Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trying not to FREAK OUT!

This past week has been one of the most unnerving weeks I have ever had. My daughter, Joy, graduates from Lititz Christian School this May. That’s not the part that is freaking me out. To me, there is nothing but great joy and excitement in seeing her pass through these great milestones of life.

She has applied and has been accepted to Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. That’s not the part that is freaking me out either. In fact, that is acting like a soothing balm to the fact that my first born is getting ready to leave home. For me, Liberty is like a home away from home. That is where I spent my four years of college. I loved it there. I have talked to other aging alumni who agree…there is just something really special about that mountain and the Liberty Campus. To send my daughter there is like sending her home. I know that there are many other really good Christian colleges out there, but I will always see Liberty as head and shoulders above them all.

Here is the part that is now freaking me out. This past week we had to finish her enrollment process in order to lock in the current tuition rates. If we waited until after January 31, the rates increased. But to finish the process we had to select and lock into a monthly payment plan for the Fall semester. That payment plan begins immediately. That’s right. My daughter still has four months of High School remaining and my credit card is now being charged monthly toward her first year of college. Folks, listen. That freaks me out!

When I saw the figure I was floored. Now keep in mind that Liberty is consistently in the lowest 10% of all Christian colleges when it comes to costs. Still, the final figure for her fall semester freaked me out. Surely that was the cost for all four years, right? No! Well, it must have been the cost for at least half of her college career, right? No! Okay, then, it must be the cost for her first full year…right? No! This final figure now being divided over the next ten months and being drafted from my VISA is only for her first semester of her freshman year. Folks, listen, I am freaking out!

So the calculator in my head begins to work automatically. If you take that amount and double it, there is the cost of a full year. OUCH! If you take that new amount and quadruple it, that is the amount of a four year college run….please, Joy, finish in four years!!! As the calculator inside my head does its computing I can honestly tell you that I am freaking out big time!! And if that wasn’t bad enough, it then hit me that in two years, as Joy begins her Junior year of college, our son, Jonathan, will be starting his freshman year. I am freaking out over the cost of one kid being in college…how do I even begin to imagine the cost of two kids being in college at the same time?? FREAK OUT!!!!

So, all you blog readers who have already endured the stage of life that I am just now starting, please take the time to send me an e-mail ( and share with me what you learned. I can use some advice, but even more than that, I can use some reassurance! I’m open to anything but horror stories. Please keep those to yourself! I'M FREAKED OUT ENOUGH!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Word to Teens and Singles

Last Sunday as we continued our study through the book of Malachi here are Grace Church we saw that the men of Judah had dealt treacherously with their wives by divorcing them in order to marry younger, more attractive women from the surrounding nations who did not believe in or worship the God of Israel.

This was a problem due to the fact that way back after Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, he gave them a command prior to their entering the Promised Land. This land was inhabited by multiple foreign nations who all worshipped numerous false gods. God commanded his people that they were not to marry with those from these nations. This was not due to their being of a different race. This was due to their not being followers of Jehovah. Boaz married a Moabite named Ruth but she had abandoned the idolatry of the land of Moab and had converted to following the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But God warned Israel that by marrying those of a different religion, the most likely result was that it would lead them away from worshipping Him as well.

The same principle is true in the New Testament as well. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 we are clearly told not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Why? Because the principle remains the same. When we marry someone who is not a follower of Jesus Christ the end result is that it is most likely to mess us up spiritually.

Now if this is true regarding marrying an unbeliever, than I think we can safely conclude that it is also true when we date unbelievers as well. Teenagers, listen. If marrying an unbeliever will mess you up spiritually, it only goes without saying that so will dating someone who is not a committed follower of Jesus Christ as well. I know I’m not your parent (Praise God!) but allow me to give you some pastoral advice. Drive a stake in the ground today. Make the commitment before God now that you will only marry someone who loves Jesus Christ every bit as much as you do. Pound that stake even deeper into the ground by also resolving that neither will you date anyone who is not a follower of Jesus Christ. I know that this means you may get a few less dates and that you might find yourself staying at home more Friday nights than you desire. But in the end, you will be glad you did this.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. Some of you have parents who began to date when one of them was not yet a believer. Perhaps they married with only one of them being a Christian at the time. And in the end, the unbelieving parent accepted Christ and today they have a wonderful and godly marriage. That’s great. Praise the Lord. But please realize that if that is the story of your parents, then it is the exception to the rule and not the rule itself. For every couple you parade in front of me who have a story like that where they went around the principle of God and it all worked out in the end, I can bring forth a hundred with stories of heartbreak and despair.

So take my advice. Save yourself a lifetime of heartache. Only date those who are committed followers of Jesus Christ. Those dates make the best potential mates.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Love Songs in Church

If you were here at Grace Church last Sunday you experienced one of the most powerful endings to a church service that I have ever been part of in my life. The theme for the entire morning was that if we are going to be authentic worshippers of God in the fast food culture that we live in, we must reflect God in our marriages.

We looked from Malachi chapter two at how the men of Judah, in the days of Malachi the prophet, were treating the Jewish wives of their youth treacherously and breaking the covenant of marriage that they had made with them with God as witness. This was happening due to the men divorcing their Jewish wives in order to marry younger and more attractive women from the surrounding foreign nations who didn’t believe in or worship the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. By doing so, they were removing the garment of protection that marriage was to provide for their Jewish wives.

We ended the service with Rick Bernhardt singing a romantic love song in Italian as the English words shown on the screen. WOW! How cool was it to stand in the back of the auditorium with my arms wrapped around my wife and her arms wrapped around me as we listened to this powerful expression of love.

How cool was it to preach a sermon where one of the verses we studied strongly stated that God hates divorce but yet to end the sermon in a very uplifting and positive way? I think Rick could probably quit his job and make a living hiring himself out to serenade a lot of couples in the future. But lest you think he is the ultimate in being a romantic, you might want to keep in mind that a real romantic would have sang the song to his wife with her sitting on a stool beside him on the stage (like I originally requested)! If I knew Italian, that’s what I would have done!!

