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

Friday, October 28, 2011

How Your Faith these days?

Hebrews 11

1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

The writer of Hebrews perhaps Apostle Paul direct the question to us in form of a statement of what faith is. I believe that the writer is secretly asking the reader how is your faith these days? Is your faith confident to the point of assurance that what you can speak truth and it become realized? Are you so confident in your faith that you can step out in the name of justice and know a change will occur? Is your faith strong enough to make the invisible become real and relevant in the world on behalf of God?

How's your faith these days, are you unsure of your beliefs? Are you a person who observes injustice, racism, sexism and oppression but say's and does nothing? Are you still searching for your confident voice which comes from living out your faith in the world? Then look no further and find your faith in life of Jesus Christ. Jesus life and death reminds us that we must challenge the opressive and unfair social systems, as part of our faith journey. It's only by making the invisible visible to those who can not see that we do the work of God. Our personal mission should be to start small and daily open the eyes of the world while at the same time leaning on God to increase our faith, confidence, and assurance.

Remember even the twelve disciples did not start off ready to give their life for Christ, but their faith grew daily. So can ours, therefore let today be the beginning of your new journey. Do a faith check and daily ask yourself how are you living out your faith this day?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Live for Today, invest in Tomorrow

Ecclesiastes 7:8-14

New International Version (NIV)

8 The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride.
9 Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
for anger resides in the lap of fools.

10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.

11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun.
12 Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. 13 Consider what God has done: Who can straighten
what he has made crooked? 14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.

The preacher/teacher from Ecclesiastes reminds us that we can not change the past, for God's mercy has sustained us through it. We do not know what the future holds and therefore we can't control the good or bad days ahead. What we can do however is Live for today! In the midst of famine, marginalization, hatred, and greed we as God's representatives in the world can use today to effect CHANGE. Today you and I are afforded the awesome opportunity to promote love, justice, and mercy in a world that is divided economically, politically, and morally. We have a word in us that needs to be shared, a word that the world is thirsting for, a word from scripture about how God is calling all creation to live and love in harmony together. Today I ask you how will you spend your day? Who will you live out your faith today? I pray it's by promoting the love of God one person at a time.

Be Well Today, love P.J.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: The Seeds of Empowerment Have been Planted in the People!

Joshua 6

1 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the LORD and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” 7 And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the LORD.”

8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the LORD went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the LORD’s covenant followed them. 9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” 11 So he had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.

12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14 So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. 15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD.

20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.

When the people get together on one accord to stand up for an equal share, their place at the table, to fight for opportunity they will not be defeated. Indeed the people will be heard!

Over the last month I have been excited to see people organizing and standing up the marginalized and left out. The Occupy Wall Street movement is now a nationwide initiative reminding the country that the minority can no longer oppress the majority, classicism must end, the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor must end. We are all made in the IMAGE OF GOD, we all have a right work, support our families, and have places to live. God has promised good to us, just like God promised Joshua, Moses and the Hebrew people. God has promised to keep us and to be with us always!

Just like the Hebrew people in the text of Joshua God has made promises to our Generation also. However like the Hebrew people we must march around the city, we must lift up bullhorns, we must let our voices be heard, and we must not give up! In today's text we are reminded to be patient and wait for God to bring the walls down. We must not give up, and we must not be discouraged thinking that our voices are not heard because they are. Every day the Hebrew people marched and sounded horns. Then on the last day they marched around seven times and they were given their increase. Friends our society must change it's greedy ways, and if you and I continue to march, protest, and speak out against injustice we too can bring down the walls of unfair Capitalism, Classicism, and unfair labor selection process! Let's prove that God's promises don't fall void!

Dear God today give us the courage and strength to fight against injustice, let our faith be strong enough to keep the fight until change and blessings come. In our personal lives as well as our communal lives. This we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reminder: Take Care of yourself!

1st Thessalonians 5: 12-18

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Over the last three to four years I have been amazed at the main stream medias push for self-care products. We are being marketed to at every turn in news parers and magazines we see all sorts of vitamins and multivitamins that are specialized to our gender and age. The television reminds us during one out every ten commercials to use Proactive or Clearasil for our skin, and billboards around the country remind to Just Do it and buy special shoes for running, others for cross training, and yet still others for walking or playing various sports. Millions of dollars a day are spent on reminding people that we need to take care of ourselves, but somehow in the hustle of our busy days many of us still forget about how important self care is despite these reminders.

I believe the apostles Paul's words to the church of Thessalonica were reminders to take care of self. These words echo down throughout time to the church of today, reminding us to take your ourselves not only physically but all too importantly spiritually.Paul reminds us to encourage one another, be patient with one another, rejoice in the goodness of God and to pray always. For Paul I believe that these are the blueprints of true self-care, for Christians and non-Christians alike. For me as a United Methodist a consistent discipline of prayer and social holiness are at the center of my theology, as well as my self-care.

Recently, I heard a preacher make the statement that many Christians attend church but don't allow the spirit of God to move in them or throughout the worship service. It's my belief that many people come to church not expecting God to do a great thing and not having prepared himself throughout the week through prayer and communion with God for the spirit to move in their lives on Sunday. In short I making the assertion that many Christians only pray and communicate with God doing Sunday morning worship!

So I agree with this preacher statement, and I place my basis in Paul's words from Thessalonians. We must live a life of prayer, we must live a life of encouragement, we must live a life of rejoicing daily. Living a life of prayer and communion with God is how Christians take care of themselves spiritual. A a daily practice of prayer, reading scripture and or devotion keep us in tune with God's will for our lives. So that when we arrive on the steps of the church Sunday morning, we don't arrive empty waiting for God to work magic but we arrived full excited for the Holy Spirit to pouring into us all that God has revealed throughout the week. This is when we enter into worship with expectation because we know how great God is, and not walking in the door thinking that it will be just another Sunday.

Therefore today I ask you to take care of yourself, this is all reminder that self-care is not just physical but also spiritual. Brothers and sisters pray always, study the Scriptures, encourage one another,and always strive to do what is right. I promise that if you start on this journey of spending time daily with God not only will you worship experience change, but your entire life for the better.

Love P.J.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dealing with unexpected loss; handling the sting!

1 Corinthians 15:50-56

15:50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
15:51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed,
15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
15:53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
15:54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:"Death has been swallowed up in victory."
15:55 "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

As I listen to these words from Apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth, I am lamenting, indeed I am morning the recent loss of a beloved Aunt. Death is indeed a mystery and every day we live, ourselves as well as those around us parent, aunts, friends grow older and closer to embracing the mystery. It's amazing how comfortable and at peace these words from Paul have warmed my heart. "That we shall all be changed," and that "this body is indeed perishable" we must loose our physical selves to be with God. Therefore death is not an end but needed as the trans-formative process to be forever with God. Truly I won't see my Aunt in her earthly form again but I rest with the fact that we shall see each other on the other side of this great mystery. Truly death has no victory, surely for those who believe death has no sting!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Looking at the BIG Picture!

1 Samuel 16:1-13

16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons."
16:2 Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.'
16:3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you."
16:4 Samuel did what the LORD commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, "Do you come peaceably?"
16:5 He said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice." And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
16:6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed is now before the LORD."
16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."
16:8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one."
16:9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one."
16:10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen any of these."
16:11 Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here."
16:12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; for this is the one."
16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

There are times in our life when we can only see the next move, we can only accept what our heart is set on right now. I remember two major instances in my life when I could not see the big picture. The first is when my Dad told me I could get my first car, the first lot we went to I saw a blue Geo Storm and I had to have it. When my father suggested we look further and search other car lots I was furious and began to think I would never get a car, especially since the storm was the car for me. (My 16 year old wisdom had already set in) After four more lots we ran into a fully loaded Ford Lincoln Mercury Topaz, gray on black, power everything with a sun roof. I loved it even more than the Geo, what Geo? The Topaz was indeed my first car, and I still miss it till this day. My Dad saw the big picture, about value and not just getting something because you can.

The second instance is my that while serving at St. Mark because of various situations I began looking at another Church to serve, I had two Churches in mind. One was a huge Church that wanted a youth pastor (the same role I was currently living out at St. Mark). The other Church was looking for a Young Adult Pastor, a small Church with limited resources. As for me I wanted a job, a new chance and even though I preferred the bigger Church on both my heart was set. Needless to say neither Church was truly interested in my services, and my heart was heavy as I sank back into my reality that I was stuck. When I received a call about serving at Mandell UMC as not an assistant, not an associate, not a youth pastor, not a young adult pastor, but the lead pastor!

Until then I thought that God was slamming the door in my face, I thought God was rejecting me enjoying my suffering. I could not see the big picture. Samuel in the text looks and the 1st son he see's he set's his heart on. But God see's the big picture. What things are you going through now where you need to step back and pray about, so that you too can see the big picture?

God knew what was best for me, Mandell and I am sure God knows what's best for you to! Now my daily prayer is for God to allow me the patience and discernment to see the BIG Picture. Remember even after David is anointed, it's not until the 21st chapter until he becomes KING today sisters and brothers, look at the Big Picture. I pray Amen!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dealing with Disappointments

Have you ever been disappointed by someone one you really cared for? Have you ever trusted in someone who had let you down? Have you ever been devastated by the way a situation involving loved ones transpired and broke down? Let's look at today's scripture:

Lamentations 3:17-26

3:17 my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is;
3:18 so I say, "Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the LORD."
3:19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!
3:20 My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.
3:21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
3:22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;
3:23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
3:24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."
3:25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.
3:26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

The scripture from today meets us in a point of despair form the perspective of someone who has gone through a lot, with loved ones and economic situations. The writer has even forgotten what happiness is, can you ever been in a place like some what like that? Can you ever remember feeling down and out like this?

But before you give up on your situation or on the scripture keep on reading, because we are reminded of the love and faithfulness of God for us. We are reminded that if we hope and trust in God, God will bring us over, under, and thru. If we call on God for hope, then the steadfast ever-lasting love of God will never cease and even out of the most disappointing situations new mercies will come. Keep waiting on the Lord, and be of good courage. Then watch God work out your disappointments!

Love P.J.