Oh Boy! It's My Day for My Annual Physical!

This morning I head to see my doctor for my annual physical exam. Just want I want to do!  I hate all the prodding, the blood drawing, and those downright personal questions he asks! But I put up with it. In fact, the doctor doesn't force me to come in. Nope! No phone calls or postcard reminders. I just go. Why? Well apart from the fact that my wife insists on it ... I go because I know it is in my best interest to do so. A lot can go wrong with our bodies (and the older I get the more I realize the truth of that statement!). So once a year is not too often to have an expert check my body out.

What is needed in the physical realm is also needed in the spiritual realm. Our souls can get weary. Our hearts distracted. Our minds out of focus. So from time to time it's a good idea for us to pause and examine ourselves. And I think we need to do this more than merely once a year!

A helpful tool that is quite helpful in this process of self examination is Donald Whitney's book, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. These questions are quite penetrating and cut to the heart of our spiritual lives. Here are his ten questions. For an in depth treatment of these, I heartily recommend his book.

1. Do you thirst for God?
2. Are you governed increasingly by God's Word?
3. Are you more loving?
4. Are you more sensitive to God's presence?
5. Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
6. Do you delight in the bride of Christ?
7. Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
8. Do you still grieve over sin?
9. Are you a quicker forgiver?
10. Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

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Famous Last Words

I got to thinking the other day about famous last words ... you know ... the last words (dying words?) of a usually famous person. They can give quite an insight into the person who speaks them. Here are a few:

"Thomas Jefferson still lives!" - President John Adams, the second president of the United States (July 4, 1826 - the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence - Jefferson died the same day!) 

"Is it the Fourth?" - Thomas Jefferson, 1826

"Nothing but death" - Author Jane Austen, 1817 (When asked by her sister Cassandra if there was anything she wanted.) 

"That was a great game of golf, fellers!" - Bing Crosby, 1977

"Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven't said enough." - Karl Marx, "founder of communism," 1883

"I'm not the least afraid to die" - Charles Darwin, 1882

"Put out the light" - President Theodore Roosevelt, 1919

The gospel accounts record for us the last words of the Lord Jesus Christ (last words in the sense of his earthly life). These were spoken on the cross in the last few hours of his death. Among these words, the final were ... "It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." What was finished?  His mission ... and his mission was to come and to seek and to save those who were lost ... and to give his life as a ransom for many (see Luke 19:10 and Mark 10:45). Praise God that in these last words uttered from the cross on which Jesus Christ died ... we have hope. Hope for today and for all eternity!! 

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Some More Thoughts on Prayer

In the recent past, I have posted a few times about this vital spiritual discipline called prayer. Today I want to post again on prayer. Why? This morning as I was doing some reading in one of E.M. Bounds' works on prayer, I ran across a section that really got me pumped to pray. Not wanting to be selfish with this gem, I shared it at our weekly church staff meeting this morning. I thought you might also be challenged by this man who not only wrote about prayer - he prayed!

"Prayer is no petty invention of man, a fancied relief for fancied ills. Prayer is no dreary performance, dead and death-dealing, but is God's enabling act for man, living and life-giving, joy and joy-giving. Prayer is the contact of a living soul with God. In prayer, God stoops to kiss man, to bless man, and to aid man in everything that God can devise or man can need. Prayer fills man's emptiness with God's fullness. It fills man's poverty with God's riches. It puts away man's weakness with God's strength. It banishes man's littleness with God's greatness. Prayer is God's plan to supply man's great and continuous need with God's great and continuous abundance.  What is this prayer to which men are called? It is not a mere form, a child's play. It is serious, difficult work, the manliest, the mightiest work, the divinest work which man can do. Prayer lifts men out of the earthliness and links them with the heavenly. Men are never nearer heaven, nearer God, never more Godlike, never in deeper sympathy and truer partnership with Jesus Christ, than when praying. Love, philanthropy, holy pledges,-all of them helpful and tender for men-are horn and perfected by prayer" 

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Asking for an Open Door!

