PJ

PJ

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Some Random Midweek Thoughts


As we hit the midweek, with the July 4th holiday inviting us forward, here are two random thoughts floating around my head this morning . . .

1. I really don't like flying! Flying certainly is not what it used to be. With increased security, decreased flights, it requires a lot of patience to fly the skies today (what ever happened to the "Friendly Skies?"). And on top of all the inconvenience, there's the airlines seeking any and every way to cut cost and raise revenue. Let me give you just one example I experienced on my way home on Monday. I arrived at the South Bend airport early ... early enough to catch the earlier flight to Chicago's O'hare airport where I was to connect for my flight to Harrisburg. So I asked at the gate if there was room on the flight. I was told to wait until the passengers had boarded. At that point the gate agent would check and, if someone did not show (the flight was oversold as so many are these days), I could get on. Sure enough, someone did not show and I was able to catch the earlier flight. So, when I arrived in Chicago, I sought out the gate where the earlier flight to Harrisburg was due to depart. I asked the gate agent there if there was any room. She told me (somewhat gruffly), "Sir, if you want to fly standby, it will cost you an additional $50!" Now since I had not paid extra to just fly standby from South Bend, you can imagine my surprise. But I was not about to pay $50 for the opportunity to arrive home about 2 hours earlier than scheduled ... even though I really, really wanted to get home! (as it turned out, due to weather, the earlier Harrisburg flight was delayed over an hour ... and my flight was on time - so the difference in arrival time into Harrisburg was not all that much!). I guess you can see why I don't really like to fly.

2. God's love for us is AWESOME! As I sat and watched last night's excellent production of Phantom at the Fulton Theater, I was struck by the unconditional love of the mother of the character, Eric (who became the phantom of the opera). Eric was born with a horribly disfigured face. To hide his breathtaking ugliness from others, he wore a mask. Yet, when he was born, his mother accepted him totally - disfigured face and all. In fact, when she looked at him she saw only beauty. As I thought about that, it reminded me of Christians and our relationship with God. When we are born into this world, each and every one of us is horribly disfigured, broken, distorted by sin. Yet in spite of this, God pursues us in love. The Apostle Paul reminds us that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). And once we place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, repenting of our sin and rebellion against God and calling on Him for the forgiveness of our sin, he gloriously saves us! And he places upon us the righteousness of His own Son! So now, when God looks down upon His own from heaven, He no longer sees the distortion, brokenness, disfigurement caused by our sin. Instead, He sees the beauty of His Son in us! WOW! Praise God today for HIS awesome, unconditional love!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Flight Delayed





"Flight Delayed." No air traveler wants to see those words, but they are the words that I saw staring back at me when I checked the status of my flight. I am due to fly to Detroit and there connect with a flight to South Bend, Indiana. At the airport I will then rent a car and drive to my final destination - Winona Lake, IN - that is provided I ever leave Harrisburg. I am heading to WL for another Grace College Board matter. I am due to return home tomorrow evening. Oh, they just called my flight. Looks like we are about to board. I will wrap this up later.

Well, here I am at the Comfort Inn in Warsaw, Indiana (which is adjacent to Winona Lake). As it turned out, both of my flights were delayed about an hour each. But that's OK. Better delayed than cancelled. Yet delays are something we are not particularly fond of. Especially when we are facing some sort of need and we want God to act like yesterday! But God works on a different timetable. And given that he is a God of infinite wisdom, his timetable is a lot better than ours. So even in the face of what are unwelcome delays to us, we must be patient, knowing that God "does all things beautiful in his time!" (see Ecclesiastes chapter 3)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 25, 2010

Now That's Just Not Right!

A Treasury Department inspector general reports that 4,608 people have claimed the homebuyer tax credit even though their primary (and only) place of residence is a prison. Now granted, most of these filed jointly with spouses "on the outside," the inspection did show that over 700 filed on their own ... and these 700 were in prison for life! The end result? You and I who are honest taxpayers have been scammed for millions of dollars! Now that's just not right! Where's the whole idea that "honesty is the best policy?" Unfortunately in our society, that policy has been replaced with a "What's-best-for-me-no-matter-how-I-must-get-it is the best policy!" Dishonesty for so many people today has become "second nature." Integrity has been thrown out the window. So if you have to stretch the truth or even manufacture the truth - as long as it's in your benefit - go for it!

This is a far cry from the biblical teaching on the topic. God calls us to live honest and upright lives. Jesus tells us that we need to "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'" (Matthew 5:37) and the Apostle Paul instructs us that we must "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor" (Ephesians 4:25). For the follower of Jesus Christ, honesty is not merely the "best" policy, it's the ONLY policy!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sir, May I Marry Your Daughter?

Adoniram Judson and his wife set sail from the United States for Burma in 1812. They were among the first protestant missionaries to go into Burma. Adoniram served in Burma for forty years. However, his wife Ann died in 1826 at the age of 37. Their story is a striking one, as God used them in a tremendous wave to spread the gospel in that dark land. Adoniram's greatest work was to translate the Bible into Burmese. Ann's was the work she was able to do with young girls and women - in a culture where women were very much "second class citizens."

Soon after Adoniram and Ann met, Adoniram sent a letter to Ann's father, John Hasseltine, asking him for permission to marry his daughter. Read on ... and as you do, try to put yourself in John Hasseltine's shoes. Would you say yes to such a request as the one he received from Adoniram?

"I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?"

Wow! How far I must still travel in my own commitment to Christ! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Lesson from the Mouth of a Child . . .

We are in the middle of our Vacation Bible School here at Grace. So each morning (Monday through Friday) we run our VBS from 9 to noon. On our first two days, we have had approximately 200 children (preschool through elementary) present, along with the 50 or so staff. So things are hopping! My role in this year's VBS is to play the role of "Pizza Man." During each morning's opening and closing, we do a three person skit to either introduce or review the theme of the morning (the other two characters in case  you are wondering are "Mac the Maintenance Man" and "Water Woman"). It's been fun!

As part of the morning rotation, each group spends time on a missions theme. This year they are learning about our Hand-in-Hand orphan school that we sponsor. The school is located in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Last September when I was there, I met the teacher of our school and some of the students (the school year had not yet started). I tell you that because on Monday we showed the kids a video that Grace Brethren International Mission produced on our school. .They included a photo of me standing next to our teacher. Some of the younger kids responded with, "Wow! The Pizza Man even went to Africa!"  Young kids can be very easily impressed!  :)

As I thought about that, I thought about the fact that Our God is EVERYWHERE! He is right here in Lancaster, PA ... but he is every bit as much present in Bangui, C.A.R.! The psalmist put it this way, "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" (Psalm 139:8-10).

