Friday, February 29, 2008

March Madness at Grace Church

Happy Leap Day! February 29 does not come around every year. But the greatest aspect of February 29 is the fact that as soon as it is over, the month of March begins. For those who are college basketball lovers, this means March Madness as the NCAA tournament will soon be taking place. But for those who are part of Grace Church, March Madness is far more than a series of games. The month of March will be the most exciting month in the history of our church. There are many events that will take place this month that will allow our church to personally touch over 10,000 people up close and personal. Make sure that all of the following events are on your calendars and on your daily prayer lists:

March 2 – We begin a brand new 3-week series from 2 Corinthians that will show us two reasons why God allows us to go through suffering. Our hope is to use this series to launch a new mentoring ministry in order to help others who are going through trials.

March 9 – This will be our next Core Class Sunday. This afternoon we will be offering Classes 101, 201 and 401. We also provide a free lunch and childcare for all participants.

March 14 – This will be a special outreach event called “At The Hop” in which all women are invited for this free evening of great fun and entertainment. This will allow you to invite women from our community to enjoy a non-threatening first touch with Grace Church while rubbing shoulders with many women from our church.

March 15 – This morning will be our 2nd annual Easter Egg and Candy with two special hunts for children ages 12 and under that will also include many other free and fun activities including giving away two brand new bikes with helmets.

March 16 – We will have our next Ten Minute Party after both morning services in order for those who are new to Grace Church to meet those who are on the stage each Sunday.

March 21 – We will have a special Good Friday Night of Worship as we focus completely on the sacrifice of Christ for us on the cross. The evening will include music, Scripture readings, the bread and the cup and times of prayer.

March 23 – This Easter we will offer three identical worship services. Every family who attends will also receive as a free gift a copy of our new “Worship at Grace” CD. A free continental breakfast will be provided by Lititz Christian School/MorningStar Daycare.

March 27-29 – Grace Church and Lititz Christian School will host 208 High School students for the Pennsylvania State Region V Chorus Festival. These students will be staying in the homes of families from our church and our school.

March 30 – We will have a baptism as part of our morning worship services for anyone that is ready to take a step of faith in publicly identifying with Jesus Christ.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Grace Church Touches Orphans in Africa

Due to our Birthday Gift for Jesus campaign back in December, Grace Church is making a significant impact in the lives of hundreds of orphans in the Central African Republic. As a church, we were able to fund the dedication ceremony of the Orphan Welcome Center. We received this note of gratitude from Barb Wooler, USA-based PHC Director:

Dear friends at Lititz, On January 19, 2008, Lititz Grace Church blessed many of your Central African family members. On that day Project Hope & Charite (PHC) dedicated our orphan Welcome Center, and a generous gift from the Lititz family made that Dedication ceremony possible. While many were blessed by the celebration and the festivities that followed, none returned home more grateful, I think, than the PHC family, who was so pleased to have hosted a party worthy of this ministry that has come to mean so much to them. Your gift provided uniforms for 500 orphans and 20 PHC staff, 300 chairs, food for everyone in attendance, transportation and many other things necessary when hosting VIPs from the Central African government, from the community, and from the National Grace Brethren church. You made us look good! And though you were not in attendance, you were remembered in speeches given during the ceremony. So on behalf of the many orphans, widows and PHC staff that you blessed on January 19th, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!”

We also we received an e-mail from Ginger Hock, Grace Brethren International Missions missionary to the Central African Republic. She made a "surprise" visit to the LaDoumie school which is one of the schools made possible by the support of our ministry. This school is actually the one which came from the giving of Lititz Christian School. Ginger makes mention of pictures in her e-mail. One of these pictures is posted. Many others will be shown in a presentation in the church lobby on an upcoming Sunday morning. Here is what Ginger wrote:

I made a "surprise" trip up country last week and had a chance to visit three of our schools. I am so impressed with the young man, Timothee, who is teaching at LaDoumie. All the schools were doing a great job and I was pleased to see them all working away. Here is a photo of Karen Courter telling the kids a Bible story and also one of the class with teacher Timothee. Notice how the children are sitting with their arms folded as Karen is teaching? This is a sign of respect and they were so cute, especially the little boy on the front row in the orange shirt. Timothee had several of the students read for me and they seem to be learning at a very good rate. THANKS!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some Good Preaching

When I have the time, I like to listen to or watch good preaching via the internet. Below is just a sampling of some preachers of all styles who challenge me spiritually:

John Ortberg (pictured)
Menlo Park Presbyterian Church
Menlo Park, CA

Francis Chan
Cornerstone Church
Simi Valley, CA

Ed Young
Fellowship Church
Grapevine, TX

Jim Brown
Grace Community Church
Goshen, IN

Mark Beeson
Granger Community Church
Granger, IN

Andy Stanley
North Point Community Church
Alpharetta, GA

Dan Allan
Grace Church
Ashland, OH

Perry Noble
NewSpring Church
Anderson, SC

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Snow Snakes

Winter is not over yet so BEWARE! Beware of what? Beware of Snow Snakes!! What is a Snow Snake? We discovered this dangerous species of reptile while attending the Creative Church Conference in Dallas last week.

Perry Noble, pastor of the NewSrping Church in Anderson, SC, was getting a point across about how we as church leaders often fall into the trap of believing the lie of Satan when he says that what we do really doesn’t matter. To emphasize his point about how we can get messed up when we believe a lie, he told the story of a time when he was just four years old and it snowed one weekend…something rather rare in South Carolina.

Perry wanted to go out and play in the snow but his dad did not want him to. But instead of just telling him, “No, I don’t want you to,” Perry’s dad told him a lie. He said, “Sure, Perry, go ahead out and play in the snow, but just watch out for the snow snakes!”

Perry questioned if there were really was such a thing as snow snakes.

Sure there are,” said his dad, “They’re all over the place!”

Perry than asked the next reasonable question, “Do they bite?”

Without flinching and somehow while maintaining a straight face, Perry’s dad flatly said, “No, son, they don’t bite. They jump up your butt and freeze you to death!”

