PJ

PJ

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's Wednesday . . . and Sunday's Coming (Easter Sunday, That Is!)!

I ran across the following quote written by a author of a book on heaven and posted on the website of  Newsweek:

It's Easter—that most pleasant of springtime holidays—when children stuff themselves with marshmallows and stain their fingers with pastel dyes. In reality, of course, Easter is about something darker and more fantastic. It's a celebration of the final act of the Passion, in which Jesus rose from his tomb in his body three days after his execution, to reside in heaven with God. The Gospels insist on the veracity of this supernatural event. The risen Lord "ate barbecued fish [Luke] and walked through doors [John]," is how a friend of mine, an Episcopalian priest, puts it. This rising—the Resurrection—remains at the center of the Christian faith, the narrative climax of every creed. Jesus died and rose again so that all his followers could, eventually, do the same. This story has strained the credulity of even the most devoted believer. For, truly, it's unbelievable.

When I read what this author had to write, I was with her until she got to her last two sentences. Then I had to shake my head in disagreement. I consider myself a devoted believer. The historical account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ has NOT strained my credulity. I believe in the resurrection of Christ because the evidence for his resurrection is quite compelling. And why should it be unbelievable? If Jesus Christ IS who he claimed to be (and the Bible declares him to be) then he is none other than God incarnate. And since he is God - then why should we think that he being resurrected from the dead is all that "unbelievable?" After all, as God he has power over death!

This week, I will go on to discuss the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Evidence, that when considered with an open mind, shouts loudly to all who will listen, "He is not here. He has risen just as he said!" (Matthew 28:6). I hope you will stop back. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

So, How Rich Are You?

An Indian pastor sent me the following story I believe ALL of us could benefit from reading. We American Christians far too often get confused about the nature of true wealth. Read on ... and then ask yourself if you are pursuing true wealth!



A tax assessor came one day to a poor Christian to determine the amount of taxes he would have to pay. The following conversation took place:
"What property do you possess?" asked the assessor.
"I am a very wealthy man," replied the Christian.
"List your possessions, please," the assessor instructed.
The Christian said:



"First, I have everlasting life, John 3:16
Second, I have a mansion in heaven, John 14:2
Third, I have peace that passes all understanding, Philippians 4:7
Fourth, I have joy unspeakable, 1 Peter 1:8
Fifth, I have divine love which never fails, 1 Corinthians 13:8
Sixth, I have a faithful wife, Proverbs 31:10
Seventh, I have healthy, happy obedient children, Exodus 20:12
Eighth, I have true, loyal friends, Proverbs 18:24
Ninth, I have songs in the night, Psalms 42:8
Tenth, I have a crown of life, James 1:12"

The tax assessor closed his book, and said, "Truly you are a very rich man, but your property is not subject to taxation."





I pray that all of us will have this kind of tax free "wealth." God Bless You!


Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj


PS - It is GOOD to be back home!

Friday, March 26, 2010

When the Sun Shines!

Yesterday was a raw, wet day here in northern Indiana. The kind of day you don't mind spending in meeting after meeting after meeting (which is great because that was pretty much my day!). But in talking with my wife, the weather back home in Lancaster was much different. No rain ... and lots of warm breezes. The difference? The sun! Here the sun's warming rays were blocked by all the think clouds and rain that fell from them. So the temperature never got much beyond the low 40's. But back home, with the sun warming the ground which in turn warmed the air, the temperature climbed into the pleasantly comfortable mid 60's. A sure sign that spring has arrived!

So ... the sun (and its visible presence in the sky) was a big reason why Lancaster, PA had a pleasant day (and the sun's lack of appearing was the reason it was so ugly, weather-wise, here in Indiana). What is true of the weather is also true in life. The sun makes all the difference ... or better said, the SON makes all the difference. Jesus Christ came that we might "have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). And the full or abundant life he is talking about here is not a life of material abundance - but rather a life filled with THE thing that really matters: a living and vibrant relationship with Him, the God who made us! And when we live in the presence of the SON --- we will begin to experience life to the full! For you see, the Son makes all the difference!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In the Hoosier State Again

The next couple of days will find me here in Winona Lake, Indiana attending  the spring meetings of the board of trustees of Grace College and Seminary. I would ask that you remember us (there are about two dozen of us) in prayer, that God would give us His wisdom as we discuss some very important issues and decisions currently before both schools. I count it a privilege to be serving on this board and hope and pray that God will use me and the rest of us to accomplish His purposes. And isn't that what life should be about? Striving to glorify God (and in the process enjoying Him forever)?  Absolutely!

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

pj

Looking on the Up Side!

Yesterday I wrote about our trip last week to Colonial Williamsburg. Again I must say that my wife and I had a delightful time while there. But on the way home, things got a bit dicey! In fact, we had been on the road for only about ten minutes when a near disaster hit. Here's what happened. We were driving on Interstate 64 heading toward Richmond. We were in the right land moving right along at the posted speed limit (which I believe is 65 on that stretch of road). As I looked ahead, I noticed a lot of brake lights. So, I did what I was taught to do back in driver ed class in high school - I began to apply my brakes. As I did, my speed dropped to about 35 mph. Now something I always do in this sort of situation (and if you don't do this - I highly recommend that you begin to do so) is to look at the traffic behind me in my rear view mirror. I want to make sure the vehicles behind me are also slowing down. When I glanced into my mirror - what I saw stunned me. A large truck, hauling three vehicles on its bed was bearing down on us at a high rate of speed. He had been in the left lane and, realizing if he stayed in that lane he would hit the car in front of him, he had cut over into my lane. My first reaction was to get off the highway by heading to my right and onto the shoulder. But I realized that given the truck's angle, he was also trying to do the same. Therefore, since I had to move somewhere - my only option as I saw it was to go left (I am talking driving here ... not politics!). So I turned my steering wheel left  to begin moving into the left lane. Unfortunately, there was a car there and boom - we collided. The truck missed me as it did make it to the shoulder of the highway. But then ... without missing a beat ... the truck got right back on the interstate and kept on going - never to be seen by us again.

