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Showing posts from June, 2009

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

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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 Another scam promises unpublished photos of the King of Pop if you click on a certain link.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 Bible Relvant for Today???

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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, wheth…

Saying Goodbye!

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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 m…

When God Seems Distant

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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. Consid…

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

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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 o…

Are You "Real?"

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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

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

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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 yea…

Does God's Kindness Preclude His Severity?

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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

Are You Making It Too Easy?

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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 a…

Maintaining Your Car ... Maintaining Your Marriage!

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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 rel…

Blogger Caught in a Lie!

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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…

Some Random Thoughts to Start the Week

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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 Corinthian…

Today Is My Wife's Birthday!

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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

Phony Toni

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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 cele…

A Lesson from Early Morning T-Storms

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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…

Often You See What You Are Conditioned to See!

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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…

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

Am I Perfect? Hardly!

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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.…

When Winning Just Might Be Losing!

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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 allegian…

To Be Known By God!

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"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 disill…