PJ

PJ

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Me and My Fish Pond

Back in April of 2004, I began a sabbatical leave that was graciously given to me by my church. The previous year proved to be a difficult one for me for a number of reasons. High on the list was the death of both of my parents a mere six weeks apart. I needed some time "off" to renew and re-energize my spiritual batteries.

One of the first things I did while on sabbatical was to put in a small garden pond adjacent to our front porch. I had done this in the back yard of our previous house, and really wanted to do the same at our current house. I thoroughly enjoy sitting by the pond, listening to the water fall from the barrel into the pond and watching the gold fish lazily swim about. I also enjoy feeding my gold fish. For three years now I have been feeding them twice a day. Instead of the more expensive fish food, I feed them oatmeal. It's a lot cheaper and my fish are growing and healthy! And they LOVE it! (I think I would grow tired of a twice-a-day diet of only oatmeal - but then again, I am not a gold fish!)

Now suppose for whatever reason, I stopped feeding my fish. All of a sudden, their food supply would be greatly diminished. And if I continued to not feed them for a long period of time, my guess is that soon some would start to die (or at the very least stop growing and become sickly). Gold fish, like any creature, must eat in order to survive - and grow.

Guess what? We are no different from gold fish. We must eat if we want to maintain healthy bodies (do I need to remind you that we must eat HEALTHY!). What is true of our bodies is also true of our souls. If we want to grow and maintain a healthy soul - we must feed our souls. And the food that God provides for our souls is HIS WORD! So if we want to grow in our journey's of grace - then we must be REGULARLY interacting with the Bible. But, regrettably this is not the experience of many Christians today. Survey after survey shows that biblical illiteracy is up over a generation ago ... in some cases dramatically so. God's people just don't know God's Word as they should! The result? A floundering Church, dysfunctional families, personal sin and addictions that "cannot" be broken.

My friends, if the only regular interaction you have with God's Word is on Sunday's at church - that is NOT enough. What would happen if you only ate dinner on Sunday? Let's all purpose together to get into God's Word in a more consistent manner. That's the path toward spiritual growth and health!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, July 30, 2007

"Discipline Yourself for Godliness" (The Apostle Paul to young Timothy)

Discipline is something that we American Christians find tough to cultivate. We live in a very self-indulgent culture. A culture that without let up screams at us, "If it feels good, do it!" But this is NOT the path to spiritual maturity that God has laid out for us. In 1 Timothy 4:7b-8, Paul tells Timothy (and by extension us, too!), "train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." If we want to be godly - it will only happen as we train to be so. Merely TRYING is not enough - not nearly so!

In another passage, Paul as he so often does, refers to the athletic arena as he communicates to us a vital spiritual life truth. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he writes, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Chuck Swindoll makes some great comments on this passage. Listen to his insights . . .

"Those who run to win exercise restraint over their impulses and emotions and desires. Olympic hopefuls are this very day watching their diet, getting sufficient sleep, and training their bodies in just the right way for just the right amount of time. they are not fudging on anything that might hedge their performance on the track, on the bike, in the pool, or in the ring. And they measure the consequences of every impulse to judge whether it will assist them or hinder them from fulfilling the purpose of competition: winning the gold" (Strength of Character: 7 Essential Traits of a Remarkable Life, p. 43).


Let's purpose to be more disciplined as we all go for "the gold" - that of growing more like Jesus!

Thanks for listening,


pj

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another "Blog Flashback!"



The following thoughts I originally posted on my blog in March of 2006. This "blog flashback" is well worth a second read (and a first read if you have never read it before!).


You Really Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

The book arrived via UPS. It had an attractive cover. The title was intriguing. It looked like a book that would provide what I call a “good read.” And if the read was good enough, I would bump it up to a “must read.” However, when I opened the book, I encountered a problem. There was no title page. No page with all the publisher info and date of publication. No table of contents. No preface or introduction. The very first page was page 25. Starting from there the book contained up to page 48 and then started all over again with page 25 (and from there was OK). When I realized I had a defective book in my hands, the book slipped from the “good read” category to the “no read” category. I notified the book seller and they have promised to replace the book.

We can be a lot like this book. Others look at us and they see us with attractive “covers” and intriguing “titles.” But on the inside – in the depths of our hearts and the secret corners of our minds – we harbor sin. Sin such as envy, jealousy, greed, lust, anger, discontentment, ingratitude, prejudice and hatred. Friends, we can hide our sins from others. We can apply the paint and trim and wear attractive “covers” but God sees our hearts. He knows our thoughts. Let’s come clean with Him. On a regular basis let’s grab hold of the promise of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Let’s strive to be holy!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sprint or Marathon?

As a student at Melrose Elementary School in Harrisburg, I was always one of the fastest (if not the fastest) kids in my class (I do not mean to brag here. The kids in my classes were always "slow of foot". Even a turtle would appear speedy if racing a snail!). By the time I reached high school and went out for the track team, my 100 yard (yes, we ran yards, not meters in my day!) time was only middle of the pack at best. So not being content with that, I decided to try my hand ("my feet?") at the longer distances. That proved to be a winner for me as I went on to star (OK, a bit of an exaggeration here - but I can dream, can't I?) at the half mile run. Now the half mile is quite a bit different from the 100 yard dash. In the 100, you go all out for the entire 100 yards. In mere seconds, the race is over. But if you are going to run the half mile, you have pace yourself. If you try to run the half like you run the 100 - you will burn out before the race is barely started.

