PJ

PJ

Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday's here ... and with the day comes another installment of Friday Coffee with PJ ... I hope you enjoy
these random ramblings as you drink your morning cup of joe!

1. Ever wonder where a cup of coffee got labeled as a cup of joe? If so ... here's your answer! 

2. Here's a question for you: How many phone numbers do you know? If you are like me ... the answer is "not many" (some people don't even know their own phone number). In our digital age, most people rely upon their cell phones for phone numbers. And if we leave our cell phone at home or ... God forbid ... lose it. Well forget calling mom to check up on her or even your spouse to see if you need to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work! Hmm . . . but God is so very different from us, isn't he? Not only does he know every single phone number of every single person on planet earth ... he knows everything else that there is to know. Wow! What a God we serve and worship!

3. Looks like we are now in the midst of our first official heat wave of the summer season (Officially a heat wave occurs when the daytime high reaches 90 degrees or better on three consecutive days. If the forecast high temps for today, Friday and Saturday are realized ... we will be there!). Now ... some of you probably are not that happy about such heat. But I for one will take this over three straight days of high temps in the twenties! Please be careful to stay cool and not over exert yourself in the heat of the day. And be glad that this particular heat wave will be short in duration, which may not be the case with any that might follow in the heart of the summer. And remember that even though our weather is always changing (and this spring has certainly been quite the roller coaster ride) ... God NEVER changes (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday A La Carte

It's Thursday again ... that means ... A LA CARTE! Enjoy!

1. Here's a gut check on the lies that sin tells us. A MUST read!

2. One of my associates (Alec Millen) sent me a link to this article by Mark Dever, Lead pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church on how to survive a cultural crises. And EXCELLENT read!

3. John MacArthur writes on the "age of accountability" of children. A great read - especially for parents.

4. Chuck Swindoll offers up four antilegalistic strategies. Given the epidemic of legalism that exists within the church ... I encourage you to take just a moment and read what he writes. Good stuff!


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ouch, God! That Hurts!

This past Saturday evening, as my wife were preparing to "chill" ... our son called and asked if we could come over to his house. His one year old daughter had fallen and gashed her forehead and he and his wife had to take her to the ER. So we jumped into our car and raced over to his house so we could watch four year old Ella while they took Molly to the hospital. Once at the ER ... they were quickly escorted to an examination room (it was still early enough on Saturday evening that the waiting room was sparsely populated). When it came time to apply the glue to close the gash, Molly let it be known that she wanted NO PARTS of that! So ... as parents have done countless times with their little ones . . . my son and daughter-in-law had to hold Molly "down" so that the doctor could do his work.

Now ... were my son and his wife being mean to their daughter?Was the doctor evil in his intentions? Of course not! They were doing what they were doing for Molly's good. Yes ... they were causing her pain. But they were hurting Molly in order to heal her!

God often works that way with us. We are his children. He is our loving heavenly Father. And there are times when he needs to hurt us in order to heal us. Times when he allows us to suffer so we might grow. Numerous scriptures speak to this (see John 15:1-2; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). SO ... if you are hurting today, it just may be that the divine doctor of your soul wants to bring healing to you. A healing that will only happen as you go through the refining fire of trials.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rejoice ... There's an Eternity of Hope Ahead!

Take a few moments and reflect on these verses from the Apostle Paul's letter to the church at Philippi.

" Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."


Praise God we have such a glorious future (and transformation) awaiting us! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Ahhh ... Friday again? That means the one day of the week that I work (Sunday - and that's really not the case, I assure you!) will soon be upon us. So here are a few nuggets of thought to enjoy with your beverage of choice (mine really does happen to be coffee!).

1. Last Sunday's police appreciation/memorial service that we conducted here at Grace Church, reminded me again of how blessed we are to have such fine law enforcement personnel caring for us, the citizens of Lancaster County. These men and women who serve in the various local departments along with those who are members of the Pennsylvania State Police are to be commended for the jobs they do. Each day when they walk out the door of their homes, there exists the very real possibility that they may not return when their shift is done. They put their lives on the line day in and day out as they patrol our increasingly violent streets (and compared to other occupations, the pay is not all that great!). SO ... the next time you encounter an officer, take a moment and thank him or her for all they do. Our communities would not be nearly as safe without their efforts on our behalf!

2. Welcoming a grandchild into the family never seems to grow old! On Wednesday, my hospital visitation led me right path Women's and Babies' Hospital where my daughter and her newborn daughter were patients. So ... in spite of a pressing schedule, I took twenty minutes out to stop in for a quick visit. Holding baby June in my arms while she slept (and made a number of very funny faces ... do babies dream? And if they do, what could they possibly be dreaming about?) . . . I was once again struck by the "miracle" of birth. The words of David come to mind when he wrote,"I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:13-16). The procreation of life is an amazing witness to the incredible awesomeness of our God!

3. There is a verse in the book of Proverbs (among MANY in the book) that I wish we would hear and put into practice. The verse reads, "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17). Another way to state what this verse is getting at is "There are always two sides to every story." Now my experience has taught me that there are usually THREE sides to every story ... Person A's side ... Person B's side ... and then the truth (which most often can be found somewhere in the middle). So ... whenever someone comes to complain to you about someone else, don't gulp it down as "gospel" truth. Remember this verse ... and remember that there is more to the story than you are being told. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday Coffee with PJ

Ahhh ... Friday again? That means the one day of the week that I work (Sunday) will soon be upon us (that's really not the case, I assure you!). So here are a few nuggets of thought to enjoy with your beverage of choice (mine really does happen to be coffee!).

1. Last Sunday's police appreciation/memorial service that we conducted here at Grace Church, reminded me again of how blessed we are to have such fine law enforcement personnel caring for us, the citizens of Lancaster County. These men and women who serve in the various local departments along with those who are members of the Pennsylvania State Police are to be commended for the jobs they do. Each day when they walk out the door of their homes, there exists the very real possibility that they may not return when their shift is done. They put their lives on the line day in and day out as they patrol our increasingly violent streets (and compared to other occupations, the pay is not all that great!). SO ... the next time you encounter an officer, take a moment and thank them for all they do. Our communities would not be nearly as safe without their efforts on our behalf!

2. Welcoming a grandchild into the family never seems to grow old! On Wednesday, my hospital visitation led me right path Women's and Babies' Hospital where my daughter and her newborn daughter were patients. So ... in spite of a pressing schedule, I took twenty minutes out to stop in for a quick visit. Holding baby June in my arms while she slept (and made a number of very funny faces ... do babies dream? And if they do, what could they possibly be dreaming about?) . . . I was once again struck by the "miracle" of birth. The words of David come to mind when he wrote, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:13-16). The procreation of life is an amazing witness to the incredible awesomeness of our God!

3. There is a verse in the book of Proverbs (among MANY in the book) that I wish we would hear and put into practice. The verse reads, "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17). Another way to state what this verse is getting at is "There are always two sides to every story." Now my experience has taught me that there are usually THREE sides to every story ... Person A's side ... Person B's side ... and then the truth (which most often can be found somewhere in the middle). So ... whenever someone comes to complain to you about someone else, don't swallow what they tell you "lock, stock, and barrel." Remember this verse ... and remember that there is more to the story than you are being told. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings ... enjoy, be challenged and encouraged!

1. In light of the destructive tornado that roared through Oklahoma earlier this week, Al Mohler writes about The Goodness of God and the Reality of Evil. 

2.  Tim Challies disccuses 5 Ways We Grow as Christians. Good stuff!

3. Grandparenting: A Great Road Trip ---- Yep!

4. The case for traditional marriage ... done in a creative way!

5. On a lighter note . . . (you may not want to watch this if you are a panda fan!)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Please Continue to Pray for the C.A.R.!

I know I might be sounding like the proverbial broken record, but I do want to ask you to continue to pray for the situation in the Central African Republic. As a result of the recent coup and the subsequent chaos and unrest, a growing humanitarian crisis is brewing (and given the country's insignificance on the world stage, you probably are not hearing about this!). Please take a moment and check out the United Nation's assessment of the situation. Then pause to pray. If I find a way that we can put "feet to our prayers" I will let you know.

