Jesonian … October 7th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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It is nearly impossible to be Jesonian–a true follower of the heart of Jesus–without fully comprehending that there are two Gospels. Shall we name them the “Galilee Gospel” and the “Jerusalem Journey?”

It is the reason theologians struggle with the message of Jesus, finding themselves complicating it so that the dual approaches can co-habitate within one faith. But it’s an error to do so.

Jesus had one message but two missions. His two missions were:

  1. To bring the message to fulfill the love
  2. To present himself as the doorway to fulfill the law

In Galilee he talked about life–abundant life. He lived with his disciples in joy–fully. He spoke of God as a Father and all of us as brothers and sisters. He explained the dangers of anger and lust. He clarified that the things we do to other people are recorded as actions performed to God. It was human–everyday fodder for feeling and believing.

But to fulfill the Law of Moses and welcome the Children of Abraham into his mission, he labored among the stringent, inflexible Jews, trying to reason with them and gather them together under a new understanding. These religionists had “jot-and-tittled” themselves into frantic insecurity about the purposes of God, and even, to a degree, agnosticism about the existence of Jehovah.

The Jerusalem Journey was filled with thinking, musing, mulling, wondering, questioning and attempts at compromise. It was a futile effort to afford political correctness to a manifesto meant for the whole world, and not merely designed for one hundred miles of landscape in the Middle East.

Did Jesus know that the Jews were going to reject him?

Did Jesus know it would end so badly, with his execution on a cross?

You can debate that all you want, but we are certainly aware that he reached a point where he had to relent to the conclusion that you can’t “put new wine into old wine skins.”

The problem in today’s church is that we focus too much on the Jerusalem Journey and don’t thunder the celebration of the Galilee Gospel.

Too much musing, too much debate, too much thinking and too much meditation.

It’s time for us to return to the Gospel of Galilee, when life was abundant and joy was full. It’s an easy message to remember: go, do, give, be.

  • Go unto all the world.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Give and it shall be given unto you.
  • Be perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

Such a message offers redemption for failure, while simultaneously providing exhortation to challenge indifference.

There is a danger that we in the church will stall–trying to fulfill the law instead of fulfilling the love.

Stop thinking so much about it.

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Jesonian … September 23rd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jesus got angry.

There’s no doubt about that. The Gospels make it clear that he frequently spilled out his wrath to those around him.

We don’t like this. The mind of the present theological times wholly disagrees because we desperately need to keep Jesus sheepish, quiet and gentle so that he can be the “Lamb of God slain from the foundations of the world.”

What’s amazing is, for a man who was destined to die on a cross, he put up one helluva fight. Let’s take a look at it:

He was angry when they criticized him for healing a man on the Sabbath.

He was angry when he came into the Temple and saw the money-changers cheating the faithful. (Actually, he put together a pre-meditated action of violence by making a whip to use on them for their thievery.)

He was angry at the man by the pool who was healed, who decided to turn Jesus into the scribes and Pharisees.

He was angry at his family when they thought he was crazy, and came out to take him home when he had disconnected from them.

And certainly, when the people of his home town pushed him to the edge of the cliff, it says that he “passed through the midst of them.” Perhaps you were taught that he evaporated and disappeared, but that’s not what is stated. The Bible portrays a man of strength and determination who turned to a mob and pushed his way through them.

We also know that Jesus understood anger because in his Sermon on the Mount, summarizing the Ten Commandments, he explained that the basic struggle in humans is finding a way to deal with anger and lust.

In a man, it is called testosterone. Jesus had plenty. He was not an anemic personality with pale skin, trying to love a world which only understood hate.

He was virile.

He was stubborn.

And when he saw injustice, he attacked it. Sometimes he called people hypocrites. Other times he referred to them as “graves.” And of course, he was not beyond comparing them to Satan.

So we know this: a man who deals with anger also deals with lust. For anger is often what leads us to conceive our lust, and when lust is conceived, it brings forth sin.

