PJ

PJ

Friday, January 30, 2009

Let's Go Steelers! Let's Go!

When it comes to this Sunday's Super Bowl, most people know who I will be cheering on. And if you need a hint, they wear black and gold. Unlike the Apostle Paul who could say he was born a citizen of Rome, I cannot state that I was born a citizen of the Steeler Nation. In fact, as a youngster, I was an Eagles' fan. But then in 1984 we moved to Pittsburgh and I was introduced to the Steeler Nation. And after spending five years in the Steel City, I became a naturalized citizen! Now let me say that even though I carry my Steeler Nation passport with pride, if they lose the SB on Sunday, there is one BIG reason I won't be heartbroken ... please read on to discover just what I am getting at...


The Ballad of Kurtis and Brenda

There is a "ballad" of Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda that is floating around the Internet. It tells how Kurt met his wife Brenda in the supermarket where they both worked. Kurt asked her out and she declined - all because she had two children from a previous marriage and the youngest was a wheelchair bound Downs Syndrome son. But Kurt persisted on taking Brenda out, offering to pay the babysitter and when the babysitter was a "no-show" he offered to take Brenda and her kids out. All that evening he helped care for the son ... thus capturing Brenda's heart. As this story concludes, they were married one year later.

Well I did some investigating on Snopes.com. This is a web site that evaluates these "urban legends" that circulate in cyberspace as to whether they are true or not. It seems that this ballad of Kurtis and Brenda is true as far as the big picture goes ... but false in many of the details of the story (if you want to get to the truth .... just go to http://www.snopes.com/glurge/warner.asp). But still ... the true story of their romance is indeed an inspiring one. After meeting in 1992, they married in 1997. Kurt adopted Brenda's two children. In addition, God blessed them with five more children.

As many of you know, today Kurt and Brenda Warner live in Arizona, where he is currently employed as the quarterback of the National Football League Arizona Cardinals (a far cry from stocking shelves in a grocery store which he was in fact doing prior to playing for the St. Louis Rams). His Cardinals are now headed to play my Steelers in this Sunday's Super Bowl. Kurt's relationship with Brenda and his family demonstrates that he is no ordinary jock! (And he is indeed a super star athlete as he has been named the NFL's Most Valuable Player twice and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player in the only Super Bowl in which he has played!)

But the most important fact about this star quarterback is that he is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ! So if somehow the Steelers don't walk away from this year's SB as winners, I will be disappointed. But that disappointment will be tempered by my happiness for my brother in Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Costly Fall!


I posted the following back on February 1, 2006. It was relevant then ... it is relevant now. So I post it again for any who happen by!


A visitor to a British museum recently tripped over his own shoe lace. In doing so, he stumbled down a flight of stairs and fell into a display of century old Chinese vases.The vases shattered into a “million pieces.” The vases from the Qing Dynasty were worth a small fortune – although the museum is not saying how much the vases are actually worth. Ouch!You talk about a costly fall! And by the way, Museum officials said they will do their best to put the vases back together. I hope they succeed.

This unnamed man, whose fall resulted in such destruction, reminds me of another man’s fall. Unlike the unnamed man in the museum, this man has a name we know: Adam. And also unlike the destroyer of the vases, Adam’s fall was no accident. His fall was intentional. We read about his fall in Genesis 3. There in the midst of the paradise of Eden, Adam and his wife Eve, chose to rebel against the God who made them. They looked around and thought that they could do a better job of running the world on their own vs. running it under God’s authority and with His help (see Isaiah 53:6). So they chose to say “NO!” to God and “YES!” to themselves. What was the result of that fateful choice? Well it is far worse than a few shattered vases. Out of Adam’s and Eve’s “fall” come death, destruction, and misery. The world we now live in is a broken world – or as I like to say, “A world that is temporarily out of order.” No matter how hard we try to put this world “back together” we will fail. Only God can do that. He began to do so 2000 years ago when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in payment for our sin of rebellion against Him. As the Apostle John reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Turning to Jesus Christ is the first step toward finding the healing we all need as broken people living in a broken world. If you have not turned to Jesus yet, send me an email (jsmith@gracewv.org) and we can “talk.” If you have, take a moment and thank God for doing for you what you in NO WAY could have ever done for your self!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No Time for God?

A headline in this past Sunday's edition of the Lancaster Sunday News reached out and grabbed my attention. It read, Time for God? Over-scheduled believers squeeze in religion with books, emails, podcasts. In the article, the reporter answers the question as to how busy believers find time for God in their hectic schedules. What struck me in the article was some of the books that are offered in bookstores and online to help God followers to be able to squeeze God into their schedules. Some of the titles of these books include, The One Minute Bible - Day by Day, 5 Minute Theologian: Maximum Truth in Minimum Time, 7 Minutes with God and The One Minute Bible.

As I reflected on these titles, the words of Psalm one (which I had just read yesterday morning in my own devotional time) came to my mind. Read what the psalmist has to say about interacting with the Word of God and the benefit of doing so.


Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Now if followers of Jesus desire to be like this prosperous tree pictured here in Psalm 1:3 - then it won't happen with spending one minute or five minutes or seven minutes a day interacting with the Scripture. If we are going to be ALL that God wants us to be (and there's nothing better!!!) - then we must MAKE time for God and His Word! My guess is that most of us could watch a little less TV for starters - and then go from there. And if you don't have a hunger for the Word of God then ask God to give you a hunger for it - and then make time for God!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Blessed I Am!

Mondays are my day off. I often spend the day lounging around the house in the morning, getting some projects done around the house or running errands, and most important of all, spending some time with my best friend (a.k.a. Sharon my wife). Yesterday was no exception. After a leisurely start to the day in which I drank a pot of coffee, read my Bible and the USA Today, I then balanced our check book and did some grading for an online course I am currently teaching. After a quick lunch, I then went to a movie with Sharon. The movie we chose to see was the British film, Slumdog Millionaire. I wanted to see this movie for two reasons: it was getting some good reviews from both movie critics and moviegoers and it was a movie about India and filmed for the most part in Mumbai. Having traveled to India twice to serve at Children's Fellowship of India's orphanage - part of my heart remains there!

As Sharon and I talked after the film, we both agreed on a couple of things. First we were very glad for the work of CFI in rescuing boys from the despair of poverty (and glad for the opportunity to help support CFI's ministry!). In the movie, an orphanage was shown taking kids in from the street but then using ... no abusing them in order to have them bring in money through begging on the streets. At CFI - the boys are clothed, fed, given medical care, educated and most important of all - they are introduced to Jesus Christ! Quite a contrast to the unscrupulous orphanage portrayed in the movie (If you are interested in finding out more about the wonderful work of CFI check out their web site at cfindia.org). Second, we were very grateful to God for HIS generosity to us - meeting all of our needs and then some ... no and then a lot! Compared to the VAST majority of the world's peoples, Sharon and I are millionaires! God has given us much -- and to whom much is given, much is required (see Luke 12:28).

If you get the chance, you might want to go see the movie. However, I don't recommend the movie for children.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Thirsty Are You?

Just after my 13th birthday my world changed dramatically. I went from being a city boy living in a small two story row home in the heart of Harrisburg, PA to being a country boy living in a much larger house on the shore of a lake in northern York County, PA. It was there in what we affectionately called "the lake house" that I spent my teen years. So as I began to look for employment, one place I found it was on nearby farms. During my years in York County I "made hay," picked strawberries, cleaned out horse stables, and spread manure (I definitely liked doing the first two but the latter two - let's just say with both of them it was "once and done!").

Now out of all my farm experiences, one in particular stands out in my memory. It was a very hot and humid summer afternoon. I was part of a group of teens a local farmer hired to bring bales of hay in from the field and stack in the barn. The farmer divided us into two groups. One group went out in the fields with him to pick up and bring in the hay. The rest of us waited at the barn to unload and stack. I volunteered for the barn group since I thought it would be the easier work of the two. I could not have been more mistaken. If it was 90 degrees outside, it was at least 110 degrees in the barn. Within minutes of beginning our task of unloading and stacking the heavy bales of hay, sweat was dripping off of our faces and soaking our clothing. And as the minutes wore on ... thirst began to set in. By the time we would finish a load (about 20-25 minutes) all I could think about was making a mad dash to the outside faucet to get my fill of water. And let me tell you - with three or four other guys thinking the same thing, it was a MAD DASH to see who could get there first! And if the first guy took too long - we would grab him and pull him out from under the spicket so the next guy could drink! As I look back on that, rarely have I experienced thirst to that degree and intensity.

In Psalm 63:1 King David writes, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." In the same way I was craving water back in that hot and steamy barn - David craved for God! Wow! Is that my experience? All too often I would have to say it is not. I allow too many lessor things to dull my thirst for God. How about YOU? Is this also true of you? Let's ask God today to increase our thirst for Him -- today and everyday!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Be a Voice for the Voiceless!

Change has come to Washington D.C. Of course, it is to be expected. It was the most used word by President Obama in his campaign. Now I am not opposed to change. It is part of the package of life - especially life in our fast moving American culture. But I am opposed to a change that the President promised to make to a gathering of Planned Parenthood when he pledged to to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. This act would abolish all restrictions and limitations on women in the United States to have an abortion prior to fetal viability, whether at the state or federal level, or after the point of viability when the life of the mother is endangered. This clearly shows where our new president stands on the issue of abortion. He would say that he is pro-choice. If I had the opportunity to talk with him over coffee, I would ask him about the choice of the unborn. Shouldn't they have a choice?

Today is the 26th anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Since then, almost 50 million unborn children have been killed. I may be proud of our country for many things, but this grim statistic is not one of them! Please join me today in praying for the unborn in our land. Pray for pro-life ministries who are seeking to help women choose life. And if you have not given either time or money to a pro-life ministry, please do so soon. They need our support.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. Here in Lancaster County a solid pro-life ministry to support is Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services. Please visit them at www.svps.org.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nuts! Even Squirrels Are Facing Tough Times!

It seems that it's not only people facing hardships these days - but squirrels are also struggling. Bontanists have discovered that there is a significant shortage of acorns throughout a large section of the U. S. Experts say that there is really no call for alarm since this is just part of the normal cycle of nature. Perhaps not alarming for these forestry experts - but what about the squirrels???

You see, it is easy to be calm and collected if tough times are facing "the other guy." But when tough times come knocking at our door - then it is not so easy. But my point today is this - when it is "the other guy" who is struggling, we who are doing fine need to reach out with a helping hand. The Apostle John puts it this way in the form of a question: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" (1 John 3:17). Now there's a question to chew on!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let's Pray for Our President

Today is an historic day in our country. We will be swearing in an African-American as our 44th president. Only a generation or so ago, this would have seemed an impossibility. So for many African Americans especially, today is a very special day. Now, I will admit that I did not vote for our new president. I do not agree with his stance on certain issues. But that will not keep me from rejoicing with our black population who for so long have endured the brunt of unjust prejudice and bigotry. It will also not keep me from praying for President Obama. After all, all of us who claim to follow Jesus our under a mandate to do just that. In 1 Timothy 2:1-3a we read, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior..."

