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Showing posts from March, 2008

Just Wrapped Up a Great Conference!

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Today we hosted the Children's Fellowship of India annual conference. Those who attended heard about the point of light in the heart of India where needy boys are sheltered, fed, clothed, and introduced to Jesus Christ. I came away tired but inspired. Although I cannot do something for every impoverished child in this vast world, I can do something for the 137 boys who call CFI their home - and especially for a boy named Surag (the boy wearing the Penn State cap) whom my wife and I have been supporting for the past 7 years.

Friends, for just $30/month you can support a boy at CFI. In exchange for your $30, that boy will receive all that he needs. Better yet, if you are part of a church community other than Grace Church at Willow Valley, approach your pastor and ask if he would sit down and talk with Philip Dongre, the Executive Director of CFI. With more boys soon to be added to the 137 already on campus, CFI is in need of expanding its ministry support base. You can contact Philip…

A Lesson I Learned 21 Years Ago - and Am Still Learning!

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This morning I picked up a journal that I was keeping way back in 1987. At that time, I was pastoring in the Pittsburgh area. Sharon and I had been married for 9 years. Our daughter, Emily was 8, our son, Tim was 5 and our youngest, Kate was 3.

As I browsed through the journal, I read the following entry from July 10th:

"Last night - fishing with Tim (now remember, he is five!) I saw how selfish I can be. He got his line caught in a tree, on branches in the water, tangled in his reel -- he needed bait, etc. I was getting frustrated!!! But then the thought struck me - I was there to SERVE him and how is he ever going to learn to fish if I never take the time to teach him? So I learned some hard lessons about myself and I trust I will profit from them." (Written Friday, July 10, 1987)

Hmm. That was a lesson I needed to learn then -- and one I need reminded of again 21 years later! Life is NOT about me -- I am here to serve God and others! (Thanks, God for this timely reminder!)
T…

Eighteen and a half years and counting . . .

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The other day someone asked me how long I have been pastor here at Grace. When I responded with 18 1/2 years, their eyebrows raised in surprise as they said, "That's a long time!" Yes, it is a long time. According to the Barna Group, the average tenure of a senior pastor is about five years. So as you can see, it is no wonder the person with whom I was talking was surprised. This person then went on to ask me how much longer I was planning to stay. My answer, of course, was to say I will stay as long as God leads me to stay - which I might add, I hope is a number of years longer!

Grace has been a truly wonderful place to serve Christ. The people here are loving and growing in their faith walk. God has blessed us in many ministry endeavors over the years (to cite just one example - we have a unique partnership with Willow Valley Resort and Conference Center which allows us to demonstrate the love of Jesus to many people). The church staff consists of a gifted group of Chri…

Are YOU the Real Deal?

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Recently I talked with someone who had visited our church. She told me that everyone she met and talked with was genuine and authentic. I must admit I was encouraged to hear that from an outsider to our church (and I did point out to her that our people are still a work in process). I pray regularly that I and our church family would be genuine in our relationships and authentic in our faith. There is way too much superficiality and phoniness in our society. The world needs to encounter REAL people. People who aren't hiding behind masks or self-built walls. People who care passionately about God and their fellow man.

How about YOU? Are you real? Genuine? Authentic?
Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

What's for Supper?

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The answer to this question may depend on whether you are a man or a woman. According to a recent study of 14,000 men and women, the sexes differ as to their eating habits. Men eat more meat, women eat more fruits and vegetables. Now that surely does not surprise me. But what does is that men are more likely to eat Brussels sprouts and asparagus than women. Well I want you to know that even though I enjoy most veggies, Brussels sprouts and asparagus are not on my list of "must-have" vegetables!

For me, this study simply illustrates that there are indeed differences between men and women. We communicate and think differently (check out the book, Men Are Like Waffles--Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences for a pretty fair treatment of the differences between the sexes). We respond emotionally differently. We relate to others of our same sex differently. And I could go on and on and on. These differences make a relationship like marriage bot…

Easter Sunday: Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?

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"He is not here; he has risen. . ." (Matthew 28:6) These powerful words refer to one of the greatest turning points in history. The one who had been so cruelly beaten and violently killed had come back to life a mere three days after his death. And this Jesus lives today, offering the forgiveness of sin and new life that ONLY he can provide.

Now, how can we know that Jesus is alive? I mean, the resurrection of Jesus occurred some 2000 years ago. So how can we know it really happened?
That is a good question ... and a reasonable one! If you want to study this question more in depth, I would suggest you check out http://www.leestrobel.com/ or articles at http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/josh2.html or http://www.geocities.com/athens/delphi/8449/res.html.
But for now, consider the following lines of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ which show that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was one of the greatest FEATs* of all time:

Fatal torment: There is no…

Today - Good Friday!

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Jesus Christ loved us so much he was willing to face His Father's wrath for OUR sin! During the six horror-filled hours that he hung on the cross, he spoke seven times (as recorded in the gospels). Today I thought I would survey these "Seven Sayings of the Cross" to help anyone who stops by today to spend some time reflecting on the cross.

Saying #1 - "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Saying #2 - "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) - spoken to the repentant of two thieves crucified with Jesus.
Saying #3 - "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." (John 19:27) - spoken to Mary, Jesus' mother and the disciple whom he loved (most likely John).
Note the common thread in these three "sayings." In each, the focus of Jesus is on others: those who crucified him, the repentant thief, his mother. Amazing how in t…

Sabbathize!

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According to the book of Genesis, when God had finished his work of creation, "he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done" (Genesis 2:2b-3). God made this seventh day of the creation week "holy." This means that he set it apart from all other days. The other days were characterized by work. This seventh day, the Sabbath day was characterized by rest.

When God gave to Israel the Ten Commandments, the fourth on the list concerned this seventh day. Listen to what he mandated for the Israelites: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea…

The Rat Race?

