another blog

Eight weeks has passed since my past post. This time was filled with many more escapades - so why the absence from this blog?

Pondering, reflecting, discussing are more my areas of giftedness. The art of writing stares at me from the darkness. At times I can muster up the courage to paint a picture with words, but mostly I experience a burden.

So I decided to start another blog. Its simply titled joelpj - a dumping ground.

There you will find a working collection of thoughts thrown into sentences. My hope is that it can be a outlet for myself but also a public one where I can learn from the brilliance of yourself.

So stay tuned to this blog and if your keen for some regular action - subscribe to my new blog here.

joel pj

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lost and found

A change of travel routine, due to house sitting my parents home, required multiple trains, cars, and buses in recent weeks. One particular evening I missed my usual bus stop and after getting off a fair distance away, my mind quickly calculated the fastest route while ignoring practicality and safety. What began as a simple walk home, expanded into a emotional and theological journey.
Passing by my old high school I was flooded with memories of locations and events:
  - the garden where we burnt our uniform tie
  - the stairs we tried to jump but never cleared
  - the roof we played guitar and sung on

Leaving the school's illumination, the recent sun setting had a greater effect. The route became increasingly vague as my mind guessed and my feet followed the unfamiliar ground. Cement to gravel, gravel to dirt, dirt to grass, grass to knee high shrub - the unknown ahead and the surrounding darkness had become overwhelming. It was at this moment the scene instantly reversed as a high-beam from a passing car lit up the landscape. Scanning ahead with this new found vision, I reorientated my direction before the light dissolved into darkness. Pressing on, i stumbled about until another passing car set me straight - a pattern I came to rely on the rest of the journey home.

Reflecting on scripture became my safe distraction:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119
  ...my literal experience enhancing this metaphoric truth
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8
  ...God not only provides a light - He is the light

The comfort of knowing Jesus as the ultimate way, brought the perspective needed for my little way. Arriving home, the insights during the travel were quickly forgotten as I enjoyed the warm, secure, powered living. Only writing this now causes me to remember - a future post may help rekindle more of the light and dark experience.

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personal space invaders

Cramped up against the window I stood with only the air above me to draw from. My train has never been this busy of an afternoon. When the crowd alighted, room became abundant and people spaced out in almost perfect intervals across the empty seats.

My travel experience in Japan proved greater crowd numbers yet opposite with personal space. When all the passengers alight at a busy station, they remain squished together. Even in public places people will sit right next to each other when there is space all around. They just don't have personal space issues.

My station arrived with the majority of people getting off. This gave everyone another chance to group hug as we climbed up the stairs and through the ticket gates. Walking to my car was dark and lonely with only one girl ahead of me. I took this opportunity to play a little game of personal space. I would walk quicker to catch up and then slow down to keep my distance. She was aware of my presence and reacted accordingly - tensing and relaxing.

Yes, I am a little strange...

Driving home I considered the link between travelling and personal space with social interaction in person or online networking. I remembered a quote from the movie Collateral:

Max: First time in L.A.?
Vincent: No. Tell you the truth, whenever I'm here I can't wait to leave. It's too sprawled out, disconnected. You know? That's me. You like it?
Max: It's my home.
Vincent: 17 million people. This is got to be the fifth biggest economy in the world and nobody knows each other. I read about this guy who gets on the MTA here, dies. Six hours he's riding the subway before anybody notices his corpse doing laps around L.A., people on and off sitting next to him. Nobody notices.
Is our culture of individualism and personal space causing social breakdown? Thoughts?

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drunk-preaching reverse-psychology

Waiting for the station announcement, waiting for the tracks to screech, waiting for my feet to vibrate - I, along with everyone, was suddenly surprised by the next event unfolding. A lone man yelling and swearing emerged from the pack. He swayed back and forth holding a bottle in the air.

F***ing pricks! You think ya know whats f***ing good for me? People frantically glanced around hoping for some answers to the commotion.
I f***ing need 'em. Ya can't just take my life from me!
Be clean...? F*** this s***! They're good for me!
This world's screwed up... i f***ing may as well be too.
...they'll change your life son
he hinted towards a school student.

It soon became obvious to everyone what was going on. Those around me laughed and spoke to themselves:
How pathetic!
That's what you get for taking drugs!
What a life!