So I invite you to join me in making a commitment to daily pray for our new president as he takes office in these very trying times. For more guidance on how to focus your prayers, check out the following web site: PrayForPresidentElect.com.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - Please pray for President Bush as he and Laura transition back to civilian life. I am sure he needs some REST!

Friday, January 16, 2009

And WHO Said Video Games Don't Influence Kids?

Last Monday morning, a 6 year old Virginia boy missed his school bus. So what did he do? He did what any 6 year old would do (not!) - he grabbed the keys to the family car and drove himself to school - or at least he attempted to drive himself to school. He successfully navigated the first 6 miles of the winding country road before crashing into a utility pole just a little over a mile from school. Now you might be wondering what I was wondering when I first read about this - just where did this 6 year old learn to drive? The boy told police he learned how to drive by playing Grand Theft Auto and Monster Truck Jam video games! Fortunately the boy suffered only minor injuries. The boy's parents have been charged with child endangerment.

So for all those people out there who claim video games do not influence kids - here is proof positive that they are wrong. Now I am not an anti-video game crusader (I own a Wii - don't play it a lot, but enjoy it when I get the chance). However, video games like other things in life can become way too much a part of a person's routine. And when they do - good things rarely result! For example, when people get too into video games they become less active and therefore less fit and relationships get ignored and the person becomes more isolated. In addition, often the behavior displayed in many video games, especially the ones that feature (and even glorify) violence can often lead to more aggressive behavior in the individual who is continually immersing himself in these types of video games.

All this to say -- we must monitor how we are spending our "free" time (whether we are talking playing video games, watching tv or surfing the Internet). Life is too short to waste. So the next time you are tempted to pick up the video controls - ask yourself, "Is there something else more significant that I can be doing with my time?"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Looking One's Best!

This past Monday, I fulfilled a wish my wife has had ever since we moved to Lancaster back in 1989. No, I did not give her a diamond necklace, or make plans for a Caribbean vacation. Nope. Much simpler and cheaper than either of those. I took her to the Pennsylvania State Farm Show. She had never been to the Farm Show, and after hearing about it year after year after year on the news, she wanted to go for herself and check it out. Now - you must think I am a rotten husband. "Come on, John! It took you 20 years to drive your wife 48 miles to the State Farm Show Complex? Really!" OK, may I speak in my own defense? Thanks! It is not that we did not try to go in the past. Several times when our kids were younger, we had planned to go - only to have one of them get sick. On a couple of other occasions we had planned to go, only to be stopped by inclement wintry weather. So it is not that I did not try (OK, perhaps I did not try hard enough. After growing up in the city of Harrisburg and attending the Farm Show EVERY year that I was in elementary school - going to the Farm Show was not very high on my agenda!). So all that to say, Sharon finally got to the Farm Show on Monday.

After fighting the crowds and navigating around piles of you-know-what for a few hours, we were more than ready to head for home. While at the Farm Show, we had a good time listening to pigs squeal, checking out numerous displays and sampling lots of different foods. For me, one of the more fascinating activities involved people grooming their cattle for showing (see photo). I was amazed at how painstakingly they approached brushing and trimming the cattle's hair - even going as far as applying some "VERY strong hairspray" (as one person told me when I asked what she was spraying on the animal's coat.). And they made this effort in hopes that their animal would look its best in front of the judges.

Reminds me of how we often go to extremes to look good in front of others (I spend hours trying to get my hair just right!). It is certainly not a bad idea to look good when out among people. But if most of us would spend even half of the time grooming our inner character as we do our outer appearance - we would be better for it! Remember what is really important. Consider what Scripture says, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). So as we spend time polishing up our outer beings - let's not neglect the heart!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Beware of Godward Anger!

An Alaskan advocacy group, Standing Together Against Rape, recently sponsored a lottery to raise needed funds for their programs. The winner came forward to claim his half-million dollar prize this past Saturday. It just so happens he is a twice convicted sex offender! "It's not how we had envisioned the story going," Nancy Haag, the group's executive director, told CNN Radio.

Ouch! How ironic is that! A lottery designed to help victims of sexual abuse is won by a man guilty of sex crimes! But that is how life works sometimes. We have great visions of this or that ... and something else - often unforeseen and often unwelcome - arrives instead! So what should we do at these times? The very first thing we must guard our hearts against is anger toward God. Yet this is often how we respond. We shake our fists toward heaven and shout, "God, how could YOU let this happen to ME?" This response of Godward anger when we encounter tough times is so ingrained in our sinful nature, it is often a "knee-jerk" reaction. Therefore, we MUST be on the alert for it ... and when we feel anger toward God raising its ugly head in our hearts - we must kill it! One way to do this is to remind ourselves that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

So when life takes a turn that makes you mad - deal with it and remind yourself that even in these trying circumstances, God is at work for your good and HIS glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winning at What Really Matters!

Yesterday, the NFL lost a great coach when Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts announced his retirement. The following quote from Clark Judge of CBS Sportsline says it all about this great coach who was an even greater man:

"Tony Dungy has nothing left to prove in the NFL. He had the Colts in the playoffs all seven of his season there. He won five AFC South tiles. He reached conference championship games three times. And, of course, he was the first African American to win a Super Bowl. He has the best career winning percentage of any active coach and missed the playoffs only twice in 13 seasons as a head coach. Better yet, he went to the top of the NFL without compromising his ideals. And that might be his greatest achievement."

