PJ

PJ

Thursday, April 30, 2009

On Moose Taunting...


Last week at a middle school in Palmer, Alaska, a moose wandered onto the school property. When a group of students who were outside for PE class spotted the moose, they began to taunt the moose (now how one taunts a moose, I have no idea). The moose became so frightened that it threw itself repeatedly into a wall and ultimately died as a result of its injuries. The students were disciplined for their mistreatment of the moose. The principal held an assembly to reinforce proper behavior around moose in order to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

Animal lovers especially will look at this incident and think, "How cruel! I hope those students pay for their crime!" And I would agree, it is a shame that the actions of these students led to the death of this moose. But I wonder how often we do similar things - not to animals but to our fellow human beings? We may not be so overt in our "taunting" of one another, yet I think we are guilty of taunting far more than we realize. Consider the following dictionary definition of the word taunt: "to reproach in a sarcastic, insulting, or jeering manner; mock." All too often I hear people (self included!) cut others down with a sarcastic comment. But as Christ-followers, the standard for our speech to others is clearly laid out for us in Ephesians 4:29 which reads, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but ONLY what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (emphasis mine). You see, whenever we open our mouths to talk to another person - our words should be for THEIR benefit - not ours!!! Think about that today as you talk with the people you encounter.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back in Town with Some Random Thoughts

Finally after a week of vacation and a two day police chaplaincy conference, I am back in town in the office and trying to figure out what I need to do first! But before I tackle the rest of my TDL (To Do List) I thought I would post some random thoughts for you to think about.

1. Vacations are a great time to work on significant relationships in one's life. This past week was a wonderful experience for my wife, Sharon and I. We spent a bunch of quality time together. Hours of driving in the car (and driving to South Carolina and back I do mean hours!) gave us plenty of time to just talk - and that doesn't include all the time we spent talking as we walked and ate and just "hung out" together. It made me realize that during our non vacation time (which is by far the bulk of our year!) - we must be sure to make time for each other to just talk!

2. Even though my wife and I were sad when it was time to return home - there is still a good feeling that I experience every time I pull into my driveway after being away for a time. Home is home. For me, it is my favorite place on this planet. It is where I can "kick back and relax." It is where I always find acceptance. In my book, there is no place like home! My heart goes out to people who don't have the loving home experience that I have. I heard a story yesterday from a police officer about a woman who took her five year old daughter and stuck her in the dryer because she was making too much noise. And she went on to turn the dryer on! (fortunately the daughter suffered only minor physical injuries - but what about the psychological scars she will bear for the rest of her life?). All this to say - strive to make your home a safe place, a secure place, a place where love, acceptance and grace reign! Let's strive to "accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted (us), in order to bring praise to God" (Romans 15:7).

3. Time is moving forward on its relentless march. I was reminded of this when Sharon and I stopped to have lunch in Holden Beach, NC. This is where we spent our honeymoon - soon to be thirty one years ago. Holden Beach is a small town located on a small strip of land sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. The town consists primarily of two rows of houses - one row along the beach the other the waterway. The house we stayed in faced the beach. As we drove across the bridge into Holden Beach - we saw little that looked familiar. Granted memories fade somewhat over 3 decades ... but even with that we noted numerous changes. As for the house in which we stayed - it is no longer there. It has been replaced by a larger newer home. But the beach is still there and it still looked the same :) - so we took our lunch and blanket and enjoyed our lunch on the beach. Given this reality of time's forward march - let's all determine to be always "making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Pain Behind the Badge

Well ... the inevitable occurred. My week long vacation came to an abrupt end on Sunday. As I type out this blog posting, I am sitting in a room at a conference center in Carlisle, PA where I am attending a regional training conference sponsored by the International Conference of Police Chaplains. Today's sessions have centered on the growing problem of police suicide. Consider the following stats: every year in this country somewhere between 150-175 police officers are killed in the line of duty. In comparison, each year sees anywhere from 350 - 400 officers die of their own hand (or approximately one police suicide every day in the U.S.). That is a sad and sobering statistic.

Today's seminar focused on the pain that police officers experience on the job and the toll that pain takes upon them. And because most police officers do not deal with stress in healthy ways (after all, they are cops and cops have to be tough!) - when the stress grows to unbearable levels, some officers see suicide as their only option. Today's presenter, Clarke Paris, is a Sgt. with the Las Vegas Metro PD. He recently produced a documentary film on law enforcement stress and police suicide (an outstanding film that EVERY cop should see! For a preview of the film, check out the following link: http://www.thepainbehindthebadge.com/thefilm.html).

I must say that when the final afternoon session was done (about 4:15) I felt emotionally drained. But I also felt a burden for the men and women who face the worst evils of society so that the rest of us don't have to! So let me ask you as you sign off my blog -- please pray for the law enforcement officers who serve our community. Many of them carry a lot of pain behind their badge!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Heading Out of Town!

Dictionary.com defines a vacation as "a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday." As of 1 PM today (Sunday) - my wife and I will be heading south on I-95 for a week of vacation. I will be suspending my work at church in order to get some R and R (rest and recreation). Our road trip will include stops in Chester, VA (just south of Richmond), Walterboro, Beaufort and Charleston - all in South Carolina. SOOO ... this will be my final blog posting until I return from the sunny (I hope!) south. Until then ... remember to keep your knees on the floor, your heart in the Book and your eyes to the sky!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 17, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing and the Temple of God . . .

Recently, people in Painesville, Ohio were astonished when they turned on their tap water to get a drink. Instead of clear water filling their glasses ... the water was pink! And for someone like me who is not really a pink fan, it must have been quite the surprise! It all happened due to an Ohio Water Company equipment malfunction. A chemical feeder designed to release potassium permanganate (used for taste and odor control), poured too much of the chemical into the water, causing the pink color. The water company got right on the problem and by the next day, the water was back to normal!

This shows us that even a good thing - if it is used too much - can be too much! I think all of us should give this some thought, especially when it comes to the care of our physical bodies. Yes, that's right - I said "the care of our physical bodies." Why is this important? I will let the Apostle Paul speak to this. He writes, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). One way we honor God with our bodies is to take care of them. And among other things that means not eating too much! I say this because gluttony just may be the most "acceptable" sin in American Christianity. Food is good (often TOO good!). We need it to survive and thrive. But, as the citizens of Painesville, Ohio found out - too much of a good thing is ... after all, TOO MUCH! So the next time you are tempted to go for seconds on that delicious meal or order dessert to top off that wonderful entree at Olive Garden, ask yourself, "Does God's temple really need this additional food? Or is it TOO MUCH?"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 16, 2009

OUCH! When Another Member of the Body Is Hurting!

This past Saturday evening I was involved in a collision. No, it did not involve my vehicle and it did not occur on some suburban street. Rather it all happened in a split second right in my own living room. My little toe on my right foot, moving at a high rate of speed, encountered an immovable object. And my toe lost! Writhing in pain, I collapsed on our sofa. When I finally opened my eyes and took a look at my toe, I noted that it was sticking outward from the rest of my foot (and usually it hugs closely my fourth toe) at about a 45 degree angle. At that point I knew it was broken. My first thought was, "Why did this happen the evening before Easter Sunday??!!" I spent the rest of the evening with an ice pack on my toe and keeping it elevated. And the next morning, in spite of my best efforts, I was unable to wear a shoe on my right foot. So I wore a slipper instead. One person who saw me in the hallway at church asked me if I was wearing the slipper as part of a sermon illustration I was planning!

Today, five days after my injury, the toe is still hurting - especially when I wear a shoe (so right now as I am sitting in my office, I am wearing a slipper on that foot). And when I walk ... I do so with a limp. This has caused me to experience some pain in other parts of my right leg and knee (my doctor warned me about this). Yea! All this due to a small broken bone (one of the smallest in the body) - and that little broken bone lets me know all day long that it is hurting!

The Body of Christ should be like this. When one member hurts - all of us should feel the pain. However, all too often, we don't. Why is this? I think at times we can become very self-focused. We have our own problem ... issues ... and pain to deal with. And so we grow indifferent to the needs and pain of others. There are other times that we are just plain too busy. As a result, we get so tied up in doing whatever, that we have no time to really feel the pain of others. But whatever the reason, this ought not to be! If you are a member of the Body of Christ, then you are called upon by God to minister to those who are hurting. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when he writes, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). In referring to burdens, he is not talking about those things that God expects us to carry (for he says in Galatians 6:5, "for each one should carry his own load.") Rather he is talking about those very difficult things that bring us pain that are just too big for us to carry on our own.

Sooooooo --- stop and take a look around you. Is there a brother or sister in Christ who is hurting and could use some relief? Reach out. Help shoulder their burden. In doing so, you will be fulling the law of Christ (which is to love one another even as HE has loved us!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TOMORROW IS APRIL 15! AGAIN???!!!

It is inevitable (unless the return of Jesus intervenes!). You can bank on it. April 15th will roll around and with it the deadline to file your tax returns. I always work ahead. This year, I completed my federal and state returns sometime in February and my local return last week. But there are many ... millions ... who wait until the last minute. This is why post offices remain open to midnight on April 15 and why some Internet sites crash due to the onslaught of e-filers who are e-filing their tax returns as April 15th reaches its conclusion. It is called procrastination. And with millions of taxpayers procrastinating - there are probably millions of reasons as to why they do so! But no matter the reason for their procrastination, the deadline will not yield -and even though many opt to file an extension request, all must file something!

For followers of Jesus Christ, there is coming in the future another day of accounting. Unlike the IRS's day of accounting, the date is unknown. But like our April 15 tax deadline, this future day of accounting for Believers will take place. You can count on it. Paul mentions it in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 where he writes, "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

SOOO ... are YOU preparing for that Day? And keep in mind there will be NO extensions granted!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!!!


"He is not here; he has risen!" (Matthew 28:6). These words and the truth they convey bring us reason to celebrate. For without the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ we would remain "without hope and with God." May your Easter celebration deepen your love for Jesus, His Father and the Holy Spirit!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Good" Friday?

Most people would never choose the adjective "good" to refer to the day of someone's death ... let alone such a brutal and violent death such as the death Jesus Christ endured. Yet "good" is the adjective we use to refer to the day when Jesus died. Read the following Scripture and concluding prayer by John Piper ... and I believe you will see why the day Jesus died was indeed a GOOD day!


Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23 - The wages of sin is death . . .

Mark 10:45 - The Son of Man came . . . to give His life a ransom for many.

1 Peter 2:24 - He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.

Isaiah 53:6 - The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

1 Peter 3:18 - For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

2 Corinthians 5:21 - God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Romans 6:23 - The wages of sin is death . . . BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!


Father, what can we say? We feel utterly unworthy in the face of Christ's unspeakable sufferings. We are sorry. It was our sin that brought this to pass. It was we who struck him and spit on him and mocked him. O Father, we are so sorry. We bow ourselves to the dirt and shut the mouths of our small, dark, petty, sinful souls. O Father, touch us with fresh faith that we might believe the incredible. That the very pain of Christ that makes us despair is our salvation. Open our fearful hearts that cannot feel what must be felt - that we are loved with the deepest, strongest, purest love in the universe. Oh, grant us to have the power to comprehend with all the saints the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and may we be filled with all the fullness of God. Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity. O God, open our eyes to the vastness of the sufferings of Christ and what they mean for sin and holiness and hope and heaven. Make us awake to the weight of glory - the glory of Christ's incomparable sufferings. In his great and wonderful name, amen.
(John Piper from Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ)


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Cleaning!

Now that spring is here (although the weather has been more like mid winter the last two days!), many of us have already gone through (or are planning to soon go through) the ritual known as "spring cleaning." Last Wednesday, our church staff took the morning and in place of our regular staff meeting, we cleaned our offices. My office was LOONNNGGG overdue for a thorough cleaning! And it took us ("us" because my wife graciously offered to come in and help me out) four hours of almost non-stop work! In that time I filled a box of books to be given away ... and hauled four large trash bags of "stuff" out to the dumpster.

Now did I enjoy the time of cleaning? Of going through shelves and shelves of books and deciding what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to give away? Of cleaning out drawers and sorting through piles of "stuff?" Absolutely NO!!! But am I enjoying the fruit of that labor? The labor that has left my office cleaner and more orderly than it has been in years? The effort that has even lead visitors to my office to comment on its more tidy appearance! Undoubtedly YES!!!

This reminds me somewhat of the Christian life. We need to regularly unplug from the world and take some time to do some "internal housekeeping" - even if this can be at times an unpleasant experience. Our hearts tend to grow cluttered with time. And if we don't make the time to do self evaluations (using the mirror of the Word as our guide), our hearts can very easily begin to drift from Christ. In one of the most compelling verses in the Old Testament (at least for me), we are urged to "Above all else, guard your heart for out of it are the issues of life"). Are YOU guarding your heart?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Post-Christian America?

The cover of the April 13th edition of Newsweek Magazine struck me and left me wanting to read the cover article. The cover is black and contains in red print the title, "The Decline and Fall of Christian America" - and it is printed in the form of a cross.

The article is based on the results of a new survey that was recently published. The survey, the American Religious Identification Survey reveals a sobering trend in our country. According to this study, the percentage of self-identified Christians as fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86% to 76%. In addition, the number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about four-fold from 1990 to the present, from about 1 million to 3.6 million. Based on these statistics, the article goes on to claim that although Christianity is not dead in America, it's influence upon American culture is declining - and will most likely continue to do so well into the foreseeable future.

Now, I did not need a magazine article or a survey to tell me that. All I have to do is look around. In the past two weeks, for example, two state supreme courts have overturned their own state bans against homosexual marriage (and the Bible is clear that God's plan for marriage is one man, one woman, one flesh for life - see Matthew 19:4-6). The fact that one of these states was Vermont did not surprise me at all. But I was surprised that Iowa's supreme court did the same! Iowa is at America's heartland. But apparently, even in America's heartland, biblical values are on the wane.

So, am I discouraged by all this? Not really. I know that the God we serve is sovereign and all powerful. He has a plan and He is working that plan (just read the book of Revelation, for example). And I also know that where ever it is darkest, the light that is shining shines more brightly! So for us who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ all this means is that we must work intentionally at obeying our Lord's command given to us in Matthew 5:16, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Difficult Question

Recently, I was asked a question that went like this: "If God is all powerful and heals people of cancer, stroke, heart attack, etc. . .why hasn't he ever healed an amputee by restoring his or her amputated limb?"

