Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FASTING - Part 3


Tonight is the night. After dinner tonight, we encourage everyone who is part of the Grace Church family to join together in a corporate Day of Prayer and Fasting as we ask for God to use our Easter Celebrations to do that which is superabundantly in quantity above anything we could ever ask or ever imagine. As we look ahead to this 24-hour period, below are some suggestions.

Begin your fast after dinner tonight and go for 24-hours until dinner Thursday night. Drink plenty of water but, if you are medically able, avoid all food for this 24-hour period.

Be sure that this 24-hour period includes times of solitude with God. When Jesus fasted for 40 days in Matthew 4, he went into the wilderness to spend time alone with His Father.

Be sure to expect temptation. Our steps of faith please God but they also bother the Evil One. In fact, it was while Jesus was in solitude in the wilderness fasting that Satan tempted him greatly as also seen in Matthew 4.

Be sure to be humble. Remember what we saw in yesterday’s blog posting from Matthew 6:16-18. We are not fasting to be noticed by men but rather to be noticed by God.

Be sure to read large portions of Scripture. In Jeremiah 36:9-10, when the nation of Israel fasted, the reading of Scripture was part of their activity. Pick a portion of Scripture, a larger portion, and commit to read that portion of Scripture more than once during your time of fasting.

Be sure to spend extra ordinary time in prayer (Matthew 17:21; Jonah 3:5-9). Remember, fasting without extra time in prayer is nothing more than radical dieting.

Finally, Be sure that you remain open to soul-searching and repentance. In 2 Chronicles 20:3, King Jehoshaphat fasted in order to turn his attention to seeking the Lord. So as you began your time of fasting and prayer tonight, make these requests the focus of your time alone with God:

Father, please show me any area in my actions, attitude or motives where I have been displeasing you so that I may confess these areas to you and turn from each one of them.

Father, please speak to me through your Word and through your Spirit over this time of fasting and prayer that I might now you better and know your will for my life more clearly.

Father, create in me a new heart and restore a right spirit within me.

Father, use this time of fasting and prayer to deepen my passion for the local church and for the many people in my community and around the world who desperately need to know Jesus.

Father, use this time of fasting and prayer in my life to help me more genuinely love you with all of my heart soul, mind and strength, and to more passionately love my neighbor as myself.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

FASTING - Part 2


Yesterday I introduced the concept of fasting as we prepare for a church-wide Day of Prayer and Fasting from this Wednesday evening, March 31st through Thursday evening, April 1st. After all, what better day to fast and pray than April Fool’s Day since the Bible says that it is the fool who has said in his heart that there is no God. What are some reasons to fast today? Charles Stanley gives some good ones that I have listed below.

We should fast for personal cleansing (Psalm 69:5, 10)

We should fast to develop a sense of oneness with God

We should fast to understand God’s will (Daniel 9:3)

We should fast to gain victory over temptation

We should fast to release others who are spiritually enslaved (Isaiah 58:6)

We should fast to express our wholeheartedness to God (Joel 2:12)

We should fast because it is good for the body if done properly

The main purpose behind our Day of Prayer and Fasting would be to seek God wholeheartedly for His blessing and for much spiritual fruit in our Easter Celebrations this coming weekend, April 3rd and 4th. But we must be careful. According to Matthew 6, Jesus taught us that there is a wrong way to fast as was seen in the lives of the Pharisees in His day.

The Pharisees had wrong actions when it came to fasting. They fasted twice a week (usually the 2nd and 5th day as these were the busiest days in the marketplace) as seen in Luke 18:12. They would wear old clothes; cover themselves with ashes and put make-up on to make themselves look sickly and then go stand in a public place.

They did this because they also had a wrong attitude when it came to fasting. They wanted to be noticed by others. They were hypocrites, pretending to be spiritual when they weren’t. This led to a false reward when it came to fasting. Jesus said that their full reward was being noticed by men. He also said that they got their reward “in full,” meaning it was a completed transaction. There would be no heavenly reward for them because their only reward was being seen by men.
Jesus went on to give the proper pattern for fasting. He said to anoint your head and wash your face which were normal grooming practices in that day. In other words, Jesus is saying to do all that you can to look normal. He reminds us that our fasting is not to be done to be noticed by man but rather to be noticed by God. God always notices proper fasting and God always rewards proper fasting. So I hope you will join us from Wednesday evening through Thursday evening this week for our church-wide Day of Prayer and Fasting. Still more tomorrow.

Monday, March 29, 2010

FASTING - Part 1


As Americans, what is one thing that we like to do and we do it well and often? EAT! And when your part of Grace Church here in Lititz, PA, eating is even more loved. It is like the teacher that asked her class to each bring in a show a tell object that applied to their religion. One boy walked to the front of the class and said, “My family goes to the Catholic Church, this is a crucifix.” The next student walked up and said, “My family goes to the Jewish Temple, this is a Star of David.” The last boy walked to the front of the class and said, “My family goes to Grace Church in Lititz, PA, this is a casserole!”

As part of our Year of Prayer and as our Monthly Prayer Challenge for April, this week we are challenging everyone who attends Grace Church and who is medically able to participate in a church-wide Day of Prayer and Fasting. We want you to begin Wednesday evening, March 31st, and go through Thursday evening, April 1st. This is a 24 hour fast but it really includes missing only two meals. If you ate dinner on Wednesday, March 31st by 6pm, you could then eat dinner again on Thursday, April 1st, at 6pm. You would have fasted for 24 hours but you really would have only missed two meals, breakfast and lunch on April 1st.

In preparation for this let me share with you some very important information about what I believe has become a lost art of spiritual devotion – fasting. What is the purpose of fasting? The Biblical purpose of fasting is always spiritual. Fasting is an act of self-denial (see Ezra 8:21) involving dedication of our bodies to God (see Romans 12:1-2) and preparation for God’s empowerment (see Ephesians 3:20). There are many examples in Scripture of those who fasted such as Moses; Hannah; David; Daniel; Nehemiah; Ezra; Esther; the nation of Israel; John the Baptist; Anna; Paul; as well as the church at Antioch.

Many great church leaders have seen the importance of fasting in their lives and ministries. My spiritual hero, Dr. Jerry Falwell, called fasting, “one of the great spiritual secrets of the Christian life!” Bill Hybels, another pastor I greatly respect, once wrote, “Recently I’ve sensed God working in and through me in ways I hadn’t previously experienced. I attribute the excitement and productivity in my ministry to this simple discipline of fasting.”

But what does fasting include? Is it simply refraining from food? Not at all. Fasting alone, without any spiritual activity, is simply radical dieting. Fasting should include three very important elements. It should involve prayer (Matthew 17:21; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:3; 14:23. It should involve repentance (Nehemiah 9:1-2; I Samuel 7:6; Daniel 3:5-9). And it should involve soul-searching (2 Chronicles 20:3).

