Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday, so please pour yourself a cup of your favorite java and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. The first has to do with the consumption of coffee. I saw on the news yesterday a report of a case that is proceeding through a California courtA non profit group wants to see a label on coffee (wherever it is sold in the state) to warn consumers that drinking coffee increases the risk of cancer. How so? It appears that a certain chemical (acrylamide) appears in coffee, and acrylamide has been linked to cancer. Those opposing this push to label coffee as a cause of cancer point to the fact that acrylamide (a byproduct of the roasting process) consists of only 6 parts per billion. This minute amount is far too small to be a serious cancer threat. Others opposing the drive to label coffee with a warning also reference all the benefits to drinking coffee which recent studies have revealed (in the television report I saw, a USC cancer geneticist referenced studies that have shown moderate coffee consumption actually decreases the risk of certain kinds of cancer (the two he specifically mentioned were colon and rectal cancer). 

Bottom line, it will be interesting to see how the court rules in this case. My read? There are a lot more things we consume that are far less healthy than a cup of joe! Perhaps if we start by eating a more balanced healthy diet and get more regular exercise ... we will be on path to a healthier future than we would by merely giving up coffee! After all ... what would a morning be without the wake up cup of my favorite brew (which is San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser in case you are wondering!)? I shudder to think! 

I also wonder what will be next on the list of cancer causing agents to avoid. Air? Water? What is driving this desire to remove all risk from our lives? Is that even possible? I am all for being responsible. But sometimes we go over the top when it comes to this sort of thing. Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater! 

2. On a more spiritual note, one of the tools I have been using this new year to enrich my quiet time with God is Tim Keller's excellent devotional book, God's Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs. He suggests that in chapter three of Proverbs, we find "six things that can serve as the marks of a wise person and at the same time are the means for growing in wisdom."  The first of these is trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5). Here is a portion of what he writes concerning this: 

"You can believe in God yet still trust something else for your real significance and happiness—which is therefore your real God. We hide how we do this from ourselves, and it is only when something goes wrong with, say, your career or your family, that you realize it is much more important to you than the Lord himself." 

So all of us must be asking ourselves what we are truly trusting for our fulfillment and happiness in life. For whatever we are trusting is nothing more than an idol (unless, of course, that something is the God who made us!). As Keller points out, "Idolatries of the heart lead to foolishness in the life." 

The remedy for idolatry and the foolishness it brings is the gospel of Jesus Christ. For only when we realize just who we are "in Christ" (an often occurring phrase in the Bible's newer testament) will we be free from the bondage to the idols that our hearts so easily manufacture! So let's heed the words with which the Apostle John closes his first letter: "Little children, guard yourself from idols" (1 John 5:22).

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday ... wait a minute. Wasn't yesterday Friday? Ahhhh. Time's a flying! And since it's Friday, I invite you to pour yourself a cup of the black elixir of life and join me for a couple or random thoughts that I hope will stimulate you to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

Across my 38 years of pastoral ministry, I have officiated many a memorial service. This week, I have the opportunity of doing two. In both of these, the departed loved one is an individual who has left a wonderful legacy behind. In many ways, these are the easier funerals to officiate. Yes, it is a bitter moment, knowing that the separation from the deceased is very real. But it's also sweet knowing that the loved one is now more alive than he or she has ever been in this life! Any time someone dies, we are reminded of our own mortality. That sooner or later, we will all follow down this same path. Death is part of the package of life. The statistics are clear and indisputable: one out of everyone one dies (see Hebrews 9:27). So how can we prepare for the inevitable? Many don't. They simply choose to ignore what will eventually be their lot. But sticking one's head in the sand is not the way to prepare oneself for the death that awaits us all. Let me offer up a few suggestions that will help you get ready for that fateful day. 

1. Face reality. We must learn to hold loosely that which God has only “loaned” to us - LIFE!  Facing reality (reality that death is coming for us all) is the first step toward preparing to deal with death. Because if we don't do this, we won't do anything else to prepare. 

2. Plan thoughtfully. Every time someone dies, plans must be made and carried out. But when are these plans usually made?  Often it is the day after the loved one dies. Now at this moment, are most people in the best frame of mind to make a lot of important decisions? Why leave these decisions to be made by your widow or children? Why not make them ahead of time? You planned your wedding, why not your burial? I am not suggesting that each month you update your pallbearers list! But is there a special song you want sung at your memorial service? A certain Bible passage read?  Significant people in your life that you would want to see involved in some way? Go ahead and write it out! It may feel morbid, but better than to leave your grieving loved ones to have to guess what you would want!  

3. Communicate clearly. This suggestion flows out of the previous. Once you plan thoughtfully, then you must communicate those plans clearly to someone else. So talk to your spouse (or children) about “what if I die?” Talk about the memorial service. Talk about remarriage. Talk about life insurance. Because there is coming a day when you won't be able to talk to those you love (at least until they arrive in heaven!). I have a friend who has some plans for his memorial service written out on a note app on his phone. But he confessed to me he hasn't told his wife, assuming she will check his phone. My guess she will. But most likely after the fact (I told him he should tell her!). 

4. Live relationally. Don’t make the pursuit of money and the stuff money buys the priority of your life. Things like houses and cars and clothes won't last. And you sure can't take these things to heaven with you! Instead, do make the pursuit of relationships a priority! When it comes to the end of your life it will be relationships with people that bring comfort - not your car, house or wardrobe! My wife often tells our grandkids when they fight over a toy - "Remember, that people are more important than things." Something even us adults need to be told! 

One final thought. As you seek to live your life relationally, be sure your most important relationship is in order. Of course, I am referring to your relationship with the God who made you. To be sure it is, I would encourage you to take a moment to check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

May you live long and prosper in Christ ... and get prepared for your passage from this life to the next! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday again ... so please pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

This past Sunday, my smartphone had a rather unfortunate encounter with water (I will leave it at that!). I did my best to dry it out (which included leaving it in a bag of dried rice overnight). But even though it did make a come back of sorts, the display continued to flicker off and on. At that point, I knew it was time to purchase a new phone. For starters, since our provider is Consumer Cellular (no contract YES!!!), I took a look at the phones they offer. I was not about to pay full price for the latest android phones that were in their lineup (my first smartphone was an iPhone ... but when I had to retire that phone I made the switch to android phones - and am glad I did!). And the lower priced phones they were offering did nothing for me. So I did some research and landed on the Moto G5 Plus.* Many reviewers lauded it as the best budget phone you can buy (the words "best" and "budget" really caught my eye!). Adroid Central labeled it The Most Important Phone of 2017.  After deciding on the phone, I checked out Best Buy and noticed the model I was interested in was actually on sale. So, Monday morning, I walked into Best Buy, bought the phone (the sales rep inserted the SIM card from my old phone) and walked out in a matter of less than 15 minutes! Now that's service! 

As I thought of this, I thought how nice it would be if every problem we face in life could be so easily solved. But that's not how life works. So how should we approach the problems that rise up in our lives? What resources do we have available to help us 
find solutions? Let me suggest the following three principles which will go a long way toward helping you resolve difficulties that come your way. 

- The sufficiency of Scripture: The Bible is sufficient in providing help for every problem we may ever face. In 2 Peter 1:3, the Apostle Peter tells us that we have everything we need for life and godliness in the knowledge we have of God (which comes to us through the pages of the Bible). Both King David (Psalm 19:1-6) and the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 3:15-17) also express a very high regard for what the Scripture is able to do. 

- The centrality of Christ: Christ must be at the center of the resolutions of your problems. In Philippians 4:13, Paul talks about how Christ enables him to do "all things." In contrast, Jesus in John 15:5, tells us that we can do "nothing" apart from him. As can readily been seen from this, Jesus Christ must be at the very center of our attempts to resolve the problems we face. 

- The necessity of community: Your involvement in a community of Christ -followers is essential if you are going to overcome life's never-ending problems (which are never-ending because we are broken people living in a broken world). In both Hebrews 3:12-13 and Hebrews 10:24-25, the writer of this letter reminds us of just how much we need each other! God never intended us to walk through this life on our own. We need other fellow travelers to lean on (and vice-versa). 

Three principles to grip and to apply as we go through life, for if you aren't dealing with a problem today, you will tomorrow! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

*To be fair to Consumer Cellular ... they did offer the 2GB/32MG model of this phone, but for an slightly more money I had my eye on the 4GB/64MG model. 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Can you believe today is the first Friday of 2018? The New Testament letter writer James was spot on when he said our lives are like mist that is here for a moment and then gone! (James 4:14). So as you contemplate just how quick your life is passing, pour yourself a cup of coffee and spend just a few of your valuable minutes reading a couple random thoughts that, I hope, will help you in your spiritual journey! 

1. On New Year's Day we celebrated my youngest grandson's 2nd birthday. All was going well between the grandkids UNTIL it came time for the presents. One of the first gifts little Lucas opened was a little train set. His cousin, Logan, who had just turned two on November 1st, received the same train set for his birthday. So when he saw it ... he made a play for it. "Mine!" he shouted as he grabbed the train. But Lucas was in no mood to share his brand new train. "Mine!" he shouted back, clinging to his new toy. At this point, parents got involved and restored order and the party went on.

As you well know, little children do not need to be taught to be self-centered (as this incident and so many others reveal). Rather parents must teach them to share and think about others rather than thinking about themselves. Why is this? Because all of us are born into this world as sinners. We are broken people right from the start. So we need fixing. And ultimately the only one who can fix us is the one who made us, God himself! Wonderfully and gloriously God provides the fix we all need. He does so in His Son, Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul writes that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation (2 Corinthians 7:17). And he tells us in his letter to the church in Philippi that the "fix" God started in us is not done yet  - but he will one day finish what he has begun! (Philippians 1:6). 

My friend, has God started his work in you? Are you numbered among those who are "in Christ?" If you are not sure ... if you have any question about this ... please take a moment to check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.  It could prove to be the most important few minutes of your life! 

2. Last Friday (the 29th), I noticed that my sister Bev's birthday popped up on my Facebook birthday feed. It caught me off guard, as my sister passed away four Christmases ago. Once I gathered my thoughts, I reflected a bit on her life. About 7 years or so before her death, she had moved to North Carolina to be near her daughter. Since she did not drive and had poor health, our time together was via phone calls and text messages. In the August prior to her passing, at the prompting of my wife (and the Spirit of God) I offered to drive my other sister down to NC to visit Bev. We had a brief, but good visit. Little did we know as we waved good bye we would never see our sister again (at least in this life). 

All of this reminds me of just how important relationships are. My sister and I did not always see "eye to eye" and our sister-brother relationship could have been a lot better. But at the end of the day she was (and always will be) my sister. I am so grateful to God that he (and my wife) encouraged me to clear a few days from my busy schedule to make that drive south. Otherwise, I would have regretted not doing so to this day. 

How about you? Is there a family member or close friend you need to reach out to? My wife always tells our grandkids, "People are more important than things." Good advice for them. Good counsel for us! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

My apologies for missing the past several Fridays. I was off last week, and the previous couple of weeks I got caught up in the Thanksgivi...