PJ

PJ

Monday, November 30, 2009

Some Post Thanksgiving Reflections


Hard to believe Thanksgiving Day 2009 is now in life's rear view mirror! But that is the way life is ... it flies by rapidly! As we stand on the door step of December, here are some thoughts to start your week.

1. I love the Thanksgiving holiday! Why? For starters, the day includes my favorite meal - a turkey dinner with ALL the trimmings! Yep! I'd rather eat a turkey dinner over a steak dinner any day of the week! In addition, I love just getting together with our kids and their families and just talking around the table. It's been quite the ride watching our kids grow up! Finally, what a joy it is to spend some time reflecting together on the blessings of God in our lives and then giving Him our thanks! It doesn't get much better than that!

2. Christmas Day is now only 25 days away! Among other things, that means 25 more days of pressure from Madison Avenue to get out and spend money we don't have to buy things we (or others) don't need - all in name of the Christmas spirit. Hmm. The Christmas spirit?  When I think of the spirit of the Christmas holiday I think of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). If we want to do something "in the Christmas spirit" then let's share the gospel with our friends, neighbors, co-workers and classmates. Let's give a gift to a ministry that reaches out to the poor and need, like Children's Fellowship of India or Water Street Ministries. That's what the Christmas spirit is really all about!

3. Given the fact that there are now only 31 days left in this year, let me ask you something. Is there anything you have been planning to do but just have not "gotten around to it?"  Let me challenge you to stop right now and make plans to "get around to it." It may be inviting a friend over for dinner or out to lunch. It may be something your spouse has been asking you to do around the house. It may be a spiritual discipline you have been meaning to tackle or a book you have been meaning to read. But whatever it is you have been thinking about doing --- do it! Before this year is over and a new one arrives!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanking on Purpose!


Every parent has had the embarrassement of their child receiving a gift and failing to thank the giver of the gift. Children must be taught to say "thank you." It does not come naturally. The default setting of fallen human nature is ingratitude. Therefore we must get intentional about giving thanks!

So ... with Thanksgiving Day just one day away, it seems like an appropriate time for me to ask, "Are YOU intentional with giving thanks?"  The Scripture is clear that "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). Wow! Every blessing in life, from the taste buds you will use to taste all the deliciousness of tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast to the antacids you will have to pop afterward to deal with the indigestion (hint: as in so many things, moderation is the key!) - all of life's blessings come from the hand of our generous, gracious and never changing God!

Let me encourage you to get intentional about giving thanks - not just on Thanksgiving Day but EVERY DAY!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Talk about Some HEAVY Reading!


The debate about the current national health care legislation has been all over the news. I must admit I have read and listened to some of the news ... but not all of the news. I am probably better informed about this issue than some, but probably not as informed as others nor as informed as I probably should be. But then I wonder how anyone with a life could be "well-informed" when it comes to the health care legislation that the Senate is about ready to debate. The bill is approximately 2000 pages in length. Now how long would it take the average person to read such a monstrosity (especially given how busy people are these days)??? And I wonder how many of our senators have actually sat down and read and fully reflected on and then digested all the information contained in this bill. The government surely knows how to make things complicated! (I guess we should be thankful that this national health care legislation is ONLY 2000 pages in length. The federal tax code is some 70,000 pages long!).

As complicated as our government makes things .... God on the other hand makes things simple. Take the gospel for example. One does not need to read a 2000 page document filled with "legaleese" and "financialeese" to understand the meaning of the gospel. In fact, John 3:16 expresses the heart of the gospel quite well. In just 26 words, Jesus Christ explains the gospel when he says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Now here is a message simple enough for a child to grasp! No lawyers, accountants, medical experts or economists required!

I for one want to go on record that I am quite thankful to God that he loved me, a sinner and a born rebel, and that His Son took my place on the cross and paid the penalty for my sin!  I thank God for the simple - yet profound - gospel message!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some Random Thoughts to Begin Thanksgiving Week


1. I wonder how many of us (myself included) are more thankful for the blessings of God than we are for God Himself. Now don't get me wrong, we should be thankful to God for His many blessings - but are we more in love with the gifts or the Giver???

2. I never get over just how quickly life is passing. It seems like just yesterday that I walked down the aisle to say "I do" when in fact that was over 3 decades ago! And now all three of my children have done the same! Wow! All this to say - life is precious - each day, each hour, each minute. Let's purpose not to waste our time but make it count for Christ and His Kingdom!

3. Little children are cute and impressionable. We smile at the former and often times forget about the latter. But all of us who claim allegiance to Christ must keep in mind that there are many sets of young impressionable eyes and ears upon us. We must be sure that our walk is worthy of imitating (see 1 Corinthians 11:1). The old "like father, like son" or "like mother like daughter" is very true.

4. There's no better meal than turkey with all the trimmings (by the way, if you have never tried Isaac Restaurant's  'Thanksgiving on a Bun' sandwich - you MUST do so!). Well, like many places, turkey with all the trimmings is the menu for our Smith Thanksgiving Day feast. But that is not the highlight for me. The highlight is having our entire family around the table, thanking God for His blessings and enjoying one another's company. It doesn't get much better than that. Thank you, Father!!!

And thank YOU for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Real Zinger for So Many of Us!


