PJ

PJ

Friday, May 30, 2008

Now That's Something to Think About!

Today I noticed a quote at the bottom of a friend's email. The quote really got me thinking. So I thought that maybe it would really get you thinking as you spend this last weekend of May (Saturday) and this first weekend of June (Sunday) doing whatever you tend to do on a weekend. Read the quote through slowly and then read it again. Then pause to give it some thought!

"Before we can pray 'Thy Kingdom come,' we must be willing to pray 'my kingdom go.' (Alan Redpath)



Thanks for stopping by ... (and thanks, Dave, for the quote!)

pj

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Attack!

If you have reservations at a resort in Zihuatanejo, Mexico - you might want to reconsider. Or if you do go, you'd better think twice about going in the water. This popular Pacific coast resort town has seen three shark attacks in the past month, two of which have proven fatal. This is highly unusual, given that shark attacks in this area are unheard of ... at least in any one's memory. Marine biologists and city officials are baffled as to the reason behind the attacks (my guess - hungry sharks?). But whatever the case, Zihutanejo's tourist industry is taking a hit as many decide to vacation elsewhere. And those who are still surfing the waves off of Zihutanejo's beaches are keeping a wary eye out for the tell tale fin of a cruising shark.

Followers of Christ can learn a lesson from all this. Just as surfers can become the target of a hungry shark, we are in the cross hairs of "hungry" spirits. These spirits are the fallen angels who joined Lucifer (a.k.a. "Satan," "The Devil," "The Evil One") when he rebelled against God. They are now cruising the earth, seeking to destroy God and his work. So if you are working to promote the kingdom of God - you are a target and will be attacked. Count on it! In Ephesians 6:12-13 Paul reminds us that, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." Note that he says WHEN the day of evil comes ... not IF!

Given this reality we must be prepared for the battle ... the attack when it comes. Paul tell us that to be ready, we must "put on the full armor of God." Now just what that full armor is - he describes for us in Ephesians 6:14ff. I encourage you to take a Bible and open it up to Ephesians 6 and read through this passage. The last thing you want to be when the Enemy attacks is unprepared!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Joel Osteen: Is He Telling a Good Story or God's Story?

This past Sunday, I referred to an interview that Larry King conducted with Joel Osteen. Joel is senior pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, probably America's largest church (38,000 in weekly attendance!). Osteen is also a bestselling author. When King asked Joel if he ever used the word "sinners" in his preaching, Joel responded by saying, "I don’t use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don’t." I followed up the quote by asking the question of how can a pastor who is supposedly preaching the Bible never use the word "sinners" when the Bible uses the word "sin" some 2000 times?

Since Sunday, I have been asked by a couple of people to expand on Joel and his teaching. So I thought I would share a little with all of you who visit my blog of what I think about Joel Osteen's teaching.

I want you to know I have read and listened to Joel on several occasions (definitely not as much as some of you may have - but enough). From the get-go, there was something about what he was saying and writing that was not ringing “biblically” true with me. Joel is definitely a winsome individual with an engaging style of communication. He is very easy to listen to (in fact, I actually find his voice soothing!) and his books are quite readable. However, the more I listen to Joel, the more concerned I grow with his message. Especially when I compare the emphasis of Joel’s teaching ministry with the emphasis of Paul’s teaching ministry (“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2). Even the title of his recent book, “Becoming a Better You” gives a good indication of the emphasis of his preaching and teaching ministry. It appears to me to be a very man-focused approach. Now I am not saying he never mentions Jesus Christ or the cross – it is there – but if you listen to enough of his messages or you read enough of what he has written or listen to his interviews (and I have listened to a few) – you have to read and listen carefully to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. And for me, that is a problem. The message of the Bible is not that God wants a better you but that God wants a NEW you – one who is a new creature in Christ (as a result of repenting of one’s sin and accepting Jesus Christ’s death as payment for one’s sin) and is now intent on living life to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) – not intent on living life to get the most out of this life as I possibly can (which is Joel’s emphasis).

Along another line, in an interview Joel gave on Fox News, he was asked about the faith of Mitt Romney (who is Mormon). In answer to the question that went something like this: “Can a Mormon like Romney be a Christian?” Joel responded by saying that Mitt has professed Jesus Christ as his savior and that was sufficient proof for him that Mitt is a true Christian brother. But then he admits a few moments later in response to another question about Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, that he has never really studied Mormonism. This is sad, because if Joel had studied Mormonism, he would know that what Mitt Romney (or any Mormon for that matter) means when saying they believe Jesus Christ is savior is different from what an evangelical Christian means in saying the same thing. Now I mention this because I believe Joel’s “Mormon” comment flows out of his apparent shallow understanding of biblical and theological truth. Sure he can tell a good story – but the question every Christian must answer – is it truly God’s story?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS. If you want to check out some other thoughts on Joel and his teaching, check out two book reviews of Joel’s latest book. The first is by Michael Horton at http://www.whitehorseinn.org/osteenreview.htm and the second by Tim Challis at http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/become-a-better-you-by-joel-osteen.php.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Blog Flashback . . .

I posted the following blog back on June 19, 2006 (and we thought gas prices were HIGH then!!). Enjoy!


As Gas Prices Soar Scam Artists Are Cashing In

As I sat in my Lazy Boy recliner yesterday afternoon (which happened to be Father’s Day), I had a glass of iced tea (unsweetened) in one hand, and the Sunday newspaper in the other. With one eye I was browsing through the paper and with the other I was watching some World Cup Soccer (or should I say “football?” - nah!). One article in particular caught my eye. Apparently with the price of gas at the pump on the rise, so are the numbers of scams designed to part you from your money. Once such scam offers a “top secret gas pill”. Offered by a company called BioPerformance, the pill claims to change the molecular structure of gasoline so that it burns more efficiently. By adding one pill to a tank of gas, the company claims you will see an increase in gas mileage anywhere from 20 – 35 %. That sounds good to me! However, this secret pill is nothing more than a bogus pill. You would probably get the same results by throwing a moth ball into your gas tank. As it turns out, the Texas State Attorney General shut the company down recently. Turns out the whole pill selling was nothing more than an elaborate pyramid scheme.

