PJ

PJ

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Amazing Grace - Amazing Movie!

You need a lift? A bit of inspiration? I suggest you grab a friend and head for the movies. That's what I did on Monday. With my wife Sharon at my side, I viewed with delight the new movie, Amazing Grace. It is the true tale of how a Christian by the name of William Wilberforce successfully led the movement to abolish the British slave trade in the late 1700's and early 1800's.

Wilberforce faced huge opposition in his crusade to outlaw slavery. The trading companies who depended on slave labor to plant, cultivate and harvest their sugar (and other) crops exerted much influence in the British parlimant and on the British crown. But Wilberforce, whose compassion for the slaves drove him tirelessly on their behalf, would not give up. Finally, after years of defeat, Wilberforce's efforts were rewarded when in 1807 Parliment enacted the Slave Trade Act which abolished the slave trade throughout the British Empire. For Wilberforce, this was just the beginning. He fought on until, just three days before his death in 1833, slavery itself was outlawed and slaves throughtout the British Empire were emancipated. Wilberforce's tale is a wonderful story of Christ-like compassion and bull-dog persistence.

Now you might be wondering at this point why the movie's title, Amazing Grace. In 1785 Wilberforce had a spiritual encounter that he described as a conversion experience. As a result he committed his life to the service of Christ. Shortly thereafter, John Newton, the former slave trader turned preacher, became one of Wilberforce's spiritual mentors. Newton is best known as the writer of the hymn, Amazing Grace. At one point in the film, Wilberforce visits Newton. Newton is now well advanced in years and blind from cataracts. In the scene, Newton is preparing his memoirs concerning his slave trading days for Wilberforce to use in his battle to outlaw slavery. During their conversation, Newton says to Wilberforce, "I have two strong memories of my life. One that I was a great sinner and second that Christ is a great Savior!" Wow! I found myself rejoicing with Newton in God's amazing grace!

There's not a lot of movies that I am so quick to recommend. But I think this one is worth your money and your time!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Fading Applause of Oscar Night

Sunday night all the stars met in Hollywood for the Oscars. Maybe you watched. I did not. I had other things I wanted to do. But as I heard about who won what Oscar, I thought about just how fleeting fame can be. Think about it. Can you name who won the Oscar for best actress in 1954? Or how about best actor in 1981? Best director in 1995? Best film in 2001? I must admit that I can't even name who won an Oscar last year!

These movie stars crave an award that brings applause for the moment. However, we as Christ-followers, pursue rewards that will last for eternity! That's right, the applause of heaven never echoes into the silence. The crown we strive for "will last forever." (See 1 Corinthians 9:25). So when you get to the end of your day today, take a look back. What did you attempt for God's Kingdom? It is as we "seek first his (God's) kingdom and his righteousness" (see Matthew 6:33) that we add to to the jewels of our crown. I hope you added a diamond today!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, February 23, 2007

Pinocchio, Proverbs and Truth Telling!


I often see the words “This Day in History” on my home page when I connect to the Internet. But I don’t often notice them. But today when I saw them and noticed them I decided to click. In doing so I discovered that it was on this date in 1940 that Disney released the animated classic film, Pinocchio. The story is all about a wooden puppet who longs to become a real human boy. In his journey toward his dream, a huge flaw is revealed. Pinocchio has a problem telling the truth. And every time he lies, his nose grows!

As I thought of that, I tried to imagine what our world would be like if that really happened. I mean, could you imagine if every time we told a lie, our noses would grow? None of us could probably drive our cars because we would not be able to sit in the driver’s seat – our noses would be too big!!! Jimmy Durante – move aside!

We find it so easy to stretch the truth, distort the truth, or downright contradict the truth. We know it’s wrong (for the most part) so we have developed a lingo that softens the harshness of lying. We say things like “Oh, I was only fibbing.” Or, “That was just a white lie.” But God has a different perspective on lying. Are you ready for this? In Proverbs 12:22 we read that “The LORD detests lying lips.” Hmmm . . . that word “detests” is an awfully strong word. It means “to feel intense hatred for.” So God intensely hates lying – no matter what nice little name we might have for it! What God loves is truth telling! The second half of Proverbs 12:22 reads, “But he delights in men who are truthful.” Let’s determine that today . . . and tomorrow . . . and the next day – we will be men and women who tell the truth, both in word and deed! For when we do this, the God who made us delights in us! Now there’s a thought for you!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hiccups, Hiccups, and More Hiccups!


All of us can recall the times when suddenly, out of nowhere, we get struck by a case of hiccups. Usually they end up disappearing in a matter of a few moments. But then there are other times they prove more persistent. So we go through all the remedies: holding our breath, breathing into a paper bag, putting sugar under our tongue and of course, the one I hated, having someone scare the living daylights out of us!

