My day 7 devotional for Lent

This is the text of my Facebook Live devotional today:

Lent – forgotten prayers

In my daily Bible reading a week ago on the first day of this season of Lent, something jumped off the page at me from Luke chapter 1, even thought I’d read it many times before.  Let’s start with the first verse:

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.

So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”  Luke 1:5-18 NKJV

I’m sure you noticed that twice in the space of a dozen verses we’re told that both Zachariah and Elisabeth were “well advanced in years”. Here’s what I had never considered before: does it make sense that an old man whose wife was also elderly, would have been currently praying for a child?  I could be wrong, but as I read that passage, it struck me that Zacharias had probably prayed that prayer as a young priest….maybe even as a 40 or 45 or even 50-year old priest….but it certainly seems unlikely to me that he would have continued asking God for a baby as both he and Elizabeth grew old.

Yet the first words from Gabriel assured him that God had heard his prayer, even though it seems likely to me that it was years after he had prayed that prayer!

Maybe it struck me that way because I know how I sometimes pray in earnest for something for a season, but if my prayer isn’t answered, I often move on to other needs or wants, instead of persisting in prayer.

But as I read Gabriel’s message, I had a real sense that God wants to answer prayers that we may have already forgotten about.  Just because it didn’t happen when you wanted it to, or thought it would, doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen!  As we’ve all heard before, delay is not denial!

All of Chicagoland rejoiced in 2016 when the Cubs finally won a world series, but as I pondered these verses in Luke, I happened to remember the White Sox championship in 2005 (after all, we are south siders, right?), when their theme song was an anthem by the musical group “Journey”, called “Don’t Stop Believin’!” To be honest, I don’t follow baseball much these days, and I don’t know anything about Journey, so this is not an endorsement of the band or the song, but I do know the truth of that song – CLC’ers, Don’t Stop Believin!  Don’t stop praying!  Because God does hear & answer, even if not always on our timetable!

I want to encourage you today and in the days leading up to Easter, to ‘resurrect’ some of those dreams and desires that you’ve sought God for in the past.  They may not have been answered yet, but KNOW THIS: HE has heard your prayer and your answer may be just around the bend!  Don’t stop believing!  Don’t stop praying!

 

 

Day 21, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is today’s guest devotional from our Tinley Park Campus Pastor, Rachel Jones:

He SEES Me
One of the most comforting thoughts in this life is that we are not alone in it. Knowing that there is a hope beyond myself (who fails), beyond people (who will fail me), and that there’s a never failing, loving God, who is caring for me each and every moment of my life. There’s no greater peace I can have. That comfort gives me confidence to believe, and to keep going no matter what I face. 
Today I want to remind you of the God who SEES you. He sees you there in the season you’re in, He sees your broken heart, your wounded spirit, He sees your joy, your depression, your failures and your triumphs. God sees and He cares. In Genesis 16 we find the story of Abram, Sarai and Hagar the maidservant. Sarai wanted a child so badly, she gave her servant to her husband so that she could have a child for her. Things didn’t go as sweetly as she planned and the two women could no longer get along (Hagar despised Sari, and Sarai treated Hagar harshly) and Hagar ran away. In the midst of this great pain, a broken heart and pregnant, God came to her at her weakest. In her misery God saw her and spoke a word to her, with a promise. She was comforted and spoke these words;  “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Get 16:13)
 It is God who has stitched us together in our mothers womb. It is He who created our life and purpose. God makes no mistakes. No matter what the world sees, God will always see beyond and He sees right to your heart, and knows your every need. Knowing that God sees, means you are never alone and not forgotten. It means you are known and that you matter. You have a place in this world that is so important that God would come and give you an encouraging word at the moment you want to give up. God says, “No, I have a plan and purpose for you. Don’t give up. Look to Me and I will be with you.” He is a God who gives and keeps His promises.
No matter where you find yourself today…God sees you. He understands and He cares for you so deeply. Can I encourage you today? Do not wait until you are at your weakest to seek the One who sees you. I challenge you to seek Him now and with all your heart. “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 4:29) Seek Him and He will be found. God’s love is so overwhelming, the more you get to know Him, the more you grow and develop into who He made you to be. So keep going after God with your whole heart, there’s always more you can receive from Him. He’s everlasting!
Will you seek God with me today? Let’s pray,
Father thank you for your never failing love. Thank you for getting me, you truly understand me; when no one else does, you do. You see me wherever I am and you care for me.  Thank you for seeing me, and please help me to see You wherever I am and to seek you with all my heart and soul. In Jesus name, Amen.

Day 20, 21-Days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is the text of today’s devotional from Blue Island Campus Pastor, Sol McQuay:

I don’t know about you but I love music, I have to have music in the background while driving, cleaning, or working. Sometimes I like to go old school and listen to the bands I used to listen to 10+ years ago because those are the ones I can sing along the best, and let’s be honest, music is more fun when you can use your oh so amazing voice and sing as loud as you can.  
A couple of weeks ago that was the case, I had my oldies playlist going while I washed the dishes and a song by the Newsboys came on, the chorus of the songs says “When hope is lost, I call you Savior; when pain surrounds, I call you Healer; when silence falls you’ll be the song within my heart.” And right there, in the middle of my kitchen God spoke to me and said “Who do you need me to be in your life today?” 
The Bible refers to God by many different names, by doing that it gives us a glimpse of His power and character. It helps us know who He is and what He desires to do in and for us. He shows His majesty, power, and love for us every single day. And He wants to meet us in our time of need. There’s nothing that is too difficult for our God. So let me ask you that same question, Who do you need Him to be in your life today?
Are you in a financial need? Call on Jehovah Jireh –My God will provide
Struggling with Stress, anxiety, worry? Call on Jehovah Shalom –The Lord is Peace
Are you sick? Call on Jehovah Rapha –The Lord that Heals
And there are many more names for Him in the Bible, here’s a link to a list with scripture references for those names in the Bible. https://www.lwf.org/discover-jesus/names-of-god 
But no matter what you need today, no matter if you are dealing with family issues, health, feelings of loneliness or hopelessness. God is able to meet us in our needs and to deliver us. His desire is to see you living a life that is full of His blessings, His joy, His peace. So I want to encourage today to call on the name of the Lord, call Him for who you need Him to be for you in this season and see that He is good and faithful to do big things in and for you.
Let me pray for you, 
Lord, we thank you for being all we need, thank you because you care for us and our specific situations. I ask you give us a new revelation of who you are for us today. Help us to put our trust in you. In Jesus Name, Amen. 

Day 19, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is my text of today’s Facebook Live devotional:

After the fast…

Good morning everyone – welcome to Day 19 of our 21-days of Prayer & Fasting.  While I still dislike fasting as much as ever (maybe more so), I will be the first to admit that these days have created a momentum at CLC and hopefully for you in your walk with the Lord as well.

In fact, I want to talk to you about next week (and the weeks after) once the prayer & fasting is over.  Too many times (at least in my personal experience), once an event is over, we have a tendency to move on to the next thing.  It’s easy for us to go back to unhealthy eating habits and a lessening of spiritual fervor after the fast – but I want to encourage you to be like the shepherds in the first Christmas story.

Luke 2:15 says, When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

See, it’s one thing to be excited, stirred or even dedicated while the angels are around (so to speak ) – during these last 19 days we’ve had special prayer events, early morning prayer meetings at the TP campus and the encouragement from others who are fasting with us – which all adds up to a heightened awareness of God’s Presence that made it easier (not easy, but ‘er’) for us to maintain our spiritual disciplines. By the way, if you experienced some spiritual warfare because of the fast instead of an angelic visitation, and you’ve been miserable the last few weeks, well, humor me, because the principle I’m addressing is still the same.  Here it is:

I’m encouraging all of us to follow the example of the shepherds who had that amazing experience of seeing & hearing a multitude of angels, announcing the birth of their Savior, then had to deal with their absence after those angels returned to heaven.  What did they do?  They hurried to act on what they had heard about!

I’ve heard several wonderful testimonies from CLC’ers during the fast – stories of a new sense of self-discipline that spilled over to other areas besides eating; stories of physical healing   (even victory in losing some stubborn pounds), and stories of answers to prayer that could only be a result of God’s intervention.  But what I’m reminding us is that when the fast ends, what God wants to do with us is just getting started!

I’m determined to remain disciplined, not only for the final two days of our fast, but afterwards – by spending time with Him in prayer and with His Word, and I hope you will, too.  And if you ‘heard’ some specifics from the Lord during this fast, be like the shepherds – don’t delay, but act on what you heard from Him.

I’ve thought several times in the last few weeks about the first church corporate fast I ever remember being a part of.  I had fasted on many occasions before that, but in the fall of 1974 our pastor called our entire church on a 3-day juice fast that ended with a midweek service, and it’s that service that I still remember, over 43y later!  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a local church service as powerful as that night – with addictions broken, people baptized in the Holy Spirit, healings manifesting, and an overwhelming sense of God’s Presence in the room.  I’m convinced that all of that was a result of the corporate UNITY during our fast!

That’s exactly what I’m expecting this Sunday when we gather at each CLC location.  Our pastors have planned a service that allows plenty of time for prayer and a great move of the Holy Spirit, and I hope you’ll come expecting with me.

Let’s pray-

Day 18, 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional from our Hammond Worship Director, Tommie Billups:

Scripture- John 6

Could you imagine being asked to feed a party of 4000+ on your current salary? That’s a huge stretch, right? Now imagine being asked to feed that same party with the lunch you packed today for work or school. This is literally the miracle that took place when Jesus fed the multitude. Word was traveling fast that Jesus was in town and performing miracles and healing the sick and thousands of people followed him to see and hear what the fuss was about. After Jesus taught and performed miracles, the disciple suggested that Jesus let the crowd go to their homes and eat because it was getting late. Jesus then asked the disciples, “ How much do you think it would cost to feed these people?” They responded, “200 pieces of silver wouldn’t be enough to feed each family with one loaf of bread.” So they found a little boy who happened to have a few loaves of bread and a couple of small fishes and basically told Jesus this is the best they could do. He took it, lifted it up to heaven, gave thanks for it and was able to feed everyone and had leftovers. Jesus was able to take an insufficiency and turn it into an overflow of provision.
As I reflect back on that passage of scripture I think about when I’m in situations where I don’t have enough to do the things that I need to do, am I like the disciples? Do I magnify my insufficiency by holding tight to what I have because what I lack seems greater? or am I like the boy who willingly gave what he had and trusted God with it. While feeding the multitude is the highlight of this passage, what stood out to me was that there was so much left over. I think back on the times when I have naively trusted my own way and tried to stretch what I had and ended up being in a bigger pickle than what I started with in comparison to when I trusted God with my little and ended up with more than enough. What is your fish and loaves? What do you cling to in fear of not having enough? Trust God, give thanks for what you have and watch God turn your lack into a miracle.

Day 17, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional from our Blue Island Worship Pastor, Alan Franklin:

While reading in Genesis a few days ago, I came across “The Descendants of Adam” in Genesis 5.  My first thought was, “this is gonna be boring.” But I read anyway. Verse 3: Adam became the father of Seth. Seth became the father of Enosh.  Enosh became the father of Kenan.  Kenan became the father of Mahalalel. Mahalalel became the father of Jared.  Jared became the father of Enoch. Enoch became the father of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters.  23) Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.  Methuselah became the father of Lamech. Lamech became the father of Noah…

Wait a minute! Stop reading! Right in the middle of this boredom, the writer thought it was worth noticing that Enoch lived in close fellowship with God.  Now this chapter just got juicy!  Enoch must have been different than his forefathers and his posterity. Have you ever been to a family reunion? Think about your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents.  Some of us had parents and grandparents that loved the Lord. However, some of you,  you are the first person in your family to give your life to Christ. You’re different.   

It’s okay to be different. When I was a child, I didn’t want to be different. You want to blend in with the other kids. You want to wear what they’re wearing, do what they’re doing and say what they’re saying.  But I must admit, it felt good when a teacher would say “there’s something different about that Franklin boy”.  The Bible says that we are peculiar.

Then we read about Noah in Genesis 6. Gen. 6:5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing – all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I every made them.”  But Noah found favor with the Lord. (verse 9) This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

Let me ask you a question. If I asked your friends at work “who’s different”

Not only should we be different in the world? We should also be different in the church.  Have you ever visited a church where you were the only one to lift your hands in worship? Religious people will look at you in a weird way.  Or remember when you first came to Christ and you wanted everyone to know? You were on fire for God. Then you hung around “church people” and became “normal”.  In the book of Acts, Peter and John went to a 3:00 prayer meeting at the Temple. As they approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the temple gate (called Beautiful), so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money.  Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money (something Normal) But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up.

How many normal people saw the lame man and gave him a few coins and kept going. Perhaps thousands.  Peter & John were “different”. They possessed something that could change the entire destiny of a person.

Pastor Brent talked recently about being ALL IN this year. I’ve heard others this year at work and other places say “This year I’m ALL IN. We admire people that can lose the weight, be disciplined with their finances, have an incredible prayer life. Why? Because it’s different than what we’re used to seeing.  And who wants Common anyway?  Common is divorce. Common is fear. Common is faithlessness. Common is , depression.  Normal is lying & cheating. Normal is also, “let’s go to this concert! or let’s go hear this guest speaker! There’s a packed house.  Different is “Let’s go to a prayer service) You may see under 20 people there.

Different is “I may be going through a rough season, but the Joy of the Lord is my strength.”

consider these verses in Matthew 5

Different is “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.”   (39)

“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.”(40)

But I say, love your enemies! (43)

Pray for those who persecute you! (44)

If you love only those who love you, what rewards is there for that?  Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?  Even pagans do that.  But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (46-48)

Jesus makes us Different. One of the most fascinating scriptures that I’ve been meditating on, for about a year now is Revelation 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne and said, Behold, I make all things new. Not better, but “NEW” “Different”

One Point:  Know whose you are. When you realize who your Father is, you know that you are a citizen of a different kingdom.  You know that this world is not your home.  When I went to Croatia last year, I had a great time.  I met some great people. The country was beautiful. The food was great. But… Croatia was not my home. As much as I enjoyed my time there, I knew I was not staying. It would be weird for me to meet with a realtor and talk about buying a home there…or for me to put in job applications over there. Why? Because I’m not planning to stay there.  Some of us live our lives as if this earth is our home. They way we spend our time, talents and treasure. We have to know who we belong to.

I just heard a true story of a guy who robbed a bank in Canada. He stole 6K. He had a gun, a 1918 semi-automatic Colt.  The gun itself, was worth 100K.  He don’t know what he had.

Knowing we have the power of God and knowing we belong to God. Power

I thought about some people who chose to be different:

Chris Rivera went through a long rigorous process to start a christian club at his high school.

Alexis prayed for her teacher because her countenance was different. She actually prayed prophetically. When the teacher saw Terrilyn, she said,  “I gotta tell you about your daughter. She changed my life”

Rodney Young refused to accept a job because it required him to travel (a couple hours car ride) to various places with another female worker.

Eric Williams served as bass player last Sunday. Then he went down and served the children after praise and worship. 

Have you ever heard of people that plan a get-away to spend alone time with God. No family, no work, no cell phone, no computer. Just you and God.

Cesar drove 8 hours to Kansas City, MO to spend time with God. Of course he could have stayed in Chicago. But he felt led to spend time with God.

Day 16, 21-days of Fasting & Prayer

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This is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional from Family Ministries Pastors, Ken & Patricia Earley:

Stay Focused

A few years ago Pat and I had the honor of becoming grandparents which gave us the instant joy of buying for little girls!  This past Christmas one of the items at the very top of the Christmas list was this LOL Doll.

Now while this LOL doll doesn’t look like much, it is the hottest little toy around.  So much so that it became an adventure in finding it.  Believe it or not enclosed in this case is a doll with clothes and accessories.  Sounds simple enough right?  The key is that while there is a doll at that end, each accessory is a different layer preparing you for the ultimate prize – the doll.  If you don’t get through the layers, you will never reach the goal of the doll.  And that’s what we want to encourage you with today – staying focused.

While achieving the goal of a new doll may not seem like much to you or I, setting goals and staying focused to do what God has called us to do is.  Philippians 3:15-16 in the Message translation puts it this way: So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us.  If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet!  Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.  As we get close to the end of the fast let’s be even more determined to lean in and hear what God is saying — what He is asking us to do — and what we will commit our hands to accomplish for His kingdom.

There is one more thing about this little doll.  Each layer leads you closer to the prize.  Each step that we take while following God’s direction gets us closer to where He is leading us.  But the key is that you can’t skip the layers because in doing so you ruin what’s ahead.  There are lessons in the layers.  Each layer or step is a moment for us to learn or grow.  Sometimes those layers are “wait”, some are “push” and some of those layers can be terribly uncomfortable.   But the layers will not destroy us because in each layer God is with us to teach us and instruct us in the way we should go.  Layers aren’t permanent – they are meant for us to get instruction, get application and then move to what’s coming next.  Layers take discipline.  Sometimes its not easy to “wait” or “keep going” or honestly to trust the next steps, but there is a promise waiting for us that do.  Proverbs 16:20 puts it like this: Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

As we begin this year, let’s take time to stay focused, trust the lessons in the layers, and look forward to all God has in store for us in this season.

 

 

 

Day 15, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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This is the text of today’s Facebook Live devotional from Children’s Pastor, Stacy Hunter:

Trust Issues.

Many may struggle like myself. The struggle with Trust issues can be a daunting task, but be encouraged that scripture states:

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in humans. Psalm 118:8

I say this in jest, but this verse makes me feel a little better about my own issues of trust. So if you struggle in this area let this scripture be an encouragement to you as well! Though, some of us may have to work through some personal issues on trust, we can ALWAYS trust in Jesus.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

God’s love is unconditional, even if you are struggling with someone or something, a sin, bitterness, it doesn’t matter, because God still LOVES you unconditionally. He Loves You. You can trust him to make your paths straight.

This scripture asks us to trust God completely, with all our heart, not a little, or sometimes or when it’s convenient. It can be easy to trust God with unpleasant areas of our lives…especially after we have exhausted all other options. We throw up our hands and say, “God I finally give these unpleasant areas to you … anxiety, sickness, my tithe, my frustration, my children etc.” God is not a last resort, but a first and best opportunity to draw closer to him when things get rough.

The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him. Nahum 1:7

Praise God! He will take care of the messes in our lives.

We have to remember to trust God with the areas we are controlling just fine. “God, I got my finances, I’m doing just fine.” God, I got my relationships, I am doing fine.” “God, I will let you know when things become unpleasant and you can fix them after I try fixing them and controlling the situation.”

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:5-6

God wants the unpleasant areas as much as the pleasant areas. Trust fully in God! Every day give him your children, relationships, health, finances, mentally, physically, spiritually, academically, athletically, etc. Trust him with every area of your life: The big, the small, the shame, the hurts, the blessings, the good and the bad, the past, present and future. God has a plan. Trust Him. Even if your paths don’t seem very straight in this season…give it to God. Fully give it to God. Trust him. His plans are far greater than our own. He raises the dead, he heals the sick, Jesus is someone we can always count on!

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17: 7-8

Day 14, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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Today’s guest devotional is from our Hammond Campus Pastor, Taylor Hamstra:

Full Surrender

ScriptureGenesis 22:1-3 NLT

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.  “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you. The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about.

Devotion

Could you ever imagine God asking you to take your child, go up to a mountain and sacrifice him/her?  What would your reaction be?  Would you laugh at God or would you pretend you didn’t hear him?  Think about it.  So why would a loving, caring, faithful God ask Abraham to do this?  Here is what new about Abraham.  Year after year after year Abraham built altar’s of gratitude to God.  He knew that God could be trusted.  He knew that God was for HIM.  Year after year He spent time in prayer with God getting to know Him intimately.  So even after waiting all those years – He took a step because HE TRUSTED GOD FULLY.

So let me ask you a dangerous question – Do you trust God enough to surrender your craziest dreams on the altar to God?  Will you surrender your plan, your way, and your reputation?  Would you do it?

