Friday Coffee with PJ

Grab your cup of morning coffee, or if you must, tea (and on this frigid morning why would you not want to be drinking something hot?), and take a moment to join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. If you are anything like me, you are really (and I mean REALLY) hungering for spring! Yesterday, just to get my thoughts off of this brutal, never-ending winter weather, I changed the photo on my smartphone's lock screen. Now when I pick up my phone and turn it on, there before me is a picture of me holding a nice size bass that I had caught fishing a private pond down in Virginia ... last April, I believe. Ahh ... April is indeed just around the corner! As I thought about how anxious I am to experience the warm, gentle breezes of spring, I got to thinking: Am I as anxious to experience the awesome presence of God in my life? Am I hungering for God as much as I am longing for spring? That's something all of us should spend some time reflecting on. And if we find our appetite for God somewhat wanting ... it may be that we are doing things that are robbing us of an appetite for him.

2. I was privileged to eavesdrop on a conversation the other day between my almost five year old granddaughter and my 3 1/2 year old grandson. It went something like this:

Jack: "Elwa. Do you have twains at your house?"
Ella: "No. We have cars but we don't have any trains."
Jack: "But why do  you have cars and no twains?"
Ella: "I don't know. But we could go and buy some trains."
Jack: "Well, there are twains upstairs."

Jack just loves trains. He loves to read books about trains, play with his toy trains, watch dvds about trains. I guess you could say that he has a "one track mind!" That's something we who have chosen to follow Christ could use: a one track mind. A mind that seeks one thing in life ... to bring glory and honor to the God who made us, the God who saved us, and the God who day in and day out keeps us. Seeking him above all else is something for which we all must strive to do (Psalm 27:4; Matthew 6:33).

Thanks for stopping by . . . and have a great weekend! Looking forward to seeing you who call Grace Church your family on Sunday (that is, if I don't see you first at our Student Ministries Auction on Saturday morning!).


In His Grip!

It seems like Old Man Winter has us in an iron-like grip that just won't relax! Cold, snow, more cold and more snow. The weather reports could be reruns and it would make no difference! The very words "cold" and "snow" are becoming more distasteful than a spoonful of sauerkraut topping off a bowl of dill pickle ice cream! And the long range forecast for the month of March? More of the same!

Now as firm as winter's grip has been, it is nothing in comparison to the grip our God has upon those of us who are his children! King David realized this. He expressed his thoughts about it in Psalm 139:7-10 where he states that no matter where he might go, God's right hand (the hand of power) would hold him fast (i.e. - would be gripping him firmly!). Isn't it great to know that when life begins to crumble around us and we don't know where to turn . . . God has us firmly in HIS grip! Wow! Now that's worth a hearty "THANK YOU LORD!" Yes?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

PS ... and if you are not sure about your standing (or lack thereof) in the family of God, take a moment and check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Throwing Rocks at the Devil!

Recently our church staff finished reading through (and discussing through) an excellent book by Charles Stanley titled, When the Enemy Strikes.  It is an excellent treatment of what the Bible teaches on the spiritual battle that is raging around us.

Contrast this solid truth with what happens across the globe in Saudi Arabia. Every year, two million Islamic faithful take their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca (all physically and financially able Muslims are required to make this pilgrimage at least once).  One of the rituals of this pilgrimage is the “stoning of the devil.”  During the course of three days, the pilgrims throw a total of 49 pebbles at three statues representing Satan (multiply 49 by 2 million and that is a lot of stones!).  In doing so, the pilgrims hope to destroy the work of Satan against their faith.  How sad.  To think that mere stones can destroy Satan and his work!  When I was a kid, my mom taught me the old rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”  Now I know that is totally not true for you and me – words can often wound and injure far more seriously than sticks and stones.  But you know – it is not true for Satan either.  Satan as a spirit being has no bones – so stones will never be able to hurt or scare him.  But there is a WORD that can and will rock Satan to the very depth of his being – it is the WORD of God.  If you want to ward off the attacks of Satan, do what Jesus did.  Throw the Word of God at him (see Matthew 4:1-11).  To be able to do so means you must KNOW God’s Word.  If the Son of God relied on God’s Word to fight off the Enemy – how much more must we!

So … what is your plan to get to know God’s Word and then put it into practice?

Thanks for stopping by . . . and CARPE DIEM by getting to know and live the Scriptures!


A Prayer for Resetting Your Heart on Jesus!

Here's a prayer for your Sunday from one of my favorite devotional books. I encourage you to read through this prayer and make Scotty's prayer YOUR prayer! May God bless you abundantly with his presence on this Lord's Day and everyday!

Gracious Jesus, I don’t think I’ve ever praised you for a phone with GPS before today. But as someone born with neither an internal compass nor a gyroscope, someone who labors to find his parked car, someone who walks out of a hotel room not remembering if the elevator is to the right or the left . . . I give you praise for the good gifts of modern technology. Jesus, in a far more profound way, I’m praising you this morning for the Scriptures, for they are constantly redirecting my wandering heart to its true destination. And I’m praising you for the gospel, for the gospel is not only my GPS but the car that gets me home. Indeed, Jesus, I’m resetting my heart on you this morning (Colossians 3:1-4). You are my destination and my delight. By God’s grace, your death is considered to be mine. When you died on the cross, God punished you for all my sins. When you were raised from the dead, I was raised with you and was given a whole new life and story. Right now my life is safely hidden in you, for God has placed me in union with you, Jesus. I’m covered with your righteousness, completely forgiven and acceptable to God, and very much loved by him. I’m destined to become as lovely and as loving as you and to reign with your whole bride in the new heaven and new earth. There’s no other story I’d rather be in— and yet, until the day you return, I’ll be tempted to think otherwise. No one and nothing else is worthy of my heart’s adoration, affection, and allegiance— only you, though good things and bad things claim otherwise. I set my heart on you today, Jesus, as my ultimate good. Not on my reputation, my children, my marriage, my stuff, my job. Not on my desire to get even, to get out, to be liked, to be happy, to be in control, to be safe. Jesus, you’ve done everything for me, and now I trust you to do everything in me that will bring you glory. In your matchless name I pray. Amen.  

(Smith, Scotty (2011-09-01). Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith (p. 20). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday Coffee with PJ will return next Friday. Just ran out of week. But before I go ... here is something to chew on.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (Phillipians 2:3-4). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Lawbreaker Beware!

Recently, my wife and I enjoyed a few days at one of our favorite places to get away ... Colonial Williamsburg. We both love history, and each trip there results in learning something new about the founding of our country. Our recent visit did not disappoint!

On this particular trip, I unfortunately ran afoul of the law and got thrown into the stocks. Well ... not quite! I willingly got into the stocks for this photo opp! But let me tell you - this wouldn't be something I would ever opt to do for any length of time. I would think it must have proved to be a deterrent to crime back in colonial days. Along with the physical discomfort, the public humiliation must have been great indeed! The message of the stocks was: lawbreaker beware!

This same message is the message of the Bible: Lawbreaker beware! The law in question is not a law written by human hands. No ... the law we are all guilty of breaking is the law written by God himself. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that since we are all guilty of breaking God's law, we are all under indictment (Romans 3:19; 23). And there is coming a day when we will all stand before God and face his judgment for our rebellion against him and his law (Revelation 20:11-15).

But the same Bible that says to the lawbreaker (which is all of us): "Beware!" also says to all of us, "Believe!" Believe what? Believe the gospel! Believe that Jesus Christ, God's Son, died to pay the penalty for our sin. That he took our punishment upon himself so that we might not have to face God's wrath and judgment (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Isaiah 53:5-6).

So my friends, I urge you to turn from (the Bible's word is "repent") your sin and rebellion against the God who made you . . .and in faith turn to the God who is able to forgive your sin and give you new life! Only then will you be truly FREE to live your life as God has made you to live --- all for HIS glory (which is also for your greatest good!).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

On this fine winter day ... during a winter that does not seem to want to release its icy grip ... why don't you grab a cup of hot coffee, tea or chocolate and join me for a few minutes of random thinking.

1. Today is, let me think . . . ahh, yes . . . today is Valentine's Day. Just kidding of course! I am guessing the day probably means more to women than men, which is quite a shame, really! As I see it, this day is a great reminder of just how we husbands need to be treating our wives. The Bible is quite clear on this as we are commanded (did you hear that guys? COMMANDED) by God to love our wives. And this is not some sort of casual love that is being mandated ... but a love exemplified by Jesus Christ himself when he gave his life for us "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8). So husbands ... are you loving your wives as Christ loved the church, His bride (Ephesians 5:25)?  If she were to be asked, :"Does your husband cherish you?" how do you think she would respond?  Cherishing one's wife is not a once a year sort of thing that you add to your schedule. It needs to be an every day happening! May God help all of us husbands to do just that! I know I have some growing to do in this area!

2. Snow! You done with it too? I sure am. Two consecutive mornings of blowing out my driveway and digging out our mini-van (which, by the way, I still cannot believe we have!) is more than ENOUGH for me! But I must admit I did enjoy using my snow blower, especially yesterday. After doing some preliminary shoveling in front of my garage so I could get my snow blower out and ready to use, I was thrilled to watch the snow blower do most of the work!. These machines are real back savers! If you don't have one, I hope you know someone who does! But this snow will soon be a distant memory (well, after yet some more tonight!). I can see it now ... I will be cutting the grass or spreading some mulch, complaining about the work. OH we human beings are so hard to please! Let's all purpose to put off the griping ... and put on contentment. After all, there are many, many people who have no home and therefore no driveway to clear of snow, nor lawn to cut, nor flower beds to mulch.The vast majority of us our very wealthy compared to much of our world's population. Let's also purpose to use this wealth to further the work of God's kingdom . . . and to help the poor! Let's practice biblical, God-honoring, Kingdom-advancing stewardship!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Cheer Up! Spring Is on the Way!

I am going to guess that you probably feel a lot like I do concerning the approaching winter storm. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Of course, I realize that there are some rather strange people among us that no matter how much snow falls, it is NEVER ENOUGH! Well, in my younger years, I may have leaned in that direction, but now now! Especially when I scheduled this weekend as a vacation weekend during which my wife and I are hoping to head south to Williamsburg, Virginia (of course, that's all "up in the air" right now - no pun intended!).

But ... I do have some good news. When I flipped my calendar just ONE PAGE ... I saw, staring me in the face, MARCH 20th! What's so special about that particular date? Well ... March 20th is the first official day of SPRING! Yes! Yes! Yes! And I just LOVE spring, this spring probably more so than usual! In fact, I thought I would list for you the top ten reasons as to why I get excited just thinking about spring:

10.Spring means winter is over for another year! Yea - no more below zero wind chills!
9. My anniversary falls in spring (May 13th).  
8. Flowers – I love to see flowers bloom (after a dull and dreary winter – the colors are fantastic!).  
7. Spring means winter is over for another year! Yea - no more snow removal!   
6. My birthday falls in March (meteorological spring actually begins March 1st).  
5. Easter falls in spring and I love this annual celebration of Christ’s resurrection! 
4. I can fire up the gas grill and throw on the kielbasa!  
3. Spring means winter is over for another year! Yea - no more cancelled church services or programs!  
2. Four of my grandchildren, and two of my children were born in the spring!   
1. Spring means winter is over for another year!  ENOUGH SAID! 

As I contemplate the coming of spring and all the reasons why I am grateful for it – I am reminded of James 1:17 which reads, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” I thank God for the good gift of spring and the renewal of nature that it brings!  

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Loving God and Loving Others!

This past Sunday, we walked through the passage in Mark in which Jesus spells out the two "Great Commandments" ... to love God with all that we are and with all of our energy AND to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The two are related in that if we are not loving the Creator ... then we cannot love his creatures. In addition, if we do not love others whom we can see, how will we ever love God whom we cannot (1 John 4:20)?

So, my friends, I encourage you today to spend some time evaluating how you are doing in loving God and loving others. Now the second commandment (to love others) is easier to get a handle on. If I truly love others as I love myself, then I will treat them as I would want treated, I will seek their welfare and give to their needs (even if it costs me), I will pray for them, etc., etc., etc.). But it proves more difficult to evaluate how we are doing with the first great commandment to love God with all our being and energy. With that in mind, here are some insightful words from J.I. Packer that may prove helpful:

"Loving God is a matter of saying and meaning what the psalmist said: 'There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you' (Psalm 73:25) -- nothing, that is, that I would not consent to lose if adhering to God required it. Thus, 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 I'm seeking to lead others into the same God-glorifying life pattern." 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Brief Prayer for Your Sunday!

Sunday is the day we set aside to come together as God's family to focus our thoughts and affections upon Him. Here is a prayer for you! Please take a moment and read it ... and then pray it for yourself and all you love! 

Father God, 

On this day, I feel a great need for you, 
I fear that all too often I allow the stuff
   and activities of this world to eclipse 
   my view of you. Some times this 
   eclipse is partial, other times total. 
Today, I need a fuller glimpse of you. 
Please open the eyes of my heart and soul
   to see you more clearly so that I can 
   know you more fully and therefore
   love you more deeply. 

Knowing you is indeed the key to 
   loving you. So this day, as I spend 
   time in your Word, may your Holy Spirit
   teach me what I need to know about you: 
   your nature, character, will and ways. 
Grant me a heart willing to respond to 
   whatever you have for me. 

I ask this ... all by your grace and for your glory! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

Well .. it's Friday of what has proven to be a looonnnggg week (at least as far as the weather has been concerned). Snow ... then ice ... now perhaps more snow over the weekend? Here's one guy that's hoping this winter weather train gets derailed! All that said, grab a cup of your favorite hot brew and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Puzzles.Of course, puzzles take numerous forms from the million piece puzzles that can frustrate to hours, to the many forms of digital puzzles that one can spend hours on, to the colorful rubik's cube, to a crossword puzzle ... and on and on it goes. Some people love to tackle puzzles and will spend hours doing so. Others would be heading out the door should they be asked to help solve one. However, all of us deal with a puzzle ... and we deal with this particular puzzle 24/7/365. It's called "LIFE." And yes, life can be a puzzle (and if you don't agree, then let me ask you ... Do you have an explanation as to why certain things happen in your life?). I sure don't. Circumstances often arise in my life ... and my first reaction is to look toward heaven and ask, "Why?" Then I spend a lot of time (way too much!) trying to figure out the "why's" behind the "what's" in my life. But there is a better way. It is called the way of FAITH! My life (and all of its circumstances) are in HIS hands. And MY WAYS of doing things is very often not HIS WAYS of doing things (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-35). So let's seek to walk by faith rather than sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) and allow our God to make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

2. If you talk to the average Christian about evangelism, you just might find him heading to the nearest exit. The topic of sharing one's faith is not one that evokes a lot of warm fuzzies. For many Christians, thoughts of evangelism only conjure up feelings of guilt and frustration. If this is true of  you (or even if it is not), please take a moment to read Simple Evangelism in the Church. The writer of this post "gets it!" I hope we would "get it" too!

3. This morning I called a tree service. Why? The ice storm that hit the other day did some significant damage to a group of birch trees in my back yard (see photo). As a result I need someone to come in to clean up the mess (as it is way beyond my ability to do it!). After spending several minutes checking calendars, we decided on a date over two weeks out. The tree service lady was apologetic ... but I told her I understood. There are probably hundreds of people here in Lancaster County who also need a tree service right now. Now I could grumble and complain about this ... I mean, having this damage to clean up which will impact my wallet was not something I asked for! And to wait so long ... come on, this is America where I should be able to have it done quicker than Jack jumped over whatever it was that he jumped over! But . . . where does complaining ever get anybody? Oh sure, some people complain so loudly and so frequently, that people respond just to quiet them and get rid of them. But is that a way for a follower of Christ to act? Certainly not! Our calling is to do "all things without grumbling and disputing (complaining)" (Philippians 2:14). And that includes cleaning up the backyard mess!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

What a Name!

On Monday as I was watching the local television station's coverage of the snow storm, they interviewed the manager of an adjacent county's Penn DOT snow removal operation. His last name really grabbed my attention. It was "Storm!" Sure appropriate for the situation!

When it comes to names, there is no more appropriate name than the one given to Jesus. His name means "savior." Joseph was instructed by an angel of the Lord to give this name to the baby born to his bethrothed Mary. According to the angel, this baby would go on to "save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:18-25). The Apostle Peter understood the significance of the name, "Jesus," for he told the leaders of the Jews that "is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). In addition, the Apostle Paul writes that there is coming a day when at the name of Jesus, "every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11). 

My friend, my question for you is two-fold. First off, have you embraced Jesus as your Savior (for what that all means, I highly recommend you check out, Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face)? Secondly, if you have taken that step of faith at some time in your past, are you RIGHT NOW seeking to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Is it your heart's desire to be obedient to Romans 12:1-2? Always remember that it is only as we live our lives seeking to find our utmost satisfaction in him that he will be glorified in us! And that should be the aim of our lives! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Frustrated by the Weather?

One of my favorite meterologists tweeted the following tweet this morning: "Snowstorms for the Eastern U.S. are backed up all the way to China this morning." So ... it does not look like this weather pattern of cold, snowy weather is going to change any time soon. Therefore I thought you might want to lighten up your day. So take a minute to view what I thought was one of the funniest Super Bowl ads I have seen in a while. When I saw it Sunday evening, I almost fell of the couch laughing! The scary thing is that I once saw a dog that looked something like this (that dog was a mix between a German Shepherd and a beagle!).  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by . . . and don't forget to SEIZE THE DAY by getting into God's Word!

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...