thanks for PRAYING yesterday!

I’ve always believed in the power of prayer, but this missions trip, we experienced it first-hand.

If you haven’t heard, we left O’Hare last night on schedule without a hitch for the first few hours of flight.  Then the captain announced that there was a ‘problem’ and that we were being diverted to Salt Lake City, instead of San Francisco.

I soon noticed that the plane went straight for landing, much quicker than normal, and when we landed there were all sorts of emergency vehicles on the runway following us as we taxied to the gate.

Still not sure of what all was going on; we were told there was a pungent odor in the rear of the aircraft as though something was burning.

Of course, we missed all our connections, and as I type this, we’re still not sure how or when we’ll get to Cambodia – but in spite of all the frustrations of last night, Chris and I are alive – and this is one time the outcome could have been considerably different.

So don’t take it for granted when I say, please pray for us!

And thank God for all of you who do!

Off to Cambodia

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I’m typing this at O’Hare airport, where Chris & I are waiting for the first of three flights (Chicago to San Francisco, San Francisco to Singapore, Singapore to Phnom Penh) that will get us into Cambodia by Wednesday morning, their time (about 10pm Tuesday in Chicago).

We’ll be there for our semi-annual assignment with EQUIP to teach leadership principles to university students & faculty, business leaders and church leaders from around the country, as well as doing a Marriage Conference for New Life Fellowship and our dear friends, Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul!

I should have internet once we arrive, so I’ll keep you posted on our ministry there.  Thanks so much for your prayers while we’re away!

Want to GO on missions AND save money, too?

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We’ve now concluded the N2 International Dinners at each CLC campus and dozens of CLC’ers have already signed-up to go on one of the 8 missions trips we’re offering in 2018 – receiving a 10% discount in the process.

But this morning we felt like extending that generosity to those of you who may want to GO, but for whatever reason you weren’t able to attend one of the dinners or complete your application and put down the required $100 deposit at that time.

So from now through next Sunday, October 22, if you complete your application and submit your deposit, you, too will receive a 10% discount on the total cost of your trip(s).

To make it really easy, you can even access the application online here and pay your deposit online!

This offer will not be repeated after October 22, so take advantage NOW!

2108 Trip with sign

Sunday reflections

Yes, she's my daughter. But I can still say "thanks" for the great job she's doing as our Missions Director - putting on 3 different Int'l Dinners these past 3 Sundays & coordinating all our missions trips (and today she was our service host) Kudos, Jen!

Yes, she’s my daughter. But I can still say “thanks” for the great job she’s doing as our Missions Director – putting on 3 different Int’l Dinners these past 3 Sundays & coordinating all our missions trips (and today she was our service host) Kudos, Jen!

We always focus on the platform, but the most important ministries often happen outside the auditorium - like greeters who welcome people (kudos, Jerome!)

We always focus on the platform, but the most important ministries often happen outside the auditorium – like greeters who welcome people (kudos, Jerome!)

And faithful folks at the Info Desk, who answer questions & offer assistance to so many!

And faithful folks at the Info Desk, who answer questions & offer assistance to so many!

Using other languages for some verses these past 2 weeks brought a new dimension to worship & today the GLORY came - so glad "The Cross Has the Final Word!"

Using other languages for some verses these past 2 weeks brought a new dimension to worship & today the GLORY came – so glad “The Cross Has the Final Word!”

I love team-teaching with this lady, and today was no exception!

I love team-teaching with this lady, and today was no exception!

Our Blue Island campus worship is anointed!

Our Blue Island campus worship is anointed!

Caught in the act! (of having FUN at KidsLife, that is)

Caught in the act! (of having FUN at KidsLife, that is)

Pastor Brent unveiled plans for a community "HOPE CENTER" in Blue Island, starting with a food pantry - and we already have volunteers ready to serve!

Pastor Brent unveiled plans for a community “HOPE CENTER” in Blue Island, starting with a food pantry – and we already have volunteers ready to serve!

Today was Tommy Billup's first day to lead worship at Hammond, and Pastor Sam said the 11am worship BROKE OUT into a powerful time of prayer!  Kudos, Tommy!

Today was Tommy Billup’s first day to lead worship at Hammond, and Pastor Sam said the 11am worship BROKE OUT into a powerful time of prayer! Kudos, Tommy!

He was able to share his heart for missions today, and there was also one person who gave their life to Christ afterwards!

He was able to share his heart for missions today, and there was also one person who gave their life to Christ afterwards!

and we LOVE kids at the Hammond campus (just like every CLC campus!)

and we LOVE kids at the Hammond campus (just like every CLC campus!)

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still working on questions from our ‘Hot Seat’ Sunday that we didn’t have time to answer.  This week I’ll tackle two:

  • Can Christians lose their salvation?

As I understand Scripture, no Christian has to worry about “losing” their salvation, because  God has promised that HE will keep us from falling (Jude 24and that no one can pluck us out of his hand (John 10:28-29)

However, I also understand that Scripture indicates we have a free will of our own, and I do believe that we can choose to walk away from God’s grace and forfeit our salvation.

This is a hotly-debated subject among Christians for many, many years, and I’m not likely to resolve it in this post.  If you want to look into it further, I have written about it here.

  • What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?

This expression is used in 2Corinthians 12, and Paul said it was a messenger of Satan to torment him.  Even though he asked the Lord three times to take it away, God told him that His grace would be sufficient for him to bear that thorn.

Ever since then, Bible students have wondered exactly what that ‘thorn’ might have been.  Some have suggested it was a problem with his eyesight, as could be intimated from Galatians 4:15 and Galatians 6:11, thinking that his vision was so bad that he had to write very large letters in order to see what we wrote.

The bottom-line is that no one knows what his thorn in the flesh was, and I think that’s on purpose – because each of us also have weaknesses and challenges, and just as God promised Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you”, so we also can take hope and courage that His grace will be sufficient for us, no matter what our issue may be.

I hope this helps.  Would you like to add to my answers?  If so, please leave a comment below, or perhaps even a question of your own for a future ‘Ask the Pastor’ post.

Sunday reflections

Sergei Zhuravle, worship pastor of the 3500-member New Testament Church in Perm, Russia BLESSED us by joining our worship team today - LOVE the anointing of worship in different languages!

Sergei Zhuravle, worship pastor of the 3500-member New Testament Church in Perm, Russia BLESSED us by joining our Tinley Park worship team today – LOVE the anointing of worship in different languages!

Bishop Herley Montes brought a great word to all of us on "How to Have Treasure in Heaven" - will YOU win a soul in 2017?

Bishop Herley Montes brought a great word to all of us on “How to Have Treasure in Heaven” – will YOU win a soul in 2017?

Even our KidsLife children were seeking after the Lord today!

Even our KidsLife children were seeking after the Lord today!

Our Hammond campus worships, and they're looking forward to Tommie Billups as their new Director

Our Hammond campus worships, and they’re looking forward to Tommie Billups as their new Director

Dr. Chinedu Oranye brought a great word in Hammond-

Dr. Chinedu Oranye brought a great word in Hammond-

In Blue Island today, my wife delivered her HEART for missions as only she can.

In Blue Island today, my wife delivered her HEART for missions as only she can.

And our Blue Island Kidslife team made learning FUN today-

And our Blue Island Kidslife team made learning FUN today-

Ask the Pastor

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Let’s look at 3 similar questions that we didn’t have time to answer during our “Hot Seat”  Sunday – all 3 are great questions because many believers are in this same situation:

  • What do you do if you marry someone who started as a Christian but doesn’t want to be a practicing Christian anymore?

First, I recommend that you pray.  Sincerely. Earnestly. Recognize that YOU cannot change the heart of your spouse, but God can.  After you have invested time in real prayer, when you sense the time is right, then talk.  Not in a heated, emotionally-charged discussion, but in a logical, reasoned manner – explaining to your spouse how important your faith is to you, and how important you feel it is to your relationship.  Seek to understand why your spouse has walked away from the Lord.  Once you understand why, you may be able to help. If not, then seek counsel.  Hopefully, your spouse will receive the helpful counsel from your pastor or a trusted counselor.  I pray that this helps and that your spouse will return to walk with the Lord – keeping in mind James 5:20

  • How can I be a light in my marriage? We are unequally yoked.

Honestly, my heart goes out to any believer who is in an “unequally yoked” marriage, meaning one in which your spouse is not walking with the Lord, while you are.  I can’t even imagine the profound sadness of not being able to share your most important relationship of all with the person that you love and want to spend the rest of your life with.  Whether your spouse opposes your faith and merely tolerates it, it hurts.

There could be several options, depending on exactly why your spouse is not a believer – but the Biblical answer is found in 1Peter 3:1-2 and 1Cor. 7:12-16.  Your lifestyle can win your spouse!

  • How can I raise my children when their father is following the Muslim religion?

First, I hope you’ll attend our seminar at CLC-Tinley Park tomorrow (Oct. 7, at 9am) because our guest teachers have lived and work among Muslims for many years and have godly wisdom to help us reach Muslims for Christ.  But for my part, I think perhaps the starting place would be for you to kindly (not in an argumentative way) explain to your husband WHY you love Jesus, and how important it is to you that your children grow up to know the Lord as you do.  Hopefully, he will agree that you can bring the children to church and teach them God’s Word.  But whether he does or not, I encourage you to be very intentional in living a godly life before your children, sharing your values and your heart with them regularly, so that even if their father prevents them from going to church, you are bringing church to them!  The verses above also apply to your situation, and God is able to work in the hearts of your children!  Never underestimate your motherly influence in their lives!

I hope that helps.  If you’d like to add to my answer, please leave your comments below – or ask a question of your own.

Just a reminder…..

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Just a quick reminder that THIS SATURDAY (October 7), from 9am-11:30am at our Tinley Park campus we’ll host a great seminar on “Reaching our Muslim Friends”.

Since all of us have opportunities in our neighborhoods, our workplace and in school to make friendships with Muslims, this is a GREAT one-time opportunity to learn from our special guests who wrote this material after spending years working among Muslim people.

Make plans now to join us and let’s learn together!

To my pastors…

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I often tease my pastor friends that we have the “greatest job security in the world”, because people will always need a pastor, just like sheep need a shepherd.

But during this Pastor Appreciation Month, I thought it appropriate to honor the men that God has used in my life to shepherd me, from my earliest memories:

  • George L. Glass, Sr.
  • Marvin Rutledge
  • Jimmy Greer (who baptized me)
  • Roy L. Jones
  • F.R. Reed (who was like a father to me and under whose ministry I began preaching)
  • William Sciscoe (who was there for me after I lost Pastor Reed)
  • Bishop Joseph Garlington

and a special thanks to the men who have walked alongside Chris and me at CLC, as our Apostolic Overseers:

  • John Nordstrom
  • Eddie Cupples
  • Dale Van Steenis
  • Gordon Banks
  • Dennis Cramer

and finally, my fellow-laborers at CLC through the years:

  • Stephen & Shae Wasmundt
  • Brian & Natalie Page
  • Dan & Pat Johnson
  • Eric & Kristen Stone
  • Doug & Shanna Neal
  • Benjamin & Nili Stewart
  • Tony & Angie Gilmore
  • Brent & Sol McQuay
  • Sam & Taylor Hamstra, Jr.
  • Jon & Rachel Jones
  • Micah & Jen Remington
  • Moy & Eva Mendez
  • Ken & Patricia Earley
  • Dan & Torey Goodson

and my one and only Chris, whose dedication to God & His people never cease to amaze-

this is for you, with my love:

Living the Dream!

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Our bi-annual Women’s Conference is just around the corner this November 17-18, with special guest speaker Sarah Bowling!

It will be a great 2 days for women to renew your dedication to God and His dreams for your lives, to revive those dreams and move forward into the fulfillment of God’s promises to you!

You can get more information at your Heart to Heart meetings or simply register here.  Your registration fee includes all sessions on Friday and Saturday, conference giveaways, before party on Friday evening, Saturday lunch and the after party on Saturday night.

(Pastor’s are FREE)

(Now I just need to find out if us guys can sneak in)

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Testimonies from our “Generosity Sunday”

That's what I'd call a FUN day in Church, CLC-style!

It was even BETTER than I realized at the time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve heard a few stories since last week’s “GENEROSITY SUNDAY” that blessed my socks off and I thought you could use a little encouragement on this Monday morning:

  • one of the CLC’ers who won a $50 gift card to Speedway told us that she actually came to church that day “on fumes” and didn’t know how she would get back home unless someone had mercy and bought her some gas!
  • another CLC’er who won one of the $200 gift cards to Walt’s Food Center was unemployed and said “I didn’t know how I was going to eat this week!”
  • Finally, at our Hammond campus, when the BIG award was chosen (a house payment up to $1,000), Pastor Sam had to draw 4 names, because the first 3 names chosen each decided to pass and let someone else receive the award!

Generosity begets generosity!  How will YOU be generous this week?

Sunday reflections

Worship at our Tinley Park campus was ON FIRE today!

Worship at our Tinley Park campus was ON FIRE today!

We enjoyed the music & voice of Tommy Billups with the team today, too!

We enjoyed the music & voice of Tommy Billups with the team today, too!  (Tommy is going to be the NEW Worship Director at our Hammond campus!)

Dr. Chinedu Oranye delivered a 'Word' to us today - SO good!

Dr. Chinedu Oranye delivered a ‘Word’ to us today – SO good!

And he used Pastor Jon's hairstyle as an example of how we all follow someone-

And he used Pastor Jon’s hairstyle as an example of how we all follow someone-

Tommy & his wife Azania & their children were announced at the Hammond campus today

Tommy & his wife Azania & their children were announced at the Hammond campus today

Bishop Herley Montes from the Philippines brought the Word at Hammond as to how we can build treasures in heaven.

Bishop Herley Montes from the Philippines brought the Word at Hammond as to how we can build treasures in heaven.

Our CLC pastors LOVE Bishop Herley!

Our CLC pastors LOVE Bishop Herley!

Sometimes a KidsLife Director gets to 'perform' in order to keep the kids attention!

Sometimes a KidsLife Director gets to ‘perform’ in order to keep the kids attention!

Bruce Crawford of the Abraham Project in Costa Rica was our guest at the Blue Island campus today - when you hear his testimony, you know why CLC'ers LOVE him and the Abraham project!

Bruce Crawford of the Abraham Project in Costa Rica was our guest at the Blue Island campus today – when you hear his testimony, you know why CLC’ers LOVE him and the Abraham project!

Ask the Pastor

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As we continue looking at questions we weren’t able to get to during our “Hot Seat” last month, let’s address two more today: Will those who have never heard of Christ or the gospel go to hell?”

Great question that has been asked for about as long as the church has existed!  Let me quickly tell you WHY I believe the answer is unequivocally, ‘YES’:

  • because God would never have sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins, if we could be saved without such a cost (1Peter 1:18-19; 2Cor. 5:21; John 3:16-18)
  • because otherwise, the damnable doctrine called “universalism“, that has been rejected by The Church for it’s entire history, would be true.  (Universalism basically says that God is do loving that, at the end, He will allow everyone into heaven because He doesn’t want to send anyone to hell.
  • because otherwise, we do lost people a disservice by sending missionaries to preach to them, because then those who heard the gospel and rejected it would be lost, whereas they would have been ok before the missionary came. Yet Jesus clearly told us to go and preach to everyone (Mark 16:15)

Finally, another CLC’er asks, “Is CLC primarily a mission minded church?”

Hmmmm, primarily is a very strong word, so I’m not sure that we can ‘claim’ that, but I hope it’s true of us, since the Great Commission of Jesus is definitely the primary reason for the Church to exist – otherwise, The Church of Jesus Christ would have died out in the first century.  The Great Commission is the LAST instruction that Jesus gave to The Church, so it was the primary thing on His mind.  My greatest desire is that CLC would always be a missions-minded church!

To that end, we’re starting our “N2 (neighbors & nations) series” this Sunday, with special guests from Costa Rica (Bruce Crawford speaking at our Blue Island campus), the Philippines (Herley Montes speaking at our Hammond campus) and Nigeria (Chinedu Oranye speaking at our Tinley Park campus). It’s going to be a great kick-off Sunday and I hope you’ll plan to join us!

Hope that helps a bit.  Would you like to add to my answers by leaving a comment below?

Reaching our MUSLIM friends

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I’m excited about our next sermon series, “N2 – Neighbors & Nations” as we focus on the mission of CLC, not only in the Nations, but also here in Chicagoland.

One of the wonderful benefits of living in the third-largest city in America is that the Nations have already come to us!  CLC currently has about 40 different nations represented in our church family, and certainly many more nationalities in our jobs and our neighborhoods.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that on Saturday, October 7 from 9am-11:30am we will be offering a special seminar, “Reaching Our Muslim Friends”.  Often times we’re not sure how to begin a conversation with people of another religious background, but this seminar will give us the tips and tools to get started.

The seminar is taken from a larger resource, The Oasis Course, and will be presented at CLC by our friends, Chinedu & Taiwo Oranye, who served the Muslim community as missionaries in Oman for several years.

Mark your calendar and make plans to join us on October 7!

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Generosity Sunday reflections

There's JOY in giving & receiving! Fresh out of college, in her own apartment & CLC will be making the rent payment for Jacqueline Hackmon!

There’s JOY in giving & receiving! Fresh out of college, in her own apartment & CLC will be making the rent payment for Jacqueline Hackmon!

Before all the giveaways began, Pastor Jon & Tiffany led us into the Presence of the Lord - STRONG presence today!

Before all the giveaways began, Pastor Jon & Tiffany led us into the Presence of the Lord – STRONG presence today!

We gave away over $6,000 worth of awards in Tinley Park today (over $12k campus-wide) just for the JOY of giving!

We gave away over $6,000 worth of awards in Tinley Park today (over $12k campus-wide) just for the JOY of giving!

I've always wondered about pastors who didn't worship with their congregation, and I'm glad that CLC pastors set the right example!

I’ve always wondered about pastors who didn’t worship with their congregation, and I’m glad that CLC pastors set the right example!

Our Blue Island worship team knows HOW!

Our Blue Island worship team knows HOW!

Lots of FUN giving stuff away in Blue Island today-

Lots of FUN giving stuff away in Blue Island today-

including a mortgage payment for the winner: Eric Williams, who spent all week in Texas helping with Hurricane Harvey relief! (God knows how to reward us!)

including a mortgage payment for the winner: Eric Williams, who spent all week in Texas helping with Hurricane Harvey relief! (God knows how to reward us!)

Our Hammond campus was ON FIRE today, with the largest non-Easter attendance ever - 501!

Our Hammond campus was ON FIRE today, with the largest non-Easter attendance ever – 501!

That record attendance was possible because of NEW FAMILIES like these two!

That record attendance was possible because of NEW FAMILIES like these two!

John won a car payment and promptly gave it back for someone else!

John won a car payment and promptly gave it back for someone else!

After Talaat & Tai McNeely shared their great teaching on "The Prosperity Plan", 8 precious people gave their life to Christ!

After Talaat & Tai McNeely shared their great teaching on “The Prosperity Plan”, 8 precious people gave their life to Christ!

That's what I'd call a FUN day in Church, CLC-style!

Just as in times past, there were reports at each campus of people who won an award (even the $1,000 awards for a house payment) and turned around and gave it to someone else in need – because generosity begets generosity! That’s what I’d call a FUN day in Church, CLC-style!

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still answering questions left over from our “Hot Seat” Sunday last month, and these 2 may help people: “Are those who die in infancy saved?”

Great question, because for anyone who has lost a child in death, besides the immediate sorrow and heartbreaking pain, is that eternal concern: is my baby in heaven?

