Monday, March 31, 2008

The Best Day of the Year

What would you consider to be the best day of the year? For some it is Christmas. For others it is a personal milestone like a birthday or an anniversary. For me, it’s today...March 31, 2008! Why? Because today is the first day of the Major League Baseball regular season.

I know, I know…the season officially started last Tuesday when the Boston Red Sox played the Oakland Athletics inside the Tokyo Dome in Japan. I actually got up early so I could watch the first few innings before having to head into the office. It was the earliest start to the season in Major League history. Pretty strange if you ask me. After playing two games that counted, both teams had to travel back to the states for several more spring training games before they go back to playing games that matter. Can you say "ridiculous"?

I also realize that there was another game on ESPN Sunday night that is part of the 2008 schedule. But for me, the first day of baseball is when my beloved Cleveland Indians play their first game of the new season and that day is today (Monday) as the Tribe battles the Chicago White Sox. My Indians look primed to once again compete against the powerful Detroit Tigers for the American League Central crown and hopefully to be able to avenge last year’s game seven loss in the American League Championship Series to the Red Sox.

But I am more excited about this season than ever. Here’s why. For my birthday I was given a subscription to Major League Baseball's Extra Innings. What’s that? That is 14 live major league baseball games on television every single evening all season long. That’s right folks. Every evening I can choose to watch between up to 14 different Major League Baseball games so I can follow the season pitch by pitch and be able to see more Indians games in one season since my childhood days growing up in Northeast Ohio.

But that’s not it. I used the money my parents sent me to subscribe to Gameday Audio on the internet. For just $14.95 for the entire season, I can listen to every major league game live over the internet. For each game I can choose either the home or away radio announcers. So each afternoon as I work in my office, as long as there is a Major League game being played somewhere, I can listen in as I work. So this season I can listen to baseball most afternoons over the computer and then watch multiple games each evening at home. And it all begins today!

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m somewhat fanatical about baseball. I’m like a little kid on Christmas Eve when I know I’m going to a major league game the next day. In fact, come April 25, my family and I have been graciously given 4 tickets to Jacob’s Field in Cleveland to watch my Indians take on the New York Yankees while sitting in the club seats. I’ve already set our assistant over human resources to look at putting together a staff night at Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phillies and I have had discussions with a good friend of mine from back in Ohio to meet up in Pittsburgh to catch a Pirate’s game.

It’s going to be a great season which makes today the best day of the year!

Friday, March 28, 2008

In the Works

If there is one environment we have purposefully created here at Grace it is that of change. One of the greatest ways to send a church into neutral is to always do everything the same way. Here at Grace, change has become the norm, not the exception. Though change is sometimes tough and not everyone takes to it easily, it is still a very good thing that we should welcome. So what’s in the works here at Grace Church that could produce more change in the not so distant future? Here are just a few things:

Budget! It’s the time of year that we work through our school, daycare and church budgets for the 2008/2009 fiscal year. Our fiscal year begins July 1st so come this June we will bring our proposed budget to the congregation for approval. We are currently looking at a proposed budget increase of 10% over actual giving from this year’s income.

Small Groups! Our Elder Board here at Grace Church joins me in seeing the need for us to make it a priority to become a church of small groups so that the hundreds of people that God is bringing us are able to connect with a small group of people in order to help them grow in their faith. In the very near future we will begin training small group leaders so that this fall we can launch our first wave of small groups.

Pastor of Connections! We are currently searching to hire a Pastor of Connections here at Grace Church whose main responsibility will be to oversee our small group ministry. The Search Committee has just about completed their exhaustive looking at potential candidates and will soon be giving these names over to our Interview Committee who will be interviewing and checking references on all of these individuals and narrowing down the best candidate(s).

Patriotic Celebration! Our next major event that is on tap is our Patriotic Celebration that is scheduled for Sunday, July 6. Planning for this event will begin very soon.

Third Service! As you are well aware, both of our 9:00 and 10:45 Sunday morning services are becoming more and more full each and every Sunday. We are pushing right at the 80% capacity mark in both of these services which is pushing us closer to the need to start a regular third weekend worship service. Will this be a third identical service or one that is a bit different? Will this service take place on a Saturday night or a third Sunday morning service? Will this service include our full nursery and children’s ministry? Now that Easter is over, we will be starting strategic planning in the near future to answer these questions so that we are ready to launch when the time is right.

Facility Expansion! Our Concept Development team has done a wonderful job of talking through how we can best use the 12.5 acres of land we own across the street which will then allow us to move into expanding our current facility. In the coming months a full briefing of this will be given to our Elder Board. We are also putting plans together for a renovation of our current auditorium in order to install new flooring and more.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Love This Place!

Last Tuesday morning, our church staff went out to Shady Maple for a celebration breakfast as a team to enjoy together reveling in how God used our ministry to touch thousands of lives over the past two weeks of Easter ministry. After taking the time to completely fill up on some great food, we took the time to each share some of the highlights from our recent ministry endeavors. What a special time it was.

As we wrapped things up I shared one of the highlights for me. It took place at about 2am Saturday morning once the 'At The Hop’ women’s event was completely cleaned up and the coming morning’s Egg Hunt was just about ready. I was walking through the auditorium which had just gone through a major transformation from a 50’s diner to a children’s carnival. I ran into our Director of Student Ministries, Doug Kegarise (pictured), who looked at me and with a huge smile on his face simply said, “I love this place!”

Those words have stuck with me ever since. In fact, as I shared this story with our staff, my emotions got the best of me (I hate it when that happens!). Doug is exactly right. I could not have said it any better myself…“I love this place!” What an amazing church Grace is. I reminded our staff of what they all already knew, that we are so privileged to be able to serve day in and day out here at Grace Church. I know I’m biased but I have a hard time even imagining that there might be a church more wonderful than Grace.

So what makes Grace such an incredible place? I could list a million answers to that one question but here are just a few things:

1. The staff! A leader is only as strong as the team that he leads. Folks, listen, we have one incredible team. For me, the best part of the many events of the last two weeks was being able to set the vision back in January and then sit back and watch the staff take the vision and run with it with such excellence.

2. The volunteers! As we shared around the table at Shady Maple, most every person’s comments found its way back to the hundreds and hundreds of people within our church who volunteered so much time and energy without which none of our ministries would have taken place. Our volunteers are the backbone of our ministry.

3. The elders! The lay leaders of our church are some of the godliest men I know. I am amazed at the unity and courage that these men demonstrate.

4. The vision! Many churches talk about being concerned about lost people but Grace Church does one better…they act on that concern. Evangelism must be the engine that drives the church and Grace Church is functioning on all cylinders when it comes to meeting people where they are and moving them to where God wants them to be.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Last week our family took a 30 hour excursion to New York City. As an Easter present for the kids and a final family road trip before Joy leaves for college, I found tickets to an already sold out performance of the hit Broadway Show…“Wicked.” Of all the shows available, this was the one that both my kid’s desperately wanted to see. Because the show was already sold out and I had to go through a ticket liquidator to acquire them, I felt like I was living one of those Master Card commercials:

$800.00 – Broadway tickets to “Wicked”
$20.00 – Souvenir program
$60.00 – Gas and tolls
$180.00 – Hotel
$300.00 – Food
$50.00 – Statue of Liberty tickets

Making my kid’s day and having a shared experience as a family…PRICELESS!

I’m not exactly sure the Broadway show was worth the $800 but it was pretty incredible. The theater itself, the story line, the humor, the music…it was fascinating. Wicked is the story of the witches of Oz prior to their entrance into the classic “The Wizard of Oz.” The main storyline deals with the very green Wicked Witch of the West. Remember her horrifying cackle before Dorothy threw the pail of water on her and melted her?

The story line basically showed the Wicked Witch of the West being born normal like everyone else with the exception being that she was green (by the way, according to the story, this was because the Wicked Witch of the West was really the daughter of the Wizard of Oz himself who had an affair with the Wicked Witch of the West’s mother). The story would have it that this green gal really had a good heart. However, because everyone avoided her due to her strange color and due to some adverse circumstances created around her by the Wizard himself, she was viewed by all as “Wicked.” In fact, the tagline on the $20 souvenir program was this…“Are we born wicked or is wickedness thrust upon us?”

According to the musical, the green witch was born good and in fact, still contained good at the end. However, due to her environment she was seen by all those in Oz as wicked. It really was a great storyline, especially as they made it morph with the events of the actual story of “The Wizard of Oz.” It was a great Broadway Show. I highly recommend it to you. But, keep in mind, they do get the answer to the question of wickedness all wrong. The truth is that we are all born wicked. Just read this from the Bible…“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

You see, in real life we are all born wicked. We are all born sinners. An what’s worse, there is nothing we can do about it. That’s why each of us needs to know Jesus!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

30 Hours in New York City

Last week Laura and I took the kids and headed to New York City. We arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn in Secaucus, NJ at about 2pm. After checking in, we walked out to the white bench just outside the hotel. It didn’t say “Bus Stop” but the lady at the hotel told us just to stand out there and flag down the first bus we see that says New York on the front of it. To our amazement, it worked. The bus ride took about 15-20 minutes through the Lincoln Tunnel and into the Port Authority Bus Station located on 42nd Street.

We decided to head over to Grand Central Station to see what it looked like inside. Unfortunately, it was raining pretty steady and only Laura had an umbrella. By the time we got to the train station, we were cold and wet. Fortunately, we were able to buy three umbrellas inside the station and then we headed toward Time Square. The rest of the evening was spent going into all kinds of shops, most impressive of which was the M&M World with the world’s largest wall of chocolate candy. After several hours of walking and sight-seeing, we made our way to the Gershwin Theater where we had previously purchased tickets for the evening showing of the Broadway hit, “Wicked.” I will blog about that in and of itself tomorrow but for now let me simply say…AMAZING!

Following the end of the show we headed over to Roxie’s Delicatessen. But get this…We ordered just two burgers to split between the four of us. Everyone had water but me…I had a soda. Then we got one piece of cheesecake to split between the four of us. That’s two burgers, 1 soda, and 1 piece of cheesecake…the bill? $62.00! YIKES!! From there we walked back to the Port Authority where we caught the local 190 bus back to Secaucus, being sure to ask the driver to let us off at the Home Depot as we had been told, where we walked down the service road to our hotel, getting back at 12:15am.

The next day we once again caught the bus back into the Port Authority and grabbed a pastry at the station for breakfast. From there we headed down to the Subway station where we took the #1 train all the way down to the South Ferry station and Battery Park, being sure to stay in the first 5 cars as we were advised when we purchased our subway tickets. There we waited in line 45 minutes to get tickets to go out to Liberty Island and then another 45 minutes in line for the next boat. The Statue of Liberty was quite a sight but I have never been colder than I was during the 20 minutes that we waited to board back on to the boat to go back to New York. The wind was just brutal. As the four of us huddled together in our light jackets, a mother and her teenager daughter drew close and said, “I know we don’t know you, but can we huddle real close to your family too!

