What to Do about New Year Resolutions?

Here we are just a few days before we enter yet another new year! In addition to the New Year traditions of watching the television broadcast of the ball drop in Times Square (though in recent years I have given up this tradition!), savoring pork and sauerkraut (I have not yet given up on this one!) and watching football bowl games, another tradition comes to mind. Making new year's resolutions. Been there? Done that? I have. And usually for no long term gain! 

Yes, I admit I am tempted to start off the new year with the status quo. But a big part of me wants to make some changes for the better. And changes don't just happen. As Don Carson reminds us, "No one drifts toward holiness." So I am once again going to enter the new year with some resolutions in hand. But this year, I am going to do it differently than I have done in the past. This year I am going to KISS the whole resolution making process (i.e. Keep It Simply Smitty). 

Therefore, I am making three resolutions. No more. No less. One for my mind. Another for my body. And a third for my heart. Mind, body, heart. All require some special attention. 

1. My mind. Jesus included our minds in his call upon us to love the Lord our God (Matthew 22:37). So how can I better love God with my mind in 2018? One helpful step to do so is to saturate it with God's truth. To assist me in this, I am resolving to memorize each of 52 weekly questions and answers from The New City Catechism. This will be a stretch for me. But a stretch well worth undertaking! 

2. My body. The Apostle Paul reminded his readers (and by extension, us) that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). As such, we need to treat them in such a way that honors God. To help me with this, I plan to use my fitness tracker to achieve my personal step goal for each day. I also will strive toward reducing the amount of grazing I tend to do in the evenings when at home. So at the end of the day I will be increasing my calorie burn while reducing calorie intake. Sounds like one step toward taking better care of the temple!

3. My heart. King Solomon, arguably the second wisest man to ever walk this earth (Jesus being first), urges the guarding of one's heart "above all else" (Proverbs 4:23). To help me do this better, I am going to spend time working through the book of Proverbs by using Tim Keller's excellent new daily devotional on this Old Testament book of wisdom. I plan to journal and pray my response (and hopefully live it out in the trenches of life) and memorize some key verses from the book.

So there you have it ... three simple (I think) steps I plan to take (in addition to other things I already am doing) to help me walk further down the path of godliness . . . taking each step, of course, by God's grace and for his glory! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

MERRY CHRISTMAS!  And if you are anything like me you are wondering, "How can Christmas be just three days away?" We can stop wondering and embrace the reality that in a blink or two of our eyes ... Christmas will be here (and then gone!). So, I plan to make the most of these days leading up to Christmas to celebrate the reason (the REAL reason) for the holiday: the birth of Jesus the Christ, our Savior and Lord (and I hope you do so as well). Please pour yourself a cup of coffee (This morning I am enjoying a cup of Starbucks Christmas blend. It has a CHRISp taste that brings JOY to the taste buds ... bottom line, it is SNOW GOOD!). 

1. With people in the United States spending an average of $1000 this year on Christmas gifts, it makes me wonder if in the midst of all this gift giving, Christmas' greatest gift might be lost in the pile of torn wrapping paper and empty boxes. And just what is that gift? It is the birth of a baby in the midst of barnyard animals. One who was born to die. Of course, I am talking about the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. A birth long promised by the prophets of the Old Testament. A birth celebrated by heaven's angelic population. A birth wondered at by a group of lowly shepherds. A birth honored by a group of exalted magi. 

I urge you in your Christmas gift exchanges, that you pause to thank God for his indescribable gift (1 Corinthians 9:15). Take a moment to read and reflect upon the following words of the Apostle Paul: 

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

2. Not only can the real reason for Christmas get lost in the holiday shuffle, but, in young 5 year old TyLon Pittman's mind, the very holiday itself can be stolen! The young boy called 911 out of concern that the Grinch was going to successfully pull off a heist of Christmas. The 911 operator was amused, as was Officer Lauren Develle. Develle arranged to have TyLon come to the station and lock up the Grinch! Check out the story here. All of us have a bit of the Grinch in us ... (if you doubt this, just listen to yourself and count how many times throughout your day you complain about something!). Just the other day ... I was in my back yard picking up branches which had broken off our trees during some recent high winds. I caught myself complaining. So I stopped in my tracks and gave thanks to God for the house my wife and I (and the bank) own (though we are getting ever closer to eliminating the bank's share of ownership!). Many people do not own a home. And many people here in the US and throughout the world are, in fact, homeless. So all this to say ... the next time you catch a grumbling complaint rolling off your tongue, STOP! Think about what you are complaining about. Find something to be thankful for ... and give thanks! Don't be a Grinch!

3. I want to close out by offering thanks! First and foremost thanks to God for his AMAZING and sovereign grace which saved me from sin's penalty and is saving me from sin's power (and which one day will save me from sin's presence!). I also thank my wife and kids and kids-in-law and their kids! Thanks fam, for your love for one another and for me! Finally, thanks to my church family! The staff team and elder team that I work with have to be among the best in the land. And add to them everyone else who calls Grace Church at Willow Valley their home! I can think of NOWHERE else I would rather be serving Jesus than RIGHT HERE at Grace! You all are the best! A very merry and joy-filled Christmas to you all! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Sorry I missed you all last week. I was on a "staycation," enjoying some time away from work and with my wife. But this morning, I am back (actually was back at the beginning of this week). So pour yourself a hot cup of java and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. One of the fun things my wife and I did last week was to see the movie, The Man Who Invented Christmas. The movie portrays how Charles Dickens wrote and published his much loved story, A Christmas Carol, in a matter of six short weeks. The majority of his characters who appear in his book are based on actual people he encountered in his own life. One item Dickens carried with him was a little book. In that book, he would write down names whenever he ran across one that struck his fancy. These names often worked their way into his writings (for example, at the end of the film, he met a constable with the last name of Copperfield .... ring a bell?). Dickens is not the only one keeping a book of names. God is, too! Really? Absolutely. In the Bible's final book, the Apostle John is describing the final judgment. During this judgment, all of humanity will stand before God. Books will be opened which record every deed we have ever done, every word we have ever spoken, every thought we have ever had. And since even the "best" of these are as "polluted garments" before God (Isaiah 64:6), all of us should be condemned. However, there exists another book. It belongs to the Lamb, whom the Scriptures identify as none other than Jesus Christ (John 1:29). Anyone whose name is recorded in this book will not face eternal judgment, but will instead be given eternal life (Revelation 13:8; 20:15). 

My friends, is your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life? You might wondering how you can find out? Your name is written in it when you make the choice to follow Jesus. If you want to learn more about what it means to do so, I urge you to check out: Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.

2. In just a little over a week (ten days, but who's counting?!), Christmas Day will arrive. For my wife and I, that means lots of grandkids will descend upon our house (seven of them are eight years of age and under). If I could just figure out how to capture their energy in a pill, I could fund a lot of mission projects around the world! I will guarantee you that by the time they all head for home and a welcome quiet descends upon our house, Grammy and Papa will crawl into our recliners, put up our feet, and allow the warmth of having spent Christmas Day with our kids and their kids sooth our tired bodies. 

Not every grandparent will enjoy this blessing this Christmas. But for my wife and I, we thank God that we can! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday, December 1st. Yup. Christmas is just 24 days away! And in spite of the somewhat balmy weather we have been enjoying this week, a glance at the long range forecast this morning shows colder weather is just around the corner (I even spotted the "s" word! Ugh! But this should NOT surprise us. Today is the first day of meteorological winter!). So even if you don't enjoy a hot cup of coffee normally, you may want to take up the habit soon just to warm up!  😉  Thanks for joining me today for a couple of thoughts which I hope will help you grow in your faith journey with Jesus Christ. 

1. Wednesday morning brought a startling revelation on NBC's Today Show. Visibly shaken co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb broke the news as the much watched program came on the air. Matt Lauer, a popular co-host on the show for over twenty years had been terminated over night for "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace." The memo from the chairman of NBC also stated "we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident." 

As I reflected on this sorry state of affairs (and so many similar ones which have surfaced in recent weeks), the word "integrity" popped into my head. One of the dictionary definitions of the word reads, "the state of being whole and undivided." So what does that "state" look like in our day-to-day living? Simply that one's walk will match one's talk. So if you are a man or woman of integrity, you will keep your word. You won't back out of commitments. You won't renege on a promise. You will respect others. And what you are behind closed doors matches who you are in the workplace, neighborhood, school, church, etc. because your life is "whole and undivided." You are not two-faced. And when people look at you, what they see is who you are! 

Now being a man or woman of integrity does NOT mean being perfect. If that were the case, none of us could ever possess integrity. For we all are broken, fallen, sinful people (Romans 3:23). So if integrity does not mean perfection ... then what does it mean? In one word, "consistent." So are you a consistent person when it comes to living honestly before others? If you have a skeleton in your closet ... it may be time to come clean. First before God and then before others. Matt Lauer had a secret. And now that secret has ruined his career and perhaps his family relationships. Sin has a way of catching up to us (Numbers 32:23) - in this life as well as the next (the latter being far more concerning!). If you have never made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, asking him to forgive you of your sins, I urge you to check out: Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Consider these words of wisdom from the Old Testament's book of wisdom, the book of Proverbs: "Better a poor person who lives with integrity, than the rich one who distorts right and wrong" (28:6). 

2. On Sunday, one of our two year old grandsons spent time in our church nursery. His first several stays in the nursery were a bit on the rough side. But he is now settling in to the routine. This past Sunday when I asked his mom about him and the nursery, she told me that he refers to the nursery as the "Church Y." When I asked her what he meant by that she informed me that she sometimes takes him with her when she goes to work out at the local YMCA. The Y has childcare available for members. In Logan's mind, our church nursery is the "church" version of the Y's childcare. Therefore ... our nursery is the "church Y!" Ha! Gotta love the little ones! Jesus did ... and so must we (Mark 10:13-16). What are YOU doing to help children to find Jesus

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

After enjoying Thanksgiving Day with my family (there were a total of 18 in our home for the celebration!), I am ready for more turkey leftovers (I just love turkey dinners ... even more than steak!). Often my problem is that my wife sends so many leftovers home with the kids that there is often not much left for me! But I made sure that did NOT happen this year! 😉 Thanks for joining me for Friday Coffee with PJ! 

1. I hope that during this Thanksgiving weekend, you spend some quality time thanking God for his many blessings ... and if you failed to do so yesterday, well today is another day! Here are a couple of quotes to inspire you toward a grateful heart! 

"To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater." 
(J. I. Packer) 

“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!”  
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that, I still possess.” 
(Corrie ten Boom)

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations."
(Psalm 100:4-5)

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
(1 Thessalonians 5:18) 

2. The MacDonald's restaurant next door to our church is undergoing a massive makeover. They are adding a second drive thru lane and renovating the inside of the restaurant. It has already been shut down for two weeks ... and it looks like there is still quite a bit of work to be done. But eventually (and probably sooner rather than later ... every day closed is a day the restaurant is not making money) ... the store will be reopened to the happiness of its regular customers. 

We who choose to follow Jesus are also undergoing a massive makeover, and I for one am glad for it! I know what I once was. And I know that I am not even close to "having arrived" where God wants me to be. But God is at work in me and will one day complete his work (Philippians 1:6). Until that time, I must strive to work out my salvation with fear and trembling KNOWING that God is at work IN ME to do and to will of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). And that is one HUGE motivator to say "Thank you, God for not quitting on me!" 

Thanks for stopping by ...

Friday Coffee with PJ

As I write these words, I have just finished up my fourth cup of coffee. So I am thinking I will call that cup my last ... maybe! 😃  Thanks for joining me for some random insights into life. 

1. This week I met my son for lunch. Over a breakfast wrap and a cup of decaf coffee (it was after the noon hour!) we talked about life. All in all, a wonderful hour catching up with each other. Afterwards, as I was driving back to the office – it hit me. This little baby boy that I once bounced on my knee causing him to giggle hysterically is all grown up! He has earned two degrees and has parlayed that into a very responsible job at an institution of higher learning. In addition, he has bounced three of his own children on his knee! I could not be more proud! But wow!  Where have the past 36 years gone?  When did my little boy become a man? 

If you are a parent of young children and you just happen to be reading this (which in and of itself would be quite remarkable considering all the time you must give to your kids!), I encourage you to make time with your children a priority (which is something I always tried to do).  This WILL mean saying “No!” to some things you enjoy doing or even possibly to some career “advancement.”  Don’t buy into the lie that when it comes to your kids what they need is “quality” (vs. “quantity”) time.  Nope.  I think kids need both.  They need more of your time – and when you give them time, they need more of YOU!  So it’s not a question of either or (either quality or quantity) but BOTH AND!  Even though my children are no longer little (they are all adults now with kids of their own), this is a lesson I am still trying to get down. The next time your little one comes and says, “Daddy, please read me a book...” or “Mommy, please play a game with me . . .” – remember, they are only young once.  Build into them while you’ve got the chance.  There will come a day (trust me on this) when you will long for the days when your kids were young (although I must admit those days are few and far between)!

2. The other day when I drove my son's 2 year old home, whenever I would ask him a question he would answer with "I don know." It did not matter whether he really knew the answer or not. I would ask and his response was always, "I don know." I am guessing it was his way of playing a game with me. 

Sometimes people ask me questions about why certain things (usually difficult things) are happening to them. I will often answer in the way my grandson was answering my questions, "I don't know." But then I always add this: "But I do know God, and his ways are always trustworthy" (Psalm 119:138). William Cowper was a British poet and hymn writer in the 18th century. To the very end of his life he battled deep bouts of depression. Through it all, he clung to his faith in Christ. One of his most loved hymns is the well known (and well sung) hymn, God Moves in Mysterious Ways. The fourth stanza ends with the words, "Behind a frowning providence God hides a smiling face." In those words, Cowper captures a truth that we must all grip and never let go! God has a plan for us (providence). Often, in his infinite wisdom he knows that we must endure suffering if indeed we are to become what he wants us to be and all of us long deep inside to become. James understood this and wrote to his readers to rejoice when trials hit (James 1:2-4). God is not a cosmic sadist, getting a thrill out of seeing us suffer. Rather, he is our Father in Heaven ... and as such, he has our best interests in heart. As C.S. Lewis reminds us, "Pain is the megaphone of God." 

So my friends, if you are hurting today, take hope. Behind your pain God is wearing a smile! And the hurt you are experiencing is ultimately for your good and HIS glory! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Please feel free to pour yourself a cup of your favorite joe and join me for some thoughts which I hope will get you thinking about your faith and this world in which we live. 

Speaking of this world in which we live, we must never lose sight of what the Bible has to say about this world. For starters, the Apostle John in his gospel tells us that "God loved the world in such a way that He gave his one and only Son . . ." (John 3:16). The word "world" here refers to the world of people - the image-bearers whom God himself created among whom everyone of us is numbered. Now when we are born into this world, we are born in a state of rebellion. That's right. We are born rebels. We don't want to go God's way, but rather we are determined to go OUR way (Isaiah 53:6). As a result, children need to be taught to do the right thing, yes? If you have any doubts, you have never been a parent or worked in childcare! One of the roles of parents is to teach their children to do the right thing! 

God the Father, knowing our desperate condition, sent his son to be born as one of us and to eventually die for us. In Jesus Christ (his death, burial and resurrection), God provides for us the path (the only path) back to him (John 14:6). 

In addition to this use of the word "world", John uses the word in another way in his first letter. In 1 John 5:19 he writes, "the whole world is under the sway of the evil one." Here John is using the word to refer to the evil world system which is controlled by our arch enemy, Satan. One quick look around at what is happening in our world today most certainly confirms that the evil one is at work all across the globe! 

This brings me to what is so heavy on my heart as I write these words. Early this past Sunday afternoon, I received the first news of the church shooting in Texas. Over two dozen people, many of them children gunned down in cold blood. Eight members of one extended family! I was stunned! My heart was broken. As my mind began to clear, I found myself shaking my head. Yet another mass shooting. Las Vegas and now this (and this shooting on the heels of the recent truck killing of people on a Manhattan bike path)! The evil one is indeed at work  - and by the way, Jesus himself refers to the evil one as a "murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44). Since Satan controls this world system, murders are all too common. 

So what is the answer? Tighter gun control? More emphasis on the treatment of mental illness? More security measures? 

Bottom line, the issue is a heart issue. Evil hearts are behind these killings (take a look at the anatomy of the first murder in human history as recorded in Genesis 4:1-15). Jeremiah the prophet writes that the human heart is "more deceitful than anything else and incurable - who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 9:17). Of course, the answer to his question is that God can. God knows all. That means he knows anything and everything there is to know about our hearts (Hebrews 4:13). 

But all is not doom and gloom. Into the shroud of evil's darkness shines the light of the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. When Jeremiah tells us that our hearts our incurable, he is right on! So our only hope is for a new heart. And only God can give us one (Ezekiel 36:26). How about YOU? Have you undergone this divine heart transplant? If you haven't, I encourage you to take a moment and check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.  When you make the right choice to embrace Jesus Christ as the ONLY answer to your desperate need for a new heart ... he will give you a new heart, a new life, a new destiny! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

I hope you enjoy your coffee as much as I do mine! My favorite brew, by the way, is San Fransisco Bay Fog Chaser (just noticed on my last Costco run that Costco is now offering San Fransisco Bay's French Roast! Yes! Highly recommend!). Thanks for joining me this morning for a couple of random thoughts that I hope will encourage you in your faith journey with Christ! 

1. When we first moved into our current home back in November of 2000, the previous owner-builders had a couple of flower beds around the house. Nothing big. Certainly far from elaborate. Across the course of the next few years my wife planted new flower beds ... quite a few of them. At first I didn't mind too much. Less grass to cut! But then I realized that every spring brought with it the ritual of the mulch! But, at the end of the day, I enjoyed all the flowering plants my wife had planted and so went with the flow. But as both us us have aged a bit in the past 17 years ... "the flow" is getting harder to keep up with! So this year, we hired a landscaper to remove two large flower beds my wife had planted in our front lawn and planted grass seed in their place. In part, due to the warm October, the lawn is now looking pretty good! But it does look odd to see all that green grass where before a variety of plants had grown!  All this reminds me that we go through seasons of life. When we moved into our house in 2000, my wife was in the season of life in which she found a lot of joy in working in her gardens. Now, that season is quickly (and I do mean QUICKLY!) passing. Energy levels for both of us are not what they once were. And so we are learning we must allocate our energy to the more important activities in life (for my wife that means running around after our grandkids! Not much energy left for gardening after a day with grandchildren!). 

The day is coming for us all when we will enter the final season of life. As I look ahead (with most of my life now behind me ... and I don't think I will be living until I am 123!), I am praying two things for myself. First, I pray that I will finish well! Finish well in loving my Lord. Finish well in loving my wife, children, and grandchildren (and maybe even great-grandchildren). Finish well with whatever God calls me to do in the remaining years of my life. I simply want to be able to say what Paul the Apostle said has he reflected on his life: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7). Secondly, I pray that as I grow older I will grow older graciously vs. become a grumpy "old guy!" I had a former bus driver recently tell me one reason he quit driving was because he could never please older people. Now I understand how easy it would be to become grumpy in one's old age (after all ... so many parts of the body just don't work the way they used to ... and that brings pain, inconvenience and a lot of sitting in doctors' waiting rooms). So as you move thru the seasons of life, I would encourage you to pray that God would help you to finish well and to do it graciously! 

2. Speaking of finishing well, Jesus Christ certainly did just that. In his next to last recorded words of his earthly life, He said, "It is finished." In speaking these words, it was not his earthly life he was referencing, but the mission of his earthly life. In Mark 10:45 he declared that mission to be the giving of his life as "a ransom for many." Also, in Luke 19:10 he stated his life mission as being to "seek and save those who are lost." So when Jesus said, "It is finished" he was saying the ransom he came to pay for us rebels who were lost and estranged from the Father had been paid in full! This means there is NOTHING we can (or need to) add to what he has already done for our salvation! Jesus paid it ALL! 

Last May, I traveled to Parkeside Church for their 2017 Basics Conference for pastors. For two and half days we feasted on Scripture as we heard sermons by Alistair Begg, Al Mohler and Sinclair Ferguson. Below is a quote by Ferguson on this concept of our getting right with God through faith alone: 

"Remember that you are not saved by increased levels of holiness, however desirable it is that you should reach them. ...It is Christ who saves us-through faith. Your faith is a poor and crumbling thing, as is your spiritual service. Jesus Christ alone is qualified and able to save you because of what He has done."

If you have any questions about whether or not you are right with God ... please take a moment to view, Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . pj

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning. Cup of coffee. Open Bible. Talk with God. No better way to start a Friday (or any day) than this! Thanks for joining me for a few random thoughts that I hope will help you move forward in your faith walk with Jesus Christ! 

Today I got to thinking about some of the friends God has used in my life to help me along in my faith journey. One of these was a guy named Dave Bobbs. Dave was a classmate of mine in college. We hung out a lot together (especially my first three semesters - after that I hung out a lot with a girl named Sharon Pietrowski). Dave and I played tennis together. We studied together. We talked sports (and girls) together. I stayed in his home in Bristol, PA. He stayed in mine in Lewisberry, PA. Once I began dating Sharon, we did a number of double dates with Dave and his numerous female interests. After graduation, we went our separate ways. He headed off to the Midwest for Seminary, I remained in the Philadelphia area for my schooling. Upon finishing my seminary studies, a church family in the western hills of Pittsburgh called me to be their pastor. About a year later, Dave was called to a large church in the Cleveland, Ohio area to oversee their Christian Education ministries. Being so close (no more than a two hour drive) we were able to reconnect for a brief period of time. In his second year in Ohio, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. Eight months later he departed this earth for heaven. At age 32 he left behind a wife and two young sons. I spoke at his Cleveland memorial service. It was one of the toughest funerals I have ever had the privilege to officiate. Many would say "Dave died before his time." But the biblical response would be "Dave died right on God's time." 

Really? If we are to believe the Bible, then yes. In Psalm 139 we are told that God has planned out our days before a single one of them began (Psalm 139:16). But how could God allow Dave to be taken by cancer at such an "early" age leaving a young, grieving family behind? I don't know the answer to that question. But God does. And from what I know of God, that is good enough for me. 

But here is one thing I do know ... Dave in his short life of 32 years had a bigger impact for the cause of Christ than many Christians who live two or three times as long. How so? Dave understood the call of the Apostle Paul contained in these words which he penned to the church of Rome: 

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship." 
(Romans 12:1)

Dave not only got this, he lived it! How about YOU? Have you been the recipient of God's saving mercy and grace? And if so, are you living a life worthy of the gospel?

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday ... so pour yourself a cup of your favorite java and join me for a few random thoughts ... at least one of which, I hope, will help you along in your journey of faith! 

1. Last week, one of my associate pastors suffered a heart attack. On Monday of this week he underwent surgery. As a result of him being in the hospital (and a couple of other folks from our church family), I have been drinking a lot of Pete's Coffee, which is served in the Skylight Cafe on the hospital's second floor. It is by far the best tasting coffee to be had anywhere in the hospital! Usually they have several kinds of coffee available. I have tried several. Each has a distinctive taste. Each can be savored for those very differences. Reminds me of people. We are all unique, distinct in a lot of different ways. And God calls us to "savor" one another no matter how different we may be from one another. The greatest command given to us by God, according to Jesus himself, is to love the Lord our God with all of our soul, heart, mind, and strength. The second great commandment according to Jesus is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So, those different people who live across the street, work across the office, or sit on the other side of the classroom, Jesus calls us to love them! All of them are image bearers of the God who made us all. Fallen image bearers? Yes. Sinful? Indeed. In need of God's grace? Absolutely. So if you are a follower of Jesus, love those around you ... no matter how different and "distinct" they may happen to be. It's what God is calling you to do! 

2. Yesterday I took a quick walk to a nearby pharmacy to pick up a prescription. The medication is to help me breath easier. I have asthma. Many people who know me might be surprised by that. But it is true. Ever since I was a freshman in college, asthma has dogged me. A year and a half ago, my primary care physician told me it was time for me to see a specialist. So off to the pulmonologist I went. In a matter of two visits, he laid out a plan for me to follow. Ever since I have been following his plan . . . my asthma has been well controlled! I am grateful (but sure wish  my doctor had recommended I do this earlier!). You see, the pulmonologist knew lungs and the common diseases of the lungs (like asthma). And in a few short minutes he knew what had to be done. He prescribed. I followed. And I am much healthier as a result! In a similar way, when we encounter the difficulties of living in a fallen world, we need to go to the one who knows our world and the diseases of our world. This would be the one who designed and created the world we live in ... God! And he has revealed himself to us not only in the created realm which he has made (Romans 1:18-20) but also in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:18; John 14:6) and in his word, the Bible (2 Peter 1:3-4). As we seek to know God and his ways better, we will be better equipped to face the challenges of living in this broken world. How about you? Are you seeking God? Why not open a Bible today (if you don't have a print Bible, check out www.biblegateway.com). As you read, you will learn God's prescription (the gospel). It will be your choice as to whether you "listen to the doctor's (Creator's) orders!" I hope you make the right choice! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

As I write this blog post, I am on my fourth (and final) cup of coffee (and it's only 8:19 am!). Time to quit. As you have heard, every good thing must come to an end ... and so for my coffee drinking ... for today that is! Thanks for joining me for today's edition of Friday Coffee with PJ! 

1. Unless you have been totally "zoned out" of what's been going on in the world, you know that the Boy Scouts have been in the news of late (with their decision to allow girls into their ranks ... something, by the way, the Girl Scouts organization is not too happy about). As a former cub scout and boy scout I am saddened by this news. Not because I don't think much of girls or I don't think girls should have the same opportunities as boys, but because this is simply one more step further into the gender confusion of our day. God makes it clear in the opening chapter of the Bible that when he designed and created humanity in his image, he created us "male and female" (Genesis 1:27). Fallen humanity has been constantly suppressing God's truth and exchanging it for a life (see Romans chapter one). So, human beings are not only making God in their own image ... they are also making his image bearers in their own image. For more insightful thoughts on this issue from a biblical worldview, I encourage you to check out Al Mohler's Daily Briefing from Wednesday of this week. Click on The words "boys" and "girls" are becoming increasingly ironic (6:12).

2. This past Sunday we had the privilege of welcoming Dr. Augustin Hibaile and his daughter, Andrea to our church and into our home. Back in 2005, Dr. Hibaile left his position of Dean of a seminary in his homeland of the Central African Republic to start a new organization, The Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership (CIDEL). For the past 12 years, Dr. Hibaile has conducted seminars and workshops for government officials, military leaders, educators and pastors not only in the CAR, but in neighboring French speaking African countries as well. In fact, there are far more open doors of opportunity than he can walk through with his limited staff of three. So, please pray for Dr. Hibaile's ministry, that God would raise up more individuals and resources to tackle the great need in that area of the world. Also pray for his family. Just last month, rebel forces (which control as much as 80% of the country) attacked his home town in the north western part of the CAR. Many were killed, and most were displaced. He has had no word from relatives who were living in that city. For all he knows, they may be among the dead. Yet in spite of this kind of danger and the extreme poverty the people suffer under, Dr. Hibaile continues to live among his people to serve them and to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks for praying for this godly man (to view a brief video of an interview I did with him this past Sunday, click here). 

3. I referred to the gospel above. Just what is "the gospel?" The world "gospel" literally means "good news." And the gospel of Jesus Christ is the best news that you or I could ever hear! For a fuller explanation of just why this is the case, check out the following brief article, What is the Gospel? 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me once again. My apologies for being a bit late with the post as I am at Grace College & Semonary board meetings in Winona Lake, Indiana).

Twenty-eight years ago last month (September 1, 1989 to be exact) I began my pastoral ministry here at Grace. Much has changed since then. My kids have grown older (all married and all have blessed us with grandkids ... eight to be exact). I have grown balder (bald is beautiful, right?!). Sharon, my wife has grown lovelier. And Grace Church has grown, too. Grace is larger (in numbers, facilities, and ministries) and, I trust, more Christ-like (although we are nowhere close to being where we need to be!).

Am I glad that God in His providence led me here twenty-eight years ago? Absolutely! As I have said before, at this present time in my life, there is no other place I would rather be serving my God than right where I am. I work alongside a great staff and a godly group of elders. And I love the people of Grace. They are family to me, and family ties are special ties. So if you are a part of the family at Grace, be assured that there is one guy who loves you very much. His name is John Smith (is that really his name? That is a topic for a future blog!).

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday morning is here again!  And today happens to be National Coffee Day! So pour yourself a cup of the wonderful juice from the good old coffee bean and enjoy (and have better health to boot)!  You might also want to check out this link to National Coffee Day for some special savings from your favorite place to pick up a cup of Joe!

1. Today is the final day of the Lampeter Fair. For the past 25 years or so, our church has hosted a "baby comfort station." Just what is that? It's a clean, comfortable place for moms and dads to change their babies. Finding such a place to do so can prove challenging, especially given the changing weather conditions at the fair (from wet and muddy to dry and dusty). We also provide a private place for nursing mothers to feed their little ones. Across the years, many parents have expressed their thanks for our comfort station (especially those who realize they left their diaper bag at home!). Why do we do this? Because we are a group of people who are following Jesus. And Jesus was the greatest servant this world has ever known. Is there any greater act of service than that of dying for another? This is what Jesus did for us (John 3:16). And serving via our baby comfort station is something we, in turn, are doing for our community. What are YOU doing to serve those around you in Jesus's name? 

2. People are so easily offended today (you would have to be living off the planet to be clueless about what I am talking about). And so we walk on egg shells. We weigh every word. We measure every gesture. The last thing we want to do is offend. But, for the Christian, here is the problem. The very gospel we proclaim is offensive (1 Corinthians 1:23). It is offensive because even though the gospel is "good news," you cannot understand the good news of the gospel without first understanding the bad news about us! And I do mean ALL of us! Now to get a full understanding of this bad news, take some time to read the opening pages of the New Testament letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome (Romans 1:1-3:20). Paul holds nothing back as he describes the sinful state of  humanity. We are a race of people living in open rebellion against the God who made us. And there is a penalty for our sin and rebellion: death and judgment (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27). Fortunately for us, Romans does not end at chapter three and verse 20 ... it goes on. In the remainder of the letter, the Apostle Paul unpackages the glorious good news of a righteous and loving God who makes provision for the payment for our sin. He does so by sending his one and only son to die for us so that by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ (God's son) alone we can be made right with God! My friends, can you honestly say that you are right with God today?  If you have any questions, please check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. You may also want to check out a rather creative presentation of the gospel here.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday morning (again? really?). And it's the FOURTH Friday morning of September! Ouch! Where is September going? Just another reminder that our life is brief and passes quickly. So ... over our cup of coffee, let's agree NOT TO WASTE IT! 

1. Speaking of the passing of time, this afternoon at 4:02 the fall season officially begins. Today's forecast is calling for a high temperature in the mid-eighties ... hardly a fall forecast. Now we all realize this summer-like weather won't last forever. Soon the crisp temperatures of a more typical fall day will be upon us (which will be "shortly" followed by weather forecasts with the dreaded "S" word being bandied about ... but enough of that for now!). As for me, as long as this late summer weather lasts, I am going to enjoy it! 

Just as climatic seasons come and go .... the true is same of the seasons of life. Some of you might be in one of your earlier seasons of life ... seasons marked by preparation for your vocation. Others a bit further, in the season of raising children. Still others of you might be in that season of letting your children go (which proves to be quite difficult for so many of us). Or perhaps you are in the season my wife and I find ourselves in ... that of the empty nest season of grand-parenting (but not yet retired - whatever that really means!). But no matter what season you find yourself in today, always keep in mind that the God who is able has made many promises to us in his word. Promises which can give you strength no matter the challenges you find in your particular season of life. So my question to you is this? How well do you know your Bible? If you don't know your Bible well, you won't know his promises well either. And what you don't know, you cannot trust. My guess is that ALL of us could know our Bibles better. So what are we ... what are YOU going to do to become more familiar with the Scriptures?

2. As I have been reflecting on my life, I rejoice to see that God has blessed me with longevity in a variety of ministries. I am now in my 29th year of ministry here at Grace Church at Willow Valley (never saw that coming when I accepted the call graciously extended to me by the church back in July of 1989). I am also in my 22nd year teaching as an adjunct at nearby Lancaster Bible College and my 17th year serving our local police department as a chaplain. In 2011, I stepped down from the faculty of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries after teaching seminars for them for 25 years. And to top all of this off, I have been working at cherishing my wife for 39 years now! 

I hope you don't think I am boasting about my endurance. I am not an endurance man (in fact, when I ran track in high school, I was the team's relay specialist for the one-mile and two-mile relay teams ... all because I could run fast at the quarter mile and half mile distances ... but any less or any more and forget it!). But I tell you all this to boast in my God. It was HE, and he alone, who opened the door for these opportunities. And it was (and is) HE, and he alone, who kept (and keeps) me going during times of discouragement. Moments when the thought of throwing in the proverbial towel was so inviting. During these darker seasons, he reminded me time and time again that what I was doing was for HIM and HIS kingdom. It had (and has) nothing to do with John Smith and everything to do with him. 

I am currently reading through the Old Testament book of Psalms in my devotional time. Just the other day I ran across these verses: 

Who do I have in heaven but you?
And I desire nothing on earth but you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
But God is the strength of my heart,
And my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26)

That's my prayer today for me and for all of you. May God work in us so that we can say the same that this writer proclaimed some 3000 years ago! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

A good Friday morning to one and all! For most of you, Friday morning brings the knowledge that in just a few short hours you will be done working (at least on the job) until next Monday! But alas, for me ... it means my most tiring day of work is just around the corner! Yep. It's Friday, but Sunday's coming! Please pour yourself a cup of coffee (and for the health benefits of java, click the link in last Friday's post), and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. I am sure you have seen video and photos of the devastation left behind by the 100+mph winds of Hurricane Irma. Trees toppled. Huge RV's flipped over. Construction cranes mangled. Homes totally blown off their foundations. It is heartbreaking. Authorities estimate a quarter of the houses are gone in the hard hit Florida Keys. Ouch! Now ... why did some houses survive the storm's fury while others did not? I am sure there are probably a number of reasons for this ... one of which would be the quality of construction. Simply put, some houses are built more sturdy than others. This reminds me of a parable Jesus told as he wrapped up his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24-27). In it, he contrasts a wise and a foolish builder. The wise man built his house on the rock and it withstood the storm. The foolish man's house collapsed when the storm hit because he build it upon the sand. Jesus went on to compare the wise man as one who not only hears his word but also takes the next step ... he puts it into practice. The foolish builder ... he also hears but FAILS to act upon what he hears! How about YOU? As you build your life (house), are you building on a solid foundation? If you are building on God's word, then YES! You are building on a VERY solid foundation. But if you are not taking God's truth and applying it in the trenches of your life ... when the storms of life hit (as they surely will), your life will collapse around you. I encourage you to take your Bible today and read it. Then ask yourself, "What is one step I can take that would help me put into practice what I have just read?" That's how you start building on a strong foundation!

2.  The Apostle Paul urges Timothy to "pay close attention" to his life (1 Timothy 4:16). A. W. Tozer, a giant of the faith in the last century offers up his list of questions for what he labels, "self discovery." I have found them to be quite helpful in examining ourselves. I encourage you to take some time and reflect on them. 

1. What we want most;
2. What we think about most; 
3. How we use our money; 
4. What we do with our leisure time; 
5. The company we enjoy; 
6. Who and what we admire; 
7. What we laugh at.

Thanks for stopping by . . .    

Friday Coffee with PJ

Good morning! Can you believe September is already 24% done??!!!  The rapid passing of the time should remind us that this life will soon be over. So, are you ready for the next chapter of human life? If you have any questions, please check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. And as you read on, feel free to pour yourself a cup (or more!) of coffee. Your health could depend upon it!

1. I am now in my second week back from being gone on a nine week sabbatical. I am glad to be "back in the saddle again" - I was greeted by that song blaring through the church sound system as I opened up our second service this past Sunday! :)  I love my job. I love my church family. I love the staff and elders who I am privileged to work alongside of! And I love all of YOU who take time to read my meanderings! Thanks!

2. With the hurricane season ramping up, we are reminded of just how vulnerable we are as human beings. It has been many years since the Caribbean and the United States have been hammered by hurricanes such as Harvey and Irma (the latter of which is still "in process"). The destruction and devastation to lives and property have brought untold suffering to millions. Some look at this and dismiss any thought of God. After all, if God truly existed, then why do such tragedies happen? But people who think in these terms do not understand the story line of the Bible. The Bible begins with the account of Creation. In the opening two chapters of Genesis we are told that an almighty God created this vast and complex universe out of nothing. And he did so by simply speaking a word! Wow! That's power and wisdom beyond what we can even begin to fathom! And when God was done with his creative handiwork ... he looked it over and pronounced it to be "very good" (Genesis 1:31).

But when we arrive at Genesis chapter 3, we encounter THE complication of the Bible's story. For in this chapter, our first parents, Adam and Eve, rebelled against the Creator. And in doing so, the creation was plunged into an ever downward spiral of chaos. The Apostle Paul understood this as he refers to the creation as being "in bondage to decay" (Romans 8:21). This all happened as God leveled his righteous judgment upon humanity for their sin. But why curse the created realm? Wasn't God a bit harsh in what he did? Not at all. For starters, we know that God as the judge of all the earth will always do what is right! It is his nature to do so. He can never do wrong! He is perfection perfected! In addition, I also believe he desires for our vulnerability which so often brings suffering our way to draw us to him. The writers of the various psalms in the book of Psalms in the Older Testament of the Bible often refer to God as their "rock," "refuge," "strong tower," etc. Given this, my prayer for the victims of Harvey and Irma, cancer and heart disease, poverty and abuse, is that in their suffering they would seek and find the only lasting and real comfort we can hope to have in this life and the life to come ... the comfort God offers to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. Last Sunday I finished up our summer sermon series with a message on the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector as recorded by Luke in the 18th chapter of his gospel. The parable answers one of life's most fundamental questions: How can a person get right with God. If you want to find out the answer to the question, you can click here to listen to the message.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ (Special Thursday Morning Edition)

On Tuesday of this week I returned to the office after enjoying a nine week sabbatical. When I arrived home after work that day my wife asked me how it felt being back. I told her it felt like I had never been gone! When she asked me to elaborate I simply told her that being back in my office, working alongside the great staff at Grace Church, it just had the feel of "being home!" So all that to say, I am very glad to be "back in the saddle again!" 

Since my return I have been asked by many, "How was your sabbatical?"  As many of you might be wondering the same, here's my response. 

1. Rest. I got a boatload of rest. Mental. Physical. Emotional. Lots of time to just kick back and enjoy the moment. It was quite different going to bed at night and not having to set the alarm for an early morning meeting! Different and delightful! And it sure was fun getting back to doing some fishing (something I have enjoyed since childhood). 

2. Renew. I made an intentional effort to just spend some quiet time in God's presence through prayer and Scripture. I also listened online to a few gifted pastors as they unfolded God's Word. As a result of this emphasis, I see the need to build more of this into my regular routine now that I am "back at it!" Time spent with God is time WELL spent!

3. Read. Before my sabbatical I compiled a list of possible books to read during my time off. You might be wondering ... "John, why read? Won't that feel like work?"  Well, no, not really. I LOVE to read. But in my regular routine of sermon preparation, church planning, counseling, pastoral care opportunities ... and throw in number of meetings throughout the week ... at the end of the week there's not a lot of time left to just read! During my sabbatical I actually read seven books (hmmm  . . . seven is the # of perfection!). All seven were wonderful books which stretched my mind, warmed my heart and deepened (I trust) my love and commitment to the God who loved me enough to die for me! 

4. Reconnect. The old joke about a pastor only working one day a week is just that ... a joke! To be a loving, faithful shepherd of God's people is a vocation that requires a lot of effort and time. So this time off allowed me some time to reconnect with those I love ... both near and far. Spending extra time with the grandkids was a joy ... as was reconnecting with some friends who live at a distance. Most of all ... it was a great opportunity to spend time doing things and going places with my best friend. This was not just MY sabbatical. It was for both me and my wife! 

Thanks again for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ (Special Monday Edition)

Just a quick note to let you all know that I am on sabbatical leave until the end of August. Will be back (God willing - James 4:13-15) on Friday, September 1st with my next edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. Have a blessed summer as you walk with the King!

But as I go .... knowing how quickly this sabbatical will fly by, I leave you with these thoughts on life.

Living NOW in light of THEN!

Several years ago, when my son was working as an intern with the Lancaster New Era (now LNP), one of his first interviews was with a woman who was about to celebrate her 100th birthday. A couple of years ago, our church said “good-bye” not to just one centenarian, but two! Wow! One hundred years of living!  As I reflected on these women (yes, they were all women) and their long lives, I thought of my own age. At age 61, I have less than 39 years to join the centenarian club (Hmmm. Not sure I want to join that club!).

Regardless as to whether I live another 39 years or another 39 months – what is most important is that I live those years (or months) fully for Jesus Christ.  This life, no matter how brief or how long, is only a prelude to the main event.  Most of us get this all mixed up.  We think of this life as the main event and the next life as a mere add-on.  But in reality, Eternity is what life is all about. God created us for Eternity. He saved us for Eternity. We are headed for Eternity. Therefore, we had best live NOW for Eternity! (Colossians 3:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Since we are all heading to a meeting with God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth ... are you prepared to stand before him? If you are not sure, please take a moment to check this out ... Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday morning again! Yes! So pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy a few random thoughts that I hope will help you in your walk of faith with Christ! 

1. At the end of May, I finished up a one year reading plan I was using on YouVersion Bible app. Last June I had selected their Project 345 plan. It is designed to take you through the New Testament in a year's time by reading one chapter of the NT each weekday (weekends are used for catch up). It's name is derived from the time it takes for the average reader to read one chapter of the NT. I found the plan to be very manageable and found much profit. Many days I took more than 3:45 just to reflect and pray about what I had just read. If you are looking for a Bible reading plan (and a way to keep on the plan) I highly recommend using the YouVersion app (available on both IOS and Android) and the 3:45 plan! 

As the first of June was fast approaching, it hit me that I needed another plan. Hmm. I hadn't read Proverbs in a while, so I decided to do so in June, one chapter a day (with two chapters on the 30th). As I read thru the text ... I circle a few verses that strike me and then go back and pray over them. Here are some of the verses I circled (and why I did): 

Proverbs 3:9 - Honor the Lord with your wealth . . . Now I am not a "wealthy" man in that my bank account is 7 figures. But compared to the VAST majority of earth's population, I am VERY wealthy! I never need to wonder where my next meal is coming from. Nor do it have to wonder what I will wear when I launder my one set of clothes. And if I get sick or injured, healthcare is only a phone call away. So as I read this verse I was reminded that I need to be honoring the Lord with all the material (and other) resources that he has blessed me with! Am I truly giving enough to advance his kingdom? Alleviate the suffering of the poor (Proverbs 19:17)? Am I spending too much money on selfish pursuits? These are good questions that all of us need to be asking ourselves on a regular basis. 

Proverbs 10:19 - When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is wise. This is one of my favorite realisms in the entire book! Let me ask you this - can you think of the last time you got yourself in trouble by keeping your mouth shut? Or is it easier to think of the times you got yourself in trouble for saying something that should have been left unsaid? This proverb from the pen of King Solomon is a great reminder for all of us to make sure our brains our in gear before our tongues start wagging! 

Proverbs 18:12 - Before destruction a man's heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. Since pride is at the essence of our sin and rebellion against God (what is the middle letter of the word sin?), pride is very often taking up residence in our hearts. And as for humility .... when you think you have it you probably don't! So we must pray and ask God to give us humble hearts. One of the great steps toward humility is to remember who you are before God. He is our infinite, almighty creator ... we are merely the creatures of his hand. He is holy. We are sinful. And any and every good thing we enjoy in this life is a gift from him (James 1:17). The only thing we are entitled to from God is judgment. Yet in his grace he offers us himself in all of his beauty! And as we remind ourselves of just how far down in the mire of human depravity he had to reach for us ... that will have a humbling effect on us! 

So these are just a few of the numerous verses that jumped out at me. I trust you ALL have some sort of plan for reading the Bible. For if you don't have a plan, you will probably read a lot less of the Bible than you should (and need to) be reading! For "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable ... so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

2. Some have been asking about my wife and how she is doing. She is scheduled for her 6 month post-op appointment with the surgeon in mid July. If you were to ask her how she is doing, she would say "Compared to last year I am doing so much better!" And there is a lot of truth in that. Her leg is straight (and it was not before her revision in January) AND she has a much better bend (for a year she could not get beyond 70 degrees ... now she is over a 100 degrees). That said, she still suffers from quite a bit of pain (some days more than others). When we are planning to do a lot of walking, she takes her cane. And she is still not sleeping through the night in a bed (in fact some nights, she sleeps entirely in the lazy boy). So that's the latest. Would very much appreciate your ongoing prayers! 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

Don't know about you ... but no matter the temp outside, I still enjoy my morning coffee. Even on Tuesday when the high temperature for the day reached a balmy 95 degrees (almost 20 degrees higher than today's forecast high) I started my day with a cup of Joe! Now I will admit that on hot, hazy, humid days, if I opt for coffee in the afternoon, you can count on it being iced coffee (which I quite enjoy ... almost as much as I enjoy a frosty cup of iced tea)! But enough of my rambling. Here are a couple of thoughts which I hope will encourage you in your faith walk with Jesus! 

 Some of you might know (from my Facebook post) that on Monday of this week, my wife and I took our 5 year old granddaughter to Lake Tobias (as a celebration of her fifth birthday). She wanted her older sister (who is 8) to come along. So the four of us piled in the van around 8:30 in the morning, hoping to arrive when the park opened (we wanted to beat the heat). Well, we did well in timing our arrival, pulling in to the entrance at
10:01! But as for beating the heat ... forget it! Yet in spite of the temperature already pushing the upper 80's (eventually topping out in the 90's), we had a great time together. One of the most memorable moments occurred as the grandkids were eating their ice cream. Breaking the relative quiet of the park (being a Monday and being so hot ... the crowd was on the smaller side) came not one ... not two ... not three ... but a series of loud roars! The male lion was announcing his presence. We quickly got up and ran toward the lion exhibit which was only about 30 yards from where we were sitting. In all of the zoos I have visited (San Diego, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and a few others) I have never heard a lion roar like this lion roared! Definitely a cool moment (on a hot day!). 

As I thought of this lion roaring ... I thought of the book of Revelation. In this, the final book of the Bible, we find an animal roaring. But it is not a lion. Rather it is a lamb that roars! In Revelation chapter six, the lamb (Jesus Christ) begins to open the scroll which he had taken from God the Father's hand. This scroll
contains the final chapter of human history ... a chapter which details God's judgment upon humanity. This judgment of the Lamb is of such a horrific magnitude, that humanity responds in great fear and trepidation!

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)

The answer to this question is simply that NONE of us will be able to stand. All of us DESERVE God's judgment ... for all of us have rebelled against him and fall short of his glory (Romans 3:23). Therefore, the wage we earn is death and after death comes judgment (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 9:27). BUT we can take a step that will guarantee our salvation and deliverance from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 5:9). This step requires FAITH. Faith in Christ alone ... trusting that when he died on the cross ... he died as your substitute. He paid IN FULL the penalty a just God demands for your rebellion against him. And as you "you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9)!

If, my friends, you have any questions about what I have just written, please take a moment and visit Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

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...