went into critical situations or needed men of great faith, Peter, James and John were ushered to the front.

Yet we never feel as if the others are slighted–until one day they decided to get fussy. They sat around and discussed who would be the greatest. To stimulate the conversation, they had to begin with the premise that each one of them was just as essential as the other.

Jesus rebuked them. He said, “These are concerns that the world has. It won’t be that way with you. For you, he that would be master must be a servant.”

Jesus offered a Jesonian philosophy. It still works today. When Jesus found people, he did three things:

1. This is who you are.

When a man with many demons cast out of him wanted to join Jesus’ troup, he sent the man back to his own town, to spread the word.

“This is who you are.”

Much of our life span is wasted denying who we are. Maybe we find it insufficient. Maybe we think we should be given more focus. But in the process of arguing over who we are, we fail to reach the second point.

2. This is why it is good.

The greatest gift we can give anyone is to help them understand why who they are is so good. James the Less was not offended because James the Less knew who he was and why that was a great contribution to the cause.

James, who was considered greater, was balanced out by realizing that in order to maintain his place in the front lines, he needed to be “servant of all,” even to James the Less.

3. The Gospel will show you how you can peak.

Yes, once you find out who you are and realize that it’s good, Jesus has a style to grant you relevance.

I always have to giggle when I hear someone advertise “The Great Smoky Mountains.” Actually, when you place a Smoky Mountain next to Mount Everest, it might look like flat land. But because the Smoky Mountains are strategically placed–where there are no other mountains around to compete–they are not only beautiful and entertaining, but considering their location, can be called “great.”

Find your location and peak. Don’t situate yourself next to people who have a different mission and try to pull them down, criticizing them to make yourself look better.

The Gospel of Jesus teaches you how to peak in your own arena.

Unfortunately, my schoolmarm at the church that day could not give me an answer to my question. She was just like me. She was taught that calling someone “less” was an insult.

Actually, when you’re James the Less, you just use wisdom to make sure you don’t hang around the other James too much–but instead, find out who you are and why that’s good.

And then let the Gospel show you how to peak.

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