PJ

PJ

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In the Wake of Michael Jackson's Death: Beware of Online Scams!


Whenever a big name celebrity dies, Internet swindlers see an opportunity for financial gain. And the bigger the name of the celebrity ... the bigger the opportunity. Well, celebrity names don't get much bigger than Michael Jackson. These online scammers know that -- so they have begun to unleash a tsunami of spam emails - all with the purpose of capitalizing on the high demand for information concerning Michael Jackson. One of these messages promises a YouTube video showing EXCLUSIVE "last work of Michael Jackson." Instead of the video, computer uses receive a virus that steals there passwords and other personal information. Another scam promises unpublished photos of the King of Pop if you click on a certain link. It then takes the user to a site that will attempt to steal the computer user's passwords. So .... in the wake of Michael Jackson's death: BEWARE of online scams!

Scams are successful (for the scammer that is!) for a number of reasons. First, there is the lack of caution on the part of many Internet users. People are so intent on finding the info they want, they "throw caution to the wind." Second, scams are often very deceptive. Appearing legitimate, people think they are legitimate (makes sense, right?). But we must keep in mind that just because something might look legit ... does not make it so. We must learn to DISCERN (now there is a word that I believe you rarely hear!). And what is true for the world of the Internet ... is also true of the spiritual world. The Apostle Paul said that even "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). So we must always be on the alert. Sifting everything through the filter of God's Truth. If it lines up with Scripture - great! Grab it and run with it. If it does not - then ditch it! Don't allow the Great Deceiver to pull one over on you!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Bible Relvant for Today???


Whenever we open our Bibles to read, we are immediately transported to a far away place in a distant, distant past. The world in which the Bible's story unfolds is in many ways a very different world than the world in which we live. That world was quite primitive and undeveloped (can you imagine - no cell phones!!) and largely rural and agricultural. Travel was slow and communication to distant places even slower. Bottom line, there is much about the world of the Bible that makes us feel like outsiders looking in. SO - is it possible for a book written in such a different world be relevant to us today living in our fast-paced 21st century world?

My answer to that is an absolute YES! And here are two reasons why. First, even though the world has changed much across the course of many centuries of time, man has not changed. Man remains a fallen being living in defiance of the God who made him. And this defiance (a.k.a. "sin") manifests itself in many of the same ways, whether we are talking 1332 B.C, 36 A.D. or June 29, 2009. Broken relationships, violence, self-centeredness, hatred, envy, gossip, adultery, etc. are all sins that we are far too familiar with! So even though the world around us has changed dramatically since Bible times - the heart of man within has not!

But there is yet another powerful reason to embrace the Bible's relevancy for today. The God who interacted with the people of the past - is the same (EXACTLY the same) God with whom we relate today! James 1:17 states that God does "does not change like shifting shadows." And Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." The reason God never changes is that He is perfect ... and being perfect He cannot change! He cannot grow stronger or weaker or wiser as time moves on. "He cannot change for better," A.W. Pink wrote, "for He is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse." Because God does not (and cannot) change ... this means His purposes, His Truth, His ways of dealing with man do not change. And so for this reason - the Bible written so long ago is relevant for us today!

I close today's posting with a quote from J.I Packer's book, Knowing God, which got me thinking along these lines. He posses the following penetrating (read "ouch!") question:

"If our God is the same as the God of New Testament believers, how can we justify ourselves in resting content with an experience of communion with Him, and a level of Christian conduct, that falls so far below theirs? If God is the same, this is not an issue that any one of us can evade."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saying Goodbye!


We have had to say "good-bye" to three very well known celebrities this week: Ed McMahon (the longtime sidekick of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show), Farrah Fawcett (who may be best known for her 1970's role as one of Charlies' Angels) and Michael Jackson (who is best known for .... well ... many things). Of the three deaths, two did not surprise us (McMahon was 86 and Fawcett was battling terminal cancer). But Jackson's death at only age 50 caught us all by surprise. All this goes to show that the grim reaper known as death comes one day to claim us all. It does not matter what our age might be or how great our fame and fortune is. All of us WILL one day die. The Bible confirms what our experience teaches us. But the Bible does go one step further. In Hebrews 9:27 we read, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." Please do not miss what I am about to say. This verse confirms that death is our destiny - no matter who we might happen to be. BUT our existence does NOT end with death. The verse continues to say, "and AFTER THAT (i.e. after death) to face judgment." You see, every single person who dies will have to stand before Almighty God and face HIS judgment. Are YOU ready? If you want to know how you can GET READY, I encourage you to check out the following web site: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/. My hope for any and all who might happen to read this blog posting is that they will get right with God by embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 26, 2009

When God Seems Distant


This morning as I was sitting in my living room, I heard a banging at one of our windows. I looked and there fluttering his wings furiously was a little baby robin. He was doing his best to fly through the glass and enter our house. After several intense moments of doing all he could to try to penetrate the glass, he flew away.

The experience of this little bird reminds me of what I experience at times when I pray. There are times that God seems a long way off - that He is removed and distant. And when I do try to pray and communicate with Him, it is as if there is some invisible barrier between us - just like that glass was a barrier to that little bird. If you are anything like me, I am sure you have had this experience, too. God seems far off .... distant ... unconcerned about my pressing needs and wants. My friend, when these times come, don't start wondering if there is something wrong with you. God's people have often gone through these times of spiritual darkness. Consider, for example, Psalm 13:1 which reads, "How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" This was a frequent cry of the psalmists. You see, we are emotional beings. And for reasons that I will not get into in this posting, our emotions can easily get depressed. And in these depressed states, it is easy to feel that God is miles and miles (if not an entire universe) away! But let me encourage you not to allow your feelings to dictate your faith. Cling to the truth of God's Word that clearly tells us that no matter what we feel -- God is always with us (just read Psalm 139 and Hebrews 13:5-6 for starters)!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. Sometimes this feeling of distance may be due to unconfessed sin in our lives. In Isaiah 59:1-2 reads, "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear 2But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." So we must, when feeling this sense of distance from God examine our hearts for sin. If we find it, repentance and confession must be followed so we can be restored to our fellowship with God.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jon and Kate Plus 8 to Become Jon OR Kate Plus 8


Jon and Kate Plus 8, the wildly popular TLC reality show, took a sour turn this week. After ten years of marriage (and one set of twins and one set of sextuplets), Jon and Kate Gosselin have filed for divorce. I must admit that I had become a quasi-fan of the show. I didn't watch it every week, not even close. But the few times I did watch it, I found myself smiling at the "little kids." However, after watching the show on Monday night (I recorded it and then "speed watched" it) I am smiling no longer. In fact, I doubt if I will watch the show again.

During the announcement of their impending separation, both Jon and Kate said they wanted to do what was best for their kids. If that is really the case, then I say, "Work your marriage issues out!" Research has OVERWHELMINGLY shown that divorce is NOT what is best for kids! Perhaps one reason (of several) that God hates divorce (see Malachi 2:16) is because of the negative and often devastating impact of the divorce of mom and dad upon the kids. Now I will admit that I have not walked where Jon and Kate have walked, and I am one to be careful at making judgments about others. But the decision of Jon and Kate to end their marriage is a decision made all too often in our society today. Parents, if they were really intent on "doing what's best for our kids" would make their marriage the priority it should be - then, perhaps, the "D" word would never come up (which it should never come up for a Christian couple to begin with!). Sadly too many see divorce as "the way out of an impossible situation." But my Bible says "with God all things are possible" - and that would mean healing a fractured marriage (see Luke 1:37).

As to Jon and Kate - yes neither was perfect. Jon was way too passive and non communicative in his marriage (by his own admission) and Kate was over-the-top bossy (again her admission). But then again, non of us are perfect husbands or wives. Let me encourage you today to pray for Jon and Kate that perhaps they will stop the divorce proceedings and do whatever it takes to restore their relationship to one another. In addition, I urge you husbands to strive to CHERISH your wives .... and wives, I urge you to RESPECT your husbands (see Ephesians 5:22ff). Let those among us who are married recommit ourselves to our marriage vows. All by God's grace and for His glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Are You "Real?"


Yesterday morning we launched our week of Vacation Bible School. I was involved in the mission segment. As part of my presentation to the youngest two groups, I brought along Jack to help me. Jack is my Jack Rabbit puppet. He is quite large .... and somehow I can manage to make him appear to be alive - at least to some four and five year olds! During the question time with the one group, the #1 question was, "Is Jack real?" :)

That question is a good one to ask of each of us. Are we "real?" Or are we phony? Do we put on a false facade to make us appear more "Christian" than we really are? Jesus Christ calls us to follow Him not just on Sunday but every day. And if you are living two different lives (a Sunday life and an every-other-day life) - then you need to stop and decide to put the phoniness aside. SO make a decision today to live EVERYDAY for Jesus - and get REAL!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hey It's Monday and This Week is Vacation Bible School Week!


Yes ... hard to believe. But the first day of our VBS has arrived. We are expecting to conduct our largest VBS ever this week. And I got "drafted" to help. So between helping with VBS, continuing to develop my training materials for Africa AND the "regular" stuff of my week - it will be quite a busy week. I will do my best to keep posting ... so do stop back.

This morning, I want to share with you a brief testimonial about my limited VBS experience as a child. I was not raised in a church-going home. So VBS is not something I ever attended - until some friends who lived on my block invited my twin bro and me to go to the VBS being held at their church. And since it was summer and we were looking for things to do ... we agreed to go. I will be eternally grateful that I did! For it was there that I heard explained for the first time the gospel as it is contained in John 3:16. And even though I did not come to faith at that point (I was at that time either 10 or 11 years old) - it did move me a HUGE step closer to faith in Christ (God got a hold of me when I was 16 during the summer before my junior year in high school).

So for all of you who serve in VBS (or any children's ministry for that matter) - never grow weary in your ministry! There just may be a little boy or girl that God wants to save and use in a mighty way for HIS Kingdom. And you may just have a part in moving that child toward knowing Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 19, 2009

Does God's Kindness Preclude His Severity?


This morning in my reading, I ran across the following gripping quote from the pen of the late A.W. Tozer (from his book, The Knowledge of the Holy):

"God's justice stands forever against the sinner in utter severity. The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity while death draws every day nearer and the command to repent goes unregarded. As responsible moral beings we dare not so trifle with our eternal future."

Sobering and true!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Are You Making It Too Easy?


I just finished reading the evening newspaper, part of my after supper routine that I have enjoyed for a number of years (a routine about to end as the Lancaster New Era merges with the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal and becomes a morning only paper). One of the articles that caught my attention was all about car thefts and how car owners were making it easy for thieves to enter their cars and walk off with cash, cell phones, GPS units and other assorted valuables. In spite of continual warnings from police, it seems that many car owners are simply not locking their cars! Talk about making it too easy! Like stealing candy from a baby!

I wonder how many of us make it too easy for the Enemy of our soul to get a foothold in our hearts? Proverbs 4:23 puts it plainly: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Far too many of us are failing and failing woefully at guarding our hearts (in spite of the priority we are called upon to do so - "above all else!"). Therefore, we make it way too easy for Satan to get in and get settled - leading us astray in the process. So how does one guard one's heart? For starters by knowing and obeying the Word of God. The Psalmist writes, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11). When the Word of God is filling your heart - there will be no room for Satan and his lies to take residence! In addition, we guard our hearts as we pursue intimacy with God through prayer. In Philippians 4:6-7 we read, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." As we say no to anxiety and in all of life's situations pursue God in prayer, we will be given God's supernatural peace which will guard our hearts in Christ!