The train arrived, drowning out the sound of the drunk man. This obscure event gave me an interesting ride to work as I deeply considered what just happened:

He was, in a way, preaching to a crowd
He believed what he said
His lifestyle wasn't hypocritical to his message
He was confident
He was passionate
...in fact... he's a perfect communicator!
Then why such a negative response? I think its two fold:
- people already had preconceived understandings into the effects of drugs and alcohol
- people were embarrassed to associate themselves with his behaviour
Therefore it would be virtually impossible for this man to 'convert' anyone to his belief and lifestyle.
I continued my train of though - just how effective is embarrassment to a message's response? To change someone's presupposition on a subject involves rigorous intellectual discussion, but embarrassment... could it change someone on the spot? Could embarrassment dive straight into a person's heart and turn it immediately to oppose the very thing presented?

...something to consider for evangelism.

Alternatively: what if an atheist were to wave his arms, yell and scream:
Our f***ing life is all an accident!
Its so f***ing obvious!
God would have to be f***ing screwed up to exist!

Would anyone be embarrassed enough to judge their own beliefs? Would they consider a creator? Maybe a future social experiment...

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jump-start friendship

As I turned over the ignition, ready for the familiar sound of the starter motor, I was greeted with silence followed by 'click click click'. I suddenly awoke out of my commuting zombie state to realise the car battery's flat.

My attempts to push the wagon along a flat carpark while avoiding the potholes proved futile. I stopped to laugh at myself and was joined by another laugh:
Hehe! I feel your pain. It must be the night for breakdowns? a girl's voice came from the darkness.
You to?
Yep. Mind if we help each other? I'm Tammy.
Her social confidence was refreshing amidst the gloomy scenario. Her car kicked over without any trouble, while mine gave no sign of hope.

While waiting for the NRMA, we went for a drive to charge her battery. From previous experience I called my wife, hinting to Tammy that I'm married. While small talk filled our travel I kept praying for a natural gospel opportunity to come our way. As we pulled into Caltex to refill I payed for her fuel before she could realise.
Thank you so much. That's the only good thing that happened to me today.
Yeah, I broke up with my boyfriend this morning and having to work made it worse, and then the breakdown topped it off!
The next hour was spent listening and comforting Tammy as her strong confident persona slowly opened up to a fragile hurt woman. Throughout our conversation she said things to me like:
   Its just so good to meet someone who cares.
   I really needed a friend to let this all out to.
   You're the best for putting up with all my crap right now.

The awkwardness of being praised reminded me of Jesus' sermon on the mount:

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
   Matthew 5
How can I help Tammy see my goodness is not me seeking praise?
How can I help her praise Jesus who works goodness in me?

The NRMA arrived and fixed my car faster than a rat out of an aqueduct. During our farewells we discovered we catch the same afternoon train and made plans to meet again. I ended our night with:
Thanks for the help, was great to meet you. I paused... I'll be praying for you, hope you feel better soon.

Driving home I laughed at my attempt to sneak 'prayer' into a goodbye hoping it would say something about my faith in Jesus. I pray God will plant the seed I so roughly scattered.

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tibetan interest

Travelling through Sydney's CBD my cab was suddenly halted by a swarm of people heading towards Martin Place. I shifted along the back seat to view the signs and speakers, people and police gathered for the Stand Up for Tibet global awareness protest.

At lunch I joined the crowd to listen in on the various campaigns:

Boycott the Beijing Olympics!
Free Tibet!
Listen to Dalai Lama!
China, stop the killing!
I can't believe this, I mean people are people. a man to my left spoke under his breath. I greeted Steve and began an interesting chat.
You were saying 'people are people', what do you mean?
Well no matter who you are, you have rights you know?
Absolutely. How did you come to know that?
Human rights? I didn't, its just in us. Innocent people shouldn't be killed, simple.
Playing the devil's advocate here, what if China doesn't formally recognise human rights?
Well then you've gotta show em the right way, step in and get rid of them all.
Wouldn't that be killing innocent people?
What do ya mean?
Like, are the Chinese military innocent of killing because they are ignorant of human rights?
Na, see everyone knows the right thing to do. Even if the law says killing is ok, its still wrong.
So where do these absolute rights and morals come from?
I don't know, I guess we work them out. Don't need a big man upstairs to tell us.

