Ask the Pastor

Again this week I had no questions submitted, so I’m re-posting this from  June of 2009:

A CLCer recently asked, “Where in the Bible do people get the notion that disease and illness is due to lack of faith?”

Great question, even though it’s so sad that it needs to be asked.  It’s perhaps the most hurtful extreme that has come out of the ‘faith’ movement among Spirit-filled churches, and that is the ‘pronounced judgement’ that if a believer has an illness, it must be because of their lack of faith.  There is NO Scripture in the Bible that pronounces that judgment upon a believer – it’s simply faulty theology.

Having said that, I will say that I don’t believe the Bible agrees with some of the statements in the original question; namely, I do not believe that God ever places sickness on us.  From my understanding of Scripture, all sickness and disease is a result of the Fall, and is further complicated by afflictions from the evil one – but NEVER from God.

Furthermore, the idea that sickness is a ‘burden’ for us to bear (as was implied in the statement about Paul’s thorn in the flesh) is also NOT Biblical.  (We can’t be certain what Paul’s ‘thorn’ was, but he indicated it was a “messenger of Satan, to torment me and keep me from becoming proud”) Again, there is NO Scripture that would ever teach that God puts sickness on us as a burden for us to bear, or to teach us some lesson.

I believe the correct and safest Scriptural position for us to take as believers is to always assume that it is God’s will to heal – every sickness and disease – and to ask Him to do so, in faith.  That does not preclude us from seeking medical treatment in the meantime, even as we continue trusting God for complete healing.  But if that healing does not manifest, there are a myriad of possible reasons, and the last thing any of us as believers should do is point a finger of judgment against someone who is not healed and tell them that it’s because of their lack of faith.

Hope this helps – it’s a subject that needs fuller treatment than this forum allows.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

I <3 MY Church!

I’ve been quiet this week, for those of you who look for a daily post from me.

That’s mainly because I’ve been working hard on our new series, which begins THIS Sunday and culminates at our 25th Anniversary Celebration on March 22 at 10am at the Tinley Park Convention Center!

I believe this series will give all of us a taste of what God has done and is doing at CLC, and I hope you’ll make plans to be a part of each Sunday – with 3 campuses and 6 options to choose from in Chicagoland  (except March 22 when we ALL come together for a great One Family celebration!)

I can’t wait!

 

 

Sunday reflections

A few honest thoughts about this day at CLC:

  • I was more nervous about preaching today than I remember in a long, long time.  I think I knew the subject was one that just isn’t talked about publicly, and I wasn’t sure how it would be received – even though I knew it was a topic I needed to address.  Bottom-line: glad it’s over!
  • Actually, the real bottom-line is that at least 5 people gave their life to Christ after a message on race relations – which more than made it worthwhile, and just never gets old!
  • Today was also the first new & improved Step 4 class, and I heard rave reviews from those who participated.  If you haven’t yet found your place at CLC, be ready for the next one on March 29.
Our NWI campus had to meet in the downstairs boardroom because of a scheduling mix-up, but Pastor Sam said it still went great.  He's especially excited about 3 or 4 new families that have been added there in 2015, and the overall impact of the GetFit series!

Our NWI campus had to meet in the downstairs boardroom because of a scheduling mix-up, but Pastor Sam said it still went great. He’s especially excited about 3 or 4 new families that have been added there in 2015, and the overall impact of the GetFit series!

  • Pastor Doug says our South Bend campus had an exciting time of Communion today that was led in Spanish, and they continue to enjoy a real sense of momentum!
Pastor William is rejoicing over 2 people who recommitted their life to the Lord, and 3 others who prayed to receive Christ today at our Blue Island campus!

Pastor William is rejoicing over 2 people who recommitted their life to the Lord, and 3 others who prayed to receive Christ today at our Blue Island campus!

Can’t wait for “I <3 my church” series starting NEXT Sunday!

 

25th Anniversary Banquet

Last night was the FIRST of our big 25th anniversary celebrations at CLC (the others being our OneFamily Experience at the Tinley Park Convention Center on March 22 at 10am, and our LIVE CD Recording at CLC-Tinley Park on March 29 at 5pm).

It was a fun evening celebrating what God has done in the past 25 years:

DiNolfo's was the place & I must say, they did a terrific job.  The food was as good as I've ever had at a banquet!

DiNolfo’s was the place & I must say, they did a terrific job. The food was as good as I’ve ever had at a banquet! (If you know what I mean about banquet food)

25 years in ice (seems appropriate for winter in Chicago, huh?)

25 years in ice (seems appropriate for winter in Chicago, huh?)

The ONLY people in the room besides my family who were present on opening day at Tinley Park High School - Sara Wright and her mom, Carolyn!

The ONLY people in the room besides my family who were present on opening day at Tinley Park High School – Sara Wright and her mom, Carolyn!

Can't have an anniversary without cake, right?

Can’t have an anniversary without cake, right?

Fellowship around the tables was the highlight of the evening.

Fellowship around the tables was the highlight of the evening.

Pastors Ben & Jon led us through CLC's history via SONG (with help from Tiffany Hines and a guest artist).  I know it was a banquet hall, but, honestly the Presence of God was STRONG as we sang together!

Pastors Ben & Jon led us through CLC’s history via SONG (with help from Tiffany Hines and a guest artist). I know it was a banquet hall, but, honestly the Presence of God was STRONG as we sang together!  In fact, if a banquet was this good, I can’t wait for the March 22 and March 29 celebrations of worship!

Our pastors & elders prayed over Chris & me, and it was an emotional moment for sure!

Our pastors & elders prayed over Chris & me, and it was an emotional moment for sure!

I was long gone before the evening was over (Chris & I arrived from the Philippines at 2am Friday), but I hear the dancing was terrific!

I was long gone before the evening was over (Chris & I arrived from the Philippines at 2am Friday), but I hear the dancing was terrific!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers from our Blue Island campus writes, “I had a question during your message a couple weeks ago:

I’ve read Proverbs 13:22 before and always had one interpretation of it, but I began to question it during your message. Does this passage mean that
1) a good man leaves his children enough money to pass on to their children (hence the good man’s children’s children) OR 2) a good man lives long enough & plans well enough that he leaves his inheritance to both his children AND his grandchildren?

There are several biblical references to fathers having inheritances for their sons. So I will skip the option of the father only leaving an inheritance to his grandchildren (and bypassing his children).”

Great question.  Honestly, I hadn’t given much thought to which of the two possibilities was Solomon’s intent, so I dug a little bit with the scholars, and it seems that option #2 was probably what he had in mind; i.e., that we should plan well enough to even include our grandchildren in our estate.  One commentator mentioned specifically that the good man manages his money so well that he also passes on that wisdom to his children, so that they can follow his example and be a blessing to their children.

Hope that helps.  Either way, I want to be a ‘good’ man in the eyes of God!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Sunday reflections

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The only bad thing about making a missions trip is that it takes me away from CLC on a Sunday, and I’m always wanting to know how it was in my absence!

If you attended any service at any campus of CLC today, would you please leave a comment below as to how the Holy Spirit ministered to you during the service, or perhaps what you considered the highlight of the day?

Your curious pastor wants to know.

Philippine trip, Sunday

On this last day of ministry for this trip, Chris & I split up in the morning, with her ministering at CLC-Tagum for Pastors Jeser & Aying Molina, while I preached at CLC-Davao for Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes.

We met Aying & her then-boyfriend, Jeser, on our first visit back to the Philippines in 2006, and became fast friends.  They planted CLC-Tagum 2 years ago & are doing a great work there!

We met Aying & her then-boyfriend, Jeser, on our first visit back to the Philippines in 2006, and became fast friends. They planted CLC-Tagum 2 years ago & are doing a great work there!

After Chris preached, these precious Filipinos came forward to give their lives to Christ!

After Chris preached, these precious Filipinos came forward to give their lives to Christ!

A view of Sunday morning attendance at CLC-Davao

A view of Sunday morning attendance at CLC-Davao

Then the highlight of the trip was this afternoon with the official dedication of the new building for CLC-Davao:

Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes cut the ribbon to officially open the doors to CLC-Davao's new building

Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes cut the ribbon to officially open the doors to CLC-Davao’s new building

Claudette is an entertainer & Davao TV personality whose life was radically changed at CLC-Davao a few years ago.

Claudette is an entertainer & Davao TV personality whose life was radically changed at CLC-Davao a few years ago.  She has since led her entire family to the Lord, and she blessed us tonight in song.

At the close of the Dedication service, balloons were released from the ceiling to celebrate

At the close of the Dedication service, balloons were released from the ceiling to celebrate

Wileen is one of our favorite worship leaders, not only for her unique voice, but because of the anointing she carries to lead others into The Presence!  Tonight Chris gave her a strong prophetic word about the glory that is released thru her singing-

Wileen is one of our favorite worship leaders, not only for her unique voice, but because of the anointing she carries to lead others into The Presence! Tonight Chris gave her a strong prophetic word about the glory that is released thru her worship.

That’s all – we leave early in the morning for Boracay, one of the Philippines greatest resorts for 3 days of R&R, so I probably won’t be back online until we return to Chicago this Thursday-

Valentine’s Day, Filipino-style

Our only assignment on Saturday was to speak at the CLC-Davao Valentine’s Banquet – me to the singles and Chris to the married couples.  They really went all out, transforming their new auditorium into a beautiful banquet hall for the occasion:

Even the entrance into the room let us know that this would be a special evening!

Even the entrance into the room let us know that this would be a special evening!

SO glad the Lord brought Pastor Herley Montes into my life - love this man of God!

SO glad the Lord brought Pastor Herley Montes into my life – love this man of God!

But of course, the most important person at the banquet was MY Valentine for the past 43 years!  She did such an amazing job teaching marrieds "How to Bring out the Best in your Mate"

But of course, the most important person at the banquet was MY Valentine for the past 43 years! She did such an amazing job teaching marrieds “How to Bring out the Best in your Mate”

Today is our final day of ministry for this trip, as we’ll preach in two different CLC churches in the morning, and then come together for an afternoon service to dedicate the new building for CLC-Davao!

 

 

Philippine trip, Friday

Chris & I were both awake almost all night Thursday after getting the wonderful news about Jen’s vision being restored.  (By the way, for those who didn’t know: Jen has been legally blind in her left eye for many years, only able to distinguish some shapes & shadows.  One of my friends told me during this ordeal of the past 5 weeks that they were praying her sight would be restored in both eyes, and she told us today that she can now see much better from the left eye as well – not perfectly, but much better than ever!  Just like our God – what the enemy intended for evil has become a blessing!)

Because of that, I was too tired to post last night after our Friday session at the ‘Ignite the First Love Conference’ here in Davao:

As always, the worship team from CLC-Davao makes us feel at home, because of the wonderful anointing they carry to lead us into His Presence!

As always, the worship team from CLC-Davao makes us feel at home, because of the wonderful anointing they carry to lead us into His Presence!

Pastor Joel Montes is as good as anyone I've ever known at leading a service & exhorting a congregation to go deeper!

Pastor Joel Montes is as good as anyone I’ve ever known at leading a service & exhorting a congregation to go deeper!

She's still far from full-speed, and her voice was very raspy, but Chris preached AS HARD last night as I've ever heard here - she really delivered her heart for the lost, and CLC-Davao responded!

She’s still far from full-speed, and her voice was very raspy, but Chris preached AS HARD last night as I’ve ever heard here – she really delivered her heart for the lost, and CLC-Davao responded!

It’s now Valentine’s Day in the Philippines, and my Valentine for the last 43 years wants me to take her shopping, so I’m gonna be a good husband and sign off now, but not before saying, CLC’ers at each Chicagoland campus,  don’t miss ‘GetFit relationally’ this Sunday as Pastor Ben shares the ONE thing that keeps many from enjoying great relationships!

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

For the second week in a row, no one submitted a question for me, so I’ll ask and answer my own: “why does CLC focus money & attention on international missions?”

There are many valid, Biblical reasons for our missions emphasis at CLC, but here’s one of the latest: while my wife & I are in Davao City, Philippines, ministering at our campus here, I received a report and picture from Aby Vargis, our partner in India.  Get this: in the last 2 years since we began investing in a specific church-planting project in one of the most unreached areas of India, our partners there have planted 45 churches!  Here’s the latest picture of one of the buildings that CLC has also provided there:

india church

As you look into those faces, knowing that just a few weeks or months ago they did not know Jesus and had not heard the Gospel, but today they worship Him as their Lord & Savior, because YOU gave – then you understand why we emphasize missions at CLC!

Thank you for making all of this possible!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

My other GOOD news…

Jen can Seeeeeeeeee!!!!!

jen

On Thursday, February 12 at about 7am Chicago time, when Jen awakened from sleep, she could see!

That’s almost exactly 36 days since she went totally blind with a condition called optic neuritis.

“Thank you” just isn’t adequate to express our love & appreciation for people literally all over the world who have prayed fervently for these past five weeks, not only for Jen’s healing, but for Chris & me as we cared for her during this time of blindness – but I don’t know any other way to say it, so THANK YOU!

And thank you, JESUS, for healing our daughter!

We learned this good news almost immediately after returning to our hotel from the services at CLC-Davao, but I couldn’t tell you the good news until Jen confirmed everything with her doctor and could notify her HR department at Gateway Church.  There was some shouting going on up in this here hotel room, I gotta tell you!

Love you all – thank you again for praying!

Philippines trip, Thursday

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Lots of good news today:

  • Pastor Herley sent a medical doctor from his church to our hotel this morning to examine Chris, and she prescribed some strong antibiotics and other meds, and it’s already taking effect!
In fact, her pain was gone and her voice was about 50% back, so she went to the conference with me tonight and preached a short message  that was well-received by CLC-Davao! (here, how to disARM and deFEET the devil! pun intended)

In fact, her pain was gone and her voice was about 50% back, so she went to the conference with me tonight and preached a short message that was well-received by CLC-Davao! (here, how to disARM and deFEET the devil! pun intended)

  • I’ve got to save the BEST news for a later post, but here’s one more picture from tonight’s service:
CLC-Davao really feels like home, because of the wonderful worship & awesome Presence of God that fills this place every service!

CLC-Davao really feels like home, because of the wonderful worship & awesome Presence of God that fills this place every service!

 

Philippines trip, Wednesday

10988537_790985067643114_7212184461900056977_n

Tonight was the first night of CLC-Davao’s conference, and I must say it was wonderful!

The worship team closed their set with a song I’d never heard before, and it simply melted me in the Presence of the Lord.  They sang it again during the altar time, with the same result.  I’m serving notice to Pastor Jon Jones and our new Worship Director, Harmony LaBeff, that I want us to learn this one:

Please continue to pray for my wife, who was too ill tonight to even attend the service with me – and she’s scheduled to speak tomorrow night.

