G-Poppers … October 6th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Pop wants his children to understand about the sliding scale.

Although the human tribe insists on believing that goals are set and achieved, most of the time, we all fall short of the original aspiration, and end up settling for something a little bit different, if not lesser.

At that point, it is our nature to explain that what we attained is “just as good,” and if we’re smart, turn it into something of value.

So when Jesus told his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount to be merciful because it was the only way to guarantee mercy coming back in their direction, he was pointing out that if we do not set our minds to be merciful, we will never offer kindness.

Yes, kindness is about the best human beings can muster in dealing with one another. But to generate kindness, you’ve got to try for mercy–and mercy is that sense that it’s really none of our business, and we step away without judging whatsoever.

Kindness is the empathy that comes into our souls when we see someone fail and we recall our own sensations in failure.

Yet if you set your goal to be kind, you’ll probably end up with considerate. That means if someone is right in front of you and in need, you more than likely will put yourself out a little bit and lend a helping hand.

There are those who think that mercy and kindness are much too tender. So they try for considerate, and on the sliding scale, end up with tolerance. Yes, they patiently “put up” with foibles and attributes of other human beings while internally they harbor some hidden resentment.

Those who try for toleration eventually end up with indifference. Why? Because as you can imagine, toleration requires quite an effort, and sometimes it’s just better to stand at a distance and not get involved.

There are travelers who live a life of indifference, and suddenly find themselves plagued by complaining. Because even though we distance ourselves from other people, they don’t go away, and because they hang around with notable nagging nonsense, we are left complaining about them to other people.

Dare I say there are even human beings who start their day as complainers, and by the end of their morning and afternoon, as evening settles, they simmer in anger. Since no one really listens to their complaining, and what they complain about has not changed, they feel justified in being completely angry with the situation.

Would you believe there are people who live in anger, and as they look at the world around them, confirming their dark visions, they are suddenly engorged in a spirit of rage. They are the ticking time bombs–too sensitive to touch and ready to go off when least expected. And unfortunately, those souls who awaken in rage, on the sliding scale, eventually find themselves murderous.

There is a sliding scale.

So as we contemplate what causes a brother to fire thousands of bullets into a crowd, we must realize that maybe at one time, he wanted to be considerate, but the scale slid, and as it did, he did nothing to correct his course.

 

 

 

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

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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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Jesonian… June 10th, 2017

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Sex, money and family.

These are the three topics that encompass the majority of conversation for the average American.

Sex, discussed in the context of portraying ourselves as studly and virile while simultaneously pointing out the sinfulness in others.

Money, a perpetual complaint because we all feel we should have much more than we do.

And family because somewhere along the line we’ve convinced ourselves that our particular brood of offspring has a special place in the universe because we spawned them.

Matter of fact, I can pretty well guarantee you that if you wade into the horde of humanity, you’d better be prepared to talk about one of these subjects–probably all three.

I offer this preface because Jesus avoided these three subjects like a religion.

When they tried to get him to gossip about a woman caught in the act of adultery, he turned away, stooped down and fiddled in the dirt like he didn’t even hear them.

He certainly made the point to a bunch of pious Pharisees that because prostitutes were coming into knowledge of the Kingdom of God, they were going to enter heaven much sooner than the religious leaders. (This wasn’t very popular.)

When it came to money, he was confronted by a gentleman who wanted Jesus to be an arbiter in an inheritance squabble with a brother. Jesus curtly replies that “no one has made me a judge over such matters” and then proceeds to tell a parable about the dangers of greed. Probably not what the young fellow was looking for when he advanced his question.

And as pertains to family, Jesus made it totally clear to those around him that when his kin came to see him with the intent of returning him to Nazareth because they thought he was crazy, Jesus explained that his family was “anyone who did the will of my Father.”

