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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The Faith We Earn … June 9, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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ant“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

A statement from the Good Book.

Many times, people fail to understand that it’s a two-part presentation–a faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and a faith that’s the evidence of things not seen.

It is true for each of us. There is a faith we are given.

Even if you weren’t raised in a religious home, morals, principles, ideals, precepts and conduct were infused into you and have become alloys in the steel of your soul. It is an inherited conscience, steering you, influencing you and on occasion, deterring you.

Unfortunately, most people’s faith stops right there. They cling to traditions planted into them in early years, or they reject them in some fit of rebellion, feeling that it makes them appear autonomous.

But faith doesn’t stop with what you’re given. We gain our individuality by how we earn our own faith. Somewhere along the line, we become responsible for our own dealings, our own decisions and our own soul.

It is the evidence of things not seen.

  • We don’t see them because they are not part of our past.
  • We don’t see them because they are fresh opportunities, or trials in our lives, demanding that we make personal selections.
  • And we don’t see them because often a loneliness settles into us because of the pressure of needing to make a decision.

Earned faith breaks down into three categories:

1. Here is less. What will you do?

Some human beings lose their way simply because they are frightened by the prospect of poverty and diminished by lack. We earn a faith by deciding to remain industrious and optimistic during hours when it seems that our personal needs are in jeopardy.

2. Here is more. Who will you be?

Yes, whether we’re willing to admit it or not, there are times when a bit of bounty comes our way and we have to decide whether we believe in generosity or if we’re just going to open an extra bank account which will eventually be eaten away by need.

3. Here is silence. Where will you go?

It is part of life–to find ourselves absent friends, devoid of human contact and appreciation, and even feel orphaned by a Heavenly Father, our Creator.

It’s not that we should relish the vacuum. It is a test, to see whether we continue to pursue our dreams without the applause and affirmation of the surrounding earth.

There is a faith we are given–the substance of things hoped for.

And a faith we earn–the evidence of things not seen.

And the latter is when we know what to do when we have less, we choose who to be when given more and we can still continue to go forward in the chill of silence.

 

 

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

Click here to listen to Spirited music

Click here to listen to Spirited music

 

 

G-10: Surrender or Defender … February 7, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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dad and johannPictured is my son, Jasson, mercifully and tenderly holding his ailing boy, Johann.

When the photograph arrived, I was not only moved because of the closeness of family connection, but also in the fact that I realized that it was a snapshot of humanity.

For to become a complete person, you must understand that you will play both roles at one time or another. You will need to be the comforting father, concerned for a struggling friend, holding him close to infuse strength. Yet you also need to be prepared to become the tired, limp, struggling child, who collapses into the arms of a heavenly Father, or an earthly surrogate.

I believe the reason that many people fail in their human journey is because they become reticent, determined not to move freely between these stations. It is a truth that I will find myself needing to be a defender of others–protecting them from the onslaught of the angry horde, but it is equally as powerful to understand that at times, through my own weaknesses, I need to be protected, sheltered and isolated from the avenging crowd.

The world tells me to be strong and never show weakness. In doing so, I am unable to overcome my demons, but merely discuss wrestling with them until they pin me to the ground and destroy me.

Religion promotes the doctrine of weakness, hoping to magnify the strength of God by displaying the useless efforts of our human talent.

Damn them both.

Damn them to the hell they have created for our species. Because sometimes I am a defender; other times I must surrender.

I consider three ideas:

  1. Do I have anything to contribute or offer, other than my opinion or ego? If not, then please, let me sheath my sword and step back, allowing others to lead the charge.
  2. Can the acknowledgment of my weakness end up making me stronger? Yes, do I gain credibility in the earth family by being honest, and therefore worthy of being considered a defender of the truth?
  3. Can I move freely between surrender and defender without feeling lessened or overly self-important?

As life moves, so must I.

At times the blowing of the wind will fill my sails and push me forward. At other times, the same wind will just be a storm.

What a beautiful picture of us as people, as my son tears up over his fragile offspring and the little boy, equally as intelligent, gives over all need for resistance to protective arms.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

Stepping Away… October 19, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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church popscicleElder Ralph was working on a crossword puzzle he had hidden in his Bible.

Deacon Dan was dozing on the third row.

Martha, the church piano player, was thumbing through a Life magazine.

The teenagers sitting around me were passing notes, giggling and trying to time their levity with the jokes infrequently being offered from the pulpit, as Pastor Norm continued to preach on a subject matter which no one seemed to care about.

Suddenly in the midst of this ongoing Sunday night antipathy, it struck me. It was so phony, so contrived and so meaningless to my sixteen-year-old mind.

I quietly rose to my feet, moved past a few of my friends and headed toward the back of the church. Everyone thought I was going to the bathroom. Some people probably thought I was headed to the fellowship hall to see if there were any treats to eat after the service. But actually, I passed on both of those opportunities, headed out the door and walked home. Even though I still believed in God, I had lost confidence in the system that was arranged to represent Him.

For three months, I stepped away.

  • I didn’t go to church.
  • I didn’t stay in contact with the people.
  • I also didn’t go out, get drunk, smoke grass and curse the heavens because of my disillusioned condition.

Various emissaries from the conclave of the righteous were sent to me during the ninety days to tell me how I was missed or what I was missing or how it was absolutely necessary for me to be there–otherwise I would fall into iniquity.

I joyously ignored them.Up the Down Staircase

Instead I took my stepping away hiatus to accept a role in a play at the high school, as Joe Ferrone in Up the Down Staircase. I also worked on my piano playing, which had become as rusty as my Grandpa Ford’s barn door latches, and I practiced singing. (I had convinced myself I was a bass, but actually had enough range to be a tenor. Why not both?)

During my stepping away period I discovered I could do things–yet realized they were more fun when I was tapping the mind and spirit of God to achieve them.

Eventually one of my friends from the youth group came to see me and said, “Jonathan, you may not need us, but we need you.”

Those were the magic words.

It wasn’t an issue of ego–it was the fact that I could no longer attend church because I was afraid not to. I couldn’t go to church because it “made me a better person.” And I didn’t want to go to church to fake it, in order to get heavenly tickets.

I took my newfound drama talent, my expanded singing and my better piano playing back to the “house of people”–to simply enjoy my heavenly Father.

I stopped looking around the room to see what Elder Ralph, Deacon Dan, pianist Martha and all the other kids were doing.

When I disagreed, I chose to simply live differently. And if it got boring, I challenged the ideas.

That three months of stepping away sowed the seed of the man I have become. It was a season of time when I realized that I don’t need to be in church to find God.

But the church needs me ,,, to make sure we don’t lose Him.

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Always Starting Over … January 13, 2013

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shoes

Above are the shoes I was wearing tonight as I set up my equipment at All Saints Lutheran Church in Tamarac, Florida. (All Saints Lutheran–you really have to admire a church that makes sure it doesn’t offend any divine possibilities.)

I took a picture of my shoes because they are a symbol of what I do. I travel. Perhaps many people would find that difficult, boring or even impossible to achieve, but the challenge I receive in journeying across this country enables me to put into practice a precious principle. For you see–I’m always starting over.

I can finish up sharing at one venue and make great friends, receive hugs and an occasional kiss on the cheek, but as soon as I climb back into my van and turn out of that parking lot, my next destination has absolutely no idea of the magnitude of the affection just extended my way–or, for that matter, how much I treasured the folks I encountered.

Each time I stop off, my shoes join me in being a stranger. My philosophy of life is constantly being tested, because rather than being continually surrounded by patrons, family, friends and beloved well-wishers, I am usually in the presence of cautious and even suspicious individuals, who are trying to figure out who I am simply by eyeballing the cut of my jib.

So if I don’t know who I am, I certainly will not be able to convince anybody why they should care. I will tell you right now that a good percentage of the problems in this country are due to the fact that we are all encouraged to have an overblown assessment of ourselves and our abilities, which, when put to the test, come up short, making us look like we’ve been freshly smacked in the kisser with a coconut cream pie. There is power in knowing who you are. There is also a great blessing in my life of having that identity continually questioned, so that in the process of reestablishing daily the factual nature of my true character, I also can bring glory to God by every once in a while sprouting a good work or two.

After I establish who I am, I am then given the gift of sharing why I am. Once I share why I am, I can answer the question that fills the heart of every human being. Why should I care?

If we all walk around this planet expecting props for the magnificent manner with which we breathe, we will eventually destroy one another because we feel offended by the lack of appreciation for our yet-undisclosed abilities.

I like starting over. It adds muscle, credence and intelligence to what I believe and teach. It means that my talent can win over my looks. It confirms that having heart is not a lost art in a society that boasts its indifference.

I will put on my shoes in the morning and go out to meet more people who don’t know anything about me except the propaganda written on a piece of paper, which many of them will never read and the rest rarely believe. If I don’t have a gift out of my soul to carefully place into their souls, I am of little use.

So tonight I will do three things:  (1) clean out the basement of my emotions of all unnecessary and unwarranted ego; (2) think about funny things so I’m ready to be of good cheer in the atmosphere of what could be sour dispositions; and (3) spend some time with my heavenly Father, feeling valued–just in case His human creation forgets to grant me that courtesy.

I can recommend starting over. Otherwise you live under the delusion that everybody around you is madly in love with you and thinks you’re the coolest person on earth. They really don’t. They’re just trying to do the best they can and would certainly welcome any overture on your part to make their lives easier.

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Matters … May 22, 2012

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He was very loud.

He apparently had a deep conviction that using much volume and vigor was the symbol for commitment and passion. He strutted across the stage, engaging the audience, whipping them into a frenzy of agreement. I was never quite sure whether those listening were responding to the words or were merely overtaken by the sheer magnitude of the effort.

I turned down the noise in my mind and listened solely to this TV preacher’s  content. This is what he said:

“Sometimes I’m moody. Sometimes I’m depressed. Sometimes I’m mean. Sometimes I don’t like people. Sometimes I’m hard to get along with. Sometimes I’m not a very nice fellow. Sometimes I’m not a good husband. Sometimes I’m not a good preacher. Sometimes I’m just who I am—and without God giving me grace, I wouldn’t have a chance to ever make it to heaven.”

Each time he offered one of his “sometimes” phrases, the audience cheered. I wondered what they were cheering about. Was it just a gigantic pep rally, where anything that was in the context of “Yea, our team!” would have been greeted with equal exuberance? Or was it just that the gathered souls were simply offering their support to the general position of their leader?

I don’t know. But when I got done listening, the question that came to my mind was, “What’s the point?” If you’re going to be a believer, following the leading of the Heavenly Father, and you’re still the same kind of jerk you were before, why go to the trouble? Why take money out of your coffers to support a cause that doesn’t make you any different? Why take the time to dress up, perfume yourself and drive  to a building to worship an entity that offers no reprieve to your ailing soul, but rather, seems to revel in your insufficiency? How can we be the light of the world when we continue to be dim-witted? How can we be the salt of the earth, but have such a flat taste? How can we be a city set on a hill and be in darkness because someone failed to pay the light bill?

Jesus called God “the Father”’ but what KIND of Father? Is He one of those abusive Dads who levy punishments for minor infractions? Is He one of those doting Papas, who thinks His offspring can do no wrong, and always makes excuses in order to maintain the family bond? Or worse yet, is He one of those Fathers who pretends to be supportive, but inwardly and secretly hopes the child fails at his independence so “the young ‘un will come home to Daddy?”

It gave me a chill. Is that really the best we can offer? “Come and worship God, who will show you how weak you are and help you maintain your feebleness until you either die and discover the truth of the matteror get sick of being the underdog, run out of the door of the church screaming–to escape the bondage of religion?”

Is there a way to be human, acknowledge that you are, but also learn from the spirit of the Divine how to be better at it–and be adequately challenged and loved through the whole process?

I sat down and wrote three things on a piece of paper. I believe these three points are necessary to maintain emotional well-being, spiritual prosperity, mental health and physical solvency. (1) I matter. (2) You matter. (3) It matters.

First of all, I cannot advance my cause if I don’t believe that I matter. I can only tolerate a certain amount of self-imposed incrimination before my heart rebels against being treated like an unwanted orphan. Everything of quality in life has to commence with the understanding that “I matter.” To me, one of the more invigorating verses of scripture is when Jesus told his disciples that they didn’t need to worry, because the Father in heaven knew what they needed before they even asked. How lovely. And as a smart Creator, He knows that he placed within each and every one in us a need to believe in ourselves, pursue our own betterment, and refuse to give in to mediocrity. I matter—and if I matter, I’m not going to sell out and assume that my most meager efforts are my best.

So I say to that minister on the television, you may get some immediate “Amens” from the crowd by portraying human beings as incapable of overcoming their inconsistencies, but in the long run, you will cause them to lose the power to become the sons of God.

Because until I believe I matter, I cannot possibly let YOU matter. I love you but I’m not going to let you be better than me. I appreciate that you’re God’s child and I welcome you to a seat at the table—but I’m never going to give you my pork chop.  But when I feel secure in the fact that I matter and have a mission to improve myself instead of settling, I then will pass the platter your way and let you partake. It’s impossible to love your neighbor if you don’t already love yourself. Facts are, you WILL love your neighbor just as much as you DO love yourself, and if you think that you, yourself, are just a big pile of trash in the corner, then you certainly will be prepared to haul your friends to the curb.

If you really believe it’s natural for human beings to be depressed, mean, moody and selfish, then you will become fiercely competitive with others and suspicious of the world around you. The only way I can let you matter is because I know that I matter. If God is not transforming my life, why do I think He would be interested in your situation? Spirituality is not the absence of self-confidence, but rather, the definition of it. And that definition is simple: I matter enough that God tells me what will make my life even richer, so that I can live that out and make room for you to matter, too.

Do you see where we’re going? After I realize that I matter and my life is important, I have the joy of believing that you matter. And once you matter, suddenly the true miracle of life occurs: IT matters.

There’s nothing too small–setting up chairs in an auditorium, driving your car, buying groceries, folding the laundry, watching a football game or sitting in a church, worshipping. You know that I matter, and you’ve given grace to others to allow them to matter as well, and then suddenly–everything you do matters.

You give the greatest part of yourself to your own life—and that is attention. For instance, as I write this jonathots, I am nowhere else, thinking of nothing else, worrying about no one else, completely absorbed in this matter. I love it.

I was greatly saddened by this flamboyant, energetic minister on TV. He was seeking the approval of the populace by telling them they didn’t need to do anything more than what they were already doing in order to be godly. I suppose it is true if your goal is to maintain a mediocre lifestyle. But if you really want to be happy, you have to find a way to challenge your moodiness, depression, meanness and selfishness—and open the door to continual flows of living waters into your soul.

  • I matter.
  • You matter.
  • It matters.

And in the end, because it DOES matter, it gives even greater confirmation to why I matter, and it starts the circle of life again.

I’m sure there are those who can cite specific holy writings which might contradict parts of this thesis. But real holiness is a truth that makes us free—a word which has value because it is both heavenly and has an obviously rewarding earthly application.

Don’t settle. Don’t give in to your weakness and call it humility. Find out why God is a good Father—because He teaches His children to believe: I matter, you matter, it matters. 

  

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