Headed to Sox park, but not for the game….

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I’m headed to Guaranteed Rate Field (still think that’s the dumbest name for a stadium I’ve ever heard) as the Sox play the Royals tonight – but I’m not going for the game.  (In fact, I haven’t been to a Sox game in at least 2 or 3 years, maybe longer.)

Instead, I’m headed there for a planning meeting with Champions Network, because Joel Osteen will be at the ballpark for a “Night of Hope” this August 11.  In case you’re not aware, Joel regularly ministers to full stadiums for these events, and 50% of those who attend are unbelievers/unchurch folks and 70% of them respond to his call for repentance and trust in Christ as these events!

I’m excited that CLC has been invited to help as a sponsoring church and the potential to see hungry people brought into the Kingdom on August 11!

Sunday reflections

We're not waiting on Jesus; Jesus is waiting on us!

We’re not waiting on Jesus; Jesus is waiting on us!

 

Pray for the team of 4 CLC'ers who will lead a Youth Camp for orphan boys this week in INDIA!

Pray for the team of 4 CLC’ers who will lead a Youth Camp for orphan boys this week in INDIA!

I LOVE the fact that our children are learning to worship Jesus! Kudos to every KidsLife volunteer!

I LOVE the fact that our children are learning to worship Jesus! Kudos to every KidsLife volunteer! (this girl’s expression in worship is priceless!)

At each service in Tinley Park today people came forward to receive Christ! (that never gets old!)

I felt impressed this week to have CLC’ers make the altar call during the teaching & offer to bring people forward, and at EACH service in Tinley Park today people came forward to receive Christ! (that never gets old!)

In Blue Island, Pastor Brent taught the same message about the Second Coming, and people responded.

In Blue Island, Pastor Brent taught the same message about the Second Coming, and people responded.

There's more than one way to GROW a church! (Blue Island is growing with BABIES!)

There’s more than one way to GROW a church! (Blue Island is growing with BABIES!)

Dr. Patricia Bailey was our guest at the Hammond campus today

Dr. Patricia Bailey was our guest at the Hammond campus for Missions Sunday today while Pastors Sam & Taylor are on vacation.

Dr. Bailey brought a strong message in both services before leaving for Somalia tonight to work in that famine-stricken country.

Dr. Bailey brought a strong message in both services before leaving for Somalia tonight to work in that famine-stricken country.

And for some reason, she was ministering to folks even in the lobby today (would someone from the Hammond campus explain to me WHY!)

She even ministered in the lobby afterwards to those who made a donation to help the work in Somalia.

And if you missed today, perhaps this video will enlighten you about the 10/40 window:

The amazing news is that CLC is actively engaged in 28 of the 56 nations within the 10/40 window, and 70% of our monthly missions support goes to the 10/40 window nations!

After service, one widow donated $1,000 and pledged $4,000 more to help others go on missions trips!

And another CLC’er heard the Holy Spirit whisper that there was someone at CLC who wanted very much to go on a missions trip but didn’t have the funds, and that he was to donate $2,100 to help make it possible!

Now, that’s what I’d call a GREAT Missions Sunday!

Reflections on the Bethel Leadership Advance

Since this was my FIRST visit to Bethel after hearing of the ministry for several years, I came away with several observations that I’ll share at the close of this post-

For ME personally, Kris Vallotton's teachings were the highlights of the conference. His 'prophetic roundtable' teaching this morning about raising our children in a prophetic environment was priceless!

For ME personally, Kris Vallotton’s teachings were the highlights of the conference. His ‘prophetic roundtable’ teaching this morning about raising our children in a prophetic environment was priceless!

I could not have been more impressed with Children's Pastor Seth Dahl!

I could not have been more impressed with Children’s Pastor Seth Dahl!

Brent and I had to leave before the final session because of our return flight to Chicago, so we missed Pastor Bill Johnson's closing message. The last teaching we heard was from Kris Vallotton whose business analogies from his past were spot-on for church leaders - VERY practical!

Brent and I had to leave before the final session because of our return flight to Chicago, so we missed Pastor Bill Johnson’s closing message. The last teaching we heard was from Kris Vallotton whose business analogies from his past were spot-on for church leaders – VERY practical!

My reflections, in no particular order of importance:

1. I’m impressed with Pastor Bill Johnson’s ability to gather and keep a team of ministry “stars“.  Bethel is definitely not built on one man’s ministry (truth be told, no church ever is!) It seemed throughout the conference that every pastor on his team has a unique and outstanding ministry of their own. It takes a humble and secure leader to attract and keep such a team intact – and Pastor Bill does it well, allowing each team member to fulfill their calling.

2. I am particularly impressed with their children’s ministry.  Children’s Pastor Seth Dahl shared a story this morning that may have been the highlight of the conference (and after last night’s testimonies from ex-inmates-who-are-now-ministers, that’s quite a statement!)  He told how a woman from another state had visited Bethel recently.  She had brain cancer and came to Bethel specifically to receive a healing prayer – but the Sunday she visited, their ‘healing rooms’ ministry was closed because of other meetings that occupied their space.  So a friend of hers texted Seth to see if he could arrange for someone to pray for her.  He brought her to the 1st & 2nd grade classroom and asked the children to pray for her.  Those first and second grade children zealously prayed and prophesied over her and finally one little boy spoke over the microphone, “Lord, just flick that cancer off her like a bug!” Seth was so touched by that faith-filled prayer that he had ALL the kids do a prophetic act, by flicking their finger and repeating the boy’s prayer.  The woman returned to her home and after her next doctor’s exam, the MRI showed NO Cancer in her body!  Would to God all our children learned to operate in faith like that!!!

3. I’m definitely impressed with their prophetic teams from the School of Supernatural Ministry. The last thing that I experienced before leaving Bethel’s campus was my appointment to receive a prophetic word.  The teams of three that ministered to our pastors included students from six different countries (two each on a team) and a child each from Bethel’s Children’s Ministry, and each of our pastors received ‘words’ that were accurate and affirming, even from the children.  That doesn’t happen without practical training in the supernatural, and I love it.

Of course, there’s more I could say, but those are my big observations.  I’m returning home tomorrow with a heart of expectation that what God is doing in Bethel and Redding, CA, He is able to do in CLC and Chicagoland!

Maybe the most amazing testimony I’ve ever heard…

I had no idea what to expect when Kris Vallotton called Ron & Dawn to the stage to share their testimony

I had no idea what to expect when Kris Vallotton called Ron & Dawn Adkins to the stage to share their testimony at the Bethel Leadership Advance last night

First, it was Ron's turn to share how he got into trouble before he was a teen and eventually received FIVE 99-year prison sentences, which led to him being in solitary confinement in a Texas prison for more than 10 YEARS!

First, it was Ron’s turn to share how he got into trouble before he was a teen and eventually received FIVE 99-year prison sentences, which led to him being in solitary confinement in a Texas prison for more than 10 YEARS!

Another crime committed while IN prison resulted in a total sentence of 500 years - but he got radically saved while in prison & miraculously was paroled a few years ago & now ministers in prisons!

Another crime committed while IN prison resulted in a total sentence of 500 years – but he got radically saved while in prison & miraculously was paroled a few years ago & now ministers in prisons! His ministry is appropriately called, “Radical Restoration Ministries”!

Then it was Dawn's turn to tell how she was a homeless prostitute with 46 felonies on her record in Florida. But on her last arrest, she turned to Jesus - was miraculously pardoned from prison and now ministers on death row (now called 'Life Row'!) and has opened 6 homes for women ex-inmates!

Then it was Dawn’s turn to tell how she was a homeless prostitute with 46 felonies on her record in Florida. But on her last arrest, she turned to Jesus – was miraculously pardoned from prison and now ministers on death row (now called ‘Life Row’!) and has opened 6 homes for women ex-inmates!

Ron & Dawn met a couple of years ago and married last year, to serve God together in ministry!

Ron & Dawn met a couple of years ago and married last year, to serve God together in ministry!

These words & pics don’t do it justice – you had to be there to hear it in person! Check them out here.

We serve a MIGHTY God and there’s NOTHING He can’t do!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2013:

When I announced our newest series here, I received several questions that we may not have addressed last Sunday in the message, “Living Single”, so let’s try here:

  1. One question had to do with “the church” as a place to potentially find one’s future mate – if the church is not a welcoming environment, then where & how can a Jesus-follow look for their mate? 
  • Personally, I don’t think there’s any better place to find a mate.  Chris & I met in church, and so have innumerable other happy husbands-and-wives.  If the church you attend frowns on that, I’d have a respectful conversation with the pastor to find out why.  Of course, there are cyber options out there – but be careful!
2. Another reader wrote, “I’m 38, never married, no children, professionally successful & a home owner…..how do I present myself as not being “too independent” to a suitor while still continuing to “handle my business” for my home?
  • Honestly, call me naive I guess, but I can’t imagine any ‘Mr. Right’ having an issue with a successful woman.  And if he is intimidated or scared-off by your facts, in my opinion, he’s not the man of your dreams.  For sure, your successful career should be an asset, not a hindrance to a godly man (read Proverbs 31:10-31 again to see how an independent and successful wife blesses her husband and family!)

3.  Another CLCer said, “We have been together for 10 years,have children together, joint bank accounts, live together,etc…but he won’t marry me!”

  • I don’t see a question there.  Probably because you already have your answer: if he’s getting what he wants without making a commitment to marry you, he’s not likely to ever get married.  Quit putting out and see what happens.  As I said last Sunday, God’s “rules” are for our good.  Living together outside of marriage may be culturally acceptable, but it’s NOT God’s plan, and it won’t lead to what you want in life.

4.  A faithful CLCer wrote, “As a single woman who’s never been married & doesn’t have children, I struggle constantly with the “why not me, God?” question. Honestly, I feel as if God blessed me with this immense compassion & ability to love, yet I haven’t met the right man to share that love with & have a family with. I’m 35 and every year that passes, I become more & more discouraged & feel that I will forever be single. It’s frustrating because I ask God & myself why did He build my heart this way & not lead me to the one earthly man that I could share it with?

  • This is the kind of heart-cry that gets to me.  I feel your pain; I’ve heard it from so many singles thru the years.  I really only have 3 responses: (1) 1Cor. 7:17 that we opened & closed with last Sunday.  Your marital status does NOT define your life!   (2) I do NOT believe the Bible teaches that there is “one earthly man” for you; i.e., I don’t find the concept of “soul-mate” in Scripture.  Instead, I believe that there are potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of loving, godly, male followers of Christ that you could build a happy life with – not just one.  In some instances, that may have been the problem – that you’ve been looking for Mr. Perfect, instead of Mr. Right. and (3) Don’t give up!  Keep praying & stay hopeful.  I’ve known many believers who married the person of their dreams later in life, and found true happiness together – perhaps in part because they were each more mature, more complete in themselves and more ready to share their joy with another.

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

 

Bethel Leadership Advance

Of course, Bethel is known for WORSHIP, and I've seen why first-hand!

Of course, Bethel is known for WORSHIP, and I’ve seen why first-hand!

This Advance is quite different than others they've done (according to our pastors who've been here before) - with several panel discussions on the schedule.

This Advance is quite different than others they’ve done (according to our pastors who’ve been here before) – with several panel discussions on the schedule (from L to R: Kris Vallotton, Bill Johnson, Candace & Eric Johnson)

Bill Johnson's session this morning was worth the cost of coming here - amazing insights in his teaching!

Bill Johnson’s session this morning was worth the cost of coming here – amazing insights!

So this conference and my trip is about half-over, and I still have high expectations for the remaining sessions, including an appointment for each of us with one of their prophetic teams tomorrow.

I must say the highlight thus far has been the opportunity for extended conversations with Pastors Sam & Taylor and Brent….guess we had to get out of the office to truly connect 😉

Bethel Church conference

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For years I’ve read and heard about Pastor Bill Johnson and Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  If you’re not familiar, they’re the home of Jesus Culture and some of the greatest worship music on the planet.  Of course, they’re probably known best for some amazing miracles and healings that occur regularly, along with the anointed team of pastors & leaders, including Kris Valloton, Danny Silk and others, in addition to Bill Johnson.  They also operate a Supernatural School of Ministry, which attracts thousands of students from all over the world.

I think every pastor on staff at CLC has attended a conference here in the past except me and Chris, and she wasn’t able to join me this time.  But I am meeting Pastors Brent and Sam & Taylor tonight, so the four of us will get to take in what God is doing here.

I’ll try to let you know each day-

Easter weekend reflections

If there was a contest for BEST Easter outfit, Caleb Hunter wins it hands-down (sorry, Moy)

If there was a contest for BEST Easter outfit, Caleb Hunter wins it hands-down (sorry, Moy)

Major KUDOS to our Life Worship team for leading us into His Presence all 5 services this weekend!

Major KUDOS to our Life Worship team for leading us into His Presence all 5 services this weekend!

Easter isn't complete without the kiddos & their Easter egg hunt

Easter isn’t complete without the kiddos & their Easter egg hunt

As a special treat for KidsLife, Jay Risner was our special guest - and LOTS of kids prayed to receive Jesus today!

As a special treat for KidsLife, Jay Risner was our special guest – and LOTS of kids prayed to receive Jesus today!

Seeing those cardboard testimonies on the Cross moved me each time!

Seeing those cardboard testimonies on the Cross moved me each time!

Pastor Sam is rejoicing over 566 people in attendance at our Hammond Campus, along with 10 salvation decisions!

Pastor Sam is rejoicing over 566 people in attendance at our Hammond Campus, along with 10 salvation decisions!

I love see our Youth using their gifts to serve God!  Kudos, Rory!

I love see our Youth using their gifts to serve God! Kudos, Rory!

Pastor Brent explained why the Resurrection is important in Blue Island-

Pastor Brent explained why the Resurrection is important in Blue Island-

I admit I'm prejudiced, but this was my favorite of all the cardboard testimonies

I admit I’m prejudiced, but this was my favorite of all the cardboard testimonies…..

....he's my middle grandson (and his head didn't even break!)

….he’s my middle grandson (and his head didn’t even break!)

True stories.....

True stories…..

.....Only Jesus could do this!

…..Only Jesus could do this!

You'd never guess this to see her now....

You’d never guess this to see her now….

.....only Jesus!

…..only Jesus!

So we’re praising God for this weekend:

Tinley Park campus, 2014 in attendance; about 35 salvation decisions;

Hammond campus: 566 in attendance; 10 salvation decisions

Blue Island campus: 300 in attendance;

for a grand total of 2,880 in attendance and 45 people who made a fresh start with God!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2011:

A non-CLC reader asks, “In Matthew 27:52, it says “and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose.” Does the Bible give any more information on these saints who arose?  Where did they go? Did they continue living? Where were there spiritual bodies before they arose? Also, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, does the Bible say anything else about him?”

Wow….so many questions, and all so good!  Let’s try to answer them, one at a time:

1.  Yes, the full description is giving in the verse you quoted AND the next verse (Matthew 27:52-53).

2.  So, according to v. 53, they went into the city of Jerusalem where they appeared to many people.

3.  No further information is given anywhere else in the Bible, so we are left with 2 possible conclusions: (a) either they continued living until they died (again), or (my best guess, since Hebrews 9:27 says we’re all destined to die once), (b) they remained in Jerusalem until they ascended into heaven with Christ at the end of his earthly appearance.

4.  Before they arose, their spirits would have been in Abraham’s bosom, awaiting the resurrection, just like all of the righteous dead from Old Testament times.  (Some have speculated that these saints in particular may have been martyrs from Old Testament times, or possibly even saints who had seen Jesus, but died before him, such as Joseph, John the Baptist and others – but that is strictly conjecture since the Scripture doesn’t give us any clues as to their identity)

5.  Yes, in John 12:9-11 we read of Lazarus being at a supper with Jesus, and he (Lazarus) actually became the ‘attraction’ that brought many people to that dinner, as people had heard of his resurrection of the dead, and because of his testimony, many were believing on Christ – so much so that the leading priests plotted to kill him, too!

In fact, we’ll look at that last passage about Lazarus in our Easter celebrations this weekend – it all starts tonight at 7pm, then Saturday at 5pm & Sunday at 8:30, 10 and 12.  It’s not too late to invite someone to be your guest!

