As I crawled out of the fog of sleep this morning, it hit me . . . I had forgotten to write this post yesterday as I usually do. So here it is Friday morning, coffee in hand as I quickly type out something on my computer that I hope you might find worth reading. So please, pour yourself a cup of coffee and join be for a brief thought or two. 

1. Time for the backstory as to why I forgot to attend to my blog post yesterday. For the second Thursday in a row I was called upon to officiate a memorial service. Now, funny thing about funerals (well, nothing is funny about funerals - poor choice of words - which, by the way, would be a great topic for another post - how our choice of words really does matter!). So, when it comes to funerals, I have never had a funeral director call me and say, "Rev. Smith, Joe Parishioner just passed away. The family is here and they are wondering what your schedule looks like? Is there a day and time in the upcoming week that you have open to officiate Joe's funeral?" Nope! Funeral directors will give me a day and time and ask me if I am available. And so, unless I am out of town (or have surgery scheduled), I am available, no matter what my schedule says! I simply have to "work it in." And as I do that, there is always something that gets "worked out." This post was one of those things yesterday. So given this backstory, I am sure you will understand (and forgive) the lateness of this post! Thanks! 

2. The memorial service I officiated yesterday was for a woman with the last name Smith. It was not her married name (as she had never married). She, like me, and millions of others, was born a Smith. In talking with her brother before the service, I discovered that her grandfather's name was John Smith! Yea! Another man who had been given at birth one of the most popular names of all time! Now some people would beg to differ with me. "John Smith" they would say is just a plain old COMMON name. But that is not how I like to look at my name. I am glad that is my name! For starters, NO ONE has ever asked me how to spell my name (and no one has ever misspelled it). In addition, I have had a lot of fun with my name (like in my days back in college when I toured with a college singing group, I would introduce myself as "Mortimer Snerd" which would bring a laugh. I would then give them my real name which would bring a laugh as well). Lastly, I am glad for my name because I was named for a man I loved, my dad's step father. I grew up admiring and loving my "Gramps" as we called him. So when my parents told me why they named me John F. (middle name will remain with me!) ... it made me very happy! I was glad to have his name! 

Just as I bore the name of my grandfather, we who follow Jesus Christ bear the name of our savior*. The most common name for those who embrace the teachings of Christ is CHRISTian. So I gladly tell people that I am a CHRISTian. For there is not "man" whom I admire more than the God-Man Jesus! I hope you too have embraced the gospel and chosen to follow Jesus Christ. And if you have any questions about what it means to do so ... I invite you to check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

*OK, for those of you who might be thinking ... "Wait a minute, John. Christ is not Jesus' name ... it is his title!" Yes, I realize that. Christ means "annointed one." It is his title as the long promised Messiah of the Jewish people (and us Gentiles, too!). Understanding this does not diminish the honor we have of bearing his title in the name of our faith! Yes? 

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's yet again Friday morning. So I invite you to join me over a cupof your favorite java for a few random thoughts. Thoughts which, I hope, will bring some enlightenment to your mind and strength to your faith! 

1. We can learn a lot about history (and the people of history) through letters written in their particular time. So what were Christians like in the 2nd century? Here is an excerpt from a letter written by an unknown letter writer ... sent to an individual named Diognetus. In the letter, the writer describes how these early Christians lived out their faith in their culture: 

"Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language, or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. . . . With regard to dress, food, and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not [kill] them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the law, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. . . .

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world."

Let's pray that this description of 2nd century Christians would become true of us who have chosen to follow Jesus here in the 21st century! 

2. When Eve reached out and grabbed the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, took a bite and then gave the fruit   to Adam who also took a bite, together they plunged humanity into a world of pain, grief and incalculable suffering. The fruit they ate was the ONLY fruit forbidden BY GOD for Eve and Adam to eat. They had all the rest of the fruit of the Garden to choose ... but yet, in a moment of defiance and rebellion, they took, they ate, they
died. Oh, of course they did not immediately drop dead, but the seeds of physical death was now planted within their DNA. They also ... in that awful nanosecond, died spiritually within. And the impact of their decision reaches us thousands of years later! Just take a look around  you. Human autonomy is raising its ugly head all over the place. Increasingly people are rejecting any concept of absolute, objective truth. Truth is now something for every man and woman to decide for themselves!

Shortly after the mass shooting in the Orlando nightclub in June of last year, I was watching a news report on the incident. As an individual walked behind the camera, he shouted out, "No one can tell me my sexuality is wrong!" This is human autonomy at its best ... or better said, worst! Humanity is NOT autonomous. We will indeed one day give an account to the God who made us (Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15). Are you ready for that day

What we see unfolding in our increasingly secular culture is nothing new. The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Back in the days of ancient Israel, there was a time when there was no king ruling in the land. No king to call the people back to their covenant with God. What was the result? Twice the writer of the book tells us that the people were doing what was right in their OWN eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Hmmm . . . sounds a like an accurate description of our days! 

So what should we do as followers of Jesus? We are a people who recognize that objective, absolute truth does indeed exist (which we believe is embodied in the Bible). So in light of the growing relativism growing around us, how should we then live? Let me suggest for starters you go back to the beginning of today's post and re-read the 2nd century description of Christians. And then go live what you read! 

3. Here's a quick update on my wife. Sharon was released from physical therapy this week. She was given several exercises to work on ... most designed to strengthen the muscles in her leg. She still suffers from pain, some days more than others, but all in all she continues to make progress. She is still unable to sleep in a bed the whole night through, so please pray that she will sooner rather than later get to the point where she can kiss her lazy boy goodbye (at least for the overnight hours!). So thanks for your prayers. She will have a follow up appointment with the surgeon in late June. Hopefully that will be the last for a while!!! Thanks for ALL  your prayers! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday already? Ouch! How can it be? This week seems a lot shorter than usual! Oh ... that's right ... I was away in Cleveland for the first three days of this week attending the 2017 Basics Conference for pastors. So ... given the fact that I am trying to jam a full week of work into two days ... I will be very brief today. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite java and join me for a couple of random thoughts. 

