Ask the Pastor

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No one submitted a question this week, so I’m reaching back to 2010 and repeating this post, which is just as timely as it was six years ago:

One of our newest CLCers writes, “My question is in regard to daily confession of sin. Every time I pray, I acknowledge & confess for sin that occured since the previous prayer time. I consider 1st John 1:9 & Psalm 51:1-4 in mind during this time. Yesterday, however, while I was praying, the thought came to mind, ‘If Christ’s death covered all 3 tenses (past, present & future) of my sin, why am I confessing sin on a prayer time by prayer time basis?'”

Good question.  I’m not sure if it was deliberate or not, but this question also goes to the heart of some very controversial teaching that has resurfaced in the body of Christ of late, so this gives me a chance to address both:

  • in regards to your specific question, it IS a fact that Jesus died for EVERY sin that you’ve ever committed in the past, are committing right now, or will commit in the future.  ALL of your sins are covered by His death at the Cross.  However, as I understand Scripture, that does NOT mean that you don’t need to repent and turn from your sin, in order to appropriate the benefits of His sacrificial death in your own life.
  • I do not mean by that statement that you or I need to live in some sort of guilt-ridden, fearful, eternally-insecure-of-our-salvation condition. There is no condemnation for us as believers (Romans 8:1) and we have (present tense) eternal life (1John 5:13).
  • While I don’t recommend a ritual, prayer-by-rote approach to confessing sin every time you pray, I do believe Scripture would teach us to examine our hearts (1Cor 11:28; 2Cor 13:5) and certainly there will be times of acknowledging & confessing our sin (1John 1:8-10)

I hope that helps your sincere question.  Now let me address the dangerous teaching that has resurfaced:

  • in this modern version of an old error known as universalism, some are now teaching that “since Jesus died for all our sins: past, present & future, we have already been forgiven at the Cross, and there is no need for repentance or confession, which would only cause us to feel guilt or condemnation.”
  • This hyper-grace message basically teaches that everyone is already saved, some just don’t know it yet (that’s my tongue-in-cheek definition, but it’s not far off) – and would remove all need for the Great Commission or missionaries to go to unreached people groups, etc. (since Jesus already covered the sins of the whole world).
  • The proponents of this teaching would have us believe that in the New Testament age of Grace, there is no need for us to do anything except enjoy God’s free gift – but that certainly flies in the face of New Testament teachings and even the warnings that Jesus gave to the churches of Asia in Revelation chapter 2 and chapter 3

I think I’ll climb down off my soapbox before I fall and hurt myself – but I hope this has helped bring some clarity.

I’d love for YOU to join the conversation by adding your thoughts or questions below-

for the next 40 days…..

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If you know me at all, you know that I have never endorsed any candidate for President in my 40+ years of pastoring.

(Relax, I’m not about to start now.)

Here’s my position on any important election: I want what God wants!  Isaiah 40 and 1Samuel 2:7-10 and especially Romans 13:1 let me know that ultimately God puts in office who HE wants.  I’ve learned that His ways are not always my ways; sometimes God may put someone in office that I would never have chosen, because God is seeking to  humble us as a nation, to move us to repentance.

I think this is particularly appropriate in this election when most Christians would agree that neither candidate is following the teachings of Scripture, personally or in their policies – which is probably why I’ve never know Christians to be so divided in their view as to who our next President should be – and all the more reason why I know I’m not smart enough to know what God is doing or wants to do in this particular election.

Over the past several weeks I’ve been asked by several national ministries to engage in various prayer plans for this election – some wanting us to pray for 30 days; some wanting prayer each day in October; some calling for us to pray in the Spirit for one hour this Sunday.  Here’s what I’m asking CLC’ers (and anyone else reading this) to do: would you pray daily between now and the election for God’s will to be done?

I don’t mean a “k sera, sera; whatever will be, will be” kind of prayer.  I’m also not prescribing what time of day you should pray or for how long you should pray each day. I’m simply asking you to join me each day between now and November 8 in earnestly praying that the God who knows what’s best for our nation will intervene in this election and put into office the person that HE wills for President of these United States.

If we start now, we have just over 40 days before the election, and I don’t have to tell you how many significant events in Scripture happened in 40 days.  Together, let’s believe for his will to be done on earth (in the USA) as it is in heaven!

missions, Missions, MISSIONS!

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In many ways, this is my favorite time of our church calendar, as we take a few weeks to FOCUS on the Mission of The Church, the last words that Jesus gave us:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Here’s what you can expect for the next 3 Sundays at our Tinley Park campus (our other Chicagoland campuses will be participating in the missions emphasis as well):

  • October 2 – Don Finto & Tod McDowell from the Caleb Company.  When the Lord dealt with me from Romans 11 about our lack of support for Jewish evangelism back in 2008, my heart was immediately on board – but it wasn’t until I read two of Don Finto’s books that my head understood why.  He and Tod will be doing a 3-part series instead of repeating the same message, so if you have a heart for Israel, you may want to consider attending more than one service.  Do. Not. Miss. This.
  • Oct. 7-10 – The Compassion Experience is coming to Tinley Park!  All the experts agree, the #1 best way to help Americans catch a vision for missions is to have them go on a short-term missions trip to the Nations.  The Compassion Experience may be the #2 best way, because you’ll be able to take a realistic tour of what life is like for so many people in the world (in this case, Bolivia and Uganda).  And after your heart is touched by these true-life stories, you’ll have the opportunity to respond by sponsoring a child in need, knowing that a local church in their area will minister to them personally because of your sponsorship!  By the way, if you make a reservation, you won’t have to wait as long to take your tour – do it here now!
  • October 16 – Dr. Patricia Bailey will be our guest at all 3 services in Tinley Park AND our annual International Dinner that evening.  Many of our African-American members have told me that they had never heard of missions to the Nations prior to coming to CLC, and that missions to them was about helping needy people in Chicago.  Dr. Bailey will revolutionize your thinking through her ministry in some of the most dangerous places on earth!

(In my best Bishop Jakes voice, “get ready, get readygen ready, GET READY!”

 

Sunday reflections

Our NWI campus celebrated their 3rd birthday this weekend, with special services Thursday, Friday & Saturday and a BIG celebration today!  Kudos to Pastors Sam & Taylor & the entire NWI "Dream Team" of volunteers!

Our NWI campus celebrated their 3rd birthday this weekend, with special services Thursday, Friday & Saturday and a BIG celebration today! Kudos to Pastors Sam & Taylor & the entire NWI “Dream Team” of volunteers!

Speaking of 'Dream Team', our team of musicians & singers at the Blue Island campus do an amazing job of leading worship in two languages each Sunday!

Speaking of ‘Dream Team’, our team of musicians & singers at the Blue Island campus do an amazing job of leading worship in two languages each Sunday!

Pastor Brent preached "N2 & U" with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish

Pastor Brent preached “N2 & U” with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish

And 5 new CLC'ers completed our Growth Track at CLC-Blue Island!

And 5 new CLC’ers completed our Growth Track at CLC-Blue Island!

 

Worship at Tinley Park today featured 3 great female soloists (Heather & Tiffany pictured here)

Worship at Tinley Park today featured 3 great female soloists (Heather & Tiffany pictured here)

and Kara makes 3!

and Kara makes 3!

Worship Pastor Jon Jones brought a timely word about INTENTIONALITY today!

Worship Pastor Jon Jones brought a timely word about INTENTIONALITY today, and someone gave their life to Christ in each service!

And as usual, the LOBBY was BUSY with CLC'ers and guests navigating Life Groups, 5K registration, international dinner tickets & volunteering for the Compassion Experience!

And as usual, the LOBBY was BUSY with CLC’ers and guests navigating Life Groups, 5K registration, international dinner tickets & volunteering for the Compassion Experience!

That’s all for CLC today.  Next up: watching the hapless Bears play the Cowboys tonight-

Ask the Pastor

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I found a question from the past that I had overlooked, and a favorite CLC’er quoted the same verses to me this week, so I think I should address this one: “Can you help me with Proverbs 26:4 & 5. The more I read this the more it seems like it says almost the same thing. Maybe I’m over thinking it but can you help me out here. Thanks Much.”

That’s a good one, because at first reading, it actually sounds contradictory to me.  But in reality, these two sayings belong together; they complement each other. Their point is that one should not be drawn down to a fool’s level (v. 4) but at times he must use the fool’s language to refute the fool so he does not become conceited (v. 5; see also v.12 & v. 16).

I will say this: we need wisdom to know when to apply verse 4 and when to apply verse 5! The Jewish Talmud suggests that verse 4 pertains to foolish comments that can be ignored and that verse 5 refers to erroneous ideas that must be corrected.

I also think other translations help: The Message or perhaps Good News Translation or Amplified Bible.

My advice: if you want to see examples of this, look at Facebook!

Hope that helps a bit.  What do YOU think?  Join the conversation by leaving your comments below, or ask your own question for a future post-

 

What CLC is doing in the communities we serve

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Without a doubt, the #1 objection to our missions focus at CLC through the years has come from well-meaning Christians who question,  why do we focus so much on The Nations when we have so many needs right here at home?”

If you’ve ever wondered that, I hope you’ll be present at any Chicagoland campus as we kick-off our 2016 “N2” series this Sunday, September 25, when we’ll focus on the first ‘N’ word of the series, ‘neighbors’.  And then for the following three Sundays of our Missions Emphasis, besides our international emphasis, we’ll also look at what CLC is doing in the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana to reach our own neighbors.

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Here’s just a quick list to whet your appetite for Sunday:

Neighborhood Partners

and a whole LOT more!

What local churches do around the world

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Sunday we talked about the difference the local church makes, not only in America, but around the world – and I mentioned one such church in Irbil, Iraq that had 1,600 refugees  show up in their courtyard, needing everything, since they had left all their possessions behind while fleeing Islamic persecution.

In case you missed it, here’s a one-minute video summary from the pastor:

I love his line: “we don’t call them refugees; we call them our relatives” – that’s what it means to be in God’s family, The Church!

What local churches do for America

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In yesterday’s message I quoted some from a recent study by scholars from Georgetown University and the Newseum Institute about the contribution to American society by local churches and religious institutions.  In case that piqued your interest, here’s a summary of their report.

And if you’re really interested, here’s the full report (31 pages worth)

I’m glad to be a part of the local church!

 

Sunday reflections

We ended the ‘Family Matters’ series on a high note today at each campus:

As usual, Harmony & team led us into God's Presence

As usual, Harmony & team led us into God’s Presence in Tinley Park-

Chris reminded us how important it is for EACH part of the body to do it's work - even if it's a BIG MOUTH!

Chris reminded us how important it is for EACH part of the body to do it’s work – even if it’s a BIG MOUTH!

The lobby was JAM-PACKED after each service with CLC'ers signing up for the next season of Life Groups

The lobby was JAM-PACKED after each service with CLC’ers signing up for the next season of Life Groups!  If you didn’t choose yours, you can do so next Sunday or at www.clc.tv

  • Best of all, people gave their life to Christ in EACH service today!
With today's theme, it's great to see kids of all ages SERVING at our NWI campus!

With today’s theme, it’s great to see kids of all ages SERVING at our NWI campus!

Pastor Ben brought the message at NWI, and Entheos students were his sermon illustration

Pastor Ben brought the message at NWI, and Entheos students were his sermon illustration

 

NWI altars were full after the message-

NWI altars were full after the message-

Meanwhile, in Blue Island, worship was great today as Alan and his team led us.

Meanwhile, in Blue Island, worship was great today as Alan and his team led us.

 

 

Pastor Brent illustrated the benefit of being under the umbrella (covering) of an anointed local church

Pastor Brent illustrated the benefit of being under the umbrella (covering) of an anointed local church

versus what happens when we are out from under that covering of the local church

versus what happens when we are out from under that covering of the local church

Enjoy this last week of “Family Matters” small groups before we launch N2!

Ask the Pastor

shutterstock_343049483A member of our staff writes, “Pastor, my question is about Matthew 28:16-20.
Why would some in verse 17 doubt? They were viewing a man who had been raised from the dead! Just read this and it stood out to me as odd that any of them would doubt.”

Great question.  Why indeed would His closest followers, who had witnessed all His miracles for three-and-a-half years, PLUS His resurrection, have any doubts???

Unfortunately, I think the answer is clear: because they were a lot like all of us.               WHY do we sometimes doubt, after all God has done for us?

As painful and frustrating as it may be, it’s the frailty of human nature, and there are other examples besides the text in question today:

  • 1Kings 17:24 – this was the statement of the widow of Zarephath, who was ready to starve to death during a famine until Elijah came and asked her to bake him a little cake to eat and prophesied that she would always have enough during the famine – and it came to pass, so that for many days she and her son were able to eat and the flour and oil never ran out, miraculously.  Yet later, when her son became sick and died and Elijah raised him from the dead, she now proclaimed, “now I know that you are a man of God!” – NOW?  You mean she doubted that he was a man of God after the miracle of eating for many days from containers of oil and flour that never ran out???? Human nature.
  • Luke 24:1-38 – similar to the text in question, after witnessing the resurrection and even seeing and talking with Christ after He rose from the dead and then having Him appear in the room with them (without using a door), they still doubted!  Human nature.
  • Matthew 14:25-31 – Peter (and the other disciples) saw Jesus walking on the water during a storm, AND Peter also walked on water himself, but still doubted!  Human nature.
  • I’m sure there are other examples in Scripture, but you get my point.  Thank God for Psalm 103:10-14 that lets us know God knows how weak we are, and loves us regardless!

My prayer for all of us is the same as the father of the demonized boy in Mark 9:24!

Hope that helps.  Would you join the conversation below, by adding your comments or asking your own question?

 

The local church is the hope of the world!

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I tried to post this yesterday, but the wifi in our hotel room wasn’t cooperating-

While our campus pastors and I were away at Jimmy Evans Pastors School, we finalized our plans for THIS Sunday at CLC when we’ll close the ‘Family Matters’ series.  Gotta tell you how excited I am to talk about the power of the local church and especially what it means to be a part of it!

Bill Hybels said it like this: “There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden and the disillusioned. It breaks chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. The potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp. The hope of the world is not government, academia, or business, but the Church because it is to the Church that God has entrusted the message of salvation, which truly changes people’s lives and hearts.”

I believe it!  There is NOTHING ELSE ON EARTH like a healthy local church, and you won’t want to miss this Sunday at any Chicagoland campus of CLC.

Come expecting!

NEXT!

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We still have one more Sunday of “Family Matters” before our campaign comes to a close  (maybe the most important message of the series!), but I’m already looking ahead to what’s NEXT at CLC………..

It’s our annual Missions Emphasis that we’re calling “N2” – as we go to both our Neighbors right here in Chicagoland, AND to The Nations of the world for whom Jesus died!

Mark your calendar for some of the most amazing guests we’ve ever hosted at CLC, with Don Finto and Tod McDowell joining us on October 2, and Dr. Patricia Bailey as our guest on October 16, plus an incredible ‘Compassion Experience” on October 7-10.  Click on any of the links to learn more-

I can’t wait!

Pastors go to school, too

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At least CLC pastors do, because we want to get better at what we do in serving God’s people!

That’s why Pastors Ben, Sam, Brent and I are leaving this morning for Kalamazoo, MI and the 2016 Pastor’s School with Jimmy Evans.  I attended one in 2014 and came back from Dallas telling our team it was THE best seminar or conference I had ever attended in 40 years of ministry, so when I saw that it was coming this close to Chicago, I immediately signed up our campus pastor team to attend.  (The bonus is I get to attend free as an alumni)

In fact, as much as I look forward to the sessions each day, I’m especially looking forward to our evenings together (and the 5 hours of windshield time going and coming) for some extended discussions with our pastors that we don’t often get to have at home during the average work week.  I’m confident we’ll return home Wednesday afternoon better equipped to lead CLC!

Sunday reflections

On this 15th Anniversary of the day almost 3,000 Americans lost their lives on 9/11, it was GREAT to celebrate new life in Christ through water baptism with 2 CLC’ers:

Shayanna White being baptized by Pastor Josh

Shayanna White being baptized by Pastor Josh

Anne Richmond enjoyed a beautiful moment with the Lord in baptism

Anne Richmond enjoyed a beautiful moment with the Lord in the waters of baptism!

Love this team; LOVE the Presence of God even more!

Love this team; LOVE the Presence of God even more!

'Strategic Parenting' was a strong word to parents, but we all got thru it!

‘Strategic Parenting’ was a strong word to parents, but we all got thru it!

Alan Franklin is Da MAN at our Blue Island campus - he faithfully leads us into the Presence each week!

Alan Franklin is Da MAN at our Blue Island campus – he faithfully leads us into the Presence each week!

Worship is a hallmark of every CLC campus

Worship is a hallmark of every CLC campus

Pastor Brent threw marbles on the floor to make a point in Blue Island

Pastor Brent threw marbles on the floor to make a point in Blue Island

Hammond Firefighters were honored on this anniversary of 9/11 at our NWI campus

Hammond Firefighters were honored on this anniversary of 9/11 at our NWI campus

Best news of the day for me: we more than doubled the number of Life Group leaders in Tinley Park during the ‘Family Matters’ campaign, and at our meeting this afternoon it appears ALL of them are going to continue to lead during the next semester!!!

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of our newer CLC’ers writes, “My question is the role of grandparents in the family. As a grandparent, I oftentimes wonder whether I am doing more than expected for my children and grand children or whether the provision and/or my role as the grandparent aligns with the Word of God.”

Great question, and one that I’m sure many other grandparents are asking. I’ve never addressed it before, so let me dig a little:

  • Proverbs 13:22 directly addresses one aspect of your question, by tell us that good people leave an inheritance to our grandchildren.  Reading that verse a few years ago in my devotions challenged me, because I want to be a good man!  And while some might argue that an inheritance can be the godly example of character, integrity, etc. – there is no doubt in my mind that it definitely refers to a financial inheritance as well.
  • Another verse that deals with grandparenting is Deuteronomy 4:9, which encourages grandparents to pass on what they have seen and known about the Lord to their grandchildren.
  • 2Timothy 1:5 gives us the example of Paul’s apprentice, young Timothy, whose faith had been handed down from his grandmother.  Later, in 2Timothy 3:14-15, Paul reminded him that he had been taught the Scriptures from his childhood (some translations say “infancy”) What a privilege for any grandparent to pass on their faith to their grandchildren by sharing the Scriptures with them!
  • Finally, in Genesis 48:9, Jacob wanted to speak a blessing over his grandsons – and how powerful it can be when a grandparent speaks positive, life-giving words over their grandchildren!  Those words could be prophetic, speaking to their future, or they could be strategic, addressing their bents by describing how talented or capable they are, to encourage their future development.

I haven’t found other specific verses that deal with grandparenting, but we can summarize that our role as grandparents includes:

1) Being an example to our grandchildren.  They learn by what they see us do!

2) Sharing Scripture and our experiences in the Lord with our grandchildren, thus passing our faith on to them.

3) Blessing our grandchildren with life-giving words.

4) Leaving a financial inheritance for them.

I hope that helps!  Would YOU care to leave a comment about other ways that a grandparent can fulfill our role in the lives of our grandchildren?  Please join the conversation below, or ask your own question for another post-

Philippines, day 6

Today was pretty much the PERFECT day to close this trip.  All of the CLC pastors & some leaders took this boat to a nearby island for a buffet on the beach (and some swimming for those so inclined), but mainly LOTS of conversation & fellowship, as many of them didn't know each other before this convention.

Today was pretty much the PERFECT day to close this trip. All of the CLC pastors & some leaders took this boat to a nearby island….. 

...for a buffet on the beach (and some swimming for those so inclined), but mainly LOTS of conversation & fellowship, as many of them didn't know each other before this convention.

…for a buffet on the beach (and some swimming for those so inclined), but mainly LOTS of conversation & fellowship, as many of them didn’t know each other before this convention.

  • My favorite part of the outing was when Bishop Herley had each of the CLC pastors share a little about their work or a brief testimony.  Chris & I were moved to tears to learn of the sacrifices that some of them have made, and so touched by their gratitude to CLC-Chicagoland for our partnership.  (I took pics of each of them & will share some of those stories in another post)
Then we gathered for a closing service of the convention, where I exhorted briefly before Chris preached about being broken with what breaks God's heart  (this pic doesn't do it justice, as all of us were greatly moved by her words)

Then we gathered for a closing service of the convention, where I exhorted briefly before Chris preached about being broken with what breaks God’s heart (this pic doesn’t do it justice, as all of us were greatly moved by her words & Pastor Jeser’s translation into Cebuano)

Then Pastor Herley preached a masterpiece from the story of the missing axehead in 2Kings 6.  I don't  think any of us will ever forget that "the iron did swim" and no matter how illogical or impossible it seems, God can still do it again!

Then Pastor Herley preached a masterpiece from the story of the missing axehead in 2Kings 6. I don’t think any of us will ever forget that “the iron did swim” and no matter how illogical or impossible it seems, God can still do it again!

After his message, the Holy Spirit ministered powerfully in the altars as we prayed over each of the pastors and many of the local leaders, before a party-atmosphere of praise broke forth in the entire auditorium.  I recorded a brief video to show you, but the file is too large for me to post here.  (Once we return, I’ll get our tech guys to help me so you can see a little of what God is doing in the Philippines through CLC!)

We have about 3 hours now to get some ‘quick sleep’ before leaving for the first of three flights that will get us back to Chicago on Wednesday afternoon.  Thanks for the prayers!

Philippines, day 5

The "Queen of Object Lessons" strikes again, this time with a can of shaving cream!

The “Queen of Object Lessons” strikes again, this time with a can of shaving cream!

How I wish EVERY pastor could have heard Bishop Herley Montes practical teaching at this first-ever CLC-Philippines Convention - such wisdom & experience!

How I wish EVERY pastor could have heard Bishop Herley Montes practical teaching at this first-ever CLC-Philippines Convention – such wisdom & experience!

Pastor Joel Montes challenged all the pastors to prepare for the MULTITUDE that is coming!

Pastor Joel Montes challenged all the pastors to prepare for the MULTITUDE that is coming!

To be honest, this full day of teachings had everyone weary (especially the Americans!), so Chris used a game to keep everyone awake in her afternoon session.

To be honest, this full day of teachings had everyone weary (especially the Americans!), so Chris used a game to keep everyone awake in her afternoon session. (P.S. It worked!)

Our long-time friend, Pastor Jeser from CLC-Tagum interpreted today's sessions & his humor kept everyone AWAKE!

Our long-time friend, Pastor Jeser Molina from CLC-Tagum interpreted today’s sessions & his humor kept everyone AWAKE!

Tonight wasn't sleepy, though - with powerful worship from this Davao team we love!

Tonight wasn’t sleepy, though – with powerful worship from this Davao team we love!

Then I preached with a great sense of anointing (Pastor Jeser interpreting)

Then I preached with a great sense of anointing (Pastor Jeser interpreting)

Chris ministered prophetically to close the service, and it was POWERFUL!

Chris ministered prophetically to close the service, and it was POWERFUL!

Sunday reflections

 

One of four services today at CLC-Davao!

One of four services today at CLC-Davao!

I hope you’ve enjoyed keeping up with our travels here in the Philippines, but like always, part of my heart is in Chicagoland today with our CLC campuses.  I really want to know:  how were the services at CLC today?

If you attended ANY CLC campus (Blue Island, NWI, Tinley Park, or online) please leave a comment below to tell us

  • how did the Holy Spirit minister to you?
  • what was your favorite part of the service today?
  • what was your main takeaway from the teaching?

Thanks for leaving your comments – curious pastors want to know!

Philippines, day 4 (Sunday in Davao)

Bishop Herley Montes exhorting us before we received communion together (CLC'ers note Erik in the red pants, still shredding the guitar!)

Bishop Herley Montes exhorting us before we received communion together (CLC’ers note Erik at far left in the red pants, still shredding the guitar!)

After I ministered about prayer today, Pastor Herley gave the altar invitation and these precious people came forward for salvation. (What God is doing in the Philippines is AMAZING - our campus in Davao has grown from less than 500 to more than 2,000 in just the past 7 years!)

After I ministered about prayer today, Pastor Herley gave the altar invitation and these precious people came forward for salvation.

Pastor Herley led the prayer for all those who responded.

Pastor Herley led the prayer for all those who responded.(What God is doing in the Philippines is AMAZING – our campus in Davao has grown from less than 500 to more than 2,000 in just the past 7 years!)

Chris preached at CLC-Tagum this morning, but returned in time to preach the 3rd Sunday service in Davao this afternoon.

Chris preached at CLC-Tagum this morning, but returned in time to preach the 3rd Sunday service in Davao this afternoon.

and she was quite proud of herself when the balloon trick worked!

and she was quite proud of herself when the balloon trick worked!

Tonight was another FIRST - the fan blew my notes so much this morning that I decided to go hi-tech & preach from my laptop! (Don't expect to see that at home)

Tonight was the 4th Sunday service at CLC-Davao and another FIRST for me – the fan blew my notes so much this morning that I decided to go hi-tech & preach from my laptop! (Don’t expect to see this at home)

At least 18 people came forward afterwards to receive Jesus!  I'll say it again: what God is doing in the Philippines is AMAZING!

At least 18 people came forward afterwards to receive Jesus! I’ll say it again: what God is doing in the Philippines is AMAZING!

Now it’s time for some sleep before we begin the FIRST-EVER CLC-Philippines Convention tomorrow morning with all 11 of our campuses – pray for great anointing on all our meetings!

Philippines, day 3

Worship was sweet at CLC-Cagayan de Oro yesterday, and this song captured it all!

Worship was sweet at CLC-Cagayan de Oro yesterday, and this song captured it all!

Bishop Herley Montes is a mentor to so many pastors & leaders here-

Bishop Herley Montes is a mentor to so many pastors & leaders here-

It's always a joy to teach in the Philippines

It’s always a joy to teach in the Philippines & Pastor Herley is a great interpreter!

Once again, the Word Chris shared really moved the people - "No Regrets"!

Once again, the Word Chris shared really moved the people – “Living life with No Regrets”!

Host pastor Jun Bringas from CLC-Cagayan de Oro

Host pastor Jun Bringas from CLC-Cagayan de Oro

After a full morning of ministry, we had a great lunch & fellowship on the seaside with our pastor friends.

After a full morning of ministry, we had a great lunch & fellowship on the seaside with our pastor friends – what a view!

This pic is from day 2, but what a great surprise to see "CLC" so prominently displayed, even in a city we had never visited before.

This pic is from day 2, but what a great surprise to see “CLC” so prominently displayed, even in a city we had never visited before.

By now you’ve no doubt heard of the terrorist bombing in Davao City – it happened Friday about 50 yards from our hotel, but we didn’t arrive until almost 24 hours later.  Thank God that several of our CLC-Davao youth were in the market that evening, but none of them were injured by the blast!  For the remainder of this trip we’ll be ministering in Davao, so we appreciate your continued prayers, not just for safety, but especially for anointing & favor from the Lord on our meetings!

We are SAFE and SOUND in the Philippines!

I started receiving texts from CLC’ers this morning about 1am, concerned about the news of a bombing in Davao City that killed at least 14 and injured 67 others, but Chris and I were never in any danger, as we don’t travel to Davao until this evening.

Our second day of ministry here in northern Mindanao was spent in Cagayan de Oro, where we both preached twice, and while I failed to document any of the services with pictures, I must tell you that the Lord really used Chris last night to impact many of the young leaders from several different congregatinos who had gathered for these meetings.  I was one proud husband as she brought a prophetic word that had obvious impact, and I saw several leaders who received emotional healing from wounds of their past!

This morning we will teach at another meeting with key leaders at CLC-Cagayan de Oro and then head to the airport this afternoon for our flight to Davao.  Please continue to pray for those affected by the bombing there – I don’t yet know if any of our CLC-Davao members were included.

(I’ll remember my phone for the rest of our schedule so I can include some pics)

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, There’s a question I’ve wanted to ask for a long time, but felt it was silly. Gen. 16:15 says that Abram was 86 when Ishmael was born.  Gen. 17:1 says Abram was 99 when God promised him a son. 17:15-19 says specifically that Sarah would have a son and they should name him Issac. In Gen. 21:5 we are told that Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. 21:9-10 Sarah saw Isaac and Ishmael playing…and sent Hagar and Ishmael away. 21:14 says that Abraham put Ishmael on Hagar’s shoulder and sent them away. If Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born, and 100 when Isaac was born, that means Ishmael was at least 14 when he and Hagar were sent away. Isn’t 14 kinda big to be on Hagar’s shoulder????

Yes, I would say it is.

But there’s no such thing as a ‘silly’ question, especially when it comes to Scripture.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the Bible says in any translation I consulted except the King James. If you look at any other translation (at least of 6-8 that I looked at), they all indicate that Abraham put some food and some water on Hagar’s shoulder, and then sent her and the child away.

I’m confident the KJV translators did an excellent job of translating the Hebrew text into English back in 1611 – the problem is always that English has changed in the last 405 years, which is why I always encourage CLC’ers to get a Bible translation they can understand.  Here’s Genesis 21:14 in several translations:

NIV

NKJV

NLT

ERV

MSG

Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Leave your question or comment below, please-

Philippines, day 1

Maria Cristina fallsOur first day in Mindanao was terrific (especially considering jetlag).

Bishop Herley Montes and the CLC-Iligan pastor, Sylbert, met us at the airport and drove about 2 hours to Iligan.  After showing us the ‘sights’ high above the city and the waterfalls for which the city is known.

Then four churches of various denominations came together for a combined worship service hosted by CLC-Iligan.

It reminded me of Regeneration at our Davao campus because of so many young people and their zeal for the Lord.

It reminded me of Regeneration at our Davao campus because of so many young people and their zeal for the Lord.

Host Pastor Sylbert (L) introduced Bishop Herley Montes to the 4 churches who gathered together.

Host Pastor Sylbert (L) introduced Bishop Herley Montes to the 4 churches who had gathered.

I shared a brief word about prayer before Chris brought the main message of the evening.

I shared a brief word about prayer before Chris brought the main message of the evening.

After Chris brought a word about healing, we must have prayed for over 300 people who came forward.

After Chris brought a word about healing for bodies and emotions, we must have prayed for over 300 people who came forward (along with the other pastors).

We’re leaving in a few minutes for the 2-hour drive to Cagayan de Oro where we’ll have a network of pastor’s gathering all afternoon and a church service tonight.  More later-

Off to the Philippines

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Chris and I left home yesterday about 5pm to catch the first of three flights that will eventually get us to our hotel in Manila, Philippines about 2am Wednesday (Chicago time).  We’ll stay there overnight before catching another flight to Cagayan de Oro in northern Mindanao by Wednesday night in Chicago.

I should have WiFi at the hotel and if so will keep you updated each day of the trip – here’s the schedule in the Philippines, which is 13 hours ahead of Chicago time, for those of you inclined to pray for us:

Thursday night – minister at the CLC campus in Iligan City in northern Mindanao.

Friday afternoon/evening – teaching a gathering of pastors & ministering in a service at our CLC campus in Cagayan de Oro.

Sunday – Chris & I will minister in all 3 services for our Davao City campus.

Monday – we will minister along with Bishop Herley Montes and Pastor Joel Montes at the first-ever CLC Philippines Convention, when 11 campuses of CLC are coming together for an all-day plus evening gathering!

Tuesday – we have a fellowship gathering planned during the day so we can get to know these pastors & leaders better, followed by the closing service of the convention that night.

Then it’s three more flights on Wednesday to get us back home!

I forgot one picture yesterday

Our Blue Island campus “Praise in the Park” attracted several people from the community, including the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, and the Mayor (see this post), but I completely forgot one of the best pics of the day:

Kelsey wanted everyone to know that she approved of "Praise in the Park"

Kelsey wanted everyone to know that she approved of “Praise in the Park”

P.S. If you’re wondering, yes, this is a shameless plug from her Poppy

Sunday reflections

Love the fact that our worship ministry is a TEAM effort!  Kudos to Kara May on today's opening song-

Love the fact that our worship ministry is a TEAM effort! Kudos to Kara May on today’s opener-

And Tiffany Hines was terrific on "Spirit, Come Down"

And Tiffany Hines was terrific on “Spirit, Come Down”

Chris and I had more fun than should be legal in church - but what I'm grateful for is the Word has power of its own fulfillment, and lives were changed today!

Chris and I had more fun than should be legal in church – but what I’m grateful for is the Word has power of its own fulfillment, and lives were changed today!

Kudos to the Praise Team at NWI, too - today led by Taneisha Aranda & Danielle Stringfellow

Kudos to the Praise Team at NWI, too – today led by Taneisha Aranda & Danielle Stringfellow!

Pastors Sam & Taylor team-taught at NWI and so many couples came forward for prayer that they were still praying 30 minutes after dismissal today!  Family Matters!!!

Pastors Sam & Taylor team-taught at NWI and so many couples came forward for prayer that they were still praying 30 minutes after dismissal today! Family Matters!!!

Our Blue Island campus enjoyed "Praise in the Park" today

Our Blue Island campus enjoyed “Praise in the Park” today, along with the Police & Fire Chiefs and the Mayor of Blue Island!

Len Stallworth led a prayer over Blue Island Police (with Cesar Giron translating)

Len Stallworth led a prayer over Blue Island Police (with Cesar Giron translating)

Charity Freeman led a prayer for Blue Island firemen (with Rocio Arevalo translating)

Charity Freeman led a prayer for Blue Island firemen (with Rocio Arevalo translating)

 

Mayor Domingo Vargas greeted everyone and thanked us for praying for him and the city.  All of the city officials, firemen & policemen were given a CLC "I AM for Blue Island" t-shirt, too!

Mayor Domingo Vargas greeted everyone and thanked us for praying for him and the city. All of the city officials, firemen & policemen were given a CLC “I AM for Blue Island” t-shirt, too!

I’d call that a good day at CLC’s Chicagoland campuses!

Finally, several people asked me today for a copy of the letter I read at the close of service in Tinley Park, so here it is – just click on the link: Dear Daddy

Ask the Pastor

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My favorite questioner writes, “I always have questions when I read Revelation. Here is just one of them: who are the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth and were the only ones who could learn the new song in Revelation 14:3?

Great question!

I don’t know the answer.

(That was just partially tongue-in-cheek.  When it comes to end-times prophecy, I feel woefully inadequate.  Twenty-five or thirty years ago, I could answer any question you asked about future prophecy.  But over my years of ministry, I’ve seen so many ‘interpretations’ fall by the wayside, as world events unfolded.  So today I’m much more cautious and have more questions myself than answers.)

Nonetheless, you asked, so I did a little digging to see what ‘the scholars’ have to say:

  • The identity of the 144,000 seems to be determined by Revelation 7:1-8 and Revelation 5:9-10 – the former because it seems beyond coincidence that John would list two different groups of that number, and the latter because they also were said to sing a new song that no one else could sing.
  • Having said that, it still depends on your view of prophecy as to WHO these people are – with some holding it literal; i.e., they were all Jewish followers of Christ and others taking a more symbolic view that they represent The Church, primarily comprised of Gentile believers.  I honestly don’t know which view is correct, although at this stage of ministry and my understanding of Israel’s role, I lean toward the literal view that these were Jewish Messianic believers.  
  • The reason no one else could sing the song seems to be that no one else had their experience, and out of their suffering and their deep commitment to the Lord, they had received a song no one else could truly sing.

I doubt that satisfies anyone who really wants to know, but I’m afraid that’s as good as I can do.  As we watch world events unfold, it’s possible we’ll get better understanding of this and other passages.  But one thing I do know is that when we are reunited with our heavenly Bridegroom, we will understand (1Corinthians 13:12).  And as the song we sang when I was young says, “What a day, glorious day, that will be!”

Would you like to join the conversation?  Leave your comments below on this passage, or ask a question of your own to be discussed in a future post.

