Jesonian… June 17th, 2017

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Leprosy is a loser.

You lose feeling. You lose your fingers and your toes; you lose your friends. You lose interaction with the world around you. You lose control of your life. At least, that’s the way it was in Jesus’ day.

That is why it’s so remarkable that ten lepers got together and overlooked their angst to come up with a plan. They decided to go see Jesus.

I’m not so sure lepers do a whole lot together. I suppose there would be the fear that the infection in your brother or sister might even be worse than yours.

But ten of them planned a road trip. They even included one Samaritan, which all the Jews hated. I guess they gave him a free pass since they shared dying in common.

Ten lepers traveling together caused quite a stir. Everyone was frightened of the disease. Multiply that fear by ten. Therefore, getting anywhere near Jesus must have been a feat, and being granted an audience–the first miracle.

So when Jesus tells all ten lepers to go and show themselves to their priest, they launch off together on a mission of questionable potential. They are not immediately healed, nothing is changed and they’re on their way to see an aged rabbi who certainly possessed no remedy..

But along the way, suddenly each one of them is restored to wholeness, with beautiful pink flesh (or whatever color they originally had). We don’t know how long it took.

But being faithful, and even more aggressive to achieve their mission because of their restoration, they plunged ahead to come in contact with what would surely be a dumbfounded clergyman.

All except one.

The Samaritan–that renegade outsider–decides to turn back to see Jesus and thank him for the miracle. The other nine shake their heads in disbelief. They view themselves “the good ones”–the souls being obedient. They trudge on, praying for their errant companion as he races back to express his gratitude.

When the grateful, healed man from Samaria arrived and worshipped Jesus for giving him back his life, Jesus had a very interesting response.

First, let’s look at what he did not say. Jesus didn’t say, “Why are you here? I told you to go to the priest. Just like you Samaritans to not follow the rules.”

Or, “Because you didn’t do what I said, here’s your leprosy again.”

No–Jesus says something surprising. “Where are the other nine?”

This strikes me as a bit hypocritical, since Jesus sent them on a specific task to show themselves to a religious fellow to confirm their healing. But Jesus not only asks where they are–he mocks the nine for not having the gumption of the Samaritan, to return and express appreciation.

I view this as a warning–a gunshot in the air for all the righteous rowdies in our world who think because they follow some verse of scripture or some isolated command that they are viewed by the heavens as supernally superior. They tell you everything they are sure God finds unfavorable, and cite verses to prove their point.

They are wrong.

Jesus makes it clear–there is something greater than the written or spoken Word of God. It’s called “being led of the Spirit.”

And when the Spirit confirms to you that you’re healed and no priest had anything to do with it, and that the most valuable thing in life is to be grateful, you will bypass the initial command in order to follow the greater calling.

You don’t have to look very far in the life of Jesus to see that the scribes and Pharisees constantly reminded him that he was breaking Jewish law. His response was always basically the same: “You pursue the traditions of men instead of the heart of God.”

A Samaritan former leper broke a rule to fulfill a promise. Because he did, he was praised. And those who did everything by the book were mocked.

If you’re not prepared to go against the rules to fulfill the righteousness of where the Spirit is leading, don’t call yourself a follower of Jesus.

 

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Ask Jonathots … October 15th, 2015

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I have an acquaintance at work who is a fundamentalist Christian. Almost every day she comes into work and cites some tragic world event, such as the flood in South Carolina or all of the conflict and killing in the Middle East–especially with Russia entering Syria–and she joyfully proclaims that these are “signs of the end times” and that “Jesus will be coming back soon.” Is there any way I could convince her that God wants to save the world, not destroy it? Heads up: I don’t want the world to end!

I would like to begin my answer by focusing on the word “fundamentalist,” especially when it’s tied to the word “Christian.”

The definition of fundamentalist is someone who is a strict adherent to a philosophy, a doctrine or a cause. It’s an individual who holds to the letter of the law as being the correct process in pursuing the spirit of the law.

Therefore there are even fundamentalist atheists.

But when you place the word “fundamentalist” with the word “Christian” you create a quandary, because Jesus claimed that he was the fulfillment of all the Law and Prophets, and then he boiled down the entire extent of that body of work to two principles:

  1. We’re to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength;
  2. And the second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself.

So fundamentalists who believe they’re a Christian because they hold fast to the Old Testament or to the Epistles of the Apostles will certainly find themselves on shaky ground if one of those ideas is contrary to loving the Lord or your neighbor.

Also, Jesus made it very clear that he had not come to destroy the world, but to save it, nor condemn the world, but instead, welcome change. Our goal was to be peacemakers.

Anyone who finds joy in the suffering of mankind has by default become a cheerleader for evil.

The reason the Bible says that Jesus will eventually return to Earth is to keep us from killing everyone on the planet.

  • It is an act of mercy, not vengeance.
  • It is a position of grace, not judgment.

