COMMENTARY | Heath Tibbetts

“So what do you think about demons?” This was the random text message my 21-year-old brother sent me a few months back. I replied, “They sound scary, and they’re totally real.”

He called and told me of his friend, John, who believed he was being harassed by a demon. John doesn’t go to church, but he decided to call a few of the local pastors in his town, asking them what he should do. In each instance, the pastor didn’t believe his story, and offered nothing further.

Heath_Tibbetts_Feb26John lives out of state from my brother and me, so I offered to call. Soon, he was explaining his story to me. Let’s put it this way…YIKES! The hairs on my neck stood at attention as John explained this entity’s ability to take a visible shape while bringing him feelings of dread and even depression. He was now worried that this “entity” (I told him demon was the correct term) would attempt to possess him, and he was highly fearful.

I’ve heard of pastors who have blown off these types of stories. A previous pastor I served with said he had received a call from someone who thought they had a demon in their house. When I asked him what he was going to do, he replied, “Not go over there!” This didn’t sit well with me. Jesus spent many days defeating demons who were bringing hopelessness and harm to people all over Israel (Matthew 8:16, Luke 11:20, bunches of others). The Bible spoke of demons as a real threat, and I was shocked that our church didn’t act accordingly.

After telling John I believed him, I asked about his relationship to God. He admitted to having none, though he had been growing more curious about spiritual things. And as John continued to talk, I realized these attacks had intensified during this newfound curiosity. Long story short, I shared with John the Good News of Jesus and he willingly repented of his sins over the phone and placed his trust in Jesus. Then, we had a crash course in Holy Spirit theology. I told him that according to 1 Corinthians 6:19, no one can ever possess him now that he has become a temple of the Holy Spirit. John hung up the phone sounding much more confident about the future.

In fact, in the three months since John accepted Christ, he’s experienced a great change. Because the local pastors didn’t offer hope, he was unwilling to attend their churches. I’ve been discipling him by phone, texts, and e-mails. He reports no visits from this demon since his salvation, and he is reading his Bible and spending time in prayer. John is also finding new plans opening up for his life. He is moving to a new city in February to continue his education, and the first question he asked me was, “How do I find a good church when I get there?”

What is the takeaway for us? First of all, there were pastors who had an unbeliever call them for hope and they offered NONE. We have the hope of salvation and purpose in Jesus. When an unbeliever approaches us, no matter their dilemma, we must be prepared to help them see that Jesus is calling them in the midst of their crisis.

Secondly, if the Bible warns us of something, we had better take it seriously! Satan and his demons are real and they are working tirelessly to deceive, depress, and destroy souls. We must remain aware that spiritual warfare is going on all around us. Sometimes we can see it more clearly than others, but we are not fighting against people, but against “the spiritual forces of evil,” according to Ephesians 6:12. God has called us to be
warriors for the gospel who will help the hurting and broken find hope in Jesus Christ. As Peter said, let us always be prepared to share the hope that lies within us.

Heath Tibbetts pastors First Baptist Church in Machesney Park.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The Washington florist found to be in violation of her state’s non-discrimination law rejected a settlement that could have mitigated some of the damage to her financial well-being, The Christian Post reports.

The_BriefingWhen Baronelle Stutzman refused to provide florist services for a same-sex wedding, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against her. Following the Feb. 18 verdict, Ferguson offered to let Stutzman pay $2,001 in penalties and fees, as long as she committed “not to discriminate in the future.” Stutzman said no.

“Washington’s constitution guarantees us ‘freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.’ I cannot sell that precious freedom,” she wrote in a letter. “You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.”


Controversial author and former pastor Rob Bell told Oprah Winfrey that church culture is turning toward acceptance of same-sex marriage. “Lots of people are already there,” he said on the Feb. 15 episode of Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday.”

“We think it’s inevitable and we’re moments away from the church accepting it.”


Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this June will vote on a key change to the ministry statement of the North American Mission Board. If approved, according to Baptist Press, NAMB personnel could provide assistance to the International Mission Board in planting churches overseas.


“War Room” is the newest movie from the Georgia brothers who created “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof,” and “Courageous.”

“This film is about the power of prayer, and the necessity of prayer in our lives,” Alex Kendrick says in a video on warroomthemovie.com. He and his brother, Stephen, produced their earlier films with Sherwood Pictures, based in their Baptist church. “War Room” will be distributed by Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures, Baptist Press reported. Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore both appear in the film.

Hidden entrances

nateadamsibsa —  February 23, 2015 — Leave a comment

HEARTLAND | Nate Adams

Several years ago Beth and I had the opportunity to travel overseas to Amsterdam. As Sunday approached, we began scouting out nearby churches with English-speaking worship services. Finding only one within walking distance, we made plans to attend and committed to starting out early. But it was not early enough.

This was before the days of GPS and smart phones, and all we had were verbal directions from the place we were staying. We recognized the various street names and landmarks they told us we would find along the way. We knew we were in the right neighborhood. But we could not find the church.

Nate_Adams_Feb23Did we ask others for directions along the way? Well of course, though as a self-respecting husband who rarely feels lost, I waited as long as possible. But most of the folks in the neighborhood spoke only Dutch, and at least one of our well-intentioned helpers actually directed us to a German-speaking Lutheran service, which only cost us more time.

Finally, as the scheduled worship hour was upon us, we met a nice little man who was willing to walk with us a short way and point down a narrow alleyway. We had probably walked past it several times, but never realized that it led to where we needed to go.

Somewhat by faith, we walked down that narrow passage until it opened up into a beautiful courtyard. And right in the center was a beautiful old stone church, the place of worship for which we had been searching.

What a rich and deep worship experience we had that morning. On the way out, we inquired about a stained glass window that had caught our attention, one that seemed to depict pilgrims gathered for prayer on an ocean shore. It turns out the church in which we were worshiping that morning was the church from which the Mayflower pilgrims had departed for the New World almost 400 years ago.

When we returned to the hotel and told them of our difficulty finding the church, the staff apologetically acknowledged that the neighborhood had grown up quite a bit around the historic church. New buildings and thoroughfares now surrounded and somewhat masked the entrance to the courtyard. They were glad that someone familiar with the entrance had showed us how to find it.

In recent days, I have sometimes wondered what it is that keeps me from feeling a more consistent closeness to God. Like that narrow alleyway in Amsterdam, it seems the path to greater intimacy with God can be hard to find, even when I’m diligently looking for it.

Psalm 100 gives us a wonderful word picture of entering God’s gates with thanksgiving, and entering His courts with praise. Recalling that psalm during some recent soul-searching, I asked myself if I had been feeling or expressing genuine thanksgiving to God.

I began realizing how much my prayer life had been consumed with either asking for things to be different or expressing frustrations,  neither of which came from a heart of gratitude toward God. Like the buildings and thoroughfares that had grown up around that historic church, I had somehow allowed various disappointments and distractions to obscure my vision of God. They were keeping me from recognizing that I enter the courtyard of praise through a gateway of thanksgiving, and that God’s goodness and salvation and sovereignty merit my continual gratitude, even when things aren’t going my way.

Have your circumstances allowed obstacles such as discontentment or frustration or something else to creep in to your spiritual life and block your intimacy with God? Like that kind little man in Amsterdam, let me point you once again to the gateway of thanksgiving. You will be so delighted with where it leads.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

Government leaders need support, encouragement, advice and gospel centered truth, says Carrie Campbell (second from right).

Government leaders need support, encouragement,
advice and gospel centered truth,
says Carrie Campbell (second from right).

COMMENTARY | Carrie Campbell

Every year, my family goes to the Springfield City Basketball Tournament to watch our four city high schools duke it out for the top spot. A few weeks ago, we were sitting at the tournament on a Saturday night when I got a text message from my roommate: Bruce Rauner, Illinois’ newly elected governor, was there.

I quickly scanned the crowd looking for men in suits and a cluster of people. After searching for about 10 minutes, my mom spotted him among the crowd looking just like the rest of us, wearing blue jeans. I immediately decided I wanted to meet him. My sisters and a friend of ours from church headed down to where he was sitting near the court. Gov. Rauner was taking photos with a few other people, and when it was our turn, he smiled at us brightly and told us to come in close and put our heads together.

I introduced myself and told him that I was a middle school teacher. He laughed and said, “God bless you.” We went back to our seats, but later that evening, I went back to talk to him and his team a bit more. I told them that I teach at a diverse school, with students from more than 10 countries. I invited him to meet our students, most of whom have probably never met anyone that influential, especially a government official.

As Christians, I think it’s easy to get intimidated or star-struck by people that lead lives that seem more important than ours. Yes, the governor of Illinois does make many important decisions for our state. But he’s also like the rest of us, a human being put on this earth to glorify God. My introduction to Gov. Rauner reminded me that not only is it extremely important that we lift up our government officials in prayer, but also that we build relationships with them when we have the opportunity. They need our support, encouragement, advice, and gospel centered truth just as much as the next person does.

Romans 13:1 calls Christians to action in just this way: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” So I put forth a challenge to you: The next time you come in contact with a government leader, encourage that person with a friendly introduction, handshake, and—as God gives opportunities—with gospel centered truth.

Carrie Campbell is a middle school teacher in Beardstown and a member of Delta Church in Springfield.

NewAwakeningwebbannerEvangelism conference to focus on revival

The New Awakening Evangelism Conference will bring three of the Southern Baptist Convention’s foremost teachers and revival preachers to Decatur, Ill., March 27-28.

Johnny Hunt, Alvin Reid, and Joel Southerland will speak during the conference at Tabernacle Baptist Church, which also includes 14 evangelism-themed breakout sessions.

“New Awakening” is the first statewide evangelism conference hosted by the Illinois Baptist State Association in several years. The theme came out of a season of personal study on the first and second Great Awakenings and other historic revivals, said Tim Sadler, IBSA’s director of evangelism.

“I was just convinced that our problem is not going to be fixed by a program; declining baptisms are not going to be fixed by another thing in a box.

“We need a move of God’s spirit; we need another awakening, and I’m praying that it starts here, in us.”

The conference comes at a time when leaders are calling Baptists in Illinois and across the country to heightened prayer for spiritual awakening and revival. Several factors have brought on the recent focus on awakening, Reid told the Illinois Baptist: Baptists are aware they’ve lost the “home field advantage;” numbers are declining and we don’t have the influence we once had.

“A lot of leaders are realizing we’re just not smart enough to build a program to fix this. We need a God intervention….I think we need to get to a place where there’s a sense of desperation.”

Reid, a professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will teach twice during large-group sessions at the conference, and also lead a breakout session reaching the next generation. Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga., and Southerland, executive director of evangelism strategies for the North American Mission Board, also will preach twice in Decatur.

Attendees will choose three breakout sessions from a list of options including, reaching men with the gospel; attractional evangelism events; prayer and evangelism; Bible storying as a means of sharing the gospel; and more. The conference also will offer breakout tracks for women and church planters.

Chad and Rachel Ozee, planters of Journey Church in Bourbonnais, will lead in worship and will also give a bonus concert following the Friday evening session.

New Awakening begins Friday at 6:30 p.m.; the Saturday session is 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The cost is $10 per person for IBSA churches, and $15 for churches not affiliated with IBSA.

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel, located directly across the street from Tabernacle Baptist Church. Contact the hotel at (217) 422-8800, and ask for a room listed under the IBSA New Awakening Evangelism Conference.

For more information on the conference and to register, go to www.IBSA.org/evangelism.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

As Egypt responded to the apparent beheadings of Egyptian Christians with airstrikes on ISIS in Lybia, believers in the west used social media to grieve for the 21 Coptic Christians believed to have been killed.

The_Briefing“These are my brothers, faithful unto Christ even unto death, Russell Moore posted on Instagram with an image from ISIS’ video of hostages and their captors. “King Jesus puts heads back on, and puts worlds back together. Maranatha,” wrote the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

In a guest post on thegospelcoalition.org, Southern Seminary professor Tom Schreiner offered a biblical meditation on the executions of the Christians.

“Paul says that ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ (Phil. 1:21). Still, the matter is not simplistic, and life is not easy,” Schreiner wrote. “We ‘weep with those who weep’ (Rom. 12:15). Paul said that if Epaphroditus had died he would experience ‘sorrow upon sorrow’ (Phil. 2:27). Grief floods the hearts of those left behind.”


Only 22% of people agree with President Barack Obama’s 2014 statement that terror group ISIL (or ISIS) “is not Islamic,” LifeWay Research reported in a series of surveys conducted last fall. But almost half of Americans also say the group is not a true reflection of the nature of Islam.


CNN will start a six-part series March 1 that the news channel says “discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research.” The Christian Post reports the series, titled “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery,” will feature commentary from Ivy League theologians and Los Angeles pastor Erwin McManus, among others.


Illinois’ Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services recently achieved Hague accreditation for its adoption program, meaning BCHFS can continue to do home studies for adoptions in countries that require it. The accreditation is also a first step toward being able to complete adoption placements internationally, but adoption specialist Regina Thompson stressed the agency isn’t equipped to do so now.

“Our main reason for getting Hague accredited,” Thompson said, “was so that we could continue to do international home studies.”


Christianity Today reports Family Christian Stores – the largest chain of Christian bookstores in the U.S. by number of stores – has filed for bankruptcy, but “does not expect to close any stores or lay off any employees.”

“We have carefully and prayerfully considered every option,” President and CEO Chuck Bengochea said in a Feb.11 statement. “This action allows us to stay in business and continue to serve our customers, our associates, our vendors and charities around the world.”

HEARTLAND | “I think for most people when God really calls you out in faith to something deep, you know in your soul it’s going to cost you everything,” says church planter Nathan Brown.

“But when God calls you on his mission, you go because you love him.”

Brown came to Illinois from California to plant Real Church Chicago. Hear more about the challenging call to start a new work in the city in this video clip: