Learn to Laugh! It's Good for You!

Recently, I spent time with a third grader. During our conversation he told me that had had just watched his parents wedding video (at which I officiated) and he said, "You looked a lot different then - you even had hair! But one thing is good - you still have your sense of humor!" Now this little guy did not have to point out the obvious (about the hair - or better said the lack of it!). But I was glad he thought I still had a sense of humor.

I believe a sense of humor is a valuable asset. Life is too short, too hard, too uncertain - and without the ability to laugh (and especially to laugh at yourself!) life would be one very tough path to walk. In fact, there are many therapeutic benefits of laughter. According to holistic online, "Dr. Lee Berk and fellow researcher Dr. Stanley Tan of Loma Linda University in California have been studying the effects of laughter on the immune system. To date their published studies have shown that laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, and boosts immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and B-cells, which produce disease-destroying antibodies. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and produces a general sense of well-being." Bottom line - laughter is a good thing. So learn to laugh! Because as the song from the movie, Mary Poppins reminds us, "It's Fun to Laugh!"

The Bible supports what modern research has revealed about the benefits of laughter. Proverbs 17:17 tells us that "a cheerful heart is good medicine." When my heart is cheerful, I find myself smiling and laughing a lot. So be sure that you take the medicine that the Good Physician's book recommends - and learn to laugh!

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Ouch, That Hurts!

Yesterday I read an interesting article about a growing business in the U.S. It seems that an increasing number of people who have been tattooed in the past are now having second thoughts and want the tattoo removed. It seems that for many, yesterday's ink has become today's regret. To remove a tattoo comes at a very high cost in both dollars and pain. Dermatologists first numb the skin and then utilize special lasers that pulverize the ink pigments into tiny particles, which then get absorbed by the body. This process can be so painful that one dermatologist said of the process, "When I say 'painful,' you can't believe it. I've had Marines pass out unconscious. It's a killer." And if you are really serious about getting rid of that ink Rembrandt, then start saving. Professional tattoos require six to 10 (and sometimes more) laser treatments to remove. Each session can cost anywhere from $250 to $500! Any way you want to cut it, tattoo removal hurts - both body and bank account!

This is a good reminder that what we do today impacts tomorrow. You get a tattoo today - you will have it tomorrow and next week and next year - unless, of course, you want to go through the physical and financial pain of getting it removed! So the words we speak and the decisions we make today will have consequences tomorrow. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote,

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Galatians 6:7-10)

As you go through your day remember that every single choice you make today has an "afterwards." So let's strive to sow to please God. You certainly can't turn the clock back to undo the things of the past (although I am sure all of us wish we could do so!) - but we can get intentional about making godly choices today. So let's get at it!

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You and Me a Trophy?

Yesterday, my wife Sharon and I took a drive up to Cabela's, a large outdoor recreation store (and when I say "large" - that is a gross understatement!). Now Sharon and I neither camp nor canoe ... and I do not hunt (although I do enjoy fishing). So why did we drive 50 miles to Cabela's? For starters, we wanted to see their displays of mounted outdoor life (ranging from white tail deer to black bear to even a huge African elephant). In addition to these mounted animals, Cabela's has some nifty aquarium's hosting some of the biggest largemouth bass I have ever seen (in addition to scores of other freshwater species of fish). Cabela's also has a large pond full of trout (and HUGE ones at that!). You can even feed them (for a quarter you get a small handfull of fish food pellets) .. and boy do they like to eat! We spent almost three hours enjoying all that Cabela's had to offer (including lunch). If you have yet to visit Cabela's - I encourage you to do so. You won't be disappointed!

Now as I think back on the mounted animals ... especially those on display in Cabela's "Deer Country" - I am amazed at just how large the antlers grew on some of those deer. Especially considering that the growing season for a deer's antlers (which are grown new every year!) is only about 100 days. So in just over 3 months, some of these buck are growing a MONSTER set of antlers. And that is why they are considered TROPHY buck and therefore the reason they are on display in Cabela's "Deer Country."

Do you realize that if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you will one day be on display? You too, will be a trophy for others to see. And it won't be due to anything you have ever done or will ever do here on earth. No. You and I will be trophies on display for all eternity as trophies of God's grace! Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul,

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:1-10)

I hope you will be included in God's trophy case of grace! Remember, Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sin - if you have never trusted in his sacrifice, please do so today! Don't put it off. And since none of us are guaranteed another day, tomorrow could be too late!

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A Thought for Your Weekend . . .

Here is an outstanding quote from an outstanding book by Nancy DeMoss. I encourage you to give it some thought.

"Our culture is obsessed with being whole and feeling good. That drive affects even the way we view the Christian life. We want a 'painless Pentecost'; we want a 'laughing' revival. We want gain without pain; we want resurrection without going through the grave; we want life without experiencing death; we want a crown without going by the way of the Cross. But in God's economy, the way up is down.

You and I will never meet God in revival until we first meet him in brokenness. Our families will never be whole until husbands and wives, moms and dads, and young people have been broken. Our churches will never be the vibrant witness God intended them to be in the world until their members - pastors and laypeople alike - have experienced true brokenness" (Nancy DeMoss, Brokenness: the Heart God Revives, pp. 49-50).

Isaiah 57:15

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
"I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

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Thank God an "Out-of Towner" Paid!

No one ever wants to have an accident behind the wheel. But there are some cities and towns where you really don't want to have an accident - especially if you are an "out-of-towner!" One of these towns is Erlanger, KY. Erlanger is a suburb of Cincinnati. And like many other cash-starved municipalities, it is looking for new ways to help fund its police costs. When a member of the Erlanger PD responds to an accident in which an out-of-town driver is at fault, the city plans to start issuing a bill. (Are you ready for this?) The tab will be $14 for the first 30 minutes that an officer is on the scene with an addition charge of $7 for every 15 minutes thereafter. If a police vehicle is involved an additional $154 charge is levied. I wonder if they give you a satisfaction guarantee with the charge?

Now you can't really blame this town of Erlanger (population of just under 17,000). Police protection is not cheap - but it is necessary! So it must be paid for ... and why not let the out-of-towners pay for it? (Critics of the plan worry that it will keep out-of-towners away and if they don't drive through or stop in Erlanger, neither will their cash!) When it came to the payment for our sin and rebellion against God, thankfully it was paid for by an "out-of-towner!" In fact, the one who paid our debt came from heaven itself (I guess that qualifies as being an "out-of-town" place!). Jesus Christ, the eternal God the Son was the one who paid the penalty for our sin. He went to the cross. He bled and died. Not to pay the wage for his own sin (The Bible is clear, "The wages of sin is death." - see Romans 6:23). Jesus had no sin of his own. He was totally and absolutely without sin (see 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Hebrews 4:15). It was for your sin and for mine that he died. And he did so to bring us into a living and vibrant relationship with God (see 1 Peter 3:18).

My friend, have you come to that point in your life that you have admitted your sin and rebellion against God. Have you reached out and in faith asked Jesus Christ to be your savior, believing that when he died on the cross he died there for you? And have you repented (i.e. turned from) your sin and turned to follow Jesus? If you have never done so ... I urge you to embrace Jesus Christ. Read his invitation ... and come to Jesus:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

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Why Persist in Prayer?

This past Sunday, I preached on the two parables Jesus taught to encourage us to persist in our praying. His point in the Parables of the Persistent Neighbor (Luke 11:5-13) and the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8) is this: IF a sleepy neighbor who does not want to be bothered and a godless, self-absorbed judge are moved by persistent asking THEN HOW MUCH MORE will persistent asking move the hand of a God like our God!

Now as I have spent much time thinking on this ... it got me wondering why God would want us to keep on asking, seeking, knocking in prayer. After all, he knows all things and he knows what we need before we even ask him (see Matthew 6:8). So why does Jesus teach us to persistent in our prayers until God comes through? Is it because God needs his arm twisted to answer our requests? Does he need coaxed to respond? This question is not always answered well, but I think J.I. Packer handles the question superbly in his thought provoking, soul inspiring book, Praying. In the book, he offers four answers to this question, Why does Jesus want us to persist in prayer?

First, Packer suggests that "God the Father loves to be petitioned in a way that shows he is appreciated as the source of all that is good. That glorifies him."

Second, he writes that "the Father wants to see that we are taking both our acuteness of need and his greatness as the one who can meet it with absolute seriousness" so that we get to the point where we "realize that he is really our only hope."

Third, Packer continues, "the Father knows that the more earnestly we have asked for a particular gift and the longer we have waited for it, the more we will value it when it is given, and the more wholeheartedly we will thank him for it. This will lead to increased joy."

Finally, Packer states that "the Father's larger plans for blessing us and others may require him to delay giving us what we ask for until the best time and circumstances for its bestowal are reached. To keep asking with patient persistence and to wait with expectation for the answer is thus sometimes necessary, and is always the reverent way to go. this strengthens the muscles of our faith, as constant walking strengthens the muscles of our heart and legs."

Give Packer's thoughts a going over. Lot's of good stuff here. And then let's all get busy ... asking, seeking, knocking -- for those who keep asking will receive, for those who keep seeking will find, and for those who keep knocking the door will be opened. Jesus' promise - not mine!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

PS -- the quotes from Packer's book Praying are from pp. 211-212.

A Thought for Your Weekend...

John Piper in his book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, writes these striking words, "Christ does not exist in order to make much of us. We exist in order to be making much of him." Piper is right on! Our faith is all about HIM - yet all too often we make it all about us! Remember, our faith is called CHRISTianity, not MEianity! So get intentional today about making much of Jesus Christ in every arena of your life!

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It Got Me to Thinking . . .

Someone loaned me a book a few months ago and I finally got around to taking a look at it. As I was reading the first chapter, the author (the pastor of a large church) made a comment that got me to thinking. He wrote, "You rarely defend the things you love." He made this comment in the context of relating how he had recently received a fund raising letter from the president of a large seminary. In the letter the president expressed the seminary's goal to train leaders to defend the faith. Hmmm. Sounds like a great goal to me. But not to this author. He does not think you need do defend "the things you love."

This pastor needs to open his Bible and read the book of Acts where on several occasions, the apostle Paul makes a defense of his faith. He also needs to read Philippians 1:16 where Paul states that he was placed in a Roman prison "for the defense of the gospel." Finally, he should take a look at Jude 3 where Jude writes, "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." The Greek word translated "contend" in this verse is a very strong word that emphasises that the defense of the faith we are being urged to take up will be both costly and agonizing.

So ... is it true that a person rarely defends the things he loves? Not so, according to the Bible. God calls upon us to defend the faith once for all entrusted to us. And in this day and age of skepticism toward God and his absolute truth - the need to step up and defend the faith has never been greater!

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I heard it on the news last week ... but still found it hard to believe. According to a British lawmaker, a British couple had their marriage annulled after discovering ... are you ready for this ... after discovering that they were actually twins! The two were separated at birth, adopted and raised by different parents, met, fell in love and then married! I cannot imagine their feelings when they discovered the truth ... Oh to be married to your twin brother or sister!

Now the legislator brought this to light as support for his legislation requiring more information be required on the birth certificates of adopted children. This, he said, would help avoid anymore situations like this one of marital oops oops! I think he may have a very good point!

For anyone who embraces Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, according to the Bible - we are born into God's family and are adopted by God as his children (Please see John 1:12-13, 3:1ff; Romans 8:23, Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:5)! There is one phrase "written" on our birth certificate that spells out our new identity as God's children probably better than any other. It is the phrase "in Christ." Let me suggest that you take a moment and go to the following web address to check out the significance of these words: http://www.ficm.org/whoami.htm.

I for one am glad that the words "In Christ" are written on my heavenly birth certificate! I hope you are too!

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Racial Equality?

Yesterday, my wife, Sharon and I had a "Date Day" which included a trip to the movies. The movie we chose, The Great Debaters is based on a true story (the photo here is of the actual debate team). The story unfolds in the mid 1930's in the small Texas town of Marshall. Against the backdrop of rampant (and sometimes deadly) prejudice against African-Americans, a small all black college debate team exceeds all expectations by going to Harvard and defeating the Harvard debate team ... who just happened to be the national champs. For me the movie was both inspiring and sobering.

The film inspires because it climaxes with a classic David vs. Goliath confrontation - with David winning the fight. I liked that! But the movie was also sobering in its portrayal of racial hatred that flourished in our country in the 1930's - especially in the deep South. Sad to think that people can be so hateful of another human being simply because his or her skin color is different. As I thought on this, I am grateful that we have come a long way since then in this country. However, we still have a ways to go. Racial prejudice is still alive and all too well in this country. With this said, let me address any follower of Christ who might be reading this blog posting - There is NO ROOM in the heart of a Christ-follower for the evil of racial prejudice. So please, examine your heart and if you have to, confess and repent of any racial prejudice you find there. God calls us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves - and he puts NO QUALIFIERS on that command!

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It May Be Winter Now ... But Spring's on the Way!

We are now moving into the time of year on the calendar that is my least favorite. For me it seems like the days that make up the months of January and February must consist of at least thirty hours! And yea! February this year has 29 days instead of the usual 28!!!

But I take heart in the fact that when I turn my calendar just two pages, the month that turns up is March. And on the 20th of March, the words "First Day of Spring" are printed on the page. With the arrival of spring comes the weather that I really enjoy. And for the most part, the cold and snow of winter are a thing of the past (at least for another 9 months!). Now you can explain this by the use of the laws of the universe. Due to the movement of the earth on its axis we experience the four seasons, etc. But ultimately, there is a Divine hand that is ordering the universe. Daniel 2:21 tells us that "He (God) changes times and seasons." And because God is a faithful God whose "faithfulness continues through all generations" (Psalm 100:5) - we can count with certainty that the warmth and new life of spring will follow the cold and deadness of winter.

What is true of the seasons, is true also of life in general. We all go through what I call "winter time" experiences. These our the times in our lives when life is harsh and God may even seem far away. But because God is faithful, we can rest assured that the warmth of spring will come as He renews our weary spirits. Perhaps you are in the midst of a spiritual or emotional "winter" right now. Let me suggest if this is so, take out your Bible and spend some time reading and thinking about Psalm 23. Let the Lord encourage you in the midst of your "winter" experience and take heart - "spring" is on the way!
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Just Say "NO!"

Numerous times throughout our days, temptation comes knocking. We must learn to "just say 'NO!'" I am encouraged along this line by the story of Joseph. Here was a young man who was being seduced by a woman ... who was offering herself to him. He was a single young man - so I am sure the temptation was indeed a powerful one! Here is how Joseph handled the temptation:

"Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house." (Genesis 39:7-12)

Notice how Joseph was able to "just say 'NO!'" For starters, he realized this woman was not his - but the wife of his master. So there was just no way that he was going to hurt his master, Potiphar who had been so good to him. Secondly, Joseph knew the difference between right and wrong. He knew that to give in this temptress and go to bed with her was a "wicked" thing and therefore an offense to God. There was no way he was going to offend his God. Finally, when the temptation was at the height of its power - Joseph fled. He ran. He knew that he had to get out of there! The Apostle Paul understood that often the best resort for fighting temptation is to do just this, for he urged his readers in several letters to flee sin in its various forms (see 1 Corinthians 6:18, 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22).

So ... the next time (and I am sure it will be soon!) temptation comes knocking - remember that to sin is to offend God (and do you really want to hurt the God who has done so much for you?). And do not dilly dally -- but GET OUT OF THERE!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Car Trouble!

Last Friday I had to go downtown for a meeting at the county courthouse. I parked, as I usually do, in one of the parking garages on Duke Street. After about two hours, I returned to my car. But to my dismay, when I turned the ignition key, instead of hearing the roar of the engine - all I heard was a weird clicking sound. Great! So I pulled out my AAA card and called for HELP! In the meantime, my wife, Sharon ran off to find our daughter and fiance to see if they could come and give us a jump (I always carry jumper cables with me). Fortunately she caught them before they left. They drove to our location in the garage and jumped the car. Therefore, I was able to cancel the tow truck (I am so glad I got the car started. If I had required a tow, I would have had to push the car out of the garage since the tow truck was too large to get into the garage. This would have been quite the feat considering I was on the fourth level up!).

A few hours later, after dining at Olive Garden, Sharon and I came out, climbed in the car - and guess what? Again I turned the ignition key. Again the weird clicking sound! And once again, I managed to find someone to give my car a jump. At this point I began to diagnose the ailment my car was suffering. As I poked around I noticed that no matter what position I turned my light switch to the fog lights remained on. This is why my battery was constantly being drained of its "juice!"

Yesterday I took the car to the garage - and sure enough - I was right! I needed a new "multi function switch." They had one in stock and by the end of the day the car was once again healthy, at least until the next problem comes along!
At one point in the midst of these car problems, I caught myself complaining. At that point, I reminded myself that although these problems were irritating, yet it is amazing that a complex machine like my car does not "break down" more often (and I thanked God for this fact!). You see, even in the midst of the worst of life's problems, we can always find something for which to be thankful. So the next time you face an unforeseen problem - remember to look for something to be thankful for ... and give thanks to the God who has your life (and all of your circumstances) in the palm of his hand. It will encourage you - guaranteed!
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Chew on This!

Here is a C.S. Lewis quote for you to "chew on:"

"It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men."

From my own experience ... and from what I know of God's Word, Lewis is right on target with this statement! I hope you can join us for some corporate worship on Sundays...while not neglecting your own times of personal and private worship today (and every day)! Indeed, as we worship God - we experience Him!

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The Ultimate Back Seat Driver!

A couple of months ago, I purchased a portable GPS navigational device to use in my car. It has proven itself worth every penny I spent to buy it. My Tomtom has successfully guided me to never-before-driven-to destinations - and it has made it easy! I sometimes wonder how I managed before Tomtom!

As good a road guide as my Tomtom has been - there is an even more amazing guide for our trip through life. God has given us the Bible. It will help us as we seek our destination - that of fulfillment, joy, satisfaction, purpose .... and ultimately eternal life in heaven. God's Word is our road map to God himself. Now, I do not know a Christ follower who would deny what I just wrote --- at least in word. But how many of us do deny by ignoring the Bible (or at the least - failing to interact with it on a regular basis?).

Let me encourage you as we step into this new year - that you examine your "Bible Intake Plan." Now if you don't have one - then get one! If you have one - make sure it is designed to get you deep into the Bible. And if you need some motivation to do this, then listen to these words from the Old Testament book of worship: "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers" (Psalm 1:1-3).

Hoping you were blessed by stopping by. . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning means COFFEE! (frankly, every morning means coffee for me)! So why not pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join m...