His ideals, as everyone knew, were Christian. As Dungy once said, "That's one reason I stayed in coaching, to prove you could win with Christian principles." Tony Dungy was a man of integrity who lived what he believed. May all of us who name the name of Jesus go and do the same!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - If you want to read more about the life and testimony of Coach Tony Dungy, I recommend his book, Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices and Priorities of a Winning Life.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Finally Home!

Today I will be undertaking a task that I have done so many times across my close to 30 years as a pastor that I have lost count. I will be officiating a memorial service. When I met with family to discuss the service, they expressed their desire that the service be a celebration. I readily and heartily agreed. And why not? The deceased had lived a long and fruitful life in which the testimony of her faith in Jesus Christ was loud and clear. So why not celebrate! The moment she left earth's shores, she arrived in the harbor of the heavenly city, for to be away from the body is "to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). Now this is not to say at today's service, tears will not be shed. They most certainly will. But they will not be only tears of sadness (at the prospect of being separated from the one loved) but also tears of joy, knowing that the departed one is now in the very presence of God. She has arrived in the Father's house (see John 14). She is finally home! And friend, there is no better place to be!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, January 8, 2009

An Early Start to a Life of Crime?

This past Monday in a small town in Southern Ohio, a 4 year old boy shot a teen for stepping on his foot. That's right! You read it right - the shooter in this case was a mere four years old! After being angered for being stepped on, the kid pulled a shot gun out of a closet and shot the teen. Fortunately, the teen suffered only minor pellet wounds to his leg and side.

Now I don't know what kind of guidance this four year is receiving from his parents - but I think I could make an accurate guess to say that it is not what it should be. But this is the case in far too many families in our country today. Many parents are into their own agendas and are not willing to do what it takes to raise their kids. All because to do what it takes often requires self sacrifice. Even Christian parents must guard against this. We must all remind ourselves that our children are gifts from God (see Psalm 127:3). They have been entrusted to us by God so that we can raise them in such a way that they will grow up to love God more than anyone or anything. If you are a parent pause and take a look at your parenting. What can you point at that demonstrates that you are intentionally helping your child(ren) to grow in his or her love for God? The greatest thing you can do for your child(ren) is to help them love God. There is no greater goal in this life! Don't be guilty of the crime of negligent parenting!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy National Smith Day!

In case you missed it, yesterday was National Smith Day. Given the fact that I received only one "Happy Smith Day" greeting, I am guessing most of you never knew. Smith Day commemorates the birthday of Captain John Smith (born January 6, 1580) who founded Jamestown, VA, the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States. So for what it was worth -- I celebrated Smith Day by drinking a can of V-8 juice!

Now I have had a lot of fun with my name. After all, it is the most popular (not common, please!) name in the United States. Many people make wise cracks when I tell them my name (like, "OK, so much for your alias, now what's your real name?"and "So where's Pocahontas?") When asked the latter, I like to inform the person that Pocahontas never married Captain John Smith - she married a Virginia tobacco grower named John Rolfe. I also like to "head people off at the pass" when asked my name by saying, "My name is John Smith, believe it or not!"

Not only have I had fun with my name, my name almost landed me on NBC's Today Show. Back in 1987, the Today Show was planning to take a week and broadcast from the five most livable cities as ranked by Rand McNally's Places Rated Almanac. That particular year, Pittsburgh, PA was rated #1. I happened to live in Pittsburgh. One day, I received a phone call from a woman claiming to be a producer with the Today Show. It took her some time to convince me that she was indeed who she claimed to be. Once I was on the same page with her, she told me that the Today Show was considering bringing on the show a group of John Smiths from each of the cities they were going to visit. So she asked me if she could interview me as a possible guest. I agreed - but must have failed as I never heard from her or the show again!

Speaking of names - there is one name and only one name given under heaven by which we can be saved. That name is Jesus (see Acts 4:12). And there is coming a day when "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).

What are you doing NOW to point people to Jesus? There is no name as glorious as His!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's a Girl!

Back in September as my wife and I were driving to Sandy Cove, our son called my wife on her cell. He wanted to know what name she wanted to be called by her grandchildren. This was his way of telling us that he and his wife were expecting a child. Shortly after that, our daughter-in-law went to the doctor's for an ultrasound. This was to determine the baby's "due" date - which of course is merely an approximate date as a baby can come up to two weeks before or after the due date and still be considered "on time" (Now that's interesting - the only time a person gets slack for being way early or late is the first meeting in life - after that, you'd better be on time!). Yesterday our daughter-in-law had her second ultrasound and found out that the baby is a girl. When my wife heard the news and saw the baby's ultrasound pictures she, as expected, cried. But I kept my cool (although my eyes did sweat a little)!

As I looked at the half dozen photos of our growing granddaughter, I marveled at the marvelous design of God - that from the union of two adults a human being is "created!" Indeed we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). I also wondered how anyone could willfully and intentionally destroy a baby in the womb. The womb was designed by God to be a safe place. In this safe place the baby grows and develops until he or she is ready to meet the world. Yet for far too many babies, the womb becomes a tomb through the horror of abortion.

Let me encourage you to do something in support of a pro-life ministry this month. These ministries are the voice of the voiceless. They also reach out to women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies - offering these women hope for themselves as well as their unborn children. Check out the ministry of Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services at www.http://svps.org. SVPS is doing a wonderful work - but they need our support to continue.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, January 30, 2009

Let's Go Steelers! Let's Go!

When it comes to this Sunday's Super Bowl, most people know who I will be cheering on. And if you need a hint, they wear black and gold. Unlike the Apostle Paul who could say he was born a citizen of Rome, I cannot state that I was born a citizen of the Steeler Nation. In fact, as a youngster, I was an Eagles' fan. But then in 1984 we moved to Pittsburgh and I was introduced to the Steeler Nation. And after spending five years in the Steel City, I became a naturalized citizen! Now let me say that even though I carry my Steeler Nation passport with pride, if they lose the SB on Sunday, there is one BIG reason I won't be heartbroken ... please read on to discover just what I am getting at...


The Ballad of Kurtis and Brenda

There is a "ballad" of Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda that is floating around the Internet. It tells how Kurt met his wife Brenda in the supermarket where they both worked. Kurt asked her out and she declined - all because she had two children from a previous marriage and the youngest was a wheelchair bound Downs Syndrome son. But Kurt persisted on taking Brenda out, offering to pay the babysitter and when the babysitter was a "no-show" he offered to take Brenda and her kids out. All that evening he helped care for the son ... thus capturing Brenda's heart. As this story concludes, they were married one year later.

Well I did some investigating on Snopes.com. This is a web site that evaluates these "urban legends" that circulate in cyberspace as to whether they are true or not. It seems that this ballad of Kurtis and Brenda is true as far as the big picture goes ... but false in many of the details of the story (if you want to get to the truth .... just go to http://www.snopes.com/glurge/warner.asp). But still ... the true story of their romance is indeed an inspiring one. After meeting in 1992, they married in 1997. Kurt adopted Brenda's two children. In addition, God blessed them with five more children.

As many of you know, today Kurt and Brenda Warner live in Arizona, where he is currently employed as the quarterback of the National Football League Arizona Cardinals (a far cry from stocking shelves in a grocery store which he was in fact doing prior to playing for the St. Louis Rams). His Cardinals are now headed to play my Steelers in this Sunday's Super Bowl. Kurt's relationship with Brenda and his family demonstrates that he is no ordinary jock! (And he is indeed a super star athlete as he has been named the NFL's Most Valuable Player twice and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player in the only Super Bowl in which he has played!)

But the most important fact about this star quarterback is that he is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ! So if somehow the Steelers don't walk away from this year's SB as winners, I will be disappointed. But that disappointment will be tempered by my happiness for my brother in Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Costly Fall!


I posted the following back on February 1, 2006. It was relevant then ... it is relevant now. So I post it again for any who happen by!


A visitor to a British museum recently tripped over his own shoe lace. In doing so, he stumbled down a flight of stairs and fell into a display of century old Chinese vases.The vases shattered into a “million pieces.” The vases from the Qing Dynasty were worth a small fortune – although the museum is not saying how much the vases are actually worth. Ouch!You talk about a costly fall! And by the way, Museum officials said they will do their best to put the vases back together. I hope they succeed.

This unnamed man, whose fall resulted in such destruction, reminds me of another man’s fall. Unlike the unnamed man in the museum, this man has a name we know: Adam. And also unlike the destroyer of the vases, Adam’s fall was no accident. His fall was intentional. We read about his fall in Genesis 3. There in the midst of the paradise of Eden, Adam and his wife Eve, chose to rebel against the God who made them. They looked around and thought that they could do a better job of running the world on their own vs. running it under God’s authority and with His help (see Isaiah 53:6). So they chose to say “NO!” to God and “YES!” to themselves. What was the result of that fateful choice? Well it is far worse than a few shattered vases. Out of Adam’s and Eve’s “fall” come death, destruction, and misery. The world we now live in is a broken world – or as I like to say, “A world that is temporarily out of order.” No matter how hard we try to put this world “back together” we will fail. Only God can do that. He began to do so 2000 years ago when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in payment for our sin of rebellion against Him. As the Apostle John reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Turning to Jesus Christ is the first step toward finding the healing we all need as broken people living in a broken world. If you have not turned to Jesus yet, send me an email (jsmith@gracewv.org) and we can “talk.” If you have, take a moment and thank God for doing for you what you in NO WAY could have ever done for your self!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No Time for God?

A headline in this past Sunday's edition of the Lancaster Sunday News reached out and grabbed my attention. It read, Time for God? Over-scheduled believers squeeze in religion with books, emails, podcasts. In the article, the reporter answers the question as to how busy believers find time for God in their hectic schedules. What struck me in the article was some of the books that are offered in bookstores and online to help God followers to be able to squeeze God into their schedules. Some of the titles of these books include, The One Minute Bible - Day by Day, 5 Minute Theologian: Maximum Truth in Minimum Time, 7 Minutes with God and The One Minute Bible.

As I reflected on these titles, the words of Psalm one (which I had just read yesterday morning in my own devotional time) came to my mind. Read what the psalmist has to say about interacting with the Word of God and the benefit of doing so.


Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Now if followers of Jesus desire to be like this prosperous tree pictured here in Psalm 1:3 - then it won't happen with spending one minute or five minutes or seven minutes a day interacting with the Scripture. If we are going to be ALL that God wants us to be (and there's nothing better!!!) - then we must MAKE time for God and His Word! My guess is that most of us could watch a little less TV for starters - and then go from there. And if you don't have a hunger for the Word of God then ask God to give you a hunger for it - and then make time for God!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Blessed I Am!