Hmm. Good question! Here is how I answered this difficult question (difficult because of the deep emotional pain behind it):

We live in a fallen broken world .. a world marked by pain and sorrow. This is due to humanity's rebellion against God. Because the world in which we live is "temporarily out of order" (it will be one day be made right again - see Revelation 21-22 for the details), physical illness, disease and injury occur. In the midst of all this brokenness, God has graciously given to man the medical knowledge to bring healing to many (though not all). In the case of an amputee - the cost of his or her healing is quite high compared to the cost of other "healings" (for example surgery to repair a hernia or a cataract of the eye). Could God restore an amputated limb? Certainly! But He has chosen to work through medical science to bring about healing for the sick - and I as I mentioned earlier, the cost of healing for the amputee is quite high indeed. Yet, many amputees do move on to live full lives as they learn to adjust to their disability.

In addition, we can never forget that the only thing we deserve from God is death and judgment. Any physical healing we experience is a gift of his grace!

Finally, as important as physical healing is ... spiritual healing is even more crucial. For physical healing is all about this life --- spiritual healing is about FOREVER. If YOU are not certain about your own spiritual healing, I invite you to visit the following web site: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Some Thoughts on The Shack


Many have asked me recently about my view of the book, The Shack. I posted these thoughts back in August of 2008. What I said then I still believe now. Blessings!! - pj



Recently a friend passed on a copy of the bestselling book, The Shack (by William P. Young) to my wife. The book tells the story of a man (Mack) whose young daughter was brutally murdered. After several years of grieving her death, Mack receives a mysterious note from "Papa" (the book's name for God the Father), inviting him to the shack where his daughter was killed to spend some time together. Mack ends up going and once there he is surprised to find the Father, Son and Holy Spirit waiting for him.

I just finished the book on Sunday night. I must say that the ending did make my eyes perspire a little bit. Would I recommend the book for others to read? I don't think so. I found the writing to be good at points and not so good at other points. But what concerns me most is that Christians are reading the book and claiming that it has changed how they view God. And that disturbs me. Why? Because I found the God of The Shack to be a very different God from the God of the Bible. Now it is not my purpose to give you a complete review of the book and show you where the book falls short. I will leave that to others who have done a far better job than I could ever do (for an excellent review on the Shack see Tim Challies' review found at this link: http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/a-review-of-the-shack-download-it-here.php).

So ... let me give you just one thought. When I consider how the people in Scripture reacted when they came face-to-face with God (for example Isaiah, Moses, Ezekiel, John the Apostle), their response was far, far different than how Mack responds when he meets "God." The Shack emphasizes God's love and immanence (the fact that God is near). And it is very true that God is love ... and God is near. But I believe the qualifying attribute of God (i.e. the attribute that qualifies all of his attributes) is not love but holiness. God's holiness is the only attribute mentioned in Scripture that is taken to the superlative (in both Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 God's holiness is so much on the minds of the heavenly beings that they shout out the fact that God is "holy, holy, holy!"). So in effect, God's love is a holy love. God's grace is a holy grace. God's wisdom is a holy wisdom. And that is not what I saw in The Shack.

So bottom line (I don't want to get too long on my thoughts - you can read Tim Challies' review for more insights) - if you feel that you have to read the book, please read it as FICTION - for that is truly what it is. And get your theology from the Word of God.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Shaped to Serve!

When we make the decision to follow Jesus Christ, God does an amazing thing. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" You see, by a work of God's grace, we become HIS “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which HE prepared in advance for us to do”(Ephesians 2:10). Now due to life’s busyness, we can easily lose sight of this truth. That is why we must from time to time renew our commitment to serve our Lord. If we don't, we can all too easily slide into the mode of serving Me, Myself, and I! SOOOO .... all this to remind you of this glorious truth: serving Jesus is one of the highest privileges of life! So let's all determine to use our God-given SHAPE to serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Are You Exporting?

Spam. We all know what it is and we all have grown to hate it (and I am not talking about the canned variety of SPAM that you can purchase at the grocery store)! I am referring to the very annoying (and even sometimes malicious) unsolicited junk mail that shows up in our email in boxes! In fact, we go to great lengths to limit the amount of incoming spam through the use of various spam filters that are on the market today. If it were not for these spam filters ... I think all we would do in the course of a day is deleting spam!

Did you ever wonder where all this spam comes from? I noted in yesterday's paper a list of the top countries when it comes to the origin of spam. Guess what country tops the list? If you guessed the good old U.S. of A. - you got it right! The U.S. comes in on top with 17.5% of all spam originating right here at home! And when you consider that second place Russia originates only 7.8% -- you can see that the U. S. is not in any danger of losing this distinction of being the number one exporter of spam!

This got me thinking about what we as Christians should be exporting. Yesterday I blogged about choosing to give thanks when tempted to grumble and complain. So how are you doing with that? Are you exporting more thanks than complaints? How about acts of kindness? Have you exported any of them lately? And of course, there's the gospel message. How have you been at exported the good news of Jesus Christ? Take a moment and evaluate what you are exporting to those around you. You may just find out that what you are exporting is no more beneficial than spam!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 30, 2009

On Moose Taunting...


