Jesonian … February 10th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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There are two distinct types of abuse.

There is physical abuse, punctuated by an attack against body, heart or mind. It leaves cuts, bruises and scars. It is nasty, evil and inexcusable.

The other form of abuse is neglect. Being commissioned to perform a responsibility, someone decides to set it aside in favor of other pursuits, leaving that which was meant to be cared for destitute.

Although a case could be made that the religious system continues to physically abuse Jesus of Nazareth by crucifying him weekly in sermons, attempting to stimulate some sort of passion from the congregation, I shall step aside from such discussion in favor of presenting the true abuse.

We preach a Gospel of salvation which includes emphasis on “one time only, better do it today, this could be your last chance, hell is hot, Jesus loved you so much that he bled, and don’t you want to go to heaven” rhetoric in an attempt to frighten hearers who have already heard this many times before.

Meanwhile the real message of Jesus–the one that makes him our intimate, elder brother, and also affords the planet an opportunity for peaceful cohabitation–is often read aloud with the energy of reciting last week’s grocery list.

If you’re going to be Jesonian, you need to love Jesus. If you’re going to love Jesus, you’re going to get to know what’s close to his heart. And when you get to know what’s close to his heart, you will no longer be satisfied with a crucified Savior, but instead will become a disciple, pursuing a dynamic lifestyle.

You don’t have to go any further than the first three beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount to see what Jesus was all about. Matter of fact, I could spend the rest of my life elaborating on that trio and never run out of material.

It begins with the reality, follows with a challenge and culminates with wisdom.

The reality: we are happy because we are poor in spirit.

The reason that makes us happy is because we can stop trying to be spiritual instead of human. Once you find your classification, it’s so much easier to compete. Not an angel, not a saint, not a theologian, but rather, a human who is impoverished in the realm of spirit.

First realization: I am human and it is good.

God said so when He got done creating us. I don’t think He lied. Sure, we’re unpredictable, but since He’s not afraid of that, why should I apologize?

This is followed with a challenge. “Blessed are those who mourn.”

I have emotions and this is good.

Although we try to suppress them, these feelings continue to pop to the forefront, churn up our throats and waggle our tongues. Rather than deny them, we should use them to feel, to laugh, and most certainly, to mourn–to escape being uncaring bastards and instead, weep over the loss and pain in the world around us.

This climaxes with a bit of eternal, precious wisdom. “Blessed are the meek.”

Although there is a campaign to promote the notion that the more we brag, the stronger we are, the human race actually has a tendency to cut the stilts out from under those who try to walk too tall.

We honor humility. We are geared to destroy pride, even when it dwells within us.

Humble: “I am weak and it is good.”

In these three statements Jesus establishes a Gospel which is not only able to be mastered by humans, but can also be passed along as the living bread of truth that we all desperately need before we starve to death emotionally and spiritually.

I am human and it is good.

I have emotion, and it is good.

I am weak, and damn straight–it is good.

 

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Good News and Better News… November 30th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Good News Newnan Tree

Having spent four days with friends and family, dissecting the “outers” and innards of the seasonal bird, yesterday we found ourselves in Newnan, Georgia, fellowshipping with Kingdom folk at Cornerstone.

We had met Pastor Rick many years ago when we still called ourselves middle-aged, so it was a delight when he extended an invitation for us to come and present a Christmas show for those who would dare to congregate on this particular Sunday morning.

I do love Christmas–not only the festivity of joy and giving, but also the focus it brings to the true message of Jesus.

Although Easter affords us the promise of salvation, Christmas explodes with the thrill of heaven coming down and bringing glory to our souls.

There are two abiding messages that erupt from the birth of Jesus:

  1. Don’t be afraid.
  2. Peace on Earth, good will toward men.

In this era in human history, when people are making huge sums of money by scaring the crap out of us. and peace on Earth seems as likely as me becoming thin, it is good to remind ourselves that the only way to strive for such a condition–where fear is diminished and peace is increased–is to allow ourselves to have good cheer and feverishly chase down common sense.

