PJ

PJ

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Pour yourself a cup of your favorite java and join me for a few thoughts that I hope will encourage you to grab a hold of the day and live it for Christ!

1. Today being Good Friday, I want to begin by expressing my desire for you to experience in a special way God's love for you in Christ His Son. The Apostle Paul reminds us that God demonstrated his love for us in that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). I hope as you spend time today reflecting on the sacrifice of Christ on your behalf, that you will be powerfully reminded of just how much he loves you! And if you are in the Lancaster area, please join us from 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm for our Good Friday Evening Service, during which we will focus on the Seven Sayings of the Cross. 

2. Two Fridays ago I confessed to a speeding ticket which I received (and justly so) on my drive back from Virginia. Last Friday I mentioned that I had received 5 letters from different attorneys offering to represent me in court should I desire to contest the charges (which I don't as I have already paid the fine). Since last week's post, I have received three additional attorney letters. Now, I am planning to make this mention of my criminal activity my last (actually planned for last week's post to be my last, but I wanted to point out something contained in the most recent letter I received). The second paragraph of this letter begins with the following:

We understand that this is a serious matter for you. If you don't hire an attorney you may be convicted of the charge! Your auto insurance could triple! You may have a high fine! You may accumulate too many points and your licence could be suspended! All of these things can possibly impact you and your family.

When I read this to my wife she insightfully responded, "Boy, are they ever playing on people's fears!"  Yup! Exactly! Now for the record, I plead guilty already. My auto insurance will not triple (as this is my first moving violation ever ... at least of which I have been convicted!). The fine, although it took a bite out of my wallet, the bleeding wasn't too severe. And as for points? The commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not add points to a the holder of a PA licence if the speeding violation occurred in another state. 

But this attorney knows what motivates people ... FEAR! As a follower of Christ, I am called to live NOT in fear but to walk by FAITH (John 14:1). In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus states very clearly, "Do not be anxious about your life . . ." He then goes on to explain WHY we should not worry. If you have not read Matthew 6:25-34 recently, do yourself (and your friends and family) a favor and take a moment to read it right now! God doesn't want us to be consumed by fear. He invites us to lean on him! No one has broader shoulders than He does ... not even close! 

3. This past Saturday turned out a bit busier than usual for me. Most Saturday mornings find me in my office wrapping up my preparation for Sunday morning. However, last Saturday not only did I have to get ready for Sunday (and I was behind due to some other responsibilities that hit during the week), but I had to finish preparations for a funeral that afternoon and then conduct both the memorial service and the grave side committal service (the service was for a godly woman who was part of the group of people who started our church back in 1976 - it was an honor for me to officiate)! In addition to this, my granddaughter Molly's 5 year old birthday party was scheduled at the Hands on House from 3pm-5pm. Knowing I would be late for her party, I explained to Molly earlier in the week that "Papa would be late because he had to help comfort a family whose Grammy went home to live in heaven." Well, as I pulled out of the cemetery, I calculated in my mind the quickest route to the Hands on House. I drove as quickly as I could (abiding the speed limits, of course!), finally arriving at 4:45. By the time I walked into the party room, the pile of gifts were unwrapped, the candles had been extinguished, and the kids were licking their lips of the remnants of vanilla icing. As I drove home, I asked myself ... "Was it worth all the hassle to drive to the party, only to be
The dawning of my love for Molly!
there for 15 minutes or so?" I got my answer later that evening. My son, Tim, (Molly's dad) sent me a text. It read, "
Molly's favorite part of the party was opening gifts, she said. I asked her what her second favorite part was; she said, "when Papa came!"  Now that made my day! Listen my friends, don't ever underestimate the value of your presence in the life of someone you love! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, April 7, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

So glad to have you join me for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. I hope you enjoy both your coffee and few random thoughts I have to share with you that I trust will strengthen your faith and warm your heart! 

1. Last week I owned up to being stopped by a county sheriff on our way back home from Williamsburg, VA. Why was I stopped? I was exceeding the speed limit! And if you read my post of last Friday, you will know that I have already paid the fine. This week I received several letters (five and counting!) from lawyers who practice in that area of Virginia. They all offer to represent me in court in an attempt to have the fine reduced or dismissed - all at the bargain price of $350 (a couple have come in at a lower price in an attempt to gain my business)! Of course, I am not going to be contacting any of them. For starters, their fee is much more than the cost of the fine. But more importantly, I am guilty as charged. So why fight it? The honest thing is to pay the fine and move on (with a bit less pressure on the accelerator!). 

All of us stand before God, "guilty as charged." The Apostle Paul writes the following in his letter to the church in Rome: 


 "Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)

Paul makes it clear that we are ALL guilty before God (Romans 3:23) and NONE of us can ever hope to be declared righteous due to our own efforts. So are we without hope? Absolutely not! We have an advocate who already paid the penalty (fine) for our sin and rebellion against God! And just who is our advocate (lawyer)? 

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2)

So my friends ... the fine, the penalty for your sin (Romans 6:23) has already been paid in full by Jesus Christ. Have you reached out with the empty hands of faith to receive the free gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of your sin that ONLY Jesus Christ can offer (John 14:6)? I hope you have. It is the most important choice you could ever make in this life! 

2. For the past two months plus, we have been conducting both our worship services in our Family Life Center. The reason? Our sanctuary has been undergoing a heavy duty makeover! New chairs, new pews, new paint, new carpets, new sound, new lighting, new preacher .... well, all but the last (for which I am very thankful!). This coming Sunday we are scheduled to move both of
our services to the sanctuary (there are just a few more things to be done - so it looks like we will make it). This will be just one week later than expected ... and as far as I know, pretty much in line with our projected costs. Yea! Just in time for Easter week! 

Sometimes things go as planned. A lot of times they don't. And it's when things go awry that our true character bubbles to the surface. So the next time you face adversity, whether big or small, listen to what comes out of your mouth. Because Jesus said that what comes out of our mouth originates in the heart (Matthew 12:34). Just this week God has convicted me of a critical spirit. He did so by helping me to listen to myself. As I did,  I heard a lot of criticism coming out of my mouth. So I went to God to confess and repent. I asked him to give me a heart that speaks encouragement to others (Ephesians 4:29). How about YOU? What's been coming out of your mouth lately? Especially when things go wrong. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a couple of brief thoughts (just returned yesterday from a week's vacation!). 

1. We left last Thursday morning and drove to Ocean City, MD. On the way, we stopped in the Bethany Beach area and scoped out the house we will be renting for our family beach vacation this upcoming summer (an outside look had to suffice as the owner was not available to let us in). From Bethany Beach we continued to Ocean City where we spent the next day and a half before moving on to our ultimate destination of Williamsburg, VA. The day we arrived in Ocean City, the temperature never got out of the thirties. It was down right cold (and with the wind whipping off the ocean, it felt even colder). But talk about a temperature change! When we stepped out of the car in Williamsburg on Saturday, the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees. Both Sunday and Monday had highs approaching 80 degrees! I was so warm I drove to the local Kmart to buy a pair of shorts to wear! Oh how we enjoyed that unexpected taste of summer! Life's is full of unexpected turns. Some bring us much joy and happiness ... others discomfort, pain and sorrow. But in either case, we must acknowledge the sovereign hand of God behind it all (Ephesians 1:11). Through all that we experience, God is at work, conforming us increasingly into the image of his Son (Romans 8:28-30). Embracing this truth each and every day will help us to cling to our Savior and grow in our faith! 

2. On our way back from Williamsburg, I had an opportunity to meet a deputy sheriff. Now in my work as a police chaplain and in our church's hosting of the our annual service to honor law enforcement, I have rubbed shoulders with many a sheriff's deputy. But in this case, I would have rather passed on the introductions. I was in Virginia and had just come off of a bridge. The posted speed limit was only 55 mph. But I was traveling just a bit faster than that (OK ... a big bit faster than that!). As soon as I saw the deputy's vehicle sitting in the grass median strip and his lights begin to flash
Uh oh!
I knew that I was driving too fast (too late!!!). As he pulled out onto the highway, I immediately made my way onto the shoulder and stopped. Sure enough he pulled in behind me and was soon at my window asking for my licence and registration. Today my checking account balance is a bit lower (to the tune of $162!). But I have only myself to blame. The speed limit sign was clearly posted. In fact, when the officer handed me the citation, he told me I had the option to plead not guilty and then appear in court in May to contest the charges. I looked at him and said, "Officer, I am guilty. I will pay the fine and move on (but at a much slower pace!)." So he gave me directions on how I could plead guilty and pay the fine. The check will be in the mail today!


Now this is the first time in my 45 years of driving that I have ever received a speeding ticket. Is it the first time I have broken posted speed limits? No. I would guess that the vast majority of us from time to time do drive faster than the speed limit for a variety of reasons (on some highways if you drive the posted speed limit you might get run over!). But in the past couple of days since receiving the citation, I have found myself much more aware of posted speed limits and doing my best to keep them (in spite of those who ride my rear bumper in an attempt to get me to go faster). For me, our vacation ended with a lesson that I hope is well learned! 

Just as there are driving laws which help assure safety on our highways, so God has given us his laws to help us live life as He intended (for example, think Ten Commandments). Now in giving us these laws, God is not some cosmic kill joy trying to rob us of all of life's pleasure and fun. No. The laws he gives us ... the commandments in the Bible, etc. ... are given to us for our good (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). Since he created us, he knows what is best for us. Keeping his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). In fact, obeying his Word should be our delight for it is in obeying that we demonstrate our love for him (John 14:15). But at the end of the day, it is a comfort to know that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins ... a payment that we in and of ourselves could never pay! The gospel (good news) of Christ calls us to turn from our sins and in faith turn to Jesus! If you have questions about all that Jesus did for you and me and what we must do in response, please heck out Two Ways to Live: A Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me for yet another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. You know the routine. Enjoy a random thought or two with your morning coffee. 

1. One of the most fascinating passages of Scripture (and quite frankly, there are scores of them!) is the following: 

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:1-13)

These verses should bring hope, comfort and confidence to every child of God. Jesus Christ is indeed going to return! No matter what man might say, God tells us in no uncertain terms that his son will one day return (at a time only known to himself - Matthew 24:36). Yet even though God has already set the date, Peter tells us something very interesting in v. 12. In addition to waiting for this day we are also to be "hastening the coming of the day of God." Here's what the note from the ESV Study Bible states about this word, "hastening": 

Hastening (Gk. speudō, “hurry [by extra effort]”) the coming of the day of God suggests that, by living holy lives, Christians can actually affect the time of the Lord’s return. 

The ESV Study Bible note goes on to say that this is true, even though God has already set the date. How is this possible? Frankly, I don't know. I guess my best answer to this would be the Apostle Paul's glorious words which he penned in his letter to the church in Rome when he wrote: 

 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

So as you ponder this mystery of how God's sovereignty fits with human activity, don't miss the point God through Peter is making here. In some mysterious way, God takes our actions and weaves them into the tapestry of his plan for the universe. Some way, some how (and even though I can't explain it ... I do believe it!) you and I can hasten the coming of the Lord!  Wow! 

2. Some of you have been asking about my wife's recovery from her January 9th knee revision ... so here's a brief update. She continues to make steady (although slow) progress. For starters, her leg is straight (180 degrees)! This is great news for her leg hasn't been straight for well over a year ... and a straight leg is very important for walking. Additionally, for the past year she was stuck at a 70 degree bend (most people with a healthy knee can get a bend of 135-140 degrees). Considering that one needs a flexion (bend) of 85 degrees to climb stairs and 95 degrees to stand and sit comfortably, you can understand how life was a bit tougher for my wife. So all that said, here is the good news .... Sharon this week was measured at 105 degrees! Wow! She has not seen that kind of bend since September 3, 2015 (the day before her first knee replacement). Now a "gold standard bend" for a knee replacement is 120-125 degrees. Many people achieve that. We are thrilled that Sharon got over 100 degrees! She will most likely not reach the gold standard ... but we will happily settle for bronze or silver!!!  :) Please pray as she continues to work her knee for greater flexion and less pain. Thanks! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Morning with PJ

Friday morning? Friday Coffee with PJ! Thanks for joining me today over a cup of coffee to read a few random (and I hope, thought provoking and faith strengthening thoughts). 

1. This past Tuesday saw one of the largest March snow falls on record for these parts. Here in Willow Street (just south of the city of Lancaster, PA), the snow turned to sleet for several hours. This kept the snow accumulation down. So instead of the foot and a half of snow which areas just to our north and west received, less than a foot of snow (9 inches maybe) covered my driveway (except for the foot and a half deep snow drift just outside my garage door). Now for me this change from heavy snow to heavy sleet was a good thing. When I was a kid, I loooooooooved snow! But now, as an adult who is responsible to remove it from my driveway and make calls as to whether or not to go ahead with Sunday services when inclement winter weather strikes ... a snowless winter sounds quite appealing! Interesting how as the years progress, our likes and dislikes change (among SO many other things which also change!). In contrast, our God never changes (James 1:17). This means that all that he is today ... he was yesterday and will be so tomorrow! Is he holy? Always! Is he merciful, loving and gracious? You can count on it! Is he faithful to all that he has promised? Absolutely - yesterday, today and forever! I don't know about you, but I find great comfort, joy, peace, and stability in knowing that our God is immutable (theologian talk for unchangeable). No wonder the writers of the Psalms used the figure of a rock to refer to God (Psalm 18:2, Psalm 62:7, etc.)! So when the changes of life swirl around you, reach out and anchor your soul to the Rock that never changes! You will be glad you did! 

2. Occasionally I run across thoughts someone has expressed that really resonates with my mind, heart and soul. The words below, written by an African pastor did just that. I thought you all might benefit from reading his words.  

"A Christian can never rise higher than his experience of God. God is infinitely profound. As one hymn writer has written, he is an immeasurable sea without a shore, a blazing sun without a sphere. When engulfed in his presence, whom thousand and tens of
thousands of angels worship day and night, the soul can only lie in the dust in adoring wonder. This profound knowledge brings eternity to bear on the soul of a believer so that everything in his life is judged from eternity’s perspective. How one spends his time and money, how one enjoys his recreation, how one relates to believers and unbelievers, how one handles his work—all these are subjected to eternity. The great Day of Judgment is never far from mind" (Conrad Mbewe).

After reading this, I had to stop and ask myself about my view and experience of God. I must admit that I all too often allow the stuff of this world to eclipse God's glory and the reality of eternity that is to come. As I thought about that, I asked myself, what can I do to stay better focused on God and the reality that, in Mbewe's words, he is "infinitely profound?" After thinking about this question, I decided that I would pull out my trusty copy of J.I. Packer's classic work, Knowing God. When I first read it as a college sophomore some forty years ago, it radically changed how I veiwed God. I plan to read through it between now and Easter. I can't help but think my view of God will be much sharper as a result! How about YOU? What one step can you take that will help you to see God more clearly? 

3. Finally, as I am sure you have heard, today is St. Patrick's Day. So who was this man? Check out Steve Nichols insightful article about this fascinating man of faith. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's a snowy Friday today .... which makes for a great day to sit and enjoy a hot cup of rich and robust coffee. And between you and me, this is my favorite kind of snow storm: the snow is only sticking to the trees, rooftops and grass! Yahoo! Bring it on!  - although from what I have been reading on the meteorological cybersphere, next Tuesday I might be singing a different tune (like SNOW, SNOW, GO AWAY, COME BACK ANOTHER YEAR!). Well, whatever the case may be, go ahead and pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me for a few brief random thoughts. 

1. These will be brief because I just realized (at 8:10 this morning) that I had failed to write this post. My failure to do so stems from a failure to check my todoist app which helps me to organize my tasks. And since I didn't consult it at all yesterday (me bad, very bad!) I totally forgot to write my weekly post. The old adage, "out of sight, out of mind" proved true in this case! But it also proves true in many other cases. Consider our relationship with God. When his word is "out of sight" (i.e. - we are not "in" it on a regular basis), we often live our lives as if He does not exist (i.e. we live as atheists!). Since we live in a culture which is constantly bombarding us with anti-God and humanistic messages, if we don't counter these lies with God's truth, we will not live to the glory of the God who made us and redeemed us! It is vital that we have a plan to interact with God's Word on a DAILY basis! So ... what's YOUR plan? 

2. Most of us have lazy streak in us ... let me rewrite that ... ALL of us have a lazy streak in us. Just as water seeks the path of least resistance, so do we! So when it comes to growing in our faith, this is a huge problem. The Apostle Paul understood this. In his first
letter to young Timothy, he writes, "train yourself for godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7-8). The Greek word translated "train" here is the word, gymnao. It literally means "to train naked." The athletes in the Greco Roman world of the first century would often do just that. Why? To show off their finely chiseled bodies that they had worked so hard to obtain? Perhaps there was a bit of that. But they trained and competed unclothed so that they would be unhindered by their clothing in the pursuit of the prize they were striving to obtain. They were willing to go as far as they had to go in order to win the prize! 

Back to Paul's word of instruction to Timothy ... Paul is telling Timothy that if he wants to be godly, he is going to have to work up a sweat just like the athletes of his day, and do whatever it took (effort wise) to become a godly person! Hmm. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten the necessity to train ourselves for godliness (or we have simply, in our laziness, chosen to ignore the need to do so!). If you want to make some changes in your life along the lines of training yourself to be godly, here are some good reads for you to consider: 


How to be a Good Christian with Minimal Effort (a piece of satire written by one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies). 



And finally for you men, Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes.

I have read all of the above and have found them to be quite profitable! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, March 3, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Today is the first Friday in March and that means many things: winter is over (meteorological spring begins March 1st!), our church sanctuary renovation is about halfway done, and March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament is just around the corner!). And today being a Friday means ... Coffee with PJ. So pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. I hope you enjoyed February's weather. It was the warmest on record for our area. We are also on pace for the least "snowiest" winter on record! All that to say ... this winter has been downright delightful! But not all would agree. There are a number of snow "enthusiasts" around us who love a good old fashioned blizzard (or two) each winter! I was once numbered among those people ... but no more! The older I get, the less I like snow (although I admit there is a beauty of seeing the trees and ground covered with a LIGHT blanket of snow!). The word on the meteorological street is that winter might try to hold on during the month of March. But take heart, spring in all of its blooming glory will eventually arrive as the sun continues its northward journey! And so it is with the Son of God. He has promised to one day return to this planet (Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 22:20). Just as you can count on the coming of spring ... you can count on the coming of Jesus Christ! Are you ready to meet him (1 John 2:28 and Two Ways to Live: the Choice We All Face)?

2. The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is classic (if you have not read it lately, open your Bible to Genesis chapter 39 and begin reading!). Joseph, hated by his brothers, was sold into slavery. Instead of dying an early death in bondage, which was usual for young foreign slaves in Egypt, he rose to become the "Vice-Pharaoh" over all of Egypt! How did he accomplish this? Via his great intellect? His mighty strength? His incredible good looks? No. Behind his great rise in power was an even greater God! And it was because God was "with" him, that he not only was set free from his bondage but rose to become such a powerful man in Egypt. Now what does the Scripture mean when it states that "the Lord was with  Joseph" (Genesis 39:2)? Isn't God present everywhere (Psalm 139:7-12)? Of course he is! So whatever this means, it means more than just the fact that God was there with Joseph (for in his omnipresence he is in that sense with everyone!). 

The answer to this can be found in Isaiah 57:15: 

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
    who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

    and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly,

    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God in this verse reveals his two "addresses." The first is "the high and holy place" which is obviously heaven. The other is with "him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit" or, in other words, the truly humble person. So when Genesis tells us that the Lord was with Joseph, it is telling us that Joseph was indeed a humble man. 


How about you? Do you want to live a productive life for God? Then humble yourself under God's mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6). Scripture is clear, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Keep in mind that humility is a difficult virtue to measure, for once you think you have it you probably don't! 

If you want some help in measuring your humility, I recommend the following resource from Revive Our Heart Ministries: 


I have used this with great profit. But I warn you. You will not have to go far down the list of the contrasts between a proud and broken (humble) person before you will realize you are not nearly as humble as you thought! But if you want God to bless your ministry, you need to be humble before him! 

3. My wife Sharon is continuing to make slow but, of late, steady progress. Her x-rays of last Friday were very good! She does not need to see the surgeon for 6 months (a very good thing!) She is getting stronger and is hoping to finally resume driving next week. Thanks to all of you who have been praying for her! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning. Hot coffee. Random thoughts. You know the routine. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew (and if you have visited with me in the past, you know mine!) and join me for a few thoughts that I hope and pray will be a help to you in your faith journey with Jesus Christ.

1.  I recently attended the memorial service of a woman who had lost her mother. As her brother talked about his mom (and dad who had died several years earlier), it made me think of my parents. Jim and Peg Smith were married in December of 1942 (Margaret was my mom's given name ... I still don't get how Peg is so often a nickname for women whose given name is Margaret!). Mom was from Altoona, PA and my dad from Harrisburg. Fourteen years into their marriage is when my twin brother and I joined our family, making us a family of six (my oldest sister was twelve at the time, my other sister six). Now when my twin brother and I came along, my parents were only expecting one baby. My mother did not know
Jim on left; me on right (age 2)
until the doctor doing the delivery said to her after my brother was born, "Peggy, don't relax too much, another is on the way!" You talk about a stunning birth announcement! Six years later, our family was completed with the arrival of my little brother. 


My parents taught us many things, such as "Mind your manners!" and "Don't forget to change your underwear!" (Funny what I remember!). My mom never learned to drive. So after my dad taught my two sisters to drive, he told my twin brother and me that we would have to hire a driving instructor. Looking back on that, I don't blame him one bit. Teaching TWO teen aged boys to drive at once? Certainly not an easy task! My dad was a good provider, sometimes working multiple jobs to provide for us. And there was never a doubt in my mind that my mom loved me! 

My folks passed away a little over six weeks apart (Dad in middle August and Mom in early October in 2003). Neither wanted a large memorial service (they were private people). So mainly family gathered for a simple graveside service to say good-bye. I never felt as honored to officiate a graveside service than when I did so for both my parents. After saying "good-bye" to my mom, I recall standing in front of my mom's sister's and her husband's grave, reading their grave stone and reflecting on their lives (my parents were buried right next to my aunt and uncle). My cousin joined me and we talked for a moment about his parents and my parents and how they just loved being together. He then said something that really struck me. "John, with the passing of your mother do you realize that she was the last of her generation? We are now the oldest generation in the family!"  Wow! He was right (since sharing that insight with me some 13 years ago, my sister, Bev, has also passed away (December 2013). 

Forgive my rambling here ... but here's my point. Life is passing ever so quickly (James 4:13-14). None of us know how many more years we have to make a difference in this world. So what are YOU doing to leave a legacy behind that will honor God and advance his kingdom once you are gone? Time is short and the opportunities are great. Let's get intentional to live life for Christ and not waste our remaining days! 

2. At one point as I was typing this post, I paused and looked at some post-its that are hanging from the bottom of my computer's monitor. There is a note from my 3 year old granddaughter, June,
which she wrote for me when she was two (see adjacent photo). There is also a note from June's mother, my daughter Kate reminding me of her love for me (and the long term affectionate nickname she has for me ... which I choose not to reveal!). In addition, a prayer hangs in between these two love notes. It is a prayer I ran across in reading of one of John Piper's many devotional books (this one I highly recommend), Life as a Vapor. As I read his prayer ... I then went back and prayed his prayer. I would encourage you to do the same. Here it is: 


Thank you Lord, for the lives of flawed and faith-filled saints! Thank you for grace, amazing grace, that saves and uses sinners! Lord, don't let me limit your power by what I see in the mirror. 
Help me to trust you. Help me, as William Carey said, 
to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. 
I am not great. But you are great. 
Your power is made perfect in my weakness. 
I surrender all worldly claims on my life. 
Come. 
Make me useful for the glory of Christ. 
In his great name I pray. 
Amen. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Just yesterday at a pastors' breakfast I was attending, I got to talking with one pastor about coffee preferences. This individual brought his own. It was Starbucks or nothing as far as he was concerned. I then asked him if he had a Keurig at home. He did. So I proceeded to tell him about my love affair with San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser. The taste (and the price!) can't be beat! And it is Amazon's Choice! Enough of that. Go ahead and pour whatever your favorite brew might by and join me for a couple of random thoughts. 

1. In addition to talking with this pastor friend about different coffees, we also talked briefly about how pastoral ministry has changed since we both started pastoring some thirty plus years ago. We both agreed it has changed quite a bit! One reason for this change is due to the changes we are seeing in our culture, which is moving further away from many of the Christian values we hold. Back when I was finishing up my doctoral degree, I took a course on postmodernism (the prof was D. A. Carson and the primary text was his book, The Gagging of God). The course was very helpful in understanding both the threats and opportunities postmodernism brought about for the proclamation of the Gospel. That was back in 2001 when I took that class. Now, some 16 years later, we have seen the logical outcome of postmodernism in our society today. I am referring to what many are now calling, "post-truth." This so called "post-truth" has so impacted western society (especially in the political realm) that the Oxford Dictionary named it its "Word of the Year." 

Now just what is "post-truth?" The Oxford Dictionary defines it as "an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."  So given this reality ... what does this mean for proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? For starters, it means that we as Christ followers must firm up our grip on the truth of the Scriptures. It is only as we get this truth and then live it that we will be able to give it away! We cannot allow the view of truth held by our society to weaken our own view of truth. In addition, living in a "post-truth" world should also serve to remind us that we MUST seek to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit (and this has ALWAYS been the case). Only the Spirit of God can open up the eyes and minds of those who are blind to the truth. This leads me to ask, what are YOU doing to get to know God's Word better AND walking more in step with HIS Spirit? 

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you take some time to read Why Oxford Dictionary's Word of 2016 Matters by Ravi Zacharias. 

2. Also at yesterday's breakfast, I reconnected with a former college friend whom I had not seen since college days! Given that he graduated a year ahead of me ... doing the math ... we had not been together for some forty years. As soon as he shared his name during our time of self introductions, I was wondering ... "Could this be the Bill Bateman that I went to college with?" Sure enough, as soon as the words of the closing prayer echoed into silence, he and I made a bee line for one another ... and yep! He was the Bill Bateman of my past (I got to know Bill well as

Bill is on far right ... I am on far left.

we sang in the singing group Joy together - my sophomore year and his junior year - photo above). We had little time to talk after the breakfast so we parted with a pledge to get together soon. I was thrilled to see that he is actively engaged in pastoral ministry and look forward to hearing his story. 

All of us have stories, don't we. My story is not yours and yours is not mine. But our stories will often explain who we are. I fear that far too often we make judgments about people and what they do without knowing their stories. I believe one of the best things we can do to build relationships with the various people in our lives is to take the time to hear their stories! And as we listen (and I mean listen well) ... we may have opportunities to speak the truth of the Gospel into their lives (with grace, seasoned with salt, of course - Colossians 4:6). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me again for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. Pour yourself a cup of your favorite java brew (mine is San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser) and let's together thing about a few things!

1. I have been recently reading James Michener's massive novel, Alaska. Michener is known for his great story telling and his historical accuracy. I have been blown away reading about the history of our 49th state. From early migrations of people from Asia to the sale of Alaska to the US by Russia, to the gold rush of the later 1800's to the early 1900's to our present day ... people suffered great hardships in Alaska's harsh environment just to survive. I will NEVER complain about the cold around here again! Many people in Alaska put up with a winter that is ten months long with temperatures reaching 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit BELOW ZERO (air temps, not wind chills!). You see, life is often about perspective. And one perspective that is very beneficial to keep in mind is that "life" could always be worse (unless you are talking about how cold it is and you live in Alaska!). Even in the midst of life's hardships, there is always something for which we can be thankful. Matthew Henry, a pastor of yesteryear, demonstrated this perspective after being robbed. He said, "I am thankful that he never robbed me before. I am thankful that although he took my wallet, he did not take my life, and although he took all I had, it was not much. And, I am glad that it was I who was robbed, not I who did the robbing.” Wow! I don't know about you, but that is the perspective I want to cultivate. 

2. Next Tuesday is Valentine's Day. Did you ever wonder about the origin of this holiday? If you are into that sort of thing ... here's a brief video you might want to watch. 





One of the tools I have found very helpful in my love relationship with my wife are the Five Love Languages. An understanding of these will help you understand your own love language and also that of the one you love. We feel most loved when someone is expressing their love for us in our own love language. So ... if I really want my wife to know how much I love her ... I must seek to speak her love language (which, since hers is different from mine I sometimes find it to be a stretch)!  Here is another video I think you will enjoy which illustrates the five love languages: 



All this to say if you want to give that special person in your life a wonderful Valentine's gift ... learn his or her love language and speak your love for them in that language! 

3. Finally, a brief update on my wife's ongoing rehab following her knee revision surgery of January 9th. Sharon has been fighting more than the usual amount of pain and inflammation. It's just how her body responds to surgery. But in spite of this, she achieved a 90 degree bend on Wednesday during her PT session. This is great news because her surgeon told us in the pre-op appointment he wanted to see her at 90 degrees in 6 weeks or he would want to do a MUA (manipulation under anesthesia). Since that is what broke
Sharon's leg in November of 2015, there is no way we wanted to go down that path! AND considering she was stuck at 70 degrees following the fracture of her femur, we are very thankful! So we celebrated by stopping by MacDonald's on the way home from that session to order her a carmel frappe (small, no drizzel, no whipped cream --- gotta save calories somehow!). Please pray that she will continue to progress and that the pain, inflammation and swelling will continue to diminish. Thanks. Your prayers and support mean more than you know! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Pour yourself a cup of your favorite java and join me for a few thoughts that I hope will encourage you to grab a hold of the day and live it for Christ!

1. Today being Good Friday, I want to begin by expressing my desire for you to experience in a special way God's love for you in Christ His Son. The Apostle Paul reminds us that God demonstrated his love for us in that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). I hope as you spend time today reflecting on the sacrifice of Christ on your behalf, that you will be powerfully reminded of just how much he loves you! And if you are in the Lancaster area, please join us from 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm for our Good Friday Evening Service, during which we will focus on the Seven Sayings of the Cross. 

2. Two Fridays ago I confessed to a speeding ticket which I received (and justly so) on my drive back from Virginia. Last Friday I mentioned that I had received 5 letters from different attorneys offering to represent me in court should I desire to contest the charges (which I don't as I have already paid the fine). Since last week's post, I have received three additional attorney letters. Now, I am planning to make this mention of my criminal activity my last (actually planned for last week's post to be my last, but I wanted to point out something contained in the most recent letter I received). The second paragraph of this letter begins with the following:

We understand that this is a serious matter for you. If you don't hire an attorney you may be convicted of the charge! Your auto insurance could triple! You may have a high fine! You may accumulate too many points and your licence could be suspended! All of these things can possibly impact you and your family.

When I read this to my wife she insightfully responded, "Boy, are they ever playing on people's fears!"  Yup! Exactly! Now for the record, I plead guilty already. My auto insurance will not triple (as this is my first moving violation ever ... at least of which I have been convicted!). The fine, although it took a bite out of my wallet, the bleeding wasn't too severe. And as for points? The commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not add points to a the holder of a PA licence if the speeding violation occurred in another state. 

But this attorney knows what motivates people ... FEAR! As a follower of Christ, I am called to live NOT in fear but to walk by FAITH (John 14:1). In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus states very clearly, "Do not be anxious about your life . . ." He then goes on to explain WHY we should not worry. If you have not read Matthew 6:25-34 recently, do yourself (and your friends and family) a favor and take a moment to read it right now! God doesn't want us to be consumed by fear. He invites us to lean on him! No one has broader shoulders than He does ... not even close! 

3. This past Saturday turned out a bit busier than usual for me. Most Saturday mornings find me in my office wrapping up my preparation for Sunday morning. However, last Saturday not only did I have to get ready for Sunday (and I was behind due to some other responsibilities that hit during the week), but I had to finish preparations for a funeral that afternoon and then conduct both the memorial service and the grave side committal service (the service was for a godly woman who was part of the group of people who started our church back in 1976 - it was an honor for me to officiate)! In addition to this, my granddaughter Molly's 5 year old birthday party was scheduled at the Hands on House from 3pm-5pm. Knowing I would be late for her party, I explained to Molly earlier in the week that "Papa would be late because he had to help comfort a family whose Grammy went home to live in heaven." Well, as I pulled out of the cemetery, I calculated in my mind the quickest route to the Hands on House. I drove as quickly as I could (abiding the speed limits, of course!), finally arriving at 4:45. By the time I walked into the party room, the pile of gifts were unwrapped, the candles had been extinguished, and the kids were licking their lips of the remnants of vanilla icing. As I drove home, I asked myself ... "Was it worth all the hassle to drive to the party, only to be
The dawning of my love for Molly!
there for 15 minutes or so?" I got my answer later that evening. My son, Tim, (Molly's dad) sent me a text. It read, "
Molly's favorite part of the party was opening gifts, she said. I asked her what her second favorite part was; she said, "when Papa came!"  Now that made my day! Listen my friends, don't ever underestimate the value of your presence in the life of someone you love! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, April 7, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

So glad to have you join me for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. I hope you enjoy both your coffee and few random thoughts I have to share with you that I trust will strengthen your faith and warm your heart! 

1. Last week I owned up to being stopped by a county sheriff on our way back home from Williamsburg, VA. Why was I stopped? I was exceeding the speed limit! And if you read my post of last Friday, you will know that I have already paid the fine. This week I received several letters (five and counting!) from lawyers who practice in that area of Virginia. They all offer to represent me in court in an attempt to have the fine reduced or dismissed - all at the bargain price of $350 (a couple have come in at a lower price in an attempt to gain my business)! Of course, I am not going to be contacting any of them. For starters, their fee is much more than the cost of the fine. But more importantly, I am guilty as charged. So why fight it? The honest thing is to pay the fine and move on (with a bit less pressure on the accelerator!). 

All of us stand before God, "guilty as charged." The Apostle Paul writes the following in his letter to the church in Rome: 


 "Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)

Paul makes it clear that we are ALL guilty before God (Romans 3:23) and NONE of us can ever hope to be declared righteous due to our own efforts. So are we without hope? Absolutely not! We have an advocate who already paid the penalty (fine) for our sin and rebellion against God! And just who is our advocate (lawyer)? 

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation (satisfaction) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2)

So my friends ... the fine, the penalty for your sin (Romans 6:23) has already been paid in full by Jesus Christ. Have you reached out with the empty hands of faith to receive the free gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of your sin that ONLY Jesus Christ can offer (John 14:6)? I hope you have. It is the most important choice you could ever make in this life! 

2. For the past two months plus, we have been conducting both our worship services in our Family Life Center. The reason? Our sanctuary has been undergoing a heavy duty makeover! New chairs, new pews, new paint, new carpets, new sound, new lighting, new preacher .... well, all but the last (for which I am very thankful!). This coming Sunday we are scheduled to move both of
our services to the sanctuary (there are just a few more things to be done - so it looks like we will make it). This will be just one week later than expected ... and as far as I know, pretty much in line with our projected costs. Yea! Just in time for Easter week! 

Sometimes things go as planned. A lot of times they don't. And it's when things go awry that our true character bubbles to the surface. So the next time you face adversity, whether big or small, listen to what comes out of your mouth. Because Jesus said that what comes out of our mouth originates in the heart (Matthew 12:34). Just this week God has convicted me of a critical spirit. He did so by helping me to listen to myself. As I did,  I heard a lot of criticism coming out of my mouth. So I went to God to confess and repent. I asked him to give me a heart that speaks encouragement to others (Ephesians 4:29). How about YOU? What's been coming out of your mouth lately? Especially when things go wrong. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Friday, March 31, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a couple of brief thoughts (just returned yesterday from a week's vacation!). 

1. We left last Thursday morning and drove to Ocean City, MD. On the way, we stopped in the Bethany Beach area and scoped out the house we will be renting for our family beach vacation this upcoming summer (an outside look had to suffice as the owner was not available to let us in). From Bethany Beach we continued to Ocean City where we spent the next day and a half before moving on to our ultimate destination of Williamsburg, VA. The day we arrived in Ocean City, the temperature never got out of the thirties. It was down right cold (and with the wind whipping off the ocean, it felt even colder). But talk about a temperature change! When we stepped out of the car in Williamsburg on Saturday, the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees. Both Sunday and Monday had highs approaching 80 degrees! I was so warm I drove to the local Kmart to buy a pair of shorts to wear! Oh how we enjoyed that unexpected taste of summer! Life's is full of unexpected turns. Some bring us much joy and happiness ... others discomfort, pain and sorrow. But in either case, we must acknowledge the sovereign hand of God behind it all (Ephesians 1:11). Through all that we experience, God is at work, conforming us increasingly into the image of his Son (Romans 8:28-30). Embracing this truth each and every day will help us to cling to our Savior and grow in our faith! 

2. On our way back from Williamsburg, I had an opportunity to meet a deputy sheriff. Now in my work as a police chaplain and in our church's hosting of the our annual service to honor law enforcement, I have rubbed shoulders with many a sheriff's deputy. But in this case, I would have rather passed on the introductions. I was in Virginia and had just come off of a bridge. The posted speed limit was only 55 mph. But I was traveling just a bit faster than that (OK ... a big bit faster than that!). As soon as I saw the deputy's vehicle sitting in the grass median strip and his lights begin to flash
Uh oh!
I knew that I was driving too fast (too late!!!). As he pulled out onto the highway, I immediately made my way onto the shoulder and stopped. Sure enough he pulled in behind me and was soon at my window asking for my licence and registration. Today my checking account balance is a bit lower (to the tune of $162!). But I have only myself to blame. The speed limit sign was clearly posted. In fact, when the officer handed me the citation, he told me I had the option to plead not guilty and then appear in court in May to contest the charges. I looked at him and said, "Officer, I am guilty. I will pay the fine and move on (but at a much slower pace!)." So he gave me directions on how I could plead guilty and pay the fine. The check will be in the mail today!


Now this is the first time in my 45 years of driving that I have ever received a speeding ticket. Is it the first time I have broken posted speed limits? No. I would guess that the vast majority of us from time to time do drive faster than the speed limit for a variety of reasons (on some highways if you drive the posted speed limit you might get run over!). But in the past couple of days since receiving the citation, I have found myself much more aware of posted speed limits and doing my best to keep them (in spite of those who ride my rear bumper in an attempt to get me to go faster). For me, our vacation ended with a lesson that I hope is well learned! 

Just as there are driving laws which help assure safety on our highways, so God has given us his laws to help us live life as He intended (for example, think Ten Commandments). Now in giving us these laws, God is not some cosmic kill joy trying to rob us of all of life's pleasure and fun. No. The laws he gives us ... the commandments in the Bible, etc. ... are given to us for our good (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). Since he created us, he knows what is best for us. Keeping his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). In fact, obeying his Word should be our delight for it is in obeying that we demonstrate our love for him (John 14:15). But at the end of the day, it is a comfort to know that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins ... a payment that we in and of ourselves could never pay! The gospel (good news) of Christ calls us to turn from our sins and in faith turn to Jesus! If you have questions about all that Jesus did for you and me and what we must do in response, please heck out Two Ways to Live: A Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me for yet another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. You know the routine. Enjoy a random thought or two with your morning coffee. 

1. One of the most fascinating passages of Scripture (and quite frankly, there are scores of them!) is the following: 

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:1-13)

These verses should bring hope, comfort and confidence to every child of God. Jesus Christ is indeed going to return! No matter what man might say, God tells us in no uncertain terms that his son will one day return (at a time only known to himself - Matthew 24:36). Yet even though God has already set the date, Peter tells us something very interesting in v. 12. In addition to waiting for this day we are also to be "hastening the coming of the day of God." Here's what the note from the ESV Study Bible states about this word, "hastening": 

Hastening (Gk. speudō, “hurry [by extra effort]”) the coming of the day of God suggests that, by living holy lives, Christians can actually affect the time of the Lord’s return. 

The ESV Study Bible note goes on to say that this is true, even though God has already set the date. How is this possible? Frankly, I don't know. I guess my best answer to this would be the Apostle Paul's glorious words which he penned in his letter to the church in Rome when he wrote: 

 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

So as you ponder this mystery of how God's sovereignty fits with human activity, don't miss the point God through Peter is making here. In some mysterious way, God takes our actions and weaves them into the tapestry of his plan for the universe. Some way, some how (and even though I can't explain it ... I do believe it!) you and I can hasten the coming of the Lord!  Wow! 

2. Some of you have been asking about my wife's recovery from her January 9th knee revision ... so here's a brief update. She continues to make steady (although slow) progress. For starters, her leg is straight (180 degrees)! This is great news for her leg hasn't been straight for well over a year ... and a straight leg is very important for walking. Additionally, for the past year she was stuck at a 70 degree bend (most people with a healthy knee can get a bend of 135-140 degrees). Considering that one needs a flexion (bend) of 85 degrees to climb stairs and 95 degrees to stand and sit comfortably, you can understand how life was a bit tougher for my wife. So all that said, here is the good news .... Sharon this week was measured at 105 degrees! Wow! She has not seen that kind of bend since September 3, 2015 (the day before her first knee replacement). Now a "gold standard bend" for a knee replacement is 120-125 degrees. Many people achieve that. We are thrilled that Sharon got over 100 degrees! She will most likely not reach the gold standard ... but we will happily settle for bronze or silver!!!  :) Please pray as she continues to work her knee for greater flexion and less pain. Thanks! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, March 17, 2017

Friday Morning with PJ

Friday morning? Friday Coffee with PJ! Thanks for joining me today over a cup of coffee to read a few random (and I hope, thought provoking and faith strengthening thoughts). 

1. This past Tuesday saw one of the largest March snow falls on record for these parts. Here in Willow Street (just south of the city of Lancaster, PA), the snow turned to sleet for several hours. This kept the snow accumulation down. So instead of the foot and a half of snow which areas just to our north and west received, less than a foot of snow (9 inches maybe) covered my driveway (except for the foot and a half deep snow drift just outside my garage door). Now for me this change from heavy snow to heavy sleet was a good thing. When I was a kid, I loooooooooved snow! But now, as an adult who is responsible to remove it from my driveway and make calls as to whether or not to go ahead with Sunday services when inclement winter weather strikes ... a snowless winter sounds quite appealing! Interesting how as the years progress, our likes and dislikes change (among SO many other things which also change!). In contrast, our God never changes (James 1:17). This means that all that he is today ... he was yesterday and will be so tomorrow! Is he holy? Always! Is he merciful, loving and gracious? You can count on it! Is he faithful to all that he has promised? Absolutely - yesterday, today and forever! I don't know about you, but I find great comfort, joy, peace, and stability in knowing that our God is immutable (theologian talk for unchangeable). No wonder the writers of the Psalms used the figure of a rock to refer to God (Psalm 18:2, Psalm 62:7, etc.)! So when the changes of life swirl around you, reach out and anchor your soul to the Rock that never changes! You will be glad you did! 

2. Occasionally I run across thoughts someone has expressed that really resonates with my mind, heart and soul. The words below, written by an African pastor did just that. I thought you all might benefit from reading his words.  

"A Christian can never rise higher than his experience of God. God is infinitely profound. As one hymn writer has written, he is an immeasurable sea without a shore, a blazing sun without a sphere. When engulfed in his presence, whom thousand and tens of
thousands of angels worship day and night, the soul can only lie in the dust in adoring wonder. This profound knowledge brings eternity to bear on the soul of a believer so that everything in his life is judged from eternity’s perspective. How one spends his time and money, how one enjoys his recreation, how one relates to believers and unbelievers, how one handles his work—all these are subjected to eternity. The great Day of Judgment is never far from mind" (Conrad Mbewe).

After reading this, I had to stop and ask myself about my view and experience of God. I must admit that I all too often allow the stuff of this world to eclipse God's glory and the reality of eternity that is to come. As I thought about that, I asked myself, what can I do to stay better focused on God and the reality that, in Mbewe's words, he is "infinitely profound?" After thinking about this question, I decided that I would pull out my trusty copy of J.I. Packer's classic work, Knowing God. When I first read it as a college sophomore some forty years ago, it radically changed how I veiwed God. I plan to read through it between now and Easter. I can't help but think my view of God will be much sharper as a result! How about YOU? What one step can you take that will help you to see God more clearly? 

3. Finally, as I am sure you have heard, today is St. Patrick's Day. So who was this man? Check out Steve Nichols insightful article about this fascinating man of faith. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's a snowy Friday today .... which makes for a great day to sit and enjoy a hot cup of rich and robust coffee. And between you and me, this is my favorite kind of snow storm: the snow is only sticking to the trees, rooftops and grass! Yahoo! Bring it on!  - although from what I have been reading on the meteorological cybersphere, next Tuesday I might be singing a different tune (like SNOW, SNOW, GO AWAY, COME BACK ANOTHER YEAR!). Well, whatever the case may be, go ahead and pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me for a few brief random thoughts. 

1. These will be brief because I just realized (at 8:10 this morning) that I had failed to write this post. My failure to do so stems from a failure to check my todoist app which helps me to organize my tasks. And since I didn't consult it at all yesterday (me bad, very bad!) I totally forgot to write my weekly post. The old adage, "out of sight, out of mind" proved true in this case! But it also proves true in many other cases. Consider our relationship with God. When his word is "out of sight" (i.e. - we are not "in" it on a regular basis), we often live our lives as if He does not exist (i.e. we live as atheists!). Since we live in a culture which is constantly bombarding us with anti-God and humanistic messages, if we don't counter these lies with God's truth, we will not live to the glory of the God who made us and redeemed us! It is vital that we have a plan to interact with God's Word on a DAILY basis! So ... what's YOUR plan? 

2. Most of us have lazy streak in us ... let me rewrite that ... ALL of us have a lazy streak in us. Just as water seeks the path of least resistance, so do we! So when it comes to growing in our faith, this is a huge problem. The Apostle Paul understood this. In his first
letter to young Timothy, he writes, "train yourself for godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7-8). The Greek word translated "train" here is the word, gymnao. It literally means "to train naked." The athletes in the Greco Roman world of the first century would often do just that. Why? To show off their finely chiseled bodies that they had worked so hard to obtain? Perhaps there was a bit of that. But they trained and competed unclothed so that they would be unhindered by their clothing in the pursuit of the prize they were striving to obtain. They were willing to go as far as they had to go in order to win the prize! 

Back to Paul's word of instruction to Timothy ... Paul is telling Timothy that if he wants to be godly, he is going to have to work up a sweat just like the athletes of his day, and do whatever it took (effort wise) to become a godly person! Hmm. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten the necessity to train ourselves for godliness (or we have simply, in our laziness, chosen to ignore the need to do so!). If you want to make some changes in your life along the lines of training yourself to be godly, here are some good reads for you to consider: 


How to be a Good Christian with Minimal Effort (a piece of satire written by one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies). 



And finally for you men, Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes.

I have read all of the above and have found them to be quite profitable! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, March 3, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Today is the first Friday in March and that means many things: winter is over (meteorological spring begins March 1st!), our church sanctuary renovation is about halfway done, and March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament is just around the corner!). And today being a Friday means ... Coffee with PJ. So pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. I hope you enjoyed February's weather. It was the warmest on record for our area. We are also on pace for the least "snowiest" winter on record! All that to say ... this winter has been downright delightful! But not all would agree. There are a number of snow "enthusiasts" around us who love a good old fashioned blizzard (or two) each winter! I was once numbered among those people ... but no more! The older I get, the less I like snow (although I admit there is a beauty of seeing the trees and ground covered with a LIGHT blanket of snow!). The word on the meteorological street is that winter might try to hold on during the month of March. But take heart, spring in all of its blooming glory will eventually arrive as the sun continues its northward journey! And so it is with the Son of God. He has promised to one day return to this planet (Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 22:20). Just as you can count on the coming of spring ... you can count on the coming of Jesus Christ! Are you ready to meet him (1 John 2:28 and Two Ways to Live: the Choice We All Face)?

2. The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is classic (if you have not read it lately, open your Bible to Genesis chapter 39 and begin reading!). Joseph, hated by his brothers, was sold into slavery. Instead of dying an early death in bondage, which was usual for young foreign slaves in Egypt, he rose to become the "Vice-Pharaoh" over all of Egypt! How did he accomplish this? Via his great intellect? His mighty strength? His incredible good looks? No. Behind his great rise in power was an even greater God! And it was because God was "with" him, that he not only was set free from his bondage but rose to become such a powerful man in Egypt. Now what does the Scripture mean when it states that "the Lord was with  Joseph" (Genesis 39:2)? Isn't God present everywhere (Psalm 139:7-12)? Of course he is! So whatever this means, it means more than just the fact that God was there with Joseph (for in his omnipresence he is in that sense with everyone!). 

The answer to this can be found in Isaiah 57:15: 

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
    who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

    and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly,

    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God in this verse reveals his two "addresses." The first is "the high and holy place" which is obviously heaven. The other is with "him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit" or, in other words, the truly humble person. So when Genesis tells us that the Lord was with Joseph, it is telling us that Joseph was indeed a humble man. 


How about you? Do you want to live a productive life for God? Then humble yourself under God's mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6). Scripture is clear, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Keep in mind that humility is a difficult virtue to measure, for once you think you have it you probably don't! 

If you want some help in measuring your humility, I recommend the following resource from Revive Our Heart Ministries: 


I have used this with great profit. But I warn you. You will not have to go far down the list of the contrasts between a proud and broken (humble) person before you will realize you are not nearly as humble as you thought! But if you want God to bless your ministry, you need to be humble before him! 

3. My wife Sharon is continuing to make slow but, of late, steady progress. Her x-rays of last Friday were very good! She does not need to see the surgeon for 6 months (a very good thing!) She is getting stronger and is hoping to finally resume driving next week. Thanks to all of you who have been praying for her! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning. Hot coffee. Random thoughts. You know the routine. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew (and if you have visited with me in the past, you know mine!) and join me for a few thoughts that I hope and pray will be a help to you in your faith journey with Jesus Christ.

1.  I recently attended the memorial service of a woman who had lost her mother. As her brother talked about his mom (and dad who had died several years earlier), it made me think of my parents. Jim and Peg Smith were married in December of 1942 (Margaret was my mom's given name ... I still don't get how Peg is so often a nickname for women whose given name is Margaret!). Mom was from Altoona, PA and my dad from Harrisburg. Fourteen years into their marriage is when my twin brother and I joined our family, making us a family of six (my oldest sister was twelve at the time, my other sister six). Now when my twin brother and I came along, my parents were only expecting one baby. My mother did not know
Jim on left; me on right (age 2)
until the doctor doing the delivery said to her after my brother was born, "Peggy, don't relax too much, another is on the way!" You talk about a stunning birth announcement! Six years later, our family was completed with the arrival of my little brother. 


My parents taught us many things, such as "Mind your manners!" and "Don't forget to change your underwear!" (Funny what I remember!). My mom never learned to drive. So after my dad taught my two sisters to drive, he told my twin brother and me that we would have to hire a driving instructor. Looking back on that, I don't blame him one bit. Teaching TWO teen aged boys to drive at once? Certainly not an easy task! My dad was a good provider, sometimes working multiple jobs to provide for us. And there was never a doubt in my mind that my mom loved me! 

My folks passed away a little over six weeks apart (Dad in middle August and Mom in early October in 2003). Neither wanted a large memorial service (they were private people). So mainly family gathered for a simple graveside service to say good-bye. I never felt as honored to officiate a graveside service than when I did so for both my parents. After saying "good-bye" to my mom, I recall standing in front of my mom's sister's and her husband's grave, reading their grave stone and reflecting on their lives (my parents were buried right next to my aunt and uncle). My cousin joined me and we talked for a moment about his parents and my parents and how they just loved being together. He then said something that really struck me. "John, with the passing of your mother do you realize that she was the last of her generation? We are now the oldest generation in the family!"  Wow! He was right (since sharing that insight with me some 13 years ago, my sister, Bev, has also passed away (December 2013). 

Forgive my rambling here ... but here's my point. Life is passing ever so quickly (James 4:13-14). None of us know how many more years we have to make a difference in this world. So what are YOU doing to leave a legacy behind that will honor God and advance his kingdom once you are gone? Time is short and the opportunities are great. Let's get intentional to live life for Christ and not waste our remaining days! 

2. At one point as I was typing this post, I paused and looked at some post-its that are hanging from the bottom of my computer's monitor. There is a note from my 3 year old granddaughter, June,
which she wrote for me when she was two (see adjacent photo). There is also a note from June's mother, my daughter Kate reminding me of her love for me (and the long term affectionate nickname she has for me ... which I choose not to reveal!). In addition, a prayer hangs in between these two love notes. It is a prayer I ran across in reading of one of John Piper's many devotional books (this one I highly recommend), Life as a Vapor. As I read his prayer ... I then went back and prayed his prayer. I would encourage you to do the same. Here it is: 


Thank you Lord, for the lives of flawed and faith-filled saints! Thank you for grace, amazing grace, that saves and uses sinners! Lord, don't let me limit your power by what I see in the mirror. 
Help me to trust you. Help me, as William Carey said, 
to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. 
I am not great. But you are great. 
Your power is made perfect in my weakness. 
I surrender all worldly claims on my life. 
Come. 
Make me useful for the glory of Christ. 
In his great name I pray. 
Amen. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Just yesterday at a pastors' breakfast I was attending, I got to talking with one pastor about coffee preferences. This individual brought his own. It was Starbucks or nothing as far as he was concerned. I then asked him if he had a Keurig at home. He did. So I proceeded to tell him about my love affair with San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser. The taste (and the price!) can't be beat! And it is Amazon's Choice! Enough of that. Go ahead and pour whatever your favorite brew might by and join me for a couple of random thoughts. 

1. In addition to talking with this pastor friend about different coffees, we also talked briefly about how pastoral ministry has changed since we both started pastoring some thirty plus years ago. We both agreed it has changed quite a bit! One reason for this change is due to the changes we are seeing in our culture, which is moving further away from many of the Christian values we hold. Back when I was finishing up my doctoral degree, I took a course on postmodernism (the prof was D. A. Carson and the primary text was his book, The Gagging of God). The course was very helpful in understanding both the threats and opportunities postmodernism brought about for the proclamation of the Gospel. That was back in 2001 when I took that class. Now, some 16 years later, we have seen the logical outcome of postmodernism in our society today. I am referring to what many are now calling, "post-truth." This so called "post-truth" has so impacted western society (especially in the political realm) that the Oxford Dictionary named it its "Word of the Year." 

Now just what is "post-truth?" The Oxford Dictionary defines it as "an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief."  So given this reality ... what does this mean for proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? For starters, it means that we as Christ followers must firm up our grip on the truth of the Scriptures. It is only as we get this truth and then live it that we will be able to give it away! We cannot allow the view of truth held by our society to weaken our own view of truth. In addition, living in a "post-truth" world should also serve to remind us that we MUST seek to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit (and this has ALWAYS been the case). Only the Spirit of God can open up the eyes and minds of those who are blind to the truth. This leads me to ask, what are YOU doing to get to know God's Word better AND walking more in step with HIS Spirit? 

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you take some time to read Why Oxford Dictionary's Word of 2016 Matters by Ravi Zacharias. 

2. Also at yesterday's breakfast, I reconnected with a former college friend whom I had not seen since college days! Given that he graduated a year ahead of me ... doing the math ... we had not been together for some forty years. As soon as he shared his name during our time of self introductions, I was wondering ... "Could this be the Bill Bateman that I went to college with?" Sure enough, as soon as the words of the closing prayer echoed into silence, he and I made a bee line for one another ... and yep! He was the Bill Bateman of my past (I got to know Bill well as

Bill is on far right ... I am on far left.

we sang in the singing group Joy together - my sophomore year and his junior year - photo above). We had little time to talk after the breakfast so we parted with a pledge to get together soon. I was thrilled to see that he is actively engaged in pastoral ministry and look forward to hearing his story. 

All of us have stories, don't we. My story is not yours and yours is not mine. But our stories will often explain who we are. I fear that far too often we make judgments about people and what they do without knowing their stories. I believe one of the best things we can do to build relationships with the various people in our lives is to take the time to hear their stories! And as we listen (and I mean listen well) ... we may have opportunities to speak the truth of the Gospel into their lives (with grace, seasoned with salt, of course - Colossians 4:6). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me again for another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. Pour yourself a cup of your favorite java brew (mine is San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser) and let's together thing about a few things!

1. I have been recently reading James Michener's massive novel, Alaska. Michener is known for his great story telling and his historical accuracy. I have been blown away reading about the history of our 49th state. From early migrations of people from Asia to the sale of Alaska to the US by Russia, to the gold rush of the later 1800's to the early 1900's to our present day ... people suffered great hardships in Alaska's harsh environment just to survive. I will NEVER complain about the cold around here again! Many people in Alaska put up with a winter that is ten months long with temperatures reaching 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit BELOW ZERO (air temps, not wind chills!). You see, life is often about perspective. And one perspective that is very beneficial to keep in mind is that "life" could always be worse (unless you are talking about how cold it is and you live in Alaska!). Even in the midst of life's hardships, there is always something for which we can be thankful. Matthew Henry, a pastor of yesteryear, demonstrated this perspective after being robbed. He said, "I am thankful that he never robbed me before. I am thankful that although he took my wallet, he did not take my life, and although he took all I had, it was not much. And, I am glad that it was I who was robbed, not I who did the robbing.” Wow! I don't know about you, but that is the perspective I want to cultivate. 

2. Next Tuesday is Valentine's Day. Did you ever wonder about the origin of this holiday? If you are into that sort of thing ... here's a brief video you might want to watch. 





One of the tools I have found very helpful in my love relationship with my wife are the Five Love Languages. An understanding of these will help you understand your own love language and also that of the one you love. We feel most loved when someone is expressing their love for us in our own love language. So ... if I really want my wife to know how much I love her ... I must seek to speak her love language (which, since hers is different from mine I sometimes find it to be a stretch)!  Here is another video I think you will enjoy which illustrates the five love languages: 



All this to say if you want to give that special person in your life a wonderful Valentine's gift ... learn his or her love language and speak your love for them in that language! 

3. Finally, a brief update on my wife's ongoing rehab following her knee revision surgery of January 9th. Sharon has been fighting more than the usual amount of pain and inflammation. It's just how her body responds to surgery. But in spite of this, she achieved a 90 degree bend on Wednesday during her PT session. This is great news because her surgeon told us in the pre-op appointment he wanted to see her at 90 degrees in 6 weeks or he would want to do a MUA (manipulation under anesthesia). Since that is what broke
Sharon's leg in November of 2015, there is no way we wanted to go down that path! AND considering she was stuck at 70 degrees following the fracture of her femur, we are very thankful! So we celebrated by stopping by MacDonald's on the way home from that session to order her a carmel frappe (small, no drizzel, no whipped cream --- gotta save calories somehow!). Please pray that she will continue to progress and that the pain, inflammation and swelling will continue to diminish. Thanks. Your prayers and support mean more than you know! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

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