So bottom line ... Don't make it too easy for the Enemy! Guard your hearts by getting your head in the Word and your knees on the floor. And go hard after Jesus!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Maintaining Your Car ... Maintaining Your Marriage!


Cars need to be maintained if they are going to run well and run long. So every 3 months or so (and every 3000 miles or so) the oil and oil filter should be changed. In addition, there are certain things that should be done at certain mileage intervals (for example, at 50,000 miles). All of this is to assure the "health" of one's vehicle.

What is true of cars is also true of marriages. My wife, Sharon and I attended a marriage workshop the other evening. One of the statements in the manual really grabbed my attention. It read, "When we stop working on our relationship, it stops working for us! We need to maintain our relationship EVERY DAY!" I needed that reminder. It is so easy to get comfortable in our relationship with our spouse, so easy to take our spouse "for granted." So we must, as we were reminded the other night, "Commit to making our marriage thrive!" Are you willing to commit to making your marriage thrive? Of all the human relationships in your life, your relationship with your spouse MUST be your #1 priority! If it is not ... then make it so. And intentionally purpose to work with your spouse to make your marriage relationship thrive!

Thanks for stopping by. . .

pj

PS - Pull out your Bible and read Genesis 2:24-25 for a reminder of what God (who originated marriage) has to say about the marriage relationship. And if you are in a marriage in which your partner is not interested in making your marriage thrive, then purpose by God's grace to do your part. You cannot change your spouse, but you can change YOU!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blogger Caught in a Lie!


Rebeccah Beushausen is 26 years old and lives in Mokena, Illinois. She is also a blogger who recently confessed to authoring an Internet hoax on her blog. She had claimed to be pregnant and that her baby had been diagnosed with Trisomy 13 syndrome. This is a chromosomal defect that can lead to severe mental retardation and death. Rebeccah claimed that although counseled to abort the baby, her deep Christian faith would not allow her to do so. Her story attracted quite a following as her blog registered over a million hits. Followers of her blog wrote with promises to pray for Rebeccah and her unborn baby, April Rose. Many even sent gifts to a P.O. box she had listed on her site. Rebeccah was actually forced to confess and issue an apology when one of her readers recognized the photo of the new born April Rose as a photo of a very life like doll.

Now WHY this woman concocted this story and led so many to believe her lie - I just do not know. But one thing I do know is that if this woman was being true about her "deep Christian faith" (and who knows, perhaps she was lying about this, too!)she should have known better. The Bible talks much about how we talk ... and one thing we are told plainly is that when we talk we "shall not bear false witness" (Exodus 20:16). We are also admonished in the New Testament to "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor (Ephesians 4:25). So let me encourage you today to learn from this woman's experience ... it is always best to TELL THE TRUTH!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, June 15, 2009

Some Random Thoughts to Start the Week


Usually I am off on Mondays, but this week due to my schedule I am in the office. I thought I would post a few random thoughts about this that and the other thing.

1. Yesterday I got to thinking about our resurrected bodies and the question popped into my mind: When we receive our resurrected bodies, will those who die younger appreciate their new bodies as much as those who die of old age? After all, those of us (and I am getting ever closer to this experience) who undergo the affects of aging experience a lot of unpleasant, uncomfortable and downright painful days where our bodies just "ain't what they used to be!" So if we do indeed have memories of life on earth (and the account of the afterlife that Jesus gives in Luke 16 would seem to indicate that we will) - I would think that those who die later in life and have gone through aging process will indeed appreciate their new resurrect bodies more so than those who never had this earthly experience (see 1 Corinthians 15:42ff).

2. Being a grandparent is such a blessing! I was reminded of this when our son and his wife brought our grand baby Ella to our worship service for the first time yesterday (of course, she was nice and quiet until I started to preach my sermon --- but my guess it was just her way of shouting "Amen, preach it Papa John!"). It was a joy to introduce baby Ella to so many of our friends here at Grace!

3. The Word of God is powerful ... and effective. One of the passages from the Bible that I read yesterday as part of my message was Isaiah 55:10-11, which reads: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." God's Word will ALWAYS accomplish God's purpose. And God's purpose for us is to be conformed to the image of His Son. So if we are IN God's Word ... striving to KNOW it ... and striving to OBEY it - God will make us more like Jesus! You see, I believe in the sufficiency of the Bible, which I define as follows: The Bible is sufficient to provide the Truth I must KNOW and OBEY in order to live my life to God's glory and be conformed to Christ's image. Do you believe this? What does your frequency of interaction (reading, meditating on, studying, memorizing) say about your belief (or non-belief) in the sufficiency of the Bible?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 12, 2009

Today Is My Wife's Birthday!


Today my wife, Sharon turns ... (if you want to know, you will have to ask her!). So I am taking the day off and spending it with her. But before I sign off, think on the following quote:

"Christianity thrives not by trying to offer people what they already have, but by offering them what they desperately lack - namely, the Word of God and salvation through Jesus Christ."
(George E. Veith in an article titled, "Postmodern Times: Facing a World of New Challenges and Opportunities")

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Phony Toni

Toni Braxton has won six Grammies and is probably best known for her mega-hit song, hit "Un-break My Heart" and her appearances on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." Well just imagine that you paid over $50 for a ticket to hear the popular singer in concert. Part way through the concert you realize that the Toni Braxton performing before you is not really Toni Braxton at all, but the Braxton celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn. Think you'd be a bit upset? The concert goers who actually experienced this were. They pelted Johnson-Finn with trash and booed her off the stage. Then authorities arrested her and she spent three months in jail awaiting her hearing which finally arrived this week. The judge acquitted her and she has returned to her Las Vegas home (By the way, all this happened in Suriname which is the smallest country in South America. It is located on the northern coast of the continent, just to the north of Brazil.).

Now as to whether this celeb impersonator was really in on the scam or was just used by the concert promoters - I do not know. But I do know this - impersonators are all around us. An impersonator is simply someone who pretends to be another. All of us from time to time pretend to be someone we are not. We pretend to be the guy who as it all together. We pretend to be the woman who is really spiritual. And why do we do so? Unlike the impersonator in the above story, we don't do it to entertain. But we do it in order that others would think better of us. When we do this we forget one important truth. We might be able to fool those around us - but we can never fool God. So let's stop pretending and get real!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Lesson from Early Morning T-Storms

Yesterday morning I was awakened by a crack of thunder which was shortly followed by another. Noting that it was pitch dark outside, I took a look at the digital time display on my cell phone which I keep on my nightstand while I sleep. Through half-opened eyes I noted the time: 3:34. Yea! I should be sleeping right now, not listening to thunder resounding through the heavens!

But thunderstorms do not get our permission as to when they will arrive overhead. They just show up! And, as was my experience yesterday (and if you live in my vicinity probably yours too)- storms often come at very inopportune times! Now what is true of thunderstorms is also true of "lifestorms." You know, the turbulent times in our lives caused by unexpected and unwelcome trials and difficulties. But when these tough times come, we must keep them in perspective ... God's perspective, that is! So ... the next time an unanticipated "storm" arises in your life, remember this mandate from the Word of God: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Often You See What You Are Conditioned to See!

Take a quick look at the candy bar pictured here. What do you see? A Hershey Bar. Right? Well, yes and no. Look again. It looks like a Hershey Bar. Same coloring package and same lettering style as a Hershey Bar. Even starts with the letter "H." But if you look closely you will see that the letters spell out the words, "HERETHEYARE." This is actually a photo I took of the wedding favor that was given to all the guests at a wedding I officiated this past weekend up at the Hershey Rose Gardens. The favor was a cute way to go along with the Hershey theme (the wedding toast was done with chocolate milk in champagne classes!). I must admit when I first glanced at the favor, I thought it was a regular Hershey Bar (which it really was once you took off the special wrapper). Several of the other guests at my table also confessed to the same mistake. We all took a look and saw what we were conditioned to see - a Hershey Chocolate bar.

There is a lesson here for those of us who claim to follow Jesus. We must condition ourselves to see Jesus Christ in all of life. Not just our church experience. Not just those times when we are listening to praise music on our ipod as we work out at the gym or on a car CD player as we drive to work. We must intentionally work at seeing Jesus and His Father and the Spirit in every arena of life. He's there. Always! As He states in Hebrews 13:5b, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So no matter what you might be doing .... where you might find yourself ... condition yourself to see God. And as you do, it will transform your life!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, June 8, 2009

Have You Thanked a Cop Lately?

I have had the privilege of serving my community as a police chaplain for close to 9 years now. As each year passes, my respect for law enforcement personnel continues to grow. The job police do is a tough and thankless job. Yet think about about the chaos that would exist in our society if it were not for the police! (just the thought makes me shudder!) A police officer I know sent me a link to the following Paul Harvey commentary about police. I would encourage you to take the 3 minutes required to watch this you-tube "video." Then make a commitment to pray for our police officers and if you see one, take a moment to thank him or her for serving us!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Am I Perfect? Hardly!

If you were to look at Brittani McCalister, she would look like an average teenager. But she is anything but average. Since starting her education in kindergarten, Brittani has attended 2,340 consecutive days of school - and in that stretch of perfect attendance, she was never late - not even once! In my book, that's almost unbelievable!! During her high school commencement, she was recognized for her outstanding accomplishment! And she should have been! That kind of perfect attendance is rarely seen today!

Perfection. This is something that we all lack. In fact, we are far ... very far ... from perfection. As a result, our relationships with others are marred by hurts (most unintended), miscommunication and misunderstandings. This is why it is vital that we learn to practice what the Apostle Paul calls us all to practice in Colossians 3:13 when he writes, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Bearing with one another and forgiving one another will go a long way toward helping us to experience and enjoy the relationships that God desires for us.

So ... the next time someone irritates you, remember that they are not perfect - but neither are you!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When Winning Just Might Be Losing!

Last week as I was reading the newspaper, a story about a small rural town in South Dakota grabbed my attention. In this town of 3,000 residents, someone bought a winning ticket in the Powerball lottery worth .... are you ready? .... $232.1 million! And the name of the town? Winner, SD! At first I chuckled to myself as I read this and saw the irony in it. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered, "Does winning the lottery really make one a 'winner?'"

According to a number of Internet sites, a sizeable portion of million dollar plus lottery winners eventually file bankruptcy (the % cited ranges from 25 % to 80%). My point is not to determine an actual percentage of just how many big lottery winners go broke - but to simply point out a truth that all of us need to realize. MONEY DOES NOT GUARANTEE HAPPINESS! In fact, the Bible clearly teaches that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10).

Those of us who claim allegiance to Jesus Christ must grasp the truth spelled out by Paul just prior to the verse I just quoted. Listen (and APPLY!) what he writes to Timothy (and by extension to all of US!):

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

This is not all that easy to apply in our materialistic world -- but by God's grace and for HIS glory - let's strive to do so!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To Be Known By God!

"We love because he first loved us."
(1 John 4:19)

This verse (along with many others throughout the Bible) teach us that knowing God is a matter of grace. In other words, our relationship with God is one in which HE takes the initiative. And this is how it must be. God in His infinite (read "unlimited and unlimitable") holiness is far above us. And we have forfeited any claim on Him and His favor through our rebellion and sin. So bottom line, we do not make friends with God - HE makes friends with us. Please take a moment and read this excerpt from J.I. Packer's wonderful classic, Knowing God:

This is a momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort - the sort of comfort that energizes - in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and I am glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose. We cannot work these thoughts out here, but merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know, not merely that we know God, BUT THAT HE KNOWS US!" (Knowing God, p. 37 - emphasis mine).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In the Wake of Michael Jackson's Death: Beware of Online Scams!


