PJ

PJ

Friday, May 29, 2009

When People Look at YOU - Do They See Joy?

In 1 Peter 1:8 we read the following words:

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."

Peter is writing to followers of Jesus Christ. And he makes this statement of fact that they are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy. He simply took for granted that this was the experience of his readers. Why? Because, simply put, it should be so. Read the verses that immediately precede v.8:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice . . . " (1 Peter 1:3-6a)

Note all the blessings that we enjoy as a result of God's GREAT MERCY which he has so generously and richly showered upon us: a new birth into a living hope, an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, divine protection until the end! If we truly understand the scope of these blessings --- there will be no doubt --- we will be "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy!"

So I encourage you to take a moment and re-read vv. 3-6a above -- and greatly rejoice in what God has done, is doing and will do forever for you -- all by HIS grace and for HIS glory! And allow His Spirit to fill you with this inexpressible joy -- and allow that joy to spill out into all of life's arenas!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How's Your Financial Health?

Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has been in the news this week. Not due to any of his exploits (good or bad), but due to the tragic accidental death of his four year old daughter. Police reported that Exodus Tyson died at a Phoenix hospital a day after her neck apparently got caught in a cord dangling from a treadmill at her Phoenix home. Like I said, "a tragic accident!"

Now in the course of some of this news exposure of Tyson, I happened to read that at the height of his boxing career Tyson had earned over $140 million in a two year stretch. Not a bad pay check!!! Yet in 2003 he filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court! This demonstrates that it is not how much you make that determines your financial health -- but rather what you do with what you have! Far too many Americans are poor handlers of money. If you are struggling financially right now, let me encourage you to visit Crown Financial Ministries' web site at http://www.crown.org/. There you will find a wealth of resources that could help you get your financial house in order - IF you apply what they suggest.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Faith the Antidote to Fear

I grew up in a small row house in the city of Harrisburg, PA. And for a family of seven ... I felt that smallness every day (the only good thing about the smallness of the house was the smallness of the front and back yards - made mowing the lawn a very quick chore - even for a fifth grader)! Our house was two stories with a basement. The basement was finished ... but for me as a youngster, I found it to be somewhat scary. In fact, I went through a stretch of time where almost every night I had a nightmare .... the exact same nightmare. In the dreams I would find myself in the basement (at night of course) when suddenly from the shadows the boogeyman would come for me (the boogeyman was always a nondescript shadow of sorts ... so I never knew quite what he was -- I just knew he was to be avoided at all cost!). As I would make a beeline for the stairs the lights would go out. In each dream I would always make it about half way up the steps when I would begin to feel myself being pulled back down into the darkness. At this point I would begin to scream for help -- but alas, no sound would come out of my mouth no matter how hard I tried to scream. At this point I would wake up with my little heart pounding and my little forehead soaked in sweat. I am glad to say that I finally got through that period in my life ... even to the point of being willing to convert the basement into my twin brother's and my bedroom when my little brother came along.

Now that fear of the boogeyman was quite irrational. We all know that there is no such creature! And just where I learned about the boogeyman I cannot recall. But fear is often like that. Many fears (not all, but probably most) are irrational. We fear what we do not need to fear. And the reason we are so prone to fear the various "boogeymen" in our lives - is that our faith is weak. Friends the antidote to fear is faith! When we are trusting our God (and when one considers who God is and what he has promised - why not trust him?) and faith is filling our minds and our hearts, there will be no room for fear to take residence!

Sooooooo -- today say to Jesus (as the disciples said in Luke 17:5), "Increase our (MY) faith!" For as your faith increases ... your fears will decrease. And that's a very good thing!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Smallest Words about Christ Are NEVER Wasted!

John Piper, in his book, Finally Alive, tells the following story to illustrate the fact that even our smallest words about Jesus can have a powerful influence on those who do not know Christ.

A young woman told the story as she was joining our church of how Christ saved her. She said that she knew a good bit about Christianity because of her parents but had thrown it all away as a teenager and was on her own. One day she and her friends were walking down the beach as several handsome guys approached. Her thought was to impress them and be thought attractive and cool. As the guys passed, one of them called out, "Praise Jesus!" Now probably later that night those guys said to themselves, "That was a lame witness. Why didn't we stop and talk?" Little did they know that these simple words, "Praise Jesus," pierced her heart and sent her later to her knees and to the Savior. There are no wasted testimonies!" (John Piper, Finally Alive, pp. 183-184).

Keep this in mind as you go through your day. Determine to speak up for Jesus to someone today ... and tomorrow ... and the next day! Remember - no word for Jesus is ever wasted!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 22, 2009

Something to Think About During the Long Memorial Day Weekend

As you can see from my book list, one of the books I am currently reading is titled, A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger than You. The book was written by Paul David Tripp, a writer, conference speaker and adjunct professor at Westminster Seminary and the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation - both located in the Philadelphia suburbs. In the very first chapter of this book, I ran across a quote that I want to leave you with .... and ask you to ponder during this holiday weekend. Are you ready? Here it is:

"We were never meant to be self-focused little kings ruling minuscule little kingdoms with a population of one."

