Welcome to the P.J. (Pastor J) Sound Theology Blog

Friday, February 27, 2009

Amen, Amen ! Is Enough

Wednesday began the Lenten season, that time of year when we fast, reflect and sacrifice of ourselves along with Jesus until Easter Morning. All around the world people have given up things for lent to better themselves as well as to grow in their relationship to God through Jesus Christ.

Today's scripture for reflection comes from Mark 1:9-14~ Lets look!

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

The gospel writer reminds us of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness for forty days. During this 40 day Lenten season we are reminded of the temptation from the things that draw us away from God, we are reminded of the things that we lust after which do us harm.

As I strive this Lenten season to renew my relationship and grow closer to God, I am reminded of my nephew's relationship to God. My nephew is only two years old, so he does not know about lent or even any biblical stories yet, he can't read or write. Despite all of that he has a strong relationship with God. My nephew knows how to praise, how to love, and how to live.

What do I mean?

If you could sit with my nephew for a while you would see him greet everyone with an I love you hello or good bye, he says I love you with so much energy you know he means it and it can turn your day around. As far as his relationship with God, all he can say is A-Men. In the house you can hear his resounding A-Men, A-Men. During worship service when the preacher is preaching you can hear his resounding A-Men, A-Men. During communion softly he will say A-men.

This little one who is only two, knows how to praise and thank God, he knows how to get closer to God than we do with our fast, our bible studies, or scriptural interpretations and 40 years in the same church and pew!

For this little man Amen, Amen is enough. Because it comes from his heart straight to God's ears, O yes he knows what lent is truly about, getting closer to God!

Today, indeed this Lenten season don't let the fasting, and bible studies distract you from the real purpose of the season to get closer to God through Jesus Christ. Sometimes AMEN is ENOUGH!

Until next week Be Well,
A-Men and A-Men

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Starting a fresh...

During this Lenten season we have yet another chance to start fresh. In our text for reflection today we read Peter reminding the people of the waters in the Genesis flood, and how that could be looked at as a baptism of Noah's family. Peter reminds us that baptism is not really about the water but about a response to God's call on our lives. A call to love one another, be faithful and to serve each other.

1 Peter 3:18-22 18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

19 So he went and preached to the spirits in prison—20 those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. 21 And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

22 Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.

During the next 40 days take time out to reflect on the ministry of Jesus and how Christ ministered to the poor, imprisoned, and marginalized. Then think of ways that Christ would want you to carry on these ministries. We can all use this season as as a spring board to start fresh, reflecting during the season and being cleansed anew.

Remember that Wednesday was ASH Wednesday and reflect on all that means,
Be Well.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't Quit!!!

Hello everyone,

Today's blog is short and to the point.
DON'T Quit!
Don't Give Up!
Remember The Battle Is Not Yours But The Lords!

All day, I have had to remember this, if you're like me people come at you sideways, and crazy. Just remember the battle is not yours.
Scripture for reflection :

Philippians 4:13

13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Keep the faith, stay the course, know that you are empowered by God!
Be Well,
Pastor J

Friday, February 20, 2009

How has the change effected you?

Chicago now stands at the center of the world for one reason or another. Maybe it's political scandals, or the Olympics, I choose to believe that it's our new President and the era of change that has become part of Americas recent motto. The word CHANGE has never been used so much, everything now is about change and everyone is speaking of change.

Well good, because sometimes change is needed, and never more than now! This Sunday in the Christian calender is Transfiguration Sunday. The day when Jesus was reveled and transformed into the person God had called him to be. Let's look to the text.

Mark 9:2-9

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 8Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Jesus, right before the very eyes was changed in front of the disciples inner crew. I suspect that they were not ready for the change, and that it caught them off guard. I often wonder how they handled that change collectively. Here we see good ole' Peter was ready to build an altar on the spot. He was excited about the change before he even really knew what it meant. I imagine that the other two were so shocked they could not respond and it took them some time to digest all that was going on. How do you respond to change? What's changed about you and your situation recently? How are you handling all that is changing in our world? More importantly how have you allowed God to change you and your life?
Take some time out to reflect on change, and how God is moving in you life, your church, your community, and your city?

Until Next week Be Well....
Pastor J

Thursday, February 19, 2009

You don't know the half !

With all that's going on in our country, indeed in our lives, in our homes and on our jobs it can seem like all hell is breaking loose. If this is where you are today, if you are going through it, then I offer you our scripture for reflection from Paul's letter to the church at Corinth.

1st Corinthians 2:9-10 9
But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’— 10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

Paul writes these words of encouragement to the church at Corinth who are in competition with one another over various gifts and there importance as well as suffering persecution.

Have you ever been in the midst of turmoil with those you consider to be close to you and at the same time you're under attack from your enemies? When your world seems to be falling apart, the walls caving in, and you are at the end of your rope, turn to these words for encouragement.

No one can even imagine or know what great gifts and rewards God has prepared for you and those who love the Lord, because God loves us. Regardless of how heavy your heart is or, how stressed out you are, know that God loves you and has prepared rest, peace and so much more. Friend you and I don't even know the half!

Keep the faith, stay strong under pressure, endure, and remember to keep your heart filled with praise. Sing with me, "I love you, I love you, I love you Lord today! Because you cared for me in such a special way. Yes I'll praise you, I lift you up and magnify your name because my heart is filled with praise!

Be Faithful, Be Encouraged, Be Well
Pastor J

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Passing the torch, taking the mantle

Good morning everyone, I pray that on this Wednesday/Hump day that you are encouraged and doing well. Today's reflection is about preparing others for ministry or passing the torch, as well as stepping up to lead in ministry.

Lets look to our text from 2nd Kings. 1-14 Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel. 3The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent.’

4 Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they came to Jericho. 5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, I know; be silent.’

6 Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them went on. 7Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. 8Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.’ Elisha said, ‘Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.’ 10He responded, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.’ 11As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. 12Elisha kept watching and crying out, ‘Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

13 He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

This text is about Eljiah handing over the reigns of ministry to Elisha. So I ask the question which are you? What is your ministry involvement? Are you new to ministry or and old veteran? Have you prepared others to take over when you leave or have you been prepared to take over a ministry area?

This is more food for thought than spiritual growth, but we must be mindful of how we prepare others for ministry as well as how well we are prepared.

Until next time,

Be Well

Pastor J

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What's holding you back?

What's holding you back? What issues are keeping you from living out the words of Jesus?

In our text today Jesus is in the Synagogue teach and preaching. This text actually comes from Isaiah 61, and Christ is proclaiming the beginning of a new ministry to the least of these. This calls all Christians to work on behalf of all oppressed and marginalized members. So what's holding you back?

Let's look to the text:
Luke 4:16-23 16
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ 20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23

Brothers and Sisters, honestly we make excuses for ourselves why we are to busy, or cannot live out Christ commission. We see the homeless, we walk pass the beggar, we here the police sirens and read the newspaper stats, but never visit the prison. All of these things we know God has called us to, so what's holding us back? Is it our fear, is it we are too busy to minister to our fellow man? I wonder what the world would look like if everyone took time out weekly to do some sort of outreach ministry. Maybe it would look like Jesus wanted it to?

today reflect on how we can live out the commission of Christ through ministry to the poor, imprisoned and forgotten by society.

Be Well, Pastor J

Friday, February 13, 2009

Exercise is good for the SOUL

Do you work out, are you a health nut? What daily exercises do you do? How do you maintain an healthy lifestyle? What do you do to stay in shape? What activities keep you active and busy especially during the winter months?

If you think that I am writing about exercise you are right but not physical exercise. In our text for reflection today the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Corinth telling them about the ministry of life's race. See for Paul living as a Christian was like running a race that you just have to win. Let's look to the text:

1st Corinthians 9:24-27 24
Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. 26So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Paul reminds us that in life many can compete in sporting events but soon it's down to just a few competitors and in the end only one person, or team wins. In sports the prize is always money, or some sort of trophy and gift. This passage of text is only three verses but instructs us to live our faith out in a Christian lifestyle like it was the race of a lifetime. Paul shares with us that we don't need to cheat, and to show self control remembering that at the end of our race we will receive more than any gift or trophy this world can offer. We will receive salvation and join with the beloved of God. For Paul and for us this race would not and is not an easy one, we have to train and be prepared. We have to work and exercise, at times we must punish our bodies, minds, and emotions keeping them on track.

In our society working out and eating out are not only good things to do but they are also the cool fads. Everyone belongs to a gym, or has a personal trainer. It's hot. But many of us don't use the trainer or gym memberships regularly enough to make a relevant difference in our lives. and just waste the money. It's funny because the church is abused in the church and God are abused in the same way. A lot of people belong to or attend church on Sunday, have bibles, and pray occasionally- but not enough to make a relevant difference in our lives.

When I ask the question do you work out, and what exercised do you do, I meant spiritually. How are you staying spiritually fit for the race of a lifetime, the race you run as a Christian believer?
Do you pray, read scripture, and attend church?
Are you active in the ministries of your church, how much time per week do you spend working for God?
How much time a week do you spend in prayer and communication with God?

Are you healthy spiritually?
Brothers and sisters today and this weekend and forever take time out to ALWAYS, always to nurture your spiritual health.

Let us pray, God encourage us to hold and value our spiritual health as much as our physical and mental health. Remind us always that as those who believe we run a race pressing toward the mark of Christian perfection and holiness. Keep us along our journey during the long days and longer nights. Comfort us and give us peace, keep us from harm and from harming others, and provide opportunities for us to evangelize and testify to all we come into contact with. This is our prayer, A-Men.

Until Tuesday~Be Well
Pastor J

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Searching for a Blessing

If we are honest we all need deliverance from something. Another way to put it is that we all are searching for a blessing in some way, shape or form.

What blessing are you searching for?

Our text for reflection today comes from 2nd Kings 5:1-14

2Kings 5

5Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ 4So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!* 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

God's favor was upon Naaman, and God's Spirit was with him as well as those he encountered. Naaman just needed someone to assist him, or push him along the way. However you look at it Naaman was in store for a great blessing, a blessing he was searching for and needed without knowing it. Naaman is like many of us whom God wants to bless, who are in need of a blessing but aren't searching on our own.

Brothers and sisters open your eyes, ears and hearts to those God has placed around. We need to be able to receive our blessings that God has in store for us. Today reflect on the people closest to you and think about how God might be using them as vessels in your life leading to abundant blessings.

Until Tomorrow, Be Well.

Pastor J.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Willing to ask, willing to work!

In today's text there is a leper. A person who because of there skin disease is forced to live alone outside of the city. No one would come close to someone who visibly had leprosy, no one. The disease was highly contagious and would lead to a life time of pain. But this man saw Jesus and knew that this was his chance. Most people who were considered to be unclean would have accepted their fate and let Jesus pass by, being to embarrassed or scared to ask for help and healing. But this person was WILLING to ASK! He cam begging Christ, knowing through faith that this might be his only opportunity at a new life, has last chance.

What issues are you going through? What are you suffering from that your pride won't allow you to ask Christ for deliverance from? What are you to embarrassed to go to God for help with and healing from?
Lets look to the text: Mark 1: 40-45 40
A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ 42Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ 45But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Not only did Jesus heal the man, but he gave instructions on what needed to be done. The leper did not receive his healing free and clear, there was a process that needed to be completed- there was work he had to do. like the healed leper, Christ is willing to work in our lives but there is also a process we must go through as a proclamation of our healing, health and wholeness. The leper was sent to the church, he had to offer a tithe to the church of himself, and according to the law of Moses. Then he went forward offering his time in testimony to the goodness of God.

Are you willing to ask? Even more important are you willing to offer yourself to work for the glory of God?

Today reflect on this passage and examine how it speaks to you. Be Well.
Pastor J

Friday, February 6, 2009

Not in it to Condemn but to Win!

Thanks to God, I have had the opportunity to worship, preach, and speak at many locations around the world. In my travels I have run across some fantastic Churches,free flowing worship services, sermons and theological interpretation. However I have also come across some so-called Christians who are judgmental, condemning, and cold-hearted with what seems like a lack of theological training or spiritual guidance. When I encounter churches that condemn others and are always telling people that they are going to Hell my heart gets heavy, and for relief I turn to today's scripture of focus from Paul's letter to the Church at Corinth.

Let's look: 1st Corinthians 9:16-23
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some. 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Paul reminds us that our job as Christians is not to condemn one another but to win over one another bringing others to know God through Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As humans we are not able to determine who will go to heaven or hell, that's God's job and because of grace and mercy we truly don't know. Remember no one is without sin, so instead of pointing the finger lets open our arms and love one another understanding that God first loved us.

Let's pray: Dear God thank you for your grace and mercy that saves all through the redemption of Jesus. We pray for Christians everywhere that we are constantly reminded of your love for us and therefore love others, not judging but welcoming, not condemning but inviting. Today God let us tell someone else of your love and all that Christ has done for us. A-Men.

Until Tuesday have a great weekend and Be Well.

Love, Pastor J.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Have you not heard?

Today's passage for reflection should provide all of us strength in times of uncertainty. You know those times when we try to do it all and can not. How about those times when we have given your all and find yourself exhausted, weary and ready to faint. These are the times that this scripture becomes so handy, because it reminds us that we have heard of and indeed know God as a God who empowers~enables~and equips.

Isaiah 40:21-31
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One. 26Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name; because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.

27Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? 28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

Be encouraged today, Be Well, and Believe that God gives us the stregenth and power to endure.

Love Pastor J

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Taking time out for self

Hello everyone, today's blog reminds how important it is to take time out for yourself. In our society we all get extremely busy. People have unlimited access to us through cell phones, text messages, email and many other venues. Someone or something is always trying to get our attention. It's amazing that we don't all go crazy between family, work and church.

In our text for reflection today, we are invited to take a page out of Jesus book. Christ healed all day and then (got little) he went away by himself to rest and refresh himself. (please note that Christ only intention was to heal Simon's mother and spend time with friends, but like us Jesus found himself in overwhelming situations.)

Mark 1:29-39

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
Today take more time out than a 30 minute lunch break to refresh yourself, take some real time to relax and regroup your energy and thoughts. Then it's back to work like Jesus.

Until tomorrow ~ Be Well