I just came across a quote by J.I. Packer that nailed me between the eyes and then pierced my soul deeply. Please take a moment to read ... and then reflect on what he has to say.

"If we ourselves have known anything of the love of Christ for us, and if our hearts have felt any measure of gratitude for the grace that has saved us from death and hell, then this attitude of compassion and care for our spiritually needy fellow-men ought to come naturally and spontaneously to us . . .It is a tragic and ugly thing when Christians lack this desire, and are actually reluctant to share the precious knowledge that they have with others whose need of it is just as great as their own."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Cow Takes a Dip!


This past Monday evening, Kathy Wydareny of Spartansburg, SC was minding her own business, going through her normal Monday evening routine. That routine was broken by what she called a "giant woosh." So she grabbed a flashlight and proceeded to go out to her back yard to investigate. To her disbelieving eyes she discovered a cow had fallen into her covered swimming pool!She immediately called 911 (It took 5 men from county rescue to pull the cow out of the pool - they used a sling). It seems the cow wandered over from a neighbor's farm and mistook the pool cover for solid ground, which the cow discovered was a HUGE mistake when the "solid" ground moooooooooved!

Hmmm. The mistake this cow made -- is the same mistake that I see a lot of Christ-followers making today. They think they are on solid ground, when they are not. Now just what do I mean by this? Far too many Christians are embracing beliefs that are not based on a solid biblical foundation. One reason for this is that many of those who are teaching from America's pulpits are giving a watered-down gospel at best and another gospel at worse (see Galatians 1:6-9 to hear what the Apostle Paul had to say about those who were distorting the gospel). To show you what I mean, check out the following excerpt of an interview done by Larry King on CNN. His guest? Joel Osteen, pastor of one of the largest (if not the largest) church in America. Just listen to his lack of clarity on what humanity so desperately needs to hear - the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

So ... in closing, let me encourage  you - if you claim to be a follower of Jesus - whenever you listen to anyone teach the Bible, follow the example of the Bereans who listened to Paul preach. In Acts 17:11 we read, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Let's go and do likewise!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Just around the Corner!


With the Thanksgiving holiday just a week from tomorrow, I thought I would post something that would get you thinking about thanksgiving (and not just for Thanksgiving Day). So here is a quote about giving thanks from the book, Radical Gratitude: Discovering Joy through Everyday Thankfulness, by Ellen Vaughn.

"Developing the meditative habit of constantly whispering thanks to Him - no matter the situation - is in fact a mustard seed of life-changing power. Radical, for it goes to the root of who we are. Small, seemingly insignificant, yet it has the power to change our lives and blow our socks off, right in the midst of the everyday. When we really give God thanks in everything, we are acknowledging that He is sovereign and that we trust Him. And we find that it changes us." 

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

UNFRIEND?


Each year, Oxford University Press tracks how the English language is changing. When the results are in, the publisher selects one word which seems to best capture the mood of the year. This year's New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year is the word "unfriend." It means to remove someone as a friend on a social networking site such as Facebook. 

Now you may or may not be a part of Facebook's social network. For better or for worse I am. I first got started just after my youngest daughter's wedding. Her new brother-in-law posted a number of wedding photos on his Facebook site. Wanting to see them, I of course, had to become a registered Facebook user and then send him a friend request. Fortunately for me, he was willing to confirm me as a Facebook friend!

Now being a Facebook friend requires very little. In fact all it takes is a couple of mouse clicks and you are in. In fact, I have some Facebook friends that I barely know ... and regularly receive friend requests from people I do NOT know.

However, being a friend in "the REAL world" is much more demanding. The Old Testament book of wisdom, Proverbs, has much to say about friendship (the word "friend" in some form appears 25 times in the book!). One of these verses speaks about the Facebook social community (and other such cyberspace relational sites). Proverbs 18:25 reads, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." This verse contains a warning to those of us who use Facebook type sites to do our social networking - and it is this. Having lots of friends on Facebook is simply having a lot of COMPANIONS -- people who you might "know" and who might "know" you. But if we are to really make it in life - we need those friends who stick closer than a brother. This type of friendship can stay connected via a site like Facebook - but I do not believe it can be nurtured into a deep relationship there. All this to say -- do not neglect face-to-face contact with your friends. For it is there that you will find yourself growing together and your hearts bonding!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 13, 2009

What We MUST Know


We live in an information world. The latest news is only a click away. Knowledge that was once attainable only through books in a library can now be accessed from the privacy and comfort of one's own home by surfing the Internet. According to research, the total store of human knowledge is now doubling every 8 years! Wow! That is an astonishing fact! Consider also the following: 80 % of all scientists who have ever lived are alive today. EVERY MINUTE these scientists add 2000 pages to man's scientific knowledge, and the scientific material they produce EVERY 24 HOURS would take one person FIVE YEARS to read! About half a million new books are published EACH YEAR!

So we are being overwhelmed with knowledge with no chance to even come close with knowing it all! Even highly specialized doctors do not even come close to knowing all there is to know even within their narrow specialty! SOOO .... how should we respond as we seek to stay afloat in this ocean of knowledge? Consider the following quotes:

"Of all the things you might ever study or reflect on, nothing could possibly be greater than God. So your view of Him automatically has more far-reaching ramifications than anything else in your belief system. What you think of God WILL automatically color how you think about everything else - especially how you prioritize values; how you determine right and wrong; and what you think of your own place in the universe. That in turn will surely determine how you act." (John MacArthur, The Jesus You Cannot Ignore)

"This is what the LORD says: 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches,  24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD . . .' (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

How well do you KNOW God???

