Good News and Better News… July 31st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I was sitting in the nursery of the Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee, Florida, between services, snacking on some fruit which had graciously been provided by Pastor Giuseppe and glorious souls who have a knack for putting together such compotes, when I was struck–or perhaps just “pwanged”–by a simple revelation.

The world is always moving. It is our job to note the direction.

Just because the pace seems harried, leaving us all in the flurry of busyness, does not mean that we’re trudging forward. Sometimes we go backwards, often it’s just side-stepping right or left. We even become distracted by hitting a wall and continuing to push instead of stopping long enough to find a way around it.

Church is still a beautiful thing–it’s just that in the present march of humanity it seems irrelevant.

For we classify information that comes our way into three categories:

1. Philosophical.

This ranges from our educational system, to reading books, to listening to someone explain the value of a gluten-free diet.

2. Religious.

Once again, this could be anything from a Bible conference to a yoga class to hearing a testimony about someone’s ordeal or joining with others in prayer over some nasty bit of business that’s come along.

3. Necessary.

Every single day of our lives, we alter the gauge on what we feel is necessary for our existence. This explains the tremendous success of Amazon and Wal-mart. These companies have made it friendly to come and buy things we want at reasonable rates, and in the case of Amazon, have them delivered to our door without even needing to leave the comforts of the breakfast nook.

Candidly, if a piece of information is not necessary, we deem it useless. Once something becomes useless, it only receives attention if it can prove–even temporarily–that it has the value of Wal-mart or Amazon.

So something beautiful, like church, which at one time was considered necessary because it initiated relationships, faith, music, cooperation and a sense of community, has now been completely shoved to the rear by the collision of social media and the rising tide of agnosticism.

When I went into the second service I took the realization with me. I discovered that being philosophical or religious bored even those individuals who still remained in the holy sanctuary.

Give them what’s necessary.

When Jesus came to Earth, the common people were slaves to the Romans and subjected to criticism from the religious system.

Jesus told the people they were “the salt of the Earth, the light of the world,” but that they needed to take responsibility for their lives and not wait for either the Romans or Judaism to save them.

He made the message of God necessary. He referred to it as “daily bread.” He told people to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and to “take no thought for tomorrow” but to live for today.

You will never meet a more promising group of people than I encountered at Nativity. But I will tell them that until the message they share is necessary in people’s lives, a philosophical or religious content will leave folks cold–staying at home and watching television.

The good news is that Christianity can still be about Jesus.

The better news is that he came to give us life–necessary life–and it more abundantly.

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 3)… July 15th, 2017

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I must apologize. I’m still a bit troubled.

It’s the whole “Abraham” thing.

There are supposedly three religions–Judaism, Muslim and Christianity–that are knit together in a quilt based on a person named Abraham. If such a weaving is true, it is sewn with a dynamite fuse, ready to be lit at the least provocation.

A very simple study of the Gospels about Jesus will tell you that he was neither a practicing Jew nor did those around him deem him to be. If he felt he was Jewish, he certainly failed to convince anyone, and if they believed him to be their brother, they probably should not have crucified him.

On one occasion the Jews called Jesus a “Samaritan and a demon” while proclaiming themselves to be “children of Abraham.”

He alarmed them by stating that before Abraham existed, he was around. They did not muse his statement nor ask for evidence, but instead, picked up rocks to kill him, and he barely escaped with his life.

Christianity has many benefits but one of the main missions is to gently untangle itself from the Abrahamic family tree, so as to be able to make peace between these two feuding brothers–the followers of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and those of Abraham’s son, Ishmael.

Where would we begin?

We can commence this very worthwhile journey by understanding that Judaism is a culture, Muslim is a culture, but Christianity is a lifestyle.

So whether you’re from China, the Netherlands, Russia or Argentina, the ideas and message of Jesus will fit into your surroundings. Judaism basically works around Jews, and the Muslim faith has the greatest appeal to those who are Arab. That’s because they are cultures, not lifestyles.