As some of you know Sam and I became foster parents over 4 years ago.  We have been so blessed and honored to take care of our son for the past 4 years.  Truth is just like a mother gives birth you never forget that moment in the hospital and how you instantly fall in love the second you laid eyes on your baby.  That is how we felt when we meet our son at 2 ½ months in his hospital room.

You see God told us to be foster parents and we where obedient to the call.  What I didn’t know that I was supposed to surrender the process and my son to the Lord.  I held on so tight to my son.  I was fearful and scared that I was going to lose him so many times.  Just like Sarah I desired to be a mom for a long time and the thought of that being taken away from me made me sick.

Truth is I new that I put D first in my life.  He was #1 before God and it was taken a toll on me.  It wasn’t until January of 2016 (3years later) that I finally gave him to the Lord.  I will never forget the moment I was in our offices in our Munster building along with 10 other people praying.  For the first half of prayer we were on our own.  I fell to my knees and said Lord take him he is yours.  I can’t do this anymore.  In that moment God reminded me that He loves D more then I do and what He promised has not changed.

I want to remind you today that what you are going through does not surprise God.

God is teaching us a lot in the process of surrender.  He is teaching us a lot in the waiting room of life.  Let me tell you that God’s goal while you are waiting is not to get you somewhere but to take you closer to HIM.  While you are waiting God is making you more dependent on HIM.  More LIKE HIM.   God’s goal in the waiting room is to see you surrender YOUR plan and YOUR DREAM and YOUR CIRCUMSTANCE in order to pick up GOD’S PLAN and GOD’S dream for you.

Remember His promises are still Yes and Amen.  Let God have your marriage, your kids, your finances, your dreams, and your goals.

Can I tell you the moment I surrendered EVERYTHING changed.  I felt a weight lifted off of me and God began to move in my situation like I have never experienced.  He is faithful and He always will be.  Trust Him.

Prayer

Father, we come to you today in complete awe of who you are.  We thank you that you’re not a God that lies and that you are true to your word.  Help us today to surrender everything to you.  Help us to daily surrender our marriages, kids, finances and anything in between.  We love you and trust you.  We know Lord that nothing comes to you by surprise and that you are working all things for our good.  We love you!  In Jesus name, Amen!

 

 

Day 13, 21-days of Fasting & Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exhausted yet pursuing!!

Let me pray for you.

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

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

Day 12, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our lives should be a reflection of HIM……

But how do we do that?

The very next verse that Paul writes tells us….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heres my profound thought for you this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

Day 11, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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

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

Day 10 – 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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

Title: Who told you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 9 – 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting

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

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

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

Day 8 – 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ERV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 7 – 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer

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

Shameless Persistence

Scripture 

Luke 11: 5-10

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

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

Devotion

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Day 6 – 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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

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

day 5, 21-days of Prayer & Fasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 4, 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 3, 21 days of Fasting & Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Romans 5 1-5, it says this:

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

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

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

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

Day 2, 21 days of Prayer & Fasting

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

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

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

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

Doubt and unbelief  (James 1:6-7)

Selfish prayers  (James 4:3)

Unforgiveness (Mark 11:25)

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

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

Impatience (Matt 7:7-8)

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

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

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

Day 1, 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting

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

Zech. 10:1 NKJV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLC, let’s do this!

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

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

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

2. Fasting adds urgency and passion to my prayers!

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why I fast (and you should, too)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check back tomorrow for reason #2-

 

 

ThanksLIVING!

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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There were no new questions submitted this week, but here’s a good one from 2009:      A CLCer recently asked, “Why are there so many bible translations? Is anyone of them better than the other? Which translation is your favorite one? Which translation would you recommend people to read?”

Great questions!  Let’s take them one at a time:

  • Until 1881 you could only read the Bible in English in the King James Version, which was translated in 1611.  Of course, not many of us speak the Shakespearan-type English of “thee’s” and “thou’s”, which is what initially led to more and more translations.  So many English words have changed in their meaning over these past 400 years, and, for that matter, all language is constantly evolving, so it is needful for their to be new translations if the average person is going to read the Bible in the common language of everyday use.
  • It would be hard to say that any one translation is better than another – they’re just different. Some translations (such as the New King James and the New American Standard Bible) attempt a literal, word-for-word translation from the original languages (The Old Testament was written in Hebrew; the New Testament in Greek) into English.  Others (such as the New International Version and the New Living Translation) use a phrase-for-phrase approach, to help convey the original intended meaning.  Still others (like The Message and The Living Bible) are not actually translations, but rather paraphrases that attempt to convey the original thoughts into modern, contemporary thoughts.  (By the way, for what it’s worth, many scholars agree that the New American Standard Bible is perhaps the most accurate translation of the Scriptures into English.)
  • My favorite translation has changed several times as I’ve grown older: initially, I grew up with the King James, and I memorized numerous verses in the stilted old English.  Later, when I was introduced to the New King James, it became my favorite, probably because it retained much of the poetic beauty of the KJV, but updated the English to eliminate the need to talk like Shakespeare.  However, in the last few years I’ve grown to love the more modern, New Living Translation, and I use it almost exclusively on Sundays at CLC.
  • It depends on the purpose: if you want a Bible to study, I’d recommend the NKJV (my preference is the Spirit-Filled Life Bible).  For general reading, I personally think you can’t beat the NLT (which is why I use it in the pulpit so much). For a change of pace, I really like The Message, as it has a way of ‘jarring’ me with truth that I might otherwise have overlooked.

As I’ve explained at other times, I personally try to use a different version each year for my daily “through the Bible in a year” devotions.  I’ve found my mixing it up each year, it helps me not to get stale by thinking “I’ve read this before”.

That was fun….hope it was helpful.  Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?

Talking Bible: taking God at His Word!

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It happened again.

As I was reading the Scriptures this morning, I noticed how the people of Israel  complained, particularly about their daily diet of manna, and their desire for meat instead.  God was angry, so He promised to give them enough meat to last the entire nation a whole month! (Actually, He was more descriptive than that, but that’s beside the point)  (see Numbers 11:18-20)

What jumped out at me is what happened next.  In verses 21-22, Moses informed God that there were 600,000 men in Israel, plus women & children, and that he didn’t think all the fish of the sea would be enough to feed them.  In other words, Moses questioned what God had said.

The answer was quick: in verse 23, God said, “Is the hand of the Lord shortened? Now you’ll see if My word will happen to you or not.”

God takes His Word very seriously.  He doesn’t say things without thinking.  He doesn’t exaggerate.  If He says it, He’s going to do it!

Moses was a great leader, but he made the mistake of using his own reasoning instead of placing his full trust in God’s Word.

I really, really want to help us all this Sunday as we continue our “Faith Gaps” series with a detailed look at how faith works.  I hope you’ll invite someone to join you at any campus of CLC this Sunday (and don’t forget to set your clock’s ahead on Saturday night!)

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!

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-

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.

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!)

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.

Talking Bible

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My Bible talked to me again in my devotional reading this morning, especially from Jeremiah 42:6.  It sounds so good, so right, so “I wanna be like that”.  At least until I read from the very next chapter at Jeremiah 43:2.

If you aren’t familiar with the whole story, these guys came to Jeremiah to ask him to pray and then tell them what God was saying.  And they promised, “even if we don’t like it, we’ll obey, because we know when we obey God, it goes well for us”.

So Jeremiah prayed, and God gave him a ‘word’ for them, telling them not to flee to Egypt even though things were uncomfortable where they were.  And their immediate response was, “you’re lying!  God didn’t tell you to tell us that!”

Selah.

I saw myself in those two verses.  I say that I’ll obey even if I don’t like it.  But when I hear something I don’t like, I’m tempted to think, “that can’t be God. He wouldn’t tell me that.”

Am I the only one guilty of this?  Or did my Bible talk to me today so you could hear it, too?

Oh, there’s one other detail in Jeremiah 43:2 that may explain why their response wasn’t what it should have been – did you notice? It refers to the men who responded as  arrogant men. Whenever we think we know more or we know better, disobedience is right around the corner, and we can justify it because we’re not humble so as to be teachable.  (it’s ok to say, ‘ouch’ here – I winced as I typed it)

Let’s purpose today to obey the Lord even when we don’t like it.

My thoughts on the 2016 Presidential election…

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As a pastor, I never bring politics into the pulpit (or to this blog, normally).  The church that I serve has both Republicans and Democrats and Independents, and the last thing we need is division over political issues.

However, after watching bits & pieces of the Republican convention in Cleveland last week, and likewise a few snatches of the Democrats convention in Philadelphia this week, followed by my Bible reading this morning, I felt I had to share:

First, I read Jeremiah 17:5-6.  That’s pretty strong, isn’t it.  GOD says, if we put our trust in mere human beings, we’re headed for misery.  So for those of you who are tired of the last eight years with a Democrat in the White House and who think Donald Trump is the answer to “make America great again”, and to those of you who feel Hillary will continue the progress you’ve seen under President Obama, I challenge you to set your sights higher, as in Jeremiah 17:7-8.  Our only hope for a fruitful life is in trusting GOD, not any politician!

Then, in the Bible reading plan I’m using this year, my next reading was Psalm 146:3, which seems even stronger than Jeremiah 17: no human being can save us!

Finally, I read Psalm 146:5-10.  Notice the contrast when we depend on the Lord instead of human leaders:

  • HE always keeps His promises.  (need I say more about this year’s candidates?)
  • HE truly helps the oppressed and those in poverty.
  • HE restores people, no matter their past.
  • HE protects immigrants and helps those who are disadvantaged.
  • HE enforces justice for the wicked.
  • HE doesn’t put us through another campaign season; HE is king forever!

That’s my position on the 2016 elections, and I don’t expect it to ever change.  My trust is in the Lord, and may God bless America.

Talking Bible: what’s YOUR excuse?

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My Bible talked to me again.  This time it was from Jeremiah 1:7, when God anticipated Jeremiah’s excuse before he even had a chance to use it!