So if we have any desire to see the world end and for suffering to multiply so that such an event might occur, then we are identical to James and John, who wanted to rain fire down from Heaven because a Samaritan village refused to welcome them.

So when I run across people who have that mindset, I explain to them that I understand their desire but I do not consider them to be followers of the heart of Jesus.

I call them Apocalyptic Believers. In other words, they believe in the Apocalypse.

If they really believed in Jesus, they would pray for a way for the world to be preserved and saved… until more people could find their way home.

 

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Coupling … February 27, 2014

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cells divideOver the Christmas holidays a friend asked me to go to a movie. I joked with him that two guys in a theater together might be perceived as “gay.”

In the midst of what we consider to be a great transformation of cultural awareness in the United States of America, we are also simultaneously becoming more cautious, provincial and suspicious. At times I wonder if I could take my fifteen-year-old granddaughter out to dinner without people musing whether it’s an episode of Law and Order: SVU.

And then there’s the issue that for eighteen years I have been traveling with a vibrant woman who is talented, plays music and is a great business partner, but I still have people asking if we’re married. How many married people do you know who make music together? There’s a difference between two turtle doves in a nest and a pair of eagles, soaring high.

This led me to think about the dilemma faced by Jesus in the Good Book, when he decided to send his friends and disciples out two by two. How controversial that must have been.

  • Could he send two guys together without everybody thinking they were Greek homosexuals?
  • How about a man and woman, without everybody speculating on their copulating?
  • Check this one out–could two women go out in that male-dominated society and make an impact for his Kingdom Movement?
  • One black, one white?
  • How about  Jew and  Gentile?
  • And what would happen if you mixed a Samaritan in there, whom, it seemed, everybody hated?

Yes, the decision to send people out two by two–coupling them–was probably one of the more radical propositions Jesus ever initiated.

Because even though we proclaim that our world needs more good news, human beings are actually drawn to bad news, even as they insist how ugly it is, and then whisper the gossip to every living soul they meet.

So this I know:

  1. Do what works.
  2. Don’t expect it to be accepted.
  3. Get the chip off your shoulder and refuse to be defensive.
  4. Keep doing it … and bear fruit.

America will be a much better country when we get out of our national funk of abiding arrogance …  and crippling fear.

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

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

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Shuffled … October 28, 2012

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Human beings love to be wanted.

I am a human being. I am not exempt from the desire.

Yet about two or maybe three times a year, a church will cancel us because some big-wig from their district office, or a presbyter, or just a guy or gal in charge, steps in and invites themselves to the church on the particular Sunday when we were supposed to be there, and we end up dumped in the weeds.

It happened this Sunday.

Fortunately, the quality pastor of the church in Columbus, Ohio, who found herself double-booked and needing to get rid of us, was kind enough point the direction towards some other possibilities, and were were able to find a lovely lady to schedule us into a replacement engagement.

I am grateful for that. I don’t like to miss an opportunity to be in a position to share my heart every chance I get. But I am also a human being and not particularly fond of being shuffled around. You do have to fight off the instinct to feel that you were unwanted by one place and only being taken by another as a favor.

This is why years ago I had to deal with the primary ego question involved in trying to do something different. That question is simple: Can I understand that people don’t want you until you make it clear that they require you?

It’s true. Even in marriage, the affection seems to die out if the passion for being together dissipates–because we just don’t make ourselves valuable enough to each other. Love is not a promise of faithfulness; love is a reaction to faithfulness and the glory of an exciting journey. We may not always like that, but it’s true.

As I thought about being “shuffled around” by two Ohio churches, I was reminded of the story of Jesus going to a Samaritan village, and due to the good testimony of a woman at a well, who had an exciting encounter with him, he was able to have quite a revival in that particular community. Yet when he came back to Samaria later on–to the very same region where he had been so beneficial and successful–the story tells us that the town fathers came out and asked him to leave.

You see, the beauty of my story is that the church in Columbus that cancelled me has never experienced my particular message and gifts, so I don’t have to take it personally. It isn’t like the story with Jesus, where the people had already been blessed by him, but on a second go-around, decided to pass.

Ouch.

Here’s what I know about being shuffled around. If you keep your cool, don’t get offended, work on your talent and what you have to share, more often than not, the place you end up seems to be better than where you were originally intending to go. I don’t know why it works out that way–maybe it’s just the way God rewards those who don’t get fussy about being stood up. But in a way, life is a lot like a game of poker. Between every hand, the deck is shuffled. Otherwise, you just keep dealing the same cards.

The question I ask myself tonight before I go and spend a wonderful morning with these new friends is: can I allow myself to be shuffled and dealt out in a new direction without feeling that I am a second-class citizen?

I really do think so.

I think the most intelligent thing we can do is realize that we become valuable to people when we bring something of value to them, and until then, we are just strangers.

So here I go, to Somerset, Ohio, being shuffled.

I guess what I’m hoping for … is a full house.

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