PJ

PJ

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

To Complain or To Give Thanks - That is the Question!

Yesterday, my wife and I stopped by the dealership were I had bought my PT Cruiser seven years ago. They had just completed the required PA state inspection. It was time to bring the Cruiser home. After paying the bill, I walked out to the car, climbed in, and started it up. The engine coughed and sputtered a few times and then quit. It refused to start up again! So I calmly walked back into the service department to inform them of my dilemma. The mechanic who had done the work was summoned. After a quick look under the hood, he announced that he would have to check it out in the morning as he had no idea as to the cause of the problem. So I climbed back into our Nissan and Sharon and I returned home.

Now I could have grumbled and complained about this situation. After all, it would mean another day with only one car, another trip to the dealership when the Cruiser was finally road worthy and another bill to pay! But I made a choice to look on the "bright side." The Cruiser could have shut down halfway home or in my garage - either case necessitating a tow back to the dealership. Also, if something major was about to go ... better now than after the middle of April when my extended warranty is due to expire. Finally, I chose to be thankful that the Cruiser is our second vehicle and not our only vehicle.

All this to say -- we can ALWAYS find something for which to be thankful, no matter how trying, irritating, frustrating or difficult a situation might be. And God wants us to cultivate a thankful heart for He tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to "give thanks in ALL circumstances." So the next time you are tempted to grumble or complain ... instead look for something in the situation for which you can offer thanks and DO IT!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, March 30, 2009

Beware of Thinking too Highly of Yourself!

This past Friday morning, a man was robbed at gunpoint in a restroom at Harrisburg hotel and conference center. With a gun in his face, the victim surrendered his wallet and cell phone to the thief, who then fled out of the building and hailed a cab. Unfortunately for the criminal the man he robbed was a retired police chief and the conference he was attending was for narcotics officers - of which approximately 300 were in attendance. So to say the robber never had a chance to get away just might be an understatement!!! Here is a case where the perpetrator did not pick his victim with much if any forethought. Yet when asked by a reporter for a comment, the suspect replied, "I'm smooth." Apparently he got mixed up with his "s" words. I think "stupid" might have been a more appropriate choice!

But this guy suffers from something we all struggle with ... and that is the tendency to think too highly of ourselves. That's why Paul in Romans 12:3 tells us "for by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." In other words, we are to look at ourselves honestly and see ourselves as God sees us. But this is easier said then done. For our fallen nature is hard-wired toward pride. So be careful. Be aware of this tendency we all have. Pursue the attitude of the tax collector in Luke 18:13 who realized that he was totally dependent upon God's mercy! And that is not a bad place to be!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 27, 2009

Living Up to Expectations!

If you read my posting of yesterday, you would know that Sharon and I took in the performance of Riverdance at the Hershey Theater last night. We went with high expectations and we were not disappointed. I can't recall ever seeing foot work like I observed last night. The dancers seemed to glide across the stage as they tapped and stomped, moving as one with each other and the music. And the musicians (all five of them) were among the most talented muscians I have heard perform live! Add in some acappella choral arrangements - that were both soothing and haunting at the same time, and it made for quite the enchanting evening. If you ever have the chance to see this performance - GO!

But what if the performance of the dancers, musicians and vocalists had not lived up to our expectations? What if the vocalists had been off key, the dancers out of sinc and the instrumentalists had missed notes? If that had been the case, we would have walked away disappointed. And the greater the gap between our high expectations for the evening and the reality of it all - the greater our disappointment would have been.

All of us have expectations about everything all the time. And if reality falls short of our expectations - we experience disappointment. If we allow that disappointment to linger in our souls, then we experience discouragement which will eventually grow into disillusionment, then depression and finally despair (this is what I call the 5-D response to unmet expectations). It is important to understand this if we are to avoid this downward decline toward despair. So what can we do? Two suggestions:

1. Be aware of your expectations. Ask yourself "Are my expectations of this event or of this person too high? Too unrealistic?" Remember, if you set your expectations too high - you are setting yourself up to be disappointed (which is the first step in this 5-D response to unmet expectations). We live in a broken and fallen world among broken and fallen people (and that includes you and me!). Yet we were designed to live in a perfect world among perfect people. So life and people will not always live up to expectations! So be aware of your expectations.

2. When expectations are not met - deal with your disappointment quickly and if you need to do so, adjust your expectations. But if your expectations are met, be thankful (to God and others).

Expectations. It is important that you keep them in mind!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Much Anticipated Gift!

Every Christmas, I try to come up with some sort of meaningful gift for my wife. One I know that she will appreciate. One that shows her just how much she means to me. This past Christmas, I think I hit a home run! About a month before Christmas, as I was still debating with myself (I can't figure out if that is a good or bad thing - to debate with yourself. On the one hand you always win- a good thing - but on the other hand you always lose - a bad thing!) ... but as I was saying I was debating with myself as to what to give my wife. It was around that time that I took my son to a Hershey Bears hockey game. During one of the intermissions, a commercial aired on the big screen which hung over the rink. It was all about the Irish River Dance which was coming in March to the Hershey Theater. As soon as I saw it, my debate with myself was over! My wife has for years mentioned her desire to see this production. And since this tour is being billed as the River Dance's farewell tour - I knew that this would be the perfect gift to give! And her response on Christmas morning proved me right!

So tonight we will be seated in the Hershey Theater (God willing, of course) enjoying the Irish music and dance! Yes, my wife has had to wait three months and a day to enjoy her gift. But she has assured me that it has been worth the wait (and I am sure she will feel the same, if not more so, after seeing the performance!).

We Americans are not very good at waiting. We complain whenever we have to wait in a line. Whether at the bank or grocery store. We just hate waiting. Don't give it to me tomorrow or even today! I want what I want YESTERDAY!!! But in the real world in which we live, waiting is part of the package of life. So all of us could learn a good dose of patience (me included!!)! Ecclesiastes gives us a good perspective on life and time. King Solomon tells us that God "has made everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We impatient Americans need to learn the value of WAITING ON GOD! Allow Him to work out HIS purposes in HIS time! After all, doesn't FATHER KNOW BEST???

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blessed to Do What?

I want to follow up yesterday's posting with another thought concerning God's blessings. Yesterday I encouraged all of us to regularly pause to thank God for his blessings. It is only due to His grace that we enjoy anything at all!

Today, I want to remind you of another truth that I was reminded of this past Sunday by our missionary, Jim Momeyer. Jim and his wife Deb serve with Grace Brethren International Missions in the African country of Cameroun. In his sermon, he shared this principle: We have been "BLESSED TO BLESS FOR HIS PRAISE!" He drew this principle from the first three verses of Psalm 67 which reads as follows:

"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, 2that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. 3May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you."

