PJ

PJ

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Needed Reminder about Heaven!

It is so very easy to get so wrapped up in "this life" commitments and activities, that we can lose sight of "the next life." Yet even a casual read of the New Testament reveals that we as followers of Christ cannot afford to do so! We must be striving to "set our minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:2). Because of our need to stay focused on heaven, I thought what I had to say last September was worth repeating --- first to me and then to you!


Originally Posted: September 25, 2007 under the title:
"Now That's Some Piece of Real Estate!"

Not too long ago, my wife and I were taking a walk when we came upon this sign. After reading the sign, I checked with my wife to see if she thought we should make an offer. An acre of real estate for just $1.7 million - sounds like a real deal! However, our credit card's spending limit was not quite enough!

The old saying that with real estate it's all about location, location, location - is definitely true. The acre being advertised for sale in this sign is located on the waterfront in Bar Harbor, Maine. Definitely a prime location! And if I had the financial capacity to do so, I would possibly think seriously about making an offer. It is incredibly beautiful in that part of Maine! (I wonder if they would accept an even million? Hmm...)

Now as valuable as this piece of property is - there is real estate far more valuable. In fact, the real estate I am thinking of is "out of this world!" It is the real estate of heaven (yes, heaven is a real place - just as real, if not more so, than that acre of waterfront property in Bar Harbor!). If you have not read the Bible's most complete description of heaven recently, let me encourage you to read the final two chapters of the Bible (Revelation 21-22). I just read it and WOW! I am more than ready to go there!). But unlike the acre in Bar Harbor, the real estate of heaven is not for sale! It has already been paid for -- by the blood of Jesus Christ. How about YOU? Are YOU trusting in Christ's sacrifice (and his sacrifice alone) to gain your entrance into this wonderful eternal place called Heaven? Jesus is indeed the ONLY way (see John 14:1-6).

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, September 29, 2008

For Believers Who Are Grieving the Death of a Loved One

If you have recently experienced the death of a loved one who was a follower of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, then read the following. This quote is from the great evangelist of the 1800's, D. L. Moody.

"Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that death cannot touch."

"More alive than I am now!" Wow!! This will be the experience of every single person who has confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! And if you have lost a loved one who is"in Christ" - your loved one has already experienced the reality of Moody's words!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, September 27, 2008

This Weekend Chew on This . . .

Here's a quote from the pen of R.C. Chapman* that I just read this morning. It is worthy for some thought and reflection.

"My business is to love others, not to seek that others shall love me."

Ouch!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

*R. C. Chapman (1803-1902) was an English pastor who was a close friend of J. Hudson Taylor (pioneer missionary to China) and a spiritual mentor to George Muller of Bristol.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wedding Bells to Toll Again!

In China it is the Year of the Rat. In the Smith household, it is the Year of the Wedding! My youngest daughter tied the knot back on June 29th. Now, in just a little over two weeks (October 12th) my oldest daughter will be doing the same! I will be one tired but happy dad when the dust finally settles!

Today a movie on marriage hits the theaters. It is called, Fireproof and stars Kirk Cameron (probably best known for his role as Michael Seaver in the mid-80's television sitcom, Growing Pains). Take a moment to read what others are saying about this film ... and watch the trailer. Then take your spouse by the hand and go and see this movie TOGETHER! It could change your marriage!

What Others are saying about Fireproof:

"Amazing! Action-packed, heartwarming, and a great resource to help strengthen and affirm marriages!" Dr. Gary Smalley, author of Change Your Heart, Change Your Life

"On top of a powerful message and the potential to change lives and marriages, this is one great movie!" Bubba Cathy, Senior Vice President, Chick-fil-A

"FIREPROOF is going to do much more than entertain and stir hearts; this is a movie that will impact couples in a profound way for decades to come." Dennis Rainey, President, FamilyLife



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Power of O (Oprah, that is!)

In 1999, Eckart Tolle published his book, The Power of Now. The premise of his book? Living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. Hmm. I think Jesus might beg to differ. (as if the Lord of the Universe would beg - wrong choice of words, John!) .... Let me begin again. I think Jesus would disagree in no uncertain terms. The truest path to happiness and enlightenment is to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ alone is worthy of our allegiance and only HE has the key to the abundant life! Tolle's emphasis is nothing more than new age spirituality - which is totally different from biblical spirituality.

Well, Tolle followed up The Power of Now with another book in 2005. This book, titled A New Earth, only became a bestseller in 2008. Why a three year delay between publication and making the best seller list? A New Earth only became a bestseller when Oprah Winfrey (January 30, 2008) made it a selection of her million member book club. Once Oprah did that, sales of the book skyrocketed! Apparently for many people, Oprah's endorsement is all it takes! And that, my friend is power!

Just yesterday I received an email from someone who is concerned about the influence this book, A New Earth is having on people. So I did a little research, and found a solid biblically grounded review of the book by Don Whitney. You can read it at http://biblicalspirituality.org/newearth.html. What concerns me about this book and other bestsellers like The Shack (see my August 5, 2008 posting) is that many Christians read these books with little biblical discernment. As followers of Jesus, we MUST learn to discern, using the Bible as our compass for morality, theology and all of life's pressing issues!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Christianity on Display?

The British playwright, George Barnard Shaw once wrote, "Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it." Shaw's point? Far too many who claim to be Christians are not living as Christians (according to his definition of Christianity). When I read this quote early today, it got me thinking - not so much about others but about me. I have a tendency to not always live out what I profess to believe. Now I know that Jesus is not expecting perfection out of me (so that my walk perfectly lines up with HIS Word). But Jesus is expecting consistency from me. And the same goes for you, if you claim to be a follower of Christ.

