PJ

PJ

Friday, December 25, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ: Special Christmas Edition

It's hard to believe that Christmas Day is here! I am still trying to figure out where last summer went!
But, with the mild weather of this week, it sure doesn't "feel" like Christmas!

Pretty soon, my house will be filled with the sounds of little kids giggling and laughing as our grandkids arrive for our Christmas Day Smith family holiday celebration. But before they come, I am enjoying a couple of cups of my favorite coffee (San Fransisco Bay Fog Chaser) ... AND the peace and quiet of the day!

On this special day ... if you can make the time ... I believe your heart will be warmed and your faith will be strengthened by John Piper's reading of his book, The Innkeeper.




I hope you and yours enjoy a wonderful Christmas and a blessed new year! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Update on Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries on earth. The average person earns less than $2 per day, making the C.A.R. the third poorest in the world. It is also one of the most miserable, with political instability and violence still preventing any movement toward a better living for the five million people who live there (click here for an International Red Cross video, just released today, that will give you an idea of the conditions many people in the CAR currently face).  In the face of such suffering, what can we do?

1. PRAY! National elections are taking place this coming Sunday, December 27th. Pray that God, through the votes of the people, will put into office men and women who care about the needs of the people and the future of the country. Pray also for the ministry of my dear friend, Dr. Augustin Hibaile, who directs the Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership). Augustin has access to government leaders at the highest levels. Pray that God would work through him to achieve HIS (God's) purposes!

2. GIVE! The people of the CAR are in need of all kinds of basic necessities of life. If you feel led to give, I suggest you go to the Encompass World Partners website. Click on the words, "Select a Project." You will see a number of projects listed for the C.A.R.

3. PRAY some more! God is sovereign. God is compassionate. And God does respond to the prayers of HIS people!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Sorry folks for the delay this morning. Last week I was on vacation, spending much of my time helping my wife and getting her out some to finish up our Christmas shopping. So being off last week got me behind for this week ... but I am ready, so pour yourself a cup of coffee (I am on my second cup) and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. I just heard that Pope Francis has approved sainthood for sister Theresa. Apparently some miracle of healing occurred that has been attributed to Theresa. Therefore the Pope has cleared the way for her to be canonized a saint. A couple of thoughts are floating around my head as I think of this. For starters, I cannot say definitively if this alleged miracle actually occurred. It very well may have happened for God does indeed heal today. But certainly not due to any prayers offered up to this woman (1 Timothy 2:5). But secondly, the Bible is clear that every single person who embraces the gospel and turns from their sin and rebellion against God is at that moment "set apart" by God for Himself. And therefore, the writers of the New Testament refer to their readers as "saints" (2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1). If Sister Theresa was trusting in Christ alone through faith alone ... then she is already a saint. And the greater miracle in this story is how a fallen image bearer of God could and would sacrificially put the needs of others above her own.

2. As I was praying through the Psalms today (using the method suggested by Donald Whitney in his excellent book, Praying the Bible,) I came to the following passage:


Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

(Psalm 138:7-8)

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that my wife has been on a rather unexpected and extended journey for almost four months now. What was to be a "routine" total knee replacement has been anything but! A manipulation under anesthesia resulted in a broken femur which went undiagnosed for a week as her physical therapist worked with her for five of those seven days. Once it was finally diagnosed, she underwent a surgery to repair the fracture. Now for the past four weeks, she has not been able to bear any weight on her broken leg ... a restriction that will go for another three weeks. This, of course, makes doing life (even the simple every day tasks we do without much thought) difficult. So this morning, my heart was encouraged as I read and prayed these verses. It is such a comfort to know that as we walk in the midst of trouble, that we do not do so alone. Our God is with us. His hand is upon us. And he will fulfill his purpose for us! If you are going through difficult circumstances in your life, take heart from these verses. God has not forgotten you! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ: Special Mid Morning Edition

Hope you have enjoyed your morning cup of coffee by now. I just finished my third and I think I am finally awake enough to share a few thoughts with you.

1. My wife had her post-op appointment yesterday. Although it is too early to tell if the broken femur is mending, the surgeon was positive about what he was seeing on the x-ray. Sharon will go back in four weeks at which time x-rays should be much more telling. Please pray for the mending of this bone (to help this along, Sharon will not be able to put ANY weight on her leg for at least the next four weeks). In addition, she will resume physical therapy next week to start working on motion in her knee. Would appreciate your prayers for her along that line as well. Sharon and I have found much comfort in our understanding that even though this caught the two of us by surprise, it did not catch our God by surprise. He has a plan for us and he is actively working that plan. Knowing this has helped us keep our sanity .. and our faith! There are no better hands to be in than those of our almighty and compassionate Creator and Father!

2. In the midst of this violent world, where people so coolly and calmly kill others, it is a comfort to know that Christmas is all about the birth of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus Christ offers to us peace WITH God (Romans 5:1). He is able to do so because on the cross he died to pay the wage we owed God for our sin and rebellion against him. Therefore, Jesus is able to offer us forgiveness for our sin and new life in HIM! This is something only he can do (Romans 6:23). He also offers to us the peace OF God. This is promised to us as we, clothed in the righteousness of God, take all of our needs to the Father in prayer. When we do this ... we will experience an inner peace ... even in the midst of the turbulent world in which we live (Philippians 4:6-7). There is one final peace that Jesus Christ offers, but this is still future. It is the universal peace that will one day reign upon the earth. Jesus Christ will usher in this peace as he begins his reign as King of kings and Lord of Lords (Isaiah 9:7; Revelation 21:4). So as you celebrate the Christmas season ... rejoice in Jesus the Prince of Peace! Are YOU experiencing the peace he gives?

3. Recently my youngest daughter wanted my wife and me to see how her kids were learning about God using the little book, My First Book of Questions and Answers (I highly recommend this little book!). Kate looked at her two year old and asked, "Who made you?" "Gawd" little June replied. "And why did God make you?" my daughter asked. "To bwing gwoly to him," June answered. So far so good! Then Kate asked, "June, who is in heaven?" Without hesitation June responded, "God, Jesus and Santa Clause!" OK. She got the idea of the trinity down, but a bit off on the identity of the third member!  If you are a parent with young children, it is never to early to start teaching your children the truth of God's Word. Remember, your kids are not yours. They have been loaned to you by their Creator. So train them in the way they should go! That's your responsibility and joy!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Now that Thanksgiving Day is over, it's time to pour yourself a cup of hot coffee for breakfast. Skip everything else. You probably ate enough calories yesterday to get you through the rest of the month. And if you are planning on going out shopping today (or just getting back), please be wary of getting caught up in the pervasive consumerism of our day!

1. In case you might fear that you are drinking too much coffee, relax and read about the 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Coffee, So Drink Up (not that I need any encouragement to do so!).

2.  "Christianity is much more than getting your doctrine right. But it is not less."  These are the opening words of Kevin DeYoung's recent post, "Doctrine Matters: Eternal Life Depends Upon It."  In a day and age when so many in the church find doctrine dry and boring, these thoughts of DeYoung are definitely worth the few minutes it will take you to read them.

3. Finally, an update on my wife Sharon. According to her surgeon, the surgery of last Thursday to repair her broken femur went well. After getting her pain under control and going through a couple of therapy sessions, Sharon was discharged on Sunday evening. As I climbed out of bed Monday morning, I prayed to God, asking him to help the day to go smoothly. There were several things to work out concerning her care. The first and most important was to get her prescription for lovenox filled. This medication (which is taken by injection) is designed to prevent blood clots from forming. Sharon's surgeon wanted her on this medication given what he had to do in the surgery and given Sharon's inactivity. The problem with this medication is that even with insurance, it would have cost us over $1000. So the doctor prescribed a less expensive alternative. This alternative would have required Sharon to inject herself 3x each day (vs. just once a day with the lovenox). But it was MUCH less expensive. However, as the nurse called to numerous pharmacies, not one carried the drug! Hmmm. So we committed it to prayer. If we had to bite the bullet ... we would do so. But God had something else in mind. It began when a case worker walked into Sharon's hospital room with a coupon. It was a Walmart coupon which would allow us to purchase 25 doses of lovenox for $157 (which sounds like a lot when standing alone ... but sounds like "a litttle" when compared to $1000!). The caseworker had called Walmart to verify the validity of the coupon . . . and they informed her that they would indeed honor it! And since this was five doses less than the doctor ordered, the case worker told us that the hospital would provide five FREE doses at the hospital's convenience pharmacy. SO ... on my mind on Monday morning was the nagging question, would all go smoothly at both the hospital's pharmacy and Walmart? As it turns out, I never made it beyond LGH's pharmacy. When I stepped up to the counter to get the lovenox, the pharmacy tech told me there were 25 doses in the bag. "But I thought I was getting only 5?" I responded. She informed me the script was for 25. So I asked (with a bit of fear in my voice), "How much does this cost?" Her answer almost made me jump for joy, "Ten dollars" was her response. I paid the price, grabbed the bag, and thanked God as I walked out to my car. Wow! We went from over a thousand dollars to $157 to $10! We are so thankful for God's provision in this!

As you think of my wife, please pray for her. This will be a long journey (which has already stretched for nearly three months). And the final outcome as to her leg and knee are yet to be determined.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this Thanksgiving Day, two quotes concerning gratitude which grip my heart every time I read them:

 From Nancy DeMoss – Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy

“Gratitude is not merely a second-tier virtue in the Christian life – it is vital. And it is transformational. I truly believe a grateful spirit, rooted in the soil of God’s goodness and grace, will radically impact how you view and respond to everything in your life.”

From Ellen Vaughn - Radical Gratitude: Discovering Joy through Everyday Thankfulness

“Cultivating a grateful heart is not just an add-on nicety, a civil tip of the hat to God as we steamroll through our day. A posture of purposeful, perpetual thanks to God is absolutely central to Christian character. It gives glory to Him. It is the key defense against Satan’s temptations to despair, distrust, dysfunction. It protects us from sin and self. It is the hallmark of heaven. It does not exist in hell.” 


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me for a cup of coffee and some random thoughts ...

1. I am now in my 27th year of pastoring Grace Church at Willow Valley. Across the years I have seen people come and go, preached well over a thousand times, sung innumerable songs in worship, prayed I don't know how many prayers. I have lost track of the weddings officiated and the funerals conducted. But one thing I have not last track of is the greatness and goodness of my God. To say that our God is an awesome God doesn't seem quite enough. But I can't think of anything better to say about him. He is awesome in holiness, love, mercy, grace, faithfulness, truth, justice, and on and on it goes. I am so thankful that over 26 years ago he led me to Grace Church. From the first Sunday here I began to fall in love with the church family. It surely looks different today then back then, but my love for the church has only grown. SO ... if you are a part of the family at Grace ... know this: God in Christ loves you ... and so do I!

2. My wife has been on a journey which began last December. An MRI revealed that what little meniscus remained in her right knee was shredded The orthopedic surgeon, wanting to avoid a knee replacement given Sharon's "younger" age, suggested a process of injecting a substance into her knee which would lubricate the joint and relieve the pain ... supposedly. "Fifty-fifty" were his words for a successful outcome. So in January -February she underwent the injections (three of them, one week apart). Within two months it was apparent that she fell in the "50%" of unsuccess. So began the process of second opinion and ultimately surgery for a total knee replacement (which took place on September 4th). From the get go, Sharon faced more difficulties than most. Somehow, she fell between the cracks when she moved from in-home physical therapy (pt) and outpatient. So she lost a week there. Then she had a negative reaction to the pain meds she was on ... and lost a few pt sessions there. Across the weeks, scar tissue built up to the point she could only bend her new knee so far. The orthopedist recommended "manipulation under anesthesia" (see previous post for explanation). The condition Sharon was suffering, known as a "stiff knee" is experienced by a very small % of TKR patients. As the orthopedic discussed this option, he mentioned the risks, such as the risk that comes with the use of anesthesia, which is true for all surgeries. He then mentioned that there was a very small risk that during the procedure, a bone in her leg could break. He downplayed this as a very remote risk, especially given that my wife did not fall into any of the "high risk" categories for the procedure. Sharon and I shrugged any risk off ... having experienced surgeries and procedures in which doctors have to mention the risks (and then you, the patient, have to sign of on). No big deal.