Actually, I didn’t just hear God from reading that verse.  I also heard Him when I read a quote recently that said, “If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way.     If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

I think that’s a ‘Word’ for all of us.

What excuses have you used lately?

Is it possible you could be ‘excusing’ yourself from something God is calling you to do?

  • Maybe it’s going back to get that degree.  Don’t say, “I’m too old; I don’t have the money; I don’t have the time”.
  • Perhaps it’s to have that difficult conversation with your spouse.  Don’t say, “He/she might get angry and make things worse.
  • It could be God is calling you to hostFamily Matters group.  Don’t say, “I don’t know anyone who would come to my group”; “I don’t know how to facilitate a discussion”; “What if they ask a question I can’t answer?”

If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way.

If you know God is calling you,  and you step out in obedience, He’ll make a way!

What are you hearing God say today?

 

Talking Bible: the value of humility

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My Bible talked to me this morning.

Actually, it started last night, when one of my preaching class students shared a message about King Saul and referenced 1Samuel 15:17, when the Lord reminded Saul that in the beginning, he was little in his own eyes, but God exalted him to be king over all Israel.

This morning my Bible reading plan included 1Samuel 15, and verse 12 jumped off the page at me!  How do you go from being so humble that you hid from those who wanted to make you king, to the point that now you are building monuments to yourself???

Then when Samuel confronted him for his disobedience, Saul finally admitted his wrongdoing, but was still more concerned about his image than about obeying God – so in verse 30, he pleaded with Samuel just to honor him in front of the people!

Worst of all, I read verse 35 where the Lord said He was sorry He had ever made Saul king  – that’s a big step DOWN from being a man who stood head & shoulders above all Israel.

It reminded me this morning of a story I heard a long time ago of a young minister who went into the pulpit one Sunday all cocky and full of himself as the ‘anointed mand of God’  but things didn’t go well.  He got his tongue tangled up; he forgot Scriptures that he intended to quote; he stuttered and stammered his way through the sermon and finally left the pulpit with his head down, knowing that he had really dropped the ball.  One of the church ‘mothers’ stopped him before he got out of the auditorium and simply said, “son, if you had come in like you went out, you could have gone out like you went in”.

Selah.

May God help us all walk in humility before Him.

Talking Bible (2 days in a row)

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

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

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

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

Talking Bible

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

Have you started your plan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Bible – complaining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

4 Prayers I’m praying these days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Talking Bible / honest prayers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Bible: NO MORE!

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Don’t you love it when your Bible talks to you?  Mine did recently during my devotions, from Isaiah 51:23.  Read it slowly.

Yep, that’s what it says.  You read it right.  GOD says that your enemy forced you to bow down and then walked on you were dirt.  Your enemy treated you like a road to walk on.

Selah.

How does that make you feel?

It made my blood boil when I read it, and something on the inside of me rose up and said,  “No more!”

You. don’t. have. to. lay. down. and. be. a. road. for. the. enemy.

Read Luke 10:19-20.  Read it aloud to yourself.  Make it your confession.

“I don’t have to be a road for the enemy to walk on anymore.  Not physically.  Not emotionally.  Not in my family.  Not in my marriage. Not on my job.  Not with my finances. No, No, No.  No more!

Crashing the Chatterbox by CONFESSING…

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Every preacher I’ve ever known always leaves the pulpit thinking of “what I should have said, but didn’t”, and I’m no exception.  As much as I’ve enjoyed the first 2 weeks of Crash the Chatterbox, I didn’t have time to explain one principle that I want to revisit before week 3:

When we talk about how we can crash the chatterbox by confessing the promises of God it’s not a mindless exercise.  The real secret is that WE are coming into agreement with what God has already said in His Word, which has power to change our lives – or as 1Thess. 2:13 says, effectively works in us who believe”!  (One translation says, “God himself at work in us”!)

That’s why the Scripture says, “let the weak say ‘I am strong'” – it’s not just repeating words by rote; it’s a powerful agreement with God’s Word  (see Joel 3:10that can change our situation!

I hope you’ll join me this Sunday at any CLC campus when we learn how to crash the chatterbox of fear by confessing what God said “He will”!

It’s only Wednesday, but I can’t wait!

Talking Bible: Romance / Reality / Responsibility

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Disclaimer: I may preach this someday at CLC, so if I do, I’ll want you to respond like it was the first time you ever heard such amazing truth.

Sometimes reading the Bible is a chore, especially if the chapter you’re reading is a long list of names that are difficult to pronounce.  But in my recent devotions, as I read 1Chronicles 27:25-34, it really began to speak to me about life in the Kingdom of God.

Often times, we have a romantic, idealistic idea of how wonderful life must be when you’re walking with the King – you know, going from glory to glory, feeling Holy Spirit goosebumps all day while the Hallelujah chorus plays in the background.  (Kinda like watching “The Bachelor” on TV – or at least what I imagine those not-so-reality-shows are like, since I never watch them personally – but I digress.)

The writer of Chronicles gives us a dose of reality as he lists 20 different men and the specific responsibilities they had in David’s kingdom.  Notice that it wasn’t all grace & glory – there were duties to be attended to in villages and small towns, fields & towers.  There were vineyards to tend to, wine & olive oil to be stored, cattle to be cared for, even  (my personal favorite) donkeys that someone had to be in charge of.  (Wouldn’t you love to have that on your business card: “in charge of the donkeys”)

That is reality about living in the Kingdom.  Serving Jesus has it’s moments of glory, no doubt – it is an amazing privilege to walk with Him, sense His Presence drawing near, enjoying some ‘heaven on earth’ before going to heaven.  But it’s also about responsibility.  There are duties in the kingdom, and some of them aren’t as romantic as we sometimes think – sometimes it’s more like being in charge of donkeys that have to be fed and then cleaned up after the output of their feeding.

But the part of the passage that especially spoke to me was verse 33, where, in the middle of all the important responsibilities and positions of David’s kingdom we read,  “Hushai was the king’s friend”.  

Selah.

Sometimes the most important responsibility in the glorious Kingdom of Almighty God is for you to be a friend.  Even kings need friends.  I would guess that it would be difficult for a king to find a true friend, since most everyone around him would be looking to gain something from the relationship.  But not Hushai.  He was content to give something to the relationship.

Maybe the most spiritual thing you or I can do today is find someone who needs a friend – and be one to them.

If that resonates with you today, would you leave a comment below to encourage someone else who may need a friend?

Possessing what you’ve been given

I shared with our church family last Sunday the unfortunate situation we’ve been dealing with since purchasing our ‘miracle’ – the NWI building valued at $1.4M that we bought in May for just $140,000.

I’m asking again thru the post that CLC’ers join me in praying for a swift resolution today in court to legally evict the tenant so we can finally possess the building we own.

But as I prayed earlier this morning, I had a sense that God is trying to teach me (and you) a lesson through all of this – the same lesson He had for His people Israel after bringing them out of bondage in Egypt.  That is, at least 16 times He told them that He was giving them the land (Lev. 25:2; Num. 33:53; Num. 34:2; Deut. 1:8 and at least 12 more!)

But He also told them numerous times that it was their responsibility to possess the Land that He was giving them (see Deut. 10:11; Deut. 11:8, 31; Deut. 15:4; Joshua 18:3; and Joshua 21:43 for just a few examples).

So while we want/need your prayers as we go to court today, because we do want to fully possess the property the Lord gave us as a miracle, perhaps the more important truth is – are we possessing the promises God has given to us?

Selah.

I pray that YOU will do your part in taking possession of the good things God has already given you by His Word!

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Talking Bible: a surprising benefit of worship

Admittedly, I read a few chapters in the Bible on some days and nothing jumps out at me.  But I love it on those days that the Holy Spirit seems to illuminate a verse or passage as I read, and that happened recently as I read 2Kings 17:15.

I see 2 surprising benefits of worship in that verse:

1.  Our worth is attached to what we worship.  I guess that shouldn’t have surprised me, because our English word ‘worship’ actually comes from an older English word, “woerthship”.  In other words, when we worship, we are declaring God’s worth to us.  (That much I already knew, and probably you did, too).  But as I read 2Kings I realized that MY worth is also attached to what I worship.  I find my true value and purpose in life when I worship the One who IS so worthy!

2.  Even more surprising was the description of how Israel’s misdirected worship of idols affected them: as they worshiped idols that were worth nothing, the people also became worth nothing.  In other words, we become like what we worship!

It’s true, as we spend time in His Presence, worshiping Him for who He is, the Spirit of the Lord is changing us to be more like Him.  (see 2Cor. 3:18)

Makes me want to worship Him today!  How ’bout you?

It’s also ONE MORE REASON for you to join us for the Selah Worship Conference:

Digging deeper into our promise

I’ve been thinking more about Exodus 6:6, which has been part of our text for the last 4 weeks, and particularly the promise we looked at yesterday, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment“.

As I mentioned yesterday, those mighty acts of judgment are not against us, but what God promised to do to our enemy, especially because of his efforts to hinder or impede us in our walk with the Lord (see 1Thess. 2:18) – AND, it was a specific reference to what God did in sending the 10 plagues against Egypt (see Exodus 12:12)

For years, I thought the plagues were rather weird; I mean, think about it: frogs, and flies, and lice, and thick darkness – it just seems like strange stuff to inflict upon a nation.  But when I learned that each plague directly corresponded to one or more of the Egyptian gods, it took on a whole new significance.  (If you’re interested, read this article).

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My point: the God you serve is the same God today! If the enemy is hindering you or trying to block your progress, rest assured that your God will bring mighty acts of judgment against him and turn everything he meant for your harm into your good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28 & Isaiah 54:17), culminating with His final acts of judgment in Rev. 20:1-3 and verses 7-10.

Don’t you love it?  What a mighty God we serve!

Jesus needs a donkey!

Last Sunday was “Palm Sunday”, the anniversary of the day Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem to begin His Passion Week that led to his death, burial and resurrection.

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The part of that story that’s always fascinated me is in Luke 19:29-34, especially the assertion that “Jesus needs it”.  Why would Jesus need a donkey?