Mondays are my day off. I often spend the day lounging around the house in the morning, getting some projects done around the house or running errands, and most important of all, spending some time with my best friend (a.k.a. Sharon my wife). Yesterday was no exception. After a leisurely start to the day in which I drank a pot of coffee, read my Bible and the USA Today, I then balanced our check book and did some grading for an online course I am currently teaching. After a quick lunch, I then went to a movie with Sharon. The movie we chose to see was the British film, Slumdog Millionaire. I wanted to see this movie for two reasons: it was getting some good reviews from both movie critics and moviegoers and it was a movie about India and filmed for the most part in Mumbai. Having traveled to India twice to serve at Children's Fellowship of India's orphanage - part of my heart remains there!

As Sharon and I talked after the film, we both agreed on a couple of things. First we were very glad for the work of CFI in rescuing boys from the despair of poverty (and glad for the opportunity to help support CFI's ministry!). In the movie, an orphanage was shown taking kids in from the street but then using ... no abusing them in order to have them bring in money through begging on the streets. At CFI - the boys are clothed, fed, given medical care, educated and most important of all - they are introduced to Jesus Christ! Quite a contrast to the unscrupulous orphanage portrayed in the movie (If you are interested in finding out more about the wonderful work of CFI check out their web site at cfindia.org). Second, we were very grateful to God for HIS generosity to us - meeting all of our needs and then some ... no and then a lot! Compared to the VAST majority of the world's peoples, Sharon and I are millionaires! God has given us much -- and to whom much is given, much is required (see Luke 12:28).

If you get the chance, you might want to go see the movie. However, I don't recommend the movie for children.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Thirsty Are You?

Just after my 13th birthday my world changed dramatically. I went from being a city boy living in a small two story row home in the heart of Harrisburg, PA to being a country boy living in a much larger house on the shore of a lake in northern York County, PA. It was there in what we affectionately called "the lake house" that I spent my teen years. So as I began to look for employment, one place I found it was on nearby farms. During my years in York County I "made hay," picked strawberries, cleaned out horse stables, and spread manure (I definitely liked doing the first two but the latter two - let's just say with both of them it was "once and done!").

Now out of all my farm experiences, one in particular stands out in my memory. It was a very hot and humid summer afternoon. I was part of a group of teens a local farmer hired to bring bales of hay in from the field and stack in the barn. The farmer divided us into two groups. One group went out in the fields with him to pick up and bring in the hay. The rest of us waited at the barn to unload and stack. I volunteered for the barn group since I thought it would be the easier work of the two. I could not have been more mistaken. If it was 90 degrees outside, it was at least 110 degrees in the barn. Within minutes of beginning our task of unloading and stacking the heavy bales of hay, sweat was dripping off of our faces and soaking our clothing. And as the minutes wore on ... thirst began to set in. By the time we would finish a load (about 20-25 minutes) all I could think about was making a mad dash to the outside faucet to get my fill of water. And let me tell you - with three or four other guys thinking the same thing, it was a MAD DASH to see who could get there first! And if the first guy took too long - we would grab him and pull him out from under the spicket so the next guy could drink! As I look back on that, rarely have I experienced thirst to that degree and intensity.

In Psalm 63:1 King David writes, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." In the same way I was craving water back in that hot and steamy barn - David craved for God! Wow! Is that my experience? All too often I would have to say it is not. I allow too many lessor things to dull my thirst for God. How about YOU? Is this also true of you? Let's ask God today to increase our thirst for Him -- today and everyday!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Be a Voice for the Voiceless!

Change has come to Washington D.C. Of course, it is to be expected. It was the most used word by President Obama in his campaign. Now I am not opposed to change. It is part of the package of life - especially life in our fast moving American culture. But I am opposed to a change that the President promised to make to a gathering of Planned Parenthood when he pledged to to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. This act would abolish all restrictions and limitations on women in the United States to have an abortion prior to fetal viability, whether at the state or federal level, or after the point of viability when the life of the mother is endangered. This clearly shows where our new president stands on the issue of abortion. He would say that he is pro-choice. If I had the opportunity to talk with him over coffee, I would ask him about the choice of the unborn. Shouldn't they have a choice?

Today is the 26th anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Since then, almost 50 million unborn children have been killed. I may be proud of our country for many things, but this grim statistic is not one of them! Please join me today in praying for the unborn in our land. Pray for pro-life ministries who are seeking to help women choose life. And if you have not given either time or money to a pro-life ministry, please do so soon. They need our support.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. Here in Lancaster County a solid pro-life ministry to support is Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services. Please visit them at www.svps.org.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nuts! Even Squirrels Are Facing Tough Times!

It seems that it's not only people facing hardships these days - but squirrels are also struggling. Bontanists have discovered that there is a significant shortage of acorns throughout a large section of the U. S. Experts say that there is really no call for alarm since this is just part of the normal cycle of nature. Perhaps not alarming for these forestry experts - but what about the squirrels???

You see, it is easy to be calm and collected if tough times are facing "the other guy." But when tough times come knocking at our door - then it is not so easy. But my point today is this - when it is "the other guy" who is struggling, we who are doing fine need to reach out with a helping hand. The Apostle John puts it this way in the form of a question: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" (1 John 3:17). Now there's a question to chew on!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let's Pray for Our President

Today is an historic day in our country. We will be swearing in an African-American as our 44th president. Only a generation or so ago, this would have seemed an impossibility. So for many African Americans especially, today is a very special day. Now, I will admit that I did not vote for our new president. I do not agree with his stance on certain issues. But that will not keep me from rejoicing with our black population who for so long have endured the brunt of unjust prejudice and bigotry. It will also not keep me from praying for President Obama. After all, all of us who claim to follow Jesus our under a mandate to do just that. In 1 Timothy 2:1-3a we read, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior..."

So I invite you to join me in making a commitment to daily pray for our new president as he takes office in these very trying times. For more guidance on how to focus your prayers, check out the following web site: PrayForPresidentElect.com.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - Please pray for President Bush as he and Laura transition back to civilian life. I am sure he needs some REST!

Friday, January 16, 2009

And WHO Said Video Games Don't Influence Kids?

Last Monday morning, a 6 year old Virginia boy missed his school bus. So what did he do? He did what any 6 year old would do (not!) - he grabbed the keys to the family car and drove himself to school - or at least he attempted to drive himself to school. He successfully navigated the first 6 miles of the winding country road before crashing into a utility pole just a little over a mile from school. Now you might be wondering what I was wondering when I first read about this - just where did this 6 year old learn to drive? The boy told police he learned how to drive by playing Grand Theft Auto and Monster Truck Jam video games! Fortunately the boy suffered only minor injuries. The boy's parents have been charged with child endangerment.

So for all those people out there who claim video games do not influence kids - here is proof positive that they are wrong. Now I am not an anti-video game crusader (I own a Wii - don't play it a lot, but enjoy it when I get the chance). However, video games like other things in life can become way too much a part of a person's routine. And when they do - good things rarely result! For example, when people get too into video games they become less active and therefore less fit and relationships get ignored and the person becomes more isolated. In addition, often the behavior displayed in many video games, especially the ones that feature (and even glorify) violence can often lead to more aggressive behavior in the individual who is continually immersing himself in these types of video games.

All this to say -- we must monitor how we are spending our "free" time (whether we are talking playing video games, watching tv or surfing the Internet). Life is too short to waste. So the next time you are tempted to pick up the video controls - ask yourself, "Is there something else more significant that I can be doing with my time?"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Looking One's Best!

This past Monday, I fulfilled a wish my wife has had ever since we moved to Lancaster back in 1989. No, I did not give her a diamond necklace, or make plans for a Caribbean vacation. Nope. Much simpler and cheaper than either of those. I took her to the Pennsylvania State Farm Show. She had never been to the Farm Show, and after hearing about it year after year after year on the news, she wanted to go for herself and check it out. Now - you must think I am a rotten husband. "Come on, John! It took you 20 years to drive your wife 48 miles to the State Farm Show Complex? Really!" OK, may I speak in my own defense? Thanks! It is not that we did not try to go in the past. Several times when our kids were younger, we had planned to go - only to have one of them get sick. On a couple of other occasions we had planned to go, only to be stopped by inclement wintry weather. So it is not that I did not try (OK, perhaps I did not try hard enough. After growing up in the city of Harrisburg and attending the Farm Show EVERY year that I was in elementary school - going to the Farm Show was not very high on my agenda!). So all that to say, Sharon finally got to the Farm Show on Monday.

After fighting the crowds and navigating around piles of you-know-what for a few hours, we were more than ready to head for home. While at the Farm Show, we had a good time listening to pigs squeal, checking out numerous displays and sampling lots of different foods. For me, one of the more fascinating activities involved people grooming their cattle for showing (see photo). I was amazed at how painstakingly they approached brushing and trimming the cattle's hair - even going as far as applying some "VERY strong hairspray" (as one person told me when I asked what she was spraying on the animal's coat.). And they made this effort in hopes that their animal would look its best in front of the judges.

Reminds me of how we often go to extremes to look good in front of others (I spend hours trying to get my hair just right!). It is certainly not a bad idea to look good when out among people. But if most of us would spend even half of the time grooming our inner character as we do our outer appearance - we would be better for it! Remember what is really important. Consider what Scripture says, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). So as we spend time polishing up our outer beings - let's not neglect the heart!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Beware of Godward Anger!

An Alaskan advocacy group, Standing Together Against Rape, recently sponsored a lottery to raise needed funds for their programs. The winner came forward to claim his half-million dollar prize this past Saturday. It just so happens he is a twice convicted sex offender! "It's not how we had envisioned the story going," Nancy Haag, the group's executive director, told CNN Radio.

Ouch! How ironic is that! A lottery designed to help victims of sexual abuse is won by a man guilty of sex crimes! But that is how life works sometimes. We have great visions of this or that ... and something else - often unforeseen and often unwelcome - arrives instead! So what should we do at these times? The very first thing we must guard our hearts against is anger toward God. Yet this is often how we respond. We shake our fists toward heaven and shout, "God, how could YOU let this happen to ME?" This response of Godward anger when we encounter tough times is so ingrained in our sinful nature, it is often a "knee-jerk" reaction. Therefore, we MUST be on the alert for it ... and when we feel anger toward God raising its ugly head in our hearts - we must kill it! One way to do this is to remind ourselves that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

So when life takes a turn that makes you mad - deal with it and remind yourself that even in these trying circumstances, God is at work for your good and HIS glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winning at What Really Matters!

Yesterday, the NFL lost a great coach when Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts announced his retirement. The following quote from Clark Judge of CBS Sportsline says it all about this great coach who was an even greater man:

"Tony Dungy has nothing left to prove in the NFL. He had the Colts in the playoffs all seven of his season there. He won five AFC South tiles. He reached conference championship games three times. And, of course, he was the first African American to win a Super Bowl. He has the best career winning percentage of any active coach and missed the playoffs only twice in 13 seasons as a head coach. Better yet, he went to the top of the NFL without compromising his ideals. And that might be his greatest achievement."

His ideals, as everyone knew, were Christian. As Dungy once said, "That's one reason I stayed in coaching, to prove you could win with Christian principles." Tony Dungy was a man of integrity who lived what he believed. May all of us who name the name of Jesus go and do the same!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - If you want to read more about the life and testimony of Coach Tony Dungy, I recommend his book, Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices and Priorities of a Winning Life.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Finally Home!

Today I will be undertaking a task that I have done so many times across my close to 30 years as a pastor that I have lost count. I will be officiating a memorial service. When I met with family to discuss the service, they expressed their desire that the service be a celebration. I readily and heartily agreed. And why not? The deceased had lived a long and fruitful life in which the testimony of her faith in Jesus Christ was loud and clear. So why not celebrate! The moment she left earth's shores, she arrived in the harbor of the heavenly city, for to be away from the body is "to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). Now this is not to say at today's service, tears will not be shed. They most certainly will. But they will not be only tears of sadness (at the prospect of being separated from the one loved) but also tears of joy, knowing that the departed one is now in the very presence of God. She has arrived in the Father's house (see John 14). She is finally home! And friend, there is no better place to be!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, January 8, 2009

An Early Start to a Life of Crime?

This past Monday in a small town in Southern Ohio, a 4 year old boy shot a teen for stepping on his foot. That's right! You read it right - the shooter in this case was a mere four years old! After being angered for being stepped on, the kid pulled a shot gun out of a closet and shot the teen. Fortunately, the teen suffered only minor pellet wounds to his leg and side.

Now I don't know what kind of guidance this four year is receiving from his parents - but I think I could make an accurate guess to say that it is not what it should be. But this is the case in far too many families in our country today. Many parents are into their own agendas and are not willing to do what it takes to raise their kids. All because to do what it takes often requires self sacrifice. Even Christian parents must guard against this. We must all remind ourselves that our children are gifts from God (see Psalm 127:3). They have been entrusted to us by God so that we can raise them in such a way that they will grow up to love God more than anyone or anything. If you are a parent pause and take a look at your parenting. What can you point at that demonstrates that you are intentionally helping your child(ren) to grow in his or her love for God? The greatest thing you can do for your child(ren) is to help them love God. There is no greater goal in this life! Don't be guilty of the crime of negligent parenting!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Happy National Smith Day!

In case you missed it, yesterday was National Smith Day. Given the fact that I received only one "Happy Smith Day" greeting, I am guessing most of you never knew. Smith Day commemorates the birthday of Captain John Smith (born January 6, 1580) who founded Jamestown, VA, the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States. So for what it was worth -- I celebrated Smith Day by drinking a can of V-8 juice!

Now I have had a lot of fun with my name. After all, it is the most popular (not common, please!) name in the United States. Many people make wise cracks when I tell them my name (like, "OK, so much for your alias, now what's your real name?"and "So where's Pocahontas?") When asked the latter, I like to inform the person that Pocahontas never married Captain John Smith - she married a Virginia tobacco grower named John Rolfe. I also like to "head people off at the pass" when asked my name by saying, "My name is John Smith, believe it or not!"

Not only have I had fun with my name, my name almost landed me on NBC's Today Show. Back in 1987, the Today Show was planning to take a week and broadcast from the five most livable cities as ranked by Rand McNally's Places Rated Almanac. That particular year, Pittsburgh, PA was rated #1. I happened to live in Pittsburgh. One day, I received a phone call from a woman claiming to be a producer with the Today Show. It took her some time to convince me that she was indeed who she claimed to be. Once I was on the same page with her, she told me that the Today Show was considering bringing on the show a group of John Smiths from each of the cities they were going to visit. So she asked me if she could interview me as a possible guest. I agreed - but must have failed as I never heard from her or the show again!

Speaking of names - there is one name and only one name given under heaven by which we can be saved. That name is Jesus (see Acts 4:12). And there is coming a day when "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).

What are you doing NOW to point people to Jesus? There is no name as glorious as His!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's a Girl!

Back in September as my wife and I were driving to Sandy Cove, our son called my wife on her cell. He wanted to know what name she wanted to be called by her grandchildren. This was his way of telling us that he and his wife were expecting a child. Shortly after that, our daughter-in-law went to the doctor's for an ultrasound. This was to determine the baby's "due" date - which of course is merely an approximate date as a baby can come up to two weeks before or after the due date and still be considered "on time" (Now that's interesting - the only time a person gets slack for being way early or late is the first meeting in life - after that, you'd better be on time!). Yesterday our daughter-in-law had her second ultrasound and found out that the baby is a girl. When my wife heard the news and saw the baby's ultrasound pictures she, as expected, cried. But I kept my cool (although my eyes did sweat a little)!

As I looked at the half dozen photos of our growing granddaughter, I marveled at the marvelous design of God - that from the union of two adults a human being is "created!" Indeed we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). I also wondered how anyone could willfully and intentionally destroy a baby in the womb. The womb was designed by God to be a safe place. In this safe place the baby grows and develops until he or she is ready to meet the world. Yet for far too many babies, the womb becomes a tomb through the horror of abortion.

Let me encourage you to do something in support of a pro-life ministry this month. These ministries are the voice of the voiceless. They also reach out to women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies - offering these women hope for themselves as well as their unborn children. Check out the ministry of Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services at www.http://svps.org. SVPS is doing a wonderful work - but they need our support to continue.

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.