Archives For May 2013

pull quote_DAVENPORTHEARTLAND | Dale Davenport

You know it’s not a great prognosis when your doctor schedules an oncology appointment for the very next day.

My move to Chicago had necessitated a new doctor, who had seen me once, determined I was anemic, and said she wanted to run more tests. After those tests came her initial diagnosis – multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. The oncologist confirmed it and told me I probably had two years to live, but that we were going to fight this aggressively. Then, he did a bone marrow biopsy right there in his office.

And I decided I’d probably rather die from the cancer than experience that again.

I don’t like pain. Up to the moment of my diagnosis, I hadn’t really been fearful about my death, except that it might happen painfully.

As a pastor, I’ve spent hours in hospitals with sick people and their families, reminding them to trust the Scripture, trust the Lord. After my doctor’s announcement, I quickly realized that if that advice had been good enough for them, it had better be good enough for me.

New heart, new eyes

I really wasn’t ever scared of dying. We’re all going to go some time, and I know where I’m going next. I thought, if I get better, that’s great. But if I don’t get better, it really gets better. My wife, Sharon, was on the same page as me, but telling our sons and my mother was harder.

My boys eventually got on board and helped me make a “bucket list” of things to do before I, well, kicked it. And life went on. I started 20 weeks of chemotherapy, with few side effects. My doctor’s aggressive treatment plan included a bone marrow transplant using my own stem cells, which was successful, with a few more side effects. Now, 55 pounds lighter and with my hair growing back, I look back on my cancer journey as one I probably wouldn’t have chosen, but I’m grateful for it.

Because my heart and my eyes are open in a way they haven’t been before.

Over the last year, the Lord put all of these people right in front of me who were struggling spiritually, or who didn’t have faith in Him. And they would ask me questions. “Why are you so cheerful? How can you stay so upbeat?” Their wondering gave me an opportunity to say, “It’s only the Lord Jesus in my life.”

Throughout the past year, I’ve realized that if my faith doesn’t separate me – in visible, obvious ways – from people who don’t know Jesus, then why would they need to know Him? If I can’t see His goodness and His care and His trustworthiness through cancer, how am I any different from anyone else? So many of us know about God’s providence in our heads, but it’s not rooted in our hearts. My illness showed me how strong God is when I don’t have any strength on my own.

I’m compelled to share that with other people.

New resolve

I’ve had more opportunities to share my faith in the past year that at any other time in my life. Not just that God is good in difficult circumstances, which He is, but the whole Gospel. My cancer made me a better evangelist, mostly because I started seeing opportunities everywhere, and knew I had nothing to lose by seizing every opportunity.

One Sunday morning on the way to church, I stopped at a McDonald’s across the street. The lady behind the register noticed I had my Bible with me, and she asked me if I really read it, and if it really helped me. I told her I couldn’t live a day without it. We finished our conversation, I went on to church, and it wasn’t until I was sitting in the service that I realized what I needed to do. After the service, I walked back across the street and gave her my Bible. She hesitated at first, saying that it was mine and she couldn’t take it, but I assured her that the Bible was hers now.

There are people everywhere that need the hope we have. I knew it before I was diagnosed with cancer, but I see it in even sharper focus now. I gave away four or five Bibles in the space of two weeks.

Now, I’m a few months into remission, something my doctor has admitted he thought we’d never see. My sons have told me I can’t play the “cancer card” anymore. But I do go in for monthly blood work and chemo, and I still see the doctors and nurses who were so helpful to me. I tell them they were like angels in my life. And I use the time I have to tell them again why I’m so hopeful.

Dale Davenport is IBSA’s education director and zone consultant in Chicagoland.

BREAKING_NEWSNEWS |

The ministry founded by famed evangelist Billy Graham and a 180-year-old Baptist newspaper, the Biblical Recorder, say they were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service.

The revelations involving the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Samaritan’s Purse and the Biblical Recorder newsjournal of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention seem to indicate the IRS was targeting more than just Tea Party groups and conservative political organizations, Fox News reports.

Franklin Graham wrote in a letter to President Obama on Tuesday (May 14): “I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us.” Graham described the IRS audits as “morally wrong and unethical – indeed some would call it ‘un-American.'”

