Jesonian–Troubling (Part 7)… August 12th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Troubling.

To see disciples of Jesus line up like sheep, with astrologers and superstitious, ignorant practitioners of religion, to pray their way to a blessing, is truly troublesome.

It is the byproduct of a gigantic misconception: God is in control.Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are told that Jesus came to Earth to give us the power to become the sons of God. He envisioned a church that was fired up to tear down the gates of hell:

  • More than conquerors
  • Salt of the Earth
  • Light of the world
  • Doing greater things
  • Pursuing the perfection they see in their Father

He never dreamed that those who chose to take up his cross would end up helpless, fearful, bigoted and hog-tied to tradition.

It is pitiful to see churches worshipping a God they believe has power, but selfishly refuses to impart any of that gift to His children.

When will we start teaching the truth?

Our lives do not spring from the soul. We are not mentally ignited. Nor will stimulation of our flesh make us content.

We are heart creatures. Out of the abundance of our heart we will speak. Out heart is our passion, our feelings, our sentiment.

Here’s the way Jesus intended it to be:

We start with the heart. This is simply what we feel. It does not need to be right–it just needs to be truthful. Having found the confidence to share our heart gives us the boldness to believe.

This leads to our soul. Our soul benefits us by teaching us how things work–both the tenderness of the Father and the practices of Mother Nature.

Once we’ve allowed ourselves to be students of the planet and the love of God, we’re ready to take our brain and see what we can do. Not what we wish we could do, but the ability within us. So we learn to be contributors instead of complainers.

And then we take this magnificent body–our strength–and go out and do it well. For as we run the first mile, we anticipate the second. We come prepared.

This is the teaching of Jesus.

The barbaric notion that God plays with human lives as the devil taunts them may be the foundation for other religions, but it is spiritually and intellectually unacceptable in the Jesonian.

The Jesonian is when we realize that our heart–what we feel–gives credence to our soul, where we learn how things work. This renews our minds, to find out what we can do, and then we take our energy to do it well.

Such a unity creates healthy human beings–instead of faltering followers.

 

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 6)… August 5th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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It is troubling.

Yet I must profess to you that no one has greater joy and regard for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross than I do. It is my salvation and it rattles my consciousness to a sensibility of my own sinful nature and the grace of God.

That being said, I fear that the church has become “atone-deaf.”

Nearly desperate to land on a universal message for Christianity which can be compactly shared at a moment’s notice, we have placed too much attention on a hill called Golgotha, and not nearly enough tender loving care with a Sermon shared from a Mount. In doing this, we have contradicted things we know about the nature of God in order to fulfill the doctrine of the propitiation of sin.

For instance, God ordained free will for humans. Yet we’re led to believe that “from the foundations of the world” it was pre-destined that Jesus would be killed on a cross.

When God spoke through the Old Testament prophets, He declared that He wanted mercy, not sacrifice. Yet for some reason we decide that He changed His mind and adopted human sacrifice as the symbol of His covenant.

As a writer, the first thing you learn is to be faithful to your characters. You can’t manipulate the plotline by causing your character to do something completely beyond the scope of his or her nature, just so you can advance your story.

God gave us free will. We chose to kill Jesus.

God hates sacrifice. He took the death of Jesus and transformed it into our salvation.

What was meant for evil, He made good.

Atonement should be a central theme in the Christian message. It is powerful. It is priceless. But by no means should it be preached so loudly that it makes us deaf to the greater matters of the kingdom–tenderness, responsibility, excellence, consolation and tolerance.

What can we do to keep the death of Jesus in perspective?

I have always received the gift of Calvary as my salvation and a license for me to go out and salvage. How? First, deal with my own appetites and also multiply my talents. Once I become the salvager–the “light of the world” and “the salt of the earth”–I have the ability to transfuse the energy of salvation, pass it along to others and see them reborn.

The conclusion? As a saved soul who has become salvaged and a saver, I fulfill the purpose of me being rescued.

We’ve got to start listening again. We have to stop trying to fulfill denominational doctrine and instead, emphasize the character of God.

Jesus lived for thirty-three years to give the human race a chance to accept his message. He used stories; he used confrontation. He used healing; he used mercy.

And at the end of it all, we used crucifixion.

God, in His infinite grace, chose to take the blood that we shed and make it a symbol of our salvation rather than a further curse of our rebellion. It’s remarkable.

But if we want to find the heart of Jesus, it is not at Calvary.

It is in the words, deeds, actions and anointing of his life.

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Good News and Better News… June 26th, 2017

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It is a tale of two Mounts.

One is called Mount Calvary, where the Prince of Peace was crucified at the bequest of angry religionists and indecisive politicians who were bound and determined to maintain the status quo.

The other mount was a place where Jesus came face-to-face with the human race and made his case.

He talked about personal responsibility–how we are responsible for our own lives, responsible to study Mother Nature, responsible to take care of one another, responsible to curb our anger and lust and responsible to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the Earth.”

Yet the American church is totally obsessed with Mount Calvary, spending countless hours teaching all congregants about the atoning gift of the blood of Christ and even sharing a meal of remembrance.

The other Mount–the Mount of Message, the Mount of Human Transformation–is parsed and referenced, but rarely presented as the necessary philosophy for human beings to get along.

Although we should never forget the courageous sacrifice of Jesus on Mount Calvary, we must realize that what sets Jesus apart from Buddha, Moses, Mohammed and any other religions icon, is that he taught us to use our talents, love one another and remain in good cheer instead of blaming other religions, cutting off the lifeline of our emotions, or spending countless hours pleading with the heavens.

The answer to this dilemma is easily understood by paraphrasing a comment from Jesus. He once said, you shouldn’t leave this one undone, but you should pursue the “weightier matters” of life.

Amen.

Once I understand that Jesus was so enthralled with the propagation of his message that he was willing to die for it, I can go back into those simple, practical axioms and find the way, the truth and the life.

For you see, the good news is that Jesus died for our sins.

The better news is, before he died, he taught us how to live.

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Good News and Better News… May 8th, 2017

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Breeders and needers

I am speaking from a spiritual sense.

Breeders are people who find personal satisfaction in joy, mission and composure, and are prepared to deal with those who come their way who may not have the correct balance of what we call normal human behavior.

They are merciful because they know the need to obtain mercy.

They are meek because they’ve already gotten their down payment on the inheritance of the Earth.

They don’t need encouragement to be gentle–the gentleness of God’s spirit has already convinced them of the wisdom of such behavior.

Needers, on the other hand, are folks who come to church with vice, variance and viciousness intact, and try to use God’s grace to cover their insufficiency rather than becoming the “light of the world and the salt of the Earth.”

It’s really simple:

Needers scare people away.

Breeders make an emotional and spiritual connection with their fellow-humans and birth fellowship.

As long as we insist that God doesn’t really care how good or bad we are, just that we have signed a salvation card and our names are written in the Book of Life, we will continue to frighten those who might find comfort in the Gospel, affronting them with members who have the maturity of a pen of pigs.

It’s time to talk realistically about Christianity.

We are on the verge of falling victim to the stereotypes that other religions have procured for themselves.

“All Jews are cheap.”

“All Muslims are terrorists.”

“All Hindus have a spot on the middle of their forehead.”

“All Buddhists eat humus.”

The Gospel of Jesus has a chance to speak a unified message to a diverse world. It is so desperately needed that writers like myself will risk being attacked by the needers in an attempt to lift up the breeders.

What are the characteristics of breeders?

They are salt. Tasteful. Sensitive.

They are light–illuminating instead of shocking the world around them.

Good works. It’s impossible to be humble without them. If you try to use humility without having good works, you just come across honestly inept.

Here’s the good news: Jesus is prepared to give instruction, permission and shortcuts to those who want to live dynamic, joyful and abundant lives.

And the better news is that needers can become breeders if they will develop the desire to connect with others instead of remaining frightened and insecure

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Good News and Better News… March 13th, 2017

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Pictured is the trash can in my weekend motel, which has absolutely no significance except for the fact that I got so involved enjoying the folks at the Roseland United Methodist Church that I failed to take a snapshot of my surroundings to commemorate the event. There’s no hidden message or reference to trash or garbage. Matter of fact, the folks were absolutely delightful, led by an old friend from South Miami, Pastor Cathy.

She is a delightful mingling of the spirit of Mary Poppins with the compassion and tenderness to human beings of Mother Teresa. Simultaneously, she carries a humility that would cause her to rebuke me for comparisons to a jovial Disney character and a Catholic saint.

But what made the people of Roseland so powerful is that they’re still maintaining their humanity. Religion often wishes to drain us of all semblance of ambition and desire in a pious maneuver to transform us into submissive half-angels.

I’ve never been quite sure why we take one of the more endearing parts of the human being–that being the energy to succeed–and baptize it in false humility and solemnity.

Why do we all have to be so bad before God calls us good? Because here’s the truth:

Every human being needs to feel that he or she is important.

If that’s a sin, then may we all be damned. Trying to make God the only important creature in the universe, while insisting that we selflessly give to others while rejecting our own personal desires, is not only fruitless, but anti-Jesus.

Jesus told us “we are the salt of the Earth. We are the light of the world.”

It is our works that people will see, and then glorify God. He said if we’re given much, much is expected of us. He even told us we were his friends because he shared his life with us.

One day, he jokingly explained that we were worth “many sparrows,” and that we would do greater things because he went to the Father, to cheer us on.

The mistake we make in the church is trying to convince everybody how unimportant they are in an attempt to get them to focus on God.

A Jesonian church nurtures such a vision, but in the process, teaches people what really is important:

  • I become more important when I include others.
  • I become more important when I tolerate and appreciate the lives of others.
  • I become more important when I’m not afraid to give.
  • I become more important when I take my talent and multiply it instead of sitting on it.
  • I become more important when I lead with good cheer.
  • I become more important when I realize that I’m allowed to be important, but so is everybody else.

The good news is, once we discover our sinful nature and repent of it, salvation comes into our hearts.

The better news is, Jesus rejoices when we take the message of salvation, go out and become important by doing important things.

 

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Good News and Better News … October 24th, 2016

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Yesterday when I arrived at the First United Methodist Church of Plainwell, Michigan, a gentleman asked me, “So, what do you think about the 2016 Presidential election?”

I replied, “It’s like going to the grocery store to get some steak and finding out they’ve only got baloney.”

Yes. The campaign is just “cold cuts.”

So it’s very important that when we come to church, we give those who have chosen to attend a “people experience”–full of emotion, joy, humor and inspiration–because they certainly are not going to get it on MSNBC, CNN or Fox News. Likewise, neither Donald nor Hillary are motivated to edify people.

My Plainwell experience began the day before when I arrived for setup, and was delighted to meet Pastor Kathy and Sue, who generously afforded us their efforts, hospitality and gentleness. They were absolutely inspiring human beings who just happened to be women.

Therefore, when Sunday rolled around, my heart was full, and I wanted to ensure that everyone I met was aware that even though the world is full of tribulation, this is our season to “be of good cheer.”

good-news-plainwell-cup-and-spoonHowever, serving up good cheer demands that you portion things off in the right units. Otherwise, the recipe doesn’t taste quite right.

For instance, I do think we need a tablespoon of Bible–as long as it’s mingled with a cup of mercy.

How about a tablespoon of prayer, with a cup of helping out?

You can have a handful of church if you throw in a bunch of kindness.

I would welcome a teaspoon of preaching mingled with a quart of living.

I think you can have a cup of worship if you stir in a gallon of joy.

I suppose I could stand a pinch of study, if it will motivate a dash of discovery.

And certainly feel free to throw in a tablespoon of faith–as long as you realize it functions best with a cup full of effort.

The Gospel works because it is suited to people.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to find the gaps in the world, and instead of being angry about them, fill them:

  • Life is rather tasteless, so bring your salt.
  • Things get pretty dark, so make sure you light it up.
  • Most people demand–learn to ask.
  • Lots of folks blame. Jesus suggests that we seek.
  • And of course, it’s very common to stand on the outside and feel cheated, but Jesus insists that it’s more fulfilling to knock on the door.

We had a fabulous time yesterday in Plainwell.

We laughed, cried, snickered, snorted, watched, listened and embraced. It was a human event–which means it gave God glory, since He was the One who came up with the idea of humanity in the first place.

So the good news is, church is a great remedy for politics.

And the better news is, the more people-friendly church becomes, the more people will be drawn to it.

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Good News and Better News … April 18th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Antioch

Yesterday it was my joy to share my heart with dear souls in Antioch, Tennessee.

In the Book of Acts, it informs us that Antioch was the first city where the new believers in Jesus were referred to as “Christians.” It was meant to be a derogatory term, thrown at this new movement by the arrogant Greeks, who were trying to connote that the people who believed in the Nazarene were just a bunch of “little Jesuses.”

In other words, they had no mind of their own.

I didn’t talk about this to the people yesterday because I figured that over the years they have probably grown weary of the reference. But it did help me realize that the term “Christian” has become synonymous with going to church, or being religious, instead of being like Jesus.

Jesus frustrated religious people. After a while they got tired of being frustrated, so they decided to murder him.

Even though your average church-going people will admit that attendance is dwindling and that people seem to be “leaving the steeple,” they still insist that there’s basically nothing errant with what’s going on behind the stained glass windows.

Here is something I have learned:

If it’s not working, it’s probably not going to get better just because you keep doing it. And if it’s not working, the first step is to admit it’s broken, and then commit to getting it fixed.

The problem in the church is simple–it is a body of believers working under a false premise. The false premise is that we please God by gathering to worship Him.

Jesus made it clear that we please God by being the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

Can you see the difference?

So as I leave Antioch, having had a tremendous morning of fellowship with these dear friends, I can offer them a simple suggestion:

Do one thing.

Yes–just start pursuing one thing that’s different from what you’re doing now. And make sure it doesn’t resemble anything like the present menu offered in church.

Maybe you could adopt one family in the community every week, take $150 and buy them groceries and shoes for the kids. Put a committee in charge of this endeavor.

Then on Sunday morning you can share, having something for prayer time other than weddings, funerals, births and sicknesses.

How about challenging twenty people from your congregation to volunteer just one hour a week in area nursing homes, food banks or homeless shelters–and then have them testify of their encounters.

Maybe the pastor could do the same thing–or take a small part-time job to increase his or her humanity in the community. Play guitar? Start a cover band and play at the local bar on Saturday nights prior to the Sunday services.

Take something that is non-church but filled with Jesus and act it out in your community every week, and see if something doesn’t bloom.

It’s not complicated. I could probably sit here for another twenty minutes and pop off more ideas.

But the notions have to come from the congregation and be a source of excitement to them to make it work.

If we don’t develop a sense of mission about bringing the heart of Jesus to our community, we will gradually implode from over-reverence or bickering from the choir about which anthem should be used for the Introit.

Jesus was simple:

Find a way to be loving, and then go act it out.

So as I leave Antioch, filled with a spirit of joy from encountering these delightful “little Jesuses,” I tell you that your good news is that all you need is one thing to do that is not religious, and that will bring real people into your presence.

The better news is that you’re not responsible for the fruit.

Just the seed.

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