Friday, June 29, 2007

Grace Church Bible Reading Challenge

This Sunday we will begin our new 3-week series called “iBook” which will answer the question, “Can I really trust my Bible?” It’s going to be an awesome series. However, we don’t just want to talk about making the Bible an important part of our lives as followers of Christ…we actually want to do it. As a result, we will be using the final Sunday in this series, July 15, to kick-off a “Grace Church Bible Reading Challenge”!

For a full month we are asking every member and regular attender of Grace Church to follow an announced Bible Reading plan (about 3 chapters or 15-20 minutes per day). It will begin in Psalm 119, which is the passage we will be looking at on the morning of July 15. Then we will go to Judges 13-16 which tells the story of the Old Testament character, Samson. This will prepare you for the kick-off to our new series starting July 22 that we care calling, “Summer Heat: The Samson Scandal”! From there it is on to the Gospel of John and then through many of the easier to read and understand books of the New Testament. If you will take the challenge and follow the plan, by the time August 15 rolls around you will have read:

18 Books of the New Testament in their entirety!
89 Chapters of the Bible
2,488 Verses of Scripture

And best of all, I know that God will use this month of becoming committed to daily intake of Scripture to change you as a person, your family, and our church as a whole.

And to make this even more fun and encouraging, we are going to be setting up a special website which will be announced later where as often as you want throughout this Bible Challenge you can post comments for our whole church family to read. Use this tool often to share what you are learning from your time in God’s Word and to read how the Lord is using this month long Bible Challenge in other’s lives. As you are doing your reading, if you come across something you don’t understand or which prompts a question, share it on this blog. We will be sure that one of our pastors gives an answer.

Folks, listen, this is going to be a blast. After all, reading the Bible should be. Think about it. We as a church are going to spend a full month together in Scripture, which is God’s door to adventure. You can read about Daniel when he was with the lions; Elijah in the desert and the ravens brought him bread. You can climb the mount with Moses to get the Ten Commandments and gather stones with David to knock Goliath dead.

We will not start this month long challenge until July 15. I hope you take it and run with it. I hope God does amazing things in your life as a result. If you want some practice before then read the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke. These are three books that we will not read during our month long “Grace Church Bible Reading Challenge”!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

This is a FOOTBALL

I remember reading one time of the legendary football coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi. He is still revered as perhaps the greatest head coach of all time. In fact, ESPN named him as "Coach of the Century." His Packers were virtually unbeatable winning five titles in a nine year span (a far cry from the Packers today…my apologies to any ‘cheeseheads’ who may read this post).

One Sunday, however, the Packers lost to an extremely inferior team (you know, like the Eagles…no apologies to any Eagle fans who may read this post). Needless to say, these athletes came to practice the next day with great fear and nervousness. After the dismal way they had played, surely their beloved coach would be prepared to give them a verbal chewing out unlike any they had ever heard. They were preparing for what they were certain would be the toughest week of practice that they had ever endured.

To their astonishment, Coach Lombardi entered the meeting room without making a sound. He then calmly said to his players,

Men, today we go back to the basics.”

He then reached down and picked up a football. Holding it high into the air he continued,

Gentlemen, this is a football!”

Can you imagine that? Most of these big, bulky guys had spent the majority of their lives on the gridiron. Wasn’t this taking the “basics” a little too far? Maybe! But I have to be honest. Christians today are more Biblically illiterate than ever before. No wonder over half of those professing to be born-again believers when they enter a secular college come out on the other side denying their faith! No wonder so many people elevate their own human reasoning, the counsel of the world, or their past experiences over the truth of the Word of God! Sometimes I just want to look at believers and loudly declare,

Christians, today we go back to the basics.”

I then want to grab my Bible and hold it high into the air and continue:

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a Bible!”

And that is exactly what we are going to do over the next 3 Sundays as we start a new series we are calling “iBook”! Can we really trust our Bibles? How do we know that our Bible is not just a book written by men? What do we mean when we say that the Bible is “inspired”? Is this really a book from God? These are the important questions we will answer in this new upcoming series.

Join us July 1st, 8th, and 15th as we go back to the basics!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Meet the Ministry Staff (part 3)

Below are the final descriptions of our ministry staff here at Grace. I hope that you will use these 3 day’s postings as a prayer reminder to pray for these men and women who lead our ministries and impact the lives of so many people.

Andy Brightbill
Title: Pastor of Connections
Length on Staff: A little over 4 years
Place of Education: Grace College and Seminary
Childhood Ambition: Being a professional athlete or a studio musician
First Job: A grounds keeper at a retirement community
Fondest Memory: Marrying Amber
I love my job because I get to find ways to get people connected to Grace

Susan Auld
Title: Director of Children’s Ministries
Length on Staff: Since December 1, 2006
Place of Education: Philadelphia Biblical University
Childhood Ambition: Being a teacher
First Job: Babysitting
Fondest Memory: The day I met and talked to my husband for the very first time
I love my job because I get to have fun encouraging children on their journey with God

Whitie Willard (pictured with wife and son)
Title: Care Pastor
Length on Staff: 22 years (started in June of 1985)
Childhood Ambition: Being a farmer like my dad
Biggest Challenge: Looking for and not missing the Divine appointments God gives us
First job: Construction work with my older brother
Fondest Memory: The day I accepted Christ as my Savior (July of 1955)
I love my job because I’m doing what I love to do most…serving my Master

Tim Reedy
Title: Media Producer
Length on Staff: Since July 1, 2005
Place of Education: Penn State University
Childhood Ambition: Being an international lawyer
First Job: A chimney sweep
Fondest Memory: Sitting on my grandfather’s porch listening to baseball game
I love my job because I work with talented people that are committed to the Lord

Eric Lewis
Title: Secondary Principal

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Meet the Ministry Staff (part 2)

In yesterday’s blog entry I begin introducing you to our ministry staff here at Grace. God has so blessed us with men and women who are committed to Jesus Christ and to our ministry. It is a joy to partner with them each and every day as we seek together to meet people where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be. Below are several more of our ministry staff and some interesting tidbits about each of them. In my blog entry for tomorrow I will introduce you to the rest of our ministry staff:

Beth Kachel
Title: Early Childhood Director
Place of Education: Taylor University
Childhood Ambition: Being a journalist
Biggest Challenge: Raising 3 young kids with a godly perspective in today’s culture
First Job: Waitress at Friendly’s restaurant
Fondest Memory: Family vacations as a kid to the beach and Disney World
I love my job because I get to see little ones grow and begin their first steps of faith

Sherry McConaghay
Title: Elementary Principal
Place of Education: Millersville University
Length on Staff: 17 years
Childhood Ambition: Being a teacher
First Job: Maid at the Holiday Inn
Biggest Challenge: Finding the balance between home and work
I love my job because children are such a precious resource

Tammy Wiggins
Title: Daycare Director
Length on Staff: Since August 1996
Place of Education: Millersville University
Childhood Ambition: To be a ballerina
First Job: Babysitting and working at Dutch Wonderland
Fondest Memory: Family game night as a kid every Friday night
I love my job because I love working with the kids, parents and staff

Rick Bernhardt (pictured with family)
Title: Senior Administrator
Length on Staff: One year as Senior Administrator
Place of Education: Millersville University
Childhood Ambition: Being a singer
First Job: Cleaning an Episcopal church
Fondest Memory: Playing Italian card games with my grandfather
I love my job because it reminds me of how Christian education impacted my life

Monday, June 25, 2007

Meet the Ministry Staff (part 1)

We are so blessed here at Grace Church to have such a tremendous staff. One of the best parts of my ministry here is the people that I get to work with day in and day out to see us as a ministry meet people where they are and help to move them to where God wants them to be. Let me take the next several blog entries to introduce you more intimately to the ministry staff we have here at Grace! As you read each one, why not take a moment to pray for them that God would continue to bless their lives, families and ministry.

Scott Distler
Title: Senior Pastor
Length on Staff: Since August 2004
Place of Education: Liberty University
First Job: Playing my trumpet for military funerals
Childhood Ambition: Being a detective
Fondest Memory: My trip to Israel
I love my job because it is exactly what God has called me to do

Andrew Norton (pictured with wife, Beth)
Title: Business Manager
Length on Staff: Since October 1998
Biggest Challenge: Balancing our bank accounts
Place of Education: Philadelphia College of the Bible
First Job: Scrubbing moss off driveways in our neighborhood
Fondest Memory: Being one of the natives with my Filipino friends in the Philippines
I love my job because each day I get to see God at work and figure out how to join Him

Matt McElravy
Title: Interim Worship Arts Director
Place of Education: Millersville University
Biggest Challenge: Determining exactly how I fit into my role in ministry
Childhood Ambition: A professional baseball player or a navy aviator
First Job: Picking and cleaning fruit and vegetables on a produce farm
Fondest Memory: Traveling through Scotland
I love my job because I get to lead people into worship of their Creator

Doug Kegarise
Title: Director of Student Ministries
Length on Staff: Since August 2006
Place of Education: Grace College
Childhood Ambition: A fireman or a star on Broadway
Biggest Challenge: Balancing life and ministry
First Job: Framing artwork at a custom framing shop
I love my job because everything I do is beneficial to our teens and ultimately, God

Friday, June 22, 2007


While in college, I worked as the Intern Youth Pastor at a church in Ohio. This church was very well-known for the big Bible School that they put on each summer. That year the Bible School director came up to me and asked me if I would be the main character at Bible School. Without asking who the main character was, I agreed. I came into my office the Monday morning of Bible School and there was my costume. It was a little green pull over dress along with a red hat with a green feather sticking out of it; a bow, quiver, arrows, and above all, a pair of bright, green panty hose. You see, for the next five days I was to portray the character of Robin Hood. The worst part was that all of the little kids thought that I was Peter Pan.

The Bible School Director then told me that the Bible School main character always doubles as a bus captain. So I spent the next five days, in the city of Dayton, Ohio, wearing green panty hose, walking little kids from their house to the bus and from the bus to their house. It made the front page of the ‘Dayton Daily News’ in color...a picture of me wearing green panty hose. On the first stop, there was this dog who decided on this particular day that its favorite color was ‘green’. It jumped up on me and put a run in my panty hose. Now I was really mad! I had to use finger nail polish remover to stop the run in my stockings.

I was never so glad to see a Friday come. Yet it was on this day that God decided to teach me a lesson. The first stop on the way home from Bible School was a little boy named Timmy. Timmy was only three years old and so small that he couldn’t even walk off the bus by himself. As I carried him off the bus, he put his arms around my neck and placed his nose right up against mine and said, “Robin Hood...I love you!” As I got back on the bus it hit me. I wondered how many kids would have given anything on those rides home from Bible School to sit on Robin Hood’s lap and listen to him tell them how much Jesus loved them, but Robin Hood was too busy feeling sorry for himself.

But it was the last stop that God really used in my life. This was the home of a girl named Holly. Her mom was a young mom, about my age. When she saw me on Monday morning, she literally fell to the ground laughing. On Tuesday she had a neighbor there to see me. On Wednesday she had three neighbors there to see me. Fortunately, on Friday she was all by herself as we dropped little Holly off at her house.