As I thought about all of this, I thought of how our society is so interested in quick fixes. If I have a problem (headache, need to lose weight, depressed, etc.) there must be a pill that I can take to solve my problem (now I realize there are times that popping a pill does help). However, often the solution to a problem is far more involved than just a prescription. Hard work, lifestyle adjustments, discipline – these are often what’s needed to overcome whatever it might be that continues to nag us. Take the high price of gas situation. Although there are some miles we cannot avoid driving (like commuting to work for example), there are some miles we can cut out. But we don’t like that solution because we would have to cut out driving somewhere. If that “somewhere” is a place we would like (perhaps not need) to be – then we dismiss that as an option. So we look for the easy fix (like pop a pill into the gas tank to get more miles out of each gallon).

My friend, we could wish life’s problems could be fixed with a bottle of pills. But they cannot. And when it comes to growing in our faith, Paul tells us to “discipline ourselves for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:12). We need to stop looking for the quick fix. Instead, let’s roll up our spiritual sleeves and get to work – striving to grasp spiritual maturity in Christ. All by HIS grace and for HIS glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How Do You Spell Relief?

Friday evening my wife Sharon and I went to the Lancaster Barnstormers game at Clipper Magazine Stadium. Soon after finding our seats, a Barnstormer employee found my wife and asked her to participate in one of the between innings activity that they do each game. So rather reluctantly (my wife does not like to be the focus of attention - especially in a large crowd) she agreed to participate. So after the opposing team batted in the first - it was the Sharon Smith show! She got to play a version of "The Price Is Right." She had to pick the four digits of the price of some fancy dishwasher. Her pick was $1375 and the actual price was $1495 (must be a dishwasher for a restaurant at that price!). So did she win anything? I think she came away with a $25 gift certificate to some kitchen appliance place and a certificate for a free set of knives from the same establishment. But most of all she came away with a HUGE feeling of relief that her ordeal was OVER! I also reminded her that at least she did not have to go out and run around the bases with a big tooth brush - which is often one of the things they do!

This morning as I prepare to teach from God's Word, I will begin an eight Sunday series of messages on sin. And right now, just as my wife experienced relief after her "time in the limelight" was over, I too am feeling relief. In what way you might be wondering? I am relieved that the sin that I have, am, and will continue to commit has been cared for at the cross. When Jesus died he paid the price for my sin that a holy and righteous God demanded. And now I can rejoice in the truth of Romans 8:1 which reads, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Let's Pray for Steven Curtis Chapman and Family

Many of you, like me, have been blessed by the music of the Grammy and Dove award winning musician, Steven Curtis Chapman. Yesterday afternoon, tragedy struck his family. His youngest daughter, 5 year old Maria Sue, was struck and killed in the family's driveway by a vehicle driven by one of her older brothers. The police are referring to the incident as a "tragic accident." Somehow, those words seem woefully inadequate. As a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain Steven, his wife Beth and the rest of the family are experiencing right now. But I am glad to know that the One who knows exactly how they are feeling is there alongside of them right now, wrapping his arms of strength and comfort around them.

Would you please take a moment and pray for this family, knowing that where our prayers focus, God's power (and in this case, comfort) falls!


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj




Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What? Me Apologize?

I spent yesterday morning being trained in CPR. We were also trained in the use of an AED (Automated External Defibrillator). The training, taught by a well qualified instructor, was sponsored by the American Heart Association. It was solid instruction and all of us in the class learned much. Hopefully we will never have to apply what we learned - but if we are ever confronted with a person in need of CPR - we are now qualified to administer it!

As I thought about my training yesterday, the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared" came to mind. Going through this CPR training has prepared me just in case I ever find myself in a situation in which a person is in need of CPR. As a follower of Jesus, all of us are called upon to "be prepared." In 1 Peter 3:15 we are told, "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." Regrettably, many Christians are NOT prepared to "give an answer" (the Greek word translated here is the word apologia which means "to give a defense). The biblical illiteracy rate among believers is growing at a truly alarming rate. So what can the average believer do to reverse this trend toward biblical illiteracy and become better prepared to apologize (defend) one's faith?


For starters, get into the Word of God. My guess is that most Christians spend far more time in watching TV or cruising the Internet than digging into the Bible. So come up with a plan to get into Scripture and then work the plan. If you need help with this - fire me off an email (jsmith@gracewv.org). I will be glad to help. Secondly, pick up a book on apologetics and read it. There are many, many good books in this area. Stop by Berean bookstore here in Lancaster or go to christianbook. com and check out the apologetics section.


Friends, if we are to be obedient to God, we MUST be prepared to apologize. This is not an option. Your neighbor next door, your colleagues at the office or your classmates at school need YOU to be prepared to answer any question they might have about YOUR faith!


Thanks for stopping by. . .


pj

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So What Am I Complaining About??!!??

Yesterday as I was driving through Lancaster with my wife seated in the front seat next to me, a very slow motorist in front of me caused me to hit a red light that I should have easily gone through as a green light. I heaved a great sigh and began the old grumbling under my breath routine. My wife, being ever so gracious, gently asked me why stopping at a red light was bothering me so much. Ouch! She was right! Why did that bother me? After all, at most it would cause me to arrive at my destination a minute or two later than if I had made the light! And really, what is that compared to the suffering of people around the world such as the survivors of the Typhoon in Myanmar and the earthquake in China.

I was reminded again of just how silly it is when we complain and grumble about the little stuff in life that irritates us as I was reading this morning the opening chapters of Job. Here was a guy that lost all of his possessions, all ten of his children and his health - and yet did not complain! In fact, Job 1:21 tells us that he fell to the ground in worship and said these striking words, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job's response is certainly one worthy of imitation!

Thanks for stopping by. . .

pj

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Biggest and the Best Family Reunion of All Time!

83-year-old Irene Famulak is about to experience something she never dreamed possible. After a separation of 66 years, she is about to be reunited with her younger brother. It was in 1942 when the Nazis invaded her home in Ukraine. Irene, along with her parents and 6 brothers and sisters were shipped off to concentration camps in Germany. She hasn't seen another family member since ... but that is about to change. Her younger brother used the services of the Red Cross Holocaust in Germany to see if he could track down any surviving family members. The search led to Irene who now lives in Philadelphia. Now the family is planning to get the two of them together in Germany. And how does Irene feel about all of this? "I'm so happy. I’m going to hug him. I’m going to kiss him. I’m going to cry. I want to see him."

Now that is QUITE the feel-good story! I cannot imagine the emotion that both Irene and her brother are experiencing. But I am very happy for them! Family reunions (especially after a LOONNGGG separation) can be so much fun!

The day is coming for followers of Jesus on which we will experience the family reunion to beat ALL family reunions! You can read about it in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. But we will be reunited with all of our loved ones who have preceded us to heaven. What a glorious day that will be!!!


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A One Two Punch on the Way?

It was a mere eleven days ago that Cyclone Nargis raced through Myanmar, leaving tens of thousands dead in its wake. Now the United Nations has issued a warning that another major storm may be headed for the devastated region. The UN weather center which is tracking the developing storm (presently off the coast of Thailand) is saying that the storm may become "a significant tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours". Just what the survivors of Cyclone Nargis need to hear! IF this storm develops into a major cyclone and IF its track takes it across the same region of Myanmar (two "ifs" that may or may not happen) - this would prove to be a catastrophic "one-two" punch for the people of Myanmar!

The suffering that these people are going through (and the suffering of the survivors of the destructive earthquake that just hit China) lead many to dismiss the existence of God. After all, if there were a loving and powerful God, then wouldn't he keep these bad things from happening? Therefore, because bad ... horrible ... catastrophic things like cyclones and earthquakes continue to happen, this is proof that God does not exist (at least not an all-powerful, all loving God).

The existence of evil and suffering in the world and what it has to say about God has been a issue that has been discussed from the beginning of time. But what we must understand about evil and suffering is this: when God created the world, the world was perfect. In his original creation there was no evil, no suffering, no death. Death (and evil and suffering) all entered our world through one man whose name was Adam (read through Romans 5:12 and following). When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3), this marked the entrance of suffering into God's created order. In effect, the world we now live in is NOT the world God intended for us to live in. But thanks to OUR rebellion against God (see Isaiah 53:6) our world is now broken, fallen - or as I like to say, "temporarily out of order." One future day, when Jesus Christ returns to establish his eternal kingdom, this world will be made new (see Revelation 21:1-5 - this is why I say our world is "temporarily out of order").

So bottom line, don't blame God for all the suffering in this world. Rather, look in the mirror and you will see who is to blame. It's you. It's me. It's Everyman!


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gifted and Talented!

Bonnie Richardson is a high school junior at Rochelle High School in Texas. But she is no ordinary high school junior. In fact - she recently did something no other high school girl has ever done in Texas (and probably anywhere for that matter!). All she did was go out and win the state 1A team track championship ALL BY HER SELF! That's right. She won a total of 42 points in five events (firsts in the high jump and the 100 meter dash, seconds in the 200 meter run and the long jump and a third place finish in the discus). This was enough to give her high school the team title - in spite of the fact that she was the only athlete from her high school competing! Richardson is truly one gifted and talented athlete!

Speaking of gifts and talents, all of us in the family of God are gifted and talented. Sure our gifts and talents differ in both content and extent -but none the less each one of us is uniquely shaped by God. Scripture makes this clear in Ephesians 2:10 where we read, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." The word "workmanship" is a translation of the Greek word "poiema" from which we get our English word "poem." God is the one who has crafted us (and is continuing to craft us according to Philippians 1:9!) in order to use our gifts and talents to do the good works which he has laid out for us to do. You see, our gifts and talents (i.e. our SHAPE) is to be used for God and His kingdom. So - how are you currently using your SHAPE to serve the Master who is crafting you?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 9, 2008

Think on This C. S. Lewis Quote . . .

C. S. Lewis is one of the most quoted writers of all time . . . and there is a reason for that. He is one of the most insightful writers of all time, especially when it comes to matters pertaining to Christianity and how it intersects with life. So as we approach yet another weekend, here is a C. S. Lewis quote to "chew on". . .

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. (From Christian Apologetics)


Question: Would people looking at your life see that Christianity is of infinite importance???


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On Being Relevant…

I first posted the following on August 23, 2005. I thought it was worthy of a re-post. Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I hear and read a lot these days about the need for the church (and Christians) to be “culturally relevant.” The dictionary defines the word “relevant” as “having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand.” In effect, to be culturally relevant is to have a bearing on or a connection with our culture. This means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Many, I am afraid, in the pursuit of cultural relevancy have emphasized the wrong things and lost sight of the main thing. (Are you with me?)

My approach to the Christian life is the K.I.S.S. approach (Keep It Simple Smitty). So as I consider the need to be culturally relevant (and it is a need – no one will give us a hearing if we walk around like Ork from Mork!), I believe it boils down to the main thing. If we pursue this main thing – we will ALWAYS be “culturally relevant.” So just what is this “Main Thing?” We find it in Matthew 22. Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment in God’s Law (The Jews believed there were 613 of them!). In Jesus’ response we find what I believe is the main thing. If we practice this main thing – we WILL be relevant. Listen to what Jesus said about the greatest commandment: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39)

So there you have it. Do you want to be “culturally relevant?” Do you want to have a bearing on and a connection with the people around you? Learn to love God with all you are and have – AND love the people in your life as you love yourself. As you do this – God will work through you to impact your world.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Microwaves Are Great - Usually!

One night last week I was really hungry and for supper we were having one of my favorite meals - leftovers! (and it helped that the leftovers included turkey - I love turkey!). So I piled my plate high with turkey (and veggies, of course) and then placed it in the microwave. I hit the 2 minute tab and hit "start." When the buzzer sounded, I took the plate out all ready to dig in. But Houston, we had a problem! In spite of being nuked for two solid minutes, the food was still refrigerator cold. Hmm. Microwave must be on a wrong setting. So I checked the micro out and tried again . . . and again the results were the same - cold food. The micro was BROKEN! And I ate a cold turkey dinner (still, I must a admit - a cold turkey dinner is still enjoyable in my book!)

Now although I did not expect our microwave to break down, it did not surprise me that it did. Things like microwave ovens break. It is part of the package of life. They break and either we get them repaired or we get them replaced. No big deal. But what do we do when life breaks down and we feel broken beyond repair? Unlike a microwave we can't go out and order a replacement self! This is when we must turn and focus on our Maker. God knows us through and through. He knows what makes us tick. And when we are struggling, He knows exactly the whats and the whys behind our brokenness. What does it mean to turn and focus on God? For starters, we must get into his Word. It is through the truth of Scripture that God will change us and begin to "repair" us. As we get to know and understand God's Word AND then begin to apply it in our day-to-day living, God works his "repairs" in us! Sometimes, though, our brokenness is so deep and we are so shattered, we need someone to help guide us through the process. Sometimes a good trusted friend is enough, but other times a pastor or counselor is needed. But whatever the case, the follower of Jesus never has to be hopeless. For the God who began a good work in his child will finish it (see Philippians 1:6).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lean on Me!

I noticed this morning in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal what seemed to me to be a larger than usual number of obituaries. A quick survey of the Intell's obituary column of the past week confirmed my observation. Today's column listed 26 individuals, ranging in age from 17 to 93. What got my attention was that three of these individuals who died were in their fifty's (one of which was MY age!) and two others were in their forty's.

Now you might be wondering why I was reading the obituaries. Well I don't do it for the reason that some people give - to check to be sure their obit is not in the paper! So why do I read the obits? Having lived here in Lancaster for almost 19 years, I have become acquainted with many people. So I look to see if there is someone I "know." Someone I can pray for ... someone whose family I might be able to reach out and touch with the love of Jesus.

This is what Jesus calls us to do, isn't it. In Galatians 6:2 we are called upon to "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Coming along side of a hurting person is one way to help carry their burden. Next fall here at Grace, we will be offering Stephen Ministry training for anyone who wants to become better equipped to do just that - help a person who is burdened to carry whatever it is that is weighing them down. To find out more about Stephen Ministry, click on the Stephen Ministry tab on our home page.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 2, 2008

Don't Fall Asleep on the Job!

The lead story on the news the other night was the incident in which a security guard at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was suspended for "being inattentive on the job." But really, this is not good for any employee on any job. If a person is being paid to do a certain task, then he or she needs to give himself or herself fully to that task. Of course, in the case of an inattentive nuclear power plant security guard - the results of such inattention could be disastrous! (perhaps this is why the Federal government has established rules stating that critical nuclear power plant employees must be attentive at all times - which, by the way, seems silly that the government felt it had to establish such rules!).

Just as it is crucial that critical nuclear power plant employees be attentive to what they are doing - it is crucial that we as followers of Jesus Christ be attentive as well. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul makes it clear that how we behave and what we believe are both of utmost importance. And so we must watch them closely. How about YOU! How is your life and doctrine these days? How do they measure up against the teaching of God's Word?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 1, 2008

On This National Day of Prayer: Pray As Jesus Taught Us to Pray!

In 1775 the first day of prayer was declared when the Continental Congress "designated a time for prayer in forming a new nation." Then on April On April 17, 1952 President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law. Today all across the United States, people will be gathering to pray.

As you spend time praying today (and other days I trust!) - there is no better guide for our prayers than the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray. It is most often referred to as "The Lord's Prayer." In this paradigm for prayer, Jesus teaches us that we must begin our prayers by reminding ourselves of just who it is to whom we are talking. "Our Father, in heaven" tells us that the God to whom we pray is our Father (that makes us His children - wow!) and he is in heaven (and what is God doing in heaven? Sitting on this throne, ruling the universe!) Allow those first six words of this great prayer to sink in for a moment and you will begin to appreciate what a great privilege we have in prayer!

After the address, Jesus goes on to give six petitions. The first three ALL center and focus on God. Consider: "Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." As we pray today (and any day for that matter) we need to pray that God would answer our prayers in a way that will bring honor to HIS name, advance HIS kingdom and accomplish HIS will. This is a powerful reminder from our Lord that our prayers must be GOD-CENTERED! Ouch! When I think of my prayers I see that they are often anything but God-centered!

The second set of three petitions concern our needs. Again consider: "Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or the evil one)." God is concerned about us! So Jesus instructs us to pray about physical and spiritual needs that we all face. And note that he tell us to pray for OUR daily bread and for the forgiveness of OUR sins and for deliverance of US from evil. Prayer is not just about ME and MY needs ... it is about praying for the wider community of which I am a part - my family, my church family, my community and my world.

I encourage you to set some time aside today for an extended time of prayer. Not only will you be obedient to God in doing so - you will be blessed!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 30, 2008

Now That's Something to Think About!

