PJ

PJ

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blessings for the New Year!

As I wrap up my blogging for yet another year, I want to leave you with a few well said words. Take a moment and think on these things. And if changes in your life are called for - then take action!

I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light. (Mary Gardner Brainard)

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell. (C.S. Lewis)

Live as though Christ died yesterday, rose from the grave today, and is coming back tomorrow. (Theodore Epp)

Wishing will never be a substitute for prayer. (Ed Cole)

I cannot imagine how the clockwork of the universe can exist without a clockmaker. (Voltaire)

Here, then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God's Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy. (R.C. Sproul)

Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. (George Mueller)


Thanks for stopping by . . . and I will "see" you next year!

pj

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Open Your Eyes!

Peggy Noonan was a young speech writer for President Ronald Regan. Today she is a contributing editor of the Wall Street Journal. Her syndicated column appears in the Lancaster New Era. In last evening's column she was reflecting on several books she had read during the course of 2008. One of these was titled, Mother Teresa's Secret Fire. The book was written by a close friend of Mother Teresa, Joseph Langford. He writes of many lessons he learned from Teresa, who left her convent to work with the poorest of the poor among the slums and ghettos of Calcultta, India. Among these lessons that Noonan cites is one that struck me. So as we stand on the doorstep of a new year - I share it with you.

"You must find your own Calcutta. You don't have to go to India. Calcutta is all around you."

All we have to do is OPEN OUR EYES! As we do so, God will show us the desperate need of the people who surround us. And as He does so, we must be willing to show them the love of Jesus! As we enter the new year, let's all purpose to ask God each day to open our eyes. Needy people fill our lives - and their greatest need is Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 29, 2008

Do You Talk Too Much?

As we say "goodbye" to 2008 and "hello" to 2009, I think it is helpful for all of us to take some time to "take stock" of our lives. Yesterday my message to our church family detailed a list of 7 questions for a spiritual self checkup (you can see the complete list on our web site - www.gracewv.org). One of these questions was "Do I talk more than I listen?" Most of us like to listen -- as long as it is US we are listening to! Now God's advice on this is clear. Consider the following verses:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak... (James 1:19)

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Ouch! I really need this reminder. And I need God's help to become a better listener! Yesterday I shared the following prayer with our church family. I encourage you to take this prayer and make it yours!

"I ask for wisdom to restrain my speech and the patience to listen more carefully to others before responding with my own opinions. May I be a gracious and others-centered listener rather than a controlling and self-centered talker. I desire to serve others by listening, caring and encouraging. Amen."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God's Gift to You

Gifts are a big part of the Christmas season. We spend time thinking about them, shopping for them, wrapping them and exchanging them. For most people a Christmas without gifts under the tree would be no Christmas at all.

There is no clear consensus as to when gift giving became so firmly entrenched with Christmas. Many point to the Victorian era which brought renewed warmth to the holiday with its emphasis on family. At that time Yule tide gift giving sprang up to show kindness and love to family members and beyond. But whatever the case, gifts are a big part of Christmas.

As you exchange your gifts this Christmas - take a moment and look beyond these gifts to the greater gift of God. After all, Christmas is all about God so loving us "that He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish BUT have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Tomorrow morning (Christmas Day) is the time my family will be exchanging our gifts for one another. If my wife were to leave one of my gifts to her unwrapped, sitting under our tree - how do you think I would feel about such indifference? Well, my friend, far too many leave God's gift of His Son unwrapped and sitting under the tree. Please don't be among them. Your eternal destiny lies in the balance (please read Matthew 7:13-14 and John 14:6).

Open God's gift to you today (read my posting of yesterday for instructions). Please don't leave HIS gift as the only unopened gift under your tree.

Thanks for stopping by and a MERRY CHRISTMAS to you . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Carol .... or a CHRISTmas Carol?

Last Friday evening, my wife and I and our daughter and son-in-law, took in a local theater company's production of Charles Dickens classic yule tale, A Christmas Carol. Although I had seen many a television/movie version, I had never seen it done "live." It was a highly enjoyable experience (for those of you who live in Lancaster, I would highly recommend it. Info on the production - which runs through December 28th - can be found at http://www.seventhsister.com. The theater is offering a "pay as you wish" admission plan!).

Now that I have seen A Christmas Carol "live" - I thought it would be interesting to read it as Dickens actually wrote it. So I went to Amazon.com to purchase the book. In the process of doing so, I read some reviews on the book that readers had posted. The following caught my eye:

"This is the most heartwarming story EVER written about Yuletide, the story is truly magical. It captures the very essence of what Christmas is all about."

Hmm. Although I would agree that Dickens' tale is indeed one of the more heartwarming stories that have been written, to say that it captures the very essence of what Christmas is all about .... well that is a woeful overstatement! Yes, Dickens story does capture some of what the essence of Christmas is all about. But where it misses the mark is in what is left unsaid.

You see, Christmas is about love ... and about transformation. What a joy to see miserly old Scrooge transformed into a joyful and generous benefactor, thinking more of others and their needs than himself and his "bottom line!" So as far as he goes, Dickens does move us toward the very essence of Christmas. But the Christmas (read CHRISTmas) story is about something even greater! It is the story of a God who so loved us that He sent His Son to be born in abject poverty. That Son would grow to be a man when he would offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sin. This is humanity's greatest need. To have the penalty for our sin paid for - which is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. So in light of this wonderful essence of Christmas, what must we do? How should we respond? By faith we must ADMIT our sin and rebellion to God, BELIEVE that Jesus died for us (and then three days later rose from the dead and so now lives!) and COMMIT ourselves to Him, turning from our sin to Him, asking Him for the forgiveness that only He can offer and the new life that only He can give. This my friend is the path toward radical life transformation and eternal life. It is the very essence of Christmas!

So Mr. Dickens, thank you for such a heartwarming tale. I only wish you would have shown Christ and the gospel as the true path to a transformed life!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 22, 2008

So Where Did Santa Clause Come From?

The model for our modern day Santa Clause, can most likely be traced to an actual historical figure of the fourth century. Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Lycia in what is modern day Turkey. There is not much known about this man beyond that. However, in the Middle Ages, when the Roman Church began to venerate saints of old, many legends about St. Nicholas began to flourish. One recounted how he had given to each of three poor girls a bag of gold that they could use as a dowry. Therefore, they would not be forced to earn their dowry through prostitution. Another story told how he had restored to life three boys who had been cruelly killed. Because of stories like this, St. Nicholas became known as the giver of gifts and the patron saint of children. His day is December 6.

St. Nicholas was particularly popular in Holland. It seems that it was there that he first became associated with customs that eventually linked him to Christmas. The Dutch children expected this patron of children to visit them on the night of December 5. They would place their wooden shoes by the fireplace in anticipation of a visit from St. Nicholas during which he would fill their shoes with gifts. The name Santa Clause is the Americanization for the Dutch name, Sinterklaas.

By the time the Santa Clause tradition began to grow in America, American children learned that you could get more gifts in a large stocking than a shoe. And so hanging stockings by the fire place became the custom. But it was not until Clement Moore wrote his poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas in 1822 (a poem we now know as Twas the Night Before Christmas) that the legend of Santa Clause became a true American tradition.

Now some Christians want nothing to do with the tradition of Santa Clause, believing he takes too much attention away from Jesus who is the real reason for the season. Other Christians embrace the Santa tradition - some more so than others. My purpose today is not too list the pros and cons of including Santa Clause in one's Christmas tradition. But no matter where you stand on this issue, you cannot escape the presence of this man in red and white. He seems to be everywhere - from shopping malls to countless radio stations' holiday programing. Let me suggest that every time you see (or hear) Santa Clause this holiday season - think of the man behind the legend. A man who knew what it was like to give and give sacrificially. And consider following in his footsteps.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thinking About Christmas . . .


"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?"


G. K. Chesterton quotes (English Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936)



"The very purpose of Christ's coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas."

(Evangelist Billy Graham)





Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas as a Holiday?

Christmas as we know it today has not always been commemorated as a holiday. In fact, Christmas was not given any official recognition by the Church until the mid-fifth century. And in the centuries since, Christians have not always been open to celebrating Christmas. This was due in part to the connections Christmas had with the ancient Roman feast of Saturnalia (which marked the winter solstice when the sun ended its decline in the sky and began moving higher leading to the lengthening of each day). The Puritans in early America totally rejected any kind of Christmas celebration. In fact, they deliberately worked on December 25 to show their disdain for the practice. A law passed in England in 1644 reflected this Puritan influence. The law made Christmas Day an official work day. And for a brief time in England, it was illegal to cook plum pudding or mince pie for the holidays!

My how times have changed. Today most Christians tend to heartily celebrate the Christmas holiday. Now the choice to celebrate or not celebrate Christmas is neither right nor wrong. The Apostle Paul addresses this in Romans 14:5-6 when he writes, "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord."

Clearly, we have a choice to consider Christmas special (or not special). But for those of us who choose to celebrate Christmas - the important issue is HOW we choose to celebrate the holiday. For many in our culture, Christmas is all about indulging our self. Obviously that is NOT what Christmas should be for Christ-followers. For us Christmas needs to be a time to reconnect with family, share with others in need, but MOST IMPORTANTLY a time to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. After all, what would Christmas be without CHRIST? He is not only the reason for this season, He is the reason for LIFE!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lost ... now Found!

Joe Richardson graduated from Houston's Universal Technical Institute in 1987. Before graduation, his mom purchased a $200 class ring for him. She had the blue-stoned ring engraved with his name. However, about two weeks after his graduation, Richardson lost the ring. After an exhaustive search he gave up looking for it, figuring he would never see it again. But he was wrong.

Earlier this fall, a fisherman was cleaning an 8-pound bass he caught while fishing on Lake Sam Rayburn near Buna, Texas. He was surprised to find a blue-stoned class ring in the Bass's stomach. And yep, you probably guessed it. It was Joe Richardson's!

The fisherman (who wants to remain anonymous) tracked Joe Richardson down with help from the Internet. Richardson's initial reaction was, "You've got to be kidding!" On November 28, the fisherman presented the long lost ring to Joe, who lives in Buna. What had been lost for over 20 years had now been found!

What are the chances of something like this happening? When I first heard this story, I shook my head in disbelief! Wow! Amazing! Yet, this describes the faith journey of many of God's people. He creates us. He then engraves His name upon us. But we go astray (Isaiah 53:6 states that we "ALL like sheep have gone astray.") Yet, God never loses sight of us and eventually His own will return to HIM!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.

Be sure if you have been found by God -- to thank Him today for HIS amazing grace!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Parachute Failure - Unbelievable Outcome!

Three years ago Shayna West took her first solo skydive and almost died. In fact, she should have. As observers watched in horror, Shayna's main chute failed to open, which sent her spiraling out of control. When she pulled the cord for her emergency chute, it too failed to open (I read that the odds of this happening are about a million in one - for me even those odds are TOO HIGH!). Remarkably, incredibly - Shayna somehow survived. However, she suffered massive injuries to her face, leg and pelvis ... just to name a few ... and has undergone numerous surgeries since her accident. Oh and I forgot to mention that when she took that jump she was in the early stages of pregnancy. So early, she did not even know that she was pregnant! Apparently because the baby was so small, he survived. Today Shayna's son Tanner is a very active two year old.

I read that story and I came to a couple of conclusions. First, you will NEVER (and I do mean NEVER) see me jump out of a plane (unless it is already sitting on the ground!). And second, I see this story as illustrating the truth that our lives our in God's hands! Humanly speaking, Shayna (and Tanner) should not be alive today. Hitting the ground at over 50 mph - how does a person survive that? Yet she did. The only way I can explain all of this is that God is not finished with this woman (and any of her children). He has a plan for her earthly life that did not end on October 9, 2005. And so somehow, I believe, God was there to spare her life when all odds said it should have ended.

Friends, God also has a plan for your life. My prayer for you is that you will seek to work with Him in fulfilling His plan for your life. Strive to love Him .... seek to honor Him ... in all that you think, do and say!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lights Out!

This past Sunday afternoon, I had the privilege of giving both the invocation and benediction at Millersville University's commencement ceremony (which saw close to 500 graduates receive their degree). Just before I took my cell phone off my belt to place it in my coat pocket - my wife, Sharon called. She informed me that our power went out and was wondering if I had seen anything on my trip to Millersville to explain why it did so. I informed her I had seen nothing unusual. I asked her to call the utility company just to make sure they were aware of the problem. After saying goodbye, I went on with my responsibilities and never gave the power outage another thought - that is until I arrived home around 4 PM to discover there was still no power! Sharon had contacted the utility company who had told her that they were looking at a 2 AM restoration of power. Apparently a fire had hit a small substation, knocking out power to our development and the adjoining development. Of course, the power went out on the day we were to host a Christmas party for the young adults in our church (not to mention that it was also the day of one of the biggest games of the year for the Pittsburgh Steelers!). So to say I was a bit irritated - might just be an understatement.

