Jesonian… June 3rd, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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This week, one of my sons will celebrate his birthday. He is the pastor of a church. Like most children, he has grown up to be his own man and sometimes listens to my counsel, but many times opts to pursue different voices.

It is the way of our tribe.

But as I considered his birthday, I realized that he does not require a new shirt, pants, tennis shoes or a subscription to “Boys Life.” He has the ability to get all of those things on his own.

What he needs from me is what I have always given him–an honest report. So as a gift to my son, and maybe even a piece of usable information for you, I present the “Seven Practices of a Good Shepherd.”

I use Jesus as my example. If you’re going to be a Good Shepherd–a pastor or leader of human souls:

1. Don’t mess, interfere, refer to, question or condemn anyone’s sex life.

When a crowd of people tried to get Jesus to discuss adultery, he turned away, stooped down and fiddled in the dirt as if he never heard them.

2. Stop trying to make friends.

You’ve been called to make disciples. That is the root word for discipline. As a shepherd, your journey will be to guide people in the direction of their better possibility. Sometimes they will be grateful; sometimes they will be temporarily offended. But they must always know that your heart is to see them “grow to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ.”

3. No preaching, a little teaching, tell stories, make it visual.

Jesus never preached a sermon. He took time to teach his disciples. He told stories to the masses. But most importantly, he gave visual evidence of the power of his word by transforming lives.

4. Family is not everything.

Although we seem trapped in an overly sympathetic mood toward those who share our DNA, Jesus was faithful to his kin until his kin refused to be faithful to his mission. When his family thought he was crazy for preaching the Gospel, he walked away from them until they could grow up.

5. Touch the heart, stir the soul, renew the mind, strengthen the weak.

If you’re not emotionally connecting with people, you can never stir their souls. Therefore their minds will remain concrete, and they will be weakened by their own lack of maturity.

6. Respect free will.

Although you may be tempted to tell people that God has a wonderful plan for their life, the truth of the matter is, God has a wonderful life for their plan. There’s only one thing greater than love–that’s free will.

Even though God loved the world, when the world did not love Jesus, he granted free will to them to make their own decision. From that poor choice–to crucify–He granted them salvation through Jesus’ blood.

If God gives free will, a Good Shepherd can never take it away. So when people decide not to like you, honor their decision.

7. Religion kills.

If you don’t know what religion is, it can be defined simply as a belief in some sort of plan to reach God.

God does not need to be reached. He has done all the reaching. God needs to be acknowledged. God needs to be included. There is no magical plan of salvation. Salvation is when we finally grow permanently comfortable with the fact that God loves us.

So there’s my gift to my son, which I hope you may find of interest also.

I shall tell him that this is his birthday present from his dad, and I hope he likes it … because I didn’t keep the receipt.

 

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Jesonian: The Original Millennials… October 11th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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millennials

Using information provided and having a general understanding of the longevity of their lives, we can pretty well assume that Peter, Andrew, James and John were somewhere between the ages of 15 and 25 when they met Jesus of Nazareth.

And since they ended up living in the 1st Century A.D., they are “the original millennials.”

So it’s very intriguing to consider how Jesus handled these young men, who obviously had little interest in religious matters, God, traditions or anything but fishing.

Yes, they were typical young folk:

  • They were fishing for purpose.
  • They were fishing for compliments.
  • They were fishing for ways to avoid responsibility.
  • And in their case, they were literally fishing for fish.

They would never have encountered the Nazarene if he had held meetings at the local synagogue or started a store-front in Capernaum. So how did Jesus handle his millennials?

We find that answer in the Good Book, in Luke the 5th Chapter.

1. He went where they were.

They lived by the sea, so he went to the sea.

2. He worked with what they knew.

Since their business was fishing and they were accustomed to boats, he asked to borrow their boat so he could teach from it, which in turn created a climate for:

3. A captive audience.

Yes, to a certain degree they were trapped in the boat, doing him a favor, but at the same time, hearing the message. Yet Jesus did not stop there and make it a theological encounter. Instead:

4. He profited them in a way they could understand.

After the sermon he told them to take their nets and cast them into the water for a great haul of fish. Thus he proved that the best parts of believing in God are the benefits that come through practical application. Which ended up with:

5. Jesus joining them as they joined him.

And instead of holding a revival at the synagogue or storefront, Peter’s home became their headquarters. It’s much easier to minister to people in an environment where they feel comfortable taking off their shoes.

It is unlikely we will be able to conventionally reach a younger generation that has already given up on the idea of organized religion. Perhaps it is their mission to show us the fallacy of religion without reality.

So if you’re a minister, stop inviting people to church and instead, write a blog reviewing movies, TV shows or video games.

Meet the millennials at the sea, where they’re doing their fishing.

And benefit them by showing them ways to enhance their relationships, children and families.