Always remember that there is no where that you can go that God won't already be there waiting for you! Now that's a comfort!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Living Life as a Practicing Atheist

You are driving down the Interstate, when suddenly you see brake lights ahead of you. Traffic slows, but does not stop. What's up? Soon up ahead you spot the reason for the slow down. A police car is sitting on the shoulder of the highway, a radar gun sticking out of the window. But as soon as the police cruiser is a distant object in the rear view mirror, the traffic flow picks up its speed. Hmm. We all drive differently when we know the police are present.

And, regrettably, we do the very same thing as Christians. We all live differently when we know God is present. The key word in that last sentence is the word "know." Because God is ALWAYS present. But all too often we live as if He were not! This struck me this morning as I read one of the prayers from the book, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (a book I highly recommend!). Please take a moment an read the following lines from a prayer titled, Divine Promises:

"Glorious Jehovah, my covenant God, 
All thy promises in Christ Jesus are "yes" and "amen," and all shall be fulfilled. 
Thou has spoken them, and they shall be done, commanded, and they shall come to pass.
Yet I have often doubted them, have lived as if there were no God."

Ouch! Those last words in bold really struck home! I don't want to live as a practicing atheist. Yet all too often that's just what I am. May God grant us all the grace to live each day, each moment KNOWING that there is a God and He will back EVERY SINGLE ONE of the promises that He has ever given to us! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cheering for the Other Guy!

One of the surprise entries in this year's World Cup is the soccer team from North Korea. This is only the second time that a team from North Korea has qualified to play in soccer's premier event. So, given the rarity of the opportunity to cheer for your own team, have North Koreans traveled to South Africa in droves? No. When the cost of the air fare alone is about 100 times what the average North Korean makes in a year and when it is almost next to impossible to get permission to leave the communist country, few North Koreans will be in the stands to cheer the boys on. So who will? The Chinese! The Associated Press reports that North Korean officials have offered most of their allocated tickets for each game to neighboring China, which does not have a team in the tournament. So according to the AP report, "about 1,000 Chinese dancers and musicians are among fans recruited to cheer for North Korea, according to China's state-run Xinhua News Agency." So if you are wondering who's tooting the vuvuzellas for North Korea, think "Chinese!"

As I was reflecting on this rather odd situation, the following verse from the book of Romans came to mind: "Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10). Now I don't know the motivation of these Chinese who are in the stands cheering on the North Koreans, but it is a good picture of what we all should be doing as local churches. Far too often, local churches see themselves in competition with other local churches. Instead of competing with one another and being envious when another local church is growing in its mission and ministry impact, we should celebrate when the gospel is advancing. And this is also true for us as individual believers (who grow jealous when God uses someone else in a "greater" way than He appears to be using us).  Let's put aside the petty envy and jealousy. Let's determine to "cheer on the other guy!"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jesus on Fire!

As I read through yesterday's paper, this series of photos caught my eye. As you can see, a large, 6-story statue of Jesus was apparently struck by lightening. The resultant fire totally destroyed the statue, resulting in $700,000 in damages.

Hmm. Jesus on fire! How ironic that in this scenario, "Jesus" was on the receiving end destructive fire. But the Bible makes it clear that there is coming a day that Jesus Christ will be on the giving end of destructive fire. In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 we read the following:

"God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed."

This is a passage that you will rarely hear preached from American pulpits in our day. Everyone wants to hear about God's love and care ... no one wants to hear about God's wrath and judgment. Yet these are both clearly taught, side-by-side in Scripture. So, are you ready?  One day Jesus will return ... "on fire." We must be ready to meet him. The only way to get ready is to embrace the gospel of Jesus. For more info, check out the following web presentation, "Two Ways to Live: The Choice we All Face" at http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Vuvuzelling"

The World Cup (the soccer world's equivalent to football's Super Bowl) recently kicked off (pun intended) in the host country of South Africa. The U.S. team played this past Saturday. I got to view most of the first half. It was not very long into my viewing that I noticed this very strange background noise. It sounded like a hive of busy, angry bees. But no. The sound was not being made by bees. But by fans tooting plastic vuvuzela horns, a South African traditional horn. Now the fans are not just blowing them to acknowledge a score or great play ... but they are blowing them CONSTANTLY! So much so that many non-tooting fans and even some players are quite irritated by the racket (and it is indeed a racket! These horns put out 127 decibels of sound, and considering that any noise above 85 decibels is a threat to damage one's hearing, you can imagine just how loud these horns can be!). Many television viewers are choosing to mute their television sets and watch the game in silence rather than listen to the ongoing drone of these horns.

Soccer's governing body, FIFA has refused to ban the horns from the World Cup games. The president of FIFA defended the body's refusal to ban the horns by saying, "I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?" However, FIFA has asked fans to refrain from blowing the horns during the pre-game playing of each team's  national anthem and during any stadium announcements. So the horns will blow on!

At the bottom of this controversy is a clash of cultures (could you imagine a fan sitting next to you at a football game, clanging a cow bell or hitting together a pair of thundersticks all game long?). Nope. But then again, this is America. And we just don't do those sorts of things in America. Well, the World Cup is not being played in the U.S. but in South Africa. And apparently in South Africa, "vuvuzelling" is something that is characteristically done at sporting events. So let them enjoy their vuvuzelas, and we will enjoy our soccer. I am just glad I can do it from the comfort (and quiet) of my living room!

And just think about the implications of this for heaven where peoples from every culture will be represented! Hmm . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hey Dads!

In one of my favorite movies, It's a Wonderful Life, there is a powerful scene that reminds us of the influence fathers have (or should have) in the lives of their children. Young George Baily worked after school at the town's drug store. He had just been given a prescription to deliver. But George hesitated. A he voiced an objection about doing so, Mr. Gower, the druggist, slapped him on the side of the head for what he considered a rebellious attitude. The druggist told young George in no uncertain terms to get going and make the delivery as he was told to do. George reluctantly left the store. Why did George resist going? It was due to the fact that he had noticed Mr. Gower had put poison in the tablets (and this he did because he was drunk with both alcohol and grief, having just been informed that his son had died of the flu while on the front lines in France during WWI). So now George was in a quandry. What should he do? As he walked out of the store, he looked up the street. A large billboard caught his eye. On it were the words, "Ask Dad. He knows."  So off George went to ask his dad just what he should do (And if you have seen the movie, you know his dad was busy in a meeting. So George wandered about town before finally going back to the store where he told Mr. Cowper the truth. And Mr. Cowper was forever grateful to George for catching that potentially fatal mistake!).

