Friday Coffee with PJ - Special New Year's Edition

Here we are with just a little more than a day left in the year 2016! So as you pour yourself a cup of coffee ... allow me to wax eloquent ... well at least ramble on as I reflect on 2016 and look ahead to the new year of 2017. 

1. For starters ... a look back at the year that is ending: 

- I began the year loving coffee ... and have finished the year still loving coffee! 

- As the year began ... Sharon was still unable to bear weight on her left leg (due to a broken femur she suffered on November 10th of 2015). During the year, she has made much progress ... but not enough. More on that later.

- We enjoyed getting to know our two newest grandsons, both born in the waning months of 2015 (Logan on November 1st and Lucas on December 31st). What joy they have brought us! 

- My favorite college football team, the Penn State Nittany Lions, exceeded all expectations by winning the Big Ten Championship! Go Nits! 

- I underwent an ulnar shortening osteotomy in August. Still not where I hope to be, but making progress! 

- Our family was shaken by the news that one of our sons-in-law's father was diagnosed with cancer, as was a member of our life group (among others in our church family). We are so grateful for gifted doctors who are able to treat even this dreaded disease, giving hope to us all. Of course, we realize that all who suffer physical ailments are in the hands of our Great Physician. We draw much comfort from that! 

- Our church was blessed in so many ways ... one of which was the birthing of our baby - One City Church in Lancaster city on September 11th!

- Our family will long remember our annual beach vacation in August. Ten of the sixteen of us came down with the stomach bug. We don't know if the bug was awaiting our arrival or if one of us brought it to the beach. Here's to hoping next year's will be "bug free!" 

- God again (no surprise here!) showed us his faithfulness ... through both the good times and the trying times. No matter how turbulent life becomes, the God of the Bible is still on HIS throne! Every single promise he has ever made, he will fulfill! Morning by morning new mercies we saw ... Great was (and is!) HIS faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-24). 

I could easily go on and on and on ... but I will stop with the reflections so I can move on to ... 

2. A look ahead at the year of 2017: 

- Of course, none of us are guaranteed the next day, let alone the next year (James 4:13-15). So as I look ahead, I do so knowing that it is God who will determine what lies ahead for all of us! So for all that follows ... I say, "Deo Volente" (Latin for "God willing") to everything I list below. 

- As I mentioned above, Sharon's progress with her knee/leg has not been enough. She will therefore undergo a knee revision surgery (removal of plate and screws used to repair femur and replacement of original prosthetic knee joint with another). The surgery is scheduled for Monday, January 9th. Thanks in advance for your prayers! 

- It will be fun watching our eight grandkids continue to grow (especially the two youngest who are moving from babyhood to toddlerhood)!

- I believe that as our world grows darker in so many ways, that the light of the gospel has all the more opportunity to enlighten many! I am excited to see the impact the gospel of Jesus Christ will make upon our world in 2017!

- As I look at my calendar for the upcoming year, I am praying that God's favor will be upon me and both of my families (Smith family and Grace Church family) and that God would establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17). 

3. FINALLY ... a few questions to ask yourself as we move from this year to the next: 

- Do I know God better today than I did a year ago? What one thing will I do differently in the upcoming year to get to know God better? 

- Am I glorifying God in my day-to-day routine more than I was a year ago? What is one thing that I could do that will help me to more consistently honor him in my life?

- How am I doing sharing God and his story (think "gospel") with others? Am I doing better at this than I was a year ago? Again, what is one step I could take that would help me to be a better witness for Him? 

Thanks for stopping by ... and may God bless you in abundance as you say "goodbye" to 2016 and "hello" to 2017!


Friday Coffee with PJ: Special Christmas Edition

Here we are ... just two days away from what is for so many, the biggest day of the year: Christmas Day! So I invite you to pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy a few random yuletide thoughts with me. 

1. Scholars have debated for years the actual date of Jesus' birth. Sam Storms (pastor and one of my favorite authors) recently addressed this topic, When was Jesus born?  As he begins his attempt to answer this question, he offers these words: "It’s amazing how often people get caught up in the debate over when Jesus was actually born. Although we should never be dogmatic on this point, the biblical text does provide us with a number of clues."  The whole article (don't sweat it ... it is not all that long!) is definitely worth the read! 

2. Our staff was asked by our communications coordinator to write a brief paragraph for a blog post she was working on for our church website. She told us she was looking for a Christmas reflection from our childhood and a connection to some truth or insight about Christmas. So if you have not read the blog on the church website (which I encourage you to do as several others contributed to the post), here is my contribution: 

As a youngster, our Christmas morning began with stockings that mysteriously appeared in our bedroom overnight. So when we woke up (which tended to be VERY early), we would be occupied (for a time) with the little things we found wrapped in our stockings (so Mom and Dad could get a little bit more shut eye!).  As much as we enjoyed our stocking gifts, we knew the big gifts were still to come (and at that point, Mom's and Dad's sleep was history!). And sure enough, when we ran down the stairs, there, under and around the Christmas tree was a huge pile of gifts begging us to be opened! This reminds me of our experience as Christians. God has given us a foretaste of heaven in the blessings he has given us in this life (think stocking gifts!). But the really big gifts are still waiting for us in our eternal home of heaven. Oh what a day that will be when we climb the stairs that will lead us from this life to the next! It will be like Christmas Day all over again .... and again .... and again! 

3. This week, Sharon and I watched a couple of network holiday specials. We heard songs about Santa, Frosty the Snowman, and how Christmas is such a wonderful time of year. One special pointed to the Christmas favorite, Twas the Night Before Christmas, as "THE Christmas Story." Although we did not watch A Charlie Brown Christmas (which was aired this week on ABC), I do know from watching it in the past that it DOES include Linus reciting from the Bible ... giving the account of the birth of Christ. So at least one show this week got it right! I don't know about you, but this saddens me. For many, Christmas has become Xmas as Christ is nowhere to be found! But this fits with something I shared with our church family a few Sundays ago from Wikipedia. Here is what this often consulted website had to say about the true meaning of Christmas: 

The "true meaning of Christmas" is a phrase with a long history in American pop culture. It first appears in the mid-19th century, and is often given vaguely religious overtones, suggesting that the "true meaning of Christmas" is the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. But in pop culture usage, overt religious references are mostly avoided, and the "true meaning" is taken to be a sort of introspective and benevolent attitude as opposed to the commercialization of Christmas which has been lamented since at least the 1850s.

Now, given all of this, we as followers of Jesus who know that the true meaning of Christmas is all about God loving us in such a way
that he sent his one and only Son to become one of us ... live among us ... and eventually to die for us ... have a wonderful opportunity at this time of year to point people to Jesus! One way to start the conversation would be to ask people what Christmas means to them. Then offer to share what Christmas means to you and so many other Christ followers around the world! 

Thanks for stopping by ... Merry Christmas to you all and may God bless us, everyone! 


Friday Coffee with PJ

Well here we are ... just 9 days out from Christmas. I guess that means I will have to break out my special Starbucks Christmas blend. I know some don't care for Starbucks, but I enjoy it! And I am talking about coffee ... not those fancy coffee flavored drinks served up by Starbucks that are so sweet they will rot your teeth. I am talking about plain, unadulterated coffee! Well, no matter the brand you might currently be drinking, pour yourself a cup and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. I am a city kid at heart (well, at least part of my heart). The first 13 years of my life were spent playing football on vacant lots, wall ball on a macadam playground and sledding down back alleys. Then, just a month after my 13th birthday, my parents moved us out of the city of Harrisburg to a lakeside renovated and expanded cottage in northern rural York County. You talk about a culture shift! Now boating and fishing and hunting and farm work became a huge part of my life. Today, imprints from both of those chapters of my life can be seen in me. I love to fish. I feel at home in the city. And I hold my breath every time I pass by a field that has been freshly fertilized with you know what (yep, those several years of cleaning out horse stables did not render my nose immune to that smell!). Speaking of smells, God calls us to be the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). And the only way we will be able to become the fragrance of Christ is to spend time in his presence! When I got home from cleaning out horse stables, my mom would not even let me in the house without first stripping off my clothes (we had an enclosed wrap around porch that allowed me to do this in semi-private conditions!). Why? Because after spending all that time around horse manure, my clothes smelled just like it! And so it is with Jesus Christ. The more time we spend with him (in his word and in prayer) ... the more we will smell like him! And that is a fragrance that we need to spread around! 

2. Back in my Harrisburg days, the group of kids I hung around with made an interesting discovery one Christmas season. That particular year (I am guessing I was in fifth grade), we decided to go Christmas caroling. And as we did so, going from house to house in our neighborhood, most people would come to the door, smile at us as we sang, and then thank us as we left. But a significant number would SHOW their thanks by offering us Christmas cookies, hot chocolate and (here is what brought us the most joy) even money! That's right! After a good night of caroling,
we would divvy up the money and often walk away with a dollar or two in our pockets (this in the day when the average worker made about $2.00 per hour)! Now, I admit that our motivation for singing Christmas carols was definitely all wrong! At that time in my life, I did not know Jesus Christ. I knew Christmas had something to do with a baby named Christ, but rarely did I give that any thought. Christmas for me meant gifts, gifts, and more gifts (and I am talking about receiving gifts and not giving!). I want to go on record to say that I am so VERY GRATEFUL to God that I am a far different person today! I have learned many things since those cold nights of caroling on the streets of Harrisburg. I now know that Christmas is ALL about the Christ child who was none other than God in the flesh, born to be our savior! I also know that it is a far greater blessing to give than to receive. God, of course, modeled this for us when he so loved us he gave to us his one and only son (John 3:16). And when we place our faith in him to forgive us and save us from eternal judgment, he does so! What a GIFT he offers to all! Have you by grace alone (you can't earn it no matter how hard you try!), through faith alone in Christ alone received HIS free gift of eternal life? Questions? Please take a moment to check out: Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

A Merry Christmas season to you all ... and make sure you get your shopping done in time! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

I have been on vacation this week ... so I did not put together a post for this morning. In its place, here is a video giving the back story of one of the most iconic (and terrifying!) photos of the last century. I wonder what OSHA would have to say about these guys sitting 80 stories above the ground with no safety harness to keep them from falling should they slip!

And please be sure to take some time to remember the reason behind this season of Advent (John 1:1 and John 1:14).

And just a reminder ... the script is now done! I invite you to join us at Grace on Sunday morning, December 18th for The Steward's Tale.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday (and this week I am REALLY glad that Friday is finally here ... more on this below) and that means it's time for a cup of coffee and a few random thoughts. 

1. World magazine writes on a recent CDC (Center for Disease Control) report that indicates world abortion rates are falling. According to World, "Pro-life leaders see the new data as more proof the pro-life movement has changed public opinion about abortion." This is indeed good news. You can read World's article here. Please continue to pray for the work of the many pro-life ministries that are actively advocating for the unborn in so many ways. And if you want to "put some money where your prayers are" consider a gift to Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services

2. If you are looking for an advent devotional that will help you get and stay focused on the true meaning of the Christmas season, I recommend one available from the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, Where the Light Shines Brightest (download the pdf here for free). It is a 25 day devotional with devotional thought, a brief prayer, and the appropriate Scripture text. It is very well done! You might also want to consider Desiring God Ministries' advent devotional, Advent is for Adoring Jesus. This would also be a great choice! 

3. Finally, I mentioned above I am glad it is FRIDAY! Yahoo! Huzzah! YES! Why so? Yesterday I had the joy (not really!) of undergoing my medical screening procedure that I get to do every ten years (now I am NOT complaining ... because it could be a life saver if I would have had colon cancer AND I don't have to have it done every five years (as do those who have a family history of colon cancer) AND because I was able to resume a regular diet right away (unlike some medical procedures!). I am talking about a colonoscopy. And if you have been through one, you will know why I am so glad it is now behind me ... in the rear view mirror of life (puns intended). The procedure itself is not bad at all ... but it is what precedes. I will leave it at that. One of my staffers showed me the following song performed by Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins. It is simply titled, "The Colonoscopy Song." FUNNY! (especially now looking back!). So take a moment and watch and listen and LAUGH! Laughter is a proven stress reliever!

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

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