Friday, December 31, 2010

Come Quickly, Lord Jesus


New Year's Eve- I have to be honest and tell you that I really never have gotten much into the celebration. A new year is cool and everything but it never has really compelled me to want to go out and shoot off fireworks and watch a ball drop outside in the freezing cold. When I think of New Year's Eve I can't help but remember the way I used to spend it as a child.

Every December 31st we would have a "Watch Night Service" at the little church we attended on the east side of Akron, Ohio. We would sing together and then watch one of those "Left Behind" or "A Distant Thunder" type movies depicting the end times and the return of Christ. We then would all go down to the church fellowship hall in the basement for snacks and then gather back up in the sanctuary just before midnight.

While you could hear all of the hoopla that was taking place outside, we would all form a circle around the pews and join hands. Then the men in the church would each take a turn praying in the New Year. I always waited to hear my dad pray because his prayer would send tingles up and down my spine as he always ended his New Year's Eve prayer this way:

"Father, please let this be the year that Jesus returns and takes us all home!"

I'm not exactly sure what I will be doing come midnight this year on New Year's Eve and the ball drops ushering in 2011. But I am pretty sure of this - just like my dad, I will be whispering a prayer in my heart and the prayer will be this:

"Father, please let this be the year that Jesus returns and takes us all home!"

After all, that was the very last prayer recorded in Scripture. It came from the pen of the Apostle John in the final chapter of the book of Revelation. He prayed it this way:

"Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"

Happy New Year, Everyone!



Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Thursday, December 30, 2010

THE BEST IS YET TO COME


Do any of the words below describe this past year of 2010 for you?


Horrible

Sad

Surprising

Disastrous

Woeful

Hurtful


Maybe this was a tough year for you.


Maybe you lost your job.

Maybe you lost a loved one.

Maybe you lost your marriage.

Maybe you lost your retirement.


No matter what your year was like in 2010, can I remind you one simple fact? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ I can assure you of this...


THE BEST IS YET TO COME!


Remember this verse?


"But the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. And we which are alive and remain will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord!"


THE BEST IS YET TO COME!


Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

God Made Into Flesh! That's It!


I mentioned in my blog yesterday that on Christmas Eve one of the things my family did this year was to watch the movie, "The Nativity Story." I had seen it before and really liked it but watching it again on Christmas Eve really helped me to keep the miracle of Christmas in the forefront of my mind. There were several things that really made an impression on me:

The movie did a great job of showing just how "typical" Mary and Joseph would have been. Sometimes we tend to see this couple as "spiritual superheroes" of sorts. And though they were chosen by God for a reason, it is safe to say that they were also ordinary folks.

The movie did a great job of showing how difficult it would have been for Mary and Joseph to live in Nazareth with Mary being pregnant before the time of their consummation. I think we sometimes forget the scorn and ridicule they would have endured as everyone in this small town would have concluded that they had acted immorally when in fact they were innocent.

The movie did a great job of showing the excitement yet fear that Mary and Joseph must have felt knowing that they would be the parents of the Son of God. I love the part of the movie where Mary and Joseph are sitting by the fire on their way to Bethlehem and Mary asks Joseph if he is scared. Joseph admits that he is and adds this statement, "I wonder if I will be able to teach him anything." After all, what can you teach God? How amazing to put myself for a few moments in Joseph's sandals.

The movie also did a great job of showing the very difficult circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus - circumstances that Mary and Joseph had to endure. Imagine being great with child and having to travel over 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem on foot, or at best, on a donkey. Imagine the fear of being in labor when you reach Bethlehem and not being able to find anywhere to stay. Imagine giving birth in a cave surrounded by dirty, smelly animals. WOW!

But my favorite part of the movie occurs as the Wise Men show up at the manger. Now first I had to get past the Biblical inaccuracies. I don't believe the Wise Men came to the manger but rather arrived a few months later when Mary, Joseph and Jesus were living in a house. And second, I do not believe the star shown over the manger. The star shown over the house that Mary, Joseph and Jesus later lived in. The sign for the shepherds to find the baby Jesus on the night of His birth wasn't a star, as the movie depicts. Remember what the angel told them? "This shall be a sign for you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." The shepherds did not follow the star to the manger. They ran through the city of Bethlehem going from manger to manger until they found the one containing a newborn baby.

But nevertheless, when the Wise Men get to the manger in the movie and see this amazing sight of a newborn King, the camera focuses in on the face of one of the Wise Men who makes this declaration about the baby, "It is God wrapped in flesh!" I remember when I saw this movie in the theater and it came to this part. It was all I could do not to stand up and yell, "That's it! Did you hear that? That is the miracle of Christmas!"

I think we will add this movie to our yearly Christmas traditions from here on out. What a wonderful and visual way to be reminded each year that the real miracle of Christmas isn't simply that baby Jesus was born. The real miracle of Christmas was that this Jesus, born in a cave and placed in a manger, was "God made into flesh!" That's it!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Best Christmas Eve Service Ever


One of my favorite days of the year as a pastor has always been Christmas Eve. I love the anticipation throughout the day and then the wonder of spending Christmas Eve at church leading in worshipping the New Born King - usually with multiple services.

But this year was different. Typically the majority of my Christmas Eve is given to the church. But this year we were able to do something we have never done before - spend all of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone as a family. As much as I very much missed the corporate worship at church on Christmas Eve, this will definitely go down as one of the most memorable Christmas Eve's I have ever experienced.

Laura's parents flew in from Colorado to spend the holiday with us and they, along with Laura, Joy, Jonathan and myself, packed up our Christmas tree and our gifts and drove about 3 hours to the other side of Pennsylvania to spend Christmas at a beautiful cottage up in the mountains that friends of ours own and graciously allowed us to use. It is just an awesome location, especially to spend Christmas.

After unpacking and decorating the tree and stringing some lights around the living room area, we spent the afternoon decorating cookies. Jonathan is the master "cookie decorator." He made snowmen cookies that looked like a mermaid, the Grinch, a forest and even a fireplace. They decorated - I ate. We then had an early dinner of Clam Chowder soup and Stromboli (with extra pineapple compliments of Joy).

Following dinner we watched the movie, "The Nativity Story." This really helped all of us to wrap our minds around the miracle of Christmas. After that, Jonathan pulled out his guitar and we lit our own candles and sang all kinds of Christmas songs. It was such a blessing and an amazing time of worship. I think all of us got emotional at some point as we sang together as a family. After spending time singing of the Savior's birth we ultimately moved into some secular songs as well, right down to "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer."

We then had some snacks and played the game "Catch Phrase" for several hours as we laughed our heads off together. Then it was time for the highlight of Christmas Eve at the Distler house as we opened up the stockings that had been sent to us by my parents. Now when we open stockings it takes quite a while as each person pulls one item out at a time and shows everyone else. the only thing that could have made it better was some snow. We actually got that the next morning as a beautiful and light snow fell as we opened our stockings and Santa gifts.

Christmas Eve was a great night. It really didn't hit me until two days later as to what made it so special. It was the first time since my kids were born that I spent Christmas Eve focused only on my family. Now don't get me wrong, I am very much looking forward to next Christmas Eve and being able to again be leading a church in celebrating the birth of Jesus. But this Christmas Eve, having time just as a family made it "The Best Christmas Eve Service Ever."

Friday, December 24, 2010

NO ROOM...GO AWAY


This will be the first Christmas Eve in many years that I do not get to tell my most favorite Christmas story in church. I received an email from someone this week saying, "I always cringed each Christmas Eve when you would start telling the 'No Room" story - but this year I am going to miss hearing you tell it." So, here it is, just in a much shoter format:

NO ROOM...GO AWAY

It was Mrs Johnson's Second Grade Class' turn to put on the annual Christmas Pageant for the entire town and Mrs Johnson was determined that it would go off without a hitch. However, there was one problem. His name was Wally. Wally was a little backward and had been held back several years making him the largest and tallest boy in his class. Wally was determined to be a shepherd in the Christmas pageant.

Mrs Johnson knew that she could now allow Wally to have such an important role since he was very clumsy and likely to make a scene. After careful delibearation she came up with what she thought was a wonderful plan. She convinced Wally to be the innkeeper. She gave him his line, "No Room...Go Away!" Wally was excited at his role and spent the next couple of weeks practicing. Everywhere Wally went you could hear him repeating those words, "No Room...Go Away!"

Finally the big night came. As usual, the entire community shut down and filled the school auditorium. Wally was standing backstage mesmerized at the excitement and Mrs Johnson was feeling very proud. The show went off without any problems. It finally came to Wally's big scene. Joseph and Mary slowly walked up to the inn and knocked. Wally answered, and just like he had been instructed by Mrs Johnson, he gruffly responded "No Room...Go Away."

Suddenly, Mrs Johnson paniced. Wally was supposed to have closed the door of the inn and be done. But as Mary and Joseph walked away, Wally stood at the entrance of the inn watching them walk slowly away. Suddenly, before Mrs Johnson could react, Wally did something that was not in the script.

What happened next will long be remembered by those attending that night. With tears straming down his cheeks, Wally cried out, "Joseph, WAIT!" The couple stopped not knowing what to do. They had not practiced this. Then Wally conintued, "Joseph, bring Mary back...You can have my room!"

Some people thought Wally ruined the Christmas pageant that year. But if you think about it, Wally may have just understood Christmas better than most. You see, if you really understand the meaning of Christmas, you will give Jesus the best room of your life - the room of your heart!
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Snowy Manger



When our family was up in Michigan last weekend we were in an area that is a literal winter wonderland - I am talking lots of snow (I hear 200+ inches a year some winters). We knew that snow was a major part of this area of the country when we were walking by the nativity scene setting outside the county building and you could barely see the baby Jesus in the manger - not because he was wrapped in swaddling clothes - but because he was covered with SNOW! We had to take a picture which is seen above.

At first I laughed at the site of the baby Jesus peeking through the snowy manger. But the more I thought about it the more I began to realize how fitting it really was. The symbolism was perfect! How so? Well, why did Jesus come to this earth and take on flesh? He did so to save sinners by dying on the cross for their sins! And remember what the Old Testament Prophet said about the forgiveness of sins?

"Though your sins be red as crimson they shall be as white as snow!"

Now this winter Michigan nativity scene became a theological proclamation - CHRISTMAS IS JESUS BEING BORN SO OUR SINS CAN BE FORGIVEN WHITE AS SNOW! If you have never experienced this forgiveness that comes through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, please send me an email (skdistler@gmail.com). I'd love to share more with you about how the story of Christmas can impact your life literally for all of eternity!

Have a MERRY and SNOWY Christmas!


