Monthly Archives: June 2011


If Jesus Christ wrote a letter to Arlington Countryside Church – what would he say? If he listed our strengths, the things about us that please him- what would they be? If he then went on to confront us about our weaknesses and shortcomings – what would that list look like
?I would be quaking in my boots to open and read that letter! I would hope like crazy that he’d find some positives in us. I’d also hope the list of weaknesses wouldn’t be too awfully long!
Jesus once wrote just such a letter to seven different churches in Asia Minor. It’s recorded for us in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation. We see that Jesus is NOT an absentee landlord. He cares about his churches. He is intimately acquainted with everything about them. He loves them enough to evaluate them, encourage them, admonish them, and counsel them. We can learn a lot about ourselves and ACC by studying these letters. That’s why Jesus concluded each letter by writing, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
This Sunday, July 3rd we are beginning an 8 week sermon series: THE REVELATION TOUR – 7 Cities in 8 Sundays. We’ll see what is important to Jesus about a church – his passionate likes and dislikes. It will be a time of sober reflection, repentance, and encouragement for each of us. In preparation for this Sunday I’d challenge you to read the first three chapters of Revelation.
Christ loved the church so much that he died for her (Ephesians 5:25). That means he loves ACC way too much to let us remain the same. He wants his bride to be “…a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Eph. 5:27) May he give us the grace and strength to become all he wants us to be.

New Orleans? Mission Team

Tomorrow (Saturday) morning, a team of adults (and a couple high schoolers) will leave for New Orleans. They?ll spend next week working and ministering in communities still trying to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. They go representing the ACC family. We may not all be able to participate in the trip, but we can partner with them in their ministry. Would you commit to praying with and for the team? They could use your prayers for things like:??

  • Safety as they travel and as they spend time at different work sites.
  • ???

  • Opportunities to share the love of Christ with those in need.
  • ???

  • Health and endurance as they serve.
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??Here?s the team so that you can pray for them by name:
Rick Abbott
Tim Ballee
Allie Densler
Kat Dobrowski
Kristen Ide
Ken Kerr
Kevin Kerr
Becky Mullin
Jen Mullin
Bryant Park
Jim Ray
Jim Young
You can follow them on twitter at You do not need a twitter account to see their updates.

Miscellaneous Thoughts on my Sabbatical

•?My son Micah and I spent some time hiking on the Appalachian Trail – along the Tennessee / North Carolina border. We became better acquainted with hypothermia (scary!), snakes (not as scary), pulled muscles (just me, not Micah), sun burned feet (don’t ask…) and we discovered an awesome little diner in Erwin, TN with the absolute best southern cooking. We had a great time together.
•?To be helpful to my wife Karen I tried to have dinner ready and waiting for her each day that she was working. Alas, while I was on a nice sabbatical – she was not. My menu included bean soup, baked mostaccioli, quesadillas, pizza from Rosati’s and a wide variety of meat thrown onto a hot grill.
•?Went to Wrigley Field and enjoyed watching my Cubbies stomp on the Brewers. Very satisfying.
•?I read a handful of books, including: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, all three books in the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins and To the One Who Conquers by Sam Storms. All 5 were excellent reads.
•?I got to have lunch with both of my married daughters and get a personal tour of where they work – Becky as the social services coordinator at Sedgebrook and Emily as a medical writer at Abbott Molecular. It was so cool to see where they spend a lot of their time and meet a few of their co-workers. I am really proud of both of them.
•?It was really a privilege to sit under Chris Modrzejewski’s teaching each week (via podcast) as he worked his way through Matthew 7. Good stuff!
•?I played numerous rounds of disc golf!
•?While on a quick trip to PetSmart I met Steve “Mongo” McMichael – star defensive lineman on the ’85 Super Bowl Bears. It was pretty neat. He actually said to me, and these are his exact words, “Good to meet you bro.” (I sized him up – I think I could have taken him down if I wanted to.)
•?Drove to the Northwest corner of Iowa for my niece’s wedding. Got to see a lot of friends and family that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Nice ceremony. Good food. Really boring drive.
•?My daughter Lacey surprised me by coming home for an entire week! It was so great because she stayed up in Winona (MN) this summer taking summer school classes and working.
•?Time in the Word was primarily focused in Revelation chapters 1-3. I was multi-tasking as it personally fed me spiritually and helped begin prep for an upcoming preaching series at ACC.
•?Whooped my mom in numerous games of Scrabble.
•?Wrapped up my time with a quiet but stellar Father’s Day with my family. (I was a bit melancholy as this was my first Father’s Day without my pops – he died this past October.)
•?The 6 weeks just flew by; I could not believe how fast it was over. On the other hand, it felt like I had been away from ACC for a year!
•?I am grateful to my fellow elders and the people of ACC for graciously granting me this time.
•?Kudos to the ACC staff for picking up my slack while I was gone. They are the best!
•?God restored my mind, spirit and body – the time of rest was badly needed. Now I am so excited to be back in action.

Friday Randomness

It?s been a whirlwind week for me. Some of the things currently on my mind.??

  • I?m still pumped after a great youth ministry training seminar I had early this week (Mon-Wed). It was great to get away for a few days with some other youthworkers to study the life of Christ and talk about how we can be better at reaching students with the Gospel.
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  • Dave comes back from Sabbatical on Monday. I miss that guy! This place isn?t the same without him. Looking forward to catching up.
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  • We had a blast at the Pit Stop Finale last night (middle school youth group). We had a cookout, played some crazy/messy games, and enjoyed a bonfire together. So thankful for an awesome year of ministry.
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  • Looking forward to Sunday?s guest speaker, Keith Norman. He?s a good friend of Dave?s and was on staff at TIU during my time there as a student.
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  • I?m sick of being sick! I?ve had a cold/allergies/asthma problems for 8 weeks now. It?s severely inhibited my running and I?m ready to be over it already. Finally went to the Dr., got some meds, and am feeling a lot better (should have done that a while ago, but I?m stubborn).
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  • I?m VERY excited about the Growing Together Campaign. God has been doing some big things here at ACC and we?re excited about what our future holds.
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1 John 1:9

We wrapped up the Authentic Spirituality sermon series yesterday morning. Jesus ends his sermon by talking about the importance of putting into practice what Jesus taught. Salvation always shows itself in obedience to God.
In spelling out what it looks like to do this, I shared the need for repentance (a change of mind that leads to a change of action)…turning from our sin. In that regard, I wanted to share this verse with you this morning.
I John 1:9 ??If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Let us not forget how readily available God?s forgiveness is! If you find yourself trapped in a habitual sin my prayer for you is two fold.
1 – You?ll confess your sin to God and ask for forgiveness??2 – You?ll talk to someone this week about getting help. I?d be more than happy to help you find the help you need. (Send me an email or call the office)

The Ten Commandments

What do you think about when you hear “Ten Commandments”?  Moses?  Maybe Charlton Heston and Yul Brynnar?  For me, I think about my Lutheran schooling, memorizing the Ten Commandments from Luther’s Small Catechism.  I think many of us may look at the Ten Commandments as antiquated rules that might have been relevant in Biblical times, but not today.  After all, who today is going to covet his neighbor’s manservant, maidservant, ox or donkey
?I think that the Ten Commandments are actually a gift from God, giving us, as Christians, a map on how to live our lives.  First, none of us, no matter how hard we try, will succeed in following the commandments 100%.  Do you worship a God other than the One True God?  Perhaps not, but if you place a priority on money in your life, your idol is money.  Who among us has not lied, or showed anger towards our parents?  The Ten Commandments reveal to us our sinful nature.  Through acknowledgment of our sin, the commandments point us to our need of salvation.  We gain this salvation through Christ alone.  Finally, the commandments show us the true holy character and standards of God.  We must be careful to understand that attempting to follow the Ten Commandments will not provide us a path to salvation – only Christ’s sacrifice can do that.  However, the Ten Commandments will provide us with guidelines on how we should live.
The Ten Commandments are actually broken down into two types.  The first four commandments focus on mans relationship to God; the last six focus on mans relationship to man.
1.            You shall have no other gods
2.            You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God
3.            Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
4.            Honor your father and your mother.
5.            You shall not murder
6.            You shall not commit adultery
7.            You shall not steal
8.            You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor
9.            You shall not covet your neighbor’s house
10.          You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
(From Luther’s Small Catechism, NIV)

All of the commandments must be seen within the context of love.  When asked by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.  All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
I think we all should take time to study the Ten Commandments.  Although they were given to Moses in the Old Testament, and many of the sacrificial laws and priesthoods were replaced when Christ came, they are still very much relevant today – perhaps more so.  Society is very much moving away from the Ten Commandments, as laws are written that clearly violate God’s law and much entertainment is made that glorifies behaviors in direct conflict with the commandments.  These are God’s word to us, not an opinion.
Over the remaining twelve weeks of Summer Sunday School, children in grades K-5th will be studying the Ten Commandments.   They learned the first week why God had the right and authority to give us these laws.  In the upcoming weeks, the children will be learning how they can take the commandments to heart and apply them within their lives.  As we progress with our study, we will be putting together a Ten Commandments banner – I invite you to check it out in the children’s wing.   My prayer is that the children will come to understand that God will bless them by keeping His laws; perhaps not in this world, but definitely in the next.
Peace to you,

Book Review



I recently finished A New Kind of Normal by Carol Kent.  I somewhat “randomly” decided to read this book.  I found it in the Christian non-fiction section at the library, read the description, and decided to give it a try.  It turned out to be an excellent choice!

??The author and her husband reared their son in a supportive and loving Christian home.  A devastating phone call destroyed their “normal” in 1999.  The phone call brought the startling news that their adult son had killed his stepdaughters? father.  He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Since then, Carol?s “normal” has been shattered.
Hence the title: A New Kind of Normal.
Most people have had to adapt to a “normal” that is not the “normal” envisioned for their life.  For some, it comes in the form of a shocking phone call like the one Carol received: devastating news that comes out of nowhere.  For others, difficulties are expected or in an ongoing form: family member?s illness, joblessness, a difficult relationship, or financial struggles.  We all face disappointments in life related to family, marriage, children, work, health, dreams, and things simply not going the way we want.
I resonated with a quote stated later in the book: “Choosing to remain faithful in the face of deeply disappointing and hurtful circumstances is the most important choice we can make.”
It is easy to want to throw a pity party, withdraw, and allow oneself to be overcome when situations are overwhelming.  It’s also tempting to forsake God and question his character. Yet God is still good and has a mission for us as we adapt to a “new” normal, which is probably not what we imagined.  In Carol?s case, “normal” is now Christmas in a prison visit room instead of at home with grandchildren, a decorated tree, and elegantly set table. However, her new normal also involves ministry to inmates and their families- something she never envisioned doing.
This book encouraged me to move forward despite life?s storms yet pursue honesty and transparency in my relationship with God and others.  The author includes testimonies of several people she knows who have overcome crushing circumstances with God?s help.  My hope is that you add this title to your reading list and find encouragement through it as I have.
Guest Blogger,
Allison Bies