Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Financial Opportunity: Turning Around DEBT - Part 1

What does the book of Proverbs teach about debt? I find two principles that we would be wise to hear. Every obstalce has an opportunity. This is an area where I am praying that the obstacles of our current economic downturn will create some opportunities in the lives of believers in our church who are ready to wake up and make some changes in the way they spend their money.

Before we look at this let me remind you of something. Biblical stewardship is not just giving 10% (your tithe) to the church. Yes, that’s part of it but that is really only 1/10th of it. Stewardship is properly managing all of my resources, not just giving a percentage of it to the church. Why? Because it all belongs to God to begin with. The only reason you have the income you have is because He has allowed you to have it and wants you to manage it wisely.

So what does the book or Proverbs teach about debt? First, this wise book teaches that the more in debt I am, the more I lose control of my life. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” And that right there describes the vast majority of Americans. We have become slaves to debt.

Do you realize that the average family in America this year will pay out $1,500 in credit card interest alone. I’m not talking interest on mortgages or car loans…just credit card interest. Now stop and think about that with me. In a church our size that means that the people who make up Grace Church of Lititz will collectively pay over $1,00,000 this year in credit card interest. That’s not money that will pay down their credit card debt…that is just the interest. Imagine what we could do if everyone in our church paid off their credit card debt and took what they normally paid on credit card interest and gave it to the ministry of our church instead. I honestly believe that a lot of people really want to give more to the church but can’t. Why? Because they are slaves to their debt. They’ve lost control. How do I know that? Because I’ve been there. Boy, have I been there.

In our early years of marriage I allowed our family to become a slave to debt. I had several credit cards and I wasn’t afraid to use them. I didn’t use them wisely. I used them so we can eat out and buy things we didn’t have the money to buy. It didn’t take long before the amount of interest I owed on my credit cards each month was more than I could afford. Listen, I couldn’t even afford the interest let alone the principle. That’s not it. When I would get those offers in the mail where they would send you the check for a loan and all I had to do was sign it and cash it, I signed it, I cashed it and I used it. Back then, our health insurance company would send all payments to me, made out to my name. I was then supposed to turn around and give that money to the doctors and hospitals that it was owed to. More than once I used that money for other things and the debt just kept piling up. There were many times during those youth ministry years of my life that I would have loved to have given more to the Lord and to the church but I couldn’t. Why? Because I was a slave to debt. Listen, Proverbs is true…the more in debt I become the more I lose control of my life…plain and simple.

More tomorrow...

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Next Jed Clampett of Lititz, PA

Although money has its advantages it also can negatively affect the relationships we have with others. I guarantee you this. If you suddenly struck it rich…I’m talking Jed Clampett style from the Beverly Hillbillies (next thing you know old Jed’s a millionaire), it would change some, maybe not all, but some of the relationships you have with other people. Many of these changes would not be positive. How can money be a trap when it comes to our relationships? Let me give you just a few ways from the book of Proverbs.

First, money can produce FAVORITISM. Proverbs 14:20 says, “The poor is hated even by his neighbor, but those who love the rich are many.” If you suddenly became the Jed Clampett of Lititz, PA tomorrow, you would be much more popular tomorrow than you are today, don’t you think? More people would know who you are tomorrow than who know your identity today. You would have more people showing you attention tomorrow than showed you attention today. One of the traps of money is that we often show favoritism to those who have more of it. The bottom line truth is that often it is our possessions that determine our popularity.

Second, money can produce FALSE friends. Proverbs 19:4 says, “Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend.” Look at it again…wealth adds many friends. If you became the Jed Clampett of Lititz tomorrow you would get invited to many more parties than you get invited to now. You would get more phone calls and e-mails than you receive now. You would have more people wanting to hang out with you than you do now. The problem is that they would not want to be your friend because of you but rather because of your money. Remember when Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke. When he first got his inheritance he had all kinds of friends, but as soon as his whole loot was wasted on riotous living, it was just him and the pigs. The more money you have the more false friends you will have as well.

Third, money can produce ARROGANCE. The truth is that not only will others treat me different if I suddenly become wealthy, but I will most likely treat others differently as well. Proverbs 28:11 says, “The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him.” Wealth can produce arrogance. We become wise in our own eyes. The more money I have the more I think I have all the answers. The more money I have the more I demand that things get done may way. Often this arrogance that comes with wealth affects the way we treat and talk to others. Proverbs 18:23 says, “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” Suddenly I am talking down to others simply because I have more money than them.

Fifth, money can produce HYPOCRISY. Proverbs 13:7 says, “There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing; another pretends to be poor but has great wealth.” We can probably all think of someone that we have known or maybe know now who puts on a front to make them look wealthier than they really are. Money, or the lack of it, causes us to put on masks. It causes us to be and act differently than who we really are.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

a CLOWN shares the CROSS

I have been sharing some pictures that are being posted on the Operation Barnabas website (www.operationbarnabas.net) that include my son, Jonathan, who is on the Tri-State team. I especially love this one. That is Jonathan dressed as the clown in the green wig sharing Christ through the Cross Illustration at a park program. Look how many people are standing around watching and listening as he shares with them the meaning of the cross!