As American Christians, we favor the Jews, not because they have any affinity for Jesus. Actually the Quran contains more respect for Jesus than the Old Testament. No, we favor the Jews because they were dispersed into Europe and they seem more American. Yes, it is another one of our racial bigotries–and when Jews look like Arabs, we are much less likely to be tender in their direction.

So let’s get over the foolishness and back to our theme:

If Jesus is God, then Jehovah and Allah are not.

If God is Jesus, then maybe there might be a little bit of Jehovah and Allah lounging around His man cave.

Christianity has the opportunity to heal one of the greatest family squabbles of all time. We cannot do so by saying we are “children of Abraham.”

In the Gospel of John, he clearly states that we are not born of flesh and blood, but of the Spirit. As followers of Jesus, we are not part of a lineage, but instead, linked by a salvation into what truly can be called the greatest opportunity for peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.

 

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Jesonian… May 27th, 2017

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While half of the organization of Christian saints clamor to preach a message of the fulfillment of Judaism, with the human sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the other fifty percent portray the Nazarene as soft on sin and heavy on compassion, it occasionally might be a good idea to take the available reference material we possess to get a more thorough picture of how Jesus thought, felt and lived.

There were many broken people in his life–no doubt about it. Also, it’s irrefutable that he did die on the cross, and it has become our salvation.

But for the purpose of progressing the Christian message, we must claim the mind of Christ, not just the theology. It begins with understanding his approach: blind men, prostitutes, demon-possessed souls, lepers and probably a lot of manic-depressives came to Jesus and received a touch of healing.

Yet none of them ended up in his traveling troupe. Jesus did not turn his kingdom of God on Earth into a nursing home, mental hospital or rehab center. Although he brought great benefit to the lives of many souls, his practice was to send them back to their home towns–to assimilate and offer up the story of their transformation as evidence of the goodness of God.

Even though a demon-possessed man who had just been set free came to his boat and begged him to join the band, Jesus sent him away.

It sends a message to the church today. We spend too much time adjusting our programs, the temperature in the sanctuary and our vision to those who are needy, hurt and emotionally challenged, instead of encouraging working folks, entrepreneurs, artists and inventors to come into the body to leaven the lump.

A quick look at the twelve disciples will tell you that you had four working fishermen, one tax collector, two followers that came over from the ministry of John the Baptist, one zealot, a pair of brothers who were tradesmen, a Judean and Thomas, who most people believe bounced between the ministry of John and a little fishing himself.

But anyone who believes that Jesus was just a human sacrifice is errant. And anyone who contends that Jesus was all-forgiving, looking for the next loser to turn into a winner, would also be completely out of line with the narrative.

If you want to build a work, you teach healthy people how to help the unhealthy, not harbor unhealthy people, hoping they will draw in the healthy.

The Christian church today is possessed by either an overabundance of zeal towards charity, or a greed towards prosperity. So we minister to the fringes instead the heart of mankind.

To minister to the heart of mankind, you have to understand what a fisherman is really looking for.

 

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Jesonian… April 15th, 2017

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A Saturday many, many years ago, the beaten, bruised and bloodied body of Jesus of Nazareth lay still in the darkness of a borrowed tomb, as his spirit communed with the angels and his mind reasoned over the unfoldings of a truly abundant life.

We are not privy to those thoughts.

Matter of fact, all we know of the life of Jesus comes from four major biographers who borrowed pieces from one another, and each, in his own way, had an agenda to offer insights to please his readers.

There is no autobiography.

So we aren’t sure of the emotion in the words attributed to him. Therefore theologians decipher and agnostics disembowel the remnants of the script left to us of this magnificent life.

Yet every once in a while, we get a deeper glimpse. Such is the case in Matthew the 23rd Chapter, Verse 37-38:

“Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Thou that killest the prophets and stone them which are sent unto you. How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

The great debate over the centuries has been whether Jesus was Jewish or whether he came, in a certain sense, to abolish Judaism in favor of the New Covenant.

If you study the writings of Martin Luther, you might begin to believe that the Great Reformer was anti-Semetic. Yet in many evangelical churches, there seems to be a return to Jewish traditions, including them with their Christian rituals.

What did Jesus feel about the Jews?

What was the heart of the matter?

First and foremost, you must understand, for Jesus to include Gentiles and Samaritans in his movement immediately made him an outcast from the Jewish religious community.

Matter of fact, the Jewish Council that condemned him to death granted him none of the courtesy that was normally extended to brethren.

The reality that Jesus did not believe that the Jews were special because they were the “children of Abraham,” but rather put forth the opinion that God “could take stones” and make offspring of Abe, certainly did not put him in favor with those of the Zionist profile.

Yet John tells us that he “came to his own and his own received him not.”

When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, he did use the phrase “we Jews.” It is the only time he did, but he certainly had a kindness and favorability for those who lived in Judea and Galilee.

But Jesus was a man of vision–the Gospel would never reach China or the Native Americans if it were left in the hands of the Jews. The Jewish people had already aggravated the Romans to the point that the annihilation and dispersion of their kindred was inevitable, if not imminent. The Gospel would only survive in the hands of the Greeks and the Romans, who would take it to the rest of the world.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that when the early church was trying to force Gentile converts to comply with Jewish practices, the former Pharisee condemned them and called them “Judaizers” for limiting the scope and power of the message.

In the two verses recited above, Jesus announces the fate of Judaism.

It is in a coma.

It is left desolate and abandoned.

It is awaiting a day when it can be awakened and all the promises given by the prophets can be fulfilled.

But for a season, it was set aside in favor of salvation and “loving your neighbor” being shared with the entire world.

Basically, if you want to sum up Jesus’ feelings on Judaism, it’s very simple: Jesus loves them.

He just does not believe they’re “chosen people.”

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

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Good News and Better News… December 5th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Jesus is a lifestyle.

Every time we try to focus on the “Christ” of his Earth journey and turn him into a religion, it seems clunky, fabricated, forced, unreal and nearly irrational.

It’s similar to when we try to make George Washington appear to be a statesman. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were rebels. They were revolutionaries. They actually found it difficult to stop their struggle and create a government.

The early disciples had the same problem when it came to Jesus.

Jesus taught them how to have abundant life, good cheer, tolerance, an expansive talent base and generosity. He did not instruct them to maintain the integrity of Judaism with the purpose of including the Old Testament.

So every time we try to present a Judeo-Christian image, we lose the lifestyle of Jesus–which is the essence of the Gospel.

Our church services today have more of Catholicism in them than Nazareth.

So let’s look at it from the aspect of definitions:

Religion: an attempt to find God in ancient scrolls, mysticism and tradition, feeling that these sacraments are the divine path to reach the Creator.

Church: a system we have set up within this religious thinking, to define our style of worship, welcoming a contingency of people who are comfortable within the format.

Christian: a doctrine that has been established which includes the teachings of Jesus, but focuses equally on the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, to formulate a plan of salvation based upon the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah.

Then we have Jesonian.

Jesonian is a return to the simplicity of the lifestyle of Jesus, who told us that his “ways were easy and his burden was light,” and that the purpose for pursuing his values was to “find rest for your soul.”

So the religious system permeating our society today is a core belief in the atonement of Christ on the cross, the folklore of Judaism, mingled with Catholicism, punctuated with Anglo-Saxon traditions and peppered with American patriotism.

It is not the lifestyle of Jesus.

It lacks the personal responsibility, the joy, the freedom and the experimentation that he promoted as he walked among humanity.

The good news is that Jesus wants to keep things simple and easy.

The better news is that human beings are much more productive and happy when things are simple and easy.

 

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Ask Jonathots … April 21st, 2016

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My three grown children were raised in the church, but not a single one of them goes to church now, although they all claim they are believers in God. Sometimes it bothers me and sometimes I think it doesn’t matter. What do you think?

I think the first question we have to determine is–what is church?

There was a major shift in our society in the 1980’s, when the church house changed from being a center of fellowship, awareness, social interaction, self-improvement and community concern to being an organization focused on the worship and discovery of God.

The whole concept of this transition seems so noble to theologians and ardent zealots of our time that we have failed to return to church being a center for emotional, cultural and spiritual expansion.

Like any functioning business or social awakening, when the purpose of that institution is defunct, it ends up dying.

So the church of your memory no longer exists.

It has been hollowed out of its message and purpose in favor of traditions, hyper-spirituality and seminars on self-worth and prosperity.

So the question you have to ask yourself is this:

Are my children better off by joining in to the efforts of a religious system that has abandoned its calling, or are they better off without it?

Now, your summary would be that the church, even though weakened by its introspection, is better than nothing.

Their conclusion would probably be that “no church” gives them a free Sunday to enjoy their friends and family.

So here’s the question: can we all begin to go to church–not with the idea of swallowing the provided pill–but instead, transforming it back to the vibrant, living organism that Jesus intended it to be?

After all, Christianity is not a religion–it is a lifestyle. And if the church is not promoting the lifestyle of Jesus, it is watering down the message to include pop psychology and Judaism, which are not fulfilling to a New Testament life.

So if I were you, I would sit down with my children and tell them of the regrets, misgivings and frustration you have with the present religious system, but also inform them of the hope you have to see it transform itself back into the heart of Jesus.

Because here’s the truth–even if the church remained as anemic as it is today, it is still necessary to be a buffer against the insanity of selfishness and rage.

Challenge your children to become the church by changing the church.

After all, they want to change the politics.

They want to get rid of Wall Street’s greed.

Why not step into a situation where they really could affect a lasting change … and turn the American church back into a place where Jesus would be proud to be a member?Donate Button

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 19) Apolitical … April 10th, 2016

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It is impossible to pursue the dictates of a political party and stay faithful to the Jesonian.

There. I said it.

Anyone who follows a political persuasion is bound by that party to defend the stances presently being taken in the moment instead of embracing a more historical and eternal view.

Politics are for those who have given up on the power of the Gospel.

It is a way of trying to convince Caesar to accept your principles, or a way of forcing your principles into becoming “the new Caesar.”

Let us realize–they were constantly hounding Jesus to become political. They wanted him to fly the flag of Judaism and reject the Samaritans, or criticize the Greek woman who came for healing, attack the tax collectors, who were considered betrayers to the seed of Abraham, and most certainly, deny Rome the authority to rule and reign.

He disappointed all of these factions by living off of two simple concepts:

  1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  2. Go the second mile.

There is no political party in the United States of America that fully lines up in agreement with either of these concepts.

For “do unto others” is a decision to include all of humanity into your circle instead of rejecting some. So as the Republicans are infuriated with immigrants and the Democrats despise the South, the Jesonian individual must remain apolitical–loving the new visitors to our country and honoring the brothers and sisters in the Southeast.

No political party in this country believes in going the second mile. Going the second mile is finding out what energizes us instead of exhausts us.

The constant debate, attacks, and gridlock caused by political maneuvering becomes a national fatigue which removes the initiative to do just a little better than we did the last time.

  • “Do unto others” is spiritual.
  • “Go the second mile” is practical.

But you will find that when you do unto others, it has a practical edge, making you a friend of all tribes.

And you will discover that when you go the second mile, you gain spiritual credibility, as bystanders view your endeavors.

It is not reasonable to be political.

What is reasonable is to maintain a profile that is apolitical, while doing unto others and going the second mile–allowing the future to be determined by the wisdom of inclusion and the impetus of excellence.

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