Friday, August 29, 2008

Reveal Report - Part Three

Below are some more results we gained from the 355 adults from Grace Church who participated in the Reveal Survey (see parts one and two for more explanation):

51% tithe 10% or more
36% serve those in need on their own at least once a month
21% had at least 6 evangelistic conversations with unbelievers over the past year 17% meet with a spiritual mentor at least once a month

While everyone indicated that they were stalled spiritually at some point in their spiritual development, 24% of those from Grace who took the survey indicated that they were currently stalled spiritually. To be very transparent, 11% indicated they were dissatisfied with the role the church was playing in helping them grow spiritually. That is certainly a concern for us in leadership to be praying about and discussing. Yet, on the flip-side it also means that 76% of our church is currently not stalled in their spiritual life and that 89% of our church is satisfied with the role the church is playing in helping them grow spiritually. By the way, the average of the total sample across all 420 churches was that 23% were currently stalled spiritually and 17% were dissatisfied with the role their church was playing in helping them grow spiritually.

I will end this three part report with my being the most transparent of all. Below are the results of the survey about me as the Senior Pastor. The survey divided this area into two sections. First, in the opinion of those who participated, what was the most important activities that I as the Senior Pastor should participate in. Second, how satisfied are the people with my role in these areas. Hey, I have nothing to hide so here is what the data found:

92% of those from Grace who participated said it was important that the Senior Pastor preach inspiring sermons (96% of those surveyed were satisfied with my role in this).

70% said it was important for the Senior Pastor to cast a vision for the church (87% were satisfied with my role in this).

64% said it was important for the Senior Pastor to create a welcome and open environment (86% were satisfied with my role in this).

48% said that it was important for the Senior Pastor to attract, develop, and motivate ministry teams (73% were satisfied with my role in this).

43% said that it was important for the Senior Pastor to provide guidance about spiritual growth (69% were satisfied with my role in this).

37% said that it was important for the Senior Pastor to encourage the use of congregant’s gifts (61% were satisfied with my role in this).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Reveal Report - Part Two

Of the 355 from Grace Church who participated in the Reveal Survey (see part one for an explanation) 96% of them attend our Sunday worship services 3-4 times a month. Only 36% attend a small group (i.e. Adult Bible Fellowship Class) at least once a month. 56% of them serve somewhere in our church ministry at least once a month. But only 19% are involved in serving those in need who are outside of our church. One of the key take away points we discovered is that our people want more opportunity to serve hurting people outside of Grace Church. This was the motivating factor for our adding the “STUFF THE SUNROOM” project to our October plans.

The survey identified seven critical areas that people needed from the church for spiritual growth. Here they are along with the percentage of people who took the survey who are satisfied with how Grace Church is doing in each of these areas:

Challenges me to grow and take next steps (81% were satisfied)
Helps me understand the Bible in depth (90% were satisfied)
Provides compelling worship services (81% were satisfied)
Helps me feel like I belong (50% were satisfied)
Helps me develop a personal relationship with Christ (78% were satisfied)
Helps me find relationships that encourage accountability (31% were satisfied)
Provides opportunities to serve those in need (52% were satisfied)

As you can see from the two highlighted areas above, this survey confirmed our need and direction in hiring a Pastor of Connections and becoming a church of small groups.

The survey did reveal that only 42% of those from Grace Church who participated could honestly say that they love God more than anything else. 97% of those who participated believed in the Trinity and 87% believed in salvation by Grace. Only 66% firmly believed in the authority of the Bible so expect to see more specific teaching in the next year on the fact that the Bible is the inspired word of God and must be the final authority for our lives.

One of the areas of the survey that really stuck out was that only 12% of those who took the survey could say that they have a tremendous love for people they do not know. Now a lot of that is in how you define the word “tremendous.” So another “take away” point for me was that we need to do a much better job of hitting on the fact that the greatest commandment is to love God and then to love others.

Another “take away” point was in seeing that only 27% of those from Grace who participated in the survey study their Bible daily and only 36% pray daily. We have got to get those numbers up. If you think that all you need to grow spiritually is to attend church you are so very, very wrong. The Christian life is difficult. It is like swimming up stream against a very strong current and all you have are two strokes…PRAYER and BIBLE STUDY! Take either or both of those strokes away and you will not make any progress.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reveal Report - Part One

Last winter our church was one of 420 churches who participated in the REVEAL survey put out by the Willow Creek Association. Over 118,000 people nationwide participated. We had 355 adults from Grace Church (or about 27% of our congregation) take the survey online. The next three day's blogs will highlight some of the results and some of the key “take away” points we learned as a result.

Of the 355 who took the survey, 11% were between the ages of 19-29; 49% were between the ages of 30-49; and 40% were age 50 or older.

We obviously do not have a very diverse church as only 3% of those who took the survey categorized themselves as “non-white.” This is more than 50% lower than the average of the total sample of 420 churches.

46% of those who took the survey had children under the age of 18 living at home. Note how important our children and youth ministries are as a result of this fact.

41% of those surveyed from Grace had a college degree or higher and 59% were employed full-time. 39% of those surveyed had an average yearly income of $75K or more.

45% of those who took the survey have attended Grace Church five years or less. While 55% have been attending Grace for more than 5 years, 45% of all who took the survey have been attending Grace for more than 10 years.

So what was happening in these people’s lives when faith began to become important to them? The top answers were as follows (remember that more than one answer could be selected on the survey):

41% said that something was missing in their life
36% said that there were negative patterns in their life that needed changed
33% said they were inspired by a Christian they knew
30% said they were challenged by someone about their spiritual life
29% said they were searching for a higher purpose
28% said they had an unexplained interest in God

What was the most important reason that people chose Grace Church? According to the survey, 26% said they were looking for a church that best fit them while 25% said that a friend or relative invited them to church. Did you get that? 1 out of every 4 people who chose Grace Church did so because someone they knew invited them. So, who are you going to invite to our Ghostbusters series in October? By the way, 13% said they chose Grace Church because of our children’s/youth ministries. So, if you know someone who is not attending Grace, especially if they have kids or teens, be sure to invite them!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Epitome of a Dysfunctional Family

Ask anyone to name five heroes from the Old Testament and undoubtedly Joseph would make most people’s lists. Now if you think you come from a dysfunctional home, you have nothing on the boy known for wearing his coat of many colors. Check out this fact sheet about Joseph’s family.

Joseph’s father was a man named Jacob whose name meant “deceiver” which was a very accurate description of this man’s reputation and character as he tricked his brother out of his birthright and his father out of a blessing.

What goes around comes around and Jacob ends up being deceived himself. He falls in love with a beautiful woman named Rachel and agrees to work for her father, Laban, for seven years in order to marry his love. Seven years later after the ceremony ended and Jacob was with his bride in the bridal chamber and the wedding veil came off, he realized that Laban had tricked him and instead of marrying Rachel, he had married her older sister, Leah (Leah is described in the Bible as having “weak eyes” which may just be Hebrew for the fact that she was “butt ugly”.).

Jacob agrees to work seven more years for Laban in order to marry Rachel as well and so he ends up with two wives who just happen to be sisters. Does anybody else besides me see a problem brewing with this relationship?

Leah bears Jacob seven children…6 sons and 1 daughter named Dinah. But Jacob also adds two of his wife’s handmaidens to his list of wives and between them 4 more sons are born to him. Rachel, however is barren for many years before God opens her womb and she gives birth to none other than our Biblical hero, Joseph.

Once Joseph is born, Jacob decides to move his entire family back to Canaan. On the way they camp near the city of Shecem. Dinah, the daughter of Jacob by Leah, goes into the city where she is taken by force and raped. Her brothers are so angry that they set a trap that resulted in their slaughtering all the men in the city.

To make the journey back to Canaan even worse, Rachel, who had gotten pregnant again, gives birth to another son named Benjamin, but she herself dies in childbirth and Jacob has to bury her.

And if that is not enough, Jacob’s oldest son by Leah, whose name was Reuben, has sexual relations with one of Jacob’s wives who also would have been the mother of two of his step-brothers. Can you say “dysfunctional”?

Maybe you come from a dysfunctional home. Maybe your lineage is littered with mistake after mistake and rebellion after rebellion. Let Joseph be a lesson to you. No matter how dysfunctional you family history may be, God can still make you a hero!

Monday, August 25, 2008

School Days Again - Next Pic

Go, Mr Bernhardt, go!

School Days Again

One of the most exciting aspects of pastoring Grace Church in Lititz is being able to be a daily part of Lititz Christian School (LCS) which is a ministry of our church. I love rubbing shoulders with the faculty, staff and especially the students. Between Morningstar Daycare and LCS we have over 400 students in our building each and every day and it all kicks off again today which is the first day of school for LCS.

Morningstar Daycare and Lititz Christian School are led by Rick Bernhardt (pictured in his earlier years above) who is our Senior Administrator over these ministries. Over the past two years he has led our educational ministries to a new height of excellence that I am both excited about and very proud of. I am looking forward to seeing what God does in and through our daycare and school this year from the newborns in the daycare all the way up to the seniors of the class of 2009 who will walk across the stage and get their diplomas before you know it.

This morning our entire educational ministry will gather together in our newly renovated auditorium for First Day Worship to start the school year off right…focusing on and worshiping the Lord. I am looking forward to sitting in the auditorium this morning and worshipping with our daycare and school family. This is one of the things that makes an education at Lititz Christian School unique and inviting.

So in honor of the first day of school, let me share some another picture of our illustrious Senior Administrator from days gone by. Yes, the following picture really is Mr. Bernhardt.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Just Say No, David!

Last Sunday here at Grace we studied the temptation Joseph faced when Hotiphar seduced him. This Sunday we see another example in the life of King David who succumbs to his passion. Five steps led to this moral failure as outlined in 2 Samuel 11.

First, there was a lesson in rising demand. In Deuteronomy 17:14-17, Kings are told not to multiply horses for themselves (this deals with power); Not to multiply wives for themselves (this deals with pleasure); and not to multiply silver and gold for themselves (this deals with possessions). In spite of this, David increased his number of wives and concubines (2 Samuel 5:13). The more he sought sexual pleasure the more his desire for it increased. The lesson is very clear. Engaging in inappropriate sexual activity does not satisfy our lustful desires, it increases them. This helped to lead to David’s failure.

Second, there was a lack of routine disciplines (2 Samuel 11:1). David was not doing what kings were supposed to do. Kings were supposed to be with their men on the battlefield. David was at home. This is another valuable lesson for us to grasp. We become more susceptible to sexual temptation when we quit doing what we are supposed to be doing. When we quit reading and memorizing Scripture, we become more susceptible to temptation (Psalms 119:11; Mt 4:4-10). When we quit spending time in prayer, we become more susceptible to temptation (Matthew 26:41). And the list goes on.

Third, there was a look or riveting desire (2 Samuel 11:2). Folks, listen, temptation begins with a look or a thought. Eastern monarchs often built their bedchambers on the second story of the palace with a door that opened onto a patio roof. While walking on this patio roof, David saw Bathsheba who was “very” beautiful. Do not underestimate the physical beauty of Bathsheba. Rarely in Scripture does God use the word “very” but when it is used it is not an exaggeration. And what was Bathsheba doing? Bathing. The principle here is clear. We can not stress enough the need to guard our eyes (Job 31:1).