But is fasting a spiritual discipline for us today? Consider this – Fasting is mentioned 30 times in the New Testament and always in a positive light. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said “when” you fast not “if” you fast. In Matthew 4:2, Jesus gave us the example of fasting. In Matthew 17:21, Jesus taught the need for fasting in ministry. In Matthew 9:14-15, Jesus said fasting would be needed after his ascension. So would you pray and prepare your heart to join us this week from Wednesday evening until Thursday evening in a Day of Prayer and Fasting! More tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Remember to PRAY 10


David, Tim and I trying to get an honorary doctorate degree reminding you to PRAY 10 this week!

EASTER PARTY BY THE NUMBERS


Yesterday was our annual EASTER PARTY and EASTER EGG HELICOPTER DROP here at Grace Church! Below is an overview of the event by the numbers:

Helicopters? 1
Magicians?
2
Costumed bunnies?
3
Bike give-aways?
4
Baby goats?
5
Gift baskets?
7
Craft tables?
8
Bales of straw?
12
Pounds of Tootsie Roll Lollipops?
50
Volunteers?
171
Registered children? 1,703
Estimated people on our campus counting adults? 4,800+
Cups of complimentary coffee from LCS? 2,000
Jellybeans in the Giant Jar? 3,199
Filled eggs on the soccer field?
22,500
Lives touched? PRICELESS

To see highlights, click on the link below:

http://www.gracechurchworship.org/egghunt2010.html

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Foundations: Connecting and Fasting


This month is VISION MONTH here at Grace Church in Lititz, PA and our theme for the month is FOUNDATIONS. It is our deisre to use the month of March to see the hundreds and hundreds of people who are coming to Grace Church all get on the same foundation in 8 specific areas. The two areas we will be looking at this Sunday is that of CONNECTING and FASTING.


If you can't be with us live and in person Sunday for one of our three morning worship services (8:30; 10; 11:30) then be sure to watch our 10am (PA time) service live on the web by going to: www.gracechurchworship.org

Friday, March 26, 2010

TEXTING IN CHURCH ALLOWED


This Sunday you will want to bring your cell phone into church with you. During our FACE YOUR FEARS series that starts Easter weekend, we are going to be adding a fun element that is very culturally relevant.

This summer we are going to do a 6-week series that we are calling “Survivor: Old Testament” as we study 6 favorite stories from the Old Testament. In order to pick these stories, we are going to start with 14 options. Beginning Easter weekend, each week during the service we are going to give our people the chance to pull out their cell phones and text vote for the three they like best. We will then tally the votes and drop the two stories with the lowest votes. So the Sunday after Easter (April 11th) we will vote again with just 12 possibilities. We will do the same on April 18th with the 10 remaining possibilities and then on April 25th we will do the same thing with the final 8 options. We will them be able to announce on May 2nd what the 6 favorite Old Testament stories will be for our mid-summer series.

So why do you need your cell phone this Sunday? Because we are going to do a “test run” at the end of the service with a question about fasting. You will be able to see the tallies up on the screen as the text votes are made. But please remember that standard texting rates may apply depending on your phone plan. So bring your cell phone to church this Sunday!

But before Sunday arrives, we get to experience the best Saturday of the year around here at Grace. It is our annual Easter Egg Hunt and Party! This event will be held rain or shine but if the weather cooperates we could see upwards of 5,000 people on our campus in one day. There will be three egg hunts that day and each will be preceded by multiple indoor activities utilizing our entire facility (http://www.meetgrace.org/) Each hunt will culminate with thousands of eggs being dropped from a helicopter. This is going to be a great day!

And when this weekend is over we mover right into our Easter week. This is going to be an amazing week as together we celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for our sins while at the same time having the opportunity to offer hope to all those who are facing the fear of death. Please be praying and participating in all of our Easter week events:

Thursday, April 1st – Church-wide Day of Prayer and Fasting

Friday, April 2nd – Good Friday Night of Worship (7pm)

Saturday, April 3rd – Easter Celebration Worship (5pm)

Sunday, April 4th – Easter Celebration Worship (8:30am; 10am; 11:30am)

Monday, April 5th – REJOICE IN ALL GOD DID THIS EASTER HERE AT GRACE

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Giving Away Millions


Don’t you like to daydream? I sure do. Recently as I was driving I passed one of those Powerball billboards showing the jackpot sitting at 200 million dollars. That got me thinking. What would I do if I had the ability to give millions of dollars to Grace Church? What if I somehow came across 5 million dollars that I could give to our ministry – what would I do? Before I reached my destination I had it all planned out as such:

I would give 1 million to the church general fund so that the church had some breathing room financially and could take some needed steps in the area of development such as bringing our I.T. support and technology up to snuff and taking care of some needed upgrades to our facility.

I would them give 1 million dollars to Lititz Christian School. This is a fabulous educational ministry. But to survive they have to raise $250,000 each year in fund-raising and donations. Sometimes it feels like were pulling out the couch cushions in order to find loose change so that we can meet the annual budget. I would love to be able to drop 1 million dollars in their lap in order to secure the future of our school and allow our administration to go full speed ahead in enacting their development plan to see LCS become the biggest, best Christian School around.

I would then give 2 million dollars to the Building Fund. This would allow us to completely pay off the little we owe on our current café project and still give us a good 1.5 million left over as seed money toward our next needed renovation to make an effective wing of our church for meeting and moving children and students for Jesus.

That leaves 1 million dollars. This 1 million I would give as seed money to see us be able to move forward with our 5 years vision plan in seeing a satellite campus developed. This would be a campus on a different site than our church. It would have live worship and children’s programming but the message would be a video feed from Grace Church so that both campuses were seeing and hearing the same message.

So if God dropped 5 million dollars in my lap that I could give to our church that is how I would give it. But because we serve a God who can do super abundantly in quantity more than anything we could ever ask or dream (see Ephesians 3:20), here is how I would give to the church if God dropped 10 million dollars into my lap to give away:

$2 million = Grace Church General Fund

$2 million = Lititz Christian School

$2 million = Seed Money for Satellite Campus

$4 million = Building Fund

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yard Sign Push Back


Our FACE YOUR FEARS yard signs have become the talk of the town. I was at a luncheon at LCBC last week and one of their staff members asked if we were doing anything special for Easter. I told him about our signs and he replied, “Those signs are yours? I see them all over the place!” I was also at a funeral this week and had someone not from our church comment to me about the yard signs. In fact, I had someone from our church say they passed one of our signs all the way up in Pine Grove and another person say they spotted one clear out in Chambersburg. But, as you can imagine, not all the feedback we are getting is positive. This week we also had the following e-mail sent to the church as a result of our signs:

“Shoulda known all those signs were for religious reasons. being in lititz surrounded by money hungry menonites. anyway, i fear no god, or death. only thing i fear is what going on with health coverage, how im gonna pay rent next month, where the next 400 dollar grocery tab is gonna come from to feed 5 people. where the next jobs gonna be. can you do that? if i join your church and act like im afraid of death and fear your fake god are you gonna pay for all that for me? or are you just gonna keep asking for my money so you can keep building your church bigger, and bigger, and bigger AND BIGGER AND BIGGER. like all churches do? thought so.”

