When Our Plans Don't Work Out!

Plans.  We all make them. Seek to implement them.  Hope to realize them.  But often our plans don’t quite work out the way had we hoped.  When I was a senior in high school, my plan was to go off to college and major in chemistry and become a chemist.  Gladly, that plan did not work out.  When Sharon and I got married, our plan was for me to work our first year of marriage while she finished college.  Then she would work full-time while I attended seminary, after which I would seek a pastorate.  Only then would we begin a family (God willing!).  That plan lasted ten months.  Our first born, Emily, came along during Sharon’s spring break of her senior year.  I could go on … but I think you get my point.  No matter how well thought out our plans might be – there are no guarantees that they will come to pass.

Not so with God’s plans!  His plans are set in granite. What God purposes WILL happen!  No ifs, ands or buts about it!  In Psalm 33:11 we read, “But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”  I don’t know about you – but I find a lot of comfort knowing that God’s plans for this world (and for me!) will one day be a reality!  Why?  Because when you read the finally chapter of the good Book – you will see that in the end, “Jesus is going to win!”   So in the midst of this world’s ongoing turmoil, take heart in that!  A better day IS coming! 

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Snow Geese and God's Fingerprints!

Yesterday my wife and I drove up to the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. It is a preserve located on the Lancaster/Lebanon County line. Each year at this time, the preserve is visited by thousands of snow geese as they travel back to the Arctic and their breeding grounds. According to figures on Middle Creek's web site, there were some 65,000 snow geese in the preserve yesterday. It was quite the sight!

Now what amazes me is that these geese can fly thousands of miles between their winter habitat south of us and their summer home in the artic and never get lost! How do they find the Middle Creek rest stop year after year? Some people I know get lost even when following a gps!  The migration of these water fowl is truly incredible.

Those who choose to believe in the theory of evolution (and note that I wrote "theory" because that is all it is) might simply write this off as some sort of evolutionary instincts at work. I choose to believe that an intelligent designer (you can read "Creator-God" here) has wired these geese to know when to begin their migration and how to get where they are going. The created realm and all of its creatures certainly have the designer's fingerprints all over them!

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Recently I was talking with a friend about how easily people complain (and we Christians are not exempt from complaining!). During our conversation, I mentioned to him a truth that I had recently read. The author said something to this effect: "Why do we (he was referring to Christians) so easily and so readily complain about this life when our names are written in heaven?"  Ouch! Got me on that one!

This morning I was again reminded of the glory of being forgiven as I was reading the prayer of an unknown Puritan of yesteryear. The final line of the prayer read: "O Lord God, without the pardon of my sin I cannot rest satisfied."  (Or to state in positive terms, "O Lord God, with the pardon of my sin I can rest satisfied!")

How about YOU? Have you been forgiven? (If you are wondering how you can be forgiven by God, click here) If you have .... then focus on the fact that your name is forever written on the very foundation of heaven. Not because of anything you have done ... but because of EVERYTHING Christ has done!  And rest satisfied!!!

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I Will Fear No Evil!

In his book, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ , John Piper says the following about evil:

"The all-important pivot of human history, the worst sin ever committed served to show the greatest glory of Christ and obtain the sin-conquering gift of God’s grace. God did not just overcome evil at the cross. He made evil serve the overcoming of evil. He made evil commit suicide in doing its worst evil." 


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Thursday A La Carte

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

1. We can benefit greatly from spending time with those who have traveled life's path with God before us. One such godly man is J.C. Ryle ... an English pastor back in the 1800's. This man knew God's Word and put it into practice (see Matthew 7:24-27). You may want to check out his 25 greatest quotes! 

2. In honor of two presidents who had birthdays this month (Lincoln on the 12th and Washington on the 22nd) here is an interesting article on the faith of these two men. A very good read! Also as a bonus ... have you ever wondered which of our presidents was the wealthiest? Here are the answers! 

3. Ever hear of this growing fear: Nomophobia? Nomophobia is the fear of being without your cell phone ... and it is on the rise! Here is an article about this growing threat to one's personal peace!

4. The Church is not perfect ... but it is precious. I like what Chuck Swindoll has to say about the Church.

5. On a lighThanks for stopping by . . .
pjter note . . . one of the best of this year's commercials! 

The Abomination of Sin

This morning as I was reading Jerry Bridges new book, The Transforming Power of the Gospel, I ran across an illustration that got me really thinking. In the context, Bridges is writing about God's hatred of sin. He references such passages as Habakkuk 1:13 and Proverbs 6:16-19 which clearly demonstrate that God thinks of sin in a lot worse terms than we almost do.  It is in the context of God's hatred of sin that he shares the following illustration:

"Suppose you want a new rug to cover the wooden floor in your living room. Being of modest means, you go the local discount store and pay three hundred dollars for a rug. I come into your house with a bottle of black indelible ink and spill that ink on your rug. I have just ruined your three-hundred-dollar rug. But suppose you are a wealthy person and you pay thirty thousand dollars for an expensive Persian rug. If I spill ink on that rug, it is an entirely different matter. Why is that true? It is the same act on my part. In both instances, I have spilled black indelible ink on a rug. The difference, of course, lies in the value of the rug. This is the way we should view the enormity of our sin. God’s holiness cannot be compared to even the thirty-thousand-dollar rug. It is infinite. It is immeasurable. Furthermore, we do not accidentally “spill” our sin on God’s holiness. For the most part, we rather pour out our sin; that is, we choose to act out our pride and selfishness, our judgmental attitudes, and our unkind words about others. And when we do that, we deliberately pour out our sin on the holiness of God. That is why our sin, be it ever so small in our eyes, is always an abomination to God."

I must confess I often lose sight of just how abominable my sin is to God (and if you are honest you would certainly have to confess the same for your self). This is not hard to do given that we live in a society of people who, for the most part, look at what the Bible labels sin and simply shrug it off as "no big deal." However, it is a big deal to God. My prayer for you and for me is that we would learn to see sin as God sees it ... and to strive to put it off ... and to put on God's righteousness in its place (Ephesians 4:20-23; 1 Peter 1:13-16). I also pray that as we learn to view sin as God does, we will grow increasingly thankful for the cross. For in it ... we right now posses freedom from the penalty and power of sin ... and one day we will bask in the freedom from the very presence of sin! Oh what a day that will be!!!

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A Lesson from a Bird Feeder

During the winter months (if you can really call this season we are in "winter!"), I like to keep the bird feeder that hangs outside my office window at home full of birdseed. Once the birds realize the food is there for the having, there's no keeping them away! (If you fill it ... they will come!)  From sun up to sun down the birds come and go as they seek to satisfy their hunger.

As I thought about these birds ... I was saddened that I was not more like them. I am not thinking about my need to be visiting my fridge more often, I probably do that too much now! But what I need is a greater hunger for God and for his Word! I need to be like these birds who are all about going to the place where they know they can be fed. And not just once a day ... but throughout my day!

When the apostle Paul showed up preaching Christ in Berea, the Jews that were there "received the word with all eagerness" (Acts 17:11). Is that how I receive God's Word?  Am I eager to hear it? Do I keep going back for more?  How about you? Are you like these birds who continue to return for more food? If this does not describe you (or me) ... then what is wrong with us? That, my friend, is a question that only we ourselves can answer!  I encourage you to give some thought (and PRAYER) to this. The health and welfare of your soul depends upon it!

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A Prayer for Your Friday (and Beyond!)

Here is a prayer for your day today ... based upon a prayer from the wonderful collection of Puritan prayers contained in the book, The Valley of Vision. 

O One who loves me to the uttermost, 
Help me this day to think highly of you and rightly of me. 

Remind me today ... and everyday 
Of your glory and my vileness,
Of your majesty and my meanness,
Of your beauty and my deformity,
Of your purity and my filth,
Of your righteousness and my sin. 

You have loved me everlastingly and unchangeably,
May I love you as I am loved. 

You have died for me, may I live for you 
In every moment of my time,
In every movement of my mind, 
In every pulse of my heart. 

May I not walk in step with the world around me
But walk by your side,
Listen to your voice,
be clothed with your grace
and adorned with your righteousness. 

O lover of my soul, please make it so! 


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Abbreviated A La Carte

Due to my schedule this week ... here is an abbreviated a la carte offering ... enjoy!

1. Feel overwhelmed by email? Ever have someone not respond to your email?  Check this infographic out! 

2. Steve Cornell on What if I don't feel love for my spouse?  

3. Counselor Julie Lowe talks about shame and guilt enter into parenting. A good 3 minute video!

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Well Said!

Recently I had to deal with a situation that occurred as a result of how one person talked to another.  It seems that this person had an agenda and in the process of pushing his agenda he was very insensitive to the person with whom he was conversing. 

Now before dealing with the situation, I took a long hard look into the mirror.  And guess what?  I found that all too often I am guilty of doing the very same thing!  As I reflected on this, the Spirit of God brought the following verse to mind: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).  In this verse, the Apostle Paul defines unwholesome talk as any talk that fails to build up others according to their needs.  Or to state it positively, wholesome talk is talk with benefits the listener by building him or her up according to his or her need. 

Now to consistently speak wholesome words, we must get our focus off of our selves and onto others.  Only then will we speak words that build and benefit and heal rather than tear down and wound and hurt.  I challenge you to memorize and then live out this powerful verse.  It will transform your talk which in turn will transform your relationships and bring much glory to our God!

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Happy Valentine's Day!

Do you have questions about Valentine's Day? Like, how did it get started? And how is it celebrated?  Here's an interesting infographic display by the History Channel that gives a lot of info on the day.



Homesick for Heaven?

Randy Alcorn has written some of the best stuff about heaven and eternity. Sadly, too many of us rarely give the next life much thought. We are too busy enjoy the stuff and fluff of this life. And that's sad! Below is an excerpt from his devotional book, 50 Days of Heaven: Reflections That Bring Eternity to Light. I highly recommend it!

"Do you recall a time when you were away from home and desperately missed it? Maybe it was when you were at college or in the military, were traveling extensively overseas, or needed to move because of a job. Do you remember how your heart ached for home? That's how we should feel about Heaven. 

We are a displaced people, longing for our home. C. S. Lewis said, 'If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.'

Nothing is more often misdiagnosed than our homesickness for Heaven. We think that what we want is sex, drugs, alcohol, a new job, a raise, a doctorate, a spouse, a large-screen television, a new car, a cabin in the woods, a condo in Hawaii. What we really want is the person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy us." 

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A La Carte Thursday

I hope you glean something of value from today's a la carte offerings!

1. Michael Horton comments on Newsweek's cover article about the Islamic war on Christians. He offers up some helpful suggestions on how we as Christians can best respond to this growing threat. 

2. Scotty Smith offers a prayer for drawing strength from our tireless, hope-renewing God. I just love Scotty's prayers!

3. Ed Welch comments on his new book, Do Young People Worry about What Others Think? 

4. Ever get to feeling a bit dry in your love relationship with God? If so ... you might want to read this brief devotional from Ligonier Ministries, Developing a Passion for God. 

5. And on a lighter note ... John Branyan retells the tale of the Three Little Pigs in Shakespearean language and style! Quite clever!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Distinctively Different!

Recently I have noticed a few cardinals feeding at my bird feeder, which hangs from a post just outside my home office window.  As you can guess, cardinals, with their bright red feathers are easy to spot when they arrive. And in the warmer months, I enjoy listening to their very distinctive song - especially when two or more of them are involved in putting on a concert! 

Just as cardinals in the bird world are distinct in both color and song – we as Christ-followers are to be distinct in the real world in all that we think, say and do.  Christ calls us to follow the way of the cross – which is a very counter-cultural path.  So if we are walking this path – denying ourselves, picking up the cross daily and following Him (see Luke 9:23) – we will be distinctly different from the masses around us.  Are you willing to stand up --- and stand out for Jesus?  

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

The Gift that Never Stops Giving!

During my prayer time this morning ... I used one of my favorite devotional books, the Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. Here is an excerpt from the prayer that I used today ... it focuses on Jesus Christ.

"O source of all good, 
What shall I render to you for the gift of gifts, 
Your own dear Son, begotten not created,
my redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute, 
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
He came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.

When I was undone, with no will to return to him, 
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost, 
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf, 
to work out a perfect righteousness for me. 

Let me clasp my savior to my heart, 
embrace him with undying faith, 
rejoicing that he is mine and I am his. 

In him you have given me so much that heaven can give no more. 


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A Pajama Lesson

Recently I saw something at the mall that made me look a second time. Someone wearing their pajama bottoms. And once I saw one person ... I saw some others as well. Not sure what that means ... perhaps too lazy to get dressed after rolling out of bed? Maybe rolling out of bed late with no time to change? Or perhaps the individual's only pair of jeans are in the wash? And it's not just here in Lancaster. The city of Shreveport, LA is considering a ban on the wearing of pajamas in public. And last year a school in the town of Middlesbrough, England asked parents to stop wearing pajamas when they dropped off and picked up their children from school. What's next? I'd hate to even go there!

I got to thinking about this earlier this morning. I was greeting our preschool students at they were being dropped off for school. Some of the students were wearing their pajama's. Today was "pajama day" in their class. After watching several of them skipping in the door, wearing their finest sleepwear ... I turned to a one of the teaches and said, "So, this is where these people who wear their pj's to the mall learned that it was OK to get "out and about" in your pajamas!"  Of course, I was just trying to be funny (but, as one four year old told me once, "You think you're funny but you're not!"). So ..OK .. the statement was a bit lame. But ... there is a reality behind my attempt at humor.

Children ... especially in their preschool years ... are incredibly impressionable. The foundation of who they will become as adults is laid during their early childhood days. So we who have little ones in our lives (i.e. children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, etc.) must be INTENTIONAL about just  what it is we are passing on to them. And among other things ... remember this truism, "VALUES ARE BETTER CAUGHT THAN TAUGHT" (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  What kind of example are YOU to the children in your life? What truths are you impressing upon them?

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Thursday A La Carte

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

1. Al Mohler comments on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that reaffirms religious liberty. You will want to read this!

2. Recently someone shared about going through some tough times ... and how God seemed distant or uninvolved in their situation in spite of pleas for his help. Ray Ortland offers up some thoughts of encouragement when (not if) we go through such hard time.

3. Here's a great (and convicting) video (3:14) on the topic of evangelism from Way of the Master.

4. David Murray discusses some of the whispers you might "hear" after you get done praying ... whispers that come for our adversary ... I printed these out to place in my prayer journal.

5.  Talk about "sleight of hand!" This guy is really, really good!!! (my takeaway ... our adversary the Devil is even better at the deception game ... so beware!). Worth the 8 minutes it takes to watch!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

From Darkness to Light

As Mathew records his gospel account of Jesus Christ, he reaches back into Isaiah chapter nine and quotes this promise that was made of the promised Messiah:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, 
   the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 
the people dwelling in darkness 
   have seen a great light, 
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, 
   on them a light has dawned.” 
(Matthew 4:15-16)

Jesus brought God's light to the people of Israel. The majority chose to reject that light. And thus, for the past two thousand years, the Jewish people have, for the most part, lived in spiritual darkness (see Romans 11:1-7). But there is coming a day, I believe, when God will do an incredible work among the Israeli people (Romans 11:25-27). I also believe that God has already begun to do amazing things in present day Israel. For the past decade and a half, I have had the privilege of serving on the board of Hebrew Christian Fellowship. In the past five or six years, God has providentially brought us into partnership with a number of ministries in Israel that are seeing significant growth. I encourage you to go to the Hebrew Christian Fellowship website. Once there, click on the word AFFILATES. This will take you a listing of the various affilate ministries that HCF is working with ... all at work bringing the light of the gospel to those who live in the land of Israel. This is indeed an exciting time to be alive!  

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...