Jim pointed out to us that what this portion of Scripture teaches is that God doesn't generously bless us so that we can enjoy his blessings just for ourselves. No, God blesses us so that in turn we can bless others ... and all for the praise of God's glory! Jim wrapped up his sermon by encouraging us to ask ourselves these three rather pointed questions:

- How has God blessed me?
- How am I in turn blessing others?
- Are people "bragging" on God because of me?

Good questions! I urge you to use these questions to guide you in a time of self-evaluation. If you are in any way like me (and I suspect many of you are) - you will find that you all too often horde God's blessings for yourself!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Easy to Forget to Say, "Thanks, God!"

Joe was a factory worker in suburban Cleveland. He started at the plant right out of high school. He was in his 22nd year on the job, married with three kids. Recently, a number of his co-workers had been laid off. But he thought he was safe given his years of seniority. But one day, he found out other-wise. As he drove home from work that last day at the plant, he wondered how he would ever find another job - at least one that paid him as well as his factory job had done over the years. After all, he had no education beyond high school and given the poor job market, he knew he was in for a rough time.

The very next morning, he began his new job - that of finding a job! He registered at a local "career-link" job center. There he honed his resume and learned a strategy to find employment. With a renewed feeling of hope, he began in earnest looking for his next job. But days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months with no results. Joe's unemployment benefits were soon scheduled to run out. Desperate and discouraged, Joe turned to God. Not a praying man, he got down on his knees one night and asked God (or as he called him "the Big Boss upstairs") for a job. He told God if God would come through for him, that he, Joe, would come through for God. He crawled into bed that night, feeling some relief and managed to sleep for the first time in several nights.

He was awakened the next morning by an early morning phone call. It was an employment agency calling about a potential job. They wanted to see Joe that very morning. With cautious optimism Joe drove to the agency. After the agency interview, he was sent to a new distribution center that had recently opened near his home. At the conclusion of that interview, he was offered the job on the spot. He took it! Soon, he was enjoying a healthy regular pay check (and enjoying his new job as well!). However, Joe forgot about God and forgot about the "deal" that he had made with God. Joe would eventually retire from the distribution center. But never again did he get on his knees before God.

The lesson I want you to get out of this parable is not that we should avoid making deals with God (which is true!). But I want to remind you (and me, too!) that it is God "who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (1 Timothy 6:17). Therefore we must be careful to recognize and honor HIM as the provider for all of our needs and wants! Don't be guilty of taking God's gifts for granted. Remember to thank Him for His many blessings!

Tomorrow I will discuss one other step we must take in response to the generosity of our God. But for today (and just don't stop with today - but get into this habit EVERYDAY!) please pause and take a moment to mentally list some of the many blessings God has showered upon you - and THANK HIM!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Case of Mistaken Idenitification

The headline in this morning's paper read, "Police had wrong guy." Curious, I read the article. Seems like the wrong guy, Clark Lilley, was arrested last month for robbing a Manor Township convenience store. Turns out, he never did it! Yet for the past several weeks, he has languished in Lancaster County prison, day after day proclaiming his innocence. Authorities turned a deaf ear to his protests (after all, most inmates do the same!) until, a man now identified as the true culprit was arrested after robbing another convenience store. And since Lilley was incarcerated at the time, it was clear he was innocent as he claimed! So last night, Lilley slept in his own bed for the first time in FIVE weeks! Now how did it come about that Lilley was arrested in the first place? Seems that a worker at the convenience store picked him out of a photo line up and identified him as the robber. Because of that mistaken identification, Lilley's life was turned upside down! At the time of his arrest, he was a student at Lancaster Bible College. Due to his arrest, he lost his on campus job and now a whole semester of work.

As unfortunate as this story is, we can understand how these things happen. People make mistakes. Most of the time, these mistakes are on the minor side (like making a wrong turn while driving, or overcooking the roast). But in Lilley's case - the woman's mistake led to a major disruption in his life.

Friends, there will come a day that we stand before Almighty God. Be assured that unlike the woman who was the truly guilty one in this story in making her false identification of Lilly as the robber, God will never be guilty of this. He knows all things perfectly and exhaustively. So when we stand before Him to give an account of our lives (which we will, see 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 20:11-15) - you can count on the fact that God will make totally accurate judgments about us and our lives. That's a sobering thought! Keep that in mind as you live out today! It just may make a difference in the choices you make! God is watching! And you and I will one day give an account for our lives!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Off to République Centrafricaine!

Details continue to firm up for the open door of ministry that I blogged about last week. God willing, we are scheduled to leave for central Africa on Tuesday, August 25. I said "we" because I now have a teammate confirmed for the trip. Ryan Aument, my son-in-law will be traveling with me and doing some of the training. Ryan leads and teaches in our growing young adult ministry here at Grace. He also is serving in his first term as the Clerk of Courts of Lancaster County (to read his bio, you can go to http://www.co.lancaster.pa.us/lanco/cwp/view.asp?a=502&q=608324&lancoNav=|&lancoNav_GID=987). One of the groups we will be training in the CAR will be government officials and workers. Given Ryan's vocation, he will have an immediate connection with this group (as I will with the pastors, educators and police chaplains that we will be working with). This is again another confirmation that God indeed has placed this open door of opportunity before us!

As more details become available, I will post periodic updates. But for now, I close with this verse: "make the most of every opportunity." (Colossians 4:5). We live in troubled times. And often, trouble in people's lives make for great opportunities to reach out with the love of Christ! God may not be calling you to go to Africa ... but He is calling you to go across the street (or wherever the hurting people are in your life!). So make the most of these opportunities to proclaim the love AND the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Birthday in the Rear View Mirror!


Last Thursday I turned 53. Now some might think that is pretty old (I am thinking of some teens and twenty-somethings that I know). Others would still consider me to be on the younger side (like many of my older senior adult friends). But as I sit here pondering my age ... at the end of the day it does not matter how old or young we might happen to be. What matters is that we are living each day (whether we are 19, 33, 62, 87 or FIFTY-THREE) by God's grace and for HIS glory!

So how about you? Do you remind yourself each day of God's grace and where you would be right now WITHOUT it? And do you place God's glory at the forefront of your thinking, knowing that the choices you make today (and tomorrow and the next day and the next . . . ) should be choices that put Him on display in your life? Take a moment right now to stop and read the following two verses .... then ask God to help you live them out in your day-to-day routine!

Galatians 6:14 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

1 Corinthians 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 13, 2009

An Open Door (part 5)

Yesterday I mentioned that God "spoke" to me about going to Africa to assist Augustin. It was through a verse in the passage I was studying in preparation for this past Sunday's sermon. The passage was Revelation 3:7-13. These verses make up Jesus' letter to the church in Philadelphia (the ancient city by that name which was located in the Roman Province of Asia). In that letter, Jesus says to the church, "See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut" (Revelation 3:8). As I studied that verse, I came to the conclusion that this open door could have two possible interpretations (of which I believe both are in view here). This open door refers to the open door of salvation that God places before humanity. It is a door that will always be open to anyone who will come and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I also believe that this open door refers to the open door of opportunity. The city of Philadelphia was located at the junction of many key trade routes. In fact, the main Imperial Post from Rome ran right through Philadelphia to points east. For this reason, the city was known as "The Gateway to the East." So you can just imagine the opportunities to proclaim the gospel that must have existed for this church.

Now as I thought on this open door of opportunity -- it was if God spoke to me audibly (which he did not of course). "John, I have placed before YOU an open door ... to minister short-term in Africa!". At that moment I knew that I had to notify Augustin that I would accept his invitation to travel to Africa to assist him in his work. I sent him that email just this past Saturday. Currently we are now working on trying to get something on the calendar. Scheduling will prove to be a challenge, given my current level of commitments and the fact that there is only ONE international flight that goes into the Central African Republic each week (so you sure don't want to be late for your flight!!!). So as details become available, I will let you know.

In closing, just to show you the extent of the influence of Augustin and the opportunity for the gospel that lays before him, he shared with me that he was meeting this week with the country's prime minister to pray with him (as the prime minister was planning to introduce his politcal agenda to the parliament this week) and discuss with the prime minister his desire to conduct leadership training for the government. So I invite you to please be in prayer that God would make this ministry opportunity happen. We are hoping that it will all come together to take place in the latter half of this year.

Thanks for stopping by this week . . .

pj

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Open Door (part 4)

If you have been following my blog this week, I have been discussing an open door of ministry that God appears to be laying before me. Yesterday, I mentioned the brief email that Dave Guiles of GBIM planned to send to Augustin after our initial conversation at Jane's Cafe. A mere two days after that meeting, Dave sent Augustin this email, in which he mentioned me (and my background) and my possible interest in assisting Augustin in his ministry. The very next day I received an email from Augustin. He expressed his need for my help whenever I could come. He told me to let him know as to when I was "convicted" to come (did he mean to say "convinced?"). I remember thinking ... "Wait a minute, Lord, I said I would pray about it!" At that point, I began praying with more fervency ... seeking His guidance and wisdom.

Across the course of the last two weeks of February and into the first week of March, I prayed and continued communicating with Agustin. Finally, last Friday I spoke again at length with Dave Guiles about the opportunity. He gave me additional information about Augustin, his ministry and the situation in central Africa. He ended the conversation by assuring me that should I decide to go, GBIM would be glad to assist me where needed. After hanging up the phone, I said to myself, "Self, I think God wants you to go to Africa!" But then myself responded, "John, you don't really want to go to Africa, do you?" (you know things are getting bad when you are engaging in conversation with yourself!). Still undecided, I sat down and began to work on Sunday morning's message. As I read one of the verses, God spoke to me. To find out what verse I read and what God was communicating to me ... please stop by tomorrow as I bring this week long story to a close (at least for now!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Open Door (part 3)


Back to that day in Jane's Cafe when Dave Guiles, Executive Director of Grace Brethren International Missions (GBIM) asked me to consider traveling to Africa to partner with Augustin Hibale's ministry. Now why did Dave ask me to consider this ministry opportunity? Given that Augustin's ministry to those in authority includes (among others) pastors, educators and police, Dave thought my background of pastoring (for almost 30 years now), teaching (I am in my 15th year as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College), and serving as a police chaplain (now in my 9th year) made me a good fit to help Augustin in his ministry. In addition, my earned doctorate would, as Dave put it, open many doors to me in Africa. As I mentioned in my first posting on this topic, when Dave first threw this my way, I did not jump up and down! I was not asking him how soon he thought I could go. But in contrast to my reaction in 1993 to the opportunity to go to Russia with the CoMission (which grabbed my heart from the get-go), I began listing in my mind all the reasons I should not go to Central Africa (like, "I have enough to do here!", "I don't like big bugs and big snakes", "It's too dangerous over there", "What will I have to eat?" etc.). Dave sensed my hesitancy, and so he simply asked me if I would be willing to "pray about the opportunity." Not wanting to appear unspiritual in front of the director of our Fellowship's Missions agency, I agreed to do that much.

As we parted that day, Dave asked me if he could email Augustin about our conversation. I readily agreed. After all - no big deal, right? Tune in tomorrow and I will let you know what God did as a result of that first very brief email.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Open Door (part 2)

The place was Jane's Cafe. The date, February 11th. As Dave Guiles and I chatted over coffee, he mentioned to me the name of Augustin Hibale. The name was not unfamiliar to me. In fact, we hosted Augustine and his wife in our church in September of 2007. So I was somewhat "in the know" concerning this man and his ministry. Dave suggested that I might want to pray about traveling to Africa to assist Augustine in his ministry. Now, why would Dave ask me? Before I answer that question, let me give you a bit of background on Augustin.

Augustin was born and raised in the Central African Republic. He trusted Christ, I believe at a young age, and went on to teach in the Bible Institute and Seminary. Eventually he enrolled at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake and earned his Doctor of Ministry degree. At some point (and I am unsure of the timeline here) he left his teaching post and established the International Center for the Development of Ethical Leadership. He did this in response to the pervasive corruption and lack of integrity among leaders in central Africa. Augustin through his ministry reaches leaders at every level in his native Central African Republic (and surrounding countries as well; for example he recently spent time in Liberia where he was part of a team of three who conducted leadership and anti-corruption training for approximately 200 governmental officials from different ministries of the Liberian government). Now as to why Dave thought I might be able to assist Augustin in his ministry? More on that tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Open Door (part 1)

Yesterday in my Sunday morning sermon (yes, I still call my Sunday morning "talks" sermons!), I shared that my blog postings this week would feature the story of an open door for ministry that Jesus Christ is placing before me. Today is the first installment of this story.

It all actually began back in 1993. That is the year I took my first of three mission oriented trips to the former Soviet Union. I was a member of a 70 person North American team that traveled to two cities in Russia as part of a mission initiative known at the CoMission. I took two more CoMission trips, one in 1994 and the next in 1995. Both were to Ukraine. In 1996 I began my Doctor of Ministry program at Grace Theological Seminary. Involvement in that program kept me home for quite a few years. Finally, in 2006 I helped to lead a team from Grace to India. The impact of that trip (as well as the three earlier CoMission trips) on my own personal walk and the lives of others was such that I made a commitment at that point to set as a goal one such mission trip each year. As a result, I traveled to Europe in 2007 (for Grace Brethren International Mission's Family Conference) and back to India in 2008.

Once I got over the jet lag from that 2008 trip to India, I began praying about a mission trip for 2009. I prayed through the summer and fall with no clear direction. With the arrival of 2009, I began to think perhaps God did not have a trip in mind for me - and I was content with that. But in mid February I met with Dave Guiles, Executive Director of Grace Brethren International Ministries. Over coffee, he asked me to consider an opportunity for a short-term overseas mission trip. I must admit that at the time we talked, I was mildly interested at best. But more on that tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 6, 2009

True Beauty - It's More than Skin Deep!


This upcoming week is a big birthday week. I will be turning 53 on Thursday. My oldest daughter turns 30 on Tuesday. And you will never guess who turns 50 on Monday! Ready for this? Barbie hits the half century mark on Monday! Actually her full name is not "Barbie Doll" but "Barbara Millicent Roberts." That's a fact ... no joking! Other little known facts about this well known American icon?

- Mattel estimates that three Barbies are sold every second.
- In the past three months, 217,736 Barbies have been sold on eBay.
- The most expensive Barbie sold for $7,999,999. It was a No. 1 Ponytail Barbie.
- Barbie met Ken in 1961 (wow - Barbie met Ken when she was just 3 years old - talk about a childhood romance!).
- Early research suggested that Barbie would never sell. Let's just say it was due to her bodily proportions.
- If Barbie were real, she would probably be suffering today from back pain (due to all the high heels), would be at risk for osteoporosis, would have graying hair and a plumper waistline.

So there you have it! A bunch of rather meaningless trivia about America's doll. Unfortunately, Barbie's impact on our culture has been any thing but meaningless. Millions of little girls have grown up wanting to be like Barbie. As they saw it, beauty was determined by one's appearance (which is exactly what Barbie "communicated" to them). And so as these girls grew up, they did their best to achieve the "Barbie" look.

However, beauty is more than skin (or in Barbie's case, plastic!) deep. True beauty consists of an inner beauty of character that bubbles forth in such virtues as love, compassion, mercy, integrity, faithfulness, gentleness, etc. Peter puts it this way in God's Word, where in the context he addresses wives by telling them,

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight"
(1 Peter 3:3-4).

Ladies, strive to achieve this kind of inner beauty that is truly unfading. And men, encourage your wives as they do so!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Got Prayer?


I ran across the following quote of Martin Luther, the "father" of the Reformation. Concerning prayer he said,

"Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness."

I have often said to people, that God is far more willing to hear our prayers (and respond to them) then we are to pray them! How about you? Have you spent anytime yet today, praying to the Almighty God of the Universe who is also the Daddy of all who choose to follow Jesus Christ?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

To Jail!

When I was a mere lad of six, my mom went away for a couple of days. When she returned home, she did not come alone. She brought with her a little baby boy. That began my relationship with my little brother. For the most part, we had a good relationship. Although at times it was a pain to have him tagging along with my twin brother and me (especially when we hit our teenage years!), we still had a lot of fun with him. One activity we did a lot of was playing board games. His favorite game was Monopoly. We played it so much (and there were many times my mother informed me that I had to play with my brother - I had no choice in the matter) that I got sick and tired of the game. Knowing that Mom would enforce her "Play with your brother" policy, my twin brother and I threw the game out. When the game came up missing, my mom went out and bought a new one! To this day I refuse to play Monopoly. I have been scarred for life!

I played the game so much ... I can still read portions of the game from memory. For instance, there is the Go to Jail card. It reads, "Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200" (I just double checked on the Internet ... and I nailed it!). Now what brings all of this to mind is an article I read yesterday on the Internet that gave the following staggering statistic: today over 7.3 million American adults are in the U.S. corrections system. That is 1 out of every 31 adults! This includes those who are in prison and those who are out but on probation or parole. Now, this has some significant implications for our society (eg: the cost to government of such a load is HUGE!). But it is not my design to discuss the implications of this sorry situation. Rather, I want to answer the question: What does this tell us about human nature?

I think what it tells us is that man is basically evil. Left to his own heart, man will do bad things ... even so far as to break the civil law and end up in prison. Now this is not what many people believe. Many prefer to think of humanity as being inherently good. And man becomes "bad" due to external circumstances leading him astray. But this is not the view of the Bible! Really? Really! Consider the following:

Romans 3:10-12 - "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Jeremiah 17:9 - "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?"

Matthew 5:19 - "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander."


You see, humanity has a heart problem. And only a heart transplant performed by the Divine Surgeon will be able to remove our bondage to evil that all of us suffer. If you are in need of a new heart ... let me encourage you to click on this link and read what it has to say: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Net Impact 2!


OK. Go ahead. Give it to me. So meteorological spring began on Sunday? Well, someone forgot to tell the climate about it!

Granted we dodged a mess on Sunday with just a few flakes of snow littering the landscape. But Monday's storm was a far different story. I am not sure how much snow fell in my driveway, but it was enough for me to get my snow blower out. And it was enough to cancel school yesterday for many area schools and then delay or cancel them again today. All this to say ... the storm on Sunday was a "No Net Impact" storm ... yesterday's storm was a "Significant Net Impact" storm.

My prayer is that all of us will experience a "SIGNIFICANT NET IMPACT" when it comes to the Word of God impacting our lives. Just as Monday's snow fall (and high winds) caused a re-ordering of our day, may the Scripture as we read it, study it, hear it, memorize it - cause us to re-order our lives EACH AND EVERY DAY! But for this to happen, you MUST be interacting with the Bible on a DAILY basis!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Net Impact!

This morning I was awakened about 4:30 to the sound of the township's truck spreading salt in our cul de sac. "Oh great!" I mumbled to myself, "Will we have to cancel services today?" So I stumbled over to the window and looked out toward the street. Seeing very little snow on the lawn and nothing on the street, brought a smile to my sleepy face. Content that this morning's schedule could proceed as scheduled, I crawled back into bed to grab another hour of dreams.

Now as I type these words, a few flakes of snow are drifting lazily down from the clouds. In fact, for the past two hours, that's what's been happening. Snow lovers might not be liking it - but I sure am! This is one snow "storm" that is having NO NET IMPACT! In my opinion, that is the best kind of snow storm for a Sunday morning!

No impact! That's OK if we are talking snow storms - but it is not OK if we are talking about our lives. Yet far too many Christians are living what I call either "No Impact" or "Little Impact" lives. They are so into living for this moment and their own comfort - they make little or no impact on the lives of others. How about YOU? Are you living a "No Net Impact" life?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. - HAPPY FIRST DAY OF METEOROLOGICAL SPRING!!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

To Complain or To Give Thanks - That is the Question!

