Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tightening The Belt

With two kids in college now and dual college tuition bills, it is past time for us to "tighten the old belt" when it comes to family finances. We have already made the decision to change dentists because a new insurance plan will save us money. This is tough because we love our dentist. We are also now shopping around for different areas of spending including all of our insurance as well as our oil supplier among others. We need a new furnace so we are going to be shopping around for the best price there as well. I guess I can't help but ask myself,

"Why did we wait until college tuition became a reality to take the extra time to shop around for these types of costs? Why didn't we do it earlier simply because it is a matter of good stewardship?"

After all, stewardship isn't just about the 10% you put in the offering each Sunday. It is also about the way you use, spend and save the other 90% as well. After all, it ALL came from God to begin with and it ALL belongs to Him even after He gives it to us. I'm not the owner of it - I'm just the manager!

Monday, August 30, 2010

First Day of School

Today is the first day of school here at Lititz Christian which is a ministry of Grace Church. This is always a very exciting day as it brings to us another full academic year of meeting hundreds of students and parents right where they are at and helping to move them to where God wants them to be. It is exciting to be part of a church that has such a vital ministry. It is a ministry worthy of your prayer and financial support. So to all of our Lititz Christian family - WELCOME BACK!

Visit the Lititz Christian website at www.lititzchristian.net

Friday, August 27, 2010

Haiti - Final Report

Below is the final report describing the last 2 days of the team from Grace's recent work trip to Haiti to help rebuild a church that was destroyed in the earthquake:

Friday was our last day on the job site. We finished pouring most of the church floor and some of the men did a Bible story for the children that have been hanging around the building site all week. We said our goodbyes to our Haitian work mates at the end of the day. After the evening meal we spent some time sharing testimonies and hearing from the pastor of the church where we've been working. We were encouraged to continue to pray for the church's outreach to the surrounding community. We heard of two major needs that this community of believers has...a need for desks for the students that meet in this church building and a huge need for Bible. Our team mates from the Palmyra GBC gave funds to cover the purchase of desks and our Lititz Grace church staff gave funds to cover the purchase of Bibles for the families of the Las Cahobas GBC. The members of the Haiti 2010 team want to thank you for your prayers and support of this mission endeavor. We trust that God will use this week that we spent in Haiti for His glory. Continue to pray for our Brothers and Sisters in this difficult country.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

8 Principles For Doing Ministry Today

Last Tuesday I shared to all of our staff combined here at Grace Church regarding 8 principles for doing minsitry today that we can see in Jesus' miracle of feeding of the 5,000 men plus women and children. This is a very significant miracle as it is the only miracle of Jesus that is metioned in all 4 Gospel accounts. Below are the 8 principles I shared:

#1 – Develop a heart of compassion! (Matthew 14:13-15)

#2 – Look beyond your reality and resources - see Jesus! (John 6:5-9)

#3 – Start with what you have! (Matthew 14:16-17)

#4 – Give what you have to Jesus! (Matthew 14:18)

#5 – Do what Jesus tells you to do! (Mark 6:39-40)

#6 – Keep coming back to Jesus! (Mark 6:41)

#7 – Trust Jesus for the results! (Mark 6:42-44)

#8 – Be open to brokenness in your life! (Matthew 14:19)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Falwell Quotes

As I was down at Liberty University last week dropping off my kids, I spent some time walking around the Jerry Falwell memorial (pictured above). At the very bottom, outside of the memorial, I noticed 4 placards I had never seen before. Each placard contained a quote from Dr Falwell. These quotes brought back a lot of memories as in my 4 years at Liberty I heard Dr Falwell say these quotes many, many times. And once again, they each connected with my heart and soul:

"You do not determine a man's greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him."

"Life is filled with glorious opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems."

"God is not impressed with buildings, budgets or programs. The only thing in the world that inpresses God is people."

"Never quit."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Hardest Day Of My Life

Last Thursday was the hardest day of my life so far. On that afternoon, we said good-bye to both of our kids down on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia and headed home to an empty house realizing that the dynamics of our home would never be the same and that the first phase of empty nest was now upon us. I knew that this would be difficult but I had no idea just how difficult it would be. For 22 years so much of our lives have revolved around our kids and their schedules and activities. Now we begin the process of "parenting from a distance." I'm not sure I like this but I know that it is part of God's plan for families and for people and that God is not done with us yet as parents.

As much as last Thursday hurt deeply to say good-bye to the kids and leave them at college, my hurting heart was also filled with an overwhelming peace. It was so obvious that our kids were in the right place. I honestly could not want them anywhere else than at Liberty. It really is a special place and for Laura and I, who are both alumni of Liberty, that brought us an even greater peace. We both know how Liberty impacted our lives and it is a far more amazing place today. I am sure that God will use it in Joy and Jonathan's lives as well.

I am thrilled with how God is working in both of our kids lives. Joy, as an education major, wants to work with middle school age kids in an under-privileged setting. She is also a Resident Assistant at Liberty and it is a "joy" (pun intended) to watch her lead and impact the girls in her building.

Jonathan is a Worship Arts Major. He has a love for music, leading people in worship and is a very talented song-writer. Liberty has an amazing Worship Arts Program and I can't wait to see what God has in store for him as he looks to spend his life leading people in worship.

"Thanks, Lord, for my kids. I sure do miss them. Thanks also for my wonderful wife who I now get to spend even more time with. Thanks for the times that hurt. And thanks for the peace that You give even during the times of hurt."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Haiti - Day 5

Haiti day 5; work day 4 - Yesterday as the walls reached the roof line, I asked the Haitian builder in charge what we would be doing on Thursday. He told me that we would be starting to pour the concrete floor. I wasn't sure that he understood my question because I wasn't sure how we would be involved in pouring the floor. We'll today we found out. The Haitians mixed the concrete on the ground outside the church building and the American team leveled the concrete as it was delivered in five gallon buckets...half full. It took hundreds of trips to accomplish this task. By the end of the day we had poured about 1/3 of the floor. Guess what we'll be doing tomorrow? We also discovered the purpose for the gravel that the young people had been making all week...they took large rocks and beat on them until they had lots of small pieces of gravel. That gravel was mixed with the sand to become part of the floor.It's still very hot and humid and so we took lots of breaks. We took turns leveling the concrete on the floor.The Haitian team finally finished the outhouse near the work site that was supposed to be build before we arrived. Don't ask...This will be the facilities for the church and the surrounding the neighborhood.Tomorrow's the last day. We're beginning to think of our trip back to the States. Some of the men began to play games with the children that have been around the work site all week. They're planning to do a Bible story for them tomorrow.

Haiti - Day 4

Haiti day 4; work day 3 - Today was another hot one. Fortunately it rains in the evening which helps to cools us off a little bit, but it also makes the road very muddy. Today we got stuck trying to get to the work site.. Today we got the rest of the walls up to roof level. Working on a scaffolding makes the job take more time. The supplies continue to be delivered inspite of the bad roads. Our lunch is also delivered to the work site. After the health problems yesterday, some of us are not eating too much.

Haiti - Day 3

Day three...2nd work day.Today several of us were sick. Must be something that we ate. Those who were sick stayed back at the house and tried to drink enough to avoid being dehydrated (no pictures of that). The rest of the team went to the job site and had another very profitable day, but began to realize that the heat dictates many more breaks than we took on Monday. We want to make it to Friday. By the end of the day half of the church building was up to the roof line. When the team was ready to leave they realized that the transport truck was behind a dump truck that was stuck in the mud down the road. Had to walk through the mud to the truck.

Haiti - Day 2

Below are continued reports from our team that recently was involved in helping to rebuild a church in Haiti that was destroyed during the earthquake.

Day 2...The first day on the job. We woke up at 5 AM for devotions and breakfast. We arrived at the job site around 6:15 AM. We were super motivated half believing that we would be able to lay all the block by quitting time. The weather was super warm getting up to 115 F with the heat index. We were able to pretty much able to stick with the work and by about 3 PM most of the block was laid up to the first pour. We had the pleasure of meeting our Haitian co-workers that would be with us for the week. Several young teens showed up and began to break large rocks in to small pieces...we haven't figured out what this gravel will be used for...by the end of the week we'll know.We went back to our house in the late afternoon ready for some rest and cooling off time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

10,000 Hits = 25,000 Viewers

Today the Grace Church Worship Live Web Page (page where visitors view the live web feed) surpassed it's 10,000th hit. This is a great milestone in our internet ministry. Surveys of viewers have shown that an avergae 2.5 people are watching per time that a computer logs on to our live feed. That is 25,000 viewers (obviously many are repeat viewers week to week). Praise God. Continue to pass on to others you know that they can watch our 10am service each Sunday at www.gracechurchworship.org.

