PJ

PJ

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Start and End Your Days with Praise!

This year I set a goal to read through the Bible, starting in Genesis in January and ending (I trust) in Revelation in December. Yesterday I found myself reading in the latter chapters of 1 Chronicles. In Chapter 23, King David outlines detailed instructions for the Levites and priests as they carried out their service in the Temple that David's son, Solomon was to build once he succeeded David as Israel's king. Among these instructions is a rather fascinating task that the Levites are assigned. In v. 30, the Levites are told that "they were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening."

When I read those words, it struck me that thanking and praising the LORD would be a great way for me ... and for all of us ... to begin and end our days. For starters, it reminds us that God (not us or anyone else) is in control of our circumstances. He is the source of our blessings, so it is appropriate to praise and thank him. In addition, by beginning and ending each day with thanksgiving and praise, we will be more prone to being positive people - rather than a griping and complaining people - as we focus on the goodness of God and the greatness of his person!

So ... why not try a little experiment? For the upcoming month of May, begin and end your day with giving thanks and praise to God. Even if its just a moment or two -- I think you will be a far better person for it!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Darwin? Or Intellegint Design? (Part 2)

Yesterday, my wife and I went to see the movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. For a documentary film, I found it to be quite engaging. Before I knew it, the movie was over and we were on our way.

This morning I got on the Internet to see what kind of "buzz" the movie is causing. I was amazed to see how the Establishment has reacted. The National Center For Science Education has developed a web site devoted solely to discrediting the film. Richard Dawkins, a well known atheistic evolutionist who was interviewed in the film, has written a very emotional and sarcastic response to how the movie portrayed him. And on and on it goes. (By the way - you can go to the movie's web site http://www.expelledthemovie.com/ to check these things out for your self.)

Hmm. Why such a ferocious response? Could it be that the film has rattled the bastions of academia? I have done a lot of reading in this area of the origin of life. And even though evolutionists keep saying (and writing) that evolution is a proven fact that is backed up by mountains of research and evidence - I am certainly unconvinced. I really believe that what we have going on here is a case of "If you say something loud enough and long enough - people will buy it." This is what the evolutionists have done.

But why? Why such a hatred for Intelligence Design? Romans chapter one contains the answer. There we read,

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:18-20)

Men, many who are very educated and very accomplished in the scientific arena are suppressing the truth about the Designer of this very vast and very complicated world. I believe they are doing so in order to maintain their autonomy and avoid any accountability to the God who made them.

If you want to do some more study on this issue of Creation vs. Evolution - let me suggest the following web site: http://www.answersingenesis.org/. And join me in praying for all of those who have hardened their hearts toward God and His Truth.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. - If you have yet to see Expelled - I highly recommend you go ... and take your kids!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rocky the Bear

Rocky the Bear has been in the limelight this week. For some reason that has yet to be determined, Rocky bit his handler on the neck which led to the handler's death. According to the owner of the animal training center where the huge grizzly is housed and trained, Rocky is a "loving, affectionate, friendly, safe bear." However, the owner is clueless on how such a "simple routine" turned so tragic.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of how we often relate to sin. We begin to play around with it, we learn to tolerate it - and before we know it we see it as being "no big deal" at best or we become "totally indifferent to it" at worst. And just when we least suspect, the sin we allow to fester in our hearts and souls jumps up to bite us - bringing great pain and anguish as a result.

My friends, we MUST not allow this to happen. We must, in the words of the apostle Peter, "abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul" (1 Peter 2:11). Let me encourage you to take some time to read Romans 6 through Romans 8. In these chapters, the apostle Paul details for us the process by which God is making us holy (this process is the process of sanctification). God takes sin seriously - because it is a serious matter! We need to do the same!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Feeling a Bit Nostalgic!

Nostalgia is defined as "a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for or return to some past period." I was experiencing just a touch of nostalgia earlier this week as we travelled to and from Carlisle, PA. To get there, we had to go through the Harrisburg area. I was born in the city of Harrisburg and lived there until I was 13. Then we moved to the Harrisburg West Shore, just outside the teeming metropolis of Lewisberry which is located in the northern reaches of York County. So in our drive to and from Carlisle, we passed the Farm Show complex (which hosted the Shriner's Circus which I attended each year that I was in elementary school), the cemetery where my grandmother was buried when I was 12 and the Embers Restaurant where several of my high school banquets were held.

Passing these places brought back a rush of memories. As I reflected on these, I was reminded of how great a role our past has played in defining who we are today. Past actions and choices have done much to shape us into who we have become. BUT having said that, we are not bound to our past. Earlier this month, our music ministry offered up a delightful reminder of God's faithfulness to us and our need to return that faithfulness to Him with their musical simply titled, Today. The musical's theme was, Today, I choose to follow Him. You see, no matter how poor your choices were in the past, TODAY you can choose to follow God. And the choice to follow Jesus is a choice that will transform any life! Follow in the footsteps of Joshua, the Old Testament leader of Israel, who proclaimed to all Israel, "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).

So if your choices of yesteryear have not been the best, make a change TODAY and choose TODAY to follow Him!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. The photo is of me in fourth grade. I like that bow tie!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Back from Training! (And It's Good to Be Back!)

I just got back from three days of rather intensive training with the International Conference of Police Chaplains. Each April, Region 5 of the I.C.P.C. (which consists of the North East and Mid-Atlantic states) conducts a regional training conference. This year's conference was held at an Assemblies of God conference ground just outside Carlisle, PA. My associate here at Grace and newly installed chaplain with the West Lampeter Police Department accompanied me to the conference.

The conference was attended by approximately 75 law enforcement personnel and police chaplains. They came from Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Topics covered included "Death Notifications," "Substance Abuse," "Hostage Negotiations," and "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" - just to name a few. The presenters of each session were experienced police officers, FBI agents and fellow chaplains. All in all it was a very informative time of training.

But this training also reminded me of the job, day in and day out, that law enforcement does to keep all the rest of us "safe and sound" - and often at a great cost to themselves (one stat that was shared is that more police officers die from suicide than die in the line of duty). If you see a police officer today, why not take a moment out of your day to thank them for serving. It might just make their day!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Off for Training!

I will be leaving this afternoon for three days of training with the International Conference of Police Chaplains. The conference is being sponsored by the Northeast Region of the ICPC and is being held in NEARBY Carlisle! Pastor Al Reilly, one of my associate pastors here at Grace will be also attending the training conference. He was just sworn in this past Monday evening to serve as a chaplain with the West Lampeter Township police department. Please pray that the conference will be HUGELY beneficial.

Thanks for partnering with us in prayer . . . and thanks for stopping by.

pj
P.S. - I do not believe I will have the opportunity to post a blog while gone ... so I will "see" you when I return on Thursday!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Oh What Love!

Gone are the days when I would walk in my front door after a long day at the office and get mobbed by three little Smiths! For starters, my son (our middle child) is now married. Our oldest daughter (due to be married this October) has been living on her own for several years. This leaves only our youngest daughter still at home. But that will change come June 29th when she gets married. But even though one of my kids is still at home, it is still not the same.

I was reminded of this yesterday. I arrived home for supper and noticed her car in the driveway. I walked in the front door and called out a "Hello! I'm home!" My wife (bless her heart!) came running to greet me. But nothing out of my daughter. Since she gets up early to drive her 45-50 minute commute to school, I just figured she was taking a nap. Wrong! Shortly after I walked in the door, her Mr. "captured my heart" walked in the door. Within seconds of hearing his voice, my daughter bounded down the steps - just like she used to do for me.

Now do not get me wrong. I could not be happier for my daughter. She found her soul mate, just as I did some 30 years ago. But still. I must be honest. It does sting a little. But I will get over it. After all, this is what we raised her to do ... in bird terminology, "to fly off and leave the nest!" And let me say it again (just in case her fiance, Ryan reads this!), I couldn't think of a better guy for Kate.

As I think of the emotion I feel for my daughter, the depth of love I have for her - it warms my heart to know that my Father's love for me (and all of us who are his children!) is so much greater! That's hard to imagine, but it's true. Consider the words of the Apostle John in 1 John 3:1:

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"

Wow! What a thought! And it's a thought that makes my day! I hope it makes your day, too!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jesus Wants Us to Be HOLY!

In the three week sermon series that I just wrapped up this past Sunday, Jesus Prays for His Church, we took a look at the five desires that Jesus expressed for His Church in this longest recorded prayer of his earthly ministry. Last Thursday (see April 10th posting) I referred to the first of these five desires (joy). Today a quick consideration of the second desire Jesus expressed, that of holiness. In John 17:17 Jesus prayed to His Father, "Sanctify them by the truth. Your word is truth." The word for sanctify here means "to set apart." Jesus is praying that God would set his followers apart ... apart from sin to righteousness, from the ways of the world and the ways of self to the ways of God. In other words, he was asking God to make us HOLY. So at the end of the day, if we are following Jesus as individuals and as a church, we must be DIFFERENT from the world around us ... a world that is living in defiance of and rebellion against God.

During my message in talking about holiness, I recommended what just may be the classic work on personal holiness - at least in the last three decades. It is Jerry Bridges' book, The Pursuit of Holiness. Now, in making this recommendation I had better issue you a warning. IF you are comfortable with the status quo. If you are just cruising along, content with a form of "casual Christianity" then DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! However, if you want to be challenged to grow in your own personal holiness, then I heartily commend this book to you. Just to wet your spiritual appetites, here is a powerful excerpt from this book. Read on ONLY if you are ready to be hammered with a spiritual 2x4!

"It is time for Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. too often we say we are 'defeated' by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient! It might be well if we stopped using the terms 'victory' and 'defeat' to describe our progress in holiness. Rather we should use the terms 'obedience' and 'disobedience.' When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may, in fact, be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey. We have chosen to entertain lustful thoughts, or to harbor resentment, or to shade the truth a little. We need to brace ourselves up, and to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts, attitudes and actions" (pp. 84-85).

Ouch! That hurt!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Lousy Forecast for Crabs!

The forecast is in. This upcoming summer looks like it will be a lousy season for crabs. Maryland blue crabs that is. Last summer was was Maryland's second-lowest haul since 1945, and this winter's population surveys indicate this year's harvest may not be much better. For crab lovers among us - this is not good news!