That response confirms many things. It confirms first of all that our signs are worlking and that we have chosen a topic – fear – which is a real issue in our country today. People are scared. They’re scared about the economy; they’re scared about the job market; and they're scared about the changes taking place in our healthcare system. So our topic has hit the bulls-eye!

It also confirms that many people are blaming God for the woes and fears we are all facing. That’s why it is so important for us to be faithful to proclaim the hope that we have in Jesus to our community. That’s why even these signs are important because God is using them to open up dialogues with people who are hurting and who are searching. So I replied to the above e-mail with this simple response:

Thanks for taking the time to send your e-mail to our church. My name is Scott Distler and I am the Sr Pastor here at Grace. I can fully understand your fear regarding many of the things going on in our country from the economy to the job market to the changes being made in healthcare. I share many of those same fears and concerns. I also agree with you that, unfortunately, many times the church has come across as a selfish organization that only seems to be trying to get in the pockets and purses of people. I can assure you that this is not the case here at Grace Church. In fact, I would love to have you attend one of our Easter weekend services (April 3 – 5pm; April 4 – 8:30am; 10am; 11:03am) to see for yourself. If you do, I would also love to have you send me an e-mail afterwards to let me know what your experience here at Grace was like. That would be very beneficial to me. Give it some thought and again, thanks for the e-mail.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Favorite Elephant


Over this last weekend I was able to watch the Lititz Christian School (LCS) Spring Musical – Suessical the Musical. Actually, I watched all three performances. Why? For one thing I went to all three performances because the Fine Arts Department of LCS is absolutely wonderful. Their Fall Play and Spring Musical is always amazing and this time was no different.

But the aspect that was the selling point for me was that my son, Jonathan, played the role of Horton the Elephant who heard and saved all of the Whos of Whoville. This was his last stage performance of his High School career and I simply would not have missed one of those final three performances for all the money in the world. He was spectacular.

Over the last two years we have really watched Jonathan excel in this area. He is absolutely a natural when it comes to the stage. As much as I have always loved watching my son play sports, I am sure that I got double the pleasure and felt double the pride in watching his play and musical performances including but not limited to:

His first stage appearance in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

His playing the lead role of Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

His playing the lead role of Frederic in Pirates of Penzance

His playing a very serious role in last fall’s play, The Miracle Worker

And now his playing that amazing role of Horton the Elephant in Seussical

But it’s not just acting on the stage which brings out Jonathan’s best. I also love watching him sing on stage with his band, Eternal Mindset, and especially when he is on the stage leading people in worship. I love being on the stage when it comes to preaching and so it is an absolute thrill for me to watch him excel in his gifts and abilities on stage whether he is acting, singing or leading the people of God in worshipping!

I’m sure that you will continue to see me at LCS plays and musicals in the coming years, and I will most certainly enjoy them, because it will always remind me as some of the proudest moments of my being a parent – watching my son perform and excel on the stage.

One of my favorite lines Horton says in Seussical is, “I meant what I said. I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful 100%!

And that is my prayer for Jonathan. That like Horton the Elephant he will be 100% faithful the rest of his life using his gifts, talents and abilities for the Lord.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Healthy Pastors


Recently Steve Burghart (our Pastor of Connections here at Grace Church) shared in our Pastoral Staff meeting that he had just read an article that showed that pastors were the third most likely profession to see their marriages end in divorce. OUCH! I really think most people have no clue of the pressures and stress that pastors live under day by day – minute by minute.

That stat stuck with me as I came across a pastor’s blog which was highlighting several blog postings that dealt with this topic. I am going to go ahead and share these with you but I do so with great fear and trembling. Why? Because one of the greatest stresses of a pastor is the fact that everyone thinks they know what his motives are for everything he does (and they are usually wrong). So I am sure that some of you will jump to some conclusions but with that danger possible, here are some blogs that will show you a little aspect of what pastor’s face.

http://withoutwax.tv/2010/03/09/majority-of-pastors-have-no-friends/ - This posting speaks of the reality that most pastors have no friends.

http://claytonking.com/738 - In this blog Clayton King shares an eye opening letter from a pastor after hearing King speak on the subject, “Protecting Your Pastor.”

http://claytonking.com/media - On this page you can listen to Clayton King’s message that he preached at Newspring church on the subject, “Protecting Your Pastor.” Just scroll down under Audio Sermons and click on “Protecting Your Pastor.” This has the entire service on it so you can enjoy the music or fast-forward to Clayton’s message. I heard Clayton Speak recently while visiting my daughter down at Liberty University – he is awesome!

These website caused me to pull a book off of my shelf that is one of the rare books that I have read and re-read multiple times. It is called Standing Fast and one of the authors is my favorite preacher of all time – Dr. Ed Dobson. One of the chapters in the book that Dr Dobson wrote is entitled, “When Pastoring Makes You Angry.” The last chapter written by Dr Dobson is called, “Renewing Your Sense of Call.” In this chapter he shares some of the letters he received from his own church members during his pastoral ministry. You would be shocked by their viciousness. But every pastor could fill an entire book of these kinds of letters. But in this chapter he reminds us of four myths when it comes to ministry. Here they are:

It is never as bad as you think it is!

It is never as good as you think it is!

It is never completely fixed!

It is never completely broken!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Remember to PRAY 10


David, Tim and I as we are about ready to be eaten by the purple dragon at Dutch Wonderland reminding you to PRAY 10 this week!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Foundations: Giving and Serving


This month is VISION MONTH here at Grace Church in Lititz, PA and our theme for the month is FOUNDATIONS. It is our deisre to use the month of March to see the hundreds and hundreds of people who are coming to Grace Church all get on the same foundation in 8 specific areas. The two areas we will be looking at this Sunday is that of GIVING and SERVING.