Friday, August 20, 2010

God's Will and Fleeces

One of the most important things for a follower of Jesus is to be sure that they are walking and making decisions that are in the will of God for their life. So how do you know God's will? I was always taught the need to look at the 3 "W's":

WORD of God - If it is the will of God it cannot go against the clear teaching and principles of the Bible. I once had a lady ask me to bless her decision to leave her husband for another man. She told me that she knew this was God's will or else God would not have brought this other man into her life. Folks, that was not the will of God because it went against the clear teaching of Scripture.

WITNESS of the Spirit - If it is the will of God I believe that the Spirit of God who indwells us as believers will give us an inner peace about the decision or the action. That's why we are told to let the "peace of God rule in our hearts." By the way, if you are married I believe that God will give both you and your spouse the same peace when the time is right.

WORLD of Circumstances - If it is God's will, I believe that He will open up the doors for you.

This Sunday as part of our Survivor: Old Testament message series we will look at the story of Gideon, who in order to gain confidence in the will of God for his life, put out a fleece before the Lord. Some would call this "weak faith" but in the story God answers Gideon's fleece twice and ultiamtely Gideon find himself in the Hall of Faith given in Hebrews 11.

There have been three times in my life that my wife and I have put a fleece out before the Lord. One of these times was when we beleived that God was leading us from the church we served at in Ohio to a new church in Indiana. Another time was when God seemd to be calling us from Indiana to Grace Church here in PA. Both times God answered our fleece and gave us confidence that we were following His will for our lives.

Now don't get me wrong - we do not put out fleeces for every single decision that needs made. But on three occassions when we were facing a very big decision we did put out a fleece, asking God to confirm what appeared to be His clear leading in our lives.

Join us here at Grace Church this Sunday as we look at this concept further by looking at the Old Testament story of Gideon. If you can't be with us live and in person then join us live on the internet as we broadcast our 10am (PA time) service at the link below:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Two Offices

While we were down at Liberty dropping off our daughter last week, Laura and I did something we had never done before. We took a tour of the Carter Mansion on campus where Dr Falwell kept his office (pictured blurrily above). Part of the tour was being able to go into Dr Falwell's office which has been kept exactly as it was on the day he died (incidentally, Dr Falwell died in his office).

Call me morbid but I found it more than interesting to stand in what was the office of one of my greatest spiritual heroes and just look around - to look at what pictures where on his walls; what books were on his desk; what items were on his shelves. I could have spent a lot of time in that office just looking.

I did this one other time with another man from Virginia - Robert E Lee. After the war, Lee became the President of William and Mary College in Lexington, VA. On that campus you can go into his former office from so many years ago. It too has been kept to this day exactly the way it was on the day that he had a stroke and died.

You can learn a lot about a man by looking around his office. So if I died today (not planning on it but if I did) and you came into my office and took a look around at exactly how I left it, I wonder what you would learn about me?

By the way, the lights in Dr Falwell's office are kept on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as a symbol and reminder that his dream continues.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Haiti Report - Part 1

Recently a group of men from Grace Church ent to Haiti to help rebuild a church there that was damaged in the earthquake. Over the next week or so I will be posting reports and pictures from their trip.
Day one...Saturday: After arriving at the airport in Port au Prince in Haiti the team loaded up on a truck for our two hour ride to Las Cahobas, the town where our building site is located. We had goat "innerd" soup for supper and went to bed.

Day two...Sunday: We spent the morning worshiping with the Grace Church from Las Cahobas. Even though we were not able to understand all that was said we could sense the closeness that comes from being one in the Lord. After church we had our first look at the job site. Our goal is to build up the walls of the new church building and have the building ready for the next work team to install the roof.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Countdown to Empty Nest

Today we take our youngest - our son, Jonathan, down to Liberty Univeristy for his freshman year as a Worship Arts Major. Come Thursday we will say our "good-byes" and drive home (crying all the way, I'm sure). "Empty Nest" officially begins for Laura and I this week. Though I am very excited about the direction God is leading our kids, and I could not be more thrilled that they are at Liberty (for Laura and I that is like sending them 'home'), the truth is that the dynamic in our home will never again be the same. But I continue to trust in this fact that is true for every follower of Jesus - THE BEST IS YET TO COME!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tipping: Feast or Famine

If you know me you know that I believe in tipping well when I eat out at a restaurant. By well, I mean never less than 18% - most of the time even more. The biggest tip I ever gave was 40%!! That's right - 40%!! On that incident, our waiter was my son who worked down at Isaacs during his senior year of High School.

