Friday Coffee with PJ (Memorial Day Weekend Edition)

As I type these words, I am enjoying a cup of MacDonald's McCafe French Roast (compliments of my Keurig and my wife!). It is one delicious cup of coffee! Why not pour yourself a cup of your favorite java and join me for a couple of thoughts which I hope will encourage you in your walk with God. 

1. Today is the start of the Memorial Day weekend ... also recognized as the unofficial start to summer. Community pools will be opening. Grills will be cooking. Bands will be marching in community parades. So how did this holiday get its start? Here's a bit from the History Channel's website: 

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle. 

Decoration Day eventually became known as Memorial Day. In 1968, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating Memorial Day as a federal holiday and moving it to the last Monday in May (from May 30th, its traditional date). This law went into effect in 1971. 

So in the midst of all of our family cookouts and trips to the ball park (or however you will choose to spend your time), let's not forget the purpose of the holiday. It is a day to remember the men and women who gave their lives in service for our country. We are free today because of their sacrifice. 

But let us also remember the One who also gave his life so that we might be free: Jesus Christ, God's Son and our Savior. His substitutionary death on the cross is one we should and must remember EVERY SINGLE DAY! For without his sacrifice, we would be without God and therefore without hope - for this life and the life to come! 

2. On Wednesday evening my wife and I were treated to a rare sight. As we pulled into the parking lot of a local restaurant to meet up with some friends, we were greeted by a group of about forty horseless carriages which filled a large section of the lot. Now a horseless carriage is an automobile built before 1916. And some of these horseless carriages were downright groovy to the max (now there is an expression from my past!). I cannot imagine the stir these contraptions must have caused in their day. A day in which you had to have a horse to pull your carriage! But wait ... there goes a carriage with NO horse! But the horse is not totally absent in these early autos. The power of the engines which drove them was measured by horsepower. So if it were a ten horsepower engine, it
had the pulling power of ten horses. So where did this use of the term "horsepower" come from? We can thank James Watt for it (he is the guy whose name appears on our light bulbs!). When he was marketing his steam engines, he had to find a way to express their power. So he did so by equating the power of his engines to the power of horses. Since most people were familiar with horses and what they could do, they could then understand just how powerful this new invention was. And, of course, the term "horsepower" is still used today. 

Over a century later, today's "horseless carriages" have a lot more horsepower under the hood (on average, today's mid sized cars run from 170-190 hp with turbo options that can push 300 hp - compare this with Henry Ford's first auto which featured a whopping 4 hp!). And whereas in 1900 there were only 8,000 autos registered in the United States, today over 263 million crowd our streets and highways! So yes - the times have changed! And in many more ways than just how we get from point A to point B!  

In the midst of all this change, it is quite a comfort to me to know that there is one unchanging constant in my life. God. He never changes (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). He is THE constant presence in our lives upon which we can count. He will always be there for us (Hebrews 13:5-6). So we can be content in our circumstances and unflinching in the storms of life. 

My friend, I encourage you to take a moment and check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. And make the choice today to lean on the God whose love for you in Christ will never ... ever stand you up! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning. Friday Coffee. Friday satisfaction! So enjoy some satisfaction with me by pouring yourself a cup of your favorite brew (for me this morning a cup (or two or three!) of San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee) and reading on for some helpful thoughts for your walk with Jesus! 

Recently I have become very aware of a blind spot in my life: my grumbling and complaining. That's right. One day I made the determination to listen to myself and found myself grumbling and complaining a lot! Ouch! In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul exhorts the Philippians to "do all things without grumbling and disputing" (Philippians 2:14). And the reason for his exhortation is that when we are not grumbling and complaining, then we become "blameless and innocent" and can therefore "shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:15). 

I can't speak for you but as for me, negative, complaining, critical, grumbling people don't do much for me. In fact, they turn me off. Yet here I am, a negative, complaining, critical, grumbling person! 

