Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween from Me to You!

This weekend is Halloween and with it comes all of the "trick or treaters" and other aspects of this holiday. I realize that the topic of Halloween is somewhat controversial among Christians. Some see it as simply a cultural experience that is fun and harmless while others see it as being directly connected to Satanism. I don't want to tackle that subject in this blog. But since Halloween is this weekend I do want to take the time, as I have done every year in my blog, and offer an aspect of this holiday that I believe all followers of Jesus can benefit from no matter what your convictions are about the Halloween Holiday itself.

Back in 834 AD, Pope Gregory IV moved the Catholic Church's holiday of "All Saint's Day" to November 1st in an attempt to counter what he saw as the pagan practices meant to honor the pagan god, Saman, who was considered to be the Lord of the Dead. "All Saint's Day" on November 1st was designed to honor all of the "saints" that had previously died. The Eve of this church holiday was called "All Hallows E'en" (E'en is a contraction for evening). This gave us the modern name "Halloween."

So how can all of this benefit you and I as followers of Jesus this weekend? Well, I believe that Pope Gregory had a point - there is great value in remembering the saints of old who have gone on to heaven before us and celebrating their life's messages that still impacts us today (such as those wonderful men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11). Now I would differ with Pope Gregory's definition of a "saint". I believe that Scripture would teach that all who have put their faith alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin is a "saint." I also believe that this Halloween, no matter what your thoughts are on the aspects of this cultural holiday, you can be spiritually refreshed if you will take time to remember and give thanks for the saints who have gone on to heaven before you but whose life's testimony still impacts you today.

So this Halloween, why not take a few minutes to reflect on some of these dear saints. You can break it down into three categories:

Saints of Theology - these would be men and women whose stories we find in Scripture and whose examples still impact us today, motivating us to live for God. For me, this is Joshua. His story motivates me to want to live courageously for God.

Saints of History - these would be men and women who lived since the Bible was completed and are now with the Lord. Maybe you knew them...maybe you didn't, but their life's example still motivates you for Jesus today. For me this would include men like the singer/song-writer, Keith Green (who I never met but whose music kept me on course spiritually during my teenage years) and Jerry Falwell.

Saints of Family - these would be men and women who were part of your family and are now with Jesus but whose life's message still impacts you spiritually today. For me, this is my Grandpa Distler who was a pastor for over 50 years before going home to be with the Lord.

This Halloween as I reflect on Joshua, Keith Green, Jerry Falwell, and my Grandpa Distler, I will find myself being spiritually refreshed and challenged to love God even more. So, with that in mind - Happy Halloween to all of you!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Are You Reading?

I always find it interesting to hear what other people are reading. Currently I am reading (at least partially reading) several books including the following:

The Land Between - Finding God in Difficult Transitions
By Jeff Manion
Zondervan Publishing

Total Forgiveness
By R.T. Kendall
Charisma House Publishing

When Life is Hard
By James McDonald
Moody Publishers

No More Christian Nice Guy
By Paul Coughlin
Bethany House Publishers

And for my personal time in Scripture right now I am focusing my reading and study on the life of Joseph from the Old Testament which begins in Genesis 37.

What Are You Reading?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

B.Y.O.I. Church

This morning we attended a church (not in Lititz) with friends of ours who are looking for a church and asked us to attend a few with them to see what our thoughts were on them. They picked a church somewhat close to their home and we attended there with them. When we arrived it became quickly apparent that this particular church had a different slant on the issue of "sign gifts" than I was comfortable with. It wasn't overboard, but it was obvious. As a result, I personally could not be completely comfortable rolling up my sleeves in an ongoing matter with this local body, but I truly did enjoy spending the morning with these believers. Below are a few thoughts I have from the morning:

WORSHIP! The worship was very genuine and very informal. Some people stood while other people sat. Some people were very expressive while some were very reserved. I noticed quickly that several people brought their own instruments - and they weren't on the worship team either. That's why I entitled this posting the B.Y.O.I. (Bring Your Own Instrument) Church. There were several people in the congregation who played their tambourines and one young gal even put her flute together and played along with the songs from her seat. For me personally, the style of the music was not my "cup of tea". In fact, I had never heard most of the songs. Yet, I was able to genuinely worship as I focused on the words to the songs. They were powerful and pointed my focus on God. O how I wish that Christians would understand that worship isn't about the style of the music - it is about reflecting on the truth of who God is. One thing I have learned is that if I can't worship because I don't like the style of the music, the problem isn't really the style or the music - the problem is most likely my heart.

