PJ

PJ

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Spite of Us!

This morning, as I was reading in J.I. Packer's Classic Collection, J.I. really got me thinking. Here's what he wrote:

"God does use us. He uses us right now in spite of our flaws. he is a kindly God and uses flawed people as a part of his regular agenda. No matter how conscious we are of our own limitations, shortcomings, and sins, we may look to God to make us of us again - and in his great mercy he will." 

Packer is right on the mark! God does use us, warts and all, as he carries out HIS plan! Wow! What a God! Indeed, this truth should be a great encouragement to us all as we seek to live for HIM. However, if we are not careful, this reality could become a "cop-out" to striving to live a holy life. After all, if God is going to use me in spite of my shortcomings and sin . . . then do I really need to strive for personal holiness? The answer: ABSOLUTELY! As Packer points out, "we must seek to get and keep our lives in a shape that will glorify God. That's not easy. It means fighting our sins, disciplining our thoughts, changing our attitudes, and critiquing our desires." 

So this week ... as you rejoice in knowing God can and WILL use you to honor and glorify himself IN SPITE OF your flaws ... also determine to trust God to continue to mold you increasingly into the image of Christ as you "strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back from Vacation!

I don't know about you ... but I am not a huge "game" person. That can cause some moments of conflict in our house when my wife (who IS a huge game "game" person) says, "Let's play a game!" So ... I have decided to try and be more "game-ready!" To help me do that, I invite you to play a game right now. Can you name the place this photo was taken last week on our vacation? And if you have already seen this on Facebook, then hopefully you know the answer!

At first glance, most of you would guess that it was taken down at the beach. Ocean City? Rehoboth or Cape May? Virginia Beach? If you guessed beach .... you are right. But if you guessed a beach anywhere along the mid-Atlantic coast you would be wrong. This pic was taken on Beach #11 in Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA. That's right -that's not salt water in the background! And really ... if this were one of the beaches most people around here frequent ... the background would be littered with umbrellas and people!

All of us have a tendency to "jump to conclusions." We make snap judgments about situations and people that miss the mark. Jesus warns us about this in the opening verses of Matthew chapter seven (Matthew 7:1-6). I encourage you to be slow to judge others (in the critical, jump to conclusions sort of way) . . . instead, exercise what is often called "the judgment of charity." By this he means ... GIVE OTHERS THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT! (BTW - we are so quick to give OURSELVES the benefit of the doubt ... but so reluctant to do so with others!).

SOOO ... today ... as you work through your day's agenda and encounter people ... practice this "judgment of charity." You (and others) will be better for doing so!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

PS -- for an excellent article on this topic of judging charitably .... click here! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Got Zeal?

I know I am on vacation ( and loving it!),  but I read some words of J.I. Packer that I want you to hear, too.  In writing about zeal (Psalm 69:9; Numbers 25:11-13) he defines it as "a humble, reverent, businesslike, single-minded commitment to the hallowing of God's name and the doing of his an will." With this definition in hand,  examine yourself. Got zeal?

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Monday, July 22, 2013

On Vacation!




On vacation this week! Will get back to posting NEXT week!  Have a good day and a great week as you seek to walk in a manner worthy of God! (1 Thessalonians 2:12)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Hey ... it's Friday. So if you have some time, grab that breakfast beverage (I hope its coffee!) and take some time to "hear me out!"

1. Recently I said to someone, "Doesn't it seem like time moves so much faster during the summer months than it does during the winter?"  I don't know how you would answer that question . . . but it sure seems so to me. I am still trying to figure out where the month of June went and here we are over halfway through July! Now we know that time moves at the same constant rate whether it's August or January. However, our perspective might be that summer time passes by much more rapidly than winter time. Perhaps that is due to a greater fondness for summer (over winter) or maybe because vacations tend to fall in the summer season more often than winter (and of course we ALL know that vacation time moves faster than any other time on the planet!). All this to say that our view of the speed of time comes down to a matter of perspective. And when it comes to the matter of time, the most important perspective that a follower of Jesus Christ can cultivate is that of an ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. It is vital that we live this life against the backdrop of eternity! In spite of the great importance of doing so, most of us fall woefully short in doing so! I encourage you to check out Randy Alcorn's website, Eternal Perspective Ministries. There you will find some helpful resources that will help you to keep focused on eternity (which is God's desire for us: 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; Colossians 3:1-2). You might also want to view this 6 minute video clip of Francis Chan. 

2. With the push by the homosexual community to continue to see more and more states legitimize gay "marriage," I keep thinking of how Jesus himself defined marriage. The text is found in Matthew chapter nineteen and reads as follows: "And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  In his words, Jesus makes it clear that from the very dawn of human history, marriage has been one man .... one woman ... one flesh .... for life! Any other arrangement (whether it be gay "marriage" or divorce and remarriage of heterosexual couples) falls short of his plan for the marriage relationship. And any attempts to redefine marriage is terribly wrong. I realize this view is not a popular one to hold to these days . . . but that's OK. I would rather side with Jesus any day . . . on any issue!  

By the way ... for a compelling article written by a former atheistic lesbian now disciple of Jesus Christ .... click here! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

PS --- PLEASE continue to pray for the many students who are attending the Momentum youth conference on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. The conference ends tomorrow (Saturday) night. Thanks! 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Indiana's Calling My Name!

Today I am leaving for Indiana .... specifically Indiana Wesleyan University. That's where our Momentum Youth Conference is being held. The last Momentum conference that I was involved with was back in 2007. So it will be good to go back. Please pray for our students and all the other students who will be present. Ask God to do HIS work in them .... a work that only HIS Spirit can do. And ask God to graciously work through the many adults who will be there to minister to the students. I know from past experience that Momentum is often a place where the Spirit does HIS lifechanging, life transforming work!

Thanks for praying!

And thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The New and Improved Gospel? Hardly!

Across the course of the past several decades, the church has ... in the words of J.I. Packer, "bartered the gospel for a substitute product which, though similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing." He continues to point out the heart of this difference when he writes, "Whereas the chief aim of the old (gospel) was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and his ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference between the two."  

Hmm. J.I. is onto something here. All one has to do is spend some time parousing the shelves of a Christian bookstore or search through the offerings for Amazon's Kindle or Barnes and Nobles' Nook and you will see that this is true. Be honest. What title do you find more attractive: How to Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Blood Pressure or Searching the Mysteries of the Triune God?

I encourage you to go back and re-read the words of J.I. quoted above. Then take a look within. When it comes to YOUR faith ... is it more about what God can do for you or what you can do for God?

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Grab your cup of favorite morning brew ... and read on!

1. The crisis in the Central African Republic is far from over. Even though conditions have somewhat stablalized, the hardships on the people continue per this recent BBC report. Please continue to pray for the people of the Central African Republic, the church there, and my friend Augustin Hibaile and his family. Thanks!

2. In our consumer driven culture, we must beware of allowing a consumeristic mindset from becoming our mindset when it comes to our local church. From my observation, it appears to me that far too many Christians are consumers rather than givers when it comes to church involvement. One way to combat this is to remember the words of Jesus when he stated, "But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45). And we must go on to not merely remember these words ... but preach them to ourselves over and over again. Only then we will be able to counteract the ongoing bombardment of our culture telling us over and over and over again that the path to true fulfillment is to get, get, get .... and then get some more! 

3. One complaint I have heard more than once in my thirty plus years of pastoral ministry is, "I did not get anything out of the service." In fact, people have left the churches I have pastored for that reason. But whenever I hear this complaint, two questions always pop into my head. First, I wonder if the individuals have become more consumers than givers when it comes to their worship experience (see above). From what I understand about the biblical teaching on worship, worship is far more about giving than getting. In addition, I would be curious to know how much time they spend in preparing their heart and soul for worship. Certainly, a thirty second prayer as one sits down as the service is about to begin is hardly adequate preparation to meet and worship the maker of heaven and earth! If you want some advice and direction in this area (and if you are like me, you could certainly use some), check out this post: How to Prepare for Sunday Worship

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Feast or Famine!

