Monday, April 30, 2007


I have been enjoying and have been inspired as I have been reading the story of Moses again in my personal devotions. So what do you think of when you think of Moses? This guy is without question one of the top heroes and leaders of the Bible. This is the guy that went toe-to-toe with Pharaoh multiple times and who ultimately led Israel out of slavery in Egypt. This is the guy who God used to part the Red Sea and who saw the back part of God Himself on the mountain. But as I read in Exodus chapters three and four, I was reminded that this great example of godly leadership had a very rough start.

When God instructed Moses to go back to Egypt, Moses was all about excuses. Not one excuse. Not two excuses. Not three excuses. He threw out four flimsy excuses to God as to why he was not the guy for the job. To each excuse, God would give Moses a supernatural demonstration of His power, but Moses was not easily convinced. In the end, the only thing his excuses did was to make God angry. Finally, Moses concedes.

How many times has that been true in my life as well as yours? God gives us clear instructions through His Word or through the prompting of His Spirit within us and we keep making excuse after excuse until ultimately all we accomplish is to make God angry. And then, after all of that, finally we concede.

So Moses takes his wife and sons and heads back to Egypt, the land where he grew up. He is finally on the right track…or is he? Exodus 4:24 says that they stayed the night at a lodging place along the way and while they were there God sought to put Moses to death. Whoa! What a turn of events. This is sounding more like an episode of the hit television show “24” every minute. Is this Moses we are talking about or Jack Bauer?

Why would God suddenly turn on Moses and want to kill him? As you keep reading you discover that as Moses neared death, his wife grabbed a piece of flint (pictured) and cut off the foreskin of her son (ouch) which resulted in God leaving Moses alone. Like “24”, to understand this you needed to have seen the earlier episodes. Back in Genesis 17, God made a covenant with Abraham and ultimately all of the children of Israel and one of the signs of this covenant was that all Jewish boys would be circumcised when they were eight days old.

Moses, for some reason, had not obeyed God in this matter. How could he ever represent God before Pharaoh and lead Israel out of bondage unless he was fully obeying the Lord? Moses had a rough start to his leadership career. Why? Because when God spoke he was full of excuses and also because there was an issue in his life where he had not fully obeyed God. The same two things will keep us from being great leaders in our world today. When God gives us instructions through His Word or through the promptings of His Spirit, we must throw away the excuses that race through our mind and our heart. If we are going to lead with diligence, as is commanded in Romans 12:8, we must also look closely into every area of our life and identify those parts where we have not yet fully obeyed God. If we don’t, our leadership will be rough from beginning to end.

Friday, April 27, 2007

So God Heard

As I continue reading through Exodus, I am greatly encouraged as I get to the final verses of chapter two. Israel is now in a state of slavery. They are being worked to the bone. The description of their turmoil is nothing short of agonizing. Take a look:

“So they appointed taskmasters…to afflict them with hard labor!” (Exodus 1:11)

“But the more they afflicted them the more they multiplied.” (Exodus 1:12)

“The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously.” (Exodus 1:13)

“And they made their lives bitter with hard labor…which they rigorously imposed on them.” (Exodus 1:14)

Doesn’t it hurt just reading those verses? And as a result of this horrible agony of slavery, the Hebrews, according to Exodus 2:23, “sighed” and “cried out” to God for help. Wouldn’t you? In fact, I bet you have. Think back to a time in your life when you were in agony whether it was physical, emotional, marital, financial, relational, occupational, spiritual, or whatever. And what did you do? You sighed and you cried out to God for help. But does that really accomplish anything? Exodus 2:24-25 says,

“So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel and God took notice of them.”

Now check out the verbs describing the actions of God:





How cool is that? When I am in agony and “sigh” and “call out” to God what will He do:

He will HEAR me!

He will REMEMBER His promises to me!

He will SEE me in my agony!

He will TAKE NOTICE and minister to me!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

And Midwives Shall Lead Them

I started reading again the story of Moses. As I made my way through the first chapter of Exodus, I became very intrigued with the Hebrew Midwives. What incredible examples they are of faith, courage and obedience.

By this time in Old Testament history, the well respected Patriarch, Joseph, has long since died and a new Sheriff is in charge in the land of Egypt. He doesn’t know his history well and becomes very fearful at the staggering rate in which the Hebrew people have multiplied. His fear is that if they ever rose up against the throne and joined with the enemies of Egypt, all of the pyramids would in essence come tumbling down.

As a result he calls the Hebrew midwives whose job it was to help the Hebrew women give birth and instructed them that when the Hebrew babies were born to let the girls live but to kill the boys. Now obviously, this Pharaoh held the power of life and death over these midwives but Exodus 1:17 says this,

“But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the boys live.”

There you have it! That is what is drastically missing in the church today. It is missing from our church leaders all the way down to the pews. These Hebrew midwives, at the risk of their own lives, concluded that their actions were going to stem from a fear of God. To fear God is to take Him seriously. It always results in obedience, faith and courage. Folks, listen, we do not know these midwives names but they are without question heroes of Scripture that we should strive to exemplify day in and day out today.

But as I continued reading I wasn’t just fascinated by the midwives, I was even more fascinated by the God of these midwives. Exodus 1:20 says,

“God was good to the midwives.”

Why was God good to these Hebrew Midwives? Because they feared Him. Because they took Him seriously. Because they obeyed Him courageously. God always rewards obedience. God always rewards faith. God always rewards us when we fear Him and choose to take Him seriously. In fact, verse 21 says,

“It came about because the midwives feared God, that He (God) established households for them.”

What did God do in return? He gave them their own families. He blessed them. Why? Because God always rewards obedience. He rewarded it in the lives of the Hebrew midwives and He will reward it in my life today and your life today. If these precious Hebrew midwives could take God that seriously, we can too! Lead on midwives!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Breakfast with Bill

Think about the heroes in your life. You know, those men and women that inspire you and make you dream bigger dreams and strive harder for excellence. Think about those individuals who have impacted your life for Christ…the ones who you are more like Jesus today because of them. Some of them we know personally. But there are others who have greatly influenced our lives but we have never had the privilege of meeting them face to face, shaking their hand, and telling them “thanks.”

I have three such guys. The first is Joshua of the Old Testament. He is my favorite Bible character. What a godly leader he was. As I read through the story of how he led Israel into the Promised Land, it produces a passion in my life to lead Grace Church into new territory as well. Obviously, I have never met Joshua. He was a little before my time.

The second person was a singer/song-writer named Keith Green. When I was in Junior High and High School, it was the music of Keith Green that inspired me to keep my eyes on Jesus during those turbulent teen years. Keith Green died in a plane crash in Texas. I never got to meet him either.

But this past week I did get to meet the third such guy. His name is Bill Hybels (pictured) and he is the pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. Up until last Friday, I had never met Bill Hybels but his ministry has greatly impacted my walk with the Lord. I have heard Bill speak several times, both live and through video. I have read nearly every book he has written. In fact, outside of the Bible, the book that impacted my life the most was his writing, Honest to God: How to Be an Authentic Christian. I have also been greatly impacted by his other writings such as Too Busy Not Too Pray; Becoming a Contagious Christian; Courageous Leadership; and Just Walk Across the Room. No speaker or author has ever energized me like he does. His passion for lost people; for the local church and for effective leadership is contagious.

Last Friday, however, I was invited by David Ashcraft, pastor of the Lancaster County Bible Church (LCBC), along with about 25 other Christian leaders in our community, to a breakfast with Bill Hybels. For more than an hour we simply had a Q&A time with Bill on leadership issues. He then gave us information on the upcoming Leadership Summit that will be simulcast live to LCBC this August 9-11.

I’m sure that Bill Hybels did not return to Willow Creek talking about meeting me. But for me, it was a thrill to be able to introduce myself to him, shake his hand, and thank him for the impact he has had on my life even though up until that day, he didn’t know me from Adam (and probably still doesn’t). I’ll have to wait until I get to heaven to say “thanks” to Joshua and Keith Green, but I am thankful to the Lord that he gave me the opportunity to thank Bill Hybels here on earth. I left that breakfast recharged and recommitted to developing my leadership skills and courageously leading the ministry that God has given to me in order to see its full redemptive potential.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Reminder of My Spiritual Formation

Not long ago I was invited to attend a Pastor’s Breakfast sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The invitation actually came at the youth chili-cook-off after church one Sunday. Chet Beiler, who is the Chairman of the Board for Lancaster County CEF, attends our church and asked me if I was familiar with the ministry of CEF.

Familiar? I could be their “poster child.” When I was 5 years old living in Akron, Ohio, I went every Tuesday afternoon to a CEF Good News Club that was taught by my Aunt Ruth. Now to be honest, I went for the punch and cookies. I had heard my aunt tell the story of Jesus for what seemed like a million times. In fact, I had heard it enough that I probably could have told it every bit as good, maybe even better, than she could.

But one afternoon at the Good News Club, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had never made that decision to receive Jesus. If I died, I would not go to heaven. It was that very day that I knew I needed to and wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. When my Aunt gave the invitation, I raised my hand. In fact, I distinctly remember another child next to me trying to pull my arm back down. My Aunt Ruth then invited those kids who had raised their hands to meet her on the front porch. I went and it was there and then that I received Jesus as my personal savior.

But that wasn’t the end of CEF’s influence on my life. During the summer before my sophomore year of high school, my pastor challenged me and his son to attend a CEF Christian Youth in Action (CYIA) training where we would learn how to hold 5-day clubs and then spend the summer working as a summer missionary for CEF. He also said that there would be many high school and college students that would be at this training. To be even more honest, I think the prospect of 10 days at a camp with a bunch of high school and college girls may have been the greater selling point, but I went and God used it to change my life.

It was through this training that I learned how to effectively tell a Bible story and how to share my faith with kids and adults. It was by leading these summer 5-day clubs that I developed a passion for ministry. It was also at this training that I met students from what was then Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University) which cemented in my mind that Liberty was the only place I wanted to go for college. In fact, I did the CYIA training 3 years in a row and worked as a CEF summer missionary for each summer that I was in High School. CEF’s influence didn’t stop there. After my kids were born, Laura and I told them the story of CEF’s Wordless Book just about every night when they were little. That CEF tool was a very effective tool in seeing both of my children come to know Jesus as well.

So when Chet asked me if I was familiar with CEF, I smiled as I strolled down the memory lane of my own spiritual formation! How cool it was to hear the stories that God is still using CEF to reach children who might even one day pastor Grace Church.

Monday, April 23, 2007

When Home Seems So Far Away

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story that we refer to as the Prodigal Son. If you are not familiar with this parable, be sure to take time to read it. There is so much in this one story that a month of sermons could be preached on these few verses alone without repeating anything. But today I want to simply focus on the father in the story. He is representative of God. Notice how he responds to the return home of his repentant prodigal son. There are 10 descriptions given:

1. The father was looking for the son before he ever returned. Imagine that. If you are a prodigal Christian who has been doing your own thing rather than God’s thing, God is looking for your return even though you haven’t even started home yet.

2. The father felt compassion for the returning son. I bet this son was worried if his dad would even speak to him. After all, he had greatly and publicly dishonored him. Maybe your wondering if God would accept you if you returned home to Him. I guarantee you, He will feel and show compassion toward you.

3. The father ran to meet the returning son. The word literally means “to sprint” which was an undignified thing for a man in that culture to do publicly. If you have strayed from your spiritual home, take a step toward God. He will run to meet you.