 

Sunday reflections

This guy right here?  LOVE him!  In fact, I love our entire worship team & band, because they're all ANOINTED!

This guy right here? LOVE him! In fact, I love our entire worship team & band, because they’re all ANOINTED! 

It's always FUN team-teaching with this lady, and today was no exception!

It’s always FUN team-teaching with this lady, and today was no exception!

Know what I liked best about week 2 of "Family Matters"? Married couples holding hands & praying together!

Know what I liked best about week 2 of “Family Matters”? Married couples holding hands & praying together!

Know what I liked best about week 2 of "Family Matters"? Married couples holding hands & praying together! (Even in the soft seating area, while children wondered what was going on)

Know what I liked best about week 2 of “Family Matters”? Married couples holding hands & praying together! (Even in the soft seating area, while children wondered what was going on)

Know what I liked best about week 2 of "Family Matters"? Married couples holding hands & praying together - all over the auditorium!

Know what I liked best about week 2 of “Family Matters”? Married couples holding hands & praying together – all over the auditorium!

Love how our Blue Island campus prays over the children each Sunday before sending them to their KidsLife class.

Love how our Blue Island campus prays over the children each Sunday before sending them to their KidsLife class.

Love KidsLife at EVERY CLC campus - our children are our priority!

Love KidsLife at EVERY CLC campus – our children are our priority!

Pastors Brent & Sol brought today's "Laying the Foundation" message in Blue Island in both English & Spanish

Pastors Brent & Sol brought today’s “Laying the Foundation” message in Blue Island in both English & Spanish!

 

And it was just a beautiful to see couples praying together in Blue Island!

And it was just a beautiful to see couples praying together in Blue Island!

Christian Washington "killin' it" as service host at our NWI campus

Christian Washington “killin’ it” as service host at our NWI campus

KC Mahoney has been attending CLC since he was 3, and part of the NWI campus since it started.  He was baptized August 7 at the beach & shared his testimony today!  Love our KidsLife kids!!!

KC Mahoney has been attending CLC since he was 3, and part of the NWI campus since it started. He was baptized August 7 at the beach & shared his testimony today (with Mom Karen at his side)! Love our KidsLife kids!!!

Best of all, we had folks making salvation decisions AND more folks agreeing to host a Family Matters group and still others getting connected to a Family Matters group today at each campus!

It’s NOT too late – find a group that fits you here, or join our online group here!

Ask the Pastor

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No one submitted a question this week, but instead of re-posting from the past, I’m going to ask YOU – do you have a question for me?  It could be about:

  • a Bible verse or passage that you don’t understand-
  • a doctrine you’ve heard taught but still have questions about-
  • a personal situation that has you puzzled

C’mon, ask what’s on your mind.  I promise to give you a Biblical answer if there is one, and if not, I’ll give you my best guess!

What do you have to lose?  Leave your question below-

Tonight is THE night for me!

I get to HOST my first Family Matters group tonight!

I get to HOST my first Family Matters group tonight!

It takes a little preparation to host a Family Matters Life Group:

  • personally invited 3 of my neighbors-
  • sent email invitations to our entire subdivision-
  • connected with a CLC family who live in Monee, but that I didn’t know-
  • asked my son to help me figure out how to make the DVD play on our TV- (yes, I’m that much of a techie)
  • will buy some snacks later today & try not to eat them before the group comes-
  • will review the material sometime today before everyone arrives-
  • am PRAYING that God will work in our home!

I’d love to hear how YOUR group has gone this week – leave a comment below.

CLC’ers, if you aren’t part of a group yet, you’re welcome to join me tonight at 7pm at our home in Monee.  For the exact address, just email me.

Can you tell I’m excited?

The testimonies are ALREADY coming in…

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Our “Family Matters” series is only 3 days old, but we’re already hearing great testimonies of how God is at work:

  • at least 3 people who attended a group were SO blessed, they’ve asked if they can now host a group instead of just attending!  (IF that’s you, the answer is YES – just contact our LifeGroup pastors to get your materials!
  • others are reporting great connections with new friends even after the first session!

How about YOU?  If you have a personal story or testimony about your Family Matters group, please leave a comment below or shoot us an email.  We want to share!

AND, it’s not too late for you to join a group!  Just go to our website and find the group that best suits your schedule – don’t miss out!

What are you waiting for?

Family Matters GROUPS have already started!

Family Matters GROUPS have already started!

If you live in Chicagoland and haven’t yet joined one of our 150+ small groups who will meet for the next 6 weeks in homes, workplaces and coffee shops all over this area in order to grow closer to God and each other, what are you waiting for?

Go to our website now and choose the city you prefer or the day of the week you prefer and see which group fits you best.  It’s NOT too late, but you don’t want to miss the opening week, so get started NOW!

You won’t regret it!

Sunday reflections

Our new series is finally off & running! Here's a few thoughts from today at CLC:

Our new series is finally off & running! Here’s a few thoughts from today at CLC:

Not quite as many as the 34 baptisms last week at NWI, but we did baptize 3 people today at the Tinley campus, including Miles Adams!

Not quite as many as the 34 baptisms last week at NWI, but we did baptize 3 people today at the Tinley campus, including Miles Adams pictured here! (Thanks, Pastor Josh)

Loved this shot of the congregation in worship!

Loved this shot of the congregation in worship!

Prayer for all our teachers & educators as they return to the classroom this week - CLC has a TON of educators, which means we have influence w/the next generation!

Prayer for all our teachers & educators as they return to the classroom this week – CLC has a TON of educators, which means we have influence w/the next generation, because “Teachers touch many hearts!”

I actually heard from Singles AND Marrieds that the Word helped them today, so I'm grateful for anointing, especially since I didn't have Chris to lean on!

I actually heard from Singles AND Marrieds that the Word helped them today, so I’m grateful for anointing, especially since I didn’t have Chris to lean on!

  • We added at least 11 more host homes for ‘Family Matters’ today – it’s NOT TOO LATE for you to volunteer – whether you want to meet in your home, at your workplace, a coffee shop or wherever!  Remember, you and a couple of friends makes a great group! Volunteer by clicking this link now!
At our NWI campus we prayed over all our children and educators as they return to school - powerful!

At our NWI campus we prayed over all our children and educators as they return to school – powerful!

 

 Daisy Esparza gave an awesome testimony of how her thyroid was healed after 2 years!

Daisy Esparza gave an awesome testimony of how her thyroid was healed after 2 years!

  • Best of all, there were 4 salvation decisions after the message at NWI!
Our Blue Island worship team is SO faithful in leading us into God's Presence!

Our Blue Island worship team is SO faithful in leading us into God’s Presence!

Our Blue Island campus pastors were back in town after vacation to preach the opening message of 'Family Matters'

Our Blue Island campus pastors were back in town after vacation to preach the opening message of ‘Family Matters’

ATTENTION: if you have not yet joinedFamily Matters group, please find the one most suitable for you here at our website.  Don’t miss out!

It’s HERE!

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Finally, after months of planning, weeks of writing and days of waiting (impatiently), the curriculum for our “Family Matters” campaign has arrived!

You can purchase the Study Guide for just $12 and the DVD for $15.  Of course, if you’re hosting a group, you get those materials free!

We also have the electronic version of both resources available free of charge – just let us know you prefer the .pdf instead of the printed study guide and the digital files instead of the DVD.

The Study Guide will also be available on Amazon if you prefer the Kindle version for just $4.99 – info on how to order coming soon.

The sermon series starts tomorrow at each CLC campus and the groups begin meeting tomorrow afternoon and throughout this week in homes all over Chicagoland – I’m excited!

Ask the Pastor

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This week NO new questions were submitted, so I’m re-posting one from 2013:

Today’s question comes from a faithful CLC who writes, “Keeping in tune with our current sermon series, I decided to step out and up and be a better steward of God’s money. I set my tithe up for auto debit for the proper amount and not what I have left over each pay week. In doing so, I was sharing with another believer (non-CLC’er) what I am doing. She stated that she “felt paying via auto debit or in a lump sum says that you are no longer “presenting” your tithes to God but are paying him like a bill. He has the right to reject or accept your offering”. I was attempting to explain that in my opinion as long as you are paying / presenting your tithes with a clean, open and loving heart it shouldn’t matter (how) they are paid. I too was raised in the traditional church she currently attends and understand the logic behind what she is saying, but also believe that times are changing and paying by auto debit is the same as bringing my check / cash into service on Sunday as long as it is done in reverence to its true purpose. Am I wrong?”

I’m so glad you asked this, because I’m sure other people struggle with the same worry and it gives me a chance to help them as well as you.

The quick answer is, ‘No, you’re right! I pay my tithes thru an automatic debit online! I certainly don’t think online giving violates in any way the OT concept of bringing my tithes to the Lord. What it does do is insure that I don’t forget to write a check or get sick or go out of town on weekend and as a result get behind on giving to God first.

As you’ve probably heard about my past, I came out of a very legalistic denomination, so I think I can spot “religion” a mile away, and honestly, when I read your email about your friend’s response and the church that you used to attend, that was my first thought: ‘religion’ strikes again. I’m saddened that she (and a million others like her) is caught up in a legalistic, religious way of doing things that says “my way or the highway”, based on the tradition of men only – when the reality is that the main point of Scripture is that we give to God first; not how we deliver it.  In fact, when the Bible spoke of tithing, there was no such thing as writing a check or putting cash in a church offering envelope & bringing it to the Lord!  Their tithes were literally newly-harvested crops and the firstborn of their livestock, which they brought to the priest.

If we were to take the attitude or approach that we shouldn’t use technology to accomplish tithing today, we probably need to re-think a lot of things we do in church: let’s see: how about no air conditioning in the summer; no audio/video system; no indoor rest rooms, etc. – since they obviously didn’t have any of those modern conveniences in the Bible either.  Wonder why no churches teach against those practices?

Now, I will tell you one thing that I do – not because I need to feel like I’m ‘presenting’ my tithes to the Lord, but because I’m conscious of the fact that others are always watching me as pastor and I want to be an example: I fill out an offering envelope each week and write in the amount that I’ve given online & what it was for (tithes, missions, Kingdom Expansion, etc) and then in the box where it says “total”, I write “ONLINE”. I then submit my offering envelope along with everyone else during that part of the service. That way I am participating in the offering along with everyone else, even though my monies have in reality already been transferred to the church electronically. If you have any misgivings about not ‘presenting’ your tithes, you could always do that as well.

Bottom-line: I think we should take advantage of technology wherever we can to be more effective in the Lord’s work, and this is certainly one of them.  By giving tithes & offerings electronically, we free up our volunteers from hours of counting & recording our gifts AND we enable the Church to more accurately project our income for budgeting purposes, since the gifts are consistent instead of haphazard.  I encourage every CLC’er to consider online giving!  In fact, you can enroll here right now.

Hope that helps.  

Now what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Interested in Missionary Training?

Do YOU feel a calling to help fulfill the Great Commission?

If so, I have some great news for you!

My friends, Todd & Julie Powers are veteran missionaries and founders of Empower International and they’re leading a 10-week intensive missionary training program in Thailand starting in January, 2017!

Like them, I believe there is a rising, modern missionary movement in our generation that will utterly change the world!  

We need well-trained, sharp, powerful and fearless frontline missionaries now, more than ever! And, this is exactly what Todd & Julie will produce through Empower Missionary Training Academy.  I highly recommend this training to anyone who feels called to missionary service!

For more details or to apply, just click here.

Talking Bible

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My Bible talked to me again in my devotional reading this morning, especially from Jeremiah 42:6.  It sounds so good, so right, so “I wanna be like that”.  At least until I read from the very next chapter at Jeremiah 43:2.

If you aren’t familiar with the whole story, these guys came to Jeremiah to ask him to pray and then tell them what God was saying.  And they promised, “even if we don’t like it, we’ll obey, because we know when we obey God, it goes well for us”.

So Jeremiah prayed, and God gave him a ‘word’ for them, telling them not to flee to Egypt even though things were uncomfortable where they were.  And their immediate response was, “you’re lying!  God didn’t tell you to tell us that!”

Selah.

I saw myself in those two verses.  I say that I’ll obey even if I don’t like it.  But when I hear something I don’t like, I’m tempted to think, “that can’t be God. He wouldn’t tell me that.”

Am I the only one guilty of this?  Or did my Bible talk to me today so you could hear it, too?

Oh, there’s one other detail in Jeremiah 43:2 that may explain why their response wasn’t what it should have been – did you notice? It refers to the men who responded as  arrogant men. Whenever we think we know more or we know better, disobedience is right around the corner, and we can justify it because we’re not humble so as to be teachable.  (it’s ok to say, ‘ouch’ here – I winced as I typed it)

Let’s purpose today to obey the Lord even when we don’t like it.

Sunday reflections (on Monday morning)

Yesterday was one of those days so jam-packed I didn’t have time to post my thoughts – so here goes this morning:

Our NWI camp had "Church at the Beach" yesterday with 340 people, one of their best attendances ever!

Our NWI camp had “Church at the Beach” yesterday with 340 people, one of their best attendances ever!

Even more importantly, they baptized 34 people!  KUDOS Pastors Sam & Taylor & the whole NWI team!

Even more importantly, they baptized 34 people! KUDOS Pastors Sam & Taylor & the whole NWI team!

Meanwhile at TP, Joe McGee may have been the most ENTERTAINING speaker in our history, as he kept our attention on parenting God's way through all 5 sessions on Saturday and Sunday!

Meanwhile at TP, Joe McGee may have been the most ENTERTAINING speaker in our history, as he kept our attention on parenting God’s way through all 5 sessions on Saturday and Sunday!

Pastor Jon & the Blue Island worship team led everyone into the Presence of God.

Pastor Jon & the Blue Island worship team led everyone into the Presence of God.

Praise God for the work of the Holy Spirit at our Blue Island campus after Pastor Ben ministered the Word!

Praise God for the work of the Holy Spirit at our Blue Island campus after Pastor Ben ministered the Word!

After sleeping on it overnight, I’d call that a GREAT weekend at CLC!

Can’t wait for the start of our “Family Matters” series – WHO are YOU inviting to your small group?

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted this week, so I’m reposting this one from 2011:

Some long-time CLCers wrote, “we were reading in Exodus 4:24 where it talks about God all of a sudden wanting to kill Moses..I’m confused..first He has all of these plans for Moses then out of the blue He tries to kill him..Did I miss something? Is it possible to explain this..?”

Great question!  It’s a strange passage of Scripture, but I think there is a great explanation for what initially appears to be downright weird.  In fact, it’s a great example of how important context is when we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Notice verses 25-26 in the Amplified Bible, and it immediately becomes clearer.  It seems that Moses had failed to circumcise his son, even though God had plainly told His people the necessity of circumcision, in order to enter into a covenant-relationship with Him, and Moses knew this. (Genesis 17:9-14; Exodus 12:47-49)

I’d say if God comes after you, intending to kill you, it’s pretty serious.  And obeying His word is a serious matter – far more serious than most American Christians realize.

Keep in mind that in the New Testament, the ‘sign’ of our covenant with the Lord, indeed our ‘circumcision’, is water baptism (see Col. 2:11-12).  So, while the Lord won’t threaten to kill you if you’ve not yet been baptized in water after coming to faith in Christ, it IS the ‘next step’ of obedience that every child of God should take.  If you’re reading this and you have never been water-baptized as your own choice since coming to faith in Christ (I’m not talking about a baptism that your parents may have chosen for you in childhood), then I would URGE you to contact your campus pastor TODAY and schedule your baptismYou won’t regret it!

By the way, our NWI campus has a special ‘baptism at the beach’ THIS Sunday, August 7 – so you can join them by contacting Pastor Sam now.

Before I step off my soapbox, since we’re talking about your parents or family members, I should probably also remind you of what the Amplified Bible said about Moses’ failure to obeyI don’t think I’d let my parents, my wife, or any other family member keep me from doing what God has said!

Hope all of that helped.  Now, what would you like to ask the Pastor?

Don’t forget JOE McGEE is at the Tinley Park campus THIS weekend:

  • Saturday’s “Laugh & Learn about Marriage” – 4pm-6pm
  • Sunday – all 3 services, 8:30, 10, 12
  • Sunday’s “Laugh & Learn about Parenting” – 4pm-6pm

A ‘Family Matters’ group for ANYONE, ANYWHERE!

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We’ve been talking about this ALL-CHURCH campaign for weeks, but I’m really excited today to be able to include those of you who may not be able to attend a group here in Chicagoland because of your schedule or your location.

Our Communications Pastors, Josh and Heather Moran, will be hosting a Facebook group each week beginning August 14.  The video teaching will be posted online on Sunday night or Monday morning, then Josh and Heather will post a ‘discussion starter’,  and you will be able to join the discussion with your online posts or a video of your own!

This is a FIRST for us and I’m excited to offer YOU the opportunity to join us for this 6-week study of Family Matters online.  You can join the group here, or get more info here.

For more info about the series, take a look:

Family Matters_Trailer from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

 

Happy birthday to my “BETTER HALF”

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I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “my better half”, probably when some man is introducing his wife to you.  But today I was curious as to where the expression originated, and I thought you might enjoy learning, too:

  • One theory suggests that the origin of this is in an ancient Middle Eastern legend. When a Bedouin man had been sentenced to death, his wife pleaded with the tribal leader that because they were married, she and her husband had become one, and that to punish one-half of the union would also punish the half who was innocent. The court agreed and the man’s life was saved by his “better half.”
  • This term wasn’t originally restricted to referring only to one’s spouse as we use it now, but to one’s dearest friend. The Roman poet Horace (65 BC-8 BC) and later Statius (45-96 AD) used it in this meaning. In this case the reference is to a friend so dear that he/she was more than half of a person’s being and the person believed that life without the better half would be meaningless or extremely difficult and lonely.

Interesting.  And while I can’t say that Chris literally ‘saved’ my life, I certainly can say without hesitation that she is more than half of my being and without her, my life would be oh, so difficult (y’all don’t know how she babies me!) and oh, so lonely.  (I would even say ‘meaningless’, but Jesus is the One who gives my life meaning; Chris is number Two!)

I’m a better person because of her.  She makes me more compassionate, because I’ve never known anyone more caring for others than Chris.  She keeps me honest, because she has such a strong sense of right and wrong.  She has taught me the priority of family, when I would otherwise have been focused on my own little world of ministry, even to the neglect of my children.  She ‘spices up’ my life, through her creativity and passion, when I would otherwise be stuck in a bland routine.  She inspires me to hear God’s voice, because of her own sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.  I can’t imagine life without her.

So today, we’re celebrating this beautiful blonde who came into my life over 44 years ago, on this day, the 23rd anniversary of her 39th birthday!  Would you join me in saying, ‘Happy birthday, Chris’ to my BETTER HALF!

Kicking off ‘FAMILY MATTERS’ this week

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We’ve been talking about the upcoming “Family Matters” series for several weeks, and it officially begins on Sunday, August 14.  However, it really kicks off THIS week:

  • first, we’re having a great Ice Cream social this Wednesday, August 3 at 7pm in Tinley Park, with an introduction to ALL of the HOSTS so you can choose the group you want to attend (or even volunteer to lead your own group – it’s not too late!)

Then, this Saturday, August 6 at 4pm in Tinley Park we’ll ‘laugh & learn’ with Family Expert, Joe McGee.  Joe is hands-down the BEST I’ve ever heard when it comes to relationships, so he’ll be teaching that night on marriage and then doing another ‘laugh & learn’ on the subject of parenting on Sunday, August 7 at 4pm in Tinley Park. (Child care for children 4 and under will be provided at both seminars)

Of course, he’ll be teaching a 3-part series for the family at all our morning services in Tinley Park this Sunday.  Here’s a sample of Joe’s teaching:

And if you wanna know more about what happens starting on August 14, take a look:

Family Matters_Trailer from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Sunday reflections

“At the Movies” 2016 ended today on a high note:

Worship in Tinley Park seemed to build service by service, and overflow at noon - thanks Harmony, for being sensitive to the Presence!

Worship in Tinley Park seemed to build service by service, and overflow at noon – thanks Harmony, for being sensitive to the Presence!

It was also great to have our Executive Pastor back in service after his 2-week vacation!

It was also great to have our Executive Pastor back in service after his 2-week vacation!

 

Ok - I admit: 7 life lessons is a little much for one sermon - but we persevered and you endured! "Inside Out" really was a FUN movie, too!

Ok – I admit: 7 life lessons is a little much for one sermon – but we persevered and you endured! “Inside Out” really was a FUN movie, too!

  • Best of all was several people (adults & children) who prayed to receive Christ at 10am and 12noon (probably should have given an invitation at 8:30am, too) AND I’m thankful for at least 18 more hosts for “Family Matters”, including some who were watching online today!  Love that technology keeps us connected even during summer vacations or whatever!
On each baby dedication Sunday we schedule some time with the families beforehand - great to share today with Zion and her parents, Darius & Gabrielle

On each baby dedication Sunday we schedule some time with the families beforehand – it was great to share today with Zion and her parents, Darius & Gabrielle!

Rodney, Jr. & Nikki Young with Rodney III after the dedication.

Rodney, Jr. & Nikki Young with Rodney III after the dedication.

  • Congrats to ALL our CLC graduates, many of whom are headed to college this week.
Our NWI campus has a FULL house today as Christian Washington & Pastor Moy joined Pastor Sam to team teach 'Inside Out'

Our NWI campus has a FULL house today as Christian Washington & Pastor Moy joined Pastor Sam to team teach ‘Inside Out’

But the real praise report was a miraculous healing this weekend - little Grayson Ostrom has a blood issue that caused large bruises on her legs. During Saturday corporate prayer in NWI our team prayed for her healing, and the bruises disappeared rapidly. This is the "before prayer" picture-

But the real praise report was a miraculous healing this weekend – little Grayson Ostrom has a blood issue that caused large bruises on her legs. During Saturday corporate prayer in NWI our team prayed for her healing, and the bruises disappeared rapidly. This is the “before prayer” picture-

and this is the "after prayer" picture! No denying that Jesus is a miracle worker!

and this is the “after prayer” picture! No denying that Jesus is a miracle worker!

  • Also rejoicing with Pastors Sam & Taylor that baby D’s birth mom visited NWI today and was greatly touched by the Holy Spirit during worship!  God is at work in NWI!
  • AND I’m rejoicing that we have at least 25 hosts for “Family Matters” in NWI!!!
Creative photography in Blue Island today-

Creative photography in Blue Island today-

FINALLY! the Blue Island campus pastor preached at this own pulpit today for the first time in JULY!

FINALLY! the Blue Island campus pastor preached at his own pulpit today for the first time in JULY!

And that's a wrap for 'At the Movies' 2016!

And that’s a wrap for ‘At the Movies’ 2016!

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite ‘questioners’ wrote after last week’s question to ask specifically about Matthew 13:11 and in a broader sense,  the idea that God seems unfair by rejecting some people arbitrarily, with Romans 9:10-14 being a good example of that.

Wow; not gonna play softball this week are we?

If I were smarter, I’d just say, “I dunno’ and leave it at that.  But since this post is supposed to provide answers to your questions, I’ll wade in:

  • First, as I’ve often said when this type issue arises, this is one of those questions that Christians have disagreed on for hundreds of years, so I’m not likely to settle that debate between Calvinists and Arminians in one blog post.
  • Secondly, according to all the scholars I researched, the discussion in Romans 9 is about nations, not individuals, as Paul explains how God rejected His people Israel and chose to show mercy on Gentiles, by using representative names for them both.
  • Finally, and most importantly, as Romans 9:14 quickly declares, it’s not possible for God to be unfair!  The key to understanding that (to me) is to recognize that no one deserves mercy (Rom. 3:23).  I can’t say God is unfair because if we received what we deserve, we would all die and spend eternity in hell (Rom. 6:23)  
  • Another example of that truth is found in the story of Pharaoh which seemed unfair when we read that God hardened his heart. But if you read the full story, Pharaoh hardened his own heart first, and it was later that Scripture says God hardened his heart.  My point is simply that no one deserves anything good from God, so even when it  appears that God is unfair in rejecting someone, the reality is that ALL of us deserve to be rejected and NONE of us deserves to be accepted or receive mercy!

I don’t know if that makes you feel any better about this difficult subject, but it leaves me again praising God for His amazing grace!  I’m thankful today that HE chose me even though I deserve to be rejected and to spend eternity in hell.  As the old preacher used to say, “Thank God for Jesus!”

This is definitely a question that begs for others to leave their insights and comments below-

My thoughts on the 2016 Presidential election…

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As a pastor, I never bring politics into the pulpit (or to this blog, normally).  The church that I serve has both Republicans and Democrats and Independents, and the last thing we need is division over political issues.

However, after watching bits & pieces of the Republican convention in Cleveland last week, and likewise a few snatches of the Democrats convention in Philadelphia this week, followed by my Bible reading this morning, I felt I had to share:

First, I read Jeremiah 17:5-6.  That’s pretty strong, isn’t it.  GOD says, if we put our trust in mere human beings, we’re headed for misery.  So for those of you who are tired of the last eight years with a Democrat in the White House and who think Donald Trump is the answer to “make America great again”, and to those of you who feel Hillary will continue the progress you’ve seen under President Obama, I challenge you to set your sights higher, as in Jeremiah 17:7-8.  Our only hope for a fruitful life is in trusting GOD, not any politician!

Then, in the Bible reading plan I’m using this year, my next reading was Psalm 146:3, which seems even stronger than Jeremiah 17: no human being can save us!

Finally, I read Psalm 146:5-10.  Notice the contrast when we depend on the Lord instead of human leaders:

  • HE always keeps His promises.  (need I say more about this year’s candidates?)
  • HE truly helps the oppressed and those in poverty.
  • HE restores people, no matter their past.
  • HE protects immigrants and helps those who are disadvantaged.
  • HE enforces justice for the wicked.
  • HE doesn’t put us through another campaign season; HE is king forever!

That’s my position on the 2016 elections, and I don’t expect it to ever change.  My trust is in the Lord, and may God bless America.

Laugh & Learn: Help, I’m a PARENT!

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I know how she feels, because I’ve been there as a parent.  I bet you have, too.

Yes, it’s so exciting to see that newborn baby.  But it doesn’t take long to realize that YOU have just inherited a huge responsibility to raise that child and help them be all that God intends.  Honestly, I think parenting is the toughest job on earth.

That’s why I’m SO excited about our “Laugh & Learn: parenting event” on Sunday, August 7 at 4pm with family expert Joe McGee!

In all my years, I’ve never heard anyone any better at communicating practical truths from Scripture about parenting our children.  Whether your children are in diapers, preparing for college, or anywhere in between, I know this seminar will help you – and you’ll have fun as you receive these practical tips, too.

Here’s a sample:

Get ready to ‘laugh & learn’ – I’ll see you here August 7 at 4pm!

 

Talking Bible: what’s YOUR excuse?

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My Bible talked to me again.  This time it was from Jeremiah 1:7, when God anticipated Jeremiah’s excuse before he even had a chance to use it!

Actually, I didn’t just hear God from reading that verse.  I also heard Him when I read a quote recently that said, “If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way.     If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

I think that’s a ‘Word’ for all of us.

What excuses have you used lately?

Is it possible you could be ‘excusing’ yourself from something God is calling you to do?

  • Maybe it’s going back to get that degree.  Don’t say, “I’m too old; I don’t have the money; I don’t have the time”.
  • Perhaps it’s to have that difficult conversation with your spouse.  Don’t say, “He/she might get angry and make things worse.
  • It could be God is calling you to hostFamily Matters group.  Don’t say, “I don’t know anyone who would come to my group”; “I don’t know how to facilitate a discussion”; “What if they ask a question I can’t answer?”

If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way.

If you know God is calling you,  and you step out in obedience, He’ll make a way!

What are you hearing God say today?

 

Laugh & Learn: marriage

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If you’re married and living in the USA, you don’t need me to tell you that the institution of marriage is under attack these days.

Between the rejection of Biblical teachings, internet porn, cyber-relationships via Facebook  and the depressing stats about cohabitation before marriage and the divorce rates we’ve all heard so many times, this is not the world our parents grew up in – and when you add to that our own human nature,  it’s a challenge to build a marriage that lasts these days.

That’s why I’m SO excited about our “Laugh & Learn” marriage event on Saturday, August 6 from 4-6pm with family expert, Joe McGee!

In my four decades of marriage and ministry, I’ve never heard anyone as helpful as Joe when it comes to relationships.  No one.

If you are engaged or married, I’m urging you to attend this seminar on August 6.  Better yet, why not make it a date night, by going to Starbucks or your favorite restaurant afterwards and talk about how to apply what you heard from Joe.  It’ll pay big dividends!

Take a look at this sample:

Plan your date night for Saturday, August 6 at 4pm – let’s Laugh & Learn!

 

Sunday reflections

Here’s my thoughts on one of the muggiest days of 2016 (it’s HOT out there, folks!):

The Blue Island praise team's dedication is amazing - these English speakers learn EVERY song in Spanish so they can minister to this bilingual campus!

The Blue Island praise team’s dedication is amazing – these English speakers learn EVERY song in Spanish so they can minister to this bilingual campus!

Unexpected fringe benefit of preaching in Blue Island - I got to pray for my oldest 2 grandsons, Jaeden & Bennett!

Unexpected fringe benefit of preaching in Blue Island – I got to pray for my oldest 2 grandsons, Jaeden & Bennett before they went to class.

I enjoyed teaching in Blue Island for the FIRST time on a Sunday - great to see familiar faces & especially good to see NEW faces at CLC-BI today!

I enjoyed teaching in Blue Island for the FIRST time on a Sunday – great to see familiar faces & especially good to see NEW faces at CLC-BI today!

Great worship today at our NWI campus - thanks, Linelle & team!

Great worship today at our NWI campus – thanks, Linelle & team!

Not only is reaching children a MAJOR emphasis at CLC, we have some CUTE kids at each campus, including these guys from NWI!

Not only is reaching children a MAJOR emphasis at CLC, we have some CUTE kids at each campus, including these guys from NWI!

Our BI campus pastor preached 'AntMan' today at the NWI campus, and Pastor Sam said it really connected. My favorite report was that the audio tech from our previous location came to help today because of vacation absences on our team - and HE PRAYED TO RECEIVE CHRIST after the message! I love #ATM!

Our BI campus pastor, Brent McQuay preached ‘AntMan’ today at the NWI campus, and Pastor Sam said it really connected and several responded to the salvation invitation. My favorite report was that the audio tech from our previous location came to help today because of vacation absences on our team – and HE PRAYED TO RECEIVE CHRIST after the message! I love #ATM!

We're SO blessed with worshippers on our Praise team!

We’re SO blessed with worshippers on our Praise team – this pic from Tinley Park today.

Today was Erik's last Sunday before returning to the Davao, Philippines campus - we're gonna miss him in the band!

Today was Erik’s last Sunday before returning to the Davao, Philippines campus – we’re gonna miss him in the band!

Pastor Wookie....I mean, Chris, preached a great message on 'Star Wars' today and Tinley Park enjoyed a great touch of the Holy Spirit afterwards, especially in the last 2 services.  Kudos, babe!

Pastor Wookie….I mean, Chris, preached a great message on ‘Star Wars’ today and Tinley Park enjoyed a great touch of the Holy Spirit afterwards, especially in the last 2 services. Kudos, babe!

Join the conversation – what was YOUR favorite moment at the campus you attended today?  Leave your comments below-

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “In Genesis 26:23 God reminds Isaac of promises made to his father. I see the chain, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, but it got me to wonder why isn’t Esau mentioned? Was God not his God, or was it just the lineage in which Jesus descended from?”

Interesting question…and one I hadn’t given any thought to until you asked.  Here’s my opinion based on Scripture:

  • in a related-and-similar way, Genesis 21:12 points out that Isaac is the son through whom Abraham’s descendants would be counted.  In fact, that truth is repeated in Romans 9:7 and Hebrews 11:18, to emphasize that even though Abraham had other children, Isaac was the chosen one.
  • the principle holds true with Jacob and Esau as well, for in Genesis 25:23 God informed Rebekah before her twin sons were even born that the younger son, Jacob, was chosen over the older son, Esau.  And this prophecy was also quoted in the New Testament, in Romans 9:11-13.  We also see a little more clearly in Malachi 1:2-3  that God chose Jacob over Esau.

So, in some ways I suppose it would be correct to say that God was not Esau’s God – since Esau despised his birthright and missed out on the lineage of Jesus, as you also pointed out.

One thing is for certain: as I looked into this a little deeper in order to answer your question, I became even more grateful that we live in a time of God’s grace, and that today anyone who will can come to the Father, and He promises to be our God! (see Revelation 22:17 and 2Corinthians 6:16-18)  If Jesus is not your God today, He wants to be – all you need to do is invite Him in to be your Lord!

Hope that helps.  Do you have further insights on this question to share?  Leave a comment or a question below and join the conversation!

 

 

The TIME is near…..

No, I’m not talking about the END-time (although that could be near, too).

I’m talking about the 2016 Israel trip this November 28-December 8!

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My wife and I have led two previous trips from CLC to Israel, but I’m especially excited about this one for these reasons:

  • we have connected with our Messianic partners in the Land, and contracted a Spirit-filled, Messianic tour guide from the congregation led by Eitan Shishkoff (a partner who ministered at CLC a few years ago)
  • we will not only see the Biblical sights, walk where Jesus walked, etc., but we’ll also worship with two of our Messianic partners in the Galilee region!
  • by working directly with the tour guide, we’ve arranged for ALL meals and costs to be included upfront (flights, ground transportation, 4-and 5-star hotels in Israel, all entrance fees and taxes, 3-meals a day, literally everything included for the lowest price we’ve ever been able to offer – just $3195 per person!
  • AND we already have the largest group of CLC’ers ever who have registered to go with us!

I’m convinced it will be the trip of a lifetime, and Chris and I are so excited to share this experience with our friends.  (BTW, in case you’re wondering, we are not making one cent of profit or free trips from this arrangement – not that there’s anything wrong with others who may do so – but we just want to enable as many CLC’ers as possible to visit Israel and gain a love for the Jewish people for whom Christ died!)

But the deadline is coming very soon, and we don’t want you to miss out!

We’ve announced a CLC deadline of July 24 (this coming Sunday) – your deposit of just $195 will hold your seat and you can complete the application online here.

Don’t procrastinate – THIS year in Jerusalem!

You could be IN this picture!

You could be IN this picture!

N2: Missions is what we do!

 

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Our MISSIONS strategy is N2, because we’re going to Neighbors & Nations!

Yesterday was a great example of reaching out to our neighbors, as Community Outreach Pastor Moy Mendez led a team of volunteers from CLC as part of Tinley Park’s annual Caribbean Fest, serving many of the 20,000 people who  ‘took over’ downtown Tinley for this summertime event.  We were able to serve and touch childrenyoung families in a variety of fun ways:

GAMES were fun for all the kids-

GAMES were fun for all the kids-

Face-painting drew lines of kids all afternoon!

Face-painting drew lines of kids all afternoon!

The hard part of the games was choosing the prize after winning!

The hard part of the games was choosing the prize after winning!

Who said missions can't be FUN?

Who said missions can’t be FUN?

And today we went a team of excited CLC’ers (led by our KidsLife Director, Stacy Hunter) to Costa Rica, where they will be ministering to underserved children in the inner city of San Jose.

CostaRica team

Unfortunately, we must not have prayed enough for them yesterday, as their flight from O’Hare this morning had some sort of problem with a restroom, which resulted in a 2-hour delay, which means they will miss their connecting flight in Miami and won’t get into Costa Rica until late tonight – after meeting here at CLC at 2am!  Let’s pray the rest of their week goes exceptionally well!

If you’re interested in reaching NEIGHBORS, our ‘Family Matters’ campaign would be a  great way to start – just let us know here that you’d like to host a group of friends, family, co-workers or neighbors!

And if you’re interested in reaching NATIONS, we have two missions trip left in 2016:  Kenya – October 20-November 3 and Israel – November 28-December 8.  You can get all the details from our Missions Director here but this Sunday, July 24 IS the deadline for applications for both trips, so act fast!

Sunday reflections

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Our favorite summer series continued today with ‘RACE’ in Tinley Park and ‘Star Wars’ at our other campuses.  Here’s my thoughts on this busy day:

One thing is for certain: this team leads us into His Presence week after week! Thanks, Harmony LaBeff & Servants of Praise!

One thing is for certain: this team leads us into His Presence week after week, even if it takes ‘feeling after Him’ as we did today! Thanks, Harmony LaBeff & Servants of Praise!

the Jesse Owens story in 'RACE' made for some tense moments as we addressed racism in America - but it felt like the message was well received, so I'm grateful

the Jesse Owens story in ‘RACE’ made for some tense moments as we addressed racism in America – but it felt like the message was well received, so I’m grateful – love preaching to this congregation!

  • I only made a salvation invitation in the noon service, when we saw 6 precious men & women give their lives to Christ!  (Dunno whether to kick myself for not making an altar call at the other services OR thank God for nudging me at noon – but I know I’m praising HIM for drawing those six to Himself today!)
A visiting Storm Trooper made the photo booth at NWI more popular today-

A guest appearance by a Storm Trooper made the photo booth at NWI more popular today-

Pastor Sam said my wife hit it out of the park today with "Star Wars", and the altars were full afterward!

Pastor Sam said my wife hit it out of the park today with “Star Wars”, and the altars were full!

The new cafe in the lobby at NWI has already become the favorite hangout after services!

The new cafe in the lobby at NWI has already become the favorite hangout after services!

Pastor Josh preached the 'Star Wars' message in Blue Island as Jorge Arevalo translated.

Pastor Josh preached the ‘Star Wars’ message in Blue Island as Jorge Arevalo translated.

 

Star Wars fans are everywhere, including the Island!

Star Wars fans are everywhere, including the Island!

 

and one more Mother & daughter Star Wars fans!

and one more Mother & daughter Star Wars fans!

Here’s the schedule next Sunday:

Star Wars: Tinley Park (Pastor Chris)

Ant Man: NWI (Pastor Brent)

Race: Blue Island (Pastor Jerry)

Tell a friend!

Ask the Pastor

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There were NO new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2011.  Since this doctrinal error is still circulating, I thought it might be helpful to you today:

A longtime, faithful CLCer writes, “Please explain what the Grace Covenant teaching is. I know what Jesus did on the cross for us. I was told that you do not have to confess your sins because of what Jesus did on the cross, but it clearly states in 1 Jn 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Confused!!!!”

Interesting question.  I suppose ALL of us should be confused as to why any born-again believer would teach a doctrine that so clearly contradicts Scripture – so if that’s why you’re confused, let me help you easily by saying I John 1:9 is still in effect, and it IS part of our covenant under grace, too!  So if anyone ‘tells’ you that you don’t have to obey a clear instruction from Scripture (and a wonderful promise, I might add!), then you can simply quote Acts 4:19 and Acts 5:29 to them!

Back to your first question as to the “Grace Covenant”, you might be interested to know that those words never appear together in Scripture! So, while I understand the meaning behind the term, the truth is that the New Testament never refers to the covenant relationship that all of us as believers enjoy today as a “grace covenant”.

Nonetheless, all of us who have received Christ do live in covenant relationship with Him, and we are all recipients of His AMAZING, incredibly-wonderful grace, which is generally defined as “unmerited or undeserved favor”I get chill-bumps just thinking about it! In other words, we did nothing to earn it or deserve it; it’s a free gift from God to us made possible by the death of Jesus Christ!  Those of us who once were lost, bound in our own sinful habits, headed straight for eternity in hell, are instead now forgiven & free, walking in His marvelous favor and on our way to an eternal reward with Him in heaven — all because of what Jesus did for us at the Cross almost 2,o0o years ago! (see Gal. 2:15-16; Eph. 2:8-9; Eph. 1:3-8; Eph. 2:1-7)

That ‘covenant’ also means, as the late Dottie Rambo put it in one of her songs, “He sees me through the Blood”; i.e., when God looks at us today, He doesn’t see us as hopelessly messed-up in our own failings and weaknesses; He sees us as the “righteousness of God in Christ”, made blameless in His sight — again, all because of the blood of Jesus!  (Rom. 3:21-22; Col. 1:21-22)

That is the Grace Covenant, as I understand it in Scripture.

The problem that sometimes occurs is when people go beyond the words of Scripture and start adding their own interpretation to it (or diss the Bible altogether), as in the situation you described, when someone told you we no longer have to confess our sins to God.  That concept/teaching is found NO WHERE in Scripture, either in the first covenant or the new covenant!

In fact, some false teachers have gone so far as to embrace an age-old heresy known as “universalism”, that has ALWAYS been rejected by The Church. Universalism basically says that, in the end, God loves everyone so much He just cannot send anyone to hell, and so everyone is saved (some just don’t know it yet). That teaching resurrects every once in a while, and has gained some steam in recent months with the publication of a book called, “Love Wins” – but I repeat, that teaching has NEVER been accepted by the New Testament body of believers as Biblical truth.

I could go on and on, but hopefully you see my point.  I hope this helped.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Save the Dates: August 6-7!

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One of my favorite teachers in America is returning to CLC this August 6 and 7 for a great FAMILY weekend to kick off our Family Matters campaign!  Joe McGee is not only an expert when it comes to marriage and family matters, he’s also one of the most entertaining speakers you’ll ever hear!

He’ll be doing two “Laugh & Learn” seminars at CLC:

  • Saturday, August 6, 4pm-6pm – “Caution: Marriage in Progress”
  • Sunday, August 7, 4pm-6pm – “Help, I’m a parent!”

Of course, he will also be ministering at all three of our Sunday services at the Tinley Park campus, and he’s agreed to bring a 3-part series instead of preaching the same message 3 times, so you may want to tune-in online or bring a sack lunch & stay for all 3 services!

Mark your calendar and invite a friend to join you!

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Just a few days until….

 

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For over a decade CLC has been host to a worship gathering now known as the Selah Worship Conference.  Here’s why:

  • I believe in Alan & Terrilyn Franklin!  It was their heart to help local churches that first attracted me to get involved with Selah, and that hasn’t changed.  These folks are  not egotistical or driven to make a name for themselves; they’re sincerely driven to help musicians and singers and local churches excel in the ministry of worship!
  • I believe the key to almost everything is the Presence of God!  Surely you know by now that all our clever programs to reach unsaved people are not the answer.  The lost are not looking for great oratory in a sermon; they don’t need a beautiful sanctuary in which to spend their Sunday morning; but what our world craves is the reality of the Supernatural – and that’s what’s available in the Presence of God!
  • I believe excellence in worship can bring the Presence to our churches!  Don’t get me wrong: musicianship and trained voices, as important as they are, is not the same thing as anointing.  However, the anointing is not hindered by good musicianship and talented singers, either.  (Why do we tend to make everything “either/or” instead of “both/and”?)   We need skilled musicians and gifted voices who are also humbly walking with God and who carry an anointing to lead others into the Presence of God!

So, if you’re a pastor, I urge you to send your worship leaders (maybe help sponsor their registration cost?).  If you’re a musician or psalmist, I urge you to register now.  And if you’re like me and just enjoy being in the Presence of God, join us for three great worship nights next week at Selah 2016! (details below)

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It’s gotten completely out of hand…

“At the Movies” has been a CLC favorite sermon series for the past several years, but I think we’ve gone too far this time.  Watch this and tell me what you think-

Here’s the lineup this Sunday, July 17:

Blue Island – STAR WARS w/Pastor Josh

NWI – STAR WARS w/Pastor Chris

Tinley Park – RACE w/me

Invite a friend!

Sunday reflections

At the Movies continued today with "Ant Man" in Tinley Park; "Creed" in Blue Island; and "Race" at NWI.

At the Movies continued today with “Ant Man” in Tinley Park; “Creed” in Blue Island; and “Race” at NWI.

Amanda Edwards helped lead us into His Presence in Tinley Park

Amanda Edwards helped lead us into His Presence in Tinley Park

At each campus today, a CLC pastor led the congregation in prayer after this week's horrific events - 'Lord, heal our land!'

At each campus today, a CLC pastor led the congregation in prayer after this week’s horrific events – ‘Lord, heal our land!’

 

Pastor Brent preached the Gospel of Redemption from the Ant Man movie

Pastor Brent preached the Gospel of Redemption from the Ant Man movie

Worship in Blue Island

Worship in Blue Island

Pastor Ben preached with illustrations from CREED, and Jorge translated into Spanish

Pastor Ben preached with illustrations from CREED, and Jorge translated into Spanish

Arreck Stewart donned the gloves in honor of the movie, 'Creed'

Arreck Stewart donned the gloves in honor of the movie, ‘Creed’

Love our Blue Island family!

Love our Blue Island family!

Candice Frazier helped us praise Him at NWI

Candice Frazier helped us praise Him at NWI, along with the NWI band

My message from the true story of Jesse Owens ("Race") was planned & prepared before this week's events - I'm hoping it was helpful

My message from the true story of Jesse Owens (“Race”) was planned & prepared before this week’s events – I’m hoping it was helpful

Most important of all, PRAISE GOD for people who were water-baptized and others who gave their lives to Christ today!  Good things happening even in the summertime!!!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted this week, so I’m asking my own, which has been on my mind for the last 3 days: “What can I do about racism in America?”

I’m guessing you’re asking that question, too. I’ll admit that I don’t have all the answers, and that you may not like the ones I’m going to offer below – so feel free to join the conversation by leaving your comments after reading mine:

1.  PRAY.

I know some are saying that “praying isn’t gonna cut it” or that “prayer isn’t enough” or even “what good is that doing?” – but from my perspective prayer is the starting place:

  • Pray for the families of those who are grieving today: all those who knew & loved #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile and now the five Dallas police officers who were gunned down last night.
  • Pray for your heart to not become bitter over the injustice and systemic racial division that this week’s incidents have exposed, like ripping a scab off a sore before it could be healed.  You have a right to be angry, but Scripture tells us “do not sin by letting anger control you” (Eph. 4:26).
  • Pray against fear that the enemy would seek to exploit in the face of this week’s developments.  Read 2Cor. 10:4-6 in the Message paraphrase.  Or to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
  • Pray for God’s love to fill your heart for people who don’t look like you.

2.  Seek to understand more than to be understood.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, I think most racism is a result of ignorance.  Many whites have never spent time around blacks on a personal level.  Many blacks have not had personal friendships with whites.  We’ve not shared meals or our dreams or our hurts with each other.  We have heard stories about the other race.  We have listened to stereotypes about each other.  And the result of our ignorance is fear, which causes us to withdraw into the safety of our “own people”.  I’m challenging you to take the risk to reach out to someone of another culture and get to truly know them; to understand them and where they’re coming from, instead of just wanting them to understand you.

3.  Speak up in love, to heal rather than divide.

Too many of us have been silent for too long.  The racist actions of this week (on both sides) are NOT the feelings and actions of MANY of us.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and let others know that you are against injustice and hatred.  I’ve been proud of our CLC pastors this week who have gone on social media to express their thoughts in sincerity and vulnerability, to heal these wounds.

Let me give just one example: #BlackLivesMatter.  Like most whites and perhaps most  believers, the first time I heard that expression I immediately wanted to respond with, “no, All Lives Matter”.  However, by listening to my brothers and sisters of color, I’ve come to understand that the real point of the first hashtag is not to deny that all humans have worth and that their lives matter; it’s simply to emphasize in the face of systemic injustice that  “black lives matter, too!”  Surely as Caucasians and as Christians we can agree with that – but it took me listening to my black friends to understand.

I’ll quit here before this post become a book.  I hope YOU will join the conversation below.  And I look forward to worshipping with my CLC family of blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics this Sunday – we need each other now more than ever before.

How long, oh Lord?

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That’s David’s groan in Psalm 90:13 and I think it’s probably how so many of us are feeling today.

I went to bed last night thinking that I would write a post today about the latest incident in Baton Rouge, where Alton Sterling was apparently executed by white police officers – only to wake up six hours later to the news from Minnesota that Philando Castile was shot 4 times and killed by white police officers inside his car during a traffic stop for a “broken taillight”.

How long, Lord?

How long will our nation be torn apart by racial division?

How long will African-Americans have to fear injustice and mistreatment from those who are sworn to uphold the law and protect us?

How long will it be until Dr. King’s vision of an America where “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and girls as sisters and brothers”?   (You might want to take a few minutes and read his “I Have a Dream” speech again today as I did a few minutes ago.)

I don’t believe our government can solve this.

I don’t believe law enforcement can solve this.

That’s why I’m crying today, “how long, Lord?”

Only Jesus can change the human heart.  Only Jesus can help us to care about people,  regardless of the color of their skin or any of the other differences that we allow to divide us.  And only Jesus can help my African-American friends to reject bitterness over these non-stop injustices, for in the words of Dr. King, we cannot “satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”

How long, Lord?

Have mercy on our nation.  Have mercy on whites and blacks and Hispanics and Asians.  Have mercy on us, Lord – You are our only hope, and we look to you today.

Enjoy YOUR Independence Day!

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As for me, I’m still in the Detroit area enjoying our entire family (well, except for my oldest son’s family, as he just started a new job in New York City and couldn’t join us).  As you can see from yesterday’s pics, it’s really all about the grandkids and my in-law’s pool:

This is pretty much the whole gang, except the photographer (Chris) and Grandma Hansen, who sat this one out

This is pretty much the whole gang, except the photographer (Chris)

 

But it's especially about the GRANDS!

But it’s especially about the GRANDS!

Being Poppy is my favorite pastime - especially to this cutie-pie

Being Poppy is my favorite pastime – especially to this cutie-pie!

Along with all the FOOD, I’m sure today will be a lot like yesterday before we head home on Tuesday morning.  What will you be doing this 4th of July?   Let us know below-

 

Sunday reflections

Much of my Sunday was spent here at the pool in my in-law's backyard near Detroit

Much of my Sunday was spent here at the pool in my in-law’s backyard near Detroit

I did pull myself away from the pool long enough to join the ONLINE 10am service in Tinley Park, but as always, I’m still curious when I’m physically absent – so here’s my question:

if you attended any service at any CLC campus today, what are your thoughts?  What was your favorite moment in the service?                                                  What point from ‘At the Movies’ spoke to your life today?

C’mon, let your pastor know by leaving your comments below-

Ask the Pastor

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Again this week we had no new questions submitted, and since we’re away on vacation, I completely forgot to do my usual early-morning post.  In the spirit of “better late than never”, here’s a post from 2011 that is worth repeating, especially since we’re about to launch the most ambitious ALL-CHURCH campaign in our history:

A faithful CLCer writes, “Let me start off by saying: That I love this church and my walk with Christ has grown tremendously since I started going here. I have never attended a service here where I wasn’t able to extract something from the message and apply it to my life. That being said my question is this: Why doesn’t CLC have a singles ministry? I know there is a singles lifegroup that I am a part of and enjoy dearly, but there are other issues that singles, divorced, and widowed individuals go through that need as much attention as those issues that face the family unit. I believe that the enemy’s attack on families begins with the attack on singlehood; singles are not taught to treasure this season and nurture their relationship with God and then they get married and long for this period of their life back again. Singles are often times made to feel that something is wrong with them and even worse, they are made to feel like a disease that needs to be cured. The feelings of inadequacy is not cured in marriage , it’s only exaggerated even more. Family ministry is a big part of CLC, but is there an urgency to minister to this population? Thanks for your time and all you do to make this a wonderful church home!!!”

Hmmmm…..interesting question.  While I completely agree with your description of the attack on singles and the need to counteract it effectively, I’m not totally sure I understand what you’re asking, but I’ll give it my best shot:

Every church operates by some sort of philosophy or strategy (even a lack of strategy is a strategy!) At CLC, one of our guiding core values is the importance of relationships, and the fact that we grow best in relationship with others.  For that reason, we try to incorporate small groups into virtually every area of ministry – as opposed to having people just come to listen to a lecture by Bro. or Sis. Wonderful.  We’d much rather they connect with others, interact together over a particular area of interest, and build friendships for life!  I’m NOT opposed to large gatherings or great conferences (we have sponsored some in the past, and will likely do so again) – but that’s not where we choose to focus our efforts.  We believe people grow best in relationship, so we try to create environments (small groups) where they are most likely to make those connections and build those relationships.  As you said, we have a great single’s small group with a passionate leader, not to mention other groups with a tighter focus on single parents or divorce recovery, etc.

So if the question is why we don’t have a single’s “ministry” in the sense of large gatherings on a weekly or monthly basis, I would say that if you look around, we don’t have a married’s ministry or a men’s ministry or a women’s ministry either.  All of those important segments of the congregation also meet in small groups, for the same reasons I listed in the paragraph above.  Probably the closest thing to a traditional ‘ministry’ would be Heart 2 Heart, but even there, the real focus of the ministry is the break-out times with a small group of ladies who apply the teachings, connect with each other, and hopefully build great friendships that extend far beyond the midweek gathering.

As pastor of CLC, I certainly value single adults.  We may not always do the best job of making sure each message has application to the challenges that singles face today, but I can assure you that it’s not for lack of effort.  I haven’t run the numbers on our database, but my eyeballs tell me that perhaps a majority of CLCers would be in the ‘singles’ category: widowed, divorced or never-married.  So singles are a HUGE part of our family, and certainly we feel an urgency to minister to the needs you describe so well in your question.

What I say to you I say to all: if you have specific requests or suggestions to enhance our efforts to effectively minister, by all means, share them with usWe’ve never offended to get ideas from the congregation, and some of our best ideas have come from people who saw a need and a way for us to fill it.

I hope that helped.  If I missed the point of your question entirely, please let me know, and I’ll try again.

Now what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Leave your comments below or join the conversation-

Headed home: relieved & excited

Chris and I are headed home today from Orange County, CA and our film project with the good folks at LifeTogether that I wrote about here.

 (This is a shot of Pastor Rick Warren's studio, where we did all the filming)

(This is a shot of Pastor Rick Warren’s studio, where we did all the filming)

Yesterday was a long day of filming the six sessions of our Life Group curriculum, as well as six other leadership lessons and three promotional videos.  I think we flubbed each one of them at least twice and some as many as eight or ten times.  I have a new appreciation for folks who do video!

Yesterday was a long day of filming the 6 sessions of our Life Group curriculum, as well as 6 other leadership lessons and 3 promotional videos.  I think we flubbed each one of them at least twice and some as many as eight or ten times.  I have a new appreciation for folks who do video!

Anyway, the RELIEF is that it’s over and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my back, as we’ve been working on this project for weeks, writing lessons, editing curriculum and trying to tweak it all to perfection (not that we made it).

And the EXCITEMENT is that we expect every CLC’er at every campus will want to experience a LifeGroup with this curriculum.  You’ll be hearing more about it starting next Sunday, July 10, at each campus.

Oh, one more thing I’m excited about: ‘At the Movies’ starts THIS Sunday, July 3 – and I honestly believe it will be the strongest set of messages we’ve ever presented during this most popular sermon series!  Who have you invited?  Who will you invite before Sunday?

Can’t wait!

ATM Promo from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Ready to change your life?

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That sounds like a hyped-up message, doesn’t it.

But if you’ve ever heard Joe Sangl’s fired-up presentation based on his own story, “I was broke. Now I’m not.”, you know his life was changed when he learned the principles of managing his money.

That’s why when I heard the Joe was doing something he’d never done before by offering an inexpensive online version of his “IWBNIN” group study, I knew I needed to let CLC’ers know about this great opportunity.

The group study starts on Thursday, July 7, so you’ll want to grab your space now before it’s too late.

You can get more details here, or simply go here to register or listen to Joe below:

Off to Orange County

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Chris and I board a flight to southern California this morning for what may be the most ambitious project we’ve ever tackled at CLC.:

  • Some of you will recall our first-ever All-Church campaign back in 2003 when we challenged our whole church family to read the  “Purpose Driven Life” by Pastor Rick Warren, hear a message on that topic each Sunday, and meet together in homes with other CLC’ers to discuss what they were learning on that topic.
  • Then last Fall we used Pastor Steven Furtick’s book, “Crash the Chatterbox” in much the same way – read, hear a message, discuss in small groups.

Over those years, we have been challenged and encouraged by Brett Eastman and his team at LifeTogether to do an All-Church campaign in-house, meaning the writings and messages and video discussion starters would come from Chris and me.  Their rationale is that CLC’ers are much more likely to respond to their own pastors than anyone else, including Christian ‘celebrities’.  And if you explore their website, you’ll see they’ve got plenty of experience with churches around the country to back up their claims.

We considered it numerous times, but never pulled the trigger until several weeks ago when Brett ‘made us an offer we couldn’t refuse’ and then sweetened it even further by telling us it would be much less expensive for us to come to them rather than sending their whole team to film us in Chicago.

So we’re flying out today, filming all day tomorrow, and returning home on Wednesday.  In a few weeks, you’ll hear more details as we launch an All-Church campaign that we expect will result in significantly more Life Groups at each campus than ever before – not because we’re just counting numbers – but because that means more CLC’ers connecting with each other for mutual encouragement and accountability and outreach with friends and neighbors!

Stay tuned.

Sunday reflections

Well, the first half of 2016 Sundays is now history, and today was a good one:

 

This man can PREACH! (Pastor Jason Bentley from Seattle, WA)

This man can PREACH! (Pastor Jason Bentley from Seattle, WA)

  • Pastor Jason won our hearts, actually even before today’s services, with two terrific messages at our “GREATER” Men’s Conference on Saturday – but if you didn’t hear  “Fail Forward” today in Tinley Park, you really owe it to yourself to go to our website later this week – such a practical, life-giving word for those of us who ever fail!
  • Lots of people praying to receive Christ after he preached – that NEVER gets old!
As usual, Harmony LaBeff and the Servants of Praise created an atmosphere of worship that brought His PRESENCE!

As usual, Harmony LaBeff and the Servants of Praise created an atmosphere of worship that brought His PRESENCE!

So did Linell Muse and his team at NWI - and I heard that Pastor Sam preached the paint off the walls today!

So did Linell Muse and his team at NWI – and I heard that Pastor Sam preached the paint off the walls today!

  • Pastor Sam said they had one person who gave their life to Christ today, and LOTS of folks receiving prayer at the altar after the message!
Kudos to CLC'ers - your Facebook check-in's are helping needy people in so many ways - hopefully over 150 impoverished folks will soon have a new pair of shoes because of you!

Kudos to CLC’ers – your Facebook check-in’s are helping needy people in so many ways – hopefully over 150 impoverished folks will soon have a new pair of shoes because of you!

Pastor Chris preached part 4 of our "You Make Me Brave in the Storms of Life" at Blue Island, with Pastor Sol interpreting into Spanish

Pastor Chris preached part 4 of our “You Make Me Brave in the Storms of Life” at Blue Island, with Pastor Sol interpreting into Spanish…..

.....and the altars were FULL afterwards!

…..and the altars were FULL afterwards!

Who will you invite to “At the Movies” as we begin the second half of 2016 next Sunday?

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “As a divorced woman looking to remarry someday, I’m curious about a passage of scripture that has always puzzled me. Can you explain Luke 16:18 please?

Oh, boy.  The dreaded divorce/remarriage question.  This is one of those questions where I probably should take the easy way out and just say, “I don’t know” – but I’ve never been known for doing things the easy way, so here goes:

  • As someone smarter than me has said, “A text without context is a pretext”, and when you look at the context of Luke 16:18 it’s quite obvious that Jesus was chastising the Pharisees for ignoring what Scripture said in order to do what they wanted to do.  (The discussion started about money and materialism, but then Jesus abruptly used divorce and remarriage as another example of the same issue – ignoring what Scripture says to please ourselves.)
  • What is clear in Scripture is that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), although that statement also must be explained further.  God does NOT hate divorced people!  And He doesn’t hate divorce arbitrarily.  He hates divorce because of the effect it has on people, much like He hates cancer for what it does to people, or He hates car wrecks because they hurt people, etc.
  • As far as I can see, every time Jesus mentioned divorce in Scripture, it was in the context of how people had abused God’s allowance of divorce.  In other words, God’s clear intent from the beginning is that marriage is meant to be lifelong!  (see Matthew 19:3-9, and especially notice verse 8)  Instead, with the blessing of some rabbi’s in Jewish history, a man could divorce his wife for virtually any reason – even if he just didn’t like her cooking!  (Oh, by the way, ONLY a man could get a divorce; women were not allowed to divorce their husband for any reason!)
  • So, in Luke 16:8 and Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:3-9, Jesus made it clear that divorce was not what God wanted for marriage; He still wants a lifelong commitment! (To which his listeners responded in Matthew 19:10, but I digress.)
  • As to your specific question about remarriage, I not only read each NT passage and looked at what the commentators have said about them through the years, but I also read the conclusions of some contemporary pastors about this thorny subject, to prepare my answer today.  I found that some men absolutely believe that ANY remarriage after divorce is sinful.  I learned that some pastors submit any case of remarriage after divorce to a council of elders at the local church to determine whether the remarriage is ‘acceptable’ under the ‘rules’ of their congregation. Of course, it also depends on one’s ‘status’  at the time of the divorce, since sins we committed “B.C.”, before we came to Christ were already forgiven and judgment begins from the time of our conversion – so a person who divorced prior to knowing Christ would be treated differently than a believer who divorced his or her spouse.  There are also differences made for whether the believer sought the divorce, or was put away by their spouse.  It seems the possible scenarios are endless, which has led many pastors, including myself, to judge each situation on its own merit.
  • I know that this issue is a slippery slope, lest we also fall into the Pharisees practice of doing what we want without regard to what God has said – but as a pastor, I cannot find agreement that God would require a man or a woman to spend their lifetime alone simply because of a failed marriage in their past.  All have sinned.  But Jesus paid the price for our sin.

I hope this helps, although I realize it may still be confusing, because there are so many factors involved that, in my experience, each situation must be judged on its own merit.  Bottom-line: I have personally known godly believers who were remarried after a divorce, and I do not believe they are living in adultery as a result of their decision to remarry.

Feel free to join the conversation below, especially if you have insight from Scripture on this complicated subject.  OR just Ask the Pastor your own question in the ‘comments’ below-

 

 

Behind the scenes for “At the Movies” this year

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I posted yesterday with the WHY behind the WHAT of our “At the Movies” series – if you haven’t read that post, you can do so here.

Today I wanted to give you insight as to how we go about selecting which movies to use – we consider box-office popularity, genrerating (of course!) and possible themes, before making a final decision on which five movies will be featured this July at CLC.

Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds, as we have some passionate discussions among our sermon-planning team as pastors make their case for the movie they want included.  For example, some of our campus pastors tried to make a case for “Straight Outta Compton” this year, until I weighed in with a more pressing concern:

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It’s always a matter of priorities.

Now you know mine.

At the Movies

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For several years now we’ve devoted the month of July to a sermon series we call,  “God@the Movies”, and it has resulted in some of the highest attendance of the year at CLC.  But the real reason we do this series is because movies are such a part of our postmodern culture.

Think about it: while most folks in the USA no longer learn Sunday School stories as children, and our society is increasingly illiterate when it comes to the Bible, almost  everyone goes to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster (or so it seems).

Why not then follow the example of Jesus who spoke to His culture’s current events that people would be familiar with (see Luke 13 for just one example), or the Apostle Paul who  changed his usual approach of quoting Old Testament prophets in order to reach the people of Athens, Greece by talking about their popular shrines (Acts 17) and even quoting  one of their own poets in verses 28-29!

Pastor Mark Batterson told me that his movie series was always some of the hardest-hitting messages of the year, and at first I wondered how that could be true.  But I’ve observed these past few years that it is so – because Hollywood doesn’t pull any punches or shy away from difficult conversations – and this July will be no different.

So I’m URGING you to make a list of your family, friends, and co-workers that YOU will pray for during these next few weeks and then INVITE them to attend one of these Sundays with you.  The order will be slightly different at each campus, so I can’t tell you exactly when each movie will be featured, but here’s the list of movies that we’ll use:

Introducing JASON BENTLEY

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I first met Jason when he was a young boy, when I ministered at the church in Marietta, OH pastored by his dad during my denominational days as a missionary.  Jason started preaching at age 15, became an itinerant evangelist in that denomination and soon was in great demand, speaking at camps and conferences all across the USA and even in other countries.

After his father’s untimely death several years ago, Jason and I connected at a pastor’s conference and just sort of latched onto each other like father and son.  He and his wife, Alex, had just planted a non-denominational church in metro Seattle about that time and they’ve seen God do some amazing things in the Pacific Northwest that many consider one of the most difficult places to grow a church.

In addition, Jason serves as the Washington state chapter director for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) which is the largest Christian Latino organization in the USA, and still finds time to minister across the country in men’s gatherings, revival meetings and special events.

He will be our guest THIS SATURDAY for “Greater” as our CLC men gather at the NWI campus for a terrific day of food, fun and lots of testosterone!  (You can register here – just $15 for the whole day!)  The only thing is you can’t talk sports to him, because having grown up in central Ohio, he’s a Cavs fan.  (Ewww, sorry – I just threw up in my mouth after typing that)

He will also stay over to minister at all 3 services at our Tinley Park campus next Sunday, June 24 and you don’t want to miss it!

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Sunday reflections

Getting ready to celebrate Father’s Day at the McQuay house with 67% of my children and 60% of my grandkids, so I’ll keep this brief:

Our Blue Island campus is known for its CUTE kids (now that I think about it, that's a staple at EACH CLC campus!)

Our Blue Island campus is known for its CUTE kids (now that I think about it, that’s a staple at EACH CLC campus!)

Another staple at CLC on Father's Day is ROOT BEER FLOATS for all the dads! (This was a hit at each campus today)

Another staple at CLC on Father’s Day is ROOT BEER FLOATS for all the dads! (This was a hit at each campus today)

Pastor Brent's t-shirt was a double-announcement: God is our Father AND "At the Movies" (including Star Wars) is coming soon!

Pastor Brent’s t-shirt was a double-announcement: God is our Father AND “At the Movies” (including Star Wars) is coming soon!

NWI featured an all-female worship team for Father's Day, too!

NWI featured an all-female worship team for Father’s Day, too!

In fact, at NWI it was an all-female cast, as Pastor Taylor gave Pastor Sam a day off for Father's Day by ministering on "The Heart of the Father"

In fact, at NWI it was an all-female cast, as Pastor Taylor gave Pastor Sam a day off for Father’s Day by ministering on “The Heart of the Father”

I was able to find this Facebook pic of our all-women's worship team at the Tinley campus today (thanks Tony Powell!)

I was able to find this Facebook pic of our all-women’s worship team at the Tinley campus today (thanks Tony Powell!)

None of the other pics from TP worked today, but let me just say ‘thanks’ for supporting the testosterone preacher today, and PRAISE GOD for about 20 people who went to the Fresh Start table after service, having prayed to receive Christ today!  (Never, ever gets old)

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “In my devotional reading of 2 Samuel 24:1, it sounds like in his anger God told David to sin in order to bring suffering to Israel.  To confound my inability to grasp that, the commentator pointed out 1 Chronicles 21:1 which seems to give Satan credit for causing David to sin.

In order to tie these two verses together, my logical conclusion is that God in His anger used or permitted Satan to cause David to sin in order to punish the nation of Israel.  But now I have the difficult problem of attributing that action to the same God who so loved this world of sinners that He sent His only Son to die for us.

 I have always relied on 2 Timothy 3:16 as I study the scripture, but I have no idea what these verses are teaching me.”

Great question, and I’ll start by acknowledging that this scenario of David’s census of Israel certainly can be confusing.  In fact, it’s usually listed as one of the most difficult passages in Scripture to explain….but you know me, I’ll try anyway:

  • Every scholar I consulted indicates that ultimately, everything in Scripture goes back to God and that even Satan is fulfilling His purpose.  So in that very broad sense the 2Samuel passage attributes the instigation of this census to be God.
  • For sure, the Chronicles passage wording of ‘Satan’ is also translated, ‘adversary’, or enemy, so it can simply refer to David’s adversary, much like Job was tempted by the devil only with God’s permission and express limitations.
  • So your interpretation of the happening, using both passages, is as good an understanding as I can come up with – leaving us with your original problem as to how a loving God who gave His Son to save us could also seek to punish His people for their sin.  The only answer that makes sense to me there is that this incident happened prior to the grace of God appearing in Christ in the fulness of times – and just as innumerable other sins were punished in the Old Testament, this sin also received God’s punishment.
  • By the way, although you didn’t ask, almost every scholar I researched also addressed the reason that a census would have been sinful – since there are times that God Himself instructed Moses to count the number of the people of Israel.  While the commentators gave several possibilities, the one that makes the most sense to me is that David had Joab count the military men of Israel as a matter of pride, and indicated that he was trusting in his military strength instead of the God of Israel – so the warning to us, even in this generation, is not to place our trust in our own strength or ability, but rather to put our whole trust in the Lord!

I hope that helps, but I suspect other readers can add to our understanding.  Won’t you join the conversation by leaving your comments below?  Feel free to include your own questions for Ask the Pastor, too!

Sunday reflections

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Ok…by now you know that Chris & I are on vacation in the Smokies, so we weren’t at any campus of CLC today.

And, as always when we’re aware, we’re curious as to how things went.

SO, if YOU were at any campus of CLC today (including online), please leave your comments below as to:

1.  How the Holy Spirit ministered to you in the service-

2. Your favorite moment in worship-

3. What you received from the teaching-

4. Or any other thoughts about today at CLC that you’d like to share.

THANKS!

Ask the Pastor

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Once again, no new questions were submitted this week (perhaps because you knew I’m on vacation & didn’t want me to work) – but I’ve decided to post this Q & A from 2010:

One of our young minister’s in training asks, “I’m reading John MacArthur’s Twelve Ordinary Men and my question is in regards to the title of Apostle.  Jesus gave the twelve disciples this title and Paul also held it.  My questions are: were they the only thirteen with the title of apostle in that time?  Do you think that it is a title that has been just thrown around in the church?  Is it a title that should be used at all?  It seems like a very prestigious title, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Thanks for your time and insight, pastor.”

Good question.  I’ve not read that book, so I have no idea if my thoughts will agree with the author’s or not.  But here’s my best shot, in order:

1.  In my understanding of the Scripture, there were definitely other apostles besides the 13 you mention.  For instance, Acts 15:22 certainly implies that Barsabas and Silas were among the apostles and Romans 16:7 names Andronicus and Junias as well.  My view of Ephesians 4:11-13 is that the ministerial gift-office of “apostle” also continues even to this present day.

2.  That’s my understanding of the title “apostle” in Scripture.  Assuming that your second question has to do with local churches in America, I’m afraid that my opinion is similar to yours.  Personally, it’s almost a joke to me how so many have assumed/acquired the title without “doing the stuff” (meaning they don’t have the necessary fruit of an apostle in their life).

3.  As to whether the title should be used today, I have mixed-emotions.  From a Biblical standpoint, there’s no reason why the title can’t or shouldn’t be used.  However, and this is just my personal opinion, it seems that so many have taken the title without having the fruit that it is now ‘tainted’ in my mind.  For instance, part of the ministry of an apostle seems to be ‘fathering’ other pastors and congregations.  Some have even suggested that I am an apostle because of the work we’ve done in fathering other pastors, here at CLC and abroad.  I have received numerous prophetic words in the past that I am called to that role.  But I have specifically resisted the title, because in my mind, to take it to myself seems presumptuous and egotistical.

However, having said that, I’m not ready to throw out the title completely, and I definitely recognize other men of God who fit that role AND have the fruit to prove it.  (My pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington, would be one such example).  Most of the men that I know personally who qualify for the title have taken a similar stance and don’t want the title – so it’s easier to refer to them as “having an apostolic ministry” or “serving in an apostolic role”.  As I have stated publicly at CLC in the past, I would much rather “do the stuff and not have the title” as to “have the title and not do the stuff”!

I hope this helps – although I recognize many will disagree – these are strictly my own opinions.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Pumba & Simba’s excellent adventure (with apologies to Bill & Ted)

Simba (L), Pumba (R) in their cabin, ready for adventure

Simba (L), Pumba (R)
in their cabin, ready for adventure

One mark of a good leader is the willingness to admit mistakes.

I want to be a good leader.

So even though I hadn’t planned on posting during our vacation, I feel compelled to admit:  I was wrong.

I was wrong when I wrote yesterday that this vacation was all about relaxing.  I was wrong when I said it was OUR vacation.  I was wrong when I declared that we would be getting lots of rest, sleep in and take naps.

The truth is, after preaching 3 services and then driving several hours into Indiana, finally getting to bed at almost midnight, Pumba & Simba (AKA ‘the boys’) woke me up at 4am, ready to begin their day.

Truth is, this is THEIR vacation.  They’re calling the shots.  They decide what we’ll do and when we’ll do it – it’s all based on their schedule.

Rest? What’s that? Relax? Who are you kidding?

C'mon, dad.  There are stairs to climb and places to explore.  This is an adventure!

C’mon, dad. There are stairs to climb and places to explore. This is an adventure!

In case you’re wondering, yelling “That’s Enough!” doesn’t work.  (If you weren’t in TP for Sunday’s message, never mind – it would take too long to explain)

Probably the only thing that was accurate in my previous comments did come on Sunday morning when I asked you all to ‘pray for us’.

Now it's time for OUR walk-

Now it’s time for OUR walk-

I’m on VACATION

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Chris & I (and the ‘boys’, Pumba & Simba) drove to southern Indiana last night and we’ll finish driving to the Smoky Mountains today, where for the next 11 days our view will be some variation of what you see above.

Just thought I should let you know that I won’t be posting (unless the Spirit moves me) and I’m not even checking email until we get back in time to celebrate Father’s Day with part 3 of our new series, “You Make Me Brave (through Life’s Storms)”.

We don’t go to the Smokies to take in the music shows, etc. – we go to relax!  This is OUR time to reconnect as husband-and-wife, look into each other’s eyes and talk about what’s in our heart.  Besides that and a whole LOT of resting, relaxing in a hot tub while looking at the mountains, sleeping in and taking a few afternoon naps, (well, and eating at some of our favorite spots in the whole world), about the only other thing we may do is have a picnic with the boys somewhere along this trail:

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I’ll weigh in again on June 19, I promise!

Sunday reflections

My thoughts on this first Sunday of June (where has this year gone?):

Don't you love the Servants of Praise?  Worship brings His Presence!

Don’t you love the Servants of Praise? Worship brings His Presence!

I hadn't preached in Tinley Park in a month, so I tried to make up for it today!

I hadn’t preached in Tinley Park in a month, so I tried to make up for it today!

  • I’m especially grateful for about 12 or more  people who prayed to receive Christ today! (I didn’t receive an ‘official’ count of those who picked up the New Believer packets at our Fresh Start table, but I know it was a bunch of people) – may we never take this for granted!
Today was EnTheos School of Ministry Graduation - from L to R, congrats to Bianca Medina, MeyChen Pham, and Erik Lumagsao (with Director Jen McQuay behind them all the way!)

Today was EnTheos School of Ministry Graduation – from L to R, congrats to Bianca Medina, MeyChen Pham, and Erik Lumagsao (with Director Jen McQuay behind them all the way!)

Pastor Brent encouraged everyone in a crisis to "remember who is in your boat!" (with Jorge Arevalo interpreting)

Pastor Brent encouraged everyone in a crisis to “remember who is in your boat!” (with Jorge Arevalo interpreting)

Today was a community event in the City of Blue Island, and our campus made a BIG hit with their T-shirts (so much so that some Aldermen were begging to get their own!)

Today was a community event in the City of Blue Island, and our campus made a BIG hit with their T-shirts (so much so that some Aldermen were begging to get their own!)

former CLC pastor, Tony Gilmore brought the word at NWI today (to a host of friends that resulted in a near-record attendance!)

former CLC pastor, Tony Gilmore brought the word at NWI today (to a host of friends that resulted in a near-record attendance!)

Afterward, it was a "Grill & Chill" for everyone, with lots of fun for the kids, too!

Afterward, it was a “Grill & Chill” for everyone, with lots of fun for the kids, too!

 

Ask the Pastor

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Well, no one submitted a question this week, so I chose a post from 2010 that I hope will be helpful to someone:

One of our Shorewood CLCers writes, “Could you please explain 1 Peter 3:18-20. I have heard that Jesus went to the bowels of the earth or some say Hell after his crucifixion. Did Jesus really go to hell to preach to the unsaved??? If not then why did he go to preach to the spirits in prison? Will those who heard be saved? Can you explain these confusing verses please?”

Great questions, from an admittedly difficult passage.  Here’s my understanding:

  • First, when it comes to any difficult or confusing verse in Scripture, always remember: “context, context, context”!  I’ve heard a lot of strange ideas from this passage, but in my humble opinion, the key to understanding it is found in the passage itself.
  • After consulting several translations, I chose the NKJV above because it seems to clarify best.  Notice that verse 18 says Jesus was made alive by “the Spirit” (obviously referring to the Holy Spirit). Then verse 19 gives us a major key to understanding the passage – “by whom” – i.e., it was by the Holy Spirit that he preached to imprisoned spirits. Verse 20 then gives us the time frame this preaching took place: in Noah’s day, while the ark was being built!
  • So, in putting all of that together, I don’t see this passage saying ANYTHING about what happened to Jesus after He died or as being a reference to Him preaching in hell.  Rather, I see this passage teaching us that while the ark was under construction, Noah was warning the people about God’s judgment, and the Spirit of Christ was working through him to try to reach those people.  I think the “imprisoned” reference is a figurative, poetic way to say that God had assigned this period of time that He would deal with them through the Holy Spirit.  Genesis 6:3 tells us that God would not always strive with man by His Spirit – but that man would have a limited time to respond to Him (generally, at that time in history, 120 years). 2Pet. 2:5 and Hebrews 11:7 both speak of the important role that Noah played in warning people of the coming judgment.
  • Now, IF this passage is about Jesus going into hell after his death (as Acts 2:31 and Revelation 1:18 and Eph 4:7-9 indicate) I can tell you for certain that He did NOT preach to people in hell to give them a “second chance” after death, for that would violate Hebrews 9:27 as well as numerous other verses.  The Jewish understanding of “hades” prior to the Resurrection of Christ is that it was the place of departed spirits and was divided in two compartments, one for the wicked and one for the righteous, which they called, “Abraham’s bosom”.
  • If Jesus went to hell after his death, during the three days His body was in the grave, it would have been only to visit the righteous dead and announce to them the good news of His death, and then take them with Him at His resurrection.
  • Everyone in the Old Testament looked “ahead” to the death of Christ in order to be saved; everyone in the New Covenant looks “back” to the death of Christ in order to be saved.  The passages I have cited above certainly ‘fit’ with that interpretation.  But it is not possible that He preached to someone after their death and they were then able to be saved, for that would contradict Scripture.

I think sometimes the problem is with us preachers who take poetic license in a sermon and describe Jesus going to hell and demanding of Satan, “give me the keys”.  It’s dramatic, and it’ll preach”, but I’m not really sure we can prove that encounter ever happened in Scripture.

What I DO know is that Jesus IS victorious over death, hell and the grave – and that all those who put their trust in Him will have everlasting life!

Hope that helps!  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Join the conversation below by leaving your comments or question-

Braving Life’s Storms

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If you live long enough, you will experience storms in life.

Not just weather-related storms.

I’m talking crises.

Tragedy.

Death.

Loss.

Each of us experience those storms, often multiple storms in one year, sometimes, it seems, all at the same time.

For the next four weeks we’re going to look at four of those storms in the life of Jesus and His disciples.

I hope we’ll see from Scripture how we, too can brave life’s storms.

He Makes Me Brave!

Invite a friend to join you: any CLC campusJune 5, 12, 19 and 26.

Wanna save $200?

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As I’ve posted here several times, my wife and I will be leading a trip to Israel at the end of November, and I believe it will be the trip of a lifetime for those who join us.

But the purpose of this post is to let you know that you can SAVE $200 if you pay for the trip in full ($2995) by this Wednesday, June 1.  After that date, the price of the trip goes to $3195, which is still a great bargain for all flights, transportation within Israel, 3 meals a day, hotels, sightseeing fees, taxes, etc.  (It’s the lowest cost of the 3 trips we’ve led to Israel since 2010)

Far more important than the dollars you’ll save is the fact that a trip to Israel can change your life!  You will read the Bible in a new way after walking in the footsteps of Jesus!

If you want to take advantage of the $200 savings, please make your full payment here – or if you just want to sign up for the regular trip price, you can leave a $200 deposit to hold your space here.

If you have any questions, contact me here.

I’m grateful today…

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Have you noticed how our holidays seem to lose their meaning?

I mean look at what we’ve done with some of the biggest ones:

  • The birth of our Savior has become a commercialized excuse for materialism-
  • The resurrection of Jesus has turned into chocolate eggs & bunnies
  • Our nation’s independence as a great democracy is now all about fireworks
  • Thanksgiving for God’s grace on our nation is now turkey & football

And, for most of us, today is a day for backyard barbecues & a day off work-

But that’s not it’s original intent.  Memorial Day was originally known as “Decoration Day” – a time set aside after the Civil War for us to decorate with flowers the gravesites of Union soldiers who had died in battle.  

I’m not begrudging your cookout or condemning your family fun today.  I’m just saying it would does us all good to take a moment to reflect on the precious freedoms we enjoy because someone was willing to give their life.  We do remember! Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday reflections

Pastors Micah & Jen gave one of these 'clappers' to each kid in attendance today for Family Sunday. It's of the devil!

Pastors Micah & Jen gave one of these ‘clappers’ to each kid in attendance today for Family Sunday. It’s of the devilCLC parents will be confiscating the gifts all week, to keep their kids from driving them crazy!  (This is all tongue-in-cheek; the clapper definitely kept the kids attention, listening for the “Holy Spirit” throughout the message)

But everything else about this FAMILY SUNDAY was great:

Ch'vez & the SoP (with several youth joining them today) led us into His Presence!

Ch’vez & the SoP (with several youth joining them today) led us into God’s Presence!

We dedicated ed 3 children to the Lord in Tinley Park this afternoon.

We dedicated ed 3 children to the Lord in Tinley Park this afternoon.

Youth Pastors Micah & Jen Remington taught us how the Holy Spirit is our supernatural HELPER, and lots of children (and others) came forward to receive!

Youth Pastors Micah & Jen Remington taught us how the Holy Spirit is our supernatural HELPER, and lots of children (and others) came forward to receive!

  • At NWI, Pastor Sam says it was a really good day, with strong holiday weekend attendance, first-time guests, a message that connected with people, and a great time of prayer with families at the close!
Pastor Taylor gave a word to close out the worship set at NWI today.

Pastor Taylor gave a word to close out the worship set at NWI today.

The Kids Dance team at NWI was GREAT!

The Kids Dance team at NWI was GREAT!

On this Family Sunday, our Youth led worship in Blue Island

On this Family Sunday, our Youth led worship in Blue Island

  • At our Blue Island campus, Pastors Ben & Nili had planned to team-teach but Nili suffered an eye injury yesterday that sent her to the ER today (she’s better now) so she was unable to speak.  However, the Lord showed her a picture of a woman and gave her a word.  Pastor Ben described the woman she saw, who was present, and she was greatly blessed by the spot-on word from God!
At our Blue Island campus, Bianca Medina came back home to testify of her experience at En-Theos this year.

At our Blue Island campus, Bianca Medina came back home to testify of her experience at En-Theos this year (Pastor Sol was interpreting into Spanish)

I'm guessing Pastor Ben illustrated that His Yoke is light???

I’m guessing Pastor Ben illustrated that His Yoke is light???

Even more importantly, Pastor Ben invited parents to come forward to pray with their children to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and about 12-15 children were baptized in the Spirit and received their prayer language!  One of our elders said it was the most powerful altar response he had ever seen at the Blue Island campus!

Most importantly, Pastor Ben invited parents to come forward to pray with their children to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and about 12-15 children were baptized in the Spirit and received their prayer language!  One of our elders said it was the most powerful altar response he had ever seen at the Blue Island campus!

3 new families completed the Next Steps Growth Track at CLC-Blue Island today!

3 new families completed the Next Steps Growth Track at CLC-Blue Island today!

That’s what I call a GREAT Family Sunday.  It’s almost time to head back to KidsLife FX –  hope you all have a GREAT Memorial Day holiday!

 

Fun questions

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No one submitted a question this week, so I’m reposting some fun questions from 2008:

Someone new to CLC is asking some really fun (personal) questions, to get to know more about me & Chris:

What do you like to do in your personal time?   To be honest, that is one of my biggest weaknesses, that both my wife & our Board of Directors have been on my case about for years.  I really don’t have any particular hobbies to occupy my leisure time.  I do enjoy travel (well, not the traveling part, folded up into an airplane seat in the cattle-car section of the plane) – but I love the part of meeting new people and trying new foods, etc. 

How do you spend your time when you are just being Jerry?  On my regular day off each week, you can usually find me hanging out at Border’s with a fattening beverage and some books (I love to read!), and we like to catch a movie now & then. *This was posted 8 years ago when Border’s was still in business*

What’s your absolute favorite meal, place to travel to for fun?  I’m too much of a foodie to have one favorite, but here’s a list in no particular order: steak & baked potato at Saltgrass (I’d give anything if they’d bring this chain to Chicago!); pizza from either Pasquale’s (my wife’s old stompin’ grounds and the scene of our 3rd date, when she finally ‘fell’ for me) OR BJ’s Chicago Pizzeria in LaHaina, Maui (I don’t know if it’s the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, or if I’m swayed by the view of the Pacific Ocean right across the street in our favorite spot in Maui – but you seriously have to eat there!); lettuce wraps from P.F. Chang’s; barbeque ribs from Hickory Log (my wife disagrees, because she prefers the more traditional ones rather than these ‘dry’ ribs, but I say you haven’t lived until you’ve tried Hickory Log – and we pastored there for 5 years!  Every now & then one of my favorite CLCers even brings me some back when she returns from a visit there); most anything on the menu at Bubba Gump’s!  (Hey, this was fun – I like talking about food!)  I also love fresh-baked pita bread anywhere in the Middle East, and the Turkish kebob’s are wonderful!  Oh, and as far as travel, Maui is our favorite spot to relax….for something more affordable nearby, we really like New Buffalo, MI and the Harbor Grand.  *Since then we’ve discovered several restaurants in Pigeon Forge, TN where we’ll be vacationing again soon, including Alamo Steakhouse, Applewood Farmhouse, Big Daddy’s Pizzeria (yes, it IS better than Chicago Pizza), The Old Mill Restaurant,  and Huck Finn’s Restaurant (wow, am I salivating after listing those additions!)

How many children do you have?  We have 3 terrific kids: Chad, the eldest, will be 40 this November, and he just moved to Brooklyn, NY with his wife, Dorothy and the twins, Lincoln & Riley, to be the producer of the TV show, Blind Spot.  Our only daughter, Jen, is 38, and she’s just completing her first year as the Director of En-Theos, a great leadership academy here at CLC.  Our youngest son, Brent, serves as Campus Pastor at our Blue Island location, along with his wife, Sol and their brood: Jaeden, Bennett and Kelsey.

How long have you been married?  Chris and I have been married since December 16, 1972, which means we’re moving toward 44 years.  It’s a miracle she’s put up with me for that long!

Where and how did you two meet?   Ahh, our favorite story: in Troy, MI, on my first day at the first church I served after Bible School (it was her home church in suburban Detroit) I saw her picture on the church bulletin board and (believe it or not) something said to me, “that’s the girl you’re going to marry”.  It was a few days later, at the end of the Youth Revival I had preached there, that I asked her out, and the rest, as they say, is history.

That’s probably TMI as the kids say, and more than anyone really wanted to know, but I had fun…..can’t wait until next Friday’s edition of “Ask the Pastor”, especially if YOU will leave your question and join the conversation below-

Talking Bible: the value of humility

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My Bible talked to me this morning.

Actually, it started last night, when one of my preaching class students shared a message about King Saul and referenced 1Samuel 15:17, when the Lord reminded Saul that in the beginning, he was little in his own eyes, but God exalted him to be king over all Israel.

This morning my Bible reading plan included 1Samuel 15, and verse 12 jumped off the page at me!  How do you go from being so humble that you hid from those who wanted to make you king, to the point that now you are building monuments to yourself???

Then when Samuel confronted him for his disobedience, Saul finally admitted his wrongdoing, but was still more concerned about his image than about obeying God – so in verse 30, he pleaded with Samuel just to honor him in front of the people!

Worst of all, I read verse 35 where the Lord said He was sorry He had ever made Saul king  – that’s a big step DOWN from being a man who stood head & shoulders above all Israel.

It reminded me this morning of a story I heard a long time ago of a young minister who went into the pulpit one Sunday all cocky and full of himself as the ‘anointed mand of God’  but things didn’t go well.  He got his tongue tangled up; he forgot Scriptures that he intended to quote; he stuttered and stammered his way through the sermon and finally left the pulpit with his head down, knowing that he had really dropped the ball.  One of the church ‘mothers’ stopped him before he got out of the auditorium and simply said, “son, if you had come in like you went out, you could have gone out like you went in”.

Selah.

May God help us all walk in humility before Him.

Why YOU should consider going to Israel (part 8)

 

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I read a great article a few weeks ago in Charisma magazine as to why every Christian should go to Israel.  The article listed the Top 8 reasons, but I wanted to keep this brief, so I’ve listed them one-at-a-time for the last 7 weeks, and I’m finishing with this post.

Reason #8 that YOU should consider going to Israel:

Learn How to Pray!

Isaiah 62:6-7 instructs us to be watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem and to pray day and night until God’s promises to the Jewish people, which will bless the world, are fulfilled.  After visiting Israel, understanding the security situation, sensing the spiritual tension, and getting to know the people and God’s promises to them, you will be able to intercede for the peace of Jerusalem with greater effectiveness, and experience the privilege of partnering with God in prayer for the people of Israel, the region, and, in fact, the world.

Chris and I will be leading a tour this November 28-December 8, utilizing a Messianic Jew, Spirit-filled tour guide, as well as the opportunity to connect with some of our CLC partners in the Land.  The price is just $2995 if paid in full by June 1 ($3195 regular price) and that includes everything – flights, ground transportation, 4-star hotels, 3 meals/day, entrance to all the Biblical sights, all taxes and fees!

A deposit of $195 will hold your space – register now!

Homeward bound

I said goodbye to an old friend, Dr. David Shibley (R) and to some new friends, Pastors Ilya & Janet Bantseev, before returning home today.

I said goodbye to an old friend, Dr. David Shibley (R) and to some new friends, Pastors Ilya & Janet Bantseev, before returning home today.

This has been a crazy departure day:

  • Ready to leave our hotel at 5:30am (5:30pm Sunday in Chicago) when I mentioned to Pastor Ilya that we had left the half-eaten cakes his wife made for us in the room.  He decided to retrieve them and while I waited outside for him, put my hand in my pocket and discovered my cell phone wasn’t there!  (My case also includes a credit card, my ATM card & my driver’s license)  I had left it on the nightstand in the hotel room – NEVER don’t that before in my life!  (Thankful that he wanted to get the cakes, which allowed me time to retrieve the phone)
  • After checking in at Novokuznetsk airport (and snagging an upgrade to Business class!) I went to the security checkpoint just about the time the power went out at the airport.  We all waited until just about time for my flight, when the power came back on and the only x-ray machine at the airport began working again.  Whew!
  • Got to my seat on the plane and discovered that I was the ONLY person in the Business cabin.  That was definitely a first.
  • Upon arrival in Moscow, the airline provided buses to take us to the terminal, but just before I got on the bus (as the first person off the plane), I noticed a sign for  “business class” and a special van waiting just for me.  Didn’t have to wait for the entire planeload of passengers to get on the bus – the van took me straight to the terminal.  That may seem like no big deal, but my connection was so tight today that I got to my gate just about 15 minutes before boarding, so had I ridden the bus with everyone else, I would have been sweating it!
  • Then got to Munich but missed the correct corridor for transit passengers and had to clear passport control twice.  I literally got to my boarding gate just as boarding began.  Thank God for short connections that worked, because I only traveled 20 hours today instead of the 24 hours it took to get to Siberia!
  • Loved it in Siberia; made some great new friends in the Bantseev’s; ready now to be HOME!

Sunday reflections

First, a few reflections from Siberia after our final service here:

I sensed a strong anointing again tonight as I preached on prayer & the altar was filled afterwards with Siberians who wanted to pray!

I sensed a strong anointing again tonight as I preached on prayer & the altar was filled afterwards with Siberians who wanted to pray!

3 men gave their lives to Jesus tonight! (Pastor Ilya is leading them in a sinner's prayer)

3 men gave their lives to Jesus tonight! (Pastor Ilya is leading them in a sinner’s prayer)

After service we had dinner with 15 church planters, plus the recent missions school graduates (future planters) AND the Teen Challenge workers.  Dr. Shibley challenged them with a word from the Lord.

After service we had dinner with 15 church planters, plus the recent missions school graduates (future planters) AND the Teen Challenge workers. Dr. Shibley challenged them with a word from the Lord as Pastor Ilya translated.

These precious church planters serve in the Republic of Tuva, which is primarily Buddhist (sits near the Mongolian border)

These precious church planters serve in the Republic of Tuva, which is primarily Buddhist (sits near the Mongolian border)  Pray for them in that very difficult area.

I couldn't be more impressed with Pastors Ilya & Janet Bantseev and all they've accomplished here in Siberia already.  I hope you'll remember their faces when you pray.

I couldn’t be more impressed with Pastors Ilya & Janet Bantseev and all they’ve accomplished here in Siberia already. I hope you’ll remember their faces when you pray.

Our driver, Ruslan & his wife Maria, just planted a church a few weeks ago & have already seen 7 Siberians pray to receive Christ!

Our driver, Ruslan & his wife Maria, just planted a church a few weeks ago & have already seen 7 Siberians pray to receive Christ!

Now that this wonderful time of ministry is over, I’m wondering about this Sunday at CLC.  If you attended any campus of CLC today (or online), please leave a comment below to let me know:

  • what was your favorite part of the service today?
  • how did the Holy Spirit minister to you personally?
  • any other comments you’d like to share?

I’ll board my first of three flights about 7pm Sunday (Chicago time) and get into O’Hare about 3pm Monday, the Lord willing.  Looking forward to seeing you soon-

Day 4 in Siberia

Today was our last day of ministry in Novokuznetsk, Siberia with the church pastored by Ilya & Janet Bantseev.  In the first service, I preached with real passion.  I don’t mean  volume because I wasn’t screaming.  I don’t mean emotion because I wasn’t overly-emotional (unless you count tears in my eyes).  But I was really feeling an anointing to help this Siberian church see people as Jesus sees them.  Great response afterwards.

The pictures below were from the second service today:

It was AMAZING how many of the worship songs here we sing at CLC - small world!

It was AMAZING how many of the worship songs here we sing at CLC – small world!

These church planters from Crimea presented their 9th child to be dedicated today (3rd boy, with 6 older sisters)

These church planters from Crimea presented their 9th child to be dedicated today (3rd boy, with 6 older sisters) – that’s one way to grow a church!

He was a cute little guy, but he wasn't too happy that I wanted to take his picture.

He was a cute little guy, but he wasn’t too happy that I wanted to take his picture.

The woman in blue next to Dr. Shibley is a Siberian missionary to South Korea & her sister beside her is returning with her to serve there also.

The woman in blue next to Dr. Shibley is a Siberian missionary to South Korea (working among Russian speakers there) & her sister beside her is returning with her to serve there also.

Dr. Shibley delivered a great message about "7 Voices We Should Hear" in today's second service, with Oksana interpreting.

Dr. Shibley delivered a great message about “7 Voices We Should Hear” in today’s second service, with Oksana interpreting.

Missions conference in SIBERIA

The pastor’s conference officially ended this afternoon, but the local church that is hosting us has 4 weekend services: 1 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday, so tonight we began their annual missions conference.

Dr. David Shibley from Global Advance preached "Keys to the Harvest" tonight, with Pastor Ilya Bantseev interpreting.

Dr. David Shibley from Global Advance preached “Keys to the Harvest” tonight, with Pastor Ilya Bantseev interpreting.

After the message & the response from workers willing to go into missions, Pastor Ilya made a salvation invitation and these 3 men came & prayed to receive Christ!

After the message & the response from workers willing to go into missions, Pastor Ilya made a salvation invitation and these 3 men came & prayed to receive Christ!

This pastor couple traveled for 6 days by car - they serve in Crimea, near the Ukrainian border!

This pastor couple traveled for 6 days by car to attend the pastor’s conference this weekend- they lead a church in Crimea, near the Ukrainian border!

This pastor traveled from the furthest point west of Novokuznetsk - took him 2 full days of driving to get here!

This pastor traveled from the furthest point west of Novokuznetsk – took him 2 full days of driving to get here for the pastor’s conference!

After the service, during dinner, the Bantseev’s told us stories of their history here and I was mesmerized at the hand of God that has been on their lives – I’ll share some of those stories with you later, but right now the bed is calling my name!

Siberia, day 3

This pastor's wife is in charge of Children's Ministry throughout Siberia & she was so encouraged that I told the pastors the priority that CLC places on reaching children!

This pastor’s wife is in charge of Children’s Ministry throughout Siberia for this church network & she was so encouraged that I told the pastors the priority that CLC places on reaching children!

Speaking of kids, they ARE the same the world over.  These little girls (daughters of recent missionary school graduates) were 'flirting' with me until I decided to take their picture, then they acted all shy (uh, huh - just like home!)

Speaking of kids, they ARE the same the world over. These little girls (daughters of recent missionary school graduates) were ‘flirting’ with me until I decided to take their picture, then they acted all shy (uh, huh – just like home!)

After I preached on the Great Commission, the recent missionary school graduates were called forward - many of them will soon begin planting churches in Siberia.  (David Shibley led this prayer over the group of about 20 couples)

After I preached on the Great Commission, the recent missionary school graduates were called forward – many of them will soon begin planting churches in Siberia. (David Shibley led this prayer over the group of about 20 couples)

more recent grads

more recent grads receiving prayer from the Missionary School Director (top right) and Pastor Ilya Banteev

 

More of the Missionary School graduates

More of the Missionary School graduates

The pastor’s conference concludes this afternoon, and tonight we’ll begin the four weekend services for this local church and their annual Missions Conference.  Dr. David Shibley and I will preach two services each before heading back home-

Siberia Missions conference

Sergei is one of those infectious zealots that every pastor loves.  He was radically saved from drug addiction & now serves as the Regional Director for Every Home For Christ, reaching thousands of people in Siberia!

Sergei is one of those infectious zealots that every pastor loves. He was radically saved from drug addiction & now serves as the Regional Director for Every Home For Christ, reaching thousands of people in Siberia, with a heart for missions as big as I’ve ever seen!

Tonight was the opening of the missions conference & the worship team was on FIRE!

Tonight was the opening of the missions conference & the worship team was on FIRE!

Dr. Shibley from Global Advance preached, "10 Reasons Why We Go", with Pastor Ilya Bantseev interpreting.

Dr. David Shibley preached, “10 Reasons Why We Go”, with Pastor Ilya Bantseev interpreting.

These Siberian pastors & leaders flooded the altar to offer themselves to the Lord afterwards.

These Siberian pastors & leaders flooded the altar to offer themselves to the Lord afterwards.

Now for some shut-eye before I teach the opening session in the morning-

Ask the Pastor

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Someone wrote, “I have a question for you. It has just been on my mind the last few days.
We know that perfect love, which is God, casts out all fears. So, there is NO fear with Him.
The question is, what does it mean when it says we are “fearfully” and wonderfully made?”

Great question, because it’s one that made me dig a bit, as I’d never been asked about it or even considered it myself before.  Here’s what I learned:

  • The verse in question is Psalm 139:14.  While several translations use the word  “fearfully”, I did notice that many modern translations refer to the ‘complexity’  or ‘wonderful’ way that God has created us.
  • The Hebrew word for “fearfully” is ‘yare’ (pronounced ‘yaw-RAY’) and it’s primary meaning has to do with “awe’, as in “to be awed” or “to be awesome”.
  • From that, it seems the fearfulness has nothing to do with the kind of fear that is cast out by God’s love, but rather refers either (a) to God’s awesomeness as our Creator; or (b) to the awesome, complex being that He made us to be.  Either connotation is literally true, but neither has anything to do with the kind of fear that brings torment.

Keeping all of this in mind, then, I like these translations of Psalm 139:14, which seem to express the ‘fearfulness’ in a more easily understood way:

Hope that helps.  Now YOU can join the conversation, either by leaving your comments below OR asking your own question for a future Friday post:

Siberia, day 2

Some of the 60 men at the Teen Challenge center we visited.

Some of the 60 men at the Teen Challenge center we visited.

One truth you quickly learn in missions is “be instant in season, out of season”, or perhaps better said: “be flexible”!  Our schedule for this trip was basically rest & get acquainted time until the conference begins tonight – but yesterday we joined the local church fast and ministered at their prayer meeting before breaking the fast.

This morning we drove about a half-hour out of the city to visit one of the Teen Challenge centers operated by our host church (they have 3 other centers in other locations).  You may recognize the name “Teen Challenge” as the ministry began by David Wilkerson many years ago, to help people overcome substance abuse. (Pastor Ilya Bantseev is the Director of Global Teen Challenge for all of Eurasia)

If you don’t know why this is so important for Russian churches, let me explain the scourge that alcohol and drug abuse is in this country.  Pastor Ilya asked his congregation of 1,000 believers, “how many of you have someone in your immediate family who is an alcoholic or drug addict?” and every single hand went up!

The center we visited today currently has 60 men enrolled in the program, and we were privileged to share with them at their daily chapel service.

One of the staff members led the men in worship before we spoke.

One of the staff members led the men in worship before we spoke.

Oksana interpreted for Dr. David Shibley and me as we shared from the Scriptures.

Oksana interpreted for Dr. David Shibley and me as we shared from the Scriptures.

After a brief tour of their operation, which includes over 32 acres of land which the men farm to help raise their food, we returned to our hotel to prepare for the conference which begins tonight.  I cannot express how my heart is touched to see what this ministry has already accomplished, and I haven’t even been in a service with their network of pastors and churches yet.  Surely God is at work in Siberia!

 

Siberia, day 1

Today was supposed to be a rest day before the pastor’s conference opens tomorrow, but shortly after landing we learned that the local church was observing a fast that would end with a corporate prayer meeting tonight, so Dr. Shibley and I joined them.  The prayer meeting was good, but the fellowship and stories we heard around the dinner table has already made the entire trip worthwhile!

The church worship team led us into His Presence before the prayers began.

The church worship team led us into His Presence before the prayers began.

Siberians may be reserved by American standards, but these folks came to worship & pray!

Siberians may be reserved by American standards, but these folks came to worship & pray!

For over 2 hours the host pastors (who have become my newest heroes!), Ilya & Janet Bantseev and their 2 daughters, Jessica & Joanna, kept us mesmerized with stories of incredible sacrifice yet amazing blessings:

  • 11 different church locations in the first 6 years, because of persecution that caused landlords to evict them-
  • worshiping for 2 years in an old shoe factory with no heat….and temps of minus 40 degrees….with people wearing as many as 9 layers of clothing and trudging thru deep snow to get to worship…..AND no one complained!
  • After buying their church building legally, they battled for 6 years in court to be able to worship there, losing three times, but ultimately prevailing by a ruling in the Russian Supreme Court! (such perseverance!!!!)
  • Honestly, I don’t have words to tell you the testimonies of drug addicts and alcoholics who have been delivered and who have today become church planters in this region of Siberia – story, after story, after story!
  • To hear the 2 daughters of our host pastor (both college students in the USA) tell how their American friends can’t understand, but they LOVE the fact that they’ve grown up around drug addicts, etc. because they have seen and KNOW that the Gospel works….and both of them are determined to get degrees that will enable them to assist their parents in the work here!!!!!
L to R: Joanna, Jessica, Janet & Ilya Bantseev, David Shibley & me.

L to R: Joanna, Jessica, Janet & Ilya Bantseev, David Shibley & me.

Jet lag has kicked in and it’s past 11:30pm here, so I’ll report more tomorrow-

Siberia-bound

 

Drama theater in Novokuznetsk, Siberia, Russia

Drama theater in Novokuznetsk, Siberia, Russia

After a round of several meetings at the office yesterday, I left for O’Hare to catch the first of three flights that will get me to Novokuznetsk, Siberia, Russia about 6pm Wednesday, Chicago-time (6 a.m. Thursday in Novokuznetsk)

I’m meeting Dr. David Shibley at the Moscow airport and the two of us are the invited guests for a pastor’s conference this weekend, and we’ll also be speaking at a large charismatic church there on Sunday.  I’ve attached the full schedule below for those of you who will pray for us specifically – and I really do appreciate it!

prayer for Siberia trip

I’ll be home Monday afternoon with a good report from a far country (Proverbs 25:25)

Why YOU should consider going to Israel (part 7)

tourism

I read a great article recently in Charisma magazine as to why every Christian should go to Israel.  The article listed the Top 8 reasons, but I wanted to keep this brief, so I’ll finish them off in the next 2 weeks.

Reason #7 that YOU should consider going to Israel:

Touch the Apple of His Eye!

Many Christians understand from their Bible that the Jewish people are God’s Chosen People, but may have little appreciation for what that has meant for them.  The Jewish people have carried a calling that no other people group on the face of the earth carries; it is to be the vehicle of God’s redemptive plan.  This calling put them directly in the line of fire and they have suffered much throughout history as a result.  To meet Israelis face to face and speak blessing and encouragement to them is often the highlight of a Christian’s trip to Israel.

Chris and I will be leading a tour this November 28-December 8, utilizing a Messianic Jew, Spirit-filled tour guide, as well as the opportunity to connect with some of our CLC partners in the Land.  The price is just $2995 if paid in full by June 1 ($3195 regular price) and that includes everything – flights, ground transportation, 4-star hotels, 3 meals/day, entrance to all the Biblical sights, all taxes and fees!

A deposit of $195 will hold your space – register now!

Using the gift of a Prayer Language

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As I mentioned in my post about our Pentecost Sunday, our Tinley Park campus saw more than 50 people baptized with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues yesterday. Personally, I agree with Andrew Wommack when he says that the Holy Spirit baptism is the greatest gift that God ever gives anyone after salvation – but what’s even more true is that this gift was NEVER intended to be a one-time experience; it’s a gift to enhance your life every day!

That’s why I’m excited to announce that THIS Sunday at our Tinley Park campus, we’ll be teaching specifically how you can maximize the benefits of using your prayer language on a regular basis.  It’s one of those teachings that will absolutely change your life, so I hope you’ll join us.

And if you know someone who was filled with the Spirit yesterday, please reach out to them and let them know about this Sunday’s teaching!  Our desire is to help ALL those who received to use their new gift regularly!

And for those at the Blue Island campus, Pastor Brent will be teaching how the Holy Spirit will empower you to be a bold witness for the Lord, while at our NWI Campus, this Sunday is the big day when Sarah Bowling will be the guest speaker, and we’re expecting the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be manifest in a powerful way there!

sarah bowling