Friday, November 28, 2008


Being grounded in gratitude is far more than just saying the words, “Thank You”! As we saw last Sunday in Philippians 2:12-13, an attitude of gratitude involves remembering our purpose which is to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But along with remembering our purpose we must also refuse to complain (2:14-16). How difficult is that? We are a complaining culture! The American liberty bringing us freedom of speech has been misinterpreted as freedom to have a critical spirit. And in most cases, a critical spirit is seen in very cruel ways. And this mindset has steered right into the church. The American motto of “the customer is always right” is how many church goers perceive their church life as well. I could fill a book with the weekly e-mails, letters and cards I receive and you would be amazed at how harsh and cruel they are in tone (by the way, the cards in the Sunday bulletin are CONNECTION cards not COMPLAINT cards).

According to Philippians 2:14 we are to do ALL things without grumbling or disputing. ALL…did you catch that? What does ALL means? Just ask our Worship Arts Director, Matt McElravy. He loves it when I use this definition! ALL means ALL and that’s ALL that ALL means. ALL is ALL encompassing. But what exactly are we to avoid? First, we are to do ALL things without grumbling. Grumbling is something we do when we are alone. The word means to mutter; to speak in a low tone; or to complain under one’s breath. It is an expression of secret discontent which had severe consequences in the Old Testament (check out 1 Corinthians 10:10; Numbers 16:41-50). Along with grumbling we are also to do ALL things without disputing. Disputing is something we do with others. It is the term from which we get our English word “dialogue”. It is the idea of an argument. This is the external questioning of submission. An attitude of gratitude is more than just saying “thank you”. It is also refusing to complain.

But along with remembering our purpose and refusing to complain, in order to be grounded in gratitude we must also resolve to rejoice. In verse 17, as Paul writes he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul is stating that his current imprisonment could result in his death seen in his describing himself as being poured out as a drink offering. This was a picture of the pagan practice of pouring out a chalice of wine before or after their meals in honor of the gods they worshipped. It was called a libation and was poured out either to gain favor or soften the anger of the gods. Paul is saying that even if this were to be his fate, he was choosing to rejoice and he exhorted his readers to rejoice with him. Now if Paul can chose to rejoice even in the face of his possible martyrdom, can’t we choose to rejoice even in the things we don’t like?

Thanksgiving has come and gone. The holiday is over. But our need to be grounded in gratitude continues. In Jonathan Swift’s book, Gulliver’s Travels, we are introduced to the tiny people called Lilliputians. These little people had a very big view of gratitude. In fact, they saw ingratitude as cause for capitol punishment. If only we as followers of Jesus would take the need for gratitude half as seriously by remembering our purpose; refusing to complain; and resolving to rejoice, even in the things that don’t exactly “float our boat”!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Five Smooth Stones

On our trip we visited many places in Israel that we saw when we were there two years ago. However, there were several sites that we saw for the first time. Because they were new to me they were very fascinating.

The first was the most staggering of sites on this trip so far. It was the house of Caiaphas the High Priest who Jesus stood trial before the night before His crucifixion. Of course a church is built over that spot today but the dungeon area is the original. Here we saw the area where Caiaphas would have had Jesus scourged and the pit where he would have spent the night as they awaited daybreak to officially sentence Him and take Him to Pilate. I still am reflecting on the fact that I stood in the very room where Jesus took such a horrible beating on my behalf. This would have been the same dungeon where Peter and John also received beatings in Acts 5. There is just no way to describe what it is like to stand in the room where Jesus would have spent the night in utter agony and darkness knowing that the next 24 hours would mean crucifixion for Him.

Outside we saw the courtyard where Peter would have denied Jesus to the little servant girl and where Jesus would have caught his eye after the third denial and the crowing of the roosters. We saw the steps that they would have brought Jesus up after arresting Him in the garden and bringing Him to the house of Caiaphas. I walked those same steps this morning. For me, this was the most hard-hitting moment of our trip so far.From Caiaphas’ house we went to the Jewish Museum. Here we spent much time moving around an exact model of Jerusalem at 66AD. It was on a 1 to 50 scale. It was amazing and really helped us to capture in our minds the geography of the city as it related to the events surrounding the passion of Christ.

We then drove to the Valley of Elah where David the shepherd boy would have fought, killed and decapitated Goliath the Giant. We went down into what would have been the only stream in the area where David would have gathered five smooth stones. The stream was dry this time of year. Why five stones? I think David had confidence that God would allow him to do the job with just one stone. However, David knew that Goliath had four brothers who may seek retaliation on him for killing their taller brother. If this were to occur, David would be ready for them with the remaining four stones.

In that same stream where David picked up his five smooth stones, I also bent down and picked up five stones of my own (pictured) to take back with me as a reminder that God is bigger than any giant that comes into my life. I know that these were not the stones that were there around 1000 BC when David lived and fought Goliath but the symbolism to me is a very powerful one. I will put these stones somewhere in my office as a constant reminder to me of God’s power and my need to rely more heavily upon Him in all areas of my life. Laura also picked up five stones from this dry stream to put on a shadow box at home for the same symbolic reminder.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Mountain of Fire and Prayer

Mt Carmel is another of my favorite spots in Israel. After Joshua, Elijah is my favorite Bible character. It was on this mountain that Elijah had the contest with the prophets of Baal to see which God would send down fire from heaven. After winning the contest, Elijah had all the prophets of Baal killed. He then told Ahab it was going to rain (it had not rained for 3.5 years) and he went on to the top of Mt Carmel to pray.

I gave the devotional on this very thing at the top of the mount. The picture is of me speaking on this special mountain top. I told how James 5 teaches us that the energetic prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much. Of all the great examples of prayer in the Bible, it then uses this example from the life of Elijah as seen in First Kings 18. I pointed out five aspects of Elijah’s prayer life that made it an energetic prayer life that accomplishes much. They are:

1. He prayed in solitude. There is something powerful about getting alone with God where no one else can see you or hear you!

2. He prayed in faith the promises of God. God had already promised rain. Elijah prayed that the promises of God would be fulfilled. This is a great and energetic way for us to pray today.

3. He prayed in humility. He crouched down on the ground and put his head between his knees. So many today pray prayers of great arrogance as they reduce God to some kind of glorified bellhop who is at their beck and call. Elijah remembered who God was and who he himself was and he assumed a body position that demonstrated humility.

4. He prayed expectantly. As he prayed for rain, he sent his servant to see if storm clouds are gathering. As I heard my Grandpa Distler once say, “If you’re going to pray for rain, carry an umbrella.”

5. He prayed persistently. When the servant came back and reported no sign of rain, Elijah kept praying. Each time he sent his servant to look but the answer of no rain in sight remained the same. This did not stop Elijah. After the 7th time, a sign of rain was seen. I think we often don’t see answers to our prayers today because we have no patience. We ask God for something once or twice but if it doesn’t happen, we give up. The example of energetic prayer from Elijah is to keep on praying. It’s the old P.U.S.H saying…Pray Until Something Happens!

We ended our time on Mount Carmel by giving each person a chance to go off on their own and pray, just like Elijah did. How cool! We then went to lunch by Mount Carmel. This was without question the best falafel sandwich I have had in Israel. When I get home I have to find a place that makes a good falafel sandwich.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Shore of Forgiveness

Another favorite stop of mine in Israel is what is called the place of Peter’s Primacy. This is always one of the most meaningful places on the trip to me. This is where after the resurrection a few of the disciples had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. A man on the shore told them to let there nets down on the other side of the boat and they caught a great catch of fish. At this point John realized it is Jesus on the shore. Peter put on his outer coat and made his way quickly to shore. There Jesus had cooked breakfast for them.

Jesus then had this discussion with Peter, one that would cause Peter to relive his failure. The threefold asking of questions would certainly have caused Peter to remember his denials of Jesus. But the purpose of the discussion was to show Peter that he was forgiven and restored. My paraphrase of the dialogue would be as such:

Jesus: Peter do you love me more than these and yourself (agape)?

Peter: Lord, you know I love you like a brother (phileo).

Jesus: Peter do you love me more than these and yourself (agape)?

Peter: Lord, you know I love you like a brother (phileo).

Jesus: Peter, do you love me like a brother (phileo)?

Peter (weeping): Lord you know all things, you know I love you like a brother (phileo).

Peter could not say he loved Jesus with an agape love due to his three denials of Jesus. Yet, Jesus ends the conversation with the words, “Feed my sheep.” He was telling Peter that even though he had failed him in a horrible way, Jesus was not finished with him. Jesus had died for his sins, rose again and now wanted to use him greatly. And my how he used him as Pentecost rolled around not long afterwards and Peter preached resulting in 3,000 coming to know Christ.

This shoreline where we were today is a shoreline of forgiveness and restoration. It is a place where we can relive in our minds our past failures and then know that we have been forgiven and that God is not yet done with us.

At this place, Dan Travis (out host who is the pastor of the Palmyra Grace Brethren Church and a good friend of mine who I respect greatly) had us each pick up a stone symbolizing our failure and place it in our pocket so that throughout the day we would remember our failure and allow it to sink in. Later that day, while taking a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee we would have time to pray silently and then throw our stone into the very water that Jesus would have walked on so many years ago.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Jesus Boat

One of the absolute highlights of both of my trips to the Holy Land is the boat ride that we take as a group on the Sea of Galilee. This trip, before getting on our boat, we went inside an exhibit to see what is called “The Jesus Boat.” This is the remains of a boat that was found submerged in 1986 during a bad drought along the Sea which dates back over 2,000 years to the time of Christ. It was fascinating to see how they found and salvaged this boat. It was incredible to look at this boat made of 12 different types of wood that would have sailed on the sea sometime around the time of Christ.

They had a wonderful gift shop here where we got a few stocking stuffer items and I bought a book on the religious symbols of Judaism as well as an Israeli flag and a mezuzah which Jews put on the doorpost of their doors with the Shema written on a paper and rolled up inside of it (“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one God…). I plan to put it outside the door to my office at church. Jewish people touch it as they enter and leave their house and then put their hand to their mouth to remind them that the Word of God should be on their lips as they enter and as they leave their homes.

We then took our magnificent boat ride across the Sea back to Tiberius. This is such an awesome experience. This is the one place where we can be 100% sure that Jesus sailed and yes, even walked. To sail on this Sea is such a spiritual and emotional experience. We sailed with the sun setting behind the mountains and worship music being played. I loved watching people from our church as we sailed and sang. It is the epitome of genuine worship. In fact, these two boat rides on the Sea of Galilee (2006 and now) have been the two greatest times of worship in my life.

There were two things that made this boat ride even more special. One was being able to stand next to one of our Grace Brethren pastors from the Central African Republic as we sailed and sang on the Sea of Galilee. How awesome was that…A Grace Brethren Pastor from Pennsylvania and a Grace Brethren Pastor from the Central African Republic standing side by side on the Sea of Galilee.

But the other special part of this trip was being able to watch my parents (pictured). My dad stood just weeping. How special it was for them to be on this very special Sea. I’m sure that they never thought that this trip would have ever been possible. I am so thankful that the Lord delivered a way for us to provide this opportunity for them. As I watched them standing and embracing as they cried and sang, I realized what a special moment this in fact was for them and for me. For those who have never experienced this ride, it is impossible to really put it into words.

I just can’t say enough about the Sea of Galilee. Ask anyone from our church who went on this trip or the one back in 2006 and they will all agree that if they could revisit just one place in all the Land of the Bible it would definitely be the Sea of Galilee. And if the worship wasn’t great enough, we also did some Jewish dancing on the boat as well!

Friday, November 21, 2008


From the time we were little we were taught to say the words, “Thank You!” Now, as we enter the Thanksgiving Holiday we need to be reminded that an attitude of gratitude involves so much more than just saying the words, “Thank You!” This is made very clear in Paul’s writing to the church in Philippians 2:12-18.

Paul begins in verses 12-13 by telling of our need to remember our purpose which is to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” The verb, “work out,” is written in the imperative mood meaning that it something that it is command, not simply an option or a suggestion. It is written in the present tense meaning that it is a continual activity as opposed to a one time action. In other words, we are to keep working out our salvation. It is carrying something out to its ultimate coal or conclusion like you would a math problem. It is the same Greek term used for working a mine or a field.

And what are we to continually be in the process of working out? We are to work out our salvation. It is important to note that Paul is writing to people who are already believers. He calls them “my beloved” in 2:12; “Brethren” in 1:12; “My Brethren” in 3:1; and “Beloved Brethren” in 4:1. Since his readers are already believers, then Paul is definitely not teaching that we are to work “for” our salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that we are saved by grace through faith completely apart from works. Paul is speaking here of the self-initiated activity of continually becoming more like Christ. Once we come to know Christ as our Savior, we do not automatically become just like Christ in our living. We have a role to play in the process of sanctification as we daily are transformed more and more into the likeness of our Savior.

