Drawing Attention … November 7th, 2018

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Faith Is

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Good News and Better News … December 18th, 2017

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Christmas takes my breath away because it removes the stale air of predictable behavior and infuses the pure oxygen of the beauty of life.

It took a baby in a manger to address my childishness–because I am guilty of making the unimportant valuable, as I set aside the truly significant parts of life, praying in my soul that one day I will be able to give them their due.

Heft.

Yes, Jesus said there are “weightier matters” in life–things with girth, depth and breadth, which need to be addressed before all others, but are often ignored in favor of the pursuit of solvency.

It’s absolutely ridiculous.

The difference between religion and faith is that religion is satisfied to perform a service, and faith requires our full mustard-seed.

The weightier matters:

Mercy.

Mercy is not a lip-service devotion, but a proving ground, where those things that make us uncomfortable are forgiven so that we might retain human souls within the borders of the Earth.

Justice.

Escaping our family, clan, kin and even our country to catch a world-wide vision of equality within our race.

Faithfulness.

It is more than telling the truth and escaping the lie, but rather, making sure that the truth endures so that the lies don’t have a chance to gain root.

There is no season like Christmas.

There is no time during the year when “good will toward men” is considered a plausible possibility. There is no other occasion when redemption is viewed as a message rather than a human sacrifice.

The good news is that God weighs matters and gives them importance.

The better news is, if we place our concerns on the scale, we will know what value to give to each and every offering.

 

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Jesonian … September 30th, 2017

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It had been a day of storytelling.

Launching out into a boat so that the audience on the seashore could hear more clearly, the young teacher, formerly from Nazareth, had shared great yarns about faith–three in particular.

Taking an ethereal subject, he translated it into the human and earthly. It was what he did best. He had no intention of having followers with heaven on their minds–not when there was still so much to do here on earth.

The first story was about a sower. The lesson was really simple. The seeds of hope, love, contentment, joy and even confrontation have to be sown–whether the inhabitants of Earth received them or not. You just never know what patch of soil might sprout promise.

Another story was about how to showcase faith. It really is not a private matter–it is something that needs to be shown forth, demonstrated, put on a candlestick so the light can fill the room.

And then there was that closing story that finished out the day. An inspiring one. “Faith is like a mustard seed…” In other words, it may be small, but its original girth does not foretell what it will eventually be. Don’t despise small beginnings.

At the end of the day this young teacher, Jesus, decided he wanted to go on a late-night sail across the sea to the other shore. It was a family aatmosphere, and so other folks who had been moved by the message decided to join him on the journey. Jesus had a big boat but those who followed him were in little ships. Exhausted, Jesus grabbed a pillow and headed to the back of the boat to get a snooze on the way across.

Then the atmosphere changed. (It nearly always does.) Into a quiet, peaceful night, a storm arose–a big one. The waves began to splash into the boat.The disciples were frightened. All the stories of faith dissipated in the presence of this threat. They screamed at Jesus, asking him why he didn’t do something. Why didn’t he care that they were dying?

Every teacher in the world will understand his feelings at that point. What is the purpose of sharing a lesson if no one applies it?

But Jesus had other concerns. This was no time to put the disciples to the test to see if they could survive their anxieties. Because, you see, there were other little ships. And if the big boat was in trouble then the little ships were in desperate straits.

So Jesus calmed the storm–not because he wanted to appease twelve frightened men in a big boat, but because he was concerned about the little ships.

Jesus was always sensitive to the little ships. Matter of fact, he made it clear that if we don’t take care of the “least,” we’re really not in fellowship with him at all.

We’ve lost our hearts for the little ships.

Storms come to our country and ravage the land and we scream to the government to help us rebuild our houses. Meanwhile, the least of these–the little ships–aren’t even getting water and food to survive.

I spent three days this year locked up in a hot house, sweating, my brain fried because I had none of the conveniences of which I was accustomed. I was fit to be tied.

In Puerto Rico, it’s been many,many days without food, water, cooling and relief.

Can we care about what’s happening to the little ships, or are we only concerned for our own losses and perishing?

That night, terrified disciples were saved because Jesus took care of the little ships.

I suggest that if we find the little ships in our lives, in the process of doing so, all the boats will be brought safely to the shore.

 

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Good News and Better News … October 26th, 2015

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Lakeville composite

Was it three, or four?

If I remember correctly, I think it was four individuals who came to my book table saying, “How did you guys end up at our ‘little church’?”

Ms. Clazzy and I found ourselves in Lakeville, Indiana.

I suppose in some ways I would understand their question, since our society is indoctrinated in the idea that good things go to big places to make a huge splash. But if you look at history and you understand the essence of the Gospel, it really doesn’t work that way.

Life is about finding a mustard seed, planting it and then not worrying about what happens next.

Jesus promised it would grow into a tree, but how long will that take? Certainly not within one harvest.

So what you work on is your mustard seed.

  • Is it good?
  • Does it have growing possibilities?
  • Does it nestle well into the soil, accepting nutrition and water?

I don’t worry about numbers of people. Truthfully, the places in our society which draw the largest crowds are often bigoted and errant.

I always feel like the Holy Spirit giggles at our notion of popularity–because even though we insist that Jesus shared in front of large crowds, they often left pretty quickly once they realized he was going to teach and not just offer another all-you-can-eat fish dinner for five thousand or more.

Do you know what I liked about Lakeville? It isn’t put together yet.

I suppose they might be offended by that statement but they shouldn’t be. There are many things in America that are put together–even organized into clubs or parties–which are doing absolutely nothing to help mankind.

Lakeville still has a chance to be of benefit to the human race. They’ll have to turn down some of the noise of the world and simplify things instead of complicating them, but they have a good mixture of men, women, children and older saints. They are led by an enthusiastic, fine chap named Brian.

So what would I tell Lakeville as I leave it?

1. Reject religion.

Since religion is what killed off Jesus 2,000 years ago, let us go ahead and assume it does the same today.

  • Religion wants organization. Jesus wants spirit.
  • Religion wants rules. Jesus wants faith.
  • Religion wants to worship God. Jesus wants us to find God inside the person standing next to us.

2. Push away politics.

Yes, the church is obsessed with politics. Even though the two political parties over the past 16 years have nearly destroyed the integrity of our security and economics, for some reason the church wants to join the mayhem instead of bandaging up the wounded.

Politics is what people pursue when they no longer believe in God.

3. Get excited about Jesus.

Yes, I will tell you–the best way we can help our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters who are trying to kill one another is to actually step away, be separate and act like Jesus. You don’t become a better Christian by worshipping Judaism. You also don’t become a better Christian by reading the Koran.

If your church can’t become excited about Jesus, at least be honest enough to warn people that you no longer are followers of his dream but instead, are just readers of the Bible.

4. And finally, create something.

  • Don’t settle for leftovers.
  • Don’t insist there’s nothing new under the sun.
  • Write new songs.
  • Think new thoughts.
  • Share your arts, your crafts, and your professional abilities–and give God glory for them.

The first nature of God is found in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created.”

No kidding.

Go and do thou likewise.

 

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I Have My Own Doubt… October 16, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

“No, thank you. I have my own doubt. I appreciate you thinking of me and offering me a fresh dose of disbelief and uncertainty, but I am a human being so I already come with a lifetime supply.”

One of the most difficult things to learn is that if you run across any child of God, that encounter has been entrusted to you in order to edify him or her, and if you, for some reason, find yourself unable to accomplish that task, please leave that human alone. If the only thing you have to offer people are Bible verses, the law of God or doctrinal positions on social issues, then you might want to spend more time at home, in personal consecration and self-improvement programs.

Human beings require encouragement. Even though we’re convinced that it may be our mission to discipline others to our particular brand of Spartan programming, God will snip the bud of your little flower of evangelism the minute it stops making people reach out and grow.

It’s hard to learn. Maybe it’s because we all go through the phase in life of being parents, attempting to instruct young earthlings in how to subsist and survive on this planet. Maybe it’s because most of us go to jobs where a supervisor is looking over our shoulders, scrutinizing our efforts. It could be the residue of an educational system which gives us grades on everything we do. Or maybe it’s just because we’re all a little obnoxious due to our own insecurities and feel the need to lord it over someone else. I don’t know.

But whatever it is, the more you abandon your self-righteous, pious, schoolmarm persona, the better off you will be–the more friends you will procure and the more God’s grace can be extended in your direction.

As I am in the midst of a personal pursuit for a little piece of God’s heaven to be brought into my earthly situation, I realized yesterday, as I drove from Fremont, Ohio, to Indianapolis, that there are only three things necessary to make life work. Let me not mislead you–it does take all three. But they hang out as buddies as a unit, so it’s difficult to imagine having one without seeing the other two. What I’m saying is, you probably have all three of these or you have none. Shall we take a look at them?

A good human life consists of faith, work and humor.

Faith: “God can.”

Do not be deceived. The majority of the agnostics in this country are not professors at Ivy League schools. They are pew-sitters in the local church congregations in small towns all across the nation. They are people who have a form of godliness, but privately deny there is actually any power for their personal lives through that system.

What is faith? Faith is God can. It doesn’t mean God will, which uses presumption and rhetoric. It is not God did, referencing Old Testament stories and trying to make them relevent three thousand years later. It is not God should, which is some sort of aggravating lament because life doesn’t work the way we want it to.