As you can imagine, believing this lie was enough to end Perry’s desire to go out and play in the snow. But the worse part about a lie is that when we hear and believe a lie, we usually pass on that same lie to someone else. That’s when lies really get ugly.

As a four year old child, Perry attended a Christian preschool ran by a very conservative church located in the southern Bible Belt of South Carolina. When he went to preschool on Monday, his very traditional teacher asked those children in the class to raise their hand if they had gone out and played in the snow over the weekend. Perry was the only student not to raise his hand. When the teacher asked him why, he matter of factly responded, “Because of the snow snakes!”

The teacher than asked, “Do you really believe there are snow snakes, Perry?”

Sure there are,” said Perry.

Then, this very traditional teacher of this Christian daycare ran by this conservative church down in the southern Bible Belt asked the million dollar question.

Do they bite?”

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dallas Goulash

So our trip to Dallas and the Creative Church Conference is history. So outside of all of the spiritual challenges, what else did I discover on this trip? Here is a list:

Dallas has great food!

American Airlines is not the most efficient when it comes to communicating and rescheduling cancelled flights!

GPS systems are utterly useless, especially when the voice has a deep British accent!

Business Managers may not count sheep but they do snore!

Andrew Norton and Matt McElravy have no idea how comfortable a windbreaker jogging type outfit can be when you are flying!

Single women who play guitar and paint their fingernails black can seriously catch the attention of certain single worship arts director!

Our children’s ministry staff have a wonderful idea regarding a gift to give parents in our church who have a baby…it’s a pacifier that says “Hell Sucks” on the end of it!

Matt McElravy and I are the only ministry staff members of our church who believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone…everyone else erroneously holds to a conspiracy theory with the mafia as the most reasonable source of the assassination!

The coolest song in all of the world contains the following lyrics:

The eyes of the Ranger are upon you
Everything you do He’s gonna see
So when you’re in Texas look behind you
‘Cause that’s where the Ranger’s gonna be

Waffles taste better when they are shaped like the state of Texas

Our entire ministry staff now knows where I was when JFK was killed (but they are not allowed to tell)!

There are some seriously amazing churches in the greater Dallas area that are really doing it and seeing God’s favor and blessing as they reach thousands for Jesus…and the most amazing thing is that they are all so very different in style!

One of the greatest things in life is bonding, laughing, and sharing great experiences with the people that I have the privilege of doing ministry with day in and day out!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

McWorship...The Best Is Yet To Come

Sunday we concluded our McWorship series as we saw the final key word from the book of Malachi that helps us to be an authentic worshipper of God in the fast food culture in which we live. We saved the best word for last. It is the word HOPE. No matter what the circumstances are that we face, authentic worship realizes that for the believer in Jesus, the best is yet to come. In the closing verses of this last Old Testament book the prophet describes for us a day of burning, a day of healing, and a day of preparing.

When Malachi speaks of the day of burning, he says that the day is coming. He is speaking of the Day of the Lord which describes the second coming of Christ. What will this day be like? It will be a day of burning. The idea is one of fierce heat (Psalm 21:9). In the Old Testament divine judgment is frequently represented by the figure of fire or burning (Isaiah 4:4; 47:14). This is a fire that is second to none (Isaiah 2:10-19). Who is this day directed to? It is directed to the arrogant and every evil doer (see Malachi 3:13-15 and Jude 15-16). What will be the result of this day? The wicked will be chaff (stubble…dried up hay or grass). Like stubble, the wicked will be easily consumed. Like stubble, the wicked will be utterly consumed. Malachi states that it will leave them neither root nor branch (two extremes of the tree). This is not speaking of eternal annihilation as some religious groups teach. This is speaking of physical judgment. Beyond this there will still be an eternal judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). When will this day take place? The Day of the Lord begins immediately after the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and includes the many judgments of the 7-year tribulation period. The Day of the Lord culminates with Christ’s return to the earth at the end of the tribulation to set up His 1,000 year Kingdom on earth (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

But the day of burning for some is also a day of healing for others. The contrast is made between light from fire and light from the sun. Along with being a day of burning for the wicked, the Day of the Lord will also be a day of healing for those who fear His name (as seen in Malachi 3:16-18). God’s people will be spiritually restored and renewed. For the believer, the best is yet to come. The word picture is like claves enjoying open pasture after being penned up in the stall. The righteous coming out on top is a direct answer to the question asked by Israel in Malachi 3:14.

With this in mind, it is also a day of preparing. What should we do in response as followers of the Messiah? First, we must remember the Law of Moses (v4). Second, we must be prepared for the coming of Elijah (v5-6). The prophecy of Elijah coming was most likely fulfilled through John the Baptist (Matthew 11:7-10) though some believe that it will be fulfilled through the two witnesses of the tribulation seen in Revelation 11. Third, we must welcome the Messiah. And with this exhortation, the Old Testament revelation comes to an end. For the next 400 years there would be divine silence. The next revelation from God would be to announce the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah who would end the curse of sin that entered the world back in Genesis and ensure for every child of God that the best is yet to come!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Heading Home

The Creative Church Conference wrapped up last night with Bishop TD Jakes speaking to us from the Old Testament sotry of Joseph in Genesis 37. The main truth was simple..."God's Got You Covered!" I especially appreciated his putting those who seem to be "for us" into three categories:

First, there are CONFIDANTS - These are people who are in to you and for you. In a lifetime you will only have one or two (probably no more than three) confidants.

Second, there are CONSTITUENTS - These people seem to be for you but they are not really for you. They are just for what you are for. Don't make the mistake of making constituents your confidants.

Third, there are COMRADES - These people are not for you at all. They just seem that way because they are against what you are against.

It gave me a lot to think about and our staff a lot to talk about.

This morning I had my last "Texas shaped waffle" and in a few moments we will check out of the hotel. We are going to down to the 6th floor museum this morning where it is believed that Oswald shot JFK. From there we are thinking a meal at the Spaghetti Warehouse (after all, I'm off my diet until my feet hit PA again) and then it is off to Avis to return the van and on to the airport. Our flight is scheduled to leave Dallas 5:25pm and arrive in Harrisburg at 9:20!

See you Sunday - SUPER SIZE SUNDAY!

Friday, February 22, 2008


Friday morning here at the Creative Church Conference was, to coin a term used often by Ed Young, "off the chain"! We heard two of the best challenges I have ever heard. The first came from Pastor Tommy Barnett who is the Senior Pastor of the First Assembly Church in Pheonix. He spoke on "The Honor of Wanting to Quit." Here are some of his points:

Wanting to quit is a sign of success because successful people are the only ones who can quit because they have something to quit.

The more you have to quit, the more you want to quit because the higher you go the more frightening, lonelier and riskier it becomes.

You can enjoy the luxury of wanting to quit if you know that you are not going to quit because it is the call of God, not just a burden, that gets you ought of bed every morning.

Pastor Barnett then gave us four ways to keep from qutting:

One...Burn the bridges behind you by deciding now what is really important.

Two...Don't tell anyone you want to quit when you want to quit because they may agree with you.

Three...Do not expose yourself to people you don't want to be like. Instead, hang around people who are positive.

Four...Lock yourself in so you cannot quit. Be like David whose heart was fixed.

Tommy then closed with this awesome statement..."Great men are just ordinary men who won't quit!" It reminds me of the many times I heard Dr. Falwell say, "Feel like quitting, but don't quit!" If you have never been in full-time ministry you don't realize how often this temptation to quit raises its ugly head. This was a great message for me to hear.

Then it came time for Bishop TD Jakes. I know that this man takes a lot of hits from the critics and I certainly do not agree with him on all the issues (then again, I have yet to find the man that I agree with on everything), but his heart for God and his passion for ministry is amazing. We all were blessed and ministered to greatly by him. Here are a few of the statements he made as he spoke from Luke 24:13-31.

The cost of leadership is conflict.

People generally admire leaders best when they're dead.

The beginning of being a leader is knowing you don't know as much as you think you know.

You can't lead people who are not thirsty.

God is bigger than you think He is.

He then closed by showing us the pattern in the Bible of Jesus breaking the bread. Whether it was the story of His feeding the 5,000; or His feeding the 4,000; or His last supper with the disciples; or this story in Luke 24, the pattern is four fold:

Jesus took the bread!

Jesus blessed the bread!

Jesus broke the bread!

Jesus gave the bread!

That same order can be seen in the great characters of the Bible. God took Moses...blessed Moses...broke Moses...then gave Moses. He did the same to Abraham, Isaac and even Jesus. This is also the order that happens to us. God never gave bread to people that had never been broken. God does not give leaders to people who have never been broken. I can't be given to my generation if I've never been broken. Leadership is really spelled L-O-N-E-L-I-N-E-S-S.

We spent the afternon in break out sessions dealing with worship, assimilation, and small groups. The conference comes to an end tonight with a final message from Bishop Jakes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pit Happens

Thursday, February 21

The Creative Church Conference kicked off this morning with Ed Young giving two talks on betrayal and sharing principles about being betrayed from the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. He talked about being pushed into the pit of betrayal and in ministry, there just isn't any way around that happening. That's why Ed said, "Pit Happens!" He quoted TD Jakes who said, "There's always a Judas at your table and they will always be close enough to kiss you." Below are some of the principles we learned about betrayal:

Betrayal strikes at critical times (Genesis 37:3)

Betrayal comes from those closest to us (Genesis 37:4)

Betrayal is fueled by jealousy and envy (Genesis 37:18-19)

When someone betrays you, they will always lie about you (Genesis 37:31-34)

When betrayed, don't look down or around...look up (Psalm 40:1-4)

Ed Young also shared that when betrayal occurs, it is the devil tipping his hand that a future blessing is coming. Through Joseph's betrayal, an entire country was saved from famine. Through the betrayal of Jesus, we have been saved from the penalty of sin. That's why when we are betrayed we have to get beyond asking, "WHY ME?" and instead ask "WHAT NOW?"

Ed talked about the need to forgive those who have betryed us as Joseph did in Genesis 50:20. He also taught us that one of the benefits of betryal is that it separates the PLAYERS from the POSERS. You discover the difference when you are betrayed by watching and seeing who will believe the lies of the betrayer spoken about you. I have personally experienced the pain of betrayal in minstry more than once and I am sure that I will find myself in that pit again...probably more than once. As a result, this was a very beneficial morning for me.

After lunch we heard from three speakers. The first was Mac Richards who pastors a church in Austin, TX. Mac shared s0me very good principles about how to fire people and the need to measure our staff on the stuff that matters (Proverbs 27:23). I think the staff sitting near me got nervous with the fury of notes I was taking during Mac's talk on this topic.

Perry Noble spoke next. He pastors a great church in Anderson, SC. Some of our staff went with me last year to his UNLEASH conference. From the story of the transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17, Perry reminded us that what we do as church leaders really matters. The enviroments we create every Sunday matter. The vision we get from God and lead our churches in following matter. And most of all, Jesus matters. Perry made a great statement regarding those who will say, "We want more depth!" Perry said this, "You are only as deep as the last person you served!" I like that!

The day ended with Brian Houston speaking. Brian is the pastor of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia that is most known for their praise and worship. Brian talked about leadership that empowers people. He made a statement that was a golden nugget for me. He said, "See the wealth in the people that you have!" He talked about being in Uganda and trying to take a picture of an elephant with his own face in the picture frame as well. When it was developed, all you could see was his face. You could not see the elephant at all. I was greatly convicted as Brian reminded us that the only way we can miss the elephant (representing the value of our people) is if we are too big oursevles for the frame. Now that one will leave me thinking all night long! When it comes to Grace Church, can I see the elephant or am I too big for the picture?

I hear it is suppose to snow back home tonight! Figures...I love the snow and the only time it happens all winter is when I'm in Dallas! But here is a warning...if it snows, watch out for "Snow Snakes!" If you don't know what that means, ask me when I get home. Perry Noble told a hilarious story about "Snow Snakes!" I don't think I will tell it from the pulpit as it could offend a few but if you ask me to tell you the story personally...I would be glad too!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bishop S.K. Distler

Wednesday, February 19

Here is the picture I promised standing "IN FRONT" (not behind, mind you) the pulpit of Bishop T.D. Jakes at the Potter's House in Dallas (Photo courtesty of Matthew McElravy).

The opening celebration tonight at Fellowship Church was awesome! Ed Young Jr spoke on the need to cheer for the local church and the worship was terrific. It is going to be a great conference. We have to be there by 8am tomorrow so off to bed I go (after I shower, of course)!

A Day of Ministry Excursion

Wednesday, February 20

Today was a day of ministry exposure. After a continental breakfast at the hotel, which included a waffle shaped like the state of Texas, we headed toward Plano Texas to tour Prestonwood Baptist Church (auditorium pictured) and Prestonwood Baptist Academy. What an amazing facility with over 1 million square feet. It is not only expansive, it is excellent from start to finish and is very family based. Some have arrogantly called this ministry "six flags over Jesus" but the truth is that it is a top notch ministry that is very traditional in style and is effectively reaching thousands for Christ with excellence.

Prestowood sits on 140 acres and has 34 pastors with over 500 additional staff members. There are 28,000 on their membership roles and an average weekly worship attendance of 14,000 with 8,500 attending Adult Bible Fellowship Classes. The worship center is magnificent and seats 7,000 plus an additional 500 in the choir loft. They also have a chapel that seats 600 and a children's building which is 160,000 square feet and has 6 playgrounds. The Main Street Cafe inside the church us oopen for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. Prestonwood Christian Academy has has more than 1,400 students. It really is an amazing minsitry that we were excited to tour and learn about. Out tour guide was so passionate about the school...that was very enjoyable for me to see her passion. By the way, Susan Auld, our Children's Director here at Grace, has a sister and brother-in-law that live in Texas. He is on staff at Prestonwood Christian Academy in the area of development.

After our morning at Prestonwood, we went to lunch at a fabulous Mexican restaurant in Plano called Abuello's. It was fantastic. If you are even in Texas, I reccomend their fajita trio! Man, am I going to have to get back on the diet when we get back to Lititz. I enjoyed pricking the brain of Susan's brother-in-law regarding fund-raising as we ate. It was quote the education.

After lunch we headed down past Texas Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys (BOO! HISS!) play and over to The Potter's House pastored by Bishop TD Jakes. It was really interesting to compare these two facilities which run approximately the same in weekend attendance. I asked the tour guide if I could get my picture taken behind TD Jakes pulpit. She thought that might be a little inappropriate but allowed me to get it taken in front of his pulpit. Matt McElravy took the shot with his camera so as soon as I get him to download it for me, I'll post it for you to see. It was amazing to see juts how much the auditorium is designed for their TV audience. It looks quite a bit different live than it does on television.

We then had a little bit of time before tonight's opening celebration at the Creative Church Conference at Fellowship Church. Some napped but Pastor Tim; Pastor Whitie; Andrew Norton adn myself went down into historic grapevine and found a coffee shop to grab a cup and debrief a bit about what we had experienced throughout the day and how it relates to Grace Church. It's those initmate times of discussion with staff members that are the highlights of the trip for me.

Bad news...our GPS system bit the dust so who knows how many times we will get lost without out. After all, we got lost several times with it!!

We'll be leaving in a few minutes for Fellowship Church. I'll post more later.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

First Night in Texas

Tuesday, February 19

Our flight from Philly to Dallas was uneventful which is how you want things to be when you fly. It was a good time sitting in between Andrew Norton (our Business Manager) and Pastor Willard (our Care Pastor) and talking and laughing. I read Bill Hybel's entire book, Holy Discontent, on the flight. It is a great book. I highly reccomend everyone from Grace pick it up and read it.

We ended up landing about 2pm Dallas time with the theme song to Walker, Texas Ranger going through our minds. By the time we got our rental van and grabbed a sandwich, it was time to find our hotel and check in. After a brief nap we headed off to the large Grapevine Mall and walked around for a couple of hours before heading out for some Texas BBQ...Yum! Yum (obviously I am off my diet this week)! We then found a Tom Thumb grocery store for some snacks and sodas and headed back to the hotel for the evening.

Tomorrow we will take 2 ministry exposure tours of two very different ministries. In the morning we will visit Prestonwood Baptist Church. This is one of, if not the largest Southern Baptist Church in America which is pastored by Dr Jack Graham. Their church and Christian school are housed in facilities totalling over 1 million square feet. Pastor Tim Auld has a brother in law who is on staff at Prestonwood. In the afternoon we will be touring The Potter's House which is the church pastored by Bishop TD Jakes. I am looking forward to seeing and learning about the infrastructure of these two vastly different ministries.



February 19


It's just before 6AM on Tuesday and most of our ministry staff are just now beginning to arrive at the church to catch our ride to the airport that will begin our trip to Texas and the Creative Church Conference. I was notified last night that our original flight from Harrisburg to Dallas got cancelled, and after 2 hours on the phone with the airline, I was able to get us all re-booked on a flight this morning out of Philadelphia. In the end, we were able to sleep in 45 minutes longer than originally all in all it is not a bad start to the trip. Whenever I find a Wi-Fi spot along the way this week, I will keep a "running diary" of sorts of our experiences and all that we are learning. It should be a great week! we go (hopefully)!

By the way, in case you would forget what I look like while we are gone, this post includes a picture that someone on our staff composed of what I would look like if I shaved off my newly grown beard and went with the mohawk look in its place! Later in the week I just might post a second one that shows what I would look like if I joined the rock band, "KISS"!

Monday, February 18, 2008

McWorship: Faithfulness

On Sunday we saw our seventh key word as we have been studying through the Old Testament book of Malachi. Each word is helping us to see how we can be an authentic worshipper of God in the fast-food culture in which we live. This week we saw the word “FAITHFULNESS” which showed us that authentic worship involves having a genuine faith with no hypocrisy.