Think about it! And thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. - For info on this excellent book, go to the following Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Quest-More-Living-Something-Bigger/dp/0978556747/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243005678&sr=8-1


Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Role of the Ten Commandments

Usually when people in America think of the Ten Commandments, they either think of the old Hollywood blockbuster film staring Charleston Heston as Moses or they think of litigation they hear about in which a group sues to have the Ten Commandments removed from some public venue. Beyond this, little thought is given to them. This is tragic. Why? The Ten Commandments are the foundation of God's moral law. Listen to what the NEW TESTAMENT says about God's law:

"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin" (Romans 3:20).

"What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet'" (Romans 7:7).

"So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 2:24).

You see, it is through God's law that a person becomes aware of his guilt before God. And it is then and only then that a person will see his need for Jesus Christ. The good news of the gospel will only be good news when one realizes the bad news of his guilt as a lawbreaker before a holy Judge. Below is a clip from The Way of the Master. It begins with a clip showing just how ignorant people are today of the Ten Commandments. I hope you take the time to watch it.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Ultimate Escapologist!

Ehrich Weiss was a truly remarkable man. He travelled throughout Europe and the United States, performing before large crowds who were spell bound by his accomplishments. And just who was Ehrich Weiss? You might know him by his stage name, Harry Houdini. Houdini was a magician who is best known for his feats of escape. Houdini would allow himself to be bound with ropes, chains, handcuffs or straitjackets. Sometimes he would then be hung upside down and dropped into a container of water. Other times, he would allow himself to be buried alive (while bound). Always he would emerge free, awing the crowd by achieving what seemed to be impossible! There is no doubt, Houdini is one of history's greatest escapologists!

But as good as Houdini was at escaping ... and in his most daring stunts ... seeming to escape even death, he failed ultimately. That's right. He could not escape death when it came calling for him on October 31, 1926. At the age of 52, Houdini died of a ruptured appendix.

There has only ever been one man to really escape the clutches of death. And that is Jesus Christ. Yes, He died. But He did not stay dead. On the morning of the third day following his death, he arose from the dead. In doing so, He did far more than merely escape death. He conquered death! As a result, we no longer have to fear death! Because HE lives - we (who place our faith in Him to save us from the just penalty of our sin and rebellion against God) too will live (see John 11:25-26; Hebrews 2:15)!!! So we can stop fearing death and start cheering the grace of God and the gift of eternal life that is ours in Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Honoring Law Enforcement

Every third Sunday in May for the past 26 years, our church has honored the men and women of law enforcement. This past Sunday (being a third Sunday in May) was no different. During the second of our two on campus morning worship services, we conducted our Peace Officers Appreciation and Memorial Service (for a brief news article on this event, go to: http://www.wgal.com/news/19490613/detail.html#). We do so because we want the men and women who serve Lancaster County in this arena to know that they are appreciated MORE THAN THEY KNOW! And they need to know how much we all appreciate them! Their job is a thankless job. They put their lives on the line every time they put on their uniforms. And they work long hours for a salary that will never make them rich.

The next time you see a cop, smile their way! Or even better, say a word of thanks! You will make their day!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - One police chief in attendance wrote these words to me the morning after the service: "Church and community expressions of appreciation for law enforcement during the service gives great pride and encouragement for the tough jobs that we, you and I and the many others working in law enforcement take on 24/7."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Good News for Tough Times

With the U.S. unemployment pushing 9%, many Americans are facing difficult economic times. A verse in Psalm 65 speaks good news to those who are struggling. Listen to these words from King David (and inspired by God Himself!): "You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it" (v. 9). God is behind the provision for our needs. And his streams are not a mere trickle of water - they are FILLED with water to provide! Now God does not promise to meet our every wish -- but He will meet our every need as HE defines our needs.

So the next time you begin to fret about how you are going to pay this bill or that bill - consider taking the following steps: First, evaluate your budget and how you are spending your money. It just may be your struggles are self-imposed. You are spending more than you can afford to spend. If this is the case, take out your budget ax and start chopping! Reign in your spending. However, if you find that this is not the case and your struggles stem from a job loss or a job cut (or an unexpected medical bill or costly auto repair) - take heart. God's streams are full. Commit your need to Him in prayer and watch Him provide!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to Say "No!" to Temptation . . . ASAP!

Most Believers in their struggle against temptation - often find themselves battling one particular temptation more than others. Not surprising. The Enemy knows our weaknesses, and will often attack us at our point of greatest vulnerability. Therefore, we must be diligent and intentional in our battle to say "No!" to temptation. And in saying "No!" - we must do it ASAP! We cannot give temptation any "hearing." We must respond quickly and decisively. Consider the following strategy:

Avoid (as much as possible) situations and circumstances that add "fuel to the fire" of the particular temptation you are facing. The Apostle Paul puts it this way when he writes in Romans 13:14, "Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." So if your temptation is lust, don't spend time alone surfing the Internet. If you are an alcoholic, don't hang out at the neighbor bar. Stay away from the things that can arouse temptation in your life.