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Insomnia!


Early yesterday morning (I think the clock read 3:11) I had to make bathroom run. After crawling back under the covers, my mind clicked into gear .... forty-five minutes later I climbed out of bed, frustrated that I could not get back to sleep. I threw on my robe, pulled on my slippers and walked out to pick up our morning paper (which arrived yesterday shortly before 4:00 - I knew that because I saw the headlights of the delivery person's car shining through our bedroom window's blinds). Once back in the house, I settled into my favorite recliner and read the sports page. About fifteen minutes later, my eyes began to grow heavy -- so I threw on a blanket and turned off the light. And the sleep that I could not find while laying in bed ... crept up on me and I slept until just before 6:00. Yes, I wish I had gotten a bit more sleep, but I was thankful that I got the sleep that I did.

Now that is not the first time I have battled insomnia ... and I am sure it won't be the last time either! According to emedicine.com, an estimated 30-50% of the population is affected by insomnia, and about 10% suffer from chronic insomnia. Given these stats, I am sure you can most likely relate to my experience.

Now what makes my bouts with insomnia so baffling is the ease at which I sometimes find myself falling asleep. I can be watching the evening news (either 6 PM or 10 PM) and fall fast asleep. And there have been a few times in the past in which I have been talking to my wife (or a roommate on a mission trip) and have fallen asleep in the middle of a sentence (with me speaking!!!). So I just don't get it! Sometimes sleep comes easily and at other times it is very elusive. And as to why this is so, I must confess that for the most part I am clueless!

Of course, the reason we all hate these bouts with insomnia is that we need our sleep. And when we are deprived of sleep, our minds become foggy and our spirits grow grumpy - and that is not a great way to tackle our day! But this is NOT so with our God. Unlike us He requires no sleep. In fact, he never sleeps. And for us, that is a very good thing. In Psalm 121:4 we are told that the God who watches us, "will neither slumber nor sleep." So you and I never need to worry that when we are facing a crisis God might be sleeping through it. No. Never happen. God is always watching over us - 24/7/365. And I for one am very glad!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You, Vets!!!


Today's date is November 11th. That means today is Veterans Day. Now for most of us, today is pretty much like every other Wednesday. We got up, got ready, and headed to work. Some of the "luckier" ones among us woke up to the delightful thought of a day off (if this is true of you - enjoy!). So as I sit here at my desk working away ... I do want to express my thanks to the veterans who might happen to read this posting today. Serving in the military is not my idea of a comfortable experience. This is especially true when our country is at war (as is the case now). In a world that is distorted by sin and in which evil often gets the "upper hand" - armed conflict is often unavoidable if freedom is to be preserved. So if you have served in our military - whether a year ago or a half a century ago (or are serving right now) - THANKS FOR SERVING US!  Because of your sacrifice we are secure.

And if you are not a veteran - please be sure to thank one today.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One Weekend, Two Church Visits


This past weekend while in Indiana, I had the opportunity to visit two churches. The larger of the two I visited on Saturday evening (this was the first time I had ever visited this particular church). The other I attended on Sunday morning. This second church is one that I have visited several times before. As I reflect on my experience, a few thoughts come to mind:

1. The church is alive and well on planet earth (or at least in certain places!). In both churches I observed people who were engaging in ministry and worship and were passionate about their faith walk. Praise God!

2. Not every church does "church" the way we do. And that is OK. The "different strokes for different folks" adage comes to mind here. Having said that, I must say that the bread and cup celebration that I experienced in the Saturday evening service left me wanting more! The whole segment took no more than five minutes (which included the distribution of the elements). Jesus told us (in regard to the bread and cup), "This do in remembrance of Me." However, there was a woeful lack of attention given to Jesus and His sacrifice for us as we observed the bread and cup. It left me feeling that this was something the church had to "squeeze" into their worship script for the service. It also made me so very thankful for how we practice the Lord's Supper, giving a whole 1 1/2 hours to the practice (and if you have never participated in a three-fold communion service - which is based on the events of the Last Supper - I encourage you to join us at Grace this coming Sunday (Nov. 15) at 6 PM in our Family Life Center).

3. There's no place like home! I love my church. Yes, it's not a perfect church. But is a church that lives up to its name. Grace is in the fibers of our church - and I love it! So to all who call Grace Church at Willow Valley "home" - I want you to know that I am privileged to be serving you for Jesus' sake!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 9, 2009

Home from Indiana . . .


I pulled into my driveway about 10:30 last night (Sunday night). I will hopefully post to my blog tomorrow. Until then, remember that God wants us to live a BRAVE life - not a safe life! (probably the topic for a future posting!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - Pictured is my granddaughter Ella as she cheered on the Phillies in the World Series (too bad the Yankees got the last laugh!).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Holiness or Happiness?


