Got Zeal?

"Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord" (Romans 12:11).

When the apostle Paul tells us "do not be slothful in zeal," he is encouraging us to be filled with zeal ... to be zealous in our faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ. But what is zeal? To answer this question, consider these words from  the pen of J. I. Packer who has a great insight into the nature of zeal:

"Are you clear what zeal is? It is not fanaticism; it is not wildness,; it is not irresponsible enthusiasm; it is not any form of posh egoism. It is, rather, a humble, reverent, businesslike, single-minded commitment to the hallowing of God's name and the doing of his will" 
(J. I. Packer, A Passion for Faithfulness). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Thursday A La Carte

Here are Thursday's a la carte offerings. Enjoy!

1. Just how big is our universe?  Check out this BBC infographic! (and to think, God spoke it all into existence!)

2. Here is an interesting article from the New York Times about Tim Tebow's trade to the NY Jets. 

3. A World Magazine article talks about how an affair begins. 

4. Check out PluggedIn's review of the new movie, October Baby and World Magazine's review of the new film, Hunger Games. 

5. An inspiring performance by Jonathan and Charlotte on Britian's Got Talent.

6. On a lighter note ....  

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Are You Ready?

Yesterday I talked about being prepared to meet God. I did so because yesterday's paper's obituary reminded me that death could come knocking at my door at ANY time! That's true for me ... that's equally true for you. So we must be ready to meet God ... NOT on our terms ... but HIS! So again I ask you ... have you made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, turning from your sin and rebellion and turning to HIM ... trusting Him as your savior? I hope you have!

 Now ... as promised ... a word to those who claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ: You must be ready to stand before Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5 ... the apostle Paul writes, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil" (verse 9). Note that at this judgment, it is not our eternal destiny that is at stake. For the believer in Christ, that was cared for at the cross. What IS in view here is how we have lived our lives since becoming a Christian. Many Christians have either never been taught that this judgment is coming OR have forgotten about it (out of sight ... out of mind sort of thing). But friends, this judgment is real. It's on God's calendar. It will happen. We will be called to give an account for both the good and the bad that we have done (and the good we have not done)!

So ... given the reality of this impending "judgment seat of Christ," have you paused to evaluate your life recently? Let me ask you just a few questions to help you do so:

1. How do you spend your time? How much of your time can you honestly say is spent on kingdom-advancing activities? How much time do you spend strengthening your soul? Encouraging others (in either word or deed)? Reaching out to the poor? How much of your time is wasted on temporal pursuits like television, video games, and the like? (There is value to recreational activities ... but we live in a culture in which these take "center stage." Therefore we as Christ-followers must beware lest we lose sight of God's calling on our lives!)

2. How do you spend your money? How much have you given of late to your church? To missions? To others in need? If you have to put a percentage on the amount of your annual income that you give to God .... what would it be? (One of my seminary profs told me that tithing our income (10%) is a good place to start but a poor place to stop when it comes to giving to God! My wife and I have followed his advice and have never regretted it.)

3. What is the quality of your relationships with others? Husbands, are you loving your wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for her? Wives, are you showing respect to your husbands? Parents are you striving to raise your children in the way of the Lord (and what are you doing that would lead you to answer "Yes")? Children, are  you honoring your father and mother? Do you seek to give more or get more from your relationships?

I could go on ... but I don't want to ask you questions that I will not take the time to answer for myself. So ... all this to say: There is coming a day when you and I (if we are true followers of Jesus Christ) will stand before Him to give account. Let's live life NOW in light of THEN! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Who Is That Knocking at My Door?

If you are anything like me (and I believe many of you are), then you know what it's like to have visitors stop by your house. Usually these visitors are welcome. Often they are family. But sometimes a visitor shows up at your door and you secretly wish you weren't home (be honest ... I am sure you know what I am talking about!).

There is one visitor that will most definitely come knocking at our door. There will be no avoiding this. You could secretly change your address every day ... and he would still know where you live. Of whom am I referring? The Grim Reaper of Death, of course. The Bible puts it this way, "And just as it is appointed for man to die once . . . " (Hebrews 9:27). That's quite clear. All of us will one day die. Every single one of us. There is no avoiding the statistic that "one out of every one will die." But our "lives" don't end with death (profound thought!) ... for Hebrews 9:27 goes on to say ... "and after THAT comes judgment." After WHAT? After death!  So there is an "after that" to death. 

So what does this mean for you and me? For starters, it means that we had better be prepared to meet God. And for ALL of us - that is a HUGE problem! "For all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God"(Romans 3:23). We have rebelled against God ... insisting that we do life OUR WAY (Isaiah 53:6). God is a just and righteous God ... and there is a penalty to be paid for our rebellion against him. This is a penalty that none of us can pay for ourselves. It is too BIG! But this is where God stepped in and paid the penalty himself. He sent his Son to die for us ... to be our substitute ... to pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus Christ faced God's wrath against our sin so that we would not have to! (to see a full explanation of this good news ... the gospel ... check out Two Ways to Live: the Choice We All Face.)

Once we have prepared to meet God by making a faith commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ by trusting him as our savior ... we still must prepare to stand before Him ... but more on this tomorrow. For today ... take a moment and examine yourself to make sure you are "in the faith" (2 Corinthians 13:5). If you are confident that you know Christ ... then rejoice in the grace in which you stand through Christ and Christ alone! (take a moment and listen to this song by the Getty's). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

PS - FYI -- I got to thinking about death when I noticed in today's paper the obituaries of FOUR individuals whose ages were all within four years of mine! 

Up, Up and Away!

I hope you are enjoying this early spring time weather as much as I am!  The only down side is that I am going to have to cut my grass today!

Tomorrow morning I fly to Indiana. I will be quite busy while there, so I will not be offering any posts for this week. But I should be right back at it next week!  So until then ...

"May The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Thursday A La Carte

Today is THURSDAY!  Enjoy!

1. For those of you who would much rather read a book on paper vs. a book in digital form ... here is some foreboding news about the Encyclopedia Britannica. 

2. Want to know the impact of the "Kony 12" video that has gone viral? Check it out here. 

3. Redeemed Reader is a great place to go for book reviews, especially if you are wondering what is appropriate reading for your kids. So how about the Hunger Games books ... that have proven wildly popular and will soon come to the silver screen? Check out Redeemed Reader's review . . .

4. Ed Welch on Fighting Sin is Tiring. A brief but good read!

5. On a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Don't Got Joy? Embrace Jesus Christ!

Jonathan Edwards was arguably the greatest theologian ever born in America. In one of his earlier sermons, he spoke these words: "It would be worth the while to be religious, if it were only for the pleasantness of it."  Of course, Edward's use of the word "religious" did not carry the baggage in his day that it often does in ours. But his point is well made. If we are truly living out our Christian faith as God intends us to do . . . we will experience his presence in our lives in a powerful way. And when we are living "in his presence" we will experience the fullness of joy (see Psalm 16:11).

Stephen Nicholls in his book, Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edward's Vision of Living in Between, elaborates on what Edwards (and the Scripture) is teaching us:

"When we come to Christ, he gives us man wonderful things. What's more, he enables us to enjoy all of them, both spiritual and physical things. But the greatest gift God gives us is himself. He longs for us to enjoy him. This is not a gift for the future only - it's a gift we should enjoy now." 

Now this almost sounds a bit like the totally unbiblical "prosperity gospel" that is being preached today (which basically says that God has a plan for your life and that plan includes material prosperity). But Nicholls makes it clear that this is in NO WAY what Edwards was teaching. Nicholls writes,

"And lest we think Edwards is an early version of a prosperity-peddling televangelist, we must bear in mind that for him, the greatest pleasure is found in the glory and excellency of Christ. Edwards recalls the testimony of Paul from 2 Corinthians 6:10: “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

SOOO ... do you have joy? Have you found this pleasure that Edwards preached about? If not, then I invite you to visit the Two ways to live: the choice we all face web site. There is a better way to live!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Why? Daddy, Why?

Recently I overhead a conversation between a preschooler and her grandfather. Almost every time Granddad answered a question, the little one would respond with the same question, "Why?" Now I am sure for those of you out there who have either raised little ones of your own or have had the privilege to invest in the lives of preschoolers in some other venue, you can relate to what this grandfather went through. Children tend to have an insatiable appetite for knowing why things are the way they are. Many a frustrated adult as finally answered the seeming endless parade of whys with a response such as "because ... just because!" or "Well, why not?"

Often times we approach God with the "WHY" question. We do this especially when facing difficulty. We just want to know WHY this painful trial is happening to us! The Old Testament character Job found himself in this situation. He lost everyone and everything that meant anything to him ... with two exceptions. He did not lose his wife and he did not lose his life. He wanted to know WHY all these tragic circumstances were happening to him (see Job 7:20; 10:2; 13:24). Well, if you know anything about the book of Job, you know God never reveals to Job the reason for his suffering (which, we know, were due to Satan's challenge of God in which Satan claimed the only reason Job worshiped God was for the blessings he received from God - see Job chapters 1 and 2). But what God does when he finally arrives on the scene is to remind Job of who he (Job) is and who HE (GOD) is. Twice, God says to Job, "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me!" (Job 38:3 and Job 40:7).  In saying this .. God was reminding Job that HE (GOD) IS GOD AND JOB IS NOT! That, my friend, is the lesson all of us must learn. That God is God and I am not!  And as God ... He has the prerogative to order our life circumstances as he deems best. And remember ... Father does indeed know best! So when troubles come our way (which they will) ... then we can by faith rest secure in our Father's hands, knowing HE IS GOD AND WE ARE NOT!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

In the Father's Hands!

Jesus in his greatest recorded sermon (the Sermon on the Mount, Mathew 5-7), often refers to God as our Father. And right so, for he is! For example in Matthew 6:4 he says, "Your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Again in Matthew 6:8 he states, "Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." And in Matthew 7:11 he declares, "How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" There is no doubt, the Bible clearly teaches that for those who make a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, Almighty God becomes their heavenly Father! That's an incredible truth which brings with it an astonishing reality for us, his children. Consider the following insight into this reality from the pen of J.I. Packer:

"In light of all that the New Testament tells us about God's love for his children, we can pray with perfect confidence to the Father as one who will never fail us. Human fathers may (and will) let us down, but not God. We can know with certainty that our praying will be heard and responded to in the way that not only is wisest in terms of God's own total purposes but also is best in the long run for us as individuals. It is a truly wonderful thing to be in God's paternal hands." (From his book, Praying).

Are there any better hands to be in ... than the "paternal hands of God?"

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Recently I ran across the following quote about Family Life by Edith Schaeffer. She along with her theologian-philosopher husband, Francis Schaeffer founded L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland.  Please take a moment and read and then reflect on what Edith writes about family life:

"Family life is a lost art in many places today. People may live in the same house, apartment, cottage, condominium, boat, or cabin, but they have no pattern for a growing life together."

In other words, what Edith is saying here is that just because a group of people live together under the same roof does not necessarily make it a family. We have to work at family. We must make the time to interact with one another in meaningful ways (the operative words here are "interact" and "meaningful"). So ... what does your "family life" look like? Are you growing together in your faith? In your appreciation for one another? In just doing life TOGETHER?

These are some questions all of us should think about!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Hard to believe it's already the SECOND Thursday of March .... here are today's offerings. Hope you find something of value!

1. Recently John Piper made some comments about the Christian and addiction to entertainment. Here is an interesting response to his comments.

2. Kirk Cameron was asked by Piers Morgan about gay marriage. Here is Kirk's response . . .

3. Here is an approach to lent you probably never thought of!

4. Confused about the country of China? You are not alone ... check out this article, 8 Myths about China Today. 

5. On a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Paralyzed by FEAR!!!

Yesterday when I was home for lunch, I asked my one and half year old grandson, John, if he wanted to see "Mr. Monkey" (Mr. Monkey is a small hand puppet who lives in our hall closet). Little Jack (little John's unfortunate nickname) immediately took off toward the hall closet  (with me in fast pursuit). As he rounded the corner from the living room and into the hallway in which the closet is located, he stopped dead in his tracks (he stopped so quickly I almost fell over him). There standing on the floor ... bigger than life (well, definitely bigger than Jack) was THE VACUUM CLEANER!  As Jack stood quietly staring at the vacuum, I opened the closet door and encouraged him to come see Mr. Monkey. But alas, NO WAY was Jack going to take  another step toward that vacuum cleaner! He was paralyzed by his fear!

Hmm. I am guessing that many who might happen to read this post will be able to relate to Jack and his experience. You may not be afraid of a vacuum cleaner (most of us grow out of that fear -- now some might be afraid to use a vacuum cleaner - but that is something different!), but you are afraid of something ... and possibly many things (according to the, there are over 500 identifiable phobias from which people suffer).

So why does fear so easily afflict us? Disrupt our lives? Paralyze us?

The Bible speaks a lot about fear and anxiety (the two are very much related). My guess is that the biggest contributor to fear is our small view of God. That's right. When our God is "small" (in our minds) then our problems become BIG and often HUGE ... and sometimes INSURMOUNTABLE and LIFE THREATENING! King David understood this. In Psalm 27:1 he asks two questions: "The LORD is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" The answer, of course, is NO ONE (He states something similar in Psalm 56:3-4). The Apostle Paul also speaks to this topic in Romans 8:31 where he writes, "If God if for us, who can be against us?" Again the answer is NO ONE!

So  you see my friends, if you understand that the Almighty God who spoke this vast universe into existence loves you and cares for you, you can rest in him. You do not have to fear! You do not have to be anxious about the future. Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death (and it gets no more frightening than that!) you do not need to fear ... for our Almighty God is with you (see Psalm 23:4).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

The Shrinking of God!

About a month ago, I stumbled across a book titled, The J.I. Packer Classic Collection: Daily Reading for Your Spiritual Journey. Given that J. I. is one of my favorite theologians, I figured I could not go wrong in buying and then reading the book. I was not wrong. Here is a portion of one of these readings, gleaned from his book, Rediscovering Holiness:

"Often in recent decades I have found myself publicly lamenting the way in which our Western culture has indulged unwarrantably great thoughts of humanity and scandalously small thoughts of God. Our time will surely go down in history as the age of the God-shrinkers. The result is that belief in God's sovereignty and omniscience, the majesty of his moral law and the terror of his judgments, the retributive consequences of the life we live here and the endlessness of the eternity in which we will experience them, along with the belief in the intrinsic triunity of God and the divinity and personal return of Jesus Christ, is nowadays so eroded as to be hardly discernible. For many in our day, God is no more than a smudge." 

J. I. is, sadly, right on with his assessment of how so many around us view God. For those of us who claim an allegiance to the God of the Bible, we must be careful that our culture's view of God does not shrink our view of God! In every way conceivable, our God is indeed an AWESOME God!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Life Well Lived!

Late last week, pastor John Snow died as a result of a skiing accident. I have known John for a number of years, during which he has served on the pastoral staffs of a number of Grace Brethren churches (including the GBC in Lititz, PA). John was an outstanding example of a godly man and pastor whom I looked up to. He wil be missed. My deepest sympathy to John's wife, Lucy. Here is a Vermont television report on the accident and John's life.

John, you will be missed by many ... but your legacy lives on! Until we meet again . . .

 Thanks for stopping by . . . Pj

For Me ... to Live Is Christ!

As the Apostle Paul spent time in a Roman prison, he was unsure if he was going to live or die. In that context, he wrote these well known words to the church at Philippi:

"Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again" (Philippians 1:19-26).

Paul's life was spared at that time and he continued on with is life . . . living each day for HIM! Isn't this how all of us who claim allegiance to Christ ... isn't this how we should be living? From The Valley of Vision's collection of Puritan prayers comes these words (somewhat modified by me) ... I encourage you to make this prayer YOURS ... today ... and every day! 

O God of my life and soul, 
Here, it is my duty
to be as Christ in this world, 
to do what he would do, 
to say what he would say, 
to think what he would think, 
to live as he would live, 
to walk in love and humility, 
then would he be known, 
then would I be satisfied in life, 
then would I have peace in death. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's a la carte offerings ....

1. Phil Ryken (former pastor of Tenth Church in Philadelphia and now president of Wheaton College) offers some advice on how to listen to a sermon. 

2. Here's an interesting article on the spiritual gift of discouragement. 

3. Chuck Swindoll offers up a brief dose of encouragement to trust God! 

4. Ray Ortland offers up some thoughts about when God seems unreal. 

5. And on a lighter note . . . The Wizard of Oz in a way you have not heard it before! 

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...