One more picture from last night’s wedding: this one is the fruit of Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes – their sons, Joel, Brian & Nathan, their daughter, Grace, and their spouses-

(L to R) Marlon Lumapas (husband of Grace) & daughter Macy, Joel, Brian, Nathan, June Ann, Clarice (wife of Brian), Judith (wife of Joel) and Grace.  I love this family!

(L to R) Marlon Lumapas (husband of Grace) & daughter Macy, Joel, Brian, Nathan, June Ann, Clarice (wife of Brian), Judith (wife of Joel) and Grace.        I love this family!

 

 

A wedding in the Philippines….

Filipinos know how to put on a wedding!

At least that’s been our experience the past two years, as I had the privilege of officiating at the wedding of Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes son, Brian, last year and their son, Nathan, tonight.

Brian & Clarice had a fairy tale wedding at a picturesque setting overlooking the ocean, while Nathan & June Ann opted for a modern classic approach at a Convention Center inside Davao’s largest shopping mall – and it was spectacular with a red and black Valentine-inspired theme.

It was 31 hours from the time we left CLC on Sunday until we reached our hotel in Davao this morning, and then another 12 hours until now, and we’ve had very little sleep, so I’m signing off, but not before letting you enjoy a few pics from tonight:

Oh well, a smile always helps make up for a lack of sleep

Oh well, a smile always helps make up for a lack of sleep!

While taking a taxi to the Mall for the wedding, Chris asked me how we'd know where to go....I guess she didn't need to worry!

While taking a taxi to the Mall for the wedding, Chris asked me how we’d know where to go….I guess she didn’t need to worry!

The happy couple immediately following the ceremony-

The happy couple immediately following the ceremony-

The first dance was beautiful, and the Philippine custom is for guests to pin money on their wedding outfits to wish them prosperity in their marriage.

The first dance was beautiful, and the Philippine custom is for guests to pin money on them while they dance to wish them prosperity in their marriage. (We snapped this pic before the money march began)

 

 

 

 

Sunday reflections

Been a while since I had as much fun teaching as I did today – partly because folks responded well (even to my jokes), but probably also because I only preached twice!  Chris & I left after the 10am service for O’Hare, where I’m typing this as we await boarding our flight to LA.  That’s the first of 3 flights that will eventually get us to Davao, Philippines by Monday night so I can help perform the wedding of Pastor Herley’s youngest son, Nathan in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, Chicago time.

Here’s my random thoughts about today:

  • I still think Victor’s Crown may be the greatest song of all time.

and I love how SoP leads us into the Presence of the Lord in that song!

Teaching today was a real joy - all because of the responsiveness of the people!

  • Pastor Doug reports that our South Bend campus enjoyed a great time of worship, especially through a time of special prayer for children & young adults.

    Pastor Sam was ecstatic today that NWI enjoyed their best-attendance on a 'regular' Sunday, with 221 in attendance, including tons of guests, several sign-ups for IWBNIN coaching, and one new member added!

    Pastor Sam was ecstatic today that NWI enjoyed their best-attendance on a ‘regular’ Sunday, with 221 in attendance, including tons of guests, several sign-ups for IWBNIN coaching, and one new member added!

  • Haven’t heard from our Blue Island campus yet, but it’s time to board, so I’m signing off for today-
  • Finally, since we had to leave before the noon service today, if you attended it online or in person, what did you think?  Leave a comment below as to whether the Holy Spirit ministered to you – curious minds (this pastor) wants to know!

Ask the Pastor

Since no one submitted a question this week, I’m re-posting a question and answer from February of 2009:

babel-ziggurat

A CLCer writes, “When the people were building the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:4-6, they really were trying to reach heaven, however, did the Lord really think that they would succeed? Because it sounds to me like God really felt that they would actually build the tower to heaven. How is that so? Also, is heaven really above or is heaven another dimension?”

Great questions.  First, if you read this passage in the King James Version, I can certainly see why you’d be a bit confused, since it uses “heaven” instead of “sky” as the New Living Translation above.  Obviously, it’s not possible for anyone to reach heaven by human effort. But God’s language here is a fine example of hyperbole.  God employs that figure of speech for the same reason we do: to make or emphasize a point.  In this particular case, you can really ‘preach’ (and I have) any number of lessons: the power of the human will; the desire of man to get to heaven his own way; the incredible power of unity, and more.  But to answer your question literally, no, God did not think they could actually get to heaven by building a tall tower.  They could, however, build a tall monument to themselves, and gain quite a reputation in the process – and since they were determined to stay in one place and make a name for themselves rather than spreading across the earth and populating the planet as God had commanded, He put a stop to their plans.

As to the second question, my understanding of Scripture is that there are several ‘heavens’ (Paul spoke of being caught up into the third heaven), and that they are definitely ‘above’.  To explore that subject would be a Bible study in itself, so we’ll save that for some other time.  I hope this helps-

Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?

Introducing the LaBeff family

I’ve got some good news today for CLC’ers who were saddened last month to say goodbye to our Tinley Park campus Worship Director, Terrell Wilson:

When Terrell first broke the news to me that he had decided to take a position with the church where his wife serves as a Worship Leader, I asked him, “do you know anyone personally that you would recommend we hire as your replacement?”  Later I asked that same question of our Worship Pastor, Jon Jones.

Both Terrell and Jon answered without any hesitation, “Harmony LaBeff”.  Since neither Pastor Ben nor I knew him, we immediately began a series of interviews and discussions with Harmony and his wife Amaryah, to see if they were a ‘fit’ for CLC.  At the same time, we began to pray and seek the Lord for HIS sense of direction.  I must say we sensed a ‘yes’ in our spirit almost instantly and it became a matter of working out the details.

You might say that Harmony has “music in his blood”, as his father and grandfather both enjoyed careers in the music industry and he and Amaryah are both accomplished musicians who play multiple instruments.  Both are songwriters.  Both have been involved in recording projects for other Christian artists.  And for the past several years, they have served as the Worship Directors for LaGrange Assembly, a Spirit-filled congregation in the Chicago suburbs about 45 minutes north of us.

I believe they will be a wonderful addition to our CLC team and continue to lead us into His Presence every week by lifting up Jesus in worship!  They will begin serving here on Sunday, March 1, in time to help us celebrate our 25th Anniversary.  I know you’ll join me in welcoming them to our CLC family!

(L to R) Zeke, Harmony, Amaryah and Ezra LaBeff

(L to R) Zeke, Harmony, Amaryah and Ezra LaBeff

The Mistakes of our Parents

I read this post from Pastor Jimmy Evans of Marriage Today, and it was SO good I just had to share it with you today:

All parents are imperfect. You may have grown up in a wonderful, loving home or you may have been raised in a more difficult environment.

But either way, you’ve grown up under some form of imperfect parenting. Because our parents are our role models, we take on their positive and negative traits. It’s the negative ones that cause problems.

I grew up in the flat Texas Panhandle where there weren’t hills to stop the prevailing winds from the southwest. We didn’t have many trees, but those we had always bent or leaned away from those winds.

The constant influence shapes them. When you grow up under a negative influence, you get bent, too. These “bends” are multi-generational family sins or iniquities, like anger, perfectionism, sexism, racism, immorality, or even negativity.

I’ve never met a person who didn’t have iniquities from their past. Consider your own upbringing, and ask yourself these questions:

1. Growing up, was I exposed to biblically sound and morally correct teaching? If your parents didn’t value God’s standards and deal with things biblically, your upbringing may have become bent.

For instance, how did your family handle conflict? My family avoided it. We never talked things out. We just stopped making eye contact until things settled down. Karen’s family, on the other hand, resolved conflict by yelling…and then hugging. They dealt with it in a healthier, more biblical way.

How did your family handle money? Were they generous, miserly, or materialistic? How did your father treat your mother? Was he sexist or sacrificial? How did your mother treat your father? Was she honoring or demeaning?

2. Do you show those same behaviors today? Now that you’ve considered how your parents acted, do you see the same patterns in your own life? Most people, if answering honestly, will admit they share some of their parents’ tendencies.

Maybe not all. Perhaps you recognized your father’s chauvinism or your mother’s disrespect, and you have determined to change that in your own marriage. Good! But when we grow up bent, it is easy to fall into those same tendencies.

3. Have you dealt properly with those things you now recognize as wrong? Whether it’s simple unbiblical behavior or something more complex like abuse, you need to deal with it. Often we ignore or refuse to acknowledge it, but it’s never too late. You need to break those bent iniquities of your past off your life.

How? First, identify the problem and call it what it is: sin. Don’t get defensive of your family system. Then, take responsibility for how you have personally exhibited those behaviors. It may have begun with your parents or grandparents, but it’s just as wrong in you as in them.

Next, you must forgive your mom and dad. Even if they’re no longer living, extend them the same grace and mercy you want for yourself. This is the biggest issue in being free from your past.

Finally, make Jesus the Lord of that area of your life. Give it to him, and ask Him to transform you. Say, “Lord, I repent of this generational sin. Teach me to how to change my ways.” Only then will you break that chain of iniquity.

For more about this topic, watch this week’s show!

 

 

Sunday reflections

This pic from Pastor Ben's drive to CLC this morning tells the story - 12+ inches of snow & blizzard warnings for this afternoon resulted in poor attendance

This pic from Pastor Ben’s drive to CLC this morning tells the story – 12+ inches of snow & blizzard warnings for this afternoon resulted in poor attendance, but I’m not complaining!

  • On my drive home, I thought of all the pastors in the country who would love to have 416 people in attendance any Sunday!  Thankful for God’s blessings on CLC, and for faithful people, including our amazing volunteers who showed up despite the conditions to enable us to do all 3 services today!  KUDOS, volunteers & staff!!!
It didn't 'feel' as anointed as it does with a full house, but the principles to "Get Out of Debt" remain the same!

It didn’t ‘feel’ as anointed as it does with a full house, but the principles to “Get Out of Debt” remain the same!  Let’s GetFit financially in 2015!!

Our NWI Campus enjoyed communion together as families at the altar, and it was powerful!

Our NWI Campus enjoyed communion together as families at the altar, and Pastor Sam said it was powerful!

  • Pastor Doug reports that the South Bend campus was affected by weather there, but that an anointing fell during worship and lasted almost an hour during such a powerful time!
While the weather affected each campus, my hat's off to amazing volunteers like this Blue Island worship team!  Pastor William reports that the Presence of the Lord was strong there today.

While the weather affected each campus, my hat’s off to amazing volunteers like this Blue Island worship team! Pastor William reports that the Presence of the Lord was strong there today!

This was one Super Bowl Sunday we probably won’t forget…..now it’s time for the couch and the Big Game!

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

Naaman's leprosy is cured

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “While reading recently I noticed in the story of Elisha and Naaman that after Elisha refused Naaman’s gift he asked to be given as much “earth” as a pair of mules can carry (2Kings 5:15-19).  I had never noticed this before.  Do you think that to Naaman the earth he was asking for from Elisha was to be used by him to sacrifice to God of Israel instead of the God of his master?  Was this some sort of atonement or covering for him?

Good observation (a lot of folks never notice that detail) and a great question, too.

From the text and the various scholars who commented on it, I would say that Naaman didn’t plan to offer the earth as a sacrifice, nor was it an atonement for him.  Instead, he now confessed that there is no God but Jehovah, and that he intends to worship Him only (2Kings 5:15).  The earth he asked for was most likely to be used in building an altar (see Exodus 20:24)  so that he could worship the One True God.

Some of the scholars expressed the idea that he was following the superstition of that day that said the god of a country could only be worshipped in that country and that he wanted ‘earth’ from Israel in order to worship the God of Israel, but I don’t buy that because of verse 15.

I think the simplest explanation is just that Naaman was grateful for his healing and wanted to build an altar to continue worshipping the One True God.

Aren’t you glad that we can worship the only True God anywhere, anytime?  (Hebrews 10:19-20)

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

 

Do you use a prayer list?

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Earlier this week I read an article by Pastor Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, MO.  In it, he said, “if you schedule time for prayer and make a prayer list, you will pray 10 times more than you do now.”

Gulp.

I have never used a daily prayer list.  That may shock some of you, but I’m just being honest.  I suppose as a pastor, I didn’t feel the need for it.  And for sure, no one ever challenged me to do so, until the article in Charisma.

So after reading that from Pastor Mike, I decided to try it.

Admittedly, I’m only 3 days into my ‘experiment’, but I must tell you, I’m loving it so far.  My list is rather simple – it’s just my scribblings of people and issues that I want to pray for, but if I’m really honest, often neglected or forgot to include consistently when I just prayed without a list.  And, I’ve found my prayer times growing these last few days, not to mention a stronger sense of Presence and that my prayers are more effective.

So I’m curious: do you use a prayer list?  If so, what has been your experience?  Please leave your comments below-

And iff not, and my encouragement today entices you to try, please let me know that, too.  Let’s fulfill Hebrews 10:24 with some encouraging words below-

Do you know someone who is strapped?

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Today I’m putting the finishing touches on the next message in our “GetFit” series, as we focus on GetFit financially.  As I prayed and studied this morning, I realized that this teaching is NOT just to help CLC’ers; it can be life-changing for people throughout Chicagoland who are struggling financially.

Do you have a friend or co-worker or relative who has complained about being strapped – sick of bills – wishing their finances were in better shape?

If so, invite them today to join you at CLC this Sunday!  With three Chicagoland locations, and six services to choose from on Sunday, plus our livestream at 8:30, 10 and 12, that’s nine different opportunities to make a huge difference in someone’s life.

I truly believe you could make an eternal difference in their life, if you’ll reach out today.

Why should a church have a business meeting?

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This Wednesday, January 28 at 6:30pm is our annual business meeting for CLC.  We announced it on Sunday, but I know some people wonder why a church needs to have a business meeting.  Here’s my answer, but first, a disclaimer: if you don’t attend, it doesn’t bother me.  I heard Pastor Rick Warren say years ago that the annual business meeting at Saddleback is very sparsely-attended, and that never disturbs him because he considers it an indication that people trust what the church does with the finances.  I totally agree – I would probably be more concerned if the auditorium was overflowing with people, because that would likely indicate you were upset about church finances.

