Looking Back to Look Ahead!

As we wrap up yet another year, let me suggest to you that you spend some time taking a look in your life's rear view mirror. Take some time to evaluate this past year. Look at how you have grown (or not grown) in different areas of your life. Count the many ways that God has blessed you. After this backward look, then take some time to look ahead to the upcoming year. I think we often fail to progress in our faith journey because we fail to reflect and set goals.

To help you, check out Don Whitney's article, "Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year or On Your Birthday." You can download the article at http://biblicalspirituality.org/newyear.html.

May God richly bless you and yours in the upcoming year of 2008! Happy New Year!

Pastor John


In a world that is full of darkness, I find great comfort in the one who claims to be "the light of the world." Please take a moment and read the following words which open up the Gospel of John. This is what Christmas is truly all about.

The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)

Thanking God for HIS indescribable gift to us in the person of Jesus Christ . . .


Time Mag's "Person of the Year???"

Did you see who Time Magazine chose as its "Person of the Year?" I hope you are sitting down for this one ... Time's choice is Russian President Vladimir Putin. Why Putin you might be wondering? According to Richard Stengel, Time's managing editor Putin was chosen because of his "extraordinary feat of leadership in taking a country that was in chaos and bringing it stability." Hmm. Seems to me that Putin's "extraordinary" feats of leadership also include numerous and various human rights violations (which are well documented). Hard for me to understand how the editors of Time can so easily and readily dismiss all the human suffering due to Putin's "extraordinary" leadership. To sum up my thoughts on Time's decision in one word - RIDICULOUS!

I think a much better choice for "Person of the Year" would be Philip Dongre. Philip was born in India and moved to the United States for schooling in the 1980's. He then remained here in the States to represent a ministry located in central India: Boys Christian Home (which in the early 1990's began accepting girls and became Boys and Girls Christian Home). In 2001, he and a group of dedicated Christians began a new ministry for children in Naya Akola, India. In the last several years, this new ministry (Children's Fellowship of India) has grown tremendously. Presently at CFI's growing campus, over 140 boys are fed, clothed, educated, given medical care and most importantly, introduced to Jesus Christ. Philip works and prays with undying enthusiasm and passion for the boys and this ministry. He represents CFI's ministry in churches throughout the northeastern United States, seeking people to sponsor these needy boys. He travels four times a year to India, taking short term missionaries with him. He gives guidance to the ministry staff in India. And in the midst of all the success CFI has experienced, Philip is among one of the most humble men I have ever met.

So Time - you can have your Vladimir Putin as your "Person of the Year." I will take Philip Dongre any day!

Thanks for stopping by,

Oh, No! I'm Late!

This morning something happened that does not happen very often - but when it does, I get down right irritated ... at myself! I was late for an early morning appointment. In fact, I had forgotten all about it. Even though I was involved in setting it up and even though it was clearly marked on my calendar (BOTH hard copy and computer) - I simply forgot about it. I did not remember it until I just happened to glance at my calendar and saw it staring back at me. OOPS! Thankfully, that "just happened to glance at my calendar" occurred at 6:10 this morning (the meeting's start time was 6:00) AND thankfully the location was just a few minutes drive from my house. So I finally arrived at the meeting (already in progress) at 6:30. The server greeted me with "Better late than never!" (And all I could think to respond was - "Yes, but better never late!" I was glad that the guys I was meeting with are really forgiving!

Now my guess is that most of you can relate to this incident. All of us from time to time and place to place forget an appointment or are late for a meeting. It happens. And it will most likely happen again. But there is one person whom we can count on. He will never be late for an appointment or forget about a meeting. This perfect person is none other than Jesus Christ. Some where down the road of human history a date is set. On that date Jesus Christ WILL return. He will not forget. He will not be late. We can count on Him. And according to the Bible, his return is imminent. That means it could happen AT ANY TIME. Today? Yes! Tomorrow? Yep! Next year? Absolutely. Knowing this, we MUST all be sure we are ready. The apostle John puts it this way, "And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming" (1 John 2:28). Are YOU "continuing in him?" Are you a student of the word, seeking to KNOW God's will -- and striving to obey God's will? Only then will we be ready for his certain return!
Thanks for stopping by . . .

Savor the Moment!

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of participating in the December commencement ceremony at Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School. Each year, I teach a few courses in the college's Degree Completion Program. As an adjunct faculty member, participation at graduation is optional for me. I opted to participate this time around in response to the request of several of my students. It felt good to be wanted!

At one point during the commencement, the president of LBC, Dr. Peter Teague was congratulating the graduates for their efforts. He told them to "savor the moment." Indeed, it was for them a moment to be savored! They had worked hard. They had sacrificed. Now they were reaping their reward!

Hmm. "Savor the moment!" All too often I fail to do that. So today, I am going to intentionally work on savoring the moment -- those moments when I am reaping God's blessing in my life! Savoring time spent in God's Word - learning about Him and His plan for me and our world. Savoring lunch with my wife and daughter, enjoying their love and laughter. Savoring the friendship I enjoy with my elders here at Grace. Savoring my health which enables me to listen to the Christmas music that I love. Savoring the moment of crawling into a warm bed on a cold night.

My friends, let me encourage each of you to intentionally today (and every day) to "savor the moment" - those moments in which you reap God's many blessings in your life! If you do, I think you will become a far more contented person. And that is a good thing for ALL of us!

Thanks for stopping by,


Gett'n Ready!

A bit later today I will be spending some time getting my snow blower out of storage and prepping it for use (and I surely hope I can get it "up and running!"). Now why am I going to do this today? There is no snow falling from the sky - in fact I see some sunshine, which has been is short supply recently around here! Well, as you probably well know, there is a winter storm heading our way. It may drop quite a bit of snow ... or it may be mainly sleet and freezing rain .... or it may just end up rain. But no matter the end result - I want to be prepared just in case we get several inches of snow! Being prepared is a good thing! (As a boy scout, this concept was DRILLED into my head by my scoutmaster. "Be Prepared" was the motto of the scouts).

This leads me to a question for you to ponder this weekend - Are YOU prepared for whatever life might bring your way? None of us know the future (that is, I believe, a good thing!). But we know the ONE who does know the future. And in HIS Word (the Bible), he has given to us lots of insights for living -- life principles that if we practice, we will be prepared to face - whatever!

So I hope you are spending time getting to know the Bible better -- and remember, God does not want you to merely KNOW the Bible -- he wants you to LIVE the Bible!

Thanks for stopping by,



As I was out running an errand today, I was catching up on the news courtesy of KYW 1060 news radio out of Philadelphia (I began listening to KYW in college and have been an avid listener ever since). I caught the tail end of a news story about an annual Wacky Warning Label Contest. This contest, now in its eleventh year, is conducted by Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch. I was astonished at the content of some product's warning labels. An honorable mention was given for a warning label on a letter opener that says: "Caution: Safety goggles recommended." Hmm. I wonder what that manufacturer thought might be in a letter? Third place in the contest was awarded to the manufacturer of a baby stroller featuring a small storage pouch. The stroller included a warning label that warns, "Do not put child in bag." The contest judges gave second place for a a label they found on an iron-on T-shirt transfer that warns: "Do not iron while wearing shirt." And finally the grand prize was given for a warning label on a tractor that read, "Danger: Avoid death!"

