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Showing posts from September, 2010

The Vanishing Mind

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Across the years of my pastoral ministry ... I have noted two regrettable "vanishings." I am reminded of the first every time I look in the mirror or see myself in a photo. The hair that once totally covered my head has been vanishing for some 25 years or so. I have resigned myself to my hair loss ... and in fact, enjoy the low maintenance hair style that I now sport (my remaining hair is dry as soon as I turn the shower off!). No "bad hair days" for me!

The second "vanishing" concerns me much more. It is the vanishing of the mind. Increasingly people in our culture are disengaging their minds - and this includes the majority of people who attend what we would call "evangelical" churches. People no longer discuss what they "think" about life. Instead, people talk about how they "feel" about things. Now I am not opposed to emotions ... and engaging them in the various arenas of life. But it is troubling to see how the emoti…

But That's not in the Plan!

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Plans.We all make them. Seek to implement them.Hope to realize them.But often our plans don’t quite work out the way we hoped.When I was a senior in high school, my plan was to go off to college and major in chemistry and become a chemist.Gladly, that plan did not work out.When Sharon and I got married, our plan was for me to work our first year while she finished college.Then she would work full-time while I attended seminary, after which I would seek a pastorate.At that point we would begin a family.That plan lasted ten months.Our first born, Emily, came along during Sharon’s spring break of her senior year.I could go on … but I think you get my point.No matter how well thought out our plans might be – there are no guarantees that they will come to pass. Not so with God’s plans!His plans are set in granite. What God purposes WILL happen!No ifs, ands or buts about it!In Psalm 33:11 we read, “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all gene…

Elmo Attacked

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One of my 17 month old granddaughter's favorite "character's" is Sesame Street's Elmo (as pictured on her bib). Not only does she have an Elmo bib, she also has an Elmo tee shirt, an Elmo book, and Elmo DVD and a stuffed talking Elmo. She loves her Elmo. And she's not alone. There are millions of other children who also love Elmo. But the beloved status of Elmo did not deter a thug in Winter Park, Florida from attacking Elmo. That's right. A music store hired a man to wear an Elmo suit as some sort of sales promotion. According to police, a man approached "Elmo" around 3 PM this past Saturday and began throwing punches. "Elmo" fought back. He was able to fend off the attacker - breaking a few fingers on the assailant's hand in the process. Officers who were called to the scene and were able to break up the fight. Fortunately no children were in the store at the time (how unsettling would that be for a young child .. to see Elmo in …

Train Up A Child

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Yesterday we (my wife, son and his wife and my daughter) decided to have a bit of fun with my son-in-law Ryan (who is a stout Eagle's fan). Since my family are all Pittsburgh Steeler fans (we lived in Pittsburgh for five years prior to living here in Lancaster), we decided to wrap our new little addition to the family in a Steeler Terrible Towel. So while he was out of the hospital room, we took the towel supplied by my son and his wife and did the deed (a dastardly deed from Ryan's perspective)! Of course, when Ryan saw what we had done, he responded just as we had hoped. Later I posted a pic of Jack wrapped in the black and gold on my Facebook page ... and it managed to generate a few comments which only added to our fun (but looking at Jack's face, you have to admit he appears to be enjoying the moment!).

Proverbs 22:6 talks about child rearing. In fact, it may very well be the most quoted verse about parenting. But far too many parents view this verse wrongly. They see …

Waiting for Baby

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Right now I am sitting alone in a hospital coffee shop. Just a few hundred feet away, behind a few security check points and a closed door my youngest daughter is in the final stage of labor. My wife is with her along with her husband Ryan (when the midwife showed up and announced that it was time to push, that was my cue to exit- which I did most willingly - although part of me would like to be present to greet my grandson as he enters the world - but just a small part :)!!!

As I sit here sipping my coffee, a lot of questions are meandering around inside my head. What will "Little Slugger" (my wife's and my name for our yet-to-be-named grandson) look like? Will he have a lot of hair (won't need much to beat out Papa John!)? What color will his hair be? What will he weigh? How long will he be? Will he arrive waving a Pittsburgh Steeler terrible towel? :) But most pressing is the much more heavy question: Will he arrive healthy? That is THE question that tends to hau…

The Costly Lordship of Christ!