But here’s why I do think it’s important that we have a business meeting each year:

  • We need to be accountable, especially with church finances.  Think about it: when churches and ministries shipwreck, isn’t is almost always over moral failures OR money mismanagement?  At CLC, we have nothing to hide, and I think it’s important that we show our people how their donations are being used.
  • You need to know that you’re sowing into good ground.  Our business meeting doesn’t just include financial reports, but we also report what God did through this ministry in the previous year.  I want to sow into ministries that are making a difference, and I think you do, too.
  • You should be able to get information openly rather than through the gossip-mill.  Nothing destroys ministries faster than disunity caused by clucking tongues and whispers in a corner.  Why not have an annual opportunity for people to ask questions of leadership and see how the church is being managed?
  • Finally, because of our approach to church government, which is a pastor-led model that includes Trustees for financial oversight and Apostolic Overseers (Directors) to provide pastoral accountability and congregational safety, we also elect those officers each year.

We’ll start promptly at 6:30pm this Wednesday, with a full slate of ministries for the entire family starting at 7pm.

 

Take the next step…

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One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is “Take the first step in faith.  You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.”

Yesterday in our GetFit series, my wife showed us all how we can have a ‘walking partner’ by spending time with the Lord each day, and she gave us two challenges in closing:

  • take a picture of ‘your space” where you choose to spend time with the Lord each day, and then #TweetYourSpace” on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest, including #clcnwi or #clcblue or #clctinley, depending on which campus you attend.
  • more importantly, join our CLC family in a 30-day devotional reading.  Imagine the impact when all CLC’ers across Chicagoland are reading the same passages from Scripture for the next month!  Get started here now!

Speaking of ‘next steps’, some of you reading this may be wondering how you can get more connected at CLC.  Perhaps you’ve been attending for a few weeks or a few months, and you’re ready to take that next step.  If so, I’d like to invite you to join us at noon on Sundays at our Tinley Park campus:

  • Membership (Step 1)  tells you all about CLC – our history, our vision, our beliefs, and what it means to be a member here.  Meets the 1st Sunday of the month.
  • Grow (Step 2) helps you develop the habits that will help you grow as a believer.  Meets the 2nd Sunday of the month.
  • Discover (Step 3) explains all our spiritual gifts & how God has wired you - then you get to discover what your gifts are!  Meets the 3rd Sunday of the month.
  • Serve (Step 4) learn how your gifts fit one of the ministries of CLC and how you can find fulfillment by serving others.  Meets the 4th Sunday of the month.

Remember, you don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step!

 

Sunday reflections

Another good Sunday as we closed out January at CLC:

We were blessed today (as we are each Sunday) by an anointed TEAM of singers & musicians who brought us into His Presence!

We were blessed today (as we are each Sunday) by an anointed TEAM of singers & musicians who brought us into His Presence by each one using his/her gifts to serve!

Chris pointed out how important & how easy to have a DAILY walk with the Lord - a life-changing word!

Chris pointed out how important & how easy to have a DAILY walk with the Lord – a life-changing word if we will simply spend time with Him each day!

It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Terrell Wilson as our Worship Director today, but this pic is appropriate - his heart is following after Jesus!

It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Terrell Wilson as our Worship Director today, but this pic is appropriate – his heart is following after Jesus!

  • Pastor Doug reports a powerful time of communion at our South Bend campus today, after strong worship, and he’s excited about more young adults and new leaders joining the family there!
Our Blue Island campus had more returning guests in the English service and one salvation decision in the Spanish service!

Our Blue Island campus had more returning guests in the English service and one salvation decision in the Spanish service!

The NWI Dance team was the highlight of the day, along with 8 first-time guests & a great response to the 30-day devotional challenge!

The NWI Dance team was the highlight of the day, along with 8 first-time guests & a great response to the 30-day devotional challenge!

  • Speaking of the 30-day devotional challenge, in case you didn’t hear – we’re asking EVERY CLC’er to join us in the same Bible reading plan from now thru the month of February (that’s 33 days, so you have a little ‘grace’ to complete the challenge) - just go here or cut and paste this into your browser: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/615-our-daily-bread
  • We also invited EACH CLC’er to take a picture of “your space” (where you meet with the Lord each day), or just describe your space and post to Facebook or tweet it or pin on Pinterest or post on Instagram with #TweetYourSpace and be sure to tag your campus, too (@clctinley OR @clcnwi OR @clcblue)
  • Finally, since there was a contradiction in the times today, let me be clear: the annual Business meeting for CLC is at 6:30pm this Wednesday in the Tinley Park auditorium.  We’ll be done by 7pm so Heart-to-Heart can begin their new season!

Now, couch time!

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite, faithful CLC’ers writes, “What would you say is the “highest achievement” for every human being to achieve in this life?”

Great question.  One that’s easy to answer, too, because the Bible directly answers it:

Jeremiah 9:23-24 makes it clear that the highest achievement is NOT in gaining  wisdom (whether through education or experience) OR in obtaining power (whether through politics or position or status) OR in gaining riches (whether through hard work or great ingenuity).  Before I move on to what God says IS the highest achievement, take a Selah break to consider how many people are pursuing one of more of those as if it were the most important thing in the universe!

Instead, God says, the ultimate achievement is that we know Him.  The word ‘know’ there is the exact same Hebrew word as in Genesis 4:1“and Adam knew his wife”, which clearly refers to the intimacy between a married couple.  So the ultimate achievement in life is for us to truly know God and have an intimate relationship with Him.

Best of all, ANYONE can attain that, because HE wants us to know Him!  All of us cannot attain the wisdom that comes from higher education or years of experience.  All of us won’t know what it’s like to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company or President of the United States.  Few of us will ever know what it’s like to be a multi-millionaire.  But every person reading this post CAN know Jesus and enjoy an intimate relationship with Him, and that’s my prayer for you today!

In fact, THIS Sunday (Jan. 25) at each Chicagoland campus of CLC, we’ll be looking at HOW you can attain that kind of intimate relationship with the Lord – hope you’ll join us!

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

Off to Dallas for a long day…

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I’ll be headed to Dallas in a few minutes to spend a day with Dr. David Shibley and his team from Global Advance, as well as a few missions-minded pastors from around the country.  We’ll be strategizing how we can more effectively train and equip national pastors in the majority world.

While it makes for a really long day (I was up at 3:45 this morning and won’t get home until after midnight tonight), I get energized being with other pastors, and especially when the focus is on missions, so I don’t mind.

See you THIS Sunday as we continue our “Get Fit” series with a look at the single-most-important thing you can do to get fit spiritually.  It’s gonna be good!

First Love 2015 recap

I probably shouldn’t even try, because there’s no way to capture the past 3 days in a post – but I’ll just say that this year’s First Love Conference was A-mazing!  It’s hard to pick out a highlight, but here’s a few pics to remind us of all the Lord did and said to us:

this was the FIRST TIME EVER that Pastor Barbara was able to join her husband here - and we love both of their ministries!

this was the FIRST TIME EVER that Pastor Barbara was able to join her husband here – and we love both of their ministries!

Denny Cramer's prophetic ministry was simply life-changing! (despite the scowl on my face)

Denny Cramer’s prophetic ministry was simply life-changing! (despite the scowl on my face)

Pastor Lloyd Bustard gave us plenty to 'chew on' in both his messages.

Pastor Lloyd Bustard gave us plenty to ‘chew on’ in both his messages.

Dr. Elmer Towns taught us to "Pray the Scriptures", and we LOVED his stories!

Dr. Elmer Towns taught us to “Pray the Scriptures”, and we LOVED his stories!

I’m already looking forward to First Love 2016!

 

 

 

Dr. King, we honor you!

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I watched the movie, Selma, last week.

While I don’t understand why anyone felt the need to distort the historical record of LBJ’s involvement as has been documented (since it doesn’t change the facts of Dr. King’s legacy), I enjoyed the movie.

For me personally, the biggest takeaway until today was Dr. King’s courage.  I was just an elementary-aged child during the events of Selma, so I was completely unaware of what was happening just a couple of states removed from my home in Arkansas.  But watching the movie and seeing the kind of opposition that he faced gave me such an appreciation for his courage to step out and step up as a leader, to change the world as we knew it.

As I said, that was my biggest takeaway until today, because this morning I read this excellent post from Michael Hyatt, and learned that Dr. King accomplished all that he did for civil rights and justice in our country in just 10 years!  As you can read yourself in the post, he was only 25 years old when he first got involved, and he was 35 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person ever to be so honored!

Can you imagine?  All of those courageous, world-changing accomplishments in just 10 short years of time?  It makes me want to ask, on this day we set aside to honor this great American, what are you doing with your life?

Thank you, Dr. King, for showing us that we can make a difference.

Sunday reflections

We’re about half-way into our 11th First Love Conference, and I already think it may be the BEST yet:

Prophet Dennis Cramer was AMAZING on Saturday - speaking timely words over so many CLC'ers!

Prophet Dennis Cramer was AMAZING on Saturday – speaking timely words over so many CLC’ers (pictured here with Youth Pastors Matt & Leslie DeLaTorre)

The Servants of Praise have led us into His Presence with JOY!

The Servants of Praise have led us into His Presence with JOY!

Dr. Elmer Towns taught us to "Pray the Scriptures", and we LOVED his stories!

Dr. Elmer Towns taught us to “Pray the Scriptures”, and we LOVED his stories!

Our Blue Island campus set a new record attendance today, with 162 people present.  More importantly, Pastor William reports a real move of the Holy Spirit in the altar call for the English service, and new guests in both services!

Our Blue Island campus set a new record attendance today, with 162 people present. More importantly, Pastor William reports a real move of the Holy Spirit in the altar call for the English service, and new guests in both services!

  • At our NWI campus, Pastor Sam reports 2 people prayed to receive Christ after Dr. Towns message, plus a ton of people getting connected in Life Groups there!

There’s still time to get in on Prophet Dennis Cramer & Pastor Lloyd Bustard tonight at 5pm, plus services tomorrow at 9am (Bishop Garlington & Lloyd Bustard) and at 7pm with Bishop Garlington.  See you soon!

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers asks, “Is denial or the inability to see things a form of a stronghold?”

Hmmm.  Interesting question.  And for the second week in a row, a question I’ve never been asked before.  Let me dig a bit to see what Scripture says about that:

  • Judges 16:19-21 gives us the example of Samson, who certainly lived in denial that he could ignore God’s word about marrying a non-Israeli (not to mention adultery and other sins) without repercussion.  Verse 20 shows the depth of his deception when he awoke thinking he would shake himself free just as he had done before - and didn’t even realize that God had left him.
  • 1Sam. 15:10-29 shows us the sad tale of the first king of Israel, Saul, who disobeyed a clear order from God in the matter of the Amalekites, yet was in such denial that I think he even convinced himself that he was innocent (notice verse 13  where he cheerfully announced that he had obeyed, and verse 15 where he blamed others for his own failures, and especially verse 20, where he still insisted that he had obeyed).  How very sad that he couldn’t see himself!
  • 2Sam. 12:1-5, which took place just one chapter after David’s sin with Bathsheba and his cover-up, which included the murder of her husband, Uriah, yet he was in such denial of his own sins that he became incensed over the imagined wrongs of a fictitious character invented by the prophet Nathan to confront him.  He committed adultery, used deception and lies to cover-up even with top leaders in his administration, and finally murdered – but couldn’t see his wrongdoing until confronted by a personal visit from the prophet – that’s got to be a picture of someone living in denial!

So, based on those Biblical examples, I would have to say, ‘yes’, living in denial can be a stronghold. I can’t quote chapter and verse to prove that, but I can’t imagine that the men I mentioned above could be so deceived without demonic influence.  In fact, denial is clearly someone living a lie, and in John 8:44, Jesus makes it plain that Satan is the “father of lies”.  While Scripture is relatively silent on the subject of “stronghold”, I still like the first definition I heard of it long ago: “a mindset impregnated with hopelessness that causes us to accept as unchangeable situations we know are contrary to the will of God”.  Obviously, each of the examples above knew that their actions were contrary to the will of God, but they accepted them as unchangeable (at least, they made no effort to change) and they embraced a lie rather than submit to the truth.

My prayer is that anyone living in denial would somehow come to their senses, and do what David did immediately after being confronted by Nathan.  Rather than lashing out at the messenger, David received the message and humbled himself with genuine repentance.  In fact, it was immediately after this encounter that he wrote Psalm 51.     May your loved ones have a similar experience with the Lord!

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

Sunday reflections

here’s a few random thoughts about the second Sunday of 2015 at CLC:

I loved seeing 6 CLC'ers go into the waters of baptism today, including Leslie Horne

I loved seeing 6 CLC’ers go into the waters of baptism today, including Leslie Horne!

  • Glad to finish up ‘Get Fit Physically’ today and especially excited about the response to a CLC-sponsored 5k race this May!
  • NOT glad to announce that our Worship Director Terrell Wilson has accepted a position with another church that will enable him to worship & serve alongside his wife, Jennifer.
We're going to miss this guy (even though I know he made the right decision) We'll give him a big send-off on Jan. 25

We’re going to miss this guy (even though I know he made the right decision) We’ll give him a big send-off on January 25-

  • ALWAYS thankful for people praying to receive Christ, and today we saw at least 8-10 people make that decision!
Pastor Jon led worship at our NWI Campus and Pastor Sam said it was ON FIRE!  He was also excited that guests from last week returned & brought guests with them!

Pastor Jon led worship at our NWI Campus and Pastor Sam said it was ON FIRE! He was also excited that guests from last week returned & brought guests with them!

  • Pastor Doug reports still more new families worshipping at our South Bend campus and another powerful day there!
Pastor Melek brought the word to the Spanish service at our Blue Island campus & they especially liked "the proverb about the knife to the throat"!

Pastor Melek brought the word to the Spanish service at our Blue Island campus & they especially liked “the proverb about the knife to the throat”!

 

In the Philippines, our Davao campus was packed wall-to-wall with people, and 45 of them came forward to receive Christ at the close of service!

In the Philippines, our Davao campus was packed wall-to-wall with people, and 45 of them came forward to receive Christ at the close of service!

Can’t wait for Wednesday’s Worship Encounter (at each campus, 7pm) as we prepare for:

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Ask the Pastor

A great friend who lives too far away to attend CLC writes, “I have a question.  It may be too hard.  Why is it that multiple times in the Bible the person seemed to be on a good roll and they turn around and say the very thing that ticks off the people they are talking to?  For example, it seems Stephen is doing great, then he launches into the “stiff necked tirade.”  Paul and others do this.  Even Jesus does it.  It is a deliberate provoking of their hot buttons.  As a seasoned communicator I cannot figure this out.  Most importantly, am I to follow this?  I could tick off some hypocrites and some judgmental Christians real fast.”

Wow.  That’s one I’ve never been asked, so I had to do some digging on my own to give you an answer, and, to be honest, I’m still not certain of WHY, since I couldn’t find a direct explanation in Scripture.  Here are a few thoughts:

1.  In the example of Stephen in Acts 7:51-55, a few things stand out to me:

  • Stephen knew that his audience had a long history of rebellion against God (notice vv. 51-53).  It seems to me that their track record of hearing the Word but not obeying may have played into why he deliberately went after them with such strong language – in an effort to shake them up and get them to see themselves.
  • While the language definitely incited the crowd to great anger, verses 54-55 make it clear that Stephen was not angry.  Instead, he was full of the Holy Spirit, which makes me suspect that his use of such strong language had been Spirit-led and definitely not just a result of him being angry or upset with his hearers (and deciding to “give them a piece of his mind”).
  • Those same verses also indicate that Stephen saw God’s glory when he looked up, and had he just launched into a tirade out of his own anger & frustration, I don’t think God would have been pleased to manifest His glory!  (He also saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God and since every other reference in Scripture to Jesus at the right hand always shows Him sitting, someone has suggested that Jesus was so pleased with Stephen that He rose to give him a standing ovation!)

2.  I noticed Jesus using strong language against the Pharisees in Matt. 15:1-9, after which his disciples asked Him if He knew what He had just done (see Matt. 15:12-14). From his answer to the disciples, notice:

  • He says the Pharisees were not planted by His Father; i.e., they weren’t really saved.  (We know from other references that the Pharisees were hypocrites)
  • He also pointed out that the Pharisees were leaders, and since they were hypocrites, they were actually leading others astray.
  • Those facts lead me to think that (a) Jesus intention was to confront the Pharisees with the truth in order to bring them to repentance; and (b) the truth of God’s Word is sharper than a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12), so it can bring life or death, depending on our response.  Hypocrites are offended by the truth.  Sincere hearers obey the truth (see Acts 2:41, which followed some pretty strong language by the Apostle Peter); and (c) that strong language is an acceptable tactic when others are likely to be led astray unless the hearers are confronted (see Gal. 2:11-14 for an example of this.)

3.  SO, if we can extrapolate principles for ourselves from those facts (that’s a big ‘if’),  then I’d say that communicators like you or me can choose to use strong language that we know (or at least anticipate) will ‘tick-off’ our hearers, providing:

  • we know that our audience has a track record of stubborn disobedience to God’s Word (that may rule out most occasions in itself, since most audiences will be a mixture of ‘saints’, ‘aints’ and people who know little about God’s Word)
  •  we are NOT giving in to our own anger or frustration, but are being led by the Holy Spirit in our approach-
  • that the ‘hot-button tirade’ we go on is NOT our personal conviction or opinion, but  clearly an unmistakable truth from God’s Word-
  • that other ‘innocent’ people will likely be led astray if the hypocrites are not confronted with strong language;
  • and that our motive is not to ‘tick-off’ people, but to confront them with the truth so that they must make a decision to repent or else go on in their stubborn disobedience-

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

25 years of CLC

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You may have heard that we’re celebrating 25 years of ministry at CLC in 2015, but you may not know the dates of these extra-special events, so mark your calendar now:

  • 25th Anniversary BANQUET - Friday, February 20, 6:30pm at DiNolfo’s in Mokena.  (Tickets go on sale January 25 at each campus)
  • Live CD Recording - Sunday, March 1, 5pmat CLC-Tinley Park, featuring the worship teams from each CLC campus and YOU!
  • OneFamily 25th Anniversary Celebration - Sunday, March 22, 10amat Tinley Park Convention Center, with all CLC campuses coming together for one service!

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015!

In case you didn’t see the 2014 in Review video that we showed yesterday, take a look:

CLC.tv – Year in Review 2014 from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

More importantly, we’re moving strong into 2015 with intentionality:

getfit

This Sunday (Jan. 11) I’ll be sharing a dozen of the Bible verses I discovered about our bodies, to help us ‘get fit’ physically.

Jan. 18 and 25 we’ll focus on getting fit spiritually.  February 1 and 8 we’ll offer practical help to get fit financially.  February 15 and 22 will close the series with a look at getting fit relationally.

You can register for a Life Group that corresponds with your ‘get fit’ area here.

  • During our 10-days of Prayer & Fasting (January 5-14) both Wednesday evenings at 7pm at each campus will feature powerful Prayer & Worship Encounters!

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Sunday reflections

Well, 2015 got off to a great start at each CLC campus today!  Here’s a few random thoughts & pics:

I love being part of a church where we can LAUGH together (well, sometimes you were just laughing AT me today, but that's ok, too)

I love being part of a church where we can LAUGH together at funny stuff, like Pro. 23:20 MSG  (well, sometimes you were just laughing AT me today, but that’s ok, too)

  • I really wasn’t looking forward to teaching today (due to the subject), so I really appreciated each comment afterward that some of you did hear from the Holy Spirit despite my misgivings-
Nothing like being in HIS Presence to start the year right!

Nothing like being in HIS Presence to start the year right!

  • Pastor Doug reports that our South Bend campus got off to a great start with more guests still coming and a great response to the message & the worship today!
Love everything about this picture: Ryan Love at our NWI Campus represents hundreds of CLC volunteers who serve every week, often in thankless jobs like helping direct traffic in the cold & snow, because they know they're helping us see #morechangedlives!

Love everything about this picture: Ryan Love at our NWI Campus represents hundreds of CLC volunteers who serve every week, often in thankless jobs like helping direct traffic in the cold & snow, because they know they’re helping us see #morechangedlives!

  • Pastor Sam reports a great day at NWI, with new families, wonderful worship, strong attendance, lots of prayer, and message well-received.  That’s a win in my book!
Thankful for 4 CLC'ers from Tinley Park & 2 from Blue Island going to the interior of Mexico this week to work alongside 6 Mexican counterparts in a highly-unreached area.

Thankful for these 4 CLC’ers from Tinley Park & 2 others from Blue Island going to the interior of Mexico this week to work alongside 6 Mexican counterparts in a highly-unreached area.

  • Speaking of Blue Island, Pastor William also reports a good attendance with newcomers in both English & Spanish services.  (He also says the community is telling people about “this new church” – LOL!)
Pastor Herley says both morning services at CLC-Davao were FILLED with people & the Presence of the Lord!  (Their new building seats about double their old location & still they're already packed!)

Pastor Herley says both morning services at CLC-Davao were FILLED with people & the Presence of the Lord! (Their new building seats about double their old location & still they’re already packed!)

That’s all – now it’s couch time and a little Cowboys-Lions…..

 

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful CLC’er asks, “i have a question i would like to have an answer to: In Genesis 46:26 The Word says the number of Jacob’s sons/people was 66. Then in the next verse It says with Joseph and his two sons included the total was 70. By my math skills that should be 69 not 70. Do you know why this occurred and if so what is the significance?”

Great question, since this is a great example of verses that skeptics sometime use to try to discredit the Bible – saying that it contradicts itself or isn’t accurate in some way.

The ‘key’ to these 2 verses and the numbers mentioned is in the wording:

  • Verse 26 speaks of Jacob’s descendants who went with him to Egypt, 66 in total
  • Verse 27 mentions the total number of Jacob’s family in Egypt, 70 in total, because Joseph was already there with his 2 sons born in Egypt (Ephraim, Manasseh) and  Jacob himself is included in the family, although obviously not a descendant.

Unfortunately, from everything I can tell, there is no significance to the numbers or the way they are listed – but at least this explains that there is NO contradiction or error.  It also shows us how important words are - I’ve seen SO many doctrinal errors result from people overlooking or misunderstanding the precise wording of a passage.  Every word counts!

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

 

Happy New Year!

There's NO significance to this pic; I just like minions!

There’s NO significance to this pic; I just happen to like the Minions!

Can I be honest?

Driving to church last night, I told Chris, “I’m not sure we’ll have many folks out tonight; we really didn’t promote the service very well this month.”  A little later we pulled into an almost empty parking lot (25 minutes before service was to begin) and I said, “maybe we won’t do NYE service next year.”

Boy, did I miss it!

In our 25 years at CLC, I think last night was the largest-attended and absolutely BEST New Year’s Eve Celebration ever!

MEGA-kudos to each Praise Team (Tinley Park, Blue Island, and NWI)!

MEGA-kudos to each pastor who shared memories of 2014 or expectations for 2015 (William & Melek, Brent, Sam, and Chris)

MEGA-kudos to Ken & Pat Earley and Paula Talamonti AND 5 spontaneous testimonies!

MEGA-kudos to our Media Team for the year-end video!

EXTRA-KUDOS to Pastor Jon Jones, Director Terrell Wilson & the combined team that entertained the PRESENCE of the Lord for another 35 minutes after we dismissed the service – what an awesome way to begin 2015!

Enjoy a few pics, and don’t forget to get started with YOUR Bible reading plan:

The auditorium was WALL-to-WALL with worshippers!

The auditorium was WALL-to-WALL with worshippers!

NWI praise team (led by Linell Muse) was on FIRE!

NWI praise team (led by Linell Muse)  and this solo by Kristian White was on FIRE!

 

This combined team of worshippers continued to lead long after service was dismissed

This combined team of worshippers continued to lead long after service was dismissed

 

 

Reading your Bible in 2015

For the first time I ever remember in our 25-year history, CLC is NOT going to distribute a through-the-Bible reading plan to our members.

It’s NOT that we’ve changed our mind about the importance of getting into the Scriptures for yourself.

It’s that we’ve finally realized that “different strokes for different folks” is more than a cliche’ – it’s true of how people interact and grow from reading the Scriptures, too!  And while trying to get everyone to read through the entire Bible in a year sounds like a great idea, the reality is that many of you fell behind and quickly grew discouraged at such a daunting task of playing ‘catch-up’, so you gave up instead.

Combine that with the fact that there are SO many resources available in a variety of plans that can fit anyone, it just doesn’t make sense for us to force the issue.  Instead, we’re inviting every CLC’er to go here and choose the plan that’s right for YOU!

(Maybe that’s why they call it YouVersion)

While you’re at it, take note of the 21-day New Year’s challenge!

Now, that will make it a Happy New Year!

Sunday reflections

The LAST SUNDAY of the year was unique, in that we heard from each Chicagoland campus in Tinley Park today:

At 8:30am, our Blue Island campus pastors, William & Melek Arevalo charged us, "Don't Be Afraid" as we enter 2015

At 8:30am, our Blue Island campus pastors, William & Melek Arevalo charged us, “Don’t Be Afraid” as we enter 2015.

At 10am, Brent McQuay gave us 5 keys to a fresh "S.T.A.R.T."

At 10am, Brent McQuay gave us 5 keys to a fresh “S.T.A.R.T.”

At noon, NWI campus pastors, Sam & Taylor Hamstra, encouraged us all that "God's Not Done with You!"

At noon, NWI campus pastors, Sam & Taylor Hamstra, encouraged us all that “God’s Not Done with You!”

Personally, I don’t know how three different messages from three different teaching teams could have been any more relevant, as we face 2015: not being afraid, but making a fresh start, knowing that God isn’t finished with us!  Kudos to each of our pastors!

  • At our South Bend campus, Pastor Doug was encouraged by a great close to their Christmas series, with great worship & plenty of guests!
  • At NWI, Pastor Sam is excited about several new families who have begun attending consistently over the past few weeks!
  • In Blue Island, Pastor William says “Don’t Be Afraid” was the right message for today and their Spanish service responded well to the altar call!
  • At the 10am service in Tinley Park, about 6 people prayed to receive Christ to truly get a ‘fresh start’!
  • Finally, our Philippines campus moved into their new building today, even though it’s not quite complete.  (I told Herley that really makes them “CLC” because we’ve built 3 different times in Tinley Park, and never completed any of the buildings before we moved in!) Enjoy the pics:
A look at the stage from the rear of the auditorium, which more than doubles their previous capacity

A look from the rear of the auditorium, which more than doubles their previous capacity

Beautiful design & most of the construction was done with CLC volunteers

Beautiful design & most of the construction was done with CLC volunteers

Pastor Herley's first message in the new building

Pastor Herley’s first message in the new building

 

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

nativity_sanctuary

Well, there were no questions submitted this week, but I want to take a moment to let CLC know about THIS SUNDAY-

on this final Sunday of 2014, we’re going to hear a pastor from each campus, as Pastor William will be preaching at 8:30am in Tinley Park, followed by Pastor Brent at 10am and then Pastor Sam at the noon service.  I must tell you, as I listened to each of them share the message they will bring on Sunday, you can’t go wrong no matter which service you attend – they each have a ‘word’ for us!

And for those of you from our Blue Island and NWI campuses, you’ll get to hear your campus pastor ‘live’.  It’s going to be a great Sunday!  See you then-

Praying for our friends

Aby Vargis (who visited CLC last February) explains some of IET's ministry to our team outside their offices in Delhi.

Aby Vargis (who visited CLC last February) explains some of IET’s ministry to our team outside their offices in Delhi.

I received an urgent prayer request today from Aby Vargis, our CLC friend and partner at the India Evangelical Team that we were just with two weeks ago.  Here’s part of his email:

In the past few weeks we have seen a very organized and widely spread attacks on Christians by Hindu fanatics. Several fundamentalist Hindu organizations have warned of  a large scale attack on Christians this Christmas. They are trying to create an environment of fear, and we need your prayers. 

In recent weeks, the attacks of Christians have increased. Many churches have been burnt down in India. In several places, prayers meetings carried out by us have been banned. Even yesterday, several IET pastors were threatened and asked to leave the village or stop the prayer meeting. Several of our orphanages are facing heat and are facing increasing restrictions.

The body of Christ in India is not new to persecution. However, the level of physical persecution and its spread throughout India is something new. We are facing one of the most difficult times.

To be honest, we are not afraid. The cost of following our Lord was counted before we decided to follow Him in ministry. However, as humans, we stay concerned for our fellow believers and for our nation.

I request your sincere prayers. God is in control. May we stay faithful and strong. I believe that this is one of the most difficult days we are facing. And, it is only going to get worse. Our office in Delhi is under police guard because of threats we are facing. 

This is a hurriedly written e-mail. Thank you for your prayers.

During our visit to India at the beginning of December, I realized two things about IET:

1.  They are experiencing “book of Acts” type revival, with signs, wonders & exponential growth of new believers being added to the Lord. (Acts 2:43-47; 5:14-16; 11:19-21)

2.  They are paying the price for it, with “book of Acts” type persecution as well. (Acts 5:41-42; 8:1-3)

Would you take time this Christmas season to pray for our brothers & sisters there?

Sunday reflections

Christmas Sunday.

At a lot of churches (most?) it’s one of the biggest days of the year and often results in numerous salvation decisions.  Here at CLC, that’s seldom the case, and today was fairly typical, as our attendance was down in Tinley Park and Blue Island, while South Bend and NWI enjoyed an increase brought on by their children’s program.

I am thankful for several people who prayed to receive Christ today in Tinley Park  (probably 5-6 by my count) and for the good reports from the other campuses:

  • Pastor Doug reported our South Bend campus enjoyed perhaps their largest-attendance of the year and two outstanding performances from their KidsLife team!
  • Pastor Sam said our NWI campus had lots of guests for the KidsLife Christmas play and that the service was a lot of fun, with the kids & a candlelight Christmas carol sing-along.
Our Bue Island campus opted for one bilingual service today, with a special Christmas lunch afterward.

Our Blue Island campus opted for one bilingual service today, with a special Christmas lunch together afterward.

For sure, there were lots of smiles around the room!

For sure, there were lots of smiles around the room!

My favorite conversation of the day wasn’t in the lobby, but via email from Charles Pennavaria who was just released from the hospital after a 9-day stay & surgery.  His wife Joyce decorated his IV stand with our sermon series ornaments (see below), and it actually provoked questions from every doctor, nurse, CNA or guest that came into his room, so that he & Joyce were able to share their faith and about CLC!

Best of all, Charles said thanks to our Media team, he never missed a service!

Best of all, Charles said thanks to our Media team, he never missed a service!

And after all of that, Jimmy Clausen played well enough to win, as surprises never cease with da Bears.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question comes from a faithful CLC’er who writes, “What does Luke 3:8 mean, especially the part about the stones?

Great question, and one that’s easily answered by comparing some more modern versions of Scripture, such as the New Living Translation or even The Message paraphrase.

As you can see from those translations, Jesus was preaching to the crowds of people who flocked to hear John the Baptist that their religious heritage was of little importance – i.e., that the fact they were physical descendants of Abraham didn’t ‘earn’ them brownie points with God because HE looks for changed lives, not religious pedigrees!

Then to emphasize His point, Jesus said, in effect, if God wanted to, He could create more children of Abraham from these stones.  I don’t think there was any particular significance to the stones, much like Luke 19:40, where Jesus told the Pharisees who objected to the loud praises from the people that if they held their peace, the stones would cry out.  The significance is not the stones; it’s the fact that the circumstances of our birth or our heritage doesn’t make us right with God – only faith can do that!  (see Eph. 2:8-13; Gal. 2:15-16 and Gal. 3:26-29).

The Good News is that no matter what your background is – no matter what religion your parents observed – no matter how many sins you have committed – you can come to Jesus and receive His free gift of salvation by grace through faith!

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

#BlackLivesMatter

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I’ve posted in the past about Michael Brown and the Ferguson grand jury decision here and here.

But in the past few days I’ve seen two posts on Facebook that really made me think again.  The first was an excerpt from last Sunday’s message by my pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington.  I encourage you to take the 7 minutes to watch the video – it’s definitely worth your time.

Later I read a comment from Pastor Bryan Loritts at the Kainos Conference this week,  ”The multi-ethnic church needs to become the norm. What if Darren Wilson and Michael Brown had belonged to the same church?”

I couldn’t agree more.

The issues being fanned into flames by the mainstream media, as well as the protests and the marches and the focus on #BlackLivesMatter are band-aids at best and misguided at worst.  The real issue is the sin of racism, and the resulting fear that causes white cops to overreact and blacks to distrust authority.

What I’d like to help people see is that NONE of this is new; racism was the reality of the world into which Jesus came almost 2,000 years ago – and it was one focus of His death on the Cross, to make one NEW race – HIS Church!

When we are truly born-again, our primary identity is no longer the color of our skin, but the Lord of our life, and HE came to make us One!  (see Eph. 2:14-16)

I agree with Pastor Bryan Loritts: we need more multi-ethnic churches!  But I also know that just because you attend a church that has people of different races and cultures doesn’t solve the problem by itself - it’s time for us to truly come together as one.  Maybe the Christmas holiday would be a good time to put it into practice: when did you last invite someone of a different culture into your home for a meal?  When was the last time you truly got to know someone who didn’t look like you?  As we get to know each other, our  fear leaves and we learn compassion and appreciation and love.  As someone else said recently, “proximity encourages empathy”.

Yes, #BlackLivesMatter.  So do red and yellow and white – for we are all precious in His sight.  We need more multi-ethnic churches to spread this message.

Thank you!

There’s SO many reasons I could say ‘thanks’ (especially considering all the kind words, cards & gifts for my 62nd birthday & our 42nd anniversary this week), but I specifically want to thank CLC for your faithful giving that allows us to be one of the partners with the ARC (Association of Related Churches).

Take a look at this 2-minute video of thanksgiving for what ARC accomplished this year!

Together, we are making a difference!

 

42 years is a long time

December 16, 1972.  42 years ago today.  That’s a long time.

It’s definitely enough time to get to know someone, especially when you’re around them for almost all of those 15,340 days.

For sure, it’s long enough for me to know that Chris Ann Hansen McQuay is the real deal.

Many of you know her as a Communicator.  Maybe you’ve heard her at a retreat, or a conference, or, for many of you, from the pulpit at CLC.

Some of you respect her as a Prophetess, and rightly so, because the word of the Lord definitely flows from her mouth under the Spirit’s prompting.

Many people have seen her through the years as a Teacher – from Sunday School classes in Michigan and Missouri, Youth Camps in the same two states, a Bible college in the Philippines, or more recently, at EQUIP seminars in Turkey and Russia and Cambodia.

Others of us have seen her in smaller settings as an Intercessor, where her prayers obviously touched the throne of God.

But very few of us have been privileged to see that she’s the same woman of God, no matter where she is.  I wish you could have seen the smiles on the faces of little children in rural India, far from any convention center or massive auditorium, as she focused on them like they were the most important people in the world.

Or the numerous times I’ve watched the faces of impoverished women in Majority World settings, ‘light up’ as she greeted them with the same loving embrace and kiss that you would think was reserved for her closest friends.

In the last 42 years, I’ve seen her minister to the few, and I’ve seen her minister to the thousands.  And frankly, I can’t tell the difference, because Chris loves God, and she loves His people – wherever, whoever, however.

I’ve never met anyone else quite like her.

She’s a ferocious mother to our three children, and the funnest (is that a word?) nonny that any grandchild could possibly have.

I didn’t know what I was getting into 42 years ago, when I vowed to be with her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

But today I know that she is still the woman of my dreams – the one who takes my breath away – the one who lights up my world – the one person I’d most like to spend a day with. She’s not the young teenager I married – but then, I’m not the young preacher from Arkansas that she said “I do” to, either, because she’s rubbed off on me (thank God!), and I’m a much better man for having lived with her these 42 years.

Happy Anniversary, Chris – I look forward to another 42 years with you!

chris_indiaChris_minions

chris_egg or tater

chris_jaeden

chris_bineeta

celebrating 25 years

I know it’s the Christmas season.  We just finished a terrific Christmas Production.  You’ve still got shopping to do, parties to plan, meals to cook.  I get it.

But I also know that time marches on.  And before you know it, we’ll be into March, 2015 when CLC will celebrate 25 years of ministry in the south suburbs.

That’s a significant milestone and we want to celebrate right, so we’re already planning a banquet, a live CD recording, a ONE FAMILY celebration and more, including a sermon series called,

heart church

That’s where I need YOUR help.

Since we can only emphasize 4 reasons why we love CLC, what are the top 4?

It would probably help the most if you could choose the #1 reason you love CLC.  (Notice: it’s not what you LIKE about CLC – we’re only looking for what you LOVE – what you’re passionate about at CLC!)

Maybe another way to ask is this: what’s the ONE thing about CLC that if it ceased to be, this wouldn’t be your church anymore?

love my church

Help a guy out, please – leave your comment below:

You can resume your Christmas schedule now.

Sunday reflections

Finally back in the blogging saddle after a week to recuperate: here’s my random thoughts about today at CLC:

The backdrop for our Christmas Production makes for a nice stage set, too

The backdrop for our Christmas Production makes for a nice stage set for worship, too

Water baptism is always a highlight, not only for the individual, but for the church family - here we rejoice with India Richardson

Water baptism is always a highlight, not only for the individual, but for the church family – here we rejoice with India Richardson

 

Shon Johnson had a moment with the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism

Shon Johnson had a moment with the Holy Spirit in the waters of baptism

Jeanette Tapia met the Lord in the waters of baptism, too

Jeanette Tapia met the Lord in the waters of baptism, too

Pastor Sam PREACHED today! Here he challenged us to invest in the 'mile' of eternity rather than the 'inch' of this life-

Pastor Sam PREACHED today! Here he challenged us to invest in the ‘mile’ of eternity rather than the ‘inch’ of this life-

  • Pastor Doug reports continued momentum in South Bend, with a full room auditioning for the worship team after service today!
Pastor William preached the Spanish service in Blue Island

Pastor William preached the Spanish service in Blue Island

Pastor Herley reports 110 people graduated from their Encounter weekend at our Davao City campus - saved, baptized, fill & delivered!

Pastor Herley reports 110 people graduated from their Encounter weekend at our Davao City campus – saved, baptized, fill & delivered!

My wife joins me in THANKING YOU for the kind words, cards & gifts for our 42nd Anniversary (coming up this Tuesday) and my 62nd Birthday (that I'm trying to ignore today) - except for the best banana pudding I've ever eaten, thanks to Nikeva Lawrence!

My wife joins me in THANKING YOU for the kind words, cards & gifts for our 42nd Anniversary (coming up this Tuesday) and my 62nd Birthday (that I’m trying to ignore today) – except for the best banana pudding I’ve ever eaten, thanks to Nikeva Lawrence! ;-)

Now it’s time to head back for the final performance of “The Center, Reprised”-

 

 

Sunday reflections (India, day 6)

I have been welcomed in different ways and in different places for different reasons, but I’ve never been welcomed quite so vigorously, as today, in our final visit to a village church.  Literally from the time our car stopped until we reached the doors of the church, we were pelted with marigolds, including about a dozen marigold leis (or if that term is only used in Hawaii, then marigold necklaces – I’m not sure).  Here’s the final look:

a marigold welcome in India

a marigold welcome in India

(It took Chris about 3 hours to remove the bits & pieces of marigold from her shawl…..and underwear, as we later discovered in the hotel room tonight).  It was quite a welcome!

And the team did CLC proud, again.  Personally, I spent almost all of the last 2 days in bed, so I was too weak to do much of anything today, but Pastors Ben & Matt & Chris did a terrific job of ministering to the saints and praying for the sick in each service – and the Lord answered!

Then after lunch at the pastor’s house, we made that impossible trek back down the mountain about 4 hours to Vishakhapatnam, where we’ll catch a flight early in the morning back to Delhi.

As always when I’m away, I’m curious about CLC services today – so if you attend ANY service at any campus (even online), please leave your thoughts below as to how it was – I really appreciate hearing from you:

Girl for sale, $1…

Bineeta, age 6

Bineeta, age 6

Bineeta captured our hearts the first day we arrived in Semiliguda, India – not only because of her smiles, but especially because of her story:

Her grandmother Nonee lived a very difficult life, as her only child, Aarti was severely mentally challenged, and her husband abandoned the family soon after Aarti was born. Nonee worked hard at whatever manual labor she could find each day, but as her daughter reached her teens, it was increasingly difficult, because Aarti was often left alone while her mother searched for work.  Eventually Nonee discovered that Aarti had been taken advantage of by the men in the town, and Aarti became pregnant.

Nonee loved her beautiful new granddaughter, but it made life even more difficult to find regular work to provide the family’s needs.  By the time Bineeta turned 3, her grandmother put her to work, sweeping the homes of rich people or cleaning vessels for certain families. Someone in town said of her, “She was a beautiful child, but I never saw her smile.  How could she? Life was cruel.  It should be beautiful and filled with laughter for any child”.

By the time Bineeta turned 4, a man saw her sleeping under a tree, and realized that life would only get more difficult for her when she reached her teen years and would face the same dangers from wicked men in town as her mother had.  Then he recalled the IET orphanage in Semiliguda and how neatly the girls were dressed going to school and laughing along the way.

This kind man informed the pastor in charge of the Girl’s home, and approached the grandmother to see if she would release Bineeta into their care.  The grandmother offered to sell her to IET for $1. Instead, the pastor convinced Nonee to let them raise Bineeta in the Girl’s home.

The Pastor said initially Bineeta wouldn’t talk to anyone, and refused to even look in eyes.  She was so sad she would not even smile.  But today, after 2 years in the Girl’s home with 40 other young girls, Bineeta is loved and cared for and has begun to attend school.  She now has the opportunity to live a safe & productive life, and she loves Jesus! (How I wish you could see her worship Him from her heart!)

CLC, your missions dollars are making a difference, one life at a time!

chris_bineeta

India, days 4/5

My apologies for the brief posts w/o pictures.  I’ve been too sick to do my normal postings here, and the limited access to internet has made that impractical, too.

What I can tell you is that CLC would be very PROUD of this team – each of our pastors has connected so well with the IET church planters, and brought messages of inspiration and encouragement, with practical help as well.  Dr. Aby Vargis told me he could not have been more pleased by the teaching our team provided.

Last night the team visited some village churches (while I stayed behind to try to defeat this bug) and I heard it was unreal, as the local believers were so hungry for prayer from the team.

Today is more of the same, with plans to visit at least 2 or 3 villages to see firsthand the work that IET is doing through our partnership.  (I’m not sure I can afford to be away from a toilet, so I’ll likely stay behind again – thanks for the prayers.)

India, days 2/3

Yesterday was a travel day.

I’ve probably written that line before on missions trips, but NEVER with the meaning of this one.  It would be safe to say that I’ve never experienced a day like yesterday.  We left our wonderful hotel in New Delhi, flew to Hyderabad, then flew to Vishakhapatnam (those 2 flights took about 4 hours).  Then we divided into 2 groups and each boarded a Jeep for the drive over the mountains that took about 5 hours to reach our destination, Semiliguda, where we are conducting the Pastor’s Conference.  That 5-hour trip was the most treacherous I ever recall – most of us kept our eyes closed the entire time in order not to scream with panic.  (Thankfully, the driver kept his eyes open!)  I’ve been told it is a beautiful drive across the mountains in the daytime, but it was in the dark of night for us the entire way, so I can’t speak from experience.  By the time we did arrive, none of us wanted wi-fi; we just crawled into bed and begged God for sleep! (soft, spoiled Americans that we are)

Today we saw the sacrifice was worth it, as 100 precious church-planters welcomed us with flowers, songs, and a foot-washing ceremony unlike any we’ve experienced before.