Whenever a big name celebrity dies, Internet swindlers see an opportunity for financial gain. And the bigger the name of the celebrity ... the bigger the opportunity. Well, celebrity names don't get much bigger than Michael Jackson. These online scammers know that -- so they have begun to unleash a tsunami of spam emails - all with the purpose of capitalizing on the high demand for information concerning Michael Jackson. One of these messages promises a YouTube video showing EXCLUSIVE "last work of Michael Jackson." Instead of the video, computer uses receive a virus that steals there passwords and other personal information. Another scam promises unpublished photos of the King of Pop if you click on a certain link. It then takes the user to a site that will attempt to steal the computer user's passwords. So .... in the wake of Michael Jackson's death: BEWARE of online scams!

Scams are successful (for the scammer that is!) for a number of reasons. First, there is the lack of caution on the part of many Internet users. People are so intent on finding the info they want, they "throw caution to the wind." Second, scams are often very deceptive. Appearing legitimate, people think they are legitimate (makes sense, right?). But we must keep in mind that just because something might look legit ... does not make it so. We must learn to DISCERN (now there is a word that I believe you rarely hear!). And what is true for the world of the Internet ... is also true of the spiritual world. The Apostle Paul said that even "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). So we must always be on the alert. Sifting everything through the filter of God's Truth. If it lines up with Scripture - great! Grab it and run with it. If it does not - then ditch it! Don't allow the Great Deceiver to pull one over on you!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Bible Relvant for Today???


Whenever we open our Bibles to read, we are immediately transported to a far away place in a distant, distant past. The world in which the Bible's story unfolds is in many ways a very different world than the world in which we live. That world was quite primitive and undeveloped (can you imagine - no cell phones!!) and largely rural and agricultural. Travel was slow and communication to distant places even slower. Bottom line, there is much about the world of the Bible that makes us feel like outsiders looking in. SO - is it possible for a book written in such a different world be relevant to us today living in our fast-paced 21st century world?

My answer to that is an absolute YES! And here are two reasons why. First, even though the world has changed much across the course of many centuries of time, man has not changed. Man remains a fallen being living in defiance of the God who made him. And this defiance (a.k.a. "sin") manifests itself in many of the same ways, whether we are talking 1332 B.C, 36 A.D. or June 29, 2009. Broken relationships, violence, self-centeredness, hatred, envy, gossip, adultery, etc. are all sins that we are far too familiar with! So even though the world around us has changed dramatically since Bible times - the heart of man within has not!

But there is yet another powerful reason to embrace the Bible's relevancy for today. The God who interacted with the people of the past - is the same (EXACTLY the same) God with whom we relate today! James 1:17 states that God does "does not change like shifting shadows." And Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." The reason God never changes is that He is perfect ... and being perfect He cannot change! He cannot grow stronger or weaker or wiser as time moves on. "He cannot change for better," A.W. Pink wrote, "for He is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse." Because God does not (and cannot) change ... this means His purposes, His Truth, His ways of dealing with man do not change. And so for this reason - the Bible written so long ago is relevant for us today!

I close today's posting with a quote from J.I Packer's book, Knowing God, which got me thinking along these lines. He posses the following penetrating (read "ouch!") question:

"If our God is the same as the God of New Testament believers, how can we justify ourselves in resting content with an experience of communion with Him, and a level of Christian conduct, that falls so far below theirs? If God is the same, this is not an issue that any one of us can evade."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saying Goodbye!


We have had to say "good-bye" to three very well known celebrities this week: Ed McMahon (the longtime sidekick of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show), Farrah Fawcett (who may be best known for her 1970's role as one of Charlies' Angels) and Michael Jackson (who is best known for .... well ... many things). Of the three deaths, two did not surprise us (McMahon was 86 and Fawcett was battling terminal cancer). But Jackson's death at only age 50 caught us all by surprise. All this goes to show that the grim reaper known as death comes one day to claim us all. It does not matter what our age might be or how great our fame and fortune is. All of us WILL one day die. The Bible confirms what our experience teaches us. But the Bible does go one step further. In Hebrews 9:27 we read, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." Please do not miss what I am about to say. This verse confirms that death is our destiny - no matter who we might happen to be. BUT our existence does NOT end with death. The verse continues to say, "and AFTER THAT (i.e. after death) to face judgment." You see, every single person who dies will have to stand before Almighty God and face HIS judgment. Are YOU ready? If you want to know how you can GET READY, I encourage you to check out the following web site: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/. My hope for any and all who might happen to read this blog posting is that they will get right with God by embracing the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 26, 2009

When God Seems Distant


This morning as I was sitting in my living room, I heard a banging at one of our windows. I looked and there fluttering his wings furiously was a little baby robin. He was doing his best to fly through the glass and enter our house. After several intense moments of doing all he could to try to penetrate the glass, he flew away.

The experience of this little bird reminds me of what I experience at times when I pray. There are times that God seems a long way off - that He is removed and distant. And when I do try to pray and communicate with Him, it is as if there is some invisible barrier between us - just like that glass was a barrier to that little bird. If you are anything like me, I am sure you have had this experience, too. God seems far off .... distant ... unconcerned about my pressing needs and wants. My friend, when these times come, don't start wondering if there is something wrong with you. God's people have often gone through these times of spiritual darkness. Consider, for example, Psalm 13:1 which reads, "How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" This was a frequent cry of the psalmists. You see, we are emotional beings. And for reasons that I will not get into in this posting, our emotions can easily get depressed. And in these depressed states, it is easy to feel that God is miles and miles (if not an entire universe) away! But let me encourage you not to allow your feelings to dictate your faith. Cling to the truth of God's Word that clearly tells us that no matter what we feel -- God is always with us (just read Psalm 139 and Hebrews 13:5-6 for starters)!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. Sometimes this feeling of distance may be due to unconfessed sin in our lives. In Isaiah 59:1-2 reads, "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear 2But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." So we must, when feeling this sense of distance from God examine our hearts for sin. If we find it, repentance and confession must be followed so we can be restored to our fellowship with God.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jon and Kate Plus 8 to Become Jon OR Kate Plus 8


Jon and Kate Plus 8, the wildly popular TLC reality show, took a sour turn this week. After ten years of marriage (and one set of twins and one set of sextuplets), Jon and Kate Gosselin have filed for divorce. I must admit that I had become a quasi-fan of the show. I didn't watch it every week, not even close. But the few times I did watch it, I found myself smiling at the "little kids." However, after watching the show on Monday night (I recorded it and then "speed watched" it) I am smiling no longer. In fact, I doubt if I will watch the show again.