If you can't be with us live and in person Sunday for one of our three morning worship services (8:30; 10; 11:30) then be sure to watch our 10am (PA time) service live on the web by going to: www.gracechurchworship.org

Friday, March 19, 2010

Inside Politics


Outside of my family and Grace Church, my two greatest interests in life are baseball and politics. I love keeping up on all of the political happenings in our country – especially at the national level. I thoroughly enjoy listening and/or watching political talk/news shows on both the radio and television. And though I consider myself to be a political conservative, I enjoy watching and listening to these political shows no matter if they are coming from a liberal or conservative perspective. I am constantly flipping from FOX News to CNN to MSNBC and then back again. In fact, I can enjoy keeping the channel set on CSPAN and CSPAN 2 as well.

The part of politics I enjoy the most is seeing some of the “inner workings”, especially as it relates to the White House or Capitol Hill. One of my favorite shows of all times was the drama series, West Wing, in which Marin Sheen played President Bartlet. Now in the show, Bartlet was pretty much a liberal so it had a liberal slant to its story lines but that didn’t bother me a bit. What I loved about the show is that it gave a true glimpse of how the West Wing really functions. In fact, they used advisors from three different real administrations to make sure that the way they were presenting the functioning of the West Wing was pretty accurate. As I result, I loved watching the show. It actually is on one of the more obscure cable channels still each morning. I watch back to back episodes of it every Friday morning on my day off before I go grocery shopping with my wife (another hobby I truly enjoy! No kidding!).

As a result of my genuine fascination with the inner working of the political machine in America, I recently got a book that I am enjoying reading. Keep in mind that I read so much during my day as part of my studying for sermons that I really don’t do much reading outside of the office simply for enjoyment. But last week I picked up Karl Rove’s new book Courage and Consequences. Rove, of course, is often credited for both of George Bush’s presidential election victories and was his senior advisor during his administration. In the book he takes us from the first time he met Bush through helping him defeat in upset fashion Ann Richards for Governor of Texas and then through his becoming President of the United States.

The majority of the book details the 8 years of President Bush’s administration from the perspective of one whose office was just 15 steps away from the Oval Office. Man, would I give anything to see the Oval Office for myself. I saw an exact replica of it at the Reagan Library in California on vacation one year (told you I loved politics) but I just can’t imagine what it would be like to actiually stand in the real Oval Office or sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom.

The truth is that if God had not called me into the ministry I think I could have really enjoyed a life in politics. Campaigning – making speeches – debating policy – sounds like a lot of fun to me. In fact, I actually think if I had gone that direction I just might have been reasonably good at it (especially if I had a Karl Rove by my side). But then again, I guess as a pastor I get to experience both worlds. I get to be part every day of the hope of the world – the church. And Lord knows that there is always enough church politics to satisfy that interest in my life as well.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You Must See SEUSSICAL




Just got done watching Lititz Christian School's Spring Musical - Seussical! It is unbelievably fantastic. If you can at all make it Friday (7pm) or Saturday (2pm). You'll be glad you did!

What a Weekend!


Every Thursday is a day in which I really start getting excited about the weekend. So as I think about the next few days I can’t help but get pumped up for the following reasons:

This weekend is the Lititz Christian School (LCS) Spring Musical. This year they are performing the show, Seussical, a correlation of many wonderful stories by Dr Seuss. There are many amazing aspects about Lititz Christian School, which is a ministry of Grace Church, but in my opinion, one of their “bread and butter” elements is their Fine Arts Department anchored each year by the Fall Play and the Spring Musical. It is always worth seeing! And this year’s set is just absolutely second to none. But the part of this year’s event that has me most excited is that my son will be playing the part of Horton the Elephant. Jonathan is a Senior and this will be his last stage performance at LCS. I am a bit biased but he really has some natural talent and is simply amazing on the stage. I can’t wait to see the show. In fact, Laura and I will be attending all 3 performances (Thursday night; Friday night; and Saturday afternoon).

March Madness kicks off this weekend! That is always exciting. Friday night about 9:30pm my Ohio State Buckeye’s Men’s Basketball Team (#2 seed) goes up against UC Santa Barbara. Then on Saturday afternoon the Lady Flames Basketball Team of Liberty University (where I graduated in 1987), who is a #13 seed, will face the 4th seeded Wildcats of Kentucky. Let the dancing begin!

And then there is the crown jewel of every weekend – SUNDAY – and there is no better way to spend a Sunday then right here at Grace Church. I live for Sundays, I really do! It isn’t easy preaching three times each Sunday. In fact, one pastor who also preaches three services on Sunday mornings recently told me that preaching each Sunday was like giving birth to triplets and then waking up Monday morning to find you’re pregnant again with more triplets. In a way, that’s right – but I wouldn’t want to spend Sundays any other way. This Sunday at Grace we continue our Foundations series as part of our VISION MONTH. We also will have the thrill of seeing several people publicly confess their faith in Jesus through water baptism. How cool!

And then all weekend long I get to continue to drive around and see our FACE YOUR FEARS signs all over the place. And God is really using these simple signs. In the first week that they were up we got some 3,000 unique visitors to our special http://www.6fears.net/ website. And not just that. As a result of the signs hits to our church website doubled last week and hits to my blog was up over 60%. In fact, last Sunday the live stream of our 10am worship service at Grace tripled with 277 unique visitors. If you figure 1.5 to 2 people watching per computer that is somewhere in between 415 and 554 people watching our service live on the web. We even had one internet viewer from Delaware ask us to mail them a yard sign so they can advertise the internet angle of our FACE YORU FEARS series which begins Easter Weekend.

And finally, this weekend is exciting because it begins the countdown to next weekend which will feature our annual Easter Helicopter Egg Drop as we anticipate over 5,000 people on our campus for this special holiday event. So, let the weekend begin! It’s going to be awesome all the way around!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Churches Cooperate


You are aware of our FACE YOUR FEARS promotional campaign that we are doing as we have nearly 1,000 FACE YOUR FEARS yard signs around the area that direct people to a special website designed to invite them to our FACE YOUR FEARS message series that begins Easter weekend. Many times when one church does a marketing campaign such as this, some other churches kind of get their “nose knocked out of place” sort of speak. But during the first week of our yard signs saturating our community I received this wonderful e-mail from a pastor of a nearby church whose church property is literally in the middle of two well-travelled roads:

Greetings Pastor Scott, I don’t think we have formally met; my name is Wes Siegrist, lead pastor of your neighboring church up Doe Run road at Erb Mennonite…I’m writing you today in support of your ‘Facing the Fears’ project. I’m intrigued by the clever advertising of ‘signs’ I’ve seen throughout the area and within my own neighborhood. I also liked your website designed to promote this upcoming event. As you know, our church sits at a great location, with great road frontage along Doe Run and three well travelled intersections. I do not allow or approve of political signs which people seem to randomly place on our property without permission.

