Friday Coffee with PJ

Well ... running a bit late this morning. Already had my coffee ... may have another cup. But for what they're worth, here are a couple of random thoughts for your day.

1. All of us need daily reminders. In fact, both the App Store (Apple) and Google Play (Google's version of Apple's App Store) have numerous offerings to help us remember the stuff of life. But there are some really important things that we need to remind ourselves of on a daily basis.These are big realities about God and us that can easily get pushed aside. And when that happens, we can lose our grip on what really does matter in life. Take a moment and read Ten Big Daily Reminders, one of Desiring God's most read blog posts of all time. You will be better for it!

2.  A cease fire accord was signed Wednesday by the warring factions in the Central African Republic. So perhaps this is a good first step toward greater stability in this impoverished and war weary country. Please continue to pray for the people of the CAR and for the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. Yesterday my wife and I attended the production of Moses at Sight and Sound Theater here in Lancaster County (vs. the theater the company owns and operates in Branson, Missouri). The performance was marked by striking sets (think three stages - center and both sides), a variety of very lively animals, powerful vocals and a number of surprises. The story of Moses came to life in a wonderful way. But what my wife and I most appreciated was the conclusion of the show. For in its final moments, it was no longer Moses who was center stage. It was Jesus the Christ. Like Moses, Jesus delivers his people from their bondage. And like the passover lamb whose blood was smeared over the doorposts of the children of Israel's homes, so the blood of Jesus as our passover lamb, when applied to our lives, removes the sin that keeps us in bondage. As Jesus himself said, "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:31-32, 36). After the curtain fell, an invitation was given to one and all to come to the front if they had any questions about how to find freedom in Christ. I pray that many who come to Sight and Sound seeking entertainment, will find much more than merely a good time. May they find the One True God and the freedom that comes only through his Son Jesus Christ. And if you have any questions on just how you can find forgiveness and freedom, check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Quick Reconnect with a Friend!

This past week, our Fellowship of Churches conducted it's annual conference for adults (vs. the annual conference for youth known as Momentum).  Although I had planned to attend the entire conference, our plans changed at the last moment. Since the conference was being held in Washington, D.C., my wife and I were able to attend the final day. One of the many joys of the day was a brief reconnect with a dear friend from the heart of Africa. I first met Dr. Hibaile when he spoke at our church here in Lancaster back in 2007. Little did I realize then that two years later would see me ministering at his side in the Central African Republic. Since my trip there, three of us established a web site for the Friends of CIDEL (Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership - Dr. Hibaile's ministry).

During the recent violence and instability in the CAR (here is an update on the situation) in which many people were killed and homes looted, Dr. Hibaile and his wife discussed the possibility of leaving the country. They decided against fleeing the country for, in Dr. Hibaile's words, they believed "we were needed here." So stay they did. As rebels approached the capital city of Bangui, Encompass World Partners decided to evacuate our mission staff who were living in the Encompass mission station in Bangui, The mission asked Dr. Hibaile if he and his family would live at the station to care for it and for the many refugees who had come seeking shelter and protection. So he and his family left their home (located on the northern edge of the city which was the very direction from which the rebels were approaching) and has been living at the station ever since. He told me on Sunday that even though homes all around his have been looted and damaged, some even destroyed, his has been untouched. Wow! No doubt the hand of God at work!

Please continue to pray for the situation in the CAR. And pray for my dear friend who desires to point his people in their suffering to the God of all comfort!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday coffee with PJ

Go ahead and pour your favorite brew (I hope it's coffee) and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. For the second week in a row I will have the privilege of officiating the memorial service for a follower of Christ. Now I am not really all that surprised that we have had a death in the church family two weeks running. It's happened before and will doubtless happen again.  Death is part of the package we call life. And Christians don't possess a "Get out of jail" card when it comes to the grave. In fact God's word says that it's appointed unto every one to die and after death comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  Given this realty that one out of every one dies, that means you and I will both one day die and then face judgment. So are you ready? Are you prepared to meet the God who made you? If you have any doubts about your readiness, I encourage you to check out Two Ways to Live: a Choice We All Face.

2. As I'm writing this, the news has just broken that a Malaysian Airlines jet with 298 people on board has been allegedly hit by a missile and crashed in Ukraine. This news comes on the heels of reports of the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas ... Not to mention what's happening in Syria and Iraq. These events and many others like them, seem to show that evil has the hand. But is this truly the case?

Not at all! The Bible tells us that God is the One with the upper hand.  He is orchestrating history toward HIS conclusion.  After all, history is, bottom line, HIS-STORY!  If you doubt me on this, take an evening sometime and read the book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ (a.k.a. Revelation).   One of the messages of this book is that often reality is not as it seems. Above and beyond and behind and surrounding this natural realm in which we live is a supernatural realm.  From this supernatural realm, our sovereign God is directing the ebb and flow of the events of our natural realm so that at the end of the day HIS WILL and HIS PLAN is accomplished. In the midst of the turbulence of our world, I find this to be a great comfort.  How about YOU?

Thanks for stopping by ...

Are You Bored with the Bible?

I am sure you have had the experience (more often, I'd guess, than you would like to admit) of opening your
Bible only to find yourself staring at blank pages. And when you close it, you've wondered what it was you just read.

I encourage you to take just five minutes to listen to Pastor and author John Piper as he answers the question, "Pastor John, what do you do when you find yourself bored of reading the Bible." Here's John Piper's answer! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . and SEIZE THE DAY by KNOWING and LIVING God's Word!

Friday Coffee with PJ

Currently on my second cup of coffee (or is it my third?) ... well, who's counting! Thanks for stopping by

1. Yesterday I performed one of my pastoral "duties." I officiated a memorial service. Increasingly in our society, funerals are seen as "celebrations: (in fact, the expression "celebration of life" is really in vogue -  as you will see when you read an obituary). Gone are the days of black attire and somber moods. Now its all about celebrating the good things a person did and being glad he or she is in a "better place" - wherever that might happen to be! The sad thing about many funerals today is that all the celebrating is not based on any solid foundation. Not so with the memorial service I was privileged to lead yesterday! The woman who had died had indeed left behind the fruit of a "well lived life." What made her life so was her devotion to Jesus Christ, her love for her family, and her compassion toward others. It was a joy to celebrate her life. But what really made the service was the celebration of the gospel! For it is only through the GOOD NEWS that God so loved us that he gave his Son, Jesus, to die for us ... that we can have a celebration that really matters! In Christ we find joy in this life and hope for the next! Have you found that joy? That hope? If not, please take a moment and consider Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

2. Twice this week I took some time to fish at some nearby ponds. The first evening ... success ... catching a half a dozen fish with some of NICE size. Last evening I went out again and quick after an hour. Nary a hit ... nary a nibble. Guess the fish had already dined by the time I arrived (But as a friend once reminded me, that's why it's called "fishing" and not "catching!). All of us are called to be fishermen. Yep! Jesus in the gospels issued the call to his disciples (many who were fishermen by vocation) to follow him and he would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). How about you? Are you living your life intentionally on mission? Seeking to point people toward the Savior by what you say ... and how you live? To help you in this vital arena of our faith journey, we will be introducing two exciting mini-series on Sunday mornings this fall - stay tuned for details! But for now, here's a resource that will require a 60 second investment each day. But if you do so, you will be a better fisherman for sure! Check out The Way of the Master's Minute devotional! It's good stuff.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Defending the Bible

Yesterday I did a Google search for quotes about the Gospel. My search led me to the site,   As I read through the quotes, I noticed several quotes from Scripture. Several were quotes of Jesus, another was a quote of the Apostle Paul. What struck me was these quotes were all labeled "anonymous." Curiously, I clicked on "anonymous" which linked to another page. On this page, the reasons were given as to why a quote received the "anonymous" label. Here is what I read:

Books can be attributed to "Anonymous" for several reasons: 

* They are officially published under that name 
* They are traditional stories not attributed to a specific author 
* They are religious texts not generally attributed to a specific author 

Upon reading this, I thought to myself, "Really? Since when are these "religious texts," these quotes from the Bible, not generally attributed to a specific author? Only a bias against the Scriptures could lead a person to this conclusion. 

All this to say, there are a huge number of people around us who are either totally clueless about the Bible (the rate of biblical illiteracy is indeed climbing), or indifferent to it, or are downright antagonistic toward it. So do we need to stand up and defend it? In answer to that, I happen to agree with C.H. Spurgeon, the London pastor from yesteryear when he said, "Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 


When Germophobia Flies Over the Top!

The following list which was printed in this morning's Lancaster newspaper grabbed my attention:  The Top ten areas and objects to avoid during air travel. Here's the list:

Tray tables
Seat controls
Latches on overhead bins
Arm rests
Airplane bathrooms, especially the doorknobs
In flight magazines
Hand rails on escalators and shuttles
Chairs and seats
Airplane pillows and blankets
Luggage carts and wheelchairs

Hmm. As I looked over that list and thought of my flights last November to India, here's what ran through my mind:

Tray tables (Guess I could avoid this if I don't mind holding my food tray on my lap - sure hope the coffee is not that hot!)

Seat controls (No problem ... just sit straight up for some 16 hours or so)

Latches on overhead bins (I guess I could wear the same clothes for a week so I would not have to use the overhead bins; and medicine - who needs medicine especially if I avoid all these germs?!)

Arm rests (Tough one here ... do I check my arms when I check in my luggage?)

Airplane bathrooms, especially the doorknobs (Wow! Guess I could avoid drinking any beverage for the week before leaving  ... Oh wait, guess it's OK if I kick the door in and avoid the door handle or knob!)

In flight magazines (Not a problem ... Oh, wait, if I want to know which movie is showing on which channel, I am going to have to risk it!)

Hand rails on escalators and shuttles (Ahh ... not a problem, I have health insurance!)

Chairs and seats (Hmm ... can see it now, "Mr., would you please sit down, we are about to takeoff!")

Airplane pillows and blankets (What? This is a monastery? I thought it was an airplane!)

OK .... I guess the writers of the article were trying to make a point. Obviously, if you are going to fly, you are going to be exposed to germs (of course, if you are going to live ... you are going to be exposed to germs!). I have done a fair amount of overseas travel. My suggestion? Just use some common sense. Practice good sanitation habits (like avoid licking  your arms after they have been on the arm rests!), and you should do fine. God in his marvelous design of the human body, gave us an immune system that is pretty spectacular! The psalmist was right on when he praised God that he was "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:13-16). 

Take a moment and praise your Creator for the way he made YOU! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Lugguage carts and wheelchairs

Holiday Edition of Friday Coffee with PJ

It's that time again to pour yourself of the best beverage in the world ... and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. I had lunch the other day with someone who reads my blog. He asked me if I really enjoy coffee as much as I say I do on my blog. The answer? ABSOLUTELY! Of course, he is NOT a coffee drinker ... and so he just does not understand! But I can't think of a better way to start the day than A, B, C!

                       A - Acknowledge God's ownership of me and all the world
                       B - Bible, Bible, Bible - spending time reading and reflecting on God's Word
                       C - Consuming the best beverage in all the world - COFFEE!

Not only does coffee taste great, many believe it brings a number of benefits to those who consume it. To read about these, click here. Who knows, if you are not a coffee drinker now, perhaps after reading all of its benefits you just might decide to become one!

2. In light of the world cup, you just have to take a moment and see these two soccer (futball) reporters at work. Thanks, Kevin DeYoung!

3. HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY holiday. As you celebrate the freedom we enjoy in America (and our religious freedoms were solidified somewhat by Monday's Supreme Court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties (see Tuesday's post), please remember to continue to pray for our country. Pray for our leaders and pray for the ministry of the gospel in our land! Pray that as the gospel seed is planted in hearts that it might find fertile soil (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Also thank God that through his Son Jesus Christ, we can find freedom from sin and death (John 8:31-36).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

A poet once penned the following line, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  All of us have experienced this truth (at least from the humanity side of things!). As I write this, the National Weather Service has posted a Hurricane Watch for much of North Carolina's Outer Banks. Tropical Storm Arthur is expected to intensify into a category one hurricane and brush the Outer Banks ... although a more substantial "strike" is not out of the question. This is forcing many vacationers, planning to head to the region for the Fourth of July holiday, to think about changing their plans .... if not in whole at least in part. As a result, there are a lot of eyes hungering to see each updated forecast from the National Hurricane Center. 

As I thing about this weather event, the following words from the Bible come to mind, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).  God is sovereign.  He is working out His purposes for our world – and that includes EVERYONE in our world (which means you and me!).  So go ahead and make your plans – but realize that God has a purpose for you and it just may be that HE will redirect your steps.  So in a sense the poet got it right – but he missed the bigger picture.  When plans go “awry” from our perspective, we must remember there is an invisible hand involved in the process.  And that invisible hand belongs to the God who so loved us that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Why the Supreme Court's Decision Is So Important!

Yesterday the long awaited Supreme Court decision in the case of the Lancaster County based Conestoga Wood Specialties Inc., was handed down. Not surprisingly, the decision was a 5-4 split among the justices. Surprisingly (at least for me) they ruled in favor of Conestoga Wood Specialties (for Lancaster Online's coverage, click here).

So why does this all matter ... or doesn't it? And if it does matter, why?  To help you understand, I have listed below some thoughts by others who are much better thinkers and writers than me. If you take the time to read through what they have written, you will have a better  understanding of what this all means ... especially for religious liberty in our country (note, Hobby Lobby also sued the government, and since it is the larger of the two companies, its name is given the headline nationally).

Why Hobby Lobby Matters, by Russel Moore.

The Hobby Lobby Decision: A Big Win for Religious Liberty - and a Very Revealing Divide on the High Court, by Al Mohler.

The Supreme Court Agrees with Hobby Lobby, but Your Neighbor Probably Doesn't, Trevin Wax

Hobby Lobby: What the Ruling Means to You, by James Dennison.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

My apologies for missing the past several Fridays. I was off last week, and the previous couple of weeks I got caught up in the Thanksgivi...