Friday, March 30, 2007

Easter Fact Sheet - April 8, 2007

What is our theme for Easter? We will be using Easter Sunday to start a brand new message series called, “LOST”! To see a video preview of this series click on the following link: mms:// promo.wmv. On Easter Sunday we will look at the first message in this 3-week series entitled, “The Lost Planet.” This will be a look at the story of Zaccheus, the very small man in Luke 19 who climbed a tree in order to get a look at Jesus. This story ends with Jesus saying that the reason He came to earth was to “seek and save the lost.” That is the very essence of Easter. Easter will then be followed by a message on April 15 entitled, “Lost and Found.” The series will then end with a message on April 22 entitled, “When Home Seems So Far Away.”

What time will the services be? We will have three identical Easter services on Sunday, April 8. The times for our three morning services will be 7:15, 9:00 and 10:45.

Which service should I attend? You can choose the service that best fits into your holiday plans. We do encourage those of you who are Senior Citizens or who do not have young children to attend the 7:15 service in order to free up seats in our 9:00 and 10:45 services which we will have more guests attending.

Will there be nursery and a children’s program for all of the services? There will be no nursery or child-care for the 7:15 service but we will have our full and exciting nursery and children’s programs for our 9:00 and 10:45 celebrations.

Are there Youth or Adult Bible Fellowship Classes that morning? No. However, for your convenience and enjoyment, we will be providing a free continental breakfast in two different locations within our church (the youth room and the fellowship hall) from 8:30 to 10:30 that morning. As a result, we hope that you will plan to come early to one of our services or stay after the one you attend to enjoy this opportunity

What promotion have we used for Easter? We will have sent out a personal invitation letter to anyone who has had contact with our church but does not attend a church regularly. We will have also mailed out a professional invitation card to the 15,000 homes closest to the church. However, the best promotion of all is the one-on-one invitations that our church people give to others. Don’t underestimate the power there is in you personally asking someone to attend church here at Grace this Easter.

How else can I assist in making Easter a success? One of our biggest areas of concern for Easter is having enough room for parking. It would be very helpful if there were someone else in your neighborhood that you could carpool with to church that morning. Also, be sure to park in the places furthest from the building so that our guests have the opportunity to use the parking spots closer to the entrances. Be sure to smile and talk to as many people as you can that morning so that all of our guests feel our friendliness as a church. Most of all, pray. Nothing of eternal importance happens apart from prayer.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

FOOTWASHING...How Can it be a Blessing?

My Grandpa Distler was part of the “IFCA”…an organization called the “Independent Fundamental Churches of America.” I use to like to tease him and say that it stood for, “I Fight Christians Anywhere.” He pastored churches in New York, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan and he was a tough cookie. My Grandpa was the type of person who, if someone was preaching in his church and said something my Grandpa did not agree with, my Grandpa would sit him down and finish the sermon for him.

My Grandpa was thrilled that I was pursuing the ministry myself. Yet, it is very much of an understatement to say that he was disappointed when I joined the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (the FGBC) rather than becoming an IFCA pastor. To be honest, there were really only two differences between the two groups of churches. One was in the mode of baptism we used. IFCA churches would baptize by single immersion (being placed once under the water) while the FGBC baptized by trine immersion (being placed under the water three times). The other difference was in communion. While the IFCA churches took part in the bread and the cup, the FGBC add to this the elements of the love feast and of footwashing. My Grandpa struggled with that. He was sure that it was an addition to Scripture that was not needed and that it even bordered on being unbiblical.

At the Grace Brethren Church I was on staff at in West Milton, Ohio during my years in youth ministry, we celebrated communion just two times a year…the Sunday night before Thanksgiving and on Good Friday. One weekend my Grandpa (who was living in California at the time working as a superintendent of a rescue mission) surprised us with a visit. Guess what Sunday it was? It was the only Sunday of the year that we celebrated communion. I was a nervous wreck. I did everything I could to talk my Grandpa out of going to church that night. But to my dismay, he insisted on attending.

My Grandpa did not participate in the footwashing. He just watched. I tried to read his mind by the look on his face, but to no avail. Then we moved to the love feast. We shared a small meal and then had an extended time of testimonies before the bread and the cup. I didn’t hear much of what anyone was saying. I was too preoccupied trying to figure out if my Grandpa approved or if he was convinced that his grandson had abandoned the faith. Then, my greatest fear became reality. My Grandpa stood up. My stomach was now up in my throat. I could almost hear what was to happen next. My Grandpa was going to tell my Senior Pastor and my whole church that they were all practicing an unbiblical act and I, in turn, was going to get fired.

But to my surprise and delight, my Grandpa said just the opposite. He admitted to the whole church that he had come that night very skeptical and committed to finding fault in the way we were practicing communion. But instead he said that he had never sat through a more moving and worshipful experience in all of his life. He ended by saying how proud and glad he was that his grandson was part of such a wonderful church. From that day on, my Grandpa had no problem with me being part of a Grace Brethren Church.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

FOOTWASHING...Is It Some Kind of a Joke?

This Sunday is April 1st. It’s not often that April Fool’s Day falls on a Sunday. And it almost seems ironic that this Sunday is also the next opportunity for us as a church to participate in the worship of communion. Here at Grace Church, our celebration of communion is more than just the taking of the bread and the cup. We also have a love feast. This Sunday our love feast will include a full-carry in dinner. But our communion service also involves footwashing. Even though it will be April 1st, this is not some kind of a joke. We really do wash feet

Why do we wash feet as part of our communion here at Grace Church? In yesterday’s blog we started using an acrostic for the word “T-O-D-A-Y” to show us five reasons why footwashing is still for today. We began in yesterday’s blog by explaining that the letter “T” stood for “Teaches the need for spiritual cleansing.

The letter “O” stands for “Obedience to the expectations of Christ.” In verse 14, Jesus says that He washed the disciples’ feet and we “ought” to do the same. This word “ought” is the strongest word that can be used without giving a direct command. It definitely speaks of an expected obligation. It is written in the present tense showing a need for continual action. Christ expected us to continue this practice. How do we know this? Because this is not just something seen in the Gospel of John. It is also repeated in the Epistles. According to First Timothy 5:10, washing the Saint’s feet was part of the requirements for the church supporting a widow. Jesus expected the act to continue and the early church did just that.

The letter “D” stands for “Displays the example of Christ.” In verse 15, Jesus says that by washing the feet of His followers, He was giving us an example that we should do. Once again, this is written in the present tense and describes a continual action.

The letter “A” stands for “Attitude of humility.” There is no question that though servanthood is not the main part of footwashing, it is definitely involved. In verse 16, Jesus tells us that a master is not greater than the servant. Jesus showed this in washing the disciples’ feet.

Finally, the letter “Y” stands for “Yields Spiritual Blessing.” In verse 17, Jesus says that it is great if we know these things, but we are blessed if we do them. I grew up and spent the first 22 years of my life in churches in which communion took place the first Sunday of every month and included only the bread and the cup. This was fine and good. But for the past 20 years I have experienced the threefold communion including the bread and the cup, the love feast and footwashing. I can honestly tell you that I have experienced a blessing the past 20 years through participating in footwashing that is wonderful and beautiful. My Grandpa experienced this same thing. A couple years ago I wrote a blog entry telling the personal story about my Grandpa Distler and his first experience with a threefold communion service. In tomorrow’s blog I will re-post this special family story.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


This Sunday night will be our next threefold communion service here at Grace Church. Along with the bread and the cup (which celebrates the past ministry of Christ as He died on the cross for our sins) and the love feast (which celebrates the future ministry of Christ in our life as He serves us at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb) we will also participate in footwashing. But why footwashing? We saw in yesterday’s blog that the account in John 13, which describes Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, was an act that was beyond custom and beyond a simple lesson in servanthood and humility. Jesus was using this action on the final night before His death to teach us a very valuable and very spiritual lesson. But what was this lesson?

As Jesus dialogues with Peter, who was resisting the idea of Jesus washing His feet, He speaks of “washing.” In fact, He says that it is a prerequisite for “having part” with Christ. Obviously this is not a reference to physical washing but to spiritual washing. This speaks of spiritual cleansing which brings about spiritual fellowship with God. If there is no spiritual cleansing there can be no spiritual fellowship. Peter reacts to this by moving to the other extreme and wanting his whole body washed. Jesus tells Peter that those who are “bathed” only need their feet washed. He then goes on and contrasts “washing” with “bathing.” The word for “bathed” speaks of washing the full body while the word for “washed” speaks of washing only parts of the body. Bathing symbolizes salvation (Titus 3:5) while washing feet symbolizes cleansing from daily sin (1 John 1:9). Jesus was using this action to teach the spiritual lesson that those who have truly been saved (bathed) do not need to be saved again when they sin; they just need daily cleansing, they just need their spiritual feet washed. Daily cleansing is Christ’s present ministry in our life today (Ephesians 5:25-27).

So why do we wash feet today as part of our communion services here at Grace? We can use an acrostic from the word “T-O-D-A-Y” to show us five reasons. The letter “T’ stands for “Teaches the need for spiritual cleansing.” When we wash feet we are symbolizing and celebrating that we have a Savior who daily cleanses us from our sin. The idea of washing someone’s feet is in no way appealing. In fact, just knowing that it is part of our communion service often keeps many people from participating. Those who have never experienced footwashing wonder if we get out the Ajax and Brillo pads and scrub the corns. Actually, it’s not as gross as you may think. Washing feet is as simple as kneeling before another person as they put their foot in a basin containing a little bit of water. You splash the water around their feet and then dry them off.

I have found that it is not washing someone else’s feet that is the problem. The hardest part for me is allowing someone else to wash my feet. In fact, do you know what most people do before they come to communion? They wash their feet at home. I do. I take the time before coming to communion to get all the toe jam out and clip my nails. But every time we sin you know what happens? We make Jesus wash our spiritual feet. We wash feet today because it teaches us a very wonderful lesson, that of daily cleansing.

Monday, March 26, 2007

FOOTWASHING...What Does It Mean?

Our current series on Just Add Water deals with the ordinances that involve water. We spent the first three weeks overviewing what the Bible teaches about baptism. But here at Grace Church there is also an element of our communion service that involves water. Though we may include just the bread and the cup on some Sunday mornings here at Grace, our regular communion services are done in a threefold manner including footwashing and the love feast as well as the bread and the cup.

Why do we wash feet as part of communion? John 13:1-17 gives us the basis. This is the passage that describes for us the final night of Christ before His death as He washes the disciple’s feet as part of what we commonly call the Last Supper. The Bible says that during supper, Jesus washes the disciple’s feet. Why did Jesus do this? There are three possibilities. First, it could have simply been customary. Washing feet was customary back in this day and culture due to the wearing of sandals coupled with the lack of paved roads. Many believe that this act was simply an act of servanthood. Finally, it could have been Jesus teaching a deeper spiritual lesson.

Whatever the reasons were, it has significant value. This passage tells us that Jesus knew that His hour had come. He knew He would die the next day. If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow, who would you spend time with today? It would certainly be those whom you cared for deeply. What would you do? It would be something of great value and meaning. Such was the case in Jesus life when He washed the feet of the disciples.

The depth of the spiritual lesson that Jesus was teaching is seen in verses 6-7. His washing the disciples’ feet was definitely beyond custom. Typically this act was done when entering a house which means that Christ’s followers had probably already washed their feet when they arrived that evening. What Jesus did was much different. He washed their feet during dinner and He did so at the dinner table. Typically this was done at the door to the house. The very fact that it was Jesus who performed the act went contrary to custom. This was done by a servant. If no servant was present, you would wash your own feet. This action of Jesus was not just because it was custom.

It is also obvious that this action of Jesus was also beyond a simple lesson in humility. How do we know this? When Jesus got to Peter, the disciple resists. Jesus responds by saying, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” If Jesus were simply teaching humility or servanthood, wouldn’t the disciples have been able to understand? After all, this was the Son of Man washing the feet of simple fishermen. There was something deeper involved, something they would not be able to understand until “hereafter.” Hereafter what? This was a reference to the soon to come death of Jesus (see John 12:16; 16:12). It would not be until after the death and resurrection of Jesus that the disciples would be able to understand the significance of what Jesus did. This was not just custom. This was not simple servanthood. This was a spiritual lesson which we will describe in more detail in tomorrow’s blog.

Friday, March 23, 2007

New Pastoral Position at Grace (part 2)

In yesterday’s blog I begin to describe to you the thinking behind myself and our Elder Board’s pursuing a new pastoral position here at Grace Church. Below is more description about this new, exciting and needed position here at Grace.

What would be entailed in the job description for this pastoral position?

The primary area of this position is that of pastoral counseling. Due to my time constraints and the large task I have to fulfill as the Senior Pastor of our ministry, I would no longer be doing this area of ministry. I will still continue to do the pre-marital counseling for those whose weddings I am officiating. This new pastoral position would be the one to meet with those who are requesting to meet with a pastor. He would listen to them, empathize with them, pray with them, give them Biblical guidance, recommend resources to them, make referrals for them if necessary and follow-up with these individuals. Under this area of ministry, this position would also identify and train lay people to be able to be mentors to those who are struggling in certain areas (i.e. marital issues, parental issues, financial issues, etc.). This would also entail conducting proactive classes and seminars to help prevent issues that often grow into counseling situations (i.e. marriage seminars, parenting classes, etc.).

This area of the job description would also include overseeing the Sunday morning decision counseling including the training of counselors, scheduling of counselors and follow-up of decisions made on Sunday mornings.

The second primary area of this position is to provide pastoral care to our staff ministry-wide. Between our church, MorningStar Daycare, and Lititz Christian School, we have well over 100 employees. This position would make it a priority to walk through our ministry on a regular basis, getting to know each employee, praying with each employee, encouraging each employee in their ministry and their walk with the Lord, and following up with employees regarding personal needs. I am convinced that this will greatly increase morale and productivity ministry wide.

This position would assist Pastor Willard, our Care Pastor, in hospital visitation as needed. We are getting to a size in which there are times when we have multiple surgeries at the same time but at different locations. This position would also take care of hospital visitation on Pastor Willard’s day off. Because this is a pastoral position, it would also include being part of the Elder Board, teaching as needed, conducting funerals as needed, and officiating weddings as requested.

I believe that God has unmistakably led us to the person who will fit this role beautifully. In the very near future we will be introducing this person to you and ultimately you as the congregation will have the opportunity to approve his hiring as one of the Assistant Pastors here at our church.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

New Pastoral Postion at Grace (part 1)

As Pastor Snow retires, the Elder Board has given me the “green light” to pursue the addition of a new pastoral position here at Grace Church. Why are we looking to add this position? How will this position benefit me personally as the Senior Pastor here at Grace Church as well as the congregation as a whole? What exactly will the job description include for this new pastoral position? Today and tomorrow’s blog will describe for you what kind of position we are designing this to be. I think that you will be as excited about this as I am.

Why are we looking to add this new pastoral position?

As we as a church have become more focused and effective at accomplishing our purpose of meeting people where they are and moving them to where God wants them to be, we have seen a significant increase in weekly guests to our church. Many of these precious people are now attending regularly as they search for answers to the issues and trials of their lives. When you meet people where they are, they come with a lot of spiritual, emotional and sinful baggage. This has resulted in a major increase in my time being spent in counseling.

When you add to this the many that have been part of our church for some time who continue to need pastoral guidance related to specific issues in their lives, the result is that my counseling load has increased to levels that are beyond my ability and time constraints to meet. Adding a pastoral position that will focus primarily on this area of ministry will ease a great time burden off of my schedule that will allow me to focus on study and sermon preparation, vision casting and administration which are my main roles as Senior Pastor. It will also allow us as a church to be more effective in helping to move people to where He wants them to be.

Is this position that of a professional counselor or a pastoral counselor?

This is distinctly a pastoral position. We are not looking at this time to hire a professional counselor. The vast majority of those who are coming to us wanting and needing counseling are not looking for a professional counselor. These are people with real hurts and trials, many of whom do not even know Jesus yet, who want to speak to a pastor who will listen to them, empathize with them, pray with them, cry with them, and give them Biblical guidance related to the issues they are facing. As needs surface, we will continue to refer those needing professional counseling to area Christian counselors and psychologists in which we have confidence.

As a result, I am looking to hire a man who has been trained in pastoral ministry and pastoral counseling; who has experience in pastoral ministry and who is gifted in such a way that would make him effective in this kind of ministry. I believe that this is a great need for our church at this stage of our ministry life. In tomorrow’s blog I will describe for you the responsibilities that will fall under this new pastoral job description.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Leadership Challenge

At the Unleash Conference, Perry Noble ended the day with a challenge regarding the role of the Senior Pastor. I hesitate to even overview this message in my blog for fear that it will come across wrong. Please remember as you read that these are statements and thoughts made by Perry Noble as he spoke to the conference. I think they are well worth noting.

Perry began with the myth that growing a church is all about style. Such is not the case. Growing a church is about leadership. If a church is growing, godly leadership is most likely in place. Perry then went on to share four principles about leadership as seen in the life of Moses. I won’t have room to elaborate on the passages but the references are included for you to look up and examine on your own.

First, Moses simply listened and obeyed. How many times does Scripture say in the life of Moses the words, “And the Lord God said to Moses?” Leadership is as easy as listening to God. Time with God is the most important thing that a leader can do. Look through the Bible, God does not give the vision to a committee He gives the vision to a man. Most churches are structured for failure because vision must be approved by a committee or a congregation. That is like a pilot asking the people in first-class how to land the plane and then having their suggestion approved by those back in coach before he attempts to land the big bird on the runway. A Senior Pastor needs to hear from God. If you’ve never been scared by the vision, you’ve never heard from God.

Second, Moses did not compromise the vision. Perry warned Senior Pastors that powerful people in the congregation will always try to alter your vision. So was the case with Moses (Exodus 5:1; 8:25-27; 10:8-11, 24-25). The Senior Pastor must own the vision. Perry predicted that every leader will be tested by someone who has money.

Third, Moses didn’t try to do it all. You see this vividly in Numbers 11:14-17. The biggest problem for the Senior Pastor is that he thinks he is needed. The Senior Pastor just can’t do it all. Most staff members in churches believe that the Senior Pastor is there for them when in reality it is the other way around. The staff is there for the Senior Pastor. A Senior Pastor must surround himself with godly people. He must also learn to rest. Why? It is because only 5% of those who enter the ministry ultimately retire from it as well. There is a huge ministry drop-out rate. What should the staff ask the Senior Pastor on a continual basis? They should ask him, “How may I serve you?”

Fourth, Moses was willing to attempt the impossible. Moses did. Just look at Deuteronomy 6:10-12. God does not give us “safe” visions. We must quit using size, finances and facility limitations as an excuse to not do the vision God gives us. “If it is God’s will,” Noble says, “It’s also God’s bill.” Let’s remember that God wants the church to grow far more than we want it to grow. After all, it’s His church! As a result, we must dream big. We must ask for big things. If you can sleep at night because you think you can do the vision easily, then it is not a vision from God.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Go For It

Recently I attended the Unleash conference at Newspring Church in Anderson, South Carolina. Perry Noble is the Senior Pastor of this church and he spoke at the two main sessions. The first session he called, “Go For It!” Below are the highlights of this talk:

Perry introduced the session by saying that church is an incredibly confusing place if you don’t know the rules. Every type of church does church in a different type of way. If you don’t think that’s true attend a Baptist church this week, a Catholic church next week and a Pentecostal church the week after that. If you don’t know that church’s protocol, attending is confusing. The job of the church is to make the name of Jesus famous. If you think His name is already famous, just watch the news networks and you will find out different. From Matthew 17 and the story of Jesus being transfigured and appearing with Moses and Elijah to Peter, James and John, Perry gave us four needs of the church.

First, the church needs to provide creative environments. Christianity is the most exciting thing to happen to the planet and the church has made it boring. Peter and John both wrote about this encounter on the mount of transfiguration in their later writings because it obviously marked them for life. It was a very unique and creative way to show Jesus to these three men. That is how church should be. The sermon actually begins in the parking lot as most visitors decide within 15 minutes maximum, before they have ever heard the pastor’s sermon, as to if they are going to return or not. We need to put people in an environment where they can hear about Jesus. By the way, Perry also said that you don’t need to spend money to be creative you just need to spend time.

Second, the church needs to look beyond ourselves. In Matthew 17:4, Peter responds to seeing Jesus with Moses and Elijah by saying, “It was good for us to be here.” Some times that is all the church thinks about…what’s good for us. Some people don’t even want their church to get any bigger. After all, if it gets too big you won’t be able to know everyone. Perry said that you really have two choices…you can have a church where everyone knows everyone or you can have a church where everyone knows Jesus. Which is it going to be? The bottom line is that you can’t get your church too big.

Third, the church needs to pay attention. In Matthew 17:5, Peter is missing the whole point and is rambling on and on until God interrupts him and says two things…Get up and don’t be afraid. Do what God has called you to do. Not everyone will agree with you. Whenever you do what God has called you to do you will make some people angry.

Finally, the church needs to focus on what really matters. In Matthew 17:8, the Bible says that the whole event on the mountain ended with the three disciples seeing no one except Jesus only. We tend to focus on people’s behaviors instead. People’s problems are not their behavior it is that they don’t know Jesus. Perry ended the session by saying that if your church is not focused on Jesus, than you either need to change your focus or close the doors of your church.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Going Public

I love Sundays, I really do. Most people spend their week asking the question “Is it Friday yet?” Not me! I spend every waking moment of my weekly adventure asking, “Is it Sunday yet?” Sundays are a total rush for me. I wish that every day of the week could be Sunday. But this Sunday was one in a million. I have never experienced anything like it and I wonder if I will ever be part of something so utterly amazing ever again.

We ended our Vision Month last February by encouraging all of those who attend Grace Church to choose a “next step” so that they continue to move and grow in their walk with the Lord. We gave seven suggestions for such steps. One of them was “baptism.” We hadn’t talked about baptism at all during that month. On that last Sunday of the series, as I went over the seven ideas for next steps, I simply mentioned that if anyone had not followed the Lord in water baptism since they trusted Christ to be their Savior, than this was their next step. That morning 42 people committed to being baptized. WOW!

The very next week, the first Sunday of March, we started a new series called Just Add Water and I spent two weeks on what the Bible teaches about baptism. We again gave the challenge and encouragement for people to take this step of faith and obedience. As a result we had planned a baptismal service for last Sunday, March 18. We were hoping for 50 baptisms which would have definitely been the largest baptismal service our church has ever had. With the 42 people who had already expressed interest added to those who may feel led to do the same through the 2-week series on baptism, we thought we had a good chance to see the Lord blow us away and give us as many as 60 people to be baptized which would have been 30 people in each morning worship service.

Suddenly, things took off in a way that was a complete “God thing.” Once the number hit 70 we begin to panic (in a very excited sort of way). We had a logistical meeting and decided it would be best to use two tanks. Not only would we use the “hot tub” that we normally use for baptism, we also purchased a “blow-up pool” so that we could baptize in two different “tanks” (and I use the term “tank” loosely…a hot tub and a blow up pool are not exactly the prototypical Grace Brethren baptismal venue).However, things got even more “bizarre” in a Spirit-led kind of way. By the time I took off for the Unleash conference that I attended in South Carolina last week, the count had risen to 82 people who were taking this step by publicly identifying with the God of the Bible.

On Thursday I got a fax at my hotel from my Administrative Assistant, Sheri Sell, with the updated baptismal list. The count was now at 104. At one point it reached as high as 108 but we ended up baptizing 104 people on Sunday. For those keeping score at home, that is 104 baptisms in a trine immersion mode for a total of 312 dips.

So tell me, when was the last time you sat in church and heard so many stories of God’s grace and His salvation? No, it was not our typical baptismal service but hey…it was worth it! It was wonderful! I loved last Sunday! I love every Sunday! Way to go God!!

Friday, March 16, 2007


I have been in South Carolina since Wednesday. Myself along with the other guys who are on our Worship Design Team here at Grace Church that are part of planning all of our worship services, have been attending the UNLEASH conference for church leaders being held at the New Spring Church in Anderson, SC. This is a church pastored by a dynamic leader named Perry Noble (pictured). This church has not had a permanent building until just about a year ago. Until that time, their entire church was portable. The church actually started with just 15 people in a living room! They had no money or resources…just vision. They are not located in a big city. There entire county has right at 170,000! Their demographics are very similar to ours. Yet God has blessed them and in just a few short years they have grown to over 9,000 in weekly attendance and have seen scores of people come to faith in Christ.

At this conference Perry has been teaching on the leadership challenge and making it in ministry. He has covered information that has kept him on track, allowed him to maintain a steady pace, and also allowed his relationship with his wife not to fall to pieces in the process. Apart from these main sessions, I have been able to attend a senior pastors only roundtable discussion where we could talk about issues pertinent to us. This conference has been for more than just senior pastors. The other three guys have benefited greatly as well. Perry has talked about leadership and sustaining a reasonable pace in ministry. He has challenged all of us to make sure we are able to do just that. As well as these main sessions we have been part of roundtable discussions covering topics like:

· The creative process
· Leading authentic worship
· The volunteer experience
· Student ministry…the church of today
· Staffing for success
· Creating community
· Financially equipping your congregation
· Blogging and communications

I cannot tell you how beneficial it is once in a while to be able to break away from our own ministry here in Lititz which absorbs us and to be able to take a few days and see how someone else is doing it. It is energizing. Each year I try to find a conference like this to attend so that I can get my spiritual and ministry batteries recharged and come home with a lot of ideas that I can evaluate to discover what can better help us here at Grace Church to effectively meet people where they are and help move them where God wants them to be.

The four of us (myself, Andy Brightbill; Matt McElravy; and Rick Glass) will get home Friday night and I’m sure you’ll be able to tell by our demeanor and our passion on Sunday that God has used this opportunity down south to sharpen each of us for His glory!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why Rebaptism?

When I visited the Holy Land last November, I was excited to be baptized in the Jordan River, the same river where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. This was actually the third time I have been baptized since trusting Christ to be my Savior. My initial baptism was when I was eight years old at the church I grew up in as a child. This was done by the mode of single immersion where I was dipped once backwards into the water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In my mind, this was the day that I, in faith and obedience, followed the Lord in water baptism.

At the age of 22 I was re-baptized by trine immersion at the Grace Brethren Church where I began my ministry life as a youth pastor. Why did I choose to get baptized again? I was convinced that God had called me to minister in a church that believed and practiced trine immersion and required in their constitution that all of their members be baptized by trine immersion. I could see the Biblical support for this mode and saw nothing unbiblical with what the leadership of the church was asking me to do in order to be a member of that church. Did this mean that I was saying that my first baptism didn’t count, or was somehow wrong or heretical? Absolutely not. I was simply being obedient to what God had called me to do and to what God was teaching me in my life.

I then was baptized a third time in the Jordan River. Why did I do this? I did this because I wanted to publicly identify with Christ in the very river where Jesus was baptized when He walked the earth. I have come to the conclusion that it is a privilege to identify with the God of the Bible in this very beautiful and very Biblical manner.

Here at Grace Church, our constitution is written in such a way that to be an official member of our local church, along with trusting Christ as your Savior, you also must be baptized by trine immersion. Why? If trine immersion is the mode of baptism we teach and practice as a church, it only makes sense that we would ask all of our members to be baptized by this mode. This is not saying that any baptism you have had previous to coming to Grace Church didn’t count or was somehow a heretical action. If you have already been baptized by another mode of baptism other than trine immersion, and you believe that God has called you to Grace Church, let me offer three reasons why you should pray about and consider being re-baptized and joining the church.

1. The reason of FACT! Trine immersion has biblical support. You are not being asked to do anything contrary to Scripture.

2. The reason of FOLLOWSHIP! If you truly believe that Grace Church is where God has called you to roll up your sleeves and serve the Lord until He comes, then being re-baptized is an act of followship to the leadership of the church

3. The reason of FAITH! Without faith it is impossible to please God. To take this step of faith and be re-baptized can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

B-A-P-T-I-S-M...The Final Spelling

We have been using the letters to the word “baptism” to help define and describe this Biblical ordinance. So far we have covered the first four letters which stand for:

B = Believers only
A = After salvation
P = Picture of spiritual cleansing
T – Trine immersion

Over the last two blog entries we have seen the window of theology and the window of grammar to give us support for trine immersion as a Biblical mode of baptism. A third window is also the window of history. Church leaders throughout history have spoken of the legitimacy of the baptismal mode of trine immersion. Below are two examples:

Trine immersion was the general practice of Christians from the end of the second century to the close of the twelfth century. The proof of this statement is overwhelming.” (William Cathcart [a Baptist], The Baptism of the Ages and of the Nations)

As to the public act of baptism, let her be dressed in a garment…and be placed in a bathing tub, up to the neck in water; then let the baptist dip her head three times in the water...” (Martin Luther, 1530A.D.)

The letter “I” in the word baptism stands for “Identifying with the Trinity.” As we talked about in yesterday’s blog, Matthew 28:19 tells us that baptism is a public way of identifying with the God of the Bible who is a Triune God. The God of the Bible is one God in three persons. This is beautifully pictured through trine immersion which is one baptism with three dips.

The letter “S” stands for “Symbolizes dying to sin and being raised to new life in Christ.” When you received Christ you started over (2 Corinthians 5:17). When you got saved you died to self and were born again through faith in Christ (John 3:3). From a positional standpoint, we are crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20). Being immersed in water represents a burial of your old life (Romans 6:3-4).

Finally, the letter “M” stands for “Mandate to be obeyed.” As we saw in last week’s blog, you don’t have to be baptized to be a Christian but you do need to be baptized to be an obedient Christian. Not only was Jesus Himself baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, baptism was also Jesus’ command to the church (Matthew 28:19-20). As a result, baptism is an issue and act of love and obedience. As Christ-followers we should want to follow the example of Christ. As Christ-followers we should demonstrate our love for Him by doing what He did and obeying what He commanded (John 14:15, 21; 15:14; 1 John 2:3). Have you been baptized since you turned from you sin and trusted Christ to be your savior? If not, what is stopping you from taking this step of obedience? Come on...Just Add Water!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Three Windows of Baptism

In yesterday’s blog we introduced the concept of trine immersion as the mode of baptism that we practice here at Grace Church. We explained that trine immersion is the practice of dipping a person under the water three times and that it is not a new form of baptism but rather one that history records back as far as the second century. There are three windows that we can look through to understand the Biblical support for trine immersion.

First, is the window of THEOLOGY. In Matthew 28:19, we are told to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is identifying with the God of the Bible who is a triune God. He is one God, yet three persons. The mode of trine immersion is a beautiful picture of this identification. Trine immersion is not three baptisms just as the Trinity is not three Gods. Trine immersion is three dips in one baptism just as the Trinity is one God in three persons.

Second, is the window of GRAMMAR. I believe that Matthew 28:19 is what we call an elliptical sentence. An elliptical sentence is one in which certain words are left out that we naturally understand as we hear or read it. For example, if a mother told her son to pick up his toys, his books and his clothes, what does she want him to do? She wants him to pick up his toys, to pick up his books and to pick up his clothes. Yet, she does not need to use the words “pick up” more than once. She does not need to say, “pick up your toys, pick up your books, and pick up your clothes.” This is an elliptical sentence.

Here is another example. If a boy is told to dip his pencil in the glass of water, in the glass of juice and in the glass of milk, how many times will he dip his pencil? Three times, right? He could have been instructed to dip his pencil in the glass of water, to dip his pencil in the glass of juice, and to dip his pencil in the glass of milk. However, all of these words are not necessary.

How about one more example? If a teacher tells his student to write their name in their English book, in their Math book, and in their History book, how many times will the student write his name? Again, the answer is three times. This is an elliptical sentence. The words “write your name” do not need to be repeated. They are naturally understood.

So it is with Jesus words about baptism in Matthew 28:19. Jesus could have said, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father; Baptizing them in the name of the Son; and baptizing them in the name of the Holy Spirit.” However, He didn’t have to use all of these words. Though He just used the words “baptizing them” once, it is naturally understood grammatically to be an elliptical sentence. A good piece of evidence for this is in looking at the Greek Orthodox Church which knows the Greek language and which practices a threefold mode of baptism.

Along with the window of grammar and the window of theology is also the window of HISTORY. We will look at this window in tomorrow’s blog.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Three Dips Are Better Than One

Two Sundays ago we started a series called “Just Add Water” on Sunday morning as we look at what the Bible teaches about the ordinances of baptism and communion. We started with baptism and used each letter of the word to begin a phrase that described this ordinance. In my blogs last Monday (March 5) and Tuesday (March 6) I overviewed the first 3 letters:

B = Believers only
A = After salvation
P = Picture of spiritual cleansing

Now we move on to the letter “T” which stands for “Trine immersion.” This answers the question, “How do we baptize here at Grace Church?” As is stated, we practice baptism by the mode of “trine immersion.” Immersion is the idea of placing one under the water. Trine is a threefold action. In other words, we baptize by dipping you under the water three times.

Some would immediately respond by wanting to know what new fangled kind of baptism this is. Contrary to public opinion, trine immersion is not a mode of baptism recently concocted by a group of elite modern day theologians who all knew the secret handshake while sitting in some smoke filled room. The truth is that trine immersion it is not “new” at all. Though single immersion (dipping someone under the water once) is much more known in the Christian church today, history records that trine immersion pre-dates single immersion. The mode of single immersion began in the fifth century while church history records instances of trine immersion dating as far back as the second century.

What I appreciate about the mode of trine immersion is that it is the most literal way to translate the main passage of Scripture that deals with baptism. This is found in Matthew 28:19 where we are commanded to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit. The word “baptizing” is a transliteration of the Greek word “baptizo” which is from the root word “bapto.” It is a word that literally means to dip, plunge or place into. This is why we believe in and practice immersion as opposed to pouring or sprinkling. To immerse someone is the most literal way to take the Greek word for “baptizing.”

But why three times? Well, think of it as you would ice cream…three dips are always better than one, right? Seriously, the threefold action also has very solid Biblical support. It is very similar to the concept of a three-legged stool. Take one or two of those legs away and the stool will not stand. But when there are all three legs the stool is solid. In the same way there are three windows to help us to understand the legitimacy of a threefold action in baptism. These include the window of theology; the window of grammar; and the window of history. In tomorrow’s blog we will look through these three windows. My goal is not to convince you that trine immersion is the only Biblical mode of baptism but simply to show you that trine immersion has a solid Biblical basis.

Friday, March 09, 2007

SNOW in the forecast for VERMONT

I continue to be amazed at how God is working in the life of our church and the lives of the people who make up the church here at Grace. I can hardly wait for March 18th as we will have opportunity to see dozens and dozens of people take steps of faith to follow the Lord in baptism. Then of, course, Easter is right around the corner after that and before you know it we will have Operation Barnabas here with us and it will be time for our rodeo and western fair outreach this June. I love my job!!

This spring we will also have a chance to celebrate another milestone for a member of our staff here at Grace. Last summer, Pastor John Snow moved into a 1-year partial retirement position here at Grace Church as he prepared for how God would lead him as he and his wife, Lucy, entered full retirement this summer. God has answered this prayer for them as seen by Pastor Snows’ note below:

“Lucy and I have been praying for God’s direction as how best to serve our Lord in the upcoming retirement years. God has recently opened a door for us in Lyndon Center, Vermont at a Church which has experienced some difficulties and in their words is in need of healing. I met with the leaders and spoke there during a visit in January. A week ago they asked if I would consider coming as an interim pastor as soon as feasible from our end. I have made a commitment to them and we will be making the move during the last week of May. Interim positions are typically short term, but situations like this may require at least a year to work through various issues. So we will be relocating to the North Country (some people call it the Northeast Kingdom). It has been a privilege to be a part of this church for the past 8 ½ years. It is exciting to see how God is working in people’s lives. May God continue to enrich each of you as you follow Jesus. We would greatly appreciate your prayers as we work through the many details of transition.”

We are very excited for how God will use John and his giftedness to help bring healing and stability to this hurting church in Vermont. He will be perfect for this task. I hope you will join me in praying for the Snows and in showing our appreciation to them for their service here at Grace Church. We will be getting you details about opportunities to do just that as we near the end of spring.

One of the main roles that Pastor Snow has led in this year of partial retirement has been our P.E.P. (People Enjoying People) Group, which is our ministry for those who have entered or are nearing their retirement years. This has been a valuable ministry and I am pleased to announce that Pastor Willard will be continuing this ministry as Pastor Snow moves into his full retirement.

We are also in the planning stage of hiring an additional pastor to our ministry staff whose main area of ministry will be that of pastoral counseling. I am very excited about what this position will mean for our church and for me personally. Please continue to pray for us through this time of transition.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Worship in the Round

Every once in a while, when we feel there is a strategic benefit, we set up the auditorium for Sunday here at Grace Church in a “theater in the round” style. This puts one smaller stage in the middle with sections set up all around it facing the center. I personally love these mornings. Everyone is so much closer and it feels so much more intimate. It allows us to have a “small church feel” even though we are a “big church” numerically.

Usually when we do it this way we have a scaled down music program for our worship consisting of just 2 or 3 people in the middle. A couple of weeks ago, however, we tried something different. We had a “theater in the round” set-up but we still had our full music program with choir and worship band all still on the main stage. Matt McElravy, who leads our worship each Sunday, was then by himself on the middle stage. I thought it was wonderful. Matt wrote a wonderful piece regarding how God used this format in his life. It is definitely worth your time to read it. Here is what Matt wrote:

I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t sure what it would be like leading worship from the middle of the auditorium this past Sunday. I’d never done anything like that prior to coming to Grace, and the last time we had a theater-in-the-round setup here, all the other musicians were in the middle with me. So being by myself in the middle of the auditorium while the band and choir were up on stage was a bit of a stretch! But you know, it’s good for me to be forced outside of my comfort zone when worshiping. It’s all too easy (at least for me) to create a “worship box” of sorts, where I know how each song is going to go, what the instruments will do in each section of each song, how we’ll handle the harmonies, what I’ll say in between songs, and so on. And without knowing it, I can often place God in that worship box along with everything else, expecting that I’ll know exactly how and when He’ll move.

How good and healthy it is to be reminded that God is bigger than any “box” I could possibly imagine, and that He’ll move whenever, however, and whomever He pleases. Being in unfamiliar territory when leading worship reminds me of that very powerfully. I need to rely on God, because He’s the focal point, regardless of where the musicians stand. I know that sounds obvious and simple, and it is, but it’s easy enough to forget sometimes. God can bring glory to Himself however he chooses, with or without me. I’m humbled and blessed every time I have the opportunity to take part in a worship service. I was especially blessed yesterday to be so close to the congregation—literally in the midst of them—as we worshiped together.

It reminds me once again that we’re all in the same “band”, the same “worship team”, whenever we come together to lift up the Name of Jesus—regardless of whether we’re playing instruments and singing or not. When God looks down on us as we worship Him, I’m quite convinced he doesn’t delineate musician from non-musician, as my human perspective would lead me to. He just sees His children, His worshipers, together. And I wouldn’t want it to be any different.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Connecting People Through the Internet

Linda Yoder has been part of Grace Church since she was a child. Recently she moved up into the great white north of New England. She sent me an e-mail expressing how our usage of the internet has helped her to stay connected. Here is what she wrote:

I wanted to thank you guys for insuring that the sermons on Sunday mornings not only make it to the web but that they are easily available for people to listen to. Since moving up north I've taken the opportunity to explore a number of church websites looking for online services and even general information about how different churches are connecting with people in our Internet saturated world. I think you've got it right. In just three clicks I can be downloading the sermon from the past Sunday. And with a high speed Internet connection I can be listening to the sermon in less than two minutes.

I know there are people who could have their first connection with Grace through the Internet. How easy is it for people to connect to the Sunday morning messages. I don't know if it was by design that the sermon is just three clicks away, but I do know that the "3 click model" has been studied in the retail Internet market. If it takes people more than three clicks to get to what they are looking for, many times they just give up. I look forward each week to downloading the messages and listening to them later in the week. Even though I'm a couple hundred miles away, when I hear Pastor Scott (or whoever is preaching that week) through my car stereo on the beautiful tree lined drive into work, I can't help but think, “It doesn't matter if I'm in the front row Sunday morning or listening in my heated car seat, what matters is that connection to Grace Church and the connection to Christ through the ministries of Grace.”

When I moved up north one of my big concerns was how to stay connected to my local church body at Grace and how to connect with a new local body, knowing that there is nothing up here like Grace. What I have found is the ability to stay connected with what and who I know back in Lititz while learning where and who God wants me to connect with here. In an area that is very unchurched, it's great to have come from a place that believes so strongly about connecting with people where they are. Some of the people I have come in contact with up here may never step foot in a church, but they may hear Pastor Scott on my computer in the office. Or I'll sit across from my boss and talk about whether or not he wants to celebrate Christmas if he's not sure he believes in Jesus.

Thanks so much for helping me stay connected to the ministry of Grace Church, whether it's the Sunday sermon, Pastor Scott's e-mail updates and blog, the WAM update, or just the website in general. Having that connection available has helped me move closer to Christ in a whole new way. The more time I spend outside the walls of a church the more I've connected with Christ and how He did ministry. His life was His ministry. It's in the streets, where the lost and lonely people are. It's rubbing shoulders everyday with the people who need Christ the most. It's showing people in the best way we know how, that it doesn't matter who you are, God wants to meet you where you are.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Just Add Water (2)

Yesterday we began taking the word baptism and using each letter of the word to describe and define it. We started with the letter “B” which stands for “Believers only.” Baptism is something for those who have already put their faith in Jesus. Baptism is not necessary for salvation. We ended yesterday by showing that the majority of verses in Scripture that speak of salvation say it is solely by faith with no mention of baptism.

But what about the verses that seem to indicate that baptism is a requirement for being saved. If the majority of verses teach faith alone for salvation then it is best to interpret all passages seeming to indicate otherwise in like manner. One such example is Acts 2:38 which tells us to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins. At first glance, it appears that forgiveness of sin is conditional on our repenting and our being baptized. However, this preposition can also be translated “because of.” In this case the verse would tell us to repent and then be baptized because our sins are forgiven.

It is important to realize that not all verses that use the word “baptize” or “baptism” are speaking of water baptism. Some verses (such as 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:26-27; and Romans 6:3, 4) are speaking of Spirit baptism when the Spirit of God places us unto the Body of Christ. That is what the word baptism means…to place into.

Another verse that some use to try to teach that baptism is needed for salvation ( a doctrine called “baptismal regeneration”) is John 3:5 which teaches that we must be born of water and of the spirit. They interpret being born of the spirit as faith and being born of water as being baptism. However, Jesus here is teaching the need for a second birth, a spiritual birth, in order to get to heaven. Being born of water is speaking of our first birth, our physical birth, and being born of the spirit is talking about our second birth needed to get to heaven which is our spiritual birth of faith in Jesus Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul says that God did not send him to baptize but to preach the Gospel. Now if baptism were needed for salvation, don’t you think that God would have sent Paul to baptize? Instead Paul contrasts baptism with the Gospel which is different.

This would lead us to the letter “A” in baptism. It stands for “After salvation” and answers the question as to when we should be baptized. That is why we do not baptize babies here at Grace Church. Baptism is for those who have already made a decision to trust the death and resurrection of Christ for their salvation. We do baptize children, but only after they have made a personal decision to trust Christ as their Savior and have a clear understanding of what baptism is and why we baptize people.

The letter “P” stands for “Picture of spiritual cleansing.” When you became a Christian, God washed the sins from your life (Titus 3:5-6). Baptism is a picture of this. It is not the water that makes you clean (1 Peter 3:21). The water is just a symbol. Next week we will look at the letters “T-I-S-M” as we finish spelling out the meaning of baptism.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Just Add Water (part 1)

When you plant your garden and you want it to grow, what is an essential ingredient? Simple…just add water. The same is true for Christians. If we are going to grow as Christians, one of the most basic ingredients is to follow the Lord in water baptism. Have you followed the Lord in water baptism since you trusted Christ to be your savior? Do you even know what baptism is all about? Let me spell it out for you. Let’s take the word “baptism” and use each letter to stand for a phrase that describes it. These phrases will help us learn the answers to the questions, Who should be baptized? When should you be baptized? Why should you be baptized? How should you be baptized? For example:

B = Believers only
A = After salvation
P = Picture of spiritual cleansing
T = Trine immersion
I = Identifying with the Trinity
S = Symbolizes dying to sin and being raised to new life
M = Mandate for all believers

Let’s look at each one a bit closer. The letter “B” stands for “Believers only.” It answers the question, “Who should be baptized?” Baptism is for believers in Jesus. Baptism is not for the person who is seeking eternal life, but rather for the person who already has eternal life because they have trusted the death and resurrection of Jesus alone for their salvation. This is especially seen in the book of Acts where believing or receiving the Word always comes before baptism as seen in the following passages:

· “Those who received the word were baptized” (Acts 2:41)

· “”When they believed they were then baptized” (Acts 8:12)

· “If you believe you may be baptized” (Acts 8:35-38)

This means that being baptized is not necessary for salvation. In other words, you don’t have to be baptized to be a Christian but you do need to be baptized to be an obedient Christian. The vast majority of verses in Scripture teach that salvation is solely by faith with no mention of baptism as seen in the following verses:

· Those receiving Him become His children (John 1:12)

· Those who believe in him shall not perish (John 3:16)

· Paul told the jailor to believe and he would be saved (Acts 16:31)

· We are saved by faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9)

· See also Romans 3:21-30; 4:5; 10:9-10, 13; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 2:16

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Waitress at the Restaurant

In John 4, Jesus “had” to go through Samaria because God the Father had already orchestrated the life of one, lonely, hurting woman so that she would meet Jesus at a well and have her life changed for all of eternity. I believe that God sets up similar Divine Appointments for us in the same way, maybe even every day.

Not long ago, my wife and I were at dinner with another couple from Grace Church named Daryl and Janet. As our waitress waited on us, we had a good time putting “friendliness over function" and getting to know her. Her name was Tammy. In the process of our conversation with Tammy, she shared that she was getting married this Spring. I had just been telling Daryl and Janet that I was presently working with ten different couples to prepare them for marriage. Daryl brought that fact into the conversation which revealed to our waitress that I was a pastor.

Tammy quickly shared that even though she really wanted to be married by a minister, they had made an appointment with a Justice of the Peace because they didn’t go to church so they didn’t think any minister would marry someone who didn’t go to their church. I could sense the Holy Spirit prompting me. I quickly offered Tammy that if she and her fiancĂ© would be willing to meet with me two or three times in advance that I would be glad to dialogue with them about marrying them. Tammy was elated. She quickly took my business card and said that she was going to discuss this with her fiancĂ©.

Toward the end of our meal, another couple from Grace Church named Shawn and Kelly, who had been eating at the same restaurant, came over to our table to say “hello.” As we chatted, our waitress came back by. We introduced Shawn and Kelly to Tammy who was quickly becoming our friend. Daryl pointed out to Tammy that I had married Shawn and Kelly. I quickly piped up saying, “Yeah, I married them nearly a year ago and they’re still married!” It was obvious that God was orchestrating our lives, Shawn and Kelly’s life, and most importantly, Tammy’s life.

Think about all that took place. For all of these pieces to fall in place, we had to choose the right restaurant; we had to arrive at the right time; we had to be seated in the right section; and we had to be there at the same time that Shawn and Kelly were. This was a work of the orchestration of God. This was a Divine Appointment. This was meeting people where they are and helping to move them to where God wants them to be.

I’m praying that Tammy calls me. I’m praying that they will be willing to meet with me a few times. I’m praying that I will be able to share Christ with them. I’m praying that they will turn from their sin and put their faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I’m praying that I will then get to officiate their ceremony. I’m praying that as a result of doing their ceremony I will be able to present the Gospel of Jesus to their family and friends. For Jesus it was a Divine Appointment with the Women at the Well. For me it was a Divine Appointment with the Waitress at the Restaurant. Who will it be for you?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Weather and Ministry

Remember the winter storm we had a week or so ago? I love snow, but whether you like the winter weather or not, I have found it to be one of the best ministry opportunities that we can have as followers of Christ. My son had a friend over and the two of them shoveled my driveway. As a reward, I took them to lunch. On the way home we stopped to pick up Rick and Beth Bernhardt’s boys so they could hang out at our house. Getting up their driveway was impossible. When we got back home, I quickly shoveled the slush that was still on my driveway. When I finished I was completely sweaty (which I hate) and my back was killing me (after all, I’m use to a desk job…not manual labor).

My greatest desire at the moment was a nice hot shower. However, I couldn’t get Rick’s driveway out of my mind. The Spirit was specifically prompting me to drive back over to Rick’s and help him shovel his driveway. I momentarily considered this prompting and then deliberately chose to disobey it. I asked my wife to start some coffee and I headed up to the shower. Unfortunately, it was the most horrible shower I have ever taken. I felt only guilt over not following the prompting of God’s Spirit. I climbed out of the shower, dried off, and putting my winter clothes back on, headed for the door. I told my wife I was going to bypass the coffee she had just brewed because of the guilt I felt.

As I headed towards Rick’s, I passed a single mom neighbor of mine shoveling her long driveway. We have been trying to build a bridge to her. Now the Spirit redirected me. It was as if he were saying, “Forget Rick…help this single mom.” I pulled over and hopped out with my shovel and aided her. When I finished, I thought it was finally time to enjoy that shower but now the Spirit prompted me again about Rick. I drove over to Rick’s and we started on his driveway. Fortunately, before we had gotten too far, his dad was able to get a hold of someone he knew who was on his way over with a plow to finish the job.

As I got back home I saw that the township plow was making its rounds in our neighborhood. As soon as he was done with our street I would need to re-shovel out the end of the drive so I waited on the shower. After the plow was finished I headed out to shovel only to discover someone stuck in the snow. I grabbed my son and his friend and we quickly played Good Samaritan and pushed him out of his situation. I then shoveled the heavy and icy boulders that the plow had left in front of my drive. While I was shoveling, I spoke to a couple walking up the street. They told me that their car was stuck at the top of the hill. After I finished my drive, the Spirit prompted me again. “What about that couple?” I headed up to help them. Afterwards I was ready for that shower. But then the Spirit prompted me again. “What about the widow who lives next door to you?” So I headed over and shoveled out the end of her driveway as well.

As I prepared to go to bed that night, I was more sore than I can ever remember being. Every muscle hurt. Was it worth it? It’s always worth it when you obey the promptings of the Spirit. It’s called “servant evangelism” and it is powerful. And when the wintry weather hits, the opportunities expand. That’s another good reason to love snow.