The return cab trip was a quiet one as I considered our culture's arrogance.
Why is our take on human rights and morals the right one?
Why is credit rarely given to our Christian heritage?
Should we force China to adopt our law?
How's the travel been with the protest and all? I said to the driver, breaking the silence.
The Free Tibet one.
No idea, never heard of it.
You know, in the news about the Tibetan monks standing up for China's oppression?
Na, I guess people are more concerned about interest rates than what goes on in Tibet.

There we have it, the perfect answer of selfish western culture. So bluntly put, it struck a chord within, compelling me to discern what parts of my life do not conform to the selflessness and humility of Jesus Christ.

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bible skeptics

During a work celebration today the DaVinci Code was mentioned among the many topics of conversation. This was by far the most interesting of discussions as it reappeared throughout our gathering. As I sat and listened to each co-worker giving their 2cents worth, I was surprised by how predictable the discussion was. I almost wanted to finish their sentences like an impatient partner. The reasoning was as follows:

The Bible
    - was written down generations after the events
    - was changed over time to suit the church
    - had left out gospels that contradicted others
    - doesn't even agree with itself
Conclusion: the Bible can't be trusted and therefore it doesn't matter what it says.
How to respond? Every Christian knows how to respond because there are plenty of books, blogs, articles, and sermons that step through each of these objections, either refuting them or providing a better explanation. The average may not be able to articulate the truth easily, but the common understanding among Christians is that these skeptical views of the Bible are ridiculous. But if skepticism towards the Bible's reliability is so obviously wrong, why do the majority of people remain skeptical?

I chose to respond with the common ground of secular historians, pointing out how they poke fun at the DaVinci Code and consider the Bible very reliable even though they disagree with its message. The conversation continued back and forth with little progress. Towards the end I said:
Everyone needs to decide
    - who are the most trustworthy sources?
    - what do they claim about Jesus?
    - what is my response to these claims?
The conversation dwindled as another started so I'm assuming everyone will be unchanged in their skepticism.

So why don't I spend the rest of this blog refuting the objections?
    Simple, the answers are already out there.
If there are answers why are people still skeptical?
    Because of their bias towards a world-view
But aren't Christians the ones with a bias?
    Yes... but the Christian world-view claims everyone has a bias. As Jesus said "whoever is not with me is against me". To consider Jesus' claims seriously (including the one above) you must be willing to be skeptical about your own skepticism.

What does this have to do with commuting? Bible skeptics continually appear on my travels therefore I must deeply reflect on this topic more often.

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idle travel

Four straight days I have had the luxury of my own seat, my own space, my own speed, my own sounds. This week the norm was after-hours work that required the company van to which I gladly accepted and enjoyed.

Change of travel method changed a few things:
   - evangelising yourself yields little results
   - prayer is more responsible with open eyes
   - alert thinking is more important than abstract pondering
Most alarming however - the same travel time was far less effective.
Gone were the Bible reading, blog scanning, note taking days
Here were the radio comedy, news updates, traffic watch days

By the third day I adopted a somewhat awkward way of productive travel - Keller and Piper sermons playing through my laptop via a twisted pair of headphones. I'm interested to here how the experienced car commuter uses their time? Or even those who have purposely tackled the idle time of daily errands?

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jesus-spotting while train-spotting

The noise of the daily newspaper filled the carriage as commuters sought distraction from mundane travel. I too desired entertainment, adding keyboard clicks amongst the commotion. Thanks to Google Alerts a somewhat unnoticed news story (Jan) filled the screen:

Jesus appears on train platform

Surprised at the title I read on to discover this occurred at Waverton, just three stations from my work. In my usual skepticism I began to question:
- Why is Jesus always the protagonist for cryptic images?
     Surely he has better things to do!
- How do people know what Jesus looks like?
     He most probably had short hair. Men grew their hair under Nazirite vow.
- Why is Jesus personally responsible for these random portraits?
     They couldn’t possibly the work of artists!
On a similar theme:
- What's with faith healers and Jesus-spotting? (a term I just coined)
     Benny Hinn claimed he has footage of Jesus appearing at his crusade.
TBN 2000-04-02
True - dodgy appearances don’t negate the possibility of true appearances. Paul and Stephen encountered Jesus in a powerful display of His glory. On the other hand, Kenneth Hagin’s famous visitation was a desperate attempt to credit his laws of prosperity. The message content is the key.
- So what to do with a Jesus appearance without a message?
     If nothing more, crazy Jesus-spotting claims create opportunity to share the true gospel with those interested.

