Monthly Archives: April 2012

PRAY

Pretty much everybody knows what prayer is. It’s talking to God.

 

Yet most of us find it hard to do. Very few Christ followers that I know feel like they pray as much as they should. We feel guilty. We feel weird praying with others. Often our prayers seemingly are unanswered and that confuses us.

 

This coming Sunday I’ll be starting a 4 week teaching series: PRAY.

 

We’ll be looking at what the bible teaches about prayer.

 

I want to be sure to answer the questions that are on your mind about prayer. Please do me a huge favor. Leave a comment sharing any questions you might have about prayer. This will be a big help in my preparation process.

 

If you’d rather not post your question publicly – feel free to email me. Thanks!

 

Peace,

Dave

It’s Gonna Get Rowdy

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Those verses are the reason why this Sunday, April 29 we are having baptisms in both the 9:00 and 10:30 services. On baptism Sundays, we tend to get a little rowdy because we celebrate people’s lives that have been changed by the power of Jesus Christ. I can’t think of anything worth celebrating more! So come ready to make some noise and cheer on those who are getting baptized as they share their faith stories with us.

Below is a video of our last baptism service from February 26, to give you a little taste of what we will experience together as a church this weekend.

This Sunday is “can’t miss” – we hope to see you there!

~Scott

Wisdom from James

This past winter and spring, our Wednesday night Coffee Hour group has been doing a study of the book of James. James was one of Jesus’ brothers, which gives him a truly unique perspective of Jesus’ life, especially prior to Jesus starting his ministry. I believe that James was most likely quite skeptical of Jesus claims to be the Son of God, and though he came late in his belief, he came on strong and sure. James offers believers a practical way to live for Christ. It has been a wonderful study, and I have learned quite a bit that should help me on my journey in this world. I would like to share a few of my thoughts:
• “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). How much do I thank God for what I have? How much do I take for granted? This is a strong reminder to me to be thankful in all circumstances, because without Christ, I am nothing. I also find it comforting that God does not change – He is who He is from the beginning until now – trustworthy, faithful to His promises and worthy of my praise. I don’t believe we can that about anyone in our lives – we humans are fickle.
• “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) Guilty. I am guilty of this. I wonder how many times I am able to pick out a verse that relates to how I should behave, what I should say in certain situations, yet I chose my own way – I chose what I want. Knowing Bible stories and verses means nothing unless they are applied to your life.
• “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism”. (James 2:1) How often do we judge others based on what they look like, what they wear, the type of car they drive? Does that then lead to our judgment? Or perhaps our envy? Jesus taught in Matthew 22, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” When we judge others, we do not love our neighbors as ourselves. I try to remember that regardless of a person’s looks, the money they make (or don’t make), the car they drive, we cannot know what is in that person’s heart. They may be full of the spirit, or they may not. Only by truly knowing that person and loving that person can we know where they are spiritually.
• “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17) What? Wait a minute! Don’t the gospels teach us that faith in Christ is all that is needed? Big discussion around the table on this night. I think here that James is speaking of deeds (action) as a natural outcome of faith in Christ. How do we witness to unbelievers on a daily basis? Most likely, through our actions – we are being watched, whether we know it or not. “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). As James Stulac’s commentary of James states, “This is a justification through faith, with good works coming forth as the natural and expected expression of faith.” Am I living out my faith through my actions? Or am I living an empty life? Are you?
• “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord……the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5: 13-14, 16b). Pray in all circumstances! I personally struggle with this. I am a very task oriented person, and while I do often seek God in prayer for both myself and others who are struggling, how often do I just take a moment to say thank you? How often do I simply start my day or my work by praying for God’s guidance, and asking the Lord to show me what He wants me to do today? Not often enough. Instead of going to God for guidance before starting my work or my day, and having Him lead me, I tend to jump right in, then follow-up with prayer if I get stuck. I intend to change this, with His help.

This is only a sampling of James that really stuck out for me. If you have never read the book of James, I highly suggest it. It is a wonderful guide to leading a Christian life.

Kris

PASTORS ON THE HOT SEAT

This past Sunday, Dave, Chris, and myself had the opportunity to answer three questions that were submitted by the congregation.  I really enjoyed being involved in this, and I hope you enjoyed listening!  (If you missed it, you can listen to the podcast here.)

As Dave mentioned, there were several other questions that were submitted, but that we did not get to because we ran out of time.  So I want to answer one of the other questions here:

“DO ANGELS COME TO EARTH IN HUMAN FORM TO HELP PEOPLE?”

First, a little background on angels.  The word for angel means “messenger”.  Throughout Scripture, we see instances of angels ministering to or guiding people.  For example, in Acts 8:26 with the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch that we looked at on Easter, it was an angel that guided Philip to find the Ethiopian.  It is also clear that angels worship God, as seen in several passages in Revelation, where they are found singing “Worthy is the Lamb” and “Holy, holy, holy.”

The book of Hebrews has more to say on angels than any other book in the New Testament.  Here’s two passages that are of particular importance to this discussion:

Hebrews 1:14 – “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”  In other words, one of angels’ primary purposes is to minister to and help people, specifically those who are followers of Christ.

Hebrews 13:2 – “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”  This is probably a reference to Genesis 18:2-15, where Abraham was visited by three angels who told him that Sarah would have a son.  This verse tells me that angels are often involved in our lives without us knowing or being aware of their presence.

To sum up, we can’t know for sure how involved angels are in our lives today, but Scripture does seem to indicate that they minister to and help protect those who are followers of Christ, and that the activities of angels often go unnoticed by humans.

It’s also important to remember that the whole point of Hebrews 1 and 2 is that Jesus is far superior to angels, and in light of that, we are to keep our main focus on Christ and not get so preoccupied with wondering about the actions and whereabouts of angels that we neglect the core of our faith, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection.

Peace,

Scott

 

Our Plans or God’s Plans?

April is autism awareness month, which is near and dear to me. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with autism slightly before her 3rd birthday. This is a rather long article, taken from the March 12th edition of The Weekly Standard, entitled “Purpose in Life”, by Peter Wehner – a book review of “A Good and Perfect Gift”. It looks at a mother’s journey the first 2 years after her daughter was born with Down syndrome. It is a wonderful reminder for anyone who had a child that just didn’t quite meet their expectations. It is a wonderful article for anyone whose plan for themselves didn’t mesh with God’s plan for your life. I hope you take the time to read it.
Kris
The fear many soon-to-be parents face is the questions, “What if?” What if my child is born with a learning disability? What if my hopes for having a “normal” child are shattered? What if I find I can’t love my special needs child as I should? And what if my marriage and faith are broken by the stress and strain of caring for a child with severe learning disabilities?
For Amy Julia Becker, “What if?” quickly turned to “What now?”. She was a 28 year-old woman who, immediately after the birth of her daughter Penelope, was told that her child had Down syndrome. At that moment, “the world began to break into pieces, as if I had been looking at a scene through a plate-glass window that suddenly cracked, jagged lines distorting my vision”.
…….
A Good and Perfect Gift focuses on the first two years of Becker’s life with a Down syndrome child. Her account of those years is honest and introspective as she chronicles her emotions, which drift from fear and grief to sadness and uncertainty to anger. At the core of her struggles were unmet expectations; It’s not as though Becker didn’t love her child; it’s that this emotion was twinned with sorrow, “sorrow that you are not who I thought you would be,” as Becker wrote in her journal shortly after Penny was born. Sorrow that so many of the hopes she had for her child would be beyond Penny’s reach. Sorrow that her life was going to be so much harder than it is for most mothers. Sorrow that she didn’t get the baby she thought she deserved.
It didn’t help that several of Becker’s friends and acquaintances, in their effort to be helpful, inflicted inadvertent wounds. “Everywhere we turned,” she writes, “I found people with marvelous intentions and misplaced compassion.” Some tended to downplay the hard part and overemphasize the good; others portrayed Penny as either a rebuke or a reward from God; and still others referred to Penny as Becker’s “cross to bear”.
Then there are the encounters with physicians, genetic counselors, prenatal screeners, and even biology teachers, many of whom have embraced certain cultural assumptions about children with special needs. They are viewed not as gifts but as burdens, not children to love but mistakes who should be eliminated, with abortion the most efficient means. That was very rarely the direct message that was sent, but it was the indirect message that was conveyed in a dozen different ways. Becker and her husband, when contemplating having another child, came face to face with a culture that believes children with disabilities are not worth bringing into this world. It’s little wonder that women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of trisomy 21 terminate their pregnancies the vast majority of the time. The Beckers didn’t buy into the cultural presumption that certain children are more worthy of life than others, and now have three children.
The reason Becker and her husband didn’t embrace the assumptions of our modern culture has to do with viewing life through the lens of their faith. Both were devoted Christians when Penny was born; Peter, even-keeled and optimistic, never really wrestled with theological questions surrounding Down syndrome; he just loved Penny. “Two days after our return from the hospital, Peter finished grieving and walked outside and never looked back.” Becker, however, wondered whether God was trustworthy: She argued with Him, struggling to see God’s presence in the midst of raising a Down syndrome child. Yet she never lost her faith, and could never escape it. It was the only lens through which she could interpret the world.
One of Becker’s closest friends, upon learning the news about Penny’s Down syndrome, was upset. But she relayed that when she was praying for Becker, the words of Jesus came to her mind: “Whoever receives this child, receives Me.” At first those words haunted Becker; but over the course of two years, they gradually reassured her. What she learned is that what God values is often profoundly at odds with what we prize. We place tremendous importance on intellect, on outward beauty, on physical excellence. We admire people who can speak well, who dazzle us with their erudition, or their wealth, or their awards. And while those things are not unimportant in and of themselves, Becker discovers that they are not nearly important as we think.
Can [Penny] live a full life without ever solving a quadratic equation? Without reading Dostoyevsky? I’m pretty sure she can. Can I live a full life without learning to cherish and welcome those in this world who are different from me? I’m pretty sure I can’t.
What Becker also came to understand, amidst the pain and through grace, is that there is purpose in Penny’s life simply as she is and who she is – God’s child, His gift, an instrument of mercy and illumination. Her extra chromosome is not only associated with delays and impairments but also sweetness, joy, wonder, patience, and love.
Shortly after the birth, Becker was speaking with her mother about how she should think about Down syndrome in terms of God. Is it a manifestation of sin in the world? Her mother responds: “The only evidence of sin that I see in Penny’s birth is in how we respond to her.” Becker writes that is was as if she had been looking through a kaleidoscope, and it turned a notch: “All the same pieces and parts, the same colors even, but a totally new pattern. A new way of seeing.”
In the West we have succeeded in domesticating the Jesus of the New Testament. We have fit His ways into our ways, rather than vice versa. And so the person who told us that the last shall be first, that His strength is perfected in weakness, that the poor in spirit are blessed, and that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth, has been housebroken and diluted, made safe and reassuring, a ratifier of our cultural presuppositions and old patterns.
And yet sometimes, if we are lucky, we encounter people in our lives who remind us how fundamentally different truth is from the shadows we take to be real. They might even point out to us, in their particular way that a God who took on the nature of a servant and became obedient even unto death might also consider a child with Down syndrome to be of inestimable worth.

Kris

Sabbatical Bound

Hard to believe I’ve been on staff here at ACC for over 6 years now. I’m so thankful for our church! I couldn’t ask for a better place to grow and serve as a youth pastor! I truly love my job and my church family. Lord willing, I hope to be here for many years to come.

April 16, I will begin a 5 week sabbatical. It’s a HUGE blessing and I’m so thankful for this gift our elders have given me. The purpose is for me to rest and recharge my batteries – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As such, I will be completely unplugged from ACC – no Facebook, Twitter, or email, and my family and I will not be around Sunday mornings. It’ll be difficult and we’ll miss you all dearly, but it’s a necessary step in the recharging process. During my time away I plan to do some traveling, spend time with my family, do lots of reading, and get lots of long workouts in (training for a triathlon this summer). I’ve made arrangements for the youth ministry to continue as usual during my absence.

A few prayer requests:

  • The youth ministry volunteer team as they take on extra responsibilities in my absence.
  • Safe travel. We’ll be traveling to TN to visit my grandparents, Champaign, IL to visit my brother and his wife, and to CO to visit with some old friends.
  • Spiritual and professional development. I have a long list of books I plan to read during this time. I will also be visiting some friends in youth ministry to pick their brain and observe their ministries.
  • Quality family time. Looking forward to being home to tuck my kids in most nights and for uninterrupted time together.
Grace,
Chris

Out of my Mind

A few random thoughts and tidbits of information on this windy spring Monday:

 

  • Praise God for great worship at ACC this past weekend! The Good Friday service was powerful and moving. Big thanks to those who spoke on the seven sayings of Christ from the cross: Ray Demich, Karen Corlew, Elliott Glynn, Dale Hugo, Erica Kalata, Marianne Kerr, and Scott Reddin.

 

  • Also that day we had an awesome kid’s event complete with lots of games, pizza, and Easter eggs! The gym was crawling with 89 kids!

 

  • Easter? Wow! So full of energy. We had 391 people with us, including many visitors. 36 people took bibles and we’re mailing “How Good is Good Enough?” by Andy Stanley to 49! Pray that the many gospel seeds being planted would sprout in the coming weeks, months, and years!

 

  • This Sunday Chris, Scott, and I will be doing “Pastors on the Hot Seat” during both services. We will be fielding a variety of questions from the congregation on God, the bible, the Chicago Cubs, quantum physics, and other fun and informative topics! Got a question you’d like to submit? It’s not too late – email your question to me – dave@acchurch.org.

 

  • On Sunday, April 22nd my old friend Roy Patterson will be preaching at ACC! Roy is an ACC favorite – be sure to be here that day! You will be blessed by him – no doubt about it.

 

  • Chris Modrzejewski is taking a sabbatical! After completing 5+ years of faithful service the elders are sending him off for a well-deserved time of rest and refreshment! (The youth ministry programming will carry on as usual while he is gone.) He will be on sabbatical from April 16th thorough May 21st. This coming Sunday will be his last time with us for 5 weeks so be sure to be here to express your appreciation.

 

  • Have you ever taken the ACC Next Step class? If not, feel free to join us this Saturday at the church from 9AM-11AM. This class gives you an inside look at our church – especially helpful for folks newer to our church. Give us a heads up if you plan to attend – office@acchurch.org.

 

  • Sunday, April 29th we’ll be having baptisms. If you want to take this step of obedience just let us know. There is a mandatory baptism class on Sunday, April 22nd at 10:30AM. Getting baptized as a believer is an essential step in the disciple-making process (Matthew 28:19-20). Let us dunk you!

 

  • A lot is still happening behind the scenes with our Growing Together campaign (http://accgrowingtogether.com/). While groundbreaking will most likely be this fall, pledge money from you keeps pouring in – as of 4-1-12 $214,038.84 has been donated toward this project! Thanks for your generosity!

 

Really exciting things are happening at ACC! God is showing his power and grace. Please pray with me that he continues to bless our church.

 

Peace,

Dave

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday. I hope you’ll join us for our service at 7PM tonight. We will be considering Christ’s final words on the cross and sharing in the Lord’s Supper together.

Hebrews 2:14-17

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

 

A Good Friday Prayer

Merciful Father,
In your great love,
You sent your Son Jesus Christ,
To suffer and die on the cross.
By reflecting upon his crucifixion this day:
May we find consolation in our suffering;
May we find healing in our sickness;
And, clinging to the hope that we have in Christ,
May we who will die find salvation.
We pray in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.
David Bennett

 

Grace,

Chris

Lesson from a Doe

Early last Friday morning (it was still very dark) I was cruising down a rural Minnesota road. I was on my way, with my wife Karen and my daughter Lacey, for a long day of medical tests at Mayo Clinic. As we rounded a curve my headlights revealed a deer right in the middle of my lane. No time to brake or swerve – I braced for a front impact. In that split second my peripheral vision picked up 4 or 5 other deer coming across the road as well. Then the window next to my head exploded as another deer ran into the side of our car; I somehow missed the deer in front of me. As I came to a stop I spit glass out of my mouth and sat in stunned silence. I checked to see my daughter and wife were okay. Then I assessed myself. Other than having the ba-jeebers scared out of me – I was fine. We all were.

 

It could have been so much worse. We were not expecting that! And yet it happened nonetheless. Thankfully we were not killed – not even slightly injured. Just a smashed out window, a torn off side mirror, a few dents, and a missing hubcap!

 

Once again I had been starkly reminded of how quickly life can change, of how fragile life can be. As I reflected on our little accident the words of James came to mind:

 

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16

 

Are you living your life in the full knowledge that your life is like a mist?

 

Are you ready to face God? Are you living life without regrets? Are you focusing on what is really important?

 

That’s the stuff I’ve been thinking about. And grateful to be here!

 

Peace,

Dave