And how serious are we to take this responsibility? We are to do so with “fear and trembling.” This is not just something we do when we are at church on Sunday. Paul knew they did this when he was present but he exhorts them to do so even more in his absence. We all watch ourselves in public but we need to be all the more committed to our purpose of working out our salvation when there is not one solitary soul around us.

This is God’s will for us as His children. Paul says that it is God the Father who is the one at work in our lives. The word “work” is the same word where we get our word “energy.” He is the One energizing us so that we can accomplish our purpose of working out our salvation by becoming more like Christ. He is the One who wills and does His good pleasure in us. He is the one who supplies us the power for accomplishment.

But along with remembering our purpose we must also refuse to complain (2:14-16). And this we are to do in “all things.” This too is a command not a suggestion. It too is also a continual action. The word “all” here is the key word. It is in the emphatic position for emphasis. In other words, as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling we must do so in all situations. And to do so means that in everything we do we are committed and we make every effort to do so without any "grumbling" or "disputing." More on those two words next week.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mt Nebo and the Gates of Hell

Mt Nebo is without question one of my most favorite stops in the Land of the Bible. This is where God took Moses before he died to show him the Land of Promise that he was not allowed to enter because of his earlier disobedience. On a clear day from this spot you can literally see all of the land of Israel.

To stand in the same spot where Moses would have stood as God explained to him the panoramic view is absolutely mind-boggling. I think that Pastor Dan Travis has it right when he says that he believes that God did not just show him the land but pointed out the spots where Jesus would be born, be baptized, be crucified, and be resurrected for our sins. Our guide in Israel also pointed out that though Moses was not able to enter the Promised Land before his death, he did make it there when he, along with Elijah, appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration.

I love standing on top of Mt Nebo. What I would not give to have several hours to spend on that mountain alone in communion with God, just like Moses did. This is also where Moses died and God buried his body so that it would never be found. In the book of Jude we learn that Satan argued with Michael the Archangel over the remains of Moses that God buried on Mt Nebo. Obviously, Satan is not all-knowing nor omni-present as God is since to this day he still does not know where the body of Moses was buried.

Another place of great meaning to me in Israel is Caesarea Philippi. This was a place of great idol worship to many gods, especially the god of Pan who was half man and half goat. There is a cave there called the cave of Pan (pictured behind me and Dean Brandt) where a spring once existed. Many thought this spring was the entrance to hell so it became known as the “gates of hell.” Sacrifices were thrown into this spring to the god of pan. It was here that Jesus brought his disciples on a two day journey in order to ask them two questions. Question one was, “Who do men say that I am?” They answered that some would say he was John the Baptist and others would say he was Elijah. Then, Jesus asked the all important question…“Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered with this amazing statement…“You are the Christ, the Son of God, the Living One!”

With the backdrop of all of these false gods and false religions directly behind him, Peter is saying, “As opposed to all of this, you alone are the Christ (the Messiah). You alone are the Son of God (a term of deity). And you alone are the only living God as opposed to all of these dead gods! Jesus said that the Spirit had enlightened Peter to this truth and that upon the rock of that truth Jesus was going to build His church and “the gates of hell” would not prevail against it. There is no doubt in my mind that when Jesus said that He was pointing right at the cave of Pan which was called the gates of hell. He was saying that not even the authority (the metaphorical meaning of “gates” in scripture) of paganism would be able to stop the advancement of the church. This is one of my most favorite spots in Israel. It again convinces me of my passion that the local church is the hope of the world!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Cairo is a city of great contrast from the palaces of the extremely wealthy to the utter destitution of the poor. There are miles and miles of cemeteries unlike anything I have ever seen. They are not as we think of graveyards. Rather, they are small houses where the burial rooms are underground with mourning rooms over them above the ground. Homelessness is so severe that many people actually live in these cities of dead people.

We had lunch on the Nile River. It was beautiful, all except or the dead, bloating cow drifting down the river as we arrived. It is wild to imagine that this was the river that the baby Moses was put in the basket and sent downstream where he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. This, of course, is also the land where Israel was in slavery for so many years prior to the Exodus. Likewise, this is the land where Mary and Joseph fled with the baby Jesus after being warned by an angel in a dream that Herod was seeking to kill Him.

Egypt has 80 million people and Cairo is the second largest city in the world with 20 million people. Only Mexico City is more populated. Cairo is also the second most polluted city in the world (again behind Mexico City). And words could not even begin to describe the traffic. In the rare cases where there are traffic signs or signals, they are obviously there only for decoration and are more optional than anything.

We visited the National Egyptian Museum. How amazing it was to look at artifacts that dated back to 2600 years before Christ and even older. Back in PA, we think something that is 200 years old is ancient. Today we saw items that were 4600 to 5000 years old. You have to remember that civilization as we know it started in the Egyptian and Babylonian Empires of old. We were able to see the full King Tut exhibit. This was the only Egyptian burial of a king that was not looted by grave robbers. It was found intact and contains items that are beyond any ability to describe.

We went to the Pyramids at Giza. Of the 93 pyramids in Egypt these are the three most known. They are magnificent. Now keep this in perspective. Abraham would have lived around 2000 BC. These were built in 2600 BC. That means that we stood at and looked at the same pyramids that Joseph of the Old Testament and Moses would have looked at as well when they were in Egypt. It was also fun to watch my dad ride a camel. We also saw the great Sphinx with the head of a man on the body of a lion. What a sight that was especially awesome with the pyramids in the background. Many of the group struggled with the multitude of vendors, many of them children, who really hounded you to buy their goods. However, for many of them this is their only livelihood.

After a stop at the Papyrus Institute where we were shown how Egyptian Papyrus is made and some additional shopping stops, we took a dinner cruise on the Nile River. No one from our church that was on this trip better ever complain again about the volume of the music at church. After we ate, most of us went up top to sit, talk and enjoy the Nile River while a brave few stayed downstairs for the belly dancer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baptism in the Sea

One of the biggest highlights of our recent trip to the Holy Land was being able to baptize so many people from Grace Church and who wanted to publicly identify with Christ in the land of Israel.

Last time we were here in 2006 we did the baptism in the Jordan River on the Jordan side which was most likely the location where John the Baptist had his ministry and most likely baptized Jesus. The water was very cold and running fast. It was also extremely dirty. My white t-shirt came out of the river completely brown. For logistical reasons on this trip we actually did the baptisms in the Sea of Galilee. The water was cool, but not too bad. There were, however, many fish swimming and jumping around us. What a thrill to baptize so many people from our church in the same Sea where Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm.

Though each baptism was special, three stand out in my mind as I reflect back on that evening.

It was especially thrilling to baptize my parents who went with us on this trip. I was shocked that my mom actually got baptized in the seas as she is very afraid of water. Yet she did great. Dad got very emotional as I asked him if he was sure that Jesus was his Lord and Savior and he proclaimed, “I love the Lord with all of my heart!” This was a very special moment for them and for me. I got my love for the church from my parents. Our family was in church every time the doors were open (4th pew back on the left hand side as you face the pulpit). And since my parents also cleaned the church we were also there even when the doors weren’t open. As a result, I grew to love the church.

It was also a thrill to baptize Dan and Renee Wagner. Dan had never been baptized since becoming a Christian. Tears of joy and love for the Lord flowed down his face as he said to me, “I’ve never been baptized before so take me deep!”

And then I will also mention being able to baptize Dean and Doreen Brandt. I love this couple. It wasn’t long ago that they had split up and it appeared that their marriage was dead. Yet, God did an amazing work of grace and they are back together and doing so well. Dean said to me out in the Sea, “What a miracle that my wife and I are here together getting baptized!” Yes, Dean, it was a miracle of God and I am so thrilled that I was able to be a part of baptizing you both in the Sea of Galilee

After dinner that same night, Laura and I took a romantic stroll down along the Sea of Galilee. I love the Sea of Galilee. There is just no other place I have ever been that rivals it. No wonder Jesus spent the first two years of His public ministry along its banks. It is absolutely one of my favorite places in the entire world to visit. And now, after this special baptismal service we held on its banks, the Sea of Galilee is even more special in my mind and my heart now than it ever has been.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Top 15

#15 – Looking down on the Road to Damascus where the Apostle Paul was converted as Jesus appeared to him in a great light as he was on his way to arrest more Christians.

#14 – Picking up stones in the dry stream in the Valley of Elah where David would have gathered stones and fought and killed Goliath.

#13 – Going on to the Temple Mount where Abraham would have been willing to offer Isaac as a sacrifice and where the past Jewish temples sat (now the Dome of the Rock)

#12 – Standing at Mt Nebo and looking at the Promised Land with the same view that God would have given Moses before his death.

#11 – Seeing the Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt built around 2600BC

#10 – Standing on the Mount of Precipice where the Jews tried to throw Jesus off the cliff and seeing the Valley of Jezreel below where the Battle of Armageddon will be fought (pictured)

#9 – Standing outside the Cave of Pan (called the Gates of Hell) in Caesarea Philippi where Peter made his confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of God, the Living One.

#8 – Standing on the shore of Peter’s Primacy where after the resurrection, Jesus restored Peter with the threefold asking of the question, “Do you love me, Peter?”

#7 – Leading Chris and Debbie Pini in the renewing of their marriage vows in the Garden of Gethsemane.

#6 – Sitting on the Mt of Olives singing the last verse of How Great Thou Art while looking down at the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem.

#5 – Climbing the Steps of the Southern Wall where Jesus would have entered the Temple Mount and where Peter would have preached on the Day of Pentecost

#4 – Visiting Caiphas’ House and seeing the very steps that they would have led Jesus up after his arrest as well as the dungeon where he was scourged and where he spent the night in darkness and agony before the day of His crucifixion.

#3 – Taking communion at the Garden Tom

#2 – Baptizing people from Grace Church and my own parents in the Sea of Galilee.

#1 – Watching people from Grace Church worship on the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, the very waters where Jesus calmed the sea and walked upon the waves

Friday, November 14, 2008

7 Things Senior Pastors Want Their Staff to Know (part 2)

#3 - Don’t Settle For Good Enough

One of our core values here at our church is excellence…which does NOT mean perfection…but it does mean giving something your best effort. As a senior pastor I have an incredible amount of confidence that the people I serve with are going to do all that they can to make sure that whatever they are working on is the best it can be! One of the biggest problems in church world today, in my opinion, are churches that put a pathetic presentation out there and then use the word “authentic” to describe it. We are called to do whatever we do with the absolute best effort we can put forth. I do not expect perfection from our staff because I am not perfect…but I do want everyone’s best effort because I believe God works through people who are willing to go all out for Him.

#4 - PLEASE Get Along

One of the most frustrating things for a Senior Pastor to have to deal with is staff members who refuse to act like grown ups and feel the need to resort to name calling and comparison with other staff members. As a leader of God’s church I don’t have time to try to help people who can’t escape the mentality of a second grader!!! My gosh…we are the church…we can’t provide environments that facilitate forgiveness if we are carrying unforgiveness in our hearts towards the people we work with!

#5 - Don’t Surprise Me

If something is going to go wrong…and you know it’s going to go wrong before hand, please tell me! Don’t let me get caught in a situation that you knew was going to happen but didn’t tell me hoping that Jesus might decide to come back and fulfill everything LaHaye and Jenkins wrote about, saving you from any fallout that would come as a result of your mistake. A pastor needs complete honesty from a staff member. Because of some honest staff members our church has been guided away from some decisions that I may have thought were good, but because there were staff that could see what I could not see, and spoke up, we’ve been able to be used by the Lord to advance His Kingdom.

One more thing…as a senior pastor I am a PIT BULL when it comes to anyone talking about the staff that serve with me. No one, I MEAN NO ONE, talks smack about my staff in front of me. I simply will not allow it! But, what I tell our staff is, “If you make a stupid mistake…PLEASE don’t hide it from me. Seriously, tell me because someone is going to tell me and when they do I want to be able to let them know that you personally came to me and I know all about it!” Staff members…help your pastor protect you! You are going to make mistakes. AND…trust me on this one…he is going to hear about it.

So, where are numbers 6 and 7? Sorry, folks, but I wrote and scheduled this prior to my Israel trip and this pastor had not yet posted the final two parts!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

7 Things Senior Pastors Want Their Staff to Know (part 1)

I am very big on originality when it comes to my blog. In other words, it is very rare that I just “cut and paste” someone else’s words. Most every entry comes from my own warped mind. However, I was reading a post by another pastor that gave me a lot to think about as a Sr Pastor. It was called “7 Things Senior Pastors Want Their Staff to Know.” It was thought provoking enough that I thought I would share it (in hopes that one of two of my own staff read my blog). Please keep in mind, these are not my words. This is a complete “cut and paste” job. I have edited them a bit for length and to take out the names of staff members or churches. You who are the curious type, however, I’m sure can do some google searching to discover the specifics.

