G-Poppers … May 6th, 2016

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The situation is that our solution has actually become our problem.

G-Pop is trying to explain this to his son.

Even though there is a strong contingency of the American public which contends we are a “Christian nation,” when it comes to dealing with others, our prejudices and our policies, we completely abandon the teachings of Jesus in favor of the message of Mesopotamia.

Therefore we tout “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and “our country, right or wrong.”

So we end up with two candidates for President who both have unfavorable ratings and seem baffled by their unpopularity. But it’s really quite simple. Even though there may be a rag-tag group of citizens who cheer arrogance and self-reliance, all of us know in our hearts what is necessary to be a human being:

  1. “From what I know…”
  2.  “I was wrong.”

Any time those two statements are ignored or even pushed to the rear in favor of barnstorming stubbornness, you have a credibility problem.

Since none of us are sure of anything, taking the precaution of being candid about our knowledge is only wise.

In like manner, keeping in our back pocket the ability to be wrong without feeling that we’re diminishing our career is equally as valuable, so that people can trust us.

So it is ironic that we campaign for our two candidates while simultaneously voicing that we don’t trust them.

Of course we don’t.

  • Both of them plot instead of letting the truth play out.
  • They both maneuver instead of managing the circumstances provided.

And they defend themselves instead of allowing the new revelation to push them to the forefront as leaders.

You have to make up your mind. CNN, Fox News and MSNBC may love a fight among the candidates. They say it makes good news. Actually, it makes bad news, which they spin into good revenue through advertising.

But if you’re going to edify people, you will have to be forthcoming about what you presently know and also be prepared to be wrong.

G-Pop realizes there are those reading this who would say, “Politics doesn’t work that way.”

But he would retort, “Therefore, politics doesn’t work.”

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Ask Jonathots … July 9th, 2015

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I am the mother of two boys, age 5 and 7. I got divorced four years ago. I am trying to bring my boys up to be Christian young men, but my ex-husband is not a Christian and lets them watch movies I don’t approve of and play all kinds of video games. But the court says he has visitation rights. What should I do?

You cannot approach a childish situation by trying to come up with an adult solution. Somehow or another, you have to transfer a childish situation into a child-like format. Otherwise, your children will start picking sides based upon the perks they get with visitation.

If Dad gives them more freedom to do what they want, then Dad will be the cool parent–until they get in trouble, and then you’ll be stuck with the bail ticket.

There are some key words in your question that bother me. The first one is “ex-husband.” You should probably cleanse your soul right now by ceasing to call this gentleman that you were married to at one time your “ex-husband.”

He was never a good husband or you would still be married to him. So you can call him the man you were married to at one time, the children’s father, or whatever respectful name you can come up with, which will prevent you from feeling that you still have a bond with him personally.

When your children are sure that you have moved on with your life, they will be less likely to play you guys against each other. (And yes, kids are much smarter about that kind of stuff than you would think.)

The second word that bothers me is “Christian.” Because of the perversions, misrepresentations and fanaticism that exists in our religious community, the word itself has become almost meaningless.

What you want to teach your young men is how to be honorable. Fortunately for you, that kind of insight is found in the teachings of Jesus.

So don’t make a stand about movies or video games, but instead, teach your sons how a woman should be treated, how they should respect other people’s rights, and mostly, they need to understand that the blessing of money comes from work.

When they value these three concepts, they will begin to make better decisions–even at this early age.

So don’t be so concerned about what’s going on during their visitation times, but rather, about the values held dear in your home.

Don’t take them to a church that preaches instead of provides. If the church in the United States is going to survive for another generation, it will have to stop preaching its doctrines and begin to provide an atmosphere where human beings can prosper and get along with each other, developing the kind of tolerance that teaches us to cease being judgmental.

Whether you like it or not, your children are part of two households. Yet it is virtually impossible for people who are divorced to come up with a parenting plan on which both agree.

Just make sure that when your sons are home with you they see principles that are not only taught, but are also honored by their mother. And keep in mind, since children think life is a game, maintain the joy and fun in the experience.

So in conclusion, you don’t have an ex-husband, you have a man you used to be married to.

And you’re not trying to raise “American Christians,” you’re bringing up two sons who need to respect their own bodies and the rights of others.

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Jesonian: Front Loading…February 15, 2015

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I am traveling this year all across the United States, putting on a program with a musical and spoken rendition of the Sermon on the Mount, complete with stories and humor.

It has stimulated great interest, mainly because hundreds, perhaps thousands, of musicals and spoken-word pieces have been done on the last twenty-four hours of Jesus’ life, but very few have been written and shared on his body of work.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that we have two dangerous misconceptions about the ideas of Jesus. We think:

  1. The teachings of Jesus are hard–too idealistic and don’t work well in the real world.
  2. Jesus bided his time teaching while he was waiting for his true mission to be fulfilled–to be the human sacrifice for the sins of the world.

I am convinced that these two theological missteps are causing the message of Jesus to be misconstrued, which forbids the world to tap the obvious logic contained in his philosophy.

For after all, there is no other idea that works among people other than “love your neighbor as yourself.” The absence of applying this thought places the world in chaos. It is only when that principle is applied–even if it’s only partially done–that we have the foundation for financial prosperity and peace.

So when we portray the teachings of Jesus to be impractical “in the real world,” and to more or less be the fodder for a future heavenly existence rather than an earthly one, we rob our generation of the tools necessary to communicate.

Here are the three things that Jesus was against:

  • Hypocrisy
  • Selfishness
  • Intolerance

If you were listing three of the greatest problems in our world, these would certainly be included.

Jesus’ response to hypocrisy was, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” We could go a long way with that simple concept.

His response to selfishness was, “If you’re given much, much is expected of you.” This certainly would encourage initiative, but also would foster generosity.

And Jesus told us not to judge other people–that even he would not do so. This would eliminate our opinions from seeping through, insisting they are “God’s will.”

Secondly, for those who believe that Jesus was merely God’s pin cushion to extract a blood atonement for the foulness of mankind, we must admit that this is contrary to what the Nazarene said:

  • He wanted people to believe him for his words.
  • In the Garden of Gethsemane, before his crucifixion, he claimed that his work was completed.
  • And in Nazareth he quoted from Isaiah, saying that his mission was to “preach the good news to the poor.”

The greatest theological insult of our time is the notion that God, who hated the sacrifice of turtle doves and bullocks, would suddenly change His mind and favor the human sacrifice of His son.

What makes the death of Jesus not only an atonement–a salvation for our sins–is how he was willing, while still a human being, to take on the rejection of his peers bravely–and give his life for what he taught.

I am Jesonian.

Jesonian people are front-loading Christians. That means we give more significance to the life, teachings, inspiration snd spirit of Jesus during the thirty-three years of his ministry than we do for the back-loading of his three hours on the cross.

I believe with all of my heart that if we honored his words more often, while celebrating his death as a brave act of mercy, we would reach more people–and a message free of hypocrisy, selfishness and intolerance could find its simple place toward solution in our time.

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Jesonian: Belly-Aching … May 4, 2014

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belly acheHe said, “Everybody understands the problems. There’s no need to keep talking about them. We should stop belly-aching.”

He is a minister of the Gospel.

Over the years he has convinced himself that he prefers the “more positive” teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and wishes to focus on them in order to build a congregation of believers who think good thoughts and don’t generate any negative energy toward the world around them.

Here’s the problem: injustice will never leave as long as it’s making a profit. So it’s up to the prophets to chase injustice away through pointing out its hypocrisy and deceit.

Even though Jesus is portrayed by many churches as a combination of Gandhi and a hippie attending Woodstock, the young Nazarene actually has quite an edge.

Especially as he reached the end of his Earth journey, he began to spout off profusely against the excesses of religion, the selfishness of systems and the indifference of leadership.

There are three chapters in a row–Matthew 23, 24 and 25–where he exhibits his own form of belly-aching. Because you see, belly-aching occurs when you consume something that doesn’t agree with you, and is only relieved when you dispel the thing with which you do not agree.

Understanding that most of you may not want to read the three chapters, if you will allow me, I’ll summarize:

In Matthew 23, Jesus viciously attacks the scribes, Pharisees and lawyers who used their position to extort wealth while doing nothing to relieve the burdens of the people around them. He claims that they cared more for their traditions than they did for the human beings placed in their charge.

So because of their iniquity, in Matthew 24 he informs them that the Romans would come and dismantle their entire hierarchy and destroy their city.

To further reiterate the necessity for repentance, he tells a series of parables in Matthew 25 about a Judgement Day in which God, our Father and Creator, will expect us to deliver evidence of our faith and victory during our human escapade.

The three chapters are full of complaint, warnings, admonitions and some downright insults.

We forgive this belly-aching because the prophesy came true and we understand that the message Jesus preached survives today. To determine whether we are just purveyors of doom and gloom or messengers of hope, we have to keep three things in mind:

1. Never do anything to hurt people, but also do not permit anything to happen that is hurting people.

2. Never offer a warning without giving an olive branch of hope. Nothing is over until God says it is.

3. Always note progress–even if it’s a little–and appreciate it when you see movement toward sanity.

So am I a belly-acher?

If I run across ideas which historically have been proven to be foolish, and I see injustice which is cheating people out of the value of their human lives, or if I come across greed which is suffocating the life out of the needy, I will speak out, using every bit of cleverness, comedy and even cunning that I can muster.

Because without doing this, we become part of a third clump … the ones who stood by and watched the oppressor oppress the helpless.

 

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Three Comin’ and Three Goin’ — October 22, 2011

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Yesterday on our drive from Salisbury, North Carolina, down to Spartanburg, South Carolina, I told Janet and Dollie that I would treat them to lunch at a restaurant. (Actually, as we travel we spend very little time eating in restaurants because they’re quite expensive and also you never know what you’re getting in terms of nutrition. We do a lot of our own cooking and therefore can procure our own personal better choices. That said, every once in a while, we enter the mainstream of the dining world and allow other folks to do the cooking and serving.)

The ladies opted to eat at The Golden Corral. When they mentioned the name, I thought about how important it is to select a title for your particular organization or business. In other words, The Golden Corral sounds much better than The Yellow Horsepen. You see, I don’t see anything wrong with utilizing good promotional skills to put your best foot forward in the world of business–or even in personal presentation.

But I do think it’s important to be honest–and to use the wisdom of the Spirit to lead with your weaknesses and follow with your strengths. I know this is contrary to American capitalism, where we’re taught to lead with our strengths and play down our weaknesses, but there is a natural sensibility in human beings to do exactly what their Creator taught them to do, which is resist the proud and give grace to the humble. So when we lead with our strengths and trail with tiny increments of weaknesses, we encourage those around us to become investigative reporters and further probe into our history to find additional chinks in our armor.

It’s not good.

Honestly, the last thing in the world I want is for anyone to discover my hidden sins and stupidities because I have been unwilling to unmask them for myself. Yet we persist in this “social boomerang” in America–to push ourselves forward in a positive light instead of presenting ourselves truthfully in a more subtle beam of attention.

Let’s take The Golden Corral, for example. Using the concept of “Three Comin’ and Three Goin,” I think they could lead with the weaknesses of the restaurant and close with the strengths. So let’s look at the three comin’. The weaknesses of The Golden Corral are:  the food is high in calories, it has too much salt (so you’ll drink more and eat less) and has unknown content in the gravies, which lift both the fat and calorie count. The positives — or the three goin’–are that it’s reasonably priced, it offers a tremendous collection of fruits, vegetables and salads, and if you’re careful you can get some delicious casseroles and meats that would be very expensive to procure on your own.

The difficulty with leading with your strengths is in trailing with your weaknesses.  It comes across a bit insipid.  Back to The Golden Corral, for example. If I said to you that The Golden Corral has a great collection of fruits, vegetables and salads, casseroles and meats and is reasonably priced, but is high in calories, fat content and too salty, you would assume that the LAST thing I shared was my actual opinion. You would be left with a negative flavor. So it actually defeats the purpose.

If I tell you that I am man with an ever-growing love of humanity and a little dab of talent which I have multiplied into a lifestyle that reaches tens of thousands of people, but that I am fat, bald and have a high school education, I would be leading with my positives, but ending with my negatives, which would make you believe that I am insecure.  What I’m saying is that the American contention of leading with your positives actually doesn’t work UNLESS you leave out your weaknesses altogether, which also doesn’t work because people will find them out anyway.

That’s why I practice three comin’ and three goin’.  I always lead with my weaknesses and close with my strengths.  In so doing, I let you know of my human inadequacy, but finish off with how, by the grace of God, I have been able to overcome my lack.  So here’s how I would actually say it:

“I am fat, bald and have a high school education BUT have an ever-growing love of humanity and a little dab of talent, which I have been able to multiply into a life’s work which is reaching tens of thousands of people.”

You see what I mean? It’s better. If you decide to lead with your strengths, you’re going to have to leave out your weaknesses, or end up appearing to be a total short-comer. Unfortunately, this is what people decide to do–and it renders them prideful and fair game for scrutiny and criticism. If you lead with your weaknesses and close with your strengths, it shows how you have used your life to grow and overcome obstacles to gain a better footing.

I do not know why this escapes people. I do not know why we feel an honest assessment of our vacancies makes us look like we’re not worthy of occupancy. But because we do this, it puts us in a position to be vulnerable to the critique of others instead of being uplifted because we have led with humility.

I can recommend it. I’m not suggesting you change your name from The Golden Corral to The Yellow Horsepen. It’s always good to allow yourself a more colorful portrait. But I do caution you that leading with your strengths will tempt you to ignore your weaknesses. 

On the other hand, leading with your weaknesses will make your strengths ingenious and inventive, granting you the appearance of the persevering warrior instead of the hapless trainee.

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Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

Trutherans — October 21, 2011

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A small Lutheran church in rural North Carolina.

That was my place of visitation on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. People–pundits, politicians and pollsters–all love to categorize them into convenient clumps for conversation. It’s just not that easy. Southerners are not alway Southern, Northerners are not always Northern, and likewise for the West and East.

Here are three things I CAN tell you for sure–people are not nearly as complicated as you make them out to be. People are much more sophisticated than you might think at first. And people always show up with some damage. As long as you keep that in mind, you can actually be of assistance to your fellow-man instead of a deterrent to their growth.

As I told you, it was a Lutheran church–yet most of the folks I met had absolutely no connection to a rogue monk named Martin Luther, who pounded ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenburg Church in protest to the excesses and fallacious doctrines of the Mother Church. Matter of fact, some of the folks I met this week might even have a hard time understanding Luther’s mindset, way of life and approach to God and others. Yet the church bears his name. For instance, we still call it the United States of America, even though there are many people who would desire to tear us apart from sea to sea. What I encountered was not a congregation that was following the dictates of a reformer; what I found were Americans who grew up in a denomination they now continue to attend in hopes of pleasing a God they hope someday to meet.

The religious climate in our country is a great source of confusion to me. For after all, the average person has four major concerns: God, money, sex and family–not necessarily in that order, and the particular line-up for each person may very well clarify their focus.

The church talks about God, a little about family, but sex and money are normally taboo subjects unless an offering plate is being passed or someone’s teenager is discovered with an unwanted pregnancy.

Politics will surface the subject of God, completely avoid sex (unless it’s an “intern”-al situation), focus on money and use the subject of family to create commonality.

But no one seems to have the ability to tie it all together, bringing heaven to earth and connecting earth to heaven. If we were faithful to the teachings of Jesus, we would completely comprehend that this is the essence of human life, but unfortunately, those who want to go to heaven feel the need to be critical of earth. And those who want to get the best of earth are equally as condemning and mocking of heaven.

No one seems to get the notion that if there is a heaven, that means there is a God, which means God made heaven, but also holds fast that He created the earth.  Same guy. If you don’t like the idea of heaven, it certainly will taint your appreciation of earth and eventually turn you into a curmudgeon who growls at people instead of embracing them. If you happen to be greatly in favor of heaven, then you just might tend to develop a discontented attitude towards earth–and therefore earthlings–making you of little light to the earth around you, and certainly not a city on a hill for all to see.

My message to those delightful Lutherans was this: we really show that we believe in heaven by relishing, studying, absorbing and appreciating in great thankfulness–the earth.  We equally project our anticipation of what heaven will truly be by attempting to duplicate its glory in our earthly confines.

For instance, if I lived in a lovely house, went on a cruise ship, the boat sank and I ended up on a desert island, would it be better for me to sit around and pine in despair over my abandonment, or try to find the elements on that particular island of destination, attempting to duplicate the beauty of my original home and surroundings? Obviously, good mental health demands that I believe where I am is where I am going to be and therefore I decide to make it the best possible scenario within my power to create.

Unfortunately, we just don’t believe that. Some people believe the earth is miserable and someday we’ll go to a better place. Some people believe there is no better place and the earth is our final destination, so they end up making themselves feel miserable. The end result? Misery for both.

Here’s what I feel. I don’t think heaven is a better place. I think it is God’s rendition of what I’ve already begun on earth. Yes, I think that as a great Host, He is preparing a place for me that imitates in His lavishness what I have already created here with my limited resources.

So if we don’t love the earth, believe it’s the Lord’s and enjoy the fullness of it, we probably will try to procure heaven–but only once or twice a week when it crosses our minds. If we believe there is no heaven, we probably will attempt morality but give up in favor of our own choices and acquiesce to our greed.

I tried, this week, to turn Lutherans into Trutherans. I asked them to believe with me that Jesus was the bridge between earth and heaven. He was the son of man … and the son of God. And he came to give me the power to become the same.

So I never think about heaven without making a snapshot of that vision here on earth. And I try never to think about earth without believing in a heavenly Father who cares about everything here and now.

You know the beautiful thing? Those dynamic souls in rural North Carolina at that Lutheran church opened up their hearts and allowed the simplicity of this message to reside within them.  It was an amazing experience.

And so if Lutherans can become Trutherans, then … who knows?  Perhaps atheists could become “maybe-ists.”

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Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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