Ask the Pastor

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Unfortunately there were no new questions this week, so I’m reposting this one from 2008:

Lori asked what we can do about people who seem ‘immune’ to the Gospel – those who may think it’s ‘great for you, but I don’t need it’.

My guess is that in our pluralistic society where truth is relative and “whatever works for you is fine by me” attitudes, you may find more people who fall into this category than any other.  That’s one reason I think it’s so important that we focus only on our responsibility.

Remember the line in “Rudy” where the priest said, “there’s two things in life I’ve learned: one, there is a God. And two, I’m not Him!” — it really does apply to each of us when it comes to witnessing.  Only God can open someone’s heart to receive the Gospel.

So our role is (a) to pray for them, that God would open their heart and cause them to be open, tender and receptive to His Word; and (b) to let our light shine by our loving and winsome conduct around them.  Paul said it best in Titus 2:9-10 – our lives can make the Gospel more attractive.

Beyond that, it’s really up to God.  I hope this helps, and that all of us will continue to Paint the Town Red! (NOTE: that was a 2008 sermon series about personal evangelism – but I’m hoping that CLC’ers continue to reach out to unsaved friends and family with the Good News of what Jesus did for us!)

What’s on your mind?  Do you have a question for the pastor?

The core value of INCLUSION

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Have you ever felt left-out?

Maybe it was an elementary game of softball and the two captains chose teams….but neither picked you.

Or maybe all your friends got an invitation to a birthday part…except you.  Not a nice feeling, huh?

I’ve been enjoying our “That’s MY Church” series at CLC so much I kinda hate to see it end this Sunday, but I’m especially excited after our planning meeting yesterday, hearing & sharing the ideas that will be presented at the Tinley Park campus by our Worship Pastor, Jon Jones.

I had asked him to share this message in Tinley Park because Jon is as passionate as anyone I know about the core value of inclusionWhen you think about it, ALL of us should be – not only because we know how it feels to be left out, but because with our God it doesn’t happen – there’s room at His Table whether you’re black, white, red or yellow, male or female, young or old, skinny or not-so-skinny (you catch my drift).

Of course, our other two campuses will close the series with a bang, too – as Pastor Sam will focus on the “Full Ministry of the Holy Spirit” at our Hammond campus, and I’ll get to share “Balanced Bible Teaching” at our Blue Island campus (first time I’ve preached there in over 6 months, so I’m excited to see everyone there!)

If you’ve been participating in one of our “That’s MY Church” Life Groups, what’s been your takeaway?  Join the conversation by leaving your comment below-

What makes a great church service?

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It’s been over 24 hrs, and I’m still basking in the overflow of yesterday’s services at CLC.

More importantly, I’ve been hearing reports today of miraculous healings and deliverance that took place as the Holy Spirit moved mightily among us.  (Here’s one example)

And I’ve lost count at the number of CLC’ers who’ve commented about the Presence and anointing they experienced personally in those services.

What’s been on my mind last night and today is ‘WHY?’ 

Why should one service be so noticeably greater in terms of its impact on us?

I know some will chalk it up to God’s sovereigntybut I think it’s more than that.

Others will give credit to the Worship teambut they lead us weekly, so it can’t be that.

As a pastor, I often think it’s about expectationbut several mentioned how surprised they were by the move of the Spirit, so it must be more than that.

Here’s what I’ve concluded: it’s about hunger!  Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who hunger and thirst in Matthew 5:6, promising that they shall be filled!

I think we came hungrier yesterday than we have on other Sundays.

And here’s what I think the Lord is saying to us all (not from a beer commercial, but from His Word) – stay thirsty, my friends, stay thirsty!

Sunday reflections

I was only able to be in the altar time during the noon service at Tinley Park, but I must say it was the atmosphere that I want for every Sunday!  When the Presence of God is that strong, it makes me weep and evidently I’m not alone, because I saw more tears in the auditorium today than I usually do in a month!  Thank you Jesus for your Presence!

One reason for the awesome Presence today is the way our Life Worship team led us INTO His Presence!

One reason for the awesome Presence today is the way our Life Worship team led us INTO His Presence!

Today was very special as we dedicated Mathias LaBranche to the Lord on Audrey's (his late mother) birthday. It was also special because about 50 members of her family were present to honor her memory & celebrate Mathias, whose name means "gift of God"

Today was very special as we dedicated Mathias LaBranche to the Lord on Audrey’s (his late mother) birthday. It was also special because about 50 members of her family were present to honor her memory & celebrate Mathias, whose name means “gift of God”

Pastor Chris reminded us all that the Full Ministry of the Holy Spirit is like using a power drill instead of a manual screwdriver!

Pastor Chris reminded us all that the Full Ministry of the Holy Spirit is like using a power drill instead of a manual screwdriver!

The prayer time around the altar in each service resulted in several physical healings & a LOT of tears!

The prayer time around the altar in each service resulted in several physical healings & a LOT of tears from CLC’ers hungry for more!

In Blue Island, the worship team brought His Presence!

In Blue Island, the worship team brought His Presence!

Our KidsLife Blue Island enjoyed some pie in the face today!

Our KidsLife Blue Island enjoyed some pie in the face today!

Pastor Brent illustrated how intercessors pray thru a window instead of in a mirror. Good word!

Pastor Brent illustrated how intercessors pray thru a window instead of in a mirror. Good word!

Today I was privileged to speak at our Hammond, IN campus - but I was so surprised to see several new musicians on stage leading us in worship there! Love how God brings gifted people along at just the right time!

Today I was privileged to speak at our Hammond, IN campus – but I was so surprised to see several new musicians on stage leading us in worship there! Love how God brings gifted people along at just the right time!

I was having such a good time in teaching that I let the time get away from me, but the congregation was kind, and best of all, at least 4 adults (who were ALL first-time guests!) prayed openly to receive Jesus as Savior today!  (Love how our Hammond campus is reaching people far from God!)

I was having such a good time in teaching that I let the time get away from me, but the congregation was kind, and best of all, at least 4 adults (who were ALL first-time guests!) prayed openly to receive Jesus as Savior today!  (Love how our Hammond campus is reaching people far from God!)

Hey, if you attended ANY service at ANY campus today, what impacted you the most?  Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below-

Ask the Pastor

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No new questions were submitted while we’re in the Philippines, so I’m repeating this post from 2014 when a faithful CLC’er asked a question I’d never been asked before: “Where does the church get the different series that we follow during the weekly services?”

Wow….I’m surprised this hasn’t come up before – but for all of those curious minds that want to know, here’s a look behind the scenes. Our sermon series/themes at CLC originate in several different ways (with an example of each):

  • Some series we try to include annually, because we know people will always need practical help with subjects like marriage and finances.  We may put on a creative title or cutesy approach to try to entice people to come, but every year we’re gonna try to include help for our folks on those issues. “Stewardship 2.0” or “Rules of Engagement” are examples of that kind of series.
  • Some series will be included annually because of their importance to us as a church.  For instance, as an unashamedly Charismatic church, we will probably do a series each year about the Holy Spirit (We’ve planned an exciting series about the gifts of the Holy Spirit for June). “Kingdom” would be an example of this, as would our current series, “That’s MY Church”, where we are reviewing the values that drive our ministry.
  • Some series ideas come to us from other ministries.  For instance, in my morning walks (usually on a treadmill at the gym; sometimes around our subdivision when weather allows), I listen to podcasts from some of America’s leading pastors, like Robert Morris, Chris Hodges, Craig Groeschel and others. Sometimes as I receive from their teaching, I feel that I should pass it on to our church family, and we develop a series around the same theme. White Christmas came about that way.
  • Our popular summer series, “God@the Movies” came about as a result of reading or hearing about other churches that were doing something similar.  We considered if for a few years before giving it a try and have been wildly surprised not only by the boost in summer attendance, but especially by the changed lives that have resulted.  (Our choice of movies and approach to the messages is totally our own, as we’ve never followed any other churches in that regard – but we make those choices with the help of pastors & leaders on our sermon planning team.)
  • Probably the majority of our series come out of my prayer time and my interaction with people at CLC, which cause me to sense a real ‘need’ to address certain subjects. We may look for fun titles or approaches, but the series itself is our way of trying to correct a problem or meet a need we sense in the church family. “Generations” would be an example of that kind of series.
  • Finally, I personally think the best series each year are a result of me getting a ‘rhema word’ from God in my own study times.  That’s the ‘old-school’ Pentecostal preacher  in me, no doubt, but I honestly believe when the Word comes alive to me, it will also come alive to our people and meet needs in a way that nothing else could! “Deeper” is a great example of that, and I believe our next series beginning March 5 will be as well – we’re calling it “Faith Gaps”, but it was born when 1Thess. 3:10 jumped off the page at me during my devotions a few months ago.

That was fun!  Hope it helped a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Talking Bible: Psalm 46

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I love it when my Bible talks to me, and it happened today as I did my devotions before leaving the hotel that’s been home for the past several days for our getaway to a resort near here.

I read Psalm 46:1 in the Modern English Version (which I’m using for my 2017 devotions)  and it jumped off the page at me.  Instead of the traditional, “a very present help in trouble”, the MEV renders it, “a well-proven help in trouble”.

I like that!

So if you’re reading this post and there is any kind of ‘trouble’ in your life, please know that not only is God a very present help, meaning, HE is right there with you in this situation, but also know that HE is a well-proven help!

I can easily recall times that HE has proven Himself to me by helping me out of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced, and I bet you can, too.

But even if you can’t remember times that HE has helped you in the past, you can still take courage that HE has been proven by countless believers, for thousands of years.

You CAN trust Him!

Does that resonate with you today?  Why not join the conversation by sharing some comments below about how the Lord has proven Himself to you, perhaps when you needed Him most-

Philippines trip, day 4

Our last night of ministry in Davao WAS truly "A Night to Remember" - so many fun memories with some of our favorite people in the whole world!

Our last night of ministry in Davao WAS truly “A Night to Remember” – so many fun memories with some of our favorite people in the whole world, as we spoke at the CLC-Davao Valentines Banquet for married couples. (I even got Chris to ‘dance’ with me….well, at least we hugged and kinda swayed to the music)  We also led about 40 couples in renewing their marriage vows!

Can you tell which one is MY Valentine?

Can you tell which one of these lovely ladies is MY Valentine?

One of the greatest privileges we've ever had in ministry is partnering with this precious couple and their family - we LOVE Bishop Herley Montes & Pastora Nelly Montes!

One of the greatest privileges we’ve ever had in ministry is partnering with this precious couple and their family – we LOVE Bishop Herley Montes & Pastora Nelly Montes!

This concluded our ministry assignment for this trip – but we’re taking the next few days for some much needed R & R at a nearby resort Pastor Herley has been telling us about.  (We really do plan to rest, so I may not post so much from Pearl Farm Beach Resort)

Philippines trip, day 3

We got to meet the 2 newest CLC churches in Mindanao (bringing us to a total of 15!) This is Pastor Al Montano & his son Dale from Koronadal-

We got to meet the 2 newest CLC churches in Mindanao (bringing us to a total of 13!) This is Pastor Al Montano & his son Dale from Koronadal-

We taught the pastors this morning and then a group of both pastors & leaders this afternoon. No matter what we teach, it's more fun when Pastor Jeser Molina interprets!

We taught the pastors this morning and then a group of both pastors & leaders this afternoon. No matter what we teach, it’s more fun when Pastor Jeser Molina interprets!

After the teaching, the pastors & leaders met in small discussion groups-

After the teaching, the pastors & leaders met in small discussion groups-

we're glad that CLC in the Philippines also believes in women in ministry - each of these ladies is a pastor or leader in their church!

we’re glad that CLC in the Philippines also believes in women in ministry – each of these ladies is a pastor or leader in their church!

Tonight Pastors Herley & Nelly 'presented' to us their top 288 leaders, who are ALL soul-winners & disciple-makers! This is what it looked like from the pulpit - I'm sure you'll agree that it was an AWESOME sight for any pastor to see!

Tonight Pastors Herley & Nelly ‘presented’ to us their top 288 leaders, who are ALL soul-winners & disciple-makers! This is what it looked like from the pulpit – I’m sure you’ll agree that it was an AWESOME sight for any pastor to see!

Meet our NEWEST CLC-Philippines pastor (#15), Ian Enriquez from Bukidnon!

Meet our NEWEST CLC-Philippines pastor (#15), Ian Enriquez from Bukidnon!

One more ministry event as we speak to CLC-Davao’s married couples tomorrow at a Valentine’s Banquet.  Thanks for the prayers-

Philippines trip, day 2

 

It was a JOY to preach with Bishop Herley Montes interpreting at both morning services today-

It was a JOY to preach with Bishop Herley Montes interpreting at both morning services today- (we had more fun than you’re supposed to be able to have in church)

This children's ensemble opened the morning services singing, 'Yes, Jesus Loves Me' & it was ADORABLE! (Just to the right of center stage are the 3 children of Pastor Joel Montes: Sophia 2, Jaden 6 & Yada 4)

This children’s ensemble opened the morning services singing, ‘Yes, Jesus Loves Me’ & it was ADORABLE! (Just to the right of center stage are the 3 children of Pastor Joel Montes: Sophia, 2; Jaden, 6; & Yada, 4)

After a skit depicting a young believer whose family practically disowned him for his faith, the bass guitarist stepped to the pulpit to announce that the skit was HIS story. But just 2 years ago, his mother accepted his invitation to CLC and now serves the Lord with him!

After a skit depicting a young believer whose family practically disowned him for his faith, the bass guitarist stepped to the pulpit to announce that the skit was HIS story. But just 2 years ago, his mother accepted his invitation to CLC and now serves the Lord with him!

And his mom was singing in the choir (front row, center)

And his mom now sings in the choir (front row, center)!  God is Faithful!!!

After each service, Pastor Herley gave instructions to those who came forward to receive Christ.

After each service, Pastor Herley gave instructions to those who came forward to receive Christ.

I'm always touched by the numbers of Filipino's who respond to the salvation invitation, and today was no exception.

I’m always touched by the numbers of Filipinos’ who respond to the salvation invitation, and today was no exception.

 

Each service they came forward to receive Christ!

Each service they came forward to receive Christ!

Even after a powerful move of the Holy Spirit among believers, this group of people waited until the close of service, but when the invitation to receive the Lord was given, they came!

Even after a powerful move of the Holy Spirit among believers, this group of people waited until the close of service, but when the invitation to receive the Lord was given, they came!

Chris preached 2 powerful messages this afternoon/evening (and even had a little help from Dr. Seuss!)

Chris preached 2 powerful messages this afternoon/evening (and even had a little help from Dr. Seuss!)

We’re gonna to get some rest after today’s ministry marathon, as we’ll begin meeting with the CLC network of pastors in about 12 hours.  Thanks for the prayers!

Erik proposed & Joy said ‘YES’!

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I know some of you are concerned about our safety after learning that an earthquake hit the Philippines a few hours ago – but it was centered about 200 miles north of Davao City  (where we are). 

So the BIG NEWS for CLC is that Erik Lumagsao proposed to Joy Bumanlag last night shortly after Chris & I taught at a special event here for young professional singles!  (Erik was an intern in our EnTheos ministry last year & won our hearts at CLC – but he & Joy have been together for so long I wasn’t sure he’d ever pop the question!)

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So, thanks for your prayers – we are safe & sound.  In a few hours we begin a marathon day of ministry here with five services between us.  And a special congrats to Erik & Joy!

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Ask the Pastor

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No new questions this week, so I’m repeating this post from 2013:

This week’s question was submitted anonymously during our “You Asked For It!” midweek series back in December, but we weren’t able to cover it publicly then: “It is a sin to be depressed?”

Great question, simply because so many Americans (and believers) suffer from depression.  I think I’d be safe in saying that almost all of us deal with it from time to time.  Here’s my answer:

  • If depression is a sin, then a LOT of Bible ‘heroes’ were big-time sinners (like us) because Moses (Exodus 5:22-6:12), David (Psa 42:3-11), Elijah (IKings 19:3-14) and even Jesus (Matthew 26:37-39) experienced moments that we would probably call depression!
  • In addition, I’ve learned from my wife (the licensed counselor) that some depression is clinical, which means there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes the depression.  I don’t think any of us would say that diabetes is a sin, or that high cholesterol is a sin, so why would we classify someone with clinical depression as sinful?
  • On the other hand, most depression is caused by circumstances (Numbers 21:4; Lamentations 1:12-20), and while most of us have experienced moments of despair when we don’t see a way out of our situation, as believers we must admit that such a viewpoint is not of faith, since nothing is impossible with our God.
  • So when it comes to circumstantial depression, no believer should wallow there for long, because the Word of God and worship are mighty weapons (2Cor 10:4-5) to help us see beyond our present circumstances to the glorious plan He has for us!  (2Cor 4:16-18).  That was Jesus’ secret (see Isa. 42:4; Heb. 12:2)

In fact, this message of HOPE is what Easter is all about, for the Resurrection is God’s greatest object lesson: if He can do that, He can do anything! (see Ephesians 1:17-21) – and we’re going to CELEBRATE that fact in all of our Easter Experiences – I hope you’ll reach out one more time to invite someone to be your guest!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Off to the Philippines

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I’m typing this at O’Hare where Chris and I will soon depart for the first of two flights that will get us into Manila about 9am Friday (Chicago time).  We then get a night’s sleep in Manila before flying to Davao City for the first assignment of this missions trip, a Saturday session with the singles of our CLC-Davao campus.