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I love to read. At any given time, I am probably reading a half dozen different books. One of the books I have been re-reading recently is the excellent book by Kevin DeYoung, The Good News We Almost Forgot. The book is a collection of devotionals that DeYoung wrote as he spent a year going through the Heidelberg Catechism, a 16th century writing that is among the world's most published works. This catechism is based in part on the ancient Apostle's Creed, an powerful statement of faith of historic Christianity. If you are looking for a good read that will stretch your faith and warm your heart - I HIGHLY recommend this book.

In his devotional titled, His Son Our Lord, DeYoung writes the following:

"Remember too, His lordship was also costly. Jesus Christ didn't establish His authority by taking prisoners, executing judgment, and shedding the blood of His enemies. He is Lord because He shed His own blood, bore God's judgment, and set the captives free. He purchase…

Waiting for THE Phone Call!

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Yesterday, as my wife and I were driving home after spending part of my day off sitting by the banks of the Cheasapeake Bay, she offered up a rather vocal and rather loud yawn. I almost jumped out of the driver's seat! "What's wrong?" I asked with more than a little urgency in my voice. "Nothing, dear. I just yawned." After calming down, my wife was quick to point out that I have been a bit "on edge" the past few days. She's right. I have been! Why? As many of you know, my youngest daughter Kate is expecting to deliver her first child any day now. Every time my cell phone rings I find myself thinking, "This is it! The baby is on the way!" You'd think after having gone through this three times with my wife that I'd be an old pro at this! But nope! The thought of the "baby" of our family having a baby of her own causes me great excitement and joy one moment and fear and trepidation the next!

So all this to say ... if…

A Couple of Early Week Questions

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As you start day #2 of your work week ... here are two questions for you to ponder:

1. If we Christians say we believe the Bible is the Word of God, then why don't we spend more time reading, studying, meditating, memorizing it (things we MUST do if we are to put God's Word into practice - see Matthew 7:24-27)? I would think that if we really believed that the Bible is indeed God's Word (and therefore the written revelation of who God is and what He wants to accomplish in our world ... in and through us) - if we really believed this, I would think we would be "in" the scriptures with much more regularity and passion. Perhaps it's time for us to evaluate exactly what we do believe about the Bible.

2. Why is it that we who have chosen to follow Jesus are so easily distracted from our highest calling - that of following Christ? It just seems to me that it sometimes does not take much for me to get my eyes off of Jesus and onto other things that really don't…

My Dying Lawn and the Word of God

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Brown and scraggly. Accurate adjectives to describe what the grass in my yard looks like these days. And my guess is that if you live anywhere close to where I live in eastern Pennsylvania, you know what I am talking about. I have not had to cut my grass for quite some time now due to a lack of rainfall. And if these dry conditions continue, I probably won't have to cut it for some time to come (which, I must admit I am OK with!).

This condition of my grass reminds me of a verse from the Old Testament. In Isaiah 40:8 we read, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." The prophet is making a contrast that we all can get our minds around. All of us have seen grass withering (like right now) and flowers falling. Been there, seen that! But in contrast to that, we can have complete confidence in God's Word. It will never wither ... it will never fall. It will stand FOREVER!

This is a truth that is under attack in our "postmodern&…

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not . . .

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Growing up, I never really doubted my dad's love for me. He worked hard, often working two jobs to provide for me, my mom and my four siblings. However, I cannot recall my dad ever saying to me, "John, I love you." Because of this, I determined from the get-go of having children, that I would always tell them that I loved them. Even now, when my son and I wrap up a phone call it's always with the words, "I love you." What I have done with my kids ... we are now doing with our grandkids. We want them to hear LOUD AND CLEAR that we LOVE them! And, of course, we strive to back up our words with our actions.

God is love. And He has expressed his love for us in an unmistakable manner. The Bible tells us that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Isn't it incredible to think that while we were God's enemies (see Romans 5:10, 8:7), Jesus Christ, the God-man was willing to go …

A Cat Did That?

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My son, Tim used to have a cat.Her name was Mary.For the most part she was a good cat.But that didn't change my view of cats.I don’t really like cats.It’s not that I hate them.It’s just that I can think of a thousand and one things that I like more – like a good root canal or a steaming bowl of Brussels sprouts – just to name a few.But there are many cat lovers in our world and the biggest one might just be a guy named Gary Rosheisen.

Gary lives in an apartment with Tommy in Columbus, Ohio. Tommy is Gary’s cat.A few years ago, Gary fell out of his wheelchair and onto the floor.Unable to move he remained where he fell until paramedics arrived.How did paramedics know he was in trouble?Tommy the cat apparently dialed 911. That’s right!You read what I wrote correctly.Gary had trained Tommy to hit the speed dial button for 911 on the phone that he kept on the living room floor.Gary always wondered if the training had taken.It had.When the 911 dispatcher received the call and no one was …

It's a Small World!

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Shortly after I finished preaching in Union Biblical Seminary's Chapel service during my recent time in India, I met one of the professors who teaches there at UBS. He approached me after the service and introduced himself. He wanted to speak to me because he had heard that I was associated with Lancaster Bible College (I am an adjunct professor there). This man had served for a number of years as a missionary in Guyana. He knew some LBC personnel as LBC would take students to Guyana on short term trips. When I heard "Guyana," I asked him about a high school buddy of mine who had served in Guyana as a missionary for a number of years. Turns out, my friend was his co-worker! So there I was in Pune, India - talking with a man I had never met about a mutual friend! One that he knew from South America and I knew from my home town in Pennsylvania! Wow! Talk about a small world!

Well, the world we live in is indeed growing smaller, much of which is due to the advances in trans…

Perform Lasik Eye Surgery in Your Own Home?

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Can you imagine performing Lasik eye surgery on yourself in the privacy of your own home? I can't! But yet, for $99.95 you can order your very own Lasik@home kit! And once you receive it ... all you have to do is follow four easy steps and you will be able to kiss your eye glasses goodbye! (I'm thinking you might be kissing your eyesight goodbye as well!). Now you might think I am making this up ... but you can check it out for yourself at www.lasikathome.com. On the site there are a couple of testimonials. Here is one that sort of grabbed my attention:

My LASIK@Home kit came in the mail just a few days after I ordered it. I was so excited that I used it that same night! My boyfriend helped me do it. It was all done in an hour and I didn’t feel a thing!

I am glad this gal did not feel anything ... But I wonder if this gal can SEE anything? I mean, who would take a LASER and shoot it into their eye? I sure would not, would you?

Now if you think the above is so far fetched th…

Some Random Thoughts to Begin Your Week

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Here are some random thoughts floating around my mind today . . .

1. This morning it hit me that there are only 8 more days of summer (Autumn officially begins Wednesday, September 22 at 11:09 PM, Eastern Daylight Savings Time)! Where did the summer go? Summer picnics, our shore trip, my time in India -- all are now quickly fading in the rearview mirror of my life! All this is just another reminder of how quickly time passes (like a puff of steam - James 4:14) and how vital it is, therefore, to make the most of our God-given opportunities. Let's determine not to waste our time (and our lives) playing the Great American Game of Trivial Pursuit!

2. Yesterday was Grandparents Day. Back in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a presidential proclamation designating the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. The first official observance was held on September 9, 1979. Grandparents Day has been observed each year since. (Now ... all I have to do is educate my kids!) If …

A Friend and Brother on the Far Side of the World

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I first met Pramod (pronounced "Prah-moad") as I served up the "bhajjis" (onion fritters) at the dinner following the ordination of Children's Fellowship of India's Director, P.C. Thorat. I noticed this certain man kept coming back for another handful of bhajjis. Finally, toward the end of the dinner when he returned for one final handful, he sheepishly looked at me and said, "I really like these!" I was more than happy to give him another supply! And he was more than happy to give me a HUGE smile in return.

That all occurred on Sunday, August 15th in Naya Akola. Fast forward to Friday, August 20. We were pulling up to the house of our host family for the weekend (I was preaching at Norton Memorial Christ Church in Daund, located some 300 miles from Naya Akola). So you can imagine my surprise when standing at the front door to welcome us was not only the man and woman of the home -- but also Pramod! I could not believe my eyes. Here, staying in th…

You Must Be Born Again!

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In his conversation with the very religious Pharisee, Nicodemus, Jesus stated quite clearly that Nicodemus needed to be "born again." What does this term mean? It is often used of people who are given a "new lease" ... and so a thriving company that was once on the verge of bankruptcy is said to have been "born again." A once-washed-up athlete who happens to land on the right team, surrounded by the right teammates and therefore experiences a rejuvenation of his career is said to have been "born again." A city, once mired in decay and crime but now seeing a resurgence of neighborhoods and business is referenced as being "born again." So when Jesus uses the term in John 3 -- is he using the term in the same way? Not quite. The term as Jesus used it refers to the act of regeneration. This occurs when the Living God reaches into the deadness of a person's soul and creates new spiritual life. And so at that point ... that individual …

Horrible Roads?

