PJ

PJ

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the Old . . . in with the New!

Here we are ... with less than 24 hours remaining in 2013. The new year of 2014 is staring us in the face. As to what it will hold for us, only God knows!  I always find it helpful in my own spiritual journey to take some time in both reflection upon the year that's passing and the new year that lies ahead.

For starters, I take a backward glance. I note the year's ups and downs. I look for God's faithful hand in both. I always discover that God has neither lied to me nor failed in any way in fulfilling his promises. Sure, life does not always go the way I would like. But who am I? I am a finite (read "limited" ... no read "VERY LIMITED") creature. God is the infinite (read "unlimited" or 'unlimitable") Creator. So when HIS providential plan does not unfold as I believe it should, guess what? I need to learn to trust him. He knows far better than I  do as to what is good for me. And I happen to believe that the Bible teaches us that God does ALL things for HIS glory. And that which is for his glory is also for our good!  Proverbs 3:5-6 is a passage we all need to learn to put into practice!

Also as I look in life's rear view mirror, I take time to thank God for his MULTITUDE of blessings with which he has so generously showered me. Everything in my life that has brought me happiness and joy is from his hand (James 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:17). Thanksgiving for 2013's blessings is certainly a God-pleasing and faith-strengthening way to end one year and begin a new one! And remember, nothing is as short lived as gratitude!

Finally, as I look ahead to a new year I find it fruitful to do some self evaluation (see the PowerPoint slides from my message this past Sunday on 7 key questions you can use to do this. You will find them as you scroll down). After evaluating where I am, then I set some goals. I encourage you do the same. Whatever needs done for you to grow in your faith .... make plans to do it! Don't make so many that you lose heart after the second week of January. Keep it simple. Focus on the area(s) of your life that need the most work. And then ... share those goals with someone who can "hold your feet to the fire." Our fallen human nature moves from the disciplined to the undisciplined. Like water, we seek the path of least resistance. And since discipline is required for spiritual growth (1 Timothy 4:7-8), we need help to stay at it! An accountability partner can provide that needed help.

As I close ... I encourage you to never stop preaching the gospel to yourself. We all need that daily reminder that were it not for Christ and his sacrifice for us ... none of us would be interested in pursuing a relationship with the one true and living God. All that we enjoy in life flows from God's grace. And the greatest expression of that grace is the cross! So ... if you want to boast about ... whatever, STOP and do as Paul did and boast only in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14).

I pray that God's blessings will move you ever closer to Jesus Christ in the new year of 2014!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

For today's edition, I thought I would dunk some humble pie in my coffee, by sharing a couple of "bonehead" moves I made recently.

1. The first occurred back on December 11th. I was taking a vacation day and we were planning to head to King of Prussia Mall. As we backed out of the garage, I failed to look in the rear view mirror and just backed out as usual. The problem was ... things were not "usual!" Our youngest daughter was at the house and her car was parked in a small angled extension off of our main driveway. I forgot her car was there and clipped her car's right front bumper with my car's left rear bumper. So ... instead of heading to the mall, we took a trip to the body shop. So glad I have car insurance (the total repair bill for the two cars combined came to just under $2K. Oh, well .... we all make mistakes, right? My wife and daughter took it all in stride (which I can't say I did ... at least initially!). Moral of this story --- DON'T FORGET TO LOOK IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR! That is also good advice for doing this thing called life. It is always good to look back ... so we can learn from our mistakes. But even more important ... it's very healthy to look in life's rear view mirror and identify those "God moments" when you experienced God clearly at work in your life ... moving you closer to Him. For what God did in the past ... he has promised to continue now and until that great Day when he returns (Philippians 1:6).

2. The second occurred just last night. Sharon and I, after 12 years, made the difficult decision to trade in our PT Cruiser. The time had come for us to buy a minivan. That's right! A MINIVAN!  I can recall across the years passing many an older person or couple driving a minivan. I always wondered why they would need a minivan. I now know the answer: GRANDKIDS! So we have now joined the grandparents-with-a-minivan club! So after doing some research on used minivans ... and keeping our eyes opened, we found what appeared to be a good deal on a 2004 Honda Odyssey. We finalized the deal last evening. After saying goodbye to the PT, we drove home. Once inside the house, I sat in my favorite Lazy Boy recliner and began to read the owner's manual. After familiarizing myself with it, I decided to go do some hands on things with the van while it was all fresh in my mind. After unlocking the door with the keyless remote, I climbed in and shut the door. I then began to check out where everything was (I took a flashlight along to give me better light). After a few minutes, I decided to head back in the house. When I opened the door, the car alarm went off ... and boy did it go off! The headlights flashed and the horn BLARED! I did everything I could think of to turn the thing off. I even started up the car thinking that would do it. Nope! So I am sitting there ... totally embarrassed (and glad that it was only 8:30 and not 10:30!). Finally after what seemed like 20 minutes, the horn stopped blaring and the lights ceased their flashing. Ahhh. The silence never sounded so sweet! I sat in the van ... a bit rattled I must admit ... well, a lot rattled! Then I reached for the door and opened it. Guess what? The horn began to pierce that beautiful silence as the headlights did their dance! Thankfully, I managed to turn off the alarm in just a few seconds. Moral of this story --- MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW YOUR CAR'S ALARM SYSTEM WORKS! This is also good advice on how to do life. God has given us an alarm system for our soul. It is called a conscience. The New Testament often speaks of a "clear conscience" (2 Timothy 1:3; Hebrews 13:18). The conscience is God's built in alarm system. When it is configured properly, it will warn us when we are heading off in the wrong direction! But if we are not careful, we can "sear" the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2 - click the link above for more info on this). So ... all this to say, ask God to help you keep your conscience clean and clear. Only then will it serve its God given purpose.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope you have a very merry ... very Christ-honoring ... very relationship enriching Christmas! Here is some Christmas music from Keith and Karen Getty. Enjoy!




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

Monday, December 23, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!

I hope you will have a wonderful Christmas celebration!  Here is the acappella group, Pentatonix singing an incredible arrangement of Little Drummer Boy! Enjoy!





 Thanks for stopping by . . . pj

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Here we are a mere five days away from Christmas 2013. So ... grab a cup of your favorite holiday coffee (or tea) ... and join me for a few random thoughts that are floating around my head (and there are no "visions of sugar plums" dancing around my mind!).

1. Do you realize that there were a lot of people who missed the first Christmas? If I had more time, I would discuss a number of them ... but let me just focus on one: the innkeeper in Bethlehem. Now the nativity account in Luke 2 does not mention an innkeeper, but it does mention an inn. Therefore, there was an innkeeper. Since the Bible says nothing about this individual, we have no idea if he was hostile or sympathetic to the needs of Mary and Joseph. We don't know if the stable they found for shelter was offered by the innkeeper. But the fact that the Bible is silent about any innkeeper, makes me think that he missed that first Christmas. And just why would have have missed it? Simply because he was preoccupied with running a very busy inn. It was maxed out due to all the out-of -towners who had arrived for the Roman census (that is why, humanly speaking, Mary and Joseph were in town). I wonder how many of us are in danger of missing Christmas simply because we are preoccupied with the stuff of life?  Hmm. Something to think about.


2. This morning I was reminded of a quote of William Carey, a man many consider the father of the modern missionary movement. He said, "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God." Now there's some good advice. I think for most of us (notice I said "us" - that includes me) our view of God is way too small. We (now I am speaking of the church of today) have lost the lofty view once held of God. J.I. Packer back in the early seventies put it this way in the preface of his classic book, Knowing God: "Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God."  Hmm. What Packer wrote about Christian minds in 1973 is probably even more true today. So ... when you think about God ... how big is he?  My guess ... not nearly big enough!


3. Finally ... let me invite those of you who will be around home (and if your home is in Lancaster, PA) to
join us this coming Sunday when I will take us back in time via The Camel Driver's Tale. Our services are held at 9:00 and 10:30. Then on Christmas Eve ... we will focus on the real meaning of the season: Jesus the Christ!  Our two services will be held at 6 and 8 pm.

MERRY CHRISTMAS ... and thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Prayer for Your Thursday

From the pen of an unnamed Puritan comes a simple yet powerful prayer . . . take a moment and make his prayer yours!

"May I always be among those who not only hear but know you, 
who walk with and rejoice in you, 
who take you at your word and find life there." 

Have a great day and a great advent season as we celebrate the moment in history that God Himself became one of us!  Wow! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Great Mystery of Christmas!

On my recent trip to India, I was struck at how much easier it had grown to be in touch with my wife. On my first trip in 2006, my only way to communicate with her was to go into the nearby village of Naya Akola and use a public phone. This past trip, not only could I talk with her via a cell phone, I could also easily text her from my own smart phone. Technology had come to central India making communication almost instantaneous. Even though home was almost half a world away ... it seemed like it was right next door!

As we approach the Christmas holiday (only one week and counting!), we must be careful not to lose sight of what the Christmas holiday is all about: that some 2000 years ago, the Living God became a living man in the person of the baby born to Mary in Bethlehem. Think about that (and I guarantee you that no matter how long and how hard you think about the incarnation, you will NEVER get your mind wrapped around it!). The Apostle Paul, in referencing the incarnation of Jesus Christ, used the words "great indeed is the mystery of godliness" (1 Timothy 3:14-16). In the person of Jesus Christ, God himself came to live "right next door!"

So ... take a moment ... today, tomorrow, next week on Christmas Day itself, and wonder in worship as you reflect upon the reality that in time space history .... the Almighty God became one of us! And he did so to ultimately die for us! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nuisance Snow . . . Nuisance Sin?

Last evening after seeing the weather forecast calling for one or two inches of snow today, I turned to my wife and said, "I feel like I'm back in Pittsburgh!" I spent five winters in the Steel City in the mid to late eighties. Rarely in Pittsburgh did we see the monster east coast sort of storms that dump snow measured in feet vs. inches. Instead, we saw an awful lot of these so called "nuisance" snows. Snowfalls that did not keep you from your regular routine but yet required some sweeping or scraping or sometimes shoveling the driveway and sidewalk. Well ... in just a little over a week, we have seen four nuisance type snows here in Lancaster (a couple were a bit more than a nuisance ... but they still were not big snowstorms). That's why I feel like I am experiencing a typical Pittsburgh winter.

Sometimes I think we look at sin in the same way we look at these recent snowfalls. A nuisance. And just as this morning I took a few minutes and brushed the snow off of my porch and driveway and then moved on with my day, so we deal with sin in much the same way. When we become aware of sin in our lives (and for many of us that "when" is much too big!), we simply offer up a quick prayer, brush ourselves off, and get on with life. Now don't get me wrong. The Bible is clear that when we confess our sin, God is quick to forgive and to cleanse (1 John 1:9). But my question is .... when we "confess" are we really confessing?

The Greek word translated "confess" in 1 John 1:9 is a word that literally means "to say the same thing about." Therefore, confession of sin is to say the same thing about sin as God does. And just what does God say about sin? For starters, God hates sin (Proverbs 6:16-19; Jeremiah 6:18). God is of such holiness (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8) that he cannot tolerate sin and evil. In the divine economy sin must be punished and done so decisively. Secondly, sin is always first and foremost an offense against God. This can be seen in King David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Not only did David sin against this woman, but also her husband, Urriah. David not only took Urriah's wife, he eventually was guilty of taking Urriah's life. Yet the first words out of David's mouth were "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13; compare with Psalm 51:4 which David wrote after  his sin with Bathsheba). Finally, to understand just how grievous sin is to God, all one has to do is to look at the cross. If Jesus had to endure the horrific suffering he experienced at Calvary in order to satisfy God's wrath against our sin, there can be no doubt. Sin is far more than a nuisance. And we had better stop treating it as such! Only seeing sin as God does will help us to do just that!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Returning to God-Centered Praying!

As you heard me say before, one of my regular devotional books is The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.  Much has been written and said about the Puritans. Some deserved, much not. But one thing I know about the Puritans - they knew their God!

The other day, as I was praying a prayer in the book, it really struck me that we, as the Church, have become very man-centered in our praying. Our prayers are filled with "me" and "I" ... and often, very little "God." Take a moment and read through this prayer and I think you will get my drift (no pun intended with the snow swirling outside!).


