Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings . . .

1. I really like what Christine Jensen has to say about going to church with your family. 

2. Tim Challies offers up "Five Bullet Points about Death."  - a good summation of the Bible's teaching. And since we all will one day experience death (unless, of course, Jesus returns first) - it may be good to reflect on these!

3. What do you say to someone who claims that the Bible is full of errors?  Here is one man's take ... and it's worth your time to read!

4. R.C. Sproul in this video (4:10) talks about the Christian and suffering. 

5. Finally ... on a lighter note.  With a bit of humor ... Mark Lowery makes a point!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Storms Come and Storms Go - Will YOU Be Left Standing?

Last evening as I was driving home at a late hour, I came around a curve on a dark country road ... when, through the open windows came a loud crack. Looking to my right, I noticed a huge tree beginning to fall. Quickly projecting where it would land ... I breathed a sigh of relief as the tree began its descent to earth. Fortunately for me it fell somewhat parallel to the road (although some of its branches did reach the shoulder).  After my heart stopped pounding, I offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his protective hand upon me!

As I continued my drive toward home, I began to think about what might have caused such a large tree to come crashing down. Here's my theory. Earlier last evening a huge storm(s) blew through our area. In addition to lots of vivid lightening, booming thunder and gusty winds, the storm(s) dropped more than a few buckets of rain. This in turn softened the soil in which this particular tree was rooted - which caused the tree to lose its stability. Lacking roots that were firmly planted in solid ground ... the tree fell to the earth. 

I think I see a lesson in this for us. We as believers face many storms in life. We don't invite them ... and we surely don't welcome them when they come. But come they will. Whether we will "weather" them will be determined ... to a large degree ... by how well we are "grounded" in God's Word. In Psalm 1, a man who delights in God's Word and spends time meditating on it .. is compared to a tree that is planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:2-3). So if we want to be a tree that is planted ... and firmly planted so that we will be able to bear the brunt of life's storms and be fruitful as we do so ... then being in God's Word is a non negotiable. We must seek to learn it ... and then we must seek to put it into practice. Anything less is asking for trouble! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Thinking Theologically about Patriotism

Every time a patriotic holiday comes around (in particular Memorial Day and Independence Day), I struggle somewhat with the patriotism shown in evangelical churches. Now don't get me wrong ... I consider myself an American patriot. I make it a priority to vote in elections (and to do so as an informed voter). I pray for the President as well as other leaders in our governments. I love to sing along as the national anthem is sung at baseball games (often, I am sure to the annoyance of some around me). When given the chance, I still recite the Pledge of Allegiance with gusto. And during the summer and winter Olympic Games ... I chant "USA! USA!" along with the crowd when an American athlete wins a gold! But ... I think all of us patriots who are Christians need a good reminder from time to time that our primary citizenship is NOT in the United States of America. It is in HEAVEN (see Philippians 3:20). We are NOT American Christians ... we are Christian Americans. And one day ... when we arrive in heaven ... we will be singing a lot of songs with people from every nation ... songs that glorify God ... not the United States.

I encourage you to take a moment and read Kevin DeYoung's insightful comments about Memorial Day and patriotism and its rightful place in the church. 

Have a great Memorial holiday ... and don't forget to thank God for those who have given their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom we have here in the U.S.! AND take a moment to thank God for the One who gave HIS life for us to purchase for us a freedom that will last FOREVER!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Disdain for God's People

Yesterday I read a brief letter to the editor of our local paper. The headline of the letter read, "Gay marriage coming, ready or not." The writer of the letter, in her support of gay marriage, used a number of negative and emotionally-charged words to describe us Christians who hold to the biblical definition of marriage, "one man ... one woman ... one flesh ... for life" (Matthew 19:4-7).  Here are some of her descriptions: "Bible-bangers," "religious zealots, and "bigots." She also accuses Christians of being "misinformed" and a "danger to any freedom loving American."

Now as I reflected on her letter ... a few thought came to mind:

1. Jesus warned his followers to expect this sort of "hatred" to be directed toward them (John 15:18-19). So when "name calling" such as this comes our way, we should not be shocked and allow ourselves to be "blown away" by it. If the world treated Jesus like this (and worse!) ... as His followers, we can anticipate the same treatment (and if we are not receiving this kind of negative and even nasty feedback from the world ... perhaps we need to examine our lives to see if we are living Christ-like lives --- see 2 Timothy 3:12). .

2. Doesn't the Constitution guarantee the freedom of religion and speech? So how is it that if an evangelical Christian voices his or her belief that marriage is for a man and a woman ... how is that a "danger to any freedom loving American?" It seems to me that the attitude being displayed by this woman (and others like her) are more of a threat to those of us who cherish our constitutional freedoms!

3. We who believe in the CLEAR teaching of Jesus (can Matthew 19:4-7 be any clearer?) must not back off or be ashamed to speak out about our beliefs. However, as we do we must always remember to speak the truth in love!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday Means A La Carte!

Here are this week's offerings .  . .

1. For you husbands out there ... here is a solid list of ten practical ways we can (and should) love and serve our wives!

2. Last year at this time, the news was abuzz with Harold Camping and  his followers who were expecting the return of Christ on May 21st. Here's an interesting article of where these people are now ... one year later.

3. Here is a great read for moms: Are you Mom enough? (Mommy Wars) - from Desiring God Ministries.

4. I love the prayers of Scotty Smith ... here is a great one dealing with the glorious and generous mystery of the trinity. 

5. On a lighter note . . . enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Prayer for Your Day

Recently I picked up the book, A Diary of Private Prayers, by John Baillie. It's a great book ... and has proved helpful to me in my own praying!  Baillie was a Scottish theologian and wrote this little book, considered a devotional classic in 1936. I highly recommend it!

Here is a brief prayer from Baillie's little gem ... I encourage you to make it your own.

O God, who hast been the Refuge of my fathers through many generations, be my Refuge today in every time and circumstance of need. My Guide through all that is dark and doubtful. Be my Guard against all that threatens my spirit’s welfare. Be my Strength in time of testing. Gladden my heart with Thy peace; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Salute to Law Enforcement

Police work is not easy ....and it is not getting any easier! Every time an officer heads out on patrol, he knows that his life is at risk. Yet these men and women who make up the the over 14,000 various law enforcement agencies in our country continue to do their job ... day in and day out ... intent on protecting the communities they serve.

Yesterday at Grace Church at Willow Valley, we conducted our 28th Annual Law Enforcement Appreciation and Memorial Service. We do this year in and year out because we want the men and women of law enforcement who serve the people of Lancaster County to know two things: We appreciate their diligence - that when we are trouble and we need to call for help ... that they are there! In addition, we want them to know that if they ever have to pay the ultimate price, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten. Every year we conclude this service with a memorial segment in which we read the "Roll Call of Honor." This roll call consists of the names of those officers who have died in the line of duty here in Lancaster County. I am grateful that it has now been several years since we have added to the list.

So to the men and women of law enforcement, I salute you! Thanks for serving us so well!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

P.S.  Having served as a police chaplain for some ten years now, my appreciation for the men and women of our law enforcement community has grown. Please, do me a favor. The next time you see a police officer, take a moment to thank him or her for serving our community. Thanks!

Want to Live Longer? Grab a Cup of Joe!

As I am writing these thoughts, I am drinking my third (or is it fourth) cup of coffee (and all before 9 AM!). And after reading an article about the a recent study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, I think I might go for another! According to this study, of a group of 400,000 older adults who participated, those who drank a few cups of coffee each day lived longer!  Yes!

But hold on ... other researchers cry! This study is not enough to begin guzzling coffee! There is still more research to be done! So here we go again ... one group says "coffee drinking has health benefits" ... another says "not so fast, we need to know more before we can sign off on selling coffee at health and nutrional stores."

As I thought of this ... into my mind popped the face of a friend of mine whose father died just short of the century mark. I remember my friend telling me that her father had the same thing for breakfast every morning .... a bowl of coffee soup. Of course, I had no idea what she was talking about ... so she described coffee soup for me ... a bit of milk ... a slice of bread ... an a whole lot of coffee poured into a bowl. She told me about coffee soup some ten years or so ago ... and I have not tried it yet. But, given this new report ... I might just have to order a bowl the next time I have a breakfast meeting.

Do you want to live long and prosper (for this life)? Then drink coffee! Do  you wan to live long and prosper (forever)? Then look to Jesus Christ! He is the way and the truth and the life. And no one comes to the Father (and heaven) but through him (John 14:6). If you want to explore how you can receive eternal life through Christ, I encourage you to visit, Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this weeks offerings ... to sharpen your mind ... to stretch your faith ... to encourage your heart!

1. For you history buffs, here is a time-lapse map of Europe showing all shifting and changing borders of the continent's countries from 1000 AD to 2003 AD. Talk about instability and change!!! 

2. Tim Challies gives four reasons as to why Christians "backslide." A good read! 

3. I know Mother's Day is past .. but for all you moms out there, Brian Croft has some interesting thoughts on why a mother should pray with and for her children. 

4. Ligonier's devotional on understanding our basic conflict ... though brief it is thought-provoking!

5. On a lighter note . . . (you only have to watch the first 2:16 of this video to see it all)! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Generational Blackmail?

Today I read a post by James K. A. Smith, a professor of philosophy at Calvin College. In his post, he makes reference to a phenomena that we hear much about concerning young people and "the church." Research shows what many of us know from experience, that many who are raised in the church don't remain in the church. But at some point past their 18th birthday, the majority leave (for most ... never to return).

Here is what Dr. Smith (not this Dr. Smith ... he writes so much better than I do!) had to say ... it is worth thinking about!

"It seems like every other day I'm told another reason why young people are leaving the church: because Christians fight too much, or because Christians are too political or anti-gay or don't care about social justice.  Millennials, we're told, are leaving the church because the church won't bless their cohabitation or provide them with contraception for pre-marital sex. They're leaving because they don't care about fights over creation/evolution or abortion or worship style or what have you.  In sum, it seems we're regularly informed that if the church doesn't change, young people are going to leave. 

And what exactly are we supposed to do with these claims?  I think the upshot is pretty clear.  Indeed, am I the only one who feels like they're a sort of bargaining chip--a kind of emotional blackmail meant to get the church to relax its commitments in order to make the church more acceptable? Could we entertain the possibility that millennials might be wrong?"

Hmm ... something to chew on . . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .

The Missing Ingredient in Today's Evangelism

Evangelism is something that most conservative, Bible believing and teaching churches promote. They offer classes on evangelism and regularly encourage it. However, I believe in our pragmatic American way ... we have all-too-often reduced evangelism to a process in which the evangelistic efforts that are made are more in line with modern marketing practices and principles than they are with what the Bible has to say about the proclaiming of the gospel. And at the end of the day ... the one critical "ingredient" in evangelism is nowhere to be found. And just what (or better said "WHO") is this missing ingredient?

In the book of Acts, as Jesus was preparing to leave planet earth some forty days after his resurrection, he told his followers to remain in Jerusalem until that time when the Father would send his Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Jesus repeats this promise of the coming Spirit just a few verses later in what proved to be his last words to them. Here he connects the coming of the Spirit with his command to them to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). The Spirit came in the very next chapter (Acts 2:1-4). When the Spirit fell upon them, the Spirit gave them "utterance." This "utterance" was for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. The end result is that many of the listeners were "cut to the heart" and asked for further guidance from the disciples (Acts 2:37). Then we read in Acts 2:41 that about 3000 people received the word of the gospel and were baptized.

Now friends, in today's evangelism ... it is usually not the gospel message that is missing (although, I must admit in some of the efforts at sharing that I have heard from some Christians ... many need to get a better handle on the gospel!). But what who is missing today is the very person we see so prominent in Acts chapters one and two (and for much of the book as well). Of course I am referring to the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is not "in" our gospel proclaiming efforts ... then we might as well be speaking gobbledygook!

Here is how E.M. Bounds states the need for the Holy Spirit to be at work as we share the gospel:

“The gospel cannot be executed but by the Holy Spirit. He only has the regal authority to do this royal work. Intellect cannot execute it, neither can learning, nor eloquence, nor truth, not even the revealed truth can execute the gospel. The marvelous facts of Christ's life told by hearts unanointed by the Holy Spirit will be dry and sterile, or "like a story told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Not even the precious blood can execute the gospel. Not any, nor all of these, though spoken with angelic wisdom, angelic eloquence, can execute the gospel with saving power. Only tongues set on fire by the Holy Spirit can witness the saving power of Christ with power to save others.”  (E. M. Bounds. Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer, The: Experience the Wonders of God through Prayer (p. 280). Kindle Edition.)

Together let's commit to more frequently and more fervently calling upon the Holy Spirit to lead us in our sharing of the gospel! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Closing Out the Week!

As we close out yet another week, I want to suggest you "chew on" two items. The first is an article by one of my favorite pastor-theologians, Kevin DeYoung. In the wake of our president's public endorsement of same-sex (homosexual) marriage, DeYoung offers us Five Reasons Christians Should Continue to Oppose Gay Marriage. It's a must read for all of us who follow Christ!

The second is a refreshing ESPN video featuring Josh Hamilton. Josh was interviewed by the hosts of Pardon the Interruption after he had slugged four homeruns in a single game (he also doubled ... setting the American League record for total bases in a single game). In the interview, Josh talks openly ... in a natural and relaxed manner ... about his faith in Christ. Hmm ... he's a free agent after this year. I think he would look good dressed in either Phillie pinstripes or Pirate black and gold!

Thanks for stopping by . . . pj

P.S. -- A big "HAPPY BIRTDHAY!" to my daughter Kate Aument!

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings ... I hope you find something that can help you as you continue your faith walk with Jesus Christ!

1. Randy Alcorn, author of one of the best (if not THE best) books on heaven (title of book: Heaven), writes about the need to be heavenly minded. A good read for us who live in such a materialistic, consumer driven culture.

2. Talk about marriage commitment!  This video (8:55) is worth watching ... but beware, your eyes might sweat some ... mine sure did!

3. Perhaps you saw (or at least heard talk of) this past weekend's Super Moon. Here is a photo gallery that is well worth the look! Some stunning pics here!

4. With President Obama's public announcement of his support of "same sex" marriage (have you noticed how people avoid the use of the word, "homosexual?" ... it's either "same sex" or "gay" ... but rarely is it referred to has "homosexual") --- the conversation about the legitimacy (or illegitimacy) of such a union. Here are a couple of excellent blog postings on the topic: Collin Hansen of the Gospel Coalition and Al Mohler's thoughts on the president's announcement. 

5. On a lighter note . . .  (Star Wars according to a three year old - too cute!) -- and for all you Star Wars fans ... here's a second video for your viewing pleasure (and note the use of all the cell/smart phones from the onlookers! We are truly a digital society!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

When You Think You've Got It -You Don't!

When you think you've got it, you don't! What in the world am I talking about? Fame? Riches? Intelligence? Good looks?  None of these really. What I am referring to is humility. Humility is that virtue that when we think we have it ... we probably don't! 

Here is what D.L. Moody (great evangelist of the 1800's) had to say about humility. It's worth a read! 

"Some years ago I saw what is called a sensitive plant. I happened to breath on it, and suddenly it drooped its head; I touched it, and it withered away. Humility is as sensitive as that; it cannot safely be brought out on exhibition. A man who is flattering himself that he is humble and walking close to the Master, is self-deceived. Humility consists not in thinking meanly of ourselves, but in not thinking of ourselves at all. Moses did not know his face shone. If humility speaks of itself, it is gone." 

So how about you? Do you think you are humble? Do you find yourself often referring to how you "humbly" serve others? Perhaps you are not as humble as you think. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Gone Fishing!

Gone fishing? Well, not exactly. But I am out of the office for the first two days of the week as I enjoy a bit of "down-time" with my wife (next Sunday we mark our 34th wedding anniversary ... so we are taking a couple of days away together to celebrate). Good marriages don't just happen. You have to continue to work on them. We get that ... and so that's what we are going to do across the course of these next two days. 

Please pray for us that our marriage would be God-exalting, soul-enriching and heart-warming. I'll pray the same for you!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Is Our God an Angry God?

Recently I read a paragraph in a devotional by Jerry Bridges that turned my head and grabbed my heart. Here's what he wrote:

"We can't begin to appreciate the good news of the gospel until we see our deep need. Most people, even believers, have never given much thought to how desperate our condition is outside of Christ. Few ever think about the dreadful implications of being under the wrath of God. And none of us even begins to realize how truly sinful we are" (Gerald Bridges;Jerry Bridges. Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey Devotional (p. 15). Kindle Edition). 

Jerry is right on the mark. Most Christians in our culture like to think of God as a "God of love" (and he is - see 1 John 4:16). But few ever think of him in terms of him being a "God of wrath." However, even a quick read of the Bible's final book demonstrates without a doubt that our God is an ANGRY God. And there is coming a day when his wrath against sinful humanity is going to boil over and be poured out upon this planet. And when that happens, "woe, woe, woe" (Revelation 8:13) to those upon whom it falls!

My friend, Jesus Christ, when he died upon the cross faced God's wrath so that we would not have to! I hope that you understand that ... and have come to God on HIS terms. If  you want further explanation of what it means to come to God on HIS terms, please check out the Two Ways To Live web site. It may just save your life!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings:

1. The human race has seen a lot of great artists ... but none can compare with our Creator. Check this out! 

2. Here is an excellent article by my "cousin" Scotty Smith (OK ... perhaps not my first, second or third cousin ... but we must be related somehow!) on PRAY THE SCRIPTURES. It's worth your time to read!

3. I love this brief blog post as it shares the wonder of the gospel!

4. Here is Thabitit Anyabwile's thoughts on Charles Spurgeon's classic book, The Soul Winner

5. What does the Bible mean when it says that "love believes all things?" Here is Ed Welch's response. It's a good one!

6. On a lighter note ... enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Living Life to the Fullest!

When Jesus Christ was on this earth, he made the following statement: "I came that they (he is talking about his sheep) may have life and have it abundantly." So what does it mean to have life "abundantly?"  As I reflected on that .... I recalled one of the daily readings in the excellent devotional book, The J.I. Packer Classic Collection: Daily Readings for Your Spiritual Journey.   The title of this particular reading is "Willing One Thing." In the reading he makes reference to the greatest commandment .... "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). He goes on to state that loving God with everything we have got is what purity of heart is all about. And since those who are pure in heart will see God (Matthew 5:8), then learning what it means to love God to the utmost is the path we must travel to enjoy the abundant life! (what could make life more abundant than a living, growing, vibrant relationship with the God who made us and sustains us?)  SOOO ... what does this journey look like?  Here's Packer's take (and it's a good one!): 

"It is a matter of saying and meaning what the psalmist said: "There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you" (Psalm 73:25) - nothing, that is, that I would not consent to lose if adhering to God required it. Thus, it is a matter of wanting and valuing "fellowship . . . with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3) more than I want or value anything else in this world. And it is a matter of making knowing and loving and pleasing and praising God my life task, and of seeking to lead others into the same God-glorifying life pattern." (J.I. Classic Collection, p. 47). 

Hmm . . . boy do I have a looooonnnnggg way to go! But praise God, God himself in the person of his Holy Spirit will be helping me along the way! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

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...