Register for VBS Today

Registration is now open for 2011
“VBS at Indian Lake”

Register now at www.indianlakevbs.com

Register your kids or yourself as a volunteer!

The Church at IndianLakepresents “VBS at Indian Lake” July 11-13, 2011, from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.   Your children will experience a great night of fellowship, dinner and learning as we share the message of Jesus Christ.   The event costs nothing – free of charge!

Register on-line today at www.indianlakevbs.com to make sure your place at VBS is reserved.

Turkey Review: Pergamum

The letter to the church at Pergamum is found at Revelation 2:12-14.   I was surprised that the ruins of Pergamum are on a mountain that overlooks the modern city of Bergama.   I expected the ancient cities to be on flat ground.  It was stunningly beautiful.

At this city, I was chosen by Upstream Collective to be interviewed.

The video below is an interview that Dr. Ed Stetzer did with me at Pergamum.   We had to carefully choose our words with some local residents passing by, so we avoided words like “missions” and “missionaries.”   This will give you an idea of what  I was thinking about regarding the gospel as I traveled in Turkey.

One of the most haunting moments of the entire trip happened in Pergamum, when the Muslim call to prayer occurred from the city below and echoed up the mountain to the ruins where we were.  This call to prayer occured whild Dr. Ed Stetzer was teaching from Revelation 2:12-14.  This occurrence was a physical reminder that there are voices trying to drown out the Word of God all over this planet.  Asia Minor (Turkey) once held great churches, but today the gospel is silent in this country of 78 million.

To hear Dr. Stetzer sermon at Pergaamum, watch the video below.  At about 2:23, you will faintly hear the Muslim call to prayer (it was much louder in person).

Ed Stetzer’s review of Pergamum is fantastic and worth your time to read:

Scholars like to debate the reasons for Jesus’ warning to the church at Pergamum in the Book of Revelation. It’s full of cryptic references to the “throne of Satan” and the teachings of the “Nicolaitans.” I’m no scholar, but after visiting the site, I have a much better understanding of the passage and how the warning applies to us today.

What’s left of the city of Pergamum (also called Pergamon) is situated on a hill overlooking the modern Turkish city of Bergama. In fact, you’ve got to take a gondola to reach the ruins at all. Rolling green hills were the backdrop for carefully-reconstructed marble columns and intricately carved friezes. We couldn’t help but marvel at the ancient Greeks’ engineering and craftsmanship.

This Acropolis is filled with temples. Built in honor of Athena, Dionysus, and the Roman Emperor Trajan, these places of worship established the city’s reputation throughout the empire as a spiritual place. Pergamum was home to a significant number of Christians as well, and although they had not denied Christ, Jesus says that they had allowed themselves to be influenced by paganism, idolatry, and false teachings.

I preached from Revelation 2:12-17 in the center of the steep 10,000-seat Hellenistic Theater. In the middle of my sermon (starting at about 2:23), you can hear the Islamic call to prayer ringing out from mosques in various neighborhoods of the town below. It was a startling irony: gospel preaching in a place that was once filled with Christ-followers, but is now 99% Muslim, about the dangers of compromise with pagan philosophies.

What about the church today? What can we learn from Pergamum?

For starters, we need to look at what we’ve allowed to influence us. Some historians say that the “Nicolaitans” referred to in John’s Revelation from Jesus are authoritarian clergy who sought to oppress the laity. Are we on the watch for manipulative leaders within our ranks?

Because its citizens worshiped men and false gods, Jesus referred to Pergamum as being, “where Satan lives.” Are we certain to worship the Most High God and Him alone? What worldly and satanic philosophies have we allowed to creep in? The result of these infidelities is enmity with God.

The lesson for us is that it isn’t enough to simply not deny Christ in the face of opposition. We must also stand against the subtle influences of the world around us, especially the empty religion that tend toward. We must continually repent from those things and turn toward Christ.

In the end, I believe that Jesus mentions the church at Pergamum in Revelation because the believers there faced a similar spiritual climate to what we face today. As we explored the beautiful ruins of ancient Pergamum, it occurred to us that we were, in a sense, viewing one possible future for the church in America. Our only hope against evil and deceit is to hold tightly to the gospel of Christ; to know the Word of God and to hold every practice, philosophy, and teaching to its standard.

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* In May 2011, Aaron Allison toured the “Seven Churches of Revelation (Revelation Chapter 2-3)” that are all located in modern-day Turkey with Upstream Collective.


Turkey Review: The Church at Smyrna

 The ruins of Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) are found in the modern city of Izmir, Turkey.   I absolutely loved the scenery of this city of 3.3 million.  At the ruins of Smyrna, we saw such a gorgeous view of the modern city of Izmir (see pic), which one observer from Turkey called the city the “LA of Turkey.”  Still, that’s not the complete story.

Ed Stetzer gave a great review of our visit on his blog, that I would love for you to read:

There’s really nothing left of the ancient city of Smyrna but a sad, crumbling wall in a city park on a hill overlooking the Turkish metropolis of İzmir. Yet our stop at the second of the 7 churches of the Book of Revelation was spiritually charged.

We had been warned by our tour guide not to expect much of the ruins here. He didn’t want us to be disappointed that there wouldn’t be any ticket booths, restaurants, or souvenir stands. Of course, we didn’t care about that sort of thing. But we could sense that the longer we traveled together, the more anxious our guide became about traveling with a bunch of Christians.

İzmir is the third largest city in Turkey. It’s regarded as the country’s most progressive and dynamic. You see a lot more women and children out in the streets here, and far fewer veils. In fact, it is this modern mentality that, in just the last couple years, has sparked a backlash against Christianity.

In 2007, two Turkish Christians and one German citizen were attacked, tortured, and brutally murdered in the Christian publishing house where they worked. The assailants organized themselves as ultra-nationalist defenders of an Islamic Turkey.

Since then, Turkish believers across the country have lived under the constant threat of social and political persecution. We met a few such Christ-followers during our vision trip, and it was an honor to hear their stories and fellowship with them.

The persecution of Christians is not new to this land. In fact, the walls of ancient Smyrna were the site of Polycarp’s martyrdom at the hands of the Romans in 166 A.D. Legend holds that the elder of the church at Smyrna refused to worship the Roman Emperor and was burned at the stake.

It was there that I taught from Revelation 2:8-11, the passage that addresses the church at Smyrna. In it, Jesus commends the church’s faithfulness, but warns them of impending persecution. An ominous forecast of spiritual trials that continue even today.

Interestingly, the public park that contains the Smyrna ruins is a refuge for the marginalized Roma (sometimes called “gypsies.”). The hillside was covered with groups of young men playing football (soccer) and large families enjoying the shade. Their reputation as pickpockets and thieves made our guide uneasy. Apparently, there’s something in the Official Tour Guide Handbook about not leading your tour group into a potential robbery situation.

Something about the scene– tourists passing groups of Roma to climb on rocks outside a city where an historic Christian figure was killed for his faith– made our experience especially memorable. We prayed together and left in solemn silence, the words of Jesus in Revelation 2 ringing in our ears, “Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the Devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have tribulation for 10 days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Articles found at: http://www.edstetzer.com/2011/06/thursday-is-for-turkey-the-chu.html

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* In May 2011, Aaron Allison toured the “Seven Churches of Revelation (Revelation Chapter 2-3)” that are all located in modern-day Turkey with Upstream Collective.

Turkey Review: The Church at Ephesus

In May 2011, I toured the “Seven Churches of Revelation (Revelation Chapter 2-3)” that are all located in modern-day Turkey with Upstream Collective.

Of all the ruins we visited, Ephesus was the highlight of the historical tour.  As we walked the marble streets, you could truly imagine what this ancient city was like.  In the days of Paul, the city had 150,000 residents and up to 15 percent of the ruins have been recovered, making it a true historical treasure.  The picture here is of me at the amphitheater that seated 20,000 people!

As a young pastor I have drawn strength from Paul’s instructions to another young pastor named Timothy, who lead a congregation in Ephesus.  As I walked the city, I imagined the people Timothy was leading in that pagan environment, and I felt a similar challenge today.

 

Caleb Crider is the co-founder of Upstream Collective, and he adds some great thoughts from his experiences in Ephesus that I would love for you to read:

Anyone who’s ever visited any site of religious or historical significance knows to expect trinkets, tchotchkes, and $4 bottles of water. Ephesus, outside the modern Turkish city of Selçuk was no different. As we approached the entrance to the ruins of the ancient city, one vendor called out in English: “Two tourists died yesterday of heat exhaustion! Buy this hat to avoid the same fate!” This is marketing.

As we explored what’s left of the streets of Ephesus, we saw temples built to various gods and emperors. We passed the remnants of workshops, libraries, brothels, and public baths; the context of the Apostle Paul’s rebuke of the city’s idolatry (Acts 19). Our small group of pastors and church leaders recognized them as the very same challenges we face in ministry today.

As called-out ones living in societies that celebrate idolatry, materialism, human knowledge, and sexual sin, how do we engage? Have we, like the Ephesian church warned by Jesus in Revelation, hunkered down in defensive perseverance?

Our tour included a remarkably well-preserved Ephesian housing complex. This sprawling maze of living quarters, work spaces, and dining halls would have been host to gatherings of early Christ-followers before the times of large church buildings. As we explored, we felt a real sense of the history of it all; our history as believers trying to sort out what it means to live out our faith in the context of the cultures in which we find ourselves.

The highlight of our stop in Ephesus wasn’t among the ruins of the old city. It was the time spent drinking coffee in the St. John Cafe in Selçuk. There, we visited with the owner, who is one of maybe three-thousand Turkish Jesus-followers. We were encouraged by his journey of faith and his fearlessness in the face of persecution.

In the face of idolatry and opposition, may our churches be relentless in the pursuit of our first love, Christ Jesus.

My Monday with Lincoln

I spent today with my seven year old, Lincoln. We ate breakfast out, visited the Old Hickory dam, went to the mall (spending most of our time at the playground), played games at Chuck E. Cheese, then looked at books at Books-a-Million. We ended the night in the swimming pool.

There are lots of times the ministry takes me away from my family, so I try hard to make the most of days like today to redeem the time. I am so grateful for a church body that affirms this value and respects my family life. I don’t like to brag (as the Bible warns about pride), but CIL really is the best!

Weekend Re-Cap: June 5

– All reports  indicate that the Exit Seven youth ministry is having an incredible week at “The Getaway” youth camp at Panama Beach, Florida.  They’ll be returning to church on Monday.  We’re believing that the spiritual refreshing our teenagers experience will spill over into our entire church body.

– We had one of the strongest attendance of the year on Sunday.  This strong crowd happened with a lot of our core people missing for various reasons.  I met several visitors and I’m continuing to meet newcomers since Easter.  Summer really is a time to grow as a church body!

– Our first Encounter was such a special time of deep worship and intercession.  We’ll do it again this Friday at Noon.

– If you noticed a lot of cars at the church Sunday night, Grace Church was using our building for a leadership dinner.  Grace Church meets at the movie theater across the street from our building, and is only a few months old.  They are led by some great guys, including the senior pastor Ed Stetzer, who was on my recent tour to Turkey.

– Speaking of Turkey, I plan on blogging about my trip, soon.    You can review our group experience with Upstream Collective.  Currently, they have posted information from Ephesus at http://blog.theupstreamcollective.org/2011/06/02/jet-set-turkey-ephesus/   On Ed’s blog, he featured a great article on Ephesus written by Upstream Collective’s co-founder Caleb Crider.  You can read this article by clicking here.

 

– Today’s service was strong.  Worship was so heart-felt, and the worship team closed with a beautiful rendition of the classic hymn “How Great Thou Art.”  Today’s teaching from Mark 7:14-23  was a continuation from Wednesday, and was a rare time I spoke without an outline for you to follow.  However, I wanted to emphasize what Jesus was communicating through this passage, and through all of Jesus’ teaching.  The take away from this message is:

God care about more than our actions.  He examines our heart.

By the time we came to communion, we all had a reason to repent.   It was such a special time of concentration on Jesus.