Yet, the whole thing really got me thinking…we need to sing more romantic love songs in church. I am being dead serious. There is an inseparable link in Scripture between authentic worship and a loving marriage that reflects God. In fact, if we ever get Matt McElravy, our young, single, handsome and rich (OK…three out of four isn’t bad) Worship Arts Director here at Grace, married off, I am going to give him the task of writing some love songs for us to sing as part of our worship. I’m not talking about love songs about our love for God. That’s good and we need those too. But I’m talking about love songs centered around the marriage relationship between one husband and one wife committed to reflecting God in their marriage for one lifetime.

I want our young people to grow up in a church that elevates the need for love in marriage and sees marriage as the pinnacle of human relationships that it is meant to be. We sing love songs at weddings and we sing them at home, but why not in church? I think we need to reconnect the love between a husband and a wife with our worship. Marriage is God’s creation and it is under attack in our culture today. May we never forget that authentic worship involves reflecting God in our marriages.

Monday, January 28, 2008


There is an inseparable link between marriage and worship. That is especially apparent in the Old Testament book of Malachi where the people had made two very big mistakes when it came to the sanctity of the marital union. First, many of the men were guilty of marrying unbelievers. The prophet Malachi asks two rhetorical questions in verse 20. Don’t we all (men and women of Judah) have one Father? The answer is an obvious yes. Has not one God created us? That answer too is clearly affirmative. If this is true than why were they treating each other so wrongly?

This wrong action was seen in the men of Judah marrying women from foreign countries (v11). God had commanded this not to happen (Exodus 34:10-17; Deuteronomy 7:1-40). This command was given due to the risk of idolatry. The problem was not marrying a different race but marrying a different religion. This was a problem in Israel’s history (Ezra 9:1-3; 10:1-4; Nehemiah 13:23-27). Paul addresses the same issue with five rhetorical questions in 2 Corinthians 6. What partnership has righteousness and lawlessness? None! What fellowship has light with darkness? None! What harmony has Christ with Belial? None! What has a believer in common with an unbeliever? None! What agreement has the temple of God with idols? None! And when we go outside of these parameters the result is the absence of the blessing of God (v12).

I know that there are some young people who will look at their parents realizing that their mom dated or married their dad before he was a Christian and it all worked out well. That is wonderful but let me be clear. If that is the case with your parents please understand that their case is the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. For every couple like your parents that you can point to where it all worked out, I can point to a 100 examples where the result was pain and broken heartedness.

The second problem with the men of Israel is that they were divorcing their spouses in order to marry these foreign unbelievers. They had dealt treacherously with their wives by divorcing them to marry foreign women (v13). By so doing, they had broken their covenant with their wives of which God was a witness (v14). God’s view of this is not up for debate. God hates divorce (“treacherously” is used 5 times). The fact that God allowed for divorce in Deuteronomy 24 does not change this fact. His allowance was due to the hardness of man’s heart and in order to protect the wife who was being divorced.

Malachi speaks of removing the garment from their wives. “Garment” is the idea of offering protection through marriage. To divorce their wives was to remove the garment of protection from them. In Ruth 3:9, Ruth requested Boaz to spread his garment over her. This was an old custom where a man would put his garment over a woman, claiming her as his wife. In Malachi’s day they were removing this garment of protection by divorcing their wives to marry younger foreign women. The lesson is clear. We cannot be authentic worshippers unless we are treating our spouses correctly. Authentic worship involves reflecting God in my marriage.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I Like to Shop!

Most men hate it. Not me. One of my favorite pastimes is actually to go shopping with my wife. In fact, that is what we do together on my day off each and every Friday. And when I say we go shopping…I mean we go shopping. For example, last week on my day off we hit all of the following stores and we never even made it inside the mall:

Breakfast at the Lititz Family Cupboard (Laura loves their baked oatmeal)

Green Hills Discount Grocer

Giant Grocery Store

Pet Value Store (hey…you gotta feed the cat)


Turkey Hill (we got thirsty!)


Wal-Mart (what’s a day shopping without a stop at Wal-Mart?)

Porter’s Furniture Store in Lancaster (I don’t need to ever go back there)

TJ Max

Jo-Ann Fabrics (what a long wait in line for one lousy yard of fabric)

Dinner at the Longhorn Restaurant (steak with sautéed mushrooms and onions)

Those 12 shopping stops took us from 9am until 4pm and amounted to a full day’s worth of going from store to store with my wife. But that’s not unusual for us at all. Like I said, that is the way we spend my day off together every Friday. It really shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, we met for the first time while shopping.

We both were in college at the time at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. It was a Saturday morning and my friend and I hit Hardees for breakfast and then headed over to the Fort Flea Market to kill some time. There, a gal I knew named Sue introduced me to her new roommate…Laura. Laura was at the flea market looking for three things…a toaster, a garbage can and a picture frame for her boyfriend, Pete, who lived in Texas. That day she did not go home with a toaster, a garbage can or a picture frame. But that night we had our very first date. We saw the movie E.T. on campus. The rest is history and now we spend each and every Friday together shopping! Poor Pete!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Worship First at Grace

Last fall, our Worship Arts Director, Matt McElravy, led us in our first ever Saturday Night of Worship here at Grace Church. This night was very well received and as a result, Matt has organized a second evening of worship. Our next Night of Worship will be held on Saturday, February 2 at 7:00 PM in the Grace Church auditorium. This will be a wonderful time of coming together to sing, pray, and meditate on the Word of God together in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

Mark your calendars now--this will be a special evening! And making this evening extra-special is the fact that we will be recording the original music written by Matt that we sing together here at Grace, with the goal of producing a 4-song CD that will be released around Easter this year. That means that if you are here on February 2, your voice (and hand claps, and shouts, and so on) will be on the CD as well! So sing out! This is the first project of its kind for us here at Grace Church, and hopefully not the last, so we encourage all of you who are able to come out and worship together and make this a great experience!

It is then our hope to do a quick turn-around of hundreds and hundreds of these CD’s from our Night of Worship so that on Easter Sunday we can give as a gift to every family who attends a free copy of our original music that we sing here at Grace Church that have been written by our own Matt McElravy. This is going to be a fabulous evening so please mark your calendars now and spend this evening worshipping our God at Grace.

That is not our last scheduled night of worship, however. On Friday night, March 21, also at 7pm, we will also have a very special Good Friday Night of Worship. This evening is being carefully and prayerfully planned and put together by Lisa Weidman (Assistant Music Director) and Tim Auld (Pastor of Spiritual Formation). The night will focus completely on the cross and the sacrifice of Christ using music and Scripture reading to help us focus on the Good News that Christ died for our sins.

