PJ

PJ

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ask a Question - Get a Flower!


This week is the week of the West Lampeter Community Fair. The fair officially opened at noon on Wednesday and concludes tonight at 10:00 PM.  Since 1991, our church has hosted a Baby Comfort Station ... a clean and comfortable place for parents to bring their babies to change them and feed them. In addition, we also put up some displays that highlight some of the ministries of our church.



This year we added three new features. The first was a small display which listed all the other church sponsored booths and encouraged people passing us by to check them out too. After all, we do not see ourselves in competition with other local churches. So if we can promote what they are doing, so much the better for God's kingdom! The second addition involved the use of QR codes. This matrix barcode includes our church web address. By scanning it with a smartphone, the person is taken immediately to our church's web site! QR codes, initially developed for the automotive industry, are now hitting Main Street America. Once you are familiar with what one looks like (see picture) you will begin to see them ALL over the place!


The final addition this year was a flower giveaway. The flower was a small plastic sunflower which "dances" when placed in the sun (it is solar powered). On the base we placed a sticker with the church's web address, just in case someone was looking for more info on the church. Now to get a flower, you had to ask a question. Last evening was my evening to staff this giveaway. I realized early on that I had to specify the type of question I was looking for (spiritual, God or Bible related question). Before I clarified this, I was getting questions like, "May I have a flower please?" or "Could I have a purple one?" Once I clarified, I got some very interesting questions which included, "Who does God talk to today?" "Why is there suffering in the world?"  "Why did God allow Jesus to die?"  "What was Adam and Eve's last name?" and "Will my pets be in heaven?"  (and many, many more!). But not everyone could either think of a question ... or felt comfortable asking a spiritual type question. When this became apparent I offered to ask them a question (and I promised not to make it difficult! I never had anyone turn me down on my offer!). The question I usually asked first was their name ... followed by this question, "Katie, does God love you?" Almost always I got a "Yes!" in response. To which I then asked "How do you know that He loves you?" This often led to me being able to point them to gospel rich verses like John 3:16 or Romans 5:8. It was great!  (now I know that if you were counting, I often asked three questions and not one ... but the kids and adults did not seem to mind!).



As I was driving home, I thanked God for the opportunity to plant gospel seeds in a lot of minds and hearts. Would you please pray with me, asking our merciful God to water these seeds (and the seeds planted on Wednesday and the additional seeds, God willing, to be planted tonight)? Our desire is to see many come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday A La Carte

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

1. Who are you? Tullian Tchividjian, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida (and a grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham) offers up some excellent insights in his article, Our New and Exalted Identity. 

2. Here's a brief reminder (:40) of what should be happening when biblical community is truly functioning as biblical community!

3. Amazing Grace sung by a little girl with an amazing voice! Enjoy!

4. If you are looking for a wonderful family film ... from the makers of The Blind Side comes Dolphin Tale ... click here for the trailer.    Also coming out tomorrow is the movie Courageous (from makers of Fireproof). Click here for trailer. 


5. Here are seven steps to family worship. Good stuff!


6. And on the lighter side . . . here's a Budget Rent A Car commercial that made me laugh.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Commitment?

"People by the millions are bailing out of jobs, careers, businesses, relationships and life in general. Many of these people lack commitment to a cause, lifestyle, purpose, or outcome. When it gets a little tough, uncomfortable, or they don't get the results they thought they would as quickly as they thought they should, their response is: 'I'm outta here.'"

The writer of this quote (from and article on EzineArticles.com) identifies one of the biggest problems in our society - that of a lack of commitment. Sadly this aversion to commitment has infiltrated the church of Christ. Many Christians have no clue as to the existence of such biblical mandates as "discipline yourself for godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7-10). And if believers are aware of Paul's example of disciplining his body and keeping it under control as he runs his race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), they shrug it off as irrelevant. This is tragic. For commitment is really at the core of our faith. When confronted with the gospel, we must make a choice ... a commitment.  The commitment we choose at this point is indeed the most important choice we will ever make! 



Now most of us who call ourselves Christian get this (but regrettably, not all do - see Matthew 7:21-23). But what so many of us don't get is that the commitment Jesus Christ calls us to make is not a "once-and-done" commitment. Rather, it is a commitment we must make every single day. In Luke 9:23, Jesus states clearly that if anyone wants to be numbered among his followers, then that person must "deny himself and take up his cross DAILY" and follow him! The commitment we must make and keep is an every-day commitment. 


But exactly what does this commitment look like on a day-to-day basis?  Beginning this coming Sunday during our Sunday morning teaching time,  I will be unpacking what it means to follow Jesus. We will be looking at five basic commitments that define what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  I hope you can join us ... and if you can't, please check out our church web site for the PowerPoint slides and audio of the messages. 




Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Now That's Perseverance!