So if you remove the subject of sex–which is often judgmental condemnations about the preferences of others; and money–which seems to be a perpetual lamentation over not having enough; and family–the extolling of our particular procreation due to sexual prowess–you really don’t have much to talk about, even in the lobby of a church.

Jesus had other topics that interested him:

Mercy.

Justice.

Compassion.

Faith that was ready to move mountains and those individuals who broke out of the pattern of the “sex, money and family fixation” to find a way to get along with everybody on the planet.

If you’re going to progress as a Jesonian individual–someone who pursues the heart of Jesus and not just his sacrifice–you need to realize that Jesus is not worried about your sex organs, your financial status nor how cute you think your grand-baby is.

This would probably cause him to receive some very critical glances from the Mens Fellowship and the Ladies Auxiliary. He did not care.

If you can’t get your mind out of the gutter, your brain free of feeling financially cheated, and your heart devoted to something other than those living under your own roof, you probably will back your way into a tragedy.

At that point you will have a choice.

Will you take responsibility for it due to your short-sightedness, or will you wonder why God didn’t do something to stop it?

 

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Good News and Better News… June 5th, 2017

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Last night at the Renaissance Fellowship, I was privileged to be part of a holy collision. It wasn’t the “moon in the seventh house and Jupiter aligning with Mars.” Much more practical than that.

It was a blessed event, in which “willing” brushed up against “working” and satisfied “waiting”–the human trinity of possibility.

Without people being willing, it is useless to share things that are working. And if workable concepts are not being instituted, the sense of waiting in our souls lingers, rendering us frustrated. But when willing meets working, it satisfies waiting.

Foolishly, we’re all waiting for something.

How in the world waiting ever became a virtue baffles me–because waiting can be done by the foolhardy or the wise. There’s nothing particularly noble about it–matter of fact, it can degrade into first-class laziness. After all, what is the difference between waiting and stalled?

That’s where willing has to step in and become the big brother. In other words, we’re not only waiting for something to happen, we’re also willing to accept applications. They don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be what we’re praying for. Just able to be used to get us to our next place where we can stand in our faith.

You can tell you’ve grown spiritually when you know that complaining in any form can’t be justified.

Matter of fact, many of our prayers are glossed-over complaints. We lament to God instead of petitioning Him. We plead angst in His direction under the guise of just being worried and concerned.

Somewhere along the line, those that are “waiting upon the Lord” must renew their strength by being willing.

Willing to run and not be weary.

Willing to walk and not faint.

Suddenly–when willing shows up–working ideas seem to leap from the cosmos into the field of our vision. Hope does not spring eternal, it becomes an earthly possibility.

And when human beings who are waiting for some specific answer allow themselves to be willing to adapt to possibilities, then a Gospel full of working ideas can be preached and change the world.

Last night, people who quite obviously are waiting on promises suddenly became willing to enjoy themselves in the moment, and consider a temporary blessing, taking a rain check on their future hopes–and because of that, they were infused with working mercy, tenderness, excitement and insight.

It was magnificent.

But unless people become willing, nothing works. And when things don’t work, our waiting is absolutely futile.

So the good news is, it turns out that waiting is made much more tolerable by being willing.

And the better news is that willing people are ready to get to work.

P.S. Pictured is me with my grandson, Jonathan. (I’m the one in red.)

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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… May 1st, 2017

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I spent the weekend with the “Life of Brian”–once again reminded to “always look on the bright side of life.”

Yes, Brian is the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Frostproof, Florida. Aside from being personable, gentle and caring, he has intelligently chosen to embrace the work that is set before him and enjoy it instead of complaining about the difficulties or lamenting its limitations.
That is remarkable. (So therefore, I did.)

Because of this spirit which radiates from him, the congregation allows itself to believe that they are not boxed in to either a social or a religious format that makes them run around in circles like gerbils looking for a wheel.

I must tell you–any church that advertises that it is presently on the path of righteous pursuits may very well be deluded. We are all intoxicated by an environment which challenges us to be rough and tumble instead of kind and merciful.

Very simply stated, that must change or nothing will happen.

If we truly go into a deeper study of the Word, we will end up as Paul did, proclaiming that the only commandment that’s necessary is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we pursue an existence of prayer, we will find, as Jesus taught, that our best supplications are done in the closet, without letting anyone know that we are seeking divine guidance.

It really comes down to a simple back-and-forth:

What should we slow?

What should become quick?

I use the word “slow” because none of us are without silliness and foolish iniquity, so we will occasionally slip up. Right now we are obsessed with the notion to be quick to judgment and slow to love. For some reason, we insist that this is a sign of maturity, caution or caring for our loved ones. Because of this, the people in our society sometimes look like they’re sniffing the room for nasty odors instead of including the inhabitants of the room.

We are quick to judge yet slow to love.

And no matter how much you learn about the Tabernacle of David, the death of Christ or the Apocalypse, you will make no progress in the Kingdom of God until you become quick to love and slow to judge.

Matter of fact, if I were pastoring a church, I would teach on that subject for at least six months–until everybody in the congregation, including the toddlers, was fully aware that the mantra of our mission was “quick to love and slow to judge.”

This does not mean that prayer, worship, fasting, giving and study have no merit–it just means they have no muscle. They do not bust through the cement of the walls we are building between each other. The only thing that will do that is love and a refusal on our part to judge others.

So the good news is this: if we can learn to be quick to love, even if it seems a little awkward at first, at least we will be stumbling in the right direction.

And the better news is, if we are slow to judgment, we can begin to tear down the dark image of the Christian faith, which has turned us into prudes instead of proof.

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Jesonian… January 21st, 2017

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They tried.

They really, really tried.

Once folks discovered that Jesus of Nazareth was interested in love, mercy, peace and God, they attempted to make connection with him by being religious.

They couldn’t understand an itinerant minister who was so against organized theology that he hid out in the hills in the middle of the week, fellowshipping with folks, only descending to the synagogue on Saturday, to find more brothers and sisters.

Yet they tried.

First came Nicodemus, a Pharisee. He began his dialogue with Jesus by saying, “We know you are a teacher from God because you do such amazing works.”

He was a victim of church talk. He didn’t know how to chat like “real people.” He was hoping that he and Jesus could compliment one another and ruminate over the unknown questions of the universe, departing satisfied that they were both educated men.

Jesus ignored his religion and told Nicodemus that he needed to be “born again.”

It pissed the old cleric off.

On another occasion, Jesus was sitting at a well in Samaria when a woman with a history of multiple husbands, now living with a man, came to draw water. When, through conversation, she realized that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, she began a religious argument–whether the Jews or the Samaritans were right. Here she was, a totally secular woman with no real understanding of the essence of God. But once she decided she was dealing with a religious adversary, she waxed ecclesiastical.

Jesus ignored her.

He told her to go get her husband.

He told her he had living water.

He told her that where we worship is not important–it’s how we worship that rings our bells.

And we must not forget the rich young ruler, who was so confident in his financial status that he felt the only thing he lacked was assurance that he had procured eternal life. He felt certain that Jesus was the person to ask about the afterlife.

“What must I do to inherit heaven?”

After a few minutes of back and forth, Jesus told him to go out, sell everything he had and give it to the poor. This was not the answer the pious young ruler wanted. So he left, sad.

Any further study of Jesus’ interactions with religious people of his day will give you a comprehensive awareness that all of them–all of the encounters–to some degree were failures.

Because the things that religious people need to do they don’t want to do:

  • Like Nicodemus, they do not want to personalize their salvation to be individually born again.
  • Like the woman at the well, they want to worship but not discover the “Spirit and the truth” of their praise.
  • And like the rich young ruler, they would rather memorize passages than generously give from their substance.

Whenever you bring religion to Jesus, he will challenge it–even attack it.

So do yourself a favor.

Skip the step.

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