Jesonian … August 28th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3878)

It was a nasty insult, compounded by the fact that it was delivered in front of an audience instead of offered privately behind the scenes.

It came from a friend–actually a relative–who had once made it clear that he was a supporter, a believer and prepared to do whatever was necessary to see the cause advanced.

Yet because he had recently been arrested for disagreeing with a king, he had lost some of his fervor, and had become jaded, lying in the moldy hay of solitude.

So the prisoner sent his followers off to his cousin with a little piece of fussiness.

“Are you the one we’re really looking for, or is there another one coming?”

His name was John and he baptized–matter of fact, he baptized the person he was questioning. So when these faithful couriers delivered his stinging words, the first reaction from Jesus was probably anger and resentment.

Jesus’ response to the disciples of John was, “Come along and follow me today, and see what I do.”

At sunset, he presented, “Go back and tell John what you’ve seen–how lepers are cleansed, souls are healed and the Gospel is preached to the poor.”

But before they could take off to deliver the message, Jesus turned to the crowd–the very same crowd who heard John doubt him–and he praised his old friend.

He said, “When you went out to see John, you didn’t go out to see somebody blown by the wind, wearing fancy clothes. You saw a prophet–and more than a prophet. John is probably greater than anyone born of a woman. But you folks need to keep in mind–in God’s eye, even the least of you is just as important as John.”

The crowd understood.

The crowd marveled.

The crowd was waiting for Jesus to kick John’s ass.

He didn’t.

Jesus found a way to praise the man for what he had done, while still pointing out that he needed to be more resilient.

So you see, President Trump, if you want to follow the Master, you must learn his ways.

And if you want to lead a country, you have to discover a pathway to praise your “John” for what he is due, while still wishing there had been more agreement.

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Jesonian … April 7th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3635)

Every story is better told and more effective when the facts are allowed to line up in a reasonable order.

Such is true of the Gospel of Jesus.

Theologians spend so much time proclaiming him the Son of God that they lose the fragrance and uniqueness of the Son of Man. In an attempt to make the tale “super” they lose all of the “natural.”

The average person going to church is deluded by an array of facts which just don’t add up to a crucifixion.

One of those great misconceptions is that Jesus was extremely popular. There were certainly occasions when his crowd appeal spiked, but it always revolved around three stimuli:

A. Was he doing miracles?

B. Was he feeding people?

C. Did it look like he was the Jewish Messiah?

Whenever the populace became convinced through these three “signs and wonders” that God was going to save them from the Romans, they rallied around Jesus. Whenever it was obvious that he was intent on sharing a more universal message which included people that were not Jewish, they slipped away.

Let’s look at some facts:

1. Jesus was rejected by his home town, Nazareth, and never able to return again. Not only was he ignored, but threatened with death–dangled from the edge of a cliff.

2. Even though Jesus held a great revival in Samaria with the testimony from a woman at a well, when he returned to the city, he was forbidden to enter by the town fathers because they found out he also ministered to the Jews.

3. When he fed the 5,000 in Galilee, the hordes followed him for a while–until he told them this was not a food pantry, but rather, that his words and life were the message they were supposed to “eat.” They all departed–except for the twelve.

4. Over and over again, interest sparked with the Pharisees, but when Simon, one of their number, invited him to a special meal, the Pharisee snubbed Jesus and treated him like an outsider.

5. After the resurrection, it is recorded that over 500 people saw Jesus–witnesses of the miracle. But on the Day of Pentecost only 120 remained. Kind of a drastic drop-off.

I guess we feel the need to believe that Jesus was greatly appreciated by the people in his generation, and taken to be crucified only by a handful of powerful critics.

It’s just not true.

We are told that most of the time he dealt with twelve disciples–and he focused on three of them, to be the core leaders. We have some idea of the size of a normal following of Jesus when the scriptures let us know that he sent seventy out to share in his name.

If you are trying to give credence to the message of Jesus by pointing out how enthralled the Jewish community and the Roman oppressors were, then you will be sadly disappointed when you read the actual accounts of his mistreatment and the number of individuals who desperately tried to ignore him.