God can. That’s where my faith is right now. God can give me the ability to stand upright and walk about. I am not telling you that He must. I’, also not saying it’s a deal-breaker for our relationship. My faith is that God can.

To be around people who do not hold to that conviction may be totally inevitable, but at this particular phase in my journey, should be infrequent.

Then comes work. In other words, it’s my turn.

And work is very simple:  I will.

Once again, it’s not I plan. Nor I sure would like to. It’s not if I get the money together. It’s not if I can acquire some help.

Take your faith–the belief that God can–and find one or two little things you can do without anyone else’s help, and attempt them. Today I will leave my motel room on my own in my van and four times I will try to walk a few steps to regain my strength. Why? Because I need the work–and I have found something that I will do.

And finally, every human being needs humor. And what is humor? Humor is the profile we take when it temporarily appears that God has gone on vacation and our efforts fall short–more comical than profitable. Humor, to me, is the wonderful, laughing proclamation to the world of: Whoops! Next time. In other words, “My faith is still growing, my work fell short, and rather than denying my weakness, I shall be the first one to giggle over it.”

When you combine these three things together, you get the seed for human achievement. Yes, the seed. Do you remember Jesus challenged his disciples to pursue a small piece of excellence? Their response to him was, “Increase our faith.”

He just smiled at them and said, “Folks, all you need is faith the size of a mustard seed.”

And what is my mustard seed? The same as yours.

It’s just faith. In other words, God can.

It’s work, which translates into: I will.

And when I need it, it’s humor, which is the jocular admission: Whoops! Next time.

I don’t need your doubt–I have plenty of my own.

But if you’d like to bring your faith and your work and your humor … together, we might just change the world.

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Part IV:He Is the Same … December 3, 2011

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Charlotte, North Carolina

Jesus marvels at faith.

And I’m not just talking about the kind of faith that is immediately linked with some belief in God. I’m talking about many kinds of faith–faith in humanity, faith in an idea, faith in oneself when it is well-balanced with factual humility. Jesus marveled at people who stepped out of their box and into a world of possibility–deciding to touch the hem of his garment, return to the home after being a prodigal, or screaming at the top of the lungs that they were sick and tired of being blind.  He always stopped in his tracks, smiled and shook his head in great admiration. This kind of faith is a beautiful combination of self-awareness with the passion to pursue the second mile that always gained the appreciation of Jesus–self-awareness in the sense of “this is who I really am, this is where I’m presently heading and this is an idea on how I can alter that course to more favorable conclusions.” Also, knowledge of where one is heading is simultaneously knowing that duplicating where others are going will curry you neither notice nor favor.

Yes, the wonderful blend of honesty with passion for the second mile always creates the kind of human adventure that Jesus envisioned for his friends and followers. He described that kind of faith as “a mere mustard seed.” After all, if we waited until we thought our faith was large enough to begin a task, no one would ever launch a dream. But a mustard seed was a tiny little thing with only one goal–to be planted. No seed is any good until it finds earth–and no human being has any quality until the feet are planted in the earth and they establish what they can and cannot do.

Then Jesus says that once the mustard seed is planted, we need to gain voice–to say to the mountains of our lives, “Be removed.” Yes, to simply and quietly plant your seed is not enough if it isn’t followed by you telling the mountains in your path that they must go. We need a speech. Sometimes we need to rehearse it, like the prodigal son did when he returned to his father. Sometimes the words come from the Spirit–as Jesus said would happen in the hour when we most need it. But we need to gain words to coincide with our planning–and those words need to make it clear to the world and to obstructions in our lives that we mean for them to go.

And finally, Jesus says that if your mustard seed  is planted and you gain voice, there’s only one thing that remains: don’t doubt in your heart. Be clean emotionally about it. Most people fail because they do not give a report of the totality of their feelings before they begin to march off to do warfare. Your heart matters. Any time you try to work beyond your feelings, you will find that in the hour of need your emotions will betray you.

Jesus marveled at faith because it blended two magnificent human attributes–a mustard seed of faith that speaks to mountains with no doubt in its heart and a complete awareness that merely performing the status quo will not get your head above water, but that a second mile is required.

There are many people who believe the Gospel is a message of grace. They think a mere acceptance of God’s gift of salvation guarantees an eternal security and more or less an earthly bodyguard which prevents us from falling into any kind of damnation or even irrevocable difficulty. The only problem with that doctrine is that it doesn’t jive with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus did not come to make serfs who worship the king in the castle. Jesus came to teach servants how to master their lives.

  • I am a mustard seed. I must be planted.
  • There will be mountains that need to be removed.
  • I will gain voice to speak to the mountains.
  • I will not doubt in my heart.

Anything short of this kind of powerful living renders us at the mercy of circumstances instead of making us “more than conquerors.” Jesus marvels at faith because it makes human beings believe that mustard seeds, when planted, can give us speech to remove mountains because we don’t doubt in our hearts.

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Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

Here You Adapt–November 12, 2011

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If  you believe in your dream strongly enough, it will come true.

I’ve heard that for so many years. Of course, this statement is not factual. The reason we have stories on the news about people achieving their dreams is because it’s a rarety. It’s the same reason lottery winners end up with their picture in the paper. If everybody was fulfilling their dreams or winning the lottery, there wouldn’t be enough space in the media to cover the stories.

So is there a power to a positive attitude? I would have to ask you what you mean by a positive attitude. If you are referring to a tenacious presence in your thinking, causing you to pursue one particular line of success fervently, then I would have to say no. If by positive attitude you mean taking the benefits of thankful thinking and finding a place to begin with your abilities and make a start of things, knowing that any semblance of being able to do what you dream would be fantastic–then I would say yes.

It’s what Jesus meant by the mustard seed. Once we adopt thankful thinking, we have the clarity of mind to actually segment off our heart’s desire and begin to pursue it with an available avenue. It is the mustard seed. It is the tiniest of seeds, which does not necessarily represent the vision we have for our ultimate goal, but is the seedling of what we desire to be.

When I finally discovered that I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t contact Random House and ask them if they were interested. Why? Because Random House wants to make money, not promote unknown authors. I realized that the time and energy I would expend trying to impress them with my prowess with the pen would be wasted–because their bottom line would scream disapproval over taking on such a literal unknown quantity. Since I wanted to be a writer, what I did was to start writing–paragraphs, song lyrics (which turned into actual songs), little booklets which I passed along to people with some of my ideas–any chance I got to plant my mustard seed of passion about writing I pursued with great perseverance and energy.

Because my emotions were clean and I knew the rudiments of what I possessed, and was granted a thankful brain, I therefore was not afraid to begin small and plant my mustard seed in the ground–daily presenting evidence of what I ultimately wanted to accomplish.

If you think someone else is going to come along and make your dream come true because they possess the connections, money or vision for your project, you not only will end up disappointed, but very often duped by charlatans.

Thankful thinking promotes a positive attitude that causes us to be willing to plant our mustard seed of a dream into life and give it a chance to grow. Do I think it would be better for me to be on television than traveling to churches, sharing my heart? No–because this is my mustard seed. And if I do it well enough where I am, then very possibly I will be given chances to do it more.

If I had become famous at nineteen years of age when I finished writing my first book, my popularity would have lasted six months to a year and by age twenty-one I would have been a has-been. But because I had thankful thinking, I was able to plant my mustard seed, and now, forty-one years later, I have a flourishing work which journeys me all over the country, sharing and granting me tens of thousands of readers for my daily column. It has also given me four decades of blessing, rejoicing and being with beautiful people instead of being a flash in the pan. My mustard seed has grown.

It’s because I was not ashamed to take what I had and with a thankful mind, go out and do something that imitated the ultimate success I desired. If you’re waiting for life to afford you opportunity, you will never find the opportunity already afforded you by life.

Do you want to start a business? Plant your mustard seed. Go out and discover if your product actually sells, face-to-face, with the public. Do you want to be a singer? Go to a nursing home or to a homeless shelter and see if anyone is moved by your voice. Do you want to be a farmer? Start a small garden before you purchase twenty acres of land. Do you want to play sports? Toss the ball around with your neighbors until their abilities no longer challenge you and you’re ready to move to the next level.

I have a friend who wanted to start a business cleaning houses. He did not go out and line up twenty or thirty clients and then develop the ability to conduct his affairs in a professional manner. Instead, he started out by cleaning a couple of houses–including mine–to take in a little bit of money, finding out if he enjoyed it and could discover a way to do it in excellence. He now has more customers than he can handle. His mustard seed has grown.

When your emotions betray you because they are not clean, which causes you to take a poor inventory of what you’ve got, making you mentally ungrateful, you may end up thinking you’re better than what you are because you haven’t planted your mustard seed–you’ve just insisted on being recognized.

  • Clean your emotions. (Here you go)
  • Find out what you really possess. (Here you got)
  • Renew your mind with thankful thinking. (Here you adopt)
  • And begin doing what you desire to achieve–in a mustard seed way. (Here you adapt)

I am a blessed man because I did not sit around waiting for people to make me famous. I realized that the best way to be famous was to leave behind an audience which was impacted by my message. I do it every week.

You will not see me on network television, but by the grace of God, because I have planted my mustard seed, I am still everywhere. I wish the same for you. It is the definition of a positive attitude:

I will adapt my dreams by taking my mustard seed and planting it in the earth that surrounds me instead of demanding opportunities beyond me.

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Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

 

Jonathan sings “Let”

 

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

 

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

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