From what I see and hear among American Christians today, I would judge that most see the pursuit of personal happiness as the major pursuit of their lives. One major reason why this is so is due to the teaching so many Christians are receiving today. Please take a moment and read the following excerpt from J.I. Packer's book, Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God:

"What do we Christians mainly preach and teach and produce TV programs and DVDs about these days? The answer seems to be not holiness, but success and positive feelings - getting health, wealth, freedom from care, good sex and happy families. I remember seeing in a Christian journal a group eight new 'how-to' books reviewed on a single page. How long, I wonder, is it since you heard about eight new books on holiness? Shall I guess?" 

He then goes on to write, "If we play down or ignore the importance of holiness, we are utterly and absolutely wrong. Holiness is in fact commanded: God wills it, Christ requires it, and all the Scriptures - the law, the gospel, the prophets, the wisdom writings, the epistles, the history books that tell of judgments past and the book of Revelation that tells of judgment to come - call for it." (if you want biblical support for this statement, please see the following: 1 Thessalonians 4:3; John 8:11; Matthew 5:19, 1 Peter 1:16, Titus 2:11-14, Ephesians 4:21-24, 5:25-27; Revelation 21:27; Hebrews 12:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1 - and I could go on ... but I will stop there!)

Hmm. J. I. is right here. Far too many of us have bought into the American right to the "pursuit of happiness" when we should be striving to pursue the biblical mandate to be holy. How about you? Given much thought lately to your state of personal holiness? (Oh and by the way ... the path of personal holiness results in a deep and enduring joy which is a far better state of soul then "happiness" which is so dependent on our external "happeninings!")

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Indiana!


For the next couple of days I will be in Winona Lake, Indiana for the fall Board meetings of Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. Please pray for wisdom for us as these are very trying days for institutions of higher education. God has entrusted many young men and women to the nurturing of our schools, and we want to prove faithful to this responsibility! How about YOU? What responsibilities has God entrusted to you ... and are YOU being faithful? (1 Corinthians 4:2 reads, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.")

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Back to Africa?


No, I am not planning to head back to Africa any time soon. But as I sat at my desk yesterday morning, my thoughts began to wander back there. So I pulled out my "email journal" (I kept all of the emails I sent to my wife) of the trip and began to read and reflect. Here is a portion of one email that I wrote after teaching on the 11th of 12 consecutive days of teaching/preaching:

"I covered the 1 Peter 5 passage on shepherding today with the pastors and got through the first third of my 'Epaphroditus, a Model Servant' material. Tomorrow I will finish that, look at Paul's 'swan song' ("I have fought the good fight," etc.) and answer more questions. There were quite a few really good questions today. That shows me the pastors are processing the Word . . . I am VERY tired. I am glad I have only one more day of teaching! So even though I am tired, it is a good tired as I have spent my energy in what I truly love to do - and that is to teach the Word of God!"


That last statement is so true. I do love to teach God's Word!  And why is that so? The answer to that question is found in the prayer Jesus prayed for His Church the night before His crucifixion. As He prayed to His Father, He said, "Sanctify them by the truth - your word is truth" (John 17:17). God's Word is THE instrument that God will work through to transform us into the image of Christ. So I am thrilled to know that I get the opportunity to teach God's people God's Word ... and then pray for them that they will take the Word and obey it!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So You Came to Jesus ... WHY?

The way I hear people talk about why they came to Jesus and the way I hear many preachers and evangelists presenting the gospel, I wonder if those who are making decisions for Christ ... are really making decisions for Christ for just making decisions for a better life? In the gospel of John, after feeding a crowd of 5000+ hungry people, Jesus said to these people on the following day, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill" (John 6:26). The people came to Jesus not because they embraced the truth the sign pointed to ... but they came because they had their bellies filled. Please take a moment and listen to this brief excerpt from a recent sermon from pastor and author, John Piper:

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some Random Thoughts to Start the Week


1. Hard to believe that it is November 2nd already!  Time sure does fly! Means that it's vital that we learn to make our moments count. Too many of us waste this precious resource on such trivial pursuits (I am pointing my finger at me right now on this one!). Given that our lives are "a mist that appears for a little while and than vanishes" (James 4:14), let's strive to be more intentional about NOT wasting our time but rather investing our time in those activities that will deepen our love for God, nurture our love for others and address our world's need for Jesus Christ.

2. In just a little while I will be leaving the office to conduct a graveside service for a woman who passed away last week. She was a woman of strong faith in Christ and so this service will be a joy to officiate. Scripture is clear that for a Believe in Christ to be "away from the body" is to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). I praise God that followers of Christ do not have to "grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Because Jesus lives we know with confidence that when His followers die - they really live on (see John 14:19)! Are YOU ready to meet God? (see http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/ to find out how YOU can be ready to meet God!)

3.  It is great to be feeling well physically again. For many weeks following my return from Africa, I just "was not myself!" But thanks to a couple of weeks of antibiotics and the gracious hand of God, the little visitors that I unknowingly brought home with me are now gone - and I hope never to return!

4. Finally, I am so grateful for my kids. All of them are now married (and I think happily so). My wife and I are thankful to God that in His providence they all still live in Lancaster county, none more than 25 minutes from our house. That is a blessing we do not take for granted (and hope we never do!). My hope is that my wife and I will continue to be able to build into the lives of our children .... and their children as they come along. What a privilege that is!

