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

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...