Jesonian… March 4th, 2017

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Long before the empty tomb, Golgotha, the Garden, the trial, the healings, the miracles, the Sermon on the Mount or even the water turned to wine, Jesus stopped off in the wilderness for forty days to deal with his appetites and the essence of his humanity.

Jesus was a human being. Much of Christian theology is rendered ineffective because clergy are unable to fathom this.

His relationship with God, based upon being the only begotten Son, is completely unknown and irrelevant to us. Why? Because when he lived in our presence, he had no special favors, no advantages and claimed to be a “son of man”–just one of the gang.

Jesus was sent to Earth.

According to the story, Satan was cast down–his punishment, to be bound and limited to Earth.

And for the period of time that Jesus was here, he was in the same situation, except that he was granted the Holy Spirit.

So when we talk about Satan tempting Jesus, what we’re really discussing is the pernicious nature in all of us which makes us aggravated with the way things are.

That is the definition of sin.

The sins of the heart trigger the sins of the flesh.

Therefore when you boil down the three temptations, they are nothing more than a series of lamentations:

1. “I’m hungry. Why are there just stones and no bread?”

2. “Here I am–so cool, and nobody knows me. I’m not famous. Maybe if I jumped off the Temple…”

3. “I need a short cut. Maybe if I worship what everybody else worships, they’ll all think I’m really neat and I can rule the world.”

It is the nature of human beings to want to control. It’s foolish, since there are too many people, animals, weather formations and evolutions going on for us to ever stick a flag anywhere and claim it’s our turf.

Therefore we fail. When we can’t control we either pout or we cheat.

Jesus took the time in the wilderness to abandon his human instinct to control–because during his ministry, sometimes people had faith and sometimes they didn’t. The Pharisees were more interested in traditions than compassion and the disciples were often as dull as your wife’s shower razor.

We fail because when we realize that our plan has gone awry and we’ve lost control, we become depressed and don’t recognize the opportunities around us.

I know it’s hard to believe, but there really is only one sin. We start it early, keeping it to our grave:

Pouting.

  • “It’s not fair.”
  • “It’s not good enough.”
  • “It isn’t what I planned.”
  • “People don’t understand me.”
  • “I’ve been cheated.”
  • “I’m the wrong color.”
  • “I’m mistreated.”

From that position of pitiful, we try to beg enough sympathy to be loved and considered. If that doesn’t work, we cheat, lie, deceive, commit adultery, take drugs or any other sin that’s ready to jump on our backs like a monkey.

Jesus took forty days to deal with his humanity. He accepted the fact that he did not have control and would have to work with what was available.

It was only after the Resurrection, on his way to ascend to heaven that he proclaimed, “All power is given unto me in heaven and Earth.”

So let’s stop controlling, and instead … work with what is available.

 

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G-Poppers … January 27th, 2017

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18 years of age.

G-Pop’s granddaughter is celebrating today.

She is so excited. She has waited a lifetime for it–at least, her lifetime.

She is ready to be a person instead of a passenger.

A participant rather than a daughter.

A mover and not just a child.

G-Pop could share many superlatives about this young woman and bore you to tears.

She is intelligent to the point of being sharp.

She is clever and creative.

She is tender-hearted and allows tears to flow without shame.

Even though her life has been peppered with missteps, she went back, corrected them and took responsibility for the stumbles.

She is talented, she can sing, and dear Lord, she even plays the ukulele.

The canvas set before her is prepared for the beautiful colorations of her dreams.

But she is still plagued by one concern:

She doesn’t want to miss anything.

She doesn’t want to be considered an “also ran.”

She does not want people to believe she’s just a preacher’s daughter who cushioned herself from the realities of human life.

She wants to do it all.

She is frightened of becoming a “goody-two-shoes.”

It is a sensation that jolts the heart of every person who dares to pursue goodness. Can you chase the star of purity and still enjoy the cosmic journey?

But here’s the reality: nothing bad ever made anything good.

No vice ever actually promoted a versa.

No inhalation stimulated respiration.

No liquid spirit ever conjured a Holy Spirit.

Side-tracks. That’s what all those are–little temptations to distraction that we’ve convinced ourselves are necessary to add to our diary to make our lives seem plausible instead of merely a fairy tale.

What G-Pop would like to tell his granddaughter on this glorious day is that good is the only thing worth living for.

But you must never preach it.

Preaching good always leads to self-righteousness, selfishness and anger over missing out over some sort of sinful delicacy.

The more the reverend reverberates against iniquity, the more he is drawn to it. It is a historical fact.

God never gave us permission to preach good–thus the warning, “Don’t judge other people.”

G-Pop would also tell his granddaughter that being good is the curse of a thousand yearnings.

None of us are good. No, not one.

