PJ

PJ

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hungry?

John Wesley, the 18th century Church of England cleric who is credited (along with brother Charles) with the founding of the Methodist movement, has left us quite a library of written works, including both hymns and sermons. In the introduction to one of his collections of sermons, he expresses his hunger for God's Word. Oh that God would give me this kind of yearning for the Scriptures! Here is Wesley in his own words:

"I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God, just hovering over the great gulf, till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity. I want to know one thing - the way to heaven, how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end he came from heaven. He has written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it. Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri ("a man of one book"). Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone. Only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book - for this end, to find the way to heaven."

O God, make us all a people unius libri (of one book)!!! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 


pj

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Defanging of Death!

Yesterday was an emotional day for me. I did something that I have done countless times in the past for both strangers and close friends and even family members. I officiated at a funeral. The individual who died was a member of my church family and a dear friend. His faith in Christ was strong. This enables me to mourn his departure from this earth with hope.

Those who knew John, knew he was a bear of a man. On a first encounter with him, one could easily find himself intimidated by John's large frame and loud voice. But John was not a man to be feared. As his wife put it, "Some thought of him as a grizzly bear, but he was really a big teddy bear with a heart of gold." I knew John. I agree with this assessment.

John died as a result of a battle with cancer. During the last months of his earthly life, his once strong, muscular body slowly wasted away as the disease raged on. But even though his body lost its strength, his faith never wavered. He spirit was strong to the end!

As I think about my friend this morning, the following Scripture come to mind:

1.  1 Corinthians 15:42-43 - Certainly John's body showed it's weakness in its latter days. But there is coming a day that this body sown in dishonor and weakness will be raised in glory and power!  Wow!

2.  1 Corinthians 15:55-56 - These verses remind us that even though it might appear that death has won - we know better! The victory and sting of death are momentary at best --- for the ultimate victory has been won for us by Christ on the cross!

3. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - Here the Apostle Paul encourages us to grieve when a loved one dies - but we are not to do so as those "who have no hope." Why? Because we have hope! And our hope is found in the promised return of Jesus Christ and the future resurrection of the body! One day Christ will return. When he does so, if we are still alive on this earth - at that very moment we will be transformed and reunited with our loved ones who have preceded us in the Faith. What a glorious day that will be! Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

Thanks for stopping by ... and John, I will see you later!

pj

Monday, December 27, 2010

Think on This!

D.A. Carson is one of evangelicalism's leading New Testament scholars. I was privileged to sit under his teaching during my Doctor of Ministry program. When he writes a new book or article, it's always on my list to read. Below is a quote I stumbled across that hit me right between my spiritual eyes. I offer it up to you to think about as you reflect on just where you happen to be in your walk with Christ.

"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated." —D.A. Carson

Thanks for stopping by . . .
 pj

Sunday, December 26, 2010

So Does Pride Have a Grip on You?

Pride is, like many sins, very subtle. When it takes up residence in our hearts it is, therefore, often difficult to spot. Here is a set of questions designed by Nancy DeMoss of  Revive Our Hearts Ministry to help us identify pride in us. I encourage you to take some time to ask yourself these questions ... and if you are really brave, print them out and ask a trusted friend to answer these questions about you.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, December 25, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Together, let's pause and thank God our Father for the "indescribable" gift of His Son!  What a joy to know that God the Father SO LOVED the world that He gave the gift of His one and only Son! Enjoy the following monologue in which the Charlie Brown character, Linus nails the true meaning of Christmas!



MERRY CHRISTMAS! And thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Nativity!

Below is the trailer for the film, The Nativity Story. In a riveting way, this movie preview hits the major highlights of the birth of Christ. Take a few moments to watch it ... it will help you in the midst of your busyness today to prepare to worship the Reason for this Season: our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ!



Merry Christmas . . . and thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The True Meaning of Christmas

Today, many people celebrate the Christmas holiday while either willfully or unwittingly ignoring what the holiday is truly all about. According to Ed Stetzer, LifeWay president and a Southern Baptist pastor,"A lot of Americans celebrate Christmas like they participate in yoga: unaware and unconcerned about its religious roots" (for more information on a recent survey conducted by LifeWay Resarch which looked at the how's and why's of people's Christmas observances, click here).

And just what is the true meaning of Christmas? ChristianAnswers.net has a great page detailing just about anything anyone would want to know in answer to this question. I encourage you to check it out.

My desire for you and yours is that you would be experience a more intimate relationship with Jesus as a result of your worship of Him this Christmas season.

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you all .... and thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A La Carte

Again, some other sites for you to check out.

1. Back in 2008, Sherwood Films' award winning movie, Fireproof was seen by millions in theaters. On September 30, 2011 Sherwood's new film, Courageous, is scheduled for release. It looks great! Click here to go to the movie's web site. You may want to watch some of the brief videos, including one produced by USA Today. In addition, another Christian faith-based film is set for its release in theaters on February 25, 2011. The idea for this film was planted in the mind and heart of a member of Calvary Church in Memphis, Tennessee after he saw Fireproof. He left the theater thinking that perhaps God was calling his church to produce a film. The result? The Grace Card. Click here to view the trailer. It also looks like a great film!

2. Here's a really nice performance of O Come All Ye Faithful by the Celtic Women.

3. I also stumbled across another clever retelling of the Nativity story using technology from our digital age.

4. During my trip last fall to the Central African Republic, I was amazed at just how many people in that impoverished country had cell phones! And the C.A.R. is not alone ... no matter what African country you travel to ... you will see cell phones in abundance. Here is one story of how cell phones in a very remote part of Kenya actually were used for good. Interesting!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Stress Free Christmas!

The dictionary defines stress as, “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.” According to a recent poll, about three-fourths of people in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea and the United Kingdom say they experience stress on a daily basis. These feelings of stress only seem to increase during the holidays. With so many places to go, gifts to buy, packages to wrap, cookies to bake, people to visit – life can become quite hectic. And all that busyness just adds to the feeling of stress.
Are you feeling “stressed-out?” I have felt a bit stressed this week. With getting ready for the our Christmas services, prepping for some holiday family visits and planning for a number of activities taking place after the holidays, I have felt “the squeeze.” Whenever we feel the squeeze of stress – we need to follow the advice of the apostle Paul. In Philippians 4:6-7 he writes, “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.”
So during this “tis the season to be stressed-out” time of year – when you start “feeling the squeeze” try hitting your knees. Take whatever it is causing the stress and hand it over to God. Let Him handle it. His shoulders are broad and his heart his huge. And then sit back, kick back and enjoy His peace.
Wishing you and yours a Merry, stress-free Christmas!
Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Monday, December 20, 2010

To Start Off Your Week

One of the devotional books I enjoy reading (I read it most mornings), is the classic, Morning by Morning. This inspirational work was written by C.H. Spurgeon who was arguably one of the greatest preachers of his day. As I read his entry for last Friday, I was struck by the following:

"We may often forget to mediate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. Let us chide ourselves for past forgetfulness, and pray for grace that we might constantly and fondly remember Him." 

He then finishes with this prayer, a prayer that we would all benefit from if we prayed it regularly:

"Lord, paint upon the eyeballs of my soul the image of your Son." 

C.H. - I say a hearty "Amen!" to that!
Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Clever Retelling of the Christmas Story!


A friend sent me the following link to a very contemporary re-telling of the Christmas story. Enjoy!



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A La Carte

Take a moment and check out the following ...

1. Here is a little drummer boy (I believe he's four) who shows a lot of passion for what he is doing. Passion - something we all should have if we are truly pursuing God!

2. “If after watching The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (which released in US theaters this past weekend), you find yourself or your kids feeling drawn to Aslan with alarming emotion, don’t assume it’s just the result of some cinematic spell. . ." Click here to read more from Desiring God's web site.

3. This past weekend my son and I traveled to Pittsburgh. We visited with some friends (I lived in the Pittsburgh area from 1984 to 1989) on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we went with some other friends to church ... and from there to the Steelers' game (a first for both Tim and me). Despite the cold and damp weather, we had a blast. The game changing play was made by Steeler safety Troy Polamalu who professes to have a strong faith in God. The 700 club had a video interview on the web which was recently shut down due to copyright issues. I viewed the video and was impressed by what Troy had to say about God, family and football. He's one superstar who has it together.

4. Whenever I sing Martin Luther's Christmas Carol, Away in a Manger, I find myself changing the words of his second stanza. Luther writes, "The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes. But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes." When I sing this stanza, I change the word "no" to "some." Every human baby that I have ever been around cries. If Jesus was fully human (which he was) then he must have cried (which I believe he did). But did Jesus ever get the stomach virus? Click here for some thoughts on this question.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rev. Who?

The article headline in yesterday's paper reached out and grabbed my attention. It read, "Online Ordinations Rise." The gist of the article concerned a growing number of people applying for online ordination credentials in order to perform weddings for family and friends. Hmm. I thought back to my ordination process (an 8 hour written exam followed by a two and a half oral exam). Passing this qualified me for "licensure." Three years later, I finished the process with another oral exam. So as I thought about online ordinations, I was wondering just how easy it would be to get "ordained" a second time.

To find out, I went to the web site of the Universal Life Church (whose web site's tag line is "Get Ordained for Free for Life.") I clicked on the tab labeled "Get Ordained." I proceeded to complete the application under the name of Frank Miller (I figured they might think my real name was fake). Upon completion of the application, I clicked on "submit." Immediately the following page came up: "Rev. Miller. Congratulations! Your Ordination date is December 14, 2010. Your name has been added into our directory and the registry of ordained ministers."

That's all it took! Wow! And from the research I did, there are other websites that also offer a no cost and no effort ordination! This makes me wonder what's next? Websites offering M.D.'s? This is just another reminder of the mark of our culture of "Let's do it the EASY way!"

Yet the Scripture uses analogies like "fighting the fight" and "running the race" to teach us about our Christian journey. So ... as followers of Christ we cannot afford to get sucked into the "let's do it the easy way" mentality of our world. So beware! The easy way is most often NOT God's way!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj (a.k.a. "Rev. Frank Miller")

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Prayer for Today . . . And Everyday!


Here's a great prayer . . . Take a moment and make it yours!

"May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day. Amen."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 10, 2010

A La Carte

I have a few minutes .... so here are a few links worth a click!

1. What would you do if you got a phone call to catch a plane and report to play for the New York Jets? Here's a refreshing account of a young man and what he did when he recently received such a call.

2. God gifts us and shapes us for specific tasks (Ephesians 2:10). Here's a sobering video of a couple who just were not doing what God shaped them to do!

3. Should we get all upset when we see the word "Christmas" spelled "X-mas?" Theologian and author R.C. Sproul answers this question quite well ... and if you take the time to read his answer, you will see there's no need to hyperventilate when we see the word "X-mas" this Christmas season!

I'll be back to regular posts next week. I leave tomorrow (Saturday) with my son to travel to Pittsburgh. Will head to church Sunday morning with friends ... and then on to see the Steelers play in the snow! Should be fun!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 6, 2010

An Invitation

This week is a vacation week for me, so this will be my first and most likely only posting of the week. With the Christmas season fast approaching, it is a great time of year to invite friends, co-workers, neighbors and family members to our holiday services. Please take a moment and view this video which is a humorous commentary on inviting unchurched people to church over the holidays.













Hmm . . . who is it YOU could invite?


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Prayer for Your Weekend

From time to time, I run across a written prayer that causes me to pause and pray. Here is one such prayer. I encourage you spend a few moments praying it back to our God. It comes from the pen of John Piper, in his devotional book, Life As a Vapor.

"Gracious Father, grant me a lowly spirit of gratitude. Make me feel the preciousness of past grace. Give me an honest memory of mercy. Forgive me for the pride of unremembered gifts and callous thanklessness. Waken faith in my wavering soul and give me strong confidence in your solid promises. Where past and future meet, make me humble and bold. In Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A La Carte

Again ... here are some other web sites/articles that you might want to check out:

1. Yet another surprise choral offering of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus (this time at a crowded shopping mall food court). I especially enjoyed the facial expressions of joy on the faces of many of the choir members who were singing! Watch and worship!

2. If you are looking for some help in organizing your intercessory prayer life - you might want to check out the iPhone app "Pray!". It costs $.99. I have not used it yet, but it does look like it might prove helpful. Click here to check it out.

3. You may have heard about the recent study on Americans' views on marriage. Time Magazine picked up on this with their recent cover article, "Who Needs Marriage?" For some thought provoking comments from a biblical perspective on this issue, you might want to check out Al Mohler's blog. Dr. Mohler is one of the brightest thinkers in the Evangelical world today.