As we pulled off the highway onto the grassy median to our left and came to a stop behind the vehicle we had hit, my wife looked at me and said. "Wow! We're OK!"  As her words sunk in ... I felt the fear of being waffled from behind by the speeding truck and the frustration at colliding with the other vehicle replaced by a sense of peace and calm. We were spared from what could  have been one very nasty accident. So after giving our information to the other driver (who could not have been any nicer) and a state trooper (who informed me he would not be issuing me a citation for a lane violation given the circumstances of the accident), and a quick stop at a Lowe's (to pick up some duct tape to reattach the driver's side side-view mirror) - we proceeded to drive the remainder of the way home without further incident.

My wife reminded me of a very powerful lesson I have learned: that even in the most difficult of circumstances, there is an "up-side." Situations are rarely as bad as they could be. And even in our most difficult situations, we know that "God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). And that is something we can find strength in!


Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When Your Number Is Up!

Last week, I decided to take a couple of days off and travel back in time to 1774. That's right! Sharon and I did some time travel! Well, sort of. We actually booked a winter package for a two night stay in Williamsburg, VA - and in the providence of God we had two solid days of spring weather! That was a perk we had not counted on but delighted in none the less! Now, some of you might be yawning as you think about a two day stay in Williamsburg. But for Sharon and me, it was a blast! We are history lovers and therefore, many of our out-of-town trips are in some way connected with history (for example, last year we visited Appomattox Courthouse, the sight of Lee's surrender to Grant that more or less signaled the end of the U.S. Civil War and Gettysburg, the war's most significant battle). Our hunger for history was most certainly satisfied last week.

One small interesting tidbit of history that I picked up concerned a British musician. He came to Virginia prior to the revolutionary war for health reasons. It appears that he was a sickly fellow and it was thought that the climate in Virgina would be beneficial to his health. Wrong call! He died after only four months in the colony. Now of course, he may have very well died at the same time had he remained in England. Nevertheless, don't miss the important lesson in his story. You can try to run away from the grim reaper of death - but God has numbered our days (see Psalm 139:16). Therefore, when God has determined your number is up - your number is up! Given this reality, let me ask you the most important question you will ever be asked: Are you ready to meet God? All of us will stand before Him We ALL will be judged (see Revelation 20:11-15). The ONLY way to prepare to meet God is to repent of your sin and rebellion against God (see Isaiah 53:6a, Romans 3:23 and 6:23) and trust in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Have YOU trusted in Christ to save you from the penalty of your sin? If you have any questions about this ... please don't hesitate to email me at jsmith@gracewv.org.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Has Sprung!

Tomorrow is the first official day of spring. In fact, if you want to celebrate the exact moment of spring's arrival, set your watch for 1:32 PM. But as for me, I am already celebrating the beautiful spring-like weather we have been enjoying this week. And since spring has sprung, I have begun to put away some of the items associated with winter. My snow shovels are back in the basement ... and my snow blower will soon join them. Yea!!! Yahoo!!!

Spring has become my favorite season of the year. I love the way that creation awakes from its long slumber! It warms my soul (not to mention my body!). Spring also reminds me of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After his brutal execution, Jesus was placed in a cold, dark tomb where his body laid in silence. Then, in the early morning hours of the third day, HE AROSE!  And because He lives, we too will live (see John 11:25)!  Thank God for spring time! And thank God for the new life we can have through faith in Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hitting "Delete" by Mistake!

Have you ever worked on something ... perhaps a paper, a letter, or even a PowerPoint presentation. . . and when it came time to save your work, you inadvertently deleted it? I must admit I have done this more than once. And if you have done so, you know the empty feeling that accompanies such a mistake. Now there were times I was able to do some work and retrieve the missing document ... but that has not always been the case. Some of the work that I deleted was gone forever.

We can say the same thing about our sin. Once we make a faith commitment to Jesus Christ in which we admit to him our sin and rebellion against God and place our trust in His death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin - then God takes our sins and removes our sins from us "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). As I pointed out this past Sunday, it is quite striking that the verse does not say "as far as the north is from the south." The reason being that if you went outside your house with a compass in hand and began walking north - you would eventually come to the north pole. And from there if you were to walk due south, you would eventually come to the south pole. But if you start walking east ... you will never get to the east pole, will you? Nope - you will always be walking east (or west if you decide to go west). And that, my friend is how far God has removed your sin from you. It has been, in "computeresee," DELETED!  So bottom line,for those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ, God has declared us righteous! And there is no mistaking the Bible's clear teaching on that! (read through the book of Romans and you will see what I mean)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's Time to Simplify!

I enjoy being a grandpa. As I watch my little grandbaby (who is now a little over 10 months old) entertain herself, I am amazed at the little things that can keep her attention. Yes, she likes her toys, but she also likes to open and close the one kitchen cabinet that is not locked (with those special kid proof latches). In that cabinet is our supply of tupperware type containers. Ella can clean it out in a matter of moments. Then she will sit there and play with the containers and their lids. All in all a pretty simple way to have a lot of fun (if you are ten months old, that is!).

