PJ

PJ

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning. Hot coffee. Random thoughts. You know the routine. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew (and if you have visited with me in the past, you know mine!) and join me for a few thoughts that I hope and pray will be a help to you in your faith journey with Jesus Christ.

1.  I recently attended the memorial service of a woman who had lost her mother. As her brother talked about his mom (and dad who had died several years earlier), it made me think of my parents. Jim and Peg Smith were married in December of 1942 (Margaret was my mom's given name ... I still don't get how Peg is so often a nickname for women whose given name is Margaret!). Mom was from Altoona, PA and my dad from Harrisburg. Fourteen years into their marriage is when my twin brother and I joined our family, making us a family of six (my oldest sister was twelve at the time, my other sister six). Now when my twin brother and I came along, my parents were only expecting one baby. My mother did not know
Jim on left; me on right (age 2)
until the doctor doing the delivery said to her after my brother was born, "Peggy, don't relax too much, another is on the way!" You talk about a stunning birth announcement! Six years later, our family was completed with the arrival of my little brother. 


My parents taught us many things, such as "Mind your manners!" and "Don't forget to change your underwear!" (Funny what I remember!). My mom never learned to drive. So after my dad taught my two sisters to drive, he told my twin brother and me that we would have to hire a driving instructor. Looking back on that, I don't blame him one bit. Teaching TWO teen aged boys to drive at once? Certainly not an easy task! My dad was a good provider, sometimes working multiple jobs to provide for us. And there was never a doubt in my mind that my mom loved me! 

My folks passed away a little over six weeks apart (Dad in middle August and Mom in early October in 2003). Neither wanted a large memorial service (they were private people). So mainly family gathered for a simple graveside service to say good-bye. I never felt as honored to officiate a graveside service than when I did so for both my parents. After saying "good-bye" to my mom, I recall standing in front of my mom's sister's and her husband's grave, reading their grave stone and reflecting on their lives (my parents were buried right next to my aunt and uncle). My cousin joined me and we talked for a moment about his parents and my parents and how they just loved being together. He then said something that really struck me. "John, with the passing of your mother do you realize that she was the last of her generation? We are now the oldest generation in the family!"  Wow! He was right (since sharing that insight with me some 13 years ago, my sister, Bev, has also passed away (December 2013). 

Forgive my rambling here ... but here's my point. Life is passing ever so quickly (James 4:13-14). None of us know how many more years we have to make a difference in this world. So what are YOU doing to leave a legacy behind that will honor God and advance his kingdom once you are gone? Time is short and the opportunities are great. Let's get intentional to live life for Christ and not waste our remaining days! 

2. At one point as I was typing this post, I paused and looked at some post-its that are hanging from the bottom of my computer's monitor. There is a note from my 3 year old granddaughter, June,
which she wrote for me when she was two (see adjacent photo). There is also a note from June's mother, my daughter Kate reminding me of her love for me (and the long term affectionate nickname she has for me ... which I choose not to reveal!). In addition, a prayer hangs in between these two love notes. It is a prayer I ran across in reading of one of John Piper's many devotional books (this one I highly recommend), Life as a Vapor. As I read his prayer ... I then went back and prayed his prayer. I would encourage you to do the same. Here it is: 


Thank you Lord, for the lives of flawed and faith-filled saints! Thank you for grace, amazing grace, that saves and uses sinners! Lord, don't let me limit your power by what I see in the mirror. 
Help me to trust you. Help me, as William Carey said, 
to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. 
I am not great. But you are great. 
Your power is made perfect in my weakness. 
I surrender all worldly claims on my life. 
Come. 
Make me useful for the glory of Christ. 
In his great name I pray. 
Amen. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Just yesterday at a pastors' breakfast I was attending, I got to talking with one pastor about coffee preferences. This individual brought his own. It was Starbucks or nothing as far as he was concerned. I then asked him if he had a Keurig at home. He did. So I proceeded to tell him about my love affair with San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser. The taste (and the price!) can't be beat! And it is Amazon's Choice! Enough of that. Go ahead and pour whatever your favorite brew might by and join me for a couple of random thoughts. 

1. In addition to talking with this pastor friend about different coffees, we also talked briefly about how pastoral ministry has changed since we both started pastoring some thirty plus years ago. We both agreed it has changed quite a bit! One reason for this change is due to the changes we are seeing in our culture, which is moving further away from many of the Christian values we hold. Back when I was finishing up my doctoral degree, I took a course on postmodernism (the prof was D. A. Carson and the primary text was his book, The Gagging of God). The course was very helpful in understanding both the threats and opportunities postmodernism brought about for the proclamation of the Gospel. That was back in 2001 when I took that class. Now, some 16 years later, we have seen the logical outcome of postmodernism in our society today. I am referring to what many are now calling, "post-truth." This so called "post-truth" has so impacted western society (especially in the political realm) that the Oxford Dictionary named it its "Word of the Year." 

Now just what is "post-truth?" The Oxford Dictionary defines it as "an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."  So given this reality ... what does this mean for proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? For starters, it means that we as Christ followers must firm up our grip on the truth of the Scriptures. It is only as we get this truth and then live it that we will be able to give it away! We cannot allow the view of truth held by our society to weaken our own view of truth. In addition, living in a "post-truth" world should also serve to remind us that we MUST seek to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit (and this has ALWAYS been the case). Only the Spirit of God can open up the eyes and minds of those who are blind to the truth. This leads me to ask, what are YOU doing to get to know God's Word better AND walking more in step with HIS Spirit? 

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you take some time to read Why Oxford Dictionary's Word of 2016 Matters by Ravi Zacharias. 

2. Also at yesterday's breakfast, I reconnected with a former college friend whom I had not seen since college days! Given that he graduated a year ahead of me ... doing the math ... we had not been together for some forty years. As soon as he shared his name during our time of self introductions, I was wondering ... "Could this be the Bill Bateman that I went to college with?" Sure enough, as soon as the words of the closing prayer echoed into silence, he and I made a bee line for one another ... and yep! He was the Bill Bateman of my past (I got to know Bill well as

Bill is on far right ... I am on far left.

we sang in the singing group Joy together - my sophomore year and his junior year - photo above). We had little time to talk after the breakfast so we parted with a pledge to get together soon. I was thrilled to see that he is actively engaged in pastoral ministry and look forward to hearing his story. 

All of us have stories, don't we. My story is not yours and yours is not mine. But our stories will often explain who we are. I fear that far too often we make judgments about people and what they do without knowing their stories. I believe one of the best things we can do to build relationships with the various people in our lives is to take the time to hear their stories! And as we listen (and I mean listen well) ... we may have opportunities to speak the truth of the Gospel into their lives (with grace, seasoned with salt, of course - Colossians 4:6). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me again for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. Pour yourself a cup of your favorite java brew (mine is San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser) and let's together thing about a few things!

1. I have been recently reading James Michener's massive novel, Alaska. Michener is known for his great story telling and his historical accuracy. I have been blown away reading about the history of our 49th state. From early migrations of people from Asia to the sale of Alaska to the US by Russia, to the gold rush of the later 1800's to the early 1900's to our present day ... people suffered great hardships in Alaska's harsh environment just to survive. I will NEVER complain about the cold around here again! Many people in Alaska put up with a winter that is ten months long with temperatures reaching 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit BELOW ZERO (air temps, not wind chills!). You see, life is often about perspective. And one perspective that is very beneficial to keep in mind is that "life" could always be worse (unless you are talking about how cold it is and you live in Alaska!). Even in the midst of life's hardships, there is always something for which we can be thankful. Matthew Henry, a pastor of yesteryear, demonstrated this perspective after being robbed. He said, "I am thankful that he never robbed me before. I am thankful that although he took my wallet, he did not take my life, and although he took all I had, it was not much. And, I am glad that it was I who was robbed, not I who did the robbing.” Wow! I don't know about you, but that is the perspective I want to cultivate. 

2. Next Tuesday is Valentine's Day. Did you ever wonder about the origin of this holiday? If you are into that sort of thing ... here's a brief video you might want to watch. 





One of the tools I have found very helpful in my love relationship with my wife are the Five Love Languages. An understanding of these will help you understand your own love language and also that of the one you love. We feel most loved when someone is expressing their love for us in our own love language. So ... if I really want my wife to know how much I love her ... I must seek to speak her love language (which, since hers is different from mine I sometimes find it to be a stretch)!  Here is another video I think you will enjoy which illustrates the five love languages: 



All this to say if you want to give that special person in your life a wonderful Valentine's gift ... learn his or her love language and speak your love for them in that language! 

3. Finally, a brief update on my wife's ongoing rehab following her knee revision surgery of January 9th. Sharon has been fighting more than the usual amount of pain and inflammation. It's just how her body responds to surgery. But in spite of this, she achieved a 90 degree bend on Wednesday during her PT session. This is great news because her surgeon told us in the pre-op appointment he wanted to see her at 90 degrees in 6 weeks or he would want to do a MUA (manipulation under anesthesia). Since that is what broke
Sharon's leg in November of 2015, there is no way we wanted to go down that path! AND considering she was stuck at 70 degrees following the fracture of her femur, we are very thankful! So we celebrated by stopping by MacDonald's on the way home from that session to order her a carmel frappe (small, no drizzel, no whipped cream --- gotta save calories somehow!). Please pray that she will continue to progress and that the pain, inflammation and swelling will continue to diminish. Thanks. Your prayers and support mean more than you know! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

My Friday morning routine: Open eyes. Crawl out of bed. Prep for the day by splashing water on my face, shaving, getting dressed, etc. Head to kitchen. Start Keurig. Wait for Keurig to brew coffee. Gulp down first swallow. Ahhh ... now ready to face what lies ahead!  

1. Are you ever guilty of taking someone or something "for granted?" If you are anything like me, you would have to answer (if you are going to answer honestly!) with a resounding "YES!" All of us far too often take the blessings we receive from the hand of God without much thought of saying "thank you, God!" Now if you are questioning this, let me ask you a few questions. Did you eat or drink anything today? Well, did you thank God for the ability to swallow? Some cannot do so. Obviously you are able to read (if you are currently reading this post) - so have you thanked God for the ability to see and to read (think about those who are blind and illiterate in our world). And when was the last time you thanked God for the gift of His Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8). All this to say we must always be intentional about cultivating a mind and heart of gratitude! Tough to do in this "entitlement" age in which we live. But just keep in mind, the ONLY thing we are entitled to from the hand of God is his eternal judgment! Yet, in his grace he gives us Christ (John 3:16) and everything else we enjoy in life (1 Timothy 6:17). How about  YOU? Have you ever received the free gift of eternal life in Christ? If you you have any questions about his, please click here. 