5. Tomorrow is election day. Do make the time to exercise your citizenship and vote!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 30, 2009

Some Post Thanksgiving Reflections


Hard to believe Thanksgiving Day 2009 is now in life's rear view mirror! But that is the way life is ... it flies by rapidly! As we stand on the door step of December, here are some thoughts to start your week.

1. I love the Thanksgiving holiday! Why? For starters, the day includes my favorite meal - a turkey dinner with ALL the trimmings! Yep! I'd rather eat a turkey dinner over a steak dinner any day of the week! In addition, I love just getting together with our kids and their families and just talking around the table. It's been quite the ride watching our kids grow up! Finally, what a joy it is to spend some time reflecting together on the blessings of God in our lives and then giving Him our thanks! It doesn't get much better than that!

2. Christmas Day is now only 25 days away! Among other things, that means 25 more days of pressure from Madison Avenue to get out and spend money we don't have to buy things we (or others) don't need - all in name of the Christmas spirit. Hmm. The Christmas spirit?  When I think of the spirit of the Christmas holiday I think of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). If we want to do something "in the Christmas spirit" then let's share the gospel with our friends, neighbors, co-workers and classmates. Let's give a gift to a ministry that reaches out to the poor and need, like Children's Fellowship of India or Water Street Ministries. That's what the Christmas spirit is really all about!

3. Given the fact that there are now only 31 days left in this year, let me ask you something. Is there anything you have been planning to do but just have not "gotten around to it?"  Let me challenge you to stop right now and make plans to "get around to it." It may be inviting a friend over for dinner or out to lunch. It may be something your spouse has been asking you to do around the house. It may be a spiritual discipline you have been meaning to tackle or a book you have been meaning to read. But whatever it is you have been thinking about doing --- do it! Before this year is over and a new one arrives!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanking on Purpose!


Every parent has had the embarrassement of their child receiving a gift and failing to thank the giver of the gift. Children must be taught to say "thank you." It does not come naturally. The default setting of fallen human nature is ingratitude. Therefore we must get intentional about giving thanks!

So ... with Thanksgiving Day just one day away, it seems like an appropriate time for me to ask, "Are YOU intentional with giving thanks?"  The Scripture is clear that "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). Wow! Every blessing in life, from the taste buds you will use to taste all the deliciousness of tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast to the antacids you will have to pop afterward to deal with the indigestion (hint: as in so many things, moderation is the key!) - all of life's blessings come from the hand of our generous, gracious and never changing God!

Let me encourage you to get intentional about giving thanks - not just on Thanksgiving Day but EVERY DAY!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Talk about Some HEAVY Reading!


The debate about the current national health care legislation has been all over the news. I must admit I have read and listened to some of the news ... but not all of the news. I am probably better informed about this issue than some, but probably not as informed as others nor as informed as I probably should be. But then I wonder how anyone with a life could be "well-informed" when it comes to the health care legislation that the Senate is about ready to debate. The bill is approximately 2000 pages in length. Now how long would it take the average person to read such a monstrosity (especially given how busy people are these days)??? And I wonder how many of our senators have actually sat down and read and fully reflected on and then digested all the information contained in this bill. The government surely knows how to make things complicated! (I guess we should be thankful that this national health care legislation is ONLY 2000 pages in length. The federal tax code is some 70,000 pages long!).

As complicated as our government makes things .... God on the other hand makes things simple. Take the gospel for example. One does not need to read a 2000 page document filled with "legaleese" and "financialeese" to understand the meaning of the gospel. In fact, John 3:16 expresses the heart of the gospel quite well. In just 26 words, Jesus Christ explains the gospel when he says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Now here is a message simple enough for a child to grasp! No lawyers, accountants, medical experts or economists required!

I for one want to go on record that I am quite thankful to God that he loved me, a sinner and a born rebel, and that His Son took my place on the cross and paid the penalty for my sin!  I thank God for the simple - yet profound - gospel message!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some Random Thoughts to Begin Thanksgiving Week


1. I wonder how many of us (myself included) are more thankful for the blessings of God than we are for God Himself. Now don't get me wrong, we should be thankful to God for His many blessings - but are we more in love with the gifts or the Giver???

2. I never get over just how quickly life is passing. It seems like just yesterday that I walked down the aisle to say "I do" when in fact that was over 3 decades ago! And now all three of my children have done the same! Wow! All this to say - life is precious - each day, each hour, each minute. Let's purpose not to waste our time but make it count for Christ and His Kingdom!

3. Little children are cute and impressionable. We smile at the former and often times forget about the latter. But all of us who claim allegiance to Christ must keep in mind that there are many sets of young impressionable eyes and ears upon us. We must be sure that our walk is worthy of imitating (see 1 Corinthians 11:1). The old "like father, like son" or "like mother like daughter" is very true.

4. There's no better meal than turkey with all the trimmings (by the way, if you have never tried Isaac Restaurant's  'Thanksgiving on a Bun' sandwich - you MUST do so!). Well, like many places, turkey with all the trimmings is the menu for our Smith Thanksgiving Day feast. But that is not the highlight for me. The highlight is having our entire family around the table, thanking God for His blessings and enjoying one another's company. It doesn't get much better than that. Thank you, Father!!!

And thank YOU for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Real Zinger for So Many of Us!


I just came across a quote by J.I. Packer that nailed me between the eyes and then pierced my soul deeply. Please take a moment to read ... and then reflect on what he has to say.

"If we ourselves have known anything of the love of Christ for us, and if our hearts have felt any measure of gratitude for the grace that has saved us from death and hell, then this attitude of compassion and care for our spiritually needy fellow-men ought to come naturally and spontaneously to us . . .It is a tragic and ugly thing when Christians lack this desire, and are actually reluctant to share the precious knowledge that they have with others whose need of it is just as great as their own."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Cow Takes a Dip!


This past Monday evening, Kathy Wydareny of Spartansburg, SC was minding her own business, going through her normal Monday evening routine. That routine was broken by what she called a "giant woosh." So she grabbed a flashlight and proceeded to go out to her back yard to investigate. To her disbelieving eyes she discovered a cow had fallen into her covered swimming pool!She immediately called 911 (It took 5 men from county rescue to pull the cow out of the pool - they used a sling). It seems the cow wandered over from a neighbor's farm and mistook the pool cover for solid ground, which the cow discovered was a HUGE mistake when the "solid" ground moooooooooved!

Hmmm. The mistake this cow made -- is the same mistake that I see a lot of Christ-followers making today. They think they are on solid ground, when they are not. Now just what do I mean by this? Far too many Christians are embracing beliefs that are not based on a solid biblical foundation. One reason for this is that many of those who are teaching from America's pulpits are giving a watered-down gospel at best and another gospel at worse (see Galatians 1:6-9 to hear what the Apostle Paul had to say about those who were distorting the gospel). To show you what I mean, check out the following excerpt of an interview done by Larry King on CNN. His guest? Joel Osteen, pastor of one of the largest (if not the largest) church in America. Just listen to his lack of clarity on what humanity so desperately needs to hear - the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

So ... in closing, let me encourage  you - if you claim to be a follower of Jesus - whenever you listen to anyone teach the Bible, follow the example of the Bereans who listened to Paul preach. In Acts 17:11 we read, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Let's go and do likewise!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Just around the Corner!


With the Thanksgiving holiday just a week from tomorrow, I thought I would post something that would get you thinking about thanksgiving (and not just for Thanksgiving Day). So here is a quote about giving thanks from the book, Radical Gratitude: Discovering Joy through Everyday Thankfulness, by Ellen Vaughn.

"Developing the meditative habit of constantly whispering thanks to Him - no matter the situation - is in fact a mustard seed of life-changing power. Radical, for it goes to the root of who we are. Small, seemingly insignificant, yet it has the power to change our lives and blow our socks off, right in the midst of the everyday. When we really give God thanks in everything, we are acknowledging that He is sovereign and that we trust Him. And we find that it changes us." 

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

UNFRIEND?


Each year, Oxford University Press tracks how the English language is changing. When the results are in, the publisher selects one word which seems to best capture the mood of the year. This year's New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year is the word "unfriend." It means to remove someone as a friend on a social networking site such as Facebook. 

Now you may or may not be a part of Facebook's social network. For better or for worse I am. I first got started just after my youngest daughter's wedding. Her new brother-in-law posted a number of wedding photos on his Facebook site. Wanting to see them, I of course, had to become a registered Facebook user and then send him a friend request. Fortunately for me, he was willing to confirm me as a Facebook friend!

Now being a Facebook friend requires very little. In fact all it takes is a couple of mouse clicks and you are in. In fact, I have some Facebook friends that I barely know ... and regularly receive friend requests from people I do NOT know.

However, being a friend in "the REAL world" is much more demanding. The Old Testament book of wisdom, Proverbs, has much to say about friendship (the word "friend" in some form appears 25 times in the book!). One of these verses speaks about the Facebook social community (and other such cyberspace relational sites). Proverbs 18:25 reads, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." This verse contains a warning to those of us who use Facebook type sites to do our social networking - and it is this. Having lots of friends on Facebook is simply having a lot of COMPANIONS -- people who you might "know" and who might "know" you. But if we are to really make it in life - we need those friends who stick closer than a brother. This type of friendship can stay connected via a site like Facebook - but I do not believe it can be nurtured into a deep relationship there. All this to say -- do not neglect face-to-face contact with your friends. For it is there that you will find yourself growing together and your hearts bonding!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 13, 2009

What We MUST Know


We live in an information world. The latest news is only a click away. Knowledge that was once attainable only through books in a library can now be accessed from the privacy and comfort of one's own home by surfing the Internet. According to research, the total store of human knowledge is now doubling every 8 years! Wow! That is an astonishing fact! Consider also the following: 80 % of all scientists who have ever lived are alive today. EVERY MINUTE these scientists add 2000 pages to man's scientific knowledge, and the scientific material they produce EVERY 24 HOURS would take one person FIVE YEARS to read! About half a million new books are published EACH YEAR!

So we are being overwhelmed with knowledge with no chance to even come close with knowing it all! Even highly specialized doctors do not even come close to knowing all there is to know even within their narrow specialty! SOOO .... how should we respond as we seek to stay afloat in this ocean of knowledge? Consider the following quotes:

"Of all the things you might ever study or reflect on, nothing could possibly be greater than God. So your view of Him automatically has more far-reaching ramifications than anything else in your belief system. What you think of God WILL automatically color how you think about everything else - especially how you prioritize values; how you determine right and wrong; and what you think of your own place in the universe. That in turn will surely determine how you act." (John MacArthur, The Jesus You Cannot Ignore)

"This is what the LORD says: 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches,  24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD . . .' (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

How well do you KNOW God???

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Insomnia!


Early yesterday morning (I think the clock read 3:11) I had to make bathroom run. After crawling back under the covers, my mind clicked into gear .... forty-five minutes later I climbed out of bed, frustrated that I could not get back to sleep. I threw on my robe, pulled on my slippers and walked out to pick up our morning paper (which arrived yesterday shortly before 4:00 - I knew that because I saw the headlights of the delivery person's car shining through our bedroom window's blinds). Once back in the house, I settled into my favorite recliner and read the sports page. About fifteen minutes later, my eyes began to grow heavy -- so I threw on a blanket and turned off the light. And the sleep that I could not find while laying in bed ... crept up on me and I slept until just before 6:00. Yes, I wish I had gotten a bit more sleep, but I was thankful that I got the sleep that I did.

Now that is not the first time I have battled insomnia ... and I am sure it won't be the last time either! According to emedicine.com, an estimated 30-50% of the population is affected by insomnia, and about 10% suffer from chronic insomnia. Given these stats, I am sure you can most likely relate to my experience.

Now what makes my bouts with insomnia so baffling is the ease at which I sometimes find myself falling asleep. I can be watching the evening news (either 6 PM or 10 PM) and fall fast asleep. And there have been a few times in the past in which I have been talking to my wife (or a roommate on a mission trip) and have fallen asleep in the middle of a sentence (with me speaking!!!). So I just don't get it! Sometimes sleep comes easily and at other times it is very elusive. And as to why this is so, I must confess that for the most part I am clueless!

Of course, the reason we all hate these bouts with insomnia is that we need our sleep. And when we are deprived of sleep, our minds become foggy and our spirits grow grumpy - and that is not a great way to tackle our day! But this is NOT so with our God. Unlike us He requires no sleep. In fact, he never sleeps. And for us, that is a very good thing. In Psalm 121:4 we are told that the God who watches us, "will neither slumber nor sleep." So you and I never need to worry that when we are facing a crisis God might be sleeping through it. No. Never happen. God is always watching over us - 24/7/365. And I for one am very glad!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You, Vets!!!


Today's date is November 11th. That means today is Veterans Day. Now for most of us, today is pretty much like every other Wednesday. We got up, got ready, and headed to work. Some of the "luckier" ones among us woke up to the delightful thought of a day off (if this is true of you - enjoy!). So as I sit here at my desk working away ... I do want to express my thanks to the veterans who might happen to read this posting today. Serving in the military is not my idea of a comfortable experience. This is especially true when our country is at war (as is the case now). In a world that is distorted by sin and in which evil often gets the "upper hand" - armed conflict is often unavoidable if freedom is to be preserved. So if you have served in our military - whether a year ago or a half a century ago (or are serving right now) - THANKS FOR SERVING US!  Because of your sacrifice we are secure.

And if you are not a veteran - please be sure to thank one today.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One Weekend, Two Church Visits


This past weekend while in Indiana, I had the opportunity to visit two churches. The larger of the two I visited on Saturday evening (this was the first time I had ever visited this particular church). The other I attended on Sunday morning. This second church is one that I have visited several times before. As I reflect on my experience, a few thoughts come to mind:

1. The church is alive and well on planet earth (or at least in certain places!). In both churches I observed people who were engaging in ministry and worship and were passionate about their faith walk. Praise God!

2. Not every church does "church" the way we do. And that is OK. The "different strokes for different folks" adage comes to mind here. Having said that, I must say that the bread and cup celebration that I experienced in the Saturday evening service left me wanting more! The whole segment took no more than five minutes (which included the distribution of the elements). Jesus told us (in regard to the bread and cup), "This do in remembrance of Me." However, there was a woeful lack of attention given to Jesus and His sacrifice for us as we observed the bread and cup. It left me feeling that this was something the church had to "squeeze" into their worship script for the service. It also made me so very thankful for how we practice the Lord's Supper, giving a whole 1 1/2 hours to the practice (and if you have never participated in a three-fold communion service - which is based on the events of the Last Supper - I encourage you to join us at Grace this coming Sunday (Nov. 15) at 6 PM in our Family Life Center).

3. There's no place like home! I love my church. Yes, it's not a perfect church. But is a church that lives up to its name. Grace is in the fibers of our church - and I love it! So to all who call Grace Church at Willow Valley "home" - I want you to know that I am privileged to be serving you for Jesus' sake!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 9, 2009

Home from Indiana . . .


I pulled into my driveway about 10:30 last night (Sunday night). I will hopefully post to my blog tomorrow. Until then, remember that God wants us to live a BRAVE life - not a safe life! (probably the topic for a future posting!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - Pictured is my granddaughter Ella as she cheered on the Phillies in the World Series (too bad the Yankees got the last laugh!).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Holiness or Happiness?