I cannot tell you how delighted I was at all the enlightened souls I met at Cornerstone. Such stories they possessed–from gospel quartet singers, to engineers, to people of great diversity and struggle. Each one found a level of contentment.

It was a beautiful morning to set in motion the miracle of Christmas: new things can be born which really can change the world.

That’s the good news.

The better news is that my dear friends at Cornerstone can avoid all the rhetoric and anger of the upcoming election by keeping their eyes on those two central truths demonstrated so beautifully on that first Christmas night.

We must learn to listen to the angels of our better nature, which tell us to stop being afraid.

And never doubt that the only way we will ever achieve our purpose is to be in the camp of those who work for peace on Earth and good will toward men. 

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Three Ways to Make a Difference … September 4, 2014

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Three-Little-Pigs_-Pinnochio-Little-Red-Riding-Hood-Wolf1

Making a difference often requires that you differ from the contemporary rhetoric that passes itself off as conventional wisdom.

This takes cleverness, humor and spunk.

It takes one eye on history, another eye on yourself and if you have a third one, an eye for cracks in the door, to shine in some light.

Can I offer three concepts that might aid you in your task of making that difference?

1. Avoid big ideas.

If the mantra of our generation is “think big,” have the insight to know the error of that way.

For after all, the world is not becoming a better place because large ideas are being chased down. Truthfully, avoid anything that touts itself as “big” and instead, pursue small adventures with lovely borders, time limits and the immediate satisfaction that comes with achievement.

2. Welcome mistakes–they are your best friend.

Mistakes help you avoid two nasty deterrents to accomplishment: (a) being locked into a dead-end project, and (b) making excuses for why you’re still pursuing it.

Mistakes happen because there is a flaw in the original floor plan. Make quick changes, laugh about it and never hide your errors. Then when you have righted the course, you will receive double praise: honor for being cool-headed in the midst of difficulty, and also great regard from others for making an evolution toward excellence.

3. Know when things are done.

Don’t beat a dead horse. It’s cruel, if not stupid. Sometimes things have a season and then they’re over.

It’s important to acknowledge when the work that you have pursued has come to completion. Put out a press release, stick a fork in it and move on.

You can make a difference, but it will require that you have the gumption and passion … to differ.

 

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Galvanized … June 27, 2013

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GalvaLife is not about always being right. If it were, we would be doomed to constant condemnation with ongoing reminders of our inefficiency.

Life is about getting simple.

Even though they are tempted to complicate their existence, intelligent and spiritual people always break down every piece of valuable information to its smallest part. And then …

Well, that’s the key. Once you find out the simple way to live, then the entire journey becomes about being faithful.

When I stood in front of the folks in Galva, Illinois, last night, I realized that they were encountering the same kind of confusing rhetoric in their everyday lives that I experienced myself. For instance, I am told that to be a complete, whole person I must purchase, believe, sign on the dotted line or rally behind some sort of cause which is presently in vogue. In the process of trying to chase down these dangling morsels offered to me, I lose sight of my own mission and sense of mercy.

So what is the goal in being with these gentle human beings in Galva, Illinois?

To galvanize. To literally shake up and excite one another with precious ideas that we hold dear–and to refuse to be sucked in with transient experiences which don’t offer any promise of improving human beings.

I pity those who are trying to be political in a world where politics has proven to be enigmatic, if not dangerous. I feel sorry for those who pursue religion, with all of its fussy doctrines, when spirituality is simple and has one moving part: NoOne is better than anyone else.

Galvanizing–uniting behind ideas that we know are historically human-friendly, are filled with God’s grace and are easy to remember.

Because the second part of being galvanized is to take a piece of steel and put a coating of zinc on the outside to protect it. What is our coating of zinc for our steel of faith?

I think it’s very compact and easy: I will live a life of good cheer, but I also will not be led astray by whim, fancy, fad, and intimidation.

Galvanize-to excite one another with good things and to use that sensation of goodness to protect us from the ridiculous onslaught of movements that are contrary to the advancement of mankind. I will finish up in Galva tonight. And yes, we will galvanize ourselves:

  • We will become excited about good things and use those good things as a protection against lunacy.
  • We will avoid all attempts to seek out enemies in order to prove that OUR cause is better.
  • We will rejoice in goodness instead of making fun of it because we deem it “too wholesome.”
  • We will uncomplicate our lives and be thankful that we have the ability to do so.
  • We will believe in a God of love and extract from our faith any images that deny His existence.
  • We will value fellowship over worship and tenderness above attempts to turn people into what we want them to be.

The problem is not that some people are better than other people and education is not a solution that will make us superior. Some folks just learn to learn the right things–and then stay strong in them.

It is the difference between addressing your problem and your problem residing at your address.

 

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Graceful Effort … May 1, 2013

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birdsI love believing. It’s so much more fulfilling than being cynical, doubting the power of virtue and the possibilities that lie within the human family.

On the other hand, I don’t always LIKE being a believer. What I mean is, the stigma placed upon spirituality by relegating it to the status of mere “religion” often annoys me to the point of pulling out my hair (thus explaining my baldness).

What is the difference between believing and being the common believer who follows the rhetoric of religion? I think it lies somewhere in discovering the balance between grace and works.

If you’re on of those believers who thinks that God has a wonderful plan for your life,” or that everything is written in the stars, or that the future is pre-determined and you’re just finding your place in the great scheme of destiny, you usually find yourself in a bit of despair, inept and impatient with your lot.

If you happen to be one of those individuals who is minus a spiritual direction and believe that you forge your own path with no help from a divine friend, you can also become disheartened and angry at the complexity of what you hoped would be simple.

I think it would do us good to become bird brains. For some reason or another in our pursuit of human superiority, we have deemed the bird to be stupid, when the Bible actually tells us that the birds have it figured out better than us. For instance, I woke up this morning to the sounds of chattering, singing, flying feathered folks right outside my window. I didn’t pick up any aggravation in their song; no disgruntled soul complaining about the early hour or off-key brothers and sisters. They just seemed to get it.

“We’re birds. We sing. It’s morning. Sing loudly. Sun came up. Go get worms. Bring them back to the nest. And fly around … until something kills you.”

But in our pursuit of some deep hidden meaning to life, we refuse to accept the fact that even though Jesus said we are worth “many sparrow,” he DID compare us to sparrows. You may want to believe that you, personally, are of more value than all the sparrows in the world, but in heaven your actual rate of exchange is merely MANY sparrows.

So what is the perfect balance between grace and works?

Graceful effort: pursuing what life has set in front of you, working on the excellence of your humanity, perfecting your craft, keeping a good sense of humor, while all the time understanding that this humility permits God to extend His grace to you.

God does not give grace to the prideful–and it is certainly prideful to proclaim our sanctity and purity without producing any evidence of works and effort.

So what creates humility?

  1. “Like the sparrow, I will sing my song.”
  2. “Like the sparrow, I will hunt my worms, knowing that they feed me.”
  3. “Like the sparrow, I will build a nest and find my peace within it.”
  4. “Like the sparrow, I will know that life is brief and my time, limited.”
  5. “Like the sparrow, I will leave the rest to God’s grace.”

No sparrow ever dies in its nest of natural causes. Sparrows don’t get Alzheimer’s. They live their life full-throttle until their lives are no more. Often it’s a tragic end–but quick. Knowing this, they never miss a morning to sing.

Graceful effort: when I realize that life has conditions, direction and purpose, and rather than fighting it, I eagerly join in with my portion. In doing so, I humbly offer my melody to my Creator

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Part III:He Is the Same … December 2, 2011

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Charlotte, North Carolina

Jesus despises religion.

Now, why would I come along and aggravate all of my religious friends with such a harsh statement? It is not my intention to try to cause an uprising amongst the church-going folk of our world, but rather, to do exactly what I feel my job as a writer requires–that being, to give you a consensus of the mind-set of Jesus. And if you even take twenty-five minutes to read the gospels, you discover that Jesus could not be in a room with religious people without ending up in an argument.