Last week at a middle school in Palmer, Alaska, a moose wandered onto the school property. When a group of students who were outside for PE class spotted the moose, they began to taunt the moose (now how one taunts a moose, I have no idea). The moose became so frightened that it threw itself repeatedly into a wall and ultimately died as a result of its injuries. The students were disciplined for their mistreatment of the moose. The principal held an assembly to reinforce proper behavior around moose in order to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

Animal lovers especially will look at this incident and think, "How cruel! I hope those students pay for their crime!" And I would agree, it is a shame that the actions of these students led to the death of this moose. But I wonder how often we do similar things - not to animals but to our fellow human beings? We may not be so overt in our "taunting" of one another, yet I think we are guilty of taunting far more than we realize. Consider the following dictionary definition of the word taunt: "to reproach in a sarcastic, insulting, or jeering manner; mock." All too often I hear people (self included!) cut others down with a sarcastic comment. But as Christ-followers, the standard for our speech to others is clearly laid out for us in Ephesians 4:29 which reads, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but ONLY what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (emphasis mine). You see, whenever we open our mouths to talk to another person - our words should be for THEIR benefit - not ours!!! Think about that today as you talk with the people you encounter.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back in Town with Some Random Thoughts

Finally after a week of vacation and a two day police chaplaincy conference, I am back in town in the office and trying to figure out what I need to do first! But before I tackle the rest of my TDL (To Do List) I thought I would post some random thoughts for you to think about.

1. Vacations are a great time to work on significant relationships in one's life. This past week was a wonderful experience for my wife, Sharon and I. We spent a bunch of quality time together. Hours of driving in the car (and driving to South Carolina and back I do mean hours!) gave us plenty of time to just talk - and that doesn't include all the time we spent talking as we walked and ate and just "hung out" together. It made me realize that during our non vacation time (which is by far the bulk of our year!) - we must be sure to make time for each other to just talk!

2. Even though my wife and I were sad when it was time to return home - there is still a good feeling that I experience every time I pull into my driveway after being away for a time. Home is home. For me, it is my favorite place on this planet. It is where I can "kick back and relax." It is where I always find acceptance. In my book, there is no place like home! My heart goes out to people who don't have the loving home experience that I have. I heard a story yesterday from a police officer about a woman who took her five year old daughter and stuck her in the dryer because she was making too much noise. And she went on to turn the dryer on! (fortunately the daughter suffered only minor physical injuries - but what about the psychological scars she will bear for the rest of her life?). All this to say - strive to make your home a safe place, a secure place, a place where love, acceptance and grace reign! Let's strive to "accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted (us), in order to bring praise to God" (Romans 15:7).

3. Time is moving forward on its relentless march. I was reminded of this when Sharon and I stopped to have lunch in Holden Beach, NC. This is where we spent our honeymoon - soon to be thirty one years ago. Holden Beach is a small town located on a small strip of land sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. The town consists primarily of two rows of houses - one row along the beach the other the waterway. The house we stayed in faced the beach. As we drove across the bridge into Holden Beach - we saw little that looked familiar. Granted memories fade somewhat over 3 decades ... but even with that we noted numerous changes. As for the house in which we stayed - it is no longer there. It has been replaced by a larger newer home. But the beach is still there and it still looked the same :) - so we took our lunch and blanket and enjoyed our lunch on the beach. Given this reality of time's forward march - let's all determine to be always "making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Pain Behind the Badge

Well ... the inevitable occurred. My week long vacation came to an abrupt end on Sunday. As I type out this blog posting, I am sitting in a room at a conference center in Carlisle, PA where I am attending a regional training conference sponsored by the International Conference of Police Chaplains. Today's sessions have centered on the growing problem of police suicide. Consider the following stats: every year in this country somewhere between 150-175 police officers are killed in the line of duty. In comparison, each year sees anywhere from 350 - 400 officers die of their own hand (or approximately one police suicide every day in the U.S.). That is a sad and sobering statistic.

Today's seminar focused on the pain that police officers experience on the job and the toll that pain takes upon them. And because most police officers do not deal with stress in healthy ways (after all, they are cops and cops have to be tough!) - when the stress grows to unbearable levels, some officers see suicide as their only option. Today's presenter, Clarke Paris, is a Sgt. with the Las Vegas Metro PD. He recently produced a documentary film on law enforcement stress and police suicide (an outstanding film that EVERY cop should see! For a preview of the film, check out the following link: http://www.thepainbehindthebadge.com/thefilm.html).

I must say that when the final afternoon session was done (about 4:15) I felt emotionally drained. But I also felt a burden for the men and women who face the worst evils of society so that the rest of us don't have to! So let me ask you as you sign off my blog -- please pray for the law enforcement officers who serve our community. Many of them carry a lot of pain behind their badge!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Heading Out of Town!

Dictionary.com defines a vacation as "a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday." As of 1 PM today (Sunday) - my wife and I will be heading south on I-95 for a week of vacation. I will be suspending my work at church in order to get some R and R (rest and recreation). Our road trip will include stops in Chester, VA (just south of Richmond), Walterboro, Beaufort and Charleston - all in South Carolina. SOOO ... this will be my final blog posting until I return from the sunny (I hope!) south. Until then ... remember to keep your knees on the floor, your heart in the Book and your eyes to the sky!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 17, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing and the Temple of God . . .

Recently, people in Painesville, Ohio were astonished when they turned on their tap water to get a drink. Instead of clear water filling their glasses ... the water was pink! And for someone like me who is not really a pink fan, it must have been quite the surprise! It all happened due to an Ohio Water Company equipment malfunction. A chemical feeder designed to release potassium permanganate (used for taste and odor control), poured too much of the chemical into the water, causing the pink color. The water company got right on the problem and by the next day, the water was back to normal!

This shows us that even a good thing - if it is used too much - can be too much! I think all of us should give this some thought, especially when it comes to the care of our physical bodies. Yes, that's right - I said "the care of our physical bodies." Why is this important? I will let the Apostle Paul speak to this. He writes, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). One way we honor God with our bodies is to take care of them. And among other things that means not eating too much! I say this because gluttony just may be the most "acceptable" sin in American Christianity. Food is good (often TOO good!). We need it to survive and thrive. But, as the citizens of Painesville, Ohio found out - too much of a good thing is ... after all, TOO MUCH! So the next time you are tempted to go for seconds on that delicious meal or order dessert to top off that wonderful entree at Olive Garden, ask yourself, "Does God's temple really need this additional food? Or is it TOO MUCH?"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 16, 2009

OUCH! When Another Member of the Body Is Hurting!

This past Saturday evening I was involved in a collision. No, it did not involve my vehicle and it did not occur on some suburban street. Rather it all happened in a split second right in my own living room. My little toe on my right foot, moving at a high rate of speed, encountered an immovable object. And my toe lost! Writhing in pain, I collapsed on our sofa. When I finally opened my eyes and took a look at my toe, I noted that it was sticking outward from the rest of my foot (and usually it hugs closely my fourth toe) at about a 45 degree angle. At that point I knew it was broken. My first thought was, "Why did this happen the evening before Easter Sunday??!!" I spent the rest of the evening with an ice pack on my toe and keeping it elevated. And the next morning, in spite of my best efforts, I was unable to wear a shoe on my right foot. So I wore a slipper instead. One person who saw me in the hallway at church asked me if I was wearing the slipper as part of a sermon illustration I was planning!

Today, five days after my injury, the toe is still hurting - especially when I wear a shoe (so right now as I am sitting in my office, I am wearing a slipper on that foot). And when I walk ... I do so with a limp. This has caused me to experience some pain in other parts of my right leg and knee (my doctor warned me about this). Yea! All this due to a small broken bone (one of the smallest in the body) - and that little broken bone lets me know all day long that it is hurting!

The Body of Christ should be like this. When one member hurts - all of us should feel the pain. However, all too often, we don't. Why is this? I think at times we can become very self-focused. We have our own problem ... issues ... and pain to deal with. And so we grow indifferent to the needs and pain of others. There are other times that we are just plain too busy. As a result, we get so tied up in doing whatever, that we have no time to really feel the pain of others. But whatever the reason, this ought not to be! If you are a member of the Body of Christ, then you are called upon by God to minister to those who are hurting. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when he writes, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). In referring to burdens, he is not talking about those things that God expects us to carry (for he says in Galatians 6:5, "for each one should carry his own load.") Rather he is talking about those very difficult things that bring us pain that are just too big for us to carry on our own.

Sooooooo --- stop and take a look around you. Is there a brother or sister in Christ who is hurting and could use some relief? Reach out. Help shoulder their burden. In doing so, you will be fulling the law of Christ (which is to love one another even as HE has loved us!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TOMORROW IS APRIL 15! AGAIN???!!!

It is inevitable (unless the return of Jesus intervenes!). You can bank on it. April 15th will roll around and with it the deadline to file your tax returns. I always work ahead. This year, I completed my federal and state returns sometime in February and my local return last week. But there are many ... millions ... who wait until the last minute. This is why post offices remain open to midnight on April 15 and why some Internet sites crash due to the onslaught of e-filers who are e-filing their tax returns as April 15th reaches its conclusion. It is called procrastination. And with millions of taxpayers procrastinating - there are probably millions of reasons as to why they do so! But no matter the reason for their procrastination, the deadline will not yield -and even though many opt to file an extension request, all must file something!

For followers of Jesus Christ, there is coming in the future another day of accounting. Unlike the IRS's day of accounting, the date is unknown. But like our April 15 tax deadline, this future day of accounting for Believers will take place. You can count on it. Paul mentions it in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 where he writes, "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

SOOO ... are YOU preparing for that Day? And keep in mind there will be NO extensions granted!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!!!


