A New Year's Coming!

The new year of 2013 is fast approaching! Wow! I can still remember writing 1986 on my checks! Another year down ... and humanity is no closer to utopia. In fact, one could easily argue we are moving in the opposite direction. Of course, for anyone who knows the Bible, this is not surprising. For evil will continue until that time when God says, "Enough is enough!" Just read the book of Revelation (especially the last four chapters and you will see how everything ends).

The ending of one year and the beginning of a new one is always a good time to spend some time reflecting on where you are and where you are headed in your life. To help you do so, allow me to suggest you check out Don Whitney's excellent resource, Ten Questions to ask at the start of a new year or your birthday (look under "Bulletin Inserts: Ten Questions Series). His list will help guide you through this process. I would encourage you to set aside some time to do this. You will be better for it!

Thanks for stopping by . . . and may God shower HIS grace upon you in 2013 as you strive to live for HIS glory!


Saying "Good-bye" to a Friend

Today I will join with a number of others in saying "good-bye" to a friend. This particular friend passed away just before Christmas. Her memorial service takes place this afternoon. It will be time of remembrance and celebration of a life well-lived. And this friend would be the first to admit (if she were still among us) that she lived her life well due to the grace God gave her in Christ!

And so ... as we gather to say "good-bye," (for those of us who have also chosen to follow Jesus) we would say it better with the words, "see you later!" For all who follow Jesus and embrace him as savior and Lord will one day be united to live forever together in the Father's House (see John 14:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Thanks, Mary, for living such a life to the glory of God. May we who follow do as well!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Crisis in the Central African Republic

It was September of 2007. That's the month when I first met Dr. Augustin Hibaile. Born in the Central African Republic, he is a leader among his people. In fact, his leadership expands well beyond the borders of his desperately impoverished country.

I write these words with a heavy heart. My brother and his family (as well as the rest of his people) are facing a growing crisis. Rebel groups are advancing on the capital. The government appears unable to stop them. At this point, it is hard to say who will win this battle. Regardless of the outcome, the lives and properties of Augustin and his family are very much at risk. They have no place to run .... no where to flee for safety. Please take a moment and read the following email I just received (early morning hours of today, Friday, December 28th). And then, get on your knees and pray for him, his family, the church in the midst of this violence that is unfolding.

Greetings in a difficult situation,

The USA Embassy in Bangui was closed and the Ambassador and staff were evacuated according to RFI broadcasting this morning. France said that their military is here in Bangui only for the French people and the interests of France in CAR. That means there is no concern about us. In such circumstance we are wondering what to do, where to go? With a big family, I don't really know what to do. We are staying at home in the main entrance to Bangui lifting our eyes to God and waiting the salvation that comes from him.

We are encouraged by your motivation in prayer on our behalf. We need such support and God's intervention in a way above our understanding. We will keep in touch with you when it is possible.

With love in Christ
Augustin and Marie Helene Hibaile

Thanks for praying for my dear friend! 

And thanks for stopping by . . .

The Word Became Flesh!

J.I. Packer writes the following insightful and compelling words about the incarnation of God the Son . . .

"The true Christian claim here is that incarnation made direct entry into human frustration and pain possible for the Son of God, who then out of love actually entered in person into the agony of crucifixion and the greater agony of God-forsakenness (Mark 15:34) in order to bear our sins and so redeem us. Never let this claim be played down" 
(From the J.I. Packer Classic Collection). 

Wow! And to think Jesus did this "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8). Thanks be to God for this ... HIS indescribable gift!


Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings ... MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

1. Christmas is the season to be jolly ... right? Yet this is not always the case. Here's an interesting read for this holiday season.

2. Take a few minutes and enjoy this Christmas flash mob video!

3. Here is an NBC video about the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings. If you go to 6:40 mark, you will hear the remarks of two evangelical pastors. Praise God the gospel is going forth!

4. Al Mohler weighs in on the need to embrace the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ.

5. What should be behind our gift-giving?  Here's a good read! 

Thanks for stopping by ... and again, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

A Great Debt! Who Can Pay?

Harry Ironside (1876-1951) was an American Bible teacher and author of over 60 books. Ironside was known as a great story teller and used illustrations liberally throughout his sermons. One of these that I ran across a number of years ago has stuck with me. It concerns a young soldier in the Russian army. Because this young man's father was a personal friend of the Russian Czar, Nicholas I, the soldier was given the responsible position of pay master of one of the barracks. Unfortunately, the young man developed a gambling habit. As a result, he ended up gambling away much of the government's money (in addition to his own). One day, the pay master received notice that a representative of the Czar was planning a visit to check the books. In a state of panic, the soldier totaled up the funds owed. Then he went to the safe and pulled out the available money (along with his own money). As he compared the two, he was overwhelmed by the astronomical debt versus the meager amount on hand. He was ruined. Unable to face his future disgrace, he pulled out his revolver and laid it on the table. He then took out a sheet of paper and detailed his misdeeds. At the bottom of the ledger where he had totaled up his debt, he wrote the words, "A great debt! Who can pay?" He then put down his pen and looked at the clock. The hour was approaching midnight. He decided at the stroke of the hour, he would end his life.

As the minutes ticked away, the pay master grew drowsy and fell asleep. That night, as was often his custom, Czar Nicholas was making the rounds of this particular barracks. Seeing the light on, the czar entered the pay master's office. Immediately he recognized the young man as the son of his friend. Looking over the pay master's shoulder, he saw the ledger, and after reading it, was about to the awaken the man and place him under arrest. But then he saw the words, "A great debt! Who can pay?" At that moment, a wave of compassion came upon him. He picked up the man's pen and wrote one word ... and then quietly slipped out.

Some time later the soldier woke up. Realizing it was well past the midnight hour, he picked up his revolver. As he did, his eyes spotted the words he had written, "A great debt! Who can pay?" AND the one word the Czar had written, "Nicholas!" The young man was dumbfounded! How could this be? Was this a cruel joke of one of his comrades. He quickly went to the safe and pulled out a document that contained the czar's signature. He compared the two. It was a perfect match! He did not know how .. but he knew the czar had been there and that the czar knew it all. Yet, the czar was willing to forgive him the debt! Why, he could not explain. But he rested in the czar's promise. Sure enough, shortly after dawn, a messenger came from the czar carrying the necessary funds to pay the debt.

In the same way, God does for us what only the czar could do for the young pay master. The debt of our sin is of such magnitude that all of our meager efforts to pile up enough righteous deeds to pay the debt will fall woefully short! At this point, Jesus Christ steps forward and pays the debt that we owe God. A debt that only HE could ever pay! Oh ... a great debt! Who can pay?  Jesus Christ ... God's Son and our Savior!

This my friend is something to truly celebrate this Christmas season!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

What a God! What a Savior!

Christmas is only one week away! I am glad my Christmas shopping and wrapping is done (I got away with wrapping only one gift this year. That's good because if you see my wrapping job, you would think a first-grader did it!). Now I can focus on getting my heart ready to lead our church family in the celebration of Jesus Christ during our upcoming Christmas services!

To help you get focused, here is an excerpt from Max Lucado's book, In the Grip of Grace. Enjoy!

"Ponder the achievement of God. He doesn't condone our sin, nor does he compromise his standard. He doesn't ignore our rebellion, nor does he relax his demands. Rather than dismiss our sin, he assumes our sin and, incredibly, sentences himself. God's holiness is honored. our sin is punished . . . and we are redeemed. God does what we cannot do so we can be what we dare not dream: perfect before God!" 

Thanks, Max! Well said!

And thanks for stopping by . . .

Now That's Honesty!

Back in late November, an Austrian bus driver with the Vienna Transport Authority, checked a bag on his empty bus that a passenger had left behind. When he looked inside, he was stunned. There, in neatly stacked 500 Euro bills was the equivalent of a half million dollars! The driver handed the money over to police who tracked down the owner (an unidentified elderly woman) and returned the money. As of  yet, the driver has heard nothing from the woman ... no word of thanks, no "Hey here's a Euro for your trouble!" Nothing!

Now ... I would guess that if I had left that amount of money on a bus and had it returned to me through the honesty of a bus driver, I would think I would do something to show my deep appreciation (of course, it's quite hard for me to imagine having that much money to "lose" in the first place!). However, I have been given something far more valuable than a half a million dollars ... and that is the eternal life I enjoy in Christ. Yet how often do I fail to show my appreciation to the Giver of this gift? Far too often, I am afraid!