Friday, June 26, 2009

3 John 4

3 John 4 says, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children walk in the truth!" That is sooo true! Above are some pictures from my son (Jonathan) on Operation Barnabas. The top picture is his team outside their bus. The middle picture is Jonathan and a couple of teammates praying with a woman at Wal-Mart. The bottom picture is Jonathan and another person from his team sharing Christ with a man in Washington DC. And if that is not enough reason for this dad to be proud, below is a portion of an e-mail report from their team leader:
"We then took the students north of downtown for lunch and then gave them an hour in a park that had many children playing to practice telling the Cross Illustration. We turned them loose almost on a whim and to kill some time before heading back to Frederick, but it was for a purpose as Tyler L. and Jon. D. both lead children to Christ through their time together. Once again, we were able to collect their contact information to pass along to the D.O.C. church we've been partnering with."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Maybe...just maybe...my beloved city of Cleveland, OH will get to celebrate a championship for the first time in my lifetime! Go King James! Go Shaq! Go Cavs! Go Cleveland!

Elders (Part 3) - Qualifications Continued

This Sunday our church family will have the opportunity to elect 7 men to serve on our Elder Board. As a result, I am taking the time to give some thoughts from Titus and First Timothy regarding the Biblical qualifications of Elders. This posting is part three. You would do well to go back and read the first two parts before continuing on with this post.

Yesterday we saw the qualifications for an Elder that were on both Paul’s list to Titus and Paul’s list to Timothy. Here are the qualifications mentioned only in the list to Titus:

An Elder is qualified by “having children who believe” and who are “not accused of dissipation or rebellion” (v6). The word rebellion speaks of a refusal to submit to authority. “Dissipation” speaks of wasteful indulgence (even rioting) and was used to speak of drunken revelry at pagan festivals (see Ephesians 5:18)

An Elder is to be “not self-willed” (v7). In other words, he is not to have an arrogant self-interest resulting in his exerting his own will with no regard for how it affects others.

An Elder is to be “not quick-tempered” (v7). This speaks of having a propensity to anger, as opposed to occasional outbursts.

Here are a few more qualifications only found on Paul’s list to Timothy:

An Elder is to be “not fond of sordid gain” (v7) = not seeking wealth at any cost.
An Elder is to be “loving of what is good” (v8) = a strong affection for what is good.
An Elder is to be “sensible” (v8) = sober mind, cool-headed and in command of his mind
An Elder is to be “just” (v8) = seeking what is right, proper and fitting (idea of fairness)
An elder is to be “devout” (v8) = true to Divine direction and purpose
An Elder is to be “self-controlled” (v8) = holding his desires in check.
An Elder is to “hold fast the faithful Word” (v9) = strongly clinging to the Word

Below is a final list of qualifications mentioned only in the list to Timothy?

An Elder is to be “temperate” (v2) = unmixed
An Elder is to be “prudent” (v2) = well-disciplined; knows priorities
An elder is to be “respectable” (v2) = orderly
An Elder is to be “able to teach” (v2) = skilled teachers; studies hard
An Elder is to be “gentle” (v3) = considerate; gracious; forgiving
An Elder is to be “peaceable” (v3) = reluctant to fight
An Elder is to be “free from the love of money” (v3)
An Elder is to “manage his own household well” (v4)
An Elder is to “keep his children under control with dignity” (v4)
An Elder is not to be a “new convert” (v6)
An Elder is to have a “good reputation outside the church” (v7)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Elders (Part 2) - Qualifications

This Sunday our church family will have the opportunity to re-elect six men who have been serving as Elders and elect one new Elder to a 3 year term on the Elder Board. As a result, I am taking the time to give some thoughts from Titus and First Timothy regarding the Biblical qualifications of Elders. This posting is part two. You would do well to go back and read part one, if you haven’t already, before continuing on with part two.

We saw yesterday that Paul left Titus on the island in Crete to “set things in order” in the church. One of the crucial ingredients needed to “set things in order” was for Titus to appoint Elders. In verses 6-9, Paul gives a list of qualifications regarding the type of person who is to be an Elder in the church. Paul gives a similar list to Timothy also in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. From observing both lists we see that there are numerous qualifications mentioned. Only four of these qualifications are found on both lists. As a result, we can say that neither list is all-inclusive. These are not qualifications demanding perfection nor are they characteristics only to be sought by Elders.

It is important to note that the same qualification tops both lists. Elders are to be “above reproach”. However, two different Greek words are used. In Titus it is a word meaning “to be completely blameless”. In Timothy it is a word meaning “not able to be accused”. This is the overall quality needed as an Elder. All the other qualifications are examples of what it means to be “above reproach”. Below are the specific areas where an Elder is to be “above reproach” that are mentioned in both the list to Titus and the list to Timothy:

An Elder is to be the “husband of one wife” (Titus 1:6; I Timothy 3:2). This literally means a “one woman man” or “one woman husband”. This is not teaching that the Elder is to be only married to the church as some religions have taken it. This is not simply a prohibition against polygamy nor is it a prohibition against single men being Elders. I also do not believe that this is a cut and dry prohibition against divorced men becoming Elders. If that were the intent, I believe it could have certainly been stated more clearly, like “having never been divorced”. This phrase refers to the singularity of a man’s faithfulness and commitment to the woman who is his wife.

An Elder is to be “not addicted to wine” (Titus 1:7; I Timothy 3:3). The word “addicted” means continually alongside of

An Elder is to be “not pugnacious” (Titus 1:7; I Timothy 3:3). This means he is not to be a striker or a fist-fighter and refers to physical or verbal quarreling

An Elder is to be “hospitable” (Titus 1:8; I Timothy 3:2). This is the idea of showing affection to strangers

We will see the rest of the qualifications in tomorrow’s blog posting. Be sure to read it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Elders (Part 1) - The Church Needs Orthodontists

This Sunday as part of all three of our worship services here at Grace Church, our church family will have the opportunity to re-elect six men who have been serving as Elders of our church to another three year term on the Elder Board. These men include

Dan Buch
Dennis Hummer
John Kegarise
Carl Myer
Andy Spade
Pastor Wilard

We also have one new man that we are recommending to the church to be approved as our newest Elder. That is Mike McCracken. For those who get my free Pastor’s E-mail Update that I send out twice a week, I have given information about Mike as well as the other seven men up for re-election. If you do not get my e-mail update, you can subscribe free through our church website (http://www.lgbc.org/).

According to our church constitution, voting on Elders by the congregation is a “check and balance’ to be sure that these men still fulfill the Biblical qualifications of an Elder. The ballot will include a list of Elder qualifications given in the Bible to Titus and Timothy. In other words, you can’t just vote “no” on an Elder for any reason. For a “no” vote to count, you must mark which qualification you believe that individual does not fulfill. In order to help you in this, I would like to use my next three blog postings to give you some thoughts from the Biblical passages that speak of Elder qualifications. Let’s begin in the book of Titus.

The book of Titus begins with the topic of church leadership. In the first five 5 verses we see the identity of such leadership. The writer of this letter is Paul who calls himself a bond-servant of God (one who by choice gives up all his own rights to serve his master, 2 Corinthians 5:15) and an Apostle of Jesus Christ (a messenger; a kind of ambassador who speaks with the authority of the one who sent Him). Paul is writing to Titus who was a gentile convert (Galatians 2:3). Titus had been left an the island of Crete by Paul to carry on the ministry there (Titus 1:5).

The instruction that Paul gives to Titus is to “set in order" what remains. This comes from the Greek word “orthoo” which means “to make straight”. It is where we get our English word "orthodontist". It was used in ancient times speaking of straightening bent limbs and setting broken bones. Titus was to correct and set straight certain doctrines and practices that had become defective in the churches in Crete. Paul had started this process and now was instructing Titus to complete it. As we will see tomorrow, for Titus to act as “orthodontist” for these churches would mean the need to put Elders in place.

Monday, June 22, 2009

How do you say "OUCH" in Cambodia?

Recently, Pastor Tim and I were able to have lunch with two couples who have a real heart for the country of Cambodia. The first couple was Kent and Becky Good who are Grace Brethren International Missionaries living in Cambodia and overseeing the work there that is being done by the national foundational layers who go from village to village evangelizing and discipling people.

The second couple was Mike and Joan McCracken. Mike and Joan head our Mission team here at Grace Church and do a wonderful job of helping us as a church to effectively meet people where they are at (even half way around the world) and help move them to where God wants them to be. By the way, Mike will be voted on by our congregation on June 28th as our newest Elder here at Grace Church.

One of the fun times we had at lunch was seeing a picture of Joan giving a shot to one of our Cambodian Foundation Layers. After seeing the grimace on his face and then seeing multiple other shots that were all similar, I decided I should volunteer Joan to give the staff flu shots this fall here at Grace Ministries.

Mike and Joan have been part of the development work being done with CTM (Community Transformation Ministry) which included providing vaccinations to the church planters and their families. On the trip in which these pictures were taken, Joan was enjoying helping Dr. Roger Snyder with theses vaccinations. Mike’s favorite picture is that of Joan heading back into town on her motorbike to take care of some business for the team.

Grace Church is having a real impact in the country formerly known as “The Killing Fields”. So if you are part of the Grace Church family, please be sure to be praying for our Cambodian Foundation Layers and the ministry we are having together in Cambodia.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Top Ten Summer Prayer Requests


Do you believe that? Really?

If you are part of the Grace Church family, I hope your answer to that question is an emphatic YES!!!

Based on that, I want to share with you 10 prayer requests for our ministry for June, July and August. I have purposefully made each of these requests specific and measurable. The more specific we pray the more we will see answers to our prayers and the more our faith will grow. I’m asking everyone who is part of Grace Church to pray for each of these requests a minimum of 3 days a week! 5 days a week would be better! 7 days a week would be best!!

Here are the 10 prayer request for June/July/August:

· For the hiring of the right person as secondary principal by the start of the new academic year at Lititz Christian School

· For the hiring of the right person as daycare director by the start of the new academic year at MorningStar Daycare and Academics

· To start the new academic year at Lititz Christian School with a minimum of 237 students enrolled (this is the amount of student enrollment needed at LCS to meet budget for the 2009/2010 school year)

· For a record Vacation Bible School when it comes to attendance and salvation decisions

· That over the 9 weeks of July and August, we would see a total of $449,601.93 come in to our General Fund offering (this would allow us to start our first two months of the 2009/2010 fiscal year by meeting our giving budget goal which averages out to $49,955.77 weekly)

· That when our Fall CONNECT Group campaign begins in October, we will have a minimum of 100 CONNECT Groups taking place (we begin promotion for this August 23rd)

· That all of our teens and youth staff traveling this summer (Operation Barnabas, Ireland, Momentum Youth Conference) would return safe and having each of their lives changed spiritually which would then impact our entire church

· That by the end of August we will have received all approvals (township, Elders, and congregation) and will be able to have started our foyer renovation and broken ground on our café/office addition

· That we would average a minimum of 1333 in Sunday morning attendance over the 13 Sundays in June, July and August (not counting the live webcast) which would be a 20% increase over our June/July/August average last year (not counting last year’s Patriotic Celebration)

· That we would have our new church logo, church website and school/daycare websites up and running by the end of August

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dollars for Dummies - Message #2

This Sunday we continue our Dollars for Dummies series as we look at what the book of Proverbs says about money and finances. Below are the verses from Proverbs that we will be talking about this Sunday in all three of our morning services. As we celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, our Early Childhood Choir will be singing and there will be outdoor baptisms taking place in between each service. We also will be seeing a clip from an old Saturday night Live sketch with Steve Martin that will amaze you at how it fits the Scripture we will look at Sunday. Remember, you can watch our 10am service live on the internet by going to http://www.gracechurchworship.org/ and clicking on “watch live”.

10:15 – The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is their poverty

13:22 – A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous

19:17 – He who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed

28:27 – He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses
14:20 – The poor is hated even by his neighbor, but those who love the rich are many

19:4 – Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend

13:8 – The ransom of a man’s life is his riches; but the poor hears no rebuke

28:11 – The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him

18:23 – The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly

13:7 – There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing; another pretends to be poor but has great wealth

22:7 – The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave

21:17 – He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not become rich

22:7 – The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave

22:26-27 – Do not be among those who give pledges, among those who become sureties for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take your bed from under you?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Hour With God - Part Five, Six and Seven

This week I am sharing segments of a 7-part guide I put together for our staff at our last staff meeting as I sent them to find a place to be alone on campus to spend an hour with God. Why not take a few minutes each day this week to do a part of this guide yourself?

Part 5 – Spend Time Meditating in God’s Word

Read Hebrews 11

Answer the following questions:

What is one sin I see in this chapter that I should seek to avoid in my life?

What is one promise I see in this chapter that I should seek to claim in my life?

Of all the examples listed in the chapter, which one challenges me the most today? Why?

What is one command I see in this chapter that I should seek to obey in my life?

What is one statement about God seen in this chapter that I should remember?

What is something I saw in this chapter that I had never seen before?

Part 6 – Practicing the Art of Listening

Sit quiet, with your eyes closed, before the Lord for 5 full minutes. During this time ask the Lord to impress on your heart the answers to these questions:

What are you saying to me today?

What is it that you want me to do today?

What are you trying to teach me today?

Part 7 – Journaling

End your time by taking time to write down your thoughts, feelings and impressions from your hour with God.

What did God show you?

What do you need to do now?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An Hour With God - Part Three and Four

This week I am sharing segments of a 7-part guide I put together for our staff at our last staff meeting as I sent them to find a place to be alone on campus to spend an hour with God. Why not take a few minutes each day this week to do a part of this guide yourself?

Part 3 – Praying for God’s Purposes to be Fulfilled in Others

List below the names of 5 people who either need salvation or who need to find their way back to the Lord.

Take time to pray for these 5 people. Pray that:

They would repent
God would bring a Christian into their life to impact them for the Lord
They would remember Scripture that they heard at some point in their life
Their spiritual eyes would be opened
You personally would have an opportunity to speak into their life

Take time to pray for Grace Ministries

That we would effectively meet and move people
That our finances would remain strong
That enrollment would increase in our educational ministries
That we would accomplish our 5 year vision plan
That we would be unified and not give Satan a foothold in our ministry

Ask God right now to lay on your heart the names of two people who work somewhere in our ministry (church, school or daycare). Pray for those 2 individuals right now

Part 4 – Bring Your Personal Needs and Requests before God

Think through a personal need you have in each of the following areas:


Take time to pray for each of these areas. Make your requests as specific and measurable as possible

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An Hour With God - Part Two

Yesterday I started sharing with you segments of a 7-part guide I put together for our staff at our last staff meeting as I sent them to find a place to be alone on campus to spend an hour with God. Why not take a few minutes each day this week to do a part of this guide yourself?

Part 2 - Adoration of God’s Glorious Names

Read through the list of names of God below:

Abba Father - Daddy
Yahweh – The God who was, who is, who is to come
Elohim – Father, Son and Spirit
Jehovah Sabbaoth – Lord of Hosts
Jehovah Melech – King of Kings
Jehovah Shalom – Lord of Peace
El Shaddai – God Almighty All Sufficient One
El Elyon – God Most High
Adonai – Master and Lord
Jehovah Nissi – God My Victorious Banner
Jehovah Roi – God Who Sees Me
Jehovah Jireh – God My Provider
Jehovah Tsidkenu – God My Righteousness
Jehovah Mikkadesh – God My Sanctifier
Jehovah Rapha – My Glorious Healer
Ancient of Days
Eternal Creator
Jesus Savior/Messiah
Bright Morning Star
Prince of Peace
Lamb of God
All Consuming Fire
My Bridegroom
The Way, The Truth, The Life
Hope of Glory

Which three of these names means the most to you right now in your life and why?

Take time right now to praise God for these three names that you have listed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An Hour With God - Part One

On the first Tuesday of each month we have a staff meeting in which I speak to our full church staff including the administrative team of our Educational Ministries (nearly 30 of us total). I usually take this time to dig deep into a specific passage of Scripture with our staff and bring it to an applicable conclusion for our team as individuals and as a whole.

This month I did something different. This month I put together a 7-part guide that would allow our staff to spend an hour alone with God. I then sent our staff to find a place somewhere on our campus where they could spend one hour of interrupted time alone with God. The feedback has been tremendous.

So, how would you like to use the same guide over this week of your life? Beginning today and covering the next 4 days, I will give you a part or two of the guide I gave to them. You may not do it all in a one hour time slot, but you could take 15 minutes each day for the next 4 days. Below is part one:

Part 1 – Approaching His Throne of Holiness with Repentance

1 John 1:9 is written below from four different translations. Read each one out loud:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [New American Standard]

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” [New International Version]

“But if we confess our sons to God, He can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.” [Contemporary English Version]

“If we (freely) admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins (dismiss our lawlessness) and continuously cleanse us form all unrighteousness – everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought and action.) [Amplified Bible]

Take time right now to answer the following questions to God in prayer?

Do I have any unconfessed sin or doubtful practices in my life?

Are there any obstacles keeping me from greater intimacy with God?

Have I been following the leadership of the Holy Spirit as He guides me?

Based on your answers, ask God for genuine life change and cleansing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My son, Jonathan, along with 4 other teens from Grace Church are off and running at Operation Barnabas Orientation. On the OB website (http://www.operationbarnabas.net/) there are updates and pictures. The top picture above shows Jonathan singing special music at one of the OB sessions. Here is what the website had to say:

"Tonight, several students had the opportunity to jump in and help with worship and special music during the main session. Claire S. was a lovely addition to the worship team...while Jon D. played guitar and sang a song he wrote displaying the powerful and undying love that Jesus has for us. God has gifted these students in incredible ways!"

The middle picutre is of Hillary from our church during a "mingle game" (Hillary is on the far right...she is absolutely one of the sweetest and most talented girls you will ever meet). The bottom picture shows Jimmy Elsner ("James"...he's in the red shirt) in one of the sessions.

Please be praying for these teens.

Friday, June 12, 2009


It seems like there is a “Dummies” book for every topic these days. So why not one for our next message series here at Grace Church? As our country continues through its economic woes, it would do us good to go back to the Bible and see what God says about money and finances. And what better book of the Bible to look at for wisdom than the book of Proverbs? Beginning this Sunday we will take three weeks to look at what the book of Proverbs says about money and finances in a series we are calling “Dollars for Dummies”! Below are some of the nuggets from Proverbs that we will look at this week:

Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it

Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool

A good name is to be more desired than riches, favor is better than silver and gold

A faithful man will abound with blessings but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished

Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it

An excellent wife, who can find? He worth is far above jewels

Riches do not profit in the day of wrath but righteousness delivers from death

When you set your eyes on it (wealth), it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings, like an eagle that flies toward the heavens

For riches are not forever nor does a crown endure to all generations

He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf

Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich

He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty

It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jonathan to Operation Barnabas

We will be leaving Friday morning to take our son, Jonathan, out to the Powell Grace Brethren Church near Columbus, Ohio where he and four other teens from our church will join nearly 100 other teenagers from all over the country for Operation Barnabas Orientation. These teens will then spend the summer traveling the eastern coast of our country in daily ministry training and experiences. This is a wonderful program that has the real potential for life change in the lives of those teens that participate.

I am very excited for Jonathan to be part of Operation Barnabas this summer. Jonathan has a real heart for ministry and I believe that this will only fan that flame in his life and prepare him even further for the future ministry God has in store for him.

I am also excited because in just a little over a year, Jonathan will be heading off to college. Jonathan has always been one that has enjoyed staying close to home so a full summer away from mom and dad, and having to really care for himself, will go a long ways to help prepare him for the huge adjustment it will be to move to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia come August 2010.

So, Laura and I will leave early Friday morning for the 8.5 hour drive to Ohio. It’s 425 miles but no matter where we go as a family, we only end up averaging 50 miles an hour including stops. After getting him settled, will drive two more hours to near Dayton where we will have dinner and spend the night with a couple who were our very best friends during the first 9 years of our marriage and ministry when I was on staff at Community Church in West Milton, Ohio. There names are Joe and Dayna Garrett.

Joe and I would make a trip to Chicago nearly every year where we would catch an afternoon Cub’s game at Wrigley Field. From the time of the final pitch, within 30 minutes we could be in our seats across town at Comiskey Park for the White Sox night game. Some years we even took Laura and Dayna and let them shop in downtown Chicago while we enjoyed the ballpark. I am really looking forward to seeing Joe and Dayna and catching up on what God is doing in their lives.

We will then leave after breakfast on Saturday to drive back to Lititz. It’s 475 miles from Dayton to Lititz so that should be a 9.5 hour drive for the Distler family. We should be back home in plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep so I am ready to preach three times on Sunday as we start our Dollars for Dummies message series.

Let me take the time to say a very sincere “thank you” to all who responded to Jonathan’s support letter. Thank you also for praying for Jonathan and the other teens from our church who will be spending their summer on Operation Barnabas.

We will head back out to Columbus on July 29th to pick Jonathan up and hear all about his summer experience.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer 2009...PLANNING Highlights

One of our major goals this summer here at Grace Church is to spend this summer doing some serious planning in preparation for the Fall and beyond. Below are just some of the areas we will be looking at in our planning and strategy meetings over the summer:

Website: We will be completing work on new websites for the church as well as the school and daycare along with a new logo and branding for our entire ministry.

Saturday Service: Our five year vision plan calls for us to add a regular Saturday night worship service in 2010 that would be identical in content to our Sunday mornings. We will be discussing over the summer the logistics to possibly using the month of December 2009 and the first two Sundays of January 2010 as a 6-week pilot to try out a Saturday night service. We would them take a couple of months after that to evaluate with the intent of launching our permanent Saturday service beginning on Easter weekend 2010.

Café Logisitcs: This fall we will see our new café and office expansion built. We will use this summer to plan all of the logistics behind the logistics of our new Café.

Web Campus Development: When we started live streaming our 10am Sunday morning service, we never dreamed that it would so quickly grow to so many people watching our service live each Sunday. Over the summer we will be talking through how we can broaden this outreach through technology and connect with those who are watching on the web.

New School Year: We will be planning marketing, fund-raising and final staff hires for the upcoming school year at Lititz Christian School & MorningStar Daycare/Academics.

Connect Group Push: Seeing everyone in a Small Group is part of our 5-year vision plan. This Fall we will be making a major push to get everyone to experience one of our Connect Groups for eight weeks as our groups use the study in Ephesians 1-3 that we will do as part of our Sunday Morning services and take it deeper in their groups during the week. We will be using this summer to finalize plans for this Fall emphasis

Operation Barnabas Orientation: Operation Barnabas Orientation will be back at Grace Church in June 2010. This will bring about 100 ‘cream of the crop’ High School students from all over the country to us for two weeks. We will begin planning how we can best utilize having these teens with us to impact as many people as possible in our community.

Year of Prayer: We would like to make January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010 "The Year of Prayer" here at Grace Church in which we emphasize prayer all year long including special message series and together as a church doing one ‘prayer challenge’ each month.

Satellite Campus: Our five year vision plan calls for us to start our first Satellite Campus in 2011. We will use this summer to begin our initial planning to see this become a reality.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Summer 2009...MINISTRY Highlights

This summer will be a lighter summer here at Grace Church than is usual, but that does not mean that it won’t have its ministry opportunities to look forward to. Below are just some of the ministry highlights for Grace Church this summer:

June 12: Five of our teens will begin their summer on Operation Barnabas

June 14: We begin a new 3-week message series called Dollars for Dummies as we look at what the book of Proverbs says about money and finances

June 21: It’s Father’s day at Grace Church which will include the children from our Early Childhood Department singing and two outside baptismal services

June 22-26: This will be Vacation Bible School week at Grace Church

June 28: As part of the morning services we will be voting on the 2009/2010 fiscal year budget as well as the election and re-election of Elders

June 30: Nine of our teenagers will be heading off with Doug Kegarise, our Director of Student Ministries, and his wife, Renee, on a short tem missions trip to Ireland

July 5: We begin a new 6-week series through the book of Esther called Once Upon A Time…For Such A Time As This. Throughout the series, the church auditorium will be set up in the round and made to look like a Palace in Ancient Persia.

July 13: A large group of our teenagers and youth leaders will leave for Momentum Youth Conference at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA.

August 6-7: Many of our ministry staff and Elders will be attending the Leadership Summit, sponsored by Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Association held via satellite at LCBC

August 9: This evening will be a youth led outdoor communion service.

August 23: We begin a 2-week series on the only miracle of Jesus that is described in all four Gospels…the feeding of the 5,000 men with the little boy’s lunch.

August 31: First day of school for Lititz Christian School and MorningStar Academics
Also over the summer months we will be ready to bring our foyer renovation and cafe/office expansion details to the church for congregational approval so that we can break ground and see this addition completed as soon as possible.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Summer 2009...PERSONAL Highlights

School is now out and summer has begun. I am really looking forward to this summer for one main reason…I am not going to spend it traveling. In past years, half of my summer was spent away from home. Last summer I had to travel to Florida, Colorado, Ohio, California and Virginia. Due to being on the road so much, summer flew by before I ever got a chance to enjoy any of it. So this year I am taking no major trips, nor am I attending any conferences. Instead, I am going to enjoy summer right here around Lancaster County. Here are some of the personal and family highlights that I am looking forward to this summer:

June 12-13: Laura and I will be taking our son Jonathan to Columbus, Ohio to drop him off for a summer on Operation Barnabas, a summer ministry training experience for teenagers. We will be able to have dinner and spend the evening with a couple who were our very best friends when we lived in Ohio during the first 9 years of our marriage when I was on staff at Community Church in West Milton, Ohio.

July 2: Laura and I, along with out daughter, Joy, will be attending the musical, Les Miserables, at the Fulton Theater in Lancaster. It’s not Broadway, but this is a show Joy has always wanted to see.

July 15-22: Laura and Joy will be spending this week out in Colorado with Laura’s family giving me a week with just the dog and cat.

July 29-30: We will be heading back out to Columbus, Ohio to pick Jonathan up as Operation Barnabas comes to an end.

August 1: Laura and I will be going with friends to a musical at the Sunoco Theater in Harrisburg to see the comedy, Church Basement Ladies. Remember, William Christopher, the priest (Father Mulcahy)on the television sitcom, MASH? He stars in this show. I am a huge MASH fan so I am looking forward to enjoying this play.

August 5: Our whole family will be heading to Citizens Bank Park to watch the Phillies take on the Colorado Rockies. Since my wife is from Colorado, I’ll probably have to protect her from all the insane Philadelphia fans as she roots for the Rockies.
August 6-8: We will be spending a few days with friends at Ocean City, NJ.

August 14-16: Laura and I will be taking our daughter, Joy, back to Lynchburg, Virginia for the start of her Sophomore year as an education major and Spiritual Life Director for her floor at Liberty University. I always get excited whenever I have the opportunity to visit my Alma Matter.

September 11: Laura and I will be going with friends to the New Yankee Stadium in New York to see the Yankees play the Baltimore Orioles. Being that this game is on 9/11 in New York City, there ought to be some really meaningful pre-game ceremonies.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Listening to Women

This Sunday we wrap up our Chick Flicks of the Bible series here at Grace Church with the story of the wise woman of Abel from 2 Samuel 20. This is a great story that ends as the wise woman throws a decapitated man’s head over the city wall. As we will see, there are many principles and lessons we can learn from these stories that apply to our lives today. One of these principles that we saw last week in the story of Abigail, and that we will see this week as well, is the need for we as men to listen to the women around us.

Last Sunday’s story had soon to be King David leading a charge of 400 armed men to kill a foolish man named Nabal and all the males in his household. And it would have most definitely happened had not he listened to a godly woman named Abigail, Nabal's wife, who intercepted him on his path to vengeance with some wise and godly advice. I asked every man in our church last Sunday to underline a phrase spoken by David after his encounter with Abigail in 1 Samuel 25:35. He says to her these words,

“See, I have listened to you!”

Back in verse 17, Nabal, whose name means “fool” was described as “worthless” because he would listen to no one. So what separates a fool from a king? In this case, the king was willing to listen to a woman. The fool wasn’t. And by listening to Abigail, David was prevented from making a horrible mistake that would have had great consequences.

In the story we will see this week, there is a similar principle. Joab will be leading the army in attacking the city of Abel because a traitor by the name of Sheba is hiding inside. No one is talking. No one is listening. Joab is attacking. Sheba is hiding. And who knows what the elders of the city were doing. The city would have been leveled had it not been for a "wise" (v16) yet unnamed woman who speaks “wisely” (v22)

Three times she implores Joab to listen to her words. “Hear, hear,” she says in verse 16. “Listen,” she says in verse 17. And then come Joab’s words back. They are much like King David's to Abigail. In the end of verse 17. Joab says,

“I am listening.”

And by his listening to this wise woman whose name we do not even know, a city was spared and many lives were saved. We’ll hear the full story this Sunday in all three of our services. If you can't be here, then watch our 10am service live on the web (http://www.gracechurchworship.org/).

Now, let me pose a question to all of us men. If David was saved from making a horrible mistake because he listened to a woman that God put in his path, and if Joab was saved from continuing on with a bloody assault because he listened to a woman that God put in his path, don’t you think it is possible that you and I could be saved from making some mistakes in our lives as well if we will be willing to humble ourselves enough to listen to the wise and godly women God has put into our lives?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

More Pics of Eternal Mindset

I Love Rock N Roll

Growing up I was never really into the hard type rock and roll. I was always a soft rock, easy-listening type of guy. In fact, the other night I was up watching a ballgame and when the ballgame ended, though it was well past my bedtime, I couldn’t pull myself away from the television because right after the game was a 30 minute infomercial for the best easy-listening love songs of the 70’s. Though I did resist the urge to call and order, I watched the entire 30 minutes of different clips from songs that took me back to my childhood.

But nowadays, even though I am in my mid 40’s, I have developed an interest in a little more rock and roll style of music. In fact, not long ago my wife and I both bought tickets to a concert with nine rock and roll bands. Most of these bands were the loud type music that made even your very clothes vibrate as you listened, hoping the walls continued to stand as the vibrations shook the structure of the building.

Why my interest? Because one of these nine bands is called Eternal Mindset. It is a band my son is in. Yes, they can play the loud rock and roll, but they also do a fantastic job of playing worship music as well. My son, Jonathan, is the only vocal in the group. In fact, he has written some of their songs. They were one of the nine bands we went to hear the other night at “The Battle of the Bands.” They were definitely the youngest band there and were going up against some bands that played for a living. And out of the nine bands, Eternal Mindset came in at #4. Not bad!

Last month they were one of ten entries in the WJTL Talent Challenge at Long’s Park and won the contest. They are doing a great job and will sonn be making their first recording. They have been used to lead worship in our youth group here at Grace Church and have also led worship in Chapel at Lititz Christian School.

The truth is that I really only like Rock and Roll of this magnitude when it is my son who is singing, playing shouting and jumping. It’s been fun to watch Jonathan’s passion for music and for worship grow. His desire is to become a Worship Arts Director. After he graduates in June of 2010, he will be heading to Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA where he will be a worship major in their School of Worship Arts. I can’t way to see how God uses Jonathan in the future.

Eternal Mindset is actually going to be doing a concert here at Grace Church at 7pm on Friday, June 5th. Yes, some of the songs will be loud but some will also include more of a worship flavor to them. Either way, I’ll be there proud as a peacock, cheering on my son and the rest of the band. So, if you would like to support and encourage these high school guys who are part of Grace Church and you can handle some loud music, come on out to this free concert and cheer them on. And how about this? Matt McElravy, our very own Worship Arts Director here at Grace Church will be opening for Eternal Mindset. I appreciate Matt’s investment in encouraging Jonathan and the other guys to use their gifts and talents for the Lord.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

CAMP Snakes and SNOW Snakes

Recently I had the opportunity to officiate a wedding over on the shore in Delaware. As a result, my family went with me and we enjoyed a couple of cold, yet fun days at the beach. Ken and Kathy Keener were invited to the ceremony as well and we spent a good three hours one morning just sitting around the beach house we stayed at talking and laughing with this wonderful couple. If you are not familiar with the Keeners, Ken is one of the missionaries supported by our church as he serves full-time with Camp Conquest.

One of the funniest parts of the morning is when Ken, who admits he is deathly afraid of snakes, told us a story of a time at camp when he thought he was having an encounter with a reptile. The story actually takes place in a port-a-potty at camp. If you have never heard the story, you have to get Ken to tell it to you. But be sure he does the “dance” and everything when he tells you the details.

It made me think of one of the funniest stories I ever heard dealing with a snake. Perry Noble tells the story. He pastors an amazing church in Anderson, South Carolina that God is using to impact literally thousands of people. The story is about when he was a kid and there was one of those very rare times in South Carolina where it snowed and school got cancelled.

