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

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...