Friday, May 30, 2008

An Open Letter to my JOY

Dear Joy:

Today is your High School graduation. By the time tonight ends, you will have completed another of life’s key milestones. So often I watch parents view their child’s High School graduation as a sad event as they think of their son or daughter leaving home and heading off to college. Without question, I will greatly miss having you present in our home every day once you leave for Liberty, but for me today is not a day of sadness but one of great celebration.

Eight-teen years ago God gave your mom and I one of the greatest “joys” of our life when He gave us you. But one thing I have never allowed myself to forget is that His giving you to us was not for us to own you for our purposes and our pleasure, but rather to raise you in such a way that you would be owned by Him for His purposes and His pleasure. As I look at the amazing young lady you have become, I can’t help but see tonight’s festivities with a sense of accomplishment. Though we were not perfect and though we made multiple mistakes over the years as your parents, I can smile with great satisfaction as I watch you walk across that platform tonight and receive your diploma.

For me, tonight is one of a sense of “Mission Accomplished.” Don’t get me wrong. I know that your mom and I still have a key role to play in your life, and I look forward to each and every stage that is ahead, but in a very real sense, the formative years come to an end tonight. From here on out you will be more on your own each and every day. But you are ready. Your love for life, your love for Jesus, and your love for people are genuine traits that you possess and that everyone who knows you can clearly see.

You’ve come a long way from that highly strong willed little girl that tried your parent’s patience on an hourly basis at times. Your mom could not be more right when she says that it is amazing what God can do with a strong willed child when He gets a hold of their heart. How true that is of you. God got a hold of your heart and it is amazing what He has, is, and will continue to do through you. I can’t wait to see where He takes you from here. And no matter where that place is or what it entails, you can count on one thing...that same dad that cheered on each dig you made on the volleyball court and who cheered you on each time you knocked an opposing player on their butt on the soccer field, will continue to be your #1 cheerleader in whatever God has in store for you.

It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated your first birthday in Ohio on the same day that I was ordained into ministry. Then we watched you graduate from Kindergarten in Indiana. Now tonight in Pennsylvania we will watch you give your valedictorian address and end your High School career. Enjoy it, sweetheart. You have earned it. You have worked hard. You have matured. And along the way you have brought me countless “joys” in so many different ways. I love you, Joy, and I am so very proud of you!


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Grace Church Reaches to AFRICA

Back in December Grace Church and Lititz Christian School partnered together in our Birthday Gift for Jesus project resulting in our raising enough money to fully underwrite three Christian Schools for orphans in the Central African Republic in conjunction with three of our Grace Brethren Churches in Africa.

We also were able to pay for the dedication ceremony for the Orphan Welcome Center in the Central African Republic and to buy a van to get many of these orphans to school. I shared with our church in my e-mail update (which you can sign up to receive twice a week for free by going to our church website, video footage from Africa showing some 40 children piling out of this van for school. How wonderful it is to know that we are impacting hundreds of precious orphans across the ocean.

Recently, Mike and Joan McCracken, who lead our Mission Team here at Grace Church, received this exciting e-mail update from Ginger Hock of Project Hope & Charite in Bangui, Central African Republic. This report is regarding our school in Bossangoa which is the town north of Bangui that can be very difficult to get to because of rebel activity. The picture above was attached.

Hello Mike and Joan:

Here are a few photos from my recent trip to Bossangoa to visit your Hand in Hand school at the Sembegan Grace Brethren Church. It was a great trip and I was so impressed with the school and especially with our teacher Jean. There were 42 children there the day I visited and most of them were reading and doing addition, subtraction and even some division.

Jean is a very capable teacher and the kids in the school seem so happy and well behaved. The Pastor is very proud of the school and speaks highly of our teacher Jean also. I took some chalk and a few school supplies to pass out to the children and a few extra things for the teacher. If you notice in the group photo all the kids are holding up their new piece of chalk. It doesn't take much to give these kids joy.

There were five students that have been performing above all the others and I awarded them a new chalk slate and a pencil. The other students cheered and clapped in excitement because some of their fellow students had received a gift for doing so well. I was truly blessed by the visit. The children, teacher and Pastor all greet you and send their very best. They wanted me to let you know they pray for the Lititz Church often and thank you for your prayers and support.

Ginger Hock
Project Hope & Charite
Bangui, CAR

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Summer in Airports

Memorial Day is considered by many to be the official start of summer. Last year I was able to do very little traveling over the summer and it was wonderful. I actually got to enjoy the summer. This year will be the exact opposite. By the time summer is over, I will have logged quite a few days in airports and miles in the air. Here are the travel details as they stand now:

June 18-21: Laura and I will be taking a trip to spend a little bit of time with one of our potential candidates for our Pastor of Connections position here at Grace as well as their spouse. This is not a formal interview but rather simply a time to get to know the couple and to get a gauge on what kind of chemistry we might have in ministry together and how they would interact with and fit into our current staff team.

June 24-27: Laura and I will make another trip just like the one above to spend time with another potential candidate for our Pastor of Connections position. Please be praying about these trips as it is a critical decision for the future direction of our church.

July 8-16: This will be our family vacation out in Colorado visiting with Laura’s side of the family. With the costs of flights skyrocketing due to fuel increases, we will be doing some “red-eye” traveling in order to get tickets that are somewhat reasonable in costs. I believe coming back we leave Denver at 12:30am and arrive in Philly at 6:30am.

July 24-31: I will be flying to Tampa, Florida for our Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches Adult Conference. The extra nice part about this is that my parents live in Lakeland, which is just about an hour from Tampa, so I will be able to visit with them. I really appreciate your prayers on Monday, July 28, as I have the opportunity to speak in the morning session of the conference. Pastor Willard, Pastor Tim, and Matt McElravy will also be attending this conference.

August 12-14: This will be the only summer trip that we will drive for as we take our duaghter, Joy, down to Lynchburg, VA to get her settled in for her first semester as a student at my alma mater, Liberty University. We will also appreciate your prayers as a family as we make this transition from having a High School daughter to a daughter in college.

October 29-November 12: I know this is beyond summer but this will be our 15-day trip to Egypt, Jordan and Israel. We will be with a group of 55 people (including both of our parents) led by Pastor Dan Travis of the Palmyra Grace Brethren Church. We will take a bus to the airport in Washington DC and from there we fly to JFK to catch our connecting flight which is a nonstop flight to Cairo, Egypt. We will then return out of Tel Aviv, Israel back to Washington DC through Atlanta.

So…American, Northwest, US Airways and Delta…I think we are going to become very good friends over these summer months. Thanks for your prayers, Grace Church, for a relaxing, yet ministry productive summer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


As we have studied through Proverbs 31 on Sunday mornings here at Grace Church, we have said that this chapter is written more for the sake of young men than it is for young women. It is a wonderful description of the type of woman that a godly man should prayerfully seek God for in marriage. In this day when marriages are dying as quick inside the church as they are outside the church, it is one of my greatest desires to lift the sanctity of marriage up high in the eyes of the children, young people and young adults who attend Grace Church. The amazing love relationship that can exist between a husband and a wife is second in greatness only to the relationship that exists between Christ and the church. That is why I believe in love songs…yes, even in church. This past Sunday we concluded the message with Jason Dearborn singing a love song written by Bryan Adams to his lovely wife, Christi. When taken in the context of marriage, I think the words of this song are more than fitting for church. Would to God that every married person in our church would see their marriage as something worth fighting for! Next Sunday we will conclude our Wonder Women series with Ben Fold’s song, The Luckiest.

(Everything I Do) I Do It For You

Look into my eyes - you will see
What you mean to me
Search your heart - search your soul
And when you find me there you'll search no more

Don't tell me it's not worth tryin' for
You can't tell me it's not worth dyin' for
You know it's true
Everything I do - I do it for you

Look into your heart - you will find
There's nothin' there to hide
Take me as I am - take my life
I would give it all - I would sacrifice

Don't tell me it's not worth fightin' for
I can't help it - there's nothin' I want more
You know it's true
Everything I do - I do it for you

There's no love - like your love
And no other - could give more love
There's nowhere - unless you're there
All the time - all the way

Oh - you can't tell me it's not worth tryin' for
I can't help it - there's nothin' I want more
I would fight for you - I'd fly for you
Walk the wire for you - yeah I'd die for you

You know it's true
Everything I do - I do it for you

Monday, May 26, 2008

Patriotic Celebration

Will we be having a Patriotic Celebration this summer? Yes! On Sunday morning, July 6, Grace Church will once again sponsor a Patriotic Celebration for our community. Every aspect of this event will be completely free to our community.

Will the Patriotic Celebration be held down at the park? In past years we have taken this event down to the Lititz Springs Park. However, this venue is difficult and not very family-friendly for those that have smaller children. In order for this event to be more family friendly, this year we will be having the Patriotic Celebration here at the church.

Will this be one or two services? We will have two services, each being one hour in length. Please note that for this one Sunday (July 6) the times will be adjusted. Instead of having services at 9am and 10:45am as usual, our two Patriotic Celebrations will be held at 9:30 and 11:00. Both services will be identical.

What will be included in the services? There will be a lot of patriotic music as well as the opportunity to recognize and appreciate military veterans, active duty members of our armed forces, families of those with immediate relatives serving overseas, as well as our police, fire and other local emergency heroes. Special recognition and gifts will be given to all World War II veterans in attendance. As I share that morning, I will be using my Grandpa Distler’s Bible which he had with him during World War II, sharing some of his personal experiences from a running diary he kept in this Bible including the two greatest experiences he had during the war.

What about nursery, children’s programs and ABF classes? We will have our full nursery and children’s programs running during both services but there will be no Youth or ABF classes on that morning and there is no childcare for the afternoon activities.

Is there anything else happening besides the services themselves? Beginning at 10:30 and running through the afternoon, we will also be having a free lunch out on our soccer field where a free children’s carnival will also be set up and where the National Guard will be setting up a partial camp along with military vehicles being present (including the possibility of a helicopter). We have arranged for 5 inflatable play areas to be delivered for the event, 3 of which will be perfect for all ages (young preschoolers to adults) and 2 that will work for older ages (3rd grade to adults). We will also have face-painting for the younger children throughout the event.
How will we be promoting this event? We are promoting this year’s Patriotic Celebration much like we did Easter. However, the best promotion of all is always when people from Grace personally invite their friends, relatives, neighbors and coworkers. But the greatest way each of us can be involved is to pray that God would bless this event and allow us to use to meet people where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be! Nothing of eternal importance happens apart from prayer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Inside My Marriage

Today is mine and Laura’s 21st Wedding Anniversary. Twenty-One years ago today we said “I do” standing at the altar of the Temple Baptist Church in Pueblo, Colorado. The past 21 years have been amazing. As we have seen described in our current Super Hero message series through Proverbs 31, I married a Biblical Wonder Woman! Outside of my salvation, she is without question my greatest treasure and most valuable asset. She makes me look good (and boy do I need that!)!

Over the past 21 years there have been some things that have had great significance for our marriage together. I have listed them below. You probably can guess the meaning of many of them but there is absolutely no way that you will understand the significance of all of them (nor should you ask or speculate), but she will! I could list many more but here our a few:

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (KJV)

Worley Prayer Chapel

Fort Flea Market

A Toaster, A Garbage Can, and a Picture Frame

Miami Vice

Gulf Car Wash


Roanoke Mall


Christmas Trees

Gloucester Clam Chowder

Boothbay Harbor

Good Samaritan Hospital

Sea of Galilee

Wrapping Christmas Gifts

Grocery Shopping

Thursday, May 22, 2008


What does a Wonder Woman do? We will continue to see this Sunday here at Grace Church that according to Proverbs 31, believe it or not, she sews (v13). Now this does not mean that a woman who can’t sew a button on a shirt isn’t godly anymore than it means that a man who can’t even take duct tape of the roll can be considered unspiritual (boy, am I thankful for that!). This woman was involved in sewing for the needs of her family and we must keep in mind that this was before the industrial revolution when women had to work at making clothes in order to keep their families clothed. But the point of the verse is that she enjoys doing this for her family. She did not see the tedious task of constant sewing for her family as a burden. It was a privilege.

We also learn that she shops (v14). Times haven’t changed, have they? But just because you know how to run up the credit card at the mall does not make you a Wonder Woman. Solomon described her like a merchant ship that brought unusual and fascinating stuff from different places. I remember as a kid seeing Friday as the best day of the week, not just because there was no school for the next two days, but because it was the day my mom went grocery shopping. What a blast it was to pour through the grocery bags and see what great snacks mom had brought home that week.

She also serves (v15). Though she has household help, she still is involved in serving, not just her family, but also her servants. Just because she had servants, she did not shirk her responsibility to care for her kids. She even gets up early to do so. She could have hit the snooze button and stayed in bed a bit longer in the morning and let her servants do all the morning preparations, but she got up early and joyfully served her family.

We also learn that she understood the need to be prepared (v21). She doesn’t panic about her family when winter comes because she has prepared for it in advance with all the sewing she has done to make sure that her family will be warm. The word “scarlet” can mean “two-cloaks” which suggests she had made double garments for warmth. She was prepared. She also took pleasure in quality (v22). She looks elegant, clothed in fine linen and purple, and she wanted the best for her family, sparing no cost in protecting her family from the cold. She also sees the priority of carefully managing her household (v27). She is never idle in meeting her family’s needs. That’s a real Wonder Woman!

The conduct of the Proverbs 31 Wonder Woman is one that is enterprising (v16, 24). She has a good business mind and starts her own business by purchasing a field and planting a vineyard. She uses her skills in sewing to make garments to sell. He work is also very energetic (v17, 19). She has a healthy attitude towards working. “Girding herself with strength” speaks of her working energetically. It is the idea of being vigorous and tireless. Her work is also excellent (v18). Her work ethic produces a monetary gain. The fact that her lamp does not go out at night most likely refers to her being prepared and planning ahead as seen in the parable of the virgins in Matthew 25. In Scripture a lamp going out was a picture of calamity. The Proverbs 31 Wonder Woman is committed to protecting her family from such a calamity. She is a real super hero!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Best Day of My Life - Part 3

This is the final part of a three part entry. It would be best to go back and first read parts 1 and 2 prior to reading today’s entry.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-9, Paul reminds we who are children of God by faith in Jesus Christ that to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord. On the day of our death, after receiving a measure of dying grace and receiving an angelic escort to heaven, we will finally get to see Jesus! We who know Jesus are not citizens of this earth. We who know Christ are citizens of heaven. For this brief time span we call “life” we serve as Ambassadors of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords but on the day of our death we will finally be home! The song-writer put it this way:

Just think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven!
Just think of touching a hand and finding it God’s!
Just think of breathing new air, and finding it celestial!
Just think of waking up in glory and finding it home!

There is no need to dread that moment or to be anxious about it. The day of our death will without question be the best day of our life! The poet expressed these words beautifully in the writing entitled, “Can This Be Death?” He wrote:

Can this be death? To be released from fear and sorrow, from sickness, weariness and pain? To be removed from sin’s enslavement, from Satan’s influence and domain?

Can this be death? To be set free from my sin nature, from the evil bend to do the wrong? To be set free from inclinations that would rob me of my song?

Can this be death? To be presented in His presence, the One who loves me evermore? To be accepted in the fullness of the Christ whom I adore?

Can this be death? To be escorted by the angels to my home prepared above? To be established in the dwelling that is furnished by His love?

Can this be death? To know complete fulfillment as I look upon His face? To feast upon the glories and the riches of His grace?

No, this is life! With all that it can offer, it is joy that overflows! It is peace that knows no measure. It is victory o’er my foes.

But thanks be to God,” the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, “who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord!”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Best Day of My Life - Part 2

This is the second part of a three part entry. It would be best to go back and first read part 1 prior to reading today’s entry.

Yesterday we saw Solomon’s words that the day of our death is better than the day of our life. How can that be? We saw from Acts 7, that at the moment of our death, God gives to us a measure of dying grace that will put us in complete peace in spite of our circumstances. What else does the Bible teach us about the moment of our death?

In Luke 16, Jesus told the story of a beggar named Lazarus who died. In verse 22, it says that, “the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to paradise.” From this teaching of Jesus we can take it that at the moment of our death, we receive an angelic escort into heaven. No wonder Solomon proclaimed that the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. Imagine breathing your last breath and then being greeted by a messenger of the Almighty God. What do you think the angel will say to us at that moment? Perhaps the angel will greet us with the same words the angel said to Mary, the mother of Jesus, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you!” Perhaps their first utterance will be the two word greeting they often proclaimed when they appeared to men and women in Scripture, “Fear not!” At the moment of my death, I believe that angelic messengers will supernaturally and instantly transport my soul into the very presence of the Lord. Yes, the day of my death will be the greatest day of my life!

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-9, Paul describes our earthly body as a tent which groans and longs to be clothed with our dwelling in heaven. Chuck Swindol said it masterfully when he wrote, “We are weary, rain-soaked campers longing for home.” The older we get, the more our bodies groan, producing multiple trials and pressures in our life. But on the day of our death our groaning will be swallowed up into everlasting life. Our burdens will give place to laughter and joy. Jesus said in Luke 6:21, “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh!” So amazing will be the joy that we suddenly experience that it will make all of the groaning of our aging body over the years seem completely insignificant in comparison.

The day of our death will be the completion of our salvation. In the past we were saved from the penalty of sin. This happened the day we trusted Christ to be our Lord and our Savior. Because of that day we never have to worry ever again that we will ever spend even one second in hell. In the present we are being saved from the power of sin. Each day we become more and more transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. But when we get to heaven, we will be saved from the very presence of sin…never ever having to battle our sin nature again. Our salvation will be complete. It is guaranteed. Paul stated it this way in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus!” No wonder the day of our death will be the best day of our life! No more pain! No more tears! No more battling sin. It’s true! Never forget it! For the Christian, the best is yet to come! Be sure to read the conclusion in my blog entry for tomorrow.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Best Day of My Life - Part 1

In Ecclesiastes 7:1, Solomon wrote these words, “A good name is better than good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.”

I was born on February 24, 1965, but the day of my birth was not the greatest day of my life. I married my wife on May 23, 1987, but my wedding day was not the best day of my life. My daughter was born on February 3, 1990, and my son on October 22, 1991, but these were not the best days of my life. According to Solomon the best day of my life will take place on the day that I die (I’d like to be preaching at that time…wouldn’t than be an exclamation point to the sermon!).

But wait. Let’s be honest. We spend most of our life trying to avoid that day and even dreading it. How can something we dread and try so hard to avoid be the best day of our life? What will make it so great? The truth is that we all have some sort of anxiety and fear regarding death. For the believer, this is not a fear regarding eternity. We know for sure where we will spend eternity. That was sealed the day that we put our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sin and for our eternal home in heaven. But even knowing of this great hope, we would have to admit that anxiety grips us in regards to death, especially as more and more years pass us by. We who have trusted Christ know that we are going to heaven. That’s in the bank. But what will the actual reality of death be like? None of us have passed that way before. The unknown element of what the reality of death will be like brings anxiety, which is normal. So how can the day that includes my death, with all of its uncertainty, be the greatest day of my life? The Bible does give us some insight on what the moment of our death will be like.

In Acts 7, Stephen has preached a very powerful and convicting sermon that revealed the truth of Christ and the error of the religious leaders of his day. As a result, these same religious leaders became violently angry. Stephen, realizing that it was apparent that violence was going to come upon him, gazed into the sky and in His grace God opened Stephen’s spiritual eyes and allowed him to see the glory of God and the Savior, Jesus, standing at the Father’s right hand. Moments later, his enemies dragged him outside the city gate of Jerusalem, a gate where I stood a little over a year ago when we were in Israel, down into the valley, where they stoned him to death.

We learn from this account that shortly prior to the moment of Stephen’s death, God gave to him a measure of dying grace, enabling him to see the Savior. I believe the same happens today. As we who are His children by faith move very close to that moment of death, no matter what the circumstances might be, I believe that God allows us a measure of dying grace that calms our anxiety and gives us perfect peace. I do not know exactly what we will see or what we will experience in those moments prior to death, but I believe that this grace will result in our being at total peace as we pass from this life into eternity. His Spirit will bear witness with our spirit that we are a child of God. For those who know Jesus, the day of our death will in fact be the greatest day of our life. More on this in tommorrow's blog entry!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Meeting and Moving at the Car Wash

You won't see this picture every day! Saturday was our youth car wash here at Grace Church as a fund-raiser towards Youth Conference this summer in Ohio. It looks to me like our youth will wash anything for a buck!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Summit is for YOU!

Romans 12:8 implores those with the gift of leadership to take it seriously…develop it, cultivate it, and diligently deploy it. We do this when we put ourselves in learning environments where we can be challenged and affirmed by other leaders. In the church, home, work and community, God is calling His people to do what leaders do…Cast vision; Set strategy; Navigate change; Motivate teams, and Build others. One of the best tools available to help us develop in this area is the Leadership Summit.

The Leadership Summit is a trusted, high-caliber event that’s designed to stretch, challenge, and inspire you as a leader. It takes place live each August at the Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL and it is then simulcast live to more than 140 locations across North America. We are very privileged that one of the satellite locations will be in our own backyard at the Lancaster County Bible Church (LCBC).

Each year the Leadership Summit assembles a faculty of leaders and experts who will not only deliver practical skills but also stretch your framework of thinking. This faculty line-up features leadership lessons from the church, the marketplace, the social sector, and academia. This year’s outstanding speaking line-up includes the following:

· Bill Hybles, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church
· Craig Groeschel, Senior Pastor of
· Brad Anderson, Vice Chairman and CEO of Best Buy, Inc.
· Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder of Teach for America
· John Burke, Lead Pastor of Gateway Community Church
· Chuck Colson (pictured), Chairman and Founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries
· Efrem Smith, Senior Pastor of The Sanctuary Covenant Church
· Bill George, Professor of Harvard Business School
· Catherine Rohr, CEO and Founder of Prison Entrepreneurship Program
· Gary Haugen, President and Founder of International Justice Mission

This year’s Leadership Summit will be held August 7-8 (during the day on Thursday and Friday). There is no way that you can be part of this Summit without it making you a more effective God-honoring, risk-taking, fired-up leader. As a result, I want to personally invite you to be part of the group from Grace Church who will be attending.

If you were to attend this 2-day conference on your own at Willow Creek the registration fee, travel, hotel and all of your food would easily run you between $1500-$2000. However, due to the group rate that we get as part of the Willow Creek Association, if you register through our church you can attend the simulcast at LCBC for a total cost of just $145. That’s right! You get to hear from the most prestigious of leaders on the topic of leadership and all it will cost you is $145 plus your lunch those two days. You can’t beat this deal. Contact Sheri Sell here at the church office (626-2155 or to register. If you are a leader in any walk of life, the Leadership Summit is definitely for you!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Each August the Leadership Summit held at Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago is simulcast live to the Lancaster County Bible Church (LCBC). Each year a group from Grace Church attends and it is amazing. Below is what some who attended last year’s Summit had to say. After reading these testimonials, you will want to attend this year’s Summit. I'll give you all of the details in my blog tomorrow.

“I found the Leadership Summit to be very inspiring. Being able to listen to business leaders, Christian leaders and even former government leaders provided a well-rounded view of leadership.”

“Each one of the speakers challenged me to look deep within myself to identify ways to not only motivate myself to do more, but also ways to motivate others.”

“The Summit is a great opportunity to stop, pull back, and look at the big picture of your life. It forces you to re-focus and refresh how you are spending the gifts God has given you. Each year I become more effective in leadership and ministry after taking these few short days to soak up the wisdom of the worlds best leaders.”

“Attending the Summit is like stopping to sharpen a saw. It will take time away from the work, but sharpening the blade is the right thing to do to finish well.”

“I enjoy the atmosphere of rubbing elbows with other believers and business leaders, meeting old friends and being challenged by God through leaders who have put themselves in the front lines of leadership.”

“Only a fool would think, after experiencing one of these Summits, that it is only for pastors, church leaders, and CEO's. I quickly discerned that the principles applied to me as a wife; mother; grandmother; friend; and one that desires to serve the Lord to the best of my abilities.”

“The content was great… thought provoking, challenging and full of good reminders. It’s an excellent tool for initiating open dialog with co-workers.”

“The Leadership Summit is a conference that provides enough great insight to keep one chewing on the principles and concepts for many months to follow. It’s a must attend for anyone who wants to grow as a leader for the glory of God.”

I was so impressed with the leaders and what I experienced at this Summit that I will be inviting my wife to attend with me next year.”

“It was great to be a part of a group from Grace Church intent on improving themselves as leaders. I was challenged in becoming a better leader at church, at my job and at home. I have already put next year's Summit on my calendar!”

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Lately in circles I have been in there has been a lot of discussion about loyalty. I think we would all agree that loyalty is a good thing and a quality that we should want our lives to be described by. But to what extent should loyalty be paramount in our lives? Without question our loyalty to God must never be compromised for any reason. That is a no-brainer. Certainly, loyalty to our marriage and families is highly important and needed. But where does having a “no compromise” type of loyalty end?

For example, when I lived in a little town in Ohio when Laura and I first got married there was a small privately run grocery store in town that had been there for decades. Soon after we moved into the neighborhood a Super Store called Meijer moved in south of town. Meijer was a one stop shopping location, and because the store was so huge with such a large inventory, their prices were significantly lower than the mom and pop store in town. Does loyalty play a part here? Should we have bypassed the chance to save money at the Super Store in order to be loyal to the smaller grocery store in town since they had been part of the town for so long?

I think that the answer to that is often largely generational. I found that the older generation in town saw it as important to be loyal to the local grocer while those young families from my generation, including myself, made the trip south of town each week to save money. It just may be that there is a different definition of loyalty among generations. Many times this causes tension as one generation sees the other as disloyal when in fact the issue of loyalty is being defined differently by each age group.

Let me give another example. I believe in loyalty to the local church. I have very little respect for church-hoppers who switch churches every two years for no better reason than “they felt like it” or "they got their feelings hurt."On the other hand, I have met some incredible couples of very high spiritual maturity, who after 20 or 25 years attending the same church finally could not take being part of a local body that was dead and had no interest in reaching out to lost people in their community, so they left and started attending a church that was alive and where outreach was a priority. Is this a breech of loyalty? Should they have stayed in their dead church whose track record showed they would never change? Again, I think there is a generational difference. I have found that older generations would tend to stick with their spiritually dead church, even though deep inside they wished they were experiencing worship in an exciting, growing, thriving church. At the same time, younger generations would tend to move on and find a growing local body to attend.

This is a tension we face every day in local church ministry. Should we continue a ministry even though it really isn’t as effective any more as it used to be? If we end it, are we being disloyal to those who are involved in that ministry and to those who started that ministry in the beginning? We’re part of a fellowship of churches that shares the same statement of faith. Does that mean that if we do not participate in everything that the fellowship of churches sponsors that we're being disloyal? The answer to this just might be generational as well.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Are You Married to Wonder Women?

Remember the super hero Wonder Woman who could deflect bullets with those amazing bracelets she wore? Is that really what makes a Wonder Woman? Proverbs 31 asks this question, “An excellent wife, who can find?” The word “excellent” is also used in Proverbs 12:4 and is translated “nobly” in Proverbs 31:29. Ruth was called a woman of noble character in Ruth 3:11 (same word). This same word is translated “able” or “capable” in Exodus 18:21. Who can find a trustworthy woman (Proverbs 20:6)? This is not indicating that they are nonexistent but rather that they are very rare. Proverbs 31 concludes that the excellent wife’s worth is far above jewels. The same is said of wisdom in Proverbs 3:15 and 8:11. An excellent wife is hard to find which makes her such a treasure.

Now let me say a word or two to my readers who are single. So often I watch young men and young women who so badly want to be married and so concerned about “missing out” as their peers and even siblings tie the knot, that they rush into a marriage with someone who is not an “excellent spouse.” Let me just say this…no matter how long you have to wait to find that one man or one woman who would be the excellent wife or excellent husband, it will be worth it in the end. Don’t rush into marriage with someone who is less than excellent. Wait for that one person who will provide for you the benefits that the husband of the Proverbs 31 woman discovered. Notice three of these discoveries.

He believes in his wife (Proverbs 31:11). The noble wife’s husband is mentioned four times in this one chapter (v11, 12, 23, 28). These thoughts are far different from the ungodly wife seen in Proverbs 11:22 where a beautiful woman who lacks discretion is likened to a ring of gold in a pig’s snout. It is far different than Proverbs 21:19 which teaches that is better to live in a desert than with a contentious and vexing woman. And it is far better than Proverbs 27:15 where a contentious woman is likened to a constant dripping on a day of steady rain. The husband of the Proverbs 31 wife has complete confidence and trust in her abilities. Her careful household management allows them to lack nothing of value in the way of household goods.

He also benefits by his wife (v12). She is an asset, not a liability, to her husband. Good comes to him that can be directly attributed to her. She supports and encourages him. She is faithful in helping him all the days of her life.

Finally, he is built up by his wife (v23). She enhances her husbands standing among those who transact legal and judicial affairs. She functions in a way that honors her husband’s leadership rather than denigrating it. It is assumed that the head of such a well-ordered household must be a worthy man.

Gentlemen, if you are married to a wife like this that you believe in, are benefited by and who builds you up, get down on your knees and thank your Heavenly Father for such a gift because you have a rare and wonderful gift. Then take her in your arms, hold her tight and let her know how very much you love being married to your very own Wonder Woman!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Your Pastor Got Drunk!

Shortly after we had moved from Ohio to Indiana and I had begun my first ministry as a Senior Pastor at the Osceola Grace Brethren Church, a rumor of my “hitting the sauce” began to spread like wildfire through the church. Was it just a rumor? You decide. My daughter, Joy, was about 5 years old at the time. One day, just a few weeks after our move, she asked me if I had ever gotten drunk. I answered her honestly and said, “Yes, honey. I’m not proud of it but there was one time in my life that I got drunk!” That satisfied Joy’s curiosity and we went on to another less serious subject

The next Sunday in Children’s Church, the adult leaders were taking prayer requests from the children when the new pastor’s little daughter rose her hand and loudly announced, “Pray for my daddy…he gets drunk!” We received several calls that afternoon at home from concerned parishioners and I ultimately had to address it from the pulpit to assure the congregation that they had not hired a drunk to be their spiritual leader.

Last Sunday here at Grace Church we saw in Proverbs 31 that the mother of King Lemuel warned her son as he took the throne regarding the dangers of women and the dangers of wine. I mentioned that Proverbs 31 is not meant to be a final Biblical say on alcoholic beverages. I also promised that I would use my blog today to share some of my personal convictions when it comes to drinking. I know that I am taking a risk here as not everyone will agree with me. That is fine. Remember, these are just my personal convictions. They are in no way meant to be the final say for every follower of Jesus when it comes to drinking.

There is no question in my mind that drunkenness would be a clear violation of Scripture.

I do not believe that it is always a sin for a Christian to have an alcoholic beverage. I do believe, however, that every Christian must realize the potential that alcohol has to take control of one’s life as well as the ability, if misused, to destroy people and families.

I believe that it is always a violation of Scripture for someone under the legal age to participate in drinking alcohol as it is a failure to submit to and obey one’s authority.

I would never consume an alcoholic beverage where someone who is from Grace Church or who may visit Grace Church may see me (i.e., a local restaurant, etc.) as it could diminish the effectiveness of my ministry. I believe that with greater levels of leadership come fewer personal rights.

I would never keep alcoholic beverages in my home. This is due to the fact that my years in youth ministry taught me very clearly that what adults do in moderation, children and teenagers often do in excess. I do not want to put that temptation in front of my children.

But would I ever share a glass of champagne with my wife while taking a romantic getaway hundreds of miles away from Lititz? Folks listen, that is none of your business! How’s that for being transparent?

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Mother's Day Lesson from Spider-Man

Spider-Man is a marvel comic fictional superhero that was created by writer, Stan Lee, and artist, Steve Ditko. The famed web spinner first appeared in a comic book anthology series called Amazing Fantasy in August of 1962 and became Marvel Comic’s first commercially successful superhero.

Spider Man actually pioneered new territory in the realm of comic books. In the 1960’s, teenage roles in comics had been relegated to that of being a side-kick to the more important main characters. The Spider-Man series broke ground by featuring Peter Parker, a teenage high school student, whose self-obsessions with rejection, inadequacy, and loneliness were easily related to by young readers.

Marvel comics have featured Spider-Man in several comic book series, the first entitled The Amazing Spider-Man. Over the years, the Peter Parker character has developed from a shy high school student to a troubled college student to a married teacher and a member of the super hero team, The New Avengers.

On May 3, 2002, Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group released the hit motion picture Spider Man. This 2 hour and 1 minute long motion picture, rated PG-13 for stylized violence and action, was filmed in New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; and Culver City, CA and grossed over 400 million dollars in the U.S. box office alone.

The story line for the original hit movie was that of Peter Parker who was orphaned at an early age and lived in Queens, New York with his beloved Aunt May and Uncle Ben. In the movie, Peter leads the life of a normal student, working as a photographer at the school paper, pining after the beautiful Mary Jane Watson and hanging out with buddy Harry Osborn. On a school trip, during which Peter and his classmates are given a science demonstration on arachnids, Peter is bitten by a genetically-altered spider. Soon after, he discovers that he has unusual powers: he is endowed with the strength and agility of a spider along with a keen, ESP-like "spider-sense."

Peter first uses his powers to make money, but in the face of a tragedy that hits close to home, he vows to dedicate his life to fighting crime. This life-changing, and ultimately world-altering decision is made due to Peter’s taking to heart the words of his beloved Uncle Ben who told him, "With great power comes great responsibility."

Those words from Uncle Ben to his nephew are exactly the overall summary and theme of Proverbs 31:1-9 which we will study this Sunday here at Grace Church as we kick off our Super Heroe’s message series. In these verses, the mother of King Lemuel will give her son motherly advice as he takes the throne of authority and power. Through two warnings and a wish she will basically say to young Lemuel what Uncle Ben said to young Peter, “With great power comes great responsibility!” Be sure to join us on Mother’s Day at Grace as we study this passage of Scripture filled with motherly advice!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Another Big Day for LCS Athletics

Last Wednesday, the Varsity Track Teams of Lititz Christian School participated in the MACSA (Mid Atlantic Christian School Association) track meet which was held at Messiah College. Out of 13 schools that participated in our class, the LCS boys came away with a second place finish as a team (see picture above...that's my son, Jonathan laying in the front). Gwen Shenk, our Athletic Director here at LCS described the win as such:

“At the end of the day we were up 10 points on the 3rd place team...then they moved ahead by 4 because we didn't have anyone doing the triple jump to get points for our team. It came down to the 4 X 400 relay team placing at least 4th to tie or third place to win by 2 points....and WE DID IT! It was SO AWESOME!!! Our fans were on their feet practically running with those boys!!! What a fun way to end the season!! sweet!"

My Personal Lessons on Leadership

I have had the opportunity and the privilege of being in a leadership position in ministry for over 20 years. After 8 years as a Youth Pastor in Ohio, 9 years of being a Senior Pastor in Indiana and now coming up on 4 years this August as the Senior Pastor here at Grace Church in Lititz, there are some things I have learned about leadership. These may not all be true of every leader in ministry, but they have been true for me thus far.

True leadership begins with being a great follower! I learned this from watching Jim Moon, who was the associate pastor for Dr Jerry Falwell during the four years that I was in school at Liberty in Lynchburg, Virginia. As I spent 8 years of ministry under Steve Peters, who was my Senior Pastor where I Youth Pastored, I did my best to be a good follower of his leadership. Joshua did the same thing in Scripture. Before he became a great leader of Israel, he first was a great follower of a leader before him named Moses.

True leadership seems popular but it is often lonely! I have found that those in leadership appear to have many close friends because they are in the limelight and everyone knows them. But the truth is that in over 20 years of leadership I have become very close to just a very few individuals. Part of it is my personality but part of it comes with being in leadership. I guess much of it has to do with feeling like “the guard” always has to be up and realizing that with personal vulnerability comes great risk.

True leadership is essential for success! Dr Falwell use to always say that everything rises and falls on leadership. I couldn’t agree more. Businesses, organizations and even ministries that grow have real leaders at the helm. Israel had Moses, Joshua and David. The early church had Peter, James and John. Grace Church here in Lititz was blessed to have Dr Jerry Young as its leader for 33 years. I honestly feel like one of the main reasons why many churches are plateaued or in decline is because of a lack of true leadership.

True leadership will always disappoint people! At last year’ Leadership Summit, John Ortberg gave a “tongue-in-cheek” definition of leadership that has stuck with me. He simply said that leadership is disappointing people at a rate they can stand. How true! Being the Senior Pastor of a church that runs 1400 on Sunday, has a school and daycare with over 400 students, and oversees over 100 employees, I have found that it doesn’t matter what decision I make, I will always be disappointing someone.

True leadership is never satisfied! Leaders are never satisfied with present progress. They always have a thirst for more and a burning vision to climb the next mountain. True leaders have the courage needed to be innovative. They see change as a pathway to greater success and are willing to take risks even if it means experiencing some failure.

True leadership will always have critics! What president had no critics? Even Jesus had His critics. Many leaders will stop in their tracks when faced with criticism. True leadership doesn’t. It forges ahead. True leaders follow their calling not their critics.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Much Tastier Gift

Yesterday I added a second post about a gift I received from someone in California. Today let me offer a second post to say 'thank you' to a group of kids who gave me a much tastier gift. So I do not get hungry as I prepare sermons for our new Super Heroes series that begins this Sunday here at Grace Church, they brought me a box of Teddy Grahams Justice League Unlimited Graham Snacks! How cool is that!!! The cookies include Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Supergirl! Will these mess up my low carb diet? Well there are 22g of carbohydrates in every 13 cookies. That means each cookie has 1.69g of carbs. That means I can eat one a day all the way until the new 8-week series is done without affecting my diet. In fact, I am eating my first one (Batman to be exact) right now! THANKS, KIDS!

Meet my kids...Barak, John and Hillary!

Go with me here. For this you might need to really use some imagination. Picture this. If you are a Democrat, let’s say that you are the mother of Barak Obama and he has just won the general election and will soon be raising his right hand and taking the oath of office. If you are a Republican, then let’s say the same just happened to your son, John McCain (I told you this would take some imagination). Okay, okay, for the sake of fairness, let’s say that your daughter’s name is Hillary and the same is true of her also.

Now, go with me a little further. Let’s say that it is now the night before your son or daughter’s presidential inauguration and they call you up on the phone and say, “Mom, tomorrow I become the most powerful man (or woman) in the world. What advice do you have for me?” So, what advice would you give your son (or daughter)?

That is exactly the case in the opening verses of Proverbs 31 that we will see as we open the Wonder Women part of our Super Heroes message series this Sunday. These words are attributed to a king named Lemuel (nothing is known about him except that his name means “belonging to God”). Jewish legend believes this to be what Bathsheba called Solomon. This is the oracle the King’s mother taught him about life.

Her words begin with two warnings. The first is a warning concerning women (v3). His mother understands that with the position of king come many temptations that destroy. She repeats the fact that sexual immorality destroys people (This same principle is seen often in Proverbs 2:16-19; 5:4-6, 9-14, 21-23; 6:26-29; 7:22-27; 9:17-18; 23:26-28).

The second warning is concerning wine (v4-7). These verses are not intended to be the final say on alcohol (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20-21, 29-35). It seems evident from the text that this is speaking of the misuse of alcohol. The mother warns that the drinking of wine would lead to the perversion of justice (see Isaiah 5:22, 23). Wine usually referred to fermented grape juice while strong drink (beer) spoke of drinks made from barley, dates or pomegranates. Both were intoxicating (Isaiah 28:7) and were forbidden for priests (Leviticus 10:9) and Nazarites (Numbers 6:1-3). In essence, what the king’s mom is saying is that the king should use his power for his people not for his own pleasure

The king’s mother than shares a wish. It is directed toward the mute (not speaking of a literal mute but one who is socially weak); the unfortunate (the idea of being destitute); as well as the afflicted and needy (“afflicted” speaks of humble while “needy” speaks of people needing physical help) in her son’s kingdom. She exhorts her son, the king, to open his mouth in defense of these. She is teaching him that a king who defends those who cannot defend themselves will be seen as just. She encourages him to judge his subjects fairly in spite of their social class.

In the movie Spider Man, Spidey’s uncle reminds his Super Hero Nephew of this fact, “With much power comes much responsibility!” I think King Lemuel’s mom would agree!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Attention Steve B.

I have never used my blog before to give a personal communication to someone but I just had to today. Today I received a package all the way from from California. Guess what was in it? A nicely decorated PLUNGER with a very funny verse of Scripture attached (taken out of context of course, but yet funny)! If you are not sure why this is such a special gift, go back and read my blog post for April 30 entitled "The Sacred Cow of Grace Church"! It cost Steve $10.55 just to mail it to me across the country! I feel very special. So to you, Steve B, thanks for reading and thanks for the can be sure it will be put to good use!

Super Heroes at Grace

As a kid, we all enjoyed the super heroes of our childhood. We all know about Super Man, Spider Man, Bat Man and Wonder Woman, but some of the other super heroes of my childhood you can’t even find on television anymore. You know, characters such as:

Captain America
Atom Ant
Under Dog
The Incredible Hulk
Aqua Man

But whoever our favorite super heroes were, we would spend hours watching them on television and seeing them come to life in comic books. And most all of us also found ourselves dressing up like them for Halloween or just to play make believe in the backyard as we emulated their super human powers.

Beginning this week here at Grace Church we are going to re-live our childhood love of super heroes in this new 8-week series that we are simply calling, “Super Heroes”! The series is kicking off on Mother’s Day and the first 4-weeks we will focus on “Wonder Women” as we study verse by verse through Proverbs Chapter 31. This chapter begins with the mother of King Lemuel giving some advice to her son as he takes the throne (you can read more about this in my blog entry tomorrow which I have entitled, “Meet My Kids…Barak, John and Hillary”). During the first half of this Super Heroes series we will learn many different characteristics of spiritual wonder women.

Then, the week before Father’s Day we will switch gears for the final 4-weeks of this series as we center our attention on “Super Men” as we study verse by verse through the one chapter book of Philemon. This is a story about a slave named Onesimus who steals from his master, Philemon, and runs away to Rome. While in Rome his path crosses that of the Apostle Paul who leads him to the Lord and then sends him back to his master with a letter written by the Apostle asking Philemon to forgive his runaway slave. In this little letter written by Paul, we will see that spiritual super men are not necessarily men who can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Spiritual super men are not necessarily men who are more powerful than a locomotive. Spiritual super men are not necessarily men who can stop a speeding bullet. Real spiritual super men are men who know how to forgive, and they don’t even need a red cape to do so.

This is going to be a very exciting series with the first 4-weeks focusing on women and the last 4-weeks focusing on men. Through Proverbs 31 and the book of Philemon we will learn what it means to be spiritual wonder women and super men. Many things will take place during this series that will be super hero related and you just never know. Maybe, just maybe, Super Man himself might make an appearance. It all depends on if we can find an old-fashioned phone booth to serve as his dressing room.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Who gives a rip about fashion?

I admit it! I am not fashion conscience! I really could care less if I dress in the current fashions. That has never been important to me. In my mind, if I like it and if it is comfortable to wear…good enough! And the older I get (now age 43) the deeper my “who cares about fashion” attitude becomes.

I came face to face with this fact about myself recently when our family made a quick trip to Cleveland to watch the Indians play. We stayed overnight and as we were getting ready in the hotel the next morning I showered and dressed in what I felt was appropriate attire. As I recall I was wearing a light blue t-shirt, bright orange shorts and dark blue tennis shoes with white socks pulled up to my calves. I thought it looked fine and I was comfortable. But then my kids woke up, saw me, and began to laugh.

What’s wrong?” I asked.

You look like Pappy!” They replied.

Now Pappy is my dad. That is definitely where I get my “throw fashion out the window” attitude. It has to be genetic. In fact, my dad is probably the poster child for the “who gives a rip about fashion” movement in our world today.

As my kids stood their laughing at me…okay, let’s be honest…mocking me, I simply looked at my loving wife of nearly 21 years for some sentiment of encouragement or support. A simple wink or a compassionate smile would have been nice. But instead my wife looks at me, begins to laugh herself, and exclaims,

You do look like Pappy!”

But did I change clothes? NO WAY! You see, not only am I “fashion illiterate”, I am also very stubborn (I bet that comes as a surprise to most of you, doesn't it?)!

It happened to me again last February when our ministry staff flew to Dallas for the Creative Church Conference. I was faced with this same predicament. We were going to be flying and in airports all day and I wanted to be comfortable. So what did I wear? I wore a very sporty wind suit (pictured above).

Again, I thought it looked fine and, more importantly, I was very comfortable in it. But you should have heard our staff. You would have thought I was dressed like I was from another planet. And they still bring it up. Just last week as Pastor Tim was preparing to leave on vacation he e-mailed all the staff with pieces of advice he had received from other staff members to make his trip more enjoyable. Some "soon to be terminated" staff member advised him to wear a wind suit on the flight like Pastor Scott. By the way, I also wore the wind suit on that flight home from Dallas! Fashion-less and stubborn!

Friday, May 02, 2008

One Final Game

If you know me then you know how much I love sports. As much as I am on cloud 9 when I get to attend a major college or professional game of any kind, there is no game that I get more joy out of watching than those in which my kids are playing. My son played baseball for years and now is on the varsity soccer, basketball and track teams here at Lititz Christian School. Fortunately, I still have two full years to watch him play.

But such is not the case with my daughter. During her High School career, Joy has played on the varsity soccer and volleyball teams. Her stint into sports really started as a social outlet. I think her most exciting part of playing volleyball her first year was in the fact that she got a team sweatshirt. But over the years, her athletic involvement grew from simply being recreational to being very competitive. It has been a joy (pun intended) to watch her develop her athletic abilities and her competitive spirit.

But this Friday night as she takes the field for Lititz Christian School’s final game of the regular season against Hershey Christian, it all comes to an end. This Friday is Senior game and will likely be the final time that I ever get to watch Joy play. Where did these last 4 years go? Check that…where did these last 18 years go? It really has been a wonderful ride!

I remember Joy’s first year on the soccer team as a freshman. We were playing Linden Hall and winning quite handily. As a result, Eric Lewis, who was the coach that year, put Joy in at goalie. Joy, who really had no clue back then what she was doing, made a very nice save knocking down the player from Linden Hall in the process. But instead of immediately putting the ball back in play like she should have, Joy stooped down to offer her apologies to her opponent who was still lying on the ground. I can still hear Coach Lewis yelling from the sideline, “Joy, kick the ball!”

Over the four years, though, Joy has become quite a bit more aggressive. The highlight for me in watching Joy play was this season in a game under the lights out at Conestoga Christian. Joy was playing wing on the defensive side. The girl who she kept going up against was just flat faster than she was. So how did Joy respond? Every time this girl got ahead of her, Joy simply pushed her, knocking her on her “keester” several times. I loved listening to the parents of the Conestoga players that were sitting behind me. They were beside themselves complaining about that #9 (Joy’s jersey number) and how brutal she was with all of her pushing. I have never been more proud of her. In my mind, if you’re not playing aggressive enough to get the opposing parents noticing you, then you’re not playing aggressive enough. By the way, she only got a whistle blown on her once that whole game (though she certainly deserved a few more whistles then that).

Friday afternoon I will watch my Joy play one final time. When the game is over another chapter will close. Hopefully it will include the Hershey parents complaining about #9 as well. But one thing is for sure, I wouldn’t trade the “joy” I have received from the hundreds of hours I have spent the last 4 years cheering for her on the sidelines for anything.
ADDENDUM: Due to Mt Calvary upsetting Bible Baptist and Lititz Christian defeating Hershey, Mt Calvary and LCS have ended the regular season in a tie for the final conference playoff spot and will play a one game playoff on Monday, May 5, beginning @ 4pm at Linden Hall in Lititz. The winner moves on to the quarterfinals on Tuesday. So I get to watch my Joy play at least one more game! Yahoo!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Living in our Armor

This Sunday we will end our current message series on the armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-20 here at Grace Church. We have called this series, "Semper Paratus...Always Ready"!

The challenge has been for us to live each day with our spiritual armor on. It was very refreshing and encouraging this week to discover that at least one of our staff members here at Grace has been living in his armor since childhood. I won't say who it is...the picture speaks for itself!


Proper Prayer Life

As we get ready to concluded our “Semper Paratus…Always Ready” series this Sunday here at Grace Church we will see that in order to survive our daily spiritual battles we must have a proper prayer life (Eph 6:18-20). This includes five characteristics.

First, we must pray in the SPIRIT (v18, see also Jude 20). This is not praying in tongues or praying in some dramatic way. To pray in the Spirit is to pray in agreement with the will of God. This is taught also by the Apostle John (1 John 5:14). Praying in the Spirit can only happen if we are walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). To survive our spiritual battles we need to discover God’s specific will for our lives as outlined in Scripture and pray for these things. It is God’s will that none should perish so we should pray for unbelievers to come to know Jesus. It is God’s will that our children walk in truth so we should pray for our children to walk with the Lord. It is God’s will for our marriages to reflect Christ and the church so we should pray that our marriages would glorify God!

Second, we must pray without STOPPING (v18, see also Thessalonians 5:17). In other words, we are to pray at more than prescribed times. The Jews had three prescribed prayer times (3rd hour…9am; 6th hour…Noon; 9th hour…3pm). You can see this in Psalm 55:17 where prayers were offered morning, noon, evening. In Acts 3:1, the 9th hour (3pm) was called the hour of prayer. We also tend to limit our prayers to prescribed times (meals; bedtime; offering; benediction, etc.). But in reality prayer is needed throughout the entire battle. We must live in a constant attitude of prayer. We should be throwing up ongoing prayers all day long. How often do you pray during a normal day? What is it that you should be praying about right now?

Third, we must pray with SENSITIVITY (v18). The command, “be on the alert” is a compound word made up of the words “to chase” and “sleep.” It is the idea of chasing away sleep or being watchful (2 Corinthians 11:27). In other words we must continually be on the alert. We should constantly be asking the Lord to reveal to our spirit things that we need to be praying about at that moment!

Fourth, we must pray for the SAINTS (v18). Part of our defense in our spiritual battles is the prayers of other saints. This involves praying with intensity (Romans 15:30; Acts 12:5) and identifying with the person you are praying for (Hebrews 13:3). We should pray for a believer that is struggling with an illness as if we were enduring the suffering. We should pray for a believer who is struggling in a relationship as if it were our very own relationship that was hurting.

Finally, we must pray with SPECIFICS (v18-20). The word “petition” refers to specific requests (see also Philippians 4:6-7). Paul didn’t just say “pray for me”, he gave them specific requests. He asked them to pray that he would have the right words to speak and that he would have the courage to speak them. When you pray for needs, pray specifically. Make your requests measurable. You will be amazed at how you see the miracles of answered prayer taking place and the spiritual battles being won.