4. Finally, sometimes, sports teams need some luck to go along with their skill in order to win. This past Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers got some luck when Steve Johnson, a Buffalo Bills wide receiver dropped a sure touchdown pass during the Over Time period. A few minutes later, the Steelers kicked a game winning field goal. After the game ... Johnson went on to trash-talk God. Check out some insightful thoughts on this incident from pastor Erik Raymond.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Gospel of Luke.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love so much about the day .... the reminder it is to give thanks to our God for ALL his blessings; the family fellowship around the table; the food on the table; and the after dinner banter around a football game. Part of me hates to see the day fade away ... but as with every day, it passes by far too quickly.

Of course, it is replaced by what we have labeled "Black Friday." Because it is one of the largest shopping days of the year, retailers are hoping for big sales that will go a long way toward helping them to finish the year with more income than expenses (i.e. "in the black") - and therefore the name, "Black Friday." Now there was a time that Black Friday would begin on Friday morning ... but now - some retailers have moved it up to midnight on Thanksgiving Eve (and for a few - even earlier). Add to Black Friday the hype about "Cyber Monday" (the Monday following Thanksgiving) on which day online retailers offer some great deals. Probably many of you have personally shopped either in the stores or online either last Friday or this past Monday (I confess that I bought my wife's Christmas present on Amazon last Friday). It is a good time to pick up some great deals. So these shopping days have their place.

But I am wondering . . . the place they have grown to hold? - what does this say about our culture? Are we becoming too consumer-driven? Too materialistic? This is an area of life in which we who choose to follow Jesus must constantly monitor in our own lives. It would be very easy to get sucked into the consumerism of our society. After all, we are bombarded around-the-clock with messages that we need to buy this or that product - if we want to be truly happy!

Jesus told a parable about a rich fool in the gospel according to Luke (Luke 12:16-21). The Lord prefaces the parable with the following warning, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15). Words of wisdom for all of us!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wars and Rumors of Wars . . .

In the latter days of his earthly ministry, Jesus preached his second longest sermon (second only to his Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew chapters 5 through 7). This sermon, known as The Olivet Discourse (he preached from the top of the Mt. of Olives which overlooks the city of Jerusalem) is recorded for us in Matthew chapters 24 and 25. Jesus preached this lengthy message in response to this question offered up by his disciples: "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (See Matthew 24:1-3 for the question and its context). So the disciples were thinking about the end times of human history when God would restore his kingdom rule in all of its glory. Therefore, as we read this marvelous teaching of Jesus, we must keep in mind that he is answering this specific question of his disciples.

Early into this message, Jesus makes these comments: "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom . . . all these are the beginning of birth pains" (Matthew 24:6-8). Wars and rumors of war. When I read that I thought to myself -"Boy does that describe our world today or what?" With the two Koreas on the brink of war (earlier this morning, North Korea warned the South of the outbreak of a "full blown war" if the U.S. and South Korea violated its territory during the war games the two allies are now conducting) and other wars and skirmishes ongoing across our globe - there is no doubt we are hearing of "wars and rumors of wars!"

So what should be our response to these troubling events? Jesus answers this question by telling us that we are not to be alarmed. Why should we not be alarmed? Because in God's providential plan for our world, these things "must happen" ... they are the "beginning of birth pains." Now that is a telling metaphor. Just as a woman must go through the pain of labor ... that pain is just a means to a greater end - the birth of a child. And so all the strife we see in our world today are labor pains that the human race must go through before the birth of God's full blown eternal kingdom.

So don't be alarmed. God is still on his throne. He has a plan. He's working that plan. And at the end of the day --- God will triumph over sin and evil .... forever and ever ... AMEN!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow .... and Everyday!

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year. I just love Thanksgiving Day. I love being with family .... the delicious food my wife prepares ... the time we pause and as a group offer up to God our heartfelt thanks. We have SO MUCH to be thankful for!

I must admit that I am probably not as thankful as I should and could be. Frankly put, every day should be THANKSGIVING DAY. Not only is the giving of thanks to God commanded of His people all throughout Scripture (Psalm 100:4-5; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18), but consider the following comments concerning the importance of cultivating a grateful spirit:

"Cultivating a grateful heart is not just an add-on nicety, a civil tip of the hat to God as we steamroll through our day. A posture of purposeful, perpetual thanks to God is absolutely central to Christian character. It gives glory to Him. It is the key defense against Satan's temptations to despair, distrust, dysfunction. It protects us from sin and self. It is the hallmark of heaven. it does not exist in hell." (Ellen Vaughn, Radical Grattitude: Discovering Joy through Everyday Thankfulness, p. 51).

Thanks, Ellen! I for one needed that reminder of just how important it is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A La Carte

Again, I offer up some other sites worthy of a "hit":

1. You want to see a cute little story teller re-tell the story of the prophet of Jonah? Check this out and be prepared to smile!

2. Now that the onset of meterological winter is only 8 days away, you may want to check out Accuweather's forecast for this upcoming winter (their forecast for last winter was right on target). So if you are wondering what may lay ahead of us, click here. And remember, God is sovereign even over snow falls (see Job 37:6).

3. Here is quite the prayer to pray. Take some time to read it through ... then pray it through.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Saddest Day of Human History

I have experienced some sad days in my earthly journey of 54 years. I recall the day I found out that my grandmother died. When my mom told me the news, I broke down and wept. I was twelve. When I was 24 our oldest daughter came very close to dying due to seizures. That was a sad (and scary) day. Then there were the days my father-in-law (August 18, 1994), my dad (August 15, 2003) and my mom (October 2, 2003) died. Those were sad days (and I have endured a number of others). And I know you have had your share of sad days as well. As long as we continue on this earth - there will be more sad days ahead.

But the saddest day ever experienced by any person was the day when our first parents, Adam and Eve rebelled against the Creator. Suddenly the beauty of the created realm was marred .... twisted, distorted, and broken by humanity's sin. Ever since, all of us are broken and life around us is broken. Scripture makes it clear that all of us enter this world as sinful human beings (see Psalm 51:5; Romans 3;23; Romans 5:12). And this whole world is "under bondage to decay" (Romans 8:21) waiting to be set free from its bondage.

When one fully understands all the consequences of this saddest day, one can't help but rejoice when confronted with the good news of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for us ... and his subsequent resurrection. You see my friends, even though we might be broken people, we can be made whole when we by faith embrace Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Have YOU ever made the decision to turn from your sin ... and turn to Jesus Christ - trusting Him and Him alone for the salvation of your soul? I sure hope you have met the God who loved us so much that He sent us His Son! (John 3:16)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - Some of you might be wondering why I chose a sad looking Panda for my photo. Humanity's rebellion not only brought about severe consequences for the human race ... but the entire created realm has been impacted (again see Romans 8:21).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life's Milestones

Life has many milestones .... birth (of course!), education accomplishments, marriage, starting a family, etc. This past Friday evening, my oldest daughter achieved a milestone. After 18 grueling months of going to class every Wednesday (and then doing all the work involved in each course), she graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing from Eastern Mennonite University's Degree Completion Program. Having taught in Lancaster Bible College's DCP for the past 15 years, I know the hard work and discipline it takes to finish the course. So I want to go on record to say congrats to my daughter Emily .... and congrats to all of you who are arriving at one of life's many milestones! And don't forget to thank God for HIS enablement!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 19, 2010

Losing One's Cool!

Steven N. Cowan, 66 of Vermont, Wisconsin was in the news this week for all-the-wrong reasons. On Monday evening Cowan was watching the hit show, "Dancing with the Stars." He became quite agitated at the fact that Bristol Palin (daughter of former Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin) was still on the show despite the fact that Cowan thought she was a lousy dancer (he blamed it all on what he saw as "politics"). How upset was he? He grabbed his shotgun, slid in a shell and proceeded to blow out his television. And when he reloaded and took aim at his wife, she fled, drove to a nearby town and called 911. When police arrived at Cowan's house, he barricaded himself in and refused to come out. The standoff finally ended without incident early Tuesday morning when Cowan surrendered to sheriff's deputies.

Obviously this man had some issues. In fact, according to documents filled in the county circuit court, Cowan was stressed from financial matters and under care for a mental health condition. So given his state of mind, a small irritant took on a far greater significance than it normally would have done - to the point that Cowan snapped and went for his gun.

What happened to Cowan can, quite frankly, happen to us. Probably not to that extreme - but yes, we can "lose it," "blow up," "rant and rave." And when we do lose our cool, we leave a lot of collateral damage behind (see Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 14:29; Proverbs 29:22). So all this to say, if you have an anger problem, do something about it. Seek some help. Refusing to do so will only lead to pain ... both for yourself and those around you.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Santa Has Arrived!

Usually I take Monday's off. I find that I can disengage from my work and ministry on Mondays better than any other day of the week. So it works well for me. This past Monday, my wife and I made a quick stop at Park City Mall. Walking through one of the department stores, I noted Christmas decorations were already up (and frankly did not think too much about it). Then when we arrived at the mall's center court, lo and behold who did I see? Santa Clause! I quickly looked at my watch to check the date (as I could not believe I was seeing who I was seeing!). There was a time when St. Nick did not show up at the mall until Thanksgiving weekend. But apparently no more. What's next? Santa in July????

Now I am guessing Santa's early arrival is all part of the mall's plan to get people in an early holiday buying mood. After all, retail establishments spend a lot of money and effort on marketing strategies, all designed to manipulate you and me (the consumer) into buying a lot of stuff that we don't really need with money we don't really have (often to impress people that we don't really like!).

As I got to thinking about this .... I got to thinking that far too often I am guilty of doing much the same thing. Manipulating others to get what I want! But that is not what I am supposed to be doing, is it. Jesus Christ calls me not to manipulate others to meet my needs, but rather to minister to others to meet their needs! (see Philippians 2:3-4; Galatians 5:13) And if you are a follower of Jesus, he calls you to do the same! So with that said, who are you going to serve today?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A La Carte

From time to time, I plan to offer up some options for you to check out elsewhere on the web. When I do this ... you will be tipped off by the title, "A La Carte." So pick none, one or all - and in the process be blessed (I hope!).

1. Yesterday I posted some comments by Charles Spurgeon's from his Morning by Morning devotional. I thought some of you might want some more details on this book (or the companion book, Morning and Evening). Here is the Amazon link for his Morning by Morning and Morning and Evening.

2. There are a lot of people around us who don't believe in the existence of God. Many are buying into the writings of such modern atheists as Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion). If you would like to read an excellent answer the question, "Does God exist?" - check out the following answer at gotQuestions.org.

3. We all know men and women think ... well, differently. For a humorous look at this, check out comedian Brian Regan, "Are you dating anyone?".

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God Really Does Care!

When life's difficulties threaten to overwhelm us, it's easy to begin to doubt God's benevolent presence in our lives. This is what the people of Israel did. The prophet Isaiah points this out when he writes, "But Zion says, 'The LORD has forsaken me, the LORD has forgotten me!" (Isaiah 49:14) Is this possible? Is the fact that we go through tough times an indication that God has forgotten us? Absolutely not! Isaiah goes on to record God's response to Israel's lament. "Can the mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!" (Isaiah 49:15-16a)

Charles Spurgeon (19th century London pastor), in his devotional book, Morning by Morning, writes the following very insightful and powerful comments about the above:

"How amazed the divine mind seems to be at this wicked unbelief! What can be more astounding than the unfounded doubts and fears of God's favored people? The Lord's loving word of rebuke should make us blush. He cries, 'How can I have forgotten you, when I have engraved you on the palms of my hands? How dare you doubt my constant remembrance when the memorial is carved upon my own flesh.' O unbelief, what a strange marvel you are! We do not know what to wonder at most - the faithfulness of God or the unbelief of his people. He keeps his promise a thousand times, and yet the next trial makes us doubt Him . . . 'I have engraved you.' The Scripture does not say, 'your name.' The name is there, but that is not all: 'I have engraved YOU.' Consider the depth of this! 'I have engraved your person, your image, your circumstances, your sins, your temptations, your weaknesses, your wants, your works; I have engraved everything about you, all that concerns you; I have put all of this together here.' Will you ever say again that your God has forsaken you when he has engraved you on his own palms?'

WOW! That's truth that will set us free from all the worry and anxiety that will weigh us down!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gathering for "church"

I ran across the following comments made by Josh Harris (Senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD and author of several books including his just released book titled, Dug Down Deep). Josh recently admonished his church on how they approach their Sunday morning worship. What he said to his church family is something I believe we all could benefit from (no matter what church body you call "home"). I usually don't post something of this length (8 1/2 minutes) as my goal is to keep it brief. However, if you are able -- I think what he has to say is worth the investment of your time.

Eager, Expectant, and Early from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Say "Thanks!" to a Vet Today!

Even though WW I (known in its day as "The Great War") did not officially end until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, actual fighting had ceased when an armistice (a temporary cessation of hostilities) between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Therefore, November 11, 1918 is the date most often referenced when discussing the end date of "the war to end all wars" (oh that it were so!).

One year later, in November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with these words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride int he heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations . . ." Armistice Day was made a legal holiday by an act of Congress in 1938. In 1954, Congress removed the word "Armistice" and replaced it with the word "Veterans." This was done to assure that American veterans of all wars (important since WW I was NOT the "war to end all wars!") would be remembered and honored on this day.

If you know a vet - please thank them for their service to our country. And as you think of those who gave their lives fighting to preserve our freedoms, be sure to thank God for them. And above all - take a moment to thank God for the One who gave his life on a cross so that you might enjoy the ultimate freedom ... the freedom from death and sin! (see Romans 8:1-3)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Blown Light Bulb and a Tripped Circuit Breaker

This morning when I flipped on a small desk lamp in my office, the bulb blew. So I went over to a floor lamp that sits in the corner and turned its own switch. Nothing. Hmm. Circuit breaker tripped? So I made my way to the janitor's closet that contains the breaker panel ... and when I opened its door - there staring back at me in all red was the blown breaker. All is now well after I simply reset the breaker and replaced the blown bulb.

Wouldn't it be great if we could fix every problem as simply as that? But life doens't work that way. The fix for many problems require much more effort (and other resources). And the bigger the problem ... and the longer the problem has been around ... the more effort and resources we must expend to fix it! We do not like this reality of life! We all would like to snap our fingers and make our problems go away. But that's not going to happen. So, should we throw up our hands in defeat ... and simply "grin and bear it?" Not at all. God has given us all the resources that we need to "fix" our problems. But we must also do our part (see 2 Peter 1:3-9). We must grab hold of these God-given resources and "discipline ourselves for godliness" (see 1 Timothy 4:7-8). Only as we commit to partner with God and allow Him to do His work IN us and then THROUGH us will we begin to have success "fixing" our problems. Now that's a thought! That the King of the Universe would be willing to partner with us!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Random Act of Culture or a Reminder of Who is King?

A few weeks ago .... the following "Random Act of Culture" occurred at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia (the shoppers had no idea that it was coming!). What a contrast: a song sung to the glory of the King of kings in the midst of the opulence of the god of consumerism. In the end ... it is the former who will win out! Enjoy!




Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Brief Monday Morning Thoughts

1. Last Wednesday I drove out to Winona Lake, Indiana. Saturday I drove home. 597 miles ... mainly interstate. Both trips took in the neighborhood of ten hours. Now I am sure it would not surprise you to know that during those ten hour trips I made a few stops. For starters, I like to drink coffee. Given that there are a number of Starbucks along the way (especially along the PA Turnpike), I can tend to drink a lot of coffee. This necessitates some of the stops. In addition, my car can only hold about 14 gallons of gas. At about 25 miles to the gallon you can see that some stops are needed to gas up. And sometimes ... I just feel a need to stop and stretch. All this to say, rest stops are often a welcome site. Now ... if I can just transfer that concept to my daily routine. All too often I am in the go, go, go mode. I admit that I am too driven. So ... I am making a commitment today to SLOW DOWN! I want to take Jesus up on the invitation that he offers (see Matthew 11:28-30).

2. I am grateful for the victory that my son-in-law enjoyed last Tuesday at the polls (66% to 34% margin of victory). Ryan Aument is the real deal. He is a man of integrity and cherishes the values that I cherish. The residents of Pennsylvania's 41st legislative district are truly blessed to have him as their state representative. I would ask you to keep Ryan in your prayers. Serving in public office these days is not an easy task. Thanks for your prayers on his behalf.

3. Yesterday ushered in the return to standard time. Now the sun will be setting prior to 5 pm! As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, cold weather is sure to follow. And even though I am a warm weather guy, there are some things I enjoy about the winter months. Like climbing into a warm bed on cold night or walking into my house to the smell of freshly baked bread (we tend to do this more so in the winter than in the summer - why, I don't really know!). And before we know it we will be changing the clocks again ... as we welcome springtime! That's the way life goes .... it just flies by. All the more reason to make today count for Christ and his kingdom!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Off to Winona!

Today I will be driving to Winona Lake, Indiana (about a ten hour drive). Our Grace College and Seminary fall board meetings begin tomorrow morning. Please pray for our board of trustees and the administrative staff with whom we will be meeting. This has been a difficult fall semester for the college (primarily due to the death of one student and the serious injury of another in a tragic accident). Pray that we as a board can be an encouragement to the administrators. Also ask our wise God to impart His wisdom to us as we are called upon to make some important decisions concerning the ongoing work of the college and seminary. I will be traveling back to Lancaster on Sunday.

Thanks for your prayers! And thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - I will get back to posting early next week!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the Land of Many Cell Phones and Few Toilets

According to a recent report issued by the United Nations University (a U.N. think tank), over 563 million people in India have cell phones. This means half of India's population are mobile subscribers. At the same time, only 1/3 (approximately 336 million) of India's people have access to proper sanitation. Consider the following as a case in point: The Mumbai slum of Rafiq Nagar is populated by some 10,000 people. They live in shanties made of cardboard, bamboo and ripped tarps. There is no garbage pickup in Rafiq Nagar and little electricity. And not a single toilet or latrine. Yet almost every one of the destitute families living there has a cell phone! And some have three!

Now I scratched my head when I read this. And quite frankly, I am not sure what to make of it. Some might scoff at what they see as misplaced priorities. A cell phone over a commode? But is that really the case? Could it be that what is going on here is the deep desire of the human heart to be connected with others. Given the extent these people must go to in order to just survive - perhaps the cell phone gives them opportunities to relate with family and friends that they might not otherwise enjoy. Whatever the answer truly is, we can certainly take away from this a needed reminder to value our relationships. Please don't cheat on these. Make your significant relationships an integral part of your life. At the end of the day, you will be glad you did!

Thanks for stopping by,

pj

Monday, November 1, 2010

Some Random Thoughts To Start Your Work Week

As you get going on yet another week, here are a few thoughts to think about:

1. Isn't it a good feeling to get something that you know will be tough to do .... done? I am feeling good (at least on the inside) that all my adult children are now in their homes. After three moves in the last four months (the last being this past Friday-Saturday and that's why the good feeling is on the inside of me ... my body is still aching!), I am quite grateful that there are no more moves in the foreseeable future. Yes!

2. Tomorrow is ELECTION DAY. I encourage all of you who are registered to vote to get out and cast it! I often hear people complain about our elected officials, only to find out they never vote! So head to the polls and prayerfully consider supporting those candidates who value life!

3. There are only 23 days until Thanksgiving and 53 days until Christmas. That's right. The holidays are knocking at the door! I bring this up to urge all of us to plan to emphasize the spiritual aspects of these holidays. There was a reason God instituted the Old Testament feasts for the people of Israel. In part it was to give them time to come apart from their regular routine to remember HIM and His ways. You may want to check out the following resources: For Thanksgiving Day (http://www.biblicalspirituality.org/sing.html or http://www.crossroad.to/HisWord/notes/oswald/thanksgiving.htm) and for Christmas (http://www.biblicalspirituality.org/xmas.html).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Moving Day!

Today my son and his family are moving ... again! Back at the end of June, they moved into a rental townhouse to wait for their new house to be constructed. Today is the day they settle on their new home and begin the move. So I will be helping, of course - but will definitely be limiting myself to the smaller stuff!

Now moving is something I am very familiar with. Across the years, my wife and I have lived in 8 different apartments/houses. In addition, when I pastored in the Pittsburgh area, it seemed like someone in our church family was moving every month. At times I felt like I was running a moving company rather than shepherding a flock!

I don't know about you, but as for me I DESPISE moving (especially when it's me and my house that's being moved!). I can think of few other things I like less than packing up my house and moving (perhaps going to the dentist would qualify!). As I think back on my moves, I could not wait to be settled in our new home (with the hope that it would be a long time before moving again!).

For those of us who have chosen to repent of our sin and rebellion against our God and seek forgiveness through Christ and his sacrifice on the cross for us - we have a home waiting for us. Yes, it will involve a move. But the move won't be like the moves we endure here on earth. For starters, we will not be taking anything with us! All the "stuff" we accumulate here on earth will remain behind. Also keep in mind that this move will be PERMANENT! Once at home in heaven - we will be there forever and ever! This concept (of eternity) is hard for me to wrap my mind around. But that's OK ... I am looking forward to it!

I hope you have a home waiting for you in heaven (Jesus refers to heaven as "My Father's house" - see John 14:1-6). If you want to reserve a place, I suggest you go to the following link which explains the biblical teaching concerning how one receives eternal life: http://www.gracewv.org/488698.ihtml#h_21899.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Super Hero Role Model

"Hey Pizza Man!" The words caught me by surprise. I had not been called "Pizza Man" since June (when I played the role of Pizza Man in our Vacation Bible School). I turned around and there was a curly haired, smiling 5 year old girl who remembered my crazy ways as the Italian cuisine super hero. I must admit it warmed my heart.

As I reflected on this interaction with my five year old admirer, it reminded me of the important role we as adults must fulfill-- that of being an example to those of the younger generations. The Apostle Paul understood the value of being an example to others. Often he encouraged his "children" in the faith to imitate him as he imitated Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:1 or Philippians 4:9). Children are always looking for role models to imitate. So ... let me ask you, what kind of role model are you? If children were to imitate your spiritual life ... would that be a good thing? If they were to mimic the way you talk or the way your treat others ... would they be better persons because of it? Always remember that there are little ones who are watching you. And most often sooner rather than later - your values, your mannerisms, your vocabulary, your standards will become theirs. I hope when that happens, Jesus will be pleased (because Jesus loves the little children! - see Mark 10:13-16).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stuffy, Boring Theology

I must admit there was a time in my life whenever I heard the words "doctrine" or "theology" I would break out in a case of spiritual hives. I mean the last thing I wanted to do was spend time reading some stuffy, boring theology textbook! But then I learned that my "theology allergy" was actually to my detriment. That in fact, the study of theology (theology simply means "the study of God") was extremely vital to the health and welfare of my soul. And I am not the only one who went through this learning curve.

In his new book, Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters, Joshua Harris describes his journey in regards to the study of doctrine and theology:

"The irony of my story- and I suppose it often works this way - is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn't understand that such seemingly worn-out words like 'theology,' 'doctrine,' and 'orthodoxy' were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ."

All of us ... if we truly desire to understand and know God (see Jeremiah 9:23-24 and John 17:3) ... need to go deeper into theology! Deeper into our study of the Living God. Starting on Sunday morning, January 2, 2011 - I will be leading our church family at Grace into GOING DEEPER into the fertile soil of rich biblical theology. Stay tuned for more details to come!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back in the Saddle!

Now that my vacation is quickly fading in the rear view mirror of life ... I am back in the office. Here are a couple of the thoughts bouncing off the walls of my mind as I start my work week.

1. Our plans don't always work out. My wife and I had planned to spend about four days in New Jersey last week. However, she came down with a fever last Tuesday evening and was sick the rest of the week (turns out she has pneumonia). She is now on antibiotics and finally "on the mend." We were disappointed - but this is how life works at times. We plan ... but "stuff" happens. It's good to know even in these times that God is still in control.

2. I ran across an interesting question and answer that Randy Alcorn, author of the book Heaven, posted on his website. Here's the question: "How would you respond and minister to unsaved friends or family (or even strangers) who have lost a loved one and assume that their lost loved one is in heaven, even thought that person clearly did not have a relationship with Jesus Christ?" That's a great question. For his answer, check out the following link: http://www.epm.org/blog/2010/Oct/25/how-do-i-minister-unsaved-friend-whose-loved-one-d.

3. Due to my wife's illness last week ... I did get to enjoy some special bonding time with my 18 month old granddaughter. I watched her for parts of two different days since Grammy was down for the count. I came away reminded of just how important a role grandparents can and should have in the lives of their grand kids. So if you are a grandparent, let me encourage you to pray for your grandchildren and seek to be a godly example to them (see 2 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 3:15).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Vacation!!!

The dictionary defines "vacation" as a "a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel." Ahhh. Now that sounds like a plan to me!

This week I will be out of the office trying to catch up on sleep, rest and some real quality time with my wife (who is also my best friend). So ... I won't be posting again until next Tuesday (the 26th). Until then ... here is a question for you to ponder this week: If it is so vital that we as Christians have deep roots in the soil of biblical teachings, then why are we not purposeful about GOING DEEPER?

More on that next week. I hope you all have a great week as you seek to live out your lives in a manner worthy of the gospel! (see Philippians 1:27 and Colossians 1:10)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lost Your Appetite?

According to one web site I checked, every 3.6 seconds someone somewhere in the world dies of starvation, with 3/4 of these victims being children under the age of 5. That is sad! I could not imagine as a parent not having the food to feed my children and, as a result, watch them slowly starve to death. Reaching out to the world's poor and suffering is something God calls us to do ... so I hope you are involved in someway, giving toward this great world need (see Proverbs 14:31 and Proverbs 19:17).

But it is not my purpose this morning to talk about world starvation ... rather I want to highlight another form of starvation that is ravaging the Kingdom of God. Consider for a moment the following two quotes:

"Americans revere the Bible but, by and large, they don't read it." (Pollster George Gallup)

"We own more Bibles than we will ever use, but we are slowly starving to death because we have lost our appetite for Scripture." (Krish Kandiah, director of Churches in Mission for the Evangelical Alliance UK)

How about you? Revere the Bible but don't read it? Got more than one copy but have lost your appetite for it? This is a sad situation, my friend. You may not know this, but in parts of Asia there are groups of believers who meet in secret house churches (secret due to the very real threat of persecution). Often these believers will sit for as long as 12 hours, studying the Bible together! Yet we are hard pressed to find 5 minutes to open God's Word and read a couple of verses!

If you have lost your appetite for God's Word, I encourage you to pray and ask God to restore it! Then make it a priority to get into the Scripture! You cannot grow in your faith ... you will not become more like Jesus Christ apart from a deepening "relationship" with the Bible! (see John 17:17)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Beauty of Heaven!

Yesterday as I was touring the state Capitol in Harrisburg, I was struck by the beauty of the place. In fact, it is so beautiful that the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, ranked Pennsylvania's Capitol as the most beautiful of the fifty state capitols. Based on what I saw, I can most definitely believe it! The gold leaf that is everywhere must be worth millions of dollars! And that is only a part of the Capitol's beauty. It is indeed a striking structure.

At one point on our tour, Dr. Hibaile, my friend from the Central African Republic (one of the poorest nations on earth) commented, "Ahh . . . the New Jerusalem!" As I reflected on his words, it hit me that if I thought the place was beautiful - he, coming from his world of abject poverty, must have been quite overwhelmed by the opulence he was seeing! And so for him, all the ornate beauty spoke to him of the glory that awaits us in heaven!

I felt a gentle rebuke at that point. I must admit that I had no thoughts of heaven as he did. But I surely can see why he was thinking of heaven! Today as we journey through this life ... compared to what awaits us in heaven ... we are trudging through a world of abject poverty! We cannot begin to imagine what God has prepared for us in the world to come (1 Corinthians 2:9). So let's determine to think and think regularly of heaven, lest we become so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Biggest Gainer!

The Biggest Loser has been one of the most popular television shows in recent years. The program features a number of very heavy people who all have one goal - to lose more weight (measured by the % of weight loss vs. their starting body weight) than the other contestants and thus win the title "The Biggest Loser" (not to mention the boat load of cash awarded to the winner). I have seen a few of these programs ... and it is amazing how much weight some of these contestants lose via hard work and a healthy diet.

Donna Simpson of New Jersey has no desire to appear on this show. In fact, her desire is to gain weight. Her goal? 1000 lbs! That's right -- a half ton! Currently Simpson weighs in at a "paltry" 600 lbs and is determined within 2 years of achieving her goal. Why? She simply wants to hold the record of the fattest woman in the world. To get there, she has to eat 12,000 calories a day and consume over $800 of groceries each week (that's over $40,000 per year just for food!).

I don't know about you, but when I think of this woman I feel both anger and pity. Anger that she would abuse her body in such a way and pity that she has such a zany whacky goal to begin with! Yet ... before pointing my finger at her --- I need to look in my own mirror. I am sure I have some zany and whacky goals that are out of sinc with God's goals. So all this to remind me (and if you are reading this ... you, too) that we all need to evaluate ourselves on a regular basis in the mirror of God's Word! (see James 1:22-25).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Good News!

Yesterday was a day of bad news. The day began when I discovered a colleague and friend of mine died while out biking. Todd was only 48 years old. Then later in the day I learned that another friend died over the weekend. Both reports were unexpected and unwelcome.

So I found myself needing to hear some GOOD NEWS. It was in this state of mind this morning that I picked up John Piper's book, Finally Alive. Under the heading, "The Greatest News in the World," I read the following words:

"Christ, The Son of God, died in our place - became our substitute - to pay the price for all our sins, and to accomplish perfect righteousness, and to endure and remove all of God's wrath, and rise from the dead triumphant over death for our eternal life and joy in his presence - and all of this offered freely through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. That's the good news. To this day, two thousand years later, it remains the greatest news in the world."

I agree with Piper. There is NO greater news than the gospel! Let's believe it ... live it ... and proclaim it today!

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Monday, October 11, 2010

Some Brief Monday Morning Thoughts

As your new work week starts ... here are just a couple of brief thoughts for your consideration:

1. Life is fragile - handle with care. I was stunned this morning to receive an email from the President's office at Grace College and Seminary, informing me that a fellow board member, pastor and a valued friend was killed as a result of a bicycle accident yesterday in Ohio near his home. Todd Scoles leaves behind a wife and three children (I believe high school through college age). He also leaves behind a life lived to the glory of God. I must be honest with you. I look at Todd and his life and ministry and want to ask God "Why? He could have done so much more for your kingdom!" That question I will have to leave with God. All this to say ... Life is fragile. It could end for any of us at any time. So let's live our lives to the full - for HIM!

2. Friendships are precious -make them a priority. I have thoroughly enjoyed renewing fellowship with Dr. Augustin Hibaile of the Central African Republic. He is a precious brother and a good friend. His passion for God runs deep and his love for his people is strong. I trust rubbing shoulders with him will make me a better man!

3. Life's problems are many - take them to God! Recently I have been somewhat overwhelmed with the problems so many people I know and love are facing in their lives, ranging from serious health issues, financial problems, relational difficulties ... etc., etc., etc.! But it is quite the comfort to know that for those who have chosen to follow Jesus - we never have to face these problems alone! He has promised to help us carry the load! (Matthew 11:28-30)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, October 8, 2010

Coming to Grace This Sunday! (Oct. 10th)

This coming Sunday, October 10th, we will be welcoming a very special guest to our worship services. Dr. Augustine Hibaile will be sharing about the dynamic ministry God has given to him in the Central African Republic (and surrounding countries as well). Several years ago, God led him to leave his teaching ministry (at a leading Bible Institute in the C. A. R.) and launch the Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership. The Center is located in the capital city of Bangui.

The C.A.R. is among the most impoverished countries in the world. According to statistics provided by the United Nations, 86% of the people live in poverty, 62% live on just $1.25 per day and 82% are deprived of electricity. Having spent two weeks last September in Bangui, I have no doubt that these stats are correct (and I was in the capital ... certainly far from the most impoverished parts of the country). Dr. Hibaile has a passion to alleviate his people's suffering ... brought on by both their material poverty and their spiritual poverty. This is why he launched CIDEL. He realized that unless the corruption that exists among leaders in his and other impoverished countries was addressed, no long lasting solutions to dire situation could ever be achieved.

Each Monday for about an hour or so, Dr. Hibaile meets with the Prime Minister of the C.A.R. They discuss the problems facing the country. They spend time in Scripture. They pray. The PM desires to fulfill his responsibilities in a God-honoring manner. Dr. Hibaile is helping him achieve that goal.

If you attend Grace (and even if you don't), I urge you to be sure to be hear on Sunday (at either 9:00 or 10:30). This man's story is an incredible one! One that will stretch your faith and challenge your heart! I hope to see you here!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Take Up Your Cross!

Jesus makes it clear in Luke 9:23, that if we want to follow him we must "pick up our cross DAILY." What does it mean to "pick up our cross?" Often I have heard it said that it means to carry the burdens we have been given to bear. So my occasional neck pain (caused by degenerative disc disease) is a cross I must bear. For others it might be a controlling mother-in-law, an obnoxious boss or a 1991 Chevy. However, if this were the case ... all of humanity would have crosses to bear ... not just those who choose to follow Christ. So just what is Jesus referring to here? Donald Whitney in his book, Simply Your Spiritual Life, gives one of the best answers I have ever read concerning this question. Here's is take:

"As Jesus was willing to go to the cross to do the will of the Father (Philippians 2:8), so we must be willing to follow Jesus to the cross, daily dying to any desires that conflict with His so that we may daily live for Him. While we may truly speak of glory inaugurated by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, identifying with following Him in this world involves suffering. Indeed, there will be no end to cross-bearing this side of Heaven.

The theology of the cross simplifies the spiritual life by standing as its primary reference point. Everything in Christian spirituality relates to it. Through the cross we begin our spirituality and by the power and example of the cross we live it. Ask God to show Himself afresh to you through the Bible's teaching of the cross and where this theology needs fresh application in your life."

Are you DAILY taking up your cross as you seek to follow Jesus?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. - To read the full article by Donald Whitney - check it out at http://biblicalspirituality.org/takeup.html

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Vending Machine God

You can get a lot of different things out of vending machines these days. Most often when we think vending machines we think of beverages (sodas, water, hot coffee, etc.) and snack items (candy, gum, lifesavers, peanuts, pretzels, etc.). But vending machines offer a lot more! In Italy, for anywhere between $5 and $8 you can get fresh pizza. At airports in Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt, Bergamo and Moscow you will find "Gold to Go" machines where you can buy a few gold bars! Across the U.S., if you looking for, say leeches at 2 AM for your early morning fishing trip - no problem. Just look for a Live Bait vending machine which you can find in a number of fishing-friendly states. All this to say ... if you are need of something - there is a good chance you can find it in a vending machine somewhere.

Now there's nothing wrong about this retail approach to selling goods that the public wants to buy. I for one have been glad to find a coffee vending machine when I was nowhere near a Starbucks or a McDonalds. But we must be careful that we do not allow our fondness of vending machines impact our view of God. I say this, because far too many do. As they think of God they see him as the "Ultimate Vending Machine." God is there to grant my every request. All I have to do is make a deposit (i.e. - a prayer) and voila ... there's my answer! In his book, The Papa Prayer, Larry Crabb warns against this false view of God:

"The most common image of God that we don't admit to but still hold is akin to Santa Claus or to a smiling buddy, with this difference: you don't have to relate to a vending machine. Just put in the coins and collect your treat. I wonder how much of our worship and declarations of love for God express the same sentiment felt by a satisfied consumer walking away from a vending machine, biting into his Snickers candy bar. We pray right. It works. The parking lot opened up. The lump disappeared. The new job came along. Let's pray more. Let's insert more coins. God is good." (The Papa Prayer, p. 107)

Is this how you view God? (be honest!). Is he merely the Ultimate Vending Machine upstairs? If so ... let me encourage you to get into the Bible and seek the answer to this question: "What is God really like?" You may want to start by reading Isaiah 40:1-31; Revelation 1:10-18; or any one of the four gospels (for to see Jesus is to see the Father - John 14:9).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Final Exit

On December 7, 2007 Alcides Moreno was doing what he did every work day: washing windows on one of the many Manhattan towering skyscrapers (by the way - you could not pay me enough to do that job!!!). As he and his brother, Edgar Morenes worked on their scaffold that morning on an East 66th Street high rise, the unthinkable happened. The platform collapsed. Alcides and his brother plunged 47 stories to the ground below. Edgar was killed instantly. But somehow Alcides survived. During the first few weeks following his fall, Alcides received 24 units of blood and underwent 14 surgeries. Today, according to his wife, he still struggles quite a bit mentally. He can only manage simple tasks and forgets things easily. In her words "He's only 45% there."

Now that is one incredible story! How did this guy manage to survive a fall from 47 stories up? I don't know. Really, only God knows. He is the one who holds the keys of death in his hands (Revelation 1:18). So bottom line, it is God who determines when each one of us will exit this life and enter the next. And that will occur according to HIS perfect plan! We all can take comfort in that!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hungry?

John Wesley, the 18th century Church of England cleric who is credited (along with brother Charles) with the founding of the Methodist movement, has left us quite a library of written works, including both hymns and sermons. In the introduction to one of his collections of sermons, he expresses his hunger for God's Word. Oh that God would give me this kind of yearning for the Scriptures! Here is Wesley in his own words:

"I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God, just hovering over the great gulf, till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity. I want to know one thing - the way to heaven, how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end he came from heaven. He has written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it. Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri ("a man of one book"). Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone. Only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book - for this end, to find the way to heaven."

O God, make us all a people unius libri (of one book)!!! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 


pj

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Defanging of Death!

Yesterday was an emotional day for me. I did something that I have done countless times in the past for both strangers and close friends and even family members. I officiated at a funeral. The individual who died was a member of my church family and a dear friend. His faith in Christ was strong. This enables me to mourn his departure from this earth with hope.

Those who knew John, knew he was a bear of a man. On a first encounter with him, one could easily find himself intimidated by John's large frame and loud voice. But John was not a man to be feared. As his wife put it, "Some thought of him as a grizzly bear, but he was really a big teddy bear with a heart of gold." I knew John. I agree with this assessment.

John died as a result of a battle with cancer. During the last months of his earthly life, his once strong, muscular body slowly wasted away as the disease raged on. But even though his body lost its strength, his faith never wavered. He spirit was strong to the end!

As I think about my friend this morning, the following Scripture come to mind:

1.  1 Corinthians 15:42-43 - Certainly John's body showed it's weakness in its latter days. But there is coming a day that this body sown in dishonor and weakness will be raised in glory and power!  Wow!

2.  1 Corinthians 15:55-56 - These verses remind us that even though it might appear that death has won - we know better! The victory and sting of death are momentary at best --- for the ultimate victory has been won for us by Christ on the cross!

3. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - Here the Apostle Paul encourages us to grieve when a loved one dies - but we are not to do so as those "who have no hope." Why? Because we have hope! And our hope is found in the promised return of Jesus Christ and the future resurrection of the body! One day Christ will return. When he does so, if we are still alive on this earth - at that very moment we will be transformed and reunited with our loved ones who have preceded us in the Faith. What a glorious day that will be! Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

Thanks for stopping by ... and John, I will see you later!

pj

Monday, December 27, 2010

Think on This!

D.A. Carson is one of evangelicalism's leading New Testament scholars. I was privileged to sit under his teaching during my Doctor of Ministry program. When he writes a new book or article, it's always on my list to read. Below is a quote I stumbled across that hit me right between my spiritual eyes. I offer it up to you to think about as you reflect on just where you happen to be in your walk with Christ.

"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated." —D.A. Carson

Thanks for stopping by . . .
 pj

Sunday, December 26, 2010

So Does Pride Have a Grip on You?

Pride is, like many sins, very subtle. When it takes up residence in our hearts it is, therefore, often difficult to spot. Here is a set of questions designed by Nancy DeMoss of  Revive Our Hearts Ministry to help us identify pride in us. I encourage you to take some time to ask yourself these questions ... and if you are really brave, print them out and ask a trusted friend to answer these questions about you.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Saturday, December 25, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Together, let's pause and thank God our Father for the "indescribable" gift of His Son!  What a joy to know that God the Father SO LOVED the world that He gave the gift of His one and only Son! Enjoy the following monologue in which the Charlie Brown character, Linus nails the true meaning of Christmas!



MERRY CHRISTMAS! And thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Nativity!

Below is the trailer for the film, The Nativity Story. In a riveting way, this movie preview hits the major highlights of the birth of Christ. Take a few moments to watch it ... it will help you in the midst of your busyness today to prepare to worship the Reason for this Season: our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ!



Merry Christmas . . . and thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The True Meaning of Christmas

Today, many people celebrate the Christmas holiday while either willfully or unwittingly ignoring what the holiday is truly all about. According to Ed Stetzer, LifeWay president and a Southern Baptist pastor,"A lot of Americans celebrate Christmas like they participate in yoga: unaware and unconcerned about its religious roots" (for more information on a recent survey conducted by LifeWay Resarch which looked at the how's and why's of people's Christmas observances, click here).

And just what is the true meaning of Christmas? ChristianAnswers.net has a great page detailing just about anything anyone would want to know in answer to this question. I encourage you to check it out.

My desire for you and yours is that you would be experience a more intimate relationship with Jesus as a result of your worship of Him this Christmas season.

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to you all .... and thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A La Carte

Again, some other sites for you to check out.

1. Back in 2008, Sherwood Films' award winning movie, Fireproof was seen by millions in theaters. On September 30, 2011 Sherwood's new film, Courageous, is scheduled for release. It looks great! Click here to go to the movie's web site. You may want to watch some of the brief videos, including one produced by USA Today. In addition, another Christian faith-based film is set for its release in theaters on February 25, 2011. The idea for this film was planted in the mind and heart of a member of Calvary Church in Memphis, Tennessee after he saw Fireproof. He left the theater thinking that perhaps God was calling his church to produce a film. The result? The Grace Card. Click here to view the trailer. It also looks like a great film!

2. Here's a really nice performance of O Come All Ye Faithful by the Celtic Women.

3. I also stumbled across another clever retelling of the Nativity story using technology from our digital age.

4. During my trip last fall to the Central African Republic, I was amazed at just how many people in that impoverished country had cell phones! And the C.A.R. is not alone ... no matter what African country you travel to ... you will see cell phones in abundance. Here is one story of how cell phones in a very remote part of Kenya actually were used for good. Interesting!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Stress Free Christmas!

The dictionary defines stress as, “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.” According to a recent poll, about three-fourths of people in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea and the United Kingdom say they experience stress on a daily basis. These feelings of stress only seem to increase during the holidays. With so many places to go, gifts to buy, packages to wrap, cookies to bake, people to visit – life can become quite hectic. And all that busyness just adds to the feeling of stress.
Are you feeling “stressed-out?” I have felt a bit stressed this week. With getting ready for the our Christmas services, prepping for some holiday family visits and planning for a number of activities taking place after the holidays, I have felt “the squeeze.” Whenever we feel the squeeze of stress – we need to follow the advice of the apostle Paul. In Philippians 4:6-7 he writes, “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.”
So during this “tis the season to be stressed-out” time of year – when you start “feeling the squeeze” try hitting your knees. Take whatever it is causing the stress and hand it over to God. Let Him handle it. His shoulders are broad and his heart his huge. And then sit back, kick back and enjoy His peace.
Wishing you and yours a Merry, stress-free Christmas!
Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Monday, December 20, 2010

To Start Off Your Week

One of the devotional books I enjoy reading (I read it most mornings), is the classic, Morning by Morning. This inspirational work was written by C.H. Spurgeon who was arguably one of the greatest preachers of his day. As I read his entry for last Friday, I was struck by the following:

"We may often forget to mediate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. Let us chide ourselves for past forgetfulness, and pray for grace that we might constantly and fondly remember Him." 

He then finishes with this prayer, a prayer that we would all benefit from if we prayed it regularly:

"Lord, paint upon the eyeballs of my soul the image of your Son." 

C.H. - I say a hearty "Amen!" to that!
Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Clever Retelling of the Christmas Story!


A friend sent me the following link to a very contemporary re-telling of the Christmas story. Enjoy!



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A La Carte

Take a moment and check out the following ...

1. Here is a little drummer boy (I believe he's four) who shows a lot of passion for what he is doing. Passion - something we all should have if we are truly pursuing God!

2. “If after watching The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (which released in US theaters this past weekend), you find yourself or your kids feeling drawn to Aslan with alarming emotion, don’t assume it’s just the result of some cinematic spell. . ." Click here to read more from Desiring God's web site.

3. This past weekend my son and I traveled to Pittsburgh. We visited with some friends (I lived in the Pittsburgh area from 1984 to 1989) on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we went with some other friends to church ... and from there to the Steelers' game (a first for both Tim and me). Despite the cold and damp weather, we had a blast. The game changing play was made by Steeler safety Troy Polamalu who professes to have a strong faith in God. The 700 club had a video interview on the web which was recently shut down due to copyright issues. I viewed the video and was impressed by what Troy had to say about God, family and football. He's one superstar who has it together.

4. Whenever I sing Martin Luther's Christmas Carol, Away in a Manger, I find myself changing the words of his second stanza. Luther writes, "The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes. But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes." When I sing this stanza, I change the word "no" to "some." Every human baby that I have ever been around cries. If Jesus was fully human (which he was) then he must have cried (which I believe he did). But did Jesus ever get the stomach virus? Click here for some thoughts on this question.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rev. Who?

The article headline in yesterday's paper reached out and grabbed my attention. It read, "Online Ordinations Rise." The gist of the article concerned a growing number of people applying for online ordination credentials in order to perform weddings for family and friends. Hmm. I thought back to my ordination process (an 8 hour written exam followed by a two and a half oral exam). Passing this qualified me for "licensure." Three years later, I finished the process with another oral exam. So as I thought about online ordinations, I was wondering just how easy it would be to get "ordained" a second time.

To find out, I went to the web site of the Universal Life Church (whose web site's tag line is "Get Ordained for Free for Life.") I clicked on the tab labeled "Get Ordained." I proceeded to complete the application under the name of Frank Miller (I figured they might think my real name was fake). Upon completion of the application, I clicked on "submit." Immediately the following page came up: "Rev. Miller. Congratulations! Your Ordination date is December 14, 2010. Your name has been added into our directory and the registry of ordained ministers."

That's all it took! Wow! And from the research I did, there are other websites that also offer a no cost and no effort ordination! This makes me wonder what's next? Websites offering M.D.'s? This is just another reminder of the mark of our culture of "Let's do it the EASY way!"

Yet the Scripture uses analogies like "fighting the fight" and "running the race" to teach us about our Christian journey. So ... as followers of Christ we cannot afford to get sucked into the "let's do it the easy way" mentality of our world. So beware! The easy way is most often NOT God's way!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj (a.k.a. "Rev. Frank Miller")

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Prayer for Today . . . And Everyday!


Here's a great prayer . . . Take a moment and make it yours!

"May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day. Amen."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 10, 2010

A La Carte

I have a few minutes .... so here are a few links worth a click!

1. What would you do if you got a phone call to catch a plane and report to play for the New York Jets? Here's a refreshing account of a young man and what he did when he recently received such a call.

2. God gifts us and shapes us for specific tasks (Ephesians 2:10). Here's a sobering video of a couple who just were not doing what God shaped them to do!

3. Should we get all upset when we see the word "Christmas" spelled "X-mas?" Theologian and author R.C. Sproul answers this question quite well ... and if you take the time to read his answer, you will see there's no need to hyperventilate when we see the word "X-mas" this Christmas season!

I'll be back to regular posts next week. I leave tomorrow (Saturday) with my son to travel to Pittsburgh. Will head to church Sunday morning with friends ... and then on to see the Steelers play in the snow! Should be fun!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, December 6, 2010

An Invitation

This week is a vacation week for me, so this will be my first and most likely only posting of the week. With the Christmas season fast approaching, it is a great time of year to invite friends, co-workers, neighbors and family members to our holiday services. Please take a moment and view this video which is a humorous commentary on inviting unchurched people to church over the holidays.













Hmm . . . who is it YOU could invite?


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Prayer for Your Weekend

From time to time, I run across a written prayer that causes me to pause and pray. Here is one such prayer. I encourage you spend a few moments praying it back to our God. It comes from the pen of John Piper, in his devotional book, Life As a Vapor.

"Gracious Father, grant me a lowly spirit of gratitude. Make me feel the preciousness of past grace. Give me an honest memory of mercy. Forgive me for the pride of unremembered gifts and callous thanklessness. Waken faith in my wavering soul and give me strong confidence in your solid promises. Where past and future meet, make me humble and bold. In Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A La Carte

Again ... here are some other web sites/articles that you might want to check out:

1. Yet another surprise choral offering of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus (this time at a crowded shopping mall food court). I especially enjoyed the facial expressions of joy on the faces of many of the choir members who were singing! Watch and worship!

2. If you are looking for some help in organizing your intercessory prayer life - you might want to check out the iPhone app "Pray!". It costs $.99. I have not used it yet, but it does look like it might prove helpful. Click here to check it out.

3. You may have heard about the recent study on Americans' views on marriage. Time Magazine picked up on this with their recent cover article, "Who Needs Marriage?" For some thought provoking comments from a biblical perspective on this issue, you might want to check out Al Mohler's blog. Dr. Mohler is one of the brightest thinkers in the Evangelical world today.

4. Finally, sometimes, sports teams need some luck to go along with their skill in order to win. This past Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers got some luck when Steve Johnson, a Buffalo Bills wide receiver dropped a sure touchdown pass during the Over Time period. A few minutes later, the Steelers kicked a game winning field goal. After the game ... Johnson went on to trash-talk God. Check out some insightful thoughts on this incident from pastor Erik Raymond.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Gospel of Luke.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love so much about the day .... the reminder it is to give thanks to our God for ALL his blessings; the family fellowship around the table; the food on the table; and the after dinner banter around a football game. Part of me hates to see the day fade away ... but as with every day, it passes by far too quickly.

Of course, it is replaced by what we have labeled "Black Friday." Because it is one of the largest shopping days of the year, retailers are hoping for big sales that will go a long way toward helping them to finish the year with more income than expenses (i.e. "in the black") - and therefore the name, "Black Friday." Now there was a time that Black Friday would begin on Friday morning ... but now - some retailers have moved it up to midnight on Thanksgiving Eve (and for a few - even earlier). Add to Black Friday the hype about "Cyber Monday" (the Monday following Thanksgiving) on which day online retailers offer some great deals. Probably many of you have personally shopped either in the stores or online either last Friday or this past Monday (I confess that I bought my wife's Christmas present on Amazon last Friday). It is a good time to pick up some great deals. So these shopping days have their place.

But I am wondering . . . the place they have grown to hold? - what does this say about our culture? Are we becoming too consumer-driven? Too materialistic? This is an area of life in which we who choose to follow Jesus must constantly monitor in our own lives. It would be very easy to get sucked into the consumerism of our society. After all, we are bombarded around-the-clock with messages that we need to buy this or that product - if we want to be truly happy!

Jesus told a parable about a rich fool in the gospel according to Luke (Luke 12:16-21). The Lord prefaces the parable with the following warning, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions" (Luke 12:15). Words of wisdom for all of us!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wars and Rumors of Wars . . .

In the latter days of his earthly ministry, Jesus preached his second longest sermon (second only to his Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew chapters 5 through 7). This sermon, known as The Olivet Discourse (he preached from the top of the Mt. of Olives which overlooks the city of Jerusalem) is recorded for us in Matthew chapters 24 and 25. Jesus preached this lengthy message in response to this question offered up by his disciples: "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (See Matthew 24:1-3 for the question and its context). So the disciples were thinking about the end times of human history when God would restore his kingdom rule in all of its glory. Therefore, as we read this marvelous teaching of Jesus, we must keep in mind that he is answering this specific question of his disciples.

Early into this message, Jesus makes these comments: "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom . . . all these are the beginning of birth pains" (Matthew 24:6-8). Wars and rumors of war. When I read that I thought to myself -"Boy does that describe our world today or what?" With the two Koreas on the brink of war (earlier this morning, North Korea warned the South of the outbreak of a "full blown war" if the U.S. and South Korea violated its territory during the war games the two allies are now conducting) and other wars and skirmishes ongoing across our globe - there is no doubt we are hearing of "wars and rumors of wars!"

So what should be our response to these troubling events? Jesus answers this question by telling us that we are not to be alarmed. Why should we not be alarmed? Because in God's providential plan for our world, these things "must happen" ... they are the "beginning of birth pains." Now that is a telling metaphor. Just as a woman must go through the pain of labor ... that pain is just a means to a greater end - the birth of a child. And so all the strife we see in our world today are labor pains that the human race must go through before the birth of God's full blown eternal kingdom.

So don't be alarmed. God is still on his throne. He has a plan. He's working that plan. And at the end of the day --- God will triumph over sin and evil .... forever and ever ... AMEN!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow .... and Everyday!

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year. I just love Thanksgiving Day. I love being with family .... the delicious food my wife prepares ... the time we pause and as a group offer up to God our heartfelt thanks. We have SO MUCH to be thankful for!

I must admit that I am probably not as thankful as I should and could be. Frankly put, every day should be THANKSGIVING DAY. Not only is the giving of thanks to God commanded of His people all throughout Scripture (Psalm 100:4-5; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18), but consider the following comments concerning the importance of cultivating a grateful spirit:

"Cultivating a grateful heart is not just an add-on nicety, a civil tip of the hat to God as we steamroll through our day. A posture of purposeful, perpetual thanks to God is absolutely central to Christian character. It gives glory to Him. It is the key defense against Satan's temptations to despair, distrust, dysfunction. It protects us from sin and self. It is the hallmark of heaven. it does not exist in hell." (Ellen Vaughn, Radical Grattitude: Discovering Joy through Everyday Thankfulness, p. 51).

Thanks, Ellen! I for one needed that reminder of just how important it is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A La Carte

Again, I offer up some other sites worthy of a "hit":

1. You want to see a cute little story teller re-tell the story of the prophet of Jonah? Check this out and be prepared to smile!

2. Now that the onset of meterological winter is only 8 days away, you may want to check out Accuweather's forecast for this upcoming winter (their forecast for last winter was right on target). So if you are wondering what may lay ahead of us, click here. And remember, God is sovereign even over snow falls (see Job 37:6).

3. Here is quite the prayer to pray. Take some time to read it through ... then pray it through.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Saddest Day of Human History

I have experienced some sad days in my earthly journey of 54 years. I recall the day I found out that my grandmother died. When my mom told me the news, I broke down and wept. I was twelve. When I was 24 our oldest daughter came very close to dying due to seizures. That was a sad (and scary) day. Then there were the days my father-in-law (August 18, 1994), my dad (August 15, 2003) and my mom (October 2, 2003) died. Those were sad days (and I have endured a number of others). And I know you have had your share of sad days as well. As long as we continue on this earth - there will be more sad days ahead.

But the saddest day ever experienced by any person was the day when our first parents, Adam and Eve rebelled against the Creator. Suddenly the beauty of the created realm was marred .... twisted, distorted, and broken by humanity's sin. Ever since, all of us are broken and life around us is broken. Scripture makes it clear that all of us enter this world as sinful human beings (see Psalm 51:5; Romans 3;23; Romans 5:12). And this whole world is "under bondage to decay" (Romans 8:21) waiting to be set free from its bondage.

When one fully understands all the consequences of this saddest day, one can't help but rejoice when confronted with the good news of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for us ... and his subsequent resurrection. You see my friends, even though we might be broken people, we can be made whole when we by faith embrace Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Have YOU ever made the decision to turn from your sin ... and turn to Jesus Christ - trusting Him and Him alone for the salvation of your soul? I sure hope you have met the God who loved us so much that He sent us His Son! (John 3:16)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - Some of you might be wondering why I chose a sad looking Panda for my photo. Humanity's rebellion not only brought about severe consequences for the human race ... but the entire created realm has been impacted (again see Romans 8:21).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life's Milestones

Life has many milestones .... birth (of course!), education accomplishments, marriage, starting a family, etc. This past Friday evening, my oldest daughter achieved a milestone. After 18 grueling months of going to class every Wednesday (and then doing all the work involved in each course), she graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing from Eastern Mennonite University's Degree Completion Program. Having taught in Lancaster Bible College's DCP for the past 15 years, I know the hard work and discipline it takes to finish the course. So I want to go on record to say congrats to my daughter Emily .... and congrats to all of you who are arriving at one of life's many milestones! And don't forget to thank God for HIS enablement!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 19, 2010

Losing One's Cool!

Steven N. Cowan, 66 of Vermont, Wisconsin was in the news this week for all-the-wrong reasons. On Monday evening Cowan was watching the hit show, "Dancing with the Stars." He became quite agitated at the fact that Bristol Palin (daughter of former Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin) was still on the show despite the fact that Cowan thought she was a lousy dancer (he blamed it all on what he saw as "politics"). How upset was he? He grabbed his shotgun, slid in a shell and proceeded to blow out his television. And when he reloaded and took aim at his wife, she fled, drove to a nearby town and called 911. When police arrived at Cowan's house, he barricaded himself in and refused to come out. The standoff finally ended without incident early Tuesday morning when Cowan surrendered to sheriff's deputies.

Obviously this man had some issues. In fact, according to documents filled in the county circuit court, Cowan was stressed from financial matters and under care for a mental health condition. So given his state of mind, a small irritant took on a far greater significance than it normally would have done - to the point that Cowan snapped and went for his gun.

What happened to Cowan can, quite frankly, happen to us. Probably not to that extreme - but yes, we can "lose it," "blow up," "rant and rave." And when we do lose our cool, we leave a lot of collateral damage behind (see Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 14:29; Proverbs 29:22). So all this to say, if you have an anger problem, do something about it. Seek some help. Refusing to do so will only lead to pain ... both for yourself and those around you.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Santa Has Arrived!

Usually I take Monday's off. I find that I can disengage from my work and ministry on Mondays better than any other day of the week. So it works well for me. This past Monday, my wife and I made a quick stop at Park City Mall. Walking through one of the department stores, I noted Christmas decorations were already up (and frankly did not think too much about it). Then when we arrived at the mall's center court, lo and behold who did I see? Santa Clause! I quickly looked at my watch to check the date (as I could not believe I was seeing who I was seeing!). There was a time when St. Nick did not show up at the mall until Thanksgiving weekend. But apparently no more. What's next? Santa in July????

Now I am guessing Santa's early arrival is all part of the mall's plan to get people in an early holiday buying mood. After all, retail establishments spend a lot of money and effort on marketing strategies, all designed to manipulate you and me (the consumer) into buying a lot of stuff that we don't really need with money we don't really have (often to impress people that we don't really like!).

As I got to thinking about this .... I got to thinking that far too often I am guilty of doing much the same thing. Manipulating others to get what I want! But that is not what I am supposed to be doing, is it. Jesus Christ calls me not to manipulate others to meet my needs, but rather to minister to others to meet their needs! (see Philippians 2:3-4; Galatians 5:13) And if you are a follower of Jesus, he calls you to do the same! So with that said, who are you going to serve today?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A La Carte

From time to time, I plan to offer up some options for you to check out elsewhere on the web. When I do this ... you will be tipped off by the title, "A La Carte." So pick none, one or all - and in the process be blessed (I hope!).

1. Yesterday I posted some comments by Charles Spurgeon's from his Morning by Morning devotional. I thought some of you might want some more details on this book (or the companion book, Morning and Evening). Here is the Amazon link for his Morning by Morning and Morning and Evening.

2. There are a lot of people around us who don't believe in the existence of God. Many are buying into the writings of such modern atheists as Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion). If you would like to read an excellent answer the question, "Does God exist?" - check out the following answer at gotQuestions.org.

3. We all know men and women think ... well, differently. For a humorous look at this, check out comedian Brian Regan, "Are you dating anyone?".

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God Really Does Care!

When life's difficulties threaten to overwhelm us, it's easy to begin to doubt God's benevolent presence in our lives. This is what the people of Israel did. The prophet Isaiah points this out when he writes, "But Zion says, 'The LORD has forsaken me, the LORD has forgotten me!" (Isaiah 49:14) Is this possible? Is the fact that we go through tough times an indication that God has forgotten us? Absolutely not! Isaiah goes on to record God's response to Israel's lament. "Can the mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!" (Isaiah 49:15-16a)

Charles Spurgeon (19th century London pastor), in his devotional book, Morning by Morning, writes the following very insightful and powerful comments about the above:

"How amazed the divine mind seems to be at this wicked unbelief! What can be more astounding than the unfounded doubts and fears of God's favored people? The Lord's loving word of rebuke should make us blush. He cries, 'How can I have forgotten you, when I have engraved you on the palms of my hands? How dare you doubt my constant remembrance when the memorial is carved upon my own flesh.' O unbelief, what a strange marvel you are! We do not know what to wonder at most - the faithfulness of God or the unbelief of his people. He keeps his promise a thousand times, and yet the next trial makes us doubt Him . . . 'I have engraved you.' The Scripture does not say, 'your name.' The name is there, but that is not all: 'I have engraved YOU.' Consider the depth of this! 'I have engraved your person, your image, your circumstances, your sins, your temptations, your weaknesses, your wants, your works; I have engraved everything about you, all that concerns you; I have put all of this together here.' Will you ever say again that your God has forsaken you when he has engraved you on his own palms?'

WOW! That's truth that will set us free from all the worry and anxiety that will weigh us down!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gathering for "church"

I ran across the following comments made by Josh Harris (Senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD and author of several books including his just released book titled, Dug Down Deep). Josh recently admonished his church on how they approach their Sunday morning worship. What he said to his church family is something I believe we all could benefit from (no matter what church body you call "home"). I usually don't post something of this length (8 1/2 minutes) as my goal is to keep it brief. However, if you are able -- I think what he has to say is worth the investment of your time.

Eager, Expectant, and Early from Covenant Life Church on Vimeo.



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Say "Thanks!" to a Vet Today!

Even though WW I (known in its day as "The Great War") did not officially end until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, actual fighting had ceased when an armistice (a temporary cessation of hostilities) between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Therefore, November 11, 1918 is the date most often referenced when discussing the end date of "the war to end all wars" (oh that it were so!).

One year later, in November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with these words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride int he heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations . . ." Armistice Day was made a legal holiday by an act of Congress in 1938. In 1954, Congress removed the word "Armistice" and replaced it with the word "Veterans." This was done to assure that American veterans of all wars (important since WW I was NOT the "war to end all wars!") would be remembered and honored on this day.

If you know a vet - please thank them for their service to our country. And as you think of those who gave their lives fighting to preserve our freedoms, be sure to thank God for them. And above all - take a moment to thank God for the One who gave his life on a cross so that you might enjoy the ultimate freedom ... the freedom from death and sin! (see Romans 8:1-3)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Blown Light Bulb and a Tripped Circuit Breaker

This morning when I flipped on a small desk lamp in my office, the bulb blew. So I went over to a floor lamp that sits in the corner and turned its own switch. Nothing. Hmm. Circuit breaker tripped? So I made my way to the janitor's closet that contains the breaker panel ... and when I opened its door - there staring back at me in all red was the blown breaker. All is now well after I simply reset the breaker and replaced the blown bulb.

Wouldn't it be great if we could fix every problem as simply as that? But life doens't work that way. The fix for many problems require much more effort (and other resources). And the bigger the problem ... and the longer the problem has been around ... the more effort and resources we must expend to fix it! We do not like this reality of life! We all would like to snap our fingers and make our problems go away. But that's not going to happen. So, should we throw up our hands in defeat ... and simply "grin and bear it?" Not at all. God has given us all the resources that we need to "fix" our problems. But we must also do our part (see 2 Peter 1:3-9). We must grab hold of these God-given resources and "discipline ourselves for godliness" (see 1 Timothy 4:7-8). Only as we commit to partner with God and allow Him to do His work IN us and then THROUGH us will we begin to have success "fixing" our problems. Now that's a thought! That the King of the Universe would be willing to partner with us!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Random Act of Culture or a Reminder of Who is King?

A few weeks ago .... the following "Random Act of Culture" occurred at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia (the shoppers had no idea that it was coming!). What a contrast: a song sung to the glory of the King of kings in the midst of the opulence of the god of consumerism. In the end ... it is the former who will win out! Enjoy!




Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Brief Monday Morning Thoughts

1. Last Wednesday I drove out to Winona Lake, Indiana. Saturday I drove home. 597 miles ... mainly interstate. Both trips took in the neighborhood of ten hours. Now I am sure it would not surprise you to know that during those ten hour trips I made a few stops. For starters, I like to drink coffee. Given that there are a number of Starbucks along the way (especially along the PA Turnpike), I can tend to drink a lot of coffee. This necessitates some of the stops. In addition, my car can only hold about 14 gallons of gas. At about 25 miles to the gallon you can see that some stops are needed to gas up. And sometimes ... I just feel a need to stop and stretch. All this to say, rest stops are often a welcome site. Now ... if I can just transfer that concept to my daily routine. All too often I am in the go, go, go mode. I admit that I am too driven. So ... I am making a commitment today to SLOW DOWN! I want to take Jesus up on the invitation that he offers (see Matthew 11:28-30).

2. I am grateful for the victory that my son-in-law enjoyed last Tuesday at the polls (66% to 34% margin of victory). Ryan Aument is the real deal. He is a man of integrity and cherishes the values that I cherish. The residents of Pennsylvania's 41st legislative district are truly blessed to have him as their state representative. I would ask you to keep Ryan in your prayers. Serving in public office these days is not an easy task. Thanks for your prayers on his behalf.

3. Yesterday ushered in the return to standard time. Now the sun will be setting prior to 5 pm! As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, cold weather is sure to follow. And even though I am a warm weather guy, there are some things I enjoy about the winter months. Like climbing into a warm bed on cold night or walking into my house to the smell of freshly baked bread (we tend to do this more so in the winter than in the summer - why, I don't really know!). And before we know it we will be changing the clocks again ... as we welcome springtime! That's the way life goes .... it just flies by. All the more reason to make today count for Christ and his kingdom!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Off to Winona!

Today I will be driving to Winona Lake, Indiana (about a ten hour drive). Our Grace College and Seminary fall board meetings begin tomorrow morning. Please pray for our board of trustees and the administrative staff with whom we will be meeting. This has been a difficult fall semester for the college (primarily due to the death of one student and the serious injury of another in a tragic accident). Pray that we as a board can be an encouragement to the administrators. Also ask our wise God to impart His wisdom to us as we are called upon to make some important decisions concerning the ongoing work of the college and seminary. I will be traveling back to Lancaster on Sunday.

Thanks for your prayers! And thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

PS - I will get back to posting early next week!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the Land of Many Cell Phones and Few Toilets

According to a recent report issued by the United Nations University (a U.N. think tank), over 563 million people in India have cell phones. This means half of India's population are mobile subscribers. At the same time, only 1/3 (approximately 336 million) of India's people have access to proper sanitation. Consider the following as a case in point: The Mumbai slum of Rafiq Nagar is populated by some 10,000 people. They live in shanties made of cardboard, bamboo and ripped tarps. There is no garbage pickup in Rafiq Nagar and little electricity. And not a single toilet or latrine. Yet almost every one of the destitute families living there has a cell phone! And some have three!

Now I scratched my head when I read this. And quite frankly, I am not sure what to make of it. Some might scoff at what they see as misplaced priorities. A cell phone over a commode? But is that really the case? Could it be that what is going on here is the deep desire of the human heart to be connected with others. Given the extent these people must go to in order to just survive - perhaps the cell phone gives them opportunities to relate with family and friends that they might not otherwise enjoy. Whatever the answer truly is, we can certainly take away from this a needed reminder to value our relationships. Please don't cheat on these. Make your significant relationships an integral part of your life. At the end of the day, you will be glad you did!

Thanks for stopping by,

pj

Monday, November 1, 2010

Some Random Thoughts To Start Your Work Week

As you get going on yet another week, here are a few thoughts to think about:

1. Isn't it a good feeling to get something that you know will be tough to do .... done? I am feeling good (at least on the inside) that all my adult children are now in their homes. After three moves in the last four months (the last being this past Friday-Saturday and that's why the good feeling is on the inside of me ... my body is still aching!), I am quite grateful that there are no more moves in the foreseeable future. Yes!

2. Tomorrow is ELECTION DAY. I encourage all of you who are registered to vote to get out and cast it! I often hear people complain about our elected officials, only to find out they never vote! So head to the polls and prayerfully consider supporting those candidates who value life!

3. There are only 23 days until Thanksgiving and 53 days until Christmas. That's right. The holidays are knocking at the door! I bring this up to urge all of us to plan to emphasize the spiritual aspects of these holidays. There was a reason God instituted the Old Testament feasts for the people of Israel. In part it was to give them time to come apart from their regular routine to remember HIM and His ways. You may want to check out the following resources: For Thanksgiving Day (http://www.biblicalspirituality.org/sing.html or http://www.crossroad.to/HisWord/notes/oswald/thanksgiving.htm) and for Christmas (http://www.biblicalspirituality.org/xmas.html).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Moving Day!

Today my son and his family are moving ... again! Back at the end of June, they moved into a rental townhouse to wait for their new house to be constructed. Today is the day they settle on their new home and begin the move. So I will be helping, of course - but will definitely be limiting myself to the smaller stuff!

Now moving is something I am very familiar with. Across the years, my wife and I have lived in 8 different apartments/houses. In addition, when I pastored in the Pittsburgh area, it seemed like someone in our church family was moving every month. At times I felt like I was running a moving company rather than shepherding a flock!

I don't know about you, but as for me I DESPISE moving (especially when it's me and my house that's being moved!). I can think of few other things I like less than packing up my house and moving (perhaps going to the dentist would qualify!). As I think back on my moves, I could not wait to be settled in our new home (with the hope that it would be a long time before moving again!).

For those of us who have chosen to repent of our sin and rebellion against our God and seek forgiveness through Christ and his sacrifice on the cross for us - we have a home waiting for us. Yes, it will involve a move. But the move won't be like the moves we endure here on earth. For starters, we will not be taking anything with us! All the "stuff" we accumulate here on earth will remain behind. Also keep in mind that this move will be PERMANENT! Once at home in heaven - we will be there forever and ever! This concept (of eternity) is hard for me to wrap my mind around. But that's OK ... I am looking forward to it!

I hope you have a home waiting for you in heaven (Jesus refers to heaven as "My Father's house" - see John 14:1-6). If you want to reserve a place, I suggest you go to the following link which explains the biblical teaching concerning how one receives eternal life: http://www.gracewv.org/488698.ihtml#h_21899.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Super Hero Role Model

"Hey Pizza Man!" The words caught me by surprise. I had not been called "Pizza Man" since June (when I played the role of Pizza Man in our Vacation Bible School). I turned around and there was a curly haired, smiling 5 year old girl who remembered my crazy ways as the Italian cuisine super hero. I must admit it warmed my heart.

As I reflected on this interaction with my five year old admirer, it reminded me of the important role we as adults must fulfill-- that of being an example to those of the younger generations. The Apostle Paul understood the value of being an example to others. Often he encouraged his "children" in the faith to imitate him as he imitated Christ (see 1 Corinthians 11:1 or Philippians 4:9). Children are always looking for role models to imitate. So ... let me ask you, what kind of role model are you? If children were to imitate your spiritual life ... would that be a good thing? If they were to mimic the way you talk or the way your treat others ... would they be better persons because of it? Always remember that there are little ones who are watching you. And most often sooner rather than later - your values, your mannerisms, your vocabulary, your standards will become theirs. I hope when that happens, Jesus will be pleased (because Jesus loves the little children! - see Mark 10:13-16).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stuffy, Boring Theology

I must admit there was a time in my life whenever I heard the words "doctrine" or "theology" I would break out in a case of spiritual hives. I mean the last thing I wanted to do was spend time reading some stuffy, boring theology textbook! But then I learned that my "theology allergy" was actually to my detriment. That in fact, the study of theology (theology simply means "the study of God") was extremely vital to the health and welfare of my soul. And I am not the only one who went through this learning curve.

In his new book, Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe and Why It Matters, Joshua Harris describes his journey in regards to the study of doctrine and theology:

"The irony of my story- and I suppose it often works this way - is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn't understand that such seemingly worn-out words like 'theology,' 'doctrine,' and 'orthodoxy' were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ."

All of us ... if we truly desire to understand and know God (see Jeremiah 9:23-24 and John 17:3) ... need to go deeper into theology! Deeper into our study of the Living God. Starting on Sunday morning, January 2, 2011 - I will be leading our church family at Grace into GOING DEEPER into the fertile soil of rich biblical theology. Stay tuned for more details to come!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back in the Saddle!

Now that my vacation is quickly fading in the rear view mirror of life ... I am back in the office. Here are a couple of the thoughts bouncing off the walls of my mind as I start my work week.

1. Our plans don't always work out. My wife and I had planned to spend about four days in New Jersey last week. However, she came down with a fever last Tuesday evening and was sick the rest of the week (turns out she has pneumonia). She is now on antibiotics and finally "on the mend." We were disappointed - but this is how life works at times. We plan ... but "stuff" happens. It's good to know even in these times that God is still in control.

2. I ran across an interesting question and answer that Randy Alcorn, author of the book Heaven, posted on his website. Here's the question: "How would you respond and minister to unsaved friends or family (or even strangers) who have lost a loved one and assume that their lost loved one is in heaven, even thought that person clearly did not have a relationship with Jesus Christ?" That's a great question. For his answer, check out the following link: http://www.epm.org/blog/2010/Oct/25/how-do-i-minister-unsaved-friend-whose-loved-one-d.

3. Due to my wife's illness last week ... I did get to enjoy some special bonding time with my 18 month old granddaughter. I watched her for parts of two different days since Grammy was down for the count. I came away reminded of just how important a role grandparents can and should have in the lives of their grand kids. So if you are a grandparent, let me encourage you to pray for your grandchildren and seek to be a godly example to them (see 2 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 3:15).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Vacation!!!

The dictionary defines "vacation" as a "a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel." Ahhh. Now that sounds like a plan to me!

This week I will be out of the office trying to catch up on sleep, rest and some real quality time with my wife (who is also my best friend). So ... I won't be posting again until next Tuesday (the 26th). Until then ... here is a question for you to ponder this week: If it is so vital that we as Christians have deep roots in the soil of biblical teachings, then why are we not purposeful about GOING DEEPER?

More on that next week. I hope you all have a great week as you seek to live out your lives in a manner worthy of the gospel! (see Philippians 1:27 and Colossians 1:10)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lost Your Appetite?

According to one web site I checked, every 3.6 seconds someone somewhere in the world dies of starvation, with 3/4 of these victims being children under the age of 5. That is sad! I could not imagine as a parent not having the food to feed my children and, as a result, watch them slowly starve to death. Reaching out to the world's poor and suffering is something God calls us to do ... so I hope you are involved in someway, giving toward this great world need (see Proverbs 14:31 and Proverbs 19:17).

But it is not my purpose this morning to talk about world starvation ... rather I want to highlight another form of starvation that is ravaging the Kingdom of God. Consider for a moment the following two quotes:

"Americans revere the Bible but, by and large, they don't read it." (Pollster George Gallup)

"We own more Bibles than we will ever use, but we are slowly starving to death because we have lost our appetite for Scripture." (Krish Kandiah, director of Churches in Mission for the Evangelical Alliance UK)

How about you? Revere the Bible but don't read it? Got more than one copy but have lost your appetite for it? This is a sad situation, my friend. You may not know this, but in parts of Asia there are groups of believers who meet in secret house churches (secret due to the very real threat of persecution). Often these believers will sit for as long as 12 hours, studying the Bible together! Yet we are hard pressed to find 5 minutes to open God's Word and read a couple of verses!

If you have lost your appetite for God's Word, I encourage you to pray and ask God to restore it! Then make it a priority to get into the Scripture! You cannot grow in your faith ... you will not become more like Jesus Christ apart from a deepening "relationship" with the Bible! (see John 17:17)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Beauty of Heaven!

Yesterday as I was touring the state Capitol in Harrisburg, I was struck by the beauty of the place. In fact, it is so beautiful that the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, ranked Pennsylvania's Capitol as the most beautiful of the fifty state capitols. Based on what I saw, I can most definitely believe it! The gold leaf that is everywhere must be worth millions of dollars! And that is only a part of the Capitol's beauty. It is indeed a striking structure.

At one point on our tour, Dr. Hibaile, my friend from the Central African Republic (one of the poorest nations on earth) commented, "Ahh . . . the New Jerusalem!" As I reflected on his words, it hit me that if I thought the place was beautiful - he, coming from his world of abject poverty, must have been quite overwhelmed by the opulence he was seeing! And so for him, all the ornate beauty spoke to him of the glory that awaits us in heaven!

I felt a gentle rebuke at that point. I must admit that I had no thoughts of heaven as he did. But I surely can see why he was thinking of heaven! Today as we journey through this life ... compared to what awaits us in heaven ... we are trudging through a world of abject poverty! We cannot begin to imagine what God has prepared for us in the world to come (1 Corinthians 2:9). So let's determine to think and think regularly of heaven, lest we become so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Biggest Gainer!

The Biggest Loser has been one of the most popular television shows in recent years. The program features a number of very heavy people who all have one goal - to lose more weight (measured by the % of weight loss vs. their starting body weight) than the other contestants and thus win the title "The Biggest Loser" (not to mention the boat load of cash awarded to the winner). I have seen a few of these programs ... and it is amazing how much weight some of these contestants lose via hard work and a healthy diet.

Donna Simpson of New Jersey has no desire to appear on this show. In fact, her desire is to gain weight. Her goal? 1000 lbs! That's right -- a half ton! Currently Simpson weighs in at a "paltry" 600 lbs and is determined within 2 years of achieving her goal. Why? She simply wants to hold the record of the fattest woman in the world. To get there, she has to eat 12,000 calories a day and consume over $800 of groceries each week (that's over $40,000 per year just for food!).

I don't know about you, but when I think of this woman I feel both anger and pity. Anger that she would abuse her body in such a way and pity that she has such a zany whacky goal to begin with! Yet ... before pointing my finger at her --- I need to look in my own mirror. I am sure I have some zany and whacky goals that are out of sinc with God's goals. So all this to remind me (and if you are reading this ... you, too) that we all need to evaluate ourselves on a regular basis in the mirror of God's Word! (see James 1:22-25).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Good News!

Yesterday was a day of bad news. The day began when I discovered a colleague and friend of mine died while out biking. Todd was only 48 years old. Then later in the day I learned that another friend died over the weekend. Both reports were unexpected and unwelcome.

So I found myself needing to hear some GOOD NEWS. It was in this state of mind this morning that I picked up John Piper's book, Finally Alive. Under the heading, "The Greatest News in the World," I read the following words:

"Christ, The Son of God, died in our place - became our substitute - to pay the price for all our sins, and to accomplish perfect righteousness, and to endure and remove all of God's wrath, and rise from the dead triumphant over death for our eternal life and joy in his presence - and all of this offered freely through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. That's the good news. To this day, two thousand years later, it remains the greatest news in the world."

I agree with Piper. There is NO greater news than the gospel! Let's believe it ... live it ... and proclaim it today!

Thanks for stopping by ...

pj

Monday, October 11, 2010

Some Brief Monday Morning Thoughts

As your new work week starts ... here are just a couple of brief thoughts for your consideration:

1. Life is fragile - handle with care. I was stunned this morning to receive an email from the President's office at Grace College and Seminary, informing me that a fellow board member, pastor and a valued friend was killed as a result of a bicycle accident yesterday in Ohio near his home. Todd Scoles leaves behind a wife and three children (I believe high school through college age). He also leaves behind a life lived to the glory of God. I must be honest with you. I look at Todd and his life and ministry and want to ask God "Why? He could have done so much more for your kingdom!" That question I will have to leave with God. All this to say ... Life is fragile. It could end for any of us at any time. So let's live our lives to the full - for HIM!

2. Friendships are precious -make them a priority. I have thoroughly enjoyed renewing fellowship with Dr. Augustin Hibaile of the Central African Republic. He is a precious brother and a good friend. His passion for God runs deep and his love for his people is strong. I trust rubbing shoulders with him will make me a better man!

3. Life's problems are many - take them to God! Recently I have been somewhat overwhelmed with the problems so many people I know and love are facing in their lives, ranging from serious health issues, financial problems, relational difficulties ... etc., etc., etc.! But it is quite the comfort to know that for those who have chosen to follow Jesus - we never have to face these problems alone! He has promised to help us carry the load! (Matthew 11:28-30)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, October 8, 2010

Coming to Grace This Sunday! (Oct. 10th)

This coming Sunday, October 10th, we will be welcoming a very special guest to our worship services. Dr. Augustine Hibaile will be sharing about the dynamic ministry God has given to him in the Central African Republic (and surrounding countries as well). Several years ago, God led him to leave his teaching ministry (at a leading Bible Institute in the C. A. R.) and launch the Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership. The Center is located in the capital city of Bangui.

The C.A.R. is among the most impoverished countries in the world. According to statistics provided by the United Nations, 86% of the people live in poverty, 62% live on just $1.25 per day and 82% are deprived of electricity. Having spent two weeks last September in Bangui, I have no doubt that these stats are correct (and I was in the capital ... certainly far from the most impoverished parts of the country). Dr. Hibaile has a passion to alleviate his people's suffering ... brought on by both their material poverty and their spiritual poverty. This is why he launched CIDEL. He realized that unless the corruption that exists among leaders in his and other impoverished countries was addressed, no long lasting solutions to dire situation could ever be achieved.

Each Monday for about an hour or so, Dr. Hibaile meets with the Prime Minister of the C.A.R. They discuss the problems facing the country. They spend time in Scripture. They pray. The PM desires to fulfill his responsibilities in a God-honoring manner. Dr. Hibaile is helping him achieve that goal.

If you attend Grace (and even if you don't), I urge you to be sure to be hear on Sunday (at either 9:00 or 10:30). This man's story is an incredible one! One that will stretch your faith and challenge your heart! I hope to see you here!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Take Up Your Cross!

Jesus makes it clear in Luke 9:23, that if we want to follow him we must "pick up our cross DAILY." What does it mean to "pick up our cross?" Often I have heard it said that it means to carry the burdens we have been given to bear. So my occasional neck pain (caused by degenerative disc disease) is a cross I must bear. For others it might be a controlling mother-in-law, an obnoxious boss or a 1991 Chevy. However, if this were the case ... all of humanity would have crosses to bear ... not just those who choose to follow Christ. So just what is Jesus referring to here? Donald Whitney in his book, Simply Your Spiritual Life, gives one of the best answers I have ever read concerning this question. Here's is take:

"As Jesus was willing to go to the cross to do the will of the Father (Philippians 2:8), so we must be willing to follow Jesus to the cross, daily dying to any desires that conflict with His so that we may daily live for Him. While we may truly speak of glory inaugurated by the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, identifying with following Him in this world involves suffering. Indeed, there will be no end to cross-bearing this side of Heaven.

The theology of the cross simplifies the spiritual life by standing as its primary reference point. Everything in Christian spirituality relates to it. Through the cross we begin our spirituality and by the power and example of the cross we live it. Ask God to show Himself afresh to you through the Bible's teaching of the cross and where this theology needs fresh application in your life."

Are you DAILY taking up your cross as you seek to follow Jesus?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

P.S. - To read the full article by Donald Whitney - check it out at http://biblicalspirituality.org/takeup.html

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Vending Machine God

You can get a lot of different things out of vending machines these days. Most often when we think vending machines we think of beverages (sodas, water, hot coffee, etc.) and snack items (candy, gum, lifesavers, peanuts, pretzels, etc.). But vending machines offer a lot more! In Italy, for anywhere between $5 and $8 you can get fresh pizza. At airports in Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt, Bergamo and Moscow you will find "Gold to Go" machines where you can buy a few gold bars! Across the U.S., if you looking for, say leeches at 2 AM for your early morning fishing trip - no problem. Just look for a Live Bait vending machine which you can find in a number of fishing-friendly states. All this to say ... if you are need of something - there is a good chance you can find it in a vending machine somewhere.

Now there's nothing wrong about this retail approach to selling goods that the public wants to buy. I for one have been glad to find a coffee vending machine when I was nowhere near a Starbucks or a McDonalds. But we must be careful that we do not allow our fondness of vending machines impact our view of God. I say this, because far too many do. As they think of God they see him as the "Ultimate Vending Machine." God is there to grant my every request. All I have to do is make a deposit (i.e. - a prayer) and voila ... there's my answer! In his book, The Papa Prayer, Larry Crabb warns against this false view of God:

"The most common image of God that we don't admit to but still hold is akin to Santa Claus or to a smiling buddy, with this difference: you don't have to relate to a vending machine. Just put in the coins and collect your treat. I wonder how much of our worship and declarations of love for God express the same sentiment felt by a satisfied consumer walking away from a vending machine, biting into his Snickers candy bar. We pray right. It works. The parking lot opened up. The lump disappeared. The new job came along. Let's pray more. Let's insert more coins. God is good." (The Papa Prayer, p. 107)

Is this how you view God? (be honest!). Is he merely the Ultimate Vending Machine upstairs? If so ... let me encourage you to get into the Bible and seek the answer to this question: "What is God really like?" You may want to start by reading Isaiah 40:1-31; Revelation 1:10-18; or any one of the four gospels (for to see Jesus is to see the Father - John 14:9).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Final Exit

On December 7, 2007 Alcides Moreno was doing what he did every work day: washing windows on one of the many Manhattan towering skyscrapers (by the way - you could not pay me enough to do that job!!!). As he and his brother, Edgar Morenes worked on their scaffold that morning on an East 66th Street high rise, the unthinkable happened. The platform collapsed. Alcides and his brother plunged 47 stories to the ground below. Edgar was killed instantly. But somehow Alcides survived. During the first few weeks following his fall, Alcides received 24 units of blood and underwent 14 surgeries. Today, according to his wife, he still struggles quite a bit mentally. He can only manage simple tasks and forgets things easily. In her words "He's only 45% there."

Now that is one incredible story! How did this guy manage to survive a fall from 47 stories up? I don't know. Really, only God knows. He is the one who holds the keys of death in his hands (Revelation 1:18). So bottom line, it is God who determines when each one of us will exit this life and enter the next. And that will occur according to HIS perfect plan! We all can take comfort in that!

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.