Well the 2 AM target for power restoration was a bit optimistic. Our power was finally restored at 1 PM the next day. So not only did plans for Sunday evening get impacted, so did plans for Monday .

Now I admit that at times during this unexpected power outage, I had to check my attitude. At those times I began to look at the "bright side" (and yes, even in the darkness there was a bright side!). I reminded myself that I needed to be thankful for the house I lived in and the wonderful things I have in it that electricity allows me to enjoy. I also thought of those in New England who were still without power - days after an ice storm hit their area! I was also very glad that the temperatures overnight on Sunday actually began to RISE! (otherwise, it could have been MUCH colder in our house!). After a few minutes of this kind of mental reflection - I saw my attitude change from a grumbling one to a thankful one!

So -- all this to say, the next time some sort of difficulty strikes you - unanticipated and unwelcome - look for God's hand of blessing. I will guarantee you that it will ALWAYS be evident! As Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Quote to Think About . . .


There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way." (C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters)

Which kind of person are YOU?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An X(ray) Marks the Spot!

A Naples Florida teenage, William Colburn faces charges for an alleged recent attempt at shoplifting. But he is also facing charges for tampering with evidence. It appears that a store security guard saw Colburn take a pair of earrings and drop them into a bottle of water. He then proceeded to walk out of the store. When security confronted him outside, he quickly took a long swig of his water, swallowing a mouthful of water and the stolen merchandise. After his arrest, he was taken for xrays, and sure enough, the xrays showed the stolen earrings (the police have not revealed if they were able to recover the confiscated jewelry)!

The moral of this incident is that you might be able to try to cover up your sins - but you can be sure that even if you are successful at hiding your sins from those around you, there is a God in heaven who can see deeply and clearly into the core of your being. Hebrews 4:13 tells us that "nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." So the next time you think you are getting away with that quick look at Internet porn or the telling of a "little white lie" - think again. God sees. God hears. And God knows - it all! (Now having said this, it is also true that when we confess our sins openly and honestly to God - He is always ready to forgive and cleanse - see 1 John 1:9).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let's Honk Like Geese Today!

It is not uncommon for me to hear geese honking overhead several times a day. Huge flocks of Canadian geese loiter around the area, taking advantage of the numerous ponds and the many corn fields in the area. And as soon as these geese take wing, the honking begins. Wondering why they insist on honking so much, I did some research on the Internet. The articles I read all agreed that the geese honk in order to encourage one another in flight. Now I am not opposed to geese offering one another encouragement, but it does get a little annoying when they are honking away as they fly over my house at the crack of dawn!

But we can all take a lesson from our feathered neighbors. All of us have people in our lives (more than we know) who need some encouragement. They have slipped and fallen. They have been hit with some unanticipated trial. They are bleeding. They hurt. They are in need of a solid dose of encouragement to help them get through their daily routine. Yet all too often when faced with such people we are quick to offer advice on how to fix their problems. But that is NOT what they need. Rather they just need a word of encouragement. Let's all purpose to offer encouragement to someone who needs it today. So ask God to open your eyes today to someone in need. And when God responds, write a note, make a phone call, send an email ... do whatever it takes to offer up some needed encouragement to that individual. As the Apostle Paul put it, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fatal Proposal

The place is called "Proposal Rock." The rock sits along the Oregon coast and is so named because it is a favorite destination for those wishing to "pop the question." Last week, what was planned to be a romantic rendezvous between two lovers turned out to be a deadly tragedy. As the couple made their way across the beach to the rock, a 3 foot wave suddenly crashed around them, sweeping 4' 11" Leafil Alforque out to sea. By the time her would-be fiance, Scott Napper could react, "She was about 30 feet away, getting swept away," he said. Quickly he tore off his jacket in order to dive in after her. But when he looked up, she was gone. "That's the last I saw of her," he said Wednesday, breaking into tears. Authorities conducted a search, but came up empty.

What a tragic story! But it reminds me of another fatal proposal. It is the proposal offered to all of us. It is the proposal that life lived independent of God can lead to ultimate fulfillment and happiness. But Scripture warns us against this deception. In Proverbs 14:12 we read, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." This way that "seems right" is the way of living without God and for self. We are enticed to journey through life on this way by our sinful flesh, this evil world and the Enemy of our soul. But at the end of the day (and the end of our earthly life) it leads not to ultimate joy - but only death and despair. So my friend, beware of this fatal proposal. Say "NO!" to living life apart from God. Instead, turn to Jesus Christ. He and He alone is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back to Work!

This morning I crawled out of bed, knowing that my week of vacation was now in life's rear view mirror (isn't it curious that "vacation time" appears to fly by so much more quickly than "non-vacation time?"). My wife and I had plans to travel south (Virgina and North Carolina) for the week but had to postpone our itinerary due to my mother-in-law's unanticipated surgery (she is doing well by the way). Instead, we spent much of the first four days of the week at the hospital. But then we did manage to sneak away for a couple of days of much needed R&R at the end of the week thanks to the timely arrival of my wife's brother (who lives in Virginia).

The events of last week proved a valuable reminder to me ... and so I pass it on to you. No matter how well laid our plans might be (and I had everything set!), they are subject to change. Much in life is simply outside of our control. And so when things happen that force us to change our plans, we can respond by griping or complaining --- or we can respond by trusting the One who has ALL things under His control. I must admit that there were some moments I was doing more griping than trusting. But at the end of the day I CHOSE (and we all have this choice to make) to trust God. He is TRUSTWORTHY. And that is good enough for me!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - Thanks to all of you who prayed for my mother-in-law. And if you remember to do so, please continue to pray!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'll Be Back Next Week


I will be out of the office this week (week of December 1st). My wife and I had planned an out-of-town trip, but were forced to cancel the trip due to my mother-in-law's need for surgery. I would appreciate your prayers for her.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!



Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)



Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)







Thanks for stopping by ... and have a blessed THANKSGIVING celebration!

pj

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanking God as Our World Is in Crisis!

Modern day pirates are taking ships and lives off the coast of Africa. Warfare rages around the globe (over 30 current conflicts according to globalsecurity.org). Recent natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis) have taken thousands upon thousands of lives. World economies are crumbling. It is clear that our world is being shaken to its very core.

But as followers of Jesus, should we be filled with anxiety and a sense of dread? Certainly not! For as Believers, we receive "a kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12:28). This kingdom is none other than the Kingdom of God. And though the our world might appear to be on the verge of collapse - God's Kingdom is ROCK SOLID! So do you see why we should not be anxious or full of fear? Instead, we must "show gratitude by which we may offer to God and acceptable service with reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28).

Tomorrow, as you celebrate Thanksgiving Day, be sure to thank God for His unshakable Kingdom (and the reality that due to HIS grace, you are a part of it!). But don't stop with tomorrow. Thank God EVERYDAY -- and in that attitude of gratitude offer to the King the service He is due!

Thanks for stopping by ... and a BLESSED THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL! I THANK GOD FOR EACH ONE OF YOU!

pj

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So, Who Are You Going to Lean on?

Recently in my reading I ran across a quote that really (I mean REALLY!) got me thinking! These words were written by Elizabeth Elliot. Her husband was one of the five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians in 1956. Elizabeth writes,

"It is not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on. It is God and nothing less than God, for the work is God's and the call is God's and everything is summoned by Him and to His purposes, the whole scene, the whole mess, the whole package - our bravery, our cowardice, our love and our selfishness, our strengths and our weaknesses . . . [God uses] as the instruments of His peace a conglomeration of sinners who sometimes look like heroes and sometimes like villains, for 'we are no better than pots of earthenware to contain this treasure [the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ], and this proves that such transcendent power does not come from us, but is God's alone.' (2 Corinthians 4:7 NEB)"

Those our powerful words spoken by a woman whose personal world came crashing around her when her young husband was struck down in the prime of life. Especially considering he was killed trying to reach his soon-to-be murderers with the Gospel. Soldiers and cops are expected to die in the line of duty - but not missionaries! Yet through this dark valley Elizabeth Elliot learned that she could lean on God and HIS power to accomplish HIS purposes. That is a lesson I need to learn and re-learn. All too often, I want to be in control. And so I go through life depending way too much on MY power rather than HIS power. Ouch! May God help me (and YOU) lean more on HIM!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Prodigy

A prodigy is defined as being "a person, especially a child or young person, having extraordinary talent or ability: a musical prodigy" (source: dictionary.com). Take a moment and view this video and you may just find yourself listening to a prodigy!




Wow! This girl can sure tickle those keys! I could practice the piano for 8 hours a day for the rest of my life and not be able to play as well as this six year old can! But that is OK by me. I know that playing the piano is not one of my gifts. So I content myself to sitting back and listening to those who have the gift and ability to play piano (or any other musical instrument for that matter).

But what about the gifts and abilities that I do possess? All of us have been given different gifts/abilities by God. And sitting back and not utilizing them is not an option. God shapes us so that we in turn might serve him and serve others (for His sake!). Ephesians 2:10 is a great reminder of this truth. The Apostle Paul writes, "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

So let me ask you -- just what are your gifts and abilities and how are you currently using them to serve God and others? One day we will all be called upon to give an account to God of our "stewardship" of our God-given SHAPE. Will you be ready?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Concerning Tuxedos

From my recent wedding experiences in marrying off our daughters (not to mention my son's wedding in July of 2006), I learned a number of things about tuxes. First, they are expensive to rent (even with the discount I received as “father of the bride!”). In addition, they are quite warm. No matter the season (in my case it was summer and early fall) – tuxes have a way of maintaining body heat. Also I learned that they have a way of making a person look rather sharp (at least that’s what a lot of people told me – so either they were just trying to be nice, or they felt sorry for me – knowing I probably spent a lot on its rental – or they were being honest. I’ll opt for the latter!). All in all I’d have to say that my experiences with tuxedos (the first in some 28 years) – were far better than I had expected.

In our “dress-down” increasingly “casual” society, weddings are still one of those few times where people, for the most part, still “dress up.” I like that. I think it’s a good thing. When I scan the guests at weddings, I enjoy seeing people in their fine attire. There is coming a wedding banquet for followers of Jesus Christ. It will take place at some undisclosed date in the future. The Bible refers to it as the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” It is discussed in Revelation chapter 19. In verses 7 and 8 we read, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"

Did you catch what was said about what we will be wearing to this tremendous celebration? We will be wearing fine linen – and this fine linen stands for our “righteous acts!” So I rented the tux I wore for my son’s wedding, but for THE SON’S wedding, I will be wearing attire that I make by myself for myself. And I am making it right NOW – in this life. Gulp! And this is true for every follower of Christ. So the question for me – and for YOU is this: How will we be dressed at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? Rags? Scruffy tee shirt and ratty jeans? Or will we be in attire more fitting for a wedding celebration? It’s all up to YOU (and me!). Living for Jesus will weave for us attire appropriate for that occasion. So by God’s grace – let’s go live for HIM and get ready for the wedding to come!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Tyranny of the Urgent

A number of years ago, Charles Hummel wrote a little book titled, The Tyranny of the Urgent. In this short but powerful booklet, he reminds us of just how easily we can get distracted from what is truly the important things of life. How so? Hummel points out that all of us every day face what he calls life's urgent demands (things like paying the household bills, raking the leaves, running the kids to soccer practice, buying the groceries or doing the laundry). These things have to be done ... and most of them have to be done RIGHT NOW! But the more important priorities in life (such as time spent with God in prayer and the Word, calling to talk with a distant friend, playing in the back yard with your kids, or talking about your dreams with your spouse) - these things can be left undone. And as the urgent demands continue to scream at us - we can tend to lose sight of the truly important.

I am feeling a bit harried by life's urgent demands. I must admit that I have not spent much time with God the last couple of days. So as soon as I post this - I am going to walk away from the urgent tasks on my desk and go spend time with God. These things will still be here tomorrow. I will tackle the pile then!

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Down Time on the Weekend

Weekends are a great time to enjoy some "down time" as most people take a break from their work-week routine (although, my weekends tend to be the busiest time of my week!). Be sure this weekend to give some quality time to your family and other close relationships ... and also to God! Take a moment and think about the following quote:

"I cannot understand how there's always the present, and how quickly the present becomes the past." (Dean Meyers)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Love My Church!

In recent years, "The Church" has taken a bad rap. Books such as Quitting Church: Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do about It and So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore? remind us that many people don't think too highly of "The Church."

I want to go on record of saying that I LOVE my church (which is one of a multitude of local expressions of "The Church"). And I am not alone. Jesus Christ also loves my church. One of several New Testament metaphors for "The Church" is that of "the Bride of Christ." Jesus loves "The Church" (and therefore each local expression of "The Church") because "The Church" is HIS bride! He died for her and He is at work in her "to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:26-27). Did you catch that? "The Church" (and again, read here - my church as one of its local expressions) is not perfect! Jesus Himself is working on her so that one day yet future she WILL be perfect. But until that day "The Church" will not be perfect - but rather a "work in progress!"

