PJ

PJ

Friday, January 29, 2016

It's Friday ... meaning it's time to pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy (I hope) some spiritual meanderings with me.

1. For anyone who lives within 100 miles or so of where I live, last weekend's snow storm is one that we all will loooonnnnngggg remember! The storm dumped just shy of 2 1/2 feet of snow on Willow Street, Pa (where I currently live). Across the course of two days, I spent somewhere between 5-6 hours in snow removal. Digging out of that much snow is not much fun at all! I am just very thankful that I do have a snow blower ... not the biggest ... but still able to handle the snow in my driveway (of course, I had to do it in shifts). Now I must admit that I did my share of complaining. I loved snow as a kid. But now ... let's just say that love affair has long been over! Yet as I complained about the snow I was in fact, complaining against God. Really? How so? In Job 37:6 we are told that God tells the snow to fall. God is sovereign over the weather .. yes? And here we see that means he is sovereign over the snow. So, for whatever reason (and given the wisdom of Almighty God it was a good reason), God allowed this storm to form and dump this snow upon us. But, not only he sovereign over the weather (and the storms it brings), he is sovereign over our lives (and the storms life brings). None of us like to "weather" the storms of life. They bring pain, grief, sorrow. But in the midst of them, we must learn to trust God in our belief that all things work together for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28-29; James 1:2-4).

2. If you are anything like me, I am sure you can get discouraged when you read a book or an article which tells you to attempt big things and expect God to then accomplish great things through you. And so you do your best at thinking, praying, doing "Big," Yet (at least from your perspective) you have little to show for your efforts. Now ... I am not saying we should not think "Big" in our living for the king, but we should not neglect the "small." Take a moment to read the article, Do Something Small for God. I think you will find much encouragement to do the small things God is calling each of us to do every day!

3. Far more often than I would like I hear of a fallen leader in the evangelical world. Whether it be money or sex (or both), the end result is the same: a damaged (if not shattered) ministry and a lot of broken and bitter people. And you can count on the media to make the most of these rather juicy news morsels. These "falls from grace" are indeed tragic.  At the same time, however, they are not totally surprising.  Even though as followers of Christ we are forgiven – we are not perfect.  We all are tempted to sin – and all too often we give in!  Before we look down our spiritual noses at these fallen spiritual leaders – let us each commit to look elsewhere.  Let’s determine to take a long hard look within – at our own hearts. Proverbs 4:23 urges us to “above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life!”  Here is one of the many reasons the book of Proverbs is called the Book of Wisdom.  One of the wisest steps we can take in life is to be guarding (24/7/365) our hearts.  How about you?  Are you guarding your heart against temptation and sin?  All too often we leave our guard down and in so doing leave many others down too.  My friend – PLEASE ABOVE ALL ELSE (i.e. make it one of life’s top priorities) GUARD YOUR HEART for out of it flow all the issues of life!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday morning ... so pour yourself a cup of hot coffee and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. During my junior year in high school, I joined the school choir. I did so not so much out of a love of music and singing (although I enjoyed both). But I joined because I noticed there were a lot of cute girls who sang in the choir! Ha! One of the songs I remember singing was a song whose lyrics contained these lines: "Snow, Snow when are you falling? Snow, snow none of your stalling. Autumn's gone and winter's here, it's just about the time of the year you knowwwww, for a wonderful snowwwww!" As a high school student I just LOVED a big snow storm (I am guessing some of you know where I am heading with this!). But fast forward time to the present. As an almost 60 year old pastor ... the LAST thing I want it to do this weekend is SNOW!! And certainly not in the abundance that is being forecast for our area (somewhere between 12-18 inches with the word "blizzard" appearing in the Saturday forecast!). Not only do I have to "make the call" concerning Sunday morning services ... but I also have to dig out my driveway. SOOOO ... all that to say I wish snow would stall until June! That said, at the end of the day, I must yield to the providence of God (providence is the truth that a sovereign God has a plan and he is working that plan). And yes, the providence of God even extends to snow fall (see Job 37:6). Somehow, knowing God is making the call ... makes it all easier to accept!

2. Yesterday I did something that I have done many times before: officiate a memorial service. For Christians, memorial services are bitter-sweet. Bitter as family and friends gather to say "goodbye" to the one who has died, knowing there will be an indefinite time of separation from the one they loved. But sweet knowing their loved one is in a place that is better by far than the best this world could ever offer! But ... this is true only for those who have genuinely embraced the gospel and received Christ as the one who came to seek and to save the lost (John 1:12-13; Luke 19:10). How about YOU? Have you made the choice to follow Jesus? Check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

3. Finally, a quick update on my wife. Nine weeks after the surgery to repair her broken femur, she got the green light to begin to put weight on her leg. She still must be careful and she is still using her walker and wearing her brace. But this is the first step on her final (we hope) leg of her journey toward getting back to a somewhat "normal" life. We cannot say enough about the love and support showered upon us by our church family at Grace! If you are reading this and our a part of our family, THANK YOU so much! You are truly learning what it means to "one another one another!:

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Friday, January 15, 2016

It's FRIDAY ... so pour yourself a cup of the brew made from coffee beans and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Ever since I made a decision about following Jesus at age 16, I have been practicing a "quiet time." I am sure you are familiar with the expression, if not the practice. But what should be happening when one practices a quite time? Here is an excellent post that explains what a quite time is and is not!

2. The church today is full of consumer Christians. These include the many men, women, teens and tweeners and even kids who head to church to get something out of their "church experience." As a pastor I have heard too many times to count, "Pastor, we have decided to leave the church because we just aren't getting anything." Hmm. Should we attend church to get? Or should we be attending in order to give? Far too many of us have missed the boat on what "going to church" is all about. My prayer for my church is that we would come not to get ... but to give. To give God the honor and glory due his name (through worship). To give a word of encouragement to our brothers and sisters who are burdened with the difficulties of life. To point the way to Jesus to those who are either lost or are confused in their faith journey. Jesus himself said that it is far better to give than receive (Acts 20:35). The paradox in all of this is this: The more we give ... the more we get! So as you prepare to head to your church facility this weekend ... do so with the expressed purpose to give. And you might walk away getting more than you have received in a long time!

3. If you are a regular church goer ... one of the activities you are involved in is listening to a sermon (at least I hope the people in my church are listening to the sermon!). I wonder if you really know how to listen to a sermon. Phil Ryken, former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia (where I heard him preach a few times ... and he is a good preacher) and now president of Wheaton College, gives some excellent advice on how to listen to a sermon. Well worth the time to read and the effort to apply!

4. Finally ... it's easy for us American Christians to forget about our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who are facing stiff persecution for their faith. Take a moment to read The Top 50 Countries Where It Is Now Hardest to Be A Christian. Then make a commitment to regularly pray for our fellow Christians in these countries. Pray that they would stand strong in the grace of God and that God would comfort them as they do so.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Good morning. Thanks for joining me for the first regular posting of my Friday blog here in this new year of 2016!

1. I just read on the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons - formerly because now anyone 50 or older can join and one does not have to be retired to do so) bulletin that nonsmokers who drink between 3-5 cups of coffee (regular or decaff) are 15% less likely to die "early" of any cause compared to non coffee drinkers. Yes! Now I can enjoy my coffee each morning knowing that I am making a healthy choice! If you want to read the full article, click here.

2. You all know what this is like – wishing for a few extra hours in your day or even a few extra days in your week.  Sometimes it just seems like there’s WAY too much to do and WAY too little time in which to get it all done!  Oh the tyranny of the urgent! This reminds me of a story I once heard.  Long ago when Africa was still relatively unknown to the outside world, a European explorer was taking a group into the African interior.  He had hired a native guide along with a number of other natives to help carry the supplies.  After a mid morning break on the third day of a fast-paced march, the Africans refused to resume their trek.  When the European explorer asked the guide the reason for their refusal, the guide told him, “They just need a little more time to allow their souls to catch up to their bodies.”   Hmmm.  I think all of us could learn a lesson from these guys.  Just as Jesus would get away to be alone with his Father (Mark 1:35) and called his disciples to do the same (Mark 6:31) – we too need to be sure to do likewise. As fast-paced as 21st century American life can be at times – we all need to take time to allow our souls to catch up to our bodies.  So be sure you set some time aside each and every day to spend quietly with God in prayer and in the Scriptures. You will be better for it! 