So today ... and every day, let's pursue consistency, striving to align our talk and our walk with God's will. Of course, all by HIS grace and for HIS glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Maybe? Perhaps? Probably but . . .

Last night I found myself chuckling to myself as I watched of all things - the weather report. I was amused by the discussion of the forecast by the on camera meteorologist. He was talking about an approaching storm ... well, sort of. You see the storm hasn't formed yet. And although it probably will, it is still not a sure bet. And if it does form, which it probably will, it may move westward into the southeastern states OR it may move up along the coast into the mid-Atlantic states OR it may skirt the coast and head for New England. Oh and it may or may not become a tropical storm or ... yes ... possibly even a hurricane - maybe. I will give the weather guy credit -- he finally admitted that he just didn't know!

I am so glad that this type of uncertainty does not apply to the Bible. When God speaks in this book, we can rest assured that he speaks with certainty. He is, after all, the Designer, the Creator, the Sustainer of this vast universe. And he and he alone is sovereign over all. So when he speaks, it is not in the language of "maybe," "probably," "perhaps," or "likely." No. What he says, goes! And there is no "ifs," "ands," or "buts" about it! The writer of Psalm 119:89 put it well when he said, "Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens." And what is firm in heaven is rock solid on earth!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, September 22, 2008

Is It a "Need or Is It a "Want?"

I am convinced that one reason many churches, missionaries and para-church organizations struggle to meet their budgets is because many Christ-followers struggle to meet their own. As a result, Christians cannot give to kingdom ministries in ways that they could and should. The bottom line - missionaries come home, local churches slash their ministries, and Christian aid organizations are forced to sit back and watch orphans and widows remain hungry and homeless.

One basic principle of money management that would go a long way toward helping the average Christian get a handle on his or her budget is to ask this simple question before spending: "Is this a NEED or is it a WANT?" If it is a need - then the money should be spent, knowing that God has promised to meet our needs. But if it is a WANT, then extra scrutiny must be exercised on whether or not to spend that money. I am not saying it is never right to spend money on a "want" - but far too many of us on far too many occasions spend money we don't have on "wants." And as a result of that - our budgets are "overdrawn" and we have no money left for God and His work!

So .... before you lay out money for that larger HD television or new fully loaded computer - ask yourself, "Do I really NEED this ... or is it something I WANT but can do without?"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Gift on the Gridiron and the Need to Forgive

This past Sunday, an NFL official made a wrong call. This does not surprise us. We all know that officials in every sport are human ... and to quote Alexander Pope, "to err is human." (Pope by the way is generally regarded as the greatest English poet of the eighteenth century - are you impressed that I know that? Don't be. I merely looked it up on the Internet!) Now what made referee Ed Hochuli's blown call so bad was that it enabled the Denver Broncos to win the game against their rival, the San Diego Chargers. This week, Hochuli has not only acknowledged his mistake, he has profusely apologized for his blunder. But for many, his apology is unacceptable. According to an account on Fox Sports.com, Hochuli is receiving hundreds of email from irate Charger fans ... each one dripping with hatred for the man in stripes.

Now if I were a Charger's fan, I am sure I would be upset. It's bad enough when your team loses - but to have the game given away by someone else! That's a tough pill to swallow. Yet all of us will be wronged! Most times, when this happens, (as was the case with this blown call) the one "committing the crime" is not doing so intentionally. We must learn to give others "the benefit of the doubt" (usually something we reserve only for ourselves). And for those of us who claim to follow the Son of God - we must remember that Pope also said, "to forgive is divine." So if we want to become more like Jesus (who is divine) - then we must learn to be quick to forgive - which is exactly what the Bible commands us to do! (see Colossians 3:13)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Associations Are Important!

I just read a recent New York Times poll that shows Republican Nominee for President, John McCain is being hurt by his link to President Bush (of course, if President Bush were wildly popular, this link would be a boost to McCain's campaign to win the election). Now the reason for this is that people assume that we tend to become like the people with whom we associate. So voters look at John McCain and see that he has been closely tied to the President and assume that he will continue the same Bush policies that they don't like. This, by the way, is why John McCain is doing his best to distance himself from Bush and Barack Obama is doing his best to associate the two!

As followers of Jesus, we must take care of our associations. Should we associate with those "outside" the faith? Absolutely! Jesus was often with the "sinners and tax collectors" of his day. After all, he came to call sinners - not the "righteous" - to repentance. So yes, we should have friends and associates who are not Christians. But as we do, we must make sure that we are also surrounded by a strong community of like-minded Jesus-followers. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that "bad company corrupts good character." This is a caution that we must all heed. Yes - pursue friendships with those who are not yet Christian. But be sure to do so carefully ... seeking to influence them toward Christ (vs. allowing them to influence you toward evil!). This is a fine line -- pray and ask God to give you wisdom in this area!

And if you don't have any friends who are unbelievers - then remember this: To have a friend you must first BE A FRIEND!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"I Will Come Back!"

I'm not a HUGE movie fan. But that does not mean I don't enjoy a good film from time to time. Now there are some genres of movies that I really do enjoy. One of which would be the Superhero movies that herald the exploits of Spiderman, Batman, Superman and the like. I also enjoy watching fantasy films (such as the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia). And one of my deep dark secrets is that I occasionally will sit down with my wife and watch a " " flick (now if I fill in the blank - it won't be a deep dark secret anymore, will it?!). Each of these movie types all have something common to them (for example in the superhero films - there is always the super villian; in the the fantasy - it's always a battle of good vs. evil). Now I have also been known to watch a war movie here and there. And one scene that is often common in war movies looks like this: The film's hero is preparing to go off to war. But before he goes he has to say goodbye to his girl. So they embrace, they kiss. And (you can almost always count on this) the departing soldier's woman tearfully looks at him and in a voice cracking with emotion says to him, "Promise me you'll come back!" And he, wanting to reassure and comfort his sweetheart says with all the confidence he can muster, "I'll come back! I promise!"

