Praying for EASTER experiences EVERYWHERE

Had a great time of Corporate Prayer this morning, specifically praying for the remaining 10 services this weekend at all our CLC locations.

Then I opened my computer & saw this pic of where our CLC-Davao Philippines campus will worship Easter morning, as they are believing God for 3,000 in attendance there (they rented this gym in faith since their location in the Mall only seats about 1,000):

Davao gymNow I’m saying, ‘WOW, Lord!’ I’m picturing 3,000 Filipino’s filling this space tomorrow, and more importantly, hundreds of them giving their life to Christ as a result!

If you’re reading this on Saturday, you still have time to INVITE someone to join you at CLC this Easter!  Who knows: the last person you invite may be the one whose life is changed forever!

I have pastor friends all over the world who will proclaim the message of Christ’s resurrection this weekend, so no matter where you worship this Easter, I pray that the Resurrected Christ shows up in your services and makes Himself known to everyone present!

 

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “I have not received my prayer language yet and I don’t want to be fake and just copy what I hear others speak. What are your thoughts about that?”

Great question, especially for this Easter weekend.  Here are my thoughts:

1. I’m glad that you specified “yet” after saying you haven’t received your prayer language – because I’m 100% convinced from Scripture that praying in the Spirit (using your prayer language) is a privilege & promise for every believer.  I sometimes hear from others who haven’t yet received their prayer language but they mistakenly conclude that “it must not be for me” or “maybe it’s only for certain people and not for others” or even “maybe that was just a gift for Bible times that no longer happens today”.  I think these verses make it quite clear that this is an experience that God wants for every believer: Isaiah 28:11-12; Acts 2:1-4, 38-39; Acts 10:44-47; Acts 19:1-6; 1Cor. 14:1-5; 1Cor. 14:18-19; Jude 20-21.

2. I’m also glad that you don’t want to be a fake, since that’s never advisable.  Just  ‘copying’ what you’ve heard others speak would shortchange you and likely keep you from going on to experience the reality of this wonderful gift for yourself. Furthermore, there’s NO need to ‘fake it’, since this experience is real and what God wants for you, as the Scriptures above demonstrate.

3. However, it is important to notice that when this gift first occurred on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:4, it is quite clear that the Holy Spirit gave the ability, but it was the people themselves who did the speaking! (I say that because some people have mistakenly supposed that the Holy Spirit would do ALL the ‘work’ – causing them to speak in a language they had never learned.  That’s NOT what happened anywhere in the Bible, and Paul’s clear teaching in 1Cor. 14:27-33 is that we remain in control even when the Holy Spirit is moving upon us. Because of this, here are some ‘tips’ I’ve given to those who want to receive their prayer language:

  • Be sure that you have invited Jesus to be Lord of your life (since the Holy Spirit is only promised to believers) AND that you have forgiven anyone who has wronged you (since unforgiveness blocks us from receiving anything from God). 
  • Then begin to worship the Lord aloud, since receiving a prayer language in Scripture always occurred in the context of worship.
  • Expect to receive (since all the gifts of God are received by faith!) Keep in mind that it is NOT possible to speak in two languages at the same time.  In other words, if English is your native tongue, for instance, you cannot speak in English and in a prayer language at the same time.  So you should expect that when the Holy Spirit gives you a new prayer language, it won’t be English (if that’s your native tongue).  
  • Some people have told me that they actually ‘heard’ strange-sounding syllables in their mind, and then spoke them aloud.  Others have noticed that their lips were quivering and stammering so that they weren’t speaking praises clearly anymore, and that’s usually a result of trying to force themselves to speak in their known language while the Holy Spirit was prompting them to speak in another language.  So relax – there’s nothing to fear, and you don’t need to force yourself.  Instead,  give in to the Spirit’s promptings and speak aloud the syllables & phrases that HE will give you.  Enjoy it! You can whisper, sing, shout & speak in your new tongue!

I hope that helps. In fact, I pray that someone reading this will put the computer or tablet aside and receive this free gift from God now!  If you do, please leave a comment below so I can celebrate with you!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Can’t wait to celebrate the Resurrection with you this weekend – 11 different options at the 4 campuses of CLC – choose the one that works best for you!

If you’re visiting CLC this Easter…

I’ve been praying for & thinking about the folks who will visit us for the first time this Easter. I know that going into any church or public event for the first time can be intimidating, especially if you’re not sure what to expect.

So with a nudge from fellow blogger/pastor Ron Edmondson & his excellent post yesterday, I thought I’d answer some questions our guests may have.

Here are 7 frequently asked questions about visiting Easter Sunday:

What should I wear?

Any Sunday at CLC, you’ll see all styles of dress. Some will wear suit and tie and dresses for women. Some will wear jeans and t-shirts.  To answer your question, choose an outfit you already own, one you feel comfortable in, and join us.

What will we do? What can I expect?

We will have a fairly typical worship schedule. We will sing some songs, have a short greeting time, I’ll share a message (my intent will be to share hope), we will sing again. In case you’re wondering, we will receive an offering to support the full range of ministries we offer in the church, community, and around the world. However, you are not required or expected to participate in the offering unless you choose to do so.

Will you embarrass me?

I certainly hope not. We really try to make you as comfortable as possible! You WILL NOT be singled out as a visitor. We don’t make visitors stand, raise their hand, or even fill out a card if you choose not to do so.

How long will the service last?

About an hour and 15 minutes. Of course, you may stay longer to chat with the new friends we’re hoping you’ll meet, but that would be your choice.

What time should I arrive?

That’s a great question. And, I’m really trying to help when I suggest you get here a few minutes early. Maybe even as many as 10 or 15 minutes early. It takes a little while to make your way through our building, especially if you have children to check into our children’s areas or this is your first time. We especially want you to find a seat where you are most comfortable (some want up close — some want in the middle), and you’ll feel more comfortable if you have a few minutes to adjust before the service begins. We have a special Easter bulletin you can be reading while you wait for the service to start.

Do you have something for children?

Absolutely. Birth through 5th grade have their own activities designed especially for them. They will enjoy a worship experience that will engage them at their level. Of course, we don’t keep you from bringing children with you in the worship service if that is more comfortable on a first visit, but our experience is that they truly do enjoy the service designed for them. On Easter Sunday, their service will include an Easter Egg Hunt with some terrific prizes & other activities – we want them to have FUN and learn about Jesus, too. Either way, we love when entire families join us Easter Sunday.

Can I only come one time? Really, for what am I signing up when I come Easter Sunday?

There’s no obligation beyond Easter Sunday. We do ask you to fill out a connection card and, if you do, we will follow up with you, but we won’t come visiting you at home or pester you with junk mail. And I hope you do fill out the card, because I love seeing who God brought to us as visitors. I love meeting visitors. We won’t put any unfair pressure on you to ever come again. We hope you will, and we’d love if Easter triggered that desire in you, but that’s your call — not ours.

I hope that answers some questions of those who think about visiting our church. I’d be honored if you are our guest, this Sunday or any Sunday.

P.S. If you’re a ‘regular’ at CLC, today is your LAST CHANCE to invite a friend, co-worker or family member to join you this Easter (preferably on Friday or Saturday evening, as we expect all 3 services on Sunday to be FULL!) Just think: the last person you invite might be someone whose life will be changed foreverall because of your invitation!

Modern-day miracles?

blue island bldg

I know some don’t believe in miracles, and still others wouldn’t include this story as one, but I certainly see God’s hand all over our Blue Island building acquisition.

Yesterday I told how devastated I was when our intended purchase fell through and how  quickly that scenario turned around with the purchase of the 135th Street property.  Here’s the back story:

The building we’ll occupy was owned by one of the largest Security companies in America, but when the owner died a couple of years ago, in his will he donated the property to a Blue Island charity that works with handicapped individuals.  Since the building is a tri-level, the charity wasn’t able to use the building for their work, so they merely leased it back to the Security company for a year, until they could figure out where to move their operation following the owner’s death.

When the security company moved out at the end of 2013, the charity was left with an empty building that would cost them almost $60,000 a year in property taxes!  So they listed the property for sale in January of this year, at a price we couldn’t have afforded. Had we approached them when we first began looking for a building in Blue Island, I’m sure they would never have accepted such a low offer from us.

But because we “lost” all the time negotiating on the Division St. property, during the time that the charity was growing more and more desperate to get the property sold so they wouldn’t have to pay the taxes, the price was slashed to less than half their original listing  (and over $100,000 less than it’s appraised value).

By the time we came along and decided the property would meet our needs, we were able to negotiate a cash sale for less than one-third of the appraised value of the property!

AND, we learned after the fact that the area behind the building where we had hoped to acquire additional parking is actually part of our property and is included in the sale at no extra cost!

Can you say, FAVOR”?

Lessons learned:

  • Romans 8:28 is true!
  • Delays are not defeats!
  • When you don’t get what you want, God has a better plan!
  • As John Osteen asked Joel years ago, “What’s the sense of having favor if you’re not going to use it?”
  • God wants us to be debt-free!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this-

Lessons I’m learning in my old age…

You probably heard the announcement on Sunday, but here’s the ‘rest of the story’ behind our purchase of a building for our Blue Island campus.

We had a verbal agreement to buy a different building about 2 months ago, but the owner kept dragging his feet on finalizing the contract until we received word last Tuesday that he was taking the property off the market until he could decide what he wanted to do.

I was devastated. Even though I should know better by now, I got so depressed, thinking that I had led folks into the wilderness and now had no place to go.  It was not pretty.

By Wednesday I scrambled to look for other commercial properties online, saw this ad, and scheduled an appointment to see it on Thursday with 2 of our other pastors.

Friday afternoon we returned with some elders and trustees who have experience in construction and real estate, and made a verbal offer. Saturday that offer was presented in writing, and after some brief negotiating, we settled on a cash price that means the Blue Island campus will be debt-free from day one!

In other words, in less than 4 days a situation that looked hopeless turned into a situation that caused all of CLC to rejoice!  Just because you don’t get what you want is no reason to despair, especially when you know a God who went from the Cross to the Resurrection in 3 days!

I sure hope I remember this the next time something doesn’t go as I want.

I hope you remember this the next time you don’t get what you want.

blue island bldgTomorrow I’ll tell you why this is such a God-thing…..stay tuned.

 

A better take on the “Blood Moons” teaching

 

Since I published an article from a Jewish friend last Friday, I’ve had opportunity to read another post that I personally think gives a fuller, more accurate view.

So in the interest of fairness and pastoral helpfulness, I hope you’ll read this article as well.  (I think you’ll agree with me that it’s always better to get the full picture)

P.S. WHO are you inviting to our Easter services today?

 

Sunday Reflections

Really don’t have words to describe today at CLC - you had to be here to experience, as no explanation will suffice.  Here’s what I’m still in awe about:

  • The ENERGY during worship, especially when we sang, “God is fighting for us, pushing back the darkness…..” you sang it like you meant it!
  • Amazed again by my wife’s teaching/preaching/ministry – after giving so much of herself yesterday in the Prayer Seminar….well, I should know after 41 years just how amazing she is.  (So blessed to be married to her; today blessed by her ministry!)
  • LOVE the fact that the anointing reaches thru a video camera – just from preliminary reports I’ve received, I know that some were baptized in the Holy Spirit at our NWI campus after today’s message AND (my favorite report) one young woman in Puerto Rico was filled with the Spirit after watching our service ONLINE!
  • I don’t think I’ll ever forget 3 illustrations: (1) my anointing needs to overflow; (2) the transfer in Acts 3 thru Peter’s hand more than just his words; and (3) God wants to rub off on me like peanut butter! (Thanks to some good sports who helped bring it home – especially the peanut butter folks!)
  • Pastor Doug’s report from South Bend was ecstatic: “Praise & worship was off the chain, off the hook, out of sight, absolutely marvelous!”
  • At the NWI campus, Pastor Sam says at least 2 or 3 were baptized in the Holy Spirit today and there is REAL excitement about Easter there!
  • AND at our ‘practice service’ for the new Blue Island campus (temporarily meeting in Midlothian)Pastor William reports a total attendance of 184 today, with 86 in the English service at 10am and 98 at the Spanish service at noon (some people no doubt attended both & were counted twice, but it’s still WAY more than the 100 we had hoped for to help launch next week on Easter Sunday!) Even better, what was supposed to be a practice service to get the bugs out of audio/video systems, etc. was actually charged with the Presence of God!

BI practice

  • Of course, the big announcement (if you missed it) is that we signed a contract this afternoon to purchase the property at 2552 135th Street in Blue Island – it’s a newer  building than the one we tried to purchase; it has more usable space and will require less rehab to begin using as a church; and our purchase price is 1/3 less than the previous building; and is less than 1/3 of the appraised value AND we’re writing a check to purchase it – so the Blue Island campus will be debt-free the day we move in!

blue island bldg

 

Ask the Pastor

No one submitted a question this week, so I’ll take this moment to post an article by my Jewish friend, Jonathan Feldstein, who serves a great organization in Israel called “Heart to Heart”.  His article could go to the heart of a question that many may be asking about some recent prophecy teachings about end-time events.

You can read his article here.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Integrity AND skill

Part of my Bible reading for today included Psalm 78:70-72, and I love the Holy Spirit-inspired words for shepherds/pastors/leaders:

  1. May we never take for granted the fact that He chose us!  WOW, what a privilege!
  2. No matter what position we hold now, may we never forget where He took us from! (reminds me of 1Cor. 1:26-29)
  3. In fact, those lowly tasks we did back then are actually what prepared us for what we do now!

Finally, because of all that, we fulfill our calling according to the integrity of our heart – which reminds me that God always values character over charisma. It won’t matter how gifted I am if I lack integrity! (The headlines again this week sadly reminded us that even gifted & skilled leaders don’t last beyond their integrity)

But integrity alone is never enough to truly lead God’s people.  I must also have skilled hands.  That’s why I must continually work on my craft (as I heard Harry Connick, Jr. recently tell some of the contestants on AI)

That’s why I’ve been in Dallas the last few days at the NICL. I know I need to add more skills to my hands if I’m going to shepherd God’s people.

How ’bout you?  What are you doing to be a leader of integrity AND skill?

The Anointing

Yesterday morning before we began Session 2 of the National Institute of Christian Leadership with Dr. Mark Rutland, I had the chance to work with my wife on this Sunday’s closing message of the Kingdom series.

I gotta tell ya – she really has some unique insights into this subject, straight out of the Word – and I’m excited about what she’ll share with all of us on Sunday.

So if you thought last Sunday was good…..well, (in my best Bishop Jakes’ voice), “get ready, get ready, get ready, get ready!”

Speaking of get ready, WHO are you inviting for our EASTER celebrations?  Order your tickets online here.

 

Talking Bible: fresh & new praises!

In yesterday’s message at CLC my wife showed us what a powerful weapon our worship can be.  (If you weren’t here, I encourage you to get the message from our website)

But in my daily Bible readings a few days ago, Psalm 71:14 ‘jumped off the page at me’, when David says that he would praise God “more and more”.

I’m using the Spirit-Filled Life Bible for my devotions this year, and Charles Green added this note at Psa. 71:14“The idea expressed is beautiful, saying, “I will find fresh and new ways to express my praise toward God.’  This does not mean to abandon the old ways, but to become as creative in our praises to God as God is creative in meeting our needs.  Thus we will not fall prey to careless praise, which becomes dull and boring and ends in merely mouthing phrases. God wants us to be creative.”

I don’t want to be careless in my praises, and I sure don’t want to merely mouth phrases, so I will find fresh and new ways to express my praise, especially knowing how powerful a weapon it is according to Psa 149:5-9.  How ’bout you?