Yesterday, my wife and I stopped by the dealership were I had bought my PT Cruiser seven years ago. They had just completed the required PA state inspection. It was time to bring the Cruiser home. After paying the bill, I walked out to the car, climbed in, and started it up. The engine coughed and sputtered a few times and then quit. It refused to start up again! So I calmly walked back into the service department to inform them of my dilemma. The mechanic who had done the work was summoned. After a quick look under the hood, he announced that he would have to check it out in the morning as he had no idea as to the cause of the problem. So I climbed back into our Nissan and Sharon and I returned home.

Now I could have grumbled and complained about this situation. After all, it would mean another day with only one car, another trip to the dealership when the Cruiser was finally road worthy and another bill to pay! But I made a choice to look on the "bright side." The Cruiser could have shut down halfway home or in my garage - either case necessitating a tow back to the dealership. Also, if something major was about to go ... better now than after the middle of April when my extended warranty is due to expire. Finally, I chose to be thankful that the Cruiser is our second vehicle and not our only vehicle.

All this to say -- we can ALWAYS find something for which to be thankful, no matter how trying, irritating, frustrating or difficult a situation might be. And God wants us to cultivate a thankful heart for He tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to "give thanks in ALL circumstances." So the next time you are tempted to grumble or complain ... instead look for something in the situation for which you can offer thanks and DO IT!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, March 30, 2009

Beware of Thinking too Highly of Yourself!

This past Friday morning, a man was robbed at gunpoint in a restroom at Harrisburg hotel and conference center. With a gun in his face, the victim surrendered his wallet and cell phone to the thief, who then fled out of the building and hailed a cab. Unfortunately for the criminal the man he robbed was a retired police chief and the conference he was attending was for narcotics officers - of which approximately 300 were in attendance. So to say the robber never had a chance to get away just might be an understatement!!! Here is a case where the perpetrator did not pick his victim with much if any forethought. Yet when asked by a reporter for a comment, the suspect replied, "I'm smooth." Apparently he got mixed up with his "s" words. I think "stupid" might have been a more appropriate choice!

But this guy suffers from something we all struggle with ... and that is the tendency to think too highly of ourselves. That's why Paul in Romans 12:3 tells us "for by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." In other words, we are to look at ourselves honestly and see ourselves as God sees us. But this is easier said then done. For our fallen nature is hard-wired toward pride. So be careful. Be aware of this tendency we all have. Pursue the attitude of the tax collector in Luke 18:13 who realized that he was totally dependent upon God's mercy! And that is not a bad place to be!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 27, 2009

Living Up to Expectations!

If you read my posting of yesterday, you would know that Sharon and I took in the performance of Riverdance at the Hershey Theater last night. We went with high expectations and we were not disappointed. I can't recall ever seeing foot work like I observed last night. The dancers seemed to glide across the stage as they tapped and stomped, moving as one with each other and the music. And the musicians (all five of them) were among the most talented muscians I have heard perform live! Add in some acappella choral arrangements - that were both soothing and haunting at the same time, and it made for quite the enchanting evening. If you ever have the chance to see this performance - GO!

But what if the performance of the dancers, musicians and vocalists had not lived up to our expectations? What if the vocalists had been off key, the dancers out of sinc and the instrumentalists had missed notes? If that had been the case, we would have walked away disappointed. And the greater the gap between our high expectations for the evening and the reality of it all - the greater our disappointment would have been.

All of us have expectations about everything all the time. And if reality falls short of our expectations - we experience disappointment. If we allow that disappointment to linger in our souls, then we experience discouragement which will eventually grow into disillusionment, then depression and finally despair (this is what I call the 5-D response to unmet expectations). It is important to understand this if we are to avoid this downward decline toward despair. So what can we do? Two suggestions:

1. Be aware of your expectations. Ask yourself "Are my expectations of this event or of this person too high? Too unrealistic?" Remember, if you set your expectations too high - you are setting yourself up to be disappointed (which is the first step in this 5-D response to unmet expectations). We live in a broken and fallen world among broken and fallen people (and that includes you and me!). Yet we were designed to live in a perfect world among perfect people. So life and people will not always live up to expectations! So be aware of your expectations.

2. When expectations are not met - deal with your disappointment quickly and if you need to do so, adjust your expectations. But if your expectations are met, be thankful (to God and others).

Expectations. It is important that you keep them in mind!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Much Anticipated Gift!

Every Christmas, I try to come up with some sort of meaningful gift for my wife. One I know that she will appreciate. One that shows her just how much she means to me. This past Christmas, I think I hit a home run! About a month before Christmas, as I was still debating with myself (I can't figure out if that is a good or bad thing - to debate with yourself. On the one hand you always win- a good thing - but on the other hand you always lose - a bad thing!) ... but as I was saying I was debating with myself as to what to give my wife. It was around that time that I took my son to a Hershey Bears hockey game. During one of the intermissions, a commercial aired on the big screen which hung over the rink. It was all about the Irish River Dance which was coming in March to the Hershey Theater. As soon as I saw it, my debate with myself was over! My wife has for years mentioned her desire to see this production. And since this tour is being billed as the River Dance's farewell tour - I knew that this would be the perfect gift to give! And her response on Christmas morning proved me right!

So tonight we will be seated in the Hershey Theater (God willing, of course) enjoying the Irish music and dance! Yes, my wife has had to wait three months and a day to enjoy her gift. But she has assured me that it has been worth the wait (and I am sure she will feel the same, if not more so, after seeing the performance!).

We Americans are not very good at waiting. We complain whenever we have to wait in a line. Whether at the bank or grocery store. We just hate waiting. Don't give it to me tomorrow or even today! I want what I want YESTERDAY!!! But in the real world in which we live, waiting is part of the package of life. So all of us could learn a good dose of patience (me included!!)! Ecclesiastes gives us a good perspective on life and time. King Solomon tells us that God "has made everything beautiful in its time" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We impatient Americans need to learn the value of WAITING ON GOD! Allow Him to work out HIS purposes in HIS time! After all, doesn't FATHER KNOW BEST???

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blessed to Do What?

I want to follow up yesterday's posting with another thought concerning God's blessings. Yesterday I encouraged all of us to regularly pause to thank God for his blessings. It is only due to His grace that we enjoy anything at all!

Today, I want to remind you of another truth that I was reminded of this past Sunday by our missionary, Jim Momeyer. Jim and his wife Deb serve with Grace Brethren International Missions in the African country of Cameroun. In his sermon, he shared this principle: We have been "BLESSED TO BLESS FOR HIS PRAISE!" He drew this principle from the first three verses of Psalm 67 which reads as follows:

"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, 2that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. 3May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you."

Jim pointed out to us that what this portion of Scripture teaches is that God doesn't generously bless us so that we can enjoy his blessings just for ourselves. No, God blesses us so that in turn we can bless others ... and all for the praise of God's glory! Jim wrapped up his sermon by encouraging us to ask ourselves these three rather pointed questions:

- How has God blessed me?
- How am I in turn blessing others?
- Are people "bragging" on God because of me?

Good questions! I urge you to use these questions to guide you in a time of self-evaluation. If you are in any way like me (and I suspect many of you are) - you will find that you all too often horde God's blessings for yourself!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Easy to Forget to Say, "Thanks, God!"

Joe was a factory worker in suburban Cleveland. He started at the plant right out of high school. He was in his 22nd year on the job, married with three kids. Recently, a number of his co-workers had been laid off. But he thought he was safe given his years of seniority. But one day, he found out other-wise. As he drove home from work that last day at the plant, he wondered how he would ever find another job - at least one that paid him as well as his factory job had done over the years. After all, he had no education beyond high school and given the poor job market, he knew he was in for a rough time.

The very next morning, he began his new job - that of finding a job! He registered at a local "career-link" job center. There he honed his resume and learned a strategy to find employment. With a renewed feeling of hope, he began in earnest looking for his next job. But days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months with no results. Joe's unemployment benefits were soon scheduled to run out. Desperate and discouraged, Joe turned to God. Not a praying man, he got down on his knees one night and asked God (or as he called him "the Big Boss upstairs") for a job. He told God if God would come through for him, that he, Joe, would come through for God. He crawled into bed that night, feeling some relief and managed to sleep for the first time in several nights.

He was awakened the next morning by an early morning phone call. It was an employment agency calling about a potential job. They wanted to see Joe that very morning. With cautious optimism Joe drove to the agency. After the agency interview, he was sent to a new distribution center that had recently opened near his home. At the conclusion of that interview, he was offered the job on the spot. He took it! Soon, he was enjoying a healthy regular pay check (and enjoying his new job as well!). However, Joe forgot about God and forgot about the "deal" that he had made with God. Joe would eventually retire from the distribution center. But never again did he get on his knees before God.

The lesson I want you to get out of this parable is not that we should avoid making deals with God (which is true!). But I want to remind you (and me, too!) that it is God "who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (1 Timothy 6:17). Therefore we must be careful to recognize and honor HIM as the provider for all of our needs and wants! Don't be guilty of taking God's gifts for granted. Remember to thank Him for His many blessings!

Tomorrow I will discuss one other step we must take in response to the generosity of our God. But for today (and just don't stop with today - but get into this habit EVERYDAY!) please pause and take a moment to mentally list some of the many blessings God has showered upon you - and THANK HIM!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Case of Mistaken Idenitification

The headline in this morning's paper read, "Police had wrong guy." Curious, I read the article. Seems like the wrong guy, Clark Lilley, was arrested last month for robbing a Manor Township convenience store. Turns out, he never did it! Yet for the past several weeks, he has languished in Lancaster County prison, day after day proclaiming his innocence. Authorities turned a deaf ear to his protests (after all, most inmates do the same!) until, a man now identified as the true culprit was arrested after robbing another convenience store. And since Lilley was incarcerated at the time, it was clear he was innocent as he claimed! So last night, Lilley slept in his own bed for the first time in FIVE weeks! Now how did it come about that Lilley was arrested in the first place? Seems that a worker at the convenience store picked him out of a photo line up and identified him as the robber. Because of that mistaken identification, Lilley's life was turned upside down! At the time of his arrest, he was a student at Lancaster Bible College. Due to his arrest, he lost his on campus job and now a whole semester of work.

As unfortunate as this story is, we can understand how these things happen. People make mistakes. Most of the time, these mistakes are on the minor side (like making a wrong turn while driving, or overcooking the roast). But in Lilley's case - the woman's mistake led to a major disruption in his life.

Friends, there will come a day that we stand before Almighty God. Be assured that unlike the woman who was the truly guilty one in this story in making her false identification of Lilly as the robber, God will never be guilty of this. He knows all things perfectly and exhaustively. So when we stand before Him to give an account of our lives (which we will, see 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 20:11-15) - you can count on the fact that God will make totally accurate judgments about us and our lives. That's a sobering thought! Keep that in mind as you live out today! It just may make a difference in the choices you make! God is watching! And you and I will one day give an account for our lives!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Off to République Centrafricaine!

Details continue to firm up for the open door of ministry that I blogged about last week. God willing, we are scheduled to leave for central Africa on Tuesday, August 25. I said "we" because I now have a teammate confirmed for the trip. Ryan Aument, my son-in-law will be traveling with me and doing some of the training. Ryan leads and teaches in our growing young adult ministry here at Grace. He also is serving in his first term as the Clerk of Courts of Lancaster County (to read his bio, you can go to http://www.co.lancaster.pa.us/lanco/cwp/view.asp?a=502&q=608324&lancoNav=|&lancoNav_GID=987). One of the groups we will be training in the CAR will be government officials and workers. Given Ryan's vocation, he will have an immediate connection with this group (as I will with the pastors, educators and police chaplains that we will be working with). This is again another confirmation that God indeed has placed this open door of opportunity before us!

As more details become available, I will post periodic updates. But for now, I close with this verse: "make the most of every opportunity." (Colossians 4:5). We live in troubled times. And often, trouble in people's lives make for great opportunities to reach out with the love of Christ! God may not be calling you to go to Africa ... but He is calling you to go across the street (or wherever the hurting people are in your life!). So make the most of these opportunities to proclaim the love AND the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Birthday in the Rear View Mirror!


Last Thursday I turned 53. Now some might think that is pretty old (I am thinking of some teens and twenty-somethings that I know). Others would still consider me to be on the younger side (like many of my older senior adult friends). But as I sit here pondering my age ... at the end of the day it does not matter how old or young we might happen to be. What matters is that we are living each day (whether we are 19, 33, 62, 87 or FIFTY-THREE) by God's grace and for HIS glory!

So how about you? Do you remind yourself each day of God's grace and where you would be right now WITHOUT it? And do you place God's glory at the forefront of your thinking, knowing that the choices you make today (and tomorrow and the next day and the next . . . ) should be choices that put Him on display in your life? Take a moment right now to stop and read the following two verses .... then ask God to help you live them out in your day-to-day routine!

