Day 13, 21-days of Fasting & Prayer

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Today’s guest devotional is from Blue Island Campus Pastor, Sol McQuay:

I’m sure you have heard the phrase “new year, new you”. This makes us think about new opportunities, new habits, new circumstances. However more often than not we enter a new year with the same issues we had the previous year. When the clock strikes 12 nothing magically changes and you find yourself in a new year with same the old you. With the same struggles, with the same old habits.  And even tho it sounds quite depressing I want to encourage you to keep going. Don’t give up!

Many of us have stuff we have been battling for a long time, prayers we have prayed so many times we don’t know if we can pray it one more time. We find ourselves tired, and even discouraged.

In the book of Judges chapter 8 we read about Gideon and his 300 men, God had promised them victory over their enemies and they have been fighting numerous battles, but  I want to highlight verse 4 “And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing”. They had victory after victory but they knew that they had to keep fighting even tho their strength was fading because a battle is not won without a fight!

I don’t know what you are fighting today, I don’t know how many times you have prayed the same prayer or how many fights you have fought, but I know God has promised to deliver you, to give you success and to see you overcome, so no matter how exhausted you are, how long this battle seems to be, keep going!! Keep pursuing. Keep believing. Keep praying.  Your victory is coming.

So today I want you to get this phrase in your spirit and declare it as often as you need to. I am exhausted yet pursuing financial freedom. I am exhausted yet pursuing my kids salvation. I’m exhausted yet pursuing a restored marriage.  We won’t allow the enemy to distract us, we won’t allow circumstances to derail us, we won’t allow our strength to dictate the outcome. We will fight because with God on our side there’s nothing we can’t overcome!

Exhausted yet pursuing!!

Let me pray for you.

Dear Jesus, thank you because in you ALL battles are won, because we don’t have to go on our own strength. Thank you because you have already given us victory over our issues, problems, and circumstances. Help us to pursue, to persevere, to keep on going even when we feel like giving up. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Let us know in the comments what are you pursuing tirelessly this 2018, we want to agree in prayer with you.

Day 12, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional from Missions Pastor, Jen McQuay:

Worship. Is it a Sunday morning experience or a lifestyle?

So often worship is reserved for the holy moments … the spiritual parts of our life such as church attendance, devotions, small groups and when we’re listening to worship music.  But lets be honest with ourselves.  In a normal week, how much time would that be spent in Worship? Not very much.  So how is our worship something that is reflected in our lives daily?

The apostle Paul gives us undeniable instructions on how we live a life of worship in Romans 12.  Its a simple word that isn’t always easy.  Surrender.  Complete Surrender.  When we live each day for HIM and not for ourselves our worship is more than a Sunday morning experience.

Romans 12:1 ESV  – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Another verse in ! Corinthians says it this way:  whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Whatever you do —  All that you do— should be giving God glory.

Our lives should be a reflection of HIM……

But how do we do that?

The very next verse that Paul writes tells us….

 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Worship as a lifestyle, affects every part of you. It’s not just a conversation you have, a t-shirt you wear or a conference you attend. It is … you.

You know that you are a lifestyle worshipper when it becomes—second nature. You shouldn’t wake up in the morning and have to decide whether you’ll read your Bible or not.

Seeking God.  Reading His word.  Spending time in His presence.  Asking for advice & wisdom.  They should be a first resort and not a last.

A lifestyle of worship is a life that presents itself as a living sacrifice (surrendered) to Him – always and at all times.

If any of you are like me – it is easy to surrender and run to Jesus when there’s a tragedy  but how do we make it more second nature every single day?

The 2nd verse of Romans 12 just told us what surrender looks like…….

To live a surrendered life, you have to renew your mind.  Because His ways are NOT our ways.  And you renew your mind, by spending time in his word.  The more you know about someone, the more comfortable you are with giving them control.

As you are renewing your mind – its the heart that is most important.  You need to actually  have a revelation of WHO HE IS.  Because you can KNOW all of the right things, and SAY all of the right things but unless you have the WHY its just information or words on a page.

Heres my profound thought for you this morning.

Information informs, but when you have a revelation of who He is it transforms you.  With revelation it causes us to do by default what we may have only done before by instruction. Sometimes in Christianity we fall into a trap of settling for “information” instead of passionately seeking revelation.  We know all about Jesus in our head, but we haven’t experienced him in our hearts.  We find out stuff about Him when we haven’t encountered him personally.

With information we know what to do.  With revelation we know what to do AND we do it. If we are strictly living from information everything that we do for God will be done from a HAVE to RULES mentality.  But with true revelation our obedience and response to His words because a want to – personal desire as an expression of love.

I pray that in this 21 days of prayer and fasting  – that you are being transformed.  That life wouldn’t go back to “normal” on January 29th.

That every moment of every day you would worship & honor God with your life.

I’d love to hear from you how you make worship a lifestyle and not just a sunday morning expression.  And what revelation have you had during this 21 days that is transforming YOU as a result!  Leave your comments below-

Day 11, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional from Hammond Campus Pastor, Sam Hamstra:

“Hello….My Name is El Roi.”
For the past few months I have been studying and learning some of the different names of God.  It has been amazing to see how every different name of God reveals something so awesome about the character of God.
I ran into an interesting name of God in my morning devotion last week while reading about the story of Hagar in Genesis 16.   Genesis 16:13 says,
 So she named the Lord who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,”[f] for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?
El Roi can be translated as the God who see’s.  In order to understand why Hagar calling God El Roi is so powerful, let give you a little context.
I don’t know if you have ever felt in a place like God abandoned you.  Maybe in a place where you feel forgotten?  Maybe in a place where you have been stuck asking the question, “God,where are you in all of this?” In short, you find yourself in a place you didn’t expect to be in.  I know I sure have.
This is how Hagar must have felt as she was running from Sarai in Genesis 16.  You may know the story.  Abram and Sarai are having a hard time getting pregnant, so Sarai tells Abram to go get the servant girl Hagar and have a child with her.  So Abram says, “OK!”  So he calls the servant girl Hagar and within a moment she goes from a servant of Abram to a wife of Abram.  She gets pregnant and Sarai now starts looking at her differently and starts treating Hagar so badly that she runs away.
This is where we find Hagar in Genesis 16.  On the run from Sarai…pregnant….all alone.  She had to have know about God being in Abraham’s home, but I’m not sure if she really knew God quite yet. She must have wondered if God really cared about her situation.   If God really cared about her.  If God really saw her.  And it’s in this place of where we read in Genesis 16:7 CSB.
The angel of the Lord found her by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.
Let me give you some good news & some tough news we learn from the story of Hagar:
The good news is that our God is a seeking God!
She was running and the angel of the Lord found her.  Let us never forget that we serve a God who is a seeking God!  Hagar could try to run from Sarai, but she couldn’t outrun the presence of God.
So that’s the good news.  Now the tough news…
The tough news is that submission comes before God’s blessing.  
In other words obedience comes before blessing. The angel of the Lord shows up and gives Hagar some very interesting instructions.
The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.”
Genesis 16:9-10 CSB
God says go back to Sarai, submit, and then I will bless you.  I read this and was so confused.  Why in the world would God tell Hagar to go back to a place where she was being mistreated and SUBMIT.   Well, maybe just maybe God knew that the direction Hagar was headed in was going to cause her more harm than good.  Maybe he knew that she couldn’t make it through.  Maybe God, the God who see’s, knew that it was better for Hagar to be in a God fearing home rather than to return to her homeland of Egypt where everyone worshipped false Gods.  Maybe God does really know better than we do!
God tells Hagar to go back and submit.  We don’t like that word submission in America.  The idea of purposely giving up control over a situation and give someone authority over my life?!  Yeah right!  A great lesson we learn from Hagar though is this:
“Before you can submit to the people AROUND YOU, you need to submit to what God is doing where He has placed YOU.”
God tells Hagar go back to where you came from.  That He was not finished with what He was doing in you there yet.  What a reminder that the God who made us knows our greatest need in the time of a trial is to learn to submit to His ways.
I found this in a commentary from Steven J. Cole and though it was so good:
“Some people never grow in the Lord because they have a habit of running from difficult situations where He has put them for their training. They had problems with their parents as teenagers, so they rebelled. They get a job and have problems, so they quit. They get married and have conflict, so they walk away from it. They seek counseling, but they don’t like what the counselor tells them, so they either quit or else look for a counselor who agrees with them. They join a church, but can’t get along with the people or don’t like something, so they find another church. But guess what? They discover that the new church has the same problems.”
One of the toughest realities I have learned over the past five years is that if God wanted you to be somewhere else you would be.  If He wanted you to be done with a situation you would be done with it.  I mean, think about it, He’s the same God who shut the mouths of the lions in the lions den.  Don’t you think He can pull you out of a situation if He wanted to?  I’m not saying that God causes everything, but nothing happens that catches Him off guard or that is out of His eyesight.  After all, He is the God who See’s & the God who see’s all is the God who See’s you!
It was after Hagar submitted to God’s plan that she declared
“So she named the Lord who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,”[f] for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?”
Genesis 16:13 CSB
It’s often in our greatest trials when we finally learn to submit to God’s greater plan that He will in turn reveal to us a little more about the greatness of Who He really is.
What is God calling you to submit to today?  What area of your life have you been trying to run from?  What have you been trying to control?  Will you submit to His purpose today?

Day 10 – 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional from Pastor Moy Mendez:

Title: Who told you?

Verse: Genesis 3:11 “”Who told you that you were naked?” the LORD God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

Thesis: Adam and Eve were used to walking with God in the morning and hearing His voice. Once they sinned, a new reality materialized. The voice that once brought them comfort, confidence and congruence was replaced by with half-truths, which led to shame and guilt.

Devotion: I once read a quote on a t-shirt that said, “What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail” It really set me back to think long and hard, especially as I began to dream of the MANY things I would do including: traveling with my family to every continent in the world, speaking Chinese, Russian and Arabic, playing my violin with the worship team on Sundays, creating non-profit business in Chicago that would develop entrepreneurs in the marginal parts of the city.

The possibilities seemed grand until one word creeped into the stratosphere of my consciousness. That word was NO. Once word collapsed the lofty idea of exploring the world and my potential. The bigger question is; where did the word come from? Who told me? Better yet, who is telling you that fulfilling your dreams is impossible? We do not have to start with dreams, let us start with basic goals most Christians desire, such as; spiritual maturity, deep character, financial freedom, weight loss, healthy relationships, breaking bad habits, etc. Who is telling you NO? Who told you?

By no means am I saying that your entire dreams will come true in 2018. I understand that there may be practical areas we need start with before launching our full potential. My objective is to help you think about the origin of your negative voices and to guide you to what God is saying. The negative words your hearing might not even be coming from Satan, but possibly a past failure or someone who spoke negatively. We might just be in dire need of habit formation. All these are valid, but are you aware of who is at the helm of the voices you chose to accept? Are you allowing God to speak into your life on a daily basis?

Conclusion: 2018 will be a year I will chose to allow God’s word to shape my life. I might not travel around the world with my family or speak many languages, but I do know one thing – If I knew I could attempt to do anything and not fail, I would live by God’s word because He never fails!

Day 9 – 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional from Pastor Micah Remington:

In a nutshell
Become so close to God that you can recognize the sound he makes, the voice he has.
  • MeSounds I recognize
    •  What sounds do you recognize that you associate with certain people, places or things? When I was a kid, I could always recognize sound of my mother’s voice, even from far away in a store. When she both was calling me to dinner AND when I was in trouble! Especially when I was in trouble!
  • WeSounds we all can recognize
    • we all have the ability to associate sounds with specific things. Doorbells, ringtones, dogs barking are just examples.
  • God- Genisis 3:8- Intimacy knows the SOUND
    • Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
  • YouMy hope for you
    • This year my hope for us is that we would become so intimate with God that we would recognize the voice, the sound of God has when he is moving. That we would know the voice of the Lord when he wants us pray for someone, to reach out and love on others, to even step out and do miracles.
    • John 10:27-28King James Version (KJV)-27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me

    • The bible says that we can not only hear his voice, but that he KNOWS when we hear him and then we are to FOLLOW him
      • When you hear his voice, he is not just loving, but instructional. He wants to lead us to green pastures, through deserts and promised lands and to people who need him
  • We- How
    • During this remainder of these 21 days of fasting and prayer, here are some important things to remember!
      • LISTEN-Don’t just fast, but LISTEN. Listen for the sound of the voice of God
      • ASK-Don’t just listen but ASK for God to speak to you in a greater way!
      • FOLLOW-Then be ready to FOLLOW what he is saying to you. Whether it be as simple as praying for someone, going on a mission’s trip or just knowing the the loves you
      • What would our lives look life if we could recognize the sound of the Holy Spirit when he moves in such an intimate way that we moved when he moved? It is possible!

Weekend reflections (the day after)

I left my house about 5:20 Sunday morning and didn’t get back until about 8pm, so I was too wiped out to post last night (it was a good tired!)  Here’s why:

I think this pic captures the essence of this weekend - His PRESENCE was strong at each campus & each service!

I think this pic captures the essence of this weekend – His PRESENCE was strong at each campus & each service!

Saturday night we commissioned Len & JoMarie Cooper as Elders (recognizing the role they've already fulfilled for the past few years)

Saturday night we commissioned Len & JoMarie Cooper as Elders (recognizing the role they’ve already fulfilled for the past few years)

We ordained 6 CLC pastors, with the help of all our pastors as well as Pastor Gordon Banks, Prophet Gary Heyes and Pastors Dan & Pat Johnson and Josh & Heather Moran.  What a special time - pouring the anointing oil, reading Scriptural charges, laying on hands in prayer & hearing prophetic words!

We also ordained 6 CLC pastors on Saturday evening, with the help of all our pastors as well as Pastor Gordon Banks, Prophet Gary Heyes and Pastors Dan & Pat Johnson and Josh & Heather Moran. What a special time – pouring the anointing oil, reading Scriptural charges, laying on hands in prayer & hearing prophetic words!

My favorite pic of the weekend - as we presented Certificates of Ordination, I had an "oops" moment & referred to Jen as "Worship Pastor" instead of "Missions Pastor" (don't worry, Jon's job is safe!)

My favorite pic of the weekend – as we presented Certificates of Ordination, I had an “oops” moment & referred to Jen as “Worship Pastor” instead of “Missions Pastor” (don’t worry, Jon’s job is safe!)

How to describe the ministry of Gary Heyes?  He served all 3 campuses this weekend and blessed so many CLC'ers with a word from the Lord.  He even ministered to a first-time guest who was blown away by God's love!

How to describe the ministry of Gary Heyes? He served all 3 campuses this weekend and blessed so many CLC’ers with a word from the Lord. He even ministered to a first-time guest who was blown away by God’s love!

These fine folks became MEMBERS at CLC-Hammond through our Growth Track Class!

These fine folks became MEMBERS at CLC-Hammond through our Growth Track Class!

Pastor Sam led prayers for our new Student Directors at Hammond, Christian & Cassandra Washington!

Pastor Sam led prayers for our new Student Directors at Hammond, Christian & Cassandra Washington!

My wife ministered in Hammond yesterday & Pastor Sam said her illustrations connected great!

My wife ministered in Hammond yesterday that she was finished with ‘YESTERDAY” and Pastor Sam said her illustrations connected great!

Brent's illustrations aren't as elaborate as his mom's, but he still connects!

Brent’s illustrations aren’t as elaborate as his mom’s, but he still connects!

Seems like I say it every week, but the CUTEST KIDS in the world are from KidsLife at CLC!

Seems like I say it every week, but the CUTEST KIDS in the world are from KidsLife at CLC!

Day 8 – 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional from Pastor Brent McQuay:

Today as we enter week number 2 of our 21 days of prayer and fasting we are also celebrating the life of an incredible man, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.   While the sad reality of life in this country is that we still haven’t fully achieved his dream, we have made large strides towards reconciliation and I love being a part of a multicultural church that strives to bring people together regardless of skin color to worship God.  While Reverend King’s statement that “the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning” may still be true in a lot of places, it isn’t true at CLC.

But this morning I don’t want to encourage you with Reverend King’s statements on race relations, it’s actually his wisdom when it comes to faith that I want to leave you with.

King once said that “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Today as you begin this second week of prayer and fasting I want to encourage you to step out in faith today.  Pray with a stranger, share the gospel with a neighbor, invite a coworker to church with you.  Whatever you have been holding back from God, whatever fear has been keeping you from stepping out in faith take the first step today.  You don’t have to have a plan for steps 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, just start with that first step and trust that God, the architect of it all, has a beautiful staircase for you to walk up.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ERV)

5 Trust the Lord completely, and don’t depend on your own knowledge. 6 With every step you take, think about what he wants, and he will help you go the right way.

Every step you take in faith trust the lord completely.  Let go of the worries and the fears and keep moving forward.

I’ll leave you with one last quote from Reverend King

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

No matter how you feel in this fast, maybe you quit somewhere during that first week, today is a new day and a new opportunity for you to jump back in, to keep moving forward, to keep taking that next step in faith trusting that at the end of these 21 days you will be closer to God than at the start.  Maybe you can’t fly, maybe you can’t run, but you can keep putting one foot in front of the other taking one step of faith at a time.  Whatever you do don’t stop, keep moving forward

Love you guys, happy fasting, we will be back tomorrow at 6am for more but in the mean time why don’t you let us know your favorite Reverend King quote or what this day means to you below.

Day 7 – 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer

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This is a guest post from our Hammond Campus Pastor Taylor Hamstra:

Shameless Persistence

Scripture 

Luke 11: 5-10

5 Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.[a]

9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Devotion

Have you ever felt like God wasn’t hearing your prayers?  Have you ever felt like God was just annoyed by your persistence in that same prayer request?  I know I sure have.  I think we all get to the place in our prayer lives where we ask the question of, “God are you hearing me?”  Or, “God, why is this taking so long?!”

In Luke 11 the Bible clearly tells us to keep knocking, to keep asking and the door will be open to you.  One of the biggest prayers I prayed took many years for God to answer, but it was through the of me asking and praying that He taught me how to not only pray without ceasing, but to understand that He is a good father and in His time He will give us the desires of our hearts.

My parents fell into a trap and became alcoholics in my teenage years of life.  It wasn’t always the easiest journey as there where lots of ups and downs.  At the time I didn’t understand who God really was so I became angry and I didn’t always direct my attention in a positive way.  It wasn’t until I began my journey with the Lord.  I was 24 years old when I gave my life to christ and the more I grew the more I could intercede on behalf of my parents.  I prayed shameless persistence prayers for them, invited them to church and had many talks about who God was.  Although it took time for the Lord to answer my prayers I never stopped or gave up on the fact that one day my parents would become sober.  You see in the waiting God is teaching us and molding us into the people He wants us to be.  What if I would have stopped praying?  What if I would have just given up on my parents?  I could never imagine and I could not sit here an joyful and gratefully tell you today that this year my parents will be sober for 7 years.

Today I just want to encourage you to never stop asking.  The Lord hears you heart, and sees your tears.  Nothing goes unnoticed by our daddy and if we just go to him with constant, shameless persistence (without embarrassment) He will give you the desires of your heart.

Prayer

Father, today we come boldly before you with no shame and ask you to hear our request.  We know that you are a good Father who not only sees us but hears us.  Today Lord we commit to shameless persistent prayers.  We know Lord that praying without ceasing will shift things and break down strongholds.  Thank you for hearing us and answering our prayers in your perfect timing.  We love you.  In Jesus name, Amen!

Day 6 – 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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Today’s post is from Tinley Park Campus Pastor Rachel Jones:

Good morning CLC family! What a great day to reflect on these words, as we assemble together at our campuses.
One of my favorite songs growing up in church has always been “All to Jesus, I surrender ALL to Him I freely give…I surrender ALL…” Funny thing is every time I have said this phrase, I always had something to surrender. You would think a song I have been singing since I was a child, and actively surrendering, that at some point there would be nothing left to surrender. Thank God that is not the case, if it were, I don’t believe any of us would understand our desperate need for God.
I’ve learned that surrendering to the Lord is not a one time deal; however, daily I must surrender. It is a necessary act for any believer. I could probably write a whole book about surrender, but todayI want to focus on one word and that is ALL. When we sing this song, I would gather that majority of the time we are just singing and have no idea what we are actually committing to the Lord. I remember a time in my life where I was in such a desperate place, a really dry wilderness season. It. Was. Dry. I could not hear God, see Him, feel Him and I was getting really desperate. Once you have been living in the presence of the Lord, gotten to know His voice, sense His love, peace and joy all around you, you don’t ever want to let go of that.
What began to lead me into this season was my self, I began to do what I wanted without God’s consent, and little by little my surrender became less and less. To my knowledge I was still surrendered, just dabbling in my own interests. I had gotten to this breaking point, where I couldn’t fake it, and it was time for a discussion with my Creator. “God, why can’t I feel you near me? Why can’t I hear your voice? Where is my once tender heart? Where are you?” It was in that moment, the Holy Spirit showed me what He was after; what He required of me. It was my surrender. This time was different from any other time, where I willingly surrendered my life to God. This time He asked me for my surrender, and not just in words, but it was specific to every detail of my life. He showed me pictures of people in my life, things, places, dreams, thoughts, ideas, how I lived my life and more. He said, I want it ALL!” God required me to surrender specific areas, areas that I never thought to give up, EVERY person in my life; I had to give up everything to Him. I had to trust Him with my WHOLE life.
This is where I began to understand that my reasonable service and greatest act of worship was to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable. Romans 12:1. Surrendering ALL to the Father has been the best decision I ever made. It is from that point that my life has been walked out according to His plan and it has been the greatest adventure I could ever experience. Two of my greatest examples of this surrender are Mary the mother of Jesus and Jesus himself. Mary just a teenager, not knowing how she would handle being pregnant with the Son of God; would she have morning sickness, back pain; the ridicule and doubt of others, not having any idea, responded, “be it unto me as you would have it.” Some of my favorite words in the Bible. Then Jesus, the Son of God born to die, struggled  with the reality of His soon coming death, responds “…not my will but Yours be done…” Everyday we have the opportunity as the creation to trust the Creator with His plan for our lives. It is everyday we must surrender to live the BEST life. Have you surrendered all to the Lord? Have you taken a moment to realize what ALL really looks like? Lets pray.
Father thank you for sending your son to surrender His life, to suffer greatly, die and be raised again, so that we would have life! I ask that you help me today to surrender all of my life to you; the people, my plans, my thoughts, my attitude, and with every decision I make, help me to surrender it to you first. Thank you for your amazing love. I surrender ALL today! In Jesus name, Amen.

day 5, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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Today’s post is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional by Pastor Jon Jones:

I’m excited about this season of Fasting & Prayer!  I’m also excited about, in conjunction with the prayer & fasting time, that we are in the series “It is Finished!” We are coming from the standpoint of, because of the fact of what Christ Jesus did for us, that there are things we need to be finished with!

I want to mention some critical things we need to be FINISHED with… and if we would be finished with them it’ll cause us to live in a new level of peace, joy & effectiveness!

1.) Be Finished with doubting God’s love!  Why is that so important! When we resolve in our minds and hearts that God loves us with an unconditional, life giving, everlasting love it gives us such confidence in Him!  When Adam sat and watched the enemy trick Eve, he, in that moment, felt it best to follow Eve rather than follow God… that following Eve would be better than following an ALL KNOWING, ALL CARING, ALL LOVING GOD! Eve would have never considered what the serpent said if she really believed God loved her! When we doubt His love, we start to doubt His intentions, His honesty; His faithfulness!

2.) Be finished with doubting His FAITHFULNESS! When trying circumstances come, and they will come, already have it resolved that God loves you, that He’s a Good Father, & that He’s causing all things to work together for your good! He’s the God that will NEVER leave nor forsake you! He’s the God that will not withhold any good thing from you!

We have an enemy that hates us…. Yes…. But please know that his hatred of us stems from his hatred of God! He rebelled against God in heaven.  Now, on this earth, his fight is against God. John 1:1 say “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, & the Word was God.” The Word of God is Jesus! Our enemy is on an all out attack on the Word/Jesus!  Notice that at the time of the 1st sin, the fall of mankind, the enemy attacked what God said!  “Did God really say that?….. “That’s not the truth.”  In our lives he does the same thing…. He may not use the same words, but at the end of the day he’s saying, “Did God really say that? Does He really not want you to worry… hold a grudge (you deserve to be angry…. God is a liar)…. Does He really want you to love people like you love yourself? (that takes too much work…. God had to be kidding or lying)….”

God is faithful!  To you and His WORD!!!! He cannot lie! When the Word became flesh in Jesus, the enemy attacked Him/Word, even to the point of trying to use the Word against the Word! He quoted scripture out of context to get Jesus to commit suicide! Our enemy is a liar and a manipulator….

Jesus, the Word, used the Word to defeat the enemy! We MUST do the same!  But we must RESOLVE today that God’s love surpasses all our understanding; that it is everlasting!  Be Finished with doubting His faithfulness! Walk in peace & joy in the Holy Ghost and carry that peace & joy EVERYWHERE you go! Be FINISHED with being tricked to keep your mind concerned about yourself instead of keeping it on Him & on the people whom he died for!

 

Day 4, 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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(This is a guest post from Pastor Torey Goodson, and is the text of her Facebook Live devotional today)

God has been speaking to me about Prayer. In years past I’ve prayed a lot, but as I look back my prayers were more about asking God for something or to do something and more intercessory and militant. Recently I feel God has been showing me that while all of that is good and right during the course of our day, the true intent of our quiet time with Him is for relationship. It’s for intimacy with our God.

Just like in a marriage you have times when you see each other coming and going from work and busy life schedules and you chat about the necessary things, who’s picking up the kids from practice, did you get my dry cleaning, what time will you be home, etc. Then there are times when it’s more intentional like after dinner on the couch discussing bigger matters. But then as a married couple there are the intimate times that are very necessary. Times when you shut everything else out, and go behind closed doors to be together in a very personal intimate way.

Intimacy in prayer is when we expose ourselves and our hearts to God. It’s when we get close to Him,, bringing ourselves to Him, baring our very souls. We share our deepest love and desires with Him. We tell Him how we feel and we worship Him for who He is to us. But mostly we listen for His desires for us, lean in to hear His heart.

I’ve often read the bible through in a year or done some other bible reading program. Those are great programs to do.  We need to read the Word. But sometimes we need to study the Word.  Take a topic, a character, a chapter or verse and study it to learn. But then there are times to let God’s Spirit lead you in what you should read. Maybe that’s just the New Testament that year or just one book of the bible.

Lately I’ve been taking one or two scriptures and reading them over and over, asking the Holy Spirit to teach me what they mean. I look up words in the scripture and relate the definitions to the scripture to enhance it’s meaning for me. I simply let His spirit lead me and speak to me. I then journal this and write out my prayers.

I’ve been learning to just sit and soak in His love, listen to a worship song and repeat the lyrics to Him, and to just express my love for who He is and what He has done or is to me in a situation. It’s simply relationship, talking and listening, just being with Him.

Our minds tell us that is too simple or we aren’t accomplishing enough…the point of relationship isn’t to accomplish a certain amount of things. It’s to KNOW one another, to give of myself and to take in what I need from Him. It’s not a formula. Although when you are starting out learning to be dedicated to prayer and bible study you must be committed to a routine to establish a new habit. Then you can be free to let Him lead your time with Him.

He loves us, guys!!! He just wants you! Take the necessary steps to learn to just be with Him and commune with His heart. You will never regret the effort it takes.

Prophetic ministry weekend!

Prophet Gary Heyes

Prophet Gary Heyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our 21-days of Prayer & Fasting is already underway, preparing our hearts for a great prophetic weekend this Friday-Sunday!

Our guest, Gary Heyes, has been ministering in the prophetic for over 30 years and currently spends much of the year serving some of the largest ministries in Asia and the Pacific.

He’ll be ministering at our Hammond campus this Friday, Jan. 12 at 7pm.

On Saturday he’ll minister at a special ordination service in Tinley Park at 5pm.  (We will ordain Pastors Dan & Torey Goodson and Pastors Moy & Eva Mendez, along with our Blue Island Worship Director, Alan & Terrilyn Franklin, our Tinley Park KidsLife Director Stacy Hunter and our Missions Director,Jen McQuay.)

Sunday morning Gary will minister at all 3 services in Tinley Park (8:30 & 10am, 12pm).

Sunday afternoon he will minister at our Blue Island campus at 5pm.

Let’s come expecting to receive from the Lord!

Day 3, 21 days of Fasting & Prayer

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(This is a guest post by Pastor Dan Goodson, and is the text of his Facebook Live today)

So many of us go into a new year with great intention of changing past situations, habits, with resolutions, etc.

As I reflect on 2017, I see some wildernesses and wastelands that I am ready to leave behind. How many of you can say amen to that? It’s not to say there were no good things that happened in 2017: God brought Torey and me to CLC; we have three incredible sons; five awesome grandchildren; and a beautiful home.  However, there are things from 2017 we want to leave behind.

As I was praying about 2018, I was drawn to Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

That verse is something I shared with the staff at our chapel last week and I really sense it’s a verse for many of us. Here in 2018 God is going to do a new thing in our church, our staff and in each of us as individuals.

I believe there are a lot of us who have been in the wilderness or the desert and God is ready and willing to bring us out of the wilderness or bring springs of life into the wasteland. Through these 21 days of prayer and fasting, I am standing on this verse in some very specific areas.

I want to encourage any of you who have some areas in your life, whether health, finances, relationships, etc, that during these 21 days you would ask God, what are those areas and believe His word that He will do a new thing in those situations and bring you out of that wilderness and into the light or bring streams of Hope in the wasteland you have been going through.

In Romans 5 1-5, it says this:

  1. Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace[a]with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

No matter what the situation or situations you are going through I believe is 2018 is a year of “New Things”

Are you ready for a change to the circumstances in your life? Well, let’s keep pressing into what God has for us in 2018!

Day 2, 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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(This is a guest post by my wife, who did the Facebook Live devotional on day 2 of our fast.)

Sunday was just one of those mornings for me.  Even though I was up by 5:30, I was still struggling to get out the door in time for the first service.  I was whining to God about it all, complaining about this and that, when I looked up and saw the time.  My prayers turned to “Oh God, oh God, oh God, I’m such a mess.  I can’t get it together.” I went on this vein for a bit until I think God had enough.  He quite forcibly reminded me about our sermon series, “It is finished.”  Then He asked me, “What are you finished with?”  Tentatively I responded in the form of a question, “I’m finished with ineffectual praying?”  I sensed His nod of approval.  So I sucked it up, finished getting ready, was at church on time and was present for the amazing move of God in the third service.

We are just at the beginning of our 21 days of prayer and fasting, and I want to make sure that my prayers are effective. The last part of James 5:16 tells us that, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  NKJV  In other words, has great power and produces wonderful results.  I’m sure that you want that for your prayers as well.

I can tell you right off what doesn’t help your prayers be powerful and produce great results…that’s whining, pleading and complaining to God.  When I checked it out scripture I found that:

Doubt and unbelief  (James 1:6-7)

Selfish prayers  (James 4:3)

Unforgiveness (Mark 11:25)

Living in disobedience to what pleases God  (1 John 3:22)

Living in disharmony with others  (1 Peter 3:7, Matt 5:23-24)

Impatience (Matt 7:7-8)

All causes our prayers to be ineffective as well.  I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  I’m just giving you a friendly reminder because life has a way of causing us to forget. For prayers to have great power and produce wonderful results they need to be:

  • Passionate, fervent, regarding something that you are really concerned about. It can’t be just pulling out a list and going through the motions.
  • 1 John 5:14, tells us that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us…so pray the will of God. Remember we’re just clay.  We don’t tell the potter what to do.  We come into agreement with what He wants.  We become His partners in prayer. One of the best ways to pray God’s will is to pray His Word.

And remember it really is all about God.  Prayer is effective not because great people pray, or that we pray great prayers but because we pray to a great God.  Find a place of intimacy with God.  There in His arms you will have confidence that God is listening, that He hears and answers.  Now that’s effective praying.

Day 1, 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting

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(This is the text of our Facebook Live devotional for day 1)

Zech. 10:1 NKJV

Timing is everything.  Farmers know that.  If they don’t plant at the right time, they won’t have a harvest.  Baseball players know that.  If they don’t swing the bat at the right time, what could have been an extra-base hit becomes an easy out.  The right action at the wrong time never yields the results we want.  Timing is everything.

That’s what’s so encouraging about Zechariah 10:1, when the prophet tells us to “Ask the Lord for rain In the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, Grass in the field for everyone.”

In other words, Zechariah says we should ask the Lord for rain at the right time, when the Lord is willing to provide that rain to help produce and insure the harvest we all want.

That’s GOOD NEWS!  Are you praying today for people you love who do not yet know Jesus? This is the time that the Lord is willing to answer those prayers, for 2Peter 3:9 tells us that the Lord is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Are you praying today for a physical healing for yourself or for someone you know? This is the right time for those prayers, because in Exodus 15:26 the Lord declares, “I am the Lord who heals you!”  Notice, He didn’t say, “I was the God who used to heal people” or “Someday I will be the God who heals people”, but “I am the Lord who heals!”.  In fact, the KJV that I grew up with says, “I am the Lord who healeth thee” and while we don’t use that little ‘eth’ ending any more, it’s not just outdated English; that ‘eth’ at the end means this is a continuing action; i.e., He is the Lord who continues to heal people, now and forever more!  And while we’re there, don’t overlook the fact that He said He is the Lord who heals you!  This is a personal promise that you can claim today – so if you’re praying for healing, you’re praying at the right time!

Maybe you’re praying for wisdom today, because you’re facing some difficult decisions in this New Year.  Can I encourage you that you are praying this prayer at just the right time?  Because James 1:5 says “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”  James went on to say that we should pray that prayer in faith, not doubting.  You can expect God to answer that prayer, because this is the time that He loves to give wisdom and direction to His children – and because you are His sheep, you can and do hear His voice!  That’s what John 10:27 says – “My sheep hear my voice”.  In the past, when I was facing difficult decisions as a pastor, I would sometimes whine that I just wasn’t hearing God’s voice and didn’t know what to do, until one day a precious saint kindly corrected me and said, “Pastor, don’t say that – Jesus said His sheep hear His voice” – and I’ve been confessing that truth ever since!

Whatever it is that you are calling on the Lord to do today, just know that this IS the season that He is hearing and answering prayer.  Let’s call on Him with confidence!

Sunday reflections

What better way to begin 2018 than with WORSHIP?

What better way to begin 2018 than with WORSHIP?

Pastor Brent brought the Word, "I am Finished with Undisciplined Living"

Pastor Brent brought the Word, “I am Finished with Undisciplined Living”

Every preacher's dream: to have that kind of attention from the congregation as you preach!

Every preacher’s dream: to have that kind of attention from the congregation as you preach!

Our Hammond campus started the year with a strong attendance (over 400) along with 6 salvation decisions & 5 new members in Growth Track!

Our Hammond campus started the year with a strong attendance (over 400) along with 6 salvation decisions & 5 new members in Growth Track!

Pastor Sam said worship was SWEET in Hammond today-

Pastor Sam said worship was SWEET in Hammond today-

Our Hammond campus has big expectations for our 21-days of Prayer & Fasting!

Our Hammond campus has big expectations for our 21-days of Prayer & Fasting!

Meanwhile, at the Tinley Park campus we closed the first 2 services with circles of prayer for the upcoming Daniel Fast.

Meanwhile, at the Tinley Park campus we closed the first 2 services with circles of prayer for the upcoming Daniel Fast.

Registration has begun for the XO Marriage Conference on Feb. 10 - you can sign up at www.clc.tv/xo

Registration has begun for the XO Marriage Conference on Feb. 10 – you can sign up at www.clc.tv/xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There really are no words to describe the noon service, as we literally couldn’t stop the flow of worship and for only the first or second time in 28 years at CLC, I was unable to preach because the Presence of God SO filled the house….people were laid out on the floor, weeping, standing in the aisles, praising, receiving prayer….just indescribable.

When things finally settled down, I invited people to the platform if they knew God had done something in or for them during that worship breakthrough:

Lauren Mahwikizi testified of things "coming off her" as she was set free during worship!

Lauren Mahwikizi testified of things “coming off her” as she was set free during worship!

This sweet first-time guest tearfully told us how she had been suicidal, angry with God after her grandfather's recent death, but during the service all of that was washed away and she received comfort from the Lord.

This sweet first-time guest tearfully told us how she had been suicidal, angry with God after her grandfather’s recent death, but during the service all of that was washed away and she received comfort from the Lord.

Cynthia Coburn received a healing of her spine while we worshipped the Lord!

Cynthia Coburn received a healing of her spine while we worshipped the Lord!

Kara May told us how she had slipped & fallen on the ice this week and WAS in much pain....but not after today's breakthrough!

Kara May told us how she had slipped & fallen on the ice this week and showed us how she couldn’t move without pain….until today’s praise breakthrough!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this was what happened the day before the fast, just IMAGINE what we’re about to experience these next 21 days!

 

Why I fast (and you should, too) – part 3

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Here’s my final installment on what I’m fasting for the next 3 weeks, and why I encourage you to join me-

3. Fasting is a great way to grow in self-discipline!

Today at CLC I shared how important it is that we be a disciplined people.  Craig Groeschel may have said it best when he said, “discipline is choosing what you want most OVER what you want now!”  SELAH.

It’s also true that discipline comes from the same root as ‘disciple’ and that one of the fruit of the Spirit is ‘self-control’ – and yet, many of us have become spiritually flabby, simply because we haven’t trained our body to yield to our spirit.

That’s why I said today that we should occasionally deny ourselves things that are all right, just for the purpose of mastering ourselves!  And here’s the unexpected benefit of fasting – when we can exercise our will to tell our body what and when we’ll eat, we soon are able to discipline ourselves in other needed areas as well!

I’ve known of people who wanted to quit smoking, but were unable to do so – until they fasted for a few days – then the nicotine habit was broken!  Maybe your lack of self-discipline shows up in your finances or the clutter in your room or automobile – it’s quite possible that after you discipline your body through fasting, that you’ll now be able to be disciplined in those other areas as well.  After all, it’s the same principle: choosing what you want most OVER what you want now!

I’m honestly excited about these next 21 days.  I’m expecting to hear more clearly what the Lord will speak to me.  I’m believing for some prayers that we’ve prayed to be answered as a result of our corporate fasting.  In fact, I’m looking for miracles to happen as we seek Him together!

Don’t forget to text the word “PRAYS” to 555-888 in order to get our daily reminders,

CLC, let’s do this!

Why I fast (and why you should, too) – part 2

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If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, you can start there.

Here’s the second reason I’ll be fasting for the next 3 weeks & encourage you to do so, too:

2. Fasting adds urgency and passion to my prayers!

Once when Jesus finished praying, His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. (read about it in Luke 11:1-8)  Please note that after He gave them a model for prayer (the one we call “The Lord’s prayer”, which really wasn’t intended to merely be repeated, but rather to use as a pattern for our prayers – but that’s another subject) – Jesus then illustrated an important key to prayer that He called “shameless persistence” or “importunity”.

He told a similar story in Luke 18 to illustrate the same point.  Please understand: it’s NOT that God doesn’t care about our prayers; it’s that sometimes we don’t!  We pray for things, then forget all about it.  We so often lack persistence when it comes to seeking the Lord.

That’s where fasting comes in – when we are earnest enough about what we want God to do that we exercise our will-power and (in affect) say, “Lord, I want you to do this for me more than I want a juicy steak or a piece of chocolate cake or whatever food you really enjoy – we just added a measure of passion and urgency to our prayer that wasn’t there before.

Let me encourage you, as you join us on a Daniel fast (think: “no meats, no sweets”) from January 8-28 to be sure you include plenty of time for prayer – because that’s one of the best reasons for us to fast!

Check back tomorrow for reason #3 – I think it may surprise you!

 

Why I fast (and you should, too)

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No new questions were submitted this week, so I want to answer a timely one of my own:   WHY are we doing a 21-day Daniel Fast?  What’s the purpose or benefit of fasting? 

The disciples of John the Baptist asked a similar question of Jesus (Matt. 9:14-15) and He plainly said that his disciples would fast after He departed – but WHY?

I’m not addressing the physical benefits of fasting, because they’re well-known and easily found by asking Mr. Google.

I’m going to focus on 3 spiritual benefits, which I’ll address for the next 3 days:

1. Fasting is one way that I can humble myself before God!

There are numerous Biblical passages that indicate a connection between food and pride:

  • Deut. 8:12-14 warns us that when we eat and are full, we can easily forget God
  • In Ezekiel 16:49, God listed the root causes of Sodom’s sin, and He didn’t mention her immorality at all – He said she had too much to eat and too much time on her hands!
  • When wicked king Ahab fasted in 1Kings 21:27-29, God said “he humbled himself”
  • King David said in Psalm 35:13 that he humbled himself with fasting
  • Ezra proclaimed a fast for the people of Israel in Ezra 8:21, 23 that they might humble themselves before God!