In Malachi 3:13-18, we see a contrast between two types of people in Israel. There is the foolish one who does not serve God and the faithful one who does. The foolish one is seen in verses 13-15 and is characterized by arrogance. God states this as a fact. The words of Israel have been arrogant. It is so important that we control our tongues. Scripture attests to the fact that the prime evidence that God uses to judge are our words (Jude 14-15; Psalm 139:4; James 3:5-6; Matthew 12:36-37). These words have wearied the Lord. Israel has questioned every fact God has stated. How have you loved us (1:2)?; How have we despised your name (1:6)?; How have we defiled you (1:7)?; For what reason (2:14)?; Where is the God of justice (2:17)?; How shall we return (3:7)?; How have we robbed you (3:8)? There words had wearied the Lord (2:17) but this does not impede Israel’s pattern. They again question this latest fact by asking, “How have we spoken against you?” They once again have denied and trivialized their sin.

Their arrogance results in two major accusations in verses 14-15. First, they state that serving God is a waste of time (v14). They say that it is vain to do so. The word “vain” means worthless. They make this conclusion because they can see no immediate profit to obeying God. They are mistakenly making their judgment based on the world’s values. Their second accusation is just as stunning. They say that the way to real success is through wickedness (v15). In their mind, those that do wicked are “built up.” In other words, it is the wicked that are profiting by the world’s standards. They also believe that those who do wicked escape God’s punishment. They again conclude this by seeing the profit of the wicked according to the world’s standards. Asaph wrote of similar feelings in Psalm 73. Only Asaph handled these feeling correctly. He took those feelings into the sanctuary of the Lord and concluded that in the end, we who are the children of God win!

In contrast to the foolish, Malachi 3:16-18 describes the faithful. We see first their value to God. God says, “They will be mine…my own possessions.” This is the idea of being a beautiful, priceless jewel. This is true because of their virtues. The faithful fear the Lord meaning that they take Him and His word seriously (v16). They also think upon His name continually (esteem His name, v16). Finally, they speak often about Him (v16). Those who fear God think about Him often and those who think about Him often speak well of Him. Malachi reminds Israel that the Lord hears it all. In fact, we learn that God keeps a book of remembrance containing the words that we speak. As a result, he knows who the foolish are and he knows who the faithful are. Even though it may at times seem that the wicked are the ones who are prospering, in order to be authentic worshippers of God we must continue to have a genuine faith with no hypocrisy.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Church Costs Too Much

A while back, our Business Manager here at Grace Church (Andrew Norton), sent me a great illustration he found while trolling the hundreds and hundreds of blogs he keeps up with on a regular basis. He got this illustration from a man named John Atkinson who is the Discipleship Pastor at Bay Area Fellowship Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. I know nothing about Pastor Atkinson or the church he is on staff at, but in light of our SUPER SIZE GIVING SUNDAY that is coming up one week from this Sunday, I thought this illustration was worth stealing and putting into my blog (sorry, Pastor Atkinson, I guess I should have e-mailed you and asked your permission first…go ahead and feel free to use anything on my blog that you want in return…if you can find anything useful).

Pastor Atkinson wrote that he ran across a quote from “A Treasury of Bible Illustrations” (a book I also own as part of my library). It was one of the most profound answers he had ever heard for those who criticize how much is spent to keep a church growing, healthy, and life changing. Here is the quote:

“On June 2, 1980 a little girl was born. She cost money from the moment she was born. As she grew from babyhood to girlhood, she cost even more. Her dresses and shoes were more expensive as well as the doctors for all those childhood diseases. She was even more expensive during her school and teen years. She needed long dresses to go to parties. When she went to college, it was discovered that all college expenses are not listed in the catalog. Then after graduation she fell in love and married. She had a church wedding, and that too, cost a lot of money. Then, five months after her marriage she suddenly sickened and within a week she was dead. She has not cost a penny since the day the parents walked away from her grave. As long as the church is alive she will cost money, and the more alive a church is, the more money she will cost. Only a dead church is no longer expensive!”

WOW! That’s powerful! In fact, why don’t you go back and read that quote again. I believe that the local church is the New Testament version of the “storehouse” spoken about in Malachi 3:10 where God says,

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

The church is the only organization given by God in the New Testament for the avenue of world evangelization. It is the church, my friend, which is the hope of the world because only the church has the life-changing and transforming message of Jesus Christ who is without question the way, the truth and the life. So, all of you blog readers who call Grace Church your church home, be praying fervently regarding your participation in SUPER SIZE GIVING SUNDAY come February 24.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I Was Tempted!

Sunday, February 24, is what we are calling SUPER SIZE GIVING SUNDAY here at Grace Church. On this one Sunday, we are challenging everyone who is part of our Church family, members and regular attendees alike, to test God through obedient giving and to see how He blesses as a result. Here are the specific challenges.

If you typically do not give anything, then super-size your giving by giving something on Sunday, February 24!

If you typically give something but not 10% of your weekly income, then super-size your giving by giving 10% on Sunday, February 24!

If you typically give at least 10% of your weekly income, then super-size your giving by giving your very best on Sunday, February 24.

As we move toward this special Sunday of seeing people take steps of faith in an area that perhaps they never took steps of faith in before, I have to be transparent and honest with you and tell you that I seriously considered the temptation to quit tithing altogether for the next several years. You see, I have finished registering my daughter for college and, as I wrote in earlier blogs, I was totally freaked out by the price tag I saw for just the first semester of her freshman year. As my mind raced to try to find some quick “fix-it” solution to how I was going to pay for her college, this thought crossed my mind….

“You know, the amount I gave to the church and to other missionaries and ministries that my wife and I supported over the past calendar year would have paid for one full year of college for my daughter after all scholarships are taken into account.”