2. As our church undergoes a renovation of our sanctuary, I am reminded of the pattern of spiritual growth in Christlikeness we find throughout the pages of the New Testament: Put off the old - Put on the new. In the case of our sanctuary we are "putting off" the old carpets, pews, paint, platform lighting, sound system, ect., etc., etc. In their place we are "putting on" new carpets, paint, chairs, platform lighting, sound system, etc., etc., etc. And so it must be in our walk with Christ. We are to "put off" the works of darkness and
"put on" the armor of light (Romans 13:12). We are to "put off" the old self and "put on" the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24) - which means to "put off" falsehood and "put on" truth (Ephesians 4:25); "put off" stealing for selfish gain and "put on" an honest day's labor which enables one to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28); "put off" talk which is self-centered and "put on" talk that is others-centered (Ephesians 4:29); "put off" bitterness and malice and "put on" kindness and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:31-32). So ... given this emphasis of the New Testament, let me ask you --- what are YOU putting off ... and putting on in its place in order to become more like Jesus Christ? 

3. In last Friday's post, I mentioned my wife was going for her post-op appointment with her orthopedic surgeon. During the appointment her staples were removed (and I did NOT leave the room NOR lose consciousness!). After this task was finished, the surgeon entered the room, showed us the x-rays and explained exactly what he had done in the surgery (which, since it was a revision, was more extensive than the original total knee replacement surgery). He was optimistic about Sharon's future use of her knee. So Sharon has been working hard in her physical therapy sessions and at home. However the swelling in her knee has hindered her somewhat (in the words of the physical therapist there's still a lot of anger in there!"). So please pray that the swelling (and pain) and all of this "anger" would begin to dissipate. Now ... on the plus side, her leg is straighter than it's been since September 4, 2015 (date of original knee replacement). Thanks for all of you who are supporting her through your prayers, notes, meals, etc. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday has once again arrived. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite java and join me for a few random thoughts that I surely hope will be of help to you as you seek to walk with Jesus! 

1. Sin. Confession. Forgiveness. All extremely important. None get the press they really should receive! Let's face. All of us sin (Romans 3:23). We say mean things to others when angry. Our motives are often tainted with the desire to elevate ourselves. And who among us can say that we are ALWAYS loving God with all we have and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves (the two great commandments - Matthew 22:37-40). Just this week I read an excellent article that provides excellent insights into this often overlooked area. Reading Keeping Short Accounts is well worth the investment of your time!

2. This coming weekend, we are encouraging our church family at Grace to fast in order to spend some quality time in prayer. The working definition of fasting which we are using defines fasting at "the abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose.” Most often fasting involves abstinence from eating, but we are encouraging people to fast from media (unplugging in this digital world can be quite refreshing and will lead to having more time available to purse God. If you would like to learn more about this often ignored and little understood spiritual practice (which, by the way, Jesus assumes we will do as his followers!), you can listen to my Sunday message of last week. When was the last time you fasted in order to strengthen your walk with and your faith in God? 

3. Sharon goes for her post op appointment with her surgeon later this morning (during which she will get her staples out! - I think I will leave the room at that point!). She had her first outpatient physical therapy session on Wednesday. She came out of that in pain but encouraged. Both of these appointments are significant steps on her journey toward getting her knee/leg back into somewhat normal shape! Thanks for all your prayers and support. And please don't stop! We have a ways yet to go! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Fridays keep rolling around ... and my coffee cup keeps getting filled to the brim with various brews of coffee (none of which are flavored by the way ... I mean, I like coffee so why disguise the taste, eh!?). So pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee (and if you must drink a flavored brew ... just don't tell me!) and join me for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. 

1. Back on November 1st of 2015, my son Tim and his wife Kelly welcomed their third child and first boy into their family. Logan Ryan Smith had a smile on his face from the get go. And most times it's still there. Just last week our son was telling us about the reception he gets from Logan when he walks in the door after a day
Tim and little Logan
at the office. Logan squeals with delight and runs to him with arms outstretched that shout, "Pick me up, Daddy!" It is beyond obvious that Logan has been eager to see his dad return to the house. That, my friends, should picture how we as believers are waiting for the return of Christ. Consider Hebrews 9:28: Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Pastor, theologian, author (and one of my mentors from afar), John Piper, writes the following about this eagerness that we as followers of Christ should possess as we think about his return:



There is a phoney faith that wants only escape from hell, but has no desire for Christ. That kind of faith does not save. It does not produce an eager expectation for Christ to come. In fact, it would
rather that Christ not come for as long as possible, so that it can have as much of this world as possible. But the faith that really holds onto Christ as Savior and Lord and Treasure and hope and joy is the faith that makes us long for Christ to come. And that is the faith that saves. 

So take a long hard look at YOUR faith. Does it cause a desire deep in your soul that moves you to often pray, "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:2). 

2. My wife continues with her recovery from her January 9th revision surgery (see post from that date which details the extent of the surgery). The past week and half have not been easy as the pain level with the revision has proven much greater than with the initial knee replacement. Throw in a minor speed bump with the pain meds she's been using and she's been dealing with some periods of intense pain. On the positive side, she has obtained almost 15 degrees more in her bend post op as compared to pre op! That in spite of the massive swelling around the knee. Sharon has had three visits from a physical therapist with another scheduled for tomorrow. She begins her outpatient therapy next Wednesday, with the post op appointment with the surgeon next Friday (for removal of staples, x-rays and evaluation). Thanks so much for all of you who have prayed ... and please don't stop! Both Sharon and I appreciate your prayers more than you know. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ!

1. Thanks for your ongoing prayers for my wife on her journey toward healing with her Monday re-do of her original knee replacement. So far so good. We are hopeful that the journey which began on September 4, 2015 will be over at some points within the next few months. So thankful for God's faithful care throughout and the support of family and dear friends. Thanks to all of you who have prayed and continue to pray. 

2. One of my favorite Proverb in the Old Testament book of Proverbs reads, "When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent" (Proverbs 10:19). This is a verse that so many people I know (including the guy in my mirror!) could stand to put into practice. All too often when we don't like something about someone or something we will often let someone else know about it. This certainly is not the way to encourage others to fight off the temptation of sin (Hebrews 3:13). Nor is it profitable in stirring others up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23). So instead of running at the mouth (as so many of us are prone to do), let's think about what we are going to say and to whom we are going to say it. Together let's purpose on spreading joy and good will vs. anger and discontentment. Does God call us to be a disgruntled people (Philippians 2:14-16)? Or is his will for us to be joyful in all circumstances (Philippians 4:4)? The answer is obvious! 

3. One of the MAJOR weaknesses of the Church today is that so many Christians do not take sin seriously . . . or if they do, not nearly seriously enough (and I include myself in this evaluation). Just pause right now and take a look at the world around you. What do you see? Wars. Poverty. Murders. Addictions. Crime. Greed. Pride. Jealousy. Discontentment. Sexual immorality. Lies. Gossip. Prejudice. Disrespect for authority. Hatred. Slander. Lack of self control. The disintegration of the family unit. And on and on and on it goes. All these are manifestations of sin. And the Bible is clear. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And this is a wage we have all earned because all of us are sinners (Romans 3:23). So sin not only wrecks havoc in this life . . . but leads to eternal judgment in the next. So if sin is such a nasty thing .... WHY do we continue to play with it? Let's heed the counsel God through the Apostle Paul gave to Timothy (and by extension to us!) and "run from all these evil things and pursue righteousness and a godly life" (1 Timothy 6:11). And for those who are unsure of their eternal destiny due to their own sin and rebellion against God .... please take a moment to check out, Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As Dorothy Said, "There's No Place Like Home!"

Sharon got the green light to come home this afternoon. So just after 5:00 we walked through our front door (Sharon using her walker, of course!). She had two PT sessions which left her physically drained (and in pain!) but encouraged. We realize she has a long path to walk on her road to recovery. She will have in home physical therapy until she goes for her post op appointment on the 27th. Then she will begin her outpatient therapy. Please pray that the healing that has begun will continue and the outcome her surgeon envisions for her will be realized. Having gone down this path before, we both realize it will be no picnic. But with God's help and the prayers and support of so many, we know that she can do this again. Thanks for your prayers!!!

And thanks for stopping by . . .
Pj

Monday, January 9, 2017

Post Surgery Update

Out with the old .... in with the new and then some! That pretty much sums up my wife's surgery this morning. The surgeon removed the knee prosthesis that was implanted during her original knee replacement of September 4, 2015 and replaced it with another one. He also inserted a rod in her femur for stability and and another smaller rod below the knee as well. In addition he removed the hardware used to repair her broken femur of November, 2015. Finally, he excised a lot of scar tissue from the original surgery and polished her knee cap (and removed the remaining cartilage - gluing a plastic "button" in its place). He was very optimistic that she will be able to "do well" once she recovers from surgery and gets through her physical therapy. She is resting comfortably now (the nerve block is good for about 12-18 hours), I anticipate a Wednesday discharge.

Thanks for your prayers and thanks for stopping by . . .
Pj

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday ... so pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a few (and I hope) helpful thoughts as you walk through this world with Jesus Christ! 

1. Here we are already six days into the year 2017! Wow! Indeed our days are like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). So given just how fleeting life is, how should we then live? For starters, don't waste your life! How many of us waste precious minutes in trivial pursuits (television, internet browsing, social media, video games, shopping at the mall, etc. - and if I stepped on your toes here, know that mine our hurting, too!). All of us should take stock in how we spend our "free" time and ask ourselves if we could be making better use of it (Ephesians 5:15). Time once spent is gone forever! In addition, we need to remind ourselves that this fleeting existence on earth is but a preface to the GRAND EVENT - ETERNITY! Keeping this in mind will help us make the kind of choices with how we spend our time in ways that matter - for this life and the life to come! The Apostle Paul urged the church in Ephesus to be "making the best use because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). Even though Paul wrote those words almost 2000 years ago, they hold true today. One quick look around is all you need to know that these days in which we live are indeed evil! So let's be sure to make the best use of our time ... seeking to honor God in all that we say and do! 

2. In last Friday's post, I mentioned that this time of year in which we close the books on 2016 and open new ones for 2017, is a good time of year to do some "soul searching." This is an activity, by the way, that the Bible encourages. For example, the Apostle Paul in writing to Timothy, urges his young mentee to "keep a close watch"



on himself and his teaching" (1 Timothy 4:16). To help you do so, I recommend the use of Don Whitney's Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year. And if you are really brave, you might want to ask someone who knows you well for input. Remember, blind spots are labeled such because they are very hard to spot in ourselves!

3. Update on my wife: Sharon's journey continues with another surgery this coming Monday. The journey began on September 4, 2015 with a total replacement of her left knee. It continued with a manipulation of that knee while under anesthesia on November 10th of the same year. During this procedure, her femur broke. She underwent surgery to repair the fracture the next week. The fracture took a long time to heal (orthopedic surgeon pronounced it healed in August). However, due to long weeks of being unable to put weight on the leg (or go for physical therapy on her knee), she is now in need of a revision of her original knee replacement. This will be done on Monday (along with the removal of the plate and screws used to repair her broken femur, etc.). So all that said, we covet your prayers as we begin yet another chapter. We find much comfort in your concern and prayers. But we find our greatest comfort in our God, knowing he is sovereign and he has a plan for us all! To him be the glory! 
4. As I close, I borrow words from the Apostle John which he shared with the readers of his third letter, "I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul." 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning. Hot coffee. Random thoughts. You know the routine. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew (and if you have visited with me in the past, you know mine!) and join me for a few thoughts that I hope and pray will be a help to you in your faith journey with Jesus Christ.

1.  I recently attended the memorial service of a woman who had lost her mother. As her brother talked about his mom (and dad who had died several years earlier), it made me think of my parents. Jim and Peg Smith were married in December of 1942 (Margaret was my mom's given name ... I still don't get how Peg is so often a nickname for women whose given name is Margaret!). Mom was from Altoona, PA and my dad from Harrisburg. Fourteen years into their marriage is when my twin brother and I joined our family, making us a family of six (my oldest sister was twelve at the time, my other sister six). Now when my twin brother and I came along, my parents were only expecting one baby. My mother did not know
Jim on left; me on right (age 2)
until the doctor doing the delivery said to her after my brother was born, "Peggy, don't relax too much, another is on the way!" You talk about a stunning birth announcement! Six years later, our family was completed with the arrival of my little brother. 


My parents taught us many things, such as "Mind your manners!" and "Don't forget to change your underwear!" (Funny what I remember!). My mom never learned to drive. So after my dad taught my two sisters to drive, he told my twin brother and me that we would have to hire a driving instructor. Looking back on that, I don't blame him one bit. Teaching TWO teen aged boys to drive at once? Certainly not an easy task! My dad was a good provider, sometimes working multiple jobs to provide for us. And there was never a doubt in my mind that my mom loved me! 

My folks passed away a little over six weeks apart (Dad in middle August and Mom in early October in 2003). Neither wanted a large memorial service (they were private people). So mainly family gathered for a simple graveside service to say good-bye. I never felt as honored to officiate a graveside service than when I did so for both my parents. After saying "good-bye" to my mom, I recall standing in front of my mom's sister's and her husband's grave, reading their grave stone and reflecting on their lives (my parents were buried right next to my aunt and uncle). My cousin joined me and we talked for a moment about his parents and my parents and how they just loved being together. He then said something that really struck me. "John, with the passing of your mother do you realize that she was the last of her generation? We are now the oldest generation in the family!"  Wow! He was right (since sharing that insight with me some 13 years ago, my sister, Bev, has also passed away (December 2013). 

Forgive my rambling here ... but here's my point. Life is passing ever so quickly (James 4:13-14). None of us know how many more years we have to make a difference in this world. So what are YOU doing to leave a legacy behind that will honor God and advance his kingdom once you are gone? Time is short and the opportunities are great. Let's get intentional to live life for Christ and not waste our remaining days! 

2. At one point as I was typing this post, I paused and looked at some post-its that are hanging from the bottom of my computer's monitor. There is a note from my 3 year old granddaughter, June,
which she wrote for me when she was two (see adjacent photo). There is also a note from June's mother, my daughter Kate reminding me of her love for me (and the long term affectionate nickname she has for me ... which I choose not to reveal!). In addition, a prayer hangs in between these two love notes. It is a prayer I ran across in reading of one of John Piper's many devotional books (this one I highly recommend), Life as a Vapor. As I read his prayer ... I then went back and prayed his prayer. I would encourage you to do the same. Here it is: 


Thank you Lord, for the lives of flawed and faith-filled saints! Thank you for grace, amazing grace, that saves and uses sinners! Lord, don't let me limit your power by what I see in the mirror. 
Help me to trust you. Help me, as William Carey said, 
to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. 
I am not great. But you are great. 
Your power is made perfect in my weakness. 
I surrender all worldly claims on my life. 
Come. 
Make me useful for the glory of Christ. 
In his great name I pray. 
Amen. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Just yesterday at a pastors' breakfast I was attending, I got to talking with one pastor about coffee preferences. This individual brought his own. It was Starbucks or nothing as far as he was concerned. I then asked him if he had a Keurig at home. He did. So I proceeded to tell him about my love affair with San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser. The taste (and the price!) can't be beat! And it is Amazon's Choice! Enough of that. Go ahead and pour whatever your favorite brew might by and join me for a couple of random thoughts. 

1. In addition to talking with this pastor friend about different coffees, we also talked briefly about how pastoral ministry has changed since we both started pastoring some thirty plus years ago. We both agreed it has changed quite a bit! One reason for this change is due to the changes we are seeing in our culture, which is moving further away from many of the Christian values we hold. Back when I was finishing up my doctoral degree, I took a course on postmodernism (the prof was D. A. Carson and the primary text was his book, The Gagging of God). The course was very helpful in understanding both the threats and opportunities postmodernism brought about for the proclamation of the Gospel. That was back in 2001 when I took that class. Now, some 16 years later, we have seen the logical outcome of postmodernism in our society today. I am referring to what many are now calling, "post-truth." This so called "post-truth" has so impacted western society (especially in the political realm) that the Oxford Dictionary named it its "Word of the Year." 

Now just what is "post-truth?" The Oxford Dictionary defines it as "an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."  So given this reality ... what does this mean for proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? For starters, it means that we as Christ followers must firm up our grip on the truth of the Scriptures. It is only as we get this truth and then live it that we will be able to give it away! We cannot allow the view of truth held by our society to weaken our own view of truth. In addition, living in a "post-truth" world should also serve to remind us that we MUST seek to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit (and this has ALWAYS been the case). Only the Spirit of God can open up the eyes and minds of those who are blind to the truth. This leads me to ask, what are YOU doing to get to know God's Word better AND walking more in step with HIS Spirit? 

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you take some time to read Why Oxford Dictionary's Word of 2016 Matters by Ravi Zacharias. 

2. Also at yesterday's breakfast, I reconnected with a former college friend whom I had not seen since college days! Given that he graduated a year ahead of me ... doing the math ... we had not been together for some forty years. As soon as he shared his name during our time of self introductions, I was wondering ... "Could this be the Bill Bateman that I went to college with?" Sure enough, as soon as the words of the closing prayer echoed into silence, he and I made a bee line for one another ... and yep! He was the Bill Bateman of my past (I got to know Bill well as

Bill is on far right ... I am on far left.

we sang in the singing group Joy together - my sophomore year and his junior year - photo above). We had little time to talk after the breakfast so we parted with a pledge to get together soon. I was thrilled to see that he is actively engaged in pastoral ministry and look forward to hearing his story. 

All of us have stories, don't we. My story is not yours and yours is not mine. But our stories will often explain who we are. I fear that far too often we make judgments about people and what they do without knowing their stories. I believe one of the best things we can do to build relationships with the various people in our lives is to take the time to hear their stories! And as we listen (and I mean listen well) ... we may have opportunities to speak the truth of the Gospel into their lives (with grace, seasoned with salt, of course - Colossians 4:6). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me again for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. Pour yourself a cup of your favorite java brew (mine is San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser) and let's together thing about a few things!

1. I have been recently reading James Michener's massive novel, Alaska. Michener is known for his great story telling and his historical accuracy. I have been blown away reading about the history of our 49th state. From early migrations of people from Asia to the sale of Alaska to the US by Russia, to the gold rush of the later 1800's to the early 1900's to our present day ... people suffered great hardships in Alaska's harsh environment just to survive. I will NEVER complain about the cold around here again! Many people in Alaska put up with a winter that is ten months long with temperatures reaching 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit BELOW ZERO (air temps, not wind chills!). You see, life is often about perspective. And one perspective that is very beneficial to keep in mind is that "life" could always be worse (unless you are talking about how cold it is and you live in Alaska!). Even in the midst of life's hardships, there is always something for which we can be thankful. Matthew Henry, a pastor of yesteryear, demonstrated this perspective after being robbed. He said, "I am thankful that he never robbed me before. I am thankful that although he took my wallet, he did not take my life, and although he took all I had, it was not much. And, I am glad that it was I who was robbed, not I who did the robbing.” Wow! I don't know about you, but that is the perspective I want to cultivate. 

2. Next Tuesday is Valentine's Day. Did you ever wonder about the origin of this holiday? If you are into that sort of thing ... here's a brief video you might want to watch. 





One of the tools I have found very helpful in my love relationship with my wife are the Five Love Languages. An understanding of these will help you understand your own love language and also that of the one you love. We feel most loved when someone is expressing their love for us in our own love language. So ... if I really want my wife to know how much I love her ... I must seek to speak her love language (which, since hers is different from mine I sometimes find it to be a stretch)!  Here is another video I think you will enjoy which illustrates the five love languages: 



All this to say if you want to give that special person in your life a wonderful Valentine's gift ... learn his or her love language and speak your love for them in that language! 

3. Finally, a brief update on my wife's ongoing rehab following her knee revision surgery of January 9th. Sharon has been fighting more than the usual amount of pain and inflammation. It's just how her body responds to surgery. But in spite of this, she achieved a 90 degree bend on Wednesday during her PT session. This is great news because her surgeon told us in the pre-op appointment he wanted to see her at 90 degrees in 6 weeks or he would want to do a MUA (manipulation under anesthesia). Since that is what broke
Sharon's leg in November of 2015, there is no way we wanted to go down that path! AND considering she was stuck at 70 degrees following the fracture of her femur, we are very thankful! So we celebrated by stopping by MacDonald's on the way home from that session to order her a carmel frappe (small, no drizzel, no whipped cream --- gotta save calories somehow!). Please pray that she will continue to progress and that the pain, inflammation and swelling will continue to diminish. Thanks. Your prayers and support mean more than you know! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

My Friday morning routine: Open eyes. Crawl out of bed. Prep for the day by splashing water on my face, shaving, getting dressed, etc. Head to kitchen. Start Keurig. Wait for Keurig to brew coffee. Gulp down first swallow. Ahhh ... now ready to face what lies ahead!  

1. Are you ever guilty of taking someone or something "for granted?" If you are anything like me, you would have to answer (if you are going to answer honestly!) with a resounding "YES!" All of us far too often take the blessings we receive from the hand of God without much thought of saying "thank you, God!" Now if you are questioning this, let me ask you a few questions. Did you eat or drink anything today? Well, did you thank God for the ability to swallow? Some cannot do so. Obviously you are able to read (if you are currently reading this post) - so have you thanked God for the ability to see and to read (think about those who are blind and illiterate in our world). And when was the last time you thanked God for the gift of His Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8). All this to say we must always be intentional about cultivating a mind and heart of gratitude! Tough to do in this "entitlement" age in which we live. But just keep in mind, the ONLY thing we are entitled to from the hand of God is his eternal judgment! Yet, in his grace he gives us Christ (John 3:16) and everything else we enjoy in life (1 Timothy 6:17). How about  YOU? Have you ever received the free gift of eternal life in Christ? If you you have any questions about his, please click here. 

2. As our church undergoes a renovation of our sanctuary, I am reminded of the pattern of spiritual growth in Christlikeness we find throughout the pages of the New Testament: Put off the old - Put on the new. In the case of our sanctuary we are "putting off" the old carpets, pews, paint, platform lighting, sound system, ect., etc., etc. In their place we are "putting on" new carpets, paint, chairs, platform lighting, sound system, etc., etc., etc. And so it must be in our walk with Christ. We are to "put off" the works of darkness and
"put on" the armor of light (Romans 13:12). We are to "put off" the old self and "put on" the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24) - which means to "put off" falsehood and "put on" truth (Ephesians 4:25); "put off" stealing for selfish gain and "put on" an honest day's labor which enables one to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28); "put off" talk which is self-centered and "put on" talk that is others-centered (Ephesians 4:29); "put off" bitterness and malice and "put on" kindness and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:31-32). So ... given this emphasis of the New Testament, let me ask you --- what are YOU putting off ... and putting on in its place in order to become more like Jesus Christ? 

3. In last Friday's post, I mentioned my wife was going for her post-op appointment with her orthopedic surgeon. During the appointment her staples were removed (and I did NOT leave the room NOR lose consciousness!). After this task was finished, the surgeon entered the room, showed us the x-rays and explained exactly what he had done in the surgery (which, since it was a revision, was more extensive than the original total knee replacement surgery). He was optimistic about Sharon's future use of her knee. So Sharon has been working hard in her physical therapy sessions and at home. However the swelling in her knee has hindered her somewhat (in the words of the physical therapist there's still a lot of anger in there!"). So please pray that the swelling (and pain) and all of this "anger" would begin to dissipate. Now ... on the plus side, her leg is straighter than it's been since September 4, 2015 (date of original knee replacement). Thanks for all of you who are supporting her through your prayers, notes, meals, etc. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday has once again arrived. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite java and join me for a few random thoughts that I surely hope will be of help to you as you seek to walk with Jesus! 

1. Sin. Confession. Forgiveness. All extremely important. None get the press they really should receive! Let's face. All of us sin (Romans 3:23). We say mean things to others when angry. Our motives are often tainted with the desire to elevate ourselves. And who among us can say that we are ALWAYS loving God with all we have and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves (the two great commandments - Matthew 22:37-40). Just this week I read an excellent article that provides excellent insights into this often overlooked area. Reading Keeping Short Accounts is well worth the investment of your time!

2. This coming weekend, we are encouraging our church family at Grace to fast in order to spend some quality time in prayer. The working definition of fasting which we are using defines fasting at "the abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose.” Most often fasting involves abstinence from eating, but we are encouraging people to fast from media (unplugging in this digital world can be quite refreshing and will lead to having more time available to purse God. If you would like to learn more about this often ignored and little understood spiritual practice (which, by the way, Jesus assumes we will do as his followers!), you can listen to my Sunday message of last week. When was the last time you fasted in order to strengthen your walk with and your faith in God? 

3. Sharon goes for her post op appointment with her surgeon later this morning (during which she will get her staples out! - I think I will leave the room at that point!). She had her first outpatient physical therapy session on Wednesday. She came out of that in pain but encouraged. Both of these appointments are significant steps on her journey toward getting her knee/leg back into somewhat normal shape! Thanks for all your prayers and support. And please don't stop! We have a ways yet to go! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Fridays keep rolling around ... and my coffee cup keeps getting filled to the brim with various brews of coffee (none of which are flavored by the way ... I mean, I like coffee so why disguise the taste, eh!?). So pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee (and if you must drink a flavored brew ... just don't tell me!) and join me for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. 

1. Back on November 1st of 2015, my son Tim and his wife Kelly welcomed their third child and first boy into their family. Logan Ryan Smith had a smile on his face from the get go. And most times it's still there. Just last week our son was telling us about the reception he gets from Logan when he walks in the door after a day
Tim and little Logan
at the office. Logan squeals with delight and runs to him with arms outstretched that shout, "Pick me up, Daddy!" It is beyond obvious that Logan has been eager to see his dad return to the house. That, my friends, should picture how we as believers are waiting for the return of Christ. Consider Hebrews 9:28: Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Pastor, theologian, author (and one of my mentors from afar), John Piper, writes the following about this eagerness that we as followers of Christ should possess as we think about his return:



There is a phoney faith that wants only escape from hell, but has no desire for Christ. That kind of faith does not save. It does not produce an eager expectation for Christ to come. In fact, it would
rather that Christ not come for as long as possible, so that it can have as much of this world as possible. But the faith that really holds onto Christ as Savior and Lord and Treasure and hope and joy is the faith that makes us long for Christ to come. And that is the faith that saves. 

So take a long hard look at YOUR faith. Does it cause a desire deep in your soul that moves you to often pray, "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:2). 

2. My wife continues with her recovery from her January 9th revision surgery (see post from that date which details the extent of the surgery). The past week and half have not been easy as the pain level with the revision has proven much greater than with the initial knee replacement. Throw in a minor speed bump with the pain meds she's been using and she's been dealing with some periods of intense pain. On the positive side, she has obtained almost 15 degrees more in her bend post op as compared to pre op! That in spite of the massive swelling around the knee. Sharon has had three visits from a physical therapist with another scheduled for tomorrow. She begins her outpatient therapy next Wednesday, with the post op appointment with the surgeon next Friday (for removal of staples, x-rays and evaluation). Thanks so much for all of you who have prayed ... and please don't stop! Both Sharon and I appreciate your prayers more than you know. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ!

1. Thanks for your ongoing prayers for my wife on her journey toward healing with her Monday re-do of her original knee replacement. So far so good. We are hopeful that the journey which began on September 4, 2015 will be over at some points within the next few months. So thankful for God's faithful care throughout and the support of family and dear friends. Thanks to all of you who have prayed and continue to pray. 

2. One of my favorite Proverb in the Old Testament book of Proverbs reads, "When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent" (Proverbs 10:19). This is a verse that so many people I know (including the guy in my mirror!) could stand to put into practice. All too often when we don't like something about someone or something we will often let someone else know about it. This certainly is not the way to encourage others to fight off the temptation of sin (Hebrews 3:13). Nor is it profitable in stirring others up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23). So instead of running at the mouth (as so many of us are prone to do), let's think about what we are going to say and to whom we are going to say it. Together let's purpose on spreading joy and good will vs. anger and discontentment. Does God call us to be a disgruntled people (Philippians 2:14-16)? Or is his will for us to be joyful in all circumstances (Philippians 4:4)? The answer is obvious! 

3. One of the MAJOR weaknesses of the Church today is that so many Christians do not take sin seriously . . . or if they do, not nearly seriously enough (and I include myself in this evaluation). Just pause right now and take a look at the world around you. What do you see? Wars. Poverty. Murders. Addictions. Crime. Greed. Pride. Jealousy. Discontentment. Sexual immorality. Lies. Gossip. Prejudice. Disrespect for authority. Hatred. Slander. Lack of self control. The disintegration of the family unit. And on and on and on it goes. All these are manifestations of sin. And the Bible is clear. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And this is a wage we have all earned because all of us are sinners (Romans 3:23). So sin not only wrecks havoc in this life . . . but leads to eternal judgment in the next. So if sin is such a nasty thing .... WHY do we continue to play with it? Let's heed the counsel God through the Apostle Paul gave to Timothy (and by extension to us!) and "run from all these evil things and pursue righteousness and a godly life" (1 Timothy 6:11). And for those who are unsure of their eternal destiny due to their own sin and rebellion against God .... please take a moment to check out, Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As Dorothy Said, "There's No Place Like Home!"

Sharon got the green light to come home this afternoon. So just after 5:00 we walked through our front door (Sharon using her walker, of course!). She had two PT sessions which left her physically drained (and in pain!) but encouraged. We realize she has a long path to walk on her road to recovery. She will have in home physical therapy until she goes for her post op appointment on the 27th. Then she will begin her outpatient therapy. Please pray that the healing that has begun will continue and the outcome her surgeon envisions for her will be realized. Having gone down this path before, we both realize it will be no picnic. But with God's help and the prayers and support of so many, we know that she can do this again. Thanks for your prayers!!!

And thanks for stopping by . . .
Pj

Monday, January 9, 2017

Post Surgery Update

Out with the old .... in with the new and then some! That pretty much sums up my wife's surgery this morning. The surgeon removed the knee prosthesis that was implanted during her original knee replacement of September 4, 2015 and replaced it with another one. He also inserted a rod in her femur for stability and and another smaller rod below the knee as well. In addition he removed the hardware used to repair her broken femur of November, 2015. Finally, he excised a lot of scar tissue from the original surgery and polished her knee cap (and removed the remaining cartilage - gluing a plastic "button" in its place). He was very optimistic that she will be able to "do well" once she recovers from surgery and gets through her physical therapy. She is resting comfortably now (the nerve block is good for about 12-18 hours), I anticipate a Wednesday discharge.

Thanks for your prayers and thanks for stopping by . . .
Pj

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday ... so pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a few (and I hope) helpful thoughts as you walk through this world with Jesus Christ! 

1. Here we are already six days into the year 2017! Wow! Indeed our days are like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). So given just how fleeting life is, how should we then live? For starters, don't waste your life! How many of us waste precious minutes in trivial pursuits (television, internet browsing, social media, video games, shopping at the mall, etc. - and if I stepped on your toes here, know that mine our hurting, too!). All of us should take stock in how we spend our "free" time and ask ourselves if we could be making better use of it (Ephesians 5:15). Time once spent is gone forever! In addition, we need to remind ourselves that this fleeting existence on earth is but a preface to the GRAND EVENT - ETERNITY! Keeping this in mind will help us make the kind of choices with how we spend our time in ways that matter - for this life and the life to come! The Apostle Paul urged the church in Ephesus to be "making the best use because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). Even though Paul wrote those words almost 2000 years ago, they hold true today. One quick look around is all you need to know that these days in which we live are indeed evil! So let's be sure to make the best use of our time ... seeking to honor God in all that we say and do! 

2. In last Friday's post, I mentioned that this time of year in which we close the books on 2016 and open new ones for 2017, is a good time of year to do some "soul searching." This is an activity, by the way, that the Bible encourages. For example, the Apostle Paul in writing to Timothy, urges his young mentee to "keep a close watch"



on himself and his teaching" (1 Timothy 4:16). To help you do so, I recommend the use of Don Whitney's Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year. And if you are really brave, you might want to ask someone who knows you well for input. Remember, blind spots are labeled such because they are very hard to spot in ourselves!

3. Update on my wife: Sharon's journey continues with another surgery this coming Monday. The journey began on September 4, 2015 with a total replacement of her left knee. It continued with a manipulation of that knee while under anesthesia on November 10th of the same year. During this procedure, her femur broke. She underwent surgery to repair the fracture the next week. The fracture took a long time to heal (orthopedic surgeon pronounced it healed in August). However, due to long weeks of being unable to put weight on the leg (or go for physical therapy on her knee), she is now in need of a revision of her original knee replacement. This will be done on Monday (along with the removal of the plate and screws used to repair her broken femur, etc.). So all that said, we covet your prayers as we begin yet another chapter. We find much comfort in your concern and prayers. But we find our greatest comfort in our God, knowing he is sovereign and he has a plan for us all! To him be the glory! 
4. As I close, I borrow words from the Apostle John which he shared with the readers of his third letter, "I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul." 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Are You Preparing for Eternity?

Our journey on earth is but a breath ... a heart beat when compared to the expanse of Eternity. We all must remember that how we live live in the here and now will impact our experience in the then and there.

PJ's Spiritual Meanderings

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.