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:

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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).

EGYPTIAN GODS

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?

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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”?

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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?

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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?

Remembering the Story WORKS!

I’ve told you before how pumped I am about our current series, “Remember the Story”, but I’ve gotta tell you, after taking a week’s break last Sunday, I’m just as excited as before! (Maybe hearing our team remember the stories of Jehoshaphat and Jonathan had something to do with that!)

This Sunday Chris & I will be team-teaching from one of the most familiar ‘Sunday School’ stories in the Old Testament, but as we’ve prepared this week I’ve seen truths that no Sunday School teacher ever taught me!  Best of all, just as we saw in 1Cor. 10, this story will remind us of the supernatural as well as warn us AND encourage us!

We can’t wait to share with you WHY we all need to remember the story of…..well, I think I’ll let you wait until Sunday morning to find out which story we’ll look at together.

Don’t forget our NEW service schedule: 8:30am, 10:00am & 12noon.  Invite a friend!

#morechangedlives

Talking Bible

Love it when verses jump off the page at me during my daily Bible reading.  (Disclaimer: it doesn’t always happen; honestly, it probably doesn’t even happen every week, but I love it whenever it does!)

Yesterday as I was reading Psalm 17, verse 14jumped out.  Actually, it wasn’t even the whole verse, it was this part: “But as for those You cherish, may they feast on all You have set aside for them”.  Think about it with me:

  • God cherishes me.  And you!  He doesn’t tolerate us; He doesn’t just love us (like He loves the entire world); He cherishes us! (that word describes ‘doing whatever is necessary to take care of someone)
  • HE wants me to feast (somehow that sounds better than just grabbing a bite)
  • HE has already set aside good food for me!

This was David’s prayer, but I’m making it my own.  I don’t want to live beneath my privileges any more!  And according to this verse (and a whole bunch more) God has already set aside some privileges just for me (it’s called FAVOR) and I want to feast on that, instead of settling for some empty calories at the nearest spiritual fast-food joint.

How ’bout you?

If that prayer speaks to you, I’d love to hear your comments below-

Remember the Story!

SO excited about CLC’s next sermon series which kicks-off THIS Sunday in Tinley Park!

As many of you know, I try to use a different translation each year for my daily devotional thru-the-Bible reading, and this year I purchased a somewhat-strange new translation called, “The Voice”.   As I read 1Corinthians 10 a few weeks ago, where Paul recounted some of Israel’s history, he said “remember the story!”, and those 3 words jumped off the page at me!

He gave us at least 2 good reasons for us to remember: (1) to warn us not to make the same mistakes they did; and (2) to encourage us that what God did for them, HE can do for us!

Too many of today’s believers don’t know the stories that many of us grew up with in Sunday School – David & Goliath, Samson & Delilah, Israel crossing the Red Sea, & more.  But for the next several weeks we’re going to dust off the pages of the Old Testament and help you discover WHY you must remember the story!

I hope you’ll invite a friend to join you THIS Sunday.

More changed lives!

Can’t wait!

Day 10, Prayer & Fasting

It’s the last day of our Corporate Fast!  (Don’t shout me down, now)

Before we finish and celebrate together at CLC’s Worship Night at 7pm, let me ask a few questions:

  • What was your goal as you began the fast?  Did you make significant progress?
  • Did you have some specific prayer requests that you personally wanted answered?
  • Have you tried the Media Fast?  Did you replace some of the time normally spent with TV by reading the Word?

Regardless of your answers, here’s my suggestion: let’s press in today.  If you haven’t reached your goal or seen the answers to your prayers, keep it before the Lord today and come expecting tonight AND this weekend at our First Love Conference!

If you did a Media Fast, what do you feel you’ve learned about yourself?  How has the Lord dealt with you during this time?  Most importantly, what changes should you make going forward in your entertainment choices?

It’s been my experience for many years that MOST of the breakthrough’s I want to receive from fasting do NOT happen until AFTER the fast has ended.  I know that’s not true for everyone, every time, but it’s usually been true for me.

That’s why I’m coming to First Love this Saturday, Sunday & Monday with great expectations!  I hope you’ll do everything possible to make as many of those services as you can – because I believe you’ll be rewarded.

Today’s reading is 2 Cor. 1-4

Day 9, Prayer & Fasting

As we move into the next-to-last day of our Corporate Fast, I want to encourage you with something that jumped out in my reading yesterday:

1Cor. 10:10 and 1Cor. 10:13 in the new “Voice” translation I’m using for my devotions this year both inspired me: the first part of verse 10 says, “You need to stop your groaning and whining.  Remember the story.”  I think we may do a series on “remember the story” at CLC, because I was encouraged to know that what God has done in the past, HE is still doing today – so I can be warned or encouraged just by paying attention to the Bible stories I’ve known since childhood!

Then verse 13 says, “Any temptation you face will be nothing new”.

Somebody has overcome this before me!

Remember the story today!

Our reading for today is 1 Cor. 13-16

Day 8, Prayer & Fasting

Today is the beginning of the last 3 days of our 10-day corporate fast.  Let’s finish strong.

In fact, 3 days in Scripture was often a significant period of time – it’s mentioned over 25 times in the Bible, with Jesus’ burial & resurrection being the most notable.  But one of the earliest references to fasting is found in Esther 4:16, where she prescribed a 3-day fast in order to save her people from the enemy.

In my ministry background, the most common corporate fast was to push away from the table for 3 days in order to seek the Lord.

So, whether you’ve been a part of this fast from the beginning or you’re just now joining us, and whether you’ve chosen a Daniel fast (vegetarian) or a water/juice fast or whatever sacrifice you’re making for these 3 days, let’s press our way in, drawing closer to the Lord even as we disconnect from the world & the desires of our flesh – and see what God will do as a result! I can’t wait for Wednesday’s Worship Night to celebrate the end of the fast!

Our reading today is from 1Corinthians 9-12.

 

Day 7, Prayer & Fasting

We’re focused now….the best part of the Fast is just ahead!

In my Bible reading this week, one passage especially jumped out at me from ‘The Voice’ translation that I’m using for my devotions this year.  It’s from Genesis 20 when King Abimelech of Gerar has taken Sarah into his harem, but has not had sexual relations with her yet, when God warns him of impending judgment since she is Abraham’s wife.

Abimelech protests that he didn’t know, since Sarah & Abraham both told him that she was his sister.

Verse 6 is what grabbed me, when God answered Abimelech: “Yes, I know you did this with integrity in your heart.  It was I who prevented you from crossing the line.  I protected you from yourself by not letting you touch her.”

Maybe that last line got to me because I know I need it so badly: I need the Lord to protect me from myself!  (I suspect I’m not alone there)

As we continue our fast, I’m sure the Holy Spirit is exposing some areas of our life where we are weak & prone to sin.  Instead of just asking the Lord to protect us from ourselves, let’s thank Him that He has done that, but let’s also follow the next verse:

 “Now do the right thing.  Return the man’s wife.  He is one of My prophets. He will pray and intercede for you, and you will live.  But if you do not give her back, I assure you, you will die – you and everyone associated with you.”

Get it?  Be thankful for His mercy that has no doubt protected us many times from ourselves – but now that HE is showing us some of the areas of concern, let’s do the right thing.  That’s a good prayer point for 2013.

Our Bible reading today is 1Corinthians 5-8.

Day 6, Prayer & Fasting

I’m using a new and very different translation of the Bible for my devotions this year (too early to say if I’m going to enjoy it or not).  But a passage from yesterday’s reading really did jump out at me, because it describes in large part what our fasting effort is all about:

Romans 13:14 – “Instead, wrap yourselves in the Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed, and do not fuel your sinful imagination by indulging your self-seeking desire for the pleasures of the flesh.

Wow.  WOW.  That’s incredibly succinct as to WHY the Media Fast may be even more important than the Food Fast.

So much of what we do serves to “fuel” or feed our flesh & it’s desires for pleasure.  For the next 5 days, I really want to wrap myself in the Lord Jesus instead.  All of this is fueling in me a GREAT expectation for what God is going to do during our First Love Conference.

But before then, I wanna see what HE does tomorrow in all 4 services – are you with me?

Today’s reading is 1Corinthians 1-4.

Day 5, Prayer & Fasting

Hey, we’re HALF-WAY there!

I know we’re probably not supposed to be focused on that, but I thought it might encourage some of you who may have struggled with your flesh thus far.

One thing that several of our pastors have noticed, as a dear friend in ministry also mentioned to me by phone yesterday, is that fasting exposes all kinds of stuff we didn’t know were in us!  So if you’ve found yourself snapping at people, irritable or grumpy, etc. – it may not just be that you’re hungry; it may be something in you that the Holy Spirit is bringing to your attention now that you are submitting your flesh to your spirit!

That’s a huge part of what fasting is, you know: letting our body know that it’s not in charge – but that our spirit is.  As we deny our flesh of the food it so loves, we are simultaneously strengthening our spirit, which positions us to hear from and receive from God.

Personally, I can’t wait for what God is going to do among us during our First Love Conference next weekend!  In fact, I urge every CLCer to make every effort to attend as many of the sessions as humanly possible – even taking time off work on Monday if you don’t have M.L. King Day as a paid holiday.

I also want to point out that the Conference begins Saturday morning at 9am, and the two sessions on Saturday (9am and 5pm) are your best chance to get a prophetic word from God, since Prophet Alan Ross will be ministering all day.  So be greedy and plan to attend those opening sessions before we even get to Sunday!

Today’s reading is Romans 13-16.

Day 4, Prayer & Fasting

Boy, nothing helps a fast like a Corporate Night of Prayer & Praise!

I spent the first 3 days of the fast grumbling to myself about no food & no media, but last night’s service sure reminded me of why we do this!  As I prayed, I recalled that almost everyone in Scripture who fasted did so not because it was ‘that time of the year’ or because it was a doctrine, but simply because they were desperate for a breakthrough in some area of their life!

I truly believe we saw some breakthrough’s last night.  I know that some CLCers experienced some fearsother chains broken off of them, and they testified of it!

On this 4th day of the past, let’s press in for what we need personally: what is it that you’ve been asking & believing for, but your answer has been delayed?  Fasting can break the logjam in the heavenlies and speed your answer to you!  (see Daniel 10)

Today’s reading is Romans 10-12.

Day 3, Prayer & Fasting

Three things I’ve learned in 45 years of fasting (not consecutively; occasionally!):

1.  It’s not fun.  No matter how many books I’ve read, how much Scripture encourages it, or how many Christian leaders challenge me to do it, fasting is always drudgery.  I like to eat.  I suspect you do, too.

2.  It helps to do it together!  I could say that’s because misery loves company, but honestly, there’s something about unity that definitely makes my attempt to do without food easier.  (I didn’t say ‘easy’, but ‘easier’)

3.  Worship definitely helps!

So probably the single-best thing you can do to help you with this 3rd day of your fast (which experts say is usually the toughest day) is to come to CLC tonight at 7pm for a time of corporate prayer & worship that will lift us all from thoughts about our stomachs into the heavenlies, and maybe give us insights that will keep us going for the next 7 days!

Don’t forget to read Romans 7-9 today.

Day 2, Prayer & Fasting

Fasting while sick was a new experience for me….hoping that your experience yesterday was better than mine, and that you’re already hearing from God during this season we’ve set aside to draw closer to Him.

Today we’re reading Romans 4-6 as we continue our Media Fast, replacing the world’s input with God’s Word.

Please share your insights & thoughts with all of us below-

Day 1, Prayer & Fasting

The first day of any extended fast is always a mixed-bag for me: the anticipation of what God is going to do and speak to me during this time of consecration, but the difficulty of bringing my body’s appetites under control, especially on the first day (for you new ‘fast-ers’, it does get easier as you go along).

As we’ve seen before, the primary purpose of fasting is to help us disconnect from the world, so that we can reconnect with the Holy Spirit in prayer.  So on this first day of our corporate fast, I challenge you to spend meaningful time in prayer – especially in conversational prayer where you simply open your heart to the Lord and allow Him to speak to you about you.

That’s also why I’m especially excited about our MEDIA fast during these 10 days, for as we disconnect electronically, we are making room for the Holy Spirit to speak to us in new and fresh ways.

Don’t be surprised if He talks to you through today’s reading in the Epistles: Romans 1-4.

If you receive insights or impressions from the Lord that you can share, please do so in the comments section below-

Moving on…

The last day of 2012.  The end of another year.  

I’m sure I don’t speak for all of you, but I’m ready to move on.

As a pastor, I’m always ready to move on after the holidays, to get back into a routine, to start building some momentum again, to see people return to prayer, to church, to ministry.

But it’s more this time.  Maybe it’s Phil. 3:13-14.  Maybe it’s just the pragmatic conclusion that, ‘ready or not’, another new year is here, and it’s time to move on.

This much I know: I want to be better in 2013.  I want to work smarter.  I want to love more. I want to laugh more.  I want to give more.  I want to trust God more.

It’s time to move on.

The WONDER of it all

Isaiah 9:6 is one of the most familiar prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament:”…and his name shall be called Wonderful…”

Wonderful.  Wonder – full.  Full of Wonder.

The dictionary says that word means “1:exciting wonder : marvelous, astonishing;  <a sight wonderful to behold> 2: unusually good : admirable.

Sometimes in the hustle & bustle of these December days, with the over-filled schedules of Christmas parties, holiday get-togethers, and one-more-thing-to-do, along with the traffic near any shopping center & the financial pressures of one more gift to buy, it’s easy for us to forget what it’s all about.

Don’t lose sight today of the wonder of it all.  Think of it: the GOD of all creation, creator of heaven & earth, came to our world in the form of a helpless, innocent baby.  The GOD of the Bible was incarnated through the womb of a virgin.  That’s a wonder.

Most importantly, HE did it so He could experience all that it is to be human (except the sin), in order to eventually give His life for us, that we might live.  He became a man, so that we could become like Him.  That’s a wonder.

Take a moment today to thank HIM for the wonder of it all.

 

Talking Bible

It’s amazing the stuff you read in Scripture that you had never noticed before, even if you read it 50 times in the past.  That’s what happened in my devotions this morning when I read Hosea 1:2.

Here’s what struck me: this is when the Lordfirst spoke through Hosea.  Selah.

In other words, Hosea didn’t have a lot of experience in hearing the voice of God; in fact, he didn’t have ANY previous experience – this was the first time God had spoken through him.  (I suppose we could surmise that God had spoken to him in the past, but not through him, but that’s pure speculation).

AND when the Lord first spoke through him, it was to say, “Go marry a prostitute”.

I’ll be honest.  If I was Hosea’s pastor and he told me what God had said, I would tell him that he had not heard from God, because God wouldn’t tell any man of God to marry a prostitute.  But I would have been wrong.

My point today is not to validate the wacky stuff that people sometimes ascribe to God; I still believe that many of the conversations I’ve had with people who “played the God-card” were off-base and they only imagined they had heard from Him.

BUT, reading Hosea 1:2 sure made me hunger (a) to really hear God speak in my life; and (b) to be confident & secure enough in what I hear that I don’t question, but only obey!

As a side note, if you read the rest of his story, you know that just because you hear from God doesn’t mean you won’t have to experience hard times, but it did work out over the long haul.  I think I needed to be reminded of that today.

Does any of this speak to you?

good old Bible stories

Everybody loves a good story.

But I think those of us who grew up learning Bible stories in Sunday School have an advantage that many of today’s Christians don’t share.  For the last week or so, as I’ve been reading the book of Daniel in my daily devotions, it seems like one story after the other jumped out to remind me of God’s faithfulness and even of sermons I’ve heard thru the years from these wonderful passages:

  • Daniel 1:3-20 > God can give FAVOR!
  • Daniel 2:12-19 > God answers prayer!
  • Daniel 3:14-18 (maybe my favorite) > God IS able, and He will deliver, “but IF NOT” we’ll still be faithful!  (c’mon somebody, that’ll preach!)
  • Daniel 3:22-25 > 3 men bound, but now 4 men walking (I heard one preacher say God made it so cold in that furnace they had to walk around to keep warm!)
  • Daniel 3:27 > they came thru this trialwithout even the smell of smoke on them- God is able to deliver us in such a way that we’re NOT affected for the rest of our lives – no smell of smoke lingering on us!
  • Daniel 4:27-37 > Wow!  Let’s not ever forget this lesson: those who walk in pride HE is able to humble”!
  • Daniel 6:10-27 > Double WOW!  I love these stories!
  • Daniel 9:2 > Wisdom comes to us from reading the Book (in Daniel’s case, it was reading Jeremiah’s prophecies; in our case, it’s reading the Bible!)