We’re even told that John the Baptist’s disciples did not believe in him.

Jesus had a model. It’s very simple: Develop a hot core of followers and let them radiate the message.

Nowadays we are so eager to build up numbers in the sanctuary that we fail to build up people. Jesus basically spent three-and-a-half years working on twelve human beings.

  • One of them betrayed him and killed himself.
  • Another denied him, and was prepared to leave the work.
  • Yet another one doubted that a resurrection was possible.

Do not despair–Jesus suffered the same slings and arrows of human apathy that you and I encounter every day. He just had a great system. So when he left the planet, there was a handful of people who knew what he taught, knew what he stood for and were prepared to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to give them the power and insight to take the Gospel to the whole world.

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Jesonian … November 11th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Throughout the history of Christianity, a debate has raged over Jesus’ humanity and divinity.

Early in the 20th Century, a doctrine arose which found favor with many people because it stressed that Jesus was 100% human and 100% divine. The fact that this blending is ridiculous didn’t come to anybody’s mind at the time, and so the concept endures. If you study heresy and false teachings, you will find that most of the error centers in on trying to make Jesus too heavenly, instead of focusing on his humanity.

I think the clarifying statements are found in the Book of Hebrews. Allow me to give you three which center my mind on the fact that Jesus of Nazareth lived a completely human life, while filled with the Spirit:

1. “He was tempted in all ways like we are yet found without sin.”

2. “He was touched by our infirmities.”

3. “He learned obedience through the things he suffered.”

That list just describes a typical human life. After all, nobody talks about how grumpy Uncle Ed was after he’s dead; likewise, the notion that “Jesus was perfect” was not touted during his lifetime.

The truth is, Jesus’ actions were found to be perfect. In other words, after the passage of time and working out of circumstances, we can say that he lived a perfect life.

Needless to say, when we’re told he “learned obedience,” it is perfectly understandable that he did nor arrive with it. Like all of us, instruction was in order.

But if you go to the statement, “touched by our infirmities,” a definition is in order. What are the infirmities of all human beings?

A. We get physically sick.

B. We get emotionally depressed.

C. We get spiritually misguided.

D. We get mentally confused.

These are our infirmities.

And since Jesus was touched by them, if we would take the time to more carefully study his life instead of working so desperately to discover a new twist on communion, we might just welcome in a new generation that would be blessed and astounded by His choices.

Now, I will not bore you with my many rambling examples of how Jesus suffered under these infirmities. To me, that’s what church and your search should be about.

Christianity could advance its cause by studying Jesus.

Did Jesus become physically ill? There are numerous activities that have no explanations–like him slipping into the wilderness for seclusion, or the fact that he waited four days to come and tend to his friend, Lazarus. Was he sick? Under the weather? Fighting off the “Galilee bug?”

We can make a good case for him being depressed. After explaining to 5000 people that he was not going to be their caterer, but that they needed to come to “learn his ways,” the Bible says they all left him–except the twelve. In a moment of true humanity, he turned to those twelve and said, “Will you go away also?”

Was Jesus ever spiritually misguided? I think choosing Judas to be a disciple, and on top of that the treasurer of the troop, was at least spiritually optimistic. And the faith he put into the man at the Pool of Bethsaida, who didn’t really want help–but Jesus healed him anyway and then the fellow turned into a snitch and sided with the Pharisees–shows that he was a bit misguided.

Was he mentally confused? He certainly stayed too long in Nazareth–so long that they resented him and tried to kill him. And I think he was a little confused by his upbringing and prejudice, when he called the Syrophoenician woman “a gentile dog.”

The Gospel writers had no problem including the foibles of the personality of Jesus in their story lines–and he was apparently fully aware of some indiscretions, because he came to John to be baptized. Was it just pretense, or did he have things he regretted?

We are also told by Jesus that we would do greater things than he did–because he was going to the Father to cheer us on.

If the church wants to survive the present dispersion, it needs to bring the focus back onto Jesus–his style, his personality, and his humanity. In doing so, he can become the Elder Brother we so desperately need, and he can truly fulfill his mission … which was to show us the Father.

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Cracked 5 … May 16th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Other Names Considered for Jesus (and also the ones who proposed the “handle”)

 

A. Temple Tumbler–presented by the sarcastic Pharisees after Jesus “turned the tables” on them.

 

B. Winey Boy–a quickly devised name by some very drunken souls in Cana who suddenly found themselves slurping a burgundy made out of water

 

C. Jim Bay Luben–a proposal by the Southern Galilean Baptists, who were hoping it might promote Jesus to be more like his cousin, John

 

D. Carpo the Carpenter–a business-package idea by the Nazareth Chamber of Commerce

 

E. Bastard–a never-dying rumor by old, disgruntled Nazarenes who were “month-counters” for Mother Mary.

 

 

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Jesonian… May 6th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3298)

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He’s “Joseph’s son.”

“The carpenter’s kid.”

These were the comments from the people of Nazareth when Jesus dared to express his individuality.

He had already established some obvious success. He had partaken of the baptism of his cousin, John, been in the wilderness seeking guidance, garnered some followers and had made quite a splash changing water to wine in Cana.

Rumors of his escapades had already come to his hometown. So when he arrived at the synagogue and was given the scroll to read, and he spouted the words of the prophet Isaiah about the Gospel being preached to the poor, and then told them that “this day the prophecy was being fulfilled,” they became infuriated.

They attacked him. What was the weapon? They chose to lump him in with his family. “You’re just a local boy.”

That brings me to a thought.

One of the more crippling proclamations being uttered in our time, when referring to our offspring, is to say, “They will always be my children.”

No, they won’t.

There comes a time when they need to be themselves.

They need to take responsibility for their lives and their kids, knowing when they grow up they will need to let them go as well.

Family sucks–it sucks the life out of each and every one of us, trying to make us dependent on a tiny nucleus of identity. Sometimes we stop growing, but more often than not we end up mimicking the actions of our parents instead of creating the fresh soil for an awakening in generosity and mercy.

Jesus was rejected in his hometown because he dared to be something different from just “Joseph’s son.”

The Nazarenes became infuriated when he explained that he would be unable to do much to help them “because of their unbelief.”

It caused them to rise as a mob and push him to the edge of a cliff, with the intention of shoving him to his death. You see, they went from being a small town church gathering to an enraged, out of control gang, ready to commit murder.

All because Jesus refused to follow the rules of family.

What would have happened if Jesus had stayed in Nazareth, been the carpenter’s son and complied with the local menu of activities?

We would be lost.

Yet it is possible to love your family, honor your mother and father and still quickly and intentionally separate yourself from them, find your direction and pursue your calling.

I would hope that my sons would find comfort in their upbringing, but never, ever consider themselves to just be my sons.

America is drunk on the elixir of family. We use it as an excuse for all sorts of indifference to the world around us.

Fortunately for us, Jesus of Nazareth was not really Jesus of Nazareth.

 

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Jesonian… April 22nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Cousin John was creating quite a stir.

He had found himself a wide spot on the Jordan River at Bethabara and was dunking people to cleanse them from their sins. News of the words and deeds of the flamboyant relative/prophet had reached Nazareth, and members of the community were split on their opinions of the events–based upon whether they had any family ties with the locust eater.

There was a lot of conversation in the home of Joseph the Carpenter, since Brother John was a part of the bloodline. Papa had died a year earlier, leaving the household to the care of his eldest son, Jesus. That oldest boy, though loyal, faithful and true, had never found great solace in carpentry, and with the death of his father, had become disillusioned with the daily chores.

After Joseph’s death, he had slipped away for a few days into the wilderness to think, and upon returning was greeted with the reports of his cousin’s outreach.

Some jealousy tried to slip in–for Jesus also felt a great calling to share a message with mankind. Knowing that John had already begun such an endeavor created a spiritual itch in him which he desperately needed to scratch.

In these fleeting moments of jealousy he was tempted to join the critics of his cousin. But ashamed of those inclinations, he decided to instead go to Bethabara and observe for himself.

It was a first step to sanity.

If something good is going on in the world, go hear it, understand it and support it.

So without announcement, he arrived at the encampment of the Baptist. He spent two weeks doing nothing but listening to his cousin, watching the events unfold and noting how John handled the contrary natures of the scribes and Pharisees.

He heard the Voice.

He dodged a huge clump of jealousy and instead developed a deep sense of admiration.

After hearing the Voice, it came time to make a choice.

Was he just going to be a watcher? Was he going to go back to Nazareth and try to be the dead carpenter’s son?

John talked about the Kingdom of God being at hand and the need to repent. Jesus stayed up one night thinking about his own repentance. For after all, there is nothing more sinful than believing you are sinless. He saw his errors. He saw where his discontentment with carpentry often came across to his family as if he had a feeling of superiority.

He knew he was tempted like everyone. He was touched with the same sicknesses that each and every human being experiences.

He wanted John’s baptism. He needed John’s baptism. It was the righteous thing to do–because if there was to be a mission, the first step to usher in the possibility was to make a choice.

Jesus made a choice.

He stood in line, waited his turn and stepped down into the Jordan River with his cousin to be cleansed.

To his surprise, the Prophet prophesied. The burly preacher called him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Jesus had only met John a handful of times. There was no private coalition. So he took John’s words into his heart as he immersed himself in the experience of the Jordan River baptism.

He rose from the water, walked to the shoreline and realized it was time for him to begin his own work. What was the best way to do that?

How could he change the noise in the world around him?

He smiled and took off across the countryside, bellowing, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

He borrowed the message of his cousin.

It had been a successful slogan–it was a great place to start.

At that fateful day at the baptism of Jesus, no one would ever have guessed that the Nazarene’s work would spread across the entire planet and that John would historically be viewed as a forerunner.

It was all made possible because Jesus had the sensitivity and wisdom to hear the voice and then make a choice before he went out to change the noise.

 

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Jesonian: S.I.N. (Single Issue Nerds) … January 11, 2015

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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Judas thought it was all about poor people. We’re not certain that he really cared about the poor–just that he thought it was a confirmation of being religious.

The Pharisees thought we proved our worth to God by performing traditional worship services. They did a lot of straining and ended up with more gnats than camels.

The disciples of John the Baptist believed that people appear more righteous when they fast–especially if you can go without food and look miserable while doing it.

The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife–either heaven or hell. In other words, it all happens here or nothing happens.

In each one of these cases you are dealing with “Single Issue Nerds”–they believe that the way one does things is more important than the motivation–the faithfulness to a practice more powerful than a conclusion.

Dare I say, they all became the enemy, or at least the adversary, of Jesus of Nazareth? His contention about true religion was that “the kingdom of God is within you.” In other words:

  • If you’re not happy, your faith is failing.
  • If you don’t have peace of mind, your beliefs are weakened.
  • And if you’re not pursuing a life of good cheer and acceptance of others, you might as well be without any kind of spirituality because you’re really just mimicking the heathens.

I see it everywhere I go–“Single Issue Nerds.” They have grabbed some bauble from the Bible and made it their beating bongo. They are obsessed with their discovery, convinced that those who do not pursue their particular issue lack enlightenment and possibly totally misunderstand the will of God.

Let us never forget that Jesus did not have a single issue. It didn’t matter who he talked to, what nationality they were, or even if the people around them thought they were hopeless sinners. He always looked for three things:

1. Are you ready for a change? People who are not willing to change will spend all their time trying to change you.

2. Can you humble yourself? Are you willing to deny your sensation of wholeness, to admit your lack?

3. Can you extend the same mercy to others? Grace is soon dissipated by the absence of mercy. For as Jesus said, “The measure I measure out to others will be measured back to me.”

You may think you have a great social gospel or that your liturgy is significantly deep and meaningful, or maybe that your fundamentalism will squeak you through the doors of heaven when others are rejected.

I suppose you might consider yourself to be progressive–where you only use the Gospel to explain your own mission statement.

But you will find that in your hour of need, your faith has to be able to set you free–because if you’re not free, you can’t free anyone else.

And if you’re in bondage, no matter how good your intentions, you will soon bind up all the world around you.

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