Guilt? Regrets?

As you look back at the year we are about to leave . . . perhaps you have some regrets about things you said or did. Maybe you are being hounded by guilt. Questions like, "How could God ever forgive me?" plague your thoughts. If so ... I encourage you to take the four minutes to watch the video below of Casting Crown's song, East to West.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Final A La Carte of the Year

Here is my final a la carte posting of the year. Enjoy!

1. What do you do if you wake up feeling on the "fragile" side?  John Piper has some great insights! A good read!

2. Take a moment to reflect on Ray Ortland's favorite quote of 2011. It may just be mine as well!

3. Here is the most viral (shared) CCEF Facebook video of the year.  

4. Kevin DeYoung talks about the place (and vital need) for sowing in the evangelism process. 

5. On a lighter note ... 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Our Not-So-Much-Anymore Prelit Christmas Tree

This year, when my wife and I decided to decorate the house for the Christmas holiday, we decided to "down-size" our effort. So that meant we left undisturbed in their attic resting place some of the decorations from last year's Christmas display. But we still put up our tree. We have an artificial tree. Have gone the artificial route for as long as I can remember. Why artificial? For starters, you can use it year after year. And since we never pay full price for our tree ... it pays for itself in just a few Christmases. In addition, you never have to worry about watering it ... nor do you have to worry about any allergies kicking in (and they have been known to do so in the past). And so artificial Christmas tree it has been!

A number of years ago or so, having grown weary of stringing the tree with lights ... we went out and bought a pre-lit tree (on sale, of course). I have so enjoyed putting it up year after year, especially knowing I would not have to go through the hassle of making sure the lights were all evenly spaced throughout the tree. However, last year ... the lights on a section went out. No problem ... I just threw on an extra string of lights that we had lying around. This year, upon putting the tree up and plugging all the lights in ... I noticed another section had grown dark. On went another string of lights. Then ... just the other day ... I noticed yet another section was out. SO ... on went another string. (Do you see where this is going?)  Bottom line ... our pre-lit tree is fast becoming a non pre-lit tree!  Yahoo ... back to where we started from!

I guess I could be disgusted by all this ... but I am not. After all, lights won't burn forever. Or will they? Thankfully, I can think of one light that will burn forever. The light of Jesus Christ in His gospel! That is a light that no force, seen or unseen will ever be able to "outen" (as they say in Pennsylvania Dutch). And to think, God gives us the opportunity to shine this inextinguishable light into this dark world in which we work and play. Why ... don't we do it more?

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Merry Christmas Plus One!

One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a collection of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas sermons. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and then executed by the Nazis for his complicity in a plot to assassinate Hitler. He was hanged just one month before the fall of Berlin and the end of the war. But though he died an early death (he was 39 years old) - his writings have lived on for some 80+ years.

Early on Christmas morning, I opened this book thinking to myself, "What better day to read one of Bonhoeffer's Christmas sermons than Christmas Day?"  It did not take long before I was blessed by this German pastor and theologian. Here are his words ... and I trust you will be blessed by them as well.

"We have selected from the Christmas story only the pleasant bits, forgetting the awesome nature of an event in which the God of the universe, its Creator and Sustainer, draws near to this little planet, and now speaks to us." 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Christmas in a Nutshell

Here's a great video that does a really nice job (and in a very creative way) in getting to the heart of the true meaning of Christmas. Enjoy!

 Hoping you and yours have a very blessed Christmas!!!

 Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Wow Video!

Here is a video in which a 19 year old girl receives the surprising news that she is going to be adopted into a loving "forever" family. Her reaction is priceless. But it got me thinking about how God has adopted us into HIS "forever" family!  How blessed we are to be part of God's family!  Enjoy (and be sure to have a tissue or two handy ... my eyes perspired quite a bit!)

And for some background ... click here.

 Thanks for stopping by . . . pj


Thursday A La Carte

It's Thursday ... at that means some stuff from here and there. Enjoy!

1. For those of you who are Tolkien fans, the first trailer for the new film, The Hobbit is now out. The film is scheduled for a December, 2012 release.

2. Is the celebration of Christmas a Pagan Ritual? R.C. Sproul provides an insightful answer. 

3. Here's an superb video about the Real Christmas! Worth the 9 minutes to watch!

4. Ed Welch of CCEF writes about "I can help you . . . in six words." A helpful read!

5.  Finally on a lighter note . . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Let's Talk!

The rise in digital technology is changing the way we live. Probably the most noticeable change has come in the way we communicate with one another  (just take a look at the demise of the U.S. Postal Service as an example).. Increasingly, face-to-face contact is being replaced by social networking sites (eg: Face Book, Twitter and others), email and texting. Some have shared real concerns about this change ... that as communication becomes more digital ... it becomes less personal. Others brush this off as no big deal. So .... should we be concerned about this trend? Or is it really "no big deal?"

I must cast my vote for the "we need to be concerned about this" view. Now I have a number of reasons for this which I would love to share, but since my time today is limited, here are two of the more important. For starters, consider the nature of communication itself. Research tells us that when we communicate with others, the words we share are only approximately 10% of the process. The rest of communication occurs via our voice (tone, pitch, words we stress, etc.), our facial expression and our general body language. All of this is missing from our digital communication (OK, I realize that if you want to send an angry email to someone you can use 24 point, bold, red, all caps font or to express some other emotion just use an emoticon  :)  - so there are ways to creatively work some of this into our digital communication. But really, who takes the time to do so?). For this reason, digital communication has a lot to be desired.

Here's a second reason why we should be concerned about the rise of digital communication (and the subsequent decrease in face-to-face communication). A recent study by the University of British Columbia revealed that people are more likely to lie when texting vs. when the use more personal forms of communication (audio, video conferencing, or face-to-face).  According to one of the researchers, "Less self-awareness, greater anonymity . . . more distance between people -- it leads to less moral behaviour." Makes a lot of sense to me. Reminds me of something Admiral Lord Nelson had to say about the men of the British navy, "Every sailor is a bachelor when beyond Gibraltar." Say what? For those of us who are somewhat geographically challenged, we might not understand what he was getting at. But here's what he meant ...  In his day, when a man's ship got beyond Gibraltar (i.e. - beyond the bounds of the British Empire), he became anonymous. He was known to no others (but his shipmates) and what he did would never become known back home (because what happened on a ship's tour, remained on the ship's tour!). He was free to pursue his own selfish desires. And so with digital communication forms. It is by its very nature more anonymous and less personal. So it is much easier to deceive the other party. 

So ... what is my point in all of this? Do I think you should throw out your smart phone or shut down your computer? Hardly. But I think all of us need to take stock in how we communicate. Make sure that with those important relationships in your life - that you give them some quality "Face Time" (I am NOT referring to Apple's Face Time here!). And when you are communicating digitally, be sure to be upfront and honest. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

For unto You Is Born this Day a Savior!

As we count the days down until Christmas Day, take a moment to reflect upon these powerful words from Max Lucado in his book, In the Grip of Grace:

"Ponder the achievement of God. He doesn't condone our sin, nor does hie compromise his standard. He doesn't ignore our rebellion., nor does he relax his demands. Rather than dismiss our sin, he assumes our sin and, incredibly, sentences himself. God's holiness is honored. Our sin is punished . . . and we are redeemed. God does what we cannot do so we can be what we dare not dream: perfect before God." 

What a gift we have been given!  Jesus gave his all ... and faced the wrath of God for OUR sin so that we would not have to!  Praise Him!  

"He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:5-7).

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Lancaster's Central Market Got Mobbed!

Yesterday, Central Market in downtown Lancaster was the target of a flash mob. Unlike some in which windows get smashed and tires slashed ... this one pointed shoppers to the real meaning of Christmas. It all happened about 9:30 yesterday morning. Approximately 125 people appeared from out of the crowd and began singing the "Hallelujah Chorus." Many were wearing Santa hats or reindeer antlers. All could sing. And sing they did! For four minutes or so they serenaded the shoppers, many of whom were thrilled to be experiencing their first flash mob experience (here is a YouTube video of such a flash mob in action).

I am so glad that there still remain some who want to keep Christ in CHRISTmas!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Some More Advent Quotes . . .

I thought I would include a few more advent quotes for you today ... given that Christmas Day is now just 9 days away. Take a few moments and let these words saturate and stimulate your mind, heart and soul! 

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9) 

"Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared. Christmas is more than one remarkable event. It was . . . the beginning." (Max Lucado)

"The Child in the Bethlehem manger was more than a sweet and innocent infant born in extraordinary circumstances - He was first and foremost the almighty God of the universe who humbly came to earth in human flesh to seek and to save the lost." (John MacArthur)

"Adding to Himself all that is essential to humanity, the Son of God walked the earth as the God-man Jesus Christ in order to meet our deepest need - nothing less than perfect atonement for our sin, that we might be reconciled to our most holy Creator (Romans 3:21-26). In doing so, He provided the clearest revelation of who God is as One whose very disposition is to go to the ultimate lengths to benefit His people." (R. C. Sproul) 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Thursday A La Carte

1. There are always new books coming out which describe a person's near death experience. As Christians it is sometimes hard to know what to make of them. Here is a brief video (2:30) from Stand to Reason's web site with a "take" on these so-called visits to the afterlife.

2. Some people really get upset when they see the word "Christmas" written as "Xmas." But is this really something we need to stress over? R.C. Sproul has some interesting comments on this in a brief article, "Does writing 'Xmas' take Christ out of Christmas?"

 3. Here is an example of what TRUE LOVE is really all about!  A great video (1:50)!

4. How is COMMUNITY supposed to work in a church? After all, our default setting (of our fallen humanity) is self-centeredness. So how do we get beyond that so that we can experience intimate community? Ray Ortland offers up an answer.    (The answer is really from God ... Ray just points it out for us!)

5. Finally ... on a lighter note ... enjoy (especially those of you who enjoy eating a gold old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwhich)!

Santa's Place at Christmas

Leatrice Ann Eng, is a 58 year old teacher at George W. Miller Elementary School in Nanuet, NY. During a recent class discussion about the North Pole, one of her second graders pointed out that the North Pole was where Santa Clause lives. Teacher Eng quickly replied that not only does Santa NOT live at the North Pole ... but he is NOT real and it was parents who placed Christmas gifts under the tree! Ouch! In the days following her remarks, Eng was overwhelmed with calls and emails from angry parents. To make amends, Eng called each of her student's parents to apologize for her statements. I guess she'll go down in the history of that town as "The Eng who stole Christmas!"  

All of this brings to mind the matter of Santa's place in Christmas tradition. Christians differ markedly concerning the "Santa issue."  Some exclude him entirely. In their view, Santa has usurped the place of Jesus and has become an idol of the Holiday Season. Other Christians go right along with the flow and tell their children that Santa is real ... and go on to do the full blown "Santa Thing."  However, I believe there is a better approach than either of these. 

The Santa tradition is actually based on figure from history, St. Nicholas of Myra. Here is an excerpt of an article from 

"Although Santa Claus is a mythical figure, his creation is based in part on a great Christian man named Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived in the 4th century. Nicholas was born to Christian parents who left him an inheritance when they died, which he distributed to the poor. He became a priest at a young age and was well-known for his compassion and generosity. He had a reputation for giving gifts anonymously, and he would throw bags of money into people's homes (and sometimes down their chimneys) under the cover of night to avoid being spotted.

Nicholas passed away on December 6 sometime around the 340s or 350s AD, and the day of his death became an annual feast in which children would put out food for Nicholas and straw for his donkey. It was said that the saint would come down from heaven during the night and replace the offerings with toys and treats—but only for the good boys and girls. There are many different versions of the legend of Saint Nicholas, but all are the inspiration for the jolly, red-suited gift-giver that we now know as Santa Claus."

When our kids were little, we chose to include Santa in our Christmas tradition. But we did so by telling them the story of the real Nicholas of Myra. We emphasized his compassion and generosity as examples to imitate in our own lives. And of course, we told them that the fact that Santa Clause was not real would be "our secret." We didn't want them to be the one's to "spill the beans" for their little friends who believed in Santa's existence. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

3 Advent Quotes to Chew On!

Below are quotes from three giants of The Faith. Christmas is certainly a time to say "Wow!" 
"He became what we are that he might make us what he is."  Athanasius (4th century Bishop of Alexandria) 
"God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man."   C.S. Lewis (20th century writer and apologist)
"The mystery of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding." Martin Luther ("Father" of the Protestant Reformation) 
Thanks for stopping by . . . pj

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings ... enjoy!

1. Ray Ortland shares Elizabeth Elliot's six ways she has found help in the midst of loss and suffering. 

2. With all the hubbub over Herman Cain and the accusations of sexual harassment and infidelity that have been lodged against him ... we are forced to consider the question, what role does a candidate's private life play when it comes to whom we elect for public office? Al Mohler gives some insight!

3. Regrets. We all have them. But how do we live with them. Ed Welch of CCEF writes on this topic. 

4. Here is a pretty cool video (4:57) of a flash mob singing a song for the season! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

An Advent Thought

John 1:1, 14  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." 

I get "blown away" every time I try to wrap my mind around the reality John expresses in these words above. The Eternal Word, God Himself, became flesh! God took on human DNA. His little body grew and developed just like any other baby's inside his mother's womb. Consider the following journey of the Christ-Child as he developed within Mary's womb (descriptions gleaned from

At five weeks, his heart begins to beat. His lungs, brain and other vital organs begin to appear. At seven weeks, his eyes, nose, fingers, and teeth (below the gum line) start to form. By week 10, his fingerprints already are evident. At 12 weeks, his vocal cords begin to take shape, and his liver and pancreas begin to function. By week 14 he may have learned to suck his thumb! By week 16 his heart is pumping as much as 6 gallons of blood per day and he has learned how to breathe! At week 19 his scalp hair is beginning to grow. At 23 weeks, he is able to hear sounds. He begins to open his eyes and blink at 26 weeks. At 30 weeks, his toenails are almost fully formed and he is capable of shedding tears. He begins to dream (about what, I would not know!) at week 32. By week 34 his eyes are open when awake and closed when asleep. At 36 weeks, the only organs that still must mature are his lungs. His skin is growing increasingly "baby soft." By week 39, he may have a full head of hair. And by 40 weeks, he should have made his grand entrance into our world!

Wow! To think God the Son left the glories of heaven to go through all of this! And why did He choose to do so?  In his own words:

Luke 19:10  "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

Take a moment and thank God for the Son's willingness to take on human flesh so that we might take on his righteousness!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Do Babies Who Die Go to Heaven?

This is a question that many a parent has asked when they have lost a little one .... whether it be before birth ... or after. And it is no doubt a question that needs answered - and not with some sentimental response that has no foundation in Scripture. But the light of God's Word needs to be shone on this troubling question.

So ... is there any biblical rationale for believing what we would all like to believe - that YES, infants who die go to heaven? You might be surprised to find out that there is. Below I have listed some links to articles ... and one book that will help you find understanding on this issue. I encourage you to take the time to check these out. And if you know of a friend or family member who has recently lost a little one, you just might want to point them in the direction of these helps.

- John Piper, What happens to infants who die? 

- Al Mohler and Dan Atkin, Why we believe children who die go to heaven.

- From, Infants and salvation.

- John MacArthur's book, Safe in the Arms of God: Truth from Heaven about the Death of a Child.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Just What I Want to Eat!

The headline in this morning's paper caught my eye. It read, "Horses could soon be slaughtered for meat." My first thought was the meat would be for pets (dog food, cat food, etc.). But as I read the article it was clear that the article was referring to meat destined for my dinner plate! Hmm. "Pass me another 'horseburger' please."  Now that's just what I want to eat! (NOT!) But, according to this article, horse meat could soon become available for human consumption. This as a result of the recent lifting by Congress of a five year ban on the funding of horse meat inspections.

Now whether this happens or not, I guess we will have to wait and see. I am sure the horse lovers of America will do all they can to keep it from happening. Who knows, maybe a group of horses will join the cows on television ads encouraging viewers to "Eat More Chicken!"

When it comes to eating, it is important to eat healthy. I am not sure how healthy or unhealthy eating horse meat might be (I am guessing that all depends on who you talk to) - but eating a portion of "roast horse" sure does not sound appetizing!

In the spiritual arena ... we MUST eat healthy! We must feed our souls what our souls need to grow. And that is a regular, solid portion of God's Word (Psalm 1:1-2)! How much interaction do you have with the Bible? If you want some help in this area to ramp up the time you spend with God in HIS Word ... let me suggest you check out what Matthias Media has to say about Regular Bible Reading.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Here are my a la carte offerings for this week. Enjoy!

1. Does the Devil have a "playbook" that he follows in his attempt to derail us in our walk with God? Here's a thoughtful article by Ray Ortlund that answers that question. It's a good read!

2. Here is a video (1:42) which shows how the most fascinating window ever made by man was installed. The location of this window might surprise you!

3. Leading family devos .... who is doing it at your house? Who should be doing it?  Here is an brief blog posting on this topic.

4. Scotty Smith on the Gospel Coalition offers a prayer for grace to forgive as Jesus has forgiven us.

5. R.C. Sproul talks about the need for the Christian to be EVER READY! 

6. Finally ... on a lighter note! You go DOG!

Seasons Come and Seasons Go!

Last week I ran my lawn mower for the final time in 2011. Now I can put it away and get my snow blower ready for use. None of this surprises me. A quick glance at the calendar hanging on the wall behind my desk reminds me that today is the final day of November. Tomorrow (December 1st) brings with it the first day of meteorological winter (December, January, and February are the three coldest months of the year and are therefore labeled "winter" by the professionals who track our climate and forecast our weather.). Ouch! Did I just write "winter?"  Yep! Hard to believe but winter is literally at our front door! But it just seems like it was summer yesterday! Yep! But seasons come .... and seasons go. Before we can brew our next cup of coffee, the warm breezes of spring will be telling us that it's time to retrieve the lawn mower from storage!

In Daniel 2:20-21 we are told that God changes times and seasons. In fact, the changing of the seasons demonstrates the faithfulness of our God. Now I know that some would argue that the changing seasons are all due to the rotation of the earth ... but who is it that designed the earth in the first place (see Genesis 1:1)? And who is it that holds the universe together and keeps it running (see Hebrews 1:3)?  

So as the seasons change ... take a moment and thank God for his faithfulness. Indeed "morning by morning new mercies we see ... GREAT is THY faithfulness!"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Black Friday ... Cyber Monday ... Where are we Heading?

The top news stories the past few days have been all about what are arguably the two most important days of the year to our country's retailers: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Given the preliminary data, retailers must be feeling pretty good. According to the National Retail Foundation, a record 226 million shoppers were out and about. And these shoppers spent an estimated $400 each on their purchases. Wow! That's a lot of people spending a lot of money!

As for Cyber Monday, there are no figures out  yet to say just how many were shopping online yesterday .. but sales did top one billion dollars for the first time!  Again ... a lot of people buying a lot of stuff (I saw an interesting segment on NBC evening news last evening in which the NBC reporter shadowed an "aisle runner" in a million sq. foot Amazon warehouse in Phoenix. This guy's job was to fill orders ... so he had to know where to go to get the items for the order. On a busy day, this guy can walk up to 15 miles!).

I am so glad that I can say that the only store I stepped into over the weekend was a grocery store. For one, I don't like huge crowds. In addition, I would just as soon not get caught up in the consumerism that drives these events. If others want to do so ... that's OK with me. Just don't ask me to go along (in fact, I think I have only been shopping on a Black Friday once in the recent past). I also did not order anything online yesterday. If you did (and got a deal) - hurray for you!  But as for me and my house ... we were busy with other things!

In light of all of this hubbub (of a number of people buying stuff they do not need to impress people they do not like with money they do not have) - I want to offer up a word of caution (keep in mind, please, that I am NOT against buying and exchanging Christmas gifts ... and many who did go out did so to catch some bargains to help their own budgets to go a longer way - certainly not a bad thing at all.). Please do not lose sight of the real reason for Christmas. It is Christ's birth that we celebrate. So let's do all we can to keep HIM central. Don't get caught up with the consumerism that so marks our culture. And as you shop ... please remember the poor among us - whether they be near or far. Giving a gift to Water Street Ministries here in Lancaster or Children's Fellowship of India would certainly be Christmas gifts that would please our God!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ellen Vaughn, in her book, Radical Gratitude: Discovering Joy through Everyday Thankfulness, writes, "Being thankful is not rocket science. Though the topic of gratitude goes as deep as the grace of God, it does not require tough biblical exegesis or advanced degrees to practice it. It just requires obedience."

Well said, Ellen. So my friends, let's practice obedience and be thankful today (and EVERYDAY! - see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). I want to go on record for thanking God for all of you who from time to time visit my blog. My whole purpose in writing these postings is to encourage you in your faith journey. If I can help one person deepen his/her love for God with something I write, I am glad (and grateful to God that He has used my imperfect and feeble efforts).

I trust you all will enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday weekend!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

What Can I Thank God for Today?

Scottish pastor Alexander Whyte was much loved by his parishioners. Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers which greatly encouraged his flock. One very gloomy and stormy Sunday, his church members whispered among themselves, "What can the preacher possibly find to thank God for about this wretched and miserable day?" When Whyte began his prayer that morning he surprised those present  by beginning his prayer with these words, "We thank Thee, Lord, that the weather is not always like this."

There is a valuable lesson in this story. No matter how dark the day ... no matter how difficult the situation ... no matter how deep the discouragement we find ourselves in ---- there is still something that we can find for which to thank our God. Think with me. It doesn't matter if today's events are "good" or "bad," IF you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you NEVER EVER have to go it alone!  God himself has promised us that he will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). And if we have the God of the universe as our constant companion - what else could we ever want that tops that?

Take a moment this Thanksgiving season and thank God for the relationship you have with him through His Son Jesus Christ!  (and if you do not have this relationship or are not sure, please click here.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

When It Comes to Gratitude, Silence Is Not Golden!

Given that this week is Thanksgiving week, I thought I would focus my postings on the topic of giving thanks. With that in mind ... consider the following quote: 

Author G. B. Stern once said,Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”  

It is not difficult to understand what this writer is stating here. Just this morning, a friend pointed out to me how few people say "Thanks!" to him when he holds a door open for them (and even if those people are thankful ... their silence sure does not communicate that!).  Indeed, silent gratitude is NOT much use to anyone! 

One "walk thru" the Old Testament book of Psalms certainly bears this out. Over and over again, we are urged to give thanks to God (see Psalm 30:4; 33:2; 97:12; 100:4; 106:1; 118:1). Why? When we verbalize our gratitude to God, we let him know that we appreciate the gifts that he gives to us ... gifts that we are NOT entitled to ... gifts that we have NOT earned ... gifts that we in NO WAY merit. Rather - these gifts flow from his grace! And therefore .... when we thank HIM, we acknowledge that EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT that we enjoy is from His merciful hand ... His gracious heart (James 1:17).  

I encourage you to do what I plan to do this week ... to draw up a list of blessings for which I want to thank my God! And I hope I don't run out of ink in the process!  

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

A Lesson from a Cell Phone Stalker!

Recently, Dutch authorities charged a 42 year-old woman with stalking after she allegedly called her 62 year-old ex-boyfriend some 65,000 times - all in the past year. When questioned, she claimed the calls were not excessive and he denied any such relationship (a classic, He-said - She said!).

As I thought of the huge number of calls this woman allegedly placed to this man (and even if he did have a relationship with her, I could see why he might want to end it!), I did some quick math. Assuming the calls were made over a 12-month period ... she would have placed a call to him once every five minutes of every single day (assuming 8 hours of sleep each day when no calls would have been made). That's a lot of phone calls!!!  Then I got to thinking about how often I "place a call" to my Father in heaven. I must admit, my zeal to connect with my Abba in heaven can't compare with this woman's zeal to communicate with the man she "loved."

I think there is a lesson here for us all. Give it some thought!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Here are my Thursday offerings for your consideration ... enjoy!

1. Parenting surely has its shares of "ups" and "downs." And often ... we fail to "get it right" no matter how hard we try. Here is a great little article about one father's failure and what he learned from it.

2. Here is a brief video (2:16) that I found quite moving, The People of the Second Chance: Emmanuel's Story. 

3. Fanny Crosby wrote over 8,000 hymns, many of which are still sung today. Here is a great video (3:34) that talks about the life of this blind woman who had great spiritual insight!

4. When and why is anger essential? Paul Tripp gives his answer to this question ... a good read!

5. Here is a brief video of a prayer offered up to God by assistant Nebraska coach Ron Brown before last Saturday's Penn State - Nebraska football game. A prayer in which JESUS is mentioned!

6. On a lighter note . . . from the Cosby Show (1:14).

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Letters from One Devil to Another

C.S. Lewis is widely recognized as one of the leading Christian writers of the last century. Among his many popular works is one titled, The Screwtape Letters. This collection of 31 letters are written by the character Screwtape, an older devil in Satan's civil service. Screwtape writes these letters to his nephew, a young devil named Wormwood, who is just entering into hell's work. In these letters, the veteran Screwtape is giving advice to the novice Wormwood, who has just been assigned his first "patient."  It is a fascinating look at temptation from the perspective of the tempter.

One of the many insightful passages in the book concerns C.S. Lewis's observation of how Christians view the demonic world:

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel and excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight." 

Actually, our view of demons and spiritual warfare should be somewhere between these two extremes. Is spiritual warfare a reality? Absolutely! Therefore, we must prepare for it (see Ephesians 6:10-18 and 1 Peter 5:8-9). But should we be blaming every temptation we face upon some unseen demonic tempter (a.k.a. "the demon of fear," "the demon of lust," or "the demon of anger)? Of course not! Not only do we struggle against the temptation of the Evil One (and his hordes), but we also struggle against our sinful flesh and the evil world system in which we live. So ... get ready to do battle, for the spiritual battle will come. But don't obsess about it! Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus as you run the race set before you (Hebrews 12:1-2)!

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So What Is Fearing God All About?

Over and over again, the Scripture talks about fearing God (Genesis 22:12; Job 1:8; Proverbs 1:7; 1 Peter 2:17). But what does it mean to fear God? I am afraid most Christians today would be hard pressed to give  any answer that comes close to the biblical meaning of fearing God. In his book, More Precious than Gold: 50 Daily Meditations on the Psalms, author Sam Storms offers the best definition for fearing God that I have ever run across.  Take a moment to read what he has to say ... and then come back and read it again.

"To fear God means to live conscious of his all-pervasive presence, conscious of our absolute, moment-by-moment dependence on him for light and life, conscious of our comprehensive responsibility to do all he has commanded, fearful of offending him, determined to obey him (Deuteronomy 6:1–2, 24; 8:6; Psalm 112:1; 119:63; Malachi 3:5), and committed to loving him (Deuteronomy 10:12, 20; 13:4)."

So .... do YOU truly fear God?

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A Lesson We Must Learn

The child sex scandal that has rocked Penn state University has evoked a moral outcry from sports fans and non sports fans alike. And rightly so. The alleged acts of abuse and the subsequent coverup by university officials is shameful. My heart goes out to the victims who have suffered and their families. I, too, wish Joe Paterno had done more!

 There is one "takeaway" from this mess (among several that I could offer you) that I would like you to think about, and that is this: sin always complicates life (for it is very destructive in nature). In addition, covering up sin leads to even more grief (for a biblical illustration of this, consider King David's experience of sin and coverup as detailed in 2 Samuel 11:1-27 and Psalm 32:3-5).

So the next time you sin - don't seek to coverup - rather OWN UP! Turn from your sin and confess it to God (1 John 1:9). And if you must take other actions (restitution, confrontation, etc.), ask God for the courage to do whatever you should do ... no matter the consequences. It's the right thing ... and e God-honoring thing to do!

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Thursday A La Carte

Thursday means .... a bunch of stuff to get you thinking ... or smiling ... or ....

1. Angry Birds is a wildly successful e-game ... how successful? Would you believe people around the WORLD collectively spend 300 million minutes EACH DAY playing this game? What does this say about the world in which we live?  Check it out here. 

2. Can you thrive in a marriage that isn't?  Counselor Julie Lowe gives solid insight as she answers this question. 

3. As Thanksgiving approaches, you may want to check out this book for children on the native American Squanto. It is written by the same author who has written the recent bestsellers on William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Check out info here!   You can also go right to the link for the book right here. 

4. On a lighter side ... a brief video that got me laughing about household finances! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Indiana Wants Me

Indiana Wants Me is the title of a song written and originally recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter R. Dean Taylor. The song came out in 1970 and became a top ten singles hit in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The song is written about a man who is wanted for murder in the state of Indiana. So as much as he wants to return to family and friends in Indiana ... because he is wanted by the law there ... he knows he cannot return. 

Every time I must head to Indiana for Grace College and Seminary Board meetings, I think of this song. Indiana wants me (at least Grace College and Seminary do!) ... but unlike the man in the song ... I must go. So I will be heading to Winona Lake, Indiana today (I have chosen to drive the 600 miles) and returning Saturday evening. Please be in prayer for the 20 or so board members and the senior administration as we meet to discuss some exciting initiatives that are on the table for the schools. In these challenging economic times, equipping young people with the tools needed to live for God's glory in this ever increasing secular society is a real challenge. Ask God to grant us the wisdom and the faith we need to make the decisions that will further God's work among, in and through the students of Grace College and Seminary. 

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Simplify Your Spiritual Life!

"Does your spiritual life sometimes seem more like a burden than a blessing? Does your spirituality seem to exhaust you as often as ti refreshes you? Have your spiritual practices become 'just another thing to do' in an already overcrowded, stress-filled schedule? If so, then you need to simplify your spiritual life."

This words are among the opening words of Don Whitney's book, Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed.  It is a book that I have read more than once! I highly recommend it to you. In reading what Whitney has to say and applying some of his insights to your daily life, you may just find that rest that Jesus promises in Matthew 11:28-30!

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A Prayer for Today - the Lord's Day

One of my favorite devotional books is a collection of Puritan prayers. The book is titled, The Valley of Vision. Here is a portion of one of these prayers that deals with the Lord's Day (Sunday).

O Lord, my Lord, 

Give me in rich abundance the blessings the Lord’s Day was designed to impart;
May my heart be fast bound against worldly thoughts or cares;
Flood my mind with peace beyond understanding;
may my meditations be sweet,
my acts of worship life, liberty, joy,
my drink the streams that flow from thy throne,
my food the precious Word,
my defense the shield of faith,
and may my heart be more knit to Jesus.

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An Amtrak Lockout!

This past Wednesday morning a number of commuters arrived at the Lancaster train station shortly after 5:00, only to find the doors to the station locked. As the crowd of would-be train travelers grew, so did the frustration at the inability to get into the station. Eventually, the crowd was ushered into a side entrance by some construction workers. The commuters' relief at finally being able to get in was quickly replaced by anger when they realized that the door at the top of the steps that led to the train platform was pad locked with a metal bar. Not wanting to miss the incoming train for Philadelphia, the crowd pushed on the door until the bar snapped. They all made the train ... but were not happy about the experience. When contacted about the fiasco, an Amtrak spokesperson blamed it all on "a scheduling error."

All this brought to mind the story Jesus tells in Matthew 25 about the ten bridesmaids. Five were wise and five were foolish. They all took their lamps and were waiting for the late night arrival of the bridegroom. The five wise bridesmaids each took a flask containing extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed and did not arrive until midnight, the five foolish bridesmaids found that their lamps were going out. They asked to borrow some extra oil from the five wise women but were turned away. The wise bridemaids did not have enough to fuel their own lamps and loan some to the others. So while the five foolish bridesmaids went off to purchase the needed oil, the bridegroom arrived and took the five wise bridesmaids with him to the marriage feast. When the other five returned, they found the door locked. When they knocked and asked for admittance, they were refused (see Matthew 25:1-13).

I hope and pray that all of you who read this ... will not be refused entrance when the King of kings returns to establish his eternal Kingdom. If you are wondering how one makes sure he is ready ... please read this. Your eternal destination is on the line!

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Thursday A La Carte

Here are my a la carte offerings for today. Enjoy!

1. Here is a fascinating story from CNN about an autistic basketball manager. Be sure to grab a tissue before watching this one!

2. I found this trailer of Blair Linne performing The Perfection of Beauty, from Shai Linne's fourth album, The Attributes of God quite fascinating! For more information, check out Rapping the Attributes of God on the Gospel Coalition site. 

3. John MacArthur offers up some real food for thought as he shares two clear concerns he has about the Young, Restless and Reformed Movement. 

4. Robert Rayburn of Ligonier Ministries writes about the fact that There is Nothing Like the Church! 

5. All of us have memories of being told by Mom and Dad to eat what was on our plates .... even if that meant eating Brussels sprouts (which I hated ---- and still do!). Here's a cute Cosby clip that made me laugh. I hope it makes you laugh, too! 

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Looking for Solid Role Models!

The other day when my son was walking down the sidewalk, hand-in-hand with his two year old daughter, she looked up at him and said, "Daddy, you're my hero!"  Talk about a touching moment!

But that got me thinking. Our kids need role models. And those role models should begin at home. Moms and dads should be role models for their children. So, moms and dads, what kind of role model are you for your children? Can you honestly say that from the deepest places in your heart that you hope your children grow up to be like you?  

Moving beyond the home ... where can we find decent role models?  The most visible class of people in our culture are those with celebrity status (think professional athletes, actors and actresses, musicians, etc.). Although there are some exceptions, the majority of these individuals are not what I would call "solid role models!"  So ... where can we find some solid role models for our kids (and for us adults, too)? How about in the pages of the Bible? 

Consider Joseph. As a young man he found himself experiencing the bitter taste of slavery in a foreign land. This came about as a result of betrayal at the hands of his own brothers! Certainly we would understand if he had chosen to wallow in self-pity as a victim of his circumstances. But no, he rose above all that. He had the moral courage to say "NO!" to the seduction of his master's wife ... not wanting to dishonor either his earthly master or his God (Genesis 39:7-9). He also refused to allow bitterness to take root in his heart. Rather he chose the path of forgiveness when reunited with the brothers who betrayed him (Genesis 50:15-21). Certainly Joseph qualifies as a wonderful role model for us. 

How about David? Here was an individual (who showed how imperfect he was in the account of his sin with Bathsheba as related in 2 Samuel 11) who as a young man showed great courage in his showdown with the Philistine giant, Goliath. When none of the veteran soldiers of King Saul's army was willing to go and face the giant in "winner-takes-all" contest, David went! And he did so because this pagan was dishonoring the name of the God he loved and served (1 Samuel 17:45-47). David fought (in a fight that few gave him ANY hope of winning) because he wanted all to know that God is God and no one else! 

