Good News and Better News… April 17th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jesus was the Good Shepherd. (Well, I guess He still is, since no one else is qualified or particularly interested in the job.) He spent his whole life trying to find a way to be a caretaker for sheepish human souls.

It began with thirty years of family life–a mother, father, sisters and brothers trying to get along in cramped quarters, being hunted down daily by poverty.

Then, when he felt a stirring in his soul to do more, his desires were struck down by the locals, who insisted he should remain the “carpenter’s son.”

So he moved a little bit down the road to a town called Capernaum, and started a house-front church–Peter’s house. It became very popular–so much so that the folks literally started tearing the walls out.

But then his family got wind of his doings, thought he was crazy and came out to take him home. A little bit of scandal. Suddenly the citizens of Capernaum were not quite as interested anymore.

So Jesus turned to his handful of disciples and said, “Well, let’s take the show on the road.”

He became an evangelist. Since he figured no one in Galilee or Judea was particularly interested, he went to Samaria. He met a woman who helped him build energy and in no time at all there was some excitement and thrilling deeds in the works.

Unfortunately, when he returned back to Samaria shortly thereafter, they wouldn’t let him share anymore because they found out he liked Jews–and they hated them.

He decided to return to Galilee to live off the land and just see who came in. Eventually there were seventy of them–one of those church sizes that is so common today.

Jesus motivated them, sent them out two by two, and their work was so successful that within a few months, Jesus found himself teaching five thousand people–an unbelievable growth spurt.

Jesus had himself a mega church. He was not only leading them but also feeding them. But when he began teaching them about personal responsibility, and the fact that his congregants needed to be on a spiritual journey to have the heart of God toward humanity, they objected. Matter of fact, they got angry, started “splits,” and before you know it, Jesus lost 4,988 members.

He was left with twelve.

That’s a pretty drastic dip. I would think he would have had a tendency to question his technique, method or even wisdom. But Jesus went the other direction. He continued to minister to the twelve disciples, but he focused on three: Peter, James and John.

And although the Good Book says that five hundred witnesses saw him after the resurrection, only 120 were around for the Day of Pentecost.

But Jesus had even shrunk his vision of the three “best friend” disciples down to one.

Yes, on a cool morning by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus stood by the water with Simon Peter and said, “Feed my sheep.”

When it turned out that Peter got a little weary, Jesus appeared on a back road near Damascus and told a chap named Saul of Tarsus, “Stop fighting it. You are meant to be a messenger.”

So even though thousands and thousands of people came Jesus’ way, encountered his message, some even walking away with miraculous healings, he intelligently placed focus on two fellows, who made it their mission to teach the parishioners around them to become disciples–and to change the world.

The good news is that the Gospel is not about building churches and getting attendance. It’s about making disciples.

And the better news is that a contented, fulfilled, excited and creative disciple can reach millions.

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Ask Jonathots … October 15th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2723)

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I have an acquaintance at work who is a fundamentalist Christian. Almost every day she comes into work and cites some tragic world event, such as the flood in South Carolina or all of the conflict and killing in the Middle East–especially with Russia entering Syria–and she joyfully proclaims that these are “signs of the end times” and that “Jesus will be coming back soon.” Is there any way I could convince her that God wants to save the world, not destroy it? Heads up: I don’t want the world to end!

I would like to begin my answer by focusing on the word “fundamentalist,” especially when it’s tied to the word “Christian.”

The definition of fundamentalist is someone who is a strict adherent to a philosophy, a doctrine or a cause. It’s an individual who holds to the letter of the law as being the correct process in pursuing the spirit of the law.

Therefore there are even fundamentalist atheists.

But when you place the word “fundamentalist” with the word “Christian” you create a quandary, because Jesus claimed that he was the fulfillment of all the Law and Prophets, and then he boiled down the entire extent of that body of work to two principles:

  1. We’re to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength;
  2. And the second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself.

So fundamentalists who believe they’re a Christian because they hold fast to the Old Testament or to the Epistles of the Apostles will certainly find themselves on shaky ground if one of those ideas is contrary to loving the Lord or your neighbor.

Also, Jesus made it very clear that he had not come to destroy the world, but to save it, nor condemn the world, but instead, welcome change. Our goal was to be peacemakers.

Anyone who finds joy in the suffering of mankind has by default become a cheerleader for evil.

The reason the Bible says that Jesus will eventually return to Earth is to keep us from killing everyone on the planet.

  • It is an act of mercy, not vengeance.
  • It is a position of grace, not judgment.

So if we have any desire to see the world end and for suffering to multiply so that such an event might occur, then we are identical to James and John, who wanted to rain fire down from Heaven because a Samaritan village refused to welcome them.

So when I run across people who have that mindset, I explain to them that I understand their desire but I do not consider them to be followers of the heart of Jesus.

I call them Apocalyptic Believers. In other words, they believe in the Apocalypse.

If they really believed in Jesus, they would pray for a way for the world to be preserved and saved… until more people could find their way home.

 

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Jesonian: The Jesus Con… July 5th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2624)

pharisee and publican

Condemn, condone, console, consider.

These are the four basic approaches available to us when dealing with our fellow-humans.

Jesus had his angle. The Jews, the Romans and the culture did not agree.

Just this week, one of my sons asked me what I thought about marriage equality. I smiled. Because honestly, you cannot approach individuals as a group and develop an opinion of “them” and think you’re doing anything that resembles righteousness.

In other words:

  • Not all Baptists are Southern.
  • Not all Catholics are Pope worshippers.
  • And not all homosexuals are hapless victims of a bigoted society.

So Jesus had his criteria for evaluating life.

Jesus did condemn. It is ridiculous to assume that he was “liquid love” seeping into every hidden crevice of human existence. It’s just that he didn’t condemn what most people condemned. It’s popular to condemn things that are different from us and try to make them look weird.

Jesus condemned hypocrisy.

It would be easy to get along with Jesus of Nazareth as long as you didn’t go into your bull-crap mode. You could make mistakes, fall short, have inconsistencies or even sin, and his profile would basically be, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Likewise, Jesus always condoned those who insisted on finding a way to love. When James and John became infuriated with the Samaritans because the disciples were forbidden entrance into the city, Jesus cautioned them that when we fail to give a loving response, we lose control of the end result.

Jesus did console. Yet when they asked him to express his empathy and pity for those killed by a tower falling on them, he surprised them all by saying, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

But Jesus always consoled those who repented. Repentance is the first journey we must take on our way to receive our gift of grace.

And Jesus certainly was a man who took time to consider. He considered the lily. Why? Because it did what it was supposed to do without demanding attention while producing great beauty.

Jesus always chose to consider those who knew there was more to believe, more to receive and more to retrieve.

What you do with condemn, condone, console and consider will determine the quality of your life, and possibly even your eternal destination.

So as a Jesonian follower I will condemn hypocrisy, condone those who pursue life with love, console the repenter and consider the individuals who comprehend, yet still know there is more.

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G-Poppers…May 1st, 2015

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Popper

Grandson returned from Sunday morning church, moping around the house, barely touching his Sunday lunch.

G-Pop kept an eye on him but felt it was wise to let the little fella come around in his own timing. Sure enough, just about the time G-Pop was ready to take that blessed Sunday afternoon nap, Grandson arrived, full of energy, but confused, brimming with questions.

“G-Pop, I need to talk to you.”

G-Pop gauged the young boy’s temperament and realized he was about to hear a speech, so he nodded his head and the little guy commenced.

“Why does God kill people? The reason I ask is because in Sunday School today, the teacher told us that God rained fire down from the sky on some cities–I forget their names. Well, anyway, that He did it because they were sinful and He had to destroy them. So I asked my teacher why God killed those people and he said it was because they were sinful. Well, I asked, don’t we all sin? And the teacher said yes, but their sins were really, really bad and we should realize that if our sins get bad enough, God could do the same thing to us. This really bothered me. How can God love us and kill us at the same time? So after a while, it didn’t just bother me, it made me mad. And I felt stupid being mad at God, since that could be a sin–and the kind He would want to kill me for, if you know what I mean. So I don’t know if I want to go back to Sunday School to hear more about God killing, because it makes me sad for those He killed and also scared that He’s going to kill me.”

G-Pop waited to make sure the little boy was done. Also, he hadn’t heard a question, so wasn’t sure if it was the time to provide answers.

Grandson realized that G-Pop was quiet, so he said, “What do you think?”

“Well, I think there are many stories about God but only one God who creates the stories. And before you ask, what I mean by that is that we have to judge the stories by what we know about God. For instance, when Adam and Eve sinned, did He kill them?”

The little boy shook his head.

“How about when Cain killed Abel? Did God kill Cain?”

“I don’t think so,” said the Grandson.

“No, he didn’t.” repied G-Pop. “How about when James and John wanted to kill the Samaritans with fire from heaven? Did Jesus do it?”

Once again, the boy shook his head.

“When they brought the woman who had sinned to Jesus and they wanted to kill her, did he let them?”

“No,” said the grandson.

“Matter of fact,” said G-Pop, “Jesus told his disciples that people who want to kill other people are not acting in the spirit of God. So I don’t know why some stories insist that God kills. But it doesn’t mean they’re right. What if you went to school tomorrow and somebody told you that G-Pop was a killer. Would you believe them?”

“No, G-Pop wouldn’t kill anybody!” objected the young man.

“Exactly. But what if they told you a really good story and it sounded true. Would you believe them then?”

“I don’t know,” said the little boy.

“Exactly,” responded G-Pop. “I’m not trying to tell you that parts of the Bible are wrong. I’m just saying that when parts of the Bible contradict what we know about God, we need to quietly walk away from them and follow our hearts.”

“So why do they teach them?” asked the boy, a little bit perturbed.

G-Pop paused. “Well, because they think the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, those cities that were destroyed, is just as important as Jesus teaching the multitudes. They forget that Jesus came to fulfill all the stories through the example of his life. So if you didn’t see Jesus do it, or hear that Jesus said it, then it’s probably just a story.”

The little boy was greatly relieved, partly because he didn’t want to believe God kills…but mostly because he didn’t want God to kill him.

 

 

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