Jennifer Mee is a 15 year old Floridian who has been in the vise like grip of a case of hiccups since January 23rd. She hiccups about 50 times a minute and the hiccups stop only when she is asleep. She has tried all the remedies (and more) that I mentioned above and none have worked. She has had lots of blood work done, a CT Scan and a MRI. All have come back negative, leaving doctors puzzled and Jennifer in pain. She is now receiving lots of national attention (just the other day her plight was featured on NBC's Today Show). Hopefully, any day now, her hiccups will go away -- just as mysteriously as they arrived!

Hiccups are a part of life. And sometimes, in a figurative sense, we face hiccups in our daily routines. Our computer gives us an error message. Our car stalls out. A friend forgets to return a call. Just as physical hiccups irritate us, so do these figurative hiccups. And if we are not careful, as the hiccups pile up and the irritation builds, we can become angry people. DON'T allow this to happen. Learn to roll with the hiccups that WILL come your way. Life is too short to let the small stuff get to you!


Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How Much Is Enough?

I just read an Internet article that pointed out the fact that 14% of the American population possesses MORE THAN 10 credit cards! More than 10 credit cards! What do you do with more than 10 credit cards? As I thought of the answer to this, it hit me that this is a symptom of a huge problem in our society - the problem of materialism. So in a materialistic society the answer to the question, "How much is enough?" is "Just a little bit more!"

The Bible warns us against loving money. In fact, in 1 Timothy 6:10 we read that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Greed will only lead to misery and unhappiness. But on the flip side, "godliness with CONTENTMENT is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6).

So, instead of chasing after the almighty American dollar - let's pursue godliness with contentment. Only then will we find the satisfaction that lasts!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Who Brews the Best Cup of Java?



According to the March issue of Consumer Reports, the answer to the above question is MacDonalds! As a result of taste tests conducted by a panel of "trained testers," the fast food giant's Premium Roast was tagged by the magazine as “cheapest and best.” It was awarded the magazine's coveted "Best Buy" label. All of this to the dismay of cofffee giants Starbucks, Seattle's Best and Dunkin Donuts!

Now I know what some of you are thinking right now - "Who cares?!!?" You don't care for coffee and don't even have the slightest clue how anyone with active taste buds could like the stuff! I must admit - I was once there. There was a time I hated the coffee! Even during my college years when I worked the graveyard shift (overnight that is!) - I refused to drink coffee to stay awake and alert. But shortly after college, I worked on a church staff and the senior pastor would always pour me a cup of coffee at our weekly staff meetings. I figured since he was the boss, I should drink it! And so I did. That began what has become for me - a love affair with coffee! All this to say - coffee enjoyment is an acquired taste. I enjoy it today, not because I was born with a taste for coffee, but because over the years I drank it and the more I drank it the more I liked it!

Our love affair with God sort of works in a similar way. When we are born into this world, we have no taste for God. In fact, when we enter this world it is with an ingrained hatred for God. We are born rebels. But when we arrive at the point in our lives when we make a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, a taste for God is born in our hearts. And the more we taste Him, the more we desire Him. That is why the Bible urges us to "Taste and see that the LORD is good" (Psalm 34:8). I have been tasting God for years - and it is true. The more I taste of Him, the more I want of him! I hope you are tasting Him on a regular basis, too!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, February 16, 2007

Two Black Eyes!


This weeks' winter storm brought more than just my (and yours?) aching back and stiff muscles. For some travelers it brought one big nightmare. A Jet Blue flight to Aruba departed from the terminal at around 8:30 in the MORNING. After moving from the terminal, it was put in a weather-related hold. The hold lasted all day. Finally, after cancelling the flight, the plane was brought back to a gate (first they had to free the plane from the tarmac as it sat so long that it actually froze in place!) and the passengers deplaned, grumbling and growling as they did (it WAS after 9:00 in the EVENING!). Jet Blue apologized and offered refunds and free tickets in an attempt to placate their angry (and rightly so!!!) customers! Chalk up a black eye for air travel in general and Jet Blue specifically.

Add to that the debacle in our very own state of Pennsylvania. With the snow changing to sleet and freezing rain, Penn Dot thought it best not to remove all the snow from its interstate highways. They figured having the snow down would help with traction. This was a big mistake. All it took was a couple of big rigs to get stuck on hills -- and a massive traffic jam was born. On I-78 it was especially bad. The backup stretched upwards of 50 miles, involving thousands of stranded motorists in vans, cars, buses and trucks! Some were stuck in their vehicles for over a day and a half. The National Guard was called in to deliver supplies (And I guess when "nature called" .... well, I think you can guess!). Ring up another black eye - for Pennsylvania in general and Penn Dot specifically.

So both Jet Blue and Penn Dot got hammered. Both are showing off nice "shiners!" It will take a while for both to recover from this hit to their reputations. And reputations matter! As the Book of Proverbs reminds us, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold" (22:1). I hope your reputation is a good one! But if not - it is never too late to start working on it. Live with integrity and a good rep will follow!


Thanks for listening,


pj

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Yesterday's Snow Removal - Today's Sore Back!

