G-Poppers … March 30th, 2018


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3627)

He was anxiously looking forward to spending the weekend alone with his beautiful wife, Claudia, near the sea. The responsibilities of his position were unyielding, leaving him negotiating all sorts of foolish squabbles, bringing him home at night still reeling from the grumpy day.

Unfortunately, Claudia had been the victim of many of his temper tantrums, as he ranted and raged about the inflexibility of the people who dubbed themselves “the children of Abraham.” He just needed to get away.

Caesarea was perfect.

It had been built by the Roman occupiers as a little piece of home–and freedom–in the midst of this inflexible, dim-witted region. For a few days, he could pretend he was civilized again instead of trying to govern a pack of wolves who refused to accept the fact that they were caged.

Resting in his bed, he was awakened early on Friday morning with a request to meet with Caiaphas, the high priest of the Jewish people, to adjudicate a particularly difficult matter. Worse was that Caiaphas and his entourage refused to come into the Great Hall to see him because they were in the midst of their Passover celebration, and to be in the presence of him, a Gentile, made them unclean.

He shook his head, baffled by how foolish they were to make these contentions, for some reason thinking they were not offensive.

Arriving in the outer hall, he was surrounded by bearded, austere theologians, who ushered in a weary, wobbly man obviously suffering from punishment.

Within seconds, he realized that their request for his intervention was not needed. It was one of their pieces of fussiness–something about their God. A reference to a Messiah.

Realizing that the young, abused gentleman in front of him was from Galilee, he decided to pawn the situation off on Herod, whom he hated. As he went back to his chambers to tell his wife of his great solution, she appeared before him with terror in her eyes.

She’d had a dream. It was a dream about a man who would be brought to him, who was accused of great indignities, but was truly innocent.

He listened carefully to Claudia. She was not normally given to such outbursts. He trusted her. She advised him that he must avoid bringing any judgment on this man.

They had barely finished their conversation when Caiaphas and his entourage returned. Apparently Herod had passed the case back over to him.

A little spooked by Claudia’s dream, but even more, aggravated by being disturbed on the morning of his departure, he strolled onto the porch of the outer hallway to interview the young Galilean.

He was a little embarrassed. The religious leaders of the Jews seemed very intent on harming this man, while the fellow stood quietly by, offering no defense. Normally a man in this position, surrounded by accusers, would become defensive, agitated and sometimes even violent. But not this chap.

It was unnerving.

Accusation after witness after lie after deception were presented, with nothing congealing into an airtight complaint against the young man from Nazareth.

Then Caiaphas brought up Caesar. It was a name that terrified him. He considered the fact that he had been made governor of Judea to keep peace, and try to bring civilization to this backward nation. It was a formidable task. Of course, Caesar wouldn’t know that. He would only gauge results.

The religious leaders wanted the young man dead.

On this Friday morning, Governor Pontius Pilate was anxious to get away for the weekend. Who was he to challenge the contents of their oral law and practices?

So…he relented.

Symbolically washing his hands clean of the whole affair, he sentenced the quiet Nazarene to death. It was the quickest, simplest and seemingly most intelligent course of action.

In less than an hour, he had packed his things and by nightfall he was in Caesarea. He had a brief flashback about the morning’s activities, but it was quickly forgotten when Claudia cuddled up to him and they sipped delicious wine from the vineyards of Italy.

He had no idea that his Friday morning, seemingly insignificant encounter with Jesus of Nazareth would be the only remembrance that history would provide of him.

He was the one who gave permission to kill the Christ. He was in too big a hurry to consider any other possibility than ease.

G-Pop is thinking about that on this Good Friday.

What might he be ignoring?

 

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Jesonian … March 24th, 2018


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3621)

There is much to be gained by studying the lifestyle of Jesus.

It’s not just the miracles or the Messiah “rap.” It’s mostly his message and his management style. Since he was human, he was completely capable of error–to such a degree that the Good Book tells us “he learned through what he suffered.”

We also can garner great insight from the mistakes Jesus made.

One of those was Judas.

We will never know why Jesus chose Judas. It wasn’t because the Iscariot was predestined to be the betrayer of Christ. If you believe that, you should go home, don your Medieval helmet and launch a Crusade to take back the Holy Lands.

Maybe Jesus saw something in the young Judean. It never came to fruition–but there still is much we can curry from studying the relationship. It is a tenuous friendship which came to a head ten days before the Resurrection–in Bethany just outside Jerusalem.

Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who had recently risen from the dead, held a party. I think having a brother who survived “grave circumstances” is well worth some nachos and punch. At the height of the affair, Mary decided to crack open a family heirloom–a flask of expensive burial perfume reserved for the family–which she chose to use to anoint the feet of Jesus. It was an extraordinary, tender moment between Mary of Bethany and Jesus of Nazareth.

The aroma filled the room–an intoxicating fragrance.

But Judas was pissed. He had probably been pissed a long time–and he decided he had found an Achilles heel in the Master’s footsteps–perhaps a way to make Jesus look stupid.

So he complained that Mary had used such an expensive gift for such a trivial purpose. To accentuate his point, he suggested it should have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Judas was convinced he had ground an axe to a sharp point to swing at Jesus’ reputation.

I don’t know why he hated Jesus when he loved him so much. Or maybe he loved him so much that he learned to hate him. I am not privy to the mental state of Judas from Kerioth.

But I do know that Judas thought he was right, and he believed that others were going to back him up. Instead, Jesus rebuked him. I suppose you could say that Jesus did it nicely. (Perhaps you could explain what a “nice” rebuke is.)

Jesus said Judas was out of line–that he had lost the meaning of the moment, and had put a price tag on intimacy.

But here is where Jesus made his mistake: he allowed Judas to leave the room without resolving the conflict. He gave too much credit to the Son of Simon. He figured Judas had heard enough teaching about forgiveness that there was no need to pursue it any further.

Jesus was sadly mistaken.

There is no such thing as a misunderstanding. It is always “your misunderstanding and how right I am.”

Unfortunately, all misunderstandings end in betrayal. If they are not confronted, talked out and healed, the unresolved conflict will eventually open the door to one party or another striking out.

Then we have the scenario of feeling pressure to say “I’m sorry.”

It usually comes forth like, “I’m sorry if I offended anyone.”

Another possibility is, “I’m sorry, and please forgive me.”

It’s amazing how that particular statement, which seems to be filled with humility, can suddenly turn back into anger if the wounded individual does not proffer forgiveness.

The truth is, there is only one response that is correct when ignorance, wilfulness, short-sightedness and nastiness spring from our being and attack another.

“I was wrong.”

Not “I was wrong but…”

Nor “I was wrong in this case, but in another situation it would be different…”

“I was wrong” takes the risk that there will be no forgiveness.

This is what Jesus needed to hear from Judas–even if it required Peter, James and John physically holding Judas in place. Keep in mind–peace-making can be a messy business.

But misunderstanding, “I am sorry if…” and “I am sorry, please…” do not bring about reconciliation.

They are ways for us to maintain our solitary purity while seeming to appear transformed.

You might ask, how do I know this? Because the Good Book tells us that Judas left the party in a snit and went out and plotted with the enemies of Jesus–to betray him.

This was an expensive mistake:

If you leave misunderstanding unhealed, the wound may pour forth blood.


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Jesonian … March 3rd, 2018


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3600)

The Gospel writers had a really stiff drink to mix to stir together all the ingredients to write the cocktail of the life of Jesus.

First and foremost, let me tell you as a writer, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are not books. They are long short stories–an oxymoron. The number of words in each Gospel is about the same as a big short story.

So with an economy of words and phrases, these gentlemen set out to capsulize what is arguably the most interesting life ever lived. On top of that, they had the problem of being infested with some agendas of their own. Each one of them was intent on convincing the reader that Jesus was Messiah/Anointed One/Christ/Son of God.

They were also pretty pissed off with the Jewish leaders. This is reflected in many references. And they certainly wanted to compete with each other in the retelling of the resurrection.

I offer this preface because in a good overview of their works, there are only a few times that each of them include the same stories.

  • Crucifixion
  • Resurrection
  • Feeding of the five thousand

These are in all four Gospels. And in Matthew, Mark and Luke–the Synoptic Gospels–one other particular story is included by this trio of authors.

It seems to be a rather insignificant tale–matter of fact, I doubt if it makes its way into many sermons. But it was very important to Matthew, Mark and Luke.

On a Sabbath, the disciples were walking through a field of wheat and picked some of it because they were hungry. The story-tellers are clear that the disciples take the kernels and grind them in their hands to “get the good stuff to eat.”