I could go on and list many others (Ruth, Daniel, Esther, Peter, Dorcas and Paul are just a few who come to mind) who, though not perfect, yet made a mark for God. I would encourage you to consider these people and how they lived. Choosing to imitate them will help you become the man or the woman that God is calling you to be!  

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The Big Problem with Covetousness!

At the beginning of this year, one of the commitments I made to further my knowledge of God's Word was to read through the four volume commentary on the book of Romans written by former Philadelphia pastor, James Montgomery Boice. It has been a refreshing experience! This morning I read chapter 205 (of a total of 239). This sermon (as his commentary is pretty much the transcripts of the messages he preached --- and he preached for four years from the book of Romans!) covers Romans 13:8-10 . Boice titled this message, The Debt of Love. In the course of his comments, he discusses the last of the Ten Commandments which forbids coveting. Here is what he has to say (and its quite insightful and convicting!):

"The biggest problem with covetousness is not the trouble it gets us into (such as huge amounts of financial debt) ... It is rather that it makes us insensitive to the needs of other people. For instead of helping us to see who they are and what their needs are, covetousness makes us jealous of others with the result that we see only what they have - and want it.  If we loved other people, we would want good things for them rather than letting their good things make us want more for ourselves." 

Well said, Dr. Boice. Let's determine to think and pray on this ... and truly love others as God desires us to love!

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Think on This!

I am sure most Christians would agree that as followers of Jesus our lives should be different from the lives of unbelievers who surround us. Yet, far too frequently, we Christians tend to blend right in with our ungodly world. I believe this occurs because so many believers do not take the gospel seriously! God calls us as Christians to be a community of those who "love God, even to the contempt of self" as opposed to those who "love self, even to the contempt of God" (the words quoted are the words of the early church theologian, St. Augustine in his work, The City of God).

So ... my friends, are we learning to love God ... even to the contempt of self?  That is what God is calling us to do!

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The Heroes Among Us!

When the tornado hit Joplin, MO on the evening of this past May 22nd, Mark Lindquist and his co-worker, Ryan Tackett did what they had been trained to do. The two worked for a social agency in a group home, caring for three middle-aged men with Down Syndrome. Since the home had no basement and since the men moved too slowly to be relocated, they pulled out three mattresses, placing the men underneath them. Ryan and Mark then climbed on top to weigh the mattresses down. When the EF-5 tornado's 200 mph winds blew through, the house was destroyed. The three Down Syndrome men were killed. Tackett and Lindquist survived, Lindquist barely so. His injuries were so severe that his body swelled to the point he was unrecognizable. He was in a coma for several days and was only identified by the tiny green flecks in his eyes. He is still recovering from his injuries.

Now if you know anything about social workers you know that they give a lot and get paid a little. Lindquist did not have medical insurance because he could not afford it. But he figured that since his injuries occurred while on the job, workman's comp would cover his bills. He figured wrong. The insurer denied his claim, "based on the fact that there was no greater risk than the general public at the time you were involved in the Joplin tornado." Considering that his medical bills have topped 2.5 million dollars AND he has more surgery planned, to say Lindquist was disappointed would be quite an understatement. The insurer's decision angered Lindquist's friends, employer and even Missouri state legislators. Yet in spite of this growing mountain of debt and the controversy swirling around him, Lindquist is still very grateful. "I'm a walking miracle!"

I first read of Lindquist, his heroism and his dilemma, in Monday's paper. On Tuesday I read that on Monday (perhaps even as I was reading the story), the insurer did a 180! They have now agreed to pay Lindquist's expenses. My guess is the insurer came under great pressure as a result of the AP story which I read which had been published nationwide and even in some international markets. But whatever the reason, Lindquist is one who is getting his due!

As I reflect back on my life, I could list a number of "heroes" that I have encountered. Men and women who have generously given of themselves to the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many have gone unthanked and unappreciated. But I know ... even if they never receive their due here ... one day they will! (Matthew 19:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). And the reward received by these "unsung" heroes will last forever! Praise God!

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Thursday A La Carte

Thursday means ... a bunch of stuff that you might (I hope) find helpful for your faith journey!

1. Have you ever found waiting upon God (Isaiah 40:31) difficult? Paul Tripp offers five reasons why God calls us to wait. 

2. Tim Tebow is a  name that even non-football fans probably recognize. Tebow became a national celebrity when he became the first sophomore to ever win college football's most prestigious individual award, the Heisman Trophy. After winning a number of other awards, he was drafted by the NFL's Denver Broncos and has just won the starting quarterback job. But not everyone is a Tim Tebow fan. You see, Tim is an outspoken Christian ... and for that fact alone many are hoping he fails. Really? Check out Denny Burke's post, Why is Tebow Hated So Much? 

3. Here's a touching story of long-lasting marital love and commitment (72 years long!). You probably heard this account of an Iowa couple who died one hour apart ... holding hands!  Check it out (but grab a few tissues before you do!).

4. Is there a difference between happiness and joy? Certainly! Check out this brief devotional from Ligonier Ministries.

5. On a light note, from the Bill Cosby Show: How Mothers Deliver a Baby!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning means COFFEE! (frankly, every morning means coffee for me)! So why not pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join m...