Sunday reflections

A few random thoughts about today at CLC before I catch a flight to Dallas for Round 2 of the National Institute of Christian Leadership:

  •  Love the words/message of the new song we learned, “Man of Sorrows”! (I’d never heard it before today, but I’d say it’s a keeper!)
  • My wife was on fiyah today….but my favorite part of the whole message was the story she added spontaneously in the 8:30 service and then repeated each time, about the Saturday night she danced out of her slip.  (I was there & remember it well – it happened just like she told it)
  • Speaking of fav part of her message, I must say that Mike Welch at the 8:30 service did a much better rendition of ‘condemnation’ than our other great volunteers at 10 and 12 - Mike needs to join the drama ministry!
  • Favorite lobby moment today: still shaking my head over this one.  I went to the Loft after 10am service to greet 2 new guests. One of them was a young lady who told me how much she enjoyed the service & that we reminded her of her uncle who pastors in Alabama.  When she told me his name, I asked if he had a brother who used to be a missionary in the Philippines with my former denomination & she said, ‘yes, that’s my daddy’. I served with him there 35 years ago!  What are the odds? 
  • So many folks got their Easter weekend tickets today that I’m told we have no more seats at the 10am service that Sunday.  It’s time to get yours for you, your family and THE FRIENDS you’re bringing – perhaps it would be good to choose Good Friday or one of the Saturday services!  You don’t have to wait until next Sunday; go online and order your tickets now-
  • Love the improvements to the Youth Worship Center – kudos to Marque Couser, Matt DeLaTorre, Brent McQuay & Hudson Rhodes who gave their entire Saturday to install two 70-inch TV’s to replace the video projector & screen there; high-definition, bright image for all media now, at a much cheaper price!  We’re thinking of the same solution for our Blue Island campus.  Take a look:
Youth Worship Center TV's after the installation

Youth Worship Center TV’s after the installation

 

 

Pastor William preaching the final service in Tinley Park for Centro da Vida Cristiana

Pastor William preaching the final service in Tinley Park for Centro da Vida Cristiana

  • Our South Bend campus started a new series today & Pastor Doug reports it was “amazing”…..”ushering in a new season” there!
  • And Pastor Sam says that NWI enjoyed great worship (including some praise dancers on stage), wonderful time of Communion and a great response to the message that saw dozens of people staying around the altar in worship long after service was dismissed! Best of all is his sense that NWI is becoming a family!
  • Finally, Pastor Herley reports that our Davao City campus had a ‘full house’ today and although he didn’t have a final count yet, he said there were ‘so many’ who came forward to receive Jesus as Savior! (considering how many salvations they seem to have each week, for him to say ‘so many’ is A LOT!) They’re also gearing up for a BIG Easter with us by renting a gymnasium to hold even more people!

Now, off to O’Hare-

 

Ask the Pastor

The latest question submitted to me is gut-wrenchingly honest: “I struggle feeling disgust towards homosexuals; is that wrong? I know nowadays it’s not politically correct to openly express that, but what does the Bible say regarding that?”

Wow.  Not only is it not ‘politically correct’, but you could probably go to prison for ‘hate speech’ or face other criminal charges for such homophobic views today in this country.  Nonetheless, you were brave enough to ask the question, so I’ll be brave enough to answer from Scripture:

  • It is never wrong to struggle with our feelings, because that’s all they are, feelings.  BUT it’s VERY important that you do recognize how wrong those feelings are and continue to battle against them until you win!  Having feelings or thoughts that you know are not pleasing to God is part of our battle against our flesh, and Jesus made it clear that the only way to win is to crucify our flesh; i.e., die to our own natural tendencies, thoughts or actions in order to please Him! (see Matthew 16:23-25)
  • The Bible is VERY clear that we are to LOVE all people, regardless of their lifestyle choices, sexual preferences, race, religion, etc.  In fact, we’re even told to love our enemy! (see Luke 6:27-30)
  • The phrase that many Christian leaders use in this regard is “hate the sin, but love the sinner!”  In other words, in our heart and in our actions, we are called to love  everyone, even though we should hate how sin prevents them from being all that God has created and called them to be.  That’s true whether we’re talking about addictive behaviors, poor choices, or lifestyle decisions that are contrary to God’s Word and His good will for us.

I hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

A dream coming true….

That’s how I’m feeling about the 3Sixty° School of Ministry which will open at CLC this Fall.  After all, part of our calling is to equip people for ministry (see Eph. 4:11-12).

More specifically, we had a prophetic word almost 17 years ago that CLC would operate a school for “advanced training for ministry”, and other prophecies 10 years later that we would send out more people for preaching and teaching “to this nation and other nations“.  Well, it’s been a long time in coming, but that day of fulfillment is almost here!

If you or someone you love is between the ages of 18-25 (that’s our target; other ages can apply) and have a desire to not only learn the Bible, but also to receive practical, hands-on training in a variety of ministries, we’d love to hear from you.  Check out our website for all the details and if you still have questions, just let us know.

Kingdom VIOLENCE

NOT the kind of violence that’s on our nightly news broadcasts – we’ve got TOO much of that already.

But I am in favor of ‘Kingdom Violence’, which is the subject of this Sunday’s message as we go deeper in the subject of spiritual warfare in obedience to the prophetic word we received in January.

In case you’re thinking that ‘violence’ is never a good thing, take a look at what Jesus said about it in Matthew 11:12 to see if that changes your mind.  (After all, this is the year of deeper, when we agreed to,”FIRST, let’s find out what the Lord says!”)

The Bible makes it clear that we have been given some ‘mighty’ weapons with which to be violent (see 2Cor. 10:3-5).  This Sunday we’ll look at some of the ‘mightiest’ of those weapons, and how YOU can put them to use in your own life.

I can’t wait.  Hope to see you here Sunday!

P.S. Who are you inviting to one of our 11 Easter weekend celebrations?

Memory verses for APRIL

At CLC, this is the year of deeper!  One of the ways we’re going DEEPER is by calling the entire congregation to memorize at least one verse of Scripture each month (two verses for those who are really going deeper!)

With everything else that was happening this week at our Family Sunday, we neglected to give you the April verses, so here goes:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”                 Matthew 7:7 NLT

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead”  
Ephesians 1:19-20a NLT
Let’s go DEEPER!

Talking Bible: The LAST GIANT before receiving the promises…

During my daily Bible reading recently I came to Deuteronomy 3:11, where the last giant before Israel crossed into the Promised Land is mentioned.  I found it interesting that the only thing we learn about him is that he had a big bed (over 13′ long & 6′ wide!)

I think there’s a message here.

The last giant we’ll have to overcome before we can walk in the promises of God is probably our own laziness.

I mean, you must really enjoy nap-time to have a 13-foot-long BED!

This I know: the biggest thing that stands in the way of our 2020 Vision is not a lack of money, or a lack of interested people, or the wrong location, or any of the obstacles we sometimes blame for our failures.  No, the biggest giant in my life and yours is our own flesh that wants to take it easy.

We. Can. Slay. That. Giant.

Let’s pray like it all depends on God, and work like it all depends on us.  Ready?

 

Sunday reflections

Here’s what I noticed about today’s ‘Family Sunday’ at CLC:

  • our Youth Band, Ignite, did a great job of leading worship!  It’s encouraging to see the next Generation coming behind us with a heart to worship! 
  • Our KidsLife Dancers have a ‘cute factor’ that is simply off the charts!

KidsLife Dance team

 

  • My wife threw down in all 3 services!

 

  • In fact, in what must be a record of some kind, my wife threw 3 ‘Hail Mary’ passes and ALL 3 were completed on the front row for TD’s!  (one by a girl!)
  • I’m sure the noon service set another record for CLC – in 24 years and 1 Sunday, we have NEVER dedicated seven (count ‘em) babies in one service!

baby dedication gifts lined up before service

 

  • At our South Bend campus, Pastor Doug says they closed their sermon series on a high note and move into their next one with high expectations!
  • Pastor Sam reports that NWI campus broke 200 in attendance for the 3rd time in their 6-month history, with over a dozen first-time guests!  Their youth team led worship as well, and Nate & Jessica Hernandez presented their daughter Maya to the Lord in dedication, so that’s at least 8 baby dedications for CLC today! (It’s also one way to grow a church!)

Nate & Jessica with Maya (and Emili)

Ok…about time to head back for KidsLife FX tonight!

Ask the Pastor

This week’s question is ”How come we only hear about Jesus as a baby and the last few years of his life ? What about the time between those periods?”

Ahhh, someone’s been reading their Bible!  Let me try to answer:

First, the Bible itself promises that it contains everything we need to be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2Tim. 3:16-17)and we also know that God has given us  everything we need for living a godly life (2Peter 1:3), so perhaps the BEST and most accurate answer is that God didn’t feel we needed to know about the period in Jesus’ life between age 12 and age 30.  (I understand your curiosity, but I also know that God knows best and He chose NOT to give us this information)

Second, your question is not entirely accurate, because the Bible does give us glimpses  into his life between his birth and his ministry: read Luke 2:39-52, and notice specifically:

  • Jesus grew up healthy & strong in Nazareth, and God’s favor was on him.  Since his adopted father (Joseph) was a carpenter (Matt. 13:55), we can safely assume that he learned carpentry as a boy as well, after the custom of that day.
  • He must have made an annual trek to Jerusalem from his home in Nazareth, and by the age of 12, he already knew His mission on earth(Luke 2:49)
  • Even though he knew his mission, he submitted to his earthly parents, and continued to grow physically, mentally, spiritually and socially (Luke 2:52)
  • That’s all we’re told until he began his public ministry at age 30 (Luke 3:23)

Finally, one of the Gospel writers, John, does shed light on WHY God gave us the information about Jesus that we do have – read for yourself in John 20:30-31.  Simply put, the Gospels didn’t attempt to give us a full biography of Jesus, as some historian might, but instead gave us what we need to know in order to put our trust in Him as Savior and Lord, and receive the eternal life that He provided through His death on the Cross!

P.S. There are some ancient books that claim to offer (among other things) an account of the boy Jesus, but each of those (sometimes called “Gnostic Gospels“) was rejected by the leaders of the early Church as not being inspired by God, and thus they are not included in the Canon of Scripture.

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

2020 Vision

Not 20/20 vision – I haven’t had that without prescription lenses in the last 50 years or so.

I’m talking about our vision for CLC by the year 2020 (which, believe it or not, is less than six years from now!).  It will also mark our 30th Anniversary as a church, and since this is our 24th Anniversary week, I thought it was appropriate to share my heart.

I don’t know how many more years of ministry the Lord will grant me, but if I’m still around in 2020, these are my main goals for CLC:

1.  I want to see at least 12 ‘spokes’ as has been prophesied to us, meaning at least 12 campuses worldwide.

2.  I want to see us graduate 200 leaders from our 3SIXTY School of Ministry (which will open this Fall – here’s a preview of our website)

3.  I want our broadcast campus (currently, Tinley Park, but wherever in 2020 we broadcast the message to our other campuses) to be debt-free!

4.  I want CLC to average 5,000 people in worship each week!

“When there’s no vision, the people get out of control, but whoever obeys instruction is happy.”  Proverbs 29:18 CEB

That’s the vision I believe God has given me for CLC.  Who’s with me?

Easter explained

Eas·ter noun \ˈē-stər\ : a Christian church festival that celebrates the return of Jesus Christ to life following his death; also : the Sunday in early spring on which this festival is observed

What the dictionary doesn’t tell you is that Easter is The Event that even non-Christians often consider going to church.  And for that reason alone it becomes the “Super Bowl” for The Church – the one time we should go all-out to reach people with the Good News.

And to celebrate the 25th Easter at CLC, we’ve set an audacious goal to reach 3,000 people in one weekend, the same number who met Jesus on the Birthday of the Church in Acts 2

There are 11 opportunities to do that across our 4 campuses, and here’s the strategy, using tickets for each service:

1.    We want to be sure to have seats for you to invite friends & family. If everyone showed up to same service, we wouldn’t have near enough seats. Offering tickets will help spread out the crowd so we have more seats for more people.

2.    Tickets will make it easier to invite your friends. By far the #1 reason a person attends a church is because a friend invited them. Having a ticket with all the info on it will make it easier for you to invite your friends.

3.    Tickets communicate value.  When you invite your friends, you’re saying, “I have reserved a seat just for you.”

4.    Tickets communicate that Easter at CLC is open to the community. Believe it or not, many of your friends who do not attend church do not assume they can come anytime. Many of them feel like they need to be invited in order to attend…not just Easter, but any Sunday.

So here’s what you need to do:

1.    Pick the service you and your family will attend.

2.    Get tickets for you & your family. Yes, we need you to get tickets for yourself, too. (6 services to choose from in Tinley Park, 2 in NWI, 2 in Blue Island & 1 in South Bend!)

3.    Get tickets for friends you want to inviteYou can do so at the Information Desk at each campus OR at our website via the internet!

4.    Invite, invite, invite and pray, pray, pray – ask God to move powerfully in the lives of those you invite!

By the way, when we worked on the Easter message in our sermon planning meeting, all but one of our pastors wanted to get saved (we’re still praying for Pastor Matt) ;-)

Sunday reflections

24 years.  (Boy, I feel old)

But I also feel thankful to have lasted in ministry in Chicagoland this long.  Twenty-four years ago at Tinley Park High School, a grand total of 147 people showed up to worship at the first service of a new church known as CLC.  Today, a total of 1,754 gathered for worship at our three USA campuses (soon to be four!)  All I can say is, ‘thank you, Jesus!’

  • In Tinley Park today, comedian Michael Jr. was our guest for all 3 services, and we saw 117 people come forward to make commitments to Christ, including probably more than 20 who were born-again!  (While emotion is not necessary, I was moved to see people wiping away tears in the altar AND even in The Loft after service, so don’t ‘discount’ decisions that people made after a comedian!)

 

  • In fact, we had 2 people come forward to receive Christ at our NWI campus, after receiving the message from Michael Jr. via video!
  • At our South Bend campus, Pastor Doug reports a great service and awesome Next Steps 2 class led by one of their elders.

Now, it’s back to CLC for tonight’s Comedy Event with Michael, Jr!

Ask the Pastor

A CLC’er who has recently joined our Blue Island Launch team asks, “What is God’s response or what does the Bible say regarding illnesses? Does praying really help? And why does God allow it to happen? (Like a baby who has cancer?)”

Great questions!  Especially because these questions are often asked by skeptics and even sincere unbelievers who struggle to believe in a good God in view of some of the pain and heartache in our fallen world.  Let me try to answer, briefly and in order:

  • Sickness and disease is part of the curse that resulted from Man’s Fall in the Garden of Eden. So keep in mind that sickness did not come from God; it came from Satan and is a direct result of man’s sin.
  • However, the Bible is filled with promises that God is our Healer! (see Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 32:39; 2Chronicles 30:20; Psalm 103:3, 107:20; Isaiah 38:20, 53:5; Jeremiah 30:17; Matthew 8:1-3, 10:1, 10:8; James 5:14-15)
  • In view of those verses and others like them, ABSOLUTELY prayer really helps!  I’ve personally witnessed people healed instantly of such afflictions as broken bones, blindness, deafness, and more, as well as progressive(i.e., greatly accelerated recovery from sickness & disease after prayer) in my years of ministry.
  • As to why God allows it to happen, the only answer I can give you is that we still live in a fallen world.  As I said above, sickness did not originate with God, who created man to live forever – but resulted from Man’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden.  Our fallen world includes hatred, racism, violence, wars, cruelty, abuse, rape and many things besides illness that God never wanted or designed for any of us to experience – but they are part of this fallen world – and really are a reflection of the enemy who came to stealkill, and destroy (see John 10:10)

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

Have you reserved your place?

This weekend is a BUSY one at CLC (maybe I should say, ‘busier than usual’), so I want to remind you to reserve your place if you haven’t already done so:

  • Retirement Planning seminar - Saturday,March 23 from 9-10:30 a.m. in the Youth Auditorium at our Tinley Park campus.  This informational seminar will be conducted by a certified financial planner AND an insurance agent (the same men who are coaching me) to help you be aware of the financial issues and healthcare-related issues for you to consider in planning for your retirement.  Reserve your spot here so we are adequately prepared.

  • “I Was Broke, Now I’m Not” seminar on Sunday, March 23 at both our Tinley Park campus (10 a.m.) and our NWI Campus (12 noon). This seminar will help you get started on the road to financial freedom, using proven principles from God’s Word that have helped others eliminate credit-card debt and manage their finances wisely.  You’ll also have opportunity to get personal coaching from a trained IWBNIN coach afterwards.  Sign up today so you don’t miss out!
Finally, not only are we celebrating 24 years of blessings on CLC with comedian Michael Jr. as our special guest for all 3 services in Tinley Park, but there’s still room for you and your guests at the ticketed comedy event at 6pm this Sunday, March 23.  (It looks like this could be a sold-out event, so I recommend you don’t wait until Sunday to get your ticket – reserve your seat by purchasing here!)