Jesus was surrounded by women. Oh, by the way, it wasn’t a “hands off” policy either. They were close to him, they embraced him; they even kissed his feet. It was intimate. Being intimate, the door was always open to seduction.

If the Jesus you worship could never be angry, nor lust after a woman, then you completely misunderstand the purpose for God sending His son to be a human. Being human, he was able to talk to humans–to explain humanity in a human way.

Yet Jesus did not want to be so angry that he destroyed others, and he definitely did not want to use his lust to take advantage of women who had been broken and even demon possessed.

So Jesus did the following:

1. He had three burly bodyguards around him at all times.

We often wonder why Peter, James and John never left his side. They were a trio of intimidating fishermen who scared away assassins, and made sure Jesus was never alone to be tempted by women. It was brilliant.

2. He escaped.

When he became angry or tempted, he went off by himself and navigated his own wrath and lust. He made peace with himself before he made the mistakes.

3. He created equality.

Jesus made sure that he preached the same Gospel to the women and the men. He demanded the same thing from the ladies and the gents. He created equality, which prevented him from favoring the females–coddling them–which could have led to affairs.

No man who treats a woman as an equal will ever accidentally slip and have sex. It’s only when he’s expressing sympathy, or trying to be the “knight in shining armor” to save her from her problems that he gets in trouble.

Jesus dealt with anger and lust.

He did so by refusing to trust himself, but instead, closed the door on the possibility of disaster.

 

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 3)… July 15th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I must apologize. I’m still a bit troubled.

It’s the whole “Abraham” thing.

There are supposedly three religions–Judaism, Muslim and Christianity–that are knit together in a quilt based on a person named Abraham. If such a weaving is true, it is sewn with a dynamite fuse, ready to be lit at the least provocation.

A very simple study of the Gospels about Jesus will tell you that he was neither a practicing Jew nor did those around him deem him to be. If he felt he was Jewish, he certainly failed to convince anyone, and if they believed him to be their brother, they probably should not have crucified him.

On one occasion the Jews called Jesus a “Samaritan and a demon” while proclaiming themselves to be “children of Abraham.”

He alarmed them by stating that before Abraham existed, he was around. They did not muse his statement nor ask for evidence, but instead, picked up rocks to kill him, and he barely escaped with his life.

Christianity has many benefits but one of the main missions is to gently untangle itself from the Abrahamic family tree, so as to be able to make peace between these two feuding brothers–the followers of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and those of Abraham’s son, Ishmael.

Where would we begin?

We can commence this very worthwhile journey by understanding that Judaism is a culture, Muslim is a culture, but Christianity is a lifestyle.

So whether you’re from China, the Netherlands, Russia or Argentina, the ideas and message of Jesus will fit into your surroundings. Judaism basically works around Jews, and the Muslim faith has the greatest appeal to those who are Arab. That’s because they are cultures, not lifestyles.

As American Christians, we favor the Jews, not because they have any affinity for Jesus. Actually the Quran contains more respect for Jesus than the Old Testament. No, we favor the Jews because they were dispersed into Europe and they seem more American. Yes, it is another one of our racial bigotries–and when Jews look like Arabs, we are much less likely to be tender in their direction.

So let’s get over the foolishness and back to our theme:

If Jesus is God, then Jehovah and Allah are not.

If God is Jesus, then maybe there might be a little bit of Jehovah and Allah lounging around His man cave.

Christianity has the opportunity to heal one of the greatest family squabbles of all time. We cannot do so by saying we are “children of Abraham.”

In the Gospel of John, he clearly states that we are not born of flesh and blood, but of the Spirit. As followers of Jesus, we are not part of a lineage, but instead, linked by a salvation into what truly can be called the greatest opportunity for peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.

 

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Good News and Better News … August 29th, 2016

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Dividing people is easy.

Just get them to focus on their differences, and their prejudices will do the rest.

But uniting people is equally simple.

Turn the conversation toward our common humanity and let our sense of humor draw us closer.

