Making and Breaking Those Dreaded New Year's Resolutions

As we approach the beginning of a new year, there is something inside of us that awakens to say, "Hey, don't you think it's time to make some changes?" And so many of us will sit down and make a list of goals or resolutions that we are determined to keep (unlike every previous year where we make it to the third week of January at best - and I speak from experience!). So should we just throw out this urge to come up with a list of new year's resolutions? Not at all. But I do think we should approach the process with some good old common sense. So ... here is PJ's common sense approach to making resolutions that stick. 

1. Keep your list short. I suggest you take stock of how your doing by examining each of five major areas of life: physical, intellectual, spiritual, financial, relational. After a good long (and HONEST) look in your mirror, identify one glaring need for improvement in each of these five areas. So ... when you draw up your resolutions, you will have no more than five. 

2. Write out a resolution for each of those "glaring needs" you identified in step one. The resolution should be written in the format of a SMART goal: specific, measurable, attainable, results-based, and time-specific. For example, if you want to set a SMART goal to read a portion of the Bible every day, you won't make reading 20 chapters a day a part of your goal, for that is not attainable. Rather, your SMART resolution could be stated as: I resolve to read one chapter of the Bible each day of the new year. This resolution fits the attributes of a SMART goal. 

3. Once you have your list of five resolutions, select one or two to begin working on right away (and reserve the rest for a "late start"). I suggest this because when we try to make changes, we can get overwhelmed when we "bite off more than we can chew." Once you get the first couple resolutions transformed into good solid habits (and yes, habits can be good!), then you can pick another resolution to begin working on. Now you may have heard that it takes the average person 21 days to form a new habit, but this is not really the case. In reality, it probably will take you a good two months or more to establish a new habit. All this to say, stay the course! 

4. Once you have chosen your one or two resolutions, tell a trusted friend. Ask them to check with you from time to time as to how you are doing. Give them permission to hold you accountable. This will help you immensely to stay with your resolution(s) - Proverbs 27:17; Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. 

5. Expect to fail. Why? Because the default setting of our fallen humanity (which still dogs us!) and the ongoing evil work of the Enemy (who will do his best to derail us) and the godless world system in which we work and play (which is under the control of the Evil One) will all work together to keep us from achieving our goals. So there will be that day (or those days) when we will not keep our resolution(s). When that happens to you, pick yourself off the ground and begin anew the next day. In other words, don't quit but rather renew your commitment to forge ahead! Do this often enough, and you will be on your way to real change in your life. 

6. Lastly, pray (and this really is of first importance). Ask God to help you in this process. His Spirit is with you and ready to grant you the grace, wisdom and power to grow forward in 2015! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Twas the Day before Christmas

Twas The Day Before Christmas                            

And deep in my heart
Was a compelling desire
To dash off to Wal Mart!

But I fought off the urge 
And instead opened God’s Book
To Luke’s second chapter 
Where I took a long look. 

For in Luke chapter two 
We hear the angels proclaim
A message of peace, hope and joy
As they tell how Jesus came.

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth, peace, goodwill to men!” 
This is the message of Christmas Day,
An indescribable gift from God. Amen! 

Merry Christmas! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Christmas Caroling, Inc.

As a youngster growing up in the city of Harrisburg, my friends and I discovered a cool (perhaps I should say cold!) way to make money around the holidays.  I don’t recall how the discovery was made, but I do remember how thrilled we were with it.  We found out that by going door-to-door singing Christmas carols, people would invite us in out of the cold and give us steaming hot chocolate to warm our cold little bodies.  To go along with the hot chocolate, they would offer us a wide array of delicious home-baked Christmas cookies.  And often, as we said our good-byes, they would give us each some money.  Either we looked pretty poor and they felt sorry for us – or they viewed us as cheap holiday entertainment! I must say, we made out pretty well the two Christmas seasons we went caroling!

Last Thursday evening, I was at it again!  Our Life Group caroled at the Presbyterian Home in Quarryville. And again, we made out pretty well.  This time it was not because of the hot chocolate, cookies and money offered to us.  Rather, I found great satisfaction in the smiling faces and even tears of those to whom we sang (I sure hope the tears were tears of joy and not agony!).  Serving others is like that.  You want joy?  You want satisfaction?  Let me suggest you get your eyes off of yourself for a while and on to someone else.  Read Philippians 2:3-11.  Then seek to serve someone today.  Go ahead and do a secret act of kindness for someone.  You will be glad for it.

Thanks for stopping by ... and MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

To Lighten Up Your Day

Here are a few "clean" jokes I recently ran across that I thought might bring a smile to your face. Enjoy!

About Wedding Attire

A little girl finally got to attend a wedding for the first time. While in the church, the girl asked her mother: “why is the bride dressed in white?” The mother replied to the girl: “because white is the color of happiness and it’s the happiest day of her life today.”

After a little bit, the girl looks up at her mother and says: “But, then why is the groom wearing black?”

About Marriage and Coffee 

Shortly after tying the knot, a young married couple started arguing over who should make the coffee. Being a good Christian woman, the wife went to the scriptures for her answer. She said that the Bible specifically stated that men should be the ones to make the coffee.

Puzzled, the husband asked her where in the Bible it said that. Very confidently, the wife opened up her Bible and said: “It’s right here—HEBREWS.”

In Sunday School

During a Sunday school lesson, a child learned about how God created human beings. The child became especially focused when the teacher explained how Eve was created from Adam’s ribs. Later on in the week, the boy’s mother saw him lying down on the floor, so she asked him what was wrong. His reply was priceless: “Mom, I have a pain in my side—I think I’m getting a wife.”

I will use this last joke to insert an advertisement for my upcoming sermon series which begins Sunday, January 11th. The series, titled, In the Beginning, is an up close look at the first eleven chapters of the Bible. Someone once said that if you get the first chapters of the Bible wrong, you are likely to get the rest of the Bible wrong. I agree. So ... I invite you to join us (9:00 or 10:30) for this study of some of these vitally important chapters of Scripture.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

A Wonderful Staycation

Last week, I enjoyed a week off. But unlike most of our vacations during which we spend at least some time away from home ... this time we were at home for the entire week.  The reason we took a "staycation" was due to my arm and my wife's knee. That might sound a bit strange. But I had some scheduled physical therapy to go to ... and my wife was scheduled to undergo an MRI on her knee, with a follow up with the orthopedic later in the week (at which she received a cortisone injection and returns for another evaluation in 6 weeks). But in between those health related appointments, we did manage to have a great time of kicking back and getting some down time (and spending some extra "quiet" time with God).

Among other things, we enjoyed one meal with a group of friends and another with my twin brother and his wife. We finished our Christmas shopping while browsing the shops of East Main Street in Lititz. We checked out our son-in-law's new district office (also in Lititz), saw a play in Allentown (which was directed by a close family friend), and capped it all off with an afternoon/evening at Longwood Gardens ... which was all decked out for Christmas. All in all ... my wife and I graded our week an A+!

But now ... I am digging out of the pile and playing some catch up. The priority for my week (among all the meetings I have scheduled) is to edit and then memorize my script for Sunday morning's The Scribe's Tale. This is the fifth in a series of dramatic monologues that I have been doing the Sunday before Christmas here at Grace Church (the others include, Joseph's Tale, The Innkeeper's Tale, The Shepherd's Tale, The Camel Driver's Tale, and The Spice Seller's Tale - the latter was done for Easter). I would very much appreciate your prayers as I prepare ... and if you are in town, please stop by at either 9:00 or 10:30. We would love to see you!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

I just love the smell of freshly brewed coffee. And when the weather outside is a bit frigid, it tastes all the better! So ... pour yourself a cup of your favorite joe ... and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. This past Tuesday I posted a request for continued prayer for me. But this time it was not about the struggles that I have had with my recovery from my biceps tendon surgery. Rather I was asking for prayer that focused on my walk with God (thanks to those of you who have been praying). Now when my post went live on Tuesday morning, little did I know that I had made a small omission that would have caused a HUGE stir if it had not been caught right away. Here's what happened.

We were in the middle of our staff meeting on Tuesday morning when one of my staffers got a text asking him if it was true that I had committed some sort of moral sin that would disqualify me from my pastoral ministry. Puzzled and a bit stunned, he leaned over to me and told me about the text. I knew immediately what must have happened. In the post, I had written (or so I thought) the following line: "I have not fallen into a sin which would disqualify me from continuing in my pastoral ministry." But when I checked my blog, I noticed that what I had written was: "I have fallen into a sin which would disqualify me from continuing in my pastoral ministry."  Oops. Forgot one very small but very important word, "not!" I quickly made the correction and we went on with our meeting!

Wow! Amazing the difference one small three-letter word makes in the meaning of a statement! But all of us can take heed to the lesson in this. Our words may be small. But we must measure them well! For one word spoken or written (or not spoken or written!) can make all the difference. And remember, once "said", that word is gone forever! There are no recalls!  Consider these words from God's Word about the power of our words: "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body" (Proverbs 16:24). Ask God today to help your words drip with grace!

2. OK ... don't know about you, but I could be done with winter like NOW! Twice in this past week frozen precipitation has fallen from the clouds . . . and winter is officially still over two weeks away! I surely hope that this early start to the season is not a sign of a loooonnnnnnggggg, cold, snowy winter! I admit that my attitude concerning this needs an adjustment. I must learn to be content in all circumstances ... even the ones I don't like. The Apostle Paul learned how to do so (Philippians 4:11), and so must we. I believe the key is to always remember that the God of providence, who has a plan for us and is working that plan, is doing so for our good and God's glory. As we keep this in mind, we can even be content though life is collapsing all around us.

3.  My wife told me about an incident that occurred the other day with one of our little grandchildren (who is two). Sharon had told our granddaughter "No!" concerning something. Molly looked at my wife and said, "I upset! Grammy said 'No' to me! I upset!" And then she stormed off to sulk. When my wife told me that story, I chuckled as I pictured in my mind little sweet Molly responding in that way with those words. But ... we often do the very same thing, don't we. God says "No" to us concerning something we would like to do ... and we get upset! And this is so because the sinful nature that we still battle within us has this default setting of "I want what I want ... and no one is going to tell me that I can't have what I want!" May God continue to prune us ... so that increasingly we grow to desire not what we want ... but what HE wants!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Please Keep Praying!

Across the course of the past almost three months, I have often asked you to pray for me. These requests have centered on the surgery to repair my torn biceps tendon and the subsequent recovery. Again, I ask you to continue to pray for my recovery as I "keep on keeping on" with the physical therapy.

But this morning, I want to ask you to pray for me concerning my walk with God. No, I have not strayed. I have not fallen into a sin which would disqualify me from continuing in my pastoral ministry. But I do want to walk closer with God. With that in mind, when you think of me, please pray for the following:

1. That I would walk in a greater dependence upon the Holy Spirit's work in my life (Ephesians 5:18-20).

2. That I would push back from the demands of ministry to PRAY (Luke 5:15-16).

3. That I would walk worthy of my calling (Colossians 1:9-10).

4. That I would love my wife as Christ loves His Church (Ephesians 5:25).

5. That I would be the kind of pastor that God desires me to be (1 Peter 5:1-3).

6. That I would walk with wisdom toward those who are outside and speak to them with words dripping with grace and seasoned with salt (Colossians 2:5-6).

7. That I would finish well (2 Timothy 4:7).

Thanks so much for your prayers! (And you may just want to pray many of these for yourself as well!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ - Special Saturday Mid Morning Edition

I am just now finishing up my third (and final) cup of coffee of the morning. If you were looking for this post yesterday, my apologies. I ran out of week before I ran out of work!

1. First, an arm update. I am now up to doing two pound curls with my left arm. Monday, I move up to three! Wow! So things are progressing well, so it seems, with the repair of the biceps tendon. However, it is a different story with my wrist and hand. Not much change in the amount of pain and stiffness. I see the Orthopedic doctor on Tuesday. I would appreciate your prayers. Even though this is making my life hard at times ... I keep reminding myself that my life is still not nearly as hard as what some others are going through AND that, at the end of the day, God is ALWAYS good! Thanks for your prayers!

2. When I was in high school, I sang on year in the school choir. For our holiday concert, we sang the song, "Snow, Snow, When Are You Falling?" For folks in the Buffalo area, that is one question they need not ask. As you already have heard, some areas received about seven feet of snow! Seven feet! Ouch. That is way too much snow! Given the fact that I am physically limited, I am hoping that we see less than our fair share of snow this winter. But ... ultimately that is up to God, for He is sovereign ... and that means even over the amount of snow we receive (Job 37:6).

3.  It's a shame that the Thanksgiving holiday only comes around once a year. I simply love this holiday! I love getting together with our family. I love the smorgasbord of food that is prepared (and then consumed!), AND I love the time it affords me to sit back and count my blessings. Unfortunately, I fear that for so many of us ... we place the emphasis on the first two items on my "Why I Enjoy Thanksgiving" list and almost ignore the third. To help you prepare for Thanksgiving, I heartily recommend that you head over to Crossway's web site and sign up for Paul Tripp's Daily Thanksgiving Devotional (click here for the site). I have been using it from day one and have found it to be quite challenging and encouraging (I even shared one of the devotionals with my Life Group this past Thursday evening). So take the time to sign up ... and then read them when they arrive in your inbox. It will be time well spent!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Broken Tooth and the Providence of God!

As I was chewing on Sunday, I noticed biting down on something unexpectedly hard. A quick inspection revealed that the hard substance was a small piece of one of my teeth! Discouraged that I was going to have to make an unplanned visit to my dentist, I was grateful that I was not in pain.