Galatians 6:14 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

1 Corinthians 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 13, 2009

An Open Door (part 5)

Yesterday I mentioned that God "spoke" to me about going to Africa to assist Augustin. It was through a verse in the passage I was studying in preparation for this past Sunday's sermon. The passage was Revelation 3:7-13. These verses make up Jesus' letter to the church in Philadelphia (the ancient city by that name which was located in the Roman Province of Asia). In that letter, Jesus says to the church, "See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut" (Revelation 3:8). As I studied that verse, I came to the conclusion that this open door could have two possible interpretations (of which I believe both are in view here). This open door refers to the open door of salvation that God places before humanity. It is a door that will always be open to anyone who will come and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I also believe that this open door refers to the open door of opportunity. The city of Philadelphia was located at the junction of many key trade routes. In fact, the main Imperial Post from Rome ran right through Philadelphia to points east. For this reason, the city was known as "The Gateway to the East." So you can just imagine the opportunities to proclaim the gospel that must have existed for this church.

Now as I thought on this open door of opportunity -- it was if God spoke to me audibly (which he did not of course). "John, I have placed before YOU an open door ... to minister short-term in Africa!". At that moment I knew that I had to notify Augustin that I would accept his invitation to travel to Africa to assist him in his work. I sent him that email just this past Saturday. Currently we are now working on trying to get something on the calendar. Scheduling will prove to be a challenge, given my current level of commitments and the fact that there is only ONE international flight that goes into the Central African Republic each week (so you sure don't want to be late for your flight!!!). So as details become available, I will let you know.

In closing, just to show you the extent of the influence of Augustin and the opportunity for the gospel that lays before him, he shared with me that he was meeting this week with the country's prime minister to pray with him (as the prime minister was planning to introduce his politcal agenda to the parliament this week) and discuss with the prime minister his desire to conduct leadership training for the government. So I invite you to please be in prayer that God would make this ministry opportunity happen. We are hoping that it will all come together to take place in the latter half of this year.

Thanks for stopping by this week . . .

pj

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Open Door (part 4)

If you have been following my blog this week, I have been discussing an open door of ministry that God appears to be laying before me. Yesterday, I mentioned the brief email that Dave Guiles of GBIM planned to send to Augustin after our initial conversation at Jane's Cafe. A mere two days after that meeting, Dave sent Augustin this email, in which he mentioned me (and my background) and my possible interest in assisting Augustin in his ministry. The very next day I received an email from Augustin. He expressed his need for my help whenever I could come. He told me to let him know as to when I was "convicted" to come (did he mean to say "convinced?"). I remember thinking ... "Wait a minute, Lord, I said I would pray about it!" At that point, I began praying with more fervency ... seeking His guidance and wisdom.

Across the course of the last two weeks of February and into the first week of March, I prayed and continued communicating with Agustin. Finally, last Friday I spoke again at length with Dave Guiles about the opportunity. He gave me additional information about Augustin, his ministry and the situation in central Africa. He ended the conversation by assuring me that should I decide to go, GBIM would be glad to assist me where needed. After hanging up the phone, I said to myself, "Self, I think God wants you to go to Africa!" But then myself responded, "John, you don't really want to go to Africa, do you?" (you know things are getting bad when you are engaging in conversation with yourself!). Still undecided, I sat down and began to work on Sunday morning's message. As I read one of the verses, God spoke to me. To find out what verse I read and what God was communicating to me ... please stop by tomorrow as I bring this week long story to a close (at least for now!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An Open Door (part 3)


Back to that day in Jane's Cafe when Dave Guiles, Executive Director of Grace Brethren International Missions (GBIM) asked me to consider traveling to Africa to partner with Augustin Hibale's ministry. Now why did Dave ask me to consider this ministry opportunity? Given that Augustin's ministry to those in authority includes (among others) pastors, educators and police, Dave thought my background of pastoring (for almost 30 years now), teaching (I am in my 15th year as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College), and serving as a police chaplain (now in my 9th year) made me a good fit to help Augustin in his ministry. In addition, my earned doctorate would, as Dave put it, open many doors to me in Africa. As I mentioned in my first posting on this topic, when Dave first threw this my way, I did not jump up and down! I was not asking him how soon he thought I could go. But in contrast to my reaction in 1993 to the opportunity to go to Russia with the CoMission (which grabbed my heart from the get-go), I began listing in my mind all the reasons I should not go to Central Africa (like, "I have enough to do here!", "I don't like big bugs and big snakes", "It's too dangerous over there", "What will I have to eat?" etc.). Dave sensed my hesitancy, and so he simply asked me if I would be willing to "pray about the opportunity." Not wanting to appear unspiritual in front of the director of our Fellowship's Missions agency, I agreed to do that much.

As we parted that day, Dave asked me if he could email Augustin about our conversation. I readily agreed. After all - no big deal, right? Tune in tomorrow and I will let you know what God did as a result of that first very brief email.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Open Door (part 2)

The place was Jane's Cafe. The date, February 11th. As Dave Guiles and I chatted over coffee, he mentioned to me the name of Augustin Hibale. The name was not unfamiliar to me. In fact, we hosted Augustine and his wife in our church in September of 2007. So I was somewhat "in the know" concerning this man and his ministry. Dave suggested that I might want to pray about traveling to Africa to assist Augustine in his ministry. Now, why would Dave ask me? Before I answer that question, let me give you a bit of background on Augustin.

Augustin was born and raised in the Central African Republic. He trusted Christ, I believe at a young age, and went on to teach in the Bible Institute and Seminary. Eventually he enrolled at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake and earned his Doctor of Ministry degree. At some point (and I am unsure of the timeline here) he left his teaching post and established the International Center for the Development of Ethical Leadership. He did this in response to the pervasive corruption and lack of integrity among leaders in central Africa. Augustin through his ministry reaches leaders at every level in his native Central African Republic (and surrounding countries as well; for example he recently spent time in Liberia where he was part of a team of three who conducted leadership and anti-corruption training for approximately 200 governmental officials from different ministries of the Liberian government). Now as to why Dave thought I might be able to assist Augustin in his ministry? More on that tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Open Door (part 1)

Yesterday in my Sunday morning sermon (yes, I still call my Sunday morning "talks" sermons!), I shared that my blog postings this week would feature the story of an open door for ministry that Jesus Christ is placing before me. Today is the first installment of this story.

It all actually began back in 1993. That is the year I took my first of three mission oriented trips to the former Soviet Union. I was a member of a 70 person North American team that traveled to two cities in Russia as part of a mission initiative known at the CoMission. I took two more CoMission trips, one in 1994 and the next in 1995. Both were to Ukraine. In 1996 I began my Doctor of Ministry program at Grace Theological Seminary. Involvement in that program kept me home for quite a few years. Finally, in 2006 I helped to lead a team from Grace to India. The impact of that trip (as well as the three earlier CoMission trips) on my own personal walk and the lives of others was such that I made a commitment at that point to set as a goal one such mission trip each year. As a result, I traveled to Europe in 2007 (for Grace Brethren International Mission's Family Conference) and back to India in 2008.

Once I got over the jet lag from that 2008 trip to India, I began praying about a mission trip for 2009. I prayed through the summer and fall with no clear direction. With the arrival of 2009, I began to think perhaps God did not have a trip in mind for me - and I was content with that. But in mid February I met with Dave Guiles, Executive Director of Grace Brethren International Ministries. Over coffee, he asked me to consider an opportunity for a short-term overseas mission trip. I must admit that at the time we talked, I was mildly interested at best. But more on that tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 6, 2009

True Beauty - It's More than Skin Deep!


This upcoming week is a big birthday week. I will be turning 53 on Thursday. My oldest daughter turns 30 on Tuesday. And you will never guess who turns 50 on Monday! Ready for this? Barbie hits the half century mark on Monday! Actually her full name is not "Barbie Doll" but "Barbara Millicent Roberts." That's a fact ... no joking! Other little known facts about this well known American icon?

- Mattel estimates that three Barbies are sold every second.
- In the past three months, 217,736 Barbies have been sold on eBay.
- The most expensive Barbie sold for $7,999,999. It was a No. 1 Ponytail Barbie.
- Barbie met Ken in 1961 (wow - Barbie met Ken when she was just 3 years old - talk about a childhood romance!).
- Early research suggested that Barbie would never sell. Let's just say it was due to her bodily proportions.
- If Barbie were real, she would probably be suffering today from back pain (due to all the high heels), would be at risk for osteoporosis, would have graying hair and a plumper waistline.

So there you have it! A bunch of rather meaningless trivia about America's doll. Unfortunately, Barbie's impact on our culture has been any thing but meaningless. Millions of little girls have grown up wanting to be like Barbie. As they saw it, beauty was determined by one's appearance (which is exactly what Barbie "communicated" to them). And so as these girls grew up, they did their best to achieve the "Barbie" look.

However, beauty is more than skin (or in Barbie's case, plastic!) deep. True beauty consists of an inner beauty of character that bubbles forth in such virtues as love, compassion, mercy, integrity, faithfulness, gentleness, etc. Peter puts it this way in God's Word, where in the context he addresses wives by telling them,

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight"
(1 Peter 3:3-4).

Ladies, strive to achieve this kind of inner beauty that is truly unfading. And men, encourage your wives as they do so!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Got Prayer?


I ran across the following quote of Martin Luther, the "father" of the Reformation. Concerning prayer he said,

"Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness."

I have often said to people, that God is far more willing to hear our prayers (and respond to them) then we are to pray them! How about you? Have you spent anytime yet today, praying to the Almighty God of the Universe who is also the Daddy of all who choose to follow Jesus Christ?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

To Jail!

When I was a mere lad of six, my mom went away for a couple of days. When she returned home, she did not come alone. She brought with her a little baby boy. That began my relationship with my little brother. For the most part, we had a good relationship. Although at times it was a pain to have him tagging along with my twin brother and me (especially when we hit our teenage years!), we still had a lot of fun with him. One activity we did a lot of was playing board games. His favorite game was Monopoly. We played it so much (and there were many times my mother informed me that I had to play with my brother - I had no choice in the matter) that I got sick and tired of the game. Knowing that Mom would enforce her "Play with your brother" policy, my twin brother and I threw the game out. When the game came up missing, my mom went out and bought a new one! To this day I refuse to play Monopoly. I have been scarred for life!

I played the game so much ... I can still read portions of the game from memory. For instance, there is the Go to Jail card. It reads, "Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200" (I just double checked on the Internet ... and I nailed it!). Now what brings all of this to mind is an article I read yesterday on the Internet that gave the following staggering statistic: today over 7.3 million American adults are in the U.S. corrections system. That is 1 out of every 31 adults! This includes those who are in prison and those who are out but on probation or parole. Now, this has some significant implications for our society (eg: the cost to government of such a load is HUGE!). But it is not my design to discuss the implications of this sorry situation. Rather, I want to answer the question: What does this tell us about human nature?

I think what it tells us is that man is basically evil. Left to his own heart, man will do bad things ... even so far as to break the civil law and end up in prison. Now this is not what many people believe. Many prefer to think of humanity as being inherently good. And man becomes "bad" due to external circumstances leading him astray. But this is not the view of the Bible! Really? Really! Consider the following:

Romans 3:10-12 - "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Jeremiah 17:9 - "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?"

Matthew 5:19 - "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander."


You see, humanity has a heart problem. And only a heart transplant performed by the Divine Surgeon will be able to remove our bondage to evil that all of us suffer. If you are in need of a new heart ... let me encourage you to click on this link and read what it has to say: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Net Impact 2!


OK. Go ahead. Give it to me. So meteorological spring began on Sunday? Well, someone forgot to tell the climate about it!

Granted we dodged a mess on Sunday with just a few flakes of snow littering the landscape. But Monday's storm was a far different story. I am not sure how much snow fell in my driveway, but it was enough for me to get my snow blower out. And it was enough to cancel school yesterday for many area schools and then delay or cancel them again today. All this to say ... the storm on Sunday was a "No Net Impact" storm ... yesterday's storm was a "Significant Net Impact" storm.

My prayer is that all of us will experience a "SIGNIFICANT NET IMPACT" when it comes to the Word of God impacting our lives. Just as Monday's snow fall (and high winds) caused a re-ordering of our day, may the Scripture as we read it, study it, hear it, memorize it - cause us to re-order our lives EACH AND EVERY DAY! But for this to happen, you MUST be interacting with the Bible on a DAILY basis!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Net Impact!

This morning I was awakened about 4:30 to the sound of the township's truck spreading salt in our cul de sac. "Oh great!" I mumbled to myself, "Will we have to cancel services today?" So I stumbled over to the window and looked out toward the street. Seeing very little snow on the lawn and nothing on the street, brought a smile to my sleepy face. Content that this morning's schedule could proceed as scheduled, I crawled back into bed to grab another hour of dreams.

Now as I type these words, a few flakes of snow are drifting lazily down from the clouds. In fact, for the past two hours, that's what's been happening. Snow lovers might not be liking it - but I sure am! This is one snow "storm" that is having NO NET IMPACT! In my opinion, that is the best kind of snow storm for a Sunday morning!

No impact! That's OK if we are talking snow storms - but it is not OK if we are talking about our lives. Yet far too many Christians are living what I call either "No Impact" or "Little Impact" lives. They are so into living for this moment and their own comfort - they make little or no impact on the lives of others. How about YOU? Are you living a "No Net Impact" life?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. - HAPPY FIRST DAY OF METEOROLOGICAL SPRING!!!

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.