Friday Coffee with PJ

Time to grab that favorite brew (for me that means COFFEE!!!) and take a few moments to reflect on some random thoughts I have for you!

1. Christians are upset about the recent Supreme Court ruling concerning gay marriage . . . and rightly so! Jesus makes it clear that from the beginning God's design for marriage involves a man and a woman (Matthew 19:3-6). But Jesus also makes it clear that marriage is to be a permanent and intimate relationship. SO ... before we run off to write a letter to the editor, let's be sure to be giving our marriage the priority in our lives that it deserves and requires.

2. School bells were ringing this week as most of the school students in Lancaster County returned for yet another year of school. Now ... where did the summer go? September arrives in just two days - yet it seems just like yesterday that we were celebrating Mother's Day! Time has a way of racing by. I am reminded of that every time I hear a clock tick. With each tick, a second of time slips into the abyss of the past, never to be experienced again! Reminds me of James 4:14 in which James refers to our lives as a mist that is here today and gone tomorrow. So . . . all this means we must make the most of our time and invest it in things that will outlast us! How about YOU? Are you making the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16). Are you striving to live your life for God and His purposes?

3. Finally ... here's a quote from Tony Evans that you might want to chew on: "Your ability to perceive divine truth is related to how much you want to know. If you are satisfied with a story here and a story there, a good feeling here and a good feeling there, you won't fully understand all that God has for you in His Word." (from his book, Returning to Your First Love). Hmmm. When you interact with God's Word whether reading or listening, do you come with a prepared heart ... a heart that says ... "Here am I, God, teach me YOUR way that I may walk in it!"?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

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

1. I am guessing you heard something about Miley Cyrus' performance earlier this week at the Video Music Awards. Here is one person's take. 

2. Are Joyce Myer and Joel Oesteen "rightly dividing the word of truth?" Hmm. You may just want to read this post! 

3. From Desiring God Ministries: Moving Beyond the Stalemate in Marriage. A solid read! 

4. Again .... some more challenging thoughts from Desiring God on why we should be praying for our president. 

5. Kevin DeYoung offers up some thoughts on what we should not be placing before our eyes. 

Thanks for stopping by .  . . 

A Prayer for Your Midweek

I ran across the following prayer in a devotional book by John Piper. I encourage you to take a moment to read it .. and then pray it, making it your own.

Thank you Lord, for the lives of flawed and faith-filled saints! 
Thank you for grace, amazing grace, that saves and uses sinners!
Lord, don't let us limit your power by what we see in the mirror. 
Help us to trust you. Help us, as William Carey said, 
to expect great things from God  and attempt great things for God. 
We are not great. But you are great. 
Your power is made perfect in our weakness. 
We surrender all worldly claims on our lives. 
Come. Make us useful for the glory of Christ. 
In his great name we pray.
(John Piper, Life as a Vapor

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Trusting God when Life Really Hurts!

All of us face tough times. Adversity comes calling all too often. If I had to choose between door #1 leading to comfort and door #2 leading to adversity, I would pick door #1 ten times out of ten (and I would guess you would be right there with me!). But that option is not something God puts before us. We must accept whatever hardships come our way. We are broken people living in a broken world. Therefore, we will go through tough times ... if not today, then tomorrow. Therefore, it is important we learn to respond in a God-honoring, kingdom-advancing way. I was reminded of this today in a visit I had with a dear saint who has just been through an extremely difficult week and a half. Through all the pain and suffering, she has trusted God. Wow! Her testimony was refreshing!

Below is a quote from a book about trusting God even when we are experiencing adversity. Take a moment and read ... then reflect. It will do your heart and soul well to do so!

"Yet it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. In both cases we cast aspersions upon His majesty and His character. God views our distrust of Him as seriously as He views our disobedience. When the people of Israel were hungry, "they spoke against God, saying, `Can God spread a table in the desert? ... Can he supply meat for his people?"' The next two verses tell us, "When the LORD heard them, he was very angry ... for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance" (Psalm 78:19-22).  

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

This week, just a short thought for you as you drink your morning coffee. If you are reading this on Friday, most likely at the time you are reading these words I will be on the return leg of a road trip to North Carolina. Wednesday morning, I drove over to York County to pick up my oldest sister. Then the two of us drove to NC to visit my other sister who is in poor health, a sister that we have not seen for quite some time. I must admit that given my workload right now, I was reluctant to go. Even with my wife encouraging me that I needed to do this (and she has been encouraging me for a while now!), and even though I knew deep down inside that I really needed to go, I kept putting it off.  But finally, when my oldest sister said she really wanted to see our North Carolina sister, I knew that I would have to make the time and go. And given our sister's poor health, it could very well be the last time we get to see her.

Now once I made this decision, I knew it was the right one. And I knew that all the "stuff" calling for my attention would be waiting for me when I got back. John Piper once said that when we do the "primary" things God calls us to do, that he will take care of all those "secondary" things. And really ... when it comes right down to it, family is one of these "primary" things in life.

So ... what about you? Giving enough time to your family (and the other important relationships that God has placed in your life)? Or are you using the excuse that you are just to busy?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Thanks for stopping by today ... hope you can find something in today's post that will encourage, equip or
enable you in your journey of grace!

1. Ed Welch answers the question, Quick to Listen to Whom? 

2. Paul Tripp comments on anger in Good and Angry. 

3. One of my colleagues at Lancaster Bible College is launching a new podcast, Five Minutes in Church History. I listened to his first offering (concerning Augustine) and it was outstanding. I highly recommend this five minute investment of your time. Well worth it!

4. “What you believe about life affects everything about how you live your life.”  Really? Check out these excellent thoughts from the daughter of well known author and preacher, Chuck Swindoll. 

5. On a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

The Uncontrolled Self

I recently read a devotional on the topic of the uncontrolled self. The writer powerfully stated that "the uncontrolled self is a deadly force. It wills to defy or ignore God. Idolizing, exalting, celebrating, and indulging oneself as one's god is the root cause of all the shame, folly, decadence, and moral blindness that mark modern Western culture so ruinously." 

The writer here (in this case, J. I. Packer) get's it right. Every single one of us is born into this world with a orientation that is not centered on God or even others. Our bent from the get-go is SELF (and if you need evidence for this, just volunteer to serve in your church's nursery or preschool ministry and the self-centeredness of the human soul will most certainly raise its ugly head).

For those of us who have chosen to follow Christ . . . we have been given a new orientation by Jesus himself. He tells us that the two greatest commandments are first, to love God with all that we are and have, and the second, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:34-39). But to reorient ourselves requires a lot of hard effort on our part (2 Peter 1:5-11). Now I know from experience that it can get frustrating and downright discouraging as we strive to change ... but never lose site that God himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit is at work within you, cultivating HIS fruit in your heart (Galatians 5:22-23).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Who's in Control?

In this turbulent and often gut-wrenching world we live in, the truth that God has the whole world in his hands is quite a comfort and strength! To know that our God is on his throne, ruling over all from heaven, certainly helps us to cope with the often painful realities of life. Consider the following quote from theologian Bruce Ware:

"The sole criterion for understanding the nature of divine sovereignty is simply this: whatever God tells us in Scripture about his lordship and sovereign rulership over the universe is what we should believe, because this alone can be the infallible truth about his sovereignty…. From the beginning of the Bible to the end (quite literally), readers are constantly encouraged, in account after account, to think of God as in control of what takes place in this world."

Nothing catches God by surprise. Nothing can derail his plan. Nothing! (Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11).

Thanks for stopping by . . .


Friday Coffee with PJ

Today is Friday and that means it's time for you to pour your favorite brew of coffee and spend a few minutes "listening" to me ramble on . . . but ramble in a way that just might help you in your own journey of grace!