This thought didn’t cross my mind…it stayed there. It was the “quick-fix” I was looking for. And as I dwelt on that thought, a whole list of ways I could justify redirecting my tithe and offering monies to Joy’s college bill tagged right along behind it. After all, look at how much ministry I do in the church. Look at all the time I spend here. Look at all the lives I am touching. Isn’t tithing more than money? I am tithing my time. I am tithing my energy. At times it even feels as if I am tithing my heart and soul to Grace Church. Surely, it is acceptable for me to consider all of my time and energies as my tithe so that I can pay for my daughter’s higher education. After all, she is going to a great Christian College. In paying her tuition to that Christian institution it’s as if I am tithing to ministry, right? And her dream is to one day teach in the inner city, touching the lives of middle school students who so desperately need Jesus. To give my tithe money to her training for such a ministry must be considered tithing! Isn’t it?

But in the end, I came to the conclusion I can’t rob God in order to pay for Joy’s college. My tithe will continue and I will give it cheerfully, believing God’s promise that he will bless me and that He will meet all of our needs as we seek Him and His kingdom first.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Super-Size DARE

Do you remember the 1983 comedy blockbuster, A Christmas Story? The movie was centered in the 1940s in the town of Hammond, Indiana where a 9-year old boy named Ralphie lived. Ralphie wanted just one thing for Christmas…an official Red Ryder BB Rifle. The number one thing this movie is known for is when one boy takes a triple-dog-dare to lick a frozen flag pole and gets his tongue painfully stuck in the process.

That actually became a reality in Indiana not long ago. In Chesterton, IN, two boys were recently serving on flag duty at Jackson Elementary School and decided to see if their tongues could really stick to frozen metal. The result was a lot of pain and bleeding.

Isn’t amazing how we sometimes can do things we would never otherwise consider doing due to being dared? Well, as we saw last Sunday here at Grace Church, In Malachi 3, God basically dares his people to give Biblically and to then see if He would not open the windows of heaven and bless them as a result. He actually uses the words, “Test me and see…” It’s as if he is saying, “I triple-dog-dare you!”

As a result, we are marking Sunday, February 24, as SUPER-SIZE GIVING SUNDAY here at Grace Church. On this one Sunday, we are challenging everyone who is part of our Church family, members and regular attendees alike, to do just that – to test God through obedient giving and to see how He blesses you as a result. Here are the specific challenges. We are encouraging everyone to take one of these steps of faith:

If you typically do not give anything, then super-size your giving by giving something on Sunday, February 24!

If you typically give something but not 10% of your weekly income, then super-size your giving by giving 10% on Sunday, February 24!

If you typically give at least 10% of your weekly income, then super-size your giving by giving your very best on Sunday, February 24.

Imagine what would happen if everyone did just that on the same Sunday. I’m not simply talking about the size of the offering. Imagine what would happen as God fulfills His promise to those who accept this Biblical challenge. 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. We are issuing this challenge 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 pray that our church will never be the same again as a result.

Monday, February 11, 2008


In our McWorship message series through the book of Malachi we have been identifying 8 key words which we must understand if we are going to be authentic worshippers of God in this fast food culture. So far we have seen the words Love, Service, Discipline, Marriage and Messiah. Last Sunday we looked at the one word which creates the most emotion…MONEY. As we studied Malachi 3:7-12, we saw that this passage can be outlined by three key words of its own…Return (v7); Robbery (v8-9); and Reward (v10-12).

In verse 7, God states the fact of Israel’s need to return to obedience. The pattern of Israel is one of continually resisting God’s command. God makes it clear that if they would return to the Lord, God would return to them. As has been the pattern in this powerful book, Israel responds by asking the question, “How shall we return?” In verse 8, God answers their question by stating that they had committed a crime. Israel was guilty of robbing God in their tithes and offerings. The word “rob” occurs only here and in Proverbs 22:22. It means “to defraud” or to “take forcibly.” God says, “When it comes to tithes and offerings, you have defrauded me by taking forcibly what is mine

Now why are we taking the time to talk about money? Isn’t there some unspoken rule about the separation of church and my money? Actually, just the opposite is true. Jesus talked about money or possessions in 16 out of 38 parables. On the average, 1 in every 10 verses in the Gospels speaks of money and possessions. There are about 500 verses about prayer and about faith; but over 2,000 verses on money or possessions. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 7:21). You see, if we are going to be authentic worshippers of God we must do more than talk about money. We must be proper stewards of all of our finances. In the New Testament (1 Corinthians 16:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-7) we learn that when it comes to giving, we are to do so sacrificially, systematically, liberally and cheerfully. Because Israel was robbing God in their tithes and offerings, God had cursed them through crop failure. As a result, a very important principle is seen. By robbing God they were also robbing themselves. Some people say, “I can’t afford to give!” My friend, you can’t afford not to give!

God issues the challenge. Israel is told to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. The problem wasn’t just the fact that they were not giving, it was that they were not giving what they should have been. Yet, the average child of God today is also robbing God and by robbing God they are also robbing themselves. So God gives what almost appears to be a dare. He dares Israel to test Him through obedience in the giving of their tithes and offerings. He promises that if they do that, He would open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing on them until it overflows. You see, that is another principle we need to understand. It is impossible to out give God. For Israel this blessing included taking the locusts away and providing good crops so that other nations would notice. But the same test applies to us today. The dare is still valid. God promises to bless those who give Biblically (Matthew 6:33; Acts 4:31-35; 2 Corinthians 9:6-12; Galatians 6:6; Philippians 4:14-19). Go ahead…GOD DARES YOU! HE DOUBLE DARES YOU!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Skittles Sunday

Do you like skittles candies? Well, whether you do or don’t, after this Sunday you will never look the same way at skittles candies ever again. In fact, you will never be able to see skittles candies in a store without a very important Biblical principle racing through your mind.

In our present series here at Grace Church that we are calling McWorship: Authentic Worship in a Fast Food Culture, we are studying through the book of Malachi and we are discovering eight key words that we must understand if we are going to be authentic worshippers of Christ. So far we have seen five of those words including:

LOVE: Authentic worship involves a proper response to the truth of God’s love!

SERVICE: Authentic worship involves serving God with our very best!

DISCIPLINE: Authentic worship involves obeying God without any compromise!