Now -- think about that promise. Can he truly back up this promise. Can he make that promise with 100% certainty that he WILL come back? Not unless he goes AWOL until the war is over - or he has superhero abilities to dodge bullets or impose an invisible force field around himself. So he may want to come back -- but his return is far from certain.

Jesus Christ has made us a promise. Some 2000 years ago, just before he departed planet earth - he promised those he loved that he would be back. Here's what he said,

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 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 14:1-3).

Unlike the warrior going off to war and an uncertain fate - Jesus went off to heaven and will return. How do we know? Because Jesus is God. And being God he is King of the Universe and neither nothing nor no one can prevent his return! So if Jesus is coming back, are you ready to meet him?

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fighting Pollution - Noise Pollution!

I am sure none of you would argue with me that we live in a very noisy world! Cell phones ringing. Car horns honking. Rowdy children screaming. Lawn mowers roaring. And I could go on and on and on. Some people take the fight to rid of world of noise quite seriously. I found one group on the Internet. It is the NPC (Noise Pollution Clearinghouse). The group's mission is "is to create more civil cities and more natural rural and wilderness areas by reducing noise pollution at the source." And on their web site they offer a number of resources to help people reduce noise pollution.

Now am I surprised that such a group exists? Not at all. I am bombarded just like you with noise all the time. This is why it is so vital that we get apart from the noise and get quiet before God. Let me encourage you to fight noise pollution in your own life by making the time to be alone before God. So take your Bible, find a quiet place, and spend some alone and quiet time with the God who made you ... and the God who so loved you that He sent His one and only Son to pay the penalty for your sin against Him. Be quiet. And "be still and know that HE is God" (Psalm 46:10).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, September 15, 2008

Billy Graham on the Return of Christ . . .

An individual wrote in to Billy Graham, stating that someone had given him a pamphlet that gave a specific date for the return of Jesus Christ. I thought Billy Graham's answer was "right on!" So here it is.

Jesus clearly taught that someday He will return to Earth to set up His Kingdom -- but He also said that the exact time of His return is hidden from us. He said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32).

Unfortunately, over the centuries Jesus' warning hasn't kept people from speculating about the date of Christ's return. You may have read about people who believed they knew when Christ was coming, and even sold everything they owned so they would be ready -- only to be proved wrong. From time to time, groups also have appeared who claim Christ has already secretly come -- although the Bible clearly says that "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26).

At the same time, the Bible does teach that certain events must take place before Christ returns -- and many Bible scholars believe these are already happening. I often think, for example, of Jesus' statement that the Gospel "will be preached in the whole world ... and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).

The real question, however, is this: Are you ready for Christ's return? You can be, by turning to Him in repentance and faith and committing your life to Him. Don't let another day go by without having Christ in your heart.

How about you? If Jesus were to come back TODAY - would you be ready to meet Him???? If you have any questions, go to the web site (in my list of recommended web sites) "Looking for more out of life?"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, September 12, 2008

Where Are All the Solid Leaders?

When it comes to leadership today, you can always find a book, a magazine article or a web site that talks about how to do it right (I just googled "leadership" and got 180 million hits! In addition, Amazon.com lists over 287,000 titles dealing with some topic of leadership!). So my question is this: If we have all this material about how to be a solid leader so readily available, then why do we have so few solid leaders?

For what they are worth - here are my thoughts on this situation. I do not believe the leadership vacuum is due to a lack of information (i.e. - people in leadership do not know how to lead). Now there may be some leaders who simply don't know how to lead (shame on them given the amount of info on how to lead that is all around us!). No, the cause of this leadership vacuum is not a lack of information but a lack of character. I don't care how well trained someone is to lead IF he or she is not a man or woman of character. Leaders must have integrity. Must be trustworthy. Must be sold out to others and to the mission of the team, agency, organization that they have been tasked to lead. This is why the very first qualification that the Apostle Paul mentions in his list of the qualifications for elders (the Bible's name for church leaders) is that of being "above reproach." Being above reproach is to be living such a life that when someone tries to launch a "character assassination" that those who know the individual says, "No way! Impossible! Can't be the John Smith that I know!" That is being above reproach. And sadly, both inside and outside the Church today - there are too few leaders that live and lead in a way that is above reproach.

So my prayer for all of us who are leading (which when you think of it includes the vast majority of us) is that we will continue to grow in our integrity, being men and women whose "walk" matches our "talk." Not perfectly - but consistently!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today We Remember . . .

Today is the 7th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack. All over our country, people are pausing to remember those who died as a result of that horrible day in our nation's history. My heart aches for those who lost loved ones ... and my heart grieves over the existence of such evil in human hearts that can drive men to devise and carry out such a diabolical scheme. But such is the world in which we live. But in the midst of the doom of our 9-11 recollections - there is a "silver lining." I am referring to the hundreds upon hundreds of men and women who showed heroism that day. Many of these did so at the cost of their own lives. We can find great encouragement in that! Jesus himself said "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

Jesus showed us just how great his love for us was and is ... when "while we were yet sinners, he died for us!" (Romans 5:8). May we never forget the cross -- may we always (DAILY) remember his sacrifice! Yes, I know that Jesus left us the ordinance of communion to practice ("This do in remembrance of me.") And it is very important that we gather with our church family to practice communion - but I also hope that we remember the cross and Jesus' sacrifice for us more often than just when we observe communion. Let me encourage you -- to pause right now and glory in the cross of Jesus Christ! As the Apostle Paul states, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!" (Galatians 6:14)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Guard Your . . .