Thanks for caring .... thanks for praying!

And thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Here are some thoughts to enjoy with your morning cup of java ... or tea ... or OJ ... or whatever you
beverage of choice might be!

1. This coming Sunday our church will host a service in which we honor law enforcement ... both those who have given their lives in the line of duty and those who are currently serving. This service, now in its 29th year is our church family's way of saying to our law enforcement community here in Lancaster County that we are behind you! We are praying for you! We support you! And we thank our God for you! The service which begins at 10:30 is always very well attended. For more information on the service, please go to our church web site and click on the Police Sunday graphic on the home page.


2.  Sharon and I celebrated the day of our 35th anniversary by driving to Gettysburg. Given that we are big history fans, we knew we would enjoy the day. We were not disappointed. One of the highlights of the day was our time spent in getting this Victorian era photo taken. We had several costume options to choose from. We finally settled on that of a Union officer (I insisted that I be a general!) and his wife. In the process of taking the photo, we learned several things about those early days of photography. Notice in the picture that we are not looking at the camera. The reason for that was the primitive belief that if one were to look into the camera that somehow it could steal one's soul. Therefore, you made sure NOT to look into the camera! You also might have noticed that we did not smile. There are several reasons behind that. For starters, the process of early photo taking required a long exposure that could last upwards of fifteen minutes. Try holding a smile for that long! Secondly, since most people, if they ever sat for a photograph, would do so only on rare occasions, it was thought that a serious expression was most appropriate for such an occasion. Finally, the fact that many people did not have nice teeth due to poor dental care just might have kept those teeth hidden!  But I must say ... after a lifetime of looking into the camera and saying "cheese," it was difficult NOT to do so. I've been trained to look and smile! As you go through your day today .... look into the eyes of the people that cross your path and give them a smile. Who knows, that might just open a door for further ministry!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, May 16, 2013

God At Work in the Midst of a Crisis!

Augustine and wife, Marie-Helene
I hope you have continued to pray for the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic. This week there are some signs* that some stability is returning. However, the situation is far from where it needs to be. As recently as last week I received a travel advisory sent out from the U.S. State Department which warned Americans AGAINST traveling to the C.A.R. So ... please continue to pray for the restoration of peace and the ministry of the gospel as there are many Christians there.

Today, I received an email from Augustine Hibaile (in photo). In this email, he describes an amazing blessing of God in the midst of the upheaval. I encourage you to visit the Friends of CIDEL website and read this story (if need by, scroll down to the MAY 16th posting). Praise God that HE is still at work in that impoverished war torn country!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

* These promising signs include the following:

  • The Minister of Defense is starting to round up Seleke rebels and sending them to large camps far away from Bangui to be disarmed.
  • The Minister of Education was on the radio this Monday encouraging parents to allow their children to return to school next week.
  • PHC has an announcement running on the Radio Bangui telling all PHC children to report back to school starting next week (May 20th) and how happy we will be to welcome them back!!!!!!!!!!
  • People are starting to feel safe enough to venture out to plant their fields.
  • We have heard of NO PHC ORPHAN OR WIDOW who has been harmed throughout this ordeal.  The only incident has been Teacher Flavie, who, in answer to our prayers together, is recovering nicely from being accidentally shot last month. 

Thursday A La Carte


This feature is back this week after several weeks "off!"  Even my blog needs a vacation from time to time!

1. When you face conflict in your relationships ... here are some good suggestions on how to fight like a Christian. 

2. Did you ever wonder what a week of groceries looks like in different countries around the world? Check it out here! (take a close look and compare the US pic to those from the other parts of the world!).

3. Here's a solid read on the struggle to trust God with the salvation of our kids. 

4. Ahhh ... heaven will be worth the wait! Check out R.C.Sproul's devotionaly, No More Tears. 

5. Did you ever have a dream that you were convinced had some sort of hidden meaning for your life? Check out these thoughts from Ed Welch on dreams. 

6. On a lighter note . . . (in honor of all you moms out there!)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Don't Focus on Don'ting ... Focus on Doing!


I like to read.  I always have.  From my days of Dick and Jane and Dr. Seuss to the present, books (and all sorts of other reading material) and I have been on very friendly terms.  When I read, I am always looking for what I call “a golden nugget.” Today, while reading an article by John Piper – I mined one.  Piper was writing about ten lessons he had learned from his father.  

Here is his Lesson #6: “A Christian is a great doer not a great don’ter.”  Piper went on to write the following about this lesson: “We were fundamentalists – without the attitude.  We had our lists of things.  But that wasn’t the main thing. God was the main thing. And God was worth everything."

I wish every Christian would have the opportunity to read those words.  Far too many of us live out our faith with an emphasis on the “don’ts” and give little thought to the “do’s”.  All of us need to be reminded that as we live this life – God is the main thing.  And, in the words of Piper, He is indeed “worth everything!” (Psalm 73:25).   

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (Part 7)

Well ... I recently received my blood work results back from my doctor. Looks like I am in fairly decent health! I thank God for that! And after going through this self-check up of my spiritual life ... I can see that I have some work to do in some areas! So I have found this exercise to be profitable ... I trust you have as well. Today our final question. And it very well might be the most important on the list!


7. Do I treasure Christ above all?

When I think of treasuring Christ above all – I think of what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi

"For to me, to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippisans 3:7-8). 

Is that true of you?  Is it true of me? St. Augustine – one of the great Christian theologians of the 4th-5th century of the church had this to say …

CHRIST IS NOT VALUED AT ALL UNLESS
HE BE VALUED ABOVE ALL!


Is Jesus Christ valued ABOVE ALL else in your life? Above your money, your home, your career, your hobbies, your happiness, your comfort, and yes – even your family??? 


Ouch! Time to move on ... it's getting quite convicting!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, May 10, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (Part 6)

We are almost to the final question (which I will post, Lord willing, next week!). I trust you are finding this exercise of self-evaluation to be profitable!

6.  Do I have a heart for the harvest?

Jesus in John 4 said these words to his disciples … "Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (John 4:35)

Jesus tells us to open our eyes and look at the fields for they are ripe and ready to be harvested!  And he was not talking about fields of wheat – but the fields of humanity!  It is so vital that we do so! Why? Because the eternal destinies of people are at stake, that's why! 

There was a small plane with four people on board: the pilot, a genius, a pastor and a boy scout. During the flight one of the engines caught fire and the plane started to go down. Now the problem was there were only three parachutes. The pilot realizing he could not save the plane … grabbed one of the chutes and jumped out. The genius grabbed another and said before bailing out “I am the world’s smartest man. This world needs what I have to offer” and then out he went. The pastor told the boy “I lived a long and fulfilling life .. you have most of your life ahead of you. You take the last chute and save yourself.”  The scout answered, “Don’t worry rev. The world’s smartest man just bailed out with my backpack!” 

In a very real sense our world is going down in flames. And people are putting their hope in the backpacks of works, merit, possessions and power. But the only true parachute that can save is Jesus Christ and faith in his sacrifice on the cross for our sins! Jesus has commissioned us, His followers to get this urgent message out! So, how involved are you in bringing in the harvest?  Ask yourself – Do I have a heart for the harvest?

Let me suggest yet another prayer …

O Lord,
Please give me eyes for the harvest and a heart for evangelism so that I will long to see the people I love come into a saving relationship with You through the merits and grace of Your Son, Jesus Christ. May I be involved in the harvest as a worker who prepares the soil, plants the seed of Your word, cultivates the soil, and waits for Your harvest.
Amen!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (Part 5)

Today brings us to question #5 of the seven I will be
suggesting that you use to spend some time doing a
self-checkup of your spiritual life.


5.  Am I standing firm in the Truth?

It is absolutely crucial that we as followers of Jesus Christ stand firm on the truth of His Word.  For it is the Word that God will use as His primary tool to conform us into the image of his Son. In John 17 where we find the prayer Jesus offered to His Father the night before His crucifixion. He was asking on behalf of his disciples and all those who would eventually believe in Christ "through their word" (which would include us!).  

"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17).