No big deal? Perhaps for the 99+% of manipulation patients. But it became a very big deal for my wife. From the time she stood up after the manipulation, she found it quite difficult (and at times impossible) to put weight on her right leg (I had to use a wheelchair to transport her into the pt department for her first pt session after the manipulation).  For 7 days, she endured the pain as she had to go to pt for five of the first six days. We finally made an appointment with the orthopedist. After briefly meeting with him, Sharon was taken for an x-ray. Once back in the room, we waited for the doctor. When he walked in, his whole demeanor had changed. "We now know why you cannot put weight on your leg. Your leg is broken." At that point, my heart broke for my wife. She had endured so much ... and now its back to the OR. And what this means for her ongoing rehab for her new knee? The surgery went well. The surgeon was able to repair the break. She is now in a knee immobilizer. This will be her constant companion for the next two weeks. For at least the next six weeks she will not be allowed to put any weight on her leg. Total healing time for her leg to totally heal will be about six months. What this all means for the rehab of her new knee I do not know.

Yesterday morning I pulled my copy of the book of Psalms out of my office bag. Randomly opening it, I found myself reading Psalm 67:1, "May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us."  "Yes, Lord," I prayed .. "please do so today. Upon Sharon, upon me, upon the surgeon .... " Then I went on to read the next verse: "that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations." As I read those words, I thought of what happened after the doctor informed us of my wife's broken leg. She looked at him and said (as he was visibly upset), "I don't want you to blame yourself for this. We realize things happen for a purpose. Our God will take care of us." I sat in amazement as I heard my wife give glory to God and voicing her trust in him.

Certainly one of the reasons that we are on this difficult journey is that we might be able to give glory to him and point others to him. This is not to say that our faith does not sometimes falter. And it is at those times we cry the prayer of the father of the demon possessed son, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

Thanks for your ongoing prayers for my wife and ..../

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday's Coffee with PJ

Fridays keep rolling around at a pace that does not relent! We are now within two weeks of Thanksgiving Day! Wow! SO .... take some time to slow down and pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee while joining me for a few random thoughts.

1. I am really getting sick of going to doctors! I think in the past year and a half, I have been to more doctor offices than my entire life (well ... given my age, probably not ... but it sure seems to be true!). I have had a torn distal biceps tendon repaired (this took five months from the time of the initial injury until the surgery ... in part due to my family physician trying to figure out what was behind my persistent arm pain). Then there was the follow up to the surgery and some complications, all of which led to the determination that I need another surgery due to another problem with my arm/wrist. In the midst of this, I endured a kidney stone episode last fall which led to a surgical procedure in January (and I  have another follow up with the urologist today that is related to all of this). In addition, I have had a couple of other minor health issues that my family physician is treating. Add to all of this the numerous visits I have gone to with my wife for her bad knee and now her new knee (do you see why I said I am really getting sick of going to doctors?). Of course, that statement is a bit ironic, yes? I am sick of going to doctors ... but it is due to "sickness" that I have to go in the first place! In all of this, I have encouraged myself calling to my mind the reality that this suffering is merely a season of life that I am passing through. And even if I had to battle illness and injury the rest of my earthly life ... I know with great confidence that there is a better me in my future. And part of this better me is a new, resurrected body! The apostle Paul talks about the resurrection that awaits us in 1 Corinthians 15. If you have not read this chapter lately, I highly recommend that you do. You will, I am sure, be greatly encouraged! Oh ... and by the way ... on Sunday, I will be preaching on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 in which Paul talks about our future resurrection. I invite you to join us at either 9:00 or 10:30. We would love to have you join us!

2. Here are some brief but insightful words from the pen of one of my favorite theologian/author: "Christ walks, as it were, out of the pages of the Bible into our lives" (J.I. Packer). This is so very true! Jesus Christ ... his person and his work ... is at the very heart of the Bible's story line. But before he can walk into our lives ... we must get into the Word! So ... how much time do you spend in the Bible each week? Your answer to this question will go along way in determining how much Christ is in your life!

3. What kind of shape is your marriage in? If you want some help diagnosing the condition of your marriage, Kevin DeYoung (my favorite  younger author) offers up Ten Diagnostic Questions for Your Marriage.  If you are willing to invest the time ... I believe your marriage will be stronger after discussing these questions with your spouse!

4. Speaking of spouses ... thanks for praying for my wife. Last Friday I mentioned she was undergoing a Manipulation Under Anesthesia of  her right knee (see last week's post for a link which explains this). The manipulation was a success. In spite of great pain, she has now gone from a being stuck at a 95 degree bend to 107 degrees as of yesterday's therapy session! So although hurting right now in body ... she is encouraged in heart! Please pray she will continue to progress (the therapist would like to see her get to at least 115 degrees if not 120 degrees!). Pray also that she will be able to straighten her leg. She is currently at 10 degrees. Thanks!

5. Oh ... and I did notice that today is Friday the 13th. Since I am not superstitious in the least (I would rather live my life under the reality of the providential care of a sovereign God. One who loved me enough to send his one and only Son to die in my place, facing God's wrath so I would never have to). So that's all I am going to say about today's date (but for what it's worth, check out what wikipedia has to say about it).

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Sorry I missed our coffee time last week. Was enjoying a week of "staycation" with my wife. I also needed to catch up on some chores around the house. So ... I caught up on those and also caught up on some much needed rest! All in all ... a great week! Now it's back to the grind ... so grind your coffee beans (or whatever method you use to brew your coffee) ... and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Yesterday, one of my staff members here at church, invited me to attend Lancaster Bible College's chapel to hear Jared Wilson speak. I had read and appreciated a number of things Jared had written. So I was looking forward to hearing him speak. I was not disappointed. The biggest takeaway for me from what he taught was this statement: "If you find the gospel boring, the problem in not with the gospel. It's with you!" He then went on to list a number of incredible blessings that are ours because of the gospel (and our response to it ... "repenting and believing" - Mark 1:14-15). As he went down his list, I find myself nodding in agreement. When we truly understand what the gospel offers us, there is simply no way we can find it boring. Think about it! The gospel redeems us from our sin, provides for us a relationship with the God who made us, promises us an eternal home of unimaginable blessing, brands us with a new identity in Christ .... and on and on and on it goes! All freely given to us who in NO WAY deserve any of it! Wow! There is no "boring" in the gospel! Thanks, Jared, for this wonderful reminder of the glory that is ours because of what Jesus Christ was willing to do for us!

Logan Feeling Some Steeler Love!
2. This past Sunday morning at 1:04 Eastern Standard Time, our newest grandchild entered our world. Logan Ryan Smith is our 7th grandchild! Since my wife was invited by our daughter-in-law to
be present for the birth, we made our way to Women's and Babies Hospital around 10:30 Saturday night. Our daughter-in-law tends to have "quick" deliveries, and my wife was determined she was not going to miss the birth of her grandson! We had been praying for a safe arrival of a healthy baby. God graciously answered our prayers! Children are indeed a gift from God (Psalm 127:3)!

3. Finally, an update on my wife and her recovery from her total knee replacement back on September 4th. I mentioned back on October 16th, that my wife was possibly suffering from Knee stiffness after her TKR (also known as arthrofibrosis or "stiff knee syndrome"). So next Tuesday (time TBD) her surgeon will perform MUA on her knee (Manipulation Under Anesthesia). This is being done to break up the scar tissue that has formed since the surgery. This scarring is preventing her knee from bending. The MUA will be followed by five days of aggressive physical therapy. Your prayers for my wife would be very much appreciated! Thanks!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday morning coffee with PJ time! I hope you are ready to enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a few random thoughts ... the coffee will warm your bod .... and I hope the thoughts will draw you to God!

1. Meditation. When we hear this word, we often envision a group of monks dressed in flowing robes, surrounded by a cloud of incense, chanting as they "empty" their minds of any thoughts of this world in order to focus on a mystical, other-worldly (and non existent!) god. Therefore, we who have chosen to follow Jesus often dismiss any thought of meditating. After all, its for eastern mystics ... right? Wrong! The Bible uses the world "meditate" in some form about two dozen times. As we examine these occurrences, it becomes very evident very quickly, that the Bible's portrayal of mediation is nothing like what is mentioned above. The Bible is clear. When we meditate, we are to meditate upon the Scriptures (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3). This meditation is not something we should do if we can squeeze it in once in a while ... but rather it is something God calls us to practice "day and night!" Given the importance placed upon meditating on the Scripture ... what does that look like? I encourage you to take the time to read the article, Five Steps to Meditating on the Bible. You will be better for it!

2. Recently I have been struck by the number of commercials I have seen promoting products that will supposedly help pets live long and prosperous lives. In addition, on more than one occasion I 
have scratched my head at television news reports of some tragedy involving an animal. It just seems to me that increasingly our society is valuing animal life while at the same time devaluing human life (PLEASE ... don't get me wrong. Even though I have not pets in my house at the present time, I have had them in the past. I really do love animals!). But when more of an outcry is made over dying or dead chickens than millions of unborn human babies ... something is wrong. Very wrong! I happen to believe that human life begins at conception. Therefore, to destroy an "fetus" is to destroy a human life. If you would like to further investigate why I believe abortion is wrong, check out Ten Reasons Why It Is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children. And if you do happen to agree with me, then let me ask you, What have you done of late to help save some of these yet-to-be-born babies? If you don't know what you can do to help ... check out the website for Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services.

3. In the midst of all the ups and downs of the past 7 weeks since my wife's knee replacement, I have continued my Sunday morning teaching through the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians. The church in Thessalonica was a young church. But it was also a suffering church. Birthed in the midst of chaos and persecution ... that continues long after the Apostle Paul and his church planting companion Silas, were run out of town. And it was to this young and suffering church that Paul wrote this first of two letters addressed to this group of first century believers. Last Sunday's passage yielded some principles that help us persevere through life's difficulties. The following day, I received this email which strengthened my weary soul:

Dear Pastor John, 

I believe God is birthing something new among us, something more than just the daughter church. The Holy Spirit is at work in each of us in powerful ways through the trials we are facing. We are all learning to depend on Him more completely.

Your message yesterday was God's provision for all of us as we face these "labor pains" - take God at His Word, stand together as His church, and look ahead to our blessed hope!
Praying for you and Sharon today!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj



Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

There's not a better way to wake up then with some freshly brewed coffee in my cup ... or should I say "cups!" I just can't stop with one or even two cups. Three seems like the perfect number for me! So ... pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Next month will mark twenty years since I began to teach as an adjunct in Lancaster Bible College's degree completion program for adults (the program is now called Accelerated Undergraduate Degrees). I teach in this particular program for several reasons. I enjoy teaching (and learning from) adults. The format fits my busy schedule well (each course is taught once a week (Tuesdays from 6-10pm) for five weeks). For the past few years I have been teaching three courses each year ... Apocalyptic Literature, The Pentateuch, and Christian Narrative 1. Teaching at the college keeps me sharp which helps in my own teaching and preaching ministry at Grace. One of the big blessings of teaching at LBC occurs when I happen to run into a former student. This occurred recently as my wife and I were dining out at Olive Garden (across from the Park City Mall). This particular student had been called to pastor a local church just six months ago. He shared with me his excitement about the opportunity God had given him. He also thanked me for the role I had played in equipping him for his pastoral ministry. As he walked away, I silently thanked God that he uses someone like me to encourage others as they seek to serve Him! That "crossing of paths" made my day! God wants to make your day as well . . . so who are you seeking to influence for Jesus Christ?

2. Later today I will have the honor of officiating at a wedding ... just as I have done so many times before. Across the course of the past several months, I have met with this couple, equipping them, I hope, with the tools they will need to experience the intimate marriage God wants them to enjoy. During the ceremony I will do what I have been doing for  years ... and that is to offer them the same advice that I have offered to countless couples before them. Someone once asked me why I chose to basically give the same message at every wedding. I responded, "I want couples to actually remember what I said to them. I also want to be able to remember myself. That way, when I see the couple down the road, I can ask them if they are putting into practice what I encouraged them (from God's Word) to do in their relationship with one another." I guess you could call this practicing accountability. It seems to work well ... and as my Dad often told me, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

3. As you well know, life doesn't always go as planned. Those of you who have visited my blog in the past may recall that my wife underwent a total knee replacement back on September 4th (now six weeks ago). On Wednesday her surgeon was concerned with the stiffness in her knee which, he said, is being caused by scar tissue. He told her that in three weeks, he will reexamine her. If she has not progressed sufficiently in bending and straightening her knee, he will perform MUA on her knee (Manipulation Under Anesthesia). Knee stiffness after a TKR (also known as arthrofibrosis or "stiff knee syndrome"does impact a very small percentage of patients. It appears that my wife is now a member of that small exclusive club! The physical therapist is talking about using a brace that may help her get to where she needs to be (and thus avoid the MUA). Please pray for my wife. Your prayers are very meaningful (2 Co 1:1; Acts 12:1-19) and much appreciated!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday morning coffee time ... or better said ... Friday morning coffee with PJ time! I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I have writing them! And I most certainly hope you enjoy your coffee!