Ebensburg Penn State highway signAs I finished up eleven weeks in Central Pennsylvania, I headed off to Ebensburg en route to begin my tour in Michigan.

Every little community in America touts some piece of uniqueness, or sometimes even insists that it has a personality unto itself. I have absolutely no idea why we want to distinguish ourselves by our quirks and profiles.

But once you break through that initial crustiness, what you find are human beings. As human beings, they have three basic natures:

1. They are concerned for themselves.

2. They are concerned for what is directly around them.

3. But it doesn’t take a whole lot for them to realize that in order to get Numbers 1 and 2 means they need to be concerned about others.Ebensburg set with Jan

I loved my time in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania.

The audiences were not easy. Having an insulated sense of community, they wanted to look on Janet and myself as strangers, but we popped out of that box and offered big hugs.

So by the time we got to the end of our programs and were ready to pack up, they invited us to a luncheon. We shared with them that we needed to hit the road, because we had a two-hour drive to Youngstown, Ohio. dividing people, prejudices, uniting people, sense of humor, commonality,

They sweetly accepted our explanation, but then they came back a second time and invited us again. Why? I suppose if I were bratty, I could say they were being pushy. But that wasn’t the case.

Ebensburg pianoIn the three hours we were with them, a connection was made–and they just wanted us to know that they were fully aware of it and treasured it.

We gently declined again, and all at once one of the sweet Ebensburg souls said, “Why don’t we make you some plates to go? You have to eat. What is it you want?”

It was so moving. Perseverant love.

They wanted us to eat their food, and we needed to eat food, even though we could not stay–so they came up with a plan.

They bagged us up dinners, complete with two cold bottles of water.

As I drove down the highway enjoying my salad with just the right dressing and all the little choices they put on my plate, I considered perseverant love.

The church is in a position to become the only resource in America that has an open door policy and offers perseverant love. It will begin when we stop studying the Bible in abstract, but instead, study human life, find out what’s really going on with people, and then come back to the Gospels to unearth what Jesus says about it.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that when we have this perseverant love, it’s a lot easier to comprehend that somebody could feel that way toward us, too.

Ebensburg empty piano bench

 

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Ask Jonathots… August 18th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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What does Jesus mean when he says “Let the dead bury the dead?”

Jesus was neither extremely religious nor just a “lovey-dovey hippie.” Any extensive study on the life of the Nazarene will bring out two strong impressions:

1. He believed human beings had great, untapped capacity

2. He also believed human beings were capable of being judgmental jerks.

So when you consider Jesus’ words as recorded in the Gospels, apply these two principles. He is always trying to get us to tap our greater humanity by learning to deny our selfishness.

One day he meets a fellow who really wants to be a follower, but uses the excuse of burying his father to delay his decision.

Jesus responds, “Let the dead bury the dead.”

This is not a disregard for giving honor to a family member, but rather, a realization that missing the moment of our greatest conviction normally means that we never get back to what we originally set out to do.

A crossroads of contrition: where we focus on what we really want to be and what we really want to accomplish.

This person had decided he wanted to follow Jesus. Jesus’ point was simple: You will never, ever feel this energized again.

Find a different way to give tribute to your father, but truly show your respect to him by pursuing your heart.

Nothing should stand in the way of an inclination to make our lives better. Too often we use family responsibilities, such as weddings and funerals, as a way of excusing ourselves from chasing our dreams.

Give your tribute to the dead some other way than showing up to the funeral.

Share the responsibility with another family member.

But don’t miss your day in the sun … when the warmth is on your skin and it’s clear what you need to do.

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Jesonian: (Part 2) The Preparer … June 7th, 2015

 

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Jesus for Jesonian

Hearkening back to my school days, I recall four distinctly different types of teachers:

  • Paul the Paycheck
  • Larry the Lecturer
  • Mike the Mentor
  • Fred the Friend

(There were also the female counterparts of Paula, Lorraine, Michelle and Freda.)