It is through the Word of God … the Bible … that God will sanctify us (set us apart from our sin and this world to Himself!). This is why we must stand FIRM in the truth of God’s WORD! And in order to stand firm in it – we must know it! 

QUESTIONS: Can you say that you know God’s Word better today than you did a year ago? DO you have a plan for regular Bible intake?  It amazes me how so many believers go days (and sometimes weeks) without feeding their soul from Scripture. Would we ever dream of going that long without feeding our bodies?

NOW it is not easy to stand firm in God’s Truth today. We live in a culture in which truth is often determined by majority vote. Just look at the place public opinion polls play in our society! But God’s Word is not up for a vote! And we must not only know it … we must build our very lives upon it!

At the conclusion of his great Sermon on the Mount – Jesus tells this striking parable …


Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
 (Matthew 7:24-27)

SO . . . what kind of foundation are you building your life upon?  Sand? Or the solid rock of God’s Word? 
Are you both HEARING His Word AND PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE? 

Ask yourself – Am I standing firm in the Truth?

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (Part 4)

I hope you are tracking with me as together we do a self-check on just how we are doing in our spiritual walk. Today is question #4 of seven questions I am offering up to you to help you in this process. Far too often people fail to take the time to put life on pause and do a time of evaluation. Failure to do so is one reason for the struggle so many Christians experience in their Christian walk. So ... without any further comment from me ... here is question #4:


4. Do I talk more than I listen?

Most of us like to talk … and we like to listen – especially if we are listening to ourselves! But what does God have to say about the use of this piece of flesh that wags between our jaws? 

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2)

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. (Ephesians 4:29)


In my reading, I ran across a prayer that begs to be prayed. This prayer captures the essence of the verses quoted above. Let's purpose together to pray this as we start each day. Think of how different our relationships would be if we prayed this prayer and God answered it! Wow!

Lord God,

I ask for the wisdom to restrain my speech and the patience to listen more carefully to others before responding with my own opinions. May I be a gracious and others-centered listener rather than a controlling and self-centered talker. I desire to serve others by listening, caring and encouraging.  Amen. 

 (from Ken Boa, Passionate Living, p. 22)


So … to evaluate how you are doing in life ask yourself this question …. Do I talk more than I listen?

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Yet Another Rob Bell Book that Sorely Misses the Mark!

I usually don't do what I am about to do ... and that is reprint on my blog what someone else has already blogged. However, in this case, I thought what this individual had to say about a new book by Rob Bell that just came out in March needs a wide hearing. Rob Bell is the controversial "Christian" author who caused a ruckus with his previous book, Love Wins.  In that book, Bell questions the very existence of hell and lands on a position that smacks of universalism (i.e. - Everyone in the end is saved). If you want to examine what Bell wrote in Love Wins, check out the review posted by Tim Challies.

Rob Bell in his attempts to make biblical Christianity more palatable to our "postmodern" world is continuing down the path that in effect, is taking a faith that will save some .... and turning it into a faith that will save none! Please take a few moments to read on!


What We Talk About When We Talk About God

ARTICLE BY   MAY 2013
Rob Bell, What We Talk About When We Talk About God (New York: HarperOne, 2013), 240 pp., $16.00

"Detheologizing" Christianity

For those who have read Rob Bell's other books (such as Love Wins and Velvet Elvis), the tone, disposition, and content of this new book will sound all too familiar.  InWhat We Talk About When We Talk About God, Bell continues his campaign to reshape and repackage Christianity for this postmodern generation, and to rescue it from those he thinks are holding it back (traditional Christians). 

In this way, Bell positions himself as an apologist of sorts. Our world views the Christian God as irrelevant and outdated (like an Oldsmobile), and Bell's mission is to give Him an extreme makeover. Bell takes the God who seems like a grumpy, judgmental old man in a polyester suit who is pointing his finger at you while simultaneously thumping the Bible, and changes him into a hip, urban young guy with skinny jeans and horn-rimmed glasses who invites you to have a latte with him and ponder the mysteries of the universe.  

Bell's book, therefore, functions a lot like the Apple vs. Microsoft commercial that was popular a number of years ago. Microsoft was represented by an out of shape, poorly dressed geek, while Apple was represented by a thin, hip, well-dressed urbanite. In effect, Bell is arguing that God is not like Microsoft. He is more like Apple. God is relevant. He can keep up with the times. 
Unfortunately, being an apologist for the faith does not always lead one to uphold the faith.  Indeed, there is a long history of folks who have sought to defend Christianity from critical attacks by simply changing the problematic portions of the faith. In other words, apologetics is not always about defending what we believe, but is sometimes about modifying what we believe.  Apologetics is sometimes about giving Christianity an extreme makeover. 

In this regard, one thinks of scholars like Rudolph Bultmann. Despite the negative press Bultmann has received, it should be noted that Bultmann regarded himself as a committed Christian and a defender of the faith. Bultmann recognized that in this modern, enlightened age, people could no longer believe in supernatural events. So, in order to rescue Christianity from its imminent demise, Bultmann stripped all the supernatural elements out of the faith (see his book, New Testament and Mythology). In short, he "demythologized" the Bible. Bultmann wanted to convince people that God wasn't an Oldsmobile. God could keep up with the times. 

Of course, Bell's method of defending Christianity is not by stripping it of its supernatural elements (that was the issue in Bultmann's day). On the contrary, Bell is quite keen to remind the reader of the supernatural--God is everywhere, busy at work, in us and in our world.   Instead, Bell's makeover method is to change Christianity into a broad "spirituality."  His book downplays (and in some instances, simply ignores) many of the key doctrines that make Christianity distinctive. He simply turns Christianity into vague, general, theism. Whereas Bultmann demythologized the faith, Bell has detheologized the faith. 

Bell's makeover motif is evident from the very opening chapter, entitled "Hum." He complains that there are many "conventional categories" of belief that are harmful to the church. His examples include the belief that women shouldn't be pastors, the belief that "everybody that is gay is going to hell," and the belief that non-Christians will endure "untold suffering" after the second coming of Christ (p.6-7). These are the types of beliefs (though not all) that Christianity must rid itself of, if it is to avoid going the way of the Oldsmobile. 

In chapter two, entitled "Open," Bell offers modified form of the teleological argument. He goes into great detail about the order and the complexity of the universe in an effort to show the skeptic that you can't rule out the existence of God--the universe is too marvelous, too complex, to be sure there is no divine. I think this chapter will be effective with the non-Christian, and is probably the best (and most interesting ) chapter in the book. 

In chapter three, entitled "Both," Bell returns more directly to his makeover motif. The overall point of this chapter is that the language we use to describe God is inherently and unavoidably vague--God is beyond words. And if God is beyond our ability to explain, then we cannot really be certain in our beliefs about God. Bell laments those fundamentalist types who process God in either/or categories. "There are limits to our certainty because God, it's repeated again and again, is spirit.  And spirit has no shape or form" (p. 88).  

It is clear that Bell is using this chapter to set the stage for his makeover. If words about God are unclear, and we can never really be certain about anything, then we should not feel bound by certain limitations about God. This allows Bell to scold those "fundamentalist" types who are all too certain about their theology, and it allows him to suggest that we should think of God differently. In particular, Bell hones in on the issue of God's gender. He argues that masculine language in the Bible about God is just the product of primitive cultures that couldn't help but think of their "god" as male (p.88-89).   

In chapter four, entitled "With," Bell focuses on the immanence of God and how he is always near and present with us. This would be fine if Bell stuck to biblical categories about the way that God is present. But, instead he "detheologizes" the Christian view of God's immanence and makes it more like New Age, Gnostic spiritualism. God's presence is described in language like "creative energy," a "life force," and an "unending divine vitality" (p. 106). This divine energy creates a oneness to the universe: "When we talk about God, we're talking about the straightforward affirmation that everything has a singular, common source and is infinitely, endlessly, deeply connected" (p.118).  This sounds more like "the Force" from Star Wars, than the God of the Bible. 

In chapter five, entitled "For," Bell says that he wants to recover the "fundamental Christian message that God is for us" (128). That is certainly a commendable goal, but Bell once again "detheologizes" what this concept actually means according to Scripture. Entirely missing in this chapter--indeed entirely missing in the whole book--is any meaningful discussion of the cross and atonement. Absent is discussion about our sin, God's wrath on our sin, and how Christ's death on the cross paid that penalty. Absent is the clarification that without the cross, God is definitely not for us and that his wrath remains on us. Sure, Bell talks about Jesus and the incarnation. But, the mission of Jesus is reshaped so that its purpose is "giving us a picture of God who is not distant or detached or indifferent to our pain...but instead is present among us in Jesus to teach us and help us and suffer with us" (p. 131).  

In the final two chapters, Bell continues to talk about key Christian themes such as Jesus, repentance, confession, forgiveness, and so on. But, incredibly, he empties each of these terms of their biblical meaning and simply replaces them with a meaning that fits with postmodern spirituality. His "detheologizing" of Christianity is complete. 

In the end, my overall concern about this volume is a simple one: it is not Christian. Bell's makeover of Christianity has changed it into something entirely different. It is not Christianity at all, it is modern liberalism. It is the same liberalism that Machen fought in the 1920's and the same liberalism prevalent in far too many churches today. It is the liberalism that teaches that God exists and that Jesus is the source of our happiness and our fulfillment, but all of this comes apart from any real mention of sin, judgment, and the cross. It is the liberalism that says we can know nothing for sure, except of course, that those "fundamentalists" are wrong. It is the liberalism that appeals to the Bible from time to time, but then simply ignores large portions of it. 

Bell's book, therefore, is really just spiritualism with a Christian veneer. It's a book that would fit quite well on Oprah's list of favorite books. What is Rob Bell talking about when he is talking about God? Not the God of Christianity.  

Dr. Michael Kruger is President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. You can read more of Dr. Kruger's writings here.


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, May 3, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (part 3)

As we continue to take a hard look at where we are in our spiritual journey ... here is question #3 of the seven I promised.


3. Do I complain more than I give thanks?

Again and again the Bible we are admonished to GIVE THANKS! Consider: 

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." 
(Psalm 100:4)

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

These are just two examples of many!  Now why does the Bible over and over again remind us to do this?  Because God knows how prone we are to take things for ………… “granted” 

This attitude of entitlement permeates our society. As a result we sometimes (perhaps better said, "often?") get to feeling that we are entitled to God’s blessings! That He owes us!  OH MY FRIENDS – beware of this deadly attitude! All that we enjoy from God’s hand is as a result of HIS GRACE – giving to us what we in now way deserve!  

Be careful!!!  And if you are anything like me – you probably complain far more than you realize!!! We are like the grandmother on the beach who watches in horror as her little grandson is swept off the beach and out to sea by a huge wave … In desperation she pleads with God for his life … “Please – return him and take me instead … he has his whole life before him … he means everything to me  --- take anything you want from me … just save him!” Miraculously she watches as a second huge wave appears and suddenly drops her grandson at her feet unharmed. She takes one look at him …then looks toward heaven and says, “Where’s his hat?”

Nothing grows old as quickly as gratitude!  Take some time and listen to yourself talk --- my guess is that you will be surprised by how much you catch yourself complaining!  

So as we wrap up this week and head into the weekend .... ask yourself this question, "Do I complain more than I give thanks?"

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (part 2)

Today as we continue to evaluate where we are in our spiritual journey ... another question to ask yourself:


2. Do I suffer from myopia (near-sightedness), living only for the present with no regard for eternity?

We live in a culture that is very NOW oriented!  Whenever we want something, we want it NOW!  Delayed gratification is something of the past! And because of this – people get buried in personal indebtedness! 

However, we who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ must look beyond today … to a bigger and better TOMORROW that is called eternity! The Bible is full of reminders of just how brief our earthly life is – here are two powerful images:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14).

You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered (Psalm 90:5-6).

So our lives are like a puff of steam …or a blade of grass – here for a few moments and then gone!  Yet we seem blind to this reality as we go about our days while giving no thought to our eternal existence which will be ours forever! God understands our shortcomings in this area and so he has placed reminders for us throughout the New Testament (Matthew 6:19-20; Colossians 3:2). 

Imagine yourself taking a vacation during which you were to spend a night at a Holiday Inn. You arrive mid evening … and after checking in … you notice that the wall paper in the room is starting to peal … so you head out to the local Walmart – to purchase all you need to replace the wall paper. You then head back to the room and spend half the night removing the old wall paper and putting up the new. Absurd? Yes! It would not even cross your mind to do this. Why? Because that Holiday Inn is not your home! 

How silly we must look to God investing so much into this life, when we are merely passing through… on our way to our true home in eternity!

So ask yourself … Do I suffer from myopia (near-sightedness), living only for the present with no regard for eternity?

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Am I Healthy?

Last week I did something that I do every spring: visit my doctor for my annual physical exam. I am glad to say that everything checked out ... at least for another year!

But just as we need to take stock of our physical health, we should also from time to time evaluate how we are doing spiritually. In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul told Timothy to watch his "life and doctrine closely." The Apostle Paul understood the need to keep a close eye on one's spiritual walk with God, as did the Greek philosopher Socrates, who once stated that "the unexamined life is not worth living." So to help you do a self examine on how you are progressing in your spiritual walk, I am going to offer you a series of questions across the course of the next week or so. I will limit myself to one question each post as to not overwhelm you AND to encourage you to give some time to each one of these questions. Today, question #1.

1. Am I more concerned about attaining happiness or holiness?


I believe given the context of our American culture and its emphasis on seeking self pleasure and self fulfillment, that this is a question we must all ask ourselves! We are surrounded by people on a quest – and that is to be happy!  People want to be happy in life!  And what is wrong with that?  After all … it is an American right to be happy! In the preamble of the Declaration of Independence are these words …

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

So as Americans, it is our right to pursue happiness! Right? 

Let me answer that with these questions: Does the Bible ever command us to pursue happiness? Does it ever tell us that the purpose of our salvation is for our happiness? The answer: No and No!

You see, friends, happiness is a warm and good feeling that is based on external happenings. So good things happen to me – I am happy!  Bad things happen to me and I am not! That is happiness. But God wants something far more enduring for us … and it is the purpose of our salvation … and that is that we be HOLY! Consider Ephesians 1:4 which states, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be . . . HAPPY?"  No … rather to be ... "HOLY and blameless in his sight." Consider also Ephesians 5:25-25 which reads, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her happy?" – No … rather to make her "HOLY." 

God wants us to pursue holiness NOT happiness.  And to be holy simply means to be more like Jesus Christ!  The more we become like Him – the more JOY we will have in our lives!  And joy is far better than happiness – because it is not determined by our external circumstances!  This is why so many martyrs who died horrible deaths for their faith in Christ, could do so with a song on their lips – because they had joy in their hearts! 

SO take some time and take a long hard (and HONEST) look at your life – what is it that you are after? Happiness or holiness? 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Slowing Down in the Fast Lane of Life!


This is my first blog posting in almost a week.  For those of you who may have been looking for one sooner, I apologize.  I really meant to write one sooner, but . . . the press of other “things” kept me busy elsewhere. 

You all know what this is like – wishing for a few extra hours in your day or even a few extra days in your week.  Sometimes it just seems like there’s WAY too much to do and WAY too little time in which to get it all done!  Oh the tyranny of the urgent!

This reminds me of a story I once heard.  Long ago when Africa was still relatively unknown to the outside world, a European explorer was taking a group into the African interior.  He had hired a native guide along with a number of other natives to help carry the supplies.  After a mid morning break on the third day of a fast-paced march, the Africans refused to resume their trek.  When the European explorer asked the guide the reason for their refusal, the guide told him, “They just need a little more time to allow their souls to catch up to their bodies.”   Hmm.  I think all of us could learn a lesson from these guys.  Just as Jesus would get away to be alone with his Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16) – we too need to be sure to do the same.  As fast-paced as 21st century American life can be at times – we all need to take time to allow our souls to catch up to our bodies. 