Then it’s a whirlwind of ministry, with 5 services on Sunday, 3 on Monday and 3 on Tuesday, concluding with a Valentine’s banquet for the married couples of CLC-Davao.  Since they just had over 200 people come forward to receive Christ last Sunday, I’m especially excited to see what God is doing there!

I’ll try to post each day to keep you aware of what we’re doing, and I can’t wait to hear  your reports this Sunday as we continue the “That’s MY Church” series.  I’ve already previewed the messages, and it’s going to be good at each campus!

Thanks for your prayers-

CAPRO missions

One of my favorite connections in missions began in 2001, when we were first introduced to a Nigerian-based missions movement known as ‘CAPRO’.  From that initial contact through their missionary in Senegal (at the time), Charles Bavelloni, we have since met so many wonderful men and women of God – people of integrity – who love Jesus and His Church and who are giving their lives to help make the Great Commission the Great Fulfillment!

I believe in the mission and work of CAPRO so much that I’ve been honored to serve on their USA board in the past and last year was invited to join their International Council.  Even more importantly, when CAPRO appointed their first representative to North America  (Niyi & Tayo Gbade), CLC provided an office for them to be based here.

This past Sunday afternoon we were blessed to conduct a “missions awareness” meeting to introduce CAPRO to some CLC’ers and other church leaders in Chicagoland, and we were blessed to have Tom Ogunleye, chairman of CAPRO USA and Amos Aderonmu, one of the founders of CAPRO who now serves in South Sudan.

Niyi Gbade is the North American representative for CAPRO

Niyi Gbade is the North American representative for CAPRO

Amos Aderonmu is one of the founders of CAPRO and a former International Director for the ministry who now serves in South Sudan.

Amos Aderonmu is one of the founders of CAPRO and a former International Director for the ministry who now serves in South Sudan.

Tom Ogunleye is a professor from Austin, TX who serves as Chairman of CAPRO USA

Tom Ogunleye is a professor from Austin, TX who serves as Chairman of CAPRO USA

Thank God for Kingdom partnerships!

Sunday reflections

On this Super Bowl Sunday, our Davao City, Philippines campus is undisputed champion:

Pastor Joel making the salvation invitation to a packed house at one service

Pastor Joel making the salvation invitation to a packed house at one service

and they came!

and they came forward to receive!

and they kept coming!

and they kept coming!

in the 4 services today, literally HUNDREDS of people came forward for salvation at the Davao campus!

in their 4 services today, literally HUNDREDS of people came forward for salvation!

Pastor Jon hosted today in Tinley Park - loved the way he quoted the 23rd Psalm!

Pastor Jon hosted today in Tinley Park – loved the way he quoted the 23rd Psalm!

Everyone in my Life Group this week talked about how FRIENDLY Tinley Park is - and this pic captured some of that.

Everyone in my Life Group this week talked about how FRIENDLY Tinley Park is – and this pic captured some of that.

Our FAMILY EXPO is coming  March 11 - get more info at http://clc.tv/tinleypark/events/clc-family-fun-expo/

Our FAMILY EXPO is coming March 11 – get more info here.

GET NAKED is our annual Marriage Retreat this March 24-26.  Register TODAY (Feb. 5) ONLY and a $25 deposit holds your space!

GET NAKED is our annual Marriage Retreat this March 24-26. Register TODAY (Feb. 5) ONLY and a $25 deposit holds your space!

Pastor Sam reports a great day of worship at NWI-

Pastor Sam reports a great day of worship at NWI-

The 'prayer wall' at NWI is a list of people we're praying for salvation & inviting to the March 5 beginning of two services at NWI.

The ‘prayer wall’ at NWI is a list of people we’re praying for salvation & inviting to the March 5 beginning of two services at NWI.

Pastor Taylor welcomed two new members after Growth Track at NWI today!

Pastor Taylor welcomed two new members after Growth Track at NWI today!

Worship at Blue Island was anointed today!

Worship at Blue Island was anointed today!

And the congregation responded in praise!

And the congregation responded in praise!

My wife brought the word on our core value of "the full ministry of the Holy Spirit" (Supernatural Power)

My wife brought the word on our core value, “the full ministry of the Holy Spirit” (Supernatural Power)

Afterward, many people were indeed touched by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Afterward, many people were indeed touched by the power of the Holy Spirit!

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2014:

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

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

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

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

Why I LOVE LifeGroups…

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Last night was the first gathering for the “That’s MY Church” group that my wife and I are hosting, and it reminded me all over again why I love Life Groups so much!

See, even though it’s my responsibility to promote small groups at CLC a few times each year, and I really do believe what I always tell our congregation about those groups (how you’ll be able to build friendships; how you’ll have people who will pray for you & encourage you; how you’ll have partners who can hold you accountable in needed areas; how you’ll grow as a believer through community; etc.), every time I get into a group of my own, it becomes real all over again!

  • Last night we laughed (a lot).  
  • We also cried (together)
  • We found out that we’re not the only ones ‘going thru that’
  • We learned that we’re not the only ones who have ‘felt that way’
  • We discovered we have more in common that we realized.
  • We celebrated some strengths.
  • We admitted some struggles.
  • We experienced genuine love for each other.
  • We prayed for people inside our group, and elsewhere.

(We also ate some snacks, but that’s optional)

I’m excited about each group of CLC’ers who will gather like this for the next 5 weeks, not just to hear about “That’s MY Church”, but to experience being the Church!

If YOU aren’t in a group yet, it’s NOT too late – find one that fits your schedule here.            (For Northwest Indiana campus groups, here.  For Blue Island campus groups, here.)

Sunday reflections

 

Today was the kick-off for "That's MY Church" LifeGroup campaign

Today was the kick-off for “That’s MY Church” LifeGroup campaign

Loved having children of our praise team worship onstage for Family Sunday!

Loved having children of our praise team worship onstage for Family Sunday!

Baby dedications are always special at CLC - congrats, LaGenia Thompson & Laiyah!

Baby dedications are always special at CLC – congrats, Gina Thompson & Laiyah!

and congrats to Preston & Alisha Bouler for Preston III!

and congrats to Preston & Alisha Bouler for Preston III!

'Back to the Basics' went well, but I'm especially excited about the 20-25 CLC'ers who prayed PERSONALLY to make Jesus their Lord & Savior!

‘Back to the Basics’ went well, but I’m especially excited about the 20-25 CLC’ers who prayed PERSONALLY to make Jesus their Lord & Savior!

Pastor Sam says NWI set a new attendance record for a "non-event" Sunday & worship felt like a big family party!

Pastor Sam says NWI set a new attendance record for a “non-event” Sunday & worship felt like a big family party!

And congrats to Stephanie & baby Lea on her dedication today!

And congrats to Stephanie Daniels & baby Lea on her dedication today!

Love the simultaneous translation we offer for our Spanish speakers - that's what a MULTICULTURAL church does! (Kudos to Jorge Arevalo for translating today)

Love the simultaneous translation we offer in Blue Island for our Spanish speakers – that’s what a MULTICULTURAL church does! (Kudos to Jorge Arevalo for translating today)

Worship is bilingual, too!

Worship is bilingual, too!

Pastor Brent used the Vince Lombardi story in "Back to the Basics", too

Pastor Brent used the Vince Lombardi story in “Back to the Basics”, too

but perhaps the 'highlight' of the service was the close, when the entire congregation put their hands together in the 'huddle' and shouted, "That's MY Church!"

but perhaps the ‘highlight’ of the service was the close, when the entire congregation put their hands together in the ‘huddle’ and shouted, “That’s MY Church!”

Annual reports

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I think we did the poorest job of communicating our annual Business meeting at CLC yesterday, and possibly many of our members missed our 2016 reports.

In case you’re wondering, the numbers are in, and we grew by only 3% in average attendance last year, with a per Sunday average across all 3 Chicagoland campuses of 1,598.  I’m also happy to report that more than 450 of those folks experienced Jesus at our services by last year through a salvation decision or water baptism or the baptism of the Holy Spirit!

If you want to know what we do with the monies you give, here’s our 2016 financial report.

The best is yet to come!

Sunday reflections

This pic says it all for today's services at each CLC campus: "Here I am, Lord - send me!"

This pic says it all for today’s services at each CLC campus: “Here I am, Lord – send me!”

Our Executive Pastor is one versatile guy - leading, singing, playing - you never know where you'll see him next!

Our Executive Pastor is one versatile guy – leading, singing, playing – you never know where you’ll see him next!  Thanks, Pastor Ben Stewart!

I love our prayer ministers & the fact that anyone can receive prayer at any service!

I love our prayer ministers & the fact that anyone can receive prayer at any service!

Life Group sign-ups at each campus today for "That's MY Church" (which starts next Sunday!)

Life Group sign-ups at each campus today for “That’s MY Church” (which starts next Sunday!)

And we had several people sign up for a 2017 missions trip on this Missions Sunday!

And we had several people sign up for a 2017 missions trip on this Missions Sunday!

KidsLife in Blue Island is hands-on

KidsLife in Blue Island is hands-on

Pastor Chris preached "Send Me" in Blue Island today-

Pastor Chris preached “Send Me” in Blue Island today-

while Pastor Sol provided the Spanish translation-

while Pastor Sol provided the Spanish translation-

it seems the entire congregation at each campus is praying "Send Me" this week!

it seems the entire congregation at each campus is praying “Send Me” this week!

Great service at NWI today

Great service at NWI today

Pastor Sam preached "Send Me" and the entire congregation came forward to pray that DANGEROUS prayer!

Pastor Sam preached “Send Me” and the entire congregation came forward to pray that DANGEROUS prayer!

You heard us mention the flooding last week - this is Cagayan de Oro in northern Mindanao

You heard us mention the flooding last week – this is Cagayan de Oro in northern Mindanao

Our CLC congregation there asked for our help so they could assist others recover from the flooding.

Our CLC congregation there asked for our help so they could assist others recover from the flooding. (This pic is from their service this morning!)

  • If you want to help with any amount, click here and choose “emergency relief fund”
  • Pastor Herley sent me pics of 4 of our 13 CLC congregations in Mindanao from today’s worship services:
Our CLC congregation in Tagum, Mindanao today

Our CLC congregation in Tagum, Mindanao today (Pastors Jeser & Aying Molina)

Our CLC church at Insulan, Mindanao

Our CLC church at Insulan, Mindanao

of course, the 'mother' church, CLC-Davao City (Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes)

of course, the ‘mother’ church, CLC-Davao City (Pastors Herley & Nelly Montes)

That’s all from today’s Mission Sunday at CLC….now I’m going to enjoy the rest of this humiliation of the Green Bay Packers-

Weekend reflections

Honestly, if you were here or participated online, you don’t need any explanation; and if you weren’t able to be a part of our 2017 First Love Conference, there are no words!  But here’s a few pics:

This weekend was all about the FIRST LOVE CONFERENCE!

This weekend was all about the FIRST LOVE CONFERENCE!

Worship was wonderful in each session

Worship was wonderful in each session – especially “What a Beautiful Name” (apologies to the amazing SoP – this was my only pic)

Pastor Eddie Cupples' 3-part series in Tinley Park today was PRACTICAL nuggets on "Beginning Well, Finishing Strong"

Pastor Eddie Cupples’ 3-part series in Tinley Park today was PRACTICAL nuggets on “Beginning Well, Finishing Strong”

Our Hammond, IN campus featured a baby dedication

Our Hammond, IN campus featured a baby dedication

and Pastor Gordon Banks preached the house down!

then Pastor Gordon Banks preached the house down!

Blue Island had one of the largest attendances in their history!

Blue Island had one of the largest attendances in their history!

Our ONU students got in on what God is doing in Blue Island!

Our ONU students got in on what God is doing in Blue Island!

Prophet Denny Cramer gave 'words' to many

Prophet Denny Cramer gave ‘words’ to many

One more service to go: tonight at 5pm, with Dennis Cramer and then my pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington.  Join us!

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were NO new questions submitted this week, so I’ll ask one myself: where should YOU be this weekend?

The unequivocal answer is: at the First Love Conference in Tinley Park!

It all starts tonight at 7pm with former NFL wide-receiver, Pastor Gordon Banks!

It continues tomorrow at 9am with Pastor Gordon AND Prophet Dennis Cramer!

Tomorrow night at 5pm will be a night of ministry with Prophet Dennis Cramer!

Sunday in Tinley Park we’ll receive a 3-part series at 8:30, 10 and 12 from a dear friend who has served as a CLC Overseer from the beginning, Pastor Eddie Cupples!

(Sunday at 10am in Hammond will be Pastor Gordon Banks, and at 11am in Blue Island, Prophet Dennis Cramer will be ministering)

The closing session in Tinley Park will be Sunday evening at 5pm with my pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington! 

And on Monday we’ll move to our Northwest Indiana location in Hammond for a special “Learn & Lead” morning with Bishop Garlington and Dr. David Ireland, starting at 9am!

The real question is what will YOU receive from the Lord before it’s over?

See you there-

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Sunday reflections

One of the highlights in Tinley Park was baptizing 4 young people at the 10am service!

One of the highlights in Tinley Park was baptizing 4 young people at the 10am service!

"Break Me" was a tough message to preach OR hear - but I'm rejoicing over 7 people who came forward to receive Christ at the 12pm service!

“Break Me” was a tough message to preach OR hear – but I’m rejoicing over 7 people who came forward to receive Christ at the 12pm service!

Pastor Sam agrees that "Break Me" was heavy at NWI, but he's excited about the largest New Member's class yet - welcome these new CLC'ers!

Pastor Sam agrees that “Break Me” was heavy at NWI, but he’s excited about the largest New Member’s class yet – welcome these new CLC’ers!

Pastor Brent says attendance was up on the 2nd Sunday of 2017 and the message was well-received, but what I mainly noticed is that someone has a REALLY CUTE granddaughter!

Pastor Brent says attendance was up on the 2nd Sunday of 2017 and the message was well-received, but what I mainly noticed is that someone has a REALLY CUTE granddaughter!

Let’s all “set our face toward God” during these next 3 days of prayer & fasting as we prepare our hearts for our annual…

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Ask the Pastor

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We had no new questions submitted this week, so I’m reposting from January 2010:

A CLCer asks, “In Rom 14:10 & 2Cor 5:10 it says we all appear or stand before the judgement seat of Christ. Then is it correct to say we will all get to visit heaven? Is Christ’s judgement seat in Heaven or a suburb of Heaven? Is the great white throne in heaven across the hall from the judgement seat? If so, will Jesus go across the hall to say ‘I’ve got some bad news and more bad news’?

Great questions…and I especially like the tongue-in-cheek approach!

First, let’s distinguish the difference in the two judgments: the judgment seat of Christ cited in the two Epistles above is the Greek word, “bema”, which refers to the judging stand used during the Olympics for the winners to receive their awards. In other words, the judgment seat of Christ is where true believers will appear, to receive our rewards. No unbelievers will appear before Christ’s bema-seat.

The great white throne, on the other hand, is described in Rev. 20 as being the place of final judgment for those who are cast into the lake of fire, after having been judged by God’s word. NO believers will have to appear there.

As to the location of the two, I can’t speak with certainty about the judgment seat of Christ; but the great white throne must be in heaven.  So, as funny as it sounded when you asked, I guess it would be correct to say that everyone will get to ‘visit’ heaven!

Unfortunately, what happens at the great white throne is no laughing matter.  In fact, it’s one of the most important reasons why The Church needs to be reaching out to everyone with the Good News of salvation – to “plunder hell & populate heaven” (to quote Reinhard Bonnke)  I’m believing 2010 will be a great year of harvest at CLC!

Actually, I’m still believing for that in 2017, too!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

The most UNIQUE First Love conference ever!

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It’s hard to believe that we’re just barely over a week away from our favorite meeting of the year at CLC – our First Love Conference this January 13-15!

Several facts make this Conference truly UNIQUE:

1. We’ve changed the schedule by opening on Friday night instead of Saturday morning (you don’t want to miss the opening!)

2. More importantly, each of our guest speakers is a CLC Overseer, with a heart for our church and a history of ministering to us in love!  These men are not “hired guns”, just coming to preach a sermon – they have prayed for us, helped us solve problems and challenges in the ministry over the years, and demonstrated true friendship in our times of need!  They are family!

3. Finally, this gathering is unique because on Martin Luther King, Jr. day (January 16) we’re moving to our Hammond, Indiana campus for a special morning designed for pastors, ministers and leaders who want to learn from Bishop Garlington and special guest Dr. David Ireland!

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Of course, we’re preparing our hearts for all of this with a 3-day “juice fast” and a special Worship Night at each campus next week.  I can’t wait!

Testimony time!

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Well, we’re three days into praying Psalm 139:23-24 now, and this pastor is curious: what has God been showing you thus far?

Whatever it is and however ugly it may seem, remember: He doesn’t reveal it to make you feel bad; He reveals it to draw you closer to Him!

AND, whatever He shows you, please don’t stop at the surface, but drill down deeper in your prayer and let Him show you what’s behind the issue.  That’s when you’ll experience even greater freedom and greater intimacy.

If you don’t mind being transparent in order to encourage other CLC’ers, leave your testimony below of how God is changing you through this prayer:

1h0ife

 

NO negative speaking!

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Today and for the next 7 days, we’re asking all CLC’ers to join us in a “fast” that is not focused on what we put into our mouth, but rather what comes out of our mouth; i.e., to refrain from any and all negative, critical, judgmental speech.