Even though the forecast for blue crabs is a poor one - I wonder about the crabs among the human population. It seems to me that there are a lot of crabby people around. And even I can get crabby at times! Now I know that life can be difficult - and at certain times downright VERY difficult. And right now with rising gas and food prices, there might be a lot to "crab" about! But I think most of us have a lot to be thankful for as well. The Bible tells us to "be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Notice we are to give thanks IN all circumstances (not necessarily FOR all circumstances). You see, no matter what our circumstances, we can find a quiet assurance that our God has HIS hand upon us. And thanking God is a lot better path to travel than the path of crabbiness. Don't you think?

Thanks for stopping by...

pj

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lawn Mowing, Flabby Muscles and Spiritual Growth!

Yesterday I cut my lawn for the second time this spring. This morning my body is reminding me. Pushing around a 300 pound lawnmower (OK -- it only seemed like it weighed 300 pounds!) for 50 minutes last evening is enough for my body to be crying out in pain this morning. So what happened since the fall? The last time I cut my lawn in November, I zipped through the task in about 40 minutes - barely breaking a sweat in the process. Now I know I've had my 52nd birthday since then - but come on now! Why has it become so much more laborious a process?

Simply put - I am OUT OF SHAPE! Over the winter months, with a greatly reduced level of physical activity, my body has grown soft (not that it was ever honed to an iron-like consistency to begin with!). Bodies happen to do that. If we do not exercise them, our muscles grow weak and flabby. Yep - that's me right now - weak and flabby! However, given the better weather and more lawn cuttings real soon, I know it is only a matter of time before the old body begins to come around! And if I ever get to the exercise regiment that I plan to -- I will soon be saying, "Goodbye Mr. Flabby. Hello Mr. Muscle!" (OK - I can dream, can't I?!)

Just as our physical bodies grow weak and flabby from a lack of physical exercise, the same is true of our souls. We MUST be working out spiritually, working up a spiritual sweat. No spiritual training, no spiritual growth. Really John? Yep. And don't just take it from me (because I have been known to be wrong in the past - not surprised, are you??!!). The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:7 told Timothy (and us by extension), "train yourself to be godly."
So how are you exercising your soul? In what ways are you working up a spiritual sweat? Remember, Paul did not simply say "Try to be godly" -- he said "TRAIN yourself to be godly!"
Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Got Joy?

I am currently preaching a series on the desires Jesus expresses for His church as seen in his prayer recorded in John 17. The first of these five desires is joy. In John 17:13 Jesus prays, "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." Jesus wants us to have not just a little bit of joy -- but the FULL MEASURE of HIS joy! Wow!

Now when I spoke about joy, I mentioned this important distinction: joy and happiness are NOT the same! Happiness is based upon "happenings" - it is circumstantial. As the cartoon above states, "Happiness is a warm puppy." If the puppy runs away (or Mom and Dad decide the puppy just ain't a fit - like happened in our home!) the happiness leaves with the puppy. But joy is different. It is not circumstantial. It is supernatural and internal. It is, as Galatians 5:22 reminds us, a fruit of the Spirit of God. So the Spirit grows it in us - but I believe we must do our part by cultivating the soil of our heart so the Spirit's fruit can grow! And how do we do this? In Psalm 16:11 David writes, " you will fill me with joy in your presence." The key to "getting joy" is to go hard after God! For as we live out our lives in an attitude of ongoing worship, keeping our minds and hearts fixed on Jesus Christ - God will FILL us with joy! So -- got joy? It is yours for the having.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Darwin? Or Intellegint Design?

God has blessed me in allowing me to travel a number of times overseas. In doing so, I have seen some incredible sights. One of the more incredible was the sight of the ancient Egyptian pyramids as they came into view during my one and only visit to Cairo. Now when I saw those pyramids up close, I was amazed at the engineering that went into their design and construction. Never once did I entertain the thought that they just, on their own, grew up out of the sands of Egypt. And no one else would entertain that thought either!

Yet, over and over again we are asked to believe in Neo-Darwinism's insistence that this vast universe (which is FAR MORE COMPLEX than the pyramids of Egypt) is the product of long epochs of evolutionary processes that just happened to come together in just the right way to have brought about life as we know it! Hmm. Just doesn't make sense to me!

If you want to see an interesting film supporting the common sense concept of Intelligent Design, let me recommend to you the new movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie, starring Ben Stein is a must see for any follower of Jesus who wants to find out the truth of Big Science's putting the kibosh on any approach to origins other than Darwinism. The film opens Friday April 18th at Manor Regal Cinemas in Lancaster. I hope you take the time to see it! (You can see the trailer for the film at http://www.expelledthemovie.com/playground.php.

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Moses" Died on Saturday

This past Saturday, an icon of the American film industry died. Charleston Heston, passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer's. He was probably best known for his role in the film classic The Ten Commandments in which he played the part of Moses. He was one of Hollywood's biggest names across the course of much of three decades (the 50's, 60's and 70's). Heston was 84.

The passing of this man is a reminder to all of us that time relentlessly marches on. Each of us will one day follow in Heston's footsteps (unless, of course, the Lord intervenes with his return!). So the question I want to leave us all with is this: Are we making each moment count for Christ? It is only what we do for him that will ultimately last!


Thanks for stopping by . . .


pj

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Think on This. . .

"He who dares the most, shall win the most; and if rough be your path of love, tread it boldly, still loving your neighbors through thick and thin." (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)
Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, April 4, 2008

About Those Bible Quotes

Recently an individual (Rick Thompson) wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper. In his letter, he was complaining about another letter writer's (by the name of Hartz) use of the Bible. Hartz had written to support the concept of marriage as being ONLY between a man and a woman. Thompson took offense to Hartz's use of the Bible and so he wrote, "According to Hartz, 'My position is based on some easily understood statements in the Bible (Romans 1:26.).' Oh, really? If Hartz wants to invoke this passage by Paul (often taken out of context and open to various interpretations by biblical scholars) for discriminating against gay people, fair enough; but let's hope that Hartz also then embraces Paul's support for the oppression of women and acceptance of slavery."

Thompson's comment about the Bible - (that it is) "often taken out of context and open to various interpretations by biblical scholars" - is one that is used over and over again to try to explain away the clear teaching of Scripture. So if Mr. Thompson wants to talk about the context of Romans 1:26 - let's talk context. The immediate context of this verse reads as follows:

"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Romans 1:24-27).

Paul's letter to the Romans is all about the Gospel. In chapters 1-3, Paul is demonstrating humanity's NEED for the gospel. Specifically in chapter one, he describes humanity's downward spiral into depravity due to man's suppression of God's truth (1:18) and the exchanging of God's truth for a lie (1:25). When Paul makes reference to homosexual behavior it is in the context of humanity's rejection of God the Creator. Because man has rejected Him, God "gave them over to shameful lusts" - one of which is homosexuality (which Paul also refers to as a perversion.).

Now understood in its proper context, Romans 1:26-27 makes it clear that homosexuality is immoral. Labeling it such is not a form of discrimination as Mr. Thompson would like to believe. Just as stealing, adultery, murder, etc. are immoral acts - so is homosexual behavior. Mr. Thompson, like many others who don't want to hear what the Bible has to say, revert to the old "taken out of context and subject to various interpretations" argument. Now I am not saying that the Bible can't be taken out of context (because that is surely a danger in interpreting any piece of literature). But I think in the case of Romans 1 - Hartz got the context right and Thomspon got it woefully wrong! (Oh, and regarding Thompson's closing comment, "let's hope that Hartz also then embraces Paul's support for the oppression of women and acceptance of slavery" - again he is the one guilty of not understanding context (in this case of the first century Roman-Graeco world) - but that's a subject for some other day.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 3, 2008

If You Know a Teacher, Thank Him or Her Today!

Being a teacher today is becoming increasingly difficult. As the family unit in this country continues to break down, teachers are being called upon not only to teach but also to parent. Recently I read an editorial in our local paper written by someone objecting to the level of teacher's salaries, especially given that they have summers "off." Apparently this writer never had to teach in one of America's classrooms today.

Just how tough is it getting for our teachers? In Waycross, Georgia a plot was uncovered in which a group of students were planning to attack a teacher. So they brought a number of items to school, including a knife, duct tape and handcuffs. What makes this story so disturbing is that these students are in THIRD grade! They were upset because the teacher had scolded one of them for standing on his chair. Sad story, don't you agree?

So if you know a teacher - thank him or her for being willing to teach our children. Pray for that teacher. And pray for our families in this country. What we need is a revival sent from heaven! People need Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Breakfast at Kirby's

Monday is my usual day off. So I decided on Sunday to give my sister a call to see if she wanted to meet up for breakfast yesterday morning. She lives in Etters which is located just off I-83 about 2/3 of the way toward Harrisburg (from York). Our rendezvous spot was Kirby's, a small Irish restaurant in Manchester, owned by her daughter and son-in-law.

Nancy is the oldest of my siblings. She was the first of two girls. Twelve years after Nancy came along (and six years after my other sister was born), my twin brother and I were born. Then six years later, my little brother arrived. So I am number 4 of 5.

As my wife, my sister and I sat an reminisced over our eggs, toast and coffee (well I had coffee - I think they both had tea), we were transported back in time to 1966. That was the year Nancy got married. My twin brother and I (we were ten at the time) were involved in her wedding as acolytes. So we got dressed in these white robes (which at the time I thought made us look like sissies!) and had to come out just before the ceremony to light the altar candles. These candles were quite tall AND they were situated on an already tall altar. So even with the long tapers, it was difficult to reach the candles (at least for me, seeing I was a good four inches shorter than my brother). As we proceeded to light the candles (we were to light them "in sinc"), my next to last candle refused to light. Time after time as I would pull the taper away from the top of the candle ... the flame would go out. After a few failed attempts, my brother began muttering to me under his breath ... "What's wrong shorty, can't get it lit?" "Shrimp, Shrimp!" And I replied (through tightly clenched teeth), "Shut up or I'll punch you!" Fortunately I was finally able to get the candle lit and we exited from the front of the church. I told my sister that we were mere moments away from getting into an all out fist fight! Now that would have been a wedding memory NO one would have forgotten!

Strife among brothers is nothing new. Humanity was not on the planet very long at all before Cain murdered his bother Abel. And relational tension is not just limited to brothers. When two or three gather together, there is always the potential for conflict. One way to reduce the likelihood of conflict is to put into practice the Apostle Paul's admonition found in Philippians 2:3-4. There he writes,

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

If all of us humble ourselves and think of others as being more important than us - that will go a lllooonnnngggg way toward eliminating tension and promoting harmony in our relationships!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Start and End Your Days with Praise!

This year I set a goal to read through the Bible, starting in Genesis in January and ending (I trust) in Revelation in December. Yesterday I found myself reading in the latter chapters of 1 Chronicles. In Chapter 23, King David outlines detailed instructions for the Levites and priests as they carried out their service in the Temple that David's son, Solomon was to build once he succeeded David as Israel's king. Among these instructions is a rather fascinating task that the Levites are assigned. In v. 30, the Levites are told that "they were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening."

When I read those words, it struck me that thanking and praising the LORD would be a great way for me ... and for all of us ... to begin and end our days. For starters, it reminds us that God (not us or anyone else) is in control of our circumstances. He is the source of our blessings, so it is appropriate to praise and thank him. In addition, by beginning and ending each day with thanksgiving and praise, we will be more prone to being positive people - rather than a griping and complaining people - as we focus on the goodness of God and the greatness of his person!

So ... why not try a little experiment? For the upcoming month of May, begin and end your day with giving thanks and praise to God. Even if its just a moment or two -- I think you will be a far better person for it!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Darwin? Or Intellegint Design? (Part 2)

Yesterday, my wife and I went to see the movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. For a documentary film, I found it to be quite engaging. Before I knew it, the movie was over and we were on our way.

This morning I got on the Internet to see what kind of "buzz" the movie is causing. I was amazed to see how the Establishment has reacted. The National Center For Science Education has developed a web site devoted solely to discrediting the film. Richard Dawkins, a well known atheistic evolutionist who was interviewed in the film, has written a very emotional and sarcastic response to how the movie portrayed him. And on and on it goes. (By the way - you can go to the movie's web site http://www.expelledthemovie.com/ to check these things out for your self.)

Hmm. Why such a ferocious response? Could it be that the film has rattled the bastions of academia? I have done a lot of reading in this area of the origin of life. And even though evolutionists keep saying (and writing) that evolution is a proven fact that is backed up by mountains of research and evidence - I am certainly unconvinced. I really believe that what we have going on here is a case of "If you say something loud enough and long enough - people will buy it." This is what the evolutionists have done.

But why? Why such a hatred for Intelligence Design? Romans chapter one contains the answer. There we read,

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:18-20)

Men, many who are very educated and very accomplished in the scientific arena are suppressing the truth about the Designer of this very vast and very complicated world. I believe they are doing so in order to maintain their autonomy and avoid any accountability to the God who made them.

If you want to do some more study on this issue of Creation vs. Evolution - let me suggest the following web site: http://www.answersingenesis.org/. And join me in praying for all of those who have hardened their hearts toward God and His Truth.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. - If you have yet to see Expelled - I highly recommend you go ... and take your kids!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rocky the Bear

Rocky the Bear has been in the limelight this week. For some reason that has yet to be determined, Rocky bit his handler on the neck which led to the handler's death. According to the owner of the animal training center where the huge grizzly is housed and trained, Rocky is a "loving, affectionate, friendly, safe bear." However, the owner is clueless on how such a "simple routine" turned so tragic.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of how we often relate to sin. We begin to play around with it, we learn to tolerate it - and before we know it we see it as being "no big deal" at best or we become "totally indifferent to it" at worst. And just when we least suspect, the sin we allow to fester in our hearts and souls jumps up to bite us - bringing great pain and anguish as a result.

My friends, we MUST not allow this to happen. We must, in the words of the apostle Peter, "abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul" (1 Peter 2:11). Let me encourage you to take some time to read Romans 6 through Romans 8. In these chapters, the apostle Paul details for us the process by which God is making us holy (this process is the process of sanctification). God takes sin seriously - because it is a serious matter! We need to do the same!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Feeling a Bit Nostalgic!

Nostalgia is defined as "a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for or return to some past period." I was experiencing just a touch of nostalgia earlier this week as we travelled to and from Carlisle, PA. To get there, we had to go through the Harrisburg area. I was born in the city of Harrisburg and lived there until I was 13. Then we moved to the Harrisburg West Shore, just outside the teeming metropolis of Lewisberry which is located in the northern reaches of York County. So in our drive to and from Carlisle, we passed the Farm Show complex (which hosted the Shriner's Circus which I attended each year that I was in elementary school), the cemetery where my grandmother was buried when I was 12 and the Embers Restaurant where several of my high school banquets were held.

Passing these places brought back a rush of memories. As I reflected on these, I was reminded of how great a role our past has played in defining who we are today. Past actions and choices have done much to shape us into who we have become. BUT having said that, we are not bound to our past. Earlier this month, our music ministry offered up a delightful reminder of God's faithfulness to us and our need to return that faithfulness to Him with their musical simply titled, Today. The musical's theme was, Today, I choose to follow Him. You see, no matter how poor your choices were in the past, TODAY you can choose to follow God. And the choice to follow Jesus is a choice that will transform any life! Follow in the footsteps of Joshua, the Old Testament leader of Israel, who proclaimed to all Israel, "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).

So if your choices of yesteryear have not been the best, make a change TODAY and choose TODAY to follow Him!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. The photo is of me in fourth grade. I like that bow tie!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Back from Training! (And It's Good to Be Back!)

I just got back from three days of rather intensive training with the International Conference of Police Chaplains. Each April, Region 5 of the I.C.P.C. (which consists of the North East and Mid-Atlantic states) conducts a regional training conference. This year's conference was held at an Assemblies of God conference ground just outside Carlisle, PA. My associate here at Grace and newly installed chaplain with the West Lampeter Police Department accompanied me to the conference.

The conference was attended by approximately 75 law enforcement personnel and police chaplains. They came from Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Topics covered included "Death Notifications," "Substance Abuse," "Hostage Negotiations," and "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" - just to name a few. The presenters of each session were experienced police officers, FBI agents and fellow chaplains. All in all it was a very informative time of training.

But this training also reminded me of the job, day in and day out, that law enforcement does to keep all the rest of us "safe and sound" - and often at a great cost to themselves (one stat that was shared is that more police officers die from suicide than die in the line of duty). If you see a police officer today, why not take a moment out of your day to thank them for serving. It might just make their day!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Off for Training!

I will be leaving this afternoon for three days of training with the International Conference of Police Chaplains. The conference is being sponsored by the Northeast Region of the ICPC and is being held in NEARBY Carlisle! Pastor Al Reilly, one of my associate pastors here at Grace will be also attending the training conference. He was just sworn in this past Monday evening to serve as a chaplain with the West Lampeter Township police department. Please pray that the conference will be HUGELY beneficial.

Thanks for partnering with us in prayer . . . and thanks for stopping by.

pj
P.S. - I do not believe I will have the opportunity to post a blog while gone ... so I will "see" you when I return on Thursday!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Oh What Love!

Gone are the days when I would walk in my front door after a long day at the office and get mobbed by three little Smiths! For starters, my son (our middle child) is now married. Our oldest daughter (due to be married this October) has been living on her own for several years. This leaves only our youngest daughter still at home. But that will change come June 29th when she gets married. But even though one of my kids is still at home, it is still not the same.

I was reminded of this yesterday. I arrived home for supper and noticed her car in the driveway. I walked in the front door and called out a "Hello! I'm home!" My wife (bless her heart!) came running to greet me. But nothing out of my daughter. Since she gets up early to drive her 45-50 minute commute to school, I just figured she was taking a nap. Wrong! Shortly after I walked in the door, her Mr. "captured my heart" walked in the door. Within seconds of hearing his voice, my daughter bounded down the steps - just like she used to do for me.

Now do not get me wrong. I could not be happier for my daughter. She found her soul mate, just as I did some 30 years ago. But still. I must be honest. It does sting a little. But I will get over it. After all, this is what we raised her to do ... in bird terminology, "to fly off and leave the nest!" And let me say it again (just in case her fiance, Ryan reads this!), I couldn't think of a better guy for Kate.

As I think of the emotion I feel for my daughter, the depth of love I have for her - it warms my heart to know that my Father's love for me (and all of us who are his children!) is so much greater! That's hard to imagine, but it's true. Consider the words of the Apostle John in 1 John 3:1:

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!"

Wow! What a thought! And it's a thought that makes my day! I hope it makes your day, too!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jesus Wants Us to Be HOLY!

In the three week sermon series that I just wrapped up this past Sunday, Jesus Prays for His Church, we took a look at the five desires that Jesus expressed for His Church in this longest recorded prayer of his earthly ministry. Last Thursday (see April 10th posting) I referred to the first of these five desires (joy). Today a quick consideration of the second desire Jesus expressed, that of holiness. In John 17:17 Jesus prayed to His Father, "Sanctify them by the truth. Your word is truth." The word for sanctify here means "to set apart." Jesus is praying that God would set his followers apart ... apart from sin to righteousness, from the ways of the world and the ways of self to the ways of God. In other words, he was asking God to make us HOLY. So at the end of the day, if we are following Jesus as individuals and as a church, we must be DIFFERENT from the world around us ... a world that is living in defiance of and rebellion against God.

During my message in talking about holiness, I recommended what just may be the classic work on personal holiness - at least in the last three decades. It is Jerry Bridges' book, The Pursuit of Holiness. Now, in making this recommendation I had better issue you a warning. IF you are comfortable with the status quo. If you are just cruising along, content with a form of "casual Christianity" then DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! However, if you want to be challenged to grow in your own personal holiness, then I heartily commend this book to you. Just to wet your spiritual appetites, here is a powerful excerpt from this book. Read on ONLY if you are ready to be hammered with a spiritual 2x4!

"It is time for Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. too often we say we are 'defeated' by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient! It might be well if we stopped using the terms 'victory' and 'defeat' to describe our progress in holiness. Rather we should use the terms 'obedience' and 'disobedience.' When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may, in fact, be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey. We have chosen to entertain lustful thoughts, or to harbor resentment, or to shade the truth a little. We need to brace ourselves up, and to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts, attitudes and actions" (pp. 84-85).

Ouch! That hurt!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Lousy Forecast for Crabs!

The forecast is in. This upcoming summer looks like it will be a lousy season for crabs. Maryland blue crabs that is. Last summer was was Maryland's second-lowest haul since 1945, and this winter's population surveys indicate this year's harvest may not be much better. For crab lovers among us - this is not good news!

Even though the forecast for blue crabs is a poor one - I wonder about the crabs among the human population. It seems to me that there are a lot of crabby people around. And even I can get crabby at times! Now I know that life can be difficult - and at certain times downright VERY difficult. And right now with rising gas and food prices, there might be a lot to "crab" about! But I think most of us have a lot to be thankful for as well. The Bible tells us to "be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Notice we are to give thanks IN all circumstances (not necessarily FOR all circumstances). You see, no matter what our circumstances, we can find a quiet assurance that our God has HIS hand upon us. And thanking God is a lot better path to travel than the path of crabbiness. Don't you think?

Thanks for stopping by...

pj

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lawn Mowing, Flabby Muscles and Spiritual Growth!

Yesterday I cut my lawn for the second time this spring. This morning my body is reminding me. Pushing around a 300 pound lawnmower (OK -- it only seemed like it weighed 300 pounds!) for 50 minutes last evening is enough for my body to be crying out in pain this morning. So what happened since the fall? The last time I cut my lawn in November, I zipped through the task in about 40 minutes - barely breaking a sweat in the process. Now I know I've had my 52nd birthday since then - but come on now! Why has it become so much more laborious a process?

Simply put - I am OUT OF SHAPE! Over the winter months, with a greatly reduced level of physical activity, my body has grown soft (not that it was ever honed to an iron-like consistency to begin with!). Bodies happen to do that. If we do not exercise them, our muscles grow weak and flabby. Yep - that's me right now - weak and flabby! However, given the better weather and more lawn cuttings real soon, I know it is only a matter of time before the old body begins to come around! And if I ever get to the exercise regiment that I plan to -- I will soon be saying, "Goodbye Mr. Flabby. Hello Mr. Muscle!" (OK - I can dream, can't I?!)

Just as our physical bodies grow weak and flabby from a lack of physical exercise, the same is true of our souls. We MUST be working out spiritually, working up a spiritual sweat. No spiritual training, no spiritual growth. Really John? Yep. And don't just take it from me (because I have been known to be wrong in the past - not surprised, are you??!!). The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:7 told Timothy (and us by extension), "train yourself to be godly."
So how are you exercising your soul? In what ways are you working up a spiritual sweat? Remember, Paul did not simply say "Try to be godly" -- he said "TRAIN yourself to be godly!"
Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Got Joy?

I am currently preaching a series on the desires Jesus expresses for His church as seen in his prayer recorded in John 17. The first of these five desires is joy. In John 17:13 Jesus prays, "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." Jesus wants us to have not just a little bit of joy -- but the FULL MEASURE of HIS joy! Wow!

Now when I spoke about joy, I mentioned this important distinction: joy and happiness are NOT the same! Happiness is based upon "happenings" - it is circumstantial. As the cartoon above states, "Happiness is a warm puppy." If the puppy runs away (or Mom and Dad decide the puppy just ain't a fit - like happened in our home!) the happiness leaves with the puppy. But joy is different. It is not circumstantial. It is supernatural and internal. It is, as Galatians 5:22 reminds us, a fruit of the Spirit of God. So the Spirit grows it in us - but I believe we must do our part by cultivating the soil of our heart so the Spirit's fruit can grow! And how do we do this? In Psalm 16:11 David writes, " you will fill me with joy in your presence." The key to "getting joy" is to go hard after God! For as we live out our lives in an attitude of ongoing worship, keeping our minds and hearts fixed on Jesus Christ - God will FILL us with joy! So -- got joy? It is yours for the having.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Darwin? Or Intellegint Design?

God has blessed me in allowing me to travel a number of times overseas. In doing so, I have seen some incredible sights. One of the more incredible was the sight of the ancient Egyptian pyramids as they came into view during my one and only visit to Cairo. Now when I saw those pyramids up close, I was amazed at the engineering that went into their design and construction. Never once did I entertain the thought that they just, on their own, grew up out of the sands of Egypt. And no one else would entertain that thought either!

Yet, over and over again we are asked to believe in Neo-Darwinism's insistence that this vast universe (which is FAR MORE COMPLEX than the pyramids of Egypt) is the product of long epochs of evolutionary processes that just happened to come together in just the right way to have brought about life as we know it! Hmm. Just doesn't make sense to me!

If you want to see an interesting film supporting the common sense concept of Intelligent Design, let me recommend to you the new movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. The movie, starring Ben Stein is a must see for any follower of Jesus who wants to find out the truth of Big Science's putting the kibosh on any approach to origins other than Darwinism. The film opens Friday April 18th at Manor Regal Cinemas in Lancaster. I hope you take the time to see it! (You can see the trailer for the film at http://www.expelledthemovie.com/playground.php.

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Moses" Died on Saturday

This past Saturday, an icon of the American film industry died. Charleston Heston, passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer's. He was probably best known for his role in the film classic The Ten Commandments in which he played the part of Moses. He was one of Hollywood's biggest names across the course of much of three decades (the 50's, 60's and 70's). Heston was 84.

The passing of this man is a reminder to all of us that time relentlessly marches on. Each of us will one day follow in Heston's footsteps (unless, of course, the Lord intervenes with his return!). So the question I want to leave us all with is this: Are we making each moment count for Christ? It is only what we do for him that will ultimately last!


Thanks for stopping by . . .


pj

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Think on This. . .

