Israel, day 4

We started the day with 28 baptisms at the River Jordan, including these 4 (my wife, my daughter, my son & my daughter in law!)

We started the day with 28 baptisms at the River Jordan, including these 4 (my wife, my daughter, my son & my daughter in law!)

Chris brought us a timely word at Capernaum, where Jesus healed the centurion's servant.

Chris brought us a timely word at Capernaum, where Jesus healed the centurion’s servant.

  • I was too excited to take pictures at two of our afternoon stops – we visited the Mt. of Beatitudes and listened to the entire Sermon on the Mount from the Message translation (you owe it to yourself to do that sometime – such powerful, wise teaching from the Master!), and then the “Jesus boat” museum at Nof Ginosaur – a preserved boat from the time of Christ and possibly one of the fishing boats that his disciples used on the Sea of Galilee!
But no doubt the most AMAZING site today was at Magdala, where a synagogue that Jesus likely visited has been uncovered just in the past few years -it's the oldest synagogue  excavated in Galilee & includes a stone with the world's oldest carved menorah!

But no doubt the most AMAZING site today was at Magdala, where a synagogue that Jesus likely visited has been uncovered just in the past few years -it’s the oldest synagogue excavated in Galilee & includes a stone with the world’s oldest carved menorah!

This painting on display at Magdala is amazing - an artist's depiction of the woman with the issue of blood touching the hem of His garment

This painting on display at Magdala is amazing – an artist’s depiction of the woman with the issue of blood touching the hem of His garment

tomorrow will be one of our busiest days, with an early boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, followed by a Shabat Celebration and pastoral installation service at Tents of Mercy, and then an afternoon of touring other Biblical sites.  Time for some shut-eye now!

oops, day 3 in Israel wasn’t quite over!

I posted a few hours ago, just before going to dinner at our hotel, thinking our day was pretty much over.  But we were joined at dinner by our friends, Leon & Nina Mazin, and they stayed for our team meeting afterward to share with us.

Our friend, Leon Mazin, founder & leader of "Return to Zion" ministries (one of our five primary partners in the Land) came to our hotel and delivered The Most Profound message I've ever heard from Luke 4, where Jesus read from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue.  I'm not kidding - it was A-MAZING!  (We used a cell phone to videotape the whole message & if you'll email me, we'll send you the link)

Leon Mazin is founder & leader of “Return to Zion” ministries (one of CLC’s five primary partners in the Land) who came to our hotel & delivered The Most Profound message I’ve ever heard from Luke 4, where Jesus read from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue. I’m not kidding – it was A-MAZING! (We used a cell phone to videotape the whole message & if you’ll email me, we’ll send you the link)

Israel, day 3

The view of the Sea of Galilee that greeted us from our hotel room this morning-

The view of the Sea of Galilee that greeted us from our hotel room this morning-

Unfortunately for us, the long-awaited winter rains came to Israel today - and our CLC team were really troopers as they donned jackets, poncho's & umbrellas to get thru the rest of the day touring in the lower Galilee region, ending the day at Megiddo, which not only has a rich history in the Old Testament and even in more modern times, but will eventually play a significant role in prophecy during the battle of Armegeddon mentioned in the book of Revelation.

Unfortunately for us, the long-awaited winter rains came to Israel today – and our CLC team were really troopers as they donned jackets, poncho’s & umbrellas to get thru the rest of the day touring in the lower Galilee region, ending the day at Megiddo, which not only has a rich history in the Old Testament and even in more modern times, but will eventually play a significant role in prophecy during the battle of Armageddon mentioned in the book of Revelation.

Tomorrow we’ll head to the Jordan River where almost the entire group of 32 will be water baptized, and take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee as the tour continues-

Israel, day 2

This is my 5th tour of Israel since 1985, but I had never before seen the "Fountain of Tears", a 60-foot wall with 7 panels depicting God's love for the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust through the 7 last sayings of Christ as he was crucified.  There are simply no words to describe this memorial, but several members of the team took better pics than me, so visit their Facebook pages to see more detail.

This is my 5th tour of Israel since 1985, but I had never before seen the “Fountain of Tears”, a 60-foot wall with 7 panels depicting God’s love for the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust through the 7 last sayings of Christ as he was crucified. There are simply no words to describe this memorial, but several members of the team took better pics than me, so visit their Facebook pages to see more detail.

Our first stop today was at Masada, which is always one of the most amazing sights of any Israel tour.  While it has no Biblical significance, seeing the construction expertise by Herod the Great and his Roman soldiers over 2,000 years ago is beyond amazing.

Our first stop today was at Masada, which is always one of the most amazing sights of any Israel tour. While it has no Biblical significance, seeing the construction expertise by Herod the Great and his Roman soldiers over 2,000 years ago is beyond amazing.

At the ancient city of Arad, we saw the ruins of a large city defeated by Joshua as he led Israel into the Promised Land.

At the ancient city of Arad, we saw the ruins of a large city defeated by Joshua as he led Israel into the Promised Land.

Israel, day 1

Here is some of our group of 32 (including 29 CLC'ers) at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered

Here is some of our group of 32 (including 29 CLC’ers) at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered

This is cave 4 at Qumran, where most of the scrolls were found

This is cave 4 at Qumran, where most of the scrolls were found

  • If you don’t know the story or the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, read this
Our Messianic, Spirit-filled Tour Guide explains the significance of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran

Our Messianic, Spirit-filled Tour Guide explains the significance of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran

The team finished our first day here at En Gedi (see 1Sam. 24) in good spirits, despite their exhaustion, as most of us haven’t slept since Sunday night.

I’ll try to keep you posted each day when possible-

Sunday reflections

It's always good to have Pastor Jon Jones in the house! (And Tony Powell killed the solo of

It’s always good to have Pastor Jon Jones in the house! 

And Tony Powell KILLED it on "Give Thanks"!

And Tony Powell KILLED it on “Give Thanks”!

Loved getting to kick-off our "Christmas@the Movies" series today with 'ELF'! (I think the Elves Code is good for all of us!)

Loved getting to kick-off our “Christmas@the Movies” series today with ‘ELF’! (I think the Elves Code is good for all of us!)  And I’m rejoicing over at least 10-12 people who prayed to receive Christ!

Today was MISSIONS Sunday - if you want to help the Syrian refugee crisis, just designate your online gift to "missions"

Today was MISSIONS Sunday – if you want to help the Syrian refugee crisis, just designate your online gift to “missions”

  • Pastor Ben preached ‘ELF’ at NWI today as Pastor Sam was on vacation, and he says it was a really good service, with one salvation decision, three people participating in growth track and a great response to the message!
The Blue Island "Elf" was a big hit for photos today!

The Blue Island “Elf” was a big hit for photos today!

Pastor Brent preached 'ELF' with translation by Jorge Arevalo - and 2 people prayed to receive Christ afterwards!

Pastor Brent preached ‘ELF’ with translation by Jorge Arevalo – and 2 people prayed to receive Christ afterwards!

KidsLife remodeling at Blue Island is complete & our children love it!

KidsLife remodeling at Blue Island is complete & our children love it!

And on Missions Sunday in Blue Island we promoted the 2017 trip to Siberia - it's not too late to sign up!

And on Missions Sunday in Blue Island we promoted the 2017 trip to Siberia – it’s not too late to sign up!

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted this holiday week, but I found one from a few years ago that I suspect has even greater relevance today:

One of CLC’s faithful worshipers asked, “My sister has been a lesbian for a very long time.  I love her very much, but I don’t love her lifestyle choice!  Since IL has succumbed to the moral decay all around us, here’s my question: if she & her partner decide to marry, I would not want to go to her wedding.  I think that it would say that I support her lifestyle & that’s it’s okay with me that she marry another woman.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m preparing myself in the event it does. What should I say?  How do I handle this without causing WWIII?”

No doubt yours is a question that we’ll be facing often in the future.  I feel certain that my answer will not be popular with many, and may even cause a backlash here – but since you asked me, I’m going to give you my honest, heartfelt & prayerful response:

Actually, before I begin, I should probably say that you’ve already expressed your thoughts about attending her wedding, and it is certainly your right to choose not to attend.

However, if you’re asking me whether you should, I would say, ‘Yes’.  Here’s a few reasons why I say that:

  • Jesus, our Supreme Example, ate with“publicans & sinners” who were considered the ‘scum’ of society – see Matthew 9:10-12 for just one example.  It’s true that He was ‘set apart’ from sinners (Heb. 7:26), but that separation was internal, certainly not physical, seeing how He loved to associate with them.
  • Paul, the greatest of the Apostles, said that in order to avoid immoral people we would have to leave this world! (see 1Cor. 5:9-13)
  • While your question is not directly addressed in Scripture, I don’t think I’d be out of line to compare your situation to 1Cor. 7:16, where Paul addressed believers who have an unsaved spouse and basically says that the believing spouse may be the best chance that unbelieving spouse has of ever being saved!
  • As Christians, we are not only to “work at living a holy life”, but also to “work at living in peace with everyone”. (Heb. 12:14)  In my years as a pastor, I’ve listened to some painful stories from families who drew a line in the sand over a family member’s choice of marriage partners, etc., and lived to regret the hurt & division in the family that lasted for years afterward, and, in some cases, was never resolved/reconciled.

It is my opinion that your sister knows quite well by now that you do not approve of her lifestyle – and I don’t think you attending her wedding will change that.

But your attendance would declare quite loudly that you love her and that you are her sister, despite her choices.  And love covers a multitude of sins. (see 1Pet. 4:8)

I could have just cut right to the chase and said the standard cliche’, but with deep conviction: hate the sin; love the sinner!  But I thought your question deserved a more thorough answer.

You don’t have to agree.  But I hope I’ve given you some things to consider prayerfully, should you ever be faced with this scenario.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Last day in Nairobi; headed HOME!

My last day in Nairobi was spent with our partners since 1999, David & Jennifer Hatley. This couple have survived more battles than most of us have fought: each has come thru life-threatening battles with cancer, ministry challenges, family challenges and more - but through it all they have faithfully built a great work for the Lord with over 200 churches planted in Kenya alone, and many others in 5 neighboring African nations!

My last day in Nairobi was spent with our partners since 1999, David & Jennifer Hatley. This couple have survived more battles than most of us have fought: each has come thru life-threatening battles with cancer, ministry challenges, family challenges and more – but through it all they have faithfully built a great work for the Lord with over 200 churches planted in Kenya alone, and many others in 5 neighboring African nations!  It was a privilege to visit them again!

I spent part of the day touring their compound, as almost every building on their site wasn’t here on my last visit in 2005!  I wish every CLC’er could see the beautiful sanctuary, the Children’s Home, the primary school, the medical clinic, the social hall, the library, and even the guest house where I stayed – their property alone is now valued at over $2 million USD (not counting the buildings), and ALL of it is debt-free, to the glory of God!

They also took me for some last-minute Christmas shopping at Kazuri, a fascinating, Christian-owned pottery & jewelry enterprise that now provides employment to 340 Kenyans, most of whom are single moms who are able to support their families as a result.

I took the whole tour of their operation in case you wanna see (I guess if you don’t wanna see you should stop reading now):

Using Kenyan clay for everything, they produce pottery of various shapes & sizes...

Using Kenyan clay for everything, they produce pottery of various shapes & sizes…

afterwards, some women paint the various pottery pieces in a wonderful variety of designs.

afterwards, some women paint the various pottery pieces in a wonderful variety of designs.

...but the major part of their enterprise is producing native jewelry from the clay to the finished product...

…but the major part of their enterprise is producing native jewelry from the clay to the finished product (these ladies are forming the clay into jewelry molds)…

...after the jewelry is baked in the kiln, it is HAND-PAINTED by ladies like this one...

…after the jewelry is baked in the kiln, it is HAND-PAINTED by ladies like this one…

...then other women assemble the necklaces & bracelets by hand like this...

…then other women assemble the necklaces & bracelets by hand like this…

Get this: their products are now sold in many different countries around the world, including Harrod’s of London, and here in the USA department stores like Macy’s, Dillards, and more!  All from humble beginnings by some Christians who wanted to provide jobs for needy women in Kenya – I love to see Christian entrepreneurs succeed!

That’s all for this trip – I’ll board a flight in a couple of hours and be home Tuesday afternoon, ready to celebrate Thanksgiving and then share with you as we open our Christmas series THIS Sunday!

Sunday reflections from KENYA

 

It's been 12-15 years since I was here with the Hatley's, and the development of their property is amazing - beautiful church auditorium & a choir to lead us in worship today-

It’s been 12-15 years since I was here with the Hatley’s, and the development of their property is amazing – beautiful church auditorium & a choir to lead us in worship today-

I especially enjoyed this children's trio of RAPPERS for Jesus! I'm not sure what they sang, but it was too cute!

I especially enjoyed this children’s trio of RAPPERS for Jesus! I’m not sure what they sang, but it was too cute!

I preached how God wants to do "new things" in them this next year.

I preached how God wants to do “new things” in them this next year.

After I preached & made the salvation invitation, Pastor David called people forward - and one new guest man wept his way to salvation thru Christ!

After I preached and made the salvation invitation, Pastor David called them forward – and one new first-time guest wept his way to salvation thru Christ!

One Sunday a month the various ministries have a meeting after service, so I taught the Men's Ministry session - these are a few of the men as Pastor David prayed over them to close the meeting.

One Sunday a month the various ministries have a meeting after service, so I taught the Men’s Ministry session – these are a few of the men as Pastor David prayed over them to close out.

That completed MY Sunday here in Nairobi, but as a pastor, I’m always curious about things at home.  If you attended any service at any campus of CLC today, please leave your thoughts about the service you attended:

  • what was your favorite part?
  • how did the Holy Spirit minister to you through the teaching?
  • what was your takeaway for this week?

I look forward to being home Tuesday and can’t wait to see all of you next Sunday for the kick-off of “Christmas@the Movies” with ‘ELF’ – invite a friend!

CAPRO meetings, day 2

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It was two full days of meetings with some of the finest men I’ve ever known and I often wondered why I was here – but near the end of the meetings, the International Director, Sam Kputu said, “Pastor Jerry, you’re not here just to add color; you’re here to add value!”

(Hoping I’ll be able to do that as we go along)

I thought a lot of CLC'ers would be glad to see this face: Pastor Eloi Dogue (whom we know from Senegal) is now part of the CAPRO international office & serves on the Council - he sends his greetings!

I thought a lot of CLC’ers would be glad to see this face: Pastor Eloi Dogue (whom we know from Senegal) is now part of the CAPRO international office & serves on the Council – he sends his greetings!

As the meetings ended, our long-time partners in Nairobi, David & Jennifer Hatley picked me up and we enjoyed great fellowship over some good food tonight before they dropped me at their guesthouse.  I’ll minister at Church on the Rock tomorrow morning and afternoon and spend some time with the Hatley’s on Monday before catching my flight back to Chicago.  Thanks for all the prayers!

 

 

CIC meetings in Nairobi

with Dondo Iorlamen, National Director for CAPRO in Nigeria

with Dondo Iorlamen, National Director for CAPRO in Nigeria

I was especially touched by Dondo’s story as all the Council members introduced themselves this morning in the opening session.  It seems that he had a series of dreams & visions in which he saw himself doing missions, but he had no knowledge of any missions ministry.  He searched for months, asking people he would meet if they knew of missions.  Finally, he was told to go to a certain town where there were people who did missions, but when he arrived there, he couldn’t find them.  So he went to a parking lot where taxi drivers often met and asked them, but none of the taxi’s knew about missions until a young man on a motorcycle asked what they were talking about and quickly told Dondo that there was missions where he was from, which required more travel by bus.  When Dondo finally reached the place and the bus dropped him off, he looked up toward the missions training school and it was exactly the picture he had seen in his dreams!  Today he is the Director for CAPRO in Nigeria!

CAPRO International Chairman, Judah Bett, from Kenya, called the meeting to order this morning.

CAPRO International Chairman, Judah Bett, from Kenya, called the meeting to order this morning.

The Council met today for about 10 hours, and we'll keep the same schedule tomorrow.

The Council met today for about 10 hours, and we’ll keep the same schedule tomorrow.

Long-time CLC'ers will remember Pade Tokun, who was the International Director of CAPRO when we first started working with them in Senegal.

Long-time CLC’ers will remember Pade Tokun, who was the International Director of CAPRO when we first started working with them in Senegal.

They actually seated me between Pade and Bro. Amos Aderonmu, who also has visited CLC, so I really had to behave today.

Hope to share more tomorrow if I can access the internet again, and then I’ll spend the weekend in ministry with Missionary David Hatley at Church on the Rock here in Nairobi.

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted this past week, so I’m re-posting from 2010, a subject that I know many are interested in:

A faithful CLC writes, “Pastor, what are your thoughts about this date that many theologians are saying is the day God will destroy the earth. I know there have been dates passed about before, but this one seems like it may have some merit. Here is a summary of what I’ve read and keep hearing: ” In 2 Peter 3:8, God reminds us that one day is as 1,000 years. Therefore, with the correct understanding that the seven days referred to in Genesis 7:4 can be understood as 7,000 years, we learn that when God told Noah there were seven days to escape worldwide destruction, He was also telling the world there would be exactly 7,000 years (one day is as 1,000 years) to escape the wrath of God that would come when He destroys the world on Judgment Day. Because Holy Infinite God is all-knowing, He knows the end from the beginning. He knew how sinful the world would become. Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. (the year of the Flood) is the year 2011 A.D. (our calendar). 4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000 [One year must be subtracted in going from an Old Testament B.C. calendar date to a New Testament A.D. calendar date because the calendar does not have a year zero.] Thus Holy God is showing us by the words of 2 Peter 3:8 that He wants us to know that exactly 7,000 years after He destroyed the world with water in Noah’s day, He plans to destroy the entire world forever. Because the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. when the flood began, the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment. Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C. ” I just want to know what your thoughts are.”

Wow!  Sounds like someone you’ve heard has it all figured out.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I agree with a single point, and since you asked for my thoughts, here goes, in order:

1.  Most importantly, when it comes to interpreting prophecy about end-times, always keep in mind what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24:35-36.  That understanding is repeated in several other passages (Matt. 25:13; Mark 13:31-33; Acts 1:6-8) – and I think it’s pretty clear: timing is the Father’s business, not ours.  I personally understand that to mean that NO ONE ever has or ever will be able to successfully predict when Jesus will return or when the world will be destroyed, etc.  (And for good reason, in my humble opinion, because it’s much more important for us to stay focused on our “assignment” of reaching the whole world with the gospel, rather than trying to figure out the mystery of when it will happen!)

2.  I do not see 2Pet 3:8 as a ‘mathematical formula’ to help us determine dates; I think Peter is reminding us that God transcends time as we know it; i.e., to Him, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day, since HE is eternal and has never been bound by time as we are.  (Again, that’s my humble opinion about that verse-)

3.  I also don’t see any reason to interpret Gen. 7:4 as being a ‘prophetic’ message to the world about a future Judgment Day.  In fact, the first rule of hermeneutics (the principles of interpreting Scripture) is that the Bible should be interpreted literally unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.  In this case, it sure seems simple to me that God is telling Noah that the rain will begin in 7 days, period.

4.  I’m also a little concerned about the liberal use of the word, “exactly” in the paragraphs you quote – since I’m not aware of any exact dates that theologians agree on regarding ancient events like the Flood.  In fact, I’ve even seen estimates for the birth of Christ occurring in 4 B.C., putting His death at Calvary in 29 A.D., rather than 33 A.D. as so many have assumed.  My point is simply that I don’t think we really know exactly what year Noah’s flood took place, so to try to extrapolate from that and come up with an “exact” date for the Judgment Day seems rather impossible.

5.  Finally, and I mean no offense here, but I suspect the articles you’re quoting from have been written by one or more of the many preachers who, in my opinion, are “majoring on the minors“.  I understand why that happens, because this kind of speculation is sexier and feeds our curiosity about the future, etc. (it’s an easy way to attract interest).  But I honestly see this and similar speculations as drawing our focus and attention away from where it really should be; namely on doing our part to fulfill the Great Commission that Jesus gave us all in Mark 16:15.  One thing I think ALL theologians do agree on is that we are living in the last days, and according to Acts 3:20-21, Jesus must remain in heaven until we have finished that task and God will then restore all things.

I do hope this helped a bit.  Forgive me if I came across harshly toward ‘prophecy preachers’ – I’ve just lived long enough to see so many of their past predictions about end-times fail, and I’m not convinced that God ever intended for us to focus on the timing instead of the need for us to be ready and help others get ready for eternity.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Off to Kenya

shutterstock_187642739I left last evening for Nairobi, Kenya where I will begin my service as a member of the CAPRO International Council.  You may recall that we have partnered with CAPRO in Senegal for the past 15 years, and I could not be more impressed with the integrity and single-minded focus of this Nigerian-based missions agency.

I was honored earlier this year when their highest leadership council asked me to join them as possibly the first American to serve, and this week’s meeting is my first opportunity.  We’ll be deliberating over some major challenges the ministry currently faces, so your prayers for wisdom and supernatural direction are needed.

I’ll try to post regularly this week to keep you informed on my whereabouts and work, so stay tuned-

Christmas at CLC

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We’re combining our most-popular sermon series with the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, so make plans now to join us for a GREAT Christmas at CLC:

  • November 27 – “ELF”
  • December 4 – “The Grinch that Stole Christmas”
  • December 11 – “Polar Express”

and then on December 18, a very special FAMILY CHRISTMAS celebration we’re calling,

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Finally, our Christmas week schedule:

  • Christmas Eve celebration – Wednesday, December 21, 7-8 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve Celebration – Saturday, December 24, 4-5 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve Celebration – Saturday, December 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
  • NO services here on Christmas Day

Sunday reflections

Today was a real day of celebration:

We celebrated our VETERANS in each service!

We celebrated our VETERANS in each service!

We celebrated with BETH SNYDER as she sealed her life-change through our Celebrate Recovery ministry by being baptized today! (1 of 6 adult baptisms!)

We celebrated with BETH SNYDER as she sealed her life-change through our Celebrate Recovery ministry by being baptized today! (1 of 6 adult baptisms!)

We celebrated JESUS as our King of Kings, after this week's tumultuous election!

We celebrated JESUS as our King of Kings, after this week’s tumultuous election!

We celebrated with DONALD SINGLETON who gave a touching testimony prior to his water baptism today!

We celebrated with DONALD SINGLETON who gave a touching testimony prior to his water baptism today!

We celebrated with our TITHES & OFFERING as Pastor Ben led us!

We celebrated with our TITHES & OFFERING as Pastor Ben led us!

And I celebrated a RESPONSIVE CONGREGATION at the 10am service - you guys just pulled the anointing out of me!

And I celebrated a RESPONSIVE CONGREGATION at the 10am service – you guys just pulled the anointing out of me, and it’s fun preaching when you do that!

  • No pics, but we celebrated with double-digits of folks who prayed to receive Christ.  In fact, my favorite moment of the day was when a mom came to me after the 10am service to tell me that her 16-year old daughter who has battled against depression (was hospitalized for being suicidal) and had even doubted there is a God, wept all through the message last Sunday and today prayed to receive Christ!
Pastor Sam said worship at NWI today was strong and they had a powerful time of prayer for our nation!

Pastor Sam said worship at NWI today was strong and they had a powerful time of prayer for our nation!

He also said my wife really connected today with the message

He also said my wife really connected today with the message at NWI.

Blue Island responded well in worship...

Blue Island responded well in worship…

I love how our children receive prayer each Sunday at Blue Island before going to their classes-

I love how our children receive prayer each Sunday at Blue Island before going to their classes-

Pastor Brent brought the Word with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish

Pastor Brent brought the Word with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish

What did you celebrate today?

 

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful CLC’er writes, “During my devotions the other day, i came upon the Scripture about all the stones of The Temple being overturned and not one upon another (Matthew 24:1-2). The question that came to mind was what about the western wall? Do you think that even those stones will be overturned at some point in the future?”

Great question, because I’m sure many people are “in the dark”  about the Western Wall, pictured below:

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Contrary to what many of us would assume, the Western Wall is not technically part of the Jewish Temple.  Instead, it was built by the Roman King Herod as a retaining wall that encompassed the Temple itself.

When the Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., not a stone was left atop another, just as Jesus had prophesied.  In fact, the only part of the retaining wall that surrounded the Temple that’s still intact is the Western Wall, and since it was the closest to their temple, the Jews regard it as a holy site to this day.

No tour of the Holy Land is complete without a visit to the Western Wall, and it’s always one of my favorite experiences each time I’ve visited the Old City, as men and women gather there to pray – Jews and Christians alike.

So to answer your question, no, I don’t expect the stones of the Western Wall to be overturned someday, although since it was not included in Jesus’ prophecy, I guess we can’t be sure.

Hope that helps.  What would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

 

Saying goodbye to a good man

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I’m off this morning to Knoxville, to attend the wake and funeral of Pastor Paul Cowell, who was possibly the biggest-hearted, most generous man I’ve ever known.  Even though we didn’t have many opportunities to be together, he was always incredibly kind to me, and I’ll never forget the message he preached at CLC about the death of his son and his comparison with our Heavenly Father giving His Son for us.

My good friend Phil Nordstrom wrote a fitting tribute to Paul.

As I’ve been learning, life is all about relationships, so I’ll pay my respects to Paul along with many from my original faith family and share some fellowship with the brethren before returning home in the morning.

After this election…..

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I woke up this morning as shocked as everyone else about the results of our Presidential election.

I also know that many people in our country are hurt and fearful of what the future holds.

Let me point out some things that have NOT changed after this election:

  • Before the election, America desperately needed the mercy and grace of God.      After the election, we still do.
  • Before the election, our nation was deeply divided: racially, politically, spiritually.   After the election, we still are.
  • Before the election, our only hope for the future was in Jesus Christ, not a politician.  After the election, HE still reigns.

As my friend, Pastor Jason Bentley, wrote, “No matter the election results, my job remains the same: Love God, love people, preach Jesus, spread hope, build His church, advance His Kingdom.”

Selah.

Sunday reflections

I’m loving this emotional healing series, and today was a GOOD day at each CLC campus:

This guy took us "in" today - and 'The Cross Has the Final Word' is my new FAVORITE song! (Thanks, Harmony LaBeff & SoP!)

This guy took us “in” today – and ‘The Cross Has the Final Word’ is my new FAVORITE song! (Thanks, Harmony LaBeff & SoP!)

Loved the great reports of revival underground in IRAN from our ELAM missions partner, Tom Hawksley!

Loved the great reports of revival underground in IRAN from our ELAM missions partner, Tom Hawksley!

The story of Absalom made for a heavy message at each campus today-

The story of Absalom made for a heavy message at each campus today-

Every scrap of paper represents someone who was SET FREE from past hurts today!  Praise God for the power of forgiveness!

Every scrap of paper represents someone who was SET FREE from past hurts today! Praise God for what happens when we CHOOSE to forgive!

Worship during "Show Up Sunday" at NWI was great!

Worship during “Show Up Sunday” at NWI was great!

I'm convinced the CUTEST kids in Chicagoland attend KidsLife at CLC!

I’m convinced the CUTEST kids in Chicagoland attend KidsLife at CLC!

Besides the great response to the message & lots of CLC'ers set free, Pastor Sam was excited to welcome new member (and recent college grad) Gabby, who is already playing her violin with the NWI worship team!

Besides the great response to the message & lots of CLC’ers set free, Pastor Sam was excited to welcome new member (and recent college grad) Gabby, who is already playing her violin with the NWI worship team! (L to R: Sam, Gabby, Taylor & Carol Terrell)

Our Blue Island campus is truly CLC, because we're a "huggy church"!

Our Blue Island campus is truly CLC, because we’re a “huggy church”!

Pastor Chris preached the Absalom message with real anointing

Pastor Chris preached the Absalom message with real anointing

The response to the message was beautiful, and many received emotional healing as they chose to forgive!

The response to the message was beautiful, and many received emotional healing as they chose to forgive!

 

Ask the Pastor

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Today I’m reposting this question from 2008:

Someone asked about the meaning of “five-fold ministry”, which is a term often used these days.

First, thanks for finally asking a ‘softball question’ that I can easily answer!

The term gets its origin from Ephesians 4:11-13 where the various ministry gifts that Jesus has given to the Church are listed: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  Since there are a total of five, oftentimes this kind of minister is referred to as a ‘five-fold ministry’, to distinguish from the fact that according to the New Testament, all of us as believers are ‘ministers’, since each of us has a ministry from the Lord to fulfill.  It’s perhaps a healthier way to view the Church rather than the traditional “clergy v. laity” terminology that is contrary to Scripture.

The Ephesian 4:11 ministers are called and gifted by the Lord specifically for the word of equipping the members of the church to fulfill their individual ministries.  Much has been written on the specifics of those fivefold ministers, but let me give my brief summary here:

Apostles are ‘fathering’ ministries who generally open up new areas for the gospel (such as missionaries who bring the Gospel into an unreached area) and/or who have many churches/ministers under their covering or leadership, who look to them for oversight.

Prophets are often trans-local ministers (meaning, they may travel and minister to the Body of Christ at large, rather than ministering in one local church), and they are gifted to see and proclaim word from God that often reveal the future or establish God’s heart on particular matters.  Prophets are often thought to be ‘ahead of their times’ and tend to see things in clear black-and-white ways rather than shades of gray.

Evangelists are gifted to lead lost people to Christ, and to train others to do the same.  They are often gifted with the working of miracles or healing gifts, to help facilitate their ministry to the lost.

Pastors are the shepherds who are given to feed, guide and protect the sheep (members) of a local church.

Teachers are gifted by the Lord to teach His Word to His people, with clarity and insight, so that the Word can be lived out.

To be honest – and I hope this doesn’t stir up needless controversy – a careful reading of Ephesians 4:11 indicates only a ‘fourfold’ ministry, since the office of pastor and teacher is joined, as in pastor-teacher.  This is easy to understand, since one of the primary requirements for a pastor is that he be able to teach.

Finally, I suspect the reason that the term is used quite often these days is to distinguish the fact that the Church (or individual using the term) does believe in all five of these ministries as being valid today.  For many years, it seemed the Church as a whole only embraced three of the five (evangelists, pastors and teachers) and the ministry-gift of Apostle and Prophet was considered by many to have ended in the early years of the New Testament.  However, like many churches across the globe, CLC definitely embraces the role of Apostles and Prophets as still be valid (and needed!) in the church today.

P.S. Among the many excesses that I’ve witnessed in the Church is the proliferation of ministers who are “claiming” the titles without doing the ‘stuff’.  Quite often I hear someone referred to as “Apostle so-and-so” who in reality has never fathered anything and has no real following of churches and ministers, etc.  At CLC, we prefer to err on the other side; i.e., we don’t often use the title; we just thank God for the ‘ministry’.  Thus, I may refer to someone as providing ‘apostolic oversight’  to a group of churches instead of calling him, ‘Apostle’.  In my humble opinion, real men and women of God aren’t interested in titles; they are doing the ministry!  May their kind never cease until we reach that perfect day of Christ-

Sunday reflections

Kids dancing during the opening song was a great way to kick-off today's Family Sunday!

Kids dancing during the opening song was a great way to kick-off today’s Family Sunday!

My favorite pic of the day: when I prayed for Tony Velez (son of Paul & Tanya), he decided to "lay hands" on me!

My favorite pic of the day: when I prayed for Tony Velez (son of Paul & Tanja), prior to the formal dedication in service, he decided to “lay hands” on me!

Baby dedications are always a special moment, and today was no exception for two fine little men!

Baby dedications are always a special moment, and today was no exception for two fine little men, Ashton Pittman on the left and Tony Velez on the right!

The joy of today's message was seeing people pray to receive Christ in EACH service today - that just never gets old!

The joy of today’s message was seeing people pray to receive Christ in EACH service today – that just never gets old!

The NWI praise team was GREAT today!

The NWI praise team was ON FIRE today!

The NWI KidsLife dance team brought energy to their Family Sunday!

The NWI KidsLife dance team brought energy to their Family Sunday!

Today was the FIRST TIME he young boy pictured here with his dad & Pastor Sam had EVER stepped foot in any church and he was one of three who gave his life to the Lord today! (Afterwards, he said to Pastor Sam, "I'll see you next week!")

Today was the FIRST TIME he young boy pictured here with his dad & Pastor Sam had EVER stepped foot in any church and he was one of three who gave his life to the Lord today! (Afterwards, he said to Pastor Sam, “I’ll see you next week!”)  Love it!!!

Our Blue Island campus had their largest attendance in several months today

Our Blue Island campus had their largest attendance in several months today

The strong attendance included some guests who came for a baby dedication on this Family Sunday (There were 6 babies dedicated across 3 campuses today: 3 at NWI, 2 in TP and 1 in Blue Island!)

The strong attendance included some guests who came for a baby dedication on this Family Sunday (6 babies were dedicated across 3 campuses: 3 at NWI, 2 in TP and 1 in Blue Island!)

David Castro, son of was presented to the Lord this morning at Blue Island-

David Castro, son of Dan & Maribel Castro, was presented to the Lord this morning at Blue Island-

Our kids are enjoying their new classroom in Blue Island

Our kids are enjoying Sol’s teaching in Blue Island-

Pastor Brent brought the truth about Samson (and us) as Jorge Arevalo interpreted

Pastor Brent brought the truth about Samson (and us) as Jorge Arevalo interpreted

I’d call that a GOOD day at CLC!

Ask the Pastor

shutterstock_110236751Since we had no new questions submitted this week, I’m reposting this one from 2010:

Another faithful reader asks, “should a person give their whole first check as a firstfruits offering? Is that the only first fruit offering to give or would a portion of it be sufficient?”

Let me state up front that this blog represents my personal opinion.  I know my answer to this question will not agree with some of the “Brother & Sister Wonderful’s” on television.  I’ve heard their teaching and seen some of their polished appeals for you to send them the entire first check of the year or the entire first check of a new job.  However, I do NOT find that concept in Scripture, at least as I understand God’s Word.

As I read the various references in the Old Testament to “firstfruits”, they clearly speak of the beginning of one’s harvest (since theirs was an agrarian culture and they didn’t receive a paycheck for their labor as we do). By reading those various references to firstfruits, I have come to the conclusion that “firstfruits” in Scripture is synonymous with “tithes”, since the principle is identical: when we give the Lord the first portion of our harvest, He promises His blessing on all the rest of it! (See Proverbs 3:9-10 – and keep in mind that our Proverbs series continues this Sunday, and interestingly enough, our topic is “Master Your Money”!)

That’s another reason we don’t tithe on the ‘leftovers’, after we pay other bills, but on the ‘first’ tenth of our income, to invoke God’s blessing on all the rest.  After all, Scripture is quite clear that it’s ALL His! (Psalm 24:1)

So, my understanding of bringing your firstfruits to the Lord is identical to bringing your tithes to the Lord.  I do not see anything in Scripture that would require me to give God the entire first check of the year or the entire first check from a new job.  I am sure that God blesses us whenever we bring an offering over and above our tithes, so if you or someone you know testifies about the blessing they received by giving their first check to the Lord, I have no problem with it – I just don’t see that as a requirement in Scripture.

I suppose CLC could bring in additional income if I would teach that everyone should bring their first check to the church, and perhaps that is why some ministers do so.  But I didn’t enter the ministry to enrich myself or to fatten the bank account of CLC.  My role is to teach God’s Word, and that’s what I try to do through this blog as well.

Hope that helps.  Now, what would you like to Ask the Pastor?

Cambodia, day 6

We finally had some time off today to be with Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul.  We love them like our own children, and we’re so thankful to get to be a part of what God is doing through their ministry here.

The highlight of our time together was a guided tour of their new facility that is currently under construction.  It’s an absolute miracle how God is providing them with more than twice the space they currently have, but on a major street inside a new shopping mall!  Take a look & rejoice with us:

Jesse & Chris walking thru the new entrance to their building-

Jesse & Chris walking thru the new entrance to their building-

Our first look at what will be their new 800-seat auditorium!

Our first look at what will be their new 800-seat auditorium!

From inside the auditorium, looking back at the entrance & 2-levels of classrooms

From inside the auditorium, looking back at the entrance & 2-levels of classrooms

The new offices for New Life Fellowship will be housed here-

The new offices for New Life Fellowship will be housed here-

 

From the second floor classrooms & offices will be a  bridge & stairway leading back to the auditorium

From the second floor classrooms & offices will be a bridge & stairway leading back to the auditorium

As pastors, we know the real excitement is NOT about brick & mortar, but about the fact that this new facility will enable NLF to reach many more Cambodians with the love of Jesus, and we fully expect explosive growth for this wonderful New Testament church!

That’s all for this trip – we’ll be boarding in less than 2 hours for the first of three flights (Phnom Penh-Seoul; Seoul-LA; LA-Chicago) that will get us home Tuesday evening.

Until then-

Cambodia, day 5

Our final day of ministry on this trip was spent at one of our favorite churches in the world,  New Life Fellowship in Phnom Penh, pastored by Jesse & Soar McCaul.

I had the honor of preaching their 10am service today, "What Happens When You Pray", and the response was wonderful!

I had the honor of preaching their 10am service today, “What Happens When You Pray”, and the response was wonderful!

While there were many who came forward for prayer afterwards, I thought some of you might recognize this NLF altar worker - MeyChen Pham!

While there were many who came forward for prayer afterwards, I thought some of you might recognize this NLF altar worker – MeyChen Pham!

Since returning home from EnTheos, MeyChen was scheduled to lead NLF's children's ministry. However, when the leader of their large internship program stepped down, MeyChen was appointed to that role instead, and Pastor Jesse says she is excelling! (She has also acquired a 'young suitor', pictured here with us)

Since returning home from EnTheos, MeyChen was scheduled to lead NLF’s children’s ministry. However, when the leader of their large internship program stepped down, MeyChen was appointed to that role instead, and Pastor Jesse says she is excelling with their interns! (She has also acquired a ‘young suitor’ who serves on the NLF worship team, pictured here with us)

We can't pronounce her name, but this young woman has become a dear friend that we look for on each visit.  When we first met, she was helping rescue girls from sex trafficking.  Now she works with an NGO to provide land & houses for impoverished people - such a heart to serve others!

We can’t pronounce her name, but this young woman has become a dear friend that we look for on each visit. When we first met, she was helping rescue girls from sex trafficking. Now she works with an NGO to provide land & houses for impoverished people – such a heart to serve others!

Tonight was the 4th worship experience we've had at New Life Fellowship on this trip, and each time it's been a different 5-piece band and different singers leading - and each has been amazing!  Such depth of talent & anointing here!

Tonight was the 4th worship experience we’ve had at New Life Fellowship on this trip, and each time it’s been a different 5-piece band and different singers leading – and each has been amazing! Such depth of talent & anointing here, plus every song we’ve sung has been written here!

This young lady works at our hotel, serving our breakfast each morning.  Tonight we learned that she is a member of New Life who really loves Jesus!

This young lady works at our hotel, serving our breakfast each morning. Tonight we learned that she is a member of New Life who really loves Jesus!

Chris preached her heart for missions tonight, and the altar response was amazing, as Cambodians streamed forward to offer themselves for the Lord's work (I wish you could have seen them, but I didn't intrude w/pictures because I was busy praying with so many)

Chris preached her heart for missions tonight, and the altar response was amazing, as Cambodians streamed forward to offer themselves for the Lord’s work (I wish you could have seen them, but I didn’t intrude w/pictures because I was busy praying with so many)

Finally our ministry time for this trip is done – tomorrow we’ll spend the day with Pastors Jesse & Soar.  We’re excited to see their new building under construction now and then catch our midnight flight home-

photos from day 4 in Cambodia

We forgot to take pictures of our seminar at Beltei International University yesterday, but their school photographer did not:

They even got me to dress up for the formal ceremonies to open & close the seminar

They even got me to dress up for the formal ceremonies to open & close the seminar-

This group photo was just a few representatives of the students who completed the seminar, "Today Matters"

This group photo was just a few representatives of the students who completed the seminar, “Today Matters”

Beltei really is an "international" university, with students from several different nations, including this bright young man from Turkmenistan, whom we met on our last trip here.

Beltei really is an “international” university, with students from several different nations, including this bright young man from Turkmenistan, whom we met on our last trip here.

Some of the students are Buddhist monks

Some of the students are Buddhist monks

Chris and I each had the privilege of presenting Certificates of Completion to the students

Chris and I each had the privilege of presenting Certificates of Completion to the students

In many respects, the highlight of the day for me was being able to present His Excellency Ly Chheng with an autographed copy of Dr. John Maxwell's latest book!  (Mr. Chheng was elated!!)

In many respects, the highlight of the day for me was being able to present His Excellency Ly Chheng with an autographed copy of Dr. John Maxwell’s latest book, “Intentional Living”!

In fact, he even wanted a picture of John's autograph!

Mr. Chheng was so elated with the gift he even wanted a picture of John’s autograph!

Cambodia, day 4

(LtoR) Pastor Mara Kong representing New Life Foundation; His Excellency Mr. Ly Chheng, President of Beltei University, me & Chris, & Mr. Chheng's youngest son, who is Vice-President of the University

(LtoR) Pastor Mara Kong representing New Life Foundation; His Excellency Mr. Ly Chheng, President of Beltei University, me & Chris, & Mr. Chheng’s youngest son, who is Vice-President of the University

Today was our final day of EQUIP seminars, as we had the privilege of teaching at the leading university in all of Cambodia, Beltei International University.  This was our second time to teach here, and we are building a wonderful relationship with His Excellency, Mr. Ly Chheng, who is the founder and President of the school.

We compressed an entire notebook of six lessons that normally take us a minimum of nine hours to teach into a little less than six hours today, but in the process we forgot to take any pictures of our audience, which was comprised about half and half of students and faculty from Beltei.

We’re praising God for the opportunity to sow into these precious people for whom Christ died, but we’re also thankful that today was the last of back-to-back-to-back seminars, as Chris and I are both wiped out!

We’ll minister at two of the three services at New Life Fellowship tomorrow.  Thanks for your prayers for this wonderful ministry which is leading the way in Cambodia!

Cambodia, day 3

Every student had the opportunity to be a "super hero" today....but the teacher got to model it first!

Every student had the opportunity to be a “super hero” today….but the teacher got to model it first!

To help review what we had taught these last 2 days, the students played Jenga after Chris explained how-

To help review what we had taught these last 2 days, the students played Jenga after Chris explained how-

They caught on quickly - look at the concentration on these girl's faces-

They caught on quickly – look at the concentration on these girl’s faces-

It felt good to wrap up the second seminar this afternoon - that's about 18 hours of teaching in the past 3 days. Whew!

It felt good to wrap up the second seminar this afternoon – that’s about 18 hours of teaching in the past 3 days. Whew!  (Now we can rest up for another 6 hours of teaching tomorrow)

Thanks for your prayers – one more seminar to go tomorrow, then we’ll minister at a couple of services at New Life Fellowship on Sunday before catching our return flight on Monday-

Cambodia, day 2

This day started with Chris and her "partners in crime" preparing some special object lessons

This day started with Chris and her “partners in crime” preparing some special object lessons-

One of those object lessons involved these 4 volunteers eating a pill that affected their taste buds so that nasty stuff (in the box) tasted good to them - to illustrate how a change our perspective can enable us to affirm others.

One of those object lessons involved these 4 volunteers eating a pill that affected their taste buds so that nasty stuff (in the box in Chris’ hand) tasted good to them – to illustrate how a change our perspective can enable us to affirm others.

At first we thought this object lesson flopped.... when Chris poured water on top of a chemical powder in the jar, it was supposed to overflow with 'snow'.....

At first we thought this object lesson flopped…. when Chris poured water on top of a chemical powder in the jar, it was supposed to overflow with ‘snow’, not stay in the jar…..

It really did work!  It wasn't cold like snow, but otherwise, it sure looked like it snowed in Cambodia today!

…..but moments later, it really did work! It wasn’t cold like snow, but otherwise, it sure looked like it snowed in Cambodia today, as the Queen of Object Lessons struck again!

Meanwhile, I just lectured, with no 'fun' stuff to liven up the class.

Meanwhile, I just lectured, with no ‘fun’ stuff to liven up the class.

  • Well, I did try my hand with an object lesson this afternoon with the taught university students for the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports – but we forgot to take ANY pics there all afternoon.  (Just take my word for it – it worked & the students were impressed!)

So day 2 is done and tomorrow we’ll spend all day with those university students, learning why “Today Matters”.  Until then-

Cambodia, day 1

It was 32 hours of travel from when we woke up at home Monday morning before we reached our hotel in Phnom Penh, so our teaching may have been discombobulated today, but we managed to complete 4 of the 6 lessons at New Life Fellowship:

Chris demonstrated a "lid" that limits our leadership potential.  (Most of today's teaching was about removing those lids to maximize our influence with others.)

Chris demonstrated a “lid” that limits our leadership potential. (Most of today’s teaching was about removing those lids to maximize our influence with others.)

It's always a joy to return to New Life Fellowship in Cambodia!  (I think this was our 7th or 8th trip here)

It’s always a joy to return to New Life Fellowship in Cambodia! (I think this was our 7th or 8th trip here)

One of the reasons we enjoy teaching here so much is the HUNGER of the Cambodians to learn.  There were 400 leaders from churches & NGO's all over the country who gathered today to receive, and they love to discuss what they're learning.

One of the reasons we enjoy teaching here so much is the HUNGER of the Cambodians to learn. There were 400 leaders from churches & NGO’s all over the country who gathered today to receive, and they love to discuss what they’re learning.

A tiny magnet attracting a LOT of paper clips illustrates how good leadership skills attract loyal followers! (from the queen of object lessons)

A tiny magnet attracting a LOT of paper clips illustrates how good leadership skills attract loyal followers! (from the queen of object lessons)

We’re early to bed tonight so we’ll be rested for tomorrow’s conclusion at NLF in the morning, before opening another seminar for the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports in the afternoon.  More later-

Off to Cambodia

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Chris and I leave before dawn this morning for O’Hare to catch the first of three flights that will get us to Phnom Penh, Cambodia about 11am tomorrow.

While there we’ll be teaching back-to-back-to-back seminars for EQUIP, the missions arm of Dr. John C. Maxwell.  The first seminar will be with our dear friends at New Life Fellowship (led by Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul) on Wednesday & Thursday.  Then on Thursday afternoon and all day Friday we’ll teach some officials from the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports, along with some hand-picked university students and then all day Saturday we’ll teach faculty and students at the most prestigious university in Cambodia, Beltei International University.  Sunday night we’ll speak at one of the campuses of New Life and then spend Monday in meetings with Pastor Jesse before catching our return flight to Chicago.

Whew!  As always, it’s going to be a full 9 days, but we’re excited about what God will do!  Thanks for the prayers-

Sunday reflections

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Today was the climax of our N2 series, and what a powerful day it was with Dr. Patricia Bailey as our guest at the Tinley Park campus!

The Dance Team made His Praise glorious today!

The Dance Team made His Praise glorious today!

  • We also rejoiced with John Watanabe, a new believer who was baptized today!
Dr. Bailey was "in our face" all day, and we needed it! So appreciate her ministry!

Dr. Bailey was “in our face” all day, and we needed it! So appreciate her ministry!

We prayed over the Kenya team that will be leaving later this week to serve our missionary partners, David & Jennifer Hatley.

Altars were full in each service after Dr. Bailey’s challenge for CLC’ers to GO on a missions trip-

We prayed over the Kenya missions team that will be leaving later this week for Nairobi, to serve our partners, David & Jennifer Hatley

We prayed over the Kenya missions team that will be leaving later this week for Nairobi, to serve our partners, David & Jennifer Hatley

Pastor Sam is proud of NWI teens who serve in KidsLife - and rightfully so!

Pastor Sam is proud of some NWI teens who serve in KidsLife – and rightfully so!

Chris preached her heart for missions at NWI, and was well-received today.

Chris preached her heart for missions at NWI, and was well-received today.

Our amazing Blue Island Worship Director, Alan Franklin!

Our amazing Blue Island Worship Director, Alan Franklin!

We are called to reach children & young families.  (Yes, we are!)

We are called to reach children & young families. (Yes, we are!)

Pastor Brent shared his heart for missions, and Blue Islander's responded (it looks like about 10 people are committed to go to Siberia next summer!)  God's heart is our heart!

Pastor Brent shared his heart for missions, and Blue Islander’s responded afterwards (it looks like about 10 people are committed to go to Siberia next summer!) God’s heart is our heart!

Ask the Pastor

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Unfortunately there were NO questions submitted this week, so I’m publishing a post from 2010 – hope you find it helpful:

My favorite questioner writes, “Pastor, I have a question regarding our conscience vs. the Holy Spirit.  I was reading a passage in a book that said that whenever we hear that nagging voice that warns us or stops us from doing something that is not right, it is our conscience, or as this author put it, the Holy Spirit.  This particular Christian was trying to explain this to an unbeliever, but I always thought that The Holy Spirit was reserved for Christians or people who repented.  I’ve had a conscience all of my life, but never would I have put these two in the same category before I got saved. I know that scripture teaches us that gifts come without repentance, but would this gift fall under that category.  I guess I always thought the Holy Spirit was in a category of its own.  Can you explain this to me?”

Wow, that’s a new series of questions I’ve not been asked before.  Let me try to sort it out, in order:

1.  From my understanding of Scripture, I definitely agree that they are two different entities.  Everyone is born with a conscience, which in the Bible seems to indicate an inborn sense of right and wrong.  John 8:7-11 would be a great example of this, as verse 9 makes it clear that it was their conscience, not the Holy Spirit, that convicted them.  Let me quickly add that our conscience was perverted by the Fall (as can be seen in John 16:2 and Acts 26:9) and that it can be corrupted (Titus 1:15) and even put to death (1Timothy 4:2).  I said all of that to say that we could never depend on our conscience alone for guidance!

2.  You are correct that the Holy Spirit is only given to believers (Acts 2:38, Acts 5:32, Acts 19:1-6), but the verse you referenced about gifts is Romans 11:29, and it certainly does not refer to our conscience, which all of us have, saved or unsaved.  But as I said above, the conscience is not reliable because of many other factors.

3.  The Holy Spirit does guide us (John 16:13; Romans 8:14), sometimes by convicting us of wrong conduct or thoughts or attitudes – but I don’t necessarily like the term ‘nagging’ – His conviction is always sharp and precise, so that we know exactly what we need to do – never condemning or heavy and vague.  It’s the enemy who tries to weigh us down with feelings or thoughts of condemnation or heavy, yet unspecified feelings of failure and guilt.  Those feelings and thoughts are NOT from God, and must be rejected (Romans 8:1).

Thank God for the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

Hope that helped.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Why I make a Faith Promise to missions every year

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I shared this with our entire CLC staff yesterday, to explain how I sincerely want each of them to experience the spiritual growth that I have experienced through this simple practice each year.  Honestly, it’s not about the money!  It’s about growing closer to God:

  1.  Nothing replaces personal time with God – prayer, reading Word, worship – those are the indispensable habits that bring us closer to Him.
  2. Honoring God with the tithe (Proverbs 3:9-10) is definitely a “growth practice” since what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 is true of all of us.  (I especially like the Message)
  3. I think I was 18 years old when I made my first ‘Faith Promise’ commitment.  The amount was small, but what was HUGE then and through the years since, is how I was stretched spiritually by making a Faith Promise:
  • I was stretched by praying and asking God how much He specifically wanted me to give to missions-
  • I was really stretched by listening for His answer (listening has helped me grow to hear His voice in other ways!)
  • Perhaps the neatest thing about listening is when Chris and I prayed separately and received the exact same number!  That’s a real faith builder!
  • I was stretched beyond words to obey by making the commitment of the amount I heard from him, because what I’ve heard each year has almost always been bigger than what I thought I could do-
  • My favorite ‘stretch’ is then trusting Him for the next 12 months to provide the amount we had heard, and seeing Him do it in surprising & unexpected ways!
  • The result has been clear: I’ve grown in my faith and in my love for people!

I want this for every CLC’er!  

It’s NOT about the money; it really is about YOUR spiritual growth!

CLC excels in SO many areas.  Would you read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, and aspire to excel in this area as well?

I pray that you will join me in making a Faith Promise commitment this Sunday.

Sunday reflections

Today was all about MISSIONS!

Today was all about MISSIONS!

(Speaking of the International Dinner at Tinley Park next Sunday, October 16 at 6pm, get your tickets while they’re still available!)

Even without our Worship Pastor or TP Worship Director, this TEAM led us into God's strong Presence!

Even without our Worship Pastor or TP Worship Director, this TEAM led us into God’s strong Presence!

Today was my "one shot" for 2016 to share my heart for missions-

Today was my “one shot” for 2016 to share my heart for missions-

I realize that I'm a proud father, but in my humble opinion, Jen did an amazing job of sharing how missions trips have changed her life!

But I was happy to share the pulpit with my one-and-only daughter.  I realize that I’m a proud father, but in my humble opinion, Jen did an amazing job of sharing how missions trips have changed her life in at least 5 ways!

Our other 2 campuses followed suit today as well - Pastor Sam shared with NWI how missions trips to the Philippines and Colombia changed his life (pic on screen from his first visit to Philippines)

Our other 2 campuses followed suit today as well – Pastor Sam shared with NWI how missions trips to the Philippines and Colombia changed his life (pic on screen from his first visit to Philippines)

Pastor Jon Jones led worship at the Blue Island campus with this passionate team of singers & musicians!

Pastor Jon Jones led worship at the Blue Island campus with this passionate team of singers & musicians!

Pastor Brent shared how missions trips have impacted his life, while Sol interpreted

Pastor Brent shared how missions trips have impacted his life, while Sol interpreted

Tonight was the NWI International Dinner and besides foods from several nations & cultures, we enjoyed a Mexican folk dance and a special guest from Compassion International (Matt Kitchen) and most of all, some excited NWI’ers signing up for 2017 Missions trips and/or sponsoring children in Kenya & the Philippines thru Compassion!

Matt Kitchen from Compassion International challenged all of us with "What are YOU going to do about it?"

Matt Kitchen from Compassion International challenged all of us with “What are YOU going to do about it?”

So my wife and I decided to sponsor this little 6-year old from Mindanao, Philippines

So my wife and I decided to sponsor this little 6-year old from Mindanao, Philippines!

It’s not TOO LATE – you can visit the Compassion Experience on Monday, October 10 between noon and 8pm – make your reservation here.

 

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question comes from a long-time, faithful CLC’er who writes,  “I would be interested in knowing what your take is on the Jewish practice of baptism, face first. Let me know if you would consider this to be done at CLC , since I am feeling led to ask for this.”

Great question, not only because of the specific issue raised, but because this falls into the category of ALL sorts of questions about ‘minor’ issues that have divided the Body of Christ for centuries.  Let’s address both:

  1. First and foremost, there is not one verse in the Bible that prescribes baptism to be done face forward.  Not one, even though we have numerous passages that mention baptisms in the early church (Acts 2:38, 41, 8:16, 10:48, 16:31-33, 19:1-6)
  2. Since Scripture tells us that every word is to be established in the mouth of two or three witnessessurely if a face forward baptism was important, there would have been some clear mention of it in the Bible.  Any argument from ‘silence’ is rather weak, even though some groups in Christianity sometimes resort to it.
  3. Not only is there NO record of anyone in the Bible having been baptized face-forward, in my research of the Jewish practice of a ‘mikveh’ (which is mentioned about 16 times in the Old Testament) there is also NO mention of the person undergoing that ritual of purification being immersed face-forward.  What I did find is that the Jewish practice (which is NOT the same thing as New Testament water baptism for believers) almost always involved self-immersion (probably because it was generally practiced in the nude).  That’s the only reason that the Jewish immersion might have been face-forward, since it would be almost impossible for someone to immerse themselves backwards. (Don’t try this at home, children!)
  4. Although I’ve never been asked in our 26 year history to baptize someone at CLC face-forward, I personally don’t see any reason that I should honor that request, for the reasons listed above.  But more importantly, I want to address what I consider the  bigger issue:
  • While this is not an accusation against my questioner (whom I love and respect and whom I know is asking in sincerity), I feel certain that the question arises because  someone has promoted that concept and encouraged or challenged others to practice baptism “the right way” by being immersed face-forward.  Since I spent the first 20 years of my ministry in a dogmatic, legalistic denomination who divided the Body of Christ over several minor issues that we insisted were “the right way”, I can smell legalism a mile away these days!
  • Interestingly enough, one of our ‘right ways’ was insisting on a baptismal ‘formula’ that regarded any Christian baptism that was not done by a minister who specifically said the words,  “in the name of Jesus”, as invalid.  (We would say, ‘you went down a dry sinner & came back up a wet sinner’ if you were baptized any other way).  Don’t get me wrong: I love the name of Jesus, and every time we baptize at CLC we use His name – but I don’t believe that anyone is saved because of what I say; you are saved because you put your whole trust in what Jesus did for you!
  • There are so many other examples/practices: “you’re not saved if you don’t speak in tongues”; “you’re not saved if you wear _______” (fill in your own blank: pants, make-up, jewelry, etc, etc, etc); “you’re not saved unless you use the King James Bible only”; “you’re not saved if you don’t believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture”; etc.  The Biblical precedent for it all is Acts 15:1, and a few verses later we learn that it was Pharisees who taught so.  Pharisees haven’t changed in 2,000 years!
  • Bottom-line: let’s major on the majors (the Virgin birth; the blood of Jesus; His death, burial & Resurrection; the empowerment of the Holy Spirit; the Great Commission; etc.) and minor on the minors (most everything else!)

I sincerely hope that helps.  Would YOU like to add to my answer?  Please leave a comment below, or ask your own question for a future Friday post.

Missions makes the world smaller!

Maybe I should have said "Gateway Conference makes the world smaller"

Maybe I should have said “Gateway Conference makes the world smaller”

Worship at the closing session of the Gateway Conference was as strong as I’ve ever experienced, so we ALL ended the conference on a high note (pun intended).

But for me perhaps the biggest takeaway is how missions had made our world smaller.  There were close to 5,000 people here for the conference, and the building is understandably HUGE.  Yet in the past two days, just minding our own business walking to the different sessions, I was able to meet:

  • Jesse McCaul, our dear friend and the missionary/pastor of New Life Fellowship in Cambodia, where Chris & I have the privilege of training for EQUIP, the missions arm of John Maxwell’s ministry (and where we’ll be in just 2 weeks!)
Pastor Jesse McCaul has become a real friend over these past few years & he's doing an AMAZING work in Cambodia!

Pastor Jesse McCaul has become a real friend over these past few years & he’s doing an AMAZING work in Cambodia! (don’t mind the photo bomb from our Youth Pastor!)

  • Leon Mazin, another friend and the leader of the Messianic congregation “Return to Zion” in Haifa, Israel, where we ministered last year and where a team of 30 CLC’ers will worship on the first weekend of December during our Israel trip!
  • Sergey (whose last name I cannot pronounce) who is the Worship Pastor at New Testament Church in Perm, Russia, where we had the privilege of ministering at least 5 or 6 times, first through EQUIP and more recently in a Marriage Retreat for their network of pastors.
Pastor Sergey with us last night

Pastor Sergey with us last night

Get this: none of us knew the other was coming to the conference in advance; we simply bumped into each other on the Gateway campus! (what are the odds?) 

I hope you understand that these aren’t just happenstances; these men have become  friends from afar to us.  As we continue our N2 series this Sunday, my prayer for every CLC is that you, too will join us in the adventure of missions and be able to build a genuine relationship with someone in the Nations – it really is a special treat in God’s Kingdom!  Can’t wait until Sunday!

Fresh passion

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Yesterday was a VERY long day, with a dozen CLC pastors & directors rising at about 3:30am in order to get to O’Hare for our flight to Dallas to attend the Gateway Conference.

The conference is only 2-days, but they’re chock-full of great worship, teaching and interaction, and honestly, I think I only received what I came for.  To be painfully honest, I think my tank was near-empty of late, and I found myself often going thru the motions so to speak.

Last night between the worship experience and the ministry of one of my heroes, Craig Groeschel, I caught a ‘second wind’ and renewing of passion that’s been missing.

I’m warning you: I’m gonna let it out Sunday!

Pastors need inspiration, too

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That’s why a dozen CLC pastors/ministry directors from all our campuses are headed to Dallas before dawn this morning to attend the Gateway Conference in Southlake, TX.  Gateway is led by Robert Morris, who I think is the finest Bible teacher in America, and they’re on the cutting-edge of what God is doing today.

I’m looking forward to two full days and nights of worship, preaching and Presence in a room with a few thousand other pastors and leaders – and I’m praying that God shakes my world in the process!

More later-

Sunday reflections

Today was a good day to SURRENDER to God's call! (Paula Thornton & the SoP led the way)

Today was a good day to SURRENDER to God’s call! (Paula Thornton & the SoP led the way)

Don Finto was AMAZING at 86 years young! I still can't get over his animated recitation of the entire 11th chapter of Romans at the 10am service! His writings impacted my life 8 years ago, but today was the icing on the cake!

Don Finto was AMAZING at 86 years young! I still can’t get over his animated recitation of the entire 11th chapter of Romans at the 10am service! His writings impacted my life 8 years ago, but today was the icing on the cake!

And what a treat it was to have his "son", Tod McDowell, minister in tandem with Don today! (Powerful combo from the Caleb Company!)

And what a treat it was to have his “son”, Tod McDowell, minister in tandem with Don today! (Powerful combo from the Caleb Company!)

Joe & Danielle Stone cooked breakfast for the entire NWI First Touch team today & it was great to see everyone connecting!

Joe & Danielle Stone cooked breakfast for the entire NWI First Touch team today & it was great to see everyone connecting in unity!

NWI added a new member today-

NWI added a new member today-

And Tod McDowell brought the Word to NWI today-

And Tod McDowell brought the Word to NWI today-

Then tonight was the FIRST of our three “International Dinners”, and I must say that Blue Island set the bar high for NWI and Tinley Park these next two Sundays:

"Spirit Lead Me" was the theme, and I was thrilled with the response by Blue Islander's!

“Spirit Lead Me” was the theme, and I was thrilled with the response by Blue Islander’s!

CLC is offering NINE different missions trips in 2017!

CLC is offering NINE different missions trips in 2017!

I'm reminded of the Scripture when Jesus fed the 5,000......

I’m reminded of the Scripture when Jesus fed the 5,000……

.....and they ALL ate.....

…..and they ALL ate…..

.....and were SATISFIED!

…..and were SATISFIED!

Can’t wait to do it all over again NEXT Sunday, at NWI!

 

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?

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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.