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People who live in Pennsylvania often joke about our state's roads. Compared to neighboring states, our roads are often lacking! Recently, the Reason Foundation issued its 19th annual report on roads. Pennsylvania ranked 38th overall ... which surprised me somewhat. I would have thought our roads would have ranked much closer to 50!

As I thought about this report (and trust me, I did not think about it very long) - I had to admit our roads in places are pretty downright awful. However, compared to the roads I have been on in the past year (Central African Republic last September and India last month) - Pennsylvania's roads are stellar! Funny how perspective can change one's viewpoint!

This is why, my friend, it is so very important to view life from God's perspective. We must learn what He values ... what He views important -- and embrace them. Then and only then will we live our lives out to their ultimate potential. And the only way to get to learn God's perspecti…

Why Work? - part 2

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In addition to the two reasons I gave yesterday in answer to the question, "Why work?" - I missed the most important motivator of all as to why we need to be gainfully employed. The apostle Paul gives this reason while addressing slaves in his letter to the church at Colosse. Keep in mind that what he says to slaves about their labor, (and slaves had no choice about who they worked for or what they did) is even more true for us (who do have a choice). Read carefully his words:

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Colossians 3:22-24).

Did you catch what he wrote? Ultimately we are working not for ourselves or our families,…

Why Work?

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On Labor Day ... I think its a good time to remind ourselves as to what the proper motivation should be in working the jobs we work. Scripture gives us a couple of motivators ....

1. We should work to provide for the needs of our family. Two passages come to my mind as I contemplate this motive for gainful employment:

"For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." 11We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the b…

Monsoon Rains!

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I saw an article on the Internet this week that reminded me of the weather we experienced while in India. Philip Dongre, the Executive Director of Children's Fellowship of India assured me last fall when we made the decision to travel to India in mid August of this year that the majority of the monsoon rains would be over by then. When we experienced a number of days of heavy rain (leaving much of CFI's campus quite water logged), he again assured me that this was not the norm. I was not convinced - until I saw this Internet article. According to this article, Mumbai has received 2,896 mm of rain since June 1st. Now that did not really register with me ... so I got my calculator out and converted the millimeters to inches. The result? 2,896 mm = 114 inches! Now that is a lot of rain! (here in eastern PA we receive, on average, approximately 43 inches of precipitation in a year) And, according to the report I read, August was the rainiest of the three months! (and the rain is…

Divorce or Not to Divorce - That Is the Question!

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Recently, I ran across the following comments about the recently announced divorce of Tiger Woods and his wife Elin. I thought the writer had some good insights into the whole marriage, divorce and sexual addiction scene. Please take a few minutes to read the article. It will be some time well spent!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj


The Tragedy of Tiger and Elin
Sarah Jennings
Crosswalk.com Family Editor


Major news outlets are reporting that Tiger Woods' marriage to Elin Nordegren officially ended on Monday. I am so sad for this couple and their children, ages 3 and 1.

In their joint statement, Tiger and Elin state, "While we are no longer married, we are the parents of two wonderful children and their happiness has been, and will always be, of paramount importance to both of us. Once we came to the decision that our marriage was at an end, the primary focus of our amicable discussions has been to ensure their future well-being."

Sadly, the demise of their marriage was a…

To India and Back ... Some Final Thoughts

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Now that I have been home for one week, I thought I would list some final thoughts on my recent trip to India.

1. The actual traveling was grueling . . . about 37 hours on the way over (van, plane, plane, plane, van) and about 27 hours on the way home (van, plane, plane, van). It is not a trip I would want to make with any regularity. But, at the end of the day, all the hours of sitting on the planes and in the terminals was worth every minute as we ministered for Christ in India.

2. Having friends (both old and new) on the other side of the world is indeed a great joy. The Indians I have met in my three trips may speak a different language, dress in different clothes and have names that I have trouble pronouncing - but they are a precious people who love God just like me. I am a better person having met these dear people.

3. Watching the excitement of 160 boys as they received a new shirt was, in a way, a rebuke to me. I have more shirts than I could ever wear. Hmm. Time to simplify and…