Yesterday, Colonel Harland Sanders' recipe of 11 herbs and spices was removed from safekeeping at KFC's corporate offices. This was the first time this was done in several decades. A private security firm was hired to transport the yellowing handwritten piece of paper from the corporate offices to an undisclosed temporary location via an armored car. The move was necessitated because KFC is upgrading the security surrounding the recipe. KFC's recipe is one of the closest guarded secrets in corporate America.

Hmm.I guess I can understand the extent to which KFC guards that recipe.It sure helps them sell a lot of chicken! The Bible tells us that we are also to be guarding something. Something we all have and something that determines who we are. It is our heart. Proverbs 4:23 reads "Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life." Did you catch those first three words ... "Above all else" - in other words, make this a TOP priority in your life. Guard you heart. And how does one do that? Well for starters, if you fill your heart with God's Truth (His Word) - then there will not be room for the Enemy's lies to also take root and grow there! So guard you heart by filling your heart with God's Word. Then ask the Holy Spirit to take God's Truth and transform your heart ... conforming it to the heart of Jesus Christ.

So ... are you making the guarding of your heart a TOP priority? Have you been in the Word of God lately? These two go hand-in-hand!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On Being Relevant


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 "being relevant" 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

Friday, September 5, 2008

Church Hopping Revisited

I posted the following a little over a year ago. I thought it was worthy of a re-read because of the frequency of "church hopping" among evangelical believers here in the United States. Our consumer mindset has a far firmer grip on us Christians than most of us would like to admit. So I offer this to you again in hopes that you will examine your own heart in this matter.


Church Hopping (first posted August 31, 2007)

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 (please note that I do believe there may come appropriate times to leave a church - but that topic I will leave for another blog posting).

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 stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 4, 2008

And Marriage Is. . .

Recently the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted (380-325) to drop the requirement that elders, deacons and pastors "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." In its place, the following pledge will be required of candidates for ordination (assuming the denomination's presbyteries go along with the change): "to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church." Now on the surface, there may not appear to be much difference between the old requirement and the new (as the discussion below will show). However, upon deeper reflection, it appears to me that the General Assembly is trying to make a subtle but very significant shift. And it is a shift toward the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

How so? Note that the new wording says nothing about marriage in general and, more specifically, marriage between a man and a woman. By eliminating such a requirement of fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, the door to accepting same-sex marriages in the future would be much easier to open.

But the General Assembly delegates (at least those who voted to drop this fidelity in traditional marriage requirement) show their ignorance of what Jesus Christ taught about marriage. Because what he taught is exactly what they voted to remove! Listen to Jesus words as recorded in Matthew 19:4-6:

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Here Jesus makes it clear that God's plan for marriage is ONE MAN + ONE WOMAN = ONE FLESH (for life). From the very beginning marriage was established by the Creator to be between a man and a woman, not two men or two women. I am sure God's heart is grieved to see how his plan for marriage is being systematically distorted and even destroyed by secular forces promoting co-habitation before (or even in place of marriage), divorce and same-sex marriage.

Please take a moment and stop and pray - pray for your own marriage. Pray for the marriages in our church. And pray for our nation - that we will be able to stop the trend away from the Creator's plan for marriage.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Coffee and Waking Up!

In 1773, Americans revolted against King George's Tea Tax and the Continental Congress declared coffee the official national beverage. I don't know about you, but I am so thankful for that act of Congress! I sure cannot imagine starting my day with a cup of tea instead of a hot mug of coffee! (As the Folgers ad says so well, "The best part to waking up is Folgers in your cup!" - but in my cup just about any brand of coffee will do!) And I am sure that many other Americans share my sentiments. Consider the following facts: The United States is the world's largest consumer of coffee, importing 16 to 20 million bags annually (2.5 million pounds), representing one-third of all coffee exported. More than half of the United States population consumes coffee. The typical coffee drinker has 3.4 cups of coffee per day. That translates into more than 450,000,000 cups of coffee daily.* Now that's a lot of java!!!

Well, let me suggest something else to add to your morning wake up routine (and I am talking to both coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers). Strive to start each day with some quiet time with God. Read the Word. Think about what it says. Pray about what it says. Commit your day to Him. I am not suggesting you set your alarm for 4 AM and spend two hours on your knees. But start by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier and spend that 15 minutes with God. He will be pleased, you will be encouraged and your day will get the kind of start it needs! There's no better part of starting your day than to read God's Word and pray!

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days" (Psalm 90:14).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

*Coffee facts from http://www.discountcoffee.com/

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Goodbye Summer!

Yesterday's Labor Day holiday marked the traditional end of summer (although the last official day of summer is September 21st). Thinking about this saddens me as I have grown to become a "Summer Man!" I love the outdoors -- and in my book there is no better time of year to be outdoors than the good ole summer time!

Now I could spend my day moping around, "boo-hooing" the demise of summer. But that would gain me nothing. I need to be thankful for the blessings I enjoyed this summer and move on to the next season of the year (which brings its own good things!).

This is a microcosm of life. Life has its various seasons. First, their is the season of childhood. This gives way to adolescence which in turn yields to young adulthood. Young adulthood is replaced by middle age which precedes our mature years. I don't know where you are in the changing seasons of life, but I am moving through middle age. Each season brings its own blessings and burdens, joys and sorrows, challenges and opportunities. For those of you who follow Jesus, be assured that you never have to "go it alone" - no matter what season of life you are currently experiencing. My hope is that you will strive to live each season -- ALL BY GOD'S GRACE AND ALL FOR HIS GLORY!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Needed Reminder about Heaven!