I’ve thought of 2 reasons:

1.  Even though a donkey is a small, seemingly insignificant animal, when Jesus sat on it, HE was elevated higher so that people could see Him more easily than if he were walking.

2.  Even though a donkey doesn’t run fast like a thoroughbred horse, it still moves faster than a man walking, so Jesus could cover more ground and reach more people than He could have on foot.

(You see where I’m going with this, don’t you….)

This weekend is The. Biggest. Opportunity. Of. Our. Year. Period.

No other weekend is even close, when it comes to reaching hurting people in need of a Savior, than Easter weekend.

And I know that CLC is doing everything humanly possible to present the Gospel in a clear, attractive, compelling manner in each of our 10 Chicagoland services this weekend.

But Jesus still needs YOU.

Could you be His ‘donkey’, who enables Him to be seen by others who might not catch a glimpse of Him otherwise?

Will you be His ‘donkey’, to help Him reach someone He might not get to otherwise?

An invitation from a friend could change all of eternity.

Talking Bible – “Ephphatha”

It’s been awhile since I posted from my devotions, but several days ago I was reading in Mark 7:32-37, and I learned something about ‘Ephphatha’ that has been working on me ever since.  (I think I’ll preach this Sunday in Cambodia, and there’s a good chance I’ll preach it at CLC sometime in the future, so when I do, just act like it’s the first time you ever heard it!)

When Jesus encountered this poor man who was both deaf and also unable to speak clearly, he commanded him, “Ephphatha!”, which means “be opened!”.  What i learned was that the word doesn’t just imply that his ears or his mouth should be opened, but that HE should be opened, in every area of his life – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually – OPEN!

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It made me think of all the ways that we can get ‘closed off’ in life – through fear or through hurts that cause us to try to protect ourselves, even through traditions or false teachings we’ve held to – all of which prevent us from being open to receive everything that God has for us.

I know what it’s like to grow up under traditions and erroneous teaching, and I well remember how it hindered me by causing me to have a closed mind & heart toward experiences with God that weren’t part of my denominational tradition.  And I know the JOY of being opened to hear from Him!

Perhaps you were at CLC on Sunday and heard my wife’s teaching about the Holy Spirit baptism – but possibly because of previous teaching you’ve heard, or fear of the unknown, or any other number of reasons, you did not receive your prayer language.  Maybe you didn’t even come forward to ask for the Holy Spirit.  Can I help you today?  Jesus said,  “be opened” – and if you will open your mind & heart, I know you’ll have the same experience as the crowd in verse 37; i.e., you’ll be amazed at what God does!

Reading your Bible in 2015

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

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

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

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

(Maybe that’s why they call it YouVersion)

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

Now, that will make it a Happy New Year!

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

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

Neither do you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selah.

 

Superficial or Supernatural?

Superficial_cover_

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

I believe that.

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

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

Who will you invite today?

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

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

Why “stand in the gap”?

gap

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

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

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

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

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

Could HE use you?

Selah.

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Did you remember?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selah.

After 10 days…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 3:15 still applies.

Selah.

How MATURE are you?

mature audiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Talking Bible: Superficial healing

I was doing my morning Bible reading a few days ago, when Jeremiah 6:14 jumped off the page at me.  Jeremiah spoke prophetically to the ‘pastors’ of his day and said they had offered “superficial treatments for mortal wounds (the NKJV says ‘healed the hurt of My people slightly!’)

That’s an easy trap to fall into in our positive-thinking-at-all-costs world.  “Tell me something to make me feel better, preacher”, is a voice I’ve heard all too often.

But there’s a big difference between being totally healed and being healed slightly.  And too many believers that I know are still suffering & struggling with stuff that Jesus died for them to have freedom from!

You’ve heard me say it before, but I’ve never felt it as strongly as today: our next series at CLC is going to help change lives as people truly get healed, completely.  I believe we’re going to help people to ‘Break Every Chain’ of the enemy in their life over these next several weeks, and to be “free indeed” as Jesus promised in John 8:31-36.

Starts this Sunday at every CLC Chicagoland campus. Come expecting.

Brake Every Chain from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

Want some NEW WINE?

new wineWhile reading my Bible this week, doing my daily devotions, I came to Isaiah 65:8 where the Lord informs us that new wine is found in the cluster.  At first glance, that may not seem so important, but I believe it’s a principle that many believers have overlooked to their own detriment.

You see, the fullness of what God desires for you and me, His ‘new wine’, is never to be found by ourselves alone.  No, if I really want to get in on the fullness of what God planned for all believers, it’s only found in the cluster.  In other words, I will find the richness of what God has in store for me within the relationship of fellow believers.

There have always been those who subscribe to the idea that was made popular by the ’70’s song:

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

But that doesn’t make it so!

I know many who want to criticize or even discard the local church because of their disappointments or hurtful experiences of the past.  You may think you can do church on TV, or that you don’t need to be connected to a small group of believers who support each other in prayer, challenge each other and encourage each other.  But Isaiah remind us that you don’t get wine from a single grape – you only get it from in the cluster.

Sure, there are some bad grapes in the bunch, but I would urge you not to throw out the baby with the bathwater, because the only place you can get new wine is in the cluster.  Selah.  cluster

Eyes wide open!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praying for FAVOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait!

What do you do “the day after”?

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

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

But that was yesterday.

What do you do the day after?

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

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

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

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

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

Experience PENTECOST on Pentecost Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

I’m praying, “Do it again, Lord!”

Can’t wait until Sunday!!!

Integrity AND skill

Part of my Bible reading for today included Psalm 78:70-72, and I love the Holy Spirit-inspired words for shepherds/pastors/leaders:

  1. May we never take for granted the fact that He chose us!  WOW, what a privilege!
  2. No matter what position we hold now, may we never forget where He took us from! (reminds me of 1Cor. 1:26-29)
  3. In fact, those lowly tasks we did back then are actually what prepared us for what we do now!

Finally, because of all that, we fulfill our calling according to the integrity of our heart – which reminds me that God always values character over charisma. It won’t matter how gifted I am if I lack integrity! (The headlines again this week sadly reminded us that even gifted & skilled leaders don’t last beyond their integrity)

But integrity alone is never enough to truly lead God’s people.  I must also have skilled hands.  That’s why I must continually work on my craft (as I heard Harry Connick, Jr. recently tell some of the contestants on AI)

That’s why I’ve been in Dallas the last few days at the NICL. I know I need to add more skills to my hands if I’m going to shepherd God’s people.

How ’bout you?  What are you doing to be a leader of integrity AND skill?

Talking Bible: fresh & new praises!

In yesterday’s message at CLC my wife showed us what a powerful weapon our worship can be.  (If you weren’t here, I encourage you to get the message from our website)

But in my daily Bible readings a few days ago, Psalm 71:14 ‘jumped off the page at me’, when David says that he would praise God “more and more”.

I’m using the Spirit-Filled Life Bible for my devotions this year, and Charles Green added this note at Psa. 71:14“The idea expressed is beautiful, saying, “I will find fresh and new ways to express my praise toward God.’  This does not mean to abandon the old ways, but to become as creative in our praises to God as God is creative in meeting our needs.  Thus we will not fall prey to careless praise, which becomes dull and boring and ends in merely mouthing phrases. God wants us to be creative.”

I don’t want to be careless in my praises, and I sure don’t want to merely mouth phrases, so I will find fresh and new ways to express my praise, especially knowing how powerful a weapon it is according to Psa 149:5-9.  How ’bout you?

Memory verses for APRIL

At CLC, this is the year of deeper!  One of the ways we’re going DEEPER is by calling the entire congregation to memorize at least one verse of Scripture each month (two verses for those who are really going deeper!)

With everything else that was happening this week at our Family Sunday, we neglected to give you the April verses, so here goes:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”                 Matthew 7:7 NLT

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead”  
Ephesians 1:19-20a NLT
Let’s go DEEPER!

Talking Bible: The LAST GIANT before receiving the promises…

During my daily Bible reading recently I came to Deuteronomy 3:11, where the last giant before Israel crossed into the Promised Land is mentioned.  I found it interesting that the only thing we learn about him is that he had a big bed (over 13′ long & 6′ wide!)

I think there’s a message here.

The last giant we’ll have to overcome before we can walk in the promises of God is probably our own laziness.

I mean, you must really enjoy nap-time to have a 13-foot-long BED!

This I know: the biggest thing that stands in the way of our 2020 Vision is not a lack of money, or a lack of interested people, or the wrong location, or any of the obstacles we sometimes blame for our failures.  No, the biggest giant in my life and yours is our own flesh that wants to take it easy.

We. Can. Slay. That. Giant.

Let’s pray like it all depends on God, and work like it all depends on us.  Ready?

 

Good news & “God news”

As you probably know we’re preparing to launch our 4th campus in a few weeks in the south suburb of Blue Island.  This week we received some great news and a ‘word’ from God’s Word, too:

  • first, the good news: we learned officially this week that we cleared the final hurdle on the building we’re negotiating to buy to house the Blue Island campus.  That issue would have been a deal-breaker, because it would have almost doubled the cost of the building, but it’s now a non-issue, so we’re about to purchase a 3-story, 20,000+ square-foot facility for less than the cost of renting a Sunday meeting space!
  • even better, we now have the minimum number of volunteer launch team members onboard, so we’re confident in moving forward.  (Notice the word ‘minimum’ – we could certainly still use YOUR help, so if the Holy Spirit nudges, be obedient by signing up here or by texting the word “BLUE” to 44-622.
  • finally, the “God news”: yesterday in my devotions I read Psalm 41:1 where the opening sentence jumped off the page at me, as the Lord promises a blessing for those who “consider the poor”!  As you know, Blue Island is surrounded by some of the poorest, neediest communities in the South Suburbs, and our plan is for this new campus, unlike any we’ve launched before, to be a “Dream Center” type operation,  offering practical help to the community 7 days a week!  That was our plan already, and now I read that God promises to bless us for considering the poor!

Then I read verse 2, where in the middle of several great promises, God says that       because we are considering the poor, HE will cause us to be “blessed on the earth”!

