Jesonian … February 10th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3579)

There are two distinct types of abuse.

There is physical abuse, punctuated by an attack against body, heart or mind. It leaves cuts, bruises and scars. It is nasty, evil and inexcusable.

The other form of abuse is neglect. Being commissioned to perform a responsibility, someone decides to set it aside in favor of other pursuits, leaving that which was meant to be cared for destitute.

Although a case could be made that the religious system continues to physically abuse Jesus of Nazareth by crucifying him weekly in sermons, attempting to stimulate some sort of passion from the congregation, I shall step aside from such discussion in favor of presenting the true abuse.

We preach a Gospel of salvation which includes emphasis on “one time only, better do it today, this could be your last chance, hell is hot, Jesus loved you so much that he bled, and don’t you want to go to heaven” rhetoric in an attempt to frighten hearers who have already heard this many times before.

Meanwhile the real message of Jesus–the one that makes him our intimate, elder brother, and also affords the planet an opportunity for peaceful cohabitation–is often read aloud with the energy of reciting last week’s grocery list.

If you’re going to be Jesonian, you need to love Jesus. If you’re going to love Jesus, you’re going to get to know what’s close to his heart. And when you get to know what’s close to his heart, you will no longer be satisfied with a crucified Savior, but instead will become a disciple, pursuing a dynamic lifestyle.

You don’t have to go any further than the first three beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount to see what Jesus was all about. Matter of fact, I could spend the rest of my life elaborating on that trio and never run out of material.

It begins with the reality, follows with a challenge and culminates with wisdom.

The reality: we are happy because we are poor in spirit.

The reason that makes us happy is because we can stop trying to be spiritual instead of human. Once you find your classification, it’s so much easier to compete. Not an angel, not a saint, not a theologian, but rather, a human who is impoverished in the realm of spirit.

First realization: I am human and it is good.

God said so when He got done creating us. I don’t think He lied. Sure, we’re unpredictable, but since He’s not afraid of that, why should I apologize?

This is followed with a challenge. “Blessed are those who mourn.”

I have emotions and this is good.

Although we try to suppress them, these feelings continue to pop to the forefront, churn up our throats and waggle our tongues. Rather than deny them, we should use them to feel, to laugh, and most certainly, to mourn–to escape being uncaring bastards and instead, weep over the loss and pain in the world around us.

This climaxes with a bit of eternal, precious wisdom. “Blessed are the meek.”

Although there is a campaign to promote the notion that the more we brag, the stronger we are, the human race actually has a tendency to cut the stilts out from under those who try to walk too tall.

We honor humility. We are geared to destroy pride, even when it dwells within us.

Humble: “I am weak and it is good.”

In these three statements Jesus establishes a Gospel which is not only able to be mastered by humans, but can also be passed along as the living bread of truth that we all desperately need before we starve to death emotionally and spiritually.

I am human and it is good.

I have emotion, and it is good.

I am weak, and damn straight–it is good.

 

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Jesonian … December 30th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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A message does not change simply by revising the tone or the tune.

Our churches across America are convinced that if they became either softer or louder, the Gospel message will land on the hearts of the people more efficiently. There is also a strong contingency which contends that the music, styles and even instruments used in worship services are the key to drawing in the masses.

We have tried both of these methodologies, and we’re still losing people–and the general empathy for Christianity is diminishing.

What’s wrong?

Whatever Jesus did to share his thoughts and mission with the people around him was obviously more impactful and efficient than what we presently do. Matter of fact, Matthew the 9th Chapter, Verses 35-36, describe a day when Jesus enters the synagogue, teaches, preaches the new Gospel of the Kingdom and heals the sick–what you might call a complete package.

In other words, people come into the meeting, are challenged, changed and rid of some of their difficulties.

But it’s the next verse that makes me curious–that’s verse 36. It states that Jesus was “moved with compassion because the multitudes were harassed and helpless, like sheep having no shepherd.”

I guess I’ve always heard that interpreted in a positive way, spotlighting Jesus as the solution to the problem. A solution he may be, but not by offering the same insipid message that was already harassing the multitudes, leaving them helpless.

The present thrust and blending of Judeo-Christian values which is presented in the average church harasses us in our sins and inadequacies while simultaneously putting us at the mercy of society, and sometimes even the devil–helpless.

I do not understand what the value is of going to church if you’re going to be harassed and left helpless.

I also do not know how value could come to your life by constantly wandering around like a sheep looking for someone to give you directions.

Jesus was not describing a situation which he planned on addressing with a band-aid. Jesus intended to remove the harassment, empower the people and take away the silly, unfortunate profile of being sheepish.

How?

1. Even though we’re sinners, it does us no good to languish in that knowledge. We need to repent and move on, not hear it preached at us every single week.

2. We need to stop harassing the congregation with foolish discussions of worship approaches, prayer seminars and new ways to express our hospitality, and instead, give people tools to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”

3. We need to stop victimizing the people who come to the church building by making them feel like they’re the underdogs in a world of tribulation.

4. We need to understand that Christianity is not a religion, but rather, a lifestyle, and therefore works best when it’s presented in small doses of ideas which enhance human life, and then follow it up through patient trial and error.

5. There is no Christianity without love and appreciation of one another. We cannot replace it with worship or ignore it with prayer, and merely attending the church service does not guarantee that we “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

6. We would do better to teach people to want God in their lives instead of making them needy.

7. And even though we are “sheep in the midst of wolves,” we gain the advantage by being “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”

Jesus was moved with compassion because religion had harassed the people, leaving them helpless, stumbling around like lost sheep.

The harvest he suggested his disciples pursue was to gather those souls from the danger of meaningless proclamations of faith and lead them to a place where their faith had meaning and their proclamations began to move mountains.

 

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Good News and Better News… October 2nd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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She was a sweetheart.

During my two presentations at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Clermont, Florida, I got a chance to meet this delightful woman.

She bounced up to my book table and engaged in conversation. About halfway through our exchange, her face got a little more serious and she asked me, “How do we rate? I mean, you go to places all over America. How would you rate our church?”

I knew she wanted a serious answer, yet I wasn’t going to placate her nor was I going to try to place some burden on her heart by pointing out an inadequacy.

“You’re kind of right in the middle,” I said.

She started to smile, then squinted and replied, “Well, that’s not very good.”

After nearly forty-five years of traveling America and sharing in a vari=ety of venues, many of them churches, I will tell you what makes a good church. It begins and ends with the word “generous.”

One of the most chilling statements Jesus offered to his disciples, and to us who would follow his message, was “to he who much is given much is expected.” So it’s a little optimistic to think that you’ll receive eternal salvation while lounging on a heavenly hammock. So here are the three things that make a great church:

1. Generous space.

Sanctuaries are too cramped. They’re confining. This stifles the sensation of freedom. Since your church probably is not filling up the sanctuary for every service, take come pews out. Create room. Make people aware that they have the freedom to extend their legs and arms. Give children a place to crawl.

Clear everything unnecessary from the platform. There should be room for three or four people to stand side by side easily.

If you give air to the room you give air to the people to give air

2. Generous face.

If you’re not going to talk to someone, don’t peer from a distance. It’s creepy. And when you walk up, don’t stay too long, but do make eye contact while you’re there.

We met a fabulous brother named Joe at Shepherd of the Hills. He was not an “average Joe.” He was loving, giving, kind, and made us believe that we had a primal place in his present consciousness.

No one expects you to be a counselor or long-lost friend from high school, but grant folks the dignity to enter your generous space and receive your generous face.

3. Generous grace.

You have no right, privilege or scriptural authority to probe into the lifestyles of those who worship next to you. Share the Gospel of Jesus and let the Gospel do its work. The Holy Spirit is much more adept at convicting people than you are with your gossip. I don’t care what you hear about people. I don’t care what you think about people. At no time do you, I or anyone else have the permission to judge anyone.

It is possible for any church in America to become a Jesonian church–a Jesonian Catholic, a Jesonian Baptist, a Jesonian Methodist, a Jesonian Lutheran, a Jesonian Pentecostal–but it requires you to take on the heart of Jesus instead of pounding your favorite theological nails.

The good news is that Shepherd of the Hills Church has this delightful lady who is not willing to subsist in the middle.

And the better news is, if you make your church a generous space with a generous face, offering generous grace, you will grow.

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 10)… September 2nd, 2017

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Troubling.

In the Gospel of John, the 9th Chapter, the disciples of Jesus get into a rather frumpy, cheesy, theological mood and approach Jesus with a question.

They had come upon a gentleman who was blind from birth, and they officiously asked the Master whether this happened to him due to his own sin, or the sin of his parents?

Keep in mind–these are the same fellows who had seen water turned into wine, five thousand folks fed with five loaves and two fishes, demons cast out and the dead raised. Yet when it comes to discussing the nature, tenderness, mind-set and intellect of God, they revert back to their small-village, Sunday School mentality.

They made two errors:

First, they contended that God punishes people for their sins. Nothing could be further from the truth. And Jesus made it clear–good things happen to good people and bad people, and bad things happen to everyone equally. (Otherwise, there would be great impetus to be good instead of bad, just to garner the material blessing.)

The second mistake was that they believed that people were “born a certain way.” Obviously, this notion permeates our society as well. We are convinced people are born athletes, born musicians, born leaders, born dexterous…shall I go on? We take comfort in the assertion because it gives us all an excuse for not taking the abilities we see in ourselves and multiplying them to make our lives more abundant.

These two completely errant ideas were put forth by these Galileans two thousand years ago–ideas which are still an intricate part of the doctrinal DNA of the average Christian.

  • “Don’t sin or God will punish you.”
  • And “you are destined to be something by birth.”

I think it is important to note Jesus’ response. He completely dismisses both possibilities. He makes it clear that God doesn’t punish people for their sins–and especially not for the sins of their parents. And he also says that destiny is a myth because free will is extolled throughout the Universe as the “go-to plan.”

You can’t have both free will and destiny. They do not co-habitate. Even though you may have a certain genetic makeup, it does not overtake you and turn you into something you do not choose to be.

It is also why the Bible makes it clear that part of the salvation experience is to be “born again”–becoming a new creature in Christ.

Jesus said that God was not punishing anyone, and that the man was not born blind. He said that blindness was in his life so that God could be made manifest through him in a unique way.

There’s nothing wrong with taking what seems to be a weakness and turning it into a strength so that God might receive glory. This blind man is not complaining; he is not joining into the theological discussion about his plight. Matter of fact, he’s not even begging to be healed.

He has found a place in his place to make a place for every place he goes.

That’s our job.

I was dealt a certain hand and so were you. Now, through the blessing of free will, I have the ability to turn those circumstances to the positive instead of internalizing them to complain about my pain.

It is troubling that we still have a church that believes if bad things happen to people, the people must be bad–and that we live in a society which insists we were all “born” with a certain destiny.

God gave us free will. We can deny it and wait for Him to plan our lives, only to discover that He doesn’t do that, and our time on Earth has slipped away.

Or we can take a look at what we have–an inventory, if you will–and see what great things we can accomplish–simply by stepping forward instead of backward.

 

 

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 9)… August 26th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Troubling.

Yes, it’s troubling to me that the American and the European church feel they can do what Jesus said was impossible to achieve.

When Jesus was confronted by a man with a complaint concerning a brother of his, who would not share the inheritance, the Nazarene refused to weigh in. He replied, “Who has made me a judge over such matters?”

He then offered a discourse on the dangers of greed.

So it is troubling that the present Christian movement believes it can negotiate the problems between the Jews and the Muslims–brothers–instead of declaring the feud to be exactly what it is.

Greed:

  • Greed over dominance.
  • Greed over money.
  • Greed over Jerusalem.
  • Greed over favor with Father Abraham.

Nothing can ever be accomplished unless we understand that Judaism and Islam are not religions–they are two different tellings of a mutual history. The feast days, rituals and story lines that are thrown in are established to add credence to a family squabble.

Christianity was never intended to be a religion either, but rather, a lifestyle.

The Jesonian–the life of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and the heart of Jesus–is a lifestyle. It is an abundant life that was offered to counteract a historical squabble. When Christians side one way or another on this dispute, they err, failing to honor the mission of Jesus, who said that he was not a judge over such things–because the conflict was and is grounded in greed.

The Jews are my brothers and sisters by creation, but they are not my relatives in faith. The Muslims, likewise, are my brothers and sisters by genesis, but not my fellow-laborers in the matters of spirit and truth.

It is my job as a Christian to love these two factions into understanding that there are things more important in life than trying to possess control.

God favors neither Jew nor Muslim. The message of Jesus is “whosoever will may come.”

But they do need to come–instead of standing at a distance, screaming at one another.

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 8)… August 19th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3404)

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I am wondering if Christianity can become a mission, cause and lifestyle instead of slinking back into the profile of being “one of the major religions of the world.”

The decision lies around the word “learning.”

For some reason we have taken the simple message of “love your neighbor as yourself” and complicated it with doctrines, forming a morass of misunderstanding.

If we think that faith and hope are even close to charity, we have misconstrued the message of Jesus. Jesus came to turn love into a lifestyle.

He taught in parables whenever he was with the masses, expecting to motivate them to believe for mighty things. Only when the disciples complained about being confused by the stories did Jesus teach them further. His goal was to get these disciples out on the road as quickly as possible, to share their hearts with other people.

Otherwise we have the quandary found in II Timothy 3:7, which describes a church which is “ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” Jesus said his “way is easy and his burden is light” and that the Gospel is so simple that a “wayfaring man” can understand it.

Why do we believe that writing 3,000 new books on church practice will promote revival?

Perhaps I am the hypocrite speaking to the hypocrisy, because I, too, scribe my essays, trying to uncover some hidden meaning.

There is no hidden meaning. Just as we would not hide the groceries from our children to find out how determined they are to avoid starving, God certainly has not withheld peace of mind, contentment and joy from his offspring.

The church spends too much time teaching and not enough time sharing.

That’s troubling.

We keep studying the Old Testament–which really wants to study the New Testament. As Jesus said, Abraham yearned to see the Messiah. Yet we think one more classic tale, another seminar or a sermon series taken from a different angle will suddenly alert the congregation to its true soul.

There are three things that matter. They are what make you a Christian or separate you from the Kingdom of God:

  1. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  2. Don’t judge people.
  3. Multiply your talents.

The pursuit of these three things will keep us busy for a lifetime. Trying to figure out what the Apostle Paul meant or what I Peter was connoting or if Hebrews was really written by Timothy will not make good disciples.

We think interactive church is having people stare at a screen and sing songs. Interactive church is actually when humans offer a testimony, which builds up other brethren to share, embracing and encouraging each other.

It is troubling.

We have become a church of learning instead of a body of sharing. Until that changes … we will be as boring as we seem.

 

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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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