Jesonian … January 13th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Every single week.

As I journey across the country and stop off to do my presentation, I am always greeted by people who want to know my political persuasion. When I reply, “Apolitical,” they smile and begin to probe me so they might unearth my hidden beliefs, and thereby categorize me with either a big “R” or a big “D”–Republican or Democrat. How disappointed they usually end up being when I do not attack President Trump or swear my allegiance in that direction.

Many years ago, I discovered four verses from the Good Book which are so full of common sense and understanding of the human condition that I have embedded them into my own thinking, declaring this passage to be my touchstone.

When Jesus was explaining the Pharisees to the disciples, he said, “They hold Moses’ seat.”

In my lifetime, twelve men have held the position of President of the United States. Jesus’ approach on the matter? Honor the men because they’re in the position–and he goes on to say that we need to be careful to do what they say.

You see, this is where it gets tricky.

Many of my friends who are Democrats feel it’s necessary to resist President Trump, and likewise, my Republican friends demand some blind acceptance.

Jesus’ take? “Be careful.”

For instance, every time I step into my van to drive, I realize I am losing my freedom, suddenly at the mercy of the policemen in the local village who might have a speed trap. If picked up, I lose my ability to be autonomous.

“Be careful.”

Jesus says to “be careful to do what they say,” but then he adds, “But don’t do what they do.”

Not one of the twelve Presidents I’ve encountered in my lifetime would I choose to imitate in personal profile. Fortunately, since we don’t live in a dictatorship, I don’t have to do that. As long as I maintain a respectful cooperation with present laws, America gives me the right to pursue my single-minded goals while following my own philosophy.

With that in mind, I will also tell you that every week I meet a new pastor. He or she has a job. They also have a calling. What they discover is that the job often interferes with the calling, and the calling certainly complicates the job.

So they often end up pastoring a church instead of the church. They learn the mannerisms of their congregations–the quirks, limitations, aggravations and the preferences–and then try to build an institution saluting the lifestyle of Jesus inclusive of these guidelines. It often leaves them exhausted, and sometimes faithless–because believe it or not, people don’t always agree with Jesus, even while they’re praising him. People don’t always concur because they’re too busy being Republicans or Democrats.

So unfortunately, the job of the local pastor becomes that of an arbiter instead of a proclaimer.

They can even forget to give respect to the congregation, but don’t follow their ways. It is the mission of the pastor to shepherd the people to greener pastures. That begins by removing the “R’s” and the “D’s” and the denominational allegiance, and finding the simplicity of the message of Jesus, and keeping it as healthy and pure as possible.

It will take such men and women to bring about a revival.

But in Matthew 23:1-4, Jesus pronounces that it is completely plausible to respect the position of someone without following the leadership.

I do it every week. It doesn’t make me anemic. It doesn’t make me hypocritical. It simply means there are temporary solutions which are offered and can be implemented as long as the greater good is held in supremacy.

To be Jesonian is to follow the heart of Jesus. Part of the heart of Jesus is respecting those who have “gained a seat” in our society.

But most of the heart of Jesus is clinging to your autonomy so that the choices you make in your life are yours and yours alone.

 

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Good News and Better News… October 30th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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I have participated in thousands and thousands of …

Now, what shall I call them? For if I refer to these as “performances, shows or gigs,” religious people will give me the holy frown of disapproval because I have trivialized the spiritual significance.

But by the same token, referring to my efforts as ministry, worship leading or any other divine terminology makes me reek of pretension.

Of course, worst of all is the safe, but vanilla describer, “presentation.”

I run into the same problem when I try to decide whether to say a robust “Praise God” or a timid “thanks be to God.”

Do I go for the full dunk in baptism, or settle for some other plunk?

Should communion be unleavened bread, or a golden loaf?

Wine or Welch’s grape juice (which many denominations insist was Jesus’ preference)?

And I think the most intimidating crossroads of all is settling whether our Christian faith is ground in social commentary or revivalism.

That’s why the tambourine is pictured today. A tambourine can scare a Lutheran or a Methodist to death–almost as much as a printed bulletin with liturgy makes a Baptist tremble.

It just doesn’t seem to occur to us that defining the word “ministry” requires taking a long gaze into the lifestyle and actions of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus was both contemplative and flamboyant.

He had the strange notion that the profile for what he did in blessing others was contingent on what they needed, and not confined to the Book of Common Prayer.

So to one person, he said, “Be healed.”

He touched lepers.

He spit on someone else.

He stuck his fingers in another person’s ears.

And he shouted to raise the dead.

He would have upset a lot of people.

Jesus didn’t worship miracles; he didn’t minister miracles–he performed miracles.

He showcased the Gospel in stories, told with colorful description and high-flung gestures.

The church has lost Jesus because it has focused on either social gospel or revivalism.

Jesus was the Son of God, who came to teach us how to get along with each other–with a tambourine in his hand.

So the good news is that we need both social commentary and revivalism.

The better news is, when we actually mingle the two, we suddenly become more relevant.

 

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The Faith We Earn … June 9, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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ant“Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

A statement from the Good Book.

Many times, people fail to understand that it’s a two-part presentation–a faith which is the substance of things hoped for, and a faith that’s the evidence of things not seen.

It is true for each of us. There is a faith we are given.

Even if you weren’t raised in a religious home, morals, principles, ideals, precepts and conduct were infused into you and have become alloys in the steel of your soul. It is an inherited conscience, steering you, influencing you and on occasion, deterring you.

Unfortunately, most people’s faith stops right there. They cling to traditions planted into them in early years, or they reject them in some fit of rebellion, feeling that it makes them appear autonomous.

But faith doesn’t stop with what you’re given. We gain our individuality by how we earn our own faith. Somewhere along the line, we become responsible for our own dealings, our own decisions and our own soul.

It is the evidence of things not seen.

  • We don’t see them because they are not part of our past.
  • We don’t see them because they are fresh opportunities, or trials in our lives, demanding that we make personal selections.
  • And we don’t see them because often a loneliness settles into us because of the pressure of needing to make a decision.

Earned faith breaks down into three categories:

1. Here is less. What will you do?

Some human beings lose their way simply because they are frightened by the prospect of poverty and diminished by lack. We earn a faith by deciding to remain industrious and optimistic during hours when it seems that our personal needs are in jeopardy.

2. Here is more. Who will you be?

Yes, whether we’re willing to admit it or not, there are times when a bit of bounty comes our way and we have to decide whether we believe in generosity or if we’re just going to open an extra bank account which will eventually be eaten away by need.

3. Here is silence. Where will you go?

It is part of life–to find ourselves absent friends, devoid of human contact and appreciation, and even feel orphaned by a Heavenly Father, our Creator.

It’s not that we should relish the vacuum. It is a test, to see whether we continue to pursue our dreams without the applause and affirmation of the surrounding earth.

There is a faith we are given–the substance of things hoped for.

And a faith we earn–the evidence of things not seen.

And the latter is when we know what to do when we have less, we choose who to be when given more and we can still continue to go forward in the chill of silence.

 

 

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Arizona morning

After an appearance earlier this year in Surprise, Arizona, Janet and I were blessed to receive a “surprise” ourselves. Click on the beautiful Arizona picture above to share it with us!

Click here to get info on the "Gospel According to Common Sense" Tour

Click here to get info on the “Gospel According to Common Sense” Tour

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

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Click here to listen to Spirited music

 

 

Friends With Benefits… October 14, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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I do believe she was a little peeved with me, even though her cordiality remained intact during our entire exchange.

She questioned an assertion I had made during my presentation, about Jesus wanting to make us all “look good.” The premise of my statement was based on the feeding of the five thousand, when the disciples were unable to muster either courage or faith for the experience, but Jesus granted them a tender leniency and came up with a plan to involve them–even though at first they were reluctant participants.

She said she was baffled at the notion that Jesus would want to make anyone “look good.” I think she believed that being the son of God, he had an agenda of a divine nature which superseded all temporary relationships or slack that one might cut to a companion during a weaker moment.

I was sympathetic. I understand that our religious system conveys that God stomps around heaven, frustrated that His will is not being done. Unfortunately, I could never worship such a Being. Why would I be interested in a God who is not as friendly to me, sensitive to me or as willing to adjust to me as one of my friends?

If He truly has the power of being all-knowing, why can’t He know that sometimes I’m weak without being angry about it? And on those occasions, I could really use Him to be tender instead of full of commandments and wrath.

Yes, I believe that Jesus came to earth so that we would understand that our relationship with God is “friends with benefits.”

Not only do we gain a friend who is our Father, our Companion, and our Giver of grace, but the story also tells us that at the end of this excursion of relationship, we get to go to heaven.

Why would I worship a God who does not want to make me look good, but is so intent on His own mission that He doesn’t even take a second to factor in my frailties?

I shared this with her but I don’t think she was convinced. Some folks need a God of rigorous principle, so that by toeing the line they can feel empowered. And when they fall short they can fearfully repent, hoping to achieve His mercy.

Honestly, if that’s the way God really is, I am literally in a helluva lot of trouble.imaginary friend

Bill Maher often jokes that people who believe in God are just pursuing an “imaginary friend.” Okay, let’s play along.

What if He IS an imaginary friend? At least He’s a friend, right? He’s not out to smite me with fire and brimstone, decimating my house for all generations. And considering the fact that the average therapist costs somewhere between $150 and $10000 an hour, it is certainly a cost-saver to have an imaginary friend to listen to your lamentations.

Also, if He ends up being imaginary, what did I lose? So I die and find out there’s nothing. Of course, I jest, because I wouldn’t even find out, would I?

On the other hand, if it does end up being some rendition of what I believe, then I get to meet the Person who understood every step of my journey, relished my foibles by showing His wisdom to my betterment, and stayed closer than a brother.

Perhaps my Friend is imaginary. I don’t think so–but I do know this: He is a Friend.

And as a Friend … He is intent on making me look good.

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