Today I noticed a quote at the bottom of a friend's email. The quote really got me thinking. So I thought that maybe it would really get you thinking as you spend this last weekend of May (Saturday) and this first weekend of June (Sunday) doing whatever you tend to do on a weekend. Read the quote through slowly and then read it again. Then pause to give it some thought!

"Before we can pray 'Thy Kingdom come,' we must be willing to pray 'my kingdom go.' (Alan Redpath)



Thanks for stopping by ... (and thanks, Dave, for the quote!)

pj

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Attack!

If you have reservations at a resort in Zihuatanejo, Mexico - you might want to reconsider. Or if you do go, you'd better think twice about going in the water. This popular Pacific coast resort town has seen three shark attacks in the past month, two of which have proven fatal. This is highly unusual, given that shark attacks in this area are unheard of ... at least in any one's memory. Marine biologists and city officials are baffled as to the reason behind the attacks (my guess - hungry sharks?). But whatever the case, Zihutanejo's tourist industry is taking a hit as many decide to vacation elsewhere. And those who are still surfing the waves off of Zihutanejo's beaches are keeping a wary eye out for the tell tale fin of a cruising shark.

Followers of Christ can learn a lesson from all this. Just as surfers can become the target of a hungry shark, we are in the cross hairs of "hungry" spirits. These spirits are the fallen angels who joined Lucifer (a.k.a. "Satan," "The Devil," "The Evil One") when he rebelled against God. They are now cruising the earth, seeking to destroy God and his work. So if you are working to promote the kingdom of God - you are a target and will be attacked. Count on it! In Ephesians 6:12-13 Paul reminds us that, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." Note that he says WHEN the day of evil comes ... not IF!

Given this reality we must be prepared for the battle ... the attack when it comes. Paul tell us that to be ready, we must "put on the full armor of God." Now just what that full armor is - he describes for us in Ephesians 6:14ff. I encourage you to take a Bible and open it up to Ephesians 6 and read through this passage. The last thing you want to be when the Enemy attacks is unprepared!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Joel Osteen: Is He Telling a Good Story or God's Story?

This past Sunday, I referred to an interview that Larry King conducted with Joel Osteen. Joel is senior pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, probably America's largest church (38,000 in weekly attendance!). Osteen is also a bestselling author. When King asked Joel if he ever used the word "sinners" in his preaching, Joel responded by saying, "I don’t use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don’t." I followed up the quote by asking the question of how can a pastor who is supposedly preaching the Bible never use the word "sinners" when the Bible uses the word "sin" some 2000 times?

Since Sunday, I have been asked by a couple of people to expand on Joel and his teaching. So I thought I would share a little with all of you who visit my blog of what I think about Joel Osteen's teaching.

I want you to know I have read and listened to Joel on several occasions (definitely not as much as some of you may have - but enough). From the get-go, there was something about what he was saying and writing that was not ringing “biblically” true with me. Joel is definitely a winsome individual with an engaging style of communication. He is very easy to listen to (in fact, I actually find his voice soothing!) and his books are quite readable. However, the more I listen to Joel, the more concerned I grow with his message. Especially when I compare the emphasis of Joel’s teaching ministry with the emphasis of Paul’s teaching ministry (“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2). Even the title of his recent book, “Becoming a Better You” gives a good indication of the emphasis of his preaching and teaching ministry. It appears to me to be a very man-focused approach. Now I am not saying he never mentions Jesus Christ or the cross – it is there – but if you listen to enough of his messages or you read enough of what he has written or listen to his interviews (and I have listened to a few) – you have to read and listen carefully to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. And for me, that is a problem. The message of the Bible is not that God wants a better you but that God wants a NEW you – one who is a new creature in Christ (as a result of repenting of one’s sin and accepting Jesus Christ’s death as payment for one’s sin) and is now intent on living life to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) – not intent on living life to get the most out of this life as I possibly can (which is Joel’s emphasis).

Along another line, in an interview Joel gave on Fox News, he was asked about the faith of Mitt Romney (who is Mormon). In answer to the question that went something like this: “Can a Mormon like Romney be a Christian?” Joel responded by saying that Mitt has professed Jesus Christ as his savior and that was sufficient proof for him that Mitt is a true Christian brother. But then he admits a few moments later in response to another question about Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, that he has never really studied Mormonism. This is sad, because if Joel had studied Mormonism, he would know that what Mitt Romney (or any Mormon for that matter) means when saying they believe Jesus Christ is savior is different from what an evangelical Christian means in saying the same thing. Now I mention this because I believe Joel’s “Mormon” comment flows out of his apparent shallow understanding of biblical and theological truth. Sure he can tell a good story – but the question every Christian must answer – is it truly God’s story?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS. If you want to check out some other thoughts on Joel and his teaching, check out two book reviews of Joel’s latest book. The first is by Michael Horton at http://www.whitehorseinn.org/osteenreview.htm and the second by Tim Challis at http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/become-a-better-you-by-joel-osteen.php.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Blog Flashback . . .

I posted the following blog back on June 19, 2006 (and we thought gas prices were HIGH then!!). Enjoy!


As Gas Prices Soar Scam Artists Are Cashing In

As I sat in my Lazy Boy recliner yesterday afternoon (which happened to be Father’s Day), I had a glass of iced tea (unsweetened) in one hand, and the Sunday newspaper in the other. With one eye I was browsing through the paper and with the other I was watching some World Cup Soccer (or should I say “football?” - nah!). One article in particular caught my eye. Apparently with the price of gas at the pump on the rise, so are the numbers of scams designed to part you from your money. Once such scam offers a “top secret gas pill”. Offered by a company called BioPerformance, the pill claims to change the molecular structure of gasoline so that it burns more efficiently. By adding one pill to a tank of gas, the company claims you will see an increase in gas mileage anywhere from 20 – 35 %. That sounds good to me! However, this secret pill is nothing more than a bogus pill. You would probably get the same results by throwing a moth ball into your gas tank. As it turns out, the Texas State Attorney General shut the company down recently. Turns out the whole pill selling was nothing more than an elaborate pyramid scheme.