As my eyes became increasingly focused on this blind spot ... I took (and am taking) the following steps: 

- I repented of this sin (because that is exactly what it is!) The MacArthur Study Bible in its note on verse 14 reads, 

The Greek word for “grumbling” is a term that actually sounds like what it means. Its pronunciation is much like muttering or grumbling in a low tone of voice. It is an emotional rejection of God’s providence, will, and circumstances for one’s life. The word for “disputing” is more intellectual and here means “criticisms” directed negatively toward God.

- I reflected on my state before I embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ ... and then on my state following my commitment to follow Jesus as my Savior and Lord. God took me when I was a  wretched beggar and adopted me as his own child! Wow! In light of this - what do I have to really complain about? 

- Finally, I reversed each complaint into a word of praise or thanks. For example, if I caught myself complaining about my recent kidney issue, I would stop ... and reverse direction by thanking God that medicine advances have made it possible to treat my condition AND that I have health care to help pay for the cost! 

I am guessing that if you are anything like me (and I am sure you are in this way!), you need to go to work to become put off the grumbling and complaining in your life and put on gratitude and contentment in its place! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ - Special Flashback Edition

Due to yesterday's kidney related surgery (in which my urologist may have found and dealt with the problem), I did not get around to writing a new post for this week. So today will be a special flashback edition. I hope you find some help for your journey!

I posted the following back on January 19, 2006 and on May 11, 2011. I thought what I had to say then is just as appropriate for today. 

Move Aside, Dr. Phil - It's Dr. John!  

This morning on the radio as I was driving my “long” commute into the office, I heard an ad with a familiar voice speaking.  It was Dr. Phil.  He was promoting some sort of dating service.  In the ad he made the statement, “When it comes to relationships, it’s all about attitude.”  In part he is right.  The quality of our relationships is impacted either negatively or positively by the attitude we bring to our relationships. But I, Dr. John, think that something else is far more important. I’m talking about our focus.  If we are to have relationships that honor God and enrich our lives, then we must have the right focus – and far too many of us don’t!   

So what is the right focus when it comes to relationships?  God answers this question (I never get over just how relevant the Bible is to day-to-day living!).  In Philippians 2:3-4, we read, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” In Romans 12:10 the Apostle Paul commands us to be strive to honor the other guy more than he honors us! So you see – it all comes down to our focus.  Our default focus is SELF.  When push comes to shove we most naturally think of ourselves first.  But God tells us that we need to reset our default focus.  Instead of focusing on ourselves – we need to focus on others.  We do so as we consider them to be more important than us and seek to honor them above ourselves.  

In Philippians 2:5-8, Paul goes on to point us to Jesus as our example. He certainly did not think of himself first. He willingly left the glories of heaven to become one of us, live with us, and eventually die for us. His death on the cross makes it possible for us to be reconciled to our God! He our took our sin upon himself and, in turn, we receive his righteousness credited to our account when by faith alone we trust in Christ alone to save us from the penalty our sin demands! 

So, back to your personal relationships. Are they not working? Then take a look at your focus. My guess is you are focused on the wrong person. Follow the example of Jesus (Ask him to help you to do so)! Get your eyes off of yourself and onto others. Then and only then will you begin to experience God-honoring and life-enriching relationships.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 


Friday Coffee with PJ (Special midweek Edition)

I am writing and posting this evening as I will not be up to writing later in the week. As a result of a renal scan I underwent last Thursday, my urologist has scheduled me for an outpatient surgical procedure for tomorrow around noon. My left kidney is showing a significant drop in function and he is not sure why. Any and all prayers are much appreciated!

Thanks for stopping by,
I cannot believe it is FRIDAY again! Where do the days go? The pace at which time passes makes me long all the more for my next life in which clocks and calendars will not have the same impact as in this life ... if they even exist at all! But back to the present and since it is Friday, I invite you to pour a cup of your favorite java and join me for a couple of random thoughts. 