"He who dares the most, shall win the most; and if rough be your path of love, tread it boldly, still loving your neighbors through thick and thin." (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)
Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, April 4, 2008

About Those Bible Quotes

Recently an individual (Rick Thompson) wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper. In his letter, he was complaining about another letter writer's (by the name of Hartz) use of the Bible. Hartz had written to support the concept of marriage as being ONLY between a man and a woman. Thompson took offense to Hartz's use of the Bible and so he wrote, "According to Hartz, 'My position is based on some easily understood statements in the Bible (Romans 1:26.).' Oh, really? If Hartz wants to invoke this passage by Paul (often taken out of context and open to various interpretations by biblical scholars) for discriminating against gay people, fair enough; but let's hope that Hartz also then embraces Paul's support for the oppression of women and acceptance of slavery."

Thompson's comment about the Bible - (that it is) "often taken out of context and open to various interpretations by biblical scholars" - is one that is used over and over again to try to explain away the clear teaching of Scripture. So if Mr. Thompson wants to talk about the context of Romans 1:26 - let's talk context. The immediate context of this verse reads as follows:

"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Romans 1:24-27).

Paul's letter to the Romans is all about the Gospel. In chapters 1-3, Paul is demonstrating humanity's NEED for the gospel. Specifically in chapter one, he describes humanity's downward spiral into depravity due to man's suppression of God's truth (1:18) and the exchanging of God's truth for a lie (1:25). When Paul makes reference to homosexual behavior it is in the context of humanity's rejection of God the Creator. Because man has rejected Him, God "gave them over to shameful lusts" - one of which is homosexuality (which Paul also refers to as a perversion.).

Now understood in its proper context, Romans 1:26-27 makes it clear that homosexuality is immoral. Labeling it such is not a form of discrimination as Mr. Thompson would like to believe. Just as stealing, adultery, murder, etc. are immoral acts - so is homosexual behavior. Mr. Thompson, like many others who don't want to hear what the Bible has to say, revert to the old "taken out of context and subject to various interpretations" argument. Now I am not saying that the Bible can't be taken out of context (because that is surely a danger in interpreting any piece of literature). But I think in the case of Romans 1 - Hartz got the context right and Thomspon got it woefully wrong! (Oh, and regarding Thompson's closing comment, "let's hope that Hartz also then embraces Paul's support for the oppression of women and acceptance of slavery" - again he is the one guilty of not understanding context (in this case of the first century Roman-Graeco world) - but that's a subject for some other day.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, April 3, 2008

If You Know a Teacher, Thank Him or Her Today!

Being a teacher today is becoming increasingly difficult. As the family unit in this country continues to break down, teachers are being called upon not only to teach but also to parent. Recently I read an editorial in our local paper written by someone objecting to the level of teacher's salaries, especially given that they have summers "off." Apparently this writer never had to teach in one of America's classrooms today.

Just how tough is it getting for our teachers? In Waycross, Georgia a plot was uncovered in which a group of students were planning to attack a teacher. So they brought a number of items to school, including a knife, duct tape and handcuffs. What makes this story so disturbing is that these students are in THIRD grade! They were upset because the teacher had scolded one of them for standing on his chair. Sad story, don't you agree?

So if you know a teacher - thank him or her for being willing to teach our children. Pray for that teacher. And pray for our families in this country. What we need is a revival sent from heaven! People need Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Breakfast at Kirby's

Monday is my usual day off. So I decided on Sunday to give my sister a call to see if she wanted to meet up for breakfast yesterday morning. She lives in Etters which is located just off I-83 about 2/3 of the way toward Harrisburg (from York). Our rendezvous spot was Kirby's, a small Irish restaurant in Manchester, owned by her daughter and son-in-law.

Nancy is the oldest of my siblings. She was the first of two girls. Twelve years after Nancy came along (and six years after my other sister was born), my twin brother and I were born. Then six years later, my little brother arrived. So I am number 4 of 5.

As my wife, my sister and I sat an reminisced over our eggs, toast and coffee (well I had coffee - I think they both had tea), we were transported back in time to 1966. That was the year Nancy got married. My twin brother and I (we were ten at the time) were involved in her wedding as acolytes. So we got dressed in these white robes (which at the time I thought made us look like sissies!) and had to come out just before the ceremony to light the altar candles. These candles were quite tall AND they were situated on an already tall altar. So even with the long tapers, it was difficult to reach the candles (at least for me, seeing I was a good four inches shorter than my brother). As we proceeded to light the candles (we were to light them "in sinc"), my next to last candle refused to light. Time after time as I would pull the taper away from the top of the candle ... the flame would go out. After a few failed attempts, my brother began muttering to me under his breath ... "What's wrong shorty, can't get it lit?" "Shrimp, Shrimp!" And I replied (through tightly clenched teeth), "Shut up or I'll punch you!" Fortunately I was finally able to get the candle lit and we exited from the front of the church. I told my sister that we were mere moments away from getting into an all out fist fight! Now that would have been a wedding memory NO one would have forgotten!

Strife among brothers is nothing new. Humanity was not on the planet very long at all before Cain murdered his bother Abel. And relational tension is not just limited to brothers. When two or three gather together, there is always the potential for conflict. One way to reduce the likelihood of conflict is to put into practice the Apostle Paul's admonition found in Philippians 2:3-4. There he writes,

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

If all of us humble ourselves and think of others as being more important than us - that will go a lllooonnnngggg way toward eliminating tension and promoting harmony in our relationships!

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.