There have been times (just a few) that I have found myself locked out of my own house. How so? Well, there was the time I took off for a walk and did not take my keys (since my wife was at home). However, her plan to head out to run some errands was totally unknown to me. So when she left the house, she locked the front door (as is our habit) and left. So when I returned and found the front door locked (and with her car not in the driveway) I realized she had gone out. At that point I proceeded to check the back door and the patio door ... hoping (and silently praying) that I would find an open door. On that occasion I did not. So I just sat around until she returned - glad that it was a nice day! 

The Apostle Paul also found himself hoping to find an open door. To the church in Colossae he wrote, "At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ . . ." (see Colossians 4:2-4). Just as Paul asked for an open door, I encourage you to do the same. Pray that there would be open, receptive hearts to the word in your church from day to day and week to week. In addition, ask God to give you open doors to share the gospel with your neighbors, classmates, co-workers, families and friends. In the book of Acts, we are told that "The Lord opened her (Lydia's) heart to respond to Paul's message" (Acts 16:14). Let's ask God to do for those around us ... both within our church and without ... what he did for Lydia! 

Take some time today ... and EVERYDAY to ask God for an open door(s)! 

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A La Carte Thursday

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

1. All of struggle when it comes to life-change. From Counseling One Another's blog .... 6 Unbiblical Methods for Change.

2. A good note for dads and what they take home each day ....

3. With all the Titanic hype of the past week ... here is a Titanic story that you really do need to read! Also ... here is a Titanic infographic you might find of interest.

4. R. C. Sproul, Jr with some insights on What Should I Do When Feeling Completely Overwhelmed? 

5. And finally ... on a lighter note ... (I thought I would post this since we just had a granddaughter born recently ... this is a cute exchange about how babies are born)

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Guide Me O, Thou Great Jehovah!

The topic of God's guidance is of great interest to most Christians. After all, we are called upon to make choices every single day ... and every single hour of the day. The majority of these choices are small (decaff or regular coffee? eggs or oatmeal for breakfast? to post or not to post on Facebook before leaving for work or school? etc. etc. etc.)  But sometimes the choices before us are much larger (choice of college, marriage partner, vocation ... just to name a few). So for those of us who want to follow God's leading, the question becomes ... how will God lead us?  What about those inward leadings we sense? Are they truly the result of the Holy Spirit prompting us?

J. I. Packer is one of the Evangelical Church's leading theologians. I first "met" Packer through his classic work, Knowing God. I read it as a relatively young Christian. His insights into the nature of God and the implications of those insights for daily living have stuck with me for some 35 plus years. In one of his most recent books, Guard Us, Guide Us, Packer discusses what he calls "holy hunches."  Please take a moment to consider his thoughts on this crucial matter:

"At the heart of living is decision-making. First a warning: Bad decision-making can take the form of following impressions - hunches masquerading as messages from God. 'I feel' is a red-flag phrase in this matter of guidance; self-proclaimed holy hunches can be a source of real danger. True, our Lord does indeed sometimes  gently nudge his sheep in one direction or the other - particularly those who know him well and are used to recognizing his voice within. But this is less the norm than many people assume, and it is not the place to start when seeking guidance from God."

"Healthy decision-making isn't a matter of thinking what we want to think, and then acting as if it were true. It isn't a matter of following our feelings, although if, by the grace of God, we make wise decisions for the living out our life, good feelings and even joy regularly follow. But the wise Christian seeking God's guidance doesn't start with impressions and subjective fantasies. Wise Christians start with the written Word of God, which they receive as their guidebook, as from the hand of Jesus Christs himself. We make our decision in the light of what Scripture actually says and then, following on from that, in the light of wisdom that comes to us as we soak ourselves in God's Word. The Word and wisdom: these are the first two basic resources for good decision-making, the activity that promotes and sustains true spiritual health." 

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A Bowling Outing Gone Bad ...

This past Sunday I went bowling.  Our men's ministry sponsored an evening of pizza and bowling. I was having a blast. The pizza was good. The fellowship was better. And by the time I hit the seventh frame of the first game ... I was beginning to hit a groove (a strike and two splits at that point). But the seventh frame did not prove to be a "lucky" frame (many consider the number seven a lucky number). A nanosecond after releasing my ball ... I felt a twang in my lower back. This was followed by a sharp pain that shouted, "You hurt me, buddy!"  I slowly and awkwardly walked back to find a seat. I sat down for a few moments ... the pain stayed with me. I tried to stand and could not. So I asked for a helping hand. Upon standing I knew that my bowling was done for the evening. So I changed my shoes (as best as I could from a standing position) ... and meandered out to the car.

Two days later I am glad to report my lower back is on the mend. The pain, though still present, is neither as sharp as it was on Sunday evening nor as constant. I hope with a couple of more days of taking things easy ... I will be back to norm. Whether I will ever bowl again ... hmm, I will have to think long and hard about that! (By the way ... last evening we were schedule to do pizza and bowling with my youngest daughter and her husband. It was their birthday gift to me. Needless to say, we did the pizza but not the bowling. Just the thought of even lifting a bowling ball caused the ache in my back to cry out in protest!).

As I thought about my experience, I was reminded of how fragile our bodies are. And the older we grow the more fragile our bodies become. For this reason, I am so encouraged by the Apostle Paul's description of our future resurrection body. Take a moment and read what he wrote (and remember, this is not merely Paul's opinion, but it is divine revelation, as Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God - see 2 Peter 1:21).

"But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42  So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor;it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47  The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust,we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven." 
(1 Corinthians 15:35-49)

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Thursday A La Carte

Here are Thursday's offerings. I hope you find something of encouragement!

1. R.C. Sproul Jr. talks about missing his wife (who died at the age of 46 back on December 18th). Powerful!

2. What impact is the Internet having on our minds? Here is an interesting infographic that suggests our Internet usage is actually ruining our brains!

3. On the lighter side from Kevin DeYoung ... the first video will be appreciated by any Downton Abby fans.

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Talk About a Stupid Dog Trick!

The old saying that truth is stranger than fiction is often proven in the stories that you can run across in the newspaper or on the Internet. Take for example the story of a Chinese woman who actually gave her dog (that’s right, her D-O-G) a driving lesson!  She claimed that Fido (probably not the dog’s name – I mean do you know any Chinese dogs by that name?) liked to sit in the front seat with his paws on the wheel.  So she decided to give him a go at driving her car. While she operated the accelerator and brake, she allowed Fido to operate the steering wheel.  It did not take very long before she, Fido and her car collided with an oncoming vehicle.  Fortunately there were no serious injuries or damage done. 

Now, that is quite the tale. It’s a good thing that her car did not spin out of control and land on its woof.  And it is also good that it happened before it got bark.  (OK – I’ll quit with the puns and get back to my thoughts!)  How could anyone think that a dog could safely navigate a car through traffic on a busy street is beyond me.  But then again, a lot of what people do is beyond me. But before I start pointing the finger at others – I need to look at myself.  Because just as I shake my head at this woman trying to do something like teaching her dog to drive, I am sure that God often shakes His head at some of the stupid and foolish things I do – things that I could avoid if I were to simply pay closer attention to God’s Word.  Will I ever learn?  Will YOU ever learn?  I sure hope so.  And I hope it’s sooner rather than later! 

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One Hundred Years Ago Today!

It was on April 10, 1912 that the unsinkable ocean liner, the Titanic cruised out of the port of Southampton, England. A mere five days later, the ship struck an iceberg ... and the unsinkable ship did the unthinkable - it sunk. In doing so, over 1500 people lost their lives in the dark, frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

I am sure you will be hearing a lot about the Titanic in the coming days as the one hundredth anniversary of its tragic voyage is now upon us. As you do, allow it to remind you that for those of us who are following Jesus, we are on a truly "unsinkable ship" as we sail the waters (often stormy) of this present earthly life. With Jesus Christ at the helm of both this world and our own individual lives, we can be assured that HIS plan will be brought to its pre-planned conclusion. And just what is this "pre-planned conclusion?"  If you want to know, take a moment and read the following passages: 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Revelation 19:11-21; Revelation 20:1-15; Revelation 21:1-27; Revelation 22:1- 21).

Thanks be to God for the encouragement that comes in knowing how the book we call "Life" ends!  I hope you are prepared!  (and if you need some help in preparing, check out these two ways to live. 

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Do YOU Struggle to Pray?

If you are anything like me ... you will have to admit that you are not satisfied with your "prayer life." I am not. So often when I set aside time to pray, something comes up that demands my attention. And since that "something" keeps screaming until I do something about it .... I reluctantly take action and leave my good intention of praying more and praying better behind (for an excellent treatment of this regular happening of life, check out the booklet, The Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles E. Hummel.

Because I struggle to pray as I know I should, I made a commitment this year to read the Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer.  I knew that this man was a man who knew how to pray ... and prayed! Therefore, I figured in reading his works, I would find encouragement to pray. I have not been disappointed.

Here are two quotes that I encountered today, both of which have challenged me! I hope you find encouragement in them as well!

"If men would pray as they ought to pray, the marvels of the past would he more than reproduced. The gospel would advance with a facility and power it has never known. Doors would be thrown open to the gospel, and the Word of God would have a conquering force rarely, if ever, known before."

"He who counts the hairs of our head, and who is not too lofty and high to notice the little sparrow which falls to the ground, is not too great and high to note everything which concerns the happiness, the needs and the safety of his children."

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He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

On Thursday evening, we showed a music video that communicates a powerful message about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I invite you to take the approximately five minutes required to watch this video ... and as you do .... WORSHIP JESUS CHRIST!  Praise God that He lives!

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A Prayer for Good Friday

A Good Friday Prayer

Gracious and Merciful Savior, we rejoice today in You!
To think you were willing to be forsaken by the Father,
As you hung suspended between earth and heaven,
Alone, bleeding and broken, mocked by the very creatures
Whom you made, abandoned by the disciples you had chosen.

To think that you suffered in unimaginable ways in order to
Propitiate God's wrath, redeem us from sin,
Reconcile us to the Father, and justify us forever more!

O Lord of lords ..... O King of kings, we praise you that
You did not regard equality with God something
To be grasped with an iron fist. Rather you let go
And you entered this sinful world as one of us!
Yet your deity was never diminished, you remained fully God.

Indeed this mystery is great! Yet greater still is
The blessing that is ours because of your sacrifice!

Thank you for becoming our substitute ... for dying in our place ...
For paying the penalty for our sin and rebellion that we had
Absolutely NO hope of paying on our own.

Thank you that because of the cross you can take us
Who are dead in sin and make us alive in yourself!

Thank you that on the third day following your death on the cross
You arose from the dead ... never to die again and giving to us
A HOPE that will never fail.

Thank you that we who were once your enemies you now call
"My friends."

Today we boast not in ourselves or in anything we have done.
Today (and may it be every day) we boast in your cross!


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Thursday A La Carte

Enjoy today's offerings:

1. Do the "ends justify the means" when it comes to proclaiming the gospel? If a method results in the salvation of souls ... does that justify the use of that method? Here's a compelling answer to this fundamental question. 

2.  Russel Moore on the topic, Is Easter too Violent for Kids?

3. Paul Tripp on why we need one another in his insightful article, Blind to our Blindness. 

4. Kathleen Nielson on Never Retreat .... a good read!

5. On a lighter note ... talk about quadruplets! 

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A Prayer for Wednesday of Easter Week

Most Gracious Father God,

How I thank you today for your great love and mercy!
For loving this sinful world of humanity in such a way
That you sent your Son to pay the penalty for our sin.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, fully God and fully man
For being willing to face the wrath of God in death
So that I would never have to!

Thank you Holy Spirit, for your work of convicting my heart
Of opening my eyes ... of awakening my soul so that
I who was once dead in my sin could place my faith in Christ.

Thank you O Almighty God, the Three-in-One.
Thank you for the new life that I have, the forgiveness of sin
That I enjoy, the fact that my name is written on the walls of heaven.
ONLY because you first loved me!

Thank you that you accomplished this miracle of salvation in my life . . .
ALL by YOUR grace and for YOUR glory!


God at Work on the Campus of Bangui University!

Just this morning I received an email from Dr. Augustin Hibaile (Dr. Hibaile is the founder of the Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership .... or known simply as CIDEL). He began this ministry approximately 7 years ago in the Central African Republic. Since that time, God has blessed his ministry in an Ephesians 3:20-21 way!  For his latest update about what God did this past week on the campus of Bangui University .... please take a moment and visit the friends of Cidel website.  and read his APRIL 3 update. Praise God for what HE is doing through Dr. Hibaile and his ministry in the very heart of Africa!

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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...