#1 - I Need Positive Attitudes

Two thoughts on this…First of all, I think a person can (and should) be held accountable for their attitude. After all, Scripture tells us in Philippians 2:5 to have the attitude of Christ. I’m not talking about people who have a bad day from time to time–we all have those! We are imperfect people who work in an imperfect world. I am talking about the staff member that treats everyone around him or her as some sort of inferior idiot. That simply cannot be tolerated on any staff.

Second, a pastor needs “can do” people around him…what I mean is when he is casting vision he doesn’t need people rolling their eyes and making groaning noises and trying to play “devils advocate.” (By the way–the devil doesn’t need ANY help!). BUT, he does need honesty!

Let me paint a picture of how this looks. I remember once casting a huge vision of something I wanted to see happen production wise. It was a project unlike anything we had ever attempted. As I was talking in the meeting I noticed this guy writing furiously on his scratch pad. When I had finally shut up I looked at him and asked, “Can we do this?” His answer was, “Yes, we can DO anything. However, if you are serious about us pursuing what you just talked about let me share with you how much time that is going to take AND how much it is going to cost. It CAN be done…but in order for me to do it I am going to need to back off of a project or two…and we are going to need to spend more money that is in our budget!” I LOVED THAT! His attitude was, “Yes we can…but here are the facts associated with the yes.” This staff member had a CAN DO attitude and the COURAGE to be honest.

#2 - You Will Never Know The Weight I Feel

Ministry is tough on every level–period. However, the pain and burden that a pastor has to deal with is unlike any area I’ve ever experienced. I served as a staff member for nine years before becoming the senior pastor…and there isn’t a class on the planet that can prepare you for what is coming your way…both good and bad. Staff member, do all that you can to pray for that man! Trust me…he goes through it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 15 (final day)

This morning we will leave at 3am to head to the Tel Aviv airport. On the way we will stop at the Mt of Olives for one last look at Jerusalem all lit up in the night sky. Some day Jesus is going to return to the earth at this very spot, enter the city of Jerusalem, and set up His Kingdom here on earth for 1,000 years. From there it is on to the airport and our 15 hour flight back to JFK!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 14

Today is our last full day before we fly back home. Today we have several options inlcuding Hezekiah's tunnel, the southern wall of the temple mount excavation, and the Holocaust Museum. I think I will let Laura decide what we do today because today is her 45th birthday. I'm also going to let her pick out her own birthday present today in Jerusalem. Two years ago she spent her birthday in Bethlehem. This year she gets to spend it in Jerusalem. Am I a great husband or what?


Monday, November 10, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 13

Today we drive to the Mt of Olives to behold the breathtaking panorama of the Holy City of Jerusalem. We will go to the church of the Ascension, descending to the Garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive grove where Jesus prayed and sweat drops of blood the night before his crucifixion. Late in the afternoon we will visit the Garden Tomb and celebrate a communion service. We will cross the Kidron Valley where we will walk through Stephen's Gate and to the Pool of Bethesda.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 12

Today we will leave the magnificient city of Jerusalem and descend down to the Dead Sea and the wilderness of Judah. Our first stop will be Masada where we will ascend high upon the wilderness mountain by way of the cable car to the fortress built by King Herod. Here we will survey the ruins of the fortifications, waterworks, synagogue, temples and palaces. This is the place where a group of Jews committed suicide rather than surrender to the invading Romans. Following the road North along the western shore of the Dead Sea, we will stop at En Gedi where David hid from King Saul. Continuing north we will stop at Qumran and the possible settlement of the first centruy sect known as the Essenes who were the authors of the Dead Se Scrolls. From there we will go to Jericho, the city of the Palms, which is the oldest existing city on earth. Here we will see Tel Jericho and the Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. On the way back to Jerusalem we will stop at the Wadi Qelt which is the Biblical Valley of the Shadow of Death spoken of by David in Psalm 23 and Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 11