Jesus' second coming will be far from cryptic or be light-heartedly dismissed…

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coach conversing

The hum of an engine coupled with friction of rubber provided a different atmosphere to ponder. Due to railwork, coaches were recently employed to cart the thousands home. Interestingly, the commute became more personal - maybe due to the limited seats or perhaps the opportunity to greet the driver. In this case, it was definitely the latter that made for an engaging journey.

The travel drone grew predictable until I heard the word "Jesus" stand out like a startled wildebeest. My eyes followed my ears without restraint as they focused in on where and who said such a wonderful name.

The bus driver!?!

He started talking to an old lady in the front seat - the details of which were hard to make out. Something like:
Jesus...by God...for us...saved from all...trust in him
The gospel. He's sharing the good news of Jesus! The old lady inquired:
So...had to die...to live?
Yes...in fact Jesus...save sinners...all are...saviour
I noticed the nervous shuffling as those around overheard Christianity explained.
I never knew...me and cared...need to do?
Believe in...He died and rose...life
Hang on, this is too good to be true. It sounds...scripted...
The more I listened the more it became clear this conversation was between believers.
A screenplay, a cast of two, a captive audience, and a show on the road. I wasn't sure whether to be encouraged or embarrassed.

As my stop approached, relief swept over my fatigue - not from the travel but the evangelism. Walking home I was reminded of Ed Stetzer's article on beginning Christ conversations and Justin Buzzard's recent the gospel in everyday post and wondered if they would endorse such tactics.

To be honest, I really don't know what I think. Based on content only, this encounter was the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ as outlined in Two Ways To Live. Based on contextual consideration, it matched a 3rd grade Easter production. Which led me to consider - are there rules or guidelines for evangelism?
One things for sure, I was led to reflect on my lack of witnessing:

- Why does my practise lag behind my understanding?
- Would my evangelism action change with greater acceptance or greater persecution?
      i.e. if things were different, would I be different?
New mode of transport - same issue

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phoney persecution

As my carriage rushed toward a tunnel, I hurried to end my phone conversation. The overpowering darkness arrived as my friend’s voice disappeared. We were in the middle of deep theological discussion and didn’t want it to finish so suddenly. God had other plans.

a voice spoke out, breaking the silence.
You think Christians are persecuted?
I look left to see a lady staring back at me.
I have news for you! she proclaimed

I interrupted her spiel to greet Yasmine and invite the conversation to continue.
She began again:
I’m a Jew, and we have always been the most persecuted people group.
Challenges like these excite my mind to run numbers like

- 160,000 Christians are martyred each year (2nd only in murders to abortion)
- 4 million more Christians than Jews were killed by Nazi Germany.
A split second into my thoughts I realise that although Christians are more persecuted it is because we are more in number. The Jewish race is by far the most persecuted people group per capita throughout history. I also have found my attempts at two way offensive conversations unsuccessful.

I chose to withhold my workings and simply agree to her claim. She continued:
How can you say you are being persecuted in a country like this anyway?
Good question I responded. Persecution can seem trivial in western culture. It sounds like you have personally experienced persecution?
I’m a Jew and over 60, what do you think?

Yasmin’s reference to the Holocaust made me glad I kept my mouth shut before. The speed of our conversation was surpassing that of the train. I needed to slow things down and let her aggression soften. What to do...

Why do you think that Jews are the target of intense persecution?

