Jesonian: The Rule of the School … November 15th, 2015

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The latest piece of pseudo-intellectual drivel seems to be the jaded proclamation, “People don’t change.”

It’s especially disheartening when coming from the mouth of a prison warden, a psychiatrist or a minister.

I suppose we could take this entire essay to discuss the validity or over-simplification of such a decree. Matter of fact, as Christians we could cite that even though the disciples spent at least 38 months with Jesus of Nazareth, the amount of personality and ethical change inside each one of them was questionable.

Peter may have confessed his faith, but he was still prone to over-exaggeration and eventually, denial.

James and John may have ceased to be fishermen, but maintained much of their prejudice, wanting to kill a group of Samaritans.

Thomas certainly had a conversion experience, which he often chose to doubt.

And Judas was elected treasurer, only to betray his position… and his friend.

So it is obvious to me that Jesus was the Christ, but not necessarily able to completely change goats into sheep. No, it seems that we get lost in that process and end up basically being asses.

Yet I must tell you, if I thought that change was impossible, I would not be able to tolerate the mediocrity of the world around me.

So what is the truth?

Actually the truth is a coagulation of two principles. Whatever you are, whatever you were, whatever your inklings or whatever your genetics, you can be transformed by a pair of unchanging and necessary conclusions.

We call the first one the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Yet I must tell you, that single concept becomes merely idealistic if you don’t take the “rule to school.”

In other words, if you do not allow the truth of the Golden Rule to enter your daily activities, you will worship the premise as you simultaneously defile it.

There has to be an application for the cleansing power of “love your neighbor.” This is found in John the 8th Chapter, verse 15. Jesus makes a simple statement.

He says, “You judge according to the flesh. I judge no man.”

We do become different people when we realize that “loving our neighbor as ourself” is the survival mode for human interaction, and that the only way to apply it is to never judge anyone.

You may feel an inclination towards a lifestyle, a genetic predisposition, or have just developed habits which seem to cling to you like feathers in the wind, but you can still be completely reborn by realizing that loving your neighbor is refusing to participate in any judgment about him or her.

Are you ready for some truth?

  • Jesus did not believe in adultery, but he forgave an adulterous woman.
  • At no point in the Gospels will you find a situation when Jesus supported gay marriage, yet I guarantee you–he would never condemn a homosexual.
  • It would be difficult to make a case for Jesus being pro-choice, but it would be equally as difficult to think that he would forbid a woman the right to choose.

I am often confused why we think it is necessary to hold a conviction and then force others to comply.

For instance, I do not like alcohol and never have. Yet I would be completely against Prohibition.

I think smoking marijuana is granting yourself a license to be inept in the name of recreational drugs, but by the same nature, I think it’s wrong to condemn and incarcerate those who want to puff.

An obvious way we can all change is to admit that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the essential chemical compound of life, but the only way to take that rule to school is to refuse to judge anyone.

It is never all right, and certainly is never God-ordained.

Even though the Apostle Paul had his experience on the road to Damascus, by the time he got on the road to Corinth, he had somewhat turned back into an officious, overly opinionated Pharisee.

But there is one thing he never lost: the realization that we are to love one another … which means expressing mercy instead of judgment.

 

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

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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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Iffing Way (Part 6): I Quit … November 24, 2014

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What if a voice of sanity had risen up at various stages in the story of human history, to offer a challenging view when craziness was about to win the day?

If …

He asked for a private meeting.

It is very difficult to spit out your feelings while swallowing your pride.

He was insulted. Being a fully grown man, he had been called down in front of his colleagues with no regard for his position.

It was certainly improper. If there isn’t a free flow of ideas, then there is tyranny.

Yet somehow or another he had succeeded in calming his spirit to request a moment of time with this friend who had offended him.

It was all a little silly, yet grounded in a principle which was important enough for making a stand.

Mary had no business taking such an expensive amount of ointment and pouring it out on the Teacher’s head and feet. Three hundred dollars! Did he have any idea what three hundred dollars could do to aid at least five hundred families in this poverty-stricken area?

Yet when he lodged his objection, he was tersely set aside and told that he shouldn’t criticize Mary for her deed because she was anointing him “for his burial.”

What a drama king! What burial? He was thirty-three-and-a-half years old and as healthy as an ox.

Judas could not understand why the Teacher was pulling up lame at this point instead of standing strong and propelling the mission to a glorious conclusion. It was ridiculous.