From there we headed back uptown where we had dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner where the waiters and waitresses, who are trying to break into Broadway, sing the entire time the wait on you. Pretty cool! After dinner we let the kids get some sweatshirts with some spending money we had given to them and then we headed back to the Port Authority where we again caught the 190 local back to Secaucus where our car was waiting for us at the hotel to start the three hour drive back to Lititz.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Easter...Hour by Hour

What a great day Easter was! How wonderful it was to see all that God did here at Grace Church on this special day. Here is how my morning schedule went:

4:45am – Alarm goes off…time to get up and get ready

5:15am – Stop at Sheetz on the way into church for the morning’s first coffee

5:30am – Arrive at Church

6:00am – Pre-service meeting with our Worship Arts Director and Media Producer

6:15am – Final quiet time for personal preparations and prayer

7:00am – Greet those arriving for the 1st worship service

7:15am – First Worship Service begins

7:40am – Start preaching

8:30am – Greet those who are leaving the 1st service

8:45am – Greet those arriving for the 2nd worship service

9:00am – Second Worship Service begins

9:25am – Start preaching again

10:15am – Greet those who are leaving the 2nd service

10:30am – Greet those who are arriving for the 3rd worship service

10:45am – Third Worship Service begins

11:10am – Start preaching one more time

12:00pm – Greet those who are leaving the 3rd service

12:15pm – Morning follow-up and wrap-up

1:15pm – Leave for home

1:30pm – Shower and change clothes, eat dinner…CRASH!

Friday, March 21, 2008


Service Times - We will have 3 identical services on Easter morning (7:15; 9:00; 10:45)

Children’s Program - There will be nursery and children’s programs during our 9:00 and 10:45 services, but there will be no nursery or child-care during the 7:15 service.

Rise Early - We are expecting the largest Sunday attendance in the history of our church on Easter. Most of our hundreds and hundreds of guests will attend the 9:00 or 10:45 services. We really need to fill the auditorium at 7:15 so we are asking our regulars, especially those without children, to get up early this Easter and attend our early service.

Parking - With the exception of the elderly, those with small children, and those with physical disabilities, we are asking everyone who is a regular at Grace Church to park in the furthest areas of our parking lots on Easter in order to allow our guests to have the prime parking spaces.

Breakfast - Lititz Christian School and Morningstar Daycare invite you to enjoy a light breakfast as you join us for worship on Easter morning. Traditionally, our continental Easter breakfast is served inside the building, however this year, for your convenience, refreshments will be packaged and made available outside at various kiosks. Our school and daycare staff, along with many of our student’s families will be happy to assist you whether you are picking up some goodies on your way to or from one of our services.

Classes - There will be no youth or Adult Bible Fellowship Classes on Easter Sunday.

Free CD - We will be giving away one per family to everyone who attends this Easter a copy of our new CD recorded live at Grace Church featuring four of the original songs that we sing here at Grace that were written by our Worship Arts Director, Matt McElravy. We are pleased that everyone who attends on Easter will be able to have our ministry continue with them after they leave through this exciting recording.

Music - Matt McElravy and our Worship Arts Ministry here at Grace have put together a very exciting morning of music and worship for our Easter celebration. The Crosswalk Band will be joining our vocalists in leading us in songs such as Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, Crown Him with Many Crowns, All The Earth Will Sing Your Praise, Crushed (You Laid Down Your Life), and My Redeemer Lives. There also will be some excellent stand alone songs that including our Worship Choir singing, Alive Forever Amen; our Worship Quartet singing Goodbye World Goodbye; Rick Bernhardt singing I Can Only Imagine; and a special solo by Lisa McCoy

Message - On Easter we will launch a new series on heaven called “The WOW Factor: World of Wonder.” See a preview at

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Forwarding Address

Big news…I’m moving. I’m not sure when the exact move day is as of yet, but it is so sure that it will happen that I can go ahead and give you my forwarding address. Just send any correspondence in my name to The New Jerusalem. So what is the New Jerusalem? The Apostle John describes it in the book of Revelation when he says,

“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2)

The New Jerusalem is what we commonly call today “heaven.” It is the eternal home of all those who have placed their faith in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is already in existence and it is in the process of preparation By Jesus Christ Himself who has been working on it for over two thousand years. Jesus said,

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself , that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

So often in today’s culture when we think of heaven we think of some atherial place where we just float around on clouds forever while playing harps. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t really get me excited. Fortunately, that is not a view of heaven that is found in Scripture. This heavenly city is a very real and very physical place. You can see it. You can touch it. In fact, based on the above words of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, this city moves up and down as John saw it come down out of the abode of God through the atmospheric heavens right down to the earth.

This anticipation of living in this city goes all the way back to the Old Testament patriarch, Abraham. Hebrews 11:9-10 teaches us that Abraham was, “looking for a city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God!” This is pretty amazing when you consider that Abraham was originally from the land of Ur which was perhaps the most incredible city of its day. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that we who are followers of Jesus should also look for this heavenly city where we will spend eternity (Hebrews 13:14). Folks, listen, I love living in Lititz, I really do. And I have seen some of the most fascinating cities in the world (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, even the modern city of Jerusalem) but nothing will beat the New Jerusalem.

Hebrews 12:22 would teach that as a follower of Jesus I am really a citizen of this heavenly city. I may currently reside at 793 Sue Drive in Lititz, PA (USA) but I’m really only an ambassador of another country. My passport is stamped and ready. Or in the words of the old spiritual, “This world is not my home! I’m just a passin’ thru!”

So please take note. I will be moving. When the time comes I will take up residence in the New Jerusalem…a city that is the ultimate of everything!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An Inner Office Memo

On a daily basis inner-office memos are communicated here at Grace Church via e-mail. These can include a variety of very important things. It may be an important piece of information that requires the prayers of all of our staff. It may be a significant and detailed announcement or a change in policy. It could be calling an urgent emergency meeting that is required by all to attend. But this past week, our Business Manager sent out an inner-office memo that included two very critical instructions:

First, he reminded us that the dirty dishes that we use in the office break room should be washed, dried and put away…not simply left piling up in the sink.

Second, he instructed us to be sure that if we use the last of the toilet paper in the office restrooms that we need to be sure to grab a new roll from under the sink and replace the empty roll.