1. A few weeks ago as I was preparing to drink my coffee over breakfast with a friend, I reached for a creamer. "I didn't know you drank creamer in your coffee," he said, his words flavored with a bit of a sneer thrown in. So the next day, I decided to go "whitener free." And that one day turned into another and then another. I have grown increasingly fond of drinking my coffee just straight up ... or "black." I have discovered that in drinking my coffee without milk or cream (or sweetener), I can taste the different flavors present in the different roasts. And not only this, but when I googled "drinking coffee black" I discovered that there are twelve scientific reasons whey people should drink black coffee every day.  And after reading about these, I was even happier that I am now a black coffee drinker! 

As I reflected on this, it got me thinking about our relationship with God. All too often, just as we add cream, sugar, etc. to our coffee, we add our own thoughts about what (or who) we think God is to what the Bible reveals about what and who God really is. For example, over the years a number of people have said to me, "John, my God would never send anyone to hell. My God is too loving to do that." Now does this view of God align with the God of the Bible? One read through the book of Revelation would say "absolutely not!" And reading through the gospels would confirm this. Few people realize that Jesus himself spoke more about hell than he did about heaven (Matthew 13:41-43; Mark 9:44). 

So my question to you is this: When you think of God, what comes into your mind? A god of your own making ... your own imagination? Or the God who is revealed in creation, in Christ, and in the Scriptures? 

I love the definition of God as given in The New City Catechism

"God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will."

Now this is a God worthy to receive all glory, power, majesty and honor! And out of his goodness he provides for all of us to find our way back to him. Check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

2. Speaking of The New City Catechism, among the questions we are working through in our Sunday morning services, two that I have found especially meaningful have been questions four and six. 

Q. 4   How and why did God create us?
A. 4   God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.

Q. 6  How can we glorify God?
A. 6  We glorify God by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him, and by obeying his will, commands, and law.

Here in these two questions and answers we find our ultimate purpose in life: to know God, to love him, live with him, and glorify him (and we are told how we do the latter: by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him, and obeying him). 

Now what I take away from this description of our ultimate purpose is this: God is not some cosmic tyrant telling us how to live - even if that means we don't have fun living! Rather, God is our loving creator who made us to live in relationship with him. And seeing that he is the most beautiful, wondrous, amazing, awesome being in all the vast universe ... having the opportunity to know and love him and live in relationship with him ... WOW! That is truly a gift of the greatest proportions! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Recently I enjoyed a cup of Tanzanian coffee making a WAWA pit stop. I enjoyed it so much I stopped at another WAWA store to grab another cup. All this to say if you see a WAWA, be sure to stop and try this coffee. You will NOT be disappointed! Thanks again for joining me for a quick edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. 

1. You all know what it is like to wish for some extra hours in your day or even a few extra days in your week to wrap up your never ending, always growing to do list! All too often it seems like there’s WAY too much to do and WAY too little time in which to get it all done! Oh the tyranny of the urgent!

This reminds me of a story I once heard. Long ago when Africa was still relatively unknown to the outside world, a European explorer was taking a group into the African interior. He had hired a native guide along with a number of other natives to help carry the supplies. After a mid-morning break on the third day of a fast-paced march, the Africans refused to resume their trek. When the European explorer asked the guide the reason for their refusal, the guide told him, “They just need a little more time to allow their souls to catch up to their bodies.” 

I think all of us could learn a lesson from these guys. Just as Jesus would get away to be alone with his Father (Mark 1:35) – we too need to be sure to do the same. As fast-paced as 21st century American life can be at times – we all need to take time to allow our souls to catch up to our bodies. So why not today take your Bible and unplug from the world around you (You mean like my phone? Yes! Exactly what I mean). It will be time well spent! 

2. I have been gleaning a lot of insights and help for living out my faith through the use of Tim Keller's devotional on Proverbs, God's Wisdom for Navigating Life. In his reading for April 22nd, he offered up the following insights on Proverbs 18:14:

"There’s nothing more important than maintaining your inward, spiritual life. A broken body can be sustained with difficulty by a strong spirit, but a broken spirit cannot be sustained by even the physically strongest person in the world. We are taught that our happiness is based on external things such as beauty, health, money, and status. Here we are being told, 'No, it has nothing to do with your outward circumstances. Happiness is determined by how you deal with your circumstances from inside, how you process, how you address, and how you view them.' Is there anything that is crushing your spirit?"

His question is one worth pondering! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday. Coffee. Blog post. Thanks for stopping by! As you enjoy a cup of your favorite morning brew, here are a couple of random thoughts that I hope you will find helpful as you seek to walk with God. 

1.  My apologies for not being present last Friday with a post. I was out of the office enjoying a week of vacation time. Even though my wife and I did not venture far from home, we did enjoy some time away. Last Friday morning we left home for Arneytown, NJ (15 miles southeast of Trenton, NJ). What is in Arneytown, you might be wondering? Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial CemeteryThis is the veterans cemetery where my wife's father was buried when he died in August of 1994. Sharon's mom was buried there in October of 2016. My wife wanted to see the grave site with its new grave marker which included her mom's name. As we stood over their graves, we watered their grave as we recalled their lives. At some point during those moments, I happened to look at the adjacent grave. "Ah, Pete was buried next to another Polish-American! And he died the same day that Pete died - August 15 1994." I then turned back and looked at Pete's and Bessie's plaque. In seconds I noticed a glaring mistake. Instead of listing Pete's date of death as Aug 15 1994, the plaque read, "Jan 15 1994!" I quickly pointed out the mistake to Sharon. So on our way out of the cemetery, we 

stopped by the administrative office. After explaining the situation, one of the office workers pulled the paper work. The correct date was there. But at some time during the ordering process, the date was changed to January 15th! The woman apologized and assured us that a new plaque would be in place within a month or so. Content that the error would be fixed, we departed for our next stop. 

Now as you can imagine, we were very surprised that this mistake had been made. We could have gone in to the cemetery office all bent out of shape, griping and complaining about the mistake. But we did not. You see, we know ourselves too well. We understand what Alexander Pope, an 18th century British poet wrote in his day is still true to this day ... "to err is human." We as humans make our share of mistakes! But the second half of Pope's oft quoted statement reads, "But to forgive, divine." You see, what he was getting at here is that when we forgive others we are acting like God. Indeed, God in Christ has forgiven those of us who have come to him on his terms ... repenting of our sins and believing the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15). And so when we are gracious to others, forgiving those who don't deserve our forgiveness, we are acting like God! So let me ask you . . . is there someone(s) in your life against whom you carry a grudge? Whom you refuse to forgive? I encourage you to pull open a Bible (print or digital) and turn to the story Jesus tells in Matthew 18:21-35. Then ask God to work in your heart to enable you to do the hard thing ... answer Jesus' call to forgive! 

2. Philadelphia is looking like a championship city this year. First it was the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. Then Villanova winning the NCAA basketball national championship. At present the Flyers are in the National Hockey League playoffs (although not playing so well against the mighty Penguins of Pittsburgh) AND the 76ers look to have a legitimate shot at the National Basketball Association title. Could the Phillies make a run at the World Series? Hmm. That might be too much of a reach! 

People in Philly are feeling good about their hometown. And those from the outside looking in understand why. They would also be feeling good if their hometown teams were winning! 

We as Christians have a home. But our hometown is not Philadelphia (or in my case, Lancaster ... or in your case whatever your zip code happens to be). As followers of Jesus we will one day follow him to our true home - the eternal heaven. And we can find great encouragement in the midst of all the turbulence and trouble of this life knowing that our "hometown team" is winning! God is on his throne. And one day Jesus Christ will return to this earth and make every wrong right (see the final four chapters of the Bible's last book, Revelation). 

So the next time you get discouraged about what is unfolding all around you, stop and remind yourself of the words of the hymn penned by Isaac Watts

Jesus shall reign where'er the sun

does its successive journeys run,

his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,

till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ (Memorial Day Weekend Edition)

As I type these words, I am enjoying a cup of MacDonald's McCafe French Roast (compliments of my Keurig and my wife!). It is one delic...