Ask Dad. Unfortunately for many children and young adults, they can't ask dad because either dad is no longer in their lives or if he is, he is just too busy with other things to be bothered. And that is indeed unfortunate. In their recent book, Souls in Transition: The Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, authors Christian Smith and Patricia Snell talk about the powerful influence mothers and FATHERS have on the spiritual lives of their kids. They write, “In the long run, who and what parents were and are for their children when it comes to religious faith are more likely to ‘stick’ with them, even into emerging adulthood, than who and what their teenage friends were.”

So you dads out there (and moms too), let me ask you? How are you involved in the lives of your kids. And what does your life say to them about the importance of faith in Christ and commitment to God's Word?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Hold the Line!"

Last month, I spent part of a Saturday walking the Gettysburg battlefield with my family. At the base of Little Round Top (so named to distinguish it from the larger hill next to it which is appropriately named Big Round Top) is a description of the intense fighting that occurred on Little Round Top on the second day of the battle. Little Round Top was the extreme right of the Union line. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine was ordered to "hold the ground at all hazards!" If the enemy were to get around Chamberlain and his men, they could go on to roll up the entire Union flank. So Chamberlain and his men from Maine were determined to hold their ground, and they did just that. They repulsed numerous attacks. When Chamberlain realized his men were without ammunition, he ordered a bayonet charge. Rushing down the hill into the enemy ranks, they caught the Confederates by surprise and captured a huge number of them. For his courage in the heat of battle, Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Chamberlain did what he was called upon to do. He held the line! We as Christians are called upon by God to also "hold the line!" In 1 Corinthians 15:58 Paul writes the following: "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  So my friends, let's determine to allow nothing to move us from the solid ground upon which we stand - the solid ground of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When Restitution Just Doesn't Seem to Add Up!

Calvin C. Cox of Frederick County, Maryland, stole a plane last winter. Why? Because he was homeless and cold (that's the reason he gave authorities). He should have first thought about whether or not he could fly the plane. As it turns out, he got it up and running -- on the ground that is. By the time he was done, the plane had suffered over $12,000 in damages. He was sentenced to serve time in the county jail and to pay restitution to the owners of the plane. When all the dust settled his restitution payment amounted to $40! That was the deductible on the insurance policy that the owner of the plane carried. So in effect, the policy holders of that particular insurance company are the ones who actually footed the bill. Now does that seem right to you?

Now please, before you think I am cold-hearted in coming down on some homeless man please hear me out. Yes, it is true that I don't know the circumstances of Mr. Cox and what led to him being homeless. But even so, I believe he should be held more responsible (if it is even to pay something back to the insurance company who paid the claim). But holding people responsible is not something we do very well in our society. People are always looking for someone to blame for everything and anything that goes wrong. Perhaps that's one reason our world is such a mess. So here's a piece of advice for all of us .... "If the shoe fits, wear it!"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Al and Tipper Affair

Al and Tipper Gore have been front and center in the news of late. Al Gore, of course served as Vice President under President Bill Clinton, and then ran against George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. Tipper is Al's wife of 40 years. I am sure you have heard by now that after 4 decades of marriage they are going their separate ways. Unlike a number of recent political marriages which have ended due to affairs and scandals, the Gore's marriage seemed to be doing OK. So why the split? This is what the couple had to say, "We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate. This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further." 

Did you notice in the statement that they did not say WHY they are splitting up. All they said was that whatever the reason (and they aren't telling) it is mutual. This, of course, has left the door open for others to supply the reason. Most just seem to think that they have grown apart over the years. What they once held in common, they no longer do. Sooo ... divorce seems like the best option. But is it? What about those words of promise spoken to one another before God and the assembled witnesses? You know ... vows that go something like, "I, Al, promise to take you, Tipper, to be my lawfully wedded wife. To to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part or Christ our Lord shall return." 

Over 32 years ago I made such a vow to a young woman named Sharon Pietrowski. For over 32 years I have kept that vow as best as I could (with God's help) ... and I plan to keep this vow for the rest of my earthly life. How about YOU? Given much thought to the vow you made to your spouse on your wedding day? And what are you doing to live out that vow?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Killing Lust - A.S.A.P.! (continued)

I've been talking about how we can slay the dragon of sexual lust. Given our sex-saturated society, this is not an easy thing to do. It will require all the spiritual strength and spiritual energy we can muster. And it demands that we lean heavily on the Everlasting Arms of our Father in Heaven. But just because this is a hard thing to do ... to say "no!" to sexual temptation, it is not impossible. Remember, "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Now in addition to the first two steps I mentioned last week (see posting of last Friday) here are two more for your consideration (and I trust, PRACTICE!):

Apply the Philippians 4:8 Test to your thought life!  In Philippians 4:8, we read these words: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Via the pen of the Apostle Paul, God gives us the criteria of healthy thoughts. And if the thoughts that fill our minds fit the criteria given here (i.e. they are true, noble, pure, etc.) - then we are to allow those thought to fill our minds. But if the thoughts don't measure up to this list, Paul implies that we are to get rid of them. Now, let me ask you this: do lustful thoughts fit these criteria for the kind of thoughts that are to fill our minds? Some men have tried to defend their pursuit of porn by telling me that God made women's bodies beautiful. So they are just admiring God's handiwork as they look at pornography. Hmm. That sounds like a lame rationalization for sin if I ever heard one!  I encourage you to memorize ... and then apply Philippians 4:8 to your thought life. It will help you overcome the sin of lust!


Pursue a life of good works! Good works will never save anyone. But good works should follow everyone who is saved. In Ephesians 2:8-10, the Apostle Paul spells this out for us very clearly: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  God is busy shaping His followers to do the good works he has laid out for us to do. And as we get busy doing these good works, we won't have time to pursue those things which will arouse our lust. John Piper puts it this way, "Lust grows fast in the garden of leisure." 

There you have it, friends. Kill lust --- before it kills you ... your marriage ... your children ... your soul!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Killing Lust - A.S.A.P.!

Yesterday I discussed how the Seventh Commandment ("You shall not commit adultery") is being demolished in our society today. Sexual purity is considered a thing of the past. But sexual purity for the follower of Jesus is not simply an option to take or leave at one's pleasure. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 we read, "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality." Could God have made His will for us in the sexual arena any plainer than that?

So, in this sex-saturated culture in which we live, how can we slay the dragon of sexual lust? Today, I want to give you two steps you can take to do so. Then in my next post, I will finish my thoughts with two more. I will use an acrostic to help you remember these. Because we must get serious and intentional about our battle against sexual temptation, I am going to use the acrostic ... A.S.A.P. (As Soon As Possible) - this to remind us that we must fight off any and all sexual temptation as soon as possible - without delay, without hesitation!

Avoid (as much as possible) situations and circumstances that arouse lust. In Romans 13:14 we read, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." Our sinful flesh does not need any help when it comes to its sinful passions. Therefore, we need to be careful what we feed it! So don't go watching Victoria Secrets commercials or hang a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit calendar on your wall. Don't watch suggestive movies or read seductive novels. And DO NOT sit down at your computer and start checking out porn sites! If you want to slay the dragon of lust, you must avoid situations and circumstances that arouse your lust! Jesus puts it strongly when he says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (Matthew 5:27-29).

Stop any lustful thought from implanting itself in your mind - and stop it within the first 5 seconds! The battlefield upon which we fight against sexual temptation is our mind. This is why it is so vital that when a lustful thought arises in your mind - you need to kill it and kill it quickly. Otherwise you will be overpowered by its alluring strength. A verse that has always encouraged me in this battle against temptation is 1 Corinthians 10:13. There we read, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." I believe the "way out" (a.k.a. "exit") that God provides for us is at the front end of the temptation. The moment you begin to consider saying "yes" to sexual temptation will most likely be the moment you have lost the battle. So ... say "No!" and then run! That's what God tells us to do in 1 Corinthians 6:18 where we read, "Flee from sexual immorality." A pastor from yesteryear put it this way, "Be killing sin or it will be killing YOU!" (John Owen)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

The Demise of the Seventh Commandment

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments at the Summit of Mt. Sinai, He knew that humanity would fail in the keeping of them. So why did He give them to us? For two reasons. First, God gave us His law to restrain wickedness and evil. Proverbs 29:18 tells us that "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law." God's revelation of his law is meant to curb our tendency to move toward sin. So even though we fail and fail miserably in obeying His commandments, they still restrain us from sinning to our fullest capacity! Secondly, God gave us His law to show us our sin and lead us to Christ. The Apostle Paul referred to this purpose behind the law when he wrote, "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet'" (Romans 7:7). When seen in this light, we can heartily say that the God-given law that we have in the Scriptures is good!

Now when I read through the list of the Ten Commandments, I must admit that I struggle with each and every one of them (with perhaps the exception of the Fifth - and this ONLY because my mother and father both moved on to Eternity 7 years ago). But if I had to pick one of these ten that is being readily dismissed by many today (even among professing Christians) - it would have to be the Seventh. This commandment reads, "You shall not commit adultery." Kevin DeYoung, in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot wrote the following about the Seventh Commandment. His words are worth considering.

"Is there any command more ridiculed in our culture than the Seventh Commandment? Adultery is a joke; homosexuality is a right; sex before marriage is the norm; no-fault divorce and remarriage is assumed; bestiality is increasingly considered avant garde. This is the world we live in. Sex has always been a leading vote-getter in the most popular sin contest, but never before in this country has so much sexual deviance been made to look so normal and God's standard made to look so obscene. Our lives are awash in sexuality." 

DeYoung goes on to cite the following statistics concerning sex and the Internet:
- Pornography and sex-related sites make up 60% of daily web traffic!
- Of Internet users in the U.S., 40% visit porn cites at least once a month (this % skyrockets among 18 - 34 year old males).
- Among children ages 8 to 16, 90% have viewed Internet porn.

And friends, just being a Christian does not make one immune to the sexual temptations around us (research shows that the % of professing Christians involved in porn is substantial). So all this to say ... the Seventh Commandment is not merely being broken in our country - it is being obliterated!

So ... given that sex drips from everything around us (from TV commercials to films, from billboards to Internet sites and even unsolicited emails), how can a Christian slay the dragon of lust? In tomorrow's post, I plan to list some steps toward doing just that.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Let it Rain!

Memorial Day afternoon (at least at my house) ended with a drenching T-Storm that just did not seem to want to end. We picked up a good two inches of rain in about an hour and a half. If this were winter and all that rain would have been snow, at a ten inches of snow for an inch of liquid -- we would have had over a foot and half of snow in that small amount of time! Ouch! I'm guessing even snow lovers would struggle with that! But since Monday's precipitation was rain, it does not have the "Wow" impact that a snow event would have had!

Now some of you who live outside of the Willow Street area here in Lancaster County might be wondering, "What rain is PJ talking about? We didn't get any rain and I only live a few miles south of Willow Street." Welcome to summer time precipitation events. Whereas in the winter months, precipitation events tend to be more widespread, during summer months, T-Storms can drop buckets of rain on one street and two streets away nothing!

As I reflected on the rainfall we had, I thought about God's Word. The Bible likens the ministry of the Word to rain falling from the clouds. In Isaiah 55:10-11, we read the following words of God:

"As the rain and the snow, come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire  and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

That's quite the promise! 
Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Now That's Perfection!

This past Saturday evening, Phillie's pitching ace, Roy Halladay threw a perfect game. For you non-baseball people that means 27 batters came up to bat against him and 27 batters went down (i.e. not a single batter made it to first base either via a walk, hit or error). That is such an accomplishment that in all the years of Major League Baseball there have only been 20 such masterpieces. And when you consider there are 5,184 games played each season (not including the post season playoffs) AND when you consider that MLB has been around since the late 1800's - there have been a pile of games played. Only 20 of them were perfect!  That puts Halladay's performance in perspective, doesn't it?

Halladay is the second Phillie's pitcher to accomplish this feat. The first to do so was Jim Bunning back on Father's Day in 1964. Unfortunately I missed watching Halladay's gem on Saturday. However, I did see Bunning hurl his perfect game! Yep. I was 8 years old and watching the game on television with my dad and twin brother. Although I did not totally appreciate Bunning's perfect game when he recorded the final out - I did realize it must be special from the way my father was shouting (and he was, on the whole, a quiet man!).

Now a MLB hurler might have the ability to throw a perfect game (Halladay's was the second this season!), but when it comes to living a perfect life - that is beyond every single one of us. And that's a problem. If we want to enter heaven, the entrance requirements set by God himself is a perfect life. So are we doomed to an eternal existence outside of heaven in that place the Bible calls hell? NO!!! And this is the good news of the gospel. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that God requires. A life we could never live. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he took our sin upon himself and paid the penalty that a just God demands. And when we place our faith and trust in Christ (his death, burial and resurrection), God credits to our account Christ's perfection. The Scripture speaks of this "Great Exchange" in the following verse:

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). 
Have YOU placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, asking him for the forgiveness of sins that only He can give and the new life that only He can offer? 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Some Random Midweek Thoughts


As we hit the midweek, with the July 4th holiday inviting us forward, here are two random thoughts floating around my head this morning . . .