So feeling confronted, Judas had stomped out, not wanting to say something he might regret later.

Judas chose to be the mature one. But now what was he going to do? He would not play the role of the bruised puppy who had been slapped on the nose by his master.

He had been taught by his father Simon to stand up for himself–to find what was important and risk humiliation and even alienation to defend it.

Once, when he was a kid, one of his playmates had stolen some toys from him and he was in the middle of plotting for the young fellow a painful retribution. His dad stopped him, telling him never to betray his own conscience and soul, but instead, to confront his adversary and try to find terms of peace.

So Judas decided to talk to Jesus.

“Listen, I was really offended by what happened last night.”

Jesus remained silent.

Judas continued slowly. “I want us to be able to discuss this without me playing the part of the disciple and you being the big boss.”

Jesus continued to listen.

“You see, Jesus, my problem is that I don’t think we should waste money and then preach a message of taking care of the poor when we, ourselves, are squandering cash.”

Jesus sat quietly without moving a muscle.

A bit frustrated, Judas pushed on. “Are you listening to me? Do you feel what’s in my heart? Do you appreciate my opinion, or since it’s different from yours, is it irrelevant?”

Finally Jesus spoke. “What is it you want, Judas bar Simon?”

“That’s easy,” replied Judas. “I want to be heard.”

Jesus paused and then looked into his eyes. “I can hear you–unless what needs to be done is more important than your words.”

“Are you pushing me out of this?” demanded Judas with a bit of heat.

Jesus sat quietly, without speaking a word.

“Then I quit,” said Judas. “I cannot stay somewhere that I’m not respected, and my father taught me not to seek revenge or betray people just because they disagree with me.”

“Your father taught you well,” said Jesus.

“So this is it?” punctuated Judas.

“That’s up to you,” said Jesus.

“It doesn’t seem to be,” replied Judas. “It seems like you want me out.”

“No,” said Jesus. “There are just certain things that have to be in my message, in timing and in the flow. Your comments were not within those boundaries.”

Judas wanted to continue to argue but found it difficult to do so because Jesus was still warm, but no longer open.

“I guess this is it,” said Judas.

“I guess so,” said Jesus, and inserted, “I wish you well.”

Judas turned and walked from the room. He should have known it wouldn’t work out–he was from Judea and the rest of the followers were from Galilee. It wasn’t an issue of prejudice–rather, culture.

He went back home to South Judea, to Kerioth, where he settled in, started a family, but tried to keep up with the affairs and times … of the every-growing Kingdom Movement.

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Three Ways to Use Your Doubt… October 23, 2014

 

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In the traditional story of Easter, three interesting characters are brought to the stage.

  • Judas, who betrays
  • Peter, who denies
  • And Thomas, who doubts

Unfortunately, the audience viewing the drama is encouraged to believe that all three of these individuals are equally culpable.

Please understand–there is a huge chasm between betrayal and denial, and likewise one existing between denial and doubt.

Betrayal is doubt which has already given up on the idea and is looking for a reason to rationalize its treachery.

Denial is doubt that has never been voiced, but when put under the pressure of persecution, exposes its weakness.

But on the other hand, doubt is what human beings do to flush out the trash and make room for new stuff.

It is a good thing.

There is not a day that goes by when I do not doubt the existence of God. No hour goes by when I do not question my own ability. And no minute ticks away when uncertainty does not stall me for a second or two concerning my resolution.

Trying to dispel these uncertainties through a chatty spirit of positive thinking is not only hypocritical, but futile.

Doubt is the powerful tool that transforms us from nostalgia to action. Use your doubt to:

1. Dispel fake faith.

What is fake faith? Any belief you hold which has not been personally tested. It is the accumulation of knowledge with no experience. It is the fear that if your faith was brought into the heat of the day, it would shrivel up and die.

Probably fifty percent of what we all believe is not only impractical and implausible, but actually inhibits us from living with lighter hearts.

2. Use your doubt to understand others.

Too often we become frustrated with human beings because they dare to speak the confusion that we try to hide behind our fake faith. I have much more compassion for people when I’m willing to admit my own doubts.

3. And finally, use your doubt to learn to be more honest.

  • Doubt is your spirit crying for a moment of truthfulness.
  • Doubt is when your heart desires to remove the clog of unanswered questions.

Thomas was not a denier nor a betrayer. He was a man who was dealing with some pain and rather than drinking it away …  he posed the question.

 

 

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Jesonian: Mothering Women … May 11, 2014

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Jesus with womenThe conservatives insist that they honor women by extoling the difficulty of being a housewife and a mother.

The liberals scoff at these limitations, claiming to offer choice and equality while promoting young artists who refer to their sisters as “chicks, hoes and bitches.”

We are in a perpetual cycle–which ends up being vicious, may I add–because it offers women sympathy and mothers them without ever pursuing parity.

Oprah Winfrey, who would certainly claim to be a twenty-first-century feminist, still giggles along with comedian Steve Harvey, as he segregates the sexes by their cultural predilections, maintaining that it is some sort of God-ordained division.

Meanwhile, we’re in search of humanity, since masculine and feminine restrictions are driving us off the road and into the ditch. We really don’t have to look far.

Jesus came along to set people free so they wouldn’t have to be victims. He did the same thing for the ladies.

1. Even though he lived in a male-dominated society which had created a system of divorce in which a man could abandon his partner over any whim that might cross his mind, Jesus insisted that women were not emotional ditzes, and that the only reason for breaking a marriage apart was adultery, committed by either party.

2. Jesus made it clear that there was no need to have two different gospels–one pink and one blue–but trudged through all the areas near his home with men, women and children listening to the same teachings and commandments.

3. Jesus also made it clear that women’s money was good. Matter of fact, Mary Magdalene, Susannah and Joanna, three of his more affluent followers, were listed as underwriters of his traveling outreach; no men were ever given credit for donating funds.

4. Jesus wouldn’t let women play the victim. Whether it was the woman of Samaria, who wanted to produce a little deceit about her marital status, or the woman caught in adultery, who was forgiven by Jesus but also told to “go and sin no more,” Jesus made it clear that the true path to equality is to shoulder responsibility.

5. Jesus believed that women could “carry the baggage.” It was Mary Magdalene who announced his resurrection. The Book of Acts is filled with women who befriended nomadic disciples and opened their hearths and homes to the message of the Nazarene. If you remove the women from the early church, you have a lot of sermons, but no follow-up for the converts.

Jesus never mothered women, making them feel less.

He would not permit a condescending tone in their direction.

He challenged them to achieve humanity.

As long as women are talking about glass ceilings, unfair pay, mistreatment in the workplace, and even sexual harassment, they will continue to place themselves in the back seat of the vehicle of commerce.

Jesus only made one mistake when it came to women: he ended up betrayed because he picked Judas instead of Judith.

It isn’t that women aren’t treacherous–it’s just that the Jewish Council didn’t allow females into their meetings … even if they were plotting murder.

 

 

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

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Poor Coverage … August 9, 2013

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For two-and-a-half years I shared and ministered with the poor, disenfranchised and homeless folks in Shreveport, Louisiana.

I would not trade that experience for any amount of gold or prestige. Yet I have to tell you that even though it was peppered with great blessing, it was also salted with revelation and discovery.

I learned first-hand what Jesus meant when he said that “the poor you have with you always.”

It never stops. A bag of groceries does not alleviate aching hunger. Paying an electric bill fattens the purse of the local utility, but frustrates the recipients, who realize that next month they will find themselves in the same predicament.

There is a misrepresentation about spirituality–that those who pursue deeper understanding of the heart of God are meant to be propagators of generosity to the destitute. Why the misconception? Because it sounds good.

I observed it last night during my visit to a church in Michigan. These wonderful congregants had put together a system of providing paper goods and needful supplies to members of their community suffering under the rigors of financial depression. I watched as the people came in to receive their bag of goodies and observed as they departed. There was no joy, no sense of appreciation, no discovery of a deep truth etching its way across their features. They were resigned. Or maybe they HAD resigned. I don’t know which one.

But even though they possessed goods which they did not previously count in their storehouses, the realization that it was a “temporary fix” burdened their souls.

Discussing poverty is probably one of the most difficult subjects to broach. You will find yourself becoming either encompassed with the festering futility of the ongoing epidemic, or trying to distance yourself–coming across as a calloused, uncaring goofball.

What SHOULD be our position?

Jesus said they’re not going to go away, so you should “do what you can.”

I think that’s what the generous folks WERE accomplishing at last night’s church. But simultaneously, I must alert them that Jesus fed the five thousand … until he discovered they were following him JUST for the food.

  • Jesus healed the lepers but never visited a leper colony. He instead required that these diseased souls track him down and bring their faith.
  • And Jesus, when confronted by Judas about being uncaring toward the poor by wasting ointment on his head and feet, replied that Judas was out of the flow and didn’t realize that there are more important things than a temporary band-aid on a gaping wound.

What DID Jesus do?

1.  He energized the working class and the rich to appreciate what they had and realize that more of them was required.

2.  He kept his ears open to those who broke out of the pack of self-pity and made their way to his side for transformation.

3. He taught people how to be industrious instead of dependent on luck or divine intervention for their provision, telling them that they were “the salt of the earth” and that  “the Kingdom of God was within them.”

4. And in more than one parable, he told them that seed needed to be sown even when it seemed like there was no possibility for it to take root.

I learned during my two-and-a-half years that caring for the poor is something that has to be done in stride rather than being an actual walk in and of itself. And ultimately, the best way to solve poverty is to take the ten per cent who are ready to pursue personal and financial excellence and ask them to look out for the needs … of nine of their neighbors.

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Dreadfully Dull… April 7, 2012

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It’s the Saturday part that always interests me. Looking at the days of Easter, from the arrest of Jesus through the crucifixion and on to the resurrection, we often leave out that twenty-four-hour period when he’s dead, beginning to stink and absent of any prospect of life.

Yes, for one day evil has won. Oh, shoot–that’s too dramatic. It would be easier if it were evil. Then we could take a gun out and shoot it, or send Navy seals over to exterminate it. But no. That Saturday between the crucifixion and the resurrection was a day when much more common, but sinister, concerns were given free rein.

It was a day of dreadful dullness. Because when you turn out the light what remains is darkness. Unacceptable. Yet time passes, your eyes adjust and it suddenly gains plausibility. Adaptation. Yet still, dreadfully dull.

It is a time when the consequence of extinguishing our possibility taunts us in our foolishness and inefficiency, leaving us to either repent in great sorrow for our short-sightedness or stubbornly insist, “It was my choice.”

Yes, it’s the Saturday that fascinates me–a Saturday when the street cleaners of Jerusalem are scraping up the bowels and remains of Judas Iscariot, who has hung himself and has fallen to the earth, gushing in all directions.

It’s a day when a disciple named Peter realizes that he has chosen his own bodily life over the spiritual life he gained from his friend. For denial, after twenty-four hours, reeks of betrayal. And unfortunately, there is no way to recreate beauty by removing truth.

It’s when a woman named Mary, from Magdala, is trying to figure out how in the hell her friend has been snuffed out by a religion she had honored all her life, and also how she was going to be able to roll away a stone to prepare his body for burial.

It is the Sabbath Day, a day of reverence in the midst of a season of redemption–Passover–a day when Caiaphas, the high priest, has symbolically given absolution to a race of people when he, himself, has blood on his hands from slaying the promise of God.

It is a day when people huddle in their houses of worship to commemorate the great deeds of the prophets of old, who were slain by their fathers and mothers–and now they, too, have followed suit, eliminating the greatest possibility.

Nicodemus has to wonder whether he said enough to defend the young man he came to visit by night, who told him to be “born again.” Perhaps he should have heeded the advice.

And Pontius Pilate has clean hands but a cluttered mind, wondering whether his latest decision might have eternal consequences.

But sanity often demands that we escape our conscience through the back door of excuse. The only recourse is to find inane activities that generate a dreadful dull–to anesthetize the guilt and leave us absent sensation.

It was a long day. It was a day when the world was without a Prince of Life and the Light of the World.

I’m not so sure we would have survived two of them–more lies and deception would have been needed to keep us from wondering if we were wrong.

  • Religion–without God.
  • Politics–removing purpose.
  • Friends–breathing, minus love.
  • And dreams–vegetating, devoid of fulfillment.

‘Twas a dreadful dullness–a warning. For resurrection loses some of its sweetness with the memory of indecision.

Only Mary Magdalene and her female companions could tout the glory of victory–having remained each step of the way, faithfully observing the unfolding of the magnificent plan. All others have the aching memory of twenty-four hours of dreadful dullness. 

Victims? Perhaps. But also culprits … in a crime against the universe.

**************

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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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