G-Poppers … March 9th, 2018


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G-Pop received this significant portrait just a couple of days ago. He looked at it for a long time, greatly moved by the genteel nature, and found it quite evocative. He was curious about what the caption should be for such a thousand-word image.

Is it:

“Science embracing humanity with knowledge and insight”

“Mother Nature nurturing the children of Earth”

“Jesus welcoming the children the disciples had rejected”

“God admiring His handiwork”

“The Physician standing watch over the patient,” or

“The perseverant prayer restfully awaiting the touch of the Heavenly Father”

Actually, it’s a quick snapshot of G-Pop’s son, cradling his newborn child. The boy’s name is Julius.

Like all of us, Julius will need much tender-loving care to become “a caesar.”

 

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Good News and Better News … October 31st, 2016


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coldwater-back-wall-1From everything I hear in the news media, our country is “angry.”

People are mad.

I’m not really sure what they are so upset about, but I guess that’s why pundits get to dress up and over-explain.

Yesterday when I arrived at the Coldwater United Methodist Church, I met people who are trying really hard to be kind and gentle in an atmosphere of crudeness and despair. Even the pastor of the church is beginning a new phase of her life, expanding the horizons of her ministry–completely and totally by faith.coldwater-set-2

Even though we accept the veracity of the reports about the frustration in our country, the constant repetition of complaint does nothing to alleviate the pain.

But it really revolves around a three-step process:

1. Stop being mad at me.

Yes, I need to stop being mad at myself. Most of the antagonism I feel toward other people is centered in my own dissatisfaction with my choices–especially when it comes to lying. For after all, once we start deceiving ourselves and others, we’re grouchy and fussy because we fear there’s the chance we’ll be challenged or get caught. So the best way for me to stop being mad at myself is to set in motion no lying–and that goes for exaggeration, too.

2. Stop being mad at others.

No grudges.

The grudge is always a piece of pride we fester because we’re not willing to discuss our feelings, fearing that we just might have to compromise. When we no longer insist that other people are “just so stupid that we couldn’t possibly reason with them,” we begin to address the animosity we have with mankind as a whole.

3. Stop being mad at God.

Most Christians would insist they feel nothing but love for their heavenly Father. But since He is our Dad and we are His children, there’s a good chance that occasionally we’ll be pissed off over the household rules–especially since religion comes along and puts the doctrines in stone. You can’t have a relationship with God through religion.

So–no religion.

Religion will not make you closer to God. It makes people prejudiced, self-righteous and nasty.

So I contend that a good portion of what I am called to do is remove the arrogance of anger so that the congregation can manage to forgive themselves, others and God.

That’s the good news.

The better news is: when you have no lying, no grudges and no religion, you find it much easier to relax and enjoy your relationships.

coldwater-jesus-note-3

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Good News and Better News … May 7h, 2016


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West Virginia Jon and Jan

Wedged, Virginia.

Yes, squeezed in between West Virginia and Virginia is the little village of Peterstown, where I was fortunate to spend my Mother’s Day Sunday with the fine brothers and sisters of the Mountaineer State.

I don’t know whether it’s the blessing of aging or a submission of my well-traveled soul, but I seem to be finding greater delight in the human beings around me instead of constantly taking an inventory of their deficits.

I don’t know if the world is getting better or not, but perhaps if I decide to get better, the world might just seem that way.

The good news is that I see a gradual awakening in the American population–an alarm clock going off, letting us know that we’re in need of a new morning. Honestly, no one is springing out of bed to face the day. Most of us are reluctantly reaching over to punch the snooze button, hoping to gain a few more moments of unconsciousness.

But the alarm continues to sound.

It rings in our politics, our racial relationships, our families, our educational system, and certainly in our churches.

As it pertains to the latter, we are mercifully beginning to understand that church is not a dining experience, where we perch, get served a meal, and sit around with our friends discussing the menu and the quality of the attention given to us by the waitress.

Church would be better described as a self-service gas station, where we roll in knowing we need fuel, but understanding that we’re going to have to give something to get it.

That’s what I sensed Sunday morning with the Peterstown conclave.