It would be easy for me to just answer this question from sentimentality, and say, ‘of course infants go to heaven, because God is good and surely all innocent babies go to heaven’ – but sentimentality is not a Biblical reason.  Many people today, even Christians, entertain a very dangerous and false teaching known as universalism, which simply says everyone will go to heaven.  But the Bible does NOT teach that.  Scripture teaches that we are born into sin and that we must receive Jesus as our Savior in order to be saved.

However, I believe the Bible also teaches that infants who die ARE saved, for these reasons:

  • 2Cor. 5:10 clearly states that we will be judged by God for the sins we have done in our earthly body, NOT for Adam’s sin.  Since infants have not committed sins, they are saved.
  • In Deut. 1:35, God specifically told the people of Israel that they would not be allowed entrance into the Promised Land because of their sin, but then in Deut. 1:39, God specifically exempted their innocent children from that judgement. Since these ‘little ones’ had no knowledge of good and evil, they would not be judged for their father’s sins, but would inherit the Promised Land.
  • Jesus made it quite clear in Mark 10:14 that little children belong to Him, and He welcomes them!

Yes, I believe infants and small children who die are in heaven with our loving Savior!

The second question is “where are our loved ones who died in Christ”?

I am convinced by Scripture that those who died in Christ are with the Lord – 2Cor. 5:1-8 and Phil. 1:21-24 both indicate that when we leave this life, we are immediately with the Lord – if we are believers, that is – those who did not receive Christ before death will await their final judgment in hell.

I hope this helped a bit.  If you’d like to add to my answers, or perhaps ask a question of your own, please leave a comment below-

And don’t forget that THIS SUNDAY at each CLC campus is Generosity Sunday as we bring a great close to our ‘Moneywise’ series-

 

Crimea, day 5

A good marriage requires good LISTENING skills!

A good marriage requires good LISTENING skills (says the queen of object lessons!)

Our friend and son of Bishop Grabovenko from the largest Russian network of pastors, David Grabovenko arrived this morning and helped translate some marriage discussion exercises we gave the pastors.

Our friend and son of Bishop Grabovenko from the largest Russian network of pastors, David Grabovenko arrived this morning and helped translate some marriage discussion exercises we gave the pastors.

Of course, Anna (center) was our primary interpreter for the entire seminar-

Of course, Anna (center) was our primary interpreter for the entire seminar – we’ve loved her since our first visit to Russia over 7-8 years ago.

This Russian pastor became a 'punching bag' to illustrate what happens when we attack our spouse verbally.

This Russian pastor became a ‘punching bag’ to illustrate what happens when we attack our spouse verbally.

Again tonight as an icebreaker, we had couples take a turn at Jenga after they shared a principle they learned during the seminar

Again tonight as an icebreaker, we had the pastor couples take a turn at Jenga after they shared a principle they learned during the seminar

The highlight of the seminar came at the close when each pastor couple renewed their marriage vows - lots of love & hugs in the room tonight!

The highlight of the seminar came at the close when each pastor couple renewed their marriage vows – lots of love & hugs in the room tonight!

I love witnessing those 'special moments' with faithful shepherds!

I love witnessing those ‘special moments’ with faithful shepherds!

 

This 14-year old boy has an amazing gift for art, and he surprised us with a beautiful pencil drawing!

This 14-year old boy has an amazing gift for art, and he surprised us with a beautiful pencil drawing!

Bishop Edward leads the largest network of Russian churches and was unable to join us, but his wife Larissa was SO encouraging to us with her kindness throughout the retreat !

Bishop Edward leads the largest network of Russian churches and was unable to join us, but his wife Larissa was SO encouraging to us with her kindness throughout the retreat!

Of course, we couldn't have ministered at all without our interpreter-friend, Anna!

Of course, we couldn’t have ministered at all without our interpreter-friend, Anna!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll be headed to the airport in a couple of hours, feeling quite fulfilled in this ministry assignment – but can’t wait for this “Generosity Sunday” at each campus of CLC – it’s going to be a GREAT close to our “Moneywise” series – hope you’ll bring a friend!

Crimea, day 4

This little guy has captured my eye each day, but he's too bashful to pose for my camera!

This little guy has captured my eye each day, but he’s too bashful to pose for my camera!

Each teaching time always begins with some worship - today led by our friend, Pastor Sergei from Perm (he's coming to visit us at CLC in a few weeks)

Each teaching time always begins with some worship – today led by our friend, Pastor Sergei from Perm (he’s coming to visit us at CLC in a few weeks)

This afternoon we had separate sessions for men and women - and these guys kept me on my toes with their questions!

This afternoon we had separate sessions for men and women – and these guys kept me on my toes with their questions!

To open tonight's session, we used a balloon game where each table had to keep their balloon in the air without using their hands

To open tonight’s session, we used a balloon game where each table had to keep their balloon in the air without using their hands

I gotta tell you: they were competitive! And they kept those balloons in the air much longer than I expected-

I gotta tell you: they were competitive! And they kept those balloons in the air much longer than I expected-

It was important to have a little fun & release some stress, because tonight's teaching was pretty intense as we challenged each couple to examine their own relationship for "hidden" dangers

It was important to have a little fun & release some stress, because tonight’s teaching was pretty intense as we challenged each couple to examine their own relationship for “hidden” dangers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have two more sessions tomorrow afternoon and evening before heading back to the airport for the first of three flights that will get us home on Thursday afternoon.  Thanks for your prayers – we feel it’s going very well based on the responses from these precious pastors!

Crimea, day 3

Chris reminded us all that we sometimes have to REFOCUS in marriage, to see what our partner is doing right, instead of only what they do wrong! (the Queen of illustrations strikes again)

Chris reminded us all that we sometimes have to REFOCUS in marriage, to see what our partner is doing right, instead of only what they do wrong! (the Queen of illustrations strikes again)

We began the retreat with an icebreaker where each wife kissed her husband's face as many times as possible in 30 seconds. The winner was determined by counting the 'lips' on his face.

We began the retreat with an icebreaker where each wife kissed her husband’s face as many times as possible in 30 seconds. The winner was determined by counting the ‘lips’ on his face.

and the Russians REALLY got into this contest!

and the Russians REALLY got into this contest!

The winning couple (although the lighting in this pic doesn't reveal it) - they said they won because he had more space on his face than anyone else (his bald head!)

The winning couple (although the lighting in this pic doesn’t reveal it) – they said they won because he had more space on his face than anyone else (his bald head!)      

another of the couples in an icebreaker game before tonight's session began-

another of the couples in an icebreaker game before tonight’s session began-

 

 

 

 

This is just ONE of the pastoral couples who have touched our hearts. Their story of sacrifice and faith really inspired us today-

This is just ONE of the pastoral couples who have touched our hearts. Their story of sacrifice and faith really inspired us today-

just before Chris concluded our teaching tonight I took this shot of a few of the pastors in attendance

just before Chris concluded our teaching tonight I took this shot of a few of the pastors in attendance-

 

 

 

Crimea, day 2

Of course I always think our KidsLife kids are the cutest in the world, but these Crimean kids are stiff competition - CUTE!

Of course I always think our KidsLife kids are the cutest in the world, but these Crimean kids are stiff competition – CUTE!

The worship team today in Crimea - I didn't know any of the songs they sang, but I sure knew the Spirit they entertained!

The worship team today in Crimea – I didn’t know any of the songs they sang, but I sure knew the Spirit they entertained!

Anna is our veteran interpreter from the New Testament Church of Perm, and with her help today we saw 8-10 adults stand to give their hearts to Jesus after the Word!

Anna is our veteran interpreter from the New Testament Church of Perm, and with her help today we saw 8-10 adults stand to give their hearts to Jesus after the Word!

We enjoyed an amazing lunch of Crimean specialties (the bread will be served at the marriage supper of the Lamb - take my word for it!) with our host Pastor Sergei (in center w/striped shirt) and his friend, an Armenian pastor who also owns the restaurant where we ate.

We enjoyed an amazing lunch of Crimean specialties (the bread will be served at the marriage supper of the Lamb – take my word for it!) with our host Pastor Sergei (in center w/striped shirt) and his friend, an Armenian pastor who also owns the restaurant where we ate (at the left) – Pastor Sergei’s wife at the right.

They insisted on taking us for a walking tour of their town, situated right on the Black Sea.

They insisted on taking us for a walking tour of their town, situated right on the Black Sea.

We were especially fascinated with their story of the Crimean Karaites, a small group who claim to be Jews.  Their synagogue pictured here is hundreds of years old.

We were especially fascinated with their story of the Crimean Karaites, a small group who claim to be Jews. Their synagogue pictured here is hundreds of years old.

There was a whole section of town dedicated to these people and we couldn't resist a little fun pic to end our day here.

There was a whole section of town dedicated to these people and we couldn’t resist a little fun pic to end our day here.  The real ‘fun’ starts tomorrow with the pastor’s retreat where we’ll be ministering twice a day.  

Crimea, day 1

For some reason this lake near the Black Sea attracts many, many SWANS, and our hosts thought you'd like to see-

For some reason this lake near the Black Sea attracts many, many SWANS, and our hosts thought you’d like to see-

We always insist on our CLC missions trips to include one “fun day” for the team to do some sightseeing or local activities – but when Chris and I travel for missions, we seldom practice what we preach.  But this trip is an exception,  and today was our fun day before the ministry begins tomorrow. (It would have been more fun had we checked the weather forecast this week instead of last week.  We packed nothing but long-sleeved shirts only to get here and discover that the forecast had changed and high’s are in the 90’s for our entire stay!)  Oh well, the joys of international travel.

But what was fun was our 11-hour excursion that enabled us to see practically the entire Crimean peninsula and some breathtaking views of the Black Sea, as well as a delicious lunch with our friends here.  But the highlight was a visit to Livadia Palace, the site of the Yalta Conference.

It’s past our bedtime now and we’re fighting jetlag to boot, but if you’re not familiar with the Yalta Conference, read about it here.  It was neat to be at the site of some US & World history  and we even got a picture to prove it:

Posing with the main characters of the conference: Winston Churchill, Franklin Delanor Roosevelt & Joseph Stalin (at the monument outside the Livadia Palace)

Posing with the main characters of the conference: Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt & Joseph Stalin (at the monument outside the Livadia Palace)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took lots more pictures, but it’s late and we have a full day of ministry tomorrow, with a marriage seminar at a local church added to the schedule unexpectedly – that’s another rule of missions trips: always be flexible.

I’ll post again tomorrow-

Ask the Pastor

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Well, we made it to Zurich without any complications, so I’m typing this post while we wait for our flight to Moscow.  Here are some questions left over from our “Hot Seat” Sunday:

If the church is set up to be a “community” and we all serve to fulfill the need for reaching people, then why do people always expect to get paid for “volunteer” work?”

While this is a valid question, it’s not one that Scripture addresses directly, so I’ll give you my opinion in just 2 words: human nature.  All of us are born into this world with the nature of our father Adam, and as much as I hate to admit it, we are inherently selfish.  So it only stands to reason that IF we walk by our fleshly nature, we don’t want to serve, we want to be paid.

My suggestion is that instead of judging others in the church who don’t live up to our expectations that we live by Romans 14:10, 13 instead.

Someone else asks, “So as a new employee, how do you handle back stabbers, sabotagers at work, when your boss refuses to intervene?”

I’m guessing that’s a question that almost every believer in the workplace has asked at one time or another.  Again, the Bible doesn’t address this particular question directly, but I’ll give you my thoughts:

  • Since your boss refuses to intervene, and you are (Biblically) under his authority, you can just learn to accept it, without participating in the backstabbing behavior yourself.  There is Biblical support for us to accept mistreatment in 1Cor. 6:7 and 1Peter 2.
  • Of course, you have another option: look for another job.  While there’s no guarantee that you won’t face similar mistreatment at another workplace, you have a right to seek peace on your job.

Finally, a CLC’er asks, “Should pastors of “mega-churches” be rich and live excessive lifestyles or should the bulk of that wealth, if earned through ministry, go back to the church?”

Honestly, from the tone of this question, I suspect you’re not really asking a question, but instead passing judgment on some pastor(s) that you don’t agree with.  The only thing that I would contribute to this discussion is a warning as to how dangerous it is for any of us to  assume anything about others.  For example, both Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, to name just two “mega-church’ pastors who are millionaires, refuse to take a salary from their churches and live off the royalties of their book sales.  In fact, in Rick Warren’s case, after his book, Purpose-Driven Life, became so wildly successful, he paid back Saddleback Church  every penny he had earned since starting the church!

Personally, I have enough to do to keep my own life in line with God’s Word, without criticizing or judging others whom I don’t even know.  The whole 14th chapter of Romans again comes to mind.

Hope that helps.  If you’d like to add to my answers (or disagree), please leave a comment below – or even a question of your own for another post.

 

To Russia, with love…

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Chris and I will board a Swiss Air jet in a few hours for an overnight flight to Zurich, then another flight to Moscow, and finally an S7 Airways flight to Simferopol, Crimea.  This will be our first visit to Ukraine (or what was a part of Ukraine before being ‘annexed’ by Russia a few years ago).

We’re looking forward to a reunion with several pastor friends from the Perm, Russia region who will help us conduct a pastor’s retreat for some faithful Crimean pastors who have labored in very difficult circumstances.

We DO love these Russian pastors after several previous visits to various parts of their country, so please pray that we can both encourage and challenge the Crimean pastors in fulfilling their ministry.  I’m not sure we’ll have internet access while there, but I’ll certainly try to keep you posted if we do.

 

Generosity Sunday is coming September 24!

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We truly believe that some CLC’ers will look back later and say, “September was the month things turned around for our finances – it went from stress & worry to the favor of God” – because of our  ‘Moneywise” series!

And to close out the series on September 24, at each service of each CLC Chicagoland campus, that day we’re going to practice what we preach about generosity by giving away:

$50 gift cards for gasoline

$50 gift cards: GASOLINE

$200 gift cards for food

$200 gift cards: GROCERIES

 

                         

Budgeting course from HisAndHerMoney ($197 value)

Budgeting course from HisAndHerMoney ($197 value)

one month car payment (up to $350 value)

one monthly car payment               ($350 value)

one month house payment (up to $1000 value)

one monthly house payment      ($1000 value)

That’s over $11,000 in FREE giveaways on September 24!!!                                    (must be present to win)

Invite a friend to join you September 24 – six services to choose from:             (Blue Island – 11am; Hammond – 9am/11am; Tinley Park – 8:30am/10am/12pm)

Sunday reflections

It's always a JOY to see someone baptized, but especially when their JOY shows like this - congrats, Rachael Eubanks!

It’s always a JOY to see someone baptized, but especially when their JOY shows like this – congrats, Rachael Eubanks!

Tai McNeely shared her story of becoming debt-free using the principles of God's Word.

Tai McNeely shared her story of becoming debt-free using the principles of God’s Word.

Her husband Talaat was humorous, practical & challenging, as the McNeely's did an amazing job at the Tinley Park campus today-

Her husband Talaat was humorous, practical & challenging, as the McNeely’s did an amazing job at the Tinley Park campus today – and at the noon service, about 5 or 6 adults prayed to receive Christ – after a message about money management!!!

There was something for the entire family today!

There was something for the entire family today!

At Blue Island, like each CLC campus, we couldn't do what we do without faithful volunteers!

At Blue Island, like each CLC campus, we couldn’t do what we do without faithful volunteers like Dessie Bell & Rosetta Hatchett!

Tiffany Hines stepped in to lead worship at Blue Island since 3 of their praise team leaders are in Croatia - thanks, Tiff!

Tiffany Hines stepped in to lead worship at Blue Island since 3 of their praise team leaders are in Croatia – thanks, Tiff!

Pastors Dan & Torey brought the message from Proverbs: "Choose Wisely!"

Pastors Dan & Torey brought the message from Proverbs: “Choose Wisely!”

At our Hammond campus, during this interim without a worship director, the ENTIRE praise team stepped up to lead the congregation into His Presence, and Pastor Sam said it was really neat to see!

At our Hammond campus, during this interim without a worship director, the ENTIRE praise team stepped up to lead the congregation into His Presence, and Pastor Sam said it was really neat to see!

He was also encouraged by one new member, Loren Sargent, who just moved here from one of our "hero churches", Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL (average attendance more than 40,000 per Sunday! - and she says CLC reminds her of CoH!) Welcome, Loren!

He was also encouraged by one new member, Loren Sargent, who just moved here from one of our “hero churches”, Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL (average attendance more than 40,000 per Sunday! – and she says CLC reminds her of CoH!) Welcome, Loren!

Ask the Pastor

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Continuing to answer questions that we weren’t able to get to during our “Hot Seat” a few weeks back, beginning with this one from a 10-year old CLC’er who wants to know “why does God allow Lightning and Thunder?”  (she’s frightened by both & doesn’t see any purpose for them)

Well, that’s a question I’ve never been asked before.  And while the Bible doesn’t go into great detail on this subject, I can tell you that sometimes God uses lightning or thunder to accomplish His purposes.  For example:

  • Exodus 9:23-29 – lightning was used by God to show Pharaoh and the Egyptians that the earth belongs to the Lord, and frightened them into releasing Israel from slavery.
  • Exodus 20:18-20 – God used the lightning & thunder to get His people’s attention, so they would hear His Word through Moses.
  • 1 Sam. 7:10 – God used thunder to confuse Israel’s enemy, so they could defeat them.
  • 1Sam. 12:17-18 – God used thunder so Israel would know He was speaking to them.

In fact, several times in Scripture it seems thunder is symbolic of God’s voice – and while several verses indicate that we don’t really understand, we know that God can speak!  So the purpose of lightning & thunder is to demonstrate a little of God’s power.

Now, if you want a scientific explanation, this is a pretty good one.

Question 2 during the ‘Hot Seat’ was, “should believers follow the Democratic or Republican party? 

My answer is, neither!  Follow Jesus!

Finally, question 3 from the ‘Hot Seat’ was, “Has the antichrist been revealed? And will he be before the Rapture? 

My answer is I don’t know, and possibly.

Hope these helped a bit.  Feel free to weigh in if you have insight into any of these 3 questions, so we may all learn – just leave your comment below.

Who are you inviting to hear Talaat & Tai McNeely THIS Sunday at CLC-TP?

 

Moving the ball down the field

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You don’t have to be a Bears fan to know that football isn’t necessarily about the BIG plays – the game is often won by the team that steadily moves the ball down the field, turning first-downs into touchdowns.  (I guess it helps if you aren’t a Bears fan to know about touchdowns, but that’s another subject altogether)

Sometimes we have guest speakers at CLC who help us move the ball down the field – and I  “prophesy’ that this Sunday, September 10, will be on of those days at our Tinley Park campus (don’t free in Blue Island or Hammond, because you’ll get them this month, too)

After our sermon planning meeting today with our pastoral team and guest Talaat McNeely, I’m more convinced than ever that months from now, some CLC’ers will look back and say,  “September was the month when our finances turn around!” (see Esther 9:22).

Tai & Talaat McNeely will share their story and God's plan for your prosperity, using the wisdom of Proverbs!

Tai & Talaat McNeely will share their story and God’s plan for your prosperity, using the wisdom of Proverbs!

If you’re ever going to invite a friend to join you at CLC, this is the Sunday!   There will be practical help for everyone in attendance!

And stay tuned for a special announcement about our 2017 Generosity Sunday…soon!

Sunday reflections

Turn your eyes upon Jesus Look full in His wonderful face And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
will grow strangely dim
in the light of His glory and grace!

Chris gave us some prophetic pictures in each service

My wife gave us some prophetic pictures in each service: warnings & promises!