Many Christians, I believe, approach their faith journey more like a sprint. They begin with a burst of speed, only to burn out a short distance down the path. The Christian life is far more like a distance run (think "marathon" (26+ miles) and not merely the half mile). In a distant run, stamina and perseverance are the key to victory. What is true in running is true for our faith journey. We must persevere day in and day out. My prayer for you and for me is that one day, when we are in the twilight of our lives, we will be able to take a look back and say with the Apostle Paul, "I have finished the race" (2 Timothy 4:7).

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Father's Day Gifts That I've Been Enjoying!

On June 17th we celebrated Father's Day. This is the day in which dads of all sizes and shapes are supposed to be shown by their children just how much they are loved. One way to express love in our culture is by giving gifts. My kids did not disappoint me. My oldest daughter gave me a couple of shirts, my son a couple of books, and my youngest daughter went in with my wife to buy me a nifty lawn chair that allows me to get almost entirely horizontal! I was pleased. I have worn the shirts, read the books, and spent several afternoons in my back yard lounging and napping on my new chair. And guess what? My kids are pleased! As they see me use their gifts it brings them pleasure!

In a similar way, God our heavenly Father gives gifts to us! We often refer to them as spiritual gifts (to see a list of these gifts, go to 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; 1 Peter 4). And when we use these spiritual gifts, it brings pleasure to our God, the giver of these gifts. He gives us these gifts for us to use them. But unlike the gifts my kids gave to me which I use for myself, God's gifts are meant to be used in HIS service. God makes us and shapes us (one way he does this is by gifting us!) so that HE may use us for HIS kingdom! Now that is something to get excited about!

Thanks for listening,
pj

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Blog Flash Back . . .

The following thoughts I originally posted on my blog last October. As I read through some old postings last night, the message of this posting was something I needed to hear. And I figured if I needed to hear it, maybe someone else does, too. So, here is what I call a "blog flashback!"



SLOW DOWN!

The first automobile race in America occurred on Nov. 28, 1895. Six of these new “horseless carriages” traveled from Jackson Park in Chicago to Evanston, Illinois, about 54 miles. J. Frank Duryea won with a time of 7 hrs. 53 minutes. Now if you do the math, you will discover that Duryea averaged about 7 mph across the course of the race (which makes you wonder what the other five drivers averaged!). Today we laugh at that kind of speed (or should I say “lack" of speed!). NASCAR races feature speeds well over 100 mph with the fastest track being the Talladega Super speedway where the record race average speed is 188 mph (and with a record qualifying lap of 212.809 mph!). Now that is fast! Far faster than Duryea’s then record setting 7 mph!

Speed is something that we have come to expect. Life here in 21st century America is fast. And with each passing year it seems to accelerate in speed! This is why it is absolutely vital for us to regularly make some time to disengage from the proverbial rat race around us. We must do this so we can engage God in a time of connection with Him. Jesus did this on a regular basis. He often got up before the sun and went out to a solitary (read QUIET, STILL) place to be with His Father (see Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42). We need to follow the Master’s example. So let me encourage you to take some time TODAY to disengage from the noise of the world around you (i.e. – turn off the TV, put down the newspaper and take a walk or even sit in closet if you have to!). At the end of your day – you will be glad that you did!

Thanks for listening (for some of you, again!),

pj

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hey I Think I Will Sit Down and Read a Book! - Maybe , but Then Again, Maybe Not!

Despite the success of book stores like Borders and Barnes & Nobles AND online sites like Amazon.com - reading is on the decline. In fact, according to some recently released statistics, reading as declined over 7% in the last decade. But among 18-24 year olds, the decline is a whopping 28%! Hmm...I wonder why? Let me think ... there are the increasing numbers of high tech video games, the IPod and now the IPhone, instant messaging, Internet surfing .... I guess some people just don't have any time left at the end of the day to sit down and do some good old-fashioned, low tech reading. And I for one think it's a shame!

Gordon MacDonald, in his book, Ordering Your Private World (if you have never read this book, you should - it's a classic!) writes, "Nothing substitutes for what can be found when we embrace the world of books." He's right. There is so much information and knowledge available to us through reading. But it is a discipline that needs to be acquired. In today's NOISY world - there are many voices that cry out for our time. Books, however, just silently sit on a shelf or table, just waiting to be picked up and read. Unfortunately, all too often, they are left unread.

I would encourage you to get into reading. Read for pleasure. Read for fun. Read to attain knowledge. Read to grow! I am always reading a number of books at any one time. For example, right now I am reading non-fiction works on the history of World War 2 and another on Ancient Egypt. I am also reading one of Edward Rutherford's historical novels, The Rebels of Ireland. In addition to these, I am doing a second read on J.I. Packer's and Carol Nystrom's book, Praying. Finally, I am working my way through a book for pastoral ministry titled, Ten Things Every Minister Needs to Know (by Ronnie Floyd).

Now you might think from this list I am a "bookaholic!" Not true! I just make time (and it is really not as much as you might think) to read. So instead of watching a mindless sit-com on TV (OK - so I do like to watch an occasional episode of The Office), I read instead. And I believe at the end of the day, my life is far richer for it!

Thanks for listening,

pj




Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What Happened To My Week of Vacation?

When I awoke on Monday, I had one of those moments trying to figure out where I was and what day it was. As the mind-fog of a good night's sleep began to clear, I realized that it was Monday and that it was time to head back to work. My vacation was over. And it sure sped past quickly! Don't get me wrong. I had a wonderful time. I got unplugged from the world and spent several delightful days with family down at the beach. All in all it was a very good week. But here I am sitting at my computer and writing this blog - wondering how it went by so quick! And I am sure you all can relate!

Time has a way of moving by quickly. James in his fourth chapter uses the analogy of vapor or mist to describe the brevity of life. He writes, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14). He is right. Time does move quickly. Four years ago (can it really be that four years have passed?) my father and then my mother died just six weeks apart. After my mother's burial, I was standing at the graves of my mother's sister and her husband (whose burial sites are next to my parents' sites). One of my cousins walked up beside me. After several moments of silence, my cousin turned to me and said, "Your mom was the last of her generation. We are now the oldest generation of the family." I had not thought of that before he said it - but he was right. But that is life - right? A generation is born, flourishes for a time and then dies. Our lives on this planet are like a mist, a puff of steam that is here today and gone tomorrow.

Because life is so brief my friend, we MUST make every moment COUNT. We MUST "make the most of every opportunity" (see Colossians 4 and Ephesians 5). We have only one life to live -- and only what's done for Jesus will last!


Thanks for listening,


pj

Monday, July 16, 2007

Am I a "Driven" Person? Hmm...Probably More than I Would Like to Admit!

Driven people -- on the go. Never slowing down. Always being propelled forward by agendas and to do lists. More than I would like to admit - I am far too often a driven person.

This came out on our homeward drive last week from the beach. My "driveness" first exhibited itself as we came to a toll plaza and I noticed that the far left lanes were express lanes for those with an E-ZPass. "Humph," I griped to my wife. "I wish I had an E-ZPass." Then as we lined up in the "Cash Only" gate, I noticed a motorcyclist two spots ahead of us. As he came to the window, he had to dig out his wallet to get some cash. This proved a challenge for him as he was in his rain gear due to the inclement weather. What seemed like a full twenty minutes (which my wife assured me was two at the most), he finally got his hands on some cash and paid the toll. During this time as I watched -- I seethed AND complained to my wife, my daughter and to anyone who would listen (and I had to literally sit on my hands to avoid blowing the horn!). Now I am sure not proud of my behavior and attitude - in fact, shortly after it all happened I was silently confessing my sin to the Lord. But I share it with you to show you how driven we can be. I mean, that whole experience meant that I got home that night at 9:06 instead of 9:04. Big deal!

My guess is that many of you are also driven (some more than me - some less). Most of us could probably benefit by just pausing, taking a deep breath, and relaxing a little (or as my twenty something kids say, "Chilling!"). So, in the midst of the busyness of life -- and the agendas and to do lists that tend to drive us - let's all take time out to "be still and know that the Lord is God" (See Psalm 46).

Thanks for listening,

pj

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Heading to the Beach!

I and the fam will be heading to Ocean City, MD first thing Monday morning for a few days of sun, sand and surf! I'll be back "blogging" early next week. Until then, I encourage you to give your best to God and don't sweat the little stuff!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, July 6, 2007

T.G.I.F.

The popular acronym T.G.I.F. represents the phrase Thank God It's Friday or Thank Goodness It's Friday or Terribly Gleeful It's Friday. Whichever is meant by the speaker or writer, what is being communicated is the relief that for most, the work week is almost over and the two day weekend is about to begin. (For me it is hard to relate to this feeling, as my weekends tend to be quite busy - after all, my one day of work is on the weekend!) :)

Truly, though, I can understand the relief felt by many. American workers are the most productive in the world. One reason for that is we work long hours and a growing number never take a vacation - according to a report I just viewed this week on NBC Nightly News. Now it is good that so many American workers work hard. But it is not good that increasingly people are forgoing their vacation. In the busyness of the American "Rat Race" - all of us need "down time." In fact, God in His infinite wisdom built "down time" into the regular cycle of life with the Sabbath commandment (one of the original Ten). The Hebrew word for sabbath carries the idea of rest ... and we are called upon by God to rest from our regular daily routine one day out of every seven (see Exodus 20:8-13). As part of this one day out of seven rest - we need to retool not just physically but also spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. I truly hope in the busyness of life -- you are taking time to get the rest you need and to retool yourself regularly to face the ongoing demands of life in this busy world. I try to do this and when I fail, it does not take long before I realize I am "running on Empty!" Next week - I AM taking a week of vacation for some badly needed R&R (Rest and Retooling) -- I hope you do the same this summer!


Thanks for listening,


pj

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Uncancelled Fireworks Irk a Lot of People!

Sometimes city officials get it right ... and sometimes they don't even come close. That was the scenario in Philadelphia last night. After waiting through intermittent rain showers, a large crowd of thousands lining the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art were informed that the July 4th's fireworks were being cancelled due to the rain. Then, after over 80% of the crowd went home, the decision was made to uncancel the cancelled fireworks. So at approximately 11:20 PM, the show began (and according to officials it was done for the sake of television viewers - but would not most have gone to bed by that time?). No wonder there are a lot of irked people this morning!

Cancellation of events due to weather happen frequently. And when they do, people are disappointed. But I don't know if I have ever heard of a fireworks display being cancelled and then uncancelled! Hmm. This gets me thinking of a cancellation mentioned in the Bible. That's right, a cancellation. In Colossians 2:13-14 Paul writes, "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Wow! At the cross, Christ, having fulfilled all the demands of the Law of God, took that Law and wrote the words "Paid in Full" across it. And these words he wrote with his blood! This cancelled the demand of the Law upon us (which was death!). And unlike what happened in Philadelphia last night, this cancellation will never be uncancelled! You can count on that!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!

July 4th is the day we as Americans rejoice in our freedom as we celebrate our country's birth. Freedom is something this country has always cherished. The Bill of Rights which was added to the Constitution is proof positive of this. In recent years, there has been a lot of tension brought about by the fight against terror because at times, this effort has infringed upon our freedom.

Today, as you (I hope) think about the freedom we enjoy (a level of freedom enjoyed by few around this world), remember that the greatest freedom any one (American, Japanese, Tajik, Sudanese, Russian, Australian, Israeli, Palestinian, Iraqi, etc., etc., etc.,) can ever experience is the freedom from sin that Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone provides. Only he is "the way, the truth and the life" and "no one comes to the Father but by him." (See John 14:6). When Jesus died on the cross, he died to pay a wage - it was the wage of sin (See Romans 6:23). But since he himself was sinless (see Hebrews 4:15), it was not the wage for his own sin he was paying there. No. He was paying the wage for your sin and for my sin (See Isaiah 53:5-6). And when Jesus rose from the dead three days later, his resurrection proved that he was indeed the Son of God (See Romans 1:4). We enter this world "rebels with a cause." Our cause is to live life for "ME." But the God who made us and placed us on this earth - did so that we might live this life for Him - which is life that Jesus termed "abundant."

How about YOU? Have you ever experienced the freedom from sin that I have talked about here? All you must do is to begin by Admitting that you have sinned and rebelled against God. Once you admit to that, then you must Believe that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for your sin - a penalty that a JUST God requires. Finally, you must Confess Jesus as you Savior - turning to Him from sin and committing your self to follow JESUS CHRIST. When a person does this, then he or she will experience the reality of 2 Corinthians 5:17 which states that "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" I hope that today - this day of FREEDOM - you know what it means to be (as Jesus says) "free indeed" (See John 8:31-32, 36).


Thanks for listening,


pj

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

10,000 Losses!

This past weekend, a die hard Phillies fan pointed out something to me about the Phillies. They are about to lose their 10,000th game (as of today they have lost 9,996 games)! That is more than any other professional sports team in any sport has ever lost! Quite the accomplishment! You can actually follow this feat on the Internet. Just go to http://www.celebrate10000.com/. Finally the Phillies will be first at something! (And some of my friends like to remind me about how bad the Pittsburgh Pirates are!).

Having grown up listening many a summer night to the Phillies - my heart goes out to the Phillies and their fans. Losing is never any fun - especially when it happens over and over and over again! But for followers of Jesus - we don't have to worry about losing. Even though there is much disagreement among us about the details of end time events, there is NO disagreement about history's final outcome. Jesus is coming back. He will establish his eternal kingdom. And he will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords - forever and ever and ever! (go ahead and open your Bible and read Revelation chapters 19-22) Even though evil seems to be winning now, take heart my friend, King Jesus IS going to win!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Philadelphia iPhone Controversy

As I was on the final leg of my journey home this past Friday, I tuned my car radio to Philadelphia's KYW radio (1060 on the AM band) to catch some of the latest news. If you saw any news on TV, heard the news on the radio, or read the news in the local paper or USA Today, you could not help but hear about Apple's new techno toy, the Apple iPhone. It went on sale at 6 PM on Friday. Many people began lining up in the very early hours of Friday to be among the first purchasers of this new gadget. KYW was making a big deal about one such person who was none other than the Mayor of Philadelphia. That's right - Mayor John Street placed his chair on the sidewalk outside a Cingular Wireless store in Center City at 3:30 AM and began his 14+ hour wait. His actions has evoked a lot of public reaction. One Philadelphian asked the question, "Am I the only one bothered by our mayor waiting in line for something as trivial as an iPhone? I'm glad to know where my tax dollars are going." As it turns out, he is not the only one bothered by Mayor Street's actions. Scores of Philadelphians are letting the mayor know that they did NOT appreciate how he spent his Friday!

It is not my purpose in this blog posting to wade in on whether the mayor was right or wrong in what he did. But it does raise an important question for all of us - and that is our use of time. I would "guesstimate" that many of us waste a lot of it. We spend our time in the pursuit of trivial things. We forget how precious our time is, that time is a lot like money - once spent it is gone forever! This is why God makes such a big deal about time and our use of it. In Ephesians 5:16 we are urged to be "making the best use of our time, because the days are evil." How about YOU? Are you making the best use of your time? Are you using your time to get to know God better, to love Him more deeply, to serve him more fervently? One day we will all answer to God for the way we have used our LIMITED time here on earth. Let's strive to make the best use of our time NOW- so that we won't be embarrassed THEN!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Me and My Fish Pond

Back in April of 2004, I began a sabbatical leave that was graciously given to me by my church. The previous year proved to be a difficult one for me for a number of reasons. High on the list was the death of both of my parents a mere six weeks apart. I needed some time "off" to renew and re-energize my spiritual batteries.

One of the first things I did while on sabbatical was to put in a small garden pond adjacent to our front porch. I had done this in the back yard of our previous house, and really wanted to do the same at our current house. I thoroughly enjoy sitting by the pond, listening to the water fall from the barrel into the pond and watching the gold fish lazily swim about. I also enjoy feeding my gold fish. For three years now I have been feeding them twice a day. Instead of the more expensive fish food, I feed them oatmeal. It's a lot cheaper and my fish are growing and healthy! And they LOVE it! (I think I would grow tired of a twice-a-day diet of only oatmeal - but then again, I am not a gold fish!)

Now suppose for whatever reason, I stopped feeding my fish. All of a sudden, their food supply would be greatly diminished. And if I continued to not feed them for a long period of time, my guess is that soon some would start to die (or at the very least stop growing and become sickly). Gold fish, like any creature, must eat in order to survive - and grow.

Guess what? We are no different from gold fish. We must eat if we want to maintain healthy bodies (do I need to remind you that we must eat HEALTHY!). What is true of our bodies is also true of our souls. If we want to grow and maintain a healthy soul - we must feed our souls. And the food that God provides for our souls is HIS WORD! So if we want to grow in our journey's of grace - then we must be REGULARLY interacting with the Bible. But, regrettably this is not the experience of many Christians today. Survey after survey shows that biblical illiteracy is up over a generation ago ... in some cases dramatically so. God's people just don't know God's Word as they should! The result? A floundering Church, dysfunctional families, personal sin and addictions that "cannot" be broken.

My friends, if the only regular interaction you have with God's Word is on Sunday's at church - that is NOT enough. What would happen if you only ate dinner on Sunday? Let's all purpose together to get into God's Word in a more consistent manner. That's the path toward spiritual growth and health!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, July 30, 2007

"Discipline Yourself for Godliness" (The Apostle Paul to young Timothy)

Discipline is something that we American Christians find tough to cultivate. We live in a very self-indulgent culture. A culture that without let up screams at us, "If it feels good, do it!" But this is NOT the path to spiritual maturity that God has laid out for us. In 1 Timothy 4:7b-8, Paul tells Timothy (and by extension us, too!), "train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." If we want to be godly - it will only happen as we train to be so. Merely TRYING is not enough - not nearly so!

In another passage, Paul as he so often does, refers to the athletic arena as he communicates to us a vital spiritual life truth. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he writes, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Chuck Swindoll makes some great comments on this passage. Listen to his insights . . .

"Those who run to win exercise restraint over their impulses and emotions and desires. Olympic hopefuls are this very day watching their diet, getting sufficient sleep, and training their bodies in just the right way for just the right amount of time. they are not fudging on anything that might hedge their performance on the track, on the bike, in the pool, or in the ring. And they measure the consequences of every impulse to judge whether it will assist them or hinder them from fulfilling the purpose of competition: winning the gold" (Strength of Character: 7 Essential Traits of a Remarkable Life, p. 43).


Let's purpose to be more disciplined as we all go for "the gold" - that of growing more like Jesus!

Thanks for listening,


pj

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another "Blog Flashback!"



The following thoughts I originally posted on my blog in March of 2006. This "blog flashback" is well worth a second read (and a first read if you have never read it before!).


You Really Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

The book arrived via UPS. It had an attractive cover. The title was intriguing. It looked like a book that would provide what I call a “good read.” And if the read was good enough, I would bump it up to a “must read.” However, when I opened the book, I encountered a problem. There was no title page. No page with all the publisher info and date of publication. No table of contents. No preface or introduction. The very first page was page 25. Starting from there the book contained up to page 48 and then started all over again with page 25 (and from there was OK). When I realized I had a defective book in my hands, the book slipped from the “good read” category to the “no read” category. I notified the book seller and they have promised to replace the book.

We can be a lot like this book. Others look at us and they see us with attractive “covers” and intriguing “titles.” But on the inside – in the depths of our hearts and the secret corners of our minds – we harbor sin. Sin such as envy, jealousy, greed, lust, anger, discontentment, ingratitude, prejudice and hatred. Friends, we can hide our sins from others. We can apply the paint and trim and wear attractive “covers” but God sees our hearts. He knows our thoughts. Let’s come clean with Him. On a regular basis let’s grab hold of the promise of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Let’s strive to be holy!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sprint or Marathon?

As a student at Melrose Elementary School in Harrisburg, I was always one of the fastest (if not the fastest) kids in my class (I do not mean to brag here. The kids in my classes were always "slow of foot". Even a turtle would appear speedy if racing a snail!). By the time I reached high school and went out for the track team, my 100 yard (yes, we ran yards, not meters in my day!) time was only middle of the pack at best. So not being content with that, I decided to try my hand ("my feet?") at the longer distances. That proved to be a winner for me as I went on to star (OK, a bit of an exaggeration here - but I can dream, can't I?) at the half mile run. Now the half mile is quite a bit different from the 100 yard dash. In the 100, you go all out for the entire 100 yards. In mere seconds, the race is over. But if you are going to run the half mile, you have pace yourself. If you try to run the half like you run the 100 - you will burn out before the race is barely started.

Many Christians, I believe, approach their faith journey more like a sprint. They begin with a burst of speed, only to burn out a short distance down the path. The Christian life is far more like a distance run (think "marathon" (26+ miles) and not merely the half mile). In a distant run, stamina and perseverance are the key to victory. What is true in running is true for our faith journey. We must persevere day in and day out. My prayer for you and for me is that one day, when we are in the twilight of our lives, we will be able to take a look back and say with the Apostle Paul, "I have finished the race" (2 Timothy 4:7).

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Father's Day Gifts That I've Been Enjoying!

On June 17th we celebrated Father's Day. This is the day in which dads of all sizes and shapes are supposed to be shown by their children just how much they are loved. One way to express love in our culture is by giving gifts. My kids did not disappoint me. My oldest daughter gave me a couple of shirts, my son a couple of books, and my youngest daughter went in with my wife to buy me a nifty lawn chair that allows me to get almost entirely horizontal! I was pleased. I have worn the shirts, read the books, and spent several afternoons in my back yard lounging and napping on my new chair. And guess what? My kids are pleased! As they see me use their gifts it brings them pleasure!

In a similar way, God our heavenly Father gives gifts to us! We often refer to them as spiritual gifts (to see a list of these gifts, go to 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; 1 Peter 4). And when we use these spiritual gifts, it brings pleasure to our God, the giver of these gifts. He gives us these gifts for us to use them. But unlike the gifts my kids gave to me which I use for myself, God's gifts are meant to be used in HIS service. God makes us and shapes us (one way he does this is by gifting us!) so that HE may use us for HIS kingdom! Now that is something to get excited about!

Thanks for listening,
pj

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Blog Flash Back . . .

The following thoughts I originally posted on my blog last October. As I read through some old postings last night, the message of this posting was something I needed to hear. And I figured if I needed to hear it, maybe someone else does, too. So, here is what I call a "blog flashback!"



SLOW DOWN!

The first automobile race in America occurred on Nov. 28, 1895. Six of these new “horseless carriages” traveled from Jackson Park in Chicago to Evanston, Illinois, about 54 miles. J. Frank Duryea won with a time of 7 hrs. 53 minutes. Now if you do the math, you will discover that Duryea averaged about 7 mph across the course of the race (which makes you wonder what the other five drivers averaged!). Today we laugh at that kind of speed (or should I say “lack" of speed!). NASCAR races feature speeds well over 100 mph with the fastest track being the Talladega Super speedway where the record race average speed is 188 mph (and with a record qualifying lap of 212.809 mph!). Now that is fast! Far faster than Duryea’s then record setting 7 mph!

Speed is something that we have come to expect. Life here in 21st century America is fast. And with each passing year it seems to accelerate in speed! This is why it is absolutely vital for us to regularly make some time to disengage from the proverbial rat race around us. We must do this so we can engage God in a time of connection with Him. Jesus did this on a regular basis. He often got up before the sun and went out to a solitary (read QUIET, STILL) place to be with His Father (see Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42). We need to follow the Master’s example. So let me encourage you to take some time TODAY to disengage from the noise of the world around you (i.e. – turn off the TV, put down the newspaper and take a walk or even sit in closet if you have to!). At the end of your day – you will be glad that you did!

Thanks for listening (for some of you, again!),

pj

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hey I Think I Will Sit Down and Read a Book! - Maybe , but Then Again, Maybe Not!

Despite the success of book stores like Borders and Barnes & Nobles AND online sites like Amazon.com - reading is on the decline. In fact, according to some recently released statistics, reading as declined over 7% in the last decade. But among 18-24 year olds, the decline is a whopping 28%! Hmm...I wonder why? Let me think ... there are the increasing numbers of high tech video games, the IPod and now the IPhone, instant messaging, Internet surfing .... I guess some people just don't have any time left at the end of the day to sit down and do some good old-fashioned, low tech reading. And I for one think it's a shame!

Gordon MacDonald, in his book, Ordering Your Private World (if you have never read this book, you should - it's a classic!) writes, "Nothing substitutes for what can be found when we embrace the world of books." He's right. There is so much information and knowledge available to us through reading. But it is a discipline that needs to be acquired. In today's NOISY world - there are many voices that cry out for our time. Books, however, just silently sit on a shelf or table, just waiting to be picked up and read. Unfortunately, all too often, they are left unread.

I would encourage you to get into reading. Read for pleasure. Read for fun. Read to attain knowledge. Read to grow! I am always reading a number of books at any one time. For example, right now I am reading non-fiction works on the history of World War 2 and another on Ancient Egypt. I am also reading one of Edward Rutherford's historical novels, The Rebels of Ireland. In addition to these, I am doing a second read on J.I. Packer's and Carol Nystrom's book, Praying. Finally, I am working my way through a book for pastoral ministry titled, Ten Things Every Minister Needs to Know (by Ronnie Floyd).

Now you might think from this list I am a "bookaholic!" Not true! I just make time (and it is really not as much as you might think) to read. So instead of watching a mindless sit-com on TV (OK - so I do like to watch an occasional episode of The Office), I read instead. And I believe at the end of the day, my life is far richer for it!

Thanks for listening,

pj




Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What Happened To My Week of Vacation?

When I awoke on Monday, I had one of those moments trying to figure out where I was and what day it was. As the mind-fog of a good night's sleep began to clear, I realized that it was Monday and that it was time to head back to work. My vacation was over. And it sure sped past quickly! Don't get me wrong. I had a wonderful time. I got unplugged from the world and spent several delightful days with family down at the beach. All in all it was a very good week. But here I am sitting at my computer and writing this blog - wondering how it went by so quick! And I am sure you all can relate!

Time has a way of moving by quickly. James in his fourth chapter uses the analogy of vapor or mist to describe the brevity of life. He writes, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14). He is right. Time does move quickly. Four years ago (can it really be that four years have passed?) my father and then my mother died just six weeks apart. After my mother's burial, I was standing at the graves of my mother's sister and her husband (whose burial sites are next to my parents' sites). One of my cousins walked up beside me. After several moments of silence, my cousin turned to me and said, "Your mom was the last of her generation. We are now the oldest generation of the family." I had not thought of that before he said it - but he was right. But that is life - right? A generation is born, flourishes for a time and then dies. Our lives on this planet are like a mist, a puff of steam that is here today and gone tomorrow.

Because life is so brief my friend, we MUST make every moment COUNT. We MUST "make the most of every opportunity" (see Colossians 4 and Ephesians 5). We have only one life to live -- and only what's done for Jesus will last!


Thanks for listening,


pj

Monday, July 16, 2007

Am I a "Driven" Person? Hmm...Probably More than I Would Like to Admit!

Driven people -- on the go. Never slowing down. Always being propelled forward by agendas and to do lists. More than I would like to admit - I am far too often a driven person.

This came out on our homeward drive last week from the beach. My "driveness" first exhibited itself as we came to a toll plaza and I noticed that the far left lanes were express lanes for those with an E-ZPass. "Humph," I griped to my wife. "I wish I had an E-ZPass." Then as we lined up in the "Cash Only" gate, I noticed a motorcyclist two spots ahead of us. As he came to the window, he had to dig out his wallet to get some cash. This proved a challenge for him as he was in his rain gear due to the inclement weather. What seemed like a full twenty minutes (which my wife assured me was two at the most), he finally got his hands on some cash and paid the toll. During this time as I watched -- I seethed AND complained to my wife, my daughter and to anyone who would listen (and I had to literally sit on my hands to avoid blowing the horn!). Now I am sure not proud of my behavior and attitude - in fact, shortly after it all happened I was silently confessing my sin to the Lord. But I share it with you to show you how driven we can be. I mean, that whole experience meant that I got home that night at 9:06 instead of 9:04. Big deal!

My guess is that many of you are also driven (some more than me - some less). Most of us could probably benefit by just pausing, taking a deep breath, and relaxing a little (or as my twenty something kids say, "Chilling!"). So, in the midst of the busyness of life -- and the agendas and to do lists that tend to drive us - let's all take time out to "be still and know that the Lord is God" (See Psalm 46).

Thanks for listening,

pj

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Heading to the Beach!

I and the fam will be heading to Ocean City, MD first thing Monday morning for a few days of sun, sand and surf! I'll be back "blogging" early next week. Until then, I encourage you to give your best to God and don't sweat the little stuff!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, July 6, 2007

T.G.I.F.

The popular acronym T.G.I.F. represents the phrase Thank God It's Friday or Thank Goodness It's Friday or Terribly Gleeful It's Friday. Whichever is meant by the speaker or writer, what is being communicated is the relief that for most, the work week is almost over and the two day weekend is about to begin. (For me it is hard to relate to this feeling, as my weekends tend to be quite busy - after all, my one day of work is on the weekend!) :)

Truly, though, I can understand the relief felt by many. American workers are the most productive in the world. One reason for that is we work long hours and a growing number never take a vacation - according to a report I just viewed this week on NBC Nightly News. Now it is good that so many American workers work hard. But it is not good that increasingly people are forgoing their vacation. In the busyness of the American "Rat Race" - all of us need "down time." In fact, God in His infinite wisdom built "down time" into the regular cycle of life with the Sabbath commandment (one of the original Ten). The Hebrew word for sabbath carries the idea of rest ... and we are called upon by God to rest from our regular daily routine one day out of every seven (see Exodus 20:8-13). As part of this one day out of seven rest - we need to retool not just physically but also spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. I truly hope in the busyness of life -- you are taking time to get the rest you need and to retool yourself regularly to face the ongoing demands of life in this busy world. I try to do this and when I fail, it does not take long before I realize I am "running on Empty!" Next week - I AM taking a week of vacation for some badly needed R&R (Rest and Retooling) -- I hope you do the same this summer!


Thanks for listening,


pj

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Uncancelled Fireworks Irk a Lot of People!

Sometimes city officials get it right ... and sometimes they don't even come close. That was the scenario in Philadelphia last night. After waiting through intermittent rain showers, a large crowd of thousands lining the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art were informed that the July 4th's fireworks were being cancelled due to the rain. Then, after over 80% of the crowd went home, the decision was made to uncancel the cancelled fireworks. So at approximately 11:20 PM, the show began (and according to officials it was done for the sake of television viewers - but would not most have gone to bed by that time?). No wonder there are a lot of irked people this morning!

Cancellation of events due to weather happen frequently. And when they do, people are disappointed. But I don't know if I have ever heard of a fireworks display being cancelled and then uncancelled! Hmm. This gets me thinking of a cancellation mentioned in the Bible. That's right, a cancellation. In Colossians 2:13-14 Paul writes, "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Wow! At the cross, Christ, having fulfilled all the demands of the Law of God, took that Law and wrote the words "Paid in Full" across it. And these words he wrote with his blood! This cancelled the demand of the Law upon us (which was death!). And unlike what happened in Philadelphia last night, this cancellation will never be uncancelled! You can count on that!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!

July 4th is the day we as Americans rejoice in our freedom as we celebrate our country's birth. Freedom is something this country has always cherished. The Bill of Rights which was added to the Constitution is proof positive of this. In recent years, there has been a lot of tension brought about by the fight against terror because at times, this effort has infringed upon our freedom.

Today, as you (I hope) think about the freedom we enjoy (a level of freedom enjoyed by few around this world), remember that the greatest freedom any one (American, Japanese, Tajik, Sudanese, Russian, Australian, Israeli, Palestinian, Iraqi, etc., etc., etc.,) can ever experience is the freedom from sin that Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone provides. Only he is "the way, the truth and the life" and "no one comes to the Father but by him." (See John 14:6). When Jesus died on the cross, he died to pay a wage - it was the wage of sin (See Romans 6:23). But since he himself was sinless (see Hebrews 4:15), it was not the wage for his own sin he was paying there. No. He was paying the wage for your sin and for my sin (See Isaiah 53:5-6). And when Jesus rose from the dead three days later, his resurrection proved that he was indeed the Son of God (See Romans 1:4). We enter this world "rebels with a cause." Our cause is to live life for "ME." But the God who made us and placed us on this earth - did so that we might live this life for Him - which is life that Jesus termed "abundant."

How about YOU? Have you ever experienced the freedom from sin that I have talked about here? All you must do is to begin by Admitting that you have sinned and rebelled against God. Once you admit to that, then you must Believe that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for your sin - a penalty that a JUST God requires. Finally, you must Confess Jesus as you Savior - turning to Him from sin and committing your self to follow JESUS CHRIST. When a person does this, then he or she will experience the reality of 2 Corinthians 5:17 which states that "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" I hope that today - this day of FREEDOM - you know what it means to be (as Jesus says) "free indeed" (See John 8:31-32, 36).


Thanks for listening,


pj

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

10,000 Losses!

This past weekend, a die hard Phillies fan pointed out something to me about the Phillies. They are about to lose their 10,000th game (as of today they have lost 9,996 games)! That is more than any other professional sports team in any sport has ever lost! Quite the accomplishment! You can actually follow this feat on the Internet. Just go to http://www.celebrate10000.com/. Finally the Phillies will be first at something! (And some of my friends like to remind me about how bad the Pittsburgh Pirates are!).

Having grown up listening many a summer night to the Phillies - my heart goes out to the Phillies and their fans. Losing is never any fun - especially when it happens over and over and over again! But for followers of Jesus - we don't have to worry about losing. Even though there is much disagreement among us about the details of end time events, there is NO disagreement about history's final outcome. Jesus is coming back. He will establish his eternal kingdom. And he will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords - forever and ever and ever! (go ahead and open your Bible and read Revelation chapters 19-22) Even though evil seems to be winning now, take heart my friend, King Jesus IS going to win!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Philadelphia iPhone Controversy

As I was on the final leg of my journey home this past Friday, I tuned my car radio to Philadelphia's KYW radio (1060 on the AM band) to catch some of the latest news. If you saw any news on TV, heard the news on the radio, or read the news in the local paper or USA Today, you could not help but hear about Apple's new techno toy, the Apple iPhone. It went on sale at 6 PM on Friday. Many people began lining up in the very early hours of Friday to be among the first purchasers of this new gadget. KYW was making a big deal about one such person who was none other than the Mayor of Philadelphia. That's right - Mayor John Street placed his chair on the sidewalk outside a Cingular Wireless store in Center City at 3:30 AM and began his 14+ hour wait. His actions has evoked a lot of public reaction. One Philadelphian asked the question, "Am I the only one bothered by our mayor waiting in line for something as trivial as an iPhone? I'm glad to know where my tax dollars are going." As it turns out, he is not the only one bothered by Mayor Street's actions. Scores of Philadelphians are letting the mayor know that they did NOT appreciate how he spent his Friday!

It is not my purpose in this blog posting to wade in on whether the mayor was right or wrong in what he did. But it does raise an important question for all of us - and that is our use of time. I would "guesstimate" that many of us waste a lot of it. We spend our time in the pursuit of trivial things. We forget how precious our time is, that time is a lot like money - once spent it is gone forever! This is why God makes such a big deal about time and our use of it. In Ephesians 5:16 we are urged to be "making the best use of our time, because the days are evil." How about YOU? Are you making the best use of your time? Are you using your time to get to know God better, to love Him more deeply, to serve him more fervently? One day we will all answer to God for the way we have used our LIMITED time here on earth. Let's strive to make the best use of our time NOW- so that we won't be embarrassed THEN!

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.