It's Friday! Yea! Please pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee (I am about to drink my third!) and join me for a few thoughts which I hope will encourage you in your walk with God. 

When I woke up this morning I knew something was good about today. After the fog of a good night’s sleep cleared – it hit me. The mid-term elections are over (oh, and the Steelers won last night)! Yea! Now I must admit the primary reason for my gladness that Election Day is past is not because I have the privilege to vote for those who will represent me in government (a privilege so few around this world enjoy). I am grateful for this opportunity.  I really am! But I confess that the greatest cause for my joy is that finally – after week upon week of nauseating campaign ads on television and radio – these commercials will be gone (at least until the next election). I (and I am sure I’m not alone) won’t miss all the mud slinging distortion that comes across the airways from candidates of both parties. Why all the negative ads? Because research shows that they are effective! So the worse you can make your candidate appear – the better you look to potential voters (I'm guessing that’s the reasoning behind it). 

All of us are guilty of throwing some mud of our own. Perhaps not often. But surely sometimes. We put others down so that we look better. This is not the way of Christ. Jesus’ way is to consider others as more important than ourselves and then speak and act accordingly (see Philippians 2:3-4 and Ephesians 4:29 for starters). So instead of being negative and critical of others – we need to be looking for ways to encourage others and build them up – daily, as long as it is called Today (Hebrews 3:13). Let’s all make an extra effort to do so! 

Now that the election is over, I have enjoyed watching television without all those annoying political ads. Now I just have to brace myself for the coming avalanche of holiday commercials enticing us to buy gifts with money we don't have for people we may not necessarily like! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday Coffee with PJ

Here we are on the first Friday of NOVEMBER! Ugh! Where are the days going? Christmas is only 53 days away! Well there is nothing we can do to slow down the relentless forward march of Old Man Time. But, we can do something about kicking into gear our taste buds and driving away our morning brain fog. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. What I just wrote about the relentless march of time reminds me of a tendency that prevails upon aging adults both outside and inside of the church. We don't want to accept the reality that we are growing old. Just listen to people around you. You will hear things like, "Well 60 is the new 40!" and "I am celebrating the 20th anniversary of my 29th birthday!"  Listen, we cannot change the fact that with each passing year we are just that ... a year OLDER! And with the aging process comes challenges that the average younger person has not experienced. 

Derek Prime, in his excellently written and easily read book, A Good Old Age: An A to Z of loving and following the Lord Jesus in Later Years, writes, "A key attitude towards the onset of old age is acceptance that this is a natural part of human life. We need to accept it in all of its facets." Seeing that I am closer to my 63rd birthday than I am my 62nd, reading Prime's encouragement to accept growing older hit me squarely between the eyes (which, by the way, my eye doctor tells me I have the beginnings of cataracts in both eyes ... an all too usual happening for people who are in the older years!). Prime is right on! We need to accept the reality that with each passing year we are NOT getting any younger. And let me tell you, growing old is NOT for sissies! It really takes courage to face the challenges of aging. Accepting this reality is, I believe, a healthy step toward becoming a gracious old person vs. a grumpy one! 

If you want some more guidance on growing older in a healthy way, I heartily recommend Prime's book. As Alistair Begg told the pastors at last year's Basic Conference, "No matter your age, you should buy this book and read it!" I hope some of you do! 

2. Wednesday morning of this week, I had breakfast at a local restaurant. I was surprised when my server approached my table decked out in hunting camouflage with an inflatable turkey slung over her shoulder. Shortly afterwards, another server walked into the room decked out as Batwoman. Well, as you know, Wednesday was Halloween. I must admit I chuckled seeing two grown women dressed in costumes. 

As I reflected on these two (and so many other adults who dressed in costumes and masks for their jobs), I was reminded of how too often we pretend to be something that we are not. There is a word for this ... "hypocrisy." For those of us who are following Jesus, there is no room for hypocrisy in our lives. Jesus calls us to be genuine. Not perfect, of course, but to be real. That means we need to be honest with others, and seek to align our practice with our faith. How about you? Do you claim Jesus as your Savior and Lord? If not, take a moment PLEASE and check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. But if you do claim to belong to Jesus, are you striving to be a man and woman of integrity vs. pretending to have "it all together" when you really don't?  As you go through your daily routine, just remember this simple formula: walk + talk = ONE! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday!!! So pour yourself a cup of java and join me for a few random thoughts which I hope will help you walk closer to Jesus! 