During my recent trip to Liberty Unviersity to drop off my daughter I had two tipping experiences. These showed two opposite extremes.

On one hand, Laura and I are at O'Charley's in Lynchburg by the campus. The food was wonderful and the service was terrific. Our waitress was a delightful young gal who is working her way through college at Liberty as a Women's Ministry major. We had a wonderful time hearing her story and chatting with her as she waited on us. I told my wife, "I wish I were rich so I could leave this gal a $100.00 tip!" If I could have, I would have. But with 2 kids of my own now in college a $100.00 tip was not feasible. However, even though I could not leave her a $100.00 tip, I could leave her a 25% tip - and I did.

On the way home from Lynchburg, Laura and I stopped at a Bob Evans along the way for dinner. Typically Bob Evans has good food and decent service. This night was different. I have never had such bad service. The couple sitting in the booth across from us was as appalled as I was at how forgotten Laura and I had become to our waitress (This lady said it was because I was wearing my Ohio State football shirt - I think she was just jealous because many are predicting my Buckeyes to make the National Championship game this season against the Crimson Tide of Alabama). To say the service was horrible was an understatement. It was the first time in my life that I did not leave a tip at all.

I wonder what would happen if the offering at church was done in tipping fashion - we wait until the end of the service and people give based on how well the preacher did! Obviously, that is ridiculous. The offering isn't a tip - it is God's people obeying God and giving back to Him out of a heart of love and devotion, realizing that everything we have came from Him and belongs to Him to begin with.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is God Fair?

This Sunday as part of our Survivor: Old Testament message series here at Grace Church in Lititz, PA, we will be looking at the story of Achan from Joshua 7-8. In a ntushell here is the story:

Achan is a soldier in the army of Israel. When Israel defeats Jericho they are forbidden by God to take anything in the city for themselves. Achan takes a garment, some gold and some silver in spite of the prohibition and buries them in his tent. As a result, God's anger burns against Israel and they lose the next battle in which 36 of their soldiers are killed. God identifies to Joshua the problem and ultimately singles out Achan as the culprit. In the end Achan and his children are stoned to death. Now let's think about this story:

One man, Achan, sins but God is angry with the entire nation. How fair is that?

One man, Achan, sins but God punishes all of Israel with a devestating military defeat? How fair is that?

One man, Achan, sins but God punishes Israel with 36 of their soldiers being killed leaving 36 grieving widows in Israel. How fair is that?

One man, Acahn, sins by stealing some items and he gets stoned to death as a punishment. How fair is that?

One man, Achan, sins but his children are stoned right along with him. How fair is that?

Is God fair? Don't miss the message this Sunday. If you can't be with us live and in person you can watch the live feed of our 10am service (PA time) on the internet at the link below:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Taking a U-TURN

With this post, allow me to be contradictory of my last several posts. As I shared some thoughts this week that stuck out to me from this year's Leadership Summit I talked about some great books I need to read. Now let me take a U-TURN! I got thinking this week about this question:

"What would happen if for one full year the only book all followers of Jesus read was the Bible?"

Now don't get me wrong - I see the value of books. I really do! I believe the old adage that "if you want to be a leader you must be a reader." But sometimes I find myself getting excited about a principle I read in a book and suddenly I am ready to drop everything and change course because of that book - and they aren't always Christian books. What if I had that same attitude toward the Bible. When was the last time I was ready to drop everything and turn my life upside down because of something I read in the Bible? So again I ask the question:

"What would happen if for one full year the only book all followers of Jesus read was the Bible?"

Would our lives be any different at the end of that year? Would our marriages be any different at the end of that year? Would our churches be any different at the end of that year? Would our nation be any different at the end of that year? Would our world be any different at the end of that year?

Sometimes U-TURNS our good!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Confidants - Constituents - Comrades

I could blog all month on different thoughts from last week's Leadership Summit, but let me wrap up any Summit related postings by sharing the three types of people that are in every leader's life. This came in the closing session From Bishop T.D. Jakes.

CONFIDANTS - These are people who are for you. They are for you in the good times and the bad times. They are for you because you are you. Bishop Jakes said that if you find three people like this in your lifetime, you are very rich.

Who are the confidants in my life? Who are the confidants in your life?

CONSTITUENTS - These are people who are for what you are for. Don't make the mistake of thinking that these people are for you. They aren't. They are for what you are for and when that commonality ends, constituents will no longer be for you at all.

Who are the constituents in my life? Who are the constituents in your life?

COMRADES - These are people who are against what you are against. Again, don't make the mistake of thinking these people are for you - they're not. They aren't even for what youa re for. They are simply against what you are against. That is what brings them to your side. Bishop Jakes described these folks as fighters and warned that if you don't direct their fighting in a proper direction they will ultimately fight against you.

Why are the comrades in my life? Who are the comrades in your life?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

God's Whisper in The Land Between (part 2)

Yesterday I posted about one of the two sessions from last week's Leadership Summit that really minsitered to me. The other session was given by Jeff Manion who pastors Ada Bible Church in Ada, Michigan. Actually, the story of how Jeff became one of the speakers at this year's Summit connected with my spirit as much as his presenation - but I won't go into that.

Jeff spoke on The Land Between describing that time period when Israel wandered through the desert under the leadership of Moses for 40 years after leaving their lives of slavery in Egypt. Those were years when the people resisted the leadership of Moses, when people sinned, when people wanted to go back to Egypt. The "land between" slavery in Egypt and the Promised Land were diffucult but important years. Jeff shared that it is during the times of our lives when we are in "the land between" that we find:

God's Provision

God's Discipline

God's Growth

This connected with me because I am understanding in many different areas of my life what "the land between" is like. And Jeff is right - I am discovering in powerful ways God's provision; God's discipline; and God's growth. Here are a couple of quotes Jeff made that I wrote in my notes:

"The Children of Israel needed this time in 'the land between' to go from being people of slavery to people of God."

"When you are in 'the land between' you need to replace 'complaint' with 'trust.'"

"The place in your life you most resent is the very soil where God does some of His richest and deepest work."

This book, The Land Between, by Jeff Manion, is another book I will be reading very soon.

Monday, August 09, 2010

God's Whisper in The Land Between (part 1)

I attended the Leadership Summit this past Thursday and Friday. This conference is presented by Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Association our of South Barrington, Illinois and is simulcast all over the world. We attended the simulcast at LCBC. There were two sessions that really captured me.

The fist was Bill Hybel's opening session as he talked about leading people from "here" to "there." Though every principle he shared I needed to hear, it was his last point that registered with me personally. It was on the fact that God still speaks today through the prompting of His Holy Spirit in our lives and we need to take time to listen to God as He whispers to us in these ways. He then challenegend us to take time to ask God to prompt us - to whisper to our heart a simple 2 or 3 word message that we need to hear and follow in obedience.

Right now I am asking God to whisper a couple words to me. The book, The Power of a Whisper, by Bill Hybels, is is a book I will be reading in the very near future. Tomorrow I will share about the other session that really ministered to my heart.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Banana Pudding

Today we take Joy back to Liberty University for her Junior year. It sure is hard to believe that she is starting her third year of college. A week from Tuesday we take Jonathan down to Liberty for his Freshman year. Empty nest us almost here - that is just one of the giants Laura and I are facing in our lives right now. But there is a bright side to this giant. Doc's Diner on campus has the best banana pudding I have ever had (although the banana pudding my daughter made recently ranks right up there) and tonight I plan to have some.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Haiti Team

These are the 6 men from Grace Church who left this morning at 3:30am en route to Haiti where they will be helping to rebuild a Grace Brethren Church that was demloished during the earthuake. They will be gone one full week. Please keep them and their families in you prayers!

Meet the Cast of Characters

This Sunday morning the Old Testament story we will be focusing on here at Grace Church is that of Deborah and it also involves a tent spike. I doubt very seriously that there are all that many people reading this posting who know the details to this story. You may have heard parts of it in the past but you probably would be hard-pressed to stand up today and tell its details. So let’s learn this story together. I want to begin by giving you an overview of the cast of characters because you may not be familiar at all with some of them.

Let’s start first with the main character of our story – her name is Deborah. Now according to Judges 4, we know three main things about Deborah. First, she was the wife of a man named Lapidoth. Second, she was a judge in Israel. And third, she was a prophetess. As a judge we learn that Deborah would sit under a palm tree which was coined “Deborah’s palm tree” and people from all over would come to her for help in settling disputes and gaining advice. As a prophetess she also spoke for God. By the way, Deborah was not the only woman prophetess mentioned in Scripture. There was also Miriam, Huldah and Anna.

Deborah’s supporting character in the story is a man named Barak. This would be the man who would lead 10,000 men of Israel in war against their enemy.

The villain in the story is a man named Jabin who was king of the Canaanite city of Hazor. The word Jabin may have been more of a title than a proper name (like Pharaoh) because years earlier Joshua had defeated a King Jabin also of Hazor and burnt the city to the ground.

Every villain has a side-kick and for Jabin it was Sisera who was the Captain of his Army. This army included 900 chariots of iron which would be like going against a company of tanks today armed only with pitchforks.

And then comes the undercover agent in the story who becomes the heroine. Her name is Jael. She is married to a man named Heber who was a Kenite. While most Kenites had sided with Israel, Heber had moved to be a neighbor near King Jabin and had entered into a peace treaty with him.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Facing a Giant? You need CELEBRATION because of God

Remember the song?

Only a boy named David
Only a little sling
Only a boy named David
But he could pray and sing
Only a boy named David
Only a rippling brook
Only a boy named David
But five little stones he took
And one little stone went in the sling and the sling went round and round
And one little stone went in the sling and the sling went round and round
And round and round and round and round and round and round and round
And one little stone went up in the air
And the giant came tumbling down

And so it happened with David and Goliath. And after the giant fell, what did this seemingly meek and quiet shepherd boy do? He took Goliath’s own sword and cut off the giant’s head. How come that wasn’t part of the song we sang as kids?

But I love what David did next – In 1 Samuel 17:54 we learn that he took Goliath’s weapons, no doubt his sword and spear, and put it in his own tent. He kept these for himself. Why? I believe that David wanted to have a memory item to remind him daily of the victory that God gave him over Goliath.

Throughout the Old Testament, whenever God did something amazing, He always told the people to do something to remember and celebrate it. After God sent the death angel through Egypt, the Jews were to remember it with the Passover Celebration each year. After Esther saved the Jews from Haman, who was the Old Testament Hitler, the feast of Purim was instituted and still takes place today. Such was the case with David. He could now look at the big sword and spear every day and remember what God had done. That is the 5th need in facing our giants. We need COMMUNICATION with God. We need COMMITMENT to God. We need CONFIDENCE in God. We need COURAGE for God. But we also need a heavy dose of CELEBRATION because of God.

I had the thrill of visiting the Valley of Elah a couple of years ago and standing in that very brook where David picked up his 5 stones. I too picked up 5 stones that day (pictured above) and I keep them on the bookshelf in my office as a daily reminder that with God I can face any giant that comes into my life. So can you! And when God slays the giant, don’t forget to remember it and celebrate it. That something we can’t do enough – celebrate the victories God has given us.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Getting Ready for College

This coming Sunday we take our daughter, Joy, down to Liberty University for her Junior year as an Elementary Education major. She has to be down early due to her being a Resident Assistant. One week from Tuesday we will head back to Liberty to take our son, Jonathan, down for his freshman year as a Worship Arts major. Yesterday I took my day off for the week and we headed out as a family to get all of the final college supplies for both kids (except for all of the stuff we will need to get them down in Lynchburg when we get there).

Do you realize how many stores it took us to get all of these "last minute" supplies? We went to all of the following places of business (and I've probably missed a few):

Office Max (the night before)

Cyber Mart (the night before)

Perkins (for breakfast)

Van Heusen



Pets Mart (OK - that wasn't for the kids)


Starbucks (needed some refreshment)

Dollar Tree

Staples (out on 30)

Wal Mart (out on 30)

Sharp Shopper

Staples (on 501)

AC Moore

JC Penney

Pearle Vision

Olive Garden (used a gift card for an early dinner)

Wal Mart (Fruitville Pike)



Watch out Lynchburg, Virginia - here come the Distlers!