"He is not here; he has risen!" (Matthew 28:6). These words and the truth they convey bring us reason to celebrate. For without the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ we would remain "without hope and with God." May your Easter celebration deepen your love for Jesus, His Father and the Holy Spirit!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Good" Friday?

Most people would never choose the adjective "good" to refer to the day of someone's death ... let alone such a brutal and violent death such as the death Jesus Christ endured. Yet "good" is the adjective we use to refer to the day when Jesus died. Read the following Scripture and concluding prayer by John Piper ... and I believe you will see why the day Jesus died was indeed a GOOD day!


Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 6:23 - The wages of sin is death . . .

Mark 10:45 - The Son of Man came . . . to give His life a ransom for many.

1 Peter 2:24 - He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.

Isaiah 53:6 - The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

1 Peter 3:18 - For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

2 Corinthians 5:21 - God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Romans 6:23 - The wages of sin is death . . . BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!


Father, what can we say? We feel utterly unworthy in the face of Christ's unspeakable sufferings. We are sorry. It was our sin that brought this to pass. It was we who struck him and spit on him and mocked him. O Father, we are so sorry. We bow ourselves to the dirt and shut the mouths of our small, dark, petty, sinful souls. O Father, touch us with fresh faith that we might believe the incredible. That the very pain of Christ that makes us despair is our salvation. Open our fearful hearts that cannot feel what must be felt - that we are loved with the deepest, strongest, purest love in the universe. Oh, grant us to have the power to comprehend with all the saints the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and may we be filled with all the fullness of God. Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity. O God, open our eyes to the vastness of the sufferings of Christ and what they mean for sin and holiness and hope and heaven. Make us awake to the weight of glory - the glory of Christ's incomparable sufferings. In his great and wonderful name, amen.
(John Piper from Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ)


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Cleaning!

Now that spring is here (although the weather has been more like mid winter the last two days!), many of us have already gone through (or are planning to soon go through) the ritual known as "spring cleaning." Last Wednesday, our church staff took the morning and in place of our regular staff meeting, we cleaned our offices. My office was LOONNNGGG overdue for a thorough cleaning! And it took us ("us" because my wife graciously offered to come in and help me out) four hours of almost non-stop work! In that time I filled a box of books to be given away ... and hauled four large trash bags of "stuff" out to the dumpster.

Now did I enjoy the time of cleaning? Of going through shelves and shelves of books and deciding what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to give away? Of cleaning out drawers and sorting through piles of "stuff?" Absolutely NO!!! But am I enjoying the fruit of that labor? The labor that has left my office cleaner and more orderly than it has been in years? The effort that has even lead visitors to my office to comment on its more tidy appearance! Undoubtedly YES!!!

This reminds me somewhat of the Christian life. We need to regularly unplug from the world and take some time to do some "internal housekeeping" - even if this can be at times an unpleasant experience. Our hearts tend to grow cluttered with time. And if we don't make the time to do self evaluations (using the mirror of the Word as our guide), our hearts can very easily begin to drift from Christ. In one of the most compelling verses in the Old Testament (at least for me), we are urged to "Above all else, guard your heart for out of it are the issues of life"). Are YOU guarding your heart?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Post-Christian America?

The cover of the April 13th edition of Newsweek Magazine struck me and left me wanting to read the cover article. The cover is black and contains in red print the title, "The Decline and Fall of Christian America" - and it is printed in the form of a cross.

The article is based on the results of a new survey that was recently published. The survey, the American Religious Identification Survey reveals a sobering trend in our country. According to this study, the percentage of self-identified Christians as fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86% to 76%. In addition, the number of people willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has increased about four-fold from 1990 to the present, from about 1 million to 3.6 million. Based on these statistics, the article goes on to claim that although Christianity is not dead in America, it's influence upon American culture is declining - and will most likely continue to do so well into the foreseeable future.

Now, I did not need a magazine article or a survey to tell me that. All I have to do is look around. In the past two weeks, for example, two state supreme courts have overturned their own state bans against homosexual marriage (and the Bible is clear that God's plan for marriage is one man, one woman, one flesh for life - see Matthew 19:4-6). The fact that one of these states was Vermont did not surprise me at all. But I was surprised that Iowa's supreme court did the same! Iowa is at America's heartland. But apparently, even in America's heartland, biblical values are on the wane.

So, am I discouraged by all this? Not really. I know that the God we serve is sovereign and all powerful. He has a plan and He is working that plan (just read the book of Revelation, for example). And I also know that where ever it is darkest, the light that is shining shines more brightly! So for us who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ all this means is that we must work intentionally at obeying our Lord's command given to us in Matthew 5:16, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Difficult Question

Recently, I was asked a question that went like this: "If God is all powerful and heals people of cancer, stroke, heart attack, etc. . .why hasn't he ever healed an amputee by restoring his or her amputated limb?"

Hmm. Good question! Here is how I answered this difficult question (difficult because of the deep emotional pain behind it):

We live in a fallen broken world .. a world marked by pain and sorrow. This is due to humanity's rebellion against God. Because the world in which we live is "temporarily out of order" (it will be one day be made right again - see Revelation 21-22 for the details), physical illness, disease and injury occur. In the midst of all this brokenness, God has graciously given to man the medical knowledge to bring healing to many (though not all). In the case of an amputee - the cost of his or her healing is quite high compared to the cost of other "healings" (for example surgery to repair a hernia or a cataract of the eye). Could God restore an amputated limb? Certainly! But He has chosen to work through medical science to bring about healing for the sick - and I as I mentioned earlier, the cost of healing for the amputee is quite high indeed. Yet, many amputees do move on to live full lives as they learn to adjust to their disability.

In addition, we can never forget that the only thing we deserve from God is death and judgment. Any physical healing we experience is a gift of his grace!

Finally, as important as physical healing is ... spiritual healing is even more crucial. For physical healing is all about this life --- spiritual healing is about FOREVER. If YOU are not certain about your own spiritual healing, I invite you to visit the following web site: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Some Thoughts on The Shack


Many have asked me recently about my view of the book, The Shack. I posted these thoughts back in August of 2008. What I said then I still believe now. Blessings!! - pj



Recently a friend passed on a copy of the bestselling book, The Shack (by William P. Young) to my wife. The book tells the story of a man (Mack) whose young daughter was brutally murdered. After several years of grieving her death, Mack receives a mysterious note from "Papa" (the book's name for God the Father), inviting him to the shack where his daughter was killed to spend some time together. Mack ends up going and once there he is surprised to find the Father, Son and Holy Spirit waiting for him.

I just finished the book on Sunday night. I must say that the ending did make my eyes perspire a little bit. Would I recommend the book for others to read? I don't think so. I found the writing to be good at points and not so good at other points. But what concerns me most is that Christians are reading the book and claiming that it has changed how they view God. And that disturbs me. Why? Because I found the God of The Shack to be a very different God from the God of the Bible. Now it is not my purpose to give you a complete review of the book and show you where the book falls short. I will leave that to others who have done a far better job than I could ever do (for an excellent review on the Shack see Tim Challies' review found at this link: http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/a-review-of-the-shack-download-it-here.php).

So ... let me give you just one thought. When I consider how the people in Scripture reacted when they came face-to-face with God (for example Isaiah, Moses, Ezekiel, John the Apostle), their response was far, far different than how Mack responds when he meets "God." The Shack emphasizes God's love and immanence (the fact that God is near). And it is very true that God is love ... and God is near. But I believe the qualifying attribute of God (i.e. the attribute that qualifies all of his attributes) is not love but holiness. God's holiness is the only attribute mentioned in Scripture that is taken to the superlative (in both Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 God's holiness is so much on the minds of the heavenly beings that they shout out the fact that God is "holy, holy, holy!"). So in effect, God's love is a holy love. God's grace is a holy grace. God's wisdom is a holy wisdom. And that is not what I saw in The Shack.

So bottom line (I don't want to get too long on my thoughts - you can read Tim Challies' review for more insights) - if you feel that you have to read the book, please read it as FICTION - for that is truly what it is. And get your theology from the Word of God.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Shaped to Serve!

When we make the decision to follow Jesus Christ, God does an amazing thing. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" You see, by a work of God's grace, we become HIS “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which HE prepared in advance for us to do”(Ephesians 2:10). Now due to life’s busyness, we can easily lose sight of this truth. That is why we must from time to time renew our commitment to serve our Lord. If we don't, we can all too easily slide into the mode of serving Me, Myself, and I! SOOOO .... all this to remind you of this glorious truth: serving Jesus is one of the highest privileges of life! So let's all determine to use our God-given SHAPE to serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What Are You Exporting?

Spam. We all know what it is and we all have grown to hate it (and I am not talking about the canned variety of SPAM that you can purchase at the grocery store)! I am referring to the very annoying (and even sometimes malicious) unsolicited junk mail that shows up in our email in boxes! In fact, we go to great lengths to limit the amount of incoming spam through the use of various spam filters that are on the market today. If it were not for these spam filters ... I think all we would do in the course of a day is deleting spam!

Did you ever wonder where all this spam comes from? I noted in yesterday's paper a list of the top countries when it comes to the origin of spam. Guess what country tops the list? If you guessed the good old U.S. of A. - you got it right! The U.S. comes in on top with 17.5% of all spam originating right here at home! And when you consider that second place Russia originates only 7.8% -- you can see that the U. S. is not in any danger of losing this distinction of being the number one exporter of spam!

This got me thinking about what we as Christians should be exporting. Yesterday I blogged about choosing to give thanks when tempted to grumble and complain. So how are you doing with that? Are you exporting more thanks than complaints? How about acts of kindness? Have you exported any of them lately? And of course, there's the gospel message. How have you been at exported the good news of Jesus Christ? Take a moment and evaluate what you are exporting to those around you. You may just find out that what you are exporting is no more beneficial than spam!

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.