During the announcement of their impending separation, both Jon and Kate said they wanted to do what was best for their kids. If that is really the case, then I say, "Work your marriage issues out!" Research has OVERWHELMINGLY shown that divorce is NOT what is best for kids! Perhaps one reason (of several) that God hates divorce (see Malachi 2:16) is because of the negative and often devastating impact of the divorce of mom and dad upon the kids. Now I will admit that I have not walked where Jon and Kate have walked, and I am one to be careful at making judgments about others. But the decision of Jon and Kate to end their marriage is a decision made all too often in our society today. Parents, if they were really intent on "doing what's best for our kids" would make their marriage the priority it should be - then, perhaps, the "D" word would never come up (which it should never come up for a Christian couple to begin with!). Sadly too many see divorce as "the way out of an impossible situation." But my Bible says "with God all things are possible" - and that would mean healing a fractured marriage (see Luke 1:37).

As to Jon and Kate - yes neither was perfect. Jon was way too passive and non communicative in his marriage (by his own admission) and Kate was over-the-top bossy (again her admission). But then again, non of us are perfect husbands or wives. Let me encourage you today to pray for Jon and Kate that perhaps they will stop the divorce proceedings and do whatever it takes to restore their relationship to one another. In addition, I urge you husbands to strive to CHERISH your wives .... and wives, I urge you to RESPECT your husbands (see Ephesians 5:22ff). Let those among us who are married recommit ourselves to our marriage vows. All by God's grace and for His glory!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Are You "Real?"


Yesterday morning we launched our week of Vacation Bible School. I was involved in the mission segment. As part of my presentation to the youngest two groups, I brought along Jack to help me. Jack is my Jack Rabbit puppet. He is quite large .... and somehow I can manage to make him appear to be alive - at least to some four and five year olds! During the question time with the one group, the #1 question was, "Is Jack real?" :)

That question is a good one to ask of each of us. Are we "real?" Or are we phony? Do we put on a false facade to make us appear more "Christian" than we really are? Jesus Christ calls us to follow Him not just on Sunday but every day. And if you are living two different lives (a Sunday life and an every-other-day life) - then you need to stop and decide to put the phoniness aside. SO make a decision today to live EVERYDAY for Jesus - and get REAL!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hey It's Monday and This Week is Vacation Bible School Week!


Yes ... hard to believe. But the first day of our VBS has arrived. We are expecting to conduct our largest VBS ever this week. And I got "drafted" to help. So between helping with VBS, continuing to develop my training materials for Africa AND the "regular" stuff of my week - it will be quite a busy week. I will do my best to keep posting ... so do stop back.

This morning, I want to share with you a brief testimonial about my limited VBS experience as a child. I was not raised in a church-going home. So VBS is not something I ever attended - until some friends who lived on my block invited my twin bro and me to go to the VBS being held at their church. And since it was summer and we were looking for things to do ... we agreed to go. I will be eternally grateful that I did! For it was there that I heard explained for the first time the gospel as it is contained in John 3:16. And even though I did not come to faith at that point (I was at that time either 10 or 11 years old) - it did move me a HUGE step closer to faith in Christ (God got a hold of me when I was 16 during the summer before my junior year in high school).

So for all of you who serve in VBS (or any children's ministry for that matter) - never grow weary in your ministry! There just may be a little boy or girl that God wants to save and use in a mighty way for HIS Kingdom. And you may just have a part in moving that child toward knowing Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 19, 2009

Does God's Kindness Preclude His Severity?


This morning in my reading, I ran across the following gripping quote from the pen of the late A.W. Tozer (from his book, The Knowledge of the Holy):

"God's justice stands forever against the sinner in utter severity. The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity while death draws every day nearer and the command to repent goes unregarded. As responsible moral beings we dare not so trifle with our eternal future."

Sobering and true!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Are You Making It Too Easy?


I just finished reading the evening newspaper, part of my after supper routine that I have enjoyed for a number of years (a routine about to end as the Lancaster New Era merges with the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal and becomes a morning only paper). One of the articles that caught my attention was all about car thefts and how car owners were making it easy for thieves to enter their cars and walk off with cash, cell phones, GPS units and other assorted valuables. In spite of continual warnings from police, it seems that many car owners are simply not locking their cars! Talk about making it too easy! Like stealing candy from a baby!

I wonder how many of us make it too easy for the Enemy of our soul to get a foothold in our hearts? Proverbs 4:23 puts it plainly: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." Far too many of us are failing and failing woefully at guarding our hearts (in spite of the priority we are called upon to do so - "above all else!"). Therefore, we make it way too easy for Satan to get in and get settled - leading us astray in the process. So how does one guard one's heart? For starters by knowing and obeying the Word of God. The Psalmist writes, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11). When the Word of God is filling your heart - there will be no room for Satan and his lies to take residence! In addition, we guard our hearts as we pursue intimacy with God through prayer. In Philippians 4:6-7 we read, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." As we say no to anxiety and in all of life's situations pursue God in prayer, we will be given God's supernatural peace which will guard our hearts in Christ!