Join me in spending some time THANKING GOD for the gift of His Son! And if you have never embraced the Son (John 3:36; 1 John 5:12), you may want to read about Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Back this week with this Thursday's a la carte offerings in hopes you might find something that will spur you on in your faith journey!

1. Here's an interesting read on why God loves us! 

2. You've heard about the fiscal cliff. The Gospel Coalition gives insight into this issue and the implications for you and non-profits.  And here is a video that visualizes the size of the U.S. debt.

3. John Piper reads his poem, The Innkeeper. 

4. What Do You Long For? Here is a very brief, but very powerful post!

5. Whenever you see the word "Christmas" spelled as "Xmas" - do you really know what that is all about? R.C. Sproul offers insight in his post, What Does the X in Xmas Mean? 

6. On a lighter note . . .  (which if you are a Tolkien fan, you will really enjoy!)

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Today's date is a milestone of sorts. A date in which the month, day, and year align (as in 9-9-09, 10-10-10 and 11-11-11, and of course, today's date of 12-12-12) will not occur again until January 1, 3001 (1-1-1). Because of today's unusual date, many people are undertaking certain special activities. One of the biggest is that of getting married. Las Vegas wedding chapels have been offering special wedding packages for this date at three times the normal rate. And in Los Angeles, the county clerk of courts has expanded hours to accommodate all those applying for marriage licences. Hmm ... as if getting married on a date in which the numbers all agree will help the marriage be an agreeable one to both parties! 

So if the "luck" for a solid marriage is not in the numbers, where does it lay? For starters ... there is nothing "lucky" about a good marriage. It takes a lot of good old fashioned hard work! Husbands must work at cherishing their wives (Ephesians 5:25, 33). Wives need to focus on submitting to* and respecting their husbands (Ephesians 5:23, 33). If you are struggling in your marriage ... I would suggest you start asking yourselves these questions: For husbands - Am I truly cherishing my wife above all else? Does she feel my love and adoration for her? Is my leadership of our home marked by service? For wives - Do I respect my husband? Am I ever guilty of cutting him down either in private or in public? What can he point to that manifests my esteem for him?  If you want some solid instruction and help in doing so, you might want to check out the two books by Tony Evans (For Married Men Only: Three Principles for Loving Your Wife and For Married Women Only: Three Principles for Honoring your Husband). 

These are not easy questions (if we seek to answer them honestly ... which we must if we want to make progress toward a better marriage). But they are questions that we must ask of ourselves on a regular basis. I hope you take some time to do so. Your marriage will be better for it! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

* I realize that this word "submit" might be considered "out of date" in today's world. None-the-less it is part of the biblical blueprint for a God-honoring, life-enriching marriage. To submit is simply to acknowledge the leadership role of another ... in the case of a marriage, it is the wife recognizing her husband's God-given role as head of  the home. But men, NOWHERE in Scripture are we commanded to MAKE our wives submit. Our responsibility before God is to LOVE THEM AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER. My guess ... if more of us loved our wives with that kind of unconditional, sacrificial love, submission would not even be an issue! 

Back in the Office with a Yuletide Thought!

Got back to the office early this morning after a delightful week off in which I got to spend a lot of time with my wife and other family members (think grandkids!). Even though I am still working on the dozens of emails and other work that piled up in my absence, I must say it is good to get back at what I believe God has called me to do.

One of the books I read last week was a special edition of Charles Dickens', A Christmas Carol, which contained interesting Christian insights into this Christmas classic. In the story's beginning, Dickens refers to Ebeneezer Scrooge as a "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scarping, clutching, covetous old sinner." Certainly a "spot on" description of Scrooge. However, by the story's end, Scrooge has experienced a remarkable transformation. As he concludes the book, Dickens writes of Ebeneezer, "He became as good a friend, as good a master, as good a man, as the good old city knew . . . Ever afterwards . . . it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge." 

Friend, this is what the Christmas holiday is really all about. God became one of us so that we could become one "like" him! To be transformed from sinner to saint - that's the glory of Christmas!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Taking Some R & R

I will be out of the office this week, enjoying some "down time."  Please be sure to check out this week's Essential Jesus minute devotionals (prepared ahead of time!).

Have a blessed week as you walk with the King!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

PS - Boy how I would LOVE to be in the place where this pic was taken! Perhaps another time!  :)

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...