Stop the tempting thought from implanting itself in your mind - and do so within the first five seconds! In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." It is clear from this passage that God always gives us a "way out" from any temptation we face. But that "way out" must be grabbed within the first five seconds of the temptation. If it is not, we will most likely be overwhelmed by its power (see yesterday's posting as to why this is the case). So the "way out" is always at the front end of the temptation!

Apply the Philippians 4:8 test to your "thought life!" Philippians 4:8 reads as follows: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." When any thought enters your head, evaluate it against the standards God establishes here in this verse. And if the thought fails to measure up - then get rid of it! And replace the tempting thought with thoughts that do pass the test. When your mind is filled with thoughts that fit the standards of Philippians 4:8, there will be no room for tempting thoughts to take root!

Pursue a life of good works! It is true that good works don't save us. But that does not mean good works have no place in a Believer's experience. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Listen to what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." God is at work in us, shaping us, so that we might DO GOOD WORKS! And if we pursue the doing of good works, temptation will have less opportunities to entice us. As someone once said, "Temptation grows fast in the garden of idleness!"

So .... don't wait until temptation comes calling. Look over this strategy and begin putting it into practice, ASAP! Together, let's grow stronger in saying "No!" to temptation!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why It Is So Hard to Say "No!" to Temptation


Temptation comes knocking. And when it does, it is so hard to keep the door closed. Why is this the case? Why is it so hard to turn away from the temptation, no matter what it might be? Here are some of the reasons why this is the case:

1. Temptation always come gift wrapped in attractive packages. It says to us, "Open me and I will bring you much pleasure." In Hebrews 11:25 we are told that Moses "chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time." Sin does bring pleasure -- but it is very, very short lived! What is delivered falls way short of what is promised! But we tend to lose site of the brevity of sin's enjoyment and so when tempted to sin - we open the gift wrapped package, forgetting that the enjoyment of doing so will be gone almost as soon as we experience it! (Not to mention forgetting the devastating consequences that sin brings in its wake!).

2. Our fallen human nature is wired to respond positively to temptation. James refers to this when he writes in James 1:14, "but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." It is as if we have bits of metals sprinkled throughout our flesh and when temptation comes along like a giant magnet, it pulls on that metal in our flesh with what seems at times like an irresistible force.

3. This world in which we live (24/7/365) is, according to 1 John 5:19, under the control of the Evil One. That means that much of our world system in which we work and play and go through our daily routines is pushing and pulling us away from God and His kingdom. Sometimes we simply get worn down in this ongoing tug of war and so in moments of weakness, we give in to temptation.

4. Finally, the Enemy is not only tempting us indirectly through this world system that he controls, but he is directly seeking to tempt us through the agency of his vast hordes of demons. Paul speaks of this spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-12, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." The devil has his schemes. And one of his schemes is to tempt you and me to sin. Because when we sin we are saying, "I can live my life independent of God!" And that is something Satan desires to see us do!

Now this is not meant to be an exhaustive list ... but it is my attempt to give some of the more significant reasons as to why it is so hard to say "No!" to temptation. Tomorrow I hope to talk a bit about how to go about saying "No!" the next time temptation comes calling!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saying "NO!" to Sin and "YES!" to Righteous Living!

Many consider Tiger Woods to be the greatest golfer in the world (he is ranked #1 in the world) - perhaps in the history of the game. He is one lean golfing machine. But what I viewed on Sunday was not consistent with his ranking or reputation. He began the final 18 holes of the Players Tournament in second place, just four strokes behind the leader. If you know anything about Tiger's history, he was within easy striking distance to take over the lead. In the first few holes I watched in unbelief as Tiger hit one ball into the trees and another into the water. In a very short time he dropped from second place down to about 6th place (he finally landed in 8th place at the end of the day). I just scratched my head as I watched the great Tiger Woods unravel at the seams. One of the television commentators commented that it looked like Tiger brought his D- game (which would be great golf for me - but not so for Tiger!). It was a day that Tiger's play did not match up to his potential.

When I think of Christ-followers, I think for many of us that is also the case. Our walk, our daily reality does not live up to our potential. Here's what I mean. The Bible is clear - we are "in Christ." And because we are "in Christ," we can say "no" to sin (in fact we are commanded to do so!) and "yes" to righteous living. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:6-7, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." Did you hear that? Believers in Jesus Christ have been (past tense) FREED from sin! Yet far too many of us wallow in defeat. We give in to temptation all too often and all too easily!

I plan tomorrow (God willing) to discuss just why this is the case. Until then, strive to say "no" to temptation and "yes" to righteousness. Ask God to help you in this ongoing battle!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Reflections

This morning, there are many thoughts bouncing around my brain. Thought I would share a few with you . . .