From what I see and hear among American Christians today, I would judge that most see the pursuit of personal happiness as the major pursuit of their lives. One major reason why this is so is due to the teaching so many Christians are receiving today. Please take a moment and read the following excerpt from J.I. Packer's book, Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God:

"What do we Christians mainly preach and teach and produce TV programs and DVDs about these days? The answer seems to be not holiness, but success and positive feelings - getting health, wealth, freedom from care, good sex and happy families. I remember seeing in a Christian journal a group eight new 'how-to' books reviewed on a single page. How long, I wonder, is it since you heard about eight new books on holiness? Shall I guess?" 

He then goes on to write, "If we play down or ignore the importance of holiness, we are utterly and absolutely wrong. Holiness is in fact commanded: God wills it, Christ requires it, and all the Scriptures - the law, the gospel, the prophets, the wisdom writings, the epistles, the history books that tell of judgments past and the book of Revelation that tells of judgment to come - call for it." (if you want biblical support for this statement, please see the following: 1 Thessalonians 4:3; John 8:11; Matthew 5:19, 1 Peter 1:16, Titus 2:11-14, Ephesians 4:21-24, 5:25-27; Revelation 21:27; Hebrews 12:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1 - and I could go on ... but I will stop there!)

Hmm. J. I. is right here. Far too many of us have bought into the American right to the "pursuit of happiness" when we should be striving to pursue the biblical mandate to be holy. How about you? Given much thought lately to your state of personal holiness? (Oh and by the way ... the path of personal holiness results in a deep and enduring joy which is a far better state of soul then "happiness" which is so dependent on our external "happeninings!")

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Indiana!


For the next couple of days I will be in Winona Lake, Indiana for the fall Board meetings of Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary. Please pray for wisdom for us as these are very trying days for institutions of higher education. God has entrusted many young men and women to the nurturing of our schools, and we want to prove faithful to this responsibility! How about YOU? What responsibilities has God entrusted to you ... and are YOU being faithful? (1 Corinthians 4:2 reads, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.")

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Back to Africa?


No, I am not planning to head back to Africa any time soon. But as I sat at my desk yesterday morning, my thoughts began to wander back there. So I pulled out my "email journal" (I kept all of the emails I sent to my wife) of the trip and began to read and reflect. Here is a portion of one email that I wrote after teaching on the 11th of 12 consecutive days of teaching/preaching:

"I covered the 1 Peter 5 passage on shepherding today with the pastors and got through the first third of my 'Epaphroditus, a Model Servant' material. Tomorrow I will finish that, look at Paul's 'swan song' ("I have fought the good fight," etc.) and answer more questions. There were quite a few really good questions today. That shows me the pastors are processing the Word . . . I am VERY tired. I am glad I have only one more day of teaching! So even though I am tired, it is a good tired as I have spent my energy in what I truly love to do - and that is to teach the Word of God!"


That last statement is so true. I do love to teach God's Word!  And why is that so? The answer to that question is found in the prayer Jesus prayed for His Church the night before His crucifixion. As He prayed to His Father, He said, "Sanctify them by the truth - your word is truth" (John 17:17). God's Word is THE instrument that God will work through to transform us into the image of Christ. So I am thrilled to know that I get the opportunity to teach God's people God's Word ... and then pray for them that they will take the Word and obey it!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

So You Came to Jesus ... WHY?

The way I hear people talk about why they came to Jesus and the way I hear many preachers and evangelists presenting the gospel, I wonder if those who are making decisions for Christ ... are really making decisions for Christ for just making decisions for a better life? In the gospel of John, after feeding a crowd of 5000+ hungry people, Jesus said to these people on the following day, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill" (John 6:26). The people came to Jesus not because they embraced the truth the sign pointed to ... but they came because they had their bellies filled. Please take a moment and listen to this brief excerpt from a recent sermon from pastor and author, John Piper:

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 2, 2009

Some Random Thoughts to Start the Week


1. Hard to believe that it is November 2nd already!  Time sure does fly! Means that it's vital that we learn to make our moments count. Too many of us waste this precious resource on such trivial pursuits (I am pointing my finger at me right now on this one!). Given that our lives are "a mist that appears for a little while and than vanishes" (James 4:14), let's strive to be more intentional about NOT wasting our time but rather investing our time in those activities that will deepen our love for God, nurture our love for others and address our world's need for Jesus Christ.

2. In just a little while I will be leaving the office to conduct a graveside service for a woman who passed away last week. She was a woman of strong faith in Christ and so this service will be a joy to officiate. Scripture is clear that for a Believe in Christ to be "away from the body" is to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). I praise God that followers of Christ do not have to "grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Because Jesus lives we know with confidence that when His followers die - they really live on (see John 14:19)! Are YOU ready to meet God? (see http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/ to find out how YOU can be ready to meet God!)

3.  It is great to be feeling well physically again. For many weeks following my return from Africa, I just "was not myself!" But thanks to a couple of weeks of antibiotics and the gracious hand of God, the little visitors that I unknowingly brought home with me are now gone - and I hope never to return!

4. Finally, I am so grateful for my kids. All of them are now married (and I think happily so). My wife and I are thankful to God that in His providence they all still live in Lancaster county, none more than 25 minutes from our house. That is a blessing we do not take for granted (and hope we never do!). My hope is that my wife and I will continue to be able to build into the lives of our children .... and their children as they come along. What a privilege that is!

5. Tomorrow is election day. Do make the time to exercise your citizenship and vote!

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.