introducing Sarah Bowling to CLC!

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I’m SO excited to announce another guest speaker during our May series, “The Gift”, as Pastor Sarah Bowling will be ministering at our CLC-NWI campus on May 22!

Sarah is the daughter of one of our favorite CLC guests in recent years, Marilyn Hickey,  and is featured with her mom on their television ministry, “Marilyn and Sarah”.

On our last trip to Cambodia in March, I was surprised to see Sarah’s picture in an announcement slide at New Life Fellowship in Phnom Penh.  When I asked Pastor Jesse McCaul about it after service, he explained to me that Sarah has been coming to Cambodia for years and has an extensive ministry there, serving women who have been rescued from the sex trafficking trade.  He went on to tell me that she is extremely specific and accurate as the Holy Spirit uses her in the gift of the word of knowledge, so we’re expecting a great day with manifestations of healing and miracles at our NWI campus on May 22!

No matter which campus of CLC you normally attend, you’re welcome to join our NWI family at 10 a.m. on May 22 – so mark your calendar and make plans!

Sunday reflections

Today was the kickoff of our new series, “The GIFT” at each campus of CLC:

May we never take HIS PRESENCE for granted during our worship!

May we never take HIS PRESENCE for granted during our worship!

Did you notice we had an ALL-GIRL guitar section today? Yup! Kudos to Amaryah, Tiffany & Nikki!

Did you notice we had an ALL-GIRL guitar section today? Yup! Kudos to Amaryah, Tiffany & Nikki!

I managed to get thru all 3 services despite the cold/sore throat that robbed me my voice - more importantly, I believe several CLC'ers received HEALING and I know some were baptized in the Holy Spirit today!

I managed to get thru all 3 services despite the cold/sore throat that robbed me my voice – more importantly, I believe several CLC’ers received HEALING and I know some were baptized in the Holy Spirit today!

Pastor Chris preached about the 'Power for Life" at our Blue Island campus (Sol translated into Spanish)

Pastor Chris preached about the ‘Power for Life” at our Blue Island campus (Pastor Sol translated into Spanish & even did the motions!)

Altars were full in BI as people responded to the message with a desire for MORE of the Holy Spirit!

Altars were full in Blue Island as people responded to the message from Pastor Chris with a desire for MORE of the Holy Spirit in their lives!

The hunger for MORE is real, and God answers prayer!

The hunger for MORE is real, and God answers prayer!

At NWI, Pastor Sam welcomed 3 new families into MEMBERSHIP at CLC!

At NWI, Pastor Sam welcomed 3 new families into MEMBERSHIP at CLC!

Our NWI campus also dedicated 3 babies to the Lord today-

Our NWI campus also dedicated 3 babies to the Lord today, saw 4 salvation decisions (2 were first-time guests!) and several people came forward to be baptized in the Holy Spirit!  That’s what I’d call a very FULL, very GOOD day!

In Davao City, Pastor Joel Montes organized a "Davao Youth Fest" which attracted over 30,000 youth, and thousands of them received the Lord. This afternoon 700 of these new Christians attended our Davao City campus!

In Davao City, Pastor Joel Montes organized a “Davao Youth Fest” which attracted over 30,000 youth, and thousands of them received the Lord. This afternoon 700 of these new Christians attended our Davao City campus!

Now it’s a little couch time to rest up for the big b’day party for Bennett (4 years) and Kelsey (1 year old)!

When she hears a song, Kelsey raises her hand in worship!

When she hears a song, Kelsey raises her hand in worship!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting this one from 2010:

A faithful CLCer writes, “Within the last month, I have had two friends lose relatives to suicide. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there an inference that those who take their own lives are going to spend eternity in hell? One of my friends is really struggling with the death of her mother and I think a lot of her struggle has to do with the above inference. How can I offer comfort to her during this? What are your thoughts?”

Wow.  My first thoughts are, I’m so sorry for the pain that your friends are experiencing.  That’s perhaps the most cruel aspect of suicide: the aftermath for those loved ones left behind.  I add my prayer for comfort and God’s peace to your own for your friends.

As to your question about the ‘inference’ that suicide means someone is lost for eternity – there is definitely that assumption in much of Christendom.  However, I’m not sure that such a statement can be supported by Scripture.  There are several references in the Bible to people who took their own lives, perhaps most notably Judas Iscariot in his remorse for having betrayed Jesus – but in all of those references there is NO blanket statement that suicide results in eternal damnation.

That inference can only be made from man’s logic, asserting that suicide is akin to murder, since you are taking a life, and that since there would be no opportunity to repent or seek forgiveness after death, then it must be a sin that would consign us to hell.  And while that makes logical sense, it’s simply not stated in Scripture.

To the contrary, we can certainly make a case that anyone who commits suicide has temporarily taken leave of their senses; i.e., they are not in their right mind, and therefore, God will be merciful to them.  The real issue then becomes, did this individual receive Jesus as Lord & Savior prior to the act of suicide? The one sin that will cause anyone to spend eternity separated from God is the sin of rejecting His Son.

Probably the only real comfort you can offer your friends (besides your care & your presence, which means more than we ever realize), is that our God is a merciful God.  None of us really knows the outcome of their loved one’s death, so we must leave that in God’s hands and trust Him who does all things well.

I hope that helps a little…..such a painful subject.  If you’d like to join the conversation, please leave your comments (or YOUR question) below- 

Grandparent time!

Riley Kai McQuay

Riley Kai McQuay

Chris and I (and TiTi Jen) flew to LA yesterday to enjoy a few days as Poppy & Nonny to our youngest grandchildren, Riley and Lincoln, who just turned 6 months old last week.  (The trip has been planned for a few months, but when I saw Riley’s recent pic above, it became an urgent need – she was calling me!) 

Remembering how near death she was when the twins were born about 7 weeks early, and how so many of you prayed earnestly with us, makes me shake my head today and say, “only God”!  Look at them both now:

Lincoln James (R) Riley Kai (L)

Lincoln James (L)
Riley Kai (R)

Since this is MY blog, here’s a few more pics from the trip so far:

Riley likes to cuddle with her TiTi Jen!

Riley likes to cuddle with her TiTi Jen!

Nonny has a special touch with Lincoln (although I'm not sure who's enjoying it more!)

Nonny has a special touch with Lincoln (although I’m not sure who’s enjoying it more!)

You gotta love a girl who laughs at your jokes!

You gotta love a girl who laughs at your jokes!

Have you heard about “The GIFT”?

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No, I’m not talking about your birthday, your anniversary, or even Christmas gifts.

I’m talking about THE Gift – and that’s actually one of it’s ‘names’ in Scripture.

It’s the game-changer of all game-changers, and if you don’t know about it, you really don’t know what you’re missing.

But the good news is that we’re going to take all 5 Sundays in May to tell you about it  (well, we get 4 Sundays and special guest Andrew Wommack gets one on May 15!)

I can’t wait! 

Why YOU should consider going to Israel (part 4)

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I read a great article recently in Charisma magazine as to why every Christian should go to Israel.  The article listed the Top 8 reasons, but I want to keep this brief, so I’m listing them one-at-at-time for the next 5 weeks.

Reason #4 that YOU should consider going to Israel:

Meet the True Jesus!

As much as we like to think that we read the Bible as it is intended, most of us are highly influenced by our surroundings and understand the Bible in our own cultural context.  That is why for centuries, European art depicted Jesus with a fair complexion, blond hair, and blue eyes.  Studying the life and words of Jesus in Israel puts Him in the correct cultural and religious context.  He was the Jewish Messiah who said of Himself that He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel.  His parables, teachings and lifestyle cannot be understood without the Hebraic context in which He ministered.

Chris and I will be leading a tour this November 28-December 8, utilizing a Messianic Jew, Spirit-filled tour guide, as well as the opportunity to connect with some of our CLC partners in the Land.  The price is just $2995 if paid in full by June 1 ($3195 regular price) and that includes everything – flights, ground transportation, 4-star hotels, 3 meals/day, entrance to all the Biblical sights, all taxes and fees!

A deposit of $195 will hold your space – register now!

I’m thankful to be OVERSEEN!

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One of the principles of Scripture that pastors & churches fail to talk much about is the importance of being under authority – as in Luke 7:7-9.

That principle is why we established an external board of apostolic overseers in the early days of CLC.  This board provides safety and protection for our church family and for Chris and me, and we gladly and willingly submit to their authority over us.

Each of these men have proven, successful ministries in their own area of service:           One of those men has served on our Board from the beginning – Pastor Eddie Cupples.  Another began serving very shortly after that – Pastor Gordon Banks.                           One, Dale Van Steenis, was introduced to us in Eastern Europe on a missions trip.          Of course, Bishop Joseph Garlington, is OUR pastor, whom we love deeply.          And Prophet Dennis Cramer is the newest member, having joined us two years ago.

All of them will be in town today to meet with Chris and me, as well as some of the members of our pastoral team, to review the health of our finances and our campuses, and speak into our lives, both for the present and to help us look into the future of CLC.

Would you pray for us today, for Godly wisdom to be released through these men and for us to have ears to hear?

Sunday reflections

I just made it home after a 15-hour workday (after our 3 services at Tinley Park and a quick bite to eat, I shuttled our Board of Directors from O’Hare to their hotel in Oak Brook, where we’ll have our annual meeting tomorrow) – so here are my thoughts about today at CLC:

With Harmony forced to play drums & Pastor Jon leading worship at NWI, Tiffany & team stepped up to not only lead us into His Presence in worship, they also set the atmosphere for a powerful time of prayer to close the message!

With Harmony forced to play drums & Pastor Jon leading worship at NWI, Tiffany & team stepped up to not only lead us into His Presence in worship, they also set the atmosphere for a powerful time of prayer to close the message!

Jen was anointed on the perfect song to complement the message (KUDOS to Harmony for suggesting "None But Jesus" from Hillsong)

Jen was anointed on the perfect song to complement the message (KUDOS to Harmony for suggesting “None But Jesus” from Hillsong)

Pastor Ben helped with the altar singing & the anointing was A-MAZING, especially at 10am!

Pastor Ben helped with the altar singing & the anointing was A-MAZING, especially at 10am!

Praying for CLC'ers at the close today was even more enjoyable than preaching!

Praying for CLC’ers at the close today was even more enjoyable than preaching – AND we saw at least 12 people give their lives to Jesus, and that’s what it’s all about!

Pastor Jon Jones led worship at NWI with Linell, and Pastor Sam said "worship was soooooo good!"

Pastor Jon Jones led worship at NWI with Linell, and Pastor Sam said “worship was soooooo good!”

And just One Month after opening our building in Hammond, Pastor Sam conducted the first wedding there today!

And just One Month after opening our building in Hammond, Pastor Sam conducted the first wedding there today!

A near-record attendance came to our Blue Island campus to say goodbye to Pastors William & Melek

A near-record attendance came to our Blue Island campus to say goodbye to Pastors William & Melek

Pastor William led worship one last time....

Pastor William led worship one last time….

...then he & Melek passed the baton in prayer to Pastors Brent & Sol

…then he & Melek passed the baton in prayer to Pastors Brent & Sol

Ask the Pastor

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Since no one submitted a question this week, I’m reposting this one from 2012:

A brand-new CLCer writes, “I have a question about women in ministry and pastoral positions. Since the scripture says in 1st Timothy 2:11-15. “Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: 15 but she shall be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.

I understand each of our “gifts” are a unique form of ministry to others; however, I am referring to a leadership position in a church or ministry.

What’s your take on this?”

Excellent question – one that’s been hotly debated in different church circles for years, and that I’ve answered several times through our history at CLC.

Let’s start with what I know: the Bible never contradicts itself.  NEVER.  Otherwise, it loses its authority and we are left without a rudder – we don’t know what to believe.

And since I know that the Bible never contradicts itself, I personally don’t see any way that 1Tim 2:11-15 (or the only other passage in Bible that seems similar, 1Cor 14:34-35) could possibly mean what some have interpreted it to mean; i.e., that ministry or leadership positions in the New Testament church are reserved for men only.

I say that because there are so many other references in Scripture to women who obviously ministered publicly: John 4:39; Exodus 15:20; 2Kings 22:14; Acts 18:24-26, Acts 21:9; Romans 16:1-2, Romans 16:7; Joel 2:28 w/Acts 2:17-18

Think of women in the Old Testament who influenced nations, like Deborah and Esther.  Or how about the “ministering women” who defied the custom of the day in Palestine to follow Jesus, and  their names have been recorded for us as a memorial of them. (Luke 8:3; 24:10).  These women were among the last at the cross (Matt 27:55-56) and the first at the His tomb!  (Mark 16:1-2)

Or how about these women in the New Testament Church, who obviously had a ministry: Mary (Acts 12:12); Tabitha (Acts 9:36); Priscilla (of Acts 18 and 1Cor 16:19); or even Euodia & Syntche (Phil 4:3).

Personally, I’m convinced that Gal 3:28 makes it clear: women can fulfill any ministry that a man can fill.  In fact, my experience in ministry over the last 43 years tells me that the real issue is usually gender-bias or male chauvinism!  And in my mind, the only thing worse than human prejudice is when we try to use Bible to justify it.

I’ll get down from my soapbox long enough to try to address the specific passage you asked about – 1Tim 2:11-15, and I can tell you that ‘silence’ in verse12 is the same Greek word as ‘quiet’ in verse 2.  According to Greek scholars, it does NOT denote a verbal quiet, but a quiet as in peaceful.   (I’m not a scholar, but I’m told that there are 2 Greek words, one which indicates ‘tranquillity arising from without’, and this one, indicating ‘tranquility arising from within; meaning, ‘causing no disturbance to others’, and this word was also used in 1Pet 3:4, so it is often associated with ’meek’, to characterize the spirit or disposition of a person.

Finally, IF that one verse of Scripture is to override all the rest of the Bible and truly forbids a women to minister publicly, then why has God blessed so many women in ministry through the years, including just a few that I’ll list here:

  • Sojourner Truth –  an ex-slave, mother, evangelist, abolitionist, author, women’s rights advocate, temperance activist.  Those who knew her remembered her as a “dynamic woman with strength, integrity, poise and wit.  She was a powerful public speaker and knew large portions of the Bible by heart, but never learned how to read or write.  Sojourner Truth spent more than 50 years on the front lines.
  • Aimee Semple McPherson started a church, the Foursquare denomination, and a Bible School.  She applied for and received the first FCC license ever issued to a woman and was the first person to ever operate a Christian radio station.  In her lifetime she composed 175 songs & hymns, preached thousands of sermons and graduated over 8,000 ministers from L.I.F.E. Bible College.  It is estimated that during the Depression, some 1.5 million people received aid from her ministry!
  • Bertha Smith was a missionary to China for nearly 42 years. She retired at age 70, returned to USA where she had another ministry of almost 30 yrs, awakening American Christians to their need for revival and inspiring them to pray for an awakening in their land.  During her travels and constant speaking engagements she touched thousands of lives.  She died just five months short of her 100th birthday.  She left a legacy in the form of the Peniel Prayer Center, a retreat center for spiritual life conferences.
  • Kathryn Kuhlman was known for a worldwide ministry that began to develop in 1950. Her messages were heard all over the United States and overseas. Most of us remember her as a woman of miracles.  However, although there were thousands upon thousands of miracles, the greatest miracle to Kathryn was when a person became born again.  It was common for tumors to dissolve, cancers to fall off, the blind to see and the deaf to hear.  Migraine headaches were healed instantly.  Even teeth were divinely filled.  It would be impossible to list all the miracles that took place during her prolific ministry.

Sorry to wax eloquent on this subject, but I do feel passionately about how the Church has oftentimes gone into battle with one hand tied behind our back as it were, because of a refusal to allow women to fulfill the calling that God has placed upon their life to minister, simply because of their gender.

I do understand the authority that God has delegated to the husband in his household and the principle of men in leadership even in the Church.  But as I’ve explained in the past about our ministry here, my wife is not “usurping” authority at CLC; I have given it to her, knowing that God has gifted her to pastor here alongside me.  In addition, we sometimes invite other women pastors and leaders to minister here, including Pastor Sarah Bowling, who will minister at our NWI campus on May 22!

Hope this helps a bit.  Would you like to join the conversation or submit YOUR question below?

Andrew Wommack is returning to CLC!

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I’m excited to tell you that Andrew will be ministering in all 3 services at CLC-Tinley Park on Pentecost Sunday, May 15!

If you don’t know Andrew, here’s an interesting interview about his ministry.

He has ministered at CLC several times since about 1999, and it’s always a treat.  I think he is one of the finest Bible teachers in the world, and I have personally benefited and been influenced through his teachings, which is why I’m so pleased that he is returning.

I know it’s a few weeks away, but it’s not too early for you to tell your friends and family and make plans to spend Pentecost Sunday with us at CLC!

Why YOU should consider going to Israel (part 3)

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I read a great article recently in Charisma magazine as to why every Christian should go to Israel.  The article listed the Top 8 reasons, but I want to keep this brief, so I’m doing them one-at-at-time for the next 6 weeks.

Reason #3 that YOU should consider going to Israel:

Encounter God is a New Way!

God is not limited to any one location (He’s omnipresent!) and, therefore, we can pray from anywhere in the world and experience His Presence in our lives.  But, there’s something to be said for taking a spiritual pilgrimage to get away from everyday life and seek the Lord with new fervor.  A trip to Israel is the perfect getaway to seek the Lord.  Walking where Jesus walked, hearing His words anew, seeing the illustrations from everyday life that He used, and understanding His teachings at new levels often leads us to special encounters, even healings, that stay with the traveler when they return home. (Who knows – you may even choose to be baptized in the Jordan River!)

Chris and I will be leading a tour this November 28-December 8, utilizing a Messianic Jew, Spirit-filled tour guide, as well as the opportunity to connect with some of our CLC partners in the Land.  The price is just $2995 if paid in full by June 1 ($3195 regular price) and that includes everything – flights, ground transportation, 4-star hotels, 3 meals/day, entrance to all the Biblical sights, all taxes and fees!

A deposit of $195 will hold your space – register now!

Movie lovers, here’s your chance!

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If you’ve been around CLC for the past several summers, you know that one of our most popular sermon series of the year is “At the Movies”, where we choose some recent Hollywood blockbusters and find Biblical truths that we can teach, using clips from the movie to illustrate.

Honestly, it’s the hardest work in sermon prep that we do all year, but the end result is a lot of fun – and, more importantly, some hard-hitting messages that have changed people’s lives, too.

But one KEY is to choose the right movies to teach from, since we only do 5 in a series.  That’s where YOU come in.  This year’s series begins July 3, so we’re beginning our pastoral team discussion about it this week, and I have 2 questions for YOU:

1.  Which would you prefer, a series using recent Hollywood hits, OR a series of movie classics from the past?  (We’ve never done a ‘classics’ series with some of the greatest movies ever, so the idea is rather intriguing – but we also want to make this series the MOST compelling of the year for your unchurches friends and family members, so you can invite them as we did recently for our Easter services)

2.  Regardless of your preference on question #1, would you nominate the top 3 movies that you’d like to hear a message from?  Keep in mind that we’re not looking for so-called “Christian movies”; we want to take popular movies that your unchurched friends and family members might watch, but unveil Biblical truths from them.

Please leave your answers below:

Sunday reflections

Here’s my thoughts on this beautiful Spring Sunday at CLC:

Pastors William & Melek did an amazing job in sharing their farewell message at Tinley Park

Pastors William & Melek did an amazing job in sharing their farewell message at Tinley Park

Don't follow circumstances unless you have HIS PEACE! (gonna miss these folks)

Don’t follow circumstances unless you have HIS PEACE! (gonna miss these folks)

It was a special moment when our pastors, elders & congregation prayed over the Arevalo's and Brent & Sol during this pastoral transition

It was a special moment when our pastors, elders & congregation prayed over the Arevalo’s and Brent & Sol during this pastoral transition!

I'm thankful for VOLUNTEERS behind the scenes that few people even know about, yet their service enables the ministry you see onstage!

I’m thankful for VOLUNTEERS behind the scenes that few people even know about, yet their service enables the ministry you see onstage!

Most of all, I'm thankful that even on this day when we said goodbye to people we love, we saw several new folks pray to receive Christ, and that never gets old!

Most of all, I’m thankful that even on this day when we said goodbye to people we love, we saw several new folks pray to receive Christ, and that never gets old!

And I'm thankful for worship leaders who truly have the heart of worship!  (Thanks for all you do at NWI, Linell!)

And I’m thankful for worship leaders who truly have the heart of worship! (Thanks for all you do at NWI, Linell!)

Now that's a good looking Campus Pastor!

Now that’s a good looking Campus Pastor!

My wife preached in the new building at NWI for her first time today!

My wife preached in the new building at NWI for her first time today!

I have no idea what she said, but it looks like NWI knows how to have fun in church!

I have no idea what Pastor Chris said, but it looks like NWI knows how to have fun in church!

Our Blue Island campus auditorium is FESTIVE - which sets the right tone for worshiping God!

Our Blue Island campus auditorium is FESTIVE – which sets the right tone for worshiping God!

Pastor Ben brought the Word (with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish) at Blue Island (since we had their outgoing & incoming pastors in Tinley Park today)

Pastor Ben brought the Word (with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish) at Blue Island (since we had their outgoing & incoming pastors in Tinley Park today)

 

Our Youth Ministry in Blue Island is GROWING!

Our Youth Ministry in Blue Island is GROWING!

that concludes another good day at CLC!

Ask the Pastor

Business question

A faithful CLC’er writes, “What does 1 Kings 17:11-16 mean?  I mean, what message is it trying to convey?”

This is another question that makes my heart glad, because it shows that you’re seeking to understand, not just speed-read your way through the Bible.  Here are my answers:

  1. One of the best rules for reading/interpreting Scripture is to always interpret the Bible literally, unless the context makes it obvious that you should not do so.  (Revelation 9 would be a good example of a passage that cannot/should not be interpreted literally!)
  • So the story in 1Kings 17 is literally true: a destitute widow was about to prepare one last meal for herself and her son, before they would starve to death.  The prophet Elijah was supernaturally directed to visit her in order to provide sustenance for them and himself, miraculously!  So the meaning is clear: God provided a miracle to take care of both His prophet and this poor widow and her son.

2.  As to what the story might mean to us today, there are MANY messages (that’s one of the things I love about God’s Word!), but I’ll list just a few to get us started:

  • Elijah’s obedience tells us to believe God, even if He asks us to do something that doesn’t make sense (why go to a starving widow in a foreign country to feed a prophet?)
  • The widow’s plan before Elijah arrived warns us about letting negative circumstances affect our thinking – she had given up hope and was ready to die, while God has a much better plan for all of us!
  • Elijah’s initial request shows us the importance of serving others, especially when we’re down or discouraged – it always helps to get our eyes off of ourselves and help others whose needs may be greater than our own!
  • Elijah’s message reminds us all not to fear, because fear paralyzes us from doing the very things we need to do (besides, God has not given us a spirit of fear, so debilitating fear is always from the enemy!)
  • The instructions to the widow teach the principle of tithing, as she was told to give to Elijah first, and the promise was that then her needs would be supplied.
  • We also see the principle of start where you are instead of waiting for something to change.  See Ecclesiastes 11:4 for more about that)
  • Finally, I see a lesson for all of us that after we’ve done what we can, we should expect God to do what we cannot do!

That’s 7 lessons for today that I see in the story.  How about YOU?  What other lessons do you see from reading this story?  Please share them with us below:

How to hear from God thru CIRCUMSTANCES

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I’m enjoying our current series, “Is That Really You, God?” as much as any we’ve done – and I hope CLC’ers are receiving from it as well, because I know God is still speaking today, if we’re listening for His voice!

But, if I had $100 for every time some well-meaning Christian has told me how God spoke to them because they saw a rainbow, or a dove, or because the 7th car that passed them on the freeway was a pink Cadillac or some other weird circumstance, I would be a wealthy man today.

Circumstances can be used by God to communicate with us – but they can also be completely unreliable or even misleading!  That’s why I’m really excited to share with you THIS Sunday, and I hope you’ll plan to be here and even invite someone to join you as we see what the Bible teaches about hearing God’s voice thru circumstances.

It’s gonna be fun!

Why YOU should consider going to Israel (part 2)

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I read a great article recently in Charisma magazine as to why every Christian should go to Israel.  The article listed the Top 8 reasons, but I want to keep this brief, so I’m doing them one-at-at-time for the next 7 weeks.

Reason #2 that YOU should consider going to Israel:

Your Bible will come alive!

Besides the surreal affect of actually walking in the land where Jesus walked, In Israel we begin to study the Bible not just devotionally, or doctrinally, but as a history book – an extremely accurate one backed by archaeological finds.  We read the Bible not just for spiritual meaning, but trace the stories on maps and visit the archaeological remains of many of the cities.  The Bible becomes so real that it literally stands up and takes on a third dimension as an accurate, historical account from which we learn many spiritual lessons.

Chris and I will be leading a tour this November 28-December 8, utilizing a Messianic Jew, Spirit-filled tour guide, as well as the opportunity to connect with some of our CLC partners in the Land.  The price is just $2995 if paid in full by June 1 ($3195 regular price) and that includes everything – flights, ground transportation, 4-star hotels, 3 meals/day, entrance to all the Biblical sights, all taxes and fees!

A deposit of $195 will hold your space – register now!

Saying goodbye

I’ve never been good at goodbyes.

I guess it would be much easier if we didn’t love people.  But as someone smarter than me said long ago, ‘better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all’.

Besides, we’re not really losing them, because ‘once a CLC’er, always a CLC’er’!

About 8-9 months ago, our Blue Island campus pastors, William & Melek Arevalo, broke the news to me that they had heard God’s voice calling them to plant a new church in a city of South Carolina that they had never been to before, only heard it in prayer.

Along with planting a church, they are launching an entirely new ministry that promises to impact many Hispanics and others throughout the world.  They will be at our Tinley Park campus this Sunday, April 17, to help deliver the message about ‘Hearing God through Circumstances’, as well as say ‘goodbye’ to all of us.

CLC will be partnering with them in their new venture, and we’ll be receiving a love offering on Sunday to bless them as they begin this journey – so come prepared to show your love for this precious family who have won our hearts.

Pastors William & Melek Arevalo, with Kean, Nolan & Neily

Pastors William & Melek Arevalo, with Kean, Nolan & Neily

Sunday reflections

It’s been a long time since I had as much FUN teaching the Word as I did today:

as always, the 'Servants of Praise' led us into the Presence of God!

as always, the ‘Servants of Praise’ led us into the Presence of God!

We baptized 4 adults today, including Peace Omeje! (Loved hearing each testimony, too!)

We baptized 4 adults today, including Peace Omeje! (Loved hearing each testimony, too!)

The Word was 'flowing' for me today, which is what made it FUN!

The Word was ‘flowing’ for me today, which is what made it FUN!

Love our NWI praise team!

Love our NWI praise team!

Pastor Sam 'brought it' at NWI, to help us hear God thru other people!

Pastor Sam ‘brought it’ at NWI, to help us hear God thru other people!

Our NWI campus is all about impacting CHILDREN and young families!

Our NWI campus is all about impacting CHILDREN and young families!

Feel the passion of our Blue Island worship team?

Feel the passion of our Blue Island worship team?  YES!

Pastors William & Melek preached their farewell message at Blue Island today. Next Sunday they'll be in Tinley Park to share the Word with us before they depart for South Carolina.

Pastors William & Melek preached their farewell message at Blue Island today. Next Sunday they’ll be in Tinley Park to share the Word with us before they depart for South Carolina.

Pastor William introduced Pastors Brent & Sol as the NEW campus pastors for Blue Island

Pastor William introduced Pastors Brent & Sol as the NEW campus pastors for Blue Island

We’re half-way through this series on ‘Hearing God’s Voice’ – can’t wait for next Sunday when we look at hearing from God through circumstances – you don’t want to miss this!

If you attended online or at any CLC campus today, join the conversation by telling us below how the Holy Spirit ministered to you or your favorite ‘moment’ today:

 

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful CLC’er writes, “Why does in some case when the Bible talks about someone…it often mentions who their father or mother is or was? Is there a specific reason, other than the obvious?

Great question, and one I’ve never been asked before.  I wouldn’t say that Scripture clearly answers this question, but here’s what I think:

  1. Identification – you’ve probably noticed that last names were not used in the Bible – so instead of just saying ‘Peter’ or ‘John’, when there could have been hundreds of men with that given name, the individual’s father and/or mother was mentioned to help identify about whom the verse was written.
  2. Tribal or ministry qualification – in order to function as a priest, for instance, it was necessary to descend from the lineage of Aaron.  So in some cases, the individual’s father would be named to let us know that they were legitimately qualified to serve.
  3. Historical significance – there were also rare instances where someone’s parentage would be listed in order to help us connect them with someone from the past.

Hope that helps a bit – I love questions like this, because it tells me that you are reading the Bible to understand, not just to ‘check it off your daily to-do list’!  Keep it up.  And if you don’t have a modern translation that’s easier to understand than the King James Version, try one out today.  You can find plenty of translations to choose from and also find great reading plans here. 

Join the conversation – what would you add to my answer?  Or what question would you like to ‘Ask the Pastor’?  Leave your comments below-

Talking Bible (2 days in a row)

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Yesterday I heard the Lord speak in the very first verse I read; today, it was the second verse, when I read the opening words of Deuteronomy 11:2“Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him.”

Stop and read those words again, because it’s a mouthful:

  • Remember – why? Because unless we do, it’s so easy to forget even important truths that we so need to hold onto!
  • What You have Learned about the Lord – what is HE teaching you?
  • Through your Experiences – sometimes experience is the BEST teacher

Yesterday during our sermon-planning meeting I was sharing with our pastors some of our experiences prior to and in the early years of CLC, so I’ve already been in this ‘remembering’ mode – but after reading this, I’m gonna chew on it a bit more, reflecting on what God has taught me over the years.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear from YOU – would you share something below that you’ve learned through your experiences with the Lord?  Join the conversation:

Talking Bible

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Last Sunday at each CLC campus we talked about hearing God through His Word, and we challenged every CLC’er to choose a Bible reading plan for at least the next 21 days.

Have you started your plan?

I’m using the plan that I began on January 1st, and today, the first verse of my reading jumped off the page at me: Deuteronomy 9:1.  How does that apply to me?

Well, when I read that, I immediately thought of how God has brought ME into situations and opportunities that I had no right to be in; i.e., there are other people much more qualified and much more capable than me to fill those roles – but by His grace, those opportunities have been given to me.

Just this week I sat in a room with some men of God who have accomplished SO much more than me – writing books, building churches, reaching thousands, touching nations – and I didn’t deserve to be in the same room with them.  But I’m glad I was, because I gleaned from each of them, and some of their wisdom and the grace that’s on them got into me!

How about you?  Are you in a position on your job for which you really aren’t qualified – but God opened the door? Do you serve in a ministry that you shouldn’t be able to fulfill, given your background? Aren’t there people stronger & more powerful than you, but whom you have passed up in life?

If none of those analogies fit, how ’bout this: think about where you were when Jesus found you, and recognize what a privilege it is to know Him today!

That’s what I heard from God this morning.  What are you hearing?  I’d love for you to share a verse or two that have spoken to you this week – join the conversation below:

Why YOU should consider going to Israel (part 1)

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I read a great article recently in Charisma magazine as to why every Christian should go to Israel.  The article listed the Top 8 reasons, but I want to keep this brief, so I’ll do them one-at-at-time for the next 8 weeks.

Reason #1 that YOU should consider going to Israel:

You will never be the same!

Millions of Christians have traveled to the land of the Bible over the last four decades and had their faith and Biblical knowledge enhanced in transformative ways.  Over the years I have had so many different Christians tell me that their trip to Israel changed their life. There are so many different reasons why Christians are blessed and inspired by travel to Israel that it is an absolutely must for anyone with the time and means to go there.

Chris and I will be leading a tour this November 28-December 8, utilizing a Messianic Jew, Spirit-filled tour guide, as well as the opportunity to connect with some of our CLC partners in the Land.  The price is just $2995 if paid in full by June 1 ($3195 regular price) and that includes everything – flights, ground transportation, 4-star hotels, 3 meals/day, entrance to all the Biblical sights, all taxes and fees!

A deposit of $195 will hold your space – register now!

Sunday reflections

Yesterday was such a full day that I didn’t get to post on Sunday afternoon as usual, so here are my ‘Monday’ reflections on the first Sunday of April at CLC:

I can't say enough how much I appreciate the musicians, singers & leaders who serve us all EVERY week at CLC - these folks know how to usher us into the Presence of the Lord!

I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the musicians, singers & leaders who serve us all EVERY week at CLC – these folks know how to usher us into the Presence of the Lord!

Our new Youth Pastor, Micah Remington, made his debut today - excited to welcome Jen and their children this week!

Our new Youth Pastor, Micah Remington, made his debut today by receiving the offering (all preachers hafta know how to do that!) – excited to welcome Jen and their children this week!

Brent & I used the same notes & preached the same message (him at TP; me at NWI) and he did the better job (this time!) - GREAT kickoff to our series on hearing God's voice for ourselves!

Brent & I used the same notes & preached the same message (him at TP; me at NWI) and he did the better job (this time!) – GREAT kickoff to our series on hearing God’s voice for ourselves!

I LOVED being at our NWI campus in their NEW building today - what a welcome sight!

I LOVED being at our NWI campus in their NEW building today – what a welcome sight!

To see the building today after knowing what it looked like a short 5 weeks ago was nothing short of a miracle!

To see the building today after knowing what it looked like a short 5 weeks ago was nothing short of a miracle! And I’ve got a feeling we’ll have to go to two Sunday services in no time!

But as we all know, the church is NOT a building; the church is PEOPLE - people like these new families who officially joined NWI today!

But as we all know, the church is NOT a building; the church is PEOPLE – people like these new families who officially joined NWI today! (in addition to 3 people who came forward to receive Christ today at the close of service!)

At our Blue Island campus, two precious women met the Lord in the waters of baptism

At our Blue Island campus, two precious women met the Lord in the waters of baptism

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Pastor William preached the opening message of our new series, with Pastor Melek interpreting

Pastor William preached the opening message of our new series, with Pastor Melek interpreting

At the close of service, he announced that God has called his family to open a church in South Carolina.  Our leaders than gathered around to pray over them.  Pastors William & Melek are greatly loved and will be greatly missed as they move - but "once a CLC'er, always a CLC'er"!

At the close of service, he announced that God has called his family to open a church in South Carolina. Our leaders than gathered around to pray over them. Pastors William & Melek are greatly loved and will be greatly missed as they move – but “once a CLC’er, always a CLC’er”!

Why You Should TRUST the Bible is truly God’s Word

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Today we kicked off a new series at CLC, “Is That Really You, God?” and each Sunday in April we’re looking at how we can hear the voice of God for ourselves.  In today’s message about hearing God’s voice through the Bible, we simply didn’t have time to address an underlying question that many people have asked: “How can I know the Bible is reliable?” 

So, as promised, here are some links to help answer that question, and give you confidence that the Bible truly is God’s Word (1Thess. 2:13):

If apologetics is a study that piques your interest, let me know – there are definitely some great Christian scholars who do a superb job of defending the faith.

And for those of you who would like to have some study helps, here are a few our pastoral staff recommends:

Join the conversation: what other online sites have you found helpful in reading & understanding Scripture?

P.S. For those who have asked, you can register for the day sessions of the National Prayer Summit led by Bishop Tudor Bismark here.

Ask the Pastor

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My favorite questioner writes, ” The recent death of a dear sister at CLC has renewed my questions as to why some people are healed & others are not. I can personally testify about God’s healing power & rejoice in it every day.  However, I’ve also received prayer for healing without any change in my condition.  My friends have read books written by men of God who have very successful healing ministries & they are convinced that God wants everyone to be healed & the only reason they aren’t is that there is “double-mindedness” or doubts. They feel that my body is healed but I just haven’t accepted it yet in my mind & spirit. They believe because Jesus healed everyone who came to him for healing that it isn’t God’s will that any should suffer. You have been in the charismatic movement much longer than me, so I hope you will be able to shed more light on this subject for me.” 

What a great question – and one that MANY people through the years have wondered about.  Let me give it my best shot:

1. From my study of Scripture, I also operate from a position that God is still a healer & that He WANTS to heal people today.  That is my default position and I always begin there, based on Exodus 15:26, 1Peter 2:24, Mark 16:17-18, James 5:14-15, to name a few.

2. However, I also know that God is sovereign and He sometimes doesn’t do what I think He should do.  There’s even an example of that in 2Tim. 4:20, where Paul tells us he left behind at Miletus one of his key co-workers, Trophimus, because he was sick. If anyone in the New Testament had faith for healing, surely it was the man who wrote over half of the New Testament and who by his own modest testimony was the “greatest of the apostles”!  Yet he had to leave behind one of his fellow laborers because the man was too sick to travel!  I don’t pretend to know why Paul didn’t get him healed, but he didn’t.  I also can’t imagine that Paul didn’t pray for the man to be healed – but evidently, in this case, God chose not to do so.

3. Having said that, I am not willing to negate my faith and pray the prayer that some evangelicals pray, “Lord, if it be your will, please heal so-and-so”.  To me, that’s a cop-out that really requires NO faith – it’s simply asking God to do what He already wills to do.  I don’t see any example of that in the New Testament, unless you point to Jesus in Gethsemane, and I see that as an entirely different matter.

4. So I will always assume that it is God’s will to heal those who are sick, and I will pray in faith, expecting Him to hear and answer.  But when those prayers are seemingly not answered, I will not resort to blaming someone for a ‘lack of faith’ and thus add insult to injury – because I don’t ever see Jesus blaming anyone.  In fact, Jesus healed more than one person who was unconscious at the time (even dead!) -so their faith was obviously not a factor in their healing.  I strongly recommend that no believer blame a sick person for failing to be healed, lest we become like Job’s comforters (if you recall, Job said they were ‘miserable comforters’

5. So the bottom-line for me, is that I always ask in faith for God to heal – even persistently and with great determination.  If the healing does not manifest, I search my heart to see if there’s anything I need to do differently in order to see God answer my prayer.  But I do not blame the person who needs the healing.

I hope that helps.  Perhaps other readers would weigh in for additional suggestions – feel free to join the conversation by leaving your comments below.

How can I hear the voice of God?

If you’ve ever wanted to hear God speak to you, you’re not alone.

Especially when you’re facing a difficult decision, or one that will possibly affect your future for years to come – I mean, Lord, will you show me what to do?

I believe that God can and does speak to people today.  So for the month of April, we’re going to look at 4 ways that God speaks to us.  I hope you’ll invite a friend to join you:

Every Chicagoland campus of CLC – April 3, 10, 17 and 24 – join us!

 

It’s a PRIVILEGE to PARTNER with others in missions

Since Easter fell on the 4th Sunday of March (which is our normal ‘Missions’ Sunday at CLC), we weren’t able to spend the time talking about our missions emphasis.  I hope you’ll enjoy this clip from our partners at OneHope and the AMAZING work they’re doing to help African nations grow their own food to escape poverty:

Besides your designated gifts for missions, don’t forget that 10% of every dollar you give at CLC is going to help fund the Gospel through great partners like OneHope and this “Foundations for Farming” ministry!

I’m ADDICTED to these stories from Easter!

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If you read yesterday’s post, you know I asked to hear the stories behind the numbers, and CLC’ers have responded already.  My heart is SO full hearing what God did:

…..like the CLC’er who turned to a 17-year old stranger behind her (when Scott Camp instructed us to ask someone if they were “sure” of their salvation), and when she asked, the teen immediately burst into tears and started to go forward with her – but before they could even get to the altar, two other CLC’ers grabbed the girl and hugged her with such love!  #ILoveMyChurch!

…..or the CLC’er whose unsaved sister came to the noon service with her husband and his friend, and ALL THREE of THEM came forward to receive Christ!  (she says she never saw her sister cry so many tears!)

…..or the CLC’er whose a young Christian herself, and who waitresses at a bar on Saturday nights, getting home about 4am to grab a couple hours of sleep before getting up for church – and after the ‘Oikos’ series was determined to bring her teen children to Easter services.  I saw her weeping with joy Sunday as her children came to Christ!

…..or the family of five who often attend our NWI campus, but were confused about where the services were on Easter so they came to TP instead….and ALL FIVE of them (father, mother and 3 teens) came forward to receive Christ at the altar call!

I could go on and on, especially because of the 200 people who came to Christ this weekend, the overwhelming number were the result of ‘Oikos evangelism’ – as CLC’ers invited their relatives, close friends, and co-workers…..and then saw them come to Christ!

Let’s keep it going – please share YOUR story below or shoot me an email with the detailsLet’s change the culture of CLC and be an ‘inviting’ church that reaches the lost!

And if you don’t have a salvation story, join the conversation by sharing your favorite moment from Easter weekend-

Stories from Easter

I’ve already reported the numbers surrounding our Easter celebration at CLC: new record attendances at each Chicagoland campus; new record total attendance of more than 3,300; new record number of salvation decisions.

But someone smarter than me has said that behind every number is a name and behind every name is a story.  I know that’s true, and I also know that stories encourage & challenge us, and stories can be used by the Lord to reach others.

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So today I’m asking for your stories:

  • if someone you invited this past weekend received Jesus, please share your story-
  • if someone from your ‘oikos’ (a relative, friend, or co-worker) came to visit & received Jesus this weekend, please tell us the story-
  • I’m especially interested in hearing from those who make the “second effort” after Scott Camp’s first altar call response, when he then asked CLC’ers to turn to someone nearby and offer to ‘come with them’ to the altar – if you led someone forward for salvation, I want to hear about it-
  • our ultimate goal is to capture some of these stories on video, so we can share them with the world, and help others come to faith in Christ!

You can tell your story by simply leaving a comment below, OR you can email it to me here – either way, I know that many people will be touched, challenged & encouraged by the story behind the numbers!

Sunday reflections

I don’t know how to describe this weekend.

Or even where to start.

But I’m sure we’ve never had a weekend quite like this in our 26 years (this weekend was CLC’s anniversary, by the way!)  Here’s the highlights:

A new record in Tinley Park of 2,514 people in attendance over our 5 weekend services, with over 1,400 of those in the last 2 services today!

A new record in Tinley Park of 2,514 people in attendance over our 5 weekend services, with over 1,400 of those in the last 2 services today!

Evangelist Scott Camp was COMPELLING in each service, and the result was 149 salvation cards already turned in, plus perhaps over 50 children & others that we're still collecting - all in all, more than 200 salvation decisions & possibly as many as 250!

Evangelist Scott Camp was COMPELLING in each service, and the result was 149 salvation cards already turned in, plus perhaps over 50 children & others that we’re still collecting – all in all, more than 200 salvation decisions & possibly as many as 250!

The numbers don't tell the story of entire families coming forward to receive Christ - unsaved husbands, boyfriends, children, nieces, nephews - it was an incredible display of OIKOS evangelism!

The numbers don’t tell the story of entire families coming forward to receive Christ – unsaved husbands, boyfriends, children, nieces, nephews – it was an incredible display of OIKOS evangelism!  I was especially moved by the “second-call” when CLC’ers reached out to those who hadn’t responded initially, but came at the second invitation, weeping as they came to the altar!

 

These guys planned the PERFECT worship set & the SoP set the atmosphere in all 5 services - such anointing was in the room!

These guys planned the PERFECT worship set & the SoP set the atmosphere in all 5 services – such anointing was in the room!

 

Quite a welcome at NWI as we opened our OWN building on Hohman Ave!

Quite a welcome at NWI as we opened our OWN building on Hohman Ave!

And what an OPENING it was, with an OVERFLOW crowd of 578 people in the 2 services at NWI!

And what an OPENING it was, with an OVERFLOW crowd of 578 people in the 2 services at NWI!

Pastor Sam preached and 12 people prayed to receive Christ!

Pastor Sam preached and 12 people prayed to receive Christ!

Not to be outdone, our Blue Island campus also set a new record, with 239 in attendance in their 2 services!

Finally, our Blue Island campus also set a new record, with 239 in attendance in their 2 services!

The worship was anointed, too!

The worship was anointed, too!

Evangelist James Miller (part of Scott Camp's ministry team) preached both services (Jorge Arevalo is interpreting) - and 12 people came forward to receive Christ!  (That's in addition to 9 who made salvation commitments at the Saturday Easter Egg Hunt outreach, so 21 people came to the Lord this weekend at CLC-Blue Island!)

Evangelist James Miller (part of Scott Camp’s ministry team) preached both services (Jorge Arevalo is interpreting) – and 12 people came forward to receive Christ! (That’s in addition to 9 who made salvation commitments at the Saturday Easter Egg Hunt outreach, so 21 people came to the Lord this weekend at CLC-Blue Island!)

So if you’re counting, that means 3,331 people worshipped at a Chicagoland campus of CLC this weekend, smashing our previous record of 2,890 at our OneFamily 25th Anniversary service last year!  To God be all the glory!

Ask the Pastor

Business question

A faithful CLC’er writes, “It appears to me that whenever Jesus did some healing or other miracles, he often said ‘don’t tell or say anything’, but the people still did. Is that what He wanted them to do…was that part of the plan? An example of this is in Mark 1: 40-45.”

Good question; and one that I’ve been asked before by others who read the Scriptures carefully and notice that apparent disconnect.  Here’s my best answer:

  • First, the Bible never explains why this happened, and you are correct that it happened several times (Matthew 9:30 and Matthew 17:9 being just a couple of examples).  Since the Scripture is silent about why He did this, we are left to reason it out for ourselves, and your thought is as good as any I’ve considered.
  • By that I mean, knowing human nature as He certainly did, Jesus must have known that telling people not to report what He had done would make them ‘burn’ all the more with a desire to spread the good news.  (You know how hard it is to keep a secret, right?)
  • There is at least one other possibility, though.  Several times in Scripture Jesus was concerned about timing (see Matthew 26:18; John 2:4; John 7:8).  Perhaps the clearest example of that is when a mob of people wanted to make Him a king and Jesus slipped away (see John 6:14-15because He knew it was not yet time for Him to be King; He first had to die for our sins.  Another example is in John 8:57-59, in the opposite extreme, when some people wanted to stone Him to death, but since He knew that was not the way He was supposed to die, He slipped away from them without harm.  So, putting all of that together, it’s quite possible that Jesus told people NOT to tell what He had done because He didn’t want the multitude to get ahead of God’s timing for His eventual death on the Cross.

Hope that helps!  Speaking of His death on the Cross, since today is Good Friday, aren’t you thankful for what He accomplished for us on that awful day!

If you haven’t already made other plans, I hope you’ll join us tonight at 7pm for the first of our five Easter experiences at CLC-Tinley Park!  Meanwhile, if you have anything to add to my answer, or if you have questions of your own, please join the conversation below-

CLC and SENEGAL

About 17 or 18 years ago, I had possibly the only God-dream of my life.  In the dream, we were in a large arena for what I recognized as the annual General Conference of the denomination in which I grew up and was part of for the first 20 years of ministry.

The emcee of the conference stepped to the pulpit and said, “And now introducing our newly-appointed missionaries to Senegal, Jerry & Chris McQuay!”  Immediately I woke up.

At that point, I wasn’t even sure where Senegal was – I just knew it was somewhere in Africa.  And since I knew in my heart that God was not calling me to go back to the denomination I had left several years earlier, I interpreted the dream to mean that God had an assignment for us in Senegal.

Fast forward to 2016, where a team of medical personnel and dedicated CLC’ers just returned from the BEST trip we’ve ever made to that nation that has captured our hearts.  In the past 15 years, CLC has invested over $300,000, provided 4 buildings (in a nation that has only about 20 evangelical church buildings in the entire country!), numerous leadership trainings, and conducted about 7 or 8 medical team trips offering free medical clinics in areas of the country where medical care is either difficult or unavailable.

Get this: our team this year treated over 1,500 patients in just four days, despite the fact that one of those areas required 3 hours of travel to and from for our team, and another area they served required 7 hours of travel to reach!

People waiting in line for medical care in the village of Karang that took 7 hours of travel for our team to reach.

People waiting in line for medical care in the village of Karang that took 7 hours of travel for our team to reach.

In addition, with the help of our partners, the team distributed over 700 French Bibles to adults who were waiting in line for medical care, with the overwhelming number of them being Muslim.  And, as a result of the loving care they received from our team, two women prayed to receive Christ on the spot!

Dr. Mope Akintorin (L) was able to lead this young Muslim mother to Jesus!

Dr. Mope Akintorin (L) was able to lead this young Muslim mother to Jesus!

Only eternity will reveal the ultimate fruit from this team’s effort, but this I know: CLC is making a difference in the nation of Senegal.  I give my sincere thanks to the doctors, nurses and compassionate workers who gave of themselves on this latest trip, and a BIG THANKS to every CLC’er whose faithful giving makes it possible for us to reach nations!

Talking Bible – complaining

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During my devotions this week I read Numbers 21:4-5 again, and it jumped off the page at me.  Here’s why: (1) just like the people of Israel on their way to the Promised Land, when things don’t go the way I want them to go, I often lose patience.  (Hate to admit that, but it’s true)

And what especially caught my eye is the next statement in the passage: “[they] spoke against God and Moses.  They complained…”

The reason that grabbed me is because my tendency is to blame someone else when things aren’t going my way (yours, too?).  And the surest sign that I have lost patience is that I start complaining.

Put another way, when I catch myself complaining about things, it’s a sure indication that I have lost patience in the journey.

And while I never pray for patience for a very Biblical reason (see Romans 5:3 ), I do remember that Jesus said in Luke 21:19 that in patience I possess my soul, or as the Message paraphrase puts it, “Staying with it—that’s what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.”

I really hope that helps someone besides me.  If things aren’t going your way just now, don’t complain – just stay with it.  You won’t be sorry in the long run!

What would you add to this conversation?  Leave your comments below-

 

Some important stuff we neglected because of Easter

If you’ve been around CLC for the last several weeks, you’ve heard a LOT about Easter weekend – it’s been our #1 focus in each service, and rightfully so.

However, because we’ve put all our, ahem, eggs in one basket (forgive the pun, please), we have failed to mention or promote some other VERY IMPORTANT EVENTS that are ALMOST HERE:

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1.  Annual H2H Retreat – April 21-23.  The deadline for our women’s retreat is actually Easter Sunday, so ladies, you’ll want to respond electronically to this one.  The cost is just $250, and that includes 2 nights lodging at the beautiful Olympia resort in Wisconsin, meals from Thursday dinner through Saturday lunch, all sessions, special activities & swag!  Don’t delay – register TODAY!

Bishop Tudor Bismark

Bishop Tudor Bismark

2.  National Prayer Summit with Tudor Bismark ministries – April 6-8.  Bishop Tudor has been a CLC favorite for years, and he has chosen CLC to host his National Conference.  Registration is required to attend the Thursday & Friday day sessions, but the evening services are open to the public all 3 nights!

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3.  Alpha and Cleansing Stream – two of the finest ministries we offer at CLC will begin the week after Easter.  Alpha is specially designed to lead seekers to explore the Christian faith, and is ideal for your unchurched friends (whether they accepted your invitation for Easter or not)Cleansing Stream is the most effective ministry we’ve found to help people deal with the baggage of their past – getting free of bitterness, habits, addictions and more.  You can sign up for either of these ministries at the Life Group table in the lobby of CLC-Tinley Park.

Hello, goodbye

I’m old enough to remember when the Beatles sang a catchy tune about “You say goodbye and I say hello”, but that’s not the subject of this post.

Instead, in case you hadn’t heard, Pastor Matt DeLaTorre recently let us know that he felt God was leading him elsewhere, and he and Leslie are pursuing a God-opportunity in North Carolina. We grew to love them easily as our Youth Pastors when they came here from New Orleans a few years ago, and we celebrate their pursuit of God’s perfect will for their lives, even as we will miss them here. Please express your love & appreciation to them this Wednesday for Matt’s farewell service at Consumed, or this week before they go

Matt & Leslie DeLaTorre family

Matt & Leslie DeLaTorre family

As soon as we knew of their decision, we began an extensive, nationwide search for a new Youth Pastor, and I really believe God heard our prayer for someone capable of leading our Student Ministry to a new level.  Please ‘say hello’ to our new Youth Pastors, Micah & Jen Remington, who will arrive soon to assume their duties here (Micah will officially begin work this Tuesday and the family will arrive soon after).  They have successfully led three other Youth Ministries in different states, including one in Pittsburgh that was larger than ours.  Help me welcome the Remington family:

The Remington family

The Remington family

Or if you prefer in living color, Pastors Jen & Micah!