After all 4 of us taught 2 messages each, we had the opportunity to hear the testimony of one of these church planters who has been sponsored by CLC for the past 20 months.  If you have time to read, it will be worth your while:

While being trained as a literacy worker for the Indian government, he sensed the call of God to ministry.  He had a vision of a village he had never seen before, so one day he prayed & asked God to help him find the place.  While walking through the forest, he came upon 2 men, described the village he had seen in his vision, and they said, “we know the place”.  After they led him there, he asked permission of the village authorities to teach them about Jesus, and they agreed that he could do so if he would teach their children to read and write.  Within one year, 150 of the villagers were born-again, baptized believers!

At that point, the fundamentalists joined together with communists and demanded that the people turn back to Hinduism.  After he refused to recant, the leader of the Christians was shot to death.  He was replaced by another elder, who was hung upside-down and then presented with a sword and a gun and told he must choose which way to die unless he denied Christ.  This illiterate villager, who had only known the Lord for a year, replied,  “take my life once, or 50 or 100 times, but I will NEVER deny my Lord!”  

Although they didn’t kill the leader (for some unknown reason), the fundamentalists threatened to kill every believer in the village, one by one. The news of this persecution reached IET offices, and plans were made to relocate these villagers to a safe place – and by taking a few families each nightfall, the entire group of believers was resettled before the fundamentalists realized what was happening.

However, in this new place there was no real means of support, and these proud believers who once owned homes and livestock, were now reduced to looking for any menial task just to have food.  In fact, Dr. Aby Vargis said in one of his first conversations with them, the Christians said, “if we find work for one day, we eat that day.  If not, we don’t eat”, before admitting to him that neither they nor their children had eaten in 3 days.  The wife of the pastor that we met today then had a dream of houses lined up neatly in a row, on each side of the street.  When she told the dream to her husband he told her this would cost thousands of dollars, and seemed impossible – but when he related the dream, Dr. Aby promised to appeal to some of IET’s supporters, and in a few months time, all 60 families were living in a house provided by IET, exactly like those in the dream of the pastor’s wife.  The number of believers who now gather for worship is 250 every Sunday,  despite all this persecution!!!

I’ll try to post pics tomorrow, and I appreciate your continued prayers as we’re still battling sickness (except for Pastor Matt, who seems to be enjoying every kind of Indian food) - but I just wanted you to know that your giving at CLC is producing wonderful fruit in this part of India!

India, day 1

Since we got to our hotel and into bed about 4am today, our first day schedule was pretty light – mainly a tour of the Indian Evangelical Team headquarters in Delhi, and an overview of the work that they are doing.

Founder of IET, Dr. P.G. Vargis - modern-day apostle & a true man of God!

Founder of IET, Dr. P.G. Vargis – modern-day apostle & a true man of God!

Of course, the highlight of the day was that we got to spend a couple of hours with the founder of IET, Dr. P.G. Vargis, and hear his stories of the humble beginnings of the ministry.  If CLC has EVER partnered with a ministry that is “the real deal”, this is it!  Hearing his stories of the sacrifices he’s made for the Gospel, and watching his eyes fill with tears as we he related story after story of one-on-one evangelism and how God has used this ministry to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Indians since 1972 was nothing short of amazing.

Aby Vargis (who visited CLC last February) explains some of IET's ministry to our team outside their offices.

Aby Vargis (who visited CLC last February) explains some of IET’s ministry to our team outside their offices.

Then we had the privilege of sharing with the IET staff in their weekly chapel service, and praying over them at the close.

Then we had the privilege of sharing with the IET staff in their weekly chapel service, and praying over them at the close.

I’ve been under the weather for most of the day, so I really appreciate your prayers as we fly to Vishakapatnam  tomorrow afternoon and then drive about 4 hours into the region where we’ll conduct a conference for 100 IET church planters, including the group that we’re helping to support from CLC.  Thanks!

Christmas, outreach and YOU

Nativity_tree2011

I’m typing this while sitting in the Frankfurt, Germany airport waiting for our flight to India, but can’t turn off my brain, because I realized that we haven’t been able to properly inform  you of our plans for the 2014 Christmas holiday at CLC.

All the church ‘experts’ report that Christmas Eve is the #1 time that many unchurched or especially previously-churched families do return to church.  However, at CLC, we’ve not seen that, as our previous Christmas Eve services have generally been poorly-attended, with few guests in that number.

So after MUCH discussion and prayer, our pastoral team has decided to forego a Christmas Eve service this December 24, and put all our outreach focus on our Christmas Production (“The Center: Reprised”) this December 12-14 instead. (We’re already making plans for 2015 that will include the kind of Christmas Eve celebration that you’ll want to invite guests to attend with you – but we can’t pull that off this year.)

That’s why I’m urging every CLC’er to reach out to your friends, family and co-workers to join you for what promises to be a great show, with music and dancing and drama for the whole family this December 12, 13, and 14.  The gospel will be presented each night in an entertaining way that make this perhaps the BEST opportunity of the year to reach your unchurched friends and family.

All the research indicates that unchurched Americans will respond favorably to an invitation from a friend, so let’s pull out all the stops to bring others for this production. Tickets are just $5, and you can order yours online today.  Let’s make this Christmas season one that your guests will NEVER forget!

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Sunday reflections

Well, we literally walked off stage to jump in the car and drive every bit of the speed limit all the way to O’Hare for the first of two flights to get us to India tomorrow afternoon, Chicago-time – SO, I really don’t have much in the way of reflections.  I usually get to enjoy some lobby conversations that help me evaluate how the services went – and since that didn’t happen today, I’m HOPING to get YOUR thoughts about today’s services at CLC.

Here’s what I do know:

  • we broke ALL records for number of baby dedication people on stage!  Usually we limit the number that can stand up for a child because of limited space, but today with the stage built-out to accommodate our Christmas Production, plus the fact that only two children were being dedicated, we had no such restriction – and it seemed like half of the South Suburbs joined us onstage!  It was fun, and congrats to Kitai West and Zoila Cooper (and their parents)!
  • we broke ALL records for number of people moving in & out of the auditorium during the preaching! (This one is NOT a cause for celebration; I just can’t ever remember so many people entering the auditorium throughout the message – I mean, even toward the end of the message – just seemed weird, especially since it wasn’t the “Spring Forward” time change Sunday!)
The first report I received came from our Philippines campus where they had a FULL house & great services led by Pastor Joel Montes-

The first report I received came from our Philippines campus where they had a FULL house & great services led by Pastor Joel Montes-

  • In South Bend, Pastor Doug reports another great Sunday and says he’s continually meeting new families that are bringing lots of energy & enjoying CLC!
So proud of some great CLC-NWI volunteers who served meals to homeless & needy folks this Thanksgiving!

So proud of some great CLC-NWI volunteers who served meals to homeless & needy folks this Thanksgiving!

  • Pastor Sam also reported full altars and 2 people baptized in the Holy Spirit today at NWI!
Pastors William & Melek team-taught today's message & reported that some people were definitely set free today!

Pastors William & Melek team-taught today’s message & reported that some people were definitely set free today!

Now it’s YOUR turn – please leave a comment below if you attended ANY CLC service today – Tinley Park, NWI, Blue Island, South Bend or ONLINE – how were you impacted today?

 

Off to INDIA

india

Just before our noon service ended today at CLC, my wife & I, along with Pastors Ben Stewart & Matt DeLaTorre made a mad dash to O’Hare to catch our flight to Frankfurt, Germany and then on to Delhi, India where we’ll arrive Monday about 2pm Chicago-time  (1:30 a.m. Tuesday in Delhi).

For about a dozen years CLC has partnered with the Indian Evangelical Team (P.G. Vargis, founder) and less than two years ago we entered into a significant church-planting effort with them that has already resulted in about 20 new congregations being planted in one of the most unreached areas of the world, and it is easily one of the most fruitful relationships that CLC enjoys anywhere in our missions efforts!

P.G. Vargis and his wife, Lily

P.G. Vargis and his wife, Lily

Some of you will remember their son, Aby Vargis, who visited CLC this past February, and who leads the church planting efforts of IET.  It’s really because of his insistence that we decided to make this trip, where we’ll have a chance to see first-hand the work that IET is doing in several areas, plus minister at a Pastor’s Conference for about 100 of their church planters.

I’m not sure how often we’ll have internet access, but I hope to be able to post often enough for you to keep up with our travels before we return next Wednesday to get us back to CLC in time for “The Center: Reprised.  Thanks for your prayers!

Ask the Pastor

sonya-set-free-article

Here’s this week’s question from one of my favorite CLC’ers: “is it ever appropriate to introduce deliverance to a child (1st – 5th grade)?  I am sure it would depend on their maturity level but what if you can see that they are having a very difficult time dealing with a traumatic experience?”

Interesting question; one that I can’t recall ever having been asked before.  But here’s my honest thoughts about ministering deliverance to an elementary-aged child:

  • Jesus did!  Matthew 17:14-18 is the record of a man who brought his son to Jesus because he was demonized, and the son was referred to as “the boy”.  The Greek word used for ‘boy’ indicates ‘a young child’, and is the same word used to refer to Jesus when he was 12 years old.  So, clearly, Jesus ministered deliverance to an elementary-aged boy.
  • Jesus also endorsed deliverance ministry for children in Matthew 15:22-28.  In fact, I used that passage last Sunday as the final example of a ‘door’ that can allow the enemy to gain access in our lives; in this case, the occultic involvement of the mother was the apparent cause of her daughter being afflicted with an evil spirit.  Not only did Jesus evict the demon, but He later referred to deliverance as “the children’s bread”.  While his point was certainly that deliverance is one of the benefits of the covenant-relationship we enjoy as believers, I don’t think we should overlook the fact that He specifically said it was the children’s bread!
  • My wife made a missions trip (without me) several years ago in which she and a small team of adults conducted a camp for children in Nepal.  During that camp, about 100 of the children received Jesus as their Savior and about 80% of them received deliverance!  (Chris was there during the Nepalese observance of “festival of lights” in which they placed candles on the path leading to their homes, in order to guide evil spirits to their house!  Their desire is that those spirits would enter their homes to protect them from other, more-evil spirits!)
  • So, I know from Scripture and from personal experience that children are able to receive deliverance.  However, I’m not aware of any ministry that focuses on bringing deliverance to children, probably because, as you point out, the difference in maturity levels and understanding.  My suggestion is that, if you know children that have been traumatized or otherwise show signs of being demonized, that you seek counsel from a pastor or ministry leader so that our response could be done properly and in order, per 1Corinthians 14:32-33, 40.

Another possibility for children is for them to participate this Sunday (November 30) when we pray deliverance prayers over the entire congregation.  Since it’s a 5th Sunday designated as “Family Sunday”, our elementary-aged kids will be in the auditorium, and I know the power of the Lord will be present for them just the same as for us!

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

Break EVERY Chain

Breakthechain_zpsa9889784

Perhaps more than any previous series, I knew that this current one was on-time.  Not only had I sensed over a year ago that the Lord was leading me to do it, but the prophetic word from Dennis Cramer in January of this year confirmed it, and we waited for the right time to deliver it.  By the time we began in October, it had grown from a typical 4-week series into 7-weeks, and then as we got further in, we added one more week, making it one of the longest series ever at CLC.

Now we’re there: this Sunday is the grand finale when we’ll focus on breaking every chain that may have bound us and pray deliverance prayers over every person at CLC who wants to be set free from the enemy’s influence.  His strategies & tactics have worked for far too long, but this Sunday we’ll be proclaiming, as Jesus said,  I’m expecting lives to be changed this Sunday!

So here’s my pastoral advice: enjoy your family tomorrow for Thanksgiving – eat lots of your favorite food – have some great conversations – enjoy some football on TV (if only the Bears would cooperate) - even do some shopping on Black Friday (if that’s your thing) – but whatever you do, be here THIS Sunday as we break every chain!

(If you absolutely can’t get here in person, try your best to tune-in for the livestream – I believe chains will be broken across the internet as we declare deliverance together!)

I can’t wait.

What I KNOW and DON’T KNOW about August 9 in Ferguson…

I don’t know what happened between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson on August 9.

Neither do you.

All either of us think we know is based on what we’ve seen or heard or read in the media  (which in my humble opinion, seems to want to stir division & enflame passion so they have something to cover 24/7 – in the words of one of my African-American pastor friends, “they tend to create the news more than cover it” - but I digress)

Because I don’t know what happened, I can’t know if last night’s decision by the Grand Jury was a travesty of justice or an example of the rule of law this nation was founded on.

But I know this: we are a racially-divided nation.  Regardless of whatever progress we may have seen since the 1960′s and Martin Luther King, Jr., every time there’s an OJ, or a Trayvon, or a Michael Brown, it becomes glaringly obvious that we are divided by race.

know that as a white pastor of a multi-cultural-but-majority-black congregation, where many of our members have been pulled over and detained by white police officers for no reason other than that they were caught “driving while black”.

know that because my honor-roll-son was stopped and hassled by a white police officer while driving in a predominantly white suburb for no reason other than the fact that two of his best friends who happened to be black were in the car with him.

But I also know in my heart that (as someone else pointed out today) while anger over all of this is understandable, still yet anger is not a plan for life. Instead it is an absolute plan that’s guaranteed to bring even MORE pain!

And I especially know that Jesus died to reconcile ALL men, regardless of race or anything else that divides us, and that HE has called His Church to be agents of reconciliation.  (read slowly through Ephesians 2:11-18 and 2Corinthians 5:14-20)

know we’ve got a long way to go to heal the racial wounds of generations in this country.

But I also know it starts with each one of us as believers doing our part for reconciliation  instead of adding to the racial divide with careless comments and actions.

Part of my Bible reading this morning seemed particularly appropriate as a way to close: 1Peter 3:8-12, which says:

8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 10 For the Scriptures say,

“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
11 Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”

Selah.

 

Women DO Rock!

Disclaimer: in 40+ years of ministry and almost 62 years of life, this was my FIRST time to attend a women’s conference (being married to the organizer gets you a free pass) so this post is NOT the voice of experience.  But I do have an opinion to express, so here goes:

Women really do rock!  I’ve known for many years that ‘my’ woman rocked, but I saw first-hand this weekend that they all can.  Honestly, I don’t know how the 1st-ever CLC Women’s Conference could have been any better!  Here’s a little pictorial review, compliments of unofficial conference photograph, Andrea Rawlings-Johnson:

From the time ladies walked in the doors on Friday, the atmosphere was WELCOMING!

From the time ladies walked in the doors on Friday, the atmosphere was WELCOMING!

From the time ladies arrived on Friday, the atmosphere was WELCOMING!

Nothing like great music to set the atmosphere-

She never ceases to amaze me...prophetess, preacher, conference host, women's advocate.  Love her!

She never ceases to amaze me…prophetess, preacher, conference host, women’s advocate. Love her!

Could we have invited a better guest speaker for our 1st-ever conference?   I DON'T THINK SO! Mercy Lokulutu rocked the house!

Could we have invited a better guest speaker for our 1st-ever conference?
I DON’T THINK SO!
Mercy Lokulutu rocked the house!

The highlight of Friday night was helping EVERY woman know that "I am enough" - (each lady received a rose; the kiss was optional)

The highlight of Friday night was helping EVERY woman know that “I am enough” – (each lady received a rose; the kiss was optional)

 

Kudos to all the GUYS who delivered roses with a special touch!

Kudos to all the GUYS who delivered roses with a special touch!

Heartfelt expressions of love made for some special moments like this one.

Heartfelt expressions of love made for some special moments like this one.

Pastor Shanna brought a WORD about building our house on the sand

Pastor Shanna brought a WORD about building our house on the sand!

Lemme tell you something: women can WORSHIP with abandon!

Lemme tell you something: women can WORSHIP with abandon!

 

so much LOVE!

so much LOVE!

And they did so all over the house, throughout the entire conference!

And they did so all over the house, throughout the entire conference!

so prayer was liable to break out anywhere

so prayer was liable to break out anywhere

and it did!

and it did!

 

 

 

 

 

because women know they're in this TOGETHER!

because women know they’re in this TOGETHER!

The prophetic ministry on Saturday afternoon absolutely BLEW ME AWAY!

The prophetic ministry on Saturday afternoon absolutely BLEW ME AWAY!

especially when Ch'vez jumped in with a prophetic word AND a prophetic song!

especially when Ch’vez jumped in with a prophetic word AND a prophetic song!

I LOVE dancers with an ATTITUDE!

I LOVE dancers with an ATTITUDE!

and after ALL THAT, these ladies still know how to PARTY!

and after ALL THAT, these ladies still know how to PARTY!

and they made sure EACH attendee receive a gift  'Women Rock' blankie-

and they made sure EACH attendee receive a gift ‘Women Rock’ blankie-

MEGA-KUDOS to each & every woman who helped make this possible, & Special thanks to Jen for coordinating it all long-distance-

MEGA-KUDOS to each & every woman who helped make this possible, & Special thanks to Jen for coordinating it all long-distance-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday reflections

Really random reflections on another good day at CLC:

Kudos to my wife for leading our first-ever Women's Conf this weekend (more about that tomorrow) & still having energy to host all 3 services in Tinley Park today-

Kudos to my wife for leading our first-ever Women’s Conf this weekend (more about that tomorrow) & still having energy to host all 3 services in Tinley Park today-

Our Servants of Praise team was beyond Amazing all weekend!

Our Servants of Praise team was beyond Amazing all weekend!

Mercy Lokulutu was outstanding at the Conf & a blessing at the 8:30/10 services today

Mercy Lokulutu was outstanding at the Conf & a blessing at the 8:30/10 services today

I enjoyed being back at NWI campus for just the 2nd time this year

I enjoyed being back at NWI campus for just the 2nd time this year-

Pastor Sam planned a "Show Up Sunday" & it worked, with one of their BEST attendances since opening! (not to mention these cuties who all showed up!)

Pastor Sam planned a “Show Up Sunday” & it worked, with one of their BEST attendances since opening! (not to mention these cuties who all showed up!)

Love our bi-lingual worship team at the Blue Island campus!

Love our bi-lingual worship team at the Blue Island campus!

Pastor William demonstrated that believers CAN be in bondage!

Pastor William demonstrated that believers CAN be in bondage!

Perhaps the BEST report of the day comes from our South Bend campus, where Pastor Doug reports, “we prayed over our Samaritan’s Purse shoeboxes, blessed a newly-married couple, gave a thank you slideshow presentation to our congregation & had people come up & bless their finances from a message we shared from John 6″, plus another strong attendance!

I’d call that a GOOD day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

lightstock-35347-tithes-and-offering-being-passed

One of my all-time favorite CLC’ers writes, “I have a question about tithing. What about people who faithfully tithe…but to ministries that are not good stewards of the funds. Are the people protected because of their obedience to tithe? Examples might include pastors who gamble, do not properly care for the needs of the church, pastors who have no accountability and use funds as they please.  Would it be better if people found other ministries to attend or tithe to?”

Excellent question.  It’s one that I’ve never addressed in public, but I know from previous conversations through the years that it’s one that many Christians have asked.  Here are my thoughts:

  • As a general rule, I do believe that God blesses the individual for their obedience in tithing, while the leaders of the ministry are held accountable for how they handle the funds received.  The Biblical basis for that last statement is 1Cor. 9:8-10 where the Scripture is quite clear that ministers are to be financially rewarded for their service – but as my pastor back in my early days liked to point out, “if the oxen overeats, he gets the bellyache!”
  • However, IF (and that’s a BIG ‘if’) the church member knows (that’s different from ‘heard a rumor’, or ‘suspects’) that the pastor and/or leaders of their church are guilty of any of the examples you gave (gambling, not caring for the needs of the church, not accountable, or misusing funds), then I would say it’s time to do one of two things: (1) respectfully bring this matter to the attention of the governing leaders of the congregation for their response; or (2) seek the Lord as to where He would have you be planted in another local church.
  • Having said that, I do not believe that you need to ’cause problems’ or ‘seek to influence anyone else’ to leave the ministry with you, lest you become guilty before God - knowing that “two wrongs don’t make a right”!  But neither do I believe any sincere believer should remain in a church where the Lord’s tithe is being misused by those in authority.  I say that NOT just because of money mismanagement, but because that mismanagement is always an indication of more serious issues that would make it advisable for you to find another spiritual home.
  • Oh, in regards to the wording of your question – I do NOT believe anyone should  attend one church but tithe to another.  The Scripture indicates that we ‘bring’ our tithes to the Lord, and part of the purpose is “so there will be food in my House” – so it wouldn’t make sense to tithe somewhere other than where you eat.  (You don’t eat at McDonald’s & pay Burger King, right?)
  • Since I’ve stated my opinions here, let me give you some Scriptures to read and consider: 1Samuel 2:12-17; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:1-10; Psalm 92:13; 1Timothy 5:17-18; 1Peter 5:1-4; 2Corinthians 8:18-21; Malachi 3:10.
  • I suspect that someone reading this has a story to share about how the Lord led them to a healthy church after a bad experience with other churches who abused the financial gifts of the people.  If so, please leave your comments below-

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

Vietnam!

For those who grew up in the 60′s as I did, the Vietnam war was one of (if not THE) defining events of our generation.  It marked us as a nation, and in many respects America has never been the same since.

Fast forward 40 years, and now Vietnam is the site of some of the greatest harvest in the body of Christ today, with thousands of Vietnamese people embracing the Gospel and being born-again in the underground church there.  (Because of Communism, the government has highly restricted religious activities, and many pastors have been imprisoned through the years).

Chris & I have been honored again, as one of the largest ministries there recently contacted our friends at Global Advance to ask for their help in securing teachers to help train their leaders in 2015, and, more specifically, they asked for a “strong woman speaker”.  Global Advance then contacted us, and yesterday before we returned home from Dallas we had lunch with Jason Holland, Director of Frontline Pastors Training for Global Advance, and Thien-An Dang, the Director of the Vietnamese Division of Global University & Roever Evangelistic Association, to hear about the plans for March, 2015.

Jason Holland (L) and Thien-An (Dan) Dang (R)

Jason Holland (L) and Thien-An (Dan) Dang (R)

To say we’re excited is an understatement!  We’ll be in Cambodia first to continue our training for EQUIP with our friends there (and hopefully another seminar with the Ministry of Education), then fly to Vietnam for two training events in Saigon and Hanoi before returning home.  Praise God for open doors, and more importantly, for what HE is doing in SE Asia!

 

A pastor’s plea to his flock…

breakchain

I’m sure every pastor thinks this way, but in my heart I feel our current series is as important as anything I’ve ever taught at CLC – but NOT because I enjoy this teaching.  This particular series is SO important because of it’s potential to see CLC’ers truly break every chain of the enemy and be set free to receive God’s best in their lives.

That’s why we’ll doing something this Sunday in Tinley Park that we’ve never done before.   Our first-ever Women’s Conference meets on Friday and Saturday with special guest Mercy Lokulutu, who will stay over to preach our 8:30 and 10am services on Sunday.  I’m confident that both men & women will enjoy her ministry Sunday in those services.

However, I am teaching at the noon service instead of Mercy, primarily because I wanted every CLC to get the final message about how to close the doors by which the enemy gains access to our lives. (Our NWI and Blue Island campuses will receive this message in their services, but in Tinley Park, only the noon attendees will.)

That’s why I’m hoping that some (many?) CLC’ers will enjoy Mercy’s ministry in the earlier services but return or stay for noon, too.  Even if you don’t choose to attend the noon service, I’m urging each & every CLC’er to at least watch that message online or download the podcast next week in preparation for our series finale on Sunday, November 30, when we’ll close with mass deliverance prayer for everyone in attendance

(NOTE: I do realize that Nov. 30 is Thanksgiving weekend, but being free of the enemy’s influence is so important that I’m hoping most CLC’ers will return from the holiday in time to attend one of our three services that day)

I pray that YOU will consider what I’ve written and cooperate if at all possible.  I don’t make these kinds of requests often – but I truly believe that many will experience a measure of freedom they’ve never known before as we BREAK EVERY CHAIN!

 

Worship: contemporary or classic?

worship3

I had a conversation last week with a pastor friend who mentioned his longing for the songs & choruses of ‘our day’ (he and I both get the senior discount these days).  Seems the new songs just weren’t bringing him into the Presence of the Lord.

That conversation made yesterday’s National Institute of Christian Leadership session with Dr. Mark Rutland even more interesting, as we spent all afternoon exploring ‘What Makes Music Christian?’  It was a fascinating lecture as Dr. Rutland took us all the way back to the earliest known expressions of music alongside the Christian expressions of the same era.  I must admit, I was shocked at how much Christian worship songs have always reflected the contemporary, popular music of the day.

[If you don’t believe me, listen to the chorus of Carrie Underwood’s “See You Again” and then Hillsong’s, “With Everything” where the wordsnotes are the same!]

Don’t misunderstand; neither Dr. Rutland nor I am being critical of today’s worship music.  To the contrary, I found it quite interesting that worship thru the ages has deliberately  appealed to even unsaved audiences by incorporating the musical styles that people listened to.  Ludwig van Beethoven, Charles Wesley and the others didn’t set out to write “classical” music; they were the rock stars of their day!

Lest this post become an all-day lecture let me cut to the chase: regardless of your personal preference in music, the important thing is that our hearts are engaged so that the music brings us into the Presence of God!

O, for a thousand tongues to sing my Great Redeemer’s praise!

final module of NICL

rutland

After a red-eye flight from Seattle last night and hopefully a nap at my daughter’s apartment, I’ll head into the final module of my one year participation in the National Institute of Christian Leadership with Dr. Mark Rutland this afternoon.

Dr. Rutland is one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to, and I’ve picked up as much from his sometimes-hilarious-but-always-interesting-and-insightful stories from his colorful past as from his exposition of leadership principles.

For the next 3 days he will wax eloquent about “Preaching & Worship: Excellence in Expression“, and, honestly, this is the module that I was most interested in when Chris & I enrolled in the Institute back in January.  So, sleep or no sleep, I intend to my wide-awake this afternoon to gain every insightful nugget to help us improve our skills and become more effective at ministering to today’s generation.  Say a prayer for us to receive now so we can give later!

Sunday reflections

HighPoint Church in Kent (south suburban Seattle) is where I spent my weekend.  Love their byline: "Elevating Your Life"

HighPoint Church in Kent (south suburban Seattle) is where I spent my weekend. Love their byline: “Elevating Your Life”

  • About 6 years ago I met Jason Bentley (having known his deceased father over 30 years ago in my denominational days) and felt such a fatherly connection with him since his dad had just recently died.  I’ve been in his corner as he started a church from scratch here in the most-unchurched area of America, the Pacific Northwest, and was encouraged this weekend to speak into his core leaders on Friday & Saturday before preaching his Sunday service today.
Saw this sign outside their children's ministry area this morning before service & used it during my message: "To forgive is to set a prisoner free & discover that the prisoner was you"

Saw this sign outside their children’s ministry area this morning before service & used it during my message: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free & discover that the prisoner was you”

  • The folks at HighPoint Church were really responsive to the teaching, and about 6-8 people raised their hand to pray with me to receive Christ at the close!
Then Pastor Jason took me to a Tacoma landmark, "Southern Kitchen", which has been featured on the Food Network's, "Diners, Dives & Drive-Ins"

Then Pastor Jason took me to a Tacoma landmark, “Southern Kitchen”, which has been featured on the Food Network’s, “Diners, Dives & Drive-Ins”

The view of Mt. Rainier from the Bentley's back deck is breathtaking

The view of Mt. Rainier from the Bentley’s back deck is breathtaking!

Alejandra, Micah, Jason & Dylan Bentley couldn't have been more hospitable - I've never been treated with more honor anywhere!

Alejandra, Micah, Jason & Dylan Bentley couldn’t have been more hospitable – I’ve never been treated with more honor anywhere!

  • Meanwhile, I heard that my wife did an amazing job with “Entrance Wounds” and that many folks received emotional healing today in Tinley Park!
Pastor Sam said the NWI worship team "really nailed it" today, and that many people came to the altars after the message.

Pastor Sam said the NWI worship team “really nailed it” today, and that many people came to the altars after the message.

  • Pastor Doug reports that our South Bend campus enjoyed an “amazing day”, with 3 baby dedications, strong attendance & preaching & new people who are stepping right in & loving it already!
At our Blue Island campus, BOTH the English service & the Spanish service had near-record attendance, and one person came to Christ as many 'released' their wounds to the garbage cans

At our Blue Island campus, BOTH the English service & the Spanish service had near-record attendance, and one person came to Christ as many ‘released’ their wounds to the garbage cans

That’s what I experienced in Seattle and the reports I received from our pastors – but I would LOVE to know what YOU experienced at any CLC service today!  Please leave your comments below-

 

 

 

 

family

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

satansfall

This week’s question comes from one of my all-time favorite CLC’ers, who writes, “Was the fall of angels from heaven before Adam or after?”

Great question, especially since the Scriptures are not compiled in chronological order, and oftentimes (as in this case), we must compare passages from different books/writers in order to get the complete picture.  So let’s take a look:

  • The short answer to your question is, angels fell from heaven before Adam.  I base that on Genesis 3:1-6, where Satan clearly appears (in the form of the serpent) to entice Adam & Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  Since Satan initiated the conversation with Eve, he must have already been in the garden.
  • But to see how and why he got into the garden, we need to look further:  Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 give us two different descriptions of how Satan, who was originally “the anointed cherub who covers” (Ezek. 28:14), perhaps the highest of all the angels that God created, was lifted up with pride and thrown from heaven.  Many scholars believe that the mention of musical instruments (“timbrels and pipes”) in Ezek. 28:13 is an indication that Satan led worship in heaven prior to his fall.
  • Jesus indicated that He saw Satan when he fell from heaven (Luke 10:17-18) and one possible description of that is found in Revelation 12:3-18 (although some scholars see this as a later occurrence)

The GOOD news is that while Satan is still the god of this world and very much active in the earth today, WE have been given authority over ALL the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19).  In fact, this weekend at CLC, I’m expecting many people to receive emotional healing & be set free from the enemy’s strategies!

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

Superficial or Supernatural?

Superficial_cover_

I still remember a quote from my friend, Pastor Mike Fehlauer, who once said in a message at CLC, “if a church is not supernatural, it’s superficial!”

I believe that.

And I also believe Jeremiah 6:14, in which the Lord chastises Israel’s prophets for offering superficial treatments for His people’s mortal wounds, and for giving assurances of peace  when in reality there is no peace, is being repeated in our day.

We promised when we began our current series at CLC that we weren’t going to offer band aids or meaningless clichés when it comes to demonic influences.  This Sunday we’re going to deal with perhaps the most common door by which the enemy gains access into our lives, and I know that many people can be healed & set free from the enemy’s chains that have bound them - if we get them here to receive from God’s Word.

Who will you invite today?

If you know someone who is hurting over their past – even Christians who are still dealing with the emotional aftermath of childhood trauma or the heartbreak of abusive, dysfunctional relationships - please get them here this Sunday.

Then let’s pray & believe God for supernatural healing!

Entrance Wounds

entrance

It seems like I’ve heard more comments from CLC’ers about our current series than just about any sermon series we’ve ever done.  It was on our hearts for about a year, and then gained added importance with the strong prophetic word we received in January, so I shouldn’t be surprised that many people have been enlightened and helped already.

I was first introduced to deliverance ministry almost 27 years ago, and my personal experience makes me think this Sunday will be the most impactful of all, because we’ll focus on what I’ve seen as the most common way the enemy gains access into our lives – through traumatic experiences, often even in childhood, which cause us great fear or deep emotional pain, or to respond with inner vows to try to protect ourselves.

If you know someone who has been wounded in life, experienced heartbreak or deep emotional loss, I urge you to get them here for this Sunday when we’ll not only expose the enemy’s strategy, but also show you how to close that door and get the healing that Jesus offers!

It’s gonna be good!

Why “stand in the gap”?

gap

If you’ve been around church a while, you’ve probably heard that expression.  It’s found in Ezekiel 22:30, where the Lord declares, “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”

I read that verse yesterday in my morning devotions, but what I really noticed this time was the next verse (Ezekiel 22:31), “Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.”

In other words, God said He was looking for an intercessor to pray for the land, but since He couldn’t find one, therefore, He poured out wrath on the land, because of their wickedness.

Do you get it?  An intercessor could have made a difference.  Intercessors can change the fate of a nation.  Intercessors can make a difference.  Intercessors can change the world!

I think it was Billy Graham who said that if God didn’t judge America for her sin, He would have to apologize to Sodom & Gomorrah.  Maybe not.  Maybe all He has to do is find some intercessors.

Could HE use you?

Selah.

201404_036_InTheGap_art

A pastor’s perspective on last night’s Bears game

bears

When I moved to Chicagoland in 1989, I knew nothing about the Bears, or any other Chicago sports team.  But I figured if I was going to love & serve the people of Chicagoland, then I needed to root for the home team.  And I have – for almost 26 years.  (Well, not the Blackhawks, because I know nothing about hockey) – and I regularly cheer for the Bulls, the Sox, the Cubbies (well, quietly), and most of all, for da Bears.

As I was trying to fall asleep after last night’s debacle in Green Bay (I quit watching at halftime when it was 42-zip), a new thought came to my mind that immediately put a smile on my face and peace in my heart.  I feel it only right that I share it with all my fellow-pastors throughout the Chicagoland area, so we can look on the bright side together:

After last night, for the rest of this season, we don’t have to worry that Sunday attendance will be affected by the Bears!

Pastors know what I’m talking about.  You have a message straight from the Throne of God and you can’t wait to deliver it to God’s people on Sunday – but the Bears play at noon, so a third of your normal attendance stays home to watch the game.  Or you’ve got a famous guest speaker that you had to schedule a year-and-a-half in advance to get on his calendar – but it’s on a Sunday during football season, and you know attendance will be a fraction of normal because of the Bears game.  Or it’s your annual Christmas production and you’re trying to get the whole community to show up – but it’s nearly playoff time, and your own family wants to stay home to watch the game.

Not this year!  Think of it, pastors, for the rest of 2014, people have NO EXCUSE not to come to church, because after last night’s humiliation (on the heels of a similar blowout in New England), no one wants to stay home and watch the Bears.

God is good.

Now if we can just get a top pick in the draft, too.

Sunday reflections

I dunno if jet lag just kicked in (8 days later) or if 3 services kicked my butt, but I’m tired, so this will be a brief recap of today at CLC:

The closing offering at NWI is THE story of today at CLC - together, we closed a door to the enemy!

The closing offering at NWI is THE story of today at CLC – together, we closed a door to the enemy!

  • I must say, it’s been a while since we enjoyed the PASSION & ENERGY in the room at Tinley Park like we did today with our wonderful SoP worship team!  LOVE the new song today, “Can’t Stop Singing About Your Love”.  Kudos, Jon & Terrell!!!
  • At South Bend, Pastor Doug reported a great day in every way: worship, volunteers, response to the message, & attendance – says transformation seems to be happening there!
Pastor William says the JOY in Blue Island after the message as they worshiped together was beyond explanation!

Pastor William says the JOY in Blue Island after the message as they worshiped together with tithes & offerings was beyond explanation!

Now it’s time for the couch until I intercede for da Bears in Green Bay tonight-

 

Ask the Pastor

happy

One of my favorite CLC’ers from our praise team writes, “Jesus performed numerous miracles and then told people, either the recipient of the miracle or the disciples, not to tell anyone. Why?”

Great question.  I don’t know the answer.

LOL.

Let me try to guess, since the Bible doesn’t give us a clear answer to that question:

  • One such incident is found in Mark 7:32-36 and verse 36 may give us the reason why Jesus told them not to tell – maybe it was ‘reverse psychology’.  I don’t really think Jesus was manipulating people that way – but whatever the reason, it definitely was the result!
  • In other instances, such as Mark 9:8-10, it seems that it was a ‘timing issue’ – that Jesus knew they wouldn’t fully understand until after His resurrection, so He asked them to keep it quiet until they had understanding of who He was and what He had come to do.
  • Perhaps the most reasonable answer is found in a similar situation in John 6:14-15, where Jesus recognized that the crowd was so enthusiastic about what He had done that they were actually going to try to force Him to be their king.  Of course, He couldn’t allow that, since His mission was not to rule them, but to give His life for them (and us!).  Even at the age of 12 He knew what He had come to do (Luke 2:49)  and He couldn’t allow people to short-circuit that plan.

There may have been other reasons that I haven’t thought of, but that’s the best I can do.  Anyone else have an idea?  Please leave your thoughts below-

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

Did you remember?

POST-IT-REMEMBER_zps26c2ddd3

My Bible reading today was perfunctory.  I hate that.  I hate it when I’m rushed or distracted or for whatever reason I don’t really connect during my devotions and hear from God.

But while I couldn’t tell you much about the usual number of chapters that I read today, one part of one verse did speak to me (the middle part) – Psalm 106:7, which says,

“Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;
They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies,
But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea.

Of all the mistakes the Israelites made in the Old Testament, this was the biggest – because it so often led to other sins.

Trust me, as I grow older I’m starting to believe the old saying about “the first thing to go..”  because I find myself forgetting the simplest things – names of people I’ve known for years, the task I need to take care of, sometimes even why I went into a certain room.

But the one thing I don’t ever want to forget are God’s mercies to me!  I could spend the rest of the day reciting the times in my life where HE was SO much better to me than I deserved – when HE showed mercy to me instead of giving me justice – where HE forgave me in spite of my repeated sins.  Thank God for the multitude of His mercies!!!

How ’bout you?  Did you remember God’s mercies today?

Selah.

Lessons from the IL Governor’s race

quinn_rauner_pic

If you know me at all, you know that I don’t bring politics into CLC’s pulpit.  Personally, I’m of the opinion that NO politician, Democrat, Republican or Independent, is the answer for what our country needs.

But I do see a couple of great lessons for ALL of us in the responses from both Governor Quinn and apparent Governor-Elect Rauner to last night’s election.

As has been reported, despite the fact that several news agencies have ‘called’ the race for Rauner, Governor Quinn still refuses to concede defeat and says he believes that every vote deserves to be counted.  As a Christian, I like that – because in our battle against the enemy, no matter how the circumstances look, I want to maintain an attitude that says,  “it’s not over until it’s over!”  As believers, we are NOT defeated, no matter what the enemy says or does!

And, I also like Mr. Rauner’s response, as several news reports indicate that he simply  ignored his opponent’s refusal to concede, and instead proceeded to thank his followers AND reach out to Democratic leaders in the state in an attitude of cooperation and unity to get things done, rather than an arrogant stance that it would be “his way or the highway”.

So, let’s learn a lesson from both men today – don’t give up no matter what, and move forward with what you know must be done, instead of paying attention to the enemy.

I’d say those are both good lessons in our current series of “Break Every Chain”.  If you’ve missed any of these teachings, I encourage you to listen here, and don’t miss this Sunday when we look at “The First Open Door”.

Every pastor’s nightmare…

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to gain sympathy for pastors.  I understand that every job has its downside, and I’m personally thankful to be in ministry.

Pastoring has always been something of an emotional roller coaster.  More than once I’ve dealt with a funeral, a wedding, a divorce, and a child’s birth in the same week.

This past weekend, after traveling for 32 hours from Cambodia to Chicago, arriving Saturday night, I preached 3 times on Sunday, and honestly, in spite of jet-lag, felt pretty good about the message (meaning, I felt I had connected & communicated what needed to be said on such an important issue).  I was encouraged by comments from CLC’ers on social media afterwards and had high hopes that people were responding online to get the help we offered on Sunday.

The national stats are that, among professing Christians, 64% of men and 15% of women regularly view porn.  Based on that stat and calculating how many CLC’ers heard the message on Sunday, over one-third of our audience, on-averagecould have asked for help.  But when I checked this morning, only six-tenths of one percent (.006) of those in attendance on Sunday at any CLC Chicagoland campus had done so.

Part of me would like to think that means that CLC is almost 50 times better than the national averages – that our men and women are walking in freedom and sexual purity.

But my fear is that the reality is that people just listened to the message, but didn’t take action to get help.

Every pastor’s nightmare is that Ezekiel 33:31-32 is true of their ministry – that people  might enjoy my preaching like a concert from someone with a beautiful voice, or some skilled musician – an entertaining performance on Sunday morning – but not take action.

If that’s not the case, and you sincerely want to break free of porn or other sexual sin, there’s still help available if you sign-up now.

The enemy tries to shame you, but the only shame here is if you refuse to get help.  Please sign up today.

 

Sunday reflections

It was GREAT to be back at CLC today:

"Moving Forward" was a great song for our current series! (and for communion)

“Moving Forward” was a great song for our current series! (and for communion)

  • The message was heavy today, but I had real joy in exposing the enemy’s strategy that I have battled against much of my life!  I’m waiting to see how effective it was by the number of people signing up online to get help starting this week!  It’s not too late for you to sign up here if you want 1-on-1 coaching OR to be part of a recovery group.
Can you believe our annual Christmas Production is just around the corner?  Sure sign: bake sale today!

Can you believe our annual Christmas Production is just around the corner? Sure sign: bake sale today!

  • At our South Bend campus, Pastor Doug welcomed Missionaries Mark & Linda Saunders (from the SB church) and saw a great response to his message on “Becoming Generous Givers”, plus several returning guest prospects!
Pastor Sam reports a good day at NWI, including the addition of 5 new members pictured here!

Pastor Sam reports a good day at NWI, including the addition of 5 new members pictured here!

In Blue Island, Pastor William says there were guest prospects in both services & that several people asked for prayer after the message!

In Blue Island, Pastor William says there were guest prospects in both services & that several people asked for prayer after the message!

  • Finally, at our Davao, Philippines campus, Pastor Herley said that despite a very low attendance resulting from a major Philippine holiday this weekend, 15 precious people came forward to give their life to Christ!
There's really no purpose for this pic, except to say that CLC is home to the CUTEST KIDS on earth!

There’s really no purpose for this pic, except to say that CLC is home to the CUTEST KIDS on earth!

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

exorcism

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

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

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

Cambodia, Day 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cambodia, Day 6

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

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

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

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

Leaders must be good listeners!

Leaders must be good listeners!

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

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

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

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

 

Cambodia, Day 5

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

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

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

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

some of the 25 women who gathered with Chris

some of the 25 women who gathered with Chris

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

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

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

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

 

 

Cambodia, Day 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cambodia prayer request

Actually, probably 2 requests:

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

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

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

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

University students discussing the lesson yesterday

University students discussing the lesson yesterday

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

MoE

Cambodia, Day 3

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

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

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

Leaders don't just put bandaids on problems!

Leaders don’t just put bandaids on problems!

 

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

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

The delegates really came alive during their group discussion times!

The delegates really came alive during their group discussion times!

 

 

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cambodia, Day 2

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

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

Enjoy a few pics of our day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Cambodia, Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burger_King_Whopper_Combo

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

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

After 10 days…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 3:15 still applies.

Selah.

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

Prayer for Cambodia

typical street scene in Phnom Penh

typical street scene in Phnom Penh

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

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

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

prayer for Cambodia trip

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

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

“Breaking Every Chain” PREVIEW

chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

How MATURE are you?

mature audiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

For CLC’ers only

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

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

1.  What does CLC believe about worship?

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

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

Thanks!

Restoration!

TechnologyPartner-Logo-1.1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday reflections

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

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

chains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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