Living Life Naturally or Supernaturally?

The other day as I sat at my desk, I took a glance out of my office window. I spotted two cardinals, one a bright red male, the other a duller reddish brown female. They were gathering materials to build a nest. Hmm. Where did they learn to do this? Did they take a course in birdie school, "Nest-Building 101?" Did they become apprentice nest-builders and learn from a master? Or perhaps they took out a do-it-your self book from the local bird library. Or maybe they were just "winging" it!
The reality is that these cardinals were doing what their instincts were telling them to do. It is as natural for cardinals to build nests as it is for you and me to breathe. Just as we don't really have to "learn" how to breath and think about doing it - neither do cardinals have to learn how to build nests and really think about doing it! Every spring it just comes naturally for cardinals (and other birds) to go into the nest-building mode.
Unfortunately, what comes naturally to human beings are things like selfishness, lust, anger, bitterness, pride, laziness, etc. So as Christ-followers we must seek to live out our lives - not by doing what comes naturally, but rather by doing what comes supernaturally. This will take a lot of effort on our part, and also dependence upon God's grace and God's Spirit.
Let me encourage you to get more intentional about your life. Seek to live a supernatural life by knowing the Word of God, obeying the Word of God and asking God to fill you with HIS Spirit.
Thanks for listening,


Ancient Help for Our Present Journey

As I concluded my reading (finally!) of Phil Yancey's recent book on prayer, I read a prayer that Yancey included in his final chapter. The prayer is quite old, having been written about 500 A.D. The writer was a monk by the name of Benedict. History knows him as Benedict of Nursia (Nursia was a small village northeast of Rome). Benedict is considered by many to be the father of western Christian monasticism.

When I read the words of his prayer the other day, I thought, "Here's a prayer that needs to be prayed!" So I typed it out on my computer, printed it and now keep it on my desk. It is powerful! So I reprint it here for you in hopes that you will through these ancient words find help for your journey of grace!

O Gracious and Holy Father

Benedict of Nursia

O gracious and holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive Thee,
intelligence to understand Thee,
diligence to seek Thee,
patience to wait for Thee,
eyes to behold Thee,
a heart to meditate on Thee,
and a life to proclaim Thee;
through the power of the Spirit
of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thanks for listening,

It's That Time of Year!

Today I had to place two phone calls. They both involved making an appointment for an annual inspection. The first was to my mechanic - the second to my doctor. Yep. My PT is due for inspection -- and my body is due for its inspection (a.k.a. "annual physical").

Now why must we go through these ordeals? Fitting them into your schedule and budget can prove to be a challenge. Yet they must be done. For starters, Penn Dot mandates an annual auto inspection. Therefore failure to have your car inspected is to break the law and risk a hefty fine. But even if inspection were not mandated, it would not be a bad idea to have your car checked out on an annual basis. You see, cars tend to wear out. And if left unchecked, some important auto component could wear out and ultimately cause your car to break down or worse yet, cause an accident. And what is true of our cars is also true of our bodies (and the older I get the more I know this to be true!). Our bodies wear out. So by visiting our doctor once a year for a check up, he or she can help us stay on the path to good health. And that is important, seeing we only get one body to use in this life!

So my question for you to ponder this fine spring day (the weather outside as I write these words is a sunny 67 degrees!) is this - are you being a good steward of the one (and ONLY one body) that the Creator will ever give you (at least in this life - there is a new body coming in the next, but that is a topic for a future blog posting!)? To be a good steward of your body means, among other things, eating healthy, regularly exercising and getting enough sleep. Remember- you body is not really yours! It like your very life - belongs to God! That's why Paul writes, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Thanks for listening,


God, the Master Craftsman Is Still Working on His Masterpieces!

Just before and during my engagement to my wife, Sharon, I was working a part-time job for a jeweler on Samson Street in Philadelphia. The block of Samson Street where my boss had his jewelry shop was known as "Jeweler's Row." So of course, when it came time to buy my wife's diamond and then our wedding bands, I bought them from my boss. The great discount he gave me was a real help considering I was a poor struggling college student at the time. I just wish the greatness of his craftsmanship would have matched the generosity of his discount!