1. Life is precious! I have been struck with that truth every time I have held my new little grandbaby this week (which, by the way has NOT been enough!!!). The Scripture tells us that it is in God that we "live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Life is a gift from Him. Let's all purpose to not waste the lives he so graciously gives us!

2. God has a plan. I got to thinking about this as I mentally reviewed the life my wife and I have lived to this point: the places we have lived, the churches we have served, the people we have loved (and continue to love). In all of my life I can see signs of God's invisible hand guiding, providing, protecting. This concept of God's plan is called providence. We do ourselves harm when we lose sight of the fact that God has a plan and He is working that plan as he "works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:11).

3. God's grace is unbelievable! This also hit me as I was taking a backward look at my life. God has given me FAR more, EXCEEDINGLY FAR MORE than I deserve! I am so thankful to HIM for the grace he has so generously showered upon me! We all need to keep this truth in the forefront of our thinking. As James reminds us, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Day of Prayer

In light of the fact that today is the National Day of Prayer, I thought I would reflect for a moment on prayer. One passage that is often turned to in discussions on prayer is James 4:1-3. The text reads as follows:

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."


I see in this passage two major hindrances to prayer. The first is the hindrance of PRAYERLESSNESS! James says one reason his readers did not have was simply because they did not ask God!!! You see, God has a generous heart and is far more ready to give than we are to ask. Why do we so often fail to pray as we should? Sometimes it is busyness that keeps us from God's throne. Other times it is a failure to recognize just how dependent we are upon God (read this "PRIDE"). But whatever the underlying reason might be - we must be sure to intentionally build prayer into our lives.

The second hindrance I see in this passage is SELFISHNESS! James says, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." Here he reminds us that it is not enough to pray ... to present our requests to God. We must do so with the right motive. The readers to whom James was writing lacked the proper motive. They were asking for THEMSELVES, while they should have been asking for others, too! Consider the pronouns in the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-11). It is NOT "Give ME this day MY daily prayer. Forgive ME MY trespasses..." Rather the pronouns are in the plural ... "Give US this day OUR daily bread, etc." So when we pray it is OK to ask about our own needs. But let me suggest before we do that, let's look around and pray for the needs of others!

So beware of these two hindrances to prayer: PRAYERLESSNESS and SELFISHNESS!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Baby Ella!

At 11:31 PM last night, Baby Ella arrived! She tipped the scales at a massive 5 lbs and 6 oz!!! She is a mere 19 1/2 long. And she is a stunning beauty!!! Our son, Tim called us at 11:33 with the news. In fact, he allowed Ella to inform us of her arrival - which she did with a lot of gusto for such a little one!!! This morning we enjoyed an hour long visit with Ella and the two very tired but very happy parents!

Thanks for all of you who prayed for Kelly and the baby. Her early arrival (she was due May 25th) does not appear to have had a negative impact on her health! For that we are grateful to Almighty God!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Our Granddaughter Has Arrived!


Late last night, our son and his wife welcomed their little daughter into their lives. We are heading to the hospital now to meet her. When I get back to the office, I will post more info.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

In Spanish, "Cinco de Mayo" is "the fifth of May." Many Americans assume it is Mexico's Independence Day. But it is not. Mexico declared its independence from Spain on September 15, 1810. But "Cinco de Mayo" commemorates the date of a crucial battle that occurred on May 5, 1862. On that date, near the city of Puebla, Mexico, some 100 miles east of Mexico City, an underarmed and outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French forces of Napoleon III. This significant victory marked the beginning of the end of French control of Mexico. For more info on the history of this celebration, you can check out a brief but solid summary at http://www.vivacincodemayo.org/history.htm.

Just as "Cinco de Mayo" celebrates a huge victory in Mexico's history - we who follow Jesus should also celebrate a huge victory in human history. I am talking about the victory of Jesus Christ over the powers of darkness. Paul refers to this victory when he writes concerning Jesus' crucifixion, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15). I know we spend time remembering this victory on Good Friday - but once a year is not enough! We need to be celebrating the victory of Jesus EVERY DAY! Take a moment right now and lift a word of praise toward the heavens. Thank God for the victory of His Son our Savior! Where would we be without it? Still in BONDAGE!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 1, 2009

Transformed Lives!

This morning I had the privilege of attending a commencement ceremony held at Water Street Rescue Mission (recently the mission changed its name to Water Street Ministries). Nine men had completed the 12 month program. Two of these nine are part of our church family here at Grace (congrats Don and Chris!). All nine of these guys had hit the bottom of life's barrel. They had no where to go -- so they came to Water Street and there they found Jesus (or perhaps better said, "were found there by Jesus")! Each one gave a "speech." And each one told how Jesus Christ had transformed his life. Even though the room was a comfortable temperature - I found my eyes sweating on more than one occasion! All these guys discovered a truth about God that more people need to understand - God's grace is sufficient. Apart from Jesus we can do NOTHING - but we can do everything through HIM who strengthens us (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, John 15:5 and Philippians 4:13)!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 29, 2009

When People Look at YOU - Do They See Joy?