Amos Wayne Richards, 64, of Concord, N.C. set out to hike Utah's Little Blue John Canyon back on September 8th. He said he was inspired to take the hike after seeing the Oscar-nominated movie "127 Hours." The film was inspired by the moving story of a hiker who in the same canyon found himself pinned under a boulder. The man freed himself by cutting off his arm. Little did Richards know that he himself would have a story that would be told to the nation.  At one point during his hike, Richards suffered a ten foot fall that left him with a dislocated shoulder and a broken leg. The shoulder he was able to manipulate back into place (ouch!), but he could do nothing for his shattered leg. So he did the only thing he could - crawl. He eventually crawled for four days and over five miles before being spotted by a search helicopter. Richards did some things wrong (like not informing any one of his plans for starters, something National Park Rangers stress hikers - especially those hiking solo - should always do!). But one thing you've got to admire about this guy is that he never gave up. Despite the hot desert sun, meager provisions (two protein bars and a little bit of water he was able to collect from some passing showers), the rocky terrain, and what must have been gut-wrenching pain - he pressed on!


In a day and age of always wanting to do things the easy way (ala Staples - "That was easy!") - we need reminded that often life does not always work that way. Life is not always easy. In fact, it is often downright tough. Painfully tough! We need to acknowledge this reality. But then we need to press on. But as we do - we must always remember that we are never alone (Isaiah 41:10) and that the one who went to the cross to save us has overcome, assuring us of our final victory (John 16:33). 


So .... no matter how tempted you are to quit when the path you are on grows difficult - don't! Jesus Christ is your constant companion and he will one day lead you to your eternal home! 


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Sunday, September 25, 2011

So ... What Should a Sunday Worship Service Be All About?

As I write these words, Grace Church will gather for its first of two corporate worship celebrations. Something that has already happened 38 times this year (and over 1100 times since I began pastoring here in 1989!).  So ... since this is something that we as a church do with weekly regularity, are we doing it "right?"  Is there even a "right" way to worship together as a church?

Kevin DeYoung, on the Gospel Coalition blog, offers up Five Thoughts on Worship. It will take you only a few minutes to read, but it will prove to be a wise investment of those few minutes - no matter how busy you might be!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 23, 2011

Money and Stuff in the Midst of a Tough Economy!

The Bible has a lot to say about money and possessions (see Proverbs 23:4-5; 1 Timothy 6:6-10). Given these difficult economic times, it would be wise for all of us who follow Jesus to think about ... and pray about how we view "stuff."  To help you ... here is a prayer from Scotty Smith as posted on the gospel coalition web site.



A Prayer about Stuff and Contentment

Loving Father, we continue to live in a difficult economic season. Some of us who thought we’d be retired in a couple of years are now thinking it’s ten, if ever. Some of us have lost jobs, even homes. Some of us are selling stuff and downsizing out of necessity, not choice. Some of our marriages are being stressed to the point of breaking. Some of us are actually being tempted to steal for the first time. Lord, we need wisdom, we need a work of your Spirit, and some of us really do need jobs.


Father, we look to you. Give us the perspective and power of the gospel as we make hard decisions, and reflect on our relationship to money and “stuff.” Free us from an attitude of entitlement and place within us a Spirit of contentment. When did we first assume the right to excess? When did abundance get relabeled as need? Why did we think only first-century disciples of Jesus would ever actually have to pray for daily bread?


In our “iWorld” of new gadgets and cool widgets, help us ponder the fact that over half of the population on the earth exists on three of our American dollars, or less, a day. Free us to share with others from the much or little that we have. Help us to raise our children not to love money as much as we have. Don’t let us grow bitter, shame-filled or fearful.


Father, if we would wear ourselves out for anything, let it be to become rich toward you (Luke 12:20–21)—to have the gospel so penetrate our hearts that we cry out with spontaneous joy, “Who do I have in heaven but you, O Lord, and being with you I desire nothing on the earth . . . You are my portion, sovereign Lord.”


Lord Jesus, you who were immeasurably rich in all things became incomprehensibly poor for us, so that we, who were desperately poor in sin, might be made inconceivably rich in grace. We worship and adore, with humility and gratitude. We thank you for the daily bread of both wheat and the gospel. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and gracious name.


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday A La Carte

Thursday means some different links to some articles/videos that I think you will find helpful in your journey of grace.

1. There is no escaping the Digital World in which we live. Here are some good tips for parenting kids in our Digital Age. 


2. From the Counseling One Another Blog .... Six Reasons to Be a Faithful Member of a Local Church. 

3. From Life, Famous Quotes that Were Never Said - The lesson here is that we need to be careful whenever we quote someone else (or even think twice before quoting another - could that be gossip?!).

4. Ed Welch on the vows we make, "I'll NEVER . . . do (that) again!" 

5. And on a lighter note ....the video Love Tap (4:50). Make time to watch this ... it's good!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Cat's Tale

Willow, a calico kitten who went missing five years ago has finally turned up found. And what makes this story so unusual is that Willow went missing in Boulder, CO and was found in New York City - a distance of a mere 1800 miles!  Willow's owners never thought they would see their cat again. But thanks to a microchip implanted in Willow's shoulder, authorities were able to determine the identity of the cat's owners. For more details on this amazing story, check out this ABC news report.



We will never know just where Willow's journeys took him during those five years (apart from his final destination that is). Yet all that time he carried the mark of his owner with him. This is true of all of us who have given our lives to Jesus Christ. God is now our owner (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and he has sealed us with his Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). Just as Willow was eventually reunited with his owners, there is coming a day, when our journeys on this earth are over ... that we too will be united with our Master... forever in that place called heaven.