So bottom line, my church is not perfect. I know this to be true (for starters, I am part of my church and I know far too well that I am FAR from perfect!). But I still love my church -- warts and all. I hope you love yours, too because Jesus surely does!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Buddah? God? Or Something Else?

Ram Bahadur Bamjan sits quietly in the jungles of southern Nepal. But he doesn't sit alone. In spite of being only 18 years old, Bamjan has attracted thousands of followers. And just what is it about this teen with the flowing locks and white robe that has garnered the adoration of so many? The crowds come because they believe him to be the reincarnation of Buddha. But for many - he's even more! Here is what a few of his followers have said about Bamjan:

"I got a chance to see God today. They say he is Buddha, but for me he is just God."
(Bishnu Maya Khadka, a housewife)

"I have no doubt in my mind he is a God." (Meg Bahadur Lama, a local farmer)


So what are these people basing their judgment about Bamjan's identity upon? Just what is the evidence they cite for making such a claim? They believe Bamjan has been meditating without food and water since he was first spotted in the jungles of southern Nepal in 2005. Wow! That's about three years (or 1095 days). If true that would be quite the feat, especially considering that Jesus only went 40 days without eating! I wonder if he is under observation 24/7/365. My guess is he is sneaking in food and water when no one's watching!

So really - who is this guy who many believe to be a reincarnation of Buddha or even God? I don't know. But I do know who he is NOT. And he is neither Buddha reincarnate nor God. Concerning reincarnation - the Bible clearly states that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). So according to God's Word, it's once and done when it comes to the life we live on this earth. And concerning the deity of this teen, only one individual who ever walked this earth could make a legitimate claim to deity - and his name is Jesus (for an excellent article on the evidence for Christ's deity, see: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/deityofx.html; also for a briefer read see: http://www.equip.org/site/c.muI1LaMNJrE/b.2548425/k.82B9/Deity_of_Christ.htm).

I am saddened by this spiritual darkness that manifests itself in the belief that an 18 year old man is a reincarnated "holy man" or even God! But we can be encouraged that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World -- and light always conquers darkness!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Fragrance of Gratitude

Years ago an incident occurred on the Metro in Washington, DC in which a crowded subway train stalled on the tracks. Before stalling, the riders were dozing, reading or just "zoning out." But once the train stalled (and stayed stalled) - the harried commuters, all anxious to get to their homes, exploded. They noisily vented their anger and frustration. They blamed the driver, the Metro authorities, the federal government and anyone else that came to mind for this irritating disruption of their day. Somewhere in the midst of this growing bedlam, a woman holding a number of bulky bags from her day of shopping, dropped one of them containing a bottle of perfume she had purchased. The bottle shattered, releasing into the air the perfume's pure, luxurious fragrance. As this sweet smell made its way through the crowded car, the people sniffed, smiled and then relaxed. They began to laugh about their situation. What was once seen as horrible was now "no big deal!"

As followers of Jesus walking through the crowded moments of life, we can do the same as this woman who dropped her perfume. People all around us are frustrated and angry with the irritating circumstances and details of life. By being positive (and not in a Pollyanna sort of way!) we can release a sweet fragrance of hope that people need to smell. And one of the greatest ways to release such a fragrance is to work on being thankful. Far too many Jesus followers (and I count myself among them) tend to complain about life -- when we of all people should be thankful about life! After all, the author of life is our Lord, our Saviour and our Friend. So -- spread the fragrance of hope by cultivating an attitude of gratitude in your life today!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back in Town with Some Random Thoughts

I am glad to be back in Lancaster! My time in Indiana was VERY productive. Grace College/Seminary are alive and well ... but are facing some challenges given the current recession in which we find ourselves. But with great leadership at the helm and God on His throne - I am optimistic concerning the future of Grace Schools.

Since I am still digging out of the pile of work that accumulated while I was gone, I thought that in lieu of a regular posting - I would post just a few random thoughts that are floating around in my head.

1. Seeing that today in Veterans Day - please take a moment to thank a vet and pray for the men and women in our military. Sharon and I gave a card to our son-in-law, who served in Iraq. We enjoy our freedoms in part due to the sacrifice of our service men and women.

2. Offering hospitality is a great way to demonstrate the love of Jesus (which is why we are commanded to do so - see Romans 12:13 and 1 Peter 4:9). I was on the receiving end of some very gracious hospitality during my time away in Indiana (thanks, Pat, Leslee, Alex and Ed!).

3. Relationships are so precious! I was reminded of this upon arriving in Indiana and spending time with some people I love for the first time in a long time. I was reminded again when I returned home to a hug and kiss from my best friend (a.k.a. my wife!). All of us could enrich our lives by making the relationships in our lives a greater priority (a quick read of the New Testament will affirm the same!).

4. In spite of the turbulent times (or probably better said, "BECAUSE of the turbulent times") - the opportunity to advance the gospel is growing! People are frightened and anxious about tomorrow. What a great time for us to come along and point them to the ONE who holds tomorrow in His hand!!!

I hope to get back to some "regular" spiritual meanderings tomorrow. Until then ...

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On My Way to Indiana

Today I catch a mid-morning flight to Indianapolis. I am heading out to Indiana to attend the Board of Trustees meetings of Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. The two schools are located in north-central Indiana, in the small resort town of Winona Lake. The Board is made up of about two dozen men and women from across the United States (and one member lives in Germany). We meet twice a year (March and November). Now I take this responsibility very seriously. The Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (of which our church is a member) has entrusted the direction and well-being of these two schools to our Board. That is why we are called a Board of Trustees. We have been put in trust for these two schools. I also serve on the Board of Trustees of Hebrew Christian Fellowship. HCF is a board which focuses on reaching Jewish people for Christ. Again, our Board has been entrusted with the oversight of this mission.

In a similar way - every single follower of Jesus Christ has been entrusted with many things. But the most important is the GOSPEL. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 we read, "On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." So how are you handling this trust? Are your striving to live the gospel? Are you seeking to share the gospel?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - I will do my best to post from Indiana ... but the schedule is quite full so I may not be able to post until I return. I would very much appreciate your prayers for me and my fellow Board members. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today is D-Day!

Today millions of Americans will go to their local polling place to cast their vote (I just got back from voting). That means that more than likely by the time we all wake up tomorrow, we will know who will occupy the oval office for the next four years (We will also be able to say "good-bye - and good riddance! - to all the annoying campaign commercials that have flooded our television screens for the past year plus!). So today is Decision Day!

Now - no matter who wins the election, keep in mind that the ultimate King still rules. That's right. No matter who lives in White House, God remains firmly entrenched on His heavenly throne. And from there He is actively orchestrating the ebb and flow of human history. This is made clear in Daniel 2:21 where we read, "He (God Almighty) changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them." So the bottom line of today's election? Whoever wins - does so by permission of God Himself. God has a plan .... and he is working that plan! And as people of The Book - we have read the final chapter of God's plan which tells us that HE wins!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 3, 2008

November's Here . . .

It might be hard to believe but I just confirmed it by looking a the date on my wrist watch - today is the third of November! And as I look out the window of my home office, I can see a carpet of golden leaves on my back lawn that says, "Ditto - it's November!" Personally, I think November is a great month - for many reasons. The football season is in high gear (football is my favorite sport) and the autumn colors are often spectacular. But the biggest reason that I like November is that it contains one of my favorite holidays - Thanksgiving Day.

As we approach Thanksgiving, you will probably find me posting some thoughts on the topic of gratitude. Giving thanks to God is probably the most underrated spiritual "discipline" in the toolbox of spiritual disciplines. It is simple to do yet profound in its affects. For starters, consider the following quote about the giving of thanks:

"Being thankful is not rocket science. Though the topic of gratitude goes as deep as the grace of God, it does not require tough biblical exegesis or advanced degrees to practice it. It just requires obedience. . . When we really give God thanks in everything, we are acknowledging that He is sovereign and that we trust Him. And we find that it changes us."
(Ellen Vaughn in Radical Gratitude, pp. 43-44)

Am I thankful for YOU?

You know it!

pj

Friday, October 31, 2008

Will the Real Biggest Loser Please Stand Up?

Manuel Uribe set a Guinness Book World Record back in 2006, when he weighed an astonishing 1,230 pounds! Since then, he has shed an amazing 550 pounds - still leaving him with plenty more pounds to lose (and I thought I had it tough with the weight I should lose!). Manuel was in the news recently as he married his long time sweetheart. Since he has not been able to leave his bed in six years, his bride did all the walking and standing during the ceremony - a ceremony which left Manuel in tears. Now that he is married, Manuel has set a goal to become the world's biggest loser. The current Guinness World Records for weight loss are held by and American woman Rosalie Bradford at 907 pounds lost, and a British man Jon Brower Minnoch who lost 924 pounds. So Manuel has a few pounds to go! But concerning his fight against his obesity, Manuel said, "The doctors told me I had a choice. To choose life or to choose death. I chose life."

Now those are good words that reveal the kind of attitude we all should cultivate. Since all of us face difficulties (you may even be facing a HUGE one right now!), we all need to remember that how we face life's difficulties is a CHOICE. Just as Maneul Uribe made the right choice to try and overcome his obesity, we must do the same no matter what our difficult situation might be. So the question we must all answer is this: Will we choose to do our best to meet the challenge while trusting God to work in us and around us? Or will we choose to grumble and complain and adopt a victim mentality ("Oh, woe is me!")? This choice will make all the difference as to whether we will rise above our difficulties or our difficulties will rise above us!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Are You Passing On?

You'd better keep your outside lights on tonight! Why? Tonight is what is commonly referred to as "Mischief Night." Most common in the Northeastern U.S., Ireland, England and Canada, it is a night when young people play pranks on their neighbors. These pranks include soaping windows, ringing doorbells and then running away and "T-ping" (taking rolls of toilet paper and draping the TP over trees and houses) - and a list of other things (unfortunately sometimes these pranks can and do get out of hand!). Where and why this practice originated - I do not know (I did a brief scan of Internet info and found it to be somewhat confusing concerning the origin of this practice). So all this to say - keep your outside lights on tonight and it should keep would be pranksters away!

Why do young people get involved in these things? Is it something that is taught in school? No. Rather younger kids hear about it from older kids who heard about it from their parents. In other words, this tradition of "Mischief Night" has been passed down from one generation to the next. And what is true of "Mischief Night" is also true of many things. Values, beliefs, practices -- all get passed on from one generation to another. There is nothing wrong with this ... as long as what is being passed on is good stuff.

So if you are a parent ... let me ask you, "What are you passing on to your children?" I hope you are passing on the things that matter - values, beliefs, standards, and priorities that are based solidly on the teachings of the Bible. Along with your spouse, take some time to answer this question. The welfare of your kids is on the line. Because if they don't get God's way from you - WHO will they get it from?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Call to Prayer!

Just one week from today, Americans will go to their polling places and vote in the next president of our country. With such a monumental decision before us ... I invite all who read this to join me at noon each day leading up to the election. Take a moment to pause and pray for our nation. Consider the following prayer of Billy Graham for our nation:

'Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and Set us free. Amen!'

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Snow Is on the Way - but So Is Jesus!

This morning I saw the dreaded "S" word in today weather's forecast (at least for many of us!). Yep. That's right. You probably heard it too (if you live in the Lancaster area). Snow may be falling before the day is over. Now, it won't lay on the ground - but the fact that we might see snow flakes floating down from above is just a foretaste of what most likely lies ahead of us. And if meteorologist Joe Bastardi of Accu Weather is right, we are facing a winter with below normal temps and above normal precipitation. To me, that sounds like the formula for a lot of the white stuff! Hmm. I'll have to make sure my snow blower is in working condition soon!

Now we all know with weather forecasts, there are many variables that go into the making of a forecast. Therefore, forecasts can be way off the mark. And usually the longer range the forecast the higher probability that the forecast will be inaccurate. I'm hoping that is the case with the forecast for the upcoming winter!

However, when God makes a forecast, it does not matter how "long range" it might be! His forecasts for the future are ALWAYS 100% on the mark! How so? Because as the book of Daniel (and other books of the Bible) demonstrates, our God is sovereign over the affairs of men and the ebb and flow of human history! So when he forecasts, for example, the return of His Son to this earth - you can count on it occurring. He just hasn't revealed to us the date. So if we are going to get our snow blowers set for action based on an uncertain long range weather forecast, then how much more do we need to be sure we are ready for the return of Jesus Christ? If you have any questions about your readiness to meet him - please don't hesitate to email me at jsmith@gracewv.org. I would be glad to "chat" with you!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, October 24, 2008

Recession Proof?

This morning when the stock market opened, I happened to notice on my MSN home page that within minutes of the opening bell, stocks fell over 400 points. Now 6 months ago, that might have shocked me. Today it's becoming routine. Up a couple hundred one day, down several hundred the next. Consumer confidence is at an all time low and home foreclosures at an all time high. Unemployment is climbing .... and the only good economic news is the fact that oil prices are falling.

In light of all this economic turmoil, Forbes Magazine recently published an article which gave the results of a study Forbes conducted. The results of the study reveals the best places (and the worst places) in the U.S. to "ride out the recession." At the top of list of best places - Austin, Texas. Not all that surprising given the fact that Austin is the state capital AND the home of the University of Texas. That combination makes for a lot of job security. However, what I did find surprising was the city that came in tenth on that list. Here are the top ten:

1 Austin, TX.
2 Oklahoma City.
3 Honolulu.
4 Portland, Ore.
5 Tulsa.
6 Virginia Beach.
7 Seattle.
8 Baltimore.
9 Boston.
10 LANCASTER.

And the LANCASTER on this list is none other than Lancaster, PA. Wow! I found that to be quite encouraging! However, I do think Forbes missed the mark with this article. Now don't get me wrong. I am glad their study reveals my home town as one of the top ten places to ride out this current economic down turn. BUT - the VERY BEST PLACE to ride out any recession is "in the hands of God!" That's right. It doesn't matter what your mailing address is ... if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, He is your GOOD SHEPHERD. And if He is your shepherd, you "shall not want!" (see Psalm 23). Jesus Christ put it this way:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:25-33)

So rest easy - no matter where you live. GO hard after God and then leave your NEEDS in His capable hands.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Your Faith Contagious?

Recently a teacher friend of mine came down with conjunctivitis, better known as "pink eye." Pink eye (an inflammation of the membranes (conjunctiva) covering the whites of the eyes and the membranes on the inner part of the eyelids) is rarely life threatening but at times can lead to quite a bit of discomfort. But the real problem with pink eye is that it is HIGHLY contagious. I guess we shouldn't be surprised then, when we hear of a school teacher who comes down with pink eye!

As I thought about pink eye, I thought of our faith in Christ and how I wish my faith (and the faith of others) was more contagious. We are surrounded by people on their way to a meeting with God. At that meeting they will be judged. And if their names are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life, they will be cast forever into the lake of fire (check out Revelation chapter 20). That's why I wish my faith were more contagious. Well perhaps it's time to stop wishing it were more contagious ... and start making it more contagious. How can we do so? For starters, consider the following passage:

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (Colossians 4:5-6)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wasting Time with God?

Shopping is not something I enjoy doing. In fact, it fits in the category of "have-to" tasks vs. "want-to" tasks (other "have-to" tasks would include going to the dentist, completing my tax returns, and grading exams - just to name a few). Therefore, if I must shop, I am usually in and out of stores as quickly as I can. But there is one type of store I could browse in for hours and that is a bookstore. Whether we're talking a Berean Christian Bookstore or a Barnes & Nobles or a Borders (or even Amazon.com!), I just love checking out potential books to read. And I must admit, I usually end up buying more than I can read! (Right now I am working my way through at least 7 or 8 books - hopefully I will finish at least half of them!)

One of my recent purchases is the book Wasting Time with God: A Christian Spirituality of Friendship with God (by Klaus Issler). In a conversation, a friend happened to mention this book, so I checked it out and bought it. Currently I am working my way through chapter 2 - and so far I have enjoyed the book immensely. Just what is the book about? The following is a quote from the back cover:

"When it comes to developing a deep, trusting relationship with God, efficiency and productivity are not the answer. Rather we need to 'waste' time with him, to just enjoy being with him. After all, that's how any friendship grows. Exploring how to make room for God in our fast-paced lives, Issler considers seven character traits and companion disciplines: friendship, humility, faith, commitment, communication, apprenticeship and partnership. These combine to offer a model for a full-orbed Christian spirituality that will be of lasting value."

One of the most compelling quotes from the book that I have encountered in my reading to date actually comes out of the author's acknowledgements section. In fact, it is his last acknowledgement. Here is what he writes, "But most of all, I thank God for being God - mysterious, majestic, personal." Wow! That is our God. As the infinite (read "unlimitable") God he is indeed mysterious. We are finite (read "limited") and so there is much about God that we just can't get our arms around. He is also majestic (the most majestic being by far in the universe and beyond!). And to think that this mysterious and majestic God is personal! Wow! And because He his personal, we can enter into a personal friendship with Him! But to grow that friendship we must be willing to "waste time" with Him! Are you willing???

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tackling Life's Challenges!

For several years a small pub in upstate Pennsylvania has put a challenge on the table: $400 to anyone who could down the Beer Barrel Belly Buster in under five hours. For several years, many a burly man has stepped up to take the challenge - but never finished. That is, until last week. That's when a Uniontown, PA chef named Brad Sciullo walked into the pub. He ordered the Belly Buster (which, by the way is a 15 pound hamburger covered with an additional five pounds of toppings - which is the equivalent of approximately 60 Burger King Whoppers)! Four hours and 39 minutes later, Sciullo had accomplished what many before him had failed to do. For his efforts he was awarded $400, several T-shirts, a certificate and what the pub owner called "a burger hangover."

What motivated Sciullo to tackle the seemingly impossible? In his words, "I wanted to see if I could." Despite his rather average stature (5'11", 180 lbs) - he was up to the challenge and walked out of the pub (or perhaps he was carried out of the pub) $400 richer.

Hmmm. "I wanted to see if I could." As believers in Jesus Christ, I wonder how often when faced with a challenge, we simply give up ... we throw in the proverbial towel. Life is full of obstacles and difficulties (see my posting of yesterday). And when we encounter them - especially the bigger ones that come our way - I think far too often we allow anxiety and fear to grip us ("Oh, woe is me ... how we I ever get through this?"). At these times we must fix our minds on the promises of God (such as "Nothing is impossible with God." [Luke 1:37] AND "I can do everything through him (Jesus Christ) who gives me strength" [Philippians 4:13]).

So as you face today's challenges - remember that you do not face them alone. Jesus Christ the King of the Universe is there with you ... and he will make you able!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm Back!

Sharon and I rolled back into town last Friday around 4 PM. We had a wonderful 3 days in Cape May, NJ (which even included wading in the surf, it was that warm - both the air temp and the water temp). I must admit I found the town to be surprisingly delightful. Sharon and I have placed it on our list of places worth a repeat visit. After being in the "wedding mode" for so long, it sure was great to get away and RELAX!

Well little did I realize how short lived that time to relax would be. Soon after arriving back home, we received a phone call from the assisted living facility where my mother-in-law lives that she had fallen and was being transported to the hospital. The exam in the ER showed a fractured shoulder. She was admitted, with the plan to run additional tests today (to help determine the reason for her dizziness which led to the fall). Yesterday, Sharon and I helped her celebrate her 84th birthday.

All this to say life sure is unpredictable. Walking hand-in-hand with your best friend, enjoying the ocean surf one day- then spending an evening in the ER helping to comfort a hurting family member the next. But that is the way life happens ... much like a roller coaster, up one day and down the next. Isn't it great to know that in midst all this turbulence, Jesus Christ has us in HIS hands! And concerning Jesus we are told that He is "the same, yesterday and today and forever!" (Hebrews 13:8). So the next time your life gets rocked - remember that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ - your soul is anchored to the solid rock - the One who NEVER changes! Now that's stability!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'll Be Back Next Week!



My wife, Sharon and I are leaving town this morning for some needed rest and relaxation. We are heading for Cape May, NJ - a place Sharon has always wanted to visit. So we thought this would be a great time to go.

As I close out this short week of blog postings ... a quick question for you: Whose approval are you seeking? Are you seeking the approval of others? Or the approval of God? Consider carefully the following verses:

Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. (Jeremiah 45:5)

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reflections of the Father of the Bride - the FINAL Installment!


Now that a day has passed since the wedding, I thought I would share just a few final thoughts about the experience of being the Father of the Bride for my second and final time.





1. I have known many joys in life but the joy of knowing that all three of my children are now married to good spouses ranks up there near the top.

2. Putting together a wedding is far more work than I ever imagined. All the planning, running, phone calls back and forth, dress fittings, tux fittings, etc., etc., etc.. (If I had known what I know now, I think I would have upped the anty on my elopement offer I made to both my daughters! :) )

3. People really matter! What made all three of my children's weddings so special were the family and friends we were able to have present to share the day with us.

4. A wedding may be beautiful - but it is really the marriage that counts. Far too many grooms and brides have a happy wedding day and then lose that happiness somewhere during their marriage. I pray that my children will experience the blessing and happiness that I have enjoyed during my thirty years of marriage to my sweetheart and best friend. But a happy marriage just doesn't happen. It requires a lot of effort and work. Husbands and wives must make their marriage one of their life's top priorities.

I could say far more but I am still quite tired from the whole experience which I found to be emotionally and physically draining.

Today my daughter and her new husband are enjoying their honeymoon . . . and I am one satisfied papa!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reflections of the Father of the Bride, Again (Part 4)

As I write these words, the big event that has been much planned for, paid for and prayed for ... is a mere four hours away! I am ready!!! Bring it on!

Yesterday's rehearsal ran very smoothly, putting the bride and groom at ease. I think the most nervous people today are the parents of the three year old ring bearer and the parents of the two and four year old flower girls. During the rehearsal, all three made it down the aisle on only the second try ... but today with a crowd of people watching, things might not go so well. But little ones can do about anything and everyone will ooh and aah at their "cuteness!"

As glad as I am for this wedding to be here ... I also have a touch of sadness floating around in my heart. Even though I will officiate many more weddings down the road (God willing), this will be the last wedding of one of my children that I will have the privilege of officiating. I certainly see this as a HUGE perk of being a pastor. Not many dads get to walk their daughter down the aisle and then lead her (and her future husband) in the exchange of their marriage vows.

Either tomorrow or Tuesday I will wrap up these Reflections of the Father of the Bride, Again. Right now, I have to begin getting ready - it's not every day that I put on a tux, and I think I might need some extra time to figure it all out. (Hey, honey, where is my tux?)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, October 11, 2008

One More Day to Go!

When our daughter, Emily and son Tim were little, they liked to play "wedding." In this photo Emily is wearing Sharon's wedding dress and Tim the tuxedo jacket in which I was married (They also liked to eat cake!). Well, tomorrow Emily will experience the real thing (which my son did a little over two years ago).

So that makes today my daughter's "Wedding Eve." And boy do I have a lot to do:

- Pick up bagels and cream cheese at Panera Bread (for bridal party's wedding day breakfast)
- Stop at Starbucks (for a cup of coffee, what else?)
- Finish my wedding ceremony notes and print them out
- Help set up for rehearsal dinner
- Conduct wedding rehearsal
- Enjoy rehearsal dinner
- Clean up after rehearsal dinner
- A pile of other misc. tasks that I have forgotten to list (or do not at present foresee doing - which will have to be done. I know this will occur having walked down this path just 3 1/2 months ago!)

Although I will be busy today, I am going to do my best to "stop and smell the roses." I want to "drink it (today's experiences) all in" as this is my last opportunity to be involved in the wedding of one of my own children. My prayer is that this day will be a day of blessing for my daughter, her fiance, my wife and the rest of our family (and friends). God has been so good to us, but that comes as no surprise as He is in His very nature GOOD! Consider the following words:

"For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 100:5)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. By the way, you know those wedding programs that I thought I was handing off to someone else to do? Well, somehow I got involved in putting them together. Just another "joy" of being the Father of the Bride!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reflections of the Father of the Bride, Again (Part 3)


In just 56 hours and 9 minutes I will once again be walking one of my little girls down the aisle and giving her away to another man. On one hand, I will relish the moment. After all, this is the goal of parenting - to see your children grow up, mature, become responsible and then "leave the nest" to start life on their own. And since this is our third and last child to be married - it brings a special sense of satisfaction. But on the other hand, I am dreading the moment. It is as if the door to a major chapter of my life is now slamming shut - never to be opened again. I thoroughly enjoyed raising my kids and had a blast doing so (although there were THOSE moments!). Sunday's walk down the aisle will be a reminder that life is now moving on.

HOWEVER, I am more than ready for the next chapter in the parenting cycle -- that of grand parenting. As I see it, grand parenting has all the upside of parenting with little of the downside! I am going to love being a granddad!

But whether we are talking about our kids or our grandkids, we must always remember that these children and grandchildren do not belong to us - they belong to God. God merely loans them to us to raise them for HIM! Pslam 127:3 reminds us that children are a reward from God. Here's one dad who is VERY grateful to God for the three little rewards God sent his way!

More later. . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blessings for the New Year!

As I wrap up my blogging for yet another year, I want to leave you with a few well said words. Take a moment and think on these things. And if changes in your life are called for - then take action!

I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light. (Mary Gardner Brainard)

A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell. (C.S. Lewis)

Live as though Christ died yesterday, rose from the grave today, and is coming back tomorrow. (Theodore Epp)

Wishing will never be a substitute for prayer. (Ed Cole)

I cannot imagine how the clockwork of the universe can exist without a clockmaker. (Voltaire)

Here, then, is the real problem of our negligence. We fail in our duty to study God's Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy. (R.C. Sproul)

Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him, and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. (George Mueller)


Thanks for stopping by . . . and I will "see" you next year!

pj

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Open Your Eyes!

Peggy Noonan was a young speech writer for President Ronald Regan. Today she is a contributing editor of the Wall Street Journal. Her syndicated column appears in the Lancaster New Era. In last evening's column she was reflecting on several books she had read during the course of 2008. One of these was titled, Mother Teresa's Secret Fire. The book was written by a close friend of Mother Teresa, Joseph Langford. He writes of many lessons he learned from Teresa, who left her convent to work with the poorest of the poor among the slums and ghettos of Calcultta, India. Among these lessons that Noonan cites is one that struck me. So as we stand on the doorstep of a new year - I share it with you.

"You must find your own Calcutta. You don't have to go to India. Calcutta is all around you."

All we have to do is OPEN OUR EYES! As we do so, God will show us the desperate need of the people who surround us. And as He does so, we must be willing to show them the love of Jesus! As we enter the new year, let's all purpose to ask God each day to open our eyes. Needy people fill our lives - and their greatest need is Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 29, 2008

Do You Talk Too Much?

As we say "goodbye" to 2008 and "hello" to 2009, I think it is helpful for all of us to take some time to "take stock" of our lives. Yesterday my message to our church family detailed a list of 7 questions for a spiritual self checkup (you can see the complete list on our web site - www.gracewv.org). One of these questions was "Do I talk more than I listen?" Most of us like to listen -- as long as it is US we are listening to! Now God's advice on this is clear. Consider the following verses:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak... (James 1:19)

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Ouch! I really need this reminder. And I need God's help to become a better listener! Yesterday I shared the following prayer with our church family. I encourage you to take this prayer and make it yours!

"I ask for wisdom to restrain my speech and the patience to listen more carefully to others before responding with my own opinions. May I be a gracious and others-centered listener rather than a controlling and self-centered talker. I desire to serve others by listening, caring and encouraging. Amen."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God's Gift to You

Gifts are a big part of the Christmas season. We spend time thinking about them, shopping for them, wrapping them and exchanging them. For most people a Christmas without gifts under the tree would be no Christmas at all.

There is no clear consensus as to when gift giving became so firmly entrenched with Christmas. Many point to the Victorian era which brought renewed warmth to the holiday with its emphasis on family. At that time Yule tide gift giving sprang up to show kindness and love to family members and beyond. But whatever the case, gifts are a big part of Christmas.

As you exchange your gifts this Christmas - take a moment and look beyond these gifts to the greater gift of God. After all, Christmas is all about God so loving us "that He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish BUT have eternal life" (John 3:16).

Tomorrow morning (Christmas Day) is the time my family will be exchanging our gifts for one another. If my wife were to leave one of my gifts to her unwrapped, sitting under our tree - how do you think I would feel about such indifference? Well, my friend, far too many leave God's gift of His Son unwrapped and sitting under the tree. Please don't be among them. Your eternal destiny lies in the balance (please read Matthew 7:13-14 and John 14:6).

Open God's gift to you today (read my posting of yesterday for instructions). Please don't leave HIS gift as the only unopened gift under your tree.

Thanks for stopping by and a MERRY CHRISTMAS to you . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Carol .... or a CHRISTmas Carol?

Last Friday evening, my wife and I and our daughter and son-in-law, took in a local theater company's production of Charles Dickens classic yule tale, A Christmas Carol. Although I had seen many a television/movie version, I had never seen it done "live." It was a highly enjoyable experience (for those of you who live in Lancaster, I would highly recommend it. Info on the production - which runs through December 28th - can be found at http://www.seventhsister.com. The theater is offering a "pay as you wish" admission plan!).

Now that I have seen A Christmas Carol "live" - I thought it would be interesting to read it as Dickens actually wrote it. So I went to Amazon.com to purchase the book. In the process of doing so, I read some reviews on the book that readers had posted. The following caught my eye:

"This is the most heartwarming story EVER written about Yuletide, the story is truly magical. It captures the very essence of what Christmas is all about."

Hmm. Although I would agree that Dickens' tale is indeed one of the more heartwarming stories that have been written, to say that it captures the very essence of what Christmas is all about .... well that is a woeful overstatement! Yes, Dickens story does capture some of what the essence of Christmas is all about. But where it misses the mark is in what is left unsaid.

You see, Christmas is about love ... and about transformation. What a joy to see miserly old Scrooge transformed into a joyful and generous benefactor, thinking more of others and their needs than himself and his "bottom line!" So as far as he goes, Dickens does move us toward the very essence of Christmas. But the Christmas (read CHRISTmas) story is about something even greater! It is the story of a God who so loved us that He sent His Son to be born in abject poverty. That Son would grow to be a man when he would offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sin. This is humanity's greatest need. To have the penalty for our sin paid for - which is exactly what Jesus did on the cross. So in light of this wonderful essence of Christmas, what must we do? How should we respond? By faith we must ADMIT our sin and rebellion to God, BELIEVE that Jesus died for us (and then three days later rose from the dead and so now lives!) and COMMIT ourselves to Him, turning from our sin to Him, asking Him for the forgiveness that only He can offer and the new life that only He can give. This my friend is the path toward radical life transformation and eternal life. It is the very essence of Christmas!

So Mr. Dickens, thank you for such a heartwarming tale. I only wish you would have shown Christ and the gospel as the true path to a transformed life!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 22, 2008

So Where Did Santa Clause Come From?

The model for our modern day Santa Clause, can most likely be traced to an actual historical figure of the fourth century. Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Lycia in what is modern day Turkey. There is not much known about this man beyond that. However, in the Middle Ages, when the Roman Church began to venerate saints of old, many legends about St. Nicholas began to flourish. One recounted how he had given to each of three poor girls a bag of gold that they could use as a dowry. Therefore, they would not be forced to earn their dowry through prostitution. Another story told how he had restored to life three boys who had been cruelly killed. Because of stories like this, St. Nicholas became known as the giver of gifts and the patron saint of children. His day is December 6.

St. Nicholas was particularly popular in Holland. It seems that it was there that he first became associated with customs that eventually linked him to Christmas. The Dutch children expected this patron of children to visit them on the night of December 5. They would place their wooden shoes by the fireplace in anticipation of a visit from St. Nicholas during which he would fill their shoes with gifts. The name Santa Clause is the Americanization for the Dutch name, Sinterklaas.

By the time the Santa Clause tradition began to grow in America, American children learned that you could get more gifts in a large stocking than a shoe. And so hanging stockings by the fire place became the custom. But it was not until Clement Moore wrote his poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas in 1822 (a poem we now know as Twas the Night Before Christmas) that the legend of Santa Clause became a true American tradition.

Now some Christians want nothing to do with the tradition of Santa Clause, believing he takes too much attention away from Jesus who is the real reason for the season. Other Christians embrace the Santa tradition - some more so than others. My purpose today is not too list the pros and cons of including Santa Clause in one's Christmas tradition. But no matter where you stand on this issue, you cannot escape the presence of this man in red and white. He seems to be everywhere - from shopping malls to countless radio stations' holiday programing. Let me suggest that every time you see (or hear) Santa Clause this holiday season - think of the man behind the legend. A man who knew what it was like to give and give sacrificially. And consider following in his footsteps.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thinking About Christmas . . .


"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?"


G. K. Chesterton quotes (English Novelist and Poet, 1874-1936)



"The very purpose of Christ's coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas."

(Evangelist Billy Graham)





Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas as a Holiday?

Christmas as we know it today has not always been commemorated as a holiday. In fact, Christmas was not given any official recognition by the Church until the mid-fifth century. And in the centuries since, Christians have not always been open to celebrating Christmas. This was due in part to the connections Christmas had with the ancient Roman feast of Saturnalia (which marked the winter solstice when the sun ended its decline in the sky and began moving higher leading to the lengthening of each day). The Puritans in early America totally rejected any kind of Christmas celebration. In fact, they deliberately worked on December 25 to show their disdain for the practice. A law passed in England in 1644 reflected this Puritan influence. The law made Christmas Day an official work day. And for a brief time in England, it was illegal to cook plum pudding or mince pie for the holidays!

My how times have changed. Today most Christians tend to heartily celebrate the Christmas holiday. Now the choice to celebrate or not celebrate Christmas is neither right nor wrong. The Apostle Paul addresses this in Romans 14:5-6 when he writes, "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord."

Clearly, we have a choice to consider Christmas special (or not special). But for those of us who choose to celebrate Christmas - the important issue is HOW we choose to celebrate the holiday. For many in our culture, Christmas is all about indulging our self. Obviously that is NOT what Christmas should be for Christ-followers. For us Christmas needs to be a time to reconnect with family, share with others in need, but MOST IMPORTANTLY a time to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. After all, what would Christmas be without CHRIST? He is not only the reason for this season, He is the reason for LIFE!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lost ... now Found!

Joe Richardson graduated from Houston's Universal Technical Institute in 1987. Before graduation, his mom purchased a $200 class ring for him. She had the blue-stoned ring engraved with his name. However, about two weeks after his graduation, Richardson lost the ring. After an exhaustive search he gave up looking for it, figuring he would never see it again. But he was wrong.

Earlier this fall, a fisherman was cleaning an 8-pound bass he caught while fishing on Lake Sam Rayburn near Buna, Texas. He was surprised to find a blue-stoned class ring in the Bass's stomach. And yep, you probably guessed it. It was Joe Richardson's!

The fisherman (who wants to remain anonymous) tracked Joe Richardson down with help from the Internet. Richardson's initial reaction was, "You've got to be kidding!" On November 28, the fisherman presented the long lost ring to Joe, who lives in Buna. What had been lost for over 20 years had now been found!

What are the chances of something like this happening? When I first heard this story, I shook my head in disbelief! Wow! Amazing! Yet, this describes the faith journey of many of God's people. He creates us. He then engraves His name upon us. But we go astray (Isaiah 53:6 states that we "ALL like sheep have gone astray.") Yet, God never loses sight of us and eventually His own will return to HIM!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.

Be sure if you have been found by God -- to thank Him today for HIS amazing grace!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Parachute Failure - Unbelievable Outcome!

Three years ago Shayna West took her first solo skydive and almost died. In fact, she should have. As observers watched in horror, Shayna's main chute failed to open, which sent her spiraling out of control. When she pulled the cord for her emergency chute, it too failed to open (I read that the odds of this happening are about a million in one - for me even those odds are TOO HIGH!). Remarkably, incredibly - Shayna somehow survived. However, she suffered massive injuries to her face, leg and pelvis ... just to name a few ... and has undergone numerous surgeries since her accident. Oh and I forgot to mention that when she took that jump she was in the early stages of pregnancy. So early, she did not even know that she was pregnant! Apparently because the baby was so small, he survived. Today Shayna's son Tanner is a very active two year old.

I read that story and I came to a couple of conclusions. First, you will NEVER (and I do mean NEVER) see me jump out of a plane (unless it is already sitting on the ground!). And second, I see this story as illustrating the truth that our lives our in God's hands! Humanly speaking, Shayna (and Tanner) should not be alive today. Hitting the ground at over 50 mph - how does a person survive that? Yet she did. The only way I can explain all of this is that God is not finished with this woman (and any of her children). He has a plan for her earthly life that did not end on October 9, 2005. And so somehow, I believe, God was there to spare her life when all odds said it should have ended.

Friends, God also has a plan for your life. My prayer for you is that you will seek to work with Him in fulfilling His plan for your life. Strive to love Him .... seek to honor Him ... in all that you think, do and say!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lights Out!

This past Sunday afternoon, I had the privilege of giving both the invocation and benediction at Millersville University's commencement ceremony (which saw close to 500 graduates receive their degree). Just before I took my cell phone off my belt to place it in my coat pocket - my wife, Sharon called. She informed me that our power went out and was wondering if I had seen anything on my trip to Millersville to explain why it did so. I informed her I had seen nothing unusual. I asked her to call the utility company just to make sure they were aware of the problem. After saying goodbye, I went on with my responsibilities and never gave the power outage another thought - that is until I arrived home around 4 PM to discover there was still no power! Sharon had contacted the utility company who had told her that they were looking at a 2 AM restoration of power. Apparently a fire had hit a small substation, knocking out power to our development and the adjoining development. Of course, the power went out on the day we were to host a Christmas party for the young adults in our church (not to mention that it was also the day of one of the biggest games of the year for the Pittsburgh Steelers!). So to say I was a bit irritated - might just be an understatement.

Well the 2 AM target for power restoration was a bit optimistic. Our power was finally restored at 1 PM the next day. So not only did plans for Sunday evening get impacted, so did plans for Monday .

Now I admit that at times during this unexpected power outage, I had to check my attitude. At those times I began to look at the "bright side" (and yes, even in the darkness there was a bright side!). I reminded myself that I needed to be thankful for the house I lived in and the wonderful things I have in it that electricity allows me to enjoy. I also thought of those in New England who were still without power - days after an ice storm hit their area! I was also very glad that the temperatures overnight on Sunday actually began to RISE! (otherwise, it could have been MUCH colder in our house!). After a few minutes of this kind of mental reflection - I saw my attitude change from a grumbling one to a thankful one!

So -- all this to say, the next time some sort of difficulty strikes you - unanticipated and unwelcome - look for God's hand of blessing. I will guarantee you that it will ALWAYS be evident! As Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Quote to Think About . . .


There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way." (C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters)

Which kind of person are YOU?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An X(ray) Marks the Spot!

A Naples Florida teenage, William Colburn faces charges for an alleged recent attempt at shoplifting. But he is also facing charges for tampering with evidence. It appears that a store security guard saw Colburn take a pair of earrings and drop them into a bottle of water. He then proceeded to walk out of the store. When security confronted him outside, he quickly took a long swig of his water, swallowing a mouthful of water and the stolen merchandise. After his arrest, he was taken for xrays, and sure enough, the xrays showed the stolen earrings (the police have not revealed if they were able to recover the confiscated jewelry)!

The moral of this incident is that you might be able to try to cover up your sins - but you can be sure that even if you are successful at hiding your sins from those around you, there is a God in heaven who can see deeply and clearly into the core of your being. Hebrews 4:13 tells us that "nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." So the next time you think you are getting away with that quick look at Internet porn or the telling of a "little white lie" - think again. God sees. God hears. And God knows - it all! (Now having said this, it is also true that when we confess our sins openly and honestly to God - He is always ready to forgive and cleanse - see 1 John 1:9).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let's Honk Like Geese Today!

It is not uncommon for me to hear geese honking overhead several times a day. Huge flocks of Canadian geese loiter around the area, taking advantage of the numerous ponds and the many corn fields in the area. And as soon as these geese take wing, the honking begins. Wondering why they insist on honking so much, I did some research on the Internet. The articles I read all agreed that the geese honk in order to encourage one another in flight. Now I am not opposed to geese offering one another encouragement, but it does get a little annoying when they are honking away as they fly over my house at the crack of dawn!

But we can all take a lesson from our feathered neighbors. All of us have people in our lives (more than we know) who need some encouragement. They have slipped and fallen. They have been hit with some unanticipated trial. They are bleeding. They hurt. They are in need of a solid dose of encouragement to help them get through their daily routine. Yet all too often when faced with such people we are quick to offer advice on how to fix their problems. But that is NOT what they need. Rather they just need a word of encouragement. Let's all purpose to offer encouragement to someone who needs it today. So ask God to open your eyes today to someone in need. And when God responds, write a note, make a phone call, send an email ... do whatever it takes to offer up some needed encouragement to that individual. As the Apostle Paul put it, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fatal Proposal

The place is called "Proposal Rock." The rock sits along the Oregon coast and is so named because it is a favorite destination for those wishing to "pop the question." Last week, what was planned to be a romantic rendezvous between two lovers turned out to be a deadly tragedy. As the couple made their way across the beach to the rock, a 3 foot wave suddenly crashed around them, sweeping 4' 11" Leafil Alforque out to sea. By the time her would-be fiance, Scott Napper could react, "She was about 30 feet away, getting swept away," he said. Quickly he tore off his jacket in order to dive in after her. But when he looked up, she was gone. "That's the last I saw of her," he said Wednesday, breaking into tears. Authorities conducted a search, but came up empty.

What a tragic story! But it reminds me of another fatal proposal. It is the proposal offered to all of us. It is the proposal that life lived independent of God can lead to ultimate fulfillment and happiness. But Scripture warns us against this deception. In Proverbs 14:12 we read, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." This way that "seems right" is the way of living without God and for self. We are enticed to journey through life on this way by our sinful flesh, this evil world and the Enemy of our soul. But at the end of the day (and the end of our earthly life) it leads not to ultimate joy - but only death and despair. So my friend, beware of this fatal proposal. Say "NO!" to living life apart from God. Instead, turn to Jesus Christ. He and He alone is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back to Work!

This morning I crawled out of bed, knowing that my week of vacation was now in life's rear view mirror (isn't it curious that "vacation time" appears to fly by so much more quickly than "non-vacation time?"). My wife and I had plans to travel south (Virgina and North Carolina) for the week but had to postpone our itinerary due to my mother-in-law's unanticipated surgery (she is doing well by the way). Instead, we spent much of the first four days of the week at the hospital. But then we did manage to sneak away for a couple of days of much needed R&R at the end of the week thanks to the timely arrival of my wife's brother (who lives in Virginia).

The events of last week proved a valuable reminder to me ... and so I pass it on to you. No matter how well laid our plans might be (and I had everything set!), they are subject to change. Much in life is simply outside of our control. And so when things happen that force us to change our plans, we can respond by griping or complaining --- or we can respond by trusting the One who has ALL things under His control. I must admit that there were some moments I was doing more griping than trusting. But at the end of the day I CHOSE (and we all have this choice to make) to trust God. He is TRUSTWORTHY. And that is good enough for me!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - Thanks to all of you who prayed for my mother-in-law. And if you remember to do so, please continue to pray!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'll Be Back Next Week


I will be out of the office this week (week of December 1st). My wife and I had planned an out-of-town trip, but were forced to cancel the trip due to my mother-in-law's need for surgery. I would appreciate your prayers for her.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!



Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)



Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)







Thanks for stopping by ... and have a blessed THANKSGIVING celebration!

pj

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanking God as Our World Is in Crisis!

Modern day pirates are taking ships and lives off the coast of Africa. Warfare rages around the globe (over 30 current conflicts according to globalsecurity.org). Recent natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis) have taken thousands upon thousands of lives. World economies are crumbling. It is clear that our world is being shaken to its very core.

But as followers of Jesus, should we be filled with anxiety and a sense of dread? Certainly not! For as Believers, we receive "a kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12:28). This kingdom is none other than the Kingdom of God. And though the our world might appear to be on the verge of collapse - God's Kingdom is ROCK SOLID! So do you see why we should not be anxious or full of fear? Instead, we must "show gratitude by which we may offer to God and acceptable service with reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28).

Tomorrow, as you celebrate Thanksgiving Day, be sure to thank God for His unshakable Kingdom (and the reality that due to HIS grace, you are a part of it!). But don't stop with tomorrow. Thank God EVERYDAY -- and in that attitude of gratitude offer to the King the service He is due!

Thanks for stopping by ... and a BLESSED THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL! I THANK GOD FOR EACH ONE OF YOU!

pj

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So, Who Are You Going to Lean on?

Recently in my reading I ran across a quote that really (I mean REALLY!) got me thinking! These words were written by Elizabeth Elliot. Her husband was one of the five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians in 1956. Elizabeth writes,

"It is not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on. It is God and nothing less than God, for the work is God's and the call is God's and everything is summoned by Him and to His purposes, the whole scene, the whole mess, the whole package - our bravery, our cowardice, our love and our selfishness, our strengths and our weaknesses . . . [God uses] as the instruments of His peace a conglomeration of sinners who sometimes look like heroes and sometimes like villains, for 'we are no better than pots of earthenware to contain this treasure [the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ], and this proves that such transcendent power does not come from us, but is God's alone.' (2 Corinthians 4:7 NEB)"

Those our powerful words spoken by a woman whose personal world came crashing around her when her young husband was struck down in the prime of life. Especially considering he was killed trying to reach his soon-to-be murderers with the Gospel. Soldiers and cops are expected to die in the line of duty - but not missionaries! Yet through this dark valley Elizabeth Elliot learned that she could lean on God and HIS power to accomplish HIS purposes. That is a lesson I need to learn and re-learn. All too often, I want to be in control. And so I go through life depending way too much on MY power rather than HIS power. Ouch! May God help me (and YOU) lean more on HIM!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Prodigy

A prodigy is defined as being "a person, especially a child or young person, having extraordinary talent or ability: a musical prodigy" (source: dictionary.com). Take a moment and view this video and you may just find yourself listening to a prodigy!




Wow! This girl can sure tickle those keys! I could practice the piano for 8 hours a day for the rest of my life and not be able to play as well as this six year old can! But that is OK by me. I know that playing the piano is not one of my gifts. So I content myself to sitting back and listening to those who have the gift and ability to play piano (or any other musical instrument for that matter).

But what about the gifts and abilities that I do possess? All of us have been given different gifts/abilities by God. And sitting back and not utilizing them is not an option. God shapes us so that we in turn might serve him and serve others (for His sake!). Ephesians 2:10 is a great reminder of this truth. The Apostle Paul writes, "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

So let me ask you -- just what are your gifts and abilities and how are you currently using them to serve God and others? One day we will all be called upon to give an account to God of our "stewardship" of our God-given SHAPE. Will you be ready?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Concerning Tuxedos

From my recent wedding experiences in marrying off our daughters (not to mention my son's wedding in July of 2006), I learned a number of things about tuxes. First, they are expensive to rent (even with the discount I received as “father of the bride!”). In addition, they are quite warm. No matter the season (in my case it was summer and early fall) – tuxes have a way of maintaining body heat. Also I learned that they have a way of making a person look rather sharp (at least that’s what a lot of people told me – so either they were just trying to be nice, or they felt sorry for me – knowing I probably spent a lot on its rental – or they were being honest. I’ll opt for the latter!). All in all I’d have to say that my experiences with tuxedos (the first in some 28 years) – were far better than I had expected.

In our “dress-down” increasingly “casual” society, weddings are still one of those few times where people, for the most part, still “dress up.” I like that. I think it’s a good thing. When I scan the guests at weddings, I enjoy seeing people in their fine attire. There is coming a wedding banquet for followers of Jesus Christ. It will take place at some undisclosed date in the future. The Bible refers to it as the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” It is discussed in Revelation chapter 19. In verses 7 and 8 we read, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)"

Did you catch what was said about what we will be wearing to this tremendous celebration? We will be wearing fine linen – and this fine linen stands for our “righteous acts!” So I rented the tux I wore for my son’s wedding, but for THE SON’S wedding, I will be wearing attire that I make by myself for myself. And I am making it right NOW – in this life. Gulp! And this is true for every follower of Christ. So the question for me – and for YOU is this: How will we be dressed at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? Rags? Scruffy tee shirt and ratty jeans? Or will we be in attire more fitting for a wedding celebration? It’s all up to YOU (and me!). Living for Jesus will weave for us attire appropriate for that occasion. So by God’s grace – let’s go live for HIM and get ready for the wedding to come!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Tyranny of the Urgent

A number of years ago, Charles Hummel wrote a little book titled, The Tyranny of the Urgent. In this short but powerful booklet, he reminds us of just how easily we can get distracted from what is truly the important things of life. How so? Hummel points out that all of us every day face what he calls life's urgent demands (things like paying the household bills, raking the leaves, running the kids to soccer practice, buying the groceries or doing the laundry). These things have to be done ... and most of them have to be done RIGHT NOW! But the more important priorities in life (such as time spent with God in prayer and the Word, calling to talk with a distant friend, playing in the back yard with your kids, or talking about your dreams with your spouse) - these things can be left undone. And as the urgent demands continue to scream at us - we can tend to lose sight of the truly important.

I am feeling a bit harried by life's urgent demands. I must admit that I have not spent much time with God the last couple of days. So as soon as I post this - I am going to walk away from the urgent tasks on my desk and go spend time with God. These things will still be here tomorrow. I will tackle the pile then!

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Down Time on the Weekend

Weekends are a great time to enjoy some "down time" as most people take a break from their work-week routine (although, my weekends tend to be the busiest time of my week!). Be sure this weekend to give some quality time to your family and other close relationships ... and also to God! Take a moment and think about the following quote:

"I cannot understand how there's always the present, and how quickly the present becomes the past." (Dean Meyers)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Love My Church!

In recent years, "The Church" has taken a bad rap. Books such as Quitting Church: Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do about It and So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore? remind us that many people don't think too highly of "The Church."

I want to go on record of saying that I LOVE my church (which is one of a multitude of local expressions of "The Church"). And I am not alone. Jesus Christ also loves my church. One of several New Testament metaphors for "The Church" is that of "the Bride of Christ." Jesus loves "The Church" (and therefore each local expression of "The Church") because "The Church" is HIS bride! He died for her and He is at work in her "to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:26-27). Did you catch that? "The Church" (and again, read here - my church as one of its local expressions) is not perfect! Jesus Himself is working on her so that one day yet future she WILL be perfect. But until that day "The Church" will not be perfect - but rather a "work in progress!"