1. I really don't like flying! Flying certainly is not what it used to be. With increased security, decreased flights, it requires a lot of patience to fly the skies today (what ever happened to the "Friendly Skies?"). And on top of all the inconvenience, there's the airlines seeking any and every way to cut cost and raise revenue. Let me give you just one example I experienced on my way home on Monday. I arrived at the South Bend airport early ... early enough to catch the earlier flight to Chicago's O'hare airport where I was to connect for my flight to Harrisburg. So I asked at the gate if there was room on the flight. I was told to wait until the passengers had boarded. At that point the gate agent would check and, if someone did not show (the flight was oversold as so many are these days), I could get on. Sure enough, someone did not show and I was able to catch the earlier flight. So, when I arrived in Chicago, I sought out the gate where the earlier flight to Harrisburg was due to depart. I asked the gate agent there if there was any room. She told me (somewhat gruffly), "Sir, if you want to fly standby, it will cost you an additional $50!" Now since I had not paid extra to just fly standby from South Bend, you can imagine my surprise. But I was not about to pay $50 for the opportunity to arrive home about 2 hours earlier than scheduled ... even though I really, really wanted to get home! (as it turned out, due to weather, the earlier Harrisburg flight was delayed over an hour ... and my flight was on time - so the difference in arrival time into Harrisburg was not all that much!). I guess you can see why I don't really like to fly.

2. God's love for us is AWESOME! As I sat and watched last night's excellent production of Phantom at the Fulton Theater, I was struck by the unconditional love of the mother of the character, Eric (who became the phantom of the opera). Eric was born with a horribly disfigured face. To hide his breathtaking ugliness from others, he wore a mask. Yet, when he was born, his mother accepted him totally - disfigured face and all. In fact, when she looked at him she saw only beauty. As I thought about that, it reminded me of Christians and our relationship with God. When we are born into this world, each and every one of us is horribly disfigured, broken, distorted by sin. Yet in spite of this, God pursues us in love. The Apostle Paul reminds us that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). And once we place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, repenting of our sin and rebellion against God and calling on Him for the forgiveness of our sin, he gloriously saves us! And he places upon us the righteousness of His own Son! So now, when God looks down upon His own from heaven, He no longer sees the distortion, brokenness, disfigurement caused by our sin. Instead, He sees the beauty of His Son in us! WOW! Praise God today for HIS awesome, unconditional love!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Flight Delayed





"Flight Delayed." No air traveler wants to see those words, but they are the words that I saw staring back at me when I checked the status of my flight. I am due to fly to Detroit and there connect with a flight to South Bend, Indiana. At the airport I will then rent a car and drive to my final destination - Winona Lake, IN - that is provided I ever leave Harrisburg. I am heading to WL for another Grace College Board matter. I am due to return home tomorrow evening. Oh, they just called my flight. Looks like we are about to board. I will wrap this up later.

Well, here I am at the Comfort Inn in Warsaw, Indiana (which is adjacent to Winona Lake). As it turned out, both of my flights were delayed about an hour each. But that's OK. Better delayed than cancelled. Yet delays are something we are not particularly fond of. Especially when we are facing some sort of need and we want God to act like yesterday! But God works on a different timetable. And given that he is a God of infinite wisdom, his timetable is a lot better than ours. So even in the face of what are unwelcome delays to us, we must be patient, knowing that God "does all things beautiful in his time!" (see Ecclesiastes chapter 3)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 25, 2010

Now That's Just Not Right!

A Treasury Department inspector general reports that 4,608 people have claimed the homebuyer tax credit even though their primary (and only) place of residence is a prison. Now granted, most of these filed jointly with spouses "on the outside," the inspection did show that over 700 filed on their own ... and these 700 were in prison for life! The end result? You and I who are honest taxpayers have been scammed for millions of dollars! Now that's just not right! Where's the whole idea that "honesty is the best policy?" Unfortunately in our society, that policy has been replaced with a "What's-best-for-me-no-matter-how-I-must-get-it is the best policy!" Dishonesty for so many people today has become "second nature." Integrity has been thrown out the window. So if you have to stretch the truth or even manufacture the truth - as long as it's in your benefit - go for it!

This is a far cry from the biblical teaching on the topic. God calls us to live honest and upright lives. Jesus tells us that we need to "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'" (Matthew 5:37) and the Apostle Paul instructs us that we must "put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor" (Ephesians 4:25). For the follower of Jesus Christ, honesty is not merely the "best" policy, it's the ONLY policy!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sir, May I Marry Your Daughter?

Adoniram Judson and his wife set sail from the United States for Burma in 1812. They were among the first protestant missionaries to go into Burma. Adoniram served in Burma for forty years. However, his wife Ann died in 1826 at the age of 37. Their story is a striking one, as God used them in a tremendous wave to spread the gospel in that dark land. Adoniram's greatest work was to translate the Bible into Burmese. Ann's was the work she was able to do with young girls and women - in a culture where women were very much "second class citizens."

Soon after Adoniram and Ann met, Adoniram sent a letter to Ann's father, John Hasseltine, asking him for permission to marry his daughter. Read on ... and as you do, try to put yourself in John Hasseltine's shoes. Would you say yes to such a request as the one he received from Adoniram?

"I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?"

Wow! How far I must still travel in my own commitment to Christ! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Lesson from the Mouth of a Child . . .

We are in the middle of our Vacation Bible School here at Grace. So each morning (Monday through Friday) we run our VBS from 9 to noon. On our first two days, we have had approximately 200 children (preschool through elementary) present, along with the 50 or so staff. So things are hopping! My role in this year's VBS is to play the role of "Pizza Man." During each morning's opening and closing, we do a three person skit to either introduce or review the theme of the morning (the other two characters in case  you are wondering are "Mac the Maintenance Man" and "Water Woman"). It's been fun!

As part of the morning rotation, each group spends time on a missions theme. This year they are learning about our Hand-in-Hand orphan school that we sponsor. The school is located in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Last September when I was there, I met the teacher of our school and some of the students (the school year had not yet started). I tell you that because on Monday we showed the kids a video that Grace Brethren International Mission produced on our school. .They included a photo of me standing next to our teacher. Some of the younger kids responded with, "Wow! The Pizza Man even went to Africa!"  Young kids can be very easily impressed!  :)

As I thought about that, I thought about the fact that Our God is EVERYWHERE! He is right here in Lancaster, PA ... but he is every bit as much present in Bangui, C.A.R.! The psalmist put it this way, "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast" (Psalm 139:8-10).

