Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Walk this way

Plans are shaping up for this year’s Crosswalk Shows which are being designed to make it even easier to see more unbelievers and unchurched people attend. Here are the current plans for the first two shows of the year:

May 20, 2006: Crosswalk Show-Night of Comedy at Grace Church

Dana Daniels has been called one of the funniest Comedy Illusionists working today. Once he hits the stage his quick wit, sleight of hand, and ability to adapt to any situation while making it funny make him a hit at any function. Teamed with his “psychic” parrot, Luigi, they never fail to bring an audience together with “off –the-wall” illusion blended with audience participation. It’s Dana’s unique twist on illusion that separates him from other magicians and separates Luigi from other poultry!!

Bob Nelson is known for his hysterical standup and impressions act which is very physical, very off the wall, and very visual. Bob is what they call a skitster which means he creates his own characters and develops routines for them. He develops his characters and act after cartoons, old Red Skelton shows, and Jerry Lewis movies and whatnot. He got his start prank-calling customers when he worked for a telephone book company. By accident he happened to call a club on Long Island and was invited to open mike night. His career snowballed from that point. He has been all over the United States and appeared many times with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and also opened for Rodney Dangerfield for 6 years.

August 5, 2006: Crosswalk Show-“Summerfest” youth night partnering with the 250th Lititz celebration at the Lititz Springs Park Bandshell (outdoors)

Tim Hawkins has quickly become one of the most in-demand comedy headliners across the United States. Tim blends an arsenal of clean stand up, live music, physical comedy, rockstar impersonations….and the results are insane. From playground to paintball, Tim’s wide range of outrageous comedy will amaze you with its originality so buckle up and get ready for comedy overload. Tim was recently featured on TV comedy series “Bananas” and has performed in comedy theaters in over 100 cities.

Monday Morning is what melodic modern rock and roll is all about. Selectric Records debuts the national release of Fool’s Paradise with epic quality and featuring the hit single “Wonder of It All”. Fool’s Paradise tackles difficult problems facing the world today, choosing not to be apathetic ignoring the problems right outside your door. These young musicians growing up in North Carolina started playing together in 2002 with an independent release. Still following their musical dreams now with a new maturity their 2005 release is climbing the charts. They are fresh, energetic and perform with energy and emotion. Appearances with Sonic Flood, Newsboys, Tait and Stryper are just a few of the groups they have appeared with.

Monday, February 27, 2006

24

I must make a confession. I am an addict. I really am addicted. This addiction isn’t to drugs, or alcohol or tobacco. I am addicted to 24. I am talking about the television show “24” that is on each Monday evening @ 9 pm on FOX. Oh, it’s not just me. My wife watches very little television throughout the week, but she is on the couch each and every Monday evening @ 9 pm to see what happens to “Jack” this week. It’s almost a full family weakness. Only my son is immune. My daughter also joins us for this fun and exhilarating hour each week. And it’s not just my family. I know others in our church that are just as addicted; but because I am kind, I will not list them by name in this blog.

So why is 24 the weekly “oasis” for us? First, it is very exciting and has a lot of action in it. That’s the kind of television I like to watch. Second, it is always taking a turn that you are not expecting. Just when you think you know what is going to happen next, the entire enchilada changes. Every step of the way, Jack Bauer uses his connection with the Counter Terrorist Unit to save the day! But the best thing about the show is how unique it is. This isn’t like most shows that start over each and every week with a new story line to follow. “24” all takes place in one 24-hour period. Each show represents one hour in that day. The story lines continue week to week and build upon each other as the season continues. It’s the type of show that you can’t just pick up half way through the season. If you don’t start at the beginning of the season you will be most lost. It’s hard enough to pick up on everything at the start of a season if you missed the season previously.

So how do you watch a show like 24? I have one rule and it is enforced strictly . . . no one is allowed to talk. You can breathe (as long as you don’t breathe too loudly), but talking is completely out of the question. For my daughter, this is pure torture!

There are other shows that I watch week to week but no others that I am addicted to like I am to 24. There have been some in the past. Before 24, my “have to watch show of the week” was The West Wing. I love politics and to me the best part of The West Wing was being able to see the inner workings of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The producers of this show used political advisors to former presidents to help authenticate the happenings within the White House. Even though the political slant of the show almost always was completely opposite of my own, I couldn’t get enough of this political masterpiece.

So, I wonder what show I will be addicted to a few years down the road? Well, let’s look at the bright side . . . there are far worse television phonemonoms that I could be addicted to like:
  • Any reality show!
  • The curling event in the winter Olympics!
  • Or even worse . . . NASCAR!

Friday, February 24, 2006

What happens at the winter youth retreat?

This weekend is the annual Winter Youth Retreat for Grace Church. Most all of our teenagers and youth staff will be attending this special event with the theme, “Unsettled: A Thirst for Fire.” Here is the schedule they will follow:

FRIDAY
7:30 - Arrive
8:15 - Games
9:30 - Session 1

SATURDAY
8:30 - Breakfast
9:30 - Hour with God
10:30 - Sharing and Worship
11:30 - Session 2
12:15 - Lunch
1:15 - Free Time
5:30 - Dinner
6:45 - Talent Show
8:30 - Session 3
9:45 - Snack
10:15 - Concert of Prayer
11:00 - Dorm

SUNDAY
8:30 - Breakfast
9:45 - Communion and Sharing
11:00 - Leave
1:00 - Arrive Back at Church

As you can see, along with tons of fun, there are also tons of opportunities for spiritual challenge, enrichment and growth. The speaker this year is Shawn McBride who pastors the New Life Community Church in Bowie, MD and is the Director of Youth Ministries at Washington Bible College. He also one of the favorite communicators at BNYC.

When I was a youth pastor (1987-1994 at Community Grace Brethren Church in West Milton, OH) we saw our youth retreats as the most effective activity that we conducted each year. It allowed us as a youth staff to get our teens away for a full weekend . . . not just away from home but away from the television, the stereo, the video games, the computer, and all of the other gadgets of today that consume so much of our youth’s time. For one weekend we could focus our attention on building relationships with our teens and helping them to build their relationship with the Lord. Please be praying fervently this weekend for our youth and youth staff at our Winter Retreat.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cheesey quotes

As I wrote about two weeks ago, as a staff we have been reading and discussing Spencer Johnson’s book, “Who Moved My Cheese” which is a book that focuses on dealing with change. I happened to run across a “Who Moved My Cheese” day by day calendar which is filled with all kinds of quotes on the topic of “change.” Not all quotes are by believers and some may lack theological accuracy, but they all can make us think. After all, if there is one thing all of us are going to face, it is change. Ponder a few for yourself:
  • There is nothing permanent except change. (Heraclitus)
  • Human beings, by change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden. (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)
  • The world doesn’t stop changing just because you are afraid of it. (Spencer Johnson)
  • When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. (Benjamin Franklin)
  • Are you hardened in your position or flexible enough to enjoy something better? (Spencer Johnson)
  • Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again and again. (Spencer Johnson)
  • It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. (Charles Darwin)
  • If you are a dinosaur who won’t change for the better in changing times, you too will become extinct. (Spencer Johnson)
  • People can cry much easier than they can change. (James Baldwin)
  • People who cannot change create pain for themselves and those around them. (Spencer Johnson)
  • Change and growth takes place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life. (Herbert A. Otto)
  • When was the last time you experimented with your life in a way that makes good sense? (Spencer Johnson)
  • Change can either challenge or threaten us. Your beliefs pave your way to success or block you. (Marsha Sinetar)
  • When you change what you believe, you change what you do. (Spencer Johnson)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

4:12 Commission may be coming to Grace Church

The 4:12 Commission is an exciting new program for young adults sponsored by CE National. It’s not a camp, it’s not a conference; it’s a year-long commitment for you to engage the Word of God and learn to minister effectively in real environments.

The history of the 4:12 Commission began in 2003 with a passionate concern for seeing students equipped in knowledge of the Word of God and practical experience in outreach, evangelistic Bible studies and church experience. While CE National has operated Operation Barnabas (a six-week training program for high school students) for over 30 years, there is a need for something beyond this experience. We need to be equipping students for serving Christ, for making a difference in their world. A main component of this program is Bible study and memorization of Scripture. Students learn from experienced teachers and pastors in a classroom environment. Their knowledge is then strengthened through discussion with other believers. They will also be trained in the ACTS strategy of church-planting (contact discovery, process-evangelism and discipleship, leading to the formation of Bible studies). In addition to intense Bible study and memorization of Scripture, they will actively minister in a variety of local church and community opportunities. The objective is to learn, affirm, discuss and get experience in various areas of ministry, remembering that the main goal is contact-making for evangelism.

Some ministries the students can be involved in are: nursing home ministry, public school and university ministries, pro-life ministry, AIDS ministry, homeless ministry, English as a second language, jail ministry, audio/video ministry and music ministry. The practical, real-life opportunities that the 4:12 Commission provides students will equip them with first-hand experiences for life. Following the initial 4:12 training, all students will be given an opportunity to demonstrate Godly character qualities through a two-month internship in an area of his/her interest. All students will visit the Holy Land in Israel.

Moody Bible Institute will be giving college credits to those who have completed the 4:12 Commission. Students may choose to apply these credits toward continuing their Christian education after the 4:12 experience. The 4:12 Commission is proud to partner with this major institution, and the program’s overall value is greatly enhanced by the further opportunities they are providing. Currently the 4:12 commission has sites in Sebring, FL and Akron, OH. Beginning next fall, there is very serious consideration to also opening sites in Goshen, IN and Lititz, PA.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Snow and worship

Why is it that I, like Dr Young before me, will rarely cancel Sunday morning church services because of snow? So far, in the 18 months that I have been here, we have had two Sundays in which we were one of the only churches in Lancaster County not to close due to snow. The first Sunday was back in January of 2005 and we still had over 500 people in attendance. Just two Sundays ago was the second time and this time there was quite a bit more snow than the Sunday storm spoken about previously. Even though at the start of the first service we literally had more people on the stage that we did in the congregation, we still ended the morning with well over 400 people who still came out to worship. That’s certainly enough people to justify Sunday morning worship! Back in December of 2005, our Business Manager, Andrew Norton, wrote in his blog about our philosophy regarding keeping the doors open on Snow Sundays.

Here is what he said:
One of Grace Church's reputations is that we rarely cancel Sunday Services for snow storms. I think we have an interesting approach to snowstorms, though it's often misunderstood. First and foremost, based on past attendance, there is a segment of our congregation that want to worship on Sunday morning and that shows up in spite of the weather. If there's a group that wants to worship, we want to give them that opportunity. From our experience, other churches have similar groups. When their church cancels and we still meet, some of them worship with us that Sunday simply because we are open. We have no intention of "stealing" attenders from other churches, but we think a snowy Sunday presents some unique ministry opportunities for us to serve the church universal. I can't stress enough that we trust and we need every attender to use common judgment on whether it is safe for them to be traveling. Our congregation is spread widely enough that we can't determine the safety conditions for each attender. Just because we don't cancel services, doesn't mean we expect everyone to be at church. Our expectation is actually to the contrary...We expect a smaller crowd on a snowy Sunday. With that comes a unique worship atmosphere unlike our regular services. We recognize that Sunday School teachers, childcare workers and all of the others that support a regular service may be unable to get to the church, so we take a casual approach. We throw the normal plans out the window and work with what we have. Children can worship in the Auditorium with their families and we can sing without instruments or song words, each of us in our flannel shirts and snow boots. The volunteers who support Sunday morning services should not feel pressured to get to the church if we don't cancel. We'll flex with what we have/who shows-up and have fun in the process. So the next time you wake up on a Sunday morning and Grace Church is still meeting for worship and you deem it safe to go out, pull on your snow gear and worship with a few of the frozen chosen at Grace!

Monday, February 20, 2006

A prayer of agony

The Garden of Gethsemane was a special place to Jesus, located on the slopes of the Mt. of Olives where Christ commonly spent the evening with his disciples. The very name, “Gethsemane,” means “oil press.” This was probably due to there being an oil press located in the garden used to crush oil out of the olives that grew there. But for Jesus, this would also be the location of a great spiritual and human pressure and agony as well.

As Jesus neared the garden He instructed eight of his disciples to remain behind. He took Peter, James and John deeper into the garden with him. These three men had been granted special experiences on two other occasions as well, when Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead and during the transfiguration of Christ. Jesus admits to these three close companions that He was experiencing great distress and trouble, described by Mark as being “grieved to the point of death.” The full impact of His death and the spiritual consequences surrounding Him were in full realization. He asked these men to be alert and to support Him in prayer.

Jesus then went by Himself further into the garden, fell down and began to pray. According to Hebrews 5:7, He prayed out-loud and with great emotion a prayer that lasted for at least one hour (Mark 14:37). He called upon God with the title, “Abba Father.” The usage of this term occurs only two other times in Scripture (Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6). The term “Abba” was used by young boys to address their fathers, conveying a sense of real and genuine intimacy. Jews never used this term in addressing God because it was seen to them as being too personal of an address.

Jesus asked that “the hour” and “the cup” be removed from Him. “The hour” represented God’s appointed time of suffering and death (Mark 14:41) while “the cup” spoke of God’s wrath (Psalm 75:8). Jesus was about ready to bear the penalty for the sin of all mankind and would be facing the wrath of a Hoy God by doing so. By asking for this cup to be removed, Jesus was requesting, if possible, to avoid this imminent physical and spiritual torture. But even in His humanity, His bottom-line request was that the will of the Father take precedent even over His own comfort and well-being.

As Jesus returned to His three companions whom He had asked to pray with Him, He found them fast asleep. Jesus singles out Peter, probably due to his recent claims to be more spiritually strong than the others (see Mark 14:27-29) and exhorts them to keep on watching and to keep on praying so that they would not enter temptation. Why was this constant state of readiness and petition needed? Because even when our spirit is willing to be obedient to our Lord, our flesh remains weak, bringing about a constant battle within. Two more times, Jesus exhorts them to watch and pray with Him as He goes further into the garden to pray. Both of these additional times, He returns to once again find the disciples asleep. After the third occasion, Jesus announces that it is time. His prayer had been answered. The will of the Father would be done. He would go through with the sacrifice. The betrayal was at hand.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Becoming a great lover . . . Part 4

Over the past 3 days blog postings I have described and defined 12 of the specific 16 characteristics of true Biblical love as seen in First Corinthians 13. If you have not read these previous 3 articles, I would encourage you to do so before reading this fourth and final posting on this topic. In fact, even if you have been reading along each day, let me challenge you to go back and review the previous 3 articles before reading this posting. My prayer is that God will use these principles to make you a greater lover.

Love Believes All Things (v7). This describes a person who believes in you and is not always suspicious of you. If there is doubt, love chooses to believe that which is positive

The final 3 characteristics speak of the same concept but they increase in intensity along the way. These make it very clear that love is not a feeling but a choice.

Love Hopes All Things (v7). This describes a person who does not bail out at the first mistake or misfortune.

Love Endures All Things (v7). This Greek word was a military term used to speak of an army holding a vital position at all costs. This describes a person who is willing to endure great opposition and still love you.

Love Never Fails (v8). This Greek word was used to speak of final failure. This describes a person whose love never falls to ruin or destruction. This love is seen in the way God loves us (Romans 8:35, 38-39).

The book of First John also has much to teach us about what true, Biblical love really is. Take time over the weekend to look up each of these references from First John and mediate on these principles of real love. Ask God to make each of these principles more real within you as you relate toward your spouse, your kids, your parents, those at your church, your co-workers, your neighbors, and even strangers that you meet.

  • Real love is produced by God & demands personal knowledge of God (I John 4:7, 8)
  • Real love does not need a response in order to function (I John 4:10)
  • Real love is best seen by what it does (I John 3:17, 18)
  • Real love is defined by its ability to give (I John 3:16)
  • Real love is developed by obedience to God (I John 2:5)
  • Real love is hidden by sin in our lives (I John 3:11, 12)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Becoming a great lover . . . Part 3

Since Valentine’s Day, I have been describing how we as Christians can become better lovers in every relationship in our lives. If you have not read the blog postings I wrote for February 14th and 15th, I would highly recommend that you scroll down and read those in order before continuing on with these next 6 characteristics of true, Biblical love. They all come from First Corinthians 13 (I am using the New American Standard Bible).

Love does not Seek its Own (v5). This describes a person who is not just interested in their own things, but also in that which interests you. The antithesis of this is seen in Philippians 2:4. Jesus exemplified this (Matthew 20:28).

Love is not Provoked (v5). This Greek word means to arouse or to anger and describes sudden outbursts. This too was a problem in the church at Corinth (First Corinthians 6:1-11). This describes a person who is not always ready to fight or argue at the drop of a hat. This too is exemplified in Jesus (First Peter 2:21-24).

Love does not Take into Account a Wrong Suffered (v5). This Greek word was a book-keeping term meaning to keep a mathematical calculation or to write in a ledger. It was the idea of making a permanent record that you could consult with when needed. The same word is used to describe God’s forgiveness (Romans 4:7-8; Second Corinthians 5:19; Acts 3:19). This describes a person who will not keep a mental record of what you have done wrong to use against you in the future. It is important to note that contrary to popular clich├ęs, forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is choosing not to bring the offense back up to use it as a weapon.

Love does not Rejoice in Unrighteousness (v6). This is speaking about sin. Rejoicing in our sin can happen in many ways. It happens when we enjoy our sin (Second Thessalonians 2:12). It happens when we brag about our sin (First Corinthians 5:1-2). It happens when we laugh at the sin of others (Romans 1:32). This describes a person who does not want sin in your life or in your relationship.

Love Rejoices with the Truth (v6). This is the flip-side of not rejoicing in unrighteousness (they go together like the 2-sides of the same coin). “The” truth speaks of the truth of God’s Word as opposed to just any truth. This describes a person who wants to see you follow Christ to your fullest potential. When you put this with “love does not rejoice in unrighteousness” it describes a person who cares about your spiritual condition. You know that someone loves you if you can honestly say that you are more like Jesus because they are in your life. How many people can honestly say that about you?

Love Bears All Things (v7). This is a Greek word meaning to cover, support or protect. This describes a person who doesn’t drag your faults in front of others (love never gossips).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Becoming a great lover . . . Part 2

In my blog posting for yesterday, Valentine’s Day, I introduced the concept of Biblical love with the main idea being that true, Biblical love is not a feeling or an emotion alone, but rather it is a choice. Love is an action. I must choose to love even when I do not feel like it. In other words, you don’t fall out of true, Biblical love. First Corinthians 13 gives us the description of 16 characteristics of true, Biblical love to measure our love by. By practicing these actions in all of our relationships, we can become better lovers each and every day. We looked at the first one yesterday. Below are five more of them. If you did not read yesterday’s blog, I’d encourage you to read that before continuing.

Love is Kind (v4). This is a Greek word that comes from a root word meaning “useful.” This describes a person who lives to benefit others by being useful to them. Jesus said this should also include our enemies (Matthew 5:40-41).

Love is not Jealous (v4). In the English language we differentiate between jealousy and envy. We see jealousy as desiring to have the same thing another has while we see envy as trying to deprive another of what they already have. In the Greek language, the same word is used for both jealousy and envy because jealousy, if left unchecked, always leads to envy. This comes out in our conduct (Acts 7:9) as well as our conversation (James 4:2). This describes a person who does not try to deprive you of something you have due to jealousy but rather rejoices with you during your victories and accomplishments.

Love does not Brag (v4). The Greek word here means to talk conceitedly. Its root word means “windbag.” This is the opposite of jealousy in that jealousy wants what you have whole this tries to make you jealous of what it has (First Corinthians 3:21-23). This describes a person who does not talk about their own accomplishments in order to make them look superior or you look inferior.

Love is not Arrogant (v4). Bragging is the verbal action of pride while this is the inner attitude of pride. This was a real problem in the church at Corinth (First Corinthians 4:6-8, 18; 5:1-2). This describes a person who does not think they are better than you and who would rather focus attention on you rather than themselves. The antithesis of this is seen in Philippians 2:3 where we are told to do nothing from selfishness (the desire to get ahead) or from empty conceit (the desire to be seen). But with humility of mind (a word used to describe the Nile River at its lowest stage), we are to regard one another as more important than ourselves.

Love does not act Unbecomingly (v5). This word is translated “rude” in the New International Version. It is a word meaning to act in an unbecoming manner. This deals with a lack of manners and self-discipline which was also a real problem in the church at Corinth (First Corinthians 11:17-22). This describes a person who has excellent manners towards you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Becoming a great lover . . . Part 1

There are 4 main words in the Greek language for love. The first is “phileo” which means to have a tender affection. Second, is the word “philanthropia” which is a compound word putting together the word “phileo” with the word “anthropos” (man). This word speaks of a love for mankind. The third word is the word “eros” which describes sexual intimacy. This word is not found in the New Testament, though its pages do have much to say on the topic of sex. The final word is the word “agape” which is a self-sacrificial love that is always ready to serve. This is the rarest word for love in ancient Greek literature but the most common word used for love in the New Testament. It is the word that describes God’s love for us (John 3:16; 13:1; and First John 4:8-11).

This is the word used in First Corinthians 13, known as the great love chapter and read at weddings. However, the context of this passage goes deeper. The primary context of First Corinthians 13 is really spiritual gifts, discussed in chapters 12-14. The main teaching being that love is not necessarily greater than the gifts but it is the only way to make the usage of these gifts effective (First Corinthians 12:31). In verse one we find that love is greater than eloquent speech. In verse 2 we find that love is greater than enormous service. And in verse three we see that love is greater than extreme sacrifice.

Beginning in verse 4, Paul gives us 16 characteristics of real Biblical love. The common denominator of each of these is that they are actions, not feelings. Love isn’t a feeling. Love is a choice I make even when I do not feel like it. I often have couples who will say to me, “We are getting a divorce because we have fallen out of love.” My friend, you don’t “fall out” of love. The real problem is that you have chosen to quit loving. Take a look at the definitions of the 16 characteristics of love. Ask yourself these questions,
  • When it comes to choosing to show Biblical love to my spouse, how am I doing?
  • When it comes to choosing to show Biblical love to my children, how am I doing?
  • When it comes to choosing to show Biblical love to my parents, how am I doing?
  • When it comes to choosing to show Biblical love to my church, how am I doing?
  • When it comes to choosing to show Biblical love to my co-workers, how am I doing?
  • When it comes to choosing to show Biblical love to my neighbors, how am I doing?
  • When it comes to choosing to show Biblical love to strangers, how am I doing”

Love is Patient (v4). This is a Greek word meaning “long-tempered.” In the New Testament it is almost always a reference to being patient with people as opposed to circumstances. It describes a person who is wronged and has the power to retaliate but chooses not to. This was in direct contrast with the Roman view of seeing vengeance as a virtue and non-retaliation as a weakness. Jesus taught this same thing (Matthew 5:39) as did Paul (Romans 12:17). In the New Testament, Stephen exemplified this (Acts 7:50). In the Old Testament, Joseph exemplified this (Genesis 45:1-11). Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, exemplified this (Matthew 1:18-19). God Himself exemplifies this (Second Peter 3:9). Do you exemplify this?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Strike three . . . you're out . . . but you're not done

I love the month of February. Most people don’t because it is right smack dab in the middle of winter. Most people wish it away so that they can begin to think “spring.” Not me. I love February. And this year February is even better because of the Olympics. But my main reason for loving February is that this is the month that pitchers and catchers, followed by the rest of Major League baseball players, report to Spring Training in Florida and Arizona. I love baseball and when bats start swinging I get excited.

In the game of baseball, each at bat has a limit of three strikes or four balls. You never get an extra strike. No umpire will ever say, “Strike three…but wait…I’ll give you a fourth strike…step back up to the plate.” But as we continue our study from Mark 14-16 called, “Experience the Passion,” that is exactly what happens to Peter. In scene one, found in verses 27-31 of Mark 14, Jesus and the eleven disciples (all 12 except Judas) are walking from Jerusalem following the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane. As they walk, Jesus predicts that all of them would “fall away.” This was actually a prophecy seen in Zechariah 13:7. Peter immediately protests saying that even if the others did fall away that he would stay strong even to death. Jesus’ general prediction regarding all eleven disciples now narrows to just Peter. Jesus predicts that on that very night, before the rooster crowed twice, Peter would deny His Lord not once, not even twice, but on three separate occasions. Peter continues to protest such an outlandish claim and the other tem disciples join him in making similar claims.

Now scene two, seen in Mark 14:66-68, shifts to after the arrest of Jesus while Christ was on trial in front of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Peter followed the arrested Jesus from a distance and was seated by the fire in the courtyard of the High Priest. A servant girl saw him and said, “You were also with Jesus the Nazarene.” Peter denied the claim saying that he didn’t even know Jesus. This was strike one.

Peter than went out on to the porch where the servant girl followed him. She begins to tell other bystanders that he was one of Jesus’ followers. Again Peter continually denies claim. This is strike two. About an hour later (according to Luke’s account) another bystander says to Peter that he must be one of Jesus’ followers due to his Galilean accent (all of the disciples except Judas were Galileans). This led to a third and very emotional denial of Jesus. For Peter, this was strike three. By baseball standards, he was out.

This is not the case when God is involved. Yes, Peter had failed. Yes, Peter denied his Lord three times. But no, Peter was not done. God still had a wonderful place for Peter in advancing the Kingdom of God. In the very near future Peter would be the one on the Day of Pentecost to preach a powerful sermon to thousands upon thousands which would result in 3,000 people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe you have failed your Lord. Maybe you have done so more than once. You may feel like you have struck out. Do not underestimate the grace of God. You may feel like you have struck out spiritually, but you’re not done! He still has a purpose for you!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Grace at the "End of the Spear"

Last week I took our entire church staff to see the new movie, End of the Spear. It is the story of Mincayani who was born into the most violent society ever documented by anthropologists, the Waodani in the eastern rainforests of Ecuador. As he grows he learns what every Waodani understands, he must spear and live or he will be speared and die. Mincayani’s world changes when he and his family kill five missionaries, Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian. This incident propels Mincayani’s family group down an extraordinary path that culminates in them not only departing from violence, but caring for the enemy tribe they had once violently raided.

Nate Saint’s son, Steve, was a boy when his father and friends were killed. He returns to the Waodani as an adult and finally learns from Mincayani what happened during the last minutes of his father’s life. Together Mincayani and Steve find that what his father had accomplished in his death gave them both a new life and Steve’s family becomes part of Mincayani’s family.

Nate Saint graduated from Wheaton College in 1946. His son, Steve, was born in 1951. It was 1956 when the 5 missionary men were speared to death by the very people they were trying to reach. The movie was a very powerful and dramatic portrayal of these events as seen through the eyes of Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary, Nate Saint. Some Christians struggle with the movie due to the lifestyle choices of some of the actors involved, so each believer must decide for himself or herself if they are comfortable going to see it. But for me, and I believe all of our staff who went to view this movie, it had an impact on our lives.

There were many parts of the movie that spoke directly to me, but the one that captivated me the most was the conversation between Nate Saint and his young son, Steve, as Nate prepares to fly off to make contact with this group of people who were known and feared for their senseless violence. Little Steve asks his dad if he gets into trouble would he use his gun? Would he protect himself? I’m thinking . . . “You bet I would . . . in a heartbeat.” But Nate’s answer is gripping. He says to his son, “We can’t shoot them. They aren’t ready for heaven. We are.”

So by the end of the movie I had to grapple with many questions. Would I chose to die knowing that I am ready for heaven if the choice were between my dying or someone else dying who did not know the Lord? When was the last time I was impassioned to reach lost people, even the most violent of them, with the good news of Christ? I don’t just mean the ones in Ecuador. What about the lost people that are far less violent but just as lost in my neighborhood and in my city? When was the last time I took any risk at all for the sake of the Gospel?

Martyred missionary Jim Elliot was right when he wrote, “He is no fool who gives up that which cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What you can learn from cheese

For Christmas, I bought all of our church staff the book, Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson, M.D. The book is a simple parable that reveals profound truths about change and how we can and how we should deal with it in our lives. There are four main characters in the book who all live in a maze and who spend their time looking for cheese. Two of these characters are mice named Sniff and Scurry. The other two are mice-sized people named Hem and Haw.

“Cheese” is a metaphor for what you want to have in life whether it is a good job, a loving relationship, money, a possession, health, or peace of mind. The “maze” symbolizes where you look for what you want and speaks of things like your place of employment, your family, or the community you live in. In the story, the characters are faced with unexpected change . . . someone has moved their cheese from where they have come to expect it to be. Eventually, one of them deals with the change successfully and writes what he has learned from the experience on the maze walls. When you come to understand these lessons you discover how to properly deal with change so that you can enjoy less stress and more success. The lessons written on the walls of the maze are:
  • Having Cheese Makes You Happy
  • The More Important Your Cheese Is To You, The More You Want To Hold On To It
  • If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct
  • What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?
  • Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It’s Getting Old
  • Movement In A New Direction Helps You Find New Cheese
  • When You Stop Being Afraid, You Feel Good
  • Imagining Yourself Enjoying Your New Cheese Leads You To It
  • The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Find New Cheese
  • It Is Safer To Search In The Maze, Than Remain In A Cheeseless Situation
  • Old Beliefs Do Not Lead You To New Cheese
  • When You See That You Can Find And Enjoy New Cheese, You Change Course
  • Noticing Small Changes Early Helps You Adapt To The Bigger Changes That Are To Come.

Through this story we learn the following steps in handling change in our lives:

  • Realize that change will happen
  • Anticipate the changes that might take place
  • Monitor change as it occurs
  • Adapt to change as quickly as you can
  • Choose to change yourself
  • Choose to enjoy the change as it happens
  • Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again and again!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

L . . . G . . . B . . . C . . . (Part 2)

Yesterday I listed some of the thoughts I received when I asked for ideas regarding attractive acronyms for the letters of our church. Below are some more (but still not all):
  • Let God Be your Crutch
  • Love Goes Beyond Church
  • Look Good Because of Christ
  • Loving Grace Behold Christ
  • Living Godly Brings Christ
  • Let God Build Confidence
  • Let's Get Busy Celebrating
  • Laugh, Giggle, Be Cultivated
  • Life Guidelines By Creator
  • Lifting Generations Beyond Complacency
  • Let God become close
  • Linking God, the Bible and Church
  • Linking Grace the Bible and Christ
  • Lititz Growing Because of Christ
  • Losing God Brings Chaos
  • Leaving God Brings Chaos
  • Let God Battle Chaos
  • Lord God Be Chosen
  • Lingering Guilt Brings Chaos
  • Life’s Guilt Bothers Constantly
  • Living God Boosting Christians
  • Letting God Build Change
  • Let God Be Celebrated
  • Living & Growing Because of Christ
  • Let’s Get Big Cash
  • Loan-Give-Borrow Corporation
  • Love Gives Beyond Compare
  • Lonely Girls and Boys Come
  • Life’s Gotten Bad Champ? (Chum?)
  • Let’s Get Beyond Crap
  • Lonely? Grieved? Bored? Concerned?
  • Life’s Gotten Better...Come
  • Leave the Guilt for a Better Choice
  • Leave your Grief for a Better Choice
  • Look, God better care
  • Life's gotten bad? change!
  • Look, God brokers change

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

L . . . G . . . B . . . C . . . (Part 1)

Recently I asked for your creativity in looking to find several 4-word phrases (each word beginning with the initials of our church . . . LGBC) that could be used in promotion. I was amazed at the number of responses I received. Some were obvious spoofs to make me laugh (and I did at some of them!). Below are some of the ideas I received:

  • Let's go be curious
  • Let God Be Chosen
  • Loving God Brings Contentment
  • Learn God’s Bible Correctly
  • Learn Grace By Christ
  • Let Grace Be Comprehended
  • Living God’s Bible Comprehension
  • Let God Be Controller
  • Living God’s Best Community
  • Let God Be Central
  • Love God, Be Challenged
  • Love God, Be Compassionate
  • Listen Good, Be Careful
  • Live Godly, Be Christ-like
  • Lose God, Be Concerned
  • Life’s Goal, Be Christ-like
  • Loving God Brings Compassion
  • Loving God Beats Condemnation
  • Let’s Go Be Christians
  • Lives Guided By Christ
  • Let’s Go Be Crazy
  • Life/Lives Given By Christ
  • Life/Lives Granted By Christ
  • Love Going Back (to) Church
  • Lots of Good Beer and Chips
  • Let God Be Chosen
  • Love God By Choice
  • Life Gift By Christ
  • Love God By Change
  • Let Go, Be Changed
  • Let Guilt Be Canceled
  • Love goes before Charity
  • Loving God Brings Contentment
  • Love Grows Beyond the Church
  • Life is Good Because of Christ.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Last Supper

Imagine if I said this to you . . . “Go down into Lancaster City. When you see a man carrying a briefcase, follow him. Whatever building he enters, say to him, ‘Our pastor says, where is my guest room that I may eat a meal with my church members?’ He will then show you a large, furnished room. Make dinner preparations for us to eat there.”

How would you respond? Sounds kind of uncomfortable, doesn’t it? That is exactly what Jesus told two of His disciples to do in Mark 14:12-26. According to Luke’s account, the two disciples were Peter and John. They were to go into the city and look for a man carrying a pitcher of water and follow him. Whatever house he entered, they were to say, “The Teacher says, where is my guest room that I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” The disciples, in obedience, did this and exactly what Jesus said would happen, occurred. The man showed them a large, furnished upper room and they made Passover preparations there for Jesus and the twelve.

As Mark gives this account he abbreviates the events of the night in order to focus on the announcement of Jesus’ betrayal and the institution of the Lord’s Supper. The first part of this focus caused the disciple’s Passover celebration to be thrown into turmoil. As Jesus was reclining at a table eating with His disciples, he suddenly announced that one of the disciples would betray Him. The disciples were first shocked, then unnerved. They each began to respond saying, “It isn’t I, is it?” The tense of the verb would indicate that they repeatedly asked Jesus this question. Jesus now makes it clear that the Son of Man must die as a fulfillment to Old Testament Scripture (see Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53). He also makes it painfully clear that the destiny of the one who would betray Him would be so awful that it would be better if he had never been born.

Later in the meal, according to Mark, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. The disciples were used to the idea of the bread and the cup as part of the Passover meal, but the words Jesus used to describe the meaning of these elements had the disciples completely bewildered. He said that the bread symbolized His bodily sacrifice for the world. Certainly it does not mean that the bread actually becomes His body as you partake of it. It is common in Scripture for there to be figurative descriptions concerning Christ (i.e. the Lamb of God…John 1:29; the Vine…John 15:5). It was purely symbolic.

Jesus did the same thing with one of the cups that was part of the Passover celebration. This time, however, He told the disciples that this cup represented His blood, sealing a new covenant which promises forgiveness and fellowship. The word “covenant” that He used does not refer to an agreement between two equals but rather to an arrangement established by just one party…in this case, God. Jesus also told the disciples that He would not drink of this cup again until He does so in the new Kingdom of God which was another indicator and promise that though Jesus was about to die…He would live again! When they were all done, they went out to the Mount of Olives and sang. After all, can there be any other response to remembering the sacrifice of Christ than worship?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sweet sixteen

16 years ago today I was given a new title that I wear today as a badge of honor. 16 years ago today I officially became a “daddy.” How could 16 years have gone so fast? Today our Joy turns 16. It seems like it was just yesterday that I saw her for the first time. So many memories flood my mind.

When Joy was just 6 months old she had major reconstructive surgery on her foot. She was born with a severe club foot. Aside from having two different size feet (which is a real pain in the backside when it comes to shoe shopping) you would never know it.

As a baby, we almost lost Joy one night. We put her into her crib and a couple of hours later Laura found her having a seizure. When she picked her up she turned completely blue. As Laura gave Joy CPR as instructed by the 911 operator, I ran done the street to get a friend who I knew had just taken a CPR course. The ambulance rushed her to the hospital where the doctors struggled to stabilize her. It wasn’t until a transport team from Children’s hospital in Dayton arrived that they were able to stabilize Joy. What a scare.

I remember coming home from work one day to find a driveway full of naked Barbie dolls. Joy must have had a hundred of them. She had put them all in a box with their hair wet. Laura had to wash them with bleach and then she laid each one of them out in an orderly fashion filling the whole driveway to dry in the sun. I think I was scarred for life.

You really wouldn’t know it today, but as a child Joy had the strongest will of anyone I know. Laura and I literally wore out James Dobson’s book, Parenting Isn’t for Cowards. Bedtime was the worst. We could never put her to bed together because we knew that more nights than not there would be a need for reinforcements.

Oh, the stories I could go on and on with but I will spare you anymore of my trip down memory lane. Now she’s 16. She is quite the young lady . . . smart, beautiful, fun and best of all, possessing a genuine heart for God. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for our Joy. And as fast as time seems to be flying, I probably won’t have to wait long. Right around the corner is getting a license and a summer trip on Operation Barnabas. Then I know what will happen. I will blink and it will be her High School graduation. Then it will be dropping her off at college. And one day I will find myself walking her down the aisle to give her away to a little pervert who will be standing down front.

If you know Joy, then you know that her name fits her quite well. She really is just that. She has brought a lot frustration into my life over the past 16 years, but those frustrations don’t even compare to the bundles and bundles of joy that I have experienced. As she turns 16 today and I reflect on the past and think about the future, I remind myself of the biggest truth of all. As much as I love her, she really isn’t mine. Joy belongs to God. In His grace and in His sovereignty, God chose to give her to Laura and I as stewards. Our job was never to own her, only to bring her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Meeting mania

So what do I do all week long as Sr. Pastor of Grace Church? Certainly, I study and there is a good amount of counseling. As often as I can, I also try to visit people in the hospital prior to their surgeries. But a fair portion of my time each week is taken up in meetings. Many of these meetings are sporadic and impulsive, meaning that they are not meetings that happen all of the time, but large amounts of these meetings are part of my regular schedule in order to keep up on all that is going on here at Grace. Meetings seem to be a large but necessary part of my weekly schedule. These meetings include:

WEEKLY PLANNING MEETINGS: Every Monday morning I have a 90-minute meeting with Andrew Norton, our Business Manager, to discuss all of the office and administrative areas of our ministry. This meeting is followed each Monday by a 60-minute meeting with Bryan Nelson, who is our Worship Arts Director, and Andy Brigthbill, who is our Pastor of Student Ministries, in order to evaluate the services from the previous Sunday and make sure we are all set for the upcoming Sunday services.

STAFF MEETINGS: On the first and third Tuesdays of every month I lead a meeting with our entire church staff in order to go over relevant business and ministry items as well as to do some team-building, sharing of victories and training.

MONTHLY PLANNING MEETINGS: Our Executive Staff here at the church is scheduled to meet once a month as is our Pastoral Staff. Honestly, these meetings usually get cancelled due to so much of the issues we would discuss being handled in all of the other meetings that take place week to week or in full staff meetings.

MONTHLY EDUCATION MEETINGS: Each month I meet individually with Sherry McConaghay, our Daycare Director, and with Mike Rohrer, our School Administrator to get updated on any issues that they are facing in our educational ministries. I also meet with Mike Van Belle, our Board of Education president, each month as well.

QUARTERLY ACCOUNTABILITY MEETINGS: It is my goal to try to meet with each ministry staff member once a quarter for personal accountability regarding their area of ministry. This is usually done over a breakfast or a lunch at a local restaurant.

ELDER MEETINGS: I meet with our Elder Executive Committee every second Tuesday of the month. We then meet as a full board of Elders every other month as well. I also meet once a month with Paul Steinweg, our Elder Board Chairman in order to plan the direction of our Elder meetings. On the first Wednesday morning of every month, another one of our Elders meets with me in my office. The purpose of this monthly meeting is simply to pray together. This meeting is often the oasis in my week.

WORSHIP DESIGN TEAM: I meet with our Worship Design Team every second Thursday night of the month in order to plan the worship services two months in advance.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I can't believe I get to do this

If you’ve been in ministry long, then you realize that along with the mountain top experiences, there are also many valleys. These valleys are not uncommon but rather to be expected. As wonderful as the mountain tops are, the valleys are just as desolate. I remember when I was in college hearing Dr. Jerry Falwell say, “If you have a good day in ministry, expect the next two to be bad.” The truth is that many times this is correct. How often do those of us in full-time ministry drive home from the church thinking: “Who needs this?”

Over the past year, Bryan Nelson, who is our Worship Arts Director here at Grace Church, has taken our Worship Design Team that plans our Sunday Morning Services through Nancy Beach’s wonderful book, An Hour On Sunday. What a tremendous resource this has been. Nancy Beach is the Director of Programming at Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago which is pastored by Bill Hybels. I have had the opportunity to attend many services at Willow Creek while I lived in Northern Indiana and was always impressed with the creativity, excellence and depth that I saw. This book has shared many wonderful insights that have been very beneficial to our team as they plan. This book has helped us to see the value of excellence, creativity and authenticity in our Sunday morning ministry.

As I read the last chapter of her book I loved a final story she told. She was speaking about the weekly evaluation that her team has each week after the weekend services are complete. This particular weekend had been one of those in which God used her team beyond their expectations. As they shared stories and details, one guy quietly spoke up and simply said: “I can’t believe we get to do this!”

I smiled as I read that rather profound yet simple phrase because that is how I feel each and every Sunday as I get in my car after the morning services are over and drive home. I love Sundays. In fact, I live for them. Each and every Sunday I am amazed again and again at how God is using our services to see true transformation take place in the lives of people. It is a privilege to be able to preach the Word of God at Grace Church week to week. I am not exaggerating when I say that daily I receive e-mails, notes, calls or hear stories of person after person who is being impacted for Christ through our services.

Sure, ministry is hard at times, perhaps even harder than most people would think. But Nancy Beach is right when she says, “When we pause to recognize the wonder of what God allows us to do, it takes our breath away.” And Sunday after Sunday I find myself driving home from church with the same thought in mind: "I can’t believe I get to do this!”