However, one of the things we care about at Erb is networking and encouraging what God is doing in our region – Kingdom building. Therefore, if your Ministry Team/Staff so desires to place 4 or 5 signs on our property to promote your ‘facing your fears’ event, go for it! You have my permission. While some may see this as a conflict of interest, I do not. I support your work and ministry and pray that it will be successful in touching lives for Jesus Christ. If our location at Erb can help you promote this event, we want to do so. Don’t feel obligated to place promotional signs in our yard since I contacted you. But I just felt led to give you all permission to do so if you were so included. For me this demonstrates unity in Christ. Let me know if you have any questions. My only request would be that if a few signs are posted, they would then also be removed when promotion is completed.

What a refreshing and encouraging e-mail that was. So, I sent Pastor Wes this e-mail back in reply:

Hi Wes! What a wonderful e-mail! I am blown away by your generous offer. We would be honored to put a few signs up on your church property. I will contact one of our staff and ask them to do just that this week. We will also be sure they get taken down after Easter. I only ask one thing – please allow me to take you out to lunch some day as a “thank you” and to have the privilege of getting to know you. Why don’t you send me a few days yet this month that you might be available and I will check them against my calendar.

When churches cooperate – the Kingdom wins! Thanks, Pastor Wes, for this reminder! I needed to be reminded of this because I had to ask myself this question, “Would I have sent an e-mail like that if I had seen another church’s yard signs?”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grace Messages On-Line


Our internet ministry continues to grow here at Grace Church with our regular church website (http://www.meetgrace.org/) and our Face Your Fears message series website (http://www.6fears.net/). Several of our staff also have their own blogs. In fact, my blog that you are reading right now has seen well over 150,000 unique visitors from over 160 different countries around the world since it inception. We also broadcast our 10am service each Sunday live on the web with viewers watching it from literally all over the world at http://www.gracechurchworship.org/.

But also available through our website 24 hours a day are the videos of past message series here at Grace. Simply go to our website (http://www.meetgrace,org/) and click on “Messages.” From there you can watch video of our current message series (which right now is “Foundations” as part of our Vision Month) or you can click on our message archives. From there you can watch any or all of the following past message series here at Grace Church:

McWorship
Helping Those Who Hurt
The WOW Factor: World Of Wonder
Semper Paratus – Always Ready
Wonder Women
SuperMen
Just Say No
The Man Of The Hour
Ghostbusters
The Amazing Race
Grounded In Gratitude
Messy Christmas
Hail To The Chief
LOL: Love Out Loud
Vision Month 2009
Celebrating Jesus Decade By Decade
Chick Flicks Of The Bible
Dollars For Dummies
Once Upon A Time…For Such A Time As This
Touchdown Jesus
Grace Matters

So take the time to go back and review these past messages or watch them for the very first time if you missed them. And also be sure to let your friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors, and co-workers know that these resources are available to them. They are all free and we are excited to be able to use modern technology to meet as many people as possible right where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be!

Monday, March 15, 2010

BUCKEYES...FLAMES: Set To DANCE!


Yesterday was a great day of college basketball in my book as the Ohio State men's basketball team won the Big Ten Tournament with a 29-point victory over Minnesota and the Lady Flames basketball team of Liberty University (where I graduated in 1987) upset #1 seeded Gardner Webb to win the Big South tournament. Both will now be in the big dance as March Madness continues!

Send an E-VITE





You can send an E-vite to everyone you know who has an e-mail address so that they are personally invited by you to upcoming events here at Grace Church.

Send an E-vite to teenagers inviting them to be part of our Grace Student Ministries!

Send an E-vite to parents who have children inviting them to be part of our Easter Egg Helicopter Drop on March 27!

Send an E-vite to everyone you know to invite them to our Face Your Fears series starting Easter weekend!

It's easy. Here's what to do:

Go to our church website (www.meetgrace.org)

Click on Invite a Friend

Click on one of the E-vites

Type in your name and e-mail address

Type in the name and e-mail address you are sending the e-vite to

Type in a personal message inviting them to the event and encouraging them to contact you or our church website (www.meetgrace.org) for more information.

Click on Submit

That's all there is to it! E-mail and internet technology is a wonderful thing. Let's be sure to leverage it as much and as often as you can to help us fulfill our purpose as a church which is to meet as many people as possible right where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Remember to PRAY 10


David, Tim and I as we are meeting this Amish man right where he is reminding you to PRAY 10 this week!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Foundations: Salvation and Baptism


This month is VISION MONTH here at Grace Church in Lititz, PA and our theme for the month is FOUNDATIONS. It is our deisre to use the month of March to see the hundreds and hundreds of people who are coming to Grace Church all get on the same foundation in 8 specific areas. The two areas we will be looking at this Sunday is that of SALVATION and BAPTISM.


If you can't be with us live and in person Sunday for one of our three morning worship services (8:30; 10; 11:30) then be sure to watch our 10am (PA time) service live on the web by going to: www.gracechurchworship.org

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lois Lane Was WRONG


In 2006, Warner Brothers released an action and adventure movie under the direction of Bryan Singer called Superman Returns. In the movie, Superman had been gone for five years seeking his home planet. While he was gone things changed on his adopted planet Earth. Life moved on without him including the life of his love, Lois Lane. She now has both a son and a fiancé and she has won a coveted Pulitzer Prize for her piece, “Why The World Doesn’t Need Superman.” To make the plot thicken, evil Lex Luthor has a diabolical plan going that if enacted will destroy millions of lives.

There is a scene in the movie where Superman meets an angry Lois Lane on a rooftop to update her on where he’s been for the last five years.

Lois says, “Well, you’re back and everyone seems to be pretty happy about it.”

Superman replies, “Not everyone. I read the article Lois…How could you write it?”

Lois answers, “How could you leave us like that? I moved on. So did the rest of us. That’s why I wrote it.”

And then Lois says this line that stopped me in my tracks:

The world doesn’t need a savior and neither do I.”

Superman had left earth for 5 years. Even the very one that loved him the most had moved on with her life. Now she no longer had any need for him as her savior. I wonder if the writer of this screenplay had any idea of the spiritual similarities to this story.

Jesus came to earth. He lived for 33 years. He died. He rose from the dead. He ascended back into heaven. He’s now been gone for some 2,000 years, and ask most people in the world today their thoughts and they would most likely say like Lois Lane,

The world doesn’t need a savior and neither do I.”

But Lois Lane was wrong in the movie. Evil was at work and it was threatening all of mankind. Lex Luthor had a plan and even though Lois Lane didn’t realize it, she and the world desperately needed a superman. They desperately needed a Savior.