4. The father embraced the returning son. He did this in spite of the stench which must have been all over this guy from living with the pigs. Come home. Even if you have the consequences of rebellion covering your clothes, God will embrace you

5. The father kissed the returning son. The grammar here suggests that he kissed him repeatedly. That’s how glad God will be to see you return home as well.

6. The father put a robe on the retuning son. This was owned by the father for special occasions. The robe of Christ’s righteousness is still yours to wear.

7. The father put a ring on the returning son’s hand. This symbolized authority. You can still have the authority of God which comes through faith in Christ.

8. The father put sandals on the returning son’s feet. Only slaves went barefoot. You do not need to be a slave. In spite of your rebellion you are still a son.

9. The father prepared a feast in honor of the returning son. He killed the fatted calf which was reserved for the grandest of all celebrations. Come home and let all of heaven rejoice and celebrate over your return

10. The father celebrated the return of his son. And So God will celebrate your return as well. Come home. It is where you belong.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Bridges of Lancaster County

To some, evangelism is fully sharing with another person the complete story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not agree. I believe that sharing the complete story of the Gospel is just a part of evangelism. Effective evangelism begins much earlier. When a person moves into the house next door to mine, I do not immediately knock on their door and make my very first words, “Hi, I’m your neighbor. Do you know for sure that you are going to heaven?” That would be highly ineffective. For this question to have more impact, I must first build a bridge to my neighbor through beginning a relationship with them that reflects the love and person of Jesus in my life. Once that is done, I can come back to the question above and have a much firmer foundation to ask it upon. Now I am not saying that God cannot work in such a way that a “cold turkey” approach can not lead to someone coming to faith in Christ. However, that is not usually how it happens.

That is why here at Grace Church we have developed a strategy for meeting people where they are by building relational bridges to them. For example, later this month our Ladies will have a Beach Blast and then toward the end of June we will be having a Rodeo and Western Fair. These are level one events meaning that the target attendees are those who live within driving distance of the church that have no connection with Grace Church or with Jesus Christ. The goal is simply to build a bridge to them.

I believe that Jesus often used this same approach as He would eat with and build bridges to sinners and tax collectors. There are several instances (as in the case with Matthew’s party in Luke 5) where Jesus is at a party with sinners and tax collectors but there is no evidence at all that He did any preaching in the middle of dinner. He just built bridges…something, by the way, that the religious people of His day did not do. As a result, sinners and tax collectors took steps to get closer to Him (see Luke 15:1-3) and eagerly heard His message.

That is why we are doing events like the Beach Blast and the Rodeo. We want to build as many bridges as we can and touch as many people as possible with the goal being that God would use these contacts where His Spirit is working so that many people can take a step toward a relationship with Christ. Imagine the powerful impact that can result through these two events as hundreds, perhaps thousands of people from our community come and rub shoulders with those of us from Grace Church who are the “salt and light” of the world. Think of the bridges that will be built and the relationships that will begin that will become great foundations for people to ultimately hear the Good News of the Gospel.

It is understandable that some may question if it is a missed opportunity to have so many unbelievers with us without preaching or sharing the Gospel with them. Keep in mind that we do have events for this purpose as was the case with Easter and as will be the case with Bible School in June. The Beach Blast and Rodeo, however, are designed to be evangelistic first steps of building relationships. I believe God will use these events in a powerful way. I also believe that it is an approach that in no way contradicts Scripture. Like Jesus, we are simply starting evangelism by building bridges right here in Lancaster County.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Right Drink

Have you ever been to a real fancy and elite restaurant? In many of them, the entrees on the menu also include a section with recommended wines that will best compliment that entrée selection. To me, it means nothing. I have no knowledge at all regarding types of wines, vintages of wines, colors of wines or anything else related to wine. I would be scared to death to order a glass of wine with my meal at a fine restaurant. Not because I’m afraid I would get struck down by God for allowing alcohol to touch my lips or create a stir if the wrong person observed me with an alcoholic beverage. I would be completely freaked out because I know nothing about wine.

If I ever did order the wine I would pick whatever wine was listed on the wine list that I felt really confident that I could pronounce correctly. That is how I would make my drink selection. But my greatest fear would be that the waiter’s mouth would then drop open and that he would either break out in laughter or be completely appalled because the wine I selected was not the proper wine to order and drink with that entrée selection and I would get thrown out of the restaurant. As a result, I don’t order wine at fine restaurants. It’s just safer that way!

Now I have the same problem when I go to Burger King! No, they are not serving wine but here is what they are doing. I went to lunch recently with Andy Brightbill, our Pastor of Connections here at Grace Church. We went to Burger King so we could have it our way. We walked into Burger King and I ordered my Whopper Value Meal (with cheese…no onions…large size). I couldn’t remember the last time I had a Burger King Whopper. I was pretty excited.

I took my cup and went over to the beverage machine to get a Diet Coke. To my dismay, on the beverage machine was a list of all the sandwiches that you could order at Burger King and…are you ready for this…which soda goes best with which sandwich. I’m not kidding! I’m totally serious. Here are the sandwiches that go best with Coke. Here are the sandwiches that go best with Diet Coke. Here are the sandwiches that go best with Root Beer. And here are the sandwiches which go best with Dr. Pepper. Now here is where it got really bad. I wanted a Diet Coke. I always have a Diet Coke (or Diet Pepsi which is far better than Diet Coke) when I am at a fast food restaurant. However, right there on the beverage machine I learned to my great shock and horror that Diet Coke doesn’t go best with a Whopper…regular Coke does. I never knew that!!