3. This week my wife returned to see the surgeon who repaired her broken leg back on November 18th. I was hoping that the x-rays would reveal enough healing had taken place in the mending of the bone that she would be cleared to begin to put weight on her leg. However, the outcome was a bit different. The surgeon explained that the x-ray did not show "substantial healing" and therefore he extended the no weight bearing limitation for another two weeks. Even though I was "bummed out" hearing this news, my wife took it in stride. I was amazed. She explained to me on the way home that she went in with low expectations (unlike me) and therefore the news did not surprise her. She was just glad that he did not extend the limit any more than two weeks (she pointed out to me that it has been 7 weeks already ... what are two more?). And she reminded me that God is ultimately in control and he has a plan for her and us through all of this. She is right about this. Life is hard ... and sometimes it is much harder than other times. And the outcomes we are seeking don't always come our way. But in the midst of life's difficulties it does indeed help to call to mind that although life is often hard ... God is always good.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, January 1, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ - New Years Day Edition


This morning you may need a few extra cups of coffee after staying up late to welcome in the new year. For this upcoming new year of 2016 I pray for you what the Apostle John prayed for his readers of his third letter, "Beloved, I pray that all will go well with you, and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul" (3 John 1:2).

1. The beginning of a new year is always a good time to see what changes you can make in your life. I would suggest that you take a look at what steps you could take to improve your health (diet, exercise, etc.). I have been working out at Planet Fitness for the past month and have begun to notice some positive results. The Apostle John also prayed for the soul of his readers. The two most important spiritual disciplines I believe are Bible intake and prayer. You might want to check out these two articles on Bible reading and Prayer. 

2. This has been a difficult final four months of 2015 for my wife and me. A total knee replacement on September 4th .... a manipulation of the knee (while under anesthesia) on November 10th ... another surgery to repair a broken femur on November 18th (broken femur occurred during the manipulation). All of this has made doing even routine tasks difficult for my wife. There have been many tears shed, many frustrating moments. But through all of the hard times we have never (at least for long) doubted the goodness of our God. So we look forward to a new year, knowing that we are in our God's hands. And there are no better hands to be in than HIS! (BTW - Sharon sees surgeon next Wednesday (the 6th). We are praying that she will be given the green light to begin putting some weight on her leg. Thanks for praying with us!).

3. We welcomed Lucas Allen Hershey into our family yesterday at 1:38pm. He joins our daughter Emily, her husband Matt, and big brothers Nathan and Nolan. He weighed in at 7lbs, 11 oz. We are grateful to God for the gift of a second grandson in as many months (Logan Ryan Smith was born to our son Tim and his wife Kelly on Novembef 1st).

4. Finally, here are three very crucial reminders for all of us as we say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016. 

Again - a blessed new year to you all ... and thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, January 29, 2016

It's Friday ... meaning it's time to pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy (I hope) some spiritual meanderings with me.

1. For anyone who lives within 100 miles or so of where I live, last weekend's snow storm is one that we all will loooonnnnngggg remember! The storm dumped just shy of 2 1/2 feet of snow on Willow Street, Pa (where I currently live). Across the course of two days, I spent somewhere between 5-6 hours in snow removal. Digging out of that much snow is not much fun at all! I am just very thankful that I do have a snow blower ... not the biggest ... but still able to handle the snow in my driveway (of course, I had to do it in shifts). Now I must admit that I did my share of complaining. I loved snow as a kid. But now ... let's just say that love affair has long been over! Yet as I complained about the snow I was in fact, complaining against God. Really? How so? In Job 37:6 we are told that God tells the snow to fall. God is sovereign over the weather .. yes? And here we see that means he is sovereign over the snow. So, for whatever reason (and given the wisdom of Almighty God it was a good reason), God allowed this storm to form and dump this snow upon us. But, not only he sovereign over the weather (and the storms it brings), he is sovereign over our lives (and the storms life brings). None of us like to "weather" the storms of life. They bring pain, grief, sorrow. But in the midst of them, we must learn to trust God in our belief that all things work together for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28-29; James 1:2-4).

2. If you are anything like me, I am sure you can get discouraged when you read a book or an article which tells you to attempt big things and expect God to then accomplish great things through you. And so you do your best at thinking, praying, doing "Big," Yet (at least from your perspective) you have little to show for your efforts. Now ... I am not saying we should not think "Big" in our living for the king, but we should not neglect the "small." Take a moment to read the article, Do Something Small for God. I think you will find much encouragement to do the small things God is calling each of us to do every day!

3. Far more often than I would like I hear of a fallen leader in the evangelical world. Whether it be money or sex (or both), the end result is the same: a damaged (if not shattered) ministry and a lot of broken and bitter people. And you can count on the media to make the most of these rather juicy news morsels. These "falls from grace" are indeed tragic.  At the same time, however, they are not totally surprising.  Even though as followers of Christ we are forgiven – we are not perfect.  We all are tempted to sin – and all too often we give in!  Before we look down our spiritual noses at these fallen spiritual leaders – let us each commit to look elsewhere.  Let’s determine to take a long hard look within – at our own hearts. Proverbs 4:23 urges us to “above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life!”  Here is one of the many reasons the book of Proverbs is called the Book of Wisdom.  One of the wisest steps we can take in life is to be guarding (24/7/365) our hearts.  How about you?  Are you guarding your heart against temptation and sin?  All too often we leave our guard down and in so doing leave many others down too.  My friend – PLEASE ABOVE ALL ELSE (i.e. make it one of life’s top priorities) GUARD YOUR HEART for out of it flow all the issues of life!

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday morning ... so pour yourself a cup of hot coffee and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. During my junior year in high school, I joined the school choir. I did so not so much out of a love of music and singing (although I enjoyed both). But I joined because I noticed there were a lot of cute girls who sang in the choir! Ha! One of the songs I remember singing was a song whose lyrics contained these lines: "Snow, Snow when are you falling? Snow, snow none of your stalling. Autumn's gone and winter's here, it's just about the time of the year you knowwwww, for a wonderful snowwwww!" As a high school student I just LOVED a big snow storm (I am guessing some of you know where I am heading with this!). But fast forward time to the present. As an almost 60 year old pastor ... the LAST thing I want it to do this weekend is SNOW!! And certainly not in the abundance that is being forecast for our area (somewhere between 12-18 inches with the word "blizzard" appearing in the Saturday forecast!). Not only do I have to "make the call" concerning Sunday morning services ... but I also have to dig out my driveway. SOOOO ... all that to say I wish snow would stall until June! That said, at the end of the day, I must yield to the providence of God (providence is the truth that a sovereign God has a plan and he is working that plan). And yes, the providence of God even extends to snow fall (see Job 37:6). Somehow, knowing God is making the call ... makes it all easier to accept!

2. Yesterday I did something that I have done many times before: officiate a memorial service. For Christians, memorial services are bitter-sweet. Bitter as family and friends gather to say "goodbye" to the one who has died, knowing there will be an indefinite time of separation from the one they loved. But sweet knowing their loved one is in a place that is better by far than the best this world could ever offer! But ... this is true only for those who have genuinely embraced the gospel and received Christ as the one who came to seek and to save the lost (John 1:12-13; Luke 19:10). How about YOU? Have you made the choice to follow Jesus? Check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

3. Finally, a quick update on my wife. Nine weeks after the surgery to repair her broken femur, she got the green light to begin to put weight on her leg. She still must be careful and she is still using her walker and wearing her brace. But this is the first step on her final (we hope) leg of her journey toward getting back to a somewhat "normal" life. We cannot say enough about the love and support showered upon us by our church family at Grace! If you are reading this and our a part of our family, THANK YOU so much! You are truly learning what it means to "one another one another!:

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj


Friday, January 15, 2016

It's FRIDAY ... so pour yourself a cup of the brew made from coffee beans and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Ever since I made a decision about following Jesus at age 16, I have been practicing a "quiet time." I am sure you are familiar with the expression, if not the practice. But what should be happening when one practices a quite time? Here is an excellent post that explains what a quite time is and is not!

2. The church today is full of consumer Christians. These include the many men, women, teens and tweeners and even kids who head to church to get something out of their "church experience." As a pastor I have heard too many times to count, "Pastor, we have decided to leave the church because we just aren't getting anything." Hmm. Should we attend church to get? Or should we be attending in order to give? Far too many of us have missed the boat on what "going to church" is all about. My prayer for my church is that we would come not to get ... but to give. To give God the honor and glory due his name (through worship). To give a word of encouragement to our brothers and sisters who are burdened with the difficulties of life. To point the way to Jesus to those who are either lost or are confused in their faith journey. Jesus himself said that it is far better to give than receive (Acts 20:35). The paradox in all of this is this: The more we give ... the more we get! So as you prepare to head to your church facility this weekend ... do so with the expressed purpose to give. And you might walk away getting more than you have received in a long time!

3. If you are a regular church goer ... one of the activities you are involved in is listening to a sermon (at least I hope the people in my church are listening to the sermon!). I wonder if you really know how to listen to a sermon. Phil Ryken, former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia (where I heard him preach a few times ... and he is a good preacher) and now president of Wheaton College, gives some excellent advice on how to listen to a sermon. Well worth the time to read and the effort to apply!

4. Finally ... it's easy for us American Christians to forget about our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who are facing stiff persecution for their faith. Take a moment to read The Top 50 Countries Where It Is Now Hardest to Be A Christian. Then make a commitment to regularly pray for our fellow Christians in these countries. Pray that they would stand strong in the grace of God and that God would comfort them as they do so.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Good morning. Thanks for joining me for the first regular posting of my Friday blog here in this new year of 2016!

1. I just read on the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons - formerly because now anyone 50 or older can join and one does not have to be retired to do so) bulletin that nonsmokers who drink between 3-5 cups of coffee (regular or decaff) are 15% less likely to die "early" of any cause compared to non coffee drinkers. Yes! Now I can enjoy my coffee each morning knowing that I am making a healthy choice! If you want to read the full article, click here.

2. You all know what this is like – wishing for a few extra hours in your day or even a few extra days in your week.  Sometimes it just seems like there’s WAY too much to do and WAY too little time in which to get it all done!  Oh the tyranny of the urgent! This reminds me of a story I once heard.  Long ago when Africa was still relatively unknown to the outside world, a European explorer was taking a group into the African interior.  He had hired a native guide along with a number of other natives to help carry the supplies.  After a mid morning break on the third day of a fast-paced march, the Africans refused to resume their trek.  When the European explorer asked the guide the reason for their refusal, the guide told him, “They just need a little more time to allow their souls to catch up to their bodies.”   Hmmm.  I think all of us could learn a lesson from these guys.  Just as Jesus would get away to be alone with his Father (Mark 1:35) and called his disciples to do the same (Mark 6:31) – we too need to be sure to do likewise. As fast-paced as 21st century American life can be at times – we all need to take time to allow our souls to catch up to our bodies.  So be sure you set some time aside each and every day to spend quietly with God in prayer and in the Scriptures. You will be better for it! 

3. This week my wife returned to see the surgeon who repaired her broken leg back on November 18th. I was hoping that the x-rays would reveal enough healing had taken place in the mending of the bone that she would be cleared to begin to put weight on her leg. However, the outcome was a bit different. The surgeon explained that the x-ray did not show "substantial healing" and therefore he extended the no weight bearing limitation for another two weeks. Even though I was "bummed out" hearing this news, my wife took it in stride. I was amazed. She explained to me on the way home that she went in with low expectations (unlike me) and therefore the news did not surprise her. She was just glad that he did not extend the limit any more than two weeks (she pointed out to me that it has been 7 weeks already ... what are two more?). And she reminded me that God is ultimately in control and he has a plan for her and us through all of this. She is right about this. Life is hard ... and sometimes it is much harder than other times. And the outcomes we are seeking don't always come our way. But in the midst of life's difficulties it does indeed help to call to mind that although life is often hard ... God is always good.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, January 1, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ - New Years Day Edition


This morning you may need a few extra cups of coffee after staying up late to welcome in the new year. For this upcoming new year of 2016 I pray for you what the Apostle John prayed for his readers of his third letter, "Beloved, I pray that all will go well with you, and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul" (3 John 1:2).

1. The beginning of a new year is always a good time to see what changes you can make in your life. I would suggest that you take a look at what steps you could take to improve your health (diet, exercise, etc.). I have been working out at Planet Fitness for the past month and have begun to notice some positive results. The Apostle John also prayed for the soul of his readers. The two most important spiritual disciplines I believe are Bible intake and prayer. You might want to check out these two articles on Bible reading and Prayer. 

2. This has been a difficult final four months of 2015 for my wife and me. A total knee replacement on September 4th .... a manipulation of the knee (while under anesthesia) on November 10th ... another surgery to repair a broken femur on November 18th (broken femur occurred during the manipulation). All of this has made doing even routine tasks difficult for my wife. There have been many tears shed, many frustrating moments. But through all of the hard times we have never (at least for long) doubted the goodness of our God. So we look forward to a new year, knowing that we are in our God's hands. And there are no better hands to be in than HIS! (BTW - Sharon sees surgeon next Wednesday (the 6th). We are praying that she will be given the green light to begin putting some weight on her leg. Thanks for praying with us!).

3. We welcomed Lucas Allen Hershey into our family yesterday at 1:38pm. He joins our daughter Emily, her husband Matt, and big brothers Nathan and Nolan. He weighed in at 7lbs, 11 oz. We are grateful to God for the gift of a second grandson in as many months (Logan Ryan Smith was born to our son Tim and his wife Kelly on Novembef 1st).

4. Finally, here are three very crucial reminders for all of us as we say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016. 

Again - a blessed new year to you all ... and 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.