Friday Coffee with PJ

Pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a couple of brief thoughts (just returned yesterday from a week's vacation!). 

1. We left last Thursday morning and drove to Ocean City, MD. On the way, we stopped in the Bethany Beach area and scoped out the house we will be renting for our family beach vacation this upcoming summer (an outside look had to suffice as the owner was not available to let us in). From Bethany Beach we continued to Ocean City where we spent the next day and a half before moving on to our ultimate destination of Williamsburg, VA. The day we arrived in Ocean City, the temperature never got out of the thirties. It was down right cold (and with the wind whipping off the ocean, it felt even colder). But talk about a temperature change! When we stepped out of the car in Williamsburg on Saturday, the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees. Both Sunday and Monday had highs approaching 80 degrees! I was so warm I drove to the local Kmart to buy a pair of shorts to wear! Oh how we enjoyed that unexpected taste of summer! Life's is full of unexpected turns. Some bring us much joy and happiness ... others discomfort, pain and sorrow. But in either case, we must acknowledge the sovereign hand of God behind it all (Ephesians 1:11). Through all that we experience, God is at work, conforming us increasingly into the image of his Son (Romans 8:28-30). Embracing this truth each and every day will help us to cling to our Savior and grow in our faith! 

2. On our way back from Williamsburg, I had an opportunity to meet a deputy sheriff. Now in my work as a police chaplain and in our church's hosting of the our annual service to honor law enforcement, I have rubbed shoulders with many a sheriff's deputy. But in this case, I would have rather passed on the introductions. I was in Virginia and had just come off of a bridge. The posted speed limit was only 55 mph. But I was traveling just a bit faster than that (OK ... a big bit faster than that!). As soon as I saw the deputy's vehicle sitting in the grass median strip and his lights begin to flash
Uh oh!
I knew that I was driving too fast (too late!!!). As he pulled out onto the highway, I immediately made my way onto the shoulder and stopped. Sure enough he pulled in behind me and was soon at my window asking for my licence and registration. Today my checking account balance is a bit lower (to the tune of $162!). But I have only myself to blame. The speed limit sign was clearly posted. In fact, when the officer handed me the citation, he told me I had the option to plead not guilty and then appear in court in May to contest the charges. I looked at him and said, "Officer, I am guilty. I will pay the fine and move on (but at a much slower pace!)." So he gave me directions on how I could plead guilty and pay the fine. The check will be in the mail today!

Now this is the first time in my 45 years of driving that I have ever received a speeding ticket. Is it the first time I have broken posted speed limits? No. I would guess that the vast majority of us from time to time do drive faster than the speed limit for a variety of reasons (on some highways if you drive the posted speed limit you might get run over!). But in the past couple of days since receiving the citation, I have found myself much more aware of posted speed limits and doing my best to keep them (in spite of those who ride my rear bumper in an attempt to get me to go faster). For me, our vacation ended with a lesson that I hope is well learned! 

Just as there are driving laws which help assure safety on our highways, so God has given us his laws to help us live life as He intended (for example, think Ten Commandments). Now in giving us these laws, God is not some cosmic kill joy trying to rob us of all of life's pleasure and fun. No. The laws he gives us ... the commandments in the Bible, etc. ... are given to us for our good (Deuteronomy 10:12-13). Since he created us, he knows what is best for us. Keeping his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). In fact, obeying his Word should be our delight for it is in obeying that we demonstrate our love for him (John 14:15). But at the end of the day, it is a comfort to know that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins ... a payment that we in and of ourselves could never pay! The gospel (good news) of Christ calls us to turn from our sins and in faith turn to Jesus! If you have questions about all that Jesus did for you and me and what we must do in response, please heck out Two Ways to Live: A Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Thanks for joining me for yet another edition of Friday Coffee with PJ. You know the routine. Enjoy a random thought or two with your morning coffee. 

1. One of the most fascinating passages of Scripture (and quite frankly, there are scores of them!) is the following: 

This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:1-13)

These verses should bring hope, comfort and confidence to every child of God. Jesus Christ is indeed going to return! No matter what man might say, God tells us in no uncertain terms that his son will one day return (at a time only known to himself - Matthew 24:36). Yet even though God has already set the date, Peter tells us something very interesting in v. 12. In addition to waiting for this day we are also to be "hastening the coming of the day of God." Here's what the note from the ESV Study Bible states about this word, "hastening": 

Hastening (Gk. speudō, “hurry [by extra effort]”) the coming of the day of God suggests that, by living holy lives, Christians can actually affect the time of the Lord’s return. 

The ESV Study Bible note goes on to say that this is true, even though God has already set the date. How is this possible? Frankly, I don't know. I guess my best answer to this would be the Apostle Paul's glorious words which he penned in his letter to the church in Rome when he wrote: 

 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

So as you ponder this mystery of how God's sovereignty fits with human activity, don't miss the point God through Peter is making here. In some mysterious way, God takes our actions and weaves them into the tapestry of his plan for the universe. Some way, some how (and even though I can't explain it ... I do believe it!) you and I can hasten the coming of the Lord!  Wow! 

2. Some of you have been asking about my wife's recovery from her January 9th knee revision ... so here's a brief update. She continues to make steady (although slow) progress. For starters, her leg is straight (180 degrees)! This is great news for her leg hasn't been straight for well over a year ... and a straight leg is very important for walking. Additionally, for the past year she was stuck at a 70 degree bend (most people with a healthy knee can get a bend of 135-140 degrees). Considering that one needs a flexion (bend) of 85 degrees to climb stairs and 95 degrees to stand and sit comfortably, you can understand how life was a bit tougher for my wife. So all that said, here is the good news .... Sharon this week was measured at 105 degrees! Wow! She has not seen that kind of bend since September 3, 2015 (the day before her first knee replacement). Now a "gold standard bend" for a knee replacement is 120-125 degrees. Many people achieve that. We are thrilled that Sharon got over 100 degrees! She will most likely not reach the gold standard ... but we will happily settle for bronze or silver!!!  :) Please pray as she continues to work her knee for greater flexion and less pain. Thanks! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Morning with PJ

Friday morning? Friday Coffee with PJ! Thanks for joining me today over a cup of coffee to read a few random (and I hope, thought provoking and faith strengthening thoughts). 

1. This past Tuesday saw one of the largest March snow falls on record for these parts. Here in Willow Street (just south of the city of Lancaster, PA), the snow turned to sleet for several hours. This kept the snow accumulation down. So instead of the foot and a half of snow which areas just to our north and west received, less than a foot of snow (9 inches maybe) covered my driveway (except for the foot and a half deep snow drift just outside my garage door). Now for me this change from heavy snow to heavy sleet was a good thing. When I was a kid, I loooooooooved snow! But now, as an adult who is responsible to remove it from my driveway and make calls as to whether or not to go ahead with Sunday services when inclement winter weather strikes ... a snowless winter sounds quite appealing! Interesting how as the years progress, our likes and dislikes change (among SO many other things which also change!). In contrast, our God never changes (James 1:17). This means that all that he is today ... he was yesterday and will be so tomorrow! Is he holy? Always! Is he merciful, loving and gracious? You can count on it! Is he faithful to all that he has promised? Absolutely - yesterday, today and forever! I don't know about you, but I find great comfort, joy, peace, and stability in knowing that our God is immutable (theologian talk for unchangeable). No wonder the writers of the Psalms used the figure of a rock to refer to God (Psalm 18:2, Psalm 62:7, etc.)! So when the changes of life swirl around you, reach out and anchor your soul to the Rock that never changes! You will be glad you did! 

2. Occasionally I run across thoughts someone has expressed that really resonates with my mind, heart and soul. The words below, written by an African pastor did just that. I thought you all might benefit from reading his words.  

"A Christian can never rise higher than his experience of God. God is infinitely profound. As one hymn writer has written, he is an immeasurable sea without a shore, a blazing sun without a sphere. When engulfed in his presence, whom thousand and tens of
thousands of angels worship day and night, the soul can only lie in the dust in adoring wonder. This profound knowledge brings eternity to bear on the soul of a believer so that everything in his life is judged from eternity’s perspective. How one spends his time and money, how one enjoys his recreation, how one relates to believers and unbelievers, how one handles his work—all these are subjected to eternity. The great Day of Judgment is never far from mind" (Conrad Mbewe).

After reading this, I had to stop and ask myself about my view and experience of God. I must admit that I all too often allow the stuff of this world to eclipse God's glory and the reality of eternity that is to come. As I thought about that, I asked myself, what can I do to stay better focused on God and the reality that, in Mbewe's words, he is "infinitely profound?" After thinking about this question, I decided that I would pull out my trusty copy of J.I. Packer's classic work, Knowing God. When I first read it as a college sophomore some forty years ago, it radically changed how I veiwed God. I plan to read through it between now and Easter. I can't help but think my view of God will be much sharper as a result! How about YOU? What one step can you take that will help you to see God more clearly? 

3. Finally, as I am sure you have heard, today is St. Patrick's Day. So who was this man? Check out Steve Nichols insightful article about this fascinating man of faith. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's a snowy Friday today .... which makes for a great day to sit and enjoy a hot cup of rich and robust coffee. And between you and me, this is my favorite kind of snow storm: the snow is only sticking to the trees, rooftops and grass! Yahoo! Bring it on!  - although from what I have been reading on the meteorological cybersphere, next Tuesday I might be singing a different tune (like SNOW, SNOW, GO AWAY, COME BACK ANOTHER YEAR!). Well, whatever the case may be, go ahead and pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me for a few brief random thoughts. 

1. These will be brief because I just realized (at 8:10 this morning) that I had failed to write this post. My failure to do so stems from a failure to check my todoist app which helps me to organize my tasks. And since I didn't consult it at all yesterday (me bad, very bad!) I totally forgot to write my weekly post. The old adage, "out of sight, out of mind" proved true in this case! But it also proves true in many other cases. Consider our relationship with God. When his word is "out of sight" (i.e. - we are not "in" it on a regular basis), we often live our lives as if He does not exist (i.e. we live as atheists!). Since we live in a culture which is constantly bombarding us with anti-God and humanistic messages, if we don't counter these lies with God's truth, we will not live to the glory of the God who made us and redeemed us! It is vital that we have a plan to interact with God's Word on a DAILY basis! So ... what's YOUR plan? 

2. Most of us have lazy streak in us ... let me rewrite that ... ALL of us have a lazy streak in us. Just as water seeks the path of least resistance, so do we! So when it comes to growing in our faith, this is a huge problem. The Apostle Paul understood this. In his first
letter to young Timothy, he writes, "train yourself for godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7-8). The Greek word translated "train" here is the word, gymnao. It literally means "to train naked." The athletes in the Greco Roman world of the first century would often do just that. Why? To show off their finely chiseled bodies that they had worked so hard to obtain? Perhaps there was a bit of that. But they trained and competed unclothed so that they would be unhindered by their clothing in the pursuit of the prize they were striving to obtain. They were willing to go as far as they had to go in order to win the prize! 

Back to Paul's word of instruction to Timothy ... Paul is telling Timothy that if he wants to be godly, he is going to have to work up a sweat just like the athletes of his day, and do whatever it took (effort wise) to become a godly person! Hmm. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten the necessity to train ourselves for godliness (or we have simply, in our laziness, chosen to ignore the need to do so!). If you want to make some changes in your life along the lines of training yourself to be godly, here are some good reads for you to consider: 

How to be a Good Christian with Minimal Effort (a piece of satire written by one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Challies). 

And finally for you men, Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes.

I have read all of the above and have found them to be quite profitable! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ

Today is the first Friday in March and that means many things: winter is over (meteorological spring begins March 1st!), our church sanctuary renovation is about halfway done, and March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament is just around the corner!). And today being a Friday means ... Coffee with PJ. So pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. I hope you enjoyed February's weather. It was the warmest on record for our area. We are also on pace for the least "snowiest" winter on record! All that to say ... this winter has been downright delightful! But not all would agree. There are a number of snow "enthusiasts" around us who love a good old fashioned blizzard (or two) each winter! I was once numbered among those people ... but no more! The older I get, the less I like snow (although I admit there is a beauty of seeing the trees and ground covered with a LIGHT blanket of snow!). The word on the meteorological street is that winter might try to hold on during the month of March. But take heart, spring in all of its blooming glory will eventually arrive as the sun continues its northward journey! And so it is with the Son of God. He has promised to one day return to this planet (Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 22:20). Just as you can count on the coming of spring ... you can count on the coming of Jesus Christ! Are you ready to meet him (1 John 2:28 and Two Ways to Live: the Choice We All Face)?

2. The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is classic (if you have not read it lately, open your Bible to Genesis chapter 39 and begin reading!). Joseph, hated by his brothers, was sold into slavery. Instead of dying an early death in bondage, which was usual for young foreign slaves in Egypt, he rose to become the "Vice-Pharaoh" over all of Egypt! How did he accomplish this? Via his great intellect? His mighty strength? His incredible good looks? No. Behind his great rise in power was an even greater God! And it was because God was "with" him, that he not only was set free from his bondage but rose to become such a powerful man in Egypt. Now what does the Scripture mean when it states that "the Lord was with  Joseph" (Genesis 39:2)? Isn't God present everywhere (Psalm 139:7-12)? Of course he is! So whatever this means, it means more than just the fact that God was there with Joseph (for in his omnipresence he is in that sense with everyone!). 

The answer to this can be found in Isaiah 57:15: 

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
    who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:

“I dwell in the high and holy place,

    and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,

to revive the spirit of the lowly,

    and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God in this verse reveals his two "addresses." The first is "the high and holy place" which is obviously heaven. The other is with "him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit" or, in other words, the truly humble person. So when Genesis tells us that the Lord was with Joseph, it is telling us that Joseph was indeed a humble man. 

How about you? Do you want to live a productive life for God? Then humble yourself under God's mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6). Scripture is clear, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Keep in mind that humility is a difficult virtue to measure, for once you think you have it you probably don't! 

If you want some help in measuring your humility, I recommend the following resource from Revive Our Heart Ministries: 

I have used this with great profit. But I warn you. You will not have to go far down the list of the contrasts between a proud and broken (humble) person before you will realize you are not nearly as humble as you thought! But if you want God to bless your ministry, you need to be humble before him! 

3. My wife Sharon is continuing to make slow but, of late, steady progress. Her x-rays of last Friday were very good! She does not need to see the surgeon for 6 months (a very good thing!) She is getting stronger and is hoping to finally resume driving next week. Thanks to all of you who have been praying for her! 

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...