Such is the case today. Evil is at work. Man is dead in their sins and unable on their own to do anything about it. Satan has a plan that will destroy the souls of all men for all of eternity. The world desperately needs a Savior! I desperately need a Savior! You desperately need a Savior! Jesus is that Savior. His death for our sins and His resurrection from the dead is the only answer. Lois Lane was wrong. Don’t make the same mistake. This isn’t a movie. The world needs a Savior and so do you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

...Open the Doors; See all the people!

Continued from Yesterday!

Now go to the last book of the Bible – the book of Revelation. I’ve also written out this passage below. Look at chapter 20…Revelation chapter 20 as John describes a horrific scene that will one day become reality. Start reading in verse 11. John says,

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, (now please underline the rest of the verse) he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

This is why I am so passionate about seeing Grace Church meet as many people as possible. It is because hell is a very real place and each person in our community is someone’s mom, someone’s dad, someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s grandchild, someone’s brother, someone’s sister, someone’s friend, who will spend eternity there if the church doesn’t reach them with the Good News of Jesus.

Let me challenge you to do something. This Sunday buy the Sunday edition of the Lancaster Newspaper. Once you do – pull out the obituary section. I encourage you to take a serious look at this section. Read every name. Look at every picture. All of these people will have died right around us this past week. Now Jesus said that there are two roads. There is a broad road that leads to destruction (meaning to hell) and many are on that road. Then there is a narrow road that leads to eternal life (speaking of heaven) and few find it.

So according to Jesus illustration, are more people going to hell or to heaven? More people are going to hell. Many are on the broad road that leads to destruction but few find the narrow road that leads to eternal life. Now if that is true than some of the people in this section of Sunday’s newspaper will be in heaven. Praise the Lord. But most of them will most likely be in hell at that very moment. That is why I am so passionate about seeing God use the church to meet as many people as possible and help move them to where He wants them to be.That’s why I am excited about the growth we have seen over the past 6 years as a church. That’s why my prayer every day is that this growth would continue as God blesses us with more fruit.
That is my passion. I don’t just love being in the church. I love seeing God use the church to reach as many people as possible. I pray that’s your passion as well.
I love the church. In fact, I still love the little kid’s game we did with our hands. “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.” And that is my prayer for Grace Church that we will always be passionate about opening the doors of our church and seeing the people that we are meeting and moving for Jesus.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Here's the church; Here's the steeple...


Remember when you were a kid and you would play that little game using your fingers to tell the story - “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.” I use to love that one. But that’s because as a kid I fell in love with the local church.

To say that my family was at church every time the doors were open is an understatement. My Grandpa was a pastor. And though my dad wasn’t a pastor, he was literally, no exaggeration, on every board and committee in the church and was part of any and every ministry in the church as well. But not only that, he and my mom were also the church janitors. So not only was I at the church every time the doors were open, I was at the church even when the doors were locked. I’m serious. Out of the 7 nights in a week, we would easily be at church at least 5 of those 7 evenings.

Now a lot of kids would have grown tired of being at church that much. Not me. I grew to love being in the church. You didn’t have to twist my arm as a kid to go to church. I would be the first one in the family dressed and ready to walk out the door. And as I went into my teen years, that never changed. I remember when I was in Jr High School, I would come home after school, take my dad’s key to the church, with his permission of course, and go up to the church to do my homework. I loved being in the church, even when it was only me there. I loved to take my trumpet up and practice it in the church sanctuary. And I loved to stand behind that big brown pulpit and pretend that I was preaching. I loved being in church.

And when I went away to college, that passion for the church didn’t diminish. In fact, it expanded. After spending 4 years sitting under the ministry of Dr Jerry Falwell at Liberty University, my passion grew from just loving being in church to wanting to see God use the church to reach as many people as possible for Christ. You see, there’s a difference. A lot of people love to be in church but they lack a passion to see the church grow. That is what I appreciated most about my 4 years at Liberty. God used those years to take my passion from simply loving being in church to deeply desiring to see God use the church to reach people and to be part of that happening.

And to this day that passion that I caught in college continues to grow within me and drive me. I am not just passionate about being in the church. That’s not enough to satisfy my longing. My passion is to see God use the church to do exactly what he called the church to do – meet as many people as possible where they are and help move them to where He wants them to be.

This passion grows within me the more I read my Bible. In fact, go grab your Bible and open it to the Gospel of Luke which is the third book of the New Testament – Matthew, Mark then Luke. If you don’t have your Bible, I will write out this passage below so you can read it. Go to chapter 16…Luke chapter 16. Begin reading in verse 20. Jesus is telling a very real story. We know it’s real because He uses a real name. It’s about a poor beggar named Lazarus who dies and goes to paradise and a wicked rich man who dies and goes to hell. Start reading in verse 20.

“And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate (speaking of the gate of the rich man), covered with sores and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; beside, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades (which is another word for hell) he lifted up his eyes, (now would you underline this next phrase either in your Bibles or your programs) being in torment and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in (now underline the rest of the verse, would you?) agony in this flame.’”

Read part two tomorrow!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Lessons From An Air Supply Concert


A couple of weeks ago my wife took me to the Christopher Cross and Air Supply (pictured above then and now) concert at the American Music Theater for my birthday. While some have questioned my “manhood” and even called me a “sap” for getting excited about an Air Supply concert, the truth is that I am simply a sucker for the easy listening love songs of the 70’s and the 80’s, and in my opinion, Christopher Cross and Air Supply wrote and recorded some of the best. For example:

Sailing (Christopher Cross)
The theme from the movie, Arthur (Christopher Cross)
I’m All Out Of Love (Air Supply)
You Every Woman In The World (Air Supply)
Even The Night Nights Are Better (Air Supply)
Making Love Out Of Nothing At All (Air Supply)
Lost In Love (Air Supply)
Here I Am (Air Supply)

I have to be honest – it’s been 30 years since I was living my high school years out and these songs were topping the easy listening charts. Many of them I have not heard in those nearly 30 years and I absolutely loved sitting at that concert next to my wonderful wife. It was great!

But part of the enjoyment of the evening wasn’t just singing along with these old love songs, it was also watching the people around me. Actually, Laura and I were two of the youngest people there. I was surprised by how many people in their 50’s and 60’s (you know, the real old people) were packed into this sold out concert.

One lady of that age group really grabbed our attention. She was in the row ahead of us just to the left of our seats. Man, was she into the concert. Half of our evening was watching how excited she got with every song. She couldn’t keep seated. I thought she was going to roll over the balcony edge more than once.

But as I left the concert and was reflecting on the wonderful shared experience my wife and I had that night, it hit me. While we were reliving a piece of our past and enjoying the nostalgic experience, to her it was deeper. Most likely she was not a believer in Jesus and in her late 50’s, she wasn’t just reliving a piece of her past, she was most likely reliving the best part of her life, even including that which is still ahead of her.

