Timothy Keller on The Power of Prayer

Every once in a while I come across a book that upon finishing it I think, "this is sure to be a classic." Timothy Keller's recent book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, is one such book. Here is an extended quote that really grabbed me. I hope it grabs you, too!

"The power of our prayers, then, lies not primarily in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather in our knowledge of God. You may respond, “But God spoke audible words to Job out of a storm. I wish God spoke to me like that.” The answer is— we have something better, an incalculably clearer expression of God’s character. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . . the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb 1: 1– 3). Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1: 1– 14) because no more comprehensive, personal, and beautiful communication of God is possible. We cannot look directly at the sun with our eyes. The glory of it would immediately overwhelm and destroy our sight. We have to look at it through a filter, and then we can see the great flames and colors of it. When we look at Jesus Christ as he is shown to us in the Scriptures, we are looking at the glory of God through the filter of a human nature." 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

C.S. Lewis once wrote, "You can't get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." Now who am I to correct a C.S. Lewis quote? His words will be quoted long after my name is forgotten! But I feel he falls short here. I think he would have been far more eloquent and sophisticated and wise if he had said, "You can't get a cup of COFFEE big enough or a book long enough to suit me."  With that said, go ahead and pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. The other day my wife asked me if our trip to Aruba and back seemed like a dream. I admitted that it did. Hard to believe we were there, enjoying the warm breezes caressing our faces and the white sands tickling our toes (not to mention the water's various shades of turquoise and blues too beautiful to describe with mere words). But even more hard to believe is the generosity of our church family to send us there (and back!). Generosity. That's a good word. It's an even better deed. I am thankful for our church's generosity toward us. I am even more thankful for God's generosity! He who did not spare even the life of his one and only Son, is indeed MORE THAN GENEROUS! God calls us to follow in the footsteps of that Son. And just as Jesus continually manifested the generosity of God toward others, we need to be doing the same. I challenge you today (I chose the word "challenge" because the word "invite" isn't strong enough!) to reach out and show some generosity toward someone in your network of relationships. Perhaps you can offer to cut a neighbor's lawn or prepare a meal for a harried  mother of young children or even pay for someone's purchase at the grocery store checkout. Keep your eyes (and heart) open. You won't have a problem finding someone to shower with a good dose of generosity today!

2. Tim Keller, well known author and Lead Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, recently pointed out that we are the most overworked society in the history of mankind. What he has to say on this topic is well worth reading and thinking about (AND hopefully responding to with some life changes!). Here's what he said in his sermon, "Work and Rest:" 

The most workaholic culture in the history of the world (that’s us!) dare not turn up its nose at any effort–even misguided efforts–to giving to people one of the things most crucial to making life even human, which is rest…The modern situation means that the eternal human need for rest is enormously aggravated. Let me give you four trends:
A. More and more, at least in Western culture, jobs are insecure. Jobs, whole departments, if they don’t perform and if they don’t turn profit, they’re eliminated. There has never been a culture where job security has been so bad.
B. There has been a lot of research done on the fact that where it used to be that people at the top of the company used to make maybe 10 or 20 x what people at the bottom of the company make; now, it’s more like 100 to 200 x. And partly as as a result of this, to some degree, increasingly, people who make large amounts of money and it’s expected to put in
enormous numbers of hours–it’s just expected. If you don’t want to do it, there’s a line behind you. Whereas people on the bottom are having to take multiple jobs. So everybody’s overworked. It doesn’t matter  where you are on the scale. In order to make ends meet, they have to take multiple jobs.
C. Technology. Ah, technology! You can work anywhere, which means now, we work everywhere. It means you can’t stop work from spilling out of every nook and cranny of your life.
D. Whereas traditional societies said that you got your meaning in life from your family, and through fulfilling a fairly prescribed social role–. And work wasn’t as important as that.  You define yourself. There’s never been more sociology and emotional pressure on work.
So .. if you want to take some time to get alone with God, or spend some time with your spouse or family ... you had better keep it short because there's always something you need to be doing, according to the culture in which we live.

So ...lots to chew on (after, of course, you have dunked these nuggets of wisdom in your coffee)!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Please Continue to Pray for the Central African Republic!

Although the C.A.R. is no longer being mentioned by the U.S. news media (not that it ever was all that much!), this does not mean that all is well in this war torn African nation in the heart of the African continent. Here is a recent update from someone who was recently in that country.