Approximately a year and a half into our marriage (or about 3 years since I had given my wife her diamond ring), we spent an afternoon at a state park in Bucks County, PA. Upon returning to our apartment, my wife discovered that the diamond in her engagement ring was no longer in its setting. Two hours later, after searching high and low (and EVERYWHERE in between), we came to the sad (very sad) and gut-wrenching conclusion that it was lost forever! And time proved that we were right! OK. You can't take a diamond to heaven with you! But then, a few years later, Sharon's wedding band cracked ... and eventually broke in two! To have said I was a bit upset with my former jeweler employer would have been a gross understatement! When I went to look him up - his store was sporting a new name. Seems he sold out (I guess I wasn't his only dissatisfied customer!). On our limited budget, Sharon had to content herself with wearing an inexpensive band that I picked up for her.

In a little over a month, Sharon and I will celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary. I figured it was about time to get her a proper wedding band. So last week, I took Sharon out shopping. After stopping at a half dozen or so jewelry stores, her eyes spotted THE ring! And yesterday, we picked it up! She is delighted. I am delighted that she is delighted!

As I reminisce about this, I am reminded of God. Unlike my old jeweler boss, God isn't shoddy in his work. He is the master craftsman and we are his workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). God is busy shaping and honing us into the image of his Son (Romans 8:28-29). Aren't you glad the work that he began in you he will FINISH (Philippians 1:6)! And when God finishes with you - oh, what a masterpiece you will be!

Thanks for listening,


Airbus' BIG Project

Did you see this week on the news that Airbus debuted the world's largest passenger plane in the United States on Monday when two of its A380 superjumbos landed in New York and Los Angeles? These planes are down right HUGE! Their wing span is almost the size of a football field and in its standard double-decker configuration, it can seat 555 passengers. Because of its big size, U.S. airports are spending millions of dollars to accommodate the plane (New York's JFK and Los Angeles' LAX have spent $300 million between them to widen runaways and to provide special docking equipment for the jumbojet).

The price tag for the A380 is also BIG - $319 million to be exact! And Airbus has spent well over $10 billion in the development of the plane. At the present time, 14 airlines have orders for the plane, none of which are U.S. carriers. The plane is already two years behind schedule, and the delays has led to billions of dollars in losses for the company - not to mention a huge amount of corporate turmoil. So did Airbus "bite off more than it could chew?" Only time will reveal if the project undertaken by Airbus was simply too big!
The Church of Jesus has a BIG project going, too. It's call the Great Commission. Jesus, Lord of the Church has given us the task to disciple the nations. In fact, it is a far bigger task than the development and manufacture of the Airbus 380. But unlike Airbus, we have supernatural resources available to us as we seek to fulfill our mission. When Jesus gave us his followers this task of discipling the nations, this is how he put it, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in£ the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20). The One who has been given all authority is the same one who has promised to accompany us as we seek to fulfill this HUGE project of discipling the nations. How can we possibly fail with the God of all at our side?

Thanks for listening,


Who Done It?

Did you hear about the Hillary Clinton bashing video making its rounds through cyberspace? Someone took the classic 1984 ad introducing the Apple McIntosh computer and turned it into a harsh piece of anti-Hillary propaganda (while promoting democratic presidential hopeful Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as the "good guy"). Just who is responsible? Know one seems to know - and no one is claiming responsibility. The one lone piece of info on the mysterious producer/distributor of the video is that his (her?) anonymous screen name is ParkRidge47. That is all we know. Whether more info about the maker of this video will be revealed is hard to say. His (or her!) identity may just remain a mystery.

But that is not the case concerning the maker of this wonderfully complex universe in which we live. God has revealed himself to us. He has done so in his Word, in his Son and in his creation. Sure there will always remain an element mystery as to his being ("Oh the mystery of godliness is great . . ." - 1 Timothy 3:16). After all, God is infinite (without limit; unlimitable) whereas we are finite (limited; very limited in regards to time, space, knowledge, etc.). But there is NO mystery concerning the existence of the God who has made all. The apostle Paul states in Romans 1:20 that "since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." I for one am very glad that our maker's identity is not a mystery! How about you?

Thanks for listening,


What Did You Say?

