PJ

PJ

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blessings for the New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

pj

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Open Your Eyes!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 29, 2008

Do You Talk Too Much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God's Gift to You

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

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

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

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

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

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

pj

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 22, 2008

So Where Did Santa Clause Come From?

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thinking About Christmas . . .


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


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



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

(Evangelist Billy Graham)





Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas as a Holiday?

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lost ... now Found!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Parachute Failure - Unbelievable Outcome!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lights Out!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Quote to Think About . . .


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

Which kind of person are YOU?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An X(ray) Marks the Spot!

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let's Honk Like Geese Today!

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fatal Proposal

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back to Work!

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'll Be Back Next Week


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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blessings for the New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

pj

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Open Your Eyes!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 29, 2008

Do You Talk Too Much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God's Gift to You

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

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

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

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

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

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

pj

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 22, 2008

So Where Did Santa Clause Come From?

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thinking About Christmas . . .


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


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



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

(Evangelist Billy Graham)





Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas as a Holiday?

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lost ... now Found!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Parachute Failure - Unbelievable Outcome!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lights Out!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Quote to Think About . . .


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

Which kind of person are YOU?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An X(ray) Marks the Spot!

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let's Honk Like Geese Today!

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fatal Proposal

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back to Work!

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'll Be Back Next Week


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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

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.