Recently, every time I turned on the evening news, there was video footage of yet another western wild fire consuming trees and homes and everything else in its path. These fires were being fueled by extremely dry and windy conditions. At the same time, every time I viewed a local weather forecast, the words "showers and thunderstorms" were more often than not a part of the forecast. And with the recent rains, the landscape of Lancaster County is looking quite green and lush! So as I think of the variety of weather being experienced in our country these days ... the expression, "feast or famine" comes to mind. We are feasting on the benefits of adequate (to almost too adequate!) amounts of rainfall while much of the western United States is suffering from a famine of beneficial rains! 


Life in general can be a lot like that.  Feast or famine.  We experience a time when life is “going well.”  The kids are doing super at school, our marriage is vibrant, the job is going great, our health is good and our walk with God is strong.  Then suddenly we find ourselves enduring a famine.  The kids are misbehaving, our marriage seems stale, the job is frustrating, our health is fragile and our walk with God almost non-existent.  Feast or famine.  Most of us, I would guess, handle the feast times pretty well.  I mean, who doesn't like a feast?  But we all struggle with the times of famine.  Let me suggest something that I always find helpful when I face times of famine in my own life.  I take a trip.  A long trip.  Really?  Yep.  But I don’t book any airline tickets or pack any bags.  All I do is pull out my Bible and take a trip back in time some 3000 years to the Old Testament book of Psalms.  In this intensely personal writings I find the words of individuals who are in the midst of feast ... and in the midst of famine.  Their experience resonates with my soul.  And as they work through their famine times – I find hope for me. So the next time you feel yourself in a time of famine, open to the book of psalms.  For there you will find fellow travelers who work through their famine as they move ever closer to God!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Beautiful People ... Or Are They?

The Lancaster newspaper runs a column on their back page under the heading "People." Today's column featured three brief articles. One sketched country singer Randy Travis' serious heart condition. He is currently listed in critical condition in a Texas hospital. The second story was all about recording artist Elton John's diagnosis of appendicitis. The third featured 27 year old actress Amanda Byne's court appearance on allegations that she threw a marijuana bong out of her 36th floor Manhattan apartment (why throw anything out of a 36 floor apartment, let alone a marijuana bong!). Did you catch the common denominator of these three people? They are all "rich and famous." Not surprising, though! Why would anyone want to read about Joe Plumber's ailing kidney? I mean .... could you imagine a television show featuring the guy at Walmart who greets you as you enter the store? Hardly! We are a culture that is mesmerized by the celebrities in our midst. And that, quite frankly, is sad!

God does not view celebrities in the same way as we do. In fact, he looks at people in general very differently than we do. In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, the prophet Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to anoint the man who was to follow Saul as Israel's king. When Eliab, Jesses' oldest son passed in front of the prophet, Samuel was convinced that Eliab was God's man. But God had other ideas as he said to Samuel,  “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). 

When God looks at people, he does not see rich or poor, famous or obscure, tall or short, educated or uneducated. Rather he looks at our hearts! SOOO ... with that in mind, when God looks at your heart, what does he see? It may be that you need to do some summer "heart" cleaning. Spend some time before God. Ask him to search your heart and show you what needs to change. Follow David's practice as revealed in Psalm 139:23-24 (David was chosen, by the way to follow King Saul on Israel's throne because he had a heart that hungered for God [Acts 13:22]). Then claim God's promise as stated in 1 John 1:9. You and those around you will be better for it! And God will be glorified (Joshua 7:19).

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Bible, Our Authority

"The Bible, Our Authority" is one of four core values that we embrace at Grace Church at Willow Valley. Concerning this value, well known writer-theologian, J. I. Packer, writes:


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj





Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Well its the day after the Fourth . . . and many of you may very well be off from work again today. Whether you are working today or kicking back . . . here are a few thoughts to go with your morning cup of joe!