"Currently in the country there are armed robberies in areas where the rule of law does not apply, mounting arrears of salaries and student grants, mortuaries overflowing with dead bodies--all these ingredients are there for explosive, social upheaval. The precariousness  of every day existence is leading to promiscuity. Pray that GOD’s grace will abound during these times of uncertainty in the Central African Republic."

Thanks for praying ... and thanks for stopping by . . . 

PS - If you want to pray for a leader in the Central African Republic who is striving to make a difference, please check out the Friends of CIDEL website. 

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday ... so grab a cup of coffee and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. This morning I walked into Darrenkamps Market, a grocery store that sits adjacent to our church. The place was mobbed. At first I was quite puzzled. Darrenkamps does a solid business, but the only time I usually see it as packed is the day before a holiday or a snow storm! Then I recalled that Darrenkamps was holding their Spring Food Festival. As their flyer for the event proclaimed, "Over 30 stations for sampling a wide variety of products including Darrenkamp's signature items. Come hungry, we will have plenty of great food samples."  Certainly a great marketing move by the store. If you offer something for nothing, people will come! In reality, these food samples are not "free." Someone is picking up the cost of the food. And so it is with the gospel. The gospel offers us something that is indeed FREE to us: the forgiveness of sin and a restored relationship with the God of the universe. But someone payed the price to make that possible. And that someone is Jesus Christ. He paid for our sin and rebellion with his own blood. So although our salvation is free to us it cost God dearly. Have YOU accepted this free gift that he offers (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23)? If you have not and need some clarification, please take a moment and check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

2, When we arrived at our resort in Aruba, our room was not ready. So we checked our bag with the bell hops and decided to take a walk to check things out. We were not very far into our walk when we were startled by a large iguana that crossed or path. Now if you have ever had this occur, you know iguanas are fear inspiring creatures (see picture). So as it scurried in front of us ... we stopped  ... and waited ... until it was gone. As we proceeded, we were watching from side to side to make sure we were not attacked by one. Fast forward to our last day in Aruba. By this time, we were looking for the
iguanas. We were no longer afraid of them ... rather we had become enamored by them and their behaviors. The resort actually threw out lettuce leaves in particular places around noon each day. This would draw in quite a few iguanas ... for apparently, they really like lettuce! All this to say ... we went from being fearful of these creatures to becoming quite comfortable with them. Reminds me of how we respond to sin. Early in our faith walk, we can be very sensitive to sin and it's "ugliness." But if we are not careful, if we allow sin to go unchecked in our lives, we can become quite comfortable with it. And that is NOT a good thing! I encourage you to prayerfully read the two psalms of confession written by King David (Psalm 32 and Psalm 51). Ask God to give you David's perspective on sin. You will be better for it.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Back from "chill'n" on vacation!

The view from my beach chair!
A trip that had first been scheduled for last October, finally became a reality for my wife and me last week. One week ago today, we boarded Southwest airlines flight 1840 at Baltimore Washington International Airport. Our destination? Aruba! Our church, in celebration of my 25 years of ministry, gave us the very generous gift of a vacation in Aruba (and the fact that they gave us round-trip tickets was a real encouraging sign they wanted us back!). Now the reason we were unable to go last October was due to the arm surgery I underwent in September. Although we were quite disappointed at the time, we sure enjoyed Aruba's bright sunshine and warm tropical breezes all the more after the long frigid winter we endured here in the mid-Atlantic. It was indeed an experience worth waiting for! So thank you, Grace Church family and friends for your gift. It means more to us than we can express with mere words.

I learned a number of interesting things about Aruba while there. The weather doesn't change very much from day-to-day (see picture below of the weather forecast). I think it would be quite boring to be a meteorologist in Aruba! Now some of you might look at that weather forecast and noting the real feel temperatures in the upper
90s you might think it would be very hot in Aruba. And you would be both right and wrong in your assessment. Indeed it is hot when you factor in the warmth and humidity. But the consistent trade winds that blow across the island (close to 20 mph sustained with some stronger gusts) serve as a huge fan that makes it feel much cooler than what the thermometer reads. If it were not for these tradewinds, Aruba would not be the popular tourist destination that it is.

I also learned that the island is populated by some very friendly people. Rarely does a person walk by without offering up a cheerful greeting. And the employees at the resort we stayed in would often go the extra mile to help you out. As I thought about that, I thought we as Christ followers can learn much from their example. Being friendly, being willing to serve others to meet their needs, should indeed be a part of who we are! And as we get our focus off of ourselves and onto others, I believe God will open the doors for us to share with those around us the gospel of Christ. So as you go about your day... today, tomorrow, the next day… Remember to put a smile on your face and ... don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday ... and I am on vacation this week. So ... just a brief thought for you to dunk in your
favorite cup of Joe.