You see, if you don’t know Jesus, once you reach a certain age, the best is over. Your future will never be as exciting as your past. For two hours at this concert this woman was able to get into a time warp of sorts and re-live the best times her life will ever have. No wonder she was so animated.

And though I loved being at the concert that evening, especially with my wife, it didn’t affect me in the same way as it did that woman. Why? Because as wonderful of a life as I have experienced for the past 45 years, I am confident that the best is yet to come because, for the Christian, the best is always yet to come.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Remember to PRAY 10

David Felty (Worship Arts Director) and Frank Potaro (Band Leader) while on an African Sarafi reminding you to PRAY 10 this week!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Foundations: Purpose and Vision


This Sunday begins VISION MONTH here at Grace Church in Lititz, PA and our theme for the month is FOUNDATIONS. It is our deisre to use the month of March to see the hundreds and hundreds of people who are coming to Grace Church all get on the same foundation in 8 specific areas. The two areas we will be looking at this Sunday is that of getting behind our PURPOSE and our VISION as a church.




If you can't be with us live and in person Sunday for one of our three morning worship services (8:30; 10; 11:30) then be sure to watch our 10am (PA time) service live on the web by going to:
www.gracechurchworship.org

Friday, March 05, 2010

Writing On The Floor

Many of you might remember several years ago when at the end of a Sunday morning I invited all of our church to take permanent black markers and to write on the wall of our auditorium the names of three people who needed Jesus that we were committing to pray for and invite to church. As a result, every time we walked into church we were reminded to pray for these people who needed to know Jesus.

Well this Sunday we are going to do it again. But this time we are not going to write on the wall of the auditorium but rather on the floor of the vestibule to our new café. Here’s why:

This Sunday we begin our Vision Month here at Grace that we are calling “Foundations.” It is our goal this month to encourage our entire church family to all get on the same foundation when it comes to 8 areas. The foundation areas we are looking at this Sunday is that of getting on board with our purpose and vision as a church.

Part of that vision is our new café that is moving closer and closer to completion. We are really believing God to use this new part of our facility, which will actually be the 2nd largest room in our building, to help us really connect with people so that we can more effectively meet as many people as possible right where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be.

So to help cement this in our life, we are making arrangements for this Sunday only where after each of our three morning services you can take a permanent black marker and go into the vestibule section of our new café and write a prayer on the cement floor before the final flooring is put down over top of it. This way, every time you walk in our new café after it is completed, you will be reminded of that personal prayer that you wrote on the cement floor underneath.

This will also be the Sunday that we pass out the FACE YOUR FEARS yard signs that have on it the special website (www.6fears.net) which draws people to our new series that begins Easter weekend here at Grace. We are asking every family in our church to put one of these signs in their yards. If you own your own business, we would love for you to take a yard sign for the yard outside your place of business as well. Be sure to get your sign this Sunday. This Sunday will also have some other fun elements because as we think about the purpose and vision of our church we want this to be a creative and celebratory atmosphere. As a result, look for the characters of the upcoming musical for Lititz Christian School (LCS) being in the auditorium before the service passing out balloons and popcorn. This year’s LCS musical is Seussical (featuring the many stories of Dr Seuss). The set for the musical will also be up and the cast will be performing one of their songs to start off each of our three services. We also have some great worship music that will be part of this exciting morning as we encourage everyone to get on board with the purpose and vision of Grace Church.

So come prepared this Sunday to celebrate. Come prepared to write a prayer on the floor of our new café. And come prepared to take home a Face Your Fear sign and stick it your front yard.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

FACE YOUR FEARS YARD SIGNS

Easter is fast approaching and for the church it is one of the most exciting weekends of the year. This is that one weekend that we set aside to celebrate the greatest even in the history of the world – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is also the best opportunity that we have all year to share the good news of Jesus to many people. More people will come to church on Easter weekend than any other time of the year. So we need to leverage this opportunity to its fullest.

For many years we would make the hub of our Easter promotion putting ads in the newspaper and sending out mailers. But last year we took a paradigm shift and decided that if the number one reason people visit our church is because someone invites them, then instead of spending our promotion monies on newspaper ads and mailings, let’s instead use those monies to help equip our people to make it easier for them to invite their family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

We did this last year when we designed a special “coffee-style” invite that had inside of it a coupon for a free beverage at Sheetz. This worked wonderful and resulted in the largest weekend attendance in the history of our church with over 2,370 people in attendance. This year we are trying another creative idea that we believe will help to equip our entire church family to be able to invite people they know, especially their neighbors, to our Easter services here at Grace Church this year. We have had made up 1,000 yard signs (like the ever popular campaign yard signs) that simply say this:

FACE YOUR FEARS
www.6fears.net

Face Your Fears is the name of our 6-week message series that we are beginning on Easter as we look at how to deal with 6 real fears that we all face. The first fear that we will talk about on Easter is the fear of death. The website, http://www.6fears.net/, is a special website that we have put together that is designed specifically to draw people to our series and to invite them to attend.

Here is what we are hoping will happen. We would like to see every family that is part of our ministry put one of these signs in their yard 4 weeks prior to Easter weekend. If you own your own business, we would love to see you take a sign for the yard outside your place of business as well. Imagine what will happen for 30 days prior to Easter as people drive around our community and see dozens of these signs every day? We believe curiosity will win out and they will go to our special website where they will be invited to attend Easter at Grace.

And imagine how this will impact your neighbors? When they see this sign in your yard we believe they will either ask you about the sign or they will themselves go to our special website where they will be invited to join us for this practical series that will share that we can have hope even in the midst of our fears. I think many of you will also be surprised at signs that you see in your own neighborhood in front of houses that you had no idea attended here at Grace Church.

This Sunday, March 7th, is when we pass out these yard signs so be sure to get yours!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Justifying Our Hatred - Part 2




In my posting yesterday I shared how the Pharisees in Jesus’ day had distorted the Old Testament law to justify their hatred of people whom they disapproved of, disagreed with, or who were different than them. If you didn’t read yesterday’s blog, I encourage you to do so now.
Today I want to show you how we are not all that different from the Pharisees. I am going to give you three examples and I do so with fear and trembling. These are going to “step (OK, stomp) on your toes” so consider yourself pre-warned.

Example #1 = Politicians! In our culture today it has become the norm that if you disapprove of or disagree with the policies and positions of a politician, than it is OK to be hateful toward him or her as a person. We saw this when President Bush was in office. Those who disapproved of him or disagreed with his policies, especially as related to the war on terror, saw it as a justifiable reason to be hateful toward him as a person. And today the same is true regarding President Obama. And I find that even many followers of Christ, because they disapprove of the President and/or because they disagree with his policies, have justified in their heart, life and words, why it is OK to be hateful toward him, and sometimes towards his family as well.