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The expression, "rat race" is one that is often thrown around in the midst of the busyness of life today. According to Wikipedia, it is a term used "for an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy to the modern city, many rats in a single maze run around making a lot of noise bumping into each other, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually."

In some ways, I feel like I have been in a race this past month. Prep for our India trip. Then the trip itself. Then back home trying to catch up on what piled up while I was gone. Then off again to Grace Board meetings. Now I'm back and again catching up on what piled up -- and all this with Easter Sunday just around the corner! Yes it has been a race. But NO it has not been a "rat race!" What I am doing is achieving meaningful results (a…

Grace Board Meetings Completed

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The past few days has been a real whirlwind of activity. I arrived at Oakwood Conference Center (located in Syracuse, Indiana) on Thursday morning. Grace College and Seminary board meetings were already underway, having begun with lunch on Wednesday. I was arriving late because of an unavoidable schedule conflict. For the rest of the day Thursday, all day Friday, and through noon today - we met and discussed and prayed and met and discussed and prayed. Oh, and we managed to find some time to chow down some good food as well.
I can't give you all the details of the meetings. But I will summarize our time with these words: These are exciting times for Grace College and Seminary. I personally believe the best days for these schools are still ahead of us ... and considering some of the great days of the past and present - that is saying something! Now I do not say this lightly ... or because I happen to be a member of Grace's board. I say this because I truly believe it. This is n…

Traveling again to India-na!

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I leave today for Indiana (I am so glad for the last two letters of my destination - as much as I enjoyed my trip to India, I am not up for the 36 hours of continuous travel it takes to get to Naya Akola! The two hours it will take to get to Indianapolis will seem like NOTHING - at least I hope this is the case!). I am heading to Indiana to take part in Grace College and Seminary board meetings. The Grace Board meets twice each year, once in the spring and once in the fall. When I think of serving on this board, I feel conflicting emotions rising up in my soul. First, I feel excitement about the opportunity to serve our Fellowship of churches in this role. What happens at Grace Schools will impact our Fellowship far into the future. But at the same time I feel inadequate. At my first board meetings last fall I recall looking around the room and asking myself, "John, how did you get asked to serve with this group?"

At these moments when I feel inadequate (which is not really a…

THE Rule of the Indian Highway

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Driving in India is very different from road travel in the United States. For starters, Indians drive on the wrong side of the road - just like our cousins across the Atlantic (of course, they would say we are the one's on the wrong side!). But even if drivers in India were to switch sides - driving in India would still be VERY different! You see - there is one rule above every other rule (and I am not sure there are any other rules!) and here it is: EQUAL ACCESS. In other words, every one has equal access to the roads. Whether you have two legs or four --- two wheels, three wheels or eighteen wheels - it does not matter. You have the right to be on the road (and that could be walking on the road, lying down in the middle of the road, or driving on the road). So THE rule of the highway in India is - Equal Access.

But there is a second part to this rule. Yes, there is Equal Access - but the BIGGER you are, the MORE EQUAL YOUR ACCESS! So, if you are merely walking, you had better wat…

At What Price?

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At what price? That is the question I have been wrestling with the past month or so. I like to read. And Amazon's new electronic reader is something I would like to get my hands on. However it is priced at $399 which seems to me to be a bit overpriced (and many reviewers of the Kindle agree with me!). So at present I have decided to bide my time and wait to see if Amazon lowers the price.

At what price? What price are we willing to pay to follow Jesus Christ? Here in America, the price required is not all that demanding. Followers of Jesus may face some ridicule here or there. But on average, that is about as far as it goes. Not so in India. While at CFI, I met a young man (still in his 20's) who has paid a high price for following Jesus. He has been jailed three times and beaten twice, all because of his faith. In addition his young wife and baby were also roughed up. At the present time he is recovering from major shoulder surgery - which is the second major surgery he has un…

So What Did We Do While in India?

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Our daily routine while at Children's Fellowship of India was quite busy. Check it out:

6:30 AM - We led morning devotions for the children. Our team was divided into three groups to teach the preschool, early elementary ages, and the older boys (oldest boys are in 7th grade).


7:00 - Breakfast for the boys. Usually we helped serve the food and then "hobnobed" with the boys while they ate.


7:45 - Breakfast for our team and CFI administrative staff (the most "American" meal of the day: cereal, toast, and either eggs, pancakes or french toast with lots of coffee!). This time also included our team's "meeting time" in which we went over the day's schedule, discussed any issues and prayed together.


8:30 - The CFI staff devotional time, which involved singing and the Word. Several of us took a turn at sharing the Word during this very special time.


10:30 - The boys walked to school. Usually four or five of us went along.

Some days we had free time from a…

To India and Back!

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I have now been to India twice. I admit that does not make me an expert on traveling to India - not even close! But this second trip was a reminder that India is indeed on the far side of the world! And to get there requires a lot of travel via planes, planes and automobiles (not to mention the hours of waiting in airport terminals!).

Yes, the trip may be a long one - even a brutal one at times. And sure - after 36 hours of continuous travel the only thing I was thinking about was laying my head on a pillow and going to sleep! But all the rigors of travel were quickly forgotten when the vehicle I was in pulled through the front gate of Children's Fellowship of India early on Tuesday afternoon, February 19th. There lined up on either side of the drive were the boys and staff members of CFI.
As I got out of the car and began to walk down the drive, I was mobbed by smiling boys - all reaching for my hands as they called out, "Uncle! Uncle!" Right then and there I knew our te…

Back Home!

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Our team that departed on February 17th for Naya Akola, India arrived safely back home around 6 PM on Friday evening. Be watching this upcoming week for some exciting reports on the great things God is doing at Children's Fellowship of India!

Blessings,
pj