How We Think About Prayer

5.28.21 Leave a comment


Over the past several weeks, as I tend to be spending more and more time in prayer, it has occurred to me that there are so many different aspects and understandings of how prayer actually “works”.

It seems that both in the life of Jesus as revealed in the gospels, and of the teachings throughout the balance of the New Testament, but especially in Paul’s writings, we tend to read things that fall outside of our normal experiences and understandings of prayer.

Jesus says on numerous occasions that we are to know with complete certainty that “anything you ask in my name, you will receive” (Mark 11:24) to Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.”

I do say that neither of these descriptions would fit well into our personal experiences with prayer.

As Oswald Chambers says “If we think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts, we think rightly.” That is, prayer should always be happening, even when we are not conscious of it.

We tend to think about prayer as a portion of our lives that we “do” whereas Jesus and Paul see it as not an exercise, but the very “life’s breath” of the Holy Spirit in us.

Interestingly, we discover that Jesus never even mentions unanswered prayer. He had total certainty that prayer is always answered. (“Everyone who asks, receives.”)

This shift in our thinking has to begin with the confidence that God answers prayer in the best way for us, not sometimes, but every time, though it may not come in the exact form in which we expect.

If you’re like me, the most common mistake I make with prayer is to see it first and foremost as a “common sense” or “exact answer in the way that I’ve been praying” rather than trusting that God answers every time, but perhaps not in the way that we have framed our prayer.

Recently, I’ve been learning to pray with a higher level of confidence that the answer is on it’s way or perhaps that it is even being revealed, but not in the way that I had anticipated. If you remember in the story of the death of Lazarus and the prayers of Mary and Martha and those who loved them, it first appears that God did not answer their prayers because Jesus showed up on the scene 4 days late. This was obviously not a small detail, but caused a very profound sense of disappointment and seeming loss of a loved one for all those concerned.

In reality, God heard their prayer and Jesus, in His perfect relationship with the Father, intentionally delayed His arrival. For what reason? Was He meaning to test His followers or was He simply busy attending to other things while they waited?

The answer to that question seems to be that His answer to their prayers was far more glorious than simply praying over Lazarus and reversing his illness and sparing him from death. His answer was one of the most powerful displays of the power of Jesus ever seen or known by mankind for the last 2000+ years.

Jesus revealed not just a miracle of healing, but the very fact that He was “the resurrection and the life” in His person. That power brought Lazarus forth from the grave four days after he had laid in the tomb. Even more, the personalization of the fact that in Jesus Himself we find “the resurrection and the life” has forever changed how millions of believers understand and perceive the person of Jesus over the last two millennia.

Consequently, I’m learning to trust the Lord with specific prayers that don’t seem to be answered in my time table or in my expected way, but all the while learning to praise Him with increasing confidence that prayer never fails, and that the Lord will always come through if we continue to trust Him with what we cannot see. At that point, prayer becomes less of an effort and quite as natural as the breath you take and the flow of blood throughout your body. Unconscious but life-giving!

May the Lord increase your understanding and personal confidence in this amazing relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Blessings,

Pastor Jay

Humbled by Perspective

5.21.21 Leave a comment

This past Monday in the late afternoon, we had some very welcome visitors. Emmanuel and Allison Pothen from India, along with their two children Karis and Nico, stopped by our home accompanied by Emmanuel’s sister Grace.

Although I usually spend some time with Emmanuel on an annual basis, because of a number of factors, it had been about two years since we had a real visit such as this.

The first thing that was inescapable to me was the absolutely delightful and enthusiastic energy of the 11 and 9 year olds, Karis and Nico. Although extremely well mannered and polite, they were none-the-less hungry to do some things “fun”! They ran in the yard, rode tricycles down the small hill behind our home, learned to swing a bat at a wiffle ball, played piano and a myriad of other things during this nearly two hour visit. (This reminded me of a little song that many of us sang in the early days of our upbringing: “Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world”!)

When we began to share with Emmanuel and Allison in particular, there were some very significant circumstances and situations that came to light. Even though we have over 30 years of experience together dating back to when Emmanuel’s father and mother, Abraham and Molly Pothen, finished their studies at Fuller Seminary and returned to their homeland to launch a new ministry.

Emmanuel began to share just how difficult things have become in India over the past 18 months or so. Of course, first and foremost seemed to be the impact of the pandemic which was rather easy in the first wave, but quite difficult in the second. Emmanuel shared how many millions of people had been affected by attempts to control the virus forcing most all of them to slide slowly below the poverty level which he perceived will continue for another two or more years because the nation of India simply does not have the resources or the mechanisms to distribute the vaccine amongst its own 1.2 billion person population.

Even as we are beginning to celebrate the reopening of many parts of our nation, Emmanuel was burdened by the weight that his nation would not likely reopen for quite a while.

The second circumstance that I did not fully comprehend was just how difficult it had become, due to government policies, for all NGO’s to receive and distribute support donations to whomever the constituency might be; from simply feeding the hungry and housing those without shelter; to advancing their mission and pushing forward with their specific goals and objectives.

Imagine having a will to want to help people from providing basic survival resources to bringing them to a place where their lives might be eternally changed by the message of the Kingdom of God.

As this conversation went along, I could sense the weight of this burden upon Emmanuel and Allison because they had been making such progress in the advancement of the ministry passed on to him through his father’s passing nearly two years ago. It’s not from lack of passion, training or strategy; it’s because outside circumstances that are being controlled by others have temporarily put a limit on what they can do.

That perspective for me was truly humbling as I recognize that we have many obstacles in our lives and callings that may seem to be formidable and even difficult to overcome. However, I dare say that few of us have these kinds of pervasive and seemingly intractable situations that are with us every day with no end in sight.

During this time, the Lord impressed me that these are the kinds of situations when we need to step up our care and support for one another. As many of you know, I have my own health issues right now, but none of that should stop me from being able to connect with a brother and his family who are going through a very oppressive time where they need the encouragement that a caring relationship can bring.

Like many of you, I’m going to have to move some things around to make this happen, but the perspective that Emmanuel brought helped me to realize that things could be much worse where I am and that perhaps in some small way, I can make things a little bit better where he is.

Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he said that we are to “bear one another’s burdens” and to “love one another” as Christ loved us.

So please pause at the end of this post and consider your circumstance and then ask God to show you someone, perhaps already in your life or someone that you have not seen in quite a while, that may be in a much more difficult and challenging situation than you perceive yourself to be. Reach out to them and take the first step of initiating a connection. You won’t really know what God might teach you until you, too, are humbled by perspective.

Blessings in Jesus!

Pastor Jay

The Overlooked Blessing of Intercession

5.05.21 Leave a comment

To the many of you who kindly subscribe to this blog, I do apologize up front for the somewhat spotty messaging over the past number of weeks. It’s not been because of a lack of desire, but honestly, an overwhelming number of personal and health related items that I’ve had to address rather directly.

One particular discovery over the past few weeks has brought to mind what I hope will be an encouragement to every one of you to always remember to be willing to pray for others. This posture of “standing in the gap” between a need and the ultimate fulfillment of it by the power of God is called intercession in scripture.

Ezekiel 22:30 in the NIV says, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” So you see, intercession can also mean that you come before the Lord on behalf of someone or something that is resistant to His love and His values and ask God to be merciful and withhold judgement.

At the close of the video announcement that I gave over two weeks ago about my health condition, I asked the people who viewed the video to please submit to me any prayer request that they may have so that I might pray for them in the same way that I would trust that they would pray for me. We established a simple email account at: praywithdrjay@gmail.com

Candidly, the response to this has been encouraging and deeply moving. We are now closing in on close to 200 people who have sent personal and in many cases very intimate prayer requests with the assurance that only I would see these and intercede for them.

One of the things that quickly presents itself are the realities of the battle to live daily life in a way that’s in accord with what we perceive to be “God’s good and perfect will.”

Quite a high percentage of these requests have a relational component to them and many ask for prayer for their marriages, for their children who may have once confessed the Lord as their Savior, but now want nothing to do with Him. (So many of these requests have to do with the cultural influence on the lives of our children and how confused and misguided they have become as a result.)

There are also many requests for personal renewal and a desire to have the Holy Spirit refresh their own hearts, minds and souls with His presence because they, too, have somewhat drifted away.

The requests for release from bad habits or addictions are also frequent and quite specific. It seems that once an individual gets caught into these cycles, it becomes very difficult to break out of them, especially in today’s world with the isolation of covid and the manifold societal restrictions it has brought with it.

Then, there is a broad range of requests for physical healing; some from chronic illness or disease; some from the weariness of caring for loved ones with such illnesses; or some who have simply given up on healing within their own prayers and strength.

Some need wisdom for career changes or new positions in their field; some are trying to discern if and when they should go to college; and various assortment of other important and personal needs.

For me, the blessing of engaging in the open-hearted sharing of these prayer requests has brought me to the place of recognizing that the best way that I can think less about my own situation is to put my mind and heart in the place of others who are every bit as much in need as I am. In some cases, as soon as I respond personally to an email, I get a thank you and an update within days. There’s an instant bond in those exchanges!

The other great benefit has been the number of people who have affirmed in kind and generous ways the impact of our lives and ministry in ways that I had no idea had taken place 10, 20 or more years ago. It has become a treasure trove of thanksgiving in my heart for God’s faithfulness even when I didn’t know that I was part of an answer to a prayer that someone was crying out to the Lord years ago and has now been fulfilled.

So I want to invite all of you who read this space to please feel free to send your request to me at praywithdrjay@gmail.com and even more than that, perhaps revisit and renew your commitment to personal prayer and intercession for the people that are in your world. Believe me when I say that they are far more numerous than you might imagine.

If you are on social media, you may have scores, hundreds or even many more “friends” or contacts that would appreciate knowing that you’re available to pray with them. It can be “organized” in some fashion or simply how you are most likely to embrace this part of what we are called to do in our love for each other and that is to “pray for one another.” (James 5:16) I believe you will find amazing confirmation that this is indeed the highest level of affective ministry.

Thank you all for your prayer support and encouragement.

Blessings!

Pastor Jay

An Unexpected Curve in Life’s Journey

4.23.21 Leave a comment

Dear Friends,

Let me begin by apologizing for the rather extended delays between blog posts over the past number of weeks. I was reluctant to give any general information out about the situation that we have been personally confronting with regards to my health until we knew what all the facts (medically speaking) were so that no unnecessary confusion or stress would be compounding the situation. We now have that information and here’s a brief summary.

On February 27th I was advised to get a CT scan of my lung cavity because a week before that an orthopedic doc who was helping with my shoulder, caught some unusual and unforeseen nodules on my upper left lung.

It turns out that these nodules were rather widely spread as revealed by the CAT scan on Thursday, February 27th. The next two months were very much a roller coaster of “good news and bad news” but the best medical and scientific minds in our area seem to agree that somehow lung cancer was seeking to invade my body. We have excellent hospitals here in our area and UPMC is one of the leading research facilities in cancer care in all of Western PA.

However, when they determined that this was a serious and aggressive type of cancer, before I just simply made a decision based on their diagnosis, with the help of my son David, I arranged for three outside opinions, the two most promising from Johns Hopkins and a personal visit to the MD Anderson Cancer treatment hospital in Houston, TX. (This is perhaps the most highly regarded facility in the country.)

What this all boiled down to was that all of these institutions agreed that it is a pretty rare case when a non-smoker and an active adult with no symptoms regarding lungs is attacked with a cancer that’s originating from the lungs and not any other organ. It’s ‘good news” that it has not spread to other organs, but it does make treatment of said disease less able to be targeted and thereby more difficult according to latest treatment protocols.

Therefore, with much prayer and great support from family and numerous local friends in the body of Christ, we determined to trust the Lord as He seemed to be leading us to receive treatment right here at the North Hills Passavant Hospital (originally founded by my great-great grandfather) and only a little over one mile from my house.

I was assured by all of the other institutions that their “standard of care” would be exactly the same and would be likely much more tolerable living at home and staying close to people that I love and care about.

This has proven to be incredibly reassuring and allows me much more time to focus on what I need to do for myself, but equally important, what I need to do for others to help bring encouragement, release and healing into their situations as well.

When something like this happens that is entirely unexpected and virtually unexplainable, this is when our personal relationship with Jesus becomes incredibly real and relevant throughout each and every day. On my left arm, I have piles and piles of diagnosis and medical research, evaluations, counsel and so forth. These are facts for the most part, not just observations. HOWEVER, on my right arm I’m accumulating all the words from the Lord, the scriptures, the incredible words of encouragement and support from that original group of 50 or so friends that I had to communicate with. Their day-by-day signals of unsolicited revelation, worship, or simply just a word of LOVE, has continually drawn me back to who Jesus is and how He has changed us all so dramatically from being self-centered to learning how to be other-centered.

I’ve even discovered that when something like this happens, people that may not even know Christ as we do seem to become more open, caring and engaging than most any other time I’ve known them. What open doors this presents to share the source of our confidence and strength in the person of Jesus!

And so in the coming weeks I will be undergoing cycles of treatment using the most reliable and proven drug therapies, along with a continued and improved healthy diet and as much exercise as my body will sustain without creating any problems!

Carol has been a wonderful partner in helping us prepare for this and I’m glad to report that my first day of treatment, just yesterday, went very smoothly and so far I’ve had no side effects.

If you have a need and would like me to pray with you we’ve set up an additional email connection under the name praywithdrjay@gmail.com Send a note to that site and I will pray for you and hopefully respond to you at a personal level.

I hope that all of you find some encouragement in how faithful and sustaining the love of God is in a time of rather profound personal need. It’s an honor to know that so many of you take time to read this space and likewise know that your thoughts and needs are important to me. May you receive strength, boldness and courage to go forward, empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives within you!

Blessings,

Pastor Jay

Seasons Change

3.23.21 Leave a comment

If you’ve been in Pittsburgh for the past few months you know what a tough winter we had but now we’re seeing the clear change of seasons into springtime. Not only are the first signs of buds on some of the plants coming forth but birds are busily building their nests and the first sign of things turning green is becoming evident.

In addition to that, Spring literally became a calendar event last Sunday!

One of the things that is often misunderstood or even overlooked in the scriptures is just how significant the entire concept of understanding the “law of sowing and reaping” is that we find throughout scripture

Seedtime and harvest is how God created the earth and every seed is created to reproduce according to its kind. In every seed there exists the potential for infinite harvest.

Jesus even referenced this eternal principle in Mark 4:26-29 which you should definitely check out in your Bible. He said this is even how the kingdom of God, the spiritual kingdom, operates and so we should take note of this spiritual law as we seek to walk out our faith.

Did you know that even our redemption is a function of our sowing and reaping. Jesus was the Seed who had to fall into the earth and die that He might bring forth many more like Himself… that is you and me!

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” John 12:24

That is Jesus talking about His own death which was soon to come and how as a result, “much grain,” that is many sons and daughters would be harvested that bear His image.

Peter reinforces this same spiritual law of seedtime and harvest when he says:

“Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, to the word of God which lives and abides forever.” 1 Peter 1:23

What we may be hesitant to fully grasp is just how detailed the Lord is with this principle in virtually every area of our lives. What we feed on is the fuel of our lives. Our bodies feed on food, our minds feed on information, and our souls feed on relationships and emotions and events. However, our spirits must feed on the word of God which is His Spirit.

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart….” Jeremiah 15:16

Without trying to oversimplify this, it may be a very healthy exercise to determine which kind of “food” is most important to you? The answer will reveal a lot about your present health and your future destiny.

Those who simply focus on good eating, that is natural food, will talk about it, think about it, crave it and live their lives around it. Look at the incredible exposure of the health food industry over the last decade or two; some people are literally obsessed with what they eat.

The same is true of those who feed on information and will fill their minds with all the latest news on whatever subject interests them and on whatever of the multitude of platforms they can now receive it. There are some people that literally get depressed when they don’t have enough hours of “screen time” to digest their necessary portion about other people, about events, about trends and a myriad of other relatively unimportant things.

That’s living from a part of the soul, and if they don’t have emotional control and happy relationships, they struggle in life.

That’s not at all to say that we shouldn’t have some interest in what we feed ourselves and what we put into our minds and allow time for both of those pursuits. But my experience is that very few people spend even a similar amount of time, much less a greater amount of time feeding on the spiritual side of what they have been given to live by and that is on the word of God. It was Jesus who said, “Man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Only His words can satisfy and give us the strength and wisdom above the corruption in the world today.

I don’t mean this in any sort of condemnatory fashion, but if your focus and passion isn’t on God’s word and the life of His Spirit in you, you will never be truly satisfied. Those other areas like food and information and relationships, etc., will begin to dominate your life and eventually leave you stressed and unfulfilled.

A spirit that is nourished on God’s word on a regular basis will produce life (abundant life!) and peace. This is what Jesus meant when He said

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in Him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Abiding in Him is a form of sowing His life into ours. Strong spiritual food affects every other part of our existence; our mental health, our emotional health, our relational health and even our physical health.

As we move rather steadily into the blossoming season of Spring, let it be a daily reminder as you see the fruit of seedtime and harvest that every one of us has an opportunity in every single day to sow into our spirit life through God’s word, worship, and listening to His voice in obedience and communing with Him. If we do that as a priority, our lives will bear great fruit and bring much glory to God, which is what He intended when He established this law that has ruled on this earth ever since the first days He created it.

Spring blessings!

Pastor Jay

How Does God Display His Greatness?

3.03.21 Leave a comment

Just a couple weeks ago, Carol and I were blessed to visit our son and his wife and four children who were spending several weeks in Florida and had room for us to come down for about a week. It was a great break in the middle of the “polar vortex” that was going on all around us when we left.

The second evening we were there we took a ride over to the gulf side to watch the sunset over the western shore. It’s nearly impossible to describe what a contrast that was to where we had been just 36 hours before that! As the sun gently slipped toward the horizon and eventually disappeared behind that straight horizon line, the people on the beach who were there to watch raised up a significant level of applause. Perhaps they were celebrating it’s beauty, perhaps they were acknowledging that there is still order in our world even when there seems to be so many things that aren’t under control.

I was more interested in the response of the grandchildren that were there. The four year old twins just continued to chase the surf up and down and look for shells and so on and hardly noticed the sunset. The seven year old watched and turned and said to Carol, “I thought it would make some kind of sizzle when it hit the water”… and the ten year old mentioned how pretty it was but didn’t seem to be too moved. As we were walking back across the beach toward our car, she picked up a couple handfuls of sand and I saw a moment where I could interject something that perhaps she hadn’t understood before.

“Ellie,” I said, “do you know that scientists today and astronomers specifically tell us that there are more stars in the universe that we know than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on our planet earth?” She said, “Wait, what?” So I repeated it again and encouraged her just to let the sand filter through her fingers. She thought pensively about this for ten seconds or so and then blurted out, “Wow! Like, I can’t even wrap my head around that.” That led to a rather interesting conversation about other things that we know about God that we “can’t wrap our heads around” like the fact that He was never created but always here.

The fact is that we can’t wrap our heads around numbers like that. I knew that was an accurate statement from doing a little study on it seven or eight years ago which you can easily google or find on some other platform. In truth, however, when I reconfirmed my research I realized I was a little bit off. More recent studies show that there are about 70 septillion stars, or 70 with 24 zeros after that.

However, simple numbers like that can’t compare with walking through the sand on one beach in one tiny little part of the earth and realizing what our scientists are telling us. In fact, by the way, latest statistics would confirm that there are 10,000 stars per grain of sand?! There is no way to fully comprehend this. So why does God make such an incredibly unimaginable statement about His power that even our scientists have to concede?

Perhaps it’s because God wants to give us a visible and measurable sense of perspective of His vastness, His greatness and His potential capability.

In Psalm 139 the scripture reveals the three most powerful but intangible aspects of God’s character that we must learn to embrace. Our God is omniscient, that is He knows everything that there is to know about what’s going on with our lives in every moment of every day throughout the entire known world. Second, our God is omnipresent which means that we will find Him wherever we go, that we can never hide from Him, and that He will never lose us or lose track of where we need to be. The third is His omnipotence which in verses 13-18 He describes in detail not by describing the armies and the powers of the world that He’s defeated but rather by pointing out how He personally forms and shapes us in our mother’s womb and is involved in the very act of creation of our own lives down to every intimate detail.

This has a great deal of meaning when it comes to whether one is pro-life or not… but it is the gold standard of God’s level of involvement in the creation of human life.

So I want to encourage you as you may be facing situations where you don’t know what to do, remember that God is all-knowing. If you’re feeling lost and somewhat unclear about where you are to be, God is omnipresent and if you listen for Him He will guide your steps to that specific place where He’ll be there waiting for you. And finally, if you’re feeling underpowered, unable to accomplish what you feel needs to be done or simply overwhelmed by circumstances in life, there’s nothing that God cannot do for each and every one of us.

The sun may not sizzle when it meets the horizon line in the ocean, but most assuredly as the stars appear in the heavens, keeping in mind that on a clear night we can only see between 6,000-7,000 stars in our galaxy, God has made a statement about how great He is and how inconceivably knowing, present and powerful He is. And yet at the same time He loves you and me with the love that is every bit as immeasurable as the heavens above. He is, indeed, an Almighty and all loving Heavenly Father.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay

Discerning the Times

2.05.21 Leave a comment

In just a little over two weeks since the inauguration of President Joe Biden and his new administration, it is increasingly clear that the divide in our nation is not on the way to “unity and healing” that he proposed. In fact I dare say that our American republic is suffering it’s gravest crisis since the Civil War. We seem to be moving into a season where it is no longer ‘politics as usual’, but an era of political warfare where our enemies are not foreign adversaries, but are fellow citizens.

This is not an overstatement and is symbolized most clearly by the installation of high strength fencing and razor wire along with somewhere between 5000-10000 National Guard troops surrounding our nation’s capital. In what might have seemed like the cartoon parody even a decade ago, is now a daily reminder of just how divided we have become.

Although my primary focus in this space is to remind us of the sovereignty of God and the focus of our spiritual center, it is not a time to be ignorant of the forces that are at work to further divide and perhaps eventually destroy our country, which so many of us still believe God has plans and purpose for this great nation. The fact that there remains a substantial base of tens of millions of committed followers of Christ in this country cannot be dismissed or overlooked by the disregard or even obvious disinterest in our spiritual heritage in most forms of media, education and now even in government.

Just one year ago in contemplating the 2020 elections I recognized that some of the values that we hold most dear and quote most often in America such as freedom of expression, of thought, worship and gathering seem to be slowly slipping out of our national consciousness, along came the Covid-19 pandemic which did nothing but to further isolate and polarize us as a nation at a time when it seems it could get no worse. Now, one year later, we’ve all discovered that it did get much worse and that the long term consequences of this past year are just beginning to be understood, let alone addressed.

What we seem to be losing almost as if it’s the consequence of some sort of collective purging of our minds and souls is our individuality and what it means to be a nation of individual freedoms though diverse, can still function as one. Thus the phrase on much of our currency “e pluribus unum.”

Instead it seems that we are increasingly being classified by identity politics and viewed, polled, analyzed and lumped together as members of groups with no personal differentiation rather than as individuals.

This sort of post-modern relativism is added to the mix of groupings which gives rise to different truths for different tribes: feminist truths, homosexual truths, black truths, Hispanic truths, millennial truths, Left and Right truths, media truths, and on and on we go.

It seems that each group sees the world in it’s own way, so much so that even family members who have known each other for decades, now find it difficult to talk about what’s happening in our nation with any sense of civility or concern about our relationships to one another.

When we fail to be able to communicate with people with whom we have an established bond of love and commitment or at least a relational connection that has endured for years if not decades, our individual perspective becomes more important than our collective identity and we eventually cease to be “one nation, under God.”

If one studies Western history, it’s plain that tribalism, sectarianism, and suspicion are common responses to the apparent failure of politics to guide public life.

Here is a current push to rethink once again our immigration policies which will only contribute to the further disintegration of our American identity. If we value unity as a nation then we need to welcome our immigrants into our borders and expect them to embrace and integrate into our American ideals rather than taking their own cultures and going their own way with little or no understanding of how they can relate to their new country and to each other.

It seems that the heart of true liberalism is an eye for the identity and freedom of each individual person and the content of their character, regardless of their membership in any group or tribe. However, all of this is still possible while embracing the values of freedom and liberty as brilliantly articulated in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

If nothing else, my encouragement to all who may be thinking about these matters is to pray fervently for our leaders and those in authority as commanded by God’s Word in Romans 13. We are also in need of being reminded that our greatest strength as believers in Christ is our ability to “love our enemies” which is often times much easier to say than it is to do. However, we are not given an option to do anything else.

May the Lord grant us grace, revelation and strength as we continue to take a stand and seek to bring healing and unity to our land.

Blessings,

Pastor Jay

Shifting Our Focus

1.29.21 Leave a comment

Just recently, I was asked to lead a season of prayer over a group of staff members and leadership who were gathered together for a very brief but important time of focusing on the year ahead. These were the women (and at least one man!) who are responsible for the Women’s Choice Network, a pro-life organization that has been serving our Pittsburgh community for nearly 35 years.

As the Director of the ministry was outlining the implications of the unfiltered and unapologetic far-left executive orders that would immediately impact at least eight critical areas of women’s care and the choice to carry a baby full of potential and destiny into their place in this world.

Even though the picture that was being painted was quite bleak in both it’s breadth and it’s depth of de-constructing the existing pro-life safeguards which had been championed by the previous administration, I noticed an interesting and tangible energy and even strength rising up in the people in attendance. You see, when faced with a seemingly impossible challenge which no human strength or strategy can directly overcome, we must shift our focus to what the Holy Spirit promises that He can do in such seemingly hopeless circumstances because all authority in heaven and earth has been given to the Son Jesus who ministers through this same Holy Spirit.

This same principle is true whether it be for ministry, personal challenges, the direction of our government or elected officials at every level; and even in things such as competition, sports, career or educational choices and family relationships.

What happened over the next 30-45 minutes or so, was deeply encouraging to everyone who was there to participate. When we affirm that we are powerless on our own to overcome the obstacles before us and yet we are not willing to surrender to those forces but rather to trust God to see us through them, it ignites something of hope and possibility in the human heart.

If the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, overcoming the absolute worst defeat anyone could imagine, then what is possible through us who live by that same Spirit? (Romans 8:11)

This is not to say that the days ahead are going to be free from opposition, setbacks and spiritual warfare; as has been true for the people of God for the last four plus millenia as described in scripture. However, for those who hold closely to the promises of God in His word, the support and encouragement of a group or team of believers around you and most important, the daily and fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit and His presence in every circumstance, the message is clear: you will prevail!

I left the time that night aware of the courage and risk taking that these people were stepping into, but I was also more aware of their deep confidence in God based on His history of covering them in years past and most especially on His promise never to fail or forsake them.

Whatever you might be facing, please take these thoughts to heart and the example of this small but very committed band of believers who are laying down their lives for the lives of the unborn and the people who are profoundly intertwined with them.

Blessings,

Pastor Jay

Avoiding the Pitfalls

1.22.21 Leave a comment

One of the unforeseen consequences of the final few weeks of the Trump presidency and the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States has been the rather harsh and sometimes dismissive reaction from friends and even family members who supported Mr. Biden and most of the democratic candidates.

I’ve had a handful of friends that have simply stopped communicating and most unsettling were a few family members who communicated, but did so with a rather critical tone wondering “How could we possibly have even considered supporting Mr. Trump?”

It’s not often that I get involved in political matters to the point where they become problematic with my close relationships, and to be honest, I didn’t really see this coming. However, I also found it difficult to respond briefly and was frustrated at my inability to concisely express why I held my positions and to do so without flipping the page and pointing out the most obvious shortcomings and flaws of the alternative candidates and positions on everything from moral values to hypocrisy that was so underplayed by the media but obvious to anyone who looked below the surface on issues such as “civil unrest” and governmental mandates and policies.

I took a studied look at my brother Glenn’s response to one such dear family member and realized how he had avoided the pitfalls that I hadn’t, and I submit them here for those of you who might just need to have a couple of unemotional, yet surgically precise reasons why you may have held differing opinions to your friends and/or loved ones. Here’s his response.

“Good morning…, out of respect for you, I am responding to your email regarding the election. You asked how I could support former President Trump.

The answer is really quite simple. I take a biblical view on elections and candidates. Neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Biden were very good candidates. However, Mr. Trump was pro-life and pro-Israel and he demonstrated this during the four years he was in office. Mr. Biden and the democrats are pro-abortion and are either pro-Palestine or do not actively support Israel.

The Bible says God hates those who shed innocent blood and there’s no doubt that killing the unborn is an abomination before Him that will not go unpunished. America is in deep trouble with God if we do not repent and change our ways, and soon.

Beyond this, the Bible says that God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel. Israel is the apple of God’s eye and supporting them helps to keep us in God’s favor. I want a president who openly supports Israel.

There are other points I could make, but just these two are enough. (Because they represent eternal truth as revealed in God’s Word.)

Wishing you a good 2021.”

My family member responded to this explanation quite positively. I sense that the key is to eliminate the emotional hot button issues and events of the past few years, and especially the past months, that inevitably lead to rather extreme reactions no matter how well articulated or defensible they may seem to you.

My prayer for our new president and his administration is that they will find success in bringing some measure of unity and reconciliation amongst all Americans, and they must do so with their actions, not just their words. If they’re able to do that, then perhaps the Lord will “open our souls instead of hardening our hearts” as our new president encouraged all Americans to do in his inaugural address.

In succeeding weeks let’s all recommit ourselves to humbly and with repentance come before the Lord on behalf of our nation and call upon the mercy of God that we might reclaim our place in redemptive history.

Sincere blessings,

Pastor Jay

And In Other News…

1.15.21 Leave a comment

With all that’s going on in the political world in these days, let alone the ongoing pandemic news which seems to change daily, I wanted to take an opportunity to give you something uplifting and potentially very encouraging to celebrate with us.

This coming Tuesday, 1/21/21, we will be officially releasing the culmination of a three year project recounting in some detail how the Lord moved in the hearts of approximately nine couples some 40 years ago this very month to launch a new church in the North Hills of Pittsburgh.

At the time, we had no idea of the blessing that would be upon our efforts and the cumulative impact of what God has done through the ministry of North Way Christian Community. It’s a particular blessing to me that the primary author of the book, Alexander Hettinger, is a member of North Way Oakland, and the publisher, Paul Spencer likewise has attended North Way Oakland for nearly 10 years. 16 different people contributed to the text of the book and told the stories of scores of others that have been touched by the Lord in some personal way through the lives and ministry of our church family.

Lead Pastor, Dave D’Angelo, did an excellent 30 plus minute video interview of Alex and me which will be broadcast on 1/21/21 at northway.org/live or North Way Christian Community on You Tube. We go into quite a bit more detail in that interview about how the book came into being, what we hope it will mean to the lives of not just our members but many others who read it, and most important, how we know without a shadow of a doubt that the Lord has been in this entire experience from day one!

We’ve attached a press release from our publisher, Paul Spencer, who gives you a few more details and explains just how we worked together in order to fulfill this vision and put it into the hands of every North Way family and anyone who may desire a copy for friends and other family members. By the way, the book will be available through all bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, Riverstone Books and most any independent bookseller. It’s also available on Amazon, but it’s important when you ask for the book to use the full title, “12121: The Story of North Way Christian Community”

My prayer is that the Lord will stir many people as they read these page to believe that God has placed dreams and ideas in each of their lives that He wants to fulfill and that nothing is impossible when we are willing to step out and risk the security of what we have been used to doing in life and partner with others in community in order to experience the power of the Holy Spirit to bring it to pass. It’s not just a story about one church and it’s history, it’s also meant to be an encouragement to every other work the Lord has purposed to build His kingdom.

Blessings,
Pastor Jay