Always remember that there is no where that you can go that God won't already be there waiting for you! Now that's a comfort!!!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Living Life as a Practicing Atheist

You are driving down the Interstate, when suddenly you see brake lights ahead of you. Traffic slows, but does not stop. What's up? Soon up ahead you spot the reason for the slow down. A police car is sitting on the shoulder of the highway, a radar gun sticking out of the window. But as soon as the police cruiser is a distant object in the rear view mirror, the traffic flow picks up its speed. Hmm. We all drive differently when we know the police are present.

And, regrettably, we do the very same thing as Christians. We all live differently when we know God is present. The key word in that last sentence is the word "know." Because God is ALWAYS present. But all too often we live as if He were not! This struck me this morning as I read one of the prayers from the book, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (a book I highly recommend!). Please take a moment an read the following lines from a prayer titled, Divine Promises:

"Glorious Jehovah, my covenant God, 
All thy promises in Christ Jesus are "yes" and "amen," and all shall be fulfilled. 
Thou has spoken them, and they shall be done, commanded, and they shall come to pass.
Yet I have often doubted them, have lived as if there were no God."

Ouch! Those last words in bold really struck home! I don't want to live as a practicing atheist. Yet all too often that's just what I am. May God grant us all the grace to live each day, each moment KNOWING that there is a God and He will back EVERY SINGLE ONE of the promises that He has ever given to us! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cheering for the Other Guy!

One of the surprise entries in this year's World Cup is the soccer team from North Korea. This is only the second time that a team from North Korea has qualified to play in soccer's premier event. So, given the rarity of the opportunity to cheer for your own team, have North Koreans traveled to South Africa in droves? No. When the cost of the air fare alone is about 100 times what the average North Korean makes in a year and when it is almost next to impossible to get permission to leave the communist country, few North Koreans will be in the stands to cheer the boys on. So who will? The Chinese! The Associated Press reports that North Korean officials have offered most of their allocated tickets for each game to neighboring China, which does not have a team in the tournament. So according to the AP report, "about 1,000 Chinese dancers and musicians are among fans recruited to cheer for North Korea, according to China's state-run Xinhua News Agency." So if you are wondering who's tooting the vuvuzellas for North Korea, think "Chinese!"

As I was reflecting on this rather odd situation, the following verse from the book of Romans came to mind: "Honor one another above yourselves" (Romans 12:10). Now I don't know the motivation of these Chinese who are in the stands cheering on the North Koreans, but it is a good picture of what we all should be doing as local churches. Far too often, local churches see themselves in competition with other local churches. Instead of competing with one another and being envious when another local church is growing in its mission and ministry impact, we should celebrate when the gospel is advancing. And this is also true for us as individual believers (who grow jealous when God uses someone else in a "greater" way than He appears to be using us).  Let's put aside the petty envy and jealousy. Let's determine to "cheer on the other guy!"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jesus on Fire!

As I read through yesterday's paper, this series of photos caught my eye. As you can see, a large, 6-story statue of Jesus was apparently struck by lightening. The resultant fire totally destroyed the statue, resulting in $700,000 in damages.

Hmm. Jesus on fire! How ironic that in this scenario, "Jesus" was on the receiving end destructive fire. But the Bible makes it clear that there is coming a day that Jesus Christ will be on the giving end of destructive fire. In 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 we read the following:

"God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed."

This is a passage that you will rarely hear preached from American pulpits in our day. Everyone wants to hear about God's love and care ... no one wants to hear about God's wrath and judgment. Yet these are both clearly taught, side-by-side in Scripture. So, are you ready?  One day Jesus will return ... "on fire." We must be ready to meet him. The only way to get ready is to embrace the gospel of Jesus. For more info, check out the following web presentation, "Two Ways to Live: The Choice we All Face" at http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Vuvuzelling"

The World Cup (the soccer world's equivalent to football's Super Bowl) recently kicked off (pun intended) in the host country of South Africa. The U.S. team played this past Saturday. I got to view most of the first half. It was not very long into my viewing that I noticed this very strange background noise. It sounded like a hive of busy, angry bees. But no. The sound was not being made by bees. But by fans tooting plastic vuvuzela horns, a South African traditional horn. Now the fans are not just blowing them to acknowledge a score or great play ... but they are blowing them CONSTANTLY! So much so that many non-tooting fans and even some players are quite irritated by the racket (and it is indeed a racket! These horns put out 127 decibels of sound, and considering that any noise above 85 decibels is a threat to damage one's hearing, you can imagine just how loud these horns can be!). Many television viewers are choosing to mute their television sets and watch the game in silence rather than listen to the ongoing drone of these horns.

Soccer's governing body, FIFA has refused to ban the horns from the World Cup games. The president of FIFA defended the body's refusal to ban the horns by saying, "I don’t see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?" However, FIFA has asked fans to refrain from blowing the horns during the pre-game playing of each team's  national anthem and during any stadium announcements. So the horns will blow on!

At the bottom of this controversy is a clash of cultures (could you imagine a fan sitting next to you at a football game, clanging a cow bell or hitting together a pair of thundersticks all game long?). Nope. But then again, this is America. And we just don't do those sorts of things in America. Well, the World Cup is not being played in the U.S. but in South Africa. And apparently in South Africa, "vuvuzelling" is something that is characteristically done at sporting events. So let them enjoy their vuvuzelas, and we will enjoy our soccer. I am just glad I can do it from the comfort (and quiet) of my living room!

And just think about the implications of this for heaven where peoples from every culture will be represented! Hmm . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hey Dads!

In one of my favorite movies, It's a Wonderful Life, there is a powerful scene that reminds us of the influence fathers have (or should have) in the lives of their children. Young George Baily worked after school at the town's drug store. He had just been given a prescription to deliver. But George hesitated. A he voiced an objection about doing so, Mr. Gower, the druggist, slapped him on the side of the head for what he considered a rebellious attitude. The druggist told young George in no uncertain terms to get going and make the delivery as he was told to do. George reluctantly left the store. Why did George resist going? It was due to the fact that he had noticed Mr. Gower had put poison in the tablets (and this he did because he was drunk with both alcohol and grief, having just been informed that his son had died of the flu while on the front lines in France during WWI). So now George was in a quandry. What should he do? As he walked out of the store, he looked up the street. A large billboard caught his eye. On it were the words, "Ask Dad. He knows."  So off George went to ask his dad just what he should do (And if you have seen the movie, you know his dad was busy in a meeting. So George wandered about town before finally going back to the store where he told Mr. Cowper the truth. And Mr. Cowper was forever grateful to George for catching that potentially fatal mistake!).