Space and time became my friend as Yasmin considered a response. Open questions like these require thought beyond an automatic reply. The focus shifted from me to her as she considered an explanation for her built-up angst. I always find witnessing easier when asking open questions as they assume less, provide thinking time and often reveal unfounded belief.
I guess people are afraid of the truth she said hesitantly
Why would that be?
Well, people are scared that Ha-Shem could be real, and if He is, this changes everything. And because Ha-Shem has chosen His own people, others feel threatened. You’ve read the Tanakh, sorry the …Old Testament? You’d know of the surrounding nation’s fear and jealousy?
Yes definitely, although I would add that since then God fulfilled Abraham’s promise that all nations would be blessed through him, therefore I see the open invite for all nations to be God’s people
Ahh, don’t give me that Christian rubbish!
Well, that’s exactly why this topic came about in the first place. I believe that Jesus is the promised seed of Abraham, but the Jewish nation didn’t accept Jesus, which ended in his persecution. So I could equally say that people are afraid of the truth of Christianity
I guess so, but Jesus wasn’t the Messiah

I decide to change tact:
Have you read the New Testament before?
Ok, cause I think this is a great topic but a huge one to address in one train trip. What if I commit to read the selections of the Talmud if you commit to read the New Testament? It’s written by Jews, and letters like Matthew and Hebrews are expressly written to a Jewish audience. They quote a lot of the Torah so you would feel comfortable reading it.
Alright, sounds like a plan

We said our farewells as my station approached. Walking to work, I reflected on how God works in mysterious ways: A phone call with a friend began an opportunity to witness, which could lead to a new birth.
Yasmin taught me that persecution in the west isn’t really persecution at all, but rather teasing or at worst harassment. Regardless of the intensity, we as Christians should have the attitude of Paul:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Rom 1:16
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friday from monday

Greater clarity has led me to note some reflection from Monday’s travels.

Does my time belong to me?
The typical Christian response is quite profound:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Gal 2:20
Jesus doesn’t desire my time, he is my time. Life itself does not belong to me, Christ is my life.

Should the usage of my time be dependent on my circumstances?

How fleshly I am to consider this! If Jesus is everything, my life's goal should be to glorify him in any situation. The options of:
- Sleep
- Work
- Study
- Play
- Outreach
are all beneficial, so how to choose to honour Christ with my time?
Prayer as first choice gives Jesus supremacy in the decisions following. By pausing to ask God how to use my time, strips away my selfish circumstances, to reveal Jesus and his leading.

My practice of prayer falls short from my understanding of its importance, therefore I must continually fall at the feet of Jesus, thank him for his perfect obedience, and invite God to conform me into the image of his Son.

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monday morning melancholy

I shuffle out of bed as the alarm resonates my ear.
I shuffle on the platform as the train vibrates my feet.

My absent, apathetic state demands relief and relaxation. Bypassing my usual glances at familiar faces, i contemplate for a second before opening my laptop to watch Bus 174. In the seclusion of my headphone padded world i am entertained and challenged by the hostage/documentary set in Brazil. The movie concludes as the train draws to a halt. I disembark and begin my walk to the office as a question from nowhere snags my thoughts:

...Does my time belong to me?

I pause to reflect on my usual travel time consumption:
- Sleep
- Work
- Study
- Play
- Outreach
and how my choice between these are largely based on my current mood. Another question prompts my attention:

...Should the usage of my time be dependent on my circumstances?

My mind wrestles with many conflicting thoughts. To summarise these a few hours removed would be premature. However, I can be sure that Jesus desires my time, and my desire should be Jesus.

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election witnessing

Running late for my train i hurried down the slippery stairs towards the parallel tracks. The sight of the pamphlet waver was overtaken by the sound of pneumatic doors clinching tight.

Realising my new found time aboard the platform caused me to turn and greet the election campaigner, Heidi. We exchanged small talk about cityrail's persistence in being disliked, and slowly moved on to more personal likes such as music. She told me about her gig at the vanguard as i was handed a brochure declaring "Kevin 07" in bold writing.

As we shared our coming gigs around town, i mentioned one involving church, hoping to steer the conversation towards Jesus. Heidi followed and began to explain her upbringing in pentecostal services and how this enables her to engage the audience as a harpist. She reflected: "i don't believe in that form of god anymore, but i'm still very grateful for that experience"

A familiar sound in the distance grew louder and louder. i wished time would permit further discussion, but instead the sound of the pneumatic doors greeted me. We exchanged farewells as i darted in the closest carriage. I sat, paused and pondered:
...why did i leave so abruptly?
...what if God was calling me to witness in full?
...what if God had softened her heart?

My what if stance on the hour long journey led me to these conclusions:
- The joys of commuting are the countless opportunities for sharing Christ
- The pitfalls of commuting are the countless opportunities of unresolved witnessing
- My hope should rest not in my ability but in Jesus who sovereignly works in me and without me

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