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Showing posts from January, 2010

State of the Union? State of Your Soul?

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On Wednesday evening, President Obama did want U.S. Presidents do every year in the middle of January. He delivered a "State of the Union" address to both houses of Congress and to the American people at large. In this address, the President gives his assessment of just where he believes our nation is ... both its strengths and weaknesses ... and then outlines a strategy to move forward to fix the nation's problems. My purpose in this posting is not to evaluate the President's performance - their are many more capable people who have done that. But what I do want to do is to encourage you (and me) to use this speech to remind ourselves that we need, from time to time, to take "time out" from the busyness of life to assess the state of our souls!

Look. We live in a very busy ... and a very noisy world. And technology is constantly making our world noisier and busier (case in point: Apple's introduction this week of their new I-Pad which is promising a ne…

Taking a Stand!

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There are many things in life that just seem to go together. Things like "peanut butter and jelly," "waking up and coffee in my cup," "Thanksgiving Day and turkey" and "baseball and hotdogs" - just to name a few. Then there are those things that don't seem right together, "Pittsburgh Pirates and a winning season," "mustard and ice cream" and "personal faith and public discourse." Now every time spring training rolls around for Major League Baseball, I harbor hopes that maybe ... just maybe this will the the year the Pirates FINALLY have a winning season (they've only managed to put together a string of SIXTEEN consecutive losing seasons ... a record for any franchise in any professional sport!). But concerning "personal faith and public discourse" - the situation only appears to be getting worse. Our culture states, "you can believe ANYTHING you want about spirituality and faith, just keep it …

Thank you, Grace Church at Willow Valley!

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I want to go on record to say "Thank you!" to my church family here at Grace. This past Sunday the church family surprised me with a celebration of my twenty years of ministry here at Grace. They gave my wife and me a number of things to show their love and appreciation for us. So I want to let any from the Grace family who might happen to read this blog how much we appreciate and love the family here! And they are so easy to love on!!!

One of the anniversary gifts that was given to us was a gift certificate to a Bed and Breakfast in Cape May, NJ. I thought it would be appropriate to use this anniversary gift in conjunction with another anniversary - our 32nd wedding anniversary. So in mid-May, my wife and I will spend a few days in Cape May, celebrating our 20 years of pastoral ministry here at Grace and our 32 years of enjoying one another as husband and wife. Wow! It doesn't get much better than that!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

An Embarassing Fall!

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Last Friday a visitor to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art fell. Typically, when someone fall's, the incident does not find its way to the media. But this fall was different. When the woman fell, she tore a 6 inch gash in a painting by some artist by the name of Pablo Picasso. Oops! Talk about an embarassing fall!

All of us do embarassing things from time to time. We cause accidents that we did not mean to cause. These in turn can be quite costly ... to us or others (as in this case of this torn painting, repairs to the Picasso will be quite expensive). Now you might be wondering where I am going with this ... yes? The next time someone does something unintentional that impacts you in a negative way ... respond to them with GRACE! Learn to FORBEAR! God tells us to do as much through the Apostle Paul when Paul wrote, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another" (Colossians 3:13). This is the way of grace! And it is T…

The Best Way Out Is Always Through!

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There are many things I love about God's Word. Among them is the fact that the Bible does not "sugarcoat" life. When one reads Scripture, he or she will quickly realize (if reading with an attentive eye and an open mind) that what he or she is reading is talking about the world in which they live. The Bible is all about life in the real world .... in OUR world! For example, toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke the following to his followers, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Jesus could not have said it any more plainly - we will experience trouble in this life! And after living on this earth for close to 54 years now, I will not argue that point!

Now most of us when we experience trouble ... we just want out! Out of the difficulty and back to the more comfortable "smooth sailing" times of life. This is certainly …

I'm Bored!

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One of my childhood summertime memories is that of sitting with my friends at the intersection of Kensington Street (where I lived) and 22nd Street in the city of Harrisburg. For what seemed like hours we would ask one another, "What do you want to do?" And we would answer, "I don't know - what do you want to do?" The problem was - we were bored. None of us liked being bored. And I sure do not like being bored today. And I am sure you feel the same.

Now, some Christians have told me that they don't read the Bible because the Bible is boring. But I don't agree! The Bible is anything but boring. Think with me. What is the Bible? It is the written revelation of our Almighty Creator-Redeemer God. In its pages He reveals to us His being and His works. He tells us of his plan - both for us as individuals and utltimately for the world. And that is boring? Please take two minutes and watch the video clip of John Piper. He's right on the mark!



Thanks for st…

Boys Will Be Boys!

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I just read a news story about 8 German youth, ages 13 and 14 who decided to drink some hot chili sauce as a test of courage - and it was not your everyday-buy-at-the-grocery-store kind of chili sauce. This sauce was HOT! VERY HOT! On the Scoville scale, which is used to measure the hotness of sauce, the sauce the boys drank earned a rating of 535,000. When you consider that normal Tabasco sauce measures only 2,500, you can understand that when I say this sauce was VERY HOT - it was indeed VERY HOT!  As a result of their test (should we say "foolishness?"), all eight were hospitalized after complaining of feeling sick. And who wouldn't feel sick after drinking such a concoction? I wonder what they mixed together to get the sauce to be so hot!

Now we can dismiss their actions as simply saying, "boys will be boys!" They were simply doing what boys have done since the dawn of human history (I am NOT about to tell you of some stupid things I did on being "dare…

Are You Just Standing Around When It Comes to Sharing the Gospel?

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According to a recent study by the Wall Street Journal, a broadcast of an average NFL football game contains only 11 minutes of game action (game action being defined as from the time the ball is snapped until the official's whistle the play over). This compares with 17 minutes of replays and 67 minutes showing players just standing around. When I read this, I was amazed at how much more time I was spending watching players just milling about (or huddling) .... compared to the amount of time when they were running their plays!

Hmm. Reminds me of the Christian life - especially when it comes to evangelism. We spend so much time huddling together .... so much time just "standing around" -- and so little time actually trying to point people to Jesus! All of us could stand to remember this word when it comes to sharing our faith: "intentional." Let's all get more INTENTIONAL when it comes to proclaiming the gospel! The people in our world need Christ! He is ind…

On Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters . . .

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Each day the news out of Haiti grows more depressing. Just this morning I read in the paper that the estimated death toll has now risen to 200,000. And those who survived are experiencing misery heaped upon misery. There are critical shortages of food, water and medical supplies. All of this means that the death toll will continue to climb as people die of a lack of basic necessities and untreated injuries and illness. One report I viewed on a network newscast made a reference to what medical treatment that was happening as "Civil War medicine." In the Civil War (pre-antibiotics), infections would often develop in soldiers' wounded limbs. To prevent gangrene (which would eventually kill the wounded soldier), army surgeons would have no choice but to amputate. This situation is repeating itself today in Haiti. One television reporter concluded her report last night by saying that Haiti will become a land of amputees - due to the vast number of survivors with crushed limbs…

It's the Name!

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Eight year old Mickey Hicks is a cub scout from Clifton, NJ.  And he looks like an eight year old cub scout (especially when wearing his cub scout uniform!). But every time Mikey and his family fly anywhere, Mickey gets a full "pat down" as part of the security screening process. Here is what Mickey's mother recently had to say about Mikey's ongoing airport security hassles (he's been "patted down" on a consistent basis since he's been two!): "Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch — someone is patting your 8-year-old down like he’s a criminal. A terrorist can blow his underwear up and they don’t catch him. But my 8-year-old can’t walk through security without being frisked."

Why does Mickey get all this unwanted attention? It seems that he shares his name with a "Michael Hicks" who is one of 13,500 individuals on the Transportation Security Administration's "Selectees" list, placed there due to being a securi…

Safely Crossing the "Great Divide"

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Many people know Mark Twain as the author of the American literary classics, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.And many also know Mark Twain as the author of many witty quotes that people like to throw around in their speeches and writings. Consider the following "Mark Twainisms":

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”


"Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow."

"It's not the the parts of the Bible I don't understand that bother me, it's the parts I do understand."  


I could have gone on and on with many more witty quotes from the pen of Mark Twain, or should I better say, the pen of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. That's right, "Mark Twain" was merely the pen name of Samuel Clemens. Clemens chose this particular pen name for himself becau…

If It 'Aint Fun, Forget It!

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As I was driving back to the office yesterday, I passed a car that had an advertisement for the Lancaster Sunday News displayed on its roof. Above the title of the newspaper were the words, "Relevant. Informative. Fun to Read." These words, of course, were meant to describe the Sunday paper. "Relevant" - yep, I want any newspaper to be relevant. I sure don't want to be reading about what's happening on Mars. "Informative" - again, right on the mark for any paper worthy of my time. I want it to tell me exactly all about the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of everything going on in my world! "Fun to Read" - well, I sure don't want it to bore me to death as it informs me of all that is relevant around me!