Example #2 = Gay People! The same is true with the gay community. As a follower of Jesus who believes the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I disapprove of the homosexual lifestyle. I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle. But that does not give me justification to be hateful toward homosexuals. That doesn’t give me justification to refer to the gay community using derogatory terms. Yet, that is exactly what many followers of Jesus do – and they seem to feel justified, even spiritual, in doing so.

Example #3 = Klu Klux Klan! When I pastored in Indiana, our church was within 1 mile of the largest KKK compound in the state of Indiana. They often had “white pride festivals” and burned crosses. But what I found was that the church community in the area responded to the KKK with reciprocal hatred. I remember being at a meeting where pastor after pastor was leveling hateful words about the KKK. Now I disapprove of the KKK. I disagree with the teachings of the KKK. But when I stood up to share my thoughts, I spoke about our need to pray for the KKK, that they would ultimately be radically changed and transformed through faith in Jesus Christ. When I got done, the next pastor stood up and opened his comments with, “Any coward can pray.” I remember talking to one of the area sheriff deputies who told me that the anti-KKK group was far more hateful and hard to deal with than the KKK was themselves.

The truth is that all of us can have the tendency to be like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. All of us have an area in our life where we have justified why it is OK, maybe even spiritual, to be hateful toward a person or a group of people because we disapprove of their lifestyle or disagree with their policies and beliefs. But I am reminded of what Jesus said when he contrasted the teaching of the Pharisees in Matthew 5:43-38 with His own teaching. Jesus said:

“Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Justifying Our Hatred - Part 1


In Matthew 5:43 we learn that the Pharisees in Jesus day teaching about how to respond to their enemies lowered the bar of spirituality and even made hatred of their enemies sound spiritual. They did this by distorting the Old Testament law in three ways. They omitted something. They altered the definition of something. And then they added something. Anytime we omit aspects of Scripture, anytime we change the definition of something in Scripture; and/or anytime we add something to Scripture, we set ourselves up for a lot of problems.

The Pharisees said two things. First, they said to “love your neighbor.” Now that may sound good on the surface and you can find that phrase in the law. In fact, it is in Leviticus 19:18. But if you look closely at that verse you will discover that the Pharisees omitted a very key element. The law didn’t simply say to “love your neighbor.” It said to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Now that changes the whole intensity of the command. It is one thing to love your neighbor but it is a whole other thing to love your neighbor as you love yourself. It is one thing to meet your neighbor’s needs but it is a whole other thing to meet your neighbor’s needs as you would want them to meet your needs. They omitted the phrase “as yourself” to make it easier to follow.

They also changed a definition. The Pharisees defined a neighbor as anyone you approve of. If you approve of them, they’re your neighbor. If you agree with them, they are your neighbor. If you are like them, they are your neighbor. Jesus, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, taught just the opposite as He defined a neighbor as anyone you meet who has a need, even if they are your enemy. Again, the Pharisees were lowering the bar of God’s expectations.

But not only did the Pharisees omit something and not only did they altar a definition, they also added something. They said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Now if in the mind of a Pharisee a neighbor was anyone who approved of, agreed with, and anyone who was like you, then who would an enemy be? It would be anyone who you disapprove of; anyone who disagree with, or anyone who was different than them. And they said, “It’s spiritual to hate your enemy.

But nowhere in the Old Testament law will you find any command to hate your enemy. Most likely the Pharisees used some examples in Scripture, like when God told Joshua to wipe out all of the inhabitants of the Promised Land as they conquered it, or perhaps some of the Psalmists prayers where he prayed for judgment on his enemies. But was, “hating your enemies,” what the law really taught? According to Deuteronomy 23:4-5, the law said that if you see your enemies’ ox or donkey wandering away, you are to return it to them. If you see your enemies donkey collapsed under a heavy load, you are to help your enemy fix the problem. Nowhere in the Bible will you find that it is justified or in some way spiritual to hate your enemies.

The Pharisees had distorted the Old Testament Scriptures so that they only had to love those they approved of and agreed with and so that they would feel spiritually justified in hating those they disapproved of and whom they disagreed with. You say, “How horrible!” But the truth is that we do the very same thing today as followers of Jesus. I will give three examples of this in my blog tomorrow. You might want to put on some “steel-toed” shoes before you read it.

Monday, March 01, 2010

I Prayed For You Today

Today begins a brand new month and with it comes a brand new prayer challenge for Grace Church as part of our Year of Prayer.

This month we are using “I Prayed For You Today” cards that we made available last Sunday at church. If you didn’t get yours, be sure to pick up a stack of 10 of them this Sunday.

We are asking everyone who is part of our ministry here at Grace to take 10 cards and sometime through the month of March to pick 10 people to pray for. We would like you to select 5 of these people from those who are within our ministry. The other 5 we would encourage you to make those who are not part of our ministry. While it is fine for some of these to be people who attend other churches, we would love to see the majority of those five selections be people who are not believers and/or do not attend church anywhere.

Then, after your have prayed for each person, take one of your “I Prayed For You Today” cards and write them a note letting them know that you prayed for them. Then either hand them the card or stick it into an envelope and mail it to them. Imagine how encouraging and effective it will be for people all throughout our ministry and throughout our communities to be receiving these cards throughout the month of March.

In fact, we have 10,000 cards made up with the hopes that 1,000 of the people who attend Grace will participate in this challenge. I can’t wait to see how God works as 10,000 of these cards are given out after 10,000 prayers have been offered up on behalf of these individuals.

So if you picked your “I Prayed For You Today” cards up last Sunday here at Church then begin to use them. If you didn’t get yours yet, then go ahead and begin to think through, even pray through, what 10 people you will pray for this month and then be sure to pick up your “I Prayed For You Today” cards this Sunday.

Looking ahead to our April Prayer Challenge, it will just be a one day event as we have a ministry-wide Day of Prayer and Fasting on Thursday, April 1st. What a great day to do this since it is April Fool’s Day and the Bible says that “the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

On this day we are asking everyone in our church family who is medically able to fast for 24 hours and to use the time that you would normally eat to spend in extra prayer for God to use our Easter worship services in extraordinary ways to meet as many people as possible right where they are and help move them to where God wants them to be.

Though this is a 24-hour fast, it really only involves missing two meals. If you were to eat dinner at 6pm Wednesday night, you could then eat dinner again at 6pm Thursday night, only missing breakfast and lunch that day. I hope you will pray about participating in this special day. We will be getting more information out to you regarding how to fast and giving you special prayer requests for that day.