This morning as I stood in front of our bathroom mirror, fervently brushing the plaque off my teeth, my wife said something to me from another room. I could hear her speaking to me but given what I was doing (I must confess I make a lot of noise when I brush my teeth!!) - I could not hear her words. There was just too much interference.

Just as my wife wanted to talk to me this morning, so our God wants to talk to us as well. He has given us a book which contains HIS word to us. But far too often, there is way too much "busyness" going on in our lives that interferes with the process. So although God has spoken and continues to speak, we don't hear him! All because of the noisy interference going on in our lives.
How about you? What is interfering with you hearing God's voice speak to you? What is keeping you from His Word?

Thanks for listening,


Just in the Nick of Time!

In my blog posting of this past Friday, I mentioned that I was struggling with a decision as to when to drive to America's Keswick (in Whiting, NJ). If you recall, we were in the midst of a last winter snow and sleet storm that day. I finally decided to wait until Saturday morning to travel. I left right after the township plowed out our cul de sac. It was just about 6:30 AM that I pulled out (or should I say slid out) of my driveway. The 117 mile trip took me about 3 1/4 hours across road surfaces that ranged from totally snow packed (and unplowed) to bare macadam. It was quite the trip. I was very grateful for a safe arrival (especially after passing several accidents) on the way. And I was glad to arrive fifteen minutes prior to my first teaching session - just in the nick of time.

Did you ever wonder where that expression, "just in the nick of time" comes from? According to the web site,, the expression comes from the 1500's. At that time a nick was a precise marker. And so the expression arose that to do something "in the nick" was to do it at the precise time it needed to be done. The words "of time" were added later to clarify the meaning. Neat, eh? Well, even if that doesn't make your day - just remember that in our busy world of deadline after deadline - we must make sure that we build some "margin" into our lives. This gives us some extra time to make sure that we can accomplish all that is on our schedule to accomplish - without killing ourselves in the process. So when I left for Keswick, I left just enough margin to get there "in the nick of time." (My plan was to allow for more margin - but that plan was scuttled as I had to wait for the plows.) So take a look at your busy schedule. It just may be that you don't have enough margin built in. Consistently arriving at places or finishing projects "just in the nick of time" gets old real fast!

Thanks for listening,


The Fickle Weather of March

Yep. Two days ago I was enjoying the warm gentle breezes of a sunny March day blowing through my hair (OK - maybe blowing against my scalp would be more accurate!). Today, I awoke to the sound of sleet tapping my bedroom windows. And as I write this blog, I am trying to decide when to make my trip to America's Keswik (located in Whiting, NJ). Should I go early this afternoon and try to beat the bulk of the bad weather? Or should I wait until first light tomorrow and hope that the bad weather is gone? Who would have thought a couple of days ago that I would be faced with such a dilemma today?!!? But that is the weather of March. Warm one day. Bitterly cold the next. And so any snow that does fall today, will most likely be gone a few days down the road. Yea!! You go snow!

We as people can sometimes be fickle as well. We make promises, but we don't keep them. One day we are UP the next we are DOWN. Today we are very kind to others. Tomorrow we may be down right mean and self-centered. I know - because far-too-often this is me that I am describing.

Today, let's come to a decision. A decision to stop being fickle! To attempt to live each day under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Loving God with all that we are and loving others as we love ourselves. Sure. We will blow it from time to time. The self-centered flesh that still resides within us is powerful (as is the Enemy of our souls who is always on the prowl seeking to tempt and deceive us). But God graciously forgives us of each fickle moment and then continues to help us to put fickleness forever behind us. So let's determine to kiss fickleness goodbye! And let's start today!

Thanks for listening,


The Paradox of Answered and Unanswered Prayer

All of us who have been following Christ for any amount of time have experienced answered prayer. Not suprising. After all, there are NUMEROUS promises in the Bible that God answers prayer! But we have also prayed many prayers that have remained unanswered. Why so? If Jesus tells us to ask anything in his name and it will be granted to us - then why when I ask for something in his name - why don't I always get what I ask for? Sometimes, the answer to this might be clear. It may be because I ask selfishly. Or I might ask for something that is clearly outside of God's will and plan for me. But what about all those other times that I ask for things that would seem to be in accord with God's will? Hmm. . .

