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

Friday, November 19, 2010

You are not alone!

I travel fairly often, usually I travel alone and have familiarized myself with various airport restaurants where I can dine and wait for my next flight. There was a time not to long ago when I enjoyed everything about traveling from eating in new and exciting places to watching people come and go in the airports, because there was a sense of excitement there.

That was then, after a few years of traveling all by myself, i began to grow lonely and tired. Sitting in those airports and restaurants became burdensome and dull. I was beginning to wear myself out, even though I would be surrounded by people all day I did not have any real relationships, and definitely no help. Friends I believe our life in ministry and in the church can at times prove to be the same way. We start off with energy and vigor, only to run fast alone for a short time, not realizing that if we walk slowly together we will never tire. The good news is that as Christians we are not alone, we have help, we have power, we have authority, we have comfort. Let's look to the scripture of reflection today:

John 14;11-17 "Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can't believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I'm doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I've been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I'll do it. That's how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I'll do."If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you. I will talk to the Father, and he'll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can't take him in because it doesn't have eyes to see him, doesn't know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

Family, trust and know that God is with us through the Holy Spirit, take your time and allow God to give you the strength that we can not gain alone. Rest for God is with you!

Loving God, be with us!
Love P.J.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Taking Advantage of your Surroundings!

As I sit in a hotel lobby watching persons come and go, I am observing how much of a rush everyone is in. Our entire society seems to always be ten minutes late. Each person is multitasking, speed walking, or frantically pacing waiting for a slow elevator or valet to get them their car. We move so fast that we often miss the beauty of life, it passes us by. The Scenery that God has provided as well as the awesome opportunities that God has given us to help or entertain someone else. We focus so much on our own task that we can miss our chance to live out our discipleship by making a difference in the life of another. Today's text from Hebrews speaks to how we must take advantage of our surroundings, let's look:

Hebrews 13: 1-9

1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”6 So we say with confidence,“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.9 Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.

Friends the writer in the text reminds us that every day and each situation we are in provides us with a chance to witness, there could be an angel in the cubicle next to yours, a person in need on the bus, a brother who needs prayer on the other end of the phone. We must take advantage of the surroundings that God has allowed us to be placed in. Let's slow down, look around, take a breath and see where we might best be used for the building of God's kingdom.

Dear God enable us to be radical minsters for you today, help us to focus on the relationships and task that matter to you. In Jesus name we pray, Amen!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's never too late to start FRESH!

Have you ever bitten into a newly picked strawberry, or apple? Do you remember the 1st time you wore that new pair of shoes, or choose a new hair style that seemed perfect for you! In short when was the last time you had something fresh and new? I don't know about you but I love fresh and new things, for me there is nothing better than trying something new for the 1st time or biting into a crunchy and fresh apple. It truly is something special about the freshness of things. Indeed it's something about starting Fresh, a new, over! Well today's scripture for reflection speaks to starting fresh, let's look:

2nd Corinthians 5:17
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

In Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth we find this single verse that speaks to the newness of life offered in Christ. Imagine that, a new life-actually starting over? Well that is the amazing opportunity that God through Christ provides for us! What would you forget about, not do, redo, or avoid if you could start FRESH? Friends that is exactly what God is calling us to do as we turn over our lives and devotion to Christ. Your past immediately becomes the old and you are made new, Fresh! Let's embark on a fresh journey today as we reclaim our call to discipleship and devote our lives to God. Don't you think it's time to start Fresh?

Creator God, it's you who claim and call us. Therefore we turn now to you asking you to do a new and fresh thing in us. This is the prayer of your people in Christ name Amen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Worrying changes nothing!

Let's take a look at today's scripture for reflection:

Matthew 6:31-34 31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

This text at first glance seems impossible, what does Jesus mean don't worry. What about our bills, debt, problems with health and work? How can we not worry, what are we supposed to do? Yes at first glance this text seems impossible to see ourselves living out, but at second glance we see that this text actually makes life easier. What are we supposed to do, we are supposed to relay on God, let Christ bear the burden of our lives. We need to not kill ourselves stressing over the things in our life that we can not change! We must learn how to lean on faith, how to let go and let God!

Friends today, don't spend your time on the things you can't control, but focus on the things that you can change and that God is calling you to do. Live for the change you can promote in the world today, let tomorrow deal with itself.

Dear God thank you for today. Give us the strength to live worry free lives despite the situation, and the faith to rely on you for the provision of our needs. In Jesus name, Amen!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Desperate Faith!

Today's scripture for reflection comes from the Gospel of John where we see a father of high social and community status in a desperate situation, his son was gravely ill. Many parents have found themselves in similar situations, my father set at numerous hospital bedsides praying for me as I battled with Sickle Cell Anemia. I recall his prayers and cries to God as I experienced crisis after painful crisis. The fact of the matter is you don't have to be a parent to find yourself is desperate situations like these. Each and every day children, teens, young adults, and seniors experience life's issues. Issues of unplanned pregnancy, suicidal thoughts, dementia, abuse, abandonment, neglect and many more desperate situations. Truly most of us could see ourselves in the officials shoes seeking out Jesus. Lets look:

John 4:46-53 (NRSV)
Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe." The official said to him, "Sir, come down before my little boy dies." Jesus said to him, "Go; your son will live." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, "Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him." The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he himself believed, along with his whole household.

The Official was indeed in a desperate situation as he was worried about his son and KNEW, that Jesus could do something about it. Even though the father was not a follower of Christ he had desperate faith! This father who had power & influence in the world could not help his son, but was desperate enough to believe in Jesus. We see his display of faith as he leaves trusting in Jesus words heading home. The father sought Jesus out to bring him back to see his son, upon Jesus refusal the father did not give up. The father needed a miracle so badly that he would not take no for an answer. Jesus noticed this desperate faith and provided the miracle that was needed.

Friends we can learn from the Officials display of faith. We need to seek out Christ, we should run to Jesus desperately looking for completion, giving thanks, asking for miracles and blessings. Desperate faith is will go to any lengths to hear from God, it's intense, and personal. We must be intense about our relationship with God, we need to be open and honest with God, we must not let anything distract of hinder us from our relationship with God. We must seek God desperately having the faith that God will work in our lives.

Peace be with you this weekend in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen!

Until Monday, Love

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On God's Side!

Yesterday in our Seasoned Persons bible study, the discussion centered on September 11th 2001, and it aftermath. We reminisced about how after that tragic day you saw God Bless America Signs everywhere. The question was then raised during war what side is God on? Especially when on both sides people are praying to the same God for victory and security.

Well today it's November 11th, Veteran's day. A day to reflect on those who have lived, fought and died in wars around the world involving America. Today is our chance to show love and support for our fine brothers and sisters who have given of themselves for others. As I reflect today I don't believe God chooses sides in war, I believe God loves all of us (ALL), and I think it is not about God choosing a side, but us choosing God's side. Despite how you feel about war, or your stance on certain wars the fact is that when we choose God we can't loose. Paul's letter to the church in Rome says it like this:

Romans 8:28-37

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If we choose to go with God, we won't be led astray, and nothing can separate us from that eternal love! Today, choose God.

God, thank you for our Veterans everywhere, open our minds and hearts today to choose you. In Jesus name Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where to start ?

Many people each day ask this very simple question, where to start? Where to start homework, company projects, beginning a diet, working on a program, driving to a destination, and even embarking on a relationship with God. Where to start when wanting to join a church or participate in a ministry. Chances are at one point or another we have all asked ourselves or someone close this question. The truth is if we don't start we can never accomplish anything, the longest journey begins with that first step. So where to start? Start everything with love, start everything with the intentions of helping and succeeding. The text I've chosen for reflection speaks to this love, lets look:

Hebrews 10: 19-25
19My friends, the blood of Jesus gives us courage to enter the most holy place 20by a new way that leads to life! And this way takes us through the curtain that is Christ himself. 21We have a great high priest who is in charge of God's house. 22So let's come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let's keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water. 23We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. 24We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. 25Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer.

The writer of the text from Hebrews reminds us that we should have courage from Christ, not to be ashamed or timid but to take the first step. The text shows us that when we start we aren't in it alone, rather there are many on the same journey as us. We must uplift, love and hold tight to one another. Striving for success on the journey. WHERE TO START? Start at vs. 24, start by encouraging each other together taking steps in love, strides in positivity and leaps in faith. Then watch how quick you arrive at your destination.

Whatever you are questioning today, whatever the journey you are contemplating grab someone and set out on your way. Remember all living things need each other to survive. The writer of the text knew the bond of fellowship and community that new believers would have needed to survive the weight of living as an early Christian. Friends the same is true today! Indeed we need each other so let's build together and not destroy by words or actions, we can't do it alone.

God thank you for coverings us with Christ given confidence, now help us help one another as we embark on new and bold journeys to build your kingdom and fulfill our lives. This is our prayer, Amen.

Until next time, love

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Welcome to the jungle!

Reflecting on the chaos all around the world, in the Church, in our individual lives in particular and my life especially. The words of the 1987 Guns N' Roses song come to mind, the song was called Welcome to the Jungle. Here are some of the lyrics: "Welcome to the Jungle
We got fun 'n' games, We got everything you want, Honey we know the names
We are the people that can find, Whatever you may need , If you got the money honey
We got your disease, In the jungle
Welcome to the jungle, Watch it bring you to your shun n,n,n,n,,n,n,,n,n,n,,n,n,,n knees, knees!

How true the words of this song seem to me as I think about the world, Chicago and life as a Christian in general. For Christians everyday we leave the house can be a jungle experience (you don't even have to leave the house actually). As Christians we daily insert ourselves into the worldly jungle and many times it's a challenge and struggle. As I prayed today I remembered and reflected on one verse, let's look:
No trap is so strong that God can not free us from it! "if the son sets you free you are free indeed" John 8:36

Wow, this one verse in John reminds me that no matter how hectic the jungle is out there we belong to God. When Christ enters our life we are free, we may fall, fail and stumble but God's grace, mercy and forgiveness lift us again. Friends remember you can never get lost in the jungle where God can not find you. Just keep the faith, keep the fight, keep the witness and I will see you on the battlefield for Jesus.

Dear God, help us stay strong day and night, strengthen our faith and cover us with the Holy Spirit. So that wherever we go, whenever we go you shelter and keep us. In Jesus name we pray. Amen!

Speak with you soon,
Love P.J.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Peace be with you today!

I don't know what it is lately about Saturday's but lately my Saturday focus has been on peace. So today I want you to look at the picture and focus on the picture, in short just enjoy your day peacefully.

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18 (NIV)

Until Monday, Love P.J.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The difference is are you growing?

As a pastor I constantly run into people who ask me the question " what is the difference between United Methodist and other denominations", the second most asked question is why go to church because they all say something different? Well a person should go to church for a variety of reasons, however the church you choose to become apart of should equip you Spiritually to live in our society daily. In short the difference between the church you belong to and others should be the fact that your church is where you grow the most! You go where you can grow. Jesus wants us to be healthy and whole, to grow and bear fruit. Our text for today say's it a little better than I can, lets look:

John 15:1-8 (NIV)

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

God calls us to grow, the more we grow and are pruned, the more fruit we will bear for the kingdom of Christ. So the difference is are you growing in all ways, spiritually, emotionally,mentally etc? Despite the name on the building, or the denominational affiliation, go where you grow!

Dear God , help us to not get caught up in names of churches or preachers but to plant ourselves in good soil so that we may grow for you. Amen!

Until Next Time, Love

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Surley God is.....Working

As I reflect this morning about all that God is doing in the world, the United Methodist Church and especially Mandell, it's amazing! Everyday in the life of the church God is proving God-self to be real, relevant and active. As I look back over my one and a half tenure here I can not understand how persons question whether or not God is real? Surely God is, let's look at today's scripture for reflection:

Haggai 2

2In the second year of King Darius,1in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: 2Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, 3Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? 4Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, 5according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. 6For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; 7and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendour, says the Lord of hosts. 8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. 9The latter splendour of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.

In the scripture the prophet Haggai has received a word from God about the previous temple (church) it once was great, beautiful and filled with persons, things, and activities. Now it lays in waste and ruin. But God is real and speaks to the prophet saying go and tell the people to get up and work for this is God house (church) and it's time to build. Once your done this new temple (church) will be better than it has ever been!

Friends, God is real and working within us, sending us to build the kingdom. Reminding us that the silver, the gold, all is God's. Teaching us if we listen and follow the works that our church will do will be better than ever. As I listened to the testimonies shared on yesterday I was overwhelmed by the move of God in this place. Indeed my heart was strangely warmed as person after person shared how through this church they feel comfortable in there own skin, they believe in themselves and also in God, they have seen a change in the community. YES God is real and is calling us like the persons in the text to BUILD the kingdom. Are you ready? Let's get to work!

Dear God, give us a mind to work, grant us the courage to work, equip us with the knowledge and wisdom to work on your behalf in your service. Amen.

Love P.J.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

God's Grace is Enough!

There will be times when all of us fall short, there will be times when we all experience great success. On both sides of the spectrum God's grace is enough. When we are riding high and it's as if we have taken credit for our own success and are too arrogant to give God the credit.Even when we have fallen deep into sin and find ourselves letting God and others down grace is enough. Let's look to today's scripture for reflection:

"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18a)

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." (Ephesians 1:7)

We must remember that we are not perfect but God is, and even though we may fail or fall God forgives and redeems. Why does God do all of this? Because of God's unending grace and precious undeserved mercy.

Friends go today knowing whatever you have been through, or are going through to give God the credit, and know that there is no sin God can't forgive.

Love, P.J.