Or if you prefer in living color, Pastors Jen & Micah!

 

Sunday reflections

Well, our first ever #DonkeyDayCLC was a success at each campus:

I decided to get my picture with the donkey, too.  (The donkey is in front)

I decided to get my picture with the donkey, too. (The donkey is in front)

We are BLESSED at CLC with a great team of musicians, including the "barefoot violinist", Regina Williams!

We are BLESSED at CLC with a great team of musicians, including the “barefoot violinist”, Regina Williams!

The ANOINTING on Jon & the whole team as they sang "Worthy" was tangible!

The ANOINTING on Jon & the whole team as they sang “Worthy” was tangible!

It was no surprise; I LOVE this new song & am excited that we’ll sing it again Easter weekend to let everyone know:

When the Donkey first arrived in TP this morning, I was still preaching.  He brayed in the lobby, but I didn't hear him so I had no idea why everyone was laughing at a serious moment in the message-

When the Donkey first arrived in TP this morning, I was still preaching. He brayed in the lobby, but I didn’t hear him so I had no idea why everyone was laughing at a serious moment in the message-

It was no problem….and more importantly, we saw about a dozen people pray to receive Christ today!  (That never gets old)

But it was no problem, because the Donkey was a BIG hit with both little people & big people alike!

For sure, the Donkey was a BIG hit with both little people & big people alike!

Pastor Sam says "our NWI campus started 2.5 years ago with a prayer meeting, and ended today with praying around the altar for our new city.  This pic is our KidsLife team praying together before service!

Pastor Sam says “our NWI campus started 2.5 years ago with a prayer meeting, and ended today with praying around the altar for our new city. This pic is our KidsLife team praying together before service!

After the final NWI service at the community theater in Munster, volunteers helped move all our equipment to the new location in Hammond, where we'll open next Sunday!

After the final NWI service at the community theater in Munster, volunteers helped move all our equipment to the new location in Hammond, where we’ll open next Sunday!

Pastors Brent & Sol ministered at our Blue Island campus in the absence of Pastors William & Melek.

Pastors Brent & Sol ministered at our Blue Island campus in the absence of Pastors William & Melek.

Hmmm, the Blue Island campus Donkey looked like a horse to me - but he was a BIG hit with everyone nonetheless!

Hmmm, the Blue Island campus Donkey looked like a horse to me – but he was a BIG hit with everyone nonetheless!

So Palm Sunday 2016 is history and now we look forward to EASTER weekend!

WHO will YOU invite this week?

Ask the Pastor

q_a

A faithful CLC’er writes, “Pastor Jerry, I’m not understanding why the Gentiles were despised or looked at as second class citizens in the Bible. Can you explain?”

Good question!  Sometimes we take for granted that everyone knows the culture and customs of Bible times, and this question is a good reminder to never assume that.  Here’s my best explanation:

1.  Please understand that from the beginning of Creation, God has always been interested in the salvation of all of mankind.  In fact, from the Fall of man in the Garden (Genesis 3) until Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, God worked with the whole world, seeking to bring man back into relationship with Himself.

2.  Starting with Abraham, it almost seems that God changed His strategy (He didn’t really change, but from our human perspective it may seem that way) and focused His attention on one man and the nation that would descend from him – but as Genesis 12:3 makes clear, even then His plan was to reach the whole world through that one nation.

3.  So for all the rest of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, God’s focus is on the nation of Israel.  Everyone on earth who was not part of the nation of Israel was called “goyim” in Hebrew, from which we get our English word, “Gentiles” and it literally just means ‘nations’.  So ALL the nations of earth except Israel were Gentiles.

4.  Since the Jews (Israel) was different than all other nations (Gentiles) in that they worshipped the one and only true God, whereas Gentiles worshipped a multitude of false gods, and since Israel received the Torah (God’s Word given through Moses) and Gentiles did not, eventually there seems to be a feeling of superiority – as though Jews were better than Gentiles.  (I don’t think all Jews felt that way, and certainly the Bible didn’t condone such feelings – but it seems to have been a natural outcome – and led to the common idea that Gentiles were “dogs” – a term that even Jesus used in Matthew 15.)

5.  Please don’t miss this: God’s plan was ALWAYS to use the Jews to reach the Gentiles, and in Acts 10 it finally began to happen when Peter was supernaturally directed to the house of Cornelius.  The mystery that Jews and Gentiles would be members of the same body of Christ is explained more thoroughly in Ephesians 2 and 3.

Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please jump into the conversation below-

Cambodia, day 4

I’m writing this post from the Phnom Penh airport as we prepare to board the first of three flights that will eventually get us back to Chicago on Wednesday afternoon – but I must say our hearts are FULL because of all God did and is doing in this Asian nation:

As usual, Chris taught about the importance of LISTENING to be successful

As usual, Chris taught about the importance of LISTENING to be successful

The Cambodians always LOVE audience participation (even when they're supposed to act nonchalant)

The Cambodians always LOVE audience participation (even when they’re supposed to act nonchalant)

These 2 young leaders are engaged in a contest to see who can empty a tube of toothpaste the fastest.  Except when they finished, Chris instructed them to put the paste back in the tube, to illustrate that we can NEVER take back our words once they are spoken (don't gossip!)

These 2 young leaders are engaged in a contest to see who can empty a tube of toothpaste the fastest. Except when they finished, Chris instructed them to put the paste back in the tube, to illustrate that we can NEVER take back our words once they are spoken (don’t gossip!)

Chris blew a bubble to illustrate how PRIDE puffs us up! (and had a contest to see who could blow the biggest bubble - after all, we're just big kids!)

Chris blew a bubble to illustrate how PRIDE puffs us up! (and had a contest to see who could blow the biggest bubble – after all, we’re just big kids!)

As leaders will need people who will STICK to us & help fulfill our dreams, rather than POPPING our dreams! (look closely & you'll see the stick went thru w/o popping - I'm impressed!)

As leaders will need people who will STICK to us & help fulfill our dreams, rather than POPPING our dreams! (look closely & you’ll see the stick went thru w/o popping – even I’m impressed!)

After lunch, Pastor Seiha (far R) gave us a tour of her office at Center for Global Impact - a ministry that helps girls rescued from sex trafficking to learn job skills & begin building a new life for themselves!

After lunch, Pastor Seiha (far R) gave us a tour of her office at Center for Global Impact – a ministry that helps girls rescued from sex trafficking to learn job skills & begin building a new life for themselves!

After dinner with Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul, we learned that another leading university here learned about our seminar at Beltei earlier in the week, and wanted to know how they could be included on our next visit!  God is continuing to open doors to reach this nation, and I’m SO thankful that CLC gets to partner with ministries like New Life Fellowship!

We’ll see you Wednesday night if you attend H2H or Iron Men at Tinley Park – otherwise, look for us this weekend for a very special Palm Sunday at CLC!

Cambodia, day 3

Today was perhaps our longest day of ministry as we began teaching at 8:30am and didn’t finish until 5pm (with a break for lunch, of course), and I’m pretty wiped-out now, but wanted to give you a quick look at our day at New Life Fellowship, teaching the EQUIP seminar, “Talent is Never Enough”:

Leaders from Australia, New Zealand and USA enjoying a discussion time together

Leaders from Australia, New Zealand and USA enjoying a discussion time together

CLC'ers will be proud to know that Chris is still the 'Queen of object lessons'

CLC’ers will be proud to know that Chris is still the ‘Queen of object lessons’ (and as you can tell from the expression on Samnang’s face as he interpreted, the Cambodians LOVE it!)

they also loved it when she invited them to a quick game of baseball to illustrate on of her points

they also loved it when she invited them to a quick game of baseball to illustrate on of her points

No matter what object or game she used, she ALWAYS hit the target today!

No matter what object or game she used, she ALWAYS hit the target today!

And the Cambodians enjoyed every opportunity for group discussion to APPLY what they were learning

And the Cambodians enjoyed every opportunity for group discussion to APPLY what they were learning

In case you’re wondering, I was teaching today, too – just didn’t take any selfies in the process!

Tomorrow we’ll be teaching the final sessions in the morning, then spend the afternoon & evening with Pastors Chuck and Jesse McCaul before boarding our flight home – thanks for your prayers in advance!

How will they hear without a preacher?

Romans 10:13-15 makes it very clear that a person’s salvation almost always involves a preacher who presents the Good News.

I’m excited about our upcoming Easter weekend at CLC-Tinley Park because we’ve scheduled one of the most effective, true evangelists in the USA to speak at all five services (Good Friday at 7pm; Saturday at 5pm; Sunday at 8:30am, 10am & 12pm).

Enjoy this introduction to the ministry of Scott Camp:

Let’s PRAY for the Holy Spirit to fall on Easter weekend!

 

Cambodia, day 2

The second day of our seminar at Beltei University was even better than the first:

I was teaching in a CLC polo & jeans when they informed us the closing ceremony was a 'formal' occasion, so Pastor Jesse borrowed a white shirt & black jacket from his dad for me to wear - didn't fit, but I guess it was more formal than my polo! #StuffYouDoInMissions

I was teaching in a CLC polo & jeans when they informed us the closing ceremony was a ‘formal’ occasion, so Pastor Jesse borrowed a white shirt & black jacket from his dad for me to wear – didn’t fit, but I guess it was more formal than my polo! #StuffYouDoInMissions

The discussion times were always LIVELY among both faculty & students!

The discussion times were always LIVELY among both faculty & students!

Dr. Ly Cheng presented Chris & me with a beautiful silver plate of the Beltei logo at the close of the seminar.

Dr. Ly Cheng presented Chris & me with a beautiful silver plate of the Beltei logo at the close of the seminar.

Then students & staff received their certificates of completion for the EQUIP seminar, "Thinking for a Change"

Then students & staff received their certificates of completion for the EQUIP seminar, “Thinking for a Change”

Just a sample of the 553 students & staff who completed the seminar & were awarded a certificate standing with us

Just a sample of the 553 students & staff who completed the seminar & were awarded a certificate standing with us

After a couple of hours to rest, we went to New Life Fellowship’s newest campus on the other side of Phnom Penh for their evening service, and it was, well, WOW!

their Worship team, though young & small, ushered in an AMAZING Presence of God and the whole congregation just entertained His Presence for quite some time....

their Worship team, though young & small, ushered in an AMAZING Presence of God and the whole congregation just entertained His Presence for quite some time….

After I taught briefly about the Holy Spirit, Chris gave some prophetic words under a strong anointing

After I then taught briefly about the Holy Spirit, Chris gave some prophetic words under a strong anointing…

when she invited young people to come forward for prayer, I counted about 65-70 youth who rushed to the altar!

when she invited young people to come forward for prayer, I counted about 65-70 youth who rushed to the altar!

Finally, we prayed over some of the youth who want to be used by God to reach souls in this area of Phnom Penh (100,000 garment workers live in poverty within a mile of this church)

Finally, we prayed over some of the youth who want to be used by God to reach souls in this area of Phnom Penh (100,000 garment workers live in poverty within a mile of this church)

That wraps up our Sunday here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia – but since this is now Sunday in Chicago as well, my pastor’s heart wants to know: how was CLC today?  If you attended any campus or online today, please leave your comments below – tell me how the Holy Spirit ministered to you or what your favorite part of the service might have been. Thanks!  Two more days of ministry at New Life Fellowship, teaching leadership principles to church leaders, pastors and business leaders before we head home on Tuesday night-

Cambodia, Day 1

We’ve finished our first day of ministry here, teaching from 8am-4:30pm (with a break for lunch, of course) to a group of several hundred students from the leading university in Cambodia and some of their faculty:

The Beltei auditorium is as nice as any I've seen anywhere - very beautiful, very modern.

The Beltei auditorium is as nice as any I’ve seen anywhere – very beautiful, very modern.

As always, my bride did a superb job of teaching in such a way as to hold the interest of university students & their faculty alike!

As always, my bride did a superb job of teaching in such a way as to hold the interest of university students & their faculty alike!

The faculty, all in khaki's, seemed just as interested in our teaching as the students!

The faculty, all in khaki’s, seemed just as interested in our teaching as the students, during the group discussion times.

Reviewing the lessons with this game at the close of the day also reinforced the idea that we are ALL interconnected with others!

Reviewing the lessons with this game at the close of the day also reinforced the idea that we are ALL interconnected with others!

It was an honor to hold the EQUIP seminar at Beltei International University at the invitation of His Excellency, President & Founder Ly Chheng (R).

It was an honor to hold the EQUIP seminar at Beltei International University at the invitation of His Excellency, President & Founder Ly Chheng (R).  Their 6-story building in Phnom Penh is VERY impressive, and they have 12 other schools of similar design & construction throughout the city.  We believe God is going to use this relationship between Dr. Chheng and Pastor Jesse McCaul to do some great things in Cambodia in the days ahead!

Safely in Cambodia

plane

Chris and I finally arrived after midnight here (13 hours ahead of Chicago time) and between 31+ hours of travel from our house to our hotel and the news of our dear sister Tarshwa’s passing, neither of us really got any sleep.

Nonetheless, we’re preparing for our first day of ministry here in about 90 minutes, when we’ll begin teaching 700 students and leaders from the most prestigious university in Phnom Penh.  Please pray that our thoughts will come together and our teaching will make sense!

I’ll post pics and comments afterwards – thanks for the prayers that got us (and our luggage) here safely!

Ask the Pastor

question-mark

A faithful CLC’er writes, “Has our country become more racially divided and why? What can we do as believers do to change things?”

What great questions.  Let me tackle them, one at a time:

1.  In my opinion, our country may have become more racially divided than at any time in my memory – even though I grew up in the South among whites who used the ‘N’ word regularly.  OR it may just be that the media (television news and social media, especially) have brought it to the forefront, whereas in the past, the racism was there but not so much as a news item. Honestly, one of my biggest surprises in living in Chicago for the past 27 years has been the racial divide – I wasn’t expecting that in the nation’s third-largest city.

2.  Why the racial division?  Sin.  I know some will think that’s a preacher’s cop-out, but personally, I think that’s the true explanation.  We live in a fallen world, and the sin that produced the first murder between two brothers is still at work in hearts today, to divide brothers from each other based on the color of their skin or other such minor differences.

If you want a fuller answer, I would say that ignorance breeds suspicion and fear.  The fact that many people have no real relationships with people of another color or culture and because they have no relationship, they believe rumors or stuff they’ve heard from others and that becomes fuel for their fears.

3.  As to what believers can do to change things, I can think of a few simple things:

  • realize that we can only change society one person at a time
  • build genuine friendships with people of another culture.  Step out of your comfort zone to initiate such relationships.  Don’t let initial failure keep you from continuing to reach out. Embrace your differences!  My relationships across racial & cultural lines have enhanced my life greatly, and give me greater appreciation for God’s wisdom in creating such diversity!  Invite others to join you in building relationships across racial and cultural lines.
  • Stand with our brothers and sisters of color in righting the injustices that occur in our society.  No one should live in fear of our police or of those in authority.
  • Understand that cultural diversity is God’s plan and that He will use His multi-colored church to display to all His greatness!  (see Ephesians 3:8-11, and note that the Greek words in verse 10 specifically refer to God’s “multi-colored” church! In other words, when the world sees black and white, red and yellow, all worshiping and serving together in unity, it becomes a powerful witness of God’s power & grace!
  • Pray that God will continue to use churches like CLC to make a difference in our society.

Hope that helps.  What would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please join the conversation below-

Missions trips & partners

plane

Chris and I left our house before dawn this morning to drive to O’Hare for the first of three flights that will eventually get us to Phnom Penh, Cambodia tomorrow morning.  We’ll be teaching leadership principles to about 700 of the top university students in the country, as well as leading another seminar for business and church leaders at New Life Fellowship, our partners in Cambodia who are reaching that nation for Christ in amazing way.

That ministry opportunity came to use because of our partnership with John Maxwell’s missions’ ministry, EQUIP, where it’s our privilege to be Associate Trainers.

But last week I also learned about a partnership between John’s ministry and another favorite missions’ partner, OneHope, and I LOVE it!  I think you will, too – take a look:

Finally, tomorrow a team of doctors, nurses and helpers from CLC will leave for a week in Senegal, where they will conduct free medical clinics for the partners with whom we’ve worked for 15 years in that predominantly Muslim nation.  Join me in praying that they experience real fruit for their labors of love there!

What a privilege to work with others in fulfilling the Great Commission!

Where are you serving?  Want to get more involved?  Join the conversation below-

The countdown to Easter at NWI!

CLC-NWI Campus!

CLC-NWI Campus!

If you’re part of our church family, you’ve probably followed the news about our portable campus in NWI, that now has their own permanent facility!  (That’s the good news!)

We are feverishly working to be able to have our Grand Opening on Easter Sunday there, and we NEED your help in two important ways:

1.  If you are available to volunteer some time, whether days, nights or weekends, we can really use help with manual labor, especially in painting.  (The building was constructed in 1955, and I’m not sure was ever painted after that, so every room is getting a fresh coat of paint).  If you can help, please contact Pastor Sam, OR, better yet, just drive to the church at 6947 Hohman Avenue, Hammond, IN in your work clothes, and we’ll put you to work! (Work days are scheduled for today & Thursday from 9am-9pm; Friday from 9am-5pm and Saturday from 9am-3pm)

2.  While CLC’ers have been generous in responding to the financial needs of a makeover for the facility, the one item that’s a pressing need is chairs for the auditorium.  We’ve ordered chairs like we have at Tinley Park at a cost of $50 each, and we sincerely need 400 CLC’ers to step up and pay for a chair, so that people will have a place to sit and hear the Gospel this Easter and beyond.  (If you wish to purchase more than one chair, that’s great – but I’m confident that your generosity will enable us to pay for seating without going into debt!)

If you’re willing to help with that need, we’ll be receiving an offering THIS Sunday at each CLC campus for NWI chairs, so please come prepared to help.

Speaking of this Sunday, don’t forget to set your clocks ahead on Saturday night, because March 13 is ‘DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME CHANGE SUNDAY’!

Thanks SO much for your help – I love serving with such Kingdom-minded, generous-hearted people!

Testimonies and more testimonies

love getting good reports from our CLC family, and this Sunday I heard some that were too good to keep to myself!  Enjoy:

While I’ve got your attention, we forgot to announce this past Sunday that this Sunday, March 13 is DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME CHANGE!

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour before you go to bed Saturday night so you’ll be ON-TIME for worship this Sunday!

Tele-PRAYER meeting tonight!

pray

In case you didn’t hear the news yesterday, we are adding another weekly corporate prayer meeting at CLC, starting tonight!

Every Monday at 7pm, CLC’ers (and anyone else) can join us for a tele-prayer meeting by simply calling 708.831.2979.  

We’ll pray for an hour each week, and this week our FOCUS is to ask the Holy Spirit to draw the people whose names we brought to the altar yesterday – to prepare their hearts for our invitation to “Easter with us”.

Just as the USAF prepared the way for our ground troops to defeat Iraq during Desert Storm, our ‘air attack’ in prayer will prepare the way for YOUR family, friends, and work associates to receive your invitation.

I hope you’ll join me and others tonight at 7pm-

Sunday reflections

The opening day of our “Oikos” series was wonderful:

Nothing like heartfelt, passionate worship to bring the Presence of God into the room!  (Thanks, Jon & Harmony, for leading the way!)

Nothing like heartfelt, passionate worship to bring the Presence of God into the room! (Thanks, Jon & Harmony, for leading the way!)

I'm determined to create a "culture of inviting" at CLC, and today was just the first step!

I’m determined to create a “culture of inviting” at CLC, and today was just the first step!

I was touched to see our CLC family bringing the names of their "oikos" to the altar at the close of service.

So touching to see our CLC family bringing the names of their “oikos” to the altar at the close of service, and lifting their family, friends & associates to the Lord!

Will you PRAY this week for the Holy Spirit to draw your 'oikos' to Jesus?

Will you PRAY this week for the Holy Spirit to draw your ‘oikos’ to Jesus?

Pastor Sam reports that our NWI campus had another strong attendance & that people responded well to Pastor Ben's message as momentum is building for their opening services in Hammond on EASTER Sunday!

Pastor Sam reports that our NWI campus had another strong attendance & that people responded well to Pastor Ben’s message as momentum is building for their opening services in Hammond on EASTER Sunday!  Here the congregation is praying for their ‘oikos’-

At Blue Island today, my wife preached about 'oikos' while Pastor Melek interpreted into Spanish

At Blue Island today, my wife preached about ‘oikos’ while Pastor Melek interpreted into Spanish

Afterwards, BI CLC'ers brought their 'oikos' to the altar & cried out for their salvation!

Afterwards, BI CLC’ers brought their ‘oikos’ to the altar & cried out for their salvation!

Pastor Herley Montes from our Davao City, Philippines campus baptized 250 new converts this weekend!

Pastor Herley Montes from our Davao City, Philippines campus baptized 250 new converts this weekend!

(Couldn't fit them all in one picture!) - Do it again, Lord - at our Chicagoland CLC's!

(Couldn’t fit them all in one picture!) – Do it again, Lord – at our Chicagoland CLC’s!

How did the Lord minister to you at CLC today?  Please share your thoughts below-

Ask the Pastor

lead-where-you-are

Again this week I had no new questions submitted (c’mon, folks – surely you have questions you want to ask), so I’m re-posting from 2011, a question that may fit since our “My 2 Cents” series and Joe Sangl’s visit to CLC last weekend:

One of my favorite CLCers wrote about the “Growing in Generosity” message from Feb. 6, and asked, “Does the Biblical principle of firstfruits/tithing mean that we should be tithing a 10th of our pre-tax income? Is there a Biblical mandate that the complete 10% tithe is to go to our local church?  Are parachurch organizations and missions, etc., a legitimate giving of our tithe?”

Great questions, especially because I know from past experience that many others are asking the same thing.  Let’s take them one at a time:

  • Since the concept of gross versus net was unknown in an agrarian culture, such as existed in Israel in Bible times, the Bible is somewhat silent on that particular issue.  I say ‘somewhat’ because it is certainly true that in addition to their tithes, the people of Israel did also pay taxes – so the principle would certainly indicate that they tithed off their gross (pre-tax) income.
  • The logical answer to that question is that our taxes are actually paying for services that we receive from our government – services like police protection, fire protection, unemployment benefits, etc., etc.  If we give 10% of our income after those taxes are paid, it would seem to me that we aren’t giving God the first-fruits, since the government received their share first.  At least that’s how I see it.
  • For sure, if one tithes off their net income, they would need to tithe on any income-tax refund, whereas if one tithes off the gross income, there is no need to tithe on the tax refund, since it’s just that – a refund – on monies that were already tithed on earlier.  Personally, I practice tithing on my gross income, and I did so before I became a pastor.
  • For the second question, I think the Scripture does give us an answer, in more than one place.  The clearest indication is found in Malachi 3:10, where various translations say, “all the tithes” or “the whole tithe” should be brought into the storehouse.  While the ‘storehouse’ is not specified there, every scholar I’ve ever read seemed to agree that the storehouse would be equivalent today to the local church where one is fed spiritually, since the purpose as stated in Malachi 3:10 is “that there is food in my house”.
  • There are other verses that indicate part of the purpose of tithing is to support the ministry (Numbers 18:21) and that failure to do so was considered ‘neglecting’ the house of God (Nehemiah 13:10-11) – so again, it would seem that a believer should give the full 10% of their income to the local church where they receive.
  • I am NOT saying that all of the tithes belong to me, as the pastor of our local church.  At CLC, we use the tithes of God’s people to support ALL of the ministry we do, from the salaries of our entire staff, to the buildings and grounds, etc.  In addition, like many missions-minded churches, we choose to tithe a full 10% of everything that we receive (undesignated gifts) to missions, since we’re convinced that God will bless a congregation that tithes outside it’s four-walls, just as He blesses an individual for giving to their local church.  So, you can be certain that one dime of every dollar you tithe to CLC actually does support para-church ministries and missions efforts that we partner with.
  • However, I don’t find any support in Scripture for the idea that we can choose where to give our tithes – dividing it between various para-church ministries or media ministries or benevolent causes that we might favor.  The tithe isn’t mine to control; it belongs to the Lord (Lev. 27:30), and He has already given instruction that it is to be brought to “the storehouse” (Mal. 3:10).
  • Let me quickly add that I do honor para-church ministries and organizations that serve the body of Christ or seek to help evangelize the lost – and they are worthy of our support.  At CLC, we partner with a number of those ministries every month.  But that support comes in the way of a free-will offering, not a part of the Lord’s tithe.  I also will honestly say that if believers around the world would truly give a tenth of their income to the local church, there would be no problem supporting all the ministries that currently exist and more besides – our problem is not a lack of money; our problem is a lack of obedience.

Sorry for such a long answer; it’s time I climb down off my soapbox now – but I hope this helped with your questions.

Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?

Oikos to Oikos

No, I’m not talking about Greek yogurt.

I am talking about a Greek word, though, and it’s an important one for all Christians.

It’s a word that affects every one of us as believers.

I hope every CLC’er will join us this Sunday as we begin our “Oikos” series:

Closing session of Hope Celebration

Last night at OneHope’s annual celebration was overwhelming:

Bobby Gruenwald is founder of YouVersion and collaborator on The Bible App for Kids - which is the #1 Children's App in the world!

Bobby Gruenwald is founder of YouVersion and collaborator on The Bible App for Kids – which is the #1 Children’s App in the world! (He’s also a member of OneHope’s Board of Directors)

Perhaps the most amazing development at OneHope is the Lumo Project, led by Steve Blount - to make the Bible visual in many different languages.

Perhaps the most amazing development at OneHope is the Lumo Project, led by Steve Blount – to make the Bible visual in many different languages.

 

Mart Green, from the owners of Hobby Lobby, explained about The Bible Museum and other efforts in cooperation with OneHope to engage the world with God's Word.

Mart Green, from the owners of Hobby Lobby, explained about The Bible Museum and other efforts in cooperation with OneHope to engage the world with God’s Word.

  • To learn more about this incredible museum, click here.
At the close of the evening, this small group of partners pledged over $28M to help OneHope reach over 84 million children with God's Word this year!  (CLC is a very small part of that)

At the close of the evening, this small group of partners pledged over $28M to help OneHope reach over 84 million children with God’s Word this year! (CLC is a very small part of that)

This is an exciting day to be alive, and  I’m SO glad that CLC gets to be a part of what God is doing in our world!

Hope Celebration, day 2

I’ve been drinking from a missions FIRE HYDRANT this morning!

Seriously.  The God-stories of children being reached and the amazing ways that the Gospel is spreading around the world through the ministry of OneHope is nothing short of miraculous, and they’ve been coming at me faster than my heart can receive!

The man in the middle was a very successful tobacco farmer in Zimbabwe until he met Christ.  He gave up tobacco but continued farming until the government there changed and confiscated his farms.  Instead of becoming bitter, he decided to teach farming methods to the people who now farmed his land, and from there has begun a ministry called "Foundations for Farming".

The man in the middle was a very successful tobacco farmer in Zimbabwe until he met Christ. He gave up tobacco but continued farming until the government there changed and confiscated his farms. Instead of becoming bitter, he decided to teach farming methods to the people who now farmed his land, and from there has begun a ministry called “Foundations for Farming”.

  • 70% of Zimbabweans depend on farming for their living.  His ministry is now teaching children in school how to grow vegetables to feed their family for a year – and over 20,000 children a year are receiving that instruction AND now teach their parents how to farm God’s way! His ministry has been invited to 37 African nations, plus Australia, India, Canada, USA and others!!
This OneHope leader from Ghana has used materials developed by John Maxwell to teach leadership in the schools of Ghana.  Prior to this course, students there said they did not want to become leaders, because the leaders they knew were all egotistical and corrupt.  After OneHope's teachings, 100% of the students say they want to be good leaders!

This OneHope leader from Ghana has used materials developed by John Maxwell to teach leadership in the schools of Ghana. Prior to this course, students there said they did not want to become leaders, because the leaders they knew were all egotistical and corrupt. After OneHope’s teachings, 100% of the students say they want to be good leaders!

  • John Maxwell shared a powerful devotional message with us, but later shared about a recent trip to Indonesia (largest Muslim country in the world) where he spoke to 6,000 of their top business leaders from around the country.  On the last day, one of the sponsoring leaders asked John about a “free lesson” that John offers in meetings like this.  John said, it’s a lesson about my faith and about God and I’m a Christian, so you shouldn’t have me do it here.  The leader insisted (as John knew he would) so at the end of the conference, he announced a short session about his faith.  About 90% of the conference delegates stayed, and after John shared the Gospel, he invited those who wanted to receive Christ to raise their hands.  Over 80% of them did so!  Thinking they had misunderstood his instructions, he tried again, and asked if they wanted to pray to receive Christ to stand.  They did!  After he prayed with them, he asked if they were serious about following Christ and wanted his follow-up, to leave their business card with him – and he collected over 1,800 business cards that day!  Remember, in the largest Muslim nation on earth!
These OneHope leaders from Francophone Africa are risking their lives to reach even areas with radical Islamists.

These OneHope leaders from Francophone Africa are risking their lives to reach even areas with radical Islamists.

  • There’s a LOT more, but it really is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant.  One more session tonight and then I’ll be headed home to CLC – but know this: it’s time for us to get fired-up about reaching people in Chicagoland and around the world with the only Gospel that saves!

Hope Celebration

I flew to Ft. Lauderdale yesterday to attend the annual Hope Celebration for our partners at OneHope.  No, I haven’t been outside to enjoy the sunshine yet – all the meetings are indoors.

Of all the missions partners we work with at CLC, the folks at OneHope are perhaps THE most amazing – not only because of their ginormous VISION to reach every child on earth with God’s Word, but also because of the programs and ministries they’ve launched to help fulfill that vision.

Bob Hoskins shared how OneHope got started after God gave him a vision of children suffering without truth - and how OneHope has now reached 1.2 BILLION children with God's Word!

Bob Hoskins shared how OneHope got started after God gave him a vision of children suffering without truth – and how OneHope has now reached 1.2 BILLION children with God’s Word!

Rob Hoskins (President of OneHope) interviewed a Russian doctor who was one of the first converts after OneHope began distributing the Book of Hope in Russia over 25 years ago, and today he leads their efforts in the country!

Rob Hoskins (President of OneHope) interviewed a Russian doctor who was one of the first converts after OneHope began distributing the Book of Hope in Russia over 25 years ago, and today he leads their efforts in the country!

I’m SO thankful that the Lord has connected us with partners like OneHope – and your investment is harvesting wonderful fruit!

March fasting & prayer

p_f

Don’t forget that we’re asking all CLC’ers to join us in prayer & fasting on the first 3 days of each month in 2016.

That means this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday there will be corporate prayer at 7am at the Tinley Park campus.  Our Blue Island campus will gather each night at 6pm in their prayer room.  NWI will meet for prayer in their NEW building at 6947 Hohman Ave. in Hammond, each evening at 6pm!

Our FOCUS for this month’s prayers is our “EASTER with US” outreach.  You’ll hear all about it at each campus THIS Sunday, but before we even begin the campaign, let’s plead with God for souls in our communities that need to know Him!

You can choose a Daniel fast (restricted diet), a water-and-juice fast, or omit some meals during those 3 days – all we ask is that every CLC’er do something to discipline your flesh an draw closer to God at the beginning of another month!

Financial Learning Experience

iwbnin

I still don’t have words for last night’s FLE with Joe Sangl…

I’m convinced that it has the potential for more changed lives than anything we’ve ever done at CLC – more than First Love Conferences, more than any guest speaker, prophet, evangelist, or any of my sermon series!  Period.

However, the key word is potential, because unless we ACT on what we learned, nothing happens!

IF you signed-up for the 6-week Life Group study of “I was broke. Now I’m not.”, you’ll hear from us soon with the times and locations of those group meetings.

If you didn’t start to work on your budget yet, here’s the link where you can get it done.  That step alone can change your life, and put you on the road to financial freedom.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments and reflections on what this weekend with Joe meant to you – please join the conversation below:

Sunday reflections

What a day at CLC with special guest, Joe Sangl today:

When Jon sang 'Jehovah Jireh, my Provider', you could sense the anointing throughout the room!  There's NOTHING like the Presence of God!!

When Pastor Jon sang ‘Jehovah Jireh, my Provider’, you could sense the anointing throughout the room! There’s NOTHING like the Presence of God!!

Joe Sangl has become one of my FAVORITE guest speakers at CLC.  He's not only FIRED-UP; he has an anointing to help OTHERS get financially free!

Joe Sangl has become one of my FAVORITE guest speakers at CLC. He’s not only FIRED-UP; he has an anointing to help OTHERS get financially free!

Pastor Sam reports a good day at NWI with one salvation and EVERYONE connected with Joe's teaching.

Pastor Sam reports a good day at NWI with one salvation and EVERYONE connected with Joe’s teaching.

At our Blue Island campus, one first-time guest prayed to receive Jesus, and the congregation is really motivated about reaching people this Easter!

At our Blue Island campus, one first-time guest prayed to receive Jesus, and the congregation is really motivated about reaching people this Easter!

If you hurry, you can still attend tonight’s “Financial Learning Experience” at any campus – starts at 5pm sharp!

 

Ask the Pastor

question-mark

This was another week with no questions submitted, so I’m reposting this one from 2011:

One of my favorite CLCers writes, “I am reading through Job right now and I’m stuck on job 1:8.  It’s confusing to me that God would present Job to the devil for testing. Satan didn’t bring him up and ask permission. God brought him up as being righteous, almost as if He were boasting about one of His children. Satan challenged Him and He then allowed the testing of Job to take place.

I always had this image that God allowed for trials to take place in people’s lives for their sanctification, but I never thought God would actually mention us to Satan, as in… “have u considered this servant of mine?” I’m really confused. If you could shed some light on this for me, I’d appreciate it.”

Wow……great question.  Not sure I can answer it fully, but one thing I know: it wasn’t that God ‘almost’ boasted about one of His children; like any earthly parent, He was flat-out bragging about His son!

My late pastor, F.R. Reed, used to preach a wonderful sermon he called “Consideration from the Devil”, and it was his contention that whenever a believer goes through difficult tests from the evil one, it was for this same reason: that God was so pleased/proud of us that He boasted of us to the devil.  (It was great sermon fodder, although I’m not sure of all of the theological ramifications)

Back to the question at hand – in my humble opinion, God indeed can and does ‘boast’ of us to the enemy.  However, keep in mind that He does so knowing that Satan is always limited in his response toward us, as the story of Job illustrates (1:12; 2:6) – see also 1Cor. 10:13 and Revelation 2:10.

Let me close with this thought: we are only tested when God wants to show us off, just as a good teacher who takes no pleasure when students fail their test, but instead love for students to experience the thrill from seeing how much they’ve grown/learned and how good they’re doing in school.  We can be assured that God only talks to the enemy about us when He has good things to say!

Hope that helped a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?


4 Prayers I’m praying these days

jabez

A pastor that I highly respect and admire reminded me recently of the prayer of Jabez, and I’m praying it regularly these days.  I encourage you to join me in praying for 4 things:

1.  BLESSING.  I want God to bless CLC.  I need God to bless CLC.  We need more than we need – so we can be a blessing to others.  I need more than I need for myself, so I can be a blessing to others around me.  “Bless me, indeed!”

2.  INFLUENCE.  That’s what enlarged territory is all about.  I’m not asking for ego sake.  I believe CLC is to be an influence in Chicagoland, and in the Nations.  I also believe God wants to give YOU greater influence in your career, with your family, and with your friends.  All of us have complained about the state of our nation and the decline in morality and the senseless violence, etc. – but what we really need is for godly people to rise up in positions of influence in our society – so let’s pray “God, enlarge our territory by giving us greater influence for Your Kingdom”

3.  PRESENCE.  That’s what it means to have His Hand on us.  I don’t have words to describe how much I need that, and want that.  All of our programs and plans and sermons and songs won’t accomplish anything without His Presence anointing all of it!  “Lord, let Your Presence saturate everything we do at CLC!”

4.  PROTECTION.  We need Him to keep us from evil.  We don’t need any more scandals in the body of Christ.  We don’t need any more ministers to fall into sin.  Please keep our staff and our leaders at CLC walking in true holiness, to be examples to our congregation.  Satan would like to destroy us, so we NEED Your protection, Lord!  Put Your Hand on us!

Want to pray that with me?  Let’s ask for God’s blessing, influence, presence & protection!

If that resonates with you, join the conversation by leaving your comments below-

 

Talking Bible / honest prayers

why-god-why

Now that I’m in my 60’s, I have a new appreciation for stuff the old-timers taught me as a young believer.  Most of the time.

One thing I don’t agree with is that they told me to “never question God”.  I’m not sure why they said that, but I do know that it isn’t Biblical.  Just this morning in my devotions I read Psalm 13.  In the first 2 verses alone, David asked God six questions!

Not only that, in the next 2 verses, he insisted (demanded?) that God answer him!  And this is “the man after God’s own heart”, according to Acts 13:22, not a foolish, angry man.

Reading his prayer in Psalm 13 today gave me new courage to cry out with tears for some people I love who are suffering, and ask the Lord, “how long must they suffer?  I know You can heal them!”  If anyone was eavesdropping, it probably sounded like a complaint – but even there, I feel that I’m in good company, as David complained (Psalm 142) and Jeremiah complained, here and at least three other times in Scripture.

So be honest with God.  (After all, He knows what you’re thinking anyway)                     He can handle all your complaints.

Of course, after you pour out your heart to Him in full honesty, don’t forget how David closed his prayer in verses 5-6.  You can trust in His unfailing love.  You can sing to Him, because He is good to you!

Would you add anything to that, from your experience?  Join the conversation below-

EASTER is a’coming!

Easter falls earlier this year than almost ever – March 27.

More importantly, Easter is one of two times in a year that many people in America are preconditioned to attend a church service.  In other words, they’re more likely to receive your invitation that weekend than just about any other time in the year!

So we’re going ALL-OUT this Easter at CLC – after all, it’s also our 26th Anniversary!

We’ll be telling you more about it in the days ahead, but here’s the teaser for our March sermon series to help prepare us for the best Easter in our history:

Get ready to see YOUR family, friends and co-workers come to know the Risen Christ!

 

Possessing the property AT LAST!

By the court order, we took possession of the building in Hammond today at 12:01 a.m.!

CLC-NWI Campus!

CLC-NWI Campus!

It’s been a long time in coming, since we paid cash for the property in May of 2015.  But now the necessary makeover begins and there is a LOT of work to do before we open for worship on EASTER Sunday – March 27, 2016!

If you would like to help with clean up, general labor, painting, etc., please contact NWI Campus Pastor Sam Hamstra.

If you have connections with subcontractors who would help us with donated or discounted labor, please also contact Pastor Sam.

These next 5 weeks will be EXCITING for CLC and especially for our NWI Campus as they prepare for their new home!  It also means that our 2 newest campuses will both be completely debt-free from the moment they begin public services, and that’s worth some ‘jubilee shouting’!

I remember this pic from last May: Pastor Sam & CLC Finance Director Carlton McCarthy were with me when we received the deed to the property!

I remember this pic from last May: Pastor Sam & CLC Finance Director Carlton McCarthy were with me when we received the deed to the property!

If you can help us financially, please designate your offering to “NWI Building” – every gift will only be used for the makeover in preparation for our Grand Opening this Easter.

Auditorium seating for 400, plenty of parking, soccer fields, offices & all the classroom space we could possibly want - ALL PAID FOR!

Auditorium seating for 400, plenty of parking, soccer fields, offices & all the classroom space we could possibly want – ALL PAID FOR!

Sunday reflections

Here’s my recap of today at CLC:

The 10am service was the LONGEST sermon I've preached in years - I was having TOO much fun!

The 10am service was the LONGEST sermon I’ve preached in years – I was having TOO much fun!

  • I made a ‘deal’ with the Lord several years ago: I would preach on money as long as He would still draw people to salvation afterwards.  Today I counted at least 4 people who prayed to receive Christ!
Pastor Sam said worship at our NWI campus today was  GREAT (thanks, Pastor Jon, for your help!)  Growing MOMENTUM at NWI!

Pastor Sam said worship at our NWI campus today was GREAT (thanks, Pastor Jon, for your help!) Growing MOMENTUM at NWI!

Sam also said "Pastor Ben brought it home today" with the Word!

Sam also said “Pastor Ben brought it home today” with the Word!

At Blue Island, 1 newcomer prayed to receive Christ after Pastor William's message, and several CLC'ers accepted the 90-day Tithe Challenge!

At Blue Island, 1 newcomer prayed to receive Christ after Pastor William’s message, and several CLC’ers accepted the 90-day Tithe Challenge!

Can't wait for Joe Sangl to close "My 2 Cents" NEXT Sunday, and especially his Financial Learning Experience at 5pm!

Can’t wait for Joe Sangl to close “My 2 Cents” NEXT Sunday, and especially his Financial Learning Experience at 5pm!

  • if you attended any campus OR online today, what are your thoughts about the service?  Join the conversation below-

Croatia, final day

Today was our last day of ministry on this visit to Croatia (we failed to take pics of the seminar last night, so I didn’t post):

We enjoyed the Bosnian restaurant SO much on Sunday that we asked to return there today for our final meal in Croatia

We enjoyed the Bosnian restaurant SO much on Sunday that we asked to return there today for our final meal in Croatia

We have THOROUGHLY enjoyed the fellowship with Pastors Damir & Maria Alic this week - great conversations that I believe have been helpful to the work here.

We have THOROUGHLY enjoyed the fellowship with Pastors Damir & Maria Alic this week – great conversations that I believe have been helpful to the work here.

Tonight we taught a marriage 'mate-enance' seminar to an enthusiastic response, and then led the couples in renewing their marriage vows.  Pastors Damir & Maria were on the front row leading the way!

Tonight we taught a marriage ‘mate-enance’ seminar to an enthusiastic response, and then led the couples in renewing their marriage vows. Pastors Damir & Maria were on the front row leading the way!

Now we’ll grab a few hours of shut-eye before getting up early to catch the first of 2 flights (Zagreb-Frankfurt; Frankfurt-Chicago) that will get us home about 3:30pm Thursday.  Thanks again for the prayers; looking forward to a great Sunday at CLC with “My 2 Cents”

Enjoying Croatia

Today was the first day with no rain (well, for an hour or so anyway), so Pastor Damir took us out for a little sightseeing and shopping – and we’re loving Croatia!

We went to the top of a hill overlooking the entire city of Zagreb - such architecture!

We went to the top of a hill overlooking the entire city of Zagreb – such architecture!

Beyond us is a Catholic church that is like their national cathedral.  It sits between their Parliament and another government building, as if to announce that the government must always consider the Church!

Beyond us is a Catholic church that is like their national cathedral. It sits between their Parliament and another government building, as if to announce that the government must always consider the Church! (wish that were still true in America!)

Believe it or not, you're looking at the ONLY Christian bookstore in the entire country of Croatia!  (And these 2 tables is the total of the store!)  How blessed we are to have access to Christian resources in America!

Believe it or not, you’re looking at the ONLY Christian bookstore in the entire country of Croatia! (And these 2 tables is the total of the store!) How blessed we are to have access to Christian resources in America!  Pastor Damir’s ministry is busy translating others & helping to make them available to believers here.

We walked a bit further & discovered the central market in downtown Zagreb - fascinating stuff here!

We walked a bit further & discovered the central market in downtown Zagreb – fascinating stuff for sale here!

I was amazed at the vegetables here - Chris said the carrots were SO orange she wanted to eat one on the spot!

I was amazed at the vegetables here – Chris said these carrots were SO orange that she wanted to eat one on the spot!

Tonight we’ll teach another seminar at the Bible College – thanks for your prayers!

Croatia, Marriage seminar on day 2

Just got back to our hotel and must tell you that tonight was wonderful!

Word of Life Christian Center operates their own Bible College, so Pastor Damir asked that we teach a marriage seminar to their students & invited the church members to attend as well.  Opening worship felt like a Sunday service!

Word of Life Christian Center operates their own Bible College, so Pastor Damir asked that we teach a marriage seminar to their students & invited the church members to attend as well. Opening worship felt like a Sunday service!

We taught for over 2 hours and the Young Adult pastor faithfully interpreted it all.

We taught for over 2 hours and the Young Adult pastor faithfully interpreted it all.                  (“Rijec Zivota” is Croatian for “Word of Life”)

As soon as we finished teaching & closed in prayer, this couple rushed to us, both of them weeping, to ask that we pray for their marriage.  They are both Romanian ballet dancers, but have lived in Croatia for many years.  It was amazing to see their hearts so touched by the Holy Spirit tonight!

As soon as we finished teaching and closed in prayer, this couple rushed to us, both of them openly weeping, to ask that we pray for their marriage. They are both Romanian ballet dancers, but have lived in Croatia for many years.   When we told them they could renew their wedding vows on Wednesday night, they began to weep again!  Responses like theirs make us want to keep doing what we do, despite the rigors of international travel!

 

 

Croatia, day 2

Maria & Damir Alic, founders & pastors of Word of Life Christian Center in Zagreb, Croatia.

Maria & Damir Alic, founders & pastors of Word of Life Christian Center in Zagreb, Croatia.

It seems whenever people hear of our various missions trips that they assume we love to travel.  The truth is, neither of us enjoy the traveling part; we love the relationships that God has given us in different parts of the world!

Certainly this trip to Zagreb, Croatia is a great example of that.  Our host pastors, Damir & Maria Alic, whom we’ve known for about a dozen years, have been wonderful hosts. They have not only cared for each detail of our travel, but these last 2 days they have taken us to some of their favorite restaurants where we’ve been able to sample the best of Bosnian cooking (they’re both originally from Bosnia) AND Croatian food.

It was fascinating to hear their stories over lunch of how God protected & provided for them during the Sarajevo war in the early 90’s.  In fact, Maria gave birth to their daughter with bombs falling nearby, in total darkness and without the aid of hospital personnel – but she still recalls the Presence of God that overwhelmed her at that time.

One funny story: I first met Pastor Damir in Chicago when he was visiting our mutual friend, Pastor Greg Howse from Cornerstone Christian Center, and he was introduced to me as “Pastor Shisko” – but his name in English is spelled Sicko.  That spelling has made me careful to explain the pronunciation whenever I’ve referred to him in America.  But last night I asked him if Alic was his first name and he said no, it’s his family (last) name.  I immediately assumed Sicko was his first name and that’s when he informed me that while he’s often called Shisko, his first name is actually Damir!  So from now on I’ll be much more comfortable calling him Pastor Damir to my American friends, lest anyone think I’m hanging out with a Sicko!

We’re enjoying the change of pace today – reading, studying and relaxing until our Seminar tonight at 6pm (11am Chicago time).  I’ll post about it tomorrow; thanks for the prayers!

 

Croatia, day 1 / Sunday reflections

We're staying at the Best Western Astoria in downtown Zagreb, which reminds me of some of the old, classic Chicago hotels.  I caught Chris doing some last-minute study in the lobby with this pic.

We’re staying at the Best Western Astoria in downtown Zagreb, which reminds me of some of the old, classic Chicago hotels. I caught Chris doing some last-minute study in the lobby with this pic.

When we walked into the building, worship had already begun and they were singing (in Croatian, of course), “I’m No Longer a Slave to Fear” – and I immediately felt at home!  In fact, the Presence of God was as strong today as anywhere I’ve been in the world!

The praise & worship PRESENCE was off the charts at Word of Life Church this morning!

The praise & worship PRESENCE was off the charts at Word of Life Church this morning!   (Pastor Sicko’s wife is leading at the far left in this pic)

Chris & I ministered about the differences in men and women today to kick-off the marriage conference for the next 3 evenings – and the response of people who wanted prayer was amazing.  We must have prayed personally for well over 100 men & women today!  By the time we had finished, I was sweating profusely and physically wiped out, but the Holy Spirit was so obviously at work – it was one of the highlights of international ministry for us.

The praise band consisted of keys, 3 guitars & drums - and they were great!

The praise band consisted of keys, 3 guitars & drums – and they were great!

We are SO impressed from this first exposure to the work of Pastor Sicko Alic at Word of Life Christian Center in Zagreb, and looking forward to the next 3 evenings here.

However, like each time we’re away from CLC on a Sunday, we’re anxious to know how things are at home.  So if YOU attended any campus of CLC today, in person or online, please leave us your comments belowhow did the Holy Spirit minister to you?  What was your favorite part of the service?  Was the teaching relevant to your life?  Curious pastors want to know!

Safe & sound in Croatia, thank God!

Tourism-zagreb-croatia-wallpaper

For those of you who think international travel as fun & exciting, let me tell you about the trip here to Zagreb.  After we finished our assignment in Romania this afternoon, one of the pastor couples was kind enough to drive us about 3 hours to the Bucharest airport for our flight.

Even though Croatia is nearby, there are NO direct flights from Romania to Croatia, so we flew to Munich, Germany instead.  Except that our flight to Munich was delayed by almost one hour in leaving, and we originally had only a 55-minute window before our flight to Zagreb.  Chris & I both decided during the flight that there was no way we would be able to make it, and to our dismay, there were no later flights to Zagreb on Saturday or any early Sunday flights that would get us here in time to minister tomorrow morning – but there was nothing we could do but pray.

But, thank God for German efficiency!  One of the Lufthansa flight attendants told us during the flight he was in touch with their headquarters and they were trying to insure that we made our connection.  Our pilot was able to make up some of the lost time enroute, and when we landed in Munich, it was about 15 minutes before our flight was to depart.  (There’s still no way we could go into the terminal and walk – or run – to our gate and make it on time).  

But to our joy, Lufthansa had a van waiting at the bottom of the plane steps just for the 2 of us.  They whisked us across the airport to the Zagreb plane with about 5 minutes to spare, AND got our luggage aboard, too.

So, the good news is that we made it.  Pastor Sicko (pronounced, ‘Sheesko’, in case you’re wondering) met us at the airport and got us to our hotel for about 7 hours of sleep before time to minister in the morning.  All in a day’s work – all’s well that end’s well!

Thanks for your prayers as we minister here Sunday-Wednesday, and head home Thursday.

Romania, day 4

Our last day in Romania was the ‘icing on the cake’:

After breakfast, we team-taught a message to the pastors about balancing ministry and family.  Here Chris is teaching with our host, Pastor Mihai Dumitrascu interpreting.

After breakfast, we team-taught a message to the pastors about balancing ministry and family. Here Chris is teaching with our host, Pastor Mihai Dumitrascu, interpreting.

After our teaching, we led the pastors in renewing their marriage vows to each other.  Pastors Mihai & Neli were first to sign their renewal certificate.

After our teaching, we led the pastors in renewing their marriage vows to each other. Pastors Mihai & Neli were first to sign their renewal certificate.

These precious Romanian pastors, who serve in very harsh & difficult conditions, absolutely LOVED having a certificate of their vow renewal.

These precious Romanian pastors, who serve in very harsh & difficult conditions, absolutely LOVED having a certificate of their vow renewal.

We've done vow renewals in several countries, but I've never seen a group so PROUD of their renewal certificate as the Romanian pastors!  (Couple on the right are missionaries here from Scotland)

In fact, we’ve done vow renewals in several countries, but I’ve never seen a group so PROUD of their renewal certificate as the Romanian pastors! (Couple on the right are missionaries here from Scotland)

After seeing such JOY on their faces, we decided to join the fun, and Pastors Mihai & Neli signed as our witnesses.

After seeing such JOY on their faces, we decided to join the fun, and Pastors Mihai & Neli signed as our witnesses.

We’re now back in Bucharest Airport and while Croatia is a neighboring country, there are no direct flights, so we’ll fly to Munich, Germany early this evening and catch another flight to Zagreb, Croatia, which is scheduled to arrive late tonight – it’ll probably be midnight by the time we reach our hotel.  We’ll minister for long-time friend, Pastor Sicko Alic at the Word of Life Church in Zagreb (largest Spirit-filled church in the country) from Sunday thru Wednesday before heading home.  Thanks for your prayers!

Ask the Pastor

 

q_a

This week’s question has come numerous times from numerous CLC’ers over the last nine months or so: “What’s going on with the building we bought for the NWI campus?”

Great question, that can finally be answered.  As of just a few minutes ago, a judge in Hammond, Indiana ruled that the building is rightfully ours!  The judge gave the other group 10 days to vacate the property, and we can move in and begin the extensive rehab on February 22!

Praise God for EACH & EVERY CLC’er who prayed and stood with us in faith over these past nine months (seems like that’s about how long it takes a baby to be born!)  Make no mistake: this victory was birthed through your intercession as we now can possess the miracle God gave us last May!

I’m writing this from Romania, where I’m thankful both for the technology that allowed me to get the news moments after it happened in court, but most of all thankful to God for the VICTORY that this will mean for (I believe) hundreds of people who will come to know Jesus in that building in the months and years to come!

There WILL be a ton of work to do now to prepare the building for our Grand Opening, and we plan to do everything in our power to make that happen on Easter Sunday, March 27!  (In my best Bishop Jakes’ voice, “Get ready, get ready, get ready, CLC!)

nwi

Romania, day 3

Today was a great day with the pastors retreat here in Romania – so many of them told us afterward how relevant the teaching was for them, which is always our biggest concern on any international assignment.  Enjoy the pics:

Chris wanted you to know that I was teaching, too - so here's a shot of me from this morning

Chris wanted you to know that I was teaching, too – so here’s a shot of me from this morning

We've been amazed at how many of the pastors speak English, so we really have been able to have fellowship between sessions, engage in conversation, etc. - much different than many trips where perhaps only our host can converse with us!

We’ve been amazed at how many of the pastors speak English, so we really have been able to have fellowship between sessions, engage in conversation, etc. – much different than many trips where perhaps only our host can converse with us!

During our break this afternoon, Pastor Mihai drove us to a nearby tourist area with a ski lift.  We took a cable car to the top, about 5,000 ft above sea level!  Beautiful views!

During our break this afternoon, Pastor Mihai drove us to a nearby tourist area with a ski lift. We took a cable car to the top, about 5,000 ft above sea level! Beautiful views!

Of course, my favorite view is always of Chris (especially with Valentine's Day right around the corner)

Of course, my favorite view is always of Chris (especially with Valentine’s Day right around the corner)

Like I said, beautiful views all the way up the mountain!

Like I said, beautiful views all the way up the mountain!

Romania, day 2

The retreat setting here could not be more gorgeous!  And the weather is unseasonably warm - instead of frigid temps & snow, it's been in the 40's or 50's here!

The retreat setting here could not be more gorgeous! And the weather is unseasonably warm – instead of frigid temps & snow, it’s been in the 40’s or 50’s here this week!

Chris & I had a few hours team-teaching the pastors here from SE Romania.

Chris & I had a few hours team-teaching the pastors here from SE Romania.

Here Chris was teaching with our host and long-time friend, Mihai Dumitrascu interpreting into Romanian.

Here Chris was teaching with our host and long-time friend, Mihai Dumitrascu interpreting into Romanian.

Later today we had divided sessions for men & women, and about 30 pastors had me on the 'hot seat' with some difficult questions about marriage & leading their churches.  (Glad I survived that session!)

Later today we had divided sessions for men & women, and about 30 pastors had me on the ‘hot seat’ with some difficult questions about marriage & leading their churches. (Glad I survived that session!)

Our ministry day is done, so it's time to rest & prepare for another full day of teaching tomorrow.  (One of the great surprises since we were here in 2003 is the number of pastors who speak English - on that visit it was only 2; this time there must be a dozen or more - so the fellowship around the table is much more enjoyable!)

Our ministry day is done, so it’s time to rest & prepare for another full day of teaching tomorrow. (One of the great surprises since we were here in 2003 is the number of pastors who speak English – on that visit it was only 2; this time there must be a dozen or more – so the fellowship around the table is much more enjoyable!)

Romania, day 1

panicel

We arrived in Romania without a hitch (no flight delays & our bags were first ones off the conveyor belt in Bucharest!), quickly met our long-time friends, Pastors Mihai & Neli Dumitrascu, and made the 2+ hour drive to the retreat location, Panicel Complex.

Woke up this morning to the view above, as we are situated near the Bucegi Mountains in southeast Romania.  Other than that, we’ve now had 3 meals with a few of the pastors who arrived early for a leader’s meeting, with all the rest of the pastors and their families arriving before our opening session tonight.  Last night and today has been more ‘free time’ than we know how to handle, so we are both anxious to get started with the retreat teaching this evening.

I’ll try to post some pics and news as we go, so stay tuned-

Enroute to ROMANIA

Transylvania-Romania-1

Chris & I left O’Hare last night for Romania, where we’ll reconnect with long-time friend, Pastor Mihai Dumitrascu.  Pastor Mihai and a network of Romanian pastors will retreat from their churches this week for 4-days of ministry to their own marriage and families, and they invited Chris and me to teach.

Hopefully we’ll have internet and I can post from Romania between now and this weekend, so stay tuned and pray for anointing and favor as we minister to these precious pastors, many of whom faced real persecution under Communism and even today have much opposition to the Gospel.  Pray that they will be refreshed as we minister.

My 2 Cents (Jesus)

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Super Bowl Sunday was a great day to kick-off our new series, and I’m geeked about the uniqueness of doing 4 weeks of messages with ONLY the words of Jesus as our text!

As I promised yesterday, we’re not gonna look at Old Testament verses in Leviticus about a ‘tenth of our crops belong to the Lord’, nor will we visit Malachi to hear about people “robbing God”, or even spend any time in the most practical book of the Bible, Proverbs, to get tips of managing our money wisely.  Nope, we are focused on the ‘red letters’ of your Bible, words that came straight from the lips of Jesus.

I’m hoping that you’ll plan to be a part of each Sunday in February as our pastors at each CLC campus share these topics:

Feb. 14 – “Principles”: what Jesus says about money!

Feb. 21 – “Participate”: how YOU can apply what Jesus said to YOUR finances!

Feb. 28 – Guest speaker, Joe Sangl, founder of I Was Broke. Now I’m Not.” will teach “Plan”: Why You Need One”!

And I especially hope that you will invite a friend to join you on Sunday, Feb. 28 at 5pm for Joe’s “Financial Learning Experience” that will provide you with the tools that you need to get your finances in order – and does it in such a way that it’ll be the most FUN you’ve ever had at a seminar!

 

Super Bowl Sunday Reflections

Ok, I get it – the game will be starting soon and people are coming and the food isn’t ready, so you don’t have time to read a long reflection from me about today at CLC.  So here’s the highlights:

It's been a long time since I've been laughed at as much as today (but I guess that's what happens when you eat the last ice cream sandwich)

It’s been a long time since I’ve been laughed at as much as today (but I guess that’s what happens when you eat the last ice cream sandwich)

  • Most important from Tinley Park is that we counted thirty-nine people who raised their hand for prayer to receive Christ today!  Now, that’s a SUPER Sunday!
We also had 26 people in Step 1 class - prospective NEW MEMBERS! (Thanks to the team that makes our Growth Track work all year!)

We also had 26 people in Step 1 class – prospective NEW MEMBERS! (Thanks to the team that makes our Growth Track work all year!)

Pastor Sam is excited about 7 people who officially joined CLC-NWI today (one couple not pictured) - along with a great response to the message there!

Pastor Sam is excited about 7 people who officially joined CLC-NWI today (one couple not pictured) – along with a great response to the message there!

Pastors William & Melek made a Dynamic Duo to teach the 'Priorities' message in bilingual Blue Island!

Pastors William & Melek made a Dynamic Duo to teach the ‘Priorities’ message in Blue Island!

Alright – back to what you were doing.

Ask the Pastor

Business question

I didn’t receive any questions this week prior to leaving for our getaway in Cancun, so I’m re-posting this from 2011, in hopes that it will still speak to someone in need:

A faithful CLCer writes in response to this previous post, “Pastor, I have a situation like this, and cannot approach the person because she is unapproachable.  She stopped speaking to me because of something that I still don’t understand.  But all the damage was done by her. She told a multitude of lies and really tried to damage my reputation at work; oh, by the way, I got her the job.  I pray for myself and her, but through this post and several others I guess I might still be holding on to some unforgiveness.  My question is how do you reconcile with a person who is unapproachable?”

What a great question…..one that I suspect many readers have asked in the past or perhaps could ask even today.   Let me try to offer a little help:

First, don’t beat yourself up about this situation!  The enemy is the accuser of the brethren, so you don’t need to do his work for him by thinking negatively of yourself for not being able to reconcile this situation.

Remember (as I said in the previous post), Romans 12:18 is part of the Bible for a reason – and it begins with “IF”!  In other words, there are those situations where others just will not allow you to live with them in peace.  Obviously, I don’t know the situation that you describe – but if you are honest before God that you have done everything possible to reconcile, and the other person still refuses, then you have only 2 options that I know:

  • pray for the other individual.  As you pray, confess aloud that you forgive them for the hurt they’ve caused, and that you release them from any responsibility in the matter.  Ask God to bless them.  (In my personal experience, you may have to say those words thru gritted teeth for a while – but if you’ll continue to do so regularly, eventually your emotions will catch up to your will, and you will find that you have released them and that you truly want God to bless them.)
  • Simply let go.  By that I mean accept the fact that they are irreconcilable UNLESS God changes their heart.  Remain open to the possibility of Him doing that, but release the hurt in the meantime.

I sincerely hope this helps.  This kind of conflicts bring great pain to all of us – but God is able to be your healer, as well as the great Reconciler!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Leaving on a jet plane…..

CUNFA_activities

About six weeks ago, on December 14, Chris and I were scheduled to to leave for Cancun celebrate my 63rd birthday and our 43rd wedding anniversary at a resort there.  But on December 13, I went down with a back injury and couldn’t get out of bed for 3 weeks.

That getaway was prepaid, and the only date we could reschedule without losing out was this week, so we’re headed to Cancun this morning to enjoy some sunshine and each other and return Friday in time for the CLC marriage retreat.  I think it’s gonna be just what the doctor ordered after fighting colds and losing Pedro last week-

So, I’m signing off until the weekend – see you at the Retreat or on Sunday when we kick-off the February series, “My 2 Cents” 

Sunday reflections

The first month of 2016 was a great start for CLC in the ‘year of harvest”:

Great PRESENCE in all 3 services on this Family Sunday!

Great PRESENCE in all 3 services on this Family Sunday!

Pastor Matt led us in dedicating 5 babies to the Lord (that's one way to grow a church!)

Pastor Matt led us in dedicating 5 babies to the Lord (that’s one way to grow a church!)

My oldest granddaughter encouraged EVERY CLC'er to join a Life Group!

My oldest granddaughter encouraged EVERY CLC’er to join a Life Group! [pic by Jen McQuay]

My wife was a BIG help with the message, including her illustration of sowing & reaping for the kids (and big kids, too) on this Family Sunday!

My wife was a BIG help with the message, including her illustration of sowing & reaping for the kids (and big kids, too) on this Family Sunday!

  • I’m especially grateful for numbers of people who prayed to receive Christ in each service at Tinley Park!  (The harvest has already begun at CLC!)
At our NWI campus, Pastor Sam reports a strong attendance, jam-packed altars, 3 babies dedicated and a water baptism!  Now, that's how to have church!

At our NWI campus, Pastor Sam reports a strong attendance, jam-packed altars, 3 babies dedicated (pictured with their families here) & a water baptism! Now, that’s how to have church!

Love this story from our Blue Island campus: the young man in center is Ricky; he has been raised by his mother & grandmother & realized that he had not been dedicated as a baby, so HE asked if he could be dedicated!  Pastors William & Melek led the prayer over him-

Love this story from our Blue Island campus: the young man in center is Ricky; he has been raised by his mother & grandmother & realized that he had not been dedicated as a baby, so HE asked if he could be dedicated! Pastors William & Melek led the prayer over him-

Passionate worship is a hallmark of CLC, at every campus! (Blue Island gets it!)

Passionate worship is a hallmark of CLC, at every campus! (Blue Island gets it!)

Pastors Brent & Sol preached.....

Pastors Brent & Sol preached…..

 

.....to a PACKED HOUSE in Blue Island

…..to a PACKED HOUSE in Blue Island

  • Don’t forget that February 1, 2 and 3 are days of FASTING & PRAYER, with each campus offering a corporate prayer opportunity each day.  

 

Ask the Pastor

images

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I recently read about missing verses in the NIV and NLT translations and question if that is a violation of the warning in Revelations about adding or taking away from scripture. I wonder why they have hidden those verses? If some manuscripts include them, then why not include them in the translation instead of skipping that verse number? Do you think it is a violation of the warning in Revelation?”

Interesting question, although one that I’ve rarely been asked.  Let me state a couple of facts before giving you my answer:

1.  I am a pastor, not a scholar.  I’m sure others could give more precise and thorough answers in matters such as this, but my ‘bent’ is always toward helping people in their relationship with the Lord, more than giving them more ‘head-knowledge’.

2.  Just as importantly, I am personally convinced that God so wants everyone to be saved (1Timothy 2:4-7that He watches over His Word through the generations, to insure that anyone who wants to be saved will be able to find the truth.  In other words, I believe in his Providence with the various translations, that He would not allow someone to sincerely fall prey to missing on important truth because some scholarly translator accidentally or deliberately omitted a verse!

3. Having said that, let’s understand that we do not have any original manuscripts of the Bible.  (I might add, “thank God”, because if we did, someone would have made a shrine to it and some people would no doubt be worshiping the manuscript instead of the God who inspired the manuscript!). The versions of the Bible we have today are based on copies from these original manuscripts. We have thousands of fragments and copies of the original manuscripts (some dating before 100 A.D.) that are surviving today. The various translations of the Bible are a result of scholars using what they consider the best manuscript evidence available at the time of their translation.

As Christians, we believe that the original manuscripts are infallible.  However, because fallible man has been involved in copying or translating what God originally stated, MINOR errors have occurred (none that concern any major doctrine). The “missing” verses you ask about would fall into this category.

When the KJV Bible was translated in 1611, the scholars primarily used what is called the “Textus Receipts”, a highly regarded source at the time. However, since 1611, other, older source texts have been discovered that were not available to those KJV translators (i.e., the Codex Sinaiticus – found in the mid 1880’s). When these different sources are compared they sometimes (but rarely) disagree. Regarding the “missing” verses, nearly all of the ancient manuscripts we have today do not contain the “missing” verses. Therefore, scholars believe they were not part of the “autographa” and are removed from that version (the NIV places them in footnotes with an explanation). Some versions include them, but with a warning that “early manuscripts do not contain this verse”.

Since you’re asking me for my opinion, I do NOT believe that this is a violation of Revelation 22:18-19.  There are some cult-like branches of Christianity who teach what is often called, “KJV only” – that is, that the King James Version is the ‘true’ Word of God and the only Bible by which a person can obtain salvation.  I think such arguments are ludicrous, and remind me of the legalistic views of my past.

Instead, I believe God has preserved His Word for us!  He promised in Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23-25 and Matthew 5:18 that He would do so. The Bible is the most tested, scrutinized, proven and enduring book in history. While there may be differences in different versions of the Bible, we can rest assured that God’s word is preserved, and I have no problem in using the NLT or the NIV or even the Message paraphrase in our services at CLC – to help people today who don’t use 1600’s Elizabethan English to understand the plain truth of God’s Holy Word!

Hope that helps.  Would YOU like to join this conversation?  Please leave a comment below – or feel free to ask a question of your own:

 

Celebrating Pedro

 

Together in Doggie Heaven now- (photo by Sheri Postma)

Together in Doggie Heaven now-
(photo by Sheri Postma)

If you hadn’t heard, we lost a member of our family yesterday, as we had to make the heart-wrenching decision to put Pedro down.  Like this post from 2013, I’m really not writing this for your benefit, but for mine – in hopes that it will be therapeutic for my family, since we’ve all been crying for over 24 hours now.

Unlike Jasper, whom we chose from a litter of puppies in nearby Lockport, Pedro was purchased in Los Angeles by our oldest son, Chad, back in 2003.  Chad and his roommate both worked in the television industry, so they would leave Pedro in the backyard all day while they were at work, and there happened to be a lemon tree in the yard, so Pedro occupied himself all day playing with lemons.  So began his lifelong obsession with a ball.

About a year later, Chad was assigned to be the accountant on the set of the TV drama “Lost” in it’s pilot season – which meant he had to move to Honolulu, where the show was being filmed.  Since pets entering Hawaii are required to be quarantined for 120 days (at a cost of over $1,000), Chad asked if we would “watch the dog” for him until he returned to LA, which he thought would be about six months.  We reluctantly agreed, since it was “only for six months”.

Even at that, Pedro nearly drove us crazy those first few weeks because of his obsession with chasing a ball.  Then my wife fell in love with the little guy, and as the months went by he became her dog, and there was no way she would let Chad have him back.

By my calculations, Pedro had more friends all around the world than any dog in history, as he literally entertained our guests from Senegal, Nigeria, Zambia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Trinidad, Cambodia, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom, and they all seemed to enjoy throwing the ball for him to chase, despite our warnings that they would wear out long before he did.

And of course, he brought laughter to every CLC’er who entered our home: pastors, elders, H2H leaders, ministry directors, staff families – you name it, everyone who came into our house had to throw the ball for Pedro.

While I’m at it, I must give a special shout-out to Sheri Postma and Carl & Nancy Harris, who loved Pedro like he was their own whenever Chris and I had to travel for missions – one reason we could accept those international opportunities is because we knew he was being loved in their homes just as he was loved in ours.

Like Jasper, it seemed his favorite times were on vacation in the Smokies or being around the pool at my in-law’s in Michigan.  He didn’t have Jasper’s love for swimming, but he delighted in flicking the ball (as only he could) into the water and then begging until one of us retrieved it for him.

He loved my wife as deeply as any animal can love and as he aged, was most content just being on her, pressed up against her on the couch or even sleeping in our bed at night.  When Jen experienced her bout with blindness last year, Pedro sensed that something was wrong and wouldn’t leave her side for those 36 days.

Pedro preferred humans over other dogs (since people could throw the ball), so even though he had over 10 years with Jasper, they basically just co-existed.  But when Jen brought Diesel into our family last April, he forced Pedro to be his friend and play together, which seemed to renew Pedro’s youth.  The two of them became two peas in a pod, following each other around the house, eating from each other’s plate (even though the food was the same) and fighting to see who could sit closest to Chris.

No dog has ever been more loved.  When Sol broke the news to Bennett yesterday that Pedro had joined Jasper and Joey in doggie heaven, his response was, “Oh man, why do they like to go there?”

But we know the answer to that, Pedro, because now you can chase a ball in doggie heaven and never stop.  Rest in peace, little buddy.  We love you!

The early years

The early years

Nothing was better than sleeping in mama's arms

Nothing was better than sleeping in mama’s arms

He really was Chris' dog, but in later years, he warmed up to me, too

He really was Chris’ dog, but in later years, he warmed up to me, too

The "boys" loved vacations in the Smokies

The “boys” loved vacations in the Smokies

The best part of vacations in the Smokies was putting his head out the window.  (We'll never forget the time he barked at a bear that dozens of tourists were trying to get a picture of, sending the bear back into the woods)

The best part of vacations in the Smokies was putting his head out of the window. (We’ll never forget the time he barked at a bear that dozens of tourists were trying to get a picture of, sending the bear back into the woods)

Sometimes he would go into the pool at Gramma Hansen's, but riding the raft with Diesel was better

Sometimes he would go into the pool at Gramma Hansen’s, but riding the raft with Diesel was the best!

When Jen was blind for 36 days in 2015, he wouldn't leave her side

When Jen was blind for 36 days in 2015, he wouldn’t leave her side

This pic says it all: "you know what to do, so don't just stand there: throw the ball!"

This pic says it all: “you know what to do, so don’t just stand there: THROW THE BALL!”

nothing like a mother's love

nothing like a mother’s love

Say hello to Jasper & Joey for us-

Say hello to Jasper & Joey for us-

Want to help people in Flint, MI with the water crisis?

flint

The first church that Chris and I served as pastors from 1977-1981 was located in Mt. Morris, a suburb just north of Flint, Michigan, and most of our members worked in Flint.  So I’ve thought of them several times since learning of the water crisis and lead poisoning that is happening there.

Today one of our members from the NWI campus suggested that there had to be something CLC’ers could do to help with this crisis, and informed me that Will County has organized a drive to help Flint residents.

If you wish to help (as Jesus suggested in Matthew 25:34-40), please drop off your donations at any of the Joliet locations mentioned in the article.

Inside Lakewood

lakewood

Yesterday Pastor Ben Stewart and I spent a day “Inside Lakewood” with other pastors from around the country.  It was my first time to be inside the largest church auditorium in America and my first time to meet Pastor Joel Osteen.

There were definitely some inspirational as well as practical moments in the time we spent there, but my favorite of all (considering our “Harvest” series at CLC, which wraps up this coming Sunday) was to hear Joel say that he believes the Lord spoke to him that 2016 was a year of acceleration, and he quoted Amos 9:13-14.

Are you ready for “your head to swim” as how quickly God does it?  Even while we wait, I’m expecting blessings everywhere we look!

(This was from the 2015 Gathering, but it gives you a little idea of what we enjoyed yesterday)

“Fast Track” for new CLC campus launches

lead-where-you-are

If you attended CLC yesterday, you probably heard this announcement already:

I was stirred during our First Love Conference by the altar response to Pastor Chris Durso’s ministry when I sensed personally that many CLC’ers were hearing God’s call to ‘step up’ into positions of leadership to which they were called.  Soon after that Prophet Dennis Cramer gave us a strong word that CLC was not to back off or slow down, but to be even more aggressive in planting churches in this region.

If you are one of those who feels a call to help launch new CLC campuses, perhaps as a Campus Pastor, a Worship Director, or a leader in ministry to childrenwe want to help you by possibly putting you on a ‘Fast Track’ development plan.   

(Who knows, you may be the next CLC campus pastor!)

If interested, please reply to this post and give me your contact information and the area of ministry to which you feel called (pastoring, worship, KidsLife, etc.)

2016 is the Year of Harvest for CLC!

Sunday reflections

I think today at CLC was an afterglow of last weekend’s “First Love Conference”:

Creative shot of Ch'vez - you could see the passion in our worship today!

Creative shot of Ch’vez – you could see the passion in our worship today!

Can't tell it from this pic where I was leading some in a prayer of salvation, but I was FEELING what I preached today!

Can’t tell it from this pic where I was leading some in a prayer of salvation, but I was FEELING what I preached today!  Praise God for people who prayed to receive Jesus each service!

Pastor Sam said the MOMENTUM keeps building at NWI, with several new people attending week after week.  Their Life Group kickoff today featured 15 groups!

Pastor Sam said the MOMENTUM keeps building at NWI, with several new people attending week after week. Their Life Group kickoff today featured 15 groups!

Chris was on FIRE with today's message at NWI, too!

Chris was on FIRE with today’s message at NWI, too!

 

Pastor Matt did a great job delivering the message at Blue Island today, with Jorge Arevalo interpreting into Spanish.  Pastor William also reports some very encouraging developments for community outreach!

Pastor Matt did a great job delivering the message at Blue Island today, with Jorge Arevalo interpreting into Spanish. Pastor William also reports some very encouraging developments for community outreach!

  • If you haven’t heard, our annual Business Meeting is in Tinley Park this Wednesday, January 27 at 7pm!

Now it’s couch time and the NFL Conference championships-

 

Ask the Pastor

ask-question-1-ff9bc6fa5eaa0d7667ae7a5a4c61330c

There were no questions submitted this week, so I’m reposting a question from 2011:

This week’s question is one that I think many people are often confused about: “The Bible states that when one truly repents to the Lord and asks for forgiveness, your sins are then “cast into the sea of forgetfulness.” How is it then that we will all be judged by Jesus for our sins if the sins are cast into the sea of forgetfulness? Also, if God remembers our sins no more, why are there still sometimes consequences for what we’ve done such as with David and Bathsheba when God allowed their child to die because of that sin, even though David repented?”

Great questions.  Let’s take them one at a time, in order:

  • To my great surprise, the phrase you quoted about “the sea of forgetfulness” is NOT found in the Bible (at least in any translation I have access to).  I’ve even said it myself, so this was a real shocker – not sure how that particular phrase came to be so accepted and used by preachers!
  • Of course, the concept you’re referring to, that God forgets our sins when we repent and ask forgiveness is found throughout Scripture, and is certainly plainly spoken in Hebrews 8:12 and Hebrews 10:17.  Thanks to the blood of Jesus, when we repent, God forgives AND forgets!
  • The confusion in part arises from your idea that “we will all be judged by Jesus for our sins”.  As a believer, you will NOT be judged by Jesus for your sins!  Your sins were already judged at the Cross, and Jesus took that judgment upon Himself by giving His life in your place! (insert “Hallelujah” here). (see John 12:31-33 and 1Tim. 5:24-25, where Paul explains that some people send their sins ahead to judgment [by confessing], while others follow along behind them [if unconfessed, our sins will condemn us at the final judgment].
  • Let me explain that a little further: as believers, our sins are already judged – we were found guilty, but Jesus took place and served our sentence of death at the Cross, so that we can be forgiven and free!  The judgment where WE will appear is called the “Judgment Seat of Christ” (see Romans 14:10; 2Cor. 5:10).  This is NOT the same as the “Great White Throne Judgement” seen in Revelation 20:11-15.  Instead, the judgment seat of Christ is the word “bema” in Greek, which refers to the platform in the Olympic games where the winners stand to receive their medals!  So the purpose of our judgment as believers is for the administration of rewards for the work we did here on earth, as shown in 1Cor. 3:10-15(The Bible speaks of various rewards, or ‘crowns’ that we can receive for our efforts in the Kingdom of God).  That’s a HUGE difference than being judged for our sins!
  • Now, your final question about consequences for our sins is a whole different topic.  Please keep in mind everything above in regards to judgment for our sins, because it’s all true in Scripture.  But consequences falls into a different category that we know as “sowing & reaping”.  Just because God forgives your sin does not mean that there are no consequences for your sin.  For example, if one of your children borrows your car and wrecks it, you would certainly forgive them for the accident, even if it was caused by them texting while driving or drinking alcohol, or whatever.  But the fact that you forgive them doesn’t change the fact that the accident caused damage – perhaps to your car, to another vehicle, or to someone’s property.  And that damage will have to be repaired, not because you’re judging them for borrowing your car, but because it’s a consequence of their actions.  Put another way, a believer could fall into the sin of adultery and then repent and get forgiveness from the Lord.  But if their adultery caused a pregnancy and a child to be born, there would obviously be consequences of their sin that they might have to deal with for a lifetime – even though God forgave them the moment they asked.

Great questions!  Hope the answers helped a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?

Well, I thought today was the day (I was wrong)

postponed_stamp-Medium

About an hour before our scheduled court appearance today to resolve the NWI building situation, we received a phone call that the bailiff changed the filing, and today was only a ‘status hearing’, not the actual court hearing – which means the judge was only meeting with the attorneys by teleconference to set a court date.

So, we did not get to have our “day in court” today (literally).

Instead, we are now scheduled for court on Friday, February 12.  Keep praying!

I’ve never in my life preached a more timely message than the one prepared for this Sunday – “Why Is My Harvest Delayed?”.  Hope to see you then-

Today is the day

faith

Many of you know something of the miracle that God did for us at our NWI Campus last year – if not, you can read about it here and here.

The rest of the story is that until now we’ve been unable to occupy the building we purchased last May because of a previous tenant who has refused to vacate the premises.

TODAY is the day that we finally go to court, believing that the nightmare will be over and we will finally be able to occupy what is legally ours.

Would you join me in praying today for a swift and final resolution in court today?

Here’s how I’m praying:

Psalm 5:12

Proverbs 21:1 (what applies to a king also applies to a judge!)

Deuteronomy 11:31

Thanks for joining me in prayer!

Why is my HARVEST delayed?

lord-of-the-harvest-001

I’m still living in the afterglow of our First Love Conference (best-ever, hand-down!), but as always, Sunday’s a-coming, and we’re in the middle of the ‘Harvest’ series that I believe is God’s theme for CLC this year.

That’s why I’m so excited about teaching this Sunday the single-most-asked-question I ever get from people – ‘Pastor, why is my harvest delayed?’ (Actually, they usually say stuff like, ‘I’m tithing, but it’s not working for me’, OR ‘I’ve prayed and prayed, but I’m not getting an answer’ OR ‘I’ve tried doing what the Bible said, but I’m not seeing any results’)

We’ll address all of those questions THIS Sunday and also share the passage of Scripture that jumped off the page at me in our prayer room one day to inspire this entire series.  Don’t dare miss this.  And if you know someone who’s ever asked those type of questions, invite them to join you this Sunday at any CLC campus -it’s gonna be good!

I received a personal prophecy; now what?

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First Love 2016 is now history.  (more on that later)

I’m reminded of the shepherds who first heard of the birth of Christ in Luke 2:15.  It was like, what do we do now that the angels have gone away?

Dozens of CLC’ers received prophetic ministry (perhaps more than 100?) during the past few days.  I well know the excitement that can bring.  But now that the prophets have gone, what you do with that prophecy can often determine whether it comes to pass, so I want to give you some tips and guidelines:

  1. Record, read and meditate (1Tim 4:14-15)

Get the audio, write out your prophecy word for word (what the prophecy said versus what we thought we heard during the excitement of the moment are often different) and read over it, allowing the    Lord to speak to you through those words again.

  1. War a good warfare (1Tim 1:18)

Use God’s promises to you to wage war against the enemy – prophecy can give you power to persevere until the fulfillment comes.

  1. Do nothing differently unless definitely directed

You are not responsible to bring God’s word to pass, but if your prophecy included      specific instructions, then you should act upon them immediately. (If you’re not clear about this, talk with me.)

  1. Understand that patience is necessary

God’s process for prophetic fulfillment is rarely sooner than we expect. It is almost always later, and sometimes, much later. Allow these passages to encourage you as you wait: Psalm 37:1-11, Hebrews 10:35-36, Psalm 27:14, Isaiah 40:31

If I can be of further help to you regarding your prophecy, feel free to call for an appointment. May His Word to you be completely fulfilled!

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question came from the 11-year old daughter of one of my favorite CLC’ers: “When we die, when are we judged? Is it soon after death or at the second coming of Christ?”

Great question for someone of any age, let alone a child – and one that I’m sure many people reading this want to know as well.  Here’s my answer:

I think it all depends.

By that, I mean it depends on whether you are a born-again believer, or if you are someone who has not trusted Jesus to be their Lord and Savior.

In my understanding of Scripture, a born-again believer who dies is immediately with the Lord.  I base that on Paul’s comments in 2Corinthians 5:1-8 (especially vv. 6 and 8) and Philippians 1:21-23.

In fact, as I understand Scripture, the only judgment that true believers will experience is what some refer to as the “Bema” of Christ (bema is the Greek word for the winners platform in the Olympic games), or, more commonly, “The Judgment Seat of Christ” (see Romans 14:10 or 2Corinthians 5:10).  This judgement is not about sending someone to heaven or hell.  Our eternal destination was already determined when we truly trusted Jesus for our salvation and the Scripture clearly says we ‘have’ (present-tense) eternal life.

Instead, the Judgement Seat of Christ is for the administration of rewards.  The ‘Bema’ in Bible times was the platform where the judges would lead the winners of Olympic-type games to be crowned.  (Think of the award ceremony for gold, silver & bronze medalists today).  So when believers are judged, it’s actually for the purpose of distributing rewards we can receive for the way we served Christ here on earth before we died.  I think Scripture lists about 6 or 7 different ‘crowns’ that we can receive for our reward.

But for unbelievers, it’s a much different story.  While there is some debate on this, I tend to believe that all unbelievers at death go to a place of rest, to await their final judgment.  Then, in the end, after the Second Coming of Christ, they will stand before God at the Great White Throne judgment before being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15)

I hope that helps.  Would you like to join the conversation?  Please leave your comments or questions below and l look to next Friday’s “Ask the Pastor”.

Announcing a change for our CLC family

For those who prefer an audio-visual announcement:

For those who want it in writing:

When we first responded to the Lord’s dealings about expanding CLC by launching additional campuses, thus becoming “one church in multiple locations”, our strategy was that everything would be done live at each location: worship, children’s ministry, and even the Sunday preaching.  Our plan was that each Campus Pastor would be the primary communicator, with a rotating teaching team from Tinley Park to supplement that.

Later, for a variety of reasons, before we launched our latest campuses in NWI and Blue Island, we changed our approach to incorporate video teaching from Tinley Park as the primary method, with Campus Pastors preaching only occasionally throughout the year.  That’s the strategy currently used by many churches in America, including some of the most well-known, thriving ministries.  Video teaching definitely works!

However, in recent months, I’ve been grappling with the thought of returning to our original strategy.  I think my recent absences caused by my back injury helped settle the issue for me, as I could not have been more proud of the amazing team of pastors that God has brought together to assist me at CLC and the teaching they did while I was home in bed, flat on my back!

I have now concluded that it makes more sense for those Campus Pastors who are onsite and who know and love their members, to be the primary communicator so they can feed their people with God’s Word as well.

We will still use a rotating speaking team at each campus, so that the wonderful variety of pastors God has blessed us with will be able to benefit each campus.  And to insure that we remain one church in multiple locations”we will continue to teach the same series and the same subject at each location.  I’ll fulfill my role as Senior Pastor by pouring into our speaking team each week and then allowing them to deliver the message using their personality and gifting instead of trying to be a carbon copy of me.

By the way, I’m not retiring; I’m refiring!  My wife and I will continue to be the primary communicators at the Tinley Park campus, but we will also travel to the other campuses occasionally AND (most importantly) the Tinley Park campus will continue to enjoy ministry from the other pastors from time to time.  I think that’s a win for everybody!

 

Furniture for Missions?

 

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As I posted here last month, Pastors Niyi & Tayo Gbade have been appointed by our long-time partners, CAPRO, to be their first North American representatives to help mobilize the American church for missions.  Of course, the really good news about that is that they have decided to base here in Chicagoland and be a part of our CLC family!

Niyi has been out of state since his arrival, meeting with various CAPRO officials to get all their plans in order, but this week he secured an apartment in Matteson and will be moving in next weekend (probably January 23).

Since he just arrived from Nigeria last month, they literally have NO furnishings whatsoever, just the belongings that would fit in their suitcases.  I also know that they live sacrificially, as do many missionaries, and their budget is very tight, especially for Chicagoland.  So I wanted to reach out to our CLC family to see if anyone might have used furniture to donate to this faithful pastor and his wife.  Probably the most immediate need is a bed, as he plans to use a sleeping bag on the floor after arrival.  It’s a 2-bedroom apartment with another room that will serve as a small home office, so they could also use a desk and chair, as well as kitchen table, living room furniture, etc.  I’m sure almost any furnishings that you might be able to donate to help them get settled would be a huge blessing to them.  (By the way, Niyi and Tayo haven’t asked us for anything; I just have a heart to help them, so I’m making this appeal to you.)

If you have items to donate, please contact me via email or call our office at 708.429.7729 with the details.  We can also give you a letter of donation for charitable giving toward your 2016 income taxes.  Thanks in advance for being a blessing to the Kingdom!

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