Perry wanted to go outside and play but his dad really didn’t want to mess with it so he told Perry he could go outside but he had to watch out for the “snow snakes”.

Perry asked, “Are there really snow snakes?”

Yep,” said his dad.

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

No,” said his dad, “They crawl up your butt and freeze you to death!”

As you can imagine, that was enough for Perry to stay inside. The next day he was at his Christian School and the teacher asked how many of the children had gone outside to play in the snow. Everyone raised their hand except for Perry. The teacher noticed and asked Perry why he didn’t go outside and play in the snow like everyone else had.

Because of the snow snakes,” Perry said.

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

Yep,” said Perry.

Then the teacher asked the million dollar question, “Do they bite?” Perry answered just as his father had answered. As a result, Perry got two additional days off of school.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

When You're Facing a WALL - Part Two

Yesterday I began to talk about the walls of Jericho that Joshua and the Israelites faced as they sought to conquer the Promised Land. These walls seemed impregnable. Though we don’t face walls of stone today in our lives, we do face other walls that seem just as defeating. Financial walls. Emotional walls. Marital walls. Relational walls. Physical walls. Even spiritual walls. So what do we do when we are facing walls in our lives? In yesterday’s blog I highlighted two principles. First, we must remember the promised of God. And second, we must recognize our dependence on God. Today I will cover the final two principles I see from the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho in Joshua 6.

Third, we need to remain steadfast in our obedience to God. Not only did God’s command to Israel to march around the city in silence seemed absurd, it had to get old quick. They were to do it once a day for 6 days and then 7 times on the 7th day. Jericho only covered about 8-10 acres of land. It would take no more than 30 minutes to walk around the city once. For 6 days, this was there routine:

Get up!
March around the city!
Go back to camp!
Wait until the next morning!

That had to get old real quick. The temptation had to be there to say, “I’ve had enough! I’m not marching around that stupid city anymore!” That’s what I find happens a lot. Christians are moving along in their lives and then they hit a wall. They asked God to remove the wall and He doesn’t. So they get mad at God and they quit obeying him. They quit reading their Bible. They quit praying. Folks, listen, the worst thing you can do when you hit a wall in your life is to stop obeying God. Look at the pattern. Often, God waits for us to show steadfast obedience and perseverance before He deals with the walls in our lives. Remember the promises of God! Recognize your dependence on Him! Remain steadfast in your obedience to Him.

And finally, raise your voice of worship to God. After the 7th time around the city on the 7th day, Israel was commanded to shout and the walls came tumbling down. This was a shout of victory. This was a shout of praise. What do you do when you face a wall in your life? No matter how tall the wall seems, you lift your voice in worship to a God who loves you and who always keeps His promises. That’s what Paul and Silas did in the book of Acts. After being arrested, tried, and flogged, they were put into stocks and thrown into prison. Stocks back then was a 6-8 ft log in which one ankle was tied to one end of the log. The legs were then spread further than they are supposed to go and the other ankle was tied to the other end of the log. And in that position at midnight they were singing songs of praise to God. I guarantee they were singing soprano but they were worshiping none the less. Are you facing a wall in your life? Stop whatever you are doing right now, look directly at that wall, and lift your voice in worship to God!

Monday, June 01, 2009

When You're Facing a WALL - Part One

In Joshua 6, Israel comes up to the fortified city of Jericho. Two walls surrounded Jericho and each stood roughly 30 ft high. An inner wall was 12 ft thick and an outer wall was 6 ft thick. These walls were built on a slope and had a ledge built across the top of them so that soldiers could easily defend the city from attacking forces trying to climb the slopes below. For most all of the people of Israel, this was the first time they had seen a fortified city and the walls must have looked to them like they reached to the heavens. They knew God had promised them victory in the Promised Land, but how could they possibly defeat a city with this kind of defensive structure surrounding it?

Perhaps you are facing a similar wall in your life. You are up against an adversity you have never had to deal with before and it seems to be more than you can handle. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe your marriage is crumbling. Maybe your kids are rebelling. Maybe you received a bad report from a doctor. Maybe you have had to recently stand next to a freshly dug grave.

What do we do when we face a wall of adversity in our lives? As I was preparing to preach on this passage a few Sundays back, I was sitting in my office right before the services reading the passage one final time. As I did these 4 points came to my mind.

First, remember the promises of God. In Joshua 6, the first thing God does is to remind Joshua that He has promised to give Israel victory over the city of Jericho. In fact, He states this future act as a present fact. Why? Because when God makes a promise, it is as good as done. It is in the bank. If you are facing a wall right now, fall back on the promises of God. If you have trusted Christ, the wall you face cannot change who you are in Christ. The wall you face cannot change the fact that you are forgiven. The wall you face cannot change the fact that you have been given the free gift of eternal life. Get into the Word and cling to the promises of God.

Second, recognize your dependence on God. God told Israel to march around the city of Jericho one time each day for 6 days. They were to then march around the city 7 times on the 7th day. And each time around they were to be quiet. In the middle of the march they were to carry the Ark of the Covenant which reminded Israel of the presence of God. With the Ark was to be 7 priests blowing 7 trumpets. According to Numbers 10:9, these trumpets were to be blown as Israel went into battle as a way to say, “God, remember us.” This was not a military march. This was a spiritual march. This march wasn’t as much for those inside the wall as it was for those outside the wall to remind them that they needed God to fight for them. Apart from His power, they would never be able to conquer this fortified city of Jericho. So what do you do when you are up against a wall? Along with remembering the promises of God, you must recognize your dependence on Him. That is why Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths."