Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday in Philly - Worship and P.F. Changs

Laura and I spent Sunday in the Philly area. We had received a gift card to PF Changs (one of our newest favorite restaurants) for Christmas and since the closest one was in Philly, we decided to head east for the day.

I got on the Internet to see what churches were located near the restaurant locations (there are 2 PF Changs in the Philly area) and found a church that looked appealing...and it was. This church meets in a Middle School and is very contemporary. I was amazed at the amount of hours they must spend and the work they must put into their set-up and tear-down. From the children's area to the welcome area to the stage area - it was all very professional and very well done. They certainly get an "A" for that angle of their first impressions.

There current sermon theme is called "Toxic" and so the stage was set up accordingly. The lights, sound and even smoke machines added to the effect. Their worship leader and band were very contemporary and did a real nice job of leading in worship. Each song, though I did not recognize most of them, had a message that pointed squarely on truth about God that was very powerful and encouraging. The laid back, causal feel of the service was very inviting for a first-time guest. We had several people stop and take an interest in us - enough to make us feel welcomed but no so over-bearing that we felt smothered.

The Lead Pastor is from Chicago. He didn't preach this weekend due to his wife expecting to deliver their 6th child. An older (compared to the Lead Pastor and Worship Leader) staff member did the speaking and talked on "Toxic Religion." His definition of "Toxic Religion" was any practice, belief or behavior that attempts to earn the love of God. His communication style was very conversational, yet interesting. He did a great job showing the danger of our thinking we can somehow earn God's love. The only thing I was disappointed with in his message was his final take away points. Though they were good principles I wasn't exactly sure how they completely fit the idea of staying away from "Toxic Religion." I thought maybe it was just me, but Laura missed the connection as well. All in all, however, it was still a great service!

I'd love to go back some time and hear their lead pastor speak. I think he is from Chicago. He seems to have a lot of vision and desires to see the church grow to 1013 by the year 2013. From the looks of it, I think they'll make it. I get excited anytime I see a church that truly has a vision and is going somewhere for the Lord. After all, I still believe that the local church is the hope of the world because we have the only message that can alter a person's life for eternity.

After the service we hit PF Changs! I love that place, especially their famous lettuce wrap appetizer which is pictured above! I could make a whole meal just out of that! After lunch, we then went over to the King of Prussia Mall for a few hours. Sunday in Philly - kinda nice!

Friday, January 28, 2011


A very good friend of mine has faithfully taken my to breakfast every single week over the past 4 months in order to encourage me and learn how he and his wife can be praying for our family. I have been so blessed by his generosity and his friendship. We met again yesterday for our weekly breakfast and it simply was an amazing start to my day.

Well, to be honest, the day didn't start so amazingly. Knowing I had this breakfast meeting, I got up at 6:15 in order to shovel the driveway only to discover that we got a little more snow Wednesday night than I thought we were going to get - and it was heavy. Being about the only person on my block with no snow-blower (guess that makes me a real man! Ha!) I spent the next nearly 90 minutes clearing the driveway of that beautiful white stuff. And to make matters worse, just when I finally got to the end of the long driveway I was faced with a "mountain" of ice "boulders" blocking the end of my drive courtesy of the snowplows. OK - it wasn't a "mountain" of snow and they weren't really ice "boulders," but with every muscle in my body already aching from shoveling the drive, they might as well have been "mountains" and "boulders". And if that wasn't bad enough, after I grabbed my shower, dressed and was heading out to the car, I realized I needed to put the trash out. On the way to the curb I slipped on the ice and fell flat on my back (No, I did not think any bad words on the way down!)! And then, wouldn't you know it, the garbage truck never even made it down our street!

But as lousy as the first 2 hours of the morning were, breakfast made up for the whole thing. We shared with excitement the many things God was showing each of us in our own time with the Lord in His Word. My friend shared from the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in the Gospel of John. It is a passage he will be preaching from March 13th when he preaches at his parents church (I can't wait to be there and hear him!). I shared from the many principles and truths that God has been showing me from the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis (many of which I am sharing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" - see the link below).

We had such an amazing time sharing with each other (that's real fellowship) that time flew by and before we knew it the clock was moving toward 10am and we were both late for our next engagement. But it sure was a great breakfast - and apart from some earlier shoveling of "mountains" of ice "boulders", and a body-crushing slip on the ice, it was the perfect way to start my day!


Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at You can also leave a comment at either of my blogs or email me directly at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Technology Amazes Me

Tuesday night during the Presidential State of the Union Address, my blog had its 200,000th unique visitor to the site. That literally blows me away that over 200,000 different people have visited "Folks, Listen." In fact, the month of January, which still has a few days left in it, has been the single biggest month when it comes to unique visitors in the 5.5 years that I have been blogging.

I know I have said this before but technology amazes me. It's wild to think that I can sit in my home in the small town of Lititz, PA and post a blog each weekday and have over 200,000 visitors from all around the world read what I have posted. Actually, as of yesterday the 200,000 unique visitors I have had to "Folks, Listen" have come from 177 different countries. Over 183,000 of these unique visitors have come from right here in America. But outside of the United States, I have had 3 other countries in which there have been over 1,000 unique visitors to "Folks, Listen!" These include (number of unique visitors as of yesterday are in parenthesis):

Canada (3,112)
United Kingdom (2,747)
Australia (1,051)

Then there are another 11 countries that have exceeded 200 unique visitors. They include:

Germany (952)
France (789)
India (775)
Philippines (635)
Italy (429)
Brazil (304)
South Africa (242)
Singapore (239)
Belgium (220)
Spain (210)
Malaysia (206)

Let me say it again - technology amazes me! So, wherever you are across the Unites States or around the world, thanks for checking out my blog. May 2011 be a blessed year for each of you!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lessons From Within The Pit Of Betrayal

Last week I did a 3-part posting on the sources of jealousy that motivated Joseph's brothers to assault him, throw him in a pit, sell him into slavery, and then convince his dad that he had been killed by a wild animal. If you didn't read these postings, you may want to go back and take a look at them on my January 19th, 20th and 21st postings.

As I have studied the story of Joseph in depth over the last several months I have learned many other lessons which are extremely valuable. This is important because most all of us will experience a form of betrayal at some point in our lives and few wounds go deeper than those that are caused by betrayal.

So beginning today at my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" I will take the next couple of weeks to post about these lessons that we can learn about betrayal from the Old Testament story of Joseph. These postings will cover the following:

What two-word question should we ask God when we find ourselves in the pit of betrayal?

When you come across someone in the pit of betrayal are you more of a "ladder" or an "adder"?

How far do the affects of betrayal really reach?

What are the three ways that betrayal can be turned into blessing?

What is the one key to moving forward after experiencing the pit of betrayal?

We will answer these questions and more starting today at "Hope For Hurting Pastors". I will make a new posting at that site each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I will also continue to make a new post each week day on a variety of subjects here at "Folks, Listen." So be sure to spend time at both sites. If you know of someone who has experienced the pit of betrayal, be sure to let them know about this new series at "Hope For Hurting Pastors" which can be found at the link given below:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Presidential State of the Union

Tonight as you channel surf through the TV you will quickly discover that the majority of the stations will all be airing the President's State of the Union address. I imagine that for most of you this does not produce much excitement. But I am just the opposite. I love following politics and I always look forward to watching the State of the Union, no matter who the President is. In fact, not only will I watch the actual Presidential address but I will also watch the Republican response followed by all the political pundits giving their analysis on the whole evening.

Now, I am a little disturbed about one thing regarding tonight's political activities. There seems to be a push for Republicans and Democrats to sit together during the speech. If you have ever watched the State of the Union before, you realize that usually all the Democrats sit on one side of the aisle and all the Republicans sit on the other side of the aisle. That may not happen tonight.

Now, as nice as it might seem to be able watch the two parties sitting side by side, it sure will take a lot of the fun out of watching the political pomp and circumstance surrounding tonight. It's these types of traditions that I enjoy the most about watching the State of the Union. I love it when the clerk walks in and loudly announces, "Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!" I love to listen to all the cheers and applause as the President makes his way down the aisle. I love to see which members of Congress have worked their way toward the aisle in order to get a hand-shake or photo-op with the President. And then, after all that hurrah has finally subsided, I love it when the Speaker of the House then introduces the President again and the whole thing starts over.

But my favorite part of the State of the Union is watching as the different sides of the aisle stand and applaud at certain points in the speech while the other side all remains seated with their arms folded. Now, that's entertaining politics right there. I mean, seriously, can you imagine a baseball game where instead of one team sitting in the first base dugout and the other team sitting in the third base dugout, they all sat together? Can you imagine the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers standing intermixed on the same sidelines during last Sunday's AFC Championship game?