It is so very easy to get so wrapped up in "this life" commitments and activities, that we can lose sight of "the next life." Yet even a casual read of the New Testament reveals that we as followers of Christ cannot afford to do so! We must be striving to "set our minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:2). Because of our need to stay focused on heaven, I thought what I had to say last September was worth repeating --- first to me and then to you!


Originally Posted: September 25, 2007 under the title:
"Now That's Some Piece of Real Estate!"

Not too long ago, my wife and I were taking a walk when we came upon this sign. After reading the sign, I checked with my wife to see if she thought we should make an offer. An acre of real estate for just $1.7 million - sounds like a real deal! However, our credit card's spending limit was not quite enough!

The old saying that with real estate it's all about location, location, location - is definitely true. The acre being advertised for sale in this sign is located on the waterfront in Bar Harbor, Maine. Definitely a prime location! And if I had the financial capacity to do so, I would possibly think seriously about making an offer. It is incredibly beautiful in that part of Maine! (I wonder if they would accept an even million? Hmm...)

Now as valuable as this piece of property is - there is real estate far more valuable. In fact, the real estate I am thinking of is "out of this world!" It is the real estate of heaven (yes, heaven is a real place - just as real, if not more so, than that acre of waterfront property in Bar Harbor!). If you have not read the Bible's most complete description of heaven recently, let me encourage you to read the final two chapters of the Bible (Revelation 21-22). I just read it and WOW! I am more than ready to go there!). But unlike the acre in Bar Harbor, the real estate of heaven is not for sale! It has already been paid for -- by the blood of Jesus Christ. How about YOU? Are YOU trusting in Christ's sacrifice (and his sacrifice alone) to gain your entrance into this wonderful eternal place called Heaven? Jesus is indeed the ONLY way (see John 14:1-6).

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, September 29, 2008

For Believers Who Are Grieving the Death of a Loved One

If you have recently experienced the death of a loved one who was a follower of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, then read the following. This quote is from the great evangelist of the 1800's, D. L. Moody.

"Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that death cannot touch."

"More alive than I am now!" Wow!! This will be the experience of every single person who has confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! And if you have lost a loved one who is"in Christ" - your loved one has already experienced the reality of Moody's words!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, September 27, 2008

This Weekend Chew on This . . .

Here's a quote from the pen of R.C. Chapman* that I just read this morning. It is worthy for some thought and reflection.

"My business is to love others, not to seek that others shall love me."

Ouch!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

*R. C. Chapman (1803-1902) was an English pastor who was a close friend of J. Hudson Taylor (pioneer missionary to China) and a spiritual mentor to George Muller of Bristol.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wedding Bells to Toll Again!

In China it is the Year of the Rat. In the Smith household, it is the Year of the Wedding! My youngest daughter tied the knot back on June 29th. Now, in just a little over two weeks (October 12th) my oldest daughter will be doing the same! I will be one tired but happy dad when the dust finally settles!

Today a movie on marriage hits the theaters. It is called, Fireproof and stars Kirk Cameron (probably best known for his role as Michael Seaver in the mid-80's television sitcom, Growing Pains). Take a moment to read what others are saying about this film ... and watch the trailer. Then take your spouse by the hand and go and see this movie TOGETHER! It could change your marriage!

What Others are saying about Fireproof:

"Amazing! Action-packed, heartwarming, and a great resource to help strengthen and affirm marriages!" Dr. Gary Smalley, author of Change Your Heart, Change Your Life

"On top of a powerful message and the potential to change lives and marriages, this is one great movie!" Bubba Cathy, Senior Vice President, Chick-fil-A

"FIREPROOF is going to do much more than entertain and stir hearts; this is a movie that will impact couples in a profound way for decades to come." Dennis Rainey, President, FamilyLife



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Power of O (Oprah, that is!)

In 1999, Eckart Tolle published his book, The Power of Now. The premise of his book? Living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment. Hmm. I think Jesus might beg to differ. (as if the Lord of the Universe would beg - wrong choice of words, John!) .... Let me begin again. I think Jesus would disagree in no uncertain terms. The truest path to happiness and enlightenment is to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ alone is worthy of our allegiance and only HE has the key to the abundant life! Tolle's emphasis is nothing more than new age spirituality - which is totally different from biblical spirituality.

Well, Tolle followed up The Power of Now with another book in 2005. This book, titled A New Earth, only became a bestseller in 2008. Why a three year delay between publication and making the best seller list? A New Earth only became a bestseller when Oprah Winfrey (January 30, 2008) made it a selection of her million member book club. Once Oprah did that, sales of the book skyrocketed! Apparently for many people, Oprah's endorsement is all it takes! And that, my friend is power!

Just yesterday I received an email from someone who is concerned about the influence this book, A New Earth is having on people. So I did a little research, and found a solid biblically grounded review of the book by Don Whitney. You can read it at http://biblicalspirituality.org/newearth.html. What concerns me about this book and other bestsellers like The Shack (see my August 5, 2008 posting) is that many Christians read these books with little biblical discernment. As followers of Jesus, we MUST learn to discern, using the Bible as our compass for morality, theology and all of life's pressing issues!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Christianity on Display?

The British playwright, George Barnard Shaw once wrote, "Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it." Shaw's point? Far too many who claim to be Christians are not living as Christians (according to his definition of Christianity). When I read this quote early today, it got me thinking - not so much about others but about me. I have a tendency to not always live out what I profess to believe. Now I know that Jesus is not expecting perfection out of me (so that my walk perfectly lines up with HIS Word). But Jesus is expecting consistency from me. And the same goes for you, if you claim to be a follower of Christ.

So today ... and every day, let's pursue consistency, striving to align our talk and our walk with God's will. Of course, all by HIS grace and for HIS glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Maybe? Perhaps? Probably but . . .

Last night I found myself chuckling to myself as I watched of all things - the weather report. I was amused by the discussion of the forecast by the on camera meteorologist. He was talking about an approaching storm ... well, sort of. You see the storm hasn't formed yet. And although it probably will, it is still not a sure bet. And if it does form, which it probably will, it may move westward into the southeastern states OR it may move up along the coast into the mid-Atlantic states OR it may skirt the coast and head for New England. Oh and it may or may not become a tropical storm or ... yes ... possibly even a hurricane - maybe. I will give the weather guy credit -- he finally admitted that he just didn't know!

I am so glad that this type of uncertainty does not apply to the Bible. When God speaks in this book, we can rest assured that he speaks with certainty. He is, after all, the Designer, the Creator, the Sustainer of this vast universe. And he and he alone is sovereign over all. So when he speaks, it is not in the language of "maybe," "probably," "perhaps," or "likely." No. What he says, goes! And there is no "ifs," "ands," or "buts" about it! The writer of Psalm 119:89 put it well when he said, "Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens." And what is firm in heaven is rock solid on earth!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, September 22, 2008

Is It a "Need or Is It a "Want?"

I am convinced that one reason many churches, missionaries and para-church organizations struggle to meet their budgets is because many Christ-followers struggle to meet their own. As a result, Christians cannot give to kingdom ministries in ways that they could and should. The bottom line - missionaries come home, local churches slash their ministries, and Christian aid organizations are forced to sit back and watch orphans and widows remain hungry and homeless.

One basic principle of money management that would go a long way toward helping the average Christian get a handle on his or her budget is to ask this simple question before spending: "Is this a NEED or is it a WANT?" If it is a need - then the money should be spent, knowing that God has promised to meet our needs. But if it is a WANT, then extra scrutiny must be exercised on whether or not to spend that money. I am not saying it is never right to spend money on a "want" - but far too many of us on far too many occasions spend money we don't have on "wants." And as a result of that - our budgets are "overdrawn" and we have no money left for God and His work!

So .... before you lay out money for that larger HD television or new fully loaded computer - ask yourself, "Do I really NEED this ... or is it something I WANT but can do without?"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Gift on the Gridiron and the Need to Forgive

This past Sunday, an NFL official made a wrong call. This does not surprise us. We all know that officials in every sport are human ... and to quote Alexander Pope, "to err is human." (Pope by the way is generally regarded as the greatest English poet of the eighteenth century - are you impressed that I know that? Don't be. I merely looked it up on the Internet!) Now what made referee Ed Hochuli's blown call so bad was that it enabled the Denver Broncos to win the game against their rival, the San Diego Chargers. This week, Hochuli has not only acknowledged his mistake, he has profusely apologized for his blunder. But for many, his apology is unacceptable. According to an account on Fox Sports.com, Hochuli is receiving hundreds of email from irate Charger fans ... each one dripping with hatred for the man in stripes.

Now if I were a Charger's fan, I am sure I would be upset. It's bad enough when your team loses - but to have the game given away by someone else! That's a tough pill to swallow. Yet all of us will be wronged! Most times, when this happens, (as was the case with this blown call) the one "committing the crime" is not doing so intentionally. We must learn to give others "the benefit of the doubt" (usually something we reserve only for ourselves). And for those of us who claim to follow the Son of God - we must remember that Pope also said, "to forgive is divine." So if we want to become more like Jesus (who is divine) - then we must learn to be quick to forgive - which is exactly what the Bible commands us to do! (see Colossians 3:13)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Associations Are Important!

I just read a recent New York Times poll that shows Republican Nominee for President, John McCain is being hurt by his link to President Bush (of course, if President Bush were wildly popular, this link would be a boost to McCain's campaign to win the election). Now the reason for this is that people assume that we tend to become like the people with whom we associate. So voters look at John McCain and see that he has been closely tied to the President and assume that he will continue the same Bush policies that they don't like. This, by the way, is why John McCain is doing his best to distance himself from Bush and Barack Obama is doing his best to associate the two!

As followers of Jesus, we must take care of our associations. Should we associate with those "outside" the faith? Absolutely! Jesus was often with the "sinners and tax collectors" of his day. After all, he came to call sinners - not the "righteous" - to repentance. So yes, we should have friends and associates who are not Christians. But as we do, we must make sure that we are also surrounded by a strong community of like-minded Jesus-followers. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that "bad company corrupts good character." This is a caution that we must all heed. Yes - pursue friendships with those who are not yet Christian. But be sure to do so carefully ... seeking to influence them toward Christ (vs. allowing them to influence you toward evil!). This is a fine line -- pray and ask God to give you wisdom in this area!

And if you don't have any friends who are unbelievers - then remember this: To have a friend you must first BE A FRIEND!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"I Will Come Back!"

I'm not a HUGE movie fan. But that does not mean I don't enjoy a good film from time to time. Now there are some genres of movies that I really do enjoy. One of which would be the Superhero movies that herald the exploits of Spiderman, Batman, Superman and the like. I also enjoy watching fantasy films (such as the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia). And one of my deep dark secrets is that I occasionally will sit down with my wife and watch a " " flick (now if I fill in the blank - it won't be a deep dark secret anymore, will it?!). Each of these movie types all have something common to them (for example in the superhero films - there is always the super villian; in the the fantasy - it's always a battle of good vs. evil). Now I have also been known to watch a war movie here and there. And one scene that is often common in war movies looks like this: The film's hero is preparing to go off to war. But before he goes he has to say goodbye to his girl. So they embrace, they kiss. And (you can almost always count on this) the departing soldier's woman tearfully looks at him and in a voice cracking with emotion says to him, "Promise me you'll come back!" And he, wanting to reassure and comfort his sweetheart says with all the confidence he can muster, "I'll come back! I promise!"

Now -- think about that promise. Can he truly back up this promise. Can he make that promise with 100% certainty that he WILL come back? Not unless he goes AWOL until the war is over - or he has superhero abilities to dodge bullets or impose an invisible force field around himself. So he may want to come back -- but his return is far from certain.

Jesus Christ has made us a promise. Some 2000 years ago, just before he departed planet earth - he promised those he loved that he would be back. Here's what he said,

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 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 14:1-3).

Unlike the warrior going off to war and an uncertain fate - Jesus went off to heaven and will return. How do we know? Because Jesus is God. And being God he is King of the Universe and neither nothing nor no one can prevent his return! So if Jesus is coming back, are you ready to meet him?

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fighting Pollution - Noise Pollution!

I am sure none of you would argue with me that we live in a very noisy world! Cell phones ringing. Car horns honking. Rowdy children screaming. Lawn mowers roaring. And I could go on and on and on. Some people take the fight to rid of world of noise quite seriously. I found one group on the Internet. It is the NPC (Noise Pollution Clearinghouse). The group's mission is "is to create more civil cities and more natural rural and wilderness areas by reducing noise pollution at the source." And on their web site they offer a number of resources to help people reduce noise pollution.

Now am I surprised that such a group exists? Not at all. I am bombarded just like you with noise all the time. This is why it is so vital that we get apart from the noise and get quiet before God. Let me encourage you to fight noise pollution in your own life by making the time to be alone before God. So take your Bible, find a quiet place, and spend some alone and quiet time with the God who made you ... and the God who so loved you that He sent His one and only Son to pay the penalty for your sin against Him. Be quiet. And "be still and know that HE is God" (Psalm 46:10).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, September 15, 2008

Billy Graham on the Return of Christ . . .

An individual wrote in to Billy Graham, stating that someone had given him a pamphlet that gave a specific date for the return of Jesus Christ. I thought Billy Graham's answer was "right on!" So here it is.

Jesus clearly taught that someday He will return to Earth to set up His Kingdom -- but He also said that the exact time of His return is hidden from us. He said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32).

Unfortunately, over the centuries Jesus' warning hasn't kept people from speculating about the date of Christ's return. You may have read about people who believed they knew when Christ was coming, and even sold everything they owned so they would be ready -- only to be proved wrong. From time to time, groups also have appeared who claim Christ has already secretly come -- although the Bible clearly says that "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory" (Mark 13:26).

At the same time, the Bible does teach that certain events must take place before Christ returns -- and many Bible scholars believe these are already happening. I often think, for example, of Jesus' statement that the Gospel "will be preached in the whole world ... and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).

The real question, however, is this: Are you ready for Christ's return? You can be, by turning to Him in repentance and faith and committing your life to Him. Don't let another day go by without having Christ in your heart.

How about you? If Jesus were to come back TODAY - would you be ready to meet Him???? If you have any questions, go to the web site (in my list of recommended web sites) "Looking for more out of life?"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, September 12, 2008

Where Are All the Solid Leaders?

When it comes to leadership today, you can always find a book, a magazine article or a web site that talks about how to do it right (I just googled "leadership" and got 180 million hits! In addition, Amazon.com lists over 287,000 titles dealing with some topic of leadership!). So my question is this: If we have all this material about how to be a solid leader so readily available, then why do we have so few solid leaders?

For what they are worth - here are my thoughts on this situation. I do not believe the leadership vacuum is due to a lack of information (i.e. - people in leadership do not know how to lead). Now there may be some leaders who simply don't know how to lead (shame on them given the amount of info on how to lead that is all around us!). No, the cause of this leadership vacuum is not a lack of information but a lack of character. I don't care how well trained someone is to lead IF he or she is not a man or woman of character. Leaders must have integrity. Must be trustworthy. Must be sold out to others and to the mission of the team, agency, organization that they have been tasked to lead. This is why the very first qualification that the Apostle Paul mentions in his list of the qualifications for elders (the Bible's name for church leaders) is that of being "above reproach." Being above reproach is to be living such a life that when someone tries to launch a "character assassination" that those who know the individual says, "No way! Impossible! Can't be the John Smith that I know!" That is being above reproach. And sadly, both inside and outside the Church today - there are too few leaders that live and lead in a way that is above reproach.

So my prayer for all of us who are leading (which when you think of it includes the vast majority of us) is that we will continue to grow in our integrity, being men and women whose "walk" matches our "talk." Not perfectly - but consistently!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today We Remember . . .

Today is the 7th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack. All over our country, people are pausing to remember those who died as a result of that horrible day in our nation's history. My heart aches for those who lost loved ones ... and my heart grieves over the existence of such evil in human hearts that can drive men to devise and carry out such a diabolical scheme. But such is the world in which we live. But in the midst of the doom of our 9-11 recollections - there is a "silver lining." I am referring to the hundreds upon hundreds of men and women who showed heroism that day. Many of these did so at the cost of their own lives. We can find great encouragement in that! Jesus himself said "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

Jesus showed us just how great his love for us was and is ... when "while we were yet sinners, he died for us!" (Romans 5:8). May we never forget the cross -- may we always (DAILY) remember his sacrifice! Yes, I know that Jesus left us the ordinance of communion to practice ("This do in remembrance of me.") And it is very important that we gather with our church family to practice communion - but I also hope that we remember the cross and Jesus' sacrifice for us more often than just when we observe communion. Let me encourage you -- to pause right now and glory in the cross of Jesus Christ! As the Apostle Paul states, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!" (Galatians 6:14)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Guard Your . . .

Yesterday, Colonel Harland Sanders' recipe of 11 herbs and spices was removed from safekeeping at KFC's corporate offices. This was the first time this was done in several decades. A private security firm was hired to transport the yellowing handwritten piece of paper from the corporate offices to an undisclosed temporary location via an armored car. The move was necessitated because KFC is upgrading the security surrounding the recipe. KFC's recipe is one of the closest guarded secrets in corporate America.

Hmm.I guess I can understand the extent to which KFC guards that recipe.It sure helps them sell a lot of chicken! The Bible tells us that we are also to be guarding something. Something we all have and something that determines who we are. It is our heart. Proverbs 4:23 reads "Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life." Did you catch those first three words ... "Above all else" - in other words, make this a TOP priority in your life. Guard you heart. And how does one do that? Well for starters, if you fill your heart with God's Truth (His Word) - then there will not be room for the Enemy's lies to also take root and grow there! So guard you heart by filling your heart with God's Word. Then ask the Holy Spirit to take God's Truth and transform your heart ... conforming it to the heart of Jesus Christ.

So ... are you making the guarding of your heart a TOP priority? Have you been in the Word of God lately? These two go hand-in-hand!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

On Being Relevant


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 "being relevant" 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

Friday, September 5, 2008

Church Hopping Revisited

I posted the following a little over a year ago. I thought it was worthy of a re-read because of the frequency of "church hopping" among evangelical believers here in the United States. Our consumer mindset has a far firmer grip on us Christians than most of us would like to admit. So I offer this to you again in hopes that you will examine your own heart in this matter.


Church Hopping (first posted August 31, 2007)

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 (please note that I do believe there may come appropriate times to leave a church - but that topic I will leave for another blog posting).

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 stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 4, 2008

And Marriage Is. . .

Recently the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted (380-325) to drop the requirement that elders, deacons and pastors "live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness." In its place, the following pledge will be required of candidates for ordination (assuming the denomination's presbyteries go along with the change): "to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church." Now on the surface, there may not appear to be much difference between the old requirement and the new (as the discussion below will show). However, upon deeper reflection, it appears to me that the General Assembly is trying to make a subtle but very significant shift. And it is a shift toward the acceptance of same-sex marriage.

How so? Note that the new wording says nothing about marriage in general and, more specifically, marriage between a man and a woman. By eliminating such a requirement of fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, the door to accepting same-sex marriages in the future would be much easier to open.

But the General Assembly delegates (at least those who voted to drop this fidelity in traditional marriage requirement) show their ignorance of what Jesus Christ taught about marriage. Because what he taught is exactly what they voted to remove! Listen to Jesus words as recorded in Matthew 19:4-6:

"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Here Jesus makes it clear that God's plan for marriage is ONE MAN + ONE WOMAN = ONE FLESH (for life). From the very beginning marriage was established by the Creator to be between a man and a woman, not two men or two women. I am sure God's heart is grieved to see how his plan for marriage is being systematically distorted and even destroyed by secular forces promoting co-habitation before (or even in place of marriage), divorce and same-sex marriage.

Please take a moment and stop and pray - pray for your own marriage. Pray for the marriages in our church. And pray for our nation - that we will be able to stop the trend away from the Creator's plan for marriage.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Coffee and Waking Up!

In 1773, Americans revolted against King George's Tea Tax and the Continental Congress declared coffee the official national beverage. I don't know about you, but I am so thankful for that act of Congress! I sure cannot imagine starting my day with a cup of tea instead of a hot mug of coffee! (As the Folgers ad says so well, "The best part to waking up is Folgers in your cup!" - but in my cup just about any brand of coffee will do!) And I am sure that many other Americans share my sentiments. Consider the following facts: The United States is the world's largest consumer of coffee, importing 16 to 20 million bags annually (2.5 million pounds), representing one-third of all coffee exported. More than half of the United States population consumes coffee. The typical coffee drinker has 3.4 cups of coffee per day. That translates into more than 450,000,000 cups of coffee daily.* Now that's a lot of java!!!

Well, let me suggest something else to add to your morning wake up routine (and I am talking to both coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers). Strive to start each day with some quiet time with God. Read the Word. Think about what it says. Pray about what it says. Commit your day to Him. I am not suggesting you set your alarm for 4 AM and spend two hours on your knees. But start by setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier and spend that 15 minutes with God. He will be pleased, you will be encouraged and your day will get the kind of start it needs! There's no better part of starting your day than to read God's Word and pray!

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days" (Psalm 90:14).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

*Coffee facts from http://www.discountcoffee.com/

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Goodbye Summer!

Yesterday's Labor Day holiday marked the traditional end of summer (although the last official day of summer is September 21st). Thinking about this saddens me as I have grown to become a "Summer Man!" I love the outdoors -- and in my book there is no better time of year to be outdoors than the good ole summer time!

Now I could spend my day moping around, "boo-hooing" the demise of summer. But that would gain me nothing. I need to be thankful for the blessings I enjoyed this summer and move on to the next season of the year (which brings its own good things!).

This is a microcosm of life. Life has its various seasons. First, their is the season of childhood. This gives way to adolescence which in turn yields to young adulthood. Young adulthood is replaced by middle age which precedes our mature years. I don't know where you are in the changing seasons of life, but I am moving through middle age. Each season brings its own blessings and burdens, joys and sorrows, challenges and opportunities. For those of you who follow Jesus, be assured that you never have to "go it alone" - no matter what season of life you are currently experiencing. My hope is that you will strive to live each season -- ALL BY GOD'S GRACE AND ALL FOR HIS GLORY!

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.