Ask the Pastor

I guess this question from one of my favorite CLC’ers is perhaps the most appropriate one  I could answer on Halloween: “As I was sitting in service [for the opening of 'Break Every Chain'] I thought of a question.  What is an exorcism?  How does it relate to deliverance and spiritual warfare?”

Great question, especially in light of our current series.  Here’s my take on it:

  • Exorcism is simply a ‘formal’ term for deliverance, and the word normally used by Roman Catholics, whereas most non-denominational churches use the word, ‘deliverance’ instead.  Exorcism does NOT have to involve a head spinning around backwards, green vomit, physical gyrations or any of the drama usually attached to it in Hollywood horror films.

exorcism

  • Instead, when a person is demonized - that’s the correct way to Biblically describe someone who has come  under the influence of a demon, whether it’s reflected in physical sickness or ailment  OR through addictive behaviors OR emotional problems – the solution is not just to discipline their fleshly nature.  No, if the problem is caused by a demon, the answer must include evicting (“exorcising” the demon by using our authority in Christ and commanding it to go, in the name and authority of the Lord Jesus!
  • Remember Pastor Jack Hayford’s quote, “You can’t disciple a demon and you can’t cast out the flesh!”I say we need both discipleship AND deliverance.  Exorcism is the deliverance part.
  • At CLC, I’m determined that we won’t get obsessed with demons or allow our services or small group ministries to be hijacked by demonic manifestations – BUT I’m just as determined that we won’t put a bandaid on someone’s problem by not offering them deliverance from evil spirits, just because some in our ‘enlightened’  country reject the notion that demons exist, or the ‘religious’ folks who insist that a Christian can’t have a problem with a demon.  One-third of Jesus’ ministry was  casting out demons, and I know that even today HE wants to ‘break every chain’!

If this seemed like a shameless plug for our current sermon series at CLC, perhaps it was – but I know that THIS Sunday, November 2, we will deal with the second major open door through which the enemy gets access to our lives, and it’s the ONE spirit that I think is the biggest attack in our nation and in The Church today.  I hope you’ll join us at any Chicagoland CLC campus this Sunday in “Fighting for your Life!”

Hope that helped.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Just leave your question or comment below-

Cambodia, Day 7

Our final day of ministry is now finished! After a bite to eat and a little shopping, we’ll be headed to the airport for the first of three flights that should get us back to O’Hare by mid-afternoon on Saturday!

Here’s a few pics from our final EQUIP training at New Life Fellowship:

Pastor Jesse McCaul is not only a great leader & pastor of a great church, but he's perhaps the best interpreter I've ever worked with internationally, too!

Pastor Jesse McCaul is not only a great leader & pastor of a great church, but he’s perhaps the best interpreter I’ve ever worked with internationally, too!

Chris really fell in love with this sister who is courageously involved in the justice mission for girls in the sex trafficking trade.  She gave Chris the necklace she's holding today before we left.

Chris really fell in love with this sister who is courageously involved in the justice mission for girls in the sex trafficking trade. She gave Chris the necklace she’s holding today before we left.

This sweet sister gave Chris flowers today, and the young man helped her pick them out.

This sweet sister gave Chris flowers today, and the young man helped her pick them out.

Pray for no delays or complications in travel, and we’ll see you Sunday morning at CLC!

 

Cambodia, Day 6

This post will be short & sweet because, well, honestly, Chris & I are both toast.  I think there was so much nervous energy/excitment about the EQUIP conference for the Ministry of Education, plus the small group opportunities yesterday, that by the time today rolled around, neither one of us had much left in the tank.

Of course, we gave our best to the 400 Christian leaders, pastors & businesspeople who gathered today for another EQUIP Conference at New Life Fellowship and they were as wonderful & responsive as always:

Chris demonstrated servant-leadership by re-enacting Jesus washing the disciples feet

Chris demonstrated servant-leadership by re-enacting Jesus washing the disciples feet

Leaders must be good listeners!

Leaders must be good listeners!

This is Joel, the son of a New Life member who helps rehabilitate girls rescued from sex trafficking.  Isn't he a cutie? (We had to get our Nonny & Poppy time in somehow)

This is Joel, the son of a New Life member who helps rehabilitate girls rescued from sex trafficking. Isn’t he a cutie? (We had to get our Nonny & Poppy time in somehow)

After a night’s sleep, we’ve got about 4 more hours of teaching to finish up this final Conference tomorrow and then hang out for about 10 hours before the first of three flights that will get us back home by Saturday afternoon.  

Can’t wait to see everyone at CLC on Sunday!

 

Cambodia, Day 5

Today was the middle day in between two intense EQUIP conferences and Chris & I both had an unusual change of pace from our ‘normal’ missions trips.  She met with about 25 women leaders from NGO’s, parachurch ministries and other endeavors, for an all-day retreat just outside Phnom Penh.  She was able to share several teachings with them, some Q&A, small group discussions, prophetic ministry and prayer together!  Whew – that’s a lot packed into one day!

Chris was personally quite touched because several of these brave women are involved in dangerous and demanding ministries, rescuing girls in the trafficking trades, etc.  It was especially gratifying to see them able to come together like this for the first time and  receive ministry themselves, since they give out so much.

I spent several hours meeting with 4 of the sharpest leaders I’ve encountered overseas, the District Pastors for New Life Fellowship under Pastor Jesse McCaul.  It was a great time of Q & A on a level I seldom if ever get to share internationally, and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

Enjoy a few pics from the ladies retreat (I forgot to take any pics of the guys):

some of the 25 women who gathered with Chris

some of the 25 women who gathered with Chris

these high-powered, intense women leaders enjoyed a little fun with Play Dough in one session - seeing how God made man!

these high-powered, intense women leaders enjoyed a little fun with Play Dough in one session – seeing how God made man!

The opportunity to share together, discuss truth & encourage one another was a highlight of the day!

The opportunity to share together, discuss truth & encourage one another was a highlight of the day!

 

 

Cambodia, Day 4

I. Don’t. Think. It. Could. Have. Gone. Better.

Seriously, thank you for your prayers for our EQUIP conference with the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports these last 2 days.  When we got back to our room last night, I was simply too tired to go online and post this report (I was asleep by 8pm here), but this has been both an amazing opportunity for the work of God in Cambodia, and the response was everything we had hoped for:

One of the Cambodian officials who 'raved' about how much this conf was helpful & needed.  The official in charge (not pictured) told us they had no idea beforehand how beneficial the conf. would be & that they hope to do it again w/even more delegates from throughout Cambodia!

One of the Cambodian officials who ‘raved’ about how much this conf was helpful & needed. The official in charge (not pictured) told us they had no idea beforehand how beneficial the conf. would be & that they hope to do it again w/even more delegates from throughout Cambodia!

  • This was the fulfillment of a 3-year dream for Pastor Jesse, as he has prayed that a door of influence with the Cambodian government would open for New Life, and the conversations with the Ministry of Education officials certainly seem to indicate there will be many new open doors of cooperation & ministry opportunities ahead!
The big surprise for me was the students - they were handpicked from 38 different universities because of their leadership & scholastic achievement.  Some of them are student body presidents & class leaders; EVERYONE we spoke with was also involved in serving others in their province, leading organizations, etc.  SUCH POTENTIAL!

The big surprise for me was the students – they were handpicked from 38 different universities because of their leadership & scholastic achievement. Some of them are student body presidents & class leaders; EVERYONE we spoke with was also involved in serving others in their province, leading organizations, etc. SUCH POTENTIAL! 

  • One of the students teaches a night class, and on Monday night, after listening to us all day, he presented an impromptu lesson on “Leadership Principles from King David”, even though he had no Bible & had just heard about David that day!
Near the end, some of the students 'competed' in Jenga in order to share a principle they had learned.  The young woman at far right 'won' the competition & received an autographed copy of a John Maxwell book as her prize.

Near the end, some of the students ‘competed’ in Jenga in order to share a principle they had learned. The young woman at far right ‘won’ the competition & received an autographed copy of a John Maxwell book as her prize.

  • casually mentioned yesterday morning that since they had heard us make references to the Bible, if perhaps they wanted one for themselves, we’d have them available in the afternoon.  We brought 100 copies in the Khmer language to give away, and they were all taken in a matter of minutes!
One of our delegates was a Buddhist monk, who told me personally he wants to begin attending the weekend activities at New Life Fellowship!

One of our delegates was a Buddhist monk, who told me personally he wants to begin attending the weekend activities at New Life Fellowship!

  • When Pastor Jesse announced the address of New Life Fellowship where they could go to get a copy of the Bible & other materials, it seemed like every delegate scrambled to write down the address or take a picture of the announcement slide with their cell phone, as they planned to go there to get their own copy!  In fact, other students indicated that they would come to “attend the weekend activities” at New Life - the openness of these students is unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere in the world!

Thank you again for your prayers – they are being answered here in Phnom Penh!

Today Chris will lead a 1-day retreat with women in leadership, several of whom lead ministries to rescue and rehabilitate girls who are victims of human trafficking here, while I meet with about a dozen District Pastors who are responsible for caring for the 2,000 members of New Life through cell groups across the entire city.  Should be fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cambodia prayer request

Actually, probably 2 requests:

1) for healing for Chris.  She was battling a cold before we left Chicago, and it’s turned into a full-blown sinus and throat infection.  She started losing her voice yesterday afternoon during the sessions with the Ministry of Education, and we still have 4 full day sof ministry to go!

The sign welcoming everyone to this forum for leadership - note the EQUIP logo & New Life Foundation as sponsors - top right.

The sign welcoming everyone to this forum for leadership – note the EQUIP logo & New Life Foundation as sponsors – top right.

2) The goal all along for this conference with the MoE is that it would open doors of influence for Pastor Jesse’s ministry at New Life Fellowship, for ongoing opportunities.  In that regard, yesterday could not have gone better!  Several of the governmental officials told him privately that they had never heard such teaching on leadership, and how thankful they were that we brought this to them.  Already some were asking about how they could ‘get involved’ with his organization! (This in a country that is 95% Buddhist!!!).  In addition, the majority of the delegates are handpicked students from the top universities in Cambodia, and they represent a HUGE open door for New Life, especially since the majority of it’s members are also young people.

University students discussing the lesson yesterday

University students discussing the lesson yesterday

So please pray that this final day of the conference that it would continue to be an amazing open door for continued ministry and influence in reaching this nation with the Gospel!

MoE

Cambodia, Day 3

Our 3rd day here was THE day we’ve waited for almost 18 months (actually, for Pastor Jesse it’s been over 3 years of praying & preparing!) as we began the EQUIP seminar for the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports today with about 300 delegates from that ministry and selected students from the top universities of Cambodia:

This pic of Chris teaching w/Pastor Jesse interpreting says it all: we were all NERVOUS before we got started, but soon after the teaching began, the FUN started!

This pic of Chris teaching w/Pastor Jesse interpreting says it all: we were all NERVOUS before we got started, but soon after the teaching began, the FUN started!

Leaders don't just put bandaids on problems!

Leaders don’t just put bandaids on problems!

 

Leaders look beyond people's faults to see their potential!

Leaders look beyond people’s faults to see their potential!

The delegates really came alive during their group discussion times!

The delegates really came alive during their group discussion times!

 

 

Sunday reflections

Here’s what’s been reported to me about this Sunday at CLC (while we’re in Cambodia):

After a powerful time of worship & the Word, more than 30 people came to receive Jesus at our Davao, Philippines campus today!

After a powerful time of worship & the Word, more than 30 people came to receive Jesus at our Davao, Philippines campus today!

  • Pastor Sam Hamstra reports that our NWI campus responded well to the message today and said “this series has been eye-opening & so powerful already!”
Blue Island had a strong attendance today, especially in the English service.  Pastor William was nervous about teaching today's message in English, but I hear that the insights about Job were eye-opening to folks, and there was a great response!

Blue Island had a strong attendance today, especially in the English service. Pastor William was nervous about teaching today’s message in English, but I hear that the insights about Job were eye-opening to folks, and there was a great response!

If you attended any CLC campus today, I’d love to hear your thoughts about “Permission Granted”.  How did the Lord minister to you today?  Please leave your comments below-

(just don’t say anything about da Bears – I already heard)

 

Cambodia, Day 2

Our Sunday in Cambodia is already over, with a visit to New Life Fellowship for 2 of their 3 services (we’re skipping the 3rd service tonight in order to finish preparing for tomorrow’s conference with the governmental officials).

Coming here feels SO much like home – if we could speak Khmer, I think it would seem exactly like home because of the joyful intensity of worship and the work of the Holy Spirit in their services.  I’m excited about the fact that Pastor Sam Hamstra will lead a team of CLC’ers here next summer to conduct an evangelistic youth camp for them – so sign up at the missions kiosk and start saving your money now!

Enjoy a few pics of our day:

I love how people all around the world can be gifted in similar ways!  This young man reminds me of our Dee Wilson or Jon Jones, with such a heart of worship!

I love how people all around the world can be gifted in similar ways! This young man reminds me of our Dee Wilson or Jon Jones, with such a heart of worship!

And, just like CLC, he had the help of a great team of singers & musicians!

And, just like CLC, he had the help of a great team of singers & musicians!

Samady (spelling?) helped me teach the people how to receive the Word more deeply!

Samady (spelling?) helped me teach the people how to receive the Word more deeply!

Pastor Simon Chua from New Life Community Church in Singapore was the guest speaker in the 2nd service, so I got a chance to sit back & receive!

Pastor Simon Chua from New Life Community Church in Singapore was the guest speaker in the 2nd service, so I got a chance to sit back & receive!

Please PRAY for our meetings these next 2 days with the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports, that God would show up in the teachings to speak to the hearts of influencers.

And if you attend any Chicagoland campus of CLC today, please leave a comment below as to how the message, “Permission Granted” impacted you personally-

 

 

 

 

Cambodia, Day 1

Today was one of the smartest days we’ve spent in missions travels.

We didn’t have to do anything, except catch up a bit from the jetlag of crossing 12 time zones in 32 hours of travel, door to door (our house to hotel room).  I couldn’t tell you how many times Chris and I have landed someplace halfway around the world and gone immediately to the venue to begin teaching.  Not smart. 

Instead, we slept until 8am; had a relaxed breakfast at the hotel; and spent most all morning preparing for the week of ministry here.

This afternoon we had an enjoyable long lunch and fellowship with our hosts, Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul from New Life Fellowship, and learned that the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports is expecting 360 governmental officials & top university students for our MLM Seminar for EQUIP on Monday and Tuesday (that’s 100 more than we had been told previously – what an amazing opportunity this is!)

L to R, Soar, Josiah, Jesse, Jessica (not sure of the dog's name)

L to R, Soar, Josiah, Jesse, Jessica (not sure of the dog’s name)

My American friends won’t believe it, but dinner was directly across the street from our hotel at Burger King!

Burger_King_Whopper_Combo

Now it’s a little more study for ministry tomorrow morning and then back to bed for more shut-eye.  Now this is the way to start a missions trip!

P.S. CLC’ers, even though we won’t be there tomorrow, you’ll want to be – we worked closely with our speaking team to prepare for the message which begins to show us how to close specific windows & doors to prevent the enemy from gaining access.  Tomorrow’s message (I think) is his #1 strategy against mature believers.  It’ll be good!

After 10 days…..

Just had breakfast in Cambodia after a good night’s rest (when you travel for 31 hours, it’s not too hard to sleep!) and decided to tackle my morning devotion, especially since I missed 2 days of Bible reading on the trip here.

That’s when Jeremiah 42:7 jumped out at me this morning - “And it happened after ten days that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah”.

What I immediately wanted to know is, “what happened during the 10 days?”

If you read the first 6 verses you see that sincere, God-fearing people had asked Jeremiah to pray & hear from God for them, and he agreed to do so – which kinda reminds me of time in life when any of us need direction and seek the Lord for His will & way in our lives.  But it was 10 days later before Jeremiah heard from God.

Maybe you’re in the “10-day period” today.  Needing direction.  Wanting a word from God.  Sincerely seeking to make the right decision.  But not hearing anything.

It happens.  Even to the best Christian.  Even to prophets, like Jeremiah.

So here’s my advice, after having been there so many times myself.  Don’t panic.  Don’t take matters into your own hands.  Just wait.  The answer will come.  And when it does, it will have been worth the wait – even if it’s longer than 10 days!

Colossians 3:15 still applies.

Selah.

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “Last month, I had to attend cultural sensitivity training on my job regarding the LGBT community.  I was reluctant but went with an open mind. It was very informative but I noticed how much they push tolerance.  If you do not agree with them, they label you as an enemy and assume you are coming from a place of hatred.  How must we navigate through this with love?  Because I have to process employee’s life event changes, I am aware of their sexual orientation.  I keep my views/beliefs to myself.  How do you love/reach out to/minister to those in the LGBT community when they are so defensive once they find out that you are not tolerant?

Wow. THE question of our age, I’m afraid.  Let me give you my views.

  • First, this issue is SO fraught with danger, as Hillsong’s leaders recently demonstrated with the firestorm caused by one report of tolerance that made it necessary for Pastor Brian Houston to issue a follow-up statement to clarify.
  • I read a book by an award-winning journalist-turned-pastor last year which documented the rapid changes in our nation in regards to same-sex issues, and I think the author is probably right in his conclusion that we can’t say anything publicly on this issue without being misunderstood and labeled as bigoted ‘haters’.
  • Not only do I think he’s correct, but I think that’s why conservative Christians who have a platform to reach people try so hard to couch their response in language that avoids passing judgment, yet it always seems to backfire.  (Besides the Hillsong reports above, think of Joel Osteen, other celebrities including the World Vision flip-flop, and perhaps even Rick Warren, although his comments score best with me).
  • So, my answer as to how we navigate this thorny issue is say little publicly (better yet, nothing) but serve much“!  In other words, let’s demonstrate to the LGBT community our genuine love for people (remember, Jesus died for all, regardless of sexuality) by practical and individual loving acts of service whenever possible.
  • Then, when individual opportunities arise – after having demonstrated by action that we care, we can address our views based on God’s Word and our love for them.  (By the way, the results of this lifestyle are anything but ‘gay’, as numerous studies have shown – so my desire is for LGBT individuals to find the freedom and abundant life that Jesus offers!)

This has become the defining issue of our day and we all need God’s wisdom to respond for sure.  Hope this helps a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Prayer for Cambodia

typical street scene in Phnom Penh

typical street scene in Phnom Penh

Chris & I leave early this morning for our third visit to Cambodia as Associate Trainers for EQUIP, the missions organization founded by Dr. John C. Maxwell.

This trip we finally get to do what attracted us to this opportunity in the first place, as the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports is bringing officials from every province of Cambodia, along with about 200 top university students to attend our Leadership Seminar in Phnom Penh!  This is such an amazing God-opportunity, and we sincerely need your prayers!

We’ll also be ministering for our friends at New Life Fellowship and teaching a separate Leadership Seminar for Christian leaders and business people later in the week.  In fact, our entire itinerary is attached below so you can pray specifically with insight.  (All times given are Central Daylight Time so you don’t have to do any time conversions.)

prayer for Cambodia trip

I hate to miss this Sunday in our “Break Every Chain” series, but I know that our pastors at each Chicagoland campus are well-prepared to deliver one of the most important teachings of the series.  Chris & I will be back next Sunday to teach what I believe is the biggest spirit that attacks The Church and even our nation.

Thanks in advance for your prayers!  I’ll try to post each day from Cambodia if we have internet access-

“Breaking Every Chain” PREVIEW

chains

I’m hearing some ‘buzz’ about our new series at CLC.

Not that I’m surprised.  I’ve been looking forward to it for months, even before the prophetic word in January that we were to “renew & refresh people’s understanding of spiritual warfare” and “train people on how to deal with the demonic”.

But I must tell you that the last 2 Sundays were just laying a foundation, and we’re now about to move into very specific ways that we can close any window or door into our lives so that we do not come under the influence of the enemy.

Personally, I think THIS Sunday’s teaching addresses an area where even mature believers can sometimes fall, and when we do, God is forced to give Satan permission to come against us!

And the following Sunday (November 2), is the teaching that I think is the #1 spirit that is attacking The Church and even our nation.

My advice to you: don’t miss these next 2 Sundays at any CLC Chicagoland campus – if you can’t be here live, then make every effort to watch the livestream of the service or at least get the video online afterwards.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

How MATURE are you?

mature audiences

No, I’m not using the word ‘mature’ as it’s used above “for mature audiences only”.   (Always puzzled by that one, since the subject matter that follows seems to me to be for little boys who never became men, but I digress.)

The real reason I’m asking is because of what I read in Philippians 3:15 as part of my devotions recently.  Paul says if we’re mature, we should have ‘this mind’.  What mind?

To answer that, you must go back to read verse 13, where he describes the one thing he did as forgetting those things which are behind and reaching for those things which are ahead.” That mindset, according to the greatest Apostle who ever lived, shows maturity!

Did you watch the US Little League World Series a few weeks ago?  If you did, you must have noticed that when the Jackie Robinson boys (who made all Chicagoland SO proud!)  rallied to take the lead from Las Vegas, a team that had dominated the series until then, the boys from Nevada acted like boys; i.e., they were so unnerved by the previous batter, that they couldn’t get their heads back into the game for the next batter.  Their emotions got the best of them and they lost, in large part, because they couldn’t forget those things which are behind.

That’s ok when you’re 12 years old.  It’s to be expected at that age.  But when a person is  mature, one key mark of that maturity is the ability to let go of the past so it doesn’t affect your future!

Is there something from your past that’s still interfering with you in the present?  I pray that you’ll be mature today, and realize that the past cannot have control of you unless you allow it to be so.  Don’t be childish any longer; forget those things which are behind!  Selah.

 

Sunday reflections

Well, da Bears stunk up Soldier Field today, but thank God it was much better at CLC:

My wife & I typically team-teach on marriage & family subjects, but the prophetic word said 'WE' needed to help our people in dealing w/the demonic, so we partnered on today's message.

My wife & I typically team-teach on marriage & family subjects, but the prophetic word said ‘WE’ needed to help our people in dealing w/the demonic, so we partnered on today’s message, “Knowing Your Enemy”.  Praise God for people who came forward to receive ministry in each service!

  • At our NWI Campus, Pastor Sam reports FULL altars again today & no glitches with the video transmission (that’s what we call a GOOD day!)
Our Blue Island campus had identical attendance in the English & Spanish services today, and great altar response in each!

Our Blue Island campus had identical attendance in the English & Spanish services today, and great altar response in each!

  • Pastor Herley reports that 28 people came to Jesus in the CLC-Davao service today (that never gets old!) and that our friends, Pastors Jeser & Aying at CLC-Tagum moved into their new building today with double their normal attendance and many people responding to the altar invitation for salvation!
part of the record crowd at the first service in CLC-Tagum's new location!

part of the record crowd at the first service in CLC-Tagum’s new location!

 

I guess technically this isn't part of my "Sunday reflections", but I had a great time teaching our CORE leaders yesterday with this little guy!  I'll share the platform with him anytime!!

I guess technically this isn’t part of my “Sunday reflections”, but I had a great time teaching our CORE leaders yesterday with this little guy! I’ll share the platform with him anytime!!

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers submitted a question from his adult daughter: “Do we go to heaven immediately after we die or are we waiting for Jesus to return and raise us from the dead as it also says in various scriptures like Revelation?”

Great question, and one that I’m sure many believers are confused about. I’ll try to help:

  • Prior to the resurrection of Jesus, I believe that all the dead were waiting for the day they would be resurrected and then sent to their eternal ‘home’, whether it was heaven or hell.  In fact, the Jewish teaching was that all departed souls were in a place they called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) or “Paradise” (Luke 23:43) or simply the Greek, “Hades”, or grave.  Even though both the righteous and the wicked dead were there, they were separated from each other (v. 26while they both waited for their resurrection and final judgment (see Rev. 20:12-14).
  • I see nothing in Scripture to indicate that any of this has changed for those who do not know Christ; i.e., when unbelievers die, they still go to a place of rest to await their resurrection and final judgement.
  • However, when Jesus conquered death and the grave when He was raised on the third day, ALL of that changed for the believer!  Now, when those of us who know the Lord dies, we are immediately in the Presence of the Lord! (see 2Cor. 5:1-9 and Phil. 1:21-23 and 1Thess. 4:13-18)
  • Some people get confused by the last passage I cited, when it speaks of the dead rising from their graves to be with the Lord, but in my understanding of the whole of Scripture (especially the verses cited above), I think Paul was only referring to our  body rising from the grave, while our spirit was with the Lord immediately at the time of death.  Of course, 1Cor. 15:35-56 goes into great detail as to the fact that our body will be transformed into a glorious body at the Resurrection.

Hope this helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor? Please leave your comments or questions below-

For CLC’ers only

My wife and I have been enjoying the National Institute of Christian Leadership with Dr. Mark Rutland this year (“leaders are learners”, and we have only one module left to go in November.

To prepare for it, we have an assignment, part of which is to get your answer to these two questions:

1.  What does CLC believe about worship?

2.  What do they want me to do in worship?

Please answer those questions in your own words – you can remain anonymous if you want – it’s the information we need.  Just leave your comments below.

Thanks!

Restoration!

TechnologyPartner-Logo-1.1

Yesterday as we began the series “Breaking Every Chain”, I alluded to the fact that when the thief is found, he must restore sevenfold. (see Proverbs 6:30-31)

I’ve also been meditating on Isaiah 42:22, which describes God’s people as being ‘robbed and plundered’; as becoming ‘prey’ for the enemy, and yet no one says, ‘restore’!

I have a dear friend who gave over 20 years of his life building a wonderful congregation in another state.  After seeing that work grow from about 40 people to more than 600, and from a tiny, old building to multi-million-dollar facilities, he felt called to go elsewhere to plant another church from scratch.  After he asked another friend to go there to pastor under his authority, things went sour in a short period of time, as that pastor also left and the church was completely removed from my friend’s covering.  Within the space of a few years, the church dwindled to a fraction of it’s former strength. I was grieved to see my friend walk away from 20 years of blood, sweat & tears, not to mention all that fruit, even though he maintained a good attitude and simply proceeded to build his new church plant into a thriving congregation of about 2,000 people in a matter of 13 years.

Yesterday afternoon I received word that the original congregation decided to ask their former pastor to accept them as a campus of his new work.  rejoiced with him as though it had happened to me, because it seems like such a godly response to an ungodly event.  In other words, he is now positioned to see a full restoration of everything the enemy tried to steal from him and the fruit of his labors.  Our God is a God of restoration!

Can I ask a personal question? What has the enemy tried to steal from you? 

As we continue our ‘Break Every Chain’ series at CLC, I pray that you will contend for everything the thief may have stolen and see God restore ALL that you may have thought was lost forever!

I’ll pray with you if you’ll leave a comment below as to what the thief has tried to steal that you believe the Lord will restore:

Sunday reflections

A few random thoughts about this Sunday at CLC before I settle in to watch the Bears:

  • Feels good to have the first one under our belt, as we opened the “Break Every Chain”  series today!  (Don’t think I’ve ever prepped for a series as long as this one – first started thinking about it over a year ago!)

chains

  • Love, love, LOVE the new song Jon & the SoP taught us today, “Kingdom Come”  from our friends at Covenant Worship!
Always LOVE to see people baptized - today it was Cassandra & Dominique Simental

Always LOVE to see people baptized – today it was Cassandra Thompson & Dominique Simental!

Pastor Sam says worship is getting stronger & stronger at NWI, and that he'd never seen the altars so FULL as today - great response & huge expectation for this series!

Pastor Sam says worship is getting stronger & stronger at NWI, and that he’d never seen the altars so FULL as today – great response & huge expectation for this series!

In Blue Island, Pastor William preached that you don't have to carry your chains home; Jesus will take them from you! (thanks to Francisco Simental)

In Blue Island, Pastor William preached that you don’t have to carry your chains home; Jesus will take them from you! (thanks to Francisco Simental for being the object lesson!)

Such a bittersweet day, though - gonna miss these folks!  Love you, Pastors Tony & Angie Gilmore!!

Such a bittersweet day, though – gonna miss these folks! Love you, Pastors Tony & Angie Gilmore!!

and the Bears are actually out to a 13-3 lead while I’ve been working on this post….I’d say that’s a GOOD day (so far at least)

Ask the Pastor

Today’s question comes from one of my favorite CLC’ers who writes, “I grew up as a Seventh Day Adventist, and heard teaching about the Sabbath. My question is, what makes you worship on Sunday as opposed to Saturday? Does it really stem from tradition or some other reason?”

Great question.  And my answer is definitely NO; it doesn’t stem from tradition at all.  Here are my reasons for worshiping on Sunday rather than the Sabbath (Saturday):

First of all, Romans 14:5-6 indicates (to me) that there is NO right or wrong day to worship the Lord; we honor Him no matter which day we choose to worship.  For that reason, from a practical standpoint, I think we are free to choose the day that would allow the most people to worship.  In the USA, right now, that day would be Sunday, since more people have Sunday off work than any other day.  I’ve been in countries where that is not true – where Sunday is a regular work day, and I’ve known of churches in those situations who chose to gather for worship on Friday, which was a day off in their culture.  Since Paul told us no one day is better than another, I believe churches are free to make that practical choice. Col. 2:16-17 also affirms that the important thing is who we worship; not which day of the week.

However, there are other Biblical reasons to choose Sunday:

  • while we don’t know exactly when the early Church switched from Sabbath worship to Sunday worship, we do know that they did, from passages such as Acts 20:7  and 1Cor. 16:2.
  • Most Bible scholars feel that this gradual change from Saturday to Sunday happened as The Church became more Gentile than Jewish (since the new Gentile believers wouldn’t have the Jewish tradition of worshiping on the Sabbath), and that it was done so to celebrate/commemorate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, rather than Saturday.  So Sunday worship was a way to celebrate His victorious Resurrection.
  • For sure, by the time John wrote the last book of the Bible, worship on Sunday seems to be entrenched, as he wrote in Rev. 1:10 that he worshiped on “The Lord’s day”, and every scholar I’ve ever read says that was a clear reference to Sunday.

So, to summarize, (1) there is NO day required for worship gatherings and we are free to choose. (Our Messianic partners in Israel do worship on the Sabbath, either on Friday night after 6pm, or on Saturday morning, and I’ve had the privilege of joining them.); (2) the early church began to worship on Sunday as a way to celebrate the Resurrection; (3) Since most Americans have Sundays off work, it makes sense to American churches to gather when the most people can join us.

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

 

 

Old dogs, new tricks, and YOU

old-dog-new-tricks

I’ve spent the last 34 hours in Dallas attending the first-ever “Pastors School” with Jimmy Evans.  I discovered that I’m actually about 10 months older than Jimmy, and I’ve pastored longer than he has.  (‘old dog’)

But in these intense 2 days, I’ve learned new truths and compelling methods that demonstrate wisdom that I’ve never known, and some of the most helpful, practical information that I’ve ever heard in any gathering of pastors.  (‘new tricks’)

So anyone who says “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” must never have heard the adage that “leaders are learners”, or my personal favorite, “when you’re too old to learn, you’re too dumb to live!”

I said that to say that THIS Sunday at each Chicagoland campus of CLC, I’ll be sharing some wisdom straight from God’s Word about spiritual warfare and dealing with the demonic.  I’m asking every CLC’er, no matter how much you’ve heard & learned about this subject, or how long you’ve been walking with the Lord, to come this weekend with high expectations that you’re going to personally receive from the Lord.  I truly believe this series will be life-changing, if we come with open hearts.

I can’t wait.

Congrats, Pastors Tony & Angie Gilmore

Pastors Tony & Angie Gilmore and their wonderful family

Pastors Tony & Angie Gilmore and their wonderful family

It’s hard to believe that it was less than two-and-a-half years ago that we first met Tony & Angie Gilmore.  They came to us from the St. Louis Dream Center (part of Joyce Meyer Ministries) and won our hearts immediately. As Campus Pastors in Tinley Park, Tony has overseen virtually every area of our day-to-day ministries, like a true shepherd.

One Wednesday night this summer I sat at the back of the auditorium while he taught a Bible study about decision-making and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  As he taught, I thought to myself, “this is the best teaching on that subject that I’ve ever heard in over 40 years of ministry!”  I also told myself that some church somewhere was going to snatch him away from CLC so he could more fully use his gifts to teach and preach.

I had hoped that day wouldn’t come for a few years, but instead, just a month or so ago, the Dream Center in St. Louis contacted him and offered him the position of Lead Pastor for the congregation of 700-800 people there, serving under Joyce Meyer.  After much prayer and counsel, Tony accepted their offer, and this Sunday marks his farewell day at CLC. (Angie will remain behind so their daughter Amber can graduate here, instead of transferring to a new school in her senior year of high school.  Angie will also continue working in our finance office, so you’ll get to see her some until school’s out.)

Please sign a farewell card in the lobby on Sunday, or bring your own card to express your appreciation for Tony’s ministry, as we also receive a special love-offering to bless him as he goes.  The good news is that he will always be part of our family (‘once a CLC’er, always a CLC’er!), and you even have the opportunity to serve with him again next summer as we send a missions team to work at the St. Louis Dream Center!

Thanks, Pastors Tony & Angie – we love you and we’re expecting great reports from the St. Louis Dream Center!

Talking Bible: Superficial healing

I was doing my morning Bible reading a few days ago, when Jeremiah 6:14 jumped off the page at me.  Jeremiah spoke prophetically to the ‘pastors’ of his day and said they had offered “superficial treatments for mortal wounds (the NKJV says ‘healed the hurt of My people slightly!’)

That’s an easy trap to fall into in our positive-thinking-at-all-costs world.  “Tell me something to make me feel better, preacher”, is a voice I’ve heard all too often.

But there’s a big difference between being totally healed and being healed slightly.  And too many believers that I know are still suffering & struggling with stuff that Jesus died for them to have freedom from!

You’ve heard me say it before, but I’ve never felt it as strongly as today: our next series at CLC is going to help change lives as people truly get healed, completely.  I believe we’re going to help people to ‘Break Every Chain’ of the enemy in their life over these next several weeks, and to be “free indeed” as Jesus promised in John 8:31-36.

Starts this Sunday at every CLC Chicagoland campus. Come expecting.

Brake Every Chain from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

In case you missed our Missions Dinner last night…

I thought you might enjoy some pics and videos from our Missions Emphasis:

CLC'ers are SERIOUSLY competitive about table games!

CLC’ers are SERIOUSLY competitive about table games!

We had CLC'ers from all 3 Chicagoland campuses!

We had CLC’ers from all 3 Chicagoland campuses!

If you've never tried HORCHATA, you're not ready for heaven!

If you’ve never tried HORCHATA, you’re not ready for heaven!

Our 2015 trip leaders promoted their missions trip - something for everyone next year!

Our 2015 trip leaders promoted their missions trip – something for everyone next year!

Missions can start YOUNG!

Missions can start YOUNG!

We also enjoyed some great missions video, including this one:

But my favorite was from our partner in Manila, Philippines – Jane Walker:

PCF (Philippine Community Fund) video from ndavey on Vimeo.

Sunday reflections

I don’t ever remember laying it all out there like I did today (felt like I was ‘bleeding’ on all 3 services), but I hope CLC’ers got my heart in the process:

  • at NWI, Pastor Sam said that despite a low attendance day, it was great to have Pastor Jon Jones leading worship there, and that people responded very well to the message and with almost $15,000 in Faith Promise commitments!
"Reaching Children" is one of our priorities at every CLC campus, including NWI!

“Reaching Children” is one of our priorities at every CLC campus, including NWI!

 

Love our Blue Island worship team:  BI-LINGUAL!

Love our Blue Island worship team: BI-LINGUAL!

 

 

Today’s services in Blue Island were “very touching”, and about 10% of the congregation made their first Faith Promise today.

  • Maybe the change in weather affected each campus today, as Pastor Doug reports South Bend also had a much lower attendance today, but good service anyhow.
    The more we do it, the more I'm loving the "I Believe" song!

    The more we do it, the more I’m loving the “I Believe” song!

    special thanks to about 30 CLC'ers who helped us visualize a line of lost people stretching around the globe 37.3 times!

    special thanks to about 30 CLC’ers who helped us visualize a line of lost people stretching around the globe 37.3 time

That’s it for today – I’ll post more after tonight’s annual International Dinner-

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

Judge-Not

 

 

Last week’s question/answer prompted this question from a faithful CLC’er: “Are we supposed to judge, dislike, and condemn a hypocrite?  Or should we love them as God loves us?  A FB friend judged a celebrity by using the words “dislike” or “hate” him because he sinned.  I made my comments about religious people hate, shun, and judge, and it started quite a on that post.  I just don’t understand how another can be high and mighty when they/we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Great question, but one that is difficult to answer because there’s a fine line that can easily be misconstrued in either direction.  Still, let me try:

  • First, just in case you are using words literally, there is NEVER a reason for Christians to “hate” any person.  We can hate sin or the devil, but never people for whom Christ died.  (“Dislike” is different; I can love someone with the love of Christ without “liking” them as a person or “approving” of their actions)
  • The fine line comes with judging someone else.  Many, many Christians (in my humble opinion) struggle with a critical spirit, where we ‘judge’ others by finding fault with their actions, or even calling into question their motives, etc.  As Zig Ziglar said,  “some people find fault like there’s a reward for it”. 
  • However, the Bible does teach that believers are to judge.  Surprised?  Read 1Corinthians 5.  If that wasn’t clear enough, read it in the Message paraphrase.  Contrary to what most of us have heard and to what almost every church practices, the New Testament calls on us to judge hypocrisy within the local assembly, and exercise appropriate discipline.  (NOTE: the purpose of that discipline is NOT merely to ‘condemn’ a person, but to bring them to their senses, which is exactly what happened in Corinth, as the church excommunicated the man in accordance with what we just read, which caused the man to repent and ask to be reinstated to their fellowship, so Paul wrote in 2Cor. 1-8 that it was time to forgive and receive him!)
  • In my experience, there are very few churches that practice such discipline – and I say that to our shame.  My opinion is that, in this country, if churches put someone out for hypocritical behavior, they would just go to the church down the street and be welcomed into membership without any regard for their behavior.  But that’s not what The Book teaches.
  • Before someone objects, let me add that Jesus addressed ‘judging’ in Matthew 7, and when He told us not to judge, many people have taken that as a blanket command to never enter into judgment about anything.  But the context make that interpretation obviously wrong, if you continue reading verses 3-5 (which make it clear that our ‘view’ of others can be distorted by our own ‘issues’) and especially verse 6 (you must judge what is ‘unholy’ and what is a ‘pig’ in order not to ‘waste’ or ‘cast pearls’ before them!)  It’s always best to let Scripture interpret Scripture, and the ‘judging’ that Jesus told us not to do is explained in James 4:11 where ‘judging’ clearly refers to ‘speaking evil or criticizing’ a fellow believer, and Romans 14:10, where it refers to ‘condemning’ a fellow believer by ‘looking down’ on them!  That’s the judging that Scripture speaks against, and I suspect many of us reading this should say, “oh, me” at that!  May God help us to do away with our critical attitudes and judgmental spirits toward our brothers and sisters in Christ!  But to ‘judge’ someone’s behavior as wrong (when it is clearly wrong in Scripture) may be the most loving thing you can do (James 5:20)

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

Want some NEW WINE?

new wineWhile reading my Bible this week, doing my daily devotions, I came to Isaiah 65:8 where the Lord informs us that new wine is found in the cluster.  At first glance, that may not seem so important, but I believe it’s a principle that many believers have overlooked to their own detriment.

You see, the fullness of what God desires for you and me, His ‘new wine’, is never to be found by ourselves alone.  No, if I really want to get in on the fullness of what God planned for all believers, it’s only found in the cluster.  In other words, I will find the richness of what God has in store for me within the relationship of fellow believers.

There have always been those who subscribe to the idea that was made popular by the ’70′s song:

“Me and Jesus, got our own thing goin’. 
Me and Jesus, got it all worked out. 
Me and Jesus, got our own thing goin’. 
We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.”

But that doesn’t make it so!

I know many who want to criticize or even discard the local church because of their disappointments or hurtful experiences of the past.  You may think you can do church on TV, or that you don’t need to be connected to a small group of believers who support each other in prayer, challenge each other and encourage each other.  But Isaiah remind us that you don’t get wine from a single grape – you only get it from in the cluster.

Sure, there are some bad grapes in the bunch, but I would urge you not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, because the only place you can get new wine is in the cluster.  Selah.  cluster

Why I believe in Faith Promise

This Sunday, as part of our a1:eight missions emphasis, we’ll invite every CLC’er to make a Faith Promise commitment to support our missions efforts for the next 12 months.  Many of you may not know about faith promise giving, or perhaps have never participated – so here’s why I want you to do so:

  • You’ll get to practice hearing from God.  Since Faith Promise is not a pledge, where you calculate how much you can afford to give, but rather is asking God how much He wants to channel through you, for the cause of Missions, and then listening to Him.

I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see the Lord speak specific numbers to people               who pray that prayer, especially when He speaks the same number to husbands &             wives even though they may pray the prayer at different times/places!  And since               EACH of us needs to hear from God about many decisions that concern us, this is a           great practice to help us ‘tune in’ to His frequency!

  • You’ll get to exercise your faith.  In my 42 years of making Faith Promises (yep, we started the year we got married), I’ve never known the Lord to whisper a ‘safe’  number! It seems He always challenges us to believe Him for more than we think we can afford, and sometimes much more!

Let me ask you: when do you have to exercise faith in your daily life? Most of us                 have budgeted our finances for all our regular needs, have car insurance for                       accidents, health insurance for illness, and even a savings account for emergencies.           So when do we have to trust God for something?  Faith Promise is a great exercise           for you to trust God to provide a specific amount of money each month, and the                 thrill of seeing Him do it!

  • You are partnering with what’s truly on God’s heart! If you read Luke 15, you’ll see that God is more interested in lost people than anything else in the world (note especially verses 2, 7,10, 32). In fact, Matt. 24:14 makes it clear that the only reason Jesus hasn’t already returned to claim His Bride is that there are still people who haven’t heard the Gospel.

When you give to Faith Promise, you aren’t paying for a/c to keep the temperature              comfortable in the auditorium, or for soft seats so you can sit through service in                  comfort or for the latest technology so we can have cool audio-visual effects at CLC,          or even helping cover a pastor’s salary so he/she is able to meet your needs when            you call – you are unselfishly helping fulfill the Great Commission Jesus left us!

I well remember the day about 29 years ago, as I was driving to my first day on the job of selling prearranged funerals, when I told the Lord that I didn’t know if I could make any money selling funerals, but that if He would help me, I promised that I wouldn’t just tithe those earnings, but that I’d give an additional 10% of my commissions to missions.  That day I sold 4 funerals, earning hundreds of dollars, and for the next few years I consistently ranked among the statewide leaders in sales, even though I worked 2 or 3 days a week while pastoring.  I know it wasn’t because of my salesmanship; it was because God honored my Faith Promise, and I was able to give thousands of dollars to missions!

Pray about it this week.  Listen for God's voice. Obey. Watch what HE does!

Pray about it this week.

Listen for God’s voice.

Obey.

Watch what HE does!

I can’t wait for this Sunday!

My favorite MISSIONS books

After the amazing day with Bob Goff and seeing all the CLC’ers who rushed to buy his book, “Love Does” (we do have just a few copies left to sell this week), I thought you might be interested in reading more about missions as we move into the final week of our annual a1:eight missions emphasis at CLC,.  Since it’s a personal passion with me, I’ve read lots of missions books over the years, but here’s my ‘all-time, top 5′ list:

#5 in my list

#5 in my list

Perhaps the most scholarly-read of my 5 (probably why it’s last on my list; I’m a simple guy!) – John Piper has written the classic defense of missions, and one quote alone is worth the price of the book: Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever……Missions begins and ends in worship.”

Good stuff.  Order your copy here.

 

#4 in my list

#4 in my list

 

 

This was one of the first books I read by my friend, David Shibley, and it’s still one of my favorites.  He gives a great history of missions in the Pentecostal-charismatic movement.

You’ll enjoy this one – get it here.

 

 

 

 

My #3 favorite missions read

My #3 favorite missions read

If you think I’m a David Shibley fan, you’d be right. Not only is he one of the finest missiologists in the world today, but David was my ‘re-entry point’ into missions in the late 1990′s.

Chris & I had been VERY active in missions in our original faith family, but when we chose to walk away from that denomination in the early ’90′s, we didn’t have any relationships in the larger body of Christ.  David not only came to CLC to minister, but he befriended me & invited me to get involved with Global Advance  - and the rest is history!

Order your copy here, but be forewarned by the title: once you’re ‘bit’ by the missions ‘bug’, you’ll be addicted!

#2 on my all-time list!

#2 on my all-time list!

 

 

When I read this book about 4 years ago, it grabbed my heart.  I had often heard & even spoken about the ‘whole’ gospel, but Richard Stearns helped me to see the ‘hole’ in the gospel that I had been preaching.

Great, great read – get your copy here.

 

 

 

and my #1 all-time favorite book on missions (drumroll, please): Reinhard Bonnke's autobiography!

and my #1 all-time favorite book on missions (drumroll, please): Reinhard Bonnke’s autobiography!

A pastor friend gave me this book a couple of years ago, and I could not put it down. (That’s saying something, because it’s a hardback with 660 pages!  Don’t let that frighten you off – it’s chock-full of amazing stories of what God has done through the ministry of this German evangelist who has shaken the continent of Africa!

You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll be stirred, and most of all, you’ll be inspired by his stories from over 40 years of ministry.  Order your own copy here.

That’s my list; what titles would be on yours?  Leave a comment below, and happy reading!  Let me know what you think after you’ve read any of these-

 

Sunday reflections

How do you describe a Sunday with the inimitable Bob Goff?

How do you describe a Sunday with the inimitable Bob Goff?

I tweeted about 5-6 one liners from him already:

  • “If you’re gonna turn into you, you gotta let go of some stuff!”
  • “People who are comfortable don’t need a Comforter”
  • “Stop going to Bible studies.  Start going to Bible doings.”
  • “Jesus didn’t hold people accountable.  Jesus held people close.”
  • “We can’t honor Christ if we forget how to honor each other!”
  • “Live in grace. Walk in love.”
Hon. Counsel of Uganda to the USA!

Hon. Counsel of Uganda to the USA!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: if you want to watch his message on our website, you must do so this week only.  (Because Bob shares some of the same stories in his travels, his ministry asked that we not post the video on social media or longer than this week.) 

And for those who attended the 10am service and wanted to purchase a copy of “Love Does”, we now have a few copies returned from our other campuses.  Get your copy for just $10 this Wednesday or Sunday-

  • In South Bend, Pastor Doug reports a “thinking message” today after excellent worship & communion and, best of all, continuing momentum with new guests.
at NWI, Marcy Bond did a special reading of the Apostles Creed, which only added to the worship, as CLC is LOVING this new song!

at NWI, Marcy Bond did a special reading of the Apostles Creed, which Pastor Sam said REALLY added to the worship, as CLC is LOVING this new song!

 

Some CLC'ers take the Big Game seriously, but they still love each other (that's all I'm saying about da Bears today)

Some CLC’ers (Brian Robey & Joseph Stone) take the Big Game seriously, but they still love each other (that’s all I’m saying about da Bears today)

 

 

  • At Blue Island, Pastor William says the English service really enjoyed Bob Goff, and our Spanish service heard from a Hispanic missionary who served in India, and he really helped cast vision for missions.
Unity in Blue Island as Bob Goff prayed for us

Unity in Blue Island as Bob Goff prayed for us

 

 

 

Finally, at our Davao campus, Pastor Herley reports overflow crowds today, with 80 Filipinos coming forward to receive Christ! (view from the rear of the auditorium)

Finally, at our Davao campus, Pastor Herley reports overflow crowds today, with 80 Filipinos coming forward to receive Christ! (view from the rear of the auditorium)

 

That takes a little of the sting out of the Bear’s loss…..

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “Who in the Bible lived a double life?  Was supposed to be living for the Lord but wasn’t.”

Hmmm, there’s a question I’ve never been asked before. But I’ll give it a try:

1.  The Biblical term for what you describe is ‘hypocrite’, and there must have been people in the Bible who lived a double life, because Jesus Himself used that term 6 times to describe the Pharisees in Matthew 23 alone: (v. 13, v. 15, v. 23, v. 25, v. 27, v. 29).

2.  Jesus also described false prophets and false believers in Matthew 7:15-23, which is more evidence of people who were thought to be living for God, but truly were not.

3.  If you’re looking for specific individuals instead of groups, how about Judas Iscariot?  Luke 22:1-6 describes him as a disciple, yet he betrayed Jesus.

4.  Paul speaks of two men that must have lived a double life, Hymenaeus and Alexander, in 1Timothy 1:19-20.  Later he wrote about Demas, who “loved this present world” according to 2Tim. 4:9-10. If you compare that with 1John 2:15, probably he would qualify to be considered a hypocrite.

5.  Finally, Paul prophesied that there would be hypocrites in the last days (1Tim. 4:1-2), and James urges hypocrites to purify their hearts (James 4:7-9), so I know it’s an issue for believers in our day.

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

Are you thinking & praying about this?

We kicked-off our annual a1:eight missions emphasis this past Sunday with Doug Carter from EQUP, and we’ll continue this Sunday with the inimitable Bob Goff, before we close the series on October 5 and our fun International Dinner. We do this series each year to broaden our VISION for the world and to increase our DESIRE for God to use us in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

the one-and-only Bob Goff

the one-and-only Bob Goff

Faith promise is not a pledge; it’s listening to God for what HE wants you to do with finances that HE will provide, and then responding in obedience. Your faith promise commitment, when added to the 10% of all tithes/offerings received at CLC, enable us to plan our support for missions projects and partners this next year.

faithpromise

My hope is that every CLC’er will make a monthly commitment, which can be given on the last Sunday of each month beginning next month, on October 26(We provide other options on the commitment card so as not to exclude anyone, but we encourage you to consider the monthly commitment).

Have you prayed about your commitment yet?  If not, will you do so before this Sunday? Talk it over with your family and come prepared to respond the God’s direction – and then watch your faith grow as God honors your commitment to His cause!

Bob GOFF will be speaking at CLC this Sunday!

I’ve been looking forward to September 28 for MONTHS! As part of our 2014 a1:eight missions emphasis, I’m so pleased to welcome Bob Goff to CLC!

Bob Goff

Bob Goff

Bob is the NY Times best-selling author of “Love Does”, which was my favorite read in 2013.  I literally laughed till I cried at his story of how he actually got into law school, and he is a master storyteller! (By the way, you can buy a copy on Sunday & maybe even get Bob to sign it!)

But more importantly, Bob is an attorney who founded Restore International, a nonprofit human rights organization operating in Uganda, India and Somalia. He was the first attorney to bring a case to trial and get a conviction against a witch doctor who was enslaving little boys in northern Uganda!  Since then Restore has worked with Uganda’s judiciary in bringing over 200 cases to trial, as well as pursuing justice, intervention and education for at risk women and children in Uganda, India and Somalia.

He founded Restore Leadership Academy in Northern Uganda, which now educates over 300 students with a focus on character and leadership development. Because of Bob’s vision and the work of restore International, he serves as the Hon. Consul for the Republic of Uganda to the United States.

A few weeks ago I taught CLC that there are certain ‘special days’ when we really need to invite others to attend, and this Sunday is one of those days!  We’ve never had anyone quite like Bob in our pulpit, and I urge you to invite your friends & family to come hear him live this Sunday at 8:30, 10 or 12 in our Tinley Park location, or via video at the 10am services at the Blue Island and NWI campuses.

I can’t wait!

 

Moving forward in our Davao, Philippines campus!

We sometimes do a poor job of communicating what’s happening in our missions efforts at CLC – seems like there’s never enough time in a service to emphasize everything that deserves to be emphasized.

But during this a1:eight missions series, I thought I should give an update on our Davao, Philippines campus led by Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes. Really, it’s a movement of churches in Mindanao, as several other pastors & congregations are connected to Pastor Herley and an amazing work led by his son, Pastor Joel Montes on college campuses throughout Davao and beyond.

Congratulations, Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes

Congratulations, Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes

Joel Montes preaching at a national conference in Manila recently.

Joel Montes preaching at a national conference in Manila recently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of this has resulted in great growth, with Sunday morning attendance now averaging about 1,000 people, and the youth gatherings are sometimes even larger!  Recently a door has opened for them to rent a much-larger facility in the downtown area of Davao, and they are beginning the build-out now, with hopes to occupy by January.  Take a look:

This is the building as it sits now, just a few steps away from their current location

This is the building as it sits now, just a few steps away from their current location, but SO much nicer & probably more than twice the size!

This is the floor plan that will enable them to seat at least 800 worshippers!

This is the floor plan that will enable them to seat at least 800 worshippers!

An artist's rendering of the new stage design when completed.

An artist’s rendering of the new stage design when completed.

I’m SO glad we get to partner with this great family of believers at CLC-Davao, and CLC will be taking another trip there in 2015 so YOU can see it for yourself!

 

 

 

Sunday reflections

Our a1:eight missions series got off to a great start today with Doug Carter from EQUIP as our special guest:

Doug Carter challenged all of us with, "What Will You Do with Your Lunch?"

Doug Carter challenged all of us with, “What Will You Do with Your Lunch?”

Loved his 1-liners:

  • “In your lifetime God will probably ask many things of you, but advice is not one of them”
  • (quoting Benjamin Franklin) “I’ve never met anyone who was good at making excuses, who was much good at anything else.”
  • (my favorite) “God didn’t call us to the safe zone, He called us to the faith zone.”

Didn’t you LOVE the new song, “I Believe (The Creed)” from Hillsong! I first heard it at TeamChurch in Tacoma, WA and was thrilled when I returned to find our team was already learning it – but MEGA-KUDOS to Dee Wilson and Servants of Praise for today!  (It’s like the Apostles Creed put to music, and I love the fact that we can sing sound Biblical theology!)

  • At our Blue Island campus, Pastor William said the only way to describe both services was ‘PRESENCE’, as both Doug’s message in the English service and Michel Khalil’s message in the Spanish service were well-received!
Michel Khalil is the Senior Director of Global Transformation for EQUIP

Michel Khalil is the Senior Director of Global Transformation for EQUIP

  • Pastor Sam says our NWI Campus got off to a great start of their 2nd year of ministry, with solid attendance, returning guests from last week & even new people bringing other new people!
  • Finally, Pastor Doug at our South Bend campus reports a great service with 5 new members joining CLC at the membership class afterwards – growth!

Can’t wait to see how Bob Goff blows it up next Sunday!

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I have a question: several times this year I’ve had some interesting conversations about whether a Christian can lose their salvation. I’ve done my personal study and have what I believe to be the answer, however, I would love to get more wisdom from you as well.”

Well, you’re certainly not alone.  I’ve been asked this question probably more than any other single question, so I’ve written about it here and here and most recently, here.

Let me quickly say that, at CLC, we do not make this a test of fellowship, and we have members on both sides of the issue – an issue that has been debated in Christendom for hundreds of years, so we’re not likely to resolve it in this post.

In my 46 years of ministry, my views on many Bible subjects have changed, sometimes more than once on the same subject! But in my study of this particular subject in Scripture, I personally remain convinced that our salvation is not as ‘irresistible’ as some have taught, nor as ‘easily lost’ as others seem to think.  Like SO MANY doctrines of the Bible, the truth is somewhere in the middle of two extremes.

I don’t think I can improve on what I’ve written before (if you want to read those earlier posts to which I linked above), but I will once again add some verses that I think might be helpful for your own study and consideration:

On this particular topic, I hope I am wrong!  If so, there will be more people in heaven than I expect, and that would be a good thing.  But I prepared this document in the past, giving a number of pertinent Scriptures with a few comments that I think would be good for your personal study of this subject.  Then, I think the principle of Romans 14:5 applies.

I Cor. 10:1-12   this passage would be meaningless if it were not possible for us to fall from salvation.  The obvious conclusion from Israel’s example (they did not enter into the Promised Land) is that we, too, can fall after having known the Lord.

I Cor. 9:24-27   even the Apostle Paul could become a castaway!

2 Pet. 2:20-22   how could the latter end be worse than the beginning IF the person is still saved?

2 Pet. 1:4-10   why would Peter say IF you do these things, you will never fall” if it is impossible to fall from salvation anyway?

Mt. 25:1-13   this parable is generally interpreted as believers (‘virgins’) awaiting the return of the Lord.  Oil throughout Scripture is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  All of them had oil in their lamps initially; but the foolish virgins did not replenish their supply and were thus unprepared when the Lord came.

Luke 17:32   why should we “remember Lot’s wife?”

Read Jude 3, 4 in “The Living Bible”

Rev. 2:4-5   the threat to “remove your candlestick” sounds pretty serious (they would cease to be a church!)

I Tim. 4:1-2   can someone who has “departed from the faith” still be saved?

Luke 15:11-24   this parable of Jesus demonstrates the Father’s love for even His wayward children (here represented by the younger son).  Notice in v.24 that the prodigal was said to be “lost” and “dead.”  He had once enjoyed fellowship in the Father’s house, but because of his own choices, he was now lost!  (The GOOD NEWS is that, thru repentance, he did come back home and was accepted by His Father!)

Heb. 10: 19-39  notice especially vv.27-29

Mt. 25:14-30  (v. 14 – who is this parable about?  Then read v. 30)

Whew!  Hope that helped a bit in your own study.  

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

 

introducing Doug Carter to CLC

Our first guest for the 2014 a1:eight missions emphasis which begins this Sunday, September 21, is the Senior Vice-President of EQUIP,  Doug Carter.

dougcarter

My wife & I have been privileged to serve as Associate Trainers with EQUIP for several years, first with Iranian house church leaders at a gathering in Istanbul, then with Russian leaders, and more recently in our assignment in Phnom Penh, Cambodia – and we have LOVED every moment of it!

I first met Doug a few years ago at an EQUIP gathering when John Maxwell told us that Doug was the first person he hired after receiving the vision for EQUIP.  He said, “Doug Carter has raised more money for the Kingdom of God than any person on planet earth, and I knew I’d need a lot of money to accomplish the vision God had given me!”

I don’t think John was joking.

Doug and his wife, Winnie, served as missionaries to American Indians (Native Americans) for more than 16 years. In 1980, he became president of Ohio Christian University where he served 9 years, helping prepare men and women for Christian service.

From 1989 until he joined EQUIP in 1996, Doug served as Vice President of World Gospel Mission, an interdenominational mission agency with 330 career missionaries sharing the gospel in 28 nations. He continues to serve on its board of directors, and is an outstanding communicator who has ministered in more than 80 nations worldwide.

Doug is the author of Big Picture People, a great resource for Christians who want to press beyond mediocrity and rise to excellence in their faith. His book, Raising More Than Money, is a textbook on Biblical giving, ministry funding, and Kingdom partnership.

I’m excited to welcome Doug to our pulpit, and I expect we’ll all be encouraged and challenged to see how God can use our finances to reach the world with the Gospel!

 

 

Celebrating a ONE YEAR anniversary!

nwi CLC I think anniversaries and important milestones should be celebrated – for people we love, for families, even for churches.   And this past Sunday marked an important day for our Northwest Indiana campus of CLC, as they celebrated ONE YEAR as a church. Not only did they have their 3rd highest attendance ever, some awesome cardboard testimonies of changed lives, and 6 people who gave their life to Christ, but Pastor Sam also showed me a great video recap of their first year. I thought you’d enjoy it, too – so take 3 minutes of your time and celebrate with CLC-NWI:

CLC'er Mike Usher knows that Jesus is still a Healer!

CLC’er Mike Usher was one of many great cardboard testimonies on Sunday –                                   he now KNOWS that Jesus is still a Healer!

Congrats, Pastors Sam & Taylor Hamstra & the entire family of CLC-NWI!

Congratulations to Pastors Sam & Taylor Hamstra                                      & the entire family of CLC-NWI!

 

 

Still bursting ‘Marriage Myths’

I’m still hearing from folks who were helped on Sunday when we ‘popped’ some common myths about marriage, with the biggest impact coming when Brian & Charamaine McKnight shared their story that demonstrates there is HOPE even after infidelity!

If you didn’t see the video on Sunday, or you want to view it again, here it is.

McKnight Testimony Short Version from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

Of course, we’re limited on Sunday mornings because of time constraints, so our Media team was kind enough to put together a fuller version of their testimony, and you can now view it here.

McKnight Testimony Full Version from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

We serve a God of HOPE!

The REASON we are still here…

End-of-the-world-007

As you see the craziness happening in our world, from the streets of Chicago to the Middle East and beyond, do you ever wonder WHY we’re still here?  I mean, doesn’t this feel like the last days & that Christians should be raptured out of here any time now?

The answer is found in our next series at CLC, our annual a1:eight mandate, taken straight from Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8.  This verse is actually part of what’s often called, the Great Commission, which is recorded in each of the Gospels: Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:45-49, and John 20:21-23.

The reason we haven’t already been raptured out of here is that there’s still a job to be done, as Matthew 24:14 spells out so clearly: we’re here to carry out Jesus’ instructions to reach the whole world with the Gospel!

The Acts version makes it even more clear when we NOTE, it’s “both” in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria & uttermost parts of the earth; i.e., it’s not in successive order, as  ‘evangelize Jerusalem, then go to Judea, etc.’ but concurrent, as ‘at the same time you’re reaching Jerusalem, you should also reach Judea, etc.’

With that understanding, our missionary efforts at CLC are focused on the 4 areas Jesus commanded:

  • our ‘Jerusalem’, our city, which includes Chicagoland
  • our ‘Judea’, our nation, which is the United States of America
  • our ‘Samaria’, which represents people who live near us but aren’t like us; i.e. cross-cultural. (That can mean reaching Spanish-speakers in Chicagoland, or reaching out to new immigrants, or the deaf community, or even those who are incarcerated)
  • to the ‘uttermost parts of the earth’, which speaks of the Nations.

At CLC, we are focused on each of those areas at the same time, and once a year we devote 3 weekends to looking at our responsibility, while celebrating the ‘wins’ we’ve had along the way, as well as casting vision for the next year of missions trips & projects.

It all kicks off this Sunday, September 21, when my friend Doug Carter of EQUIP will join us.  Hope you’ll be here and invite someone to join you.  I can’t wait.  

Sunday reflections

FRamily Day was a WIN at each CLC campus today:

  • in Tinley Park, while we didn’t have as many guests as I had hoped for (pastors are never satisfied w/attendance), we did see MANY more newcomer’s than usual & I heard lots of promises to return – which is one big reason we do special days!
I'm THANKFUL for the Servants of Praise who consistently lead us into the Presence of the Lord!

I’m THANKFUL for the Servants of Praise who consistently lead us into the Presence of the Lord!

Stephanie Sims was baptized by Josh Moran, along with 2 other CLC'ers (never gets old!)

Stephanie Sims was baptized by Josh Moran, along with 2 other CLC’ers (never gets old!)

LOVED today’s video of CLC’ers sharing their thoughts about the church – kudos to our Media team & special thanks to volunteer Jamel Williams who produced this one!)

Chris & I probably had TOO much fun 'popping some marriage myths'

Chris & I probably had TOO much fun ‘popping some marriage myths’

But Brian & Charamaine McKnight touched everyone with their story & renewal of vows!

But Brian & Charamaine McKnight touched everyone with their story & renewal of vows!

  • What’s especially neat about that is that when this post goes on FaceBook, Charamaine said, “the same media that the devil used to try to break up my marriage is the same media that God is going to use to restore marriages.”  In fact, she & Brian reached out to Facebook friends, co-workers, out-of-town family members and even neighbors, to join us online today, besides several who attended in person!  Also, during their ordeal, she sensed that God was going to use their situation to elevate other marriages, and Brian said that he would one day tell the whole WORLD how sorry he is for his part. Today we witnessed all of that!
  • 245 people came to celebrate NWI's 1st anniversary, and 6 of them gave their life to Christ after Pastor Sam's message & some great cardboard testimonies!

    245 people came to celebrate NWI’s 1st anniversary, and 6 of them gave their life to Christ after Pastor Sam’s message & some great cardboard testimonies!

At the Blue Island Grand Opening today, Pastor William officially opened the church with a ribbon-cutting ceremony

At the Blue Island Grand Opening today, Pastor William officially opened the church with a ribbon-cutting ceremony

he told me later than it wasn't just an emotional moment, but that he sensed something broke in the Spirit, and there is a genuine excitement among the people - ready to work!

he told me later that it wasn’t just an emotional moment, but that he sensed something broke in the Spirit when he cut the ribbon, and there is a genuine excitement among the people – now ready to work!

At our Philippines campus, Pastor Herley reports 3 jam-packed services today, great response to the Word, and 45 people who came forward to give their life to Christ!

At our Philippines campus, Pastor Herley reports 3 jam-packed services today, and 45 people who came forward to give their life to Christ!

Now, if only these ‘wins’ at CLC would translate into a win for da Bears at SF tonight!

 

 

 

21st day of prayer

About 700 CLC’ers signed up to join us on our 21-Days of Prayer Experience, and it ended with a BANG this morning as CLC’ers from each Chicagoland campus joined together at our Blue Island location for corporate prayer.  The pics tell the story:

Alan Franklin & Liane Williams led us in worship & Pastor William gave a powerful exhortation to start!

Alan Franklin & Liane Williams led us in worship & Pastor William gave a powerful exhortation to start!

young & old across each campus came together

young & old across each campus came together

Such an anointing for prayer was in the place!

Such an anointing for prayer was in the place!

we made sure someone laid hands on EACH chair before tomorrow's grand opening!

we made sure someone laid hands on EACH chair before tomorrow’s grand opening!

my wife had some prophetic pictures to share for Blue Island & CLC

my wife had some prophetic pictures to share for Blue Island & CLC

I was charged about FRamily Day, NWI’s 1st Anniversary & Blue Island’s Grand Opening before the prayer gathering, but now I can’t wait to see what God will do!

It’s NOT too late: invite a friend or family member to join you tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

A former CLC’er writes, “Several months ago you had discussed three habits/behaviors that helped married couples achieve an extraordinary level of success in their marriages. You also cited a statistic that said when couples employed those particular habits their divorce rate was 1:1200 compared to society at large of 1:2. Can you share what those three habits are? What are your thoughts on why those habits bring such success?”

Great question & even better timing, because I just mentioned this stat again last Sunday!

The original quote that I used came from a Harvard study, but I have been unable to find the documentation for it in my original notes.  In their study, the 3 habits were: (1) praying together; (2) eating together; and (3) attending church together.

In my research last week, I found 3 other relevant studies.  One found that if couples read the Bible together their divorce rate dropped to 1:1,100; and another found that if couples prayed together, their divorce rate was only 1:1,200.  My favorite was a study done by the Southern Baptist Convention that found among born-again couples who had received premarital counseling, that if they (1) prayed together and (2) attended church together, their divorce rate dropped to the amazing rate of just 1:39,000 marriages!

As to why I think those habits bring such success, it’s simple: if we are praying and worshiping together as husband-and-wife, chances are pretty good that we’re trying to live by God’s Word and follow His instructions, including those concerning our marriage.

The Bible really is the “owner’s manual” for how to enjoy life – as someone else has noted, it’s the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, and all His instructions to us were given,  “that we might have a good life forever!” (see Deut. 5:29)

Hope that helps!  And I really hope each reader will join us THIS Sunday, September 14, when we expose some ‘Marriage Myths’ - I believe it’ll help both married’s and single’s alike!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Women DO Rock!

80s

I heard that almost 300 women crowded into the lobby of CLC last night for their 80′s party to kick-off this season of ‘Heart to Heart’, which is pretty incredible! (Almost double last year’s attendance, which was higher than any prior year!)

I couldn’t help but see some of the outfits on my way through the building and all I got to say is, “I lived through the 80′s, and I don’t remember that look!”

angie sol chris

pat early

beads

chris_singer

even little women rock!

even little women rock!

Now, I’m asking ALL YOU ROCKIN’ WOMEN to get your MAN, or your GIRL FRIEND, your aunt’s & uncle’s, your CO-WORKERS, and ANYONE else in your FRAMILY to join us  this Sunday, Sept. 14 as we expose some “marriage myths”!  Can’t wait!

 

The bottom line about Ray Rice & domestic violence

rayrice

Since you’re reading this post via the internet, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen the video of the Baltimore Ravens running back punching his then-fiance-now-wife in the face, knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic City hotel elevator.  And even if you haven’t seen the video, you must have heard the hubbub on every radio & TV sports program, after the Ravens released him yesterday and the NFL extended his suspension.

It’s in the news because of his celebrity status as a star NFL player, but domestic violence is an ugly reality in this country that affects an estimated 1.3 million women a year! Frankly, I’ve been shocked by the number of callers to my favorite sports talk stations who are  upset by the NFL’s actions against Rice, feeling he had already been punished and that yesterday’s actions were excessive.  WHAT? (in my best high-pitched incredulous voice)

Here’s the bottom-line for me, regardless of other factors (whether she spit in his face, whether he was intoxicated, etc, etc, etc) - Ephesians 5:25 which reads: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her”.  

And if the fact they weren’t married when he punched her out, try this one: 1Timothy 5:2, which says, “Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.”

It’s time the Church speaks out against domestic violence.  There is NEVER a reason for any man to physically harm any woman. Period. That’s the bottom line.

But this Sunday we will focus on how marriage can be, as we bust some common  ‘marriage myths’.  I hope you’ll invite a friend or family member & join us for a great FRAMILY Sunday at every Chicagoland CLC campus!

 

Have you heard?

myth

Have you heard that “Having children will make a married couple closer & increase their happiness”?

Or that “The purpose of marriage is happiness”?

How ’bout, “Sex is not really that important for a happy marriage”?

People sometime believe stuff that just isn’t true. The problem is, what we believe usually determines our behavior.  My wife & I want to expose some marriage myths once-and-for-all, this Sunday, September 14, in part 2 of our “Marital Tune-Up” series.

We’ll look at some of the things that you have may heard about marriage (whether married or single) including the 3 statements above and several more.

We’re also planning something we’ve never done at CLC & I promise you won’t forget it!

So make plans to join us to ‘get the facts’ and, while you’re at it, bring a friend or family member for FRAMILY Sunday!

I can’t wait!

 

Sunday reflections

After that Bears loss, I’m in a bad mood.  But God is still good at CLC:

Is there a better song ever than "Victor's Crown"? I think we'll be singing it in heaven!

Is there a better song ever than “Victor’s Crown”? I think we’ll be singing it in heaven!

  • Attendance was down today at each campus (think Bears opening game of the season had anything to do with that?  Here’s what I know: earliest service was much larger than usual, while the noon service was smaller than I ever recall – and the game kicked-off at noon!)
But we still had about as much fun as I recall - always enjoy team-teaching  about marriage with her!

But we still had about as much fun as I recall – always enjoy team-teaching about marriage w/her!

  • AND, we had people giving their life to Christ in EACH service, so heaven was rejoicing in spite of the low attendance (and so am I!)
  • In our NWI campus, Pastor Sam attributed some of the absences to the wedding last night of our KidsLife Director, Jenny Esparza (now Mrs. Ben Gonzales) – but we congratulate the happy couple!
Saturday's wedding of Jenny Esparza & Ben Gonzalez

Saturday’s wedding of CLC-NWI’ers, Jenny Esparza & Ben Gonzalez

  • On another note, 2 actors from the Community Theater we rent for our NWI Campus were killed this weekend in unrelated accidents.  Pastor Sam led our campus in ministering to their staff & offering counsel and support.  Please keep this in prayer, that people will come to know Christ in spite of what the enemy intended for harm.
  • Pastor William reports a couple of financial testimonies from our Blue Island campus – (1) during their community outreach yesterday, some of our ladies invited a business owner to attend the Grand Opening next Sunday, and after hearing about the church, the owner made a monetary donation!; and (2) in the Spanish service today, a recent attender testified that she gave everything in her purse during a recent offering, only to be called into the office by her employer that next week and given a bonus that was 4 times the amount of her donation to CLC!  Dios es bueno!
  • In South Bend today, Pastor Doug taught about praying for leaders from 1Tim. 2 and reports great energy and even some new guests in their service-

Don’t forget to invite your FRamily for next Sunday – we’ve got some special surprises that you won’t want to miss!

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

church_attendance

A favorite CLC’er who has to work most Sundays writes, “Is it ok to miss church because of work/career?  And…What does one do if they miss the worship environment?”

Excellent questions in today’s world!  Let me give it a shot:

First, I think we should differentiate between “get to” and “got to”.  If church attendance becomes something I “got to” do, chances are I won’t receive the benefits it offers anyway.  In my mind, the reasons Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us not to neglect meeting together are clearly spelled out in the passage:

  • attending church helps us hold tightly to our hope, which is under attack throughout the week-
  • attending church helps us to motivate each other to love (I’m challenged when I see others serving the Lord with joy to do so myself!)
  • attending church gives me an opportunity to use my gifts to serve (“good works”)
  • attending church provides mutual encouragement, especially in view that the coming of the Lord draws near.

So, there are some great reasons to attend church, in addition to “being fed” the Word and the joy & strength that comes from corporate worship (that differs from any of my personal worship times).  All of those benefits, to me, make church attendance very high on my list of priorities as a believer.

Now, to the question, ‘is it ok to miss church because of work’, I find the Bible is rather silent.  One principle that stands out to me is when Daniel was assigned to eat food provided by the Babylonian king, but he proposed an alternative and was able to be excluded from doing so (see Daniel 1:3-16).  Here’s my suggestion:

  • Pray before you do anything else.  Nehemiah 1:11-2:6 is a great example of this  (although he prayed for several months before doing anything, I think you can let the Lord lead you as to when it’s time to do more than pray)
  • Get an appointment and speak to the highest authority in your employment possible (that might be your boss or his boss or his boss’s boss!) and politely explain how important church attendance is to you.
  • Seek an acceptable compromise – if you cannot be excluded from Sundays, could you start later in the day, after attending the service.  Could you work before and after service, but have time off for the actual service itself? Could you have 2 Sundays a month off work?  Seek an acceptable compromise with management.
  • If management refuses any compromise, then you have a decision to make: is this job more important to me than being able to worship with my fellow believers?

I suppose the way I worded the last question tells you how I feel personally.  I could not remain in a career that prevented me from attending church.  If that’s the decision you reach, you would not be the first believer who quit a good job for ‘spiritual’ reasons, and I’ve seen the Lord honor that decision many times thru the years by providing other employment, usually even better than the job left behind.

As to the second question, I’d say seek other alternatives.  In Chicagoland, there are probably worship gatherings happening somewhere just about every night of the week.  Many churches, like CLC, also provide a live-stream of their services on the internet, which opens up even more options.  And, while the corporate worship aspect may be lacking, the encouragement of a Life Group is a wonderful option that every believer should enjoy.

Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave your question below-

could you use a ‘marital tune-up’?

marital tuneup

That’s what we’re offering at CLC these next 2 Sundays, as my wife and I look at some  habits of healthy, happy couples this Sunday, September 7, and then ‘pop’ some marriage myths on our FRamily Sunday, September 14.

We’ve been working on both messages for the last week, and I’m getting excited – it seems that marriage is one of those subjects that scratches us where we itch, and I’ve got a feeling YOU have some married, soon-to-be-married, about-to-be-no-longer-married or really-want-to-be-married friends who will benefit from these teachings!

AND, I know that even good marriages can use a tune-up from time to time, so INVITE even your married friends who seem to have it all together!

tune-it-up

So take a moment this week and INVITE them to be your guest for the next 2 Sundays at the CLC campus nearest you!

Day 10 of our 21-day Prayer Experience

Prayer Ministry Coordinator Terrilyn Franklin leading our Blue Island campus in prayer for unity last Sunday

Prayer Ministry Coordinator Terrilyn Franklin leading our Blue Island campus in prayer for unity last Sunday

It’s NOT too late for you to join us!  Just text “PRAY” to 44-622 and you’ll get a daily reminder to pray with your CLC family at either 6am or 9pm, as well as a link to the day’s devotion.

AND, tomorrow night, September 3 at 7pm, our Tinley Park campus will host a great Prayer & Worship Encounter.

Prayer is making a difference as we prepare for FRamily Day on Sept. 14!

Here’s an idea for your Labor Day gathering

Two families at backyard cookout

I know you’re busy, getting ready for the company that’s coming OR loading up the car to head to your family get-together, so I’ll make it fast:

Since we’re less than 2 weeks away from what could be the BIGGEST DAY in CLC’s history, our 2014 “FRamily Day” (when NWI will also celebrate their 1st Anniversary and Blue Island will have their ‘Grand Opening’ to the community), I’ve got a great idea for you:

why not take advantage of your Labor Day cookout to INVITE every one of your family members & friends to be YOUR GUEST on FRamily Day at CLC?

(If you’re the one hosting the cook-out, it’ll be even more difficult for them to turn you down, seeing how you’re feeding them!)

Whaddya say?  Remember, #Just1 is all it takes!

So enjoy the day off, and while you’re at it, INVITE!

Sunday reflections

Want my thoughts about today?  It was about as much fun as a person should be allowed to have in church! Here’s why (picture’s worth a thousand words):

The preschool choir stole our hearts before the Production could even begin!

The preschool choir stole our hearts before the Production could even begin!

Oh, to have their ENERGY again!

Oh, to have their ENERGY again!

"Mr. Negativity" (Arthur Lewis on the right) gave "Sir Rhyme's A Lot" a hard time all day!

“Mr. Negativity” (Arthur Lewis on the right) gave “Sir Rhyme’s A Lot” a hard time all day!

The devil's enticement of Eve ('girl') was one of the highlights of the day!

The devil’s enticement of Eve (‘girl’) was one of the highlights of the day!

Everybody knows Joseph Alexander is an ENTERTAINER!

Everybody knows Joseph Alexander is an ENTERTAINER!

Love Ejindu was a sweet soloist, too

Love Ejindu was a sweet soloist, too

Aerin White borrowed Harry Caray's glasses for her star role (at least that's what I told Marc & Rhonda) - she's always entertaining!

Aerin White borrowed Harry Caray’s glasses for her star role (at least that’s what I told Marc & Rhonda) – she’s always entertaining!

in between services, the whole cast gathered for a group shot - KUDOS to Marque Couser & Heather Moran for all their help, along with ALL our KidsLife team!

in between services, the whole cast gathered for a group shot – KUDOS to Marque Couser & Heather Moran for all their help, along with ALL our KidsLife team!

If you missed it (or just wanna enjoy again), you can watch the entire production of “Life is Good!” here.

Of course, every Family Sunday is also a Baby Dedication Sunday, and I love that job!

Of course, every Family Sunday is also a Baby Dedication Sunday, and I love my job!

  • Meanwhile, at our NWI Campus, Pastor Tony Gilmore preached the lights out to a strong attendance, even on a holiday weekend with the Campus Pastors away on vacation!
  • And Pastor William at our Blue Island campus is rejoicing over the FIRST salvation decision in our Spanish service since we opened there!
  • Pastor Doug reports a great Family Day in South Bend, but also requests our prayers for his son, Carrington, who will have knee surgery this week after a freak accident during football practice.

AND, on a holiday weekend, I’m thankful for 1,784 people who worshipped at a CLC campus today!

What was YOUR favorite moment today?  Leave your comments below-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

Last week’s question about life after death prompted another: “In Luke 24:39 is Jesus saying in  that there are spirits…ghosts…? In Matthew 14:26, His disciples thought He was a ghost…Jesus did not correct them? This passage confuses me about ghosts.”

Great question…I never thought of Luke 24:39 in that way before, because most translations use the word ‘spirit’, so I just thought of it in terms of our human spirit. My understanding of Scripture is that ALL of us are tri-part beings: body, soul and spirit (see 1Thess. 5:23).  It would perhaps even be accurate to say that “I am a spirit; I have a soul and I live in a body”.

However, to answer your question, it seems that the disciples did follow superstition on these occasions and thought they were seeing a ghost – BUT let me quickly say that Jesus did not.  In fact, in the Greek, they thought they saw a “phantom” (best translation of the Greek word they used), but Jesus answered them with the word ‘pneuma’, which is the word used in Scripture for breath, wind or spirit – not at all the connotation of ‘ghost’.

The Bible is clear that when we die, we do not wander the earth as ghosts or spirits, but that we rest, either in the Presence of Jesus (for believers – see 2Cor. 5:1-8), or awaiting our resurrection and eventual judgment in hell.

I couldn’t help but notice that this post is coming out on the 30th anniversary of “Ghostbusters”! I hope this helped bust that myth once and for all!

ghostbusters2

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave your question below.

Love will find a way to reach Just One!

This Sunday we’ll conclude our “Just One” series (after a fun production from KidsLife as we observe a Family Sunday).

We’ve tried to make this an equipping series, to give you helpful information & proven tools to share your faith with others by

  • Praying (for open doors, open mouths & open hearts)
  • Listening (to build a relationship & earn the right to share)
  • Answering (questions about your hope, by sharing your story of ‘before, how, now’)

But the finale is the KEY above all others: Love will find a way! (It always does)

In fact, I’d LOVE to hear your story of how someone’s love made the difference in your life – would you leave a comment below?

See you Sunday!

Eyes wide open!

wide_open

Today is day 4 of our 21-day Prayer Experience, and as I began by reading today’s devotional, what jumped out at me was the ‘faith as a mustard seed’ that results in miracles.  Then when I read today’s focus of praying for open doors of opportunity to share our faith; divine appointments, etc. – I remembered the text that began our “Just One” series – Colossians 4:2-4.

As we pray (not just today), it’s important that we keep our eyes wide open (I’m not talking about while you pray, although there’s nothing in Scripture to indicate you must close your eyes to pray) in order to SEE the very doors of opportunities we’re asking Him to open!

It’s sorta like the prayer meeting at Mary’s house in Acts 12, when the church was gathered together to pray for Peter’s release from jail – but then didn’t open their eyes to see him standing at the door of the house!

I wonder how many answers I’ve missed because I wasn’t looking for them?

If you’re praying for rain, carry an umbrella.

If this spoke to you, or if you’ve almost missed some opportunities because you weren’t looking, please leave a comment below – let’s encourage each other in prayer!

3Sixty School of Ministry is off & running!

Image

LtoR: Brent McQuay (360 Director), Andy Esparza, Marilla Hatley, Meaghan Condon, Eric Condon & Priscilla Hatley

LtoR: Brent McQuay (360 Director), Andy Esparza, Marilla Hatley, Meaghan Condon, Eric Condon & Priscilla Hatley

A long-time dream came true yesterday with the opening of CLC’s 3Sixty School of Ministry!  And while I’m not sure any of them are old enough to get the reference, I’m calling this year’s inaugural class the “Fab Five”.

These 5 students have answered the call of God on their lives and now we have the awesome responsibility of helping train and prepare them for that calling.  Kudos to our 3Sixty Directors, Brent & Sol McQuay, and our Executive Pastor Ben Stewart, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for months to prepare for this!

I’m sure our CLC family will embrace the Kenyan twins, Marilla & Priscilla Hatley (whose parents David & Jennifer are missionaries with whom CLC has partnered for 16 of the 30 years they’ve served in Kenya). And I’m more than a little proud of the rest of the Fab 5 and our multicultural vision, with Andy Esparza from our NWI Campus and Eric & Meaghan Condon from our Tinley Park campus completing the student body for this year.

Expecting GREAT things ahead!

The Fab 5: Priscilla, Andy, Eric, Meaghan, Marilla

The Fab 5: Priscilla, Andy, Eric, Meaghan, Marilla

 

Praying for FAVOR

I didn’t necessarily plan to write a post each day about our 21 days of Prayer experience, but when I read today’s focus and began praying at 6 o’clock this morning, I got excited about praying for favor (Acts 2:46-47)

Bishop Garlington has pointed out the principle found in Zechariah 10:1 - the time to ask God for something is when He’s offering it!  As Zechariah said we should pray for rain during the time of latter rain, I’m saying we have every right to pray for favor since we are living in the season of God’s favor (see Luke 4:16-21, especially verse 19)

So since we’re living in the time of God’s favor, I’m asking HIM today to give CLC’ers favor:

  • in job interviews (there may be others more qualified or experienced, but nothing trumps favor!)
  • in relationships
  • with decision-makers
  • in the classroom (what a way to start a school year: with favor!)
  • in divine appointments (resulting in Kingdom ‘wins’ and/or personal wins!)
  • for each of our campuses in their community!
  • for open doors!

How are YOU asking Him for favor?  Share your prayer with us and be sure to share your testimonies of favor, too – let’s encourage each other on Day 2 of our 21 Days of Prayer!

Sunday reflections

Well, I just watched the Jackie Robinson West boys lose a heartbreaker in the International Championship of the Little League World Series, so that dampened what was otherwise another good day at CLC:

CLC worship is always energetic!

CLC worship is always energetic!

  • sure enjoyed talking about ‘kezazah’ today, and I’m still praising God that HE loved us so much, HE ran to meet us before the rest of the community could load us down with guilt & shame by cutting us off completely & declaring us no longer a part of the community!  May we ever have the attitude of the Father in Luke 15:20!
I love learning new truths in God's Word & sharing them w/you!

I love learning new truths in God’s Word & sharing them w/you!

  • And I especially loved that at least 3 people gave their life to Jesus today in Tinley Park (that just never gets old)
  • At our NWI campus, Pastor Sam reports that at least 4 first-time guests from Munster have visited our services as a direct result of their community prayer walk a few weeks ago, and 2 came today ‘just because’ they saw our sign on the street!  (Hmmm, I say, ‘look at God!’)
  • In Blue Island today we had strong attendance, great worship (I’m still amazed at how our worship team there is mastering leading worship in both English & Spanish!)  and 1 person prayed to receive Jesus!  Pastor William reports the excitement is building for our Grand Opening on September 14!
How cool it was to have long-time partner, David Hatley from Kenya visit all 3 of our Chicagoland campuses today.  Here he's greeting the Spanish service in Blue Island as Jorge Arevalo translates.

How cool it was to have long-time partner, David Hatley from Kenya visit all 3 of our Chicagoland campuses today. Here he’s greeting the Spanish service in Blue Island as Jorge Arevalo translates.

  • Saving the best for last, Pastor Doug writes that today at South Bend was “powerful, powerful, powerful – a ‘major breakout of the Holy Spirit’”.  He feels their campus is getting in place to receive what God is pouring out in that entire region!
  • Of course, today was the FIRST day of our 21-days of Prayer experience – but it’s NOT too late for you to join us.  Simply text “Pray” to 44622 on your mobile phone, and you’ll get a daily reminder at either 5:55am or 8:55pm to join us at the Savior’s feet in prayer, along with that day’s prayer focus and a link to the daily devotional.  There’s no telling what God is going to do among us thru these days of unified prayer!

 

 

Ask the Pastor

As a follow-up to last week’s question, the same CLC’er writes, ”Also, after a loved one has died, I have heard people say that they have been visited by the deceased loved one in a dream or they have felt their presence. Is that possible? Can the dead be seen and heard by those still living? I think the answer is no because of Luke 16:19-31 but just wanted to know for sure.”

Great question, especially since so many people have similar questions about life after death.  Let’s address them one by one:

  • I’m sure that people can ‘see’ a deceased loved one in a dream, because when we sleep, our subconscious is often at work.  ”Ernest Hartmann, a doctor at Tufts, focuses on the emotional learning that happens in dreams. He has developed the theory that dreaming puts our difficult emotions into pictures. In dreams, we deal with emotional content in a safe place, making connections that we would not make if left to our more critical or defensive brains.”  (See point #4 of this scholarly article)
  • As to “feeling their presence”, since the Bible doesn’t address that topic, we’re left to our own reasoning.  Personally, I suspect that this is again like our dreams – an emotional response to the fact that we’ve lost that loved one through death.  Scripture is clear that our spirit returns to God at death (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7), so it doesn’t seem to me that we could truly feel the presence of a dead loved one, other than some kind of emotional response.
  • Finally, as to whether the dead can be ‘seen and heard’ by the living, there is one possible example of this in Scripture, although the interpretation is quite controversial.  I refer to Saul’s experience with the so-called “witch of Endor” in 1Sam. 28:3-24.  Many Bible scholars believe that Samuel’s appearance was merely the result of witchcraft and that he did not actually appear from the dead to Saul.  My personal opinion is that Samuel did appear, based on verse 12 (the witch seemed surprised to see him, which possibly indicates this was beyond the power of her witchcraft) and verse 15 (where Samuel claims to have been disturbed from rest),  and verse 19 (where he predicts Saul’s death and says ‘tomorrow you’ll be here with me‘).  So I do believe the dead was seen and heard in this one example.  Whether a medium or psychic could cause a similar appearance today would strictly be conjecture, and the Luke 16 passage you cite in your question seems conclusive to me that it’s not likely.

This is beyond the scope of the question, but let me add for anyone who longs to see a deceased loved one, the real hope we have is the one David expressed after the death of his son in 2Sam. 12:21-23 - “I will go to him one day”.  If our loved one was a believer who is now in the Presence of the Lord, we have that same hope, for someday we will be reunited with our loved ones in His Presence!

Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave your question or comments below-

Ferguson and churches like CLC…

Mother of Michael Brown during a news conference in Ferguson, MO

Mother of Michael Brown during a press conference in Ferguson, MO

You’d have to live in a cave to not be aware of what’s been happening in Ferguson, MO for the past week.  The tragic shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown has not only captured the attention of all the news media, it has also reminded us that we haven’t made as much progress in race relations as we sometimes think.  There is a racial divide in this nation, and it’s ugly, mean and devilish.

But it’s not at all unlike the world into which Jesus came.  Then, the divide wasn’t so much based on skin pigmentation; it was Jew (God’s chosen) versus Gentile (heathens).  It’s been said that “In the mind of a first-century Jew, Gentiles (Africans, Romans, Greeks, Syrians, Asians, etc.) were created to fuel the fires of hell. When a Jew called a Gentile “uncircumcised,” he spit it. It was a name of profound contempt.”

If a Jew married a Gentile, the Jewish parents held a funeral service for their child. In their eyes, their child was dead.

On the flip side, Gentiles regarded Jews to be subhuman. Historically, the Jews have been an oppressed people, living under the thumb of one Gentile nation after another (e.g., Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome).

In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred, and violence between two groups of people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile.

But Jesus came into that world with a message that transformed people.  He did that by His death on the Cross as we read in Ephesians 2:14-16.  Notice: He made peace between Jew & Gentile, removing the hostility between us, by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups”.  In other words, The Church transcends human prejudice and demonstrates the power of the Cross by showing the world that Jew & Gentile, black & white, male & female, young & old are all part of the same body of Christ and that we can love each other, live for a common cause, and serve together as one new people, the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-generational Church that HE died to produce!

It’s sad that 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is still the most-segregated hour of the week in America, because the world is still waiting to see that ‘one new people’ in action, and every time a Ferguson erupts, it’s a reminder that Christians & churches in America have got to get it right before we can expect our society to get it right.

Attending a multi-cultural church is NOT just a nice thing to do; and just feeling good about ourselves because we worship with people of another color isn’t the goal.  It’s catching the vision that Jesus died in order to remove the hostility between races, so that the world could see HIS purpose and His design for all mankind, when we truly love and serve as one new people whose primary identity is not based on the color of our skin but on the Lord of our life.

Stand up and shine, CLC!

Lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness!

If you were at any Chicagoland CLC campus this past Sunday morning, you heard me talk about Chicago’s crime problems & the fact that we lead the nation in murders and gang activity. You may also know that the he majority of this crime happens in the South and West side neighborhoods and is mostly plaguing African-American communities.  We’ve discovered the most vulnerable of victims are the children and teens.  Many struggle with broken homes, poverty and neglect.

My friend, church planter Todd Powers decided to do something about it, instead of just moaning about what is, ‘cursing the darkness’ around us.  He helped organize an outreach to take place this Saturday, August 23 in the most violent neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago called Englewood.

Pastors Todd & Julie Powers of Empower Chicago

Pastors Todd & Julie Powers of Empower Chicago

They’re providing food, games, entertainment, pony rides, prizes, medical check-ups and lots of fun for the entire community.  They’re even going to have Christian rappers, bucket boys and dance competitions!  Perhaps best of all, a team of guys from that area (former gang members now on fire for Jesus) are coordinating the whole outreach!

Pastor Todd told me that through the favor of God he was able to purchase backpacks and fill them with school supplies for just $8 per backpack, and asked if CLC would be willing to help.  So we presented the need on Sunday morning and CLC’ers responded!

I’m excited to tell you that because of your generosity we are providing more than 400 backpacks of the 750 needed for Saturday’s outreach!

Reminds me of Judges 5:2!

Don’t you just love this church?

Something Jesse said last night…..

…has stayed with me.  Among many other great, tweetable quotes while he was ministering at CLC, Jesse Duplantis said “God wants us to learn by revelation instead of tribulation!”

He looks serious here, but he had us in stitches all evening long.

He looks serious here, but he had us in stitches all evening long.

I think he’s onto something.

So many times, we only seem to learn the hard way - through our difficulties & hardships & failures.  And while that’s better than never learning, I agree with Bro. Jesse that it would be much better for us to learn by receiving insights and instructions from the Spirit of the Lord ahead of time!

Does that make sense to you?

If you were here last night, what has stayed with you today?  Please leave a comment below-

Sunday reflections

This was a LONG day at CLC (for me), arriving before 6am this morning and leaving after 8pm, with only time out for lunch & a change of clothes in there.  But it was a good day:

I enjoyed teaching week #2 of #Just1 on the subject of "Listen"

I enjoyed teaching week #2 of #Just1 on the subject of “Listen”

  • the highlight of the message wasn’t me at all; that honor goes to Chris Hodges (for teaching us it’s ALL about building relationships) and Tom Brady (for teaching us that everyone needs Jesus!)
  • the GREAT news is that after a message to teach our members ‘how-to’ reach others, by my count we had at least 12 precious people who prayed to receive Jesus in our services today!
that report ought to make you shout!

that report ought to make you shout!

  • at NWI, Pastor Sam thrilled me with his report that a new family brought a first-time guest who prayed to receive Christ in their service today!
  • at Blue Island, our Spanish services continues to grow, with more guests returning for a second or third time (don’t despise the day of small things!)
  • at South Bend, Pastor Doug reports 2 teens were baptized and my wife preached under a powerful anointing!

Then tonight: how do you describe Jesse Duplantis? This was my first-time ever being in a service with him, and all I can say is you had to be here!  If “a merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22), then all of us were over-medicated tonight, and ought to be feeling good for quite some time!  Enjoy a few pics-

With combined SoP teams from Tinley Park, NWI & Blue Island, worship was HIGH energy!

With combined SoP teams from Tinley Park, NWI & Blue Island, worship was HIGH energy!

He looks serious here, but he had us in stitches all evening long.

He looks serious here, but he had us in stitches all evening long.

It wasn't just his humorous delivery, though - there were also prophetic words, words of knowledge, healings & more!  What a terrific night!

It wasn’t just his humorous delivery, though – there were also prophetic words, words of knowledge, healings & more! What a terrific night!

 

 

 

Can you imagine going to church for 3+ hours in ONE day!?!?!

I was reading my daily portion of Scripture this morning when I got to Nehemiah 9:2-3.  Actually, 3 hours is a conservative number, because the NKJV that I read from actually says, “one fourth of the day”, so I was thinking either 4 hours (if calculated on our normal waking hours) or 6 hours (if based on a 24-hour day).

And the people were actively engaged for that entire 3 or 4 or 6 hour period, because they were listening to the Word, confessing their sins, and worshiping the Lord.  I’m guessing I’ve lost some of you already, because most folks in 2014 can’t imagine spending that much time in church!

But that’s what we GET to do THIS Sunday, as each campus of CLC will focus on part 2 of “Just One”. (I’m especially excited about it, because I’ll share a big KEY for sharing your faith with others, and one that is often overlooked).

Then, after time for lunch (and maybe even a nap), we’ll return for a night to remember with Evangelist Jesse Duplantis!  The service begins at 5pm, but Jesse has advertised this event to his millions of viewers, so I highly recommend you get here early to get a good seat (doors open at 4pm).

Imagine, 3+ hours of church in ONE Day!  We don’t “got to”; we GET to!

I can’t wait!

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “There has been so much news coverage and discussion about the unfortunate death of Robin Williams. It hits home because I had a young cousin commit suicide some years ago at the age of 17. I always hear people say “they are in a better place” and “they now have peace in heaven.” What happens to a soul when they commit suicide? I thought that death by suicide cancels your option to go to heaven. Is that true?”

Great question, and one that many others have asked.  Let me quickly say that like so many, I was very saddened by the news about Robin Williams, whose talent & gifting to entertain was nothing short of amazing.  The unnecessary death of such a celebrity serves to spotlight the reality of depression and how important it is for all of us to be aware of friends and family who may need to seek help.

But as to your question, let me emphatically state that the Bible is silent in regards to those who commit suicide going to heaven.

So, since Scripture makes no explicit statements, we are left to apply Biblical principles and draw logical conclusions.  In that regard, I would ask, what qualifies anyone to go to heaven when they die? Is there any activity or deed that enables us to go to heaven?

Surely the answer is NO!  The ONLY criteria for admission into heaven is placing our faith in Jesus and His death on the cross for usRomans 1:17 and Ephesians 2:1-9.  Since the Bible is silent about suicide, the real question is: did this individual place their trust in Jesus for salvation before they died? 

I have known of people who walked closely with the Lord but for whatever reasons, found themselves in a pit of depression and despair, and in a desperate moment took their own lives.  My opinion is that, in that moment, they were not in their right mind, because I can’t imagine anyone thinking rationally choosing to end their own life and cause so much pain & grief for their loved ones in what has been called the ultimate act of selfishness.  And my knowledge of our Great God and Savior cannot imagine that He would disregard the years that they walked with Him and refuse their entrance into heaven because of that one moment of insanity.  That’s my opinion.

Now, if the individual who commits suicide had not placed their faith in Jesus as Savior prior to death, then comments like “they’re in a better place” or “they have peace in heaven” are not consolation; they’re lies not based on Scripture (see John 3:16-18).

Let me close by PLEADING with anyone who might be depressed and considering suicide – do NOT use this post as encouragement!  There ARE many people in your life who would forever be impacted by your short-sighted decision.  Please get help.  Talk to a trust counselor or mental health professional.  CLC has pastors and counselors who are here for you, so if you need help, call us today!

I hope this helps.  NOW, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave your question or comment below-

 

Today was a “personal day” off work…

I’ve heard of others taking a ‘personal day’, so I decided to take one today.  Not sure how it differs from a ‘vacation day’ or if it counts as one, so I’ll leave that to the HR guys (PB? Carlton?)

Anyway, my wife’s mother had called earlier this week to tell us that Detroit had received the heaviest rainfall in 99-years, flooding freeways & basements all over the area.  In fact, the meteorologist said that IF it had been snow instead of rain, it would have equaled 46 inches in just a few hours!

Mom was blessed that her basement only had about 6 inches of standing water (unlike some neighbors who had 4 feet!), but since she stores their Goodyear business records there as well as the church financial records (she has been a church secretary for over 60 years!), she was in tears about the mess.

So Chris & I drove over early this morning to help, and as you can tell from the pic, I’m not used to this kind of manual labor.  But we made a huge dent in Project Flood Damage Removal today, and hopefully we’ll even have a chance to do the Woodward Dream Cruise before heading back home Saturday morning.

No need for the gym today, I sweated more than my usual cardio just carrying boxes up the stairs

No need for the gym today, I sweated more than my usual cardio just carrying boxes up the stairs

Just about every house in the neighborhood looks like this now

Just about every house in the neighborhood looks like this now

not finished, but we made a good dent in the flood damage today!

not finished, but we made a good dent in the flood damage today!

(I posted this for the benefit of those of you who wonder if pastors are human, too)

MORE than we can ask or even think…

Ephesians 3:20 has been one of my favorite verses for as long as I can remember (yours, too?)

But this past Sunday I heard a report that matches that verse completely.  One of our faithful CLC’ers, Fran Starks, who leads our Usher ministry and whose husband, Jack, is our CLC Corporate Secretary, came to me in the lobby with this report:

As many of you know I was preparing for hip replacement surgery scheduled for September 9. It would be the 4th time on the same left hip. This past Friday, I went to Northwestern Hospital for my pre- admission tests. I went through all the test and x-rays and waited for the result / consult with my doctor. He and another specialist came in looking puzzled. I was already apprehensive about this surgery so now I was downright scared. They looked funny and left the room. When they returned my doctor said “Fran,  the x-rays are different from the ones we saw in April. We don’ t see a need for the surgery!“ 

I had prayed that God would give me the strength to get through this surgery and He in His infinite mercy spared me any surgery. Now that is truly a miracle if ever there was one. So as I share this, I want you to be encouraged that Our Father is still in the miracle business!”

Could I remind you that God is no respecter of persons – and as the old hymn says, “what He’s done for others, He’ll do for you!”

Anyone else have a testimony of how God answered ABOVE what you even asked for?  Leave your praise report below-

What do you do “the day after”?

No, I’m not talking about the highest-rated television film in history about the day after a nuclear war (even though recent events in the Middle East and elsewhere make you wonder).

I’m talking about the fact that yesterday was such a ‘high’ day at CLC: energetic worship, TONS of children, youth & educators prayed over in each service, lots of guests, and, of course, NY Times best-selling author Mark Batterson in the house for all 3 services.  At the final service of the day, at least 15 people raised their hands in surrender to Jesus, and twice that many renewed their commitment to the Lord, not counting the hundreds of CLC’ers who decided to go “All In!”

But that was yesterday.

What do you do the day after?

The high-energy is gone. The choir isn’t singing. The celebrity guest is back home. Now what?

I think Luke 2:15-18 gives us an answer, based on the shepherds’ experience when the angel choir told them about the birth of Jesus.  Notice:

  • They took the next step.  They went to Bethlehem as instructed.
  • They didn’t delay. They immediately ran to see the Christ child.
  • They shared their experience with others, and many were impacted!

Instead of falling back into complacency on the day after a spiritual high, let’s put one foot in front of the other today, without delay.  Do what we know to do.  And tell someone else along the way.  There’s no telling what God might do with us.

Any thoughts you’d like to add?  Please leave a comment below if this resonates with you-

Sunday reflections

What a wonderful day with our friend, Mark Batterson at CLC for all 3 services:

Mark didn't just preach a sermon; he brought a real 'word' each service!

Mark didn’t just preach a sermon; he brought a real ‘word’ each service!

  • one of the highlights in each service was praying for all the students (K-college) & educators (teachers, administrators, principals, etc.) before the new school year begins.  I was blown-away by how many there were:
this pic was at the 8:30 service, by far the smallest number in the back-to-school prayer.  We couldn't fit them all into the altar area at the next 2 services!

this pic was at the 8:30 service, by far the smallest number in the back-to-school prayer. We couldn’t fit them all into the altar area at the next 2 services!

  • Best of all, when Mark gave a salvation invitation at the last service, about 15 people prayed with him to follow Jesus!
  • And we baptized two young women in the noon service:
Pastor Matt baptized Crystal Valentine & Delta Ross

Pastor Matt baptized Crystal Valentine & Delta Ross

  • at NWI, dozens stood at the close of service to go ALL IN for what God is calling them to do!
  • Pastor Sam met a first-time guest last Sunday who returned today with 3 more people, and all of them said they’d be back next week! (That’s a WIN in my book!)
  • And I’m excited about his report that 2 new volunteers (both college students) started serving in KidsLife at the NWI campus today – always good to see the next generation serving in the house!
  • For the first-time ever, our Blue Island campus had more people present for the Spanish service at noon than for the English service at 10am!  And the response to Mark’s altar call was really, really good, according to Pastor William!
  • Pastor Doug reports that the South Bend campus only managed to get thru 2 songs today because the Presence of God was SO strong!

For those of you who weren’t able to purchase Mark’s books because we sold out today, you can order ALL IN here (it’s full of messages like today) and parents can order the Praying Circles Around the Lives of your Children hereI highly recommend both!

By the way, Mark gave me a copy of his newest work, The Grave Robber, which doesn’t release until September 2nd, and I can’t put it down!  You can pre-order here.

 

 

Ask the Pastor

Once again, no one submitted a question this week (I’ll be glad when summer is over!) so I’m reposting this question from 2009:

A faithful CLCer writes, “I would like to know if I have the legal right/authority to repent on behalf of members of my immediate family that have not committed their lives to Christ?”

If I’m understanding the question, or more importantly, the desire behind it – the answer is ‘no‘.  Turning from sin and receiving Christ is an individual and personal decision.  The word repent literally means, ‘a change of mind’ (see Matthew 21:28-30 for Jesus’ own illustration of repentance).  Once you understand that, it’s easy to see that no one could have a ‘change of mind’ on behalf of someone else, no matter how much we wish we could.

Probably all of us have loved ones that we earnestly and deeply want to come to repentance so they can receive Christ and enjoy a relationship with Him.  We can, and should, pray for them, and do our part to make the Gospel attractive to them by our lifestyle and our love – but we cannot make that decision for them.  Scripture is quite clear that each of us is responsible before God for our own choices.

Now, in case I misunderstand your intent, there is an “identificational repentance” championed by John Dawson and C. Peter Wagner in some of their writings – but that is a method of spiritual warfare, not a repentance intended to bring forgiveness for someone else.

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

Refreshed!

That may sound strange considering we just took a redeye flight from Seattle back to Chicago, with none of us getting more than an hour & a half of sleep last night, but other than some physical weariness, I feel refreshed!

The Team Church 2014 conference at Champions Centre in Tacoma was wonderful from start to finish, but last night’s closing service with Pastor Jentezen Franklin was over-the-top FUN!  And then after he had preached the house down, and we had finished a wonderful time of ‘stirring up the supernatural’ prayer, Champions Centre brought out the big surprise by having the “Blue Thunder” march down the aisle & play a raucous number to close out the conference.  (It was SO good it almost made me wanna be a Hawks fan…..but I recovered quickly and I’m still solidly in da Bears camp!)

It was pretty awesome to see hundreds (thousands?) of hands raised in commitment to the Lord!

It was pretty awesome to see hundreds (thousands?) of hands raised in commitment to the Lord after Jentezen Franklin preached!

Blue Thunder was SO good they almost converted me to be a Hawks fan!

Blue Thunder was SO good they almost converted me to be a Hawks fan!

So, a little over 72 hours after we left, I’m back home, basking in the afterglow of great worship, amazing preaching, some great lab sessions and sweet fellowship with pastor friends, old and new – REFRESHED!

Can’t wait for THIS Sunday with Mark Batterson!

 

“An experience we’ll NEVER forget!”

That’s literally true of last night’s opening of Team Church 14!  Early in the worship set, led by the excellent team of musicians & singers from Champions Centreall the speakers went out!  I mean, ALL.  Dead silence.  Can’t hear anything from the stage.  On the opening night of their biggest annual conference, with hundreds of guests from all over the country.  After months & months of planning & preparing for the Big Event!

Whaddya do?

I mean, as a pastor, I asked myself, what would I do if this happened at CLC?

I’ll tell you what Champions Centre did.  (the name is appropriate, by the way).  They got a bullhorn to the worship leader and kept on worshipping passionately!

dunno if you can see it in this pic from my phone, but just left of center, the worship leader is singing thru a bullhorn!

I dunno if you can see it in this pic from my phone, but just left of center, the Champion Centre worship leader is singing thru a bullhorn!

Not only did the blown speakers give us an experience we’ll never forget, I really hope it’s a lesson I’ll never forget, either.  When things are out of my control, when my worst nightmare is being played out in living color, when life just isn’t going the way I planned,  there’s no need to panic….if I’ll keep trusting & keep praising, Romans 8:28 is still true!

(If you’re wondering, somehow they did get everything working again in time for Pastor Kevin Gerald and Pastor Chris Hodges to bring timely messages from God’s Word, without a bullhorn!)

Feels like I’m talking to someone today who’s tempted to panic about stuff that’s out of your control….so let me encourage you to keep praising & trusting instead.

Does that resonate with anyone?

Off to Tacoma

I was up well before dawn today to meet 5 of our pastors (Ben, Tony, William, Sam & Brent) for an early morning flight to Seattle where we’ll attend the 2014 Team Church Conference at Champion Centre.

This is one of the premier pastor’s conferences in the country, and last year when Ben & I attended, we gained so many ideas & inspiration that we felt we should bring our pastors this year.  It’s 3 days of us being poured into by some of the finest men of God in America, and I’m looking forward to every moment!

It’ll also be a chance to hang with a few pastor friends that I don’t get to see often, including Jason Bentley from High Point Church and Micah Pelkey of Citi Church, and maybe even long-time friend & CLC Overseer, Gordon Banks.

Later-

Sunday reflections

Well, the attendance was summer vacation awful, BUT that was the ONLY negative about this weekend at CLC, in my humble opinion.  Here’s a few random thoughts:

  • thanks to everyone who helped make my wife’s 60th birthday her BEST yet!  Several of our leaders totally surprised her yesterday afternoon, and all your words & cards of appreciation provided her memories for a lifetime.  (I told her afterward that it was SO neat because the stories that people shared were the kind of conversations that we usually have at someone’s wake or repast, when it’s too late to do them any good – but she got to smell the roses yesterday!) As her hubby, I appreciate all you folks did to make her day so special, yesterday as well as the presentations today!
60 never looked so good!

60 never looked so good!

 

  • And I’m thrilled by the report of the smoothest-run Camp in our history, as well as the fact that 5 of our teens received Christ as Savior, and 7 were baptized in the Holy Spirit during the Camp!  Major kudos to Youth Champion Sam Hamstra, Youth Pastor Matt DeLaTorre, NWI Youth Directors, Nate & Jessica Hernandez & the entire team of volunteers who made it happen!

Enjoy a little taste for yourself:  “Battle Cry” at 2014 Consumed Summer Camp

  • Despite the low attendance, heard good reports about today’s message at each campus, and was thrilled by the altar response in the last 2 services at Tinley, when I think at least a dozen people responded for salvation, and at least 7 of them came forward to confess Christ! (That never gets old!)

PJpreach

  • At NWI, Pastor Sam reports that pretty much the entire congregation stood today to commit to praying for Open doors, open mouths & open hearts, and they’re doing a ‘community prayer walk’ this Wednesday to reinforce the message.
  • Pastor William reports that Blue Island had at least 5 adult prospects for either their first or second visit, despite the low summer attendance, so we’re excited about the beginnings of reaching into the community there!
  • And in South Bend, Pastor Doug reports great worship & response to his team-teaching with Shanna today.
Someone asked me after service, "Is there ANYTHING Pastor Ben can't do?" (I haven't found it yet)

Someone asked after service, “Is there ANYTHING Pastor Ben can’t do?” (I haven’t found it yet)

The BIG 6-0!

Today is a very special day in our family, because 60 years ago on this very date, a beautiful baby girl was born to James & Eleanor Hansen in Detroit, Michigan.  She was a real cutie in those early years, and God watched over her development until He brought her into my life when she was just a senior in high school.

I’ll never forget seeing her the first time, or how quickly I knew she was ‘the One’ God had chosen just for me.  And it’s been quite a privilege to share life with her for these past 42 years, seeing her grow from that shy teenager who hesitated to drive to the corner store into a powerful woman of God who has traveled to the Nations in following God’s call.

Those who’ve only known her in different slices of life, such as the early years as a youth pastor, or the young pastor’s wife who led children’s ministry and who struggled to provide music for that tiny congregation in Mt. Morris, MI, or that brief stint as a Bible College instructor & choir director in the Philippines, or the fledgling prophetess in Dexter, MO or the determined church planter who wore all those hats & more at the beginning of CLC, or even the anointed communicator who has inspired & challenged people all over the world – don’t know the full picture like I do.  She has reinvented herself so many times through the years that I’ve lost count, because, to Chris, it’s always been “whatever it takes”! 

Why? For the same reason I was attracted to her back in 1972 (it didn’t hurt that she was easy on the eyes, too) - Chris has always had a heart for God and His people - and that’s never changed.  She’s the real deal, and I am one blessed man to be able to spend my life with her at my side: my partner in ministry, the mother of my children, my confidant, my lover, my best friend!

Welcome to the 60′s, babe – the best is yet to come!

babyChris

this is my FAV pic!

this is my FAV pic!

 

she LOVED the cows on her uncle's farm

she LOVED the cows on her uncle’s farm

such a young mother

such a young mother

a ferocious mother of her children

a ferocious mother of her children

The Philippines is always her favorite place to be

The Philippines is always her favorite place to be

but she's become a world traveler

but she’s become a world traveler

and she's always ready for an adventure!

and she’s always ready for an adventure!

she's always been a mama's girl...

she’s always been a mama’s girl…

 

 

 

 

...and a loving daughter

…and a loving daughter

none of this "in-law" business for her; she's a mother-in-LOVE!

none of this “in-law” business for her; she’s a mother-in-LOVE!

and a Nonny of 2 (so far!)

and a Nonny of 2 (so far!)

because her FAMILY is her passion

because her FAMILY is her passion

she loves to relax in the mountains almost as much as she loves Pedro

she loves to relax in the mountains almost as much as she loves Pedro

but the FIRE comes when she preaches!

but the FIRE comes when she preaches!

she can rock a hat!

she can rock a hat!

or "let her hair down" to those who know her best

or “let her hair down” to those who know her best

but she'll always be one CLASSY lady!

but she’ll always be one CLASSY lady!

Happy birthday, Chris!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

For the 3rd consecutive week, no one submitted a question to me (is it summer vacation, or are y’all just going easy on me?), so I’m re-posting a question originally asked back in 2010:

A faithful member writes,  ”I am curious, with the new covenant of Jesus Christ… what is Israel’s future? Some say they are the chosen people and are saved without Christ… others they are lost and only saved if they know Christ. What is the truth and what is Israel’s future for salvation?”

GREAT question!  Much misunderstanding about this!  Let me try to make it simple: there is NO salvation outside of Jesus Christ. Period.

The Jewish people ARE God’s chosen people.  Without them, we wouldn’t have a Bible, or most any of the revelation of God that we enjoy.  But they, like us Gentiles, are lost without Christ (Rom. 3:23Rom 6:23Rom 5:8-11Rom 10:1-4).

Yet God has not rejected them forever, and in these last days He has a plan to bring them back to Himself! (see Rom. 11:11-15)  Too many of us believers, including CLC, have neglected the evangelism of Jewish people in the past, but God is turning our hearts toward His earthly people again, and I’m pleased to say that Israel has become our first priority in world missions!  (Can’t tell you how disappointed Chris & I were by the forced cancellation of our planned trip to Haifa last week, because of the FAA ban on flights into Tel Aviv for those few days.)  We have several Messianic partners in the Land, including the entire Tikkun network, with ministries like Revive Israel, Return to Zion, and Tents of Mercy, and we anticipate greater partnerships with opportunities for CLC’ers to serve in the days ahead.

Hope those answers helped.  Now, what would YOU like the Ask the Pastor?

Russia, day 4

Today was our final day in St. Petersburg, so we enjoyed a wonderful lunch & fellowship at the home of our host pastors, Alexander & Valerie Tsvetkov & their 5 children.

Tonight at their midweek service Chris taught their women while I taught the men, and from the reports that we heard, their congregation was blessed by the Word and thus, we were fulfilled in ministry.

Now it’s time for 4 hours of shut-eye before our alarm goes off at 2:45 a.m. to catch our ride to the airport for the first of two flights that should have us home in Chicago before 3pm on Thursday, Chicago time.

Enjoy the final pics of this visit:

It was a 2-man band, but these brothers led us in worship in the men's gathering!

It was a 2-man band, but these brothers led us in worship in the men’s gathering!

This man was my interpreter, but I took his pic because I love the shirt!

This man was my interpreter, but I took his pic because I love the shirt!

Pastors Alexander & Valerie with their only daughter, Anna.  (Please pray for Anna's visa to be granted so she can join our inaugural class at 3Sixty!)

Pastors Alexander & Valerie with their only daughter, Anna. (Please pray for Anna’s visa to be granted so she can join our inaugural class at 3Sixty!)

 

 

Russia, day 3

Our Tuesday in St. Petersburg is now complete, after 3 main activities:

1.  I accompanied Anna Tsvetkov to the US Consulate as she is seeking a visa to come to CLC for our 3Sixty School of Ministry.  Unfortunately, she was denied today, as the Consulate officer requires that she obtain a student visa rather than the tourist visa classification we were hoping for.  Please pray for us to be able to overcome this hurdle, not only for Anna’s sake, but for other international students who want to attend.

2.  Next we enjoyed lunch and a little sightseeing, as our hosts took us to the most famous Russian Orthodox church here, the Cathedral of St. Isaac.  As you can see from the pics, it is simply breathtaking:

St. Petersburg has been called the 'Venice of Russia', as you can see.

St. Petersburg has been called the ‘Venice of Russia’, as you can see.

The mosaics throughout the church are amazing

The mosaics throughout the church are amazing

This oak & bronze door weighs 20 TONS (40,000 pounds!)

This oak & bronze door weighs 20 TONS (40,000 pounds!)

Perhaps most amazing of all is the dome of the cathedral.  The tiny dove you see in the center has a wingspan of about 7.5 feet!

Perhaps most amazing of all is the dome of the cathedral. The tiny dove you see in the center has a wingspan of about 7.5 feet!

 

The opulence reminded us of the Vatican in Rome - eye-popping!

The opulence reminded us of the Vatican in Rome – eye-popping!

There simply are no words to describe the beauty - but how sad that there is NO power or Presence in the cathedral - only man's beauty.

There simply are no words to describe the beauty – but how sad that there is NO power or Presence in the cathedral – only man’s beauty.

3.  Then tonight Pastor Alexander asked us to teach their key leaders & others about finances, from top to bottom: giving, management, budgeting, etc.  It actually turned out to be more fun than I expected, and I believe the people were helped in the process.  (Sorry, I forgot the camera & the cell phones tonight, so no pics)

Tomorrow is our last day of ministry here before heading home – more later-

 

 

 

 

Russia, day 2

This was a LOOOONG day of ministry to about 65 senior pastors & their wives from all over the St. Petersburg region (some traveled for 5 hours or more to join us).  After worship and an hour or so of various announcements and reports for the pastors & churches represented, Chris & I team-taught a lesson about “Balancing Ministry & Family”.

Then after a huge lunch and fellowship, we split into two groups and I taught the pastors while Chris had a session with their wives.  Both groups were quite receptive & thanked us because they seldom get the opportunity to come apart like this & receive teaching themselves.

Then it was more food & fellowship before we finally got back to our hotel about 7pm.  Since jet-lag has also set in, I think we may even skip dinner and get to bed quite early tonight.  Tomorrow is Anna’s appointment at the U.S. consulate to apply for her visa to come to CLC for our 3Sixty School of Ministry, and I’ll accompany her to speak with the consulate officer on behalf of the school.  Please pray for favor!

Here’s a few more pics of the day:

We met at a beautiful Korean Pentecostal church building (one of few church-owned buildings in St. Petersburg, as property is so expensive that most churches are only able to rent)

We met at a beautiful Korean Pentecostal church building (one of few church-owned buildings in St. Petersburg, as property is so expensive that most churches are only able to rent)

we had an excellent interpreter who flowed very well with us as we taught

we had an excellent interpreter who flowed very well with us as we taught

This pic serves no real purpose other than 9-year old Christina on the left seemed fascinated by Americans & wanted to hang out near us throughout the lunch & fellowship time, so I finally took her picture, along with one of Anna's teen friends

This pic serves no real purpose other than 9-year old Christina on the left seemed fascinated by Americans & wanted to hang out near us throughout the lunch & fellowship time, so I finally took her picture, along with one of Anna’s teen friends

 

 

Sunday reflections

Our Sunday in St. Petersburg is coming to a close, but tonight was already worth the trip, as Chris ministered with a strong anointing, and we saw a wonderful response in the altar, as the Holy Spirit truly met us with healing, both physically & emotionally!  Enjoy the pics:

much more intimate setting than this morning, but worship was still wonderful! (Loved the iPad drums!)

much more intimate setting than this morning, but worship was still wonderful! (Loved the iPad drums!)

whether it's an object lesson, a visual, or even a game, Chris always knows how to connect!

whether it’s an object lesson, a visual, or even a game, Chris always knows how to connect!

...and the look on their faces says it all...

…and the look on their faces says it all…

 

Tomorrow is our BIG day of ministry, as we’ll be meeting with about 65 senior pastors & spouses from morning until evening – so please pray that we’ll be effective in serving these precious Russian shepherds.

Of course, part of my heart is always at home, even when we’re away ministering, and I wasn’t able to get online to view the live stream, so if you attended ANY campus of CLC today, please leave a comment below with YOUR thoughts about the service (curious minds in Russia want to know):

 

 

Russia, Day 1

We arrived in St. Petersburg yesterday without a hitch and had a great meal/fellowship with Pastor Alexander Tsvetkov and his daughter, Anna (who will soon be one of our students at the 3Sixty School of Ministry inaugural class!)

Today we ministered at the morning services at the New Testament Church that Alexander & his wife Valerie started 9 years ago.  Enjoy a few pics-

The worship team here is WONDERFUL, which makes me feel right at home!

The worship team here is WONDERFUL, which makes me feel right at home!

Like the Perm, Russia church, they pray & clap for ALL the children each Sunday

Like the Perm, Russia church, they pray & clap for ALL the children each Sunday

Pastor Alexander Tsvetkov has become a frue friend since we got acquainted last summer.

Pastor Alexander Tsvetkov has become a frue friend since we got acquainted last summer.

I taught with the help of his daughter, Anna, who will be attending 3Sixty at CLC this Fall. (It was a tall stage far removed from the congregation, but we got through it together!)

I taught with the help of his daughter, Anna, who will be attending 3Sixty at CLC this Fall. (It was a tall stage far removed from the congregation, but we got through it together!)

In a few hours we’ll return for their evening service where my wife will be teaching.  Thanks for all your prayers – I’ll post more later-

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

Wow…must be summertime, because for the second week in a row, no one submitted a question for me to answer.

So, please indulge me by reading this post from another pastor (I agree with every point!).  Thanks, Ron Edmondson!

And don’t forget “God@the Movies” closes THIS Sunday with the movie most-requested by CLC’ers for this series, “Man of Steel”!  It’s gonna be good!!

Anything YOU want to Ask the Pastor for next Friday’s post?  You can leave a comment below, or drop me an email.

Just One

That’s the title of our new sermon series (I know, ‘God@the Movies’ isn’t finished yet – so bring a friend this week to enjoy ‘Man of Steel’, the most-requested movie of the series), as Pastors Tony & Brent share this Sunday.

But since we will be in Russia this Sunday, my attention is already shifting to the next series, which has been on my heart since early this year.  Just as the shepherd will leave 99 sheep in the fold to seek Just One who is lost (see Luke 15:1-7), it’s our privilege and responsibility to reach Just One with the love of Christ.

This 4-week series will NOT be a guilt-trip to shame us for not sharing our faith; it will be a practical, how-to series of training messages to equip you with the tools you need in order to effectively share your faith with others.  I hope you’ll plan to be a part-

justOne

Pray for Israel, but we’re going to Russia

Well, as much as we’re disappointed, the ban on all US flights to Israel was continued for another 24 hours today, which effectively means our trip to Israel is cancelled, since our ministry assignment there was only for Friday night & Saturday morning, and we simply couldn’t get there in time for the Friday evening ministry.

Please pray with me for a swift and decisive end to the conflict in Gaza.

Meanwhile, this change of plans means that Chris and I will now depart O’Hare on Friday afternoon for a flight to Germany and on to St. Petersburg, Russia, where we were always scheduled to minister from Sunday morning thru Wednesday evening.  In addition to our ministry at the New Testament Church there led by our friends, Alexander & Valerie Tsvetkov, we will also have two sessions with pastors and wives throughout that region.  Please pray for anointing and effectiveness in all our ministry times there.

Meanwhile, we’re all seeing Proverbs 16:9 fulfilled!

A house for God?

How about at least a bedroom?

If you haven’t already heard, CLC is opening a School of Ministry at the end of next month.  It’s a 2-year school that combines the advantages of a Bible College education from an accredited university with the practical internship that provides hands-on experience in virtually every area of local church ministry.  We’re excited!

360

We’re especially excited that somewhere between 3-5 international students from some of our missions partners in Africa and Russia are planning to attend.  That’s where we need  your help: (hear all about it here)

we’re looking for “Home Sponsors” who are able & willing to provide a bedroom to house one or more of those students.  We’ll provide a stipend to help cover any additional expense you might incur by having a student in your home, but honestly, we believe YOU will be well-rewarded by having these future ministers in your home during this stage of their preparation for ministry.

If you’re interested in volunteering, or need more information, please contact us.

Off to Israel & Russia

Chris & I have some last-minute preparation to do today before heading to O’Hare for an afternoon flight to Zurich and then on to Tel Aviv.  We’ll arrive in Israel on Wednesday afternoon (Israel time; about 6:30am in Chicago) and travel immediately to Haifa, where we will minister in several meetings for our Messianic partner, Leon Mazin, and his congregation at Return to Zion through Saturday afternoon.

Leon Mazin, founder of Return to Zion

Leon Mazin, founder of Return to Zion

Return to Zion building in Haifa, which CLC and All For Him (the missions ministry of Pastor Jaime Flores) helped them purchase.

Return to Zion building in Haifa, which CLC and All For Him (the missions ministry of Pastor Jaime Flores) helped them purchase in 2012.

By the way, for those of you who might be concerned about our safety, Haifa is located at the northern tip of Israel, right on the Mediterranean Sea, about 100 miles from the fighting in Gaza.  We’re not worried, but of course, we always appreciate your prayers!

Israeli worship by the sea!

Israeli worship by the sea!

Then we’ll catch a Saturday evening flight to St. Petersburg, Russia, arriving there in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday so we can minister for our friends at the New Testament Church of St. Petersburg, Pastors Alexander & Valerie Tsvetkov.

Pastor Alexander (on the right) from his visit to CLC earlier this year

Pastor Alexander (on the right) from his visit to CLC earlier this year

It’ll be a whirlwind of ministry there from Sunday-Wednesday before we hop a flight early Thursday morning (Wednesday night in Chicago) to get us back home by Thursday afternoon, July 31.  I’ll hope to keep you updated regularly from the trip – thanks SO much for your prayers that each ministry assignment will be anointed & helpful to these precious folks we’ll serve in both countries!

Saving Mr. Banks (extras)

I don’t think it’s possible to ever say it all in a Sunday sermon.

(thanks to Pastor Tony for this pic from yesterday)

(thanks to Pastor Tony for this pic from yesterday)

That’s particularly true with the message based on the movie, Saving Mr. Banks, that Chris & I tackled yesterday as part 4 of our 2014 “God@the Movies” series. Here’s a few  ‘extras’ that we prepared but didn’t have time to teach:

1.  If the movie helped you to see yourself and you realize that there are unresolved hurts and pain from your past that still drive you today, it will likely take more than just resolving that you want to ‘finish the story’ differently.  That’s the starting point,  but at CLC we want to help you get the complete healing and freedom you need:

  • Our Cleansing Stream ministry is one great option for that.  It’s about a 10-12 week small group study where you will go deeper into the Scriptures while examining your past, to find freedom and inner healing.  Enrollment for the next season will begin in about a month, so be listening for details at CLC or contact us to be included.
  • We also offer one-on-one counseling with a qualified, trained, CLC’er who will help you build a plan for ultimate healing from your past.  If you want to schedule a counseling appointment let us know here.

2.  While the focus on the message was on the negative impact our past can have, it’s just as true that believers can create an environment that brings blessing to their children. If you’ve ever spent much time around our Executive Pastor, Ben Stewart, you probably know that he just has ‘crazy favor’ on his life.  I mean, he’s always buying something for a ridiculously low price, whether it’s a house, a car, an RV, a time share, you-name-it, he’s had more unbelievable deals come his way than anyone I’ve ever known.  When I was with him on a ministry trip some time back, even close-in parking spaces just seemed to  appear out of nowhere when he was in the car, so I said something about it, and he quickly replied, “blame it on Deb Stewart.  My mom has prayed the favor of God over me every day of my life!”.  So if you didn’t have to be healed over hurts in your past, thank God today for a mom or dad or someone who created an environment of blessing for you!

Yesterday was perhaps the ‘heaviest’ time of altar ministry I recall, as folks came forward with all sorts of abusive backgrounds, abandonment issues, etc. – if you’re reading this, would you stop for a moment to pray that the Lord would continue the work He began in each one of them yesterday?  Thanks!

Sunday reflections

Random musings about week 4 of ‘God@the Movies’ series:

  • If you haven’t already, you owe it to yourself to rent “Saving Mr. Banks” & enjoy it w/your family – such a great movie.  I honestly think Tom Hanks did the preaching today; I just made the altar call!
  • In fact, I can’t recall the last time we had such a ‘heavy’ altar ministry – so many folks from every kind of abusive background imaginable, orphaned & abandoned, you-name-it….all of them starting to re-write the story of their life!
  • At NWI campus, Pastor Sam said about 6-8 people responded to the altar call, and they already have 9 people scheduled for baptism next week when they do ‘church at the beach’!
  • The highlight of Sam’s day was a new member who told him that when she joined CLC about 3 months ago, she started tithing for the first time.  She said money was extremely tight at the time and she was praying for a new job, but consistently kept giving.  One day she came up for prayer at the altar during worship and asked for a financial breakthrough.  Five days later she not only got a job that she applied for; they named her manager of the entire department!  She is not qualified; she did not even apply for that job; and her pay is 3 times higher than it’s ever been!
  • In Blue Island, Pastor William says even before he made the altar call, people were wiping away tears, and the alcoholic father in today’s movie really made an impact.
  • we didn’t have time in service to talk about it, but we’ve got 2 GREAT guests coming in August, so I hope you’ll mark your calendar & invite your friends:

guests

  • I haven’t heard from Pastor Herley about today’s service at our Philippines campus, but I saw this picture on FB, so evidently Manny Pacquiao spoke there today! (the first & only 8 division world champion boxer kinda outdoes my bragging about our next guests, I guess)

manny_davao

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor: want hands-on training for Ministry?

For the second week in a row, there were NO questions submitted.  So I’m going to take this opportunity to answer one of my own: how does someone get trained for ministry? 

It seems more & more that seminary is NOT for everyone.  And, while only God can call someone into ministry, it’s also true that everyone He calls must be trained.

I also believe that part of the calling God has placed on CLC is to be an apostolic church; i.e., a model for others, to help train and prepare God’s people for Kingdom work.

That’s why I’m so excited about the opening of our 3Sixty School of Ministry.

Check out the video and contact us for more information!

A Movie about YOU!

Have you ever thought about Hollywood making a movie of your life?

Probably not.  Most of us probably don’t think we could make it on the big screen.

But I think that’s exactly what’s happening this Sunday with our ‘God@the Movies’ series, when we take a look at one of my favorite movies of the year, “Saving Mr. Banks”.

Chris & I often take in a movie on our day off, but we prefer action movies, thrillerssci-fi, that sort of thing.  We rarely ever go watch a drama, since we see plenty of that every day in pastoring a church!  And, honestly, Saving Mr. Banks had almost finished it’s run in the theaters before we reluctantly decided to see it.  But by the time the credits rolled, I knew it was going to be part of the GATM series this year, because it will preach!

I am pleading with every CLC’er reading this to not only be present at one of our Chicagoland campuses this Sunday (6 opportunities to choose from), but to do everything in your power to bring someone with you, especially someone who is hurting or who does not know Jesus. I believe God is going to use this message to change lives.

And who knows, you just might see yourself on the big screens.

Pastor Herley & our Davao, Philippines campus

Pastor Herley Montes

Pastor Herley Montes

I just got a good report from Pastor Herley Montes at our Philippines campus and wanted to pass it along, knowing that many of you have been praying for him since his recent health challenges.

He is feeling fine now and has returned to the pulpit, although he is only preaching on Sunday mornings and allowing his son, Joel, to handle the other services and the weekly responsibilities of the church.

Pastor Joel Montes is an outstanding young leader!

Pastor Joel Montes is an outstanding young leader!

At the end of the month Pastor Herley will travel to Manila for a follow-up visit with a Christian doctor who specializes in a non-surgical procedure for heart issues.  Let’s continue to pray for full and complete healing for our pastor there!

CLC-Davao had a FULL house yesterday, and 10 Filipinos prayed to receive Christ at the close!

CLC-Davao had a FULL house yesterday, and 10 Filipinos prayed to receive Christ at the close!

 

Sunday reflections

Random thoughts about CLC on this hot, muggy Sunday in Chicagoland:

  • today was perhaps my least-favorite of the ‘God@the Movies’ series - loved the points, but felt y’all needed more info than the clips we provided to really make it work – that’s the challenge of using only 12-15 minutes of movie in a 35-minute message!
  • LOVED the fact that we baptized people in EACH service in Tinley Park today!  (Can you say, ‘more changed lives!’?)
  • Honestly, it feels like something was loosed in the Spirit realm after my wife’s “School of the Spirit 201″ class yesterday, and we experienced it in the worship set today!
  • LOVED the response at the close of each service dedicated to “Those Who Make It CLC!”
  • NWI Campus had their highest attendance in months, with great worship & atmosphere of prayer, according to Pastor Sam Hamstra – plus 1 new member!
  • Pastor William says the Blue Island campus enjoyed a great worship experience that prepared the way for the message, AND an unbeliever heard what we’re doing & donated $50 to buy a chair to ‘help change lives’!
  • Our South Bend campus is also enjoying the GATM series as Pastor Doug covered “Man of Steel” today, and he’s thanking God for new guests & returning attendees during this series!

I’m counting my blessings that in the middle of summer vacations we more than 1,825 people in worship at CLC today!  I say we break the 2,000 mark this Fall - how about you?

Any praise reports I’m overlooking?  Please leave a comment below-

Ask the Pastor

For the first time in quite a few months, there were NO questions submitted this week.  

You don’t have to be a member or even attend CLC in order to ask a question.  I’ve devoted a post every Friday to answer Bible questions, family questions, really any question that you might want to ask a pastor – so feel free to submit yours.  You can do so in the comment section below, or by sending me an email.  I hope to hear from you soon.

What I did receive yesterday was a note that made my day! It was on one of the ‘Connection Cards’ we ask people to complete in our services, and it said, “I feel so thankful, empowered and understood now that I have received a prayer language!  We’ve attended CLC for 10 years, and on Pentecost Sunday, for the first time, I received my prayer language.  Praise the Lord!”

We often talk about the full ministry of the Holy Spirit at CLC, and, really, it’s one of the  primary reasons we exist as a church – so reports like this are what keeps me going!

If you’ve haven’t received your prayer language, I’ve answered questions about it here and here and here – hope you’ll take a moment to check it out.  It’s a promise for YOU!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Selah Worship Conference

selah

 

[DISCLAIMER: yes, I am on the program.  Still, this is not a shameless promotion.]

For the past 10 years, our CLC-Blue Island Worship Director, Alan Franklin, and his ministry/business, Muzicnet, have been blessing musicians, singers, and worshippers every summer with the Selah Worship Conference (formerly known as “Musicians Boot Camp), and CLC has been privileged to host the conference most of those years.

I believe in the ministry of worship.  CLC is built on the foundation of Presence, and that only happens through worship.  I also know that iron sharpens iron, and being in a gathering like this will make you a better worshipper!  So if you are presently a worship leader, musician, or praise singer, OR if you aspire to be, I sincerely URGE you to register for the conference and enjoy 3-days of training, inspiration, refreshing and encouragement to take your ministry higher.

If you love Jesus, but can’t attend the day sessions, I would still encourage you to join us for the evening worship nights on Wednesday and Thursday, and especially to purchase your ticket for the Worship Concert on Friday, July 18, featuring William McDowell, BJ Putnam and our very own, Dee Wilson!

selah2

What are you waiting for?  Register now!

Your Secret Life

(No, I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on anyone)

I’m referring to this Sunday’s message in our “God@the Movies” series at CLC, which comes from one of my favorite movies from this last year, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.

I’ve just wrapped up my preparation, and I humbly believe that I have a ‘word’ from God for you this Sunday, because the movie isn’t really about Walter Mitty – it’s about you and me! In fact, I think this will be the hardest-hitting message of the series, that will result in more changed lives!

I hope you’ll join us at any of our Chicagoland locations, with 6 worship times to choose from – and why not invite a friend to join you!

One thing I love about our church…

…is how the people genuinely care for others!

[CAUTION: I'm gonna brag in this post, so if that bothers you, stop reading now]

Last week I received a report that a teen who had just begun attending one of our summer Life Groups was very recently homeless.  Her mother found a job and was able to get an apartment for her and her four children (including the teen), but they had nothing else — no furniture, no beds, no clothes, nothing.  As soon as our Life Group leaders learned of the situation, they rose up in such a way that they basically furnished her entire apartment!  Beds, living room sets, couches, chairs, dining room sets — everything!

Oh, and one more…another CLC’er donated clothing and even some clothes for the infant of the family!

But that’s not all!  Some of our Life Group leaders chipped in to provide gift cards for food, and the Life Group leader of the group the teen attends invited the whole family to enjoy the 4th of July celebration at her house!

All because one teen attended a Life Group!

P.S. That same week, after the storms that caused so much damage here in the South suburbs, one of our members mentioned to a friend that there were branches down in her backyard too heavy for her to lift…..and the next day, her Life Group leaders and their children came by and took care of it all for her.

I’m glad to be part of a church where people genuinely care for others.

If you attend CLC, but you are not in a Life Group with caring friends, you are missing out!  Fall enrollment begins in about a month – get ready!

By the way, YOU may be called to lead a Life Group, and we have a training scheduled for this Friday, July 11.  Get more information here.

Sunday reflections

Ahhh, holiday weekends: time for family, food, fireworks & church!  Just a few random thoughts on this 4th of July weekend at CLC, with some great pics from my one-and-only-and-very-talented-photographer-daughter, Jen:

Every song of today's worship set was a perfect FIT for The Lone Ranger message!

Every song of today’s worship set was a perfect FIT for The Lone Ranger message!

I laughed throughout the whole movie, but my wife PREACHED today!

I laughed throughout the whole movie, but my wife PREACHED today!

"The Lone Ranger" taught us that (1) sometimes I just have to hang on; (2) sometimes I need a helping hand; and (3) at all times, I must know whose I am!

“The Lone Ranger” taught us that (1) sometimes I just have to hang on; (2) sometimes I need a helping hand; and (3) at all times, I must know whose I am!

  • I’m celebrating the fact that we had exactly 100 more people in attendance in Chicagoland than we did on the 4-day holiday weekend last July 4! (To me, that means #morechangedlives!)
  • At our NWI campus, not only was there a great response to the message, but Pastor Sam says that a guest mega-church pastor from India spoke a great prophetic word over their congregation at the close – what a special ‘win’ on Missions Sunday!
  • Talk about a ‘win’ – Pastor William is celebrating a great altar call in Blue Island, with 3 new guests, including a Muslim – on a day when we specifically prayed for Jesus to reveal Himself to Muslim people during this month of Ramadan!
  • And at our South Bend campus, Pastor Doug reports a great day with our friends,  John & Phyllis Nordstromand a great time with God@the Movies there!

I’ve been enjoying some time with the grandsons (and their parents) as they enjoy Jen’s new baby, Diesel, and it’s time for everyone to go, so I’m signing off now-

Bennett & Diesel

Bennett & Diesel

Jaeden & Diesel

Jaeden & Diesel

My talented daughter, her #1 nephew & her baby

My talented daughter, her #1 nephew & her baby