(If that doesn’t light your fire, I suspect your wood is wet)

It seems VERY clear to me that the Lord is going before us and showing us that HE is in this next campus launch, and I’m excited about what He will do through us in Blue Island and the surrounding communities!  Remember, if you want to get on board, you can sign-up here, OR text “BLUE” to 44-622, OR show up tomorrow night (February 27) at 7pm in the Fusion Room at CLC-Tinley Park for the first gathering of our launch team!

P.S. For even MORE amazing news, don’t miss tonight’s ‘Encounter” at 7pm when our partner, Aby Vargis will share what God is doing in INDIA through your giving at CLC!

Talking Bible: a good way to start every day!

love seeing stuff in Scripture I never saw before!  During my devotions this morning, I read the familiar Psalm 37.  It’s full of really good stuff, but I stopped at verse 5, with a footnote in my Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible that the word, ‘commit’ is the Hebrew word,  ‘galal’, which means “to roll, roll down, roll away, or remove”.

So we are told to ‘roll our way onto the Lord’.  The picture is of a camel, burdened with a heavy load; when the load is to be removed, the camel kneels down, tilts to one side, and the load rolls off.  Can you see it?

Whatever is weighing you down today, the Lord invites you to ‘roll it on HIM’, and HE promises to bring it to pass!  In fact, in verse 7 He says we should rest in Him and not fret because of others since fretting only causes harm (verse 8) and if we learn to live this way, we will be delighted with abundance of peace (verse 11).

I’ve met a lot of ‘camel Christians’ in my day, all burdened down with life’s stuff.  I’ve been a ‘camel Christian’ lots of days.  But today I’m determined to kneel down, tilt to one side, and let the load roll off on Jesus!  How ’bout you?

Talking Bible: pray this Word!

I’m sure I’ve seen this one before, but in my recent devotions, Genesis 32:11-12  jumped out at me again.  Did you catch it?

First, Jacob said, “I am afraid”.  He’s not the only one.  What is it that you fear today?

  • Initiating a tough conversation?
  • The possible consequences of a decision you have to make?
  • A doctor’s report?
  • A financial challenge?

But just as quickly, in the very next verse, Jacob said, “but You promised me”!

It’s OK to admit to God that you’re afraid of something – but it’s always right to add,  “but You promised!” – especially if you’ve got chapter & verse for what He promised.

That’s a Word you can pray today or any day!

Does that resonate with you?

Talking Bible: put HIM on the throne!

This one was so good, it somehow snuck into last Sunday’s message.  But if you weren’t here (or perhaps just so I can expand a bit), here’s the deal: in my devotions on Sunday morning, I read Psalm 22:3 in the NKJV (that I’m using this year for my daily reading).  I’m not sure why I hadn’t noticed it before, since most translations do not use the verbiage of the KJV that I grew up with, where it reads “inhabitest” instead of “enthroned” – but it jumped off the page at me! 

Here’s why: there’s a huge difference between the truth that God dwells or lives in our praises, and the idea that our praises put Him on the Throne of our lives!  Selah.

When we sincerely worship the Lord, we empower and release Him to be King in our lives, and to invade our circumstances with HIS rule and reign!

Contrast that with all the times we moan & groan about our circumstances, which merely adds frustration or depression to our challenges instead of inviting our great King to step into those circumstances and bring HIS Kingdom rule with Him, ‘on earth as it is in heaven!’

My advice: don’t wait for next Sunday to worship!  Lift Him up today, wherever you are.  Give Him glory and honor no matter how you’re feeling, for your sacrifice of praise doesn’t just make you feel better, it puts HIM on the throne where He belongs.

Can I get a witness?

Talking Bible: God is my shield!

Last week I was doing my devotions when Genesis 31:7 jumped out at me. Jacob was telling his wives how their father had tricked him and even changed his wages 10 times,  BUT “God did not allow him to hurt me”!

When I read that, I was reminded of the times the Scripture refers to the Lord as our shield (Gen. 15:1; Deut. 33:29; Psa. 3:3, 5:12, 18:30, 84:11, 115:11, etc.)

Here’s my point: each of us is thankful for the blessings that God gives us, and we give Him praise for them (rightfully so).  But I wonder how many times He spares us & protects us from accidents, disasters or attacks of the enemy without our knowledge – because He shields us from them before they can even happen!

Selah.

Can I get a witness?

The day AFTER First Love Conference

There was no time for me to post my reflections about First Love earlier, so here goes:

“And it came to pass at the First Love Conference, that the Lord visited us as He had said, and the Lord did for us as He had spoken. For we conceived and we will bear children despite any circumstances, at the set time of which God had spoken to us.”  Genesis 21:1-2 Deeper Translation

Does that just about describe the last 3 days?

Now what?

If you were among the many who received a prophetic word from Prophet Dennis Cramer this weekend, let me give you some strong pastoral counsel:

1. Record, read and meditate.  1Tim. 4:14-15
  • Paul said “immerse yourself” in those prophetic words.  The Greek there says  “be in them”.  Probably the best way to do that is to get the CD, write out your prophecy word-for-word, and read over it, allowing the Lord to speak to you through those words again, because you likely missed some of it as it was happening.
2.  Fight the enemy in prayer with the ‘word’ you received!  1Tim 1:18
  • Use God’s promises to you to wage war against the enemy – prophecy can give you power to persevere until the fulfillment!
3.  Do nothing differently unless definitely directed!
  • Prophet Dennis Cramer said, “don’t do anything for 2 weeks!” He added that because any action you take would likely be the wrong one!
  • You are not responsible to bring God’s word to pass. He will do it.
  • However, if your prophecy included specific instructions to you, then you should act upon them accordingly.
  • Prophet Cramer suggested you actually use two different highlighters to go through your prophecy, highlighting in one color what God said HE would do and then highlighting in another color what you are to do.  Great advice!
4.  Remember that patience is part of receiving from God!
  • God’s process for prophetic fulfillment is rarely sooner than we expect.  It is almost always later, and sometimes, much later.   Psa 37:7
Praise God that I’m the pregnant pastor of a pregnant church!

Talking Bible / my prayers this week

I mentioned it yesterday in the message, but in my devotions during the first week of our Corporate Fast, Genesis 21:1-2 really, really spoke to me.

First, notice that 3 times in a short 2 verses we read about ‘God speaking’.  That caught my attention to look more closely, and when I did, I really sensed the Holy Spirit speak to me about our upcoming First Love Conference, and these 3 prayers:

  • that God would visit us (collectively & personally) in an out-of-the-ordinary way!  (I’m praying there would be ‘God-moments’ throughout the Conference, where we could be caught up into His Presence in a special way!)
  • that God would do for us (collectively & personally) as He’s promised!  (Unanswered prayers, unfulfilled prophecies, and breakthroughs you’ve been standing in faith for to finally be manifest!)
  • that CLC’ers would conceive (that many of us would receive personal insights & God-ideas that could have dramatic impact on our families, our finances, and our ministries! May we become pregnant with ideas, dreams, plans & witty inventions that God drops into our hearts during this conference!
Will you pray this with me all week?

Talking Bible

Kinda surprised that the first thing that jumped off the page in my 2014 Bible reading was Genesis 13:8.  But as I read it earlier this week, the idea of “No STRIFE” really spoke to me.

  • How much time and energy do we waste in needless arguments, contentions, or fusses?
  • How often do we toss & turn at night instead of getting the restorative sleep & rest we need, all because of strife-filled thoughts from conversations or incidents of the day?
  • How much of the peace of God have we forfeited because of strife in our relationships: at the workplace, in the home, even with fellow believers?

I’m with Abraham in 2014: we’re brothers (or sisters)!  Selah.

The relationship is more important than the issue.

In fact, regarding the issue, say it with me: “Its. Not. That. Important.”

Be willing to let go.  Be willing to compromise.  Be willing to look at things from another perspective.  Pray. But don’t resort to contentious strife!

Does this resonate with you?  Leave a comment below.  More importantly, if you’ve received a ‘word’ from The Word in your reading, let me know – I’d love to hear it!

Some FUEL for your devotional fire

The only way you can build momentum in your own spiritual life (see yesterday’s post for the benefit of momentum) is to consistently feed your spirit with God’s Word.  I’ve been reading through the Bible each year since I was a teen, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to grow spiritually.

We’ll have a free Bible reading guide for every CLC’er at our service tonight, but you really don’t have to use our simple guide or be limited to an old-fashioned paper guide, thanks to the folks at LifeChurch.tv and their YouVersion app.  In fact, if you’ll simply go to bible.com, you’ll find all sorts of online daily devotionals to help provide fuel for your devotional fire.

In addition to these devotionals, YouVersion has recently added many new Bible Plans—so many, in fact, that they now offer more than 600! From topical studies to whole-Bible Plans, you’ll find plenty of options that will help you connect daily with God’s Word in the new year. Get started at bible.com/reading-plans.

If you’re new to YouVersion, or if you’ve just added a new smartphone or tablet during this holiday season, don’t forget to install the Bible App on all your devices. Visit bible.com/app for a free, easy way to download the app on your mobile platform.

And don’t forget the brand-new Bible App for Kids! Available now at bible.com/kids, it’s also always completely free. Featuring fun animation and engaging storytelling, your children can explore the big stories of the Bible and fall in love with God’s Word.

After all, the first part of Proverbs 26:20 tells us that “without wood, a fire goes out” – so I’m going to make sure my spirit has plenty of fuel to keep burning bright all year, by reading God’s Word to me every day!

Will you join me in reading through the Bible in 2014?

Talking Bible: how you can be highly regarded by God.

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, please do so before reading any further.

(Don’t accuse me of being a legalist, or using ‘works’ to try to gain favor with God)

But as I read Daniel 9:23 in my devotions (later repeated in Daniel 10:11), I realized that “being highly regarded by God” could be more than a blanket statement that applies to everyone in the world because of God’s great love.  In other words, I was curious as to what was it about Daniel that made him highly regarded by God?

