PJ

PJ

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Practice of Church Hopping

Church Hopping. As you read those words, you probably know what I am talking about. Recently church hopping was the topic of a newspaper syndicated columnist. Before that, the Fox animated TV series, The King of the Hill, aired an episode titled, "Church Hopping." Many people have church hopped. It is an all-too-common practice.

Now as a pastor, you probably think that I am not too fond of this practice. And if you think that, you are right. Is there a time and place for church hopping? Yes, I think so ... but to make it OK I would add the letter "s" in front of the word "hopping." So when church hopping is in reality church shopping - then there is a place for it. People need to find the spiritual community in which they believe they fit. A place where they can serve Jesus as they grow in their faith. And as I tell people, you should not judge a church family on just one visit (churches like people have their share of "bad" days!). But once people find their fit - then I believe they need to connect and settle in! However, far too often in our consumer driven culture - people get up and leave a church when their needs are "no longer being met" or when something happens that they don't like or agree with. And often they disappear with no contact with the pastor or other leaders.

No one can accuse me of church hopping (or church shopping!). I have been at Grace for 18 years (as of TOMORROW!). Have I always been pleased with what has transpired here? Have difficult moments caused me to "throw in the towel" and go looking for another church? Obviously the answer to both of those questions is "No!" When difficulties arise - families sit down and work through them. Family members don't (or at least should not) get up and leave the family. Is Grace the perfect church? No. Never has been nor never will be! But that is OK. For me - it's my family. And that means - no church hopping (or shopping) for me!

Thanks for listening,

pj


Thursday, August 30, 2007

One Very Reliable Long Range Forecast

Hitting the newsstands this week is the new edition of the Farmer's Almanac. For over 190 years, readers of the almanac have relied upon its long range weather forecasts which the almanac claims is between 80-85% accurate. In fact, editor Peter Geiger states that the almanac has often been called "a bride's best friend" as people depend on the almanac's forecast in the planning of such things as outdoor weddings. I really hope the almanac is wrong about this upcoming winter's forecast. According to the almanac, those of us who live in the Northeast will experience "plenty of snow across the Northeast and temperatures averaging as much as 3 degrees below normal." For someone who would like to see winter end the day after Christmas, this forecast has absolutely no appeal!

A lot of people scoff at the almanac (and I admit to being one of them!). There are also a lot of people that scoff at the promised return of Jesus (and I admit I am NOT one of them!). Now most people might not openly scoff at the idea of Jesus Christ returning - but few really believe it. And even among Christ followers, the return of Christ does not get the attention it should! But it is a "long range forecast" that will prove to be 100% accurate. It may occur today - it may occur 50 years from now - but it WILL one day happen! Jesus himself said, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3). Are YOU ready for his return???
Thanks for listening,
pj

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Main Thing Is Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Yesterday I referenced the "main thing" relative to Christ's Church. So just what is "The Main Thing?" Before I identify what I see as "The Main Thing" (TMT), let me ask you a question. With football season looming, what chance would you give an NFL team to win the Super Bowl if I told you they spent 1 hour a day on the football practice field and 5 hours a day on the golf course? Hmm. Perhaps zero or none? For a football team to excel, they must keep the main thing the main thing -- and for a football team the main thing is FOOTBALL!

So what is TMT for the Church? Is it evangelism? Is it missions? Is it Bible teaching? Perhaps carry-in dinners? Although all of these are important (some far more than others!), none of these things in and of themselves are TMT. Jesus himself gives us TMT and it is this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). According to Jesus, this is "the great and foremost commandment" (Matthew 22:38). You see, if we truly love God then we will be anxious to talk to others about Him. We will want others (even in the farthest reaches of our world) to know him. We will love to be in His Word (as it is in His Word that He is so clearly revealed to us) and yes, we will love to spend time with others who also love Him (the food at a carry-in is just "icing on the cake!").

So ... TMT is to love God with all we are and have. When the Church of Jesus Christ does this - even the gates of hell will be powerless to stop the Church's advance!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Prediction that You Can Count on!

A new month's coming! In just four days, September will arrive - and with it comes my favorite sport, football! Now I know some of you are thinking, "Football coming in September? Hey, John - it's already here!" But not so. The NFL has been playing their PREseason (did you catch that? It is PREseason football!). The real season begins in September. During this preseason, I have found it interesting to hear all the predictions being made. If they were all to come true, we would have 32 Super Bowl champions this upcoming season! Every team thinks it is their year to win it all. And so they go on record with their bold predictions of gridiron success. Of course, only one team will prevail. So much for predictions!

But there is one prediction that you can count on. It has nothing to do with football. And unlike all these predictions being made, you won't find it being hyped on ESPN or the local sports page. The prediction I am referring to is the following prediction that the Lord Jesus Christ made concerning his church: "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18). Note that Jesus does not say, "I MIGHT build my church." He states clearly his intention to build his church. And not even the power of hell will be able to withstand the advance of His Church!

So if the Church flounders, it is not due to a failure on Jesus' part. (In another text (see Matthew 28:18-20) he states that "All authoring in heaven and in earth has been given to me.") No. Any failure of the Church of Jesus Christ to advance against the Kingdom of Darkness can be laid at OUR feet. All too often we (the church) are so busy doing our own thing - that we lose sight of the MAIN THING (more tomorrow on "the main thing")! My prayer for my church and the Church world-wide is that we would stay on MISSION - keeping the MAIN THING the MAIN THING! As we do, Jesus WILL build his Church. That's a prediction you can count on!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Good Times in Indiana!

Last Friday and Saturday, I spent about 6 1/2 hours walking a group of students (most around the ages of 19-20) through the Bible. The students are a part of a one year training experience which emphasizes training in both ministry and the Word. The program, which is sponsored by CE National (one of the cooperating organizations of the Grace Brethren Fellowship) carries the label "The 4:12 Commission." This name comes from 1 Timothy 4:12. In this verse, the apostle Paul writes the following to a much younger Timothy, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

This was the third August I have taught a Bible orientation to the 4:12 students. I have always been glad .... no, thrilled to do so! Why? For this very simple reason. The Bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God (see Hebrews 11:6). And elsewhere we are told that we as God's people are to be characterized by a walk of faith (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith is a vital component in the Christian life. Without it we can neither please God nor live life (at least as God intended us to live it!). So from where do we get our faith? What is the source of faith? In Romans 10, Paul gives us the answer. He says that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). As we interact with God's Word, His Spirit takes that word and grows our faith. So the better we know God's Word the stronger our faith will be. Now please keep in mind that when I talk about knowing God's Word - I am also talking about obeying God's Word. Knowing and obeying the Word of God are inseparably joined together in the Bible. Jesus in his "Great Commission" tells the church to make disciples "teaching them TO OBEY everything that I have commanded you." So at the end of the day, as we grow in our Bible knowledge that impacts how we live out our days, the stronger and deeper our faith in God will grow. That's why I love to teach the Word of God to the people of God! And that's why I spent last weekend in Indiana.
Thanks for listening,
pj

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Flying Safe and Secure

This weekend, I was reminded once again that air travel ain't what it used to be. Gone are the short lines and the empty seats. In their place are increased security checkpoints and packed planes. And I won't even go down the path of flights arriving "on time!"

Security especially has been raised several levels. In fact, the airport security in Philadelphia went so far as to confiscate my Bengay. They accused me of packing heat! :) All joking aside, I did encounter a new machine in Indianapolis as I went through security. It is called a "puffer machine." It blows puffs of air at a person with the purpose of dislodging any particles from explosives that might be on a person's clothing. Then the air is quickly analyzed. I sure was glad when the voice told me to step out of the machine! The whole process took less than 60 seconds. All of this is in an attempt to make air travel safe and secure for all of us who fly the ("friendly?") skies.
When it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ, I am very glad that I am SECURE in God's hands. As Jesus himself put it, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28-29). We may have to continue to worry about airport security and how to keep improving it - but we never have to worry about our security in Christ. We are safe and secure in HIS arms!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, August 20, 2007

Learning to Be Hospitable

I thought I would post to my blog while waiting here at the Indy airport for my flight back to Philadelphia. I have been thinking a lot about some special friends with whom I just spent some time. One thing (of many) that makes them special is the warm and generous hospitality that they are always ready to offer me (and others!). For example on this trip, they picked me up at the airport when I flew in (approximately an hour drive from where they live north of Indy). They fed me and housed me. They loaned me their car for the two hour drive to Winona Lake, Indiana - which was my final destination on the trip. Thrown in during my time was a number of other kindnesses, too many to mention.

I want to offer this kind of hospitality. This is what Jesus wants from us. In 1 Peter 4:9 we are told to "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling" (see also Romans 12:13). To offer hospitality is simply to share with others what God has given (or better said, "LOANED") to us. Let's all strive to grow in this area of being hospitable to others!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Show Some Respect!

Yesterday I talked about ALWAYS being ready to apologize (to give someone a reason for your faith in Christ). I quoted 1 Peter 3:15. I want to point out something crucial in that verse that you and I MUST always remember. Here again is what Peter said, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." Did you see Peter's last seven words? Did they really sink in? As we defend our faith - we must do so with gentleness and respect. I wish we Christians would remember that more often!

Here is a story from my past that illustrates what I am driving at. Between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I had a job at Hershey Park. I worked from 11 at night to 7 in the morning. I was part of the park clean up crew. This crew consisted of mainly college aged guys who spent all night hosing down the park. One night on break, one of the other guys approached me and began asking me spiritual questions. When we were done, he thanked me and told me the following: While attending college (he had just graduated that May), he had many Christians who approached him to talk to him about their faith. In his words, they tried to jam their beliefs down his throat. But he said I was different - and he appreciated that. How was I different? I believe it was that I tried to treat those around me with respect. Too many Christians that I have known have been downright rude while trying to apologize. Let's heed Peter's words ... and always remember to share "with gentleness and respect!"

Thanks for listening,

pj
P.S. I will be heading to Indiana this morning. I will be back to posting next Tuesday. "See" you then!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Be Always Ready to Apologize!

From the time I was just a little boy, my parents taught me the need to apologize whenever I wronged someone else. And simply saying, "I'm sorry" was not enough. We had to state exactly what we were sorry for. I must admit there were times I was telling my little brother that I was sorry for punching him (while on the inside I was glad I had done so!).

The Bible calls all of us who follow Jesus to be ready to apologize. In 1 Peter 3:15 we read, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." The words translated "to give an answer" come from the Greek word "apolgia," the verb form meaning "to make a defense." Our English word "apologetics" comes from this Greek word. What Peter is driving at here is that we must ALWAYS be ready (look at the verse again) to give a rational reason for our faith in Christ. God does not call us to "check our brains at the door" when we come to Him. Our faith is a reason-based faith. I get a bit irked when I hear people talk about faith as if it involves disengaging the mind. Nothing could be further from reality. How about YOU? Can you give good, solid reasons as to why you believe Christianity is true? If you need help, one of the best (and most readable) books to read on this topic is Paul Little's book, Know Why You Believe: Connecting Faith and Truth.


Happy Apologizing!

pj

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Driving in Unfamilar Territory

Last week, Sharon and I logged about 1500 miles on our car. We began our journey by driving to East Rutherford, NJ. More than once, I made a wrong turn and got a bit "bewildered" (never lost, though!). We then drove from East Rutherford to Rocky Hill, CT - and then from there to Bar Harbor, ME. Having never driven in these areas before, there were times we had to double check our maps and even stop and ask for directions! (yes this did happen, even while I was behind the wheel!) With help, we always made it to our destination ... and eventually back home!

Every day we are surrounded by people who are lost ("bewildered"). Sadly, many do not even realize that they are lost. But the Bible is clear. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). If one of these lost people were to ask you for "directions," would you be able to point them to God? Could you explain to them the gospel? Only in the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ will people be able to find their way to God and freedom from their sin. So let's be sure that we can give those around us the directions they so desperately need to hear!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

North to Maine!

Hello from Acaida National Park! That's right. Late Saturday afternoon, Sharon and I left East Rutherford, NJ (where we attended a "family" wedding) and headed north to Maine. We are staying in Bar Harbor which is adjacent to Acaida National Park. Here is a photo that Sharon took of me this evening as we enjoyed the view from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. For those of you who have visited this place - you can relate when I say the view of the harbor and surrounding park from Cadillac's summit is stunning. And for those of you who have never ventured here, Sharon and I HIGHLY recommend it! I will be back to my regular posts next week. Until then, keep your eye on heaven and your mind on the cross.
Thanks for listening,
pj

Thursday, August 2, 2007

It's Your Serve!

I used to play a fair amount of ping pong, tennis and volleyball. In all of these activities, participants get the chance to serve. I especially loved to serve when playing ping pong. A former pastor of mine (way back when I was in high school) taught me how to put all kinds of "english" (a.k.a. "spin") on the ball which causes it to fly off the opponents paddle in a lot of weird directions. So serving while playing ping pong is FUN!

As we live out our lives, God calls us to serve. Not just when it is convenient or comfortable - but often when it is not. We need to pay attention to the Word of God when in Galatians 5:13 we are told, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." We need this reminder because all too often we want to use our freedom to serve ourselves. Don't go down this path. Rather, each day when you wake up remind yourself that you are called by God to be a servant. Indeed, "It's YOUR serve!"

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Are We Almost There Yet?

What parent has not heard those words coming from a child in the back seat of the car? Or is there a child that has never asked that question? For an active child, a 25 minute ride can seem to last forever (let alone a trip that drags on for hours!). Every child simply wants to get where they are going! And every parent, tired of hearing this question wants the same!
Are we almost there yet?
As Christ-followers, we are on a journey. I call it the JOURNEY OF GRACE. It is the path toward spiritual maturity that we all must walk. If I had to select one word concerning making progress on this journey it would be the word "intentional." Far too many believers are NOT intentional when it comes to their spiritual walk with Christ. Believers as a whole are too casual about their walk with God. For a lot of us, our walk with God takes a "back seat" to our many other activities. How about YOU? Take out a sheet of paper and begin to list the intentional steps you are taking to grow in your faith - to get to know God better. You just might be surprised at how little you are doing! Why not begin TODAY and get more INTENTIONAL about making forward progress in your own journey of grace!
Thanks for listening,
pj

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Practice of Church Hopping

Church Hopping. As you read those words, you probably know what I am talking about. Recently church hopping was the topic of a newspaper syndicated columnist. Before that, the Fox animated TV series, The King of the Hill, aired an episode titled, "Church Hopping." Many people have church hopped. It is an all-too-common practice.

Now as a pastor, you probably think that I am not too fond of this practice. And if you think that, you are right. Is there a time and place for church hopping? Yes, I think so ... but to make it OK I would add the letter "s" in front of the word "hopping." So when church hopping is in reality church shopping - then there is a place for it. People need to find the spiritual community in which they believe they fit. A place where they can serve Jesus as they grow in their faith. And as I tell people, you should not judge a church family on just one visit (churches like people have their share of "bad" days!). But once people find their fit - then I believe they need to connect and settle in! However, far too often in our consumer driven culture - people get up and leave a church when their needs are "no longer being met" or when something happens that they don't like or agree with. And often they disappear with no contact with the pastor or other leaders.

No one can accuse me of church hopping (or church shopping!). I have been at Grace for 18 years (as of TOMORROW!). Have I always been pleased with what has transpired here? Have difficult moments caused me to "throw in the towel" and go looking for another church? Obviously the answer to both of those questions is "No!" When difficulties arise - families sit down and work through them. Family members don't (or at least should not) get up and leave the family. Is Grace the perfect church? No. Never has been nor never will be! But that is OK. For me - it's my family. And that means - no church hopping (or shopping) for me!

Thanks for listening,

pj


Thursday, August 30, 2007

One Very Reliable Long Range Forecast

Hitting the newsstands this week is the new edition of the Farmer's Almanac. For over 190 years, readers of the almanac have relied upon its long range weather forecasts which the almanac claims is between 80-85% accurate. In fact, editor Peter Geiger states that the almanac has often been called "a bride's best friend" as people depend on the almanac's forecast in the planning of such things as outdoor weddings. I really hope the almanac is wrong about this upcoming winter's forecast. According to the almanac, those of us who live in the Northeast will experience "plenty of snow across the Northeast and temperatures averaging as much as 3 degrees below normal." For someone who would like to see winter end the day after Christmas, this forecast has absolutely no appeal!

A lot of people scoff at the almanac (and I admit to being one of them!). There are also a lot of people that scoff at the promised return of Jesus (and I admit I am NOT one of them!). Now most people might not openly scoff at the idea of Jesus Christ returning - but few really believe it. And even among Christ followers, the return of Christ does not get the attention it should! But it is a "long range forecast" that will prove to be 100% accurate. It may occur today - it may occur 50 years from now - but it WILL one day happen! Jesus himself said, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3). Are YOU ready for his return???
Thanks for listening,
pj

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Main Thing Is Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Yesterday I referenced the "main thing" relative to Christ's Church. So just what is "The Main Thing?" Before I identify what I see as "The Main Thing" (TMT), let me ask you a question. With football season looming, what chance would you give an NFL team to win the Super Bowl if I told you they spent 1 hour a day on the football practice field and 5 hours a day on the golf course? Hmm. Perhaps zero or none? For a football team to excel, they must keep the main thing the main thing -- and for a football team the main thing is FOOTBALL!

So what is TMT for the Church? Is it evangelism? Is it missions? Is it Bible teaching? Perhaps carry-in dinners? Although all of these are important (some far more than others!), none of these things in and of themselves are TMT. Jesus himself gives us TMT and it is this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). According to Jesus, this is "the great and foremost commandment" (Matthew 22:38). You see, if we truly love God then we will be anxious to talk to others about Him. We will want others (even in the farthest reaches of our world) to know him. We will love to be in His Word (as it is in His Word that He is so clearly revealed to us) and yes, we will love to spend time with others who also love Him (the food at a carry-in is just "icing on the cake!").

So ... TMT is to love God with all we are and have. When the Church of Jesus Christ does this - even the gates of hell will be powerless to stop the Church's advance!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Prediction that You Can Count on!

A new month's coming! In just four days, September will arrive - and with it comes my favorite sport, football! Now I know some of you are thinking, "Football coming in September? Hey, John - it's already here!" But not so. The NFL has been playing their PREseason (did you catch that? It is PREseason football!). The real season begins in September. During this preseason, I have found it interesting to hear all the predictions being made. If they were all to come true, we would have 32 Super Bowl champions this upcoming season! Every team thinks it is their year to win it all. And so they go on record with their bold predictions of gridiron success. Of course, only one team will prevail. So much for predictions!

But there is one prediction that you can count on. It has nothing to do with football. And unlike all these predictions being made, you won't find it being hyped on ESPN or the local sports page. The prediction I am referring to is the following prediction that the Lord Jesus Christ made concerning his church: "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18). Note that Jesus does not say, "I MIGHT build my church." He states clearly his intention to build his church. And not even the power of hell will be able to withstand the advance of His Church!

So if the Church flounders, it is not due to a failure on Jesus' part. (In another text (see Matthew 28:18-20) he states that "All authoring in heaven and in earth has been given to me.") No. Any failure of the Church of Jesus Christ to advance against the Kingdom of Darkness can be laid at OUR feet. All too often we (the church) are so busy doing our own thing - that we lose sight of the MAIN THING (more tomorrow on "the main thing")! My prayer for my church and the Church world-wide is that we would stay on MISSION - keeping the MAIN THING the MAIN THING! As we do, Jesus WILL build his Church. That's a prediction you can count on!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Good Times in Indiana!

Last Friday and Saturday, I spent about 6 1/2 hours walking a group of students (most around the ages of 19-20) through the Bible. The students are a part of a one year training experience which emphasizes training in both ministry and the Word. The program, which is sponsored by CE National (one of the cooperating organizations of the Grace Brethren Fellowship) carries the label "The 4:12 Commission." This name comes from 1 Timothy 4:12. In this verse, the apostle Paul writes the following to a much younger Timothy, "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

This was the third August I have taught a Bible orientation to the 4:12 students. I have always been glad .... no, thrilled to do so! Why? For this very simple reason. The Bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God (see Hebrews 11:6). And elsewhere we are told that we as God's people are to be characterized by a walk of faith (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith is a vital component in the Christian life. Without it we can neither please God nor live life (at least as God intended us to live it!). So from where do we get our faith? What is the source of faith? In Romans 10, Paul gives us the answer. He says that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). As we interact with God's Word, His Spirit takes that word and grows our faith. So the better we know God's Word the stronger our faith will be. Now please keep in mind that when I talk about knowing God's Word - I am also talking about obeying God's Word. Knowing and obeying the Word of God are inseparably joined together in the Bible. Jesus in his "Great Commission" tells the church to make disciples "teaching them TO OBEY everything that I have commanded you." So at the end of the day, as we grow in our Bible knowledge that impacts how we live out our days, the stronger and deeper our faith in God will grow. That's why I love to teach the Word of God to the people of God! And that's why I spent last weekend in Indiana.
Thanks for listening,
pj

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Flying Safe and Secure

This weekend, I was reminded once again that air travel ain't what it used to be. Gone are the short lines and the empty seats. In their place are increased security checkpoints and packed planes. And I won't even go down the path of flights arriving "on time!"

Security especially has been raised several levels. In fact, the airport security in Philadelphia went so far as to confiscate my Bengay. They accused me of packing heat! :) All joking aside, I did encounter a new machine in Indianapolis as I went through security. It is called a "puffer machine." It blows puffs of air at a person with the purpose of dislodging any particles from explosives that might be on a person's clothing. Then the air is quickly analyzed. I sure was glad when the voice told me to step out of the machine! The whole process took less than 60 seconds. All of this is in an attempt to make air travel safe and secure for all of us who fly the ("friendly?") skies.
When it comes to our relationship with Jesus Christ, I am very glad that I am SECURE in God's hands. As Jesus himself put it, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28-29). We may have to continue to worry about airport security and how to keep improving it - but we never have to worry about our security in Christ. We are safe and secure in HIS arms!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, August 20, 2007

Learning to Be Hospitable

I thought I would post to my blog while waiting here at the Indy airport for my flight back to Philadelphia. I have been thinking a lot about some special friends with whom I just spent some time. One thing (of many) that makes them special is the warm and generous hospitality that they are always ready to offer me (and others!). For example on this trip, they picked me up at the airport when I flew in (approximately an hour drive from where they live north of Indy). They fed me and housed me. They loaned me their car for the two hour drive to Winona Lake, Indiana - which was my final destination on the trip. Thrown in during my time was a number of other kindnesses, too many to mention.

I want to offer this kind of hospitality. This is what Jesus wants from us. In 1 Peter 4:9 we are told to "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling" (see also Romans 12:13). To offer hospitality is simply to share with others what God has given (or better said, "LOANED") to us. Let's all strive to grow in this area of being hospitable to others!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Show Some Respect!

Yesterday I talked about ALWAYS being ready to apologize (to give someone a reason for your faith in Christ). I quoted 1 Peter 3:15. I want to point out something crucial in that verse that you and I MUST always remember. Here again is what Peter said, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." Did you see Peter's last seven words? Did they really sink in? As we defend our faith - we must do so with gentleness and respect. I wish we Christians would remember that more often!

Here is a story from my past that illustrates what I am driving at. Between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I had a job at Hershey Park. I worked from 11 at night to 7 in the morning. I was part of the park clean up crew. This crew consisted of mainly college aged guys who spent all night hosing down the park. One night on break, one of the other guys approached me and began asking me spiritual questions. When we were done, he thanked me and told me the following: While attending college (he had just graduated that May), he had many Christians who approached him to talk to him about their faith. In his words, they tried to jam their beliefs down his throat. But he said I was different - and he appreciated that. How was I different? I believe it was that I tried to treat those around me with respect. Too many Christians that I have known have been downright rude while trying to apologize. Let's heed Peter's words ... and always remember to share "with gentleness and respect!"

Thanks for listening,

pj
P.S. I will be heading to Indiana this morning. I will be back to posting next Tuesday. "See" you then!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Be Always Ready to Apologize!

From the time I was just a little boy, my parents taught me the need to apologize whenever I wronged someone else. And simply saying, "I'm sorry" was not enough. We had to state exactly what we were sorry for. I must admit there were times I was telling my little brother that I was sorry for punching him (while on the inside I was glad I had done so!).

The Bible calls all of us who follow Jesus to be ready to apologize. In 1 Peter 3:15 we read, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." The words translated "to give an answer" come from the Greek word "apolgia," the verb form meaning "to make a defense." Our English word "apologetics" comes from this Greek word. What Peter is driving at here is that we must ALWAYS be ready (look at the verse again) to give a rational reason for our faith in Christ. God does not call us to "check our brains at the door" when we come to Him. Our faith is a reason-based faith. I get a bit irked when I hear people talk about faith as if it involves disengaging the mind. Nothing could be further from reality. How about YOU? Can you give good, solid reasons as to why you believe Christianity is true? If you need help, one of the best (and most readable) books to read on this topic is Paul Little's book, Know Why You Believe: Connecting Faith and Truth.


Happy Apologizing!

pj

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Driving in Unfamilar Territory

Last week, Sharon and I logged about 1500 miles on our car. We began our journey by driving to East Rutherford, NJ. More than once, I made a wrong turn and got a bit "bewildered" (never lost, though!). We then drove from East Rutherford to Rocky Hill, CT - and then from there to Bar Harbor, ME. Having never driven in these areas before, there were times we had to double check our maps and even stop and ask for directions! (yes this did happen, even while I was behind the wheel!) With help, we always made it to our destination ... and eventually back home!

Every day we are surrounded by people who are lost ("bewildered"). Sadly, many do not even realize that they are lost. But the Bible is clear. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). If one of these lost people were to ask you for "directions," would you be able to point them to God? Could you explain to them the gospel? Only in the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ will people be able to find their way to God and freedom from their sin. So let's be sure that we can give those around us the directions they so desperately need to hear!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

North to Maine!

Hello from Acaida National Park! That's right. Late Saturday afternoon, Sharon and I left East Rutherford, NJ (where we attended a "family" wedding) and headed north to Maine. We are staying in Bar Harbor which is adjacent to Acaida National Park. Here is a photo that Sharon took of me this evening as we enjoyed the view from the summit of Cadillac Mountain. For those of you who have visited this place - you can relate when I say the view of the harbor and surrounding park from Cadillac's summit is stunning. And for those of you who have never ventured here, Sharon and I HIGHLY recommend it! I will be back to my regular posts next week. Until then, keep your eye on heaven and your mind on the cross.
Thanks for listening,
pj

Thursday, August 2, 2007

It's Your Serve!

I used to play a fair amount of ping pong, tennis and volleyball. In all of these activities, participants get the chance to serve. I especially loved to serve when playing ping pong. A former pastor of mine (way back when I was in high school) taught me how to put all kinds of "english" (a.k.a. "spin") on the ball which causes it to fly off the opponents paddle in a lot of weird directions. So serving while playing ping pong is FUN!

As we live out our lives, God calls us to serve. Not just when it is convenient or comfortable - but often when it is not. We need to pay attention to the Word of God when in Galatians 5:13 we are told, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." We need this reminder because all too often we want to use our freedom to serve ourselves. Don't go down this path. Rather, each day when you wake up remind yourself that you are called by God to be a servant. Indeed, "It's YOUR serve!"

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Are We Almost There Yet?

What parent has not heard those words coming from a child in the back seat of the car? Or is there a child that has never asked that question? For an active child, a 25 minute ride can seem to last forever (let alone a trip that drags on for hours!). Every child simply wants to get where they are going! And every parent, tired of hearing this question wants the same!
Are we almost there yet?
As Christ-followers, we are on a journey. I call it the JOURNEY OF GRACE. It is the path toward spiritual maturity that we all must walk. If I had to select one word concerning making progress on this journey it would be the word "intentional." Far too many believers are NOT intentional when it comes to their spiritual walk with Christ. Believers as a whole are too casual about their walk with God. For a lot of us, our walk with God takes a "back seat" to our many other activities. How about YOU? Take out a sheet of paper and begin to list the intentional steps you are taking to grow in your faith - to get to know God better. You just might be surprised at how little you are doing! Why not begin TODAY and get more INTENTIONAL about making forward progress in your own journey of grace!
Thanks for listening,
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.

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.