PJ

PJ

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Do Not Love the World! (1 John 2:15)

In his excellent book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, Jerry Bridges defines the sin of "worldliness" as "being attached to, engrossed in, or preoccupied with the things of this temporal life" (he references in connection with this definition 1 Corinthians 7:31). Later in his discussion of this "respectable" sin, he makes this penetrating statement: "I believe the key to our tendencies toward worldliness lies primarily in two words, 'going along.' We simply go along and accept the values and practices of society around us without thought as to whether those values and practices are biblical."

I have thought a lot about this sin of worldliness since preaching on it two Sundays ago. We live in such an affluent and materialistic society. There are many things all around us into which we can invest both our time and our money. We must resist the temptation to just "go along" with our neighbors and pursue the stuff of this world. Instead, we must obey the Scripture which commands us, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:2). So instead of spending so many of the resources that God gives us on ourselves for mere temporal gratification - we should be spending these resources on the needy world of people around us and doing what we can to show people the love of Jesus, for without him and the Good News concerning his substitutionary death on the cross, people will be lost forever.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Difficult People?

I originally posted the following on July 27 of 2007. Considering that we all have people in our lives that we consider "difficult" - I thought this posting was worthy of another "read."






Difficult People?
July 27, 2007



This morning I googled the phrase "dealing with difficult people" and got over 16 million hits! Ouch - but not all that surprising. We ALL deal with difficult people. They might work along side us at our workplace or they might sit behind us in a classroom at school. They might even eat at our own dining room table at home. Difficult people are everywhere. Even sitting in the pew at church right next to us! AND -- are you ready -- EVEN STARING BACK AT YOU FROM THE BATHROOM MIRROR! That's right! Difficult people populate our world -- and even populate the church. (Yesterday I was talking with a mail carrier about problems that have arisen in his church. At the end of the conversation, he reminded me that problems in churches can and should be expected because, after all, churches are FULL of IMPERFECT people. And he is right!)

So, how do we deal with difficult people? Here are a couple of thoughts. To begin with, work on your own heart. Jesus tells us that this is where we MUST start. In Matthew 7:3-5 he says, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

You see, Jesus does not forbid us from trying to help someone who has a problem - but he tells us that we need to start "at home" first! So if you want to deal with difficult people, start with yourself. Humble yourself to admit that you are more of a difficult person than you realize. And then work at becoming a person of grace (the first step toward this is to daily "preach the gospel" to your self. Remind yourself that you are totally and absolutely underserving of the salvation God has lavished upon you in Christ!). As you become more humble and gracious, I am going to speculate that you will begin to find the number of difficult people in your life decreasing in number (and probably significantly so!).

Secondly, learn to give the difficult people in your life the "benefit of the doubt." They just may be difficult because of some pain they are experiencing that you know nothing about. Learn to bear with others and patiently love them (even if they are proving to be difficult). If ALL of us would learn to practice the following Scripture, the Church would be a far better community: "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Colossians 3:12-14).


Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

God's Workmanship

During our drive to Ocean City, Maryland last week, we stopped for lunch at a Subway®. As we walked up to the door, we were greeted by a life sized poster of Jarod Fogel. Everyone knows Jared Fogle! Jared tipped the scales at 425 pounds while a student at Indiana University. After unsuccessfully attempting numerous diets, Jared grabbed a nutritional information brochure at his local SUBWAY® restaurant and started a reduced calorie diet by eating two SUBWAY® submarine sandwiches a day. In a year’s time, and by incorporating exercise into his daily routine, Jared lost 245 pounds. Since that success, Jarod has appeared in numerous advertisements for SUBWAY® as the fast-food restaurant promotes itself as the heathy choice among fast-food chains.

I think we would all agree that what Jared accomplished was phenomenal. What a transformation! In the spiritual realm, God wants to transform all of us. In fact, in Ephesians 2:10 we are told that for those among us who have made a faith commitment to follow Jesus Christ we are truly "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared for us in advance to do." God is at work shaping us so that we can fulfill his plan for our lives. Part of this molding process occurs when His Holy Spirit imparts to us spirtual gifts. These gifts are listed for us in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Peter 4. The key to understanding the gifts is to understand their purpose. They are given to "do the good works which God has prepared for us in advance to do." So whether your spiritual gift is teaching, showing mercy, helps, administration or whatever - you are to use your gift to do what God has laid before you to do ... all by HIS grace and for HIS glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back from the Beach. . .

OK. Why does "Vacation Time" pass by so much more quickly than "Standard Time" or "Daylight Savings Time?" Well, here I am back in my office after four great days at the shore with the fam. We had a great time! Bonding time with family cannot be overestimated! If you have not spent some quality time with your family lately - I highly recommend you stop whatever it is you are doing and get something on your calendar! My wife and I, our son and daughter and their spouses simply put "had a blast!"

In fact, there were only two real "downers" during our time. The first was missing our oldest daughter and her fiance who were unable to be with us this time around. It would have been all the better if the whole family could have been together. The second downer occurred during the first hour we were on the beach on Friday. My son dove into a wave and in the process, the turbulent ocean waters ripped his wedding ring off his finger and swallowed it. Despite immediate and extensive efforts on our part, I am sure you are not surprised that our search came up empty-handed.

I am sure my son is not the first to have lost a wedding band in the waters of the Atlantic. But knowing that brought little comfort to him. But all in all, he handled the loss very well as did his wife. There marriage is strong and growing - and at the end of the day that is really what matters most! If you are married, how is your marriage? Too many marriages are stale at best and on the verge of divorce at worst. I hope this is not true of yours. Remember to keep Jesus Christ at the center of your marriage and make your relationship with your spouse THE priority relationship in your life (after your relationship with God, of course).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Off to the Beach!

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



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God Calls Us to Get Intentional about THINKING!

There are times when I look at what people do and I ask myself, “WHAT were they thinking?” That question popped into my mind as I was reading the newspaper one evening. A guy named Gary Brunner went to the local police station and to inquire if there were any outstanding warrants on him. The answer? Yep! He was arrested on the spot (for drug possession, Carmel, N.Y.)! Then there’s the case of Bryan Palmer, 21, and Peggy Casey, 31. Police were investigating a burglary in South Windsor, Connecticut. The couple were questioned and released. As the investigation progressed, the detectives changed their minds about Palmer and Casey and began a futile search for them. But they should not have wasted their time and effort. The couple showed up back at the station to check on the status of the investigation. I guess they found out when they were read their rights!