The significance? According to the Pharisees, it was permissible to pick the wheat but you couldn’t grind it in your hand and eat it–not on the Sabbath. That was work. Therefore, if you were hungry, you would have to take the wheat home and wait until the next day to eat.

It is the travesty of the religious mind–to manufacture a God who is so displeased with us that He demands we function in uncomfortable contortions to receive His favor.

In this story, the Pharisees complain to Jesus.

Now, Jesus is not a diplomat. He is not determined to offend the Pharisees, but every time he did, refused to pull back from his position.

He told these fellows that King David ate the shewbread that was reserved for holy days and for the priests. His army was hungry. No one died.

Jesus explained that the Sabbath was a time to do good and not evil. It was an occasion to fulfill mankind’s needs instead of heaping heavy burdens on them.

Knowing that the Pharisees would be quite unwilling to criticize King David, he offered this argument while simultaneously insisting the his disciples should be granted the full measure and respect that David deserved.

Then, in the story, Jesus tells the Pharisees that they should learn mercy and not sacrifice–otherwise they will spend their whole lives attacking innocent people.

And if that wasn’t enough to fully flummox these religious leaders, he closed off by saying, And by the way, “I am the Lord of the Sabbath.”

This story was important to Matthew, Mark and Luke. It sniffed of their Master. It smelled like Jesus.

For they experienced and knew that Jesus was a champion for the human race and would not tolerate anyone attacking people, especially if it were being done in the name of God.

Damn it to hell, you don’t pick wheat and then not eat it. It is illogical, irrelevant, irreverent and inhuman. Jesus didn’t come to turn human beings into gods.

Jesus was the personification of God turning himself into a human being.

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Jesonian … October 14th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3459)

jesonian-cover-amazon

“God so loved the world that He gave His son.”

That’s what the Good Book says.

Theologians, churches and interested parties have their own focus about why this gift came from God. Of course, we have a hint–if you believe, you don’t have to perish.

But what do we mean by “perish?”

Many thousands of churches of the faith who are of a Judeo-Christian swing, contend with great certainty, that Jesus came to be a Messiah. In doing so, he was fulfilling the Old Testament. They rejoice that they can use Jesus as a conduit between the Old and New Testaments, therefore joining in covenant with the Jewish faith, often to the detriment of the Muslims.

Unfortunately, Jesus does not fulfill the role as a champion of the Hebrews very well. He was critical of their approach to God and ended up declaring their rendition of theology as “desolate.”

The second group, which often refers to itself as “Pauline,” placing great value on the Epistles of Paul, believe that Jesus is a Savior. In other words, he came to fulfill the New Testament covenant through his blood. But the actions, motivations, mission, verbiage and deeds of Jesus often contradict the assumption that he was merely to be a human sacrifice for sin.

Offering a Messiah and a Savior to a human populace which is battling insanity is just not sufficient.

It is Jesus who best explains his mission.

He made the essence of his Earth journey clear in the Good Book in John 10:15-16. Jesus proclaims that “he knows the Father and the Father knows him,” and that he’s willing to “lay down his life for the sheep.” But then he goes on to say, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them in as well, and they will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock and one shepherd.”

Jesus is the Shepherd.

Being a shepherd, he laid down his life for the sheep.

He also made it clear that those who would be part of the fold were not just Jews, but that the end result is one fold and one shepherd–all over the world.

In a day and age when we extol the differences among us by celebrating culture, the Shepherd is looking for the commonality that will make us one fold, dispelling any notion that Jesus welcomes a little of Mohammed, a twinge of Buddha and a fortune cookie of Confucius.

Even though many believe he came to fulfill the Old Testament or the New Testament, he actually came to fulfill humanity.

He offers simple truths with simple applications to simple people who are living simple lives.

So if you go to a church that insists that “Jesus is the Messiah,” they will probably load you down with Old Testament traditions and outdated spiritual practices.

And if you attend a congregation that promotes “Jesus is only the Savior,” be prepared to endure sermon after sermon on the sacrifice of the Christ, and how we must repent and be baptized, so we all can go to heaven.

Jesus’ main mission is to be the Shepherd.

Matter of fact, he joyfully called himself “the Good Shepherd.” And the night he spoke these words to the disciples, he envisioned a message that would include sheep from the Native Americans, the Chinese, the Mongolian horde, the Anglo-Saxons and the Afrikaans, to name just a few.

He saw one fold–not many cultures.

And one Shepherd–not many interpretations.

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


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3404)

jesonian-cover-amazon

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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Good News and Better News… March 6th, 2017


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3238)

jesus-politician

They were known as the Herodians.

They were one of three political parties that stumped around in Jesus’ time, completely enveloped in a cloud of self-importance.

Unlike their counterparts, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Herodians had quietly given up on the power of Jewish tradition, scriptural integrity and even the intervention of God. They had decided to seek a more “earthly” solution. In doing this, they proclaimed that Herod was the Messiah and the King of the Jews. This immediately eliminated a need to wait for anything, believe in anything outrageous or follow commandments which seemed to be a dead-end street.

It was the Herodians who actually put the nails in Jesus’ hands.

Both the Pharisees and Sadducees were so frightened of the people that they were never able to come up with a plan to trap Jesus. It was only when the cunning Herodians, with their defiled political thinking, came on the scene, that a plot was put in place to put an end to the “Jesus question.”

I bring up the Herodians this morning because we have a similar situation in America. The church has flirted with politics for years, feeling that it gave them some sort of pass to “big-town thinking.” Yet somehow or another, the religious system was able to keep itself from becoming the whore to Washington.

Then somewhere along the line, we gave up on faith.

We gave up on “love your neighbor as yourself.”

And to a huge degree, we gave up on Jesus.

We started looking for a secular leader to represent us–an imposter–so we once again have come up with a scheme rid ourselves of Jesus.

This is why we’re so confused. It’s why worship has a feeling of vanity and purposelessness to it. Numbers are dropping. The young people are uninspired, and the clergy teeter between fanaticism and apathy.

It is time for us to identify the Herodians, expose them as the quitters they are, and once again give our faith, hope and charity a chance to do its mystery.

Here’s the good news: Jesus is not political.

Here’s the better news: He’s still in the business of loving people and saving souls.

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … December 24th, 2016


 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3165)

Dear Man Dear Woman

Man: One of the things that’s always fascinated me about Christmas is that Jesus was supposed to be born “the Son of David”–because of his family and all–but Mary was a virgin, right?

 

Woman: That’s her story and she’s stickin’ to it.

 

Man: So if she’s a virgin, does that mean we go through all that lineage of David, and then at the last moment, Joseph doesn’t get to be the Daddy of the Messiah?

 

Woman: That’s right–although there are some who insist that Mary was also the lineage of David. But if that was the case, Matthew and Luke would have traced her lineage to make the point that Jesus was a really, really fine Jewish boy.

 

Man: That is so far out. Why don’t people talk about that more?

 

Woman: That’s easy. Since this is a male-dominated world, and most Christians don’t want to offend Jews by promoting a Savior who didn’t have “David” in him, we choose to overlook the real story, and probably in the process, disguise the humor of God.

 

Man: Well, to me the significance is that God had no intention of making the best friend of all humankind come just from the Jewish race.

 

Woman: And to me, the importance is that God chose to bewilder everybody by pulling off His great blessing by using just a woman.

 

Man: So what you’re telling me is that in the Middle East, where women are considered to be less than men–maybe barely above livestock–they still worship the King of Kings, who didn’t have any Earthly daddy. Just a mommy and God.

 

Woman: That’s right. God will not be manipulated. God is not angry at the Jews, but He also doesn’t consider them to be his “chosen people.” Jesus came to be the brother of all humans–therefore Eastern astrologers, Palestinian shepherds and folks from Egypt knew him as a boy, right along with all the faithful of the Moses crowd.

 

Man: What an amazing story.

 

Woman: I’d go further than that. It’s a classic bluff. The Jewish people struggled with their faith for years and years, so God gave them a new faith they could believe in that had nothing to do with being a Jew, but instead was about learning to become a human being of the whole Earth.

 

Man: Christmas is so cool. It’s so ballsy. Just the faith of Mary and Joseph to stick together, wise men to follow a star, shepherds to believe angels, and God to snub tradition–to birth Jesus solely through Mary.

 

Woman: So I guess that clears the air on what God thinks about equal rights…

 

Man: God is a feminist. He chose a female to be His partner in salvation.

 

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