Friday, October 31, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 3

Our sight-seeing tour in Egypt today begins with a visit to the world famous Egyptian Museum with sufficient time for a brief visit to the museum containing the treausres of King Tut! From there we head to the Pyramids of Giza where we will see the Great Pyramids as well as the world famous Sphinx. That evening it is a dinner cruise on the Nile river, the very river where the baby Moses was placed in the reeds and found by Pharoah's daughter. Then it is one more ovenight stay in the city of cairo.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 2

This morning we will arrive at Cairo International Airport. We will then have several hours of initial sight-seeing before we can get into our hotel. Today is a very informal day of adjusting and catching up on all the weariness of the long flight while getting our first exposure to the Egytian culture. Tomorrow, we start the full tour!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 1

This morning at 4am the bus pulled out of the church parking lot and our trip of a lifetime to Egypt, Jordan and Israel began. There are 52 people total in our tour group with half of them made up of folks from Grace Church. Our itinerary today includes a breakfast buffet on the way to Reagan International Airport in Washington DC where we take a short flight to JFK in New York and then it is a direct flight from their to Egypt! Our flight from NY to Cairo is scheduled for about 13 hours in the air! All of our flights for this trip will be onb Delta Airlines.

This is the second trip for Laura and I to the Holy Land. We had the thrill of going two years ago. I am more excited about the trip this time for two reasons. First, because I believe that I will learn even more on my second adventure to the Land of the Bible than I did the first time. And second, because both sets of parents are taking the trip with us. Laura's parents (Jack and Kathie Day who live in Colorado) and my parents (Chuck and Ellen Distler who live in Florida) will be experiencing this trip with us. How cool is that?

Thanks for your prayers for us for safety and for spiritual renewal and refreshement! We get back on November 12!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Tomorrow our trip begins…Lititz to Washington DC to New York City to Cairo and the rest of Egypt, Jordan and Israel. The trip ends with several days in city of Jerusalem. Here is what I wrote in my journal about my first glimpse of Jerusalem on my last trip:

From Qumran, it was on to Jerusalem and our hotel. I have waited this whole trip to see this great city. I thought my first glimpse of it would be one of simple awe. Never would I have imagined that such emotion would rise within me as I caught my first sight and our tour guide played the old song, “Jerusalem.” This was it. This was the city where the great temple stood. This was the city where Jesus cleansed the temple. This is the city where Jesus and His disciples had their last supper. This was the city where He rode in on a donkey while the people waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosanna.” This was the city where he would be tried before Caiphas, Pilot and Herod. This was the city where He would be beaten, scourged and have a crown of thorns placed on His brow. This is the city where He would hear the crowd cry “Crucify Him.” This was the city where my Lord would carry his cross down the narrow street and up a hill outside the city gate to be crucified. This is the city where the women would run to the upper room to tell the disciples the news of the empty tomb. This was the city where the resurrected Savior would appear to His disciples who were locked in an upper room.

As all of these thoughts raced through my mind I was overwhelmed by what a special city Jerusalem is. So special was this city that according to the book of Revelation one day we will live in what Scripture calls the New Jerusalem…A city so beautiful that John can only describe it as a bride adorned for her husband. Over the next 4 days we will see the city of Jerusalem up close and personal. I can hardly wait.

Jerusalem, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives…what special places they are. Here is how my journal ended from our last trip:

Our wake up call will be at 2am. We need to have our luggage outside of our rooms for the bellboy by 2:30am and we need to load the bus at 3am. On our way to the airport we will take one final trip up to the Mt of Olives to see Jerusalem under the lights. If I never make it back to Israel in my lifetime I know that one day I will return to the Mt of Olives with the Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords! Again I must pray, “Come quickly Lord Jesus!”

How excited I am to be taking off tomorrow for a return trip to the Holy Land. My first trip there made such an impact on my life, my ministry and my walk with the Lord. I can only imagine how returning will impact me even more. So, if you think about, pray for us over the next 15 days. Your can track our itinerary each day here on my blog while I am gone. Then, on Sunday, November 16th, I will share here at Grace Church through word and picture the top ten highlights of the trip!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Return to the Sea

Two years ago I was able to take my ultimate dream trip to the Israel. Without any question whatsoever, my most favorite spot was the Sea of Galilee. So much of Jesus ministry years was spent around this beautiful lake and it is virtually untouched since the days of Jesus. It looks today exactly how it must have looked when Jesus walked on the earth. Here is what I wrote in my journal about my time at the Sea of Galilee:

From here came the most emotional part of the trip so far. We loaded a Jesus replica boat that would have been very similar to the boat that Jesus and His disciples would have used (minus the engines, of course). As we prepared to set sail on the Sea of Galilee toward Tiberius, the workers hoisted the American flag and played the Star Spangled Banner as we all stood and sang.

At this point we never would have imagined that the Spirit of God was about to move in all of our hearts. We stood on the front of the boat and watched the sun setting behind the mountains. As we did, they began to play the song, “Shout to the Lord” over the speakers. As we sang the words to that song, watching the sun set and realizing that we were on the very water where Jesus calmed the sea and walked upon the waves, a wave of emotion hit me…one of pure worship…unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. As we all stood and sang I just wept as I worshipped my Lord. I looked around me and every person stood singing with tears streaming down their faces. This was not manipulated nor was it orchestrated. This was the Holy Spirit. I don’t think that this could ever be replicated. I’m sure that is what heaven must be like.

I have never experienced such worship in all of my life. Dan Travis asked me if I would like to say a few words. All I could say to him was, “I don’t think I can!” I was so filled with emotion and with awe of who my Lord was that I could not speak. I could not even continue singing. It was here the Spirit of the Lord was bearing witness with my spirit that I am a child of God.