OK. I can see why these labels were noted for their wacky warning labels!!! I mean - who in their right mind is going to climb on a tractor and go looking for death! And using an iron on your shirt while you are wearing it? No wonder these warning labels were winners! To call them wacky doesn't quite seem to go far enough!

A lot of people think that the warnings in Scripture are wacky. They see God as some sort of cosmic kill joy who is looking over their shoulder just waiting to squash their fun. But the warnings in the Bible are there for OUR good, to protect us from evil. The sooner we learn that, the better off we will be!

Thanks for stopping by,


Will Get Back to Blogging Soon!

As soon as I "dig out" from this pile of work that is now sitting on my desk, I will get back to my blog. In the meanwhile, if you want to read a thoughtful blog posting on the new (and controversial) movie The Golden Compass, I suggest you check out the following web address: www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=1065. This is a blog posting of Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. in which he discusses this new movie. Mohler is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. His thoughtful approach is worthy of a read.

"See" you soon!


Away for Some R and R!

I am out of town this week for some needed rest and restoration (My wife, Sharon and I are enjoying the history and beauty of Charleston, SC.) Therefore, I have posted a blog posting from the past that I think needs to be read again. It is so easy to get away from the Word!

Thanks for stopping by,


Rain and the Bible

(Originally posted on September 15, 2005)

It began yesterday around 3 PM. I looked out my office window, and there it was, falling from the clouds. Rain! (Note: If I had written this TODAY - I could have said "SNOW!" I regret I am not in Lancaster to enjoy it - not!) I had not seen it for over two weeks. With the grass growing brown and plants beginning to wither, I was glad to see it!

As I thought of the benefits of rain, these words penned by Isaiah the prophet came to mind: “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). There is power in the book we call the Bible. It is God’s Word. As such, God sends it to accomplish HIS purposes in our lives. Hmm, I wonder. For those of us who are not seeing God at work in us and through us – could it be due to our lack of interaction with God’s Word? How much time do YOU spend in the Bible?

Thanks for stopping by,



Earlier this week I read in the Lancaster New Era that a woman whose son was killed in a police shootout back in November of 2005 had filed a wrongful death lawsuit. At one point as I read the article, I had to stop and make sure I was still reading the New Era and not the National Enquirer! I mean, here is a woman whose son was on record of desiring to kill cops and who put that desire into action by actually shooting one cop, leaving him seriously wounded AND shooting at other police officers as they sought to apprehend him. The Lancaster District Attorney's post-shooting investigation AND two other independent investigations came to the same conclusion: the police shooting of the suspect was justifiable. However, the suspect's mother is not satisfied and has therefore filed this suit. The suit names several police departments involved in the manhunt for her son AND the police officer whom her son shot! I feel for this woman's pain. I cannot imagine losing a child in this way. But give me a break! My hope is that this frivolous law suit gets thrown out. Taxpayers should not have to finance the defense of our law enforcement personnel who are doing their job protecting us from those who want to harm others!

Now notice I said, "I HOPE this law suit gets thrown out." There is no guarantee that it will. I'm guessing that it will be up to a judge as to whether the suit moves on or gets the toss. And not every judge does the right thing. Now that might be true in our legal system (and should be expected, for our judges our human - that means they are imperfect and fallible). But there is ONE judge who is perfect, who is infallible. This judge is God. In Genesis 18:25 we read, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" The answer is, "Of course!" God as Judge of all the earth will ALWAYS do what is right! Judging justly, wisely and perfectly is something that flows out of his just, wise and perfect being!

So what does this mean for us? For starters, it means that whenever we believe we are wronged by another, we must allow God to deal with the offender. After all, we cannot see into a person's heart. Only God can. And only he can make perfect judgments. This is why we are admonished in Scripture, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord" (Romans 12:19). God as the Judge of all the earth will do what is right! Justice will prevail - if not in this life, certainly in the life to come.

In addition, knowing that God judges wisely and perfectly means that we had better live carefully in this life. Yes - that's right. Even followers of Jesus will face his judgment. We will not face condemnation (Romans 8:1), but the lives we live as believers will be scrutinized by the Judge of all the earth (please read 2 Corinthians 5:6-11). So my question for you (and ME!) is this: Are we living lives worthy of our calling as HIS people? Hmm. A thought for you to "chew on" this weekend.

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Please Silence Your Cell Phones - Or Else!!!

Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert Restaino was recently removed from his position on the bench by a New York State Commission. The Commission made their decision due to the actions of the judge in response to a cell phone that rang and interrupted one of his court sessions. The judge angrily ordered the "culprit" who allowed the interruption to come forward with the "guilty" cell phone in hand. When no one moved, he ordered all forty six people in the courtroom to jail. Once there, all were searched and herded into crowded cells. Those unable to post bail were shackled and bused to a separate jail. Restaino confessed to the state panel that he had been under stress in his personal life at the time. The judge is appealing the decision to remove him from his position.

This is just another reminder that stress causes people to do things they would not normally do. And since we live in such a stress filled world, we had better learn how to handle it. I believe one of the best prescriptions for dealing with stress is found in Philippians chapter four. There the apostle Paul writes the following, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (4:4-7). There you have it. Focus on God, rejoicing in him and realizing that he is near (to help!). Stop worrying! Instead give all your needs to God. Thank him (no matter how what you are facing, there is always, always, always something to be thankful for!). You do this and HE will give you a peace that is out of this world (i.e. - a supernatural peace that only HE can give!). Give this a try - I won't guarantee less stress - but I will guarantee more peace!

Thanks for stopping by,


Dual Identities?

People have a lot of fun with my name (at my expense!). When someone asks me my name and I answer with "John Smith" - I often get asked, "What's your real name?" "Who are you hiding from?" "Where is Pocahontas?" (By the way, the Indian princess Pocahontas never did marry John Smith. She married a Virginia tobacco plantation owner by the name of John Rolfe!)

I am sure many are glad they do not bear my name - but I must admit I, too, have experienced a lot of fun with my name over the years! So would I trade it for another? Hmm...Let me think on that.

Donald L. LaRose, however, apparently did not like his name. Twenty seven years ago he disappeared from his Indiana home and has not been seen since. The story spread that he was kidnapped by some Satanic cult that had been harassing him (he was pastoring a Baptist church at the time of his disappearance). Finally, after an intensive manhunt failed to find LaRose, an Indiana court declared him dead in 1986. But unknown to the court, his family and everyone who knew him - he was very much alive and living in a small Arkansas town under the assumed name of Ken Williams. And life went right along for Ken ... or is it Don...until just this past week when a newspaper reporter confronted him with evidence that he was not Ken Williams but Don LaRose. Ken ... I mean, Don admitted to his true identity - much to the shock of all of Ken's admirers (he was the town mayor) and Don's family! (Are you confused yet?).

As the authorities and Don's (and Ken's) friends and family sort all of this out (he remarried - is he guilty of bigamy?) I just have to shake my head. What motivated this guy to go into hiding for almost three decades, leaving his family, friends, and ministry behind? I have no clue (by the way, he had done this once before back in 1976 - that lasted a mere three months before he was discovered). But this whole concept of "dual identities" (Don/Ken) reminds me of the dual identities with which we struggle. That's right. If you are a follower of Christ, you struggle, I struggle, we all struggle with wavering between our true, real and God-given identity of being "in Christ" AND our old and stubbornly hanging on (with no authority to do so, by the way) identity of what we once WERE (past tense) before Christ (the Apostle Paul talks about this struggle in Romans 7).

All of us have a choice to make. It is a choice we must make moment by moment. Am I going to live according to my new identity as a child of God? Or am I going to choose to live according to my old identity as a rebellious sinner, hopelessly enslaved to sin and all of its heartbreak and pain? I hope all of us become more consistent in choosing to live our identity "in Christ!"

Oh and by the way, would I trade my name for another? Nah! Why should I trade in my name? It is the most popular name in America!

Thanks for listening,


Thanksgiving Day 2007

Last week the automobile club, AAA predicted that a record 38.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the five days beginning today. That is a 1.6% increase over last year. Most of these trips will be by car (approximately 80%), in spite of the fact that the cost of a gallon of gasoline is up about 90 cents over last year's Thanksgiving holiday.

Why do so many people travel at Thanksgiving? I think I can answer this question, and answer it accurately with one word: "Family." Tomorrow will be my fifty-second Thanksgiving Day. All of them (at least as far back as I can remember) have been spent with family (and I am thankful for that privilege for not everyone has family). Tomorrow will be no different.

I want to go on record that this Thanksgiving Day ... and EVERY day ... I am very thankful for my family. My wife, my children, their spouses and spouses-to-be are among my life's greatest blessings. In addition, I thank God regularly for my extended family and my church family as well.

My Thanksgiving wish for you is that you will enjoy the time with your family - rejoicing in the One who in His providence places us in our particular families.

Thanks for stopping by . . .


So Just How Does God View Sin? (Part 2)

A number of years ago when I was pastoring my first church in suburban Philadelphia, I recruited some teens to help me with some clean up of the church property. The facility sat on a 12 acre tract of land of which 1/3 was wooded. Meandering through this wooded section was a small stream. One summer day I had noticed a lot of debris in the stream and thus the need for a "clean up" day. In the process of cleaning out the stream, a middle school student and I stumbled across a dead cat. It was very apparent that this cat had been dead for a quite some time. So fighting waves of nausea, we removed the body of the cat and bagged it as quickly as we could. It was down right disgusting (in fact, I am getting a little queasy just thinking about it now!).

As disgusting as that cat was in our sight back then -- our sin is so much more disgusting in God's sight. As I mentioned in my last posting, God sees sin as a breaking of his law and a missing of the mark he has established for us. Now that would be bad enough ... but there is more!

In addition, God also sees our sin as a defiant rebellion against his authority. A frequent New Testament word (anomia) for sin carries the idea of "lawlessness" (1 John 3:4) or "without law or restraint" (Matt. 24:12). The Hebrew word pesha (often used in the Old Testament for sin) includes the idea of rebellion (Job 34:37; Exodus 23:2; 34:7; Joshua 24:19). The prophet Isaiah captured this idea of sin as rebellion when he wrote, "All we like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his OWN way (vs. God's way)" (53:6). In effect, whenever we sin we are rebelling against God's rightful authority over us.

One final thought about God's view of sin. Sin is a willful twisting or distorting of the law of God. The Hebrew Old Testament word awon which is also used to refer to our sin literally means "to bend, twist, distort" (See Job 33:27; Eccl. 1:15). If you stop to think about this - isn't this what we often do when we sin? We seek to rationalize our sin and so we twist, bend and distort God's law so that we can justify ourselves! Sad, but true!

Bottom line, sin is UGLY! If we are ever going to grow in our faith and become increasingly like Jesus Christ, we MUST learn to see sin as God does! Let me suggest you soon set some time aside to read Psalm 51. These words were written by King David after he was confronted by Nathan the prophet concerning his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. As you read these words, ask God to reveal to you any sin you have not confessed to him. And as you confess any sin, remember the promise of 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Now that is something to be THANKFUL for!
Thanks for stopping by . . .

So Just How Does GOD View Sin? (Part 1)

Did you ever turn the wrong way onto a one way street? It can prove to be quite exhilarating. I know, because I have done it (and more than just once!). When it comes to our view of sin, many of us are heading the wrong way on a one way street. Yesterday, I discussed a few ways that our culture view sin (which in turn often impacts how we Christians look at it). And it is NOT how God sees it!

So just how does GOD view sin? For starters, he sees sin as a breaking of his law. In Romans 2:23 we read, "You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?" The Greek word translated here as "breaking" carries the idea of stepping over a boundary. So, in God's view we are LAW BREAKERS. And that includes every single one of us! (Romans 3:23 "For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.")

Now you might be thinking, "Wait a minute, John. I have never broken God's law. I am a decent person. I am not a law breaker!" That might be true, but God's Word sets a high (in fact an unattainable) standard. Take the 6th commandment (of the Ten) which states, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Granted, most of us have never actually taken another human being's life. But Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:21-22a, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." Who among us can claim that we have NEVER been angry with another person. OK, we have all broken the 6th commandment.

Perhaps you remain unconvinced that you are a law breaker from God's vantage point. Take the next commandment (#7) which states, "You shall not commit adultery." Again you might be thinking, "Whew, that's good. I have never cheated on my spouse! I've got this one down!" But Jesus once more confronts our hearts when he says in Matthew 5:27-28, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Again, who among us can claim that we have never lusted in this way? Now I could go on and on ... but I think (and hope) you get the point. Sin is the breaking of God's law and we are ALL guilty of doing so!

God also sees sin as a failure on our part to conform to HIS standard. In the Romans 3:23 passage I quoted above, the Greek word translated "sin" literally means "a missing of the mark." So bottom line, we sin when we miss the mark God has set for us. And just what is that mark? It is living our lives totally and wholeheartedly for HIM - all for His glory! There is not a soul among us who has lived up to that standard! All of us fall woefully short (read Romans 3:23 again).

So to sum up: sin is a breaking of God's law and a missing of His standard for us. That sure sounds a lot different from the view our culture has on sin. In my next posting, I will continue this discussion on how God views sin.

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Sin According to Humanity

I know I said in my last posting that I would take a look at God's view of sin in my next posting. However, I thought before I go there, I would like to expand just a bit on how people see sin.

As I see things, the concept of sin is down right offensive to most people. Therefore man has taken sin and sought to minimize it to the point that it is such a small and insignificant entity that it does not even show up on the average person's daily radar screen. And our culture has minimized sin (and done so very effectively) in two very pronounced ways:

- We (I am using the pronoun because yes, even we Christ-followers are guilty of handling sin in this manner!) have psychologized sin. By this I mean much of what was once considered sin has now been redefined as a psychological disorder. One example of this is what is labeled "Oppositional Defiance Disorder" (ODD). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV - published in 1994) describes this disorder as "an ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behavior toward authority figures which supposedly goes beyond the bounds of normal childhood behavior." Hmm. I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like a pretty good description of sinful behavior! Now, I could give you many more examples of how we have moved down this path of psychologizing our sin. And in so doing, we no longer need to repent of our sin - rather with sin redefined as a psychological disorder, the cure for sin is now therapy. (Now so you don't misunderstand me, there are some very legitimate psychological disorders. The human mind is a very complex. And these legitimate disorders must be handled with care.)

- In addition to psychologizing sin, we have also glamorized sin. We have in effect taken sin and said, "Sin is not to be avoided. Rather it is to be experienced and enjoyed, for after all, most thoughts of sin are puritan and old-fashioned." Don't agree? Think back with me to the year 1939. That was the year that Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) scandalized movie going audiences when he told Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a d____!" Now come back to the present. The language (and situations) that are tolerated on the screen and on our televisions today make Rhett's remark seem downright silly. And as we have increasingly moved down this path, we again find that we do not need to repent of sin ... I mean, why? Sin is something to be enjoyed and experienced, not repented of ... and there is indeed something very tantalizing about the forbidden!

Sadly, this cultural view of sin has had a negative impact on the Church's view of sin. That is why we must remind ourselves regularly of how God views sin. Stop by for my next posting in which I will take a look at the Bible's view of sin. But until then, consider these words, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

Thanks for stopping by...


Whatever Happened to Sin?

Over thirty years ago, psychiatrist Karl Menninger penned the following words in his book Whatever Became of Sin?: "The very word, 'sin,' which seems to have disappeared, was once a proud word. It was once a strong word, an ominous and serious word. But the word went away. It has almost disappeared - the word, along with the notion. Why? Doesn't anyone sin anymore? Doesn't anyone believe in sin?" What was true then ... is even more the case today. D.A. Carson, a widely recognized N.T. scholar commented a few years ago that the most frustrating part of doing evangelism on university campuses is that most students have no idea of sin. "They know how to sin well enough, but they have no idea of what constitutes sin."

Carson is right. Sin is rampant today. Couples live together prior to marriage and think nothing of it. People spread gossip with out any remorse. Employees call of sick and then head to the beach for the day. I could go on, citing more examples, but I think you see my point. People know how to sin, but they do not know what sin is all about.

Unfortunately, this lack of understanding about sin is having an impact upon the church. Christians today tolerate sin much more than a generation ago. In fact, there are a number of sins that we seem to gloss right over. Sure we know homosexuality is a sin and abortion is a sin - but what about envy? Gossip? Impatience? Aren't these sins as well?

Christian author Jerry Bridges recently came out with a new book which is titled, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We tolerate. In one of his opening chapters, he states: "We see that the entire concept of sin has virtually disappeared from our American culture at large and has been softened, even within many of our churches, to accommodate modern sensibilities. Indeed, strong biblical words for sin have been excised from our vocabulary. People no longer commit adultery; they have an affair. Corporate executives do not steal; they commit fraud."

Right on, Jerry! The Church must get back to some clear teaching on sin - what it is, how it impacts our lives and how to deal with it. God's grace is not a license to sin as some see it (they may say they do not see grace in this way, but their lives say otherwise).

In my next posting, I will talk about God's view of sin. But before I sign off, one more quotation from the Apostle Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21) Praise God!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Coming Next Week . . .

Next week I plan to do a little blogging about a concept that is getting increasingly less exposure in the Church. And this in spite of the fact that this entity is the biggest roadblock in our journey of grace!

So when your life slows down and you are looking for something to do next week, stop by. I will try to be sure it won't be time wasted!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time? Never!

Last night I talked with a couple who collided with a deer last week. Thankfully they were OK. I am not sure about the deer, but I would guess that it did not survive. As for the car, it suffered a fair amount of damage. And it just so happened that it was a brand new car (Murphy's Law 76 - If you hit a deer it will be when your car is less than a year old)!

As they related their story to me, my thoughts went back to my drive last week through the farmlands of north central Indiana. As I started out shortly after 6:00 last Thursday morning, my eyes picked up a deer crossing the road just a few yards in front of me. If I had been just a second or two sooner - I, too would have been able to moan about hitting a deer.

Deer cross roads all the time. And whenever a deer is crossing a road, it does not stop to look both ways for oncoming traffic! As a result, approximately 350,000 deer are killed each year! That is a lot of deer!!! Now is this a case of the deer (or the vehicle) simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time? I guess we could say that ... except for the fact that God is sovereign and has a plan and is working that plan (see Ephesians 1:11). We call this providence. And in God's providence - none of us are EVER in "the wrong place at the wrong time." We can always be assured that God is "working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Look, Grampy, at What I Found!

Kaleb Kidd was out running around chasing squirrels and having a blast. The three year old is all boy. And like many three year old boys, he likes rocks. So when he found a rather unusual looking rock, he pointed it out to his granddad. The "rock" was actually not a rock at all. Rather, Kaleb had stumbled across a tooth from the long extinct woolly mammoth (just like the woolly mammoth, Manfred (a.k.a. "Manny") from the two Ice Age movies). Wow! Can you believe that! You talk about the "find of a lifetime!" And little Kaleb is only three! He will have a hard time topping that!

But there is a find that is much more exciting than even finding a tooth from a long ago mammoth. It is the finding of eternal life. If you look at the top of my blog page, you will find the following words: Our days are like a passing cloud, a puff of steam, a melting snow flake, a fading dream. Given how quickly our days pass - what would our existence be if we did not have eternal life to anticipate, to look forward to??? As each day fades into the rear view mirror of my life, I am grateful to God that I found eternal life in Jesus Christ! How about YOU? Have you found it? If you want to converse with me on just how you can look forward to an eternal existence in heaven - please email me at jsmith@gracewv.org. I'll be glad to help show the way!

Thanks for stopping by,


Back Home .... Yeah!

Last week I travelled over 1500 miles by car and by plane in order to attend board meetings at Grace College and Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. It was a profitable time away (thanks to all who prayed!). But I was one very glad (and tired) soul when I pulled into my driveway at 106 Providence Place late Sunday night.

There is something about home that soothes the tired heart. I thoroughly enjoyed the "welcome home" hugs from my wife and the good night sleep I enjoyed in my own bed. Home is just plain out comfortable! It is my favorite place on the planet!

But you know, as much as I enjoy my earthly home - my heavenly home will be a gazillion times more comfortable, more enjoyable, more exceedingly wonderful! Jesus has been preparing a place for me there in His Father's house (check out the first few verses of John 14). And if you are one of HIS followers, he is also preparing a place for you! So no matter how tired you might become - no matter how much pain and heartache you are going through here - one day, you will be home! And once there, you will never endure a sleepless night again!
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21:3-5)

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Indiana Wants Me!

Well, Indiana wants me ... more specifically, Grace College/Seminary wants me. I was recently elected to the Board of Trustees for Grace and the fall board meetings start tomorrow in the teeming metropolis of Winona Lake, Indiana. So I will be out of the office through Sunday and more than likely not posting to my blog. Please pray for me and the other board members as we meet to discuss the work of Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. I know I cannot contribute as a new trustee (or even should I become a long-term trustee for that matter) without God's help. Thanks so much for praying!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Our Spiritual Growth - A Final Word

Before I leave the topic of spiritual growth, I want to leave you with one other thought. This thought flows out of the following text: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:12-13).

In this text we see two apparently contradictory truths. In v. 12 Paul tells us that we must continue (never stop) to work out our salvation. He isn't telling us to work FOR our salvation. That would contradict what he says elsewhere about salvation being UNEARNED on our part (see Ephesians 2:8-9 for example). What he is saying here is that we need to always be striving to work our salvation OUT into every area of our life - like when you add an ingredient when you are making a cake and you stir the cake batter to make sure the ingredient gets worked throughout the entire batter. OK. Verse 12 tells us we have something to do. But then in v. 13 Paul tells us that it is God who works inside of us to get us to the point where we desire to do his will and then actually purpose to do it! So v. 12 - we do it and in v. 13 God does it. SO is this a contradiction? It may appear to be so - but only in our feeble finite minds. In some mysterious way (that I have yet to figure out ... and if you have, please let me know!) our spiritual growth is BOTH totally dependent upon us AND totally dependent upon God.

So what does this mean for us? It means that if you and I want to grow in our spiritual lives, then we must be BOTH working as if our growth was totally up to us AND praying as if our growth was totally up to God! So - determine today to work and pray! Work and pray! Work and pray . . .

Oh the mystery of godliness is great (see 1 Timothy 3:15)!!!

Thanks for stopping by,


So When Are You Going to Grow Up?

Recently I had a couple of conversations with people (now that is a profound statement - I mean who else do I converse with? The frogs and gold fish in my garden pond? The birds who roost in my back yard birch trees?). Let me start over ... Recently I had a couple of interesting conversations concerning teens growing into adults. These talks basically concluded (based on my observation and the observations of the other PEOPLE in the conversations) that young people are not maturing as fast as once was the case (and by maturing we were not talking about physical maturity - but rather a maturity that results in a degree of responsibility that is able to care for the various demands of life).

Today, as I was doing some Internet research, I stumbled across a book that sets forth this very same premise. The book, titled The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development is Bringing Down Western Civilization (published in August 2007) contains some very interesting and sobering insights. Here are a few:

"More adults, ages eighteen to forty-nine, watch the Cartoon Network than watch CNN. Readers as old as twenty-five are buying "young adult" fiction written expressly for teens. The average video gamester was eighteen in 1990; now he's going on thirty."

"The National Academy of Sciences has, in 2002, redefined adolescence as the period extending from the onset of puberty, around twelve, to age thirty. The MacArthur Foundation has gone farther still, funding a major research project that argues that the "transition to adulthood" doesn't end until age thirty-four." (Now think about this - a 34 year old adolescent? That concept does explain quite a bit!)

Now I am not a sociologist. But this trend of people taking longer to grow up (if they ever do) has some very scary implications for our society. Whereas children need parents who are responsible and mature to help them transition from childhood to adulthood - we now have parents who are still in need of parents themselves! Gulp. Help!

What is true in society is true also in the spiritual arena. Far too many Christ-followers are still in diapers (at worst) or wading through their adolescence (at best). We need to stop messing around and GROW UP! I hope you take some time to reflect on the keys to spiritual growth that I have offered. This is not meant as an exhaustive list by any means ... just some thoughts to help you grow.

Thanks for listening,

Growing Up! Key #4

Across the course of the past dozen years, both of my parents and my father-in law have died of cancer. Not all that suprising, considering that cancer trails only heart disease as the leading cause of death among American adults. It is no wonder that the last word any patient wants to hear from his or her doctor is the dreaded "C" word!

In the spiritual realm, there is something that is just as devastating as cancer is in the physical arena. It is sin. However, sin is not something that is talked about at all in our culture any more. In fact, New Testament scholar D. A. Carson commented that the most frustrating aspect of doing evangelism on university campuses is that most students have no idea of sin. According to Carson, "They know how to sin well enough, but they have no idea of what constitutes sin." And the sad reality is that the idea of sin is also disappearing from many churches as well. In the church's drive to be "seeker sensitive," many have eliminated the S word from their vocabulary. This is tragic for if Christians fail to see sin for what it is (and then deal with it biblically), it is a malignancy just waiting to spread and snuff out life! This brings me to a fourth key to spiritual growth: we must cultivate a CLEAR VIEW OF SIN! By this I mean we must learn to see sin as God does. We must resist the tendency to sugar coat our sin and seek to justify it or rationalize it in any way. When we fail to see sin for what it is - a rebellion against the authority of our Creator and therefore something that deeply offends Him - we will never deal with it biblically. As a result, it will spread its poison throughout our soul and we will never experience healthy spiritual growth.
So ... pray and ask that God would help you to see sin clearly. Do not adopt the attitude of our culture which tends to minimize sin on one hand or even glamorize it on the other. See sin as the offense to God that it really is. Spend a moment reflecting on these words penned by Isaiah the prophet: "For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite'" (57:15). It is only when we have a clear view of sin that we will ever be contrite and lowly in spirit. And when we are contrite and lowly in spirit - we will experience the very presence of God!

Thanks for listening,


Growing up! Key #3

Back in August, my wife and I enjoyed several days hiking through Acadia National Park in Maine. On one of those days, standing on the summit of Cadillac Mountain, I pulled out our binoculars to view the various boats out in the harbor. As I peered into the binocs, instead of seeing the boats "up close and personal" - they appeared even smaller and further away than they appeared to the naked eye. Duh! I was looking through the wrong end of the binocs!

Hmm. I think when it comes to our view of God, we often look at him through the wrong end of the binocs. Instead of seeing God as the almighty King of the Universe, we see a god of pygmy proportions. This brings me to this third key to spiritual growth: A HIGH VIEW OF GOD. Far too many Christians have a view of God that is way too small! And as J. I. Packer writes, if our view of God is that of pygmy proportions, then we "cannot hope to end up as more than pygmy Christians." We live in a world in which man is exalted and God is devalued. Sure, people talk a lot about "god" - but their concept of "god" is far removed from the gloriously majestic portrait of the God of the Bible. And if we are not careful, our view of God becomes far less than it should be! And the result is that we fail to "grow up!"

Let me encourage you to spend a few moments reflecting on this verse from the pen of the prophet Isaiah: "For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" (57:15) Do you possess a high view of God? When you think of him, do you think of him in these terms described by Isaiah? If you really want to grow up - then begin today to cultivate a HIGH VIEW OF GOD!

Thanks for listening,


P.S. - If you want to develop your view of God, I recommend that you read J. I. Packer's book, Knowing God. It is a classic and has really stretched my view of God in the right direction.

Growing Up! Key #2

Yesterday I discussed what I see as the #1 key to spiritual growth: interaction with God's Word (and by interaction I mean gaining knowledge that translates into action). If we are not in the Bible on a regular (read regular as DAILY) basis and then applying what we learn to our lives, we are in effect starving our souls as we keep from them the spiritual nourishment that they need to grow. Just remember this "rule of thumb": little interaction with the Bible, little spiritual growth; much interaction with the Bible, much spiritual growth.

Enough for key #1. Here is key #2: DISCIPLINE. In 1 Timothy 4:7b-8 the Apostle Paul urges Timothy (and by extension, us) to "train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." The Greek word translated "train" is the word from which we get our English words "gymnasium" and "gymnastics." The word carries the idea of strict physical training, such as what athletes go through in order to prepare for an upcoming competition - whatever that might be. So in effect, Paul is urging us to work up a "spiritual sweat" in order to be godly. I think what he is telling us is that if we want to be godly (i.e. grow in our spiritual walk) - then we are going to have to discipline ourselves - because it is only through discipline that godliness is achieved.

Now this is not something we like to hear. We live in a very undisciplined age. We would much rather obtain something the short and easy way. But the problem is that spiritual growth doesn't just happen the short and easy way. It requires a lot of effort (just check out 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 or 2 Peter 1:5-11). So if you really want to grow, then you are going to have to discipline yourself to do those things (like interact with the Bible and the other keys that I have yet to mention). And in case you need a good definition of discipline, here is one I stumbled across: "Discipline is doing what you don't necessarily want to do in order to become what you really want to become." I hope you really want to become like Jesus!

Thanks for stopping by,


Growing Up! Key #1

When I was born over 52 years ago as the second of twin boys, I tipped the scales at just over 5 pounds. This morning I got on my scales at home and saw the numbers .... well that is too personal to share - sorry! But I will say the number staring back at me was a LOT HIGHER a number than the number five! But that's OK - because we are expected to put on weight as we grow (but alas, I've had the tendency to put on a little bit too many pounds!).

This week I am talking about growing in our spiritual lives. I want to share with you several keys to spiritual growth. Here is Key #1: If we are really serious about growing in our faith - then we will get really serious about our Bibles. Neither you nor I nor any follower of Christ can grow very much if we spend little time in God's Word. This is why Peter urges his readers to "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" (1 Peter 2:2). The Scripture is what God will use to equip us for our spiritual journey through this life (pick up your Bible and read Psalm 119 sometime soon - you will see what knowing your Bible will do for you!). Now, even though most of us would agree with what I just said, far too many of us fail to act on this belief. According to several pollsters (e.g. George Gallup and George Barna) it is only a minority of Christians who actually read their Bibles on a regular basis. And when Christians are tested on their basic Bible knowledge, the results are not just sobering - they are frightening!

To wrap this all up - here is a question for you. How much do you want to grow in your relationship with God? If you want to get to know the God of the Word better - then make an intentional effort to get to know the Word of God better! Begin today. Make a plan to get into the Bible DAILY and with God's help, work your plan. Remember that God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). If you need some help on getting this done please feel free to contact me.

Thanks for stopping by,


Babies and Guns (And I Am not Talking "Play!")

Bubba Ludwig can't walk or talk, but he can legally own a gun in the state of Illinois. The 10-month-old baby was issued a firearm owner's identification card after his father paid the required $5 fee and filled out the application, not expecting to actually get one. The application lists Bubba's height at 2 feet 3 inches and displays a scribble on the signature line. All this occurred because Bubba's grandfather had purchased him a 12 gauge shotgun for Bubba to use once he reaches hunting age. Crazy, huh? Yet all perfectly legit as there are no age restrictions on gun ownership in Illinois.

What makes this story so bizarre is that we usually do not associate a 12 gauge shotgun with a ten month-old baby! When we think of babies, we usually think of diapers and pacifiers, car seats and rattles! Real guns (of any gauge or type) are not the usual components of "babyhood!"

Yesterday, I got to hold a baby who is less than a week old. Wow! How small, how fragile. Yet, God willing, this child will grow up to be a strong healthy adult. How do I know this - because that is how life usually works. We don't stay babies forever! What is true in the physical arena, should (note I said should) be true also in the spiritual arena. After trusting Christ (and being born into the family of God - see John 1:12 and John 3) we should experience growth as Christians. HOWEVER, far too often we do not, and the words of Hebrews 5:12-14 apply: "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

Are you doing what needs to be done to grow in your faith? This week, I am going to discuss a number of keys to spiritual growth. I hope you check back.

Thanks for stopping by,

A Thought for Your Weekend

"God is more concerned about our character than our comfort. His goal is not to pamper us physically but to perfect us spiritually." (Paul. W. Powell as quoted by Charles Swindoll, The Strength of Character).
Wow! This is a powerful quote - and especially needed for us Christ-followers here in our culture which places such a high value on personal comfort and convenience!
Thanks for stopping by,

Another "Blog Flashback"

I posted the following post back in July 2005. I thought it was worth repeating.

A Surprise Visitor

It had been 16 years since we had last seen her. She was a fellow home schooler in the days we lived in the Pittsburgh area. Her kids and our kids sometimes played together. Out of the blue, she called yesterday. She had dropped off a son at a camp in Reading, then drove to Willow Street. She called us from the Weis Market. Of course, we invited her over. She could only stay a short time - and we made the most of it. We (mainly Sharon) caught up on her family - she on ours. Sharon and I were saddened to hear that her husband had died two years ago from cancer (at the age of 53). With two of her kids still in high school, things have not been easy for her.

After she left, I was struck at the effort she made to come see us - knowing that the visit would be brief. Obviously, she felt a need to see us, even though I would not have called us the best of friends. But people need people. It's what the New Testament is always talking about in its "one another" passages. How about you? Are you making people a priority in your life? Seeking to reach out to family, yes, but also to co-workers, neighbors, classmates? I am glad Nancy, hurting as she is, made the effort to stop and look us up. I am hoping to learn from her example! After all, Jesus calls us to love people, right? You will find Jesus' call in Matthew 22 - it is the second great commandment!

Thanks for listening,

Pastor John

Talk About Amazing!

This past weekend, the Rubik's Cube championship was held in Budapest Hungary. For many of us this multi-colored cube puzzle has been just that - a real puzzle. I don't know how many times I have tried to line up all the colors - but I do know how many times I was successful (would you believe a big fat zero?). I guess that is why I am amazed at the weekend's results, among which include the following: the fastest time to solve the puzzle: 9.86 seconds. The fastest one handed time: 21.13 seconds (average of five tries). The fastest time to solve the cube using only one's feet: 49.33. And for me the most amazing figure was the best time turned in by a BLINDFOLDED competitor: 1 minute, 7 seconds! And I can't even solve the cube with both eyes open, both hands working, and taking my good old time! In my book, these guys are amazing!

There is no doubt, as I said earlier - for most of us, the Rubik's Cube is a complex puzzle. But so is life. In our fast paced, ever changing, always challenging world - we are hard pressed to make the right call, the right decision. Life can be even more confusing than the Rubik's Cube. That's why I am glad that God gives us HIS wisdom. And the best way to access this wisdom is to reverentially read and apply His Word to our daily life. This won't eliminate the challenges before you - but it will give you much needed help to meet them head on. Life can be confusing - but you don't have to get mired into hopeless attempts to solve its puzzle.

Thanks for listening,


Think about This!

I read a quote this morning that really got me thinking. It is from the pen of C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock). Lewis writes, "Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important."

He is absolutely right on with this. Christianity is either true or it isn't. It can't be both. There is no - "If this works for you ... OK then, for you it's true. I just can't buy into it." The truth (or falsehood) of Christianity exists no matter if I or you or anyone else "buys into it" (or doesn't buy into it). Given this (and I realize that many 'postmoderns' out there will not give this to be true - but that is a posting for another day), then what C.S. Lewis says here is of the utmost significance. Many people would say if asked, that God and their Christian faith is fairly (i.e. "moderately") important to them. But as Lewis points out, this is not an option. Christianity is either totally irrelevant and meaningless (if false) or absolutely the most relevant and significant reality about our existence (if true). There is no "middle ground."

So, as you watch your kids play soccer this weekend or cheer on your favorite football team or spend some time shopping at the mall - think on this question: Does the way I live my life demonstrate my belief that my faith in Jesus Christ is "of infinite importance?"

Thanks for listening,

Words of Comfort in the Midst of Days of Difficulty

Recently I ran across a surgeon whose name was Dr. Payne (pronounced, "PAIN!"). Now how would you feel if you were going into surgery and the surgeon introduced himself to you, "Hello. I am Dr. Payne and I can assure you, that you have nothing to worry about?" Somehow, coming from Dr. Payne - I don't know if I would find much comfort in his words!

We followers of Jesus Christ, however, can find much comfort in the words of the One who has the name that is above all other names (see Philippians 2:10-11). Jesus as Lord of lord and King of kings speaks to us in the midst of our difficulties when he says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). If you are going through some tough times, I trust you will find hope in HIS words!

Thanks for listening,


Staff Day Away

Usually on a Wednesday morning, our Grace Staff gets together for our weekly staff meeting. We meet from about 9:00 to 10:45. The meeting involves a brief devotional thought, lots of discussion on what's happening (or not happening and should be!) and prayer. Today, however, will not be a routine Wednesday. Our staff is going to experience a "Staff Day Away." This is something that we aim to do about twice a year. We select a site that is away from Willow Street where our church facility is located (but not too far away that it takes forever and a day to get there!). Today we are heading to Black Rock Retreat Center. Black Rock is located about 25 minutes south of here. Once there we will spend the day in the Word, in prayer, and in discussion and goal setting. Our schedule calls for us to depart Black Rock about 3 PM to return to the offices (and then prep for our first Family Night of our fall season!).

Now we get away so we can unplug from all those things that can tend to interrupt and distract us from what we want to accomplish - seeking God, bonding together and getting on the same page as we seek to move forward in fulfilling the church's mission. I wish we could do this more than just twice a year. And I wish I would make more of an effort on the personal level to do this for myself. In fact, all of us would benefit greatly by intentionally building into our lives an occasional "Day Away." A day to unplug from the world and get quiet before God. Jesus did this (Matthew 14:23) and he encouraged his disciples to do the same (Mark 6:31). Let me encourage you to look at your calendar and select a day between now and the year's end to take a "Day Away with God." And if you are serious about doing so and would like some direction on how to go about doing this, please get in touch with me. I have some pointers I think might help!

Thanks for listening,


The Dead Sea Is Dying!

The Dead Sea, (a.k.a. the "Sea of Salt"), is a body of water 42 miles long and 11 miles wide and is bounded by Israel to the west and Jordan to the east. It is the lowest point on earth, sitting at 1,378 feet below sea level. With a salinity of 30%, it is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. As such, it is unable to sustain life and therefore the name, "Dead Sea."

Well the Dead Sea is dying. The sea is shrinking at a rate of 3 feet per year. At its current rate of disappearance, it appears that it will be history as early as the year 2050. The primary reason given for this crisis is the diversion of water supplies from the Jordan River, the main source of the Dead Sea's water. Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli authorities are looking at solutions to try to save the Dead Sea (such as piping ocean water in from the Mediterranean Sea to the west - the "Med-Dead" plan - or doing the same from the Red Sea to the south - the "Red-Dead" plan.) Whether either of these plans are implemented or some other plan is devised, action must be taken to avert a major ecological disaster.

All these efforts to keep the Dead Sea from dying, remind me of all the efforts people in our culture undertake to put off the affects of aging and the advance of the inevitable end of our days on this earth. But no matter what we do, unlike what might be successful efforts to save the Dead Sea from dying, our efforts are destined to fail. For all of us are destined to die. But as I mentioned in a blog posting last week, as followers of Jesus - we do not have to fear death! Death is only the door to a paradise of unimaginable dimensions! Do you know Jesus Christ? Have you ever reached out and by faith accepted the free gift of salvation he offers to all who come to Him? If you have any questions about where you might be heading for eternity, please contact me (jsmith@gracewv.org). I'd love to "chat" with you!

Thanks for listening,


A Thought For Your Weekend

This morning as I was doing some devotional reading in one of my favorite books, I came across the following words. Read them ... think about them ... apply them to yourself.

"The point is this: We were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade that treasure for lessor things, everything is disordered. The sun of God's glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. And when it does, all the planets of our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center." (John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, p. 21).

Thanks for listening,


Death WILL Come Calling!

Yesterday, I googled the word, "death" and came up with over 390 million hits! The first site listed was http://www.deathclock.com/. Curious, I went to the site. Once there I found out that by entering some pertinent personal information (like date of birth, gender, Body Mass Index, etc.) the site would calculate my personal date of death. So, with some hesitation, I entered all the data, clicked "check your death clock" and waited. After what seemed like hours (which I am sure were just seconds) my date came up. I sure was relieved to see the date, December 22, 2029. But then I looked at my calendar and realized that is just 22 years away! Gulp. I was hoping for at least another thirty!

Now of course, there is no way this clock can be sure. All it is doing is going on statistics relative to length of life (to prove this, I did all the same data and changed my gender. If I were a woman I could count on living an additional 6 years - all because women on average live longer than men!). But there is one thing that is "dead" certain - all of us will one day die (unless the Lord Jesus returns for us before hand!). Statistics tell us that one out of every one dies! The Bible reveals to us the reason we all will die. In Romans 6:23 we are told that "the wages of sin is death." And since "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23) therefore all of us will die. So even though none of us know when death will come calling -- all of us know death will come. No matter how much we might try to deny or escape or delay this fact -- death will come. For the follower of Jesus, death is not something to fear! Jesus himself has conquered death, freeing us from its grip and its fear (see Hebrews 2:14-15). This is why the Apostle Paul states with such passion in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, "When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.' Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thanks for listening,


Now That's Some Piece of Real Estate!

Not too long ago, my wife and I were taking a walk when we came upon this sign. After reading the sign, I checked with my wife to see if she thought we should make an offer. An acre of real estate for just $1.7 million - sounds like a real deal! However, our credit card's spending limit was not quite enough!

The old saying that with real estate it's all about location, location, location - is definitely true. The acre being advertised for sale in this sign is located on the waterfront in Bar Harbor, Maine. Definitely a prime location! And if I had the financial capacity to do so, I would possibly think seriously about making an offer. It is incredibly beautiful in that part of Maine! (I wonder if they would accept an even million? Hmm...)

Now as valuable as this piece of property is - there is real estate far more valuable. In fact, the real estate I am thinking of is "out of this world!" It is the real estate of heaven (yes, heaven is a real place - just as real, if not more so, than that acre of waterfront property in Bar Harbor!). If you have not read the Bible's most complete description of heaven recently, let me encourage you to read the final two chapters of the Bible (Revelation 21-22). I just read it and WOW! I am more than ready to go there!). But unlike the acre in Bar Harbor, the real estate of heaven is not for sale! It has already been paid for -- by the blood of Jesus Christ. How about YOU? Are YOU trusting in Christ's sacrifice (and his sacrifice alone) to gain your entrance into this wonderful eternal place called Heaven? Jesus is indeed the ONLY way (see John 14:1-6).