Ask Dad. Unfortunately for many children and young adults, they can't ask dad because either dad is no longer in their lives or if he is, he is just too busy with other things to be bothered. And that is indeed unfortunate. In their recent book, Souls in Transition: The Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, authors Christian Smith and Patricia Snell talk about the powerful influence mothers and FATHERS have on the spiritual lives of their kids. They write, “In the long run, who and what parents were and are for their children when it comes to religious faith are more likely to ‘stick’ with them, even into emerging adulthood, than who and what their teenage friends were.”

So you dads out there (and moms too), let me ask you? How are you involved in the lives of your kids. And what does your life say to them about the importance of faith in Christ and commitment to God's Word?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, June 11, 2010

"Hold the Line!"

Last month, I spent part of a Saturday walking the Gettysburg battlefield with my family. At the base of Little Round Top (so named to distinguish it from the larger hill next to it which is appropriately named Big Round Top) is a description of the intense fighting that occurred on Little Round Top on the second day of the battle. Little Round Top was the extreme right of the Union line. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine was ordered to "hold the ground at all hazards!" If the enemy were to get around Chamberlain and his men, they could go on to roll up the entire Union flank. So Chamberlain and his men from Maine were determined to hold their ground, and they did just that. They repulsed numerous attacks. When Chamberlain realized his men were without ammunition, he ordered a bayonet charge. Rushing down the hill into the enemy ranks, they caught the Confederates by surprise and captured a huge number of them. For his courage in the heat of battle, Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Chamberlain did what he was called upon to do. He held the line! We as Christians are called upon by God to also "hold the line!" In 1 Corinthians 15:58 Paul writes the following: "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."  So my friends, let's determine to allow nothing to move us from the solid ground upon which we stand - the solid ground of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When Restitution Just Doesn't Seem to Add Up!

Calvin C. Cox of Frederick County, Maryland, stole a plane last winter. Why? Because he was homeless and cold (that's the reason he gave authorities). He should have first thought about whether or not he could fly the plane. As it turns out, he got it up and running -- on the ground that is. By the time he was done, the plane had suffered over $12,000 in damages. He was sentenced to serve time in the county jail and to pay restitution to the owners of the plane. When all the dust settled his restitution payment amounted to $40! That was the deductible on the insurance policy that the owner of the plane carried. So in effect, the policy holders of that particular insurance company are the ones who actually footed the bill. Now does that seem right to you?

Now please, before you think I am cold-hearted in coming down on some homeless man please hear me out. Yes, it is true that I don't know the circumstances of Mr. Cox and what led to him being homeless. But even so, I believe he should be held more responsible (if it is even to pay something back to the insurance company who paid the claim). But holding people responsible is not something we do very well in our society. People are always looking for someone to blame for everything and anything that goes wrong. Perhaps that's one reason our world is such a mess. So here's a piece of advice for all of us .... "If the shoe fits, wear it!"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Al and Tipper Affair

Al and Tipper Gore have been front and center in the news of late. Al Gore, of course served as Vice President under President Bill Clinton, and then ran against George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. Tipper is Al's wife of 40 years. I am sure you have heard by now that after 4 decades of marriage they are going their separate ways. Unlike a number of recent political marriages which have ended due to affairs and scandals, the Gore's marriage seemed to be doing OK. So why the split? This is what the couple had to say, "We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate. This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further." 

Did you notice in the statement that they did not say WHY they are splitting up. All they said was that whatever the reason (and they aren't telling) it is mutual. This, of course, has left the door open for others to supply the reason. Most just seem to think that they have grown apart over the years. What they once held in common, they no longer do. Sooo ... divorce seems like the best option. But is it? What about those words of promise spoken to one another before God and the assembled witnesses? You know ... vows that go something like, "I, Al, promise to take you, Tipper, to be my lawfully wedded wife. To to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part or Christ our Lord shall return." 

Over 32 years ago I made such a vow to a young woman named Sharon Pietrowski. For over 32 years I have kept that vow as best as I could (with God's help) ... and I plan to keep this vow for the rest of my earthly life. How about YOU? Given much thought to the vow you made to your spouse on your wedding day? And what are you doing to live out that vow?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Killing Lust - A.S.A.P.! (continued)

I've been talking about how we can slay the dragon of sexual lust. Given our sex-saturated society, this is not an easy thing to do. It will require all the spiritual strength and spiritual energy we can muster. And it demands that we lean heavily on the Everlasting Arms of our Father in Heaven. But just because this is a hard thing to do ... to say "no!" to sexual temptation, it is not impossible. Remember, "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Now in addition to the first two steps I mentioned last week (see posting of last Friday) here are two more for your consideration (and I trust, PRACTICE!):

Apply the Philippians 4:8 Test to your thought life!  In Philippians 4:8, we read these words: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Via the pen of the Apostle Paul, God gives us the criteria of healthy thoughts. And if the thoughts that fill our minds fit the criteria given here (i.e. they are true, noble, pure, etc.) - then we are to allow those thought to fill our minds. But if the thoughts don't measure up to this list, Paul implies that we are to get rid of them. Now, let me ask you this: do lustful thoughts fit these criteria for the kind of thoughts that are to fill our minds? Some men have tried to defend their pursuit of porn by telling me that God made women's bodies beautiful. So they are just admiring God's handiwork as they look at pornography. Hmm. That sounds like a lame rationalization for sin if I ever heard one!  I encourage you to memorize ... and then apply Philippians 4:8 to your thought life. It will help you overcome the sin of lust!


Pursue a life of good works! Good works will never save anyone. But good works should follow everyone who is saved. In Ephesians 2:8-10, the Apostle Paul spells this out for us very clearly: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  God is busy shaping His followers to do the good works he has laid out for us to do. And as we get busy doing these good works, we won't have time to pursue those things which will arouse our lust. John Piper puts it this way, "Lust grows fast in the garden of leisure." 

There you have it, friends. Kill lust --- before it kills you ... your marriage ... your children ... your soul!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Killing Lust - A.S.A.P.!

Yesterday I discussed how the Seventh Commandment ("You shall not commit adultery") is being demolished in our society today. Sexual purity is considered a thing of the past. But sexual purity for the follower of Jesus is not simply an option to take or leave at one's pleasure. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 we read, "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality." Could God have made His will for us in the sexual arena any plainer than that?

So, in this sex-saturated culture in which we live, how can we slay the dragon of sexual lust? Today, I want to give you two steps you can take to do so. Then in my next post, I will finish my thoughts with two more. I will use an acrostic to help you remember these. Because we must get serious and intentional about our battle against sexual temptation, I am going to use the acrostic ... A.S.A.P. (As Soon As Possible) - this to remind us that we must fight off any and all sexual temptation as soon as possible - without delay, without hesitation!

Avoid (as much as possible) situations and circumstances that arouse lust. In Romans 13:14 we read, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." Our sinful flesh does not need any help when it comes to its sinful passions. Therefore, we need to be careful what we feed it! So don't go watching Victoria Secrets commercials or hang a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit calendar on your wall. Don't watch suggestive movies or read seductive novels. And DO NOT sit down at your computer and start checking out porn sites! If you want to slay the dragon of lust, you must avoid situations and circumstances that arouse your lust! Jesus puts it strongly when he says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (Matthew 5:27-29).

Stop any lustful thought from implanting itself in your mind - and stop it within the first 5 seconds! The battlefield upon which we fight against sexual temptation is our mind. This is why it is so vital that when a lustful thought arises in your mind - you need to kill it and kill it quickly. Otherwise you will be overpowered by its alluring strength. A verse that has always encouraged me in this battle against temptation is 1 Corinthians 10:13. There we read, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." I believe the "way out" (a.k.a. "exit") that God provides for us is at the front end of the temptation. The moment you begin to consider saying "yes" to sexual temptation will most likely be the moment you have lost the battle. So ... say "No!" and then run! That's what God tells us to do in 1 Corinthians 6:18 where we read, "Flee from sexual immorality." A pastor from yesteryear put it this way, "Be killing sin or it will be killing YOU!" (John Owen)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

The Demise of the Seventh Commandment

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments at the Summit of Mt. Sinai, He knew that humanity would fail in the keeping of them. So why did He give them to us? For two reasons. First, God gave us His law to restrain wickedness and evil. Proverbs 29:18 tells us that "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law." God's revelation of his law is meant to curb our tendency to move toward sin. So even though we fail and fail miserably in obeying His commandments, they still restrain us from sinning to our fullest capacity! Secondly, God gave us His law to show us our sin and lead us to Christ. The Apostle Paul referred to this purpose behind the law when he wrote, "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet'" (Romans 7:7). When seen in this light, we can heartily say that the God-given law that we have in the Scriptures is good!

Now when I read through the list of the Ten Commandments, I must admit that I struggle with each and every one of them (with perhaps the exception of the Fifth - and this ONLY because my mother and father both moved on to Eternity 7 years ago). But if I had to pick one of these ten that is being readily dismissed by many today (even among professing Christians) - it would have to be the Seventh. This commandment reads, "You shall not commit adultery." Kevin DeYoung, in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot wrote the following about the Seventh Commandment. His words are worth considering.

"Is there any command more ridiculed in our culture than the Seventh Commandment? Adultery is a joke; homosexuality is a right; sex before marriage is the norm; no-fault divorce and remarriage is assumed; bestiality is increasingly considered avant garde. This is the world we live in. Sex has always been a leading vote-getter in the most popular sin contest, but never before in this country has so much sexual deviance been made to look so normal and God's standard made to look so obscene. Our lives are awash in sexuality." 

DeYoung goes on to cite the following statistics concerning sex and the Internet:
- Pornography and sex-related sites make up 60% of daily web traffic!
- Of Internet users in the U.S., 40% visit porn cites at least once a month (this % skyrockets among 18 - 34 year old males).
- Among children ages 8 to 16, 90% have viewed Internet porn.

And friends, just being a Christian does not make one immune to the sexual temptations around us (research shows that the % of professing Christians involved in porn is substantial). So all this to say ... the Seventh Commandment is not merely being broken in our country - it is being obliterated!

So ... given that sex drips from everything around us (from TV commercials to films, from billboards to Internet sites and even unsolicited emails), how can a Christian slay the dragon of lust? In tomorrow's post, I plan to list some steps toward doing just that.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Let it Rain!

Memorial Day afternoon (at least at my house) ended with a drenching T-Storm that just did not seem to want to end. We picked up a good two inches of rain in about an hour and a half. If this were winter and all that rain would have been snow, at a ten inches of snow for an inch of liquid -- we would have had over a foot and half of snow in that small amount of time! Ouch! I'm guessing even snow lovers would struggle with that! But since Monday's precipitation was rain, it does not have the "Wow" impact that a snow event would have had!

Now some of you who live outside of the Willow Street area here in Lancaster County might be wondering, "What rain is PJ talking about? We didn't get any rain and I only live a few miles south of Willow Street." Welcome to summer time precipitation events. Whereas in the winter months, precipitation events tend to be more widespread, during summer months, T-Storms can drop buckets of rain on one street and two streets away nothing!

As I reflected on the rainfall we had, I thought about God's Word. The Bible likens the ministry of the Word to rain falling from the clouds. In Isaiah 55:10-11, we read the following words of God:

"As the rain and the snow, come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire  and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

That's quite the promise! 
Thanks for stopping by . . . 

pj

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Now That's Perfection!

This past Saturday evening, Phillie's pitching ace, Roy Halladay threw a perfect game. For you non-baseball people that means 27 batters came up to bat against him and 27 batters went down (i.e. not a single batter made it to first base either via a walk, hit or error). That is such an accomplishment that in all the years of Major League Baseball there have only been 20 such masterpieces. And when you consider there are 5,184 games played each season (not including the post season playoffs) AND when you consider that MLB has been around since the late 1800's - there have been a pile of games played. Only 20 of them were perfect!  That puts Halladay's performance in perspective, doesn't it?

Halladay is the second Phillie's pitcher to accomplish this feat. The first to do so was Jim Bunning back on Father's Day in 1964. Unfortunately I missed watching Halladay's gem on Saturday. However, I did see Bunning hurl his perfect game! Yep. I was 8 years old and watching the game on television with my dad and twin brother. Although I did not totally appreciate Bunning's perfect game when he recorded the final out - I did realize it must be special from the way my father was shouting (and he was, on the whole, a quiet man!).

Now a MLB hurler might have the ability to throw a perfect game (Halladay's was the second this season!), but when it comes to living a perfect life - that is beyond every single one of us. And that's a problem. If we want to enter heaven, the entrance requirements set by God himself is a perfect life. So are we doomed to an eternal existence outside of heaven in that place the Bible calls hell? NO!!! And this is the good news of the gospel. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that God requires. A life we could never live. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he took our sin upon himself and paid the penalty that a just God demands. And when we place our faith and trust in Christ (his death, burial and resurrection), God credits to our account Christ's perfection. The Scripture speaks of this "Great Exchange" in the following verse:

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). 
Have YOU placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, asking him for the forgiveness of sins that only He can give and the new life that only He can offer? 

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.