It’s not only a GREAT way to begin a new year; it’s an important principle of Scripture:

  • Joshua 6:10 shows us that before Israel won their first victory in the Promised Land,  the people refrained from speaking for seven consecutive days!  (I think that may have been a bigger miracle than the walls of Jericho falling down!)
  • Matthew 15:10-20 is teaching from Jesus that elevates our words above anything we might put into our mouth.
  • I’m sure that this fast will also send us “running into His arms” for help, because James 3:1-12 makes it clear that we can’t do this in ourselves!

If you’re joining us on this year-opening fast and would like a daily reminder/devotional, please text “PRAYS” to 555-888.

Weekend reflections

The worship & Presence of God at our NYE celebration was simply wonderful!

The worship & Presence of God at our NYE celebration was simply wonderful!

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Loved the challenges from both NWI Campus Pastor, Sam and BI Campus Pastor, Brent shortly before the end of 2016

Loved the challenges from both NWI Campus Pastor, Sam and BI Campus Pastor, Brent shortly before the end of 2016

May God bring to pass each of the prophetic words HE gave Chris for 2017!

May God bring to pass each of the prophetic words HE gave Chris for 2017!

"Search Me" seemed to be a great Kick-Off to "Dangerous Prayers" series - last night and at each campus today

“Search Me” seemed to be a great Kick-Off to “Dangerous Prayers” series – last night and at each campus today

Chris brought the 'Search Me' message to NWI, and Pastor Sam said she REALLY preached & he loved her transparency.

Chris brought the ‘Search Me’ message to NWI, and Pastor Sam said she REALLY preached & he loved her transparency.

Brent brought the message at Blue Island - and the new translation system reduced their service time by almost half an hour!

Brent brought the message at Blue Island – and the new translation system reduced their service time by almost half an hour!

As much as he enjoyed teaching with the new equipment, I think he missed having this beauty by his side (today she was the translator on the other side of the ear phones)

As much as he enjoyed teaching with the new equipment, I think he missed having this beauty by his side (today she was the Spanish translator on the other side of the ear phones)

and for those of you who may have missed it this weekend, here’s a video recap of 2016:

Christian Life Center 2016 Year in Review from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted during this holiday week, so I went back exactly five years ago to re-post this question from 2011:

Our final question of 2011 comes from a friend to me & CLC who writes, “If a man has had a sex change, surgery and all, and now lives as a woman and wants to be a Christian attending church, how should the church respond to him/her? Also would you tell her to stay a woman or go back to a man?

When I first read the question I thought (in my best Lovie Smith voice), “Now what kind of question is that?”

But in case it’s a serious question, I’m gonna give it a serious answer, as my final Friday post for this year.  Let’s consider the facts:

  • since there was no such thing as “sex changes” in Bible times, we must understand that the Bible does NOT address this question.
  • Since there are no direct references to this dilemma in Scripture, our only hope would be to apply Biblical principles to try to answer this.
  • The ONLY verse I can think of that might somehow apply to this hypothetical situation is 1Cor 7:20-24.  Since this person had the sex change before becoming a Christian, as I apply these verses, I would say ‘she’ should remain as ‘she’ is.
  • As to how the church should respond to her, I would hope that any local church would respond to this individual as we would any other person; i.e., with love and compassion and the same Christian courtesy that we would want for ourselves – while also helping to disciple this individual in the ways of Christ, including sexual purity and wholeness.

For sure, it’s an interesting question – but probably not that far-fetched in today’s world.  May we shine as lights in this dark world so that people who are hurting and lost without Jesus, regardless of how their ‘lostness’ (sin nature) may be manifest, will be drawn to the light and not repelled by it.

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

And I hope you’ll join us Saturday (tomorrow) at 10pm as we bid farewell to 2016 and welcome 2017!

Now that the holidays are over…

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Ok….you’ve put away all your gifts, thrown away all the wrappings, put the leftovers in the fridge, and even made some after-Christmas sales.  What’s next?

Well, at CLC, we’re gearing up for 2017 to be our BEST YEAR YET!  You can hear more about that during our annual New Year’s Eve celebration this Saturday, December 31 at 10pm when all our Chicagoland campuses come together in Tinley Park.

But I also want to encourage you to mark your calendar and make plans to join us by setting aside the entire month of January for some specially-planned fasting:

  • January 1-8 is a fast from Negative Speaking!  If you’re honest, you know we could all benefit from this fast, and I’m hoping that starting the year that way will have long-lasting effects on me personally.  Feel free to make it fun in your family by paying a ‘fine’ to a family vacation fund for every infraction if you want, but please know that this is a Biblical practice that helped Israel begin to conquer Canaan – read Joshua 6:10 if you don’t believe it!
  • January 9-11 we’re calling all CLC’ers to join us for a 3-day ‘regular’ fast, in which we eat NO food and drink only water or juices.  (You can break the fast with your evening meal each day if needed, or you may choose to fast 72-hours),  but either way, keep in mind what Jesus taught us in Matthew 17:19-21.
  • January 12-15 we’ll fast entertainment such as movies, television, etc. in accordance with Isaiah 58:3 (plus you won’t be distracted during ‘First Love’ Conf)
  • January 16-21 may be the most difficult fast for some, as we give up Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. so we can keep our minds focused on God’s will for us in 2017, much like Zechariah 7:5
  • January 22-31 we’ll finish out the month with a traditional ‘Daniel fast’ (no meat, no sweets, etc.) as Daniel did when seeking God in Daniel 10:2-3 (although we do ask that you ignore the last sentence of verse 3 – please take a shower & comb your hair!)

My favorite Christmas reading this year…and a family devotional, too

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I first discovered the writing gift of Max Lucado about the time he wrote his first book in the 1980’s, and I’ve enjoyed him as a writer ever since.

But a few days ago I read an article he wrote for this Christmas, and I think he outdid himself!  I want to share it with all of you today – click here and enjoy!

And, if you’d like to share a devotional with your family this Christmas, join us now:

Christmas Day With The McQuays from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question comes from a CLC’er whose adult child passed away this year, and she asks painful questions that many have asked when grieving: I’m  having a really hard time regarding the loss of my son.” 

She listed a series of questions, which I’ve included below in bold, and my response is beside each one, but let me first make this statement: The Bible does not give us a neatly-packaged answer to all of our questions about life after death.  Instead, there are bits and pieces of information, scattered across many different books of the Bible, along with this over-riding truth from 1Corinthians 13:12 that speaks of ‘that day’ when we will finally be in heaven with our Lord, and gain perfect understanding.

  • where is he now?  My understanding is that believers who die are immediately in the Presence of the Lord, awaiting the Resurrection of our bodies.
  • what is he doing?  While the Bible seems to be silent on this detail, I’m sure that all those in the Presence of God are experiencing His love and joy on a level that we can’t even comprehend.
  • can he see me?  Once more, Scripture doesn’t really provide this detail, but I’ve read numerous accounts of those who had ‘near death experiences’, and their testimony is that they were definitely able to see and be aware of those on earth.  (By the way, one book I highly recommend is “Imagine Heaven” by Pastor John Burke, in which he compiles fascinating research on those NDE’s)
  • what does he know?   According to 1Cor. 13:12, he knows the Lord just as completely as the Lord knows him!  (Whether that includes knowledge of loved ones still on earth and their sorrow at losing him, I don’t know – but since there are no tears in heaven – it would seem God somehow ‘protects’ them from that knowledge)
  • is he ‘watching’ over me, his children, his siblings, etc.?  I find nothing in Scripture to indicate that loved ones in heaven play any role with us on earth.  They do not become angels, as some have believed, and there’s no example in the Bible of them intervening in the lives of people here on earth.
  • what happens to the saved who die?  As I said above, they are immediately in the Presence of the Lord.  See 2Cor. 5:1-8, especially verse 6 and verse 8
  • what and where is Paradise?  The Jews believed it was a compartment of “Abraham’s bosom” (which probably doesn’t help answer your question).  Again, the Bible isn’t clear, but I would personally think it’s a heavenly place.
  • Can we be saved and  go to heaven drunk?  I know you said this was a rhetorical and humorous question, but I also know that many believers have struggled with the circumstances of their loved one’s death by suicide or during a time of sinful compromise, so I still want to answer: whether or not we go to heaven when we die is determined by whether or not we knew Jesus as our Lord & Savior.  Period.  If we start ‘qualifying’ people on the basis of works, it becomes a slippery slope for us all – so I stay away from ‘judgment’ questions and trust Jesus to do what’s best for all His children!

Pastor Josh Moran passed on this great article that may benefit those of you whose loss is especially difficult this Christmas season.

I hope this is helpful, and mostly I pray for every reader who has lost a loved one this year – knowing that more knowledge still doesn’t replace the emptiness in your heart.  I pray that the comfort of the Holy Spirit is very real to you during this holiday season, and beyond.

Would YOU care to join the conversation?  If you have comments to add to my attempt to answer, OR a question of your own, please leave them below-

Christmas Eve already?

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Well, not quite….I know we still have 3 more days to wait for December 24.

However, we knew that some of you will be traveling out of town for the holidays, but might still want to celebrate with your church family-

SO, we’re doing 3 identical Christmas Eve celebrations at CLC, with the first one coming tonight, December 21 at 7pm!

Of course, if you’re staying close for the holidays, you can worship with us on Christmas Eve at 4pm or 5:30pm.

Whenever you choose to celebrate, it’s going to be a great time of worship and fellowship for your entire family,  so we hope to see you here!

Sunday reflections

At NWI today, Pastor Sam jokingly said, "if you're a first time guest, join me onstage & share your testimony" and before he could explain he was joking, this young lady came up, gave a great testimony & received a standing ovation from the congregation! Gotta love CLC!!

At NWI today, Pastor Sam jokingly said, “if you’re a first time guest, join me onstage & share your testimony” and before he could explain he was joking, this young lady came up, gave a great testimony & received a standing ovation from the congregation! Gotta love CLC!!

And I hear that Pastor Sam preached the paint off the walls today!

And I hear that Pastor Sam preached the paint off the walls today!

Love the holiday look at NWI-

Love the holiday look at NWI-

Here's a reason the worship at CLC-Blue Island is anointed: Alan Franklin leads the whole team in prayer every Sunday!

Here’s a reason the worship at CLC-Blue Island is anointed: Alan Franklin leads the whole team in prayer every Sunday!

Looks like BI KidsLife Director Harry Valentine plays a mean Air Guitar-

Looks like BI KidsLife Director Harry Valentine plays a mean Air Guitar- (even better, looks like the kids like it, too!)

Pastors Brent & Sol brought a message from the movie, "Christmas Story" that connected well & one person prayed to receive Christ & some other new families responded as well!

Pastors Brent & Sol brought a message from the movie, “Christmas Story” that connected well & one person prayed to receive Christ & some other new families responded as well!

After service, the Core leadership team had a Christmas party with some friendly 'gingerbread house construction' competition. This team won the "Most Beautiful" prize-

After service, the Core leadership team had a Christmas party with some friendly ‘gingerbread house construction’ competition. This team won the “Most Beautiful” prize for their creation-

I was told this team received the prize for "Ugliest House" (but I don't believe it)

I was told this team received the prize for “Ugliest House” (but I don’t believe it)

needless to say, the competition was pretty intense

needless to say, the competition was pretty intense

and the end results were A-MAZING!

and the end results were A-MAZING!

You must agree: CLC'ers are a creative bunch!

You must agree: CLC’ers are a creative bunch!

 

Jingle Jam featured the "Perfect Christmas Story" from our own Ms. Angie

Jingle Jam featured the “Perfect Christmas Story” from our own Ms. Angie

And of course, Mr. Joel and the Honorable Reginald Fastidious proved a picture is worth a thousand words

And of course, Mr. Joel and the Honorable Reginald Fastidious proved a picture is worth a thousand words

even the "Hoof game" showed us that there's nothing like WINNING

even the “Hoof game” showed us that there’s nothing like WINNING (special thanks to Pastor Micah…er, I mean Guy Corvette for serving as our Game Host)

Lest you think it was all fun & games, I'm glad that Harmony LaBeff & the SoP brought us into His Presence, too!

Lest you think it was all fun & games, I’m glad that Harmony LaBeff & the SoP brought us into His Presence, too!

44 years to celebrate!

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I may not be able to publish my usual “Sunday reflections” post today, because Chris and I had to move up our travel plans by one day to escape Chicago’s winter storm, and we headed to the airport immediately after the noon service.

Since my birthday (which I’m not celebrating) and our wedding anniversary both fall the week before Christmas, we always try to get someplace warm to celebrate. This year it’s a short Caribbean cruise, so I’m checking out for the next 5 days – no posts here, no Facebook, no Twitter – just me and my honey!

We’ve got a lot of celebrating to do – she’s the woman of my dreams, and God has been so good to us!

See you next Sunday for Jingle Jam!

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

Israel, day 9

Our final day of the trip began with a surprise visit from our tour guide, Andrey Gelbet. Of the 5 times I've toured Israel, Andrey is my favorite guide and we look forward to seeing him again!

Our final day of the trip began with a surprise visit at our Jerusalem hotel from our first tour guide, Andrey Gelbet. Of the 5 times I’ve toured Israel, Andrey is my favorite guide and we look forward to seeing him again!

We had the privilege of being at one of CLC's partners, "Revive Israel" for their Wednesday time of worship, prophetic ministry & teaching. This pic is the Founder/Director, Asher Intrater, who brought a great teaching about the purpose of apostles today.

We had the privilege of being at one of CLC’s partners, “Revive Israel” for their Wednesday time of worship, prophetic ministry & teaching. This pic is the Founder/Director, Asher Intrater, who brought a great teaching about the purpose of apostles today.

The final teaching of the morning came from our friend, Daniel Juster, Director of the Tikkun network of ministries, our primary partner in the Land.

The final teaching of the morning came from our friend, Daniel Juster, Director of the Tikkun network of ministries, our primary partner in the Land.

No visit to Israel is complete without a visit to the Garden Tomb, which meets all the Biblical descriptions of the place of Jesus' burial - but HE is not there; He is risen indeed!

No visit to Israel is complete without a visit to the Garden Tomb, which meets all the Biblical descriptions of the place of Jesus’ burial – but HE is not there; He is risen indeed!

Finally, we toured the full length of the Western Wall underground, thru tunnels and ended our visit to Israel with a final look at the Western Wall at night - and it was even more special to have the love of my life share the experience with me!

Finally, we toured the full length of the Western Wall underground, thru tunnels and ended our visit to Israel with a final look at the Western Wall at night – and it was even more special to have the love of my life share the experience with me!

We’re home now and I can’t wait for “The Polar Express” this Sunday (December 11) at each CLC campus!

Israel, day 8

Our first stop today was climbing down some never-ending stairs to the City of David, where the pool of Siloam (see John 9) was located.  (It doesn't look like much of a pool now, but it's there beside Nikki Bosi)

Our first stop today was climbing down some never-ending stairs to the City of David, where the pool of Siloam (see John 9) was located. (It doesn’t look like much of a pool now, but it’s there beside Nikki Bosi)

While many of the "holy sites" are based on tradition and we don't really know if they're the true location, we DO know that the steps behind our guide are the southern steps which led to the main entrance of the Temple, and Jesus walked on these steps without a doubt!

While many of the “holy sites” are based on tradition and we don’t really know if they’re the true location, we DO know that the steps behind our guide are the southern steps which led to the main entrance of the Temple, and that Jesus walked on these steps without a doubt!

What a personal thrill to share this trip with my wife and two of our children - here posing in front of the southern retaining wall just outside where the temple once stood.

What a personal thrill to share this trip with my wife and two of our children – here posing in front of the southern retaining wall just outside where the temple once stood.

Just as Jesus prophesied, when the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A.D., they didn't leave one stop atop another.  They also started to tear down the retaining wall around the Temple Mount by pushing the stones off the top, but it soon became too much work (since the smallest stone weighed 2.5 tons!) and that's why we have a Western Wall where  people can gather to pray.  This picture shows some of those original stones still laying where the Romans pushed them down.

Just as Jesus prophesied, when the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A.D., they didn’t leave one stop atop another. They also started to tear down the retaining wall around the Temple Mount by pushing the stones off the top, but it soon became too much work (since the smallest stone weighed 2.5 tons!) and that’s why we have a Western Wall where people can gather to pray. This picture shows some of those original stones still laying where the Romans pushed them down. (In fact, one of them even had an inscription that it was the stone from the corner where the trumpeter sounded the alarm for Israel!)

We ended our day at the "heaviest" place in Israel - Yad Vashem - the memorial to the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.  Perhaps the saddest part is the Children's memorial for 1.5 million children who died - and this sculpture is in honor of Janusz Korczak, a medical doctor who cared for almost 200 orphans during the Holocaust, and when the Final Solution came, he refused the Germans offer to spare his life and chose instead to die with this 'children' in the gas chambers.

We ended our day at the “heaviest” place in Israel – Yad Vashem – the memorial to the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. Perhaps the saddest part is the Children’s memorial for 1.5 million children who died – and this sculpture is in honor of Janusz Korczak, a medical doctor who cared for almost 200 orphans in Poland during the Holocaust, and when the Final Solution came, he refused the Germans’ offer to spare his life and chose instead to die with this ‘children’ in the gas chambers.

Tomorrow will be the longest day of our trip, as we start early with a worship service at “Revive Israel” (one of CLC’s partners in the Land), before going to the Garden Tomb and seeing the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (and resurrection!).  After our final stop at Hezekiah’s tunnel under the streets of Jerusalem, we’ll head to the airport for the long flight home.

Shalom!

 

 

Israel, day 7

We spent all of Monday in the Old City of Jerusalem, beginning on the Mt. of Olives with this group photo-

We spent all of Monday in the Old City of Jerusalem, beginning on the Mt. of Olives with this group photo-

The pool of Bethesda mentioned in John 5 (healing of the impotent man) as it looks today

The pool of Bethesda mentioned in John 5 (healing of the impotent man) as it looks today

The highlight of every trip to the pool of Bethesda is actually at St. Anne’s church next door, famous for it’s amazing acoustics.  Of course, we had to test it by singing “It is Well with my Soul” as a group – and it was beautiful (if I say so myself)

We closed our day's tour at the holiest site in all of Israel (or in all the world) - the Western Wall.  (This is the retaining wall that surrounded the Second Temple, which was completely destroyed in 70 A.D.)  Since the Holiest of Holies was closest to this western wall, people gather here to pray, giving it the nickname, "Wailing Wall".  As a sign asking for all to respect the place says, this is "where the Divine Presence always rests"!  It's always a privilege to pray here-

We closed our day’s tour at the holiest site in all of Israel (or in all the world) – the Western Wall. (This is the retaining wall that surrounded the Second Temple, which was completely destroyed in 70 A.D.) Since the Holiest of Holies was closest to this western wall, people gather here to pray, giving it the nickname, “Wailing Wall”. As a sign asking for all to respect the place says, this is “where the Divine Presence always rests”! It’s always a privilege to pray here-

Tomorrow will be another full day in the Old City, including a visit to Yad Vashem, the museum to the Holocaust, which I think is the heaviest place on earth.  I’ll post more then-

Israel, day 6

This model of Jerusalem at the time of Christ was one of the highlights of the day - it really helped us all get familiar with the sights we'll see up close in the days ahead.

This model of Jerusalem at the time of Christ was one of the highlights of the day – it really helped us all get familiar with the sights we’ll see up close in the days ahead.

This was our first glimpse overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem  - and we were breathless!  The whole team can't wait until tomorrow when we explore up close-

This was our first glimpse overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem – and we were breathless! The whole team can’t wait until tomorrow when we explore up close-

Personally (and maybe a bit selfishly) this trip has been my best ever because of having our children share in the experience with us!

Personally (and maybe a bit selfishly) this trip has been my best ever because of having our children share in the experience with us!

Israel, day 5

Because of yesterday's storm, no boats operated on the Sea of Galilee, so we joined in with a church group from Singapore today.  Both flags were raised when we left shore to the "Star Spangled Banner"

Because of yesterday’s storm, no boats operated on the Sea of Galilee, so we joined in with a church group from Singapore today. Both flags were raised when we left shore as the “Star Spangled Banner” played.

When we left the boat at the Sea of Galilee, the first person we saw in line to board was none other than the comedian, Michael Jr!  (Sorry about taking a pic into the sun - but take my word for it, it's really him!)

When we left the boat at the Sea of Galilee, the first person we saw in line to board was none other than the comedian, Michael Jr! (Sorry about taking a pic into the sun – but take my word for it, it’s really him!)

The highlight of our Sabbath service at 'Tents of Mercy' was the ordination of Avishalom & his wife as senior leaders of the ministry.  Our long-time partner, Eitan Shishkoff, who founded the ministry, will be moving into an apostolic role throughout the nation. Other partners of CLC are pictured here praying over Avishalom - Leon Mazin of 'Return to Zion' in Haifa (at left, with his hand on Avishalom), Dan & Patty Juster, Tikkun Directors (left & center of pic), Asher Intrater of 'Revive Israel' in Jerusalem (behind pulpit, next to Patty), and Eitan Shishkoff (far right)

The highlight of our Sabbath service at ‘Tents of Mercy’ was the ordination of Avishalom & his wife as senior leaders of the ministry. Our long-time partner, Eitan Shishkoff, who founded the ministry, will be moving into an apostolic role throughout the nation. Other partners of CLC are pictured here praying over Avishalom – Leon Mazin of ‘Return to Zion’ in Haifa (at left, with his hand on Avishalom), Dan & Patty Juster, Tikkun Directors (Dan wearing prayer shawl at left-center of pic & Patty at center of pic, directly behind Avishalom’s wife), Asher Intrater of ‘Revive Israel’ in Jerusalem (behind pulpit, next to Patty), and Eitan Shishkoff (right, with microphone)

We ended the day with a tour of the ancient city of Akko, an important port city that played a prominent role during the infamous Crusades.  When we stepped out of the historical site, the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea grabbed our attention- (the gal with the umbrella is pretty nice, too)

We ended the day with a tour of the ancient city of Akko, an important port city that played a prominent role during the infamous Crusades. When we stepped out of the historical site, the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea grabbed our attention- (the gal with the umbrella is pretty nice, too)

 

Israel, day 4

We started the day with 28 baptisms at the River Jordan, including these 4 (my wife, my daughter, my son & my daughter in law!)

We started the day with 28 baptisms at the River Jordan, including these 4 (my wife, my daughter, my son & my daughter in law!)

Chris brought us a timely word at Capernaum, where Jesus healed the centurion's servant.

Chris brought us a timely word at Capernaum, where Jesus healed the centurion’s servant.

  • I was too excited to take pictures at two of our afternoon stops – we visited the Mt. of Beatitudes and listened to the entire Sermon on the Mount from the Message translation (you owe it to yourself to do that sometime – such powerful, wise teaching from the Master!), and then the “Jesus boat” museum at Nof Ginosaur – a preserved boat from the time of Christ and possibly one of the fishing boats that his disciples used on the Sea of Galilee!
But no doubt the most AMAZING site today was at Magdala, where a synagogue that Jesus likely visited has been uncovered just in the past few years -it's the oldest synagogue  excavated in Galilee & includes a stone with the world's oldest carved menorah!

But no doubt the most AMAZING site today was at Magdala, where a synagogue that Jesus likely visited has been uncovered just in the past few years -it’s the oldest synagogue excavated in Galilee & includes a stone with the world’s oldest carved menorah!

This painting on display at Magdala is amazing - an artist's depiction of the woman with the issue of blood touching the hem of His garment

This painting on display at Magdala is amazing – an artist’s depiction of the woman with the issue of blood touching the hem of His garment

tomorrow will be one of our busiest days, with an early boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, followed by a Shabat Celebration and pastoral installation service at Tents of Mercy, and then an afternoon of touring other Biblical sites.  Time for some shut-eye now!

oops, day 3 in Israel wasn’t quite over!

I posted a few hours ago, just before going to dinner at our hotel, thinking our day was pretty much over.  But we were joined at dinner by our friends, Leon & Nina Mazin, and they stayed for our team meeting afterward to share with us.

Our friend, Leon Mazin, founder & leader of "Return to Zion" ministries (one of our five primary partners in the Land) came to our hotel and delivered The Most Profound message I've ever heard from Luke 4, where Jesus read from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue.  I'm not kidding - it was A-MAZING!  (We used a cell phone to videotape the whole message & if you'll email me, we'll send you the link)

Leon Mazin is founder & leader of “Return to Zion” ministries (one of CLC’s five primary partners in the Land) who came to our hotel & delivered The Most Profound message I’ve ever heard from Luke 4, where Jesus read from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue. I’m not kidding – it was A-MAZING! (We used a cell phone to videotape the whole message & if you’ll email me, we’ll send you the link)

Israel, day 3

The view of the Sea of Galilee that greeted us from our hotel room this morning-

The view of the Sea of Galilee that greeted us from our hotel room this morning-

Unfortunately for us, the long-awaited winter rains came to Israel today - and our CLC team were really troopers as they donned jackets, poncho's & umbrellas to get thru the rest of the day touring in the lower Galilee region, ending the day at Megiddo, which not only has a rich history in the Old Testament and even in more modern times, but will eventually play a significant role in prophecy during the battle of Armegeddon mentioned in the book of Revelation.

Unfortunately for us, the long-awaited winter rains came to Israel today – and our CLC team were really troopers as they donned jackets, poncho’s & umbrellas to get thru the rest of the day touring in the lower Galilee region, ending the day at Megiddo, which not only has a rich history in the Old Testament and even in more modern times, but will eventually play a significant role in prophecy during the battle of Armageddon mentioned in the book of Revelation.

Tomorrow we’ll head to the Jordan River where almost the entire group of 32 will be water baptized, and take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee as the tour continues-

Israel, day 2

This is my 5th tour of Israel since 1985, but I had never before seen the "Fountain of Tears", a 60-foot wall with 7 panels depicting God's love for the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust through the 7 last sayings of Christ as he was crucified.  There are simply no words to describe this memorial, but several members of the team took better pics than me, so visit their Facebook pages to see more detail.

This is my 5th tour of Israel since 1985, but I had never before seen the “Fountain of Tears”, a 60-foot wall with 7 panels depicting God’s love for the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust through the 7 last sayings of Christ as he was crucified. There are simply no words to describe this memorial, but several members of the team took better pics than me, so visit their Facebook pages to see more detail.

Our first stop today was at Masada, which is always one of the most amazing sights of any Israel tour.  While it has no Biblical significance, seeing the construction expertise by Herod the Great and his Roman soldiers over 2,000 years ago is beyond amazing.

Our first stop today was at Masada, which is always one of the most amazing sights of any Israel tour. While it has no Biblical significance, seeing the construction expertise by Herod the Great and his Roman soldiers over 2,000 years ago is beyond amazing.

At the ancient city of Arad, we saw the ruins of a large city defeated by Joshua as he led Israel into the Promised Land.

At the ancient city of Arad, we saw the ruins of a large city defeated by Joshua as he led Israel into the Promised Land.

Israel, day 1

Here is some of our group of 32 (including 29 CLC'ers) at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered

Here is some of our group of 32 (including 29 CLC’ers) at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered

This is cave 4 at Qumran, where most of the scrolls were found

This is cave 4 at Qumran, where most of the scrolls were found

  • If you don’t know the story or the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, read this
Our Messianic, Spirit-filled Tour Guide explains the significance of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran

Our Messianic, Spirit-filled Tour Guide explains the significance of the Dead Sea scrolls at Qumran

The team finished our first day here at En Gedi (see 1Sam. 24) in good spirits, despite their exhaustion, as most of us haven’t slept since Sunday night.

I’ll try to keep you posted each day when possible-

Sunday reflections

It's always good to have Pastor Jon Jones in the house! (And Tony Powell killed the solo of

It’s always good to have Pastor Jon Jones in the house! 

And Tony Powell KILLED it on "Give Thanks"!

And Tony Powell KILLED it on “Give Thanks”!

Loved getting to kick-off our "Christmas@the Movies" series today with 'ELF'! (I think the Elves Code is good for all of us!)

Loved getting to kick-off our “Christmas@the Movies” series today with ‘ELF’! (I think the Elves Code is good for all of us!)  And I’m rejoicing over at least 10-12 people who prayed to receive Christ!

Today was MISSIONS Sunday - if you want to help the Syrian refugee crisis, just designate your online gift to "missions"

Today was MISSIONS Sunday – if you want to help the Syrian refugee crisis, just designate your online gift to “missions”

  • Pastor Ben preached ‘ELF’ at NWI today as Pastor Sam was on vacation, and he says it was a really good service, with one salvation decision, three people participating in growth track and a great response to the message!
The Blue Island "Elf" was a big hit for photos today!

The Blue Island “Elf” was a big hit for photos today!

Pastor Brent preached 'ELF' with translation by Jorge Arevalo - and 2 people prayed to receive Christ afterwards!

Pastor Brent preached ‘ELF’ with translation by Jorge Arevalo – and 2 people prayed to receive Christ afterwards!

KidsLife remodeling at Blue Island is complete & our children love it!

KidsLife remodeling at Blue Island is complete & our children love it!

And on Missions Sunday in Blue Island we promoted the 2017 trip to Siberia - it's not too late to sign up!

And on Missions Sunday in Blue Island we promoted the 2017 trip to Siberia – it’s not too late to sign up!

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted this holiday week, but I found one from a few years ago that I suspect has even greater relevance today:

One of CLC’s faithful worshipers asked, “My sister has been a lesbian for a very long time.  I love her very much, but I don’t love her lifestyle choice!  Since IL has succumbed to the moral decay all around us, here’s my question: if she & her partner decide to marry, I would not want to go to her wedding.  I think that it would say that I support her lifestyle & that’s it’s okay with me that she marry another woman.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m preparing myself in the event it does. What should I say?  How do I handle this without causing WWIII?”

No doubt yours is a question that we’ll be facing often in the future.  I feel certain that my answer will not be popular with many, and may even cause a backlash here – but since you asked me, I’m going to give you my honest, heartfelt & prayerful response:

Actually, before I begin, I should probably say that you’ve already expressed your thoughts about attending her wedding, and it is certainly your right to choose not to attend.

However, if you’re asking me whether you should, I would say, ‘Yes’.  Here’s a few reasons why I say that:

  • Jesus, our Supreme Example, ate with“publicans & sinners” who were considered the ‘scum’ of society – see Matthew 9:10-12 for just one example.  It’s true that He was ‘set apart’ from sinners (Heb. 7:26), but that separation was internal, certainly not physical, seeing how He loved to associate with them.
  • Paul, the greatest of the Apostles, said that in order to avoid immoral people we would have to leave this world! (see 1Cor. 5:9-13)
  • While your question is not directly addressed in Scripture, I don’t think I’d be out of line to compare your situation to 1Cor. 7:16, where Paul addressed believers who have an unsaved spouse and basically says that the believing spouse may be the best chance that unbelieving spouse has of ever being saved!
  • As Christians, we are not only to “work at living a holy life”, but also to “work at living in peace with everyone”. (Heb. 12:14)  In my years as a pastor, I’ve listened to some painful stories from families who drew a line in the sand over a family member’s choice of marriage partners, etc., and lived to regret the hurt & division in the family that lasted for years afterward, and, in some cases, was never resolved/reconciled.

It is my opinion that your sister knows quite well by now that you do not approve of her lifestyle – and I don’t think you attending her wedding will change that.

But your attendance would declare quite loudly that you love her and that you are her sister, despite her choices.  And love covers a multitude of sins. (see 1Pet. 4:8)

I could have just cut right to the chase and said the standard cliche’, but with deep conviction: hate the sin; love the sinner!  But I thought your question deserved a more thorough answer.

You don’t have to agree.  But I hope I’ve given you some things to consider prayerfully, should you ever be faced with this scenario.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Last day in Nairobi; headed HOME!

My last day in Nairobi was spent with our partners since 1999, David & Jennifer Hatley. This couple have survived more battles than most of us have fought: each has come thru life-threatening battles with cancer, ministry challenges, family challenges and more - but through it all they have faithfully built a great work for the Lord with over 200 churches planted in Kenya alone, and many others in 5 neighboring African nations!

My last day in Nairobi was spent with our partners since 1999, David & Jennifer Hatley. This couple have survived more battles than most of us have fought: each has come thru life-threatening battles with cancer, ministry challenges, family challenges and more – but through it all they have faithfully built a great work for the Lord with over 200 churches planted in Kenya alone, and many others in 5 neighboring African nations!  It was a privilege to visit them again!

I spent part of the day touring their compound, as almost every building on their site wasn’t here on my last visit in 2005!  I wish every CLC’er could see the beautiful sanctuary, the Children’s Home, the primary school, the medical clinic, the social hall, the library, and even the guest house where I stayed – their property alone is now valued at over $2 million USD (not counting the buildings), and ALL of it is debt-free, to the glory of God!

They also took me for some last-minute Christmas shopping at Kazuri, a fascinating, Christian-owned pottery & jewelry enterprise that now provides employment to 340 Kenyans, most of whom are single moms who are able to support their families as a result.

I took the whole tour of their operation in case you wanna see (I guess if you don’t wanna see you should stop reading now):

Using Kenyan clay for everything, they produce pottery of various shapes & sizes...

Using Kenyan clay for everything, they produce pottery of various shapes & sizes…

afterwards, some women paint the various pottery pieces in a wonderful variety of designs.

afterwards, some women paint the various pottery pieces in a wonderful variety of designs.

...but the major part of their enterprise is producing native jewelry from the clay to the finished product...

…but the major part of their enterprise is producing native jewelry from the clay to the finished product (these ladies are forming the clay into jewelry molds)…

...after the jewelry is baked in the kiln, it is HAND-PAINTED by ladies like this one...

…after the jewelry is baked in the kiln, it is HAND-PAINTED by ladies like this one…

...then other women assemble the necklaces & bracelets by hand like this...

…then other women assemble the necklaces & bracelets by hand like this…

Get this: their products are now sold in many different countries around the world, including Harrod’s of London, and here in the USA department stores like Macy’s, Dillards, and more!  All from humble beginnings by some Christians who wanted to provide jobs for needy women in Kenya – I love to see Christian entrepreneurs succeed!

That’s all for this trip – I’ll board a flight in a couple of hours and be home Tuesday afternoon, ready to celebrate Thanksgiving and then share with you as we open our Christmas series THIS Sunday!

Sunday reflections from KENYA

 

It's been 12-15 years since I was here with the Hatley's, and the development of their property is amazing - beautiful church auditorium & a choir to lead us in worship today-

It’s been 12-15 years since I was here with the Hatley’s, and the development of their property is amazing – beautiful church auditorium & a choir to lead us in worship today-

I especially enjoyed this children's trio of RAPPERS for Jesus! I'm not sure what they sang, but it was too cute!

I especially enjoyed this children’s trio of RAPPERS for Jesus! I’m not sure what they sang, but it was too cute!

I preached how God wants to do "new things" in them this next year.

I preached how God wants to do “new things” in them this next year.

After I preached & made the salvation invitation, Pastor David called people forward - and one new guest man wept his way to salvation thru Christ!

After I preached and made the salvation invitation, Pastor David called them forward – and one new first-time guest wept his way to salvation thru Christ!

One Sunday a month the various ministries have a meeting after service, so I taught the Men's Ministry session - these are a few of the men as Pastor David prayed over them to close the meeting.

One Sunday a month the various ministries have a meeting after service, so I taught the Men’s Ministry session – these are a few of the men as Pastor David prayed over them to close out.

That completed MY Sunday here in Nairobi, but as a pastor, I’m always curious about things at home.  If you attended any service at any campus of CLC today, please leave your thoughts about the service you attended:

  • what was your favorite part?
  • how did the Holy Spirit minister to you through the teaching?
  • what was your takeaway for this week?

I look forward to being home Tuesday and can’t wait to see all of you next Sunday for the kick-off of “Christmas@the Movies” with ‘ELF’ – invite a friend!

CAPRO meetings, day 2

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It was two full days of meetings with some of the finest men I’ve ever known and I often wondered why I was here – but near the end of the meetings, the International Director, Sam Kputu said, “Pastor Jerry, you’re not here just to add color; you’re here to add value!”

(Hoping I’ll be able to do that as we go along)

I thought a lot of CLC'ers would be glad to see this face: Pastor Eloi Dogue (whom we know from Senegal) is now part of the CAPRO international office & serves on the Council - he sends his greetings!

I thought a lot of CLC’ers would be glad to see this face: Pastor Eloi Dogue (whom we know from Senegal) is now part of the CAPRO international office & serves on the Council – he sends his greetings!

As the meetings ended, our long-time partners in Nairobi, David & Jennifer Hatley picked me up and we enjoyed great fellowship over some good food tonight before they dropped me at their guesthouse.  I’ll minister at Church on the Rock tomorrow morning and afternoon and spend some time with the Hatley’s on Monday before catching my flight back to Chicago.  Thanks for all the prayers!

 

 

CIC meetings in Nairobi

with Dondo Iorlamen, National Director for CAPRO in Nigeria

with Dondo Iorlamen, National Director for CAPRO in Nigeria

I was especially touched by Dondo’s story as all the Council members introduced themselves this morning in the opening session.  It seems that he had a series of dreams & visions in which he saw himself doing missions, but he had no knowledge of any missions ministry.  He searched for months, asking people he would meet if they knew of missions.  Finally, he was told to go to a certain town where there were people who did missions, but when he arrived there, he couldn’t find them.  So he went to a parking lot where taxi drivers often met and asked them, but none of the taxi’s knew about missions until a young man on a motorcycle asked what they were talking about and quickly told Dondo that there was missions where he was from, which required more travel by bus.  When Dondo finally reached the place and the bus dropped him off, he looked up toward the missions training school and it was exactly the picture he had seen in his dreams!  Today he is the Director for CAPRO in Nigeria!

CAPRO International Chairman, Judah Bett, from Kenya, called the meeting to order this morning.

CAPRO International Chairman, Judah Bett, from Kenya, called the meeting to order this morning.

The Council met today for about 10 hours, and we'll keep the same schedule tomorrow.

The Council met today for about 10 hours, and we’ll keep the same schedule tomorrow.

Long-time CLC'ers will remember Pade Tokun, who was the International Director of CAPRO when we first started working with them in Senegal.

Long-time CLC’ers will remember Pade Tokun, who was the International Director of CAPRO when we first started working with them in Senegal.

They actually seated me between Pade and Bro. Amos Aderonmu, who also has visited CLC, so I really had to behave today.

Hope to share more tomorrow if I can access the internet again, and then I’ll spend the weekend in ministry with Missionary David Hatley at Church on the Rock here in Nairobi.

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted this past week, so I’m re-posting from 2010, a subject that I know many are interested in:

A faithful CLC writes, “Pastor, what are your thoughts about this date that many theologians are saying is the day God will destroy the earth. I know there have been dates passed about before, but this one seems like it may have some merit. Here is a summary of what I’ve read and keep hearing: ” In 2 Peter 3:8, God reminds us that one day is as 1,000 years. Therefore, with the correct understanding that the seven days referred to in Genesis 7:4 can be understood as 7,000 years, we learn that when God told Noah there were seven days to escape worldwide destruction, He was also telling the world there would be exactly 7,000 years (one day is as 1,000 years) to escape the wrath of God that would come when He destroys the world on Judgment Day. Because Holy Infinite God is all-knowing, He knows the end from the beginning. He knew how sinful the world would become. Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. (the year of the Flood) is the year 2011 A.D. (our calendar). 4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000 [One year must be subtracted in going from an Old Testament B.C. calendar date to a New Testament A.D. calendar date because the calendar does not have a year zero.] Thus Holy God is showing us by the words of 2 Peter 3:8 that He wants us to know that exactly 7,000 years after He destroyed the world with water in Noah’s day, He plans to destroy the entire world forever. Because the year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C. when the flood began, the Bible has given us absolute proof that the year 2011 is the end of the world during the Day of Judgment, which will come on the last day of the Day of Judgment. Amazingly, May 21, 2011 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Biblical calendar of our day. Remember, the flood waters also began on the 17th day of the 2nd month, in the year 4990 B.C. ” I just want to know what your thoughts are.”

Wow!  Sounds like someone you’ve heard has it all figured out.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I agree with a single point, and since you asked for my thoughts, here goes, in order:

1.  Most importantly, when it comes to interpreting prophecy about end-times, always keep in mind what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 24:35-36.  That understanding is repeated in several other passages (Matt. 25:13; Mark 13:31-33; Acts 1:6-8) – and I think it’s pretty clear: timing is the Father’s business, not ours.  I personally understand that to mean that NO ONE ever has or ever will be able to successfully predict when Jesus will return or when the world will be destroyed, etc.  (And for good reason, in my humble opinion, because it’s much more important for us to stay focused on our “assignment” of reaching the whole world with the gospel, rather than trying to figure out the mystery of when it will happen!)

2.  I do not see 2Pet 3:8 as a ‘mathematical formula’ to help us determine dates; I think Peter is reminding us that God transcends time as we know it; i.e., to Him, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day, since HE is eternal and has never been bound by time as we are.  (Again, that’s my humble opinion about that verse-)

3.  I also don’t see any reason to interpret Gen. 7:4 as being a ‘prophetic’ message to the world about a future Judgment Day.  In fact, the first rule of hermeneutics (the principles of interpreting Scripture) is that the Bible should be interpreted literally unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.  In this case, it sure seems simple to me that God is telling Noah that the rain will begin in 7 days, period.

4.  I’m also a little concerned about the liberal use of the word, “exactly” in the paragraphs you quote – since I’m not aware of any exact dates that theologians agree on regarding ancient events like the Flood.  In fact, I’ve even seen estimates for the birth of Christ occurring in 4 B.C., putting His death at Calvary in 29 A.D., rather than 33 A.D. as so many have assumed.  My point is simply that I don’t think we really know exactly what year Noah’s flood took place, so to try to extrapolate from that and come up with an “exact” date for the Judgment Day seems rather impossible.

5.  Finally, and I mean no offense here, but I suspect the articles you’re quoting from have been written by one or more of the many preachers who, in my opinion, are “majoring on the minors“.  I understand why that happens, because this kind of speculation is sexier and feeds our curiosity about the future, etc. (it’s an easy way to attract interest).  But I honestly see this and similar speculations as drawing our focus and attention away from where it really should be; namely on doing our part to fulfill the Great Commission that Jesus gave us all in Mark 16:15.  One thing I think ALL theologians do agree on is that we are living in the last days, and according to Acts 3:20-21, Jesus must remain in heaven until we have finished that task and God will then restore all things.

I do hope this helped a bit.  Forgive me if I came across harshly toward ‘prophecy preachers’ – I’ve just lived long enough to see so many of their past predictions about end-times fail, and I’m not convinced that God ever intended for us to focus on the timing instead of the need for us to be ready and help others get ready for eternity.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Off to Kenya

shutterstock_187642739I left last evening for Nairobi, Kenya where I will begin my service as a member of the CAPRO International Council.  You may recall that we have partnered with CAPRO in Senegal for the past 15 years, and I could not be more impressed with the integrity and single-minded focus of this Nigerian-based missions agency.

I was honored earlier this year when their highest leadership council asked me to join them as possibly the first American to serve, and this week’s meeting is my first opportunity.  We’ll be deliberating over some major challenges the ministry currently faces, so your prayers for wisdom and supernatural direction are needed.

I’ll try to post regularly this week to keep you informed on my whereabouts and work, so stay tuned-

Christmas at CLC

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We’re combining our most-popular sermon series with the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, so make plans now to join us for a GREAT Christmas at CLC:

  • November 27 – “ELF”
  • December 4 – “The Grinch that Stole Christmas”
  • December 11 – “Polar Express”

and then on December 18, a very special FAMILY CHRISTMAS celebration we’re calling,

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Finally, our Christmas week schedule:

  • Christmas Eve celebration – Wednesday, December 21, 7-8 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve Celebration – Saturday, December 24, 4-5 p.m.
  • Christmas Eve Celebration – Saturday, December 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
  • NO services here on Christmas Day

Sunday reflections

Today was a real day of celebration:

We celebrated our VETERANS in each service!

We celebrated our VETERANS in each service!

We celebrated with BETH SNYDER as she sealed her life-change through our Celebrate Recovery ministry by being baptized today! (1 of 6 adult baptisms!)

We celebrated with BETH SNYDER as she sealed her life-change through our Celebrate Recovery ministry by being baptized today! (1 of 6 adult baptisms!)

We celebrated JESUS as our King of Kings, after this week's tumultuous election!

We celebrated JESUS as our King of Kings, after this week’s tumultuous election!

We celebrated with DONALD SINGLETON who gave a touching testimony prior to his water baptism today!

We celebrated with DONALD SINGLETON who gave a touching testimony prior to his water baptism today!

We celebrated with our TITHES & OFFERING as Pastor Ben led us!

We celebrated with our TITHES & OFFERING as Pastor Ben led us!

And I celebrated a RESPONSIVE CONGREGATION at the 10am service - you guys just pulled the anointing out of me!

And I celebrated a RESPONSIVE CONGREGATION at the 10am service – you guys just pulled the anointing out of me, and it’s fun preaching when you do that!

  • No pics, but we celebrated with double-digits of folks who prayed to receive Christ.  In fact, my favorite moment of the day was when a mom came to me after the 10am service to tell me that her 16-year old daughter who has battled against depression (was hospitalized for being suicidal) and had even doubted there is a God, wept all through the message last Sunday and today prayed to receive Christ!
Pastor Sam said worship at NWI today was strong and they had a powerful time of prayer for our nation!

Pastor Sam said worship at NWI today was strong and they had a powerful time of prayer for our nation!

He also said my wife really connected today with the message

He also said my wife really connected today with the message at NWI.

Blue Island responded well in worship...

Blue Island responded well in worship…

I love how our children receive prayer each Sunday at Blue Island before going to their classes-

I love how our children receive prayer each Sunday at Blue Island before going to their classes-

Pastor Brent brought the Word with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish

Pastor Brent brought the Word with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish

What did you celebrate today?

 

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful CLC’er writes, “During my devotions the other day, i came upon the Scripture about all the stones of The Temple being overturned and not one upon another (Matthew 24:1-2). The question that came to mind was what about the western wall? Do you think that even those stones will be overturned at some point in the future?”

Great question, because I’m sure many people are “in the dark”  about the Western Wall, pictured below:

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Contrary to what many of us would assume, the Western Wall is not technically part of the Jewish Temple.  Instead, it was built by the Roman King Herod as a retaining wall that encompassed the Temple itself.

When the Jewish Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., not a stone was left atop another, just as Jesus had prophesied.  In fact, the only part of the retaining wall that surrounded the Temple that’s still intact is the Western Wall, and since it was the closest to their temple, the Jews regard it as a holy site to this day.

No tour of the Holy Land is complete without a visit to the Western Wall, and it’s always one of my favorite experiences each time I’ve visited the Old City, as men and women gather there to pray – Jews and Christians alike.

So to answer your question, no, I don’t expect the stones of the Western Wall to be overturned someday, although since it was not included in Jesus’ prophecy, I guess we can’t be sure.

Hope that helps.  What would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

 

Saying goodbye to a good man

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I’m off this morning to Knoxville, to attend the wake and funeral of Pastor Paul Cowell, who was possibly the biggest-hearted, most generous man I’ve ever known.  Even though we didn’t have many opportunities to be together, he was always incredibly kind to me, and I’ll never forget the message he preached at CLC about the death of his son and his comparison with our Heavenly Father giving His Son for us.

My good friend Phil Nordstrom wrote a fitting tribute to Paul.

As I’ve been learning, life is all about relationships, so I’ll pay my respects to Paul along with many from my original faith family and share some fellowship with the brethren before returning home in the morning.

After this election…..

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I woke up this morning as shocked as everyone else about the results of our Presidential election.

I also know that many people in our country are hurt and fearful of what the future holds.

Let me point out some things that have NOT changed after this election:

  • Before the election, America desperately needed the mercy and grace of God.      After the election, we still do.
  • Before the election, our nation was deeply divided: racially, politically, spiritually.   After the election, we still are.
  • Before the election, our only hope for the future was in Jesus Christ, not a politician.  After the election, HE still reigns.

As my friend, Pastor Jason Bentley, wrote, “No matter the election results, my job remains the same: Love God, love people, preach Jesus, spread hope, build His church, advance His Kingdom.”

Selah.

Sunday reflections

I’m loving this emotional healing series, and today was a GOOD day at each CLC campus:

This guy took us "in" today - and 'The Cross Has the Final Word' is my new FAVORITE song! (Thanks, Harmony LaBeff & SoP!)

This guy took us “in” today – and ‘The Cross Has the Final Word’ is my new FAVORITE song! (Thanks, Harmony LaBeff & SoP!)

Loved the great reports of revival underground in IRAN from our ELAM missions partner, Tom Hawksley!

Loved the great reports of revival underground in IRAN from our ELAM missions partner, Tom Hawksley!

The story of Absalom made for a heavy message at each campus today-

The story of Absalom made for a heavy message at each campus today-

Every scrap of paper represents someone who was SET FREE from past hurts today!  Praise God for the power of forgiveness!

Every scrap of paper represents someone who was SET FREE from past hurts today! Praise God for what happens when we CHOOSE to forgive!

Worship during "Show Up Sunday" at NWI was great!

Worship during “Show Up Sunday” at NWI was great!

I'm convinced the CUTEST kids in Chicagoland attend KidsLife at CLC!

I’m convinced the CUTEST kids in Chicagoland attend KidsLife at CLC!

Besides the great response to the message & lots of CLC'ers set free, Pastor Sam was excited to welcome new member (and recent college grad) Gabby, who is already playing her violin with the NWI worship team!

Besides the great response to the message & lots of CLC’ers set free, Pastor Sam was excited to welcome new member (and recent college grad) Gabby, who is already playing her violin with the NWI worship team! (L to R: Sam, Gabby, Taylor & Carol Terrell)

Our Blue Island campus is truly CLC, because we're a "huggy church"!

Our Blue Island campus is truly CLC, because we’re a “huggy church”!

Pastor Chris preached the Absalom message with real anointing

Pastor Chris preached the Absalom message with real anointing

The response to the message was beautiful, and many received emotional healing as they chose to forgive!

The response to the message was beautiful, and many received emotional healing as they chose to forgive!

 

Ask the Pastor

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Today I’m reposting this question from 2008:

Someone asked about the meaning of “five-fold ministry”, which is a term often used these days.

First, thanks for finally asking a ‘softball question’ that I can easily answer!

The term gets its origin from Ephesians 4:11-13 where the various ministry gifts that Jesus has given to the Church are listed: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  Since there are a total of five, oftentimes this kind of minister is referred to as a ‘five-fold ministry’, to distinguish from the fact that according to the New Testament, all of us as believers are ‘ministers’, since each of us has a ministry from the Lord to fulfill.  It’s perhaps a healthier way to view the Church rather than the traditional “clergy v. laity” terminology that is contrary to Scripture.

The Ephesian 4:11 ministers are called and gifted by the Lord specifically for the word of equipping the members of the church to fulfill their individual ministries.  Much has been written on the specifics of those fivefold ministers, but let me give my brief summary here:

Apostles are ‘fathering’ ministries who generally open up new areas for the gospel (such as missionaries who bring the Gospel into an unreached area) and/or who have many churches/ministers under their covering or leadership, who look to them for oversight.

Prophets are often trans-local ministers (meaning, they may travel and minister to the Body of Christ at large, rather than ministering in one local church), and they are gifted to see and proclaim word from God that often reveal the future or establish God’s heart on particular matters.  Prophets are often thought to be ‘ahead of their times’ and tend to see things in clear black-and-white ways rather than shades of gray.

Evangelists are gifted to lead lost people to Christ, and to train others to do the same.  They are often gifted with the working of miracles or healing gifts, to help facilitate their ministry to the lost.

Pastors are the shepherds who are given to feed, guide and protect the sheep (members) of a local church.

Teachers are gifted by the Lord to teach His Word to His people, with clarity and insight, so that the Word can be lived out.

To be honest – and I hope this doesn’t stir up needless controversy – a careful reading of Ephesians 4:11 indicates only a ‘fourfold’ ministry, since the office of pastor and teacher is joined, as in pastor-teacher.  This is easy to understand, since one of the primary requirements for a pastor is that he be able to teach.

Finally, I suspect the reason that the term is used quite often these days is to distinguish the fact that the Church (or individual using the term) does believe in all five of these ministries as being valid today.  For many years, it seemed the Church as a whole only embraced three of the five (evangelists, pastors and teachers) and the ministry-gift of Apostle and Prophet was considered by many to have ended in the early years of the New Testament.  However, like many churches across the globe, CLC definitely embraces the role of Apostles and Prophets as still be valid (and needed!) in the church today.

P.S. Among the many excesses that I’ve witnessed in the Church is the proliferation of ministers who are “claiming” the titles without doing the ‘stuff’.  Quite often I hear someone referred to as “Apostle so-and-so” who in reality has never fathered anything and has no real following of churches and ministers, etc.  At CLC, we prefer to err on the other side; i.e., we don’t often use the title; we just thank God for the ‘ministry’.  Thus, I may refer to someone as providing ‘apostolic oversight’  to a group of churches instead of calling him, ‘Apostle’.  In my humble opinion, real men and women of God aren’t interested in titles; they are doing the ministry!  May their kind never cease until we reach that perfect day of Christ-

Sunday reflections

Kids dancing during the opening song was a great way to kick-off today's Family Sunday!

Kids dancing during the opening song was a great way to kick-off today’s Family Sunday!

My favorite pic of the day: when I prayed for Tony Velez (son of Paul & Tanya), he decided to "lay hands" on me!

My favorite pic of the day: when I prayed for Tony Velez (son of Paul & Tanja), prior to the formal dedication in service, he decided to “lay hands” on me!

Baby dedications are always a special moment, and today was no exception for two fine little men!

Baby dedications are always a special moment, and today was no exception for two fine little men, Ashton Pittman on the left and Tony Velez on the right!

The joy of today's message was seeing people pray to receive Christ in EACH service today - that just never gets old!

The joy of today’s message was seeing people pray to receive Christ in EACH service today – that just never gets old!

The NWI praise team was GREAT today!

The NWI praise team was ON FIRE today!

The NWI KidsLife dance team brought energy to their Family Sunday!

The NWI KidsLife dance team brought energy to their Family Sunday!

Today was the FIRST TIME he young boy pictured here with his dad & Pastor Sam had EVER stepped foot in any church and he was one of three who gave his life to the Lord today! (Afterwards, he said to Pastor Sam, "I'll see you next week!")

Today was the FIRST TIME he young boy pictured here with his dad & Pastor Sam had EVER stepped foot in any church and he was one of three who gave his life to the Lord today! (Afterwards, he said to Pastor Sam, “I’ll see you next week!”)  Love it!!!

Our Blue Island campus had their largest attendance in several months today

Our Blue Island campus had their largest attendance in several months today

The strong attendance included some guests who came for a baby dedication on this Family Sunday (There were 6 babies dedicated across 3 campuses today: 3 at NWI, 2 in TP and 1 in Blue Island!)

The strong attendance included some guests who came for a baby dedication on this Family Sunday (6 babies were dedicated across 3 campuses: 3 at NWI, 2 in TP and 1 in Blue Island!)

David Castro, son of was presented to the Lord this morning at Blue Island-

David Castro, son of Dan & Maribel Castro, was presented to the Lord this morning at Blue Island-

Our kids are enjoying their new classroom in Blue Island

Our kids are enjoying Sol’s teaching in Blue Island-

Pastor Brent brought the truth about Samson (and us) as Jorge Arevalo interpreted

Pastor Brent brought the truth about Samson (and us) as Jorge Arevalo interpreted

I’d call that a GOOD day at CLC!

Ask the Pastor

shutterstock_110236751Since we had no new questions submitted this week, I’m reposting this one from 2010:

Another faithful reader asks, “should a person give their whole first check as a firstfruits offering? Is that the only first fruit offering to give or would a portion of it be sufficient?”

Let me state up front that this blog represents my personal opinion.  I know my answer to this question will not agree with some of the “Brother & Sister Wonderful’s” on television.  I’ve heard their teaching and seen some of their polished appeals for you to send them the entire first check of the year or the entire first check of a new job.  However, I do NOT find that concept in Scripture, at least as I understand God’s Word.

As I read the various references in the Old Testament to “firstfruits”, they clearly speak of the beginning of one’s harvest (since theirs was an agrarian culture and they didn’t receive a paycheck for their labor as we do). By reading those various references to firstfruits, I have come to the conclusion that “firstfruits” in Scripture is synonymous with “tithes”, since the principle is identical: when we give the Lord the first portion of our harvest, He promises His blessing on all the rest of it! (See Proverbs 3:9-10 – and keep in mind that our Proverbs series continues this Sunday, and interestingly enough, our topic is “Master Your Money”!)

That’s another reason we don’t tithe on the ‘leftovers’, after we pay other bills, but on the ‘first’ tenth of our income, to invoke God’s blessing on all the rest.  After all, Scripture is quite clear that it’s ALL His! (Psalm 24:1)

So, my understanding of bringing your firstfruits to the Lord is identical to bringing your tithes to the Lord.  I do not see anything in Scripture that would require me to give God the entire first check of the year or the entire first check from a new job.  I am sure that God blesses us whenever we bring an offering over and above our tithes, so if you or someone you know testifies about the blessing they received by giving their first check to the Lord, I have no problem with it – I just don’t see that as a requirement in Scripture.

I suppose CLC could bring in additional income if I would teach that everyone should bring their first check to the church, and perhaps that is why some ministers do so.  But I didn’t enter the ministry to enrich myself or to fatten the bank account of CLC.  My role is to teach God’s Word, and that’s what I try to do through this blog as well.

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

Cambodia, day 6

We finally had some time off today to be with Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul.  We love them like our own children, and we’re so thankful to get to be a part of what God is doing through their ministry here.

The highlight of our time together was a guided tour of their new facility that is currently under construction.  It’s an absolute miracle how God is providing them with more than twice the space they currently have, but on a major street inside a new shopping mall!  Take a look & rejoice with us:

Jesse & Chris walking thru the new entrance to their building-

Jesse & Chris walking thru the new entrance to their building-

Our first look at what will be their new 800-seat auditorium!

Our first look at what will be their new 800-seat auditorium!

From inside the auditorium, looking back at the entrance & 2-levels of classrooms

From inside the auditorium, looking back at the entrance & 2-levels of classrooms

The new offices for New Life Fellowship will be housed here-

The new offices for New Life Fellowship will be housed here-

 

From the second floor classrooms & offices will be a  bridge & stairway leading back to the auditorium

From the second floor classrooms & offices will be a bridge & stairway leading back to the auditorium

As pastors, we know the real excitement is NOT about brick & mortar, but about the fact that this new facility will enable NLF to reach many more Cambodians with the love of Jesus, and we fully expect explosive growth for this wonderful New Testament church!

That’s all for this trip – we’ll be boarding in less than 2 hours for the first of three flights (Phnom Penh-Seoul; Seoul-LA; LA-Chicago) that will get us home Tuesday evening.

Until then-

Cambodia, day 5

Our final day of ministry on this trip was spent at one of our favorite churches in the world,  New Life Fellowship in Phnom Penh, pastored by Jesse & Soar McCaul.

I had the honor of preaching their 10am service today, "What Happens When You Pray", and the response was wonderful!

I had the honor of preaching their 10am service today, “What Happens When You Pray”, and the response was wonderful!

While there were many who came forward for prayer afterwards, I thought some of you might recognize this NLF altar worker - MeyChen Pham!

While there were many who came forward for prayer afterwards, I thought some of you might recognize this NLF altar worker – MeyChen Pham!

Since returning home from EnTheos, MeyChen was scheduled to lead NLF's children's ministry. However, when the leader of their large internship program stepped down, MeyChen was appointed to that role instead, and Pastor Jesse says she is excelling! (She has also acquired a 'young suitor', pictured here with us)

Since returning home from EnTheos, MeyChen was scheduled to lead NLF’s children’s ministry. However, when the leader of their large internship program stepped down, MeyChen was appointed to that role instead, and Pastor Jesse says she is excelling with their interns! (She has also acquired a ‘young suitor’ who serves on the NLF worship team, pictured here with us)

We can't pronounce her name, but this young woman has become a dear friend that we look for on each visit.  When we first met, she was helping rescue girls from sex trafficking.  Now she works with an NGO to provide land & houses for impoverished people - such a heart to serve others!

We can’t pronounce her name, but this young woman has become a dear friend that we look for on each visit. When we first met, she was helping rescue girls from sex trafficking. Now she works with an NGO to provide land & houses for impoverished people – such a heart to serve others!

Tonight was the 4th worship experience we've had at New Life Fellowship on this trip, and each time it's been a different 5-piece band and different singers leading - and each has been amazing!  Such depth of talent & anointing here!

Tonight was the 4th worship experience we’ve had at New Life Fellowship on this trip, and each time it’s been a different 5-piece band and different singers leading – and each has been amazing! Such depth of talent & anointing here, plus every song we’ve sung has been written here!

This young lady works at our hotel, serving our breakfast each morning.  Tonight we learned that she is a member of New Life who really loves Jesus!

This young lady works at our hotel, serving our breakfast each morning. Tonight we learned that she is a member of New Life who really loves Jesus!

Chris preached her heart for missions tonight, and the altar response was amazing, as Cambodians streamed forward to offer themselves for the Lord's work (I wish you could have seen them, but I didn't intrude w/pictures because I was busy praying with so many)

Chris preached her heart for missions tonight, and the altar response was amazing, as Cambodians streamed forward to offer themselves for the Lord’s work (I wish you could have seen them, but I didn’t intrude w/pictures because I was busy praying with so many)

Finally our ministry time for this trip is done – tomorrow we’ll spend the day with Pastors Jesse & Soar.  We’re excited to see their new building under construction now and then catch our midnight flight home-

photos from day 4 in Cambodia

We forgot to take pictures of our seminar at Beltei International University yesterday, but their school photographer did not:

They even got me to dress up for the formal ceremonies to open & close the seminar

They even got me to dress up for the formal ceremonies to open & close the seminar-

This group photo was just a few representatives of the students who completed the seminar, "Today Matters"

This group photo was just a few representatives of the students who completed the seminar, “Today Matters”

Beltei really is an "international" university, with students from several different nations, including this bright young man from Turkmenistan, whom we met on our last trip here.

Beltei really is an “international” university, with students from several different nations, including this bright young man from Turkmenistan, whom we met on our last trip here.

Some of the students are Buddhist monks

Some of the students are Buddhist monks

Chris and I each had the privilege of presenting Certificates of Completion to the students

Chris and I each had the privilege of presenting Certificates of Completion to the students

In many respects, the highlight of the day for me was being able to present His Excellency Ly Chheng with an autographed copy of Dr. John Maxwell's latest book!  (Mr. Chheng was elated!!)

In many respects, the highlight of the day for me was being able to present His Excellency Ly Chheng with an autographed copy of Dr. John Maxwell’s latest book, “Intentional Living”!

In fact, he even wanted a picture of John's autograph!

Mr. Chheng was so elated with the gift he even wanted a picture of John’s autograph!

Cambodia, day 4

(LtoR) Pastor Mara Kong representing New Life Foundation; His Excellency Mr. Ly Chheng, President of Beltei University, me & Chris, & Mr. Chheng's youngest son, who is Vice-President of the University

(LtoR) Pastor Mara Kong representing New Life Foundation; His Excellency Mr. Ly Chheng, President of Beltei University, me & Chris, & Mr. Chheng’s youngest son, who is Vice-President of the University

Today was our final day of EQUIP seminars, as we had the privilege of teaching at the leading university in all of Cambodia, Beltei International University.  This was our second time to teach here, and we are building a wonderful relationship with His Excellency, Mr. Ly Chheng, who is the founder and President of the school.

We compressed an entire notebook of six lessons that normally take us a minimum of nine hours to teach into a little less than six hours today, but in the process we forgot to take any pictures of our audience, which was comprised about half and half of students and faculty from Beltei.

We’re praising God for the opportunity to sow into these precious people for whom Christ died, but we’re also thankful that today was the last of back-to-back-to-back seminars, as Chris and I are both wiped out!

We’ll minister at two of the three services at New Life Fellowship tomorrow.  Thanks for your prayers for this wonderful ministry which is leading the way in Cambodia!

Cambodia, day 3

Every student had the opportunity to be a "super hero" today....but the teacher got to model it first!

Every student had the opportunity to be a “super hero” today….but the teacher got to model it first!

To help review what we had taught these last 2 days, the students played Jenga after Chris explained how-

To help review what we had taught these last 2 days, the students played Jenga after Chris explained how-

They caught on quickly - look at the concentration on these girl's faces-

They caught on quickly – look at the concentration on these girl’s faces-

It felt good to wrap up the second seminar this afternoon - that's about 18 hours of teaching in the past 3 days. Whew!

It felt good to wrap up the second seminar this afternoon – that’s about 18 hours of teaching in the past 3 days. Whew!  (Now we can rest up for another 6 hours of teaching tomorrow)

Thanks for your prayers – one more seminar to go tomorrow, then we’ll minister at a couple of services at New Life Fellowship on Sunday before catching our return flight on Monday-

Cambodia, day 2

This day started with Chris and her "partners in crime" preparing some special object lessons

This day started with Chris and her “partners in crime” preparing some special object lessons-

One of those object lessons involved these 4 volunteers eating a pill that affected their taste buds so that nasty stuff (in the box) tasted good to them - to illustrate how a change our perspective can enable us to affirm others.

One of those object lessons involved these 4 volunteers eating a pill that affected their taste buds so that nasty stuff (in the box in Chris’ hand) tasted good to them – to illustrate how a change our perspective can enable us to affirm others.

At first we thought this object lesson flopped.... when Chris poured water on top of a chemical powder in the jar, it was supposed to overflow with 'snow'.....

At first we thought this object lesson flopped…. when Chris poured water on top of a chemical powder in the jar, it was supposed to overflow with ‘snow’, not stay in the jar…..

It really did work!  It wasn't cold like snow, but otherwise, it sure looked like it snowed in Cambodia today!

…..but moments later, it really did work! It wasn’t cold like snow, but otherwise, it sure looked like it snowed in Cambodia today, as the Queen of Object Lessons struck again!

Meanwhile, I just lectured, with no 'fun' stuff to liven up the class.

Meanwhile, I just lectured, with no ‘fun’ stuff to liven up the class.

  • Well, I did try my hand with an object lesson this afternoon with the taught university students for the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports – but we forgot to take ANY pics there all afternoon.  (Just take my word for it – it worked & the students were impressed!)

So day 2 is done and tomorrow we’ll spend all day with those university students, learning why “Today Matters”.  Until then-

Cambodia, day 1

It was 32 hours of travel from when we woke up at home Monday morning before we reached our hotel in Phnom Penh, so our teaching may have been discombobulated today, but we managed to complete 4 of the 6 lessons at New Life Fellowship:

Chris demonstrated a "lid" that limits our leadership potential.  (Most of today's teaching was about removing those lids to maximize our influence with others.)

Chris demonstrated a “lid” that limits our leadership potential. (Most of today’s teaching was about removing those lids to maximize our influence with others.)

It's always a joy to return to New Life Fellowship in Cambodia!  (I think this was our 7th or 8th trip here)

It’s always a joy to return to New Life Fellowship in Cambodia! (I think this was our 7th or 8th trip here)

One of the reasons we enjoy teaching here so much is the HUNGER of the Cambodians to learn.  There were 400 leaders from churches & NGO's all over the country who gathered today to receive, and they love to discuss what they're learning.

One of the reasons we enjoy teaching here so much is the HUNGER of the Cambodians to learn. There were 400 leaders from churches & NGO’s all over the country who gathered today to receive, and they love to discuss what they’re learning.

A tiny magnet attracting a LOT of paper clips illustrates how good leadership skills attract loyal followers! (from the queen of object lessons)

A tiny magnet attracting a LOT of paper clips illustrates how good leadership skills attract loyal followers! (from the queen of object lessons)

We’re early to bed tonight so we’ll be rested for tomorrow’s conclusion at NLF in the morning, before opening another seminar for the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports in the afternoon.  More later-

Off to Cambodia

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Chris and I leave before dawn this morning for O’Hare to catch the first of three flights that will get us to Phnom Penh, Cambodia about 11am tomorrow.

While there we’ll be teaching back-to-back-to-back seminars for EQUIP, the missions arm of Dr. John C. Maxwell.  The first seminar will be with our dear friends at New Life Fellowship (led by Pastors Jesse & Soar McCaul) on Wednesday & Thursday.  Then on Thursday afternoon and all day Friday we’ll teach some officials from the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports, along with some hand-picked university students and then all day Saturday we’ll teach faculty and students at the most prestigious university in Cambodia, Beltei International University.  Sunday night we’ll speak at one of the campuses of New Life and then spend Monday in meetings with Pastor Jesse before catching our return flight to Chicago.

Whew!  As always, it’s going to be a full 9 days, but we’re excited about what God will do!  Thanks for the prayers-

Sunday reflections

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Today was the climax of our N2 series, and what a powerful day it was with Dr. Patricia Bailey as our guest at the Tinley Park campus!

The Dance Team made His Praise glorious today!

The Dance Team made His Praise glorious today!

  • We also rejoiced with John Watanabe, a new believer who was baptized today!
Dr. Bailey was "in our face" all day, and we needed it! So appreciate her ministry!

Dr. Bailey was “in our face” all day, and we needed it! So appreciate her ministry!

We prayed over the Kenya team that will be leaving later this week to serve our missionary partners, David & Jennifer Hatley.

Altars were full in each service after Dr. Bailey’s challenge for CLC’ers to GO on a missions trip-

We prayed over the Kenya missions team that will be leaving later this week for Nairobi, to serve our partners, David & Jennifer Hatley

We prayed over the Kenya missions team that will be leaving later this week for Nairobi, to serve our partners, David & Jennifer Hatley

Pastor Sam is proud of NWI teens who serve in KidsLife - and rightfully so!

Pastor Sam is proud of some NWI teens who serve in KidsLife – and rightfully so!

Chris preached her heart for missions at NWI, and was well-received today.

Chris preached her heart for missions at NWI, and was well-received today.

Our amazing Blue Island Worship Director, Alan Franklin!

Our amazing Blue Island Worship Director, Alan Franklin!

We are called to reach children & young families.  (Yes, we are!)

We are called to reach children & young families. (Yes, we are!)

Pastor Brent shared his heart for missions, and Blue Islander's responded (it looks like about 10 people are committed to go to Siberia next summer!)  God's heart is our heart!

Pastor Brent shared his heart for missions, and Blue Islander’s responded afterwards (it looks like about 10 people are committed to go to Siberia next summer!) God’s heart is our heart!

Ask the Pastor

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Unfortunately there were NO questions submitted this week, so I’m publishing a post from 2010 – hope you find it helpful:

My favorite questioner writes, “Pastor, I have a question regarding our conscience vs. the Holy Spirit.  I was reading a passage in a book that said that whenever we hear that nagging voice that warns us or stops us from doing something that is not right, it is our conscience, or as this author put it, the Holy Spirit.  This particular Christian was trying to explain this to an unbeliever, but I always thought that The Holy Spirit was reserved for Christians or people who repented.  I’ve had a conscience all of my life, but never would I have put these two in the same category before I got saved. I know that scripture teaches us that gifts come without repentance, but would this gift fall under that category.  I guess I always thought the Holy Spirit was in a category of its own.  Can you explain this to me?”

Wow, that’s a new series of questions I’ve not been asked before.  Let me try to sort it out, in order:

1.  From my understanding of Scripture, I definitely agree that they are two different entities.  Everyone is born with a conscience, which in the Bible seems to indicate an inborn sense of right and wrong.  John 8:7-11 would be a great example of this, as verse 9 makes it clear that it was their conscience, not the Holy Spirit, that convicted them.  Let me quickly add that our conscience was perverted by the Fall (as can be seen in John 16:2 and Acts 26:9) and that it can be corrupted (Titus 1:15) and even put to death (1Timothy 4:2).  I said all of that to say that we could never depend on our conscience alone for guidance!

2.  You are correct that the Holy Spirit is only given to believers (Acts 2:38, Acts 5:32, Acts 19:1-6), but the verse you referenced about gifts is Romans 11:29, and it certainly does not refer to our conscience, which all of us have, saved or unsaved.  But as I said above, the conscience is not reliable because of many other factors.

3.  The Holy Spirit does guide us (John 16:13; Romans 8:14), sometimes by convicting us of wrong conduct or thoughts or attitudes – but I don’t necessarily like the term ‘nagging’ – His conviction is always sharp and precise, so that we know exactly what we need to do – never condemning or heavy and vague.  It’s the enemy who tries to weigh us down with feelings or thoughts of condemnation or heavy, yet unspecified feelings of failure and guilt.  Those feelings and thoughts are NOT from God, and must be rejected (Romans 8:1).

Thank God for the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

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

Why I make a Faith Promise to missions every year

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I shared this with our entire CLC staff yesterday, to explain how I sincerely want each of them to experience the spiritual growth that I have experienced through this simple practice each year.  Honestly, it’s not about the money!  It’s about growing closer to God:

  1.  Nothing replaces personal time with God – prayer, reading Word, worship – those are the indispensable habits that bring us closer to Him.
  2. Honoring God with the tithe (Proverbs 3:9-10) is definitely a “growth practice” since what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 is true of all of us.  (I especially like the Message)
  3. I think I was 18 years old when I made my first ‘Faith Promise’ commitment.  The amount was small, but what was HUGE then and through the years since, is how I was stretched spiritually by making a Faith Promise:
  • I was stretched by praying and asking God how much He specifically wanted me to give to missions-
  • I was really stretched by listening for His answer (listening has helped me grow to hear His voice in other ways!)
  • Perhaps the neatest thing about listening is when Chris and I prayed separately and received the exact same number!  That’s a real faith builder!
  • I was stretched beyond words to obey by making the commitment of the amount I heard from him, because what I’ve heard each year has almost always been bigger than what I thought I could do-
  • My favorite ‘stretch’ is then trusting Him for the next 12 months to provide the amount we had heard, and seeing Him do it in surprising & unexpected ways!
  • The result has been clear: I’ve grown in my faith and in my love for people!

I want this for every CLC’er!  

It’s NOT about the money; it really is about YOUR spiritual growth!

CLC excels in SO many areas.  Would you read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, and aspire to excel in this area as well?

I pray that you will join me in making a Faith Promise commitment this Sunday.

Sunday reflections

Today was all about MISSIONS!

Today was all about MISSIONS!

(Speaking of the International Dinner at Tinley Park next Sunday, October 16 at 6pm, get your tickets while they’re still available!)

Even without our Worship Pastor or TP Worship Director, this TEAM led us into God's strong Presence!

Even without our Worship Pastor or TP Worship Director, this TEAM led us into God’s strong Presence!

Today was my "one shot" for 2016 to share my heart for missions-

Today was my “one shot” for 2016 to share my heart for missions-

I realize that I'm a proud father, but in my humble opinion, Jen did an amazing job of sharing how missions trips have changed her life!

But I was happy to share the pulpit with my one-and-only daughter.  I realize that I’m a proud father, but in my humble opinion, Jen did an amazing job of sharing how missions trips have changed her life in at least 5 ways!

Our other 2 campuses followed suit today as well - Pastor Sam shared with NWI how missions trips to the Philippines and Colombia changed his life (pic on screen from his first visit to Philippines)

Our other 2 campuses followed suit today as well – Pastor Sam shared with NWI how missions trips to the Philippines and Colombia changed his life (pic on screen from his first visit to Philippines)

Pastor Jon Jones led worship at the Blue Island campus with this passionate team of singers & musicians!

Pastor Jon Jones led worship at the Blue Island campus with this passionate team of singers & musicians!

Pastor Brent shared how missions trips have impacted his life, while Sol interpreted

Pastor Brent shared how missions trips have impacted his life, while Sol interpreted

Tonight was the NWI International Dinner and besides foods from several nations & cultures, we enjoyed a Mexican folk dance and a special guest from Compassion International (Matt Kitchen) and most of all, some excited NWI’ers signing up for 2017 Missions trips and/or sponsoring children in Kenya & the Philippines thru Compassion!

Matt Kitchen from Compassion International challenged all of us with "What are YOU going to do about it?"

Matt Kitchen from Compassion International challenged all of us with “What are YOU going to do about it?”

So my wife and I decided to sponsor this little 6-year old from Mindanao, Philippines

So my wife and I decided to sponsor this little 6-year old from Mindanao, Philippines!

It’s not TOO LATE – you can visit the Compassion Experience on Monday, October 10 between noon and 8pm – make your reservation here.

 

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question comes from a long-time, faithful CLC’er who writes,  “I would be interested in knowing what your take is on the Jewish practice of baptism, face first. Let me know if you would consider this to be done at CLC , since I am feeling led to ask for this.”

Great question, not only because of the specific issue raised, but because this falls into the category of ALL sorts of questions about ‘minor’ issues that have divided the Body of Christ for centuries.  Let’s address both:

  1. First and foremost, there is not one verse in the Bible that prescribes baptism to be done face forward.  Not one, even though we have numerous passages that mention baptisms in the early church (Acts 2:38, 41, 8:16, 10:48, 16:31-33, 19:1-6)
  2. Since Scripture tells us that every word is to be established in the mouth of two or three witnessessurely if a face forward baptism was important, there would have been some clear mention of it in the Bible.  Any argument from ‘silence’ is rather weak, even though some groups in Christianity sometimes resort to it.
  3. Not only is there NO record of anyone in the Bible having been baptized face-forward, in my research of the Jewish practice of a ‘mikveh’ (which is mentioned about 16 times in the Old Testament) there is also NO mention of the person undergoing that ritual of purification being immersed face-forward.  What I did find is that the Jewish practice (which is NOT the same thing as New Testament water baptism for believers) almost always involved self-immersion (probably because it was generally practiced in the nude).  That’s the only reason that the Jewish immersion might have been face-forward, since it would be almost impossible for someone to immerse themselves backwards. (Don’t try this at home, children!)
  4. Although I’ve never been asked in our 26 year history to baptize someone at CLC face-forward, I personally don’t see any reason that I should honor that request, for the reasons listed above.  But more importantly, I want to address what I consider the  bigger issue:
  • While this is not an accusation against my questioner (whom I love and respect and whom I know is asking in sincerity), I feel certain that the question arises because  someone has promoted that concept and encouraged or challenged others to practice baptism “the right way” by being immersed face-forward.  Since I spent the first 20 years of my ministry in a dogmatic, legalistic denomination who divided the Body of Christ over several minor issues that we insisted were “the right way”, I can smell legalism a mile away these days!
  • Interestingly enough, one of our ‘right ways’ was insisting on a baptismal ‘formula’ that regarded any Christian baptism that was not done by a minister who specifically said the words,  “in the name of Jesus”, as invalid.  (We would say, ‘you went down a dry sinner & came back up a wet sinner’ if you were baptized any other way).  Don’t get me wrong: I love the name of Jesus, and every time we baptize at CLC we use His name – but I don’t believe that anyone is saved because of what I say; you are saved because you put your whole trust in what Jesus did for you!
  • There are so many other examples/practices: “you’re not saved if you don’t speak in tongues”; “you’re not saved if you wear _______” (fill in your own blank: pants, make-up, jewelry, etc, etc, etc); “you’re not saved unless you use the King James Bible only”; “you’re not saved if you don’t believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture”; etc.  The Biblical precedent for it all is Acts 15:1, and a few verses later we learn that it was Pharisees who taught so.  Pharisees haven’t changed in 2,000 years!
  • Bottom-line: let’s major on the majors (the Virgin birth; the blood of Jesus; His death, burial & Resurrection; the empowerment of the Holy Spirit; the Great Commission; etc.) and minor on the minors (most everything else!)

I sincerely hope that helps.  Would YOU like to add to my answer?  Please leave a comment below, or ask your own question for a future Friday post.

Missions makes the world smaller!

Maybe I should have said "Gateway Conference makes the world smaller"

Maybe I should have said “Gateway Conference makes the world smaller”

Worship at the closing session of the Gateway Conference was as strong as I’ve ever experienced, so we ALL ended the conference on a high note (pun intended).

But for me perhaps the biggest takeaway is how missions had made our world smaller.  There were close to 5,000 people here for the conference, and the building is understandably HUGE.  Yet in the past two days, just minding our own business walking to the different sessions, I was able to meet:

  • Jesse McCaul, our dear friend and the missionary/pastor of New Life Fellowship in Cambodia, where Chris & I have the privilege of training for EQUIP, the missions arm of John Maxwell’s ministry (and where we’ll be in just 2 weeks!)
Pastor Jesse McCaul has become a real friend over these past few years & he's doing an AMAZING work in Cambodia!

Pastor Jesse McCaul has become a real friend over these past few years & he’s doing an AMAZING work in Cambodia! (don’t mind the photo bomb from our Youth Pastor!)

  • Leon Mazin, another friend and the leader of the Messianic congregation “Return to Zion” in Haifa, Israel, where we ministered last year and where a team of 30 CLC’ers will worship on the first weekend of December during our Israel trip!
  • Sergey (whose last name I cannot pronounce) who is the Worship Pastor at New Testament Church in Perm, Russia, where we had the privilege of ministering at least 5 or 6 times, first through EQUIP and more recently in a Marriage Retreat for their network of pastors.
Pastor Sergey with us last night

Pastor Sergey with us last night

Get this: none of us knew the other was coming to the conference in advance; we simply bumped into each other on the Gateway campus! (what are the odds?) 

I hope you understand that these aren’t just happenstances; these men have become  friends from afar to us.  As we continue our N2 series this Sunday, my prayer for every CLC is that you, too will join us in the adventure of missions and be able to build a genuine relationship with someone in the Nations – it really is a special treat in God’s Kingdom!  Can’t wait until Sunday!

Fresh passion

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Yesterday was a VERY long day, with a dozen CLC pastors & directors rising at about 3:30am in order to get to O’Hare for our flight to Dallas to attend the Gateway Conference.

The conference is only 2-days, but they’re chock-full of great worship, teaching and interaction, and honestly, I think I only received what I came for.  To be painfully honest, I think my tank was near-empty of late, and I found myself often going thru the motions so to speak.

Last night between the worship experience and the ministry of one of my heroes, Craig Groeschel, I caught a ‘second wind’ and renewing of passion that’s been missing.

I’m warning you: I’m gonna let it out Sunday!

Pastors need inspiration, too

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That’s why a dozen CLC pastors/ministry directors from all our campuses are headed to Dallas before dawn this morning to attend the Gateway Conference in Southlake, TX.  Gateway is led by Robert Morris, who I think is the finest Bible teacher in America, and they’re on the cutting-edge of what God is doing today.

I’m looking forward to two full days and nights of worship, preaching and Presence in a room with a few thousand other pastors and leaders – and I’m praying that God shakes my world in the process!

More later-

Sunday reflections

Today was a good day to SURRENDER to God's call! (Paula Thornton & the SoP led the way)

Today was a good day to SURRENDER to God’s call! (Paula Thornton & the SoP led the way)

Don Finto was AMAZING at 86 years young! I still can't get over his animated recitation of the entire 11th chapter of Romans at the 10am service! His writings impacted my life 8 years ago, but today was the icing on the cake!

Don Finto was AMAZING at 86 years young! I still can’t get over his animated recitation of the entire 11th chapter of Romans at the 10am service! His writings impacted my life 8 years ago, but today was the icing on the cake!

And what a treat it was to have his "son", Tod McDowell, minister in tandem with Don today! (Powerful combo from the Caleb Company!)

And what a treat it was to have his “son”, Tod McDowell, minister in tandem with Don today! (Powerful combo from the Caleb Company!)

Joe & Danielle Stone cooked breakfast for the entire NWI First Touch team today & it was great to see everyone connecting!

Joe & Danielle Stone cooked breakfast for the entire NWI First Touch team today & it was great to see everyone connecting in unity!

NWI added a new member today-

NWI added a new member today-

And Tod McDowell brought the Word to NWI today-

And Tod McDowell brought the Word to NWI today-

Then tonight was the FIRST of our three “International Dinners”, and I must say that Blue Island set the bar high for NWI and Tinley Park these next two Sundays:

"Spirit Lead Me" was the theme, and I was thrilled with the response by Blue Islander's!

“Spirit Lead Me” was the theme, and I was thrilled with the response by Blue Islander’s!

CLC is offering NINE different missions trips in 2017!

CLC is offering NINE different missions trips in 2017!

I'm reminded of the Scripture when Jesus fed the 5,000......

I’m reminded of the Scripture when Jesus fed the 5,000……

.....and they ALL ate.....

…..and they ALL ate…..

.....and were SATISFIED!

…..and were SATISFIED!

Can’t wait to do it all over again NEXT Sunday, at NWI!

 

Ask the Pastor

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No one submitted a question this week, so I’m reaching back to 2010 and repeating this post, which is just as timely as it was six years ago:

One of our newest CLCers writes, “My question is in regard to daily confession of sin. Every time I pray, I acknowledge & confess for sin that occured since the previous prayer time. I consider 1st John 1:9 & Psalm 51:1-4 in mind during this time. Yesterday, however, while I was praying, the thought came to mind, ‘If Christ’s death covered all 3 tenses (past, present & future) of my sin, why am I confessing sin on a prayer time by prayer time basis?'”

Good question.  I’m not sure if it was deliberate or not, but this question also goes to the heart of some very controversial teaching that has resurfaced in the body of Christ of late, so this gives me a chance to address both:

  • in regards to your specific question, it IS a fact that Jesus died for EVERY sin that you’ve ever committed in the past, are committing right now, or will commit in the future.  ALL of your sins are covered by His death at the Cross.  However, as I understand Scripture, that does NOT mean that you don’t need to repent and turn from your sin, in order to appropriate the benefits of His sacrificial death in your own life.
  • I do not mean by that statement that you or I need to live in some sort of guilt-ridden, fearful, eternally-insecure-of-our-salvation condition. There is no condemnation for us as believers (Romans 8:1) and we have (present tense) eternal life (1John 5:13).
  • While I don’t recommend a ritual, prayer-by-rote approach to confessing sin every time you pray, I do believe Scripture would teach us to examine our hearts (1Cor 11:28; 2Cor 13:5) and certainly there will be times of acknowledging & confessing our sin (1John 1:8-10)

I hope that helps your sincere question.  Now let me address the dangerous teaching that has resurfaced:

  • in this modern version of an old error known as universalism, some are now teaching that “since Jesus died for all our sins: past, present & future, we have already been forgiven at the Cross, and there is no need for repentance or confession, which would only cause us to feel guilt or condemnation.”
  • This hyper-grace message basically teaches that everyone is already saved, some just don’t know it yet (that’s my tongue-in-cheek definition, but it’s not far off) – and would remove all need for the Great Commission or missionaries to go to unreached people groups, etc. (since Jesus already covered the sins of the whole world).
  • The proponents of this teaching would have us believe that in the New Testament age of Grace, there is no need for us to do anything except enjoy God’s free gift – but that certainly flies in the face of New Testament teachings and even the warnings that Jesus gave to the churches of Asia in Revelation chapter 2 and chapter 3

I think I’ll climb down off my soapbox before I fall and hurt myself – but I hope this has helped bring some clarity.

I’d love for YOU to join the conversation by adding your thoughts or questions below-

for the next 40 days…..

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If you know me at all, you know that I have never endorsed any candidate for President in my 40+ years of pastoring.

(Relax, I’m not about to start now.)

Here’s my position on any important election: I want what God wants!  Isaiah 40 and 1Samuel 2:7-10 and especially Romans 13:1 let me know that ultimately God puts in office who HE wants.  I’ve learned that His ways are not always my ways; sometimes God may put someone in office that I would never have chosen, because God is seeking to  humble us as a nation, to move us to repentance.

I think this is particularly appropriate in this election when most Christians would agree that neither candidate is following the teachings of Scripture, personally or in their policies – which is probably why I’ve never know Christians to be so divided in their view as to who our next President should be – and all the more reason why I know I’m not smart enough to know what God is doing or wants to do in this particular election.

Over the past several weeks I’ve been asked by several national ministries to engage in various prayer plans for this election – some wanting us to pray for 30 days; some wanting prayer each day in October; some calling for us to pray in the Spirit for one hour this Sunday.  Here’s what I’m asking CLC’ers (and anyone else reading this) to do: would you pray daily between now and the election for God’s will to be done?

I don’t mean a “k sera, sera; whatever will be, will be” kind of prayer.  I’m also not prescribing what time of day you should pray or for how long you should pray each day. I’m simply asking you to join me each day between now and November 8 in earnestly praying that the God who knows what’s best for our nation will intervene in this election and put into office the person that HE wills for President of these United States.

If we start now, we have just over 40 days before the election, and I don’t have to tell you how many significant events in Scripture happened in 40 days.  Together, let’s believe for his will to be done on earth (in the USA) as it is in heaven!

missions, Missions, MISSIONS!

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In many ways, this is my favorite time of our church calendar, as we take a few weeks to FOCUS on the Mission of The Church, the last words that Jesus gave us:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Here’s what you can expect for the next 3 Sundays at our Tinley Park campus (our other Chicagoland campuses will be participating in the missions emphasis as well):

  • October 2 – Don Finto & Tod McDowell from the Caleb Company.  When the Lord dealt with me from Romans 11 about our lack of support for Jewish evangelism back in 2008, my heart was immediately on board – but it wasn’t until I read two of Don Finto’s books that my head understood why.  He and Tod will be doing a 3-part series instead of repeating the same message, so if you have a heart for Israel, you may want to consider attending more than one service.  Do. Not. Miss. This.
  • Oct. 7-10 – The Compassion Experience is coming to Tinley Park!  All the experts agree, the #1 best way to help Americans catch a vision for missions is to have them go on a short-term missions trip to the Nations.  The Compassion Experience may be the #2 best way, because you’ll be able to take a realistic tour of what life is like for so many people in the world (in this case, Bolivia and Uganda).  And after your heart is touched by these true-life stories, you’ll have the opportunity to respond by sponsoring a child in need, knowing that a local church in their area will minister to them personally because of your sponsorship!  By the way, if you make a reservation, you won’t have to wait as long to take your tour – do it here now!
  • October 16 – Dr. Patricia Bailey will be our guest at all 3 services in Tinley Park AND our annual International Dinner that evening.  Many of our African-American members have told me that they had never heard of missions to the Nations prior to coming to CLC, and that missions to them was about helping needy people in Chicago.  Dr. Bailey will revolutionize your thinking through her ministry in some of the most dangerous places on earth!

(In my best Bishop Jakes voice, “get ready, get readygen ready, GET READY!”

 

Sunday reflections

Our NWI campus celebrated their 3rd birthday this weekend, with special services Thursday, Friday & Saturday and a BIG celebration today!  Kudos to Pastors Sam & Taylor & the entire NWI "Dream Team" of volunteers!

Our NWI campus celebrated their 3rd birthday this weekend, with special services Thursday, Friday & Saturday and a BIG celebration today! Kudos to Pastors Sam & Taylor & the entire NWI “Dream Team” of volunteers!

Speaking of 'Dream Team', our team of musicians & singers at the Blue Island campus do an amazing job of leading worship in two languages each Sunday!

Speaking of ‘Dream Team’, our team of musicians & singers at the Blue Island campus do an amazing job of leading worship in two languages each Sunday!

Pastor Brent preached "N2 & U" with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish

Pastor Brent preached “N2 & U” with Jorge Arevalo translating into Spanish

And 5 new CLC'ers completed our Growth Track at CLC-Blue Island!

And 5 new CLC’ers completed our Growth Track at CLC-Blue Island!

 

Worship at Tinley Park today featured 3 great female soloists (Heather & Tiffany pictured here)

Worship at Tinley Park today featured 3 great female soloists (Heather & Tiffany pictured here)

and Kara makes 3!

and Kara makes 3!

Worship Pastor Jon Jones brought a timely word about INTENTIONALITY today!

Worship Pastor Jon Jones brought a timely word about INTENTIONALITY today, and someone gave their life to Christ in each service!

And as usual, the LOBBY was BUSY with CLC'ers and guests navigating Life Groups, 5K registration, international dinner tickets & volunteering for the Compassion Experience!

And as usual, the LOBBY was BUSY with CLC’ers and guests navigating Life Groups, 5K registration, international dinner tickets & volunteering for the Compassion Experience!

That’s all for CLC today.  Next up: watching the hapless Bears play the Cowboys tonight-

Ask the Pastor

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I found a question from the past that I had overlooked, and a favorite CLC’er quoted the same verses to me this week, so I think I should address this one: “Can you help me with Proverbs 26:4 & 5. The more I read this the more it seems like it says almost the same thing. Maybe I’m over thinking it but can you help me out here. Thanks Much.”

That’s a good one, because at first reading, it actually sounds contradictory to me.  But in reality, these two sayings belong together; they complement each other. Their point is that one should not be drawn down to a fool’s level (v. 4) but at times he must use the fool’s language to refute the fool so he does not become conceited (v. 5; see also v.12 & v. 16).

I will say this: we need wisdom to know when to apply verse 4 and when to apply verse 5! The Jewish Talmud suggests that verse 4 pertains to foolish comments that can be ignored and that verse 5 refers to erroneous ideas that must be corrected.

I also think other translations help: The Message or perhaps Good News Translation or Amplified Bible.

My advice: if you want to see examples of this, look at Facebook!

Hope that helps a bit.  What do YOU think?  Join the conversation by leaving your comments below, or ask your own question for a future post-

 

What CLC is doing in the communities we serve

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Without a doubt, the #1 objection to our missions focus at CLC through the years has come from well-meaning Christians who question,  why do we focus so much on The Nations when we have so many needs right here at home?”

If you’ve ever wondered that, I hope you’ll be present at any Chicagoland campus as we kick-off our 2016 “N2” series this Sunday, September 25, when we’ll focus on the first ‘N’ word of the series, ‘neighbors’.  And then for the following three Sundays of our Missions Emphasis, besides our international emphasis, we’ll also look at what CLC is doing in the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana to reach our own neighbors.

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Here’s just a quick list to whet your appetite for Sunday:

Neighborhood Partners

and a whole LOT more!

What local churches do around the world

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Sunday we talked about the difference the local church makes, not only in America, but around the world – and I mentioned one such church in Irbil, Iraq that had 1,600 refugees  show up in their courtyard, needing everything, since they had left all their possessions behind while fleeing Islamic persecution.

In case you missed it, here’s a one-minute video summary from the pastor:

I love his line: “we don’t call them refugees; we call them our relatives” – that’s what it means to be in God’s family, The Church!

What local churches do for America

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In yesterday’s message I quoted some from a recent study by scholars from Georgetown University and the Newseum Institute about the contribution to American society by local churches and religious institutions.  In case that piqued your interest, here’s a summary of their report.

And if you’re really interested, here’s the full report (31 pages worth)

I’m glad to be a part of the local church!

 

Sunday reflections

We ended the ‘Family Matters’ series on a high note today at each campus:

As usual, Harmony & team led us into God's Presence

As usual, Harmony & team led us into God’s Presence in Tinley Park-

Chris reminded us how important it is for EACH part of the body to do it's work - even if it's a BIG MOUTH!

Chris reminded us how important it is for EACH part of the body to do it’s work – even if it’s a BIG MOUTH!

The lobby was JAM-PACKED after each service with CLC'ers signing up for the next season of Life Groups

The lobby was JAM-PACKED after each service with CLC’ers signing up for the next season of Life Groups!  If you didn’t choose yours, you can do so next Sunday or at www.clc.tv

  • Best of all, people gave their life to Christ in EACH service today!
With today's theme, it's great to see kids of all ages SERVING at our NWI campus!

With today’s theme, it’s great to see kids of all ages SERVING at our NWI campus!

Pastor Ben brought the message at NWI, and Entheos students were his sermon illustration

Pastor Ben brought the message at NWI, and Entheos students were his sermon illustration

 

NWI altars were full after the message-

NWI altars were full after the message-

Meanwhile, in Blue Island, worship was great today as Alan and his team led us.

Meanwhile, in Blue Island, worship was great today as Alan and his team led us.

 

 

Pastor Brent illustrated the benefit of being under the umbrella (covering) of an anointed local church

Pastor Brent illustrated the benefit of being under the umbrella (covering) of an anointed local church

versus what happens when we are out from under that covering of the local church

versus what happens when we are out from under that covering of the local church

Enjoy this last week of “Family Matters” small groups before we launch N2!

Ask the Pastor

shutterstock_343049483A member of our staff writes, “Pastor, my question is about Matthew 28:16-20.
Why would some in verse 17 doubt? They were viewing a man who had been raised from the dead! Just read this and it stood out to me as odd that any of them would doubt.”

Great question.  Why indeed would His closest followers, who had witnessed all His miracles for three-and-a-half years, PLUS His resurrection, have any doubts???

Unfortunately, I think the answer is clear: because they were a lot like all of us.               WHY do we sometimes doubt, after all God has done for us?

As painful and frustrating as it may be, it’s the frailty of human nature, and there are other examples besides the text in question today:

  • 1Kings 17:24 – this was the statement of the widow of Zarephath, who was ready to starve to death during a famine until Elijah came and asked her to bake him a little cake to eat and prophesied that she would always have enough during the famine – and it came to pass, so that for many days she and her son were able to eat and the flour and oil never ran out, miraculously.  Yet later, when her son became sick and died and Elijah raised him from the dead, she now proclaimed, “now I know that you are a man of God!” – NOW?  You mean she doubted that he was a man of God after the miracle of eating for many days from containers of oil and flour that never ran out???? Human nature.
  • Luke 24:1-38 – similar to the text in question, after witnessing the resurrection and even seeing and talking with Christ after He rose from the dead and then having Him appear in the room with them (without using a door), they still doubted!  Human nature.
  • Matthew 14:25-31 – Peter (and the other disciples) saw Jesus walking on the water during a storm, AND Peter also walked on water himself, but still doubted!  Human nature.
  • I’m sure there are other examples in Scripture, but you get my point.  Thank God for Psalm 103:10-14 that lets us know God knows how weak we are, and loves us regardless!

My prayer for all of us is the same as the father of the demonized boy in Mark 9:24!

Hope that helps.  Would you join the conversation below, by adding your comments or asking your own question?

 

The local church is the hope of the world!

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I tried to post this yesterday, but the wifi in our hotel room wasn’t cooperating-

While our campus pastors and I were away at Jimmy Evans Pastors School, we finalized our plans for THIS Sunday at CLC when we’ll close the ‘Family Matters’ series.  Gotta tell you how excited I am to talk about the power of the local church and especially what it means to be a part of it!

Bill Hybels said it like this: “There is nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. It comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community. It builds bridges to seekers and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden and the disillusioned. It breaks chains of addictions, frees the oppressed, and offers belonging to the marginalized of this world. The potential of the local church is almost more than I can grasp. The hope of the world is not government, academia, or business, but the Church because it is to the Church that God has entrusted the message of salvation, which truly changes people’s lives and hearts.”

I believe it!  There is NOTHING ELSE ON EARTH like a healthy local church, and you won’t want to miss this Sunday at any Chicagoland campus of CLC.

Come expecting!

NEXT!

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We still have one more Sunday of “Family Matters” before our campaign comes to a close  (maybe the most important message of the series!), but I’m already looking ahead to what’s NEXT at CLC………..

It’s our annual Missions Emphasis that we’re calling “N2” – as we go to both our Neighbors right here in Chicagoland, AND to The Nations of the world for whom Jesus died!

Mark your calendar for some of the most amazing guests we’ve ever hosted at CLC, with Don Finto and Tod McDowell joining us on October 2, and Dr. Patricia Bailey as our guest on October 16, plus an incredible ‘Compassion Experience” on October 7-10.  Click on any of the links to learn more-

I can’t wait!

Pastors go to school, too

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At least CLC pastors do, because we want to get better at what we do in serving God’s people!

That’s why Pastors Ben, Sam, Brent and I are leaving this morning for Kalamazoo, MI and the 2016 Pastor’s School with Jimmy Evans.  I attended one in 2014 and came back from Dallas telling our team it was THE best seminar or conference I had ever attended in 40 years of ministry, so when I saw that it was coming this close to Chicago, I immediately signed up our campus pastor team to attend.  (The bonus is I get to attend free as an alumni)

In fact, as much as I look forward to the sessions each day, I’m especially looking forward to our evenings together (and the 5 hours of windshield time going and coming) for some extended discussions with our pastors that we don’t often get to have at home during the average work week.  I’m confident we’ll return home Wednesday afternoon better equipped to lead CLC!

Sunday reflections

On this 15th Anniversary of the day almost 3,000 Americans lost their lives on 9/11, it was GREAT to celebrate new life in Christ through water baptism with 2 CLC’ers:

Shayanna White being baptized by Pastor Josh

Shayanna White being baptized by Pastor Josh

Anne Richmond enjoyed a beautiful moment with the Lord in baptism

Anne Richmond enjoyed a beautiful moment with the Lord in the waters of baptism!

Love this team; LOVE the Presence of God even more!

Love this team; LOVE the Presence of God even more!

'Strategic Parenting' was a strong word to parents, but we all got thru it!

‘Strategic Parenting’ was a strong word to parents, but we all got thru it!

Alan Franklin is Da MAN at our Blue Island campus - he faithfully leads us into the Presence each week!

Alan Franklin is Da MAN at our Blue Island campus – he faithfully leads us into the Presence each week!

Worship is a hallmark of every CLC campus

Worship is a hallmark of every CLC campus

Pastor Brent threw marbles on the floor to make a point in Blue Island

Pastor Brent threw marbles on the floor to make a point in Blue Island

Hammond Firefighters were honored on this anniversary of 9/11 at our NWI campus

Hammond Firefighters were honored on this anniversary of 9/11 at our NWI campus

Best news of the day for me: we more than doubled the number of Life Group leaders in Tinley Park during the ‘Family Matters’ campaign, and at our meeting this afternoon it appears ALL of them are going to continue to lead during the next semester!!!

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of our newer CLC’ers writes, “My question is the role of grandparents in the family. As a grandparent, I oftentimes wonder whether I am doing more than expected for my children and grand children or whether the provision and/or my role as the grandparent aligns with the Word of God.”

Great question, and one that I’m sure many other grandparents are asking. I’ve never addressed it before, so let me dig a little:

  • Proverbs 13:22 directly addresses one aspect of your question, by tell us that good people leave an inheritance to our grandchildren.  Reading that verse a few years ago in my devotions challenged me, because I want to be a good man!  And while some might argue that an inheritance can be the godly example of character, integrity, etc. – there is no doubt in my mind that it definitely refers to a financial inheritance as well.
  • Another verse that deals with grandparenting is Deuteronomy 4:9, which encourages grandparents to pass on what they have seen and known about the Lord to their grandchildren.
  • 2Timothy 1:5 gives us the example of Paul’s apprentice, young Timothy, whose faith had been handed down from his grandmother.  Later, in 2Timothy 3:14-15, Paul reminded him that he had been taught the Scriptures from his childhood (some translations say “infancy”) What a privilege for any grandparent to pass on their faith to their grandchildren by sharing the Scriptures with them!
  • Finally, in Genesis 48:9, Jacob wanted to speak a blessing over his grandsons – and how powerful it can be when a grandparent speaks positive, life-giving words over their grandchildren!  Those words could be prophetic, speaking to their future, or they could be strategic, addressing their bents by describing how talented or capable they are, to encourage their future development.

I haven’t found other specific verses that deal with grandparenting, but we can summarize that our role as grandparents includes:

1) Being an example to our grandchildren.  They learn by what they see us do!

2) Sharing Scripture and our experiences in the Lord with our grandchildren, thus passing our faith on to them.

3) Blessing our grandchildren with life-giving words.

4) Leaving a financial inheritance for them.

I hope that helps!  Would YOU care to leave a comment about other ways that a grandparent can fulfill our role in the lives of our grandchildren?  Please join the conversation below, or ask your own question for another post-