How about you? Are you living your life here in light of your life there?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Thought for Your Monday Morning



C. S. Lewis once said, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next."  Hmm. Now that's worth thinking about!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, September 16, 2011

Saying "NO!" to Sin!

All of us, if honest, would admit to struggling with temptation and sin. The Apostle Paul referenced his struggle in these words: "For I do not the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (Romans 7:19). Hmm. Can you identify with him? I sure can!  And the struggle will continue for all of us until we exist this life and enter the next.

Now this does not mean that we just give up! We must continue the struggle as Paul urges us to do in Romans 6:12-13 as we say "No!" to sin and "Yes!" to God. And as we continue in the struggle we have this promise from God: "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14).

If you are serious about saying "No!" to sin .... keep the following words in mind. They are are a good reminder of the ugly side of sin!


"Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay" (Source unknown). 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday A La Carte

Some offerings to help you as you seek to follow Jesus Christ . . . enjoy!

1. From the Biblical Counseling Coalition, Should I Try to Forget My Past?

2. Tim Challies with some great thoughts on Teach Me to Pray! 


3. A great site .... Mathias Media's The Briefing . . . 


4. From the Gospel-Driven Church blog, How to Be Used for God's Glory. Good stuff!

5. Will everyone ultimately be saved? Tim Keller responds (:54).

6. And finally . . . on the lighter side! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Are You Leaving Behind: Grace or Debris?


Thanks to the recent visit of tropical storm Lee, thousands of items of debris have been carried by the Susquehanna River and dumped into the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to the debris of nature (tree limbs, eroded soil, etc.), a lot of man-made items have found their way into the Bay, including mattresses, a yoga mat, a seat from a portable toilet, lumber and much, much more. But this does not really surprise anyone, given the extensive flooding which occurred on the river and its various tributaries. It is something we would expect to see.

This reminds me of life. We are a people who far too often live our lives in the flesh vs. in the Spirit. The Apostle Paul contrasts these two ways to live in Galatians 5:16-26. When we live according to the influence of our sinful nature, we leave a wake of debris behind us (just read Paul's description of the works of the flesh in verses 19-21 and you will readily see what I am talking about). However, when we walk in step with the Spirit of God, then he begins to grow His fruit in us. So would you rather have your life marked by sexual immorality, envy, anger (just to name a few) OR would you rather be known as a person of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Let's learn to live our lives 24/7 "in the Spirit." That's when we will begin to mark the landscape of our lives with grace rather than debris.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Everything Sad Is Going To Come Untrue

This past Sunday marked the tenth anniversary of the devastating terror attacks that resulted in the deaths of close to 3,000 innocent people. Now what is remarkable about the decade since 9-11 is the growth of the evangelical church in New York City. According to a report published by the web magazine, A Journey through NYC religions, "Almost 40% of evangelical churches in Manhattan Center City were founded since 2000. In September and October 2009 one new evangelical church opened its doors for worship every Sunday." That is a remarkable rate of growth brought about by God working His grace through Christians who grieved (along with their neighbors, co-workers, classmates) --- but who grieved "not as those who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). 


Timothy Keller, well-known author and pastor of the influential Manhattan based, Redeemer Presbyterian Church spoke at a 9-11 memorial service commemorating the fifth anniversary of the tragedy. The service was held at St. Paul's Chapel in Lower Manhattan and was attended by numerous families of victims. Also in attendance were President George and First Lady Laura Bush. Keller concluded his remarks by pointing out the "secret" to Christians' ability to grieve with hope. He did so by referencing a scene from Tolkien's final volume in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here is what Keller had to say that day: 


"In the last book of the Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up thinking everything is lost, and upon discovering instead that all his friends were around him, he cries out, 'Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?' The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue." 


Hmm. Everything sad is going to come untrue. A biblical truth (Revelation 21:4-5) and a comforting truth!  Thanks be to God that one day all sadness will be a fading memory in the rear view mirror of our minds! 


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Monday, September 12, 2011

Start Your Work Week with an Important Reminder!

Here is a great video sermon (3:19) that will remind all of us Christians of our King - the One to whom we pledged our allegiance to each and every day. Enjoy!



That's My King! from Albert Martin on Vimeo.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Today we remember the tragic events of 9-11-01: the victims, the heroes and our world which so desperately needs Jesus Christ. To help you remember, here is a link to some 9-11 memorial videos. 


Also ... all day today (Sunday) you can hear music and messages at IPrayRadio.com.  

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Desperate Need for Authentic, Biblical Community

This past Sunday we began a 3 Sunday sermon series on biblical community (Doing Life Together: Because Life Works Better in Community.) Here is a great video that talks about the fact that we weren't created for isolation.


Community from Crossway on Vimeo.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday A La Carte

Once again, as I do every Thursday, I offer you some various links, some of which, I trust you will find helpful as your walk your journey of grace!