So bottom line ... Don't make it too easy for the Enemy! Guard your hearts by getting your head in the Word and your knees on the floor. And go hard after Jesus!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Maintaining Your Car ... Maintaining Your Marriage!


Cars need to be maintained if they are going to run well and run long. So every 3 months or so (and every 3000 miles or so) the oil and oil filter should be changed. In addition, there are certain things that should be done at certain mileage intervals (for example, at 50,000 miles). All of this is to assure the "health" of one's vehicle.

What is true of cars is also true of marriages. My wife, Sharon and I attended a marriage workshop the other evening. One of the statements in the manual really grabbed my attention. It read, "When we stop working on our relationship, it stops working for us! We need to maintain our relationship EVERY DAY!" I needed that reminder. It is so easy to get comfortable in our relationship with our spouse, so easy to take our spouse "for granted." So we must, as we were reminded the other night, "Commit to making our marriage thrive!" Are you willing to commit to making your marriage thrive? Of all the human relationships in your life, your relationship with your spouse MUST be your #1 priority! If it is not ... then make it so. And intentionally purpose to work with your spouse to make your marriage relationship thrive!

Thanks for stopping by. . .

pj

PS - Pull out your Bible and read Genesis 2:24-25 for a reminder of what God (who originated marriage) has to say about the marriage relationship. And if you are in a marriage in which your partner is not interested in making your marriage thrive, then purpose by God's grace to do your part. You cannot change your spouse, but you can change YOU!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blogger Caught in a Lie!


Rebeccah Beushausen is 26 years old and lives in Mokena, Illinois. She is also a blogger who recently confessed to authoring an Internet hoax on her blog. She had claimed to be pregnant and that her baby had been diagnosed with Trisomy 13 syndrome. This is a chromosomal defect that can lead to severe mental retardation and death. Rebeccah claimed that although counseled to abort the baby, her deep Christian faith would not allow her to do so. Her story attracted quite a following as her blog registered over a million hits. Followers of her blog wrote with promises to pray for Rebeccah and her unborn baby, April Rose. Many even sent gifts to a P.O. box she had listed on her site. Rebeccah was actually forced to confess and issue an apology when one of her readers recognized the photo of the new born April Rose as a photo of a very life like doll.

Now WHY this woman concocted this story and led so many to believe her lie - I just do not know. But one thing I do know is that if this woman was being true about her "deep Christian faith" (and who knows, perhaps she was lying about this, too!)she should have known better. The Bible talks much about how we talk ... and one thing we are told plainly is that when we talk we "shall not bear false witness" (Exodus 20:16). We are also admonished in the New Testament to "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor (Ephesians 4:25). So let me encourage you today to learn from this woman's experience ... it is always best to TELL THE TRUTH!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, June 15, 2009

Some Random Thoughts to Start the Week


Usually I am off on Mondays, but this week due to my schedule I am in the office. I thought I would post a few random thoughts about this that and the other thing.

1. Yesterday I got to thinking about our resurrected bodies and the question popped into my mind: When we receive our resurrected bodies, will those who die younger appreciate their new bodies as much as those who die of old age? After all, those of us (and I am getting ever closer to this experience) who undergo the affects of aging experience a lot of unpleasant, uncomfortable and downright painful days where our bodies just "ain't what they used to be!" So if we do indeed have memories of life on earth (and the account of the afterlife that Jesus gives in Luke 16 would seem to indicate that we will) - I would think that those who die later in life and have gone through aging process will indeed appreciate their new resurrect bodies more so than those who never had this earthly experience (see 1 Corinthians 15:42ff).

2. Being a grandparent is such a blessing! I was reminded of this when our son and his wife brought our grand baby Ella to our worship service for the first time yesterday (of course, she was nice and quiet until I started to preach my sermon --- but my guess it was just her way of shouting "Amen, preach it Papa John!"). It was a joy to introduce baby Ella to so many of our friends here at Grace!

3. The Word of God is powerful ... and effective. One of the passages from the Bible that I read yesterday as part of my message was Isaiah 55:10-11, which reads: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." God's Word will ALWAYS accomplish God's purpose. And God's purpose for us is to be conformed to the image of His Son. So if we are IN God's Word ... striving to KNOW it ... and striving to OBEY it - God will make us more like Jesus! You see, I believe in the sufficiency of the Bible, which I define as follows: The Bible is sufficient to provide the Truth I must KNOW and OBEY in order to live my life to God's glory and be conformed to Christ's image. Do you believe this? What does your frequency of interaction (reading, meditating on, studying, memorizing) say about your belief (or non-belief) in the sufficiency of the Bible?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 12, 2009

Today Is My Wife's Birthday!


Today my wife, Sharon turns ... (if you want to know, you will have to ask her!). So I am taking the day off and spending it with her. But before I sign off, think on the following quote:

"Christianity thrives not by trying to offer people what they already have, but by offering them what they desperately lack - namely, the Word of God and salvation through Jesus Christ."
(George E. Veith in an article titled, "Postmodern Times: Facing a World of New Challenges and Opportunities")

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Phony Toni

Toni Braxton has won six Grammies and is probably best known for her mega-hit song, hit "Un-break My Heart" and her appearances on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." Well just imagine that you paid over $50 for a ticket to hear the popular singer in concert. Part way through the concert you realize that the Toni Braxton performing before you is not really Toni Braxton at all, but the Braxton celebrity impersonator Trina Johnson-Finn. Think you'd be a bit upset? The concert goers who actually experienced this were. They pelted Johnson-Finn with trash and booed her off the stage. Then authorities arrested her and she spent three months in jail awaiting her hearing which finally arrived this week. The judge acquitted her and she has returned to her Las Vegas home (By the way, all this happened in Suriname which is the smallest country in South America. It is located on the northern coast of the continent, just to the north of Brazil.).