They might be willing to be served–but they also were completely open to the idea that it is their turn to give back to the system.

God did not create human beings to worship Him. The angels had already filled that position. God created human beings for companionship and to replenish the Earth.

So every minute we spend in His house, we should enjoy sweet fellowship among our friends and great conversation with our Heavenly Father, preparing ourselves to replenish the Earth.

And what does “replenishing the Earth” mean?

Giving back just a little more than we take.

So I come out of my experience in “Wedged, Virginia” rejoicing over the alarm that is awakening our culture from a deep sleep of emotional and spiritual lethargy.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that we human beings are always smarter, sharper and funnier when we’re involved–instead of sittin’ on our butts, waiting for the dinner rolls to be served.

West Virginia Composite 2

 

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 2) Front and Center… May 8th, 2016


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Reverend Meningsbee

There was a great glut of human traffic which came to an abrupt halt in the vestibule of the Garsonville Church, as each stalled congregant stared down at their church bulletin, which was only a half-sheet of paper, and mused over the meaning.

It read:

Welcome to Jesus Church!

1. Enter! Take a seat in one of the first five rows on either side

2. Greet One Another

3. A Hymn (Congregation’s choice)

4. Thought Luke 14: 16-24

5. An Effectual Fervent Prayer

As you leave, please drop your offering into the red, heart-shaped box at the back door

That was it.

Through mutterings, groans, misgivings and sighs, the congregation made its way into the church, reluctantly sitting in the first five rows as requested. (Well, three families departed in a huff, and Deacon Smitters perched himself in his accustomed assigned seating near the back door.)

Promptly at eleven, Reverend Meningsbee arrived, shaking some hands and beginning the service. After singing “Wings of a Dove,” as requested by a nine-year-old who was more curious about the title than familiar with the tune, the Reverend spoke.

“Thank you, one and all, for taking a seat front and center. You may wonder why I made this request. In Luke the 14th Chapter, verses 16-24, Jesus tells the story about a man who planned a feast. Of course, we know he’s talking about God. So God has invited people to His feast. They immediately begin to make excuses. They’re too busy, they’re financially engaged, they have responsibilities… Anyway, they turn Him down.

At this point, God says something very interesting. He tells His servants to go out and invite as many people as possible–good or bad–so His house will be full.

Do you realize that every Sunday morning we insult the Heavenly Father by scattering all over this building in little pockets of family, social cliques and pews of tradition, flaunting the obvious emptiness of our sanctuary, never realizing that God wants His house to be full?

We don’t take back seats anywhere else. We don’t go to a concert of our favorite musical artist and sit in the nosebleed section. We don’t go to a restaurant and look for the worst table in the establishment.

But we come to church and think it’s our right and privilege to avoid contact with the altar of repentance, and stay closer to the back door of evacuation.

Not anymore.

If God wants His house full–and He does–since we don’t have enough people to fill it up, we’re going to begin to fill this church from the front to the back. That will give us a sense of being full because we’re all sitting close together, facing the front, unaware of the vacant seats behind us.

This is our first step.

This is our attempt to make this a Jesus Church instead of a church that’s suited to our picky, personal preferences.

So I thank you for being involved in this beautiful experiment. I thank you for your cooperation…”

All at once the pastor was interrupted by a middle-aged man on the third row.

“You do realize, three families left this morning, and there may be more who won’t come back next week?”

The pastor paused, and then spoke in a gentle, metered tone.

“I do. I also understand that the way we’re doing church is driving more people away than bringing them in. I believe those three families will return when they see that what’s happening here is meeting the needs of human beings.”

The questioner shook his head and sat down in disgust.

Meningsbee said a prayer and started to walk away, then stopped in his tracks, turned and spoke to the back of the room.

“Deacon Smitters, we will look forward to you joining us front and center next week. Good day to all of you and God bless.”

The Garsonville Church sat quietly for a moment, as if trying to wake up from a really bad dream.

Undoubtedly the week ahead was going to be filled with vigorous discussion and angry dissension.

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Jesonian: Horizontal … October 4th, 2015


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Jesus with starsWhen disciples start thinking about Heaven, they soon lose interest in the Earth.