But I didn’t want a regular Coke. I wanted a Diet Coke. Now to make this even more of a fragile situation, it was the lunch rush. In fact, a bus load of tourists had just entered the restaurant. My pulse quickened and the palm of my hands got real sweaty. What if someone sees me get the wrong drink for my sandwich? What if everyone broke out in laughter because I was drinking Diet Coke with my Whopper? I could just picture in my mind parents telling their young kids not to stare at the freak drinking Diet Coke with his Whopper. That’s it…not only am I never going to order a glass of wine at a fine restaurant, I am never ever going to order any soda ever again at a fast-food restaurant! It's just safer that way!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Mission Dartboard

It seems that the traditional role of the mission committee of most local churches has been to decide year to year what missionaries were being added to the church budget for financial support. These additions usually were chosen because someone on the mission committee was familiar with them. If there was no direct connection than it was almost as if all of the potential support seekers were put on a dartboard and then a dart was blindly thrown that direction to seek the will of God.

Obviously I am being facetious but here at Grace we have established a more fresh approach to what the job of the missions committee is and what the purpose of missions is in the church. Mike McCracken is a lay leader in our church who currently leads our mission team. We have had some wonderful meetings together in which we have crystallized the role of this team. They don’t exist to randomly pick missionaries for our church to support. Rather, this team exists to help raise the heart beat of missions within our church. We don’t just want to be a church that gives a hundred dollars a month to as many missionaries as we can. We want to be a church that partners with our missionaries so that when that part of the world is mentioned on the news, our ears perk up.

As a result, we have made our first priority supporting missionaries who come out of our church and to support them at larger levels. We don’t want people from Grace having to scrounge through dozens of churches to get just enough support to stay on the field. We want to be sure that missionaries that come from Grace have their needs met. We would rather support fewer missionaries at larger levels than to support multiple missionaries at minimal levels. The other bonus in this is that when these missionaries come home to the states for their visits and furloughs, we get them for the majority of the time they are stateside rather than them having to travel to several dozen churches to give reports.

Does this mean that we don’t support missionaries that are not from Grace? That is not what this means. But you must understand that we get multiple calls each week from missionary candidates or current missionaries who need to raise more support. How do we decide what missionaries to take on and what missionaries to reject?

Remember, when it comes to supporting missionaries outside of Grace, not only is it not our first priority, but we don’t really want these partnerships to begin simply by sending financial support. Instead we want our mission team to take on the role of seeing where God is already working in the hearts of our church people when it comes to the world. We want to develop a greater interest and heart for that part of the world and the needs that are there. We want to try to find ways to get our people to experience that part of the world through education and even a short term mission’s trip. Then, as we see that God has raised the heartbeat of our church for that part of the world or for that missionary, we make the financial commitment to that ministry. In the near future our mission team will be doing just that as we look as a church at the possibility of partnering with a ministry on a continent that we are currently not having any active partnership with as a church.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I Know Lucifer

It’s true! I know Lucifer…personally. In fact, he attends our church. His wife is even on staff at our school. I bet you didn’t even know that Lucifer had a wife, did you? I’m talking about a very talented man named David Felty. His wife, Jen, is our Music Teacher here at Lititz Christian School. Why do I equate David Felty with Lucifer? Isn’t that kind of mean, rude and unreasonable? Not really. You see, David is one of the actors and singers at the Sight and Sound Theater in Strasburg and in their current production about creation, called In The Beginning, David plays the role of Lucifer! And I must admit, he plays it very well. Maybe we should pray more for his wife!

Recently a wonderful couple from our church took my wife and me to see this amazing production. From start to finish it was superb. You really need to be sure to get tickets. It is worth the trip and the money. The show starts with a wonderful depiction of the six days of creation ending with God making man in His own image and breathing into Adam the breath of life. Within moments after Adam comes on the scene the entire theater is transformed into the Garden of Eden complete with all the animals including dinosaurs. How cool it was to watch Jesus and Adam spending time together in perfect fellowship throughout the beauty of the garden and among all of His magnificent creation.

As if that was not perfect in and of itself, the Lord then completes Adam’s created need for companionship by taking a rib from his side and making Eve which culminates in the wedding of all weddings as Adam and Eve are joined together as husband and wife in the very first marriage. Though we live in a world today where more than half of all marriages end in divorce, this production allowed you to be reminded of what God’s original purpose for the wonderful gift of marriage was to be.

At this point in the show, David…I mean Lucifer…shows his true colors. This highest of God’s created angels becomes filled with envy and pride and convinces thousands of angels in heaven to side with him in a revolt against God. As Lucifer rises to the top of the theater with wings stretched wider than you can imagine, God strips him of his position and casts him and all of the rebelling angels out of heaven. Now the true enemy of God seeks to rob Him of His most prized possession…His creation of Adam and Eve.

The show goes on to depict the fall of all mankind through Adam and Eve; the murder of Abel by his older brother, Cain; all the way through the death of humanity’s first man…Adam. But the show ends in spectacular fashion as it looks into the future when Adam and Eve, due to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, are restored to their original state of perfect fellowship with God as all of their descendants of all times who have placed their faith in Christ are with them at a wedding event even greater than what took place between Adam and Eve in the original Garden of Eden. This will be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Yep, I know Lucifer. But don’t worry. I know the angelic messenger of God named Gabriel as well. He too attends our church. Our own Kerry Ashton played that role.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Throughout the book of Luke, the Gospel writer is constantly pointing out the fact that Jesus spent time with the sinners of His day. It also makes it clear that the more He hung out with sinners, the more the religious leaders criticized Him for it. In Luke 15, Jesus gets hit with the same controversy. As the Pharisees again hurl their legalistic assaults at Jesus, He uses two stories to show why He associates with the sinners of the community.

He first tells a story that every man in the crowd can understand. It is about a shepherd who loses a sheep. If Jesus were telling the story in our culture today He may talk of a man who loses his Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card. We could relate to that. Jesus says that the man goes back out into the wilderness after dark to find his lost sheep. After finding the lost sheep, he rejoices and calls all of his shepherd friends to rejoice with him. He then tells the story of a woman who loses a coin. Today Jesus may talk about the wife who loses her wedding ring. It would be very similar. This women spares no effort or expense in searching her house until she finds the lost coin and then she calls all of her friends so that they can rejoice with her.

From these two stories Jesus reveals three reasons why He hangs out with sinners. First, because they are lost and very valuable to Him. The sheep was lost and very valuable to the shepherd. The coin was lost and very valuable to the woman. People are lost and very valuable to God. That is why He came to seek and to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10).

Second, Jesus associates with lost people because He is willing to go through infinite trouble to find lost people. The shepherd was willing to go out into the dark, dangerous wilderness to find the lost sheep. The woman was willing to light a lamp (which cost money to burn the oil) and sweep her house until she found the lost coin. Jesus was willing to go through extreme trouble, even the trouble, pain and agony of the cross, to find lost people.

Finally, Jesus spent time with sinners because nothing brings more joy to the portals of heaven then when a lost person becomes found. The shepherd rejoiced with his friends when the sheep was found. The women rejoiced with her friends when the coin was found. In the same way, every time someone repents and comes to Christ, heaven rejoices. The announcement is made by the Triune God and it all breaks lose. Celestial balloons and confetti begin to fall. Trumpets are sounded. Angelic beings spread their wings. Saints who have gone before us shout and celebrate with such volume that it sounds like great peals of thunder. The dancing begins. The food flows. The joy abounds. The party is on!

Think about it. This happens every time a lost person gets found. Thousands of lost people get found every day by placing their faith in Christ. What does that tell you about heaven? Folks, it is one non-stop party. If you think heaven is an eternal nap on a cloud while listening to non-stop harp playing, you’re wrong. Here’s my question. If this is how heaven responds when lost people get saved, who cancelled the party on earth in the church? Nothing should bring more joy to Grace Church than lost people being found! Let the party begin!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Meet Rev. Tim Auld

Rev. Tim Auld is currently a Faculty Member and Associate Director of Degree Program at Lancaster Bible College. Tim has a pastor’s heart whose main passion is shepherding and discipleship. Tim is a very relational person. His greatest love is meeting with people individually and in small groups, literally meeting them where they are and helping to see them move to where God wants them to be. Tim is gifted for this type of ministry. Tim is a quiet leader who is high in theology; in mercy and in teaching. He is also very organized. He is one who is a good listener, who can empathize well with others, and who can provide solid Biblical guidance.

Tim holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the Philadelphia Biblical University. While there he was the recipient of the Pastoral Studies Award which is the Senior Class honor given to the graduate who is best recognized for his outstanding ability and potential in pastoral ministry. Tim also holds a Master of Theological Studies degree from Heritage Theological Seminar in Cambridge, Ontario. During his studies, Tim took classes such as General Psychology (Bible College); Counseling Ministry (Bible College); Marriage and Family Counseling (Bible College); Pre-Marital Counseling in Pastoral Ministry (Seminary); Conflict and Power in the Church (Seminary); Moral Theology and Biblical Ethics (Seminary); Evangelism and Discipleship (Seminary); Small Group Ministry and Dynamics (Seminary); and much more.

Tim is experienced as a pastor having 10 years of pastoral experience including being a Senior Pastor at two different churches in Canada. Tim is a licensed and ordained pastor within the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Canada. In Tim’s experience as a pastor he has dealt with a wide variety of pastoral counseling issues including but not limited to marriage and family issues, spiritual growth issues, alcoholism issues, suicidal issues, depression issues, abuse issues and more. In the year he has been attending Grace Church he and his wife have taken the Pastor’s Class and have shown a complete adherence to our statement of faith and to the strategy and philosophy of ministry that we are pursuing as a church. They have also both been baptized and are joining the church.

As I look to hire staff, there are four things that I look at primarily. The first is character. Does the person have integrity of character? The second area is competence. Is the person competent to do the job that they are being hired to accomplish? Third, is there a chemistry that seems to exist that would make this person one who would interact well with myself and with our staff team as a whole? The fourth and final aspect is that of confidence. I have to have complete confidence in the person and their abilities. I am convinced that Tim is a winner in all four of these important areas.

Tim will bring a good balance to our team. Frankly, his quiet style of leadership and his ability to show mercy is an exact opposite of my temperament (no need for you to laugh or say ‘Amen’ here) and will give us a well-rounded staff. The fact that he is also strong in theology and in his ability to effectively teach will offer us great dividends as well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pastor of Spiritual Formation

I shared in recent blog entries that the Elder Board here at Grace Church has approved the hiring of a new pastoral position here at Grace Church. This position will be called our Pastor of Spiritual Formation. Before I introduce you to this pastoral candidate let me refresh your memory on what this pastoral position entails.

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 will 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. However, 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 and 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 also 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 am excited to introduce you to Rev Tim Auld who the Elder Board has unanimously approved as the pastoral candidate for this new position that we will be presenting for congregational approval with the goal of Pastor Tim beginning his ministry with us here at Grace Church July 1, 2007. If the name sounds familiar it should. Tim is husband to our Children’s Director, Susan Auld. In tomorrow’s blog I will tell you more about Tim.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Religious Critics

As was the usual case, Jesus spending time with Zaccheus in Luke 19 resulted in his critics judging Him. They felt He was in error by associating with a man known to be a sinner. They made the same criticism when Jesus visited with another tax collector named Levi, who later became Matthew (Luke 5:29-30). These critics were not from the secular realm but rather the religious world. That much really hasn’t changed. When Christians and churches start building bridges to sinners it often results in criticism from those who are religious. That didn’t bother nor distract Jesus. In Luke 19:10 he makes it very clear that His purpose in coming to earth was not to fit inside the spiritual box of those who were religious but rather to seek and to save those who were lost. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising when critics, even the religious ones, make comments like these:

You’re just about numbers! This comment starts with the presupposition that numbers are bad. They’re not. You can find them all throughout the Bible. God even named one of the books of the Bible, “Numbers.” Yes…I am about numbers. Why? Because numbers are important. Because each number represents a person created by God that Christ died for but who is headed toward an eternity in hell. I understand that numbers aren’t everything and that you can’t measure ministry success solely by the statistical report. But the bottom line is that numbers represent people and people matter to God so they need to matter to us. We count people for one reason…because people count!

All you care about is evangelism! To this comment all I can say is that I am guilty as charged. I am more convinced than ever before that evangelism must be the engine that runs the church. No, evangelism is not the end of the process, but listen folks, the rest of the process can’t take place until evangelism is happening and it begins by building bridges to lost people in the community where God has placed us.

Your church is too big! At what point do we say to our community, “So sorry, we are as big as we want to get! We have no more room for people who need Jesus. We have no more love for people who are on their way to hell. We have reached our quota. We’ll put you on a waiting list and as soon as one of our church members expires or leaves, we will give you a call!” I think we have forgotten something. It’s not our church!! It’s Christ’s church and He commanded us to go into all the word and preach the Gospel to all creation. Can your church really become too big?

Your church lacks depth! The thought today is that if a church is growing they must be watering down the message. How untrue! Honestly, I believe we have depth here at Grace. But if you don’t, there is a simple solution. Get off the computer and open your Bible and dig in!! The only person holding you back from digging deeper is you!

Like Jesus we need to build bridges to lost people. As I have said many times before, we must follow our calling, not our critics. We will not one day stand before our critics and give an account but we will one day stand before our God and give an account. Let’s continue to meet people where they are and move them to where God wants them to be!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

If You're Lost...Climb a Tree (part 2)

We saw in yesterday’s blog that Luke 19:1-10 introduces us to a man named Zaccheus who was a tax collector and who was short. But there is one other thing about Zaccheus that really sticks out clearly. He wanted to see Jesus. He had obviously heard much about Jesus and was curious about what this guy was all about. Could Jesus possibly change Zaccheus’ life? Zaccheus had to get a closer look.

As Jesus entered the city of Jericho, Zaccheus ran into a major roadblock. Because of his small stature he was unable to get a look at Jesus over top of the towering crowds. As a result, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to get a look. This was not like Sycamore trees seen in North America today. Sycamore trees in that climate would grow 30-40 feet high and had wide lateral branches making it easy for climbing. What is important to note is that both the action of running and that of climbing a tree would have been highly undignified for a man of his means. Men didn’t run in that day in public because they wore long outer robes and to do so they had to hike up the robe, revealing their legs. This was highly undignified. In fact, the only thing more undignified for a man to do in that day may have been to climb a tree. But that is exactly what Zaccheus did. He could care less what other people thought. He had to get a better look at Jesus so he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree.

This led to quite the divine appointment. Jesus stops at that very tree to talk with Zaccheus and says tat He “must” stay at his house. The word “must” conveys a strong sense of urgency. This, by the way, is the only time Jesus invites Himself to someone’s house. Zaccheus responds by welcoming Jesus gladly. The word literally means “rejoicing.” Luke uses this word nine times to denote an attitude of joy accompanying faith and salvation. It is obvious that Zaccheus is seeing exactly who Jesus is.

This divine appointment led to a divine alteration. Zaccheus’ encounter with Jesus resulted in a change in his life as he realizes his sinfulness and makes two commitments. He commits to give half of his possessions to the poor and he commits to make restitution at four times what he had taken. This was far more than even what the Old Testament Law demanded for restitution (Leviticus 5:16; Numbers 5:7). Jesus testifies to the genuineness of this change of heart by saying that salvation had come to Zaccheus’ home. This is not meaning that his acts of restitution saved him but that these actions were outward evidences of internal faith. Jesus now calls Zaccheus a true son of Abraham…he is a son of Abraham by faith. Paul used this term in Galatians 3:29.

Last Sunday on Easter I challenged the hundreds of visitors to Grace Church to do what Zaccheus did. I challenged them to climb a tree and get a better look at Jesus. The tree I pointed out to them was that of giving God one more Sunday. Make the tree you climb giving God two Sundays in a row. Ask God to use that in your life to help you see Jesus more clearly. Don’t worry about what people may think of you. Climb a tree. Come back to Grace next Sunday as well.

Monday, April 09, 2007

If You're Lost...Climb a Tree (Part 1)

When is the last time you got lost? For me, it is a regular occurrence. My family is use to it. It’s a joke now when we travel. At least everyone laughs at it but me. It still ticks me off when I get lost. But if we are traveling somewhere we have never been before you can pretty much bank on it. In fact, one time I got lost driving from the church where I was on staff in Ohio to my house. This didn’t happen my first day on the job. This was after making that same drive every day for 4 years.

We all know what it is like to be lost, don’t we? In fact, it has become a very popular theme on television. As a kid, two of my favorite shows centered around people being lost. One was centered in outer space and the other on a deserted island. The first one included a boy named Will, a doctor named Smith and a hyper-active robot. The second one included a first mate, a skipper, a millionaire (and his wife), a professor, and a movie star. Lost in Space and Gilligan’s Island…They just don’t make TV shows like that anymore. Today there is another drama that has the same lost theme. And it is appropriately called, LOST.

But being lost is also a major theme in Scripture and no story seems to bring it to our attention better than the one in Luke 19:1-10. Zaccheus lived in the city of Jericho which would have been one of the wealthiest cities in Palestine. By occupation he was a tax collector. In fact, he was the chief tax collector. He was on the top of the Amway tax collector pyramid scheme. Zaccheus would have contracted with Rome to pay a set amount for the taxes of Jericho. He could then collect as much as he wanted under the authority of Rome (Luke 3:12-13) resulting in his being very wealthy. This came about because he would way overcharge the people so that he could make his wealth on the backs of his Jewish countrymen. As a result, tax collectors like Zaccheus were hated by their fellow Jews. They were put in the same category as sinners (Matthew 9:10; 11:9; Luke 7:34); Pagans (Matthew 18:17); Prostitutes (Matthew 21:31, 32); as well as robbers, evil doers and adulterers (Luke 18:11).

The other things we learn about Zaccheus is that he had a physical limitation. He was short. By ancient Mediterranean standards he was probably under 5 feet tall. Now I am not knocking short people. After all, I am not the epitome of height myself. Actually, all of us have some kind of physical limitation, don’t we? Think about it.

· Are you 100% satisfied with your hair? Most people aren’t. That’s why so many people color it or even go out and by a new head of hair to wear.

· Are you 100% happy with your height or if it were up to you would you be a few inches taller or even shorter? What about the size or look of your feet?

· And what about your weight? Are you satisfied with what your scale communicates every time you step on it? Zaccheus had a physical limitation. We all do in some way. But as we will see tomorrow, Zaccheus was also lost and searching for a rescue.

Friday, April 06, 2007

BEACH BLAST...Friday Night on the Boardwalk

Since the beginning of Girlfriends at Grace last August we have talked about offering themed events for women only. These are LEVEL 1, community-friendly events that are appealing to women of all ages. Our very first event is coming in April.

On Friday, April 27 from 7-10 p.m., Girlfriends at Grace will be hosting “BEACH BLAST …Friday Night on the Boardwalk” at the church. This is an event for women only and is open to all women in the community. When you think of the boardwalk you can’t help but think of food. We will have boardwalk food and beverages! You might also think of volleyball, a climbing wall, the arcade and who doesn’t think of the surf? Yes, we have added a “surf simulator” to the mix. In addition to those activities we will also have three different craft options, paraffin spa for your hands, nail technicians on site and photo opportunities for you and your friends. There will also be prize drawings for those who register. Our grand-prize drawing is a $200 resort gift certificate. Other prizes might include beach bags stuffed with beach goodies, beach towels, good books to take along to the beach, and the list goes on.

Up until this point, we have never offered this kind of an event for the women at Grace Church or for those in the community of Lititz. Remember that a Level One event has the Community in mind. The goal of a Level One event is for people who don’t have a connection with Grace Church to come and enjoy themselves in a non-threatening atmosphere. It’s the first step of meeting them where they are and moving them to where God wants them to be. How can you get involved in this awesome opportunity?

First, you can pray for this event starting today! Don’t just mark your calendars for the evening of April 27; mark them for the daytime as well. Starting at 9:00 a.m. and continuing throughout the day, we will have a room set aside for women of our church who would be willing to come and pray for those who might be attending, as well as those who are working this event. We will also have the Prayer Room open for any of our guests who might want to pray with someone during the event.

Second, you can volunteer to work at this event. This is an extensive need! There is a planning team in place with each member being a manager for one of the areas. However, this group of gals could not possibly manage this large of an event on their own. We need your help! Each activity, food station, TLC station, and game will need gals who would be willing to work for a 45 minute session on the night of the event. Set up will begin Thursday, April 26 at 6:00 p.m. continuing all day on Friday April 27.

Third, you can invite friends, acquaintances, coworkers, neighbors and family to this event! A personal invite is always the most effective. In the near future we will be offering personal invite cards for you to hand out to those you are inviting. Registration for “Beach Blast” will begin April 1. Participants may call the church office at 626.2155, register at the church office window, or go online at The event is free!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Simply Strategic

Here at Grace Church we don’t want to do ministries, programs and activities just to do them. We want to be strategic. When it comes to reaching lost people it is our goal to have activities and programs that will meet people where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be. It is our strategy to move them through several levels.

Level 1 – The Community. This involves those who live within driving distance of our church but have never had any connection with Grace Church.

Level 2 – The Crowd. This includes those who have had a positive contact with our church but have no ongoing connection with us.

Level 3 – The Curious. This includes those who have a more ongoing contact with our church and who are actively seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Level 4 – The Convinced. This includes those who have made the decision of faith to trust the death and resurrection of Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sins.

We want to meet people where they are and move them to where God wants them to be. To accomplish this we put on certain events and activities that targets the community with the only goal being to move them into the crowd. If we can use these activities to break down the preconceived barriers that they might have about church and provide them with a positive first experience with our ministry, then we have a much greater opportunity to see them become part of the curious. It is then as this group continues to attend and seek God that we see people becoming convinced and making decisions for Christ.

That is why we have events like our recent Easter Egg Hunt. There was no innately spiritual aspect of this event. We didn’t pray, preach or sing. It was just what we advertised it to be…an Easter Egg Hunt. There was no “bait and switch” at all. Over 1,000 kids came along with their parents and grandparents for a total of over 3,000 people. They participated in all kinds of cool activities and had some fun scouring our soccer field for Easter Eggs and candy. Four of these kids even went home with brand new bikes.