As I thought of the simplicity of Ella's play, I thought of the great need so many of us (myself included) to simplify our lives. We fill our lives with so many activities and so much stuff - that we can tend to miss out on what is truly important. A lot of us would benefit from disengaging from this rat race of a world - and ask ourselves this question, "What can I get rid of that will help to simplify my life?"  I recently did this and decided to remove a small garden pond that I have enjoyed the past 7 summers. But it does take work and money to keep going - so I thought by removing it I could take a small step toward a simpler life. And really, that is what it will take to get to where I need to be ... a lot of little steps.

If you are interested in simplifying your life ... and in particular your spiritual life, I recommend you pick up the book, Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed, by Donald S. Whitney. It is a very readable book with very short chapters (about 2 pages per chapter) and lots of sound practical advice. For most of us - it's time to simplify!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mark Twain - Dead Wrong!

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) is known for his witty comments that still speak to us even though Mark Twain has been dead for nearly a hundred years (April 21st will mark the 100th anniversary of his death). Consider the following Mark Twain witticisms: 

"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

"Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry"

“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.” 

I could go on citing more of his quotes. But I will restrain myself and give you just one more. In the following quote, Mark Twain got it wrong ... dead wrong. The quote concerns a certain book. Read on .  . . 

"It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies." 

You may have thought that he was referring to the Bible. And if you did - you are right. But Twain was wrong. The Bible indeed is full of interest and marked by noble poetry (consider the Psalms!). There is blood-drenched history within its pages (consider the Old Testament passages concerning the conquest of the Promised Land by the Israelites) .... and good morals (the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount for example). But the Bible is NOT a book of clever fables and a thousand lies. Nothing could be further from the truth. When one considers how the Bible, written across the course of centuries by forty different human authors from all walks of life still contains a unified story - it is truly an amazing book! A unique (read "one-of-a-kind") book! A book that tells the story of how God created humanity to manage his created order and enjoy a relationship with Him. However, humanity rebelled against the Creator. And yet God in love and mercy sent his own Son to redeem man from his rebellious ways. This same Son will one day return to establish His eternal Kingdom.  That's the story of the Bible. And as history will one day demonstrate it is a story of a thousand truths! 



Thanks for stopping by . . . 


pj

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Needed Reminder

 I first posted this on my blog back in 2005. I thought it was worth repeating! Have a great day!


September 20, 2005

A thirty-two year old Tokyo woman called in the police after a hit man she paid to kill her lover’s wife failed to carry out the job (this is so bizarre, you may want to read that first sentence again!).  Apparently this woman had contracted a private detective via the Internet and paid him $9,000 to kill her love rival.  When he failed to deliver on his end of the agreement, she called the cops!  She and the detective are now in jail.  The alleged target is safe, but a bit rattled to say the least!

 This is crazy stuff!  But, then again, our world is crazy!  This is what happens when men and women walk away from God and insist on living life their own way.  When I hear of mixed up, weird situations like this, I will often turn to my wife and say,  “Sin sure does complicate lives!” That is one good reason to stay as far away from sin as possible. We all need to hear and heed the following New Testament commands to flee: Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18);  “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14); Flee  the evil desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22). So the next time sin raises its ugly (even though it might not look ugly – it is!) – put your feet in gear and RUN! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Happens to Babies When They Die?

From time to time I get asked the question about the eternal destiny of infants and toddlers who die. "Do they go to heaven?" is how the question is usually worded. Below is an answer given to this question by John Piper. I believe his answer is worthy of consideration. Please take a moment and view the video. And thanks for stopping by ...

pj


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting Rid of Clutter!

I spent about an hour this past Saturday cleaning up in my back yard (the snow had finally made enough of a retreat that I was able to get out and about!). You might be wondering just what I was cleaning up? My five heritage river birch trees (which have grown very nicely since I planted them five years ago) had decided during the winter months to shed a large number of branches. These branches ranged in size from small twigs to a few really sizeable branches. So it took me quite some time to gather them up (and on Sunday morning my back reminded me of my Saturday afternoon effort).

Just as I cleaned up the back yard of these fallen branches that were littering the ground, so we must "clean up" our hearts from time to time of the clutter that gathers there. If we fail to do this, all the accumulated "stuff" can threaten to crowd God out. This clutter might be sin ... and if so we must repent of it and confess it (knowing that when we confess our sins to God he is "faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" - 1 John 1:9). But the clutter might be things that are not actually sinful in and of themselves. The book of Hebrews refers to this kind of clutter as "everything that hinders" (see Hebrews 12:1-2). This could include TV watching, a fanaticism with a certain sports team, consumerism or a whole host of other things. Let me encourage you to take some time, if not today - tomorrow - to take a look into your heart. Ask yourself (and ask the Spirit of God to help you with this) if there is any clutter you need to "clean up" so that God won't get pushed out!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, March 8, 2010

Have YOU Encouraged Someone (Anyone) Today?

Yesterday our family got together for lunch to celebrate my oldest daughter's birthday and my birthday - both of which occur this week. In the process, we carried out several birthday traditions such as candles on the cake (or pie in my case) and the giving of birthday cards and gifts. One additional birthday tradition that we as a family have established over the years is to encourage and affirm the birthday celebrant. We do this by going around the table as each of us say something to encourage the birthday person. Tears, smiles and lots of laughter have made this tradition a family favorite. 

