A Talk with a Friend

Earlier this week, we spent some time with close friends. During the course of our visit, we talked about the books we had recently read (or were in the process of still reading). I mentioned a devotional by Sam Storms (a gifted pastor and author). I shared an insight from Storm's book, More Precious Than Gold: 50 Meditations on Psalms. It's an insight that I am still gnawing on (or better said is still gnawing on me!). Storm writes,

"Every commandment in Scripture, every precept, every principle, every prohibition is lovingly designed to lead us away from what otherwise might spoil our appetite for God."

Wow! What a gift God has given us in His Word!

Have a great rest of the week!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


It's Vacation Time!

I will be enjoying a vacation starting today and running through the July 4th holiday. That means that I will not be posting to my blog as I usually do. As I go, I leave you with a quote of Augustine of Hippo (in North Africa). Augustine was a bishop in the 4th-5th century church. His writings were quite influential in the development of Christian thought and theology. This quote of his is one of my favorites:

"Christ is not valued at all unless he be valued above all."

Ouch! Thanks, Augustine for hitting me right in my spiritual gut!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Some Friday Morning Humor.

This week has been a very busy, tiring but fruitful and satisfying week. Perhaps you have had a stressful week ... if so, here is a bit of humor to bring a smile to your face. Enjoy!

The following was published in a 1917 leaflet by the USDA. 

Now I know why my mom always wanted me to eat my vegetables!  She didn't want a plugged up stupid kid running around the house!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Thursday A La Carte

Enjoy today's a la carte offerings!

1. Pornography is a problem in our society today, and I don't just mean "out there!" Many Christian men (and some women) struggle with the lure of porn. How does one overcome the temptation of porn? Can it be overcome? Brian Croft on his practical shepherding blog offers some great insights on how men and women find true lasting victory over pornography.

2. Does theology really matter? Here is a video (2:10) promoting a book by Josh Harris, Dug Down Deep. Bottom line - theology matters more than we think!

3.When someone is hurting, we often like to try to encourage them with Scripture. Do you know what the number one mistake people make when using the Scripture to give advice? Here is a great video (2:50) from the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation that answers this crucial question.

4. Hmm. Here's a rather unique way to get the message across to us Christians that we should have no excuse for not sharing our faith. The video is called, The Evangelism Linebacker (3:56).

5.On a lighter note ... Brian Regan in a Coke ad .... go Brian!

Thanks for stopping by .  . .

From Rags to Riches!

David Lundberg said he found Max Melitzer pushing a shopping cart this past Saturday in Salt Lake City. What makes this newsworthy (many of us push shopping carts at least weekly if not more often!) is that the shopping cart Max was pushing was full of all his worldly possessions, AND he was nowhere near a store. You can probably guess at this point, Max Melitzer is homeless. Has been for a number of years. And all he was doing on Saturday was doing what he did every day ... just moving his "house" around town.

Thanks to the efforts of Lundberg, Melitzer will be able to say goodbye to his cart. Lunderberg is a private investigator who was hired by a New York City law firm to find Max. Max's brother had died and left a "significant" amount of money to his brother. When asked by news reporters how much money Max would be receiving, Lundberg declined to give an amount. But he did indicate it was more than enough to restore Melitzer to a comfortable lifestyle. How did Max receive the news? According to Lunderberg, "He's in shock."

All of us who follow Jesus Christ are somewhat like Melitzer. We are wandering around this world as strangers on this earth. We are in all reality, "homeless!" (Hebrews 11:13-16)  Yet all of us will one day inherit great wealth -- riches far more satisfying than what our world can offer us now (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Peter 1:3-4). Yet this world has its attractions ... and we pursue it's offerings, in spite of God's warnings against doing so (1 John 2:15-17).  All of us could stand to reflect on the following words of Jim Elliot, a missionary who died for his faith in Christ at the hands of the people he was trying to reach.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

Thanks for stopping by . . .


It's Vacation Bible School Week!!!

Yesterday was our first of five days of Vacation Bible School here at Grace. And what a day it was! 195 kids showed up! We were thrilled (and a bit apprehensive). But all went well and we are looking forward to Day #2 today!

Given the busy week before me (I am playing the role of Justin Time, the bus driver for Main Street. We do a skit at each opening and closing), I may not be able to blog quite so much as usual. But I am going to make an effort to do some.

What excites me most about our VBS is that during the week, we have a great opportunity to introduce these little ones to Jesus Christ. We know that children have a very special place in the heart of Jesus. When parents were bringing their children to Jesus, seeking a blessing from him, the disciples tried to send them away. In their minds, the Master had far more important things to do than to bless a bunch of kids. But when Jesus saw what his disciples were doing, he grew angry with them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15). He then took the children in his arms and blessed them. 

That incident occurred some 200 years ago. And that same Jesus who rose from the dead and ascended to heaven - still desires to take the little children in his arms and bless them. It is up to us to share the gospel with these children so they can experience his blessing. 

When I was 11 years old, I attended a VBS in the city of Harrisburg. This was my first and only VBS experience as a child. But what an experience it was! There, for the first time in my life, I heard the good news of John 3:16. Even though I did not come to faith at that time, it did prove to be an important step toward my conversion at age 16. And so ... I guess you can see why I am a HUGE fan of VBS!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 


A Thought from C.S. Lewis to Begin Your Week

C.S. Lewis had so many good things to say, and he had a way of saying them in such a way that causes us to stop in our tracks and think about what he just said. Here's one of his quotes that really got me thinking. I hope it gets your mind (and heart) in gear as well. I hope you have a great week!

"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world."  (C.S. Lewis)

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Flee Temptation!

Ben and Amber Sessions were a happy young couple. They had just bought their dream house. Too bad they didn't know before they bought it their dream house would become a nightmare. Not long after moving in, they discovered that they were not alone. Hundreds of garter snakes also called the Rexburg, Idaho house their home. That's right, the house was infested with these reptiles, some up to two feet in length. So many that Ben killed 42 in one day. And no matter how many he killed, they just kept right on coming. The Sessions eventually abandoned the house, realizing that they were in a losing battle with the snakes.

Ouch! That story gives me the creeps!  Having lived in a house in a wooded area filled with black snakes, I can somewhat identify with the Sessions. But their experience got me thinking about what we go through in our Christian lives. All of us have temptations slithering around us ... trying to get into our minds and our souls. We must (and we CAN) say "No!" to temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that no matter the temptation, God gives us a way of escape. But follow me closely ... the way of escape that God gives us is in the first seconds that the temptation launches its attack. That is when we must flee (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). If Joseph had lingered when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him, he would  have most likely given in. Instead, he took off, leaving her clutching his outer garment (Genesis 39:11-12).

So, when the snakes of temptation come calling, don't hang around. FLEE IMMEDIATELY!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Thursday A La Carte

Thursday means a la carte!

1. How do you teach your kids about the greatness of God?  Check out these brief thoughts on the subject by Pastor Brian Croft. 

2. Author Byron Yawn on lust and porn in his posting, "Hugh Hefner Will Die Alone." You guys NEED to read this!!!

3. Many people end their prayers with the tag line, "in Jesus' name." But is this more than just a "tag line?" What does it mean to end a prayer with these words? Kevin DeYoung as a great (and brief) answer to this question.

4. Finally, on a lighter note . . .

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Learn to Listen!

Gordon MacDonald, in his thought provoking book, Ordering Your Private World, wrote the following which grabbed my attention when I first read the book many years ago:

"My intellectual organization began when I learned to listen. For someone like me who enjoys talking, listening can be a challenge. But if a person is not a listener, he denies his mind a major source of information by which to grow."  (Ordering Your Private World, pl. 125).

MacDonald goes on to list several steps we can take to become better listeners (which, by the way, is something God wants for us - see James 1:19). Among these are the following: learn to ask questions, listen to mentors, and listen to our critics (the last is definitely the most difficult!).

So let me encourage you to implement this advice. You will be better for it ... as will those whom you are seeking to serve!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


The Unseeen World . . .

All around us there exists an unseen world ... an extra dimension that cannot be observed by even the sharpest and most advanced of our scientific instruments. I am referring, of course, to the supernatural realm. Now because we cannot see, hear, touch, smell, taste this realm . . . it is easy to lose site of its existence. Or even if we acknowledge its existence, we so often lose sight of its relevance for our own living in this natural realm in which we live and move and have our being.

There is a fascinating account in the Old Testament that not only speaks to the reality of this unseen supernatural realm, but also demonstrates how the supernatural world does indeed impact the world in which we live. The King of Syria sent troops to besiege the city of Dothan. He was seeking the prophet Elisha (who was proving to be a real thorn in his side) and had been informed that Elisha was in Dothan. The Syrian soldiers arrived under the cover of darkness and surrounded the city. We pick up the story as related in 2 Kings 6:15-18:

"When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" 16He said, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." 

 Now at this point, I am sure that Elisha's servant must have been wondering if the prophet had started his day with a swig of strong drink. As far as he could see, the Syrian far outnumbered and out-bowed any feeble resistance that the city of Dothan could offer! Let's read on . . .

17Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see." So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, "Please strike this people with blindness." So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha." (2 Kings 6:15-18)

Please note one very important point about Elisha's prayer. He did not ask God to send help. He simply asked God to open the eyes of his servant to be able to see the help that was ALREADY PRESENT!  And when Elisha prayed ... those forces got to work on his behalf! 

My friends, Elisha was not left alone to face his foe. Neither are we!  For starters, we have God himself in the person of the Holy Spirit indwelling us as our constant companion and helper (John 14:16-18). In addition, God sends his angels to minister to us (Hebrews 1:14). So the next time you feel this present world pressing down upon you - keep in mind that there's an unseen world around you full of help! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 


Thursday A La Carte

Believe it or not, Thursday is here again!  Here is my a la carte offering for today:

1. Brian Croft offers some suggestions on how to encourage your husband or your wife. These are great questions that we should be asking our spouse.

2. Hudson Taylor was a pioneer missionary to China and no stranger to suffering. During his years in China he buried his wife and four of his children. Tim Challies quotes from Hudson's letters during and shortly after the death of his eight year old daughter, Grace. All I can say - "What faith!" 

3. Here is a strange yet fascinating youtube video (2:56) of a woman from Oregon who underwent dental surgery and came out not only with dentures but a strange new accent. She claims to be suffering from "foreign accent syndrome." 

4. An NBC Today Show interview of the Duggars family .... 19 kids and counting! 

5. A bit of humor ... enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Don't Be Fooled!

Police in a Kansas City suburb were called by a resident whose children claimed to have spotted a gator lurking in the woods adjacent to a nearby pond. When the police arrived they immediately spotted the alligator. Having been instructed by a conservation agent to shoot the creature if found (and if they considered it dangerous ... uhm, just when is a gator on the loose NOT dangerous?), they quickly fired off two shots. When the second shot ricocheted off its head ... the officers crept closer only to discover that they were shooting at a cement garden ornament. (Now in their defense, it was growing dark at the time and the reptile was partially hidden in the think vegetation. Certainly a mistake that any of us could have made!).

As I thought about this rather humorous incident, it did remind me of a spiritual truth. So often temptation comes our way offering to meet our needs and innermost desires and it looks like the REAL deal. As a result we turn our backs on the one true REAL deal (i.e. Our Father in heaven) and we go after the stuff and fluff of this world, none of which will truly satisfy the inner cravings of our hearts. Only the God who made us can do this (see Psalm 73:26). How about YOU? Are you looking for your fulfillment from the offerings of this world? Or the God who made this world?

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Your Donut? Caffeinated or Decaff?

Back in 2007, Dr. Robert Bohannon, a molecular scientist/café owner, believed people could benefit from other caffeine options other than coffee or tea. So he came up with the idea of putting caffeine into some popular sweet treats like the ever popular donut. He pitched his idea to some popular chains like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts – but he struck out with them. Apparently they were unwilling to lay out the dough for Bohannon’s idea.

Hmm. I am sure there are many among us who like the idea of more options for caffeine intake. We live in an overworked, under-rested society. Most of us don’t get enough sleep. Therefore the need for caffeine (How many of you don’t feel awake until you have had a cup – or a pot – of coffee? I sure can relate to that!). But lately I have been sensing a growing conviction that I need to take better care of my body. After all, I only get one! So I had better take care of it. And given the truth that my body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit – I have even more motivation to care for it well. All this to ask all of us – are we being good stewards of the body that God has given us? That means getting adequate amounts of sleep, exercising on a regular basis, eating healthy, etc. Let’s determine to take some steps toward a healthier lifestyle!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

PS - This coming Sunday we will be taking a hard look at the Fourth Word of Grace ("Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy"). Understanding and putting this commandment into practice in our lives will lead to a greater rest for both body and soul. I hope you can join us on Sunday (9:30 or 10:00).

The Struggle to Pray!

If you are anything like me, you struggle to pray. Yes, you know it's important to pray. Yes, you know God commands us to pray and that He delights when we do. Yet you (and I) struggle to pray with any kind of consistency.

This morning I read a description of what we are doing when we pray. I think if we keep this description in mind, it will help us to pray more! Here's what this author had to say about our praying:

When we pray, "we are addressing ourselves to the great sovereign God of the universe and are presenting our adoration, confessions, thanksgivings and supplications to him. He is hearing these prayers and responding to them consistently, perfectly, and wisely out of his own inexhaustible abundance" (James Boice, An Expositional Commentary on Romans, Volume 2, p. 891).

When we keep in mind Boice's description of prayer - I believe we will pray more!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


I Just Don't Get It!

I often run across Christians who have no hunger for God's Word. Given the importance of the Scripture - I just don't get it! How can one be a declared follower of Jesus Christ and yet have no hunger for His Word? A lack of hunger that is manifested in no desire to sit under its teaching; a lack of any kind of consistent personal Bible reading AND study; no attempt to memorize even one verse per week. When I reflect on this sorry state of so many belivers today, it is no wonder that the church is as weak as it is!

If I just described you ... then let me encourage you ... no URGE you to ask God EVERY day to give you a hunger for HIS Word. Decide TODAY on some sort of plan to begin interacting with the Scripture on a more consistent basis. Jesus asked his Father to sanctify his followers by the truth which he identified as the Word of God! So if you want to be sanctified ... to become more like Jesus Christ, then you must make the Bible your best friend and constant companion. And as you get to know it better, you must strive, with the Spirit of God's help, to "put it into practice" (See Matthew 7:24-27). To do less is to miss God's blessing (see Psalm 1:1-6).

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Thursday A La Carte

Again, some links for your Thursday that might help you in your journey of grace:

1. I am sure you have heard your child (or some adult) say the words, "That's not fair!" Here's a insightful article by Ed Welch, FAIR is a four letter word.

2. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with a sermon jam on Free and Better! Great, heart-moving stuff!

3. Here are some brief but encouraging comments from the pen of Charles Spurgeon, the great London preacher of yesteryear!

4. From Ligonier Ministries on Embracing the Truth. Brief. Well put. A must read!

5. For today's bit of humor ... check out the speed that this guy can clap. Amazing!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


A Plastic Lion!

On each of the past five days my wife and I have traveled to Hershey to help our daughter and her husband with their infant son, Nolan (four weeks old today!). Nolan was a patient at Hershey Medical Center. He had to have a kidney removed due to a tumor that was growing on it. He is now doing well and returned home yesterday. All that is needed now is to hear the results of the biopsy.

Sitting on the floor near the elevators on the ground floor (Nolan was on the children's floor which is the seventh floor) is a sculpture of a nittany lion (the nittany lion is the mascot of Penn State University -- Hershey Medical Center is the teaching and research hospital of Penn State University). For the first several days I passed this lion, I assumed that it was stone. That is until I decided to tap it with my fist one day, only to discover that it was made of plastic! I was surprised! It had all the look of stone! But it was not. Plainly put, it was a fake stone sculpture. I felt cheated!

As I reflect on my life ... I can see that I can be a lot like that lion. Fake. Inauthentic. Putting on shows that make me appear to be more spiritual ... more in touch with God than I really am. In doing so, I may fool those around me and even fool myself. Yet I NEVER fool God! He sees me as I am (Hebrews 4:12-13). This is both comforting and sobering. It comforts me to know that God sees me as I truly am and yet STILL loves me!  Thank God for his unconditional and unfailing love! But knowing that God sees the real me can be quite sobering. I might be able to deceive others - but NEVER God! May this thought move me (and you) to be more consistent in saying "Yes" to righteousness and "No" to sin! After all, one of our life's most fervent desires should be to please him who gave us his all!

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...