Now what got me thinking was that last descriptive phrase, "Fun to Read." Whether or not you think the Sunday News is "fun to read", I think it is a real statement about our culture that a newspaper includes tha…

Growing Up!

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I never knew being a grandfather would be so very, very cool! I love it! I thank God for the two grandkids He has brought into our lives. Recently I have been enjoying watching our grandbaby Ella growing up. Just this past week she picked up the concept of waving "bye-bye" and giving a kiss. In addition, she now motors around the house on all fours - something she was not doing even just a week ago. Hmm. What will next week bring, Ella behind the wheel of a car?

As much as we are enjoying watching Ella develop into toddler hood, we are not surprised at what we are seeing (and hearing). We expect it. This is what babies do. They grow up! They mature! And what is true for babies in the physical realm ... should also be true of babies in the spiritual realm. Notice I said SHOULD. When we make a faith commitment to Christ we are "born again" (this is the terminology Jesus used in John 3). We are spiritual infants. But we are NOT to remain infants. God expects us to gro…

Let's Take Responsibility!

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The other night, Mariah Carey (most known for her singing talent) accepted an award for her acting. The International Film Festival Awards gave her the award for Breakthrough Actress for her performance in the film, "Precious." According to news reports, Carey gave a loony, rambling, speech slurred acceptance speech that went on far too long. After being hammered on the Internet for her actions, Carey when asked about her speech told reporter that her loopy speech was the fault of the presenter, director Lee Daniels. This is what she said, "The thing is me and Lee hadn't seen each other in a long time, and then he was presenting my award, so he starts off immediately with inside jokes."  OK ... so he started off with some insider jokes ... that explains her actions?  Oh...she then admitted to enjoying some "splashes of champagne" before hand. Hmmm...quite a few splashes if you ask me.

But before we are too harsh on Carey ... let's admit it. All of…

Redemption and Forgiveness in Christ and Christ Alone!

Jesus Christ was quite clear that if people want to connect with the God who made them, the only option to do so is through Himself, specifically through his work on the cross. All of us have earned the wage of death (see Romans 6:23a and Romans 3:23). When Jesus died, He paid the wage for sin. But since He had no sin (He was perfect, never once rebelling against His Father) we must ask - for whose wage was He paying? The answer? Anyone who would ever place their faith in Him to save them from God's penalty for sin. That is the message of the gospel. And it is a good news message. In fact, only Christianity offers this hope of redemption and forgiveness for sin. Please take a few minutes to watch the intriguing video below concerning comments made recently by Brit Hume, a senior political analyst for Fox News as he spoke about Tiger Wood's need for redemption and forgiveness.



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

A Tall Celebration!

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Yesterday, the world's tallest building was officially opened. It is the Burj Khalifa building located in the Persian Gulf United Arab Emirate of Dubai. The new skyscraper reaches to a height of 2,717 feet, which makes it more than 1,000 feet taller than the world's previous tallest building located in Taiwan (the tallest skyscaper in the U.S. is Chicago's Willis Tower which stands at 1,451 feet). So as you can see, this new Dubai tower is indeed a SKYscraper!

As I read the newspaper account of the tower's grand opening, I was struck by the following lines: "Its (the tower's) backers wanted the skyscraper to be a monument to the boundless, can-do spirit of Dubai."  Those words struck me because they sounded eerily familiar. So I opened my Bible to Genesis 11:4 and read the following about the inhabitants of the world following the flood of Noah's day: "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may m…

When Sadness Threatens to Overwhelm Our Joy

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The past five days have been days of deep sadness for our family. Sadness is something all of us are acquainted with as sadness is a part of this broken world in which we live. But as followers of Christ, we do have a "life-line" to cling to in the midst of our difficulties. God is our rock, our refuge, our hope. Yes, we can have hope even in the darkest of days. Yes, there is coming a day when God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Then "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4). But until that time comes, there will be days when sadness will threaten to overwhelm our joy. When that happens, we must cling to God. He alone knows exactly what we are going through, the pain we are enduring. And He will give us strength, comfort, hope and a peace that only He can give!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

A Blessed New Year . . .

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For all of you who stop by my blog throughout the year, I pray that you will experience the reality of the Apostle Paul's expressed desire for the church in Rome:

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj