Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday ... that means another invitation from me to you to pour yourself a cup of your favorite java ... and join me for a couple of random thoughts.

1. The amount of rain that has fallen upon Texas and Oklahoma recently is down right unreal. Regrettably with it has come the loss of both property and lives. Yesterday morning I tried to put myself in the shoes of those who have suffered loss due to the flooding. I failed. I just could not imagine losing my home, my car and even worst case scenario, a loved one(s). My failure compelled me to do two things: pray for those who are suffering and thank God for his gracious protection of me and my family. I encourage you ... whenever you hear of human suffering ... to do the same. Pray for those facing huge needs and thank God that he has met yours!

2. Our three year old granddaughter, Molly, has taken to the tactic of explaining to my wife her disappointment when Grammy says "No" to one of her requests. Here are some of her lines: "Gwammy, because you said no I am vewwy sad."  "Gwammy, you said no and I am mad!"  "Gwammy, cause you said no I am gowing to pull my haiw out!" (To the latter, my wife simply said, "Wow! That sure will hurt!"). Now I am sure none of this surprises you. Kids are always asking for things that just aren't good for them. And they take to expressing their "disappointment" in a variety of ways ... many of which are designed to manipulate the adult into giving in to their request. Hmm ... often we do the same with our Heavenly Father, yes? We ask him for things that we think we need or that we simply want, and he, being the wise and compassionate Father that he is, says "No" (and we pout and complain as a result!). You see, when we ask for whatever ... we do with limited knowledge. We are mere children. He, however, is infinitely wise (Romans 11:33-36). Therefore, he knows that often what we ask for is NOT in our best interest. As a result, he does not answer our request in the way we would like for him to do. SOOOO ... all this to say, "FATHER KNOWS BEST!" We must acknowledge this and then trust him to always do what is best FOR HIS GLORY AND OUR GOOD!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday! So ... grab a cup of your favorite Joe and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. This week after our son came home from his 3 week hospital stay, my wife and I were talking with our son's two girls about their daddy's recovery. After we explained to them that Daddy was still not able to do all the things he used to do with them AND that he would need a lot of time to get better, we assured them that he would indeed get back to his old self. At that point, three-year old Molly said, "And he will be able to hold me!" Wow! What this little one was missing most was her daddy scooping her up in his arms and just holding her! God willing, that day will come! We all have that same desire, don't we? To be  held. To be comforted. To know that we are loved by someone. For those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus by embracing the message of the gospel, we have that someone! We have a heavenly daddy whose arms are always waiting to hold us (Isaiah 40:11). No one cares for us as much as he does!

2. Last week I had yet another follow up visit with my orthopedic doctor concerning my ongoing wrist problems. He suggested that I consider a surgical solution to the problem. I told him I would have to give that some thought. I also told him I was going to seek a second opinion. After all, as my primary care physician told me when I asked him if he thought I should seek a second opinion, "It's your body!" So this week, I have begun taking the steps toward obtaining one. Hmmm. I wonder how many of us seek a "second opinion" after reading something in Scripture that we don't like. There is no doubt that some of the Bible's teaching is "hard to swallow." In fact, at one point in Jesus' ministry, many of those who were following him stopped ... all because they found his teaching to be too difficult to accept (John 6:60; John 6:66). My friends, when it comes to the Bible and it's teachings, you need not seek a "second opinion." As Designer, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, God's Word is the FINAL authority for faith and practice. We all need to learn to take God at his word!

3. Have you ever looked at MRI images? Twice this past year I have done so. First for my arm, then for my wrist. Both times I had no clue as to what they were telling me. But in both instances, once the doctor put the images up on the monitor, he knew exactly what they revealed about the condition of both arm and wrist. How so? He was trained. He has a boatload of experience as I am sure he has seen hundreds of such images. So what was hidden from my untrained eyes could be clearly seen by his! Often people tell me that they don't read the Bible because they don't understand the Bible. But one reason they don't understand is because they don't read it! In other words, the more familiar the Bible becomes to you, the more you will understand it! Last summer, I offered the following TIPS to helping people to understand the Bible as they read and study it. I hope they prove helpful to you!

Take a look at the context

Every verse has a certain context … and if you ignore the historical and literary context of any Bible passage you are reading, you are setting yourself up for wrongly handling the Bible!  

(I would guess that 80% of the wrong handling of Scripture occurs when people rip a verse of out its context. Once this is done, you can make the Bible say a lot of things that it does not say!)

So make sure you take a look at the background of the passage … answering basic questions like WHEN was it written? WHO wrote it? To WHOM was it written? WHY was it written? etc. One of the best tools to help you answer such questions is a good study Bible (vs. a devotional Bible). I myself prefer the ESV Study Bible or the MacArthur Study Bible

Intentionally compare Scripture with Scripture

Since the Bible … though penned by forty different human authors … is the product of one divine mind … then it would make sense that what God says in one place in the Bible would help us to make sense of what he says elsewhere. So we must get intentional about using the Bible to help us understand the Bible! Or in other words, the Bible should be the Bible interpreter’s best friend!  Again … a good STUDY Bible will help you do this!

Pray before opening!!!

Since the Bible is unique among books as God’s living and active word … then it would make sense that we should ask God to speak to us through it …

In Psalm 119, we see the writer praying three distinct prayers when it comes to interacting with God’s Word …

Psalm 119:18
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

Psalm 119:36
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!

Psalm 119:133
Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

Start Digging!  --- Just MAKE the time, open your Bible, and get to reading!  Or … in the words of the famous Nike swoosh … JUST DO IT!

SO … TIPS to remember as you interact with God’s Word ….

Take a look at the context.
Intentionally compare Scripture with Scripture.
Pray before opening!

Start Digging!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

What Ever Happened to Common Sense?

Common sense is defined as "sound practical judgment." Common sense came to mind as I viewed the adjacent photo sent to me by one of my staff (I think some people who know me believe I am suffering from OMD - Obsessive Meterological Disorder - I readily admit that I have a fascination with the weather ...afterall, who wants to get rained on simply because you did not know to bring an umbrella along!).

Take another look at this rather humorous weather forecasting tool. To determine the weather, all you have to do is look at the rock. As you do ... and as you apply some good old fashioned common sense, you will know without a doubt what the weather is like now ... and will be like in the short term future.

What has happened to common sense? People forget the common sense of not spending more than they make. Parents forget that it is they who are in charge and not their kids. Schools suspend students for the silliest of reasons. For example, a six year old in Colorado was suspended for sexual harassment. His crime? He kissed a girl on the hand  (When I was six a girl student in my Kindergarten class was so excited about a valentine card I had given her - which I gave to her ONLY because we were REQUIRED to give a valentine to every student in the class - she planted a huge wet kiss right on my lips. I thought I was going to throw up! I guess today she may have earned a week long suspension for doing so! And at that time, I would not have missed her one bit!).

And the examples could go on for pages. Where has common sense gone? Several years ago, a writer wrote an obituary for Mr. Common Sense. Here is her conclusion:

"Common Sense lost the will to live as churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by his four stepbrothers; I know My Rights, I Want It Now; Someone Else Is To Blame; and I’m A Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing."

Hmm. I think this writer got it right when she notes that the parents of Common Sense are Truth and Trust. And what is Truth? The answer is found in the gospel of John. Jesus said, "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life . . . " (John 14:6). This Jesus, who is the Truth, calls upon us to TRUST Him (John 3:16; John 14:1). As we get to know Jesus and His teachings better ... and trust what he is telling us ... we will find that Common Sense is not dead ... but very much alive in our own lives! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Making It Through the Tough Times

Daughter Molly Visiting Dad Yesterday
For the past three weeks, my son has been spending his days and nights as a patient in Lancaster General Hospital. What began as a surgery with a predicted discharge for the third or fourth day post op ... has turned into a roller coaster ride of ups and downs that have brought frustration and tears to my son and those of us who love him most. But finally today ... it appears that he is on the verge of being released. He will be going home with a pic line in his arm (to continue his iv antibiotics for the next one to two weeks) ... but that's OK. At least he will be home!

As I reflect on this time ... a few things stand out as to how I dealt with this difficult time.

1. I found comfort in prayer. Being able to go to the God who loves my son more than I do, and ask him to bring healing Tim's way, comforted my heart and steadied my emotions. Knowing, too, that so many others were praying (from India to Africa .... from Seattle to Erie) was a HUGE "shot in the arm!"

2. I found courage in others. Even though it sometimes became tiring to continually answer the question, "How's Tim?" ... I am so glad people were asking. If people didn't care, they would not have bothered asking. So it did my soul good to know people were concerned for Tim.

3. I found reassurance in the medical team caring for my son. Across the course of his surgery and subsequent recovery, my son has had five different groups of doctors managing his care (GI, Surgery, Infectious Disease, Pulmonary, Radiology). Add to these doctors the numerous nurses, patient care assistants, etc. who have been involved in his care and you are talking a small crowd. There are many places in the world where this level of care is simply not available. I am very thankful for all these individuals have done on behalf of my son.

4. I found strength in the sovereignty of God. Knowing that Tim was ultimately in the hands of the God who never makes a mistake ... a God who has a plan for all of us and is actively working that plan gave me hope and stability - even during the darkest days when everything that could go wrong seemed to do so. Many nights as we crawled into bed, none of us knew what the next day would bring. But we knew the God who did ... and for the most part, that was enough (I found myself praying often, "I believe, help my unbelief" - Mark 9:23-24).

So for ALL of you who prayed, a heartfelt "thank you!" from me on behalf of my son, his wife and his two children! And if you are going through a difficult time, I hope some of the things that helped me will help you!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's FINALLY Friday of a week that has seemed to drag on and on and on. Why so? I will tell you in a moment ... but first, pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee and join me for "Friday Coffee with PJ."

1. This week has seemed so long due to my son's SLOW recovery from his abdominal surgery of last Friday (brought about by his diverticulitis). What started out as robotic surgery, finished with the surgeon having to make a 5 1/2 inch incision to finish the operation. So instead of being discharged as early as Monday of this week, Tim was expecting perhaps a Wednesday discharge. But no. His body had other plans. As I write this, he is awaiting a procedure that will insert some sort of catheter into the area of his spleen to remove fluid that has accumulated and formed an abscess. Earlier this morning I was with Tim and his wife, Kelly, as a parade of specialists came through. First, the nurse practitioner with the gastroenterology group arrived to give an update based on the the results of the previous evening's CAT scan. Next, the infectious disease doctor, with the surgeon hot on  his heels. As a result, we had a pretty good idea of the plan to treat Tim's abscess and to get him back "on the mend." As I left Tim's room to return to the office, I reminded him that he was "in good hands.: Of course, I had in mind these medical professionals - all of whom impressed me with their knowledge and expertise. But more importantly I was thinking of the Great Physician. He is the one that works through these human physicians to bring about the ultimate healing that we all need from time to time. Aren't you thankful for HIS care?

Friday morning update (as I wrote this post on Thursday): Tim actually ate a little bit last night ... first time he has felt like eating anything since the surgery. They want to wean him off oxygen today and get him moving more to prevent pneumonia from setting in. He is still in quite a bit of pain. Thanks again for your prayers!

2. Yesterday I tweeted a quote that Hillary Clinton said while addressing the Women int he World Summit. These words were spoken in the context of same-sex marriage. "Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed."  Did you HEAR that? She is suggesting that those of us who hold religious beliefs concerning homosexual "marriage" must change what we believe to accommodate same-sex marriage. So ... given this statement, do you have any question as to where religious freedom might fall in Hillary's priorities? Not very high! Bottom line (and increasingly so in our society) "gay rights" trump all other rights ... even the constitutional right of religious freedom. That my friend is down right disturbing.

3. Finally, if faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17), then it surely is encouraging to know that the Gideons have just distributed their two billionth Scripture (whole Bibles and New Testaments/Psalms). Wow! That is downright incredible. To read more about this milestone, click here.  Read, rejoice and pray about and for the ongoing ministry of the Gideons!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday ... that means some random thoughts you can "dunk" in your favorite cup of coffee as you say "goodbye" to the work week ... and "hello" to the weekend (unless you work weekends, as I do!).

1. I have been struck this week at just how "green" everything is becoming. After a long and bitterly cold winter (that was reluctant to loosen up its grip!), it sure is great to look around at all of the new growth (even if that means back to cutting the lawn!). Of course, even as spring struggled with its identity crisis, we knew deep down that if we just waited long enough, warm breezes and blooming flowers would eventually arrive! And we have not been disappointed. As I thought about this, I thought about the return of Christ. It's been some 2000 years now since Jesus said, "Surely, I am coming soon" (Revelation 22:20). But even though the wait has been long (for us, not for God - see 2 Peter 3:8), we can be assured that just as we waited for spring to arrive ... so, too, if we wait long enough, Jesus will come again! Afterall, he is a promise keeper! When he comes, will he find us faithful to Him and His cause?

2. Yesterday I had to get my portable air compressor out to add some air to two tires on our van and to inflate two tires on one of our little kid bicycles. Underinflated tires on a vehicle really cuts down on gas mileage ... and non inflated tires on a bicycle makes it unrideable ... thus making it necessary to put the air compressor to work. What can we do, though, when its not tires that are in need of inflating, but our hearts? When I find myself "down" (and yes, I do get down), I preach the gospel to myself. By that I mean I remind myself of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But to truly appreciate this good news, we must first understand the really, really bad news about our fallen humanity. Simply put, we are born into this world as rebels. We are God's enemies (Romans 5:10), intent on going our way vs. God's way (Isaiah 53:6). As such we are dead in our sins and destined to face God's wrath (Ephesians 2:1-4). But God loves us IN SPITE OF who we are. And out of his great love, he showers us with his grace and mercy. The result being the condemnation that we deserve was taken by Christ. On the cross he paid the penalty for our sin ... a penalty that we in no way could every hope to pay. As a result, when we by faith alone trust in Christ alone to save us from our sin ... he saves us gloriously! So when I feel down, I remind myself of what God has done for me in the gospel of his son. It never fails to inflate my soul!

3. Finally on a more personal note, a request. Today my son is undergoing surgery for his diverticulitis. I would greatly appreciate your prayers for him ... for the surgery and his subsequent recovery. Please pray for his wife and their two young daughters. Your prayers are much appreciated! For where our prayers focus, God's power falls (2 Corinthians 2:11)!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning means COFFEE! (frankly, every morning means coffee for me)! So why not pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join m...