This year as part of my spiritual journey, I decided to concentrate on this spiritual discipline of prayer. One way I am doing this is by reading through a couple of key books on prayer, one of which is Philip Yancey's recently published book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? In his book, he deals with this "problem" of unanswered prayer. His conclusion is worth noting. He writes, "The only final solution to unanswered prayer is Paul's explanation to to the Corinthians: 'For now we see through a glass darkly; then but face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.' No human being, no matter how wise or how spiritual, can interpret the ways of God, explain why one miracle and not another, why an apparent intervention her and not there. Along with the apostle Paul, we can only wait, and trust." (Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? - p. 247)

Will you join me as together we pray - and then wait and trust?

Thanks for listening,


Fifty One Years Ago Yesterday . . .

It was 51 years ago yesterday that my parents were UNEXPECTEDLY doubly blessed. Yep. March 12, 1956. That was the day that my brother Jim entered the Smith family, followed 8 1/2 minutes later by yours truly. Now I said my parents were unexpectedly doubly blessed. You see, my parents had NO IDEA they were going to come home from the hospital with two babies! But that is exactly what happened. So two older sisters who were hoping for a baby brother got two (and it wasn't a buy one get one special, either)!

Birthdays are a usually a lot of fun. For me, it meant getting together with family. I had breakfast with my sister and her daughter (whom we did not get to see over the holidays due to our ministry trip to Europe) and supper with my immediate family. It was a wonderful day!

Birthdays can also be a good time of year to evaluate where we are in life. None of us do this enough. The Greek philosopher Plato once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. A great insight on his part. Let me suggest you do something the next time your birthday rolls around (and given enough time it surely will!). Set aside some time the week of your birthday and do a self evaluation. If you want a tool that will help, go to the following web address: There you will find a list of questions to ask yourself about yourself. A great exercise that will help you to move forward in your journey of grace! I plan to work through this list later this week. I hope I am better for it.

Thanks for listening,

An older (and I trust, wiser) pj

Wake Up!

In November of 2000, Christa Lilly suffered a stroke and heart attack. She's been in a coma ever since, except for a few brief moments when she had awakened. That changed this week. On Sunday, Christa suddenly awoke. For three days she was awake, talking with family members and the media and eating cake. But on Wednesday she suddenly and unexplainably slipped back into her coma. Doctors are baffled. They are unable to pinpoint the cause of her sudden wakefulness or relapse.

As Christ followers, it is easy for us to slip into spiritual "comas." The Apostle Paul understood this. Therefore he states that "the hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). Let's follow his advice. The days are dark. Our time is short. Opportunities abound. Let's not sleep through the day. Rather, let us wake up and make the most of our time here on earth. All by God's grace and for HIS glory!

Thanks for listening,


An Information Explosion!

We are in the midst of an information explosion! Last year alone, there was so much digitial information (emails, blogs, cellular phone calls, TV signals and photos) generated that if you were to take and publish it all, the stack of books would reach from earth to the sun. That is a LOT of information!

Now here I am adding to this information glut with this blog. Should I be doing so? Isn't there enough info out there without my adding to it? Hmm. Good questions. I surely don't want to add to anyone's busy schedule by making anyone feel that they just have to read what I write. But at the same time, if someone wants to stop by for a quick visit with me (via this blog) - then I want to give them some encouragement to live out their faith or something to mentally "chew on" that - at the end of the day - will help them in their journey of grace. So I hope in some small way I accomplish that. And if it is only for one or two people on any given day - for me it is information well worth adding to the growing digital info pile!

Thanks for listening,



For the second time this winter, snow has forced us to cancel our Wednesday evening activities here at the church. And of course, it would happen after I made a big deal this past Sunday about it being the first Sunday of "Meteorological" Spring. But it does snow in the month of March (do you remember the March 13, 1993 superstorm that dropped over 20 inches of snow and effectively shut down the region for several days?). So we should not be suprised that it snowed today! I just am hoping it's the last of the season!

As I sat at my desk this morning and stared out at the snow blanketing the ground, I was reminded of the words of Isaiah 1:18, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Wow! To think that our sins have been cancelled and our souls washed clean - so that when God looks at us now, he sees us as being as white (pure) as snow! Thanks be to Jesus!!!

