A Simple Prayer

Father in Heaven,

May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one.If my life should end today, let this be my best day.

By your grace and for your glory, make it so. Amen.

Thanks for stopping by,

Rest, Rest, Rest!

For the next week I will be enjoying some vacation time - this time with the entire family. I will be back to posting the week of August 1st. Until then, chew on these words of Kevin DeYoung from the opening words of the epilogue of his book, The Good News We Almost Forgot.

"Sadly, too many Christians are asked to choose between theology and experience, between head and heart, between having convictions and being kind. These are false dichotomies - choices that don't have to be made. We are to love the Lord Jesus with every part of us - all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind too (Luke 10:27). We ought to be hugging theologians - people marked by abiding grace and unchanging truth. Or to put it another way, if we are to be fruitful and godly Christians, we need to have a theological core without being theologically crusty."

Thanks for stopping by . . . 


Thursday A La Carte

Thursday means "a la carte."  I choose items that I think will encourage you. So ... have fun!

1. Heaven Is for Real is a best-selling book about a four year old's trip to heaven and back. What should we as Christians make of such a book (and others like it)? Tim Challies offers up a book review (which I believe is well done) that you might want to read.

2. Here is a blog posting that hit me right in my spiritual gut: Rest - A Four Letter Word?  It is definitely worth your time to read it!

3. Phil Johnson shares about how he came to Christ. It many ways, his experience parallels mine (some day I will have to share my own testimony).

4. An insightful video (3:59) in answer to "I feel enslaved to the "escape" of the TV and Internet. What can I do?"

5. On a lighter note: Abbott and Costello was a comedy team that appeared in many movies I watched as a kid. Here is a skit (2:56) that is both clever and funny (at least I think so!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Prayer 911

I wonder how many of you are really satisfied with your "prayer life?" You struggle to have any meaningful time with God in the practice of this vital spiritual practice. You have good intentions. You want to pray. You plan to pray ... but by the end of the day, you just haven't done much praying.

On Monday of this week as we were strapping Ella, our two year old granddaughter into her car seat she said to us, "Mommy has a boo-boo" (her mom has an injured ankle she is nursing along). So I suggested we pray for Mommy. Without hesitation, Ella folded her hands, bowed her head and said, "Dear Jesus. Thank you for the food. Amen."  Ella meant well .... but her prayer for her mom missed the mark.

That incident with Ella made me pause to ask myself if my prayers are also missing the mark? There are so many things to be praying about and for in my world ... am I truly praying in a way that Jesus would want me to pray?  Perhaps you are wondering the same thing. If so, I would encourage you to make every effort to be in attendance here at Grace on Sunday mornings in August. We will be taking an in depth look at the model prayer Jesus gave us in a four Sunday series of messages titled, "The Lord's Prayer: The Master's Handbook on Prayer." And if you are not able to join us, check out the slides and audio that you will find on my Deeper '11 blog.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

The Heat is On!

I just took a glimpse at the weather forecast for the rest of this week. Ugh! The forecast highs are 92, 90, 96, 97, 97! Add in the high humidity and the "real feel" temps will be well into the 100's! With this bona fide heat wave coming our way .... I am so thankful for air conditioning!

Whenever a heat wave like this one strikes, the news media is always quick to remind the public of the risks related to high heat and humidity. And indeed there are risks. Such weather puts a lot of stress upon the human body. So when the heat and humidity go up .... so must our diligence to care for our bodies!

The same is true for our souls. When the heat is on and we begin to feel the stress, then we must become more diligent in the matters of our faith lest we succumb to the pressure and "crack!" So, what can you do when the Enemy jacks up the heat?

1. Remind yourself of God's promises. Over and over again, God reassures us that He will always be with us. He will never leave us. And He is present to give us all the help and strength we need to make it through whatever trial we may be facing (see Hebrews 13:5; Isaiah 41:13; Psalm 121:2; Philippians 4:13).

2. Remind yourself of God's character - that He is loving, wise, faithful and all-powerful. Therefore, He not only desires to give you the help you need, He knows just what you need, He has the power to deliver and He will never renege on a promise He has made!

3. Finally, remind yourself that God has a purpose in allowing this trial in your life. Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4 and Romans 8:28-29 all speak about the positive side of suffering.

So ... bottom line if you are to endure the heat that is sure to come your way - it all comes down to believing what the Bible has to say about God (His character and His promises) and about trials (that trials are the divine classrooms in which the Master does His greatest teaching!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Another Monday . . . Another Week!

As you start out your week, here is a quote from A.W. Tozer, an Alliance pastor for some 44 years in the mid 1900's. Among his more than 40 books are the classics, The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. If you have never read these - you should!  Take a moment and reflect on Tozer's remarks:

"The basic trouble with the church today is her unworthy concept of God... Our religion is weak because our God is weak... Christianity at any given time is strong or weak depending on her concept of God."

Now if what Tozer said was really true about the church of his day (and I have no reason to doubt that) - I would suggest to you that it is even MORE true of the church of today. Oh how we need to get back a lofty view of God! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 


Is God's Word Enough?

Recently, I read the following lines in a Christian best-seller:

"The following year, I began to wonder if I, too, could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more." 

The last line was what got me thinking. Hmm. This author was yearning for more than the Bible?  Now I have no doubt that this writer would affirm the inspiration (that the words of the human authors of the Bible are indeed God's), inerrancy (that the Bible as originally given was totally without error) and infallibility (the Bible is true) of Scripture. But when one "yearns for more" than the Bible ... that person is denying the sufficiency of the Bible. A number of years ago, James Montgomery Boice, prolific author and former pastor of Tenth Church in Philadelphia foretold that in our days the real battle would not be over the innerancy or the infallibility of the Bible but rather its sufficiency - are we going to rely on the revelation of Scripture or are we going to look for additional revelation.

I encourage all who are reading this posting to be careful in going down this path. When I read the Bible (Psalm 119 for example) - I don't see any author of Scripture telling us to look for "something more" than the Bible. I do repeatedly see commands to meditate on the Scripture. Paul summed up the sufficiency of Scripture when he wrote these words to Timothy:

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work"  (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  

For a more thorough explanation of this doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 


Thursday A La Carte

It's Thursday a la carte time!

1.  There's been a lot written lately about the doctrine of hell. Is it OK for Christians to believe in the doctrine of hell and not like it?"  Kevin DeYoung gives a brief but insightful answer to this difficult question.

2. A spiritual awakening is sweeping India with the result that the country now numbers more Christians among its population than ever before!

3. Feeling ordinary?  Check out Ed Welch's thoughts on "Ordinary is the new cool."

4. What is the right way to apologize? Bob Kelleman offers up some food for thought!

5. And on a lighter side . . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Whatever Happened to Common Sense?

Last evening as I was watching the local news, several so called experts were used to give advice on a variety issues. After the third expert or so ... I turned to my wife and said, "I could have said as much!"  Now I don't consider myself an expert on much of anything. I realize I have a lot to learn about a huge boatload of things. But what hit me about what these experts were sharing was this: each one of them was offering good old-fashioned common sense! And that is something that appears to be a vanishing commodity in our world.

Now ... just where does a person gain common sense? One blogger I just read said this about common sense: "The source of common sense remains a great mystery… God help us all."  I must disagree with this individual. I believe several of the ways we attain common sense can be identified. Here are three for you to consider: 

1. Hang out with wise people. Proverbs 13:20 encourage us to, "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm." In talking about common sense ... this verse suggests that if we hang out with people who display common sense, we will tend to catch it! (Wisdom, by the way, is simply the appropriate application of knowledge to life)

2. Immerse yourself in the book of Proverbs. When you consider that the whole reason King Solomon put together this book was for "the attaining of wisdom and discipline and for understanding words of insight" (see Proverbs 1:1-6 for a full explanation of his rationale for writing this book), it makes a lot of sense (should I say "common sense?") to saturate our minds with the book of Proverbs. If you want to be known as a person of common sense, you will make Proverbs a regular (daily?) companion (I am currently using a Bible reading schedule that will take me through the book of Proverbs once a month).

3. Intentionally cultivate a  healthy fear of God! The Scriptures clearly teach us that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (see Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10). In a day and age in which the God is being stripped of his majesty, we must make a conscious effort to remind us that even though God is our Father ... He is our Father IN HEAVEN! As we grow in our esteem of Him ... we will also grow in our wisdom and insight! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Now That's a BIG Baby!

JaMichael Brown entered the world last Friday in Longview, Texas. Now when I think of Texas, I think BIG. Well to say JaMichael was a big baby may be somewhat of an understatement. This "little" guy tipped the scales at a whopping 16 pounds and 1 ounce!  His birth weight won't go into the Guinness Book of World Records (the heaviest newborn of record was born to an Ohio couple back in 1879 weighing an astonishing 23 pounds and 12 ounces!) - but he may just set a Texas state record! In any case,16 pounds is a lot of baby!

News items like this are quick to catch our attention (at least they do mine!). Why? Because such a birth is "out of the norm" (my guess is that JaMichael's weight puts him off the charts when compared with other newborns). And so .... all of a sudden a little baby born in Longview, Texas (where is Longview?) gets noticed!

I want to call all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus to live "out of the norm." Not in some sort of crazy and weird manner. But in a way that shows that we belong to Christ!  To find out how to live in such a way .... spend some time in the gospels (and then the rest of the New Testament). And if you truly love Jesus, then put into practice what you read!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


You Talk about a Crystal Clear Lake!

Skaneateles Lake is the easternmost of the larger finger lakes in New York state. Located only twenty miles from Syracuse, the lake provides millions of gallons of drinking water each day for the metro area's 3/4 of a million people. And here is what's so amazing about this ... the lake water does not need to be filtered before it is supplied to the area's residents!  As the photo shows, the water is so clean, both the federal and state governments have granted Syracuse a waiver for the requirement that all drinking water be put through a filtration system!  Now that's clean!

On our trip home from the finger lakes, we worshiped with a church family whose pastor is a friend of mine from both high school and college. His message included a couple of verses that reminded me of the pure waters of Skaneateles Lake. In his first letter, the apostle John writes, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-4). Through John's words, God is teaching us that our hope of Christ's return is a powerful motivator to live a life of purity.  If we keep in the forefront of our minds this truth that Jesus is coming back (and I believe His return is imminent, that is, it could happen at any moment), then we will be more likely to be living in such a way that pleases him (John mentions this back in 1 John 2:28). Think about it. When Jesus returns, do you want to be caught by Him with your hand in the proverbial cookie jar of sin?

All of us would benefit by memorizing and then mediating on a verse or passage that talks about the return of Christ. He is coming back. You can count on it! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Thursday A La Carte

Well it's another Thursday. I hope you find something of note in this week's a la carte offerings!

1. The next time you might be tempted to complain about some dust, consider what people out in Phoenix, Arizona had to put up with this week!

2. So how are teens communicating these days? If you said by texting ... you got it right!  Check out this rather interesting infographic on teens and texting. 

3.  Whatever happened to convictions and taking a stand for what we believe? Here is a video (2:58) that I think you will enjoy!

4. Ed Welch offers up some very insightful and helpful comments in his brief article, No More Minimizing Pain.

5. Finally, talk about luck? Check out this squirrel's encounter with a speeding Lamborghini!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Back in the Office with a Valuable Reminder!

My vacation of last week is now in life's rear view mirror - and will quickly fade away. But that is the way it goes with vacations. It sure seems to me that "vacation time" moves along at a much faster pace than "real life" time!

Our week, spent in the Finger Lakes region of New York, was thoroughly enjoyable. It was great to spend a huge amount of time with just "me and the wife!" Although we did not walk as much as we normally do on a vacation (due to Sharon's still-recovering knee), we did get to spend a lot of time outdoors - and the weather was downright delightful!

Among many memories of our trip, two stand out. Last Thursday, we spent our evening in the village of Skeneateles. When it came time to head for the car, I realized that my phone was NOT in my pocket. So we began the process of retracing our steps which ultimately led us back to Doug's Fish Fry. About an hour earlier we had sat on a bench in front of this eatery eating ice cream. During that time I had taken my iPhone out of my pocket to remind me to make a call to a friend who had left me a message. Problem was, when we got up to leave - I not only forgot to make the call, I forgot to take my phone! Fortunately, someone spotted it and had turned it in to the owner of the restaurant!

Now fast-forward to Saturday. We began the day at the Ithica Visitors Center. There we got information on two falls that we could see that did not involve a lot of walking. So we began our day in Ithica at the Ithica Falls. From there we traveled to see Taughannock Falls, located about ten miles north of Ithica. For lunch, we drove another five miles north to the Lake Cayuga Creamery, noted for its homemade ice cream. By this time it was early afternoon. We decided to check out the downtown Commons (a pedestrian shopping area) on our way back through town.. After a leisurely stroll (during which I bought a Panda Bear puppet), we climbed into the car to begin our journey back to Pennsylvania. Before pulling out, Sharon realized that she did not have her phone. I dialed up her number ... and no ring ... no vibration sound anywhere in the car. And so we began to retrace our steps. We started with the visitor center since it was nearby. Nope. No phone. We moved on to Ithica Falls (it was only a few minutes from the center). Sure enough, among the crowd of people there enjoying the falls, was her cell phone - just sitting all by itself on top of a large rock. We figured that it must have slipped out of Sharon's pocket as she was putting on her shoes after cooling her feet in the stream below the falls. Someone apparently saw it lying by the stream and placed it on the rock.

As Sharon and I reflected on these two "Why just slap me on the  head and call me silly!" experiences (that was, by the way, one of the lines I had to say during my Vacation Bible School stint as Justin Tyme, the bus driver) - we were reminded of just how God takes care of us, his dumb little sheep (and we can be awful dumb at times, eh?). Psalm 23 begins with the words, "The LORD is my shepherd." Notice that we are not told that the LORD is "A shepherd" or "THE shepherd." Instead, David makes it quite personal when he writes, "the LORD is MY shepherd." Now that is a concept that brings me a lot of comfort and hope!  For as MY shepherd, he can take the baaaaad circumstances in my life and weave them together for my ultimate good (see Romans 8:28). Wow! What a shepherd!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


True Freedom!

Today we celebrate our freedom as Americans. It was 235 years ago that the Founding Fathers of our country gathered in Philadelphia to sign a Declaration of Independence from British rule. That was the easy part. Next came several long years of war against the world's most powerful military. The end result astounded the world. The colonists were victorious and the United States of American became truly free. I am grateful for the blessing of living in this free land.

Yet as I think of this freedom today, I am reminded of a far more valuable freedom that I possess. Jesus taught us about this freedom in the Gospel of John. Please take a moment and read what He had to say .... and then rejoice in the freedom He and He alone can give! (and if you have never embraced this freedom, consider doing so today!).

"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free . . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:31-32, 36)

Thanks for stopping by ... and Happy Independence Day! 


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...