Why I believe in Faith Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pray about it this week.

Listen for God’s voice.

Obey.

Watch what HE does!

I can’t wait for this Sunday!

My favorite MISSIONS books

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

#5 in my list

#5 in my list

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

Good stuff.  Order your copy here.

 

#4 in my list

#4 in my list

 

 

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

You’ll enjoy this one – get it here.

 

 

 

 

My #3 favorite missions read

My #3 favorite missions read

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

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

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

#2 on my all-time list!

#2 on my all-time list!

 

 

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

Great, great read – get your copy here.

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

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

Hon. Counsel of Uganda to the USA!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

Unity in Blue Island as Bob Goff prayed for us

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you thinking & praying about this?

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

the one-and-only Bob Goff

the one-and-only Bob Goff

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

faithpromise

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

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

Bob GOFF will be speaking at CLC this Sunday!

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

Bob Goff

Bob Goff

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait!

 

Moving forward in our Davao, Philippines campus!

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

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

Congratulations, Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes

Congratulations, Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes

Joel Montes preaching at a national conference in Manila recently.

Joel Montes preaching at a national conference in Manila recently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

Loved his 1-liners:

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

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

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

Michel Khalil is the Senior Director of Global Transformation for EQUIP

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Jude 3, 4 in “The Living Bible”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

introducing Doug Carter to CLC

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

dougcarter

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

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

I don’t think John was joking.

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

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

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

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

 

 

Celebrating a ONE YEAR anniversary!

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Still bursting ‘Marriage Myths’

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

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

McKnight Testimony Short Version from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

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

McKnight Testimony Full Version from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

We serve a God of HOPE!

The REASON we are still here…

End-of-the-world-007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday reflections

FRamily Day was a WIN at each CLC campus today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

21st day of prayer

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

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

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

young & old across each campus came together

young & old across each campus came together

Such an anointing for prayer was in the place!

Such an anointing for prayer was in the place!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Women DO Rock!

80s

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

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

angie sol chris

pat early

beads

chris_singer

even little women rock!

even little women rock!

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

 

The bottom line about Ray Rice & domestic violence

rayrice

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Have you heard?

myth

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

Or that “The purpose of marriage is happiness”?

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait!

 

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

church_attendance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

could you use a ‘marital tune-up’?

marital tuneup

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

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

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

tune-it-up

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

Day 10 of our 21-day Prayer Experience

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s an idea for your Labor Day gathering

Two families at backyard cookout

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

Oh, to have their ENERGY again!

Oh, to have their ENERGY again!

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

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

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

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

Everybody knows Joseph Alexander is an ENTERTAINER!

Everybody knows Joseph Alexander is an ENTERTAINER!

Love Ejindu was a sweet soloist, too

Love Ejindu was a sweet soloist, too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

ghostbusters2

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

Love will find a way to reach Just One!

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

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

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

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

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

See you Sunday!

Eyes wide open!

wide_open

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

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

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

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

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

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

3Sixty School of Ministry is off & running!

Image

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

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

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

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

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

Expecting GREAT things ahead!

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

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

 

Praying for FAVOR

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday reflections

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

CLC worship is always energetic!

CLC worship is always energetic!

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

Ferguson and churches like CLC…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stand up and shine, CLC!

Lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness!

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

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

Pastors Todd & Julie Powers of Empower Chicago

Pastors Todd & Julie Powers of Empower Chicago

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

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

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

Reminds me of Judges 5:2!

Don’t you just love this church?

Something Jesse said last night…..

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

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

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

I think he’s onto something.

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

Does that make sense to you?

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

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

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

that report ought to make you shout!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait!

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Today was a “personal day” off work…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just about every house in the neighborhood looks like this now

Just about every house in the neighborhood looks like this now

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

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

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

MORE than we can ask or even think…

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do “the day after”?

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

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

But that was yesterday.

What do you do the day after?

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Matt baptized Crystal Valentine & Delta Ross

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

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

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

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refreshed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t wait for THIS Sunday with Mark Batterson!

 

“An experience we’ll NEVER forget!”

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

Whaddya do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does that resonate with anyone?

Off to Tacoma

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

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

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

Later-

Sunday reflections

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

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

60 never looked so good!

 

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

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

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

PJpreach

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

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

The BIG 6-0!

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

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

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

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

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

babyChris

this is my FAV pic!

this is my FAV pic!

 

she LOVED the cows on her uncle's farm

she LOVED the cows on her uncle’s farm

such a young mother

such a young mother

a ferocious mother of her children

a ferocious mother of her children

The Philippines is always her favorite place to be

The Philippines is always her favorite place to be

but she's become a world traveler

but she’s become a world traveler

and she's always ready for an adventure!

and she’s always ready for an adventure!

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

she’s always been a mama’s girl…

 

 

 

 

...and a loving daughter

…and a loving daughter

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

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

and a Nonny of 2 (so far!)

and a Nonny of 2 (so far!)

because her FAMILY is her passion

because her FAMILY is her passion

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

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

but the FIRE comes when she preaches!

but the FIRE comes when she preaches!

she can rock a hat!

she can rock a hat!

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

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

but she'll always be one CLASSY lady!

but she’ll always be one CLASSY lady!

Happy birthday, Chris!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russia, day 4

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

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

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

Enjoy the final pics of this visit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Russia, day 3

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

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

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

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

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

The mosaics throughout the church are amazing

The mosaics throughout the church are amazing

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Russia, day 2

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

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

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

Here’s a few more pics of the day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and the look on their faces says it all…

 

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

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

 

 

Russia, Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

Just One

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

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

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

justOne

Pray for Israel, but we’re going to Russia

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

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

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

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

A house for God?

How about at least a bedroom?

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

360

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

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

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

Off to Israel & Russia

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

Leon Mazin, founder of Return to Zion

Leon Mazin, founder of Return to Zion

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

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

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

Israeli worship by the sea!

Israeli worship by the sea!

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

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

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

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

Saving Mr. Banks (extras)

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

(thanks to Pastor Tony for this pic from yesterday)

(thanks to Pastor Tony for this pic from yesterday)

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday reflections

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

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

guests

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

manny_davao

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the video and contact us for more information!

A Movie about YOU!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Herley & our Davao, Philippines campus

Pastor Herley Montes

Pastor Herley Montes

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

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

Pastor Joel Montes is an outstanding young leader!

Pastor Joel Montes is an outstanding young leader!

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

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

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

 

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Selah Worship Conference

selah

 

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

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

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

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

selah2

What are you waiting for?  Register now!

Your Secret Life

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

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

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

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

One thing I love about our church…

…is how the people genuinely care for others!

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

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

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

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

All because one teen attended a Life Group!

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

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

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

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

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bennett & Diesel

Bennett & Diesel

Jaeden & Diesel

Jaeden & Diesel

My talented daughter, her #1 nephew & her baby

My talented daughter, her #1 nephew & her baby

 

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite ‘questioners’ writes, “Why has God not show himself to us? seems it would remove any doubt of his existence.”

Interesting question!  It’s also one I’ve never been asked before, so you made me dig a little deeper to think of a Biblical answer.  Here goes:

So, in reality, God has done exactly what you asked – He showed Himself to us when He came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.  He walked among us for over 33 years before giving His life as a sacrifice for our sins.

While that may not satisfy your desire to see Him yourself, we do have the eyewitness account of the four gospels, plus other historical works from that period that also refer to the historical person of Christ.

Finally, we have Jesus’ own words in John 20.  Notice especially verse 29 and verse 31.

I hope this helps!  (I can also encourage you to join us for the final installment of ‘God@the Movies 2014′ on July 27 when we look at a Hollywood example, ‘Man of Steel”)

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?


The Lone Ranger

For years I’ve been saying there’s “no such thing as Lone Ranger Christians”.

By that I mean that every believer needs to be connected in the Body.  We all need to belong to a local church, where people know us, love us, and challenge us.  We all need to use our gifts in serving others.  The song I first heard in my youth:

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

That just isn’t right.

I need you. You need me.  We need each other!

But this Sunday our ‘God@the Movies” series continues with a look at Biblical principles in The Lone Ranger’  movie, and I can’t wait.  One reason I’m excited is because the movie itself is a hoot, and, truth be told, most of us as believers take ourselves way too seriously…..and God not seriously enough!

So go ahead, enjoy your family cookout or picnic or fireworks or whatever you do to celebrate the 4th of July, but I hope you’ll invite a friend to join you this Sunday, July 6 – any CLC campus, 7 opportunities, plus online. Can’t wait!

 

BLUE ISLAND THANKS

We weren’t able to get the word out in advance, since the temporary occupancy permit wasn’t granted until late Friday afternoon, but yesterday was the FIRST SERVICE in our new Blue Island facility!

Pastor William Arevalo led one combined, bi-lingual service yesterday followed by lunch on the grounds as our faithful Launch team members celebrated the occasion.  There is still work to be done (painting & final trim items), but I want to take this moment to sincerely  thank every person who contributed – many of you sacrificially, to help us purchase the building for cash and then do the extensive makeover to convert an office building into a worship facility, as well as the many CLC’ers from each campus who purchased chairs so that lives could be changed in Blue Island!

Enjoy a few pics from yesterday’s opening service:

We gathered together for the FIRST time!

We gathered together for the FIRST time!

We worshipped together!

We worshipped together!

multi-generational worship

multi-generational worship

We received the Word!

We received the Word!

Our tech guys have the best view in the house!

Our tech guys have the best view in the house!

Feel free to join us on Sundays at 10am for the ENGLISH service or at 12 noon for the SPANISH service – 2552 W. 135th Street in Blue Island! 

 

 

 

 

Sunday reflections

What a GREAT way to close out the first HALF of 2014:

  • Before we started doing “God@the Movies” a few years ago, I dreaded summer at CLC because it seemed we could never gain any momentum and July in particular was the lowest-attended month of the year – that this sermon series has changed all of that!
  • In fact, today we set a new attendance RECORD for a non-holiday, ‘regular’ Sunday,  with 1,518 in Tinley Park, 172 in NWI, and 110 in Blue Island, for a total of 1,800 people in attendance at our 3 Chicagoland locations, or 1,901 present including the South Bend campus!  In fact, that’s 200 people above our pace last summer!
  • Every campus reported lots of fun with the message from ‘FROZEN’, numerous 2014 grads honored, at least 8 babies dedicated to the Lord & LOTS of first-time guests!  (even the popcorn was good!)

Enjoy a few pics from Tinley Park:

IGNITE, our youth worship team, led us into His Presence today.

IGNITE, our youth worship team, led us into His Presence today.

our Youth Pastor, Matt DeLaTorre, did a great job of hosting the Family service

our Youth Pastor, Matt DeLaTorre, did a great job of hosting the Family service

Honestly, we work harder to get a message from movies than any other series we do, but it's still FUN to deliver!

Honestly, we work harder to get a message from movies than any other series we do, but it’s still FUN to deliver!

The girls dance troupe capped off a GREAT day!

The girls dance troupe capped off a GREAT day!

Best of all, people prayed to receive Christ in EVERY service!

Can’t wait for next Sunday & THE LONE RANGER!!

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite new CLC’ers writes, I have learned a lot about the Holy Spirit in this series. You and your pastoral staff have really put the some pieces together for me as to what the Holy Spirit means.  I have always thought the Holy Spirit part was just God in our hearts. I see that it was that, but much more. It is the promise Jesus made to us that he will return and be inside all of us through the Holy Spirit. The question I have now is, during the last few weeks I heard the Pastors say if we want to be baptized with the Holy Spirit to come forward and the pastoral staff will pray for us, but I also heard of the water baptism. What is the difference?”

Can I just say, I love this question!  I love helping people understand the gifts & experiences that God has for all of us!  So let’s try to make the difference between the two baptisms clear:

  • Water baptism is the burial of our old way of life after we come to faith in Christ. It’s kinda like a ‘coming out party’ to announce publicly that we have turned from our sin & received the gift of salvation that Jesus died for. (By the way, Romans 6:4 calls it that – a ‘burial’ with Christ, and when we arise from the water, it is symbolic of his resurrection and that we are now living a ‘new life’).
  • The Holy Spirit baptism is a gift that we receive to empower that new life (Acts 1:4-8). It’s usually accompanied by what we call a “prayer language” (referred to as ‘speaking in tongues’ in the Bible), which adds a whole new dimension of intimacy in our prayer times with the Lord. (see 1Cor. 14)
  • According to Acts 2:38, every believer should experience both of these baptisms, and that’s the example we see throughout the history of the early Christians in Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19.
  • In some expressions of Christianity, it’s quite possible that your parents had you baptized as an infant. That baptism is NOT the same as the water baptism that I’m talking about, since it was your parent’s decision, not yours. I’m sure parents choose that in a sincere desire to raise their child as a Christian, which is commendable. But water baptism in the New Testament is a choice made by a person who is old enough to repent (turn from) their sin, and believe on the Lord Jesus as Savior (neither of which an infant is capable of doing).
  • Contrary to what some in the American church seem to practice, in the New Testament water baptism was always done immediately after a person turned from sin and believed on Christ (Acts 16:25-33 describes one in the middle of the night, and Acts 22:16 declares, ‘why wait?’) Water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are separate, wonderful experiences that I urge every reader to enjoy!

In our ‘RUACH II’ series that just concluded, we saw perhaps 25-30 people receive their prayer language (unfortunately, we didn’t get accurate records for each, since some received at the altar & others just walking through the ‘fire tunnel’ – so if YOU are one of those who received that gift in these last 4 Sundays, please leave a comment below so we can send you additional information to help you understand & use your new gift), and at least 10 people were baptized in water.  If you want to schedule your water baptism, you can also leave a comment below, or notify your Campus pastor.

I hope that helped.  NOW, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Multi-Generational

At CLC, we are a MULTI- church!  We began with a vision of being multi-cultural.  Later we became a multi-site church, or as we like to say it, “one church meeting in multiple locations”. But it’s also VERY important to me that we be multi-generational; that is, that we are reaching the next generation even while ministering to the present generation.

Last night at the Presence Conference in Pittsburgh, we saw a terrific example of that from the church led by our pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington, as they are actively raising up children to lead in worship, while also having the, ahem, most mature dance ministry I’ve ever seen!  Take a look:

These young drummers accompanied the Praise team!

These young drummers accompanied the Praise team!

CCoP dance team is the 'most mature' I've ever seen...

CCoP dance team is the ‘most mature’ I’ve ever seen… 

Love it!  ALL generations shall praise Him! Young & old will give HIM glory!

Presence Conference & my Pastor…

Chris & I flew to Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon (well, we were scheduled for an afternoon flight) in order to enjoy a couple of days at  Bishop Garlington’s annual  “PRESENCE”  conference.  Unfortunately, our flight was delayed and then we had heavy traffic in Pittsburgh, so by the time we got to our hotel, it was after 9pm (service started at 6:30pm).

So I thought I’d get online to at least be able to watch some of the preaching via livestream – but the hotel WiFi was too weak to support the stream.

SO, we’re looking forward to getting the most out of today’s sessions, morning & evening, maybe even hanging out with some pastor friends.  At least we didn’t miss our pastor’s word, as he is the main speaker tonight.

Then, we’ll take in a morning session tomorrow before hopping back on the plane for the return flight.  Dare I say it? I’m getting tired of traveling….but I love my pastor!

Why we do “God@the Movies” series-

our sermon series for the next 5 weeks-

our sermon series for the next 5 weeks-

For the past 3 summers, our “God@the Movies” series in July has produced some of the largest attendances of the year. Each series has been entertaining and fun.  But the messages have also required more study and more work from me and our pastoral team than any other sermon. Most importantly, the messages of those series have been some of the hardest-hitting of any series we’ve done, and we’ve seen lives changed as a result.

I think that’s because these teachings are relevant, focused on truths that we can put into practice to make our lives, our families, and our relationships better every day.  And just as Paul quoted Greek poets of his day in order to capture the attention of unsaved audiences (see Acts 17:16-31, especially verses 28-29).

I’m urging each CLC’er to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to reach out to friends, family, co-workers, neighbors - anyone you know who needs Jesus.  If you’ll do your part by inviting others to attend, I promise that we’ll do our part to have a relevant & compelling message straight from God’s Word, with Hollywood clips to illustrate!

We begin THIS Sunday with the TOP-grossing animated film of all timeFROZEN!

Oh, and don’t forget our NEW (OLD) service schedule: 8:30, 10 & 12 in Tinley Park! (still 10am in Blue Island and NWI)

Off to South Bend

Pastor Ben Stewart & I will be off to South Bend a little after sunrise this morning, to spend a day with our Campus Pastors, Doug & Shanna Neal, and one of our Apostolic Overseers, Dale Van Steenis.

Dale was the guest speaker there yesterday, and the 3 of us will be working with Doug & Shanna, looking to help them with growth plans for our campus there.  Since we don’t get to spend as much time there due to distance (compared to our Chicagoland locations), I’m looking forward to being on location and giving some input to the Neal’s, who have been faithful servants there for over 5 years already!

I appreciate your prayers for EACH of our campuses today, as we continue to seek ways to reach more people with the Gospel and the full ministry of the Holy Spirit: Tinley Park, NWI, Blue Island, AND South Bend!

Too good to keep….

Just heard another CLC testimony that’s just too good to keep until tomorrow’s post:

Pastor Sam Hamstra says one of our faithful couples, Andy & Ivonne Anderson from the NWI Campus, invited a young couple to the NWI Life Groups last Wednesday night.  The couple is pregnant and the doctor said the baby has a cyst on the brain, and would be born with Down Syndrome as a result.

Wednesday night the wife received prayer from Drusie Neal (“granny” to most of NWI and one of my favorite prayer warriors).  On Thursday the wife went to the doctor and was told there is no more cyst!

The couple was in service today at NWI and Drusie & Ivonne shared their story!

Kudos for inviting folks to church!  Kudos to LifeGroups!  Kudos to launching other campuses to reach people we could never reach from Tinley Park! And MAJOR, MEGA  praise to our Awesome God who still works miracles today!

I bet YOU have a story of what the Holy Spirit did today – won’t you share it below?

Sunday reflections

How would you describe today’s Holy Spirit Encounter at CLC?

After 3 weeks of teaching & preaching about the Holy Spirit in our ‘RUACH II’ series, we felt we should devote one Sunday for a demonstration of the Spirit, and I still don’t have words (but since when has that kept me from trying?) Here’s my random thoughts:

prayerline

  • in Tinley Park, I think we laid hands on over 1,000 people today!  In fact, at the 11am service, which normally lasts until about 12:15pm, we prayed for people who voluntarily got in line until about 12:50, and there were still tons of people in the auditorium, just lingering in the awesome Presence of God!

prayer line

  • I’m looking for more testimonies (please leave yours in the ‘comment’ section below), but I personally spoke with a first-time guest who told me she has been in constant pain since being diagnosed with cancer over one year ago, but that all pain was gone after receiving prayer today!  Another CLC’er received her prayer language in the line today (I suspect several others did as well, but I know that she did!)
Joanne Linane was among those baptized in water this morning

Joanne Linane was among those baptized in water this morning

  • We baptized 10 precious people today, with 5 of them having turned to the Lord as a result of the witness of ONE CLC’er!
Kinga Hodorowitz was one of five baptized today as a result of one CLC'ers witness!

Kinga Hodorowitz was one of five baptized today as a result of one CLC’ers witness!

  • MAJOR, MAJOR KUDOS to our entire Servants of Praise team today, along with Pastor Jon Jones and Director Terrell Wilson!  By my calculations, they ministered in worship today about 5 times longer than a ‘normal’ Sunday and still seemed in no hurry to go after dismissal!
  • AND the same amount of KUDOS to our CLC Elders & altar ministers, most of whom stayed for BOTH services to pray for people – it was exhausting, but FUN, and I appreciate every one of them who gave so willingly today!

prayer4

 

  • at our NWI Campus, Pastor Sam had to scramble to find another place of worship today as our rented location was unavailable, and the change in location & time hindered attendance a bit, but didn’t hinder the work of the Holy Spirit, as he reports full altars & some great testimonies of healings!
  • Our Blue Island campus finally met in Blue Island today, although still at a rented location (the gym we rent in Midlothian was also unavailable today!).  Pastor William reports their ‘fire tunnel’ had similar results as Tinley Park, with reports of healing from a member of the praise team, and several others in both Spanish & English  (today they had a combined, bi-lingual service) who shared testimonies of the ‘fire of God’ working in their life today!
  • Pastor Doug says our South Bend campus enjoyed a great message from a CLC Apostolic Overseer, Dale Van Steenis, and that many people experienced breakthrough’s and change in the Presence of God today!
  • Finally, Pastor Herley Montes returned to the pulpit at our Davao, Philippines campus for the first time since his recent heart attack.  The initial tests indicate one of his arteries is 99% blocked, so he will go to Manila for further tests next week – please keep him in your prayers, and feel free to send him a message of encouragement via the Facebook link above.

My couch is calling me now, but I’d sure love to hear YOUR thoughts about today’s Encounter – especially if you received a healing or your prayer language, or if the Holy Spirit ministered to you in some way – please leave your comments below:

Ask the Pastor

One of our most enthusiastic CLC’ers writes, “This current series, RUAH II, is amazing.  It made me think about a term that heard my former pastor say all the time.  He would invite people to come to the altar for a “refilling of the Holy Spirit”.  Is that biblical?  Also, I know that the Holy Spirit is a person and He resides in us.  Does He leave when we are in a backslidden place or is His presence dormant?  Thanks for this teaching!!!”

Two excellent questions! Here’s my take on both:

  • Coming from a Pentecostal background, I’ve heard many ministers use the term,  “refilling of the Holy Spirit” (and probably been guilty of saying it myself).  But more importantly, in Acts 4:31 we read of a prayer meeting in which many of the same disciples who were present in Acts 2 were filled with the Holy Spirit again - so it seems to me that we could say they were ‘refilled’.  
  • In fact, Ephesians 5:18 is an imperative (command) that all of us are to “keep on being filled” with the Holy Spirit.  The original Greek text indicates an ongoing, continual action - “be always being filled”.  So, YES, I’d definitely say it’s Biblical for us to be refilled with the Spirit!
  • Your second question, in my study of the Scriptures, is not so clear.  On the one hand, in Hebrews 13:5 the Lord emphatically declares that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us, but in Psalm 51:11, after his sin with Bathsheba, David pleads with God to not take His Holy Spirit away (which would indicate that the Spirit could leave us because of willful sin).  So whether the Holy Spirit leaves the backslider, or remains within, but in a dormant state, is not really clear to me.  (Having said that, I will quickly add that I do NOT believe the Spirit withdraws ‘at the drop of a hat’, per some Pentecostal traditions.  In the first church that Chris & I pastored, one of our leaders would question his Sunday School class each Sunday as to whether they still had the Holy Spirit, with the implication that He would come and go easily, depending on their level of consistency in their walk with the Lord.  I do NOT believe that is Biblical, but instead I want to live my life so as not to quench the Spirit’s fire in my life (see 1Thess. 5:19)

I hope that helps.  Let me tell you for sure that THIS Sunday at each CLC Campus we’re expecting the full ministry of the Holy Spirit as we conclude our “RUAH II” series with a free-flowing ‘encounter’ service.  There will be lots of prayer, anointed worship, baptisms and even a ‘fire tunnel’ - so if you want an infilling (or a ‘refilling) of the Holy Spirit, don’t let anything keep you away!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

Someone asked, “How did killing Jesus remove our sins? We made the sins, not him.”

GREAT question.  I think sometimes in our desire to address ‘felt-need’ issues in our Sunday messages, we perhaps neglect the core of the Gospel, and that’s the heart of your question.  Let me try to answer it simply, but systematically:

1.  God told us from the beginning, that if we sin, we shall die. (Gen. 2:15-17; Rom. 6:23)

2.  However, God’s mercy provided a substitute (the life of an animal for the life of a person), so that mankind wouldn’t perish. (Leviticus 17:11)

3.  But it wasn’t possible for the blood of animals to completely take away our sin, since the life of a bull or goat isn’t equal to human life (Hebrews 10:1-5)

4.  Jesus could be the perfect sacrifice, because His blood was of greater value than ours, as the sinless, perfect, Lamb of God! (1Pet. 1:18-20; Heb. 9:13-14)

So, yes, we committed the sins.  But HE willingly took our place on the Cross and died the death we should have died!

But His death, in and of itself, doesn’t remove our sins (otherwise, everyone on earth would be saved, since He died for all).  It’s only when we place our trust in what He did rather than on any of our works, and trust Him for salvation, that our sins are removed. (Galatians 2:15-16; Ephesians 2:8-9)

I’m SO glad that Jesus took MY sins away!  By the way, this Father’s Day at every CLC campus we’ll take a look at what our Heavenly Father has promised you – and you’ll have an opportunity to receive His gift of eternal life.  Hope you’ll join us-

 Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Sunday reflections

Here’s what went down at CLC on Pentecost Sunday 2014:

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  • I’m EXCITED to report that someone was baptized in the Holy Spirit at EACH of our Chicagoland locations today: at least 1 in Blue Island, at least 2 in NWI and at least 10 in Tinley Park!  (there may have been others, as we were more focused on praying for folks than we were on gathering their info afterwards).
  • The NWI report is particularly noteworthy because we had a technology glitch that meant Pastor Sam had to jump onstage and deliver the message live instead of them receiving the video teaching from Tinley Park….despite that tense beginning, Sam reported full altars and that he received words of knowledge as he prayed over several people, making it a WONDERFUL Pentecost Sunday in the end!
  • And, according to Pastor William, the person who was baptized in the Holy Spirit at the Blue Island campus was a first-time guest of CLC!
  • In South Bend, Pastor Doug reports a beautiful Graduation Sunday to honor their graduates today, plus one of their strongest attendances this year!

I’d call that a GOOD DAY at CLC!

Immediately after the last service in Tinley Park, Chris & I stopped by the funeral home to pay our final respects to Betty Hofstra.  She was truly one-of-a-kind, and a real saint of God if I’ve ever known one.  Those of us who loved her deeply will miss her greatly.

BETTY

 

After a quick lunch, we hit the road for our annual vacation in the Smokies – so this will be my last post for a couple of weeks – but I’m already looking forward to a Holy Spirit Demonstration at each campus on June 22 – so mark the date on your calendar & come expecting!

By the way, if you attended any CLC service today, what is your favorite memory of this Pentecost Sunday?  Please leave a comment below-

Ask the Pastor

A newly-baptized CLC’er writes, “Sometimes I feel like doubting Thomas, like I need proof Jesus is real. How can I get past that?”

Great question – because I’m sure you’re not the first who’s felt that way (or even the second, after Thomas!) So let me try to help you and those who struggle with doubts:

  • First, I think some doubts are normal.  As humans, we depend on our 5 senses  (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) so much that when something is beyond those senses, we find it difficult to accept.  Especially in the West, we exalt intellect over  spirit to the point that most people don’t even acknowledge the spirit realm.
  • Not only that, but in my experience, most Christians face a ‘crisis of faith’ at some point in their lives – for many who were brought up in the faith, it occurs when they are in college and have to contend with skeptical, cynical professors who mock their faith with a pretense of superior intellect.

So what do you do about your doubts?  Here’s my suggestion:

1.  Acknowledge them.  (God has big shoulders, and HE can handle your doubts!)  Notice how honest Abraham (the father of the faithful) and David (a man after God’s own heart)  were throughout the Scriptures, expressing their fears, their complaints; and, yes, their  doubts: Gen. 12:12, 13; 15:8; 18:12-14; 19:30; 20:2, 11; 26:7;  Psalm 22:2.  Don’t hesitate to take YOUR doubts to God – HE has an answer!

2.  Study the Scriptures.  Not only does hearing the Word bring faith (Romans 10:17), but the Bible can stand our scrutiny – notice Acts 17:10-12 where we read of the open-minded Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily AND, as a result of their study, believed!  I’m convinced the same result happens when anyone sincerely studies the Word.

3.  Be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:32-33, 36 indicate that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit should convince us all that Jesus is Lord!  Eph. 1:13-14  describe the gift of the Holy Spirit as the “guarantee” (actually, the ‘earnest’ of our inheritance, like the earnest money that we put down on a real estate transaction as proof that we will complete the purchase) of our inheritance; i.e., once we’re filled with the Spirit, we have God’s guarantee living inside of us.  If you haven’t yet been baptized in the Holy Spirit, I hope you’ll join us THIS Sunday (June 8 – Pentecost Sunday) when we’ll focus on Him and expect Him to be poured out at CLC!  HE is your personal witness of the Resurrection of Jesus, and HE will be living inside you!

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

Experience PENTECOST on Pentecost Sunday

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This Sunday, June 8, is Pentecost Sunday – the ‘anniversary’ of the birth of The Church of Jesus Christ, as recorded in Acts 2.  Not only is Pentecost still a Jewish festival that is observed by orthodox Jews, but it’s also a holiday on church calendars everywhere.

I’m convinced it’s supposed to be MORE than a holiday on someone’s calendar!

In week 2 of our “RUACH II” series, we’re going to explore that Pentecost in Acts 2 this Sunday at each CLC campus, not just as a historical fact, but so that all of us can enjoy the experience of Pentecost!  I hope you’ll invite a friend to join you for a verse-by-verse exposition and a logical, rational explanation of what happened then and what God promises now.

I’m especially praying for the results of that Pentecost that I read in my morning devotions today in Acts 2:46-47.  What could be better than:

  • unity among believers
  • enjoying life (even your mealtimes) with gladness & simplicity (instead of the stress & turmoil & complexities we often face)
  • having favor with all people, AND
  • people getting saved & added to our church family daily!

I’m praying, “Do it again, Lord!”

Can’t wait until Sunday!!!

The Summer Experiment…

When we announced our ‘summer schedule experiment’ a few weeks ago, there were 2 main criteria that we were watching: (a) we didn’t want to lose people because of the lack of options; and (b) we wanted to make sure we still had room to grow so that others could join us in worship.

We’ve been watching for the past 3 Sundays, and it seems we failed on both counts – the first 2 weeks our attendance dropped significantly (that may have been due to graduations and the Memorial Day holiday, but nonetheless, it’s a concern that having fewer service options may have caused some not to be able to attend); and this past Sunday at the 9am service there were NO empty parking spaces & some folks had to double-park in order to attend.  That meant we had a great attendance & the energy in both services was terrific, but obviously, that would make it impossible for us to grow or for new folks to join us, because if they can’t get a place to park, they can’t worship with us.

SO, I’m announcing today that beginning on June 29 when our “God@the Movies” series begins, we will resume our normal Sunday schedule in Tinley Park of 8:30, 10 and 12.  We will do our best to get the word out via email and snail mail in addition to service announcements for the next 3 Sundays, but please help us by telling any CLC’er you know  - 3 Sunday services resume with God@the Movies (and it’s going to be a GREAT series to invite your unchurched friends, with Man of SteelLone RangerFROZENThe Secret Life of Walter MittySaving Mr. Banks on the schedule!)  I can’t wait!

 

Miracle reports

Yeah, I admit we sometimes use the word “miracle” loosely.  But I still believe in ‘em.  Someone smarter than me explained long ago that a healing can be progressive – meaning a recovery from some physical condition that is greatly accelerated, so over a short period of time, you are fully recovered from what was wrong.  But a miracle is instantaneous and immediate.

Yesterday, in each of our services at each campus, there was an opportunity given and prayers offered for both miracles and healings.  I already heard from two different ladies who experienced instant miracles:

  • one young woman who has had chronic ankle issues and numerous visits to the doctor, with surgery prescribed as the next step, was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and healed in the Tinley Park 9am service!
  • another young wife whose doctor told her that her left hip was only 70% usable, and who had suffered pain for the past 6 months, felt the healing power of God all through her back and hip when she received prayer at the 11am service in Tinley Park, and she left the service pain-free!

Both of those miracles were called out by a word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit did the healing – so our “RUACH II” series is off to a good start!  But I suspect there were other healings and miracles that took place yesterday, not only in Tinley Park but at our other campuses, too.  If you received from the Holy Spirit yesterday, would you take  a moment to share your story with us below?  We can rejoice together, and your testimony can inspire faith in others to receive as well!

Sunday reflections

Here’s a few random thoughts about today at CLC:

  • Sure felt good to be back in the pulpit today after a 3-week hiatus from CLC-TP, and so glad Sam Hamstra left a residue of anointing on the platform for me – made it easy to preach today!
  • It’s been a while since I felt the energy SO HIGH during worship as today!  MEGA-kudos to Jon Jones, Terrell Wilson & the entire SoP team for leading us into the Presence today! (love the new song, too!)
  • I publicly expressed my appreciation to all our pastors today, but I thought Ben Stewart led communion as well as I’ve ever experienced, and Tony Gilmore did a super job of transitioning from worship.  Trust me, it’s NOT ‘the devil is in the details’;  it’s GOD who is in the details!
  • SO appreciate my wife’s sensitivity to receive some words of knowledge that kicked-off a great time of altar ministry today!  It seemed almost everyone I prayed for had been called out by the Holy Spirit, and we definitely saw some miracles of healing!
  • Love being a part of a church that can worship & flow like we did today, and then move to the MPR for a ‘TACO DAY’! Kudos to Sol McQuay and her entire team of volunteers who brought in almost $1500 for missions today!
  • At NWI today, 3 new members joined us and started serving in ministry today! Despite some video glitches in the beginning, Pastor Sam says the message was received enthusiastically!
  • At our Blue Island campus (still meeting in Midlothian for a few more weeks), Pastor William reports many people responded to the altar call & some were overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit!
  • Finally, Pastor Doug reports that our South Bend campus had a really good day.  He was relieved by the great response to what he felt was a ‘tough word’ he delivered about leaving religion and following Jesus alone!

Joining in on a teleconference tonight with our primary partners in Israel, the Tikkun Ministries network, so I’ll check out now-

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “If we were created in Gods image, can we assume God looks like us?”

Great question, and one that perhaps many people have not considered.  Here’s my understanding in that regard:

  •  When the Bible says that we are made in God’s image and likeness, it was primarily referring to qualities & attributes, not a physical resemblance.  I say that because Scripture indicates that God is invisible (Col. 1:15; John 1:18; 1Tim. 6:16)
  • This ‘likeness’ is readily seen in that, just like God, we have intelligence, creativity, personality, and more.  We can get angry or sad or feel joy, we can experience love, we can exercise choice – all attributes that we share with God!
  • However, Romans 5:14 speaks of the fact that Adam was the figure of one to come (Christ).  While I think that primarily means that Adam was a type of Christ (1Corinthians 15:45-49 speaks of the “first” Adam and the “second” Adam), there may be ‘wiggle room’ to interpret that to mean that when God fashioned Adam from the dust of the ground, He looked ahead to see what Jesus would look like, and then made Adam to resemble Jesus.  (It’s an interesting thought, anyway)

Hope that helps a bit….if not, chalk it up to jet-lag today!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Philippines Marriage Encounter

Amazing what a little sleep will do for you!  Feeling much refreshed now & thought I’d share a few more pics from the wonderful Marriage Retreat (Encounter) for the Pastors, starting with this one:

"Thx 4 pastor jerry and pastora chris 4 refreshing, Renew and restore every couple attending marriage encounter!" -- Rizalito Relloso

“Thx 4 pastor jerry and pastora chris 4 refreshing, Renew and restore every couple attending marriage encounter!” — Rizalito Relloso

It is with great honor for sharing your life to us and for initiating the renewal of our love. Thanks to you Pastor Jerry and Mommy Chris Mcquay! "Xoxo  #marriageencounter #refreshed #restored #renewed — with Chris McQuay, Jerry McQuay and Mark Anthony Sebandal at Eden Nature Park & Resort.

It is with great honor for sharing your life to us and for initiating the renewal of our love. Thanks to you Pastor Jerry and Mommy Chris Mcquay! “Xoxo
#marriageencounter #refreshed #restored #renewed — with Chris McQuay, Jerry McQuay and Mark Anthony Sebandal at Eden Nature Park & Resort.

Pastors Blair & Che Cuares serve as pastoral advisors to boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao

Pastors Blair & Che Cuares serve as pastoral advisors to boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao

 

We closed the retreat by leading each couple in renewing their vows to each other

We closed the retreat by leading each couple in renewing their vows to each other

Our friends, Jeser & Aying with baby JAM

Our friends, Jeser & Aying with baby JAM

After the retreat, we were able to tour the Eden Nature Resort - SO beautiful!

After the retreat, we were able to tour the Eden Nature Resort – SO beautiful!

LOL - a monument to he Philippine 'tractor', the caribao (water buffalo)

LOL – a monument to he Philippine ‘tractor’, the caribao (water buffalo)

The resort included a traditional Filipino house in the mountain areas

The resort included a traditional Filipino house in the mountain areas

those were some TALL sunflowers!

those were some TALL sunflowers!

 

a great way to end a Marriage Retreat!

a great way to end a Marriage Retreat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last day in Davao; headed home-

Chris & I enjoyed a relaxing day in Davao, doing a little study and some calendaring stuff  (never-ending calendar issues!), before having lunch at Pastor Herley’s favorite hamburger joint and then sharing some leadership principles with the key leaders of CLC-Davao tonight. That was our last ministry assignment for this trip, so here’s one last look at the city of Davao from our hotel room:

Aldevinco is our favorite shopping spot (just across from our hotel)

Aldevinco is our favorite shopping spot (just across from our hotel)

looking out at the city

looking out at the city

goodbye, Davao City - until next time!

goodbye, Davao City – until next time!

Now we’re gonna get a few hours of shut-eye before the alarm at 3:30 a.m. (2:30pm Wednesday in Chicago) to get us on our way to the first of four flights that will eventually get us home Thursday evening.

Already looking forward to the kickoff of RUACH II” this Sunday! Hope you’ll invite someone to be your guest as we look at the ‘PURPOSE’ of the Holy Spirit’s coming!

Philippines, days 4 and 5

Just got back to our hotel in Davao and WiFi again, after a terrific Marriage Retreat with 94 pastors & church leaders at Eden Nature Park Resort.  To be honest, we’re both so tired we’re headed to bed by 8pm here, but I just wanted to quickly report that this was one of the most gratifying ministry experiences we’ve EVER had.

It was obvious that these precious Filipino pastors had rarely been able to get away with their spouse and receive teaching from Scripture about the priority of their marriage relationship.  They soaked up every moment of our teaching….laughed at every joke and embarrassing moment (talking about sex isn’t easy in Filipino culture)….took every discussion assignment my wife had prepared in advance and basically just ‘owned’ this retreat.  Here are just a few pics since I’m fading too fast to elaborate further:

The grounds at Eden are absolutely gorgeous!

The grounds at Eden are absolutely gorgeous!

A few of the pastors & leaders as the retreat began

A few of the pastors & leaders as the retreat began

 

These pastors devoured everything we shared!

These pastors devoured everything we shared!

Pastors Herley & Nelly assembled this group of pastors from their network of ministers & Herley interpreted the sessions for us

Pastors Herley & Nelly assembled this group of pastors from their network of ministers & Herley interpreted the sessions for us

Teaching others about marriage always strengthens our relationship, too!

Teaching others about marriage always strengthens our relationship, too!

 

 

 

Sunday reflections

The 18th Anniversary of CLC-Davao was impossible to explain…..you had to be here to experience the lights, the smoke machines, the dance team, the drama team, the CLC ‘WAVE’ (yep, just like at the ballpark – 3 times around the entire gym filled with over 2,000 screaming people), the music – it was TRULY a celebration!

After Chris & I preached, Pastor Herley gave the salvation invitation, and I think more than 50 people gave their life to Christ!  Then Chris gave some words of knowledge for healing & miracles and we invited people to come forward to receive – and perhaps 200 precious Filipinos came to the altar!  It was definitely the largest group I’ve prayed for in all my visits here – and it was wonderful to see what God was doing for so many.

Before I post a few pics, I do have one request: as a pastor, my heart is always with the sheep, even when I’m overseasso if you attended any service at any CLC campus this weekend, would you leave a comment below to tell me about it?  Thanks – now enjoy a few pics:

Joel Montes led worship with his anointed team

Joel Montes led worship with his anointed team

The CLC-Davao dance team is indescribable!

The CLC-Davao dance team is indescribable!

a local celebrity, TV personality & singer who was recently born-again & joined CLC-Davao, shared her testimony with the crowd.

a local celebrity, TV personality & singer who was recently born-again & joined CLC-Davao, shared her testimony with the crowd.

Chris challenged everyone to be the 'SuperHero' God has called them to be-

Chris challenged everyone to be the ‘SuperHero’ God has called them to be-

just a few of the many who raised their hands & then stood to pray to receive Christ

just a few of the many who raised their hands & then stood to pray to receive Christ

I won’t have internet for the next couple of days while we lead a Marriage Retreat for 100 pastors & their spouses, but then I hope to read comments from many of you about the services at CLC this Sunday!

 

 

 

Philippines, day 3

This morning Chris preached for our friends, Tito & Nelrose Sasam at Releaser of Life Family Church, while I went to Tagum City to speak for our friends, Jeser & Aying Molina.

Chris with Pastors Tito & Nelrose Sasam

Chris with Pastors Tito & Nelrose Sasam

CLC-Tagum is just over one year old, as Jeser & Aying left CLC-Davao where they had served for 10 years, to plant this congregation, which has already grown to about 100 believers in their first year.  Their building only seats about 80 people, but 110 folks crowded into the room this morning for worship, and 14 precious Filipino’s gave their life to Christ at the close of service!  Enjoy a few pics:

preachingTagum

 

Worship wall-to-wall at CLC-Tagum City

Worship wall-to-wall at CLC-Tagum City

Pastor Jeser Molina, Jr. is the leader who introduced me to his pastor, Herley Montes - and the rest is history!

Pastor Jeser Molina, Jr. is the leader who introduced me to his pastor, Herley Montes – and the rest is history!

 

Philippine trip, days 1 and 2

First was “The Royal Wedding” of Brian Montes & Clarice Escala on Friday night:

It was like a Disney movie!

It was like a Disney movie!

The reception was just as magical - like a Fairy Tale

The reception was just as magical – like a Fairy Tale

Excited about tomorrow afternoon when we will celebrate the 18th Anniversary of CLC-Davao with Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes!

18 davao

 

Hope you’ll make it to a CLC campus to hear NWI Campus Pastor, Sam Hamstra, bring a word about “The Ox Goad” – it’s gonna be good!

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

Don’t Miss This Sunday at CLC!

I know it’s a holiday weekend and you probably have a 3-day weekend, but I gotta tell you  - after being in our sermon planning meeting before leaving for the airport yesterday, I honestly believe this Sunday will be one of the MOST INSPIRATIONAL days in our history!

Our NWI Campus Pastor, Sam Hamstra, will be speaking live at our broadcast campus in Tinley Park, and his message will be received via video in Midlothian (the Blue Island campus temporary location) and at NWI. I told him after our team meeting that I think folks will leave service “ready to charge hell with a water pistol!” (I mean it – I really think it will be life-changing!)

So if you can possibly arrange your weekend schedule to include worship at CLC this Sunday, whether 9 or 11 a.m. in Tinley Park, or 10am in NWI or Midlothian, I urge you to do so – get ready for a powerful message called OXGOAD“.

We’ll also honor all our veterans on this Memorial Day weekend, so it’s going to be a special day all around.  (Wish I could share it with you, but Chris & I will be ministering in Davao City, Philippines)