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

Praying for Easter

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I’m way late with this post, and I take the blame for my failure to promote this during our recent Sunday services.

But with ALL the preparation for Easter weekend: adding two additional services on Friday & Saturday, recruiting additional volunteers, bringing a special guest for KidsLife to impact our children, planning special stage design, using a creative ‘hook’ to reach people in each service and more, the fact remains that the most important factor for Easter weekend is PRAYER!  After all, if people are to be reached with the Gospel, it will ONLY happen as the Spirit draws them!

Would you join me in praying specifically for our 9 Easter services (5 in Tinley Park, 2 in Blue Island and 2 in Hammond)?  Here are my requests:

  1. For the anointing of the Holy Spirit to shine through everything we do.
  2. For your friends and family that you’re inviting, that God would touch their hearts to accept your invitation, and attend with you this weekend.
  3. For people who aren’t walking with God to begin a real relationship with Jesus!

If you’ll pray those prayers with me, leave an ‘amen’ (which means, ‘so be it’) below-

Sunday reflections

Palm Sunday w/a donkey - (on the left; that's my favorite Children's Director, Stacy Hunter on the right)

Palm Sunday w/a donkey – (on the left; that’s my favorite Children’s Director, Stacy Hunter on the right)

Palm Sunday baptisms: Grant Durham

Palm Sunday baptisms: (1) Grant Durham

Palm Sunday baptisms: Nya Brunson

Palm Sunday baptisms: (2) Nya Brunson

Palm Sunday baptisms: (3) Thelma Haffner

Palm Sunday baptisms: (3) Thelma Haffner

Palm Sunday baptisms: (4) Aila Haffner

Palm Sunday baptisms:
(4) Aila Haffner

Our guest, Justin Kron, enlightened all of us with the truth about Jesus our Passover Lamb!

Our guest, Justin Kron, enlightened all of us with the truth about Jesus our Passover Lamb!

As a result of Justin's teaching, celebrating communion will never be the same again!

After Justin’s teaching, celebrating communion will never be the same again!

My 2 favorite girls, with Donkey Molly on Palm Sunday

My 2 favorite girls, with Donkey Molly on Palm Sunday

Our Hammond campus set a new record attendance for a regular Sunday, with 408 worshippers today!

Our Hammond campus set a new record attendance for a regular Sunday, with 408 worshippers today!

The donkey was a BIG hit & his 3-year old son was the inspiration for Pastor Sam's message on "Why the Donkey?"

The donkey was a BIG hit & his 3-year old son was the inspiration for Pastor Sam’s message on “Why the Donkey?”

I LOVE the kids at every CLC campus - this little guy is from CLC-Blue Island

I LOVE the kids at every CLC campus – little Fernando is from CLC-Blue Island

And the 2 donkeys were a big hit at  Blue Island!

And the 2 donkeys were a big hit at Blue Island!

Our Blue Island campus said their goodbyes to Pastor Ben today by presenting him an autographed "I Am for Blue Island" t-shirt

Our Blue Island campus said their goodbyes to Pastor Ben today by presenting him an autographed “I Am for Blue Island” t-shirt

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “When a person is baptized with The Holy Spirit are they able to operate in all the gifts? Again, I have heard people say a person may never speak in tongues even though they have been baptized with the Holy Spirit. Yet, I have also heard that Holy Spirit will move on you and you can operate in all the gifts at any given time. Your thoughts?”

Great questions.  Actually, we’re planning an entire 5-week series called “GIFTED”, starting May 7 that should answer these questions in much more depth, but let me give my perspective here:

  1. The ‘debate’ among Spirit-filled churches seems to be whether the gifts are simply resident within the Holy Spirit, in which case any believer can be “used” in any of the gifts at any time, OR whether the gifts of the Spirit are given to individual believers to possess and utilize as the Lord wills. As is so often the case in Biblical debates, I tend to think it’s a “both/and” question rather than an “either/or” matter.
  2. For instance, 1Cor. 12:7-10 certainly seems to indicate the gifts are given to  individual believers, while verse 11 could be interpreted to mean that the Holy Spirit has all the gifts and decides at any given moment to use whom He wills.  My pastor when I first entered the ministry taught (for instance) that the gift of healing was not  “the gift to heal” as if some individuals had a gift to heal others, but rather the person who was healed had received a gift.  I’m inclined to think it can work both ways; i.e, when we are born again, the Holy Spirit chooses to give us certain gift(s) that we can exercise by faith.  However, when we are faced with a certain need and there is no one present who possesses the specific gift that would help the situation, then I believe the Holy Spirit could “move” on any believer present, to manifest that gift and meet the need, as we willingly cooperate with the Spirit.
  3. In regards to your first question, I have met individuals who claim that they possess or were used in all of the 9 gifts listed in 1Cor. 12 – but I’m not sure I believe them.  Certainly Jesus exercised all of those gifts, but I tend to think that most of us fall short of His example.
  4. As to the ‘tongues’ question (is it possible to be baptized in the Spirit but not speak in tongues), there are as many different opinions on that subject as there are people, it seems.  From my understanding of Scripture, I don’t personally see any example of someone in the NT Church who was baptized in the Spirit but did not speak in tongues (or as we prefer to say at CLC, “have a prayer language”). But I gave up arguing that people must speak in tongues in order to be baptized in the Spirit several years ago, since that only seems to stir up arguments and strife.  I much prefer to focus on all the benefits of having a prayer language, and encourage every believer to experience and use that gift in their own walk with the Lord.

I hope that helps.  Feel free to leave a comment below to give your thoughts on these questions, or to ask your own question.

Meanwhile, let this be the first public announcement that I’m SO excited to make – in the ‘GIFTED’ series, when we teach about the specific “speaking” and “knowing” and “doing” gifts, we will follow up the Sunday teaching by having a Wednesday “activation” service with three of the most gifted leaders I’ve met: Apostle John Eckhardt, Apostle Matthew Stevenson and Evangelist Robby Dawkins.  We’ll give you all the details later, but mark your calendar now for May 17, May 24 and May 31 for what is sure to be a highlight of 2017 at CLC!

Leaving on a jet plane……

With apologies to John Denver....but we are leaving Phnom Penh soon on the first of three flights that will get us back to Chicago by Friday afternoon.

With apologies to John Denver….but we are leaving Phnom Penh soon on the first of three flights that will get us back to Chicago by Friday afternoon.

It’s been a great trip:

  • deepening some strategic relationships for the Church here in Cambodia,
  • sowing good seed in a young man that Chris and I both perceive has great potential for the Kingdom of God in an almost totally-unreached Muslim nation (when he himself surrenders to Christ)
  • strengthening the leaders of the Cambodian church
  • planning the future with Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul, who have become dear friends over these past few years of our involvement here.

but we’re ready to be home for a great Palm Sunday celebration (with the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem….or, maybe one like it) and a great word from Messianic Jewish believer, Justin Kron as to why ‘only Jesus’ could be our Savior! (Your celebration of Communion will never be the same again after this Sunday!)

And that means EASTER is just days away!  WHO are you inviting to be your guest?

see you soon-

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Cambodia, day 7

The new property is very near the "Killing Fields" of Cambodia, where 20,000 people were brutally murdered during Pol Pot's regime in the 1970's.

While we were together with Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul today, he showed us some of their plans for the future.  He casually mentioned that the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia, where 20,000 people were brutally murdered during Pol Pot’s regime in the 1970’s was nearby and asked if we’d like to see it, so we had a short tour of the horrible atrocities done here.

We had visited the Museum in 2013 on our first visit to Cambodia, but had never seen the actual killing fields until today. The atrocities here reminded me of what we experienced at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem - so hard to imagine humans treating other humans that way.

We had visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in 2013 to honor the 3 million who died during the Pol Pot regime, but had never seen the actual killing fields until today. The atrocities here reminded me of what we experienced at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem – so hard to imagine humans treating other humans that way.

At least 20,000 people died in the Killing Fields, and this memorial contains many of their skulls.

At least 20,000 people died in the Killing Fields, and this memorial contains many of their skulls.

One more day of meetings with the pastors here and then we’ll board our flight for home!  So looking forward to week 2 of “Only Jesus” as we hear from Messianic Jewish believer, Justin Kron!

Cambodia, day 6

If I'm honest, the Cambodians probably get more from their discussion times together than from my teaching - I love this candid shot from one of today's discussion times.

If I’m honest, the Cambodians probably get more from their discussion times together than from my teaching – I love this candid shot from one of today’s discussion times.

To help illustrate the importance of teamwork, we had an EQUIP "battle of the bands", featuring an all-girl band.....

To help illustrate the importance of teamwork, we had an EQUIP “battle of the bands”, featuring an all-girl band…..

.....and a shy all-boys band.....

…..and a shy all-boys band…..

.....and, of course, the WINNERS (can't you tell?)

…..and, of course, the WINNERS (can’t you tell?)

Chris gave her all in today's teaching (with Pastor Samdy translating) - and we're both thankful the last day of teaching is over for this trip!

Chris gave her all in today’s teaching (with Pastor Samdy translating) – and we’re both thankful the last day of teaching is over for this trip!

Now that the hard work is over, we’re looking forward to a chance to connect & plan for the future with Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul!

Cambodia, day 5

When I walked by the audio booth first thing this morning, I looked up & saw someone I thought looked familiar!

When I walked by the audio booth first thing this morning, I looked up & saw someone I thought looked familiar! (MeyChen was translating for some of the seminar attendees)

LOVE the amazing new facility of New Life Fellowship - here's the coffee bar

LOVE the amazing new facility of New Life Fellowship – here’s the coffee bar in the lobby

Here's the cafe/fellowship area off the lobby

Here’s the cafe/fellowship area off the lobby

Here's a great information desk at the main entrance

Here’s a great information desk at the main entrance

Chris teaching with Pastor Pisit translating

Chris teaching with Pastor Pisit translating

Cambodians LOVE to discuss the principles they're learning during the seminar

Cambodians LOVE to discuss the principles they’re learning during the seminar

and we have a WINNER: not only did these 5 guys have the tallest tower in today's competition; we did this same exercise at all 3 seminars on this trip & they beat EVERYBODY!

and we have a WINNER: not only did these 5 guys have the tallest tower in today’s competition; we did this same exercise at all 3 seminars on this trip & they beat EVERYBODY! (the engineering feat was building a tower with spaghetti noodles, yarn, masking tape & marshmallows)

Honestly, four consecutive days of teaching for hours each day has both of us wiped out, but the good news is that we have only a half-day of ministry tomorrow as we finish the last seminar!  This bed has never looked so good……

 

 

Sunday reflections

Sorry for poor lighting, but I preached to a full house at the TSK campus of New Life Fellowship tonight, with the translation from my friend, Pastor Samady.

Sorry for poor lighting, but I preached to a full house at the TSK campus of New Life Fellowship tonight, with the translation from my friend, Pastor Samady.

First, MY reflections from tonight’s services at New Life Fellowship in Cambodia:

  • I’m supposed to be here to give, but tonight I received as one of the young leaders from New Life Fellowship gave a ‘word’ that spoke directly to my heart! (Thank you, Jesus!)
  • I don’t have any pics, but Chris ministered a message about healing at the main campus of New Life, and many people responded – healings, demonstrations of the Holy Spirit, and more – powerful!
  • The highlight came after the service, as a young student from Turkmenistan that we first met about a year ago during one of our seminars agreed to meet us for dinner.  I have sensed that the hand of God was on him in a special way – learned today that he is a Muslim and tonight was his FIRST time ever in any church.  At dinner afterwards we were able to share with him and God gave Pastor Jesse a word of knowledge that I believe really helped to open his heart to the Lord.  Pics later!
Here's the promised pic - Pastors Jesse & Soar are the foreground and the young man from Turkmenistan is across from Chris and me.

Here’s the promised pic – Pastors Jesse & Soar are the foreground and the young man from Turkmenistan is across from Chris and me.

But just as importantly, I’m SO anxious to know how things were at CLC today, so I need YOUR reflections, too.  For the first time in a long, long time, I shared a message via video at each campus as we kicked off the “Only Jesus” series, and curious minds want to knowHOW WAS IT?

If you attended any service at any campus or online today, please leave your comments below:

  • what did you LEARN about the Virgin birth?
  • did you leave with a greater appreciation for the Word of God?
  • What impacted you the most?
  • (Be honest) was it difficult to receive from a video?

Feel free to expand beyond my questions to give YOUR report of how God ministered to you through the opening of our April series: 1920 x 300

Cambodia, day 4

The New Life Fellowship worship team is one of the best we've experienced anywhere in the world & today was no exception - strong anointing in the House!

The New Life Fellowship worship team is one of the best we’ve experienced anywhere in the world & today was no exception – strong anointing in the House (and love their new stage design in the beautiful new building they just moved into this month!)

Pastor Jesse McCaul is a great leader, especially because of his sensitivity to the Holy Spirit! We love being with him!!

Pastor Jesse McCaul is a great leader, especially because of his sensitivity to the Holy Spirit!   Chris & I love being with him!!

Preaching at New Life is always a joy, and Pastor Samnang does a great job translating for us!

Preaching at New Life is always a joy, and Pastor Samnang does a great job translating for us!

After the two morning services in the brand-new building (actually located inside a shopping mall, so the location couldn’t be better to reach Cambodians) and a quick lunch with friends, we had a little time to get rest before the two evening services – one at the new location and one at their other campus in a different part of the city.  I’ll report on those services when we return tonight-

Cambodia, day 3

During today's opening ceremonies at BELTEI international University. (our host, Pastor Jesse McCault is to my left, right beside the President/Founder of BELTEI, Mr. Ly Cheng

During today’s opening ceremonies at BELTEI international University. (our host, Pastor Jesse McCault is to my left, right beside the President/Founder of BELTEI, Mr. Ly Cheng

Mr. Ly Navuth is Executive Vice-President of the University and youngest son of the founder.  I'm very impressed with both of them and we love coming here to work with them.

Mr. Ly Navuth is Executive Vice-President of the University and youngest son of the founder. I’m very impressed with both of them and we love coming here to work with them.

As yesterday, we had a battle of the "Air Rock Bands" - and these girls were good...

As yesterday, we had a battle of the “Air Rock Bands” – and these girls were good…

.....but 1st Place went to this animated group!

…..but 1st Place went to this animated group!

while this team of Faculty members & students won 1st place for building the "tallest tower" with spaghetti noodles, marshmallows & masking tape!

while this team of Faculty members & students won 1st place for building the “tallest tower” with spaghetti noodles, marshmallows & masking tape!

In between the fun activities, Chris & I spent about six hours teaching four of Dr. John C. Maxwell’s “Laws of Leadership” to students & faculty alike, and they were like sponges, drinking in every word we said.  I believe much good seed was sown today!

Tomorrow we will minister at four different services at two different locations for New Life Fellowship and our partners and friends, Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul – looking forward to a great day!

Cambodia, day 2

This "air band" pretty well summarizes our day - even though we taught some serious leadership lessons, we had FUN along the way!

This “air band” pretty well summarizes our day – even though we taught some serious leadership lessons, we had FUN along the way!

Our first seminar for EQUIP on this trip was at VisionFund Cambodia, which is the microfinance arm of World Vision.  They serve over 250,000 families in Cambodia, which makes them the largest microfinance ministry in the world, as they offer small loans & other financial services to poor families, helping them to grow small businesses and enable their children to grow up with improved health and education.

With the help of our friend from New Life Fellowship, Pastor Samnang, we taught about 75 of VisionFund's managers from around the country.

With the help of our friend from New Life Fellowship, Pastor Samnang, who translated, we taught about 75 of VisionFund’s managers from around the country.

To keep things interesting, Chris will use anything - even an old-fashioned Egg Toss game.....

To keep things interesting, Chris will use anything – even an old-fashioned Egg Toss game…..

.....or a competition to see who can build the tallest spaghetti tower, using yarn, masking tape, and marshmellows!

…..or a competition to see who can build the tallest spaghetti tower, using yarn, masking tape, and marshmallows!

This team of brilliant designers won handily as you can see their tall tower!

This team of brilliant designers won handily as you can see their tall tower!

But the enthusiasm of this "air rock band" knew no bounds & they were rewarded with 1st place in that competition!