When I crawled out of bed this morning, I noticed some aches and pain in my back and shoulders that were not there 24 hours earlier. I was hurting. I was stiff (and still am). But I was not surprised. Why? Because yesterday, probably like many of you, I spent a couple of hours using my shovel, broom and snow blower clearing my driveway and cleaning off two vehicles. And the white stuff that needed to be moved was HEAVY (thanks to all that sleet that came down!). I sure hope those of you who were hoping for snow are NOW happy! I'm ready for spring myself!

Back to my aches and pains (a real encouraging topic, yes?). As I said earlier, I was not surprised that I am hurting today. All the strenuous activity of yesterday, utilized and stretched a lot of muscles in my body in ways that they are not accustomed to - and today they are letting me know it! (I even recall thinking to myself as I was working away, "John, you will pay for this tomorrow!") You see, yesterday's actions (choices, words, etc.) yield consequences today. That is just the way it is. The Bible puts it this way: "A man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6:7b). So as you go about your TODAY - just remember, there will be consequences TOMORROW.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

High - Low!


This past Sunday evening during our home-based small group meeting, we began our time together with "High-Low." We proceeded to go around the circle and share a "high" and a "low" from our previous week. It resulted in a great time of sharing.

Since yesterday was my day off, my wife and I "celebrated" Valentine's Day. We drove to Towson, MD to have lunch at the Rain Forest Cafe. (If you are looking for an interesting dining experience, I would highly recommend it. Quite unique!) Over lunch during the course of four computer controlled thunderstorms, three howling chimps, two trumpeting elephants and a partridge in a pear tree (OK - the partridge I just threw in!), we decided to look back at the year 2006 via "High-Low." As we talked about the past year's highs, it was easy to smile, laugh and rejoice over the blessings of God. God had been quite good to us - far more than we deserve! But as we talked about some of the "lows" we encountered, we both could feel some of the pain that still lingers.

None of us relish in the lows of life. The highs are much more fun! Yet without life's lows, God would not be able to do His work in our lives. Really? Yes! That's what the Bible clearly teaches. In James 1:2-4 we are told to "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." The Apostle Paul concurs when he writes, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:3-4). So I guess what I am trying to say is this: we need to learn to rejoice in life's lows just as we rejoice in life's highs. For without the lows, God would not be able to complete the good work he has started in us!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, February 9, 2007

For Guys Only: T-Minus 5 Days and Counting!


Did you ever wonder where Valentine's Day comes from? I have - so I got online and googled "Valentine's Day." I found out some interesting things. The holiday is named after two MEN (go figure that one!). Both were Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic love in the high middle ages - a time when courtly (not costly!) love was flourishing. I also learned that according to estimates by the American Greeting Card Association, approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide. This makes Valentine's Day second only to Christmas when it comes to sending greeting cards! One billion - now that is a lot of cards!

Now guys - let me talk to YOU just for the moment. The Greeting Card Association also tells us that of those billion Valentine Day cards - a whopping 85% are purchased by WOMEN! How many times do us guys kinda "forget" our special someone on this day. You say -- "Wait a minute John, what's the big deal about Valentine's Day?" OK. If that is what you are thinking - you either did not have your morning coffee yet and are still half asleep OR you are a little dense! Let me repeat the statistic I mentioned above - a whopping 85% of Valentine Day cards are purchased by WOMEN! That means, that although the day might not be a big deal to YOU, it is a BIG DEAL to HER! So, allow this word to the wise to be sufficient. You have ONLY five days left to go out and purchase a Valentine's Day card for your sweetheart! And it will be worth every minute and every dime you have to spend to do so! Show her that she matters to you -- on Valentine's Day -- and EVERY DAY!


Thanks for listening! (and I hope to see you in the greeting card section of the store - before the 14th!)

pj

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Marriage is healthy!

The research is in! Marriage is healthy! That's right. According to research, married people are healthier and live longer than their single counterparts. OK. Marriage is healthy - but are marriages healthy? In a day when so many marriages end up in divorce court and many that don't easily could - can we say, on the whole, that marriages are healthy? Regrettably no. And that is sad!

Our Creator-God designed marriage to bring joy and fulfillment to humanity. But all too often, it has brought disillusionment and shattered lives instead. Why is this? The answer is often complicated - but I think I can simplify it. It usually comes down to the fact that far too many husbands and far too many wives are SELF-FOCUSED. We look at our spouse and say, "I have needs. Meet my needs!" Since our spouse can not meet our needs in the way we demand, we grow disenchanted and eventually embittered. Given enough time, our marriage will die. Divorce often follows.

What is the solution? We need to replace this SELF-FOCUS with a SPOUSE-FOCUS. By this I mean instead of looking at our husband or wife to meet our needs, let's look at the opportunity we have to meet our spouse's needs! No, we will never do it perfectly. But that doesn't mean we should not try. Marriages will be far healthier (and happier!) if a husband is seeking to serve his wife and a wife is striving to serve her husband. So if you are married - seek to serve your spouse today. Your marriage will be better for it!
Thanks for listening,
pj


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Don't Forget the Poor!

In Acts 10:4, an angel spoke these words to Cornelius, a Roman centurion, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." God took note of not only Cornelius' prayers, but also his gifts to the poor. You see, the poor have a special place in God's merciful heart. Proverbs 19:17 reads, "He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done." All this to say - DON'T FORGET THE POOR! And given that half the world's population (3 billion plus people) live on less than $2.00 per day - there are a lot of poor among us. So many, that it would be easy just to throw our hands up, overwhelmed by the need and do nothing, because after all, what can I do? I am just one person!

But YOU can do a lot more than you think. Let me give you just one suggestion. There is a ministry in central India that is reaching out to little boys in need. These boys are living in extreme poverty. Children's Fellowship of India (CFI) takes these boys (now over 130 of them) and gives them adequate clothing, shelter, food, and health care. But most important of all - the dedicated CFI staff gives these boys love and introduces them to the One who loves them more than anyone else - Jesus Christ!

For just $30 each month, you can provide the funds needed to provide for one of these little guys. And when you do it for one of them - Jesus says you do it for him! (check out Matthew 25:45). Will you consider joining my wife, Sharon and I (and several others here at Grace) in becoming a CFI sponsor? If you are interested, send me an email (jsmith@gracewv.org) to request a sponsor form. I'll be glad to send you one!


Making a difference for one in Naya Akola, India . . .

pj

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Wireless Network Now Connected


"Wireless network now connected." This is a message that flashes across my laptop's screen every time I turn it on. The message lets me know that I am now connected to my home wireless network which will allow me in turn to connect to the Internet. Without this connection, I would be unable to check my email or "surf" the net. With it, I have full access to all that I need - no matter where I might be in my house. Technology is pretty amazing!

This reminds me of our connection with God. Anywhere we go we are networked with God. Whereas my laptop connection with the Internet is via a wireless network - our connection with God is via this spiritual discipline called prayer. Prayer is truly amazing. To think that we can connect with God through prayer at any time and any where - wow! (Just think - at the same time you might be talking to God, there are millions of others talking to him as well AND they are doing so in hundreds of different languages! You talk about a BIG God!) Now prayer is something we all practice. We all realize how vital it is. Yet most of us would admit that we struggle to pray as we should. I do. Therefore, this year I am planning to do something about it. I have decided to read through, study and digest two relatively new books on prayer. They are both well written and thought provoking. If you want to do some growing in this discipline of prayer, you may want to read and digest these books as well. The first is by J.I. Packer and Carol Nystrom. It is titled, Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight. The second is by Philip Yancey. It's title is Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Both of these books have been stretching, challenging and encouraging me to pray more. Thanks, J.I., Carol and Philip!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, February 2, 2007

Snow, Snow, When Are You Falling?


As a junior in high school, I sang in the school choir. The refrain of one of our holiday songs began with the lines, "Snow, snow, when are you falling? Snow, snow, none of your stalling. Winter's here and summer's gone, it's just about that time of the year - for some beautiful snow, snow, snow . . ." (crazy how I remember that so well from over 30 years ago!).

So far this winter, the snow has been in a stalling pattern, which is OK by me! But if we were to be hit with a mountain of snow next week, none of us would be surprised. After all, it's winter. And part of winter's package is snow.

There are many things that come with the package we call "life." One of which is change. Life is always changing. Sometimes the change is slow and gradual - but other times it knocks us over as it speeds by! Change can be good - or bad. But the reality is change is here to stay! (I heard someone once say that everyone loves progress - it's just change that they can't stand!) Aren't you glad that in the midst of all this change that we worship and serve a God who NEVER changes! Yes! "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and FOREVER!" (Hebrews 13:8) So when you need some stability in your ever changing life - remember to anchor your soul in the One who never changes! He will get you through!


Thanks for listening!


pj

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Best-Laid Plans Of Mice And Men Often Go Awry . . .


Plans. We all make them. Seek to implement them. Hope to realize them. But often our plans don’t quite work out the way we hoped. When I was a senior in high school, my plan was to go off to college and major in chemistry and become a chemist. Gladly, that plan did not work out. When Sharon and I got married, our plan was for me to work our first year while she finished college. Then she would work full-time while I attended seminary, after which I would seek a pastorate. At that point we would begin a family. That plan lasted ten months. Our first born, Emily, came along during Sharon’s spring break of her senior year. I could go on … but I think you get my point. No matter how well thought out our plans might be – there are no guarantees that they will come to pass.

Not so with God’s plans! His plans are set in granite. What God purposes WILL happen! No ifs, ands or buts about it! In Psalm 33:11 we read, “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” I don’t know about you – but I find a lot of comfort knowing that God’s plans for this world (and for me!) will one day be a reality! Why? Because when you read the finally chapter of the good Book – you will see that in the end, “Jesus is going to win!” So in the midst of this world’s ongoing turmoil, take heart in that! A better day IS coming!


Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Amazing Grace - Amazing Movie!

You need a lift? A bit of inspiration? I suggest you grab a friend and head for the movies. That's what I did on Monday. With my wife Sharon at my side, I viewed with delight the new movie, Amazing Grace. It is the true tale of how a Christian by the name of William Wilberforce successfully led the movement to abolish the British slave trade in the late 1700's and early 1800's.

Wilberforce faced huge opposition in his crusade to outlaw slavery. The trading companies who depended on slave labor to plant, cultivate and harvest their sugar (and other) crops exerted much influence in the British parlimant and on the British crown. But Wilberforce, whose compassion for the slaves drove him tirelessly on their behalf, would not give up. Finally, after years of defeat, Wilberforce's efforts were rewarded when in 1807 Parliment enacted the Slave Trade Act which abolished the slave trade throughout the British Empire. For Wilberforce, this was just the beginning. He fought on until, just three days before his death in 1833, slavery itself was outlawed and slaves throughtout the British Empire were emancipated. Wilberforce's tale is a wonderful story of Christ-like compassion and bull-dog persistence.

Now you might be wondering at this point why the movie's title, Amazing Grace. In 1785 Wilberforce had a spiritual encounter that he described as a conversion experience. As a result he committed his life to the service of Christ. Shortly thereafter, John Newton, the former slave trader turned preacher, became one of Wilberforce's spiritual mentors. Newton is best known as the writer of the hymn, Amazing Grace. At one point in the film, Wilberforce visits Newton. Newton is now well advanced in years and blind from cataracts. In the scene, Newton is preparing his memoirs concerning his slave trading days for Wilberforce to use in his battle to outlaw slavery. During their conversation, Newton says to Wilberforce, "I have two strong memories of my life. One that I was a great sinner and second that Christ is a great Savior!" Wow! I found myself rejoicing with Newton in God's amazing grace!

There's not a lot of movies that I am so quick to recommend. But I think this one is worth your money and your time!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Fading Applause of Oscar Night

Sunday night all the stars met in Hollywood for the Oscars. Maybe you watched. I did not. I had other things I wanted to do. But as I heard about who won what Oscar, I thought about just how fleeting fame can be. Think about it. Can you name who won the Oscar for best actress in 1954? Or how about best actor in 1981? Best director in 1995? Best film in 2001? I must admit that I can't even name who won an Oscar last year!

These movie stars crave an award that brings applause for the moment. However, we as Christ-followers, pursue rewards that will last for eternity! That's right, the applause of heaven never echoes into the silence. The crown we strive for "will last forever." (See 1 Corinthians 9:25). So when you get to the end of your day today, take a look back. What did you attempt for God's Kingdom? It is as we "seek first his (God's) kingdom and his righteousness" (see Matthew 6:33) that we add to to the jewels of our crown. I hope you added a diamond today!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, February 23, 2007

Pinocchio, Proverbs and Truth Telling!


I often see the words “This Day in History” on my home page when I connect to the Internet. But I don’t often notice them. But today when I saw them and noticed them I decided to click. In doing so I discovered that it was on this date in 1940 that Disney released the animated classic film, Pinocchio. The story is all about a wooden puppet who longs to become a real human boy. In his journey toward his dream, a huge flaw is revealed. Pinocchio has a problem telling the truth. And every time he lies, his nose grows!

As I thought of that, I tried to imagine what our world would be like if that really happened. I mean, could you imagine if every time we told a lie, our noses would grow? None of us could probably drive our cars because we would not be able to sit in the driver’s seat – our noses would be too big!!! Jimmy Durante – move aside!

We find it so easy to stretch the truth, distort the truth, or downright contradict the truth. We know it’s wrong (for the most part) so we have developed a lingo that softens the harshness of lying. We say things like “Oh, I was only fibbing.” Or, “That was just a white lie.” But God has a different perspective on lying. Are you ready for this? In Proverbs 12:22 we read that “The LORD detests lying lips.” Hmmm . . . that word “detests” is an awfully strong word. It means “to feel intense hatred for.” So God intensely hates lying – no matter what nice little name we might have for it! What God loves is truth telling! The second half of Proverbs 12:22 reads, “But he delights in men who are truthful.” Let’s determine that today . . . and tomorrow . . . and the next day – we will be men and women who tell the truth, both in word and deed! For when we do this, the God who made us delights in us! Now there’s a thought for you!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hiccups, Hiccups, and More Hiccups!


All of us can recall the times when suddenly, out of nowhere, we get struck by a case of hiccups. Usually they end up disappearing in a matter of a few moments. But then there are other times they prove more persistent. So we go through all the remedies: holding our breath, breathing into a paper bag, putting sugar under our tongue and of course, the one I hated, having someone scare the living daylights out of us!

Jennifer Mee is a 15 year old Floridian who has been in the vise like grip of a case of hiccups since January 23rd. She hiccups about 50 times a minute and the hiccups stop only when she is asleep. She has tried all the remedies (and more) that I mentioned above and none have worked. She has had lots of blood work done, a CT Scan and a MRI. All have come back negative, leaving doctors puzzled and Jennifer in pain. She is now receiving lots of national attention (just the other day her plight was featured on NBC's Today Show). Hopefully, any day now, her hiccups will go away -- just as mysteriously as they arrived!

Hiccups are a part of life. And sometimes, in a figurative sense, we face hiccups in our daily routines. Our computer gives us an error message. Our car stalls out. A friend forgets to return a call. Just as physical hiccups irritate us, so do these figurative hiccups. And if we are not careful, as the hiccups pile up and the irritation builds, we can become angry people. DON'T allow this to happen. Learn to roll with the hiccups that WILL come your way. Life is too short to let the small stuff get to you!


Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How Much Is Enough?

I just read an Internet article that pointed out the fact that 14% of the American population possesses MORE THAN 10 credit cards! More than 10 credit cards! What do you do with more than 10 credit cards? As I thought of the answer to this, it hit me that this is a symptom of a huge problem in our society - the problem of materialism. So in a materialistic society the answer to the question, "How much is enough?" is "Just a little bit more!"

The Bible warns us against loving money. In fact, in 1 Timothy 6:10 we read that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Greed will only lead to misery and unhappiness. But on the flip side, "godliness with CONTENTMENT is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6).

So, instead of chasing after the almighty American dollar - let's pursue godliness with contentment. Only then will we find the satisfaction that lasts!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Who Brews the Best Cup of Java?



According to the March issue of Consumer Reports, the answer to the above question is MacDonalds! As a result of taste tests conducted by a panel of "trained testers," the fast food giant's Premium Roast was tagged by the magazine as “cheapest and best.” It was awarded the magazine's coveted "Best Buy" label. All of this to the dismay of cofffee giants Starbucks, Seattle's Best and Dunkin Donuts!

Now I know what some of you are thinking right now - "Who cares?!!?" You don't care for coffee and don't even have the slightest clue how anyone with active taste buds could like the stuff! I must admit - I was once there. There was a time I hated the coffee! Even during my college years when I worked the graveyard shift (overnight that is!) - I refused to drink coffee to stay awake and alert. But shortly after college, I worked on a church staff and the senior pastor would always pour me a cup of coffee at our weekly staff meetings. I figured since he was the boss, I should drink it! And so I did. That began what has become for me - a love affair with coffee! All this to say - coffee enjoyment is an acquired taste. I enjoy it today, not because I was born with a taste for coffee, but because over the years I drank it and the more I drank it the more I liked it!

Our love affair with God sort of works in a similar way. When we are born into this world, we have no taste for God. In fact, when we enter this world it is with an ingrained hatred for God. We are born rebels. But when we arrive at the point in our lives when we make a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, a taste for God is born in our hearts. And the more we taste Him, the more we desire Him. That is why the Bible urges us to "Taste and see that the LORD is good" (Psalm 34:8). I have been tasting God for years - and it is true. The more I taste of Him, the more I want of him! I hope you are tasting Him on a regular basis, too!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, February 16, 2007

Two Black Eyes!


This weeks' winter storm brought more than just my (and yours?) aching back and stiff muscles. For some travelers it brought one big nightmare. A Jet Blue flight to Aruba departed from the terminal at around 8:30 in the MORNING. After moving from the terminal, it was put in a weather-related hold. The hold lasted all day. Finally, after cancelling the flight, the plane was brought back to a gate (first they had to free the plane from the tarmac as it sat so long that it actually froze in place!) and the passengers deplaned, grumbling and growling as they did (it WAS after 9:00 in the EVENING!). Jet Blue apologized and offered refunds and free tickets in an attempt to placate their angry (and rightly so!!!) customers! Chalk up a black eye for air travel in general and Jet Blue specifically.

Add to that the debacle in our very own state of Pennsylvania. With the snow changing to sleet and freezing rain, Penn Dot thought it best not to remove all the snow from its interstate highways. They figured having the snow down would help with traction. This was a big mistake. All it took was a couple of big rigs to get stuck on hills -- and a massive traffic jam was born. On I-78 it was especially bad. The backup stretched upwards of 50 miles, involving thousands of stranded motorists in vans, cars, buses and trucks! Some were stuck in their vehicles for over a day and a half. The National Guard was called in to deliver supplies (And I guess when "nature called" .... well, I think you can guess!). Ring up another black eye - for Pennsylvania in general and Penn Dot specifically.

So both Jet Blue and Penn Dot got hammered. Both are showing off nice "shiners!" It will take a while for both to recover from this hit to their reputations. And reputations matter! As the Book of Proverbs reminds us, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold" (22:1). I hope your reputation is a good one! But if not - it is never too late to start working on it. Live with integrity and a good rep will follow!


Thanks for listening,


pj

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Yesterday's Snow Removal - Today's Sore Back!

When I crawled out of bed this morning, I noticed some aches and pain in my back and shoulders that were not there 24 hours earlier. I was hurting. I was stiff (and still am). But I was not surprised. Why? Because yesterday, probably like many of you, I spent a couple of hours using my shovel, broom and snow blower clearing my driveway and cleaning off two vehicles. And the white stuff that needed to be moved was HEAVY (thanks to all that sleet that came down!). I sure hope those of you who were hoping for snow are NOW happy! I'm ready for spring myself!

Back to my aches and pains (a real encouraging topic, yes?). As I said earlier, I was not surprised that I am hurting today. All the strenuous activity of yesterday, utilized and stretched a lot of muscles in my body in ways that they are not accustomed to - and today they are letting me know it! (I even recall thinking to myself as I was working away, "John, you will pay for this tomorrow!") You see, yesterday's actions (choices, words, etc.) yield consequences today. That is just the way it is. The Bible puts it this way: "A man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6:7b). So as you go about your TODAY - just remember, there will be consequences TOMORROW.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

High - Low!


This past Sunday evening during our home-based small group meeting, we began our time together with "High-Low." We proceeded to go around the circle and share a "high" and a "low" from our previous week. It resulted in a great time of sharing.

Since yesterday was my day off, my wife and I "celebrated" Valentine's Day. We drove to Towson, MD to have lunch at the Rain Forest Cafe. (If you are looking for an interesting dining experience, I would highly recommend it. Quite unique!) Over lunch during the course of four computer controlled thunderstorms, three howling chimps, two trumpeting elephants and a partridge in a pear tree (OK - the partridge I just threw in!), we decided to look back at the year 2006 via "High-Low." As we talked about the past year's highs, it was easy to smile, laugh and rejoice over the blessings of God. God had been quite good to us - far more than we deserve! But as we talked about some of the "lows" we encountered, we both could feel some of the pain that still lingers.

None of us relish in the lows of life. The highs are much more fun! Yet without life's lows, God would not be able to do His work in our lives. Really? Yes! That's what the Bible clearly teaches. In James 1:2-4 we are told to "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." The Apostle Paul concurs when he writes, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:3-4). So I guess what I am trying to say is this: we need to learn to rejoice in life's lows just as we rejoice in life's highs. For without the lows, God would not be able to complete the good work he has started in us!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, February 9, 2007

For Guys Only: T-Minus 5 Days and Counting!


Did you ever wonder where Valentine's Day comes from? I have - so I got online and googled "Valentine's Day." I found out some interesting things. The holiday is named after two MEN (go figure that one!). Both were Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic love in the high middle ages - a time when courtly (not costly!) love was flourishing. I also learned that according to estimates by the American Greeting Card Association, approximately one billion valentines are sent each year worldwide. This makes Valentine's Day second only to Christmas when it comes to sending greeting cards! One billion - now that is a lot of cards!

Now guys - let me talk to YOU just for the moment. The Greeting Card Association also tells us that of those billion Valentine Day cards - a whopping 85% are purchased by WOMEN! How many times do us guys kinda "forget" our special someone on this day. You say -- "Wait a minute John, what's the big deal about Valentine's Day?" OK. If that is what you are thinking - you either did not have your morning coffee yet and are still half asleep OR you are a little dense! Let me repeat the statistic I mentioned above - a whopping 85% of Valentine Day cards are purchased by WOMEN! That means, that although the day might not be a big deal to YOU, it is a BIG DEAL to HER! So, allow this word to the wise to be sufficient. You have ONLY five days left to go out and purchase a Valentine's Day card for your sweetheart! And it will be worth every minute and every dime you have to spend to do so! Show her that she matters to you -- on Valentine's Day -- and EVERY DAY!


Thanks for listening! (and I hope to see you in the greeting card section of the store - before the 14th!)

pj

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Marriage is healthy!

The research is in! Marriage is healthy! That's right. According to research, married people are healthier and live longer than their single counterparts. OK. Marriage is healthy - but are marriages healthy? In a day when so many marriages end up in divorce court and many that don't easily could - can we say, on the whole, that marriages are healthy? Regrettably no. And that is sad!

Our Creator-God designed marriage to bring joy and fulfillment to humanity. But all too often, it has brought disillusionment and shattered lives instead. Why is this? The answer is often complicated - but I think I can simplify it. It usually comes down to the fact that far too many husbands and far too many wives are SELF-FOCUSED. We look at our spouse and say, "I have needs. Meet my needs!" Since our spouse can not meet our needs in the way we demand, we grow disenchanted and eventually embittered. Given enough time, our marriage will die. Divorce often follows.

What is the solution? We need to replace this SELF-FOCUS with a SPOUSE-FOCUS. By this I mean instead of looking at our husband or wife to meet our needs, let's look at the opportunity we have to meet our spouse's needs! No, we will never do it perfectly. But that doesn't mean we should not try. Marriages will be far healthier (and happier!) if a husband is seeking to serve his wife and a wife is striving to serve her husband. So if you are married - seek to serve your spouse today. Your marriage will be better for it!
Thanks for listening,
pj


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Don't Forget the Poor!

