Jesonian… April 15th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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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 … July 11th, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reformation 2Yesterday I was bestowed the great honor of sharing my traveling message with the dear hearts of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Reading, Pennsylvania.

There are certainly folks who would contend that Martin Luther did very little to reform the Catholic Church, but instead, ended up starting his own ecclesiastical order. Matter of fact, some people will tell you that he retained the worst of the Mother Church while losing the more endearing portions–like Bingo and delicious fish frys.

But undoubtedly, there is a need for the religious system to be reformed and become more like the church that Jesus envisioned. What would that church be?

If you recall, after his resurrection Jesus gave Peter a simple instruction about how to empower the believers: “Feed my sheep.”

Although it’s true that politics, entertainment and religion attempt to feed the populace, each one tends to focus on only a part of the human experience, leaving other aspects unattended.

Humans are heart, soul, mind and strength.

Emotions need to be fed. This is what Jesus meant by “blessed are the pure in heart.” We must cease being afraid of our feelings, and air them out to see if they have any validity.Reformation 4

Feed the soul. The spirit of humankind lives off of a truth that makes us free to pursue wisdom. When the truth is diluted or hidden, we become religious instead of soulful.

Feed the mind. The brain retains. To get rid of faulty retention, there has to be a renewing, with fresh information and invigorating dialogue.

Feed the strength. We have bodies. They run on fuel. The more we feed our bodies the correct fuel and exercise, the healthier we feel.

As I spoke to the folks in Reading yesterday, I realized that they had arrived at the church weary from a week filled with bad news. They needed to be fed.

So emotionally, we told them that nothing happens until we show up, and nothing is over until we give up.

Reformation 3Spiritually, we shared that nothing of quality begins on Earth unless we understand that judging one another closes the door to fellowship.

Mentally, we challenged them that a God who loves us wants us to be happy instead of sacrificing our dreams to restricted religious regulation.

And physically? Well physically, we told them that the doorway to good health is to start off by enjoying the life God has given us and finding pathways to make it more abundant.

We can become the reformation church if we realize that those who come through our doors need to be fed–heart, soul, mind and strength.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that we don’t need to make up a program or draft a fresh constitution. Jesus has already laid out a terrific platform for complete human growth through his Sermon on the Mount.

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Jonathan’s Latest Book Release!

PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Trutherans — October 21, 2011

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A small Lutheran church in rural North Carolina.

That was my place of visitation on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. People–pundits, politicians and pollsters–all love to categorize them into convenient clumps for conversation. It’s just not that easy. Southerners are not alway Southern, Northerners are not always Northern, and likewise for the West and East.

Here are three things I CAN tell you for sure–people are not nearly as complicated as you make them out to be. People are much more sophisticated than you might think at first. And people always show up with some damage. As long as you keep that in mind, you can actually be of assistance to your fellow-man instead of a deterrent to their growth.

As I told you, it was a Lutheran church–yet most of the folks I met had absolutely no connection to a rogue monk named Martin Luther, who pounded ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenburg Church in protest to the excesses and fallacious doctrines of the Mother Church. Matter of fact, some of the folks I met this week might even have a hard time understanding Luther’s mindset, way of life and approach to God and others. Yet the church bears his name. For instance, we still call it the United States of America, even though there are many people who would desire to tear us apart from sea to sea. What I encountered was not a congregation that was following the dictates of a reformer; what I found were Americans who grew up in a denomination they now continue to attend in hopes of pleasing a God they hope someday to meet.

The religious climate in our country is a great source of confusion to me. For after all, the average person has four major concerns: God, money, sex and family–not necessarily in that order, and the particular line-up for each person may very well clarify their focus.

The church talks about God, a little about family, but sex and money are normally taboo subjects unless an offering plate is being passed or someone’s teenager is discovered with an unwanted pregnancy.

Politics will surface the subject of God, completely avoid sex (unless it’s an “intern”-al situation), focus on money and use the subject of family to create commonality.

But no one seems to have the ability to tie it all together, bringing heaven to earth and connecting earth to heaven. If we were faithful to the teachings of Jesus, we would completely comprehend that this is the essence of human life, but unfortunately, those who want to go to heaven feel the need to be critical of earth. And those who want to get the best of earth are equally as condemning and mocking of heaven.

No one seems to get the notion that if there is a heaven, that means there is a God, which means God made heaven, but also holds fast that He created the earth.  Same guy. If you don’t like the idea of heaven, it certainly will taint your appreciation of earth and eventually turn you into a curmudgeon who growls at people instead of embracing them. If you happen to be greatly in favor of heaven, then you just might tend to develop a discontented attitude towards earth–and therefore earthlings–making you of little light to the earth around you, and certainly not a city on a hill for all to see.

My message to those delightful Lutherans was this: we really show that we believe in heaven by relishing, studying, absorbing and appreciating in great thankfulness–the earth.  We equally project our anticipation of what heaven will truly be by attempting to duplicate its glory in our earthly confines.

For instance, if I lived in a lovely house, went on a cruise ship, the boat sank and I ended up on a desert island, would it be better for me to sit around and pine in despair over my abandonment, or try to find the elements on that particular island of destination, attempting to duplicate the beauty of my original home and surroundings? Obviously, good mental health demands that I believe where I am is where I am going to be and therefore I decide to make it the best possible scenario within my power to create.

Unfortunately, we just don’t believe that. Some people believe the earth is miserable and someday we’ll go to a better place. Some people believe there is no better place and the earth is our final destination, so they end up making themselves feel miserable. The end result? Misery for both.

Here’s what I feel. I don’t think heaven is a better place. I think it is God’s rendition of what I’ve already begun on earth. Yes, I think that as a great Host, He is preparing a place for me that imitates in His lavishness what I have already created here with my limited resources.

So if we don’t love the earth, believe it’s the Lord’s and enjoy the fullness of it, we probably will try to procure heaven–but only once or twice a week when it crosses our minds. If we believe there is no heaven, we probably will attempt morality but give up in favor of our own choices and acquiesce to our greed.

I tried, this week, to turn Lutherans into Trutherans. I asked them to believe with me that Jesus was the bridge between earth and heaven. He was the son of man … and the son of God. And he came to give me the power to become the same.

So I never think about heaven without making a snapshot of that vision here on earth. And I try never to think about earth without believing in a heavenly Father who cares about everything here and now.

You know the beautiful thing? Those dynamic souls in rural North Carolina at that Lutheran church opened up their hearts and allowed the simplicity of this message to reside within them.  It was an amazing experience.

And so if Lutherans can become Trutherans, then … who knows?  Perhaps atheists could become “maybe-ists.”

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Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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