Be sure to also read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa Clause Is Feeling Kind Of Down


When I was in college, Scott Wesley Brown came to Liberty one December and did a concert. I wasn't a big fan of Scott Wesley Brown but I went to the concert and his version of "Santa Clause is Coming To Town" has stuck in my head ever since. So, sing along - you know the tune. The beginning is normal but it changes halfway through:

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better no pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Clause is coming to town

He's making a list
He's checking it twice
He's gonna find out
Who's naughty and nice
Santa Clause is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're a wake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake

There's a rumor this year
He's not coming back
The elves went on strike
And the Grinch stole his sack
Santa Clause is feeling kind of down

Dancer and Prancer
They both split the scene
They got all fed up
With that housetop routine
Santa Clause is feeling kind of down

But there's a story to tell
Better than tinsel and tree
It's Christmas' true meaning
And it's for you and me
Someone greater is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He died upon a rugged cross
And all your sins did Jesus take

So, you better repent
You better believe
Turn from you sin
And Jesus receive
Jesus Christ is coming to town

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me directly at skdistler@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Memories



Over the past weekend our family was able to take a little road trip up into Michigan. While we were driving back down I-75 we passed the exit for Fenton. This is the where my Grandpa and Grandma Distler lived during my teenage years where my Grandpa pastored the Fenton Bible Church. Before that he had pastored churches in New York, Ohio and Illinois. He retired from the pastoral ministry at Fenton and went on to serve as a Superintendent at a Rescue Mission in Salinas, California before he went home to be with the Lord.

After seeing the Fenton exit sign I pulled off and put Fenton Bible Church into the GPS and 1.7 miles later we were sitting in front of this little church and the parsonage next door where Grandpa and Grandma had lived. We took some pictures that are posted above.

The last Christmas that I spent with Grandpa and Grandma Distler was here at this parsonage. Christmas at Grandpa and Grandma's was a bit unusual because Grandpa always insisted that we did everything, including opening all of the presents, on Christmas Eve. That made Christmas Day a pretty long day.

But being back at this little church and the parsonage next door brought back other memories. One of the first sermons I ever preached was from the pulpit of this church. After Grandpa died and I was going through all of his books and related boxes, I found the cassette tape of that message that Grandpa had kept all those years.

I guess that is one of the presents of Christmas that brings the most value - the present of Christmas memories. May prayer is that this Christmas will be one of those special holidays that my kids will remember long after I am celebrating Christmas in heaven with Jesus and Grandpa and Grandma Distler.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Let Us Go To Bethlehem


Each Christmas my mind races back to 2006 when I had my first experience travelling in Israel. One of the places that I so enjoyed seeing was when we visited the Shepherd's Fields right outside of Bethlehem.

There are many caves in these hills and it was at one of these caves on that eventful night the very first Christmas that Shepherds led their sheep down into the cave, counting each one of them and most likely calling each one by name. Then they would have most likely built a fire just outside the entrance to that cave and then spent the evening making sure that no sheep came out and no predator entered.

It was while they "watched their flocks by night" that they would have been greeted by the angelic messengers and seen the glory of the Lord which shone round about them. It was here that human ears would have heard the first birth announcement that God had become man.

We went down into that cave and caught a glimpse of what the cave in bethlehem may have looked like in which Mary and Joseph took shelter and in which Mary would have given birth to Jesus, wrapping Him in swaddling clothes and laying Him in a manger. In that cave we sang a Christmas Carol together. The words to this song have far deeper meaning to me on Christmas now ever since I visited Bethlehem that day:

O come all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let is adore Him
Christ the Lord

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Friday, December 17, 2010

"DR." Young


This past week my wife and I were able to spend time with one of the sweetest and most precious women you will ever meet. Her name is Loreen Young. Her husband, Dr Jerry Young, was the pastor before me at the church I pastored in Lititz, PA. Dr Young led and built that ministry for 33 years before retiring and moving to Arizona with his dear wife. Dr Young went home to be with the Lord this past week. His memorial service is this weekend. Since Laura and I will not be able to be at the service, we went over to their son's home and spent time with Loreen, Justin, Katie and their kids. What a special evening it was for us.

I shared with Loreen how nervous I was the first time we met her and Dr Young. I knew of Dr Young prior to that. To me he was an "icon" of sorts in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. That first get together we had with them was at a Ruby Tuesdays. I can remember very few times that I laughed as much as we did that night. We were there for hours. In fact, we about closed the place down. From that moment on the four of us became friends. Every time they would come to town we would always get together with them and the laughter always continued.

I remember one time meeting them at Olive Garden after a particularly challenging day in at the church. They were already seated when we arrived. I walked up to the table and threw the key to my office down in front of Dr Young and jokingly said, "Here, you can have it back!" Boy, did he laugh. I remember one time asking him, "Dr Young, what's the best part of retirement?" I loved his answer. He said, "The best part of retirement is getting up every morning, pouring a cup of coffee, going out on the back deck and thinking, 'Poor Scott!'"

Dr Young and Loreen were always such an encouragement to my wife and I. They would often watch our live webcast on the Internet and many Monday mornings I would get an email in my inbox from he or Loreen (sometimes both of them) thanking me for the blessing the service and message had been to them. What a great couple! What a great man!

As you can see from this post, I always called him, "Dr Young." One time after a few years of our get-togethers, Loreen brought me up to her husband and said, "Scott, I'd like you to meet Jerry." But I simply could not bring myself to call him "Jerry." I had way too much respect for him. I always have and always will refer to him as "Dr Young." Maybe - just maybe - when I see him in heaven for the first time, I might be able then to call him "Jerry."


Be sure to read my other blog entitled, "Hope For Hurting Pastors," at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And The Christmas Story Winner Is...


In my post yesterday I asked who you thought the most important character (besides Jesus) was in the Biblical story of the first Christmas.

Mary? NO!

Joseph? NO!

The Shepherds? NO!

The Wise Men? NO!

The Inn-Keeper? NO!