As I thought about all of this, I thought of how our society is so interested in quick fixes. If I have a problem (headache, need to lose weight, depressed, etc.) there must be a pill that I can take to solve my problem (now I realize there are times that popping a pill does help). However, often the solution to a problem is far more involved than just a prescription. Hard work, lifestyle adjustments, discipline – these are often what’s needed to overcome whatever it might be that continues to nag us. Take the high price of gas situation. Although there are some miles we cannot avoid driving (like commuting to work for example), there are some miles we can cut out. But we don’t like that solution because we would have to cut out driving somewhere. If that “somewhere” is a place we would like (perhaps not need) to be – then we dismiss that as an option. So we look for the easy fix (like pop a pill into the gas tank to get more miles out of each gallon).

My friend, we could wish life’s problems could be fixed with a bottle of pills. But they cannot. And when it comes to growing in our faith, Paul tells us to “discipline ourselves for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:12). We need to stop looking for the quick fix. Instead, let’s roll up our spiritual sleeves and get to work – striving to grasp spiritual maturity in Christ. All by HIS grace and for HIS glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How Do You Spell Relief?

Friday evening my wife Sharon and I went to the Lancaster Barnstormers game at Clipper Magazine Stadium. Soon after finding our seats, a Barnstormer employee found my wife and asked her to participate in one of the between innings activity that they do each game. So rather reluctantly (my wife does not like to be the focus of attention - especially in a large crowd) she agreed to participate. So after the opposing team batted in the first - it was the Sharon Smith show! She got to play a version of "The Price Is Right." She had to pick the four digits of the price of some fancy dishwasher. Her pick was $1375 and the actual price was $1495 (must be a dishwasher for a restaurant at that price!). So did she win anything? I think she came away with a $25 gift certificate to some kitchen appliance place and a certificate for a free set of knives from the same establishment. But most of all she came away with a HUGE feeling of relief that her ordeal was OVER! I also reminded her that at least she did not have to go out and run around the bases with a big tooth brush - which is often one of the things they do!

This morning as I prepare to teach from God's Word, I will begin an eight Sunday series of messages on sin. And right now, just as my wife experienced relief after her "time in the limelight" was over, I too am feeling relief. In what way you might be wondering? I am relieved that the sin that I have, am, and will continue to commit has been cared for at the cross. When Jesus died he paid the price for my sin that a holy and righteous God demanded. And now I can rejoice in the truth of Romans 8:1 which reads, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Let's Pray for Steven Curtis Chapman and Family

Many of you, like me, have been blessed by the music of the Grammy and Dove award winning musician, Steven Curtis Chapman. Yesterday afternoon, tragedy struck his family. His youngest daughter, 5 year old Maria Sue, was struck and killed in the family's driveway by a vehicle driven by one of her older brothers. The police are referring to the incident as a "tragic accident." Somehow, those words seem woefully inadequate. As a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the pain Steven, his wife Beth and the rest of the family are experiencing right now. But I am glad to know that the One who knows exactly how they are feeling is there alongside of them right now, wrapping his arms of strength and comfort around them.

Would you please take a moment and pray for this family, knowing that where our prayers focus, God's power (and in this case, comfort) falls!


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj




Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What? Me Apologize?

I spent yesterday morning being trained in CPR. We were also trained in the use of an AED (Automated External Defibrillator). The training, taught by a well qualified instructor, was sponsored by the American Heart Association. It was solid instruction and all of us in the class learned much. Hopefully we will never have to apply what we learned - but if we are ever confronted with a person in need of CPR - we are now qualified to administer it!

As I thought about my training yesterday, the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared" came to mind. Going through this CPR training has prepared me just in case I ever find myself in a situation in which a person is in need of CPR. As a follower of Jesus, all of us are called upon to "be prepared." In 1 Peter 3:15 we are told, "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." Regrettably, many Christians are NOT prepared to "give an answer" (the Greek word translated here is the word apologia which means "to give a defense). The biblical illiteracy rate among believers is growing at a truly alarming rate. So what can the average believer do to reverse this trend toward biblical illiteracy and become better prepared to apologize (defend) one's faith?


For starters, get into the Word of God. My guess is that most Christians spend far more time in watching TV or cruising the Internet than digging into the Bible. So come up with a plan to get into Scripture and then work the plan. If you need help with this - fire me off an email (jsmith@gracewv.org). I will be glad to help. Secondly, pick up a book on apologetics and read it. There are many, many good books in this area. Stop by Berean bookstore here in Lancaster or go to christianbook. com and check out the apologetics section.


Friends, if we are to be obedient to God, we MUST be prepared to apologize. This is not an option. Your neighbor next door, your colleagues at the office or your classmates at school need YOU to be prepared to answer any question they might have about YOUR faith!


Thanks for stopping by. . .


pj

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So What Am I Complaining About??!!??

Yesterday as I was driving through Lancaster with my wife seated in the front seat next to me, a very slow motorist in front of me caused me to hit a red light that I should have easily gone through as a green light. I heaved a great sigh and began the old grumbling under my breath routine. My wife, being ever so gracious, gently asked me why stopping at a red light was bothering me so much. Ouch! She was right! Why did that bother me? After all, at most it would cause me to arrive at my destination a minute or two later than if I had made the light! And really, what is that compared to the suffering of people around the world such as the survivors of the Typhoon in Myanmar and the earthquake in China.