P.S. You’ll also hear on Sunday about another ticketed event that promises to be the biggest thing we’ve ever done in 24 years….but you have to wait until Sunday to find out.

URGENT prayer request for our SENEGAL team

I just received a phone call from Dr. Yomi Akintorin who is leading our medical trip to Senegal this week. It seems the government of Senegal has changed some regulations (as often happens in developing nations when new leaders are elected), and as a result, they have not released about 80% of the medications that our team brought with them, to be dispensed to needy patients during the free clinics.

From his phone call, it sounds like they are not looking for a bribe from us, but rather that certain officials within Senegal must sign-off to give permission for these needed medications to be released to our team.

Please pray for FAVOR to remove these roadblocks so our team can do what they went their to do: serve the people of Senegal with free medical clinics!

I’m also praying for our team to overcome the frustration & discouragement of these obstacles (Dr. Yomi didn’t mention that, but I can only imagine how I’d feel if I were in Dakar right now).

Thanks for your fervent prayers!

More Sunday reflections…

I’ve received more information since Sunday that I thought I should pass along:

  • at our Winter Camp last weekend, 12 young people gave their life to Christ during the Worship Night on Saturday, including several who were guests invited to Camp by our Consumed youth!  Also included in that number was a girl from our NWI Campus who was reached through their outreach at a Hammond school!
  • AND at least 1 young man was baptized in the Holy Spirit during the Camp!  MEGA-Kudos to Matt DeLaTorre and Nate & Jessica Hernandez and EACH of their team members who worked so hard (and did without sleep) to make the camp a success!
  • After tabulating the commitments for the Blue Island Launch, we are about half-way in each category listed – so I’m praying now for the other half of CLC’ers to step up and help us launch this new campus without going into debt!  (For more details, you can watch the message here OR submit your offering herescroll all the way to the end for ‘Blue Island Launch’.)
  • Finally, while the Stewardship 2.0 series is now history, perhaps the biggest HELP from the series is THIS weekend, when we’ll offer a Retirement Planning seminar on Saturday from 9-10:30am and a ‘I Was Broke Now I’m Not!’ seminar on Sunday from 10-11:30am.  We have almost 100 CLC’ers already registered for each of these free seminars, but it’s not too late – please sign-up here so we can have adequate materials on hand, and get started on your way to financial freedom!

P.S. Just one more thing: we gonna par-tay this Sunday to celebrate 24 years of blessing at CLC!  You don’t want to miss special guest, MICHAEL JR!

God@the Movies!

No, it’s not time for that popular series at CLC – we save that for summer!

But I can’t help but notice that God is the theme of a lot of Hollywood movies these days:

  • Son of God is already out on the big screen, and I’ve heard both rave reports & criticism (isn’t that how it usually goes?).  This movie is primarily taken from The Bible TV Miniseries that was released last year on the History channel.  In my humble opinion, the producers sincerely wanted to make a movie/TV series that would communicate the Gospel to those who don’t know the Lord, but earned some criticism for changes they made to the Biblical accounts.
  • Noah is a retelling of the Biblical story, and, as usual, Hollywood takes the liberty of making a number of changes to the Biblical description.  For that reason I’ve already heard some criticism by Christian leaders, but, hey – it’s drawing attention to the Bible for some who never read it!
  • Heaven is For Real – based on the true story of Colton Burpo, who had a near-death experience and later shared with his parents some amazing stories of his experiences with Jesus in heaven.  (We used his story a few years ago on Easter Sunday).  Some CLC staffers saw a preview screening recently & highly recommend it for anyone!
  • God’s Not Dead - from what I’ve heard, this one may have more potential for witnessing to the unsaved than any of the others.  It’s based on an apologetic book by a charismatic pastor/missionary, Rice Broocks, and provides factual arguments for the existence of God in an atheistic, college setting.

So, whether ‘yer fer or aginst’ as they say down South, I’m encouraged by the potential to get folks interested in God and the Bible.  If you choose to watch any of these in the theater, I’d love to hear your comments afterward-

P.S. For our ‘God@the Movies’ series, we’ll stick with non-religious flicks that still enable us to communicate truth to today’s audience, and I’m already looking forward to it this summer.  (If you want to nominate any non-religious films, I’m all ears!)

Sunday reflections

Here’s my reflection on this final Sunday of our 24th year of ministry at CLC: I’m tired! Since early this morning I have driven about 40 minutes to the Jacksonville, FL airport, waited over an hour for my flight with United, flown over 2 hours to reach O’Hare, been driven from O’Hare to CLC in an all-time record of 38 minutes and preached 3 times!  (Somehow I don’t think I want to try that again) Nonetheless, it was a good day:

  • Thankful for the good folks of CLC who overlooked my mis-speaks and mistakes to respond so well to the teaching in all 3 services-
  • VERY thankful for the response to the Blue Island launch challenge, with about $45,000 committed just today!  Almost half-way there!
  • Thankful for leaders who lead the way: of the 7 people who have already committed at least $1,000 to help with the Blue Island launch, 5 of them are trustees or officers of CLC!
  • thankful for the NWI campus who, despite being only 6 months into their own launch and with one of their lowest-attendances yet (due to Spring Break for their college students, Winter Camp for their teens and some family vacations) still committed $2800 to ‘pay it forward’ in Blue Island!
  • thankful for another good report from the South Bend campus, where Pastor Doug reports another great worship experience and that word seems to be spreading about their ministry, as people are inviting others and they’re seeing new faces in the congregation each week!
  • And I just heard from Pastor Herley at our Philippines campus who says today was a civic celebration in Davao with some of the festivities at the very Mall that houses their Sunday services, so they had a full house & many guests who prayed to receive Christ!
  • By the way, for those of you who asked, the movie about Jim Elliot is called, “End of the Spear”
  • The Global Rich List will enable you to plug in your earnings and see where YOU rank in the world’s wealthiest individuals
  • You can give to the Blue Island Launch fund by scrolling all the way to the bottom and designate “Blue Island tithes” for now – our tech teach will get the Launch Fund online this week, so stay tuned-

think I’ll let the TV watch me now-

Ask the Pastor

There were NO questions again this week, so I’m re-posting this “Ask the Pastor” from November of 2008:

Someone asked about this verse this week, specifically, why do pastors and believers try so hard to draw people to salvation, or even warn them of the danger of not accepting Christ, if the Spirit is not drawing them?  It’s another important question, and I hope my simple answer will suffice.

As I understand Scripture, Jesus was simply saying that salvation is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.  We can and we should be a witness to unsaved people, both with our lifestyle and with our words, and we can pray and encourage and challenge people to be saved – but ultimately it requires a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to change someone’s heart and draw them to Him.

So even though no one can come to Christ unless the Spirit is at work to draw them, the truth remains that the Holy Spirit does use our hands and our feet and our mouths as His instruments to do that drawing.  Otherwise, there would be no need to send missionaries (I’m writing this from India, and I assure you that I wouldn’t go to all of this trouble and physical inconvenience unless I knew that my efforts were making a difference!) or conduct evangelistic campaigns or do almost any of the things that we do as believers in order to reach out to others.  Thank God that we can be His representatives to help bring people to God!  In fact, He has given us that privilege and responsibility!

Hope this helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

IRAN: not in the headlines

I’ll be leaving our home before 4am tomorrow for a flight to Elam Ministries Founders Weekend.  (Chris was scheduled to go with me, but she has flu-like symptoms again, so I’ll be traveling solo this time. Please pray for her!)

Here in the US, when we hear Iran mentioned in the media, it’s usually because of their nuclear program or another speech denouncing America as the ‘Great Satan’ or one of their clerics telling the world how Iran wants to remove Israel from the face of the earth.

What most Americans don’t know is that one of the greatest revivals on earth is happening underground in Iran, with multiplied thousands of people coming to faith in Christ each year.  Perhaps the largest and most effective outreach in Iran is being done by Elam Ministries, and on Friday and Saturday I’ll have the privilege of hearing first-hand reports from their ministry leaders.  (I was invited because CLC is a significant partner with Elam in training leaders in Iran.)

I’m catching the first flight back to O’Hare before dawn on Sunday morning, so if all goes according to schedule, I’ll be at CLC in time to deliver the finale of Stewardship 2.0and I won’t be surprised if some Iranian stories creep into the message on ‘Live Generously’.  See ya then!

Testimonies keep coming!

This Sunday will be the finale of our ‘Stewardship 2.0′ series, but the testimonies keep coming!  Yesterday I heard from a new attender who started worshiping at CLC just a month ago.  She accepted the 90-Day Tithe Challenge on March 2 (along with a few hundred other CLC’ers) and she learned yesterday from her employer that when she receives her paycheck this Friday she’ll also receive a $3500 BONUS!

As I’ve said before, sometimes God blesses our obedience with financial increase (like hers) and sometimes He blesses us with stuff that money cannot buy!  That’s some of what we’ll talk about this Sunday when Stewardship 2.0 comes to a close with “Living Generously”.  I hope you’ll be here – and invite a friend!

One more financial tip that could change your life!

Not sure how I forgot this yesterday, because it may be the most important tip I could give for those who are hurting financially!

It’s certainly not original with me – the idea has been around for years, and many of us have used it successfully, it’s perhaps best explained by Dave Ramsey here.

I pray you’ll get that debt snowballing rolling AND, if you haven’t already registered for our  ”I Was Broke, Now I’m Not” free seminar on Sunday, March 23 or the “Retirement Planning”  seminar on Saturday, March 22 at 9am, you can do so here.

By the way, I’ve already received an email from one of the people we prayed for Sunday during the message – she got a job on Monday!  I’d love to hear from any of you who have a tithe testimony or an employment testimony from Stewardship 2.0!

Help for hurting finances

As every pastor knows, there’s always more material than you can possibly cover in any one message.  For sure, that was the case yesterday at CLC, so I want to pass on a few resources to help anyone who’s hurting financially:

  • if you just want to enjoy the best-selling book on credit card debt again, take another look!
  • don’t miss THIS Sunday when we’ll close the series with “Living Generously” (it has less to do with your finances than you might think – it’s about living as God intended)

Sunday reflections

Random musings after a Daylight Savings Time Change Sunday at CLC:

  • FIRST, I’m thankful for 8 people who were baptized in water (congrats to Caprice O’Bryant, Keith Gutierrez, Martha Boyd, Andrea Boyd, Danielle Smith, Bryana Mendez, Candace O’Bryant-Tomas, and Gabrielle O’BryantAND at least 4 others who prayed to receive Christ today (after a teaching about financial management!)
  • I’ve written often about our Worship Pastor & Worship Director leading us into the Presence each Sunday, but today I opened my eyes during worship & noticed the  entire choir was really going after God and leading all of us in – SO thankful for all of the ‘Servants of Praise’ – leaders, singers & musicians – who aren’t interested in entertaining people, but who do entertain the Presence of the Holy Spirit each week!
  • BLOWN-AWAY by the response to both upcoming financial seminars – I think we have over 75 people for each who signed-up at the Info Desk today, and others who registered online.  If you’re interested in the “I Was Broke, Now I’m Not” seminar on March 23 at 10am OR the Retirement Planning seminar on March 22 at 9am, you can sign up for either or both here.
  • By the way, I think TODAY was a record for CLC – the smallest attendance decline due to a Daylight Savings Time Change ‘Spring Forward’ – not sure what we did differently, but today was almost normal, and actually about 100 more peeps than last week’s ‘snow Sunday’!
  • VERY thankful for the dedicated team of doctors, nurses, intercessors & workers who will travel to Senegal this Friday to conduct free medical clinics among poor Muslims as we continue to bless our partners in West Africa:

praying over some of the 15 CLC’ers heading to Senegal this week, led by Drs. Yomi & Mope Akintorin (front row, left)

 

 

Sheri Postma (left) & Shonie Purnell (right) are 2 of the nurses who will bless people in Senegal next week!

FAVORITE lobby conversation of the day: after the last service I learned that someone who stopped to purchase a ticket for the Michael Jr. comedy event, hesitated, then said, “After hearing today’s message, I think I better go home & think about whether to spend the money for this ticket!”  #NotGoingIntoDebtEvenForLaughs!

  • Our NWI campus had LOTS to praise God for, with (a) great worship/Presence; (b) volunteers from First Touch to KidsLife to Worship to Youth all really stepping up – serving consistently and with excellence, according to Pastor Sam; (c)  a new member who signed up to serve in ministry already; and (d) someone who took the Tithe Challenge last Sunday and whose income has almost doubled already!!!
  • Pastor Doug was ecstatic about today at our South Bend campus, not only because of the worship & response to the teaching about giving today, but because almost half the congregation attended a ‘think tank’ meeting with volunteers!  Doug says they’re setting a new culture at CLC-South Bend and it feels really great!
  • In our Philippines campus the growth continues as Pastor Herley reports that another 20 new people came forward to give their lives to Christ today, following strong worship & a great response to the Word!  In fact, their goal for their next Encounter Retreat this month is 300 new believers!  Gotta love what God is doing in the Philippines!

Think I’ll see if I can find that hour of sleep I lost last night……

Ask the Pastor

NO questions were submitted this week, so I’m re-posting this one from 2007:

Last Friday’s post got piqued some interest on the subject of tithing – here’s today’s question: A lot of people feel that tithing was something that was done in the Old Testament and we don’t really have to tithe anymore. Can you give me some scriptures in the New Testament that shows that we are still obligated to pay tithes?”

Such a great question.  Like you, I’ve heard all those comments, and I know good people who’ve bought in to that error, and thus miss out on God’s promised blessings.  Here are a few New Testament Scriptures regarding tithing:

  • Matthew 23:23 – notice that our Lord Jesus Himself said about tithing, we “ought” to do.  That’s a strong word – tithing is something we are morally obligated (ought) to do!
  • 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 – here is the New Testament pattern (Paul was teaching all the churches to do this) – their giving was to be done “in proportion” to what they had received.  That means they were to give a set percentage of their income.  What would that percentage be?  Obviously, the entire Old Testament had prescribed 10%, so there was no need for Paul to repeat that information again – they already knew that!
  • Hebrews 7:7-15 – please note that Paul speaks of tithing in the present tense (‘we pay tithes’) which means tithing was still being practiced in the New Testament Church and his argument is that Melchizidek never died, so he’s still receiving tithes.  (Since Melchizidek is a type of Jesus, you could say that Jesus is receiving our tithes!)

Matthew 5:17-22, 27-48 addresses that whole argument better than anything.  Whoever says that we are not under the law anymore obviously doesn’t understand – Jesus didn’t come to destroy or contradict the law; He came to fulfill it!

Would any Christian today commit murder and then say, “well, I’m not under the law anymore, so it’s ok for me to kill someone.” NO!  Would any believer commit adultery and then say when confronted, “I’m not under the law, so I don’t have to live by that commandment anymore” - Of course not.

In fact, as you notice in those verses from the Sermon on the Mount, while the law of Moses had imposed several requirements on God’s people, Jesus emphatically added more – instead of “don’t kill”, in the New Testament, it’s “don’t hate”; instead of “don’t commit adultery”, in the New Testament, it’s “don’t look with lust”; in other words, in this New Testament time of grace (remember grace and truth came by Jesus Christ – John 1:17), Christians do more than the minimal requirements of the Law.

When people tell me that they’re not under the Law and don’t have to tithe, I say, “oh, so you give more than 10% out of love for what God has done by His grace”!

The real issue behind those objections and arguments is a lack of trust in God’s Word and/or a stronghold of mammon.  I don’t have time in this post to develop that further, but the truth is, we don’t tithe to the Lord because we have to, we tithe our income to the Lord because we want to honor Him for what He’s done for us! (Prov. 3:9-10; Exodus 13)

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

Financial freedom or an hour of sleep…

That’s the choice many CLC’ers will have this weekend.

(For the record, I hate the fact that the Daylight Savings Time Change occurs on Sunday morning.  I’ve watched for years as a pastor in different churches that no matter how much we announce it in advance, many folks inevitably wake up an hour late & when they discover that, just don’t bother coming to church that day.  Or maybe they decide in advance that it will be a day to sleep in – can’t say for sure; I just know it’s historically one of the lowest-attended Sundays of the year, every year!)

But I especially am disturbed about this weekend.

You see, last Sunday I taught the first of 3 keys to having “Worry-Free Finances”.  Some CLC’ers told me afterward it was the clearest presentation on tithing they had ever heard, and a few hundred people took the 90-day tithe challenge at the end of service.

But THIS Sunday is just as important to your financial freedom, because no matter how consistently you tithe, if you don’t practice the 2nd key, you will still not enjoy the blessing of worry-free finances as God intended.

Yesterday I met with our sermon-planning team of about 10 pastors & leaders, as we do each Tuesday, to discuss this Sunday’s message.  More than one of those leaders told me afterward that they were going home to discuss some changes with their spouse to improve their finances.  I know this Sunday’s teaching WILL help folks who want to get out of debt and enjoy life as God intended.

But before we can get to that teaching, we have to choose to lose an hour of sleep on Saturday night (or go to bed an hour earlier, which takes even more discipline).

Which will it be for YOU?  An hour’s sleep, or 75-minutes at CLC that could change your entire financial future?  It’s your choice.

Easter’s a’coming!

In just about 6 weeks, Easter will be here.

Sounds impossible, right?

I know; this is the coldest, snowiest winter I ever recall, and it seems like it just won’t quit. But whether the weather cooperates or not, we will be celebrating Easter in April.

AND, I’m excited to announce that we’re going to do so BIGGER than ever at CLC.

So mark your calendar and be listening for more news soon as we unveil our plans to have 3,000 people worship at a CLC campus on Easter weekend!

We can do this, with God’s help…….and YOURS!

Sunday reflections

I don’t like an empty house.  I miss my wife.  I’m sleepy.

Oops, that’s not the kind of reflection this is supposed to be about.  Here’s my musings about yet another snow day at CLC:

  • I think it’s awesome that 4 people prayed to receive Christ after a message called  “Tithe Consistently”!
  • Today’s communion observance was one of my favorites – the worship leading into it and the prayer that Pastor Tony led afterwards just really made it special!
  • It’s not new, but I love “I Call You Jesus”.  More than that, I appreciate the way Pastor Jon Jones and Terrell Wilson lead us into the Presence of God every Sunday!
  • enjoyed teaching today – especially because of fresh insights into an old subject!
  • I’m thankful for the response from CLC’ers who took the 90-day tithe challenge, and I’m expecting some great testimonies to come out of these commitments, because tithing works!
  • Pastor Sam reports that our NWI campus had a banner day: almost 200 attended  despite the snow; 32 people took the tithe challenge; saw the first ‘fruit’ of their tutoring program as one of the students they’re working with came to church today & signed up for Winter Camp; and had a record offering total! Love what God is doing in NWI through Sam & Taylor’s leadership!

Kris Thomas (17 yrs old) & Zion Middlebrooks (13 yrs old) did a great job leading “ALIVE” by Hillsong Youth & Free at CLC-NWI today!

 

Speaking of Indiana, our South Bend campus also had a great day, with Pastor Doug reporting lots of ‘new faces in the place’ and worship that was ‘off the charts’!

All in all, it was a GREAT day in spite of the snow.  Now, c’mon Spring!

Ask the Pastor

A long-time friend of our ministry writes, “Pastor, if a man’s wife really likes people like Elvis, is that ok? What if there are singers that she goes to their concerts; swoons over them;  listens to their music, etc.? What if her newfound artist brings her husband more sex but then he wonders who she is thinking about? At what point is it idolatry or even adultery (in her mind) (maybe in her body if she could). Does that not leave the husband trying to compete against an unfair standard?”

Wow.  Double wow.  That is a first for me – but I can imagine that other couples have faced similar concerns, so let me try to apply some Scripture to it:

  • first, this sounds like a real problem, in which case I would certainly recommend some no-holds-barred, honest conversation between husband & wife – and if that didn’t resolve the situation, probably seeing a marriage counselor is best.
  • I don’t think there’s anything in Scripture that directly addresses which artist we are allowed to enjoy or whether we can attend a concert, etc.
  • BUT, you bring up very real Biblical concerns regarding both idolatry (an idol can be anything or anyone that comes between us and God – Exodus 20:3 - and that could include entertainment artists.  Seems like one TV show is called, “American  Idol“) and adultery (Matt. 5:27-28 is pretty clear!)  Only your wife knows if she has crossed those lines.
  • Here’s the deal: in my limited experience with marriage counseling, in situations like this it’s usually a spouse being concerned while their partner thinks it’s no big deal, and that’s where the rub comes in.  The bottom-line for me is 1Cor. 7:33-34 - in marriage, we are called to please our spouse.  So if the husband feels he is competing against an unfair standard, his wife needs to respect that and they must make some compromises to insure the health of their marriage.
  • I think Jimmy Evans said it as well as it can be said during our Valentine’s weekend message about “Becoming One”: marriage only works when it’s first! If a husband or wife is NOT priority to their spouse, there will be problems. My prayer is that you & your wife can come to an acceptable agreement about this issue – and  please each other!
Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

2 places at one time?

Ever wished you could be in 2 places at the same time?

That’s how I felt last night.  Pastor Ben & I are in Orlando until Friday afternoon, studying church growth with Nelson Searcy and Dr. Elmer Towns (who has probably forgotten more about reaching people in his 81 years than most pastors will ever know!).  The opening day was good, but I SO wished that I could have been at CLC for the Encounter night with our missionary guest from India!

Our partnership with his ministry has already been more fruitful than I ever imagined, and my time with him on Monday & Tuesday were a pure joy, which is another reason that I wanted to be there last night, to share the experience with our CLC family.

So, here’s my request: since I wasn’t there to enjoy his presentation AND especially to see how CLC’ers were impacted, could YOU give me a report?  If you were present last night, would you take a moment to share your thoughts below?

C’mon, help a pastor live vicariously through you-

Good news & “God news”

As you probably know we’re preparing to launch our 4th campus in a few weeks in the south suburb of Blue Island.  This week we received some great news and a ‘word’ from God’s Word, too:

  • first, the good news: we learned officially this week that we cleared the final hurdle on the building we’re negotiating to buy to house the Blue Island campus.  That issue would have been a deal-breaker, because it would have almost doubled the cost of the building, but it’s now a non-issue, so we’re about to purchase a 3-story, 20,000+ square-foot facility for less than the cost of renting a Sunday meeting space!
  • even better, we now have the minimum number of volunteer launch team members onboard, so we’re confident in moving forward.  (Notice the word ‘minimum’ – we could certainly still use YOUR help, so if the Holy Spirit nudges, be obedient by signing up here or by texting the word “BLUE” to 44-622.
  • finally, the “God news”: yesterday in my devotions I read Psalm 41:1 where the opening sentence jumped off the page at me, as the Lord promises a blessing for those who “consider the poor”!  As you know, Blue Island is surrounded by some of the poorest, neediest communities in the South Suburbs, and our plan is for this new campus, unlike any we’ve launched before, to be a “Dream Center” type operation,  offering practical help to the community 7 days a week!  That was our plan already, and now I read that God promises to bless us for considering the poor!

Then I read verse 2, where in the middle of several great promises, God says that       because we are considering the poor, HE will cause us to be “blessed on the earth”!

(If that doesn’t light your fire, I suspect your wood is wet)

It seems VERY clear to me that the Lord is going before us and showing us that HE is in this next campus launch, and I’m excited about what He will do through us in Blue Island and the surrounding communities!  Remember, if you want to get on board, you can sign-up here, OR text “BLUE” to 44-622, OR show up tomorrow night (February 27) at 7pm in the Fusion Room at CLC-Tinley Park for the first gathering of our launch team!

P.S. For even MORE amazing news, don’t miss tonight’s ‘Encounter” at 7pm when our partner, Aby Vargis will share what God is doing in INDIA through your giving at CLC!

Acts, chapter 29

All of you Bible readers already know that there’s only 28 chapters in the book of Acts.  And the scholars among us also know that it’s one book in the New Testament that did not have a formal ending - there’s no benediction or ‘amen’ at the end of chapter 28.

I suspect that’s because The Acts of the Holy Spirit through His Church are still being written in our day, as a “29th chapter of Acts”.

Yesterday, as I listened to our guest on my way back to CLC after picking him up at O’Hare, it felt like I was listening to the Book of Acts all over again, as he described what God is doing in some of the most unreached areas of our world, through our partnership with Indian Evangelical Team (IET, for short).

one of the baptisms in the churches we’re planting in Laxmipur, India

Wednesday night he will be our guest at CLC, sharing those amazing stories of how God is using YOUR giving to reach people with the Gospel in the most dangerous area of India in terms of Christian persecution.  In fact, I can’t share his name or his picture here on the internet, because of the very real danger from the fundamentalists there.

If you’re only going to attend one midweek gathering this year, this is the one – I urge you to come and hear for yourself – and relive the book of Acts!

Those who need it the most…..

One of the things every pastor learns is that “Sunday’s a’coming”; i.e., there’s little time to fret over a poorly-delivered sermon or to celebrate a great day of preaching, because in a few days it’s time to do it all over again.  I get that.  And usually by Sunday night, I’m already moving on to the next week in my head.

But today I’m still reflecting on yesterday’s topic, and especially the first example from Exodus 6:5-9.  Simply put, these people who were struggling in slavery couldn’t receive the 7-fold promise of God because they were so discouraged.  Those who needed it the most, couldn’t receive it.

That’s almost a given in ministry.  Those who need help with their marriage seem to not hear the teachings on marriage.  Those who are tempted morally seem unable to receive the Word on victory or purity.  Those who need help with their finances seem to not receive God’s instructions about money.

As I prayed this morning, I wept over the fact that so MANY in the body of Christ and at CLC still struggle in this area of finances, and I SO want to change that!  If you know someone who really needs this, give them this link to yesterday’s message.

More importantly, join us these next 3 Sundays as we explore 3 keys from Scripture that will enable any believer to have worry-free finances!

Sunday reflections

I’m sitting on the couch, with a scratchy throat and little voice, watching a little Bulls-Heat (without yelling at the TV), missing my wife (who preached in South Bend today and then drove back for a H2H board meeting), and feeling thankful for:

  • at least 7 people who prayed to receive Christafter the kick-off of a Stewardship series!  (seeing people cross the line of faith never gets old, but I get a special kick out of it when the subject is money!)
  • the CLC worship experience, week after week!  (Love being a part of a church that values the Presence of God in our gatherings!!)
  • the TEAM I get to work with! (can’t say it enough: our staff & pastors are the best!)
  • the privilege of preaching God’s Word! (Sure, I enjoy the comments afterward as much as the next guy, but the real joy is just hearing from God myself & then getting to share that with others)
  • our NWI campus! (Seems like every week I get a report from Pastor Sam about new members stepping up to serve, or the worship team doing an outstanding job of leading people into the Presence, or some other blessing that makes me know God is working through us there like He is here!)
  • our Davao, Philippines campus! (just got a report from Pastor Herley Montes that his wife Nelly preached their Sunday services, sharing how God has healed her following the brain aneurysm & stroke she suffered one year ago.  Afterward they prayed for the sick and many were healed, including one elderly woman in a wheelchair who got up & walked after Herley prayed!  Best of all, 37 people came forward to receive Christ afterward!
If you attended a service at one of our campuses today or joined us online, what are YOU thankful for?

 

 

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, ”It’s been a while since I’ve written. A friend of mine brought something very disturbing to my attention. Before I get too bent out of shape about it, I wanted to share it with you. Please review the segments on the following links:

It seems as though the devil is trying to snare our young people through “pop” music. I’ve started to turn it off in our house but get the eye roll and “I’m over reacting; it’s just a song thing.” Help!

Ouch.  I feel your pain as a parent, and I want to help.  Unfortunately, I did NOT have time to review the two videos in their entirety, so my response is more about my pastoral advice than about the specifics raised in the videos:

  • Sinners sin, and we shouldn’t expect anything different.  I’m not a fan of Christian websites that ‘blast’ specific individuals for sinful behavior – so I am not encouraging anyone to view the two sides you cited.
  • For far too long, most churches have been known for what we are against, instead of what we stand for.  As Jesus Himself pointed out in John 3:17, our role is to reach the world, not to condemn it’s behavior!

Having established those 2 important considerations, there is NO question that today’s entertainment world is pushing the envelope beyond ANY reasonable believer’s ability to accept.  I personally would not subject my own spirit to such defilement OR allow my eyes to cause my mind or body to sin through the influence of such performances as you listed (see 2Pet. 2:7-8) – AND I’m a 61-year old pastor – so I promise you that NO vulnerable, impressionable teen (or pre-teen) should ever be allowed free access to such entertainment if we parents are really trying to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

So the real question becomes, ‘how do we handle this with our children?’ and I think the verse I just cited contains an important key, as Eph. 6:4 opens by warning parents not to ‘exasperate’ their children by coming down hard on them. When our approach to these issues becomes shrill, argumentative, or defiant, we are losing the battle.  Instead, the Message translation says ‘take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master’. In other words, talk to your children about this issue personally, with love, explaining why this music is (a) corrupting God’s design for our bodies; (b) opening the door for immoral behavior; and (c) displeasing to the Lord who bought us with His own blood.

I would especially encourage you to have a real conversation – a dialogue – with your children, instead of lecturing them.  Let them ask questions.  Encourage them to express their views.  But give them the benefit of your maturity and wisdom in answering their objections with grace and sound reasoning.  Granted, that approach is more difficult than “because I said so”, but it’s your best chance of persuading them to follow you instead of their peers.

Finally, I would encourage EVERY parent reading this to help your teens (and pre-teens) to get active in your local church and youth ministry.  As I’ve said before from the pulpit, your local church is a parent’s best friend when it comes to raising teens!  Not only does your Youth Pastor reinforce what you teach your children at home, but they will also make friendships with other youth who seek to live godly, rather than following mindlessly in the ways of our increasingly perverted culture.

Any parents who have successfully dealt with this challenge with your teens, PLEASE leave your comments below, to help those who are still in the fight!

I hope this helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

St. Petersburg, Russia

Last night was a treat for our Iron Men group at CLC as we heard from my dear friend, Pastor Alexander Tsvetkov from New Testament Church in St. Petersburg, Russia:

Thanks to Bro. Igor (on left) who translated, we were able to enjoy a brief teaching from Pastor Alexander (on right)

Alexander exhorted us to be like Joseph, the husband of Mary, who HEARD from God and was OBEDIENT

After the message, our guys had so many questions about life & ministry in Russia that Alexander felt like a politician on the campaign trail!

Chris & I really love Alexander & his family, who were such gracious hosts to us last summer in St. Petersburg

If you’re interested in seeing the cultural center of Russia, CLC is making a missions trip there this July 21-30, and we’d love to have you be a part.  Contact Sol McQuay for all the details!

Financial worries

I need your help in answering a few questions today, because I want to be more helpful than ever in our ‘Stewardship 2.0′ series:

  • What is your biggest worry when it comes to finances?
  • Do you & your spouse ever argue about money?  What usually prompts it?
  • Do you ever use credit cards to pay for normal expenses (not as a matter of convenience, but because you don’t have the money?)
  • Do you have credit card debt?
  • Are you paying the minimum balance on your credit cards?

Feel free to remain anonymous if you wish, but your honesty will help me to help you and many others who may be struggling in the same way.

I can tell you this already: you do NOT want to miss this Sunday, when we introduce the series with THE single most important principle to help you be worry-free when it comes to finances!

Thanks in advance for your help in answering one or more of the questions-

Talking Bible: a good way to start every day!

love seeing stuff in Scripture I never saw before!  During my devotions this morning, I read the familiar Psalm 37.  It’s full of really good stuff, but I stopped at verse 5, with a footnote in my Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible that the word, ‘commit’ is the Hebrew word,  ‘galal’, which means “to roll, roll down, roll away, or remove”.

So we are told to ‘roll our way onto the Lord’.  The picture is of a camel, burdened with a heavy load; when the load is to be removed, the camel kneels down, tilts to one side, and the load rolls off.  Can you see it?