I took Holly up to her mom and very half-heartedly said, “Ma’am, Holly has had a wonderful time at Bible School this week and I think it would be great if you would come to the closing program and see what she has learned.” I will never forget her response. She said to me, “Sir (If you can imagine calling someone wearing green panty hose, ‘Sir”), if you’re willing to prance around this city dressed like that, just to get little kids to come to your Bible School, then I’m willing to come to your church and see what your church is all about.” That’s when I realized that God could use me, even wearing green panty hose, as long as I was willing to put the things of the Lord above the things of self.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rodeo and Western Event (part 2)

What children’s events will be taking place? There will be a Petting Zoo and Pony Rides available as well as Crafts and Games the entire time from 1pm-7pm. There will also be Peanut and Candy Scrambles taking place at 1:30pm; 4pm; and 6:30pm.

What other events, contests and games will be available for adults? There will be a Pie Eating Contest taking place at 4pm. Line Dancing will happen from 2pm-3:30pm and then again from 4:30pm-6pm. There will also be Seed Spitting, Horseshoes, and other contests and games running all day from 1apm-7pm.

What other events will be occurring? There will be several musical programs throughout the event including three Operation Barnabas programs featuring entertainment for the whole family using puppets, clowns, mimes and songs occurring at 1pm, 3:30pm and then again at 6pm.

Will there be food available? Food will be available for purchase including French fries, pulled pork, ice cream, Italian ice, soft pretzels, chicken BBQ, chili, hotdogs and jerky.

How much will it cost to attend this rodeo and western event? With the exception of any food that is purchased, the entire event is FREE OF CHARGE.

How do people register for this event? You can register online at prior to the rodeo and receive coupons for a free hot dog, snack and drink for each member of your family that registers which may be picked up at the registration table at the event. Those pre-registering online will also be entered into a drawing for a free gas grill.

Where will parking take place? Parking will take place at the church which is limited. We are asking everyone from Grace Church to park at the Warwick High School where the Operation Barnabas busses will be running throughout the entire event to shuttle people to and from the Rodeo and Western Event.

Will there still be regular Sunday Services that morning? YES! We will have our normal 9:00 and 10::45 worship services and children’s programs in the church on June 24. The morning services will be more informal and celebratory. Please feel free to dress more casual and even wear to church what you will be wearing to attend the Rodeo and Western Event.

What if it rains on June 24? This will be a “rain or shine” event. Please be praying fervently that God would give us a perfect weather day for our Rodeo and Western Event.

Where can you get more information? Go to our church website ( and click on the rodeo icon for all of the information and to register for this free rodeo event. Click on the Avalanche Ranch icon to do the same for Vacation Bible School.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rodeo and Western Event (part 1)

When is our rodeo and western event? This event will be held from 1pm-7pm on Sunday, June 24.

Where did the idea of doing a rodeo and western event originate? The idea for this event began when we were asked by CE National to once again be the host church for the Operation Barnabas orientation as we were 2 years ago. Operation Barnabas is a summer ministry training program for teenagers which will bring over 100 ‘cream of the crop’ teenagers and their leaders from all across the country to our church for over 2 weeks of orientation. As we talked, we desired to take advantage of having this ministry minded group with us to partner with us to make an impact on our community and touch more people than ever before in the history of our church. Doug Kegarise, who is our Director of Student Ministries and a former Senior Leader of Operation Barnabas, was given the task of putting together a task force to plan such an event.

What do we hope to accomplish by having this rodeo and western event? Imagine anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 people from our community, most of whom do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, coming and rubbing shoulders with 1,500 people from Grace Church who are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” That is simply powerful. Imagine the impact we will see over the next 12 months as many of these people from within our community visit or contact Grace Church because we built a bridge to them and their families in such a unique way. Over the next year we expect to see much growth in our church and many people coming to faith in Christ because their first contact with us was this Rodeo and Western Event.

How will this rodeo and western even also impact our Summer Vacation Bible School? Susan Auld, who is our Children’s Director, and Beth Kachel, our Early Childhood Director, have strategically moved our Summer Vacation Bible School up earlier than usual and are using a western ranch theme which will begin the day after the rodeo (June 25) and run all week through June 29. Imagine the hundreds of children who will come back from the rodeo to be part of our Avalanche Ranch Vacation Bible School where they will hear the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Where will this rodeo and western event be held? All of the components of this event will take place on our 12-acre property located across West Lincoln Ave from the church

When exactly will the rodeo take place and what will it include? There will be two rodeos that afternoon. The first rodeo will run from 2pm-3:30pm and the second rodeo will go from 4:30pm-6pm. These rodeos will include events such as Calf Roping; Barrel Racing; Sack Race; Pony Express; Money Maker; Gambler’s Choice; Shute Dogging; Dressage; Mutton Busting; Egg/Spoon Ride; Chicken Catch; Trick Riding and Roping; Bull Riding; Cattle Penning; Pole Bending; Tire Roll; Goat Tying; Rider Dress Up; Reining; Gauntlet; Pig Scramble; and Sand Stand

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Not Provoking Your Children To Anger

Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger.” How do we as parents “provoke our children to anger”? Here are some very convicting answers from the perspective of our kids.

Never saying "I Love You"
Breaking promises
Criticizing unjustly
Never praising me
Misusing Brute force
Speaking carelessly
Being thoughtless
Speaking harsh words
Being inconsistent
Nagging me
Ignoring me
Never praising me
Misunderstanding my motives
Making tactless comments
Telling me that my opinions don’t really matter
Giving me the feeling you never make mistakes
Not being gentle when pointing out my weaknesses
Lecturing me when all I really need is support
Never telling me “I love you”
Never showing me any physical affection
Not spending time alone with me
Being insensitive and rough with me
Not showing interest in the things that are special to me
Never telling me “thank you"
Making me feel unnoticed or unappreciated
Not considering me a thinking and feeling person
Allowing my brother or sister to put me down
Being too busy to care for me and listen to me
Dismissing my needs as unimportant
Bringing up my old mistakes from the past
Teasing me excessively
Not noticing my accomplishments
Liking me only for my physical looks or abilities
Disciplining me in harshness and anger
Correcting me without reminding me that you love me
Getting my hopes up, then not following through
Never explaining to me why I’m being disciplined
Raising your voices to each other
Using foul language when you are upset with me

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Great Relationship

When it comes to family, I do not believe there is much greater of a relationship than that between a father and his children. After all, this is the analogy used by God to describe our relationship with Him. We are His children. Paul has very clear words in Ephesians 6:1-4 to both children and fathers when it comes to this great relationship.

He begins by addressing the children. He uses the word “tkenah” which refers to all kids, not just small children. Though this does not apply to married children (see Ephesians 5:31), it does involve all children still under their parent’s roof and/or authority. Children are called upon to obey their parents. The word “obey” literally means “to hear under.” It is the idea of listening with attentiveness and responding positively. This is to be done “in the Lord.” Obeying parents is a reflection of our obedience to the Lord. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:20 that obeying parents pleases the Lord.

But not only are children to obey their parents, they are also to honor them. The word “honor” speaks of valuing highly or holding in the highest regard. In the Old Testament the Ten Commandments were divided in two groups. The first five commandments dealt with our relationship with God. The next five commandments dealt with our relationship with others. Honoring parents was the first of the final half of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12) dealing with human relationships. Honoring our parents is not just something for kids and teens. This also involves providing for them when they no longer can provide for themselves (Matthew 15:3-6; 1 Timothy 5:4). Though marriage changes the scope of our obedience to our parents, it doesn’t change our responsibility to honor them.

Why is this such an important command? There are two reasons. First, it is right. In other words, it is just. It is exactly as it should be. Secondly, it is rewarded. This involves both quality and quantity. God blesses those who obey and honor their parents. And the truth is that disobedience of parents can cut short a person’s life.

But Paul also gives instructions to fathers. In the Roman world, the father was far more likely to provoke his children to anger. It was the father who had life and death power over their children. He could cast them out, sell them or even kill them. Paul begins by giving fathers a prohibition. Fathers are commanded to not provoke their children to anger. This speaks of a repeated pattern of treatment gradually producing a deep-seated resentment boiling over to hostility (Colossians 3:21). In tomorrow’s blog entry I will give you a very convicting list of how parents often provoke their children’s to anger.

Instead, the father is to be sure to bring his children up in both the discipline and the nurture of the Lord. The word “discipline” speaks of correction in wrongdoing. It is when we teach our children what they are doing wrong. The “nurture” of the Lord literally means “putting in mind.” It is the idea of correction in right living. It is not enough to tell our kids what they are doing wrong. We must also show them how to do what is right. Fathers who fulfill this important role are worthy of their children’s honor.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Up until now we have provided the Pastor’s Class for new people to get better acquainted with Grace Church. Over the past 3 years, hundreds of people have taken the Pastor’s Class and many have gone on to become members here at Grace. In order to more effectively get people connected to our church, we are going to be changing from the Pastor’s Class system to a new system that we are calling Core Classes. In a nutshell, instead of someone giving up 7 Wednesday evenings for the Pastor’s Class, they will now be giving up just 4 Sunday afternoons to take these Core Classes which will include:

Class 101 – This class deals with the purpose, vision and doctrines of our church

Class 201 – This class deals with Christian living and how to grow in your faith

Class 301 – This class deals with your ministry S.H.A.P.E. and spiritual gifts

Class 401 – This class deals with how to share your faith and the topic of stewardship

I will be teaching Class 101. Class 301 will be taught by Andy Brightbill, our Pastor of Connections. The other classes will be taught by a variety of qualified individuals. Each of these 4 classes are designed for all teenagers and adults and will be offered on Sunday afternoons and will include lunch for all participants from 12:15-1:00 followed by the classes being offered from 1-4pm. Child-care will be provided during the class time.

The first Core Class being offered will be Class 101 taught by me on Sunday afternoon, July 29. If you are new or somewhat new to our church, or if you are interested in membership here at Grace Church, this class is for you. To register for this free class (with lunch and child-care also provided at no cost) simply call the church office and ask for Sheri Sell or write the words “Class 101” on your Connections Card this Sunday.

I will then be teaching class 101 again on Sunday, August 26. For those who took Class 101 in July we will also be offering Class 201 on August 26. We will then be repeating Classes 101 and 201 on September 30 while also offering Class 301. Then, on October 28 we will be offering all 4 Core Classes on the same afternoon. The schedule is as such:

July 29 – Class 101 being offered
August 26 – Classes 101 and 201 being offered
September 30 – Classes 101, 201 and 301 being offered
October 28 – Classes 101, 201 and 301 being offered

It is our desire to see all of our new people go through all of these classes. Though these classes are a prerequisite for becoming a church member, you do not have to become a member to take the classes. We also encourage those who are already members or who have been around Grace Church for some time to take these Core Classes as well.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Go with us to the HOLY LAND

Laura and I are planning to return to Israel in the Fall of 2008 including stops in Jordan and Egypt, leaving on Monday, October 27, 2008 (not 2007) and returning Monday, November 10, 2008 (not 2007). Below is a partial list of all we will see and experience. We’d love to have you join us! For all the tentative details regarding itinerary, travel and cost, e-mail me and request Holy Land information ( Can you imagine seeing the following:

The famous Egyptian Museum and the Great Pyramids of Giza
Dinner cruise on the Nile river and then overnight in Cairo
Petra, the “rose red city half as old as time”
Floating in the Dead Sea and overnight at the Dead Sea Spa
Mt Nebo where Moses stood to view the Promised Land
Beth Shean where the Philistines hung the body of King Saul
Being baptized in the Jordan River
Caesarea Philippi where Peter made his confession of Christ
Capernaum where Jesus performed many miracles
The Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount
Tabgha where Jesus fed the 5000
Peter’s Primacy where Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”
A sunset boat ride on the Sea of Galilee in a Jesus replica boat
Cana, where Jesus turned the water into wine
Nazareth, which was Jesus’ hometown
Mt Carmel where God sent fire down from heaven
Megiddo where the battle of Armageddon will be
Caesarea by the Sea and Jerusalem, the city of God
The Valley of Elah where David killed Goliath
The Church of the Nativity over the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem
Shepherd’s Field where the angels announced the birth of Jesus
The Upper Room where Jesus had the last supper with the Disciples
The tomb of King David
The house of Caiphas where Jesus was tried and Peter denied Christ
The Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed
The holiest site in the Jewish world…The Western (Wailing) Wall
The Dome of the Rock (the 3rd holiest shrine in all of Islam)
The actual pavement where Jesus stood while on trial before Pilate
Follow The Via Dolorosa where Jesus carried His cross
Church of the Holy Sepulchre over the sight of Jesus’ death and tomb
Take a cable car up to Masada, the fortress built by King Herod
Ein Gedi, the oasis where David hid from King Saul
Jericho, the city of Palms that is the oldest existing city on earth
Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted by Satan
Wadi Qelt, the Biblical Valley of the Shadow of Death
Mt of Olives/Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed in agony
Celebrate communion at the garden tomb

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I’m not much of a guy for love stories. To me, they are nothing but “chick flicks” which I don’t really enjoy. I’d much rather have a good action show with guns blazing, cars crashing, and buildings blowing up any day of the week. But there is a love story in the Bible that I really do enjoy. In the Old Testament we see the story of a young bachelor named Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of the great Patriarch, Abraham. Jacob falls in love with a beautiful young girl named Rachel. It is obvious that this gal has some good looks which are very much appealing to young Jacob. The two fall madly in love.

As a result, Jacob goes to Laban, the father of Rachel, to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Laban agrees but puts down the stipulation that first Jacob must work for him for seven years. Now imagine that. Most men would have decided that this gal isn’t quite worth that, but not Jacob. He agrees and works for seven long years to earn the right to wed the beautiful Rachel.

Finally the day comes that Jacob has long awaited. It’s wedding day in the home of Laban. The bride enters completely veiled so her face cannot be seen as was the custom of the day. The marriage vows are stated and the union is sealed as Jacob and his bride go off to their bridal chamber. Once inside, Jacob receives the shock of his life. As the veil comes off of the bride, he discovers that it isn’t Rachel at all. Instead, he has been tricked into marrying Leah, Rachel’s older sister.

Now while Jacob found Rachel to be very beautiful, the Bible describes her older sister Leah’s looks in one translation by saying she had “weak eyes.” Weak eyes? What does that mean? Well, I never really took any Hebrew classes in college or seminary but I have a hunch that the true meaning of “weak eyes” might just be “butt ugly.” To say she had “weak eyes” would be the equivalent today of having someone trying to set you up on a blind date and when you ask what she looks like being told, “Well, she has a great personality!” When you hear that, the wise guy runs the other direction, right?

So Jacob goes to Laban and demands an explanation. The father explains to his new son-in-law that it was only proper that his oldest daughter be married first. Now think about it. How ugly does Leah have to be for her father to have to trick someone into marrying her? So Laban makes a second offer to Jacob. He agrees to still give him Rachel as a wife as well as Leah if he would work for him for another seven years. Rachel is so very beautiful and Jacob is so deeply in love with her that he is willing to do just that.

Now that’s what I call a love story. It involves a “weak-eyed” older sister; a beautiful younger sister; a very deceitful father; and a young man who is so smitten with love that he is willing to work a total of fourteen years in order to have the love of his life in spite of the fact that he also would be bound to care for her “weak-eyed” sister as one of his wives as well. Maybe if more of today’s “chick flicks” had that kind of story line I’d be a whole lot more interested in watching them. Read it for yourself in Genesis 29.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An Invasion of Encouragement

Today is the day that nearly 100 teenagers from all across the country converge on Grace Church for this summer’s Operation Barnabas orientation. Operation Barnabas is a ministry of CE National out of Winona Lake, Indiana. Operation Barnabas teams are developed to give growing Christian senior high youth such a thirst for ministry, that upon their return, they will have a greater desire to serve Christ in their lives. The name comes from a Bible Character seen In Acts 11:23-24 which says:

"When Barnabas arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. And a great number of people were brought to the Lord."

At the end of the summer, each "OB" member will have experience with sharing his/her faith, puppets, music, clowning, drama, public performance, testimonies and team relationships. He/she will have learned forty verses of scripture, been a part of a discipleship group, studied a book of the Bible, and done numerous manual chores. Each young person also receives a personal evaluation from leaders while having an opportunity to learn about the joys of serving in local church ministries. He/she will know what it's like to sleep on both a floor and a bed ... eat church carry-in dinners and McDonalds ... work in inner-city as well as rural settings. Although some teams could be as small as 20 members or as large as 45, the ratio of adult leaders to students is 1:5 to encourage quality training. Please bear in mind, a young person is chosen primarily on character and attitude, not talent. Each applicant must be recommended by his/her church to participate in this life-changing experience.

There are two different types of Operation Barnabas teams. The Operation Barnabas domestic teams travel within the United States and are traditionally what people think of when they hear of Operation Barnabas. Our Operation Barnabas International team (OBI) has traveled in Brazil, the Philippines and Hawaii, Mexico City, and Thailand. Participants on OBI receive much of the same training as domestic OBers, but OBI has a special emphasis in cross-cultural ministry. It is encouraged, but not required, that students go on a domestic OB team first and then consider OBI if there is an interest in overseas ministry.