Graham is president of the ministry his father founded as well as the international charity known as Samaritan’s Purse. Both organizations were notified of the IRS audits on the same day – not long after BGEA ran advertisements supporting North Carolina’s marriage amendment.

The ads encouraged voters to “cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.” The ads concluded with these words: “Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me (Billy Graham) that America will remain one nation under God.”

“I do not believe that the IRS audit of our two organizations last year is a coincidence – or justifiable,” Graham wrote in his letter.

The Internal Revenue Service did not return calls seeking comment.

Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for Graham, told Fox News it was the first time the ministry had been audited in its history.

“These certainly appear to be politically motivated since the ministry had run some newspaper ads – not mentioning any candidates – simply urging people to vote for candidates with biblical values,” DeMoss said.

The Biblical Recorder, the official newsjournal for North Carolina Southern Baptists, found itself in the same situation in March.

The newspaper garnered national attention last summer after editor Allan Blume published an interview with Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy. In reference to his support of the traditional family, Cathy said he was “guilty as charged.”

The Biblical Recorder also published the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s ads supporting North Carolina’s marriage amendment. And then came the telephone call from the Internal Revenue Service.

“It raised some red flags and made me wonder why we were being targeted for an audit when we have been around since 1833 and have never been audited before,” Blume told Fox News. “Putting it all together made me wonder.”

Blume said the timing may have been coincidental – but “it didn’t seem that way.”

“There seems to be a very anti-Christian bias that has flowed into a lot of government agencies – oppression literally against Christian organizations and groups,” Blume said. “It makes you wonder what’s going on.”

Blume said the newspaper was eventually cleared, but the audit consumed time and money.

“It was a lot of time and energy that we didn’t have,” Blume said. “It took some of our staff literally several weeks of doing nothing but that [audit],” he said.

The IRS eventually cleared both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse but Graham noted that the audit cost the ministries money.

“Unfortunately, while these audits not only wasted taxpayer money, they wasted money contributed by donors for ministry purposes, as we had to spend precious resources servicing the IRS agents in our offices,” Graham wrote in his letter to Obama.

Reported by Todd Starnes, host of Fox News & Commentary, heard daily on Fox News Radio stations around the nation.

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Lisa Sergent and Meredith Flynn

Exactly three months ago, the Illinois Senate passed the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act.” On February 14, the state seemed poised to become the tenth to legalize same-sex marriage. But today, the bill is still awaiting a vote on the Illinois House floor.

The hold-up could be due in part to the efforts of religious leaders and groups like the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), who have made known their opposition to the bill. IFI has organized recent rallies in front of the offices of state representatives, and a coalition of African-American pastors in the Chicago area are using automated phone calls to urge voters around the state to contact their local representatives and tell them to vote no. The calls are voiced by Rev. James Meeks, a former state representative and influential Chicago area pastor. In the calls he states, “In my view, same-sex marriage should not be the law of the state of Illinois.”

Reports in March and April indicated the bill was as many as 12 “yes” votes short. But Rep. Greg Harris, the bill’s sponsor, told Chicago’s ABC News last week that proponents of same-sex marriage are “very close” to passing the legislation.  According to a Sunday Chicago Tribune editorial, “Harris needs 60 votes, and we’re told he’s a mere three to five short, with plenty of fence-sitters.”

Governor Pat Quinn has expressed his impatience with the House’s failure to vote on the bill. “It’s time to vote,” he said last week. “Illinois passing marriage equality in to law, I think, sends a great signal to the people of our state and the people of America. So it’s important to Illinois (that) the House of Representatives get going.”

The Illinois General Assembly’s session ends May 31.

Just last week, legislators in Rhode Island and Delaware voted to legalize same-sex marriage in their states, and yesterday, Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Governor Mark Dayton is expected to sign the bill into law today.

Other news:

Bill would change state’s abstinence-focused curriculum
A bill that would change sex education curriculum in Illinois is awaiting a vote by the Senate. Heather Steans, a Democratic Senator from Chicago, is sponsoring the bill that would replace the state’s abstinence-based model of sex-ed with curriculum that would also emphasize contraception and awareness of sexually transmitted diseases. Opponents, including the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), say the legislation would subject young children to “graphic sexual information to which most parents would find highly objectionable and inappropriate.” According to an IFI press release, “If the ‘comprehensive’ sex education bill, HB 2675, is passed, it will establish a one-size-fits-all approach to sex education and remove local community control over choosing true ‘age- appropriate’ curriculum, another term used in the bill.” Read a Chicago Tribune story about the issue here, or visit the Illinois Family Institute’s website.

After guilty verdict, Gosnell could face death penalty
Notorious abortion provider Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first degree murder Monday, and could face the death penalty. Gosnell, 72, was charged with ending the lives of babies born alive at his Philadelphia clinic. He also was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar. During the trial, pro-life advocates waged a “Tweet Fest” to raise awareness about the charges against Gosnell, which had gone unmentioned by most mainstream media outlets. Read more at ChristianPost.com.

Politics plays a role in pastors’ environmental views
Pastors’ views on the environment are largely linked to the political party they identify with, according to a new study by LifeWay Research. The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors found 43% agree with the statement, “I believe global warming is real and man made,” while 54% disagree. But the numbers are more extreme along political party lines: 76% of pastors that are Democrats strongly agree with the validity of man-made global warming, but only 7% of pastors identifying as Republicans express the same belief. Pastors also weighed in on whether their churches are actively taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint; read more at LifeWayResearch.com.

Barna study explores mass exodus of Millenials from the church
Barna’s extensive research on the Millenial generation has resulted in some alarming statistics, like the fact that 43% of church-going Millenials drop out of church sometime between high school and turning 30. The research also generated some interesting distinguishing characteristics of these “spiritually homeless youth.” Read about Barna’s three categories for Millenials who have left the church – nomads, prodigals, and exiles – at Barna.org.

John and Lindsey Teefey and their four sons (from top left): Elijah, Manning, and Owen and Andrew, born in 2011.

John and Lindsey Teefey and their four sons (from top left): Elijah, Manning, and Owen and Andrew, born in 2011.

HEARTLAND | Lindsey Teefey

On March 24, 2010, we received the call we’d been waiting for from the adoption agency. “There is a boy, 27 months old, that we’d like to refer to your family,” said the woman on the other line.

Adoption had been a part of our conversation before we ever got married. My husband, John, and I knew God had called our family to look different. We started the process when our biological son, Manning, was almost two, and felt very led to Ethiopia because of the overwhelming number of orphans there. We traveled to that beautiful country in July 2010 to meet our new son, whom we would call Elijah.

What we saw when we pulled up to the Children’s Home stuns me to this day! Elijah was waiting in the doorway all by himself. Not a soul around. He was waiting for us, and was ready to have a mommy and daddy to hold him. This was a miracle. Although very reserved and shy at first, he immediately called my husband “Daddy.”

On the 22-hour flight back to Illinois, though, fear started to take over. I felt guilty that our biological son would have to adjust to so much, and sad that maybe I would never love Elijah like I should as his mother. And why was I feeling so grief-stricken, since we had been called to do this and knew we’d been obedient?

The next several weeks were some of the hardest of my life. The boys battled for toys and attention almost constantly. Elijah screamed because he didn’t know how to fully communicate with us. John and I sank into depression and felt overwhelmed with anxiety, needing medical assistance on a few occasions. All of this mess made us wonder if we had made a mistake. Why were things so hard? Did God abandon us here, in this place?

pull quote_TEEFEYThe next year was full of hard days. Although we saw Elijah bond to us quickly and he and Manning become really good buddies, we felt as if we as his parents were not bonding to our new son. I remember thinking that it felt as if I were babysitting a child that would soon need to go home.

I struggled daily with the thought of him being my son. Elijah was not acting out, his English was remarkable within months, and he and Manning were true brothers. I wasn’t struggling because of anything Elijah was doing or not doing. I just did not “feel” in love with him, and he did not “feel” like my son. I begged God to give me that feeling, and I found myself mad at Him for allowing me to go through this after we stepped out in faith.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Because of God’s grace, he was allowing me not to “feel” in love with Elijah. I believe God wanted to show me love can only come from Him. If I had felt it right away, it would’ve been boasting about me, not Him! He kept showing me the scripture from Psalm 27:

“Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes,wait patiently for the Lord.”

We saw God’s goodness. My heart began to soften toward Elijah, and I began seeing things I absolutely loved about him. The bitterness and anger began to fade as he began to feel more like a son to me.

Although fewer and farther between, some days are still hard, and I have to ask for help to be the best mom for Elijah and to love him as I should. I believe those days are reminders of what our loving father taught me and what He wants me to never forget: In order to truly love someone, we need his help beyond belief. Some love comes naturally and feels really good, but he has called us to love our enemies, the poor, the orphans and widows, and the people that are just hard for us. We won’t be able to do it on our own. We have to trust He will mold our hearts to be able to love like him.

Our family experienced another miracle. God showed us that with his help we could love Elijah like our son. We’ve experienced joy beyond explanation.

Parenting_chart_LifeWayCOMMENTARY | By Russ Rankin, LifeWay Christian Resources

Most Americans believe good mothers and fathers must be loving, supportive and protecting, but fewer see the necessity of parents having a commitment to Christianity or religion, according to a LifeWay Research survey released May 7.

According to the survey, “Loving” is the No. 1 characteristic deemed mandatory for mothers (85 percent) and fathers (79 percent). After “loving,” four of the next five characteristics are shared, including “supporting,” “protecting,” “encouraging” and “involved.”

What Americans don’t necessarily see as mandatory traits of good mothers and fathers are religious convictions, including being a committed Christian.

Parenting_chart_2_LifeWayFor mothers (35 percent) and fathers (31 percent), being “Religious” garnered a slightly higher return than being a “Committed Christian” (26 percent for both mothers and fathers) on the survey of desired traits.

“Clearly Americans who are not Christians themselves would not be expected to value a Christian commitment among parents today,” noted Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “However, 3 out of 4 Americans indicate their religious preference is Christian, Catholic or Protestant. This means only a third of these people appear to value parents modeling a commitment to Jesus Christ to their children.

“For many who indicate a Christian type religion, this preference simply reflects something they were born with rather than something they feel they must nurture in the next generation,” McConnell explained.

Read more about the survey at LifeWayResearch.com.

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The days start early for Disaster Relief volunteers helping to feed families displaced by recent flooding in Illinois. Around 5 a.m., the small team tasked with preparing 1,000 meals a day starts on lunch. It’s cooked and packed before most people have eaten breakfast. Then, they start on dinner.

For more than a week, Disaster Relief blue cap Jim Weickersheimmer has led the effort out of Woodland Baptist Church in Peoria. The team is using a mobile kitchen owned and operated by Illinois DR, and also has full run of the church’s kitchen facilities.

“And we are quite an imposition,” said volunteer Jamie Kincaid. “I mean, they have stuff going on every day and we’re kind of in their way, and they have been unbelievable.”

Disaster Relief volunteer Betty Stone prepares meals to be delivered to victims of recent flooding in Illinois.

Disaster Relief volunteer Betty Stone prepares meals to be delivered to victims of recent flooding in Illinois.

Woodland is sharing their building with more than just the Disaster Relief volunteers – twice a day, Red Cross ERV’s (Emergency Response Vehicles) pile into the church parking lot, waiting to be filled with meals that will be distributed around Peoria. The feeding effort will close down today, but relief efforts are far from finished.

A “mudout” team also is expected in Peoria this week to help residents begin the process of cleaning their homes, and similar work is taking place 90 miles to the northeast, in Marseilles. Illinois teams will continue to work in those locations and others, likely with help from Disaster Relief crews from neighboring states. Since flooding began in mid-April, nearly 50 counties in Illinois have been declared State Disaster Areas.

To donate to Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief, click here.

Other news:

ESPN’s Broussard ‘resting on the scriptures’ amidst controversy
After ESPN’s Chris Broussard came under fire for comments about homosexuality, he thanked Christians for supporting and praying for him. “I believe God is getting all the glory from this and I’ve been resting on the scriptures, ‘blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake.’ So I know this is a blessing,” the basketball analyst said during a teleconference hosted by the K.I.N.G. Movement, a ministry he founded. Broussard shared his view – that living a homosexual lifestyle is “open rebellion to God” – in the wake of NBA player Jason Collins’ announcement that he is gay. Read more at ChristianPost.com.

Ravi Zacharias: From attempted suicide to life in Christ
Author and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias writes about his early struggle with failure, and how it led him to attempt suicide, in a column for ChristianityToday.com.

More like Jesus, or more like the Pharisees?
New research from Barna shows 51% of people who identify themselves as Christians are “Pharisaical” in their attitudes and actions, where only 14% are characterized by the actions and attitudes of Jesus Christ. Read more at Barna.org.

‘Experiencing God’ – the movie
The “Experiencing God” discipleship study authored by Henry Blackaby and Claude King is subject of a new documentary film and the inaugural release of LifeWay Films, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources. “Experiencing God” was first published in 1990; it has since sold 7 million copies and has been published in more than 45 languages. Read more at BPNews.net.

HEARTLAND | David Choi’s made the decision to plant a church in Chicago after God asked him a simple question:

“Is my presence enough?”

As he struggled to discern where God was leading him, Choi also sensed God’s assurance. “I felt God tell me, ‘I’m going to lead you to a place to plant,’” he said. “You’re not going to be alone because I’m going to be with you. Is my presence enough?”

Now, Choi is planting a very multi-cultural church near the University of Illinois-Chicago. Click on the video below to find out more about Church of the Beloved, or read the full story here.

At a worship service on the National Day of Prayer, some knelt in prayer in front of the Illinois State Capitol, while others lifted their hands in worship.

At a worship service on the National Day of Prayer, some knelt in prayer in front of the Illinois State Capitol, while others lifted their hands in worship.

NEWS | Meredith Flynn

A crowd gathered on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol Thursday to celebrate the National Day of Prayer with singing, words of encouragement and – of course – prayer.

Tim Sadler, the Illinois Baptist State Association’s director of evangelism, also had an opportunity to share about “My Hope with Billy Graham,” a strategy touted as the 94-year-old evangelist’s last crusade. (The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is producing a DVD for Christians to show in their homes, and then present their personal stories of faith.)

IBSA's Tim Sadler shares about "My Hope with Billy Graham."

IBSA’s Tim Sadler shares about “My Hope with Billy Graham.”

In his prayer, Sadler shared the Gospel:

“Father, we come this day to affirm our need for you, the very source of our hope. We realize that our attempts at lasting change have proven futile. Real change, transformational change comes through a relationship with you, and only a relationship with you.

“We know we are living in a pluralistic, if not increasingly relativistic and secularistic culture. Remind us that we are all the creation of God, but that we are not all the children of God. You tell us in your Word that only those who have placed their faith in Jesus and His death in our place on the cross have the right to become the children of God.

“Break out hearts todayFather, for those who are not yet in a relationship with you.”

Pastor Danny Holliday leads supporters of traditional marriage in a prayer rally in Alton.

Pastor Danny Holliday leads supporters of traditional marriage in a prayer rally in Alton.

NEWS | Meredith Flynn

As people on both sides of the debate wait for the Illinois House to vote on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, Christian leaders continue to gather together to pray the state legislature will vote to protect a traditional definition of the institution.

Danny Holliday, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Alton, sent out a last-minute call to pastors and church members in the area to gather for a prayer rally April 28. Despite the short notice, he said 60 people showed up at Lincoln Douglas Square to pray for Illinois representatives who could face a vote on same-sex marriage this month.

“We prayed for the individual representatives, that they would want to know the truth and find out the truth, and vote accordingly,” Holliday said. “We believe marriage has to do with God, and we prayed that the people would realize this is a religious issue, it’s a biblical issue, and it’s not an issue just based on people’s feelings.”

Read “Gay Marriage, A Civil Right?” by Southern Seminary President Al Mohler in the next issue of the Illinois Baptist, online by Friday, May 3.

After passage by the Senate in February, the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act” narrowly passed through the House Executive Committee, and has since been awaiting vote on the House floor. Several reports indicate the bill is still as much as a dozen votes short of passage, although lobbyists are working to change the minds of representatives who favor traditional marriage. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn recently told The Windy City Times, an advocate for same-sex marriage, that he’s “optimistic we’re within striking distance” on the bill. Quinn has said he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

“Hopefully between now and the 31st of May, Greg Harris, our sponsor, will find a moment to call the bill for a roll call,” Quinn told the newspaper.

Holliday is looking toward the end of May too, when the legislature’s spring session comes to a close.

“We have to the end of May. If we can hold them off, we’ll be OK until the next term. We’re confident because we believe God is in this, but we’re not over-confident, and there’s a lot of work to be done yet.”