So bottom line, my church is not perfect. I know this to be true (for starters, I am part of my church and I know far too well that I am FAR from perfect!). But I still love my church -- warts and all. I hope you love yours, too because Jesus surely does!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Buddah? God? Or Something Else?

Ram Bahadur Bamjan sits quietly in the jungles of southern Nepal. But he doesn't sit alone. In spite of being only 18 years old, Bamjan has attracted thousands of followers. And just what is it about this teen with the flowing locks and white robe that has garnered the adoration of so many? The crowds come because they believe him to be the reincarnation of Buddha. But for many - he's even more! Here is what a few of his followers have said about Bamjan:

"I got a chance to see God today. They say he is Buddha, but for me he is just God."
(Bishnu Maya Khadka, a housewife)

"I have no doubt in my mind he is a God." (Meg Bahadur Lama, a local farmer)


So what are these people basing their judgment about Bamjan's identity upon? Just what is the evidence they cite for making such a claim? They believe Bamjan has been meditating without food and water since he was first spotted in the jungles of southern Nepal in 2005. Wow! That's about three years (or 1095 days). If true that would be quite the feat, especially considering that Jesus only went 40 days without eating! I wonder if he is under observation 24/7/365. My guess is he is sneaking in food and water when no one's watching!

So really - who is this guy who many believe to be a reincarnation of Buddha or even God? I don't know. But I do know who he is NOT. And he is neither Buddha reincarnate nor God. Concerning reincarnation - the Bible clearly states that "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). So according to God's Word, it's once and done when it comes to the life we live on this earth. And concerning the deity of this teen, only one individual who ever walked this earth could make a legitimate claim to deity - and his name is Jesus (for an excellent article on the evidence for Christ's deity, see: http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/deityofx.html; also for a briefer read see: http://www.equip.org/site/c.muI1LaMNJrE/b.2548425/k.82B9/Deity_of_Christ.htm).

I am saddened by this spiritual darkness that manifests itself in the belief that an 18 year old man is a reincarnated "holy man" or even God! But we can be encouraged that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World -- and light always conquers darkness!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Fragrance of Gratitude

Years ago an incident occurred on the Metro in Washington, DC in which a crowded subway train stalled on the tracks. Before stalling, the riders were dozing, reading or just "zoning out." But once the train stalled (and stayed stalled) - the harried commuters, all anxious to get to their homes, exploded. They noisily vented their anger and frustration. They blamed the driver, the Metro authorities, the federal government and anyone else that came to mind for this irritating disruption of their day. Somewhere in the midst of this growing bedlam, a woman holding a number of bulky bags from her day of shopping, dropped one of them containing a bottle of perfume she had purchased. The bottle shattered, releasing into the air the perfume's pure, luxurious fragrance. As this sweet smell made its way through the crowded car, the people sniffed, smiled and then relaxed. They began to laugh about their situation. What was once seen as horrible was now "no big deal!"

As followers of Jesus walking through the crowded moments of life, we can do the same as this woman who dropped her perfume. People all around us are frustrated and angry with the irritating circumstances and details of life. By being positive (and not in a Pollyanna sort of way!) we can release a sweet fragrance of hope that people need to smell. And one of the greatest ways to release such a fragrance is to work on being thankful. Far too many Jesus followers (and I count myself among them) tend to complain about life -- when we of all people should be thankful about life! After all, the author of life is our Lord, our Saviour and our Friend. So -- spread the fragrance of hope by cultivating an attitude of gratitude in your life today!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back in Town with Some Random Thoughts

I am glad to be back in Lancaster! My time in Indiana was VERY productive. Grace College/Seminary are alive and well ... but are facing some challenges given the current recession in which we find ourselves. But with great leadership at the helm and God on His throne - I am optimistic concerning the future of Grace Schools.

Since I am still digging out of the pile of work that accumulated while I was gone, I thought that in lieu of a regular posting - I would post just a few random thoughts that are floating around in my head.

1. Seeing that today in Veterans Day - please take a moment to thank a vet and pray for the men and women in our military. Sharon and I gave a card to our son-in-law, who served in Iraq. We enjoy our freedoms in part due to the sacrifice of our service men and women.

2. Offering hospitality is a great way to demonstrate the love of Jesus (which is why we are commanded to do so - see Romans 12:13 and 1 Peter 4:9). I was on the receiving end of some very gracious hospitality during my time away in Indiana (thanks, Pat, Leslee, Alex and Ed!).

3. Relationships are so precious! I was reminded of this upon arriving in Indiana and spending time with some people I love for the first time in a long time. I was reminded again when I returned home to a hug and kiss from my best friend (a.k.a. my wife!). All of us could enrich our lives by making the relationships in our lives a greater priority (a quick read of the New Testament will affirm the same!).

4. In spite of the turbulent times (or probably better said, "BECAUSE of the turbulent times") - the opportunity to advance the gospel is growing! People are frightened and anxious about tomorrow. What a great time for us to come along and point them to the ONE who holds tomorrow in His hand!!!

I hope to get back to some "regular" spiritual meanderings tomorrow. Until then ...

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On My Way to Indiana

Today I catch a mid-morning flight to Indianapolis. I am heading out to Indiana to attend the Board of Trustees meetings of Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. The two schools are located in north-central Indiana, in the small resort town of Winona Lake. The Board is made up of about two dozen men and women from across the United States (and one member lives in Germany). We meet twice a year (March and November). Now I take this responsibility very seriously. The Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (of which our church is a member) has entrusted the direction and well-being of these two schools to our Board. That is why we are called a Board of Trustees. We have been put in trust for these two schools. I also serve on the Board of Trustees of Hebrew Christian Fellowship. HCF is a board which focuses on reaching Jewish people for Christ. Again, our Board has been entrusted with the oversight of this mission.

In a similar way - every single follower of Jesus Christ has been entrusted with many things. But the most important is the GOSPEL. In 1 Thessalonians 2:4 we read, "On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." So how are you handling this trust? Are your striving to live the gospel? Are you seeking to share the gospel?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - I will do my best to post from Indiana ... but the schedule is quite full so I may not be able to post until I return. I would very much appreciate your prayers for me and my fellow Board members. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today is D-Day!

Today millions of Americans will go to their local polling place to cast their vote (I just got back from voting). That means that more than likely by the time we all wake up tomorrow, we will know who will occupy the oval office for the next four years (We will also be able to say "good-bye - and good riddance! - to all the annoying campaign commercials that have flooded our television screens for the past year plus!). So today is Decision Day!

Now - no matter who wins the election, keep in mind that the ultimate King still rules. That's right. No matter who lives in White House, God remains firmly entrenched on His heavenly throne. And from there He is actively orchestrating the ebb and flow of human history. This is made clear in Daniel 2:21 where we read, "He (God Almighty) changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them." So the bottom line of today's election? Whoever wins - does so by permission of God Himself. God has a plan .... and he is working that plan! And as people of The Book - we have read the final chapter of God's plan which tells us that HE wins!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 3, 2008

November's Here . . .

It might be hard to believe but I just confirmed it by looking a the date on my wrist watch - today is the third of November! And as I look out the window of my home office, I can see a carpet of golden leaves on my back lawn that says, "Ditto - it's November!" Personally, I think November is a great month - for many reasons. The football season is in high gear (football is my favorite sport) and the autumn colors are often spectacular. But the biggest reason that I like November is that it contains one of my favorite holidays - Thanksgiving Day.

As we approach Thanksgiving, you will probably find me posting some thoughts on the topic of gratitude. Giving thanks to God is probably the most underrated spiritual "discipline" in the toolbox of spiritual disciplines. It is simple to do yet profound in its affects. For starters, consider the following quote about the giving of thanks:

"Being thankful is not rocket science. Though the topic of gratitude goes as deep as the grace of God, it does not require tough biblical exegesis or advanced degrees to practice it. It just requires obedience. . . When we really give God thanks in everything, we are acknowledging that He is sovereign and that we trust Him. And we find that it changes us."
(Ellen Vaughn in Radical Gratitude, pp. 43-44)

Am I thankful for YOU?

You know it!

pj

Friday, October 31, 2008

Will the Real Biggest Loser Please Stand Up?

Manuel Uribe set a Guinness Book World Record back in 2006, when he weighed an astonishing 1,230 pounds! Since then, he has shed an amazing 550 pounds - still leaving him with plenty more pounds to lose (and I thought I had it tough with the weight I should lose!). Manuel was in the news recently as he married his long time sweetheart. Since he has not been able to leave his bed in six years, his bride did all the walking and standing during the ceremony - a ceremony which left Manuel in tears. Now that he is married, Manuel has set a goal to become the world's biggest loser. The current Guinness World Records for weight loss are held by and American woman Rosalie Bradford at 907 pounds lost, and a British man Jon Brower Minnoch who lost 924 pounds. So Manuel has a few pounds to go! But concerning his fight against his obesity, Manuel said, "The doctors told me I had a choice. To choose life or to choose death. I chose life."

Now those are good words that reveal the kind of attitude we all should cultivate. Since all of us face difficulties (you may even be facing a HUGE one right now!), we all need to remember that how we face life's difficulties is a CHOICE. Just as Maneul Uribe made the right choice to try and overcome his obesity, we must do the same no matter what our difficult situation might be. So the question we must all answer is this: Will we choose to do our best to meet the challenge while trusting God to work in us and around us? Or will we choose to grumble and complain and adopt a victim mentality ("Oh, woe is me!")? This choice will make all the difference as to whether we will rise above our difficulties or our difficulties will rise above us!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What Are You Passing On?

You'd better keep your outside lights on tonight! Why? Tonight is what is commonly referred to as "Mischief Night." Most common in the Northeastern U.S., Ireland, England and Canada, it is a night when young people play pranks on their neighbors. These pranks include soaping windows, ringing doorbells and then running away and "T-ping" (taking rolls of toilet paper and draping the TP over trees and houses) - and a list of other things (unfortunately sometimes these pranks can and do get out of hand!). Where and why this practice originated - I do not know (I did a brief scan of Internet info and found it to be somewhat confusing concerning the origin of this practice). So all this to say - keep your outside lights on tonight and it should keep would be pranksters away!

Why do young people get involved in these things? Is it something that is taught in school? No. Rather younger kids hear about it from older kids who heard about it from their parents. In other words, this tradition of "Mischief Night" has been passed down from one generation to the next. And what is true of "Mischief Night" is also true of many things. Values, beliefs, practices -- all get passed on from one generation to another. There is nothing wrong with this ... as long as what is being passed on is good stuff.

So if you are a parent ... let me ask you, "What are you passing on to your children?" I hope you are passing on the things that matter - values, beliefs, standards, and priorities that are based solidly on the teachings of the Bible. Along with your spouse, take some time to answer this question. The welfare of your kids is on the line. Because if they don't get God's way from you - WHO will they get it from?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Call to Prayer!

Just one week from today, Americans will go to their polling places and vote in the next president of our country. With such a monumental decision before us ... I invite all who read this to join me at noon each day leading up to the election. Take a moment to pause and pray for our nation. Consider the following prayer of Billy Graham for our nation:

'Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and Set us free. Amen!'

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Snow Is on the Way - but So Is Jesus!

This morning I saw the dreaded "S" word in today weather's forecast (at least for many of us!). Yep. That's right. You probably heard it too (if you live in the Lancaster area). Snow may be falling before the day is over. Now, it won't lay on the ground - but the fact that we might see snow flakes floating down from above is just a foretaste of what most likely lies ahead of us. And if meteorologist Joe Bastardi of Accu Weather is right, we are facing a winter with below normal temps and above normal precipitation. To me, that sounds like the formula for a lot of the white stuff! Hmm. I'll have to make sure my snow blower is in working condition soon!

Now we all know with weather forecasts, there are many variables that go into the making of a forecast. Therefore, forecasts can be way off the mark. And usually the longer range the forecast the higher probability that the forecast will be inaccurate. I'm hoping that is the case with the forecast for the upcoming winter!

However, when God makes a forecast, it does not matter how "long range" it might be! His forecasts for the future are ALWAYS 100% on the mark! How so? Because as the book of Daniel (and other books of the Bible) demonstrates, our God is sovereign over the affairs of men and the ebb and flow of human history! So when he forecasts, for example, the return of His Son to this earth - you can count on it occurring. He just hasn't revealed to us the date. So if we are going to get our snow blowers set for action based on an uncertain long range weather forecast, then how much more do we need to be sure we are ready for the return of Jesus Christ? If you have any questions about your readiness to meet him - please don't hesitate to email me at jsmith@gracewv.org. I would be glad to "chat" with you!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, October 24, 2008

Recession Proof?

This morning when the stock market opened, I happened to notice on my MSN home page that within minutes of the opening bell, stocks fell over 400 points. Now 6 months ago, that might have shocked me. Today it's becoming routine. Up a couple hundred one day, down several hundred the next. Consumer confidence is at an all time low and home foreclosures at an all time high. Unemployment is climbing .... and the only good economic news is the fact that oil prices are falling.

In light of all this economic turmoil, Forbes Magazine recently published an article which gave the results of a study Forbes conducted. The results of the study reveals the best places (and the worst places) in the U.S. to "ride out the recession." At the top of list of best places - Austin, Texas. Not all that surprising given the fact that Austin is the state capital AND the home of the University of Texas. That combination makes for a lot of job security. However, what I did find surprising was the city that came in tenth on that list. Here are the top ten:

1 Austin, TX.
2 Oklahoma City.
3 Honolulu.
4 Portland, Ore.
5 Tulsa.
6 Virginia Beach.
7 Seattle.
8 Baltimore.
9 Boston.
10 LANCASTER.

And the LANCASTER on this list is none other than Lancaster, PA. Wow! I found that to be quite encouraging! However, I do think Forbes missed the mark with this article. Now don't get me wrong. I am glad their study reveals my home town as one of the top ten places to ride out this current economic down turn. BUT - the VERY BEST PLACE to ride out any recession is "in the hands of God!" That's right. It doesn't matter what your mailing address is ... if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, He is your GOOD SHEPHERD. And if He is your shepherd, you "shall not want!" (see Psalm 23). Jesus Christ put it this way:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:25-33)

So rest easy - no matter where you live. GO hard after God and then leave your NEEDS in His capable hands.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Your Faith Contagious?

Recently a teacher friend of mine came down with conjunctivitis, better known as "pink eye." Pink eye (an inflammation of the membranes (conjunctiva) covering the whites of the eyes and the membranes on the inner part of the eyelids) is rarely life threatening but at times can lead to quite a bit of discomfort. But the real problem with pink eye is that it is HIGHLY contagious. I guess we shouldn't be surprised then, when we hear of a school teacher who comes down with pink eye!

As I thought about pink eye, I thought of our faith in Christ and how I wish my faith (and the faith of others) was more contagious. We are surrounded by people on their way to a meeting with God. At that meeting they will be judged. And if their names are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life, they will be cast forever into the lake of fire (check out Revelation chapter 20). That's why I wish my faith were more contagious. Well perhaps it's time to stop wishing it were more contagious ... and start making it more contagious. How can we do so? For starters, consider the following passage:

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (Colossians 4:5-6)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wasting Time with God?

Shopping is not something I enjoy doing. In fact, it fits in the category of "have-to" tasks vs. "want-to" tasks (other "have-to" tasks would include going to the dentist, completing my tax returns, and grading exams - just to name a few). Therefore, if I must shop, I am usually in and out of stores as quickly as I can. But there is one type of store I could browse in for hours and that is a bookstore. Whether we're talking a Berean Christian Bookstore or a Barnes & Nobles or a Borders (or even Amazon.com!), I just love checking out potential books to read. And I must admit, I usually end up buying more than I can read! (Right now I am working my way through at least 7 or 8 books - hopefully I will finish at least half of them!)

One of my recent purchases is the book Wasting Time with God: A Christian Spirituality of Friendship with God (by Klaus Issler). In a conversation, a friend happened to mention this book, so I checked it out and bought it. Currently I am working my way through chapter 2 - and so far I have enjoyed the book immensely. Just what is the book about? The following is a quote from the back cover:

"When it comes to developing a deep, trusting relationship with God, efficiency and productivity are not the answer. Rather we need to 'waste' time with him, to just enjoy being with him. After all, that's how any friendship grows. Exploring how to make room for God in our fast-paced lives, Issler considers seven character traits and companion disciplines: friendship, humility, faith, commitment, communication, apprenticeship and partnership. These combine to offer a model for a full-orbed Christian spirituality that will be of lasting value."

One of the most compelling quotes from the book that I have encountered in my reading to date actually comes out of the author's acknowledgements section. In fact, it is his last acknowledgement. Here is what he writes, "But most of all, I thank God for being God - mysterious, majestic, personal." Wow! That is our God. As the infinite (read "unlimitable") God he is indeed mysterious. We are finite (read "limited") and so there is much about God that we just can't get our arms around. He is also majestic (the most majestic being by far in the universe and beyond!). And to think that this mysterious and majestic God is personal! Wow! And because He his personal, we can enter into a personal friendship with Him! But to grow that friendship we must be willing to "waste time" with Him! Are you willing???

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tackling Life's Challenges!

For several years a small pub in upstate Pennsylvania has put a challenge on the table: $400 to anyone who could down the Beer Barrel Belly Buster in under five hours. For several years, many a burly man has stepped up to take the challenge - but never finished. That is, until last week. That's when a Uniontown, PA chef named Brad Sciullo walked into the pub. He ordered the Belly Buster (which, by the way is a 15 pound hamburger covered with an additional five pounds of toppings - which is the equivalent of approximately 60 Burger King Whoppers)! Four hours and 39 minutes later, Sciullo had accomplished what many before him had failed to do. For his efforts he was awarded $400, several T-shirts, a certificate and what the pub owner called "a burger hangover."

What motivated Sciullo to tackle the seemingly impossible? In his words, "I wanted to see if I could." Despite his rather average stature (5'11", 180 lbs) - he was up to the challenge and walked out of the pub (or perhaps he was carried out of the pub) $400 richer.

Hmmm. "I wanted to see if I could." As believers in Jesus Christ, I wonder how often when faced with a challenge, we simply give up ... we throw in the proverbial towel. Life is full of obstacles and difficulties (see my posting of yesterday). And when we encounter them - especially the bigger ones that come our way - I think far too often we allow anxiety and fear to grip us ("Oh, woe is me ... how we I ever get through this?"). At these times we must fix our minds on the promises of God (such as "Nothing is impossible with God." [Luke 1:37] AND "I can do everything through him (Jesus Christ) who gives me strength" [Philippians 4:13]).

So as you face today's challenges - remember that you do not face them alone. Jesus Christ the King of the Universe is there with you ... and he will make you able!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm Back!

Sharon and I rolled back into town last Friday around 4 PM. We had a wonderful 3 days in Cape May, NJ (which even included wading in the surf, it was that warm - both the air temp and the water temp). I must admit I found the town to be surprisingly delightful. Sharon and I have placed it on our list of places worth a repeat visit. After being in the "wedding mode" for so long, it sure was great to get away and RELAX!

Well little did I realize how short lived that time to relax would be. Soon after arriving back home, we received a phone call from the assisted living facility where my mother-in-law lives that she had fallen and was being transported to the hospital. The exam in the ER showed a fractured shoulder. She was admitted, with the plan to run additional tests today (to help determine the reason for her dizziness which led to the fall). Yesterday, Sharon and I helped her celebrate her 84th birthday.

All this to say life sure is unpredictable. Walking hand-in-hand with your best friend, enjoying the ocean surf one day- then spending an evening in the ER helping to comfort a hurting family member the next. But that is the way life happens ... much like a roller coaster, up one day and down the next. Isn't it great to know that in midst all this turbulence, Jesus Christ has us in HIS hands! And concerning Jesus we are told that He is "the same, yesterday and today and forever!" (Hebrews 13:8). So the next time your life gets rocked - remember that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ - your soul is anchored to the solid rock - the One who NEVER changes! Now that's stability!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'll Be Back Next Week!



My wife, Sharon and I are leaving town this morning for some needed rest and relaxation. We are heading for Cape May, NJ - a place Sharon has always wanted to visit. So we thought this would be a great time to go.

As I close out this short week of blog postings ... a quick question for you: Whose approval are you seeking? Are you seeking the approval of others? Or the approval of God? Consider carefully the following verses:

Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. (Jeremiah 45:5)

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Reflections of the Father of the Bride - the FINAL Installment!


Now that a day has passed since the wedding, I thought I would share just a few final thoughts about the experience of being the Father of the Bride for my second and final time.





1. I have known many joys in life but the joy of knowing that all three of my children are now married to good spouses ranks up there near the top.

2. Putting together a wedding is far more work than I ever imagined. All the planning, running, phone calls back and forth, dress fittings, tux fittings, etc., etc., etc.. (If I had known what I know now, I think I would have upped the anty on my elopement offer I made to both my daughters! :) )

3. People really matter! What made all three of my children's weddings so special were the family and friends we were able to have present to share the day with us.

4. A wedding may be beautiful - but it is really the marriage that counts. Far too many grooms and brides have a happy wedding day and then lose that happiness somewhere during their marriage. I pray that my children will experience the blessing and happiness that I have enjoyed during my thirty years of marriage to my sweetheart and best friend. But a happy marriage just doesn't happen. It requires a lot of effort and work. Husbands and wives must make their marriage one of their life's top priorities.

I could say far more but I am still quite tired from the whole experience which I found to be emotionally and physically draining.

Today my daughter and her new husband are enjoying their honeymoon . . . and I am one satisfied papa!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reflections of the Father of the Bride, Again (Part 4)

As I write these words, the big event that has been much planned for, paid for and prayed for ... is a mere four hours away! I am ready!!! Bring it on!

Yesterday's rehearsal ran very smoothly, putting the bride and groom at ease. I think the most nervous people today are the parents of the three year old ring bearer and the parents of the two and four year old flower girls. During the rehearsal, all three made it down the aisle on only the second try ... but today with a crowd of people watching, things might not go so well. But little ones can do about anything and everyone will ooh and aah at their "cuteness!"

As glad as I am for this wedding to be here ... I also have a touch of sadness floating around in my heart. Even though I will officiate many more weddings down the road (God willing), this will be the last wedding of one of my children that I will have the privilege of officiating. I certainly see this as a HUGE perk of being a pastor. Not many dads get to walk their daughter down the aisle and then lead her (and her future husband) in the exchange of their marriage vows.

Either tomorrow or Tuesday I will wrap up these Reflections of the Father of the Bride, Again. Right now, I have to begin getting ready - it's not every day that I put on a tux, and I think I might need some extra time to figure it all out. (Hey, honey, where is my tux?)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, October 11, 2008

One More Day to Go!

When our daughter, Emily and son Tim were little, they liked to play "wedding." In this photo Emily is wearing Sharon's wedding dress and Tim the tuxedo jacket in which I was married (They also liked to eat cake!). Well, tomorrow Emily will experience the real thing (which my son did a little over two years ago).

So that makes today my daughter's "Wedding Eve." And boy do I have a lot to do:

- Pick up bagels and cream cheese at Panera Bread (for bridal party's wedding day breakfast)
- Stop at Starbucks (for a cup of coffee, what else?)
- Finish my wedding ceremony notes and print them out
- Help set up for rehearsal dinner
- Conduct wedding rehearsal
- Enjoy rehearsal dinner
- Clean up after rehearsal dinner
- A pile of other misc. tasks that I have forgotten to list (or do not at present foresee doing - which will have to be done. I know this will occur having walked down this path just 3 1/2 months ago!)

Although I will be busy today, I am going to do my best to "stop and smell the roses." I want to "drink it (today's experiences) all in" as this is my last opportunity to be involved in the wedding of one of my own children. My prayer is that this day will be a day of blessing for my daughter, her fiance, my wife and the rest of our family (and friends). God has been so good to us, but that comes as no surprise as He is in His very nature GOOD! Consider the following words:

"For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 100:5)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. By the way, you know those wedding programs that I thought I was handing off to someone else to do? Well, somehow I got involved in putting them together. Just another "joy" of being the Father of the Bride!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reflections of the Father of the Bride, Again (Part 3)


In just 56 hours and 9 minutes I will once again be walking one of my little girls down the aisle and giving her away to another man. On one hand, I will relish the moment. After all, this is the goal of parenting - to see your children grow up, mature, become responsible and then "leave the nest" to start life on their own. And since this is our third and last child to be married - it brings a special sense of satisfaction. But on the other hand, I am dreading the moment. It is as if the door to a major chapter of my life is now slamming shut - never to be opened again. I thoroughly enjoyed raising my kids and had a blast doing so (although there were THOSE moments!). Sunday's walk down the aisle will be a reminder that life is now moving on.

HOWEVER, I am more than ready for the next chapter in the parenting cycle -- that of grand parenting. As I see it, grand parenting has all the upside of parenting with little of the downside! I am going to love being a granddad!

But whether we are talking about our kids or our grandkids, we must always remember that these children and grandchildren do not belong to us - they belong to God. God merely loans them to us to raise them for HIM! Pslam 127:3 reminds us that children are a reward from God. Here's one dad who is VERY grateful to God for the three little rewards God sent his way!

More later. . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .

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.