We then spent an hour walking through the shops of Tiberius and then headed back to the hotel. We have dinner in 10 minutes and then we are going back to Tiberius to see a movie called “The Jesus Experience.” I am sad to say that tomorrow we leave the Sea of Galilee. I love this place. Jesus loved this place. I wonder if I will ever see it again. I hope with all of my heart that I do.

God is giving me the desire of my heart. In 48 hours I will board the bus at the church head toward the airport for a return trip to Israel as well as Jordan and Egypt. I can’t wait to see the Sea of Galilee again. To be at the place where Jesus walked on water as did Peter (at least for a few steps); To be at the place where the miraculous catch of fish occurred; To be at the place where Jesus calmed the storm; To be at the very place where Jesus walked with and taught His disciples. It is my prayer and the desire of my heart that through His Spirit and through His Word, Jesus would teach me by the Sea as well!.

Friday, October 24, 2008

There is spiritual merit in Halloween

What is the history of Halloween? Without question, the history of Halloween is founded in occult themes. There is no debating that. Much of our holiday traditions goes way back to Scotland and Ireland where Druid Priests celebrated a special day in honor of Saman, Lord of the Dead. The belief was that on the eve of this celebration, Saman called together all the souls of those who had died the previous year and who currently inhabited the bodies of animals, to return to their homes. Bon-fires were lit to scare off these spirits and children would dress in costumes to confuse these wandering souls.

Jack-o-lanterns also go back to this era, only they started as large rutabagas, carved with gross faces and lit with candles. This is due to a tale about a man named Jack who was a notorious drunkard but who was also smart. The fable says that when he died, he was turned away from both heaven and hell. As a result, he put a glowing coal into a carved turnip and he has been wandering the earth ever since.

So should Christians participate in Halloween? I really do not believe there is one “right” or “wrong” answer to that question for every person. Much like the issue of Christians eating meat offering to idols back in the days of the Apostle Paul, we must each follow our own conscience on this one. There is simply not one right answer for every believer. Our family has always put out jack-o-lanterns and participated in trick-or-treating but that does not mean that every Believer should. But is there any merit in Halloween that we can all agree on? I think there definitely is.

In 834 AD, in order to combat these occult practices, Pope Gregory IV moved the church festival of “All Saints Day” to November 1. This was a day to honor all the Saints who had died. The eve of the festival was called, “All Hallows E’en” (E’en is a contraction for evening). So let’s start a new Halloween tradition. Let’s take time to reflect on such great saints. First, we can remember saints of theology. These are individuals from the pages of Scripture whose life message greatly influence us for Jesus still today. For me, this is a man like Joshua who led Israel in possessing the Promised Land.

There are also saints of history. These are individuals who lived in history but are now with the Lord but whose testimony for Christ still impact us today. For me, that includes men like singer/songwriter, Keith Green (pictured)whose music kept me focused on God during my teen years, and Dr. Jerry Falwell who greatly impacted my life through the ministry of Liberty University. Finally, there are saints of family. These would be family members or close friends who are now with Jesus but whose heritage causes us to walk with Jesus today. For me, this is my Grandpa Distler, who was a pastor for some 50 years.

You see, even Halloween can become a spiritual beneficial holiday for all of us. After all, it was on Halloween in 1517 that a great man of God named Martin Luther climbed some steps in Germany and posted his “95 Thesis” on the doors of the Wittenberg Church setting off the “Great Reformation.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

School Starts in AFRICA

Last November we began promoting the Birthday Gift for Jesus here at Grace Church and raised over $75,000.00 toward making a difference in the lives of orphans in the Central African Republic. Grace Church is currently partnering with four Central African Republic Grace Brethren Churches to care for over 200 orphans. With excess funds, we paid for the Orphan Welcome Center’s dedication ceremony in January and are currently in the process of purchasing a van to transport orphan children in Bangui to school.

Below is a letter sent to Grace Church from Pastor Alphonse Laida. Pastor Alphonse is very proud of their school and goes there frequently to greet the children. He says he often shares a thought for the day with them and prays to open school. They have high ownership of their school. Some of the children are pretty young, but are doing well. Elizabeth has many years of experience and is a good teacher, she encourages the children and they respond to her.

Dear Friends,

We, the members of the Grace Brethren Church of Cattin in Bangui are very happy to send this letter to thank you for the great love you have shown by helping us care for orphans in our church and community. We do not have the means by which to care for them, but with your help, school is started. The first day of school was October 1, 2008. We ask God in our prayers to keep you. All the members of the Cattin church greet you in the name of the Lord Jesus-Christ. Your friends and coworkers at the Cattin GBC.

Pasteur Alphonse Laida

Pay for the four schools Lititz is partnering with, La Dumie, Cattin, and two that are in Bossangoa. Pray also for the Grace Church team that will travel to Bangui in February including Doug Kegarise, John Kegarise, Mike & Joan McCracken, Matt McElravy, Brenda Miller, and Marlin Weaver. They are currently in the support raising phase. Ask God to work in each team members’ heart during this cross cultural ministry and return to Grace Church with a deeper global understanding of God’s desire to reach the nations through the local church. Pray that the rebel activity will be suppressed enough so our team can travel safely to Bossangoa. If our team cannot go up, the pastors and teachers will try to come down to meet us. I hope and pray we can get up to Bossangoa and visit our kids and the rest of the church family.

It is our desire to again use this year’s Birthday Gift for Jesus project to continue and expand our ministry to these precious orphans. Would you please pray about the sacrificial part you can play by marking your financial gift “Birthday Gift for Jesus”? These gifts can be dropped off at the church office or placed in the offering anytime between November 23 and December 14.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Today is my son, Jonathan’s, 17th birthday! We actually celebrated it earlier when Joy was able to be home from college. Jonathan is a junior this year at Lititz Christian School. That’s right folks, in just about a year and a half he will graduate and Laura and I will begin to enter the “empty nest” phase of our lives. How bizarre of a thought is that?!

It has been such a thrill to watch Jonathan mature. You know, when boys are in Junior High School, you seriously wonder if they have it within them to mature...if they will ever get there. But, as time marches on and 7th grade turns into 8th grade, which turns into 9th grade, which turns into 10th grade, which then turns into 11th grade, you watch this amazing change take place and it is really cool to see. I am seeing my son mature daily…physically, athletically, academically, socially and most importantly, spiritually.

I am a huge sports fan and one of the thrills of my life is watching my kids play sports. Joy is finished with that part of her life but Jonathan is still active on the school varsity soccer team and varsity basketball team. I think when he graduates in a year in a half I will miss that part of parenting more than anything else. I really do.

Jonathan also is very dedicated to his guitar. He loves playing it and writing songs. He has recently shared with us that his desire for his life is to lead people in worship. I can begin to see that calling on his life as well. He is taking steps that direction through voice and piano lessons with Lisa McCoy. Lisa leads our Worship Choir here at Grace Church and fills in for Matt McElravy, our Worship Arts Director, when Matt is not leading worship.

Along with the key role that Lisa is playing in Jonathan’s desire, there have also been several other key people who have helped to lead Jonathan in this direction. Khyle Keener oversees the youth worship band here at church and has been very instrumental in helping to fan the flame of Jonathan’s desire in this area. Matt McElravy, who I mentioned earlier, is also one that encourages Jonathan. It is fun to see my son learning from our very talented worship leader here at Grace as he sits in the services week after week as Matt leads our congregation in worship. Bryan Nelson, our former Worship Arts Director here at Grace who backslid and moved to the same position at another church in Kansas (the backslid part was obviously a joke...unless Bryan is reading this, then I meant it!) also greatly impacted Jonathan. Bryan took time to show an interest in Jonathan and his love for guitar and music. Even now, when Bryan and I talk on the phone, he always asks about Jonathan and his music.

And then there are those who have invested time into Jonathan in a non-musical way. Our Director of Student Ministries, Doug Kegarise, has been used greatly by God in Jonathan’s life as has some incredible young men on our youth staff such as Jeremiah Kleylein and Nick Whitfield. I could go on and on but I’ll stop there.

How cool it is to partner with wonderful men and women of God to see our children mature spiritually. I thank God for my son and for those who impact him for Jesus!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Vote Is In!

Two weeks from today America will elect a new President and, in essence, a new leader of the free world. Perhaps one of the greatest rights we have as Americans is the right to vote. How could anyone who lives in our county not see this as a high privilege? Yet, tens of thousands of citizens will bypass on this day and not bother to even show up at the polling places.

I have already completed my civic duty. On Election Day, I will be in Israel but, mark it down, my absentee ballot has been requested, received, filled out, and submitted. During my four years at Liberty University, Dr Falwell certainly drilled into all of his students the need to vote. We use to often joke that Dr. Falwell really only had three sermons that he found ways to recreate over and over. They were “Get Saved!” “Get Going!” Don’t Quit!” And then every four years he would add another one…“Vote!” I was at Liberty during the second Reagan election. I remember Dr. Falwell saying many times, “ I’m not going to tell you who to vote for…you can vote for the Ronald Reagan of your choice!”

So, who did I vote for? Even though this is my personal blog and there would be nothing illegal or dangerous to the church’s tax standing for me to do so, I am going to refrain from making my choice known at this time. I will tell you what issues I took into consideration as I marked my ballot for national, state and local candidates. Though I do not have one set litmus test like some Christians do, these are the issues I am concerned about as I consider my vote in any election.

Which candidates are pro-life?

Which candidates are pro-marriage and identify marriage as a union between one man and one woman?

Which candidates are pro-Israel?

Which candidates will cut taxes?

Which candidates are strong on national security and the war on terror?

Which candidates are committed to offshore drilling and becoming energy independent?

Maybe you don’t share the same core values as I do when it comes to choosing your candidate. That’s fine. In fact, that’s what America is all about. What really matters is if you participate in the process. In fact, I have already prepared a series of four messages that I will preach in January as the new President takes the oath of office. We will be calling this series, “Hail to the Chief: Grace Church Responds to our New President!” So, with that in mind, here are four pieces of advice…“Get Saved!” “Get Going!” Don’t Quit!” And, come November 4, "Vote!”

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Naked Truth About Your Pastor

As we moved closer to our addition of a third Sunday morning service, several people in the church expressed their concern for my health with preaching three times on a Sunday morning each week now. I really did appreciate all of the genuine care. Three adults actually went together to give me a certificate to Tim’s Gym for a fitness evaluation.

I figured, “Hey, how hard can this be. I know am not in the best physical condition, but I can’t that bad, right?” So after several e-mails back and forth to get all of the details I made an appointment at the Gym and went down to meet with Hillary so she could declare me physically fit.

So what were the results? If anything, I tend to be too transparent so, like the presidential candidates, I am going to put all of the results in writing. I’ll warn you now, if you have a weak stomach, you just may want to shield your eyes from the rest of today’s entry.

I am 5 foot 8 inches tall (so far…so good!)!

My weight came in at 215 pounds (but my tennis shoes, socks, t-shirt and gym shorts had to be a good portion of that…not to mention the beard I grew recently!)!

My Body Mass Index came in at Obese Class 1 (that is the level right above overweight and two levels above normal…but look on the bright side, at least it was below Obese Class 2 and Obese Class 3. You see there is a silver lining to every situation!)!

My systolic blood pressure was 137. That means nothing to me but according to the evaluation that puts me in the pre-hypertension level (“Pre”…that’s a good word!)! But my diastolic number came in at 101 which I guess is right at the beginning of stage 2 hypertension (no word “pre” that time…ouch!)!

My resting heart rate chimed in at 76 beats per minute.

My Cardiovascular Max VO2 (whatever that is) was FAIR (Praise the Lord!! At least there was one area of my fitness evaluation that I didn’t fail!)!

My bicep strength was 45 pounds and was given the title POOR (but it was only 5 pounds away from fair so I don’t feel too bad about that one!)!

27.5% of my body composition was fat which was given the title HIGH (okay, to be honest, this was just 2.5% away from being VERY HIGH)!

So to sum it up, according to the test, I am a 43 year old preacher in a 56 year old body!

That’s the naked truth about your pastor, everyone!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Witch of Endor - Part 2

In yesterday’s blog I reviewed the state of King Saul in 1 Samuel 28 that led him to consult a medium. As the disguised King Saul speaks with the witch of Endor, the medium asks which spirit is desired and she is told to bring up the spirit of Samuel. When the medium sees Samuel she cries out with a loud voice (v11-12). It may be that she had been a fraud and was totally freaked out when she saw a real spirit. It is also possible that she was familiar with the presence of demonic spirits but this experience was different. The fact that Samuel’s appearance was not the expected result shows that mediums have no real power over the dead but can at best only produce counterfeits.

This appearance of Samuel causes her to recognize King Saul. Saul asks what the spirit looked like (v13-14). The medium describes the spirit as being divine (this does not mean she saw God or that Samuel was deified) and as an old man wrapped with a robe. This description convinces Saul that it is Samuel and he bows with his face to the ground. Saul may have remembered Samuel’s earlier prophecy with his torn robe symbolizing that God would tear the kingdom of Israel from Saul (1 Samuel 15:26-28)

Was this really Samuel or was it a demon? Some say it was Samuel. This is due to the fact that the witch was startled by the appearance of Samuel. The text also specifically says that it was Samuel that appeared (v15). This spirit prophesied accurately what would happen the next day making it unlikely that it was a demon. Now if this is really Samuel, this occurrence is the exception in Scripture, not the rule.

Others say it was a demon. Those is due to the fact that Saul never personally saw Samuel but only had the medium’s word. Since all forms of witchcraft and mediums were condemned in the Bible, it is hard to think that God would use such a medium. Remember that God had quit communicating to Saul. Why then would he speak to him through pagan means? For these and other reasons, many believe this was a demon. I happen to lean toward the fact that this actually was the spirit of Samuel.

Samuel asks why he had been disturbed and Saul shares his dismal situation (v15). Samuel verifies that the Lord had rejected Saul due to his disobedience and that his kingdom would be given to David (v16-18). Samuel also predicts that Saul and his sons would be killed the next day at the hands of the Philistines (v19, 31:1-6).

So how do we explain instances today where people have seen dead relatives? In most every case ghosts are not the spirits of men and women but rather are fallen angels masquerading as our loved ones. But what about these ghosts that have appeared to humans as dead relatives and seemingly possessed a knowledge that only that person could have known? That answer is easy. Demons have existed since God created the world. They are older than us and our loved ones and can easily retain knowledge about that person’s life. And listen, folks, 2 Corinthians 11:14 teaches very clearly that Satan is an angel of light, able to disguise himself and able to disguise his deceptions.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Witch of Endor - Part 1

In Scripture there are only two instances where a spirit of someone who had died came back to earth. One was the time when Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mount of transfiguration. But the most intriguing instance is given to us in 1 Samuel 28. The chapter begins by describing the unstable state of King Saul (verses 1-6). Saul’s enemy, David, had allied with the Philistines. The Prophet Samuel had died leaving a spiritual vacuum in Israel. Saul had put all of the mediums and spiritists out of Israel which was one of the few acts of obedience in Saul’s life which he did in his earlier days when he was being influenced by Samuel. The Mosaic Law in Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; and Deuteronomy 18:9-14 commanded that mediums and spiritists be avoided.

But now the army of the Philistines had gathered together to make war with Israel. They had encamped at Shunem which was 20 miles north of the northern most Philistine city. This aggressive advancement showed their intention to press further into Israel territory. The advancing Philistine army caused Saul to greatly fear. It is amazing to follow the relationship between Saul and the Spirit of God. When Saul walked in the Spirit he was a man of courage (1 Samuel 11:6-11). Saul began to lose his courage when the Holy Spirit withdrew from him due to disobedience (1 Samuel 16:14). Now his courage is gone

To make matters even worse, God was no longer answering Saul’s inquiries. Saul was trying every known way to hear from God but God was silent. Saul’s rejection of God through disobedience had led to God’s rejection of Saul as King (1 Samuel 15). This was a direct result of King Saul being given very explicit instructions by God through the Prophet Samuel to defeat the Amalekites, sparing none of them and destroying all they had including their animals (1 Samuel 15:1-3). Instead, Saul allowed the king of the Amalekites to live. He also spared the best of the animals (1 Samuel 15:7-11). When Samuel confronted the king, Saul falsely claimed to have obeyed God fully (1 Samuel 15:13). Samuel announces that because Saul has disobeyed the Lord, God had rejected him as King of Israel (1 Samuel 15:22-23). This prediction had now become reality.

The state of Saul led him to consult a medium (v7-10). Because God was not answering Saul, he asks his servants to find a medium so the he can inquire of her. His servants told him of a medium who lived in Endor (v7). A medium was one who made contact with the dead. The Hebrew word for medium is the idea of mumbling or speaking with a strange, hollow sound as if channeling with a dead spirit speaking through them (see Isaiah 8:19). So Saul disguises himself and goes under cover of darkness to the medium in Endor (v8). Endor was just four miles away from Shunem where the Philistines were encamped.

The medium at Endor is careful making sure that this is not some kind of “sting operation” to catch all mediums that had previously been banished (v9-10). Saul swears to her in the name of the Lord that she would not be punished. How ironic that Saul would swear in the name of the Lord while breaking God’s command in consulting her toi begin with. One thing is for sure, spiritual jargon means nothing without obedience backing it up. Or according to 1 Samuel 15:23, "To obey is better than sacrifice!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Upcoming Sunday Morning Highlights at Grace

October 19 & 26

We will wrap up our GHOSTBUSTERS series as we complete our look at the Witch of Endor from 1 Samuel 28 and as we discover that there is some spiritual merit in Halloween!

November 2 & 9

Learn how to finish your faith well in this 2 part series, “The Amazing Race”!

November 16

I will be sharing through word and picture the top 10 highlights of my most recently taken trip to the Land of the Bible…Egypt, Jordan and Israel!

November 23 & 30

We will look at Philippians 2:12-18 and learn that Thanksgiving involves much more than simply saying, “Thank You”!

December 7, 14, 21 & 28

For some it is a “Merry” Christmas while for many others it is more of a “Messy” Christmas. We will learn that Jesus is a gift for the lonely, desperate, messy, and aging!

January 4, 11, 18 & 25

In January our country will see the inauguration of a brand new President. In this series, “Hail to the Chief,” we will see how Grace Church should respond to our new President.

February 1

A few weeks prior to this Sunday, our new president will give his first ever State of the Union Address. On this Sunday, I will share a State of the Church address as we look at how Grace Church can continue to effectively meet people where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be!

February 8, 15 & 22

Jesus said that the number one way that people will see that we are His followers is in how we love one another as Christians. During these three Sundays we will learn from 1 Corinthians 13 how to put our love for each other on display so that our community around us will see that are disciples of Christ!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


It is happening in every store across the region. Christmas lights and decorations are already going up and Holiday sales are beginning to lure us. Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner and we are planning some very special and exciting holiday services here at Grace Church as a result. Be sure to mark your calendars and be part of these upcoming holiday worship services.


On the Sunday mornings before Thanksgiving Day and after Thanksgiving, November 23 & 30, we will be looking at Philippians 2:12-18 as we learn that a true life and attitude of Thanksgiving involves much more than simply saying, “Thank You”!

On the Sunday evening before Thanksgiving, November 23, we will be celebrating the past, present and future ministry of Christ through a special threefold communion service and baptismal service. If you are ready to take your next step of faith as a follower of Jesus and publicly identify with Christ through water baptism on this special night, please contact the church office or write the word “baptism” on your Connection Card and put it in the offering this Sunday morning.


Christmas is one of the best opportunities of the year to get your friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors, coworkers and even strangers to come to church, and the week prior to Christmas we will be offering 7 opportunities for you to invite as many people as possible to celebrate Christmas with us here at Grace. On the Sunday before Christmas, December 21, we will have our three regular Sunday morning worship services (8:30; 10:00 and 11:30). But on that weekend we will be adding a Saturday evening service on December 20 as well beginning at 6pm which will be identical to our Sunday morning services that weekend. Our nursery, Elevate Jr and Elevate children’s program will also be offered on this special Saturday evening service. On Sunday mornings through the month of December our message series will be called, “A Messy Christmas” as we see that Jesus is a Christmas Gift for the lonely, the desperate, the messy, and the aging.

Then, on Christmas Eve we will be offering three identical Christmas Eve services which will all be identical and which will last one hour in length at 5pm; 6:30pm; and 8pm. These will be family services so there will be no nursery or children’s programs being offered on Christmas Eve. These options will allow everyone to be able to pick the services which will best fit into your holiday activities and to invite everyone you know to come celebrate the birth of Jesus here at Grace Church.

Be sure to be praying about who you can invite to be part of these special Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday services here at Grace Church!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bewitched and the Bible

Do you remember the old television sitcom that ran from 1964-1972 staring Elizabeth Montgomery called, Bewitched? In the show, Montgomery played the role of Samantha who was a witch that chose to live in the mortal world and married a mortal by the name of Darrin who was played Dick York until 1969, when he left the show for health reasons, and was replaced by Dick Sargent. By the way, after Sargent replaced York on the show as Darrin, the show’s ratings dropped 13 places. Below are some other interesting pieces of trivia about the show. Be sure to read to the end because the last piece of trivia has a connection to the Bible and our current study here at Grace Church on Ghostbusters!

During the second season, five babies played the role of Tabitha Stephens!

During the first 6 years, practically every car seen on the show was a Chevrolet!

Samantha actually twitched her upper lip, not her nose, when casting a spell!

Almost all of the female witches’ character names end with the letter “a”!

In the show, Darrin graduated from the University of Missouri class of 1950!

In the show, Darrin and Samantha lived at 1164 Morning Glory Circle in Westport, CT!

The exterior of the Kravitz house is the same as used in the show, The Partridge Family!

In the show, Samantha’s maiden name was never revealed!

In the show, Samantha’s birthday is June 6!

Even though Mr. McMahon was often referred to, he only appeared in two episodes!

In the original draft of the pilot episode, Samantha was going to be called Cassandra!

There were protests when the show was about to premier, primarily from viewers in the “Bible Belt” states who were afraid that the show was going to promote devil worship!

But here is the most interesting piece of trivia. Did you realize that the names of Samantha and her mother, Endora, parallel the Biblical story of First Samuel 28 where King Saul goes to the witch to ask her to conjure up a dead spirit? The dead spirit Saul wanted to speak to was that of the Prophet Samuel, where the name “Samantha” came from on the show. The witch that Saul consulted lived in the city of Endor. From the witch of Endor came the show’s name for "Endora." Last Sunday we started looking at this story from First Samuel 28. We will complete our look at this intriguing Old Testament story this Sunday here at Grace!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

NLCS - Pic 3

When you go to a game with guys who are die-hard baseball fans like I am, the cardinal sin would be to leave the game early. This pic was taken after the game. As you can see, we were some of the last fans to leave Citizens Bank Park! As the song goes, "Take me out to the ballgame!"

NLCS - Pic 2

This was my favorite sign afer the game in which Phillie's pitcher, Myers, went 3 for 3 at the plate. Good thing - because he really struggled on the mound! Although, I really did enjoy the pitch he threw completely behind Manny Rammirez' head!

NLCS - Pic 1

Matt McElravy, our Worship Arts Director here at Grace Church, and I got to attend the NLCS game #2 against the Dodgers. What a game. Matt is a big Phillie's fan. Since my team didn't make it into the post-season this year, even I donned the Phillie's jersey. Special thanks to the kind gentleman in our church who treated us to the game. It was awesome!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Broadway comes to Grace Church

Grace Church of Lititz will host a Broadway and Inspirational music concert for the community on Sunday, October 19th at 7:00pm in the main auditorium. Local Broadway and Regional musical theatre performers Jen and David Felty (pictured), along with fellow actors Susan and Greggory Brandt, will sing songs from Broadway to Contemporary Christian music. Their resumes include Les Misérables, A Tale of Two Cities, and Civil War on Broadway, as well as Regional theatre performances in Carousel, My Fair Lady, Pirates of Penzance, The Secret Garden, and Camelot.

David Michael Felty has appeared in the Broadway production of The Civil War and the National Tour of Les Miserables. Other credits include American Rhapsody: 75 years of Gershwin, Christy the Musical, Star Search and Nashville Now. David has sung for Bob Hope, Barbara Mandrell and Lee Greenwood, and has performed roles from “Valjean” to “Boaz” to “Satan”.

David’s wife, Jennifer, is a Lancaster County native holding a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from Houghton College and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Penn State University. Jen has performed in regional favorites such as Smoke on the Mountain (Denise), Sanders Family Christmas (Denise), My Fair Lady (Eliza), Carousel (Carrie), Pirates and Pinafores (Mabel and Josefine), and playing the banjo, fiddle, and upright bass on the stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry. Jennifer, a proud Actors’ Equity member, currently maintains a private voice studio and is head of the music department at Lititz Christian School.

The Felty’s, along with their son, Noah, attend Grace Church and have been actively involved in our worship arts ministry. In fact, David has actually sung songs from the Beatles to the them song to the Ghostbusters movie while also playing a drunken Santa Claus in last year’s Christmas Eve Services. David ended our service one Sunday months ago with a powerful song that our people are still talking about. Jen has sung and played with our Worship band many times and, as head of the music department at Lititz Christian School, she has directed some wonderful creative arts performances with our students.

Admission to the concert is free. Donations will be accepted at the event and cds will be available for purchase. Donations will go to Grace Church to defray the costs of the concert. Grace Church Main Auditorium is located at 501 West Lincoln Avenue, Lititz, PA. For more information, visit or or call 717-626-2155.

I hope that each of you will mark this special Sunday night down on your calendar and join us for this special evening of excellent Broadway and inspirational music that you will most certainly enjoy and be blessed by. Music is a powerful medium. That’s why the Felty’s have the following quote from Emory Austin on their website…“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Authority over my ghost

So are ghosts real? I would have to say, “Yes, they are.” They are demons whose job it is to deceive and to cause fear. But as Christians, do we need to fear ghosts? The answer is an emphatic, “No!” Follow this Scriptural path with me.

Colossians 2:15 teaches that through the death of Jesus, Satan was disarmed…“When he had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

After His death and resurrection, Jesus declared that all authority had been given to him in heaven and on earth…Matthew 18:18 says, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.’”

Paul teaches that when Christ ascended back to heaven He took His seat far above all demonic power. This is a seat of authority. In other words, Jesus’ authority is far above all Satanic and demonic authority. His feet dangle over them. Ephesians 1:19-20 says, “These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”

Paul goes on to teach that when we trusted Christ to be our Savior, positionally we were seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Ephesians 2:4-6 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Where is Christ seated? Far above all demonic powers. So what seat of authority do we have? The same one. Through the authority of Christ we have His authority as children of God over all demonic powers.

As a result, when we submit to God and resist the devil, he must flee. James 4:7-8 tells us clearly, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The fact that we can take authority over Satan and his cohort of demons is based fully on truth. We don’t need to even try to out power Satan or his demons. In fact, we don’t even want to try to do that. Our struggle is not a power struggle, it is a truth struggle. We don’t out "power" Satan, we out "truth" him.

When we know who we are in Christ and when we understand the authority we have in Him, we have no reason to fear ghosts (demons). As believers, we are seated with Christ and we carry His badge of authority. For the first 25 years of my life I lived in fear due to these nightly visitations that I have written of over these last few blog entries. Today I am free. But on a regular basis I meet people of all ages with similar experiences. If you would like more information or if you may be experiencing something similar, I encourage you to read Neil Anderson’s book, Bondage Breaker. It sure helped me!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

It's not just my ghost

I was sitting in my office one day at the church I pastored in Indiana when a lady from the church came in and told me that she needed the name of a good Christian shrink for her son. I asked what the problem was and my heart began to race as she told me that for months her son has been telling her that a woman visits him in his room every night. I questioned her about this woman and she said the her son claims it looks like a woman from Bible times but that he could not make out her face. He also said that she never spoke to him, just watched him. I asked this mom to sit down and I told her my story that I have detailed in my blog the last two days. She just wept. She had been telling her son that he was crazy when in fact he had a spiritual issue going on in his life. I met with her son and took him through the same steps I had gone through and to my knowledge the visitations ceased.

I have been amazed at the stories I have heard people tell me over the years after they have heard my story and felt that they finally had someone who would understand. For example, two twin teenager girls came into my office and told me about their fear at night as they would hear dishes rattling in the cupboards and be visited by dead relatives.

I had a lady one time who had grown up in a satanic cult where she was conceived to be a breeder but the amount of abuse she suffered in her childhood prevented her from ever getting pregnant. She came into my office one day with a look of fear and asked me how she could get out of her salvation. She no longer wanted to go to heaven. She went on to tell me that her mom, who had been the instigator of her childhood abuse, had recently died and that she had visited her the previous evening and told her that she was in heaven waiting for her to abuse her more. As a result, she wanted out of her Christianity. She in no way wanted to go to heaven if her mom was there waiting for her.

I remember as a youth pastor getting a call one evening at Youth Conference from one of our teens and he really sounded scared. I ran to his room. It was the end of July and the heat was horrible and there was no air conditioning in this guy’s room. But when I entered the room, it was like the temperature was 40 degrees colder and these big teenage boys were huddled together shaking. They had been playing the game called Dungeons and Dragons when the temperature suddenly dropped and right out from the game board in the middle of the room appeared a demon.

Ghosts are not the sprits of humans who have died. Nor do I believe that they are angels as in Scripture angels never came to haunt and they always clearly identified themselves and appeared most always in human form. Than what are ghosts? I believe they are demons. I hear stories like mine all the time of visitations, many of which supposedly are from dead relatives. Are these really dead relatives? No. We will see over the next two Sundays here at Grace that I do not believe that the spirits of dead people come back to visit us. Then what are they? I believe they are demons sent to deceive and sent to cause fear. In my blog tomorrow I will share why we do not need to be afraid of “ghosts”.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Opening the Door to my Ghost

In my blog yesterday I told about the nightly visitations I received from as far back as I can remember as a child all the way through the first 25 or so years of my life. A woman dressed in Bible garb would come into my room and watch me. You could never see her face. It was always blacked out. It wasn’t until I read Neil Anderson’s book, Bondage Breaker, that I realized that this was nothing more than a demon. But where did it come from and why did it pick me?

You have heard me talk many times of my Grandpa Distler who pastored for over 40 years and who ended his life as a Superintendent at a rescue mission in Salinas, CA. On the other side of my family, however, my Grandpa and Grandma Williams were not believers. My Grandpa Williams was an agnostic. We tried talking to him about spiritual things many times but there just was no interest. I can even remember writing my grandparents letters telling them about their need for Jesus.

My Grandma Williams experimented with different religions including spiritism and a unity religion that believed in reincarnation. I am told that her delving into spiritism produced some very bizarre occurrences at times when we were visiting at their house. My mom told me of the time when I was little and sleeping by myself in a bedroom at Grandmas’ house. They heard me scream and I came into their bedrooms crying and with a major bloody nose. I told them that someone had come into my bedroom and thrown me nose first against the wall. When my parents took me back into the room they were shocked to find blood from my nose on the wall across the room from the bed. Enough weird things happened that it ultimately scared my agnostic Grandpa to the point that he made my Grandma get rid of all of her books that were related to spiritism. There is no doubt in my mind that my grandmother’s delving into spiritism was most likely the root of my nightly visitations. Perhaps she had even assigned a spirit guide to me as one of her grandchildren.

I also believe I opened my life to demonic influence through my own dabbling into the occult. The occult is really anything that goes beyond the five senses. I was a big fan of horror movies, which is quite odd since they only added to my fear at night. I also played with ouija boards and was part of neighborhood sceances. As a result of all of these things, I had opened myself up to demonic influence which resulted in these visitations.

Anderson’s book helped me to see that Satan’s greatest weapon against me was fear and boy had he succeeded in my life. But once I understood the principle clearly of who I was in Christ and the authority I had in Jesus, I was able to renounce all of those footholds from my past and claim back the ground that I and even my ancestors had given up to the Evil One. Ever since then, I have never had such a visitation, and even if I did, I would know exactly what to do. James 4:7-8 promises that if we submit to God and resist the Devil that he must flee from us. By the way, both my Grandpa and Grandma Williams ultimately came to faith in Jesus Christ later in life. Hallelujah!

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Ghost in my Bedroom

Last Sunday we started a new series at Grace Church called “Ghostbusters” as we take four weeks to study what the Bible teaches about ghosts. We saw that the spirit world is teeming with life. After all, God is spirit and He has created multiple billions of angels, some of which rebelled and became demons. We saw that even in Jesus’ day there was a belief in ghosts. When Jesus was walking on the water, the disciples thought He was a ghost. After His resurrection He asked the disciples to give him some food to eat so that He could prove to them that He had a body and was not a ghost. But are ghosts real?

As far back as I can remember into my childhood I lived with a great fear at night. This fear stemmed from the fact that most every night I would be visited in my bedroom by what appeared to be a woman dressed in Bible type garb like you would picture Mary wearing during a Christmas or Easter play. Oddly, her face was never recognizable. It appeared totally blacked out. She never spoke either. She just stood in the doorway of my bedroom or at the foot of my bed and watched me. Now this was not a dream. I would be wide awake and this womanly figure would definitely be in my room.

I was so scared that I couldn’t scream. I never told my parents about this nightly visitor because I thought they would most certainly think I was crazy. I often wondered myself if I was crazy. This fear created a specific bedtime ritual for me. Each night before going to bed I would check in my closet, under my bed and behind the dresser to make sure I was alone. Even in the hot humid months of summer when the temperature was unbearable and we did not have air conditioning, I would sleep with the covers pulled up over my head, sweating profusely. But most every night this lady visitor still appeared.

The fear and the nightly visitations lasted into my young adult years. Even at college when I was in a room with three other roommates, this woman would still appear most every night. Marriage did not change this either. Through the first 3 to 4 years of my marriage, when I would wake up in the middle of the night, this woman would be standing in my bedroom. I never told anyone even as an adult. I did not tell my roommates in college and I did not even tell my own wife. As an adult I still feared being alone at night. The times my wife would go away and I would have to sleep by myself were nights when I would keep the hallway light on, but still this woman appeared.

One day I was reading a book called “Bondage Breaker” by Neil Anderson in my office at the church where I served as Youth Pastor. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. In this book, the author tells stories from his many years of counseling that were identical to the horror I had lived my entire life. As I read, I began to cry like I have never cried before in my life. For the first time in nearly 25 years I finally found someone who understood. I finally realized that I was not crazy. For the first time in my life I could identify exactly what was happening and, more importantly, for the first time I had hope that I could be set free from the bondage I had been living. In my blog tomorrow I will tell more about what this visitor was and how I believe it became a part of my life.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Do Ghosts Exist?

Do ghosts exist? Of course they do! Keep in mind that the spirit world is teeming with life. God Himself is a spirit. The third person of the trinity is called the Holy Spirit. God created countless billions of spirit beings called angels. One of these angels, Lucifer (Satan), rebelled and 1/3 of God’s angles followed and are what we call demons today.

People in Jesus day certainly believed in ghosts. In Matthew 14:25-27 and Mark 6:48-50, when Jesus comes to the disciples walking on the water, they become afraid because they think they have seen a ghost. In Luke 24:36-40, when Jesus appears to the disciple following His resurrection they are afraid thinking they have seen a ghost. Jesus tells them to touch him and make sure He is not a ghost because ghosts do not have bodies.

So if ghosts exist, what are they? Are ghosts the spirits of humans who have died? I don’t think so. Jesus taught in Luke 16 of the rich man who died and immediately opened his eyes in torment and of Lazarus who upon death was immediately carried away to paradise by the angels. In this story the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his family so they would not come to this same place of torment. Not only does this passage teach us clearly that the spirits of the dead do not roam the earth today, we also learn from this passage that even if the dead were to return to warn the living of the torments of the afterlife (like Jacob Marley did to Ebenezer Scrooge) it would not be effective. The passage is clear that the spirits of the dead would certainly not be allowed to return to the living without permission. Now if permission would not be given for a good reason such as warning the living of coming judgment, it is highly doubtful that it would be given for any other more trivial reason.

Other passages would concur that the spirits of the dead do not roam the earth. In the Gospels, Jesus promised the repentant thief on the cross that “this day” he would be with Him in paradise. Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that for the believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord in heaven. The writer of Hebrews teaches that it is appointed unto man once to die and after this comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

So if ghosts are not the spirits of humans who have died, are they angels? I do no think this is the case either. Angels appeared to humans in the Bible but never in a haunting way but rather in the form of humans who identified themselves in a clear manner while bringing a message or being on a mission from God. So if “ghosts” do exist and they are not humans or angels, than there is only one other alternative. They must be demons.

It is good to remember certain things about demons. First, demons have no power over anyone but what God allows (Job 1:12; 2:6; Matthew 8:31-32). They, as well as Satan, are like wild dogs on leashes and God is the one holding the leashes. The instances of demonic involvement in Scripture far outnumber the two instances of people interacting with dead people (Saul speaking with the spirit of Samuel in 1 Samuel 28; and Moses and Elijah appearing on the Mt of Transfiguration in Matthew 17).

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Why You Should Choose 11:30

This Sunday we add a third Sunday morning service here at Grace Church. Our new service times will be as follows:

1st service – 8:30-9:35

2nd service – 10:00-11:05

3rd service – 11:30-12:35

We expect the middle service to be packed and we are encouraging as many as possible to consider making the 8:30 or 11:30 services the worship service that you attend. But why should you especially consider choosing the 11:30 service this Sunday? Let me offer you some great reasons to help convince you:

· You can sleep in late on Sunday!

· You will have time to read the Sunday Newspaper before coming to church!

· You can have a big breakfast before coming to church!

· There will be less of a crowd making premium seating more readily available!

· You will no doubt be able to park closer to the church and not have to walk as far!

· The 11:30 service will be smaller and much more informal!

· At times we will be unwrapping some surprises during the 11:30 service that the first two services will not get to experience!

· I will have already had two services to see if people laugh at my jokes so that the only ones that get used during the 11:30 service are the ones that work!

· We will still be offering our full Elevate and Elevate Jr Programs as well as nursery care for children of all ages during this service!

· You will be home in plenty of time for the 1:00 kickoff of the football games!

· If you are eating out for lunch, you shouldn’t have to wait for seating as restaurants will begin clearing out as you arrive!

· By attending the 11:30 service you will help to free up seats for our fuller service which will likely be the 10:00 service!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

3 Services Preview - STUFF THE SUNROOM

Starting this Sunday we as a church also want to make a difference in the lives of hurting women and children in our community. Single parenthood and homelessness are two circumstances that are growing in our world at an alarming rate. Statistics tell us that families with children make up 40% of the homeless population. Of that number, up to 25% of the homeless population are women with children. Throughout October, we will be asking all of our ministries to join together to fill the needs of four local organizations that exist to help women and children who are going through struggling times right here in Lancaster County. These organizations include Mom’s House; Clare House; Bridge of Hope; and the Lancaster County Children and Youth Shelter

It is our desire to literally STUFF THE SUNROOM off of our church lobby with thousands of needed supplies and non-perishable foods for these four local organizations. A list of supplies needed is given below. Every week through the month of October we are asking everyone who is part of our ministry to bring items on this list with you to the church in order to help meet the physical needs of hurting women and children right here in Lancaster County. If every person brought one item every time they came to church, we could easily STUFF THE SUNROOM from wall to wall and ceiling to floor!

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

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

CRAFT SUPPLIES - Colored pencils; Washable markers/paints; Washable crayons

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

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

OFFICE AND PAPER SUPPLIES - Copy Paper; Pens/ Pencils; Batteries; White out; Markers; Manilla Folders; Stamps; Light bulbs; Paper plates/cups; Plastic flatware; Napkins; Paper towels; Toilet paper; Garbage bags (kitchen and large trash can size); Clear contact paper

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