In the past we have not had any Good Friday services here at Grace so we need you to come out and support this special evening. I know that God will use it in your life and use it to prepare you for our celebration on Easter as we are reminded of the words of the angel at the empty tomb…“He is not here! He is risen just as He said!”

You see, corporate worship of God is not something reserved solely for Sunday morning worship services. There is something vibrant and exciting about joining together on a Friday or a Saturday evening and putting all of our thoughts and cares of this world aside and focusing completely on our great God, responding to the truth of His love. So be sure to be part of these two upcoming Nights of Worship:

Saturday, February 2nd (7pm)

Friday, March 21st (7pm)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


The Elder Board here at Grace Church is taking time this year to study together Bill Hybels’ book, Who You Are When No One’s Looking. As we took the time to discuss the first chapter on the topic of character, I was impressed more by what character is not rather than what character is. For example:

Character is not reputation!

Character is not success!

Character is not achievement!

Character is not what people think of you. Why? Because what people think of you is based on what you do. What people think of you is your reputation, not your character. Character is not based on what you do but rather who you are. Reputation is based on what people see you do. Your character is based on what you do when no ones else is looking. In other words:

I am not a man of character because people think well of me!

I am not a man of character because I have had successes!

I am not a man of character because of my achievements!

A man can be thought well of by others, have great success at what he does, and be awarded for many astounding achievements and still lack character. The opposite can also be true. A man can be ridiculed by others, have little success in life and have few if any awards for achievements and still be a man of character.

Here’s something else. It is possible for a man to lose his reputation and perhaps never get it back but still become a man of character. Take the Old Testament character named David as an example. In the eyes of most churched people, David’s failures would have cost him his reputation. Even in our culture today, with its quickening moral downward spiral, a preacher being caught red-handed in adultery and cold-blooded murder would result in a permanent scar of their reputation. Ten, twenty, even fifty years down the road, when that individual’s name is mentioned, the first thing that would be brought up would be, “Isn’t that the guy who committed adultery and murder?”

Yet, at the end of David's life, when the world would still be speaking of his indiscretions that tarnished his reputation, God summarized him with one phrase…“a man after God’s own heart!” How wonderful is our God! Even when we can’t get away from the skeletons of our past that continue to mark our reputation, we can still become a person of character if we will choose consistency and resist compromise, even when no one else is looking.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

LCS Varsity Wins Big ON and OFF Court

If you know me then you know how much I love following sports, especially the sports program of the Lititz Christian School (LCS) Eagles which is a part of our ministry here at Grace Church in Lititz, PA.

LCS went into last Friday’s big match ups against the Warriors of Dayspring Christian Academy with a lot riding in regards to the standings. But Friday was more than just a basketball contest. LCS and Dayspring partnered together in an event called “Coaches vs. Cancer.” LCS Students collected money and each player sought out pledges for the amount of baskets their team made with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. LCS was able to present a check to the American Cancer Society for more than double their goal. Congratulations to Mrs Shenk and Mrs Elsner, who run our athletic department at LCS, on a job well done and a very special evening.

And I might as well take this time to update you on the games. The girl’s varsity team defeated Dayspring 59-32. Nina Gundrum led all scorers with 17 points. Three other Lady Eagles scored double digits including Erika Naticchia with 12 points and Kaddie Brandt and Karlee Carper each with 11 points. In her last regular season home game, Senior Jennifer Kupstas added 8 points. The Lady Eagles are now 8-4 overall and 3-1 in the CCAC conference putting them just one game out of first place.

The varsity boys completed the sweep of Dayspring Friday night with a very impressive 52-30 victory over the warriors. It was a slow first half with the Eagles scoring just 15 points and going into the locker room with a 1-point deficit. But the second half was a different story with LCS scoring 17 in the third period and 20 in the fourth while holding the Warriors to 14 points in the entire second half including just 4 points in the fourth period. Four Eagles scored in double digits including Dylan Kennedy with 16 points, Jonathan Distler with 13 points (including 4 baskets from beyond the 3-point arch) Tyler Hollinger with 12 points and Jeremiah Hershberger with 11 points. The boys are now 6-7 overall but hold a perfect 5-0 record in conference play thus far. The boy’s varsity team has six regular season games remaining, three of which are conference match-ups.

But perhaps the most important game of the day happened earlier when the LCS faculty/staff squared off against the class of 2008 as part of the afternoon pep rally. Secondary Principal, Eric Lewis (who is also the voice of the LCS Eagles at all home games) had this to say about the game…“Holding off a furious comeback in the final half, the LCS Faculty defeated the Class of 2008, 12-11 in the annual Faculty/Staff vs. seniors’ basketball game. Jacob Frantz was the big man on the boards and with the points for the faculty. Betsy Echternach, Eric Lewis, and Kathleen McAfee all had baskets for the winners. Beth Strepko brought the loudest cheers from the student body with a three-pointer to spark the seniors 9-0 run. But the older, wiser faculty slowly worked their way back into the lead and held on for dear life in the final 10 seconds when the seniors stormed the court, but were unsuccessful in stealing the ball for the winning basket.”

Monday, January 21, 2008


As we have continued in our McWorship Series here at Grace on Sunday mornings we have seen the key words LOVE and SERVICE. We have learned that authentic worship involves a proper response to the love of God and involves serving God with our very best. Last Sunday we entered chapter two of the book of Malachi and saw the key word, “DISCIPLINE.” Authentic worship involves obeying God without compromise.

Malachi mentions the covenant God made with Levi in 2:4, 5 and 8. The Levites were placed in charge of caring for and tending to the tabernacle (Numbers 1:47-53; 18:7-8, 19-21). God also made a covenant of life and peace with the Levites through the righteous actions of a man named Phinehas who was a Levite that took a great stand against evil. We read about this Old Testament hero in Numbers 25.

Israel had not yet entered the Promised Land. During this time, a false prophet named Balaam tried to curse the nation but was unsuccessful. Balaam also tried to corrupt the nation by encouraging them to worship a false god called Ball-Peor which included the practice of sexual immorality with Moabite women. Moses made the pronouncement that all who practiced immorality and worshipped Baal-Peor were to be put to death. The people immediately started weeping because of the realization of the consequences of their immorality and idolatry.

But one man did not repent. Zimri, a man who was bold in his rebellion and sinfulness, took a Midianite prostitute before all the people, Moses and God, into his tent and committed fornication with her in bold rebellion against God. Phinehas, who was Aaron’s grandson, in godly jealousy and zeal, took a javelin and went into the tent and killed Zimri and the prostitute by thrusting the javelin through her belly. As a result of this deed, God gave to Zimri and his descendants a covenant of peace.

In essence Malachi wanted the priests of his day to compare themselves with Phinehas. Unlike this hero and other men like Levi, these modern priests were defiling the name of the Lord. Malachi shows the punishment that is awaiting the priests for their disobedience (v1-2). This curse is spoken of in Deuteronomy 27:15-26; 28:15-58. One thing is clear in Scripture. God always blesses obedience and always punishes disobedience

Malachi lists the specific results of this curse in verse three. He says that he is going to rebuke their offspring. The word is commonly translated “seed” and could mean that their offspring would not be priests. However, the same word is also translated “arm” and could mean that the priests would be rendered powerless. He also says that he would spread refuse on their faces. When a sacrifice was made, the inward organs of digestion, which contained dung, were removed and taken outside the city to the Valley of Hinnon where they were burned. God is simply saying that he would reveal their sin so that they would be expelled outside the camp. The bottom line is clear. We cannot be authentic worshippers of God unless we are disciplined to obey God without compromise.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Stewardship Update - Part 2

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this…if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

Wow! What a promise! It is as if God is saying, “I dare you! In fact, I double dog dare you! Be obedient and faithful in giving and see if I will not bless you. After all, you can’t out give Me!” National statistics tell us that the majority of church attendees do not give anything to the local church and many of those who do give, do so sporadically rather than regularly. So often we practice what I call “leftover giving.” This is when we pay our bills and set aside what we desire for our own purposes and entertainment first and then give a small portion of whatever is “left over” to the Lord through the local church.

In Malachi 3:10 it is as if God is throwing down the financial gauntlet. He challenges the Israelites in Malachi’s day to give obediently and faithfully and to see if He won’t bless them. I believe the same challenge and promise applies to us today. Many Christians feel they can’t afford to give to the Lord but God says, “Try Me!” He wants us to give obediently, liberally and cheerfully as a first priority, not as a “left over” thought. He promises that He will bless us abundantly if we will. Does this mean that the result will be that we will receive great financial wealth? Not necessarily. But I do believe that Scripture teaches that when we make giving to the Lord through the local church a priority, God will be sure that all of our needs are met. He will bless us. But let me remind you that some of God’s greatest blessings are spiritual, not financial.

As a result of this promise, for one Sunday only, we are challenging everyone who is part of the Grace Church family, members and regular attendees alike, to do just that – to test God through obedient giving and see how He blesses you as a result. This special Sunday will take place on February 24th and we are calling this day, “Super-Size Sunday.” On this one Sunday, we are encouraging our entire church family to “super-size” their giving by cheerfully giving their best to the Lord through the local church that week. Imagine what would happen if everyone participated. I’m not simply talking about the size of the offering. Imagine what would happen as God fulfills His promise.

As you can see from this correspondence, we are not putting this challenge together because we are behind in our finances and need to see our giving increase. Giving is good and our financial condition as a church is strong. So then why are we issuing this challenge? It’s because we want everyone who is part of the Grace Church family to be authentic worshippers. We want God’s best for all of us and we realize that God’s best only comes when we are obedient. Sometimes it’s easier to take steps of faith when we all take them together. That is the purpose behind February 24th. That’s why we have put this “Super Size Sunday” together. That’s why we are asking everyone to fervently pray about your part and to earnestly pray that our church will never be the same again as a result.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Stewardship Update - Part 1

Here at Grace Church, we are now well into a new calendar year and I am still giving praise to God for all that He did through the ministry of Grace Church in 2007 and all the fruit He has given us as we strive to effectively fulfill our purpose as a church to “meet people where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be.”

As we entered our new fiscal year back in July we took a step of faith as a congregation with our General Fund budget and increased it 10% over actual giving from the previous fiscal year. This budget was designed for us to keep all of our financial commitments to our vendors and to our missionaries while still accomplishing all of our ministry goals and plans for the current ministry year. At the same time this budget allows us to take what in the past was the amount of our monthly mortgage payment (nearly $300,000 over the course of the fiscal year) and to put that into our “Facility Expansion Fund” as seed money for the future.

We are now halfway through our current fiscal year which ends June 30, 2008. As promised, the main purpose of this correspondence is to update our church family on our current financial progress and status as a church. I am very pleased to let you know that through the end of December our general fund giving, including all of our mission commitments, is running 11.5% ahead of giving over the same time period one year ago. This is very good news seeing that our current general fund budget is a 10% increase over giving from last year. On top of all of this, over the months of October, November and December we also had a total of over $100,000 given toward special projects. Of this amount, over $75,000 was given by our church and school families towards our Birthday Gift for Jesus project which will help us to make a huge difference in the lives of precious and needy orphans in the Central African Republic. On behalf of our staff and leadership team here at Grace Church, let me commend you and thank you as a church family for your faithfulness in supporting our ministry.

As we entered 2008, we started a new series on Sunday mornings in the book of Malachi which will last through the end of February. In the prophet Malachi’s day, Israel was going through the motions of worship but their worship was not genuine. The same is true in much of the worship that takes place in our day and age as well. We live in a fast food culture in which we are always looking for short-cuts (fast food, rapid refunds, E-Z passes, etc.). Unfortunately, this mind-set easily transfers into our worship. That is why we have chosen to call this sermon series, “McWorship: Authentic Worship in a Fast-Food Culture.” In this series we are studying eight key words that we must understand if we are truly going to be authentic worshippers of God.