I was reminded again of just how silly it is when we complain and grumble about the little stuff in life that irritates us as I was reading this morning the opening chapters of Job. Here was a guy that lost all of his possessions, all ten of his children and his health - and yet did not complain! In fact, Job 1:21 tells us that he fell to the ground in worship and said these striking words, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." Job's response is certainly one worthy of imitation!

Thanks for stopping by. . .

pj

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Biggest and the Best Family Reunion of All Time!

83-year-old Irene Famulak is about to experience something she never dreamed possible. After a separation of 66 years, she is about to be reunited with her younger brother. It was in 1942 when the Nazis invaded her home in Ukraine. Irene, along with her parents and 6 brothers and sisters were shipped off to concentration camps in Germany. She hasn't seen another family member since ... but that is about to change. Her younger brother used the services of the Red Cross Holocaust in Germany to see if he could track down any surviving family members. The search led to Irene who now lives in Philadelphia. Now the family is planning to get the two of them together in Germany. And how does Irene feel about all of this? "I'm so happy. I’m going to hug him. I’m going to kiss him. I’m going to cry. I want to see him."

Now that is QUITE the feel-good story! I cannot imagine the emotion that both Irene and her brother are experiencing. But I am very happy for them! Family reunions (especially after a LOONNGGG separation) can be so much fun!

The day is coming for followers of Jesus on which we will experience the family reunion to beat ALL family reunions! You can read about it in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. But we will be reunited with all of our loved ones who have preceded us to heaven. What a glorious day that will be!!!


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A One Two Punch on the Way?

It was a mere eleven days ago that Cyclone Nargis raced through Myanmar, leaving tens of thousands dead in its wake. Now the United Nations has issued a warning that another major storm may be headed for the devastated region. The UN weather center which is tracking the developing storm (presently off the coast of Thailand) is saying that the storm may become "a significant tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours". Just what the survivors of Cyclone Nargis need to hear! IF this storm develops into a major cyclone and IF its track takes it across the same region of Myanmar (two "ifs" that may or may not happen) - this would prove to be a catastrophic "one-two" punch for the people of Myanmar!

The suffering that these people are going through (and the suffering of the survivors of the destructive earthquake that just hit China) lead many to dismiss the existence of God. After all, if there were a loving and powerful God, then wouldn't he keep these bad things from happening? Therefore, because bad ... horrible ... catastrophic things like cyclones and earthquakes continue to happen, this is proof that God does not exist (at least not an all-powerful, all loving God).

The existence of evil and suffering in the world and what it has to say about God has been a issue that has been discussed from the beginning of time. But what we must understand about evil and suffering is this: when God created the world, the world was perfect. In his original creation there was no evil, no suffering, no death. Death (and evil and suffering) all entered our world through one man whose name was Adam (read through Romans 5:12 and following). When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3), this marked the entrance of suffering into God's created order. In effect, the world we now live in is NOT the world God intended for us to live in. But thanks to OUR rebellion against God (see Isaiah 53:6) our world is now broken, fallen - or as I like to say, "temporarily out of order." One future day, when Jesus Christ returns to establish his eternal kingdom, this world will be made new (see Revelation 21:1-5 - this is why I say our world is "temporarily out of order").

So bottom line, don't blame God for all the suffering in this world. Rather, look in the mirror and you will see who is to blame. It's you. It's me. It's Everyman!


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gifted and Talented!

Bonnie Richardson is a high school junior at Rochelle High School in Texas. But she is no ordinary high school junior. In fact - she recently did something no other high school girl has ever done in Texas (and probably anywhere for that matter!). All she did was go out and win the state 1A team track championship ALL BY HER SELF! That's right. She won a total of 42 points in five events (firsts in the high jump and the 100 meter dash, seconds in the 200 meter run and the long jump and a third place finish in the discus). This was enough to give her high school the team title - in spite of the fact that she was the only athlete from her high school competing! Richardson is truly one gifted and talented athlete!

Speaking of gifts and talents, all of us in the family of God are gifted and talented. Sure our gifts and talents differ in both content and extent -but none the less each one of us is uniquely shaped by God. Scripture makes this clear in Ephesians 2:10 where we read, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." The word "workmanship" is a translation of the Greek word "poiema" from which we get our English word "poem." God is the one who has crafted us (and is continuing to craft us according to Philippians 1:9!) in order to use our gifts and talents to do the good works which he has laid out for us to do. You see, our gifts and talents (i.e. our SHAPE) is to be used for God and His kingdom. So - how are you currently using your SHAPE to serve the Master who is crafting you?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 9, 2008

Think on This C. S. Lewis Quote . . .

C. S. Lewis is one of the most quoted writers of all time . . . and there is a reason for that. He is one of the most insightful writers of all time, especially when it comes to matters pertaining to Christianity and how it intersects with life. So as we approach yet another weekend, here is a C. S. Lewis quote to "chew on". . .

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. (From Christian Apologetics)


Question: Would people looking at your life see that Christianity is of infinite importance???


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On Being Relevant…

I first posted the following on August 23, 2005. I thought it was worthy of a re-post. Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I hear and read a lot these days about the need for the church (and Christians) to be “culturally relevant.” The dictionary defines the word “relevant” as “having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand.” In effect, to be culturally relevant is to have a bearing on or a connection with our culture. This means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Many, I am afraid, in the pursuit of cultural relevancy have emphasized the wrong things and lost sight of the main thing. (Are you with me?)

My approach to the Christian life is the K.I.S.S. approach (Keep It Simple Smitty). So as I consider the need to be culturally relevant (and it is a need – no one will give us a hearing if we walk around like Ork from Mork!), I believe it boils down to the main thing. If we pursue this main thing – we will ALWAYS be “culturally relevant.” So just what is this “Main Thing?” We find it in Matthew 22. Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment in God’s Law (The Jews believed there were 613 of them!). In Jesus’ response we find what I believe is the main thing. If we practice this main thing – we WILL be relevant. Listen to what Jesus said about the greatest commandment: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:37-39)

So there you have it. Do you want to be “culturally relevant?” Do you want to have a bearing on and a connection with the people around you? Learn to love God with all you are and have – AND love the people in your life as you love yourself. As you do this – God will work through you to impact your world.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Microwaves Are Great - Usually!

One night last week I was really hungry and for supper we were having one of my favorite meals - leftovers! (and it helped that the leftovers included turkey - I love turkey!). So I piled my plate high with turkey (and veggies, of course) and then placed it in the microwave. I hit the 2 minute tab and hit "start." When the buzzer sounded, I took the plate out all ready to dig in. But Houston, we had a problem! In spite of being nuked for two solid minutes, the food was still refrigerator cold. Hmm. Microwave must be on a wrong setting. So I checked the micro out and tried again . . . and again the results were the same - cold food. The micro was BROKEN! And I ate a cold turkey dinner (still, I must a admit - a cold turkey dinner is still enjoyable in my book!)

Now although I did not expect our microwave to break down, it did not surprise me that it did. Things like microwave ovens break. It is part of the package of life. They break and either we get them repaired or we get them replaced. No big deal. But what do we do when life breaks down and we feel broken beyond repair? Unlike a microwave we can't go out and order a replacement self! This is when we must turn and focus on our Maker. God knows us through and through. He knows what makes us tick. And when we are struggling, He knows exactly the whats and the whys behind our brokenness. What does it mean to turn and focus on God? For starters, we must get into his Word. It is through the truth of Scripture that God will change us and begin to "repair" us. As we get to know and understand God's Word AND then begin to apply it in our day-to-day living, God works his "repairs" in us! Sometimes, though, our brokenness is so deep and we are so shattered, we need someone to help guide us through the process. Sometimes a good trusted friend is enough, but other times a pastor or counselor is needed. But whatever the case, the follower of Jesus never has to be hopeless. For the God who began a good work in his child will finish it (see Philippians 1:6).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lean on Me!

I noticed this morning in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal what seemed to me to be a larger than usual number of obituaries. A quick survey of the Intell's obituary column of the past week confirmed my observation. Today's column listed 26 individuals, ranging in age from 17 to 93. What got my attention was that three of these individuals who died were in their fifty's (one of which was MY age!) and two others were in their forty's.

Now you might be wondering why I was reading the obituaries. Well I don't do it for the reason that some people give - to check to be sure their obit is not in the paper! So why do I read the obits? Having lived here in Lancaster for almost 19 years, I have become acquainted with many people. So I look to see if there is someone I "know." Someone I can pray for ... someone whose family I might be able to reach out and touch with the love of Jesus.

This is what Jesus calls us to do, isn't it. In Galatians 6:2 we are called upon to "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Coming along side of a hurting person is one way to help carry their burden. Next fall here at Grace, we will be offering Stephen Ministry training for anyone who wants to become better equipped to do just that - help a person who is burdened to carry whatever it is that is weighing them down. To find out more about Stephen Ministry, click on the Stephen Ministry tab on our home page.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 2, 2008

Don't Fall Asleep on the Job!

The lead story on the news the other night was the incident in which a security guard at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was suspended for "being inattentive on the job." But really, this is not good for any employee on any job. If a person is being paid to do a certain task, then he or she needs to give himself or herself fully to that task. Of course, in the case of an inattentive nuclear power plant security guard - the results of such inattention could be disastrous! (perhaps this is why the Federal government has established rules stating that critical nuclear power plant employees must be attentive at all times - which, by the way, seems silly that the government felt it had to establish such rules!).

Just as it is crucial that critical nuclear power plant employees be attentive to what they are doing - it is crucial that we as followers of Jesus Christ be attentive as well. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul makes it clear that how we behave and what we believe are both of utmost importance. And so we must watch them closely. How about YOU! How is your life and doctrine these days? How do they measure up against the teaching of God's Word?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 1, 2008

On This National Day of Prayer: Pray As Jesus Taught Us to Pray!

In 1775 the first day of prayer was declared when the Continental Congress "designated a time for prayer in forming a new nation." Then on April On April 17, 1952 President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law. Today all across the United States, people will be gathering to pray.

As you spend time praying today (and other days I trust!) - there is no better guide for our prayers than the prayer Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them to pray. It is most often referred to as "The Lord's Prayer." In this paradigm for prayer, Jesus teaches us that we must begin our prayers by reminding ourselves of just who it is to whom we are talking. "Our Father, in heaven" tells us that the God to whom we pray is our Father (that makes us His children - wow!) and he is in heaven (and what is God doing in heaven? Sitting on this throne, ruling the universe!) Allow those first six words of this great prayer to sink in for a moment and you will begin to appreciate what a great privilege we have in prayer!

After the address, Jesus goes on to give six petitions. The first three ALL center and focus on God. Consider: "Hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." As we pray today (and any day for that matter) we need to pray that God would answer our prayers in a way that will bring honor to HIS name, advance HIS kingdom and accomplish HIS will. This is a powerful reminder from our Lord that our prayers must be GOD-CENTERED! Ouch! When I think of my prayers I see that they are often anything but God-centered!

The second set of three petitions concern our needs. Again consider: "Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or the evil one)." God is concerned about us! So Jesus instructs us to pray about physical and spiritual needs that we all face. And note that he tell us to pray for OUR daily bread and for the forgiveness of OUR sins and for deliverance of US from evil. Prayer is not just about ME and MY needs ... it is about praying for the wider community of which I am a part - my family, my church family, my community and my world.

I encourage you to set some time aside today for an extended time of prayer. Not only will you be obedient to God in doing so - you will be blessed!!!

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.

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.