Some would say, “But why would you spend all of that money to get people here and not even present to them the Gospel?” The reason is because that was not the purpose of the event. The Easter Egg Hunt, like the Ladies Beach Blast coming in April and our Rodeo coming in June, was a level one event. The purpose was to move hundreds of people from the community to the crowd by giving them their first connection with our church. We then gave each of them a special invitation to spend Easter here with us at Grace. This is a level two event. We will use Easter to share the Gospel with these folks and encourage those who are curious to come back again the following Sunday which will be a level three event in which not only will the Gospel be given but people will be given the opportunity to make a commitment to Christ. It is simply strategic and very effective!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


If you are new to Grace Church, you may not be familiar with a very special organization that we as a church partner with on a regular basis. I am speaking of a ministry located in Winona Lake, Indiana called CE National. In my 20 years of pastoral ministry I have seen the benefit of CE National as a youth pastor, a Senior Pastor and as a parent. I have had the thrill of being on their Board of Directors; teaching in their Youth Institute; being on many of their different cabinets and committees as well as speaking at many different CE National events. Here are just a few things about CE National that make me a fan:

They have dynamic, passionate leaders. The entire CE National Staff is outstanding but it is men like Ed Lewis (Executive Director) and TK (Timothy Kurtanek, pictured with family) that give CE National their heart and passion. I love hanging out with these guys. Recently I was out in Indiana speaking for CE National. As much as I love doing that, my favorite part of the whirlwind trip was having lunch with Ed (even though he conveniently forgot his wallet) and then spending dinner with TK. These two guys simply energize me!

They are committed to the local church. I am convinced that it is to the local church that the Bible has given the task of world evangelization. I love a ministry that comes along side the local church and whose purest motives are to be a catalyst for the local church to do exactly what God has called her to do. That is what CE National does. I have found them to be one of the best friends the local church can have.

They believe in truth and giving ministry training and experience. In our world today where so much of the emphasis, even in Christian circles, is on critical thinking and questioning truth, I love the stand that CE National takes to teach young people the truth of what God’s Word says so that they develop convictions that are based on Scripture. I love the fact that they don’t just talk about ministry but they provide practical training coupled with opportunities that involve being active in real life ministry opportunities.

They are willing to take risks. CE National is never comfortable with where they are at and what they have accomplished. They are always looking for ways to make a deeper impact. Just recently they changed the name of their Youth Conference from Brethren National Youth Conference (BNYC) to Momentum. BNYC has been one of the most impacting youth conferences anywhere. Why not broaden the scope so that even more young people and youth groups can benefit from its dynamic program?

If you are new to Grace Church and are not real familiar with CE National, I would encourage you to spend some time on their web site ( This summer we will partner with CE National again as we host all of their Operation Barnabas teams for their orientation and work along side of them to touch more people in one day than we ever have before through our upcoming rodeo and western fair on June 24. We will then be sending what we hope will be our biggest group ever to their Momentum Youth Conference in Mississippi at the end of July. Thanks CE National for your partnership!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Recently I had the opportunity and privilege to speak at the National Honor Society Induction Ceremony for Lititz Christian School, a ministry of Grace Church. It was a special thrill due to the fact that my daughter, Joy, was one of the one’s being inducted.

I shared from Philippians 3 where Paul tells us that his passion in life is to “know Christ!” In fact, when Paul compares all other passions (i.e. power, prestige, wealth, fame, etc.) with knowing Christ, he states that he considers everything else as “loss.” This was a word meaning to be “worthless.” Paul used this word elsewhere to describe his shipwreck in which the cargo was thrown overboard in attempt for survival. As the ship was going down, suddenly all of those valuable possessions became worthless in comparison to saving their very lives. So is every other passion when compared side by side with the passion of knowing Christ.

Paul actually goes a step further. He says that in comparison to knowing Christ, he considers everything else “rubbish.” This word described the useless waste that remains after a flood. In some cases, this word was used to describe “dung.” In today’s world we elevate so many passions to a place ahead of our passion for Christ. Paul states that when compared to our passion to know Christ, all other passions seem like worthless dung.

Paul expounds on his passion to know Christ in three ways. In each case he uses a word translated “know” that speaks of more than simple intellectual knowledge. This word speaks of knowing by experience. He states first that his passion is to “know Christ.” His passion was to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything else in life is “loss” and “rubbish” in comparison. An intimate relationship with Christ only occurs as we spend time daily in the Bible and in prayer.

Second, Paul states that his passion is to “know the power of His resurrection.” In Acts 1:8, we are told that when the Holy Spirit came we would receive “power” to be witnesses for Jesus. This word “power” in the Greek language is where we get our English word “dynamite.” God did not give us the Holy Spirit for us to be “firecracker” Christians. He gave us His Spirit so that we would be “dynamite” Christians…so that we would do big things for God. D.L. Moody once said, “If God be your partner, make your plans large!” I like that! By the way, this power was specifically so that we would be “witnesses” of Christ. The root word in the original language for “witnesses” is the same root word for “martyr.” God gave us His Spirit so that we would be such dynamic witnesses for Christ that we would even be willing to lay down our lives in so doing.

Paul also stated that his passion was to “know the fellowship of His suffering.” He actually desired to know His pain. He desired to be so committed to the Lord that He was willing to suffer for and with Him. This is complete passion.

So tell me, what is you passion?

Monday, April 02, 2007


April is here and it is time for two of my favorite words, “Play Ball.” I love baseball. To this day I am like a little kid on Christmas morning when I get to go to a major league baseball game. I want to get to the game when the gates open and stay there until the final pitch has been thrown. So far I have attended ballgames at 20 different major league stadiums. This summer, while visiting my parents in Florida, we are going to a Yankees vs. Devil Rays game at Tropicana Field. That will give me 21. Counting that, here are the stadiums I have been to:

Municipal Stadium (Cleveland Indians)

Jacob’s Field (Cleveland Indians)

Riverfront Stadium (Cincinnati Reds)

Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City Royals)

Skydome (Toronto Blue Jays)

Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

Turner Field (Atlanta Braves)

Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Pac Bell Stadium (San Fran Cisco Giants)

Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees)

New Comiskey Park (Chicago White Sox)

Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs)

Metrodome (Minnesota Twins)

Tiger Stadium (Detroit Tigers)

Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers)

Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

Veterans Stadium (Philadelphia Phillies)

Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies)

Kingdome (Seattle Mariners)

Coors Field (Colorado Rockies)

Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Devil Rays)