In 1 Peter 1:8 we read the following words:

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."

Peter is writing to followers of Jesus Christ. And he makes this statement of fact that they are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy. He simply took for granted that this was the experience of his readers. Why? Because, simply put, it should be so. Read the verses that immediately precede v.8:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you greatly rejoice . . . " (1 Peter 1:3-6a)

Note all the blessings that we enjoy as a result of God's GREAT MERCY which he has so generously and richly showered upon us: a new birth into a living hope, an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, divine protection until the end! If we truly understand the scope of these blessings --- there will be no doubt --- we will be "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy!"

So I encourage you to take a moment and re-read vv. 3-6a above -- and greatly rejoice in what God has done, is doing and will do forever for you -- all by HIS grace and for HIS glory! And allow His Spirit to fill you with this inexpressible joy -- and allow that joy to spill out into all of life's arenas!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How's Your Financial Health?

Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has been in the news this week. Not due to any of his exploits (good or bad), but due to the tragic accidental death of his four year old daughter. Police reported that Exodus Tyson died at a Phoenix hospital a day after her neck apparently got caught in a cord dangling from a treadmill at her Phoenix home. Like I said, "a tragic accident!"

Now in the course of some of this news exposure of Tyson, I happened to read that at the height of his boxing career Tyson had earned over $140 million in a two year stretch. Not a bad pay check!!! Yet in 2003 he filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court! This demonstrates that it is not how much you make that determines your financial health -- but rather what you do with what you have! Far too many Americans are poor handlers of money. If you are struggling financially right now, let me encourage you to visit Crown Financial Ministries' web site at http://www.crown.org/. There you will find a wealth of resources that could help you get your financial house in order - IF you apply what they suggest.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Faith the Antidote to Fear

I grew up in a small row house in the city of Harrisburg, PA. And for a family of seven ... I felt that smallness every day (the only good thing about the smallness of the house was the smallness of the front and back yards - made mowing the lawn a very quick chore - even for a fifth grader)! Our house was two stories with a basement. The basement was finished ... but for me as a youngster, I found it to be somewhat scary. In fact, I went through a stretch of time where almost every night I had a nightmare .... the exact same nightmare. In the dreams I would find myself in the basement (at night of course) when suddenly from the shadows the boogeyman would come for me (the boogeyman was always a nondescript shadow of sorts ... so I never knew quite what he was -- I just knew he was to be avoided at all cost!). As I would make a beeline for the stairs the lights would go out. In each dream I would always make it about half way up the steps when I would begin to feel myself being pulled back down into the darkness. At this point I would begin to scream for help -- but alas, no sound would come out of my mouth no matter how hard I tried to scream. At this point I would wake up with my little heart pounding and my little forehead soaked in sweat. I am glad to say that I finally got through that period in my life ... even to the point of being willing to convert the basement into my twin brother's and my bedroom when my little brother came along.

Now that fear of the boogeyman was quite irrational. We all know that there is no such creature! And just where I learned about the boogeyman I cannot recall. But fear is often like that. Many fears (not all, but probably most) are irrational. We fear what we do not need to fear. And the reason we are so prone to fear the various "boogeymen" in our lives - is that our faith is weak. Friends the antidote to fear is faith! When we are trusting our God (and when one considers who God is and what he has promised - why not trust him?) and faith is filling our minds and our hearts, there will be no room for fear to take residence!

Sooooooo -- today say to Jesus (as the disciples said in Luke 17:5), "Increase our (MY) faith!" For as your faith increases ... your fears will decrease. And that's a very good thing!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Smallest Words about Christ Are NEVER Wasted!

John Piper, in his book, Finally Alive, tells the following story to illustrate the fact that even our smallest words about Jesus can have a powerful influence on those who do not know Christ.

A young woman told the story as she was joining our church of how Christ saved her. She said that she knew a good bit about Christianity because of her parents but had thrown it all away as a teenager and was on her own. One day she and her friends were walking down the beach as several handsome guys approached. Her thought was to impress them and be thought attractive and cool. As the guys passed, one of them called out, "Praise Jesus!" Now probably later that night those guys said to themselves, "That was a lame witness. Why didn't we stop and talk?" Little did they know that these simple words, "Praise Jesus," pierced her heart and sent her later to her knees and to the Savior. There are no wasted testimonies!" (John Piper, Finally Alive, pp. 183-184).

Keep this in mind as you go through your day. Determine to speak up for Jesus to someone today ... and tomorrow ... and the next day! Remember - no word for Jesus is ever wasted!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 22, 2009

Something to Think About During the Long Memorial Day Weekend

As you can see from my book list, one of the books I am currently reading is titled, A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger than You. The book was written by Paul David Tripp, a writer, conference speaker and adjunct professor at Westminster Seminary and the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation - both located in the Philadelphia suburbs. In the very first chapter of this book, I ran across a quote that I want to leave you with .... and ask you to ponder during this holiday weekend. Are you ready? Here it is:

"We were never meant to be self-focused little kings ruling minuscule little kingdoms with a population of one."

Think about it! And thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. - For info on this excellent book, go to the following Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Quest-More-Living-Something-Bigger/dp/0978556747/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243005678&sr=8-1


Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Role of the Ten Commandments

Usually when people in America think of the Ten Commandments, they either think of the old Hollywood blockbuster film staring Charleston Heston as Moses or they think of litigation they hear about in which a group sues to have the Ten Commandments removed from some public venue. Beyond this, little thought is given to them. This is tragic. Why? The Ten Commandments are the foundation of God's moral law. Listen to what the NEW TESTAMENT says about God's law:

"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin" (Romans 3:20).

"What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet'" (Romans 7:7).

"So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 2:24).

You see, it is through God's law that a person becomes aware of his guilt before God. And it is then and only then that a person will see his need for Jesus Christ. The good news of the gospel will only be good news when one realizes the bad news of his guilt as a lawbreaker before a holy Judge. Below is a clip from The Way of the Master. It begins with a clip showing just how ignorant people are today of the Ten Commandments. I hope you take the time to watch it.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Ultimate Escapologist!

Ehrich Weiss was a truly remarkable man. He travelled throughout Europe and the United States, performing before large crowds who were spell bound by his accomplishments. And just who was Ehrich Weiss? You might know him by his stage name, Harry Houdini. Houdini was a magician who is best known for his feats of escape. Houdini would allow himself to be bound with ropes, chains, handcuffs or straitjackets. Sometimes he would then be hung upside down and dropped into a container of water. Other times, he would allow himself to be buried alive (while bound). Always he would emerge free, awing the crowd by achieving what seemed to be impossible! There is no doubt, Houdini is one of history's greatest escapologists!

But as good as Houdini was at escaping ... and in his most daring stunts ... seeming to escape even death, he failed ultimately. That's right. He could not escape death when it came calling for him on October 31, 1926. At the age of 52, Houdini died of a ruptured appendix.

There has only ever been one man to really escape the clutches of death. And that is Jesus Christ. Yes, He died. But He did not stay dead. On the morning of the third day following his death, he arose from the dead. In doing so, He did far more than merely escape death. He conquered death! As a result, we no longer have to fear death! Because HE lives - we (who place our faith in Him to save us from the just penalty of our sin and rebellion against God) too will live (see John 11:25-26; Hebrews 2:15)!!! So we can stop fearing death and start cheering the grace of God and the gift of eternal life that is ours in Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Honoring Law Enforcement

Every third Sunday in May for the past 26 years, our church has honored the men and women of law enforcement. This past Sunday (being a third Sunday in May) was no different. During the second of our two on campus morning worship services, we conducted our Peace Officers Appreciation and Memorial Service (for a brief news article on this event, go to: http://www.wgal.com/news/19490613/detail.html#). We do so because we want the men and women who serve Lancaster County in this arena to know that they are appreciated MORE THAN THEY KNOW! And they need to know how much we all appreciate them! Their job is a thankless job. They put their lives on the line every time they put on their uniforms. And they work long hours for a salary that will never make them rich.

The next time you see a cop, smile their way! Or even better, say a word of thanks! You will make their day!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - One police chief in attendance wrote these words to me the morning after the service: "Church and community expressions of appreciation for law enforcement during the service gives great pride and encouragement for the tough jobs that we, you and I and the many others working in law enforcement take on 24/7."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Good News for Tough Times

With the U.S. unemployment pushing 9%, many Americans are facing difficult economic times. A verse in Psalm 65 speaks good news to those who are struggling. Listen to these words from King David (and inspired by God Himself!): "You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it" (v. 9). God is behind the provision for our needs. And his streams are not a mere trickle of water - they are FILLED with water to provide! Now God does not promise to meet our every wish -- but He will meet our every need as HE defines our needs.

So the next time you begin to fret about how you are going to pay this bill or that bill - consider taking the following steps: First, evaluate your budget and how you are spending your money. It just may be your struggles are self-imposed. You are spending more than you can afford to spend. If this is the case, take out your budget ax and start chopping! Reign in your spending. However, if you find that this is not the case and your struggles stem from a job loss or a job cut (or an unexpected medical bill or costly auto repair) - take heart. God's streams are full. Commit your need to Him in prayer and watch Him provide!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How to Say "No!" to Temptation . . . ASAP!

Most Believers in their struggle against temptation - often find themselves battling one particular temptation more than others. Not surprising. The Enemy knows our weaknesses, and will often attack us at our point of greatest vulnerability. Therefore, we must be diligent and intentional in our battle to say "No!" to temptation. And in saying "No!" - we must do it ASAP! We cannot give temptation any "hearing." We must respond quickly and decisively. Consider the following strategy:

Avoid (as much as possible) situations and circumstances that add "fuel to the fire" of the particular temptation you are facing. The Apostle Paul puts it this way when he writes in Romans 13:14, "Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." So if your temptation is lust, don't spend time alone surfing the Internet. If you are an alcoholic, don't hang out at the neighbor bar. Stay away from the things that can arouse temptation in your life.

Stop the tempting thought from implanting itself in your mind - and do so within the first five seconds! In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we read, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." It is clear from this passage that God always gives us a "way out" from any temptation we face. But that "way out" must be grabbed within the first five seconds of the temptation. If it is not, we will most likely be overwhelmed by its power (see yesterday's posting as to why this is the case). So the "way out" is always at the front end of the temptation!

Apply the Philippians 4:8 test to your "thought life!" Philippians 4:8 reads as follows: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." When any thought enters your head, evaluate it against the standards God establishes here in this verse. And if the thought fails to measure up - then get rid of it! And replace the tempting thought with thoughts that do pass the test. When your mind is filled with thoughts that fit the standards of Philippians 4:8, there will be no room for tempting thoughts to take root!

Pursue a life of good works! It is true that good works don't save us. But that does not mean good works have no place in a Believer's experience. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Listen to what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." God is at work in us, shaping us, so that we might DO GOOD WORKS! And if we pursue the doing of good works, temptation will have less opportunities to entice us. As someone once said, "Temptation grows fast in the garden of idleness!"

So .... don't wait until temptation comes calling. Look over this strategy and begin putting it into practice, ASAP! Together, let's grow stronger in saying "No!" to temptation!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why It Is So Hard to Say "No!" to Temptation


Temptation comes knocking. And when it does, it is so hard to keep the door closed. Why is this the case? Why is it so hard to turn away from the temptation, no matter what it might be? Here are some of the reasons why this is the case:

1. Temptation always come gift wrapped in attractive packages. It says to us, "Open me and I will bring you much pleasure." In Hebrews 11:25 we are told that Moses "chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time." Sin does bring pleasure -- but it is very, very short lived! What is delivered falls way short of what is promised! But we tend to lose site of the brevity of sin's enjoyment and so when tempted to sin - we open the gift wrapped package, forgetting that the enjoyment of doing so will be gone almost as soon as we experience it! (Not to mention forgetting the devastating consequences that sin brings in its wake!).

2. Our fallen human nature is wired to respond positively to temptation. James refers to this when he writes in James 1:14, "but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." It is as if we have bits of metals sprinkled throughout our flesh and when temptation comes along like a giant magnet, it pulls on that metal in our flesh with what seems at times like an irresistible force.

3. This world in which we live (24/7/365) is, according to 1 John 5:19, under the control of the Evil One. That means that much of our world system in which we work and play and go through our daily routines is pushing and pulling us away from God and His kingdom. Sometimes we simply get worn down in this ongoing tug of war and so in moments of weakness, we give in to temptation.

4. Finally, the Enemy is not only tempting us indirectly through this world system that he controls, but he is directly seeking to tempt us through the agency of his vast hordes of demons. Paul speaks of this spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-12, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." The devil has his schemes. And one of his schemes is to tempt you and me to sin. Because when we sin we are saying, "I can live my life independent of God!" And that is something Satan desires to see us do!

Now this is not meant to be an exhaustive list ... but it is my attempt to give some of the more significant reasons as to why it is so hard to say "No!" to temptation. Tomorrow I hope to talk a bit about how to go about saying "No!" the next time temptation comes calling!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saying "NO!" to Sin and "YES!" to Righteous Living!

Many consider Tiger Woods to be the greatest golfer in the world (he is ranked #1 in the world) - perhaps in the history of the game. He is one lean golfing machine. But what I viewed on Sunday was not consistent with his ranking or reputation. He began the final 18 holes of the Players Tournament in second place, just four strokes behind the leader. If you know anything about Tiger's history, he was within easy striking distance to take over the lead. In the first few holes I watched in unbelief as Tiger hit one ball into the trees and another into the water. In a very short time he dropped from second place down to about 6th place (he finally landed in 8th place at the end of the day). I just scratched my head as I watched the great Tiger Woods unravel at the seams. One of the television commentators commented that it looked like Tiger brought his D- game (which would be great golf for me - but not so for Tiger!). It was a day that Tiger's play did not match up to his potential.

When I think of Christ-followers, I think for many of us that is also the case. Our walk, our daily reality does not live up to our potential. Here's what I mean. The Bible is clear - we are "in Christ." And because we are "in Christ," we can say "no" to sin (in fact we are commanded to do so!) and "yes" to righteous living. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:6-7, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin." Did you hear that? Believers in Jesus Christ have been (past tense) FREED from sin! Yet far too many of us wallow in defeat. We give in to temptation all too often and all too easily!

I plan tomorrow (God willing) to discuss just why this is the case. Until then, strive to say "no" to temptation and "yes" to righteousness. Ask God to help you in this ongoing battle!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Reflections

This morning, there are many thoughts bouncing around my brain. Thought I would share a few with you . . .

1. Life is precious! I have been struck with that truth every time I have held my new little grandbaby this week (which, by the way has NOT been enough!!!). The Scripture tells us that it is in God that we "live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Life is a gift from Him. Let's all purpose to not waste the lives he so graciously gives us!

2. God has a plan. I got to thinking about this as I mentally reviewed the life my wife and I have lived to this point: the places we have lived, the churches we have served, the people we have loved (and continue to love). In all of my life I can see signs of God's invisible hand guiding, providing, protecting. This concept of God's plan is called providence. We do ourselves harm when we lose sight of the fact that God has a plan and He is working that plan as he "works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:11).

3. God's grace is unbelievable! This also hit me as I was taking a backward look at my life. God has given me FAR more, EXCEEDINGLY FAR MORE than I deserve! I am so thankful to HIM for the grace he has so generously showered upon me! We all need to keep this truth in the forefront of our thinking. As James reminds us, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Day of Prayer

In light of the fact that today is the National Day of Prayer, I thought I would reflect for a moment on prayer. One passage that is often turned to in discussions on prayer is James 4:1-3. The text reads as follows:

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."


I see in this passage two major hindrances to prayer. The first is the hindrance of PRAYERLESSNESS! James says one reason his readers did not have was simply because they did not ask God!!! You see, God has a generous heart and is far more ready to give than we are to ask. Why do we so often fail to pray as we should? Sometimes it is busyness that keeps us from God's throne. Other times it is a failure to recognize just how dependent we are upon God (read this "PRIDE"). But whatever the underlying reason might be - we must be sure to intentionally build prayer into our lives.

The second hindrance I see in this passage is SELFISHNESS! James says, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." Here he reminds us that it is not enough to pray ... to present our requests to God. We must do so with the right motive. The readers to whom James was writing lacked the proper motive. They were asking for THEMSELVES, while they should have been asking for others, too! Consider the pronouns in the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-11). It is NOT "Give ME this day MY daily prayer. Forgive ME MY trespasses..." Rather the pronouns are in the plural ... "Give US this day OUR daily bread, etc." So when we pray it is OK to ask about our own needs. But let me suggest before we do that, let's look around and pray for the needs of others!

So beware of these two hindrances to prayer: PRAYERLESSNESS and SELFISHNESS!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Baby Ella!

At 11:31 PM last night, Baby Ella arrived! She tipped the scales at a massive 5 lbs and 6 oz!!! She is a mere 19 1/2 long. And she is a stunning beauty!!! Our son, Tim called us at 11:33 with the news. In fact, he allowed Ella to inform us of her arrival - which she did with a lot of gusto for such a little one!!! This morning we enjoyed an hour long visit with Ella and the two very tired but very happy parents!

Thanks for all of you who prayed for Kelly and the baby. Her early arrival (she was due May 25th) does not appear to have had a negative impact on her health! For that we are grateful to Almighty God!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Our Granddaughter Has Arrived!


Late last night, our son and his wife welcomed their little daughter into their lives. We are heading to the hospital now to meet her. When I get back to the office, I will post more info.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

In Spanish, "Cinco de Mayo" is "the fifth of May." Many Americans assume it is Mexico's Independence Day. But it is not. Mexico declared its independence from Spain on September 15, 1810. But "Cinco de Mayo" commemorates the date of a crucial battle that occurred on May 5, 1862. On that date, near the city of Puebla, Mexico, some 100 miles east of Mexico City, an underarmed and outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French forces of Napoleon III. This significant victory marked the beginning of the end of French control of Mexico. For more info on the history of this celebration, you can check out a brief but solid summary at http://www.vivacincodemayo.org/history.htm.

Just as "Cinco de Mayo" celebrates a huge victory in Mexico's history - we who follow Jesus should also celebrate a huge victory in human history. I am talking about the victory of Jesus Christ over the powers of darkness. Paul refers to this victory when he writes concerning Jesus' crucifixion, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15). I know we spend time remembering this victory on Good Friday - but once a year is not enough! We need to be celebrating the victory of Jesus EVERY DAY! Take a moment right now and lift a word of praise toward the heavens. Thank God for the victory of His Son our Savior! Where would we be without it? Still in BONDAGE!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, May 1, 2009

Transformed Lives!

This morning I had the privilege of attending a commencement ceremony held at Water Street Rescue Mission (recently the mission changed its name to Water Street Ministries). Nine men had completed the 12 month program. Two of these nine are part of our church family here at Grace (congrats Don and Chris!). All nine of these guys had hit the bottom of life's barrel. They had no where to go -- so they came to Water Street and there they found Jesus (or perhaps better said, "were found there by Jesus")! Each one gave a "speech." And each one told how Jesus Christ had transformed his life. Even though the room was a comfortable temperature - I found my eyes sweating on more than one occasion! All these guys discovered a truth about God that more people need to understand - God's grace is sufficient. Apart from Jesus we can do NOTHING - but we can do everything through HIM who strengthens us (see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, John 15:5 and Philippians 4:13)!

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.