A Thought about Faith . . .

Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) was a Scottish pastor whose teachings on the Christian's journey of faith still impact people today. He is best known as the author of the popular devotional, My Utmost for His Highest (first published in 1935). Among his many quotable quotes are these words concerning faith:

"Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading."

Well said, don't you think?!!?

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Do Cows Have a Built-in Compass?

A team of German and Czech researchers who have studied satellite photos of thousands of cows around the world, believe that cattle have some sort of built-in compass. The reason for their conclusion: approximately 2/3 of all the cattle examined had their bodies aligned in a north-south orientation. They point out that this would not be the expected norm if cattle were totally random in their body's directional orientation. I am still trying to figure the "so what!" about this research (perhaps it shows that researchers have too much time on their hands and they should mooooooooooove on to other more pressing research!).

As I thought about this ... I thought of those of us who claim to be following Jesus Christ. Now I don't know if cows are truly aligning their bodies due to some sort of built-in compass. But I do know that Christians must learn to align their lives according to a compass that should be "built-in." And to what built-in compass am I referring? Please read and reflect on the following words of Joseph Stowell, in his book Eternity, Reclaiming a Passion for What Endures:

"Eternity is primary. Heaven must become our first and ultimate point of reference. We are built for it, redeemed for it, and on our way to it. Success demands that we see and respond to NOW in the light of THEN." (p. 27)

Joe Stowell is right on! We must learn to align our lives with eternity not just on the back burner - but front and center. Sometime scan through the gospels and look to see if Jesus ever thought about eternity. If you do this, you will see that Jesus was focused on eternity. And why not? It is His home - and it is our true home, too. Now I know someone reading this might be thinking "If we are too heavenly minded we will be no earthly good." That could be true ... but as I look at my life and the lives of most of the Christians I know - the opposite danger is probably more of a threat. Most of us are too earthly minded to be of any heavenly good!

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Render to "Caesar"

In yesterday's post, I promised to list some practical suggestions for you on how to obey Jesus' command to "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's." I have gleaned and adapted these suggestions from a list in Jay Dennis' book, The Jesus Habits (the book is worth a read!). Here are four for you to "chew on!"

1. Pray for those in government. We are commanded to do so in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. The reason behind Paul's command to pray for governmental leaders is his desire that we might live "peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." The next time you catch yourself complaining about someone in office, stop and pray for them instead.

2. Vote your convictions. The American poet and author Walt Whitman once said, "Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote." Too many people simply vote for candidates simply because they are Democrat or Republican or because they look great on camera. Know the candidates and where they stand on the issues that matter to you. Then vote your convictions.

3. Write to government leaders not only when you disagree or want them to do something, but also to say "thank you" when you appreciate their efforts. Even though I do not serve in public office, I do serve in a public position. In the close to thirty years that I have been pastoring, I have received far more mail of a critical nature than that of a positive, encouraging nature. It is no different for political office holders ... and I would guess it is far worse for them. So make some elected official's day and send them a note of thanks!

4. Send an public official a nice Bible with his/her name imprinted on it. In Jay Dennis' words, "You will be amazed at the results of this...there is no greater gift than a Bible."

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Democrats Meeting in Denver!

Well, the first of the two political conventions has arrived. Democrats are meeting even as I write these words out in the mile high city. And just around the corner, the Republicans will be gathering for their big hour in prime time. I thought I would take this time in light of these two political extravaganzas to remind all of us who follow Jesus about our responsibility to the government. Jesus put it plainly when he said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Luke 20:25). We see from these words that Jesus was not anti-government. He saw human government as an institution that should be obeyed and respected.

Now I realize at times those who are elected to office do little to gain our respect. Far too many when given the power that comes with their elected positions, become drunk with that power and succumb to the temptations of greed and fame. However, that does not release us from submitting ourselves to the government and praying for all those in authority over us (see Romans 13:1-6 and 1 Timothy 2:1-2). Tomorrow, I will list some practical suggestions on how we as Christians can "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."

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Hurry Up!

Our society seems to know one speed: FAST! My day often runs from one meeting to the next, one phone call to the next, one email to the next. As I write this, I am tired. And I know I am not alone! "HURRY UP!" is what our world screams at us day in and day out, 24/7/365. If I could only wear ear plugs!

In the foreward to Donald Whitney's excellent book, Simplify Your Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed, Richard A. Swenson writes the following insightful and compelling assessment of our day:

"Do more and more with less and less - and do it faster and faster. This is the oft-heard management strategy in our profusely overloaded age. But what would Jesus think? Can you imagine Him flying past the blind beggar, sweat dripping off his brow, yelling at his lagging disciples because they were twenty minutes late for the Jericho prayer breakfast? How would He respond if cell phones when off within the assembled crowds as the Sermon on the Mount? Jesus had little tolerance for clutter or complexity. Simply put, he would not be distracted from His mission."

I believe all of us could profit by striving to simplify our spiritual lives. All too often, God's voice gets drowned out in all the noise of our revved up lives! If you want some help in this area, check out Whitney's book or go to his website where you can view and download sample chapters from his book (http://www.spiritualdisciplines.org/articles.html#sample).

Oh, God, save me from the speed around me and bring me to some quiet space in YOU!

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Two Very Different Moves

When I had just turned 13, I went through what proved to be a very difficult time. My parents moved my family from the city of Harrisburg to a rural area of northern York County near the town of Lewisberry. Since I had grown up in Harrisburg, it was, to that point, all I had known. I loved my neighborhood, my school...but most of all I loved my friends. In fact, I had many, many friends. In my new home I had very few friends. Everything was different. And I had great difficulty adjusting. Going from hero to zero was not easy.

Fast forward the calendar just over three years. In late summer of 1972, I found myself at a weekend church retreat at Camp Penn, a United Methodist retreat center near Gettysburg, PA. There I found Jesus Christ (or better said, there Jesus Christ found me!). And just as what happened to me three years earlier - I experienced a major change in my life. God took me and "rescued us (me) from the dominion of darkness and brought us (me) into the kingdom of the Son he loves," (Colossians 1:13). God moved me from the dominion of darkness (which is under the authority of Satan, the Evil One) and transplanted me into the kingdom of Jesus Christ, His Beloved Son! Wow! So unlike my earlier move, as here I went from being blind and enslaved and heading for hell - to being a child of the glorious King of kings and Lord of lords and on my way to a glorious eternal home in heaven! I am still not over this - and I hope I never will!!!

All this to say - what a motivation to share the good news of Jesus Christ. The people we rub shoulders with day in and day out do not realize the reality of their condition. They may think they are living in light and power and freedom, but they are living in the kingdom of darkness, the domain of Satan. All too often we forget this when we see people basking in worldly success. But don't be misled. People are in either one of two kingdoms in the spiritual realm: the kingdom of Jesus Christ or the kingdom of Satan. There are no other kingdoms! And the only hope for any one is the forgiveness of sins found in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ alone. Praise God that because of the costly sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf - anyone who comes to him can experience what I and many others have experienced - a wonderful transfer from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of the Son!

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Present but not Competing!

In 1972, Eddie Hart was a man on a mission. His mission? To win Olympic gold in the 100 meter race to be held in Munich, Germany. At the 1972 Olympic Trials, he tied the world record of 9.9 seconds in the 100-meter dash. And that set the stage for a showdown with the the top-ranked sprinter in the world, the Bionic Man, Valeri Borzov of the Soviet Union. It was a showdown that never happened. After easily winning his qualifying heat in the morning (the 100-meter final was to be run that afternoon) - the U.S. sprint coach gave Hart and two other sprinters the wrong start time for the race. So when they arrived back at the stadium for their warm ups - they realized the race was already over and Borzov the gold medalist! I cannot imagine how gut-wrenching that must have been for Hart! To be present - but not competing!

The Bible often uses the analogy of a race to describe the Christian's journey of grace. For example, in 1 Corinthians 9:24 we read, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." In addition, Hebrews 12:1-2 admonishes us to "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Are you running the race to win? Or are you allowing the stuff of this world to hinder you and sin to easily entangle you? Take a moment and think on the race. Are you present - but not competing?

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A Coat of Fresh Paint

Every Thursday morning at 6:15, I meet with a group of guys I have chosen to call "The Brothers of Aaron and Hur" (as to why that name, pull out your Bible and read Exodus 17:8-16). The primary reason for our meeting is to pray for our church - its people and its ministry - and our world, both locally and globally. After our prayer time, those who have the time, head out for a quick breakfast together. It is one of my favorite weekly activities. I love my brothers!

Over breakfast this morning, one of the men shared a story from his working days at Campbell's Soup. Every so often, the president of the company would tour this gentleman's plant. On one of these occasions, the plant manager asked this man if he would like to join him as he toured the plant with the company president. At one point during the tour, the plant manager turned to the company president and asked, "Don't you get tired of smelling fresh paint?"

Hmm. That got me thinking. How often do we do the same? We go to church and we quickly "slop a coat of fresh paint" on our exterior. We hope that people will see the fresh paint and won't see all the cracks in the plaster that it is covering. We want people to think we are more spiritual, more godly than we truly are (Ouch - I just stepped on my own toes with that statement!). Instead of fresh paint --let's get to fixing the cracks in the walls. Let's get serious about those things that will help us to grow in godliness (things like reading and studying the Bible, praying, sharing our faith, etc.). After all, a coat of fresh paint only lasts so long!

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Going for the Gold!

Every time the Olympics rolls around ... either the Summer or Winter Games ... I thoroughly enjoy watching them. This year has been no exception (which is the reason I've been feeling tired this week .... too much "Late Night with Michael Phelps!). I have been amazed as I have watched Phelps and others. There speed, endurance, and skills have been so very cool to watch (like how you do a flip and land on your feet on the balance beam - that takes an awful lot of practice!!!). And that it indeed the key to these athletes. They have taken their God-given talents and with hours and hours and hours over years -- have sharpened and honed that talent to the level where they can "go for the gold."

All this reminds me of the following words of the Apostle Paul:

"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).

Look at these words again ... "They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." A few years from now ... few of us will remember who won this swimming event or that diving event. But that does not stop these athletes from all the training that they have to put in. Yet we as Christians are striving for a crown that will last FOREVER! So how are you doing? Willing to "discipline yourself godliness" - even if it hurts? (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Thanks for stopping by . . .


A Lesson from The Family Circus

Even though I subscribe to the local evening paper and the local Sunday paper, I don't often read the comics. However, that does not mean I don't enjoy reading them on occasion. One of my favorites is the comic strip by Bill Keane, The Family Circus. One reason I enjoy it so much is because it is so true to family life and raising kids. Often through the years I could find myself smiling in agreement with Keane's take on family life. In addition, I have enjoyed it because the creator manifested such a "keane" sense of humor! I could almost always count on a good chuckle as I read the latest exploits of this comic strip family.

In one of The Family Circus cartoons, little Billy and his younger brother are watching squirrels scampering about gathering acorns from the ground. Billy says to his brother, "Look at those squirrels. They’re real busy and they have nuttin’ to do!” (pretty punny statement, eh?!!?)

How many of us are real busy doing “nuttin?” We scurry from one activity to the next while accomplishing little if anything for God and His Kingdom. I encourage you to take some time out and evaluate your life. Time is too valuable a resource to waste. Let’s seize the moment and live it for Jesus! Before your time of evaluation pray these words: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Carpe Diem (Seize the Day!) . . .


Now Was That a Big Dog or a Little Horse?

Yesterday, I had to stop by someone's house. After knocking at the door, the lady of the house opened the door. After a quick exchange of "hellos," this huge animal head appeared from behind the door. At first I was unsure as to just exactly what I was looking at. I mean the head had the look of a dog's head -- but the size of a horse's head. I took a fast step back. The woman, noticing the look of fear (no, better said, HORROR!) on my face, quickly assured me that the dog was a very friendly dog. Now - I have NEVER seen a dog as big as this dog. It was a Great Dane. Great Dane's average about 130 lbs ... and from what I understand larger males can easily top 175 pounds. This dog tipped the scales at over 210 pounds. It was a giant of a dog ... and fortunately a very gentle giant! So as it turns out ... I had nothing to fear!

Often times as life unfolds, trials appear out of nowhere. As we first encounter them, they can threaten to overwhelm us. We see them as huge threats to our life and well-being. This is why when a trial hits, we must look to God. Psalm 121:2 reminds us that when we are in need of help, our "help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." When we stop to realize that our help comes from the Almighty Creator of the universe -- that should go a long way toward helping us to not be overwhelmed or not to "throw in the towel and quit" when trials come our way. Our God is bigger than ANYTHING this life can throw our way!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Is Your Torch Sitll Burning for Christ?

Today is the day that the Olympic games officially open in Beijing, China. With that in mind, consider the following quote by Joe Stowell, former president of Moody Bible Institute. The quote is rooted in the history of the Olympics.

"The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit. I want to run all the way with the flame of my torch still lit for Him."

Few of us have a problem starting the race God calls us to run (see Hebrews 12:1-2). But how many of us lack the perseverance and endurance to stay in the race ... and to stay in the race so that the flame of our torches are still burning hot and bright for Jesus Christ - even after many years of running?

Oh God, give us hot hearts. Hearts that burn with an undying passion for you and your Kingdom!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


It's Always "Your Serve!"

Again I am pulling a blog posting from the past (summer of 2007). I am posting this again because all of us need to be reminded that being a servant is something God calls us all to be - everyone of us without exception! But far too often, we are looking for others to serve us vs. looking for opportunities to serve others. Remember Jesus said, if we want to be great in His kingdom, then the path of servanthood is the path we must travel.

It's Always "Your Serve!"
August 2, 2007

I used to play a fair amount of ping pong, tennis and volleyball. In all of these activities, participants get the chance to serve. I especially loved to serve when playing ping pong. A former pastor of mine (way back when I was in high school) taught me how to put all kinds of "english" (a.k.a. "spin") on the ball which causes it to fly off the opponents paddle in a lot of weird directions. So serving while playing ping pong is FUN!

As we live out our lives, God calls us to serve. Not just when it is convenient or comfortable - but often when it is not. We need to pay attention to the Word of God when in Galatians 5:13 we are told, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." We need this reminder because all too often we want to use our freedom to serve ourselves. Don't go down this path. Rather, each day when you wake up remind yourself that you are called by God to be a servant. Indeed, "It's YOUR serve!"

Thanks for listening,


Is Being Broken Ever a Good Thing?

Recently, a few people I know have suffered broken bones. In the fifty plus years of my life I am glad I can say I have never broken a bone. Broken bones are rarely a good thing. And if we talk about other things that can break, like washer machines or computers or lawn mowers or cars - broken things are rarely if ever a good thing. So while most brokenness cannot be said to be good - there is one kind of brokenness that I see as being good and profitable. It is spiritual brokenness.

I don't know if you have ever had the opportunity to ride a horse. When I was in high school, a friend of mine had several horses and I was able to go riding quite a bit. Most times the horse I rode was very gentle and responsive to instruction. Once, though, he was startled by the wind blowing something across the path and he took off at a full gallop. "Whoa Nellie!" I cried, as I clung to the horse's mane for all I was worth! Now the reason that this particular horse was so gentle and responsive (99% of the time!) - was due to the fact that at some point in his past he had been "broken." Today there are a number of different methods used to break a horse - but whatever the method, it must be done. Horses must be trained (some prefer this word "train" to the word "break") to a point that they are willing to submit to a rider.

In a similar way, we human beings must be "broken." We must get to the point where we are willing to submit ourselves to another and the "another" in this case is God. We all are born into this world as "independent spirits." As Isaiah the prophet reminds us, "All we like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his OWN way" (Isaiah 53:6). We must admit to our independent streak rooted in pride and arrogance and turn from it and turn to God, willing to say to Him, "Here I am Lord, use me!"

How about YOU? Have you been broken yet? Or is your life still a life marked by pride and an arrogant independent attitude? (If you want to use a great tool to help you in assessing whether you are a proud or broken person, check out the following helpful download from Nancy DeMoss: http://www.reviveourhearts.com/pdf/uploads/TheHeartGodRevives.pdf.)

"O God, break us of our pride and arrogance. Help us to humble ourselves before you!"

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Growing It (my faith) Alone!

This year has brought a lot of satisfaction to me as a parent. My oldest daughter will be married in October and is now in her third year working as an R.N. at Lancaster General Hospital. My son started his masters program and was just hired by the university to work as a Graduate Assistant. He and his wife just celebrated their second wedding anniversary. My youngest daughter finished up her first year of teaching 9th grade history at Milton Hershey school and just celebrated her first month wedding anniversary yesterday. So it is quite gratifying to see my children grown and establishing their own vocations and homes. Now all these changes did not come as a surprise. My wife and I raised them to one day be off "on their own." It is part of the goal of parenting. We want to see our children "grow up!"

In the same way our heavenly Father desires for his children to grow up. Each and every follower of Christ is to "grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). But we cannot and will not grow if we try to do it alone. For starters, we need the enablement of the Holy Spirit. Without his divine assistance, filling us and growing his fruit in us, we will not grow. In addition to the Spirit, we also need the help of others. The words "one another" occur some fifty times in the NIV translation of the New Testament. We are told that we must "love one another" (1 John 4:7), "spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24), "encourage one another" (Hebrews 3:13), "serve one another" (Galatians 5:13, and "accept one another" (Romans 15:7) - and these are just a few of the many types of "one anothering" that we are called upon to do.
So if you want to grow in your journey of grace -- you can't "grow it alone!" You need to be involved in biblical community. A community of growing Christians who are striving to practice the various "one another" commands spelled out for us in the New Testament epistles. Practicing accountable relationships is one of the "means of grace" that we must employ if we want to "grow up!"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

Well, what I thought was a cold last week, was/is a sinus infection. I finally gave in and went to see my doctor. I am now on antibiotics ...