In Acts 10:4, an angel spoke these words to Cornelius, a Roman centurion, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." God took note of not only Cornelius' prayers, but also his gifts to the poor. You see, the poor have a special place in God's merciful heart. Proverbs 19:17 reads, "He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done." All this to say - DON'T FORGET THE POOR! And given that half the world's population (3 billion plus people) live on less than $2.00 per day - there are a lot of poor among us. So many, that it would be easy just to throw our hands up, overwhelmed by the need and do nothing, because after all, what can I do? I am just one person!

But YOU can do a lot more than you think. Let me give you just one suggestion. There is a ministry in central India that is reaching out to little boys in need. These boys are living in extreme poverty. Children's Fellowship of India (CFI) takes these boys (now over 130 of them) and gives them adequate clothing, shelter, food, and health care. But most important of all - the dedicated CFI staff gives these boys love and introduces them to the One who loves them more than anyone else - Jesus Christ!

For just $30 each month, you can provide the funds needed to provide for one of these little guys. And when you do it for one of them - Jesus says you do it for him! (check out Matthew 25:45). Will you consider joining my wife, Sharon and I (and several others here at Grace) in becoming a CFI sponsor? If you are interested, send me an email (jsmith@gracewv.org) to request a sponsor form. I'll be glad to send you one!


Making a difference for one in Naya Akola, India . . .

pj

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Wireless Network Now Connected


"Wireless network now connected." This is a message that flashes across my laptop's screen every time I turn it on. The message lets me know that I am now connected to my home wireless network which will allow me in turn to connect to the Internet. Without this connection, I would be unable to check my email or "surf" the net. With it, I have full access to all that I need - no matter where I might be in my house. Technology is pretty amazing!

This reminds me of our connection with God. Anywhere we go we are networked with God. Whereas my laptop connection with the Internet is via a wireless network - our connection with God is via this spiritual discipline called prayer. Prayer is truly amazing. To think that we can connect with God through prayer at any time and any where - wow! (Just think - at the same time you might be talking to God, there are millions of others talking to him as well AND they are doing so in hundreds of different languages! You talk about a BIG God!) Now prayer is something we all practice. We all realize how vital it is. Yet most of us would admit that we struggle to pray as we should. I do. Therefore, this year I am planning to do something about it. I have decided to read through, study and digest two relatively new books on prayer. They are both well written and thought provoking. If you want to do some growing in this discipline of prayer, you may want to read and digest these books as well. The first is by J.I. Packer and Carol Nystrom. It is titled, Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight. The second is by Philip Yancey. It's title is Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Both of these books have been stretching, challenging and encouraging me to pray more. Thanks, J.I., Carol and Philip!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, February 2, 2007

Snow, Snow, When Are You Falling?


As a junior in high school, I sang in the school choir. The refrain of one of our holiday songs began with the lines, "Snow, snow, when are you falling? Snow, snow, none of your stalling. Winter's here and summer's gone, it's just about that time of the year - for some beautiful snow, snow, snow . . ." (crazy how I remember that so well from over 30 years ago!).

So far this winter, the snow has been in a stalling pattern, which is OK by me! But if we were to be hit with a mountain of snow next week, none of us would be surprised. After all, it's winter. And part of winter's package is snow.

There are many things that come with the package we call "life." One of which is change. Life is always changing. Sometimes the change is slow and gradual - but other times it knocks us over as it speeds by! Change can be good - or bad. But the reality is change is here to stay! (I heard someone once say that everyone loves progress - it's just change that they can't stand!) Aren't you glad that in the midst of all this change that we worship and serve a God who NEVER changes! Yes! "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and FOREVER!" (Hebrews 13:8) So when you need some stability in your ever changing life - remember to anchor your soul in the One who never changes! He will get you through!


Thanks for listening!


pj

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Best-Laid Plans Of Mice And Men Often Go Awry . . .


Plans. We all make them. Seek to implement them. Hope to realize them. But often our plans don’t quite work out the way we hoped. When I was a senior in high school, my plan was to go off to college and major in chemistry and become a chemist. Gladly, that plan did not work out. When Sharon and I got married, our plan was for me to work our first year while she finished college. Then she would work full-time while I attended seminary, after which I would seek a pastorate. At that point we would begin a family. That plan lasted ten months. Our first born, Emily, came along during Sharon’s spring break of her senior year. I could go on … but I think you get my point. No matter how well thought out our plans might be – there are no guarantees that they will come to pass.

Not so with God’s plans! His plans are set in granite. What God purposes WILL happen! No ifs, ands or buts about it! In Psalm 33:11 we read, “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” I don’t know about you – but I find a lot of comfort knowing that God’s plans for this world (and for me!) will one day be a reality! Why? Because when you read the finally chapter of the good Book – you will see that in the end, “Jesus is going to win!” So in the midst of this world’s ongoing turmoil, take heart in that! A better day IS coming!


Thanks for listening,

pj

Are You Preparing for Eternity?

Our journey on earth is but a breath ... a heart beat when compared to the expanse of Eternity. We all must remember that how we live live in the here and now will impact our experience in the then and there.

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.