Thanks for listening,


Sunday Evening at the Emmys

This past Sunday evening (at least I think it was Sunday), television handed out its annual Emmy awards. One winner, comedienne Kathy Griffin said the following as part of her acceptance speech: "A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus ... This award is my god now."

Bottom line, Griffin spoke blasphemy (now there is a word you don't hear much of any more - but it is a word that occurs some 3 dozen times in the Bible!). According to the Bible, it is Jesus who is holding this entire universe together by the power of HIS word (see Hebrews 1:3; also Acts 17:28 declares that it is in God that "we move an live and have our being"). So Jesus in fact DID have something to do with Griffin winning her award (because the last time I checked, you had to be alive and acting or performing in some way in television to win an Emmy).

In mocking Jesus, Griffin was hoping to be offensive. Really? Yes! After the winning the award, she was asked by a reporter about her speech. Among other things, she told him, "I hope I offended some people. I didn't want to win the Emmy for nothing." Well Griffin succeeded. She offended many (a number of the major media outlets edited out this remark). But she had better worry about the One who bore the greatest offense. Judgment day is coming (Hebrews 9:27). And if she continues down her current path, only death and destruction await her (Proverbs 16:25).

Will you join me in praying today for Kathy Griffin and countless others who need to repent of their sinful rebellion against God and receive the free gift of salvation in Christ?

Thanks for listening,


Flashback to November 2005 Post: A Lesson from The Family Circus

I don’t know about you, but I love the cartoon family of Bill Keane. Perhaps it is because his “keane” sense of humor is just as keen as mine! In a recent cartoon, little Billy and his younger brother are watching squirrels scampering about gathering acorns from the ground. Billy says to his brother, "Look at those squirrels. They’re real busy and they have nuttin’ to do!”

How many of us are real busy doing “nuttin?” We scurry from one activity to the next while accomplishing little if anything for God and His Kingdom. I encourage you to take some time out and evaluate your life. Time is too valuable a resource to waste and Jesus just may come back sooner than any of us think! So let’s seize the moment and live it for Jesus! Before your time of evaluation pray these words: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Carpe Diem (Seize the Day!),


Up, Up and Away - The Price of Oil Hits New High!

It was just last week that the price of oil briefly topped $80 a barrel before slipping back below the $80 mark. I just noticed that today the price of oil futures are once again selling for over $80 a barrel. Now I am not an economist. I never took a college class in economics. Never read a book on economics. I don't claim to understand how our economy works. So when I read that the reason for the rise in the price of oil is on "expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut the benchmark federal funds rate, a move the market expects will support the economy and ensure its thirst for oil and gasoline," I am somewhat perplexed. But then I remember two summers ago when Katrina was forecast to head into the Gulf of Mexico (where off shore oil rigs abound and where oil refineries dot the coast) the price of oil rose on the expectation that some of these oil rigs and refineries could be destroyed or at least put out of action for some time. And then there was the time that it was feared that the United States might use military force to "encourage" Iran to back off its nuclear program. Once again, based on this expectation (and the fact that Iran is a major exporter of world oil), oil prices rose! (I always wonder why it does not seem like oil prices drop when these expectations fail to be realized!??!).

Well, I don't think I will ever fully understand the whole futures market thing (whether oil or natural gas or grain or whatever the commodity). But I do find it fascinating how expectations of the future impact the price of doing business in the present!

As followers of Christ, we have a certain expectation of the future that SHOULD be impacting how we live out our lives right here and right now. The apostle John understood this when he wrote, "And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming" (1 John 2:28). Jesus IS coming back! And he is coming back for us (see John 14:1-3). If this is so (and it is an expectation we SHOULD hold based on the clear teaching of the Bible) - then we should live NOW in the "way of Jesus" so that THEN (when he comes back for us) we will avoid being embarrassed and ashamed. How about YOU? Are you living today, right now with the ever present expectation that one day (maybe even today!) Jesus is coming back for YOU?
Thanks for listening,

A Thot for Your Day from C.S. Lewis and King Solomon

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
"I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has . . . set eternity in their heart." (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

The World Turned Upside Down!

Does the name David W. Coterel sound familiar? If you have read a newspaper this week or watched a television newscast, you probably recognize the name. Coterel, a retired auto worker from Indiana along with his two adult children, claimed one of the largest lottery jackpots in history. Their winning Powerball jackpot totaled a measly $314 million! His comment to reporters after coming forward to claim the prize? "I know the world is going to turn upside down." And for him and his son and daughter, he's probably right. And if he is thinking all that money will bring him lasting happiness, he is ripe for a rude awakening (but that is a topic for another posting!).

There is coming a day, though, when "the world is going to turn upside down." And not just for a few people - but for everyone! 2 Peter 3:10 tells us that "the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." You talk about the world being turned upside down!

Now we don't know just when the day of the Lord will come. But when it does come, it will come suddenly and at a time that we do not expect (just as a thief comes suddenly and unexpectedly). So are YOU ready? If you are not a follower of Jesus, then to get ready you need to come to God on HIS terms: admitting your sin - your rebellion against the God who made you; believing that Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sin; and committing your life to follow Jesus - turning from your sin (the Bible calls this repentance) and choosing to love Jesus. If you have already made this faith commitment, then to be ready you must heed what Peter goes on to say in 1 Peter 3:11, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives." Well? How about it? Have you made a faith commitment to Jesus as your savior? And if you have, are you living a holy and godly life???

Thanks for listening,



Yes, it is hard to believe that the horrific terrorist attacks against the United States occurred six years ago! September 11, 2001 is one of those moments that most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of the Twin Towers being hit (and then the Pentagon ... and then the events involving United Flight 93). I can remember that as those dark events unfolded, suddenly Americans from all walks of life began to get serious about what I would consider life's priorities. But did this change last? Author Ellen Vaughn in her recent book, Time Peace, says this about 9/11 and its aftermath:

"September 11 was a Black Plague moment. In its smoking ruins, life's brevity and priorities suddenly became clear. Americans realized anew the gift of time - wonderful, glorious time. It was a nationwide wake-up call. Many people did wake up. Many stopped their time-crunched rat race for "more" and instead pursued relationships with family, friends, and God. Many prayed hard, Many reassessed their lives and made significant changes for good. Many realized that life is not about excessive acquisition and consumption, but love and service. But like the Black Plague, September 11 itself did not fundamentally change human nature. There was no great cultural shift in American life. Church attendance spiked right after the attacks, but soon dropped back to pre 9/11 levels. Our national conversation today just does not seem to center on life's brevity, its blessings, the priority of family and friends (and she goes on to point out our cultural land marks that show this to be the case - and there are many!)."

I see Vaughn's assessment as being a "bull's eye!" And we who follow Jesus must be careful not to get swept up in our society's drive for "MORE!" This morning I prayed the words of Psalm 37:4 - "When I delight myself in You, you will give me the desires of my heart." Let me encourage you to make Psalm 37:4 a cry of your heart - today and EVERYDAY!

Thanks for listening,


Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning means COFFEE! (frankly, every morning means coffee for me)! So why not pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join m...