Good News and Better News… July 31st, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3385)

I was sitting in the nursery of the Nativity Lutheran Church in Weeki Wachee, Florida, between services, snacking on some fruit which had graciously been provided by Pastor Giuseppe and glorious souls who have a knack for putting together such compotes, when I was struck–or perhaps just “pwanged”–by a simple revelation.

The world is always moving. It is our job to note the direction.

Just because the pace seems harried, leaving us all in the flurry of busyness, does not mean that we’re trudging forward. Sometimes we go backwards, often it’s just side-stepping right or left. We even become distracted by hitting a wall and continuing to push instead of stopping long enough to find a way around it.

Church is still a beautiful thing–it’s just that in the present march of humanity it seems irrelevant.

For we classify information that comes our way into three categories:

1. Philosophical.

This ranges from our educational system, to reading books, to listening to someone explain the value of a gluten-free diet.

2. Religious.

Once again, this could be anything from a Bible conference to a yoga class to hearing a testimony about someone’s ordeal or joining with others in prayer over some nasty bit of business that’s come along.

3. Necessary.

Every single day of our lives, we alter the gauge on what we feel is necessary for our existence. This explains the tremendous success of Amazon and Wal-mart. These companies have made it friendly to come and buy things we want at reasonable rates, and in the case of Amazon, have them delivered to our door without even needing to leave the comforts of the breakfast nook.

Candidly, if a piece of information is not necessary, we deem it useless. Once something becomes useless, it only receives attention if it can prove–even temporarily–that it has the value of Wal-mart or Amazon.

So something beautiful, like church, which at one time was considered necessary because it initiated relationships, faith, music, cooperation and a sense of community, has now been completely shoved to the rear by the collision of social media and the rising tide of agnosticism.

When I went into the second service I took the realization with me. I discovered that being philosophical or religious bored even those individuals who still remained in the holy sanctuary.

Give them what’s necessary.

When Jesus came to Earth, the common people were slaves to the Romans and subjected to criticism from the religious system.

Jesus told the people they were “the salt of the Earth, the light of the world,” but that they needed to take responsibility for their lives and not wait for either the Romans or Judaism to save them.

He made the message of God necessary. He referred to it as “daily bread.” He told people to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and to “take no thought for tomorrow” but to live for today.

You will never meet a more promising group of people than I encountered at Nativity. But I will tell them that until the message they share is necessary in people’s lives, a philosophical or religious content will leave folks cold–staying at home and watching television.

The good news is that Christianity can still be about Jesus.

The better news is that he came to give us life–necessary life–and it more abundantly.

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Jesonian… April 15th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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jesonian-cover-amazon

A Saturday many, many years ago, the beaten, bruised and bloodied body of Jesus of Nazareth lay still in the darkness of a borrowed tomb, as his spirit communed with the angels and his mind reasoned over the unfoldings of a truly abundant life.

We are not privy to those thoughts.

Matter of fact, all we know of the life of Jesus comes from four major biographers who borrowed pieces from one another, and each, in his own way, had an agenda to offer insights to please his readers.

There is no autobiography.

So we aren’t sure of the emotion in the words attributed to him. Therefore theologians decipher and agnostics disembowel the remnants of the script left to us of this magnificent life.

Yet every once in a while, we get a deeper glimpse. Such is the case in Matthew the 23rd Chapter, Verse 37-38:

“Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Thou that killest the prophets and stone them which are sent unto you. How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

The great debate over the centuries has been whether Jesus was Jewish or whether he came, in a certain sense, to abolish Judaism in favor of the New Covenant.

If you study the writings of Martin Luther, you might begin to believe that the Great Reformer was anti-Semetic. Yet in many evangelical churches, there seems to be a return to Jewish traditions, including them with their Christian rituals.

What did Jesus feel about the Jews?

What was the heart of the matter?

First and foremost, you must understand, for Jesus to include Gentiles and Samaritans in his movement immediately made him an outcast from the Jewish religious community.

Matter of fact, the Jewish Council that condemned him to death granted him none of the courtesy that was normally extended to brethren.

The reality that Jesus did not believe that the Jews were special because they were the “children of Abraham,” but rather put forth the opinion that God “could take stones” and make offspring of Abe, certainly did not put him in favor with those of the Zionist profile.

Yet John tells us that he “came to his own and his own received him not.”

When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, he did use the phrase “we Jews.” It is the only time he did, but he certainly had a kindness and favorability for those who lived in Judea and Galilee.

But Jesus was a man of vision–the Gospel would never reach China or the Native Americans if it were left in the hands of the Jews. The Jewish people had already aggravated the Romans to the point that the annihilation and dispersion of their kindred was inevitable, if not imminent. The Gospel would only survive in the hands of the Greeks and the Romans, who would take it to the rest of the world.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that when the early church was trying to force Gentile converts to comply with Jewish practices, the former Pharisee condemned them and called them “Judaizers” for limiting the scope and power of the message.

In the two verses recited above, Jesus announces the fate of Judaism.

It is in a coma.

It is left desolate and abandoned.

