Showing posts from December, 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 G…

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

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

7 questions for spiritual self checkup dec. 29, 2013 from John Smith
Thanks for stopping by . . .

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&…


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!


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 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…

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."  (The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions) 
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 

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 Je…

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 s…

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, shi…

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 …

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.

Carpe diem challenge sunday dec 8, 2014 from John Smith

Thanks for stopping by . . .

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 . . .

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 prepari…

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. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your waysand 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 t…

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 u…

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 di…