Jesonian … November 18th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Those that are not for us are against us.

Those that are not against us are for us.

These seem to be two contrary thoughts–even a contradiction. Yet Jesus said both of them.

And due to a lack of understanding, the soldiers of the cross all line up behind one campaign or the other.

Some churches firmly believe that the Gospel is under attack by a sinful world, manipulated by Satan.

Other churches insist that people are basically good, and it’s up to us to help them through their hard times so they can find themselves.

We even divide our political parties along the same lines. Devout Republicans tend to favor isolation, and the Democrats are proponents of intervention.

We also see this clearly with James, John and Judas. James and John were isolationists. When they came to Samaria and the people rejected them, they were angry and suggested the folks should be destroyed for their lack of hospitality.

Jesus rebuked them and said they didn’t understand what spirit was working inside them.

Judas, on the other hand, criticized Jesus for spending money foolishly instead of taking the funds and using it to feed the poor. Jesus replied to him that the poor were never going away, and if we try to resolve poverty, we’ll end up angry and bitter. He said the best we can do is offer what we can afford.

The battle still rages today:

Are we going to be a church of isolation, a country of isolation, or should we favor intervention, both spiritually and politically?

What is the way of the Earth? What is the true message of the Gospel?

Did Jesus come to isolate off a group of believers, or did he come to intervene in the lives of everyone?

Neither.

The Gospel interrupts.

It offers an alternative. It sheds light and produces salt as evidence of another possibility.

The Gospel interrupts the process by offering a more common sense, logical, easier and gentle approach.

When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they asked him what he thought they should do. He doesn’t answer specifically. He says, “If you have no sin, you should feel free to cast the first stone to kill the woman.”

The Bible says at this point, he turns around, stoops and fiddles in the dirt with his finger. He leaves it to them to come up with the right answer.

It is rather doubtful if we can live in a world that is an Internet click away from covering 25,000 miles, and believe we can isolate ourselves from other nations.

It is equally as ridiculous to contend that our intervention–taking over the circumstances of nations–will do anything to generate permanent resolution.

Jesus has called his church to be an interruption. While enjoying our lives of simple Gospel bliss, we offer an alternative to others through our example and our generosity.

We interrupt.

Jesus said, “I didn’t come to bring peace. I came to bring a sword to divide people.”

The ultimate interruption.

To be a Jesonian believer is to understand that isolating ourselves from others does not alleviate being at the mercy of their insanity, but also understanding that intervening and thinking we can feed all the poor is equally as unstable.

What we can do is interrupt.

In the process of living a full, joyful life, we brush up against others, and in doing so, we plant the seeds of better notions. For after all, people are not changed by being ignored or controlled.

They must see our good works to glorify the Father in heaven.

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Jesonian… March 25th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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When John, son of Zebedee, sat down to pen his recollections of traveling with Jesus of Nazareth, he had two goals in mind:

  1.  He wanted the reader to know that Jesus was the only begotten son of God.
  2. He also wanted the reader to understand that Jesus was a flesh and blood human being.

So the same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead often finds himself trapped in squabbles with disciples and Pharisees who totally misunderstand his motives.

Nowhere is this clearer than in John the 7th Chapter, when Jesus is once again thrust in the middle of a squall with his Nazareth family. Since he spent his first thirty years in the household of Joseph the Carpenter, one might think that many of these misunderstandings would have been worked out, and that smoother paths would have been pursued.

But as soon as Jesus decided not to be “normal,” his family dubbed him “weird.”

  • They sought him out to bring him home because they thought he was crazy.
  • They stood idly by when the townspeople of Nazareth pushed him to the edge of the cliff, threatening to cast him to his death.
  • And in John the 7th Chapter, they taunt him about his newfound fame, asserting that if he really wanted to “promote his gig,” he should do it at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, where there would be large crowds.

It is a nasty and bitter piece of resentment and jealousy. Some theologians even think that his family members may bave been paid to intimidate him into going to Jerusalem so that assassins lying in wait could kill him on the journey.

We know that Jesus is still trying to work out his own feelings about this nuclear family, because he speaks back to them just as bratty as they spoke to him.

Paraphrasing, “Since you are common laborers with nothing special about you, you can go to the feasst anytime you want and no one will care one way or another. I, on the other hand, wait on instructions from my Father.”

It is one of those examples where Jesus breaks pattern with the conservative Christians of our generation today. On any given Sunday, almost every minister will tout from the pulpit the importance of our personal families–the beauty of fellowship involved in those relationships. But even with a cursory look, we quickly discover that Jesus loved his family, but not more than he loved his fellow humans.

Cases in point:

When they told him that his family had come to see him, he pointed to the crowd and said, “These are my family–those who do the will of my Father.”

When Mary asked him to do something to provide wine for the Cana wedding feast, he called her “woman” and said that he was not at her bidding, but waiting for the right time.

Of course, in the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “If you only love those who love you, you’re no better than the heathen.”

And he goes on to say that if you don’t “hate your mother and father, you are not worthy of the kingdom”–not because he was trying to pull families apart, but rather, trying to break curses, genetic trends and predilections which cause children to become just like their parents, choiceless.

And on this occasion in John 7, he makes it clear that he will not be intimidated by his brothers and sisters just so they can force him to become “one of the clan.”

Later, he does attend the Feast of Tabernacles–but on the bidding of the Spirit, not the coercion of family.

What can we learn from Jesus about family?

You can love them, trust them and listen to them as long as they do not steal your identity and your calling. Then, if they choose to do that, for a while you can just love them–until the day that they finally understand.

Even though Jesus died, rose from the grave and went to heaven without the support of his Nazareth home, we know that at least three of them–James, Jude, and of course, Mother Mary–ended up becoming ardent followers of his message. 

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Jesonian: The Original Millennials… October 11th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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millennials

Using information provided and having a general understanding of the longevity of their lives, we can pretty well assume that Peter, Andrew, James and John were somewhere between the ages of 15 and 25 when they met Jesus of Nazareth.

And since they ended up living in the 1st Century A.D., they are “the original millennials.”

So it’s very intriguing to consider how Jesus handled these young men, who obviously had little interest in religious matters, God, traditions or anything but fishing.

Yes, they were typical young folk:

  • They were fishing for purpose.
  • They were fishing for compliments.
  • They were fishing for ways to avoid responsibility.
  • And in their case, they were literally fishing for fish.

They would never have encountered the Nazarene if he had held meetings at the local synagogue or started a store-front in Capernaum. So how did Jesus handle his millennials?

We find that answer in the Good Book, in Luke the 5th Chapter.

1. He went where they were.

They lived by the sea, so he went to the sea.

2. He worked with what they knew.

Since their business was fishing and they were accustomed to boats, he asked to borrow their boat so he could teach from it, which in turn created a climate for:

3. A captive audience.

Yes, to a certain degree they were trapped in the boat, doing him a favor, but at the same time, hearing the message. Yet Jesus did not stop there and make it a theological encounter. Instead:

4. He profited them in a way they could understand.

After the sermon he told them to take their nets and cast them into the water for a great haul of fish. Thus he proved that the best parts of believing in God are the benefits that come through practical application. Which ended up with:

5. Jesus joining them as they joined him.

And instead of holding a revival at the synagogue or storefront, Peter’s home became their headquarters. It’s much easier to minister to people in an environment where they feel comfortable taking off their shoes.

It is unlikely we will be able to conventionally reach a younger generation that has already given up on the idea of organized religion. Perhaps it is their mission to show us the fallacy of religion without reality.

So if you’re a minister, stop inviting people to church and instead, write a blog reviewing movies, TV shows or video games.

Meet the millennials at the sea, where they’re doing their fishing.

And benefit them by showing them ways to enhance their relationships, children and families.

And then, don’t force them to come to your institution, but instead, set up a way for them to have faith … in their own homes.

 

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Jesonian: 12,206 … August 10, 2014

 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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carpenter young Jesus12,206.

It’s the number of days that Jesus of Nazareth lived on this earth. Give or take a hundred here or there.

I would never be so presumptuous as to tell you that I know all the specifics of the times and dates of the life of the Nazarene. But for the sake of discussion and discovery, come along with me, and let us agree that 12,206 is pretty close.

The reason I want you to examine this with me is that six years of that life was spent in Egypt, as a boy in exile, having been threatened by Herod the Great. So for six years of his life–or approximately 22% of his existence–he was a stranger in a strange land, alienated from the people of his origin and left to discover, along with his refugee parents, who were aliens in Egypt, exactly who he was, what he could do, and survive all the difficulties associated with the process,

For twenty-four years, or approximately 71% of his term, he lived as a carpenter in a tiny village with a family of about seven people.

Only three years, or about 8% of his life, was spent traveling, sharing, teaching and interacting with people in his ministry. And only about two of those years included healing, exorcisms and resurrections of dead people. So although we consider him to be the celebrated healer of Galilee, only about 5% of his life was spent in that pursuit.

He had one night when he was arrested, about 4.5 hours on the cross of his death, thirty-six hours in the grave and forty days of life after the resurrection before he ascended to heaven.

He spent forty days in the wilderness preparing himself by challenging his appetites and being tempted.

All of those moments in his life which we call his ministry, was less than 10% of his journey.

Almost 3/4 of the time he was alive, he was Jesus of Nazareth, son of a carpenter, brother to Jude, Simon, James, with at least a couple of sisters, and with his mother, Mary.

To me, the message he left behind through this lineage of his life is:

1. Learn to get along with people.

2. Take some time to get to know yourself; otherwise you’ll enter life much too defensive to be any help to others.

3. Don’t be afraid to be a stranger because in doing so, you find out what you’re really made of and the power of your values.

4. When you do finally decide to travel, move among your fellow-humans with a heart to forgive and a desire to heal.

5. Understand that there will be those who will try to hurt you.

6. Be prepared to lay your life on the line.

7. Trust God to bring you through.

He was a human being who lived for 12,206 days, spending most of them communicating, through his life, how to better understand the people around him … and offer a helping hand instead of a critical spirit.

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James, More or Less… November 9, 2013

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There were two of them.james the less

At least that’s what the Good Book shares.

Out of twelve disciples, two of them ended up being named James. Over the passage of time, to distinguish between the fellows, one gained the title of James the Greater and the other, James the Less. It’s something we just accept–that is, unless you were the James named the Less.

I suppose it would be a little frustrating to pass the muster of graduating from being one of the five thousand that Jesus fed to being one of the seventy he sent out, to finally be honored by receiving the accolade of achieving the top twelve, only to be referred to as “James the Less.”

Such is life. Sometimes you get to be more and most of the time, you get to be less. The trick is finding out how to be the same person with the same values and the same passion no matter which title is temporarily bestowed upon you.

Something we rarely consider is that Jesus, the ultimate, cool “fair” guy, did bestow more significance on three of his disciples, more than the other nine. Whenever he went on a secret mission, he took Peter, James and John, leaving James the Less and his other eight buddies behind. What was that like? (Matter of fact, it’s a little surprising that only one of the disciples decided to betray him, considering human nature…)

I’m sure there was grumbling. We know they were especially upset when the two “fishing brothers,” James and John, campaigned to become the favored two: “Let us sit on your right and left hand when you come into your kingdom…”

That was their request.

So how DOES it work? What can I learn from this as a human being filled with my own concerns, desperately trying to discover a noble thought within? Because I know this–sometimes I get to be James the Greater and sometimes I’m James the Less. Here’s the odd thing–what I do when I’m James the Less is more valuable and important than what I do when I’m James the More.

Truthfully, the popular people in our country, whose names are splashed across the television screen twenty-four hours a day, are completely unable to solve our problems. So what’s the advantage of being famous if you’re a gunky-flunky? On the other hand, although my operation is small, and I’m not nationally known, I’m pretty pleased with the fruit of my labors.

The power of being James the Less is that nobody really wants your position, so you can call your shots with more freedom, and therefore determine your destiny.

When you’re James the Greater, the spotlight’s on you, everybody has an opinion and you are granted less privacy to choose your path. Oh … and did I mention? James the Greater was so popular that Herod Agrippa decided to behead him to gain kudos from the Jews. (Now THERE is a distinct disadvantage to being promoted.)

church of st jamesSo as I go off tomorrow morning to St. James United Methodist Church in Miamisburg, Ohio–a small congregation–I wonder if they can take advantage of being “the Less” without pining to be “the Greater.”

I am curious if they can maneuver themselves into a position of revival instead of following the mediocre philosophy of our generation. I am desirous to uncover their heart–because James the Less lived out a life as one of the twelve without needing to make the “top three.”

That’s me.

And because I have learned to be Jonathan the Less and do the best I can, making my own decisions through my faith, I have been granted great opportunities, and by the way … haven’t lost my head.

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Andrew It Out … April 27, 2013

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fiVe loavesAs I get older I realize it more and more.

The game is not fame. The game is not acclaim. It’s about leaving behind a plain path of understanding concerning your life so that others can study it, follow it and progress the idea.

Imagine how excited I was when I discovered that my Sunday would be spent at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas. Andrew is one of my favorite Bible dudes. He is one of a quartet of fishermen from the little town of Capernaum who Jesus welcomes into his “kingdom dozen.”

Andrew was among the first to discover the message of Jesus.  Here’s an interesting fact: even though he was one of four fishermen, three of them–Peter James and John–became what we refer to as the “inner circle.”

Andrew was not included.

We do not know why. We don’t even know if there is a “why” to it. But there is no incident listed in which Andrew pitched a fit or ended up betraying Jesus because he felt cheated. What we have is a man who found his place, occupied his space, made his case and finished the race.

Andrew did three really notable things.–and as I said, as the years pass, I realize that I want to have more of the spirit of Andrew in me, and not insist on being a Peter, James or John.

1. He came early. Dear God, may I learn that in the matters of spirit, justice and equality, to arrive first and jump on the bandwagon of freedom instead of dragging my feet because my culture and prejudice have taught me to be reluctant. Andrew met Jesus and went with it. How amazing. Come early, folks. It’s not as crowded, and you get to share beautiful moments with something beginning instead of later on just being part of the maintenance crew.

2. He brought a friend. Yes, the Bible tells us that Andrew brought his brother, Peter. Every night when I walk onstage and share my thoughts, I realize that they may never gain international attention, but there is always the possibility that I will inspire the mind and spirit of someone in the gathering who has the capability of doing things much greater than me. Sometimes the best thing you can do for the world is to stimulate somebody else who has the power to change it.

3. Andrew encouraged young humans. When it was discovered that five thousand men needed to be fed, Andrew was the one who found a young lad with five loaves and two fishes and brought him to Jesus. He gave this fledgling kid a chance to be the hero of the day. He gave him a lifelong memory. He gave him a place in the Bible.

There are two ways to become old: you can become old and grouchy or you can become old and hip. If you’re old and grouchy, you think everything young people do is stupid. If you’re old and hip, you look at what young people do, remember what you did, laugh and encourage them in their better choices.

I want to be Andrew. I want to ignore the inner circles of life. I want to show up early, bring a friend and encourage young humans.

If that’s what’s going on at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, they are on the verge of revealing the Kingdom of God.

Andrew: enjoying your portion without needing the whole platter.

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