Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning. Hot coffee. Random thoughts. You know the routine. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew (and if you have visited with me in the past, you know mine!) and join me for a few thoughts that I hope and pray will be a help to you in your faith journey with Jesus Christ.

1.  I recently attended the memorial service of a woman who had lost her mother. As her brother talked about his mom (and dad who had died several years earlier), it made me think of my parents. Jim and Peg Smith were married in December of 1942 (Margaret was my mom's given name ... I still don't get how Peg is so often a nickname for women whose given name is Margaret!). Mom was from Altoona, PA and my dad from Harrisburg. Fourteen years into their marriage is when my twin brother and I joined our family, making us a family of six (my oldest sister was twelve at the time, my other sister six). Now when my twin brother and I came along, my parents were only expecting one baby. My mother did not know
Jim on left; me on right (age 2)
until the doctor doing the delivery said to her after my brother was born, "Peggy, don't relax too much, another is on the way!" You talk about a stunning birth announcement! Six years later, our family was completed with the arrival of my little brother. 

My parents taught us many things, such as "Mind your manners!" and "Don't forget to change your underwear!" (Funny what I remember!). My mom never learned to drive. So after my dad taught my two sisters to drive, he told my twin brother and me that we would have to hire a driving instructor. Looking back on that, I don't blame him one bit. Teaching TWO teen aged boys to drive at once? Certainly not an easy task! My dad was a good provider, sometimes working multiple jobs to provide for us. And there was never a doubt in my mind that my mom loved me! 

My folks passed away a little over six weeks apart (Dad in middle August and Mom in early October in 2003). Neither wanted a large memorial service (they were private people). So mainly family gathered for a simple graveside service to say good-bye. I never felt as honored to officiate a graveside service than when I did so for both my parents. After saying "good-bye" to my mom, I recall standing in front of my mom's sister's and her husband's grave, reading their grave stone and reflecting on their lives (my parents were buried right next to my aunt and uncle). My cousin joined me and we talked for a moment about his parents and my parents and how they just loved being together. He then said something that really struck me. "John, with the passing of your mother do you realize that she was the last of her generation? We are now the oldest generation in the family!"  Wow! He was right (since sharing that insight with me some 13 years ago, my sister, Bev, has also passed away (December 2013). 

Forgive my rambling here ... but here's my point. Life is passing ever so quickly (James 4:13-14). None of us know how many more years we have to make a difference in this world. So what are YOU doing to leave a legacy behind that will honor God and advance his kingdom once you are gone? Time is short and the opportunities are great. Let's get intentional to live life for Christ and not waste our remaining days! 

2. At one point as I was typing this post, I paused and looked at some post-its that are hanging from the bottom of my computer's monitor. There is a note from my 3 year old granddaughter, June,
which she wrote for me when she was two (see adjacent photo). There is also a note from June's mother, my daughter Kate reminding me of her love for me (and the long term affectionate nickname she has for me ... which I choose not to reveal!). In addition, a prayer hangs in between these two love notes. It is a prayer I ran across in reading of one of John Piper's many devotional books (this one I highly recommend), Life as a Vapor. As I read his prayer ... I then went back and prayed his prayer. I would encourage you to do the same. Here it is: 

Thank you Lord, for the lives of flawed and faith-filled saints! Thank you for grace, amazing grace, that saves and uses sinners! Lord, don't let me limit your power by what I see in the mirror. 
Help me to trust you. Help me, as William Carey said, 
to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. 
I am not great. But you are great. 
Your power is made perfect in my weakness. 
I surrender all worldly claims on my life. 
Make me useful for the glory of Christ. 
In his great name I pray. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Just yesterday at a pastors' breakfast I was attending, I got to talking with one pastor about coffee preferences. This individual brought his own. It was Starbucks or nothing as far as he was concerned. I then asked him if he had a Keurig at home. He did. So I proceeded to tell him about my love affair with San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser. The taste (and the price!) can't be beat! And it is Amazon's Choice! Enough of that. Go ahead and pour whatever your favorite brew might by and join me for a couple of random thoughts. 

1. In addition to talking with this pastor friend about different coffees, we also talked briefly about how pastoral ministry has changed since we both started pastoring some thirty plus years ago. We both agreed it has changed quite a bit! One reason for this change is due to the changes we are seeing in our culture, which is moving further away from many of the Christian values we hold. Back when I was finishing up my doctoral degree, I took a course on postmodernism (the prof was D. A. Carson and the primary text was his book, The Gagging of God). The course was very helpful in understanding both the threats and opportunities postmodernism brought about for the proclamation of the Gospel. That was back in 2001 when I took that class. Now, some 16 years later, we have seen the logical outcome of postmodernism in our society today. I am referring to what many are now calling, "post-truth." This so called "post-truth" has so impacted western society (especially in the political realm) that the Oxford Dictionary named it its "Word of the Year." 

Now just what is "post-truth?" The Oxford Dictionary defines it as "an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."  So given this reality ... what does this mean for proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? For starters, it means that we as Christ followers must firm up our grip on the truth of the Scriptures. It is only as we get this truth and then live it that we will be able to give it away! We cannot allow the view of truth held by our society to weaken our own view of truth. In addition, living in a "post-truth" world should also serve to remind us that we MUST seek to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit (and this has ALWAYS been the case). Only the Spirit of God can open up the eyes and minds of those who are blind to the truth. This leads me to ask, what are YOU doing to get to know God's Word better AND walking more in step with HIS Spirit? 

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you take some time to read Why Oxford Dictionary's Word of 2016 Matters by Ravi Zacharias. 

2. Also at yesterday's breakfast, I reconnected with a former college friend whom I had not seen since college days! Given that he graduated a year ahead of me ... doing the math ... we had not been together for some forty years. As soon as he shared his name during our time of self introductions, I was wondering ... "Could this be the Bill Bateman that I went to college with?" Sure enough, as soon as the words of the closing prayer echoed into silence, he and I made a bee line for one another ... and yep! He was the Bill Bateman of my past (I got to know Bill well as

Bill is on far right ... I am on far left.

we sang in the singing group Joy together - my sophomore year and his junior year - photo above). We had little time to talk after the breakfast so we parted with a pledge to get together soon. I was thrilled to see that he is actively engaged in pastoral ministry and look forward to hearing his story. 

All of us have stories, don't we. My story is not yours and yours is not mine. But our stories will often explain who we are. I fear that far too often we make judgments about people and what they do without knowing their stories. I believe one of the best things we can do to build relationships with the various people in our lives is to take the time to hear their stories! And as we listen (and I mean listen well) ... we may have opportunities to speak the truth of the Gospel into their lives (with grace, seasoned with salt, of course - Colossians 4:6). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me again for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. Pour yourself a cup of your favorite java brew (mine is San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser) and let's together thing about a few things!

1. I have been recently reading James Michener's massive novel, Alaska. Michener is known for his great story telling and his historical accuracy. I have been blown away reading about the history of our 49th state. From early migrations of people from Asia to the sale of Alaska to the US by Russia, to the gold rush of the later 1800's to the early 1900's to our present day ... people suffered great hardships in Alaska's harsh environment just to survive. I will NEVER complain about the cold around here again! Many people in Alaska put up with a winter that is ten months long with temperatures reaching 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit BELOW ZERO (air temps, not wind chills!). You see, life is often about perspective. And one perspective that is very beneficial to keep in mind is that "life" could always be worse (unless you are talking about how cold it is and you live in Alaska!). Even in the midst of life's hardships, there is always something for which we can be thankful. Matthew Henry, a pastor of yesteryear, demonstrated this perspective after being robbed. He said, "I am thankful that he never robbed me before. I am thankful that although he took my wallet, he did not take my life, and although he took all I had, it was not much. And, I am glad that it was I who was robbed, not I who did the robbing.” Wow! I don't know about you, but that is the perspective I want to cultivate. 

2. Next Tuesday is Valentine's Day. Did you ever wonder about the origin of this holiday? If you are into that sort of thing ... here's a brief video you might want to watch. 

One of the tools I have found very helpful in my love relationship with my wife are the Five Love Languages. An understanding of these will help you understand your own love language and also that of the one you love. We feel most loved when someone is expressing their love for us in our own love language. So ... if I really want my wife to know how much I love her ... I must seek to speak her love language (which, since hers is different from mine I sometimes find it to be a stretch)!  Here is another video I think you will enjoy which illustrates the five love languages: 

All this to say if you want to give that special person in your life a wonderful Valentine's gift ... learn his or her love language and speak your love for them in that language! 