One of the words that we will be looking at in Malachi chapter three is the word “MONEY” which will show us that authentic worship involves proper stewardship of our finances. In tomorrow’s blog entry we will see the words God speaks through the prophet in Malachi 3:10 and what they mean to us here at Grace Church.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Record Year For "I DO"

You may kiss the bride!” Those have got to be the best words of any wedding. And this is going to be without a doubt a record year for weddings associated with Grace Church. Last Saturday I officiated the first of 11 weddings that are already scheduled in 2008 to be conducted by one of our pastors. I am responsible for nine of these weddings and Pastor Tim and Pastor Whitie each have one as well. Not all of these weddings will be held here at Grace, but they all involve people associated with our ministry. Below are the nine weddings I am already scheduled to officiate during the months of January through August (that’s more than an average of one wedding per month):

January 12: Heugel/Dearborn wedding
February 9: Weidman/McCoy wedding
April 20: McMillan/Linton wedding
May 24: Mast/McClure wedding
June 7: Rice/Kilmer wedding
June 28: Donnelly renewal
June 29 Pfeiffer/Senft wedding
August 2: Rongione/Burton wedding
August 23: Hessen/Douglas wedding

Now that’s a lot of weddings and the list does not include the two weddings being officiated by Pastor Tim and Pastor Whitie. Nor does it include any other weddings that will occur during the fall and early winter. WOW! Love really is in the air at Grace. Something tells me that we better start recruiting some more nursery workers...quickly.

So what should you do if you are looking towards getting married here at Grace or by one of our pastors during this calendar year? First, call the church office and speak with my assistant, Sheri Sell. All requests for weddings originate with her. If you desire me to officiate your ceremony, you must first schedule a pre-counseling meeting with me after completely filling out and turning in an information paper. The purpose of this meeting is for me to decide if I will be able to officiate your wedding.

After that I require six pre-marital counseling sessions. The first session takes place with just me and the engaged couple and serves more as an introduction as we look at 16 predictors of marital success along with positive and negative reasons for getting married. The next four sessions are done in a class setting with other couples whose weddings I am scheduled to officiate and covers topics such as Biblical Love; Marriage Roles; Communication; Handling Conflict; Understanding Temperaments; and Intimacy. The final session takes place with me, the engaged couple, and the wedding coordinator form our church (usually my wife) in order to plan the details of your wedding ceremony.

As you can see…wedding weekends in 2008 are filling up fast. If you are looking toward marriage this coming year, be sure to call Sheri Sell soon!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Don't Miss Them Pirates

The Children’s Ministry of Grace Church is sponsoring a wonderful family event on the morning of Saturday, January 26 at the Penn Cinema in Lititz. We have rented out two different theaters for two private showings of the new Veggie Tales Movie, The Pirates Who Don’t Know Anything. The first showing will be at 10am and the second showing will start in a separate theater at 11:30am. So what’s the story line of this film?

Three lazy misfits - Elliot, Sedgewick and George (Larry the Cucumber, Mr. Lunt and Pa Grape)- dream of the day when they can quit their jobs as busboys at the Pieces of Ate Dinner Theater and take the stage to star in the big pirate show. But with Elliot's timidity, Sedgewick's laziness and George's lack of self-confidence, it seems as if the day to prove who they really are will never come. However, when an artifact called a "HelpSeeker" arrives from the past, it sends the three back in time into a real pirate adventure, setting in motion a series of events that drags the trio back to the 17th century, where they face danger, their fears, and become unlikely heroes in a battle to rescue a royal family, including Princess Eloise and Prince Alexander, from an evil tyrant. In this story they each learn to be a real pirate, hero, and friend.

The cost for this event is just $5.00 per person of all ages. Tickets can be purchased through Grace Church, Morningstar Daycare or Lititz Christian School. Tickets will also be on sale in the hallway off of the main lobby this Sunday morning at Grace Church. You may also call Susan Auld (our Children’s Director) or Brenda Miller (our Early Childhood Director) here at Grace Church at 626-2155 during business hours to arrange a different time to pick up your tickets.

With each ticket purchased, your name will be entered for a special drawing as well. These drawings will take place the 15 minutes prior to each showing so come early. There is also a coloring contest currently taking place for kids. The pictures will be displayed in the hallways at church and winners announced at the movie.

This is a great opportunity for families to have a fun time together at a discounted cost. And the fun is even greater when we can share it together as a group. But the best part of this event is the opportunity that each of you have to make another connection with a family that doesn’t attend church. Think about other families you know that have kids the same age as your children. They may be neighbors, relatives, friends, people you work with or people who play on the same sports teams or participate in the same clubs as your kids do. Be sure to invite them. It will help you to build a stronger bridge to them while at the same time allowing them the opportunity to rub shoulders with many other parents and kids from Grace Church.

And if you don’t have small kids…come out anyway and be a kid again. Our kids are well past the Veggie Tales stage (though they would still enjoy the movie) but we plan to be there. So get your tickets now as we are expecting 400+ people to attend.

Monday, January 14, 2008


When our McWorship series started we saw that authentic worship involves a proper response to the love of God. Last Sunday we continued our series through Malachi by seeing that authentic worship also involves serving God with my very best. Malachi first describes the relationship between God and Israel (1:6-7). Two facts are stated in regard to relationships. Fact #1 - A son honors his father. Fact #2 - A servant honors his master. God has taken on both of these roles for Israel but was not receiving the honor due to Him. God is Israel’s father…but where was His honor? God is Israel’s master…but where was His respect? By not giving God the honor and respect He deserved, Israel had in essence despised His name. His name is mentioned 6 times in this passage and speaks of His character or reputation. The priests question this fact by asking, “How have we despised Your name?” God answers the question with the proof that they had presented defiled food on the altar. They again ask, “How have we defiled you?’ God states that it is their own words that show their guilt as they say that the table of the Lord is to be despised.

The problem with Israel back in Malachi’s day wasn’t a lack of activity…they were offering sacrifices. The problem was in not offering their best. Instead they were offering the blind and lame animals. According to Deuteronomy 15:21, Israel was forbidden to offer such sacrifices (see also Leviticus 22:20-25). God asks the rhetorical questions, “Would you offer these to your human leaders? Would they be pleased with them? The obvious answer is “No!” They were treating God worse than they would their human leaders (Nehemiah 5:17). They believed that God would be satisfied with these sacrifices. In spite of their religious activity, these offerings were producing absolutely no profit to God or to Israel. God’s wish was that someone would close the doors of the temple rather than second-rate sacrifices being offered. These offerings were useless, did not please God, and as a result, were not accepted by Him. God preferred that no sacrifice be offered than a second-rate sacrifice. This same principle can be seen as well in Isaiah 1:13; Amos 5:21-24; Revelation 3:15-16.