1. What is the most important word in the entire universe?  Here is one individual's answer! 


2. Here's a fascinating look at THE GOSPEL - definitely worth the 11 minutes it requires to watch!

3. Here's a quick but powerful read by Kevin DeYoung on what happens when we say to God, "You were right and I was wrong." 


4. "God, why are you letting this happen to ME? It hurts!" Ever said or thought these words? Here is a brief posting on three purposes of God in your suffering.


5. As you know, the tenth anniversary of 9-11 falls on this upcoming Sunday. America Remembers 9-11 is an all day, all night prayer program on September 11 - a full 24 hours of prayer in all US time zones. You can sign up to pray at the America Remembers 9-11 web site ... and you can listen to messages and music on IPrayRadio.com.


6. Finally, on a lighter note - if you thought parenting your kids was tough!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What We Often Forget about the Great Commission

Most Christians are familiar with the "Great Commission." My guess is that many could even recite it pretty much from memory. Probably the most familiar "edition" of the GC is found in the gospel of Matthew:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (vv.19-20a).

Most of us however, miss the fact that the GC begins with a declaration ... and an amazing one at that!  Just before issuing the commission to his disciples, Jesus declares, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (v. 18). Concerning this declaration, author Michael Horton writes, "This is the rationale for everything that the church is called to do and to be. The church's commission is indeed directed by a purpose ("making disciples of all nations"), but it is driven  by a promise."  And what a promise!

So as you go ... remember that as an ambassador for Christ, you represent Him who reigns OVER ALL!  Wow! It gets no better than that!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Something To Chew On.

I love to read what saints of bygone years have written. So often they say it so much better than I ever could ... no matter the topic. With that said, here is a quote from Thomas Chalmers about he Bible (Chalmers was a mathematician, an economist and a leader in the Free Church of Scotland, whose life spanned the years from 1780 to 1847). Concerning the Bible he had this insightful statement:

"The sum and substance of the preparation needed for a coming eternity is that you believe what the Bible tells you and do what the Bible bids you." 

Now that is good, solid advice!  

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Thoughts

I am guessing that a lot of backyard picnics might have to be moved in today. Looks like more rain is coming our way today (and for much of this week). So as you spend some time sitting in your lazy boy on this Labor Day holiday, take a few moments to reflect about your labor.

1. If you are employed (and with 9% unemployment, there are many who are not) - thank God for His provision of your job (James 1:17). In addition, thank him for the health you have that allows you to work and provide for your family (Deuteronomy 8:16-18).

2. When you return to work, give your employer the best you have to give (Ephesians 6:5-8). Work as if working for Jesus Christ. In doing so, you will be a positive testimony for Him - something that those in your workplace need to see!

3. Finally, be sure to honor God with the firstfruits of your labors (Proverbs 3:9). Doing so is an act of faith on your part in which you say, "God, here is a portion of my income. I am going to trust you that at the end of the week I will still have enough to pay all my bills."

Happy Labor Holiday to one and all!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 2, 2011

Coming Up Short

Earlier this week, I finally got around to doing something I had been putting off ... going to the bank to make a deposit. Now it's not that I find going to the bank unpleasant (like going to the dentist!). It's just that with automatic deposit of my pay check, I don't need to go nearly as often. So when I do, I see it as an inconvenience, knowing that I will most likely have to spend some of my time standing in line. But yesterday I had about five checks I had accumulated across the past several weeks, so to the bank I went. It turned out to be painless - and took very little time out of my day.

The next morning, when I checked my online bank statement, I noticed the deposit from the day before was listed. I also noticed that the amount was a few hundred dollars less than I thought it should have been. So I checked my deposit slip and sure enough, the amount on the bottom line was indeed short. Now this was NOT due to any mistake by the bank. It was totally MY error. I had done my math wrong which resulted in the shortfall.

I wonder how often we do this very same thing in our relationship with God. We shortchange ourselves. How so? Bottom line, we fail to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Instead we pursue the stuff and fluff of this world, only to come up short in filling that "God-shaped" vacuum inside of us. In the "busyness" of our schedules we often "don't have time" for the spiritual practices that the Spirit of God will work through to shape us into the image of Christ. So things like Bible reading, personal prayer and worship, serving others, community worship and biblical fellowship with God's people - all take second place (if they even make it that high on the ladder of our priorities).

All this to say .... we would all benefit if we just STOPPED ... got off the carousel of life ... and evaluated our lives. Just as I discovered when taking a closer look at my bank deposit ... we might see that we are shortchanging ourselves -- and robbing God of HIS due!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thursday A La Carte Offerings

Here you go. I hope you find something of interest and help among today's offerings!

1. Blogger Tim Challies reviews the book, Going Public, Your Child Can Thrive in Public Schools, by David and Kelli Pritchard.

2. Speaking of Tim Challies, World Magazine recently interviewed Tim about how technology can become an idol.

3. Is it possible that we as parents fail in praying for our children? Here is an interesting posting titled, "Parenting by Prayer." A great read!

4. What is the difference between testing and discipline? Or is there a difference? Dr. Tim Lane of CCEF tackles this question (3:47).