It’s the weakness of religion.

It is the erroneous, and perhaps devious, perception that pleasing God is the only thing necessary, even if we have to hurt people to do it.

It was Dr. Luke, in the 9th Chapter of his story about Jesus, who highlights this unfortunate practice.

In the process of just a few verses, the disciples make it clear to Jesus that they are no longer interested in humanity or any improvement in their own personal growth.

  • They want to chase their destiny.
  • They want to point out division.
  • And ultimately, they want to dominate.

Let’s be precise: Jesus was interested in horizontal relationships between human beings instead of a vertical connection with God.

He explained it this way: “By this they shall know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another.”

But this didn’t stop the disciples from coming to Jesus, wondering who was going to be the greatest.

They also were very upset about some individual they ran across who was doing miracles in Jesus’ name, but would not submit to the common curriculum.

And it culminated with wanting to rain fire down from heaven because a Samaritan village failed to recognize them.

But drawing from a deep well of patience, Jesus answers them. “Who is the greatest among you? It will be the one who receives a child in my name and the one who contends they are the least that truly shall be the greatest.”

What should you do with someone who believes the same way you do but won’t join your club?

“Those who are not against us are for us.”

And concerning fire from heaven, he told the disciples they did not understand what Spirit they were serving, because “the Son of Man came to save lives, not destroy them.”

The Gospel of Jesus is about horizontal relationships among Earthlings.

So even if we insist that some particular scripture is true and it is being broken by brothers and sisters around us, our only responsibility is to love them.

The disciples were baffled because the disciples were religious. They never totally understood Jesus. Why?

Jesus was not religious.

He came to show us how the Kingdom can work, how Father God and Mother Nature are in unity, and how we–the children of Earth–can get along together.

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Good News and Better News … September 14th, 2015


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Gooe news Reedsburg

Many years ago, I sensed a voice within me, encouraging me to go out and share my heart and abilities with the world. Some people would say it was the voice of God, while others would probably insist that it was just me, declaring my own bidding.

I don’t care.

I heeded the call, and that decision has taken me on an exotic adventure.

Yesterday morning, I was in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. Since your travel plans probably don’t have you going there in the near future, let me tell you that it is a quaint, Midwestern town and that my experience was delightful and insightful.

I found people who still possessed an inspirational ilk.

They believe in the belief of believing.

They still contend that belief stimulates the joy of true believing.

Let me tell you a little bit about them:

1. They don’t want to give up.

Even though they’re fully aware of the dangers of our society, they insist that there are still many ways of escaping the insanity, while still recognizing reality.

2. They hope there is a God.

They are not so arrogant as to stomp around the room, insisting they have been to Mt. Heaven and had dinner with the Divine. Their expression of confidence lies in a hope that a Heavenly Father is still working with human beings.

3. They want to do something.

It’s not so much that our generation is lazy, as that we are paralyzed with fear and mocked by those who are convinced that nothing can be done. “Give me something to do” is probably the best five-word phrase that can fall off the lips of any human being. That doesn’t mean we don’t trust God or believe in His grace–it’s just our simple way of thanking Him for sending mercy our way.

So even though I found these Reedsburg folks to be delightful and insightful to my life, I was very pleased to bring them even better news.

I told them:

A. God wants to be human

God has no desire for us to become more religious, more heavenly or even more angelic. He came to Earth in the form of Jesus to make it clear that He loves human beings and wants to see if we can learn how to do this better.

B. God knows we are all made of heart.

We had several breakthroughs yesterday–they were all emotional realizations, not scriptural translations. We are creatures who add to our faith by feeling, lest we become boring and discouraged.

C. If you share your life, miracles will follow.

Certainly some of the best parts of the service yesterday were when people opened their mouths and their life poured out. God doesn’t want us to be perfect, God wants us to be honest.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stop-off in Reedsburg. I hope they did, too. And I hope they remember … no amount of prayer to the heavens is equal to a simple conversation and confession to one another.

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If Jesus Were in Charge… January 4, 2015


pastor Jesus big

  • 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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