I didn’t stay curious for long, because a few facts jumped out at me:

  • Daniel was a student of God’s Word (see Daniel 9:1-2).  There’s a difference between reading & studying, which is why Daniel made discoveries.
  • Daniel applied what he learned by acting on it (see Daniel 9:3)
  • Daniel humbled himself before God (see Daniel 10:12Fasting has a way of knocking the pride out of you!
I’ve got a feeling that if you & I will do those same 3 things (study the Word; apply it to our lives; humble ourselves) that we will always be highly regarded by God!
Does any of this resonate with you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts below-

Talking Bible: you are highly regarded by God!

As you know if you read this blog regularly, I love it when my Bible talks to me, and it sure did yesterday during my devotions.

I was reading Daniel 9 when I came to verse 23, I melted, because I want to be “highly regarded by God”, too!  (I’m guessing we all do!)

Then it dawned on me: I already AM highly regarded by God, and so are you!

HE not only knew you before you were even born (Psa. 139:13-16), and you had a plan for me just like you had for Jeremiah (see 1:5-8) If you don’t believe that, just read Ephesians 1:3-14.

More on this tomorrow…but for now, walk straight & hold your head up high, knowing that YOU are highly regarded by God!

Anybody need to hear that today?  Leave your comments below, please-

Talking Bible: are you on defense?

Reading the well-known story of the 3 servants in Luke 19 today, one phrase jumped out at me, when the third servant said, “Lord, I have successfully preserved the money you gave me.” (Luke 19:20).

Of course, the Master was NOT happy with that servant, and swift judgment followed, because “successfully preserving” is a contradiction of terms in the Kingdom of God, which is always advancing.

We are not called to play defense.  We are not on earth to hold the fort.  If we are not making progress spiritually, we’re actually losing ground.

I know that’s not always true in life.  Last week I had the privilege of playing ping-pong with my friends, Pastors Herley and Joel Montes.  They are each more skilled than me. But when I play ping-pong, I always play defense.  That is, I don’t know how to do any fancy spins or kill shots – I simply return the volley.  And more often than not, that’s enough to win, because my opponent usually beats himself.  (Disclaimer: Herley & Joel both did beat me once, so it doesn’t always work)

But Jesus didn’t save me so I could ‘successfully preserve’ what He gave me.  He saved me so I would invest in others, giving away what I have so freely received, so that others can know Him as well.

So how ’bout it?  Are you playing defense in your Christian life?  Or are you intentionally reaching out to others, investing what God has given you, to make a difference in the world?

Selah.

Talking Bible: visible or invisible?

As I’ve told you, I’m using The Voice as my devotional Bible this year.  It’s helping me to keep the Scriptures fresh as I read through the Bible again, which is why I change translations yearly.  But sometimes it’s unique wording really jumps out at me, and it happened again this week when I read the story of the paralyzed man whose friends got him to Jesus so he could be healed in Luke 5.

But it was verse 20 that grabbed me.  Their faith became visible through their actions.

It made me ask myself: in what way is MY faith visible?

Certainly most, if not all of the people reading this blog are believers.  You have faith in God and His Word.  But the question is, ‘how is your faith visible‘?

I’d love to hear your thoughts below-

Talking Bible: private and public

Something jumped off the page this morning when I read Luke 5:16-17 during my devotions.  Actually I was first struck with verse 16, that Jesus (who was God in human form – who didn’t share my need, but was always my examplerepeatedly left the crowds in order to steal away to pray in private.

I like the crowds.  Especially when the crowds like me.  My ego likes the feeling of popularity; the sense that I have their approval.  My flesh likes to be visible.

But Jesus preferred spending time in secret…in the wilderness….out of sight, where He could fellowship with His Father.

Selah.

Then I read the first sentence of verse 17, and it all made sense.

This brings that. It’s called cause and effect.  Someone smarter than me said “there are no coincidences in the Kingdom of God”

The private prayer of verse 16 brought the public power of verse 17.

Always has; always will.

What will you do about it?

 

He is able!

[Disclaimer: if you’re a CLC’er, you may NOT want to read this, because I will be using it in an future sermon, and I’ll expect you to shout then like you’re hearing it for the first time!]

Pastor Sanford Cooper spoke in one of yesterday’s sessions at the Presence Conf. in Pittsburgh, and quoted one of my all-time favorite verses, Eph. 3:20, but he gave us the ‘back story’ that I didn’t know.

Scholars believe that when Paul said “He is able”, it was a reference to the Greek athletic games.  For instance, when the javelin-throwing contest commenced, the reigning champion would sit on a throne, and each of the contestants would come & present themselves before him.  Then each would take their turn in tossing the javelin.

Finally, it was the champion’s turn, and the crowd would yell repeatedly, “He is able; He is able!”.  It seems that in order for the champion to remain the champion, he not only had to out-do all of the previous contestant’s throw, he also had to surpass his own record from the past!

In that context, Paul says that our God “is able” to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or think!  In other words, our God is not only able to meet your need today, but He can surpass anything He’s done before as well!!!

If that doesn’t light your fire today, your wood is wet.

Hallelujah!

Don’t miss the Message!

My wife is often the voice of the Holy Spirit to me, and last night was the latest example of that.  We were having one of those deep discussions that husbands and wives sometimes share, when she pointed out to me that sometimes we miss a message God has for us because we don’t like the messenger or the way he delivers the message to us.

The lady is profound.

I was still thinking about that this morning, so I looked up a verse that I’ve read many times before (but with fresh eyes today) 1 Thess. 2:13.

Do you see it?

When we receive the message as being from God and not from man, then-and-only-then it becomes God Himself at work in us!

want God to work in me.

I’m NOT gonna miss the message.

Second half

I don’t need to tell you the importance of the second half in football or basketball or, for that matter, most any sporting event.  It’s a time to preserve what happened in the first half or turn around what went wrong in the first or even make a complete comeback.

We’re now in the second half of our 40-day Prayer Adventure at CLC called “Draw the Circle”.  We’ve been reading a daily devotion for the past 21 days.  We’ve engaged each other in 2 of 4 discussion groups.  We’ve heard 3 of 5 Sunday messages.  Most importantly we’ve been circling some promises from God for the last 3 weeks.

Here’s what I want to know:

  • what has God taught you about prayer so far?
  • what prayers have you already seen answered in the last 21 days?
  • what has happened in you during this Prayer Adventure?

Please leave a comment below in response to any or all of those questions – but here’s my final charge:

  • if you haven’t learned what you’d hoped yet, there still 19 days to go – press in!
  • if what you’re circling still hasn’t happened, keep circling!
  • if you can’t tell a difference yet, don’t give up!
The Second Half is most important – let’s see what God will do!
(By the way, this Sunday I’ll be preaching “THINK LONG!” – you don’t want to miss it!)


One day…

I’ve recently been drawn to stories in Scripture that begin with the words, “one day…”. (look at Acts 3:1-10 for a great example).

After all, I’ve seen many people through the years whose lives were changed in one day!

Unfortunately, we’ve not taken time to record those stories at CLC or write them down so that others could be encouraged.  And now as we prepare to launch our NWI campus, we want to do some printed pieces that will inspire many others to be a part of their own ‘One Day’ experience.

Here’s how you can help:

if you have a story of how your life began to be changed in ‘One Day’ (perhaps on one of your first visits to CLC)especially if God used one or more of our wonderful volunteers to make that possible in your life, we want to hear from you!

For example, maybe you were nervous or apprehensive when you first visited CLC, but one of our greeters made you feel so much at home that you were able to enter into the service and receive from God’s Word or be touched by the Holy Spirit.

Or perhaps it was an usher’s kindness in helping you find a seat…..OR a children’s minister who touched you by the way they served your child…..OR one of our First Touch volunteers who welcomed you and answered your questions after service…..OR, well, you get the picture.

All of those would make a great story for us to pass on to prospects at our NWI campus when it opens next month.

If you have a story of your ‘One Day’ experience, please email me with details now.  Your story just might make an eternal difference for someone far from God, when they experience their own ‘One Day’ moment.

Hope to hear from YOU!

 

What’s YOUR Jericho?

It’s almost a full-day later, but I can’t get yesterday’s message off my mind.  (Sometimes it’s more than a sermon; it really is a ‘word’ from the Lord!)

Let me repeat the principle from yesterday, as found in Ezek. 36:37:

  • God makes a promise (His WILL for us)
  • Next, He waits for us to ask Him for it.
  • Then He answers our prayer by performing His will!

I asked that we all pray for the NWI launch and for the Matteson building we want to acquire, and especially for Acts 2:46-47 to be fulfilled at CLC….but this prayer adventure is also about YOU receiving from God.

So what promise(s) are YOU asking Him for this week?  Do you have a:

  • ‘chapter & verse’ promise from the Word?
  • a prophetic word that is yet unfulfilled?
  • a ‘whisper’ or impression from the Holy Spirit you’re believing for?

I’d love to join my faith & prayer WITH you this week, so if you’re willing to share the promise that you’re circling below, I’ll stand in agreement with you.

Don’t forget: there’s a Circle Maker Group Discussion tonight at 7pm in the Youth Auditorium led by Pastor Tony Gilmore-

This 40-day prayer adventure is going to change CLC!

Stand in the GAP!

We’re only on Day 3 of our 40-day Prayer Adventure, “Draw the Circle”, and I’m so excited I can’t stand it!  I don’t believe in coincidences, especially where prayer is involved, but yesterday afternoon I received a phone call about an exciting development that I’ve personally been praying for almost daily over the last 11 months!  Prayer works!

Since I won’t have time to share everything this Sunday, I want to leave one verse with you now: Ezekiel 22:30.  If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, you’ve probably heard this verse before – but here’s 3 truths I’ve seen afresh this week:

  • To stand in the gap (a breach in the wall) is to bar the intruder!  May we as a Church and as individuals rise up & stand our ground to tell the enemy, “ENOUGH!”
  • When you stand in that gap, you become a door, or perhaps better-said, an usher who can help other inside to safety and protection.  At CLC, we have the privilege of helping others gain access to what God has for them – and we do it thru prayer!
  • Finally, it seems to me that the ‘GAP’ can refer to the very real gap between what God has promised and what we are experiencing.  In other words, most of us are living beneath the privileges & promises that God has made to us, but we can stand in that gap by praying those promises into existence, “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”!
If you haven’t joined us on our 40-day adventure yet, jump in now!  Order your copy of Draw the Circle from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or, if you prefer the paperback, perhaps at your local Family Christian bookstore.  And don’t miss THIS Sunday when we’ll explore, “What’s Your Jericho?”
I can’t wait!