5. Finally, on a lighter side . . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ask a Question - Get a Flower!


This week is the week of the West Lampeter Community Fair. The fair officially opened at noon on Wednesday and concludes tonight at 10:00 PM.  Since 1991, our church has hosted a Baby Comfort Station ... a clean and comfortable place for parents to bring their babies to change them and feed them. In addition, we also put up some displays that highlight some of the ministries of our church.



This year we added three new features. The first was a small display which listed all the other church sponsored booths and encouraged people passing us by to check them out too. After all, we do not see ourselves in competition with other local churches. So if we can promote what they are doing, so much the better for God's kingdom! The second addition involved the use of QR codes. This matrix barcode includes our church web address. By scanning it with a smartphone, the person is taken immediately to our church's web site! QR codes, initially developed for the automotive industry, are now hitting Main Street America. Once you are familiar with what one looks like (see picture) you will begin to see them ALL over the place!


The final addition this year was a flower giveaway. The flower was a small plastic sunflower which "dances" when placed in the sun (it is solar powered). On the base we placed a sticker with the church's web address, just in case someone was looking for more info on the church. Now to get a flower, you had to ask a question. Last evening was my evening to staff this giveaway. I realized early on that I had to specify the type of question I was looking for (spiritual, God or Bible related question). Before I clarified this, I was getting questions like, "May I have a flower please?" or "Could I have a purple one?" Once I clarified, I got some very interesting questions which included, "Who does God talk to today?" "Why is there suffering in the world?"  "Why did God allow Jesus to die?"  "What was Adam and Eve's last name?" and "Will my pets be in heaven?"  (and many, many more!). But not everyone could either think of a question ... or felt comfortable asking a spiritual type question. When this became apparent I offered to ask them a question (and I promised not to make it difficult! I never had anyone turn me down on my offer!). The question I usually asked first was their name ... followed by this question, "Katie, does God love you?" Almost always I got a "Yes!" in response. To which I then asked "How do you know that He loves you?" This often led to me being able to point them to gospel rich verses like John 3:16 or Romans 5:8. It was great!  (now I know that if you were counting, I often asked three questions and not one ... but the kids and adults did not seem to mind!).



As I was driving home, I thanked God for the opportunity to plant gospel seeds in a lot of minds and hearts. Would you please pray with me, asking our merciful God to water these seeds (and the seeds planted on Wednesday and the additional seeds, God willing, to be planted tonight)? Our desire is to see many come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday A La Carte

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

1. Who are you? Tullian Tchividjian, senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida (and a grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham) offers up some excellent insights in his article, Our New and Exalted Identity. 

2. Here's a brief reminder (:40) of what should be happening when biblical community is truly functioning as biblical community!

3. Amazing Grace sung by a little girl with an amazing voice! Enjoy!

4. If you are looking for a wonderful family film ... from the makers of The Blind Side comes Dolphin Tale ... click here for the trailer.    Also coming out tomorrow is the movie Courageous (from makers of Fireproof). Click here for trailer. 


5. Here are seven steps to family worship. Good stuff!


6. And on the lighter side . . . here's a Budget Rent A Car commercial that made me laugh.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Commitment?

"People by the millions are bailing out of jobs, careers, businesses, relationships and life in general. Many of these people lack commitment to a cause, lifestyle, purpose, or outcome. When it gets a little tough, uncomfortable, or they don't get the results they thought they would as quickly as they thought they should, their response is: 'I'm outta here.'"

The writer of this quote (from and article on EzineArticles.com) identifies one of the biggest problems in our society - that of a lack of commitment. Sadly this aversion to commitment has infiltrated the church of Christ. Many Christians have no clue as to the existence of such biblical mandates as "discipline yourself for godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7-10). And if believers are aware of Paul's example of disciplining his body and keeping it under control as he runs his race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), they shrug it off as irrelevant. This is tragic. For commitment is really at the core of our faith. When confronted with the gospel, we must make a choice ... a commitment.  The commitment we choose at this point is indeed the most important choice we will ever make! 



Now most of us who call ourselves Christian get this (but regrettably, not all do - see Matthew 7:21-23). But what so many of us don't get is that the commitment Jesus Christ calls us to make is not a "once-and-done" commitment. Rather, it is a commitment we must make every single day. In Luke 9:23, Jesus states clearly that if anyone wants to be numbered among his followers, then that person must "deny himself and take up his cross DAILY" and follow him! The commitment we must make and keep is an every-day commitment. 


But exactly what does this commitment look like on a day-to-day basis?  Beginning this coming Sunday during our Sunday morning teaching time,  I will be unpacking what it means to follow Jesus. We will be looking at five basic commitments that define what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  I hope you can join us ... and if you can't, please check out our church web site for the PowerPoint slides and audio of the messages. 




Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Now That's Perseverance!

Amos Wayne Richards, 64, of Concord, N.C. set out to hike Utah's Little Blue John Canyon back on September 8th. He said he was inspired to take the hike after seeing the Oscar-nominated movie "127 Hours." The film was inspired by the moving story of a hiker who in the same canyon found himself pinned under a boulder. The man freed himself by cutting off his arm. Little did Richards know that he himself would have a story that would be told to the nation.  At one point during his hike, Richards suffered a ten foot fall that left him with a dislocated shoulder and a broken leg. The shoulder he was able to manipulate back into place (ouch!), but he could do nothing for his shattered leg. So he did the only thing he could - crawl. He eventually crawled for four days and over five miles before being spotted by a search helicopter. Richards did some things wrong (like not informing any one of his plans for starters, something National Park Rangers stress hikers - especially those hiking solo - should always do!). But one thing you've got to admire about this guy is that he never gave up. Despite the hot desert sun, meager provisions (two protein bars and a little bit of water he was able to collect from some passing showers), the rocky terrain, and what must have been gut-wrenching pain - he pressed on!


In a day and age of always wanting to do things the easy way (ala Staples - "That was easy!") - we need reminded that often life does not always work that way. Life is not always easy. In fact, it is often downright tough. Painfully tough! We need to acknowledge this reality. But then we need to press on. But as we do - we must always remember that we are never alone (Isaiah 41:10) and that the one who went to the cross to save us has overcome, assuring us of our final victory (John 16:33). 


So .... no matter how tempted you are to quit when the path you are on grows difficult - don't! Jesus Christ is your constant companion and he will one day lead you to your eternal home! 


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Sunday, September 25, 2011

So ... What Should a Sunday Worship Service Be All About?

As I write these words, Grace Church will gather for its first of two corporate worship celebrations. Something that has already happened 38 times this year (and over 1100 times since I began pastoring here in 1989!).  So ... since this is something that we as a church do with weekly regularity, are we doing it "right?"  Is there even a "right" way to worship together as a church?

Kevin DeYoung, on the Gospel Coalition blog, offers up Five Thoughts on Worship. It will take you only a few minutes to read, but it will prove to be a wise investment of those few minutes - no matter how busy you might be!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 23, 2011

Money and Stuff in the Midst of a Tough Economy!

The Bible has a lot to say about money and possessions (see Proverbs 23:4-5; 1 Timothy 6:6-10). Given these difficult economic times, it would be wise for all of us who follow Jesus to think about ... and pray about how we view "stuff."  To help you ... here is a prayer from Scotty Smith as posted on the gospel coalition web site.



A Prayer about Stuff and Contentment

Loving Father, we continue to live in a difficult economic season. Some of us who thought we’d be retired in a couple of years are now thinking it’s ten, if ever. Some of us have lost jobs, even homes. Some of us are selling stuff and downsizing out of necessity, not choice. Some of our marriages are being stressed to the point of breaking. Some of us are actually being tempted to steal for the first time. Lord, we need wisdom, we need a work of your Spirit, and some of us really do need jobs.


Father, we look to you. Give us the perspective and power of the gospel as we make hard decisions, and reflect on our relationship to money and “stuff.” Free us from an attitude of entitlement and place within us a Spirit of contentment. When did we first assume the right to excess? When did abundance get relabeled as need? Why did we think only first-century disciples of Jesus would ever actually have to pray for daily bread?


In our “iWorld” of new gadgets and cool widgets, help us ponder the fact that over half of the population on the earth exists on three of our American dollars, or less, a day. Free us to share with others from the much or little that we have. Help us to raise our children not to love money as much as we have. Don’t let us grow bitter, shame-filled or fearful.


Father, if we would wear ourselves out for anything, let it be to become rich toward you (Luke 12:20–21)—to have the gospel so penetrate our hearts that we cry out with spontaneous joy, “Who do I have in heaven but you, O Lord, and being with you I desire nothing on the earth . . . You are my portion, sovereign Lord.”


Lord Jesus, you who were immeasurably rich in all things became incomprehensibly poor for us, so that we, who were desperately poor in sin, might be made inconceivably rich in grace. We worship and adore, with humility and gratitude. We thank you for the daily bread of both wheat and the gospel. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and gracious name.


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday A La Carte

Thursday means some different links to some articles/videos that I think you will find helpful in your journey of grace.

1. There is no escaping the Digital World in which we live. Here are some good tips for parenting kids in our Digital Age. 


2. From the Counseling One Another Blog .... Six Reasons to Be a Faithful Member of a Local Church. 

3. From Life, Famous Quotes that Were Never Said - The lesson here is that we need to be careful whenever we quote someone else (or even think twice before quoting another - could that be gossip?!).

4. Ed Welch on the vows we make, "I'll NEVER . . . do (that) again!" 

5. And on a lighter note ....the video Love Tap (4:50). Make time to watch this ... it's good!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Cat's Tale

Willow, a calico kitten who went missing five years ago has finally turned up found. And what makes this story so unusual is that Willow went missing in Boulder, CO and was found in New York City - a distance of a mere 1800 miles!  Willow's owners never thought they would see their cat again. But thanks to a microchip implanted in Willow's shoulder, authorities were able to determine the identity of the cat's owners. For more details on this amazing story, check out this ABC news report.



We will never know just where Willow's journeys took him during those five years (apart from his final destination that is). Yet all that time he carried the mark of his owner with him. This is true of all of us who have given our lives to Jesus Christ. God is now our owner (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and he has sealed us with his Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). Just as Willow was eventually reunited with his owners, there is coming a day, when our journeys on this earth are over ... that we too will be united with our Master... forever in that place called heaven.

How about you? Are you living your life here in light of your life there?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Thought for Your Monday Morning



C. S. Lewis once said, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next."  Hmm. Now that's worth thinking about!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, September 16, 2011

Saying "NO!" to Sin!

All of us, if honest, would admit to struggling with temptation and sin. The Apostle Paul referenced his struggle in these words: "For I do not the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (Romans 7:19). Hmm. Can you identify with him? I sure can!  And the struggle will continue for all of us until we exist this life and enter the next.

Now this does not mean that we just give up! We must continue the struggle as Paul urges us to do in Romans 6:12-13 as we say "No!" to sin and "Yes!" to God. And as we continue in the struggle we have this promise from God: "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14).

If you are serious about saying "No!" to sin .... keep the following words in mind. They are are a good reminder of the ugly side of sin!


"Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay" (Source unknown). 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday A La Carte

Some offerings to help you as you seek to follow Jesus Christ . . . enjoy!

1. From the Biblical Counseling Coalition, Should I Try to Forget My Past?

2. Tim Challies with some great thoughts on Teach Me to Pray! 


3. A great site .... Mathias Media's The Briefing . . . 


4. From the Gospel-Driven Church blog, How to Be Used for God's Glory. Good stuff!

5. Will everyone ultimately be saved? Tim Keller responds (:54).

6. And finally . . . on the lighter side! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Are You Leaving Behind: Grace or Debris?


Thanks to the recent visit of tropical storm Lee, thousands of items of debris have been carried by the Susquehanna River and dumped into the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to the debris of nature (tree limbs, eroded soil, etc.), a lot of man-made items have found their way into the Bay, including mattresses, a yoga mat, a seat from a portable toilet, lumber and much, much more. But this does not really surprise anyone, given the extensive flooding which occurred on the river and its various tributaries. It is something we would expect to see.

This reminds me of life. We are a people who far too often live our lives in the flesh vs. in the Spirit. The Apostle Paul contrasts these two ways to live in Galatians 5:16-26. When we live according to the influence of our sinful nature, we leave a wake of debris behind us (just read Paul's description of the works of the flesh in verses 19-21 and you will readily see what I am talking about). However, when we walk in step with the Spirit of God, then he begins to grow His fruit in us. So would you rather have your life marked by sexual immorality, envy, anger (just to name a few) OR would you rather be known as a person of "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Let's learn to live our lives 24/7 "in the Spirit." That's when we will begin to mark the landscape of our lives with grace rather than debris.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Everything Sad Is Going To Come Untrue

This past Sunday marked the tenth anniversary of the devastating terror attacks that resulted in the deaths of close to 3,000 innocent people. Now what is remarkable about the decade since 9-11 is the growth of the evangelical church in New York City. According to a report published by the web magazine, A Journey through NYC religions, "Almost 40% of evangelical churches in Manhattan Center City were founded since 2000. In September and October 2009 one new evangelical church opened its doors for worship every Sunday." That is a remarkable rate of growth brought about by God working His grace through Christians who grieved (along with their neighbors, co-workers, classmates) --- but who grieved "not as those who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). 


Timothy Keller, well-known author and pastor of the influential Manhattan based, Redeemer Presbyterian Church spoke at a 9-11 memorial service commemorating the fifth anniversary of the tragedy. The service was held at St. Paul's Chapel in Lower Manhattan and was attended by numerous families of victims. Also in attendance were President George and First Lady Laura Bush. Keller concluded his remarks by pointing out the "secret" to Christians' ability to grieve with hope. He did so by referencing a scene from Tolkien's final volume in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here is what Keller had to say that day: 


"In the last book of the Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up thinking everything is lost, and upon discovering instead that all his friends were around him, he cries out, 'Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?' The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue." 


Hmm. Everything sad is going to come untrue. A biblical truth (Revelation 21:4-5) and a comforting truth!  Thanks be to God that one day all sadness will be a fading memory in the rear view mirror of our minds! 


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Monday, September 12, 2011

Start Your Work Week with an Important Reminder!

Here is a great video sermon (3:19) that will remind all of us Christians of our King - the One to whom we pledged our allegiance to each and every day. Enjoy!



That's My King! from Albert Martin on Vimeo.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Today we remember the tragic events of 9-11-01: the victims, the heroes and our world which so desperately needs Jesus Christ. To help you remember, here is a link to some 9-11 memorial videos. 


Also ... all day today (Sunday) you can hear music and messages at IPrayRadio.com.  

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our Desperate Need for Authentic, Biblical Community

This past Sunday we began a 3 Sunday sermon series on biblical community (Doing Life Together: Because Life Works Better in Community.) Here is a great video that talks about the fact that we weren't created for isolation.


Community from Crossway on Vimeo.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday A La Carte

Once again, as I do every Thursday, I offer you some various links, some of which, I trust you will find helpful as your walk your journey of grace!

1. What is the most important word in the entire universe?  Here is one individual's answer! 


2. Here's a fascinating look at THE GOSPEL - definitely worth the 11 minutes it requires to watch!

3. Here's a quick but powerful read by Kevin DeYoung on what happens when we say to God, "You were right and I was wrong." 