This morning, as I reflected on this particular tradition, two thoughts struck me. First, I am so very glad we do this. It has blessed me (and the rest of my family) in a HUGE way. In this harsh world in which we live, who among us doesn't need a good dose of encouragement? The second thought that struck me was this: I don't do this enough! Why only encourage once a year at a birthday celebration? Now I am not saying that I totally fail to encourage my family members at other times ... but I will confess that I don't do it nearly enough! Especially given the mandate in God's Word that we are to "encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today'" (Hebrews 3:13). So I want to go on record to say ... with God's help I am going to strive to become more intentional about encouraging others. And I plan to start right now (by sending an encouraging email to someone). Won't you join me? Let's become true encouragers! For Jesus' sake!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 5, 2010

Praying God-Centered Prayers

When Jesus was asked by his disciples to teach them to pray, he responded by giving them what is most commonly referred to as "the Lord's Prayer" and sometimes as "the Prayer of Jesus." The NIV text of this prayer reads as follows:

   "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,  your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:9-13 - and some later manuscripts add the words, "for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.").

Now I could write for quite some time on all the insights into how we should pray that are given is this rich teaching of our Lord. But I will restrain myself and point out only one truth - and a powerful truth it is! Notice Jesus gives us 6 petitions (and keep in mind that Jesus gives us this prayer primarily as a model or pattern for all of our prayers). Of these 6, the first three deal with God (his name, his kingdom, his will). The last three deal with us and our needs (need for daily bread, forgiveness and protection in the spiritual arena). Now what this tells me is that when we pray and present our requests to God - we need to go about it in a God-centered way. So as we ask God for healing for Sue's lower back pain or ask him to provide a job for George - we need to ask him to do so in such a way that his name will be honored, his kingdom will be advanced and that his will be done. That's what I mean by the title of this posting. That's how to pray "God-centered prayers."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Honesty the Best Policy!

Abdul Qayyum (and I am glad I am just writing that name!) was an inmate at Guantanamo Bay prison from 2001 until his release to the Afghan government in 2007. He was originally captured by U.S. forces during their 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and war against the Taliban. Abdul was a Taliban leader at the time. Recently, Afghan and U.S. intelligence has confirmed that Abdul is now a high ranking Taliban leader in Afghanistan, playing a key role in the Taliban resistance against U.S. and Afghan forces. Now you might be wondering why he was released from his imprisonment. According to the military transcript of his hearing, he said, "I want to go back home and join my family and work in my land and help my family." The authorities bought his story ... and that's exactly what is was - a story!

Hind sight is definitely 20-20! Abdul's rejoining of the Taliban shows that he had no real intention of going back to Afghanistan to live a quiet life helping his family. The man was "lying through his teeth!" But before we quickly point fingers at him and condemn him for his dishonesty - shouldn't we look in our mirror? How many of us are guilty of dishonesty? How often are we guilty of telling a "little white lie" or "stretching" or "misrepresenting" the truth?  God is clear. We are to "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to our neighbors" (Ephesians 4:25) and we are to "let our 'yes' be 'yes' and our 'no,' 'no'" (Matthew 5:37).  So how HONEST are you?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An Unsuitable Suit

When is a suit "unsuitable?" When it happens to be the suit worn by O.J. Simpson during the murder trial of his ex-wife and her friend. Apparently, as a result of some court settlement, the tailored tan suit seen by millions of viewers around the world had been offered to the Smithsonian Institute for its collect of American historical artifacts. The museum refused the donation of the suit, deeming it inappropriate for its collection. Way to go, Smithsonian for recognizing an unsuitable suit when offered one!

For those of us who are followers of Christ, we too must be on the lookout for "unsuitable suits." By this I mean some of the stuff we "wear" as we live out our lives. Stuff that we really do need to get rid of .... stuff that Paul lists in Colossians 3. Some things on his list include the following: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, idolatry, anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy and dishonest language (see vv. 5-8). These things are unsuitable for those of us who claim Jesus as our Lord. In their place we are called upon to clothes ourselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12). Let's determine to "wear" what's suitable for followers of the King!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Lesson from Lincoln

One of my favorite "leisure" activities is to read history. Currently I am reading a survey of American history. I just wrapped up the Civil War era. As I read about this great struggle that almost tore our nation apart, I was struck by the man who, probably more than anyone else, was responsible for the Union surviving. Abraham Lincoln might have entered the Presidency as a lowly regarded lawyer from Illinois, but by the time of the assassination just a few years later, the vast majority of Americans realized that he was a true giant of his time (and he was tall, measuring 6' 4" which was quite unusual in his day). Lincoln's genius can be seen in so many ways, but all one has to do to encounter it first hand is to read the words of his Gettysburg Address. These remarks were given by the President only because the organizers of the event thought it would be appropriate to invite the President and give him a chance to say a few things to the assembled crowd. After all, the great orator of the day, Edward Everett was to give the keynote speech (which lasted some two hours!) Yet how many of us can recall one line from Everett's speech given that day? In contrast, Lincoln's two minute address has been memorized by school children down through the decades! It is arguably one of the greatest speeches ever given on American soil.

Now I know there is a myth "out there" that Lincoln hastily scribbled out the notes of his speech on an envelope as he rode the train from Washington to Gettysburg. But this is simply not true. Lincoln spent days preparing his speech, which was his normal approach to any speech. Lincoln knew the importance of words. He understood, given the context of the war, that every speech he gave would be analyzed and evaluated by friend and foe alike (and everyone in between!).  Therefore, he would agonize over everything he said and everything he wrote.

I wish we would all learn from his example. Way too often, we put our tongues in gear while our brains are still in neutral. The Bible tells us to be "quick to listen and slow to speak" (James 1:19). Let's all make an intentional effort TODAY to practice this wise counsel from God's Word!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's Wednesday . . . and Sunday's Coming (Easter Sunday, That Is!)!

I ran across the following quote written by a author of a book on heaven and posted on the website of  Newsweek:

It's Easter—that most pleasant of springtime holidays—when children stuff themselves with marshmallows and stain their fingers with pastel dyes. In reality, of course, Easter is about something darker and more fantastic. It's a celebration of the final act of the Passion, in which Jesus rose from his tomb in his body three days after his execution, to reside in heaven with God. The Gospels insist on the veracity of this supernatural event. The risen Lord "ate barbecued fish [Luke] and walked through doors [John]," is how a friend of mine, an Episcopalian priest, puts it. This rising—the Resurrection—remains at the center of the Christian faith, the narrative climax of every creed. Jesus died and rose again so that all his followers could, eventually, do the same. This story has strained the credulity of even the most devoted believer. For, truly, it's unbelievable.

When I read what this author had to write, I was with her until she got to her last two sentences. Then I had to shake my head in disagreement. I consider myself a devoted believer. The historical account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ has NOT strained my credulity. I believe in the resurrection of Christ because the evidence for his resurrection is quite compelling. And why should it be unbelievable? If Jesus Christ IS who he claimed to be (and the Bible declares him to be) then he is none other than God incarnate. And since he is God - then why should we think that he being resurrected from the dead is all that "unbelievable?" After all, as God he has power over death!

This week, I will go on to discuss the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Evidence, that when considered with an open mind, shouts loudly to all who will listen, "He is not here. He has risen just as he said!" (Matthew 28:6). I hope you will stop back. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

So, How Rich Are You?

An Indian pastor sent me the following story I believe ALL of us could benefit from reading. We American Christians far too often get confused about the nature of true wealth. Read on ... and then ask yourself if you are pursuing true wealth!



A tax assessor came one day to a poor Christian to determine the amount of taxes he would have to pay. The following conversation took place:
"What property do you possess?" asked the assessor.
"I am a very wealthy man," replied the Christian.
"List your possessions, please," the assessor instructed.
The Christian said:



"First, I have everlasting life, John 3:16
Second, I have a mansion in heaven, John 14:2
Third, I have peace that passes all understanding, Philippians 4:7
Fourth, I have joy unspeakable, 1 Peter 1:8
Fifth, I have divine love which never fails, 1 Corinthians 13:8
Sixth, I have a faithful wife, Proverbs 31:10
Seventh, I have healthy, happy obedient children, Exodus 20:12
Eighth, I have true, loyal friends, Proverbs 18:24
Ninth, I have songs in the night, Psalms 42:8
Tenth, I have a crown of life, James 1:12"

The tax assessor closed his book, and said, "Truly you are a very rich man, but your property is not subject to taxation."





I pray that all of us will have this kind of tax free "wealth." God Bless You!


Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj


PS - It is GOOD to be back home!

Friday, March 26, 2010

When the Sun Shines!

Yesterday was a raw, wet day here in northern Indiana. The kind of day you don't mind spending in meeting after meeting after meeting (which is great because that was pretty much my day!). But in talking with my wife, the weather back home in Lancaster was much different. No rain ... and lots of warm breezes. The difference? The sun! Here the sun's warming rays were blocked by all the think clouds and rain that fell from them. So the temperature never got much beyond the low 40's. But back home, with the sun warming the ground which in turn warmed the air, the temperature climbed into the pleasantly comfortable mid 60's. A sure sign that spring has arrived!

So ... the sun (and its visible presence in the sky) was a big reason why Lancaster, PA had a pleasant day (and the sun's lack of appearing was the reason it was so ugly, weather-wise, here in Indiana). What is true of the weather is also true in life. The sun makes all the difference ... or better said, the SON makes all the difference. Jesus Christ came that we might "have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). And the full or abundant life he is talking about here is not a life of material abundance - but rather a life filled with THE thing that really matters: a living and vibrant relationship with Him, the God who made us! And when we live in the presence of the SON --- we will begin to experience life to the full! For you see, the Son makes all the difference!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

In the Hoosier State Again

The next couple of days will find me here in Winona Lake, Indiana attending  the spring meetings of the board of trustees of Grace College and Seminary. I would ask that you remember us (there are about two dozen of us) in prayer, that God would give us His wisdom as we discuss some very important issues and decisions currently before both schools. I count it a privilege to be serving on this board and hope and pray that God will use me and the rest of us to accomplish His purposes. And isn't that what life should be about? Striving to glorify God (and in the process enjoying Him forever)?  Absolutely!

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

pj

Looking on the Up Side!

Yesterday I wrote about our trip last week to Colonial Williamsburg. Again I must say that my wife and I had a delightful time while there. But on the way home, things got a bit dicey! In fact, we had been on the road for only about ten minutes when a near disaster hit. Here's what happened. We were driving on Interstate 64 heading toward Richmond. We were in the right land moving right along at the posted speed limit (which I believe is 65 on that stretch of road). As I looked ahead, I noticed a lot of brake lights. So, I did what I was taught to do back in driver ed class in high school - I began to apply my brakes. As I did, my speed dropped to about 35 mph. Now something I always do in this sort of situation (and if you don't do this - I highly recommend that you begin to do so) is to look at the traffic behind me in my rear view mirror. I want to make sure the vehicles behind me are also slowing down. When I glanced into my mirror - what I saw stunned me. A large truck, hauling three vehicles on its bed was bearing down on us at a high rate of speed. He had been in the left lane and, realizing if he stayed in that lane he would hit the car in front of him, he had cut over into my lane. My first reaction was to get off the highway by heading to my right and onto the shoulder. But I realized that given the truck's angle, he was also trying to do the same. Therefore, since I had to move somewhere - my only option as I saw it was to go left (I am talking driving here ... not politics!). So I turned my steering wheel left  to begin moving into the left lane. Unfortunately, there was a car there and boom - we collided. The truck missed me as it did make it to the shoulder of the highway. But then ... without missing a beat ... the truck got right back on the interstate and kept on going - never to be seen by us again.

As we pulled off the highway onto the grassy median to our left and came to a stop behind the vehicle we had hit, my wife looked at me and said. "Wow! We're OK!"  As her words sunk in ... I felt the fear of being waffled from behind by the speeding truck and the frustration at colliding with the other vehicle replaced by a sense of peace and calm. We were spared from what could  have been one very nasty accident. So after giving our information to the other driver (who could not have been any nicer) and a state trooper (who informed me he would not be issuing me a citation for a lane violation given the circumstances of the accident), and a quick stop at a Lowe's (to pick up some duct tape to reattach the driver's side side-view mirror) - we proceeded to drive the remainder of the way home without further incident.

My wife reminded me of a very powerful lesson I have learned: that even in the most difficult of circumstances, there is an "up-side." Situations are rarely as bad as they could be. And even in our most difficult situations, we know that "God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). And that is something we can find strength in!


Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When Your Number Is Up!

Last week, I decided to take a couple of days off and travel back in time to 1774. That's right! Sharon and I did some time travel! Well, sort of. We actually booked a winter package for a two night stay in Williamsburg, VA - and in the providence of God we had two solid days of spring weather! That was a perk we had not counted on but delighted in none the less! Now, some of you might be yawning as you think about a two day stay in Williamsburg. But for Sharon and me, it was a blast! We are history lovers and therefore, many of our out-of-town trips are in some way connected with history (for example, last year we visited Appomattox Courthouse, the sight of Lee's surrender to Grant that more or less signaled the end of the U.S. Civil War and Gettysburg, the war's most significant battle). Our hunger for history was most certainly satisfied last week.

One small interesting tidbit of history that I picked up concerned a British musician. He came to Virginia prior to the revolutionary war for health reasons. It appears that he was a sickly fellow and it was thought that the climate in Virgina would be beneficial to his health. Wrong call! He died after only four months in the colony. Now of course, he may have very well died at the same time had he remained in England. Nevertheless, don't miss the important lesson in his story. You can try to run away from the grim reaper of death - but God has numbered our days (see Psalm 139:16). Therefore, when God has determined your number is up - your number is up! Given this reality, let me ask you the most important question you will ever be asked: Are you ready to meet God? All of us will stand before Him We ALL will be judged (see Revelation 20:11-15). The ONLY way to prepare to meet God is to repent of your sin and rebellion against God (see Isaiah 53:6a, Romans 3:23 and 6:23) and trust in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Have YOU trusted in Christ to save you from the penalty of your sin? If you have any questions about this ... please don't hesitate to email me at jsmith@gracewv.org.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Has Sprung!

Tomorrow is the first official day of spring. In fact, if you want to celebrate the exact moment of spring's arrival, set your watch for 1:32 PM. But as for me, I am already celebrating the beautiful spring-like weather we have been enjoying this week. And since spring has sprung, I have begun to put away some of the items associated with winter. My snow shovels are back in the basement ... and my snow blower will soon join them. Yea!!! Yahoo!!!

Spring has become my favorite season of the year. I love the way that creation awakes from its long slumber! It warms my soul (not to mention my body!). Spring also reminds me of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After his brutal execution, Jesus was placed in a cold, dark tomb where his body laid in silence. Then, in the early morning hours of the third day, HE AROSE!  And because He lives, we too will live (see John 11:25)!  Thank God for spring time! And thank God for the new life we can have through faith in Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hitting "Delete" by Mistake!

Have you ever worked on something ... perhaps a paper, a letter, or even a PowerPoint presentation. . . and when it came time to save your work, you inadvertently deleted it? I must admit I have done this more than once. And if you have done so, you know the empty feeling that accompanies such a mistake. Now there were times I was able to do some work and retrieve the missing document ... but that has not always been the case. Some of the work that I deleted was gone forever.

We can say the same thing about our sin. Once we make a faith commitment to Jesus Christ in which we admit to him our sin and rebellion against God and place our trust in His death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin - then God takes our sins and removes our sins from us "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). As I pointed out this past Sunday, it is quite striking that the verse does not say "as far as the north is from the south." The reason being that if you went outside your house with a compass in hand and began walking north - you would eventually come to the north pole. And from there if you were to walk due south, you would eventually come to the south pole. But if you start walking east ... you will never get to the east pole, will you? Nope - you will always be walking east (or west if you decide to go west). And that, my friend is how far God has removed your sin from you. It has been, in "computeresee," DELETED!  So bottom line,for those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ, God has declared us righteous! And there is no mistaking the Bible's clear teaching on that! (read through the book of Romans and you will see what I mean)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's Time to Simplify!

I enjoy being a grandpa. As I watch my little grandbaby (who is now a little over 10 months old) entertain herself, I am amazed at the little things that can keep her attention. Yes, she likes her toys, but she also likes to open and close the one kitchen cabinet that is not locked (with those special kid proof latches). In that cabinet is our supply of tupperware type containers. Ella can clean it out in a matter of moments. Then she will sit there and play with the containers and their lids. All in all a pretty simple way to have a lot of fun (if you are ten months old, that is!).

As I thought of the simplicity of Ella's play, I thought of the great need so many of us (myself included) to simplify our lives. We fill our lives with so many activities and so much stuff - that we can tend to miss out on what is truly important. A lot of us would benefit from disengaging from this rat race of a world - and ask ourselves this question, "What can I get rid of that will help to simplify my life?"  I recently did this and decided to remove a small garden pond that I have enjoyed the past 7 summers. But it does take work and money to keep going - so I thought by removing it I could take a small step toward a simpler life. And really, that is what it will take to get to where I need to be ... a lot of little steps.

If you are interested in simplifying your life ... and in particular your spiritual life, I recommend you pick up the book, Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed, by Donald S. Whitney. It is a very readable book with very short chapters (about 2 pages per chapter) and lots of sound practical advice. For most of us - it's time to simplify!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mark Twain - Dead Wrong!

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) is known for his witty comments that still speak to us even though Mark Twain has been dead for nearly a hundred years (April 21st will mark the 100th anniversary of his death). Consider the following Mark Twain witticisms: 

"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

"Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry"

“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.” 

I could go on citing more of his quotes. But I will restrain myself and give you just one more. In the following quote, Mark Twain got it wrong ... dead wrong. The quote concerns a certain book. Read on .  . . 

"It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies." 

You may have thought that he was referring to the Bible. And if you did - you are right. But Twain was wrong. The Bible indeed is full of interest and marked by noble poetry (consider the Psalms!). There is blood-drenched history within its pages (consider the Old Testament passages concerning the conquest of the Promised Land by the Israelites) .... and good morals (the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount for example). But the Bible is NOT a book of clever fables and a thousand lies. Nothing could be further from the truth. When one considers how the Bible, written across the course of centuries by forty different human authors from all walks of life still contains a unified story - it is truly an amazing book! A unique (read "one-of-a-kind") book! A book that tells the story of how God created humanity to manage his created order and enjoy a relationship with Him. However, humanity rebelled against the Creator. And yet God in love and mercy sent his own Son to redeem man from his rebellious ways. This same Son will one day return to establish His eternal Kingdom.  That's the story of the Bible. And as history will one day demonstrate it is a story of a thousand truths! 



Thanks for stopping by . . . 


pj

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Needed Reminder

 I first posted this on my blog back in 2005. I thought it was worth repeating! Have a great day!


September 20, 2005

A thirty-two year old Tokyo woman called in the police after a hit man she paid to kill her lover’s wife failed to carry out the job (this is so bizarre, you may want to read that first sentence again!).  Apparently this woman had contracted a private detective via the Internet and paid him $9,000 to kill her love rival.  When he failed to deliver on his end of the agreement, she called the cops!  She and the detective are now in jail.  The alleged target is safe, but a bit rattled to say the least!

 This is crazy stuff!  But, then again, our world is crazy!  This is what happens when men and women walk away from God and insist on living life their own way.  When I hear of mixed up, weird situations like this, I will often turn to my wife and say,  “Sin sure does complicate lives!” That is one good reason to stay as far away from sin as possible. We all need to hear and heed the following New Testament commands to flee: Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18);  “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14); Flee  the evil desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22). So the next time sin raises its ugly (even though it might not look ugly – it is!) – put your feet in gear and RUN! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Happens to Babies When They Die?

From time to time I get asked the question about the eternal destiny of infants and toddlers who die. "Do they go to heaven?" is how the question is usually worded. Below is an answer given to this question by John Piper. I believe his answer is worthy of consideration. Please take a moment and view the video. And thanks for stopping by ...

pj


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting Rid of Clutter!

I spent about an hour this past Saturday cleaning up in my back yard (the snow had finally made enough of a retreat that I was able to get out and about!). You might be wondering just what I was cleaning up? My five heritage river birch trees (which have grown very nicely since I planted them five years ago) had decided during the winter months to shed a large number of branches. These branches ranged in size from small twigs to a few really sizeable branches. So it took me quite some time to gather them up (and on Sunday morning my back reminded me of my Saturday afternoon effort).

Just as I cleaned up the back yard of these fallen branches that were littering the ground, so we must "clean up" our hearts from time to time of the clutter that gathers there. If we fail to do this, all the accumulated "stuff" can threaten to crowd God out. This clutter might be sin ... and if so we must repent of it and confess it (knowing that when we confess our sins to God he is "faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" - 1 John 1:9). But the clutter might be things that are not actually sinful in and of themselves. The book of Hebrews refers to this kind of clutter as "everything that hinders" (see Hebrews 12:1-2). This could include TV watching, a fanaticism with a certain sports team, consumerism or a whole host of other things. Let me encourage you to take some time, if not today - tomorrow - to take a look into your heart. Ask yourself (and ask the Spirit of God to help you with this) if there is any clutter you need to "clean up" so that God won't get pushed out!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, March 8, 2010

Have YOU Encouraged Someone (Anyone) Today?

Yesterday our family got together for lunch to celebrate my oldest daughter's birthday and my birthday - both of which occur this week. In the process, we carried out several birthday traditions such as candles on the cake (or pie in my case) and the giving of birthday cards and gifts. One additional birthday tradition that we as a family have established over the years is to encourage and affirm the birthday celebrant. We do this by going around the table as each of us say something to encourage the birthday person. Tears, smiles and lots of laughter have made this tradition a family favorite. 

This morning, as I reflected on this particular tradition, two thoughts struck me. First, I am so very glad we do this. It has blessed me (and the rest of my family) in a HUGE way. In this harsh world in which we live, who among us doesn't need a good dose of encouragement? The second thought that struck me was this: I don't do this enough! Why only encourage once a year at a birthday celebration? Now I am not saying that I totally fail to encourage my family members at other times ... but I will confess that I don't do it nearly enough! Especially given the mandate in God's Word that we are to "encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today'" (Hebrews 3:13). So I want to go on record to say ... with God's help I am going to strive to become more intentional about encouraging others. And I plan to start right now (by sending an encouraging email to someone). Won't you join me? Let's become true encouragers! For Jesus' sake!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, March 5, 2010

Praying God-Centered Prayers

When Jesus was asked by his disciples to teach them to pray, he responded by giving them what is most commonly referred to as "the Lord's Prayer" and sometimes as "the Prayer of Jesus." The NIV text of this prayer reads as follows:

   "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,  your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:9-13 - and some later manuscripts add the words, "for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.").

Now I could write for quite some time on all the insights into how we should pray that are given is this rich teaching of our Lord. But I will restrain myself and point out only one truth - and a powerful truth it is! Notice Jesus gives us 6 petitions (and keep in mind that Jesus gives us this prayer primarily as a model or pattern for all of our prayers). Of these 6, the first three deal with God (his name, his kingdom, his will). The last three deal with us and our needs (need for daily bread, forgiveness and protection in the spiritual arena). Now what this tells me is that when we pray and present our requests to God - we need to go about it in a God-centered way. So as we ask God for healing for Sue's lower back pain or ask him to provide a job for George - we need to ask him to do so in such a way that his name will be honored, his kingdom will be advanced and that his will be done. That's what I mean by the title of this posting. That's how to pray "God-centered prayers."

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Honesty the Best Policy!

Abdul Qayyum (and I am glad I am just writing that name!) was an inmate at Guantanamo Bay prison from 2001 until his release to the Afghan government in 2007. He was originally captured by U.S. forces during their 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and war against the Taliban. Abdul was a Taliban leader at the time. Recently, Afghan and U.S. intelligence has confirmed that Abdul is now a high ranking Taliban leader in Afghanistan, playing a key role in the Taliban resistance against U.S. and Afghan forces. Now you might be wondering why he was released from his imprisonment. According to the military transcript of his hearing, he said, "I want to go back home and join my family and work in my land and help my family." The authorities bought his story ... and that's exactly what is was - a story!

Hind sight is definitely 20-20! Abdul's rejoining of the Taliban shows that he had no real intention of going back to Afghanistan to live a quiet life helping his family. The man was "lying through his teeth!" But before we quickly point fingers at him and condemn him for his dishonesty - shouldn't we look in our mirror? How many of us are guilty of dishonesty? How often are we guilty of telling a "little white lie" or "stretching" or "misrepresenting" the truth?  God is clear. We are to "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to our neighbors" (Ephesians 4:25) and we are to "let our 'yes' be 'yes' and our 'no,' 'no'" (Matthew 5:37).  So how HONEST are you?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An Unsuitable Suit

When is a suit "unsuitable?" When it happens to be the suit worn by O.J. Simpson during the murder trial of his ex-wife and her friend. Apparently, as a result of some court settlement, the tailored tan suit seen by millions of viewers around the world had been offered to the Smithsonian Institute for its collect of American historical artifacts. The museum refused the donation of the suit, deeming it inappropriate for its collection. Way to go, Smithsonian for recognizing an unsuitable suit when offered one!

For those of us who are followers of Christ, we too must be on the lookout for "unsuitable suits." By this I mean some of the stuff we "wear" as we live out our lives. Stuff that we really do need to get rid of .... stuff that Paul lists in Colossians 3. Some things on his list include the following: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, idolatry, anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy and dishonest language (see vv. 5-8). These things are unsuitable for those of us who claim Jesus as our Lord. In their place we are called upon to clothes ourselves with "compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12). Let's determine to "wear" what's suitable for followers of the King!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Lesson from Lincoln

One of my favorite "leisure" activities is to read history. Currently I am reading a survey of American history. I just wrapped up the Civil War era. As I read about this great struggle that almost tore our nation apart, I was struck by the man who, probably more than anyone else, was responsible for the Union surviving. Abraham Lincoln might have entered the Presidency as a lowly regarded lawyer from Illinois, but by the time of the assassination just a few years later, the vast majority of Americans realized that he was a true giant of his time (and he was tall, measuring 6' 4" which was quite unusual in his day). Lincoln's genius can be seen in so many ways, but all one has to do to encounter it first hand is to read the words of his Gettysburg Address. These remarks were given by the President only because the organizers of the event thought it would be appropriate to invite the President and give him a chance to say a few things to the assembled crowd. After all, the great orator of the day, Edward Everett was to give the keynote speech (which lasted some two hours!) Yet how many of us can recall one line from Everett's speech given that day? In contrast, Lincoln's two minute address has been memorized by school children down through the decades! It is arguably one of the greatest speeches ever given on American soil.

Now I know there is a myth "out there" that Lincoln hastily scribbled out the notes of his speech on an envelope as he rode the train from Washington to Gettysburg. But this is simply not true. Lincoln spent days preparing his speech, which was his normal approach to any speech. Lincoln knew the importance of words. He understood, given the context of the war, that every speech he gave would be analyzed and evaluated by friend and foe alike (and everyone in between!).  Therefore, he would agonize over everything he said and everything he wrote.

I wish we would all learn from his example. Way too often, we put our tongues in gear while our brains are still in neutral. The Bible tells us to be "quick to listen and slow to speak" (James 1:19). Let's all make an intentional effort TODAY to practice this wise counsel from God's Word!

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.