I'm looking forward to tonight and seeing how this political event all plays out!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Love is not JEALOUS

Last week I spent my last 3 postings talking about the jealousy that drove Joseph's brothers in Genesis 37 to ultimately throw him into a pit of betrayal. Jealousy just might be one of the most "under-admitted" sins that causes damage among Christ-followers and damage in the church. No wonder in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul emphatically states in verse 4,


Now let me remind you of something. Even though the only place you typically ever hear 1 Corinthians 13 read is at a wedding, contextually it is not written about marriage. 1 Corinthians 13 is about life in the church. Do the principles apply to marriage? Certainly! But the real context is the church. Paul is saying that when it comes to Christ-followers showing love to each other in the church, remember this:


But we often tend to let that one slide, don't we? It is amazing how much jealousy there is among Christians and in ministry, for example:

One ministry gets mentioned by the pastor from the pulpit or promoted in some unique way and those who are part of or leading other ministries become JEALOUS!

One ministry gets a bigger increase in the church budget than another ministry and ministry leaders of other areas become JEALOUS!

One church is blessed by God with numerical growth and pastors and church-goers from other congregations become JEALOUS!

One member in the church gets a raise or promotion and other church members become JEALOUS!

God blesses one businessman in the church with a great financial year and other businessmen in the church becomes JEALOUS!

And the examples go on and on and on. This is isn't Biblical love. Biblical love is never JEALOUS! Biblical love wants to see God do great things in you and through you even if it appears as if these same kind of great aren't being done in and through me. Biblical love wants to see your ministry flourish, get promoted and get financed, even if the same things aren't happening to my ministry. Biblical love wants to see God grow your church even if He doesn't seem to be growing my church. Biblical love wants to see God supernaturally bless your life, your marriage, your family, your kids, your finances and your business, even if those same blessings aren't happening in my life, my marriage, my family, my finances and my business.

True Biblical love applauds your blessings and successes. True Biblical love stands on the side-line and cheers you on as you take your victory lap.


Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at or email me directly at

Friday, January 21, 2011

JEALOUSY and the PIT - part 3

Over the last two postings we have been looking at the jealousy that resulted in Joseph's brothers assaulting him and throwing him in a literal pit of betrayal. What would cause such jealousy? We have seen two things so far:

Joseph's DAD - Jacob loved Joseph more than he did his other sons...and he showed it!

Joseph's DISCIPLINE - Joseph lived a disciplined life with clear values of right and wrong which resulted in his sharing with his dad some misdeeds that his brothers had committed!

Now, we see the third and final source of fuel to the jealousy that led to betrayal and it is Joseph's DREAM. As you read Genesis 37 you discover that Joseph had two different dreams that he shared with his brothers which communicated that one day his entire family would bow down before him. This did nothing to help the situation. Verse 8 says,

"Then his brothers said to him, 'Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?' So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words."

In fact, verse 11 goes on to say, "His brothers were jealous of him!" Some would argue that Joseph was bragging and exalting himself with his dreams and his words. Really? Let me ask you a question, "Who gave Joseph the dreams?" It was God. These dreams were not placed by Joseph in his own mind and heart, they were put there by God. The Lord had a great plan for young Joseph and he put that dream in his mind and his heart. And the result was that his brothers became jealous, hateful and ultimately threw their younger brother in the pit of betrayal and then sold him into Egypt as a slave, telling their father he was killed by a wild animal.

Some things don't change. Still today when God puts a dream in your heart - a longing and desire to accomplish something great for Him, it will not always be well-received by everyone, even those who are part of your physical and even spiritual families. In fact, the more you follow that God-given dream, the more it just might create jealousy in the hearts of others towards you and towards that dream.

It was jealousy that prompted Joseph's brothers to throw him into the pit of betrayal. Jealousy will cause you to do unthinkable things as well. So what do we learn from all of this? One thing we learn for sure is our need to guard our hearts against jealousy. I'll write more of that in a final posting on this subject on Monday.

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at or email me directly at

Thursday, January 20, 2011

JEALOUSY and the PIT - part 2

I started yesterday talking about Joseph and the pit his brothers threw him into as seen in Genesis 37. We stated that the main reason that his brothers gave him the "heave-ho" into the pit was "jealousy." We are identifying three causes for this jealousy. We saw the first cause in yesterday's posting. Joseph's brothers became jealous of him becuase of his DAD. Go back and read yesterday's posting to see why. Today we see the second reason. They also became jealous of him because of his DISCIPLINE. In verse 2 of chapter 37 we are first introduced to Joseph with these words:

"Joseph, when seventeen years of age, was pasturing the flock with his brothers while he was still a youth, along with the sons of Billah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought back a bad report about them to his father."

Yesterday I stated that I could at least understand why Joseph's brothers would be jealous of their younger brother becuase their father loved him more than he did them, and even worse, he showed it. That would hurt. Many would say the same thing here. After all, nobody likes a "tattletale"! But was that what this was? Was this simply the case of a spoiled younger brother tattling on his older brothers to get them in trouble?

Before you jump to that conclusion let me ask you this question, "Is tattling a sin?" Or how about this question, "When is tattling not a bad thing?" Let me ask you one more question, "What was it that Joseph's brothers were doing that resulted in their younger brother telling on them?" The truth is we really don't know. The Bible does not give us any specifics. Let me warn you to be cautious before simply labling Joseph as a "tattletale" who had it coming to him. It is very possible that his brother's were doing something that their father needed to know about. They may have been doing something that was putting their father's livestock in danger or something that was very evil or destructive.

I am willing to give Joseph the benefit of the doubt rather than judging his motives. We always make mistakes when we presume to know why someone does something or why someone says something. I like to think that Joseph was a young man of DISCIPLINE. Right vs wrong was important to him. And as a result, when he saw a wrong action causing damage he felt compelled to do the right thing and tell his father so that the injustice could be stopped.

But we know one thing for sure...Jospe's brothers simply became more jealous of their younger brother as a result of his DISCIPLINED life. Tomorrow we will see the third reason for their jealousy that ultimately pushed Joseph into a pit. This third reason would be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.

Be sure to also read my other blog entitled, "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

JEALOUSY and the PIT - part 1

If there was ever anyone in the Bible who knew what it was like when life was the pits, it was the Old Testament Patriarch, Joseph. After all his life ended up "in the pits" - literally. But what caused it? What motivated Joseph's brothers to throw their younger brother into a dry, horrible pit? As I study Gensis 37, I can give the answer in one word - "jealousy"! For the next several postings I am going to blog on this passage and Joseph's life in the pit.

So what was it that caused Joseph's brothers to become so jealous of him? There are three reasons. As I see it, they will all begin with the letter "D" (after all, my parents spent thousands of dollars to send me to Bible College so I could learn how to start all my points with the same letter). And the first reason was Joseph's DAD! Genesis 37:3 teaches,

"Now Israel (that's Jacob) loved Joseph more than all of his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic."

Now you can't half blame Joseph's brothers for being jealous here, can you? At very least, you can kind of understand their feelings. How difficult would it be to see your younger brother being so outwardly favored by your dad, even to the point of receiving an expensive gift when you got nothing.

Actually, this shows another principle and that is this - children may hate the faults of their parents but they often tend to repeat them. If you go back and study the story of Jacob you will discover that his dad did the same thing - so did his mom. Jacob had a twin brother whose name was Esau. The Bible teachers that Jacob's mom, Rachel, loved him more than she loved Esau but that his father, Isaac, loved Esau more than he loved Joacob. Talk about a dysfunctional family.

I'm sure that Jacob must have hated the fact that his dad loved his brother more than him, but yet, he went on to make the same mistake. That is often how it ends up to be. Children of alcoholics hate the fact that their parents are alcoholics but statistics tell us that they are more likely to become acoloholics themselves. The same is true with divorce. Children of divorced parents hate the fact that their parents split up but they tend to become more likely to lose their marriages as well.

And how did Joseph's brothers react to such favoritism shown him by their dad? Verse 4 tells us, "His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms." That's what jealousy will do. Jealousy leads to hatred which leads to mistreatment of the person you are jealous toward. His brothers were jealous of Joseph bacuse of his DAD. Tomorrow we will see a second reason that fueled their jealousy.

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Church Experiment

Last Sunday my wife and I, along with some friends, conducted a "church experiment" of sorts. A few months back we were visiting a church and happened to drive by another church just as they were letting out of services. The building was very good sized so we drove through the parking lot just to take a look and see the name of the church. Every single person who was exiting the building was dressed up. All the men had on suits and ties and all the women were in dresses. At this point we knew that this church was somewhat traditional but we wondered if it might also be legalistic.

We looked up the church online and discovered that they had a website but the only thing on the website was the name of the church, their location and the times of their services. There was no statement of faith nor were there any pictures or any information about the church leaders. So we decided that this Sunday we would attend, not knowing what to expect. But to add a type of "experiment" to the visit we decided that all 6 of us would dress very casual, wearing jeans and sweaters. We wondered how we would be viewed? Would we be made to feel welcome? Would they automatically see us as unbelievers that needed to be converted? I have to be honest, we were expecting a negative reaction.

When we first entered the building only one person really spoke to us. But as we entered the sanctuary that quickly changed. Several people came up and shook our hands and welcomed us, thanking us for visiting. But then my cover got blown. Though this church was far enough away that I expected no one would recognize me, one teenage girl did. As she was talking with me the Pastor of the church came up to introduce himself to us and she quickly introduced me as a pastor. He even welcomed us from the pulpit, mentioning that I was a pastor. So, the "experiment" got blown - but we were very pleasantly impressed with the friendliness of this church. After the service was over, many folks talked to us and the pastor also showed us some additional special attention.

Now as far as the service itself, it was like walking back in time and attending the church I did in my childhood back in the 1970's. But we did come to realize that this church has a variety of outreach ministries. We had a good time afterwards talking about our "experiment" over some lasagna and discussing where our worship journey would take us next Sunday.

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at or emailing me at

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pass The Fruit, Please!

I've never been a big "fruit" eater, with the exception of some chunky style applesauce or fruit that you find inbetween pie crusts. I don't usually find myself grabbing for an orange or an apple. But I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down in a local diner over the weekend with a good friend from my college days that increased my taste for fruit. We have been in touch a lot over the past year and this weekend he happened to be in the Lancaster area so we met for coffee.

We both have been in full-time ministry for nearly 25 years now and both of us have experienced serious ministry challenges over the past year. It was so good to be able to sit down "face-to-face" and share in detail with each other our individual stories of the past year and lessons we have learned. We also had the chance to share with each other exciting opportunities that God appears to be opening up for both of us that continue to fan the passionate flame we both have to be used by God within the local church.

But it was even more exciting to discuss together the truths from John 15:1-2 in which Jesus says,

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit."

According to Jesus, what does God do to branches that bear fruit? He prunes them! Does that hurt? Sure it does! But why does He prune them? So that they will bear even more fruit!
As we shared our stories from the past year with each other and the exciting opportunities that lie just ahead of each of us, it was exciting to realize that the adversity we have both faced, though painful as it has been, certainly has a Divine purpose. God's pruning always has a purpose and that purpose is always so that we can bear even more fruit in the future than we have ever produce in the past.

Though my appetite for physical fruit didn't change due to our conversation and fellowship together in that diner over the weekend, my passion for spiritual fruit grew immensely! So, pass the fruit, pleas!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekend Leftovers

When I was a kid my favorite night of the week was "leftover night." Usually, on the night before grocery shopping was scheduled, my mom would clean out the fridge of all the leftovers from the week prior and that was dinner. I guess that's why to this day I love leftovers. Lunch is my favorite meal of the day because it is usually leftovers from whatever we had for dinner the night before. So my blog posting today is going to be "leftovers" as I share a wild combination of random thoughts going through my head as we enter the weekend. The first several will be sports related, but after that the direction will change dramatically. Here we go and "Bon Appetite."

I don't understand why my Cleveland Browns would hire an Offensive Coordinator from a team that had a losing record this year and didn't make the playoffs to be their new head coach!

I would sure like to see Pittsburgh and New England both go down in flames on the gridiron this weekend. After all, when it comes to the NFL my motto is "Anyone But Pittsburgh (or Denver)!"

On the flip side I would like to see both Seattle and Green Bay advance this weekend. Do you realize that if they both win, the NFC Championship game will be played in Seattle - a team that ended the regular season with a losing record (7-9)?

I sure am excited to see that when it comes to college basketball my Ohio State Buckeyes are now ranked #1 and undefeated as they beat Michigan Wednesday while Duke fell to Florida State!

I will be conducting a church experiment this weekend. I will blog about it next week!

I sure would like to see it snow some more!

Joy is already back at college and Jonathan heads back this weekend. It is hard to believe that one year from this May I will be heading down to Liberty University for my daughter's college graduation (25 years after I graduated from the same campus).

Back to sports for a moment - It was nice to see the Philadelphia Flyers end the mid way point of the NHL season in first place. Hockey is the only professional sport in which I do not root for a team from Cleveland (because the NHL doesn't have a team from Cleveland).

Most of all, I've really been reflecting the last 2 days on how very thankful I am for good friends and for the faithfulness of God.


Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Thursday, January 13, 2011

When God Answers Specific Prayer Requests

I grew up in the church. I accepted the Lord when I was 5 years old. My parents were the "we are in church whenever the doors are open" type of Christ-followers. In fact, because my dad was the church janitor, we were usually there even when the doors were locked as well. But it wasn't until my junior year in college at Liberty University that I was taught how to pray.

I was one of the Resident Assistants in the football dorm and my supervisor was a wonderful and godly man by the name of Harry Walls. Harry began to disciple me and one of the first things we dealt with was prayer. Harry had me write down all my prayer requests for one week. I was set on impressing Harry so I prayed about everything I could think of that week and proudly took my long list to him when it was time for us to meet. Harry took my list and a pencil and he started going down the list. But to my astonishment, as he went down the list he kept scratching each of my requests off going, "No! No! No!"