It has sure been refreshing seeing the daffodils bloom and hearing the birds greeting each day with a concert of song. After a lllooonnnngggg cold winter, there's nothing like the warm breezes of spring! It took some time getting here, but we all knew that it finally would arrive. How so? Because spring always follows winter. It is something we can count on. Something else we can also count on is God and his faithfulness to his promises. This is a reality we must remind ourselves of constantly. Life is hard. And sometimes it's harder than other times. When we are in the midst of life's "hardness" ... it is all too easy to give way to fear, anxiety ... and even worse. It's at these times especially that we must cling to the promises of God. Doing so has a way of driving the worry from our hearts and minds. But you must KNOW the promises God makes in order to cling to them. SO ... how well do you know the promises of God? What are you doing to get to know them better?

Thanks for stopping by ...

PS - If you would like to begin a daily journey of learning or being reminded of the many promises of God, check out the Daily Promise Blog.

"Monkeying around" with Our Past!

Over the past decade, researchers (from such well known and respected academic  institutions as MIT and Harvard) have completed some extensive DNA analysis of humans and chimpanzees.  According to the Associated Press, as a result of their research, these researchers have concluded “that humans and chimpanzees first split up about 10 million years ago. Then, after evolving in different directions for about 4 million years, they got back together for a brief fling that produced a third, hybrid population.” Concerning this research and its conclusion, Harvard professor of anthropology, Daniel Lieberman writes, “It's a totally cool and extremely clever analysis.”  I have a much different evaluation of their work.  How about this? “It’s a totally laughable and extremely foolish analysis.”

But this sort of thing should not surprise us.  Humanity has been trying to write God out of our history and our origins for a long time.  God (in Romans 1) tells us that humanity has been striving to suppress God’s truth and exchanging God’s truth for lies for quite some time.  One of the biggest lies humanity has bought into is the lie that we were not created by God – but we have arrived at where we are today via a lot of natural processes working together in ways we do not yet understand (these processes are known as evolution).  In my mind it takes a lot more faith to believe in the evolutionary process than to believe an intelligent Being (God) designed and then created the universe.  How about you?  In whom will you place your faith?  Charles Darwin (the originator of the evolutionary theory) or God?  I think I will take my chances with God!  

Thanks for stopping by . . .

PS - If you want to read more about this from a creationism view point, click here

Friday Coffee with PJ (Good Friday Edition)

It's that time of the week to pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Some recently asked me, "If Good Friday is the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus, why is it called good?" Now that is a very "good" question. So let me offer up a very good answer. And the answer comes from a very solid website called gotquestions.org. I highly recommend this particular website if you have any questions about the Bible or theology. Here is got questions.org's answer to this question:

"Why is Good Friday referred to as “good”? What the Jewish authorities and Romans did to Jesus was definitely not good (see Matthew chapters 26-27). However, the results of Christ’s death are very good! Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” First Peter 3:18 tells us, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.”

So what Satan orchestrated for evil is ultimately for our greatest good. For were it not for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we would all still be without God and therefore without hope in this world. But because Jesus died on the cross some 2000 years ago, we can have genuine hope for this life and for all eternity. I don't know about you my friends, but I call that GOOD!

2.  Recently my soon to be four-year-old grandson was telling me how he liked to help out his mommy at home. He told me he helped do the dishes and he liked to do chores. He said it with such passion that I knew what he was telling me was true. He loves to be mommy's little helper! We who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ have a helper as well. When Jesus left this earth he said that he
would send the Holy Spirit to be our helper (John 16;7). And sure enough, the Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Jesus on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The remainder of the New Testament is full of commands concerning the Spirit such as "walk in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25), "Be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18), and "do not grieve the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 4:30). The Christian life would be impossible to live if it were not for the Holy Spirit actively at work in our lives. Have you thanked God lately for this divine helper who is your constant companion? I'm guessing if you're anything like me, the Holy Spirit is all too often far from your mind and heart. Please take some time to reflect on your need for the Holy Spirit's help, and praise the Father and the Son for sending him to this earth to help us!

Thanks for stopping by… And have a blessed Good Friday and Easter celebration!


Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning means COFFEE! (frankly, every morning means coffee for me)! So why not pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join m...