But the enthusiasm of this “air rock band” knew no bounds & they were rewarded with 1st place in that competition!

Lest you think it was all fun & games, we actually taught about 7 full hours, with only a few times for the managers to discuss how these Biblical leadership principles can be walked out in their world.

Lest you think it was all fun & games, we actually taught about 7 full hours, with only a few times for the managers to discuss how these Biblical leadership principles can be walked out in their world.

Now some more sleep to try to kick the jet lag that’s hindering both of us before we head to the leading university in all of Cambodia, Beltei International, for another seminar tomorrow-

Ask the Pastor

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One of our elders recently asked me a question that also came up during the outstanding Marriage Retreat last weekend, so I thought it was worth repeating here for others: “What does a wife who is believer and her husband is not…do in regards to tithing?
I’ve heard people say if her husband tells her she can’t tithe she shouldn’t. Is it ok for her to tithe even though it may cause arguments? I’ve always wondered what to tell women when they ask me this. I always think of the scripture in Acts 4:19. What if her husband wanted her to lie, steal, stay home from church, or watch pornography? Does she submit to these things because he is the head?

Great question, and, honestly, I think your logic is spot-on. Here’s my answer:

  1. I think the starting place is always good communication. If an unbelieving husband is opposed to his wife tithing their income, she should start with a calm, logical appeal as to why she wants to tithe. (If she’s convinced from God’s Word that there is a blessing when we honor God with the first tenth of our income, her husband may well agree once he hears her reasoning.)
  2. Perhaps I should have said, even before she appeals to her husband’s logic, the wife should first pray that God will open his heart. The Holy Spirit can do more to persuade even an unbeliever’s heart than the wife’s logic.
  3. However, if neither prayer nor a reasoned appeal has worked and the husband still forbids his wife to tithe, here is my recommendation:
  • if the husband is the sole wage-earner in the marriage (meaning the wife is not gainfully employed outside the home and thus has no income of her own), then she should not tithe.  After all, the tithe is 10% of one’s increase, and since she has no income and her husband forbids her to tithe off his income, it’s a moot point.
  • However, I’ve known several cases where the unsaved husband gives his wife an “allowance” to operate the household, buy groceries, etc. and the believing wife was so convinced of the blessing of tithing that she gave 10% of her allowance.
  • Finally, if the wife has a job and her own source of income, then I certainly think the verse already mentioned, Acts 4:19, is applicable, and the wife should be obedient to the Lord with her income.

Hope that helps.  I’d love to hear from others who’ve had personal experience in this situation, or who have stories to share of what others have done in this regard.  Please leave your comments below-

Cambodia, day 1

An after lunch pic with our friends from New Life Fellowship, Leah and Mara Kong.  With friends like them, this place feels like home away from home!

An after lunch pic with our friends from New Life Fellowship, Leah and Mara Kong. With friends like them, this place feels like home away from home! (And I don’t mind showing Cubbie blue!)

I guess keeping everyone posted from this trip applies even when nothing happens.  For the first time in a long time (ever?), we deliberately planned a day of rest before diving into our leadership seminars here.  By that I mean our flight arrived about midnight local time last night and today we did nothing  except sleep, eat, and study a bit for our week of ministry here.

Our first of three seminars begins tomorrow at 8am (8pm Thursday, Chicago time) and I should have some pics and reports for you after that.  Until then, I’m gonna give in to jetlag and sleep some more!

Have you considered the significance of the Virgin birth?

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I’m writing this post from an airport lounge in Seoul, South Korea while Chris & I are enroute to Cambodia – but what’s on my mind right now is my message for THIS Sunday to kick-off the series, “Only Jesus”.

I preached my first sermon over 48 years ago, but in all that time I have never done a message about the Virgin birth – perhaps because it’s such a basic staple of the Christian faith.  But in this year when the Lord said CLC is going “back to the basics”, I discovered some wonderful truths as to WHY Jesus was born of a virgin.

I also discovered some myths and mistaken beliefs along the way, and I think this Sunday’s teaching will enlighten and inspire you with the reliability of God’s Word.  I’ll get to share much of this message with each campus of CLC via video, so no matter where you attend, I hope you’ll invite an unchurched friend to join you for a learning experience that I’m praying will enable some to take that first step of faith in Jesus as Savior, and cause the rest of us to have a fresh appreciation for WHO He is and WHAT He has done!

Only Jesus!

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Off to Cambodia

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Chris and I were up before dawn today to catch the first of 3 flights that will get us to Phnom Penh about 10am on Wednesday, Chicago time.

We’ll be teaching three different leadership seminars for EQUIP and ministering at one of our favorite churches in the world, New Life Fellowship.  They recently moved to a new location in a shopping mall, with tons more room than they had before and many, many people have been flooding into their services according to Pastor Jesse McCaul.  We’re expecting BIG things!

If you’d like to pray for us with specifics, I’ve attached our itinerary.  Thanks for standing with us – I’ll keep you updated daily if possible-

prayer for Cambodia trip

ONLY Jesus!

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thoroughly enjoyed teaching these past 4 weeks on “Faith Gaps”, mainly because I think all of us, myself included, sometime struggle with our faith – and the Word in the month of March spoke to us.

But I must tell you that after sharing today with our pastoral team the introduction to our April series, and the first message about the Virgin Birth, I’m even more excited!

In almost 50 years of ministry, I have never heard or taught a message about the significance of the Virgin birth.  But the Lord told me that in 2017 we were to go ‘back to the basics’, and it doesn’t get any more basic than the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin.

I believe you’ll be excited when you see WHY that’s so important, and I suspect you’ll learn some truths that you haven’t known before.

I hope you’ll invite a friend to join you at YOUR campus of CLC this Sunday, and, just as importantly, that you’ll begin thinking now of who you know that needs Jesus, so you can invite them to attend one of our 9 Easter Celebrations (5 in Tinley Park, 2 each in Blue Island and Hammond).

One thing for sure: Only Jesus will help you fall deeper in love with HIM than ever before!

Sunday reflections

Today is CLC's 27th Anniversary - while we didn't take time to celebrate in service, I'm thankful for the hundreds of people God has brought to us in across 19 different locations (6 in Chicagoland; 13 in the Philippines) since that opening day at Tinley Park High School on the last Sunday of March, 1990! Truly God is good, all the time!

Today is CLC’s 27th Anniversary – while we didn’t take time to celebrate in service, I’m thankful for the hundreds of people God has brought to us in across 19 different locations (6 in Chicagoland; 13 in the Philippines) since that opening day at Tinley Park High School on the last Sunday of March, 1990! Truly God is good, all the time!

We started this anniversary weekend with about 60 couples at a GREAT marriage retreat in Oak Brook, as we all got "N.A.K.E.D."

We started this anniversary weekend with about 60 couples at a GREAT marriage retreat in Oak Brook, as we all got “N.A.K.E.D.” (Nurtured, Affirmed & Known Every Day!)

This pic says it all: for 27 years, CLC has valued genuine WORSHIP!

This pic says it all: for 27 years, CLC has valued genuine WORSHIP, in Spirit & in truth!

Today we not only taught the Tinley Park campus how to use "Faith for your Family", but we were live streamed to the Marriage Retreat for their closing session.

Today we not only taught the Tinley Park campus how to use “Faith for your Family”, but we were live streamed to the Marriage Retreat for their closing session.

Pastors Brent & Sol taught marriage at Blue Island...

Pastors Brent & Sol taught marriage at Blue Island (in English)…

...while Jorge & Rocio translated into Spanish

…while Jorge & Rocio translated into Spanish

Who said KidsLife is all fun & games? Sometimes it's hard work that requires great concentration! Just ask these two cuties-

Who said KidsLife is all fun & games? Sometimes it’s hard work that requires great concentration! Just ask these two cuties-

But today's prize goes to our Hammond campus, where attendance continues to grow; CLC favorite Dee Wilson returned to lead a powerful time of worship, and the church family gave generously to send two students on a missions trip to Panama!

But today’s prize goes to our Hammond campus, where attendance continues to grow; CLC favorite Dee Wilson returned to lead a powerful time of worship, and the church family gave generously to send two students on a missions trip to Panama!

Just as importantly, Pastor Sam reports that Life Groups this season are the BEST ATTENDED in their history!

Just as importantly, Pastor Sam reports that Life Groups this season are the BEST ATTENDED in their history! Praise God for momentum in Hammond!

Pastor Herley contacted me to say that all 4 services at our Davao City campus were jam-packed today & even better, the awesome Presence of God filled the house in each service!

Pastor Herley contacted me to say that all 4 services at our Davao City campus were jam-packed today & even better, the awesome Presence of God filled the house in each service!

I am rejoicing over several salvation decisions that made this a really great anniversary, except for an announcement that I didn’t want to make:

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, In Acts chapter 16:1-5, Paul wanted Timothy to join him and Silas as they went from town to town, but he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left. Yet In Acts 15, the apostles and elders had ruled that Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised to be saved. I’m confused as to why Paul arranged for Timothy be circumcised in chapter 16?”

I understand your confusion, and it’s a great question.  Let’s try to sort it out together:

This issue was the greatest threat the early Church faced, and, in my humble opinion, if the apostles and elders had ruled in favor of circumcision, I fear that The Church would have been far less successful in reaching the Gentiles.  But as we read in Acts 15:1-11, 19-29, it was a unanimous decision to not put the burden of law-keeping on the Gentile converts, and it resulted in great joy among the Gentiles when they heard this (Acts 15:30-31)

Now, as to the question of why did Paul arrange for Timothy to be circumcised just one chapter after the apostles determined that circumcision was NOT required for Gentiles, I think the answer is in the context:

  • in the Message translation, it says Paul didn’t want to offend the Jews in that area, who knew Timothy’s father was a Gentile (and that meant Timothy was not circumcised).  In the NLT, it says he did this in deference to the Jews“.  
  • So the bottom-line is that, this incident seems to follow much like Paul’s teaching in Romans 15:13-19 that we should never use our liberty to cause another believer to stumble.  In Timothy’s case, even though Paul knew that circumcision was not required by the Lord, he felt it would be best to submit to circumcision so as to not be a stumbling block to the Jews in that area who knew Timothy’s family.
  • That’s actually a NT principle in many areas of life, and one that I think we often ignore in the American church.  For instance, 1Cor. 6:1-6 teaches that believers should not sue another believer in a court of law.  In fact, Paul was so strong on that issue that he said in verse 7 it would be better for us to accept the injustice and let ourselves be cheated rather than take a fellow believer to court! In this day and age where it seems everyone is so determined to stand up for their ‘rights’, this is another example of how Jesus’ teaching cuts against the grain and is the opposite of what our world thinks.  In the Kingdom, the way up is down and the way to get is to give!

Hope that helps a bit.  Perhaps you’d like to join the conversation by adding your comments below – or even leave your question for ‘Ask the Pastor’.

 

Off to Houston (and back again)

The Amish-Mexican (Eduardo Marroquin) and me at 4am

The Amish-Mexican (Eduardo Marroquin) and me at 4am

It’s amazing what a friend will do.  Pastor Ed Marroquin drove to Chicago yesterday to hang with us at the office, then spent the night at our house last night because we had to be up at 2:30 this morning to catch a ridiculously-early flight to Houston.

He and I will attend a pastor’s gathering at Lakewood Church with Joel Osteen and his Champion’s Network all day before catching our flight home tonight.

The lack of sleep (and coffee) has made for a lot of laughter already, so it should be a fun day.

See you Wednesday for Family Night at CLC (Iron Men, H2H, Consumed & KidsLife – there’s something for everyone!)

What’s the BIG DEAL about Easter?

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We started our promotion for Easter weekend yesterday – but WHY?  Why add extra services and solicit CLC’ers to serve just for this one holiday?

Proverbs 10:5 says it best: “A sensible person gathers the crops when they are ready; it is a disgrace to sleep through the time of harvest.” (GNT)

In fact, the Message makes it even plainer: “Make hay while the sun shines—that’s smart;
go fishing during harvest—that’s stupid.”

Easter is one of two times a year (Christmas is the other) that even unchurched people think about church – and are more open to an invitation than any other time.

So it’s only smart for us to go ALL-OUT at Easter to reach people when they can be reached. 

Or, to put it another way, it would be STUPID for us to ignore this opportunity.

Here’s what I need from YOU this Easter:

  1. If you have a testimony of something GREAT that Jesus has done for you (read this for more details), then please volunteer here to help make Easter attractive at CLC, by sharing your story.
  2. Unless you have friends/family who will be attending with you on Easter Sunday, please worship with us on either Friday night at 7pm or Saturday at 5pm, to help free up seats in the auditorium for the three Easter Sunday services in Tinley Park.
  3. Regardless of which service you plan to attend, would you volunteer to serve at another service that weekend?  We’ll need double the usual number of ushers, greeters, parking lot attendants, information desk, guest services, KidsLife ministers, etc. – but if each CLC’er will “serve one; worship one”, we’ll reach more people!

Thanks for ALL you do to make CLC a family!

 

Sunday reflections

Good to have Pastor Jon back in Tinley Park after a couple of weeks away!

Good to have Pastor Jon back in Tinley Park after a couple of weeks away!

Of course, the most important stuff each Sunday happens in KidsLife!

Of course, the most important stuff each Sunday happens in KidsLife!

I hope some people were helped today - the biggest takeaway may have come from Pastor Paul in Greece who said, "we've learned you don't need to have things for to be a giver. You just need to be there." SELAH

I hope some people were helped today – the biggest takeaway may have come from Pastor Paul in Greece who said, “you don’t need to have things for to be a giver. You just need to be there.” SELAH.

Our Hammond campus was over 300 in attendance for the third week in a row (ever since adding a second service!)

Our Hammond campus was over 300 in attendance for the third week in a row (ever since adding a second service!)

Pastor Ben taught in Hammond and MANY people accepted the 90-day tithe challenge!

Pastor Ben taught in Hammond and MANY people accepted the 90-day tithe challenge!

Welcome to our Blue Island campus (in English or Spanish!)

Welcome to our Blue Island campus (in English or Spanish – we have signs in both languages!)

KidsLife is FUN!

KidsLife is FUN!

Pastor Sol translated today's message for all the Spanish speakers

Pastor Sol translated today’s message for all the Spanish speakers

Pastor Brent shared the Word and inspired some  CLC'ers to take the tithe challenge

Pastor Brent shared the Word and inspired some CLC’ers to take the tithe challenge

DUH Moment #1 of the dayif you attended the first service in Tinley Park or Hammond, both Pastor Ben and I completely forgot to show the “rest of the story” from Rodney & Nikeya Young’s testimony has to how God blessed their entrepreneurial efforts after Rodney left a good-paying job when his company wanted him to be unethical.  (Sorry folks – but it’ll be up on our website soon)

DUH Moment #2 of the dayafter talking so much last week about confessing the promises of God’s Word (including meditating on them), I compiled appropriate verses on four different themes: God’s goodness, tithes & offerings, money management & God’s favor on your job, and we printed them for distribution at each campus.  But I completely forgot to mention them today!  The good news is that you can still get them next time you’re at any campus – help yourself at the Information Desk!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, but here’s a good one from 2009:      A CLCer recently asked, “Why are there so many bible translations? Is anyone of them better than the other? Which translation is your favorite one? Which translation would you recommend people to read?”

Great questions!  Let’s take them one at a time:

  • Until 1881 you could only read the Bible in English in the King James Version, which was translated in 1611.  Of course, not many of us speak the Shakespearan-type English of “thee’s” and “thou’s”, which is what initially led to more and more translations.  So many English words have changed in their meaning over these past 400 years, and, for that matter, all language is constantly evolving, so it is needful for their to be new translations if the average person is going to read the Bible in the common language of everyday use.
  • It would be hard to say that any one translation is better than another – they’re just different. Some translations (such as the New King James and the New American Standard Bible) attempt a literal, word-for-word translation from the original languages (The Old Testament was written in Hebrew; the New Testament in Greek) into English.  Others (such as the New International Version and the New Living Translation) use a phrase-for-phrase approach, to help convey the original intended meaning.  Still others (like The Message and The Living Bible) are not actually translations, but rather paraphrases that attempt to convey the original thoughts into modern, contemporary thoughts.  (By the way, for what it’s worth, many scholars agree that the New American Standard Bible is perhaps the most accurate translation of the Scriptures into English.)
  • My favorite translation has changed several times as I’ve grown older: initially, I grew up with the King James, and I memorized numerous verses in the stilted old English.  Later, when I was introduced to the New King James, it became my favorite, probably because it retained much of the poetic beauty of the KJV, but updated the English to eliminate the need to talk like Shakespeare.  However, in the last few years I’ve grown to love the more modern, New Living Translation, and I use it almost exclusively on Sundays at CLC.
  • It depends on the purpose: if you want a Bible to study, I’d recommend the NKJV (my preference is the Spirit-Filled Life Bible).  For general reading, I personally think you can’t beat the NLT (which is why I use it in the pulpit so much). For a change of pace, I really like The Message, as it has a way of ‘jarring’ me with truth that I might otherwise have overlooked.

