Guilt? Regrets?

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Final A La Carte of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

5. On a lighter note ... 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Our Not-So-Much-Anymore Prelit Christmas Tree

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Merry Christmas Plus One!

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Christmas in a Nutshell

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

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

 Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Wow Video!

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

And for some background ... click here.

 Thanks for stopping by . . . pj


Thursday A La Carte

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

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

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

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

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

5.  Finally on a lighter note . . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Let's Talk!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

For unto You Is Born this Day a Savior!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Lancaster's Central Market Got Mobbed!

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Some More Advent Quotes . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Thursday A La Carte

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

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

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

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

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

Santa's Place at Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

3 Advent Quotes to Chew On!

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

Thursday A La Carte

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

An Advent Thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Do Babies Who Die Go to Heaven?

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

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

- John Piper, What happens to infants who die? 

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

- From, Infants and salvation.

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Just What I Want to Eat!

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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...