Category Archives: Church

Joseph: the unsung hero of Christmas

 We see him in every manger scene … standing at attention with a stare and slight smile looking over his staff at the baby in the manger.  Maybe you’re like me and don’t think too much about Joseph … the unsung hero of the Christmas story. 

Stop and think about it … Mary, Joseph’s finance’, gets pregnant before they’re married and had been together.  But his love for her was so strong that he wants to put her away quietly.  He could have had her stoned for apparently committing adultery.  

Before he can “put her away,” he is visited by the angel of the Lord and is told to take Mary as his wife.  He learns that she is carrying the promised Messiah who was conceived by the Holy Spirit to save God’s people from their sins.  He unquestionably believes and obeys.

Joseph lives, as does Mary with the stigma of being a couple that couldn’t wait.  He leads her to Bethlehem and Jesus is born as promised.  About a year or so later, after the Magi visit the young boy Jesus, Herod plots to kill the baby boys in the region to eliminate this threat of a new king.  The angel of the Lord comes again and says to Joseph: “Get up and take your family to Egypt.”  And the Bible says he rose … probably got up and got ready that night so that they were out of town before Herod’s men came to slaughter the boys of Nazareth.

After Herod dies and the threat of Jesus being killed has subsided, the angel appears again and tells Joseph to bring his family back to Israel.  Immediately he gets up and begins the process of bringing them “home.”  This wasn’t a three hour tour, it was a long haul in that day.  When Joseph returns he is afraid that Herod’s son wants to kill Jesus.  Again the angel of the Lord comes and tells him to go to Galilee … Nazareth.  He does so immediately.

Several lessons … from this unsung hero of the Christmas story …

Joseph was a selfless lover.  He loved Mary and Jesus more than his own personal reputation and comfort.  It wasn’t all about him.

He was a protector … his heart’s desire was to protect his fiancé’s reputation and her son’s life … he was concerned for their safety and well being.

He unquestionably obeyed God.   Joseph was apparently a Godly man and had a relationship with God to the point where he knew His voice and heard from him.  Four times the angel of the Lord came and gave him instructions and he obeyed without a second thought …

Lord, make me a man of God, a husband and a father like Joseph!


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Ministering to Stepfamilies – Part 2

On Monday I wrote about the needs of stepfamilies and how the local church can meet them (Scroll down if you missed it!).  Today I want to continue the discussion.  Here are a few more things that churches can do to minister to stepfamilies:

Focus on the spiritual growth of the stepfamily.   Stepfamilies represent a tremendous opportunity to show how God can work to make an imperfect situation a wonder of His restoring grace, power, and love.  The husband and wife need to be grounded spiritually in order to face the challenges ahead of them. Let’s face it; the statistics regarding successful remarriages are not good. The best chance a stepfamily has in remaining together and flourishing is for God to become the central focus of it. Congregations may do very well at meeting the physical, fellowship, and even emotional needs of a stepfamily, but if the spiritual needs are not made the top priority the family is in jeopardy.

Have leadership take the lead. Church leadership needs to embrace the challenge of ministering to stepfamilies. Leaders need to foremost educate themselves and do the homework necessary to launch a ministry. This may mean talking to others in the community who work with stepfamilies, visiting with stepfamilies themselves, and becoming up-to-date on the latest resources available. After all of that, leaders need to start the task of educating those members that are serving in the church (especially those in children and youth ministries). Remember, things traditional families take for granted (such as who is allowed to pick up the children) are much more complicated for stepfamilies.

Provide Help and Resources. Remember your first few months (or years) of marriage, when it was just the spouse and you? Remember how often you were able to talk with each other uninterrupted? How you could get away at a moment’s notice? How you could devote all your time and energy into building your marriage? Remarried couples usually don’t have a chance for any of that. The demands of an “instant” family are too much. Yet those couples still need that time to communicate, bond, work through issues, and (in many cases, since divorcees typically rely on their parents heavily for support while they are single) “leave and cleave”. Your church can provide a place and time for remarried couples to connect with each other by providing child care services. You could also provide a class or support group for remarrieds to mutually share their stories and support one another. Some churches even start a Sunday school class specifically for remarried couples. Stock the church library with resources that will be helpful for stepfamilies.

I know that I keep coming back to the same theme, but resources that work for traditional families often aren’t as helpful for stepfamilies. Some great resources that I would recommend are:  The Smart Stepfamily by Ron Deal, Your Stepfamily, Standing Strong again by Deal, The Blended Family by Edward and Sharon Douglas, and Ministering to 21st Century Families by Dennis Rainey (this one was a big help for the blog post).

For too long the needs of the stepfamilies in our churches and our communities have gone unnoticed. The Bible tells us that there are no second class citizens in God’s kingdom, simply because there are no first class citizens. We are all just sinners in need of a Savior. The exciting message of the cross for stepfamilies is that God loves and forgives the imperfect people in stepfamilies just as much as He loves and forgives the imperfect people in traditional families!


Has your church done something specifically to minister to stepfamilies?  Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about it! 

Coming soon – How can your family celebrate the advent season together?

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House on the Rock Receives Space in the New Family Center of Gap

We have been given a tremendous opportunity to expand our ministry.  This fall we will be part of

what will become the premiere family ministry center in Central Pennsylvania and maybe in the entire

Mid-Atlantic region.


Jonas and Anne Beiler, founders of Auntie Anne’s, have an intense passion for marriages and families! 

Back in 1987 Jonas had a dream to create a center that would provide family oriented services to their

home community of Gap.  His dream is being completed right before his eyes!  In September the Family Center of Gap will hold its Grand Opening; and House on the Rock Family Ministries is privileged to have

an office on the third floor!


We are thrilled to be a part of this regional family resource center!  The synergy of working with Jonas

and Anne and the other family organizations will be fantastic!  While checking on the progress of our

space, I was privileged to meet the International Director of Focus on the Family who was also inspecting

the facility and donating some library resources.  That is the caliber of folks involved in this project; and

why we are so excited to be a part of this ministry venture.


In another meeting with the Executive Director of FRCC we talked about how we can partner with them

to provide biblically based family life education to the churches and clients in their network.  We will have

a significant role in the family life educational program of this center!


We’ll keep you posted on the details for the Grand Opening.  They are expecting over 3000 visitors and

we would love to see you there!  So plan to come on down and see this beautiful new ministry center! 

Visit it online at:

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Powerful prayers for fathers …

Today I was part of the Lancaster National Day of Prayer Celebration.  50 of us met in a pristine 1870 vintage sanctuary in Mount Joy PA.  We had a number of folks from the community lead us in prayer for their assigned areas … the mayor was there to pray us through “government,” the president of the local Chamber of Commerce to pray for businesses … you get the picture.


Well in the middle of this litany … an ensemble of young ladies from the local middle school got up to sing two songs they had written.  They were great in both performance and power of lyric. 


When it was my turn to lead us in a time of prayer for families I presented several requests … one was to pray against fatherlessness … dads who were either physically or emotionally absent from their children.  I then broke the audience into small groups to pray through one of the family issues I had listed … asking each group to pick a topic and pray.


I met with the young ladies who sang.  They were sitting in the front pew!  Do you know what they wanted to pray for?  Yes … against fatherlessness … they each prayed that men would be loving husbands and involved fathers.  Each one of those beautiful girls was in a home with no daddy.  What a powerful moment that was for me.  What a demonstration that our Heavenly Father is indeed a “Father to the fatherless!”  Pray for fathers!

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The “Unseen” Difference

Archeologists tell us that thousands of pyramids were built throughout Egypt … yet only a fraction of them stand today.  Why do a few remain standing while others crumbled in the desert throughout the storms of time?  Those scientists say the difference was foundations.  The pyramids built on massive stone foundations are the ones that have stood tall for thousands of years.  This discovery was made because they excavated these historical sites. 


This archeological fact unearths another powerful lesson for us.  If our lives are not built on a solid, well laid foundation … they are destined to fall … they will crumble … our legacies will blow away in the desert winds.  That is why we call our ministry House on the Rock Family Ministries!  We want to help families build their lives and homes on the “Rock.”  So the first priority in our pyramid of priorities is foundational and vital. 


The pyramid of priorities was derived from the inspired progression of thoughts of Paul in the letter he wrote to the church in Ephesus.  The first part of the letter (chapters 1-3) deals with ‘who we are’ in Jesus Christ … the second half of the letter (chapters 4-6) unpacks the ‘so what … how should we live?’ 


The foundation to our “Pyramid of Priorities” is built upon the inspiration of these words and thoughts by God’s Holy Spirit … who inspired Paul to write them in an orderly progression.  I believe that the order in which God inspired these words and thoughts is extremely significant in that they are His list of priorities in how we should live our lives as Christians.  It is the building of our lives on God’s inspired (the unseen) Word (the seen) that will cause our lives and legacies to stand the storms of time.


The Words of God given through the Bible are the foundation upon which all of us as Christ followers need to build our lives to stand the storms of time.

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The “point” of the pyramids

April 7th


Every culture is fascinated by pyramids … whether Egyptian or Mayan.  If they didn’t stand today in their own defense … we would deem them impossible for ancient engineers and contractors to design and build such massive structures thousands of years ago.  That’s why the Great Pyramid is one of the 7 Wonders of the World!


But I look at pyramids from a different angle.  Because they were built as eternal monuments to the persons they entombed, they were imagined, designed, and constructed while that individual was still living his or her life.  It took builders over 30 years to construct the larger pyramids … that was just about the lifespan of the future occupant.  That must have been just a little eerie … seeing your own tomb/monument being built before your very eyes! 


Yet the similarities are very sobering … we are building monuments too … our lives will leave a legacy for our children and their children’s children.  So … we need to be thinking and planning carefully as to how we’re building those legacies … those monuments pointing our ancestors heavenward.  It will take us a lifetime to build a lasting godly legacy.


That’s why I call my presentation on priorities the “Pyramid of Priorities” … because our legacies (positive or negative) are built on our choices … and our choices are made based on our priorities.  So developing a set of foundational priorities is extremely important.


But there is another reason I have chosen this title … each of the priorities … just like layers of the pyramids … are built one on top of the other.  If the foundational layer is not solid … the rest of the structure will crumble …

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Gender Neutral Priorities

I spoke to a group of young wives and moms this week … that’s a little unusual for me in that I regularly speak to men’s groups and couples.  But I learned that males and females both struggle with priorities … not the choices between good and bad … although we all wrestle with those issues … they rarely tax our taxonomy of more difficult choices categorized as good, better and best.   So to get us thinking I presented them with a choice:  “Do you go shopping all day with a girl friend who needs to talk and be encouraged … or stay home and do the laundry so your family has something to wear tomorrow?”  Neither is a choice between good or evil … but there is an element of good, better, or best choice.

The ladies were chuckling and quickly assured me that they … unlike men … can multi task and that they could easily accomplish both these “good and better” tasks in the course of a day. 

So much for my feeble attempt at a moral dilemma <smile>.   You see my “blue brain” thinks like a man … we do one thing at a time!  Multi tasking is drinking my iced tea while I am driving and listening to a CD …  the real main task is driving … the tea and music simply enhances the experience! … anyway … I quickly added another “choice” to my prioritizing scenario … “and prepare a nice meal for your family who has done fast food all week because of your kids’ hyperactive schedules.”  That threw in a little more challenge. 

After we discussed the factors and issues surrounding the choices … I presented what I like to call the “Pyramid of Priorities” … based on the ancient writings in the New Testament.  We’ll share more of that later …



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