Now that visit is in the rear view mirror of my life (VERY THANKFUL for that!). The appointment took longer than expected for I had not just one broken tooth ... but two! As the dentist drilled and grinded and scraped and all the other stuff dentists and their assistants do inside one's mouth, I thought, "Wow! forget water boarding. This would be the ultimate method of torture!" I can't tell you how glad I was to walk out of his office! Let's just say when he and his staff wished me a happy Thanksgiving ... I was thanking God that there was not a return trip to his office needed to finish the task!

Now ... what I just said, I said somewhat "tongue in cheek." It is true that I don't relish going to see the dentist. But I am very thankful for what he is able to do for me! The pain and discomfort that he does inflict upon me is for my good!

God, the almighty King of the universe, is sovereign over all. This means he is in control. Nothing occurs without his permission (we call this the providence of God). This can be a hard teaching of Scripture. Especially when tough things come our way. But when they do, we need to remind ourselves that God can take even terribly difficult circumstances and use them for our good (and ultimately His glory! -- Romans 8:28-29), So ... bottom line ... God had his reasons for allowing me to break a tooth (or two!). As for me ... I will trust that He knows what he's doing!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday coffee with PJ

I hope you have your favorite brew of Java ready to sip as I share a few random thoughts with you.

1. If our weather outside is any indicator of the kind of winter we are going to have… I would love to take the first plane south! Yesterday morning as I was watching the news, the weather guy reported that the temperature (not wind chill) was 14 below zero in Denver. That is a whopping 39° below the average low temperature for Denver for this date (avg low is 25°). Now thankfully, as this cold air mass heads are away, it will moderate. So even though it will be cold, it won't be that cold! And perhaps that's how we're going to have to approach this upcoming winter. It may get cold and it may get snowy, but there's always places on this planet that will be colder and will have much more snow! Just saying!  So no matter what difficulty you may be facing in life, remind yourself that you're not alone, and that there are many others who are going through worst circumstances. And no matter how difficult your situation might be, if you have chosen to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, he has promised never to leave you nor forsake you! And that my friends, is quite the comfort!

2. As I write these words, Al Roker, the popular weatherman of NBC's today show, is trying to get his name into the Guinness book of world records. His goal is to, without interruption, report the weather for 34 consecutive hours. He is currently 18 hours in. Millions of people are watching via live stream on their computers and mobile devices. I must admit I just turned in to see how he was
doing. He is looking pretty tired. I have to ask myself why is he doing this? I know he's talking about raising money for charity. And I'm sure that's part of it.  In fact that might be the major part of it. And certainly his effort is connected with the fact that yesterday was Guiness Book of World Records Day. But all I can say is that I don't think I would ever launch out on such a feat. It would be like me preaching for 34 consecutive hours. That is something I would never attempt and certainly something my church family would not want to endure!!!

Thanks for stopping by ...

You Break It . . . You Buy It!

All of us have seen signs displayed in shops and stores that remind us that if we handle something and manage somehow to break it – then we must buy it.  Most of us would agree that would be the right thing to do.  If you break something in the store – why should the store owner suffer the loss because of your clumsiness?  So yes – you break it – you buy it makes a lot of sense.  But it can prove to be quite pricey, as millionaire Steve Wynn learned.  Several years ago, Wynn sold Picasso’s famous painting, “Dream” to a fellow art collector for 139 million dollars.  In showing the painting to someone in his office just after the sale, he inadvertently poked a silver-dollar sized hole in the canvas with his elbow.  Since he “broke it” – he released the buyer from the purchase.  So in effect, he bought the painting back.  We look at that and would all agree that it was the right thing for him to do.  He broke it – so he bought it!

When I look around at our world – I see a lot of brokenness.  Broken marriages, broken relationships, broken bodies, broken people.  And in the midst of all this brokenness, God did something totally unexpected.  He did not break anything – yet he sent His Son to purchase a broken people for Himself.  That is truly amazing.  When it comes to our life  – we broke it – yet God bought it!  And he paid a high price in doing so!   I encourage you to take a time out – right now!  Thank God for the high price He was willing to pay for your broken life – which you broke!  Praise Him for His love, His mercy and His grace!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ (Health update)

Well, the week got ahead of me again. So instead of Friday morning coffee with PJ this will be a special evening addition. Coffee is just as good at night (decaf) … At least in my book! Enjoy!

People keep asking me how my rehab is coming along in the aftermath of my biceps tendon repair surgery. I have been doing some, but the more aggressive rehab has been a bit delayed by a new development. At my rehab session on Monday, the physical therapist, as he was working with my very stiff wrist, asked me, "was there anything wrong with your wrist before the surgery?" I quickly responded with an emphatic "No!" So I asked him if this degree of wrist stiffness was common with this type of surgery. He told me it was not. So that really got me thinking. So Tuesday morning I called the orthopedic office. I talked with the admin assistant to my doctor, and by the end of the day I had a prescription for a steroid and an appointment to see the doctor today. At that appointment, they took a couple x-rays of my wrist and hand. The results showed that I apparently have Ulnar Impaction Syndrome (even after reading the definition, I am still not quite sure what it is… I only know that it hurts!). The doctor is not sure why it flared up at this point. He said it's possible that it's due to the way they had to position my wrist during the surgery… But that's only a guess on his part. Of course as I told him, starting this whole surgery following a week of battling a kidney stone, I'm not surprised that something else has raised its ugly head! As a result of his diagonsis, I received an injection right in the sore spot of my wrist. Painful ... Yup! But I am hopeful that this will relieve a lot of the pain and stiffness so I can get on with my rehab for my surgical repair (which the doctor did check and said it is looking very good!) 

My wife recently asked me if there was a verse from the Bible that I was looking to for strength. I told her there was not a specific verse but rather a specific concept. And that concept is the providence of God. I believe the Scripture teaches very clearly that God is sovereign. He is in control of all things. He has a plan for the human race… And that includes me. So all that's been happening lately is all part of his plan for me. And as Romans 8:28-29 indicates, God is at work in even the hard things of life for my good (and His glory!). Of course "my good" is to become more like God's son Jesus Christ.

When you think of me, I'd appreciate your prayers. I want to go through this process in a way that brings glory to my king!

Thanks for stopping by, 


We Must not Forget Our Persecuted Brothers and Sisters!

It is so easy living here in our comfortable affluent country, to forget about those suffering in other parts of the world . . . including those suffering because of their faith in Christ. However, we must not forget them. In fact, God tells us that we are to remember them (Hebrews 13:3). For in remembering them, we can stand with them in prayer, asking God to give them the grace to stand without wavering in their commitment to Christ, even in the face of life-threatening persecution.

Here is a five minute video from The Voice of the Martyrs. It is not an easy video to watch. But standing for Christ is not always easy, especially in other parts of our world. Please take a moment to watch this video ... and then pray for the persecuted church!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's that time of the week again. So go ahead and pour a cup of your favorite Joe. And as you enjoy it, think on these random thoughts.