It is awaiting a day when it can be awakened and all the promises given by the prophets can be fulfilled.

But for a season, it was set aside in favor of salvation and “loving your neighbor” being shared with the entire world.

Basically, if you want to sum up Jesus’ feelings on Judaism, it’s very simple: Jesus loves them.

He just does not believe they’re “chosen people.”

There are no chosen people–just people who choose well.

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 12) Repairing … February 21st, 2016

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Jesonian hands

Jews hated Samaritans. And by the way, the Samaritans were very willing to do their part to uphold the grudge.

Pharisees despised Romans. The Romans basically ignored them–until they occasionally got a murderous urge.

Zealots fought the Legionnaires. It was an unfair battle–Rome had too many weapons.

Lepers were separated from healthy people–and not nicely, may I add.

Men hated women. Women were in bondage to men.

Merchants killed thieves. Thieves stole from merchants.

This is the scene that was in full force when Jesus of Nazareth stepped into the melee to express his voice.

What pressure was put upon him? “Pick a side.”

  • The Jews got mad because he wasn’t Jewish enough.
  • The Romans were unimpressed because he was raised Jewish.
  • Even the Judeans and the Galileans–who were both Jewish–looked down upon one another, always pushing and shoving for predominant favor.

What did he do?

He set out repairing.

Rather than picking the Jewish side or the Samaritan side, grabbing a placard and protesting, he went to the Samaritans and to the Jews with the same message.

Rather than grabbing a sword and becoming a Zealot, his communication was that it was more important to give to the Romans what belonged to the Romans and to give to God what belonged to God.

He upset the Judeans by inviting Galileans to be his disciples.

And he really pissed off the boys from Galilee by appointing the Judean to be treasurer.

He touched lepers to heal them, which scared the hell out of his hypochondriac-followers.

And rather than submitting to a teaching arena, which was segregated for men, he blended men and women into a common camp of discovery.

You can’t repair if you’re going to insist that one side is better than another.

For instance, you will never be able to solve the problems in the Middle East if you favor the Jews over the Muslims or the Muslims over the Jews.

It is a reasonable process to go about the business of repairing. But to do it, you have to keep three things in mind:

1. Find the breach.

In other words, where has this group over here decided to hate that group over there, and how willing are you to stand between the two?

Since the black community feels persecuted by the police, and the cops feel targeted by that community, it is important for someone to stand in the middle, clean up the corruption in the police force, and teach the black community how to represent itself clearly and well in our society.

If you’re always going to try to find the victim, you’ll spend all of your time bandaging wounds instead of healing conflicts.

2. Situate yourself in the middle.

Black lives matter. Absolutely. No doubt about it.

Policemen have to make too many split-second decisions while holding life-threatening weapons. Absolutely.

Both camps need to realize the weakness and the strength of the other.

You can’t minister to Republicans if you’re a Democrat. And you sure can’t reach Democrats if you’re pounding them with the politics of Ronald Reagan.

Situate yourself in the middle where repair is needed and the breach is obvious.

3. Reach out in both directions.

Jesus found himself on the cross, nailed between two thieves, one hand reaching to the right and the other to the left. From that position, he was trying to salvage two lives which would soon be extinguished.

You can not repair if you choose to believe that one side is better than the other.

It is reasonable to go about the business of repairing.

You will have to free yourself of the unnecessary need of having an opinion on everything … and instead have a yearning to bridge the gap.

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Jesonian: The Five W’s of the J-Man… August 2nd, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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5 W's

Long, long ago in a print shop far away, we used to publish newspapers. They have been replaced by nothing.

A formula was developed for newspaper articles, which was referred to as the 5 W’s: who, what, where, when and why.

So what are the 5 W’s of the story of Jesus? I guess it depends on who you ask.

You have the common perception, which are those who are not necessarily believers, but look on the tale from a historical perspective.

You have religious doctrine, which comes from those who adhere to a Christian theology.

And then you have the Jesonian–individuals who are curious about the personality and mission of the one who has been dubbed “the Christ.”

So let’s look at it.

Who was Jesus?

Common perception: A carpenter-turned-religious icon.

Religious doctrine: A Savior who died for our sins.

Jesonian: The Son of Man, who came to redeem human beings and give us a working lifestyle.

What was Jesus?

Common perception: A Jewish teacher who was killed

Religious doctrine: The Lamb of God who was slain from the foundations of the world.

Jesonian: The Word who became Flesh.

Where was Jesus?

Common perception: Born of peasants in Nazareth.

Religious doctrine: Born in Israel to be salvation, beginning with the Jews.

Jesonian: Born in Israel, raised in Egypt, rejected by his family and hometown, condemned by the Jewish Council, crucified by the Romans, while challenging his disciples to “go into all the world.”

When was Jesus?

Common perception: Born approximately 2000 years ago.

Religious doctrine: His birth marked the beginning of the modern era–A.D.

Jesonian: All the world was temporarily crowded into Mesopotamia–Romans, Jews, Greeks, Egyptians and even those traveling from the East.

Why was Jesus?

Common perception: To be a religious leader.

Religious doctrine: To fulfill prophesy.

Jesonian: To free us from the rigors of religion.

So let us look at each paragraph, formed by our research.

Common perception:

Jesus was a carpenter-turned-religious teacher of Jewish extract, who ended up killed for his ideas. He was born of peasants in Nazareth some 2000 years ago and became the founder of the Christian religion.

Religious doctrine:

Jesus was a Savior who died for our sins, the Lamb who was slain from the foundations of the world. He was born in Israel to be a salvation and Messiah for the Jews and to begin the modern era of A.D. He came to fulfill all Old Testament prophesy.

Jesonian:

Jesus was the Son of Man who came to redeem human beings and give us a lifestyle, the Word who became Flesh. He was born in Israel, raised in Egypt, rejected by his family and hometown, condemned b y the Jewish Council, crucified by the Romans, yet told his disciples to spread the message into all the world. At the time of his birth, all the cultures were temporarily crowded into Mesopotamia–Romans, Jews, Greeks, Egyptians and even passing caravans from the Far East. Jesus had one goal: to free us from the rigors of religion.

Which story touches your heart? 

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Jesonian: The Jesus Con… July 5th, 2015

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pharisee and publican

Condemn, condone, console, consider.

These are the four basic approaches available to us when dealing with our fellow-humans.

Jesus had his angle. The Jews, the Romans and the culture did not agree.

Just this week, one of my sons asked me what I thought about marriage equality. I smiled. Because honestly, you cannot approach individuals as a group and develop an opinion of “them” and think you’re doing anything that resembles righteousness.

In other words:

  • Not all Baptists are Southern.
  • Not all Catholics are Pope worshippers.
  • And not all homosexuals are hapless victims of a bigoted society.

So Jesus had his criteria for evaluating life.

Jesus did condemn. It is ridiculous to assume that he was “liquid love” seeping into every hidden crevice of human existence. It’s just that he didn’t condemn what most people condemned. It’s popular to condemn things that are different from us and try to make them look weird.

Jesus condemned hypocrisy.

It would be easy to get along with Jesus of Nazareth as long as you didn’t go into your bull-crap mode. You could make mistakes, fall short, have inconsistencies or even sin, and his profile would basically be, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Likewise, Jesus always condoned those who insisted on finding a way to love. When James and John became infuriated with the Samaritans because the disciples were forbidden entrance into the city, Jesus cautioned them that when we fail to give a loving response, we lose control of the end result.

Jesus did console. Yet when they asked him to express his empathy and pity for those killed by a tower falling on them, he surprised them all by saying, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

But Jesus always consoled those who repented. Repentance is the first journey we must take on our way to receive our gift of grace.

And Jesus certainly was a man who took time to consider. He considered the lily. Why? Because it did what it was supposed to do without demanding attention while producing great beauty.

Jesus always chose to consider those who knew there was more to believe, more to receive and more to retrieve.

What you do with condemn, condone, console and consider will determine the quality of your life, and possibly even your eternal destination.

So as a Jesonian follower I will condemn hypocrisy, condone those who pursue life with love, console the repenter and consider the individuals who comprehend, yet still know there is more.

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Jesonian: Judgeless… May 24th, 2015

   Jonathots Daily Blog

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jesus and mary magdalene

At an early age, I awoke from a theological nightmare, quickly realizing that Christianity was not about relating to a composite of Moses, David, Abraham, Joseph, Jesus and the Apostle Paul, but rather, an intriguing study of the personality and character of a Nazarene carpenter, who became a philosophical, healing Redeemer.

I dubbed this pursuit Jesonian.

One of my earliest revelations in this quest was that Jesus did not judge.

This was not an assessment on my part or a consensus of his actions. He said it.

“I do not judge. If I did judge, it would be righteous and fair, but I do not judge.”

To confirm this, he dealt with Herod the Great, who as the story goes, was guilty of killing babies. Infanticide. Yes, it is said that Herod slaughtered all the children two years and under in Bethlehem. Jesus never mentions it.

Jesus also coexisted with the Romans, who arguably might be considered the most hedonistic and cruel dictators of all time. His response concerning them was, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

He was criticized for befriending tax collectors, who were traitors to their Jewish brothers and also thieves, levying extra penalties without legal right. He welcomed them as disciples.

He constantly had to dodge the attacks of the Pharisees, who had turned spirituality into an exercise for profit and gain. He told his disciples to “honor their position, just don’t follow their doctrine.”

And of course, his response to sexual immorality was to rescue a woman who was caught in adultery and was about to be stoned by the tenets of Mosaic Law. He snatches her from death, forgives her and gives her the opportunity to “go and sin no more.”

He further enraged the pious prudes around him by saying that the prostitutes would enter the kingdom of God before the religious leaders.

So surrounded by baby killers, hedonists, injustice, cheats, liars and sexual immorality, Jesus decided not to judge.

Stop and think about that.

You see, it’s not that I don’t have opinions.

It’s not that prejudices don’t scream inside me for justification.

It’s the fact that my example–Jesus–felt no need to judge the world nor condemn it, but instead, quietly offered a lifestyle alternative which he died to validate.

 

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