1. Back in 2004, while traveling with my son in Arizona, we spent a night in a small town called Prescott. Earlier this week, that little town was in the national headlines . . . and not for reasons the town would have chosen! Unless you have been off the planet, you know what I am talking about. Earlier this week, nineteen elite firefighters from Prescott were killed when the blaze they were battling turned on them. USA Today calls it "one of the worst wildfire disasters in history." Our hearts go out to the families of these firefighters ... many of whom left wives with young children behind. We also remember the wider community of Prescott, which is reeling from this loss. One reality that this tragedy should drive home to us is that none of us know how much time we have left on this earth. These guys were highly trained and very experienced. No one saw this coming. Yes, one or two deaths perhaps. But nineteen?  So, friends, please remember to pray for the families that these brave men have left behind and the community of Prescott, but also take some time to evaluate your own life. Are you ready to meet God? If you have any doubts, check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 


2. This weekend we are welcoming a group of 31 high schoolers known as Operation Barnabas. OB is a summer ministry sponsored and coordinated by our Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, and more specifically, C E National (the CE standing for Church Effectiveness). Once the team arrives, they will hit the road running! Friday evening they, along with our students, will be doing street evangelism in downtown Lancaster (this Friday is a "First Friday" event). On Saturday they will be doing some work on our facility, visiting a nearby retirement community and conducting a children's program at a nearby campground. Then on Sunday morning, they will be heavily involved in leading our two worship services. So when you think of Grace Church at Willow Valley this weekend, I would appreciate prayer for the ministry of the Operation Barnabas Team as they come to town!  Thanks!

3. Finally ... a quote that seems appropriate as we head into the weekend.

"The Christian's life should put his minister's sermon in print." (William Gurnall)


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!


I hope you have a great day off from your job! Enjoy some extra time with your family and friends. And as you go about having FUN . . . take a moment to check out this article from the folks at the National Day of Prayer. It will remind you as to why we get this day off in the first place!

HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Doing It Half Way!

If you live in the same neck of the woods as I do, you know it's been quite tropical of late. Lots of heat.
Lot's of humidity. And lots of downpours (for example, the storms that rumbled through in the early morning hours of Monday left about 2 inches in my rain gauge). Now with all the warmth and moisture you can just imagine how fast the grass is growing (and if you live in these parts you don't have to imagine - just take a look!). Yesterday, it was evident my lawn could stand a shearing! But with storms threatening, I knew I would not have time to do it all. So, I did the next best thing. I mowed the front lawn. After all, everyone who passes my house sees the front yard. Whereas very few (if any) see the lawn behind my house. I figure, I will get to that eventually ... but at least for now, the front lawn is presentable!

Hmm. Isn't this the way we often deal with our spiritual lives? We seek to work on the areas that are most visible. But the less visible .... well that's easy to let slide. The problem with this approach is that it is the least visible that is often the most important. Here's just one example. Arguably, one of the most vital of the spiritual disciplines that we must cultivate and practice is that of prayer. But, if I am not praying as I should, I can get by with not doing so and you might never know it! It's like not cutting my back lawn.

So .... let me ask you: how is your private prayer life these days? Are you seeking God's face in prayer? Asking on behalf of your family, friends, and church? Thanking God for His many blessings? Worshiping him for awesome God that he is? Confessing your sins? Begging for his help?

You might be able to get by for a while with allowing prayer (and other less visible faith practices) slide. But in the long run, you will be a lot worse for it!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

God-Shrinkers!

In my daily devotional reading today of The J.I. Packer Classic Collection, he writes of one of his greatest laments of the past few decades. As I read .... I thought to myself ... "Stop hammering me with that sledge hammer, J.I.!" But ... there are times a good whack or two on the head is good for our souls! Here's what he wrote:

"Often in recent decades I have found myself publicly lamenting the way in which our Western culture has indulged unwarrantably great thoughts of humanity and scandalously small thoughts of God. Our time will surely go down in history as the age of the God-shrinkers. The result is that belief in God's sovereignty and omniscience, the majesty of his moral law and the terror of his judgment, the retributive consequences of the life we live here and the endlessness of the eternity in which we will experience them, along with belief in the intrinsic triunity of God and the divinity and personal return of Jesus Christ, is nowadays so eroded as to be hardly discernible. For many in our day, God is not more than a smudge." 

What J.I. writes here is something that is little, if ever heard in our "God is love" day and age (and I am talking about within the evangelical church!). Yes, God is indeed love ... but he is also HOLY, HOLY, HOLY (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). We can ill afford to lose sight of that!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Spite of Us!