Fourth, there was a lowering into revealing discussion (2 Samuel 11:3). Instead of running from the temptation, David entered into a conversation about the woman as he inquired about who she was. Temptation begins with a thought and then turns to a conversation. David ignores the warning he receives from his servant. Introductions were given by genealogy not marital relations. Yet, instead of saying, “Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam,” he adds, “the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” In essence he was saying, “Warning!! She’s another man’s wife!”

Finally, there was a leap into runaway delight (2 Samuel 11:4). David sends for Bathsheba and sleeps with her. Bathsheba would become pregnant (2 Samuel 11:5). David would have Uriah killed (2 Samuel 11:14-17). David’s child by Bathsheba would die (2 Samuel 12:15-18). David’s other sons would die violently (2 Samuel 12:10). The lesson is obvious. The Devil never tips his hand in temptation…he only shows you the ecstasy, not the consequences.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ghosts of Lancaster County

It seems that ghost stories abound everywhere. In fact, last May, Laura and I went out to dinner for our anniversary to the Railroad House Restaurant in Marietta, PA. To our surprise, the owner of the establishment actually pulled a chair up to our table and chatted with us for quite some time about his own journey in life.

As he told us of the history to the building we were dining in which was built way back in 1820 I asked him if anyone ever thought that the old landmark was haunted. That led to a story about a little girl who often makes appearances at the restaurant and disappears. He pointed to one of the waitresses and said that she had seen the little girl on a couple of occasions. It was an interesting anniversary dialogue.

Recently I picked up a book called True Ghost Stories of Lancaster County. I thought it would be an interesting read as I do my research for our upcoming Ghostbusters series here at Grace Church (see yesterday’s blog). There are many interesting stories in the book but one chapter is all about the enchanted garden at the Railroad House Inn and Restaurant in Marietta.

The chapter is all about a female ghost named Anne Marie who a few select individuals have seen out in the garden behind the building. Supposedly she lived across the street some 150 years ago. A shiver ran down my spine as I read that chapter because after our anniversary dinner last May, my wife and I took a nice leisurely and romantic walk through that very garden. No, we did not see Anne Marie that evening. Thank goodness!

I think it may be true that just about everyone has a ghost story of some sort to tell. I do. I actually had a ghost that I saw multiple times for the first 25 years or so of my life. I was talking to my parents about it when I was down in Florida over the summer and they told me some ghost stories from my childhood that I had never heard before. As part of our October series on “ghosts” I will be making these personal ghost stories of mine available on line for anyone who is interested to read them and find out what happened, what I did about it, and if I still am seeing ghosts today.

As soon as I announced that we were going to be doing a sermon series on what the Bible teaches regarding ghosts, I have had many already share their ghost stories with me. I would love to hear yours if you have one. If you have a ghost story to tell, write it out and e-mail it to me at When you send it, please also let me know if I have permission to use it or not. I will keep all stories completely anonymous.

Because the topic of ghosts are so interesting to so many, this becomes a wonderful opportunity for all of us to invite people to Grace Church in October. All you have to do is ask anyone and everyone this question, “Do you believe in ghosts?” No matter what their answer is, tell them about our Ghostbusters series in October and invite them to come to one of our three morning worship services (8:30; 10:00; 11:30).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Ghostbusters is a 1984 sci-fi-comedy film about three eccentric New York City parapsychologists-turned-ghost exterminators. The film was released in the United States on June 8, 1984. It was produced and directed by Ivan Reitman and stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson. The film's original release grossed almost US$230 million in the U.S. and $50 million abroad during its theatrical run, making it the biggest grossing film of 1984. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted Ghostbusters the 44th greatest comedy film of all time. The American Film Institute ranked it 28th in its list of the top 100 comedies of all time. In 2005, IGN voted Ghostbusters the greatest comedy ever. In 2006, Bravo ranked Ghostbusters 76 on their "100 Funniest Movies" list.

The plot is abouth three misfit parapsychology research professors that specialize in ghosts, Drs. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), Raymond "Ray" Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), are kicked out of a New York City university after their research grants are terminated. To maintain their livelihood, the three are forced to start an enterprise named "Ghostbusters", a "professional paranormal investigation and elimination" service, out of a old firehouse, using a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance dubbed "Ecto-1" to get about the city.

The concept for the movie was inspired by Dan Aykroyd's own fascination with the paranormal. The original story as written by Aykroyd was very different than what would be eventually filmed. In that version a group of Ghostbusters would travel through time, space and other dimensions taking on huge ghosts (of which the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man was just one of many). Also, the Ghostbusters wore S.W.A.T.-like outfits and used wands instead of Proton Packs to fight the ghosts; Ghostbusters storyboards show them wearing riotsquad-type helmets with movable transparent visors.

But are ghosts real? Last night our worship Design Team planned our Sunday morning services for the month of October that we are calling “Ghostbusters” and in which we will answer all of the following questions from the Bible:

Are ghosts real?
If ghosts are real, what exactly are they?
Is it possible for the spirits of the dead to communciate with those who are living?

How does all of this play into Halloween?

Is there any spiritual merit at all in the Halloween holiday?

Find the answers to these questions and more Sundays this October at Grace Church!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


We are right smack dab in the middle of another presidential election. Last Saturday night, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, CA, moderated a forum in which Republican nominee, John McCain and Democratic nominee, Barak Obama, shared the same stage. The Democratic National Convention is just days away and the Republican Convention is right around the corner from that. In November, we as a country will elect one of these two men to the most powerful position in the world…the President of the United States. But the Bible teaches that there will one day come a political leader of all political leaders…a one man ruler of the world. His power and his charisma will be second to none. The Bible has many names for him including The Beast; The Man of Perdition; and The Antichrist.