Facing a Giant? You need COURAGE for God

I’m sure, to his older brother’s dismay, David convinces King Saul that he is the man to fight Goliath. Now remember that Saul was the ultimate one who should have been willing to fight the giant. Not only was he the leader and king, the Bible teaches us that size-wise, he was head and shoulders above every other man in Israel. But his fear instead allowed him to send a boy out to fight in his place. But the least he could do was send David into that valley wearing the king’s armor. I find this hysterically absurd. Saul, the tallest man in Israel actually puts his armor on a teenage boy. Give me a break. Saul was like a 52 long – David just a 36 regular.

David quickly realizes that Saul’s armor won’t work. But that is fine – he didn’t have that armor when he took on the lion or the bear either. So, armed just with his slingshot and his staff, David goes out to prepare himself. He heads down to the brook that ran near the Valley of Elah. I’ve been to that brook. It is dry most of the time. The only time it really has water in it is after a quick and heavy rain. There, David picks out 5 smooth stones and put them in his satchel. His is now ready to face Goliath.

But why 5 stones? Was he simply preparing himself in case his aim was off? Did he just want to be sure that if he needed to reload he would be able to? Possibly. But I think the main reason that David picked up 4 extra stones is because he had heard that Goliath, the great giant from Gath, had 4 other brothers who were also pretty daunting in size. If those rascals were going to come after David for revenge, he would have one spare stone available to him for each of Goliath’s siblings.

Now, fully armed with staff, slingshot and stone, he descended down the hillside toward the giant who was ready. When Goliath saw him he became angry. Was King Saul really sending out a boy? What kind of king was he? What kind of army did he have? What kind of God did he serve? Goliath’s anger resulted in his resolve to teach Saul, Israel and this boy a lesson by killing David and feeding his flesh to the birds of the air.

Yet, David remained committed and confident in his God. Now we see lesson number four. If we are going to face the giants in our life, we must also have COURAGE for God. David did. Look at his words in 1 Samuel 17:45-7:

“I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands and I will strike you down and remove your head from you…for the battle is the Lord’s!”

And then comes the best part in verse 48. Try to imagine it - “Then…David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine!’

David RAN toward Goliath! David could face his giant because of his CONFIDENCE in God.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Facing a Giant? You Need CONFIDENCE in God

David had heard Goliath and he was ready to act. His question shows it in 1 Samuel 17:26, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” The answer to the question concerning the reward for whatever man of Israel would fight and defeat Goliath was enormous. He would receive riches! He would receive the king’s daughter in marriage! And he and his father’s household would receive a lifetime exemption from all taxes! I’m not sure how excited I would have been about marrying the king’s daughter, but a lifetime of tax exemption may have been just the motivation I needed to take on goliath.

Either way, word was out that there was one person in Israel at least verbalizing a willingness to take on the giant. And from this we learn the third lesson we need if we are going to face the giants in our life. Not only do we need COMMUNICATION with God; not only do we need COMMITMENT to God; We also need CONFIDENCE in God. And David had just that.

But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David, he was furious. He scolded David in blistering fashion. What was Eliab’s problem? Well, for one thing, his little brother was showing him up – Eliab should have been the one with enough gumption to fight Goliath. But I am also sure that Eliab was remembering that day a while back when the prophet Samuel showed up at their father’s house to anoint the next King of Israel. As the oldest son, Eliab was sure that it would be him. But instead, the prophet anointed the baby of the family – David.

There is an important lesson to be learned here. Whenever your confidence in God results in your willingness to take some risks and step out in faith and attempt great things for God, there will always be those around you who will become jealous, who will criticize you and who will judge your motives. And here is the sad and most painful part – they are usually those who are closest to you – even family members. I once heard Bishop TD Jakes say (I am paraphrasing), “There is always a Judas nearby you and he is usually close enough to kiss you.”

Word quickly reached King Saul that after 40 days of hearing the Giant’s taunting each morning and each evening, there was someone ready to do something about it. David was rushed to the King’s tent but even he reacted in anything but encouragement. He told David that he couldn’t fight Goliath because he was just a boy. But his brother’s criticism nor his king’s negativity could stifle David’s confidence. He told Saul of the day a bear came to attack his father’s sheep and God allowed him to kill the bear. He told the king of the day a lion came to attack his father’s sheep and again God allowed him to defeat the lion. And then he proclaimed,

“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Facing the giants in your life requires confidence in God.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Facing a Giant? You need COMMITMENT to God

Every day for 40 straight days the giant Goliath had walked down the hillside from the Philistine camp and stood in the Valley of Elah, looking up at the Israelite army on the opposing hillside, taunting them and their God. He did it every morning and every evening. The army of Israel had heard his remarks 80 times now but David was about to hear it for the first time.