1. Once again I was recently reminded of the benefits of drinking coffee. I spotted this particular info-graphic in my wife's August issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. According to the info-graphic, research shows that one cup of coffee per day will reduce the risk of a stroke by 20%! So if that's the case, I am really in good shape as I tend to drink at least three cups a day!

2. Last week at the shore, two of my grandsons (Jack almost 3 and Nolan just over 2) played tackle on the beach. Jack would run and then slow down and allow Nolan to come up behind him and tackle him. The two would fall laughing to the sand ... then get up and do it all over again. Not only were they having fun, I was having fun watching! As I thought about their little game, I thought of how it is so easy for sin to slide up behind us and "tackle" us as we seek to run the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2). And since sin is so deceptive (Hebrews 3:13), we not only need to be on the alert for it in our lives (with the Spirit of God's help, of course) - we also need to allow others to speak truth into our lives when they see us going astray. All of us have blind spots ... sins, weaknesses, faults that we are blind to (but others are not). SO if we are going to successfully keep on running the race without constantly falling flat on our face, we need to be open to the counsel of those around us and respond with humility and with teachable hearts when that counsel is offered.

3. During one of our recent road trips, my wife and I stopped in Altoona, PA (my mom's home town!). One of the sights we stopped to explore was the famous "Horseshoe Curve." While there, we saw several freight trains navigate the monstrous curve on their way west and east. Knowing that my grandsons are huge train fans, I shot some video using my smartphone. Sure enough, the first time I saw my one grandson and
allowed him to view the video, he wanted to watch it again and again. And while watching it, his eyes were glued to the screen! Wow! If we would only seek God with that kind of intensity! (See Psalm 27:4 and Psalm 63:1-8)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

Here are a few offerings for you to think about:

1. Living in this broken world, we will encounter many who are suffering. What do you say in that moment when you are face-to-face with someone who is really hurting? Here are some good suggestions.

2. Ed Welsh talks about irrational fears. 

3. The family as God's litmus test of grace? Check out these thoughts from Desiring God Ministries. 

4. Tired? Need more rest? Check out this article, Why Do We Need Physical Rest?

5. On a lighter note . . .  (She gets really cute around the 4:30 mark!)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

One Thing!

In Psalm 73, Asaph, the writer of this particular psalm expressed his heart's single desire when he wrote, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you."

So ... if this were true of you and me ... if we desired nothing on this earth as much as we desired God, what would this look like? Consider J.I. Packer's answer to this question: "It is a matter of wanting and valuing 'fellowship . . . with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ' (1 John 1:3) more than I want or value anything else in this world. And it is a matter of making knowing and loving and pleasing and praising God my life task, and of seeking to lead others into the same God-glorifying pattern." 

Hmm. Seems like I have a ways to go (and I am guessing you do as well!). So let's take a step or two today toward making this a reality in our lives: to have one thing at the top of our priority list: living for God and His Son Jesus by the enablement of the Holy Spirit!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Think on This!

A.W. Tozer met Christ in Akron, Ohio as a teenager. The journey that began there, continues to influence many today as Tozer is among the most read Christian writers of the 20th century. As I was reading from one of his many writings last evening, I came across the following and thought ...hmm, I need to pass this on. So take a moment and think about what A.W. has to say. You will be better for it!

"The lack of spirituality among men and women today is embarrassingly evident. Tozer zeroed in on one of the primary causes. 'I am convinced,' Tozer said, 'that the dearth of great saints in these times even among those who truly believe in Christ is due at least in part to our unwillingness to give sufficient time to the cultivation of the knowledge of God.'"

How much time are you giving to cultivate your knowledge of God? And remember this: getting to know God begins with getting to know HIS word!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

The World's Wisdom ... or Better Said ... FOOLISHNESS! (part 3)

Today is the final installment of my evaluation of some advice offered up in a recent issue of Good Housekeeping.

6. Be gleefully grabby: Every once in a while, you should take the last cookie. We tend to suppress that instinct, but a little bit of "me-first"-ism can make you giddy. 

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Listen. "Me-first"-ism is the root problem of our world. In fact, every single crime, offense, evil deed, slanderous word, malicious thought can be traced back to "me-first"-ism. What is the middle letter of the word "sin?" Yep! That's right. As followers of Christ, he calls us to a higher standard. Just as he did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many ... he calls us to serve (Mark 10:42-45). The Apostle Paul also directs us to consider others and their needs before we consider our own (Philippians 2:3-4). Certainly does not sound like the path of Jesus is about ME FIRST at all!

7. Get mad and stay mad: Instead of adhering to the adage, "forgive and forget," it's sometimes wiser to remember - at least for a while . . . of course, common sense dictates that you shouldn't hold a grudge for too long or your might drive a wedge between yourself and others. 

OK. How does this advice align with the Bible? For starters, consider Ephesians 4:26 where we are told to not allow the sun to go down on our anger. Also, take a moment and read the parable Jesus told about the need to forgive (Matthew 18:21-35). And if you any more encouragement to put off anger ... and to put on forgiveness, see Colossians 3:13).

I hope as a result of my brief evaluation of the advice of this article . . . you have seen how our society is moving further away from biblical norms for life and practice. This means that we must redouble our efforts to saturate and renew our minds with God's Word! Failure to do so will only leave us open and vulnerable to this kind of ungodly influence.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

The World's Wisdom ... or Better Said ... FOOLISHNESS! (part 2)

Today ... I continue with an evaluation of the advice given in the Good Housekeeping article, Why it feels so good to be just a little bad! 

4. Procrastinate, then tell yourself you're being creative: You won't necessarily be lying. Putting something off can ratchet up inspiration, especially if you're the type of person who works well under pressure. While you're wasting time, be sure to check out plenty of videos of kittens on treadmills and cute puppies in baskets. 

Hmm. "You won't necessarily be lying." Really? And what about "wasting time?" What does the Bible have to say about these things? The first is a no-brainer, as God always speaks truth and desires the same of us. As to the use of time, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are to make the best use of our time (Ephesians 5:15-16). Too many of us waste our time pursuing such trivial things. Instead, we need to be wise and invest our time in the things that will count for God and eternity!

5. Don't censor yourself: Swear when you stub your toe. Believe it or not, there is some evidence that colorful language can ease pain and may even help you bond with others. Plus, sometimes you just have to toss an F-bomb. 

Did I just type what I think I did? I mean, do we just HAVE to toss an F-bomb from time to time? Really? Again, the Bible is clear. How clear? You be the judge: "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving" (Ephesians 5:4). 

Are you beginning to see why I have titled these posts as I did? You talk about foolish advice! More tomorrow! Until then . . .

Thanks for stopping by . . .

The World's Wisdom ... or Better Said ... FOOLISHNESS!

Recently I was given an article published in Good Housekeeping. Right away the title grabbed my attention: Why it feels so good to be just a little bit BAD! The opening words of the article made me want to read on . . . "Behaving badly, at least once in a while, can ease stress, put a smile on your face, and make your heart beat faster."  The article went on to list a number of guilt-free ways to misbehave. This week ... I will take a look at several of these and evaluate this advice in the light of the wisdom of God's Word.

1. Gossip: the next time an acquaintance does something selfish or unethical, spill every gnarly detail. 

The Bible is clear on this one. Gossip is wrong (see Proverbs 11:13; 26:20-22; Romans 1:28-29; 2 Corinthians 12:20)! And just what is gossip? It is the spreading of sensitive information (true or not) about another person with people who have no business knowing it. If we were all honest, we would all admit to gossipping (or listening to gossip). But this is something that we ought not to do! No one is better for it! So the next time an acquaintance does something selfish or unethical, pray for him or her. But don't go wagging your tongue to others!

2. Flirt with a man who's not your husband: Make eyes at the waiter when your husbands in the loo. Wink at the UPS guy. If you don't turn it on once in a while, you risk switching off permanently. 

Really? Flirting with a guy when you are married to another is a good thing? Seems to me this is how extra-marital affairs get started. One "innocent" flirtation leads to another ... which leads to another ... which leads to . . . !!!  If a wife (or husband for that matter) is going to stay true to her spouse, there is no way "flirting" in any way is going to strengthen that commitment. If one plays with fire often enough, eventually he or she will get burned! So ... you can chuck out this piece of advice with the first!

3. Spend the days in your PJ's: If the beds don't get made and the dishes don't get washed, the Earth will not crash into the sun. On the other 364 days of the year, including weekends, you are busy, busy, busy. You deserve a whole day of rest. 

OK. Just so you know that I am not all about bashing Good Housekeeping, I actually find some merit in this advice. The Bible does encourage rest (the 4th commandment is all about a day of rest). And in our busy and hectic society, all of us need to take some time out to just "chill!" We also need to be sure that when we take some time to slow down, that we spend some of that time cultivating our relationship with God (Mark 1:35; 6:31). But do me a favor. If you decide to spend the day in your PJ's, if you find that you must take a run to the store, PLEASE put on some clothes first!

More to come . . . and thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

Here are some more or less random thoughts for you to enjoy with your favorite cup of morning coffee ... and if you don't drink coffee, you should!

1. Here are a number of alleged benefits to drinking coffee: It helps to fight depression, it may be good for your liver, it may help you lose weight, it will help boost performance (especially when you are tired), it may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's Alzheimer's, and skin cancer, and it may even make you smarter! Sounds like some good stuff to me!

2. Last week while on vacation in Erie, PA . . . my wife, Sharon had to make an unexpected trip to the local Emergency Room (poor wording there ... isn't every trip to the ER "unexpected?"). Ends up she had a kidney infection and had to be admitted so she could receive antibiotics intravenously. Now as we drove to the hospital and then spent the next four hours in the ER (from 10:30 pm to 2:30 am) ... I was obviously concerned for my wife. And then when she was admitted, I was relieved to finally have a plan of action. But as we drove on the deserted highway back to the family's home where we were staying (minus my wife) - I must admit that I found myself complaining about losing sleep, the soon to appear hospital bills, and the change this would make in our departure time later that day. God convicted me of this downright sinful attitude just this morning. I was viewing a video about the current situation in the Central African Republic. In the video, the narrator mentioned that the pediatric center in the capital of Bangui is the only operating medical facility in the entire country! And here I was complaining ... taking for granted ... that when my wife needed health care (and quality health care at that!) ... it was only a short drive away! Ouch! How I lack the gratitude I should have for how abundantly God has blessed me here in this country! How about YOU? Do you also take God's many blessings for granted?

3. Finally ... here is a very sad article that reports how the Presbyterian Church USA voted to exclude the hymn "In Christ Alone" from their hymnal. At the end of the article is a video of Kristen Getty singing the song written by her husband, Keith and Stuart Townsend. Thank you Keith and Stuart for not compromising what you believe!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Thursday A La Carte

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

1. Here is a video posted this week on recent happenings in the Central African Republic .... please pray. And to fuel your prayers, check out Augustine Hibaile's prayer updates on our Friends of CIDEL web site.

2. I would guess that most if not all of you reading this would not be able to name the top missionary sending country in the world! For the answer, click HERE! 

3. This coming Sunday at our church, some Gideons will be present to share about their ministry. Of course, the Gideons are probably best known for their practice of placing Bible's in motel rooms. Here's how that practice got started. 

4. For all you C.S. Lewis fans (and even those of you who are not), here is a great read as Andy Naselli has taken each of Screwtape's letters and reduced it to one sentence (Screwtape is a demon mentoring a less experienced demon on how to care for his "patient" - a newly converted Christian).

5. What affect does losing sight of eternity have upon us as Christians? Paul Tripp has some answers. 

6.  On a lighter note . . . 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning means COFFEE! (frankly, every morning means coffee for me)! So why not pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join m...