4. "God, why are you letting this happen to ME? It hurts!" Ever said or thought these words? Here is a brief posting on three purposes of God in your suffering.


5. As you know, the tenth anniversary of 9-11 falls on this upcoming Sunday. America Remembers 9-11 is an all day, all night prayer program on September 11 - a full 24 hours of prayer in all US time zones. You can sign up to pray at the America Remembers 9-11 web site ... and you can listen to messages and music on IPrayRadio.com.


6. Finally, on a lighter note - if you thought parenting your kids was tough!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What We Often Forget about the Great Commission

Most Christians are familiar with the "Great Commission." My guess is that many could even recite it pretty much from memory. Probably the most familiar "edition" of the GC is found in the gospel of Matthew:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (vv.19-20a).

Most of us however, miss the fact that the GC begins with a declaration ... and an amazing one at that!  Just before issuing the commission to his disciples, Jesus declares, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (v. 18). Concerning this declaration, author Michael Horton writes, "This is the rationale for everything that the church is called to do and to be. The church's commission is indeed directed by a purpose ("making disciples of all nations"), but it is driven  by a promise."  And what a promise!

So as you go ... remember that as an ambassador for Christ, you represent Him who reigns OVER ALL!  Wow! It gets no better than that!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Something To Chew On.

I love to read what saints of bygone years have written. So often they say it so much better than I ever could ... no matter the topic. With that said, here is a quote from Thomas Chalmers about he Bible (Chalmers was a mathematician, an economist and a leader in the Free Church of Scotland, whose life spanned the years from 1780 to 1847). Concerning the Bible he had this insightful statement:

"The sum and substance of the preparation needed for a coming eternity is that you believe what the Bible tells you and do what the Bible bids you." 

Now that is good, solid advice!  

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Thoughts

I am guessing that a lot of backyard picnics might have to be moved in today. Looks like more rain is coming our way today (and for much of this week). So as you spend some time sitting in your lazy boy on this Labor Day holiday, take a few moments to reflect about your labor.

1. If you are employed (and with 9% unemployment, there are many who are not) - thank God for His provision of your job (James 1:17). In addition, thank him for the health you have that allows you to work and provide for your family (Deuteronomy 8:16-18).

2. When you return to work, give your employer the best you have to give (Ephesians 6:5-8). Work as if working for Jesus Christ. In doing so, you will be a positive testimony for Him - something that those in your workplace need to see!

3. Finally, be sure to honor God with the firstfruits of your labors (Proverbs 3:9). Doing so is an act of faith on your part in which you say, "God, here is a portion of my income. I am going to trust you that at the end of the week I will still have enough to pay all my bills."

Happy Labor Holiday to one and all!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 2, 2011

Coming Up Short

Earlier this week, I finally got around to doing something I had been putting off ... going to the bank to make a deposit. Now it's not that I find going to the bank unpleasant (like going to the dentist!). It's just that with automatic deposit of my pay check, I don't need to go nearly as often. So when I do, I see it as an inconvenience, knowing that I will most likely have to spend some of my time standing in line. But yesterday I had about five checks I had accumulated across the past several weeks, so to the bank I went. It turned out to be painless - and took very little time out of my day.

The next morning, when I checked my online bank statement, I noticed the deposit from the day before was listed. I also noticed that the amount was a few hundred dollars less than I thought it should have been. So I checked my deposit slip and sure enough, the amount on the bottom line was indeed short. Now this was NOT due to any mistake by the bank. It was totally MY error. I had done my math wrong which resulted in the shortfall.

I wonder how often we do this very same thing in our relationship with God. We shortchange ourselves. How so? Bottom line, we fail to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Instead we pursue the stuff and fluff of this world, only to come up short in filling that "God-shaped" vacuum inside of us. In the "busyness" of our schedules we often "don't have time" for the spiritual practices that the Spirit of God will work through to shape us into the image of Christ. So things like Bible reading, personal prayer and worship, serving others, community worship and biblical fellowship with God's people - all take second place (if they even make it that high on the ladder of our priorities).

All this to say .... we would all benefit if we just STOPPED ... got off the carousel of life ... and evaluated our lives. Just as I discovered when taking a closer look at my bank deposit ... we might see that we are shortchanging ourselves -- and robbing God of HIS due!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thursday A La Carte Offerings

Here you go. I hope you find something of interest and help among today's offerings!

1. Blogger Tim Challies reviews the book, Going Public, Your Child Can Thrive in Public Schools, by David and Kelli Pritchard.

2. Speaking of Tim Challies, World Magazine recently interviewed Tim about how technology can become an idol.

3. Is it possible that we as parents fail in praying for our children? Here is an interesting posting titled, "Parenting by Prayer." A great read!

4. What is the difference between testing and discipline? Or is there a difference? Dr. Tim Lane of CCEF tackles this question (3:47).

5. Finally, on a lighter side . . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Are You Preparing for Eternity?

Our journey on earth is but a breath ... a heart beat when compared to the expanse of Eternity. We all must remember that how we live live in the here and now will impact our experience in the then and there.

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.