Whatever is weighing you down today, the Lord invites you to ‘roll it on HIM’, and HE promises to bring it to pass!  In fact, in verse 7 He says we should rest in Him and not fret because of others since fretting only causes harm (verse 8) and if we learn to live this way, we will be delighted with abundance of peace (verse 11).

I’ve met a lot of ‘camel Christians’ in my day, all burdened down with life’s stuff.  I’ve been a ‘camel Christian’ lots of days.  But today I’m determined to kneel down, tilt to one side, and let the load roll off on Jesus!  How ’bout you?

Talking Bible: pray this Word!

I’m sure I’ve seen this one before, but in my recent devotions, Genesis 32:11-12  jumped out at me again.  Did you catch it?

First, Jacob said, “I am afraid”.  He’s not the only one.  What is it that you fear today?

  • Initiating a tough conversation?
  • The possible consequences of a decision you have to make?
  • A doctor’s report?
  • A financial challenge?

But just as quickly, in the very next verse, Jacob said, “but You promised me”!

It’s OK to admit to God that you’re afraid of something – but it’s always right to add,  “but You promised!” - especially if you’ve got chapter & verse for what He promised.

That’s a Word you can pray today or any day!

Does that resonate with you?

Sunday reflections

Just a few random thoughts about Valentine’s weekend at CLC:

I heard the Marriage Conference (“Becoming One”) was awesome – kudos to Wes & Neesha Stringfellow & Marc & Rhonda White for coordinating it all for CLC!

I LOVED Pastor Jimmy Evans’ message about ‘Becoming Soul Mates’!

His Soul Mate MYTHS are SUCH lies from the enemy:

  • “My soul mate will be just like me”
  • “If I marry my soul mate, we won’t have any big problems & we’ll always be in love”
  • “My soul mate will always make me happy & meet all my needs”

Instead, he showed us that we create our soul mate through choosing:

  • empathy “5 minutes of empathy/day would resurrect a relationship”
  • Generosity - “It’s a choice to give, and whatever you sow, you reap!”
  • priority - “marriage only works when it’s first!”

Several CLC’ers asked how they could obtain the message for spouses or others who were absent today – because of copyright laws, we can’t post on our website as we usually do, but here’s the link to the entire message.

Pastor Doug reports that our South Bend campus enjoyed a “fantastic” service today to conclude their “STAND” sermon series.

And our NWI campus saw several new families visiting today for the first-time, PLUS several repeat guests from their BOGO promotion last Sunday – forward progress for Pastors Sam & Taylor and the NWI campus!

Finally, after today we’re at 80% of the necessary volunteers for the English-service at our Blue Island launchIf you weren’t in Tinley Park today, we’re at ‘crunch time’I’m pleadingif you have a pioneering spirit to be part of starting a new church OR if the Blue Island location will be more convenient for your family OR if you sense the Holy Spirit is nudging you to be a part of this launch - we need YOU!  Please register online or text the word, “BLUE” to 44-622.  Team-building & ministry training will begin next week, so please don’t delay – we WANT you!

 

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers in Atlanta (once a CLC’er, always a CLC’er!) wrote, “Well, since we are on the subject of Matthew and the parables, the one that got me a little confused yesterday was the woman with the leaven. I’ve read that the leaven (i.e. yeast) is what is making the kingdom grow but then I also read that while leaven is mentioned about 88 times in the Bible, it never refers to good, only evil. And therefore the leaven in this parable is actually evil being grown. But I guess the thing that stumps me the most is the parable starts “the Kingdom of Heaven is like”. So is Jesus saying the kingdom of heaven is this big vat of growing evil? Or (revelation perhaps?) The woman who hides the leaven where it grows is in fact the evil being sown while the parable right before that one where the man sows the mustard seed is the good being sown? So maybe while separate, they go hand in hand? I don’t know, maybe I’ve confused myself even more. Pastor, please untangle my lines.”

Wow.  Great question that almost got me confused for a moment.  Let me try to straighten this out for all of us:

  • although it may sound counter-intuitive, the expression “kingdom of heaven”  usually refers to the visible kingdom on earth, which is comprised of both good and bad, as we see in the parable of the weeds (‘tares’ for those of us raised on the KJV) in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 and the parable of the fishing net in Matthew 13:47-51.  In other words, the visible Church includes both saved & unsaved folks  (everybody that goes to church isn’t a child of God!).
  • Anyone who knows me or who reads this blog should know that there’s not a male chauvinist bone in my body and that I’m an outspoken advocate for women in leadership – BUT, I must say that when women are used in Scripture in a prophetic way (such as this parable), it almost always speaks of wickedness, as if something is out of order.  So the woman in the parable, in my understanding, speaks of a religious system that is not godly.
  • You are correct that leaven speaks of evil, and specifically can refer to deceptive teaching, as in Matthew 16:5-12, when Jesus warned His disciples of the doctrine of the Pharisees.
  • So, the prevailing interpretation of this parable (and the one I lean toward) is that Jesus was warning us that false teachings would enter His Church and, like yeast,  could quickly permeate the whole.  (Most scholars see that fulfilled in the church of Rome who introduced false teachings like the Immaculate Conception, purgatory, trans-substantiation, etc. that quickly turned the true Church into a state religion)
  • However, other scholars believe that the leaven in this story is not an evil reference, and instead focus on its ability to quickly spread.  Their interpretation is that the Gospel of the Kingdom, like yeast, is unstoppable, and they see this parable as a triumphant declaration that the Word of God would spread rapidly, just as we saw in the book of Acts, so that in a few short years the Church expanded beyond the Roman Empire into all of the then-known world.
  • Bottom-line is that this parable can either serve as a warning about the danger of false teachings, or as an encouragement about the power of the Gospel to spread throughout the earth.  Both are true!

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

 

Cambodia, day 3

The final day of our EQUIP conference in Phnom Penh was….., well, just sweet!

For years Chris & I have claimed the Philippines as our ‘first love’ (for all you religious folks, I’m talking about AFTER Jesus, of course).  I mean, if you can’t love Filipino’s, your love-er is broken!  But these Cambodians are really challenging that – they are SO eager to learn & so appreciative for every crumb we give out.

My favorite moment of the day was when Chris was doing a little game with them to review the lessons & see how well they could restate the leadership principles in their own words.  After several young women leaders had responded, I teasingly said,  “Where are all the men?”, and the next volunteer came forward & nailed one of the principles.  Get this: he is 72 years old!  His son, a staffer at New Life, led him to the Lord about 9 years ago, and the father now pastors a thriving church out in one of the rural provinces!  Leaders are learners, and he’s still growing at 72 years of age!

gray-haired and 72 years old, but still learning!

After the seminar and some important lunch appointments, the 6 of us (Eric & Meaghan Condon, Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul, Chris & me) flew to Siem Reap in northern Cambodia for 2-days of sightseeing & strategizing (since our conference with the Ministry of Education had to be postponed until October).  

Loved the conversations with Pastors Jesse & Soar, whom we admire and respect for the tremendous work they’re doing here, and Chris even got in a little shopping – so it was a good evening!  Today we’re off to visit some of the temples and learn the history of this region that was the largest-populated-city in the world a thousand years ago!

Enjoy a few more pics of these folks that we’re falling in love with-

Even Pastor Leah played the review game

Cambodia, day 2

Today was the MOST FUN we’ve ever had teaching an EQUIP MLM seminar.  Ever.

Part of that was because of the hunger of the Cambodians for this training, as the building was packed with leaders from churches, businesses, NGO’s and ministries, including some of the top leaders from World Vision, Teen Challenge Cambodia, and others.  In fact, we learned after the sessions were complete that there were even some Cambodian business people in attendance who are not yet Christian, but who were interested in the teachings of Dr. John C. Maxwell!

They literally drank in every word we spoke, and seemed to love our object lessons and illustrations, too.  Chris & I had a blast!  Enjoy the pics-

Chris says leaders have to “look past” the obvious faults of others in order to see their potential, while Pastor Jesse McCaul interprets.

She also taught that we often see others thru OUR lens, as WE are, not as they are.

 

When leaders are focused only on their efforts, their ministry, etc., they really are BLINDED to the real needs of others.

It is vitally important that leaders can be trusted by those who follow them.

Pastor Jesse interpreted some of my favorite lessons, too

 

The leaders especially enjoyed the discussion times in their small groups-

The highlight of each session was when we broke into small discussion groups – the leaders LOVED interacting with the teaching & each other!

Their sincerity and desire to grow as leaders was obvious in each discussion

Sunday reflections

Since I’m in Cambodia and wasn’t even able to watch the live-stream from CLC today,  I need your reflections!

If you attended ANY CLC service today at ANY campus, would you leave your comments below, to let me know your thoughts about this Sunday at CLC?

(Curious pastors want to know)

Thanks!

Cambodia, day 1

It was SO good to be reunited with our friends, Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul at New Life Fellowship in Phnom Penh today!  They’re doing such a wonderful work for God here, and we’ve felt such a God-connection with them since we first met.

Chris preached at one of their outlying campuses this morning, while I taught at the central campus for both morning services.  Absolutely LOVED their worship team – even though they weren’t singing in English, it felt like being at CLC – the team was SO anointed and every musician was a worshiper!

Tonight Chris & I team-taught a message about “Receiving Correction” using the story of Hagar in Genesis 16, and about 20 Cambodians came to the altar for prayer afterwards

Enjoy a few pics-

Chris is ALWAYS the master of illustrations & object lessons-

even my interpreter was anointed this morning-

Cambodians know how to worship with JOY!

In case you’re wondering, I think Eric & Meaghan are enjoying themselves everywhere we’ve gone!

Two is always better than One!

Philippines, day 3

What a wonderful close to our Global Advance pastor’s conference in Cagayan de Oro today!  We had more than 170 different churches from northern Mindanao represented, and when we issued the closing challenges, there were 78 men or women who committed to plant a new church this year, plus another 28 that made themselves available to go as missionaries from the Philippines!

I’m SO thankful the Lord has joined Pastor Herley Montes to our CLC family – he was not only funny, but he had THE message of the conference as he challenged the leaders to transform the nation of the Philippines, and I believe they can do it!

The highlight as usual was our opportunities to pray over the pastors & leaders, leaving an impartation with them in addition to the teachings we all poured into them over the past 3 days.

Then immediately after the conference (where I lost my voice before the final teaching session), I went to CLC-Cagayan de Oro for a special “Regeneration” service (the high school & college ministry).  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what God is doing among the youth of this CLC campus led by Pastors Jun and Ed Bringas, and I was thrilled to see almost half of the youth come forward at the close of service to pray to receive Christ!

We must arise at 4am to catch our flight back to Manila where we’ll have brunch with Jane Walker and be rejoined by CLC’ers Eric & Meaghan Condon, so I’m gonna sign off now and get some shut-eye.  Enjoy a few pics of this final day in the Philippines:

our worship times were anointed!

You all would be SO proud of this lady – she’s amazing when it comes to loving people and pouring into leaders!

 

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, I was reading in Genesis about Noah and the ark.  What is the significance of the raven and the dove that were sent out when the waters began to recede?  I am mostly curious about the raven.  He sent the raven only once but sent the dove twice?  Why?  What does the raven symbolize?”

Great question.  Let’s take a look at the full story in Genesis 8:1-12.  Then note:

  • verse 11 gives an indication of why Noah released the 2 birds; namely, to see if the floodwaters were gone (since apparently there was only one window in the top of the boat, he couldn’t see the surroundings).
  • The raven was said to have flown ‘back & forth’ (verse 7).  Since the raven was a bird of prey, we can assume that it feed upon carcases that floated and returned to rest on the Ark, but never came back inside.  (No wonder the raven was included in the list of ‘unclean’ birds in the Old Testament, forbidden for the Jews to eat – see Leviticus 11:13-15 and Deuteronomy 14:11-14)
  • The dove on the other hand, doesn’t feed on dead things, but is symbolic of purity(it was the ONLY ‘clean’ bird in the Old Testament, acceptable for sacrifice – see Leviticus 12:8; Luke 2:21-24and innocence(Song of Solomon 6:9; Matt. 10:16)  and is even a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:22).  So when Noah released it and it could find no rest (since the waters were still high), it returned to the Ark (verses 8-9).  When he released it a week later, it returned with a fresh-plucked leaf in its mouth (verses 10-11), a clear indication of fresh vegetation beginning to grow after the Flood, and when he released it another week later, the dove never returned (verse 12), which let Noah know that it was now safe to disembark and begin life in a new world, cleansed by the Flood.

I still remember a sermon I heard about 45 years ago from one of my heroes (he ordained Chris & me in 1974), T.F. Tenney, father of the author, Tommy Tenney of “God Chasers” fame.  He called the sermon, “Lord, Give Us Dove’s Feet” and exhorted us to not be satisfied with the unclean things the world has to offer, but seek the fresh & new things that fit us as God’s new creation!  I don’t think I can improve on that message as far as what this story could symbolize for us.

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

Philippines, day 2

I was too tired last night to post, but the second day of our conference in Cagayan de Oro was blessed, despite the fact that these pastors & leaders are sitting, listening to us teach from 8am until 5pm with only a break for lunch.  (I don’t think we Americans could do it!)

Favorite moments yesterday were the sessions taught by CLC-Davao Pastor Herley Montes and the closing session with Brad Mayer, after which we were able to pray with the pastors, and there was a real touch of the Holy Spirit in the room, as was the case with the ladies in their final session as well.  And Pastor Herley really has a gift for humor and is SO animated in the pulpit – he had the conference attendees eating out of his hand both times!

It’s almost time for us to do it again on this final day of the conference here, so enjoy a few pics-

Pastor Brad Mayer teaching

My sweetheart ALWAYS connects with the Filipino’s

I’m SO glad the Lord connected us with Pastor Herley Montes!

Philippines, day 1

The first day of our Pastor’s Conference in Cagayan De Oro was as good as any I ever recall in all my travels with Global Advance!

All together, we poured 21 separate teachings into the pastors and women leaders who had gathered, with quite a variety of gifted speakers, ranging from Missionary Ken Sandberg who is hosting the conference with his wife, Cris; Evangelist Brad Mayer from Saskatchewan, Canada; Dr. Sally Knox-Witt from Dallas, CLC-Davao campus pastor, Herley Montes and Chris & me.

My 3 favorite moments of the first day were:

  • The worship led by CLC-Cagayan de Oro (our campus pastor is Jun Bringas and 2 of his children sing on the worship team, which was so good it reminded me of home!)
  • The response when Chris & I shared our ‘signature’ message at these pastor’s conferences, about husbands and wives working together in “Team Ministry”.
  • The closing prayer time with the pastors for ‘spiritual sons’ – just wonderful!

Enjoy a few pics-

team-teaching about “Team Ministry”

Pastor Brad Mayer teaching

Dr. Sally Knox-Witt teaching

Women leaders praying for each other at the close of today’s session

 

Travel day

Someone said to me recently, “You must really love to travel” - to which I replied, “Actually, I hate the travel part – but I love what happens after I get there!” Today is one of those travel days, for as you may know, Chris & me, along with CLC’ers Eric & Meaghan Condon left for O’Hare immediately after the noon service yesterday (yep, we missed the Super Bowl) on the first of three flights that will eventually get us to Manila, Philippines about 10pm tonight (Chicago time; it’ll be about noon Tuesday in Manila, since they’re 14 hours ahead).  The Condon’s will remain there until Saturday, working with our partners at PCF (the wonderful ministry founded by Jane Walker), helping her serve the poorest of the poor in the garbage dumps of Manila.

Chris & I will grab another flight tonight about midnight to take us to Cagayan de Oro, a city in northern Mindanao, where we’ll lead simultaneous conferences for pastors and women in leadership, sponsored by our long-time partners at Global Advance.  CDO is also where our second-largest CLC campus in the Philippines is located, pastored by Jun Bringas.  We’ve also heard that some of our friends from the Davao Campus are also planning to attend, as Pastor Herley Montes will be one of the teachers with us.

We SO appreciate your prayers, not only for our travels today, but especially for the ministry this week.  I hope to post regularly with pics and highlights of our time here-

Sunday reflections

Random thoughts from LAX about this first Sunday of February at CLC:

  • LOVED the energy of our worship team in all 3 services!  Someone told me in the lobby that we’ve had NO ‘letdown’ since the high of our First Love Conference!    (I agree!) Kudos, SoP!
  • Forgive me for saying so, but I thoroughly enjoyed teaching all 3 times today!  Thanks for helping me by being “active listeners”!
  • Excited about more folks joining our Blue Island launch team today! (We still need more – our goal is to have at least 50 English-speakers to join the 50 Spanish-speakers on the team before we launch.  If you’re interested, sign-up here, or text 446-22 with the word, BLUE.  (You’ll hear from our leaders with regular updates)
  • I’m gonna MISS you folks while we’re in SE Asia – nothing like worshiping with our CLC family!
  • Pastor Doug reported a great day in South Bend as they began a new series called “Stand”.
  • Pastor Sam says the NWI campus responded enthusiastically today, despite the weather-related attendance.

2 final things before we hop on our next flight (LA to Taipei):

  • Don’t neglect to sit down if you’ve not already done so, and figure out how you can circumcise your life (Jer. 4:4) by choosing to omit some unnecessary & unproductive activities in your life that may be choking the Word!  Do it!
  • I’m so excited about NEXT Sunday (wish I could be in 2 places at once) when Pastor Sam Hamstra and Pastor William Arevalo will team-teach in Tinley Park AND NWI!  You do NOT want to miss their message!

Thanks for your prayers!

P.S. I didn’t get to see any of the game because of our flight to LA (the pilot did give us a few updates along the way) but I must say (a) Congrats to my pastor friends, Gordon Banks and Jason Bentley! and (b) I feel sorry for Peyton Manning.  That. is. all.

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “During my daily devotional I came across Matthew 13:31.        I was really stumped by this parable. Please help me understand how the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed planted in a field?

I’d love to.  Matthew 13 is such a neat chapter, in that it records not only the most important of all Jesus’ parables (the one we’re using as our text for the “Deeper” series),  but it also includes six other parables, including this one.  Let’s get the full text first – Matthew 13:31-32 in the Amplified version.

So Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God starts small, like the tiniest of seeds – but it grows large (the tree he referenced can grow to be 15′ tall, according to the experts).

There are two popular interpretations of this parable (since, unlike the story of the seed and the sower, Jesus did not explain this one for us):

  • some think Jesus was simply emphasizing the historical truth that the Church started quite small (He chose only 12 disciples, and one of them was lost; at the birthday of the Church there were only 120 present) but it has grown into literally millions of believers around the world today.  As He told us in other passages, the mustard seed may be the smallest of all seeds, but it has great potential (see Matthew 17:20).  In fact, even in the life of any believer, the Kingdom starts small like a seed, but can & should grow in us as we become all that God planned!
  • other commentators get a different message, primarily because of the birds mentioned as “lodging in it’s branches”.  Their contention is that the birds represent evil, as we saw in the first parable when the birds spoke of the enemy who quickly stole the seed from the footpath (see Matthew 13:4, 18-19).  So their interpretation of the mustard seed parable is that while the Kingdom of God starts small, as it grows huge there is room in it for evil to co-exist (e.g., for wolves to get inside & ravage the sheep; for false teachers & false prophets to lead many astray; for religious institutions that have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof to be included alongside the truth church).

Since you asked me, I guess I have to take a position – but I’m inclined to say both interpretations are true.  There’s NO question how the Kingdom of God has grown into a huge enterprise, but it’s just as true that the enemy has infiltrated and that we can see evil alongside the good, not only in the invisible Kingdom of God, but even often times within denominations and local churches. (You can see this clearly in the parable of the weeds – Matt. 13:24-30, 36-40)

I hope this helped.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

P.S. I hope everyone reading this will join us this Sunday for the final installment of “Deeper” when we’ll examine what I believe is the most dangerous category of hearer and how all of us can become ‘good ground’ for the Word!

SUPER Sunday!

No, this is not about the football game in NJ this weekend.

I’m talking about the final installment of our “Deeper” series, and I’m honestly more excited about it than about the Broncos-Seahawks game.  (What is a Seahawk anyway?)

I’m excited because this Sunday we’ll look at what I believe is the #1 cause for born-again, Spirit-filled believers not being fruitful in their walk with God.  More importantly, we’ll finally get to examine the “good ground” Jesus talked about and how each one of us can move from the unproductive three categories of Matthew 13 and into the fruitful life that God wants for us!

If you’ve missed any of the first 3 teachings, take a look before Sunday. Then invite a friend to join you (in your favorite team gear if you want) for Super Sunday at CLC - 8:30, 10 or 12 in Tinley Park, or 10am in NWI.

I can’t wait!

Quotes to chew on

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first module of the National Institute of Christian Leadership these past couple of days. Not only is Dr. Mark Rutland a brilliant leader, but his experiences in ministry and in turning around three institutions that were in grave danger when he arrived have given him some wonderful ‘war stories’ that (in his words), “make th elephant dance”.

Here’s a few quotes from the opening session:

  • “Legalism is the reduction of your theology to a set of “if/then” propositions”
  • “For Management-bent folks (legalists), moving toward Leadership-bent (grace) feels like compromise.”
  • “Life and leadership will change you more than you think!”
  • “Everything you do, you’re doing that thing, but you’re also being prepared for the next thing in life.”
  • “If you can’t negotiate the changes, you will always only have the business you used to have”
  • “Try as much as possible to turn every staff confrontation into a teaching moment!”

  • “If you can’t think of 50 people to thank, it’s because your life just revolves around you”
  • “Quality is meeting expectations” – (Philip Crosby)  ”The responsibility for meeting expectations is on senior management!” (Dr. Mark Rutland)
  • “A brand is not a logo; it’s a promise!”

Can’t wait to hear what he’ll have to say this morning, and I really can’t wait to get out of this 30-degree weather in Dallas to get back to God’s country in Chi-beria!

Talking Bible: put HIM on the throne!

This one was so good, it somehow snuck into last Sunday’s message.  But if you weren’t here (or perhaps just so I can expand a bit), here’s the deal: in my devotions on Sunday morning, I read Psalm 22:3 in the NKJV (that I’m using this year for my daily reading).  I’m not sure why I hadn’t noticed it before, since most translations do not use the verbiage of the KJV that I grew up with, where it reads “inhabitest” instead of “enthroned” - but it jumped off the page at me! 

Here’s why: there’s a huge difference between the truth that God dwells or lives in our praises, and the idea that our praises put Him on the Throne of our lives!  Selah.

When we sincerely worship the Lord, we empower and release Him to be King in our lives, and to invade our circumstances with HIS rule and reign!

Contrast that with all the times we moan & groan about our circumstances, which merely adds frustration or depression to our challenges instead of inviting our great King to step into those circumstances and bring HIS Kingdom rule with Him, ‘on earth as it is in heaven!’

My advice: don’t wait for next Sunday to worship!  Lift Him up today, wherever you are.  Give Him glory and honor no matter how you’re feeling, for your sacrifice of praise doesn’t just make you feel better, it puts HIM on the throne where He belongs.

Can I get a witness?

Continuing Education…

Doctors do it.  So do schoolteachers.  In fact, professionals from many different fields often go back for a ‘refresher course’ or attend seminars, to hone their skills and stay current with new learnings, in order to do their jobs well. After all, leaders are learners  and as someone else has said, “when you’re too old to learn, you’re too dumb to live!”

That’s why I’m in Dallas today (Chris was scheduled to come before she got sick) for the National Institute of Christian Leadership.  Dr. Mark Rutland is as qualified as anyone on the planet to lead the Institute, given his track record of turning around troubled churches and universities and leading them to greater days.

We believe the greatest days of CLC are ahead of us, and since everything rises or falls on leadership, it’s vital that Chris and I continue to learn and grow.  So pray that I’ll get every drop of wisdom this week as I participate in the NICL.  I’ll be back Wednesday night, raring to go!

Sunday reflections

More snow…and frigid temps on the way makes for a another Sunday with only a fraction of our normal attendance at CLC (that’s twice in January), but I ain’t complaining because we had chuch (misspelling intentional) today anyway:

  • after reading Psa. 22:3 during my devotions this morning (and noting the difference between ‘inhabiting’ and being ‘enthroned’), I have a fresh appreciation for how blessed we are at CLC.  Our leaders, Jon and Terrell, and their entire dedicated team of musicians and singers make it possible every week for God to be ‘enthroned’ at CLC, where HIS rule & reign can invade our circumstances!
  • And even though I yelled myself hoarse today, I enjoyed doing so, and I’m grateful for a church family that doesn’t seem to mind getting yelled at/to!
  • Speaking of the message, don’t dare miss next Sunday, because the series finale will address the #1 biggest danger for those of us who receive the Word often, and I can’t wait to share with you how ALL of us can be good ground!
  • Kudos to Ken & Pat Earley and their entire team of Life Group leaders who did a SUPER job in the MPR as we tried a new approach to sign-ups.  I’m excited about dozens & dozens of adults who have not tried a Life Group before, but signed-up today!  By the way, it’s NOT too late – you can go online now and choose the group that best fits your needs. You can even choose by meeting day or location or interest – check it all out here and get started.                   Remember: we grow best in community!
  • At our South Bend campus, Pastor Doug closed their sermon series with a prophetic prayer demonstration & anointed with oil every person in attendance!
  • Pastor Sam says our NWI Campus had a GREAT service despite the weather / attendance issues, as they kicked-off their Wednesday night gatherings with sign-ups for their unified Life Group campaign (“What on Earth am I Here For?”) and Consumed Student Ministries – NWI!
  • Our Blue Island launch team is also growing, as several more English-speakers signed-on today…..but there’s still room for you! Just text 446-22 and type the word, “BLUE” or sign-up online if you want to be a part of this great outreach to the Blue Island-Robbins-Harvey-Posen-Calumet City area. Our goal is to have 50 adults for the Spanish service and another 50 for the English service, so please give this your prayerful consideration.

And that’s a wrap for this last Sunday of January….stay warm, people, stay warm!

Ask the Pastor

There were no questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2008, when a CLCer asked: “What is the difference between praise & worship?”

Good question.  In my humble opinion, you’ve hit on one of those areas where preachers sometimes make more out of something than Scripture does.  By that I mean that I’ve heard teachings about this and read a lot of different opinions about this (Google it and you’ll see what I mean) – but I do not find such clear differences in Scripture, so I think the terms are at least somewhat interchangeable.

Probably the best I could do from a Biblical standpoint is say that all praise is worship, but all worship is not praise.  Worship in Scripture would include acts of service or sacrifice; in fact, our daily lives, whether on our job or interacting with our family or whatever – all of it can be worship unto the Lord, because worship means we are showing reverence to our Maker.

Praise, on the other hand, is an action of giving God honor: singing, praying, lifting hands, bowing before Him, etc.

I’ve sometimes heard preachers say that “praise is thanking God for what He has done; worship is honoring God for who He is“.  Others say praise is what we do to get into God’s presence and worship is what we do once we’re there.  I think it was the late Judson Cornwall (one of my favorites on this subject) who wrote, “You can praise God at a distance, but you cannot worship Him from afar”.

Bottom-line: the differences between the two at best would be subtle and I don’t know that there’s much value in trying to split hairs about it.  What is important is that each of us as believers practice a lifestyle that includes praise & worship – for reasons that can easily become a Bible study in themselves.  In fact, I’d encourage you to do a study of the benefits of worship – it will change you!

Now, what would you like to Ask the Pastor?

Talking Bible: God is my shield!

Last week I was doing my devotions when Genesis 31:7 jumped out at me. Jacob was telling his wives how their father had tricked him and even changed his wages 10 times,  BUT “God did not allow him to hurt me”!

When I read that, I was reminded of the times the Scripture refers to the Lord as our shield (Gen. 15:1; Deut. 33:29; Psa. 3:3, 5:12, 18:30, 84:11, 115:11, etc.)

Here’s my point: each of us is thankful for the blessings that God gives us, and we give Him praise for them (rightfully so).  But I wonder how many times He spares us & protects us from accidents, disasters or attacks of the enemy without our knowledge - because He shields us from them before they can even happen!

Selah.

Can I get a witness?

The day AFTER First Love Conference

There was no time for me to post my reflections about First Love earlier, so here goes:

“And it came to pass at the First Love Conference, that the Lord visited us as He had said, and the Lord did for us as He had spoken. For we conceived and we will bear children despite any circumstances, at the set time of which God had spoken to us.”  Genesis 21:1-2 Deeper Translation

Does that just about describe the last 3 days?

Now what?

If you were among the many who received a prophetic word from Prophet Dennis Cramer this weekend, let me give you some strong pastoral counsel:

1. Record, read and meditate.  1Tim. 4:14-15
  • Paul said “immerse yourself” in those prophetic words.  The Greek there says  “be in them”.  Probably the best way to do that is to get the CD, write out your prophecy word-for-word, and read over it, allowing the Lord to speak to you through those words again, because you likely missed some of it as it was happening.
2.  Fight the enemy in prayer with the ‘word’ you received!  1Tim 1:18
  • Use God’s promises to you to wage war against the enemy – prophecy can give you power to persevere until the fulfillment!
3.  Do nothing differently unless definitely directed!
  • Prophet Dennis Cramer said, “don’t do anything for 2 weeks!” He added that because any action you take would likely be the wrong one!
  • You are not responsible to bring God’s word to pass. He will do it.
  • However, if your prophecy included specific instructions to you, then you should act upon them accordingly.
  • Prophet Cramer suggested you actually use two different highlighters to go through your prophecy, highlighting in one color what God said HE would do and then highlighting in another color what you are to do.  Great advice!
4.  Remember that patience is part of receiving from God!
  • God’s process for prophetic fulfillment is rarely sooner than we expect.  It is almost always later, and sometimes, much later.   Psa 37:7
Praise God that I’m the pregnant pastor of a pregnant church!

Ask the Pastor

A pastor friend who read last week’s post writes, “Follow-up question, and one that thirty years ago I really didn’t expect to deal with in North America: A person comes to Christ. That person is in a long-term monogamous relationship and has children but the couple has never had the benefit of a marriage ceremony. The new Christian’s partner, who has not come to Christ, says “No need for marriage ceremony, don’t want one, won’t do that.” What counsel would you give the new Christian?”

I’m sure this is more than a hypothetical question, but it’s also one that all life-giving churches will probably face in the future.  Here’s my best shot:

  • While we must always approach people in love and kindness (“wise as serpents but harmless as doves”, Jesus said), I don’t see how we could excuse this situation, new Christian or not.  So my counsel would be to speak to the couple, either together, or, if circumstances dictate, to the new believer and give him/her the Biblical position that I outlined last week.  I would seek to insure that he/she  understood God’s Word on this subject first.
  • Then I would counsel that believer that he/she should sit down with their partner, in love - not in an emotional, tense appeal (I can’t over-emphasize that!) and explain to their partner why this is important to them because of their intent to please God by walking in obedience to His Word, and ask that they get legally married as soon as possible.
  • If the unbeliever persists in his/her feeling that this was all unnecessary, then I would lovingly counsel the new convert to separate in the spirit of Acts 5:32.

That’s what would do.  How would you recommend handling this issue?  I’d love to hear your thoughts below-

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

We are READY for First Love!

I know Bishop Jakes is known for “get ready, get ready, get ready, get ready!”, but I think CLC is ready for our First Love Conference that starts Saturday!

Not only did we complete 10-days of prayer & fasting last night to prepare our hearts for what God wants to do during the Conference, but our Family Prayer Journey was just awesome as hundreds of CLC’ers from both the Tinley Park and NWI campuses spent time in worship, prayer, meditation & soaking in the Presence of the Lord!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so take a look:

Family prayer (photo by Heather Van Sant)

like Father, like son – praying the Word! (photo by Heather Van Sant)

I can’t wait for Saturday at 9am!

 

 

Bishops Garlington & Bismark at First Love Conference

I’ve been introducing our guests for the First Love Conference in this post and in this post, but two of our special guests this weekend probably need no introduction, at least to our CLC family: Bishop Joseph Garlington and Bishop Tudor Bismark!

Bishop Joseph Garlington

Bishop Tudor Bismark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In January of 2007, after enjoying his ministry for years, I asked Bishop Garlington to be my pastor and by the grace of God, he agreed.  When I’m around him and the unique anointing that he walks in, I just sort of melt - his ministry has that kind of impact on me.  I love him dearly.  I honor him for the work he has done in Pittsburgh and South Africa and really, everywhere he travels.  His humor is endearing.  His singing is anointed.  His teaching is insightful.  And his relationship with the Holy Spirit that permeates everything he does is what I admire & covet most of all.  I’ve given him permission to speak into my life about anything, anywhere, and at anytime.  He is a most valuable member of our CLC Board of Directors.

On the other hand, I don’t even recall how we first got on Bishop Tudor’s itinerary, but what I do know is that CLC enjoys special favor from him, in that he comes here  annually, even though he is in demand among the largest churches in America.  His preaching style is unique; he is the senior pastor of a thriving church of multiple thousands of people in Harare, Zimbabwe, and serves as an apostolic father & mentor to churches all over the world, as well as Chairman of the Council of African Apostles.

If I were you, I wouldn’t let anything keep me away from Sunday, January 19 at 5pm for Bishop Garlington, and Monday, January 20 at 9:00am & 7pm when these two giants of the faith will minister to us!

Re-introducing Pastor Andy Thompson at the First Love Conference

Since it’s been 5 years since his only visit to CLC, I thought it would be good to re-introduce Pastor Andy Thompson.  Our story began several years ago when I started hearing about this amazing church in Boston, where few evangelical or charismatic churches are growing at all, but this one was simply exploding.  It’s called Jubilee Christian Church, and it has now become the largest church of any denomination in all of New England!

In 2007 I had the chance to meet the founding/senior pastor, Bishop G. A. Thompson, and couldn’t have been more impressed with him personally – as a man who truly  walks with God.  Later I learned that his son, Andy, who served with him at Jubilee for a number of years, had started a church in Durham, NC that has now grown to 10,000 members in just 11 years and is recognized as one of the fastest-growing churches in America in the process!  He also has a national TV ministry, and is the elder brother to three members of Ashmont Hill, who have blessed us at CLC with their worship ministry several times.

I’ll never forget Andy’s ministry here at our 2009 First Love Conference (we sold more CD’s of his messages than any guest in the history of CLC), so I’m delighted that Pastor Andy is going to be our guest at CLC-Tinley Park for all 3 morning services on the Sunday of our First Love Conference, and I’m excited to hear from a young voice on the national scene!  Make plans now!

Prophet Dennis Cramer at the First Love Conference

Our First Love Conference is always a highlight of the year, NOT just because of great Bible teaching & preaching, but more so because of the opportunity for life-changing impact by the work of the Holy Spirit among us.

That’s why I’m SO excited to welcome to our 2014 First Love Conference and introduce to CLC for the first-time the ministry of Prophet Dennis Cramer from PA.

Dennis has ministered in the prophetic around the world for many years, and comes to us highly recommended by my pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington, and others.

At CLC we certainly believe in prophetic ministry, but Dennis doesn’t just prophesy; he walks in the ministry-gift of the prophet.  He is the featured guest for the Saturday, January 18 services at 9am and 5pm, when we he will share the Word through his teaching AND bring the word of the Lord to individuals as well.  If you want to receive a prophetic word, I would urge you to be present for the Saturday services!  He will also return for the Sunday evening service at 5pm and will minister prophetically along with Bishop Garlington.

I can hardly wait!

Talking Bible / my prayers this week

I mentioned it yesterday in the message, but in my devotions during the first week of our Corporate Fast, Genesis 21:1-2 really, really spoke to me.

First, notice that 3 times in a short 2 verses we read about ‘God speaking’.  That caught my attention to look more closely, and when I did, I really sensed the Holy Spirit speak to me about our upcoming First Love Conference, and these 3 prayers:

  • that God would visit us (collectively & personally) in an out-of-the-ordinary way!  (I’m praying there would be ‘God-moments’ throughout the Conference, where we could be caught up into His Presence in a special way!)
  • that God would do for us (collectively & personally) as He’s promised!  (Unanswered prayers, unfulfilled prophecies, and breakthroughs you’ve been standing in faith for to finally be manifest!)
  • that CLC’ers would conceive (that many of us would receive personal insights & God-ideas that could have dramatic impact on our families, our finances, and our ministries! May we become pregnant with ideas, dreams, plans & witty inventions that God drops into our hearts during this conference!
Will you pray this with me all week?

Sunday reflections

Here’s a few random observations on this second Sunday of 2014:

  • Pastor Doug was elated with the service today in South Bend, calling it a “real home run, from opening prayer to benediction”!
  • And our NWI Campus bounced back from Snowmegeddon last Sunday with one of the best attendances since opening day, and Pastor Sam said they had a good response on the opening day of LifeGroup sign-ups!
  • Here in Tinley Park, I felt we covered some important ground today (forgive the pun) concerning ‘going deeper in receiving the Word’, and I appreciate every response & comment afterwards.
  • Best of all, praise God for about 6 men & women who prayed to receive Christ today, despite a very ‘non-evangelistic’ message!  (Never gets old!)
  • Kick-off for our Winter Life Groups began today, and the easiest way to sign up is here, online….or if you want to browse ALL the groups we offer, check here.
That’s it – 3 more days of Prayer & Fasting until our Prayer Journey this Wednesday at 7pm – it’s gonna be a great family experience to prepare us for the First Love Conf!

 

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I have a friend who has lived with her significant other for over 10 years. They are in an exclusive, committed relationship, but they have never formally married. They also have a son together and her sig has been instrumental in raising her children from a past marriage. According to the law of the land, they have a “common law” marriage, but what does God say about their relationship? Does he honor it as a marriage, too?”

Interesting question, especially because (surprisingly enough) I’ve never been asked it before.  And in a country where couples living together before marriage is the new norm, with much higher percentage than couples who marry first, then live together, you would expect that other believers would be asking this same question.  So for all of you who haven’t asked, but perhaps are wondering, here goes:

  • Call me old-fashioned, narrow-minded, or out-of-touch if you will, but I’m convinced that even the kind of long-term, committed relationship you described above is still adultery in God’s eyes.
  • If not, then when would pre-marital sex ever be considered wrong?  Only after we wait to see if the couple sticks together for several years?  After all, if it’s not sin  because they’ve been committed for a long-time, then how and when would anyone determine when it was sinful behavior for unmarried couples to have sex?
  • Lest anyone think all of that is just an old tradition that no longer applies to our modern culture, let me list just a few verses where God expressed His disapproval of sexual relationships outside of marriage to New Testament believers: Gal. 5:19;  1Cor. 6:9-11; 1Cor. 6:18-20; James 2:10-11; Heb. 13:4

Having said this, let me quickly add that I do think it’s commendable that the couple has been committed to each other long-term, and especially that the man has been responsible to provide for the family.  It seems they have practiced the basic principles of a good marriage, without making things right in the sight of God.  I’ve personally faced situations like that numerous times in ministry, and often it’s simply because the parties involved did not know what God’s Word said on the subject, or had allowed some misunderstanding to prevent them from getting married.  I’ve had the privilege in numerous cases to officially join them together as husband-and-wife, and it’s always a beautiful thing.  I pray that your friends will soon experience God’s grace for their lives as well.

Hope this helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Missions there, Missions here, Missions everywhere!

Just had an email from our partner in CLC’s church-planting efforts in India, Pastor Aby Vargis (who will be with us on Wednesday, February 26) that the first church we built is now complete:

This building was paid for by YOUR missions giving, and a congregation of Indian believers expressed their thanks to CLC!

It really brings me joy to see what we can do together, and I thank every CLC’er who gives to our missions efforts through your Faith Promise offerings OR even by your tithes,  of which 10% is then given to missions!

Speaking of missions, we extended the deadline for our Senegal medical missions trip to THIS Sunday, January 12 because of the frigid weather last Sunday.  You don’t have to be in the medical field to help us with this great outreach where we’ve seen much fruit in the past – but you must register by this Sunday, as we’ll be booking the flights next week.  The trip is March 14-22 and the cost is $2500 – for any questions or to apply for a partial scholarship, contact Sol McQuay now!

Missions is not only there (India & Senegal)missions is right here in the South Suburbs as we prepare to launch our next campus in Blue Island!  In order to reach that area, we’ll offer services in both English and Spanish, with Pastors William & Melek Arevalo leading the charge.  If you have a heart to be in on the ground floor of reaching people in Blue Island, we need you!  If you live in that area, or perhaps north of Blue Island so that you drive past it each week to get to CLC in Tinley Park, we WANT you!  If you are bilingual (whether your ‘heart’ language is English or Spanish)perhaps this launch is the ‘call of God’ for you!

We’ll be forming our volunteer teams and beginning the training early next month, so time is of the essence! For more information about the Blue Island launch, or to sign-up to be a part of the launch team, please contact our Coordinators Kenesa & Shanell Debela ASAP.

Talking Bible

Kinda surprised that the first thing that jumped off the page in my 2014 Bible reading was Genesis 13:8.  But as I read it earlier this week, the idea of “No STRIFE” really spoke to me.

  • How much time and energy do we waste in needless arguments, contentions, or fusses?
  • How often do we toss & turn at night instead of getting the restorative sleep & rest we need, all because of strife-filled thoughts from conversations or incidents of the day?
  • How much of the peace of God have we forfeited because of strife in our relationships: at the workplace, in the home, even with fellow believers?

I’m with Abraham in 2014: we’re brothers (or sisters)!  Selah.

The relationship is more important than the issue.

In fact, regarding the issue, say it with me: “Its. Not. That. Important.”

Be willing to let go.  Be willing to compromise.  Be willing to look at things from another perspective.  Pray. But don’t resort to contentious strife!

Does this resonate with you?  Leave a comment below.  More importantly, if you’ve received a ‘word’ from The Word in your reading, let me know – I’d love to hear it!

A good THAW for your winter…

Join us on a CLC missions trip!

We actually have one trip leaving Chi-beria’s temps on March 14 (I don’t expect it to be as cold then as it is today, but the way this winter has started, you never know) and return March 22.  The average high in Dakar this week is 73 degrees!  Besides, you’ll have a chance to worship with our brothers & sisters in the country where CLC has invested more heavily than anywhere else in the world, AND the opportunity to serve in a free medical clinic that attracts hundreds of unsaved folks, some of whom will respond to the Gospel before your very eyes!

The deadline was yesterday, but because of the weather, we’ll extend it this week if you respond to this blog post.  Please email Sol McQuay if you haven’t already signed up, and if you need some help with the $2500 trip cost, we do have some partial scholarships available – but you need to let her know that, too.  NOW!

We have another great trip to the Philippines, where the average high is 88 degrees this week (think sandy beaches & palm trees).  Even though it surely won’t be this cold come May 26-June 6, it’s still nice to have that trip planned to look forward to while you’re digging out of your driveway this week.  This trip will include great youth outreach with our Davao City campus as well as Sunday services with them, and then 3 days of outreach in the garbage dumps of Manila with Jane Walker’s ministry.  It’s life-changing, and you can be a part of it for just $2400 – sign up with Sol today.

Don’t you feel warmer already?

Sunday reflections

Wow…CLC has the greatest people in the world!  We had over 500 people worship with us on a day when even restaurants in the south suburbs were closed because of the weather, and when some of our pastors (including me) got stuck in their own driveway!   Seriously, I don’t recall a winter quite like this, and I appreciate each of you who braved the snow-covered roads today to join us for one of our 3 services, as well as the record-breaking number who joined us online today!

And, I assure you that if I had known the prophetic anointing on my series titles in the past, I’d have been much more careful in my word choices.  But after ‘White Christmas’ in December and now ‘Deeper’ in January, I’m excited to tell you that our February series will be called  (drumroll, please), ’Tropical Paradise Stewardship’!

Here’s a brief recap on this snowy, windy, frozen tundra day at CLC:

  • Loved the new song (co-written by our own Dee Wilson)Fresh Oil, New Wine (Live) I’ve got a feeling my pastor will like this one!
  • Appreciated the responses & lobby comments about going deeper in 2014 – I truly believe this is God’s ‘word’ for CLC, and I’m excited about where HE will take us,  together!
  • I’m urging you to join us in our 10-days of corporate fasting starting tomorrow – whether you do a ‘water/juice fast’, a ‘Daniel’ fast, omit certain meals each day, or some other form of restricted diet, I believe it will help us disconnect from the world so we can be more connected to the Holy Spirit, and prepare our hearts for the First Love Conference this January 18-20.  Here’s the great article by Pastor David Ireland that I mentioned today:

David Ireland article – “Fasting for a Reward” (Charisma, January 2014)

  • At our NWI Campus, Pastor Sam reported that not only did a sizeable number of folks brave the storm there (lake effect snow slammed them even worse than us!)  but that almost everyone stood to indicate they were joining the 10-day fast! Kudos, NWI!
  • In South Bend (where it ALWAYS snows more than here), Pastor Doug said many churches canceled service & newscasts told people to “stay home”, but they still had a great attendance & kicked off a great new series there!
  • I haven’t heard yet how services were at our Philippines campus, but it may be that Pastor Herley has gotten ‘too important’ for me, as he now hobnobs with World Champion, Manny Pacquiao.  (I’m teasing w/the ‘too important’ comment, but the pictures don’t lie:

Manny Pacquiao with the Montes family

Just before I hit ‘publish’ I received Pastor Herley’s email that over 20 people received Christ in their morning service today.  Here’s another pic of Pastor Joel praying with another group who came for salvation tonight (since they’re 13 hours ahead of us):

Pastor Joel Montes leading precious new people to the Lord

that’s it for this crazy day – now stay inside & be ye warm & filled!

Ask the Pastor

A favorite CLC’er who missed God a few years ago and moved away from Chicago (just kidding) writes, “I want to ask a question about Hannah in 1Samuel 1:12-14.  As I was reading this chapter I found myself going back to this part.  My question is did Eli not hear a sound or did he hear a sound he didn’t know?  Could this be viewed as a prayer language?”

Great question, especially because it helps explain one of the Rules of Interpretation when it comes to understanding Scripture. In fact, it’s the first rule to apply; namely, the literal rule of interpretation says that we are to follow the customary usages of the language.  In other words,  unless the passage says otherwise, or is clearly using metaphorical language, we must give and accept the literal meaning of scripture. It is a well stated rule, “If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense.”

In Hannah’s case, there is no reason to think that when the Bible says Eli didn’t hear a sound that it might mean something else.  In fact, other translations of verse 13 make it clear: Hannah was praying in her heart, but although her lips moved, no sound was coming from her mouth. That’s the literal and obvious meaning of this verse.

Now, your second question is even more interesting.  The correct answer is ‘No’, this could not be an example of a prayer language, because the practice of speaking in tongues (which we usually call ‘a prayer language’ since some people get freaked out at the idea of speaking in tongues) did not begin until Acts 2. In fact, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit (who enables any prayer language) could not be given until after Jesus was glorified (see John 7:38-39).

However, I do know that preachers often use a good bit of ‘dramatic license’ to make a point, and I’m guessing some preacher has used Hannah’s story to illustrate the idea of a prayer language.  (Personally, I get uncomfortable when preachers stretch the Bible in that way, because I’m not sure their listeners always understand that they don’t mean it literally, but are using dramatic license to make their point.) Sometimes that practice makes for great sermon fodder and can move a crowd emotionally, but please keep in mind that it is drama, and not a valid interpretation of Scripture.

That was fun – hope it helped!  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

What I woulda said…

New Year’s Eve worship was WONDERFUL!

Our New Year’s Eve Celebration at CLC was the BEST I ever remember, but because the worship time was so rich, we ran out of time for some of the things we wanted to do, including my ‘word’ for 2014 – so here it is:

what I’ve heard the Lord say is that HE wants us to go deeper in 2014- 

Deeper is the comparative of ‘deep’, which by dictionary definition means:

1.  Extend far from the surface; 2.  Profound in quality; 3.  Rich & intense in shade

So at CLC, we’re not going to be satisfied with a surface experience, but instead pursue a walk with God that is profound, rich, and intense!

  • That’s God’s Word for the year of 2014!
  • All year long; in every sermon series, we’re going deeper!
  • Deeper in Prayer; Deeper in Word; Deeper in Relationships; Deeper in the Spirit!
  • But I don’t want to go deeper by myself….or even with a few; really, my desire for 2014 is deeper in UNITY, just like in Romans 12:4-5.

If you’ll join us at 8:30 or 10 or Noon this Sunday, I’ll explain HOW we’re going to do it!

Happy New Year!

Our CLC New Year’s Eve celebration was the BEST I ever remember (and that’s saying something!) as the building was packed to overflowing with people AND with the Presence of God!

Full choir & band from TP, NWI and CSM made it FUN, and Pastor Jon & Terrell led us IN!

Pastor Sam challenged us with “If YOU say so, I will!” in 2014!

Pastor Chris gave us prophetic warnings & promises for this New Year-

such an awesome time of worship!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you weren’t able to join us, our BIG announcement was our NEXT Campus Launch will be March 30, 2014 in Blue Island, where we’ll offer an English service (with video preaching from our Tinley campus) AND a Spanish service (led by Pastors William & Melek Arevalo).  Kenesa & Shanell Debela will assist the Arevalo’s in leading the English congregation, and we’re looking for at least 50 CLC’ers who want to join their team to help launch this new campus.  If you’re interested in helping us reach Blue Island, please let us know ASAP!

Some FUEL for your devotional fire

The only way you can build momentum in your own spiritual life (see yesterday’s post for the benefit of momentum) is to consistently feed your spirit with God’s Word.  I’ve been reading through the Bible each year since I was a teen, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to grow spiritually.

We’ll have a free Bible reading guide for every CLC’er at our service tonight, but you really don’t have to use our simple guide or be limited to an old-fashioned paper guide, thanks to the folks at LifeChurch.tv and their YouVersion app.  In fact, if you’ll simply go to bible.com, you’ll find all sorts of online daily devotionals to help provide fuel for your devotional fire.

In addition to these devotionals, YouVersion has recently added many new Bible Plans—so many, in fact, that they now offer more than 600! From topical studies to whole-Bible Plans, you’ll find plenty of options that will help you connect daily with God’s Word in the new year. Get started at bible.com/reading-plans.

If you’re new to YouVersion, or if you’ve just added a new smartphone or tablet during this holiday season, don’t forget to install the Bible App on all your devices. Visit bible.com/app for a free, easy way to download the app on your mobile platform.

And don’t forget the brand-new Bible App for Kids! Available now at bible.com/kids, it’s also always completely free. Featuring fun animation and engaging storytelling, your children can explore the big stories of the Bible and fall in love with God’s Word.

After all, the first part of Proverbs 26:20 tells us that “without wood, a fire goes out” – so I’m going to make sure my spirit has plenty of fuel to keep burning bright all year, by reading God’s Word to me every day!

Will you join me in reading through the Bible in 2014?

Big MO

I think John Maxwell was the first pastor I heard talk about momentum in a local church, simply calling it, “Big MO”.  He pointed out that a train travelling 55 mph on a railroad track can crash through a 5-foot thick steel-reinforced concrete wall without stopping. That same train, starting from a stationary position, won’t be able to go through an inch-thick block in front of the driving wheel. I’ve seen what ‘Big MO’ can do at CLC in the past, and I want to see it again!

That’s exactly how I feel about the next few weeks at CLC, starting with our New Year’s Eve service tomorrow night.  We’ll have extended worship time (which helps build momentum in itself!) and then focus our attention on where we’re going in 2014 – and I’m convinced the answer is D-E-E-P-E-R!

In fact, that’s not only the title of our sermon series starting Sunday, January 5; I believe it’s our theme for every sermon series in 2014 – no matter what subject we address, we’re going to go deeper this time!

If you want to help us build Big MO in 2014, here’s what I’m asking you to do:

  • join us December 31 at 10pm for our New Year’s Eve service, when we’ll outline what we believe God is saying to CLC for 2014-
  • don’t miss the opening Sunday of 2014!
  • plan to participate in our Corporate Fasting & Prayer this January 6-15, to prepare your heart for what God will do this next year.  (I’m asking every CLC’er to help us be unified in our effort – whether you choose to do a juice fast, a Daniel fast, or fasting certain meals each day of that 10-day period)
  • mark your calendar (perhaps even take a day off work if need be) so you can attend each day of our First Love Conference this January 18-20 when there will be morning & evening services with Prophet Dennis Cramer, Pastor Andy Thompson and Bishops Joseph Garlington & Tudor Bismark.

Will you help us build Big MO at CLC in 2014?

Sunday reflections

What a fun final Sunday of 2013!  We heard from God through 3 different ministers, with 3 very different styles and 3 very different subjects, but each right-on with a ‘word’:

Communications Director, Joshua Moran

 

First up was Josh Moran at the 8:30 service with “God’s Masterpiece”.  He gave us some real food for thought/self-exam as we close out the year by considering what God may need to ‘chisel’ off of our lives!

We also baptized Renecha Mack in this service!

 

Children’s Pastor, Brent McQuay

 

Next up was Brent McQuay at the 10am service, with a great word about “Patience”.  He said we need to exercise patience with:   1. ourselves – by adjusting our expectations; 2. others – by adjusting our focus; and 3. God – by adjusting our point of view, and he closed with a great verse: Habakkuk 2:3

And Melissa Rose was baptized in this service!

 

Youth Pastor, Matt DeLaTorre

 

Finally, at the noon service was Youth Pastor Matt DeLaTorre with “Looking for Jesus in all the Wrong Places”. He shared much of his personal story, encouraging us to ’attack our fears’ and reminding us that it’s ‘not where you search; it’s how!’ (from Jer. 29:12-13).  He also told us that if we receive Jesus, since He is the Way, we can’t get lost & since He is the Truth, we can’t be deceived & since He is the Life, the devil can’t kill us!

Best of all, 10 people came forward to commit their lives to Christ at Matt’s invitation – and that NEVER gets old!

  • at our NWI Campus, I’ve heard several reports that Pastor Sam preached the paint off the walls today, with “If You Say So, I Will!”  They were able also to surprise Jean Johnson by presenting her with a $100 gift card to replace what she lovingly gave away to a cancer patient last week.
  • Pastor Doug reports that our South Bend campus ended 2013 with a fun look at  “The Top 10 Things God Taught Me in 2013″, with an assist from the Media & the Worship teams there! (BTW, I understand congrats are in order for the Neal’s 17th wedding anniversary today!)
  • At our Davao City, Philippines campus, Pastor Herley Montes says that in spite of a low holiday attendance, at least 25 guests prayed to receive Christ today!
I’d say that’s a GREAT way to end 2013…..now if da Bears could only fare so well-

 

Family traditions

My wife has trained me well through the years, and this is probably the biggest one: the importance of family traditions!

Growing up, I don’t think I recognized any specific traditions in the McQuay family – it seems we did a lot of random stuff, but even holidays like Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas were observed in different ways, and nothing stood out to me as ‘special’.

My wife’s family was much different, and she brought that into our home, so that we were able to ‘make memories’ with our kids (and now, our grandsons) that we all can look forward to, year after year – and I can testify that it really does make the holidays more special.

I encourage you to try it this year – and you can begin by including our Candlelight Christmas Eve service as one of your Family traditions.  It’s going to be a great way to begin the Christmas celebration tonight, and I hope you’ll join us at 5pm as we remember together what this holiday is all about!

My favorite Christmas party of 2013

This afternoon, after the last of our three services in Tinley Park, my wife & I invited all our pastors & their families to join us for a holiday get-together.  While a couple of our pastors were not able to join us because of previous commitments, it was still a terrific afternoon with over 30 folks here (our pastors have a LOT of kids!)

I’ve heard some of the ‘experts’ say that pastors should only hire people on their staff that they would enjoy hanging out with outside of the job – and if that’s a true criteria, let me just say that I’d hire every one of them again in a heartbeat.  I love this team!

Enjoy a few pics:

My wife provided some fun gifts for all the pastoral kids

the kids were definitely the center of attention, but none more so than the youngest

Love our TP Campus Pastors & it looks like Angie, Amber & Tony all had a good time!

My wife loves to explain our Christmas tree & Leslie DelaTorre got the introduction

Love each one of these folks!

I think the kids craft time was a major hit – smart planning, babe!

 

Sunday reflections

What a wonderful Christmas Sunday this was!  Here’s a brief recap:

  • LOVE the new song, “My Delight” we learned today!  Actually, our Philippines campus sang it when my wife & I were there last month, and it melted me in His Presence, so I asked our team to learn it.  KUDOS to Terrell & SoP!
  • AND big-time KUDOS to the KidsLife Christmas Presentation folks (Joel Johnson Joey Alexander & the delightfully cute kids, of course!)
  • Finally, I LOVE the fact that people were SET FREE today from years of unnecessary guilt & condemnation!  Someone said that this series was “the best” of 2013, and while that’s hard for me to say (since I’m biased!), I do think it may have made the most difference in the lives of people I’ve heard from this month!
  • Our NWI Campus enjoyed their highest-attendance-since-opening-day, and it was truly a special day there with baby dedications and a special KidsLife Christmas Presentation.  So proud of Pastors Sam & Taylor & all the NWI folks!
  • Pastor Herley Montes reports that our Davao campus saw 40 people give their lives to Christ on this Christmas Sunday!
  • Finally, Pastor Doug says today’s service in South Bend was “awesome”, with great worship, Christmas songs & a special KidsLife presentation, along with a very strong attendance there.

That’s how this Sunday went down at CLC – now if da Bears can just wrap up the NFC North Division Championship tonight, all will be right with my world-

One last thing: I promised the completed outline of today’s message, including the points that I didn’t have time to cover live….so here it is:

ghost of christmas past_12.22.13_media

Ask the Pastor

I recently received this question from a CLC attender: “I have enjoyed the experience at CLC, I have attended on and off for about two years and am now ready to cement my commitment to the ministry. My issue is that my family (wife and three daughters) are not used to the worship experience there. They prefer the traditional black church, the gospel music, and order of service that goes with it. What can I do to get them to see all that CLC has to offer to a family?”

Hmmm.  That’s a question I’ve never faced before, which is surprising, considering our racial make-up at CLC.  Personally, I’m so hard-core & passionate when it comes to being a multi-cultural church, I’m convinced that in an area like Chicago where the demographics include people of different races, it’s flat-out wrong for a church to only appeal to one race.  (I’ll exclude churches that conduct services in other languages, like our Spanish congregation.) I really feel that to have an all-black or all-white or all-Asian congregation smacks of racism, or at the very least, an unwillingness to get out of your own comfort zone, to reach people who are different from you.  I could give you many Biblical reasons why I feel this way, but honestly, I doubt my approach will help at all if your family has already insisted that they prefer an all-black experience.  So I asked our Worship Pastor, Jon Jones, and our Tinley Park Campus Pastors, Tony & Angie Gilmore, to help with answering this one.  (I’d also encourage any African-American members of CLC to weigh in with your comments below)  Here’s their thoughts:

  • Pastor Jon felt the best approach would be to ask your family as head of the household to ‘try this’ on a consistent basis for, say, three months of faithful attendance, to really get the heart of the ministry and participate in the specialized ministries.  (I think that’s an excellent idea, since every church has good days & bad days, so by attending consistently over several weeks like that, you really get an accurate view of the ministry.)  He added, I know that sometimes making a decision for the family may not be popular… But if you feel it’s HIS leading you must do it… & HIS results will come!”
  • Pastor Tony  says, “I want to piggy back on Jon’s answer and encourage your family to give us a real look by truly getting involved. You could try a Life Group, serve on one of our teams, and get your kids involved in KidsLife or Consumed to take a look under our hood. Basically, you need to do more than just Sunday morning services to get a real feel. I believe we offer one of the best ways to do church in the country but it requires more than Sunday morning to experience it. Although I know every church isn’t for every family, you could at least get the full experience before making your decision. Ultimately, we want you to be where God wants you to be, because in that lies the blessing for both you and us!
  • Pastor Angie added, “First, I must say that I’m very excited about your interest in CLC and your desire to cement your commitment by becoming a member. Although, I do understand your challenge. As the leader of your household, you are responsible for the spiritual growth of your family. This can be somewhat of a challenge if you and your family have different preferences concerning which church to attend.My suggestion would be to ask both your wife and daughters to participate in some of the groups and activities that are offered to help them get engaged. We have a Heart to Heart ministry for women which will enable your wife to connect with other women, including some who have also experienced the same transition from a traditional black church to more of a contemporary church.

    It sounds like your daughters may be a little older since they’ve formed a preference as well. We have Consumed which is our ministry for 6th grade to 12th grade. We also have The Link which is for our young adults ages 18-29. Both groups are in place to encourage the spiritual growth of the individual while at the same time creating God friendships that the students can pull from for a lifetime.

    The most important advice I can give as you walk through this decision is to engage your family in daily prayer. Seek God and ask him for clarity, an open heart to new people, places, and ideas.

So there’s our thoughts.  Hope it helps!  Pastor Tony also recommended this article.    If any other CLC’ers has a story or suggestion to share, please do so below.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Offline for a week…

Today is our 41st wedding anniversary, so Chris & I are headed for some warmer weather.  We’re headed for Midway airport in a few minutes and we’ll board a cruise ship later this afternoon to spend the next four days sailing the Caribbean, with stops in Haiti and Jamaica.

I will NOT be posting or Facebooking or Tweeting (well, some of those were already scheduled, so you may read some of my devotional thoughts there if you follow me @jerrymcquay) this week, except for a previously scheduled ‘Ask the Pastor’ post on Friday – so check back then.

Instead, I’m going to enjoy the wife of my youth (Proverbs 5:18) and hopefully, some tropical heat!  (By the way, I promise to never title a series ‘White Christmas’ again, after dealing with the white stuff & the frigid temps for the last week!)

See you Sunday for “The Ghost of Christmas Past” as we close our White Christmas series with what many say is their biggest challenge: forgiving yourself!  

Hope you’ll invite a friend or relative – our KidsLife team will have a special presentation, too!  It’ll be a GREAT way to prepare for your family Christmas!

Sunday reflections

It’s already after my bedtime as I’m typing this, and besides our normal (rigorous) three-services-back-to-back schedule, today we added the final performance of A clc Christmas: THE CENTER, so I’ll admit: this will be as brief a recap as I’ve ever given, because the only thing between me & my bed is finishing this post!
  • love the new stage design…..loved the worship today that allowed the Presence of the Lord to prepare hearts for the Word!
  • SO appreciated all the lobby comments afterwards about the impact of the teaching (it’s always fun to team-teach with my better-half, but today was extra-special)  One CLC’er told me of seeing men wiping away tears as we finished the message, and I know that people were set free today!
  • Of course, it’s always a thrill to see people give their lives to Christ, and we saw at least 8-10 do so today.  (it NEVER gets old!)
  • Kudos to our Communications Director, Josh Moran, who made major  improvements to our livestream this week, including the fact that we now also stream our services live on Facebook! (in addition to our own website, www.clc.tv)
  • Pastor Doug says despite major snow in South Bend this weekend that our campus there had strong attendance & great worship & response to the Word.
  • Pastor Sam also indicated our NWI Campus responded very well to the Word and the corporate declarations afterward, in spite of a holiday dip in attendance.
  • Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t express thanks to all of you who honored me on the 21st anniversary of my 40th birthday, and for your generous gifts to Chris & me for our 41st anniversary tomorrow.  You folks make it easy for us to love serving you, and we do not take your love & kindness for granted!
  • I’ll have more to say in another post about THE CENTER, but let me just say that it was more than expected each night – made me a proud pastor, and best of all, touched many people from our community!

That’s all for now….g’night!

A CLC Christmas: THE CENTER

If you didn’t make it tonight, let me just say, you owe it to yourself to come Saturday or Sunday at 5pm!

Now, if you don’t have tickets already, I urge you to come early – we only have a VERY few seats left for each performance, and they’ll be available first come, first served.

Every volunteer performer, singer, musician & dancer did a TERRIFIC job, but I thought these folks STOLE the SHOW (or at least our hearts!)

And don’t forget THIS Sunday’s continuation of “White Christmas” at 8:30, 10, 12!