So every time we try to be good, we punish ourselves, incriminate our hearts and tear down our confidence. It’s why the phrase, “I’m sorry” needs to be at our tongue-tip, prepared to be uttered at any moment.

We’re just not good.

And those who try to be good often end up either lying or preaching. (I’m not sure if there’s a difference there.)

What G-Pop wants to wish to his beautiful, creative, gentle, comical granddaughter is the mission of doing good.

Good becomes very obvious because it’s always the thing that includes somebody besides yourself. It’s not hard to find–and even though you’re not going to preach against evil nor claim to be pure, the least you can do for a battered, bewildered and betrayed mankind is grant them the touch of grace brought by a moment of goodness.

I’m always enamored by the story that comes out of the 1969 music festival, Woodstock. Even though all the parents were critical of their young ones who went off to this “den of iniquity”–and perhaps there was a farm-load of sin being perpetuated in every field–when it was discovered that the purple acid was hurting people, they interrupted the concert and got on the microphone to warn their brothers and sisters to stay away from it.

They did good.

I suppose some pious parents might suggest that if the children were not taking acid in the first place, there would be no reason to avoid the purple.

But you see, that’s not life.

Life is realizing that wherever you are, whoever you’re working with, and whatever the rules for that environment, there is still a way to do good.

It does not make you a goody-two-shoes.

It means that you walk with feet of blessing.

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G-Poppers … August 26th, 2016

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G-Pop just wasn’t sure it was relevant.

He wanted to share a story from the Acts of the Apostles from the Good Book, but was concerned that when it comes to the Bible, many people are looking for religion instead of reality. Yet the parallel to our times was so strong that he decided to take a risk.

The tale is rather obscure and rarely spoken of in church circles. It’s about a fellow named Simon, from Samaria. He is described as a prominent man with great influence and appreciation among his peers. When the disciples of Jesus appear, sharing their message of love and hope, praying for the sick and bringing the Holy Spirit to the masses, Simon is impressed by the anointing and intrigued at the opportunity.

So he approaches Peter. He says, “How much would it cost for me to get the Holy Spirit?”

To a man who believes that material things provide all security, it was logical for Simon to think there was a purchase price for anything and everything. We’re even told that Simon professed to be a believer–but what he was interested in was absorbing the power.

G-Pop would like to pause for a moment and parallel this with Hillary and Donald.

Both of them claim to be Christians, feeling the need to acquire that support and even be immersed in the community. But simultaneously, they deny the power of the message of Jesus of Nazareth and his lifestyle.

  • Jesus did not verbally attack his enemies.
  • Jesus did not subjugate the poor.
  • Jesus did not think that lying was an option.
  • Jesus did not believe that one person was better than another.
  • Jesus did not contend that the Jews had an edge over the Gentiles.

Yet we have two candidates running for President who purport to be followers of Jesus, and are not bearing fruit of his mission in their everyday lives.

Returning to the story, when Peter was offered money by Simon, who was referred to as a Sorcerer, his reply was very blunt. “Take your money and go to hell.”

Today the response given by the Christian community and evangelicals to the Presidential candidates is quite different. It’s because they don’t believe in the insights of Jesus and are looking for a political solution.

What would happen if the Christians in this country stood up to Hillary and Donald?

Because when Peter challenged Simon, there was a happy ending.

Simon repented.

Hillary and Donald will continue to assert that cutting, hurting, attacking, back-biting, gossiping and lying are viable ways to become the leader of our nation until people who treasure faith stand up and say, “To hell with this.”

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 12) Obsession… July 17th, 2016

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Reverend Meningsbee

A damnable itch, festering in the brain, simpering to be scratched.

Meningsbee was enraged.

He was wounded.

He couldn’t decide if he was more angry or hurt.

But on the drive home, grasping a moment of maturity, he decided to keep the events of the failed Bible study to himself. Yes, when asked about it, he would play dumb and refer all questions to the other parties involved.

And there would be questions. The congregation had great faith that Meningsbee would be able to come into the living room setting of Sammy Collins’ home and use his spirit and charm to initiate healing.

Maybe that’s what bothered him the most–a complete sense of failure; a rage over being out-foxed by this common possum, Swanson. How did he ever let himself be in such a vulnerable position that this upstart could make him look foolish and insignificant?

Even though he decided that the mature–or as he called it, the Jesonian–way of handling the event was to remain silent, his brain was inflamed with an inferno of retaliation.

And the more he considered his noble choice, to turn the other cheek and pretend it never happened, the more a self-righteous slime made him feel pious–superior to his adversary. Then an aching anger chased that religiosity, leaving him bound in a week-long fit of overwhelming obsession.

Fortunately, he succeeded in dodging all the phone calls from church members by proclaiming that he would share his findings on Sunday. This seemed reasonable to all of them. Why tell the story fifty times when you could tell it once, and have it done?

But what would he tell?

Even though Patrick Swanson did not ask him to keep their conversation in confidence, he knew that anything he would relate about the plans of this worship leader would come across petty–and of course, be easily denied.

He’d had such great hopes.

Meningsbee had come to Garsonville with the spirit of a servant, but now he was realizing that he still had a mind to be king.

Yes, in his more enlightened moments he was willing to be patient and wait for good things to come his way, but that damnable itch insisted on being recognized.

He got so worked up that he ended up with some sleepless nights that invited a common cold to further aggravate him. Sneezing, blowing his nose and sipping some tea and honey for a scratchy throat, he wondered if he could skip the Sunday service due to illness.

Implausible.

Things had to be handled, and unfortunately, it was his hands.

He didn’t pray enough, he didn’t study anything, he over-ate, over-thought and over-reacted.

He reluctantly dressed for Sunday morning and headed out the door. He had no message.

He had never come to spend time with the Heavenly Father so ill-prepared. All he had inside him was poison. But he drove to the church and stepped to the door.

A few people tried to hug him and he was able to maneuver away by explaining his contagious condition. Fortunately, the congregation easily handled prayers, offering, testimonies and even a song.

Then everybody grew quiet, the building completely still, waiting for Pastor Meningsbee to speak.

He stood to his feet, vacant of inspiration.

He walked slowly, as a man treading to an execution. He turned and looked into the hopeful faces of those who yearned for peace with their neighbors.

Suddenly tears filled his eyes. He feigned a sneeze and grabbed a Kleenex to draw attention away from his sudden emotional outburst.

Catching his breath, he picked up a Bible nearby and held it in the air. He stood there for a long moment, waiting for the Holy Spirit to give him utterance. There was none.

Yet the congregation was waiting.

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Good News and Better News … April 4th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News and Better News Woodmont

It’s 9:53 A. M. and time for me to go into the sanctuary at Woodmont United Methodist Church in Reidsville, North Carolina, and share the little bit I know. (Fortunately, it’s only an hour, or I would quickly run out of smart stuff.)

There’s nothing terribly impressive about me, so as I get out of my wheelchair to hobble and creak my way over to the piano bench, the gathered host of God probably feel more pity than enthusiasm.

It doesn’t matter.

They have spent the whole week being overwhelmed by politicians, pundits and individuals of all shapes and forms who believe in establishing their prowess through dominance.

So as I look out at my soon-to-be friends, I feel compassion–because they’re man-handled.

They are continually manipulated, coerced and even criticized into believing that “might makes right,” and “the loudest always gets to be the proudest.”

They are peppered with the message that it is an “I” against an “I”–and teeth are made for biting.

Yet with all the promotion of this philosophy, the world still falters–with terrorists now telling us that God thinks we should be blown up, or at least shot multiple times with bullets.

So in that sacred moment, I realize that the House of Jesus needs to be a safe haven from the stupidity of prideful demolition.

Man-handling. What is it?

1. “You gotta fight. Stand up for yourself! Speak your mind. It’s a free country. If you don’t defend yourself, people will walk on you.”

But even in a room filled with just a hundred voices, if everybody speaks up for him or herself, nobody gets heard.

So my message?

Stop fighting and wait for an ingenious idea from the Holy Spirit, to handle the next situation.

Also, the man-handlers want you to know:

2. “Life is complicated.”

If they don’t convince you of that, how can they sell you the improved product, the new book, the fresh idea or the present political candidate?

So I decided to tell the folks at Woodmont to simplify.

After all, I never saw anybody get anything done in a better way because they complicated it. Even if I were an ant, my job would be to find the shortest distance to get the crumbs to my nest.

And finally, all the man-handlers want to make it clear that:

3. “We’re all different.”

Since nowadays it’s basically considered to be ignorant to be a bigot, we hide behind the disguise of “cultural choices” to promote our prejudice.

In other words, since “blacks like things done a certain way,” that’s why they hang out together, and “Chinese people prefer chopsticks instead of forks.” But rather than this teaching tolerance, we’re just promoting isolation.

My answer to the man-handlers is to find commonality among us all.

The forefathers said there is such a thing as the common good.

Here, here.

So as I got ready to strike my first note and begin the service, what crossed my mind was that these people really need to be “God-handled.”

Since I possess no divine qualities whatsoever, I chose to imitate the heavenly Father’s personality profile.

I brought mercy. Mercy-handling.

That’s the good news.

And the better news is that being merciful gets much easier when you realize that you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing.

Therefore you have a desire … to be generous to others.

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 16) Purify … March 20th, 2016

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Jesonian hands

Jesus was not Jewish.