As I’ve explained at other times, I personally try to use a different version each year for my daily “through the Bible in a year” devotions.  I’ve found my mixing it up each year, it helps me not to get stale by thinking “I’ve read this before”.

That was fun….hope it was helpful.  Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?

Do you have a story?

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I’ve enjoyed the stories we’ve featured the past 2 Sundays during our “Faith Gaps” series  (as well as the next 2 coming up) – but that’s not what I’m writing about today.

This Easter, at each service and each campus (I think that’s a total of 9 services across 3 campuses) we’re planning a creative and (we think) impacting celebration of what God has already done for CLC’ers, to inspire faith in our friends and guests at Easter for what He wants to do in them as well!

But the key to its effectiveness is for us to have LOTS of CLC’ers will to share their story in writing, and time is of the essence.  If you have a story of how God has worked in your life, especially if you:

  • were delivered from drugs or alcohol
  • experienced a physical healing from some sickness or disease
  • had a real turnaround and healing in your marriage
  • were saved from a sinful lifestyle
  • experienced a miracle in your family
  • received a remarkable answer to prayer
  • were set free from addictive behavior (pornography or other addictions)
  • personally experienced God’s amazing love
  • received forgiveness for your past

We NEED you!  Please let us know you can share here.

Sunday reflections

UGH! The Sunday when Daylight Savings Time begins is historically one of the lowest-attended Sundays of the year, and today was certainly no exception, with Tinley Park having almost 400 fewer worshippers today than last Sunday.  I’m glad that wasn’t the case at our other campuses!  Here’s a few bright spots from today:

Tinley Park Worship Director Harmony LaBeff introduced a new song that will be featured this Easter.

Tinley Park Worship Director Harmony LaBeff introduced a new song that will be featured this Easter, “RESURRECTING”

I tried to cover WAY too much material today with "How Faith Works", but the TP campus hung in there with me.

I tried to cover WAY too much material today with “How Faith Works”, but the TP campus hung in there with me.

The good news is that the altars were full in each service with people believing God's promises!

The good news is that the altars were full in each service with people believing God’s promises!

At the Hammond campus, we were over 300 in attendance again, despite DST!  Pastor Sam says the dance team was a highlight today during their presentation-

At the Hammond campus, we were over 300 in attendance again, despite DST! Pastor Sam says the dance team was a highlight today during their presentation-

Here's the SECRET behind God's blessing at each CLC campus: faithful volunteers serving with joy!

Here’s the SECRET behind God’s blessing at each CLC campus: faithful volunteers serving the Lord and His people with joy!

 

Sing Unto the Lord, Liane!

Sing Unto the Lord, Liane!

The Queen of object lessons strikes again

The Queen of object lessons strikes again

At the close of service in Blue Island, the whole congregation joined in faith-filled prayers for each other!

At the close of service in Blue Island, the whole congregation joined in faith-filled prayers for each other!

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I agree with your answer [last week] that the position of a person does not matter to God if the prayer is sincere, but in our time of the New Covenant doesn’t the one praying have to believe in Jesus Christ and pray in His name for their prayers to be heard by the Father? John 14:6 doesn’t seem to leave much wiggle room about that.”

You are so right about that, and my answer last week was definitely incomplete in that regard.  Probably the only exception to what you’ve mentioned would be the prayer of a sincere seeker (“IF there is a God, please help me” kind of prayer – I’ve heard too many testimonies through the years to think that God won’t hear that prayer).

And as we saw in last Sunday’s message, Hebrews 11:6 makes it quite clear that the ONLY way we can come to God for anything is to approach Him in faith.

Lest last week’s answer imply that our lifestyle is unimportant to getting our prayers answered, let me also point out the example of good king Hezekiah in 2Kings 20. God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell him he was about to die, but after Hezekiah ‘reminded’ the Lord that he had faithfully served Him, God ‘changed His mind’ (that’s how it ‘appears’ to us humans) and sent Isaiah back to tell the king that HE was adding 15 more years to his life!” That example alone tells me it’s a powerful thing to walk humbly and faithfully with the Lord when it comes to getting your prayers answered!

Hope that helps a bit and I’m especially thankful for the opportunity to correct any misconceptions by last week’s answer.  Is there more you’d like to add?  If not, perhaps you also have a question – please leave it below.

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead as we ‘Spring forward’ with Daylight Savings Time this Sunday, March 12!  Your pastor wants to see you in church!

Prayer Journey, INDEED!

I wish each of the Sunday morning CLC’ers could have joined last night’s Prayer Journey!

Not only did the Tinley Park team (staff & volunteers) put on the most creative and well-planned prayer journey we’ve ever done, I think it may have been the most anointed, too!

Every center of prayer was well-planned (like this one) - but I was wrecked by the "Nations" room - I'm convinced that Iran and Russia and other countries were affected by the intercession at CLC last night!

Every center of prayer was well-planned (like this one) – but I was wrecked by the “Nations” room – I’m convinced that Iran and Russia and other countries were affected by the intercession at CLC last night!

This creative approach allowed us to use finger paints on the Cross to tell what Jesus did for us

This creative approach allowed us to use finger paints on the Cross to tell what Jesus did for us

There really was something for everybody!

There really was something for everybody!

Part of the prayer experience is forgiving others & we got to do that!

Part of the prayer experience is forgiving others & we got to do that!

I especially was touched to see parents helping their children experience prayer

I especially was touched to see parents helping their children experience prayer

All of us were invited to pray for people we love who still need Jesus

All of us were invited to pray for people we love who still need Jesus, writing their names so that others could join us in praying for their salvation

I especially liked

What I liked best of all was the resources that will enable anyone to pray more effectively – this was a tree of promises that we could claim for our family-

a couple examples of the MANY resources our team made available - ways to pray for my wife & tips for daily devotions

a couple examples of the MANY resources our team made available – ways to pray for my wife & this promise from God’s Word that I claimed for my family!

Ever more great resources - how to pray for people who don't know Jesus AND, perhaps the most important resource of all: tips for having a daily time with the Lord!

Ever more great resources – how to pray for people who don’t know Jesus AND, perhaps the most important resource of all: tips for having a daily time with the Lord!

If you missed last night, don’t forget that you can join us each Saturday from 8-9am in the Prayer Room upstairs!

Talking Bible: taking God at His Word!

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It happened again.

As I was reading the Scriptures this morning, I noticed how the people of Israel  complained, particularly about their daily diet of manna, and their desire for meat instead.  God was angry, so He promised to give them enough meat to last the entire nation a whole month! (Actually, He was more descriptive than that, but that’s beside the point)  (see Numbers 11:18-20)

What jumped out at me is what happened next.  In verses 21-22, Moses informed God that there were 600,000 men in Israel, plus women & children, and that he didn’t think all the fish of the sea would be enough to feed them.  In other words, Moses questioned what God had said.

The answer was quick: in verse 23, God said, “Is the hand of the Lord shortened? Now you’ll see if My word will happen to you or not.”

God takes His Word very seriously.  He doesn’t say things without thinking.  He doesn’t exaggerate.  If He says it, He’s going to do it!

Moses was a great leader, but he made the mistake of using his own reasoning instead of placing his full trust in God’s Word.

I really, really want to help us all this Sunday as we continue our “Faith Gaps” series with a detailed look at how faith works.  I hope you’ll invite someone to join you at any campus of CLC this Sunday (and don’t forget to set your clock’s ahead on Saturday night!)

Sunday reflections

Let’s start with our Hammond campus, which added a second Sunday service today – and saw 382 people in attendance!  (That’s about 130 more than we’ve been averaging).

AND, 6 of those folks prayed to receive Christ today, including 3 from one family who were invited by a guest who just got baptized last Sunday!  (gotta love that!)

And 5 were baptized there today!  I know Pastors Sam & Taylor are still rejoicing, as am I!

Meanwhile, here’s some worship pics from there today:

faces in worship...

age is not a factor in worship…

young in worship...

young people worship…

every generation in worship...

every generation in worship…

men or women in worship...

men or women, white or black in worship…

everyone is WELCOME at our Hammond campus!

everyone is WELCOMED at our Hammond campus!

looks like our KidsLife at Blue Island have found a fun-loving Director in Harry Valentine!

looks like our KidsLife at Blue Island have found a fun-loving Director in Harry Valentine!

uh, looks like their Campus Pastor has fun while preaching...

uh, looks like their Campus Pastor has fun while preaching…

and you'll find a warm WELCOME at Blue Island, too!

and you’ll find a warm WELCOME at Blue Island, too!

Worship in Tinley Park was ALIVE today, too

Worship in Tinley Park was ALIVE today, too

and I definitely had more fun than you're supposed to have while preaching - I'm loving this new "Faith Gaps" series already!

and I definitely had more fun than you’re supposed to have while preaching (even though this pic doesn’t reflect it) – I’m loving this new “Faith Gaps” series already!

Rejoicing over every good thing happening at CLC in each campus – including new guests & prospects, more people in Growth Track, salvation decisions, baptisms, communion & more!  Say it with me, “God is good…all the time…and all the time…God is good!”

Reaching the Next Generation

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I stopped by this afternoon just to cheer on our Youth Pastors, Micah & Jen Remington and their great team of volunteers, and I just have to say, “I LOVE being a part of a church that values the Next Generation!”

Despite everything you may hear about kids these days, here’s a group of teens who  chose to spend their Saturday at a church event – worshipping, listening to God’s Word, playing games & having fun together in a healthy atmosphere!

Major kudos to Micah & Jen, Chuck & Nicole, David & Tiheasha, Joe, Ben & anyone else I’ve overlooked – you guys ROCK and our youth are BLESSED by your leadership!

 

just a few of the kids during their lunch break - I wasn't around to get pics of the really good stuff earlier - but I rejoice over 9 students who came to visit & ended up receiving Christ as Savior this morning!

just a few of the kids during their lunch break – I wasn’t around to get pics of the really good stuff earlier – but I rejoice over 9 students who came to visit & ended up receiving Christ as Savior this morning!

Ask the Pastor

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Finally a new question! An Indiana CLC’er writes, “The Bible says “the prayers of a righteous man avail much.”What about the prayers of someone completely lacking righteousness? It seem to me the prayers of a sinner who gives their life to Him is the ultimate definition of “availing much”.Is it just different prayers that make the difference or the status of the one doing the praying?”

Great question.

First, your statement about a sinner who gives their life to Christ reminds me of the argument I heard years ago from John 9:31 and a denomination that said God wouldn’t hear a sinner’s prayer – which seems pretty preposterous to me, seeing that we are ALL sinners and could never be saved unless He first heard our prayer for help!  So I definitely agree that a sinner’s prayer for salvation ‘avails much’.

As to the question about the status of the one praying, the scholars say that “the righteous man simply designates one who is wholeheartedly committed to God and sincerely seeking to do his will”.  That being the case, almost anyone can qualify if they sincerely call upon the Lord.

Honestly, when you read the passage in context (James 5:14-18) it seems the emphasis is NOT on the person doing the praying as much as it is on the effectiveness of prayer.  In fact, in context, it mentions our need to confess sins prior to the verse in question, and after the verse it uses Elijah as an example and specifically mentions that he was human with shortcomings just like us.

So my understanding of the verse in question that anyone who asks in sincerity and faith can pray effectively!

Hope that helps.

What would you add to my answer?  Please leave a comment below, or ask your own question for next Friday-

 

The Syrian refugee crisis & OneHope

Rob Hoskins, President of OneHope is an amazing leader for this amazing ministry!

Rob Hoskins, President of OneHope is an amazing leader for this amazing ministry!

We Americans see and hear about the Syrian refugee crisis almost nightly.  The whole issue of refugees has become a political football in our country, with lots of opinions but no real solutions to what some have called the “worst humanitarian crisis since WWII”with literally half of the population of Syria killed or displaced from their homes since the crisis began.

What you don’t hear on the nightly news is how God’s people have responded.  Just a few days ago I heard from our partners at ELAM how thousands of Muslims have become refugees in various European countries, and literally have been knocking on the doors of churches, looking for information about Jesus and Christianity.  In fact, I heard of just one small church in Europe that has baptized over 1,000 Muslims in the last year alone!

Yesterday I heard what our partners at OneHope are doing to serve these refugees and was especially touched by the testimony from Pastor Paul Demetriades of Thessaloniki, Greece, whose congregation has responded in sacrificial ways to refugees in Greece.  As he described how some of his own members who are unemployed and struggling financially show up to serve the refugees instead of focusing on their own needs.

When asked what he had learned through this crisis, Pastor Paul said, “you don’t have to have things to be a giver; you just have to be there!”

To that I would simply add, SELAH.

Our friend, Bishop Edward Grabovenko told how OneHope has been such a great partner in reaching Russia (his son David translated)

Our friend, Bishop Edward Grabovenko told how OneHope has been such a great partner in reaching Russia (his son David translated)

One of many highlights for me was meeting this man of God from a country I can't name for security reasons. He's one of many who risk their lives to preach the Gospel in spite of oppressive governments & God is honoring their efforts!

One of many highlights for me was meeting this man of God from a country I can’t name for security reasons. He’s one of many who risk their lives to preach the Gospel in spite of oppressive governments & God is honoring their efforts!

I’m so glad CLC is able to partner with ministries like OneHope!

P.S. I also got to meet Kirk Cousins, quarterback of the Washington Redskins who is a committed believer (if talk radio is right, the Bears may be looking to acquire him during this off-season, and I for one wouldn’t mind having a Spirit-filled Christian behind center!)

Join me in singing ‘Happy Birthday’

with the birthday girl in Israel a few months ago - checking off our bucket list together!

with the birthday girl in Israel a few months ago – checking off our bucket list together!

Today is my one-and-only baby girl’s birthday, and I get to spend the entire day with her  (and her mom)!

From the moment she arrived 39 years ago, Jen has brought us so much JOY.  In fact, as a toddler, she seemed to sense when Chris or I were ‘down’ about some situation or troubled about some church problem, and she would spontaneously start making faces and wiggling her head to make us laugh. (And it worked…and broke the mood!)

I must admit that Jen endured some of the most painful moments that anyone could ever experience, with both physical challenges, surgeries, etc., as well as some huge disappointments in life…..but she’s still going forward.  I appreciate her persistence.

For as long as I can remember, Jen has been generous to a fault – always giving to others, even when it seemed not to be reciprocated.  I admire her generous spirit.

More than anyone I know, Jen is passionate about family.  She’s the BEST Ti-Ti ever to her nephews and nieces, and they love her in return – but she also cares for her grandparents and has sacrificed time and energy to help them through surgeries and more. (I’m counting on her to take care of me in my old age!)

And since she was a little girl living in the Philippines, she’s had a love for the nations.  I’m proud of her missions heart.  In fact, it only seems appropriate that we get to spend her birthday at the Hope Celebration, rejoicing in reports of what God is doing through the ministry of OneHope, from literally all around the world!

Thanks for who you are, and for all you do, babygirl…..and enjoy your day!

Hope Celebration

I joined my wife and daughter in south Florida today for the 30th Anniversary of OneHope, one of our favorite missions partners at CLC. Tonight we heard from the founder, Bob Hoskins, who has faithfully engaged in ministry to reach the lost for 73 years (he started preaching at age 7)!

The thing that I love most about Bob and his son, Rob (who is the President of OneHope) is their heart for souls, as each of them still weeps for those that are being reached through this amazing ministry.

