Hello Sandy!

Today Lancaster County, along with much of the East Coast is shut down. Even as I type these words, the sounds of rain tapping on my windows and the winds howling as they blow through my back yard remind me that Sandy is no average woman. In fact, she's no woman at all! Hurricane (or is it Frankenstorm?) Sandy is still churning about 150 miles off the coast of Atlantic City, NJ. It is projected to make landfall about 8 PM this evening .... and from there make a bee line for southern PA. Yahoo!  But with all the rain and wind that it is bringing ... it is effectively shutting down life as we know it ... malls, schools, businesses, airports ... and the list goes on and on. And as Sandy continues her march westward, we all hold our breath .... will the power stay on? Will my roof stay on?  Time will tell. Tomorrow I am scheduled to catch a flight out of Harrisburg to head to Indiana for several days. Hmm. Maybe ... maybe not!

All I can say ... is that I am glad that my God is a rock!  No matter what storm blows through - we can anchor ourselves to our God and know that we will never be moved (Psalm 62:6-7).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

PS - If you do not hear from me the rest of the week it is because I was able to make my way to Indiana.

Thursday's Offerings

Here are this week's offerings of a little bit of this and a little of that . . .

1. With the big election less than two weeks away . . . here is a summary of an excellent sermon by Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church on the the Christian's responsibility to government.

2. Ever get to the point where you find yourself mired in the pit of discontentment? You know you should be content ... but you just don't know how to get there. Here is an insightful and helpful post on the topic.

3. We just celebrated children this past Sunday at Grace. Why? Well if children mattered to Jesus, then they had better matter to us (see Mark 10:13-15)! Thinking of children reminded me of this brief devo from Chuck Swindoll, Everybody "Act Medium." 

4. Hmm. Ever wish you had that voice of the soloist who just rocked the room with her song? Or perhaps the skill of the IT guy who knows how to fix every single computer problem this world has ever seen? But if you don't have the voice to be the next American Idol winner or if your computer skills are not really all that skillful ... will that keep you from being all that God wants you to be?  Check out Ray Ortland's thoughts on this right here. 

5. What does it mean to be created in the image of God? Ed Welch has some great insights right here. 

6. With Halloween less than a week away, how should Christians respond to this holiday? Here is a thorough and though provoking article from Grace to You. 

7. On a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Making Wise Decisions

All of us must make decisions every day. Some are small, almost insignificant (hmm .. which pair of socks should I wear today ... how about these hot pink ones?  Nah! Not my color!). Others are much (and sometimes MUCH) larger and significant (uh, which health plan should I choose at work?). So when it comes to making the right call, does the Bible give any insight?

The book of Proverbs (the Old Testament book of wisdom) offers us the following three strategies when it comes to making wise decisions:

1. Fear God. Proverbs 9:10 and Proverbs 15:33 make it clear that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. To fear God means to respect and honor him ... acknowledging the place he has as sovereign ruler over us and our world. This makes a lot of sense. If our relationship with God is out of whack, then how will we ever be able to make consistently "wise" decisions? It just won't happen. After all, it is HIS world in which we live and work and play ... AND make decisions!

2. Consult the Book. Proverbs 2:6 tells us that wisdom comes to us via God's mouth. Since the Scripture is from God's mouth (it is "God-breathed" - see 2 Timothy 3:16-17), it follows that there is much wisdom to be found in the pages of the Bible. Again, nothing surprising about this. After all, there is no wiser being than the God who knows anything and everything there is to know! So to consult the book that he authored is guaranteed to give us the wisdom that we need.

3. Get advice. Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 15:22 all state the value of seeking advice from others. But the key here is to get your advice from the RIGHT kind of people (I have heard advice given by so called Christians that's been absurd and downright contrary to God's will ... quite scary!). SO ... what kind of person should you seek out for advice?  How about a WISE person?  OK. So what does a wise person look like? For starters, seek out someone who fears God (Proverbs 15:16). If you want godly advice, go to a godly person! Secondly, look for an individual who is humble (Proverbs 11:2) and teachable (13:10). Don't go to Mr. Know It All. Don't seek out Mrs. Been There Done That. Rather, seek out a person whom you know has a humble attitude about himself. Thirdly, get advice from a person who has control of his tongue (Proverbs 10:19). Someone who controls their tongue is wise (it takes a huge amount of wisdom to know when to speak ... and when not to speak). In addition, if you seek out advice from someone who tends to "run at the mouth," be prepared for others to know your business! Finally, if you really want wise advice, seek out those who have a passion for the lost (Proverbs 11:30). This may not seem to make much sense on the surface, but think about it. A person who has passion for the lost understands the reality of eternity and the judgment that waits each and every person. Living in light of that understanding, they don't get caught up in this world, but tend to stay focused on what really matters. Now that's a person from whom I want to get advice.

So the next time you have to make a decision ... keep these three strategies in mind: Fear God, consult the Book and get advice (from a wise person!).

Thanks for stopping by  . . .

Enjoying the Rail Trail

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous late October days that you dream of ... sunny and mild with the trees arrayed in their full autumn wardrobe of reds, oranges and yellows. Since Monday is my day off, my wife and I decided we had to spend at least a portion of the day OUTSIDE. So we chose to check out a rail-trail at the other end of the county. We had heard some real good things about this particular rail trail (the Conewago Recreation Trail). We were NOT disappointed. We spent about 2 hours and walked over four miles and enjoyed every step!

One of the most striking things about the trail is just how straight and level it is (no surprise, given that the trail follows the raised bed of what once held railroad tracks). It brought to mind these words from the Old Testament book of wisdom: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6). So as we go through life we must do so in complete trust and dependence upon God. And as we do, he promises to remove the obstacles in our way that would prevent us from walking with him and fulfilling his purposes for our lives (Proverbs 11:5; Isaiah 45:13).

SO ... are YOU trusting God today? Are you recognizing his role in your life as the God who has a plan for your life and is working that plan?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

The "Nevers" of the Gospel

During a morning time of prayer today, I was using one of my favorite devotional helps, The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.  Praying through one of the prayers, I was struck by the following lines:

O LORD, May I 
    never confine my religion to extraordinary occasions,  
      but acknowledge thee in all my ways; 
   never limit my devotions to particular seasons
       but be in they fear all the day long; 
   never be godly only on the Sabbath or in thy house,
       but on every day abroad and at home; 
   never make piety a dress but a habit, 
       not only a habit but a nature,
       not only a nature but a life. 


Wow! Now there is a prayer I really need to be praying. Not just today -- but everyday! Take a moment and make this prayer your own. I suspect like me ... you need to do so, too! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Thursday A La Carte

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

1. Denny Burke makes a strong case on why abortion is the most important issue in the upcoming election.

2. And while on the topic of the upcoming election, John Piper shares why he plans to vote. 

3. Ever wonder what the "blind spots" are for the church in America? Here's a very brief but very insightful response to the question, "What are the some of the blind spots for the American church when it comes to transformation?" 

4. J.C. Ryle writes about Seven Marks of a Right Heart ... good stuff!

5. Here's a practical, relevant and downright convicting post ... Have you ever told God you are all in? 

6. And on a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Big Time Dive!

If you have paid any attention to the news media in the past couple of days, you may have heard the name, Felix Baumgartner. Baumgartner  set an all-time record this past Sunday for the highest sky dive ever done. The Austrian skydiver's jump from over 128,000 feet (that's just over 24 miles!) broke the old record, set in 1960 by a whopping 25000+ feet (over 4 miles!). His peak speed during his free fall of 833.9 mph broke the sound barrier. In doing so, he became the first human being to do so without the use of any type of craft. Just what was going through his mind as we was falling toward earth?

“The exit was perfect but then I started spinning slowly. I thought I’d just spin a few times and that would be that, but then I started to speed up. It was really brutal at times. I thought for a few seconds that I’d lose consciousness. I didn’t feel a sonic boom because I was so busy just trying to stabilize myself. We’ll have to wait and see if we really broke the sound barrier. It was really a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”

Many have applauded Barmgartner as an example of courage and faith (talk about a "leap of faith!"). Others have questioned the huge amounts of money (estimated in the multiple millions of dollars) spent on such a stunt. But no matter what camp you might be in .... all must admit that in doing what he did, he caught the world's attention (it is  estimated that over 8 million watched the live stream coverage of his jump - let alone the many more millions of people around the world who tuned in to the voluminous subsequent media coverage given to Baumgartner's feat). 

As I pondered on his world attention grabbing feat ... the thought entered my mind that we who choose to follow Christ should be living lives that do just that ... grab the attention of the world around us! Here is how the apostle Paul put it in his second letter to the church at Corinth: 

"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ" (2 Corinthians 2:14-17). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

PS - If you have yet to see video of Felix's jump ... check this out! 


Life can be somewhat stressful at times ... yes?  YES!!!!!!!!! Encountering stress is not an "if" it is most definitely a "when." For life in this fast-paced, broken world often immerses us in situations and events that cause our hearts to throb and our heads to pound. Anxiety and fear raise their ugly heads within us and get an iron-like grip on our souls.

So ... what should we do when we begin to feel overwhelmed by stress?  We need to follow the example of King David ... who in his lifetime faced much stress. In Psalm 131:2 he writes, "But I have calmed and quieted my soul . . ."

Now that sounds like it's easier said than done! So how can we calm and quiet our souls when our world is churning around us? In the 1700's a woman by the name of Katarina von Schlegel wrote what has become one of the favorite hymns of the Church. We don't know much about this German believer, but we do know from the words of this hymn that she was a woman who knew the value of trusting in God. And that, my friend, is the real key to dealing with stress. Take a moment and read through the lyrics of this hymn. And if you want to experience the beauty of the hymn when set to music, check out this Youtube video. 

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change God faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future, as in ages past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow for forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

So What's with "Amen?"

I was not raised in a "churched" family. That means we did not attend church (although for a brief time my twin brother and I were sent off to Sunday School at a nearby Lutheran church). God was present in our home but only in a nominal sense. So I was taught a few "stock" prayers as a child. At supper it was "God is great and God is good,  and we thank Him for our food; by His hands we all are fed, Give us Lord our daily bread. Amen." And then there was the bedtime prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless Mommy and Daddy, Grandma and Gramps, Inky and Tipsy (my dog and cat) -- although as I reflect back I don't think I ever prayed for my cat!), etc. .... Amen."  Now as a youngster, I really did not understand all that I was praying (especially with that bedtime prayer ... I mean what little kid thinks about dying and having the Lord take his soul? I did not even know what a "soul" was!). I also did not really understand what that "magical" word "amen" was all about. All I knew was if you tacked it on to a prayer ... then somehow God would be more prone to hear and respond.

I wonder how many Christians really get the meaning and the importance of that four letter word? This morning, I was reading some comments on prayer written by Martin Luther, the "father" of the Protestant Reformation. Luther understood the meaning and reason for using the word, "Amen" to end a prayer ... any prayer. Take a moment and read what he had to say.

"Finally, mark this, that you must always speak the Amen firmly. Never doubt that God in his mercy will surely hear you and say “yes” to your prayers. Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot disdain. Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, “Very well, God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth.” That is what Amen means" (from the book, Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer). 

So for Luther, closing prayer with an "amen" is important because it demonstrates that the one praying really believes his prayer has been heard and that God will respond in accord with his perfect will (see 2 Corinthians 1:18-20).

SO ... the next time you pray ... say that "AMEN" with a heartfelt confidence that the God of the universe HEARD you and will RESPOND!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings with a hope that you will be inspired, encouraged, stretched in your journey of faith!

1. Did you ever wonder what the teaching known as "The Prosperity Gospel" does to the true biblical gospel? Here's a short but insightful answer. 

2. Here's a thought provoking article from the gospel coalition site on why we should still sing hymns in our worship services today.

3. Here is a video that reveals what an astronaut sees at night while orbiting the earth. I found this fascinating!

4.  All of us have friends who are struggling in their marriages. So ... what can you do? Here is a helpful article from Focus on the Family listing ten ways to help such a couple.

5.  Are you a "radical," "passionate," "edgy" Christian? Hmm. Here's an interesting article from David Powlison discussing the need for a moderate makeover (vs. an extreme one).

6.  And on a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Pursuing Holiness

Personal holiness. Now there are two words that we don't hear all that much about in the Church of today. And that is unfortunate .... VERY unfortunate. Perhaps it is why the Church today in America is miles and miles wide and inches (at best) deep! 

You see, personal holiness should be an urgent priority of Christians. The Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian believers to bring holiness in their lives to completion (2 Corinthians 7:1) and the writer of the book of Hebrews encouraged his readers to strive for holiness for without it they would not see God (Hebrews 12:14). 

Given the importance of personal holiness, here is an excerpt for Kevin DeYoung's excellent new book, The Hole in our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. But a word of caution ... what he says here might be convicting to your soul!

"Christians often equate holiness with activism and spiritual disciplines. And while it’s true that activism is often the outgrowth of holiness and spiritual disciplines are necessary for the cultivation of holiness, the pattern of piety in the Scripture is more explicitly about our character. We put off sin and put on righteousness. We put to death the deeds of the flesh and put on Christ. To use the older language, we pursue the mortification of the old man and the vivification of the new. 

You can think of holiness, to employ a metaphor, as the sanctification of your body. The mind is filled with the knowledge of God and fixed on what is good. The eyes turn away from sensuality and shudder at the sight of evil. The mouth tells the truth and refuses to gossip, slander, or speak what is coarse or obscene. The spirit is earnest, steadfast, and gentle. The heart is full of joy instead of hopelessness, patience instead of irritability, kindness instead of anger, humility instead of pride, and thankfulness instead of envy. The sexual organs are pure, being reserved for the privacy of marriage between one man and one woman. The feet move toward the lowly and away from senseless conflict, divisions, and wild parties. The hands are quick to help those in need and ready to fold in prayer. This is the anatomy of holiness."

Oh that we would pursue personal holiness in this unholy world with a passion!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Back with a Thought from Vacation

Hard to believe that last week during our Ocean City, MD vacation I was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Had never done that at OCMD in October before! Had not planned on going into the water. Did not even bother to pack my swim trunks. Yet as we sat there on the beach, basking (or was it baking?) in the warm early autumn sun, the ocean was calling my name! So I just had to jump in! And since I wanted to towel off afterwards so that I was not soaking wet when we climbed into the car, I ran up to the boardwalk to buy the cheapest towel I could find. I came back with a yellow and pink flowered rag of some sort (which normally I would never have thought of buying!) - but for my purposes it filled the bill! And since the air was warm and the water temps comfortable - I immensely enjoyed my time of being tossed by the waves.

But there are other times in life (many, in fact) that I do NOT enjoy being tossed by the waves of life. If you are anything like me, I am sure you would much prefer that the waters upon which we sail through life would always be peacefully calm (picture the surface of a lake that looks like a sheet of glass). But as we both know, that is not life (at least not THIS life). Our journey here on earth has lots of waves (or to switch metaphors), many speed bumps and pot holes (and at times, much worse).

So how should we respond to the waves that our generated by the storms of life? Run and hide (which many do by immersing themselves in video games, movies, and other forms of entertainment)? Escape the pain (which others do via drug and alcohol consumption OR by spending lots of money on stuff they really do not need and can ill afford)? Nope! Rather God tells us that when we face the trials of life we must take courage (John 16:33) and by faith trust God to do HIS work IN us THRU these painful times of life (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).

This, my friend is easier said than done. But with God's help it must (and can) be done!

Thanks for stopping by . . .


This morning I am starting a week's vacation ... which means I will not be posting to my blog this week. In fact, I am going to attempt the unthinkable in this digital age ... and that is to do my best to unplug (for the most part) from all my TDDs (Technology Driven Devices). Therefore, no posts until I "get back in the saddle" next week.

Until then ... ."The Lord bless you and keep you (and yours), the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give your peace" (Numbers 6:23-24).

26 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...