Will April Showers Bring May Flowers?

If it is true that April showers bring May flowers, then May should be a blooming good month. With a few more days to go in the month, we have already gone well over the normal amount of rain for April (we currently stand at 136% of our normal monthly rainfall). So even though the rain has probably forced us to cancel some outdoor events, all in all rain is good.

When I was in college, I sang in a small ensemble. We sang mainly in Philadelphia area churches, although over spring break we travelled to Michigan (I would have much preferred touring in Florida - but a tour's a tour!). One of the musical numbers we did was a song about little flowers that never worry, when the winds begin to blow. And the reason they never worry is that they know without the winds that bring the much needed rains - they will never grow! What's true for little flowers is also true for you and me. If the rains never come, we will all remain spiritual babies. This is why James tells us 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" (James 1:2-3). So if you are going through a stormy rainy time right now in your life, lift up your head and rejoice. God is testing your faith to make you strong and mature! He is helping you, His little flower to bloom!

Thanks for listening,


Are We Almost There Yet?

How many times did you ask that question of your parents during that LOOONGGGG trip in the car? For me and my twin brother, it did not matter if the trip was only twenty minutes in duration. We would ask my parents that question every other minute! (At least it seemed so to them!) If I had just one dollar for every time I asked that question as a child and have been asked that same question by my own three children, I would be booking a vacation trip to Aruba!

Back on April 2nd (just a little over three weeks ago) I placed a challenge before our church family at Grace. I asked them to consider contributing to the need of the boys of Children's Fellowship of India for new beds. In June, these boys will be moving into their new dormitory. For the first time, the CFI children will be able to sleep in real beds rather than on a thin mat on the floor. Knowing how much I love my bed (see April 2nd posting) - I want to see CFI receive the necessary funds to make that happen. Every gift of $100 provides a bunk bed that will sleep two boys. The dorm will sleep 200 boys. Therefore, $10,000 will provide every boy with a bed to sleep in. Back on April 2nd, I challenged our church family to go all the way in providing bunk beds for these needy children. So, "Are we there yet?" No - but we are just OVER HALF WAY THERE!

If you want to join us in getting to our destination, please consider a contribution. You can check out my April 2nd posting on instructions on how to get involved. As the book of Proverbs states, "He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God (Proverbs 14:31).

Thanks for listening (and giving!)


A Proud Papa!

Yesterday I popped a few buttons on my "Papa vest!" This happens from time to time when one of my kids realizes a goal. Early last evening, my youngest daughter, Kate, was offered a job teaching 9th grade American Cultures at an area high school. She was thrilled. I was proud. Proud of all of her hard work and perseverance. And I was satisfied. Now she will move on to the next chapter of her life. And isn't that what parenting is all about?

Just as we can be proud about our own children's achievements, just think about how our Heavenly Father feels when we persevere in our journey of grace. I suspect that He, too, from time to time pops a few buttons on his "Papa vest!" This leads me to the following question that I invite you to think about today: "What have I accomplished recently for my Father in Heaven that would have caused him to "pop a few buttons?"

Thanks for listening,


No Greater Love!

As a Jew in Romania during WW 2, Liviu Librescu survived the Nazi Holocaust. As a professor of aeronautics and engineering at Virgina Tech he died trying to keep a gunman from shooting his students in a killing spree. Email accounts written by Librescu's students detail how their prof barricaded the door while telling his students to flee out the windows. The last student to jump out an open window, looked back and saw Librescu struggling to keep the door closed as the gunman was pushing from the outside. Moments after jumping out the window, the student heard the "crack" "crack" of gunshots. Librescu was dead, but many others live on because of his selfless sacrifice.

Two thousand years ago, another Jewish man sacrificed his life so that others may live. Jesus went to the cross to bear the punishment that should have been ours. Because he died, we live! That my friend, is something to rejoice in today! I hope you have made your peace with God by receiving the free gift of salvation that is offered to one and all by Jesus. If you have any questions about how to "get right with God" please email me (jsmith@gracewv.org).

Thanks for listening,


No, Not Again!

Those words raced through my mind yesterday when I heard the initial report of the Virgina Tech campus shootings. Why? How could someone do such a thing? Why would God allow it?

Indeed these are difficult questions to answer. In fact, since the shooter took his own life, we may never fully know his motive. But here are some thoughts for your consideration. For starters, the shooter responsible for this evil act did not act on orders from God. His evil actions flowed out of his evil heart. Regrettably, many innocent bystanders were either killed or wounded in the process. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the victims and their families - as well as the entire Virgina Tech community.

As to the question, "Why did God allow it?" we must remember that this world is NOT the world God made for us to experience. When God placed humanity on this earth it was to rule this world for him as we lived in relationship with him. However, our first parents made a terrible decision. Instead of doing things God's way, they thumbed their noses at God and made the decision to go their own way and do their own thing. And every single one of us born into this world have followed in their footsteps. Isaiah the prophet put it this way, "ALL we like sheep have gone astray; EACH ONE of us have turned to his OWN way" (Isaiah 53:6). So bottom line, the mess this world is in - is our fault, not God's! God is simply allowing us the freedom to go our own way. Unfortunately, yesterday's massacre is sometimes the result.

Will you please join me in praying for the families of the victim (and the family of the shooter), the VTech community (including the president and administration) and the law enforcement personnel involved. Also take a moment to lift up our nation to God. The only way out of these ongoing outbreaks of violence is the One who is THE WAY - Jesus Christ. Pray that many will turn to him as a result of this tragedy.

Thanks for listening,


A Thought For YOUR Day!

My day today is quite full, so I don't have time to sit down and write my usual blog musings. So here is a thought for your day from a mind that is much bigger than mine!

"Christ is not valued at all unless he be valued above all." (St. Augustine)
Think about it!

Thanks again for listening,


I Wish My "Forgetery" Did Not Work So Well!

Recently while attending a funeral, I ran into a young man that I had not seen in some 25 years. Today he is married with a couple of kids. Back then he was still in elementary school. As we chatted (chatted? that's what women do!) - as we TALKED, he made reference to a memory he had of me. It seems that at one point I had taken him to play tennis. During our time on the court, it began to rain and he was all concerned that his brand new Phillies jacket was getting wet (I could say something here like it would not matter much as the Phillies are all wet anyway - but I will restrain myself!). As he described that incident, I searched deep into my brain (OK - I know you are thinking it so I will go ahead and just say it - I did not have far to go!) and could not recall that memory. But since my friend was much younger, I chose to believe him that the event he described actually did take place.

It's funny how our memories work. We can remember some of the craziest things from our past (and sometimes a loooonnnnggg way back) but then can't remember what we had for supper the night before! But God NEVER forgets! He ALWAYS remembers! Except when he CHOOSES TO FORGET! God chooses to forget? Yes! And just WHAT does he choose to forget? "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more" (Hebrews 10:17). So God chooses to forget the sins of those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ - trusting him and him alone for the salvation of their souls and the forgiveness of their sins! Wow! No matter how ugly and no matter how many our sins might be - because of the cross of Jesus, God chooses to forget our sins! Now THAT'S a blessing to tell others about!

Thanks for listening,


Sleeping and Driving Don't Mix!

I noticed in today's news that NASCAR driver/owner Michael Waltrip was involved in an auto accident. Over the weekend, Waltrip struck a telephone poll and then rolled his SUV. Although his Toyota Land Cruiser was totaled, Waltrip suffered only minor cuts and bruises. After the accident, he left the scene and walked home. The police tracked him down a few hours later and charged him with leaving the scene of an accident and wreckless driving. According to Waltrip, he fell asleep at the wheel.

OK. Let's give Waltrip the benefit of the doubt and accept his reason for the accident - which is a real possibility. Statistics do reveal that driver fatigue is a major cause of driving mishaps. Some see it as a greater cause of accidents than alcohol consumption. In fact, to help cut down on accidents caused by drowsy drivers, PennDot (along with many other state's highway departments) has installed rumble strips on the shoulders of major highways. This helps alert the sleepy driver to the fact that his car is drifting off the highway (and if you have ever hit those strips going 65 mph - they DO wake you up!).

When it comes to living out our journey of grace, I believe one of the greatest strategies of the Enemy is to lull us to sleep! He knows if he can get us drowsy and all tired out, we will lack the focus and the energy to engage in God's Kingdom work! The Apostle Paul understood this and so he warns us, "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled (1 Thessalonians 5:6). My fellow travelers on the journey of Grace, please remember this: Following and sleeping don't mix! Let's not grow drowsy as we seek to follow Jesus! Rather let's strive to be alert and self-controlled. All by God's grace and for God's glory!

Thanks for listening,


An Unexpected Opportunity to Serve

I have discovered across the years of preaching and teaching God's Word, that whenever I am preaching about a particular topic, God will give me opportunities (mostly unanticipated and sometimes unwelcome!) for me to apply my teaching to my own life. Sure enough it happened yet again! I have been preaching a mini-series on Jesus Christ: The Ultimate Servant. One of the truths I have been stressing is that all of us who follow Christ need to adopt his mindset, "I am here NOT to be served but to serve!" Here's what came my way.

Last Thursday night, my niece's 8 year old son was hospitalized up in Lebanon County. She called me and asked me to visit him. I readily agreed to do so, but told her my visit would have to wait until Monday (with it being the Easter weekend I was a bit busy). So yesterday, Sharon and I climbed in the car and headed north. On the way, we stopped at a Walmart and picked up a small stuffed animal for my great-nephew (his mom said he loves stuffed animals!). We arrived just as my nephew was finishing lunch. We sat with him and talked with him while he finished eating. Then for the next 1 1/2 hours we played cards, mainly "Crazy 8's." Lets' see, as I recall, my nephew won 7 games. Sharon and I managed one win each. The kid is a real card shark. But all in all, it was a good visit.

Once home, I got busy on my usual day off routine of various chores both inside and outside the house. Now did I have the time to spend 4 hours tied up visiting my nephew? I must admit that I did grumble just a bit about doing so. But as I did, the Spirit of God reminded me about what I have been preaching recently! That changed my attitude - and I actually thanked God for the opportunity to serve a little guy in need! (although I wish losing all those games wasn't part of the package!!!)

Friends, keep your radar up. Look for those around you who might have a need that you can help meet. Remember, if you want to become great in God's Kingdom - you must serve others! (See Mark 10:43-45)

Thanks for listening,


A Bit of Poetic Art to Bring Warmth to Your Heart!

Outside the snow flakes are falling,

While the season of Spring is now stalling,

But don't dismay, be of good cheer,

For soon, real soon, Spring will be here!
(And sooner rather than later, I hope!)

Thanks for listening,


Our Response to the Poor of India

Poverty in India is widespread. In fact, India still has the world’s largest number of poor people in a single country. Of its 1 billion inhabitants, an estimated 350-400 million are at or below the poverty line. To put that in perspective, there are more poor people in India than there are people living in our country!

God has a heart for the poor - and he wants us to share that compassion. In Proverbs 19:17 we are told that "He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done." Now there is not a lot we can do for the millions of poverty stricken Indians - but there is something we can do for 200 poor boys who live at CFI. Check out my posting from yesterday. Think about giving a gift toward the need of these boys for beds to sleep in. I sometimes ask God, "Why, Lord, was I born in this country with all of its resources and wealth?" I don't know the answer to that (except to say it is by God's grace). But I do believe that with the material blessings God has given us comes a great responsiblity - and that is to give to the poor! Will you join me in giving to this small handful of poor in India?

Thanks for listening,

After a Hard Day's Work ... Ahh, I Love My Bed!

Sunday night when I fell into bed, I thought to myself, "I love my bed!" And that is about the only thought I can recall thinking before entering the ZZZZ-Zone! But on other nights when I don't fall asleep so quickly, I sometimes think of all those in the world who don't have comfortable beds to sleep in - in fact, don't have beds at all. At those times, I quietly raise a prayer of thanks to God for my bed! As I thought about this, I thought of the 130 boys (one day to be 200 boys) of Children's Fellowship of India. These boys, ranging in ages from 3 to 13 don't have beds. They sleep each night on a little rug thrown on the floor. But that will soon change. CFI is completing a 200 boy dormitory. Construction should be done in June. Once construction is done, they will need to furnish the dorm with bunk beds.

The past two Sundays at Grace, I have taught about serving. I believe God is calling us at Grace to serve these boys of CFI (and in serving these boys, we serve Jesus Christ! - please see Matthew 25:34-40). Philip Dongre, the Director of CFI is looking for people to give $100 to supply a bunk bed conisisting of an upper and lower bunk. So for a $100 donation, a person can provide beds for two boys. Wow! One of our Adult Bible Fellowships has set a goal to supply funds for 20 beds. I would like to see us go ALL THE WAY! So in addition to the 20 beds the ABF is supplying -- we would have to supply another 80 beds. Are you willing to serve these little boys??? If you would like to serve one or more of these little boys, here's how you can get involved:

- Decide on an amount to give ($50 for half a bunk bed = one boy; $100 for a bunk bed = two boys; or if God leads you to give more = even more beds for more boys!)
- Write your check payable to Grace Church; place in envelope marked CFI beds and either mail or drop off at church office or place in Sunday offering.

Here is an opportunity to respond to the teaching of God's Word in a very tangible way! Sharon and I will be giving - will you join us in serving these little ones in the name of Jesus?

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...