If you read my blog post of last Friday, you would know that last week my wife and I spent time away. Our first stop was Ocean City, Maryland. We actually enjoyed a sunny and warm afternoon sitting on the beach (temperature about 79 degrees). That was a bonus that we did not expect! After two days there, we then drove on to Williamsburg, Virginia (with a brief stop to enjoy lunch with some friends in Virginia Beach). Our four days in Williamsburg were a boatload of fun and learning (we are both history buffs). As we walked down the historic Duke of Gloucester Street, we had to pinch ourselves as this was the fourth time in the past two years we had planned a vacation to Williamsburg. Serious circumstances had arisen that kept us from traveling there the previous three times. So all in all we were very grateful God allowed us in his providence to get there and, for the vast majority of the time, enjoy sunshine and light breezes while there. 

I find much comfort in God's providence. And just what is this "providence?" The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all things (Ephesians 1:11). For example in the book of Daniel, we find an ancient king who knew something about exercising authority (his authority would have been absolute). The Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, had a pride problem (Daniel 4:29-30). And so God cut him down to size by afflicting him with some sort of mental disorder (see Daniel 4:31-33). After a period of time, the king's sanity was restored and he understood a fundamental principle that we all must not only understand but also choose to live by: God is sovereign over all and "none can stay his hand." Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way this vital truth about the world we live in . . . "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand" (Proverbs 19:21). 

So when we speak of God's providence, we are simply speaking of the reality that the God who is sovereign over all has a plan and he is working that plan for our world and for each and every one of us. And as we know from Romans 8:28-29, God is working all things (the good, the bad and the ugly) together for our God to ultimately to make us more like His Son. Wow! To look like Jesus? It doesn't get any better than that! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday so please pour yourself a cup of coffee (or your favorite "get me started in the morning" beverage) and join me for a few random thoughts from which I hope you can glean some inspiration for your walk with God. 

First, my apologies for missing a Friday post the past two Fridays. The week of October 1st I traveled to Winona Lake, Indiana to attend the Board of Trustees meetings of Grace College and Seminary. The meetings were great and the travel uneventful (oh, except for a flat tire on my rental car). But being tied up all week meant I had no time to write a blog post. Then last week, I spent time catching up from being away AND working ahead since I will be out this upcoming week (I am writing this on Sunday October 14th) enjoying a week of vacation with my wife. I am not stating an excuse here. Just want you to know why I have been "missing in action!" 


Speaking of vacation, our plans are to leave Monday morning and travel south. First to the Maryland shore and then on to Williamsburg, VA. Included in our time away, we are planning to stop and see some friends and family who live down that way. Sharon and I are looking forward to reconnecting with these people we love (and reconnecting with each other, away from the pressures of routine life and ministry). 

As I think about our plans, I am struck with just how important life’s relationships are. Whether it is blood family or the family of God (which is also blood family – Christ’s blood that is!), relationships should be at the top of our priority list. Jesus makes it quite clear that love for others should be one of our top goals in life (he placed it right behind our love for God - see Matthew 22:36-40). The New Testament letters are full of admonitions for us to "one another one another" (Romans 12:10; Galatians 5:13; Hebrews 10:24-25). 

So given the weight placed upon relationships by God's Word, how about YOU?  Are you so caught up in the Great American “Rat Race” that you find little time to cultivate meaningful relationships in your life?  If so – it may be time for you to make some needed changes. You (and those around you) will be better for it! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj





Friday Coffee with PJ

Yet another Friday. So pour yourself a cup of coffee (or your morning beverage of choice) and join me for a few random thoughts which I hope will help you in your faith walk with God. 

Every Thursday morning at 6:30 I meet with a small group of men to pray. When I started this practice over twenty years ago, I opted to call the group the Brothers of Aaron and Hur. I chose this name based on an incident recorded in Exodus 17. Joshua led the army of Israel to fight against the Amalekites who had come against the Israelites as they marched out of Egypt. Here is what Moses wrote about the battle: 

Joshua did as Moses had told him, and fought against Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. While Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, but whenever he put his hand down, Amalek prevailed. When Moses’s hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his army with the sword.

I think you probably see where I am going with the choice of the name for the group. As a pastor, with each passing year, I realize how dependent I am upon others coming alongside of me to support my ministry in prayer. I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated these men who have joined with me to pray each Thursday morning. It is always a highlight of my week!

Yesterday morning (being Thursday) brought a small group of us (brothers of Aaron and Hur) together. I often open with a verse or two from Scripture which reminds us of some truth about God. Yesterday I chose James 1:17 which reads:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 

Here James refers to God as "the Father of lights," a reference to the fact that God is the creator of the sun, moon, and stars. And unlike the shadows created by these heavenly bodies (which shift in relation to the movement of these sources of light), God never changes! This is of utmost importance to us, given what James states in the beginning of the verse - that EVERY good and perfect gift is from him. You see, if God could change, perhaps he would grow tired of giving so much to so many and therefore stop giving. Or maybe he would "wake up" one morning, grumpy and unwilling to give good gifts to his creatures. Or it might happen that his knowledge of what we might need most would become distorted and therefore the "good and perfect gift" he gives us wouldn't really be "good or perfect" for us! 

All this to say isn't it a great comfort to know that our God (so UNLIKE us) never changes! That he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). As such, he is indeed a God worthy of our trust, obedience, worship, and love. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday has once again rolled around (amazing how quickly this happens!). So please pour yourself a cup of your favorite java and join me for a couple of random thoughts. 

One of my ministry tasks at my church finds my wife and I leading a Life Group. Our group consists of 13 adults, most of whom are in my age group. Some are a tad older, some the same age, and a some a few years younger. Let's just say all of us have been sent AARP membership applications in the mail! Given where we are in life, I suggested to my wife that we lead our group through a book just published in 2017 and already gone through a reprint in 2018. The book is titled, A Good Old Age. The author is Derek Prime, author of numerous books and a retired Scottish pastor. I was first introduced to Prime's book this past May at Alistair Begg's Basics Conference for Pastors. During the sessions, Alistair highlighted only three or four books. A Good Old Age was the first. On my next stop in the conference bookstore, I picked up a copy of the book and read the intro and first chapter (very readable ... in style, brevity, and large print!). I then proceeded to the checkout line with two copies in hand. 

In the book, the author begins with the letter A and then proceeds to work his way through the alphabet (same here in the United States as it is in Scotland, by the way!). The twenty-six principles are spot on. Concerning them (and the book as a whole), Alistair Begg writes the following in his foreword: 

"My only concern in reading this material is that it will be housed in the wrong section of the library – geriatric studies. It needs to be read long before we find ourselves in the senior citizens seats on the train. We want to be like those who were 'still living by faith when they died' (Hebrews 11:13). In other words, those people of faith were still doing in the closing chapter what they had been doing throughout the course of their lives.  They had not adopted a new pattern at the end, driven by guilt or fear; instead, seeing the finishing line in view, they had picked up the pace. Surely it is a life of humble dependency and steady consistency that paves the way to a good old age." 

If you are in my age bracket (or close), then I would highly recommend you order yourself a copy of Prime's book. And if you are still young and robust, you would also benefit from his wisdom - for both living out your life AND to minister better to those you love who are closing in on the finish line! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday Coffee with PJ


Friday is here! You know the routine. Coffee (I prefer mine bold and black). And just a few minutes of your time for a few random thoughts to help you, I trust, in your spiritual pilgrimage through this life. 

A number of years ago, the local Lancaster newspaper reported on an incident which occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear facility located near Harrisburg. The story told of a security guard who was so absorbed in playing his hand-held video game that he failed to notice an inspector approaching on a surprise inspection!  (I’m glad it was an inspector approaching and not a would-be terrorist!)  As if that weren’t sad enough – the article went on to cite the state Department of Environmental Protection’s read on the incident.  According to the department, the employee broke no work rules for guards are encouraged to engage in mind-stimulating activities!  OK.  Does this make sense to you?  Or is it just me having a grumpy morning? 

The New Testament in a number of different places tells us that we must always be on the alert – watching for the return of Jesus Christ (Mark 13:33); being alert in prayer (Ephesians 6:18); staying alert lest we fall asleep amidst the darkness of this age (1 Thessalonians 5:6); keeping alert for the advances against us of our Enemy (1 Peter 5:8).  Let’s purpose in our hearts that we will not be like this guard at TMI who got so absorbed in his video game that he was caught off guard.  Don’t allow the distractions of this world to diminish your readiness. Life is too short and the opportunities around us too great to fail in this area.  Jesus urges us, “Be on guard!  Be alert!” (Mark 13:33).  That’s good advice.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

It's Friday! Yea! Please pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee (I am about to drink my third!) and join me for a few thoughts wh...