Talking Bible

I say it often, because I sincerely mean it: I love it when my Bible talks to me!

As I was reading in Titus 3, this passage caught me (verses 2-3):

“Be truly humble toward everyone because there was a time when we, too, were foolish, rebellious, and deceived—we were slaves to sensual cravings and pleasures; and we spent our lives being spiteful, envious, hated by many, and hating one another”

As I reflected on the sad/sobering reality of that statement about my past (yours, too?), the next verse jumped off the page at me: “but then something happened!”

Think about the times in your life when you felt all alone in your mess…..but then something happened!

Think about times in your life when you were so confused, you didn’t know which way to turn…..but then something happened!

Think about times when you were so overwhelmed with problems or challenges, financial or relationship or whatever, that you honestly didn’t see any way out, but then something happened!

What happened?

You know.  “God our Savior and His overpowering love and kindness for humankind entered your world;” and things have been different ever since!

I’m gonna stop right there, but if you want to hear the rest of the story, read the next few verses.

I’m so glad something happened!

When do you hear God?

Or maybe I should say, “How do you hear God?”

I’m guessing there are as many different ways as there are people, but I’ve identified a few in my life and I’m curious as to whether your experience is similar:

  • my most common way is while reading the Bible during my morning devotional time.  (I’m guessing that’s simply because I’m taking the time & giving God an opportunity to speak to my heart.  My theory is that the Holy Spirit is always ‘broadcasting’; it’s just that I’m not always ‘tuning in’.
  • I also hear God sometimes during my prayer time.  This one isn’t nearly as predictable; sometimes my prayer time seems more like one-way communication.  But I love it when I hear this voice in my spirit as I pray.
  • One of my most-often ways of hearing God is when I’m listening to other people.  (Guess that’s not so amazing, since we are the ‘body of Christ’, huh?)  Today during my morning walk (I’m not ambitious enough to run, but I do want to stick around for several more years, so I’m walking 2 miles a day around our subdivision) I heard from the Lord as I listened to a podcast of Pastor Mike Hayes.  As I did, it reminded me of a verse I read just last week in my devotions: Titus 1:3.  How amazing (and humbling) to realize that God releases His word into the world through preaching!

I’m sure there are other ways.  Tell me, how do YOU hear from God (leave your comment below, please)

Talking Bible, part 2

Yesterday I posted about David’s request for guidance from the Lord about a battle against the Philistines.

But my Bible continued to speak to me a few verses later, as David needed guidance about the same kind of situation again (read 1Chron. 14:13-15).  Here’s what my Bible said to me as I read:

  • Just because you’ve been in this situation before doesn’t mean that you are to use the same approach!
  • Really, I need to seek guidance every day!
  • God’s promise is that HE is already going before me!

The Bible is full of examples of how He ‘works on both ends of the line’, and while He’s talking to you about witnessing to someone or stepping out in faith to take a certain action, He’s also preparing that person’s heart or opening a door on your behalf!
God is already working there before I get there.
Selah.

Talking Bible

I love how HE speaks while I’m reading Scripture.  In 1Chron. 14:10 David was praying for guidance and asked the Lord to “assure” him of victory.  But when God replied, HE did even better, as He assured David that He would “ensure” a victory.

Do you know the difference?  Check it out here.

David was just looking for a verbal promise; God said, “I’ll make sure you win!”

Somehow I think that’s a ‘word’ for someone reading this today.  Maybe you’ve been reluctant to step out in obedience to something you believe you should do, and you’re wanting some kind of assurance or nudge from God about it.  His assurance is that HE will ensure your success!

If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you try today?

Selah.

Talking Bible: Insecurity in Leaders

Love it when my Bible talks to me, even when I’m on vacation!

As I was doing my devotional reading, I noticed 2Sam. 19:22, especially the last sentence in the verse: Don’t I know that today I am the king of Israel?

David was addressing some of his leaders who wanted him to take revenge on Shimei, who had cursed the king in his lowest moment (see 2Sam 16:5-14when his son had rebelled against him, threatening his very kingdom, and forced David to flee in shame.

But instead of relishing easy revenge on Shimei, David addressed a core leadership issue of insecurity by simply saying, in essence, “Don’t I know who I am? I don’t need to ‘prove’ my leadership or satisfy my ego or ‘make a statement’ that is self-centered at best and arrogant at worst by taking an unnecessary action against someone who wronged me.

Insecurity will make leaders do a lot of things we really shouldn’t do.

David was a great example to me and every leader reading this post because he knew who he was & he had nothing to prove.

But I noticed more in the verse, because he didn’t say, “Don’t I know that I am king?”; he said, “Don’t I know that today I am king of Israel?”

See, it’s good to be secure in your calling.  It’s good to know who you are.  But it’s also important to know that your position is not given to you perpetually.

There will be a day when you step aside for the next leader.  There will be a time when God has something else for you.

So don’t take your position for granted.

Be secure in who you are for now.  Maximize the moment.  Lead with confidence.  But recognize that your position is a privilege!

Selah.

The Bible is now an App

We showed a video last Sunday morning, but I want to reach out one more time to encourage you with a new tool that can help you in your daily walk with the Lord.  It’s called “You Version” – take a look.

Now get this: YouVersion was released almost 5 years ago, and it’s already coming up on 100 million downloads around the world!  That’s a LOT of people who are now able to access the Scriptures in their language.

And you might be surprised at who some of those people are, as this clip shows.

The most amazing thing about all of this to me is that LifeChurch.tv spent a ton of money to create this App and make it available to the world free of charge!  I’ve met Craig Groeschel and some of his team, and you won’t find more gracious or more generous people anywhere.  So today I say congrats to Pastor Craig & the team at LifeChurch.tv and THANK YOU that the Bible is now an App!

Talking Bible

You know by now that my Bible often talks to me (and that I love it when that happens!).

But I don’t think I’ve ever read a single verse that was SO pregnant with life-changing truth in practically every word.

I plead with you not to read it if you’re in a hurry….wait until you have time to savor each word of this verse, in The Voice translation that I’m using for my devotions this year:

1 Corinthians 1:18

I see about 10 different truths that could be emphasized in this one verse.  Which one stands out to you the most?

Talking Bible…..maybe you need to try AGAIN!

Love it when my Bible talks to me….and it did last week.

I was reading Judges 20 when all of a sudden I really noticed verses 11-28.  It’s really pretty astonishing:

  • twice God specifically instructed Israel to go into battle knowing that they would lose!  
  • He did that despite their sincere weeping as they asked for guidance! (v23)
  • In fact, He had given them specific ‘words’ about who was to lead the battle (v18)
  • The second time they lost we’re told they went ‘in obedience to God’! (vv24-25)
  • At that point, they were willing to give up, but they asked guidance again (vv26-28)
  • This time, HE promised them victory, and it happened!

I’ll be honest: I don’t understand why God would give specific instructions to go up in battle when He knew they would be defeated. I can’t find an explanation in Scripture.

But I was encouraged as the Bible spoke to me!  I was encouraged that just because I’ve prayed for stuff that I thought God was going to answer, and it didn’t happen then, doesn’t mean that it’s never going to happen!  Maybe I just need to ask/try again!

Does that speak to you?  

Have you failed a couple of times and thought maybe you should give up?  Think again.  Maybe the next time has the promise: “I will give you victory”

Selah.

 

Remembering the stories!

can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a series more than this one!

But, honestly, this week has been the toughest, because we’re winding down, with only three weeks left in the series, and I’m having a really, really hard time choosing which stories to highlight.

This week I presented four different stories to our pastoral team; one was SO good we decided to make it into a series of it’s own.  Another we put on the back burner.  But the final two are SO good I can’t decide – seems like when I pray the Lord is just saying, “I’ll bless both of them – my Word never returns void!

So I’ll ask you: do you deal more with impatience & feelings of pressure, OR would you benefit more from a discussion of how to respond to opportunities that come your way?

Leave a comment below – you just may get to choose this week’s message.

P.S.  Either way, it’s gonna be GOOD – so invite a friend to join you!

#morechangedlives

So many needs; such a BIG God!

Just got into the office after spending time in the prayer room this morning, praying over the Connection cards from last Sunday.  I do this every week, but today was different.  

I was really moved to tears this morning by the many needs represented from just one Sunday: people facing cancer & other serious health challenges; people struggling financially; couples headed toward divorce; parents whose children are going astray; families dealing with grief after losing loved ones, and on and on it went.  So much pain; so many needs.

Honestly, it would have been overwhelming were it not for the fact that I was able to take all those needs to such a BIG God!  So thankful that I don’t have to have all the answers; but I know the One who does!  HE is the Healer; HE is the Provider; He is the Lover and the Father and the Comforter and More – HE is simply Everything we need!

Whatever you’re dealing with today, I hope you’ll look to HIM.

Talking Bible…..talking women

I think I finally heard it.

I know my Bible talked to me this morning in my devotions, when I read Numbers 35 (which discusses the difference between murder & accidental death and how society should respond to both) and came to verse 33.  (Other translations get right to the point: NLT and The Message, for example.)

The message I ‘heard’ wasn’t about capital punishment; it was the idea that if innocent bloodshed pollutes the very land itself, what does that say about Chicagoland, with the thousands of innocent babies aborted and the senseless violence that sheds the blood of innocent children and teens.  Have we not contaminated the very land where we live?

Perhaps the reason this really got my attention is that early this morning I read an email from a CLC’er who has likewise been burdened for months about the senseless slaughter of our youth on the streets of Chicago.  She was the third woman from CLC (all unknown to the others) who has reached out to me in the last year about this issue.  In effect, they’ve all been saying, we may live here in the suburbs, but this is what’s happening in our city, and we’ve GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Ladies, I’ve heard you.

Holy Spirit, I’ve heard you.

CLC, stay tuned.  We’re about to do something about it.

Are you with me?