This doesn’t mean he hated Jews. He was like you and me. That’s what the Bible says.

Being like you and me, he was one-half jungle and one-half Garden. So he was Jewish on his mother’s side and Holy Spirit on his Father’s side.

It’s an important point.

Jesus did not come to Earth to confirm Judaism, nor was he a forerunner for Mohammed.

Yes, we must understand that Jesus did not establish his message in order to create a third generation for Abraham. He said quite clearly that “before Abraham was, he existed.”

He pre-dated the Patriarch of Judaism and the Muslim faith.

Why is that important?

Because Christianity is here to bring peace to the Earth, not pick a side in the fight.

Until we purify the Christian message, we will miss the essence of the struggle in the early church, when Paul told the leadership that they needed to stop acting so damned Jewish. The message needed to survive Jerusalem so that it would be well-understood in Hoboken and Siberia.

So if we’re going to be like Jesus, we must purify the mission in the following seven ways:

1. I am not political.

Whoever is the next President will be my President and I will honor him or her with my prayers.

2. I am not religious.

The simple truth is, God loves me and there’s no act of contrition or worship that will make that any better.

3. I am not a skin color.

God has vision for only one thing: He sees my passion because He looks on my heart.

4. I am not a culture.

The whole Earth is the Lord’s–therefore I am part of His greater vision, not His local flavor.

5. I am not confined to my nuclear family.

Even though I love my offspring, my real family is anyone who is interested in pursuing the Kingdom of God.

6. I am not afraid.

Fear weakens my love, so I choose good cheer as my refuge.

7. I am not better than anyone else.

There are no chosen people, just people who choose well.

Until the message of Jesus is purified as the “repairer of the breach” for mankind’s misunderstanding, we will be tempted to pick sides and will wage a political conflict…instead of welcoming a human unity.

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Good News and Better News … October 26th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Lakeville composite

Was it three, or four?

If I remember correctly, I think it was four individuals who came to my book table saying, “How did you guys end up at our ‘little church’?”

Ms. Clazzy and I found ourselves in Lakeville, Indiana.

I suppose in some ways I would understand their question, since our society is indoctrinated in the idea that good things go to big places to make a huge splash. But if you look at history and you understand the essence of the Gospel, it really doesn’t work that way.

Life is about finding a mustard seed, planting it and then not worrying about what happens next.

Jesus promised it would grow into a tree, but how long will that take? Certainly not within one harvest.

So what you work on is your mustard seed.

  • Is it good?
  • Does it have growing possibilities?
  • Does it nestle well into the soil, accepting nutrition and water?

I don’t worry about numbers of people. Truthfully, the places in our society which draw the largest crowds are often bigoted and errant.

I always feel like the Holy Spirit giggles at our notion of popularity–because even though we insist that Jesus shared in front of large crowds, they often left pretty quickly once they realized he was going to teach and not just offer another all-you-can-eat fish dinner for five thousand or more.

Do you know what I liked about Lakeville? It isn’t put together yet.

I suppose they might be offended by that statement but they shouldn’t be. There are many things in America that are put together–even organized into clubs or parties–which are doing absolutely nothing to help mankind.

Lakeville still has a chance to be of benefit to the human race. They’ll have to turn down some of the noise of the world and simplify things instead of complicating them, but they have a good mixture of men, women, children and older saints. They are led by an enthusiastic, fine chap named Brian.

So what would I tell Lakeville as I leave it?

1. Reject religion.

Since religion is what killed off Jesus 2,000 years ago, let us go ahead and assume it does the same today.

  • Religion wants organization. Jesus wants spirit.
  • Religion wants rules. Jesus wants faith.
  • Religion wants to worship God. Jesus wants us to find God inside the person standing next to us.

2. Push away politics.

Yes, the church is obsessed with politics. Even though the two political parties over the past 16 years have nearly destroyed the integrity of our security and economics, for some reason the church wants to join the mayhem instead of bandaging up the wounded.

Politics is what people pursue when they no longer believe in God.

3. Get excited about Jesus.

Yes, I will tell you–the best way we can help our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters who are trying to kill one another is to actually step away, be separate and act like Jesus. You don’t become a better Christian by worshipping Judaism. You also don’t become a better Christian by reading the Koran.

If your church can’t become excited about Jesus, at least be honest enough to warn people that you no longer are followers of his dream but instead, are just readers of the Bible.

4. And finally, create something.

  • Don’t settle for leftovers.
  • Don’t insist there’s nothing new under the sun.
  • Write new songs.
  • Think new thoughts.
  • Share your arts, your crafts, and your professional abilities–and give God glory for them.

The first nature of God is found in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created.”

No kidding.

Go and do thou likewise.

 

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