Now, let me ask you a question regarding this inner-office memo. Who do you think is most guilty of leaving dirty dishes in the office sink…the men on staff or the women?

Now, let me ask you an even more important question. Which restroom do you think had the toilet paper problem…the men’s restroom or the women’s restroom?

I can’t say I know for sure the answer to the first question (though I have a sneaking suspicion), but I can tell you 100% factually that the answer to the second question is…THE WOMEN’S RESTROOM! Can you believe that? I thought it was always the MAN who never replaced the empty toilet paper roll. I thought women always replaced the empty toilet paper roll. Folks, listen, this is an earth shattering realization.

Now I cannot tell you all the details that precipitated our Business Manager sending this inner-office memo because I have not been fully briefed (nor do I desire to be). But, I can tell you that the stalls in the women’s restroom here in the office area at church are now stocked quite differently as seen by the above picture. Now that brings up a whole different question…who would take this picture? A man or a woman? Hmmmmmm.

So I wonder what other things that we men take the rap for that really isn’t just a “man problem.” Oh, wait…before I let my intellect go that direction and get me into trouble, maybe I should consider sending out another inner-office memo to our male staff. Unlike the ladies, they will change the toilet paper roll when they use the last of it. They just make sure that they never use the last of it. I don’t know how many times I have gone in only to find one little square left barely hanging from the roll. And guys…come on…when you do use the last square and change the roll…always be sure it unrolls from the top, not from the bottom. Even the unchurched world knows that is how it is supposed to be!

Did I really just blog about this?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


We know that in most areas of life growth usually occurs through pain. When will we realize that this is also true regarding trials in our lives? Pain doesn’t have to make us bitter…it should make us better. That is Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. In verses 3-7 we see that suffering results in our being able to come along side of others who are suffering. But in verses 8-11, we see that suffering also comes into our life in order to bring about spiritual maturity.

Paul begins by speaking of his own suffering. He wanted the church at Corinth to be aware of the suffering that he and his fellow companions had endured in Asia which was the Roman province on the west coast of Asia Minor. The specifics are unknown but may have involved being beaten (11:23-25), imprisoned (11:23) or both. Whatever the suffering was, it was severe. He and his companions were burdened excessively, beyond their own strength. They were unbearably crushed to the point of depression. They faced an adversity seemingly beyond their strength to endure. They despaired even of life, having a death sentence within themselves. The word “despaired” literally means, “no passage, no way out or no exit.” They saw no escape from their desperate situation that threatened their own lives. The word “sentence” appears only here in the New Testament and refers to an official judgment or legal decision. In their own minds they had been passed the sentence of death meaning that they believed that they would die.

Why does Paul want his readers to know about his suffering? I believe it was because he didn’t want his words which were about to come to seem hollow or empty. He was about ready to share the principle that God uses our trials to grow us. He didn’t want his readers to think he was just throwing around religious clichés. He wanted them to know that he knew what it was like to suffer and see God use it to cause spiritual growth in his life. He then proceeds to show four ways he grew spiritually through adversity.

First, his suffering resulted in not trusting in himself (v9). One of the greatest mistakes we make when adversity comes into our life is leaning on our own strength. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us that we are to do three things. First, we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart. Second, we are to be sure we do not lean on your own understanding. Finally, we are to acknowledge Him in all our ways. And if we do these things, He will make our paths straight. He will fulfill His will and purpose in our lives. I really do not believe we will ever truly learn this lesson until we are facing suffering eyeball to eyeball.

Second, Paul’s suffering resulted in his depending on God (v9-10). He depended on the power of God who has the power to raise the dead. He also depended on the pattern of God. God had previously delivered him from affliction so he was sure He would do so again. Third, Paul’s suffering resulted in extraordinary prayer (v11). There is no greater sign of spiritual dependency than prayer. Finally, Paul’s suffering resulted in greater thanksgiving to God (v11). We will never really learn how to be thankful until we find ourselves in the pit of suffering. The greater the suffering…the greater the thanksgiving.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What a Weekend! What a Church!

What a weekend we had here at Grace Church. It was a truly incredible sight to see. On Friday night, our facility was set up to look as if time had been turned back to the 1950’s for our women’s ‘At The Hop’ event. By the time Saturday morning rolled around, the facility had been transformed into a children’s carnival for our Easter Egg and Candy Hunt. Then, by the time Saturday evening rolled around, everything had again been changed to prepare our facility for our Sunday Morning Worship Services.

To pull off back-to-back-to-back major activities (At the Hop followed by the Easter Egg Hunt followed by our Sunday morning services) in as little as 38 hours is an unbelievable task. But it all happened because the people who make up Grace Church are simply awesome. Everyone pitched in and as a result we had one of the most successful weekends we have ever had when it comes to making contacts and building bridges. Thousands and thousands of people were in our facility and on our campus. Hundreds of these individuals have no church home whatsoever. Now they have had a positive touch which we believe God will use, especially with Easter Sunday fast approaching.

Our Women’s Event on Friday night just can not be described. If you didn’t see it…you would never believe it. And as a result, hundreds upon hundreds of ladies ages 18 and over had one incredible evening of fun as they rubbed shoulders with ladies from Grace Church who are the salt of the earth and light of the world. I loved one lady’s comment when she shared with her friend, “This church isn’t near as Brethren as it once was.” Attendance based on those who registered (obviously, not everyone registers) showed a 20% increase over last year’s Beach Blast. And every one of them, after having such a good time and making so many friends, were personally invited to join us this Easter as well. I think we will be amazed at how many take us up on our invitation and on that morning they will hear the good news that the resurrection of Christ makes it possible for us to enter heaven as we start out new series called, “The WOW Factor: World Of Wonder.”

Saturday morning’s Easter Egg Hunt was equally amazing with probably 4 to 5 times more people on our campus than were here the night before. Both hunts (9am and 11am) included wall to wall kids of all ages with their parents and grandparents. A carnival inside after each hunt produced hours of fun while once again rubbing shoulders with people from Grace Church and seeing that we care enough about our community to reach out and build bridges to them. Once again, every family in attendance was personally invited to join us for Easter. I had several people stop and ask me exactly what time our Easter services were going to be. Folks, listen, I hope you are praying for Easter Sunday. There is no doubt in my mind that God is going to do something really, really, really big!

And then to top the weekend off, we were able to worship the Lord on Sunday morning as we closed out our series, “Helping Those Who Hurt.” What a weekend it was! What a church we have here at Grace! What a God we serve. What a privilege it is for us to meet people where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Two BIG Events this Weekend

Thousands of people will pour into Grace Church this Friday and Saturday for our ‘At The Hop’ Women’s Event and our Easter Egg and Candy Hunt (both described below). Both of these exciting FREE events will take place rain or shine and all are welcomed to attend and enjoy. Grace Church is located at 501 W. Lincoln Ave., in Lititz. For more information contact Grace Church at 626-2155 or the church web site ( Please come be our guest all weekend long here at Grace Church in Lititz.

At The Hop…Community Women’s Event

Girlfriends at Grace invite you to an unforgettable night of celebrating “A 50’s Blast From The Past”. On Friday, March 14 from 7:00-10:00 PM women ages 18 & older can enjoy a night of FREE events where you will experience the sights, sounds and tastes as we bring back the 50’s.

Come hang out with a friend at the 50’s Diner, visit the Penny Candy Shop or twist the night away dancing to the live 50’s band. If you’re feeling like a challenge; try pinball, bubble gum blowing contest, the limbo, karaoke, name that tune, or enter a hula-hoop contest. If you want to relax; try scrap-booking, crafts, or pamper yourself by a visit to Pinky’s Nail Salon. There will be something for everyone and don’t forget to visit the photo booth to preserve all your special memories of the night.

Other exciting attractions include meeting the legendary “Lucille Ball” and the unforgettable music of “Grace Band Stand” live. The night would not be complete without indulging in the numerous food and refreshing drink stands. All your 50’s favorites from burgers to fries, hotdogs, popcorn, homemade pies, root beer floats, milkshakes and don’t forget a visit to the coffee shop. There will also be prize giveaways at the end of night, including the grand prize drawing for a $200 gift certificate to the Hotel Hershey!

Community Easter Egg and Candy Hunt

Grace Church is excited to sponsor its 2nd annual Easter Egg Hunt for the community. We welcome children ages 12 and under to participate in the many activities held on Saturday, March 15th, 2008 at Grace Church in Lititz. This FREE event is scheduled for two times, 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM, with family activities and games planned before and after each egg hunt.

Children are encouraged to bring their own basket for collecting eggs filled with candy and toys with their age group. Bring your camera for photo opportunities with the Easter Bunny. Two children’s bikes and helmets will be given away at a special drawing held after each of the egg hunts. Other activities for the day include a bounce maze, face painting, crafts, and games.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I recently read an entry from Perry Noble’s blog who pastors a large church in South Carolina. It isn’t often that I read a blog entry and go, “I wish every person in my church could read this,” but this one was one of those. So I thought, why not post it on my blog for all of my church to read as well? Perry encourages his readers to pray for their pastor and says that there are three times when your pastor needs your prayers the most. Here is what Perry wrote about these three times (remember, they are his words, not mine):

#1 - Sunday Night/Monday Morning: If a pastor ever feels like giving up–it’s either on Sunday night or Monday morning. I would say that 99% of the world’s population doesn’t really have a clue as to what pastors endure emotionally, physically and spiritually. If they are going to be under a heavy spiritual attack…it’s usually during this time. If they are going to have a sleepless night, even though they are exhausted–it will be on Sunday night. If they are going to battle discouragement…it will be on Sunday night. Trust me on this folks…I am saying what most pastors won’t tell you. When a pastor preaches a message he has SEVERAL adrenalin rushes–ever had one of those? Sure you have! Let’s say you are riding down the road in a car and another car runs a stop sign and you manage to avoid a collision by mere inches. BAM…you get an adrenalin rush that studies show it takes between four to six hours to recover from. NOW–take under consideration that most pastors in today’s world preach more than one sermon per Sunday…and with the shots of adrenalin the body produces to keep the dude going…it completely kicks his butt–I promise. That is why it is so essential to lift him up during this time–he feels like a used washed cloth!

#2 - On Saturday Nights: If I am going to have a sleepless night, other than Sunday night–it’s Saturday. Pastors have a hard time shutting their minds off on Saturday night–we think about the message, the music, who is and is not going to be there…and about one million other things. We can literally drive ourselves crazy. ALSO…for me personally, if I am going to have any sort of nightmare–it’s usually on Saturday night. Oh yeah…PLEASE don’t just pray for him…but his entire family as well!!! There needs to be complete peace in and on the pastor’s house the night before church…and I believe that this comes through people passionately praying to God on his behalf.

#3 - Anytime The Holy Spirit Brings Him To Mind: If you are riding down the road and your pastor’s name pops into your mind…pray for him. It really is that simple. If you are in your living room watching television and his name pops in your mind…pray for him. If you are riding down the road and you see a dead squirrel splatted all over the place and your pastor’s name pops in your mind…PRAY FOR YOURSELF, you have issues!!! The Holy Spirit knows when people need prayer…and I can’t tell you the number of times He’s brought someone’s name to my mind, I’ve prayed for them and then later found out that at the exact time I prayed for them was at a time when God was doing some serious work in their lives. Prayer works…thanks to all of you who pray for my wife, my kids and myself…you will never know how much we appreciate it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Trust in the Lord

One of the most well known verses in the Old Testament can be found in Proverbs 3:5-6. You can break this verse down into four statements. The first three statements fall on our shoulders of responsibility.

First, we are to trust in the Lord with all of our heart. The word “trust” speaks of being totally dependent on God as a newborn baby is completely dependent on its mother.

Second, we are not to lean on our own understanding. This is so hard. We want to know why bad things happen and we want to understand from a human perspective every detail behind our circumstances. The truth is we will never understand all of it until we get to heaven.

Third, we are to acknowledge Him in all of His Ways. In others words, we are to recognize Him. Recognize what about Him? We are to recognize His presence in the loneliest times of our lives. We are to recognize His power in the darkest times of our lives. And we are to recognize His purpose in the most painful times of our lives.

The fourth statement is God’s responsibility. He will make our paths straight. He will remove the obstacles and fulfill His will in and through us. We get even more messed up when we try to do what God has promised to do. But understand that His directing our paths is dependent on our trusting Him with all of our heart; not leaning on our own human understanding; and our acknowledging His presence, power and purpose in our lives.

I shared this passage just yesterday with a couple in our church who is going through a very trying time. Though young in age, the wife has been recently diagnosed with leukemia. They have told their young children and now they walk together a very uncertain and anxious path. Proverbs 3:5-6 are now verses that they will come to understand better than I do.

I remember when my Grandpa Distler (pictured) who pastored for over 40 years was on his death bed in Salinas, CA. I flew out to spend a final few days with him. In one of our final conversations my Grandpa took my hand and led it over the numerous tumors on his body. He wanted me to have some sense of what he was dealing with. I asked him if these large lumps were painful. He readily admitted the severity of the suffering he was enduring. He then said these words to me. I will never forget them. He said…

“Scott, for over 40 years I have preached Proverbs 3:5-6…‘Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.’ But for the first time in my life I really understand what those verses mean!”

Most of us who have grown up in the church learned those verses when we were quite young. But I wonder if we will ever be able to really understand their meaning until we are staring serious, painful and perhaps terminal suffering right smack dab in the face.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

somthing big came UP

Never before have we endeavored to pull off four major events in the space of ten days here at Grace Church. But starting this Friday night with the Women’s “At The Hop” outreach event, we are hoping to touch up to 10,000 people in our community and to take each of them another step closer to connecting with Grace Church and ultimately to a personal relationship with the Lord.

As soon as the women’s event is over Friday night, staff and volunteer teams will immediately begin the all-night transformation to clean up from the hundreds and hundreds of ladies and prepare for the thousands who will be on our campus Saturday morning for our Easter Egg and Candy Hunt. The very next weekend will then be our Good Friday Night of Worship and our three Easter Sunday Morning Celebrations.

I doubt there are many who are reading this that can even come close to understanding the stress our church staff is under right now with these four events now just days away. And it will only get worse these next two weeks. Satan cannot be happy with our efforts so we expect the spiritual battles to heat up. As a result, Pastor Tim and I came up with a unique and unusual plan to start these two key weeks with an opportunity to surprise our church staff with something unique that would allow them a couple of hours to “let their hair down” and enjoy each other without any work related stress, while at the same time being inspired

As a result, I sent out an e-mail to the staff announcing an emergency staff meeting for last Monday morning at 9am. I simply said that something had come UP. When they arrived at the meeting we loaded them all up in the church vans and headed down to the Lancaster Airport where a wonderful man who attends Grace Church and is also a pilot was waiting with his Bonanza plane. We split them into groups and four at a time we took them UP in his plane and flew them over the community of Lititz. While one group was flying, another group was getting some pre-flight orientation and the other groups were taken up to Starbucks for the beverage of their choice. We cycled the groups through until everyone had their time in the air and their Starbucks in hand.

But here is the icing on the cake! As soon as we left the church, Rick Bernhardt, our Senior Administrator at our school/daycare, took out some very large letters made out of blue tarps by some of our students and staked them down on the soccer field so that when the plane flew over our property everyone could look out the window and see the words “MEETING…MOVING” standing out to them from the field below! This was our way of reminding our staff that everything we are doing and all the stress we are feeling is worth it because for thousands of people represented by the many homes and business they saw from the air, we will have the opportunity to MEET them where they are and help MOVE them to where God wants them to be!

Our staff is now set and ready for the homestretch, but let’s all remember this one thing…nothing of eternal importance happens apart from payer. Are you praying?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Building Bridges...Meeting People

Never before have we attempted to pull off so many big events in such a small period of time here At Grace Church. Beginning this weekend and running through a two week period, we will undertake five major events that will in all likelihood allow us to build bridges with 8,000-10,000 people as we strive to fulfill our purpose of meeting people where they are and moving them to where God wants them to be. These events include:

Mar 14 – At the Hop Women’s Event
Mar 15 – Easter Egg Hunt
Mar 21 – Good Friday Night of Worship
Mar 23 – Easter Sunday
Mar 27-29 – Pennsylvania Regional Chorus hosted by Lititz Christian School

It all kicks off this weekend with two very exciting “entry level” events. These events are intentionally designed to be non-threatening and to provide a safe environment were literally thousands of people from our community can have a “first touch” with Grace Church. We believe that God will use these events to break down barriers and build bridges so that many of these folks will come back and visit us again, especially with Easter Sunday being just one week after these events.

Do these events work? Sure they do. God is allowing us to see wonderful growth as a church because we are taking the time and effort to reach out and build relationships with people in our community, many of whom have warped, preconceived ideas about what church is like. One of our men who makes home visits weekly to those who visit Grace on Sunday mornings told me just this weekend that he is a big believer in the effectiveness of these entry level events. In home after home that he is in, he hears how events like last spring’s Ladies Beach Blast and last summer’s Rodeo and Western Event were the first contacts that people had witfh Grace Church.

The ladies event this year is also being used it to reach out to some of the women’s shelters in our area as well and providing transportation for these precious ladies who are currently going through a difficult time in their lives. I am also excited because not only are the pre-registration numbers above what they were last year at this time, but they also show that 20% of those who have already registered for this free event have no church affiliation at all. WOW! That means that we will literally have hundreds of ladies in our church this Friday night who are “unchurched.” And that does not count the hundreds of ladies who will be here who are affiliated with churches that do not preach the Gospel.

So…if you are a lady and/or if you have children and have not yet pre-registered for the 'At The Hop' event or the Egg Hunt, be sure to go to our church website and do so today ( If you can help to pull these events off, please go to our website and sign up to volunteer. If you know any ladies or those with kids who you have not year invited to these events, contact them today! And most of all…pray! Nothing of eternal importance happens apart from prayer.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Enrichment Week

John Kegarise, chairman of our Elder Board here at Grace Church, came to me at the beginning of the year and talked to me about my need to be safeguarding myself so that I do not burn out so that I can continue to lead our ministry for years to come. As a result, the Elder Board granted me 6 weeks each calendar year that they call “Enrichment Weeks.” These weeks are not vacation but rather are to be used as weeks in which I am not involved in the regular schedule, appointments and meetings of my weekly ministry. Rather, I am to use these weeks to do only those things which enrich me spiritually.

At first I wasn’t real sure about this but after using this past week as an Enrichment Week, I am very refreshed and thankful. I can’t tell you the last time when I did not have one meeting or appointment on my schedule for a full week and found myself at home each and every evening and actually got 8 hours of sleep every night. So what did I do during my first ever Enrichment Week? Here’s a partial review:

My goal was to read through the entire New Testament in 7 days. As I write this I have 3 days left and have been reading 50 chapters each day and have already read through 200 chapters with a little over 60 remaining. I’ve never read that much Scripture in such a short time-period. It was amazing the things that stuck out to me that had never stuck out to me before. One of the things that I did discover, though, is that there are very few “quiet” places around anymore where you can read without interruption. Even the library was surprisingly “unquiet”. I did find, however, that the little café in the Giant Store in Kissel Hill is a wonderful place to work away from the office with free wireless internet and some pretty good coffee.

I was able to spend time in ministry with a couple of families. The father of a lady in our church passed away Monday morning. I had led him to the Lord months earlier. I was able to spend some time with the family at the hospital Sunday afternoon and then again early Monday morning shortly after he passed away. I will be participating in the funeral this Saturday. Laura and I were also able to spend time with a man within our church who is quickly deteriorating due to his battle with cancer. We had a wonderful visit with him and his precious wife on Tuesday evening. This is a part of ministry that I have had to largely delegate due to the size of our church so it was very enriching for me to be able to spend this time with these families.

I was able to spend quality time working on a thorough Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sheet regarding the launch of a small group ministry here at Grace Church and about our search for a Pastor of Connections. I will be mailing this FAQ sheet out to our church family at the beginning of April with my quarterly stewardship letter.

I was able to listen to some wonderful sermon tapes in preparation for our “WOW: World Of Wonder” message series on heaven that will begin Easter Sunday and run for three weeks.

I was also able to spend some quality time on the phone talking to my sister in TN and my parents in FL; having lunch with different staff members; taking my dog for a long walk; reading to some of the Elementary classes here at Lititz Christian School, and working on a special project that I will blog more about next week.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Real Presidential Platform

As I was walking down the elementary wing hallway of Lititz Christian School last week, the bulletin board outside of the second grade classroom caught my eye, especially since I am so in to politics and since the presidential race is in the country’s spotlight. Each student put what they would do if they were President of the United States and then drew a corresponding picture. There were some typical responses, you know, the ones you would expect from second graders, like:

I would make people stop stealing!

I would help people who were in need!

I would help the poor!

I would help our country!

I would help the orphans!

I would help people that are in the hospital!

I would have gym all day at school!

I would make school a half day!

But then there were some responses that left me laughing and trying to guess what type of children we have in the second grade at Lititz Christian School. For example:

I would give everyone who worked a year off! (Hey, that kid has my vote)

I would give people money! (Sounds like a democrat in the making)

I would lower taxes! (We have at least one republican)

I would have lots of school! (I don’t think this kid will get elected)

I would buy a professional race car from Mark Martin! (is nothing sacred?)

I would force Bill gates to give me all of his money! (Perhaps communism isn’t dead)

I would turn myself into a rock star! (hey, it seemed to work for Bill Clinton)

I would make boy’s slaves and lower taxes! (now there is a party platform…folks, listen, feminism is alive and well in the second grade at Lititz Christian School)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bragging on my Boy!

The basketball season has come to an end for Lititz Christian School (LCS) and with it came a school history first. For the very first time in the history of LCS, the boys’ varsity basketball team made it to the District Playoffs. In fact, all four varsity sports teams from LCS have made district playoffs this school year including the girls’ volleyball team; the boys’ soccer team; and both the guys and girls basketball teams! Well done, Eagles!

My son, Jonathan, started on the basketball team this year as a sophomore. The entire team had a superb year, winning first place in our division of the CCAC conference. But since my particular interest was really on my son, I only kept track of statistics for him. I was very proud of the year he had. Here are some highlights not counting the opening tournament at Mt Calvary for which I have no statistics:

Jonathan scored 122 points this season.

Jonathan averaged 6.4 points per game including the post-season.

Jonathan scored over half of those points (69 to be exact) from beyond the 3-point arch

Jonathan sank 23 shots from 3-point land over the season.

Jonathan scored double digits in 5 different games

Jonathan scored 10 points in the CCAC semi-final playoff game.

Jonathan’s high game for the season was a 23-point performance against Hershey Christian.

Jonathan hit four shots from beyond the 3-point arch in three different games.

There also were those tough times like in the final regular season game at Berks Christian when Jonathan drove the lane with just seconds remaining and LCS down by 1 point, drawing the foul and sending him to the free throw line for two shots. He needed to make just one to tie the game and send it to overtime or both to ensure the victory. In that hostile environment with the Berks crowd making some serious noise, he missed the first shot. After the Berks coach called a time-out, he also missed the second one. Those times build character and they did for Jonathan. It was the very next game, the playoff game against heavily favored Lancaster Christian, that Jonathan scored 10 points.

At the end of that Lancaster Christian game I was standing with Jonathan when Coach Simpson came up to congratulate him on a great game and to talk about all they had to build on for the next season. I loved Jonathan’s response…“That’s great coach, can we stop on the way home to eat?” Hey, some things are more important than basketball.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Have you ever suffered? SHARE YOUR STORY

Last Sunday we began a 3-week series here at Grace Church called, “Helping Those Who Hurt.” The series is taken from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 where we find two reasons why God allows suffering to come into our lives. The first is for the purpose of MINISTRY so that we can be a comfort to others who go through similar circumstances. The second is for the purpose of MATURITY, so that we can become stronger in our walk of faith.

It is our goal to use this series to begin a mentoring ministry under Pastor Tim Auld here at Grace Church in which individuals/couples who have gone through trials, found God to be faithful and who have grown in their spiritual maturity as a result, can be trained in order to mentor other individuals/couples who are going through similar circumstances. When the series is over, people will be able to apply to be part of this mentoring training.

Last Sunday I preached on the first reason that God allows suffering to come into our lives…the purpose of MINISTRY. This Sunday we will be sharing specifics about how we are planning to put the principles of week one into practice through a mentoring ministry where lay people are trained in how to mentor others who are going through similar trials. The series will then conclude on March 16 as I preach on the second reason why God allows suffering…the purpose of MATURITY

We want to encourage as many people as possible to go to a special blog page that we have set up ( where they can share their story. So many of us have stories of times of hurt in which we found God to be faithful as He comforted and cared for us. When we share these stories, and how it helped us to grow in our faith, the entire Body of Christ is uplifted and people who are going through similar trials find comfort. Your story can be as short or long as you want it to be and there is no need to include your name. We also ask that you not include the names of anyone else when writing your story. Would you share your story? I have already posted mine. It goes like this:

“When I was a sophomore in High School, the pastor at the church we attended hurt me in a very deep way. Due to his actions, our family left the church that we loved…the church that my grandfather had once pastored. For several years following that, I lived with a growing bitterness and hatred toward this pastor. I would daydream of ways to get revenge. During my freshman year in college a speaker in chapel made the statement that God would never use us if we were harboring bitterness toward another believer. That statement hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew that I was still harboring bitterness toward this man. As a result, during our next break I went to that pastor and apologized to him face to face for the feelings of bitterness and hatred I had felt toward him. He granted the forgiveness but he never mentioned anything about the hurt he had caused me and my family. That was OK, though, because I had done what God had called me to do. As a result, I was free from the heavy burden of bitterness that I had been carrying. Going through that hurt caused me to grow spiritually as God used it to teach me the power of forgiveness. I really do believe that we are never more like God than when we forgive.”

Monday, March 03, 2008

Helping Those Who Hurt

We all have something in common. We all have experienced hurt. For some it is physical trials. For others it’s relational. It could also have been financial or occupational, but all of us know in some sort or fashion what it means to experience suffering. But as children of God, why would our Heavenly Father allow us to suffer? Second Corinthians chapter one gives us a twofold answer to that question. The first purpose is one of ministry. God allows us to experience trials and suffering so that we can go then in turn help those who go through similar adversities.

Ten times in the course of just a few verses, Paul speaks of comfort. He begins by describing the author of true comfort which is God Himself. Paul describes Him in three ways. First he calls Him the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament God is referred to as “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” But in the New Testament He is referred to as “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:31; Romans 15:6; Ephesians 1:3, 17; 1 Peter 1:3). In deity, Jesus is fully equal with God. Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” In John 10:30, Jesus said that “I and the Father are one.” In John 14:9 Jesus said that if anyone has seen him they have seen the Father. Philippians 2:6 teaches that Jesus existed in the form of God and Colossians 1:15 says that He is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). According to Colossians 2:9, In Jesus all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form. In His deity, Jesus was fully God but in His humanity he fully submitted to God.

Paul then calls God the Father of mercies. But it is the third title that is the main idea of the book. Paul calls Him the God of all comfort. This word comes from the Greek word “parakletos” which is a compound word made up of the word “along side” combined with the word “to call.” Comfort is given by someone called alongside to help. The word is used as another name for the Holy Spirit in John 14:16. According to Paul, God comes along side of us to help us in times of affliction (v4). The word “affliction” literally means “pressure” and speaks of all stress, persecution and trials. God “comes alongside” of us during our affliction so that we will be able to “come alongside” of others going through similar afflictions. Those who experience the most suffering will receive the most comfort; and those who receive the most comfort are most able to comfort others (v6-7). The person who has suffered the shattering effects of divorce can best comfort a divorcee. The person who has lost a child can best comfort another parent who has lost a child. The business man who once was bankrupt can best comfort another person in the throes of financial disaster. There is no question that this world offers an abundance of suffering but the comfort of God is just as abundant.

So what trials have you gone through in which you have found God to be faithful and which has caused spiritual growth in your life? We want you to share your story so that others who are going through similar trials can be encouraged. Share your story by going to a special blog site that we have set up on the internet at (