Today we will enter Jerusalem through what is called the Dung Gate and walk to the holiesT site in the Jewish World, the WesterN or Wailing Wall of Herod's Temple. Here, Jewish men and women pray daily and intensely for the peace of Israel, for the rebuiliding of the temple, and for the coming of the Messiah (how sad, that the Messiah, Jesus, already came and they missed Him!). Beyond the wall lies the 35 acre temple area purchased by King David (2 Samuel 24:18-25). On this site now stands the Dome of the Rock (the third holiest shrine in all Islam) and the El Aksa Mosque. From the temple area we make our way to Stephen's Gate and to the Sisters of Zion Convent where we will see the pavement where Jesus stood as He was being tried before Pilate. We will then follow the Via Dolorosa which was the path where Jesus carried His cross through the city of Jerusalem. We will then make our way to the Church of the Holy Sepluchre which is believed to stand over the spot where Jesus was buried and rose from the dead!


Friday, November 07, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 10

Today we will go to the Valley of Elah where David killed Goliath, the Giant of the Philistines. We will then pass by Rachel's toimb on the outskirts of Bethlehem and visit the Church of the Nativity where Jesus was born and the Shepherd's Field where the angels made the announcement of His birth (pictured from our last trip). We will then travel south to the Herodium, the mountain fortress and palace of Herod overlooking Bethlehem. From there it is off to Mt Zion. We will visit the Upper Room where Jesus spent those last momentous hours with His disciples before His passion and where the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost. We will visit the tomb of King David and the house of Caiphas, where Jesus was tried and where Peter denied the Lord. From there we will go to the Israel Museum which includes a 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem at the time of Herod the Great. We will also visit the Shrine of the Book Museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 9

Today we depart the Galilee visiting Tiberias (John 6:23); Canan where Jesus turned the water into wine (John 2); Nazareth, where Mary received the angelic visitation (Luke 1 and 2); Mt Carmel where Elijah called down fire from God (1 Kings 18); Megiddo where the battle of Armageddon will one day be fought (1 Kings 9:15; Revelation 16:16); and Caesarea (Acts 9 and 25). We then proceed south to the wonderful city of Jerusalem for dinner and overnight!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 8

This morning we will rise on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and continue our sight-seeing of the Land where Jesus walked including Capernaum (Matthew 4:13); the Mount of Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7); Tabgha where the feeding of the 5,000 took place (Mark 6); and Peter's Primacy where Peter saw Jesus on the seashore after the resurrection (John 21). We will also see the Jesus Boat exhibition and take a sunset boat ride across the Sea of Galilee where we will have a St Peter's Fish Dinner for dinner back in Tiberius.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 7

There is nothing quite like watching a sunrise on the Sea of Galilee!! Today we will visit many biblical sites in the Upper Jordan Valley; Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27); view Mt Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:8); Tell Dan and the Nature Reserve; the Border of Lebanon (Joshua 11:17); and the remains of the ancient city of Hazor (Joshua 11:10; 1 Kings 9:15). Dinner and loding tonight will be in the city of Tiberius.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 6

This morning we will drive to Madaba, the sight of a mosaic map of Jerusalem from the Byzantine era. From there it is on to Mt Nebo to stand where Moses stood to view the Promised Land. We then continue to the border crossing and leave Jordan for Israel. Once across the border we head north to Bet Shean which is the city where the Philistines hung the decaptiated bodies of Saul and his sons after the battle that claimed their lives. The day ends with a baptismal service in the Jordan River.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 5

Today we will take a long drive through the Jordanian desert along the area called the Way of the Kings. On our way we will visit Petra which is "the rose red city half as old as time." The ancient Edomite and Nabatean capitol is an amazing example of prophecy. We will see the spectacular "city of the dead" with its famed gorge, ancient streets, temples, dwelling places and tombs carved right into the solid rock. Many believe that this will be the place where the Jews will hide from the Antichrist during the tribulation period. We will arrive at El-Ji Post and continue the one-mile hourney on horseback, passing through the famous Siq (natural gorge) and arrive at the Treasury.

From Petra we will continue north to the Dead Sea where we will enjoy a time of floating in this lake so full of minerals that it is impossible to sink. What an adventure!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime - Day 4

Today is a travel day. After breakfast we will drive across the northern part of the Sinai Penninsula that will take us to Elat, which is the location in Israel on the Northernmost Tropical Sea in the world. Before checking into our hotel we will visit the Underwater Observatory with a fascinating variety of sealife available in the Gulf of Aquabba!