Why? Religion by-passes the human heart to reach the mind in an attempt to touch the soul. Jesus, on the other hand, wanted to reach the human heart to touch the soul, to then renew the mind. Completely different missions.

Religion does its very best to construct many simple rules that supposedly can be simply followed to produce simple results and often, quite frankly, simple people. Jesus envisioned a following that would be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, who would be known for their tenacity, candor and giving spirit.

Jesus despises religion. To make my point I will use his own words. He despises religion because:

1. It strains at the gnat and swallows the camel. His tongue-in-cheek description here of how an organization meticulously tries to follow the rigor of its own rules while ignoring the obvious need around the world was a great source of frustration to him. He did not understand the value of imposing regulations on individuals when the goal was to create a populous that could generate its own energy and life-force. He said there were “weightier matters” in life.

Religion does its best to stop human progress. Christianity did absolutely nothing to aid in the alleviation of slavery or the elimination of all forms of prejudice and bigotry in this country. It trailed behind in every attempt to give freedom to people to discover their destiny. Jesus despises it.

2. He said, “In vain do you worship me because you teach the commandments of man as if they are the words of God.” When you walk into the average religious ceremony, your first inclination is fear over doing something that is contrary to the practice of the gathered faithful. What hogwash. Man was not created for the Sabbath. God did not create us so that we could serve and praise Him. God created us in His image, to be His children, and as His children, to be happy, fruitful and productive. When you start teaching that your particular religious approach is holy because it has survived for a hundred and fifty years, you have lost sight of the value of true worship. He ends that statement, by the way, with, “They praise me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” Once again, human emotions are left out of the experience.

3. He said “religion creates burdens grievous to be borne and does nothing to help people lift the weight.” Religion, which should make life easier, actually complicates it by making us nervous about what we do rather than confident in our choices. Religion creates a series of rocks and bricks to carry around which are supposed to build spiritual muscle in us but only serve to produce fatigue. Jesus was angry at religion for fostering a philosophy which had no earthly quality or human benefit but only served to discourage and tire out anyone who participated.

4. Jesus said that religion “devours widows’ houses.” What do you think about an organization that does not manufacture a product, fails to service its own units, has a horrible sales force and personnel are constantly disgruntled? You would call that business doomed, wouldn’t you? But that’s religion. It continues to pass the offering plate, demanding to be served, failing to offer the gospel message which creates servants, who in learning to be so, actually become masters. Many religious organizations even hold seminars on how to get people to leave money from their wills to the church. I have discovered in my travels that if you benefit someone and they are enriched by the experience of meeting you, you will not have to ask for a donation. They will decide on their own to impart a blessing your way. Religion is always begging for money and always attacking the bank accounts of those less fortunate. Jesus hated it.

5. And finally, Jesus despised that religion teaches the present traditions of men as being God’s word. This is why it is so dngerous when religion and politics mingle together–because whatever the social climate of the day may be, it suddenly becomes of some religious significance. So we have blights on the history of our faith when black men were called monkeys by preachers, Jews were called Christ killers and AIDS was called the”gay plague.” All of it was done in the name of religion, but was actually the traditions of men, loosely knit together with hapless scriptures which somewhat reinforced the theory.

So you might ask me, “What are we supposed to do in the absence of religion to provide spirituality?” All any pastor or church need do to transform themselves from a traditional religious organization into a Jesonian congregation is to establish one truth in the onset: “Our church is not a religious organization nor is it a set of beliefs. It is what Jesus said it was supposed to be. It is a lifestyle. If you attend here, be prepared to see your life change, transform , improve and prosper.” Once you establish that, you escape the rhetoric of religion and you gain a vision for a human, spirited life.

It’s not very complicated. But as long as you think that an organ, a pew, a hymn book or even holding a Bible has special significance, you will be at odds with the master of your faith–because Jesus despised religion. Whenever they tried to make him Jewish, he became universal. Whenever they tried to make him universal, he harkened back to his Jewish roots. He was determined to be the son of man, not the son of religion. And because he despised religion, it left him great energy and praise to give to his favorite subject.

We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

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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!

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