I hope this whetted your appetite today.

The stories get better as we continue our sermon series, “3 Christmas Stories”, so invite a friend to join you this week as we look at Christmas from Mary’s perspective!

Talking Bible

Early Sunday morning before service, my Bible spoke to me from Psalm 109:1.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  David is asking God not to be silent.  We’ve all prayed that in one way or another.

But look again.  The God he addresses is the God of his praise.

Selah.

Here’s the $64,000 question: is the God of your praise the God of the Bible?  That is, does my praise truly describe the God revealed in Scripture?

I can tell you already that it doesn’t – because all of us fall short of His magnificence.  But could we at least make that our goal?

In my early years, my praise consisted primarily of “Thank you, Jesus…..Hallelujah….thank you, Jesus…..Hallelujah!”  Thankfully, my vocabulary has expanded thru the years, and I can now lift Him up with more than those two expressions.  But today my heart is stirred to go deeper (or higher, depending on your perspective), and make the ‘God of my praise’ more like the God of the Bible.

Does that resonate with you?  Let’s exalt His Name together!

Talking Bible…and a prayer to pray

I love it when verses jump off the page at me, but I haven’t shared any in a while.  This weekend, as I was reading the Psalms, verse 24 of chapter 105 spoke to me.

I was blessed to read that the Lord made his people very fruitful AND that HE made them stronger than their foes.  C’mon, that’s good news!

But as I meditated, it quickly became a two-fold prayer that I am praying.  I’m praying this for CLC.  I’m praying it for my family.  I’m praying it for my ministry.  I’m praying it for all the pending contingencies on our proposed Matteson campus.  And now I’m encouraging you to join me in praying these 2 prayers:

  • “Lord, make us (your people) very fruitful”  (feel free to elaborate in your prayer times)
  • “Lord, make us stronger than our foes”(and since we don’t war against flesh & blood, I’m really praying that HE would make us strongerthan any of the enemies strategies or devices – that no weapon formed against us would prosper & that we would prosper in everything He sets before us!)

Praying the Word works!  Try it & see for yourself-

Did that speak to anyone besides me?  I’d love to hear from you below-

talking Bible

I love it when my Bible speaks to me during my devotions, and it happened again today as I was reading the familiar story in Jeremiah 18:1-6, especially as I read verse 2 in the ESV.

Did you catch it?  God said to Jeremiah, “Go to the potter’s house and there I will let you hear my words”!

May we never forget what an awesome privilege it is to hear God’s Word!  It IS a privilege, when you consider:

  • who are we, that the Creator of the Universe would stoop down to talk to us? (see Psalm 8:3-4)
  • why should WE get to hear the Word when SO MANY in our world have never had that opportunity? (as we heard from James Chacko of India last night – people in our world who have never even heard the name of Jesus!)
  • Besides the fact that we live in a Christian nation & have access to Bibles in a myriad of translations, with Christian literature, radio & TV daily, 1Sam. 3:1 is still somewhat true for many people.

I’m thankful today that God does speak to me.  How ’bout you?  In fact, if you’ve heard Him lately, why not share it below – let’s encourage one another with the Word today!

Why are we praying for America?

Last week I announced that CLC is participating in a 40-day Prayer Emphasis leading up to the national elections on November 6.  Some have wondered why or at least why now?  Why should we pray for this particular election?

One of the leading Hispanic voices in the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, Samuel Rodriguez, answers that as well as anyone I know.  He says, We have never spiritually been down the road we find ourselves in as a nation. From abortion on demand to the diluting of the basic definition of marriage to the government requiring religious organizations to offer contraception and abortion services via the HHS Mandate to even a political party extracting any mention of God from the platform, we have never been down this road before. Never ever, ever have we been down this road before.