PREACHING! Though I am sure that there are theological areas in which I would disagree with the pastor who has led this particular church for over 40 years, his message this morning was tremendous. He spoke from John 8 on the story of the woman who was caught in adultery and brought to Jesus. He absolutely nailed perfectly the historical and cultural background of the passage and did a terrific job showing how its spiritual truths apply to our lives today. His presentation had to be good because he didn't start preaching until near the end of the service and the service in totality lasted just shy of 2 hours and 15 minutes! Yet, he had my attention the entire time. I was very challenged and encouraged by his message.

FRIENDLINESS! I can honestly say that this was the friendliest church I have ever attended in my entire life - bar none! from the moment we arrived we were greeted on the front steps of the church by the pastor himself and then all the way until the beginning of the service it was person after person after person coming up to us, introducing themselves to us with huge smiles, and making us feel very welcomed. Usually churches have coffee and goodies available prior to the service. This church didn't put out the refreshments until afterwards and even following a 140+minute worship service, most everyone stayed around and ate and continued to share with each other and with us.

So overall, it was a very good Sunday morning. If I ever have the opportunity to go back to this B.Y.O.I. Church again, maybe I'll bring my trumpet with me and play along in my seat!!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010


For the past 15+ years I have spent my Sunday mornings on stage preaching. Over the past several years I preached three times each and every Sunday morning. The truth is that there are very few things I love to do more than preach the Word of God. But as we go through this time of ministry transition in our lives I have had the wonderful experience of being a "PASTOR in the PEW" for several Sundays in a row. As much as I love preaching and can't wait to get back into that weekly schedule, I have found the last several weeks of being a "PASTOR in the PEW" very refreshing.

We have used the past several weeks to attend churches in the area which are much smaller than what we were accustomed to at Grace Church in Lititz, but which were pastored my men who are friends of mine and who have been a great source of encouragement to me, especially over the last few months:

Four Sundays ago we attended the Palmyra Grace Brethren Church pastored by Dan Travis. Dan is the pastor that I have partnered with for our every other year trips to the Holy Land. Dan's church is growing and extremely lively and friendly. The worship was vibrant and genuine and Dans message that Sunday was exactly what we needed. It was entitled, "When you go through hard times!"

Three Sundays ago we went out to the Myerstown Baptist Church pastored by Jim Bitner. Jim and his wife are also graduates of Liberty (much earlier than my wife and I because they are much older than we are). Jim has become a friend whose encouragement has been more than valuable to me. With the exception of his being a New York Yankee baseball fan, Jim is just the best. His message that morning was a very practical one on the need to learn and develop the spiritual gifts that God has given to us.

Two Sundays ago we travelled north to Pine Grove where we attended the Pine Grove Grace Brethren Church. This church is pastored by one of my closest friends and colleagues in ministry, Rod Finster. Rod was my youth pastor when I was in Osceola, IN. He and his wife Patty were able to take our place on this year's Israel trip - in fact, they are walking where Jesus walked right now! Rod's message that morning was on spiritual warfare from Ephesians 6 and his church was so warm and receptive of us. In fact, Laura played piano for them that week.

Last Sunday we went out to a newer church plant in Hershey. This church is called Living Legacy and is pastored by Larry Snyder, another Liberty graduate. They meet in the Granada Ave gym. My son, Jonathan, met Pastor Larry down at Liberty recently and had an initial conversation with him about a possible internship as worship leader this summer. Since Jonathan was home for fall break last weekend we went out to check out this church plant. The message was a very practical one on the need for us to show godly kindness as David did to Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9.

I am not sure what pew I will find myself in this Sunday but I am asking God to use these times being the "PASTOR in the PEW" to make me an even better communicator of His Word as he opens up new and exciting doors of ministry for us in the near future.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Two Area Churches Reaching Out

My heart always has been and always will be to see the local Church used of God to reach out to their community and meet as many people as possible right where they are at while helping to move them closer to where God wants them to be. I firmly believe that evangelism must be the engine that drives the church. Recently I have seen two local churches in the Lititz are making strides to do just that.

Have you seen the "DARKNESS REVEALED" yard signs around the area? The Lititz United Methodist Church is borrowing a page from what we did at Grace Church last Easter with our FACE YOUR FEARS campaign. We put nearly 1,000 FACE YOUR FEARS yard signs around the area with a special website on it which invited people to our FACE YOUR FEARS message series that started on Easter Sunday. We had over 10,000 hits to the website and a record attendance at church that Easter (well over 2600 people). The Lititz United Methodist Church is following the same pattern and both the signs and the website look very effective. I am greatly encouraged to see another church using this same idea (after all, nearly every great idea I have ever used in ministry I borrowed from another church). I sent them an email congratulating them on their efforts and wishing them God's blessing as they purposefully reach out to their community.

I also received a very attractive brochure in the mail from the Speedwell Forge Church advertising their new message series, GAME CHANGER. I too sent their pastor an email congratulating them and wishing them God's blessing. I received a very encouraging email back from him sharing that they had just recently went to two morning worship services and just last Sunday they had about a dozen guests connected directly or indirectly to the mailing. Praise the Lord!

So "hats off" to the Lititz United Methodist Church and the Speedwell Forge Church in the area for their efforts to reach their community through the local church!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fingerprints and Coffee

Like snowflakes, no two people's fingerprints are alike. Our fingerprints are one of the best exact ways to identify who we are and where we have been. Over the last month, my wife and I have gotten into the daily habit of looking for and identifying the fingerprints of God.

What are the fingerprints of God? To us, they are those little things (and sometimes big things - more like a "palm print") that happen in our lives or in our day that clearly identify the presence of God. It is the fingerprints of God through which the Lord communicates to us the following,

"Don't worry! I'm here! I have your back! I'm not nervous about your situation so neither should you be! I am still in control and I still have a wonderful plan for your lives. Just trust me!"
Obviously, the clearest way we see the fingerprints of God is through the Bible. You want to see evidence of God in your life? You want encouragement in the midst of your uncertainty? You want the peace and comfort of God in the "waiting" times of your life? If so, then look first and foremost to the Word of God.

But we also have learned to see the fingerprints of God in other ways as well. We have seen God's fingerprints in:

Encouraging emails, cards, calls and visits!

His providential care of our material needs!

His perfect timing in certain encounters!

His leading to specific websites!

His leading pastors to preach on certain topics!

And we have seen God's fingerprints in many other ways as well. It has been the best lesson we have learned over the past month - how to look for and identify the fingerprints of God, take encouragement from them, and joyfully thank Him for His presence and goodness in our lives.

Before we had company come in from out of town, Laura and I would brew some caramel flavored decaf coffee at the end of the day and sit out on the back porch and reminisce about the ways we had seen the fingerprints of God that day while we enjoyed our coffee in the cool of the evening. I had shared this with a friend and he and his wife brought us some great tasting coffee along with two specially made mugs that had the picture of a big fingerprint on them with the words, "GOD'S FINGERPRINTS."

God's fingerprints and coffee - it's hard to imagine a better way to end the day no matter what circumstances you might be going through in life.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Distler Update

Hello, Everyone! I just thought I'd give you a quick update on our family since resigning from our minsitry last month.

The kids got home early this morning for Fall Break from Liberty. It was quite an adventure. Joy's car blew an engine 30 minutes out of Liberty. My father-in-law and I left at 5pm Wednesday night to make the 650 mile round trip to pick then up and got back home safe at 3:30am on Thursday. I then spent most of the day today looking for a used engine for her Honda CRV - actually got one from Japan. it is being shipped to Lynchburg where it will be put into her vehicle. But we are just thankful that everyone is safe and that we have a few days together as a family before they head back to Lynchburg, Va on Sunday.

Speaking of in-laws, Laura's parents have been with us for several weeks now and it has been an amazing blessing to have such family love, encouragement and support. They will leave on Sunday, taking the kids back to Liberty in their Motor Home, and then they will head west to their home in Colorado.

All in all we are doing fine. Some days are harder than others, as you can imagine, but God is certainly good all the time and each and every day we see His fingerprints in our lives which makes us truly thankful. We are trusting God daily to open up the right next door of ministry for us in His timing.

Above are a couple of pictures we took over the last two days that we needed to send to one of the ministries that we are in contact with. Thanks again for the many calls, visits, dinner invites, notes, cards, emails, food and more that we have received. We appreciate the love and the encouragement. Again, if you did not see it earlier, my new email is

Friday, October 08, 2010

New E-Mail Address

Thank you so much for the many wonderful cards, letters, calls and visits. We appreciate so much the love and encouragement that has been expressed to us. My new email address is below: