PJ

PJ

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wars and Rumors of Wars . . .

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow .... and Everyday!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A La Carte

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Saddest Day of Human History

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life's Milestones

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 19, 2010

Losing One's Cool!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Santa Has Arrived!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A La Carte

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God Really Does Care!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gathering for "church"

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

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



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Say "Thanks!" to a Vet Today!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Blown Light Bulb and a Tripped Circuit Breaker

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

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

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




Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Brief Monday Morning Thoughts

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Off to Winona!

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

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

pj

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

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the Land of Many Cell Phones and Few Toilets

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

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

Thanks for stopping by,

pj

Monday, November 1, 2010

Some Random Thoughts To Start Your Work Week

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wars and Rumors of Wars . . .

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow .... and Everyday!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A La Carte

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Saddest Day of Human History

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

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

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life's Milestones

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 19, 2010

Losing One's Cool!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Santa Has Arrived!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A La Carte

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

God Really Does Care!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gathering for "church"

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

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



Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Say "Thanks!" to a Vet Today!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Blown Light Bulb and a Tripped Circuit Breaker

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

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

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




Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Brief Monday Morning Thoughts

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Off to Winona!

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

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

pj

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

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the Land of Many Cell Phones and Few Toilets

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

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

Thanks for stopping by,

pj

Monday, November 1, 2010

Some Random Thoughts To Start Your Work Week

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

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.