The All-Good

Thou has helped me to see, that whatever good be in honor and rejoicing, how good is He who gives them and can withdraw them; that blessedness does not lie so much in receiving good from You and in You, but in holding forth Your glory and virtue; that it is an amazing thing to see Deity in a creature, speaking, acting, filling, shining through it; that nothing is good but You, that I am near good when I am near You, that to be like You is a glorious thing: This is my magnet, my attraction.

You are all my good in times of peace, my only support in days of trouble, my one sufficiency when life shall end. Help me to see how good Your will is in all, and even when it crosses mine teach me to be pleased with it. Grant me to feel You in fire, and food and every providence, and to see that Your many gifts and creatures are but Your hands and fingers taking hold of me.

You bottomless fountain of all good, I give myself to You out of love, for all I have or own is Yours, my goods, family, church, self, to do with as You will, to honor Yourself by me, and by all mine. If it be consistent with Your eternal counsels, the purpose of Your grace, and the great ends of Your glory, then bestow upon me the blessings of Your comforts; If not, let me resign myself to Your wiser determinations.

Amen.


Wow! Now that is God-centered, Man-humbled praying! May we learn to pray this way!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 13, 2013

Back After a Few Days Off . . . with a Special Edition of Friday Coffee with PJ

The past few days I took some needed time off to get some things done around the house, to spend some time with my wife and to simply get some rest. November sped by (primarily due to my short term mission trip to India, followed by the Thanksgiving holiday less than a week after my return). With vacation days still remaining ... I decided to take a few. I am now ready to move forward (I hope) with a renewed passion and joy in Christ (and a lot less coughing!).  So ... pour your cup of favorite hot brew (which is especially good on a frigid day like this!) and enjoy some random thoughts I want to put before you.

1. During our "staycation" this week, we did some shopping, ran other errands, and took one day trip up to the Hershey area. So we spent a lot of time in the car. During this time, we had the car radio on, listening to so called Christmas music. At one point, when the strains of a familiar carol began to fill the car, I said to my wife, "Well, it only took six songs to get to one that mentions Jesus Christ!" Yep. Six songs. The first five dealt with Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, snow, Santa, and a white Christmas ... or something along that line. Increasingly Jesus Christ is being systematically removed from HIS holiday! That means those of us who claim allegiance to him must be even more intentional about keeping Christ in CHRISTmas! So ... let me ask you, what are YOU doing to do so? What steps is your family taking to be sure Christ is at the center of your Christmas celebration? 

2. There's been a lot of talk about the decline in church attendance in the United States in the past decade or two. Thom Rainer, a Christian researcher and author suggests that one of the primary factors is that people who do attend church, do so with a lot less consistency. Kevin DeYoung has some thoughts on this on an insightful posting on his blog, The Scandal of the Semi-Churched. It's a good read! 

3. PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR THE SITUATION IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC. I got word yesterday that all of our Grace Brethren (Encompass World Partners) were evacuated safely out of the country. But many dear brothers and sisters in Christ remain behind. This impoverished country, made even more so by months of violence, is in the midst of a huge humanitarian crisis. Please pray for the church ... and for my friend, Augustin Hibaile and his family.

4. Snow! Looks like more is coming tomorrow. I believe with tomorrow's snow we will easily surpass the total amount of snow we received ALL of last winter. And as I look at the calendar, winter has not even officially begun! I sure hope this is not a sign of things to come!!! In the midst of all this snow and cold, I am so thankful to my God to have a warm house for shelter. How about YOU? 

5. Stop by tomorrow for a special prayer that spoke to me . . . it will give you something to do while you are stuck at home as the snow falls outside! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Carpe Diem ... Seize the Day 2024!

Here is the PowerPoint from Sunday, December 8th's sermon. Life Journals will be available for the next several Sundays.





Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pray for the Church in the Central African Republic!

The conditions continue to deteriorate in the Central African Republic. Renewed fighting has caused Encompass World Partners to evacuate the remaining missionaries within the capital city of Bangui. Please pray that they can safely leave. In addition, Cami Robbins reports that a long term Central African Rebpublic Bible translator that they have worked with for years (the Robbins serve with Wycliffe) was killed in the recent fighting.

Here is a link to a Times article about the situation. Be sure to watch the video. It will show you just how desperate the situation has grown. Even the UN is evacuating personnel!

Again, I ask you to pray especially for my friend, Augustin Hibaile and his family.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday Coffee with PJ

Sorry for the late posting. I am just finishing up my last (and fourth) cup of coffee for the day. But if you are still drinking ... please pour yourself a fresh cup and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. Yesterday as I stood in front of my bathroom mirror (to comb my beautiful head of hair ----- well I can dream, can't I?), I head the ticking of a small clock. It struck me that with each tick, one second was here and gone ... never to return. What is true of a second, is also true of a minute, an hour, a day, a week. Time spent ... is gone forever. Because life is so brief and passes so quickly (James 4:14), we need to strive not to waste our time. Let's make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-17)... seeking to live each minute, hour, day for Jesus Christ!

2. The Christmas holiday appears to be coming at me out of nowhere this year. Is that true of you? I am guessing it is due to a couple of things. First, I spent almost half of my November either preparing to travel to India, traveling to India, serving in India, traveling back home, and then recovering from the trip! Add to this the lateness of the Thanksgiving holiday (Thanksgiving fell on the latest possible date this year), and voila ... Christmas is a coming and it's a coming quick. So ... all that to say, let's make sure in the midst of all the busyness of the season that we don't miss what Christmas is really all about. If you are looking for a good advent devotional ... you might want to check out this free devotional which you can download from Desiring God Ministries.


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, December 5, 2013

God Thinks Differently!

This morning, I spent some time meditating on the following familiar verses from Isaiah chapter fifty-five (vv. 8-9):

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways    and my thoughts than your thoughts."



These two verses are very powerful! They remind us that God's way of thinking is way (and I do mean WAAAAAYYYY above ours)! Of course, this makes all the sense in the world when one considers that God is infinite (without limit) and we are finite (limited). Yet, in spite of what the Scripture so clearly teaches, we in our arrogance are always seeking answers from God, especially when life does not unfold as we think it should! 

As evidence that God's thoughts are not our thoughts nor his ways our ways .... consider the following quote from one of my favorite devotional books, The Valley of Vision. As you read this portion of the opening prayer of the book, take a few moments and consider these "paradoxes" of our faith. They certainly do show that God thinks differently (and, since he is perfect, we can also say that he thinks perfectly!).

"Let me learn by paradox,
   that the way down is up,
   that to be low is to be high,
   that the broken heart is the healed heart,
   that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
   that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
   that to have nothing is to possess all,
   that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
   that to give is to receive,
   that the valley is the place of vision.

Let me find they light in my darkness,
   thy life in my death,
   thy joy in my sorrow,
   thy grace in my sin,
   thy riches in my poverty,
   thy glory in my valley."

Amen.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Out of the Mouth of Babes!

Earlier today, I drove two of my grandchildren to my house after their morning preschool was over. During the ride home (all of about 3 minutes), I asked my four year old if she knew which holiday was fast approaching. She replied, "Christmas." I then asked her if she knew why we celebrated Christmas. "It's Jesus' birthday." I then asked, "If it's Jesus' birthday, why do you get presents?" She said, "Because Jesus died." "Because Jesus died?" I asked. "Yes. Jesus died so children could get presents." "Ohhhh," I responded. "Did he die for any other reason?" "Oh yes," she said, "He died for our sins AND so that we could get presents."  Well, she got it half right!

As you give and receive gifts this Christmas season ... keep in mind that we have already been given the greatest gift we could ever hope for: eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). This gift is offered to us out of the love of our Father in heaven, who "so loved the world that he gave his one and only son" (John 3:16). So this gift of eternal life is on the table ... have you reached out by faith and received it? If you have any questions about how to do so, I encourage you to check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Black Friday . . . Cyber Monday

We have just come through what has to be the most hyped shopping extended weekend of the entire year. Every where I looked (newspaper, internet, television, etc.) I was being bombarded with info about sales, sales and more sales. And this year ... the weekend actually got off to an even earlier start with many stores actually opening up Thanksgiving evening.  All this shows just how "consumer-driven" we have become! If you ask me ... I find it all a bit disturbing.

Well ... with that said, I must confess that I did do quite a bit of shopping - I mean, if you can't fight them ... then why not join them? Yes? (I know, some of you are thinking right now, "PJ, you are such a hypocrite!"). Now ... let me say a couple of things in my defense. First off, I did not do any shopping on Thanksgiving Day! In addition, I let my fingers to all the walking as I shopped (i.e. - I did cyber shopping only, not that this is better ... just the way I decided to go). Finally, I did not buy one item for myself or any family members. Every purchase I made I plan to donate to our church's student ministries' auction which will be held on March 1st. I bought them now because I got some really good deals. And you know ... I was really getting excited about some of the great deals I was buying. The Lord Jesus was right on the mark (which he always was and is!) when he said, "It is more blessed to give than receive!" (Acts 20:25).  I cannot tell you how blessed I felt buying in order to give it all away!

In this season of giving and receiving .... look for a ministry to bless with a gift. They will be benefited and YOU will be blessed!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Psalm 86:12  I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

The Thanksgiving Day holiday is always a good reminder of something that needs to be woven into the very fabric of our day-to-day routine. We need to give thanks to God day in and day out. Why so? Beyond the fact that thanking God is a clear mandate of Scripture ... we must also thank God because EVERY blessing we enjoy in life is from HIS gracious hand (James 1:17). Thanking God should become as natural to us as breathing! I encourage you to get more intentional about giving thanks to God ... not merely on the fourth Thursday of every November . . . but on every day of the year!

Thanks for stopping by . . . pj

By the way . . . I want you ALL to know how much I thank God for YOU! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Few Moments with a Friend!

On the first leg our our journey home from Naya Akola, India, we made a stop at Prakash Institute in the city of Nagpur. In the past few years, Children's Fellowship of India has sent a number of boys to Prakash to learn a trade (Computer Operation, Welding, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning and Electrician are the four courses of study opened to boys). On all four of my trips to India, I have had the privilege to share God's Word with the male students. It has always been a joy.


In addition to preaching, I had the opportunity to briefly reunite with a pastor friend I had made during my last trip to India in August of 2010. Promot might be short of stature but he is long on love for others and for God. He lives and serves in the city of Nagpur. I have met few people who can beat his smile (don't you agree?). 

Promot has not had an easy life. He grew up in an orphanage and, when it was time for him to get married, he was often stymied in his attempt to find a wife. Most women did not want to marry a short orphan whose design in life was to be a poorly paid pastor! But in spite of his "shortcomings," God provided a beautiful wife for him and has used him to further God's kingdom there in that spiritually dark land. 

When Promot saw me last week, his face broke into that engaging smile of his as he embraced me with a huge hug. What a way to end my time there in the heart of India! As you celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday, be sure to let those whom you love KNOW that you love them. Show them ... tell them! It is sure to make their day! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Back from the Far Side of the World!

Every time I have gone to India (and this was my fourth trip), I come back home both totally drained and fully satisfied! Sounds a bit strange, yes? Allow me to explain.

What drains me most is the travel required to get there: three crowded flights (two of which are over 8 hours in length), two van rides (of about 3 hours each) and a partridge in a pear tree! (Sorry ... got a bit carried away there with the holidays fast approaching!). Add to the planes and vehicles was a bunch of time just waiting around three different airports! If that 30+ hours of continuous travel was not enough, we got do do it all in reverse as we traveled home. I am still trying to get my energy back!  Indeed the travel demands are heavy! But I also find myself drained by the overwhelming need we encounter in India. Spiritual darkness lies like a heavy blanket upon the land. The poverty and its devastating impact upon so many is constantly in one's face. And this leads me to what I find most satisfying about the trip. In the midst of all this spiritual darkness and material poverty, there is a ministry called Children's Fellowship of India. It is an orphanage located smack dab in the heart of India (about 500 miles east of Mumbai [Bombay]). Currently 178 boys are finding relief from the abject poverty they once experienced (often when new boys arrive, they are unable to eat the amounts the other boys eat as most of them had very little to eat prior to coming to CFI). But even more important than the relief from poverty - these boys are introduced to Jesus Christ. Wow! What a joy to hear them singing heartily to Jesus Christ. The vast majority make faith commitments to Christ. And here is where this gets me excited. After leaving CFI and going on for more training, these young men return to the general population, taking their faith with them. This is already
happening. While at CFI, I met again four boys I had first met in 2006 (see adjacent photo). All four are now in the work force in different "nearby" cities. All four are following Jesus and involved in churches! Wow! Only eternity will reveal the impact CFI and its boys will have for the kingdom there in India!