I just LOVE the reality that so many of the PA Turnpike rest stops have a Starbucks! Yes! I enjoyed two cups on the way to the Basics Conference and one cup on the way back. Now I realize that many people (I am guessing the majority) don't simply order a straight up cup of coffee at Starbucks. But that is the ONLY thing I order. I like coffee undefiled (OK ... I admit I put a "dash" of creamer or milk in ... but that's it!). Now do I look down my coffee mug at those who prefer to have their Starbucks coffee in some other way? Of course I don't (unless I am standing in line where the three people ahead of me all order "specialty" drinks and only one person is working behind the counter doing their best to multitask!). Just because you like your coffee differently than I like mine is no big deal in the grand scheme of things!

What is true for coffee preferences, however, does not hold true for issues of morality. Our taste in coffee (or clothing or music or ice cream or ... ) is one thing. But when it comes to issues of morality, that is a choice of a different color. Sadly however, in an ever increasing way, issues of morality are treated very much the same way as ordering a Starbucks mocha or latte. And who determines what you order at Starbucks? You do, of course. And so it is with moral choices - we choose according to our preference ... what we think is best for us (the categories of "right" and "wrong" are rapidly disappearing - especially among the younger generation). Each of us becomes our own authority (and therefore we answer to no one). 

This is NOT the biblical worldview. Scripture is clear that there exists a moral Lawgiver who is none other than our creator. And the laws he gives us to live by are not meant to keep us from having fun. No! God is not some cosmic kill joy intent on crushing us under his almighty thumb. Not at all. He gives us these moral laws for our own good (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). My friends, man is NOT autonomous (self-governing). We live under the authority of the God who made us and keeps us. And when we go about our lives using his Word as our compass .... then we find the joy and fulfillment that we were meant to experience. 

The day is fast approaching when we all will answer to him for the moral choices we have made in this life (Romans 3:19 and Romans 14:12). Are YOU ready to give an account to Him? Check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning again! So pour yourself a cup of your favorite Joe as I share with you a few random thoughts that I hope will get you thinking about your faith in Christ. 

1. Prayer. It is something all of us do. It is something all of us would like to do better! The Bible tells us we are to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But have you wondered how in the world we are supposed to do so? Much of our days are spent on the job or in the classroom. Not to mention the hours we spend sleeping (which for so many of us is probably NOT enough). So what does God expect of us?  Donald Whitney who as written so many excellent books on the spiritual disciplines (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Simply Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed, and Praying the Bible) answers this question for us! Check out what he has to say here!


2. This week I finished teaching a course on Apocalyptic Literature in the Accelerated Undergraduate Degree program at Lancaster Bible College (I teach on campus vs. online). Now the title may sound impressive ... but in reality, most of our time is spent going through the two primary apocalyptic books in the Bible: Daniel and Revelation. I consider it a HUGE privilege to guide students through these two particular books. As a freshman in Bible College (and a fairly new Christian as well), my very first Bible course was Dan-Rev. And that began a love affair with these two books ... as well as the entire Bible! Every time I teach this five week course (every April) I am reminded of two powerful truths. 

- God is sovereign over the affairs of humanity and the ebb and flow of human history! This means he has a plan for this world (and for you and me) and he is working that plan! This world will NOT go on and on ad infintum. There is a termination date known only to God (Revelation 21:1 and 2 Peter 3:11-13). So instead of getting all worked up about all that's wrong with our world, we can find hope and comfort knowing that God is still on his throne!

- God is not only a God of love and patience, he is also a God of wrath. This is particularly seen in the pages of the Revelation. The word "wrath" occurs about a dozen times in the book (check out Revelation 6:15-17). Now do we need to fear facing the wrath of God? No ... not if we have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, when Jesus died upon the cross, he faced the wrath of God. He paid (IN FULL) the penalty for our sin and rebellion against God. The wage we owed ... he paid! So when we repent (turn from) our sin and rebellion and ask God to forgive our sins and give to us eternal life - he freely and graciously does so! I often say during my sermons that our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!  God made Jesus (who had no sin) to become sin for us ... so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Wow! What a God! What a savior! What a gospel! 

3. As I was sitting in the waiting room yesterday to see my orthopedic surgeon, the lights in the facility went out. A second or two later they were back ... barely enough time to notice. One of the office staff made a comment that not only caught my ear but also irritated me. She said, "What was that? Glad they came back on or all of the old people around here would be freaking out!" OK. Having been told earlier this week by my six year old grandson that I am "old," I guess I am a bit sensitive to negative comments about "older" people (and the tone of the remark left no doubt it was negative in
nature). Now I understand that I appear "old" to my grandson (even thought I am ONLY 61). My memories of my dad's mother are that of an old woman (yet she was only 62 when she died of cancer). Unfortunately, in our youth driven culture, old people don't get the respect that they are due! Our world would not be what it is (I am thinking in a good sense) if it were not for all the contributions of the older generation. In addition, now that I have joined the "60's" club, I am learning that growing old is NOT for sissies! When the knees creek and groan when they bend and the ears don't hear what is being said - this is painful in more ways than one. This is something young people simply don't understand. And what does God tells us in regard to how we view and treat the older people among us? We must respect them (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31; 1 Timothy 5:1-2)! So let's give honor to those who are older, always remembering doing the simple tasks of life only gets harder the older we get. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

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...