Many people today just don’t think (OK, perhaps their situation is not as extreme as the two above – but people would rather be entertained and amused today than think). God calls His people to THINK! In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter tells us to “prepare your MINDS for action.” Jesus Himself told us we are to love the Lord our God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND (Matthew 22:37). So God calls out to all of us, “Let my people think!” If you need some guidance on what you need to think about, open your Bible and read Philippians 4:8 and THINK!

Thanks for stopping by. . .

Pastor John

Monday, July 21, 2008

Are You Driven?

Driven people? They are easy to spot. Always on the go. Blackberry in hand. Propelled forward (fast-forward that is) by their various agendas and to do lists. Always pushing to do that "little bit more" that it will take to get ahead in this existence we know as the Great American Rat Race. I hate to admit it, but I am far too often a "driven" person!

This tendency in me toward "drivenness" comes out most often when I am behind the wheel. I get behind an Amish buggy or stopped by a traffic light - and I can often at these times start to fume inside. My wife, who knows me oh so well - knows when I am fuming inside and will be quick to point out that these delays are minor ... very minor when considered in the grand scheme of all things. And she is right! I mean, what does getting where I am going sixty seconds later really matter? Not much!

My guess is that many of you are also driven (some more than me - some less). Most of us could probably benefit by just pausing, taking a deep breath, and relaxing a little. So, in the midst of the busyness of life -- and the agendas and to do lists that tend to drive us - let's all take time out to "be still and know that the Lord is God" (See Psalm 46). Let's focus on HIS call on our lives. Let's spend more time getting to know God and less time trying to "get ahead." Life's too short to waste it on stuff that really doesn't matter!


Thanks for listening,

pj

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Your Money???

Billy Graham has proclaimed the gospel across several generations. His earthly journey is nearing its end. But his words will live on . . . consider his words and God's Word and then spend a moment evaluating your own relationship with money and the stuff money buys.

"There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men." (Billy Graham)


"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:6-10)


Thanks for stopping by . . .


pj

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's All about Perspective!

Yesterday I received a letter from a friend of mine who lives in France. He informed me that when he filled up his little car this week, he paid the equivalent of well over $8.00 per gallon! And we complain about paying just over $4.00 per gallon!

Now the price we pay today does seem like a lot of money -- and if you have a long commute to work, the miles add up and soon start placing a real painful drain on the family finances. Considering that as recently as January of 2007 we were paying $2.25 per gallon, the $4.00+ per gallon price today is hard to swallow! But compared to the $8.82 per gallon paid by my friend in France - we are getting a bargain! You see - it's all about perspective! So having the right perspective is vital!

As we walk through this life, it is crucial that we have an ETERNAL perspective as we look at life. For when we see this life in light of the next, it changes how we see things. The values we embrace, the activities we engage in, the relationships we pursue will all be vastly different when we understand that this life is only the preface of our existence. The vast majority of our life will be lived in eternity. Therefore what's important about living life here is that we focus on those things that will produce an eternal yield there!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blog Flash Back: Sprint or Marathon?

I posted the following thoughts on July 25th of last year. I post it again because this is a truth that we American Christians need to be reminded of on a regular basis. We think everything should happen "right now" if not yesterday! Looking for shortcuts is as American has hot dogs, baseball and apple pie. We must remember that growth in the Christian life is over the long haul! Sadly, too few realize this and so when the going gets tough, they quit when what they need to do is to persevere!


Sprint or Marathon - July 25, 2007 posting

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

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

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Faith of a "Hall of Faith-er!"

Last night, the stars came out! Yep. Right in Yankee Stadium. It was the night of Major League Baseball's annual all star game. I was really impressed by how the the starting lineups were introduced. Before announcing the starters (which they did position by position), several Hall-of-Famers who were present on the field were introduced (I believe 49 of the 63 living members of the Hall were there on the field). For example, before introducing the starting third baseman for each team, a number of Hall-of-Fame third basemen were introduced (among whom happened to be one of my favorite players of all time, former Philly great, Mike Schmidt!). So I really enjoyed watching some of these baseball greats of yesteryear being cheered on by the crowds (among these former greats were Yogi Berra, Brooks Robinson, Bill Mazeroski, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays - just to name a few).

As I thought of these guys who over the years have been inducted into Cooperstown (Cooperstown, NY is the location of baseball's Hall of Fame - if you have never been there - it is worth the drive!), I thought of another "Hall of Fame" mentioned in the Bible. To be more accurate, it should be referred to as the "Hall of Faith." It is found in Hebrews 11. There such Bible notables as Noah, Abraham and Moses are mentioned. These (and others) can be found there because they had faith. Faith in God and his promises. Each one of their stories is incredible. But for now, consider Moses. In verses 24-27 of Hebrews 11 we are told that

"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible."

Truly amazing! Moses chose the far lessor path (according to worldly standards) over the far greater one (again by this world's standards)! Hmm. Let me see -- what would I have done? I can picture myself debating with myself as follows: "On the one hand I could have all the riches of Egypt. On the other hand, I could live like a slave. On the one hand I could go along with the flow and obey the King (who could at any time order me arrested and executed). On the other hand, I could defy Pharoah and leave Egypt." Hmm. Putting myself in Moses' place helps me to see just how great his faith was! And the power behind his faith? This passage gives us three sources of his power. First, he understood that even though sin is pleasurable (and if it were not - the temptation to sin would not be nearly as sweet and strong!) its pleasure lasts only for the moment and then is quickly gone. If we are to live by the faith demonstrated by Moses, we must always be reminding ourselves of just how fleeting the pleasure of sin is! Secondly, Moses looked to his reward. He understood that as great as the treasures of Egypt were (and they were very great indeed), they would one day be left behind. Only God's reward lasts forever. Again, a good reminder for us - to be striving to store up treasures in heaven vs. here on earth (have you ever seen a U-Haul following a hearse in a funeral procession?). Finally, Moses persevered "because he saw him who is invisible." He stay focused on God - and by staying focused on God and all of His greatness and goodness - he was able to stay strong in faith! Oh that every morning, noon, and night would find us filled with thoughts of our great and good God!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why We Are Here

Stephen Hillenberg. Does his name ring a bell? My guess is "not!" So try this name: SpongeBob SquarePants. Ahh. Now there's a familiar name! I will never forget the first time I met this goofy looking guy (who happens to live at the bottom of the sea in a pineapple). I was doing "The Mystery Bag" one Sunday at church (The Mystery Bag works as follows: a child brings something in a bag that only he knows about (but it must have parental approval!). Then at a designated point in the service, I invite the children up front. The child brings the bag - remember, I do not know what is in the bag - and hands it to me. My task is to pull it out and then use it for an object lesson about God or God things. The child's hope is that I will be stumped. It was in this context that I had my first encounter with Mr. SpongeBob SquarePants!). Now when Stephen Hillenberg created SpongeBob - he did so with a purpose. Being a marine-life educator, he wanted an aid to help in the teaching of children. Voila! SpongeBob was born!

In the same way that SpongeBob SquarePants was created for a purpose - we too were made by our Creator for a purpose. God made us to live on this earth to love him and to serve others for His sake. He is to be the very center of our existence. Sadly we have made ourselves the center of our lives. And the consequences of doing so can be seen in all the evil, pain and suffering we see in the world around us!

Let me ask you - what (or better said, WHO) is at the center of your life? The Apostle Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:16-18, "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."

Does Jesus have the supremacy in YOUR life?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Quote from the Pen of A. W. Tozer That is Right On Target!

"Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free. If we understand our first and sole duty to consist of loving God supremely and loving everyone, even our enemies, for God's dear sake, then we can enjoy spiritual tranquility under every circumstance." (A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)

Give these words some thought ... before rushing off to whatever is calling you! And as you go ... rememember to love GOD and to love OTHERS!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, July 11, 2008

Who's Approval Are You Seeking?


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)


It is so very easy to fall prey to the temptation to seek the approval of those around us. After all, none of us want to be rejected by others. We like to think that EVERYBODY likes us! But what is truly important is that God approves of us!


Consider praying the following prayer that is found in Kenneth Boa's excellent devotional guide, Passionate Living: Wisdom and Truth, A Devotional


Lord God,


I thank You that You have given me acceptability and worth in Christ. Teach me to enjoy the opportunities You have given me rather than cramming my schedule in a quest to merit the acceptance of others. May I be concerned about pleasing You rather than impressing people.


Amen


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Regrets at Sunset?

Last night, my wife and I were watching the final episode of the television mini-series, John Adams. The mini-series is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book, John Adams, written by David McCullough. There is a gripping scene toward the end of the film. John Adams, now ninety years of age is walking through a field near his house with his youngest son, Thomas. He stops and tells his son about the queen of France whom he had met. He then points to a small flower growing among the tall grass and states that the queen, beautiful in face and form and arrayed in all of her diamonds was not as beautiful as this small flower. Abigail (Adam's wife) was always urging Adams to pause and look at the beauty around him ... and Adams regretted that he was only now doing so.

He also looked at Thomas and said, "Rejoice always!" He then began to laugh. When Thomas asked him what he was talking about, Adams replied, "Rejoice always. The words of St. Paul." Adams continued on to say something to the effect that he had wished he had learned to do so earlier in his life and not now at the end of his life.

All this to remind you (and me!) that one day we will all be at the final stage of our earthly journey. And most likely like Adams, we will have regrets about certain things that we had not practiced while living here on earth. Let me encourage you today to pause and take a moment to read over the following list of statements. Perhaps you will see something that you need to change NOW so that when you get to the sunset of your life - you will have NO REGRETS!


- My parents truly feel honored by me (The 5th Commandment - "Honor your father and your mother" may very well to be the most neglected of the commandments!).

- I have told those closest to me (neighbors, co-workers, family members) about my faith in Jesus Christ.

- I spend at least some time most days (if not every day) reading and meditating on the Bible.

- My friends know just how much I appreciate them.

- My spouse understands the strength of my commitment to him/her.

- My children feel the depth of my love for them.

- People who know me would describe me as a contented, joy-filled person.

- I regularly pray for my family, friends, church, and community.

- My financial house is in order, enabling me to generously give to God's kingdom work.


Take a moment to look over these statements. This list is not meant to be an exhaustive list - but rather a list just to get you thinking about some of the more important things in life.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Make Every Effort!

Check out the effort displayed by the ball girl in this video clip:





In Hebrews 12:7 we are told, "Make EVERY EFFORT to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord."

Are you (am I?) MAKING EVERY EFFORT to live in peace with others and to be HOLY??? This ball girl gave her all to catch a meaningless foul ball that had no impact on the outcome of the baseball game or her job - yet she went after it! She made EVERY EFFORT to catch that ball! We should do nothing less concerning the things of our walk with God and journey of faith - don't you think?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Watchtower Visits!

Yesterday morning someone rang my doorbell. Usually, that might mean a neighbor, the mail carrier or the UPS man. But not so yesterday. When I went to my front door I discovered two tie-wearing, twenty-something young men. My first thought was Mormon missionaries - but I quickly dispelled that when I noticed their shirts were colored and not white (and they lacked the typical name badge that Mormons wear). When I opened the door and said, "Yes???" the one young man immediately showed me a piece literature title, "When a Loved One Dies" (Of course, I immediately saw the words "The WATCHTOWER" spread across the top of the publication ... and so I now knew I was talking with Jehovah Witnesses). It was very apparent that the young man speaking to me was going through a canned talk which he had memorized. I admired his courage ... but not his approach.

After a minute or two ... I interrupted. I decided I was going to go for the spiritual jugular with these guys. Since the JW's believe that salvation is by faith AND what you do (see their publication, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 1, pp. 150,152) I asked them if they knew with any certainty that when they died they would inherit eternal life - they "hmmed and hahhed" - not able to affirm that they had that assurance. I then proceeded to testify to my own assurance - not based on my works but based on God's grace and Christ's substitutionary death on my behalf. I stressed to them Ephesians 2:8-10 - explaining to them that good works are an EFFECT of salvation -- and not a CAUSE of salvation. We went back and forth on that for about 10-15 minutes. I did my best to proclaim the gospel of grace. Please pray that the Spirit of God would break through to them ... and they would understand the wonderful saving message of Christ and his grace!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Happy Fourth of July to YOU!