You probably know the promise in 2Chronicles 7:14 that if we as God’s people will humble ourselves, He will hear our prayer, forgive our sin and heal our land.  Surely our country needs our prayers and the kind of national healing that only God can bring – and the starting place for that to happen is for us to humble ourselves before Him!

I’ll give you 2 more reasons this weekend, but the fact that doing without food that we enjoy is a Biblical way that we can humble ourselves is reason enough for me to recommend to us all – let’s set aside January 8-28 as a time for fasting and prayer!

Check back tomorrow for reason #2-

 

 

Sunday reflections – closing out 2017!

Honestly, today’s NY Eve celebrations were as wonderful as any I ever recall!  Here’s a quick pictorial recap:

Kara May's expression sums up our NY Eve celebrations - so much FUN!

Kara May’s expression sums up our NY Eve celebrations – so much FUN!

I wish EVERYONE could hear the 6 testimonies we heard today - special thanks to Erin Slone, James Ineh, Paul Velez, Paula Hopkins, John Jansto & Sean Smith!!!

I wish EVERYONE could hear the 6 testimonies we heard today – special thanks to Erin Slone, James Ineh, Paul Velez, Paula Hopkins, John Jansto (left) & Sean Smith (center)!!!

EVERYBODY did get a chance to 'testify' of what God did in 2017!

EVERYBODY did get a chance to ‘testify’ of what God did in 2017!

 

 

This man brought the house down when he sang, "Worthy"!  (Thanks, Tony Powell!)

This man brought the house down when he sang, “Worthy”! (Thanks, Tony Powell!)

Seeing people come forward for prayer & personal ministry in each service never gets old!

Seeing people come forward for prayer & personal ministry in each service never gets old!

Pastor Sam says our Hammond campus had just as much fun today!

Pastor Sam says our Hammond campus had just as much fun today!

"Mama" Drusie Neal led them in prayer to close out 2017.

“Mama” Drusie Neal led them in prayer to close out 2017.

Pastor Sam

Pastor Sam brought a great close to a very fruitful year in Hammond!

If Liane Williams is any indicator, I'd say Blue Island had a great time in worship, too!

If Liane Williams is any indicator, I’d say Blue Island had a great time in worship, too!

For sure, the Prayer banners for specific requests were a hit at each campus-

For sure, the Prayer banners for specific requests were a hit at each campus-

and KidsLife is always fun, not just on New Year's Eve!

and KidsLife is always fun, not just on New Year’s Eve! (Kudos, Mr. Harry & Ms. Crystal!)

Pastor Brent encouraged our Blue Island campus to go "all in" in 2018!

Pastor Brent encouraged our Blue Island campus to go “all in” in 2018!

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

  • Share your reasons & thinking with the leaders.  I did this, kinda.  By that I mean I did share my thoughts and heart with some other ministers prior to leaving, including some in positions of authority.  But I did not seek out the specific leaders in authority over me, because my issue was doctrinal and I had no expectation of changing the entire denomination’s stance on those issues.  I guess I felt that if I couldn’t support the denomination’s teaching, I should just leave.  So I did.
  • Resolve any outstanding conflicts.  I guess I could say I did this, because I honestly had no conflicts with the denomination or it’s officials on a personal level.  There really was nothing for me to forgive, because I wasn’t offended.
  • Express appreciation for the church’s ministry in your life.  Yes, I did this, both to various ministers that I knew then, and at times, even to this day.  (I will admit that I probably should do this more, for in spite of what I perceive as legalisms and Biblical errors that I no longer support, I am very grateful for what my faith family deposited in my life that helped shape me into the man I am today)
  • Say “goodbye” to friends & family.  I did not really do this, and if I have any regrets for how I left my denomination, this would be it.  At the time, I didn’t want to influence anyone else or try to persuade them to leave with me, since my decision to leave was based on the fact that I could no longer uphold the established teachings of the denomination, so rather than hurt or influence friends, I just chose to leave. Looking back now, I’d say my motives were right but probably my actions were not, since my failure to communicate no doubt caused some confusion among my friends.
  • Be Honest with Yourself about Your Own Efforts, Motives & Failings.  This I did, because the main reason it took me so long in making my decision to leave (probably at least 4 years) was me making sure that I was hearing God, and not acting out of any other motives.  I distinctly recall conversations with some of my minister friends who were leaving the fellowship at that same time for what I considered insufficient reasons – things like church politics or their family’s desire not to keep the ‘dress codes’ any longer.  I made it clear to them that I would only leave if I became truly convinced that our teachings were not Biblical and that God was leading me to leave.
Don’t know if this helped anyone or not – I hope so.  But it was a good exercise for me personally to reflect on the decision I made over 20 years ago.  By the way, it took me a while to make the decision, but it’s one that I’ve never looked back on with regret.  Thank God for what HE is doing at CLC, and for where HE is taking us together!
Don’t forget our schedule this Sunday only (12/31/17) – 9am and 11am – when we’ll celebrate 2017 and anticipate 2018!
Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Merry Christmas, everyone!

On this beautiful white Christmas in Chicago, from our home to yours, Chris and I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

May you enjoy each moment with family and may you pause to remember the real reason for this season, and give Him thanks!

And for those of you for whom this holiday this year is painful, as you are not able to spend it with loved ones that you hold dear, we pray the sweet Presence of Christ will surround you and that HIS love will make the difference for you today.

We love you!

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Sunday reflections

It was a Christmas Eve to remember at each CLC campus today, with a record attendance

My favorite pic of the day - some of the KidsLife stars at the Hammond campus production, "Festival of Lights"

My favorite pic of the day – some of the KidsLife stars at the Hammond campus production, “Festival of Lights”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a full-fledged production, with over 70 volunteers in the cast!

It was a full-fledged production, with over 70 volunteers in the cast!

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including several angels...

including several angels…

and the entire manger scene (plus the wise men)

and the entire manger scene (plus the wise men)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kudos to Roland Smith for choreographing the dances, and to Dorothy Caldwell for directing the production!

Kudos to Roland Smith for choreographing the dances, and to Dorothy Caldwell for directing the production!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best of all, PRAISE God for 10 people who prayed to receive Christ afterwards!

Meanwhile, at Blue Island, despite these pics, it was NOT a battle of the bands...

Meanwhile, at Blue Island, despite these pics, it was NOT a battle of the bands…

...it was 2 young men using their musical talents to worship the Lord!

…it was 2 young men using their musical talents to worship the Lord!

plus a dance presentation from a combined children's and youth dance team

plus a dance presentation from a combined children’s and youth dance team

Pastor Brent did an illustrated sermon of the entire Nativity scene, showing that Jesus must be the center of our lives!

Pastor Brent did an illustrated sermon of the entire Nativity scene, showing that Jesus must be the center of our lives!

Followed by the candlelight worship to "Jesus Be the Center"

Followed by the candlelight worship to “Jesus Be the Center”

There's something sweet about families worshipping together by candlelight!

There’s something sweet about families worshipping together by candlelight!

I've said it before; I'll say it again: the CUTEST kids in the world are at CLC!

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: the CUTEST kids in the world are at CLC!

Of the many special moments in Tinley Park today, this KidsLife Choir was definitely the crowd favorite!

Of the many special moments in Tinley Park today, this KidsLife Choir was definitely the crowd favorite, with their rendition of “Little Drummer Boy”!

And these two little guys definitely STOLE THE SHOW! (thanks for the laughs, Kaleb Grant & Jon-Jon Jones)

And these two little drummers definitely STOLE THE SHOW! (thanks for the laughs, Kaleb Grant & Jon-Jon Jones)

Kudos to Romel Moore, our very own rapper, who scored an assist with the kids!

Kudos to Romel Moore, our very own rapper, who scored an assist with the kids!

Our true drummer boy, Darius Johnson, did a mean drum solo for the finale!

Our true drummer boy, Darius Johnson, did a mean drum solo for the finale!

A surprise treat for Christmas was the Men's Septet.....and they nailed "The Greatest Gift is Love"!

A surprise treat for Christmas was the Men’s Septet…..and they nailed “The Greatest Gift is Love”!

The candlelight worship was SWEET, I don't care what anybody says!

The candlelight worship was SWEET, I don’t care what anybody says!

Blue Island won the Christmas sweater & Christmas pajama competition today, but there were some special garbs in Tinley Park today, too!

Blue Island won the Christmas sweater & Christmas pajama competition today, but there were some special garbs in Tinley Park today, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, most importantly as always, there were several people who prayed to receive Christ in each service at the Tinley campus today – that never gets old!

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions were submitted this week, so I’m gonna ask one of my own: “what’s SO amazing about Christmas?  I mean, WHY is it so important to Christians, when we don’t even know the date that Jesus was born?”

I think many people wonder about this, even if they don’t voice it aloud.  And not only is it true that we don’t know the date of Jesus’ birth, but most scholars believe that it was NOT even in December, but rather would have happened during a warmer time of the year when shepherds were still tending their flocks outside.  So why is Christmas such a big deal?

In brief, because GOD became a MAN. That’s the mystery and beauty that we celebrate each Christmas.  Because of sin, we all needed a Savior.  But a great God in heaven couldn’t reach us on earth.  And a holy God couldn’t take our sin upon Himself.  And a just God couldn’t just ignore the penalty for our sin.  He had to become one of us.

I heard a story this week that illustrates it so well.  A guy received a speeding ticket and took it to a friend who was a judge, asking him to “take care of this for me”.  The judge took the ticket.  A week or two later, the guy saw his friend the judge again and asked, “did you write off that ticket for me like I asked?”  The judge said, “no, I didn’t write it off”, to which the friend said, “why, I thought you would take care of it for me”.  The judge said, “Were you guilty of speeding?  The guy dropped his head and said, “yes, I was speeding”.  Then the judge said, I am bound to uphold the law, so I had no choice but to fine you for breaking the speed limit. But I came down from the bench & paid your fine myself, because I told you I’d take care of it”

At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that the great God and Creator became one of us – fully God and fully man.  Jesus was born of a woman, but not by the seed of a man – HE was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  He became one of us so He could take our place – take the punishment for our sin on the Cross, so we wouldn’t have to die for our sins, but could receive His free gift of eternal life.  What a Savior!  (Matt 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-35; Rom. 5:6-8; 1Tim. 3:16; John 10:30

May we never forget what He did for us.  I hope you’ll celebrate with us this Christmas Eve at 9am or 11am at the Tinley Park or Hammond campuses, or at 11am in Blue Island.

You can’t OUTGIVE God!

The awesome volunteers who provided so much FUN for all the kids from the Carmelite home

The awesome volunteers who provided so much FUN for all the kids from the Carmelite home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the past couple of years, Pastors Sam & Taylor have led our Hammond campus to provide Christmas gifts for every child at the Carmelite home in Hammond.  Actually, they’ve provided every gift the child asked for each year!

But this year they decided to step up their game and bring all of those kids to the Hammond campus for a great Christmas party where they could have food and fun and then receive their gifts.

I wish every CLC’er could have been there to see the JOY on these kids’ faces – kids who have already suffered more family trauma than many of us have experienced in our lifetime.  It definitely made me PROUD of CLC and what our Hammond campus is doing!

But it also made me remember the age-old cliche’ that says, “You can’t outgive God!” as Pastor Sam shared with me that he had reserved a school bus from the Illinois Bus Company of Crestwood to transport all the kids from the home to our campus last night – BUT when the company learned what we were doing, they substituted a LUXURY charter bus to bring the kids to us AND included some Christmas gifts of their own – at NO CHARGE to us!

The Carmelite kids traveled in STYLE to our Hammond campus last night - thanks to the Illinois Bus Company of Crestwood!

The Carmelite kids traveled in STYLE to our Hammond campus last night – thanks to the Illinois Bus Company of Crestwood!

But that’s not all: Strack & Van Til grocers make a donation of groceries each Christmas to a non-profit in Northwest Indiana, and this week they selected CLC-Hammond!

Officials from Van Strack & Til, surrounded by CLC-Hammond leaders (L to R: Dorothy Caldwell, Jenny Gonzalez, the grocers, Pastor Sam & Carol Terrell)

Officials from Van Strack & Til surrounded by CLC-Hammond leaders (L to R: Dorothy Caldwell, Jenny Gonzalez, the grocers, Pastor Sam & Carol Terrell)

And that’s not all: there were so many groceries (100 bags in all!) that Pastors Sam & Taylor decided to help jumpstart the Hope Center food pantry at our CLC-Blue Island campus (that’s what I call generous-hearts!), so the Carmelite kids aren’t the only ones jumping with excitement – so are our Blue Island leaders

Pastors Sam & Taylor motivated our volunteers to give their time & energy to bless these kids, but then we received the surprises, so I’ll say it again, You. Can’t. OUTGIVE. God!

The Director of the Carmelite Home with Pastor Sam and me

The Director of the Carmelite Home, Sister Maria, with Pastor Sam and me

Sunday reflections

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've told you before, CLC kids are the CUTEST kids in the world!

I’ve told you before, CLC kids are the CUTEST kids in the world!

Uh huh! Uh huh!

Uh huh! Uh huh!

And where else can you find a barefoot violinist?

And where else can you find a barefoot violinist?

worship was wonderful today, too!

worship was wonderful today, too!

I always enjoy team-teaching....

I always enjoy team-teaching….

...with this special lady

…with this special lady

Best of all, Spencer McCarthy was water baptized, with his grandfather (Ellis) praying & his father (Carlton) officiating and Pastor Moy helping out - AND we saw about a dozen people pray to receive Christ at the close of service!

Best of all, Spencer McCarthy was water baptized, with his grandfather (Ellis) praying & his father (Carlton) officiating and Pastor Moy helping out – AND we saw about a dozen people pray to receive Christ at the close of service!

Meanwhile, at our Hammond campus we dedicated 4 babies to the Lord today!

Meanwhile, at our Hammond campus we dedicated 4 babies to the Lord today!

Pastor Sam is excited about youth helping to lead worship with 3 teens serving today!

Pastor Sam is excited about youth serving on the worship team, with 3 teens helping today…..

...even leading songs!

…even leading songs!

Curtis Hunt shared an original piece today...

Curtis Hunt shared an original piece today…

Pastor Sam's message connected well and almost 400 people were in attendance today!

Pastor Sam’s message connected well and almost 400 people were in attendance today!

I'm thankful for how CLC'ers are willing to serve in so many different areas

I’m thankful for how CLC’ers are willing to serve in so many different areas, even in the cold!

KidsLife in Blue Island is always FUN!

KidsLife in Blue Island is always FUN!

and Pastor Sol brought a great word today about being peaceMAKERS, not Peace Fakers or Peace Breakers!

and Pastor Sol brought a great word today about Christmas Peace, and challenged us to be  peace MAKERS, not Peace Fakers or Peace Breakers!

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question is “What does the Bible say about depression and taking antidepressants?”

Interesting questions.  As to depression, while the Bible seldom uses that term, it certainly doesn’t gloss over the fact that even godly people like David and Elijah and Jonah and Job and Jeremiah and, yes, even Jesus, each experienced times of depression.

So we could say it’s normal for us to experience depression over a loss or disappointment in life – circumstances can bring on depression – but we don’t have to linger there, because of the encouragement of God’s Word (Psa. 34:18and His Presence when we worship (Hebrews 13:15).

While I’m neither a doctor or a counselor, as I understand it, depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance, for which medication can be the appropriate treatment.  I know of nothing in Scripture that would forbid someone from taking an antidepressant any more than the Bible would forbid a diabetic from taking insulin or someone with high cholesterol from taking a statin drug.  Keep in mind that Jesus IS a healer, and He can heal depression just as He heals any other condition.  And He specifically came to offer us victory over the ‘spirit of heaviness’ (Isa. 61:3)

I hope this helps a bit.  I’m also excited to tell you that the next two Sundays at CLC (December 17 and 24) we’re going to address “How to Have Peace at Christmas” and “How to Have Joy at Christmas”.  I hope you’ll join us for any service these two Sundays as we experience the ministry of Jesus!

Would you like to add to my answer?  Please leave your comments below-

My crystal ball….

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No, I don’t really have a crystal ball.  (Don’t believe in fortune-telling!)

But I do want to keep you informed about some future events at CLC:

  • Christmas Eve services ONLY at 9am and 11am (December 24)
  • New Year’s Eve services will also ONLY be at 9am and 11am, BUT will incorporate the elements of our ‘normal’ NYE celebration: 2017 video recap, testimonies, campus pastors exhortations and more!
  • MEN’s Breakfast – Saturday, January 6.  Join us at the Tinley Park campus for prayer at 8am, followed by a great breakfast and fellowship for MEN!
  • “IT IS FINISHED!” sermon series, January 7-28 – Jesus said it on the Cross, but we’re going to say it in a different way as we begin a NEW YEAR!
  • 21-days of prayer & fasting – January 8-28.  I’m calling all CLC’ers to join us in a 21-day “Daniel fast” to consecrate ourselves in this new year.  (We define a Daniel fast simply: “no meats, no sweets” for 21 days).  Most importantly, along with our fasting is setting aside these days for PRAYER, including prayer at the Tinley Park campus from 6am-7am each weekday of the fast (Hammond and Blue Island campus, please check with your Campus Pastor).  In addition, we’ll begin each prayer meeting with a short devotional from our pastors on Facebook Live.
  • Special prayer events on January 10, 17 and 24 (January 11, 18 and 25 at Hammond) – these corporate events will take our prayer time to another level!
  • Prophetic ministry services with special guest, Gary Heyes:
    • Hammond – Friday, January 12 at 7pm
    • Leaders gathering/Pastoral Ordinations – Tinley Park, Saturday, January 13 at 5pm
    • Tinley Park – Sunday, January 14 at 8:30/10am and 12pm
    • Blue Island – Sunday, January 14 at 5pm
  • Supernatural conclusion to the fast – January 28, each service/each campus

I can already see that FEBRUARY is going to be wonderful, but I’ll tell you about that later.  Meanwhile, mark your calendar for these soon-coming events as we finish strong in 2017 and get 2018 off to a great start!

Sunday reflections

At our Hammond campus today, the worship team introduced a great new song, "Reckless Love" that Pastor Sam says was fantastic!

At our Hammond campus today, the worship team introduced a great new song, “Reckless Love” that Pastor Sam says was fantastic!

He's also excited about new volunteers leading in prayer & announcements - today, Leslie Smith did great!

He’s also excited about new volunteers leading in prayer & announcements – today, Leslie Smith did great!

At Blue Island, one of today's highlights was a testimony from Mary Long. On her first visit about a month ago, the congregation learned that her brother had just died & our members rallied to provide funds for her to fly to Seattle to identify his body & then to Texas for his burial.   Pastor Brent said, "A lot of tears were shed during the testimony both by Mary and by the congregation but it was a great example of why we teach generosity".  I LOVE how CLC'ers respond to needs!

At Blue Island, one of today’s highlights was a testimony from Mary Long. On her first visit about a month ago, the congregation learned that her brother had just died & our members rallied to provide funds for her to fly to Seattle to identify his body & then to Texas for his burial. Pastor Brent said, “A lot of tears were shed during the testimony both by Mary and by the congregation but it was a great example of why we teach generosity”. I LOVE how CLC’ers respond to needs!

I also LOVE how CLC'ers serve in so many different ways - here's Tina Simental serving in the Tech Booth to make sure the correct slides are on the screens.

I also LOVE how CLC’ers serve in so many different ways – here’s Tina Simental serving in the Tech Booth to make sure the correct slides are on the screens.

And every Pastor LOVES when people engage with the message enough to take notes!

And every Pastor LOVES when people engage with the message enough to take notes!

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas at KidsLife in Blue Island!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas at KidsLife in Blue Island!

Maybe this post should be called "What I love about CLC" - in this pic, it's how our church family responds to guest speakers product tables in the lobby.

Maybe this post should be called “What I love about CLC” – in this pic, it’s how our church family responds to special ‘opportunities’ – like today’s “CLC Store”

And don't forget the DONUTS before the 8:30am service!

And don’t forget the DONUTS before the 8:30am service!

Or another favorite - how you can get prayer at CLC, anytime, anywhere!  (Didn't Jesus say, 'my house will be called a house of prayer"?)

Or another favorite – how you can get prayer at CLC, anytime, anywhere! (Didn’t Jesus say, ‘my house will be called a house of prayer”?)

I don't love winter weather, but I do love the fact that it brought new drinks to our Coffee Shop!

I don’t love winter weather, but I do love the fact that it brought new drinks to our Coffee Shop!

And I LOVE the fact that kids can have FUN at church!

And I LOVE the fact that kids can have FUN at church! (Ms. Stacy is pretty awesome, too!)

Imagine a Children's Ministry where teachers can get a pie in the face.... wait, you don't have to imagine - it happened today in KidsLife because the GIRLS defeated the BOYS in a missions project to provide meals for needy children!

Imagine a Children’s Ministry where teachers can get a pie in the face…. wait, you don’t have to imagine – it happened today in KidsLife because the GIRLS defeated the BOYS in a missions project to provide meals for needy children!  (I LOVE both parts: fun & missions at a young age!)

But the highlight of today in Tinley Park was Potter's Field, as Pastor Michael Rozell demonstrated the intimacy between the Potter and the clay.

But the highlight of today in Tinley Park was Potter’s Field, as Pastor Michael Rozell demonstrated the intimacy between the Potter and the clay.

His illustrations & Pam's songs made for a powerful message!

His illustrations & Pam’s songs made for a powerful message!

Who knew that the Potter has to go deep to clean out the gunk in our lives - "because we're full of ourselves!"

Who knew that the Potter has to go deep to clean out the gunk in our lives – “because we’re still full of ourselves!”

His demonstration of the blood of Jesus gave me chill bumps!

His demonstration of the blood of Jesus gave me chill bumps!

And I LOVED the Biblical example of how the Potter made another vessel that HE had in mind all along!

And I LOVED the Biblical example of how the Potter made another vessel that HE had in mind all along!

Thank you, Pastors Michael & Pat Rozell and the team from Potter's Field Ministries - it was an AMAZING day!

Thank you, Pastors Michael & Pat Rozell and the team from Potter’s Field Ministries – it was an AMAZING day!

 

Ask the Pastor

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This week’s question is one leftover from our “Hot Seat” Sunday a few months ago: “If God created us each differently, and set apart many nations, then why are there so many racial issues? Even amongst “christians” who see themselves as privileged, others see themselves as victimized.”

I’m not sure I fully understand your comments, but let me try to address the core question of why there are so many racial issues.  (I agree, by the way – in my limited experience growing up in the South during the 60’s, and having lived in the Midwest for almost 40 years, I have personally not seen the level of division that we seem to have in the USA today)

My short answer as to ‘why’ that’s true is John 10:10.  (Bear with me; I said that’s the short answer.)  From the beginning of mankind, the enemy of our soul has recognized the power of unity and has made it his business to divide us.  He got Adam and Eve divided in the Garden, so that Adam accused the wife who was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (read Genesis 3:12).  A few chapters later God Himself showed us the power of unity (Gen. 11:5-6) and the only way to stop man’s sinful aim was to divide them, one from another.

So at the root of all racial issues is the enemy of our soul who seeks to divide white from black, red from yellow, etc., etc., etc, ad nauseum.  That’s why the real answer is not to be found in legislation, because you can’t legislate a heart-change.  It’s also why Sunday morning is still the most segregated time of the week.  It’s that the enemy is stirring fear and suspicion and hatred and division, and ONLY the heart-change that results when sinful people of ANY color surrender their lives to Christ and truly get born-again.

That’s the work of the church and we dare not ignore it.

Hope this helped a bit.  Could you add to my answer by leaving a comment below?  Thanks – and if you’re in the south suburbs of Chicago, I hope to see you this Sunday (Dec. 10) when we host the ministry of “Potter’s Field” at 8:30am, 10am and 12pm.  Don’t be late – we’re giving them the entire service!

Potter’s Field Touring Promo from Potter’s Field Ministries on Vimeo.

 

Celebrating marriage

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Well, to be technical, we’re not celebrating “marriage as an institution”; we’re celebrating OUR marriage of 45 years.

At any rate, a couple of years ago Chris told me she wanted to go back to Maui for our 45th anniversary, so we’re flying out of O’Hare this morning, bound for our favorite of the Hawaiian islands, even though we haven’t been there in 10 years or so.

I’m confident that CLC is in good hands while we’re away, so I plan to disconnect from the internet, email, and even this blog for the next 7 days, so I can focus on the beautiful blonde who has stood by my side through all the ups and downs of life since December 16, 1972.

We’ll see you on December 10 (if you’re part of the CLC-Tinley Park family) for a great Sunday with Potter’s Field.  Meanwhile, the picture above is what I’ll be viewing this evening and for the next several evenings, if she’ll keep her hands off me long enough….

Meanwhile, invite a friend for December 10:

Potter’s Field Touring Promo from Potter’s Field Ministries on Vimeo.

 

Ask the Pastor

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This week’s question was submitted during our “Hot Seat” Sunday back in August: Has the anti-christ been revealed? And will he be before the Rapture? 

Interesting question, and probably one for which there are as many opinions as there are pastors.  But since you asked me, I’ll give you my opinion – since the Bible does NOT give us the answer to either question.

Here are some passages you may want to read to acquaint yourself with what Scripture says about the antiChrist: 2 Thess. 2:3; 1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:3; Rev. 13:11-18; Dan. 11:21-45.

Now, to your questions: has the antiChrist been revealed? My answer would be ‘NO’, if you mean we can identify him today.  Personally, I’m not interested in playing that game, since in the 50 years I’ve been in ministry, I’ve heard at least a dozen or so world leaders identified by someone as being the antiChrist, and none of their guesses have been correct yet!

If you mean, is the AntiChrist alive on earth today, I would say, “very possibly, maybe even likely”.  Just because I can’t identify him doesn’t mean he hasn’t already been born.

Finally, will he be revealed before the Rapture? That all depends on your view of eschatology (end-time events).  If you believe the Rapture will occur in the middle of a 7-year period of Tribulation OR if you believe the Rapture will take place after the Tribulation, then I would certainly guess that the AntiChrist would have been revealed prior to the rapture.  If you believe, as many evangelicals do today, that the Rapture will take place before the Tribulation, then I’d say there’s no guarantee the AntiChrist would be known prior to the Rapture.

Finally, if your focus is on Matthew 24:14 as mine is, you can be content to let all of those ideas unfold as they will, while our priority remains on reaching people with the Gospel!

Hope that helps a bit.  Now, would you care to join the conversation by leaving your comments below?

Don’t forget to invite a friend to join us this Sunday for the kick-off of “Family Christmas”, when all first-time guests receive a free copy of Joel Osteen’s new book, “Blessed in the Darkness”!

a modern Potter on stage – helping put marriages back together!

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December 10 could be the highlight of the year at CLC-Tinley Park!

Not only is the message presentation that day in all 3 services unlike anything we’ve ever done in CLC history, but Potter’s Field Ministry regularly sees hundreds of people respond to the Gospel AND has seen hundreds of marriages healed and restored!

I’ve been looking forward to this Sunday for over a year, since we first scheduled Michael & Pam Rozell as our guests.  Take a look at this 3-minute video and invite your unchurched friends or those with troubled marriages to be your guest – it could change their life forever!

Potter’s Field Touring Promo from Potter’s Field Ministries on Vimeo.

Bring a friend, they get a FREE book by Joel Osteen!

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December at CLC really is the “most wonderful time of the year” because each Sunday in December is tailor-made for you to bring your unchurched or de-churched friends.  Our “Family Christmas” sermon series at each campus includes a message that will not only challenge and impact your family, but also relate and connect with your friends.  In fact, we’re expecting MANY people will come to faith in Christ at CLC this December!

And to ‘sweeten’ the deal and make it easier for you to invite your friends, we’re giving a FREE copy of Joel Osteen’s new book, “Blessed in the Darkness” to each first-time guest in December.  Take a look at the Facebook ad we’re doing all month:

The only question is WHO are YOU inviting?  Let’s do this!

 

#GivingTuesday & your grandfather’s Oldsmobile

Untitled design (3)First it was #BlackFriday.  Then came #CyberMonday.  Today is #GivingTuesday.

(If you haven’t heard, charities & churches have joined the digital revolution & designated today as an ‘official’ day to receive donations online.

This is not your grandfather’s Oldsmobile.

I read this morning that we’ve gotten so good at “mining data” that merchants can now predict with 87% accuracy which women in a given zip code are pregnant and what their due date is, so they can send targeted advertising to them before their baby is born!

I’m not knocking this, by the way.  On an average week, more than 50% of our contributions at CLC are NOT received in the offering buckets; they’re given online via computers or smart phones or even through text messages!  (In fact, we welcome your #GivingTuesday donations here today!)

What I am saying is this: we better get on board or the Church will be left behind.  This week we’re targeting specific audiences with Facebook ads in hopes of drawing receptive people to CLC for the month of December. But while our world is constantly changing and we must adapt our methods as well, there’s still NO substitute for the personal touch.  That’s why some of our worship leaders headed to Cook County Jail this morning, to lead worship for the inmates.  It’s why our Hammond campus is providing every gift wish for every orphan at the Carmelite Home in their city this Christmas.  It’s why our Blue Island campus is launching a brand new, “Hope Center” to feed and serve those who need a hand up in their community.

Would you make a difference this Christmas season?  Find a need and fill it.  Find a hurt and heal it.  Let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus in this digital age!

And when you see this ad, please ‘SHARE’ it in your social media.  Thanks!

Joel Osteen’s Book – Blessed in the Darkness from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Sunday reflections

This pic says it all: Pastor Jon WORSHIPPED while preaching about Worship!

This pic says it all: Pastor Jon WORSHIPPED while preaching about Worship!

Tiffany and the team brought us into His Presence in all 3 services

Tiffany and the team brought us into the Presence of the Lord in all 3 services

Jon's worship during his preaching inspired others to worship....

Jon’s worship during his preaching inspired others to worship….

.....like this, for example

…..like this, for example

serving others is another way we worship!

…..while serving others is another way we worship!

Meanwhile, Pastor Sam says it's GREAT to see new people finding their place on the worship team in Hammond-

Meanwhile, Pastor Sam says it’s GREAT to see new people finding their place on the worship team in Hammond-

plus it's starting to look a lot like Christmas!

plus it’s starting to look a lot like Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Taylor (with Daniel's help) announcing the plan for their campus to provide ALL the gift list for all 79 children at a Hammond orphanage this Christmas!

Pastor Taylor (with Daniel’s help) announcing the plan for their campus to provide ALL the gift wish list for all 79 children at a Hammond orphanage this Christmas!  (That’s in addition to hosting a BIG Christmas event for the orphans)  That’s AWESOME!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing is for sure: this series has taken worship at each campus to another level!

One thing is for sure: this series has taken worship at each campus to another level!

Not sure what this Blue Island KidsLife depicts, but it sure looks cool

Not sure what this Blue Island KidsLife depicts, but it sure looks cool

Blue Island worship director Alan Franklin closed the series today with his message, "Sing a Song"!

Blue Island worship director Alan Franklin closed the series today with his message, “Sing a Song”!

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question was submitted during our ‘Hot Seat’ Sunday a few months ago: How can the church work to help resolve growing racial tensions across the nation?”

Great question, seeing that there seems to be as much division now as I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime, and that’s saying something when you realize that I grew up in the South in the 1960’s!

I do realize it’s a complex question for which there is no quick answer, but since you asked, I’ll give my humble opinion: I think the Church (capital ‘C’) and the local church (as in CLC) can work to resolve racial tensions in two ways: by example & through intentionality.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said 50 years ago that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning was the most segregated hour of the week in America, and it remains true today.  I do not believe that’s because most churchgoers are racist; however, it’s obvious that most whites and blacks choose comfort over principle: they’re simply more comfortable worshipping with people who look like them.

We fight that battle every day at CLC, which is why our demographics no longer qualify us to be considered a multi-cultural church, as whites are often uncomfortable being the minority in the room.  However, I still contend that it is possible for churches to set the example for our culture and it is happening in some churches around the country.  Just this week I learned that one of my pastor friends has been invited to engage with governmental officials about our racial divisions simply because they learned of the outstanding example of multiculturalism at the church he pastors, and told him, “we want to see what you’ve done at your church all over our country!”

That will never happen by accident; it requires intentionality.  We’ve tried to practice that at CLC by raising awareness and keeping the issue in front of each ministry leader through the years.  But as I’ve also said from the pulpit many times, I believe it must go beyond our ‘corporate policy’ at CLC.  It’s not enough for you to attend a multicultural church; you must become a multicultural Christian.  If you don’t know what I mean by that, ask yourself, “when was the last time I had someone of another culture in my home for dinner?”  It takes intentionality to build relationships with people who don’t look like you, but the benefits are SO worth it.

I’m sure there’s much more to be said, but I’m hopeful that answer is a starting point.  What can you add to the conversation?  Please leave your comments or questions below:

ThanksLIVING!

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I’ve said it many times, but in my mind, THIS is the most Christian holiday of the year.  I say that because our culture seems to have hijacked Easter with chocolate bunnies and colored eggs, and Christmas has obviously become the most commercialized time of the year – but Thanksgiving is, well, about giving thanks – and that’s Biblical!  (See Ephesians 5:20; 1Thessalonians 5:18; and Psalm 100:4, to name just a few)

It’s also more than a day on the calendar; it’s a way of life!  (It’s also a great way to counteract all the grumbling we so often do as well.)

My prayer for every person reading this post is that you will take time to do that this week – not only as worship to God, but also to express your gratitude to people in your life that you appreciate.  And please don’t forget that thinking is NOT thanking!  Your gratitude must be expressed to benefit God or man.

Oh, just one more thing: don’t overdo it at the table this year!  The scale will thank you later-

Weekend reflections

The pictures don't do it justice: EVERY conversation I had with women who were at the Conference this weekend convincingly spoke of "changed lives" through the WORSHIP and the WORD!

The pictures don’t do it justice: EVERY conversation I had with women who were at the Conference this weekend convincingly spoke of “changed lives” through the WORSHIP and the WORD!

 

This picture tells the story of both the Conference and all 3 services in Tinley today - the GLORY of God was in the House during worship!

This picture tells the story of both the Conference and all 3 services in Tinley today – the GLORY of God was in the House during worship!

I can't say enough about Sarah Bowling's ministry all weekend.  She taught the Word with such insight & challenged our thinking with life-giving truths in each message!

I can’t say enough about Sarah Bowling’s ministry all weekend. She taught the Word with such insight & challenged our thinking with life-giving truths in each message!

"Get up. Pick up. Start walking."  - simple, practical truths from God's Word - thank you, Pastor Sarah!

“Get up. Pick up. Go walk.” – simple, practical truths from God’s Word – thank you, Pastor Sarah!

 

Creative screen pics from Andy Esparza and worship led by Tommie Billups at our Hammond Campus-

Creative screen pics from Andy Esparza and worship led by Tommie Billups at Hammond-

Junior High ministry at Hammond is GROWING!

Junior High ministry at Hammond is GROWING!

Pastor Sam Hamstra preached MORE reasons to praise!

Pastor Sam Hamstra preached MORE reasons to praise!

Excitement at our Blue Island campus over three new believers going public in water baptism today!

Excitement at our Blue Island campus over three new believers going public in water baptism today!

I LOVE seeing people take that step of obedience to meet the Lord in the waters of baptism!

I LOVE seeing people take that step of obedience to meet the Lord in the waters of baptism!

CLC Youth often exhibit unique skills.....

CLC Youth often exhibit unique skills…..

No, I wasn't teaching about the "big-mouthed frog" today, despite this pic

No, I wasn’t teaching about the “big-mouthed frog” today, despite this pic

....but I was grateful for the help from Rocio Arevalo that enabled our Spanish-speakers to receive the message!

….but I was grateful for the help from Rocio Arevalo that enabled our Spanish-speakers to receive the message!

Ask the Pastor

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I’ve decided I must move faster to retire all the leftover questions from our “Hot Seat” Sunday back in August, so today let’s look at four different marriage-related questions

1) How do you get over the pain of infidelity?

  • Obviously, there is NO easy answer to this question, but in my opinion, there are two necessities: (a) the injured party must forgive.  That will probably take time and also require the guilty spouse demonstrating by his/her actions a willingness to regain trust in the marriage, but it’s impossible to get over the pain without forgiveness; and (b) in my experience, it almost always requires counseling from a third-party who can help the couple objectively.  Let me close by encouraging you that it CAN be done, as many couples have proven through the years, and your marriage can be better than before!

2) How do you deal with a controlling and verbally abusive mother-in-law that lives with you? 

  • Wowzers, no softball questions this time, huh.  In a nutshell, it will require tough love and it’s important that both husband and wife are in agreement.  If you need some Biblical support, try Genesis 2:24.  From a Biblical standpoint, there’s no doubt that the marriage takes priority over the parents, so that must be walked out in the home, especially if the in-law’s live with you.

3) How do I become a better listener when communicating with my wife? f

  • That’s a GREAT question, because most often (in my experience) we don’t recognize the need for listening to our spouse.  To answer the question, there are lots of tactics you can employ, such as repeating what you think she said and verifying with her before responding, etc.-but in brief, listening is a skill that anyone can attain by focused effort. Look at her when she’s talking to you (not staring at your phone or the TV); give her your focused attention, and you’ll both be happier!

4) I desperately want to have another child, but my husband is against it. I pray and ask God to soften his heart. Should I continue? 

  • As much as I hurt for you, I must say this is an area where husband and wife should be in agreement.  When my wife and I have disagreed on important issues, I feel that, at the very least, my timing is off.  So by all means, continue to pray – but also be open to God changing your heart.  If God does not change your desires and you still want another child, I would encourage you to pray earnestly again, and then schedule a time to talk with your husband when neither of you is stressed – so that the conversation can be rational and logical, not argumentative and demanding.  Give him reasons why you want another child along with possible solutions to any objections you think he may have in advance. Finally, leave the outcome with God, and don’t allow this to become a point of contention and bitterness in your marriage.

Whew!  I hope those brief answers were helpful.  Would you care to join the conversation?  If so, leave your comments or questions below.

By the way, since all 4 of today’s questions were marriage-related, let me encourage you to join us for our December sermon series at each CLC campus as we look at “Family Christmas” and try to help CLC’ers with the stresses that often accompany this special season – it’s gonna be good!

This will make you want to praise (and pray!)

Kevin shared his story with us at the Hammond campus yesterday

Kevin shared his story with us at the Hammond campus last Sunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I first arrived at our Hammond campus last Sunday, Pastor Sam told me a story that I loved!  One of his former baseball teammates had promised to attend that morning, which is worth celebrating in and of itself (whenever we can bring a friend to church, it’s a good day!)

But the real story is that several years ago at the Tinley Park campus, we asked every CLC’er to write down a VIP list of people they wanted to see come to Jesus.  That list of friends and co-workers became our ‘prayer list’, and we asked God to turn their hearts to Him.

How many of you know that sometimes God answers our prayers in a way that we could never have foreseen?

Sam had put Kevin on his VIP list and began praying for his salvation.  Some time later, unfortunately, Kevin was involved in an automobile accident while intoxicated.  Because the accident also resulted in a fatality, he was sentenced to a term in prison.

While in prison, someone shared the gospel with Kevin and began a Bible study with him.  He received the Lord, and over the past couple of years has become a passionate follower of Christ.  He has completed his sentence AND two years of probation and now walks with Jesus, and came to church on Sunday to thank Sam and celebrate with us!

Kevin’s story caused me to praise the Lord on Sunday, for His amazing grace!

Kevin’s story also makes me want to pray for others who are still far from God, that HE will draw them to Himself.

Maybe it’s time for us to make out another VIP list.

This December is a GREAT time to bring your unsaved friends to CLC during our “Family Christmas” series, AND I’m excited to tell you that each first-time guest in December will receive a free copy of Joel Osteen’s newest book, “Blessed in the Darkness”.

WHO will be on your VIP list?

Sunday reflections

Worship isn't just a sermon series; it's a hallmark at CLC, at each campus!

Worship isn’t just a sermon series; it’s a hallmark at CLC, at each campus!

So is ministry to CHILDREN...

So is ministry to CHILDREN…

....and reaching YOUTH!

….and reaching YOUTH!

and, of course, nothing can take the place of balanced Bible teaching!

and, of course, nothing can take the place of balanced Bible teaching!

I was in Hammond today and worship was HOT!  Kudos, Tommie Billups & team!

I was in Hammond today and worship was HOT! Kudos, Tommie Billups & team!

It's always a joy to teach at our other campuses, and the Hammond congregation was very responsive today!

It’s always a joy to teach at our other campuses, and the Hammond congregation was very responsive today!

My wife was in her 'sweet spot' today, teaching on worship & ministering in the anointing - LOVED what God did in the altar in all 3 services today!

My wife was in her ‘sweet spot’ today, teaching on worship & ministering in the anointing – LOVED what God did in the altar in all 3 services today!

We tried, but it's just not possible to capture in one pic what God was doing today-

We tried, but it’s just not possible to capture in one pic what God was doing today-

but I know that many people received from the Lord!

but I know that many people received from the Lord!

 

Ask the Pastor

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Still answering questions from our “Hot Seat” Sunday that we weren’t able to get to in service – this week’s question is about single adults who want to get married: What should you do when you want to marry, but just can’t seem to meet anyone? Can you pray for a mate? Is that something that God sends or that you search out with his blessing?”

Great questions, especially because SO MANY single adults, both male and female, are asking those as well.  Let me try to address each:

  1. I definitely encourage you to pray.  In fact, I would say, pray first.  (Your second question about praying for a mate is answered in Genesis 24:1-51.  I suppose some might point out that it wasn’t the single adults who prayed for a spouse, but rather Abraham’s servant praying on behalf of Isaac – but as far as I’m concerned, the principle remains the same – as verse 7 promised, the Lord sent His angel ahead of them and saw to it that he found a wife for Isaac, and verse 51 declares, “the Lord has directed”)  Call me old-school if you want, but I believe that just as God brought Eve to Adam and orchestrated the events to connect Rebekah with Isaac, HE can still send you a spouse in this day and age!
  2. However, I would also encourage you to do more than pray.  Just as Adam cooperated and Abraham’s servant made the journey and sought the right woman for Isaac, it will be important for you to look for God’s choice of a spouse.  I’m not opposed to online dating services, especially those with a Christian background, like match.com or eharmony.com.  Please understand: none of these sites is perfect and there may be unscrupulous people involved – so move cautiously with real discernment!
  3. While I do NOT recommend the bar scene, it also can be wise to attend Christian events and conferences, where you have the opportunity to meet other single adults who are also believers.
  4. Don’t be afraid to let others know of your desire to find God’s choice in a mate.  It may be that your mentors or other Christians that you know and admire could make a connection for you that might eventually lead to discovering God’s choice.

The last thing I’ll say is don’t compromise!  I’ve seen so many Christians “settle” for someone that was not a strong believer or perhaps not walking with the Lord at all, out of fear that they might never marry.  Trust me, almost everyone I know in that category soon regretted their decision.  Better to be single and serve the Lord, than to be married and miserable!

I hope this helps.  My heart is touched by the many godly men and women I know who sincerely want to be married, but remain single, and I pray for anyone reading this post that God would answer your prayers for a godly mate soon!

Would you care to join the conversation?  Leave a comment below, or add a question of your own for a future “Ask the Pastor” post.

Sunday reflections

Pastor Sam said at the end of both services in Hammond today they "saw the greatest outpouring we've experienced since we started"!  People were laid out on the floor on their faces, crying out to God in such a powerful time of worship!

Pastor Sam said at the end of both services in Hammond today they “saw the greatest outpouring we’ve experienced since we started”! People were laid out on the floor on their faces, crying out to God in such a powerful time of worship!

Sam didn't say it, but I'm sure that his preaching on worship today had something to do with that outpouring!

Sam didn’t say it, but I’m sure that his preaching on worship today had something to do with that outpouring!

And the Hammond dance ministry is GROWING!

And the Hammond dance ministry is GROWING!

Meanwhile, at our Blue Island campus, worship included a French horn

Meanwhile, at our Blue Island campus, worship included a French horn

and a bilingual time of prayer & worship...

and a bilingual time of prayer & worship…

Pastor Brent kicked-off the "Made for Worship" series with  a message that enabled everyone to come into God's Presence

Pastor Brent kicked-off the “Made for Worship” series with a message that enabled everyone to come into God’s Presence

That seems to be the theme of the day, as worship in Tinley Park was POWERFUL today, too!

That seems to be the theme of the day, as worship in Tinley Park was POWERFUL today, too!

I'm celebrating that I got thru 3 sermons with no voice, thanks to a mic at close range

I’m celebrating that I got thru 3 sermons with no voice, thanks to a mic at close range

This young lady seemed to be on a mission with her doll...I guess the extra hour of sleep helped us all today

This young lady seemed to be on a mission with her doll…I guess the extra hour of sleep helped us all today

Ask the Pastor

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Believe it or not, I’m still answering questions left over from our ‘Hot Seat’ Sunday back in August.  Today’s question is “Why do some people believe in ‘generational curses’?

Good question.  My simple answer is “because they’re real”.  Let me explain:

  • Starting with Exodus 20:5, God said that He would “lay the sins of the parents upon the children” and that the entire family would be affected, for 3 or 4 generations.  Other translations of that verse indicate that He would “visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children”.  Iniquity is the proclivity or inclination toward wickedness; it literally means “crookedness”.  In other words, just as our height, weight, hair color, complexion, etc. tend to run in families, so an inclination toward certain types of sin can be passed on from generation to generation.
  • This is particularly true of certain kinds of addictive behavior – such as alcoholism, for instance.  We’ve all known families where certain sins ‘show up’ in succeeding generations – think of how often children who witnessed domestic abuse in their home grow up to be abusive adults.
  • Exodus 34:7 and Numbers 14:18 and Deuteronomy 5:9 repeat this same warning about the sins of the parents being passed on to the children – so this is not an isolated, one-time-only obscure verse of Scripture.  It is entirely possible for the tendency toward certain sins to be passed on generationally!
  • Ezekiel 18:20 also makes it clear that children are NOT punished for the sins of their parents – each of us is responsible for our own choices.  The generational curse, even in Old Testament times, was only  predictive – because of human tendencies – but not inevitable, because of our free will to choose our own behavior.

However, let me just as quickly add that we are no longer under the curse of the Old Testament!  Galatians 3:13-14 make it quite clear that Jesus took our curse upon Himself at the Cross and He defeated the Curse of sin for us!

In other words, no matter what sins are in your family’s history, the blood of Jesus has power over them all.  If you suspect that certain tendencies toward sin or addictive behavior have been passed on to you or your children, as a child of God you can renounce those sins and appropriate the shed blood of Christ for your family.  What was handed down, even for generations, can STOP with you!

I hope this was helpful, even though a thorough explanation would require more detailed teaching than this post would allow.  Would you care to add your thoughts, or even ask a question of your own?  If so, leave a comment below-

CLC-Philippines Convention, day 2

The final day of the convention started with a wonderful cultural presentation in dance, from the CLC-Koronadal campus

The final day of the convention started with a wonderful cultural presentation in dance, from the CLC-Koronadal campus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It included Christian dance...

It included Christian dance…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

....and Tribal dance.....

….and Tribal dance…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and even a Muslim cultural dance.....

and even a Muslim cultural dance…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, in the first session of the day, Chris ministered prophetically to several people, including Pastor Joel Montes pictured here

Then, in the first session of the day, Chris ministered prophetically to several people, including Pastor Joel Montes pictured here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

she also had a very specific word about political open doors for this young woman who is currently a political science major in the university - God is amazing!

she also had a very specific word about political open doors for this young woman who is currently a political science major in the university – God is amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was Brent's turn to teach about Intercessory Prayer (with Jeser making sure there were plenty of laughs included)

Then it was Brent’s turn to teach about Intercessory Prayer (with Jeser making sure there were plenty of laughs included)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Herley gave a great offering message about the difference between SEED and BREAD

Pastor Herley gave a great offering message about the difference between SEED and BREAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

perhaps the most interesting session of the day was a Q&A time with our Chicago panel (and some appropriate help from Pastors Herley & Joel)

perhaps the most interesting session of the day was a Q&A time with our Chicago panel (and some appropriate help from Pastors Herley & Joel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Joel's session this afternoon was a prophetic call to the Philippine church - POWERFUL!

Pastor Joel’s session this afternoon was a prophetic call to the Philippine church – POWERFUL!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my final session I taught about "Mustard Seed Faith"

In my final session I taught about “Mustard Seed Faith”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My wife brought the house down (again, Jeser's humorous translation didn't hurt) - but, more importantly, she preached with a strong anointing!

My wife brought the house down (again, Jeser’s humorous translation didn’t hurt) – but, more importantly, she preached with a strong anointing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...and when she finished, the whole auditorium turned into a mass prayer meeting!

…and when she finished, the whole auditorium turned into a mass prayer meeting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s it for 2017 – but we’re already making plans for bigger & better in 2018 – maybe YOU should go with us!

Gonna grab a few hours of sleep before a 2am wake-up call to get to the airport for our 4am flight – can’t wait to see all of you soon!

Homeward bound!

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This is the longest missions trip Chris and I have ever taken from CLC, and as much as we’ve enjoyed each moment of ministry in Cambodia and the Philippines, I don’t think we’ll ever take such a long trip again.  We left Chicago sixteen days ago, but this morning we are homeward bound!

We’re grabbing a 4am flight from Davao to Manila (that’s 3pm Tuesday in Chicago), then connecting with a flight to Tokyo where we catch the long trans-Pacific flight to LA, and finally a flight that should get us to O’Hare early Wednesday evening.  Whew!

If we catch a break, we hope to see some of you Wednesday night at CLC; if not, I definitely can’t wait for SUNDAY when we kick-off our November series, “Made for Worship”!

CLC-Philippines Convention, day 1

There. are. no. words. This second annual CLC Convention for all 14 campuses in the Philippines was SO good, I’m determined to bring a whole bunch of CLC’ers next year so you can see firsthand what God is doing here!

The Convention opened with a terrific production: native dancers, a Philippine color guard, followed by the Philippine National Anthem and more - you really had to be here to believe it!

The Convention opened with a terrific production: native dancers, a Philippine color guard, followed by the Philippine National Anthem and more – you really had to be here to believe it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the native dancers were SO talented-

the native dancers were SO talented-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bishop Herley kicked-off the Convention with a great message about FINISHING what we've started!

Bishop Herley kicked-off the Convention with a great message about FINISHING what we’ve started!

 

Bishop Herley Montes kicked-off the Convention with a great message about  us FINISHING what we've started

I shared a teaching on “What I’m Learning through my Pain”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris and her interpreter Jeser had us all laughing, but her message on 'FAVOR' was profound!

Chris and her interpreter Jeser had us all laughing, but her message on ‘FAVOR’ was profound!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Sam closed the evening with a message titled "Fatherlessness", as he shared the story of his son, Daniel.

Pastor Sam closed the evening with a message titled “Fatherlessness”, as he shared the story of his son, Daniel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have one more day for this Convention and then all five of us from Chicago will be headed home on Wednesday.  Stay tuned for the final update-

 

Philippines, day 2 (of ministry)

Chris & Jen & I with the Jeser Molina family after the ordination.

Chris & Jen & I with the Jeser Molina family after the ordination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left our hotel at 9am today and didn’t get back until a few minutes after 9pm – but it was a WONDERFUL 12-hour day of ministry here!

I first met Jeser in 2006, on the second day of a Global Advancer Pastor's Conference. I had noticed a group of passionate youth sitting on the front rows of the conference, and thought that Jeser might be their pastor. Instead, he was the Assistant Youth Pastor to Joel Montes - but after I talked with him, Jeser agreed to invite his pastor, Herley Montes to attend the next day, and that's how we first connected with Herley. Today, it came full circle as we ordained Jeser & his wife, Aying!

I first met Jeser in 2006, on the second day of a Global Advancer Pastor’s Conference. I had noticed a group of passionate youth sitting on the front rows of the conference, and thought that Jeser might be their pastor. Instead, he was the Assistant Youth Pastor – but after I talked with him, Jeser agreed to invite his pastor, Herley Montes to attend the next day, and that’s how we first connected with Herley. Today, it came full circle as we ordained Jeser & his wife, Aying!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four years ago Pastor Herley sent Jeser & Aying to Tagum, a city of almost 300,000 people located about an hour-and-a-half drive from Davao City, to plant a CLC campus.  Starting with just their family, they have grown to more than 200 people now, and they recently moved into a beautiful facility inside a shopping mall, where we expect their growth to accelerate!

After the ordination, we presented them with a Prayer Shawl (talit) and both of us spoke prophetic words over them.

After the ordination, we presented them with a Prayer Shawl (talit) and both of us spoke prophetic words over them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their fun, quirky personality makes them a joy to be around every time we visit the Philippines.

Their fun, quirky personality makes them a joy to be around every time we visit the Philippines.

and

and their daughter, JAM, is a real diva!  (Their younger son, Thirdy, is not pictured, but he’s scared of white people, so we didn’t get to love on him)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaders from CLC-Tagum honoring their pastors

Leaders from CLC-Tagum honoring their pastors

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since our Missions Director (Jen) and two of our Campus Pastors (Brent & Sam) joined us here in Davao, we ALL had opportunity to serve the Davao City church today, and the Presence of God worked in each services, as these pictures tell the story:

Sam preached the House down at the 10am service

Sam preached the House down at the 10am service

 

 

Brent ministered at the 2pm service

Brent ministered at the 2pm service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was my turn at 4pm

It was my turn at 4pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, Chris ministered at 6pm, and the ANOINTING was SO strong - I can't describe what all God did with so many of those in attendance - but we all agreed that the CLC Convention really started TONIGHT, not tomorrow!

Finally, Chris ministered at 6pm, and the ANOINTING was SO strong – I can’t describe what all God did with so many of those in attendance – but we all agreed that the CLC Convention really started TONIGHT, not tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

some of the first-time guests who came forward to receive the Lord after one of our services in Davao

just some of the first-time guests who came forward to receive the Lord after one of our services in Davao

Jen was a blessing all day today & Wileen, one of the Davao worship leaders, received an amazing prophetic word that we expect to see fulfilled!

Jen was a blessing all day today & Wileen, one of the Davao worship leaders, received an amazing prophetic word that we expect to see fulfilled!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These kinds of scenes were everywhere in the altar tonight-

These kinds of scenes were everywhere in the altar tonight-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t wait for all 14 CLC campuses to come together tomorrow for our 2-day CLC-Philippines Convention!

If you attend ANY service at ANY CLC campus today, please leave a comment below – we miss everyone there and would love to know how things are at home!

 

Congrats, Erik & Loren Joy!

Or should I say, Mr. & Mrs. Lumagsao?

Loren Joy & Erik as the wedding began-

Loren Joy & Erik as the wedding began-

One of the most wonderful and yet surprising benefits of our relationship with CLC-Davao is that many of the leaders really get into our hearts.  Today Chris and I had the privilege of helping to officiate the wedding of Erik Lumagsao and Loren Joy Bumanlag.  Erik spent a year with us in Chicago as part of our EnTheos Leadership School/internship, and we’ve grown to love Loren Joy through our many trips to CLC-Davao.

Enjoy a few pics of their wedding:

Weddings here are A-mazing, including the decor for the reception-

Weddings here are A-mazing productions, including the decor for the reception-                             (this is just a tiny glimpse)

We had a chance to greet Erik before the ceremony began (for those who don't know, he spent a year at CLC in our internship program, before returning to Davao last year)

We had a chance to greet Erik before the ceremony began (for those who don’t know, he spent a year at CLC in our internship program, before returning to Davao last year)

Pastors Sam & Brent arrived from Chicago to attend the wedding, with minutes to spare!

Pastors Sam & Brent arrived from Chicago to attend the wedding, with minutes to spare!

Jen was one of the bridesmaids (we really do feel like FAMILY here!)

Jen was one of the bridesmaids (we really do feel like FAMILY here!)

This beautiful flower girl is Pastor Herley's granddaughter

This beautiful flower girl is Pastor Herley’s granddaughter, Macy

 

 

 

First glance of Joy on her wedding day-

First glance of Joy on her wedding day-

something I'd never seen done at a wedding before: Joy washed Erik's feet to let him know that she respects him & submits to him as the head of their new family

something I’d never seen done at a wedding before: Joy washed Erik’s feet to let him know that she respects him & submits to him as the head of their new family

Mama Chris had a prophetic word for the new couple-

Mama Chris had a prophetic word for the new couple-

part of the Filipino wedding ceremony is the signing of the Marriage Certificate

part of the Filipino wedding ceremony is the signing of the Marriage Certificate by Pastor Herley and the bride & groom

Afterward, it was time to PARTY!

Afterward, it was time to PARTY!

and Erik & Joy led the way...

and Erik & Joy led the way…

...and some tender moments, too.  Ahhh, the beauty of LOVE!

…and some tender moments, too. Ahhh, the beauty of LOVE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow will be a full Sunday, as Pastors Brent & Sam will preach the 10am and 2pm services at CLC-Davao for Pastor Herley, while Chris and I will travel to CLC-Tagum to minister and also to ordain Pastors Jeser & Aying Molina there, before returning to Davao to preach the 4pm and 6pm services.  If I have any energy left, I’ll post some more pics then-

 

Philippines, day 1

The children's ministry teachers of CLC-Davao joined us for a picture after tonight's training

The children’s ministry teachers of CLC-Davao joined us for a picture after tonight’s training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several days ago on my blog, I was asked by a young man who serves in the children’s ministry of CLC-Davao how we train our teachers at CLC-Chicagoland, and after getting permission from his pastors, we offered to do a training seminar here.

I use “we” very liberally, as I basically took 5-10 minutes to tell the Davao team how important it is for us to reach children and then gave the floor to my wife, who has over 30 years of experience in ministry to children, and she taught the seminar.

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The good news is that our daughter, Jen, finally arrived tonight, after several hours delay – since she’s a bridesmaid tomorrow at the wedding of Erik Lumagsao and his fiancee’ Joy.  I’ll keep you posted with lots of pics.

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still answering questions we didn’t have enough time to cover during our “Hot Seat” Sunday back in August, and today’s question is a biggie: “what does the Bible say about women in ministry?”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do understand the authority that God has delegated to the husband in his household and the principle of men in leadership even in the Church.  But as I’ve explained in the past about our ministry here, my wife is not “usurping” authority at CLC; I have given it to her, knowing that God has gifted her to pastor here alongside me.  In addition, we sometimes invite other women pastors and leaders to minister here, including Pastor Sarah Bowling, who will minister at our upcoming Women’s Conference, Living the Dream” this November 17-18 (plus stay over for Sunday, November 19 and speak at all 3 services in Tinley Park that day)

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

Travel day!

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Chris and I will head to the Phnom Penh airport at 6am local time (6pm Wednesday in Chicago) for the first of three flights that will eventually get us into Davao City, Philippines late tonight.

When you look at a globe or world map, it would seem a simple hop to get from Cambodia to the Philippines, but it doesn’t work that way.  We’ll be traveling for about 14 hours (including some short layovers) as we fly from Phnom Penh to Singapore, then from Singapore to Manila and finally from Manila to Davao City.

Then the fun begins on Friday night – I’ll keep you posted on the last assignment of this SE Asia missions trip-

Cambodia, day 7

This man is an Under Secretary of State for the nation of Cambodia and THE most popular motivational speaker in the country, with more than a million followers on Social media!  He attended EVERY meeting we did this week - the marriage seminar, the Sunday services, the 1.5 days of Leadership Seminar and a special "Training the Trainers" event this afternoon!

This man is an Under Secretary of State for the nation of Cambodia and THE most popular motivational speaker in the country, with more than a million followers on Social media! He attended EVERY meeting we did this week – the marriage seminar, the Sunday services, the 1.5 days of Leadership Seminar and a special “Training the Trainers” event this afternoon!

AND he bought our lunch today at a 5-star Intercontinental Hotel, along with one of his assistants and Pastor Mara

AND he bought our lunch today at a 5-star Intercontinental Hotel, along with one of his assistants and Pastor Mara

Chris was her usual amazing self during the seminar

Chris was her usual amazing self during the seminar

and she managed to do some object lessons along the way.....

and she managed to fit in some object lessons along the way…..

So many people wanted the training in how to teach others that it became wall-to-wall people!  Such fun!

So many people wanted the training in how to teach others that it became wall-to-wall people! Such fun!

This sweet young lady is from Harare, Zimbabwe - but came here on her own a few months ago to serve the church in Cambodia!

This sweet young lady is from Harare, Zimbabwe – but came here on her own a few months ago to serve the church in Cambodia!  She’s as sweet as her smile!

Pastor Jesse McCaul closed the seminar with a strong 'word' to the delegates about the ripe harvest fields of Cambodia!  He is such a great leader and has become a true friend....we simply LOVE what God is doing here!

Pastor Jesse McCaul closed the seminar with a strong ‘word’ to the delegates about the ripe harvest fields of Cambodia! He is such a great leader and has become a true friend….we simply LOVE what God is doing here!

Cambodia, day 6

We had WiFi issues at the hotel last night, so I was unable to post about the first day of our EQUIP seminar at New Life Fellowship.  Of course, this is the primary assignment that brings us to Cambodia every six months, and the attendance this time was the largest I recall in our years of coming here.  Pastor Jesse said there were some very influential people in the crowd this time, including heads of NGO’s and Cambodian ministries and senior pastors.

It’s a long day of teaching, from 8:30am to 5:00pm, but Chris makes it FUN along the way with her object lessons and illustrations and even some giveaways for the students:

she wasn't expecting this close-up, but I couldn't resist a shot of her "vision" glasses!

she wasn’t expecting this close-up, but I couldn’t resist a shot of her “vision” glasses!

She also helped the students to catch God's vision for their lives!

She also helped the students to catch God’s vision for their lives!

My favorite was when she taught the people to be God's "catalyst" in this nation and used a little science experiment to illustrate.  Since she tried it at Beltei with a 2-liter of Coke, and it didn't work, she tried a smaller bottle this time & was completely unprepared for the EXPLOSION of foam that resulted!

My favorite was when she taught the people to be God’s “catalyst” in this nation and used a little science experiment to illustrate. Since she tried it at Beltei with a 2-liter of Coke, and it didn’t work, she tried a smaller bottle this time & was completely unprepared for the EXPLOSION of foam that resulted!

Honestly, I think the students enjoy the little giveaways more than anything else - no matter how cheesy, they rush to the stage to get them after a session!

Honestly, I think the students enjoy the little giveaways more than anything else – no matter how cheesy, they rush to the stage to get them after a session!

Lunch break brought a nice surprise - I think most CLC'ers will recognize the young lady on the right!  Meychen is doing a great job of leading New Life's internship program, and she recently got engaged!

Lunch break brought a nice surprise – I think most CLC’ers will recognize the young lady on the right! Meychen is doing a great job of leading New Life’s internship program, and she recently got engaged!

Cambodia, day 5

Pastor Chuck McCaul (Jesse's father) is the founder of the Cambodian Leadership Institute

Pastor Chuck McCaul (Jesse’s father) is the founder of the Cambodian Leadership Institute

Today was a real rarity for us on a missions trip – it was actually a day off!  We spent the morning relaxing in the hotel, joined Pastors Jesse & Soar for lunch and some window shopping at Phnom Penh’s newest mall (which surpasses anything in Chicagoland) and mostly enjoyed their fellowship.

Tonight I gave a brief message to graduates of their Cambodian Leadership Institute before the students received their diplomas.  As you look at the faces of these graduates, pray that God will use them to fulfill the special work to which they are called (Acts 13:2; Col. 4:17)

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Tomorrow will be a long day of teaching for EQUIP, as hundreds of leaders from all over Cambodia will join us at New Life Fellowship for some of John Maxwell’s “Laws of Leadership”

Thanks for the prayers!

Cambodia, day 4

Preaching at New Life Fellowship with the help of Executive Pastor Samady translating into Khmer.

Preaching at New Life Fellowship with the help of Executive Pastor Samady translating into Khmer today was a joy!

It’s always GREAT to be in service at New Life Fellowship, and today was certainly no exception.  They had just moved into their new building when we were here about 6 months ago – actually hadn’t even had their Grand Opening at that time – and they’ve added over 400 people to the church family since that time!!!

One reason we love NLF so much is because of the GREAT worship teams they have - they really know how to flow in the anointing!

One reason we love NLF so much is because of the GREAT worship teams they have – they really know how to flow in the anointing!

Since I preached both services this morning, Chris gave me a breather tonight & really delivered her heart to the people, with Pastor Samady translating again.

Since I preached both services this morning, Chris gave me a breather tonight & really delivered her heart to the people, with Pastor Samady translating again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow is a national holiday here, so we can’t do the EQUIP seminar until Tuesday, but we’ll spend the day consulting with Pastors Jesse & Soar.  More later-

P.S. If you attended any service of CLC at any campus today, please leave a comment below – I’d love to know how you were ministered to at home today!

 

Cambodia, day 3

This is how we were greeted upon arrival at Beltei International University this morning-

This is how we were greeted upon arrival at Beltei International University this morning-

His Excellency, Mr. Ly Chheng, Founder & President of Beltei International University, the most prestigious university in Phnom Penh, is always so gracious to invite us to teach leadership principles for students & faculty of his school-

His Excellency, Mr. Ly Chheng, Founder & President of Beltei International University, the most prestigious university in Phnom Penh, is always so gracious to invite us to teach leadership principles for students & faculty of his school-

Kinda weird to see a pic of yourself on the back wall of the platform...

Still kinda weird to see a pic of yourself on the back wall of the platform…

Chris was on her usual game with lots of object lessons & illustrations today that helped us connect with the students

Chris was on her usual game with lots of object lessons & illustrations today that helped us connect with the students

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a special joy at the end of the day to present an autographed copy of Dr. John Maxwell’s latest book to H.E. Mr. Ly Chheng and the Vice-President of Beltei, his son, Navuth Ly as well.

Tomorrow we’ll be ministering at the 3 services of New Life Fellowship for our friends and hosts, Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul – stay tuned for more reports from our Sunday in Cambodia-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I think it was the largest number of students & faculty we’ve ever taught in our 4 visits to Beltei over the past few years.  We’re starting to know some of the faculty members by name, and it’s a privilege to sow seeds about leadership from the Bible in this predominantly Buddhist nation!

It was a special joy at the end of the day to present an autographed copy of John Maxwell’s latest book to H.E. Mr. Ly Chhen and the Vice-President of the school, his son, Navuth

Wanna see what an answered prayer looks like?

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I can tell you more about Day 2 of our Cambodian trip later, but the most important news is  the BAGS have arrived!  All 3 pictured above, including (perhaps) the most important one containing all of Chris’ teaching supplies, student giveaways & gifts for our friends!

Thanks for praying – we can now sleep well, use deodorant & wear clean undies!

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still answering questions left over from our “Hot Seat” Sunday back in August, and today’s question is “How do we reconcile the Trinity and Jesus-only doctrines?  Or is it even necessary?”

  • I appreciate the second question as much as the first, because in my view, it’s not necessary to reconcile the two, since I really believe it comes down to semantics; i.e., both sides believe the same thing, but use different terms to describe those beliefs.

In over 27 years as pastor of CLC, I’ve taught on the ‘Godhead issue about two or maybe three times, and what I’ve said each time is that, in my humble opinion, the debate between the ‘oneness’ view and the ‘trinitarian’ view is a matter of semantics. I was raised and spent the first 22 years of my ministry in the Oneness camp, and during that time, plus the last 27 years at CLC I’ve listened carefully to Trinitarian views, and I have yet to hear any Christian leader truly disagree about the Biblical truth that there is only One God.

Folks from my background described that One God by using the term ‘manifestations’ while Trinitarians use the word ‘persons’, but at the end of the day, both believe that the One True God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At CLC (and this is what I’ve said each time I’ve taught on this subject) we have chosen not to divide the Body of Christ over this issue. Personally, I wonder how much more good would have been accomplished through the years had this issue not caused a division in the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900’s, and instead both ‘camps’ would have worked together!

  • While the questioner didn’t ask about water baptism, it’s been my experience that this is the main “sticking point” for the debate between the Oneness (or Jesus-only) view versus the Trinitarian view – so I’ll go ahead and address this issue as well. At CLC, because of our understanding of Scripture, we only baptize by full immersion. We believe that is the only Biblical practice and we encourage those who were baptized thru sprinkling or pouring water to be re-baptized by immersion. When it comes to what some call a ‘baptismal formula’, we use the name of Jesus in all our baptisms – BUT, we do not view that as a ‘test of fellowship’, and we accept into membership those who were baptized by immersion after coming to faith in Christ, regardless of what ‘formula’ the minister baptizing them used.) Again, we refuse to be divisive over non-essential issues.

I hope this helped a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Just leave your questions or comments below-

Cambodia, day 1

To see people coming to the altar for prayer after a MARRIAGE seminar was very encouraging!

To see people coming to the altar for prayer after a MARRIAGE seminar was very encouraging!

Tonight we taught part 1 of a Marriage Seminar at New Life Fellowship in Phnom Pehn for our dear friends, Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul – and it was a blast, despite all the difficulties we’ve had in getting here.  (In short, it took us about 54 hours to get from our house to the hotel here, and none of our bags made it, so we were wearing the same clothes for 3 days)

The auditorium was PACKED tonight, and about half of those in attendance were young single adults, who were hungry for every principle we taught about marriage!  That’s one of the reasons we love coming to Cambodia – these folks are hungry for God’s Word!

Pray with us that our bags arrive soon – we not only need medications and clothing, but all of our teaching tools and giveaways were packed in the checked luggage, too.  I’ll keep you posted going forward-

P.S. As of Thursday night, our bags have been located in Singapore and should be at our hotel by 9am Friday morning in Chicago, which means we’ll have what we need for our seminar at the University!  Thanks for the prayers!

thanks for PRAYING yesterday!

I’ve always believed in the power of prayer, but this missions trip, we experienced it first-hand.

If you haven’t heard, we left O’Hare last night on schedule without a hitch for the first few hours of flight.  Then the captain announced that there was a ‘problem’ and that we were being diverted to Salt Lake City, instead of San Francisco.

I soon noticed that the plane went straight for landing, much quicker than normal, and when we landed there were all sorts of emergency vehicles on the runway following us as we taxied to the gate.

Still not sure of what all was going on; we were told there was a pungent odor in the rear of the aircraft as though something was burning.

Of course, we missed all our connections, and as I type this, we’re still not sure how or when we’ll get to Cambodia – but in spite of all the frustrations of last night, Chris and I are alive – and this is one time the outcome could have been considerably different.

So don’t take it for granted when I say, please pray for us!

And thank God for all of you who do!

Off to Cambodia

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I’m typing this at O’Hare airport, where Chris & I are waiting for the first of three flights (Chicago to San Francisco, San Francisco to Singapore, Singapore to Phnom Penh) that will get us into Cambodia by Wednesday morning, their time (about 10pm Tuesday in Chicago).

We’ll be there for our semi-annual assignment with EQUIP to teach leadership principles to university students & faculty, business leaders and church leaders from around the country, as well as doing a Marriage Conference for New Life Fellowship and our dear friends, Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul!

I should have internet once we arrive, so I’ll keep you posted on our ministry there.  Thanks so much for your prayers while we’re away!

Want to GO on missions AND save money, too?

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We’ve now concluded the N2 International Dinners at each CLC campus and dozens of CLC’ers have already signed-up to go on one of the 8 missions trips we’re offering in 2018 – receiving a 10% discount in the process.

But this morning we felt like extending that generosity to those of you who may want to GO, but for whatever reason you weren’t able to attend one of the dinners or complete your application and put down the required $100 deposit at that time.

So from now through next Sunday, October 22, if you complete your application and submit your deposit, you, too will receive a 10% discount on the total cost of your trip(s).

To make it really easy, you can even access the application online here and pay your deposit online!

This offer will not be repeated after October 22, so take advantage NOW!

2108 Trip with sign

Sunday reflections

Yes, she's my daughter. But I can still say "thanks" for the great job she's doing as our Missions Director - putting on 3 different Int'l Dinners these past 3 Sundays & coordinating all our missions trips (and today she was our service host) Kudos, Jen!

Yes, she’s my daughter. But I can still say “thanks” for the great job she’s doing as our Missions Director – putting on 3 different Int’l Dinners these past 3 Sundays & coordinating all our missions trips (and today she was our service host) Kudos, Jen!

We always focus on the platform, but the most important ministries often happen outside the auditorium - like greeters who welcome people (kudos, Jerome!)

We always focus on the platform, but the most important ministries often happen outside the auditorium – like greeters who welcome people (kudos, Jerome!)

And faithful folks at the Info Desk, who answer questions & offer assistance to so many!

And faithful folks at the Info Desk, who answer questions & offer assistance to so many!

Using other languages for some verses these past 2 weeks brought a new dimension to worship & today the GLORY came - so glad "The Cross Has the Final Word!"

Using other languages for some verses these past 2 weeks brought a new dimension to worship & today the GLORY came – so glad “The Cross Has the Final Word!”

I love team-teaching with this lady, and today was no exception!

I love team-teaching with this lady, and today was no exception!

Our Blue Island campus worship is anointed!

Our Blue Island campus worship is anointed!

Caught in the act! (of having FUN at KidsLife, that is)

Caught in the act! (of having FUN at KidsLife, that is)

Pastor Brent unveiled plans for a community "HOPE CENTER" in Blue Island, starting with a food pantry - and we already have volunteers ready to serve!

Pastor Brent unveiled plans for a community “HOPE CENTER” in Blue Island, starting with a food pantry – and we already have volunteers ready to serve!

Today was Tommy Billup's first day to lead worship at Hammond, and Pastor Sam said the 11am worship BROKE OUT into a powerful time of prayer!  Kudos, Tommy!

Today was Tommy Billup’s first day to lead worship at Hammond, and Pastor Sam said the 11am worship BROKE OUT into a powerful time of prayer! Kudos, Tommy!

He was able to share his heart for missions today, and there was also one person who gave their life to Christ afterwards!

He was able to share his heart for missions today, and there was also one person who gave their life to Christ afterwards!

and we LOVE kids at the Hammond campus (just like every CLC campus!)

and we LOVE kids at the Hammond campus (just like every CLC campus!)

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still working on questions from our ‘Hot Seat’ Sunday that we didn’t have time to answer.  This week I’ll tackle two:

  • Can Christians lose their salvation?

As I understand Scripture, no Christian has to worry about “losing” their salvation, because  God has promised that HE will keep us from falling (Jude 24and that no one can pluck us out of his hand (John 10:28-29)

However, I also understand that Scripture indicates we have a free will of our own, and I do believe that we can choose to walk away from God’s grace and forfeit our salvation.

This is a hotly-debated subject among Christians for many, many years, and I’m not likely to resolve it in this post.  If you want to look into it further, I have written about it here.

  • What was Paul’s thorn in the flesh?

This expression is used in 2Corinthians 12, and Paul said it was a messenger of Satan to torment him.  Even though he asked the Lord three times to take it away, God told him that His grace would be sufficient for him to bear that thorn.

Ever since then, Bible students have wondered exactly what that ‘thorn’ might have been.  Some have suggested it was a problem with his eyesight, as could be intimated from Galatians 4:15 and Galatians 6:11, thinking that his vision was so bad that he had to write very large letters in order to see what we wrote.

The bottom-line is that no one knows what his thorn in the flesh was, and I think that’s on purpose – because each of us also have weaknesses and challenges, and just as God promised Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you”, so we also can take hope and courage that His grace will be sufficient for us, no matter what our issue may be.

I hope this helps.  Would you like to add to my answers?  If so, please leave a comment below, or perhaps even a question of your own for a future ‘Ask the Pastor’ post.

Sunday reflections

Sergei Zhuravle, worship pastor of the 3500-member New Testament Church in Perm, Russia BLESSED us by joining our worship team today - LOVE the anointing of worship in different languages!

Sergei Zhuravle, worship pastor of the 3500-member New Testament Church in Perm, Russia BLESSED us by joining our Tinley Park worship team today – LOVE the anointing of worship in different languages!

Bishop Herley Montes brought a great word to all of us on "How to Have Treasure in Heaven" - will YOU win a soul in 2017?

Bishop Herley Montes brought a great word to all of us on “How to Have Treasure in Heaven” – will YOU win a soul in 2017?

Even our KidsLife children were seeking after the Lord today!

Even our KidsLife children were seeking after the Lord today!

Our Hammond campus worships, and they're looking forward to Tommie Billups as their new Director

Our Hammond campus worships, and they’re looking forward to Tommie Billups as their new Director

Dr. Chinedu Oranye brought a great word in Hammond-

Dr. Chinedu Oranye brought a great word in Hammond-

In Blue Island today, my wife delivered her HEART for missions as only she can.

In Blue Island today, my wife delivered her HEART for missions as only she can.

And our Blue Island Kidslife team made learning FUN today-

And our Blue Island Kidslife team made learning FUN today-

Ask the Pastor

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Let’s look at 3 similar questions that we didn’t have time to answer during our “Hot Seat”  Sunday – all 3 are great questions because many believers are in this same situation:

  • What do you do if you marry someone who started as a Christian but doesn’t want to be a practicing Christian anymore?

First, I recommend that you pray.  Sincerely. Earnestly. Recognize that YOU cannot change the heart of your spouse, but God can.  After you have invested time in real prayer, when you sense the time is right, then talk.  Not in a heated, emotionally-charged discussion, but in a logical, reasoned manner – explaining to your spouse how important your faith is to you, and how important you feel it is to your relationship.  Seek to understand why your spouse has walked away from the Lord.  Once you understand why, you may be able to help. If not, then seek counsel.  Hopefully, your spouse will receive the helpful counsel from your pastor or a trusted counselor.  I pray that this helps and that your spouse will return to walk with the Lord – keeping in mind James 5:20

  • How can I be a light in my marriage? We are unequally yoked.

Honestly, my heart goes out to any believer who is in an “unequally yoked” marriage, meaning one in which your spouse is not walking with the Lord, while you are.  I can’t even imagine the profound sadness of not being able to share your most important relationship of all with the person that you love and want to spend the rest of your life with.  Whether your spouse opposes your faith and merely tolerates it, it hurts.

There could be several options, depending on exactly why your spouse is not a believer – but the Biblical answer is found in 1Peter 3:1-2 and 1Cor. 7:12-16.  Your lifestyle can win your spouse!

  • How can I raise my children when their father is following the Muslim religion?

First, I hope you’ll attend our seminar at CLC-Tinley Park tomorrow (Oct. 7, at 9am) because our guest teachers have lived and work among Muslims for many years and have godly wisdom to help us reach Muslims for Christ.  But for my part, I think perhaps the starting place would be for you to kindly (not in an argumentative way) explain to your husband WHY you love Jesus, and how important it is to you that your children grow up to know the Lord as you do.  Hopefully, he will agree that you can bring the children to church and teach them God’s Word.  But whether he does or not, I encourage you to be very intentional in living a godly life before your children, sharing your values and your heart with them regularly, so that even if their father prevents them from going to church, you are bringing church to them!  The verses above also apply to your situation, and God is able to work in the hearts of your children!  Never underestimate your motherly influence in their lives!

I hope that helps.  If you’d like to add to my answer, please leave your comments below – or ask a question of your own.

Just a reminder…..

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Just a quick reminder that THIS SATURDAY (October 7), from 9am-11:30am at our Tinley Park campus we’ll host a great seminar on “Reaching our Muslim Friends”.

Since all of us have opportunities in our neighborhoods, our workplace and in school to make friendships with Muslims, this is a GREAT one-time opportunity to learn from our special guests who wrote this material after spending years working among Muslim people.

Make plans now to join us and let’s learn together!

To my pastors…

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I often tease my pastor friends that we have the “greatest job security in the world”, because people will always need a pastor, just like sheep need a shepherd.

But during this Pastor Appreciation Month, I thought it appropriate to honor the men that God has used in my life to shepherd me, from my earliest memories:

  • George L. Glass, Sr.
  • Marvin Rutledge
  • Jimmy Greer (who baptized me)
  • Roy L. Jones
  • F.R. Reed (who was like a father to me and under whose ministry I began preaching)
  • William Sciscoe (who was there for me after I lost Pastor Reed)
  • Bishop Joseph Garlington

and a special thanks to the men who have walked alongside Chris and me at CLC, as our Apostolic Overseers:

  • John Nordstrom
  • Eddie Cupples
  • Dale Van Steenis
  • Gordon Banks
  • Dennis Cramer

and finally, my fellow-laborers at CLC through the years:

  • Stephen & Shae Wasmundt
  • Brian & Natalie Page
  • Dan & Pat Johnson
  • Eric & Kristen Stone
  • Doug & Shanna Neal
  • Benjamin & Nili Stewart
  • Tony & Angie Gilmore
  • Brent & Sol McQuay
  • Sam & Taylor Hamstra, Jr.
  • Jon & Rachel Jones
  • Micah & Jen Remington
  • Moy & Eva Mendez
  • Ken & Patricia Earley
  • Dan & Torey Goodson

and my one and only Chris, whose dedication to God & His people never cease to amaze-

this is for you, with my love:

Living the Dream!

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Our bi-annual Women’s Conference is just around the corner this November 17-18, with special guest speaker Sarah Bowling!

It will be a great 2 days for women to renew your dedication to God and His dreams for your lives, to revive those dreams and move forward into the fulfillment of God’s promises to you!

You can get more information at your Heart to Heart meetings or simply register here.  Your registration fee includes all sessions on Friday and Saturday, conference giveaways, before party on Friday evening, Saturday lunch and the after party on Saturday night.

(Pastor’s are FREE)

(Now I just need to find out if us guys can sneak in)

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Testimonies from our “Generosity Sunday”

That's what I'd call a FUN day in Church, CLC-style!

It was even BETTER than I realized at the time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve heard a few stories since last week’s “GENEROSITY SUNDAY” that blessed my socks off and I thought you could use a little encouragement on this Monday morning:

  • one of the CLC’ers who won a $50 gift card to Speedway told us that she actually came to church that day “on fumes” and didn’t know how she would get back home unless someone had mercy and bought her some gas!
  • another CLC’er who won one of the $200 gift cards to Walt’s Food Center was unemployed and said “I didn’t know how I was going to eat this week!”
  • Finally, at our Hammond campus, when the BIG award was chosen (a house payment up to $1,000), Pastor Sam had to draw 4 names, because the first 3 names chosen each decided to pass and let someone else receive the award!

Generosity begets generosity!  How will YOU be generous this week?

Sunday reflections

Worship at our Tinley Park campus was ON FIRE today!

Worship at our Tinley Park campus was ON FIRE today!

We enjoyed the music & voice of Tommy Billups with the team today, too!

We enjoyed the music & voice of Tommy Billups with the team today, too!  (Tommy is going to be the NEW Worship Director at our Hammond campus!)

Dr. Chinedu Oranye delivered a 'Word' to us today - SO good!

Dr. Chinedu Oranye delivered a ‘Word’ to us today – SO good!

And he used Pastor Jon's hairstyle as an example of how we all follow someone-

And he used Pastor Jon’s hairstyle as an example of how we all follow someone-

Tommy & his wife Azania & their children were announced at the Hammond campus today

Tommy & his wife Azania & their children were announced at the Hammond campus today

Bishop Herley Montes from the Philippines brought the Word at Hammond as to how we can build treasures in heaven.

Bishop Herley Montes from the Philippines brought the Word at Hammond as to how we can build treasures in heaven.

Our CLC pastors LOVE Bishop Herley!

Our CLC pastors LOVE Bishop Herley!

Sometimes a KidsLife Director gets to 'perform' in order to keep the kids attention!

Sometimes a KidsLife Director gets to ‘perform’ in order to keep the kids attention!

Bruce Crawford of the Abraham Project in Costa Rica was our guest at the Blue Island campus today - when you hear his testimony, you know why CLC'ers LOVE him and the Abraham project!

Bruce Crawford of the Abraham Project in Costa Rica was our guest at the Blue Island campus today – when you hear his testimony, you know why CLC’ers LOVE him and the Abraham project!

Ask the Pastor

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As we continue looking at questions we weren’t able to get to during our “Hot Seat” last month, let’s address two more today: Will those who have never heard of Christ or the gospel go to hell?”

Great question that has been asked for about as long as the church has existed!  Let me quickly tell you WHY I believe the answer is unequivocally, ‘YES’:

  • because God would never have sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins, if we could be saved without such a cost (1Peter 1:18-19; 2Cor. 5:21; John 3:16-18)
  • because otherwise, the damnable doctrine called “universalism“, that has been rejected by The Church for it’s entire history, would be true.  (Universalism basically says that God is do loving that, at the end, He will allow everyone into heaven because He doesn’t want to send anyone to hell.
  • because otherwise, we do lost people a disservice by sending missionaries to preach to them, because then those who heard the gospel and rejected it would be lost, whereas they would have been ok before the missionary came. Yet Jesus clearly told us to go and preach to everyone (Mark 16:15)

Finally, another CLC’er asks, “Is CLC primarily a mission minded church?”

Hmmmm, primarily is a very strong word, so I’m not sure that we can ‘claim’ that, but I hope it’s true of us, since the Great Commission of Jesus is definitely the primary reason for the Church to exist – otherwise, The Church of Jesus Christ would have died out in the first century.  The Great Commission is the LAST instruction that Jesus gave to The Church, so it was the primary thing on His mind.  My greatest desire is that CLC would always be a missions-minded church!

To that end, we’re starting our “N2 (neighbors & nations) series” this Sunday, with special guests from Costa Rica (Bruce Crawford speaking at our Blue Island campus), the Philippines (Herley Montes speaking at our Hammond campus) and Nigeria (Chinedu Oranye speaking at our Tinley Park campus). It’s going to be a great kick-off Sunday and I hope you’ll plan to join us!

Hope that helps a bit.  Would you like to add to my answers by leaving a comment below?

Reaching our MUSLIM friends

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I’m excited about our next sermon series, “N2 – Neighbors & Nations” as we focus on the mission of CLC, not only in the Nations, but also here in Chicagoland.

One of the wonderful benefits of living in the third-largest city in America is that the Nations have already come to us!  CLC currently has about 40 different nations represented in our church family, and certainly many more nationalities in our jobs and our neighborhoods.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce that on Saturday, October 7 from 9am-11:30am we will be offering a special seminar, “Reaching Our Muslim Friends”.  Often times we’re not sure how to begin a conversation with people of another religious background, but this seminar will give us the tips and tools to get started.

The seminar is taken from a larger resource, The Oasis Course, and will be presented at CLC by our friends, Chinedu & Taiwo Oranye, who served the Muslim community as missionaries in Oman for several years.

Mark your calendar and make plans to join us on October 7!

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Generosity Sunday reflections

There's JOY in giving & receiving! Fresh out of college, in her own apartment & CLC will be making the rent payment for Jacqueline Hackmon!

There’s JOY in giving & receiving! Fresh out of college, in her own apartment & CLC will be making the rent payment for Jacqueline Hackmon!

Before all the giveaways began, Pastor Jon & Tiffany led us into the Presence of the Lord - STRONG presence today!

Before all the giveaways began, Pastor Jon & Tiffany led us into the Presence of the Lord – STRONG presence today!

We gave away over $6,000 worth of awards in Tinley Park today (over $12k campus-wide) just for the JOY of giving!

We gave away over $6,000 worth of awards in Tinley Park today (over $12k campus-wide) just for the JOY of giving!

I've always wondered about pastors who didn't worship with their congregation, and I'm glad that CLC pastors set the right example!

I’ve always wondered about pastors who didn’t worship with their congregation, and I’m glad that CLC pastors set the right example!

Our Blue Island worship team knows HOW!

Our Blue Island worship team knows HOW!

Lots of FUN giving stuff away in Blue Island today-

Lots of FUN giving stuff away in Blue Island today-

including a mortgage payment for the winner: Eric Williams, who spent all week in Texas helping with Hurricane Harvey relief! (God knows how to reward us!)

including a mortgage payment for the winner: Eric Williams, who spent all week in Texas helping with Hurricane Harvey relief! (God knows how to reward us!)

Our Hammond campus was ON FIRE today, with the largest non-Easter attendance ever - 501!

Our Hammond campus was ON FIRE today, with the largest non-Easter attendance ever – 501!

That record attendance was possible because of NEW FAMILIES like these two!

That record attendance was possible because of NEW FAMILIES like these two!

John won a car payment and promptly gave it back for someone else!

John won a car payment and promptly gave it back for someone else!

After Talaat & Tai McNeely shared their great teaching on "The Prosperity Plan", 8 precious people gave their life to Christ!

After Talaat & Tai McNeely shared their great teaching on “The Prosperity Plan”, 8 precious people gave their life to Christ!

That's what I'd call a FUN day in Church, CLC-style!

Just as in times past, there were reports at each campus of people who won an award (even the $1,000 awards for a house payment) and turned around and gave it to someone else in need – because generosity begets generosity! That’s what I’d call a FUN day in Church, CLC-style!

Ask the Pastor

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I’m still answering questions left over from our “Hot Seat” Sunday last month, and these 2 may help people: “Are those who die in infancy saved?”

Great question, because for anyone who has lost a child in death, besides the immediate sorrow and heartbreaking pain, is that eternal concern: is my baby in heaven?

It would be easy for me to just answer this question from sentimentality, and say, ‘of course infants go to heaven, because God is good and surely all innocent babies go to heaven’ – but sentimentality is not a Biblical reason.  Many people today, even Christians, entertain a very dangerous and false teaching known as universalism, which simply says everyone will go to heaven.  But the Bible does NOT teach that.  Scripture teaches that we are born into sin and that we must receive Jesus as our Savior in order to be saved.

However, I believe the Bible also teaches that infants who die ARE saved, for these reasons:

  • 2Cor. 5:10 clearly states that we will be judged by God for the sins we have done in our earthly body, NOT for Adam’s sin.  Since infants have not committed sins, they are saved.
  • In Deut. 1:35, God specifically told the people of Israel that they would not be allowed entrance into the Promised Land because of their sin, but then in Deut. 1:39, God specifically exempted their innocent children from that judgement. Since these ‘little ones’ had no knowledge of good and evil, they would not be judged for their father’s sins, but would inherit the Promised Land.
  • Jesus made it quite clear in Mark 10:14 that little children belong to Him, and He welcomes them!

Yes, I believe infants and small children who die are in heaven with our loving Savior!

The second question is “where are our loved ones who died in Christ”?

I am convinced by Scripture that those who died in Christ are with the Lord – 2Cor. 5:1-8 and Phil. 1:21-24 both indicate that when we leave this life, we are immediately with the Lord – if we are believers, that is – those who did not receive Christ before death will await their final judgment in hell.

I hope this helped a bit.  If you’d like to add to my answers, or perhaps ask a question of your own, please leave a comment below-

And don’t forget that THIS SUNDAY at each CLC campus is Generosity Sunday as we bring a great close to our ‘Moneywise’ series-

 

Crimea, day 5

A good marriage requires good LISTENING skills!

A good marriage requires good LISTENING skills (says the queen of object lessons!)

Our friend and son of Bishop Grabovenko from the largest Russian network of pastors, David Grabovenko arrived this morning and helped translate some marriage discussion exercises we gave the pastors.

Our friend and son of Bishop Grabovenko from the largest Russian network of pastors, David Grabovenko arrived this morning and helped translate some marriage discussion exercises we gave the pastors.

Of course, Anna (center) was our primary interpreter for the entire seminar-

Of course, Anna (center) was our primary interpreter for the entire seminar – we’ve loved her since our first visit to Russia over 7-8 years ago.

This Russian pastor became a 'punching bag' to illustrate what happens when we attack our spouse verbally.

This Russian pastor became a ‘punching bag’ to illustrate what happens when we attack our spouse verbally.

Again tonight as an icebreaker, we had couples take a turn at Jenga after they shared a principle they learned during the seminar

Again tonight as an icebreaker, we had the pastor couples take a turn at Jenga after they shared a principle they learned during the seminar

The highlight of the seminar came at the close when each pastor couple renewed their marriage vows - lots of love & hugs in the room tonight!

The highlight of the seminar came at the close when each pastor couple renewed their marriage vows – lots of love & hugs in the room tonight!

I love witnessing those 'special moments' with faithful shepherds!

I love witnessing those ‘special moments’ with faithful shepherds!

 

This 14-year old boy has an amazing gift for art, and he surprised us with a beautiful pencil drawing!

This 14-year old boy has an amazing gift for art, and he surprised us with a beautiful pencil drawing!

Bishop Edward leads the largest network of Russian churches and was unable to join us, but his wife Larissa was SO encouraging to us with her kindness throughout the retreat !

Bishop Edward leads the largest network of Russian churches and was unable to join us, but his wife Larissa was SO encouraging to us with her kindness throughout the retreat!

Of course, we couldn't have ministered at all without our interpreter-friend, Anna!

Of course, we couldn’t have ministered at all without our interpreter-friend, Anna!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll be headed to the airport in a couple of hours, feeling quite fulfilled in this ministry assignment – but can’t wait for this “Generosity Sunday” at each campus of CLC – it’s going to be a GREAT close to our “Moneywise” series – hope you’ll bring a friend!

Crimea, day 4

This little guy has captured my eye each day, but he's too bashful to pose for my camera!

This little guy has captured my eye each day, but he’s too bashful to pose for my camera!

Each teaching time always begins with some worship - today led by our friend, Pastor Sergei from Perm (he's coming to visit us at CLC in a few weeks)

Each teaching time always begins with some worship – today led by our friend, Pastor Sergei from Perm (he’s coming to visit us at CLC in a few weeks)

This afternoon we had separate sessions for men and women - and these guys kept me on my toes with their questions!

This afternoon we had separate sessions for men and women – and these guys kept me on my toes with their questions!

To open tonight's session, we used a balloon game where each table had to keep their balloon in the air without using their hands

To open tonight’s session, we used a balloon game where each table had to keep their balloon in the air without using their hands

I gotta tell you: they were competitive! And they kept those balloons in the air much longer than I expected-

I gotta tell you: they were competitive! And they kept those balloons in the air much longer than I expected-

It was important to have a little fun & release some stress, because tonight's teaching was pretty intense as we challenged each couple to examine their own relationship for "hidden" dangers

It was important to have a little fun & release some stress, because tonight’s teaching was pretty intense as we challenged each couple to examine their own relationship for “hidden” dangers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have two more sessions tomorrow afternoon and evening before heading back to the airport for the first of three flights that will get us home on Thursday afternoon.  Thanks for your prayers – we feel it’s going very well based on the responses from these precious pastors!

Crimea, day 3

Chris reminded us all that we sometimes have to REFOCUS in marriage, to see what our partner is doing right, instead of only what they do wrong! (the Queen of illustrations strikes again)

Chris reminded us all that we sometimes have to REFOCUS in marriage, to see what our partner is doing right, instead of only what they do wrong! (the Queen of illustrations strikes again)

We began the retreat with an icebreaker where each wife kissed her husband's face as many times as possible in 30 seconds. The winner was determined by counting the 'lips' on his face.

We began the retreat with an icebreaker where each wife kissed her husband’s face as many times as possible in 30 seconds. The winner was determined by counting the ‘lips’ on his face.

and the Russians REALLY got into this contest!

and the Russians REALLY got into this contest!

The winning couple (although the lighting in this pic doesn't reveal it) - they said they won because he had more space on his face than anyone else (his bald head!)

The winning couple (although the lighting in this pic doesn’t reveal it) – they said they won because he had more space on his face than anyone else (his bald head!)      

another of the couples in an icebreaker game before tonight's session began-

another of the couples in an icebreaker game before tonight’s session began-

 

 

 

 

This is just ONE of the pastoral couples who have touched our hearts. Their story of sacrifice and faith really inspired us today-

This is just ONE of the pastoral couples who have touched our hearts. Their story of sacrifice and faith really inspired us today-

just before Chris concluded our teaching tonight I took this shot of a few of the pastors in attendance

just before Chris concluded our teaching tonight I took this shot of a few of the pastors in attendance-

 

 

 

Crimea, day 2

Of course I always think our KidsLife kids are the cutest in the world, but these Crimean kids are stiff competition - CUTE!

Of course I always think our KidsLife kids are the cutest in the world, but these Crimean kids are stiff competition – CUTE!

The worship team today in Crimea - I didn't know any of the songs they sang, but I sure knew the Spirit they entertained!

The worship team today in Crimea – I didn’t know any of the songs they sang, but I sure knew the Spirit they entertained!

Anna is our veteran interpreter from the New Testament Church of Perm, and with her help today we saw 8-10 adults stand to give their hearts to Jesus after the Word!

Anna is our veteran interpreter from the New Testament Church of Perm, and with her help today we saw 8-10 adults stand to give their hearts to Jesus after the Word!

We enjoyed an amazing lunch of Crimean specialties (the bread will be served at the marriage supper of the Lamb - take my word for it!) with our host Pastor Sergei (in center w/striped shirt) and his friend, an Armenian pastor who also owns the restaurant where we ate.

We enjoyed an amazing lunch of Crimean specialties (the bread will be served at the marriage supper of the Lamb – take my word for it!) with our host Pastor Sergei (in center w/striped shirt) and his friend, an Armenian pastor who also owns the restaurant where we ate (at the left) – Pastor Sergei’s wife at the right.

They insisted on taking us for a walking tour of their town, situated right on the Black Sea.

They insisted on taking us for a walking tour of their town, situated right on the Black Sea.

We were especially fascinated with their story of the Crimean Karaites, a small group who claim to be Jews.  Their synagogue pictured here is hundreds of years old.

We were especially fascinated with their story of the Crimean Karaites, a small group who claim to be Jews. Their synagogue pictured here is hundreds of years old.

There was a whole section of town dedicated to these people and we couldn't resist a little fun pic to end our day here.

There was a whole section of town dedicated to these people and we couldn’t resist a little fun pic to end our day here.  The real ‘fun’ starts tomorrow with the pastor’s retreat where we’ll be ministering twice a day.  

Crimea, day 1

For some reason this lake near the Black Sea attracts many, many SWANS, and our hosts thought you'd like to see-

For some reason this lake near the Black Sea attracts many, many SWANS, and our hosts thought you’d like to see-

We always insist on our CLC missions trips to include one “fun day” for the team to do some sightseeing or local activities – but when Chris and I travel for missions, we seldom practice what we preach.  But this trip is an exception,  and today was our fun day before the ministry begins tomorrow. (It would have been more fun had we checked the weather forecast this week instead of last week.  We packed nothing but long-sleeved shirts only to get here and discover that the forecast had changed and high’s are in the 90’s for our entire stay!)  Oh well, the joys of international travel.

But what was fun was our 11-hour excursion that enabled us to see practically the entire Crimean peninsula and some breathtaking views of the Black Sea, as well as a delicious lunch with our friends here.  But the highlight was a visit to Livadia Palace, the site of the Yalta Conference.

It’s past our bedtime now and we’re fighting jetlag to boot, but if you’re not familiar with the Yalta Conference, read about it here.  It was neat to be at the site of some US & World history  and we even got a picture to prove it:

Posing with the main characters of the conference: Winston Churchill, Franklin Delanor Roosevelt & Joseph Stalin (at the monument outside the Livadia Palace)

Posing with the main characters of the conference: Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt & Joseph Stalin (at the monument outside the Livadia Palace)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took lots more pictures, but it’s late and we have a full day of ministry tomorrow, with a marriage seminar at a local church added to the schedule unexpectedly – that’s another rule of missions trips: always be flexible.

I’ll post again tomorrow-

Ask the Pastor

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Well, we made it to Zurich without any complications, so I’m typing this post while we wait for our flight to Moscow.  Here are some questions left over from our “Hot Seat” Sunday:

If the church is set up to be a “community” and we all serve to fulfill the need for reaching people, then why do people always expect to get paid for “volunteer” work?”

While this is a valid question, it’s not one that Scripture addresses directly, so I’ll give you my opinion in just 2 words: human nature.  All of us are born into this world with the nature of our father Adam, and as much as I hate to admit it, we are inherently selfish.  So it only stands to reason that IF we walk by our fleshly nature, we don’t want to serve, we want to be paid.

My suggestion is that instead of judging others in the church who don’t live up to our expectations that we live by Romans 14:10, 13 instead.

Someone else asks, “So as a new employee, how do you handle back stabbers, sabotagers at work, when your boss refuses to intervene?”

I’m guessing that’s a question that almost every believer in the workplace has asked at one time or another.  Again, the Bible doesn’t address this particular question directly, but I’ll give you my thoughts:

  • Since your boss refuses to intervene, and you are (Biblically) under his authority, you can just learn to accept it, without participating in the backstabbing behavior yourself.  There is Biblical support for us to accept mistreatment in 1Cor. 6:7 and 1Peter 2.
  • Of course, you have another option: look for another job.  While there’s no guarantee that you won’t face similar mistreatment at another workplace, you have a right to seek peace on your job.

Finally, a CLC’er asks, “Should pastors of “mega-churches” be rich and live excessive lifestyles or should the bulk of that wealth, if earned through ministry, go back to the church?”

Honestly, from the tone of this question, I suspect you’re not really asking a question, but instead passing judgment on some pastor(s) that you don’t agree with.  The only thing that I would contribute to this discussion is a warning as to how dangerous it is for any of us to  assume anything about others.  For example, both Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, to name just two “mega-church’ pastors who are millionaires, refuse to take a salary from their churches and live off the royalties of their book sales.  In fact, in Rick Warren’s case, after his book, Purpose-Driven Life, became so wildly successful, he paid back Saddleback Church  every penny he had earned since starting the church!

Personally, I have enough to do to keep my own life in line with God’s Word, without criticizing or judging others whom I don’t even know.  The whole 14th chapter of Romans again comes to mind.

Hope that helps.  If you’d like to add to my answers (or disagree), please leave a comment below – or even a question of your own for another post.

 

To Russia, with love…

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Chris and I will board a Swiss Air jet in a few hours for an overnight flight to Zurich, then another flight to Moscow, and finally an S7 Airways flight to Simferopol, Crimea.  This will be our first visit to Ukraine (or what was a part of Ukraine before being ‘annexed’ by Russia a few years ago).

We’re looking forward to a reunion with several pastor friends from the Perm, Russia region who will help us conduct a pastor’s retreat for some faithful Crimean pastors who have labored in very difficult circumstances.

We DO love these Russian pastors after several previous visits to various parts of their country, so please pray that we can both encourage and challenge the Crimean pastors in fulfilling their ministry.  I’m not sure we’ll have internet access while there, but I’ll certainly try to keep you posted if we do.

 

Generosity Sunday is coming September 24!

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We truly believe that some CLC’ers will look back later and say, “September was the month things turned around for our finances – it went from stress & worry to the favor of God” – because of our  ‘Moneywise” series!

And to close out the series on September 24, at each service of each CLC Chicagoland campus, that day we’re going to practice what we preach about generosity by giving away:

$50 gift cards for gasoline

$50 gift cards: GASOLINE

$200 gift cards for food

$200 gift cards: GROCERIES

 

                         

Budgeting course from HisAndHerMoney ($197 value)

Budgeting course from HisAndHerMoney ($197 value)

one month car payment (up to $350 value)

one monthly car payment               ($350 value)

one month house payment (up to $1000 value)

one monthly house payment      ($1000 value)

That’s over $11,000 in FREE giveaways on September 24!!!                                    (must be present to win)

Invite a friend to join you September 24 – six services to choose from:             (Blue Island – 11am; Hammond – 9am/11am; Tinley Park – 8:30am/10am/12pm)

Sunday reflections

It's always a JOY to see someone baptized, but especially when their JOY shows like this - congrats, Rachael Eubanks!

It’s always a JOY to see someone baptized, but especially when their JOY shows like this – congrats, Rachael Eubanks!

Tai McNeely shared her story of becoming debt-free using the principles of God's Word.

Tai McNeely shared her story of becoming debt-free using the principles of God’s Word.

Her husband Talaat was humorous, practical & challenging, as the McNeely's did an amazing job at the Tinley Park campus today-

Her husband Talaat was humorous, practical & challenging, as the McNeely’s did an amazing job at the Tinley Park campus today – and at the noon service, about 5 or 6 adults prayed to receive Christ – after a message about money management!!!

There was something for the entire family today!

There was something for the entire family today!

At Blue Island, like each CLC campus, we couldn't do what we do without faithful volunteers!

At Blue Island, like each CLC campus, we couldn’t do what we do without faithful volunteers like Dessie Bell & Rosetta Hatchett!

Tiffany Hines stepped in to lead worship at Blue Island since 3 of their praise team leaders are in Croatia - thanks, Tiff!

Tiffany Hines stepped in to lead worship at Blue Island since 3 of their praise team leaders are in Croatia – thanks, Tiff!

Pastors Dan & Torey brought the message from Proverbs: "Choose Wisely!"

Pastors Dan & Torey brought the message from Proverbs: “Choose Wisely!”

At our Hammond campus, during this interim without a worship director, the ENTIRE praise team stepped up to lead the congregation into His Presence, and Pastor Sam said it was really neat to see!

At our Hammond campus, during this interim without a worship director, the ENTIRE praise team stepped up to lead the congregation into His Presence, and Pastor Sam said it was really neat to see!

He was also encouraged by one new member, Loren Sargent, who just moved here from one of our "hero churches", Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL (average attendance more than 40,000 per Sunday! - and she says CLC reminds her of CoH!) Welcome, Loren!

He was also encouraged by one new member, Loren Sargent, who just moved here from one of our “hero churches”, Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL (average attendance more than 40,000 per Sunday! – and she says CLC reminds her of CoH!) Welcome, Loren!

Ask the Pastor

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Continuing to answer questions that we weren’t able to get to during our “Hot Seat” a few weeks back, beginning with this one from a 10-year old CLC’er who wants to know “why does God allow Lightning and Thunder?”  (she’s frightened by both & doesn’t see any purpose for them)

Well, that’s a question I’ve never been asked before.  And while the Bible doesn’t go into great detail on this subject, I can tell you that sometimes God uses lightning or thunder to accomplish His purposes.  For example:

  • Exodus 9:23-29 – lightning was used by God to show Pharaoh and the Egyptians that the earth belongs to the Lord, and frightened them into releasing Israel from slavery.
  • Exodus 20:18-20 – God used the lightning & thunder to get His people’s attention, so they would hear His Word through Moses.
  • 1 Sam. 7:10 – God used thunder to confuse Israel’s enemy, so they could defeat them.
  • 1Sam. 12:17-18 – God used thunder so Israel would know He was speaking to them.

In fact, several times in Scripture it seems thunder is symbolic of God’s voice – and while several verses indicate that we don’t really understand, we know that God can speak!  So the purpose of lightning & thunder is to demonstrate a little of God’s power.

Now, if you want a scientific explanation, this is a pretty good one.

Question 2 during the ‘Hot Seat’ was, “should believers follow the Democratic or Republican party? 

My answer is, neither!  Follow Jesus!

Finally, question 3 from the ‘Hot Seat’ was, “Has the antichrist been revealed? And will he be before the Rapture? 

My answer is I don’t know, and possibly.

Hope these helped a bit.  Feel free to weigh in if you have insight into any of these 3 questions, so we may all learn – just leave your comment below.

Who are you inviting to hear Talaat & Tai McNeely THIS Sunday at CLC-TP?

 

Moving the ball down the field

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You don’t have to be a Bears fan to know that football isn’t necessarily about the BIG plays – the game is often won by the team that steadily moves the ball down the field, turning first-downs into touchdowns.  (I guess it helps if you aren’t a Bears fan to know about touchdowns, but that’s another subject altogether)

Sometimes we have guest speakers at CLC who help us move the ball down the field – and I  “prophesy’ that this Sunday, September 10, will be on of those days at our Tinley Park campus (don’t free in Blue Island or Hammond, because you’ll get them this month, too)

After our sermon planning meeting today with our pastoral team and guest Talaat McNeely, I’m more convinced than ever that months from now, some CLC’ers will look back and say,  “September was the month when our finances turn around!” (see Esther 9:22).

Tai & Talaat McNeely will share their story and God's plan for your prosperity, using the wisdom of Proverbs!

Tai & Talaat McNeely will share their story and God’s plan for your prosperity, using the wisdom of Proverbs!

If you’re ever going to invite a friend to join you at CLC, this is the Sunday!   There will be practical help for everyone in attendance!

And stay tuned for a special announcement about our 2017 Generosity Sunday…soon!

Sunday reflections

Turn your eyes upon Jesus Look full in His wonderful face And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth
will grow strangely dim
in the light of His glory and grace!

Chris gave us some prophetic pictures in each service

My wife gave us some prophetic pictures in each service: warnings & promises!

Pastor Jon appealed for CLC'ers to step up to help the Hurricane victims - if giving online, choose "Hurricane Relief"

Pastor Jon appealed for CLC’ers to step up to help the Hurricane victims – if giving online, choose “Hurricane Relief”

Could you tell that I'm pumped about this new series?

Could you tell that I’m pumped about this new series?  Best of all, people gave their life to Christ at each service today, and that’s always worth celebrating!

I say it again: the cutest kids on earth attend CLC!

I say it again: the cutest kids on earth attend CLC! (Our KidsLife volunteers are great, too!)

some of them are rather adventurous, too

some of them are rather adventurous, too (but our KidsLife staff has it under control!)

Don't you wanna know what was so funny?

Don’t you wanna know what was so funny?

Harmony LaBeff led worship at Hammond campus today-

Harmony LaBeff led worship at Hammond campus today-

In Hammond, Pastors Dan & Torey made their teaching debut at CLC, while Pastor Sam is on vacation. I heard it was awesome & that one person received Christ there today!

In Hammond, Pastors Dan & Torey made their teaching debut at CLC, while Pastor Sam is on vacation. I heard it was awesome & that one person received Christ there today!

Lifting up holy hands unto the Lord at our Blue Island campus!

Lifting up holy hands unto the Lord at our Blue Island campus!

I love how kids can FOCUS and receive from God's Word!

I love how kids can FOCUS and receive from God’s Word!

Two Blue Island favorite worshippers: Alan Franklin & Daniel Rodriguez!

Two Blue Island favorite worshippers: Alan Franklin & Daniel Rodriguez!

Pastor Brent received a BIRTHDAY surprise from the congregation...AND their prayers for this next year!

Pastor Brent received a BIRTHDAY surprise from the congregation…AND their prayers for this next year!  AND 4 people joined CLC-BI through Growth Track today, and 1 person gave his life to Christ after the message – that’s a great birthday gift!

Ask the Pastor

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Two of the questions we didn’t have time to answer last Sunday are similar: “Pastor, my question is in times like these where we know we can’t do life without God, how can we humbly w/o getting too churchy or political conversate about the word of God with those who don’t know God?” and “I have friends who are atheists and I want to know how I can go about witnessing to them? If they don’t believe in God or the Bible, how do I talk to them about it? 

Great questions, and the topic is one that I’m sure will be more and more common in days to come, as our country is increasingly post-Christian, where a significant part of the population checks “NONE” when asked about their religious beliefs.

I’ll admit, this is not my strongest area of ministry, but let me share a few thoughts:

  1. First, I’m going to assume that the people you’re wanting to reach are genuine atheists or non-believers, as opposed to someone who is insincere but just wants to argue with you.  (I don’t know how to persuade someone who’s just trying to argue, and life is too short to spend it on them when there ARE lost people who are hungry for more in life)
  2. Secondly, none of us is capable of winning an atheist (or other unbeliever) just by our  persuasive speech. So prayer is the most-important thing you can do to engage those who don’t believe in the Bible.  God is able to bring circumstances into their life and touch their heart in such a way that they do become open and receptive to your witness.  And as John 6:44 so clearly points out, no one comes to the Lord without being attracted to Him by the Spirit’s work in their heart.
  3. Beyond that, there are “apologetic” resources available to help you with conversations designed to help your unbelieving friends find a reason to believe.  Here are a few that you might find helpful:

I hope this has been helpful, but I also invite my readers to share other tools or resources that you have found effective.  Leave your comment below-

“September IS the month that things turned around for us”

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I’ve already shared with you that as I read Esther 9:22 recently I sensed the Lord saying that in the future, CLC’ers would look back on this September as the month things turned around for them, as they went from being stressed and pressured about finances to having FAVOR!

And it all starts THIS Sunday, September 3 at each CLC campus – why not invite a friend to join you, because everyone you know is interested in help for their finances!

Take a look:

Moneywise Promo from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Follow-up from the HOT SEAT

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This past Sunday was a lot of fun (well, for those of you listening in comfort; it did get a little hot on stage) and Chris and I were able to address a lot of your questions. (If you missed out, you can watch the replay here – 8:30am OR 10am OR 12 pm.) I hope our responses and especially pertinent Scriptures brought you some clarity.

However, there were at least 37 other questions that we did not have time to address, and our heart is to help CLC’ers with those questions, too.  So for the next several Fridays, I will be addressing those questions in my weekly feature, “Ask the Pastor”.

I hope you’ll join me starting THIS Friday, September 1!

You’ve seen the pictures…..now it’s time to help!

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Sometimes we must do MORE than pray.  If you’ve seen the pictures I’ve seen, I know your heart is moved for the people whose lives have been turned upside-down by the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Take a moment to read this article to see how desperate the need.

CLC has a missions partner already on the ground serving people in the affected areas – every penny you give will go to help them.  The simplest way to donate is our text to give option: Simply text “Give $Dollar Amount” (ex. Give $100) to (708) 265-3315

Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus.

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Sunday reflections

What do we do on Missions Sunday? Why, pray for the CLC team about to go to Croatia, of course! L to R: Danielle, Paula, Cherry, Jen, Harm

What do we do on Missions Sunday? Why, pray for the CLC team about to go to Croatia, of course! L to R: Jonathan Aguilar, Danielle Truckenmiller, Paula Hopkins, Cherry Vauters, Jen McQuay, Tiffany Davison, Charletta Young, Tenia Hoskins, Angie Simington, (Harm LaBeff is hidden behind Pastor Dan). Not pictured from TP: Sandra Norris, Ch’vez Moore, Reuben Hutcherson.

Our ministry to Kids is only possible because of great volunteers & leaders - thanks Jamie & Stacy!

Our ministry to Kids is only possible because of great volunteers & leaders – thanks Jamie Hyrn & Stacy Hunter!

well, at times it was definitely a 'Hot Seat', but all in all, today was both fun & informative. IF we didn't get to your question today, check here the next few Friday's.

well, at times it was definitely a ‘Hot Seat’, but all in all, today was both fun & informative. IF we didn’t get to your question today, check here the next few Friday’s.

In Hammond, it was certainly bittersweet to say goodbye to the only worship director in the history of our campus - Linell Muse. He's accepted a great new opportunity in Missouri.

In Hammond, it was certainly bittersweet to say goodbye to the only worship director in the history of our campus – Linell Muse. He’s accepted a great new opportunity in Missouri.

Like I say, the CUTEST kids in America attend KidsLife - including

Like I say, the CUTEST kids in America attend KidsLife – including this little guy, RJ Smith,son of Roland and Leslie.

Pastor Sam chose not to do a 'hot seat', but I hear HE was on FIRE today with his message on "Gratitude"

Pastor Sam chose not to do a ‘hot seat’, but I hear HE was on FIRE today with his message on “Gratitude” – a much needed value in our culture!

Daniel Rodriguez in worship at Blue Island

Daniel Rodriguez in worship at Blue Island

Blue Island members of the Croatia team receiving prayer from Pastors Brent & Sol - L to R: Harry Valentine, Alan Franklin, Liane Williams & Nikeva Lawrence.

Blue Island members of the Croatia team receiving prayer from Pastors Brent & Sol – L to R: Harry Valentine, Alan Franklin, Liane Williams & Nikeva Lawrence.

I hear it was a VERY Hot Seat in Blue Island, but Pastor Brent & Sol passed the test, and people were helped!

I hear it was a VERY Hot Seat in Blue Island, but Pastor Brent & Sol passed the test, and people were helped!

Some have asked about the website I recommended for cultural issues from a Biblical perspective: it’s www.bullseyechallenge.com

Now, I’m enjoying a DVR of Mr. Trubisky, hoping Bears managment make the right decision about the next starting QB for the Bears.  Later-

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “With our culture being so divided politically & racially, resulting in the  spread of so much hate through news media & social media, how are we as Christians to respond? Surely we must speak out against evil, but it seems when we do so, we can easily fall into the same trap of fighting hate with hate, instead of responding in love.

GREAT question, not only because it is such a hot topic currently, but also because so many of us as Christ followers seem to be unsure of how to respond, with some of us adding fuel to the fire of division with our social media posts, etc. – while still other believers remain silent and seemingly ignore the issue in the hopes of keeping peace.  Here’s my take:

  • Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers” and that means we don’t throw gasoline on the fires of division; we seek reconciliation.
  • James 3:17-18 speaks God’s practical wisdom for those times we find ourselves in these kind of situations.
  • Proverbs 18:21 in the Message translation says, “Words kill, words give life;
    they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.”
    That’s a great reminder, whether we’re speaking or posting on social media, that we have a choice.  I encourage you to think about the potential affect of your words before you post and before you open your mouth. And the New Testament passage in Philippians 4:8-9 gives us great counsel for what to think about!
  • This may not be Scripture (it’s a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), but it’s undeniable truth:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

That’s my position.  What’s yours?  Leave a comment below-

Join us this Sunday (Aug. 27) for the “HOT SEAT”, when our pastors will answer your spontaneous questions….it should be fun!

I’m EXCITED!

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I know; I know.  You’ve heard me say that about practically every new sermon series at CLC for how many years now.

But this time is different.

As I was doing my daily prayer & Bible reading several days ago, a portion of my reading was Esther 9:22, and here’s the part that jumped out at me: “the month when things turned around for them—changing from sorrow to joy and from mourning into a favorable day–“

When I read that, I felt the Lord saying to me that months from now, CLC’ers would look back on our September sermon series and say, that was the month when things turned around for our finances — changing it from pressure and stress and arguments into the FAVOR we now enjoy!

We’re calling the series, ‘Moneywise’ because we’re focusing on the wisdom of Solomon found in the book of Proverbs pertaining to our finances, and I can’t wait!

We’ve got some special things planned for the series, including another ‘Generosity Sunday’ when CLC’ers will receive more than $10,000 from us, as we practice what we preach about generosity, AND, some very special guests who will speak at each campus, Talaat & Tai McNeely from “His and Her Money”.  If you’re not acquainted with their story, take a look at this clip from when they were guests on the T.D. Jakes show.

I hope you’ll invite your unchurched friends, because everyone you know could use some of God’s wisdom regarding their money.  It all starts on September 3!
 

Classy people do classy things!

I just received this card in the mail today:

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If it needs explanation, the card is handwritten by Mrs. Dodie Osteen (Joel’s mother, and the matriarch of Lakewood Church). She’s 85 years old and I’m sure she has better things to do than send a thank you note to me for participating on stage at the recent “Night of Hope” at the United Center.

But I’ve learned in my years of ministry that classy people do classy things.  (Maybe I should rephrase that to say, “real leaders show appreciation to people”.

I hope I’m still practicing that at age 85.

Sunday reflections

All of the Hammond campus K-12 and Educators on the platform for prayer today!

Hammond campus K-12 and Educators on the platform for prayer today!  (Beautiful sight!)

Hammond worship was STRONG today...

Hammond worship was STRONG today…

Pastor Sam tackled the Sexual Purity message, with great feedback from parents

Pastor Sam tackled the Sexual Purity message, with great feedback from parents

After the Hammond services, they had a Back to School Bash with a special presentation by the Hammond Police Department

After the Hammond services, they had a Back to School Bash with a special presentation by the Hammond Police Department and their dogs

Meanwhile, it was a Baby Dedication Sunday in Blue Island today - love to see family members come together to dedicate a child (Congrats Daniel & Veronica and baby Jonas!)

Meanwhile, it was a Baby Dedication Sunday in Blue Island today – love to see family members come together to dedicate a child (Congrats Daniel & Veronica and baby Jonas!)

And congrats to Maria & for the dedication of their 3 children: Ruby, Julian & Monica!

And congrats to Maria on the dedication of her 3 children: Ruby, Julian & Monica!

Pastor Brent told me he was nervous about preaching the Sexual Purity message, but a guest told him afterwards, in 35 years of attending church, he had never heard this subject addressed, and he filled both sides of his outline with personal notes from the message!

Pastor Brent told me he was nervous about preaching the Sexual Purity message, but a guest told him afterwards, in 35 years of attending church, he had never heard this subject addressed, and he filled both sides of his outline with personal notes from the message!

But "how shall they hear without a translator?" says Pastor Sol!

But “how shall they hear without a translator?” says Pastor Sol!

Since it was Back to School Sunday, I think Tinley campus wins the cutest kids award!

Since it was Back to School Sunday, I think Tinley campus wins the cutest kids award!

how 'bout this little gal?

how ’bout this little gal?

Pastor Chris had some prophetic pictures to share with us: distractions, , & peace (hang on to Jesus!)

Pastor Chris had some prophetic pictures to share with us: distractions, purpose, & peace (hang on to Jesus!)

The moment we announced our new Tinley Park Campus Pastors, Jon & Rachel Jones!

The moment we announced our new Tinley Park Campus Pastors, Jon & Rachel Jones!

Honestly, I knew the Sexual Purity message was needed & I tried to include lots of humor to make it go down easier, but I'm glad it over!

Honestly, I knew the Sexual Purity message was needed & I tried to include lots of humor to make it go down easier, but I’m glad it over!

Feel free to send your congratulations to Pastors Jon & Rachel here-

Don’t forget to submit a question for next Sunday’s “HOT SEAT” here.

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “Is there a difference between conviction and condemnation? If so, how can you tell and who is the source of both?”

Great questions, because it’s such an important distinction:

Yes, there’s a very significant difference between the two, since Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10who seeks to put condemnation on followers of Christ, while one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction to us when we’re going astray, so we can get back on the right track (John 16:7-11)

Conviction is actually a good thing, much like pain in our physical bodies.  None of us likes to feel pain (or conviction) – but both get our attention, and let us know that something is wrong.  In fact, I’m persuaded that none of us would turn to the Lord for salvation unless we first felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that let us know we were in the wrong and needed to turn to Christ to be saved.

Condemnation, on the other hand, is never corrective in nature, but rather is designed to make us feel hopeless, that we are unworthy or lost, and that there’s nothing we can do about it.

Further, I’ve noticed that conviction is sharp and specific – to help us realize exactly where we’re in the wrong and how we can correct it.  But condemnation is blunt and heavy and usually a general sense of guilt – that we are condemned by God and that there is no hope for us.

In one of my recent daily readings I noticed this beautiful passage: Job 5:17-18.

Thank God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit!

I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts about the differences you’ve noticed between conviction and condemnation – just leave a comment below.

While you’re at it, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?