When I asked him why he scratched off most every one of my prayer requests he answered, "Because they aren't specific enough. How will you know when God answers them if you cant measure them?"

So from that point on I have always tried to pray specifically. In other words, don't just pray, "God bless the missionaries." How will you know if He does? Instead pray, "God, please allow the Johnson's in Peru to win someone to Christ this week" or "God, please allow the Millers in Argentina to get increased support this week." You see, when you pray specifically you can see God's answers and it really does build your faith.

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us to be anxious about nothing but in everything by "prayer" and "supplication" with thanksgiving to make our requests known to God. the word "prayer" is a general word but the word "supplication" is more specific.

Just yesterday God answered a major specific request that Laura and I had been praying for and boy was it exciting to see happen. And once again, our faith was strengthened. So what are you praying for...specifically?

Be sure to also read my other blog at or email me at

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I know that people around the Lancaster County, PA area don't seem to like or appreciate snow. Not me - I love snow. And I am thrilled that finally we have gotten some snow. It's not much (2-4 inches or so) but it's the first time all winter that we've had to break out the shovel. In my opinion, if you are going to have cold and winter, you might as well have snow.

I grew up in Akron, Ohio where we would get decent lake effect snow off of Lake Erie. Over the 9 years that we lived near Elkhart, IN, we would average some 80 inches of snow a year. In fact, I remember one year that we got over 50 inches of snow in the month of December alone. It was wonderful.

But since we have lived here in the Lititz area, our family has really missed the snow. To me, there are few things more peaceful and more enjoyable than sipping a cup of coffee and watching a good snow fall from the heavens.

So, while many of you night find yourself cursing this white wonder, I for one am thanking God for our first real snow of the season. May more of it follow until winter turns into spring!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Agreeing With a Mocker - Part 2

In my posting yesterday I told you about a modern day mocker (someone who denies Biblical truth by making light of it as described in 2 Peter) who commented on my blog last Saturday from a posting I wrote back in June entitled, "Why Hasn't Jesus Come Back Yet?" Be sure to go back and read my posting from yesterday if you haven't already to get the full context of this account. Here again is what this person wrote:

"Sorry dude but this is a real cop out. Jesus hasn't come back yet because he's not any sort of Messiah and he won't be returning any day soon ever! The world is rejecting the idea of Christianity. Perhaps it's about time the church handed over their great riches to the poor instead of accumulating wealth under false pretense."

In essence, let me break down what this mocker has written:

First, Jesus isn't coming back.

Second, Jesus isn't coming back because He is not the Messiah.

Third, because Jesus is not the Messiah and is not coming back, the world is rejecting Christianity.

Fourth, because Jesus is not the Messiah and not coming back and because the world is rejecting Christianity, the church should give all of its possessions to the poor.

Now, let me say that I am in agreement with this mocker
! Here is what I mean by this. In this mocker's comments, the basis to his whole argument is that Jesus is not the Messiah. That is why He is not coming back and since this is the case, the church really is a waste of time and should give everything they have to the poor. With that I agree. If Jesus is not the Messiah, than I agree with the rest of the argument. If Jesus is not the Messiah, than He is not coming back. And if Jesus is not the Messiah than the church and Christianity is a huge waste of time, effort and money.

In fact, the Apostle Paul also agreed with this mocker. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says that if Jesus did not rise from the dead (the ultimate proof that He is the Messiah) than our preaching is in vain; our faith is in vain; we are false witnesses of God; our faith is worthless; we are still in our sins; those who have already died have perished; and we are of all men to be pitied the most.

But, like Peter and Paul, I do believe that Jesus is the Messiah. And I do believe that He is coming back! If you want to know why He hasn't yet, go back into the archives and I read my postings from back in June.

Be sure to read my other blog entitled, "Hope for Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Agreeing With a Mocker - Part 1

Back in June I wrote a 2-part post entitled, "Why Hasn't Jesus Come Back Yet?" It was part of a series of posts related to a sermon series I was preaching at the time through 2 Peter. In this book, Peter talks about those who tell lies in church (that is why I called the series "LIAR"). He describes 2 kinds of people - False Teachers and Mockers. What is the difference between them? False Teachers deny Biblical truth by distorting Scripture. Mockers deny Biblical truth by making light of Scripture.

In 2 Peter, an example of a mocker is given from Peter's day. He describes those in his day who denied the Biblical truth that Jesus is going to come back by making light of it saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?" In 2 Peter, the Apostle addresses that exact question and that is what my postings back in June were covering.

Just this past Saturday I received a comment on that posting from a modern day mocker. Now, I am not using the term "mocker" as a slam. I am simply using the Biblical word describing someone who denies Biblical truth by making light of it. And this mocker was an exact replica in his comments to the ones Peter spoke about so many years ago. I believe this person may have been from the United Kingdom as right about the time the comment was submitted, my tracker showed someone from the United Kingdom coming to that exact post back in June after googling, "Is Jesus Coming Back?" Here is what this modern day mocker had to say:

"Sorry, dude, but this is a real cop out. Jesus hasn't come back because he's not any sort of Messiah and he won't be returning any day soon ever! The world is rejecting the idea of Christianity. Perhaps it's about time the church handed their great riches over to the poor instead of accumulating wealth under false pretense."

Be sure to read my blog posting on Tuesday as I respond to this modern day mocker's comment. You may be surprised to find out that I may just agree with him.

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Friday, January 07, 2011

A 6-Feet Deep Question

Recently I was asked this question, "Forty or so years from now when they spread dirt over your grave, how do you want to be remembered?" Pretty deep question, isn't it? I guess you could call it a "6-feet deep" question.

It made me think of my favorite Bible character, Joshua. After his death the Bible tells us that as long as their were elders who remembered Joshua, Israel walked with God. Now that's what I call influence. Even after the final shovel of dirt was spread over Joshua's grave, as long as there were people who remembered him, Israel continued to walk with God.

That's how I want to be remembered when the dirt is spread over my grave. I want it to be able to be said that as long as there were people who knew me and sat under my ministry, people walked with God. It also made me think of those whose influence affected me. I'm 45 now and as I think of the first 4 decades of my life I can't help but think of those men that I knew personally who greatly impacted my life. Some are already with the Lord some are not. But as long as I remember them, I will be influenced to walk with the Lord. These men include:

My Dad (Charles Distler) - who taught me what it means to love the local church!

My Grandpa (Rev Charles Distler) - who taught me what it means to love the Word of God!

Rick Matthews (my Sunday School teacher when I was in High School) - who taught me how to share my faith!

Rev Paul Rohart (my pastor when I was in High School) - who gave me my first opportunity to preach!

Don Bechtel (my High School band director) - who taught me to shoot for excellence in everything I did!

Harry Walls (my supervisor in college) - who taught me how to pray!

Dr Paul Fink (a college professor of mine) - who taught me how to study the Bible!

Dr Jerry Falwell (my spiritual hero) - who taught me that nothing of eternal importance happens apart from prayer!

Rev Steve Peters (my ministry mentor) - who taught me what it means to be a pastor!

Rich Smith (an Elder at the church I pastored in Indiana) - who taught me what it means to face adversity and remain faithful!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Two Very Different Events

As I get ready to go to bed after rapping up a very busy Wednesday, not only is my body tired, but so is my mind. Two things have dominated my mind over the last 24 hours:

Tuesday night I rode the emotional roller coaster of watching my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes finally knock off an SEC team when they hung on to beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. I was riding high through the whole first half as the Buckeyes dominated. Then, in contrast, I had the proverbial knot forming in the pit of my stomach as Arkansas clawed their way back into the game in the second half. I hit rock bottom when the Buckeyes fumbled late in the 4th quarter on a 4th and 1 play and the knot in my stomach tightened greatly when the Bucks punt was blocked in their own end of the field with only a minute left to play. What a relief it was to see the defense come through with the big interception at the end that sealed a very big victory. The problem is that I was so keyed up afterwards that I couldn't get to sleep.

Wednesday night Laura and I spent time with a family that just lost a loved one tragically. My heart goes out to this family but what a privilege it was for my wife and I to go to their home and share with them and pray with them. It never ceases to amaze me how when you go over to encourage someone else, you often come away having been encouraged yourself. And though we couldn't give this family answers as to why this tragic event happened, we were able to remind them that God is too loving to do anything cruel and to wise too make a mistake.

Two events - each so very different in scope. One was just a game - the other a great heartache. One was temporal - the other eternal. Life is funny that way, isn't it? It is often dominated by events that can be very different in scope. What event will dominate my life tomorrow? Will it be a game or a heartache? Either way, as I go to bed tonight I do so knowing that I serve a God who never slumbers or sleeps. And though I have no idea what event will dominate my tomorrow I do know that tomorrow will be a day dominated by the Lord. Tomorrow will be a day that the Lord has made - so I will go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow rejoicing and being glad for the day that lies just ahead of me.

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Gracias and Taco

This week I had the incredible privilege of meeting and spending some time with a man named Carlos who is from Argentina. Carlos is a believer in Jesus who has a real heart to reach Spanish-speaking people for Christ. He is working with a couple of Evangelical Free Churches in the area to start a work in Reading. I was surprised to learn that 60% of the population of Reading, PA speaks Spanish and many of them need Jesus.

Carlos has an amazing story and it is a story of faith. He and his wife and two children moved to America and spent time in Texas where he went to school. He has now come to PA with a burning calling from God but very little in the way of financial support. That doesn't matter to Carlos. He shared story after story with me of how God met his needs over and over again since coming to America without having any money in his pocket.

It was refreshing spending this time with Carlos. I was greatly encouraged by two things. First, Carlos' great faith. Compared to Carlos I have much in the way of tangible things, yet I find myself becoming anxious over the small stuff in comparison. It is always refreshing to meet someone who exhibits the ability to really trust God in a Matthew 6:33 fashion - "Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you."

But it was also refreshing to see someone's ministry being driven by a pure, unadulterated passion to see lost people come to know Jesus. Carlos isn't focused on church politics, church polity, church tradition, or church governance, as so many. His heart is reaching lost people. It is true. Evangelism must be the engine that drives the church.

What was even more amazing about my time with Carlos is that he speaks very little English. That's a problem because the only Spanish words I know are "gracias" and "taco" (and I'm pretty sure that "taco" isn't a Spanish word). So how did we communicate? Carlos has a delightful 7-year old daughter who did all of the translating for us. She speaks both English and Spanish fluently (I don't even speak English fluently)! What a blessing this encounter was.

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at or email me at

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

GIANTS In Your Life

Is there a GIANT in your life? From the very familiar story of David and Goliath we learn what GIANTS look like. They seem insurmountable. They are seemingly always present. And they create fear and anxiety in our lives.

So...let me ask you again. Are there any big, ugly GIANTS in your life right now? Are you facing an obstacle, be it a problem or a person, that seems insurmountable? Are you facing an obstacle, be it a problem or a person, that seems to always be present in your life? Are you facing an obstacle, be it a problem or a person, that is causing fear and anxiety in your life?

If the answer is YES - then be sure to read my other blog entitled, "Hope For Hurting Pastors," beginning tomorrow, January 5th, as I write a series of postings from this famous Old Testament story that will not only help you to identify the GIANTS in your life but will also show how you, like David, can deal with these GIANTS in a way that honors God and builds your faith.

This series of blogs will post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (beginning January 5th) at Always feel free to leave a comment at either of my blogs or email me directly at

Sunday, January 02, 2011

To Shake or Not To Shake

We were at a church over the holidays as guests and as we entered the building a man opened the door for us and greeted us kindly. Right inside the doors were more greeters holding bulletins. I stuck out my hand to shake the hand of one of the greeters and said "hello." He smiled, but to my surprise, did not offer his hand back to me. He went on to explain that since it was flu season they were choosing not to participate in shaking hands so as not to spread germs. Instead he offered me a "fist pump."

Now, there were many great aspects of this church and we really enjoyed and were encouraged by our time there. It is a church that we would definitely return to. The worship was genuine and meaningful and the message was authoritative and right on the money. The atmosphere inside the church was also very pleasant. I laughed to myself, though, when time came in the service to greet those around you and say "hello." Guess what everyone did during that time? They all SHOOK HANDS! I found it interesting that that the only people who were not open to shaking hands, even of guests, were the official greeters at the doors.

Now, there is nothing wrong with not wanting to spread germs. That's why I think churches should abandon the whole "holy kiss" thing during cold and flu season (in case you didn't get it - that was a joke!). But come on! Do you really think not shaking hands at church is going to curb any cold and flu epidemic? What about all the germs on the doorknobs and door handles of the church and restrooms? What about all the germs on the offering plate as it gets past down the aisle person to person?

I'm just not sure its a great first impression to a first time guest who puts out his hand to shake that of an official church greeter only to be denied any reciprocation due to the threat of sneezing or coughing. Do you realize that back in the days when the black plague was spreading through parts of Europe and people were putting their own family members who caught the disease out on the street that it was Christians who took these disease stricken folks into their own homes to give them mercy and care until they died?

How about you just carry some hand sanitizer in your pocket to offset the risk of catching a cold and go out of your way to make guests, as well as regular attendees, feel welcomed with a warm handshake. With that said, I need to bring this post to a close and go wash my hands! After all, who knows how many germs are on this computer keyboard!

Be sure to read my other blog entitled "Hope For Hurting Pastors" at or email me at