I guess this week was a week of weddings ... not only did my daughter get married but so did many others. Among these "many others" were none other than Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross! These two colorful figures of our American past tied the knot in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall last evening. The mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, officiated. OK, so it was not actually old (and by this time he would really OLD!) Ben and flag maker Betsy who were married but Ralph Archbold and Linda Wilde who are the actors who have been portraying the two historical figures for many years (for Ralph it has been some 30 years that he has been walking the streets of historical Philadelphia as Ben!). After the ceremony, Ben and Betsy (a.k.a. Ralph and Linda) rode off in a horse drawn carriage. Their final destination was the historic City Tavern, the site of their reception. It was there some 200 plus years ago that Franklin dined along with such notables as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (of course, it is hard to imagine the real Ben and Betsy marrying each other, considering Ben was some 45 years older than the seamstress!)

All in all - it makes for a fun story (By the way, the two met when Linda hired Ralph to give a wedding toast for a friend in character as "Ben." Little did she know she was getting more than a wedding toast!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Are You Wearing a Mask?

On the morning of my daughter's wedding, she asked me to make a special delivery to her fiance, Ryan consisting of TastyKake Butterscotch Krimpets and MacDonald's coffee. As I thought about doing so, my weird sense of humor kicked in and I decided to dress up as the 9th Bridesmaid (that's right - my daughter had eight!). I posted a written description of what I looked like on Tuesday's edition of my blog - but today I thought I would give you a picture. So take a long look - and yes, underneath the Philadelphia Eagle's cap (hard to believe, I know!) red wig, ugly mask, tie and tuxedo jacket is yours truly! You can imagine my daughter's now mother-in-law's reaction when she opened her front door! I am just glad she didn't panic and do something to hurt me!

Now normally I do not go around wearing a wig and a mask. In fact, I cannot recall the last time I did so. But in a figurative sense, I do wear masks far more than I should. And if you are anything like me (and I suspect you are) you probably do so too. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, we have been "covering up" or hiding. Hiding from God and hiding from one another. And one way we do so is to wear "masks." So instead of being open and honest with others, we hide behind facades of our own making.

What we all need to learn to do is to take off the masks and be transparent. But we can only do so if we are secure in our identity in Christ. The Apostle Paul uses the phrase "in Christ" over eighty times in his letters. It is a very important concept for us as Christians to grasp. If you want a better understanding, let me recommend you go to the following web site: http://www.ficm.org/whoami.htm

Knowing who you are "in Christ" will enable you to ditch your masks and be yourself!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Think on This . . .


Please take a moment and think on the following words:

"Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall/Temptation)



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Father of the Bride: Some Final Thots

Today, two days past the big event I crawled out of bed with a rested body and a much clearer mind. So I am now ready to wrap up my reflections of "The Father of the Bride" and move on to other things.

There is so much I could write about my experience. But I will save you the pain of hearing about it all and just share a few highlights of the Big Day. Since the wedding was scheduled for a 4 PM start (which we almost made ... but we were delayed by what I have discovered to be the number one reason for delay - late arriving grandparents!) - we had all morning to endure (that's what is was for me since all of the bridal party arrived at our house to curl their hair, put on makeup, etc., etc., etc.). In the midst of all the estrogen in the house, I looked for a reason to leave! Kate wanted to make a special delivery to Ryan (who was at his parent's house in Quarryville). I readily agreed to do so. But I decided to spice things up a bit ... and go as the "ninth bridesmaid" (red wig, garish mask, Eagles cap, purple polo (Kate's wedding color was plum), grey tie, tuxedo coat and shorts). I was quite the sight!

When the time finally came to leave for the church (for me this was about 1:45 and for the gals about 2:00) - I was more than ready to get going. And basically from 2:00 onward I did what I typically do for weddings I officiate - just make sure everything is proceeding as it should. At one point (around 3:00 - a friend suggested I "slow down" and just spend some time reflecting - so I went into the quietness of my office, sat down and thought on who it was that was getting married that day -- my daughter! It proved to be a very special and teary ten minutes alone with my thoughts.)

Finally ... the big moment came to walk my daughter down the aisle and give her away to the groom standing in front of the sanctuary, a broad smile etched on his face as he saw his bride for the first time arrayed in all of her beauty! It was a moment I will never forget!

I cannot express just how privileged I feel to have led my daughter and her husband through their vows ... and then pronounce them "Husband and Wife!" My heart warms at the memory of that moment!

The reception was all that I thought it would be and more. To be sharing this moment with family (both my family by my first birth AND my family by my second birth) was a real joy! My only regret was that more of our church family could not be present (believe it or not - the wedding guest list began at over 500 and had to be whittled down so that everyone could fit into our sanctuary!).

Would I want to "relive" the day all over again? Not in real space and time. But I have been enjoying reliving the day in my mind ... and I am sure I will continue to do so for quite some time.

I want to go on public record to thank the following: First and foremost, my God and Father who in the outworking of his plan brought Kate and Ryan together. May He be praised! Additionally, I want to say thanks to Joyce Horning and Jessica Julian (who introduced Ryan and Kate to one another at Jessica's wedding), David Julian (who continued to encourage both Kate and Ryan to pursue a relationship with each other), Dave and Wanda Aument (Ryan's parents who did such a phenomenal job in raising him!), Greg Aument (who orchestrated such a wonderful day last Friday in D.C. as we celebrated the end of Ryan's bachelorhood and faithfully fulfilled his duties as Best Man), Pastor John MacRae who led Kate and Ryan through many sessions to prepare them for their marriage (and who assisted with the ceremony), Jen Balmer who served as Kate's wedding planner and who put many hours into preparing for the wedding (and who along with her husband Doug helped haul the many wedding gifts from the church back to the house after the reception was over), Emily Smith (my daughter) who went the extra mile in her role of Maid of Honor, all of the members of the bridal party who added so much to the beauty and dignity of the day (including flower girl Cheyenne Cultler and ring-bearer Caleb Cutler), Rachel, Hannah, Sarah and Rebekah Heilenman who served as guest book attendants, Jessica Keefer who served as wedding day coordinator, Matt Helm (who ran sound at the church), Cheryl Griffith (whose floral arrangements added such beauty to both wedding and reception), Ron Hoover for the loan of his classic 1965 Thunderbird, the photographers, videographer, disc jockey, and people at Willow Valley - all who worked together to make the day such a splendid day!

There are indeed more people I could have thanked - but I will not bore you any further! But I do want to thank my dear wife who has walked with me (and was a huge support to me) on this journey. Indeed, as Ryan will discover over and over again in coming years, "He who finds a wife, what is good and receives favor from the LORD" (Proverbs 18:22).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Do Not Love the World! (1 John 2:15)

In his excellent book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, Jerry Bridges defines the sin of "worldliness" as "being attached to, engrossed in, or preoccupied with the things of this temporal life" (he references in connection with this definition 1 Corinthians 7:31). Later in his discussion of this "respectable" sin, he makes this penetrating statement: "I believe the key to our tendencies toward worldliness lies primarily in two words, 'going along.' We simply go along and accept the values and practices of society around us without thought as to whether those values and practices are biblical."

I have thought a lot about this sin of worldliness since preaching on it two Sundays ago. We live in such an affluent and materialistic society. There are many things all around us into which we can invest both our time and our money. We must resist the temptation to just "go along" with our neighbors and pursue the stuff of this world. Instead, we must obey the Scripture which commands us, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things" (Colossians 3:2). So instead of spending so many of the resources that God gives us on ourselves for mere temporal gratification - we should be spending these resources on the needy world of people around us and doing what we can to show people the love of Jesus, for without him and the Good News concerning his substitutionary death on the cross, people will be lost forever.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Difficult People?

I originally posted the following on July 27 of 2007. Considering that we all have people in our lives that we consider "difficult" - I thought this posting was worthy of another "read."






Difficult People?
July 27, 2007



This morning I googled the phrase "dealing with difficult people" and got over 16 million hits! Ouch - but not all that surprising. We ALL deal with difficult people. They might work along side us at our workplace or they might sit behind us in a classroom at school. They might even eat at our own dining room table at home. Difficult people are everywhere. Even sitting in the pew at church right next to us! AND -- are you ready -- EVEN STARING BACK AT YOU FROM THE BATHROOM MIRROR! That's right! Difficult people populate our world -- and even populate the church. (Yesterday I was talking with a mail carrier about problems that have arisen in his church. At the end of the conversation, he reminded me that problems in churches can and should be expected because, after all, churches are FULL of IMPERFECT people. And he is right!)

So, how do we deal with difficult people? Here are a couple of thoughts. To begin with, work on your own heart. Jesus tells us that this is where we MUST start. In Matthew 7:3-5 he says, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

You see, Jesus does not forbid us from trying to help someone who has a problem - but he tells us that we need to start "at home" first! So if you want to deal with difficult people, start with yourself. Humble yourself to admit that you are more of a difficult person than you realize. And then work at becoming a person of grace (the first step toward this is to daily "preach the gospel" to your self. Remind yourself that you are totally and absolutely underserving of the salvation God has lavished upon you in Christ!). As you become more humble and gracious, I am going to speculate that you will begin to find the number of difficult people in your life decreasing in number (and probably significantly so!).

Secondly, learn to give the difficult people in your life the "benefit of the doubt." They just may be difficult because of some pain they are experiencing that you know nothing about. Learn to bear with others and patiently love them (even if they are proving to be difficult). If ALL of us would learn to practice the following Scripture, the Church would be a far better community: "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Colossians 3:12-14).


Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

God's Workmanship

During our drive to Ocean City, Maryland last week, we stopped for lunch at a Subway®. As we walked up to the door, we were greeted by a life sized poster of Jarod Fogel. Everyone knows Jared Fogle! Jared tipped the scales at 425 pounds while a student at Indiana University. After unsuccessfully attempting numerous diets, Jared grabbed a nutritional information brochure at his local SUBWAY® restaurant and started a reduced calorie diet by eating two SUBWAY® submarine sandwiches a day. In a year’s time, and by incorporating exercise into his daily routine, Jared lost 245 pounds. Since that success, Jarod has appeared in numerous advertisements for SUBWAY® as the fast-food restaurant promotes itself as the heathy choice among fast-food chains.

I think we would all agree that what Jared accomplished was phenomenal. What a transformation! In the spiritual realm, God wants to transform all of us. In fact, in Ephesians 2:10 we are told that for those among us who have made a faith commitment to follow Jesus Christ we are truly "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared for us in advance to do." God is at work shaping us so that we can fulfill his plan for our lives. Part of this molding process occurs when His Holy Spirit imparts to us spirtual gifts. These gifts are listed for us in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and 1 Peter 4. The key to understanding the gifts is to understand their purpose. They are given to "do the good works which God has prepared for us in advance to do." So whether your spiritual gift is teaching, showing mercy, helps, administration or whatever - you are to use your gift to do what God has laid before you to do ... all by HIS grace and for HIS glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back from the Beach. . .

OK. Why does "Vacation Time" pass by so much more quickly than "Standard Time" or "Daylight Savings Time?" Well, here I am back in my office after four great days at the shore with the fam. We had a great time! Bonding time with family cannot be overestimated! If you have not spent some quality time with your family lately - I highly recommend you stop whatever it is you are doing and get something on your calendar! My wife and I, our son and daughter and their spouses simply put "had a blast!"

In fact, there were only two real "downers" during our time. The first was missing our oldest daughter and her fiance who were unable to be with us this time around. It would have been all the better if the whole family could have been together. The second downer occurred during the first hour we were on the beach on Friday. My son dove into a wave and in the process, the turbulent ocean waters ripped his wedding ring off his finger and swallowed it. Despite immediate and extensive efforts on our part, I am sure you are not surprised that our search came up empty-handed.

I am sure my son is not the first to have lost a wedding band in the waters of the Atlantic. But knowing that brought little comfort to him. But all in all, he handled the loss very well as did his wife. There marriage is strong and growing - and at the end of the day that is really what matters most! If you are married, how is your marriage? Too many marriages are stale at best and on the verge of divorce at worst. I hope this is not true of yours. Remember to keep Jesus Christ at the center of your marriage and make your relationship with your spouse THE priority relationship in your life (after your relationship with God, of course).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Off to the Beach!

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



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God Calls Us to Get Intentional about THINKING!

There are times when I look at what people do and I ask myself, “WHAT were they thinking?” That question popped into my mind as I was reading the newspaper one evening. A guy named Gary Brunner went to the local police station and to inquire if there were any outstanding warrants on him. The answer? Yep! He was arrested on the spot (for drug possession, Carmel, N.Y.)! Then there’s the case of Bryan Palmer, 21, and Peggy Casey, 31. Police were investigating a burglary in South Windsor, Connecticut. The couple were questioned and released. As the investigation progressed, the detectives changed their minds about Palmer and Casey and began a futile search for them. But they should not have wasted their time and effort. The couple showed up back at the station to check on the status of the investigation. I guess they found out when they were read their rights!

Many people today just don’t think (OK, perhaps their situation is not as extreme as the two above – but people would rather be entertained and amused today than think). God calls His people to THINK! In 1 Peter 1:13, Peter tells us to “prepare your MINDS for action.” Jesus Himself told us we are to love the Lord our God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND (Matthew 22:37). So God calls out to all of us, “Let my people think!” If you need some guidance on what you need to think about, open your Bible and read Philippians 4:8 and THINK!

Thanks for stopping by. . .

Pastor John

Monday, July 21, 2008

Are You Driven?

Driven people? They are easy to spot. Always on the go. Blackberry in hand. Propelled forward (fast-forward that is) by their various agendas and to do lists. Always pushing to do that "little bit more" that it will take to get ahead in this existence we know as the Great American Rat Race. I hate to admit it, but I am far too often a "driven" person!

This tendency in me toward "drivenness" comes out most often when I am behind the wheel. I get behind an Amish buggy or stopped by a traffic light - and I can often at these times start to fume inside. My wife, who knows me oh so well - knows when I am fuming inside and will be quick to point out that these delays are minor ... very minor when considered in the grand scheme of all things. And she is right! I mean, what does getting where I am going sixty seconds later really matter? Not much!

My guess is that many of you are also driven (some more than me - some less). Most of us could probably benefit by just pausing, taking a deep breath, and relaxing a little. So, in the midst of the busyness of life -- and the agendas and to do lists that tend to drive us - let's all take time out to "be still and know that the Lord is God" (See Psalm 46). Let's focus on HIS call on our lives. Let's spend more time getting to know God and less time trying to "get ahead." Life's too short to waste it on stuff that really doesn't matter!


Thanks for listening,

pj

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Your Money???

Billy Graham has proclaimed the gospel across several generations. His earthly journey is nearing its end. But his words will live on . . . consider his words and God's Word and then spend a moment evaluating your own relationship with money and the stuff money buys.

"There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men." (Billy Graham)


"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:6-10)


Thanks for stopping by . . .


pj

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's All about Perspective!

Yesterday I received a letter from a friend of mine who lives in France. He informed me that when he filled up his little car this week, he paid the equivalent of well over $8.00 per gallon! And we complain about paying just over $4.00 per gallon!

Now the price we pay today does seem like a lot of money -- and if you have a long commute to work, the miles add up and soon start placing a real painful drain on the family finances. Considering that as recently as January of 2007 we were paying $2.25 per gallon, the $4.00+ per gallon price today is hard to swallow! But compared to the $8.82 per gallon paid by my friend in France - we are getting a bargain! You see - it's all about perspective! So having the right perspective is vital!

As we walk through this life, it is crucial that we have an ETERNAL perspective as we look at life. For when we see this life in light of the next, it changes how we see things. The values we embrace, the activities we engage in, the relationships we pursue will all be vastly different when we understand that this life is only the preface of our existence. The vast majority of our life will be lived in eternity. Therefore what's important about living life here is that we focus on those things that will produce an eternal yield there!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Blog Flash Back: Sprint or Marathon?

I posted the following thoughts on July 25th of last year. I post it again because this is a truth that we American Christians need to be reminded of on a regular basis. We think everything should happen "right now" if not yesterday! Looking for shortcuts is as American has hot dogs, baseball and apple pie. We must remember that growth in the Christian life is over the long haul! Sadly, too few realize this and so when the going gets tough, they quit when what they need to do is to persevere!


Sprint or Marathon - July 25, 2007 posting

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

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

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Faith of a "Hall of Faith-er!"

Last night, the stars came out! Yep. Right in Yankee Stadium. It was the night of Major League Baseball's annual all star game. I was really impressed by how the the starting lineups were introduced. Before announcing the starters (which they did position by position), several Hall-of-Famers who were present on the field were introduced (I believe 49 of the 63 living members of the Hall were there on the field). For example, before introducing the starting third baseman for each team, a number of Hall-of-Fame third basemen were introduced (among whom happened to be one of my favorite players of all time, former Philly great, Mike Schmidt!). So I really enjoyed watching some of these baseball greats of yesteryear being cheered on by the crowds (among these former greats were Yogi Berra, Brooks Robinson, Bill Mazeroski, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays - just to name a few).

As I thought of these guys who over the years have been inducted into Cooperstown (Cooperstown, NY is the location of baseball's Hall of Fame - if you have never been there - it is worth the drive!), I thought of another "Hall of Fame" mentioned in the Bible. To be more accurate, it should be referred to as the "Hall of Faith." It is found in Hebrews 11. There such Bible notables as Noah, Abraham and Moses are mentioned. These (and others) can be found there because they had faith. Faith in God and his promises. Each one of their stories is incredible. But for now, consider Moses. In verses 24-27 of Hebrews 11 we are told that

"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible."

Truly amazing! Moses chose the far lessor path (according to worldly standards) over the far greater one (again by this world's standards)! Hmm. Let me see -- what would I have done? I can picture myself debating with myself as follows: "On the one hand I could have all the riches of Egypt. On the other hand, I could live like a slave. On the one hand I could go along with the flow and obey the King (who could at any time order me arrested and executed). On the other hand, I could defy Pharoah and leave Egypt." Hmm. Putting myself in Moses' place helps me to see just how great his faith was! And the power behind his faith? This passage gives us three sources of his power. First, he understood that even though sin is pleasurable (and if it were not - the temptation to sin would not be nearly as sweet and strong!) its pleasure lasts only for the moment and then is quickly gone. If we are to live by the faith demonstrated by Moses, we must always be reminding ourselves of just how fleeting the pleasure of sin is! Secondly, Moses looked to his reward. He understood that as great as the treasures of Egypt were (and they were very great indeed), they would one day be left behind. Only God's reward lasts forever. Again, a good reminder for us - to be striving to store up treasures in heaven vs. here on earth (have you ever seen a U-Haul following a hearse in a funeral procession?). Finally, Moses persevered "because he saw him who is invisible." He stay focused on God - and by staying focused on God and all of His greatness and goodness - he was able to stay strong in faith! Oh that every morning, noon, and night would find us filled with thoughts of our great and good God!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why We Are Here

Stephen Hillenberg. Does his name ring a bell? My guess is "not!" So try this name: SpongeBob SquarePants. Ahh. Now there's a familiar name! I will never forget the first time I met this goofy looking guy (who happens to live at the bottom of the sea in a pineapple). I was doing "The Mystery Bag" one Sunday at church (The Mystery Bag works as follows: a child brings something in a bag that only he knows about (but it must have parental approval!). Then at a designated point in the service, I invite the children up front. The child brings the bag - remember, I do not know what is in the bag - and hands it to me. My task is to pull it out and then use it for an object lesson about God or God things. The child's hope is that I will be stumped. It was in this context that I had my first encounter with Mr. SpongeBob SquarePants!). Now when Stephen Hillenberg created SpongeBob - he did so with a purpose. Being a marine-life educator, he wanted an aid to help in the teaching of children. Voila! SpongeBob was born!

In the same way that SpongeBob SquarePants was created for a purpose - we too were made by our Creator for a purpose. God made us to live on this earth to love him and to serve others for His sake. He is to be the very center of our existence. Sadly we have made ourselves the center of our lives. And the consequences of doing so can be seen in all the evil, pain and suffering we see in the world around us!

Let me ask you - what (or better said, WHO) is at the center of your life? The Apostle Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:16-18, "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."

Does Jesus have the supremacy in YOUR life?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Quote from the Pen of A. W. Tozer That is Right On Target!

"Let a man set his heart only on doing the will of God and he is instantly free. If we understand our first and sole duty to consist of loving God supremely and loving everyone, even our enemies, for God's dear sake, then we can enjoy spiritual tranquility under every circumstance." (A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)

Give these words some thought ... before rushing off to whatever is calling you! And as you go ... rememember to love GOD and to love OTHERS!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, July 11, 2008

Who's Approval Are You Seeking?


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)


It is so very easy to fall prey to the temptation to seek the approval of those around us. After all, none of us want to be rejected by others. We like to think that EVERYBODY likes us! But what is truly important is that God approves of us!


Consider praying the following prayer that is found in Kenneth Boa's excellent devotional guide, Passionate Living: Wisdom and Truth, A Devotional


Lord God,


I thank You that You have given me acceptability and worth in Christ. Teach me to enjoy the opportunities You have given me rather than cramming my schedule in a quest to merit the acceptance of others. May I be concerned about pleasing You rather than impressing people.


Amen


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Regrets at Sunset?

Last night, my wife and I were watching the final episode of the television mini-series, John Adams. The mini-series is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book, John Adams, written by David McCullough. There is a gripping scene toward the end of the film. John Adams, now ninety years of age is walking through a field near his house with his youngest son, Thomas. He stops and tells his son about the queen of France whom he had met. He then points to a small flower growing among the tall grass and states that the queen, beautiful in face and form and arrayed in all of her diamonds was not as beautiful as this small flower. Abigail (Adam's wife) was always urging Adams to pause and look at the beauty around him ... and Adams regretted that he was only now doing so.

He also looked at Thomas and said, "Rejoice always!" He then began to laugh. When Thomas asked him what he was talking about, Adams replied, "Rejoice always. The words of St. Paul." Adams continued on to say something to the effect that he had wished he had learned to do so earlier in his life and not now at the end of his life.

All this to remind you (and me!) that one day we will all be at the final stage of our earthly journey. And most likely like Adams, we will have regrets about certain things that we had not practiced while living here on earth. Let me encourage you today to pause and take a moment to read over the following list of statements. Perhaps you will see something that you need to change NOW so that when you get to the sunset of your life - you will have NO REGRETS!


- My parents truly feel honored by me (The 5th Commandment - "Honor your father and your mother" may very well to be the most neglected of the commandments!).

- I have told those closest to me (neighbors, co-workers, family members) about my faith in Jesus Christ.

- I spend at least some time most days (if not every day) reading and meditating on the Bible.

- My friends know just how much I appreciate them.

- My spouse understands the strength of my commitment to him/her.

- My children feel the depth of my love for them.

- People who know me would describe me as a contented, joy-filled person.

- I regularly pray for my family, friends, church, and community.

- My financial house is in order, enabling me to generously give to God's kingdom work.


Take a moment to look over these statements. This list is not meant to be an exhaustive list - but rather a list just to get you thinking about some of the more important things in life.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Make Every Effort!

Check out the effort displayed by the ball girl in this video clip:





In Hebrews 12:7 we are told, "Make EVERY EFFORT to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord."

Are you (am I?) MAKING EVERY EFFORT to live in peace with others and to be HOLY??? This ball girl gave her all to catch a meaningless foul ball that had no impact on the outcome of the baseball game or her job - yet she went after it! She made EVERY EFFORT to catch that ball! We should do nothing less concerning the things of our walk with God and journey of faith - don't you think?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Watchtower Visits!

Yesterday morning someone rang my doorbell. Usually, that might mean a neighbor, the mail carrier or the UPS man. But not so yesterday. When I went to my front door I discovered two tie-wearing, twenty-something young men. My first thought was Mormon missionaries - but I quickly dispelled that when I noticed their shirts were colored and not white (and they lacked the typical name badge that Mormons wear). When I opened the door and said, "Yes???" the one young man immediately showed me a piece literature title, "When a Loved One Dies" (Of course, I immediately saw the words "The WATCHTOWER" spread across the top of the publication ... and so I now knew I was talking with Jehovah Witnesses). It was very apparent that the young man speaking to me was going through a canned talk which he had memorized. I admired his courage ... but not his approach.

After a minute or two ... I interrupted. I decided I was going to go for the spiritual jugular with these guys. Since the JW's believe that salvation is by faith AND what you do (see their publication, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 1, pp. 150,152) I asked them if they knew with any certainty that when they died they would inherit eternal life - they "hmmed and hahhed" - not able to affirm that they had that assurance. I then proceeded to testify to my own assurance - not based on my works but based on God's grace and Christ's substitutionary death on my behalf. I stressed to them Ephesians 2:8-10 - explaining to them that good works are an EFFECT of salvation -- and not a CAUSE of salvation. We went back and forth on that for about 10-15 minutes. I did my best to proclaim the gospel of grace. Please pray that the Spirit of God would break through to them ... and they would understand the wonderful saving message of Christ and his grace!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Happy Fourth of July to YOU!

I guess this week was a week of weddings ... not only did my daughter get married but so did many others. Among these "many others" were none other than Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross! These two colorful figures of our American past tied the knot in front of Philadelphia's Independence Hall last evening. The mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, officiated. OK, so it was not actually old (and by this time he would really OLD!) Ben and flag maker Betsy who were married but Ralph Archbold and Linda Wilde who are the actors who have been portraying the two historical figures for many years (for Ralph it has been some 30 years that he has been walking the streets of historical Philadelphia as Ben!). After the ceremony, Ben and Betsy (a.k.a. Ralph and Linda) rode off in a horse drawn carriage. Their final destination was the historic City Tavern, the site of their reception. It was there some 200 plus years ago that Franklin dined along with such notables as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (of course, it is hard to imagine the real Ben and Betsy marrying each other, considering Ben was some 45 years older than the seamstress!)

All in all - it makes for a fun story (By the way, the two met when Linda hired Ralph to give a wedding toast for a friend in character as "Ben." Little did she know she was getting more than a wedding toast!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Are You Wearing a Mask?

On the morning of my daughter's wedding, she asked me to make a special delivery to her fiance, Ryan consisting of TastyKake Butterscotch Krimpets and MacDonald's coffee. As I thought about doing so, my weird sense of humor kicked in and I decided to dress up as the 9th Bridesmaid (that's right - my daughter had eight!). I posted a written description of what I looked like on Tuesday's edition of my blog - but today I thought I would give you a picture. So take a long look - and yes, underneath the Philadelphia Eagle's cap (hard to believe, I know!) red wig, ugly mask, tie and tuxedo jacket is yours truly! You can imagine my daughter's now mother-in-law's reaction when she opened her front door! I am just glad she didn't panic and do something to hurt me!

Now normally I do not go around wearing a wig and a mask. In fact, I cannot recall the last time I did so. But in a figurative sense, I do wear masks far more than I should. And if you are anything like me (and I suspect you are) you probably do so too. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, we have been "covering up" or hiding. Hiding from God and hiding from one another. And one way we do so is to wear "masks." So instead of being open and honest with others, we hide behind facades of our own making.

What we all need to learn to do is to take off the masks and be transparent. But we can only do so if we are secure in our identity in Christ. The Apostle Paul uses the phrase "in Christ" over eighty times in his letters. It is a very important concept for us as Christians to grasp. If you want a better understanding, let me recommend you go to the following web site: http://www.ficm.org/whoami.htm

Knowing who you are "in Christ" will enable you to ditch your masks and be yourself!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Think on This . . .


Please take a moment and think on the following words:

"Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall/Temptation)



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Father of the Bride: Some Final Thots

Today, two days past the big event I crawled out of bed with a rested body and a much clearer mind. So I am now ready to wrap up my reflections of "The Father of the Bride" and move on to other things.

There is so much I could write about my experience. But I will save you the pain of hearing about it all and just share a few highlights of the Big Day. Since the wedding was scheduled for a 4 PM start (which we almost made ... but we were delayed by what I have discovered to be the number one reason for delay - late arriving grandparents!) - we had all morning to endure (that's what is was for me since all of the bridal party arrived at our house to curl their hair, put on makeup, etc., etc., etc.). In the midst of all the estrogen in the house, I looked for a reason to leave! Kate wanted to make a special delivery to Ryan (who was at his parent's house in Quarryville). I readily agreed to do so. But I decided to spice things up a bit ... and go as the "ninth bridesmaid" (red wig, garish mask, Eagles cap, purple polo (Kate's wedding color was plum), grey tie, tuxedo coat and shorts). I was quite the sight!

When the time finally came to leave for the church (for me this was about 1:45 and for the gals about 2:00) - I was more than ready to get going. And basically from 2:00 onward I did what I typically do for weddings I officiate - just make sure everything is proceeding as it should. At one point (around 3:00 - a friend suggested I "slow down" and just spend some time reflecting - so I went into the quietness of my office, sat down and thought on who it was that was getting married that day -- my daughter! It proved to be a very special and teary ten minutes alone with my thoughts.)

Finally ... the big moment came to walk my daughter down the aisle and give her away to the groom standing in front of the sanctuary, a broad smile etched on his face as he saw his bride for the first time arrayed in all of her beauty! It was a moment I will never forget!

I cannot express just how privileged I feel to have led my daughter and her husband through their vows ... and then pronounce them "Husband and Wife!" My heart warms at the memory of that moment!

The reception was all that I thought it would be and more. To be sharing this moment with family (both my family by my first birth AND my family by my second birth) was a real joy! My only regret was that more of our church family could not be present (believe it or not - the wedding guest list began at over 500 and had to be whittled down so that everyone could fit into our sanctuary!).

Would I want to "relive" the day all over again? Not in real space and time. But I have been enjoying reliving the day in my mind ... and I am sure I will continue to do so for quite some time.

I want to go on public record to thank the following: First and foremost, my God and Father who in the outworking of his plan brought Kate and Ryan together. May He be praised! Additionally, I want to say thanks to Joyce Horning and Jessica Julian (who introduced Ryan and Kate to one another at Jessica's wedding), David Julian (who continued to encourage both Kate and Ryan to pursue a relationship with each other), Dave and Wanda Aument (Ryan's parents who did such a phenomenal job in raising him!), Greg Aument (who orchestrated such a wonderful day last Friday in D.C. as we celebrated the end of Ryan's bachelorhood and faithfully fulfilled his duties as Best Man), Pastor John MacRae who led Kate and Ryan through many sessions to prepare them for their marriage (and who assisted with the ceremony), Jen Balmer who served as Kate's wedding planner and who put many hours into preparing for the wedding (and who along with her husband Doug helped haul the many wedding gifts from the church back to the house after the reception was over), Emily Smith (my daughter) who went the extra mile in her role of Maid of Honor, all of the members of the bridal party who added so much to the beauty and dignity of the day (including flower girl Cheyenne Cultler and ring-bearer Caleb Cutler), Rachel, Hannah, Sarah and Rebekah Heilenman who served as guest book attendants, Jessica Keefer who served as wedding day coordinator, Matt Helm (who ran sound at the church), Cheryl Griffith (whose floral arrangements added such beauty to both wedding and reception), Ron Hoover for the loan of his classic 1965 Thunderbird, the photographers, videographer, disc jockey, and people at Willow Valley - all who worked together to make the day such a splendid day!

There are indeed more people I could have thanked - but I will not bore you any further! But I do want to thank my dear wife who has walked with me (and was a huge support to me) on this journey. Indeed, as Ryan will discover over and over again in coming years, "He who finds a wife, what is good and receives favor from the LORD" (Proverbs 18:22).

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.