1. I ran across a new word this week. It's the word "phubbing." The word is actually short for "phone snubbing," This occurs when you ignore someone in favor of your phone. A few years ago I was being phubbed and didn't even know I was being phubbed! But I did know that I did not like the process! I was having a lunch meeting with someone (at his request, not mine). At least a dozen times in the 30 minutes or so that we were lunching "together," his phone would vibrate as it laid on the table. He would excuse himself, read and then respond to the incoming text. I don't think I need to tell you how that made me feel. Let's just say I have not had lunch with him since! SO ... have you been phubbed lately? Perhaps you have been the one doing the phubbing? I must admit that all too often I am guilty of doing this with my wife. She's talking ... I am checking my twitter feed. Ouch! I really do need stop it. I think I will make a stop at www.stopphubbing.com.  Maybe I can find some tips on stopping this unhealthy practice! Remember ... if you don't want to be phubbed ... then stop phubbing others (see Matthew 7:12)!

2. On Monday I was cutting my lawn for the first time in well over a month (reason: I returned home from the beach in August with a bad back. It took a that long for it to heal enough for me to get back to walking behind my mower - mine is self-propelled!). I was about 90% done when I had to stop the mower in order to pick up a fallen branch from one of my birch trees. After doing so, I returned to the mower and pulled the start cord. "Rumble, rumble, cough, cough, silence." No matter what I tried ... the same response. The mower would not cooperate (and NO it was NOT out of gas!). Even the next morning I got it out and tried starting it ... but no go! SO, I loaded it into my van (with help) and drove it to the repair shop around the corner. I must admit I was a bit frustrated (OK ... more than "a bit"). After all, I had just bought the mower in the spring! But no matter how new or old a piece of machinery is, breakdowns are sure to come. The same can be said for us. We can breakdown physically or emotionally. When this happens, we need to head off to see the appropriate professional for help. But we can also breakdown spiritually. When this happens, we need to go to the one who created our soul ... Jesus Christ. He himself issues us the invitation to come to him when we are burdened ... and he will give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). So the next time you feel like you are falling apart ... then you need to come apart (from all your busyness) and spend some time with the One who loved you enough to die for you! 

*Note - I just got a call from the repair shop. The governor spring had fallen off the engine. Cost of repair? $22! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning ... Friday coffee ... and a few random thoughts from my brain to yours. Does it get much better than that? Yep ... it sure does (thankfully so!)!

1. The other day as Sharon and I sat in the waiting area of her physical therapist, an older gentleman (and the older I get ... the older others get when I use the term "older!") walked in the door and plopped down in the chair next to my wife. He looked at her swollen right knee with the zipper that is still healing and said, "Oh, I see you had a knee replacement." (Hmm .... that was a pretty observant comment, I remember thinking!) My wife nodded her head and went on to give him the details. When she finished, he replied, "Yep. I had one about ten years ago. I did not even have to use any pain medication. Once in a while I would pop a Tylenol ... but that was about it. And I did not go for any physical therapy. Did it all myself at home." As he finished that line, his name was called and off he went. As I processed his comments, I was a bit irritated. I did not think my wife needed to hear that with all the pain she was going through. As we drove home from the appointment, we talked some more about this man and what he had said. My wife told me that she talked to the therapist about it ... and he said something to the effect that some people seem to be smiled upon by God more so than others after a total knee replacement. My wife and I agreed that our response was very much "me centered." Instead of feeling irritated, we should have rejoiced that this man had been spared the pain and agony that my wife is currently enduring. Ouch. We are more "egocentric" than we realize. Praise God that he will not grow weary of us ... but will continue doing HIS work in our lives ... turning us from egocentric sinners into theocentric (God centered) saints!

2. Later on today I will be wrapping up premarital counseling with a couple whom I will have the privilege to marry in a couple of weeks. Walking a couple through their preparation for marriage is a good thing for me. It reminds me of what marriage is all about and God's design for it. What a joy marriage can be when a husband is cherishing his wife and a wife is respecting her husband! When by God's grace we make an intentional effort to live out God's blueprint for marriage ... we can enjoy a taste of heaven on earth. Unfortunately, too many husbands (me included) and too many wives can be ... as I said above ... "egocentric." What we need to do in our homes is to "hear" and then "put into practice" (Matthew 7:24-27) the Apostle Paul's encouragement to the church at Philippi (and to us, of course) as recorded in Philippians 2:3-4. Only as we consider our mate as more important than ourselves will we begin to understand the kind of true intimacy that leads to a joy that lasts!

3. Finally ... a quote from the pen of Kevin DeYoung that all of us busy people need to read (and slow down long enough to think about!).

"Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart, and your soul are in danger. We need the Word of God to set us free. We need biblical wisdom to set us straight. What we need is the Great Physician to heal our overscheduled souls. If only we could make time for an appointment."


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ - Special Wednesday Edition

If you are like me ... you drink coffee (and several cups) on other days besides Friday. .So I thought you might want to join me for a random thought or two here in the middle of the week.

1. For some people, the lunar eclipse on Sunday evening was magnificent to see. For others who looked toward the sky it was "Where's this eclipse everyone is talking about?" The difference is that the former were looking up into clear skies. For the latter, clouds obscured their view of the moon. As I reflect on this it reminds me of how some Christians can look toward heaven and see eternity. As a result, their lives are different as they live in the here and now in light of the there and then. However there are many other believers (myself included far too often here) that allow this or that to obscure our view of heaven. It may be material things ... or a desire to be entertained ... or careers ... or friends ... or ... But I am guessing you know what I am talking about. The Bible urges us to set our minds on things above vs. the things of this earth (Colossians 3:1-4). This was the practice of the Apostle Paul for, as he put it, the stuff of this life is temporary ... but the things of heaven last forever (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). So ... what is obscuring your view of eternity? For more insight into developing an eternal perspective, check out Randy Alcorn's website. It will be time well spent!

2. If you are reading this before Wednesday evening, and you live in the vicinity of Grace Church, I invite you to attend our Preview this evening of Financial Peace University. Beginning next Wednesday evening (October 7th) and running through Wednesday December 9th, we will be offering this workshop. Dave Ramsey's material is some of the best there is dealing with money matters and how to best handle it ... whether you have a lot or very little! The preview begins at 6:30 pm. This workshop can change your life ... for the better!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friends ... it's Friday ... it's time for another cup of coffee with PJ! So pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew (mine is San Fransisco Fog Chaser) .... and enjoy a few random thoughts with me.

1. Wednesday marked the first day of autumn! That means winter is "on deck" as far as the seasons go. I just saw a long range forecast for this upcoming winter from one of my favorite meterologists (Joe Bastardi) who also happens to be one of the most accurate when it comes to long range forecasting (you can follow Joe on twitter at @BigJoeBastardi). Joe is forecasting a winter for our area that is below average in temperature and above average in precipitation (and given the temperature forecast I am guessing that much of the precip that will fall will be of the frozen variety ---- I am trying to avoid the "s" word!). Now ... time will tell whether or not Joe got this right (and based on his track record he is more often right than wrong). So we will revisit his forecast on the other side of winter and see how accurate he was. But we don't ever have to do this with the Bible. This book is unique among the books of the world. I happen to believe it's claim to be the inspired word of the Creator is true. And because it is God's Word ... it is accurate in all that it "forecasts!" To sum it up, I believe that the Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men carried along by God’s Spirit as they wrote, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises. What a privilege we have to open, read, treasure and obey this book of books!  I hope you spend some time in it today! 

2. This week is Fair week as the West Lampeter Fair opened for its 92nd run! What makes this fair so unique is the absence of things like carnival rides and games. This fair is about as down home as you can get. But there is plenty of food and plenty of animals (not to mention people as the community turns out in droves for this annual event). Fair booths fill numerous tents. These are sponsored by churches and other community organizations, schools and businesses (one of my favorite booths is the one sponsored by Herr's as they offer free bags of potato chips to fair goers!). Of course, our church sponsors a booth as we have been doing for over 20 years. This year along with our ongoing "Baby Comfort Station" - a clean place to change diapers, etc. - we have a photo booth complete with an assortment of props to complement any person's good looks! We spend the time and effort and money to do this to provide a window to our community of who we are as a church. We realize that we are not for everyone. But for those who decide to make Grace Church their spiritual family ... we believe we have a lot to offer! So ... if you are planning to head to the fair today, please stop in and say "hello!" I will be present tonight and would love to meet you! And always remember you can visit us online at gracewv.org or on campus at 300 Willow Valley Square (behind Darrenkamps Market). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday mornings is coffee time for me (well, EVERY morning is coffee time for me!). If you enjoy coffee ... I invite you to pour a cup and enjoy a few minutes with me (and if you don't enjoy coffee, I hope you don't run off!).

1. I recently went out and bought a new pair of shoes (I actually bought two because the store was offering buy one get a second pair half off). The day after I bought them, I wore one of the pairs. By the day's end I was more than ready to take them off (my "dogs" were really barking!). As you well know, it takes some time to break in a new pair of shoes. So you have to put up with the stiffness and discomfort for a time. This week my wife has been working on "breaking in" her new knee (which looks really cool on the x-rays she had done at her post-op visit). And after watching my wife go through this process, I have added to my prayer list, "Lord let me keep my original knees!" It has not been an easy path for her to walk (as some of you know from your own experience). So ... when you think of my wife, please pray for her! And pray that I will be the cheerleader she needs me to be!

2. Back in 1975 I purchased a book that would revolutionize my view of God. The book was written by J. I. Packer, a man whose writings I have come to highly value. I can still picture myself sitting at my security desk in the lobby of the Robert Morris Dormitory in Center City Philadelphia (17th and Arch Streets to be exact) - reading Packer's classic, Knowing God. Even though the hour was late (or early - I worked from 1:30 - 5:30 AM), I had little trouble staying awake as I explored the person of God through Packer's book. If you have never read this book (and I would hope you would do so!), here is a taste of Packer's thinking about God:

"What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it-the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters. This is momentous knowledge."

I couldn't agree more! This is momentous knowledge ... and it is knowledge that will change the way we look at life and live it out (Jeremiah 9:23-24)!

3. A month ago we had just finished our family week at the beach. During our time on the beach, I decided to take the little kids for a wagon ride. What seemed like a good and fun idea ... was anything but. I pulled a muscle in my back that has been cranky every since. Some days are better than others. In fact, there have been a few days on which I heard little from this cranky muscle. But most days it has been letting me know its around and I had better behave myself! Well, not only do muscles get "cranky." So do people! And I would guess that if you are anything like me - you are sometimes among the cranky people of the world. The other morning I got up and was thinking about my day and certain challenges I/we are facing at the moment. I felt myself growing cranky. About that time, I pulled a loaf of bread out of our bread box, removed a piece of bread and dropped it in the toaster. That's when it hit me. "Hmmm," I remember thinking to myself. "There are some people in this world that would do anything to be able to do what I had just done with this bread - because they have none!" All of a sudden, the crankiness that was growing within me was now being pushed out by feelings of gratitude. Wow! What a difference perspective can make! Yes? So the next time circumstances are pushing you toward crankiness ... count your blessings! You are more blessed than you know (Psalm 103:1-5)!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning means .... coffee time! (well, any morning means coffee time in my book!). So ...
pour yourself a steamy hot cup of joe and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. Speed bumps. Don't you hate them? Especially when you aren't paying enough attention to your driving and you hit one without warning? Speed bumps are there for a purpose ... to slow us down! Which is definitely a GOOD thing ... even though we like to complain about them. Our journey through life contains "speed bumps." These are circumstances that come our way that slow us down. And as their counterparts on the streets we drive .... we grumble about these as well. Last Friday my wife underwent a total knee replacement surgery. From the very get go we began to encounter speed bumps. For starters, the anesthesiologist could not administer the spinal block they planned to use due to Sharon's 25 year old back fusion. So they had to administer a heavier general anesthetic. This in turn caused nausea which in turn delayed the start of her in-hospital physical therapy. Speed bump #2 came in the form of low blood pressure. This added to the delay in the start of her therapy. Finally, on Monday, she was cleared for discharge. However, since it was a holiday, the medical supply company was not open. Hence there was no walker for Sharon which she needed to use at home. After an hour or so of seeking an answer, a walker was located for Sharon to use (fortunately she is on the shorter side as the walker was a "Jr. walker!"). All this to say ,,,, life does not always proceed at the comfortable and steady pace that we would like. Speed bumps pop up from time to time .... causing us to slow down and adjust. Can you guess what we did when these unexpected speed bumps showed up? We prayed!  Hmmm. Seems to me that in the long run ... these speed bumps were a blessing in disguise!