But the unexpected highlight of the day for us was to be joined at our assigned table tonight by our friends from Perm, Russia, Bishop Edward & Larisa Grabovenko. Edward leads the largest network of evangelical pastors in the nation, and is the founder of perhaps the largest Spirit-filled church in Russia, where we’ve been privileged to minister about five or six times through the years, and it was great to reconnect with them tonight-

We love Larissa & Bishop Edward Grabovenko and the work they do in Russia!

We love Larisa & Bishop Edward Grabovenko and the work they do in Russia!

We’ll be in meetings tomorrow as the Hope Celebration continues, then home on Wednesday in time for our final Life Group meeting for “That’s MY Church”-

Sunday reflections

Doesn't Harmony's expression say it all? God is GOOD & His Presence filled the house today!

Doesn’t Harmony’s expression say it all? God is GOOD & His Presence filled the house today!

Worship Pastor Jon Jones showed us today that he can do more than 'sang' - he knocked it out of the park with "Inclusion" to close our 'That's MY Church' series!

Worship Pastor Jon Jones showed us today that he can do more than ‘sang’ – he knocked it out of the park with “Inclusion” to close our ‘That’s MY Church’ series!

Best of all, there were at least 10 people who prayed to receive Christ after Jon’s teaching today, plus numerous others who received emotional healing & freedom from the past!

Worship Pastor Jon Jones showed us today that he can do more than 'sang' - he knocked it out of the park with "Inclusion" to close our 'That's MY Church' series!

Jon had many great things to say, but my favorites were “Check yo self before you wreck yo self!” and “Good is Bad if it hinders you from Best”!  Teach, Jon, teach!!

I had the privilege of closing "TMC" series today in Blue Island-

I had the privilege of closing “TMC” series today in Blue Island-

But the REAL FUN was in KidsLife as Director Harry Valentine took one for the team (love the expression on the boy's face)

But the REAL FUN was in KidsLife as Director Harry Valentine took one for the team (love the expression on the boy’s face)

Yep, he did it.

Yep, he did it.

But the BEST report today came from our Hammond campus, where Pastor Sam says the worship was 'off the charts'!

But the BEST report today came from our Hammond campus, where Pastor Sam says the worship was ‘off the charts’!

Pastor Sam announced that NEXT Sunday they'll be going to 2 services at NWI!

Pastor Sam announced that NEXT Sunday they’ll be going to 2 services at NWI!

Best of all, as he ministered today on “The Full Ministry of the Holy Spirit”, people responded – as 3 were born-again (including a next-door neighbor who will be water baptized next week!) and several others were baptized in the Holy Spirit and received their prayer language!  The momentum for adding that second service is real, with another strong attendance today and perhaps a record attendance in Life Groups this past week!

Our teams there are preparing for two services & here's a couple of great VOLUNTEERS who will make it happen!

Our teams there are preparing for two services & here’s a couple of great VOLUNTEERS who will make it happen!

 

Ask the Pastor

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Unfortunately there were no new questions this week, so I’m reposting this one from 2008:

Lori asked what we can do about people who seem ‘immune’ to the Gospel – those who may think it’s ‘great for you, but I don’t need it’.

My guess is that in our pluralistic society where truth is relative and “whatever works for you is fine by me” attitudes, you may find more people who fall into this category than any other.  That’s one reason I think it’s so important that we focus only on our responsibility.

Remember the line in “Rudy” where the priest said, “there’s two things in life I’ve learned: one, there is a God. And two, I’m not Him!” — it really does apply to each of us when it comes to witnessing.  Only God can open someone’s heart to receive the Gospel.

So our role is (a) to pray for them, that God would open their heart and cause them to be open, tender and receptive to His Word; and (b) to let our light shine by our loving and winsome conduct around them.  Paul said it best in Titus 2:9-10 – our lives can make the Gospel more attractive.

Beyond that, it’s really up to God.  I hope this helps, and that all of us will continue to Paint the Town Red! (NOTE: that was a 2008 sermon series about personal evangelism – but I’m hoping that CLC’ers continue to reach out to unsaved friends and family with the Good News of what Jesus did for us!)

What’s on your mind?  Do you have a question for the pastor?

The core value of INCLUSION

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Have you ever felt left-out?

Maybe it was an elementary game of softball and the two captains chose teams….but neither picked you.

Or maybe all your friends got an invitation to a birthday part…except you.  Not a nice feeling, huh?

I’ve been enjoying our “That’s MY Church” series at CLC so much I kinda hate to see it end this Sunday, but I’m especially excited after our planning meeting yesterday, hearing & sharing the ideas that will be presented at the Tinley Park campus by our Worship Pastor, Jon Jones.

I had asked him to share this message in Tinley Park because Jon is as passionate as anyone I know about the core value of inclusionWhen you think about it, ALL of us should be – not only because we know how it feels to be left out, but because with our God it doesn’t happen – there’s room at His Table whether you’re black, white, red or yellow, male or female, young or old, skinny or not-so-skinny (you catch my drift).

Of course, our other two campuses will close the series with a bang, too – as Pastor Sam will focus on the “Full Ministry of the Holy Spirit” at our Hammond campus, and I’ll get to share “Balanced Bible Teaching” at our Blue Island campus (first time I’ve preached there in over 6 months, so I’m excited to see everyone there!)

If you’ve been participating in one of our “That’s MY Church” Life Groups, what’s been your takeaway?  Join the conversation by leaving your comment below-

What makes a great church service?

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It’s been over 24 hrs, and I’m still basking in the overflow of yesterday’s services at CLC.

More importantly, I’ve been hearing reports today of miraculous healings and deliverance that took place as the Holy Spirit moved mightily among us.  (Here’s one example)

And I’ve lost count at the number of CLC’ers who’ve commented about the Presence and anointing they experienced personally in those services.

What’s been on my mind last night and today is ‘WHY?’ 

Why should one service be so noticeably greater in terms of its impact on us?

I know some will chalk it up to God’s sovereigntybut I think it’s more than that.

Others will give credit to the Worship teambut they lead us weekly, so it can’t be that.

As a pastor, I often think it’s about expectationbut several mentioned how surprised they were by the move of the Spirit, so it must be more than that.

Here’s what I’ve concluded: it’s about hunger!  Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who hunger and thirst in Matthew 5:6, promising that they shall be filled!

I think we came hungrier yesterday than we have on other Sundays.

And here’s what I think the Lord is saying to us all (not from a beer commercial, but from His Word) – stay thirsty, my friends, stay thirsty!

Sunday reflections

I was only able to be in the altar time during the noon service at Tinley Park, but I must say it was the atmosphere that I want for every Sunday!  When the Presence of God is that strong, it makes me weep and evidently I’m not alone, because I saw more tears in the auditorium today than I usually do in a month!  Thank you Jesus for your Presence!

One reason for the awesome Presence today is the way our Life Worship team led us INTO His Presence!

One reason for the awesome Presence today is the way our Life Worship team led us INTO His Presence!

Today was very special as we dedicated Mathias LaBranche to the Lord on Audrey's (his late mother) birthday. It was also special because about 50 members of her family were present to honor her memory & celebrate Mathias, whose name means "gift of God"

Today was very special as we dedicated Mathias LaBranche to the Lord on Audrey’s (his late mother) birthday. It was also special because about 50 members of her family were present to honor her memory & celebrate Mathias, whose name means “gift of God”

Pastor Chris reminded us all that the Full Ministry of the Holy Spirit is like using a power drill instead of a manual screwdriver!

Pastor Chris reminded us all that the Full Ministry of the Holy Spirit is like using a power drill instead of a manual screwdriver!

The prayer time around the altar in each service resulted in several physical healings & a LOT of tears!

The prayer time around the altar in each service resulted in several physical healings & a LOT of tears from CLC’ers hungry for more!

In Blue Island, the worship team brought His Presence!

In Blue Island, the worship team brought His Presence!

Our KidsLife Blue Island enjoyed some pie in the face today!

Our KidsLife Blue Island enjoyed some pie in the face today!

Pastor Brent illustrated how intercessors pray thru a window instead of in a mirror. Good word!

Pastor Brent illustrated how intercessors pray thru a window instead of in a mirror. Good word!

Today I was privileged to speak at our Hammond, IN campus - but I was so surprised to see several new musicians on stage leading us in worship there! Love how God brings gifted people along at just the right time!

Today I was privileged to speak at our Hammond, IN campus – but I was so surprised to see several new musicians on stage leading us in worship there! Love how God brings gifted people along at just the right time!

I was having such a good time in teaching that I let the time get away from me, but the congregation was kind, and best of all, at least 4 adults (who were ALL first-time guests!) prayed openly to receive Jesus as Savior today!  (Love how our Hammond campus is reaching people far from God!)

I was having such a good time in teaching that I let the time get away from me, but the congregation was kind, and best of all, at least 4 adults (who were ALL first-time guests!) prayed openly to receive Jesus as Savior today!  (Love how our Hammond campus is reaching people far from God!)

Hey, if you attended ANY service at ANY campus today, what impacted you the most?  Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below-

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions were submitted while we’re in the Philippines, so I’m repeating this post from 2014 when a faithful CLC’er asked a question I’d never been asked before: “Where does the church get the different series that we follow during the weekly services?”

Wow….I’m surprised this hasn’t come up before – but for all of those curious minds that want to know, here’s a look behind the scenes. Our sermon series/themes at CLC originate in several different ways (with an example of each):

  • Some series we try to include annually, because we know people will always need practical help with subjects like marriage and finances.  We may put on a creative title or cutesy approach to try to entice people to come, but every year we’re gonna try to include help for our folks on those issues. “Stewardship 2.0” or “Rules of Engagement” are examples of that kind of series.
  • Some series will be included annually because of their importance to us as a church.  For instance, as an unashamedly Charismatic church, we will probably do a series each year about the Holy Spirit (We’ve planned an exciting series about the gifts of the Holy Spirit for June). “Kingdom” would be an example of this, as would our current series, “That’s MY Church”, where we are reviewing the values that drive our ministry.
  • Some series ideas come to us from other ministries.  For instance, in my morning walks (usually on a treadmill at the gym; sometimes around our subdivision when weather allows), I listen to podcasts from some of America’s leading pastors, like Robert Morris, Chris Hodges, Craig Groeschel and others. Sometimes as I receive from their teaching, I feel that I should pass it on to our church family, and we develop a series around the same theme. White Christmas came about that way.
  • Our popular summer series, “God@the Movies” came about as a result of reading or hearing about other churches that were doing something similar.  We considered if for a few years before giving it a try and have been wildly surprised not only by the boost in summer attendance, but especially by the changed lives that have resulted.  (Our choice of movies and approach to the messages is totally our own, as we’ve never followed any other churches in that regard – but we make those choices with the help of pastors & leaders on our sermon planning team.)
  • Probably the majority of our series come out of my prayer time and my interaction with people at CLC, which cause me to sense a real ‘need’ to address certain subjects. We may look for fun titles or approaches, but the series itself is our way of trying to correct a problem or meet a need we sense in the church family. “Generations” would be an example of that kind of series.
  • Finally, I personally think the best series each year are a result of me getting a ‘rhema word’ from God in my own study times.  That’s the ‘old-school’ Pentecostal preacher  in me, no doubt, but I honestly believe when the Word comes alive to me, it will also come alive to our people and meet needs in a way that nothing else could! “Deeper” is a great example of that, and I believe our next series beginning March 5 will be as well – we’re calling it “Faith Gaps”, but it was born when 1Thess. 3:10 jumped off the page at me during my devotions a few months ago.

That was fun!  Hope it helped a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Talking Bible: Psalm 46

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I love it when my Bible talks to me, and it happened today as I did my devotions before leaving the hotel that’s been home for the past several days for our getaway to a resort near here.

I read Psalm 46:1 in the Modern English Version (which I’m using for my 2017 devotions)  and it jumped off the page at me.  Instead of the traditional, “a very present help in trouble”, the MEV renders it, “a well-proven help in trouble”.

I like that!

So if you’re reading this post and there is any kind of ‘trouble’ in your life, please know that not only is God a very present help, meaning, HE is right there with you in this situation, but also know that HE is a well-proven help!

I can easily recall times that HE has proven Himself to me by helping me out of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced, and I bet you can, too.

But even if you can’t remember times that HE has helped you in the past, you can still take courage that HE has been proven by countless believers, for thousands of years.

You CAN trust Him!

Does that resonate with you today?  Why not join the conversation by sharing some comments below about how the Lord has proven Himself to you, perhaps when you needed Him most-

Philippines trip, day 4

Our last night of ministry in Davao WAS truly "A Night to Remember" - so many fun memories with some of our favorite people in the whole world!

Our last night of ministry in Davao WAS truly “A Night to Remember” – so many fun memories with some of our favorite people in the whole world, as we spoke at the CLC-Davao Valentines Banquet for married couples. (I even got Chris to ‘dance’ with me….well, at least we hugged and kinda swayed to the music)  We also led about 40 couples in renewing their marriage vows!

Can you tell which one is MY Valentine?

Can you tell which one of these lovely ladies is MY Valentine?

One of the greatest privileges we've ever had in ministry is partnering with this precious couple and their family - we LOVE Bishop Herley Montes & Pastora Nelly Montes!

One of the greatest privileges we’ve ever had in ministry is partnering with this precious couple and their family – we LOVE Bishop Herley Montes & Pastora Nelly Montes!

This concluded our ministry assignment for this trip – but we’re taking the next few days for some much needed R & R at a nearby resort Pastor Herley has been telling us about.  (We really do plan to rest, so I may not post so much from Pearl Farm Beach Resort)

Philippines trip, day 3

We got to meet the 2 newest CLC churches in Mindanao (bringing us to a total of 15!) This is Pastor Al Montano & his son Dale from Koronadal-

We got to meet the 2 newest CLC churches in Mindanao (bringing us to a total of 13!) This is Pastor Al Montano & his son Dale from Koronadal-

We taught the pastors this morning and then a group of both pastors & leaders this afternoon. No matter what we teach, it's more fun when Pastor Jeser Molina interprets!

We taught the pastors this morning and then a group of both pastors & leaders this afternoon. No matter what we teach, it’s more fun when Pastor Jeser Molina interprets!

After the teaching, the pastors & leaders met in small discussion groups-

After the teaching, the pastors & leaders met in small discussion groups-

we're glad that CLC in the Philippines also believes in women in ministry - each of these ladies is a pastor or leader in their church!

we’re glad that CLC in the Philippines also believes in women in ministry – each of these ladies is a pastor or leader in their church!

Tonight Pastors Herley & Nelly 'presented' to us their top 288 leaders, who are ALL soul-winners & disciple-makers! This is what it looked like from the pulpit - I'm sure you'll agree that it was an AWESOME sight for any pastor to see!

Tonight Pastors Herley & Nelly ‘presented’ to us their top 288 leaders, who are ALL soul-winners & disciple-makers! This is what it looked like from the pulpit – I’m sure you’ll agree that it was an AWESOME sight for any pastor to see!

Meet our NEWEST CLC-Philippines pastor (#15), Ian Enriquez from Bukidnon!

Meet our NEWEST CLC-Philippines pastor (#15), Ian Enriquez from Bukidnon!

One more ministry event as we speak to CLC-Davao’s married couples tomorrow at a Valentine’s Banquet.  Thanks for the prayers-

Philippines trip, day 2

 

It was a JOY to preach with Bishop Herley Montes interpreting at both morning services today-

It was a JOY to preach with Bishop Herley Montes interpreting at both morning services today- (we had more fun than you’re supposed to be able to have in church)

This children's ensemble opened the morning services singing, 'Yes, Jesus Loves Me' & it was ADORABLE! (Just to the right of center stage are the 3 children of Pastor Joel Montes: Sophia 2, Jaden 6 & Yada 4)

This children’s ensemble opened the morning services singing, ‘Yes, Jesus Loves Me’ & it was ADORABLE! (Just to the right of center stage are the 3 children of Pastor Joel Montes: Sophia, 2; Jaden, 6; & Yada, 4)

After a skit depicting a young believer whose family practically disowned him for his faith, the bass guitarist stepped to the pulpit to announce that the skit was HIS story. But just 2 years ago, his mother accepted his invitation to CLC and now serves the Lord with him!