September will be prophecy month here at Grace Church and each Sunday morning I will be preaching on Revelation 13 and what the Bible teaches about this coming one world ruler in a message series entitled, “Man of the Hour”! We will also be canceling all of our Adult Bible Fellowship Classes in September and instead offering several different digging deeper electives all dealing with prophecy including all of the following:

Biblical Prophecy and Christ taught by Pastor Tim – this study will look at the big story of Scripture to see how Biblical prophecy in both the Old and New Testaments all point to Christ and His coming. Part one of this elective will be held at both 9:00 and 10:45 on September 7 in Room 323 which is the Music Room. Part two of this elective will be held at 9:00 and 10:45 on September 14, also in the Music Room.

The Obsession Video facilitated by Pastor Willard – this video and discussion will look at how the religion of Islam hopes to usher in the kingdom through their religious beliefs. This elective will be offered at 10:45 on September 7 in the Fellowship Hall.

Overview of End Times taught by Pastor Willard – this study will provide an outline of God’s timetable for the end times. Part one of this elective will be held on September 14 at 10:45 in the Fellowship Hall. Part two will be held at 10:45 on September 21 in Room 323 which is the Music Room.

The Judgments and Rewards of the End Times taught by Pastor Tim – this study will take a look at the future judgments and rewards that await humanity. This digging deeper elective will be held September 21 at 9:00 in Room 323 (Music Room).

Israel and the End Times taught by Linford Youndt – this study will look at how the nation of Israel fits into God’s plan for the end times. Part one of this elective will be held at 10:45 on September 21 in the Fellowship Hall. Part two will be held at 10:45 on September 28 also in the Fellowship Hall.

Q & A on the Antichrist/Coming of Christ with Pastor Willard – Pastor Willard will answer your questions regarding the Antichrist and the return of Jesus Christ. This elective will be held at 9:00 and 10:45 on September 28 in Room 323 (Music Room).

Monday, August 18, 2008

When Rocks Leak

Last week I returned to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia where I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree in Pastoral Ministries with a Greek minor back in 1987. This time I was dropping my daughter off for her freshman year at Liberty. It was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that it was exactly 25 years earlier that my parents dropped me off at Liberty for my first year of college. 25 years have passed since then…a quarter of a century. Below are some thoughts as I reflect back on last week:

There is no doubt in my mind that Liberty is the most exciting Christian University in America. I am so incredibly glad that my daughter will get to experience it. I just wish she was going to be able to experience Dr Falwell like I was able to when I was there.

Saying good-bye to your daughter and knowing she is not going home with you is a feeling that cannot be explained unless you’ve been there. Watching her walk up that hill away from us to her dorm after saying our farewell was one of the hardest moments of my life while at the same time being one of the most incredibly satisfying moments of my life all at the same time.

It’s weird to think that two years from now we will be dropping both of our kids off at college at the same time and even weirder to think that we will have to find a way to pay for them both at the same time as well.

I was amazed at how many of the professors were still teaching that I had 20-25 years ago when I was a student.

It was very meaningful for me to visit Dr Falwell’s memorial. I am still astonished when I think about how much his ministry shaped my life. I would not be where I am today or married to who I am today had it not been for Dr Falwell’s life, vision and ministry.

The only thing that seems more expensive than college education is how much it costs to get a female college freshman set up in her dorm room.

As predicted, I was a rock in saying good-bye to my daughter. I just didn’t realize how much water leaks from a rock. We had prayer with Joy, her two roommates (Kara and Lauren...pictured above with Joy) and Lauren’s parents in their dorm room our final night before leaving. Since I am a pastor, I got called on to pray. A lot of water leaked from this rock as I prayed. That caused the mom’s to do the same thing. It really was a special time though. The parents of Joy’s roommates are wonderful. We all gelled real well. It was obvious that those three girls would become very good friends and that they would each end up with three sets of parents over at least their freshman year.

I realize that my relationship with Joy will now change (in a good way) forever. I am excited to move into this new phase of fatherhood. Whatever happens, I’ll be a rock.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just Say No, Joseph!

It’s time to be honest. Temptation is difficult but sexual temptation is very difficult. That is why the story of Joseph in the Old Testament in Genesis 39 is so encouraging. From this story we learn four principles about dealing with temptation.

First, resisting temptation is founded in the priority of your life being your relationship with Christ over the reality of your circumstances. The reality of Joseph’s circumstances were difficult Joseph was the favored son of Jacob which caused his brothers to hate him (Genesis 37:3-4). He had a dream indicating that he would reign over his brothers which caused them to hate him even more (Genesis 37:5-8). His brothers plotted to kill him (Genesis 37:18). His brothers attacked him and threw him into a pit (Gen 37:23-24). His brothers sold him to slave traders (Genesis 37:25-28). His brothers made his father believe he had been killed by an animal (Genesis 37:31-35). Joseph was taken to Egypt and sold on the auction block to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguards (Genesis 37:36). But even under these circumstances, the Lord was with Joseph showing his continued commitment and obedience to God (Genesis 39:1-2).

Second, resisting temptation can become more difficult with success. Joseph had many successes. He had spiritual success (Genesis 39:3). Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph and was blessing Joseph. He had vocational success (Genesis 39:4-5). Potiphar made Joseph the overseer of his house and all that he owned was put under Joseph’s control. As a result, the Lord blessed everything that Potiphar owned. Then Joseph had physical success (Genesis 39:6). Joseph was handsome in his form and appearance. Only three other men are described like this in the Bible…Saul, David and Absalom. These successes made Joseph a bigger target for sensual temptation. The more success we have the more susceptible we seem to become to temptation.

Third, resisting temptation requires a firm response. Potiphar’s wife propositioned Joseph sexually (Gen 39:7). Joseph directly and firmly resists due to his loyalty to his master and his greater loyalty to God (Genesis 39:8-9). Potiphar’s wife continued this seduction on a daily basis but Joseph resisted (Genesis 39:10). He would not listen to her, lie beside her, or be near her. So Potiphar’s wife resorted to desperate measures by grabbing Joseph and directly propositioning him sexually (Genesis 39:11-12). Joseph, having firmly resolved to resist, ran out of the house away from the alluring temptation, leaving his outer garment behind (Genesis 39:12).

Finally, resisting temptation does not always result with positive immediate results. Potiphar’s wife’s desire for Joseph turns to anger and she accuses him of attempting to rape her using his garment as proof (Genesis 39:13-18). As a result, Potiphar’s anger burned toward Joseph and he had him thrown into prison (Genesis 19-20). But even in prison, the Lord was with Joseph and ultimately would use this situation to raise Joseph to an even greater position and would use him to save many people from a coming famine in the land

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thank You, BILL! Thank You, DAVID!

Last week nearly 50 people from Grace Church, including most of our staff and many of our Elders and ministry leaders, attended the Leadership Summit which was held via satellite at LCBC. The Leadership Summit is a ministry of Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Association out of South Barrington, Illinois, near Chicago. What an outstanding two days the Summit was for all of us.

The Summit kicked off and ended with Bill Hybels speaking. I think everyone has a speaker or two that every time they hear them causes them to be inspired and their vision and passion to be increased. For me, this speaker is Bill Hybels. I have never heard him in which my spiritual batteries did not get recharged and my desire to be a strong leader of a local church that is meeting people where they are and moving them to where God wants them to be has not been deepened. I am looking forward to grabbing his new book, Axioms, and reading it real soon.

The rest of the Summit was also just as phenomenal with leaders from so many walks of life challenging us to lead where we are at. If I could have just 2 minutes to speak one on one with Bill Hybels, I would like to personally thank him for all that he has done to help leaders like me to develop and to increase in our effectiveness and our passions.

I also would like to thank David Ashcraft, Pastor of LCBC, and his entire team of volunteers for taking the time to host this wonderful event. The amount of time, energy and resources it takes to pull of such an endeavor is quite an undertaking. I appreciate David’s passion and willingness to use his ministry and the facility that God has blessed them with to invest into the lives of so many other churches and ministries in the area. I have had the privilege of communicating with David Ashcraft on a couple of occasions and have been amazed with his humility and his willingness to serve. So let me take this time to say thank you to David, the elders, staff and volunteers of LCBC who did such an excellent job in hosting this great event.

Take time to check out Pastor Tim’s blog ( for August 7-8 as he lists the main principles he took away from each session of the Summit. If you have never experienced the Leadership Summit, then I encourage you to set aside August 6-7 of next summer and plan to be part. You will be amazed at the way the Spirit of God uses the Summit to energize, rejuvenate and grow you into a more effective leader. Just think of how our church would be positively effected if every person who leads in any area would attend the Leadership Summit and become even better equipped to lead with diligence.

So on behalf of myself and Grace Church, “Thank you, Bill, for your passion for leadership and for your vision to help us become more effective in our callings. And thank you, David, for your servanthood and ministry to us in sharing your facility so that we can afford to take far more people from our ministry to the Leadership Summit than we would be able to take if we all had to go to Chicago!” I appreciate you both!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Prayer Requests from Liberty

We will spend today finalizing all that we can do to get Joy off to a good start in college life. Tonight we will say good-bye so for the next 24 hours, here is our itinerary:

Tonight we will say good-bye, cry, shower, cry, get ready for bed, cry, go to bed, cry, get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, cry, get up tomorrow morning, cry, shower, cry, get dressed, cry, load the vehicle, cry, check out of the hotel, cry, drive, cry, stop for breakfast, cry, stop for gas, cry, eat lunch, cry, arrive home and cry.

Seriously, for those who have been through this stage of life, you understand. For those who have not been here yet, one day you will understand. Either way, below are some specific requests that you can be praying about for our family.

Pray that we will get everything accomplished today to get Joy ready!

Pray for God’s grace for all of us as we say good-bye tonight!

Pray for a comfortable first night for Joy in her dorm room tonight!

Pray for a great start to a lifetime of friendship Joy with her roommates (Lauren and Kara)!

Pray for an effective Freshman Orientation for Joy Wednesday through Friday!

Pray for safety and comfort as Laura and I drive home Thursday!

Pray for peace for Jonathan (pictured above with his sister) who had to stay at home due to soccer preseason!

Pray for a great first week of classes for Joy next week!

Pray for God to continue to supply the funds needed for Joy’s tuition, room and board!

Pray for wisdom and safety for Joy over the academic year!

Pray that God would surround Joy withy godly friends, Resident Assistants and faculty!

Pray for Laura, Jonathan and myself to adjust to how quiet our house is going to be!

Pray that God would use these four years at Liberty to continue to ignite Joy’s spiritual passion and to shape her for what God has called her to do!

Pray that the next 6 weeks until Joy comes home from Fall break goes by very, very, very, very, very, very, very fast!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Good-Bye, Joy

I’ve known this day was coming for quite some time but I still can’t believe it is here. We will leave this morning to get Joy settled into her Freshman year at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA! It seems like just yesterday was the first word, first step, first day of kindergarten, first bra, first time driving, first date stage of life. But it all changes today.

As of today, my little Joy is a college student who is ready to be set free and fly. On one hand, I hate to let her go. But on the other hand, I am so excited I could bust. I know what my years at Liberty meant to me. I loved those years. They shaped so much of my life. During those four years I grew up. I got theologically trained! I caught a vision for ministry! And I found my life’s partner! I am who I am today and where I am today in large part due to my four years at Liberty. Now the same impact happens to Joy. Man, I love that!

She is the type of girl who will eat it up. She wanted to be in a dorm right in the middle of campus life. She could have roomed with girls she knew but instead she chose to let the Lord pick her roommates. I can’t wait to see how God uses the next four years in her life. She will be an education major. She wants to teach Middle School history when she graduates. In fact, she has even verbalized in the past a desire to teach in the inner city (does Lititz have an inner city?).

One thing that is weird is the reality of knowing that when Joy comes back she will be different and so will our relationship. I remember so desiring to come home for breaks when I was in college but after a few days at home, I couldn’t wait to get back to campus. College became home. College was where my life was. And so it will be the case with Joy. On one hand, that saddens me, but on the other hand, it really excites me because though I know our relationship will never be exactly what it used to be, I also know that it will be better in a whole new and wonderful way. I’m really looking forward to that!

My family will not be the only ones who miss her while she is away. Joy has touched many lives. One mother in our church recently wrote Joy this note:

“I just want to wish you the best as you head off to Liberty…I know that you will make a great impact on the Liberty campus just as you made a great impact here at Grace and LCS. I appreciated how you made (my daughter) feel special over the past year. Your kind and encouraging words and letters to her were appreciated by this mom! If she can find great “mentors” like you throughout her years, she will be greatly missed.”

Joy’s address at college will be as follows:

Joy Distler
LU Box 33545
Liberty University
PO Box 20,000
Lynchburg, VA 24506

Monday, August 11, 2008

Screaming in Increments

Last Tuesday was our last family day together before Joy goes to college tomorrow. So we decided to splurge a bit and we spent the day at Hershey Park. We had a blast. The day just could not have been any better.

I have to admit that it has been a long time since I have ridden roller coasters and they just aren’t as fun as I remember them. Keep in mind that I can not go in circles. One time around and I will probably toss my cookies. Two times around and the deposit is guaranteed. The first coaster we went on my kids told me had just one loop. That was true. But what they didn’t tell me is that the rest of the trip was nothing but corkscrews. Do you know how awful it is to race through that track with your omelet and potatoes that you enjoyed just an hour earlier trying to make a reappearance of sorts?

I did end up riding a good 6 or more coasters with the kids. Laura is just not a coaster person. She can spin in circles until the cows come home, but the least little feeling of falling and she freaks out! However, the kids talked her into going on the Mouse Trap coaster with the promise and assurance that there would be no sudden drops. Well, if you have ever road that ride you know that they conveniently forgot that drops are involved. I wish all of you could have heard Laura scream. I don’t think the kids and I have ever laughed so hard. You see, Laura screams in increments. It is not one long scream. It is like Morse Code…“Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh!”

The picture they took of us on the ride said it all. You see, me, Joy and Jonathan laughing uncontrollably and Laura, with a look of horror, letting out this series of short screams! I wish now I would have spent the $10 to buy the picture so I could have posted it! It would have been so worth the trouble I would have gotten myself into!

The highlight of the day for me, though, was shutting out my son in a hockey game (2-0) in the arcade and then beating all of my family at the “Whack A Mole” game to win the stupid looking stuffed monkey. I’m 43 and I still like beating my kids at games! That’s why I quit playing basketball with my son…he’s gotten too good at it!

In all, you can summarize the day this way:

$144 – Park Tickets
$35 – Breakfast at the Cocoa Diner
$10 – Parking
$10 – Locker
$100+ - Food and drinks
$25 - Games
$40 – T-Shirts


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Courageous Leadership Award

This past Thursday and Friday was the Leadership Summit. Nearly 50 people from Grace Church attended this year and I believe it was the best summit yet. We all came away renewed and re-energized to the fact that the local church is the hope of the world and we can make a difference.

Each year at the summit, Bill Hybels announces the winner of the courageous leadership award. This is a $200,000 award given to one church that is making a difference in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our world. As we sat at the satellite venue at LCBC, what a joy it was to have Bill Hybels announce that this year's courageous leadership award went to Pastor David Ashcraft and the Lancaster County Bible Church (LCBC).

On behalf of Grace Church, Lititz Christian School and Monringstar Daycare, I want to congratulate David and the LCBC family. May the Lord continue to bless your efforts to reach people for Jesus here in Lancaster County and around the world.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Temptation in the Elevator

I still remember the story that one of the Vice Presidents of Liberty University told while I was a student there. He was a huge sports fan and was given a ticket to the Super Bowl. Now if you are a major football fan, you realize how amazing it would be to be able to attend the biggest game of the year live and in person. The only problem was that he was only given one ticket so to attend, he would have to go by himself. For that reason he was going to turn down the gracious offer but his wife convinced him that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity so he packed his bags and headed out.

He said that attending the Super Bowl game itself was amazing but he also was quick to point out that outside the game, the environment around the festivities was very immoral. The game got over with late and he headed back to the hotel. When he arrived he went to get on the elevator. Just as the elevator doors closed a very attractive woman slipped on to the elevator with him. They were alone as the elevator started moving. The women, who was intoxicated, quickly made a direct advance at this man and an fer for him to spend the night in her room. Now try to understand the situation. He was far away from home. No one else was around. The woman was drunk and beautiful. And in all likelihood, he could choose indulge and no one would ever discover that it happened.

In the moments between floors, he had to make an instant decision…one that he had not planned in advance on having to make. In the end, he told us that there was one thought that went through his mind that allowed him to say no to the attractive offer and move on to his room by himself. Now what was that thought? Was it his wife of many years? No! Was it his precious children? No! Was it his ministry at Liberty University? Not at all. He said that the one thing that went through his mind that allowed him to resist this offer was a verse of Scripture that he had memorized just that morning.

David was right when he said that he had hidden God’s Word in his heart so that he would not sin against God. Jesus’ example of resisting temptation in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 really works. So what are you and I waiting for? That’s why this month as we work though our “Just Say No” series on temptation here at Grace Church we are encouraging everyone to take this month to memorize this one verse of Scripture:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Folks, listen, if you haven’t started to memorize this verse yet, you are living very dangerously. In fact, if you are going to make the conscious decision not to participate in this church-wide memorization project than you just might want to avoid elevators (or anywhere and everywhere else where temptation can rear its ugly head) for the rest of your life. Work on this verse this week! You’ll be glad you did!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Just Say NO, Jesus!

Jesus understands what it is like to be tempted. Isn’t that great to know? In Matthew chapter four and Luke chapter 4 we read the accounts of His temptation in the wilderness. How exactly do the Gospel accounts show Christ’s temptations? John actually makes no mention of these temptations at all while Mark mentions it only briefly. Matthew and Luke mention the three specific temptations but they do so in a different order. How many temptations were there during the 40 day period? Jesus endured more than three temptations (Luke 4:2 implies that He was tempted throughout the 40 day period). It appears that the three specific temptations listed occurred at the end of the 40-days (Luke 4:2-3). But this was not the final time that Jesus dealt with temptation. As a human Jesus would endure temptation through His entire earthly life. The Bible says that when the 40 days in the wilderness was over, the Devil left Him until an opportune time (Luke 4:13; Matthew 16:21-23).

But what made these three temptations noteworthy is that they represented all that is in the world (1 John 2:15-17). The first temptation was in the area of the lust of the flesh as Satan told Jesus to tell the stone to become bread (Luke 4:3). The second temptation was in the area of the lust of the eyes as Satan showed Him all the kingdoms of the world (Luke 4:5). Temptation #3 was in the area of the pride of life (Luke 4:10). These temptations also give us some insight into the strategy of Satan. We learn that Satan often attacks when we are weak (Luke 4:2) and when we are alone (Luke 4:1). And most importantly we learn that Satan often uses Scripture out of context (Luke 4:10).

But why did Jesus, who was God in the flesh, have to endure temptation. What was the purpose of it? What did it accomplish? First, it proved that he was God and could not sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5; Hebrews 7:26).

This does not mean that Christ can not understand temptation but rather that He endured it at the highest level possible. Think about it. Do you really believe that you have experienced all the fiery arrows of the Evil One? Of course we haven’t. Why? Because we give in too easily. Jesus never gave in. He endured the whole bag of tricks but never sinned. This allowed Him to become our High Priest. According to Hebrews 4:15-16, Jesus understands our weaknesses because He was tempted in all areas. As a result, we cam come boldly to Him when we are tempted and we will find mercy when we fail and grace to be able to resist.

But through His temptations, Jesus also provided an example for us in dealing with temptation. First, when we are tempted we should recite Scripture, just like Jesus did (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Jesus had Scripture memorized and quoted it out loud. Folks, listen, memorizing Scripture is our best defense (Psalm 119:11). Second, when we are tempted we should resist the devil verbally (Matthew 4:10). We must always remember, however, that rsisting begins with submitting to God (James 4:7). Finally, when we are tempted, we should run to God (Matthew 4:11; Hebrews 4:15-16; James 4:8).

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Stuff the Sunroom LIST

This October it is our desire to STUFF THE SUNROOM with thousands of items that four local organizations can use to help meet the physical needs of hurting women and children right here in Lancaster County (see yesterday’s blog for more information). We need everyone in our ministry to participate! Be sure to start now picking up some of the following items every time you go to the store so that we can literally STUFF THE SUNROOM this October! This is our opportunity to demonstrate to our community that we care. After all, people will not care how much we know until the know how very much we care about them! Do you care?

Diapers (all sizes); Baby lotion; Bath soap; Baby Blankets; Onesies; Bibs; Baby food (stages 1 & 2); Bottle scrubbers; Pacifiers; Diaper bags; Socks; Underwear; Sippy cups
Bottles; Formula (Enfamil w/iron; Similac w/iron)

Laundry soap; Fabric softener; Bleach; Dish soap; Brooms/ Mops; Bathroom cleaner; Buckets; Windex; Pledge; Disinfectant wipes; Lysol spray

Colored pencils; Washable markers/ washable paint; Washable crayons

FOOD (non-perishable food items)
Canned fruit/ vegetables; Soup/Pasta; Rice/Potatoes; Cereal (ex. Life, Cinnamon Life, Honey Nut Cheerios); Condiments/spices; Peanut butter/Jelly; 100% Juice (cans or bottles); Healthy snacks; Pancake syrup

Sorry; Risk; Monopoly; Scrabble; Yahtzee; Connect Four; Dominoes; Chess/Checkers; Pictionary; Uno; Scattergories; Playing cards

Copy Paper; Pens/ Pencils; Batteries; White out; Markers; Manilla Folders; Stamps; Light bulbs

Paper plates/ Paper cups; Plastic flatware; Napkins; Paper towels; Toilet paper; Garbage bags (kitchen and large trash can size); Clear contact paper

Shampoo/conditioner; Soap; Toothbrush/ Toothpaste; Feminine products; Brushes/combs; Hand sanitizer; Deodorant; Hair spray/ Hair gel; Razors; Moisturizer; Chapstick; Ponytail holders (elastic only/no metal pieces please)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Stuff The Sunroom

I am so excited about the coming month of October here at Grace Church. All of the following will be taking place during this special month:

We will be launching our first wave of small groups!

We will be adding a third Sunday morning worship service!

We will start a new exciting message series called “Ghostbusters”!

The month will kick off with a huge youth Fifth Quarter event!

The month will end with a big children’s Harvest Party!

But we also want to use the month of October as a church to make a difference in the lives of hurting women and children in our community. Single parenthood and homelessness are two circumstances that are growing in our world at an alarming rate. Statistics tell us that families with children make up 40% of the homeless population. Of that number, up to 25% of the homeless population are women with children.

Throughout October, we will be asking all of our ministries…adult, youth, children, school and daycare to join together to fill the needs of four local organizations that exist to help women and children who are going through struggling times right here in Lancaster County. This is our opportunity to make a positive impact into the lives of hurting people right around us. These organizations include the following:

Mom’s House (

Clare House (

Bridge of Hope (

Lancaster County Children and Youth Shelter

It is our desire to literally STUFF THE SUNROOM off of our church lobby with thousands of needed supplies and non-perishable foods for these four local organizations. I will post in my blog tomorrow a list of supplies that are needed by these organizations. Every week through the month of October we are asking everyone who is part of our ministry to bring items on this list with you to the church and help us STUFF THE SUNROOM in order to help meet the physical needs of hurting women and children right here in Lancaster County. If every person brought one item every time they came to church, we could easily STUFF THE SUNROOM from wall to wall and ceiling to floor! How awesome would that be? Why not start picking up these items now?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Transparent and Tired

I know some get nervous whenever I get transparent. But, at the same time, one of the purposes of this blog is to share what I am feeling and thinking and today, to be quite honest, I am feeling very, very tired!

This has been a whirlwind summer that has included quick trips to California and Ohio to interview prospective Pastors of Connection; a week in Colorado visiting family; and a week at Adult Conference in Florida where my glasses fogged up immediately upon opening any door to walk outside and where you lived in a constant state of sweat due to the heat and humidity. I also spoke in one of the main sessions at the conference. Add to that the fact that I spent the week with the younger guys on staff who flat ran me ragged!! That week also brought about saying what in all likelihood was a final good-bye to my Grandma until we both get to heaven.

The flight back last Thursday was also taxing. We sat on the runway in Tampa for nearly 3 hours with the engines and air conditioning off as we waited out a storm in Charlotte. We then pulled into our gate in Charlotte just in time to make a very quick bathroom stop and then jump right on to our next flight to Harrisburg without any chance to eat. Then my luggage didn’t make the connecting flight which took even more time at the airport and even more hunger pains. That led to a very late night dinner stop at Arby’s in Ephrata on the way to take Matt McElravy home.

Right upon arriving at the airport I got a call from Steve Burghart, our Pastor of Connections candidate who was coming in the next day for a visit. His flight had been cancelled which resulted in having to do some rapid adjusting the next morning. The Burghart family encountered all kinds of delays getting from California to Pennsylvania including a flat tire on their airplane which didn’t put them into Harrisburg until late which resulted in another late night dinner stop…this time at Subway in Manheim. That got us to bed very late on Friday night and the next morning started very early with an Elder breakfast.

Saturday was spent hosting the Burgharts and officiating a wedding. Sunday was a full day of morning services, all the activities with the Burgharts in the afternoon and being part of the evening youth led communion. This coming week is filled with all of the normal activities, completing our visit with the Burgharts, and then attending the Leadership Summit which is all day on this coming Thursday and Friday. After that will be another full weekend of ministry.

Add to all of this the physical and emotional wear that Laura and I are both experiencing with getting ready to take our daughter, Joy, to her first year of college next Tuesday. Wow, I’m really not looking forward to that week at all.

So, I will start this week of blogging off by being very honest and transparent. Folks, listen, I’m tired!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Just Say No, EVE!

We face it every single day of our earthly lives as an enemy that seemingly never goes away and is lurking around each and every corner of our lives…temptation. Beginning this Sunday here at Grace Church we will study 5 individuals whose personal battles with temptation is recorded in Scripture for all to read. Some were successful in resisting temptation’s lure and others failed. From these encounters we will learn all we can about how to resist temptation. We are calling this series, “Just Say No!” The first person we will examine is Eve! From her story we will learn 7 facts about temptation.

Fact 1: Temptation usually comes in disguise (v1). The serpent appears to have been a beautiful creature in its original state and to have been superior (more crafty or clever) to the rest of creation (v1). It lost this superiority among the animal world as part of the curse of sin (Genesis 3:14). We learn that it was Satan that spoke through the serpent. (2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is a master of disguise and trickery. He uses schemes (crafty methods) to attack us (Ephesians 6:10-12) and is an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14)

Fact 2: Temptation becomes more powerful when we do not know well the commands of God (v2-3). Eve belittled the privileges of God. God said that they may eat of any tree of the garden “freely” but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). Eve leaves out the word ‘freely’ (v2). Eve also added to the prohibition of God. God said “do not eat” of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). Eve added the words “or touch” to God’s command (v3). Finally, Eve weakened the penalty of God. God said that in the day that you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will surely die (Genesis 2:17). Eve leaves out the word “surely” (v3).

Fact 3: Temptation is always rooted in a lie (v4). God said, “You will surely die” (Gen 2:17). Satan said, “You shall not die” (Gen 3:4). Satan’s lie continues today as he whispers, “You can sin and get away with it!” Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).

Fact 4: Temptation casts doubt over God’s character (v5). The suggestion by Satan was that God was jealous and was holding them back from their destiny. Satan’s temptation implied that God was holding out on them the path to divinity…“you will be like God!”

Fact 5: Temptation appeals to our natural desires and appetites (v6). Eve noticed that the tree was good for food (the lust of the flesh as seen in 1 John 2:15-17). Eve noticed that the fruit was delightful to her eyes (the lust of the eyes as seen in 1 John 2:15-17). Eve believed that the tree could make her wise (the pride of life as seen in 1 John 2:15-17)

Fact 6: Temptation never stops with us…it always involves others (v6). Eve’s sin affected Adam negatively (v6). Adam’s sin affected mankind negatively (Romans 5:12)

Fact 7: Temptation never keeps its promises (v7). The promise of divine enlightenment did not happen to Eve. What God designed as beautiful resulted in guilt and shame.