Pastor Jon appealed for CLC'ers to step up to help the Hurricane victims - if giving online, choose "Hurricane Relief"

Pastor Jon appealed for CLC’ers to step up to help the Hurricane victims – if giving online, choose “Hurricane Relief”

Could you tell that I'm pumped about this new series?

Could you tell that I’m pumped about this new series?  Best of all, people gave their life to Christ at each service today, and that’s always worth celebrating!

I say it again: the cutest kids on earth attend CLC!

I say it again: the cutest kids on earth attend CLC! (Our KidsLife volunteers are great, too!)

some of them are rather adventurous, too

some of them are rather adventurous, too (but our KidsLife staff has it under control!)

Don't you wanna know what was so funny?

Don’t you wanna know what was so funny?

Harmony LaBeff led worship at Hammond campus today-

Harmony LaBeff led worship at Hammond campus today-

In Hammond, Pastors Dan & Torey made their teaching debut at CLC, while Pastor Sam is on vacation. I heard it was awesome & that one person received Christ there today!

In Hammond, Pastors Dan & Torey made their teaching debut at CLC, while Pastor Sam is on vacation. I heard it was awesome & that one person received Christ there today!

Lifting up holy hands unto the Lord at our Blue Island campus!

Lifting up holy hands unto the Lord at our Blue Island campus!

I love how kids can FOCUS and receive from God's Word!

I love how kids can FOCUS and receive from God’s Word!

Two Blue Island favorite worshippers: Alan Franklin & Daniel Rodriguez!

Two Blue Island favorite worshippers: Alan Franklin & Daniel Rodriguez!

Pastor Brent received a BIRTHDAY surprise from the congregation...AND their prayers for this next year!

Pastor Brent received a BIRTHDAY surprise from the congregation…AND their prayers for this next year!  AND 4 people joined CLC-BI through Growth Track today, and 1 person gave his life to Christ after the message – that’s a great birthday gift!

Ask the Pastor

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Two of the questions we didn’t have time to answer last Sunday are similar: “Pastor, my question is in times like these where we know we can’t do life without God, how can we humbly w/o getting too churchy or political conversate about the word of God with those who don’t know God?” and “I have friends who are atheists and I want to know how I can go about witnessing to them? If they don’t believe in God or the Bible, how do I talk to them about it? 

Great questions, and the topic is one that I’m sure will be more and more common in days to come, as our country is increasingly post-Christian, where a significant part of the population checks “NONE” when asked about their religious beliefs.

I’ll admit, this is not my strongest area of ministry, but let me share a few thoughts:

  1. First, I’m going to assume that the people you’re wanting to reach are genuine atheists or non-believers, as opposed to someone who is insincere but just wants to argue with you.  (I don’t know how to persuade someone who’s just trying to argue, and life is too short to spend it on them when there ARE lost people who are hungry for more in life)
  2. Secondly, none of us is capable of winning an atheist (or other unbeliever) just by our  persuasive speech. So prayer is the most-important thing you can do to engage those who don’t believe in the Bible.  God is able to bring circumstances into their life and touch their heart in such a way that they do become open and receptive to your witness.  And as John 6:44 so clearly points out, no one comes to the Lord without being attracted to Him by the Spirit’s work in their heart.
  3. Beyond that, there are “apologetic” resources available to help you with conversations designed to help your unbelieving friends find a reason to believe.  Here are a few that you might find helpful:

I hope this has been helpful, but I also invite my readers to share other tools or resources that you have found effective.  Leave your comment below-

“September IS the month that things turned around for us”

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I’ve already shared with you that as I read Esther 9:22 recently I sensed the Lord saying that in the future, CLC’ers would look back on this September as the month things turned around for them, as they went from being stressed and pressured about finances to having FAVOR!

And it all starts THIS Sunday, September 3 at each CLC campus – why not invite a friend to join you, because everyone you know is interested in help for their finances!

Take a look:

Moneywise Promo from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Follow-up from the HOT SEAT

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This past Sunday was a lot of fun (well, for those of you listening in comfort; it did get a little hot on stage) and Chris and I were able to address a lot of your questions. (If you missed out, you can watch the replay here – 8:30am OR 10am OR 12 pm.) I hope our responses and especially pertinent Scriptures brought you some clarity.

However, there were at least 37 other questions that we did not have time to address, and our heart is to help CLC’ers with those questions, too.  So for the next several Fridays, I will be addressing those questions in my weekly feature, “Ask the Pastor”.

I hope you’ll join me starting THIS Friday, September 1!

You’ve seen the pictures…..now it’s time to help!

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Sometimes we must do MORE than pray.  If you’ve seen the pictures I’ve seen, I know your heart is moved for the people whose lives have been turned upside-down by the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Take a moment to read this article to see how desperate the need.

CLC has a missions partner already on the ground serving people in the affected areas – every penny you give will go to help them.  The simplest way to donate is our text to give option: Simply text “Give $Dollar Amount” (ex. Give $100) to (708) 265-3315

Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus.

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Sunday reflections

What do we do on Missions Sunday? Why, pray for the CLC team about to go to Croatia, of course! L to R: Danielle, Paula, Cherry, Jen, Harm

What do we do on Missions Sunday? Why, pray for the CLC team about to go to Croatia, of course! L to R: Jonathan Aguilar, Danielle Truckenmiller, Paula Hopkins, Cherry Vauters, Jen McQuay, Tiffany Davison, Charletta Young, Tenia Hoskins, Angie Simington, (Harm LaBeff is hidden behind Pastor Dan). Not pictured from TP: Sandra Norris, Ch’vez Moore, Reuben Hutcherson.

Our ministry to Kids is only possible because of great volunteers & leaders - thanks Jamie & Stacy!

Our ministry to Kids is only possible because of great volunteers & leaders – thanks Jamie Hyrn & Stacy Hunter!

well, at times it was definitely a 'Hot Seat', but all in all, today was both fun & informative. IF we didn't get to your question today, check here the next few Friday's.

well, at times it was definitely a ‘Hot Seat’, but all in all, today was both fun & informative. IF we didn’t get to your question today, check here the next few Friday’s.

In Hammond, it was certainly bittersweet to say goodbye to the only worship director in the history of our campus - Linell Muse. He's accepted a great new opportunity in Missouri.

In Hammond, it was certainly bittersweet to say goodbye to the only worship director in the history of our campus – Linell Muse. He’s accepted a great new opportunity in Missouri.

Like I say, the CUTEST kids in America attend KidsLife - including

Like I say, the CUTEST kids in America attend KidsLife – including this little guy, RJ Smith,son of Roland and Leslie.

Pastor Sam chose not to do a 'hot seat', but I hear HE was on FIRE today with his message on "Gratitude"

Pastor Sam chose not to do a ‘hot seat’, but I hear HE was on FIRE today with his message on “Gratitude” – a much needed value in our culture!

Daniel Rodriguez in worship at Blue Island

Daniel Rodriguez in worship at Blue Island

Blue Island members of the Croatia team receiving prayer from Pastors Brent & Sol - L to R: Harry Valentine, Alan Franklin, Liane Williams & Nikeva Lawrence.

Blue Island members of the Croatia team receiving prayer from Pastors Brent & Sol – L to R: Harry Valentine, Alan Franklin, Liane Williams & Nikeva Lawrence.

I hear it was a VERY Hot Seat in Blue Island, but Pastor Brent & Sol passed the test, and people were helped!

I hear it was a VERY Hot Seat in Blue Island, but Pastor Brent & Sol passed the test, and people were helped!

Some have asked about the website I recommended for cultural issues from a Biblical perspective: it’s www.bullseyechallenge.com

Now, I’m enjoying a DVR of Mr. Trubisky, hoping Bears managment make the right decision about the next starting QB for the Bears.  Later-

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “With our culture being so divided politically & racially, resulting in the  spread of so much hate through news media & social media, how are we as Christians to respond? Surely we must speak out against evil, but it seems when we do so, we can easily fall into the same trap of fighting hate with hate, instead of responding in love.

GREAT question, not only because it is such a hot topic currently, but also because so many of us as Christ followers seem to be unsure of how to respond, with some of us adding fuel to the fire of division with our social media posts, etc. – while still other believers remain silent and seemingly ignore the issue in the hopes of keeping peace.  Here’s my take:

  • Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers” and that means we don’t throw gasoline on the fires of division; we seek reconciliation.
  • James 3:17-18 speaks God’s practical wisdom for those times we find ourselves in these kind of situations.
  • Proverbs 18:21 in the Message translation says, “Words kill, words give life;
    they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.”
    That’s a great reminder, whether we’re speaking or posting on social media, that we have a choice.  I encourage you to think about the potential affect of your words before you post and before you open your mouth. And the New Testament passage in Philippians 4:8-9 gives us great counsel for what to think about!
  • This may not be Scripture (it’s a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), but it’s undeniable truth:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

That’s my position.  What’s yours?  Leave a comment below-

Join us this Sunday (Aug. 27) for the “HOT SEAT”, when our pastors will answer your spontaneous questions….it should be fun!

I’m EXCITED!

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I know; I know.  You’ve heard me say that about practically every new sermon series at CLC for how many years now.

But this time is different.

As I was doing my daily prayer & Bible reading several days ago, a portion of my reading was Esther 9:22, and here’s the part that jumped out at me: “the month when things turned around for them—changing from sorrow to joy and from mourning into a favorable day–“

When I read that, I felt the Lord saying to me that months from now, CLC’ers would look back on our September sermon series and say, that was the month when things turned around for our finances — changing it from pressure and stress and arguments into the FAVOR we now enjoy!

We’re calling the series, ‘Moneywise’ because we’re focusing on the wisdom of Solomon found in the book of Proverbs pertaining to our finances, and I can’t wait!

We’ve got some special things planned for the series, including another ‘Generosity Sunday’ when CLC’ers will receive more than $10,000 from us, as we practice what we preach about generosity, AND, some very special guests who will speak at each campus, Talaat & Tai McNeely from “His and Her Money”.  If you’re not acquainted with their story, take a look at this clip from when they were guests on the T.D. Jakes show.

I hope you’ll invite your unchurched friends, because everyone you know could use some of God’s wisdom regarding their money.  It all starts on September 3!
 

Classy people do classy things!

I just received this card in the mail today:

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If it needs explanation, the card is handwritten by Mrs. Dodie Osteen (Joel’s mother, and the matriarch of Lakewood Church). She’s 85 years old and I’m sure she has better things to do than send a thank you note to me for participating on stage at the recent “Night of Hope” at the United Center.

But I’ve learned in my years of ministry that classy people do classy things.  (Maybe I should rephrase that to say, “real leaders show appreciation to people”.

I hope I’m still practicing that at age 85.

Sunday reflections

All of the Hammond campus K-12 and Educators on the platform for prayer today!

Hammond campus K-12 and Educators on the platform for prayer today!  (Beautiful sight!)

Hammond worship was STRONG today...

Hammond worship was STRONG today…

Pastor Sam tackled the Sexual Purity message, with great feedback from parents

Pastor Sam tackled the Sexual Purity message, with great feedback from parents

After the Hammond services, they had a Back to School Bash with a special presentation by the Hammond Police Department

After the Hammond services, they had a Back to School Bash with a special presentation by the Hammond Police Department and their dogs

Meanwhile, it was a Baby Dedication Sunday in Blue Island today - love to see family members come together to dedicate a child (Congrats Daniel & Veronica and baby Jonas!)

Meanwhile, it was a Baby Dedication Sunday in Blue Island today – love to see family members come together to dedicate a child (Congrats Daniel & Veronica and baby Jonas!)

And congrats to Maria & for the dedication of their 3 children: Ruby, Julian & Monica!

And congrats to Maria on the dedication of her 3 children: Ruby, Julian & Monica!

Pastor Brent told me he was nervous about preaching the Sexual Purity message, but a guest told him afterwards, in 35 years of attending church, he had never heard this subject addressed, and he filled both sides of his outline with personal notes from the message!

Pastor Brent told me he was nervous about preaching the Sexual Purity message, but a guest told him afterwards, in 35 years of attending church, he had never heard this subject addressed, and he filled both sides of his outline with personal notes from the message!

But "how shall they hear without a translator?" says Pastor Sol!

But “how shall they hear without a translator?” says Pastor Sol!

Since it was Back to School Sunday, I think Tinley campus wins the cutest kids award!

Since it was Back to School Sunday, I think Tinley campus wins the cutest kids award!

how 'bout this little gal?

how ’bout this little gal?

Pastor Chris had some prophetic pictures to share with us: distractions, , & peace (hang on to Jesus!)

Pastor Chris had some prophetic pictures to share with us: distractions, purpose, & peace (hang on to Jesus!)

The moment we announced our new Tinley Park Campus Pastors, Jon & Rachel Jones!

The moment we announced our new Tinley Park Campus Pastors, Jon & Rachel Jones!

Honestly, I knew the Sexual Purity message was needed & I tried to include lots of humor to make it go down easier, but I'm glad it over!

Honestly, I knew the Sexual Purity message was needed & I tried to include lots of humor to make it go down easier, but I’m glad it over!

Feel free to send your congratulations to Pastors Jon & Rachel here-

Don’t forget to submit a question for next Sunday’s “HOT SEAT” here.

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “Is there a difference between conviction and condemnation? If so, how can you tell and who is the source of both?”

Great questions, because it’s such an important distinction:

Yes, there’s a very significant difference between the two, since Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10who seeks to put condemnation on followers of Christ, while one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction to us when we’re going astray, so we can get back on the right track (John 16:7-11)

Conviction is actually a good thing, much like pain in our physical bodies.  None of us likes to feel pain (or conviction) – but both get our attention, and let us know that something is wrong.  In fact, I’m persuaded that none of us would turn to the Lord for salvation unless we first felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that let us know we were in the wrong and needed to turn to Christ to be saved.

Condemnation, on the other hand, is never corrective in nature, but rather is designed to make us feel hopeless, that we are unworthy or lost, and that there’s nothing we can do about it.

Further, I’ve noticed that conviction is sharp and specific – to help us realize exactly where we’re in the wrong and how we can correct it.  But condemnation is blunt and heavy and usually a general sense of guilt – that we are condemned by God and that there is no hope for us.

In one of my recent daily readings I noticed this beautiful passage: Job 5:17-18.

Thank God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit!

I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts about the differences you’ve noticed between conviction and condemnation – just leave a comment below.

While you’re at it, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

SEX and announcements and prayer

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This Sunday at each CLC campus is THE most-debated ‘TIMELESS” topic of all.  Yep, we’re talking SEX this weekend, and after meeting with our pastors yesterday, I think it may be the most helpful message of the series.

But we’re not only talking about SEX this Sunday.  We’re also taking time in each service to pray over all our students, from kindergarten thru high school, as well as each CLC teacher, administrator, principal and education employee as they go into a new school year.

Finally, we have some very special announcements to make, including news about our new Campus Pastor in Tinley Park!

So make plans now to join us for any of our six Sunday services: 8:30 or 10 am or 12pm in Tinley Park; 9 or 11 am in Hammond, or 11 am in Blue Island – it’ll be a Sunday to remember!

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Congratulations, Linell and Amanda!

Amanda Edwards and Linell Muse from our Hammond campus-

Amanda Edwards and Linell Muse from our Hammond campus-

With all the good reports around CLC yesterday, I left out one bit of news that is certainly bittersweet.  As you may know, Linell Muse has been a part of our CLC family for over 10 years, with the last 4 of them spent as our Worship Director at CLC-Hammond.

Earlier this year he proposed to Amanda Edwards who was a featured vocalist on our Tinley Park praise team and a finance clerk in our office. They plan to be married this December.

However, just this weekend they accepted a tremendous opportunity to serve a church in Osage Beach, MO (in the heart of the Ozark mountains), starting in September.  So we’re  rejoicing with them for a larger opportunity (and the possibility of a job in Amanda’s field of study, journalism), but we’re sad to see them go at the same time.

They’ll be around only for two more weeks, so show them some love here or here.  We certainly appreciate all their service, both in Tinley Park and in Hammond, and we pray God’s favor and blessing as they take this next big step in ministry!

Congrats on your upcoming nuptials AND a great new worship assignment, Linell & Amanda!

Congrats on your upcoming nuptials AND a great new worship assignment, Linell & Amanda!

Sunday reflections

I wish Charlottesville, VA could see this.

I wish Charlottesville, VA could see these two little girls – as God intended it to be!

So many good things happened today:

LOTS of newcomer's at the 8:30 service today, anxious to get Joel Osteen's latest book!

LOTS of newcomer’s at the 8:30 service today, anxious to get Joel Osteen’s latest book!

Nothing like the JOY of water baptism - congratulations, Shantelya Lett!

Nothing like the JOY of water baptism – congratulations, Shantelya Lett!

We prayed for this special team of 4 men headed to Haifa, Israel this week to tackle some building projects for our partners at "Return to Zion", led by Leon Mazin!

We prayed for this special team of 4 men headed to Haifa, Israel this week to tackle some building projects for our partners at “Return to Zion”, led by Leon Mazin!

And we welcomed our new Executive Pastors, Dan & Torey Goodson!

And we welcomed our new Executive Pastors, Dan & Torey Goodson!

 

I shared a teaching on "HONOR" for week 2 of our 'Timeless' series, and people game their life to Christ in each service!

I shared a teaching on “HONOR” for week 2 of our ‘Timeless’ series, and people gave their life to Christ in each service! (That never gets old!)

The cutest babies in the world are CLC babies! (This little guy is part of our Blue Island campus)

The cutest babies in the world are CLC babies! (This little guy is part of our Blue Island campus)

Pastor Brent expressed his heart on the Charlottesville, VA situation, before leading the congregation in prayer for our nation.

Pastor Brent expressed his heart on the Charlottesville, VA situation, before leading the congregation in prayer for our nation.

Then Mama Chris 'meddled' some with her teaching on Honor.

Then Mama Chris ‘meddled’ some with her teaching on Honor.

And she was FUNNY while teaching today-

And she was FUNNY while teaching today-

Meanwhile, at our Hammond campus, Pastor Sam said the 9am service worship was one of the most powerful times of worship to-date!

Meanwhile, at our Hammond campus, Pastor Sam said the 9am service worship was one of the most powerful times of worship to-date!

At each campus today, we prayed in multi-cultural circles of prayer for God to heal the racism in our land!

At each campus today, we prayed in multi-cultural circles of prayer for God to heal the racism in our land!

"Granny" Drusie Neal gave a great exhortation about surrender during worship.

“Granny” Drusie Neal gave a great exhortation about surrender during worship.

Pastor Sam preached the "HONOR" message

Pastor Sam preached the “HONOR” message to a summertime crowd of 375 people!

and 6 people joined our CLC-Hammond family today through Growth Track, step 2!

and 6 people joined our CLC-Hammond family today through Growth Track, step 2!

It was a FULL, good day at CLC!

Don’t forget our 21-days of prayer continues tomorrow at 7am!

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers submitted several questions he was asked by a college student: Is there a difference between receiving the Holy Spirit (like from my understanding of Ephesians 1:13) and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4, Acts 19:2-7, Matthew 3:11)? Can someone have the Holy spirit and not be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Does someone receive the Holy Spirit immediately when they become saved? And according to Romans 8:9 and Ephesians 1:13-14, is it necessary to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost to go to heaven? And is the gift of speaking in tongues according to 1 Corinthians 12 the same thing as the evidence of speaking in tongues when the holy spirit fills someone?”

Whew!  That’s a lot of ground to cover in one post, but I’ll give it my best shot.

In order, Yes. Yes. Yes. No. No.  Now let me explain, because it seems this college student was taught many of the same ideas that I grew up with in my Pentecostal upbringing, some of which I now believe are not quite accurate with the whole of Scripture:

  • As I understand God’s Word, when any person truly believes on Jesus for salvation, he/she receives the Holy Spirit (see John 3:5Gal. 3:2;  Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:13-14This experience is what Paul referenced in Romans 8:9 when he said without this, we don’t even belong to Christ – so clearly we cannot be saved without this!
  • However, the Bible clearly teaches that there is an experience often referred to as the “baptism” of the Holy Spirit that is given to believers to empower us to be a witness.  This experience is usually accompanied by speaking in a language that we have never learned – “speaking in tongues” or, as we usually refer to it at CLC, a “prayer language”, since the primary purpose of this gift is to enable us to have deeper intimacy with the Lord in prayer (see 1Cor. 14:2, 4, 5, 18).  The three passages listed in the second question clearly refer to this “baptism” of the Holy Spirit. Yes, a person can receive the indwelling Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation without ever going on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit for power – as we see in Acts 8:12-17.  These Samaritans clearly  believed the Gospel and had even been water-baptized, so they had the indwelling Holy Spirit when they believed, but were not baptized in the Holy Spirit until the Apostles Peter & John came and laid hands on them.
  • Since a believer receives the indwelling Holy Spirit at salvation, if for some reason they do not go on to the baptized in the Holy Spirit for power, they would still go to heaven  (in my opinion), since they belong to Christ.
  • Finally, as I understand the Scriptures, there are actually three different purposes for speaking in tongues: (1) as a ‘sign’ that a person has been baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit.  (By the way, the term “initial evidence” is not found in Scripture, and in my experience, tends to create more arguments than attract people to receive their prayer language.  I think the examples in Acts certainly indicate that people will speak in tongues when they’re baptized with the Spirit, but I don’t make that a hard & fast rule, since it’s not possible to put God in a box.); (2) as a private “prayer language” as we see in 1Cor. 14 and Romans 8:26-27 and Jude 20), to enable us to have deeper intimacy with the Lord in prayer; and (3) as a public gift for use in Christian gatherings in conjunction with the gift of interpretation of tongues, to convey a message of encouragement to those gathered.

We covered a LOT of ground with this as briefly as I could, so I hope it helps.  Perhaps some of my readers will add to my brief answer by making their comment below.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Sunday reflections

The first Sunday of August was a good day around CLC:

"Mr. Tim" to many CLC kids through the years - and they all LOVE him! (So do we!)

He’s “Mr. Tim” to many CLC kids through the years – and they all LOVE him! (So do we!)

"THe JOY of the Lord is your strength", Pastor Jon!

“THe JOY of the Lord is your strength”, Pastor Jon!  Thanks for sharing it with all of us!!

Can't recall the last time I was as nervous about preaching (or as uncomfortable while preaching), but I'm grateful for His anointing & your response!

Can’t recall the last time I was as nervous about preaching (or as uncomfortable while preaching), but I’m grateful for His anointing & your response!

Worship was good at our Hammond campus (as always!)

Worship was good at our Hammond campus (as always!)

Pastor Sam said the "Integrity" message seemed to connect well in Hammond, too!

Pastor Sam said the “Integrity” message seemed to connect well in Hammond, too!

Who says kids won't pay attention in church these days?

Who says kids won’t pay attention in church these days?

Our Blue Island youth took church outside on this beautiful day-

Our Blue Island youth took church outside on this beautiful day-

Pastor Brent says a watermelon has INTEGRITY

Pastor Brent says a watermelon has INTEGRITY

One of the things I love about CLC is that you can receive  personal ministry at any service, any campus!

One of the things I love about CLC is that you can receive personal ministry at any service, any campus!

Ask the Pastor

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Well, no new questions were sent to me this week, but I was asked one question in the lobby recently, although it’s probably not one that many folks will be itchin’ to know my answer to: “When you baptize at CLC, what does the minister say – ‘in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin’ or ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit'”?

Not only is that not a hot-burner issue for most believers, but my answer is also not likely to please.  See, that’s one of the debates that’s been around almost exclusively in Pentecostal churches for the last 90 years, and it’s fueled primarily by the position of those who teach that water baptism “in Jesus name” is a requirement for salvation.

I will say this: because of my background, I have studied this issue extensively.  My conclusion, years ago, is that this is not a Biblical issue, but rather a matter of semantics.  Not only that, but I’m even more convinced that God is not looking down from heaven at the moment of one’s baptism to see if the minister says the “magic words” to insure one’s salvation!  We are saved by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, when we place our whole trust on what HE did for us, not on what we can do for ourselves!

Having said that, I will also say that a close examination of the New Testament doesn’t reveal a “formula” for water baptism, but it certainly cannot be denied that the name of Jesus plays an important role – not unlike the fact that we pray in the name of Jesus and we cast out demons in the name of Jesus.  So, while it is not a ‘test of fellowship’ at CLC, when we baptize, our pastors do say, “in the name of Jesus”, rather than the phrase, “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.  (To check out the Scriptures for yourself, look at Acts 2:38, Acts 8:14-17, Acts 10:44-48, Acts 19:1-6, Acts 19:13-16, Col 3:17, 1Cor 1:13-15)

At CLC, we have chosen not to divide the body of Christ over semantics, but instead contend for clear Biblical truth rather than personal preferences or pet doctrines – and, in this instance, the clear Biblical truth is that every believer should experience water baptism in celebration of what God has done in their life!  (To schedule yours, contact us today)

Care to add to my answer?  Please leave a comment below.

Now, what would you like to Ask the Pastor?

To my one and only…

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I don’t know how I missed the opportunity to express this yesterday (blame it on my advanced age, I guess), but it was on  August 2, 1954 that Chris Ann Hansen first entered the world in Detroit, MI.  I was toddling around my parent’s home about 600 miles away at the time, and it would be over 17 years later before I’d have the chance to look into her beautiful blue eyes for the first time – but I’m so glad the Lord brought us together!

Honestly, I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without her:

  • She is my best friend.  I’d rather spend time with her than anyone else on earth.  I value her thoughts and opinions more than anyone else I know.  I love to make her laugh, and I love laughing with her.
  • She’s an incredible cook.  I wouldn’t have near the struggle with my weight if I’d married someone else, but her home-cooked meals have been wonderful from Day 2 of our marriage until now – I never get tired of sitting down to a table that she’s prepared, whatever it is.
  • She’s an amazing mother to our children.  Oh sure, we didn’t get everything right through the years (no one does), but we got a lot more right than wrong, and mostly because of her.  Her fierce love for Chad, Jen and Brent has given them an advantage that millions of kids in our world never had.
  • She’s one of the most creatively-gifted people I’ve ever met, and it shows every time she teaches, preaches or writes almost anything.  (and to think it all started with Harry the puppet that she found in a Sunday School cabinet back in the 70’s!)
  • Speaking of preaching & teaching – I’ve teased for years that I couldn’t let her speak very often at CLC lest I be out of a job, but the honest-to-God truth is that she is an excellent communicator, and the anointing that she brings into the pulpit, whether she’s teaching or prophesying, has blessed and encouraged and challenged not just our CLC family, but thousands of pastors and leaders from Kenya to Kazakhstan and from Trinidad to Turkey.
  • She is a lover – and I’m not just talking about our private moments together – I’m talking about the way she genuinely and passionately loves others – as I’ve seen her do in country after country, not to mention her dear Heart 2 Heart ladies, and even the children and teens she has ‘adopted’ through the years, starting with Leslie in Troy and then Martha in Mt. Morris and, well, I’ve lost track of how many folks call her “Mama Chris” now.  She’s easily the most unselfish person I’ve ever known, because love gives, and that’s her.
  • She’s the epitome of growth and change.  I’ve watched her re-invent herself time after time to meet new challenges through the years.  She is constantly growing to become more of the person God always intended her to be, and that motivates me to keep improving myself, lest she outgrow me.  Suffice it to say. she’s not the shy young teenager I was first attracted to back in 1972 – she’s a woman of God who’s getting better with age!

chris 2

I’ll close, because this is supposed to be a blog, not a book, but not before I say Happy (belated) Birthday, Chris – I love you more than ever!

Chris McQuay

When the Word become real…

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Every preacher reading this post knows exactly what I mean:

  • sometimes I preach because it’s Sunday and it’s my job.
  • sometimes I preach because I’ve got a ‘Word’ and I can’t not preach!

We start a new series this Sunday at every campus of CLC that has been in planning for a long time, but after the last few days, I must warn you: I’ve got a Word from the Lord!  (and since our pastors discussed it thoroughly during our sermon planning meeting this week, we’re ALL infected!

Join us this Sunday at any campus of CLC.

And don’t say you’re weren’t warned.

“Timeless” Promo from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

3, 4, 5

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Actually, it’s 3 for 5.

If that still doesn’t make sense, I’d like to give YOU 3 reasons that YOU should participate in our annual CLC 5this September 23:

1. Your health.  God only gave us one body, and He expects us to take care of it.  Too many of us as believers have “buffeted” our bodies at all-you-can-eat restaurants instead of the ‘buffeted” that Paul referenced about the apostles in 1Cor. 4:11.  (beatings they received!)  As out-of-shape as I am at age 64, if I can do it, you can do it!

Running or walking in one 5k may not get you in shape overnight, but it can be a great start!

2. To help others.  Your registration fee, when added to the dozens (hundreds?) of other CLC’ers who participate in the 5k, will enable us to bless some organizations in the South Suburbs who are doing good works to help people in our community.  So while you walk, jog or run, you’ll actually helping people in need.

3. To reach others.  I’ve been amazed each year to see unchurched people join us for the 5k.  In fact, I think you’ll be surprised how many of your non-Christian friends, family or co-workers will be interested in joining you for the 5k if you invite them to do so.  And in the process, the exposure to joy-filled, ‘normal’ people may give them a whole new impression of Christians.  Who knows – they may meet Jesus because they first jogged a 5k at CLC!

You can register online here OR stop by our Missions kiosk in the Tinley Park lobby this week!

5K Promo – September 23 from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Sunday reflections

Summertime special events in Hammond and Blue Island certainly helped these numbers, but I’m excited that almost 1,900 worshipped at CLC today!

The worship team led us into God's Presence in each service (as usual)

The worship team led us into God’s Presence in each service (as usual)

Harmony LaBeff introduced  a new song he wrote based on Psalm 73-

Harmony LaBeff introduced a new song he wrote based on Psalm 73-

duh

Looks like KidsLife was having fun today, too!

This lady was AMAZING today (also, as usual). Thanks, CLC, for honoring her birthday (which is actually this coming Wednesday). Her message from "The Shack" was the most powerful of our God@the Movies series and brought TONS of people to the altar for healing today!  You can feel her passion through this pic-

This lady was AMAZING today (also, as usual). Thanks, CLC, for honoring her birthday (which is actually this coming Wednesday). Her message from “The Shack” was the most powerful of our God@the Movies series and brought TONS of people to the altar for healing today! You can feel her passion through this pic-

It takes a LOT of volunteers to do Church at the Beach!  Kudos, Hammond CLC'ers!!

It takes a LOT of volunteers to do Church at the Beach! Kudos, Hammond CLC’ers!!

Part of the Praise Team (Love their stage design!)

Part of the Praise Team (Love their stage design!)

The blue shirts are lined up to share their testimony before being baptized-

The blue shirts are lined up to share their testimony before being baptized-

An estimated 450 people attended Church at the Beach today!

An estimated 450 people attended Church at the Beach today!

And after worship, communion, testimonies and 43 BAPTISMS, everyone settled to hang out at the beach!

And after worship, communion, testimonies and 43 BAPTISMS, everyone settled to hang out at the beach!

Meanwhile, it was "Praise in the Park" at our Blue Island campus.

Meanwhile, it was “Praise in the Park” at our Blue Island campus.

Praise in the Park means "praising God" outdoors, from the worship team...

Praise in the Park means “praising God” outdoors, from the worship team…

...to the KidsLife Director...

…to the KidsLife Director…

....to everyone present!

….to everyone present!  “Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord!”

One of the things I love most about CLC is how our volunteers serve with joy!

One of the things I love most about CLC is how our volunteers serve with joy!

after the worship, it was time for an old-fashioned church PICNIC!

after the worship, it was time for an old-fashioned church PICNIC!

I'm told the TACOS were the hit of the day!

I’m told the TACOS were the hit of the day!

the most photogenic kids in the world attend CLC!

the most photogenic kids in the world attend CLC!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m repeating this post from 2009:

Here’s the latest question I’ve received: what recommendation do you have on how to study the Bible? I find myself jumping around hoping the Lord will just point me where I should go.

Excellent question!  And what a common problem – I think a lot of believers would have to admit to ‘jumping around’.  Here’s my 2-cents on the subject:

1.  If you haven’t read the entire Bible, I always recommend a thru-the-Bible plan, such as we give out at CLC.  You can also find some great plans here.  From my standpoint, any plan is better than no plan, or as you’ve heard before, “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

2.  Since you asked about study, not just reading, I would probably start with a “Bible survey” type course – that is, one that gives you the big picture of the Bible, from Old Testament to New Testament.  I’ve taught those classes for years, and I still love doing them, because of all the ‘light bulbs’ that go off in people’s heads when they start seeing how it fits together and the foundation of major doctrines, etc.

3.  Another great method is to study a particular doctrine or topic or character in Scripture.  It’s easy to do, with a simple concordance like Cruden’s or Strong’s, that you can purchase at a Christian bookstore or with the previous links – or, thanks to the internet, do your study for free here.  For instance, if you want to study “grace” or “baptism” or “Joseph”, you simply look up all the verses with those words, and do your own study of the Scriptures, keeping in mind that no doctrine is built on one isolated verse, but (in the words of the good ‘ole KJV I grew up with), it’s “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little”.

4.  Finally, the most important key: start!  The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and there’s no better time to get started than now!  I hope that helps – I know wherever you read or study, God will speak to you – at least that’s how it works with me, and I’m always better for it.

What would you like to Ask the Pastor?

She still speaks!

Kevin Tyler & Tarshawa

Kevin Tyler Carter with his mom, Tarshawa

Hebrews 11:4 in ‘The Voice’ translation says of Abel, “And by faith he still speaks, although his voice was silenced by death.”

That verse came to my mind today as I had lunch with a CLC elder, Kevin Carter.  As most of those who read this post know, last year we said goodbye to one of the sweetest, most self-less saints of God I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.  Kevin’s wife, Tarshawa was dearly-loved by everyone at CLC who knew her, and we still miss her deeply.

But I learned today that for several years Tarshawa challenged their son, Kevin Tyler, to pursue excellence in Spelling Bees at his school.  In fact, with her encouragement, Kevin did excel, finishing as one of the top spellers in his school in 2014, 2015, and 2016, when he was the second-place finisher.  This year, he dedicated his final Spelling Bee to his mom, and won first-place for his school!  In fact, he went on to finish fourth place at the Regional Spelling Bee, which is the highest achieved by a District 162 student in history!

Join me in congratulating CLC'er Kevin Tyler Carter on this great accomplishment.  I know his mom is proud - and so are all of us at CLC!

Join me in congratulating CLC’er Kevin Tyler Carter on this great accomplishment. I know his mom is proud – and so are all of us at CLC!

 

God’s Word is TIMELESS!

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We still have one more Sunday of “God@the Movies” (at our Tinley Park campus – my wife will bring a message from ‘The Shack’ this Sunday, July 30 in all 3 services) – BUT I’m already excited about the next series, TIMELESS!

So many people (sometimes even Christians) think that the Bible is old and outdated and not in tune with today’s culture.  But I’m convinced that the principles of Scripture are just as applicable today as when they were written thousands of years ago.

I hope you’ll plan to join us each Sunday in August for TIMELESS:

“Timeless” Promo from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Sunday reflections

The photo booth for GATM is more popular in Blue Island than ANY other campus! (Just ask Nikeva)

The photo booth for GATM is more popular in Blue Island than ANY other campus! (Just ask Nikeva)

Even Pastors Sol & Chris couldn't resist it's allure-

Even Pastors Sol & Chris couldn’t resist it’s allure-

I heard that Pastor Chris' message from "The Shack" brought healing for several people in Blue Island

I heard that Pastor Chris’ message from “The Shack” brought many people to the altar for healing in Blue Island-

Anita Winters is just one of many passionate worshippers on our BI team

Anita Winters is just one of many passionate worshippers on our BI team

Speaking of worshippers, our CLC-West campus pastors, Josh & Heather Moran, are passionate, too!

Speaking of worshippers, our CLC-West campus pastors, Josh & Heather Moran, are passionate, too! (That’s Josh on the guitar in the background, too)

I heard great reports about Pastor Brent's message in Tinley Park from "Captain America", as he told us It's ok to disagree but it's not ok to allow disagreements to turn into division!

I heard great reports about Pastor Brent’s message in Tinley Park from “Captain America”, as he told us It’s ok to disagree but it’s not ok to allow disagreements to turn into division!

Our Hammond worship team was ON POINT today!

Our Hammond worship team was ON POINT today, and it looked like a great attendance in each service.  Best of all, I think at least 15 people prayed to receive Christ after my message from “Hidden Figures”!  Nothing like momentum, even in the summertime!

Our Blue Island and Hammond campuses have heard all 4 movie messages (Tinley Park will hear “The Shack” next Sunday) – which has been your favorite so far?  Most importantly, how has God spoken to you thru this year’s GATM?

Ask the Pastor

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One of our elders writes, I have a question from Hebrews 8:1-2.  What does it mean when it says …he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle? Is there a literal Tabernacle in heaven that was built by the Lord?” 

Great questions, and some I’ve never been asked before.

I haven’t heard anyone else address this and the commentaries that I reviewed seemed to imply that the language here was figurative; i.e., that Christ’s body is the Tabernacle, and since He is now in heaven to make intercession for us, that’s how he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, His body.

However, I’m not so sure.  For instance, in the next chapter, Hebrews 9:23-24 specifically says the items here on earth are copies of the true ones in heaven.  As I look closely at the wording, I can see where it could possibly just refer to ‘heaven’ as the ‘holy place’ and Jesus himself being the Tabernacle – but at the same time if we read it literally, I think we could make a case that there is a literal Tabernacle in heaven.

I think I understand why Peter wrote 2Peter 3:15-16 (assuming Paul is the author of  Hebrews, as I believe – although that’s debated, too!)

Instead of saying, “we’ll understand it better, by and by”, let me close by asking my readers – do you have anything to add?  If so, please leave a comment below-

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Sunday reflections

Speaking of volunteers, the AROMA of popcorn in the lobby today was AMAZING! (Thanks, Kasiya & Bill!)

Speaking of volunteers, the AROMA of popcorn in the lobby today was AMAZING! (Thanks, Kasiya & Bill!)  I think it’s the biggest attraction of ‘God@the Movies’!

It was Family Sunday at Tinley Park and we dedicated Jean-Luc, son of Kirk & Michelle Perry

It was Family Sunday at Tinley Park and we dedicated Jean-Luc, son of Kirk & Michelle Perry

It was great having Pastor Sam Hamstra from our Hammond campus bring the word today from 'Moana'!

It was great having Pastor Sam Hamstra from our Hammond campus bring the word today from ‘Moana’!

Pastor Moy Mendez, Jacob Matyszczuk and Kyla & Sean Smith surrounded me at Tinley Park's 125th Anniversary celebration this afternoon!

Pastor Moy Mendez, Jacob Matyszczuk and Kyla & Sean Smith surrounded me at Tinley Park’s 125th Anniversary celebration this afternoon!

Our face-painting booth was a popular spot at Tinley's 125th Anniversary celebration!

Our face-painting booth was a popular spot at Tinley’s 125th Anniversary celebration!

We also offered FREE prayer (no strings attached)

We also offered FREE prayer (no strings attached)

And this dear lady took us up on the offer - she is recently divorced after 44 years of marriage, so join our team in praying for her!

And this dear lady took us up on the offer – she is recently divorced after 44 years of marriage, so please join our team in praying for her!

My wife preached from the movie, "The Shack" today at our Hammond campus - lots of tears; lots of emotional healing around the altar there!

My wife preached from the movie, “The Shack” today at our Hammond campus – lots of tears; lots of emotional healing around the altar there!

Jenny Gonzalez is an AMAZING KidsLife Director at Hammond, as you can tell by the size of her team of volunteers!

Jenny Gonzalez is an AMAZING KidsLife Director at Hammond, as you can tell by the size of her team of volunteers!

Alyssa is not only part of the Blue Island Praise Team, but today is her birthday!

Alyssa is not only part of the Blue Island Praise Team, but today is her birthday!

Toren Turner will be on her way to Panama this week with another CLC missions team (we also have teams in Tanzania & Costa Rica!)

Toren Turner will be on her way to Panama this week with another CLC missions team (we also have teams in Tanzania & Costa Rica!)

I could only preach to about half the congregation in Blue Island were it not for Pastor Sol's help in translating!

I could only preach to about half the congregation in Blue Island were it not for Pastor Sol’s help in translating!

What can I say?  I LOVE "Hidden Figures" - my favorite movie of this past year-

What can I say? I LOVE “Hidden Figures” – my favorite movie of this past year-

We're all so proud of 12-year-old Joel, who made such an impression in the Russians a few weeks ago, they're STILL talking about him there!

We’re all so proud of 12-year-old Joel, who made such an impression in the Russians a few weeks ago, they’re STILL talking about him there!

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions came in this week while I was in Siberia, so I’m reposting from 2011:

A reader recently asked, “I would like to know if you believe in the concept of reconciliation. Mainly if you believe it can really take place between two people who used to be friends but have had a rift in that relationship?”

Excellent question – and one probably almost all of us have had to grapple with at some point in our lives.

First, I must believe in the concept of reconciliation, and so must you and every other believer – for the whole Bible is the story of reconciliation, as God was not content to allow mankind to remain separated from His love.  Our mission on earth as believers is referred to as the “ministry of reconciliation” and our Gospel as the “message of reconciliation” (2Corinthians 5:18-21).  So, “YES”, I believe in the concept of reconciliation, because Jesus made it possible for me to be reconciled with God.

Secondly, I must also believe that reconciliation is possible between two people who were friends but had a rift in their relationship – because Scripture makes it clear that it is possible (Matthew 5:23-24I can’t imagine Jesus instructing us to do something that is not possible!).

Now, just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s easy.  As Proverbs 18:19 clearly says, restoring a friendship can be very difficult.  And according to Romans 12:18, there may be those situations where you’ve tried everything possible to restore the relationship and the other party remains unwilling.  But in my experience, if both parties truly want to be reconciled, and each is willing to swallow their pride and do what’s necessary to make things right, it IS possible for them to be reconciled.  In fact, I know that it is, because I’ve seen it done in my own life.

If you’re reading this, and even now there are people you’ve become estranged from because of some offense, I would urge you to take the initiative, make the approach, swallow your pride, forgive and ask forgiveness, and make things right (the Bible word is ‘restitution’) – you’ll be so glad you did! (I think James 5:19-20 applies here)

I’d also encourage you to join us at any CLC campus this Sunday when “God@the Movies” continues – because there are some great principles for living in each message!

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

Siberia, day 6: headed home!

Chris and I board our first flight early this morning in Siberia (Tuesday evening in Chicago) and should arrive at O’Hare Wednesday afternoon.  The media team here in Novokuznetsk provided us with some pics from our time here, so I thought I’d give you a hodgepodge of our experience with this wonderful congregation:

Hey, if you can't have fun in church, where can you?

Hey, if you can’t have fun in church, where can you?  It’s always a good sign the teaching is connecting when people are laughing!

...an even better sign is when SHE laughs at my jokes...

…an even better sign is when SHE laughs at my humor…

of course, there are more serious moments...

of course, there are more serious moments…

....and you can't just talk off the top of your head....

….and you can’t just talk off the top of your head….

because there are always people who need to be freed from the bondage of their past

because there are always people who need to be freed from the bondage of their past…

I'm a blessed man to get to do life with this lady who willingly follows me to the ends of the earth!

I’m a blessed man to get to do life with this lady who willingly follows me to the ends of the earth!

That’s all – see you soon for another installment of “God@the Movies”!

 

Siberia, day 5

This morning we spent about 4 hours preparing for tonight's seminar for single adults, then visited two of the major ministries of this church: an orphanage under development and their Teen Challenge rehab center for Men.  The leader of the orphanage they're developing, Oleg, is at the far left.  Ivan in the red shirt was our driver today.

This morning we spent about 4 hours preparing for tonight’s seminar for single adults, then visited two of the major ministries of this church: an orphanage under development and their Teen Challenge rehab center for Men. The leader of the orphanage they’re developing, Oleg, is at the far left. Ivan in the red shirt was our driver today.

And all the CLC guys who visited here last month: we're standing on the bridge YOU BUILT!  The Russians are so proud of it and the great work you did - it's all they talked about as they made sure we saw it & stood on it!

And all the CLC guys who visited here last month: we’re standing on the bridge YOU BUILT! The Russians are so proud of it and the great work you did – it’s all they talked about as they made sure we saw it & stood on it!

We then spent 3 hours with Pastors Ilya and Janet Bantseev and their board, discussing the whole multi-site model of ministry that CLC uses and that they’ve been considering.

Tonight is our final assignment for this trip, as we teach a 3-hour seminar to their young adults.  Then we’ll grab a little sleep before heading to the airport at 5am (Tuesday at 5pm in Chicago).  Thanks for all your prayers – see you soon!

Siberia, day 4

First, we visited their Teen Challenge Women's Center, where they help women who were addicted to drugs or alcohol, or prostitution to meet Jesus and get the help they need. Chris taught about a dozen of these women at a chapel service.

First, we visited their Teen Challenge Women’s Center, where they help women who were addicted to drugs or alcohol, or prostitution to meet Jesus and get the help they need. Chris taught about a dozen of these women at a chapel service.

I loved seeing the HUNGER of these new converts, as they read with Chris in THEIR Bibles and took notes of everything she taught!

I loved seeing the HUNGER of these new converts, as they read with Chris in THEIR Bibles and took notes of everything she taught!

The women have classes in this classroom, to help them finish school, learn Bible subjects, and more.

The women have classes in this classroom, to help them finish school, learn Bible subjects, and more.

They're also taught practical skills, like jewelry making & sewing, which enables them to do fundraising to help with the expense of the center.

They’re also taught practical skills, like jewelry making & sewing, which enables them to do fundraising to help with the expense of the center.

The Women's Center also cares for the children of these women who escaped their abusive backgrounds.

The Women’s Center also cares for the children of these women who escaped their abusive backgrounds.

The Director of the center and some of her staff presented us with a Russian "nesting doll" as a gift! (fed us a great lunch, too!)

The Director of the center and some of her staff presented us with a Russian “nesting doll” as a gift! (fed us a great lunch, too!)

Most importantly, Chris was asked to counsel with this young pregnant mom who has faced serious rejection, drug use, etc. - but we believe her life is being changed!  (Aksana our interpreter is in the center)

Most importantly, Chris was asked to counsel with this young pregnant mom who has faced serious rejection, drug use, etc. – but we believe her life is being changed! (Aksana our interpreter is in the center)

Then tonight we taught a parenting seminar to a PACKED room (kept bringing in more chairs as people kept arriving!) - Pastor Ilya Bantseev is in the front row at the left.

Then tonight we taught a parenting seminar to a PACKED room (kept bringing in more chairs as people kept arriving!) – Pastor Ilya Bantseev is in the front row at the left.

For three solid hours, we taught parenting principles from Scripture (with Aksana's help translating)

For three solid hours, we taught parenting principles from Scripture (with Aksana’s help translating)

Chris was a great hit with her teaching, as always, and we did a Q&A session that seemed to seal the evening on such a practical note.  After hearing from the pastors about the needs of families here in Russia, we feel the Lord is bringing about real breakthrough for the families of this ministry!

Chris was a great hit with her teaching, as always, and we did a Q&A session that seemed to seal the evening on such a practical note. After hearing from the pastors about the needs of families here in Russia, we feel the Lord is bringing about real breakthrough for families of this ministry!

 

Siberia, day 3

Some of the congregation at one of the four weekend services here in Novokuznetsk - so neat to hear songs we know being sung in Russian!

Some of the congregation at one of the four weekend services here in Novokuznetsk – so neat to hear songs we know being sung in Russian!

The praise team may be small, but they're a talented bunch! The man in the microphone can shred a lead guitar!

The praise team may be small, but they’re a talented bunch! The man in the microphone can shred a lead guitar!

Chris preaching here that unforgiveness gives the enemy legal access to us - he can then bind us up! (Aksana on the right is her interpreter; the young woman was a volunteer for the illustration)

Chris preaching here that unforgiveness gives the enemy legal access to us – he can then bind us up! (Aksana on the right is her interpreter; the young woman was a volunteer for the illustration)

After Chris' message in the 10am service, these two ladies gave their heart to the Lord, as a deacon led them in the sinner's prayer!

After Chris’ message in the 10am service, these two ladies gave their heart to the Lord, as a deacon led them in the sinner’s prayer!

The 5pm service featured an entirely different praise team, and they were just as talented as the first!

The 5pm service featured an entirely different praise team, and they were just as talented as the first!

Chris preached her heart out at the 5pm service, and it seemed almost everyone in the building responded to the altar invitation!  God is working in Siberia, and we feel privileged to be a small part of it!!

But we’re also thinking of home, so if you attended a service at any CLC campus today, please leave us a comment as to what you most enjoyed or how the Lord ministered to you through God@the Movies or the Watoto choir-

Siberia, day 2

The man in the center is Stanislav, from Krakow, Poland. He is a metallurgist whose company sends him to Novokuznetsk each year because of the steel industry here.

The man in the center is Stanislav, from Krakow, Poland. He is a metallurgist whose company sends him to Novokuznetsk each year because of the steel industry here.

His visit this year coincided with our visit for this Family Conference, and he told me in between sessions that his marriage of 40 years is having difficulties now that he and his wife are empty nesters.  Pastor Janet Bantseev and I prayed for him and when I opened my eyes, big tears were streaming down his cheeks.  Thank God for His providential timing!

Chris and I completed about 8 hours of teaching on the marriage relationship today, with the help of our interpreter, Aksana.

Chris and I completed about 8 hours of teaching on the marriage relationship today, with the help of our interpreter, Aksana.

Then tonight I preached the first of their four weekend services:

This lady sang a beautiful solo of "It Is Well with my Soul" (in Russian, of course)

This lady sang a beautiful solo of “It Is Well with my Soul” (in Russian, of course)

As seems to be the custom here, many people came forward for prayer tonight-

As seems to be the custom here, many people came forward for prayer tonight-

I’m not sure if it’s jetlag or just exhaustion from teaching for six hours and preaching for another hour tonight, but either way, it’s time to hit the sack for some SLEEP!

Can’t wait to hear about the Watoto Choir at CLC tomorrow – if you’re reading this, shoot me a Facebook message or email or even a comment below as to how you enjoy them on Sunday-

Siberia, day 1

Oops – I forgot to take my camera to the seminar tonight, so I have no pics to show you.

Nonetheless, the opening night’s Marriage seminar went as well as we could have hoped – and we really feel needed, as I learned today from Pastor Ilya that the divorce rate here is hovering at almost 90% of marriages!

The church administrator, who is serving as our driver, told me that one of the youth programs they operate has about 40 teens and only ONE of them is living with both of his birth parents – the others are all either single-parent families or living with a step-parent!

So the need is great, but people were quite responsive to our teaching tonight, and EVERYONE here is still talking about the team of CLC’ers who served here last month – they can’t stop talking about what a blessing the team was to them!

Now it’s time for some sleep before our longest day of ministry tomorrow – a six-hour marriage seminar followed by their Saturday weekend service – should be fun!

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions were submitted this week before I left Chicago, so I’m re-posting this question from 2010:

My #1 questioner writes: “I have a question about fear.  I know that it is not a good thing to fear and we all know about the book of Job when he said that the very thing he feared came upon him.  Also, we have to be very careful about what we speak because this could cause negative things to happen.  My question is, I have always been taught that we can go to God and talk to Him about anything.  Sometimes I have certain things that frighten me and that I refuse to let myself dwell on because I don’t want the things that happened to Job happen to me.  But when I am in my prayer room I speak these things that frighten me to God(my daddy)and I tell Him these things. Would this be the same as speaking negative things out of my mouth even though I am telling them to God? “

Good question about a much-needed subject.

First, you are right that fear has a way of drawing negativity to us and becoming a “self-fulfilled prophecy”.  That’s because fear is the opposite of faith. So just as faith attracts blessing from God, fear attracts the attention of the enemy by creating an open door into our life.

However, it is my personal opinion that you CAN say anything to God, since he invited us to do so in 1 Peter 5:7.  By telling Him of your fears in prayer, you can receive His assurance and reaffirm your trust in Him (Psalm 56:3).  My only caution is to make sure that once you ‘cast your fear upon Him’ that you leave it there. In other words, don’t give your fears to God in prayer and then pick them up again when you quit praying!  Leave your fears in His hands.

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

Helping our brothers & sisters in the Philippines…

As always, war affects even the most vulnerable innocent ones-

As always, war affects even the most vulnerable innocent ones-

You may have heard that ISIS has tried to establish a caliphate in the Philippines to use as a launching pad in Asia.  Over a month ago, while our CLC team was in Davao, ISIS militants invaded the Muslim capital in the Philippines, Marawi City, which caused the Philippine president to declare martial law throughout Mindanao.

I just heard from Bishop Herley Montes that the war continues and that over 200,000 people have been evacuated from the area, with many of them fleeing to Iligan City, where CLC has a campus.  Our church there is reaching out to these Muslim refugees with food and clothing, but their resources are very limited.

We want to respond to help our brothers and sisters in Iligan City be the hands and feet of Jesus to show His love to these displaced Muslims.  If you would like to help, you can do so online here.  You can also designate an offering at any CLC campus this Sunday to “Philippine relief”.  Thanks in advance for helping us to help them!

Pictures below show the devastation from this war:

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In this Friday, June 9, 2017, photo, evacuees stay at a crowded evacuation center on the outskirts of Marawi city, southern Philippines. Nearly every day for the past three weeks, the Philippine military has pounded the lakeside town of Marawi with rockets and bombs as it tries to wipe out militants linked to the Islamic State group in some of the most protracted urban combat to hit this volatile region in decades. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

In this Friday, June 9, 2017, photo, evacuees stay at a crowded evacuation center on the outskirts of Marawi city, southern Philippines. Nearly every day for the past three weeks, the Philippine military has pounded the lakeside town of Marawi with rockets and bombs as it tries to wipe out militants linked to the Islamic State group in some of the most protracted urban combat to hit this volatile region in decades. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

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off to Siberia

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Chris and I will leave O’Hare about six o’clock tonight on the first of three flights that will get us into Novokuznetsk, Siberia about five o’clock tomorrow night, Chicago time. (Novokuznetsk is 12 hours ahead of us, so it’ll be 5am Friday there)

We’ll be ministering at the same church our CLC missions team recently visited, as our friends, Pastors Ilya & Janet Bantseev, invited us over a year ago to return to do a Family Conference for them.  We’ll actually do 3 different seminars – one for married couples on Friday & Saturday, another for parents on Monday and a final one for single adults on Tuesday.  We’ll also minister at their four weekend services.

I hope to have internet access to keep you posted during the trip, and we certainly will appreciate your prayers.  So sorry that we’ll miss the Watoto Choir, but I know you’ll enjoy them on Sunday morning in Tinley Park and on Sunday night in Hammond!  Here’s a preview:

Watoto Tinley Park Promo from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

 

Sad and yet Proud on the 4th of July…

Is it possible to be sad and proud at the same time?  That’s me today.

While celebrating the holiday with my wife’s family in Detroit, I received the news this morning that we had lost a precious brother at CLC, as Mike Welch went to be with Jesus.

I immediately scrambled to see if any of our pastors could go to comfort the family, but each pastor was out of town for the holiday, so I just texted my condolences to Mike’s widow, Marcella.

But within a few hours I learned that 2 of our elders, 4 members of the Blue Island worship team (including a CLC trustee) and our Blue Island KidsLife Director each left their family’s holiday celebration to go and minister to Marcella and her daughter Mikayla.

I couldn’t be more proud of CLC.  This is the church being the church: loving others and preferring a brother or sister’s need ahead of our own.

Thank you, Alan & Terrilyn Franklin, Eric & Liane Williams, Len Stallworth, Nikeva Lawrence, and Harry Valentine – you’re my heroes today!

RIP, Michael - we love you!

RIP, Michael – we love you!

Happy Independence Day!

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I know.

You’re probably like most Americans, and today has likely been reduced to a day off work,  a time to be with family outdoors, a backyard BBQ, burgers & hot dogs on the grill, and maybe some red, white & blue decor before watching a fireworks show tonight.

I’m not opposed to any of that and will no doubt indulge myself today.

But I do want to take a moment to thank God that I live in this land.  For all our current wrongs, injustices and immorality, America is still the greatest nation on earth and I do subscribe to the idea known as ‘American exceptionalism’since I believe that God has a purpose for this nation.

For sure, part of that purpose is to take the Gospel to the nations of the world and American generosity has resulted in missionaries being able to reach the furthest parts of earth.  It could never happen without our independence, so on this day set aside to celebrate that declaration on July 4, 1776, I say ‘thank God’!

Enjoy your day!

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Sunday reflections

At Blue Island, "Captain America" was the featured film, as Pastor Brent taught about conflicts in relationships.

At Blue Island, “Captain America” was the featured film, as Pastor Brent taught a powerful message about dealing with conflicts in our relationships.

Blue Island went ALL OUT to capture the movie experience!

Blue Island went ALL OUT to capture the movie experience!  Popcorn, anyone?

Of course, the full title of today's film is 'Captain America: CIVIL WAR'!

Of course, the full title of today’s film is ‘Captain America: CIVIL WAR’!

Rosetta won today's raffle for a DVD of 'Captain America', 2 boxes of candy & 2 boxes of popcorn.  Next week could be your turn!

Rosetta won today’s raffle for a DVD of ‘Captain America’, 2 boxes of candy & 2 boxes of popcorn. Next week could be your turn!

Pastor Micah told us of the bird that sings in the dark, knowing that joy is coming in the morning!

Pastor Micah encouraged our worship by telling us of the bird that sings in the dark, knowing that joy is coming in the morning!

While Tinley Park's concession stand could compete with any theater (not to mention FREE popcorn)

While Tinley Park’s concession stand could compete with any theater (not to mention FREE popcorn)

Harmony did a great job today leading us in Communion by sharing Isaiah 52/53 about Jehovah's Suffering Servant!

Harmony did a great job today leading us in Communion by sharing Isaiah 52/53 about Jehovah’s Suffering Servant!

I had more fun preaching "How to Overcome Challenges" from the movie, 'Hidden Figures' than should be legal!

I had more fun preaching “How to Overcome Challenges” from the movie, ‘Hidden Figures’ than should be legal! Best of all, we saw 12-15 people stand and pray to receive Christ!

We were all inspired by the true story of the 3 ladies at NASA in the 1960's, but we've got a great example here at CLC in Caprice O'Bryant Gutierrez who overcame a traumatic brain injury, seizures & amnesia to become a business owner in her 20's!

We were all inspired by the true story of the 3 ladies at NASA in the 1960’s, but we’ve got a great example here at CLC in Caprice O’Bryant Gutierrez who overcame a traumatic brain injury, seizures & amnesia to become a business owner in her 20’s!

At Hammond, "Moana" was the featured movie & Pastor Sam really helped people connect w/the message!

At Hammond, “Moana” was the featured movie & Pastor Sam really helped people connect w/the message!

So much so that 4 people prayed to receive Christ, including this whole family!

So much so that 4 people prayed to receive Christ, including this whole family!

  • Perhaps the best praise report of the day in Hammond was that last week Pastor Sam led a congregational prayer for one of the members, whose daughter in California had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. After that public prayer last Sunday, we learned today that her doctors had “misdiagnosed” her cancer and it was now Stage 1!  Praise God for misdiagnoses after prayer!!!
As always, it's strong worship that ushers in His Presence - which is far more important than any movie!

As always, it’s strong worship that ushers in His Presence – which is far more important than any movie!

I’d love to hear from YOU – what was your favorite moment in today’s services?  How did the Holy Spirit minister to you personally?  Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below-

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, but I’ll answer one that lots of people have asked in the past: why do we do a ‘movies’ series each summer?

I think there are several reasons why our “God@the Movies” series has become our most popular series of the year:

  • everyone likes a good story!  After all, that’s what makes Hollywood so entertaining – whether it’s good v. evil or the underdog who wins or any number of other popular themes, every good movie has a good story. And Jesus knew this, as evidenced by the number of stories he told.  (We call them parables, but at their core, they are stories about things we understand, to help us grasp spiritual truths)
  • movies reflect the culture of our day.  If you want to understand today’s culture, go watch a popular movie.  And while I’m not really interested in exegeting American culture, I need to understand where people are in order to reach them with the gospel.  It’s ironic how we teach missionaries to go into foreign countries and make their first priority to learn the language and culture of the people so they can reach them, but then criticize American churches who do the same thing here.
  • people can relate to the big screen.  The #1 reason we started doing this series, and have continued to do so each July is that even unbelievers can see themselves through the lens of Hollywood.  This series enables us to take movies they may already be familiar with, to bring them face to face with Biblical truths they may never have received before.  In fact, my friend Mark Batterson told me years ago that his movie series was the hardest-hitting series of the year.  I had a hard time imagining that, until we started our own, and I’ve seen it first-hand: Hollywood doesn’t pull punches, and by using current movie illustrations, we’ve been able to confront both saints and sinners with convicting Biblical truth!
  • a picture is worth a thousand words.  Every sermon needs illustrations, and what better way to illustrate the Biblical principles we’re teaching than to show a movie clip that fleshes it out in living color?
  • your unchurched friends will accept an invitation.  This is another BIG reason we do this series each year.  You have friends who might never be interested in learning about the gifts of the Holy Spirit or about ‘dangerous prayers’ (to cite just two of our 2017 sermon series), but they do watch movies.  And they may find the idea of a church preaching a movie series to be curious enough to accept your invitation.  Who are you inviting to GATM this month?
  • it’s FUN! Who said we can’t have fun in church?  I’ve never understood why some Christians look like they were baptized in pickle juice.  Jesus used humor with his disciples and I’m convinced he enjoyed a good laugh with them regularly.  GATM gives us multiple opportunities to laugh – and a merry heart does good like medicine!

I can’t wait to share “How to Overcome Challenges” with you through the lens of “Hidden Figures”, starting this Sunday, July 2 at our Tinley Park campus.  (I’ll get to Blue Island and Hammond with that message soon)

Now what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?


Night of Hope in CHICAGO!

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If you haven’t heard, a “Night of Hope with Joel & Victoria Osteen” is coming to the United Center on Friday, August 11!  (Actually, they’re doing 2 events: a matinee at 2pm and the evening event at 7:30pm)

While some Christians like to criticize Joel for a variety of issues, I’m convinced that God is using him to bring hope to many, many Americans who might never have been open to the Gospel otherwise.  For that reason, I’m proud that CLC is one of the sponsoring churches for the United Center event!

There are some benefits to our sponsorship: our ministry will be promoted from the United Center stage to thousands of people, some of whom may be looking for a Spirit-filled church in the south suburbs-

AND, we have a few tickets for CLC’ers at a discount – but please note: the information I gave last Sunday was incorrect, as I was misinformed.  The regular price of $15 on JoelOsteen.com turns into over $27.21 when the service fees are added, whereas the price for CLC’ers is just $18.00 (which includes parking at the UC).  I apologize that this is almost twice what I announced Sunday, but I was sincerely mistaken and this is our actual cost – we are not adding any markup whatsoever.  You can purchase the tickets for the 7:30pm event here, first-come, first-served.  (NOTE: we do not have tickets for the 2pm matinee event, so to purchase those tickets go to JoelOsteen.com or click here.)

We’ve also been asked to provide several volunteers to serve as ushers, greeters & retail sales at the matinee and another group for the evening event.  If you’re interested in serving at either one (and attend FREE, plus a meal is included), let us know here.

NOH Promo from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

Introducing our NEW Executive Pastors

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Our nationwide search led by the Vanderbloemen Search Group ended last Sunday night   (Father’s Day), when Dan & Torey Goodson agreed to join our CLC pastoral team!

Dan has a wealth of ministry experience: COO of Joyce Meyer Ministries, Executive Staff with several well-known megachurches, including one that has 9 campuses in 4 states (so he understands the whole multi-site approach to ministry), and more!

They have already signed a purchase contract on a house in Flossmoor and plan to move here the first week of August, but I thought you might enjoy getting acquainted here in the meantime.  They’ve also assured me that they like to connect on Facebook, so feel free to send them a friend request.

Here’s the introductory video that convinced us to bring them to Tinley Park for an onsite interview – enjoy!

They’re coming back: WATOTO Choir!

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If you’ve been a part of CLC for the past few years, you’ve probably seen the amazing Watoto Choir perform on one of their visits here. To say that they are delightfully energetic is the understatement of the year!

This team of orphans from Uganda are part of a wonderful ministry that is literally making a difference in that African nation – take a look for yourself.

I hope you’ll invite a friend to join you at our Tinley Park campus on Sunday, July 9 at any of our 3 services (8:30, 10 or 12).  

By the way, we still need one host home for Saturday nightyou can volunteer here.

Watoto Tinley Park Promo from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

An idea for God@the Movies

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It’s that time of year again, and I’m excited!  In case you’re not aware, the reason we do God@the Movies is simple: we’re trying to reach people who might otherwise come to church to hear God’s Word, but they do enjoy movies!

Just like Jesus taught using object lessons and current event illustrations, and just like the Apostle Paul quoted pagan Greek poets of his day (see Acts 17:27-29), we use this series to bring Biblical truths that are often hard-hitting and perhaps even more compelling than other Sunday messages, with illustrations from Hollywood on the big screen.

We DON’T do this series just to entertain the saints; we do it to reach the lost!  And here’s one way you can help with that: as a general rule, churches are the last to get on board with new technology.   Believe me, I know.  I was part of a church that preached against using radio (initially) and television (later) as opportunities to spread the gospel.

But I noticed something a few years ago that got me thinking.  One of our CLCers posted on Facebook about the “God@the Movies” series and at least two or three of her friends responded – some who are local may visit, and one even watched online from North Carolina that Sunday!

Here’s my thought: perhaps social media can remove some of the fear from witnessing and make it easier for us to invite our friends & family to CLC.  And I wonder, if one CLCer posting a simple invitation results in at least a couple of new people being introduced in person or online, what would happen if hundreds of CLCers would post on Facebook or Twitter?

It’s simple and easy to do – and you can always link to our website or to the series promo from our incredible creative team.

Let’s try it & see what God will do this weekend with “Hidden Figures” at our Tinley Park campus, or “Moana” in Hammond or “Captain America” in Blue Island.


Sunday reflections

(I know this has nothing to do w/Sunday at CLC, but it's my blog, ok?) I spent 5 days in a cabin w/our oldest granddaughter & her 2 brothers while their parents were in Siberia & we got really attached. Today on their way to service in Blue Island, Kelsey heard my voice on the livestream from the Tinley Park 8:30 service. She wasn't happy to hear my voice since I was at TP, so she said, "poppy my church"

(I know this has nothing to do w/Sunday at CLC, but it’s my blog, ok?) I spent 5 days in a cabin w/our oldest granddaughter & her 2 brothers while their parents were in Siberia & we got really attached. Today on their way to service in Blue Island, Kelsey heard my voice on the livestream from the Tinley Park 8:30 service & got excited until she found out I was at TP, not in Blue Island. So she said, “poppy my church!”  (She’s got me wrapped around her little finger!)

Worship was outstanding in all 3 services today, but the GLORY was in the House at 10am!  Thanks for leading us in, Pastor Jon & Tony Powell!

Worship was outstanding in all 3 services today, but the GLORY was in the House at 10am! Thanks for leading us in, Pastor Jon & Tony Powell!

It was one of those times when broken hearts were being mended in His Presence!

It was one of those times when broken hearts were being mended in His Presence!

Cary Durham brought the 1st message of the day at the 8:30 service & told us all that GOD said we are "good seed"!  (We don't have to listen to the enemy, because as Reggie Jackson observed, "Fans don't boo nobodies!"

Cary Durham brought the 1st message of the day at the 8:30 service & told us all that GOD said we are “good seed”! (We don’t have to listen to the enemy, because as Reggie Jackson observed, “Fans don’t boo nobodies!”

Our HANDSOME Outreach Pastor, Moy Mendez, showed us that he's more than eye candy by challenging us in two simple words to "Step out and Trust God" (not sure which two of those five he counted, but the message was great!)

Our HANDSOME Outreach Pastor, Moy Mendez, showed us that he’s more than eye candy by challenging us in two simple words to “Step out and Trust God” (not sure which two of those five he counted, but the message was great, and we had more fun than should be legal in church!)

Today we announced plans to launch our 4th campus and the new campus pastor, Josh Moran, brought the Word at 10am

Today we announced plans to launch our 4th campus and the new campus pastor, Josh Moran, brought the Word at 10am, reminding us that our gifts should be used for the harvest!

Chuck & Nicole Ellington delivered a great Word at the noon service!

Chuck & Nicole Ellington delivered a great Word from Psalm 105:4-5 at the noon service, encouraging us to depend on God for strength; always go to Him for help; and to remember His miracles, amazing things & fair decisions!  Good stuff!

And our kids received ministry, too - learning to worship their King!

And our kids received ministry, too – learning to worship their King!

Pastor Sam reported another great day in Hammond with strong worship, great summer attendance & many people receiving ministry at the altar today.

Pastor Sam reported another great day in Hammond with strong worship, great summer attendance & many people receiving ministry at the altar today.

Dorothy Caldwell brought a good Word about the power of prayer!

Dorothy Caldwell brought a good Word about the power of prayer!

Christian Washington taught on the process of being repurposed to be more like Christ!

Christian Washington taught on the process of being repurposed to be more like Christ!

Our Blue Island campus enjoyed the missions ministry of Dr. Patricia Bailey-

Our Blue Island campus enjoyed the missions ministry of Dr. Patricia Bailey-

Dr. Bailey demonstrated the water filters that she uses to bring clean water to some of the most difficult places on earth where she ministers

Dr. Bailey demonstrated the water filters that she uses to bring clean water to some of the most difficult places on earth where she ministers-

and even took a drink of the filthy stuff (after it had been filtered)

and even took a drink of the filthy stuff (after it had been filtered)

Practically the entire congregation came forward for prayer at the close of her message!

Practically the entire congregation came forward for prayer at the close of her message!

Father’s Day reflections

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Pastor Sol brought the message in Blue Island today & was able to share about the team that just returned from Siberia-

Pastor Sol brought the message in Blue Island today & was able to share about the team that just returned from Siberia-

At the close of service, the team who had gone to Siberia ministered in the altar to anyone who wanted prayer - including the youngest member of the team (Joel Mendez) who was just 12 years old - but he ministered in the altar with the others!

At the close of service, the team who had gone to Siberia ministered in the altar to anyone who wanted prayer – including the youngest member of the team (Joel Mendez) who was just 12 years old – but he ministered in the altar with the others!

The root beer floats were a big hit in Blue Island!

The root beer floats were a big hit with dads in Blue Island!

while the photo booth attracted dads & their kids in Tinley Park!

while the photo booth attracted dads & their kids in Tinley Park!

the Tacos for dads were also a hit, when we could keep Pastor Jon away from them-

the Tacos for dads were also a hit, when we could keep Pastor Jon away from them-

Real Men influence our children in KidsLife! (Thanks, Mr. Tim!)

Real Men influence our children in KidsLife! (Thanks, Mr. Tim!)

Beverly Zambrano met Jesus in the waters of baptism this Father's Day!

Beverly Zambrano met Jesus in the waters of baptism this Father’s Day!

Pastor Brent brought a great word & took a page from his mom's book with his sword illustration-

Pastor Brent brought a great word & took a page from his mom’s book with his sword illustration-

Worship was great at our Hammond campus, where the attendance was more than DOUBLE from Father's Day 2016!!!

Worship was great at our Hammond campus, where the attendance was more than DOUBLE from Father’s Day 2016!!!

Our very own elder Gerard Terrell provided BBQ brats for the dads....

Our very own elder Gerard Terrell provided BBQ brats for the dads….

and with root beer floats to wash them down, DADS were happy campers!

and with root beer floats to wash them down, DADS were happy campers!

 

Sunday reflections

Today was a “stand-alone” Sunday instead of doing the same series at all 3 campuses, and there are three very different but very good reports:

Let's start with Blue Island, since it may be THE highlight of the day. Since several leaders are in Siberia on a missions trip, Tiffany Hines led worship today & the Holy Spirit & God's love filled the House!

Let’s start with Blue Island, since it may be THE highlight today. Since several leaders are in Siberia on a missions trip, Tiffany Hines led worship & God’s love filled the House!

Pastor Jon was there in Brent's absence & he began the preaching time with a song....but that's as far as he got!

Pastor Jon was there in Brent’s absence & he began the preaching time with a song….but that’s as far as he got!

Before he could begin to preach, the Holy Spirit gave him a word for a woman who was visiting with her adult daughter for the first time.....

Before he could begin to preach, the Holy Spirit gave him a word for a woman who was visiting with her adult daughter for the first time…..he spoke healing over the daughter & assured her & her mom that the Holy Spirit had interrupted the service just for her!

Later, as some leaders prayed for the daughter, they learned that doctors had just discovered two tumors in her body & she is scheduled to visit the oncologist this week!  But today she gave her life to Jesus!

Later, as some leaders prayed for the daughter, they learned that doctors had just discovered two tumors in her body & she is scheduled to visit the oncologist this week. But today she gave her life to Jesus!

Jon was never able to get back to his prepared message, because he kept receiving prophetic words for people in the congregation!

Jon was never able to get back to his prepared message, because he kept receiving prophetic words for people in the congregation!

Finally he invited others who move prophetically to share that time of ministry with him - it was an AMAZING day in Blue Island! (The GIFTED series may have ended last Sunday, but we're just getting started!)

Finally he invited others who move prophetically to share that time of ministry with him – it was an AMAZING day in Blue Island! (The GIFTED series may have ended last Sunday, but we’re just getting started!)

Meanwhile, in Tinley Park, Harmony LaBeff led us in worship & a time of communion together-

Meanwhile, in Tinley Park, Harmony LaBeff led us in worship & a time of communion together-

Then we heard from two young men who have heard God's call to ministry: Jesus Mateo went first & shared with us the evidence of a spiritually prosperous life.

Then we heard from two young men who have heard God’s call to ministry: Jesus Mateo went first & shared with us the evidence of a spiritually prosperous life.

Then James Ineh challenged us to make a difference in the next generation, just as others have done in our generation!

Then James Ineh challenged us to make a difference in the next generation, just as others have done in our generation!

Speaking of the next generation, I thank God for KidsLife volunteers like Joanne Linane, who give special attention to our little ones!

Speaking of the next generation, I thank God for KidsLife volunteers like Joanne Linane, who give special attention to our little ones!

At the 10am service, Pastor Niyi Gbade delivered a powerful word about Christian hospitality, and gossip and missions! (Trust me, they all fit together in 3John!)

At the 10am service, Pastor Niyi Gbade delivered a powerful word about Christian hospitality, and gossip and missions! (Trust me, they all fit together in 3 John!)

And at the noon service Pastor Jen Remington illustrated that when we make the Word of God a PRIORITY in our daily lives, everything else that's needed will fit!

And at the noon service Pastor Jen Remington illustrated that when we make the Word of God a PRIORITY in our daily lives, everything else that’s needed will fit!

And her husband, Pastor Micah closed the service with a call for prayer.

And her husband, Pastor Micah closed the service with a call for prayer.

Certainly not to be outdone, our Hammond campus sent 45 youth to camp AT 3AM today!

Certainly not to be outdone, our Hammond campus sent 45 youth to camp AT 3AM today!

Plus the Worship & Arts team unveiled a new stage design and led the people into God's Presence-

Plus the Worship & Arts team unveiled a new stage design and led the people into God’s Presence-

One new member joined the Hammond campus & Pastor Sam preached part 1 of a 2-week series on what it means to be Fathered by God!

One new member joined the Hammond campus & Pastor Sam preached part 1 of a 2-week series on what it means to be Fathered by God!

Here’s my favorite quotes of the day, compliments of Niyi Gbade:

“where there is room in the heart, there is room in the house” – Danish proverb

“I want you to gossip.  Gossip the Gospel!”

“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you could lose” – C.S. Lewis

“Why should anyone hear the gospel three times when some have not heard it once?” – Oswald Chambers

I’d say summer is off to a good start at CLC!

Hope you’ll invite someone to join you for Father’s Day next Sunday-

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLCers writes, “What does the Bible say about tattoos and what I would call extreme body piercings?  Is this defacing your body?  Are tattoos “wrong” in God’s eyes?

Great question, especially since this has become such a popular practice in recent years. You asked for my thoughts, so I’ll give them:

I’m old-fashioned.  You know I grew up in an ultra-conservative, legalistic church with all sorts of dress codes that we called ‘holiness standards’.  Many times I’ve wished we could somehow have a little compromise between what seems to be accepted in today’s church versus the church of my youth.  But I digress.

Honestly, I don’t like tattoos or piercings.  We’ve had more than one ‘debate’ with our own children about them….won a few and lost a few.  But from a Biblical standpoint, I don’t feel I have adequate support from the Scriptures to forbid them at CLC, since, in all honesty, the Bible doesn’t address this specifically – unless you want to use Leviticus 19:28.  That verse may sound clear at first glance, but if you consider the context, which was about avoiding heathen practices and which also includes other prohibitions that we practice everyday (see verses 19 and 27)

Pastor Craig Groeschel answered this question via video as well as anyone can (in my humble opinion).  Take a look at this and see if it answers your question.  I would also ask anyone considering either to prayerfully consider 1Cor 6:19-20 and examine their heart-motive for ‘wanting’ the tattoo or the piercing.

Bottom line: as with all questions which involve ‘questionable’ behavior for a Christian, I recommend Col. 3:15 and Rom. 14:22-23.

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

Hot topics? I need your feedback…

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I need YOUR help today.

We want to do a series at CLC this August on some of today’s “hot topics” – you know, the stuff that you sometimes struggle with; perhaps things once considered taboo but now you see other Christians practicing; questions that this generation is asking that you’re not sure how to answer.

We’ll only have 2 or 3 weeks to address the topics you suggest, but then on August 27 we’ll conclude the series with a “hot seat” Sunday, as the audience can text their questions or topics and I’ll answer them in real time.  Should be fun!

But right now I need you to leave a comment below as to some topics you’d like to hear addressed from Scripture:

Preaching is a two-way street!

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I know that my non-Pentecostal, non-charismatic pastor friends may not relate to this post, and I offer them my sympathy – but based on my experience over the last 48 years of preaching, I can say without hesitation that the congregational response contributes greatly to the overall experience!

Sure, it’s the pastor’s job to share something from God’s Word that has already blessed his or her life – but when the listeners respond with a nod (not to be confused with a ‘head bob’ of those trying desperately to stay awake – although I guess that is a response to the message as well), or an ‘amen’ or some applause or laughs at his or her jokes, or maybe even a standing ovation when appropriate – EACH of those responses not only encourage the preacher, but in my experience, actually draws out even better preaching!

I mention that today because at CLC we are committed to developing other ministers and communicators of the Word, and the only way any pastor, teacher or communicator can develop their gift is by practice.  No one has all the needed skills on their first attempt.  (When I think about the poor folks in several Arkansas churches who sat through my early attempts at preaching, I get downright embarrassed.) But I also still remember precious saints who encouraged me in those early years, by their responses to the Word, even when it was delivered by a stumbling, stuttering teen (me)!

We’re going to use a couple of the remaining Sundays of June at CLC to hear from some of our developing communicators.  Some of them are already pastors who’ve not had many opportunities to preach on Sunday; others have never preached to any audience. I’m urging you to come prepared to help in their development.  If they preach really well, let them know with a hearty ‘amen’!  If they don’t preach so well, encourage them anyway with a hearty ‘amen’!  Laugh at their jokes.  Tweet their best quotes. Encourage them!  Who knows, you may be helping to develop the next T.D. Jakes or Steven Furtick!

Besides, YOU will get more out of the message yourself, like the story of the country preacher I heard years ago.  He entered church with his young son one Sunday, and dropped a coin into the offering box in the back. Not many came that Sunday, and those who did didn’t seem too excited about what was said. After the service, the preacher and son walked to the back, and he emptied the box. Out fell one coin. The young boy said, “Dad, if you’d have put more in, you’d have gotten more out!”

I have every confidence that God is going to use you and our developing communicators – and everyone will receive in the process, because preaching is a two-way street!

Supernatural LIVING

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The GIFTED series ended yesterday with an amazing message from Steve Thompson about living a supernatural  life (not just on Sundays) and today I heard a great testimony:

one of the members of our Praise Team (Marnie Robinson) went in for a doctor’s appointment this morning, and noticed a woman in a wheelchair.  The Holy Spirit whispered to her that she should pray for the woman, so Marnie approached her and learned that the woman’s pastor was there with her.  After getting permission to pray, she asked her pain level and the lady said it was a ‘7’.  After they prayed, her pain level dropped to ‘3’.  So (just like Robby Dawkins taught us last week during the Activation Night), Marnie asked if they could pray again and believe God to take the pain completely away.  They prayed and He did!  On a Monday morning in the marketplace!

I’m excited that while the series ended, what God is doing among us is just beginning!

As I announced yesterday in Tinley Park, we will be continuing a monthly gathering to share stories, answer questions, do some teaching and practice more activations as all of us grow in this supernatural life. If you’d like to be a part of that group and you didn’t already sign up, please do so here.

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Pentecost Sunday reflections

Steve Thompson was AMAZING in Tinley Park!

Steve Thompson was AMAZING in Tinley Park!

Robby Dawson (according to Pastor Sam) gave a gave a great, powerful, convicting, life giving word in Hammond!

Robby Dawson (according to Pastor Sam) gave a gave a great, powerful, convicting, life giving word in Hammond!

Pastor Brent closed the 'GIFTED' series in Blue Island with a message about Passover, Pentecost & Tabernacles.

Pastor Brent closed the ‘GIFTED’ series in Blue Island with a message about Passover, Pentecost & Tabernacles.

KidsLife in Tinley Park also has some CUTE kids (lately I'm emphasized the other campuses, but I've decided it's ALL-CLC!)

KidsLife in Tinley Park also has some CUTE kids (lately I’m emphasized the other campuses, but I’ve decided it’s ALL-CLC!)

Well, I guess the Blue Island kiddos do cute stuff in their class-

Well, I guess the Blue Island kiddos do cute stuff in their class-

Worship at Hammond was anointed!

Worship at Hammond was anointed!

I love being part of a church where we not only can FEEL something, but we can LEARN something, too!

I love being part of a church where we not only can FEEL something, but we can LEARN something, too!

 

Steve Thompson gave us such a profound, yet simple message as to WHY we were placed on earth!

Steve Thompson gave us such a profound, yet simple message as to WHY we were placed on earth!

Robby Dawkins also ministered prophetically & prayed for healing for several people in Hammond!

Robby Dawkins also ministered prophetically & prayed for healing for several people in Hammond!

I'm also glad to be part of a church that reaches across cultures & languages to reach people!

I’m also glad to be part of a church that reaches across cultures & languages to reach people!

If YOU attended any service of CLC today, at any location or online, what/s your favorite memory? Leave a comment below-

It’s a MEN’S Trifecta!

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In Deuteronomy 16:16 the Lord commanded that all men of Israel should appear before Him three times a year – and one of those special times was the feast called Pentecost!

As it’s turned out, at CLC we have three special times in June for men – and we’re CALLING every man of CLC to join us:

1. Pentecost Sunday – Sunday, June 4!  Not only is this the birthday of THE Church  (see Acts 2:1-4and the climax of our ‘GIFTED’ series, but our special guest, Steve Thompson is a “man’s man”, having just completed a hike from South Rim to North Rim of the Grand Canyon two weeks ago!  You don’t want to miss him!

2. Father’s Day – Sunday, June 18!  This special day is all about YOU, men – with a unique & special treat for all men in attendance that day!

3. 2nd Annual Men’s Event – Saturday, June 24!  There will be LOTS of testosterone at CLC-Tinley Park that Saturday with competitive events, lots of good food, practical breakouts for husbands, fathers, single men, finances, men of God, successful men & our very special guest, Pastor Dan Johnson!

It’s a MALE Trifecta, and it’s all happening in June!

The final ‘activation night’

Evangelist Robby Dawkins did an awesome job in DEMONSTRATING how any believer can heal the sick!

Evangelist Robby Dawkins did an awesome job in DEMONSTRATING how any believer can heal the sick – he didn’t do the stuff himself; he EQUIPPED us to do it, which is exactly what these three activation nights were designed to do!

The Blue Island worship team did a GREAT job leading us into God's presence & it was great having Pastor Jon home from the Philippine trip to help lead them.

The Blue Island worship team did a GREAT job leading us into God’s presence & it was great having Pastor Jon home from the Philippine trip to help lead them.

And what a nice surprise to have Terrell Wilson back on stage to do what only he can do with 'Te Amo'!

And what a nice surprise to have Terrell Wilson back on stage to do what only he can do with ‘Te Amo’!

Most important of all were the healings that happened all over the house - and so neat to see this little girl follow Robby's instructions to minister healing to N'kyenge Brown, whose mother told me afterwards that she hadn't been able to move that freely in so long!

Most important of all were the healings that happened all over the house – and so neat to see this little girl follow Robby’s instructions to minister healing to N’kyenge Brown, whose mother told me afterwards that she hadn’t been able to move that freely in so long!

Personally, I am still blown-away by the numbers of people who attended each of these past 3 Wednesdays – and especially by how many CLC’ers made it each week!  It shows me the hunger that God’s people have to ‘make the supernatural natural’ at CLC, and we’ll have a special announcement to make this Sunday about that.

Speaking of this Sunday, June 4 – don’t forget it’s Pentecost Sunday and it will be a fitting climax to our ‘GIFTED’ series, as author Steve Thompson will minister in Tinley Park,  Robby Dawkins will be at our Hammond campus, and Pastor Brent has a special message for Blue Island – may the close of the series be the icing on the cake!

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Ask the Pastor

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No new questions came in this week, so I’m repeating this post from a few years ago:

An anonymous reader asks, Have you ever encountered skepticism from individuals raised with a different religion? How did you deal with it? I am going through this with my spouse and do not want to push him into anything, but I would love for him to join the kids and I in our faith.

Great question, and one faced by numerous spouses through the years.  Here’s my best take on what you can do:

assume that by “a different religion” you actually mean a “different expression of Christianity”, like Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc., as opposed to a different  religion, like Islam or Buddhism.  (I am MUCH more familiar with the first than the second, although I suppose most of my suggestions would be similar).

The single-best advice I can give comes straight from God’s Word in 1Pet. 3:1-4, where we learn that your loving conduct in the home will do more to win your spouse than  anything you might say to them!

Once you’ve ‘covered that base’ by sweet, loving, Christ-like behavior in front of them, if your spouse hasn’t already initiated the conversation about your faith by asking questions, I’d say it’s time for you to broach that subject.  Here are my tips:

  • Bathe this whole situation and your spouse in prayer!  That should go without saying, but 2Cor. 4:4 makes it clear that the reason your spouse doesn’t believe is because the god of this world has blinded his/her eyes to the Gospel! That’s the real issue – not their background, culture, upbringing or anything else – they don’t believe because Satan has blinded them – so the answer is for you (and others you can enlist) to pray fervently and persistently for the Lord to open their eyes!
  • Make sure your spouse is not in a defensive posture before you begin the conversation – in other words, look for a time when he/she is able and willing to talk, rather than during a heated discussion about something else, or when they are occupied with other pressing matters (whether live or on TV).
  • it’s always best to answer their questions, instead of trying to force the conversation.  This is the method that Jesus used consistently (study John 4:4-29 to see how He tactfully yet effectively led the Samaritan woman to truth)
  • Beyond that, especially if you have a good marital relationship (meaning your spouse genuinely loves you and your children), then a gentle (not nagging, but loving)  conversation in which you explain how important it is to you that he/she would at least attend church with you as a family, can be a great beginning!  I’ve known of lots of unsaved spouses who started attending church to support their children’s participation in a holiday presentation or came to visit just because of their spouse’s invitation, only to eventually find that they enjoyed the services, felt drawn by the Presence of God, and gave their life to Christ!

I’m sure there are some folks reading this who won their spouse to the Lord despite dissimilar backgrounds: what would YOU add to this list?  Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below.

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

Don’t forget – this Sunday, June 4 is PENTECOST SUNDAY with special guest Steven Thompson at our Tinley Park campus & Robby Dawkins at our Hammond location.  Hope to see you!

Want to experience healing?

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Years ago, when I was in Bible college preparing for ministry, a wise pastor told us,  “whatever you want your people to experience, preach it until it happens”. 

That’s no doubt why, in this month when we’ve been emphasizing the SUPERnatural ministry of Jesus through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we’ve experienced the supernatural. 

This past Sunday I had the privilege of praying for at least 5 or 6 people or more who came to the altar because of pain in their body and left pain-free – all because Jesus is still  Jehovah-Rapha, the God who heals all sickness and disease! (Exodus 15:26, Psa. 103:3,  1Pet. 2:24)

That’s also why I’m so excited about the final one of our ‘Activation Nights’ this Wednesday, May 31 at 7pm, when Evangelist Robby Dawkins will demonstrate and activate the healing gifts of the Holy Spirit at CLC.

I hope you’ll invite someone who needs to be healed and come expecting!

Sunday reflections

Worship was strong today, despite the holiday weekend attendance-

Worship was strong today, despite the holiday weekend attendance-

Our GIFTED series is showing up in many ways - Pastor Josh gave a prophetic word while hosting today

Our GIFTED series is showing up in many ways – Pastor Josh gave a prophetic word while hosting today

This is a great pic for a "caption contest" - what would you suggest?

This is a great pic for a “caption contest” – what would you suggest?

Today was my favorite teaching of the series, but I'm mostly grateful for several folks who received healing in our altars today!

Today was my favorite teaching of the series, but I’m mostly grateful for several folks who received healing in our altars today!

Look at those facial expressions & tell me Blue Island worshipers are PASSIONATE!

Look at those facial expressions & tell me Blue Island worshipers are PASSIONATE!

And the Blue Island campus continues to win the 'cutest kid' award in every age class!

And the Blue Island campus continues to win the ‘cutest kid’ award in every age class!

Pastor Brent taught 'Do What Jesus Did' and the altar was full of people believing for a miracle of healing.

Pastor Brent taught ‘Do What Jesus Did’ and the altar was full of people believing for a miracle of healing.

Strong worship at our Hammond campus today, plus good sign ups for summer semester of Life Groups and more people in Growth Track!

Strong worship at our Hammond campus today, plus good sign ups for summer semester of Life Groups and more people in Growth Track!

Plus Pastor Sam said the message connected well & lots of people received prayer for healing today - that's a win in my book, holiday or no holiday!

Plus Pastor Sam said the message connected well & lots of people received prayer for healing today – that’s a win in my book, holiday or no holiday!

Ask the Pastor

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During this ‘GIFTED’ series, one of my favorite CLC’ers asked, “Is there any indication at all in scripture that Jesus had a prayer language or spoke in tongues with an interpreter?

Great question, and one that others are probably asking, too.  Here’s my answer:

NO. There is never any mention of Jesus speaking in tongues (“prayer language”, as we often say at CLC) or using the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues.

However, that does not disturb me in the slightest as to the importance of praying in tongues in the life of a believer today, for these reasons:

  1. Jesus predated the advent of tongues as a sign of the Holy Spirit baptism.  In fact, Jesus ascended into heaven at the end of the four Gospels (recorded in Acts 1), but the first instance of anyone speaking in tongues was about a week later, in Acts 2:4.  Acts 2:32-33 makes it even clearer: Jesus was the one who baptized those 120 believers with the Holy Spirit, but He was already in heaven when it happened to them. Thus, we can see that He was not living on earth when the Holy Spirit was poured out, with one of the signs of that outpouring being the ability to speak a language we never learned. So Jesus didn’t have a prayer language for the same reason that Abraham or Moses or David or any other ‘hero’ from the Old Testament did not – that gift was not offered during his lifetime.
  2. If I may elaborate on that point a bit further, Jesus Himself told us that the Holy Spirit  couldn’t come until He ascended back into heaven – notice John 14:12 and 16:7. So again, there was no need or opportunity for Jesus to experience a miraculous prayer language, since the Holy Spirit could not be poured out until He ascended back into heaven.
  3. Also, I should point out that Jesus was not baptized in the Holy Spirit in the same way that we are today, because He was the Holy Spirit embodied (Col. 2:9)and the Scripture plainly says that He had the Holy Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34).  He had no need of a ‘sign’ because He was the only begotten Son of God!
  4. For what it’s worth, I have heard some well-meaning but Biblically misinformed folks say that Jesus spoke in tongues while on the cross in Mark 15:34.  However, those words were the common Aramaic that Jesus spoke – definitely not in tongues, as can be seen in that the people who heard him rushed to respond.

I hope that helps. Perhaps someone reading this can offer additional explanations – or maybe you also have a question to Ask the Pastor.  Please leave your comments below-

Meanwhile, I’m excited about this Sunday when we’ll explore the ‘power gifts’ of faith, working of miracles and healings!  It’ll be a great Memorial Day weekend at each CLC campus, and we’d love to have you join us!

How would YOU describe the second ‘Activation night’?

For sure, the highlight of the evening was the anointed ministry of Apostle Matthew Stevenson from All Nations Worship Assembly in Chicago.

For sure, the highlight of the evening was the anointed ministry of Apostle Matthew Stevenson from All Nations Worship Assembly in Chicago.

And much like last week when 784 people crammed into our building (with a 550-seat auditorium), last night we topped that, as our ushers counted 845 people and even when I drove away, I saw cars parked along Ridgeland Avenue for a quarter-of-a-mile! Special thanks to Pastors Josh & Moy AND a whole host of volunteers who managed to get a seat for all 945 people!

And much like last week when 784 people crammed into our building (with a 550-seat auditorium), last night we topped that, as our ushers counted 845 people and even when I drove away, I saw cars parked along Ridgeland Avenue for a quarter-of-a-mile! Special thanks to Pastors Josh & Moy AND a whole host of volunteers who managed to get a seat for all 945 people!

Our Hammond campus served as great hosts, providing front-line worship singers & musicians (with backup from Tinley Park), as well as KidsLife and First Touch ministries - kudos Pastor Sam & all your team!

Our Hammond campus served as great hosts, providing front-line worship singers & musicians (with backup from Tinley Park), as well as KidsLife and First Touch ministries – kudos Pastor Sam & all your team!

More than 100 kids received loving ministry from our great volunteers!

More than 100 kids received loving ministry from our great volunteers!

Including the youngest kiddos!

Including the youngest kiddos!

Best of all, EVERYONE got to participate in the activation exercises - even those who sat in the lobby!

Best of all, EVERYONE got to participate in the activation exercises – even those who sat in the lobby!

That’s my report – but I’d love to hear from YOU – what was your favorite moment of the evening?

I know it’s a holiday weekend, but I invite you to join us Sunday as we explore the ‘power gifts’ (faith, working of miracles & healing) – ‘Do What Jesus Did!’, and of course, the final activation night with Robby Dawkins on May 31 at 7pm!

Why ‘activation nights’?

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We’re well in week 3 of this 5-week series about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but I’m sure some people are still wondering, “what’s the big deal?” and “why an ‘activation’ night”?

The big deal in a nutshell is what Jesus promised in John 14:12; namely, that you and I would do the same works that He did, because of the Holy Spirit He would send to us!

This is not just a cute title for some sermons. This is a promise of Jesus: that we will be able to speak like He spoke, know like He knew, and even do what He did!

In my observation these past 48 years of ministry, the ONLY reason that we aren’t doing all of that is fear of embarrassment – the fear of looking stupid if we try something and fail.  And that’s where these ‘activation nights’ come in.

As you saw last Wednesday (if you attended), an activation is simply a safe way for us to try to use the gifts Jesus promised us, without the fear of embarrassment.

Did you learn to talk as a baby without first trying to make some sounds?

Did you learn to walk as a child without first trying to take some steps, even though you were clumsy in the beginning?

Did you learn to ride a bike with some ‘training wheels’ attached initially, to give you more confidence until you could ride without fear?

Tonight you’ll have a chance to ‘activate’ the gifts of the word of knowledge, word of wisdom and discerning of spirits with the guidance of a man who uses those gifts effectively to serve others – Dr. Matthew Stevenson.

See you at 7pm at the Tinley Park campus.

P.S. Apostle Stevenson invited his church to join us, so I suggest you arrive early to get a seat!

A valuable lesson

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I learned a valuable lesson (well, actually re-learned it again) last week after we were SO overwhelmed with almost 800 people coming to our first “Activation night” during our GIFTED series.

In any prophetic message, there are always three components:

  1. The revelation – what God actually says to you
  2. The interpretation – how you understand what He said
  3. The application – what you do with what you heard

Earlier this year, I really, really sensed the Lord speak to me that this series on the gifts of the Spirit was NOT to just be a sermon series, but that we should include “activations” to help our people put the teaching into practice by stepping out in the gifts.  I even sensed three men immediately that I wanted to lead those activations, and as soon as I contacted them, each one quickly accepted the invitation for the only possible dates that would work for us!

I knew God had spoken to me and I knew He was at work in arranging this for us.  I also has sensed that this was NOT just to be for our Tinley Park campus, but it was for ALL of CLC – that each campus was to be impacted by these activations.

When I sat down with our pastors to apply what I had heard from the Lord, I thought the best way to accomplish it was to move the application nights around so that each campus could experience one in their building, even while challenging the other two campuses to support the activation nights as though it was their own. Sounds logical, right?

But my application was obviously off, when almost 800 folks came to experience the  ‘speaking gifts” with Apostle John Eckhardt last Wednesday and by Thursday morning when I met with our pastors, we knew we had no choice but to host the remaining two activations in our largest facility, the Tinley Park campus.

As each of us continues to step out and “make the SUPERnatural natural at CLC”, let it be a valuable lesson that we must humbly seek Him for the application to what He reveals to us by His Spirit.

Can’t wait to see what He will do in us this Wednesday at 7pm with Dr. Matthew Stevenson in the house!

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Sunday reflections

I LOVE the fact that CLC doesn't just have talented musicians, but musicians who are WORSHIPERS!

I LOVE the fact that CLC doesn’t just have talented musicians, but musicians who are WORSHIPERS!  Bass Guitarist Jonathan Aguilar is one of them!

And I LOVE seeing FAMILIES worship Jesus together!

And I LOVE seeing FAMILIES worship Jesus together!

Train up a child....

Train up a child….

Gonna miss Pastor Jon for the next 10 days while he ministers in the Phiippines with our team that's enroute there now

Gonna miss Pastor Jon for the next 10 days while he ministers in the Phiippines with our team that’s enroute there now.  Today he challenged us to take God at His Word!

 

It's always FUN to team-teach with this lady & today was no exception.  She received several words of knowledge about healing in each service and the line of folks coming to be healed was LOOOONG!

It’s always FUN to team-teach with this lady & today was no exception. She received several words of knowledge about healing in each service and the line of folks coming to be healed was LOOOONG! Praise God for those who received!!! We’re making the supernatural  natural at CLC!

Pastor Sam reported a good day at the Hammond campus, with at least 10 first-time guests AND 15 different life groups for the summer semester!

Pastor Sam reported a good day at the Hammond campus, with at least 10 first-time guests AND 15 different life groups for the summer semester!

Dorothy Caldwell shared a 'word' from the Lord during the worship transition.

Dorothy Caldwell shared a ‘word’ from the Lord during the worship transition.

Anita Winters is just one of our passionate worshipers at our Blue Island campus!

Anita Winters is just one of our passionate worshipers at our Blue Island campus!

Jack Hayford once told me, "no matter who is on stage with the microphone, the pastor is the worship leader of the congregation!"

Jack Hayford once told me, “no matter who is on stage with the microphone, the pastor is the worship leader of the congregation!”

Do you think Blue Island has the cutest kids at CLC?

Do you think Blue Island has the cutest kids at CLC?

If you said 'no', you may need to reconsider!

If you said ‘no’ above, you may need to reconsider!

We love our BI-Youth leader, Profit Hallom!

We love our BI-Youth leader, Profit Hallom!

Ask the Pastor

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During our current “GIFTED” series, someone asked me, “are all of the gifts in Scripture given when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit? What about the gifts in Romans 12 that we study during the CLC Growth Track?

Great question, and since we don’t have time to address it during our current series, let me do so here:

First, there are three primary listings of ‘gifts’ in the New Testament, and I see a clear distinction in each set:

  • Romans 12 lists six “grace gifts” that I believe are given to us by our Heavenly Father at our natural birth.  These are often called ‘motivational’ gifts, and they can be readily seen even in our children, as they affect our approach to life.  If little Johnny spills his milk, the prophetic-gifted person responds with, “I told you to be more careful”, while the mercy-gifted person comforts Johnny with, “It’s ok, Johnny” and the helps-gifted person will grab a paper towel to clean up the spill and get Johnny a fresh glass of milk, etc. These gifts show how God has wired us from birth, and can really be helpful for us to recognize, since they can show us where we will be most fulfilled in our career and our ministry!
  • 1Corinthians 12 lists nine “gifts of the Spirit” that are clearly given by the Holy Spirit when we are baptized in the Spirit.  They are the focus of our current series, and, as we are seeing, they are supernatural gifts from the Holy Spirit, that enable us to speak things we could not speak without His enablement, and know things we could not know without His enablement, and do things we could not do without His enablement.
  • Ephesians 4 lists five “gifts from Christ” that are actually gifted-people who serve the body of Christ; i.e., they are gifts to the Church.
  • I’m not at all sure that these lists are exhaustive and there may well be other gifts  (some teachers have counted 27 or more); however, these are the only ‘lists’ provided in Scripture.

Thus we receive gifts from the Trinity: some gifts from the Father at our natural birth, some gifts from the Holy Spirit when we are baptized in the Spirit, and some gifts from Jesus as members of His Church.

Clearly, these are definitely different gifts, given to us at different times and certainly for different purposes.  Our ‘GIFTED’ series is only looking at the nine enablements of the Holy Spirit.

And since you asked, I would encourage every person reading this to discover your gift this Sunday (May 21) at your campus of CLC in the Growth Track class.  Not only will you learn about the importance of your gifts, but you’ll even take a spiritual gift profile that will  reveal your primary giftings, and as I said before, this discovery can be of great benefit, both in the marketplace and in ministry.

Hope that helps.  Would you care to add to my answer by leaving a comment below?  Or perhaps you have a story to share as to how your gifts have proven to be a blessing to your life?  Let’s encourage one another-

NEWS FLASH: change of location!

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As you know (if you were present) or may have heard (if you weren’t here), last night’s first  ‘Activation” for our ‘GIFTED’ series may have been the LARGEST-attended midweek event in our history!

People double-and-even-triple-parked in our parking lot, plus some parked along the side of 183rd Street and Ridgeland Avenue and still others on the grassy areas of our property and still others used our carports for parking, just so they could get into the building – and then we filled every single chair in the auditorium, brought in another 40 or so folding chairs, which soon filled and still had others who sat in the lobby or stood in the service, just so they could participate!  It was CRAY CRAY, as our kids would say.

But it was CRAY CRAY GOOD, as hundreds of people stirred up the gifts of the Spirit in their life through a series of activations led by Apostle John Eckhardt.

We’re expecting that the next two Wednesdays could very well be just as slammed, with such popular guests coming to help us activate other gifts of the Spirit, and we concluded that our Tinley Park location is the only one large enough to handle the crowds,  So instead of moving these next two activations to our other locations, we’re changing the plan to have BOTH May 24 and May 31 events at the Tinley Park campus, while having our Hammond and Blue Island campuses host the services.

Please help us GET THE WORD OUT since we had already advertised the other locations, and we don’t want anyone to miss out because they show up at the wrong address!

Meanwhile, let’s fast and pray and come EXPECTING!

What. A. Night.

Apostle John Eckhardt did an amazing job of leading us in prophetic activations!

Apostle John Eckhardt did an amazing job of leading us in prophetic activations!

The first of our three ‘activations’ for the ‘GIFTED’ series exceeded my expectations in every way – and that’s a mouthful, because I had HIGH expectations!

First of all, John Eckhardt demonstrated why he is so highly respected as a true Apostolic leader and a man of God.  He not only did an amazing job of leading the congregation in 10-12 prophetic ‘activation’, but after ministering for 90 minutes or more, he then voluntarily went to the book table and signed books for people for as long as anyone wanted – I left about 10pm and he was still there signing books for people!  That shows the heart of a servant-leader!

Secondly, there were 784 people in the building last night, and our auditorium only seats 550!  As a result, I’m told that cars were triple-parked in the parking lot and the grassy areas of our property and that some even parked alongside 183rd Street and Ridgeland at the edges of our property (that sounds dangerous, but that’s the report I received) That shows how hungry people (and CLC’ers) are for the supernatural!

Thirdly, (and most importantly), every single person I spoke with afterwards had a story to tell – how they personally heard from God through the prophetic activations!  Every. one.!  That shows how much God wants us to make the supernatural natural at CLC!

P.S. MEGA-KUDOS to our Children’s Director, Stacy Hunter for seeing the crowds & volunteering to add children’s ministry for kids over 5 years old (the original plan was just to care for kids under 5) and to her amazing children (Cameron, Caleb & Jenna) & other volunteers who jumped in last-minute to minister to over 50 kids so that people who came for the prophetic activations had a place to sit.  Stacy, we love you!

We’re just getting started – don’t miss THIS Sunday at each CLC campus as we explore the knowing gifts of the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom and discerning of spirits.

If you were present last night, please share your thoughts/experience below to encourage others:

Activating the prophetic

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Had a neat report from Mother’s Day at the Tinley Park campus – when my wife encouraged everyone to listen for a ‘word’ to share with a neighbor, one of our members said she heard the Lord speak, “the Champ is here”.  She immediately thought of Muhammed Ali, who used to say that chant before a boxing match, to announce his presenceintimidate the enemy; and rally his fans.  She felt the Lord was saying to her (and to CLC), “The Champ is here” in order to announce His Presence; intimidate the enemy, and rally His people!  (Sure sounds like a word to me!)

I also had a chance to practice what I preached Sunday.  I told everyone in 9am service at our Hammond campus to just look at a neighbor and ask, “If Jesus were here right now, what would He say to them? (and remember, He’s in a good mood)”. 

In the next service worship set, I noticed a young man interacting and receiving prayer from “mama Drusie” (a beloved older member there) and was just ‘daydreaming’ how he was showing such deference and humility as he received prayer from this precious senior saint and how God was going to honor that and use him in wonderful ways, when it dawned on me that I wasn’t daydreaming; God was speaking to me!  So I shared my ‘word’ with the young man and hoped God would use it to bless him!

Whether those two incidents are encouraging to you or not, one thing is for sure: God is going to use Apostle John Eckhardt tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 17) to impart spiritual gifts and activate CLC’ers in the prophetic at 7pm at our Tinley Park campus.

I hope you’ll come early and come expecting, as we make the supernaturalnatural part of our lives!

Mother’s Day reflections

MOM: we honor you on this special day!

MOM: we honor you on this special day!

I didn't get to hear her, but I 'heard' that my wife did a great job teaching about the speaking gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I didn’t get to hear her, but I ‘heard’ that my wife did a great job teaching about the speaking gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I know that more CLC’ers were baptized in the Holy Spirit today!

Today's focus was on our MOM's and we prayed in each service for them: for those who've lost their mom (or a child); for those who desperately want to have children, but haven't; those who have suffered a miscarriage; those who have experienced abortion. Each of them deserve our compassion & a prayer of blessing!

Today’s focus was on our MOM’s and we prayed in each service for them: for those who’ve lost their mom (or a child); for those who desperately want to have children, but haven’t; those who have suffered a miscarriage; those who have experienced abortion. Each of them deserve our compassion & a prayer of blessing! At Hammond campus, the front of the church was FILLED with moms as Pastor Taylor led us in prayer for them.

The Hammond campus also honored moms with a cupcake reception after service

The Hammond campus also honored moms with a cupcake reception after service

and I had fun sharing some practical truths & tips about the gifts that enable us to 'speak like Jesus' (supernaturally!)

I had fun sharing some practical truths & tips about the gifts that enable us to ‘speak like Jesus’ (supernaturally!)

There's NO mom in this picture, but those faces will make ANY mom melt!

There’s NO mom in this picture, but those faces will make ANY mom’s heart melt!

Mom's with their family make great pics!

Mom’s with their family make great pics!

see what I mean?

see what I mean?

It's extra-nice when mom's & son's pose together!

It’s extra-nice when mom’s & son’s pose together!

Kudos to EVERY mom & the photographers at each campus who helped make this a special day!

 

 

Ask the Pastor

 

shutterstock_148655030 (1)One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I’ve been having a discussion about tithing, specifically tithing on a large sum of money, like a $100,000 settlement. One thinks it’s ok to tithe in monthly increments while I feel that the tithe should be done in lump sum… as the money is given to you. I strongly believe that only tithing 2% when the money is received can result in the other 98% being cursed. I know the financial disadvantages that failure to tithe can cause. I also know how easy it is for money allocated towards tithing to find other places to go. Please advise.”

Interesting question, and one that I’ve never been asked before.  Here’s my thoughts:

  • First, the tithe, in Scripture, is based on our increase (see Deut. 14:22, 14:28, 26:12-13 and Prov. 3:9).  I mention that because when it comes to businesses, for example, the tithe is not based on their entire income, because in order to receive that income, they had expenses like overhead, cost of supplies, payroll for employees, etc, etc. – so the business should tithe on their profit, not on their gross sales.  Similarly for the sale of a home and possibly a settlement as was mentioned here.  Instead of tithing on the sale price of a home or the full settlement received, I think a person could deduct the purchase price of the home when they bought it and only tithe on the profit or increase they received, and that a person who received a settlement could deduct any true expenses they had in order to obtain the settlement, such as legal fees that were necessary in order to receive.
  • Second, and more direct to the question, is that the tithe is NOT just any tenth; it is specifically the first tenth of our increase (see Exodus 23:19; Proverbs 3:9), which is why the tithe is synonymous with “firstfruits” throughout Scripture.  That’s because tithing has never been a money issue; tithing has always been a faith issue.  It takes  faith to give God the first tenth of my income instead of paying all my bills and then giving God the last tenth (or worse yet, a tip out of what’s left!)
  • I tend not to think in terms of a ‘curse’ being on us or our money in this day of God’s grace (unlike Old Testament times such as Joshua 6:18, 7:11-15 or Mal. 3:8-11), but I can’t disagree with the questioner that only submitting a portion of the tithe would bring about financial disadvantage, rather than the blessing of God.  And I wholeheartedly agree that it is SO easy for money allocated to tithes to go elsewhere – that’s why the first withdrawal from my bank account after payday is my tithe!

Hope this helps a bit.  Perhaps YOU have thoughts to add to my answer.  If so, please leave your comment below or even ask your own question for me.

more Holy Spirit baptism ‘stories’

 

18401893_1310945635609554_1853063711106528315_oThis past Sunday was anything but superficial, as the Holy Spirit was outpoured at CLC shortly after we heard from 15 CLC’ers who shared their story with us.

However, there were a couple of other testimonies that we captured on video since neither person was available to share on Sunday.  Enjoy!

Gifted Series – Amanda Edwards Testimony from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

Gifted Series – Kanesha Bryant Testimony from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Setting the atmosphere

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I’m still floating after the move of the Spirit we enjoyed this past Sunday at CLC-Tinley Park (and from the reports I heard, at our other campuses as well).

But when I saw the picture above and noticed the all-out praise from everyone on stage, it reminded me of an important principle: we set the atmosphere for others to receive!

For instance, our First Touch Team (parking lot, ushers, greeters, info desk) plays such an important role of welcoming people to CLC.  The atmosphere they set by their smiles, warmth, handshakes, and all-around welcoming attitude does cause even anxious newcomers to feel accepted and even wanted at CLC.

Just last night I received a text about a woman who attended Sunday for just the second time ever, and her 2-year old cried so much she had to leave the auditorium during the message and stay with him in our nursery.  But the point of the text is that our Nursery team showed so much LOVE to the little boy that she still had a good experience, even though she didn’t get to be in the service! (Kudos to CLC KidsLife Jr. workers!!!)

My point is this: each of us can help to set an atmosphere, not only to welcome people or help them feel loved, but also to welcome the Presence of our Great God into the room, so that everyone in the House can receive from Him! (Thank God for a great Worship team at CLC who set the example for us each Sunday, but it’s not just about those on stage – it’s up to each of us to set that atmosphere through our worship!)

I’m convinced that we’re going to a new place in the Spirit at CLC, but setting the atmosphere makes it possible!

Sunday reflections

This pic has nothing to do with today's CLC recap, other than that it was taken at our Blue Island campus. (I just love these 2 girls!)

This pic has nothing to do with today’s CLC recap, other than that it was taken at our Blue Island campus. (I just love these 2 girls!)

At the Tinley Park campus, I enlisted the help of 15 CLC'ers who shared their stories of being baptized in the Holy Spirit - L to R: Wes & Neesha Stringfellow & Sherece Thompson.

At the Tinley Park campus, I enlisted the help of 15 CLC’ers who shared their stories of being baptized in the Holy Spirit – L to R: Wes & Neesha Stringfellow & Sherece Thompson.

Dawn Simental & Nikki Ferreria shared their stories.

Dawn Simental & Nikki Ferreria shared their stories.

Jared & Nikki Bosi told us how they received while in college-

Jared & Nikki Bosi told us how they received while in college-

L to R: Katie Jager, Tiffany & Ross Grimes encouraged many with their testimony!

L to R: Katie Jager, Tiffany & Ross Grimes encouraged many with their testimony!

Special thanks also to Tim & Melanie Hilton, Tenita Ramey, Sean Smith, & Tamika Steele for sharing their stories of how having a prayer language has changed their life!

After hearing those testimonies, our altars were full of hungry CLC'ers, and we think at least 18 were baptized in the Holy Spirit at the TP campus!

After hearing those testimonies, our altars were full of hungry CLC’ers, and we think at least 18 were baptized in the Holy Spirit at the TP campus!

Our Hammond campus went into His Presence with the help of this Praise team!

Our Hammond campus went into His Presence with the help of this Praise team!

Pastor Taylor not only blessed the Hammond campus today, but in TP we heard how her witness prompted her friend Katie Jager to come & be filled with the Holy Spirit!

Pastor Taylor not only blessed the Hammond campus today, but in TP we heard how her witness prompted her friend Katie Jager to come & be filled with the Holy Spirit!

One of CLC's Apostolic Overseers, Dale Van Steenis, ministered at the Hammond 9am service and at least 7 people were baptized in the Holy Spirit!

One of CLC’s Apostolic Overseers, Dale Van Steenis, ministered at the Hammond 9am service and at least 7 people were baptized in the Holy Spirit!

My wife ministered at the Blue Island campus on the same topic of "The Gift"

My wife ministered at the Blue Island campus on the same topic of “The Gift” (with an object lesson, of course!)

After she preached, the altar was full of CLC'ers who wanted MORE from the Lord!

After she preached, the altar was full of CLC’ers who wanted MORE from the Lord!

Chris also received prophetic words for almost everyone who came forward, as Blue Island enjoyed a powerful move of the Spirit!

Chris also received prophetic words for almost everyone who came forward, as Blue Island enjoyed a powerful move of the Spirit!

I’d say we’re off to a great start in the ‘GIFTED’ series.  Although I don’t think we reached the 3 dozen Holy Spirit baptisms I prayed for all week, we did reach dozens, plural, with at least 25 people filled today. (I should have a more complete report after we process the Connection Cards tomorrow).

And as one of our elders said, “This is only the beginning!”

Please join me in fasting at least one day this week as we continue to go deeper in the things of the Spirit in this series!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m reposting from 2011-

This week’s question is, “In Genesis 4:1, does scripture specifically say that Cain was Adam and Eve’s first child and Able was their second child?  I know they had more children because Cain must have taken one of his sisters to be his wife.”

Interesting question; one I’ve never been asked before.  I went to several translations and commentaries, including the Amplified Bible, which offers the strongest indication by saying “next” in regards to Abel’s birth.  However, the rather obvious answer is that the Bible does NOT specifically say that Cain was their first child. I suppose one could argue that they could have had a daughter first – although Eve’s exclamation about Cain’s birth certainly seems to me like a strong indicator that he was her firstborn.

I did discover one thing in my research that I didn’t know: some scholars believe that Cain and Abel were twins, and that children in those early days of man’s history were usually born in pairs. It’s an interesting idea to say the least, and one that I can’t refute with Scripture.

And I do agree with my questioner that Cain must have married his own sister – I just can’t see any other possibility in the Biblical record.

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