Jesonian–Troubling (Part 11)… September 9th, 2017

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Most troubling.

I was a very naive, impressionable fifteen-year-old boy with a volatile battle between carnality and spirituality raging in my soul. I was very enamored with the pastor of my local church.

He had baptized me. In many ways, he had befriended me. And he had welcomed me into the small-town church, which was now growing because young people were bumping up against each other, carrying the fellowship they felt at school into a second Sunday morning experience.

I had also made another friend. He was a young minister from a different denomination–a forbidden one–who was cool, cared about me and loved rock and roll music.

So when I was talking to the pastor of my “every week church” about this young fellow, he suddenly frowned and warned, “Stay away from him. He preaches a social gospel.

I did not know what that meant, nor did I ask. But it sounded really bad. And the delivery was enough to nearly make my heart stop. “Social” could be “socialist,” which was communist. Don’t want any of that. So I cut off all ties with the young minister, much to his chagrin.

For you see, my pastor taught redemption. “The blood of Christ cleanses from all sins.”

And later on in my life, as a young man, I ran across those who preached “the full Gospel.” They believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and miracles were just as available to believers today as they were in the time of Peter, Paul and Mother Mary.

The bizarre fact is that these three renditions of the Gospel of Jesus–social, redemption, and full–don’t generally get along very well.

It is troubling.

It’s what makes the evangelical church anemic–because it lacks social passion along with personal motivation.

It makes the “social Gospel people” appear to read from a book that in many ways they no longer believe in.

And often the “full Gospel people” contend that without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you don’t have the presence of God working in your life.

It’s really quite befuddling.

  • Because you can’t start a fire with just a match.
  • Nor can you ignite a flame with kindling.
  • And no fire is possible minus oxygen.

It is the joining of all these forces that makes fire ablaze.

Therefore, to follow Jesus, you must have a social consciousness that shares a redemptive message, believing that God is still in the business of healing and moving by the Spirit.

Why would we want anything less than that? Why would we want to focus on one of these factors of fire, yet end up flameless?

Troubling.

I deeply believe in the social Gospel of Jesus. I believe there’s no need for me to bring my gift to the altar if I am not reconciled with my brothers and sisters. I believe I am to be the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.

But I also believe that when I have obvious, evident weakness, it is the redemption of God’s grace, through the life-saving blood of Jesus, that pulls me through. But once I am redeemed, I am compelled, challenged and exhorted to trust that the same spirit that dwelt in Christ also dwells in me.

My gospel should be full.

And when it is full, redemptive and socially aware, I become of value to myself, mankind and the heavens.

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 7)… August 12th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Troubling.

To see disciples of Jesus line up like sheep, with astrologers and superstitious, ignorant practitioners of religion, to pray their way to a blessing, is truly troublesome.

It is the byproduct of a gigantic misconception: God is in control.Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are told that Jesus came to Earth to give us the power to become the sons of God. He envisioned a church that was fired up to tear down the gates of hell:

  • More than conquerors
  • Salt of the Earth
  • Light of the world
  • Doing greater things
  • Pursuing the perfection they see in their Father

He never dreamed that those who chose to take up his cross would end up helpless, fearful, bigoted and hog-tied to tradition.

It is pitiful to see churches worshipping a God they believe has power, but selfishly refuses to impart any of that gift to His children.

When will we start teaching the truth?

Our lives do not spring from the soul. We are not mentally ignited. Nor will stimulation of our flesh make us content.

We are heart creatures. Out of the abundance of our heart we will speak. Out heart is our passion, our feelings, our sentiment.

Here’s the way Jesus intended it to be:

We start with the heart. This is simply what we feel. It does not need to be right–it just needs to be truthful. Having found the confidence to share our heart gives us the boldness to believe.

This leads to our soul. Our soul benefits us by teaching us how things work–both the tenderness of the Father and the practices of Mother Nature.

Once we’ve allowed ourselves to be students of the planet and the love of God, we’re ready to take our brain and see what we can do. Not what we wish we could do, but the ability within us. So we learn to be contributors instead of complainers.

And then we take this magnificent body–our strength–and go out and do it well. For as we run the first mile, we anticipate the second. We come prepared.

This is the teaching of Jesus.