In His grasp,  

pj 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday's here ... and with the day comes another installment of Friday Coffee with PJ ... I hope you enjoy
these random ramblings as you drink your morning cup of joe!

1. Ever wonder where a cup of coffee got labeled as a cup of joe? If so ... here's your answer! 

2. Here's a question for you: How many phone numbers do you know? If you are like me ... the answer is "not many" (some people don't even know their own phone number). In our digital age, most people rely upon their cell phones for phone numbers. And if we leave our cell phone at home or ... God forbid ... lose it. Well forget calling mom to check up on her or even your spouse to see if you need to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work! Hmm . . . but God is so very different from us, isn't he? Not only does he know every single phone number of every single person on planet earth ... he knows everything else that there is to know. Wow! What a God we serve and worship!

3. Looks like we are now in the midst of our first official heat wave of the summer season (Officially a heat wave occurs when the daytime high reaches 90 degrees or better on three consecutive days. If the forecast high temps for today, Friday and Saturday are realized ... we will be there!). Now ... some of you probably are not that happy about such heat. But I for one will take this over three straight days of high temps in the twenties! Please be careful to stay cool and not over exert yourself in the heat of the day. And be glad that this particular heat wave will be short in duration, which may not be the case with any that might follow in the heart of the summer. And remember that even though our weather is always changing (and this spring has certainly been quite the roller coaster ride) ... God NEVER changes (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday A La Carte

It's Thursday again ... that means ... A LA CARTE! Enjoy!

1. Here's a gut check on the lies that sin tells us. A MUST read!

2. One of my associates (Alec Millen) sent me a link to this article by Mark Dever, Lead pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church on how to survive a cultural crises. And EXCELLENT read!

3. John MacArthur writes on the "age of accountability" of children. A great read - especially for parents.

4. Chuck Swindoll offers up four antilegalistic strategies. Given the epidemic of legalism that exists within the church ... I encourage you to take just a moment and read what he writes. Good stuff!


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ouch, God! That Hurts!

This past Saturday evening, as my wife were preparing to "chill" ... our son called and asked if we could come over to his house. His one year old daughter had fallen and gashed her forehead and he and his wife had to take her to the ER. So we jumped into our car and raced over to his house so we could watch four year old Ella while they took Molly to the hospital. Once at the ER ... they were quickly escorted to an examination room (it was still early enough on Saturday evening that the waiting room was sparsely populated). When it came time to apply the glue to close the gash, Molly let it be known that she wanted NO PARTS of that! So ... as parents have done countless times with their little ones . . . my son and daughter-in-law had to hold Molly "down" so that the doctor could do his work.

Now ... were my son and his wife being mean to their daughter?Was the doctor evil in his intentions? Of course not! They were doing what they were doing for Molly's good. Yes ... they were causing her pain. But they were hurting Molly in order to heal her!

God often works that way with us. We are his children. He is our loving heavenly Father. And there are times when he needs to hurt us in order to heal us. Times when he allows us to suffer so we might grow. Numerous scriptures speak to this (see John 15:1-2; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). SO ... if you are hurting today, it just may be that the divine doctor of your soul wants to bring healing to you. A healing that will only happen as you go through the refining fire of trials.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rejoice ... There's an Eternity of Hope Ahead!

Take a few moments and reflect on these verses from the Apostle Paul's letter to the church at Philippi.

" Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."


Praise God we have such a glorious future (and transformation) awaiting us! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Ahhh ... Friday again? That means the one day of the week that I work (Sunday - and that's really not the case, I assure you!) will soon be upon us. So here are a few nuggets of thought to enjoy with your beverage of choice (mine really does happen to be coffee!).

1. Last Sunday's police appreciation/memorial service that we conducted here at Grace Church, reminded me again of how blessed we are to have such fine law enforcement personnel caring for us, the citizens of Lancaster County. These men and women who serve in the various local departments along with those who are members of the Pennsylvania State Police are to be commended for the jobs they do. Each day when they walk out the door of their homes, there exists the very real possibility that they may not return when their shift is done. They put their lives on the line day in and day out as they patrol our increasingly violent streets (and compared to other occupations, the pay is not all that great!). SO ... the next time you encounter an officer, take a moment and thank him or her for all they do. Our communities would not be nearly as safe without their efforts on our behalf!

2. Welcoming a grandchild into the family never seems to grow old! On Wednesday, my hospital visitation led me right path Women's and Babies' Hospital where my daughter and her newborn daughter were patients. So ... in spite of a pressing schedule, I took twenty minutes out to stop in for a quick visit. Holding baby June in my arms while she slept (and made a number of very funny faces ... do babies dream? And if they do, what could they possibly be dreaming about?) . . . I was once again struck by the "miracle" of birth. The words of David come to mind when he wrote,"I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:13-16). The procreation of life is an amazing witness to the incredible awesomeness of our God!

3. There is a verse in the book of Proverbs (among MANY in the book) that I wish we would hear and put into practice. The verse reads, "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17). Another way to state what this verse is getting at is "There are always two sides to every story." Now my experience has taught me that there are usually THREE sides to every story ... Person A's side ... Person B's side ... and then the truth (which most often can be found somewhere in the middle). So ... whenever someone comes to complain to you about someone else, don't gulp it down as "gospel" truth. Remember this verse ... and remember that there is more to the story than you are being told. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday Coffee with PJ

Ahhh ... Friday again? That means the one day of the week that I work (Sunday) will soon be upon us (that's really not the case, I assure you!). So here are a few nuggets of thought to enjoy with your beverage of choice (mine really does happen to be coffee!).

1. Last Sunday's police appreciation/memorial service that we conducted here at Grace Church, reminded me again of how blessed we are to have such fine law enforcement personnel caring for us, the citizens of Lancaster County. These men and women who serve in the various local departments along with those who are members of the Pennsylvania State Police are to be commended for the jobs they do. Each day when they walk out the door of their homes, there exists the very real possibility that they may not return when their shift is done. They put their lives on the line day in and day out as they patrol our increasingly violent streets (and compared to other occupations, the pay is not all that great!). SO ... the next time you encounter an officer, take a moment and thank them for all they do. Our communities would not be nearly as safe without their efforts on our behalf!

2. Welcoming a grandchild into the family never seems to grow old! On Wednesday, my hospital visitation led me right path Women's and Babies' Hospital where my daughter and her newborn daughter were patients. So ... in spite of a pressing schedule, I took twenty minutes out to stop in for a quick visit. Holding baby June in my arms while she slept (and made a number of very funny faces ... do babies dream? And if they do, what could they possibly be dreaming about?) . . . I was once again struck by the "miracle" of birth. The words of David come to mind when he wrote, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:13-16). The procreation of life is an amazing witness to the incredible awesomeness of our God!

3. There is a verse in the book of Proverbs (among MANY in the book) that I wish we would hear and put into practice. The verse reads, "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him" (Proverbs 18:17). Another way to state what this verse is getting at is "There are always two sides to every story." Now my experience has taught me that there are usually THREE sides to every story ... Person A's side ... Person B's side ... and then the truth (which most often can be found somewhere in the middle). So ... whenever someone comes to complain to you about someone else, don't swallow what they tell you "lock, stock, and barrel." Remember this verse ... and remember that there is more to the story than you are being told. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings ... enjoy, be challenged and encouraged!

1. In light of the destructive tornado that roared through Oklahoma earlier this week, Al Mohler writes about The Goodness of God and the Reality of Evil. 

2.  Tim Challies disccuses 5 Ways We Grow as Christians. Good stuff!

3. Grandparenting: A Great Road Trip ---- Yep!

4. The case for traditional marriage ... done in a creative way!

5. On a lighter note . . . (you may not want to watch this if you are a panda fan!)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Please Continue to Pray for the C.A.R.!

I know I might be sounding like the proverbial broken record, but I do want to ask you to continue to pray for the situation in the Central African Republic. As a result of the recent coup and the subsequent chaos and unrest, a growing humanitarian crisis is brewing (and given the country's insignificance on the world stage, you probably are not hearing about this!). Please take a moment and check out the United Nation's assessment of the situation. Then pause to pray. If I find a way that we can put "feet to our prayers" I will let you know.

Thanks for caring .... thanks for praying!

And thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Here are some thoughts to enjoy with your morning cup of java ... or tea ... or OJ ... or whatever you
beverage of choice might be!

1. This coming Sunday our church will host a service in which we honor law enforcement ... both those who have given their lives in the line of duty and those who are currently serving. This service, now in its 29th year is our church family's way of saying to our law enforcement community here in Lancaster County that we are behind you! We are praying for you! We support you! And we thank our God for you! The service which begins at 10:30 is always very well attended. For more information on the service, please go to our church web site and click on the Police Sunday graphic on the home page.


2.  Sharon and I celebrated the day of our 35th anniversary by driving to Gettysburg. Given that we are big history fans, we knew we would enjoy the day. We were not disappointed. One of the highlights of the day was our time spent in getting this Victorian era photo taken. We had several costume options to choose from. We finally settled on that of a Union officer (I insisted that I be a general!) and his wife. In the process of taking the photo, we learned several things about those early days of photography. Notice in the picture that we are not looking at the camera. The reason for that was the primitive belief that if one were to look into the camera that somehow it could steal one's soul. Therefore, you made sure NOT to look into the camera! You also might have noticed that we did not smile. There are several reasons behind that. For starters, the process of early photo taking required a long exposure that could last upwards of fifteen minutes. Try holding a smile for that long! Secondly, since most people, if they ever sat for a photograph, would do so only on rare occasions, it was thought that a serious expression was most appropriate for such an occasion. Finally, the fact that many people did not have nice teeth due to poor dental care just might have kept those teeth hidden!  But I must say ... after a lifetime of looking into the camera and saying "cheese," it was difficult NOT to do so. I've been trained to look and smile! As you go through your day today .... look into the eyes of the people that cross your path and give them a smile. Who knows, that might just open a door for further ministry!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, May 16, 2013

God At Work in the Midst of a Crisis!

Augustine and wife, Marie-Helene
I hope you have continued to pray for the ongoing crisis in the Central African Republic. This week there are some signs* that some stability is returning. However, the situation is far from where it needs to be. As recently as last week I received a travel advisory sent out from the U.S. State Department which warned Americans AGAINST traveling to the C.A.R. So ... please continue to pray for the restoration of peace and the ministry of the gospel as there are many Christians there.

Today, I received an email from Augustine Hibaile (in photo). In this email, he describes an amazing blessing of God in the midst of the upheaval. I encourage you to visit the Friends of CIDEL website and read this story (if need by, scroll down to the MAY 16th posting). Praise God that HE is still at work in that impoverished war torn country!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

* These promising signs include the following:

  • The Minister of Defense is starting to round up Seleke rebels and sending them to large camps far away from Bangui to be disarmed.
  • The Minister of Education was on the radio this Monday encouraging parents to allow their children to return to school next week.
  • PHC has an announcement running on the Radio Bangui telling all PHC children to report back to school starting next week (May 20th) and how happy we will be to welcome them back!!!!!!!!!!
  • People are starting to feel safe enough to venture out to plant their fields.
  • We have heard of NO PHC ORPHAN OR WIDOW who has been harmed throughout this ordeal.  The only incident has been Teacher Flavie, who, in answer to our prayers together, is recovering nicely from being accidentally shot last month. 

Thursday A La Carte


This feature is back this week after several weeks "off!"  Even my blog needs a vacation from time to time!

1. When you face conflict in your relationships ... here are some good suggestions on how to fight like a Christian. 

2. Did you ever wonder what a week of groceries looks like in different countries around the world? Check it out here! (take a close look and compare the US pic to those from the other parts of the world!).

3. Here's a solid read on the struggle to trust God with the salvation of our kids. 

4. Ahhh ... heaven will be worth the wait! Check out R.C.Sproul's devotionaly, No More Tears. 

5. Did you ever have a dream that you were convinced had some sort of hidden meaning for your life? Check out these thoughts from Ed Welch on dreams. 

6. On a lighter note . . . (in honor of all you moms out there!)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Don't Focus on Don'ting ... Focus on Doing!


I like to read.  I always have.  From my days of Dick and Jane and Dr. Seuss to the present, books (and all sorts of other reading material) and I have been on very friendly terms.  When I read, I am always looking for what I call “a golden nugget.” Today, while reading an article by John Piper – I mined one.  Piper was writing about ten lessons he had learned from his father.  

Here is his Lesson #6: “A Christian is a great doer not a great don’ter.”  Piper went on to write the following about this lesson: “We were fundamentalists – without the attitude.  We had our lists of things.  But that wasn’t the main thing. God was the main thing. And God was worth everything."

I wish every Christian would have the opportunity to read those words.  Far too many of us live out our faith with an emphasis on the “don’ts” and give little thought to the “do’s”.  All of us need to be reminded that as we live this life – God is the main thing.  And, in the words of Piper, He is indeed “worth everything!” (Psalm 73:25).   

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (Part 7)

Well ... I recently received my blood work results back from my doctor. Looks like I am in fairly decent health! I thank God for that! And after going through this self-check up of my spiritual life ... I can see that I have some work to do in some areas! So I have found this exercise to be profitable ... I trust you have as well. Today our final question. And it very well might be the most important on the list!


7. Do I treasure Christ above all?

When I think of treasuring Christ above all – I think of what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi

"For to me, to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21).

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippisans 3:7-8). 

Is that true of you?  Is it true of me? St. Augustine – one of the great Christian theologians of the 4th-5th century of the church had this to say …

CHRIST IS NOT VALUED AT ALL UNLESS
HE BE VALUED ABOVE ALL!


Is Jesus Christ valued ABOVE ALL else in your life? Above your money, your home, your career, your hobbies, your happiness, your comfort, and yes – even your family??? 


Ouch! Time to move on ... it's getting quite convicting!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, May 10, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (Part 6)

We are almost to the final question (which I will post, Lord willing, next week!). I trust you are finding this exercise of self-evaluation to be profitable!

6.  Do I have a heart for the harvest?

Jesus in John 4 said these words to his disciples … "Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (John 4:35)

Jesus tells us to open our eyes and look at the fields for they are ripe and ready to be harvested!  And he was not talking about fields of wheat – but the fields of humanity!  It is so vital that we do so! Why? Because the eternal destinies of people are at stake, that's why! 

There was a small plane with four people on board: the pilot, a genius, a pastor and a boy scout. During the flight one of the engines caught fire and the plane started to go down. Now the problem was there were only three parachutes. The pilot realizing he could not save the plane … grabbed one of the chutes and jumped out. The genius grabbed another and said before bailing out “I am the world’s smartest man. This world needs what I have to offer” and then out he went. The pastor told the boy “I lived a long and fulfilling life .. you have most of your life ahead of you. You take the last chute and save yourself.”  The scout answered, “Don’t worry rev. The world’s smartest man just bailed out with my backpack!” 

In a very real sense our world is going down in flames. And people are putting their hope in the backpacks of works, merit, possessions and power. But the only true parachute that can save is Jesus Christ and faith in his sacrifice on the cross for our sins! Jesus has commissioned us, His followers to get this urgent message out! So, how involved are you in bringing in the harvest?  Ask yourself – Do I have a heart for the harvest?

Let me suggest yet another prayer …

O Lord,
Please give me eyes for the harvest and a heart for evangelism so that I will long to see the people I love come into a saving relationship with You through the merits and grace of Your Son, Jesus Christ. May I be involved in the harvest as a worker who prepares the soil, plants the seed of Your word, cultivates the soil, and waits for Your harvest.
Amen!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (Part 5)

Today brings us to question #5 of the seven I will be
suggesting that you use to spend some time doing a
self-checkup of your spiritual life.


5.  Am I standing firm in the Truth?

It is absolutely crucial that we as followers of Jesus Christ stand firm on the truth of His Word.  For it is the Word that God will use as His primary tool to conform us into the image of his Son. In John 17 where we find the prayer Jesus offered to His Father the night before His crucifixion. He was asking on behalf of his disciples and all those who would eventually believe in Christ "through their word" (which would include us!).  

"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17).

It is through the Word of God … the Bible … that God will sanctify us (set us apart from our sin and this world to Himself!). This is why we must stand FIRM in the truth of God’s WORD! And in order to stand firm in it – we must know it! 

QUESTIONS: Can you say that you know God’s Word better today than you did a year ago? DO you have a plan for regular Bible intake?  It amazes me how so many believers go days (and sometimes weeks) without feeding their soul from Scripture. Would we ever dream of going that long without feeding our bodies?

NOW it is not easy to stand firm in God’s Truth today. We live in a culture in which truth is often determined by majority vote. Just look at the place public opinion polls play in our society! But God’s Word is not up for a vote! And we must not only know it … we must build our very lives upon it!

At the conclusion of his great Sermon on the Mount – Jesus tells this striking parable …


Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
 (Matthew 7:24-27)

SO . . . what kind of foundation are you building your life upon?  Sand? Or the solid rock of God’s Word? 
Are you both HEARING His Word AND PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE? 

Ask yourself – Am I standing firm in the Truth?

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (Part 4)

I hope you are tracking with me as together we do a self-check on just how we are doing in our spiritual walk. Today is question #4 of seven questions I am offering up to you to help you in this process. Far too often people fail to take the time to put life on pause and do a time of evaluation. Failure to do so is one reason for the struggle so many Christians experience in their Christian walk. So ... without any further comment from me ... here is question #4:


4. Do I talk more than I listen?

Most of us like to talk … and we like to listen – especially if we are listening to ourselves! But what does God have to say about the use of this piece of flesh that wags between our jaws? 

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2)

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. (Ephesians 4:29)


In my reading, I ran across a prayer that begs to be prayed. This prayer captures the essence of the verses quoted above. Let's purpose together to pray this as we start each day. Think of how different our relationships would be if we prayed this prayer and God answered it! Wow!

Lord God,

I ask for the wisdom to restrain my speech and the patience to listen more carefully to others before responding with my own opinions. May I be a gracious and others-centered listener rather than a controlling and self-centered talker. I desire to serve others by listening, caring and encouraging.  Amen. 

 (from Ken Boa, Passionate Living, p. 22)


So … to evaluate how you are doing in life ask yourself this question …. Do I talk more than I listen?

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Yet Another Rob Bell Book that Sorely Misses the Mark!

I usually don't do what I am about to do ... and that is reprint on my blog what someone else has already blogged. However, in this case, I thought what this individual had to say about a new book by Rob Bell that just came out in March needs a wide hearing. Rob Bell is the controversial "Christian" author who caused a ruckus with his previous book, Love Wins.  In that book, Bell questions the very existence of hell and lands on a position that smacks of universalism (i.e. - Everyone in the end is saved). If you want to examine what Bell wrote in Love Wins, check out the review posted by Tim Challies.

Rob Bell in his attempts to make biblical Christianity more palatable to our "postmodern" world is continuing down the path that in effect, is taking a faith that will save some .... and turning it into a faith that will save none! Please take a few moments to read on!


What We Talk About When We Talk About God

ARTICLE BY   MAY 2013
Rob Bell, What We Talk About When We Talk About God (New York: HarperOne, 2013), 240 pp., $16.00

"Detheologizing" Christianity

For those who have read Rob Bell's other books (such as Love Wins and Velvet Elvis), the tone, disposition, and content of this new book will sound all too familiar.  InWhat We Talk About When We Talk About God, Bell continues his campaign to reshape and repackage Christianity for this postmodern generation, and to rescue it from those he thinks are holding it back (traditional Christians). 

In this way, Bell positions himself as an apologist of sorts. Our world views the Christian God as irrelevant and outdated (like an Oldsmobile), and Bell's mission is to give Him an extreme makeover. Bell takes the God who seems like a grumpy, judgmental old man in a polyester suit who is pointing his finger at you while simultaneously thumping the Bible, and changes him into a hip, urban young guy with skinny jeans and horn-rimmed glasses who invites you to have a latte with him and ponder the mysteries of the universe.  

Bell's book, therefore, functions a lot like the Apple vs. Microsoft commercial that was popular a number of years ago. Microsoft was represented by an out of shape, poorly dressed geek, while Apple was represented by a thin, hip, well-dressed urbanite. In effect, Bell is arguing that God is not like Microsoft. He is more like Apple. God is relevant. He can keep up with the times. 
Unfortunately, being an apologist for the faith does not always lead one to uphold the faith.  Indeed, there is a long history of folks who have sought to defend Christianity from critical attacks by simply changing the problematic portions of the faith. In other words, apologetics is not always about defending what we believe, but is sometimes about modifying what we believe.  Apologetics is sometimes about giving Christianity an extreme makeover. 

In this regard, one thinks of scholars like Rudolph Bultmann. Despite the negative press Bultmann has received, it should be noted that Bultmann regarded himself as a committed Christian and a defender of the faith. Bultmann recognized that in this modern, enlightened age, people could no longer believe in supernatural events. So, in order to rescue Christianity from its imminent demise, Bultmann stripped all the supernatural elements out of the faith (see his book, New Testament and Mythology). In short, he "demythologized" the Bible. Bultmann wanted to convince people that God wasn't an Oldsmobile. God could keep up with the times. 

Of course, Bell's method of defending Christianity is not by stripping it of its supernatural elements (that was the issue in Bultmann's day). On the contrary, Bell is quite keen to remind the reader of the supernatural--God is everywhere, busy at work, in us and in our world.   Instead, Bell's makeover method is to change Christianity into a broad "spirituality."  His book downplays (and in some instances, simply ignores) many of the key doctrines that make Christianity distinctive. He simply turns Christianity into vague, general, theism. Whereas Bultmann demythologized the faith, Bell has detheologized the faith. 

Bell's makeover motif is evident from the very opening chapter, entitled "Hum." He complains that there are many "conventional categories" of belief that are harmful to the church. His examples include the belief that women shouldn't be pastors, the belief that "everybody that is gay is going to hell," and the belief that non-Christians will endure "untold suffering" after the second coming of Christ (p.6-7). These are the types of beliefs (though not all) that Christianity must rid itself of, if it is to avoid going the way of the Oldsmobile. 

In chapter two, entitled "Open," Bell offers modified form of the teleological argument. He goes into great detail about the order and the complexity of the universe in an effort to show the skeptic that you can't rule out the existence of God--the universe is too marvelous, too complex, to be sure there is no divine. I think this chapter will be effective with the non-Christian, and is probably the best (and most interesting ) chapter in the book. 

In chapter three, entitled "Both," Bell returns more directly to his makeover motif. The overall point of this chapter is that the language we use to describe God is inherently and unavoidably vague--God is beyond words. And if God is beyond our ability to explain, then we cannot really be certain in our beliefs about God. Bell laments those fundamentalist types who process God in either/or categories. "There are limits to our certainty because God, it's repeated again and again, is spirit.  And spirit has no shape or form" (p. 88).  

It is clear that Bell is using this chapter to set the stage for his makeover. If words about God are unclear, and we can never really be certain about anything, then we should not feel bound by certain limitations about God. This allows Bell to scold those "fundamentalist" types who are all too certain about their theology, and it allows him to suggest that we should think of God differently. In particular, Bell hones in on the issue of God's gender. He argues that masculine language in the Bible about God is just the product of primitive cultures that couldn't help but think of their "god" as male (p.88-89).   

In chapter four, entitled "With," Bell focuses on the immanence of God and how he is always near and present with us. This would be fine if Bell stuck to biblical categories about the way that God is present. But, instead he "detheologizes" the Christian view of God's immanence and makes it more like New Age, Gnostic spiritualism. God's presence is described in language like "creative energy," a "life force," and an "unending divine vitality" (p. 106). This divine energy creates a oneness to the universe: "When we talk about God, we're talking about the straightforward affirmation that everything has a singular, common source and is infinitely, endlessly, deeply connected" (p.118).  This sounds more like "the Force" from Star Wars, than the God of the Bible. 

In chapter five, entitled "For," Bell says that he wants to recover the "fundamental Christian message that God is for us" (128). That is certainly a commendable goal, but Bell once again "detheologizes" what this concept actually means according to Scripture. Entirely missing in this chapter--indeed entirely missing in the whole book--is any meaningful discussion of the cross and atonement. Absent is discussion about our sin, God's wrath on our sin, and how Christ's death on the cross paid that penalty. Absent is the clarification that without the cross, God is definitely not for us and that his wrath remains on us. Sure, Bell talks about Jesus and the incarnation. But, the mission of Jesus is reshaped so that its purpose is "giving us a picture of God who is not distant or detached or indifferent to our pain...but instead is present among us in Jesus to teach us and help us and suffer with us" (p. 131).  

In the final two chapters, Bell continues to talk about key Christian themes such as Jesus, repentance, confession, forgiveness, and so on. But, incredibly, he empties each of these terms of their biblical meaning and simply replaces them with a meaning that fits with postmodern spirituality. His "detheologizing" of Christianity is complete. 

In the end, my overall concern about this volume is a simple one: it is not Christian. Bell's makeover of Christianity has changed it into something entirely different. It is not Christianity at all, it is modern liberalism. It is the same liberalism that Machen fought in the 1920's and the same liberalism prevalent in far too many churches today. It is the liberalism that teaches that God exists and that Jesus is the source of our happiness and our fulfillment, but all of this comes apart from any real mention of sin, judgment, and the cross. It is the liberalism that says we can know nothing for sure, except of course, that those "fundamentalists" are wrong. It is the liberalism that appeals to the Bible from time to time, but then simply ignores large portions of it. 

Bell's book, therefore, is really just spiritualism with a Christian veneer. It's a book that would fit quite well on Oprah's list of favorite books. What is Rob Bell talking about when he is talking about God? Not the God of Christianity.  

Dr. Michael Kruger is President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. You can read more of Dr. Kruger's writings here.


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, May 3, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (part 3)

As we continue to take a hard look at where we are in our spiritual journey ... here is question #3 of the seven I promised.


3. Do I complain more than I give thanks?

Again and again the Bible we are admonished to GIVE THANKS! Consider: 

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." 
(Psalm 100:4)

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

These are just two examples of many!  Now why does the Bible over and over again remind us to do this?  Because God knows how prone we are to take things for ………… “granted” 

This attitude of entitlement permeates our society. As a result we sometimes (perhaps better said, "often?") get to feeling that we are entitled to God’s blessings! That He owes us!  OH MY FRIENDS – beware of this deadly attitude! All that we enjoy from God’s hand is as a result of HIS GRACE – giving to us what we in now way deserve!  

Be careful!!!  And if you are anything like me – you probably complain far more than you realize!!! We are like the grandmother on the beach who watches in horror as her little grandson is swept off the beach and out to sea by a huge wave … In desperation she pleads with God for his life … “Please – return him and take me instead … he has his whole life before him … he means everything to me  --- take anything you want from me … just save him!” Miraculously she watches as a second huge wave appears and suddenly drops her grandson at her feet unharmed. She takes one look at him …then looks toward heaven and says, “Where’s his hat?”

Nothing grows old as quickly as gratitude!  Take some time and listen to yourself talk --- my guess is that you will be surprised by how much you catch yourself complaining!  

So as we wrap up this week and head into the weekend .... ask yourself this question, "Do I complain more than I give thanks?"

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How Healthy Am I? (part 2)

Today as we continue to evaluate where we are in our spiritual journey ... another question to ask yourself:


2. Do I suffer from myopia (near-sightedness), living only for the present with no regard for eternity?

We live in a culture that is very NOW oriented!  Whenever we want something, we want it NOW!  Delayed gratification is something of the past! And because of this – people get buried in personal indebtedness! 

However, we who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ must look beyond today … to a bigger and better TOMORROW that is called eternity! The Bible is full of reminders of just how brief our earthly life is – here are two powerful images:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14).

You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered (Psalm 90:5-6).

So our lives are like a puff of steam …or a blade of grass – here for a few moments and then gone!  Yet we seem blind to this reality as we go about our days while giving no thought to our eternal existence which will be ours forever! God understands our shortcomings in this area and so he has placed reminders for us throughout the New Testament (Matthew 6:19-20; Colossians 3:2). 

Imagine yourself taking a vacation during which you were to spend a night at a Holiday Inn. You arrive mid evening … and after checking in … you notice that the wall paper in the room is starting to peal … so you head out to the local Walmart – to purchase all you need to replace the wall paper. You then head back to the room and spend half the night removing the old wall paper and putting up the new. Absurd? Yes! It would not even cross your mind to do this. Why? Because that Holiday Inn is not your home! 

How silly we must look to God investing so much into this life, when we are merely passing through… on our way to our true home in eternity!

So ask yourself … Do I suffer from myopia (near-sightedness), living only for the present with no regard for eternity?

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Am I Healthy?

Last week I did something that I do every spring: visit my doctor for my annual physical exam. I am glad to say that everything checked out ... at least for another year!

But just as we need to take stock of our physical health, we should also from time to time evaluate how we are doing spiritually. In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul told Timothy to watch his "life and doctrine closely." The Apostle Paul understood the need to keep a close eye on one's spiritual walk with God, as did the Greek philosopher Socrates, who once stated that "the unexamined life is not worth living." So to help you do a self examine on how you are progressing in your spiritual walk, I am going to offer you a series of questions across the course of the next week or so. I will limit myself to one question each post as to not overwhelm you AND to encourage you to give some time to each one of these questions. Today, question #1.

1. Am I more concerned about attaining happiness or holiness?


I believe given the context of our American culture and its emphasis on seeking self pleasure and self fulfillment, that this is a question we must all ask ourselves! We are surrounded by people on a quest – and that is to be happy!  People want to be happy in life!  And what is wrong with that?  After all … it is an American right to be happy! In the preamble of the Declaration of Independence are these words …

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

So as Americans, it is our right to pursue happiness! Right? 

Let me answer that with these questions: Does the Bible ever command us to pursue happiness? Does it ever tell us that the purpose of our salvation is for our happiness? The answer: No and No!

You see, friends, happiness is a warm and good feeling that is based on external happenings. So good things happen to me – I am happy!  Bad things happen to me and I am not! That is happiness. But God wants something far more enduring for us … and it is the purpose of our salvation … and that is that we be HOLY! Consider Ephesians 1:4 which states, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be . . . HAPPY?"  No … rather to be ... "HOLY and blameless in his sight." Consider also Ephesians 5:25-25 which reads, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her happy?" – No … rather to make her "HOLY." 

God wants us to pursue holiness NOT happiness.  And to be holy simply means to be more like Jesus Christ!  The more we become like Him – the more JOY we will have in our lives!  And joy is far better than happiness – because it is not determined by our external circumstances!  This is why so many martyrs who died horrible deaths for their faith in Christ, could do so with a song on their lips – because they had joy in their hearts! 

SO take some time and take a long hard (and HONEST) look at your life – what is it that you are after? Happiness or holiness? 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Slowing Down in the Fast Lane of Life!


This is my first blog posting in almost a week.  For those of you who may have been looking for one sooner, I apologize.  I really meant to write one sooner, but . . . the press of other “things” kept me busy elsewhere. 

You all know what this is like – wishing for a few extra hours in your day or even a few extra days in your week.  Sometimes it just seems like there’s WAY too much to do and WAY too little time in which to get it all done!  Oh the tyranny of the urgent!

This reminds me of a story I once heard.  Long ago when Africa was still relatively unknown to the outside world, a European explorer was taking a group into the African interior.  He had hired a native guide along with a number of other natives to help carry the supplies.  After a mid morning break on the third day of a fast-paced march, the Africans refused to resume their trek.  When the European explorer asked the guide the reason for their refusal, the guide told him, “They just need a little more time to allow their souls to catch up to their bodies.”   Hmm.  I think all of us could learn a lesson from these guys.  Just as Jesus would get away to be alone with his Father (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16) – we too need to be sure to do the same.  As fast-paced as 21st century American life can be at times – we all need to take time to allow our souls to catch up to our bodies. 


In His grasp,  

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.