And then, don’t force them to come to your institution, but instead, set up a way for them to have faith … in their own homes.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … June 10th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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PoHymn June 10th

If Not, Then

If you can’t think, then feel

If you don’t walk, then bless

If you are confused, stop teaching

If you are amused, share the giggle

If you believe, provide some proof

If you are loved, shout from the roof

If you are angry, spit it out

If you are lonely, stroll about

If you know a secret, whisper its worth

If you have changed, announce the birth

If sadness visits, travel on

If regret nags, will it be gone

If happiness wishes, grant permission

If failure lingers, catch a vision

If time is short, slow things down

If somber threatens, become a clown

The power is yours

And even mine

To choose a path

And embrace the Divine.

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If Jesus Were in Charge… January 4, 2015

pastor Jesus big

  • Religion wants to worship God.
  • Hope wants to find God.
  • Faith wants to see God.
  • Love wants to share God.

Church is becoming an exercise in futility because man was not created to worship. Worship was created so man could revel with the joy, love, faith and hope that pulsate within. It is a chance to express the hope to find God, the faith to see God and the love to share God.

But how do we do it? What would a church service be with Pastor Jesus?

If you read the Gospels closely, the answers are pretty clear, at least to this pilgrim. Every time Jesus got together with people, there was some sort of transformation, victory or healing which occurred. People felt they could come with their illnesses, insufficiencies, questions and frustrations and not have to wait through an entire service to have them addressed.

Yes, I believe church should begin with prayer, hugs, words of encouragement or even just a good cup of coffee. We begin with a season of healing–heart, soul, mind and strength.

I think if Jesus were pastor of a church, next would come testifying. Those who have been blessed, healed or rejuvenated get a chance to share their hearts. Others who have had dynamic weeks can express gratitude for intervention.

So once people have been healed and given a chance to speak out as part of the family of God, then it’s time to teach. Instruction is motivated at this point. Healing and testifying have been accomplished, so we have the opportunity to explain the mind of our heavenly Father, and offer better ways for us to get along with each other.

Healed, testified and taught, we are anxious to celebrate. Let the music begin. I don’t know why we expect people to sing their way into a good mood. Music was meant to produce emotion and praise–which normally follows an experience.

And finally, after celebration, we give. We close out the service providing finance–as each one has prospered throughout the week.

It was the style of Jesus to heal, open the door to testifying, teach the masses, celebrate the message and then allow them to give of their substance so the work could continue in the next village.

Church has become a commemoration, when it was meant to be a combustion–stoking the fire of belief so it can burn brilliantly.

If Jesus were in charge, church would be about people instead of causes, concerns, committees or even communion. Will we ever see such an opportunity come our way?

I guess when we finally grow weary of being pious and become wary of being godless.

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Subway Stop… April 2, 2013

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SubwayAshford done.

It was an evening with a couple dozen strangers. We talked, laughed, got to know each other and I believe, departed as friends. That in itself is an inspirational miracle that boggles the mind and tingles the spirit.

Packed up, ready to go–8:33 P.M. At this point we need some nourishment–something called dinner. It’s tricky business. You don’t want to get food that has so much fat, sugar and grease that you wake up the next morning with a five-pound weight gain. But you also would like to have something that is both incredible and edible. So we “went to Jared’s.” No, not the diamond store–Subway. You remember Jared–the guy who lost all the weight just eating Subway? It is a remarkable joint to frequent if you are attempting to watch your calories and consume vegetables along with your breads and meats.

I stayed in the van and Jan ran in to make our selections. I snapped a picture of her while she was in there, as you can see in today’s artwork. While I was sitting there a car pulled up, rattling my windows with its speakers, sharing a massive overdose of rap music, proliferated with lots of harmonics, rhythm, and language which would make my mother leave the room in a huff.

A young man stepped out of his car, into the Subway and stood in line behind Jan. I had to watch this. Even though she was very busy making her order and interacting with the lady who was trying to “sandwich everything in,” Jan took a moment to strike up a conversation with the young man who had just entered the store. I couldn’t hear anything and it was like watching a silent movie, but in no time at all they were laughing and he was expressing great intrigue. I just sat there for a moment and thought, “How perfect.”

There is this thing we talk about called The Great Commission. Basically, it states,  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature, teaching them to observe whatsoever I’ve commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

I had to smile. God never begins or ends at the door of the church. God is us. It’s why Jesus saidthe kingdom of God is within you.”

So on this beautiful night in Houston, we HAD “gone into the world.” We drove over to this town and broke our pattern of normalcy to try something new. “Go into the world” means that somehow or another you have to escape your confinements. If you believe that everything has to be “normal,” you will eventually become prejudiced and close somebody out. If you do this, God stops showing up for your morning meetings.

Then you’ve got to preach the gospel. We had done that. “Preaching the gospel” means finding your message, and making sure that when you share it with others, it’s GOOD NEWS. There’s a lot of stuff I could tell people which would shock them or make them angry, but that’s not the gospel. The gospel is good news. So if I can’t muster a bunch of good news to share with people, and all I can find in my soul is sadness, I probably shouldn’t preach. We shared good news.

But when it was over and we needed a place to get a bite to eat, The Great Commission continues–it’s no longer about preaching, it’s about teaching. How do you teach somebody? Are we talking about a blackboard? Or reciting information, hoping that someone is taking notes? No. Our entire teaching format is displaying to the world who we are. It is our presence. We are the “light of the world” and we are the “salt of the earth.” If we can’t be lit up and tasty, no one will care much about anything we have to preach.

When Jan returned to the van, she explained what the young man was interested in when he came into the shop. He dug her clothes and shoes. He thought she had style. So it made him curious about what brought her to town.

I guess if we can’t shine forth like a city set on a hill and have a countenance that reflects that we’ve been somewhere other than a lemon-tasting convention, we have little chance ot teaching anyone anything.

Yes–it’s our responsibility to make our lives a presence.

And finally, we need to walk with the realization that Jesus is with us. Not just us–we’re not his “favorite dudes.” But because we’ve gone into the world, escaping our “normal,” and we’ve preached the gospel by finding a message and making sure it’s good news, and we’re teaching people to observe what Jesus said by making our lives a presence, we can have the confidence that he’s with us.

Can I sum that up in two words? Stay sane.

The world wants you to go a little nuts. Don’t do it. Society would love to have you worry and become overwrought. Turn down the invitation. The television set screams of dangers. Change the channel. Stay sane.

  • Escape the norm
  • Find a message and make sure it’s good news
  • Make your life a presence
  • And stay sane.

That’s The Great Commission, folks. And my friend, Jan, acted it out last night, at a Subway stop.

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A Very Good Question… January 8, 2012

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After I set up my equipment last night at the church, the fine pastor posed a question. “How will you be sharing the gospel message in the morning?”

I understood. He was basically curious about whether I would be preaching or teaching. I don’t preach, although I admire and honor those who do. Preaching, to me, is like walking into a room with a loaded gun, convinced you’ve gained the advantage, only to discover that the room is filled with those holding pistols. Not for me. And, there is no more honorable profession than teaching, but my inclination lies in stirring the hearts of people instead of engaging their minds.

My message transformed when I did. It was when I finally accepted that God is my Father, earth is my mother, Jesus is my elder brother, you are my brothers and sisters and I am a child who is wanted, appreciated and granted promise.

Theologians and philosophers would listen to that profile and deem it child-like. To that I would respond, “Thank you.” It is not that I am incapable of studying or comprehending deeper matters of spirituality, theology or even church history. It’s just that my journey has caused me to doubt the value of such eternal introspection, which doesn’t offer much internal peace of mind.

I don’t know what God did before He decided to be my Father. I think it would be a very bratty thing for a child to investigate his parents to find out all the hidden secrets of their particular lives–exposing them for who they are. I know God has a history. I will leave that to Him, as fortunately, He has forgiven mine. I am reassured that at some juncture, He decided to become a Father instead of just a universal Creator or a “sin-thumper.” I am glad He got together with Mother Nature and birthed a son named Jesus who became my brother and the “first fruits of many creatures.”

I stay away from two subjects–God and heaven. The debate and frustration that human beings have over those topics has generated more wars and discomfort on this planet than any other argument. To me, God is my Father … and that’s the end of it.

If you want to bring up the Old Testament or the thousands and thousands of interpretations of His persona by other cultures, you may feel free to do so. But I believe that knowledge which only produces aggravation is useless to those who only are able to relish mortality. If you wish to speculate on heaven, you may proceed with all liberty to do so. But eventually you will end up discovering that heaven is a place beyond comprehension, individualized to each believer in some magnificent, unique way which is beyond our understanding and devoid of sight or hearing.

It is a human journey we are on and when we fail to study our humanity, we actually cease to comprehend our Father. He wanted to start a family. Maybe you choose to believe that He “settled down” from previous escapades. It makes no difference. True spirituality is the study of humanity without fear or condemnation. When you try to delve into the supernatural, you fail miserably because you quickly realize that you are not super and therefore have lost sight of all the beauty of our natural world.

I did not give the minister of the church this particular answer. But I share it with you today because his was a good question. What IS it we want to share with our fellow human beings? What IS the good news?

  • God is our Father.
  • The earth is our mother.
  • Jesus is our elder brother, who has already discovered the secrets of the household.
  • We are brothers and sisters.
  • And I, like you, am wanted.

Stay away from discussions on God and heaven. What we don’t know won’t hurt us. Because someday we WILL know.Am I afraid of the future and the unknown? No. Because after all, He’s my Dad.

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Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:

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