In my opinion, our No. 1 issue is not the economy or the economic malaise. Our issues are moral relativism, spiritual apathy, cultural decadence and a lukewarm church.” 

I couldn’t agree more.  The answer to what America needs will not be found in the donkey or the elephant…..neither President Obama nor Governor Romney has a solution to what ails us.  But there IS a God in heaven, and HE gave us a promise in 2Chron 7:14 that I’m claiming in my own prayer times between now and November 6.  I hope you’ll join me.

Talking Bible

It’s been a while since I posted something that spoke to me from Scripture, but a tidbit from one of the EQUIP lessons we taught in Russia last week really got me: Phil. 4:13.

I know; I know – you’ve known that verse since you were a kid.  So have I.

But what I hadn’t considered before last week is that Philippians is one of the “Prison Epistles”, so-called because Paul wrote it from a Roman prison.  Not only that, but he was personally chained to a Roman guard with an 18″ chain from his wrist to the guard’s wrist, 24/7!  The normal procedure was to change his guard every 6 hours, so 4 different men would be tethered to him in the course of a day.

(When I was in Bible college back around 1970, my instructor said that church legend has it that in Paul’s case, his guard was changed every hour, because the Romans learned that if a guard was attached to him for more than an hour, Paul would get him converted!)

Think about it for a moment: imagine having a heathen guard 18 inches away, all day, every day, every minute of the day.  No privacy for devotions, worship, anything.  Yet Paul didn’t complain (Phil 4:11-12), but actually boasted of how God was providing for Him & would likewise care for us! (Phil 4:18-19)

And, while I can’t verify the Bible college story about the changing of his guards, he did tell us that some of the Imperial Guard of the Roman military were now fellow members of the body of Christ, which makes me wonder if he was responsible for their conversion! (see Phil. 4:21-22)

I don’t think I’ll ever say, “I can do all things through Christ” so nonchalantly again.

Sunday night with Daniel Kolenda

How do I describe last night’s “Miracle Service” with Daniel Kolenda?

First, if I hadn’t known that Daniel was the successor to Reinhard Bonnke, I would have nominated him for that position.  He reminded me so much of Reinhard, with his bold delivery, his brash faith, even the intensity of his pulpit mannerisms – not to mention the wonderful subject that he proclaimed so well to us last night – “the power of the BLOOD of Jesus!”

As he reminded us, it’s a shame that we American pastors so seldom speak of the blood and the cross upon which Jesus purchased our salvation, and last night was certainly ‘old school’, but what an important ‘school’ that we must never graduate from!

I’m thankful for at least 4 adults who came to Jesus for salvation afterwards, along with many who crowded the altar area to fully commit themselves to the Lord.

And the demonstration of Jesus’ healing power afterwards was the atmosphere I live for, with several people visibly healed on stage and numerous others throughout the congregation.

Here’s the passage that’s on my mind this Labor Day – Hebrews 4:10-11.

Our role today is to rest in what Jesus has already done by placing our faith in His finished work and believe Him to manifest all that He has promised.  I plan to do that tonight at 6pm and I hope you’ll join me!  Better yet, bring someone with you who needs a healing or miracle from God and let’s come expecting!

Growing & Receiving the Word

Well, it took me 4 tries over 7 weeks, but we finished our midweek Bible study last night, the one I feel was the most important I’ve ever done.

The anointing on each Wednesday was wonderful, and you can place your order if you want the complete set of CD’s for $15 – just place your order here.

And if you need the finished outline with answer key, here it is:

Growing thru Receiving Word_part 4

For the next 3 midweek services, I’m going to answer YOUR questions, and you can submit them by completing the form below, or by filling out one of the yellow forms in the seatbacks this Sunday and placing in the offering bucket:

You Asked For It

It’s gonna be fun!

Hey, don’t forget the next installment of “God@the Movies” is THIS Sunday, with the delightful animated ‘Cars 2’!  Believe me, it’s FULL of great life-lessons for adults & children alike, so invite a friend to be your guest!