Paul the Paycheck was a reluctant participant in the educational process, but faithful to his duties, always reminding you, though, that he wasn’t paid enough and could have gone into business and been rich.

Larry the Lecturer was in pursuit of the morality of learning, insisting that placing fine detail in a child’s brain was the best way to keep him or her from delinquency or poverty.

Mike the Mentor was pretty well aware that the best way for information to reach the adolescent brain was to provide examples which were easily understood in the teenage thinking process.

And Fred the Friend was the type of teacher who realized that students were going to learn what students were going to learn, but the lasting impression for their high school experience would be a loyal, intelligent and cool teacher.

Paralleling this to the religious system, we have a church today that teaches that Jesus is Paul the Paycheck, who died for our sins and now has become Larry the Lecturer, making sure we don’t accidentally have fun, ending up in a pit of evil.

We can certainly understand why this approach is not absolutely filling the pews.

But it only takes a quick study of the Gospels for us to realize that Jesus came to mentor his 12 disciples, and by the end of the session, called them “friends” because he shared his life with them.

So when my Mentor and Friend tells me that he is preparing a place for me, I am fully aware that he is working for my completion in the following areas:

1. Helping me find out what’s good for me here so I will know what I enjoy and what I would love to do forever.

2. He is also helping me find the perseverance and sense of humor to survive the bad that comes my way, by acquiring the ability to count the cost and avoid unnecessary conflict.

3. He’s placing his spirit deep within my being so I begin to recognize in the world around me what is growing towards the good, what is stagnant and what is determined to be dark.

4. He has placed the confidence in me that because of his mentoring and friendship he knows exactly what to provide for me in the life to come. to keep the joy of goodness flowing.

So my heaven will not be your heaven. My heaven will be a glorious expansion and explosion of the good I’ve already found here, thrilling my soul.

It will be prepared for me by my Preparer.

It will be a home where my Mentor and Friend can join me in freedom, fullness and pleasure.

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If Jesus Were in Charge… January 4, 2015

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  • Religion wants to worship God.
  • Hope wants to find God.
  • Faith wants to see God.
  • Love wants to share God.

Church is becoming an exercise in futility because man was not created to worship. Worship was created so man could revel with the joy, love, faith and hope that pulsate within. It is a chance to express the hope to find God, the faith to see God and the love to share God.

But how do we do it? What would a church service be with Pastor Jesus?

If you read the Gospels closely, the answers are pretty clear, at least to this pilgrim. Every time Jesus got together with people, there was some sort of transformation, victory or healing which occurred. People felt they could come with their illnesses, insufficiencies, questions and frustrations and not have to wait through an entire service to have them addressed.

Yes, I believe church should begin with prayer, hugs, words of encouragement or even just a good cup of coffee. We begin with a season of healing–heart, soul, mind and strength.

I think if Jesus were pastor of a church, next would come testifying. Those who have been blessed, healed or rejuvenated get a chance to share their hearts. Others who have had dynamic weeks can express gratitude for intervention.

So once people have been healed and given a chance to speak out as part of the family of God, then it’s time to teach. Instruction is motivated at this point. Healing and testifying have been accomplished, so we have the opportunity to explain the mind of our heavenly Father, and offer better ways for us to get along with each other.

Healed, testified and taught, we are anxious to celebrate. Let the music begin. I don’t know why we expect people to sing their way into a good mood. Music was meant to produce emotion and praise–which normally follows an experience.

And finally, after celebration, we give. We close out the service providing finance–as each one has prospered throughout the week.

It was the style of Jesus to heal, open the door to testifying, teach the masses, celebrate the message and then allow them to give of their substance so the work could continue in the next village.

Church has become a commemoration, when it was meant to be a combustion–stoking the fire of belief so it can burn brilliantly.

If Jesus were in charge, church would be about people instead of causes, concerns, committees or even communion. Will we ever see such an opportunity come our way?

I guess when we finally grow weary of being pious and become wary of being godless.

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