Now as to whether this celeb impersonator was really in on the scam or was just used by the concert promoters - I do not know. But I do know this - impersonators are all around us. An impersonator is simply someone who pretends to be another. All of us from time to time pretend to be someone we are not. We pretend to be the guy who as it all together. We pretend to be the woman who is really spiritual. And why do we do so? Unlike the impersonator in the above story, we don't do it to entertain. But we do it in order that others would think better of us. When we do this we forget one important truth. We might be able to fool those around us - but we can never fool God. So let's stop pretending and get real!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Lesson from Early Morning T-Storms

Yesterday morning I was awakened by a crack of thunder which was shortly followed by another. Noting that it was pitch dark outside, I took a look at the digital time display on my cell phone which I keep on my nightstand while I sleep. Through half-opened eyes I noted the time: 3:34. Yea! I should be sleeping right now, not listening to thunder resounding through the heavens!

But thunderstorms do not get our permission as to when they will arrive overhead. They just show up! And, as was my experience yesterday (and if you live in my vicinity probably yours too)- storms often come at very inopportune times! Now what is true of thunderstorms is also true of "lifestorms." You know, the turbulent times in our lives caused by unexpected and unwelcome trials and difficulties. But when these tough times come, we must keep them in perspective ... God's perspective, that is! So ... the next time an unanticipated "storm" arises in your life, remember this mandate from the Word of God: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Often You See What You Are Conditioned to See!

Take a quick look at the candy bar pictured here. What do you see? A Hershey Bar. Right? Well, yes and no. Look again. It looks like a Hershey Bar. Same coloring package and same lettering style as a Hershey Bar. Even starts with the letter "H." But if you look closely you will see that the letters spell out the words, "HERETHEYARE." This is actually a photo I took of the wedding favor that was given to all the guests at a wedding I officiated this past weekend up at the Hershey Rose Gardens. The favor was a cute way to go along with the Hershey theme (the wedding toast was done with chocolate milk in champagne classes!). I must admit when I first glanced at the favor, I thought it was a regular Hershey Bar (which it really was once you took off the special wrapper). Several of the other guests at my table also confessed to the same mistake. We all took a look and saw what we were conditioned to see - a Hershey Chocolate bar.

There is a lesson here for those of us who claim to follow Jesus. We must condition ourselves to see Jesus Christ in all of life. Not just our church experience. Not just those times when we are listening to praise music on our ipod as we work out at the gym or on a car CD player as we drive to work. We must intentionally work at seeing Jesus and His Father and the Spirit in every arena of life. He's there. Always! As He states in Hebrews 13:5b, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So no matter what you might be doing .... where you might find yourself ... condition yourself to see God. And as you do, it will transform your life!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, June 8, 2009

Have You Thanked a Cop Lately?

I have had the privilege of serving my community as a police chaplain for close to 9 years now. As each year passes, my respect for law enforcement personnel continues to grow. The job police do is a tough and thankless job. Yet think about about the chaos that would exist in our society if it were not for the police! (just the thought makes me shudder!) A police officer I know sent me a link to the following Paul Harvey commentary about police. I would encourage you to take the 3 minutes required to watch this you-tube "video." Then make a commitment to pray for our police officers and if you see one, take a moment to thank him or her for serving us!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Am I Perfect? Hardly!

If you were to look at Brittani McCalister, she would look like an average teenager. But she is anything but average. Since starting her education in kindergarten, Brittani has attended 2,340 consecutive days of school - and in that stretch of perfect attendance, she was never late - not even once! In my book, that's almost unbelievable!! During her high school commencement, she was recognized for her outstanding accomplishment! And she should have been! That kind of perfect attendance is rarely seen today!

Perfection. This is something that we all lack. In fact, we are far ... very far ... from perfection. As a result, our relationships with others are marred by hurts (most unintended), miscommunication and misunderstandings. This is why it is vital that we learn to practice what the Apostle Paul calls us all to practice in Colossians 3:13 when he writes, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Bearing with one another and forgiving one another will go a long way toward helping us to experience and enjoy the relationships that God desires for us.

So ... the next time someone irritates you, remember that they are not perfect - but neither are you!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When Winning Just Might Be Losing!

Last week as I was reading the newspaper, a story about a small rural town in South Dakota grabbed my attention. In this town of 3,000 residents, someone bought a winning ticket in the Powerball lottery worth .... are you ready? .... $232.1 million! And the name of the town? Winner, SD! At first I chuckled to myself as I read this and saw the irony in it. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered, "Does winning the lottery really make one a 'winner?'"

According to a number of Internet sites, a sizeable portion of million dollar plus lottery winners eventually file bankruptcy (the % cited ranges from 25 % to 80%). My point is not to determine an actual percentage of just how many big lottery winners go broke - but to simply point out a truth that all of us need to realize. MONEY DOES NOT GUARANTEE HAPPINESS! In fact, the Bible clearly teaches that "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10).

Those of us who claim allegiance to Jesus Christ must grasp the truth spelled out by Paul just prior to the verse I just quoted. Listen (and APPLY!) what he writes to Timothy (and by extension to all of US!):

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

This is not all that easy to apply in our materialistic world -- but by God's grace and for HIS glory - let's strive to do so!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To Be Known By God!

"We love because he first loved us."
(1 John 4:19)

This verse (along with many others throughout the Bible) teach us that knowing God is a matter of grace. In other words, our relationship with God is one in which HE takes the initiative. And this is how it must be. God in His infinite (read "unlimited and unlimitable") holiness is far above us. And we have forfeited any claim on Him and His favor through our rebellion and sin. So bottom line, we do not make friends with God - HE makes friends with us. Please take a moment and read this excerpt from J.I. Packer's wonderful classic, Knowing God:

This is a momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort - the sort of comfort that energizes - in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and I am glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose. We cannot work these thoughts out here, but merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know, not merely that we know God, BUT THAT HE KNOWS US!" (Knowing God, p. 37 - emphasis mine).

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.