Monday, September 24, 2007


Last week concluded a period of prayer and fasting. It was a difficult week simply because I hate to fast! I made it through though with God's help. It seemed like there was a lot going on that could have distracted me. I really believe that the enemy did his level best to disrupt, distract and destroy the unity of Abundant Life.

I don't have any big profound insights. In fact it seemed for most of the week like my prayers were going no higher than the ceiling. We ended the week with a time of prayer on Saturday night. I cannot say there was a great turnout (I didn't do a great job of making a high visibility announcements). But I can say that after Sunday I have a renewed sense of hope that God is at work in Bethany and Moultrie County. I expect great things as we continue to labor for Him. And I feel a gathering sense of momentum. This is when it gets dangerous. I expect spiritual warfare to increase in frequency and ferocity. But thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through Jesus Christ!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Western Thought

I have just begun an in depth study of Revelation. I like to preach through entire books of the Bible and I am really praying about preaching through this last book of the New Testament. This book is feared by some, considered irrelevant by others and misunderstood by most. As I have begun to study the background and introductory issues I have noticed that so much of what I have always been taught concerning this book is colored deeply by Western biases.

I come from a dispensationalist background. I am pretrib and believe in the rapture of the saints. But much of what I hear about prophecy and Revelation in general always strikes me as speculation at best and bad theology at worst. Part of the problem lies in the assumption that God sees the world the same way that people of Western European descent see it. This is wrong on many levels. Much of what is taught about the meaning of the prophecies would have had zero relevance to the original audience that John addressed this epistle of sorts to.

Understanding the original context of the Scripture as best we can is necessary for proper interpretation. I believe Revelation is as relevant now as ever. I also understand that I need to, as much as possible, attempt to put aside my presuppositions and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me through the text. I must open my ears and hear not as an American first but as a Christ follower first.

7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 2:7

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Numbers and the Truth

I have often heard it lamented that many people today don't believe the gospel just because a preacher tells them that it is true. It's really no wonder after all how do we know something is true? Everyone has an agenda in the media today. Whether they are lefties or righties, environmental extremeists or global warming deniers, or whoever else the truth is colored. Most news media have an agenda. The way poll numbers are trumpeted like they mean something further distorts the picture. Seth Godin has a great post about numbers and marketing.

So what are we to do as Christians? We have the greatest message. We have the only hope for the world. We need to live the truth. People are looking for incarnational truth. That's why God sent His Son as a man. Because we as people needed to see the truth lived out. The people in my life and in your life are looking for something that is true. But they believe what their friends tell them over what someone in a church service tells them. So we need to befriend them and love them. Before they ask the question, "is this true?", they are asking, "Do I want to be like those people?" Before you say that isn't fair, think about this: there are very few people who would say, "I don't want to be like Jesus."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound...

Not really. But apparently I am willing to go into a burning house filled with smoke to save a church member. How many pastor's can say that? It wasn't the smartest thing I've done and it landed me in the ER twice in 12 hours. I didn't stop to think about what I was doing. Again not smart and I missed both services yesterday. Every one is fine though. We really feel the attack of the enemy though.

This is a time when it would be easy to be distracted from what God is trying to do in Bethany. Finances are low. People have left the church because we insist on teaching that Abundant Life exists to (re)connect people to God not to keep the saints comfortable until either death or the rapture. And now fire, sickness and other distractions too many to discuss.

Let me serve notice that we are serious about what God has called us to do and to be. We are going to do whatever it takes to be the gospel and proclaim Christ to people far from Him. We are not going to try to put a band-aid on broken people. We are going to introduce them to the only one who can make them whole again! And I fully expect to suffer some pain along the way but it doesn't compare to what my Lord went through.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Big Ten Network update

I found out this morning that Dish Network has added Big Ten Network. It is channel 439. This means that Dish will keep my business at least for now. Plus I don't have to go through the trouble of changing providers. Now I know I will be able to see the good, the bad, and the ugly this season with the Illini.

Looking forward to the game tonight despite the fact that they are playing Western Illinois. It shouldn't be a challenge but it should hopefully help get Juice's legs back under him. In the second half hopefully they will be able to play a lot of players and get them some game time.

I am hoping to see more of Jeff Cumberland this year. I remember Coach Zook was really high on him going into last season. He had 16 catches which isn't a lot but considering the QB play last season not too bad. I hope they find a way to use him more. He didn't have a catch last week.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Guest Speakers

I enjoyed this post by Vince Antonucci about guest speakers. I don't have very many guest speakers other than missionaries. I have even changed my approach to having them speak. If I don't know if said missionary can preach effectively then I often just give them a window to share. I have several friends who are full time "evangelists" meaning that they are itinerant preachers. My concern in having a guest is that I have spent almost six years working on a culture in our services. I have a style of preaching that works for us (as far as I can tell). Let me elaborate if I can.

I try not to be condemning. It is easy to condemn large groups of people such as gays, drug users, democrats, republicans, etc. It is also easy to go after vague categories such as the media, Hollywood, rock music, rappers, TV, etc. It is easy to use statistics to make a point but they are so easy manipulated that often statistics are meaningless. I try not to take scripture out of context and often preach verse by verse through whole books of the Bible. I don't use heavy manipulation in alter calls (although I do have them sometimes). We pray for the sick in every service and the altars are open for ministry but I never prolong and drag out the end of my message simply to get a result. I never speculate about the identity of the anti-christ or the date of Jesus return other than stressing that Jesus return is closer now than it was yesterday.

I have gotten plenty of complaints from Christians, many from our church (most of whom have left) about my not doing these things. But I feel like I am giving the messages that God wants our church to have. If I bring in some wild card that I don't know and a friend shows up who I or someone in the church have literally spent weeks,months or years building relationship with they can be scared away in one service by someone whose approach is radically different than mine. This is not to say that those speakers are wrong or don't love Jesus. I am saying that their style might not fit in our context and culture. I feel like I am the best judge of whether it is a good fit.

So that is my thinking on why we have so few speakers other than yours truly at Abundant Life. I am praying for and trying to build up others with the gift of teaching. In the future I hope for some home grown folks to teach and preach some of the time. Until then I am serious about my responsibility to guard the flock. Good post by Vince.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

When you run out of targets make something up!

"The producers of these Veggie Tales movies desecrate Holy Scripture by perverting it into upbeat do-good stories completely absent the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Read that sentence again. Holy Scripture. That’s what we teach our children that the Bible is. Holy. Untouchable. Sacred. Must not be tampered with. But we are considered freaks in a world where nothing is sacred. Nothing is holy. Nothing is untouchable, particularly if there is cash to be made. These people are getting wealthy off the mistreatment of the Word of God.

But here’s my favorite line: “How many hours of this garbage do you want your children to watch? We have the Holy Bible, preserved through the centuries by the martyrs who gave their blood for their love of God’s Word. So what do we give our children? Trash movies that distort the sacred words of Scripture into little moralistic, works righteousness tales with dancing cartoon characters.”

Thanks to MMI for the post about this little ditty from the folks at Slice of Laodicea. I guess if you aren't interested in sharing your faith with the unchurched you might as well shoot at the people who are trying to be salt and light.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

I really enjoy Labor Day weekend and I am looking forward to a great weekend. Today Illinois opens up against Mizzou. I wish I could go to St. Louis and watch the game in person but at least the game is on ESPN2 so this one I will get to watch. I am amped up about the Juice and seeing Benn and some of the other athletes. Tomorrow is service in the morning. We are starting a new schedule that includes prayer at 9:30. My brother will be in town I think.

Monday is the Pana Labor day parade. This will be eight years in a row that we will be attending (if the Lord wills, see Sunday morning sermon). The kids love the parade and it is a really long parade. Then we will grill at my grandmas. After lunch it is off to the races! We will go out to the tri-county fair and watch harness racing. We like to try and pick the horses.

Tuesday is the annual Dennis Rogers Memorial Eastern Section golf outing. We play four man best ball and I just hope to be able to contribute one of two shots out of 70. Anyway it is always a good time.