2.  As I write these words it is raining outside ... and raining quite heavily. Considering that it has been very dry the past several weeks, this rain is a very good thing. However, the National Weather
Service has posted a flood watch for our area - and at present, a flood warning for York County (just to our west). All this to say ... Too much of a good thing is simply too much! Now this is often the case in life. But one area in which it does not hold true is in our relationship with God. Fellowship with God and the worship of God are good things ... and they are good things that we could never get enough of! Take a moment and read Psalm 27:4 and Psalm 16:11 and you will see why!

3. Finally an outstanding quote from John Piper of Desiring God Ministries: "The Bible stabilizes us by reminding us of who we are - known by God, made new by the Spirit, bought by Christ." Wow! Chew on that powerful thought. It may be just what you need to make it through a tough day!

Thanks for stopping by ...
pj

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday!!!!!  So it's time to pour yourself a cup of that wonderful beverage we call "coffee" and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. Bertrand Russel once said, "Many Christians would rather die than think; in fact, they do!" Ouch! Sad to say, what he said half a century or so ago is just as true (if not more so) today. But following Christ does not require us to check our brains at the door of the church. God calls upon us to love him with all of our hearts, souls and minds (Matthew 22:37). Our faith is not a "leap into intellectual darkness!" There is evidence for our faith. And when one follows the evidence, it leads to the God who made us ... the God to whom we are accountable (Romans 1:18-20). Regrettably, the mass of humanity takes this evidence and suppresses it (Romans 1:18) and exchange it for a lie (Romans 1:25). But for those of us who take God at His Word .... we can ill afford NOT TO THINK. Consider these words written by Charles Spurgeon, arguably one of the greatest preachers the church ever produced:

"The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumbline cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.... But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.... The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity" (quoted from Knowing God by J.I. Packer - which is, I believe, a must read book for anyone desiring of knowing God better!).

So ... all this to say .... "Let God's people THINK!"

2. The other day as I was driving from Hershey back to Lancaster, a driver began to tail gate me. Now according to SmartDriver.com, when driving 45 mph, one should allow 198 feet between yourself and the car in front of you. This driver was allowing about 10! So .... I slowed down and then motioned in my rear view mirror for the driver to move back. She simply waved her hand at me as if ... "whatever!" and continued to tailgate. When I said something to my wife (who was seated in the back seat with our grandson), she turned and looked back and also motioned for the diver to back off. At that point ... the driver went ballistic, throwing her arms all about, her mouth showing that she was screaming (which fortunately neither we nor our grandson could hear). She finished by showing
us one of her fingers (and I am sure you can guess which one). Well at that point, I decided to pull into a gas station that we were approaching. I put on my turn signal. Before I could turn, she raced past us (passing on a double yellow line). All that to repeat the same thing with the driver I was following! After she passed I said to my wife, "There goes one very angry woman!" Now before I condemn this woman for her anger ... I must (as we all must) take a look into the mirror. All of us struggle with sinful anger from time to time. Some of us more so than others. When our agenda gets preempted ... we grow angry! The Scripture tells us, "Be angry and do not sin - do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26). IF you have problems with anger, let me suggest you take a moment to read How Can I Manage My Anger? You will be better for it (as will those around you!)!

3. Finally, I would ask all of my blog friends to offer up a prayer for my wife today. She is undergoing surgery to receive a new right knee. Thanks! Your prayers are much appreciated!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Today is the FINAL Friday of August AND the final Friday of meterological summer! Boo!!! Summer is my favorite season of the year. And although I do enjoy the fall .... knowing that winter lurks around the corner saddens my soul!  So, enough of that. Thanks for joining me for a cup of coffee and a couple of random thoughts that I hope will strengthen your faith and encourage your soul!

1. If you have been in touch with any news reports of late, the name Ashley Madison should sound familiar. This is the website which allows married people to find other people with whom to have an affair. I never knew such a website existed ... as I am sure is true for many of you. But when hackers obtained the names of those who have used the website, a firestorm erupted. Those who had thought their extramarital activities were "secret" now were frantic with fear. And there were a lot of people in this boat! Of all the zip codes in the United States, only three did not have an address linked to the site. The population of those three zip codes? 476! The population of the other zipcodes? 321,000,000! I am guessing we are about to see a spike in the number of divorces being filed! All this reminds me of a particular verse in the Bible which contains these words, "be sure your sin will find you out." What we think is done in secret, never is! For our God is always watching (Hebrews 4:13). So when the Tempter comes with his enticing bait, turn the other way and run! For our God is watching, even if no one else is!

2. This past Monday I had the privilege of officiating the memorial service of a woman who lived a full life of 94 years. Three and half weeks ago I did the same for a 94 year old man. Both of these people lived in such a way as to point many people to Jesus! I hope that is how you want to live ... to be pointed people to Jesus! And it is not really all that hard to do! A friend of mine (and a friend of a number of you as well), Ed Lewis, encourages people to go FISH for people (after all, if we choose to follow Jesus, he promises to make us "fishers of men!" - Matthew 4:19). SO  here is how it works. As you encounter people throughout your day ....

- Friendly (Be friendly! No one wants to talk with someone who acts like they just ate a dill pickle!)
- Initiate  (Initiate conversation)
- Story or Serve (Ask them about their story or serve them in some way.
- Hope (Give them hope ... offer to pray for them, etc).

This method can be easily remembered and implemented. So ... go out and FISH today! (Thanks Ed, for this reminder!)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Once again Friday has arrived! So ... you know the routine ... pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew. Not only will you enjoy a delightful way of waking up . . . but you will enjoy a multitude of health benefits that coffee offers (so quick ...drink up before researches change their tune!). 


1. I am sorry I missed you last week. Our family was on what has become our annual beach vacation. It may not be the most relaxing vacation of my year ... but it is a boatload of fun! Watching "the little kids" interact with one another can be a downright hoot at times (they are 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2 years of age). And of course, I just love spending time with them. But what I need to remember is that I am a bit older than I was when I played with my own kids! One of the things I tackled was to haul the grandkids around in a little red wagon (see pic). Fun? Yes! But I sure wished I would have skipped that activity! As a result of the pulling and pushing of the wagon through the sand, I pulled a muscle in my lower back. That was last Thursday. Eight days later, I am still in pain (although it is finally
improving). All this to say ... we must always be aware of our limitations. This is especially true as we age (as this past year has proven to me ... but I guess I am still a slow learner!). Yes ... we have limits. In fact, we have many of them. But our God does not! The theological word to describe God concerning limits is the word "infinite." This means God is not limited in any way ... nor is it possible for him to ever be limited. Wow! Talk about a great God! And to think this great God is our Father! Is he YOURS? If you can't really answer that question, I suggest you check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

2. Back in 1997 my oldest daughter graduated from high school. Now, 18 years later, many of the babies born that year are in the process of heading off to college. Wow! Time sure does fly! And how the times have changed since then! Jim Denison provides the following ways that today's world differs from the world of 1997: 

Beloit College has just published its annual list of factoids about students entering their first year of college. They
  • Have never licked a postage stamp
  • Have always used cell phones with Wi-Fi access
  • Had their first steps recorded by proud parents using camcorders (the students probably don't know what one is)
  • Improved their reading skills with the Harry Potter series
  • Have always watched television in high definition.
In 1997, the year of their birth, Princess Diana died in a speeding motorcade crash.  Titanic won 11 Oscars.  Seinfeld was the most popular TV show.  Beanie Babies were the most popular Christmas toy.

Now consider how our culture has changed morally over their lifetime.

In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres was one of the first well-known celebrities to "come out" as homosexual; now same-sex marriage is the law of the land.  That year, debate over legalizing physician-assisted suicide began accelerating; it is now legal in five states and being considered by five others.

In 1997, there were 13.9 million illegal drug users in the U.S.; today 24.6 million Americans use illegal drugs, representing a 50 percent increase relative to the population.  Since 1997, the percentage of unmarried couples living together has doubled.  The percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation 
has nearly doubled to 22.8 percent, representing 56 million adults in America and outnumbering Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Indeed our world has changed quite a bit in the 18 years since my daughter graduated from high school. Some of this change is for the better, much is not. And as we seek to navigate through this ever changing world ... we must cling to reality that the God we serve NEVER changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). In him we can find the stability we need amidst the turbulent change that surrounds us!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's the end of the work week (for most of you ... definitely not for me!). So celebrate with a good hot cup of coffee and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Yesterday, at the conclusion of my Chinese lunch, the server brought me and my lunch partner the customary fortune cookie. I don't recall the bit of wisdom my fortune cookie revealed once I broke it open ... but I was struck by my friend's. His fortune read, "The gift without the giver is bare." Hmm, I thought to myself. That is really good! Don't you agree? How often do we enjoy God's gifts which he so generously showers us with ... without giving a thought to HIM as the GIVER of these gifts (James 1:17), In doing so, we miss the greatest blessing of all ... that of enjoying God Himself!  I encourage you at some point today ... take out a piece of paper (or call up whatever note taking app you use on your phone or tablet) and draw up a list of gifts God has given you. Then spend some time with him, thanking him for his gracious benevolence toward you. After all, the only thing we are entitled to receive from him is eternal judgment. Praise God He withholds that (mercy) and gives us eternal life in Christ (grace).

2. Last Sunday one of my best friends enjoyed the experience of giving his third oldest daughter away to the man who is now her husband. It was indeed a joy to observe him in that moment. Having done the same myself twice before, I know it can be a somewhat bitter-sweet moment. Sweet in knowing that one's daughter is now happy and moving on to a new chapter in her life ... bitter to see the former chapter close. But that is what life is all about! The great task of parenting is to raise our children so that, one day they will be prepared to move on and establish their own households. This requires that we "let go." And letting go is something American parents can have a tough time doing. Yet it is what God requires of us. Because if we don't "let go," our children will never be able to "leave and cleave" in their new relationship as husband and wife (Genesis 2:24).

3. Some time ago, I posted a prayer that I gleaned from John Piper's devotional book, Life as a Vapor). Since posting it, this prayer has been taped to my computer monitor so I can pray it from time to time. I offer it to you again with the hopes that you will make Piper's prayer your own.

"Thank you Lord, for the lives of flawed and faith-filled saints! 
Thank you for grace, amazing grace, that saves and uses sinners! 
Lord, don't let me limit your power by what I see in the mirror. 
Help me to trust you. Help me, as William Carey said, 
to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.
I am not great, But you are great. 
Your power is made perfect in my weakness. 
I surrender all worldly claims on my life. 
Come. Make me useful for the glory of Christ. 
In his great name I pray.
Amen." (John Piper)

4. Finally, here is an update from my friend, Augustin Hibaile. Augustin began a ministry a number of years ago in the Central African Republic. CIDEL (Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership) is strategically placed to be a major player in helping the C.A.R. on its path
toward peace and stability. Here is an an email I received yesterday from Augustin:

August 7

Dear prayer supporters, 

I am busy preparing for the leadership seminar with Politicians who are running for the elections in CAR. Please pray that God will provide for the remaining funds to organize the four days seminar. Life in CAR is very expensive and it is difficult to afford goods in the store due to the consequences of the war and the presence of the UN troops.

We appreciate your prayer for the success of the seminars that will take place in August 25-28, 2015. We are expecting instructors from UK, DRC, Switzerland.

Together

Augustin Hibaile

****Editors note: If you would like to give toward this pressing need to fund Dr. Hibaile's training seminars, please click here. When you arrive on Encompass World Partners' site, click on the drop down menu to select a project. When the list of projects comes up, click on C.A.R. - CIDEL (Hibaile) - Leadership Development. Thank you for considering some vitally needed financial support!  


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 25, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ: Special Christmas Edition

It's hard to believe that Christmas Day is here! I am still trying to figure out where last summer went!
But, with the mild weather of this week, it sure doesn't "feel" like Christmas!

Pretty soon, my house will be filled with the sounds of little kids giggling and laughing as our grandkids arrive for our Christmas Day Smith family holiday celebration. But before they come, I am enjoying a couple of cups of my favorite coffee (San Fransisco Bay Fog Chaser) ... AND the peace and quiet of the day!

On this special day ... if you can make the time ... I believe your heart will be warmed and your faith will be strengthened by John Piper's reading of his book, The Innkeeper.




I hope you and yours enjoy a wonderful Christmas and a blessed new year! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Update on Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries on earth. The average person earns less than $2 per day, making the C.A.R. the third poorest in the world. It is also one of the most miserable, with political instability and violence still preventing any movement toward a better living for the five million people who live there (click here for an International Red Cross video, just released today, that will give you an idea of the conditions many people in the CAR currently face).  In the face of such suffering, what can we do?

1. PRAY! National elections are taking place this coming Sunday, December 27th. Pray that God, through the votes of the people, will put into office men and women who care about the needs of the people and the future of the country. Pray also for the ministry of my dear friend, Dr. Augustin Hibaile, who directs the Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership). Augustin has access to government leaders at the highest levels. Pray that God would work through him to achieve HIS (God's) purposes!

2. GIVE! The people of the CAR are in need of all kinds of basic necessities of life. If you feel led to give, I suggest you go to the Encompass World Partners website. Click on the words, "Select a Project." You will see a number of projects listed for the C.A.R.

3. PRAY some more! God is sovereign. God is compassionate. And God does respond to the prayers of HIS people!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Sorry folks for the delay this morning. Last week I was on vacation, spending much of my time helping my wife and getting her out some to finish up our Christmas shopping. So being off last week got me behind for this week ... but I am ready, so pour yourself a cup of coffee (I am on my second cup) and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. I just heard that Pope Francis has approved sainthood for sister Theresa. Apparently some miracle of healing occurred that has been attributed to Theresa. Therefore the Pope has cleared the way for her to be canonized a saint. A couple of thoughts are floating around my head as I think of this. For starters, I cannot say definitively if this alleged miracle actually occurred. It very well may have happened for God does indeed heal today. But certainly not due to any prayers offered up to this woman (1 Timothy 2:5). But secondly, the Bible is clear that every single person who embraces the gospel and turns from their sin and rebellion against God is at that moment "set apart" by God for Himself. And therefore, the writers of the New Testament refer to their readers as "saints" (2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1). If Sister Theresa was trusting in Christ alone through faith alone ... then she is already a saint. And the greater miracle in this story is how a fallen image bearer of God could and would sacrificially put the needs of others above her own.

2. As I was praying through the Psalms today (using the method suggested by Donald Whitney in his excellent book, Praying the Bible,) I came to the following passage:


Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

(Psalm 138:7-8)

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that my wife has been on a rather unexpected and extended journey for almost four months now. What was to be a "routine" total knee replacement has been anything but! A manipulation under anesthesia resulted in a broken femur which went undiagnosed for a week as her physical therapist worked with her for five of those seven days. Once it was finally diagnosed, she underwent a surgery to repair the fracture. Now for the past four weeks, she has not been able to bear any weight on her broken leg ... a restriction that will go for another three weeks. This, of course, makes doing life (even the simple every day tasks we do without much thought) difficult. So this morning, my heart was encouraged as I read and prayed these verses. It is such a comfort to know that as we walk in the midst of trouble, that we do not do so alone. Our God is with us. His hand is upon us. And he will fulfill his purpose for us! If you are going through difficult circumstances in your life, take heart from these verses. God has not forgotten you! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ: Special Mid Morning Edition

Hope you have enjoyed your morning cup of coffee by now. I just finished my third and I think I am finally awake enough to share a few thoughts with you.

1. My wife had her post-op appointment yesterday. Although it is too early to tell if the broken femur is mending, the surgeon was positive about what he was seeing on the x-ray. Sharon will go back in four weeks at which time x-rays should be much more telling. Please pray for the mending of this bone (to help this along, Sharon will not be able to put ANY weight on her leg for at least the next four weeks). In addition, she will resume physical therapy next week to start working on motion in her knee. Would appreciate your prayers for her along that line as well. Sharon and I have found much comfort in our understanding that even though this caught the two of us by surprise, it did not catch our God by surprise. He has a plan for us and he is actively working that plan. Knowing this has helped us keep our sanity .. and our faith! There are no better hands to be in than those of our almighty and compassionate Creator and Father!

2. In the midst of this violent world, where people so coolly and calmly kill others, it is a comfort to know that Christmas is all about the birth of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus Christ offers to us peace WITH God (Romans 5:1). He is able to do so because on the cross he died to pay the wage we owed God for our sin and rebellion against him. Therefore, Jesus is able to offer us forgiveness for our sin and new life in HIM! This is something only he can do (Romans 6:23). He also offers to us the peace OF God. This is promised to us as we, clothed in the righteousness of God, take all of our needs to the Father in prayer. When we do this ... we will experience an inner peace ... even in the midst of the turbulent world in which we live (Philippians 4:6-7). There is one final peace that Jesus Christ offers, but this is still future. It is the universal peace that will one day reign upon the earth. Jesus Christ will usher in this peace as he begins his reign as King of kings and Lord of Lords (Isaiah 9:7; Revelation 21:4). So as you celebrate the Christmas season ... rejoice in Jesus the Prince of Peace! Are YOU experiencing the peace he gives?

3. Recently my youngest daughter wanted my wife and me to see how her kids were learning about God using the little book, My First Book of Questions and Answers (I highly recommend this little book!). Kate looked at her two year old and asked, "Who made you?" "Gawd" little June replied. "And why did God make you?" my daughter asked. "To bwing gwoly to him," June answered. So far so good! Then Kate asked, "June, who is in heaven?" Without hesitation June responded, "God, Jesus and Santa Clause!" OK. She got the idea of the trinity down, but a bit off on the identity of the third member!  If you are a parent with young children, it is never to early to start teaching your children the truth of God's Word. Remember, your kids are not yours. They have been loaned to you by their Creator. So train them in the way they should go! That's your responsibility and joy!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Now that Thanksgiving Day is over, it's time to pour yourself a cup of hot coffee for breakfast. Skip everything else. You probably ate enough calories yesterday to get you through the rest of the month. And if you are planning on going out shopping today (or just getting back), please be wary of getting caught up in the pervasive consumerism of our day!

1. In case you might fear that you are drinking too much coffee, relax and read about the 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Coffee, So Drink Up (not that I need any encouragement to do so!).

2.  "Christianity is much more than getting your doctrine right. But it is not less."  These are the opening words of Kevin DeYoung's recent post, "Doctrine Matters: Eternal Life Depends Upon It."  In a day and age when so many in the church find doctrine dry and boring, these thoughts of DeYoung are definitely worth the few minutes it will take you to read them.

3. Finally, an update on my wife Sharon. According to her surgeon, the surgery of last Thursday to repair her broken femur went well. After getting her pain under control and going through a couple of therapy sessions, Sharon was discharged on Sunday evening. As I climbed out of bed Monday morning, I prayed to God, asking him to help the day to go smoothly. There were several things to work out concerning her care. The first and most important was to get her prescription for lovenox filled. This medication (which is taken by injection) is designed to prevent blood clots from forming. Sharon's surgeon wanted her on this medication given what he had to do in the surgery and given Sharon's inactivity. The problem with this medication is that even with insurance, it would have cost us over $1000. So the doctor prescribed a less expensive alternative. This alternative would have required Sharon to inject herself 3x each day (vs. just once a day with the lovenox). But it was MUCH less expensive. However, as the nurse called to numerous pharmacies, not one carried the drug! Hmmm. So we committed it to prayer. If we had to bite the bullet ... we would do so. But God had something else in mind. It began when a case worker walked into Sharon's hospital room with a coupon. It was a Walmart coupon which would allow us to purchase 25 doses of lovenox for $157 (which sounds like a lot when standing alone ... but sounds like "a litttle" when compared to $1000!). The caseworker had called Walmart to verify the validity of the coupon . . . and they informed her that they would indeed honor it! And since this was five doses less than the doctor ordered, the case worker told us that the hospital would provide five FREE doses at the hospital's convenience pharmacy. SO ... on my mind on Monday morning was the nagging question, would all go smoothly at both the hospital's pharmacy and Walmart? As it turns out, I never made it beyond LGH's pharmacy. When I stepped up to the counter to get the lovenox, the pharmacy tech told me there were 25 doses in the bag. "But I thought I was getting only 5?" I responded. She informed me the script was for 25. So I asked (with a bit of fear in my voice), "How much does this cost?" Her answer almost made me jump for joy, "Ten dollars" was her response. I paid the price, grabbed the bag, and thanked God as I walked out to my car. Wow! We went from over a thousand dollars to $157 to $10! We are so thankful for God's provision in this!

As you think of my wife, please pray for her. This will be a long journey (which has already stretched for nearly three months). And the final outcome as to her leg and knee are yet to be determined.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this Thanksgiving Day, two quotes concerning gratitude which grip my heart every time I read them:

 From Nancy DeMoss – Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy

“Gratitude is not merely a second-tier virtue in the Christian life – it is vital. And it is transformational. I truly believe a grateful spirit, rooted in the soil of God’s goodness and grace, will radically impact how you view and respond to everything in your life.”

From Ellen Vaughn - Radical Gratitude: Discovering Joy through Everyday Thankfulness

“Cultivating a grateful heart is not just an add-on nicety, a civil tip of the hat to God as we steamroll through our day. A posture of purposeful, perpetual thanks to God is absolutely central to Christian character. It gives glory to Him. It is the key defense against Satan’s temptations to despair, distrust, dysfunction. It protects us from sin and self. It is the hallmark of heaven. It does not exist in hell.” 


Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me for a cup of coffee and some random thoughts ...

1. I am now in my 27th year of pastoring Grace Church at Willow Valley. Across the years I have seen people come and go, preached well over a thousand times, sung innumerable songs in worship, prayed I don't know how many prayers. I have lost track of the weddings officiated and the funerals conducted. But one thing I have not last track of is the greatness and goodness of my God. To say that our God is an awesome God doesn't seem quite enough. But I can't think of anything better to say about him. He is awesome in holiness, love, mercy, grace, faithfulness, truth, justice, and on and on it goes. I am so thankful that over 26 years ago he led me to Grace Church. From the first Sunday here I began to fall in love with the church family. It surely looks different today then back then, but my love for the church has only grown. SO ... if you are a part of the family at Grace ... know this: God in Christ loves you ... and so do I!

2. My wife has been on a journey which began last December. An MRI revealed that what little meniscus remained in her right knee was shredded The orthopedic surgeon, wanting to avoid a knee replacement given Sharon's "younger" age, suggested a process of injecting a substance into her knee which would lubricate the joint and relieve the pain ... supposedly. "Fifty-fifty" were his words for a successful outcome. So in January -February she underwent the injections (three of them, one week apart). Within two months it was apparent that she fell in the "50%" of unsuccess. So began the process of second opinion and ultimately surgery for a total knee replacement (which took place on September 4th). From the get go, Sharon faced more difficulties than most. Somehow, she fell between the cracks when she moved from in-home physical therapy (pt) and outpatient. So she lost a week there. Then she had a negative reaction to the pain meds she was on ... and lost a few pt sessions there. Across the weeks, scar tissue built up to the point she could only bend her new knee so far. The orthopedist recommended "manipulation under anesthesia" (see previous post for explanation). The condition Sharon was suffering, known as a "stiff knee" is experienced by a very small % of TKR patients. As the orthopedic discussed this option, he mentioned the risks, such as the risk that comes with the use of anesthesia, which is true for all surgeries. He then mentioned that there was a very small risk that during the procedure, a bone in her leg could break. He downplayed this as a very remote risk, especially given that my wife did not fall into any of the "high risk" categories for the procedure. Sharon and I shrugged any risk off ... having experienced surgeries and procedures in which doctors have to mention the risks (and then you, the patient, have to sign of on). No big deal.

No big deal? Perhaps for the 99+% of manipulation patients. But it became a very big deal for my wife. From the time she stood up after the manipulation, she found it quite difficult (and at times impossible) to put weight on her right leg (I had to use a wheelchair to transport her into the pt department for her first pt session after the manipulation).  For 7 days, she endured the pain as she had to go to pt for five of the first six days. We finally made an appointment with the orthopedist. After briefly meeting with him, Sharon was taken for an x-ray. Once back in the room, we waited for the doctor. When he walked in, his whole demeanor had changed. "We now know why you cannot put weight on your leg. Your leg is broken." At that point, my heart broke for my wife. She had endured so much ... and now its back to the OR. And what this means for her ongoing rehab for her new knee? The surgery went well. The surgeon was able to repair the break. She is now in a knee immobilizer. This will be her constant companion for the next two weeks. For at least the next six weeks she will not be allowed to put any weight on her leg. Total healing time for her leg to totally heal will be about six months. What this all means for the rehab of her new knee I do not know.

Yesterday morning I pulled my copy of the book of Psalms out of my office bag. Randomly opening it, I found myself reading Psalm 67:1, "May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us."  "Yes, Lord," I prayed .. "please do so today. Upon Sharon, upon me, upon the surgeon .... " Then I went on to read the next verse: "that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations." As I read those words, I thought of what happened after the doctor informed us of my wife's broken leg. She looked at him and said (as he was visibly upset), "I don't want you to blame yourself for this. We realize things happen for a purpose. Our God will take care of us." I sat in amazement as I heard my wife give glory to God and voicing her trust in him.

Certainly one of the reasons that we are on this difficult journey is that we might be able to give glory to him and point others to him. This is not to say that our faith does not sometimes falter. And it is at those times we cry the prayer of the father of the demon possessed son, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

Thanks for your ongoing prayers for my wife and ..../

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday's Coffee with PJ

Fridays keep rolling around at a pace that does not relent! We are now within two weeks of Thanksgiving Day! Wow! SO .... take some time to slow down and pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee while joining me for a few random thoughts.

1. I am really getting sick of going to doctors! I think in the past year and a half, I have been to more doctor offices than my entire life (well ... given my age, probably not ... but it sure seems to be true!). I have had a torn distal biceps tendon repaired (this took five months from the time of the initial injury until the surgery ... in part due to my family physician trying to figure out what was behind my persistent arm pain). Then there was the follow up to the surgery and some complications, all of which led to the determination that I need another surgery due to another problem with my arm/wrist. In the midst of this, I endured a kidney stone episode last fall which led to a surgical procedure in January (and I  have another follow up with the urologist today that is related to all of this). In addition, I have had a couple of other minor health issues that my family physician is treating. Add to all of this the numerous visits I have gone to with my wife for her bad knee and now her new knee (do you see why I said I am really getting sick of going to doctors?). Of course, that statement is a bit ironic, yes? I am sick of going to doctors ... but it is due to "sickness" that I have to go in the first place! In all of this, I have encouraged myself calling to my mind the reality that this suffering is merely a season of life that I am passing through. And even if I had to battle illness and injury the rest of my earthly life ... I know with great confidence that there is a better me in my future. And part of this better me is a new, resurrected body! The apostle Paul talks about the resurrection that awaits us in 1 Corinthians 15. If you have not read this chapter lately, I highly recommend that you do. You will, I am sure, be greatly encouraged! Oh ... and by the way ... on Sunday, I will be preaching on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 in which Paul talks about our future resurrection. I invite you to join us at either 9:00 or 10:30. We would love to have you join us!

2. Here are some brief but insightful words from the pen of one of my favorite theologian/author: "Christ walks, as it were, out of the pages of the Bible into our lives" (J.I. Packer). This is so very true! Jesus Christ ... his person and his work ... is at the very heart of the Bible's story line. But before he can walk into our lives ... we must get into the Word! So ... how much time do you spend in the Bible each week? Your answer to this question will go along way in determining how much Christ is in your life!

3. What kind of shape is your marriage in? If you want some help diagnosing the condition of your marriage, Kevin DeYoung (my favorite  younger author) offers up Ten Diagnostic Questions for Your Marriage.  If you are willing to invest the time ... I believe your marriage will be stronger after discussing these questions with your spouse!

4. Speaking of spouses ... thanks for praying for my wife. Last Friday I mentioned she was undergoing a Manipulation Under Anesthesia of  her right knee (see last week's post for a link which explains this). The manipulation was a success. In spite of great pain, she has now gone from a being stuck at a 95 degree bend to 107 degrees as of yesterday's therapy session! So although hurting right now in body ... she is encouraged in heart! Please pray she will continue to progress (the therapist would like to see her get to at least 115 degrees if not 120 degrees!). Pray also that she will be able to straighten her leg. She is currently at 10 degrees. Thanks!

5. Oh ... and I did notice that today is Friday the 13th. Since I am not superstitious in the least (I would rather live my life under the reality of the providential care of a sovereign God. One who loved me enough to send his one and only Son to die in my place, facing God's wrath so I would never have to). So that's all I am going to say about today's date (but for what it's worth, check out what wikipedia has to say about it).

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Sorry I missed our coffee time last week. Was enjoying a week of "staycation" with my wife. I also needed to catch up on some chores around the house. So ... I caught up on those and also caught up on some much needed rest! All in all ... a great week! Now it's back to the grind ... so grind your coffee beans (or whatever method you use to brew your coffee) ... and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Yesterday, one of my staff members here at church, invited me to attend Lancaster Bible College's chapel to hear Jared Wilson speak. I had read and appreciated a number of things Jared had written. So I was looking forward to hearing him speak. I was not disappointed. The biggest takeaway for me from what he taught was this statement: "If you find the gospel boring, the problem in not with the gospel. It's with you!" He then went on to list a number of incredible blessings that are ours because of the gospel (and our response to it ... "repenting and believing" - Mark 1:14-15). As he went down his list, I find myself nodding in agreement. When we truly understand what the gospel offers us, there is simply no way we can find it boring. Think about it! The gospel redeems us from our sin, provides for us a relationship with the God who made us, promises us an eternal home of unimaginable blessing, brands us with a new identity in Christ .... and on and on and on it goes! All freely given to us who in NO WAY deserve any of it! Wow! There is no "boring" in the gospel! Thanks, Jared, for this wonderful reminder of the glory that is ours because of what Jesus Christ was willing to do for us!

Logan Feeling Some Steeler Love!
2. This past Sunday morning at 1:04 Eastern Standard Time, our newest grandchild entered our world. Logan Ryan Smith is our 7th grandchild! Since my wife was invited by our daughter-in-law to
be present for the birth, we made our way to Women's and Babies Hospital around 10:30 Saturday night. Our daughter-in-law tends to have "quick" deliveries, and my wife was determined she was not going to miss the birth of her grandson! We had been praying for a safe arrival of a healthy baby. God graciously answered our prayers! Children are indeed a gift from God (Psalm 127:3)!

3. Finally, an update on my wife and her recovery from her total knee replacement back on September 4th. I mentioned back on October 16th, that my wife was possibly suffering from Knee stiffness after her TKR (also known as arthrofibrosis or "stiff knee syndrome"). So next Tuesday (time TBD) her surgeon will perform MUA on her knee (Manipulation Under Anesthesia). This is being done to break up the scar tissue that has formed since the surgery. This scarring is preventing her knee from bending. The MUA will be followed by five days of aggressive physical therapy. Your prayers for my wife would be very much appreciated! Thanks!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday morning coffee with PJ time! I hope you are ready to enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a few random thoughts ... the coffee will warm your bod .... and I hope the thoughts will draw you to God!

1. Meditation. When we hear this word, we often envision a group of monks dressed in flowing robes, surrounded by a cloud of incense, chanting as they "empty" their minds of any thoughts of this world in order to focus on a mystical, other-worldly (and non existent!) god. Therefore, we who have chosen to follow Jesus often dismiss any thought of meditating. After all, its for eastern mystics ... right? Wrong! The Bible uses the world "meditate" in some form about two dozen times. As we examine these occurrences, it becomes very evident very quickly, that the Bible's portrayal of mediation is nothing like what is mentioned above. The Bible is clear. When we meditate, we are to meditate upon the Scriptures (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3). This meditation is not something we should do if we can squeeze it in once in a while ... but rather it is something God calls us to practice "day and night!" Given the importance placed upon meditating on the Scripture ... what does that look like? I encourage you to take the time to read the article, Five Steps to Meditating on the Bible. You will be better for it!

2. Recently I have been struck by the number of commercials I have seen promoting products that will supposedly help pets live long and prosperous lives. In addition, on more than one occasion I 
have scratched my head at television news reports of some tragedy involving an animal. It just seems to me that increasingly our society is valuing animal life while at the same time devaluing human life (PLEASE ... don't get me wrong. Even though I have not pets in my house at the present time, I have had them in the past. I really do love animals!). But when more of an outcry is made over dying or dead chickens than millions of unborn human babies ... something is wrong. Very wrong! I happen to believe that human life begins at conception. Therefore, to destroy an "fetus" is to destroy a human life. If you would like to further investigate why I believe abortion is wrong, check out Ten Reasons Why It Is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children. And if you do happen to agree with me, then let me ask you, What have you done of late to help save some of these yet-to-be-born babies? If you don't know what you can do to help ... check out the website for Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services.

3. In the midst of all the ups and downs of the past 7 weeks since my wife's knee replacement, I have continued my Sunday morning teaching through the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians. The church in Thessalonica was a young church. But it was also a suffering church. Birthed in the midst of chaos and persecution ... that continues long after the Apostle Paul and his church planting companion Silas, were run out of town. And it was to this young and suffering church that Paul wrote this first of two letters addressed to this group of first century believers. Last Sunday's passage yielded some principles that help us persevere through life's difficulties. The following day, I received this email which strengthened my weary soul:

Dear Pastor John, 

I believe God is birthing something new among us, something more than just the daughter church. The Holy Spirit is at work in each of us in powerful ways through the trials we are facing. We are all learning to depend on Him more completely.

Your message yesterday was God's provision for all of us as we face these "labor pains" - take God at His Word, stand together as His church, and look ahead to our blessed hope!
Praying for you and Sharon today!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj



Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

There's not a better way to wake up then with some freshly brewed coffee in my cup ... or should I say "cups!" I just can't stop with one or even two cups. Three seems like the perfect number for me! So ... pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Next month will mark twenty years since I began to teach as an adjunct in Lancaster Bible College's degree completion program for adults (the program is now called Accelerated Undergraduate Degrees). I teach in this particular program for several reasons. I enjoy teaching (and learning from) adults. The format fits my busy schedule well (each course is taught once a week (Tuesdays from 6-10pm) for five weeks). For the past few years I have been teaching three courses each year ... Apocalyptic Literature, The Pentateuch, and Christian Narrative 1. Teaching at the college keeps me sharp which helps in my own teaching and preaching ministry at Grace. One of the big blessings of teaching at LBC occurs when I happen to run into a former student. This occurred recently as my wife and I were dining out at Olive Garden (across from the Park City Mall). This particular student had been called to pastor a local church just six months ago. He shared with me his excitement about the opportunity God had given him. He also thanked me for the role I had played in equipping him for his pastoral ministry. As he walked away, I silently thanked God that he uses someone like me to encourage others as they seek to serve Him! That "crossing of paths" made my day! God wants to make your day as well . . . so who are you seeking to influence for Jesus Christ?

2. Later today I will have the honor of officiating at a wedding ... just as I have done so many times before. Across the course of the past several months, I have met with this couple, equipping them, I hope, with the tools they will need to experience the intimate marriage God wants them to enjoy. During the ceremony I will do what I have been doing for  years ... and that is to offer them the same advice that I have offered to countless couples before them. Someone once asked me why I chose to basically give the same message at every wedding. I responded, "I want couples to actually remember what I said to them. I also want to be able to remember myself. That way, when I see the couple down the road, I can ask them if they are putting into practice what I encouraged them (from God's Word) to do in their relationship with one another." I guess you could call this practicing accountability. It seems to work well ... and as my Dad often told me, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

3. As you well know, life doesn't always go as planned. Those of you who have visited my blog in the past may recall that my wife underwent a total knee replacement back on September 4th (now six weeks ago). On Wednesday her surgeon was concerned with the stiffness in her knee which, he said, is being caused by scar tissue. He told her that in three weeks, he will reexamine her. If she has not progressed sufficiently in bending and straightening her knee, he will perform MUA on her knee (Manipulation Under Anesthesia). Knee stiffness after a TKR (also known as arthrofibrosis or "stiff knee syndrome"does impact a very small percentage of patients. It appears that my wife is now a member of that small exclusive club! The physical therapist is talking about using a brace that may help her get to where she needs to be (and thus avoid the MUA). Please pray for my wife. Your prayers are very meaningful (2 Co 1:1; Acts 12:1-19) and much appreciated!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday morning coffee time ... or better said ... Friday morning coffee with PJ time! I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I have writing them! And I most certainly hope you enjoy your coffee!

1. I ran across a new word this week. It's the word "phubbing." The word is actually short for "phone snubbing," This occurs when you ignore someone in favor of your phone. A few years ago I was being phubbed and didn't even know I was being phubbed! But I did know that I did not like the process! I was having a lunch meeting with someone (at his request, not mine). At least a dozen times in the 30 minutes or so that we were lunching "together," his phone would vibrate as it laid on the table. He would excuse himself, read and then respond to the incoming text. I don't think I need to tell you how that made me feel. Let's just say I have not had lunch with him since! SO ... have you been phubbed lately? Perhaps you have been the one doing the phubbing? I must admit that all too often I am guilty of doing this with my wife. She's talking ... I am checking my twitter feed. Ouch! I really do need stop it. I think I will make a stop at www.stopphubbing.com.  Maybe I can find some tips on stopping this unhealthy practice! Remember ... if you don't want to be phubbed ... then stop phubbing others (see Matthew 7:12)!

2. On Monday I was cutting my lawn for the first time in well over a month (reason: I returned home from the beach in August with a bad back. It took a that long for it to heal enough for me to get back to walking behind my mower - mine is self-propelled!). I was about 90% done when I had to stop the mower in order to pick up a fallen branch from one of my birch trees. After doing so, I returned to the mower and pulled the start cord. "Rumble, rumble, cough, cough, silence." No matter what I tried ... the same response. The mower would not cooperate (and NO it was NOT out of gas!). Even the next morning I got it out and tried starting it ... but no go! SO, I loaded it into my van (with help) and drove it to the repair shop around the corner. I must admit I was a bit frustrated (OK ... more than "a bit"). After all, I had just bought the mower in the spring! But no matter how new or old a piece of machinery is, breakdowns are sure to come. The same can be said for us. We can breakdown physically or emotionally. When this happens, we need to head off to see the appropriate professional for help. But we can also breakdown spiritually. When this happens, we need to go to the one who created our soul ... Jesus Christ. He himself issues us the invitation to come to him when we are burdened ... and he will give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). So the next time you feel like you are falling apart ... then you need to come apart (from all your busyness) and spend some time with the One who loved you enough to die for you! 

*Note - I just got a call from the repair shop. The governor spring had fallen off the engine. Cost of repair? $22! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning ... Friday coffee ... and a few random thoughts from my brain to yours. Does it get much better than that? Yep ... it sure does (thankfully so!)!

1. The other day as Sharon and I sat in the waiting area of her physical therapist, an older gentleman (and the older I get ... the older others get when I use the term "older!") walked in the door and plopped down in the chair next to my wife. He looked at her swollen right knee with the zipper that is still healing and said, "Oh, I see you had a knee replacement." (Hmm .... that was a pretty observant comment, I remember thinking!) My wife nodded her head and went on to give him the details. When she finished, he replied, "Yep. I had one about ten years ago. I did not even have to use any pain medication. Once in a while I would pop a Tylenol ... but that was about it. And I did not go for any physical therapy. Did it all myself at home." As he finished that line, his name was called and off he went. As I processed his comments, I was a bit irritated. I did not think my wife needed to hear that with all the pain she was going through. As we drove home from the appointment, we talked some more about this man and what he had said. My wife told me that she talked to the therapist about it ... and he said something to the effect that some people seem to be smiled upon by God more so than others after a total knee replacement. My wife and I agreed that our response was very much "me centered." Instead of feeling irritated, we should have rejoiced that this man had been spared the pain and agony that my wife is currently enduring. Ouch. We are more "egocentric" than we realize. Praise God that he will not grow weary of us ... but will continue doing HIS work in our lives ... turning us from egocentric sinners into theocentric (God centered) saints!

2. Later on today I will be wrapping up premarital counseling with a couple whom I will have the privilege to marry in a couple of weeks. Walking a couple through their preparation for marriage is a good thing for me. It reminds me of what marriage is all about and God's design for it. What a joy marriage can be when a husband is cherishing his wife and a wife is respecting her husband! When by God's grace we make an intentional effort to live out God's blueprint for marriage ... we can enjoy a taste of heaven on earth. Unfortunately, too many husbands (me included) and too many wives can be ... as I said above ... "egocentric." What we need to do in our homes is to "hear" and then "put into practice" (Matthew 7:24-27) the Apostle Paul's encouragement to the church at Philippi (and to us, of course) as recorded in Philippians 2:3-4. Only as we consider our mate as more important than ourselves will we begin to understand the kind of true intimacy that leads to a joy that lasts!

3. Finally ... a quote from the pen of Kevin DeYoung that all of us busy people need to read (and slow down long enough to think about!).

"Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart, and your soul are in danger. We need the Word of God to set us free. We need biblical wisdom to set us straight. What we need is the Great Physician to heal our overscheduled souls. If only we could make time for an appointment."


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ - Special Wednesday Edition

If you are like me ... you drink coffee (and several cups) on other days besides Friday. .So I thought you might want to join me for a random thought or two here in the middle of the week.

1. For some people, the lunar eclipse on Sunday evening was magnificent to see. For others who looked toward the sky it was "Where's this eclipse everyone is talking about?" The difference is that the former were looking up into clear skies. For the latter, clouds obscured their view of the moon. As I reflect on this it reminds me of how some Christians can look toward heaven and see eternity. As a result, their lives are different as they live in the here and now in light of the there and then. However there are many other believers (myself included far too often here) that allow this or that to obscure our view of heaven. It may be material things ... or a desire to be entertained ... or careers ... or friends ... or ... But I am guessing you know what I am talking about. The Bible urges us to set our minds on things above vs. the things of this earth (Colossians 3:1-4). This was the practice of the Apostle Paul for, as he put it, the stuff of this life is temporary ... but the things of heaven last forever (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). So ... what is obscuring your view of eternity? For more insight into developing an eternal perspective, check out Randy Alcorn's website. It will be time well spent!

2. If you are reading this before Wednesday evening, and you live in the vicinity of Grace Church, I invite you to attend our Preview this evening of Financial Peace University. Beginning next Wednesday evening (October 7th) and running through Wednesday December 9th, we will be offering this workshop. Dave Ramsey's material is some of the best there is dealing with money matters and how to best handle it ... whether you have a lot or very little! The preview begins at 6:30 pm. This workshop can change your life ... for the better!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friends ... it's Friday ... it's time for another cup of coffee with PJ! So pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew (mine is San Fransisco Fog Chaser) .... and enjoy a few random thoughts with me.

1. Wednesday marked the first day of autumn! That means winter is "on deck" as far as the seasons go. I just saw a long range forecast for this upcoming winter from one of my favorite meterologists (Joe Bastardi) who also happens to be one of the most accurate when it comes to long range forecasting (you can follow Joe on twitter at @BigJoeBastardi). Joe is forecasting a winter for our area that is below average in temperature and above average in precipitation (and given the temperature forecast I am guessing that much of the precip that will fall will be of the frozen variety ---- I am trying to avoid the "s" word!). Now ... time will tell whether or not Joe got this right (and based on his track record he is more often right than wrong). So we will revisit his forecast on the other side of winter and see how accurate he was. But we don't ever have to do this with the Bible. This book is unique among the books of the world. I happen to believe it's claim to be the inspired word of the Creator is true. And because it is God's Word ... it is accurate in all that it "forecasts!" To sum it up, I believe that the Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men carried along by God’s Spirit as they wrote, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises. What a privilege we have to open, read, treasure and obey this book of books!  I hope you spend some time in it today! 

2. This week is Fair week as the West Lampeter Fair opened for its 92nd run! What makes this fair so unique is the absence of things like carnival rides and games. This fair is about as down home as you can get. But there is plenty of food and plenty of animals (not to mention people as the community turns out in droves for this annual event). Fair booths fill numerous tents. These are sponsored by churches and other community organizations, schools and businesses (one of my favorite booths is the one sponsored by Herr's as they offer free bags of potato chips to fair goers!). Of course, our church sponsors a booth as we have been doing for over 20 years. This year along with our ongoing "Baby Comfort Station" - a clean place to change diapers, etc. - we have a photo booth complete with an assortment of props to complement any person's good looks! We spend the time and effort and money to do this to provide a window to our community of who we are as a church. We realize that we are not for everyone. But for those who decide to make Grace Church their spiritual family ... we believe we have a lot to offer! So ... if you are planning to head to the fair today, please stop in and say "hello!" I will be present tonight and would love to meet you! And always remember you can visit us online at gracewv.org or on campus at 300 Willow Valley Square (behind Darrenkamps Market). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday mornings is coffee time for me (well, EVERY morning is coffee time for me!). If you enjoy coffee ... I invite you to pour a cup and enjoy a few minutes with me (and if you don't enjoy coffee, I hope you don't run off!).

1. I recently went out and bought a new pair of shoes (I actually bought two because the store was offering buy one get a second pair half off). The day after I bought them, I wore one of the pairs. By the day's end I was more than ready to take them off (my "dogs" were really barking!). As you well know, it takes some time to break in a new pair of shoes. So you have to put up with the stiffness and discomfort for a time. This week my wife has been working on "breaking in" her new knee (which looks really cool on the x-rays she had done at her post-op visit). And after watching my wife go through this process, I have added to my prayer list, "Lord let me keep my original knees!" It has not been an easy path for her to walk (as some of you know from your own experience). So ... when you think of my wife, please pray for her! And pray that I will be the cheerleader she needs me to be!

2. Back in 1975 I purchased a book that would revolutionize my view of God. The book was written by J. I. Packer, a man whose writings I have come to highly value. I can still picture myself sitting at my security desk in the lobby of the Robert Morris Dormitory in Center City Philadelphia (17th and Arch Streets to be exact) - reading Packer's classic, Knowing God. Even though the hour was late (or early - I worked from 1:30 - 5:30 AM), I had little trouble staying awake as I explored the person of God through Packer's book. If you have never read this book (and I would hope you would do so!), here is a taste of Packer's thinking about God:

"What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it-the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters. This is momentous knowledge."

I couldn't agree more! This is momentous knowledge ... and it is knowledge that will change the way we look at life and live it out (Jeremiah 9:23-24)!

3. A month ago we had just finished our family week at the beach. During our time on the beach, I decided to take the little kids for a wagon ride. What seemed like a good and fun idea ... was anything but. I pulled a muscle in my back that has been cranky every since. Some days are better than others. In fact, there have been a few days on which I heard little from this cranky muscle. But most days it has been letting me know its around and I had better behave myself! Well, not only do muscles get "cranky." So do people! And I would guess that if you are anything like me - you are sometimes among the cranky people of the world. The other morning I got up and was thinking about my day and certain challenges I/we are facing at the moment. I felt myself growing cranky. About that time, I pulled a loaf of bread out of our bread box, removed a piece of bread and dropped it in the toaster. That's when it hit me. "Hmmm," I remember thinking to myself. "There are some people in this world that would do anything to be able to do what I had just done with this bread - because they have none!" All of a sudden, the crankiness that was growing within me was now being pushed out by feelings of gratitude. Wow! What a difference perspective can make! Yes? So the next time circumstances are pushing you toward crankiness ... count your blessings! You are more blessed than you know (Psalm 103:1-5)!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning means .... coffee time! (well, any morning means coffee time in my book!). So ...
pour yourself a steamy hot cup of joe and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. Speed bumps. Don't you hate them? Especially when you aren't paying enough attention to your driving and you hit one without warning? Speed bumps are there for a purpose ... to slow us down! Which is definitely a GOOD thing ... even though we like to complain about them. Our journey through life contains "speed bumps." These are circumstances that come our way that slow us down. And as their counterparts on the streets we drive .... we grumble about these as well. Last Friday my wife underwent a total knee replacement surgery. From the very get go we began to encounter speed bumps. For starters, the anesthesiologist could not administer the spinal block they planned to use due to Sharon's 25 year old back fusion. So they had to administer a heavier general anesthetic. This in turn caused nausea which in turn delayed the start of her in-hospital physical therapy. Speed bump #2 came in the form of low blood pressure. This added to the delay in the start of her therapy. Finally, on Monday, she was cleared for discharge. However, since it was a holiday, the medical supply company was not open. Hence there was no walker for Sharon which she needed to use at home. After an hour or so of seeking an answer, a walker was located for Sharon to use (fortunately she is on the shorter side as the walker was a "Jr. walker!"). All this to say ,,,, life does not always proceed at the comfortable and steady pace that we would like. Speed bumps pop up from time to time .... causing us to slow down and adjust. Can you guess what we did when these unexpected speed bumps showed up? We prayed!  Hmmm. Seems to me that in the long run ... these speed bumps were a blessing in disguise!

2.  As I write these words it is raining outside ... and raining quite heavily. Considering that it has been very dry the past several weeks, this rain is a very good thing. However, the National Weather
Service has posted a flood watch for our area - and at present, a flood warning for York County (just to our west). All this to say ... Too much of a good thing is simply too much! Now this is often the case in life. But one area in which it does not hold true is in our relationship with God. Fellowship with God and the worship of God are good things ... and they are good things that we could never get enough of! Take a moment and read Psalm 27:4 and Psalm 16:11 and you will see why!

3. Finally an outstanding quote from John Piper of Desiring God Ministries: "The Bible stabilizes us by reminding us of who we are - known by God, made new by the Spirit, bought by Christ." Wow! Chew on that powerful thought. It may be just what you need to make it through a tough day!

Thanks for stopping by ...
pj

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday!!!!!  So it's time to pour yourself a cup of that wonderful beverage we call "coffee" and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. Bertrand Russel once said, "Many Christians would rather die than think; in fact, they do!" Ouch! Sad to say, what he said half a century or so ago is just as true (if not more so) today. But following Christ does not require us to check our brains at the door of the church. God calls upon us to love him with all of our hearts, souls and minds (Matthew 22:37). Our faith is not a "leap into intellectual darkness!" There is evidence for our faith. And when one follows the evidence, it leads to the God who made us ... the God to whom we are accountable (Romans 1:18-20). Regrettably, the mass of humanity takes this evidence and suppresses it (Romans 1:18) and exchange it for a lie (Romans 1:25). But for those of us who take God at His Word .... we can ill afford NOT TO THINK. Consider these words written by Charles Spurgeon, arguably one of the greatest preachers the church ever produced:

"The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumbline cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.... But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe.... The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity" (quoted from Knowing God by J.I. Packer - which is, I believe, a must read book for anyone desiring of knowing God better!).

So ... all this to say .... "Let God's people THINK!"

2. The other day as I was driving from Hershey back to Lancaster, a driver began to tail gate me. Now according to SmartDriver.com, when driving 45 mph, one should allow 198 feet between yourself and the car in front of you. This driver was allowing about 10! So .... I slowed down and then motioned in my rear view mirror for the driver to move back. She simply waved her hand at me as if ... "whatever!" and continued to tailgate. When I said something to my wife (who was seated in the back seat with our grandson), she turned and looked back and also motioned for the diver to back off. At that point ... the driver went ballistic, throwing her arms all about, her mouth showing that she was screaming (which fortunately neither we nor our grandson could hear). She finished by showing
us one of her fingers (and I am sure you can guess which one). Well at that point, I decided to pull into a gas station that we were approaching. I put on my turn signal. Before I could turn, she raced past us (passing on a double yellow line). All that to repeat the same thing with the driver I was following! After she passed I said to my wife, "There goes one very angry woman!" Now before I condemn this woman for her anger ... I must (as we all must) take a look into the mirror. All of us struggle with sinful anger from time to time. Some of us more so than others. When our agenda gets preempted ... we grow angry! The Scripture tells us, "Be angry and do not sin - do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26). IF you have problems with anger, let me suggest you take a moment to read How Can I Manage My Anger? You will be better for it (as will those around you!)!

3. Finally, I would ask all of my blog friends to offer up a prayer for my wife today. She is undergoing surgery to receive a new right knee. Thanks! Your prayers are much appreciated!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Today is the FINAL Friday of August AND the final Friday of meterological summer! Boo!!! Summer is my favorite season of the year. And although I do enjoy the fall .... knowing that winter lurks around the corner saddens my soul!  So, enough of that. Thanks for joining me for a cup of coffee and a couple of random thoughts that I hope will strengthen your faith and encourage your soul!

1. If you have been in touch with any news reports of late, the name Ashley Madison should sound familiar. This is the website which allows married people to find other people with whom to have an affair. I never knew such a website existed ... as I am sure is true for many of you. But when hackers obtained the names of those who have used the website, a firestorm erupted. Those who had thought their extramarital activities were "secret" now were frantic with fear. And there were a lot of people in this boat! Of all the zip codes in the United States, only three did not have an address linked to the site. The population of those three zip codes? 476! The population of the other zipcodes? 321,000,000! I am guessing we are about to see a spike in the number of divorces being filed! All this reminds me of a particular verse in the Bible which contains these words, "be sure your sin will find you out." What we think is done in secret, never is! For our God is always watching (Hebrews 4:13). So when the Tempter comes with his enticing bait, turn the other way and run! For our God is watching, even if no one else is!

2. This past Monday I had the privilege of officiating the memorial service of a woman who lived a full life of 94 years. Three and half weeks ago I did the same for a 94 year old man. Both of these people lived in such a way as to point many people to Jesus! I hope that is how you want to live ... to be pointed people to Jesus! And it is not really all that hard to do! A friend of mine (and a friend of a number of you as well), Ed Lewis, encourages people to go FISH for people (after all, if we choose to follow Jesus, he promises to make us "fishers of men!" - Matthew 4:19). SO  here is how it works. As you encounter people throughout your day ....

- Friendly (Be friendly! No one wants to talk with someone who acts like they just ate a dill pickle!)
- Initiate  (Initiate conversation)
- Story or Serve (Ask them about their story or serve them in some way.
- Hope (Give them hope ... offer to pray for them, etc).

This method can be easily remembered and implemented. So ... go out and FISH today! (Thanks Ed, for this reminder!)

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

Once again Friday has arrived! So ... you know the routine ... pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew. Not only will you enjoy a delightful way of waking up . . . but you will enjoy a multitude of health benefits that coffee offers (so quick ...drink up before researches change their tune!). 


1. I am sorry I missed you last week. Our family was on what has become our annual beach vacation. It may not be the most relaxing vacation of my year ... but it is a boatload of fun! Watching "the little kids" interact with one another can be a downright hoot at times (they are 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2 years of age). And of course, I just love spending time with them. But what I need to remember is that I am a bit older than I was when I played with my own kids! One of the things I tackled was to haul the grandkids around in a little red wagon (see pic). Fun? Yes! But I sure wished I would have skipped that activity! As a result of the pulling and pushing of the wagon through the sand, I pulled a muscle in my lower back. That was last Thursday. Eight days later, I am still in pain (although it is finally
improving). All this to say ... we must always be aware of our limitations. This is especially true as we age (as this past year has proven to me ... but I guess I am still a slow learner!). Yes ... we have limits. In fact, we have many of them. But our God does not! The theological word to describe God concerning limits is the word "infinite." This means God is not limited in any way ... nor is it possible for him to ever be limited. Wow! Talk about a great God! And to think this great God is our Father! Is he YOURS? If you can't really answer that question, I suggest you check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

2. Back in 1997 my oldest daughter graduated from high school. Now, 18 years later, many of the babies born that year are in the process of heading off to college. Wow! Time sure does fly! And how the times have changed since then! Jim Denison provides the following ways that today's world differs from the world of 1997: 

Beloit College has just published its annual list of factoids about students entering their first year of college. They
  • Have never licked a postage stamp
  • Have always used cell phones with Wi-Fi access
  • Had their first steps recorded by proud parents using camcorders (the students probably don't know what one is)
  • Improved their reading skills with the Harry Potter series
  • Have always watched television in high definition.
In 1997, the year of their birth, Princess Diana died in a speeding motorcade crash.  Titanic won 11 Oscars.  Seinfeld was the most popular TV show.  Beanie Babies were the most popular Christmas toy.

Now consider how our culture has changed morally over their lifetime.

In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres was one of the first well-known celebrities to "come out" as homosexual; now same-sex marriage is the law of the land.  That year, debate over legalizing physician-assisted suicide began accelerating; it is now legal in five states and being considered by five others.

In 1997, there were 13.9 million illegal drug users in the U.S.; today 24.6 million Americans use illegal drugs, representing a 50 percent increase relative to the population.  Since 1997, the percentage of unmarried couples living together has doubled.  The percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation 
has nearly doubled to 22.8 percent, representing 56 million adults in America and outnumbering Catholics and mainline Protestants.

Indeed our world has changed quite a bit in the 18 years since my daughter graduated from high school. Some of this change is for the better, much is not. And as we seek to navigate through this ever changing world ... we must cling to reality that the God we serve NEVER changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). In him we can find the stability we need amidst the turbulent change that surrounds us!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's the end of the work week (for most of you ... definitely not for me!). So celebrate with a good hot cup of coffee and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Yesterday, at the conclusion of my Chinese lunch, the server brought me and my lunch partner the customary fortune cookie. I don't recall the bit of wisdom my fortune cookie revealed once I broke it open ... but I was struck by my friend's. His fortune read, "The gift without the giver is bare." Hmm, I thought to myself. That is really good! Don't you agree? How often do we enjoy God's gifts which he so generously showers us with ... without giving a thought to HIM as the GIVER of these gifts (James 1:17), In doing so, we miss the greatest blessing of all ... that of enjoying God Himself!  I encourage you at some point today ... take out a piece of paper (or call up whatever note taking app you use on your phone or tablet) and draw up a list of gifts God has given you. Then spend some time with him, thanking him for his gracious benevolence toward you. After all, the only thing we are entitled to receive from him is eternal judgment. Praise God He withholds that (mercy) and gives us eternal life in Christ (grace).

2. Last Sunday one of my best friends enjoyed the experience of giving his third oldest daughter away to the man who is now her husband. It was indeed a joy to observe him in that moment. Having done the same myself twice before, I know it can be a somewhat bitter-sweet moment. Sweet in knowing that one's daughter is now happy and moving on to a new chapter in her life ... bitter to see the former chapter close. But that is what life is all about! The great task of parenting is to raise our children so that, one day they will be prepared to move on and establish their own households. This requires that we "let go." And letting go is something American parents can have a tough time doing. Yet it is what God requires of us. Because if we don't "let go," our children will never be able to "leave and cleave" in their new relationship as husband and wife (Genesis 2:24).

3. Some time ago, I posted a prayer that I gleaned from John Piper's devotional book, Life as a Vapor). Since posting it, this prayer has been taped to my computer monitor so I can pray it from time to time. I offer it to you again with the hopes that you will make Piper's prayer your own.

"Thank you Lord, for the lives of flawed and faith-filled saints! 
Thank you for grace, amazing grace, that saves and uses sinners! 
Lord, don't let me limit your power by what I see in the mirror. 
Help me to trust you. Help me, as William Carey said, 
to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.
I am not great, But you are great. 
Your power is made perfect in my weakness. 
I surrender all worldly claims on my life. 
Come. Make me useful for the glory of Christ. 
In his great name I pray.
Amen." (John Piper)

4. Finally, here is an update from my friend, Augustin Hibaile. Augustin began a ministry a number of years ago in the Central African Republic. CIDEL (Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership) is strategically placed to be a major player in helping the C.A.R. on its path
toward peace and stability. Here is an an email I received yesterday from Augustin:

August 7

Dear prayer supporters, 

I am busy preparing for the leadership seminar with Politicians who are running for the elections in CAR. Please pray that God will provide for the remaining funds to organize the four days seminar. Life in CAR is very expensive and it is difficult to afford goods in the store due to the consequences of the war and the presence of the UN troops.

We appreciate your prayer for the success of the seminars that will take place in August 25-28, 2015. We are expecting instructors from UK, DRC, Switzerland.

Together

Augustin Hibaile

****Editors note: If you would like to give toward this pressing need to fund Dr. Hibaile's training seminars, please click here. When you arrive on Encompass World Partners' site, click on the drop down menu to select a project. When the list of projects comes up, click on C.A.R. - CIDEL (Hibaile) - Leadership Development. Thank you for considering some vitally needed financial support!  


Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Are You Preparing for Eternity?

Our journey on earth is but a breath ... a heart beat when compared to the expanse of Eternity. We all must remember that how we live live in the here and now will impact our experience in the then and there.

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.