In 1 Samuel 17:23-24, I see a couple of things that really stick out to me – things I have always missed when I would tell the story of David and Goliath. Verse 23 tells us that on this day, as David was talking to his brothers, Goliath came up from the Philistine camp. Wait a second. Look at the direction he goes closely. It says that “He went UP!”

Now if the Philistines were on one hillside and the Israelites were on the opposite hillside, and Goliath walked from the Philistine camp to the Valley of Elah below it, what direction would he have traveled? He would have “went DOWN” from the Philistine camp into the valley, right? So then, why does it say that he “went UP.” Where could have Goliath possibly have gone that he "went UP”?

It appears to me that Goliath had gotten even more brazen. For 40 days he had walked down into the valley of Elah and shouted his challenge to the army of Israel. But not this day. This day it appears that he went down the hillside from his own encampment, crossed the valley, and actually started UP the hillside where the Israelites were. Now the men of Israel would be able to see Goliath closer than they ever had before and a lot closer than they wanted to. And the Bibles says that as a result, “They fled from him and were greatly afraid.” But then I notice one other thing.

Verse 23 says that David “heard” Goliath.

Verse 24 says that the men of Israel’s army “saw” him.

I find it interesting that not once in this passage does David ever even remark about Goliath’s size. That is all the armies of Israel could focus on but that wasn’t what grabbed David’s attention. David looked right past his size and focused on the fact that he was taunting the armies of the living God.

In my last post we saw that if we are going to face the giants in our lives we need COMMUNCIATION with God. Today we learn that a second need we have if we are going to face the Goliaths in our own lives is a COMMITMENT to God. The armies of Israel “saw” Goliath – David “heard” him. So what are you most focused on? The size of the giant you are facing or the way that you giant is striking at the very core of your trust and commitment in God. If we are going to face the giants in our lives, we must fear compromising our commitment to God more than we fear the size of our giants.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Facing a Giant? You need COMMUNCIATION with God

I Samuel 17 begins by describing the immense size of the giant named Goliath. Go back and read my post from last Thursday for all of the details. And who is it that takes down this mammoth man? It is a boy – not just any boy – a shepherd boy.

We learn from this passage that David was the youngest of 8 sons born to his father, Jesse. Being the youngest, he was too young for battle so he spent most of his time out on the hillsides of Bethlehem tending his father’s sheep.

His three oldest brothers were in the Israelite army and were off to war against their enemy, the Philistines. Jesse was worried about his sons and sent young David to take them supplies and to check on their welfare. What David didn’t know that day as he headed toward the battlefield was that instead of armies, he would be one of only two people who would fight that day, the other being Goliath the great giant.

Now before we ever get to the crux of the story that involves David, his slingshot and 5 smooth stones, let’s not pass over what we have just learned. Let me show it to you again right from the pages of 1 Samuel 17:5. While his brothers were at war, here is where we find David:

“But David went back and forth…to tend his father’s flock at Bethlehem.”

David was the youngest. David was a shepherd. Why is this so important to note? I think it is important for this reason. What was it that David did during all of those lonely hours on the hillside of Bethlehem with his father’s sheep around him? We know from the rest of Scripture that he spent much of that time with God. He talked to God on that hillside. He sang to God on that hillside. He worshipped God on that hillside. He listened to God on that hillside.

I would like to suggest to you that this is what prepared David, instead of all of the older, stronger fighting men of Israel, to be the one to face and defeat Goliath. David was the man of the hour in large part because David learned the need for communication with God.

So what is the first lesson that you and I need to learn if we are going to be able to face the giants that are in our lives? We must firs t develop and be faithful to the spiritual discipline of communicating with God. Before we can ever fight our giant in the Valley of Elah, we must first spend time on the hillsides of Bethlehem. Before we can put our focus on the giants in our lives, we must first put our focus on our God.

It’s not your age that prepares you for giants. It is not your size that prepares you for giants. It is not your position that prepares you for giants. It is communicating with God – talking to Him, singing to Him, worshipping Him, and listening to Him – that prepares you to face the giants that will come into your life.