If you would like to explore becoming a sponsor of one of these boys (ONLY $30/month!) . . . please let me know (jsmith@gracewv.org)!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Today is D Day (Departure Day!)

As I stumbled out of bed this morning it hit me – today is the day we leave for India! At that, thoughts began to flood my mine. Thoughts like: “Goodbye nice comfy bed!” “Now what important, vital-to-life item did I forget to pack?” “I’m really going to miss the Fam!” “Do I really want to go to INDIA?” etc., etc., etc. By the time the fog in my mind cleared and the thoughts began to subside I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror. I looked at my reflection. My reflection looked back at me. Together we smiled – yes the day that had been set for our departure was here! All the praying, all the planning, all the prepping is now complete. It's time to "hit the trail!"

As I think about this trip I am grateful for a number of things. I am grateful for the group from Grace who will be accompanying me (see the prayer list). I am thankful for Philip Dongre. I have met few like him. His passion for Christ and the children of Children’s Fellowship of India is contagious. I am grateful for the opportunities I will have to teach God's Word and serve the children and staff of CFI. I am also grateful for the joy of being able to preach at a local Indian congregation.  I am thankful for our church family here at Grace and their generous support for our India ’13 team – both in the giving of their finances and the ongoing prayer support - not to mention the boxes of clothing given for the boys! Finally I am thankful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If He had not extended his grace to me when I was a teenager, I am not sure where I would be today. But I am sure where I would not be – and that is on a plane to travel to the far side of the world in service for Jesus Christ!

Would you do me a favor and pause right now and offer a prayer for our team, the people whom we will serve in India (both children and adults) and our families we leave behind? Thanks for your prayers. James tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Thanks so much.

This will be my last posting until I get “back in the saddle” during Thanksgiving week (Yep, Thanksgiving Day is only a few weeks away!). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . and thanks for praying for us!


Trip Itinerary:

Nov. 10 - Depart Dulles 9:55 pm (via United)
Nov. 11 - Arrive Frankfurt 11:45 am; Depart 1:15 pm; Arrive Bombay 1:35 am (via Lufthansa)
Nov. 12 - Depart Bombay 6:40 am; arrive Nagpur 8:00 am; van to CFI, arriving 12:30 pm
Nov. 12-20 - Ministry on campus of CFI and in nearby vicinity
Nov. 20 - Van to Nagpur; depart Nagpur by plane 8:40 pm; Arrive Bombay 10:05 pm
Nov. 21 - Sight see Bombay
Nov. 22 - Depart Bombay 3:25 am; Arrive Frankfurt 7:45 am; Depart Frankfurt 11:25 am; Arrive Dulles 2:30 pm

All times posted are local times. Frankfurt is 6 hours ahead of Lancaster County. India is 10 1/2 hours ahead.

The Team:

Pastor John, Janet and Teddy Long, Brian, Pam and Josh Fulmer, Milly Shepherd, Gary McMullen, Maryann Torino and Philip Dongre, Director of CFI and his wife, Somyalata.


PLEASE PRAY:

- For all members as we share devotionals with both the staff and children of CFI
- That we would encourage the children and staff as we strive to serve them
- For cultural sensitivity on our part
- For unity among our team
- For safety in travel
- That we would point many to Jesus
- For Pastor John as he preaches at
- For good health
- For God's blessing
- For grace to handle the unexpected


Friday, November 8, 2013

Off to India!


In just two days, I will be departing for a two week trip to India. Traveling with me will be ten other individuals. We are heading to Naya Akola, India which is located pretty much in the center of the country. Now Naya Akola is not on any Trip Advisor list of places to visit in India. In fact, the village contains not much more than a run down school, a few shops and a handful of huts and houses. But just on the "outskirts" of town sits the campus of Children's Fellowship of India, home to nearly 200 orphaned boys.

Now whenever I travel to India ... it takes only a moment off the plane in Mumbai to realize that I am not in Lancaster County any more! The smells, sounds, sights in India always initially appear WEIRD to my senses – very different from what I am accustomed to smelling, hearing and seeing back home. Some of these sensations are pleasant, many are not. Talk about feeling out of one's comfort zone!

As I was reflecting on this, God reminded me of something I often say – and it is a reminder that I need to "hear" anytime I travel outside the United States.  Just because something is different does not make it either WRONG or WEIRD.  So people in India drive (if that’s what it’s called – it’s actually more like a demolition derby!) on the left side of the road.  Different? Yes. Wrong? No! So Indians like to eat their food hot and spicy. Different? Yes. Weird? No!  Just because people eat differently, dress differently, live in a multitude of different ways – this makes them neither WRONG nor WEIRD. 

Now there is a lesson in this for ALL of us.We all have our ways of doing things. Often  we encounter others who do things or look at things differently than we do. We must remind ourselves that DIFFERENT does not equal WEIRD or WRONG. Rather we must, with God’s help, learn to graciously “bear with each other” (Colossians 3:13). 

 Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How Long Will YOU Live?

According to a government statistics, life expectancy in the U.S. now stands at 78.64 years (76 for men; 81 for women).  This is an all time high and is up from 75.4 in 1990.  The government attributes this to advances in medicine combined with a drop in some unhealthy practices like smoking. As I thought about all of this, my mind went to these words of King David, All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). God knows (because he numbered our days!) just how long each one of us will live on this earth. That information is something He is not telling us!  So should we worry and fret that this day might be our last?  Absolutely not!  Our earthly existence is in the hands of a loving and faithful God who ALWAYS does what is right.  We can trust Him with our lives.  What we must be doing is living each day for Him.  After all, each day we live and each breath we take is a precious gift from Him.  Don’t waste a moment but “carpe diem” (seize the day) – all by God’s grace and for His glory!  

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

The other day when I was out and about, I went through a Starbucks drive thru. Ordered a cup of their boldest brew and boy was that good!  Glad you could stop by and join me for this edition of Friday Coffee with PJ!

1. I heard a report on my car radio the other day about the practice known as "wardrobing." If you are not familiar with this, wardrobing involves purchasing an article of clothing (usually on the more expensive side), wearing it once (without removing the tags) and then returning it to the store for a refund. When I heard this, I asked myself, "Do people really do this?" Yep. And probably more than you would think (retailers estimate that this practice of wardrobing cost the industry almost 9 billion dollars last year!). But in the minds of many wardrobing sure beats laying out the money for a fancy outfit that you will probably only wear once! Some retailers are now fighting back by placing gaudy tags on the more expensive garments. And if you try to return the clothing without that tag attached ... forget it!  Hmm. Trying to get around paying for something. Reminds me of what many of us do in our Christian walk. We try to get around paying the price for spiritual growth (which is a lot of hard, intentional effort - see 1 Timothy 4:7-8) and then wonder why we are not growing!

2. In just nine days, I will be leading a team (mainly from our church) to serve at an orphanage in central India. Children's Fellowship of India is home to just under 200 boys. If it were not for CFI, the state of these boys would be nothing short of desperate. Please pray for our team as we make our final preparations. If you have some time ... you might want to watch this video that will introduce you to CFI's ministry.


CFI The Children's Fellowship of India from Martin Wild on Vimeo.


3. Finally, there's a challenge that's coming for Grace Church at Willow Valley. This challenge, for those of us who choose to take it up, will, I trust, help us to better know and live God's Word! So if you are a part of our church family here at Grace . . . stay tuned for more info that will be coming your way in the not-too-distant future!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings. I hope you find something that will help you in your journey of grace!

1. John Piper encourages parents to require obedience of the children. Excellent stuff!

2. Tim Challies shares 18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing with My Kids AND 18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing with My Wife. If you are a parent or a husband ... or both, you need to read what he has to say!

3. Did you ever wonder how God views people? Mike Emlet from CCEF answers this question in this brief video clip. 

4. As we stand on the threshold of the month of November, here is a brief devotional from Alistair Begg on the Importance of Thanksgiving. 

5. On a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Busy Doing Nothing?

I don’t know about you, but I love the cartoon family of Bill Keane. Perhaps it is because his “keane” sense of humor is much more keen than mine! In one of my favorite Family Circus cartoons, little Billy and his younger brother are watching squirrels scampering about gathering acorns from the ground.  Billy says to his brother, “Look at those squirrels. They’re real busy and they have nuttin’ to do!”

How many of us are real busy doing “nuttin?” We scurry from one activity to the next while accomplishing little if anything for God and His Kingdom. I encourage you to take some time out and evaluate your life.  Time is too valuable a resource to waste. Let’s seize the moment and live it for Jesus! Before your time of evaluation pray these words: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Carpe Diem (Seize the Day!),


Pastor John 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On Being Relevant

I hear and read a lot these days about the need for the church (and Christians) to be “culturally relevant.”  The dictionary defines the word “relevant” as “having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand.” In effect, to be culturally relevant is to have a bearing on or a connection with our culture.  This means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  Many, I am afraid, in the pursuit of cultural relevancy have emphasized the wrong things and lost sight of the main thing.  (Are you with me?) 

My approach to the Christian life is the K.I.S.S. approach (Keep It Simple Smitty). So as I consider the need to be culturally relevant (and it is a need – no one will give us a hearing if we walk around acting and looking like Yoda from Star Wars!), I believe it boils down to the main thing. If we pursue this main thing – we will ALWAYS be “culturally relevant.” So just what is this “Main Thing?”  We find it in Matthew 22. Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment in God’s Law (The Jews believed there were 613 of them!).  In Jesus’ response we find what I believe is the main thing.  If we practice this main thing – we WILL be relevant. Listen to what Jesus said about the greatest commandment: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"  (Matthew 22:37-39)   

So there you have it.  Do you want to be “culturally relevant?”  Do you want to have a bearing on and a connection with the people around you?  Learn to love God with all you are and have – AND love the people in your life as you love yourself.  As you do this – God will work through you to impact your world. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

 PJ 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Due to being away the first three days of this week at our fellowship of churches, East Focus Retreat (held in Ocean City, MD - click on link for photos of which I am in a couple), I have no random thoughts to share with you this week. In fact my only thought is that I have to get a sermon ready ... because it's Friday and Sunday's coming! But ... here is a quote for you from Pastor Tim Hodge of Grace Family Church in New Holland, PA.  "Chew" on this as you begin later today to enjoy a (I trust) well-deserved weekend break from your job!

"While happiness is desirable, holiness is essential. There will be times when you feel like Elijah in the desert seated under the broom tree lamenting of your lonely stance. Know that in the times when you feel at your worst, God is working at his best" (Tim Hodge).

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Life Boringly Ordinary?

In the first chapter of his book, Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, author James Hamilton writes these compelling words:

"We have been lulled to sleep by the ordinariness of our lives. Our senses have been dulled by the humdrum of one day after another. We need to see God as he is. We need to be convinced that Jesus is reigning as the risen King. We need to have him speak to the situation in our churches. We need to know that God is right now on his throne, in control in Heaven, worshiped by myriads upon myriads of the heavenly host. We need to see the way that God will pulverize wickedness, obliterate those who oppose him, and set up his kingdom. The Book of Revelation has exactly what we need."

If you find yourself being "lulled to sleep by the ordinariness of your life," then you need to pick up your Bible, open to Revelation, the Bible's final book. In this book of tomorrow, you will find much hope for today. And if you really want to dig deeper as you read, check out this online commentary. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Talk that Drains!

Sometimes what I read in the newspaper makes me laugh – or cry – or both.  Other times I find myself grimacing, as when I read the following: "Some psychological experts say folks who whine and complain all the time can suck the energy and health out of those around them." Come now.  Do we really need psychological experts to tell us that?  All of us know people whose native tongue is whine-ish or gripe-eese.  Spend enough time around these people and when you walk away you feel like you’ve been run over by a bus (or at the very least a large SUV!). So when we see these people coming our way, we usually do our best to duck out of their way! But I think we can learn a valuable lesson from the whiners and gripers in our lives.

When we  talk, we must watch the tone and content of our words.  Negative talk (griping, complaining, sarcasm, etc.) will tend to discourage and dishearten those who hear (ala the bus or large SUV).  On the other hand, positive talk (kind, thankful, encouraging, etc.) will build up those who hear.  Let’s purpose to be a blessing to those around us today.  But this is not easy.  Our tongues seem more prone to grumble than express thanks.  We need help.  In fact, we need supernatural help – and lots of it.  So let’s get in the habit of praying the following to God each day “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalms 141:3).  It is so easy to be negative, isn’t it?  That’s why we need His help!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Monday, October 21, 2013

God Always Gets It Right!

Thomas Watson was the chairman of IBM from 1920’s into the 1950’s.  He grew IBM into an international giant.  At the time of his death in 1956 he was one of the richest men in the world and was called the world’s greatest salesman.  Here is a quote from this very successful business man:

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

Did he get it right? Sorry, Tom ... but you blew that assessment! But God – on the other hand – always gets it right!  And in the Bible he reveals to us all that we need to know about him … about ourselves  .. about life – both here on earth and for all eternity!

Sometime this week, pull out your Bible and read through Psalm 119:1-175. It will give you a fresh perspective on just how valuable the Bible really is! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday means ..... COFFEE!!!! Well, at least for me. Of course, any day is coffee day for me! :) Here are
some random thoughts for you to "chew on!"

1. With all the talk of the government shutdown and the debt ceiling (and I hope, since I am writing this on Wednesday that these things will be settled by the time this post goes "live!"), I am grateful for two things. First, that heaven will never "shut down!" Our God, who is on his throne is still ruling from that throne and will always do so. If you need a good reminder of this, take some time and read through the book of Revelation. Circle each time the word "throne" appears. You will be encouraged, I am sure! Secondly, I thank God that there is no debt ceiling on what Christ's sacrifice will pay in regard to the debt of our sin. Every single sin we have ever or will ever commit has been totally paid for! Praise God for his AMAZING grace!

2. The situation in the Central African Republic continues to be bad .... especially for Christians (see World Magazine dispatch on how Islamists are continuing to target Christians). Please pray for our brothers and sisters in this impoverished, war-torn country. And pray specifically for my friend, Augustin Hibaile and his family. Thanks!

3. Here is a great quote that I ran across recently that should bring much encouragement to your heart and soul. It is from Michael Chase's book, Behold Our Sovereign God: All Things From Him, Through Him, and To Him.

"The reason for keeping the cross central is this hope: if God ordained the worst evil to bring about the greatest good, then lesser evils are not beyond his decree or his ability to work good from them." 

Amen! Well said ... let's always keep this truth in mind. Especially when the tough times roll!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's a la carte menu items. "Eat hearty!"

1. For those of us who like to complain about our lives ... perhaps we need to take a look at this brief video and read the accompanying article. 

2. We spend so much time communicating ... either in person, over the phone, via email or texting. So, what does the Bible have to say about how we communicate? Check out the answer to that question here!

3. Kevin DeYoung with, A Friend of Sinners and Not a Friend of Sin. A good read!


4. Ed Welsh weights in on the Secret to Dealing with Fear and Anxiety. 

5. I like what Kathleen Nielson has to say about grandparenting in her article, Grandparenting: A Great Road Trip. 

6. And on a lighter note (especially for you Hobbit fans out there!) . . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

No Unanswered Calls in Heaven!

The other day, my wife Sharon and I ran some errands together. After pulling into the shopping center's parking lot, I headed to the pharmacy to fill a prescription and she to the grocery store. Since I was just planning to drop my prescription off and pick it up the next day, I told her I would quickly catch up with her in the supermarket. But that changed when the pharmacy tech told me that they could have my prescription filled in just ten minutes or so. Deciding I would rather wait than make a trip back the next day, I reached for my cell phone to call my wife. All I was able to get was her voice mail. "She didn't bring her cell phone!" was the thought that ran through my mind ... and sure enough ... that's exactly what happened. All this reminded me of another account (true story!) of an unanswered cell phone.

One spring, a family was driving to Florida. They decided to drive through the night. Mom took a cat nap early on while Dad drove. When it came her turn to drive about 2 AM or so, they stopped to gas up. Mom also took the opportunity to purchase a large cup of coffee. Sure enough – the coffee really PERKED her up. She had no problem staying awake and alert at the wheel. As the sky began to brighten with the dawn's first light, her empty stomach reminded her that an early breakfast was in order. So she woke up the kids and told them to wake up Dad in the back of the van. A few moments later, one of her kids responded, “Mom, Dad is not back here!”  It seems that Dad was about 200 miles behind, still at the gas station where they stopped. And since Mom had her cell phone off – he could not get a hold of her!  

Friends, even though we may fail to answer the calls people place to us (either by choice or by not having our phones on or even with us) - there is SOMEONE who will never fail to answer when we call. That's right. God has promised in his word that when we call to him he will answer ... always and forever (Matthew 7:7-11; John 15:7; 1 John 5:15). Now that answer may not be the one we are looking for ... but since he always knows what's best, we need to learn to accept his answers with faith, believing them to be for our good and for his glory. So, the next time you pray to God, be assured he hears you AND he will answer you - all in accord with his infinite wisdom, power and love! 


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What? More Change?

Change is a constant in our lives. Our bodies change (of which I am reminded every time I engage in a physical activity - my body screams at me "I am NOT as young as I once was!"). Our families change. Our work situations change. Our friendships change. Our neighborhoods change. Our world changes. But as I was reminded in my devotional time this morning, God NEVER changes (Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6). He is THE only constant that is always present in our lives. He is THE only non-negotiable.

So as we travel on this journey we call life, immersed in a sea of never-ending change, pause . . . and pause often ... to remind yourself that the God who loved you enough to die for you ... is ALWAYS by your side. His eye is ever watching (Proverbs 25:3) ... his hand is always gripping (Psalm 139:10) - YOU! And that, my friend, will NEVER change!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

After missing my weekly coffee with you last week, I am more than ready to share some random type thoughts with any of you with time to stop and listen.

1. So many of us struggle with our prayer lives. By that I mean that most of us, if really honest, would have to admit we don't pray nearly enough. I admit that's definitely true of my life. And there are many reasons for this lack of prayer: life's busy routines, the distraction of the world, the influence of our enemy who certainly does not want to see God's people on their knees before God . . . . and the list could go on and on and on. So to help me "pray better and pray more," I am always looking for any helpful tool which will help me do so. One such resource is a book by Ken Boa titled, Handbook to Prayer: Praying the Scripture Back to God. This handbook has helped me to become more consistent ... AND ... more God-centered in my praying. I highly recommend any of Boa's books on prayer. It's really, really good stuff!


2. When it comes to the practice of meditating on Scripture, I believe the Puritans had a huge leg up in this arena over what most Christians today call meditating on the Word.

"Puritan meditation engages the mind with God’s revealed truth in order to inflame the heart with affections towards God and transform the life unto obedience. Thomas Hooker defined it like this: 'Meditation is a serious intention of the mind whereby we come to search out the truth, and settle it effectually upon the heart.' The direction of our minds reveals the truest love of our hearts, and so, Hooker said, he who loves God’s Word meditates on it regularly (Psalm 119:97). Therefore, Puritan meditation is not repeating a sound, emptying the mind, or imagining physical sights and sensations, but a focused exercise of thought and faith upon the Word of God" (Dr. Joel Beeke, author of the acclaimed book, Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life).

Wow! That first sentence says it all. Oh that I would meditate on God's Word to inflame my heart and transform my life!


3. The rain that is falling from the clouds as I write this post brings to mind what God has to say about His word. In Isaiah 55:10-12 God likens the His word to rain or snow. These forms of precipitation water the soil so that crops and trees and grass can grow. And so with the Bible. It WILL do the same, bringing forth growth as it waters our souls and hearts. In fact, God makes the incredible promise that His word will not return to him EMPTY or UNPRODUCTIVE. Rather the Scripture will accomplish God's will in our lives. Given this truth ... what's keeping YOU from the Bible?

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings ...

1. Tim Challies offers up some advice on growing a Porn Free Family. 

2. Do you feel like you make a mess of a lot of stuff? Paul Tripp reminds us of one thing that we could never destroy. 

3. One of my favorite theological "mentors" R.C. Sproul writes, "If It Be Your Will" A great (and needed) read!

4. A great reminder that we can ill afford to stop praying ... even when it seems like we are merely talking to the ceiling!

5.  Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in Manhattan ... offers up comments about the church and homoxexuality. Well worth your time!

6. And on a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The House that Mickey Built

"It all started with a mouse." Words spoken by the founder of the Disney empire, Walt Disney (hear for your self in this brief video clip):





Looking at all that Disney has become, it is hard to believe that Walt's early ventures included bankruptcy and failure. But thanks to this mouse named Mickey, Walt's last name has become magical to kids of all ages.

Last week, my wife and I spent a week at Disney World along with our oldest daughter and family. Prior to this visit, my experience at Disney had been a four hour visit to the Magic Kingdom while on chorale tour during spring break of my freshman year (when the Magic Kingdom WAS Disney World!). We also spent a full day at Magic Kingdom in the early 1990's with our children. So spending all that time at Disney was a real eye opener ... and a boat-load of fun!

The sheer size of the place astounded me! Did you know that Disney World covers over 30,000 acres? And did you know that Disney World employs over 60,000 people making it the country's largest single-site employer? And speaking of people, over 40 million visitors enter the Disney theme parks each year! And to think this all started with a mouse!

But as great as this "house that Mickey built" might be ... the Scripture speaks of a far greater house. In Hebrews 3:1-5, the writer makes reference to "God's house" which he goes on to identify as the church of Jesus Christ. This house, my friends, built by God himself upon the blood of His own Son and our Savior, is not yet complete. When God nails the final shingle on the roof, so to speak, his "house" will gloriously shine long after the house that Mickey built has crumbled into dust.

I am so thankful that God has seen fit to set his love upon me and call me into his household! How about you? When the magic of Disney is long done, where will you be spending eternity? I know that's a heavy question ... but it is an urgent one. One that you must face, seeing that all of us will one day die and after that face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

I encourage you to check out Two Ways to Live: A Choice We All Face.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

God Is at Work in Israel!

For the past fifteen years or so, I have served on the board of Hebrew Christian Fellowship.  During that time, I have often been amazed at how God is at work in that predominantly Jewish land. I have posted below a brief devotional by a friend of mine, David Salinger. David, a messianic Jew, is on the staff of Israel College of the Bible located in Netanya, Israel. I encourage you to take the four minutes required to view the video. It will be time well spent!




Thanks for stopping by . .
 pj

Monday, September 30, 2013

Out of Office

I will not be posting this week as I am out of the office enjoying some time away with my wife. "See" you again next week!

But before I sign off ... here is a quote for you to ponder this week:


"Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society's own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender"  (A. W. Tozer, 1897-1963).


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Grab your favorite morning, afternoon or evening beverage of choice and join me for a couple of random
thoughts.

1. Whenever something bad happens in our lives, the Enemy is always quick to whisper in our ear something along the line of "So, God loves you does he? Come on . . . if God REALLY loved you, then would he have allowed this to happen to you?" From the dawn of human history, this has been one of Satan's strategy . . . to get us to doubt God's goodness (see Genesis 3:1-5). But when Satan comes whispering his vicious accusation against our God, we must respond with God's Word (just as Jesus did when tempted by Satan - Matthew 4:1-10). Over and over again the Bible tells us that God is good and faithful (Psalm 107:1; Psalm 36:5; Lamentations 3:22-25). So even when life grows so dark it is tough to see any light, we must, by faith believe that God is near and He has us in HIS hand (Psalm 139:9-11). And there is no better hands to be in than HIS!

2. Jerry Bridges writes much about our pursuit of God and personal holiness. In one of his books, he quotes King David in Psalm 27:4 where David declares, "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple."  Here are Bridges' comments on David's stated desire: 


"This is the heartbeat of the godly person. As he contemplates God in the awesomeness of His infinite majesty, power, and holiness, and then as he dwells upon the riches of His mercy and grace poured out at Calvary, his heart is captivated by this One who could love him so. He is satisfied with God alone, but he is never satisfied with his present experience of God. He always yearns for more." 

Oh that God would give us all that kind of a heartbeat! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the Old . . . in with the New!

Here we are ... with less than 24 hours remaining in 2013. The new year of 2014 is staring us in the face. As to what it will hold for us, only God knows!  I always find it helpful in my own spiritual journey to take some time in both reflection upon the year that's passing and the new year that lies ahead.

For starters, I take a backward glance. I note the year's ups and downs. I look for God's faithful hand in both. I always discover that God has neither lied to me nor failed in any way in fulfilling his promises. Sure, life does not always go the way I would like. But who am I? I am a finite (read "limited" ... no read "VERY LIMITED") creature. God is the infinite (read "unlimited" or 'unlimitable") Creator. So when HIS providential plan does not unfold as I believe it should, guess what? I need to learn to trust him. He knows far better than I  do as to what is good for me. And I happen to believe that the Bible teaches us that God does ALL things for HIS glory. And that which is for his glory is also for our good!  Proverbs 3:5-6 is a passage we all need to learn to put into practice!

Also as I look in life's rear view mirror, I take time to thank God for his MULTITUDE of blessings with which he has so generously showered me. Everything in my life that has brought me happiness and joy is from his hand (James 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:17). Thanksgiving for 2013's blessings is certainly a God-pleasing and faith-strengthening way to end one year and begin a new one! And remember, nothing is as short lived as gratitude!

Finally, as I look ahead to a new year I find it fruitful to do some self evaluation (see the PowerPoint slides from my message this past Sunday on 7 key questions you can use to do this. You will find them as you scroll down). After evaluating where I am, then I set some goals. I encourage you do the same. Whatever needs done for you to grow in your faith .... make plans to do it! Don't make so many that you lose heart after the second week of January. Keep it simple. Focus on the area(s) of your life that need the most work. And then ... share those goals with someone who can "hold your feet to the fire." Our fallen human nature moves from the disciplined to the undisciplined. Like water, we seek the path of least resistance. And since discipline is required for spiritual growth (1 Timothy 4:7-8), we need help to stay at it! An accountability partner can provide that needed help.

As I close ... I encourage you to never stop preaching the gospel to yourself. We all need that daily reminder that were it not for Christ and his sacrifice for us ... none of us would be interested in pursuing a relationship with the one true and living God. All that we enjoy in life flows from God's grace. And the greatest expression of that grace is the cross! So ... if you want to boast about ... whatever, STOP and do as Paul did and boast only in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14).

I pray that God's blessings will move you ever closer to Jesus Christ in the new year of 2014!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Sunday, December 29, 2013

7 Questions: Taking a Look at How You Are Doing with Life!

Here are the PowerPoint slides from Sunday, December 29, 2003. Enjoy!



Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

For today's edition, I thought I would dunk some humble pie in my coffee, by sharing a couple of "bonehead" moves I made recently.

1. The first occurred back on December 11th. I was taking a vacation day and we were planning to head to King of Prussia Mall. As we backed out of the garage, I failed to look in the rear view mirror and just backed out as usual. The problem was ... things were not "usual!" Our youngest daughter was at the house and her car was parked in a small angled extension off of our main driveway. I forgot her car was there and clipped her car's right front bumper with my car's left rear bumper. So ... instead of heading to the mall, we took a trip to the body shop. So glad I have car insurance (the total repair bill for the two cars combined came to just under $2K. Oh, well .... we all make mistakes, right? My wife and daughter took it all in stride (which I can't say I did ... at least initially!). Moral of this story --- DON'T FORGET TO LOOK IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR! That is also good advice for doing this thing called life. It is always good to look back ... so we can learn from our mistakes. But even more important ... it's very healthy to look in life's rear view mirror and identify those "God moments" when you experienced God clearly at work in your life ... moving you closer to Him. For what God did in the past ... he has promised to continue now and until that great Day when he returns (Philippians 1:6).

2. The second occurred just last night. Sharon and I, after 12 years, made the difficult decision to trade in our PT Cruiser. The time had come for us to buy a minivan. That's right! A MINIVAN!  I can recall across the years passing many an older person or couple driving a minivan. I always wondered why they would need a minivan. I now know the answer: GRANDKIDS! So we have now joined the grandparents-with-a-minivan club! So after doing some research on used minivans ... and keeping our eyes opened, we found what appeared to be a good deal on a 2004 Honda Odyssey. We finalized the deal last evening. After saying goodbye to the PT, we drove home. Once inside the house, I sat in my favorite Lazy Boy recliner and began to read the owner's manual. After familiarizing myself with it, I decided to go do some hands on things with the van while it was all fresh in my mind. After unlocking the door with the keyless remote, I climbed in and shut the door. I then began to check out where everything was (I took a flashlight along to give me better light). After a few minutes, I decided to head back in the house. When I opened the door, the car alarm went off ... and boy did it go off! The headlights flashed and the horn BLARED! I did everything I could think of to turn the thing off. I even started up the car thinking that would do it. Nope! So I am sitting there ... totally embarrassed (and glad that it was only 8:30 and not 10:30!). Finally after what seemed like 20 minutes, the horn stopped blaring and the lights ceased their flashing. Ahhh. The silence never sounded so sweet! I sat in the van ... a bit rattled I must admit ... well, a lot rattled! Then I reached for the door and opened it. Guess what? The horn began to pierce that beautiful silence as the headlights did their dance! Thankfully, I managed to turn off the alarm in just a few seconds. Moral of this story --- MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HOW YOUR CAR'S ALARM SYSTEM WORKS! This is also good advice on how to do life. God has given us an alarm system for our soul. It is called a conscience. The New Testament often speaks of a "clear conscience" (2 Timothy 1:3; Hebrews 13:18). The conscience is God's built in alarm system. When it is configured properly, it will warn us when we are heading off in the wrong direction! But if we are not careful, we can "sear" the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2 - click the link above for more info on this). So ... all this to say, ask God to help you keep your conscience clean and clear. Only then will it serve its God given purpose.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope you have a very merry ... very Christ-honoring ... very relationship enriching Christmas! Here is some Christmas music from Keith and Karen Getty. Enjoy!




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

Monday, December 23, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!

I hope you will have a wonderful Christmas celebration!  Here is the acappella group, Pentatonix singing an incredible arrangement of Little Drummer Boy! Enjoy!





 Thanks for stopping by . . . pj

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Here we are a mere five days away from Christmas 2013. So ... grab a cup of your favorite holiday coffee (or tea) ... and join me for a few random thoughts that are floating around my head (and there are no "visions of sugar plums" dancing around my mind!).

1. Do you realize that there were a lot of people who missed the first Christmas? If I had more time, I would discuss a number of them ... but let me just focus on one: the innkeeper in Bethlehem. Now the nativity account in Luke 2 does not mention an innkeeper, but it does mention an inn. Therefore, there was an innkeeper. Since the Bible says nothing about this individual, we have no idea if he was hostile or sympathetic to the needs of Mary and Joseph. We don't know if the stable they found for shelter was offered by the innkeeper. But the fact that the Bible is silent about any innkeeper, makes me think that he missed that first Christmas. And just why would have have missed it? Simply because he was preoccupied with running a very busy inn. It was maxed out due to all the out-of -towners who had arrived for the Roman census (that is why, humanly speaking, Mary and Joseph were in town). I wonder how many of us are in danger of missing Christmas simply because we are preoccupied with the stuff of life?  Hmm. Something to think about.


2. This morning I was reminded of a quote of William Carey, a man many consider the father of the modern missionary movement. He said, "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God." Now there's some good advice. I think for most of us (notice I said "us" - that includes me) our view of God is way too small. We (now I am speaking of the church of today) have lost the lofty view once held of God. J.I. Packer back in the early seventies put it this way in the preface of his classic book, Knowing God: "Christian minds have been conformed to the modern spirit: the spirit, that is, that spawns great thoughts of man and leaves room for only small thoughts of God."  Hmm. What Packer wrote about Christian minds in 1973 is probably even more true today. So ... when you think about God ... how big is he?  My guess ... not nearly big enough!


3. Finally ... let me invite those of you who will be around home (and if your home is in Lancaster, PA) to
join us this coming Sunday when I will take us back in time via The Camel Driver's Tale. Our services are held at 9:00 and 10:30. Then on Christmas Eve ... we will focus on the real meaning of the season: Jesus the Christ!  Our two services will be held at 6 and 8 pm.

MERRY CHRISTMAS ... and thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Prayer for Your Thursday

From the pen of an unnamed Puritan comes a simple yet powerful prayer . . . take a moment and make his prayer yours!

"May I always be among those who not only hear but know you, 
who walk with and rejoice in you, 
who take you at your word and find life there." 

Have a great day and a great advent season as we celebrate the moment in history that God Himself became one of us!  Wow! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Great Mystery of Christmas!

On my recent trip to India, I was struck at how much easier it had grown to be in touch with my wife. On my first trip in 2006, my only way to communicate with her was to go into the nearby village of Naya Akola and use a public phone. This past trip, not only could I talk with her via a cell phone, I could also easily text her from my own smart phone. Technology had come to central India making communication almost instantaneous. Even though home was almost half a world away ... it seemed like it was right next door!

As we approach the Christmas holiday (only one week and counting!), we must be careful not to lose sight of what the Christmas holiday is all about: that some 2000 years ago, the Living God became a living man in the person of the baby born to Mary in Bethlehem. Think about that (and I guarantee you that no matter how long and how hard you think about the incarnation, you will NEVER get your mind wrapped around it!). The Apostle Paul, in referencing the incarnation of Jesus Christ, used the words "great indeed is the mystery of godliness" (1 Timothy 3:14-16). In the person of Jesus Christ, God himself came to live "right next door!"

So ... take a moment ... today, tomorrow, next week on Christmas Day itself, and wonder in worship as you reflect upon the reality that in time space history .... the Almighty God became one of us! And he did so to ultimately die for us! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nuisance Snow . . . Nuisance Sin?

Last evening after seeing the weather forecast calling for one or two inches of snow today, I turned to my wife and said, "I feel like I'm back in Pittsburgh!" I spent five winters in the Steel City in the mid to late eighties. Rarely in Pittsburgh did we see the monster east coast sort of storms that dump snow measured in feet vs. inches. Instead, we saw an awful lot of these so called "nuisance" snows. Snowfalls that did not keep you from your regular routine but yet required some sweeping or scraping or sometimes shoveling the driveway and sidewalk. Well ... in just a little over a week, we have seen four nuisance type snows here in Lancaster (a couple were a bit more than a nuisance ... but they still were not big snowstorms). That's why I feel like I am experiencing a typical Pittsburgh winter.

Sometimes I think we look at sin in the same way we look at these recent snowfalls. A nuisance. And just as this morning I took a few minutes and brushed the snow off of my porch and driveway and then moved on with my day, so we deal with sin in much the same way. When we become aware of sin in our lives (and for many of us that "when" is much too big!), we simply offer up a quick prayer, brush ourselves off, and get on with life. Now don't get me wrong. The Bible is clear that when we confess our sin, God is quick to forgive and to cleanse (1 John 1:9). But my question is .... when we "confess" are we really confessing?

The Greek word translated "confess" in 1 John 1:9 is a word that literally means "to say the same thing about." Therefore, confession of sin is to say the same thing about sin as God does. And just what does God say about sin? For starters, God hates sin (Proverbs 6:16-19; Jeremiah 6:18). God is of such holiness (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8) that he cannot tolerate sin and evil. In the divine economy sin must be punished and done so decisively. Secondly, sin is always first and foremost an offense against God. This can be seen in King David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Not only did David sin against this woman, but also her husband, Urriah. David not only took Urriah's wife, he eventually was guilty of taking Urriah's life. Yet the first words out of David's mouth were "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13; compare with Psalm 51:4 which David wrote after  his sin with Bathsheba). Finally, to understand just how grievous sin is to God, all one has to do is to look at the cross. If Jesus had to endure the horrific suffering he experienced at Calvary in order to satisfy God's wrath against our sin, there can be no doubt. Sin is far more than a nuisance. And we had better stop treating it as such! Only seeing sin as God does will help us to do just that!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Returning to God-Centered Praying!

As you heard me say before, one of my regular devotional books is The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.  Much has been written and said about the Puritans. Some deserved, much not. But one thing I know about the Puritans - they knew their God!

The other day, as I was praying a prayer in the book, it really struck me that we, as the Church, have become very man-centered in our praying. Our prayers are filled with "me" and "I" ... and often, very little "God." Take a moment and read through this prayer and I think you will get my drift (no pun intended with the snow swirling outside!).


The All-Good

Thou has helped me to see, that whatever good be in honor and rejoicing, how good is He who gives them and can withdraw them; that blessedness does not lie so much in receiving good from You and in You, but in holding forth Your glory and virtue; that it is an amazing thing to see Deity in a creature, speaking, acting, filling, shining through it; that nothing is good but You, that I am near good when I am near You, that to be like You is a glorious thing: This is my magnet, my attraction.

You are all my good in times of peace, my only support in days of trouble, my one sufficiency when life shall end. Help me to see how good Your will is in all, and even when it crosses mine teach me to be pleased with it. Grant me to feel You in fire, and food and every providence, and to see that Your many gifts and creatures are but Your hands and fingers taking hold of me.

You bottomless fountain of all good, I give myself to You out of love, for all I have or own is Yours, my goods, family, church, self, to do with as You will, to honor Yourself by me, and by all mine. If it be consistent with Your eternal counsels, the purpose of Your grace, and the great ends of Your glory, then bestow upon me the blessings of Your comforts; If not, let me resign myself to Your wiser determinations.

Amen.


Wow! Now that is God-centered, Man-humbled praying! May we learn to pray this way!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 13, 2013

Back After a Few Days Off . . . with a Special Edition of Friday Coffee with PJ

The past few days I took some needed time off to get some things done around the house, to spend some time with my wife and to simply get some rest. November sped by (primarily due to my short term mission trip to India, followed by the Thanksgiving holiday less than a week after my return). With vacation days still remaining ... I decided to take a few. I am now ready to move forward (I hope) with a renewed passion and joy in Christ (and a lot less coughing!).  So ... pour your cup of favorite hot brew (which is especially good on a frigid day like this!) and enjoy some random thoughts I want to put before you.

1. During our "staycation" this week, we did some shopping, ran other errands, and took one day trip up to the Hershey area. So we spent a lot of time in the car. During this time, we had the car radio on, listening to so called Christmas music. At one point, when the strains of a familiar carol began to fill the car, I said to my wife, "Well, it only took six songs to get to one that mentions Jesus Christ!" Yep. Six songs. The first five dealt with Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, snow, Santa, and a white Christmas ... or something along that line. Increasingly Jesus Christ is being systematically removed from HIS holiday! That means those of us who claim allegiance to him must be even more intentional about keeping Christ in CHRISTmas! So ... let me ask you, what are YOU doing to do so? What steps is your family taking to be sure Christ is at the center of your Christmas celebration? 

2. There's been a lot of talk about the decline in church attendance in the United States in the past decade or two. Thom Rainer, a Christian researcher and author suggests that one of the primary factors is that people who do attend church, do so with a lot less consistency. Kevin DeYoung has some thoughts on this on an insightful posting on his blog, The Scandal of the Semi-Churched. It's a good read! 

3. PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY FOR THE SITUATION IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC. I got word yesterday that all of our Grace Brethren (Encompass World Partners) were evacuated safely out of the country. But many dear brothers and sisters in Christ remain behind. This impoverished country, made even more so by months of violence, is in the midst of a huge humanitarian crisis. Please pray for the church ... and for my friend, Augustin Hibaile and his family.

4. Snow! Looks like more is coming tomorrow. I believe with tomorrow's snow we will easily surpass the total amount of snow we received ALL of last winter. And as I look at the calendar, winter has not even officially begun! I sure hope this is not a sign of things to come!!! In the midst of all this snow and cold, I am so thankful to my God to have a warm house for shelter. How about YOU? 

5. Stop by tomorrow for a special prayer that spoke to me . . . it will give you something to do while you are stuck at home as the snow falls outside! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Carpe Diem ... Seize the Day 2024!

Here is the PowerPoint from Sunday, December 8th's sermon. Life Journals will be available for the next several Sundays.





Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pray for the Church in the Central African Republic!

The conditions continue to deteriorate in the Central African Republic. Renewed fighting has caused Encompass World Partners to evacuate the remaining missionaries within the capital city of Bangui. Please pray that they can safely leave. In addition, Cami Robbins reports that a long term Central African Rebpublic Bible translator that they have worked with for years (the Robbins serve with Wycliffe) was killed in the recent fighting.

Here is a link to a Times article about the situation. Be sure to watch the video. It will show you just how desperate the situation has grown. Even the UN is evacuating personnel!

Again, I ask you to pray especially for my friend, Augustin Hibaile and his family.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday Coffee with PJ

Sorry for the late posting. I am just finishing up my last (and fourth) cup of coffee for the day. But if you are still drinking ... please pour yourself a fresh cup and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. Yesterday as I stood in front of my bathroom mirror (to comb my beautiful head of hair ----- well I can dream, can't I?), I head the ticking of a small clock. It struck me that with each tick, one second was here and gone ... never to return. What is true of a second, is also true of a minute, an hour, a day, a week. Time spent ... is gone forever. Because life is so brief and passes so quickly (James 4:14), we need to strive not to waste our time. Let's make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-17)... seeking to live each minute, hour, day for Jesus Christ!

2. The Christmas holiday appears to be coming at me out of nowhere this year. Is that true of you? I am guessing it is due to a couple of things. First, I spent almost half of my November either preparing to travel to India, traveling to India, serving in India, traveling back home, and then recovering from the trip! Add to this the lateness of the Thanksgiving holiday (Thanksgiving fell on the latest possible date this year), and voila ... Christmas is a coming and it's a coming quick. So ... all that to say, let's make sure in the midst of all the busyness of the season that we don't miss what Christmas is really all about. If you are looking for a good advent devotional ... you might want to check out this free devotional which you can download from Desiring God Ministries.


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, December 5, 2013

God Thinks Differently!

This morning, I spent some time meditating on the following familiar verses from Isaiah chapter fifty-five (vv. 8-9):

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways    and my thoughts than your thoughts."



These two verses are very powerful! They remind us that God's way of thinking is way (and I do mean WAAAAAYYYY above ours)! Of course, this makes all the sense in the world when one considers that God is infinite (without limit) and we are finite (limited). Yet, in spite of what the Scripture so clearly teaches, we in our arrogance are always seeking answers from God, especially when life does not unfold as we think it should! 

As evidence that God's thoughts are not our thoughts nor his ways our ways .... consider the following quote from one of my favorite devotional books, The Valley of Vision. As you read this portion of the opening prayer of the book, take a few moments and consider these "paradoxes" of our faith. They certainly do show that God thinks differently (and, since he is perfect, we can also say that he thinks perfectly!).

"Let me learn by paradox,
   that the way down is up,
   that to be low is to be high,
   that the broken heart is the healed heart,
   that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
   that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
   that to have nothing is to possess all,
   that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
   that to give is to receive,
   that the valley is the place of vision.

Let me find they light in my darkness,
   thy life in my death,
   thy joy in my sorrow,
   thy grace in my sin,
   thy riches in my poverty,
   thy glory in my valley."

Amen.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Out of the Mouth of Babes!

Earlier today, I drove two of my grandchildren to my house after their morning preschool was over. During the ride home (all of about 3 minutes), I asked my four year old if she knew which holiday was fast approaching. She replied, "Christmas." I then asked her if she knew why we celebrated Christmas. "It's Jesus' birthday." I then asked, "If it's Jesus' birthday, why do you get presents?" She said, "Because Jesus died." "Because Jesus died?" I asked. "Yes. Jesus died so children could get presents." "Ohhhh," I responded. "Did he die for any other reason?" "Oh yes," she said, "He died for our sins AND so that we could get presents."  Well, she got it half right!

As you give and receive gifts this Christmas season ... keep in mind that we have already been given the greatest gift we could ever hope for: eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). This gift is offered to us out of the love of our Father in heaven, who "so loved the world that he gave his one and only son" (John 3:16). So this gift of eternal life is on the table ... have you reached out by faith and received it? If you have any questions about how to do so, I encourage you to check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Black Friday . . . Cyber Monday

We have just come through what has to be the most hyped shopping extended weekend of the entire year. Every where I looked (newspaper, internet, television, etc.) I was being bombarded with info about sales, sales and more sales. And this year ... the weekend actually got off to an even earlier start with many stores actually opening up Thanksgiving evening.  All this shows just how "consumer-driven" we have become! If you ask me ... I find it all a bit disturbing.

Well ... with that said, I must confess that I did do quite a bit of shopping - I mean, if you can't fight them ... then why not join them? Yes? (I know, some of you are thinking right now, "PJ, you are such a hypocrite!"). Now ... let me say a couple of things in my defense. First off, I did not do any shopping on Thanksgiving Day! In addition, I let my fingers to all the walking as I shopped (i.e. - I did cyber shopping only, not that this is better ... just the way I decided to go). Finally, I did not buy one item for myself or any family members. Every purchase I made I plan to donate to our church's student ministries' auction which will be held on March 1st. I bought them now because I got some really good deals. And you know ... I was really getting excited about some of the great deals I was buying. The Lord Jesus was right on the mark (which he always was and is!) when he said, "It is more blessed to give than receive!" (Acts 20:25).  I cannot tell you how blessed I felt buying in order to give it all away!

In this season of giving and receiving .... look for a ministry to bless with a gift. They will be benefited and YOU will be blessed!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Psalm 86:12  I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

The Thanksgiving Day holiday is always a good reminder of something that needs to be woven into the very fabric of our day-to-day routine. We need to give thanks to God day in and day out. Why so? Beyond the fact that thanking God is a clear mandate of Scripture ... we must also thank God because EVERY blessing we enjoy in life is from HIS gracious hand (James 1:17). Thanking God should become as natural to us as breathing! I encourage you to get more intentional about giving thanks to God ... not merely on the fourth Thursday of every November . . . but on every day of the year!

Thanks for stopping by . . . pj

By the way . . . I want you ALL to know how much I thank God for YOU! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Few Moments with a Friend!

On the first leg our our journey home from Naya Akola, India, we made a stop at Prakash Institute in the city of Nagpur. In the past few years, Children's Fellowship of India has sent a number of boys to Prakash to learn a trade (Computer Operation, Welding, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning and Electrician are the four courses of study opened to boys). On all four of my trips to India, I have had the privilege to share God's Word with the male students. It has always been a joy.


In addition to preaching, I had the opportunity to briefly reunite with a pastor friend I had made during my last trip to India in August of 2010. Promot might be short of stature but he is long on love for others and for God. He lives and serves in the city of Nagpur. I have met few people who can beat his smile (don't you agree?). 

Promot has not had an easy life. He grew up in an orphanage and, when it was time for him to get married, he was often stymied in his attempt to find a wife. Most women did not want to marry a short orphan whose design in life was to be a poorly paid pastor! But in spite of his "shortcomings," God provided a beautiful wife for him and has used him to further God's kingdom there in that spiritually dark land. 

When Promot saw me last week, his face broke into that engaging smile of his as he embraced me with a huge hug. What a way to end my time there in the heart of India! As you celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday, be sure to let those whom you love KNOW that you love them. Show them ... tell them! It is sure to make their day! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Back from the Far Side of the World!

Every time I have gone to India (and this was my fourth trip), I come back home both totally drained and fully satisfied! Sounds a bit strange, yes? Allow me to explain.

What drains me most is the travel required to get there: three crowded flights (two of which are over 8 hours in length), two van rides (of about 3 hours each) and a partridge in a pear tree! (Sorry ... got a bit carried away there with the holidays fast approaching!). Add to the planes and vehicles was a bunch of time just waiting around three different airports! If that 30+ hours of continuous travel was not enough, we got do do it all in reverse as we traveled home. I am still trying to get my energy back!  Indeed the travel demands are heavy! But I also find myself drained by the overwhelming need we encounter in India. Spiritual darkness lies like a heavy blanket upon the land. The poverty and its devastating impact upon so many is constantly in one's face. And this leads me to what I find most satisfying about the trip. In the midst of all this spiritual darkness and material poverty, there is a ministry called Children's Fellowship of India. It is an orphanage located smack dab in the heart of India (about 500 miles east of Mumbai [Bombay]). Currently 178 boys are finding relief from the abject poverty they once experienced (often when new boys arrive, they are unable to eat the amounts the other boys eat as most of them had very little to eat prior to coming to CFI). But even more important than the relief from poverty - these boys are introduced to Jesus Christ. Wow! What a joy to hear them singing heartily to Jesus Christ. The vast majority make faith commitments to Christ. And here is where this gets me excited. After leaving CFI and going on for more training, these young men return to the general population, taking their faith with them. This is already
happening. While at CFI, I met again four boys I had first met in 2006 (see adjacent photo). All four are now in the work force in different "nearby" cities. All four are following Jesus and involved in churches! Wow! Only eternity will reveal the impact CFI and its boys will have for the kingdom there in India!

If you would like to explore becoming a sponsor of one of these boys (ONLY $30/month!) . . . please let me know (jsmith@gracewv.org)!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Today is D Day (Departure Day!)

As I stumbled out of bed this morning it hit me – today is the day we leave for India! At that, thoughts began to flood my mine. Thoughts like: “Goodbye nice comfy bed!” “Now what important, vital-to-life item did I forget to pack?” “I’m really going to miss the Fam!” “Do I really want to go to INDIA?” etc., etc., etc. By the time the fog in my mind cleared and the thoughts began to subside I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror. I looked at my reflection. My reflection looked back at me. Together we smiled – yes the day that had been set for our departure was here! All the praying, all the planning, all the prepping is now complete. It's time to "hit the trail!"

As I think about this trip I am grateful for a number of things. I am grateful for the group from Grace who will be accompanying me (see the prayer list). I am thankful for Philip Dongre. I have met few like him. His passion for Christ and the children of Children’s Fellowship of India is contagious. I am grateful for the opportunities I will have to teach God's Word and serve the children and staff of CFI. I am also grateful for the joy of being able to preach at a local Indian congregation.  I am thankful for our church family here at Grace and their generous support for our India ’13 team – both in the giving of their finances and the ongoing prayer support - not to mention the boxes of clothing given for the boys! Finally I am thankful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If He had not extended his grace to me when I was a teenager, I am not sure where I would be today. But I am sure where I would not be – and that is on a plane to travel to the far side of the world in service for Jesus Christ!

Would you do me a favor and pause right now and offer a prayer for our team, the people whom we will serve in India (both children and adults) and our families we leave behind? Thanks for your prayers. James tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Thanks so much.

This will be my last posting until I get “back in the saddle” during Thanksgiving week (Yep, Thanksgiving Day is only a few weeks away!). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . and thanks for praying for us!


Trip Itinerary:

Nov. 10 - Depart Dulles 9:55 pm (via United)
Nov. 11 - Arrive Frankfurt 11:45 am; Depart 1:15 pm; Arrive Bombay 1:35 am (via Lufthansa)
Nov. 12 - Depart Bombay 6:40 am; arrive Nagpur 8:00 am; van to CFI, arriving 12:30 pm
Nov. 12-20 - Ministry on campus of CFI and in nearby vicinity
Nov. 20 - Van to Nagpur; depart Nagpur by plane 8:40 pm; Arrive Bombay 10:05 pm
Nov. 21 - Sight see Bombay
Nov. 22 - Depart Bombay 3:25 am; Arrive Frankfurt 7:45 am; Depart Frankfurt 11:25 am; Arrive Dulles 2:30 pm

All times posted are local times. Frankfurt is 6 hours ahead of Lancaster County. India is 10 1/2 hours ahead.

The Team:

Pastor John, Janet and Teddy Long, Brian, Pam and Josh Fulmer, Milly Shepherd, Gary McMullen, Maryann Torino and Philip Dongre, Director of CFI and his wife, Somyalata.


PLEASE PRAY:

- For all members as we share devotionals with both the staff and children of CFI
- That we would encourage the children and staff as we strive to serve them
- For cultural sensitivity on our part
- For unity among our team
- For safety in travel
- That we would point many to Jesus
- For Pastor John as he preaches at
- For good health
- For God's blessing
- For grace to handle the unexpected


Friday, November 8, 2013

Off to India!


In just two days, I will be departing for a two week trip to India. Traveling with me will be ten other individuals. We are heading to Naya Akola, India which is located pretty much in the center of the country. Now Naya Akola is not on any Trip Advisor list of places to visit in India. In fact, the village contains not much more than a run down school, a few shops and a handful of huts and houses. But just on the "outskirts" of town sits the campus of Children's Fellowship of India, home to nearly 200 orphaned boys.

Now whenever I travel to India ... it takes only a moment off the plane in Mumbai to realize that I am not in Lancaster County any more! The smells, sounds, sights in India always initially appear WEIRD to my senses – very different from what I am accustomed to smelling, hearing and seeing back home. Some of these sensations are pleasant, many are not. Talk about feeling out of one's comfort zone!

As I was reflecting on this, God reminded me of something I often say – and it is a reminder that I need to "hear" anytime I travel outside the United States.  Just because something is different does not make it either WRONG or WEIRD.  So people in India drive (if that’s what it’s called – it’s actually more like a demolition derby!) on the left side of the road.  Different? Yes. Wrong? No! So Indians like to eat their food hot and spicy. Different? Yes. Weird? No!  Just because people eat differently, dress differently, live in a multitude of different ways – this makes them neither WRONG nor WEIRD. 

Now there is a lesson in this for ALL of us.We all have our ways of doing things. Often  we encounter others who do things or look at things differently than we do. We must remind ourselves that DIFFERENT does not equal WEIRD or WRONG. Rather we must, with God’s help, learn to graciously “bear with each other” (Colossians 3:13). 

 Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How Long Will YOU Live?

According to a government statistics, life expectancy in the U.S. now stands at 78.64 years (76 for men; 81 for women).  This is an all time high and is up from 75.4 in 1990.  The government attributes this to advances in medicine combined with a drop in some unhealthy practices like smoking. As I thought about all of this, my mind went to these words of King David, All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). God knows (because he numbered our days!) just how long each one of us will live on this earth. That information is something He is not telling us!  So should we worry and fret that this day might be our last?  Absolutely not!  Our earthly existence is in the hands of a loving and faithful God who ALWAYS does what is right.  We can trust Him with our lives.  What we must be doing is living each day for Him.  After all, each day we live and each breath we take is a precious gift from Him.  Don’t waste a moment but “carpe diem” (seize the day) – all by God’s grace and for His glory!  

Thanks for stopping by . . .

pj

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

The other day when I was out and about, I went through a Starbucks drive thru. Ordered a cup of their boldest brew and boy was that good!  Glad you could stop by and join me for this edition of Friday Coffee with PJ!

1. I heard a report on my car radio the other day about the practice known as "wardrobing." If you are not familiar with this, wardrobing involves purchasing an article of clothing (usually on the more expensive side), wearing it once (without removing the tags) and then returning it to the store for a refund. When I heard this, I asked myself, "Do people really do this?" Yep. And probably more than you would think (retailers estimate that this practice of wardrobing cost the industry almost 9 billion dollars last year!). But in the minds of many wardrobing sure beats laying out the money for a fancy outfit that you will probably only wear once! Some retailers are now fighting back by placing gaudy tags on the more expensive garments. And if you try to return the clothing without that tag attached ... forget it!  Hmm. Trying to get around paying for something. Reminds me of what many of us do in our Christian walk. We try to get around paying the price for spiritual growth (which is a lot of hard, intentional effort - see 1 Timothy 4:7-8) and then wonder why we are not growing!

2. In just nine days, I will be leading a team (mainly from our church) to serve at an orphanage in central India. Children's Fellowship of India is home to just under 200 boys. If it were not for CFI, the state of these boys would be nothing short of desperate. Please pray for our team as we make our final preparations. If you have some time ... you might want to watch this video that will introduce you to CFI's ministry.


CFI The Children's Fellowship of India from Martin Wild on Vimeo.


3. Finally, there's a challenge that's coming for Grace Church at Willow Valley. This challenge, for those of us who choose to take it up, will, I trust, help us to better know and live God's Word! So if you are a part of our church family here at Grace . . . stay tuned for more info that will be coming your way in the not-too-distant future!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings. I hope you find something that will help you in your journey of grace!

1. John Piper encourages parents to require obedience of the children. Excellent stuff!

2. Tim Challies shares 18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing with My Kids AND 18 Things I Will Not Regret Doing with My Wife. If you are a parent or a husband ... or both, you need to read what he has to say!

3. Did you ever wonder how God views people? Mike Emlet from CCEF answers this question in this brief video clip. 

4. As we stand on the threshold of the month of November, here is a brief devotional from Alistair Begg on the Importance of Thanksgiving. 

5. On a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Busy Doing Nothing?

I don’t know about you, but I love the cartoon family of Bill Keane. Perhaps it is because his “keane” sense of humor is much more keen than mine! In one of my favorite Family Circus cartoons, little Billy and his younger brother are watching squirrels scampering about gathering acorns from the ground.  Billy says to his brother, “Look at those squirrels. They’re real busy and they have nuttin’ to do!”

How many of us are real busy doing “nuttin?” We scurry from one activity to the next while accomplishing little if anything for God and His Kingdom. I encourage you to take some time out and evaluate your life.  Time is too valuable a resource to waste. Let’s seize the moment and live it for Jesus! Before your time of evaluation pray these words: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Carpe Diem (Seize the Day!),


Pastor John 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On Being Relevant

I hear and read a lot these days about the need for the church (and Christians) to be “culturally relevant.”  The dictionary defines the word “relevant” as “having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand.” In effect, to be culturally relevant is to have a bearing on or a connection with our culture.  This means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  Many, I am afraid, in the pursuit of cultural relevancy have emphasized the wrong things and lost sight of the main thing.  (Are you with me?) 

My approach to the Christian life is the K.I.S.S. approach (Keep It Simple Smitty). So as I consider the need to be culturally relevant (and it is a need – no one will give us a hearing if we walk around acting and looking like Yoda from Star Wars!), I believe it boils down to the main thing. If we pursue this main thing – we will ALWAYS be “culturally relevant.” So just what is this “Main Thing?”  We find it in Matthew 22. Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment in God’s Law (The Jews believed there were 613 of them!).  In Jesus’ response we find what I believe is the main thing.  If we practice this main thing – we WILL be relevant. Listen to what Jesus said about the greatest commandment: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"  (Matthew 22:37-39)   

So there you have it.  Do you want to be “culturally relevant?”  Do you want to have a bearing on and a connection with the people around you?  Learn to love God with all you are and have – AND love the people in your life as you love yourself.  As you do this – God will work through you to impact your world. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

 PJ 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Due to being away the first three days of this week at our fellowship of churches, East Focus Retreat (held in Ocean City, MD - click on link for photos of which I am in a couple), I have no random thoughts to share with you this week. In fact my only thought is that I have to get a sermon ready ... because it's Friday and Sunday's coming! But ... here is a quote for you from Pastor Tim Hodge of Grace Family Church in New Holland, PA.  "Chew" on this as you begin later today to enjoy a (I trust) well-deserved weekend break from your job!

"While happiness is desirable, holiness is essential. There will be times when you feel like Elijah in the desert seated under the broom tree lamenting of your lonely stance. Know that in the times when you feel at your worst, God is working at his best" (Tim Hodge).

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Life Boringly Ordinary?

In the first chapter of his book, Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, author James Hamilton writes these compelling words:

"We have been lulled to sleep by the ordinariness of our lives. Our senses have been dulled by the humdrum of one day after another. We need to see God as he is. We need to be convinced that Jesus is reigning as the risen King. We need to have him speak to the situation in our churches. We need to know that God is right now on his throne, in control in Heaven, worshiped by myriads upon myriads of the heavenly host. We need to see the way that God will pulverize wickedness, obliterate those who oppose him, and set up his kingdom. The Book of Revelation has exactly what we need."

If you find yourself being "lulled to sleep by the ordinariness of your life," then you need to pick up your Bible, open to Revelation, the Bible's final book. In this book of tomorrow, you will find much hope for today. And if you really want to dig deeper as you read, check out this online commentary. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Talk that Drains!

Sometimes what I read in the newspaper makes me laugh – or cry – or both.  Other times I find myself grimacing, as when I read the following: "Some psychological experts say folks who whine and complain all the time can suck the energy and health out of those around them." Come now.  Do we really need psychological experts to tell us that?  All of us know people whose native tongue is whine-ish or gripe-eese.  Spend enough time around these people and when you walk away you feel like you’ve been run over by a bus (or at the very least a large SUV!). So when we see these people coming our way, we usually do our best to duck out of their way! But I think we can learn a valuable lesson from the whiners and gripers in our lives.

When we  talk, we must watch the tone and content of our words.  Negative talk (griping, complaining, sarcasm, etc.) will tend to discourage and dishearten those who hear (ala the bus or large SUV).  On the other hand, positive talk (kind, thankful, encouraging, etc.) will build up those who hear.  Let’s purpose to be a blessing to those around us today.  But this is not easy.  Our tongues seem more prone to grumble than express thanks.  We need help.  In fact, we need supernatural help – and lots of it.  So let’s get in the habit of praying the following to God each day “Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalms 141:3).  It is so easy to be negative, isn’t it?  That’s why we need His help!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Monday, October 21, 2013

God Always Gets It Right!

Thomas Watson was the chairman of IBM from 1920’s into the 1950’s.  He grew IBM into an international giant.  At the time of his death in 1956 he was one of the richest men in the world and was called the world’s greatest salesman.  Here is a quote from this very successful business man:

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

Did he get it right? Sorry, Tom ... but you blew that assessment! But God – on the other hand – always gets it right!  And in the Bible he reveals to us all that we need to know about him … about ourselves  .. about life – both here on earth and for all eternity!

Sometime this week, pull out your Bible and read through Psalm 119:1-175. It will give you a fresh perspective on just how valuable the Bible really is! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday means ..... COFFEE!!!! Well, at least for me. Of course, any day is coffee day for me! :) Here are
some random thoughts for you to "chew on!"

1. With all the talk of the government shutdown and the debt ceiling (and I hope, since I am writing this on Wednesday that these things will be settled by the time this post goes "live!"), I am grateful for two things. First, that heaven will never "shut down!" Our God, who is on his throne is still ruling from that throne and will always do so. If you need a good reminder of this, take some time and read through the book of Revelation. Circle each time the word "throne" appears. You will be encouraged, I am sure! Secondly, I thank God that there is no debt ceiling on what Christ's sacrifice will pay in regard to the debt of our sin. Every single sin we have ever or will ever commit has been totally paid for! Praise God for his AMAZING grace!

2. The situation in the Central African Republic continues to be bad .... especially for Christians (see World Magazine dispatch on how Islamists are continuing to target Christians). Please pray for our brothers and sisters in this impoverished, war-torn country. And pray specifically for my friend, Augustin Hibaile and his family. Thanks!

3. Here is a great quote that I ran across recently that should bring much encouragement to your heart and soul. It is from Michael Chase's book, Behold Our Sovereign God: All Things From Him, Through Him, and To Him.

"The reason for keeping the cross central is this hope: if God ordained the worst evil to bring about the greatest good, then lesser evils are not beyond his decree or his ability to work good from them." 

Amen! Well said ... let's always keep this truth in mind. Especially when the tough times roll!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's a la carte menu items. "Eat hearty!"

1. For those of us who like to complain about our lives ... perhaps we need to take a look at this brief video and read the accompanying article. 

2. We spend so much time communicating ... either in person, over the phone, via email or texting. So, what does the Bible have to say about how we communicate? Check out the answer to that question here!

3. Kevin DeYoung with, A Friend of Sinners and Not a Friend of Sin. A good read!


4. Ed Welsh weights in on the Secret to Dealing with Fear and Anxiety. 

5. I like what Kathleen Nielson has to say about grandparenting in her article, Grandparenting: A Great Road Trip. 

6. And on a lighter note (especially for you Hobbit fans out there!) . . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

No Unanswered Calls in Heaven!

The other day, my wife Sharon and I ran some errands together. After pulling into the shopping center's parking lot, I headed to the pharmacy to fill a prescription and she to the grocery store. Since I was just planning to drop my prescription off and pick it up the next day, I told her I would quickly catch up with her in the supermarket. But that changed when the pharmacy tech told me that they could have my prescription filled in just ten minutes or so. Deciding I would rather wait than make a trip back the next day, I reached for my cell phone to call my wife. All I was able to get was her voice mail. "She didn't bring her cell phone!" was the thought that ran through my mind ... and sure enough ... that's exactly what happened. All this reminded me of another account (true story!) of an unanswered cell phone.

One spring, a family was driving to Florida. They decided to drive through the night. Mom took a cat nap early on while Dad drove. When it came her turn to drive about 2 AM or so, they stopped to gas up. Mom also took the opportunity to purchase a large cup of coffee. Sure enough – the coffee really PERKED her up. She had no problem staying awake and alert at the wheel. As the sky began to brighten with the dawn's first light, her empty stomach reminded her that an early breakfast was in order. So she woke up the kids and told them to wake up Dad in the back of the van. A few moments later, one of her kids responded, “Mom, Dad is not back here!”  It seems that Dad was about 200 miles behind, still at the gas station where they stopped. And since Mom had her cell phone off – he could not get a hold of her!  

Friends, even though we may fail to answer the calls people place to us (either by choice or by not having our phones on or even with us) - there is SOMEONE who will never fail to answer when we call. That's right. God has promised in his word that when we call to him he will answer ... always and forever (Matthew 7:7-11; John 15:7; 1 John 5:15). Now that answer may not be the one we are looking for ... but since he always knows what's best, we need to learn to accept his answers with faith, believing them to be for our good and for his glory. So, the next time you pray to God, be assured he hears you AND he will answer you - all in accord with his infinite wisdom, power and love! 


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What? More Change?

Change is a constant in our lives. Our bodies change (of which I am reminded every time I engage in a physical activity - my body screams at me "I am NOT as young as I once was!"). Our families change. Our work situations change. Our friendships change. Our neighborhoods change. Our world changes. But as I was reminded in my devotional time this morning, God NEVER changes (Hebrews 13:8; Malachi 3:6). He is THE only constant that is always present in our lives. He is THE only non-negotiable.

So as we travel on this journey we call life, immersed in a sea of never-ending change, pause . . . and pause often ... to remind yourself that the God who loved you enough to die for you ... is ALWAYS by your side. His eye is ever watching (Proverbs 25:3) ... his hand is always gripping (Psalm 139:10) - YOU! And that, my friend, will NEVER change!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

After missing my weekly coffee with you last week, I am more than ready to share some random type thoughts with any of you with time to stop and listen.

1. So many of us struggle with our prayer lives. By that I mean that most of us, if really honest, would have to admit we don't pray nearly enough. I admit that's definitely true of my life. And there are many reasons for this lack of prayer: life's busy routines, the distraction of the world, the influence of our enemy who certainly does not want to see God's people on their knees before God . . . . and the list could go on and on and on. So to help me "pray better and pray more," I am always looking for any helpful tool which will help me do so. One such resource is a book by Ken Boa titled, Handbook to Prayer: Praying the Scripture Back to God. This handbook has helped me to become more consistent ... AND ... more God-centered in my praying. I highly recommend any of Boa's books on prayer. It's really, really good stuff!


2. When it comes to the practice of meditating on Scripture, I believe the Puritans had a huge leg up in this arena over what most Christians today call meditating on the Word.

"Puritan meditation engages the mind with God’s revealed truth in order to inflame the heart with affections towards God and transform the life unto obedience. Thomas Hooker defined it like this: 'Meditation is a serious intention of the mind whereby we come to search out the truth, and settle it effectually upon the heart.' The direction of our minds reveals the truest love of our hearts, and so, Hooker said, he who loves God’s Word meditates on it regularly (Psalm 119:97). Therefore, Puritan meditation is not repeating a sound, emptying the mind, or imagining physical sights and sensations, but a focused exercise of thought and faith upon the Word of God" (Dr. Joel Beeke, author of the acclaimed book, Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life).

Wow! That first sentence says it all. Oh that I would meditate on God's Word to inflame my heart and transform my life!


3. The rain that is falling from the clouds as I write this post brings to mind what God has to say about His word. In Isaiah 55:10-12 God likens the His word to rain or snow. These forms of precipitation water the soil so that crops and trees and grass can grow. And so with the Bible. It WILL do the same, bringing forth growth as it waters our souls and hearts. In fact, God makes the incredible promise that His word will not return to him EMPTY or UNPRODUCTIVE. Rather the Scripture will accomplish God's will in our lives. Given this truth ... what's keeping YOU from the Bible?

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday A La Carte

Here are this week's offerings ...

1. Tim Challies offers up some advice on growing a Porn Free Family. 

2. Do you feel like you make a mess of a lot of stuff? Paul Tripp reminds us of one thing that we could never destroy. 

3. One of my favorite theological "mentors" R.C. Sproul writes, "If It Be Your Will" A great (and needed) read!

4. A great reminder that we can ill afford to stop praying ... even when it seems like we are merely talking to the ceiling!

5.  Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in Manhattan ... offers up comments about the church and homoxexuality. Well worth your time!

6. And on a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The House that Mickey Built

"It all started with a mouse." Words spoken by the founder of the Disney empire, Walt Disney (hear for your self in this brief video clip):





Looking at all that Disney has become, it is hard to believe that Walt's early ventures included bankruptcy and failure. But thanks to this mouse named Mickey, Walt's last name has become magical to kids of all ages.

Last week, my wife and I spent a week at Disney World along with our oldest daughter and family. Prior to this visit, my experience at Disney had been a four hour visit to the Magic Kingdom while on chorale tour during spring break of my freshman year (when the Magic Kingdom WAS Disney World!). We also spent a full day at Magic Kingdom in the early 1990's with our children. So spending all that time at Disney was a real eye opener ... and a boat-load of fun!

The sheer size of the place astounded me! Did you know that Disney World covers over 30,000 acres? And did you know that Disney World employs over 60,000 people making it the country's largest single-site employer? And speaking of people, over 40 million visitors enter the Disney theme parks each year! And to think this all started with a mouse!

But as great as this "house that Mickey built" might be ... the Scripture speaks of a far greater house. In Hebrews 3:1-5, the writer makes reference to "God's house" which he goes on to identify as the church of Jesus Christ. This house, my friends, built by God himself upon the blood of His own Son and our Savior, is not yet complete. When God nails the final shingle on the roof, so to speak, his "house" will gloriously shine long after the house that Mickey built has crumbled into dust.

I am so thankful that God has seen fit to set his love upon me and call me into his household! How about you? When the magic of Disney is long done, where will you be spending eternity? I know that's a heavy question ... but it is an urgent one. One that you must face, seeing that all of us will one day die and after that face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

I encourage you to check out Two Ways to Live: A Choice We All Face.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

God Is at Work in Israel!

For the past fifteen years or so, I have served on the board of Hebrew Christian Fellowship.  During that time, I have often been amazed at how God is at work in that predominantly Jewish land. I have posted below a brief devotional by a friend of mine, David Salinger. David, a messianic Jew, is on the staff of Israel College of the Bible located in Netanya, Israel. I encourage you to take the four minutes required to view the video. It will be time well spent!




Thanks for stopping by . .
 pj

Monday, September 30, 2013

Out of Office

I will not be posting this week as I am out of the office enjoying some time away with my wife. "See" you again next week!

But before I sign off ... here is a quote for you to ponder this week:


"Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society's own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender"  (A. W. Tozer, 1897-1963).


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Grab your favorite morning, afternoon or evening beverage of choice and join me for a couple of random
thoughts.

1. Whenever something bad happens in our lives, the Enemy is always quick to whisper in our ear something along the line of "So, God loves you does he? Come on . . . if God REALLY loved you, then would he have allowed this to happen to you?" From the dawn of human history, this has been one of Satan's strategy . . . to get us to doubt God's goodness (see Genesis 3:1-5). But when Satan comes whispering his vicious accusation against our God, we must respond with God's Word (just as Jesus did when tempted by Satan - Matthew 4:1-10). Over and over again the Bible tells us that God is good and faithful (Psalm 107:1; Psalm 36:5; Lamentations 3:22-25). So even when life grows so dark it is tough to see any light, we must, by faith believe that God is near and He has us in HIS hand (Psalm 139:9-11). And there is no better hands to be in than HIS!

2. Jerry Bridges writes much about our pursuit of God and personal holiness. In one of his books, he quotes King David in Psalm 27:4 where David declares, "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple."  Here are Bridges' comments on David's stated desire: 


"This is the heartbeat of the godly person. As he contemplates God in the awesomeness of His infinite majesty, power, and holiness, and then as he dwells upon the riches of His mercy and grace poured out at Calvary, his heart is captivated by this One who could love him so. He is satisfied with God alone, but he is never satisfied with his present experience of God. He always yearns for more." 

Oh that God would give us all that kind of a heartbeat! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Are You Preparing for Eternity?

Our journey on earth is but a breath ... a heart beat when compared to the expanse of Eternity. We all must remember that how we live live in the here and now will impact our experience in the then and there.

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.