The barbaric notion that God plays with human lives as the devil taunts them may be the foundation for other religions, but it is spiritually and intellectually unacceptable in the Jesonian.

The Jesonian is when we realize that our heart–what we feel–gives credence to our soul, where we learn how things work. This renews our minds, to find out what we can do, and then we take our energy to do it well.

Such a unity creates healthy human beings–instead of faltering followers.

 

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 6)… August 5th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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It is troubling.

Yet I must profess to you that no one has greater joy and regard for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross than I do. It is my salvation and it rattles my consciousness to a sensibility of my own sinful nature and the grace of God.

That being said, I fear that the church has become “atone-deaf.”

Nearly desperate to land on a universal message for Christianity which can be compactly shared at a moment’s notice, we have placed too much attention on a hill called Golgotha, and not nearly enough tender loving care with a Sermon shared from a Mount. In doing this, we have contradicted things we know about the nature of God in order to fulfill the doctrine of the propitiation of sin.

For instance, God ordained free will for humans. Yet we’re led to believe that “from the foundations of the world” it was pre-destined that Jesus would be killed on a cross.

When God spoke through the Old Testament prophets, He declared that He wanted mercy, not sacrifice. Yet for some reason we decide that He changed His mind and adopted human sacrifice as the symbol of His covenant.

As a writer, the first thing you learn is to be faithful to your characters. You can’t manipulate the plotline by causing your character to do something completely beyond the scope of his or her nature, just so you can advance your story.

God gave us free will. We chose to kill Jesus.

God hates sacrifice. He took the death of Jesus and transformed it into our salvation.

What was meant for evil, He made good.

Atonement should be a central theme in the Christian message. It is powerful. It is priceless. But by no means should it be preached so loudly that it makes us deaf to the greater matters of the kingdom–tenderness, responsibility, excellence, consolation and tolerance.

What can we do to keep the death of Jesus in perspective?

I have always received the gift of Calvary as my salvation and a license for me to go out and salvage. How? First, deal with my own appetites and also multiply my talents. Once I become the salvager–the “light of the world” and “the salt of the earth”–I have the ability to transfuse the energy of salvation, pass it along to others and see them reborn.

The conclusion? As a saved soul who has become salvaged and a saver, I fulfill the purpose of me being rescued.

We’ve got to start listening again. We have to stop trying to fulfill denominational doctrine and instead, emphasize the character of God.

Jesus lived for thirty-three years to give the human race a chance to accept his message. He used stories; he used confrontation. He used healing; he used mercy.

And at the end of it all, we used crucifixion.

God, in His infinite grace, chose to take the blood that we shed and make it a symbol of our salvation rather than a further curse of our rebellion. It’s remarkable.

But if we want to find the heart of Jesus, it is not at Calvary.

It is in the words, deeds, actions and anointing of his life.

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Good News and Better News… July 31st, 2017

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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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Good News and Better News… June 26th, 2017

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It is a tale of two Mounts.

One is called Mount Calvary, where the Prince of Peace was crucified at the bequest of angry religionists and indecisive politicians who were bound and determined to maintain the status quo.

The other mount was a place where Jesus came face-to-face with the human race and made his case.

He talked about personal responsibility–how we are responsible for our own lives, responsible to study Mother Nature, responsible to take care of one another, responsible to curb our anger and lust and responsible to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the Earth.”

Yet the American church is totally obsessed with Mount Calvary, spending countless hours teaching all congregants about the atoning gift of the blood of Christ and even sharing a meal of remembrance.

The other Mount–the Mount of Message, the Mount of Human Transformation–is parsed and referenced, but rarely presented as the necessary philosophy for human beings to get along.

Although we should never forget the courageous sacrifice of Jesus on Mount Calvary, we must realize that what sets Jesus apart from Buddha, Moses, Mohammed and any other religions icon, is that he taught us to use our talents, love one another and remain in good cheer instead of blaming other religions, cutting off the lifeline of our emotions, or spending countless hours pleading with the heavens.

The answer to this dilemma is easily understood by paraphrasing a comment from Jesus. He once said, you shouldn’t leave this one undone, but you should pursue the “weightier matters” of life.

Amen.

Once I understand that Jesus was so enthralled with the propagation of his message that he was willing to die for it, I can go back into those simple, practical axioms and find the way, the truth and the life.

For you see, the good news is that Jesus died for our sins.

The better news is, before he died, he taught us how to live.

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Good News and Better News… May 8th, 2017

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Breeders and needers

I am speaking from a spiritual sense.

Breeders are people who find personal satisfaction in joy, mission and composure, and are prepared to deal with those who come their way who may not have the correct balance of what we call normal human behavior.

They are merciful because they know the need to obtain mercy.

They are meek because they’ve already gotten their down payment on the inheritance of the Earth.

They don’t need encouragement to be gentle–the gentleness of God’s spirit has already convinced them of the wisdom of such behavior.

Needers, on the other hand, are folks who come to church with vice, variance and viciousness intact, and try to use God’s grace to cover their insufficiency rather than becoming the “light of the world and the salt of the Earth.”

It’s really simple:

Needers scare people away.

Breeders make an emotional and spiritual connection with their fellow-humans and birth fellowship.

As long as we insist that God doesn’t really care how good or bad we are, just that we have signed a salvation card and our names are written in the Book of Life, we will continue to frighten those who might find comfort in the Gospel, affronting them with members who have the maturity of a pen of pigs.

It’s time to talk realistically about Christianity.

We are on the verge of falling victim to the stereotypes that other religions have procured for themselves.

“All Jews are cheap.”

“All Muslims are terrorists.”

“All Hindus have a spot on the middle of their forehead.”

“All Buddhists eat humus.”

The Gospel of Jesus has a chance to speak a unified message to a diverse world. It is so desperately needed that writers like myself will risk being attacked by the needers in an attempt to lift up the breeders.

What are the characteristics of breeders?

They are salt. Tasteful. Sensitive.

They are light–illuminating instead of shocking the world around them.

Good works. It’s impossible to be humble without them. If you try to use humility without having good works, you just come across honestly inept.

Here’s the good news: Jesus is prepared to give instruction, permission and shortcuts to those who want to live dynamic, joyful and abundant lives.

And the better news is that needers can become breeders if they will develop the desire to connect with others instead of remaining frightened and insecure

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Good News and Better News… March 13th, 2017

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Pictured is the trash can in my weekend motel, which has absolutely no significance except for the fact that I got so involved enjoying the folks at the Roseland United Methodist Church that I failed to take a snapshot of my surroundings to commemorate the event. There’s no hidden message or reference to trash or garbage. Matter of fact, the folks were absolutely delightful, led by an old friend from South Miami, Pastor Cathy.

She is a delightful mingling of the spirit of Mary Poppins with the compassion and tenderness to human beings of Mother Teresa. Simultaneously, she carries a humility that would cause her to rebuke me for comparisons to a jovial Disney character and a Catholic saint.

But what made the people of Roseland so powerful is that they’re still maintaining their humanity. Religion often wishes to drain us of all semblance of ambition and desire in a pious maneuver to transform us into submissive half-angels.

I’ve never been quite sure why we take one of the more endearing parts of the human being–that being the energy to succeed–and baptize it in false humility and solemnity.

Why do we all have to be so bad before God calls us good? Because here’s the truth:

Every human being needs to feel that he or she is important.

If that’s a sin, then may we all be damned. Trying to make God the only important creature in the universe, while insisting that we selflessly give to others while rejecting our own personal desires, is not only fruitless, but anti-Jesus.

Jesus told us “we are the salt of the Earth. We are the light of the world.”

It is our works that people will see, and then glorify God. He said if we’re given much, much is expected of us. He even told us we were his friends because he shared his life with us.

One day, he jokingly explained that we were worth “many sparrows,” and that we would do greater things because he went to the Father, to cheer us on.

The mistake we make in the church is trying to convince everybody how unimportant they are in an attempt to get them to focus on God.

A Jesonian church nurtures such a vision, but in the process, teaches people what really is important:

  • I become more important when I include others.
  • I become more important when I tolerate and appreciate the lives of others.
  • I become more important when I’m not afraid to give.
  • I become more important when I take my talent and multiply it instead of sitting on it.
  • I become more important when I lead with good cheer.
  • I become more important when I realize that I’m allowed to be important, but so is everybody else.

The good news is, once we discover our sinful nature and repent of it, salvation comes into our hearts.

The better news is, Jesus rejoices when we take the message of salvation, go out and become important by doing important things.

 

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