Seasons Come and Seasons Go!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

What Can I Thank God for Today?

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

When It Comes to Gratitude, Silence Is Not Golden!

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

A Lesson from a Cell Phone Stalker!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Letters from One Devil to Another

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

So What Is Fearing God All About?

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

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

So .... do YOU truly fear God?

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A Lesson We Must Learn

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

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

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

Thanks for stoping by,

Thursday A La Carte

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Indiana Wants Me

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Simplify Your Spiritual Life!

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

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

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A Prayer for Today - the Lord's Day

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

O Lord, my Lord, 

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

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

An Amtrak Lockout!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Looking for Solid Role Models!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

The Big Problem with Covetousness!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

My apologies for missing the past several Fridays. I was off last week, and the previous couple of weeks I got caught up in the Thanksgivi...