1. Kaci Hickox is a nurse. But she is not just any nurse. She just may be the most talked about nurse in America right now. If her name doesn't ring a bell let me remind you of who she is. She recently spent time in West Africa treating Ebola patients. Upon arrival back in the states, she was placed in a tent under quarantine for three days at the Newark airport. During that time she went on record as believing her constitutional rights were being violated. Since being released from that quarantine, she has returned to her home in Maine. She is under orders to remain at home. But in a newscast which I saw Wednesday evening, she made it clear in no uncertain terms that she had no intentions of doing so. Even as I am writing this blog post, I just saw an Internet report that she left her home this morning to take a bicycle ride. Now… I am no health expert. And I know that there are some health experts who say a quarantine for those returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa is not necessary. Even our president does not believe it is necessary. My question in all this is simply: what has happened common sense? Can this nurse who is being so defiant, insisting on her own rights, be absolutely certain that she is not infected with the Ebola virus? She needs to learn, and all of us need to be reminded, that our own individual rights extend only as far as our nose. The stakes are high, and if we make any error it needs to be on the side of caution. And as for Kaci's attitude, on the one hand I am somewhat surprised that someone who would sacrifice to travel to West Africa to treat Ebola patients would on her return display such a selfish attitude. We, too, must beware of self-centeredness. It is after all the default setting of our fallen humanity.

2. Eric Frein has been on the run since September 12th. That's 49 days that he has been able to elude police. Of course, there are number of reasons for this. The area where he is hiding is quite remote. In addition, he has had at least two years in the planning of this horrendous crime and his plan to hide - so no one knows how many hiding places he had carefully prepared. However the day is coming, when he will be found. Law-enforcement will continue their search and will not stop until they get their man. In a similar way, humanity is running from God. But there is coming a day when God will also get his man. And when I use the word "man" I am referring to all of humanity. The Bible's final book describes the scene in Revelation 20:11-15. If you have any questions about your readiness to face God, please take some time to check out, Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Maneuvering a Big Load

This morning I watched an extra long 18 wheeler back up and turn around. As the truck drove on its way, I just shook my head and chuckled as I tried to imagine myself at the wheel doing the same. Never happen. I can't even back up and turn my little Nissan around without working up a sweat!

Life is a lot like this. We all have to maneuver big loads at times. The load might consist of health issues (hmm ... I can relate to that one!), financial pressure, relational conflicts ... and the list goes on and on. But always remember ... no matter the load, no matter how big, you do NOT have to carry it alone. God in the person of the Holy Spirit is your constant companion (John 14:16-17), and his shoulders are much broader than yours! So allow him to help you carry whatever it is that is loading you down. Life will be hard at times ... but God will always be good (Psalm 23:6)!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday coffee with PJ

I've already enjoyed 2 cups of my favorite brew, and I am considering a third. And it's only 8:00 in the morning. This morning's post will be brief, as I am still moving quite slow as result of my recovery from my surgery five weeks ago. I would appreciate your prayers as I return to the orthopedic surgeon next Tuesday, and then walk across the hall to see the physical therapist. My therapy is supposed to begin "in earnest" this upcoming week (gulp!).

1. One of the keys to personal evangelism is relationship. As one writer states, "Evangelism for most Christians comes, not out of giftedness, but out of relationship." The first key relationship is that of a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ. We don't begin to "fish" until we first follow Jesus (Matthew 4:19). The second relationship that has huge implications for evangelism is involvement in a personal way with people who don't know Christ. One look at Jesus and how he related to the loss people around him, and you will see among other things compassion (Matthew 9:36-38). So if you want to be used by God to reach the lost, ask yourself how you're doing with these two key relationships.

2. Our God is known as a "covenant-keeping God" and with good reason! Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, God is seen as one who makes covenants and keeps covenants (Genesis 9:9, Genesis 15:8, Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:9, Mark 14:24, Hebrews 8:8, etc., etc., etc.). In other words he is very different from us in this regard. Not that we don't make promises. But all too often the promises we do make we break. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. So whereas God is a Promise Keeper by his very nature, we in our sinful, broken, fallen nature are not. But we can find great encouragement in God's character in regard to his promises. For every time we pray it is to this faithful covenant-keeping God that we pray. That my friend should spur us on to pray better and to pray more!

Thanks for stopping by,

PS - Post not as brief as I had anticipated ... just got going on these vital topics that I hope spur you on in your journey of grace!

Be Real!

The other day as my wife (a.k.a. "Grammy") was watching our 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter, Molly. She approached my wife and said, "let's play!" She then went on and said "let's be real." What she was trying to communicate was that whatever she had on her mind to play, she didn't want to just pretend. She wanted to "be real!"

That's good advice for all of us who claim to follow Jesus. We need to be real. Too many of us wear masks which hide the real us from those we encounter. We do so for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we are ashamed for people to see us for who we really are. At other times we want to impress people and so we pretend to be something that we are not. But what people really need to see is that we are real people. We have real problems, real struggles, real ups and real downs. Yet in the midst of all of that "realness," they need to see our real relationship with Jesus Christ. So… How is your relationship with Jesus these days? When people look at you, talk to you, listen to you… does your relationship with Jesus Christ shine through?

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for stopping by for today's edition of Friday coffee with PJ!

1. Sometimes when I watch the national news on television, or read Internet news reports, I sometimes get the feeling that the media doesn't merely report the news, but in reality makes the news. The hype that is placed upon local and world events can be sometimes overwhelming. Everything is a crisis. And major steps must be taken before tragic consequences ensue. Now, I don't mean to minimize the severity of some of the events going on in our world today. Ebola. The advancement of ISIS. The weakness of the global economy. And the list could go on and on. These are things that we do need to be concerned about. But, we don't have to go into panic mode over them. When I read my Bible, I see that God is sovereign. He is Lord over all. That means all of these things I just mentioned (and the many more that I did not). As the sovereign God (Ephesians 1:19) he has a plan for us and our world. And in some incredibly mysterious way, he is able to weave even evil events into the tapestry of his plan with the end result that his will in the end shall be done ... for our good and his glory(Romans 8:28)!

2. Yesterday I measured over 4 inches of rain in my rain gauge (yeah I know I'm kind of a weird weather geek). Now that is a lot of rain (almost 10% of the average annual rainfall for Lancaster, PA)! When we first moved into our house, that amount of rain in that short of a period of time would have often meant a wet basement. But we have taken steps the past few years which have greatly reduced that threat. As a result, our basement remained dry yesterday, just as it has remained dry for the past couple of years in spite of monsoonal type rainfalls. But there may have been some yesterday who were not as fortunate, and came home from work only to be faced with water in their basement. However I do not believe this was widespread. Why so? Before yesterday's rain, we were facing a significant deficit in our rainfall. Since the ground was so dry, much of the rain soaked into the ground. If the ground had been already saturated, the situation would've probably been far different. All this to say, that sometimes heavy rains are welcome, as was the case yesterday. But there are other times that rainfalls of this magnitude are anything but welcome! It's all a matter of timing. This is true of many things in life. Always remember that God"s timing is perfect (Ecclesiastes 3:11)!

3. It has struck me recently as I have had conversations with a number of people, that how few of us truly listen to what others are saying to us. Being a good listener is a skill that must be learned. And once learned it must be intentionally put into practice. One of the greatest ways you can minister to someone today is just listen to them. In doing so you communicate to them that they are important to you and what they have to say really does matter. And that may just make their day!

Thanks again for stopping by…

The Posture of True Strength

In one of the many blogs that I read during the week, I ran across the following quote that really got  me thinking: "You and I are only truly living to the degree that we surrender our lives to Jesus. . . . We often associate humility with weakness when in reality declaring our weakness before an Almighty God is the only posture of strength we can take" (Graig Denison). 

I am thinking that Craig may have had the apostle Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 in mind. Or perhaps he was thinking of 1 Peter 5:5-6....or maybe something Isaiah the prophet said in Isaiah 57:15. The point I'm trying to make is this: What Denison wrote about the true posture of strength is consistent with what God tells us in his word. True strength comes our way only as we own up to our weakness and turn to the one who is the pillar of strength. How about you? Are you surrendering yourself to Jesus Christ today? Are you leaning on his strength, realizing that any strength you can conjure up on your own is a mere pittance? Today live out the words of Proverbs 3:5–6 ... By God's grace and for his glory of course! You will be better for it!

Thanks for stopping by…


Friday coffee with PJ

Well it's that time again to pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee and join me for just a few random type thoughts.

1.  I don't know about you, but I find myself so much more prone to grumble, gripe, and complain than I am to be thankful. Yet I have much more to be thankful for in my life than to complain about. And why is that? The Scripture is clear. The only thing I deserve in life is the judgment of God. I was born a rebel. I continue to sin. And therefore, I deserve God's judgment. However, in his grace and mercy, God has judged my sin and rebellion through the death of his son Jesus Christ! So now I do not have to fear ever facing God's wrath for my sin because Jesus already did so! In addition, God graces me every single day. He gives me life, health, a home, family, sight, hearing, and the list goes on and on and on! The Thanksgiving holiday is a mere seven weeks from today. But let's not wait till Thanksgiving to begin cultivating a thankful heart. My friends we have so very much for which to thank our generous and gracious God (James 1:17)! Take a moment and spend some time counting your blessings and thanking the God who gives them to you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

2. Last Saturday afternoon, My wife and I spent time with our three children and their children exploring Cherry Crest Adventure Farm. We had a boatload of fun! The picture shows my two grandsons, Nolan age three (Brown and orange hat) and Jack age four (Blue hat) looking at a map of the farm as they were discussing what they should do next. This is one of those absolutely cute moments of grand parenting. I was very glad I was able to capture it in a photo. In a similar way, even us adults have those same kinds of questions. As we journey through life, we often come to crossroads. At those times we must make a decision as to where we will head next. I hope as you come to your crossroads, you will look to God, asking him for his wisdom to help you make the best decision. And remember, any decision that will pull you away from God, is certainly not on his road map for your life.

Thanks for stopping by,

"We still tend to value comfort and pleasure more than we love redemption." (Paul Tripp)

A Change in Wardrobe

Yesterday was my day off. It was also an "errand" day. Leaving the house about 10:45 in the morning, my wife and I were out and about until we arrived home close to 5pm. Our stops included the physical therapist, the bank, Walmart, Cracker Barrel (for a good old-fashioned lunch at a good old-fashioned price), the Mennonite home (where my mother-in-law resides), and Boscovs department store at the mall. All in all it was a very busy and very productive day!

Now our stops at Walmart and Boscov's were somewhat related. I have had to do a wardrobe readjustment these past couple of weeks. With first a cast and now a brace on my left arm, I have had to alter some t-shirts and sweatshirts to be able to get them on. So the stop at Walmart was to buy an extra large fleece (one which I could more easily pull over my brace) so I could stay warm in these cooler October temperatures. The Boscov stop, enabled me to pick up some very affordable T-shirts and sweatshirts to replace the altered ones that will eventually be used as cleaning rags.

As I reflected on this, I got to thinking about the wardrobe change the New Testament calls for. Several times we are told to "put off" and "put on." Specifically we are to work at putting off all that characterized our old life prior to our faith commitment to Jesus Christ. Then, we are to put on all that should mark our new life in Christ (Romans 13:11-13; Ephesians 4:21-23; Colossians 3:8-10).

What is something from your old life (think "before Christ") that you can put off today? Perhaps it might be a gossipy word about someone? Or a lustful glare? Or an unforgiving attitude toward someone who has wronged you? But whatever it may be, God calls you to put it off. And in its place put on a word, deed, attitude, motive… that will honor Jesus Christ! Only then will you be dressed in a way that will reflect positively on the gospel (Philippians 1:27)!

Thanks for stopping by,

Pain with a Purpose

Yesterday I had my postop visit with my surgeon. A nurse first removed the cast and the stitches. Everything looked good. Even the surgeons initials which he wrote on my forearm with a purple marker were still visible. Up until yesterday, I really hadn't experienced a whole lot of pain. In fact, the doctor was a bit surprised that I did not take more pain med then I did. So I guess I have something to really be thankful for! However, once the cast was off and they fitted me with my new brace, I started having some pain. And the pain continued off and on throughout the rest of the day and even into this morning. Since I have quite a bit of physical therapy to go through, I'm going to guess that pain will be a rather constant if not welcomed companion of mine for the foreseeable future.

But that's not a bad thing. For starters, I have to get through the pain to find the healing that my arm needs. In addition, God uses pain in our life to refine us and to conform us to the image of his Son. In fact, the Bible often speaks about pain in a positive way. A quick look at James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5 will make that plain. CS Lewis often referred to pain as the megaphone of God. So this morning I prayed and asked God that he would help me to be a good student ... that across the course of the next couple of months I would learn the lessons he desires for me to learn. Would you please pray along with me? Thank you so very much!

Thanks for stopping by,

Two Weeks, Two Firsts!

The last two weeks have been quite interesting. In these two weeks I experienced two "firsts" in my life. Many times in my ministry I have traveled to numerous hospitals. I have been in trauma units, intensive care units, preop rooms, postop rooms, regular patient rooms, emergency rooms, and of course many a coffee shop. But never have I been any of these areas of the hospital as a patient. That of course all came to an end two weeks ago!

On the evening of September 9th, I made my first visit to a hospital ER. A rather stubborn kidney stone was the reason for the visit to Lancaster General. I must say I would much rather be on the comfort giving rather than the comfort receiving end of things. This kidney stone episode had the result of postponing my surgery for a week. But finally on September 18th, I got to experience yet another "first" as I was prepped and then went through surgery on my left arm. The staff at LGH did all they could to make it as "pleasant" as possible. What amazed me the most was how quickly the anesthesia worked to put me out. Without warning I was out, only to awaken an hour and a half later with my left arm in a cast and my head full of post anesthesia fog. A little over an hour later I was wheeled out to our car and on my way home!

Going into the surgery, I didn't know how I would respond. As we grew closer and closer to the surgery date, I must of been talking about it more more to my wife. She pointed this out to me. I told her, "as you're driving toward a mountain, the closer you get to the mountain the larger it appears. And so with the it draws closer it appears bigger in my mind." But now having gone through it, I can say that I'm very very thankful for modern medical technology and the staff at Lancaster General Hospital. No it wasn't really pleasant. But the pain level was kept at a tolerable level and the hospital staff did everything they could to help me be as comfortable as possible. If I had suffered this injury 400+ years ago, I would've had to live with it. But thanks to the advances in medicine, I hope to have my left arm back healthy and whole and ready to take on the world in just a matter of a few months.

Thanks to all of you, my friends, who prayed for me through this. I would ask for your continued prayers as I go through the fairly lengthy rehab process. I am also thankful to God for allowing me to go through this experience. I do believe it will help me better minister to those are going through physical problems (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Thanks for stopping by,

Tomorrow's Not Just Thursday ... It's D-Day!

Not MY doctor at work!
One-hundred and fifty-three days after injuring my left arm, I will finally begin the path toward healing. It was on April 19th that I took advantage of a warm spring Saturday. The mountainous pile of branches left over from the winter's fury had to be broken down and bagged. I had planned to commit about an hour and a half to that task (for I also had the lawn to cut and some other outside things to get done). Not sure if I lost track of time or just got excited to see the pile begin to shrink in size. Whatever the case, I worked too long. The repetitive nature of the task eventually resulted in tearing my distal biceps tendon of my left arm. So for the past five months I have had varied amounts of pain in my arm ... depending on how I was using it. Even though I am not exactly looking forward to the surgeon doing what he is going to have to do ... I am looking forward to taking this step toward the repair and restoration of my torn tendon in spite of the pain it will bring.

Now my doctor is not some sadistic surgeon who can't wait to cut me in order to hurt me. Not at all! He will take his scalpel in hand and do his thing in order to heal me. God often does the same with us. Yes, God does bring trials our way. Not to hurt us ... but to grow us (see Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). So the next time you go through some sort of trial, don't pray, "God get me out of this!" Instead, pray, "God get me through this ... and while you are doing that ... help me to learn whatever it is I need to learn to become more like Jesus!" That's what I will be praying tomorrow (and Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday . . . !).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

BTW .... My posts will be a bit fewer ... and a bit further in between than usual after tomorrow. Typing with one hand can tend to be a bit slower than using two!

Encouragement Needed ... Encouragement Received!

In the last six days I have undergone five tests ... all related to this kidney stone episode that I referenced last week. The two tests I had done yesterday (ultrasound and x-ray) showed no sign of the kidney stone! Yes! So I am now cleared for my surgery, which will take place this coming Thursday morning. I never thought I would be excited to undergo surgery! But it has been a looonnnggg time coming and this extra week of delay has just made the wait seem all the longer!

Yesterday I attended the memorial service for a dear saint. Jeannette served the Lord faithfully for many, many years. Her service, written and planned entirely by Jeannette, was a testimony to God's grace at work in her life. On the back of the program was a prayer she had written back in the 1970's. God spoke to me in a powerful way through a couple of  her lines. Jeanette wrote,

I choose to ... acquiesce in Your will even though I don't always like it, rely on Your promises even when they look impossible, and trust Your providence even when I don't understand it. I yield to your sovereignty all that I am and have; do with me as You will. 

So ... how did God speak to me? When I read those words, I was just two hours away from my appointment for the two medical tests I had to undergo. The results of these tests would determine whether or not my family physician would give me the green light for my surgery. Jeannette's words reminded me that I was firmly in the grip of God. He in his providence has a plan for me. This plan included when I would undergo the surgery. So this beautiful reminder from the pen of Jeannette was used of God to settle my heart and bring peace to my soul.

Thanks, Jeannette!

And thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ - Yet Another Special Weekend Edition

Yikes! Two weeks in a row I have failed to get my Friday Coffee with PJ post done in time! Last week I blamed it on the holiday. This week I will blame it on the wrestling bout I had with a kidney stone (see Wednesday's post for more details!). So ... as you pour yourself a cup of your favorite weekend morning brew (for me it's the same as Friday - and everyday for that matter!) ... here are couple of random thoughts.

1. I could have very easily gotten bent out of shape over the postponement of this week's surgery. For starters, my arm has been injured since April. Even though it does not hurt all the time, it sure hurts enough. So I would like to take the first big step toward its healing!  In addition, I am not the bravest man this world has ever seen (just put me in a room full of cockroaches and you will see just what I am saying!). Just the thought of a surgeon slicing my forearm makes me faint of head and heart! And finally, the type of repair I am having done involves a long healing process. So the sooner I get the surgery done, the sooner down the road I will have my left arm back! So as I said above, I could have very easily gotten discouraged over this postponement. But I did not. How so? Hmm. Have you ever had a kidney stone? So I guess I was a bit preoccupied which did not allow for any time to really think much about the postponed surgery. I also leaned on the reality of God's sovereignty - and this is key! For reasons known only to God, He allowed this kidney stone to get in the way of my comfort and ultimately my surgery. And since God never makes a mistake, I am OK with that. But I am praying that God will, in his providence, allow me to be well enough to go through the surgery this upcoming Thursday. Would you please pray for me along those lines? Thanks!

2. The other day I tweeted a great Paul Tripp quote that I had run across. "No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do."  That is so true. Therefore it is important that your self-talk is saturated in God's truth. You see, the Enemy is a liar and his native language is that of the lie (John 8:44). Since Satan has this world system firmly in his grip (1 John 5:19), the messages we are bombarded with day in and day out are dripping with the devil's lies. Unfortunately, all too often, we buy into these lies. And so we tell ourselves that physical beauty, money (and all that money buys), status, power, fame .... all these things and more will make us a better us! Nothing could be more wrong! We need to combat these lies with the truth of God's Word. As we tell ourselves what really matters in life ... we need to get the substance of our self-talk in line with God's truth. Only the Creator knows what really matters ... and what will help us to live lives that matter - for Him and all eternity. SOOOOO are you getting to know the BOOK? You can't influence yourself with the Truth if you don't know it!  Take a moment and check out our CARPE DIEM Challenge by clicking on the Carpe Diem button to the right. And then start digging!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Journey Unforseen and Unenjoyed!

This past Sunday morning began like most Sunday mornings. I climbed out of bed, shaved, spent a lot of time on my hair, dressed and headed for my office. Little did I know the day would be anything like a routine Sunday morning.

All was proceeding as planned (at least as per my understanding of the plan). But, I didn't know the real plan! As our worship service began, everything took a turn that I had not seen coming! Unknown to me, the church staff had been planning for several months a surprise 25th anniversary celebration (to think I was only 33 when I came as lead pastor at Grace!). It was a day my wife and I will always cherish, knowing that those whom we have ministered to over the years love us as we in turn have (and continue to) love them! So ... many thanks to ALL who came, served, planned, gave, etc. to make the day so special. I trust God was glorified as I know without HIS grace in our lives, we could never have accomplished anything of eternal value in our service for Him!

Now, what most don't know about Sunday is the fact that I was in pain. It sprung up in my lower back, left side about mid morning ... uninvited, unexpected, and at times, very distracting. I had no idea what it was. By Monday noon, the growing pain level led me to go see my family doctor. He suspected a kidney stone(s). He gave me a pain med prescription, told me to drink a lot, scheduled a CAT scan for the next morning, and sent me home. By Tuesday late afternoon, I received the results of the CAT scan. It showed no kidney stones. Hmm. Then WHAT was causing the pain? I made an appointment to head back to my family doctor for today. I never made it. By about 5 PM yesterday (Tuesday) I had my wife drive me to the local hospital's emergency room. Five hours, three tests and a lot of laying around later, the ER doctor informed me that I did indeed have a kidney stone. SO ... before sending me home a nurse gave me an injection of some good old powerful pain med (in my buttocks ... I have not had that done since I was a kid!). Ahhh ... quick relief from the pain. Before I knew it I was home and sound asleep in bed

This morning I awoke to no pain (except for the injection site in my buttocks!). So immediately I got excited, thinking that tomorrow's surgery would be a go (to repair a torn distal biceps tendon). That
excitement did not last long. My family doctor threw a huge wet blanket on it! He told me that just because there is no pain, that does not mean no stone! It may have just stopped moving. SOOO ... he told me NO SURGERY tomorrow! Instead, I need to start on a round of antibiotics, drink a flood of water each day, and have a follow up ultrasound and x-ray on Monday. If those are OK ... he will approve the surgery, which I am hoping can occur on next Thursday.

So when I reflect on these past few days, I think of the old intro to ABC's Wide World of Sports Program (first 15 seconds or so). This week has contained a savory taste of the thrill of victory and a some of the agony of defeat! But in it all ... God is in control!

Thanks for stopping by ... and thanks for your prayers for me. I appreciate it more than you know!


D.L. Moody was a man God used in a mighty way. Not because he had money. Not because he had a stellar education (he never progressed past the fifth grade). Not because of family connections (his father, who died when Moody was four, was a poor farmer). No ... God used D.L. Moody because D.L. Moody made himself available to God. In what may be the most well known quotes attributed to Moody, the evangelist described his life's goal:

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

A look at his life shows that he did his best to live this out. But that does not mean he did not struggle in his lifelong attempt! Below is a graphic containing another Moody quote. This one really resonated with me. I could not have said it better myself about myself! 

Ahh .... thank God for HIS grace the Holy Spirit brings to me. A grace that continues to mold and make me into the image of His Son (Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 15:10). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ ... Special Weekend Edition

The title of today's blog is my attempt of putting a positive spin on running behind schedule this week. One reason for this is that I actually took two days off (my regular day off on Monday ... and since Monday was a holiday, I relaxed a bit and took Thursday off as well). As a result, I am running about a day late! So ... pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Back on August 28th, celebrity Joan Rivers underwent surgery on her vocal chords. This past Thursday she died from complications of that surgery. Her death, coming on the heels of the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams, reminds us that death will one day come calling for all of us. It doesn't matter how much money or fame one might possess. Death is no respecter of persons. The Bible makes it clear that all of us will one day exit through that same door (compare Ezekiel 18:4, 20 with Romans 3:23). The Bible is equally clear that death is not the end of our existence. But there is an "after" to death. In addition to teaching that all of us will one day die, Hebrews 9:27 teaches us that a judgment follows death. Scripture makes reference to two judgments, One is for those who are not followers of Jesus Christ. This judgment is described in Revelation 20 and is often referred to as the Great White Throne Judgment. Those whose names are not found in the Lamb's Book of Life will be cast into what the Bible calls "the lake of fire." The second judgment found in the New Testament is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10. This "bema seat" judgment is for believers. That's right! We who have chosen to follow Jesus will stand before him to give an account for how we have lived our lives since coming to faith in Christ. SOOO ... all this to ask ... are YOU ready to stand before God? If you have not made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, it is never too late to do so! Check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.  And if you have committed  your life, soul and eternal welfare to Christ, then are you living your life in such a way that he would be able to say to you when you stand before him, "Well done my good and faithful servant?" How you answer both of those questions will have HUGE implications for your eternal welfare!

2. On Thursday of this week, I read an article on Lancaster Online about a Great Dane whose owner (or is it master ... or Dad ... not sure of the term of choice dog owners prefer) had to rush the dog to the vets. It was vomiting and showing other signs of being very, very sick. A quick x-ray revealed a large amount of foreign substance in the dog's stomach. Surgery revealed that the foreign matter consisted of 43 1/2 socks that the Dane had eaten. Now that's quite the pile of socks! No wonder the canine was so ill! Great Danes are big dogs. And as such they need to eat a lot. But they must eat the right stuff ... And somehow, socks just don't fit in that category ... no matter how tasty they might be! So with us, my friends. Not only do we need to feed our bodies healthy foods, we also must be intentional about feeding our minds and souls healthy food as well (I am guessing you know where I am going with this!) ... Of course, soul-food doesn't get any healthier than the Bible! After all, it is the very word of the One who designed, created and even now sustains us. So given this ... how much time do you spend in God's Word each week? Your answer to that question will go a long way toward revealing the health of your mind and your soul.

3, In just five days I will be undergoing surgery (repair of a torn distal biceps tendon). This will leave me without the use of my left arm for a longer period of time than I would like. So even though I am right-handed, I will be limited in the performance of certain activities ... one of which is typing! Therefore, you will see a fall off of the number of posts that I will be posting. And I would appreciate your prayers that all goes well on Thursday!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

"John, Are You in the Cookie Jar Again?"

I can still see it sitting on our kitchen counter – an olive green ceramic cookie jar.  My mom always made sure it was stuffed full of cookies (which was not easy with me, my twin brother and a little brother running around the house!).  Now there was THE RULE (and it was the ONLY rule) regarding the cookie jar.  We could not grab a cookie or two (or three or four) just any time we wanted. We had to have permission first.  I want you to know that I tried to stick by THE RULE.  But that cookie jar had a powerful pull on my little hands.  It seems like any time I walked near it, my hands were drawn to it, like a piece of iron to a powerful magnet.  When this happened, I just went with the flow.  I would carefully lift the ceramic top, reach in and grab the loot, and then as quietly as possible, set the lid back on the cookie jar.  Almost without exception, the noise of ceramic on ceramic alerted my mom that someone was in the cookie jar. (How she could hear that from halfway down the block was beyond me! Perhaps she was a super hero in hiding!). 

This memory came to mind as I was read 1 John 2:28 recently in our Carpe Diem reading.  In this verse we read, “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”  I wonder.  How many of us will be caught with our hands in the “cookie jar” of sin when Jesus returns?  Let’s pay close attention to John’s exhortation here and strive to stay in step with Jesus.  Being embarrassed is never pleasant – and how much more so when it will be before the One who gave His life for us! 

Thanks for listening,


An Open Letter to the Church Family at Grace Church of Willow Valley

Twenty-five years ago, I entered the pulpit (and it was a fairly large pulpit back then) at Grace Church to begin what I was hoping would be a long and fruitful ministry (by long I was thinking ten years or so). Obviously, God had other plans. The years have been far more than ten. As for being fruitful, I defer to God on that call.

To mark this occasion ... here is a letter for my family at Grace Church at Willow Valley. If you are not part of our church family, feel free to read the letter, too. These twenty-five years have passed quickly. But my resolve to glorify God as I serve Jesus Christ in this place has not. I hope it has only grown.

September 1, 2014

 Dear Grace Family,                                                                                          

In Psalm 16:6, King David wrote the following words: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” The boundary lines he has in mind here are not the boundary lines of a piece of land, but rather the boundary lines of his life. David believed God had placed him in the place where he was (King of Israel), and he was rejoicing in God’s providence and the blessings he enjoyed as a result.

I can definitely relate to David. I also believe that “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” It has been twenty-five years this day since God in His providence led me and my family here to Lancaster County and Grace Church. When I first arrived, I asked the Lord for a ministry here that would last ten years (after serving a church for three years and another for five, I was looking for a pastorate of a little longer tenure). Little did I realize that God would more than honor that desire with a ministry that is at twenty-five years and counting!

In writing this letter to you, my family at Grace, it's my desire to let you know that there is no other place on this planet that I would rather be serving Jesus Christ than right here! You are a special group of people whom I have grown to love dearly across the years. I thank you for all of your loving support that you have given to me and my family. My prayer is that God will continue to allow us to deepen our love for God, nurture our love for others and address our world’s need for Christ – TOGETHER – for yet a few more years!

Together (you, me and God) we can do much!

Pastor John 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Another Friday morning ... another cup of rich, steamy coffee! Yum! Pour yourself a cup (of coffee or whatever it is you drink in the morning) and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Church growth, Chinese style! Reports coming out of Communist governed China indicate that the church there is doing much more than merely surviving - it is thriving! Check out this report and then take a moment and praise and pray ... for what God is doing in the world's most populated country!

2. During last winter's destructive ice storm, the five birch trees that line the back of my yard took a major hit. Clean up from the storm has taken two visits by two different tree outfits (and a major hit on my bank account!). During those visits, using their power saws and other equipment, the arborists removed a lot of broken, twisted limbs. Now, even with the damage cleaned up, the trees still bear the "scars" of the winter's wrath! But, these tree experts assured me that the trees should make a strong comeback in the next couple of years.

What the heavy ice accumulation did to my trees reminds me of what sin does to all of us. It twists us. It distorts us. It bends and even sometimes breaks us. All of us. No exceptions (I recently said to my wife that all of us are dysfunctional ... its just that some of us are more dysfunctional than others!). Therefore, all of us are in need of the hand of the divine "tree surgeon" to come and prune out the broken and twisted limbs (John 15:1-11). Only as the Master prunes us will we be in a position to bear much fruit for him (AND experience the JOY that comes from doing so!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Robbing the Amish? Really?

The headline of today's Lancaster newspaper's front page reads: "Police search for buggy bandit." The story went on to detail the holdup at gunpoint of three Amish who were heading home. He demanded their money. They threw their wallets to him and as he stooped down to pick them up ... they turned the horse into the adjacent field and off they went (pretty quick thinking on their part). The thug who robbed them, apparently satisfied with his take, climbed back in his van and took off. 

This incident brought to my mind a couple of thing, the first being the expression, "stealing candy from a baby." Surely if this guy knew anything about the Amish ... he would have known that they are a very peaceful people who believe in nonresistance. In other words, they were an easy mark. In addition, this whole incident reminded me that no one is exempt from being victimized by others. Not the Amish ... not you and not me. We live in a broken and twisted world ... populated with broken and twisted people (which, by the way, includes you and me!). This is not God's doing. It's ours. All the evil, the brokenness, the pain and heartache is all the result of our rebellion against the God who made us. And the only solution to this dilemma is found in the greatest act of evil ever perpetuated by man: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Really? How so? I have heard it said that evil committed suicide on the day of Christ's murder. For when evil men fueled by the evil powers of the unseen world nailed Christ to the cross, they were nailing their own death sentence on that cross (Colossians 2:13-15). But what was a death sentence for evil brought for humanity the hope of forgiveness and new life (Ephesians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17). This promise becomes a reality for us when we by faith embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ! My friend, if you have never done so, let me encourage you to check out this message of hope: Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

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Please continue to Pray for the Central African Republic - God Is at Work!

The new transitional government of the Central African Republic is doing its best to move forward. But the obstacles in its path are many and great. In light of this, I am so thankful for my friend and colleague, Dr. Augustin Hibaile and his work among government officials. Please take a moment to read his most recent email (dated August 24th) and then PRAY for him. God is opening doors to him and I am sure, knowing this man as I do, that his greatest desire is to serve them by pointing them to Jesus Christ. Thanks for caring enough to pray.

Greetings from Bangui,

We prayed for news members of the transition Government of the Central African Republic to be appointed. Almost 13 days after the New Prime Minister was appointed by the President of the State, 30 men and women were appointed last Friday to lead the different departments of the Government until a democratic election in 2015.

Among those Ministers of the Government, five are known to me. I just called two of them, one who is a Professor of the University is now the Minister of Higher Education and Chancellor of the University of Bangui. He was pleased to receive my congratulation. Than he said to me, "I am sure that you put me on the list of your prayer, because I need wisdom to lead the department I am in charge. I will use the leadership principles you and Pointman Leadership Institute have taught me. My cabinet is wide open for you to come and strengthen my skill in leadership." He even reminded me on the example of me showing the picture of my wife on the screen during the Pointman leadership explaining my engagement in
marriage, where I said that I always has the picture of my wife in my wallet and think of her often when I travel. He said that he never forget that example and want to follow my example.

The second one I taught with today is an  Inspector of Finance former General Director of the Departement of Finance. He is a Deacon of one of our Grace Brethren Churches. He asked me to go and pray with him just after he will begin his new role.

Please pray that doors will be opened for me to minister to those key leaders in this critical time our country is going through. Those Ministers will be in favor of the Government leadership seminar I would like to organize before the √©lections.

Last Friday, I met with the faculty of the University to set a date for the ceremony where my organization will honor some students who have been in small groups to learn on developing their habitude and attitude of leadership through the book of Dr Tim Elmore, President of Growing Leaders who have been one of our speakers during the students leadership conference in Bangui in 2012. September 27 will be a great day for that event. Please pray that the ceremony will bring a great impact on the students and give my organization to create more small groups.

Thanks for partnership with me in the great ministry God calls me to do even in a very difficult environment.


Dr. Augustin Hibaile 

To stay connected with Augustin's ministry, visit the Friends of CIDEL website. 

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