MARRIAGE: Authentic worship involves reflecting God in my marriage and family!

MESSIAH: Authentic worship involves focusing on the person of Jesus Christ!

This Sunday we will hone in on the word MONEY as we see the principle that authentic worship involves proper stewardship of my finances. In presenting this truth from Malachi 3:7-12, I will be using an illustration that I saw used by Ed Young Jr who pastors Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas.

Ed Young tells the story of the time that his little daughter asked him for money to buy some skittles. As she ate them, Ed asked her for one. She refused saying that they were hers. Ed then realized that his daughter didn’t realize some facts. First she didn’t realize where her money came from to begin with to buy the skittles. The money came from him. Second, she didn’t realize that her father was much stronger than her and could forcibly take them all away from her if he wanted. Finally, she didn’t realize that her father also had the ability to pull out his credit card and go back to that store and buy her more skittles than she could possibly eat in a year.

That’s when it hit Ed. That is exactly what happens to us as followers of God. All that we have financially comes from God. He simply asks us to bring a small portion of it to be used for His service. Yet we often refuse saying that our money is just that…ours. We fail to realize that God is powerful enough that he could take all of our stuff away from us if He desired. We also fail to realize that God also has the ability to bless us with more stuff than we ever dreamed. This Sunday you will see what we do with the skittles we will have in the service. It is a dynamic illustration that will help us to understand the Biblical principle of “bringing our whole tithe into the storehouse!” Don’t miss Sunday!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Admitting My Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

On Tuesday of this week, our entire church and school staff spent the day in a Crisis Intervention Training. Over the course of six hours we learned facts about the following areas as well as warning signs and how to help someone in these scenarios:

Anxiety and Depression
Domestic Violence
Inpatient Hospitalization
Mandated Reporting
Bullying and Labeling
Sexual Abuse

The training was very valuable but through it I came face to face with the fact that I indeed may have an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I am now ready to come out of the “disorder closet” and admit it. An OCD is defined as a psychiatric anxiety disorder which is most commonly characterized by a person’s obsessive, distressing, intrusive and related compulsions which attempt to neutralize the obsessions. Compulsions are seen by repetitive behaviors or mental acts that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession or according to rules that must be applied rigorously.

So what is my OCD? Here it is….I can’t stand to feel sticky, sweaty or grimy. I just can’t stand it. When I feel sticky, sweaty or grimy, I get very anxious. As a result, I have compulsive behaviors, some of which I do in excess. These include:

I can’t stand to go camping because I will not be able to sleep due to feeling dewy!

I will not wear a suit jacket or a coat without a long sleeve shirt on so that my arms don’t feel sweaty up against the vinyl lining of the jacket or coat!

I take multiple showers a day! I really do!
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I must do is to take a shower. Even if I am going to mow the lawn or exercise first thing in the morning (like that’s really going to happen!), I will first take a shower and then exercise or mow the lawn. And when I am finished with the mowing or with the exercising, I will then take another shower. When I go home from work, as soon as dinner is over, I am ready for a shower. And then, even if I do nothing else the rest of the night, I usually have to take another shower before crawling into bed. This is especially true if I stepped outdoors for any reason or if I participated in any other activity other than watching TV. The bottom line is that there is no way I will be able to sleep if I don’t take a shower right before crawling into bed. If I don’t shower first, I will lay in bed obsessed with feeling sticky, sweaty and grimy.

I think I need counseling!!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

When it rains, I let it!

Yesterday, our entire church staff spent the morning in a Crisis Intervention Training. One of the areas that representatives of the Family Resource and Counseling Center went over with us dealt with issues of stress and anxiety. We all face these, don’t we? So what is it that causes the most stress and anxiety in your life? Is it your marriage, your health, your finances, your kids, your work, etc.?

Some aspects of worry are natural and deal with how we are born. Others areas, however, come through life experiences. Those areas of anxiety that come from nature may give the range of our stress, but it is usually our habits that determine where in that range someone usually functions. Studies of fetus’ and infant’s heart rates and responses to stimuli suggest that the underpinnings for excessive worry are probably more natural. The responsibility, therefore, lies in managing that worry more effectively.

A 113 year old man, when asked to give the secret of his longevity, gave this response, “When it rains, I let it!” What a great quote! So often we worry about the very things we can do nothing to change. Jesus put it this way, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matthew 6:34).

Stress is caused by one’s interpretation and reaction to a situation or thought that result in feelings of frustration, anger and anxiousness. Anxiety is a physiological state characterized by cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioral components that when combined, can create feelings of fear, apprehension and worry. Anxiety can result in physical reactions both internal and external, such as:

Increased blood pressure
Increase in heart rate
Inhibited immune and digestive system functions
Pale skin
Trembling and/or chills
Enlarged pupils

Anxiety also brings about some emotional and behavioral reactions such as a sense of dread or panic as well as voluntary and involuntary reactions directed at escape or avoidance of the source. Anxiety can actually be good if it is used as a natural protective mechanism to prevent one from engaging in potentially harmful behaviors or situations. However, it can also be very harmful when excessive anxiety results in a disorder affecting one’s daily functioning. These disorders can include phobias, social anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, panic disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorders.

OUCH! I think I may just have one of those obsessive compulsive disorders. In tomorrow’s blog I might just admit what it is!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Regional Chorus

The Music Department here at Lititz Christian School has an incredible ministry opportunity for our entire church! Please read all of this information very carefully and consider how you may be a part of a fun and easy way to meet people where they are, and move them to where God wants them to be!

Let me begin with some background information. Lititz Christian School will be hosting the 2008 Pennsylvania State Region V Chorus Festival, March 27-29. This means that the 208 top high school choral students in 15 counties in South-Central and Eastern Pennsylvania will be arriving here on Thursday morning, March 27. These students will spend all day Thursday and Friday rehearsing for outstanding performances on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Not only does Lititz Christian School get to host these students and directors in our facility, but LCS and Grace Church also have the incredible opportunity to host these 208 students in our homes while they are here! This is where you come in! We need to find homes for all of these students while they are with us.

Host families would house at least two students of the same gender offering separate sleeping surfaces for each student (acceptable surfaces include beds, futons, sofas, cots or air mattresses). Host families also provide breakfast for their students on Friday and Saturday and arrange transportation for their students for all of the following times:

Thursday, March 27: 8 p.m. - Pick students up in the Grace Church auditorium

Friday, March 28: 8-8:30 a.m. - Drop students off at Grace Church main entrance (students may be dropped off earlier if host families have conflicting work schedules, etc.); 7:30 p.m. Concert (Host families will receive 2 complimentary tickets); 9:30 p.m. Meet students in Grace Church auditorium

Saturday, March 29: 9:30-10 a.m. – Drop students off at Grace Church main entrance (students may be dropped off earlier if host families have conflicting work schedules)

Sounds pretty simple, huh? And think of the incredible impact LCS and Grace Church could have on these students! You see, we had the option of housing all of these students in area hotels, but we could not pass up the opportunity for having each and every one of them cared for and rubbing shoulders with a Christian family from Grace Ministries for two days. Just imagine what God will do!

Would you please pray about helping us find housing for these 208 students? What an incredible opportunity to make an impact for Christ on so many teens. If you are interested in participating, please contact Doug Kegarise, our Director of Student Ministries at 626-2155 or

Monday, February 04, 2008

Pastoral Search Launches

This month we officially launch a new pastoral search to fill the Pastor of Connections position here at Grace Church. Our goal is to hire someone who will be able to lead our church into building an effective small groups ministry. As leadership, we realize that the future health of our church is dependent on our being able to get the hundreds of people that God is bringing to us into a small group where they can connect, grow and be cared for. We don't just want to be a church WITH small groups, we want to be a church OF small groups. There is a major difference. Our present ABF and Deacon ministries are important but are not designed to keep up with a church of our size. We don’t desire to end our ABF or Deacon ministry. These ministries have their place and their purpose. But we must make small groups a serious direction and now is the time to do so.

John Kegarise, our Elder Board Chairman, will be spearheading this search process working very closely with Mike Lutz, who chaired the previous search for a Senior Pastor. These are two very godly, influential and credible men in our church. God has given them both a passion to see our church move in the direction of small groups and I believe that God will greatly use them to help us get there. We will be conducting this search much in the same way that the search was handled for the Senior Pastor and will involve three committees. The first committee will be the research committee whose job it will be to develop a list of possibilities. The second committee will be the interview committee who will then take that list and using applications, interviews, and checking references, narrow down the field of possibilities. Once the field is narrowed down I will become very involved as well with this committee. We also have a prayer committee who will be seeing that the whole process is bathed in prayer along the way.

Ideally, we would like to find someone who has had experience in a church our size or larger in building an effective small groups ministry from scratch. We would also like this to be someone who is a dynamic communicator. Anytime we look to hire a staff member, there are 4 “C’s” that I also think are very important

Character: We want to hire a person of godly character inside and outside the church!

Competence: We want to hire a person who is capable of accomplishing the job!

Chemistry: We want to hire a person who mixes well with our present staff and adds energy to our team rather than draining energy from our team

Courage: We want to hire a person who is willing to take calculated risks as the Spirit of God leads them and us as a ministry

Please be praying for John and Mike as they spearhead this search; for each committee as they fulfill their tasks; for the person God will lead us to; and for our church as a whole that this will be another effective and exciting step in our being able to better meet people where they are and then help move them to where God wants them to be.

Friday, February 01, 2008

My Super Bowl Pick

This Sunday is the big game. It is without question the largest sporting event of the year. Come Sunday evening, most of our country will come to a stand still as millions upon millions of people load up on snack food of all kinds and root on their favored team while personally rating some of the highest priced commercials ever to be shown on national television. No wonder it has been dubbed “Super Sunday” and well is should be.

Now to add even more to the pomp and circumstances of this year’s game, the New England Patriots are looking to not just win the Lombardi Trophy, but in doing so, they are looking to do what no team has ever done in the history of the National Football League…to have a perfect season with 19 straight combined regular season and post season victories against no losses. If they can pull it off, they will without question go down as arguably one of the best teams in football history.

Standing in the way of all of this greatness stands a surprise team from the Meadowlands with a young leader at quarterback who may always be destined to live in his brother’s shadow. Somehow, after having a dismal start to the regular season, they rebounded to grab a wild card entry into the playoffs. The post season path to the Super Bowl for the New York Giants included tough road games at Tampa Bay, Dallas and at Green Bay. In doing so, the Giants set an NFL record with 10 consecutive road victories. Luckily for them, this Sunday’s Super Bowl is in Arizona…a long way from the Meadowlands.

So the big question everyone is asking of anyone one is simple…“Who are you rooting for?” When the final gun sounds, who is it that you want to see hoisting the trophy among all the streaming confetti? Are you going for the Patriots and a chance to witness history and a season that is likely to never be repeated by any team ever again? Or are you going for the underdog and hoping the Giants can spoil the coronation of the Pats?

For me, the answer to that question is clear, but in giving it, I must admit that I feel very much like a traitor. You see, as a die-hard fan of the Cleveland Browns I have always been very loyal to the AFC. Since the New England Patriots are the team who will be representing the AFC in this Sunday’s Super Bowl, loyalty and logic would lead me to pledge my allegiance behind the Pats. Yet, I just can’t bring myself to do that. In fact, throughout the whole post season my motto has been, “Anyone but the Patriots!”

Why? First, I just don’t want to see any team be perfect (unless, of course, it is my team). Second, when it comes to head football coaches, Bill Bellichek is far from my favorite. Maybe that goes back to his inability to do much when he coached the Browns. Maybe it’s the fact that he was caught cheating earlier in the season (and who knows how many times he wasn’t caught). Third, I just think it would be really cool for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time (Archie Manning, who unfortunately spent his career with the Saints when the franchise stunk) to have his two sons (Payton Manning of the Colts and Eli Manning of the Giants) lead their teams to Super Bowl victories in consecutive seasons. So, go Giants…beat the Patriots!