What are the benefits of Operation Barnabas? Students will receive strong ministry training; ministry skill development; emphasis on local church ministry; strong adult leaders who are trained in youth ministry; the excellence and tradition of 33 years of OB training; and the challenge to show and share the love of Jesus. Please be praying for Operation Barnabas while they are with us and all summer long. Take time to get to know them so that you can be praying for them by name. These teens and leaders will be working right along side of us for our Rodeo and Western Event later this month. As a result, may we all become more like the Barnabas of the Bible!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why Husbands Don't Get Answers To Their Prayers

There are two primary reasons why I believe that most Christian husbands do not see any specific answers to their prayers. Sadly, the first reason is that most Christian husbands do not pray. James writes that we "have not because we ask not." The second greatest reason why most Christian husbands do not see any answers to their prayers is because of the way they treat their wives. This is the principle taught in 1 Peter 3:7. It just may be the most frightening verse in the entire Bible for husbands.

Peter begins by telling the husband that they must treat their wives in two ways. First, they are to live with them in an understanding way. Second, they are to honor their wives. To do this we must view our wives properly. This involves they way we view our wives physically and the way we view them spiritually.

Physically, Peter tells us that we are to view our wives as a “weaker vessel.” The word vessel refers to our physical body. Though there are certainly exceptions, on the whole women are physically more fragile than men. I would imagine that if married couples were to have a best "two-out-of-three" arm wrestling competition with each other, my money is on more husbands to win 2 out 3 then wives. As a result, we must protect our wives and treat them with gentleness. We must view them as a fragile and cherished treasure that we handle gently and carefully. In reality, most husbands are simply way too harsh in how they speak to, speak about, and treat their wives. Let me remind all of us husbands that outside of our salvation, our wives are the greatest treasure that we will ever have on this earth. We need to treat her in that way.

Though the wife is a bit weaker physically, it is important for us to realize that spiritually, she is our equal. Peter describes her as a “fellow heir in the grace of life.” Yes, God has made the husband the functional head of the home but this does not mean that he is spiritually superior to the wife. It simply means that he is the one responsible. Listen, my wife is as much a child of God as I am. The same Holy Spirit that indwells me also lives inside of her. The same is true of your wife if she knows Jesus. Men, this means that we can learn from our wives when it comes to spiritual things. They can help us become more like Jesus. This also means that we ought to be very hesitant to insist on a course of action for our marriage or family if our wives do not have the same peace about it as we do. Maybe it is we husbands who are reading things wrong. The best decisions are the ones where both the Christian husband and the Christian wife both have the same peace.

So how seriously does God want us to take this? Peter is very clear that the man who fails to treat his wife properly must answer to God. It is as if God is saying, “I have given you a valuable treasure…treat her right or you will have to answer to me.” And what is the consequence for those of us husbands who fail to take this task seriously? Verse 7 teaches clearly that failing to treat our wife properly will definitely hinder our prayer life. So why don’t husbands see more answers to their prayers. My guess is that they either aren’t praying or they aren’t treating their wife properly…maybe it’s both!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Operation Barnabas PARENTS

Operation Barnabas will soon have their orientation here at Grace Church. Recently, I sent the following letter (edited for space) to all the parents of these OB students:

Dear Parent of an OB Participant:

Hello from Lititz, PA . My name is Scott Distler and I am the Senior Pastor at Grace Church where this year’s Operation Barnabas orientation will be held. I am thrilled to know that I will be able to meet your teenager and to partner with CE National to see the first few weeks of the 2007 Operation Barnabas summer ministry be the best ones ever.

As someone who was a youth pastor in our Fellowship for nearly 10 years and sent teens from my youth group on OB every summer; and as someone who served for 5 years on the Board of CE National; and as someone who was a Senior Pastor for the past 12 years who has seen first hand the value it is for a local church to send teens on OB; and as someone who just last year was fortunate enough to send my oldest daughter (pictured from OB last summer) on OB and am still witnessing the impact that summer made on her life, I am convinced that this summer will be the most spiritually productive summer that your teenager has ever had.

The reason for this correspondence with you is to simply take the initiative to offer any assistance that I can be to you as the host pastor of this summer’s OB orientation. If you are in need of any information about the Lititz area…hotels, restaurants, stores, points of interest, or anything else, please do not hesitate to contact me. My desire is to be able to have a ministry to the parents of this year’s OB students as they go through what can be a “bittersweet” time of dropping their student off for the summer. On one hand you will be very excited about what God is going to do in your precious child’s life this summer. On the other hand, it is never easy to “let go” of that one you have cherished all these years. If there is anything I can do to make this step of faith in your life a bit easier, please do not hesitate to contact me. My e-mail address is You can also feel free to call me at the church (717.626.2155 ).

If your trip to Lititz finds you here over a Sunday, we would love to have you worship with us here at Grace Church. We have two identical Sunday morning services beginning at 9am and then again at 10:45am. Please feel free to spend time becoming more familiar with the ministry of our church that also includes Morningstar Daycare and Lititz Christian School by exploring our webpage at

Please know that along with praying for your teen, I will also be praying for you! Again, if there is anything I can do to assist your family, I am available to you! While you are in town, please stop by the church office at some point and ask for me. I would love to meet each of you personally. Your teen is in for a life-changing summer!

Believing God for Great Things!

Thursday, June 07, 2007


I’ll never forget the time that one of my daughter’s friends was riding with us somewhere when Joy was much younger. As we drove along, the soda (or pop as we called it back in the Midwest) I was drinking resulted in my letting out a loud belch. This friend of Joy’s, whose family attended our church, was amazed. She busted out laughing and said, “I didn’t know pastors burped!”

Listen, folks, pastors do belch (now if that really bothers you I could also dialogue about other bodily noises pastors really do make but I’ll spare you those details). It never ceases to amaze me to hear what some people believe about their pastors. Some would even lay odds on the fact that we mow our lawns while wearing a suit and tie. Hey, come on, I don’t even preach wearing a suit and tie every Sunday.

At the risk of knocking myself right off your pedestal, I think you should know that I am a pastor but I am still a person just like you. I think some people must really believe that we pastors sit around all day long doing nothing but reading our Bibles and then spend the entire night in deep, solemn prayer. Contrary to what might be popular opinion, we pastors like many of the same things you like…at least this pastor does. I love sports, watching television, listening to talk radio and I even enjoy going to the movie theater where I always get the large butter popcorn and a diet soda. Recently my family and I went down to the Penn Cinema to see Shrek III and Pirates of the Caribbean III.

We pastors also have many of the same weaknesses as the average layperson as well. I get ticked when my kids don’t put the remote control back where it belongs. Bad words go through my mind when I stub my toe and can even fly out of my mouth when my team loses the big game. I can even be found driving over the speed limit, especially in 35 mile per hour zones. Actually I have a whole lot more weaknesses and fallacies than just these, but I think you get the idea. And believe it or not, I am not the perfect father and husband. If you need proof of that, just interview my wife and kids.

Sometimes I think that people forget that we pastors are not “Super Christians.” We are people…just like you. The only difference is that we have a calling on our life that comes straight from the Lord. This is a calling that causes us to realize that with our position of leadership comes great responsibility. As a result, we strive to be the best man of God that we can possibly be.

Unfortunately, the only time most of my church sees me is on Sunday morning when I’m at my best and look my best (okay, that’s debatable) as I declare the truth of God’s Word, or as I stand before a bride and groom in my best suit and tie officiating their marriage. As a result, many of those in my congregation don’t really know the real me. Some may even have a very warped and unrealistic view of who I am. The truth is that as a pastor, I’m a whole lot like each you. I laugh. I cry. I sweat. I bleed. I like to have fun. I struggle. I get my feelings hurt. I make mistakes. Yes, I even belch…sometimes real loud.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Standing Behind the SERMONATOR

One of the most beloved radio preachers in my lifetime is Charles Swindol (pictured) and his radio boradcast, Insight for Living. I don’t think there is another voice on Christian radio that is more effective at taking even the deep truths of Scripture and putting them at a level that everyone can understand. Along with his voice, Swindol also has a very effective pen. He has written literally dozens of books, including one of my favorites called Laugh Again. I used to have a poster for this book which was a picture of Swindol wearing a black leather jacket and dark sunglasses while sitting on a Harley. Because this was back during the time of the hit move “The Terminator,” the title of this poster was called “The Sermonator.”

I recently read an article by an extremely conservative editor of a Christian website and radio network announcing their pulling of Chuck Swindol’s Insight for Living off of their radio broadcast schedule. Listen folks, if Chuck Swindol is not conservative and correct enough for this website and radio ministry, then I have to seriously question their own spiritual effectiveness and credibility. Swindol’s wife wrote a letter to the ministry that “pulled the plug” on her husband. I thought it was very well written and have included portions of it below. In my mind, Chuck Swindol is still “The Sermonator.”

“Chuck feels that we must be real, in order to meet real people in their real world. In other words, if people won’t come to the sanctuary because ‘it’s not relevant to my life these days,’ then we must make it relevant by delivering a message with which they can identify. Whether they live in the mansion on the hill or the inner city, the message must be capable of reaching BOTH or it misses the very souls who have the greatest needs.

In our opinion that is exactly what Jesus did. He ate with the publicans and sinners, in which events, I feel he was probably compelling in His persona and He charmed them into righteousness (meaning He extended grace to them). He repeatedly told stories illustrating an understanding of their real world. I sometimes ponder how He could have been so compelling that twelve totally different personalities would leave everything to follow Him. For this lifestyle, Jesus received much criticism from the Pharisees and others, but it did not deter His obedient pursuit to ‘do the Father’s will.’ If this message reached the life of just one person that might have been flipping the radio dial that day and, therefore, for the first time heard the Gospel, we feel it would have been worth it. In a day that is ‘ripe for harvest,’ we feel compelled and passionate to do what we can to reach the lost even though it means ‘eating with the sinners.’…

It is true that Chuck walks on the edge at times in passionately communicating God’s truth. He always has. Admittedly, this is risky, but that does not mean this is wrong. This has enabled him to connect with far more people-literally thousands who have said this is what has made the difference in their even ‘listening to a preacher.’ This will not change. He will never be a ‘safe’ communicator. Jesus wasn’t ‘safe’ either. Chuck will never go out of his way to be offensive, but we know some will be offended. So be it. We are passionately pursuing obeying what we believe to be the will of God for our ministries.”

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A few of my favorite things

Below is a short list of a few of my favorite things:

Sport: Baseball
Baseball Team: Cleveland Indians
Football Team: Cleveland Browns
Basketball Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
College Team: The Ohio State Buckeyes
Bird: Flamingo
State: Maine
Radio Station: Talk Radio
Current Television Drama: 24
Classic Sitcom: M.A.S.H.
Trip: Holy Land
Sandwich: Liverwurst
Spiritual Hero: Jerry Falwell
Television Preacher: Ed Young Jr
Author: Bill Hybels
American President: Ronald Reagan
Event in American History: Battle of Gettysburg
Bible Character: Joshua
Hobby: Watching my kids play sports
Day Off Activity: Grocery shopping with my wife
Soda: Diet Pepsi
Landmark: Portland Head Light
Cereal: Raisin Bran
Candy Bar: Three Musketeer
Holiday: Thanksgiving
Flavor of Ice Cream or Milk Shake: Pumpkin
Salad Dressing: Poppyseed
Salad Bar Item: Red Beet Eggs
Childhood Memory: Baseball games at Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Place to think: In the shower
Season: Fall
Pie: Strawberry Rhubarb
Vegetable: Asparagus
Hot Drink: Decaf Coffee
Movie of All Time: Hunt for Red October
Day of the Week: Sunday
Collection: Lighthouses
Coffee: Seattle’s Best
Bible Verse: Ephesians 3:20
Cake: Spice with cream cheese frosting
News Source: FOX News
Person: My wife

Monday, June 04, 2007

If The Barn Needs Painted

It happens on a regular basis. A wife comes into my office with the sad story of what a rotten husband she has. My heart goes out to women in this scenario. They deserve better. So what is a wife to do when her husband turns out to be a jerk? Peter addresses just this issue in 1 Peter 3:1-6. He begins by commanding the wife to be submissive to her own husband. But this role is not conditional on the husband’s behavior. A wife is to fulfill her role even if the husband is being disobedient to the Word. “Disobedient” is the idea of obstinately refusing to be persuaded. According to Peter, it is the wife being faithful in fulfilling her role that God wants to use to win the husband back to obedience. When a wife chooses to not fulfill her role when her husband is being disobedient, she takes out of the hand of God the very tool He wants to use to win over her husband.

Now notice that Peter says that this is to be done “without a word.” God using the submissive wife to win over her husband does not happen verbally by the wife preaching or nagging. It happens by the actions of the wife, her chaste and respectful behavior

Peter than makes a direct connection between a submissive wife and a beautiful wife. He begins by talking about the insufficiency of outward beauty. This is not prohibiting outward beauty. Outward beauty plays a role but it is not the only role. At the risk of sounding like a male chauvinist pig, I think it is important for a wife to look good for her husband. One of my biggest pet peeves is a Christian wife who gets all decked out to go get groceries in front of a bunch of strangers but could care less what she looks like when her husband comes home from work. Isn’t that backwards? Who cares how the grocer sees you…look good for your man! When Peter says that beauty is not merely braiding of the hair and wearing gold jewelry, he was not saying that you should not do your hair, wear jewelry or put on make-up. Hey, if the barn needs painted…PAINT IT!

This passage isn’t prohibiting outward beauty it is prioritizing it. Inward beauty is more important than outward beauty. In other words, a wife should put far more time into developing her inward beauty then she ever does her outward beauty. The truth is that at some point in your life you reach your apex when it comes to outward beauty. After that, I’m afraid it’s all downhill. I can prove it. When was the last time you saw an elderly grandma win the Miss American Pageant? However, inward beauty can grow the rest of your life on earth. Though I have never seen a grandma crowned Miss America, some of the most beautiful women I have ever met have been elderly grandmas. And ladies, there is only one way to improve inward beauty. It’s by spending time alone with God.

According to Peter, the way holy women back in the Old Testament days made themselves beautiful was by being submissive to their husbands. Show me a wife who is submissive to her husband and I will show you a beautiful women no matter what she looks like. Peter uses Sarah, the wife of Abraham, as an example. You are like her if you do the same without fear. Ladies, the world today will try to make you fear being submissive to your husbands. Don’t fall for it. A submissive wife is a beautiful wife.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Last week as I watched the Memorial Service for Dr Jerry Falwell on television I was deeply moved by all of the eulogies, video and music. Jerry Vines gave a great message and the Gospel was so unmistakably clear. How fitting it was for the service to end with the Thomas Road Baptist Church singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

The line that stuck with me the most, however, came from Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham. Among many wonderful comments, Franklin spoke of when his oldest son was looking at colleges. Franklin had heard many good things about Liberty University and called a pastor friend in North Carolina who was familiar with Dr Falwell’s school in order to ask his opinion. This pastor friend told Franklin that there was something special about the campus at Liberty. He said, “The students who go there get a ‘fire in their belly’ and greatly impact their world for the cause of Christ.”

As Franklin Graham told that story, my spirit leaped within me. That is exactly what happened to me during my collegiate years at Liberty and under the ministry of Jerry Falwell. I went to Lynchburg after graduating from High School in 1983 and left four years later in 1987 with much more than a diploma in Pastoral Ministries. I left with a “fire in my belly!” I left with a desire to make an impact for Jesus Christ.

During my short four years at Liberty I caught a vision…a vision that came directly from Dr Falwell and swept over most everyone that was on campus. You couldn’t help but catch it. Dr Falwell was a man of faith and vision and his fire was very contagious. As I heard him speak every Sunday morning and Wednesday night at Thomas Road Baptist Church and each and every Wednesday morning in chapel, the passion and vision grew within me. As I watched this special funeral service, that fire in my belly that I received while a student at Liberty was once again being fanned within me.

When I first walked on to campus as a young freshman, I knew I wanted to be a pastor. I was sure that God had called me to such a lifetime ministry. But during those four years I caught a passion to dream big dreams and attempt big things for God. I left with a passion…a fire in my belly…a desire to be used by God to see as many lives as possible changed through the power of Jesus Christ. Now, 20 years later, I am ready to pick up the pace. I am ready to get more aggressive…to take more risks. I am ready to preach harder, to pray longer and to dream bigger. I am ready to prayerfully make a new list of what Dr Falwell called BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).

The fire in my belly continues to burn. I honestly am not sure that I would have caught that fire at any other Christian college. I’m not saying that Liberty is the only good Christian College or University but I am saying that there is more to a good collegiate education at a Christian institution than theological training. Many schools offer that. But if it is a “fire in your belly” that you want…one that will cause you to dream big dreams and attempt great things for God, I humbly recommend Liberty University.