In Malachi 1:11, God looks ahead to a time when His name will not be despised. He is speaking of the Millennial Kingdom during which the temple will again be built and sacrifices offered (see Ezekiel 40-48). In that day, from the rising of the sun until it sets, His name will be great and proper sacrifices will be offered to His name making His name great among the nations.

When it came to their worship, Israel had a problem with their attitude (v12-13). Their actions were profaning the table of the Lord. It was as if their actions were saying, “The table of the Lord is defiled and the food that is offered on it is despised.” They verbalize how tiresome (tedious) these rituals of worship were. They “sniffed” or belittled them. God utters a curse in verse 14 to those who offer to Him anything but their best. This is because He is a great King and His name is to be feared. Are you worshipping God by serving Him with your very best?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Take the Survey

Grace Church is privileged to be one of just 500 churches selected to participate in the REVEAL Spiritual Growth Survey. The objective of REVEAL is to develop an in-depth understanding of how people progress in their spiritual journey and how the church can more effectively help them grow in their relationship with Christ. The findings from this research will help us understand the spiritual health of our congregation as a whole, as well as how our church is helping its people grow spiritually. We will gain insight on the practices and activities that are most catalytic for spiritual growth in our congregation. We will also learn our church’s best opportunities for greater impact through the post-survey statistical analysis that includes comparison to a wide range of other surveyed churches.

REVEAL will be surveying 500 congregations from a diverse sample of churches across the United States as well as international churches from a handful of English-speaking countries. This research will create a benchmark of the stages of a person’s spiritual journey and will also provide a way to gauge the most effective strategies for helping people grow spiritually.

The launch date for Grace Church’s participation in this survey begins this coming Monday, January 14, 2008. I will be sending an e-mail to everyone who is on my Pastor’s E-mail Update mailing list with the link to this survey. This survey link will remain open through February 4. This survey is done confidentially and will only take approximately 20-25 minutes for you to complete. It does need to be completed in one sitting.

When our survey timeframe concludes, our congregation’s responses will be collected anonymously by an independent research organization. After tabulating our results and compiling our church’s report, REVEAL will share their findings with us. This is a wonderful opportunity for our church. The findings will have the potential to surprise us and transform us in more effectively fulfilling our purpose of meeting people where they are and moving them to where God wants them to be.

Please note that for this survey to be effective it is important that it is taken by as many attendees of Grace Church as possible. However, it should only be taken by those who currently attend Grace Church of Lititz, PA on a regular basis. There are many who have signed up for my Pastor’s E-mail Update which do not currently attend Grace Church on a regular basis. If you do not attend Grace Church regularly on Sunday mornings, then I would kindly ask you not to take the survey. We also ask that only those who are 18 years of age or older participate in the survey.

So if you are a regular attendee of Grace Church that is age 18 or older, be sure to look for my Pastor’s E-mail Update on Monday and follow the link to the survey website and spend 20-25 minutes taking this Spiritual Growth Survey.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

If the preaching thing ever runs its course...

Last Sunday we kicked off our McWorship series. What is the McWorship series? It is a verse by verse study through the Old Testament book of Malachi. Why are we calling it “McWorship?” The actual title of the series is, “McWorship: Authentic Worship in a Fast Food Culture.” You see, in Malachi’s day the people were going through the motions of worship but their worship was anything but authentic. The same is true in our culture today. We live in a fast food culture which has become much of who we are. As a result, our “want it fast” and “want it our way” attitude has seeped over into our worship.

Through this “McWorship” series covering the book of Malachi we will see 8 key words that we must understand if we are going to be authentic worshippers of God. Last week we looked at the word LOVE and saw that authentic worship involves a proper response to God’s love. This Sunday we will focus on the word SERVICE and see that authentic worship involves serving God with our very best.

As we approached the start of this series, I got a phone call from a lady who lives in Lititz but does not attend our church. She had seen the McWorship symbol on the Christmas promotion we had sent out and wanted to know more about the series. After explaining the concept to her she thought it was just great. She works at one of the area McDonald’s restaurant. She has worked there for…get this…21 years. WOW! She then asked me if I would be interested in wearing a McDonald’s uniform to preach in as I started the series. Well, how do you say “no” to a woman who has worked at McD’s for 21 years?

So a few days before the start of the series, this dear lady showed up at the church with an official McDonald’s employee shirt, tie and hat. She had a large shirt and an extra large shirt and asked which one I would wear. It felt good to be able to say, “The large shirt will do just fine.” Hey, I haven’t lost the 40 pounds I have lost over the past 6 months by eating Big Macs and Quarter Pounders, I’ll tell you that! Actually, even the large shirt was a bit baggy one me! How cool is that? The tie made me laugh, though, because it wasn’t one you tie. Nor was it a clip-on. It was Velcro. That’s right…a Velcro tie. I don’t know if that is for safety reasons in case it gets caught in something or what. Oh, well, I looked the part last Sunday as you can see by the attached picture! In fact, I was really tempted to go to McDonalds for lunch after church and see if maybe, just maybe, they might give me the employee discount!

It actually brought back memories. When I was in High School I worked at a fast food restaurant. It wasn’t McDonalds. It was a Burger Chef. I don’t even think they ever had Burger Chefs out this way. Six months into my job I was promoted to Back Line Night Shift Leader. That meant that I got a raise and free food (which probably accounted for the huge acne problem I had in High School). By the time I graduated they were asking me to consider a career in management. Actually, I think that could have been fun and the pay would not have been horrible. But, I was convinced that God had called me to preach so I turned down the offer. But, if the preaching thing ever runs its course…

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Popcorn and Previews

Whenever you go to the movie theaters you always get your popcorn and soda bought in time to watch the coming attractions on the big screen. It’s one of the fun parts to going to the movies (and spending over fifty bucks for your family to be entertained for less than 2 hours…go figure)! So let me give you some free previews of the sermon series coming to Grace Church through June 2008. Before you read on, why don’t you go pop yourself some popcorn, put some extra butter on it, and grab a soda! Here we go:

McWorship: Authentic Worship in a Fast Food Culture! Over the months of January and February we will be taking eight weeks to study through the book of Malachi which is the last Old Testament book in your Bible. Throughout this book, God speaks through the prophet Malachi, rebuking the priests and people of Israel for their half-hearted worship of Him. The same elements that kept Israel from authentic worship back then often keep us from authentic worship today. In fact, we may even have a greater problem with these issues because we live in such a fast food culture that our “get it done quick” approach to life has also transferred over to our worship. Through this series we will focus on eight key words that we must understand in order to be authentic worshippers.

Helping Those Who Hurt! Beginning March 2, this will be a three week series from the first chapter of Second Corinthians where we will see two of the reasons why God allows suffering and trials to come into our lives. One is for the purpose of ministry so that we can help others who go through similar struggles. The other is for the purpose of maturity so that we can become stronger as followers of Jesus. We will be using this series to begin a mentoring ministry within our church where lay people are trained to be able to minister to others in the church that are going through trials.

A Whole New World! Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008, will begin a new 3-week series on the topic of heaven as described in Revelation 21-22.

Battle Ready! April 13 through May 4 will be a 4-week series through Ephesians 6:10-20 as we study Paul’s command for us to put the armor of God in order to survive the spiritual battles that we face each and every day as followers of Christ.

A Wise Woman! We will use Mother’s Day on May 11 to start a new 5-week series studying Proverbs 31 as we see both the wise words and the wise ways of a wise woman.

Wanted: Men Who Forgive! We will use Father’s Day, June 15, to start a three week series that will take us through the end of June as we study the story of Onesimus in the book of Philemon and see the need for us to be men who practice genuine forgiveness.

The last half of the year (July through December) has not officially been planned out as of yet but it just may include and in-depth study on The Anti-Christ…That one man that the Bible teachers will rule the world during the coming tribulation.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Making a difference in IOWA

One of my hobbies is following politics. The realm of politics really intrigues me. I think that if God had not called me to be a pastor, I could have really enjoyed a career in politics. I love to watch the nightly political talk shows on FOX NEWS and CNN and I also enjoy tapping in to the myriad of political talk shows that come over the radio as well. I loved watching shows like the old West Wing series because I was more than intrigued by seeing the inner workings of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, even if it was fiction.

So as a result, I have been closely following the presidential campaigns as they moved into the nation’s first show-down in Iowa last Thursday evening. I literally counted down the hours during the day on Thursday until the television coverage began that evening. As you know (unless you really do live with your head in the sand), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee easily won the Republican caucuses and Senator Obama really rallied his supporters to defeat both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. When the dust settled, I made two personal observations.

First, I was very glad that I did not have to cast a vote last Thursday night. That is not because I don’t plan to vote. Believe me, I will be at the polling location for the primary and the general election. The reason I was glad that I did not have to vote last Thursday night was because I still really am undecided over what candidate I am going to support. I have rejected all but three of the hopefuls and among those three, there are really only two that I am seriously considering backing. Had I needed to place my choice last Thursday, I honestly could not have told you who I would have gone with. If you have already made up your mind about who you are supporting, please feel free to e-mail me ( and tell me who and why…I would love to hear your thoughts.

The second observation I made was that evangelical Christians made a difference in the results in Iowa. There was no mistake about that. The support of evangelical Christians was one reason (but not the only reason) why former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee, beat all the other Republican Candidates in spite of spending far less money than some of the field did. Even though I have yet to decide if as an evangelical Christian I will cast my vote for Mike Huckabee if he is still in the race when the primaries make their way to Pennsylvania, it was very encouraging to me to see that when Christians participate, it really does make a difference. After spending four years at Liberty University, sitting under the ministry of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, I learned strong and clear that need. Sometimes it seemed like Dr Falwell had just four themes that he recycled through his yearly preaching schedule…Get Saved...Get Going...Don’t Quit...Vote!

Maybe you have already made your clear choice as to what candidate you are supporting (again, if you have, e-mail me and tell me who and why). Maybe, like me, you are leaning a certain way but have yet to solidify your choice. You may be a Republican…a Democrat…or an Independent. Whatever the case, let me give you four pieces of great advice…Get Saved...Get Going...Don’t Quit...Vote!

Monday, January 07, 2008

McWorship...I'm Lovin' It

The Old Testament book of Malachi has many similarities to the church today. People in Malachi’s day were going through the motions of worship but their worship was anything but authentic. In the fast food culture we live in today, our desire to have everything quick and easy has carried over into our worship as well. There is much we can learn from this minor prophet to help us become more authentic worshippers of God today. The first lesson we learn is that authentic worship is a response to the love of God.

Because we don’t find the name “Malachi” other than in this book, and because no information is given regarding his lineage, some feel he was an anonymous writer. Because his name means “messenger,” some see him as an angel. Because no prophetic book came to us anonymously or through an angel, we can be sure Malachi was the name of the last prophet of Israel. Malachi ministered after the Babylonian captivity when the temple had been rebuilt and priestly worship was happening. Malachi’s prophecy (like Nahum, Habakkuk and Zechariah) is described as an oracle indicating that his prophecy dealt with rebuke. The source of the message was the Lord. There are three cycles that take place repeatedly in the book. God states a fact. Israel questions the fact. God proves the fact

The fact is seen in 1:2 as God states, “I have loved you.” This is in the perfect tense indicating that His present love for them was the same that he had loved them with in the past. This love was unconditional (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8) and it was everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3). Israel questions the fact by asking, “How have you loved us?” The people were not responding to God’s love (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Charles Feinberg has rightly indicated that the spirit of the people in Malachi’s day developed into the sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ day. When we do not have a vibrant living relationship with God it will lead to one of the same extremes as well. We will either become like the Sadducees who doubted the resurrection and existence of the supernatural or we will become like the Pharisees following dead orthodoxy which is nothing more than a list of rules and regulations.

The first proof of God’s love is seen in the election of Israel (v2-3). The supreme evidence of God’s love for Israel is His choice of them to be His chosen people seen in His words, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.” Jacob and Esau were twin brothers that developed into two nations (Jacob = Israel; Esau = the Edomites). God chose Jacob (Israel) over Esau (Edomites) as His chosen people. This choice was out of love, not duty. Normally the first born would get the best inheritance (Esau was the first born, Genesis 25:23-26; Romans 9:10-13). But does God really hate Esau? This is a Hebrew term that spoke more of a choice, not the emotion of hate as we define it (see Luke 14:26).

The second proof is seen in the protection of Israel (v4-5). Edom would rebuild and try to overthrow the judgment of God but would fail. Israel, however, was conquered by the Babylonians but ultimately rebuilt due to God’s love that preserved them as a nation. In the same way, God has chosen we who are His children by faith (Ephesians 1:4) which should bring about great thanksgiving and holy living (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14).

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Good Year for Sports

Those who know me also know that I am one of the biggest Ohio State and Cleveland professional sports fan you will find in Lancaster County. Most years, being a fan of the OSU Buckeyes, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to have more ultimate lows than highs. But for the January 2007 through January 2008 timeframe, it’s been a pretty good year for sports, at least for this fan. For example:

In January of 2007, after a perfect season that dominated College Football and the Big Ten Conference, the Ohio State Buckeyes played in the National Championship game against the Florida Gators (and since this is my personal blog and I get to decide what is posted on it, I will forego any inclusion of the outcome of that game).

In March of 2007 the Ohio State Buckeyes also turned some heads as they won the Big Ten Championship and survived the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament to play for the National Championship, once again playing against the Florida Gators (and once again I will forego any inclusions of the conclusion of the big match-up).

The good year in college basketball also spilled over to the professional level as the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by superstar, LeBron James, won the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time in the history of the franchise and found themselves playing for their first ever world championship (at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will again forego any inclusion of the results of that best of seven series).

And then there is my all-time favorite I love baseball and I am an avid Cleveland Indians fan. The Tribe went into the 2007 spring training with few if any of the experts expecting much beyond a limited winning season at best. Yet, my Indians ran away with the Central Division title and then easily knocked off the greatest baseball enemy of all, the New York Yankees, in the first round of the playoffs. Ultimately, they came up one game short of the American League Pennant and just missed a trip to the World Series.

This brought us to the fall of 2007 and another year of football on the college and on the professional levels. The Buckeyes entered this season after losing many key players to an early exit to the NFL. As a result, the preseason predicted that they would come in third in the Big Ten. But when the smoke cleared my Buckeyes won yet another Big Ten Championship suffering just one loss all season long. This resulted in their pagain laying come January 7 in their second consecutive BCS Championship game.

And then there was the Cleveland Browns who once were a dominating force in the NFL but who since their reentrance have been more of the laughing stock of pro football. Once again there was very little expected of my Browns and I would have been elated if the season ended with an 8-8 record rather than another losing season. But to my delight and to the amazement of the National Football League, the Browns tallied ten victories and a winning season. Though they fell short of the playoffs, it was a successful season.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Grace Highlights of 2007

What a great ministry year God gave to us in 2007. I could never list all of the ministry highlights but allow me to list just a few items which are well worth remembering:
This was our largest year ever in Sunday morning attendance and General Fund giving!

Along with record giving to the general fund, we also saw large financial gifts come in to special projects including the Camp Conquest land purchase, our missionary love gift and our Birthday Gift for Jesus that will allow us to see a minimum of three Christian Schools put into Grace Brethren churches to educate orphans in Africa!

We saw over 100 people follow the Lord in water baptism on one Sunday morning!

Our Girlfriends at Grace Women’s Ministry hosted a special Boardwalk bridge building event which brought over 600 ladies from our community inside our facility!

Our Children’s Ministry held an Easter Egg and Candy Hunt as a promotional event for Easter which saw 3,000 kids and parents in attendance!

We saw the largest Sunday morning ever held inside our church with just under 2,000 people attending one of our three Easter Worship services last spring!

With our hosting the Operation Barnabas orientation we were able to pull of a level one rodeo and western fair event which allowed us to make contact with 7,500 people from our community which has produced hundreds of guests to our Sunday services!

The night following our Rodeo and Western Fair kicked-off our summer Vacation Bible School which was the largest in the history of our church!

The varsity boy’s soccer team at Lititz Christian had a series of firsts including their first victory over a public school opponent, winning a public school tournament for the first time, and making district playoffs for the first time in school history!

The Lititz Christian Middle School girl’s volleyball team went undefeated in the conference and won the Warwick Middle School invitational tournament!

Our Youth Ministry held three 5th quarter events following Warwick High School home football games that each brought nearly 1,000 teenagers into our building!

We saw nearly 3,000 Target Three names written on our auditorium wall that people from Grace Church are praying for daily that they would come to know Jesus!

Our two Christmas Eve services saw nearly 1500 people in attendance!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Men Who Shaped Me

As I look back over my life I am reminded of the different godly men that God brought into my life that have helped to shape who I am today spiritually. Some of these heroes in my life include the following of whom I am very thankful for their lives and their ministry:

My Grandpa Distler, now with the Lord, who taught me to love being a pastor

My dad, Charles Distler (pictured with my mom and son), who now lives in Florida and who taught me while I was growing up in Ohio to love the local church.

Don Bechtel, my high school band director at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Stow, Ohio who taught me that just because it’s Christian doesn’t mean it has to settle for being mediocre. Instead, we should shoot for excellence in everything we do

Rick Matthew, my High School Sunday School teacher at the Cuyahoga Falls Baptist Church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio who taught me how to share my faith

Pastor Paul Rohart, pastor of the Cuyahoga Falls Baptist Church in Cuyahoga Falls Ohio who gave me my first opportunity to preach a sermon

Dr Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University, who taught me that nothing of eternal importance happens apart for prayer and to have a vision to do something big for God

Harry Walls, my supervisor at Liberty University who taught me how to pray

Dr Paul Fink, my professor at Liberty University who taught me how to study the Bible

Pastor Steve Peters, Senior Pastor of Community Church in West Milton, Ohio who taught me how to be a pastor

Rich Smith, an Elder at the Osceola Grace Brethren Church in Osceola, Indiana who taught me how to be faithful to the Lord in spite of trials and suffering

All of these men I have known personally but there are also others who I never had the privilege of knowing personally but who have greatly impacted my life for Christ:

The late singer/song-writer, Keith Green, whose music kept me focused on the Lord during my teenager years.

The late D.L. Moody who said, “If God be your partner, make your plans large.”

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois whose books (outside the Bibloe) have sharpened me spiritually more than any other writer.