The Angels? NO!

Then who is the most important character (besides Jesus) in the story of Christmas as seen in the Bible? Are you ready for my answer? Here it is! The most important character in the Christmas story (besides Jesus), in my opinion, is:

YOU!

That's right - YOU! YOU are the reason Jesus came from heaven to earth. He came to save YOU! Why? Because YOU are a sinner and YOUR sin separates YOU from God! YOU didn't become a sinner the first time YOU sinned. YOU were born that way! I can prove it! Did YOUR parents ever have to teach YOU how to misbehave? No! It came naturally for YOU! Why? because YOU were born a sinner and because of YOUR sin YOU can not have a relationship with God. And without a relationship with God YOU cannot go to heaven.

And what's worse is that there is nothing YOU can do about it! YOU can't earn your way to heaven by being good because YOU will still be a sinner! Getting baptized or going through some other religious hoop won't do the trick either - YOU will still be a sinner. YOU see, that is why Jesus came! He came to do what YOU could not do for YOURSELF and what no other human could do for YOU! He came to die for YOUR sin! And 33 years after He was born in Bethlehem, when Jesus died on the cross, God took YOUR sin and placed them on Jesus! Then God poured out His wrath on Jesus because Jesus carried YOUR sin. Everything that needed to happen to satisfy the wrath of God against YOUR sin happened when Jesus died on the cross in YOUR place.

That's why Jesus came to this earth! He came to die for YOU! That makes YOU, in my opinion, one of the most important characters in the Christmas story!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled, "Hope For Hurting Pastors," at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who is The Most Important Christmas Character?


Who do you see as the most important Christmas character from the Biblical account of the Christmas story? Now before your yell out, "JESUS," let's have you pick again. I mean, "Jesus" is a given as to the most important person in the Christmas story. So besides Jesus, who would you say is the most important person in the Christmas story?

Mary? After all, she did give birth to the Christ child!

Joseph? He doesn't get a whole lot of credit but I am amazed at how he showed such amazing love toward Mary and obedience toward God in a very difficult situation physically, spiritually and culturally!

The Shepherds? After all, what man reading this (and some ladies) have not at some time in their life played the role of a shepherd in a Christmas pageant or program?

The Little Drummer Boy? Sorry, wrong answer! He was not part of the Biblical story!

The Wise Men? These travellers from the east played a great part but let us always keep in mind that these guys did not come to the manger - they came to the house Mary, Joseph and young Jesus lived in at least several months later. So the next time you see a nativity scene with the wise men at the manger you have my permission to take them and move those "three kings" across the room or across the yard - just get them away from the manger!

The Inn Keeper? He's kind of vilified in most people's minds but he did offer the cave his animals were sleeping in so at least the Holy Family had some shelter!

The Angels? They weren't human - but they sure played a key role in the story of the first Christmas, didn't they?

So which one of our prestigious list above would win "The Most Important Biblical Character Of The Christmas Story" award? Here is my answer:

(drum roll please)

NONE OF THEM! Wait! If it isn't Mary or Joseph or the Shepherds or the Wise Men, or the Inn Keeper or even the angels - then who is it? Find out by reading my blog tomorrow!!!


Be sure to also read my other blog entitled, "Hope For Hurting Pastors," at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Proud CVCA Alumnus


If you know me or have read my blog for long, you know that I am a proud alumnus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia where I did both my undergraduate and graduate work. But I am also a very proud alumnus of my High School as well - Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (CVCA) in Stow, Ohio.

I was just looking through my CVCA alumni magazine that arrived and was more than impressed when I read how the students this year decided to make their Homecoming about others rather than themselves. They rented a much cheaper venue. The girls borrowed dresses rather than buying new ones. They even had a volunteer spa day the morning of the event at the school for the girls to get their hair and nails done. Then they took the money they saved on the venue along with the money they would have spent on new dresses and at the salon, and they gave all of that money to a young couple to pay for their expenses to adopt a baby from South Korea! How cool is that?

I attended CVCA my sophomore, junior and senior years. God used that time to confirm in my life my calling to be a pastor. I had felt God's calling to ministry since I was in Junior High School. During my Junior year of High School my pastor asked me to preach at our Easter Sunrise Service. I did and saw people make commitments for Christ that morning. I was sure at that point that this was my calling. I shared that with my Band Director at CVCA, a very special teacher named Don Bechtel. Mr B looked at me and said, "Scott, if there is anything else you would rather do than be a pastor, do it instead." I could honestly say that there was nothing else I wanted to do. And that is still the case today. The passion to lead a local church in reaching people for Christ still burns and grows within me.

So way to go CVCA! I am a proud alumnus (class of 1983)!


Be sure to read my other blog entitled, "Hope For Hurting Pastors," at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Monday, December 13, 2010

ALL FIXED

Thanks to my wonderful wife's willingness to spend most of her day going to Best Buy and D&E Communications, along with her spending hours on the phone in conversations and in waiting with computer techs, we are now back up and running after getting and installing a new modem! A new post is scheduled for 12:01 AM! Thanks for your patience, everyone!

COMPUTER WOES

The interent access on our home computer went down over the weekend. Hopefully, the problem will be resolved soon. As a result, there is no new post today. However, new posts were already scheduled for each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at my other blog, "Hope For Hurting Pastors," which can be accessed at:

Friday, December 10, 2010

THE CAVE: When MINISTRY Becomes MISERY


In the Old Testament story of the Prophet Elijah, we find reference to "a cave." Not long after Elijah had won the great victory on top of Mt Carmel against the prophets of Baal as God sent fire down from heaven, we find our prophet hero sitting all curled up in a cave saying to God, "Just kill me!" (see 1 Kings 19:9)

What a change of events! What in the world sent Elijah running into this cave? The truth is that most pastors and ministry leaders have experienced a similar cave in their lives as well. You see, ministry is not all fun and fancy. It also at times involves a lot of hurt and a lot of pain. THE CAVE is that place in each pastor's life when MINISTRY becomes MISERY.

Beginning Monday, December 13th, and running through Januray 3rd, at my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors," I will be making 10 posts (each Monday, Wednesday and Friday) on the topic of THE CAVE as seen in the life of Elijah. In these posts we will see:

Three principles about entering THE CAVE! Here we will learn that the cave can become reality to even the most successful of pastors and ministry leaders. We will learn that entering the cave often happens after a great spiritual victory. We will also see that entering the cave is often the result of one person who opposes you.

Four Characteristics about living in THE CAVE! Here we will learn that life inside the cave is full of fear, isolation, self-pity and hopelessness.

Four Steps to come out of THE CAVE! Here we well see that to come out of the cave one needs to rest their physical body; renew their spiritual passion; return to their place of service; and be refreshed by the companionship of a friend.

Unfortunately, most pastors who enter THE CAVE ultimately drop out of ministry all together and many often quit living for the Lord as well. I hope that you will take the time starting December 13th to learn about THE CAVE at "Hope For Hurting Pastors." Be sure to pass this on to anyone you know who is in full-time ministry because if they have never experienced THE CAVE as of yet, chances are they will before it's all said and done. You can read "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at the following link:

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Hills Really Are Alive


I have grown to really enjoy the theater. I have had the privilege of seeing a couple of shows on Broadway in New York ("Curtains" and "Wicked")as well as seeing "The Phantom of the Opera" up in Toronto. But for a small city theater experience, nothing beats The Fulton here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We've seen several shows there over the last 6 years and loved most everyone of them.

Last night Laura and I went to see "The Sound of Music" at The Fulton. I got her tickets back this fall for her birthday. What a great show it was. The music - the acting - the props and sets - it was simply outstanding and a great 3 hour experience. Now all those songs are stuck in my head and I will be singing them in the shower and in the car for the next several weeks. In fact, I'm pretty sure I went to bed last night with "Climb Every Mountain" racing through my mind and woke up humming "Do, Re, Mi!"

There are few things better than bundling up on a very cold December evening and heading down into the city for a night at the theater and "The Sound of Music" did not disappoint us at all. And what made it even better is that I got to spend the evening enjoying the show with my wife. I am so glad that we can have these kinds of shared experiences together in areas we both enjoy. Every married couple needs these times. All in all, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a cold, December evening in Lancaster County.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Frosted Flakes Christmas


What was you favorite cereal as a kid? Today mine is Raisin Bran (I have a bowl every night before bed - sounds like the ritual of an old person, doesn't it?). But as a kid my favorite cereal was Frosted Flakes. After all, in the words of Tony the Tiger - "They're G--R--E--A--T!" I have to confess that when my mom wasn't looking I would put extra sugar on my Frosted Flakes! Please don't tell her that!

I remember one of the advertising campaigns Kellogg's did for Frosted Flakes. They were trying to appeal to adults, not just kids, so they would have adults on their commercial with their faces blacked out and their voices scrambled talking about their secret love for Frosted Flakes. The whole idea was that Frosted Flakes wasn't just for kids. And their slogan was, "Taste them again - for the first time!"

With that in mind, I would like to wish you a Frosted Flakes Christmas. Here is what I mean. If you are like me, you have heard the story of the birth of Christ a million or so times in your life. That's great - but the temptation due to its familiarity is to hear it and not really allow it's amazing truth to really sink in to your heart. So this year, I would like you to read the words below like you were reading them again for the first time. Ready?

"Fear not! For I bring you good tidings of great joy that shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord!"

That's G--R--E--A--T!!!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Different Kind of Christmas


My heart goes out today to those who will be celebrating a "different kind of Christmas" this year. Most of us have traditions around our Holiday celebrations which give us a normalcy to Christmas that we look forward to and enjoy. But perhaps throughout 2010 the circumstances of your life have been altered and you are going into Christmas this year with that plaguing thought that it just won't be the same. For you it is going to be a "different kind of Christmas," and as a result, you are really having trouble getting excited about it. So why might people be heading into a "different kind of a Christmas" this year?

Maybe you have recently lost a loved one and this will be your first Christmas without their presence, their smile, their laugh and their embrace.

Maybe you have a loved one who is terminally ill and suffering and you realize that this will be your last Christmas spent with them - even in their pain.

Maybe your marriage broke up since last December 25th and this will be your first Christmas without a spouse and perhaps even sharing the kids.

Maybe it was your parents who split up this past year and this will be your first Christmas without mom and dad both being around the Christmas tree with you.

Maybe you lost your job over the past year like so many in our country have and this will be one of the leanest Holidays you have ever experienced as you struggle to make ends meet and wonder what the future holds for you and your family.

Maybe you've moved since last Christmas or have had a loved one stationed abroad and you will be spending Christmas this year without being with your family - maybe even spending it alone.

Maybe you have been diagnosed with a serious illness this past year yourself and you are entering this Christmas scared and anxious.

For any of the above reasons or a host of others, perhaps you are reading this blog posting realizing that this year it is going to be a "different kind of Christmas." If that is you, my heart really does go out to you today as do my prayers. So may I offer just one thought of encouragement to you? All of the above scenarios our circumstances that have changed in our life, right? Your circumstances since last Christmas have changed - and it seems for the worst. But Christmas isn't about circumstances - it is about Christ! Remember what the angel told Joseph when he revealed to him that the baby Mary was carrying was from God? He said, "You will name Him Jesus!"

Yes, it will be a "different kind of Christmas" for many of you this year as well as for me. But as hard as the circumstances you face are to deal with, maybe - just maybe - it can produce a Christmas that you will one day look back on with some of your fondest of memories. Why? Because maybe - just maybe - this will be the Christmas where you focus more on Christ who is the one aspect of your life that hasn't changed! He is the same yesterday, today and forever. May God bless you this Christmas, in spite of your difficult circumstances, with a peace that passes all understanding and may He guard your heart (how you feel) and your mind (how you think) in Christ Jesus.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Virginia Christmas Spectacular and More



Laura and I took a quick trip with some friends of ours south to Lynchburg, VA to see the Virginia Christmas Spectacular at Thomas Road Baptist Church which is connected to Liberty University where both my kids attend college. It was just A 36 hour road trip but we had a blast. Here were the highlights:

THE VIRGINIA CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR - What a great show it was with two huge living Christmas trees filled with singers (one of whom was my son) and a whole cast of characters along with some dazzling costumes, props and lighting effects. What a great way to be reminded to spend time this season worshipping Christ. You know a show is great when during the climax you want to run up on the stage and fall down along with the shepherds in worship of the newborn King!

SNOW - While we were in watching the Christmas Spectacular it started snowing outside. And it was a beautiful snow. I love snow - especially the first real snowfall of the year. But how is it that currently living in Pennsylvania, my first snowfall experience of the year takes place 300 miles south of that in Virginia?

DOC'S DINER - My favorite restaurant in Lynchburg is actually Doc's Diner right on campus. We had dinner there and I have to admit - the service was painfully slow - I mean P-A-I-N-F-U-L-L-Y-S-L-O-W! But it was all worth it to get some of their banana pudding! I love that stuff.

LIBERTY BASKETBALL - Some of my fondest memories from my 4 years at Liberty from 1983-1987 was going to the basketball games. We got to relive that Saturday night watching Liberty play Winthrop who won the Big South Championship last year and went to the NCAA Tournament. The Liberty team is young and wasn't given much of a chance against the Eagles of Winthrop. But in a great and exciting game, Liberty upset Winthrop being led by Evan Gordon who had 26 points (Gordon's brother plays in the NBA with the LA Clippers).

CAMPUS CHURCH - Sunday morning we attended Campus Church which is geared for the college students. The worship was nothing short of excellent. One of the Campus Pastors, Johnny Moore, preached a message on Jacob - it was outstanding. He went through the really messed up life of Jacob and showed how at the end of his life he realized that through all of his mistakes and misfortunes, God had been shepherding him. This passage in Genesis is the very first time in Scripture that God is referred to as a shepherd. He then showed what meaning that is for us today that the Lord really is "our Shepherd." It was just what I needed to hear.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Two Headed Monster


"For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

These were the words of God Himself on the day He created marriage and officiated the first ever wedding - the ceremony of Adam and Eve in the beautiful Garden of Eden with angels and animals observing. These words gave the Divine purpose of marriage. Jesus quoted these exact words when He spoke about marriage as did the Apostle Paul. Over the past 4 postings we have seen that marriage is worth it as we have broken down these words phrase by phrase:

For this cause - Because God created man with a need for companionship and designed a wife to be the only one who could perfectly fit that need.

A man shall leave his father and his mother - Once married, the most important human relationship we have is our spouse.

And cleave to his wife - Marriage is to be permanent.

Now we see the final phrase...AND THEY SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. So what does that mean? I have heard a lot of different theological opinions - one of which even included something about sharing germs. But I think the best way to describe it is somewhat unusual when speaking of a wedding. To me, becoming "one flesh" means that in marriage, a husband and a wife become like a "two-headed monster" (btw - I have no idea who the couple is in the above picture- it was all I could find that looked like one person with two heads). In other words, the purpose of marriage is that we do life together - as one.

Think of it this way - when you were born you started out completely dependent on your parents. As you grew up your parents wisely gave you more and more independence and by the time you headed off to college you were totally independent. Marriage is neither. Marriage is not a relationship of dependence or independence. Marriage is "interdependence."

It's no longer "my" dreams, it's "our" dreams!

It's no longer "my" desires, it's "our" desires!

It's no longer "my" passion, it's "our" passion!

It's no longer "my" experiences. it's "our" experiences!

And the list goes on and one. Marriage is doing life together. Marriage is sharing life's joys, life's sorrows, life's fears, life's failures and life's successes together. That just may be the best part of marriage - it's growing old together - just as God intended. That's what makes your marriage worth it!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Pit Bull Marriage


Each day this week we are looking at a phrase from the words of God Himself that He spoke in Genesis 2:24 the day He created marriage and officiated the first wedding ceremony. We have already looked at these phrases:

Monday we introduced the fact that, "YOUR MARRIAGE IS WORTH IT!" Tuesday we looked at the phrase, "FOR THIS CAUSE!" Wednesday we looked at the phrase, "A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND HIS MOTHER!" Today we move on to the next phrase, "AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE!"

"LEAVING" and "CLEAVING" - those are two very important words when it comes to the Divine purpose of marriage. "LEAVING," as we saw yesterday, means that your spouse is to be the most important human relationship in your life - even over your parents. So important is it that not only are you to "LEAVE" your mother and father but you are also to "CLEAVE" to your spouse.

The best way I can describe the concept of "CLEAVING" in our modern culture is to say that your marriage is to be like two pieces of pipe sodered together to become one permanent piece of pipe. That is to be the idea of your marriage as well. You are to "CLEAVE" to each other. We could describe the concepts of "LEAVING" and "CLEAVING" with these two words:

LEAVING = SEVERANCE

CLEAVING = PERMANENCE

In other words - as the old saying goes, God's purpose at the time He created marriage was "ONE man with ONE woman for ONE lifetime!" That hadn't changed at the time of Jesus nor had it changed at the time of Paul. So what does this mean? It means that this is God's same purpose for YOUR marriage today!

So let me encourage and challenge you - hang on to your marriage like a pit bull dog! Don't let go! No matter how hard it gets; No matter how tempting it is to run; No matter who advises you to bail out - HANG ON TO YOUR MARRIAGE AT ALL COSTS! Why? Because YOUR MARRIAGE IS WORTH IT!

Tomorrow I will end this 5-part posting by looking at the final phrase, "AND THEY SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH!"

Be sure to also read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

New Sheriff In Town


YOUR MARRIAGE IS WORTH IT! That's the theme of each day's postings this week. We are breaking down, phrase by phrase, the words of God in Genesis 2:24 when He created marriage and officiated the very first wedding in the Garden of Eden. Here is what He said:

"For this cause (a phrase we looked at yesterday) a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

Now don't overlook that very important phrase, "A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER." For Adam this was pretty easy seeing that he was the first man and didn't have a father or a mother - nor did he have any in-laws (what a lucky guy...just kidding, Mom and Dad Day - I love and appreciate you both very much). But for us today - it is a very crucial and often overlooked piece of the purpose of marriage. For a marriage to succeed a husband and a wife must "leave" their mother and their father. This is a Divine purpose of marriage.

Think of it this way - growing up who was the most important people in your life? It was most likely your parents and that is exactly how it should have been. BUT that changes when you get married. I guess you could say that on that day when you say "I do" there is a new sheriff in town. No longer is your mother or your father the most important human relationship in your life. It now must be your spouse. That doesn't mean that we still don't love and honor our parents - they most certainly deserve it. But here is what it does mean. Read carefully:

If you have to choose between pleasing your parents or pleasing your spouse - CHOOSE YOUR SPOUSE!

And for some that is much more difficult than for others. But it is part of God's design for marriage and if you don't make your spouse your greatest priority when it comes to human relationships you will struggle greatly in your marriage.

Every parent who becomes an "in-law" needs to memorize this verse. That is what will keep you as a parent from becoming an "out-law." Never force your grown, married children to choose between you and their spouse. They are to "leave" you and "cleave" to their mate.

Tomorrow we will look at the phrase, "And cleave to his wife!"

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Go Name The Animals


I introduced in my blog posting yesterday the truth that YOUR MARRIAGE IS WORTH IT. Now, all this week I want to break down, phrase by phrase, the words God spoke in Genesis 2:24 when He created marriage and officiated the very first wedding. He said,

"FOR THIS CAUSE a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."

FOR THIS CAUSE - For what cause? For that answer we have to move back in the chapter and capture the context of the story. After creating the world and all that is in it, God looks at his work and utters the words, "It was good!" but after God made Adam out of the dust of the ground, He utters just the opposite. In verse 18 God says, "It is not good!" What was not good? The verse goes on and says this:

"Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone!"

So what wasn't good? The fact that Adam was alone. Now understand that this did not take God by surprise. He created Adam with a need for companionship. That is a God-given trait that we have as humans. And God knew just exactly what would meet that designed need perfectly as seen in the rest of verse 18:

"I will make him a helper suitable for him!"

And who would be that helper perfectly suited to meet Adam's God-given need for companionship? Eve..a wife! So wouldn't you expect the next verse to say that God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep and took a rib and from the rib made a woman? But that's not what happens next. First, God gives Adam a task. He is to name all of the animals. It almost doesn't seem to make sense does it? It's as if God is saying, "Adam, you have a designed need for companionship that I made you with and I have just the answer for you - now go name the animals!" Why would God do this? Here's why! Look at verse 20 carefully:

"The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam, THERE WAS NOT FOUND A HELPER SUITABLE FOR HIM!"

It's as if Adam gets done and says to God, "Wow! That was great! You are an amazing Creator! But I have to be honest - as wonderful as all of your creation was as I met each one of them up close and personal, the truth is - I'm still lonely. THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING BETTER!"

And then and only then does God make Eve and bring her to Adam. Why did God have Adam name all of the animals first? I believe it was to show him that in all of his creation, nothing would be as special nor as valuable as Eve - his wife! Men - we need to learn that lesson. In all of God's creation, He has given us nothing (outside of our salvation, of course) more special and more valuable than our wives!! So, let's treat them that way!

So on that day that God created marriage by starting his wedding message in the Garden of Eden with the words, "FOR THIS CAUSE," what was the cause He was speaking of? I believe He was saying this:

"Because I created man with a designed need for companionship and because a wife is the only way that need can be fully met making her his most special and beautiful gift...a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh!"

Tomorrow I will write more about the phrase, "A man shall leave his father and his mother!"

Be sure to also read my other blog entitled, "Hope for Hurting Pastors," at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

Your Marriage Is Worth It!


Over the last several weeks I have received phone calls from two different women whose husbands have recently left them. I'm not sure there is much in the way of news that I would rate as worse then the falling apart of a marriage. I know it happens and it happens a lot. I also know that the amount of marriages ending inside the church is on the same level as the amount of marriages ending outside of the church. But of all the things that I could lose - my job, my house, my health - I can think of nothing that would be worse than losing my marriage. It makes me just want to look every husband and every wife right in the eyes and remind them of this:

YOUR MARRIAGE IS WORTH IT!!!!!

No, it's not easy...but your marriage is worth it!
Yes, it takes a lot of work...but your marriage is worth it!

Need I remind you that it was G0d - not man or government, or even the church that created this wonderful institution that we call marriage? Remember back in Genesis 2 when God made Eve out of Adam's rib and brought her to him, officiating the first marriage in the garden? Remember what He said on that day in verse 24? He gave the reason for marriage. God Himself said:

"For this cause a man shall leave His father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh!"

Those are some amazing statements. In fact, Jesus repeated the same exact words when He spoke of marriage in the book of Matthew and the Apostle Paul also echoed these same words when he wrote of marriage in the book of Ephesians. In other words, the purpose for marriage never changed. What God intended as the purpose of marriage when He created Adam and Eve was still the purpose of marriage when Jesus walked on the earth; it was still the purpose of marriage during Paul's ministry in the New Testament; and I assure you that it is still the purpose of YOUR marriage today. That makes your marriage worth it!

So important is this statement that I would like to take every day this week to write posts that will break it apart - phrase by phrase. I will do so in this way:

November 30 - "For this cause"

December 1 - "A man shall leave his father and his mother"

December 2 - "And shall cleave to his wife"

December 3 - "And they shall become one flesh"

So, if you are married; if you someday want to be married; if you know someone who is married; if you have ever seen a married person; if you have ever seen a picture of a married person; or if you can say the word "marriage" - be sure to read my posts each day this week!

You can also read my other blog entitled, "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Saturday, November 27, 2010

5 CONSECUTIVE DAYS

Usually here at "Folks Listen" I only post 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). But beginning this Monday I will have a different post each day for 5 consecutive days on a very important topic. Be sure to read each day November 29th through December 3rd!


And don't forget to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at http://www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com/


Feel free to leave a comment on either blog (I do moderate comments before they are posted) or email me direct at skdistler@gmail.com

Friday, November 26, 2010

4 Words


I only have four words on this "Black Friday" as I look ahead to Saturday:



G0

BUCKS!




BEAT


MICHIGAN!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful For Closed Doors


Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Football and turkey with all the trimmings are two pretty good combinations. It's also the start to the holiday season and at our house we use Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day to decorate the house for Christmas. I'm still a kid at heart so I still get excited about Christmas time. Usually, the only thing that could make Thanksgiving better would be a snowfall going on outside.

And this Thanksgiving I find myself more thankful than ever. My list of what I am thankful for this year could go on and on on - but the highlights are pretty simple. I am thankful for:

My salvation through Jesus

The Word of God

My wife

My kids

Our parents and extended family

Close friends

My calling as a pastor

The way God has met and is meeting our needs

The daily fingerprints of God in our lives that encourages us

Open doors of opportunities

Closed doors which give us clear direction

The future - after all, for the Christian the best is yet to come!


Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope for Hurting Pastors"at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com or email me at skdistler@gmail.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Church With Vision


During this time of ministry transition my wife and I have been attending a different church each Sunday. It has been very informational and beneficial for me to experience church from the pew rather than just from the platform. This Sunday we attended a church down in Lancaster with some friends. Three qualities really reached out to me during our morning there:

VISION! This church has vision! That was so clear and so exciting. The pastor had a very clear vision for his church and he was doing a tremendous job of presenting that vision to the church as he painted a picture of the future that was producing a passion in that local body today. I loved how he made it clear that their church did not exist simply for them - it existed in order to make an impact in their community and in their world. From a future satellite campus to missions work all over the world - this church was focused on reaching people for Jesus. I loved it because I thoroughly believe that evangelism must be the engine that drives the church.

CREATIVITY! From the moment you hit the entrance to the parking lot of this church you were immediately drawn into the theme of the morning due to the creative displays and settings both outside and inside their campus. There was much to see, hear, touch and experience that made you grab hold of the theme of the morning which was to "Do Something!"

AUTHENTICITY! This place was real! Nothing stuffy! Nothing fake! The pastor was very much a "down to earth" guy with an authentic and transparent personality and speaking style. He was the type of guy you were drawn to and captivated by his presentation. These three elements, vision, creativity and authenticity, made this a place of worship that had a purpose. They weren't just meeting to do church. They were going somewhere. They honestly believed that the church was the hope of the world and they were determined to make their fullest impact on it as a local body. How refreshing.

Now I have to be honest and say that I was a bit uncomfortable with the two "messages from the Lord" that two individuals in the congregation gave during the worship time. They would most likely say that they have the gift of prophecy and that God had given them these messages to declare. As a result, they spoke out loud to the congregation as if God were speaking to them (i.e. "Thus says the Lord," or "I am the Lord your God."). I find it interesting that in a very informal and culturally relevant church, both times they prophesied it appeared that God gave them these messages in a "King James" style of language with a lot of "thy's, thee's and shalt's." Personally, I do not believe that the gift of prophecy today includes receiving direct revelation from God. I believe that when it comes to direct revelation, the Bible contains all that we need to know to do all that God wants us to do.

But aside from those two short interludes, it was a wonderful service. I believe that God has great things in store for this local body. It was great to spend the morning worshipping with them. After all, the local church really is the hope of the world because it is the church that has the only message, the message of Jesus Christ, that can change someone's course for eternity!

Be sure to check out my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at www.hurtingpastor.blogspot.com. You can also email me at skdistler@gmail.com