Good News and Better News… October 2nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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She was a sweetheart.

During my two presentations at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Clermont, Florida, I got a chance to meet this delightful woman.

She bounced up to my book table and engaged in conversation. About halfway through our exchange, her face got a little more serious and she asked me, “How do we rate? I mean, you go to places all over America. How would you rate our church?”

I knew she wanted a serious answer, yet I wasn’t going to placate her nor was I going to try to place some burden on her heart by pointing out an inadequacy.

“You’re kind of right in the middle,” I said.

She started to smile, then squinted and replied, “Well, that’s not very good.”

After nearly forty-five years of traveling America and sharing in a vari=ety of venues, many of them churches, I will tell you what makes a good church. It begins and ends with the word “generous.”

One of the most chilling statements Jesus offered to his disciples, and to us who would follow his message, was “to he who much is given much is expected.” So it’s a little optimistic to think that you’ll receive eternal salvation while lounging on a heavenly hammock. So here are the three things that make a great church:

1. Generous space.

Sanctuaries are too cramped. They’re confining. This stifles the sensation of freedom. Since your church probably is not filling up the sanctuary for every service, take come pews out. Create room. Make people aware that they have the freedom to extend their legs and arms. Give children a place to crawl.

Clear everything unnecessary from the platform. There should be room for three or four people to stand side by side easily.

If you give air to the room you give air to the people to give air

2. Generous face.

If you’re not going to talk to someone, don’t peer from a distance. It’s creepy. And when you walk up, don’t stay too long, but do make eye contact while you’re there.

We met a fabulous brother named Joe at Shepherd of the Hills. He was not an “average Joe.” He was loving, giving, kind, and made us believe that we had a primal place in his present consciousness.

No one expects you to be a counselor or long-lost friend from high school, but grant folks the dignity to enter your generous space and receive your generous face.

3. Generous grace.

You have no right, privilege or scriptural authority to probe into the lifestyles of those who worship next to you. Share the Gospel of Jesus and let the Gospel do its work. The Holy Spirit is much more adept at convicting people than you are with your gossip. I don’t care what you hear about people. I don’t care what you think about people. At no time do you, I or anyone else have the permission to judge anyone.

It is possible for any church in America to become a Jesonian church–a Jesonian Catholic, a Jesonian Baptist, a Jesonian Methodist, a Jesonian Lutheran, a Jesonian Pentecostal–but it requires you to take on the heart of Jesus instead of pounding your favorite theological nails.

The good news is that Shepherd of the Hills Church has this delightful lady who is not willing to subsist in the middle.

And the better news is, if you make your church a generous space with a generous face, offering generous grace, you will grow.

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G-Poppers … August 4th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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During a recent appearance on a talk show, the host asked G-Pop, “If you had one minute of air time to speak to the whole world, what would you say?”

G-Pop took a deep breath and replied:

“Take responsibility for your life. There is no shame in making mistakes. There is great disgrace in lying.

Repent to live. Then you are free to be trusted.

Be a giver, not a receiver. Some receiving is necessary to have something to give. Don’t get used to it. Share what comes your way.

Feel strong because you breathe.

Feel wealthy because you eat.

Don’t judge anyone at any time. Stop listening to gossip.

Find a place to create–then create.

Don’t answer a question that wasn’t asked.

Never give an opinion, even when it’s requested.

Your life is your voice.

In other words, love your neighbor as yourself.”Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

G-Poppers … April 28th, 2017

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G-Pop took a few moments last night to talk to his godson.

The young man is personable, with potential dangling from him, similar to a bunch of electrical cords that need to be plugged in somewhere. Like so many of us, he just doesn’t know which cord goes into which socket.

It begins with a simple understanding: 80% of what we think is born in our fear.

G-Pop wishes he could proclaim that our thoughts are grounded in our faith or our devotion, but it’s not true. Faith, hope and charity have no chance until fear is confronted, tracked down and put in its place. So our thoughts scream from this fear.

Now, 90% of what we fear comes from what we see and hear.

If we surround ourselves with fearful people saying fearful things about a fearful world, we should not expect a great fountain of creativity to spring forth from our souls.

For instance, here’s a simple point about gun control in America: the problem is not the gun. The difficulty lies in the fact that what we see and hear about guns always has them with the barrel pointed at a human. If you go to Canada, you’ll see lots of guns. But they’re pointed at deer and moose. The Canadians don’t have a constant programming of seeing and hearing about guns pointed at other human beings.

In America, we would frown on a gun being pointed at an animal, but our guns are constantly pointed at human beings. Therefore, what we see and hear becomes our fear and our fear becomes what we think. And we think that guns are for killing people, not rabbits.

And the final statistic that G-Pop presents is that 100% of what we see and hear should be our choice.

So you will think from your fear.

Your fear comes from what you see and hear.

And if you sacrifice what you see and hear to what the pundits want to thrust down your throat or what your friends insist will make you cool, you will be at the mercy of the fear that is produced by these visions.

G-Pop’s godson is just like all of us.

He needs to learn that our thinking is controlled by our fear; our fear is manipulated by what we see and hear, so if we take authority over what comes into our eyes and ears, we begin to change our fear to faith and our faith can work to produce love.

Three final points set this in motion:

1. Run from strife.

Whenever you see people fighting for the hell of it, get yourself away.

2. Walk away from gossip.

Gossip is just violence in training.

3. Sit with good cheer.

When you find people who are looking for hope, who are smiling through the difficulties and trying to create unity and joy, sit your butt down.

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Good News and Better News… April 10th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I grew up in a church which contended, believed and insisted that baptism was only to be performed through immersion. No “sprinklin’ on the head” for our parishioners. It had to be a full, “ear-washin’, born-again, dunkin’ hullabaloo.”

Our church also believed that communion needed to be served every Sunday, not every once in a while, leaving a congregation spiritually malnourished due to the fact that they had not sufficiently partaken of the wafer and juice.

There were also other fragments of doctrine which were enforced by numerous sermons, as the minister often mocked other ways of thinking, which he deemed heresy.

Even nowadays, every single church on every corner has some pet portion of the Good Book they feel supersedes all others, and sets them apart as the “true Chosen of God” instead of the errant rabble.

Although the mainline denominations, such as the Methodists, will smile at you and promote their flexibility, they still would never think about saying “hallelujah,” clapping their hands, or allowing for the possibility of the miracle of healing in the middle of a service. I guess we need Pentecostals for that.

Every single fragment of a once-noble, unified body of Christ is positive that they are the heartbeat of the Gospel.

Over the years it has become very simple to me–I don’t give a tinker’s damn what people believe. I watch how they act.

Some of the most intolerant, inflexible and mean-spirited people that I’ve worked with over the years seem to possess the most intense Bible knowledge. And other folks, who the righteous would consider to be damnable sinners, have taken the time to wash the shirt on their back before they gave it to me.

Of course, there are all sorts of Christians out there who will tell you that I’m promoting a Gospel of works rather than grace. Actually, all I’m saying is that I can’t thoroughly confirm that grace is at work unless the recipient is gracious.

I’m not so sure people are forgiven if they can’t forgive.

And I definitely don’t see them possessing the Spirit of God when they’re prejudiced against other people.

If you want to find out if a man, woman or child is a Christian, take one morning of your life and work on a project with him or her. Then go back and look at what the fruit of the Spirit is. Because if memory serves me, it is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

When I see those virtues at work, I begin to believe in what people say they believe that they truly do believe.

When I run across grouchy, short-tempered, fussy, back-biting, gossiping and aggravated individuals, I think they are disconnected from their beliefs, even though they seem to be very proficient at quoting scripture.

Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me how you act. And if that has too much “works” in it for you, then go cuddle up to your dead faith.

The good news is that Jesus said “by their fruits you shall know them.”

The better news is that a Gospel that can be acted out is much easier to imitate than trying to mouth holy words.

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Jesonian… April 8th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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The Disagreeable Disciple

Disciple: I love you, my Lord.

Master: Well, thank you. So let’s get to work.

Disciple: I’m all ears.

Master: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Disciple: I pick up that the key word there is “neighbor,” which connotes they’re neighborly. If you mean being kind to neighborly people, then I get it.

Master: Your neighbor is everybody.

Disciple: I understand your heart, but that seems a little unrealistic.

Master: Judge not lest you be judged.

Disciple: I hear you. Gossip is a horrible thing. But there are things that need to be spoken against. Things that you, yourself, certainly don’t condone. So I believe there’s a difference between speaking up against evil and judging people.

Master: What if I told you that I don’t make that distinction?

Disciple: Interesting.

Master: When you pray, enter your closet, and when you shut the door, pray to your Father in secret.

Disciple: At our latest prayer seminar, we were discussing the power of thousands and thousands of people praying together over a common theme. Sometimes my personal prayers seem so anemic–lonely, if you will.

Master: And the Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.

Disciple: Once again, interesting.

Master: In the Kingdom of God there is neither male nor female.

Disciple: Yet you want is to keep our social roles, am I correct? Women as mothers, men as fathers. Also good to study the different personality traits and emotional leanings. Is this true?

Master: Kingdom of God. Neither male nor female.

Disciple: Much to think about.

Master: And whenever you’ve done it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.

Disciple: Now I know we’re on page! We have a food pantry at the church and we take care of hungry kids in after-school programs. We’re tracking this one down.

Master: By least, I don’t mean social order or poverty. I mean the ones you personally consider the least among humanity. The prisoners, the terminally ill, the outcasts, the individuals who don’t necessarily conform to your moral code.

Disciple: Sounds like you’re suggesting we condone sin.

Master: No, I’m telling you that you’ll be judged by how you treat the people you have deemed to be least.

Disciple: Wow, you’re sure giving me a lot to ponder. But you have to be pleased when you see your people gather to worship you every week in church.

Master: In vain do they worship me, because they teach their traditions as if they are commandments of God instead of mere preferences of this generation.

Disciple: But you do like praise and worship?

Master: Worship should be in spirit and truth–a mingling of our hopes with the impact of reality.

Disciple: You know, I haven’t thought about these things from this perspective for a long time.

Master: I’ve never thought about them from any other perspective.

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Ask Jonathots … November 10th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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What role do you think the media played in the 2016 Presidential election?

Decide.

It’s the most important step each one of us takes in our lives. Decide what we think is important and steer our life in that direction.

Without this determination, we often find ourselves misled by the passing fancy of an overzealous press or an under-informed society.

Once you understand the function of the media, you can begin to comprehend how their input is valuable, and where it is detrimental to your own well-being. Here is the agenda of the media in the United States of America:

1. Dig up information–the fresher the better.

In the process of desiring to bring news-breaking stories, often truth and detail are compromised. So in order to be intelligent, you must realize that what you hear is not dependable unless it has survived 72 hours of scrutiny.

2. Fill time.

When the nightly news was only half an hour in length, there was no requirement to cover so many stories with so many angles, as with the introduction of the 24-hour news cycle.

It is similar to going to a party knowing you’re going to stay an hour, or going to a party knowing you will be forced into the confines of that environment for four hours. Under the one-hour limit, you don’t have to work so hard to fill the time, and therefore may actually be less likely to lie, exaggerate or gossip.

3. Make money.

Yes, the media is at the mercy of sponsors, and they often have an agenda. So the media finds itself subject to that agenda, and therefore they pad reports with stories which support the requirement.

So whenever you watch a news organization, you are getting their “take” on the news instead of an even representation.

As for me, I consider what the media is doing–having already determined three things for my own lifestyle

A. I will love my neighbor as myself.

B. I will take personal responsibility for my life.

C. I will be of good cheer.

I feel that the media during this Presidential election was instrumental in robbing us of a sense of brotherly love, personal responsibility and certainly a desire to have good cheer.

There were just times I had to turn it off  to maintain the integrity of my heart’s desire and mission.

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 22) Thirty Days Has Remember… September 25th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

One month passed.

It’s one of those phrases a writer inserts to move the story along. But they don’t really move. Stories must be evicted from the hovel where they huddle to escape progress.

Ten days after the “Old Time Religion Community Church” signed its incorporation papers in the living room of Sammy Collins’ home on a table near the fireplace, he was rushed to the hospital, red lights flashing. He had collapsed at work and everyone was certain it was a heart attack. The town was abuzz with gossip and prayer.

As it turned out, it was a ruptured gall bladder, and while he was having his personal rendition of that organ removed, it was discovered that he also had high blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

It was suggested he slow down.

Also within the month, a crumpled letter arrived in the mail at Matrisse’s house, postmarked Atlantic City, New Jersey. Inside was a note and a ten-dollar bill.

In her own words, Kitty attempted to explain to Matrisse that she was on an odyssey to find herself, which had taken her to the East Coast, and that she had found a job as a bartender at one of the casinos which had managed to escape bankruptcy.

Kitty said she was sorry and happy at the same time–because she missed her little Hapsy, but knew she was well taken care of, and until Kitty could find all her answers, she was probably better off separated from her growing daughter.

Also, about fifteen days into the “month of remember,” an article appeared in the local paper about Patrick Swanson and the church meeting at the Holiday Inn Express, entitled, “A Gathering for the Young Up-and-Coming Conservative.”

It seemed that Patrick had found his target market, as they say in the world of social media. Being interviewed by the local reporter, he explained that the congregation did not believe in gay marriage, government interference, and were certainly strongly against gender blurring. What they were interested in were young families who wanted to see the country return to its original glisten and gleam.

Then, seven days ago, a young boy named Alex Bachman arrived at school early, went into the lower portions of the building to the furnace room, threw a rope over the top of a pipe and hung himself.

He left a suicide proclamation. It read:

They said it would get better. It didn’t.

Reverend Meningsbee was called by the family and asked if he would be willing to conduct a memorial service at the church building, free of godly trappings, since the Bachman family was a non-religious group of people (what the average Nebraskan would call “avowed atheists”).

The family also wanted Meningsbee to be the moderator–yes, that’s the word they used–for the event, and to give a retrospective on the life of young Alex, ending with a positive message of humanity, and everybody departing to walk to the local park to plant three trees.

At first Meningsbee wanted to decline, offering his best wishes and regards, but then, in a moment of clarity, he realized there was no other place in town they could go for such a commemoration–and that opportunity never arrives resembling anything of what we really want.

So on a Saturday afternoon, with memories of a month full of Garsonville life racing through his mind, he drives to the church, on his way to a presentation which denies the importance of everything he believes.

What should he say?

What did he feel?

Maybe he should have studied more.

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