3. Finally, a brief update on my wife's ongoing rehab following her knee revision surgery of January 9th. Sharon has been fighting more than the usual amount of pain and inflammation. It's just how her body responds to surgery. But in spite of this, she achieved a 90 degree bend on Wednesday during her PT session. This is great news because her surgeon told us in the pre-op appointment he wanted to see her at 90 degrees in 6 weeks or he would want to do a MUA (manipulation under anesthesia). Since that is what broke
Sharon's leg in November of 2015, there is no way we wanted to go down that path! AND considering she was stuck at 70 degrees following the fracture of her femur, we are very thankful! So we celebrated by stopping by MacDonald's on the way home from that session to order her a carmel frappe (small, no drizzel, no whipped cream --- gotta save calories somehow!). Please pray that she will continue to progress and that the pain, inflammation and swelling will continue to diminish. Thanks. Your prayers and support mean more than you know! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

My Friday morning routine: Open eyes. Crawl out of bed. Prep for the day by splashing water on my face, shaving, getting dressed, etc. Head to kitchen. Start Keurig. Wait for Keurig to brew coffee. Gulp down first swallow. Ahhh ... now ready to face what lies ahead!  

1. Are you ever guilty of taking someone or something "for granted?" If you are anything like me, you would have to answer (if you are going to answer honestly!) with a resounding "YES!" All of us far too often take the blessings we receive from the hand of God without much thought of saying "thank you, God!" Now if you are questioning this, let me ask you a few questions. Did you eat or drink anything today? Well, did you thank God for the ability to swallow? Some cannot do so. Obviously you are able to read (if you are currently reading this post) - so have you thanked God for the ability to see and to read (think about those who are blind and illiterate in our world). And when was the last time you thanked God for the gift of His Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8). All this to say we must always be intentional about cultivating a mind and heart of gratitude! Tough to do in this "entitlement" age in which we live. But just keep in mind, the ONLY thing we are entitled to from the hand of God is his eternal judgment! Yet, in his grace he gives us Christ (John 3:16) and everything else we enjoy in life (1 Timothy 6:17). How about  YOU? Have you ever received the free gift of eternal life in Christ? If you you have any questions about his, please click here. 

2. As our church undergoes a renovation of our sanctuary, I am reminded of the pattern of spiritual growth in Christlikeness we find throughout the pages of the New Testament: Put off the old - Put on the new. In the case of our sanctuary we are "putting off" the old carpets, pews, paint, platform lighting, sound system, ect., etc., etc. In their place we are "putting on" new carpets, paint, chairs, platform lighting, sound system, etc., etc., etc. And so it must be in our walk with Christ. We are to "put off" the works of darkness and
"put on" the armor of light (Romans 13:12). We are to "put off" the old self and "put on" the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24) - which means to "put off" falsehood and "put on" truth (Ephesians 4:25); "put off" stealing for selfish gain and "put on" an honest day's labor which enables one to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28); "put off" talk which is self-centered and "put on" talk that is others-centered (Ephesians 4:29); "put off" bitterness and malice and "put on" kindness and forgiveness (Ephesians 4:31-32). So ... given this emphasis of the New Testament, let me ask you --- what are YOU putting off ... and putting on in its place in order to become more like Jesus Christ? 

3. In last Friday's post, I mentioned my wife was going for her post-op appointment with her orthopedic surgeon. During the appointment her staples were removed (and I did NOT leave the room NOR lose consciousness!). After this task was finished, the surgeon entered the room, showed us the x-rays and explained exactly what he had done in the surgery (which, since it was a revision, was more extensive than the original total knee replacement surgery). He was optimistic about Sharon's future use of her knee. So Sharon has been working hard in her physical therapy sessions and at home. However the swelling in her knee has hindered her somewhat (in the words of the physical therapist there's still a lot of anger in there!"). So please pray that the swelling (and pain) and all of this "anger" would begin to dissipate. Now ... on the plus side, her leg is straighter than it's been since September 4, 2015 (date of original knee replacement). Thanks for all of you who are supporting her through your prayers, notes, meals, etc. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

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...