After a skit depicting a young believer whose family practically disowned him for his faith, the bass guitarist stepped to the pulpit to announce that the skit was HIS story. But just 2 years ago, his mother accepted his invitation to CLC and now serves the Lord with him!

And his mom was singing in the choir (front row, center)

And his mom now sings in the choir (front row, center)!  God is Faithful!!!

After each service, Pastor Herley gave instructions to those who came forward to receive Christ.

After each service, Pastor Herley gave instructions to those who came forward to receive Christ.

I'm always touched by the numbers of Filipino's who respond to the salvation invitation, and today was no exception.

I’m always touched by the numbers of Filipinos’ who respond to the salvation invitation, and today was no exception.

 

Each service they came forward to receive Christ!

Each service they came forward to receive Christ!

Even after a powerful move of the Holy Spirit among believers, this group of people waited until the close of service, but when the invitation to receive the Lord was given, they came!

Even after a powerful move of the Holy Spirit among believers, this group of people waited until the close of service, but when the invitation to receive the Lord was given, they came!

Chris preached 2 powerful messages this afternoon/evening (and even had a little help from Dr. Seuss!)

Chris preached 2 powerful messages this afternoon/evening (and even had a little help from Dr. Seuss!)

We’re gonna to get some rest after today’s ministry marathon, as we’ll begin meeting with the CLC network of pastors in about 12 hours.  Thanks for the prayers!

Erik proposed & Joy said ‘YES’!

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I know some of you are concerned about our safety after learning that an earthquake hit the Philippines a few hours ago – but it was centered about 200 miles north of Davao City  (where we are). 

So the BIG NEWS for CLC is that Erik Lumagsao proposed to Joy Bumanlag last night shortly after Chris & I taught at a special event here for young professional singles!  (Erik was an intern in our EnTheos ministry last year & won our hearts at CLC – but he & Joy have been together for so long I wasn’t sure he’d ever pop the question!)

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So, thanks for your prayers – we are safe & sound.  In a few hours we begin a marathon day of ministry here with five services between us.  And a special congrats to Erik & Joy!

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Ask the Pastor

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No new questions this week, so I’m repeating this post from 2013:

This week’s question was submitted anonymously during our “You Asked For It!” midweek series back in December, but we weren’t able to cover it publicly then: “It is a sin to be depressed?”

Great question, simply because so many Americans (and believers) suffer from depression.  I think I’d be safe in saying that almost all of us deal with it from time to time.  Here’s my answer:

  • If depression is a sin, then a LOT of Bible ‘heroes’ were big-time sinners (like us) because Moses (Exodus 5:22-6:12), David (Psa 42:3-11), Elijah (IKings 19:3-14) and even Jesus (Matthew 26:37-39) experienced moments that we would probably call depression!
  • In addition, I’ve learned from my wife (the licensed counselor) that some depression is clinical, which means there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes the depression.  I don’t think any of us would say that diabetes is a sin, or that high cholesterol is a sin, so why would we classify someone with clinical depression as sinful?
  • On the other hand, most depression is caused by circumstances (Numbers 21:4; Lamentations 1:12-20), and while most of us have experienced moments of despair when we don’t see a way out of our situation, as believers we must admit that such a viewpoint is not of faith, since nothing is impossible with our God.
  • So when it comes to circumstantial depression, no believer should wallow there for long, because the Word of God and worship are mighty weapons (2Cor 10:4-5) to help us see beyond our present circumstances to the glorious plan He has for us!  (2Cor 4:16-18).  That was Jesus’ secret (see Isa. 42:4; Heb. 12:2)

In fact, this message of HOPE is what Easter is all about, for the Resurrection is God’s greatest object lesson: if He can do that, He can do anything! (see Ephesians 1:17-21) – and we’re going to CELEBRATE that fact in all of our Easter Experiences – I hope you’ll reach out one more time to invite someone to be your guest!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Off to the Philippines

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I’m typing this at O’Hare where Chris and I will soon depart for the first of two flights that will get us into Manila about 9am Friday (Chicago time).  We then get a night’s sleep in Manila before flying to Davao City for the first assignment of this missions trip, a Saturday session with the singles of our CLC-Davao campus.

Then it’s a whirlwind of ministry, with 5 services on Sunday, 3 on Monday and 3 on Tuesday, concluding with a Valentine’s banquet for the married couples of CLC-Davao.  Since they just had over 200 people come forward to receive Christ last Sunday, I’m especially excited to see what God is doing there!

I’ll try to post each day to keep you aware of what we’re doing, and I can’t wait to hear  your reports this Sunday as we continue the “That’s MY Church” series.  I’ve already previewed the messages, and it’s going to be good at each campus!

Thanks for your prayers-

CAPRO missions

One of my favorite connections in missions began in 2001, when we were first introduced to a Nigerian-based missions movement known as ‘CAPRO’.  From that initial contact through their missionary in Senegal (at the time), Charles Bavelloni, we have since met so many wonderful men and women of God – people of integrity – who love Jesus and His Church and who are giving their lives to help make the Great Commission the Great Fulfillment!

I believe in the mission and work of CAPRO so much that I’ve been honored to serve on their USA board in the past and last year was invited to join their International Council.  Even more importantly, when CAPRO appointed their first representative to North America  (Niyi & Tayo Gbade), CLC provided an office for them to be based here.

This past Sunday afternoon we were blessed to conduct a “missions awareness” meeting to introduce CAPRO to some CLC’ers and other church leaders in Chicagoland, and we were blessed to have Tom Ogunleye, chairman of CAPRO USA and Amos Aderonmu, one of the founders of CAPRO who now serves in South Sudan.

Niyi Gbade is the North American representative for CAPRO

Niyi Gbade is the North American representative for CAPRO

Amos Aderonmu is one of the founders of CAPRO and a former International Director for the ministry who now serves in South Sudan.

Amos Aderonmu is one of the founders of CAPRO and a former International Director for the ministry who now serves in South Sudan.

Tom Ogunleye is a professor from Austin, TX who serves as Chairman of CAPRO USA

Tom Ogunleye is a professor from Austin, TX who serves as Chairman of CAPRO USA

Thank God for Kingdom partnerships!

Sunday reflections

On this Super Bowl Sunday, our Davao City, Philippines campus is undisputed champion:

Pastor Joel making the salvation invitation to a packed house at one service

Pastor Joel making the salvation invitation to a packed house at one service

and they came!

and they came forward to receive!

and they kept coming!

and they kept coming!

in the 4 services today, literally HUNDREDS of people came forward for salvation at the Davao campus!

in their 4 services today, literally HUNDREDS of people came forward for salvation!

Pastor Jon hosted today in Tinley Park - loved the way he quoted the 23rd Psalm!

Pastor Jon hosted today in Tinley Park – loved the way he quoted the 23rd Psalm!

Everyone in my Life Group this week talked about how FRIENDLY Tinley Park is - and this pic captured some of that.

Everyone in my Life Group this week talked about how FRIENDLY Tinley Park is – and this pic captured some of that.

Our FAMILY EXPO is coming  March 11 - get more info at http://clc.tv/tinleypark/events/clc-family-fun-expo/

Our FAMILY EXPO is coming March 11 – get more info here.

GET NAKED is our annual Marriage Retreat this March 24-26.  Register TODAY (Feb. 5) ONLY and a $25 deposit holds your space!

GET NAKED is our annual Marriage Retreat this March 24-26. Register TODAY (Feb. 5) ONLY and a $25 deposit holds your space!

Pastor Sam reports a great day of worship at NWI-

Pastor Sam reports a great day of worship at NWI-

The 'prayer wall' at NWI is a list of people we're praying for salvation & inviting to the March 5 beginning of two services at NWI.

The ‘prayer wall’ at NWI is a list of people we’re praying for salvation & inviting to the March 5 beginning of two services at NWI.

Pastor Taylor welcomed two new members after Growth Track at NWI today!

Pastor Taylor welcomed two new members after Growth Track at NWI today!

Worship at Blue Island was anointed today!

Worship at Blue Island was anointed today!

And the congregation responded in praise!

And the congregation responded in praise!

My wife brought the word on our core value of "the full ministry of the Holy Spirit" (Supernatural Power)

My wife brought the word on our core value, “the full ministry of the Holy Spirit” (Supernatural Power)

Afterward, many people were indeed touched by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Afterward, many people were indeed touched by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2014:

A faithful member who serves us well at CLC writes, “I have been guilty of shutting out friends, particularly while I was married because I was so unhappy and struggling financially and their families were prospering.  I still speak with them from time to time but I miss the deep friendships we had. How do I build those friendships back?  Or did God not intend for those individuals to be in my life?”

Great questions…difficult questions.  Let me try my best to help:

  • First, it’s human nature to avoid pain (fight or flight syndrome), so it’s totally understandable than when you were struggling financially in an unhappy marriage that you would withdraw from friends whose families were prospering. Don’t beat yourself up over that!
  • Secondly, I’m a firm believer in honest, direct communication – so I’d probably recommend that if/when you speak to those friends, that you take time to explain how you miss the deep friendship you had before, ask forgiveness for withdrawing from them in your pain, and see if the relationship will be rebuilt.  (Just because it’s the honest and I think best approach, there’s no guarantee that the depth of friendship will be restored, because life happens and people move on.  So there’s no promise here, but I think it’s worth a shot!)
  • If you do have the opportunity to pursue a restoration of the relationship you once enjoyed, the only verse that comes to my mind is the simple one we all know: Proverbs 18:24.  Do the things that build friendships: be thoughtfulcommunicate with love, give of yourself, be loyal.
  • Your final question may be the most insightful of all.  Sometimes God allows people to move out of our lives for a reason.  Only HE can tell you if that’s the case with some or all of these friends, so make it a matter of prayer.  Apply Col. 3:15 to each situation – if you sense ‘peace’ about pursuing the relationship, go for it; if you don’t, please do yourself a favor and let it go! (And always be thankful!)
  • Let me add one more unsolicited suggestion: participate in a Life Group! As I posted here yesterday, it’s amazing how getting together with other believers can open the door for good things, including some lifelong friendships!  Yesterday’s post has the links to help you find a group near you at a time that fits your schedule.

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

Why I LOVE LifeGroups…

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Last night was the first gathering for the “That’s MY Church” group that my wife and I are hosting, and it reminded me all over again why I love Life Groups so much!

See, even though it’s my responsibility to promote small groups at CLC a few times each year, and I really do believe what I always tell our congregation about those groups (how you’ll be able to build friendships; how you’ll have people who will pray for you & encourage you; how you’ll have partners who can hold you accountable in needed areas; how you’ll grow as a believer through community; etc.), every time I get into a group of my own, it becomes real all over again!

  • Last night we laughed (a lot).  
  • We also cried (together)
  • We found out that we’re not the only ones ‘going thru that’
  • We learned that we’re not the only ones who have ‘felt that way’
  • We discovered we have more in common that we realized.
  • We celebrated some strengths.
  • We admitted some struggles.
  • We experienced genuine love for each other.
  • We prayed for people inside our group, and elsewhere.

(We also ate some snacks, but that’s optional)

I’m excited about each group of CLC’ers who will gather like this for the next 5 weeks, not just to hear about “That’s MY Church”, but to experience being the Church!

If YOU aren’t in a group yet, it’s NOT too late – find one that fits your schedule here.            (For Northwest Indiana campus groups, here.  For Blue Island campus groups, here.)

Sunday reflections

 

Today was the kick-off for "That's MY Church" LifeGroup campaign

Today was the kick-off for “That’s MY Church” LifeGroup campaign

Loved having children of our praise team worship onstage for Family Sunday!

Loved having children of our praise team worship onstage for Family Sunday!

Baby dedications are always special at CLC - congrats, LaGenia Thompson & Laiyah!

Baby dedications are always special at CLC – congrats, Gina Thompson & Laiyah!

and congrats to Preston & Alisha Bouler for Preston III!

and congrats to Preston & Alisha Bouler for Preston III!

'Back to the Basics' went well, but I'm especially excited about the 20-25 CLC'ers who prayed PERSONALLY to make Jesus their Lord & Savior!

‘Back to the Basics’ went well, but I’m especially excited about the 20-25 CLC’ers who prayed PERSONALLY to make Jesus their Lord & Savior!

Pastor Sam says NWI set a new attendance record for a "non-event" Sunday & worship felt like a big family party!

Pastor Sam says NWI set a new attendance record for a “non-event” Sunday & worship felt like a big family party!

And congrats to Stephanie & baby Lea on her dedication today!

And congrats to Stephanie Daniels & baby Lea on her dedication today!

Love the simultaneous translation we offer for our Spanish speakers - that's what a MULTICULTURAL church does! (Kudos to Jorge Arevalo for translating today)

Love the simultaneous translation we offer in Blue Island for our Spanish speakers – that’s what a MULTICULTURAL church does! (Kudos to Jorge Arevalo for translating today)

Worship is bilingual, too!

Worship is bilingual, too!

Pastor Brent used the Vince Lombardi story in "Back to the Basics", too

Pastor Brent used the Vince Lombardi story in “Back to the Basics”, too

but perhaps the 'highlight' of the service was the close, when the entire congregation put their hands together in the 'huddle' and shouted, "That's MY Church!"

but perhaps the ‘highlight’ of the service was the close, when the entire congregation put their hands together in the ‘huddle’ and shouted, “That’s MY Church!”

Annual reports

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I think we did the poorest job of communicating our annual Business meeting at CLC yesterday, and possibly many of our members missed our 2016 reports.

In case you’re wondering, the numbers are in, and we grew by only 3% in average attendance last year, with a per Sunday average across all 3 Chicagoland campuses of 1,598.  I’m also happy to report that more than 450 of those folks experienced Jesus at our services by last year through a salvation decision or water baptism or the baptism of the Holy Spirit!

If you want to know what we do with the monies you give, here’s our 2016 financial report.

The best is yet to come!

Sunday reflections

This pic says it all for today's services at each CLC campus: "Here I am, Lord - send me!"

This pic says it all for today’s services at each CLC campus: “Here I am, Lord – send me!”

Our Executive Pastor is one versatile guy - leading, singing, playing - you never know where you'll see him next!

Our Executive Pastor is one versatile guy – leading, singing, playing – you never know where you’ll see him next!  Thanks, Pastor Ben Stewart!

I love our prayer ministers & the fact that anyone can receive prayer at any service!

I love our prayer ministers & the fact that anyone can receive prayer at any service!

Life Group sign-ups at each campus today for "That's MY Church" (which starts next Sunday!)

Life Group sign-ups at each campus today for “That’s MY Church” (which starts next Sunday!)

And we had several people sign up for a 2017 missions trip on this Missions Sunday!

And we had several people sign up for a 2017 missions trip on this Missions Sunday!

KidsLife in Blue Island is hands-on

KidsLife in Blue Island is hands-on

Pastor Chris preached "Send Me" in Blue Island today-

Pastor Chris preached “Send Me” in Blue Island today-

while Pastor Sol provided the Spanish translation-

while Pastor Sol provided the Spanish translation-

it seems the entire congregation at each campus is praying "Send Me" this week!

it seems the entire congregation at each campus is praying “Send Me” this week!

Great service at NWI today

Great service at NWI today

Pastor Sam preached "Send Me" and the entire congregation came forward to pray that DANGEROUS prayer!

Pastor Sam preached “Send Me” and the entire congregation came forward to pray that DANGEROUS prayer!

You heard us mention the flooding last week - this is Cagayan de Oro in northern Mindanao

You heard us mention the flooding last week – this is Cagayan de Oro in northern Mindanao

Our CLC congregation there asked for our help so they could assist others recover from the flooding.

Our CLC congregation there asked for our help so they could assist others recover from the flooding. (This pic is from their service this morning!)

  • If you want to help with any amount, click here and choose “emergency relief fund”
  • Pastor Herley sent me pics of 4 of our 13 CLC congregations in Mindanao from today’s worship services:
Our CLC congregation in Tagum, Mindanao today

Our CLC congregation in Tagum, Mindanao today (Pastors Jeser & Aying Molina)

Our CLC church at Insulan, Mindanao

Our CLC church at Insulan, Mindanao

of course, the 'mother' church, CLC-Davao City (Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes)

of course, the ‘mother’ church, CLC-Davao City (Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes)

That’s all from today’s Mission Sunday at CLC….now I’m going to enjoy the rest of this humiliation of the Green Bay Packers-

Weekend reflections

Honestly, if you were here or participated online, you don’t need any explanation; and if you weren’t able to be a part of our 2017 First Love Conference, there are no words!  But here’s a few pics:

This weekend was all about the FIRST LOVE CONFERENCE!

This weekend was all about the FIRST LOVE CONFERENCE!

Worship was wonderful in each session

Worship was wonderful in each session – especially “What a Beautiful Name” (apologies to the amazing SoP – this was my only pic)

Pastor Eddie Cupples' 3-part series in Tinley Park today was PRACTICAL nuggets on "Beginning Well, Finishing Strong"

Pastor Eddie Cupples’ 3-part series in Tinley Park today was PRACTICAL nuggets on “Beginning Well, Finishing Strong”

Our Hammond, IN campus featured a baby dedication

Our Hammond, IN campus featured a baby dedication

and Pastor Gordon Banks preached the house down!

then Pastor Gordon Banks preached the house down!

Blue Island had one of the largest attendances in their history!

Blue Island had one of the largest attendances in their history!

Our ONU students got in on what God is doing in Blue Island!

Our ONU students got in on what God is doing in Blue Island!

Prophet Denny Cramer gave 'words' to many

Prophet Denny Cramer gave ‘words’ to many

One more service to go: tonight at 5pm, with Dennis Cramer and then my pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington.  Join us!

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were NO new questions submitted this week, so I’ll ask one myself: where should YOU be this weekend?

The unequivocal answer is: at the First Love Conference in Tinley Park!

It all starts tonight at 7pm with former NFL wide-receiver, Pastor Gordon Banks!

It continues tomorrow at 9am with Pastor Gordon AND Prophet Dennis Cramer!

Tomorrow night at 5pm will be a night of ministry with Prophet Dennis Cramer!

Sunday in Tinley Park we’ll receive a 3-part series at 8:30, 10 and 12 from a dear friend who has served as a CLC Overseer from the beginning, Pastor Eddie Cupples!

(Sunday at 10am in Hammond will be Pastor Gordon Banks, and at 11am in Blue Island, Prophet Dennis Cramer will be ministering)

The closing session in Tinley Park will be Sunday evening at 5pm with my pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington! 

And on Monday we’ll move to our Northwest Indiana location in Hammond for a special “Learn & Lead” morning with Bishop Garlington and Dr. David Ireland, starting at 9am!

The real question is what will YOU receive from the Lord before it’s over?

See you there-

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Sunday reflections

One of the highlights in Tinley Park was baptizing 4 young people at the 10am service!

One of the highlights in Tinley Park was baptizing 4 young people at the 10am service!

"Break Me" was a tough message to preach OR hear - but I'm rejoicing over 7 people who came forward to receive Christ at the 12pm service!

“Break Me” was a tough message to preach OR hear – but I’m rejoicing over 7 people who came forward to receive Christ at the 12pm service!

Pastor Sam agrees that "Break Me" was heavy at NWI, but he's excited about the largest New Member's class yet - welcome these new CLC'ers!

Pastor Sam agrees that “Break Me” was heavy at NWI, but he’s excited about the largest New Member’s class yet – welcome these new CLC’ers!

Pastor Brent says attendance was up on the 2nd Sunday of 2017 and the message was well-received, but what I mainly noticed is that someone has a REALLY CUTE granddaughter!

Pastor Brent says attendance was up on the 2nd Sunday of 2017 and the message was well-received, but what I mainly noticed is that someone has a REALLY CUTE granddaughter!

Let’s all “set our face toward God” during these next 3 days of prayer & fasting as we prepare our hearts for our annual…

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Ask the Pastor

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We had no new questions submitted this week, so I’m reposting from January 2010:

A CLCer asks, “In Rom 14:10 & 2Cor 5:10 it says we all appear or stand before the judgement seat of Christ. Then is it correct to say we will all get to visit heaven? Is Christ’s judgement seat in Heaven or a suburb of Heaven? Is the great white throne in heaven across the hall from the judgement seat? If so, will Jesus go across the hall to say ‘I’ve got some bad news and more bad news’?

Great questions…and I especially like the tongue-in-cheek approach!

First, let’s distinguish the difference in the two judgments: the judgment seat of Christ cited in the two Epistles above is the Greek word, “bema”, which refers to the judging stand used during the Olympics for the winners to receive their awards. In other words, the judgment seat of Christ is where true believers will appear, to receive our rewards. No unbelievers will appear before Christ’s bema-seat.

The great white throne, on the other hand, is described in Rev. 20 as being the place of final judgment for those who are cast into the lake of fire, after having been judged by God’s word. NO believers will have to appear there.

As to the location of the two, I can’t speak with certainty about the judgment seat of Christ; but the great white throne must be in heaven.  So, as funny as it sounded when you asked, I guess it would be correct to say that everyone will get to ‘visit’ heaven!

Unfortunately, what happens at the great white throne is no laughing matter.  In fact, it’s one of the most important reasons why The Church needs to be reaching out to everyone with the Good News of salvation – to “plunder hell & populate heaven” (to quote Reinhard Bonnke)  I’m believing 2010 will be a great year of harvest at CLC!

Actually, I’m still believing for that in 2017, too!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

The most UNIQUE First Love conference ever!

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It’s hard to believe that we’re just barely over a week away from our favorite meeting of the year at CLC – our First Love Conference this January 13-15!

Several facts make this Conference truly UNIQUE:

1. We’ve changed the schedule by opening on Friday night instead of Saturday morning (you don’t want to miss the opening!)

2. More importantly, each of our guest speakers is a CLC Overseer, with a heart for our church and a history of ministering to us in love!  These men are not “hired guns”, just coming to preach a sermon – they have prayed for us, helped us solve problems and challenges in the ministry over the years, and demonstrated true friendship in our times of need!  They are family!

3. Finally, this gathering is unique because on Martin Luther King, Jr. day (January 16) we’re moving to our Hammond, Indiana campus for a special morning designed for pastors, ministers and leaders who want to learn from Bishop Garlington and special guest Dr. David Ireland!

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Of course, we’re preparing our hearts for all of this with a 3-day “juice fast” and a special Worship Night at each campus next week.  I can’t wait!

Testimony time!

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Well, we’re three days into praying Psalm 139:23-24 now, and this pastor is curious: what has God been showing you thus far?

Whatever it is and however ugly it may seem, remember: He doesn’t reveal it to make you feel bad; He reveals it to draw you closer to Him!

AND, whatever He shows you, please don’t stop at the surface, but drill down deeper in your prayer and let Him show you what’s behind the issue.  That’s when you’ll experience even greater freedom and greater intimacy.

If you don’t mind being transparent in order to encourage other CLC’ers, leave your testimony below of how God is changing you through this prayer:

1h0ife

 

NO negative speaking!

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Today and for the next 7 days, we’re asking all CLC’ers to join us in a “fast” that is not focused on what we put into our mouth, but rather what comes out of our mouth; i.e., to refrain from any and all negative, critical, judgmental speech.

It’s not only a GREAT way to begin a new year; it’s an important principle of Scripture:

  • Joshua 6:10 shows us that before Israel won their first victory in the Promised Land,  the people refrained from speaking for seven consecutive days!  (I think that may have been a bigger miracle than the walls of Jericho falling down!)
  • Matthew 15:10-20 is teaching from Jesus that elevates our words above anything we might put into our mouth.
  • I’m sure that this fast will also send us “running into His arms” for help, because James 3:1-12 makes it clear that we can’t do this in ourselves!

If you’re joining us on this year-opening fast and would like a daily reminder/devotional, please text “PRAYS” to 555-888.

Weekend reflections

The worship & Presence of God at our NYE celebration was simply wonderful!

The worship & Presence of God at our NYE celebration was simply wonderful!

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Loved the challenges from both NWI Campus Pastor, Sam and BI Campus Pastor, Brent shortly before the end of 2016

Loved the challenges from both NWI Campus Pastor, Sam and BI Campus Pastor, Brent shortly before the end of 2016

May God bring to pass each of the prophetic words HE gave Chris for 2017!

May God bring to pass each of the prophetic words HE gave Chris for 2017!

"Search Me" seemed to be a great Kick-Off to "Dangerous Prayers" series - last night and at each campus today

“Search Me” seemed to be a great Kick-Off to “Dangerous Prayers” series – last night and at each campus today

Chris brought the 'Search Me' message to NWI, and Pastor Sam said she REALLY preached & he loved her transparency.

Chris brought the ‘Search Me’ message to NWI, and Pastor Sam said she REALLY preached & he loved her transparency.

Brent brought the message at Blue Island - and the new translation system reduced their service time by almost half an hour!

Brent brought the message at Blue Island – and the new translation system reduced their service time by almost half an hour!

As much as he enjoyed teaching with the new equipment, I think he missed having this beauty by his side (today she was the translator on the other side of the ear phones)

As much as he enjoyed teaching with the new equipment, I think he missed having this beauty by his side (today she was the Spanish translator on the other side of the ear phones)

and for those of you who may have missed it this weekend, here’s a video recap of 2016:

Christian Life Center 2016 Year in Review from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted during this holiday week, so I went back exactly five years ago to re-post this question from 2011:

Our final question of 2011 comes from a friend to me & CLC who writes, “If a man has had a sex change, surgery and all, and now lives as a woman and wants to be a Christian attending church, how should the church respond to him/her? Also would you tell her to stay a woman or go back to a man?

When I first read the question I thought (in my best Lovie Smith voice), “Now what kind of question is that?”

But in case it’s a serious question, I’m gonna give it a serious answer, as my final Friday post for this year.  Let’s consider the facts:

  • since there was no such thing as “sex changes” in Bible times, we must understand that the Bible does NOT address this question.
  • Since there are no direct references to this dilemma in Scripture, our only hope would be to apply Biblical principles to try to answer this.
  • The ONLY verse I can think of that might somehow apply to this hypothetical situation is 1Cor 7:20-24.  Since this person had the sex change before becoming a Christian, as I apply these verses, I would say ‘she’ should remain as ‘she’ is.
  • As to how the church should respond to her, I would hope that any local church would respond to this individual as we would any other person; i.e., with love and compassion and the same Christian courtesy that we would want for ourselves – while also helping to disciple this individual in the ways of Christ, including sexual purity and wholeness.

For sure, it’s an interesting question – but probably not that far-fetched in today’s world.  May we shine as lights in this dark world so that people who are hurting and lost without Jesus, regardless of how their ‘lostness’ (sin nature) may be manifest, will be drawn to the light and not repelled by it.

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

And I hope you’ll join us Saturday (tomorrow) at 10pm as we bid farewell to 2016 and welcome 2017!

Now that the holidays are over…

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Ok….you’ve put away all your gifts, thrown away all the wrappings, put the leftovers in the fridge, and even made some after-Christmas sales.  What’s next?

Well, at CLC, we’re gearing up for 2017 to be our BEST YEAR YET!  You can hear more about that during our annual New Year’s Eve celebration this Saturday, December 31 at 10pm when all our Chicagoland campuses come together in Tinley Park.

But I also want to encourage you to mark your calendar and make plans to join us by setting aside the entire month of January for some specially-planned fasting:

  • January 1-8 is a fast from Negative Speaking!  If you’re honest, you know we could all benefit from this fast, and I’m hoping that starting the year that way will have long-lasting effects on me personally.  Feel free to make it fun in your family by paying a ‘fine’ to a family vacation fund for every infraction if you want, but please know that this is a Biblical practice that helped Israel begin to conquer Canaan – read Joshua 6:10 if you don’t believe it!
  • January 9-11 we’re calling all CLC’ers to join us for a 3-day ‘regular’ fast, in which we eat NO food and drink only water or juices.  (You can break the fast with your evening meal each day if needed, or you may choose to fast 72-hours),  but either way, keep in mind what Jesus taught us in Matthew 17:19-21.
  • January 12-15 we’ll fast entertainment such as movies, television, etc. in accordance with Isaiah 58:3 (plus you won’t be distracted during ‘First Love’ Conf)
  • January 16-21 may be the most difficult fast for some, as we give up Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. so we can keep our minds focused on God’s will for us in 2017, much like Zechariah 7:5
  • January 22-31 we’ll finish out the month with a traditional ‘Daniel fast’ (no meat, no sweets, etc.) as Daniel did when seeking God in Daniel 10:2-3 (although we do ask that you ignore the last sentence of verse 3 – please take a shower & comb your hair!)

My favorite Christmas reading this year…and a family devotional, too

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I first discovered the writing gift of Max Lucado about the time he wrote his first book in the 1980’s, and I’ve enjoyed him as a writer ever since.

But a few days ago I read an article he wrote for this Christmas, and I think he outdid himself!  I want to share it with all of you today – click here and enjoy!

And, if you’d like to share a devotional with your family this Christmas, join us now:

Christmas Day With The McQuays from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question comes from a CLC’er whose adult child passed away this year, and she asks painful questions that many have asked when grieving: I’m  having a really hard time regarding the loss of my son.” 

She listed a series of questions, which I’ve included below in bold, and my response is beside each one, but let me first make this statement: The Bible does not give us a neatly-packaged answer to all of our questions about life after death.  Instead, there are bits and pieces of information, scattered across many different books of the Bible, along with this over-riding truth from 1Corinthians 13:12 that speaks of ‘that day’ when we will finally be in heaven with our Lord, and gain perfect understanding.

  • where is he now?  My understanding is that believers who die are immediately in the Presence of the Lord, awaiting the Resurrection of our bodies.
  • what is he doing?  While the Bible seems to be silent on this detail, I’m sure that all those in the Presence of God are experiencing His love and joy on a level that we can’t even comprehend.
  • can he see me?  Once more, Scripture doesn’t really provide this detail, but I’ve read numerous accounts of those who had ‘near death experiences’, and their testimony is that they were definitely able to see and be aware of those on earth.  (By the way, one book I highly recommend is “Imagine Heaven” by Pastor John Burke, in which he compiles fascinating research on those NDE’s)
  • what does he know?   According to 1Cor. 13:12, he knows the Lord just as completely as the Lord knows him!  (Whether that includes knowledge of loved ones still on earth and their sorrow at losing him, I don’t know – but since there are no tears in heaven – it would seem God somehow ‘protects’ them from that knowledge)
  • is he ‘watching’ over me, his children, his siblings, etc.?  I find nothing in Scripture to indicate that loved ones in heaven play any role with us on earth.  They do not become angels, as some have believed, and there’s no example in the Bible of them intervening in the lives of people here on earth.
  • what happens to the saved who die?  As I said above, they are immediately in the Presence of the Lord.  See 2Cor. 5:1-8, especially verse 6 and verse 8
  • what and where is Paradise?  The Jews believed it was a compartment of “Abraham’s bosom” (which probably doesn’t help answer your question).  Again, the Bible isn’t clear, but I would personally think it’s a heavenly place.
  • Can we be saved and  go to heaven drunk?  I know you said this was a rhetorical and humorous question, but I also know that many believers have struggled with the circumstances of their loved one’s death by suicide or during a time of sinful compromise, so I still want to answer: whether or not we go to heaven when we die is determined by whether or not we knew Jesus as our Lord & Savior.  Period.  If we start ‘qualifying’ people on the basis of works, it becomes a slippery slope for us all – so I stay away from ‘judgment’ questions and trust Jesus to do what’s best for all His children!

Pastor Josh Moran passed on this great article that may benefit those of you whose loss is especially difficult this Christmas season.

I hope this is helpful, and mostly I pray for every reader who has lost a loved one this year – knowing that more knowledge still doesn’t replace the emptiness in your heart.  I pray that the comfort of the Holy Spirit is very real to you during this holiday season, and beyond.

Would YOU care to join the conversation?  If you have comments to add to my attempt to answer, OR a question of your own, please leave them below-

Christmas Eve already?

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Well, not quite….I know we still have 3 more days to wait for December 24.

However, we knew that some of you will be traveling out of town for the holidays, but might still want to celebrate with your church family-

SO, we’re doing 3 identical Christmas Eve celebrations at CLC, with the first one coming tonight, December 21 at 7pm!

Of course, if you’re staying close for the holidays, you can worship with us on Christmas Eve at 4pm or 5:30pm.

Whenever you choose to celebrate, it’s going to be a great time of worship and fellowship for your entire family,  so we hope to see you here!

Sunday reflections

At NWI today, Pastor Sam jokingly said, "if you're a first time guest, join me onstage & share your testimony" and before he could explain he was joking, this young lady came up, gave a great testimony & received a standing ovation from the congregation! Gotta love CLC!!

At NWI today, Pastor Sam jokingly said, “if you’re a first time guest, join me onstage & share your testimony” and before he could explain he was joking, this young lady came up, gave a great testimony & received a standing ovation from the congregation! Gotta love CLC!!

And I hear that Pastor Sam preached the paint off the walls today!

And I hear that Pastor Sam preached the paint off the walls today!

Love the holiday look at NWI-

Love the holiday look at NWI-

Here's a reason the worship at CLC-Blue Island is anointed: Alan Franklin leads the whole team in prayer every Sunday!

Here’s a reason the worship at CLC-Blue Island is anointed: Alan Franklin leads the whole team in prayer every Sunday!

Looks like BI KidsLife Director Harry Valentine plays a mean Air Guitar-

Looks like BI KidsLife Director Harry Valentine plays a mean Air Guitar- (even better, looks like the kids like it, too!)

Pastors Brent & Sol brought a message from the movie, "Christmas Story" that connected well & one person prayed to receive Christ & some other new families responded as well!

Pastors Brent & Sol brought a message from the movie, “Christmas Story” that connected well & one person prayed to receive Christ & some other new families responded as well!

After service, the Core leadership team had a Christmas party with some friendly 'gingerbread house construction' competition. This team won the "Most Beautiful" prize-

After service, the Core leadership team had a Christmas party with some friendly ‘gingerbread house construction’ competition. This team won the “Most Beautiful” prize for their creation-

I was told this team received the prize for "Ugliest House" (but I don't believe it)

I was told this team received the prize for “Ugliest House” (but I don’t believe it)

needless to say, the competition was pretty intense

needless to say, the competition was pretty intense

and the end results were A-MAZING!

and the end results were A-MAZING!

You must agree: CLC'ers are a creative bunch!

You must agree: CLC’ers are a creative bunch!

 

Jingle Jam featured the "Perfect Christmas Story" from our own Ms. Angie

Jingle Jam featured the “Perfect Christmas Story” from our own Ms. Angie

And of course, Mr. Joel and the Honorable Reginald Fastidious proved a picture is worth a thousand words

And of course, Mr. Joel and the Honorable Reginald Fastidious proved a picture is worth a thousand words

even the "Hoof game" showed us that there's nothing like WINNING

even the “Hoof game” showed us that there’s nothing like WINNING (special thanks to Pastor Micah…er, I mean Guy Corvette for serving as our Game Host)

Lest you think it was all fun & games, I'm glad that Harmony LaBeff & the SoP brought us into His Presence, too!

Lest you think it was all fun & games, I’m glad that Harmony LaBeff & the SoP brought us into His Presence, too!

44 years to celebrate!

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I may not be able to publish my usual “Sunday reflections” post today, because Chris and I had to move up our travel plans by one day to escape Chicago’s winter storm, and we headed to the airport immediately after the noon service.

Since my birthday (which I’m not celebrating) and our wedding anniversary both fall the week before Christmas, we always try to get someplace warm to celebrate. This year it’s a short Caribbean cruise, so I’m checking out for the next 5 days – no posts here, no Facebook, no Twitter – just me and my honey!

We’ve got a lot of celebrating to do – she’s the woman of my dreams, and God has been so good to us!

See you next Sunday for Jingle Jam!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting this from 2013 in the hopes that it may be helpful to some who may be considering a new church home in the new year:

One of our faithful CLC-NWI members writes, You recently pointed to a link of steps someone should follow when leaving a church under difficult circumstances.  You also faced a difficult situation with a specific denomination. I’d like to have you comment on the steps you could or did not follow and how forgiveness played a part.”

Interesting question….I honestly hadn’t thought of it in regards to my experience in leaving the denomination in which I was raised.  First, here’s the link I cited before.

Now, here are the 5 actions recommended by the writer & my personal experience:

  • Share your reasons & thinking with the leaders.  I did this, kinda.  By that I mean I did share my thoughts and heart with some other ministers prior to leaving, including some in positions of authority.  But I did not seek out the specific leaders in authority over me, because my issue was doctrinal and I had no expectation of changing the entire denomination’s stance on those issues.  I guess I felt that if I couldn’t support the denomination’s teaching, I should just leave.  So I did.
  • Resolve any outstanding conflicts.  I guess I could say I did this, because I honestly had no conflicts with the denomination or it’s officials on a personal level.  There really was nothing for me to forgive, because I wasn’t offended.
  • Express appreciation for the church’s ministry in your life.  Yes, I did this, both to various ministers that I knew then, and at times, even to this day.  (I will admit that I probably should do this more, for in spite of what I perceive as legalisms and Biblical errors that I no longer support, I am very grateful for what my faith family deposited in my life that helped shape me into the man I am today)
  • Say “goodbye” to friends & family.  I did not really do this, and if I have any regrets for how I left my denomination, this would be it.  At the time, I didn’t want to influence anyone else or try to persuade them to leave with me, since my decision to leave was based on the fact that I could no longer uphold the established teachings of the denomination, so rather than hurt or influence friends, I just chose to leave. Looking back now, I’d say my motives were right but probably my actions were not, since my failure to communicate no doubt caused some confusion among my friends.
  • Be Honest with Yourself about Your Own Efforts, Motives & Failings.  This I did, because the main reason it took me so long in making my decision to leave (probably at least 4 years) was me making sure that I was hearing God, and not acting out of any other motives.  I distinctly recall conversations with some of my minister friends who were leaving the fellowship at that same time for what I considered insufficient reasons – things like church politics or their family’s desire not to keep the ‘dress codes’ any longer.  I made it clear to them that I would only leave if I became truly convinced that our teachings were not Biblical and that God was leading me to leave.
Don’t know if this helped anyone or not – I hope so.  But it was a good exercise for me personally to reflect on the decision I made over 20 years ago.  By the way, it took me a while to make the decision, but it’s one that I’ve never looked back on with regret.  Thank God for what HE is doing at CLC, and for where HE is taking us together!
Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Israel, day 9

Our final day of the trip began with a surprise visit from our tour guide, Andrey Gelbet. Of the 5 times I've toured Israel, Andrey is my favorite guide and we look forward to seeing him again!

Our final day of the trip began with a surprise visit at our Jerusalem hotel from our first tour guide, Andrey Gelbet. Of the 5 times I’ve toured Israel, Andrey is my favorite guide and we look forward to seeing him again!

We had the privilege of being at one of CLC's partners, "Revive Israel" for their Wednesday time of worship, prophetic ministry & teaching. This pic is the Founder/Director, Asher Intrater, who brought a great teaching about the purpose of apostles today.

We had the privilege of being at one of CLC’s partners, “Revive Israel” for their Wednesday time of worship, prophetic ministry & teaching. This pic is the Founder/Director, Asher Intrater, who brought a great teaching about the purpose of apostles today.

The final teaching of the morning came from our friend, Daniel Juster, Director of the Tikkun network of ministries, our primary partner in the Land.

The final teaching of the morning came from our friend, Daniel Juster, Director of the Tikkun network of ministries, our primary partner in the Land.

No visit to Israel is complete without a visit to the Garden Tomb, which meets all the Biblical descriptions of the place of Jesus' burial - but HE is not there; He is risen indeed!

No visit to Israel is complete without a visit to the Garden Tomb, which meets all the Biblical descriptions of the place of Jesus’ burial – but HE is not there; He is risen indeed!

Finally, we toured the full length of the Western Wall underground, thru tunnels and ended our visit to Israel with a final look at the Western Wall at night - and it was even more special to have the love of my life share the experience with me!

Finally, we toured the full length of the Western Wall underground, thru tunnels and ended our visit to Israel with a final look at the Western Wall at night – and it was even more special to have the love of my life share the experience with me!

We’re home now and I can’t wait for “The Polar Express” this Sunday (December 11) at each CLC campus!

Israel, day 8

Our first stop today was climbing down some never-ending stairs to the City of David, where the pool of Siloam (see John 9) was located.  (It doesn't look like much of a pool now, but it's there beside Nikki Bosi)

Our first stop today was climbing down some never-ending stairs to the City of David, where the pool of Siloam (see John 9) was located. (It doesn’t look like much of a pool now, but it’s there beside Nikki Bosi)

While many of the "holy sites" are based on tradition and we don't really know if they're the true location, we DO know that the steps behind our guide are the southern steps which led to the main entrance of the Temple, and Jesus walked on these steps without a doubt!

While many of the “holy sites” are based on tradition and we don’t really know if they’re the true location, we DO know that the steps behind our guide are the southern steps which led to the main entrance of the Temple, and that Jesus walked on these steps without a doubt!

What a personal thrill to share this trip with my wife and two of our children - here posing in front of the southern retaining wall just outside where the temple once stood.

What a personal thrill to share this trip with my wife and two of our children – here posing in front of the southern retaining wall just outside where the temple once stood.

Just as Jesus prophesied, when the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A.D., they didn't leave one stop atop another.  They also started to tear down the retaining wall around the Temple Mount by pushing the stones off the top, but it soon became too much work (since the smallest stone weighed 2.5 tons!) and that's why we have a Western Wall where  people can gather to pray.  This picture shows some of those original stones still laying where the Romans pushed them down.

Just as Jesus prophesied, when the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A.D., they didn’t leave one stop atop another. They also started to tear down the retaining wall around the Temple Mount by pushing the stones off the top, but it soon became too much work (since the smallest stone weighed 2.5 tons!) and that’s why we have a Western Wall where people can gather to pray. This picture shows some of those original stones still laying where the Romans pushed them down. (In fact, one of them even had an inscription that it was the stone from the corner where the trumpeter sounded the alarm for Israel!)

We ended our day at the "heaviest" place in Israel - Yad Vashem - the memorial to the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.  Perhaps the saddest part is the Children's memorial for 1.5 million children who died - and this sculpture is in honor of Janusz Korczak, a medical doctor who cared for almost 200 orphans during the Holocaust, and when the Final Solution came, he refused the Germans offer to spare his life and chose instead to die with this 'children' in the gas chambers.

We ended our day at the “heaviest” place in Israel – Yad Vashem – the memorial to the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Perhaps the saddest part is the Children’s memorial for 1.5 million children who died – and this sculpture is in honor of Janusz Korczak, a medical doctor who cared for almost 200 orphans in Poland during the Holocaust, and when the Final Solution came, he refused the Germans’ offer to spare his life and chose instead to die with this ‘children’ in the gas chambers.

Tomorrow will be the longest day of our trip, as we start early with a worship service at “Revive Israel” (one of CLC’s partners in the Land), before going to the Garden Tomb and seeing the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (and resurrection!).  After our final stop at Hezekiah’s tunnel under the streets of Jerusalem, we’ll head to the airport for the long flight home.

Shalom!

 

 

Israel, day 7

We spent all of Monday in the Old City of Jerusalem, beginning on the Mt. of Olives with this group photo-

We spent all of Monday in the Old City of Jerusalem, beginning on the Mt. of Olives with this group photo-

The pool of Bethesda mentioned in John 5 (healing of the impotent man) as it looks today

The pool of Bethesda mentioned in John 5 (healing of the impotent man) as it looks today

The highlight of every trip to the pool of Bethesda is actually at St. Anne’s church next door, famous for it’s amazing acoustics.  Of course, we had to test it by singing “It is Well with my Soul” as a group – and it was beautiful (if I say so myself)

We closed our day's tour at the holiest site in all of Israel (or in all the world) - the Western Wall.  (This is the retaining wall that surrounded the Second Temple, which was completely destroyed in 70 A.D.)  Since the Holiest of Holies was closest to this western wall, people gather here to pray, giving it the nickname, "Wailing Wall".  As a sign asking for all to respect the place says, this is "where the Divine Presence always rests"!  It's always a privilege to pray here-

We closed our day’s tour at the holiest site in all of Israel (or in all the world) – the Western Wall. (This is the retaining wall that surrounded the Second Temple, which was completely destroyed in 70 A.D.) Since the Holiest of Holies was closest to this western wall, people gather here to pray, giving it the nickname, “Wailing Wall”. As a sign asking for all to respect the place says, this is “where the Divine Presence always rests”! It’s always a privilege to pray here-

Tomorrow will be another full day in the Old City, including a visit to Yad Vashem, the museum to the Holocaust, which I think is the heaviest place on earth.  I’ll post more then-

Israel, day 6

This model of Jerusalem at the time of Christ was one of the highlights of the day - it really helped us all get familiar with the sights we'll see up close in the days ahead.

This model of Jerusalem at the time of Christ was one of the highlights of the day – it really helped us all get familiar with the sights we’ll see up close in the days ahead.

This was our first glimpse overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem  - and we were breathless!  The whole team can't wait until tomorrow when we explore up close-

This was our first glimpse overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem – and we were breathless! The whole team can’t wait until tomorrow when we explore up close-

Personally (and maybe a bit selfishly) this trip has been my best ever because of having our children share in the experience with us!

Personally (and maybe a bit selfishly) this trip has been my best ever because of having our children share in the experience with us!

Israel, day 5

Because of yesterday's storm, no boats operated on the Sea of Galilee, so we joined in with a church group from Singapore today.  Both flags were raised when we left shore to the "Star Spangled Banner"

Because of yesterday’s storm, no boats operated on the Sea of Galilee, so we joined in with a church group from Singapore today. Both flags were raised when we left shore as the “Star Spangled Banner” played.

When we left the boat at the Sea of Galilee, the first person we saw in line to board was none other than the comedian, Michael Jr!  (Sorry about taking a pic into the sun - but take my word for it, it's really him!)

When we left the boat at the Sea of Galilee, the first person we saw in line to board was none other than the comedian, Michael Jr! (Sorry about taking a pic into the sun – but take my word for it, it’s really him!)

The highlight of our Sabbath service at 'Tents of Mercy' was the ordination of Avishalom & his wife as senior leaders of the ministry.  Our long-time partner, Eitan Shishkoff, who founded the ministry, will be moving into an apostolic role throughout the nation. Other partners of CLC are pictured here praying over Avishalom - Leon Mazin of 'Return to Zion' in Haifa (at left, with his hand on Avishalom), Dan & Patty Juster, Tikkun Directors (left & center of pic), Asher Intrater of 'Revive Israel' in Jerusalem (behind pulpit, next to Patty), and Eitan Shishkoff (far right)

The highlight of our Sabbath service at ‘Tents of Mercy’ was the ordination of Avishalom & his wife as senior leaders of the ministry. Our long-time partner, Eitan Shishkoff, who founded the ministry, will be moving into an apostolic role throughout the nation. Other partners of CLC are pictured here praying over Avishalom – Leon Mazin of ‘Return to Zion’ in Haifa (at left, with his hand on Avishalom), Dan & Patty Juster, Tikkun Directors (Dan wearing prayer shawl at left-center of pic & Patty at center of pic, directly behind Avishalom’s wife), Asher Intrater of ‘Revive Israel’ in Jerusalem (behind pulpit, next to Patty), and Eitan Shishkoff (right, with microphone)

We ended the day with a tour of the ancient city of Akko, an important port city that played a prominent role during the infamous Crusades.  When we stepped out of the historical site, the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea grabbed our attention- (the gal with the umbrella is pretty nice, too)

We ended the day with a tour of the ancient city of Akko, an important port city that played a prominent role during the infamous Crusades. When we stepped out of the historical site, the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea grabbed our attention- (the gal with the umbrella is pretty nice, too)

 

Israel, day 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel, day 3

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

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

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

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

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

Israel, day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel, day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday reflections

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

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

And Tony Powell KILLED it on "Give Thanks"!

And Tony Powell KILLED it on “Give Thanks”!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Last day in Nairobi; headed HOME!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday reflections from KENYA

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAPRO meetings, day 2

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

CIC meetings in Nairobi

with Dondo Iorlamen, National Director for CAPRO in Nigeria

with Dondo Iorlamen, National Director for CAPRO in Nigeria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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