Thanks for listening,

Now That's Some Burger!

Recently, Dennys Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, PA added a new burger to their menu. It is called the Beer Barrel Main Event Charity Burger. The burger features an 80-pound ground beef patty and a pound each of lettuce, ketchup, relish, mustard and mayonnaise. In addition, the patty is topped off with 160 slices of cheese, up to five onions and 12 tomatoes. Now that is some burger (not to mention the 100,000 plus calories and the $379 price tag)! The restaurant is planning to submit the necessary paperwork to get the burger listed in the Guinness Book of World Records (I wonder if the burger comes with Rolaids or a free 30 day pass to the local gym?)

Now why would a restaurant offer such a monstrosity??? Hmm . . . probably for the publicity (and they are getting plenty - stories about the burger can be found on such web sites as and - to name a few)! Now there is nothing wrong about a restaurant seeking publicity. For restaurants - that is the name of the game (but only if it is good publicity - just ask the corporation that owns the rat-infested fast food restaurants in New York City - they would rather do without the publicity they have received!). Restaurants want all the good publicity they can get - it tends to be great for business!

We as Christ-followers have something to get excited about - or should I say SOMEONE to get excited about! Jesus has done so much for us. Let's publicize Him to others! If you want to read about someone who was told to do just this, read the account of the man healed by Jesus of demon possession as recorded in Mark 5:1-20. Note especially verses 19-20. So today, share with someone about how God has had mercy on YOU!

Thanks for listening,


The "Hiccup Girl" No Mo! (a follow up to my Feb. 22 blog)

Finally, after five weeks of enduring an ongoing case of the hiccups, Jennifer Mee is now hiccup-free! After all the good old remidies said to stop the hiccups failed, and after numerous trips to a variety of specialists (including an infectious disease specialist, a neurologist, a chiropractor, a hypnotist and an acupuncturist - all of whom were left mystified as to how to help Jennifer) - the hiccups went away as mysteriously as they had arrived. It was just after waking up yesterday morning that Jennifer noticed that she was not hiccupping any more! Finally!!!

Trials we face in life are a lot like that. They come - often unexpected and unexplained. They tend to outstay their "welcome" (as if we ever gave them one!). And the vast majority of trials will eventually go away. Now, if you are like me, you don't like trials. Because it doesn't matter what shape a trial might take, I'd rather pass! But as much as I dislike trials, I have grown to appreciate them. Am I crazy? Out of my mind? Nope. I have come to realize that without trials in my life and the suffering they bring, I would not be the person I am. Trials are God's divine instruments through which he matures our faith and strengthens our character. That is why James tells us to "consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various kinds." Why? Because as James points out trials produces perseverance in our lives which will adds in a huge way to our growth as Christians (See James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5). So the next time you face a trial, a "hiccup" (or worse) in the pleasant flow of your life - rejoice. God is at work. And when you pray, don't ask God to remove the trial (because all you are doing is asking him to remove you from his divine classroom!). Rather ask God to help you through the trial, teaching you whatever it is that you need to learn!

Praying with you,


Spring Has Sprung!

Yeah! Yo! Finally! It is here! What is here? Spring is here! I know some of you are thinking, "OK, John, hold on! I just checked my calendar and it says spring arrives on March 21st. So what are you raving about?" Today is March 1st, right? March 1st is the first day of METEROLOGICAL spring! You see, meterologists divide the year's season according to climate - and the three coldest months of the year are December, January and February. March begins the transition to warmer weather. Therefore, March, April and May make up meterological spring. So in a very real sense we can celebrate today the arrival of spring - unless, of course you love snow and cold and ice and sleet!

So take heart! Even if we have to endure another snow storm, it won't be long before the warm breezes are rustling our hair as we sit out on our back decks (well - maybe the warm breezes will rustle your hair!). I just love spring. To watch nature "come back to life" after lying dormant and "dead" throughout the winter gets me pumped! For me it is a reminder of the resurrection of Jesus who though once dead and in the tomb is now alive! Praise God for the new life of spring - and the new life that is ours because Jesus now lives!

Thanks for listening,


Friday Coffee with PJ

My apologies for missing the past several Fridays. I was off last week, and the previous couple of weeks I got caught up in the Thanksgivi...