This morning, as I was reading in J.I. Packer's Classic Collection, J.I. really got me thinking. Here's what he wrote:

"God does use us. He uses us right now in spite of our flaws. he is a kindly God and uses flawed people as a part of his regular agenda. No matter how conscious we are of our own limitations, shortcomings, and sins, we may look to God to make us of us again - and in his great mercy he will." 

Packer is right on the mark! God does use us, warts and all, as he carries out HIS plan! Wow! What a God! Indeed, this truth should be a great encouragement to us all as we seek to live for HIM. However, if we are not careful, this reality could become a "cop-out" to striving to live a holy life. After all, if God is going to use me in spite of my shortcomings and sin . . . then do I really need to strive for personal holiness? The answer: ABSOLUTELY! As Packer points out, "we must seek to get and keep our lives in a shape that will glorify God. That's not easy. It means fighting our sins, disciplining our thoughts, changing our attitudes, and critiquing our desires." 

So this week ... as you rejoice in knowing God can and WILL use you to honor and glorify himself IN SPITE OF your flaws ... also determine to trust God to continue to mold you increasingly into the image of Christ as you "strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back from Vacation!

I don't know about you ... but I am not a huge "game" person. That can cause some moments of conflict in our house when my wife (who IS a huge game "game" person) says, "Let's play a game!" So ... I have decided to try and be more "game-ready!" To help me do that, I invite you to play a game right now. Can you name the place this photo was taken last week on our vacation? And if you have already seen this on Facebook, then hopefully you know the answer!

At first glance, most of you would guess that it was taken down at the beach. Ocean City? Rehoboth or Cape May? Virginia Beach? If you guessed beach .... you are right. But if you guessed a beach anywhere along the mid-Atlantic coast you would be wrong. This pic was taken on Beach #11 in Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA. That's right -that's not salt water in the background! And really ... if this were one of the beaches most people around here frequent ... the background would be littered with umbrellas and people!

All of us have a tendency to "jump to conclusions." We make snap judgments about situations and people that miss the mark. Jesus warns us about this in the opening verses of Matthew chapter seven (Matthew 7:1-6). I encourage you to be slow to judge others (in the critical, jump to conclusions sort of way) . . . instead, exercise what is often called "the judgment of charity." By this he means ... GIVE OTHERS THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT! (BTW - we are so quick to give OURSELVES the benefit of the doubt ... but so reluctant to do so with others!).

SOOO ... today ... as you work through your day's agenda and encounter people ... practice this "judgment of charity." You (and others) will be better for doing so!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

PS -- for an excellent article on this topic of judging charitably .... click here! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Got Zeal?

I know I am on vacation ( and loving it!),  but I read some words of J.I. Packer that I want you to hear, too.  In writing about zeal (Psalm 69:9; Numbers 25:11-13) he defines it as "a humble, reverent, businesslike, single-minded commitment to the hallowing of God's name and the doing of his an will." With this definition in hand,  examine yourself. Got zeal?

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Monday, July 22, 2013

On Vacation!




On vacation this week! Will get back to posting NEXT week!  Have a good day and a great week as you seek to walk in a manner worthy of God! (1 Thessalonians 2:12)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Hey ... it's Friday. So if you have some time, grab that breakfast beverage (I hope its coffee!) and take some time to "hear me out!"

1. Recently I said to someone, "Doesn't it seem like time moves so much faster during the summer months than it does during the winter?"  I don't know how you would answer that question . . . but it sure seems so to me. I am still trying to figure out where the month of June went and here we are over halfway through July! Now we know that time moves at the same constant rate whether it's August or January. However, our perspective might be that summer time passes by much more rapidly than winter time. Perhaps that is due to a greater fondness for summer (over winter) or maybe because vacations tend to fall in the summer season more often than winter (and of course we ALL know that vacation time moves faster than any other time on the planet!). All this to say that our view of the speed of time comes down to a matter of perspective. And when it comes to the matter of time, the most important perspective that a follower of Jesus Christ can cultivate is that of an ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE. It is vital that we live this life against the backdrop of eternity! In spite of the great importance of doing so, most of us fall woefully short in doing so! I encourage you to check out Randy Alcorn's website, Eternal Perspective Ministries. There you will find some helpful resources that will help you to keep focused on eternity (which is God's desire for us: 2 Corinthians 4:17-18; Colossians 3:1-2). You might also want to view this 6 minute video clip of Francis Chan. 

2. With the push by the homosexual community to continue to see more and more states legitimize gay "marriage," I keep thinking of how Jesus himself defined marriage. The text is found in Matthew chapter nineteen and reads as follows: "And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”  In his words, Jesus makes it clear that from the very dawn of human history, marriage has been one man .... one woman ... one flesh .... for life! Any other arrangement (whether it be gay "marriage" or divorce and remarriage of heterosexual couples) falls short of his plan for the marriage relationship. And any attempts to redefine marriage is terribly wrong. I realize this view is not a popular one to hold to these days . . . but that's OK. I would rather side with Jesus any day . . . on any issue!  

By the way ... for a compelling article written by a former atheistic lesbian now disciple of Jesus Christ .... click here! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

PS --- PLEASE continue to pray for the many students who are attending the Momentum youth conference on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. The conference ends tomorrow (Saturday) night. Thanks! 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Indiana's Calling My Name!

Today I am leaving for Indiana .... specifically Indiana Wesleyan University. That's where our Momentum Youth Conference is being held. The last Momentum conference that I was involved with was back in 2007. So it will be good to go back. Please pray for our students and all the other students who will be present. Ask God to do HIS work in them .... a work that only HIS Spirit can do. And ask God to graciously work through the many adults who will be there to minister to the students. I know from past experience that Momentum is often a place where the Spirit does HIS lifechanging, life transforming work!

Thanks for praying!

And thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The New and Improved Gospel? Hardly!

Across the course of the past several decades, the church has ... in the words of J.I. Packer, "bartered the gospel for a substitute product which, though similar enough in points of detail, is as a whole a decidedly different thing." He continues to point out the heart of this difference when he writes, "Whereas the chief aim of the old (gospel) was to teach men to worship God, the concern of the new seems limited to making them feel better. The subject of the old gospel was God and his ways with men; the subject of the new is man and the help God gives him. There is a world of difference between the two."  

Hmm. J.I. is onto something here. All one has to do is spend some time parousing the shelves of a Christian bookstore or search through the offerings for Amazon's Kindle or Barnes and Nobles' Nook and you will see that this is true. Be honest. What title do you find more attractive: How to Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Blood Pressure or Searching the Mysteries of the Triune God?

I encourage you to go back and re-read the words of J.I. quoted above. Then take a look within. When it comes to YOUR faith ... is it more about what God can do for you or what you can do for God?

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Grab your cup of favorite morning brew ... and read on!

1. The crisis in the Central African Republic is far from over. Even though conditions have somewhat stablalized, the hardships on the people continue per this recent BBC report. Please continue to pray for the people of the Central African Republic, the church there, and my friend Augustin Hibaile and his family. Thanks!

2. In our consumer driven culture, we must beware of allowing a consumeristic mindset from becoming our mindset when it comes to our local church. From my observation, it appears to me that far too many Christians are consumers rather than givers when it comes to church involvement. One way to combat this is to remember the words of Jesus when he stated, "But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45). And we must go on to not merely remember these words ... but preach them to ourselves over and over again. Only then we will be able to counteract the ongoing bombardment of our culture telling us over and over and over again that the path to true fulfillment is to get, get, get .... and then get some more! 

3. One complaint I have heard more than once in my thirty plus years of pastoral ministry is, "I did not get anything out of the service." In fact, people have left the churches I have pastored for that reason. But whenever I hear this complaint, two questions always pop into my head. First, I wonder if the individuals have become more consumers than givers when it comes to their worship experience (see above). From what I understand about the biblical teaching on worship, worship is far more about giving than getting. In addition, I would be curious to know how much time they spend in preparing their heart and soul for worship. Certainly, a thirty second prayer as one sits down as the service is about to begin is hardly adequate preparation to meet and worship the maker of heaven and earth! If you want some advice and direction in this area (and if you are like me, you could certainly use some), check out this post: How to Prepare for Sunday Worship

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Feast or Famine!

Recently, every time I turned on the evening news, there was video footage of yet another western wild fire consuming trees and homes and everything else in its path. These fires were being fueled by extremely dry and windy conditions. At the same time, every time I viewed a local weather forecast, the words "showers and thunderstorms" were more often than not a part of the forecast. And with the recent rains, the landscape of Lancaster County is looking quite green and lush! So as I think of the variety of weather being experienced in our country these days ... the expression, "feast or famine" comes to mind. We are feasting on the benefits of adequate (to almost too adequate!) amounts of rainfall while much of the western United States is suffering from a famine of beneficial rains! 


Life in general can be a lot like that.  Feast or famine.  We experience a time when life is “going well.”  The kids are doing super at school, our marriage is vibrant, the job is going great, our health is good and our walk with God is strong.  Then suddenly we find ourselves enduring a famine.  The kids are misbehaving, our marriage seems stale, the job is frustrating, our health is fragile and our walk with God almost non-existent.  Feast or famine.  Most of us, I would guess, handle the feast times pretty well.  I mean, who doesn't like a feast?  But we all struggle with the times of famine.  Let me suggest something that I always find helpful when I face times of famine in my own life.  I take a trip.  A long trip.  Really?  Yep.  But I don’t book any airline tickets or pack any bags.  All I do is pull out my Bible and take a trip back in time some 3000 years to the Old Testament book of Psalms.  In this intensely personal writings I find the words of individuals who are in the midst of feast ... and in the midst of famine.  Their experience resonates with my soul.  And as they work through their famine times – I find hope for me. So the next time you feel yourself in a time of famine, open to the book of psalms.  For there you will find fellow travelers who work through their famine as they move ever closer to God!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Beautiful People ... Or Are They?

The Lancaster newspaper runs a column on their back page under the heading "People." Today's column featured three brief articles. One sketched country singer Randy Travis' serious heart condition. He is currently listed in critical condition in a Texas hospital. The second story was all about recording artist Elton John's diagnosis of appendicitis. The third featured 27 year old actress Amanda Byne's court appearance on allegations that she threw a marijuana bong out of her 36th floor Manhattan apartment (why throw anything out of a 36 floor apartment, let alone a marijuana bong!). Did you catch the common denominator of these three people? They are all "rich and famous." Not surprising, though! Why would anyone want to read about Joe Plumber's ailing kidney? I mean .... could you imagine a television show featuring the guy at Walmart who greets you as you enter the store? Hardly! We are a culture that is mesmerized by the celebrities in our midst. And that, quite frankly, is sad!

God does not view celebrities in the same way as we do. In fact, he looks at people in general very differently than we do. In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, the prophet Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to anoint the man who was to follow Saul as Israel's king. When Eliab, Jesses' oldest son passed in front of the prophet, Samuel was convinced that Eliab was God's man. But God had other ideas as he said to Samuel,  “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). 

When God looks at people, he does not see rich or poor, famous or obscure, tall or short, educated or uneducated. Rather he looks at our hearts! SOOO ... with that in mind, when God looks at your heart, what does he see? It may be that you need to do some summer "heart" cleaning. Spend some time before God. Ask him to search your heart and show you what needs to change. Follow David's practice as revealed in Psalm 139:23-24 (David was chosen, by the way to follow King Saul on Israel's throne because he had a heart that hungered for God [Acts 13:22]). Then claim God's promise as stated in 1 John 1:9. You and those around you will be better for it! And God will be glorified (Joshua 7:19).

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Bible, Our Authority

"The Bible, Our Authority" is one of four core values that we embrace at Grace Church at Willow Valley. Concerning this value, well known writer-theologian, J. I. Packer, writes:


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj





Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Coffee with PJ

Well its the day after the Fourth . . . and many of you may very well be off from work again today. Whether you are working today or kicking back . . . here are a few thoughts to go with your morning cup of joe!

1. Back in 2004, while traveling with my son in Arizona, we spent a night in a small town called Prescott. Earlier this week, that little town was in the national headlines . . . and not for reasons the town would have chosen! Unless you have been off the planet, you know what I am talking about. Earlier this week, nineteen elite firefighters from Prescott were killed when the blaze they were battling turned on them. USA Today calls it "one of the worst wildfire disasters in history." Our hearts go out to the families of these firefighters ... many of whom left wives with young children behind. We also remember the wider community of Prescott, which is reeling from this loss. One reality that this tragedy should drive home to us is that none of us know how much time we have left on this earth. These guys were highly trained and very experienced. No one saw this coming. Yes, one or two deaths perhaps. But nineteen?  So, friends, please remember to pray for the families that these brave men have left behind and the community of Prescott, but also take some time to evaluate your own life. Are you ready to meet God? If you have any doubts, check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 


2. This weekend we are welcoming a group of 31 high schoolers known as Operation Barnabas. OB is a summer ministry sponsored and coordinated by our Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, and more specifically, C E National (the CE standing for Church Effectiveness). Once the team arrives, they will hit the road running! Friday evening they, along with our students, will be doing street evangelism in downtown Lancaster (this Friday is a "First Friday" event). On Saturday they will be doing some work on our facility, visiting a nearby retirement community and conducting a children's program at a nearby campground. Then on Sunday morning, they will be heavily involved in leading our two worship services. So when you think of Grace Church at Willow Valley this weekend, I would appreciate prayer for the ministry of the Operation Barnabas Team as they come to town!  Thanks!

3. Finally ... a quote that seems appropriate as we head into the weekend.

"The Christian's life should put his minister's sermon in print." (William Gurnall)


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!


I hope you have a great day off from your job! Enjoy some extra time with your family and friends. And as you go about having FUN . . . take a moment to check out this article from the folks at the National Day of Prayer. It will remind you as to why we get this day off in the first place!

HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Doing It Half Way!

If you live in the same neck of the woods as I do, you know it's been quite tropical of late. Lots of heat.
Lot's of humidity. And lots of downpours (for example, the storms that rumbled through in the early morning hours of Monday left about 2 inches in my rain gauge). Now with all the warmth and moisture you can just imagine how fast the grass is growing (and if you live in these parts you don't have to imagine - just take a look!). Yesterday, it was evident my lawn could stand a shearing! But with storms threatening, I knew I would not have time to do it all. So, I did the next best thing. I mowed the front lawn. After all, everyone who passes my house sees the front yard. Whereas very few (if any) see the lawn behind my house. I figure, I will get to that eventually ... but at least for now, the front lawn is presentable!

Hmm. Isn't this the way we often deal with our spiritual lives? We seek to work on the areas that are most visible. But the less visible .... well that's easy to let slide. The problem with this approach is that it is the least visible that is often the most important. Here's just one example. Arguably, one of the most vital of the spiritual disciplines that we must cultivate and practice is that of prayer. But, if I am not praying as I should, I can get by with not doing so and you might never know it! It's like not cutting my back lawn.

So .... let me ask you: how is your private prayer life these days? Are you seeking God's face in prayer? Asking on behalf of your family, friends, and church? Thanking God for His many blessings? Worshiping him for awesome God that he is? Confessing your sins? Begging for his help?

You might be able to get by for a while with allowing prayer (and other less visible faith practices) slide. But in the long run, you will be a lot worse for it!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

God-Shrinkers!

In my daily devotional reading today of The J.I. Packer Classic Collection, he writes of one of his greatest laments of the past few decades. As I read .... I thought to myself ... "Stop hammering me with that sledge hammer, J.I.!" But ... there are times a good whack or two on the head is good for our souls! Here's what he wrote:

"Often in recent decades I have found myself publicly lamenting the way in which our Western culture has indulged unwarrantably great thoughts of humanity and scandalously small thoughts of God. Our time will surely go down in history as the age of the God-shrinkers. The result is that belief in God's sovereignty and omniscience, the majesty of his moral law and the terror of his judgment, the retributive consequences of the life we live here and the endlessness of the eternity in which we will experience them, along with belief in the intrinsic triunity of God and the divinity and personal return of Jesus Christ, is nowadays so eroded as to be hardly discernible. For many in our day, God is not more than a smudge." 

What J.I. writes here is something that is little, if ever heard in our "God is love" day and age (and I am talking about within the evangelical church!). Yes, God is indeed love ... but he is also HOLY, HOLY, HOLY (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). We can ill afford to lose sight of that!

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.