#BlackLivesMatter

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

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

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

I couldn’t agree more.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Lessons from the IL Governor’s race

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

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

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

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

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

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

How MATURE are you?

mature audiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Restoration!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Ferguson and churches like CLC…

Mother of Michael Brown during a news conference in Ferguson, MO

Mother of Michael Brown during a press conference in Ferguson, MO

You’d have to live in a cave to not be aware of what’s been happening in Ferguson, MO for the past week.  The tragic shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown has not only captured the attention of all the news media, it has also reminded us that we haven’t made as much progress in race relations as we sometimes think.  There is a racial divide in this nation, and it’s ugly, mean and devilish.

But it’s not at all unlike the world into which Jesus came.  Then, the divide wasn’t so much based on skin pigmentation; it was Jew (God’s chosen) versus Gentile (heathens).  It’s been said that “In the mind of a first-century Jew, Gentiles (Africans, Romans, Greeks, Syrians, Asians, etc.) were created to fuel the fires of hell. When a Jew called a Gentile “uncircumcised,” he spit it. It was a name of profound contempt.”

If a Jew married a Gentile, the Jewish parents held a funeral service for their child. In their eyes, their child was dead.

On the flip side, Gentiles regarded Jews to be subhuman. Historically, the Jews have been an oppressed people, living under the thumb of one Gentile nation after another (e.g., Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome).

In all of human history, there has never been so much animosity, hatred, and violence between two groups of people as there has been between the Jew and the Gentile.

But Jesus came into that world with a message that transformed people.  He did that by His death on the Cross as we read in Ephesians 2:14-16.  Notice: He made peace between Jew & Gentile, removing the hostility between us, by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups”.  In other words, The Church transcends human prejudice and demonstrates the power of the Cross by showing the world that Jew & Gentile, black & white, male & female, young & old are all part of the same body of Christ and that we can love each other, live for a common cause, and serve together as one new people, the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-generational Church that HE died to produce!

It’s sad that 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is still the most-segregated hour of the week in America, because the world is still waiting to see that ‘one new people’ in action, and every time a Ferguson erupts, it’s a reminder that Christians & churches in America have got to get it right before we can expect our society to get it right.

Attending a multi-cultural church is NOT just a nice thing to do; and just feeling good about ourselves because we worship with people of another color isn’t the goal.  It’s catching the vision that Jesus died in order to remove the hostility between races, so that the world could see HIS purpose and His design for all mankind, when we truly love and serve as one new people whose primary identity is not based on the color of our skin but on the Lord of our life.

Stand up and shine, CLC!

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-

“An experience we’ll NEVER forget!”

That’s literally true of last night’s opening of Team Church 14!  Early in the worship set, led by the excellent team of musicians & singers from Champions Centreall the speakers went out!  I mean, ALL.  Dead silence.  Can’t hear anything from the stage.  On the opening night of their biggest annual conference, with hundreds of guests from all over the country.  After months & months of planning & preparing for the Big Event!

Whaddya do?

I mean, as a pastor, I asked myself, what would I do if this happened at CLC?

I’ll tell you what Champions Centre did.  (the name is appropriate, by the way).  They got a bullhorn to the worship leader and kept on worshipping passionately!

dunno if you can see it in this pic from my phone, but just left of center, the worship leader is singing thru a bullhorn!

I dunno if you can see it in this pic from my phone, but just left of center, the Champion Centre worship leader is singing thru a bullhorn!

Not only did the blown speakers give us an experience we’ll never forget, I really hope it’s a lesson I’ll never forget, either.  When things are out of my control, when my worst nightmare is being played out in living color, when life just isn’t going the way I planned,  there’s no need to panic….if I’ll keep trusting & keep praising, Romans 8:28 is still true!

(If you’re wondering, somehow they did get everything working again in time for Pastor Kevin Gerald and Pastor Chris Hodges to bring timely messages from God’s Word, without a bullhorn!)

Feels like I’m talking to someone today who’s tempted to panic about stuff that’s out of your control….so let me encourage you to keep praising & trusting instead.

Does that resonate with anyone?

A Movie about YOU!

Have you ever thought about Hollywood making a movie of your life?

Probably not.  Most of us probably don’t think we could make it on the big screen.

But I think that’s exactly what’s happening this Sunday with our ‘God@the Movies’ series, when we take a look at one of my favorite movies of the year, “Saving Mr. Banks”.

Chris & I often take in a movie on our day off, but we prefer action movies, thrillerssci-fi, that sort of thing.  We rarely ever go watch a drama, since we see plenty of that every day in pastoring a church!  And, honestly, Saving Mr. Banks had almost finished it’s run in the theaters before we reluctantly decided to see it.  But by the time the credits rolled, I knew it was going to be part of the GATM series this year, because it will preach!

I am pleading with every CLC’er reading this to not only be present at one of our Chicagoland campuses this Sunday (6 opportunities to choose from), but to do everything in your power to bring someone with you, especially someone who is hurting or who does not know Jesus. I believe God is going to use this message to change lives.

And who knows, you just might see yourself on the big screens.

Why we do “God@the Movies” series-

our sermon series for the next 5 weeks-

our sermon series for the next 5 weeks-

For the past 3 summers, our “God@the Movies” series in July has produced some of the largest attendances of the year. Each series has been entertaining and fun.  But the messages have also required more study and more work from me and our pastoral team than any other sermon. Most importantly, the messages of those series have been some of the hardest-hitting of any series we’ve done, and we’ve seen lives changed as a result.

I think that’s because these teachings are relevant, focused on truths that we can put into practice to make our lives, our families, and our relationships better every day.  And just as Paul quoted Greek poets of his day in order to capture the attention of unsaved audiences (see Acts 17:16-31, especially verses 28-29).

I’m urging each CLC’er to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to reach out to friends, family, co-workers, neighbors - anyone you know who needs Jesus.  If you’ll do your part by inviting others to attend, I promise that we’ll do our part to have a relevant & compelling message straight from God’s Word, with Hollywood clips to illustrate!

We begin THIS Sunday with the TOP-grossing animated film of all timeFROZEN!

Oh, and don’t forget our NEW (OLD) service schedule: 8:30, 10 & 12 in Tinley Park! (still 10am in Blue Island and NWI)

Signing out

Chris & I were up before dawn today to drive to O’Hare for a flight to Orlando and a much-needed getaway.  The last few months have been one of the most intense seasons of ministry we can recall, and we’ve been like ‘two ships passing in the night’. It’s time for us to re-connect with each other, catch our breath, and get ready for the next season.

So, I won’t be posting anything new this week (a couple of posts are already scheduled) and I’m leaving my computer at HOME.  If you need anything, I’m sure one of our pastors will be glad to assist you in our absence.

See you this weekend!

How do you HELP people without ENABLING?

That’s just one of the questions we’ll address this Sunday as we conclude our “That Guy!”  series, with a look at “Overly-Needy” people.

I’m sure I’m not the only Christian who has ever wanted to help someone in need, but struggled to know how, since the help they wanted wasn’t necessarily the help they needed.  And I doubt I’m the only person who’s ever felt guilty because the help I could provide didn’t please them.

That’s the tension we’re going to explore Sunday, and I think it’s going to be the most helpful message of this entire practical and timely series.

Oh yeah, one more thing:

happy-mothers-day

We’ll be honoring every mother in attendance, so get your mom, your grandmother, your aunts, your daughters, your mother-in-law, your daughters-in-law – shoot, just bring everybody you can this Sunday (in Tinley Park, my wife will bring this word at 8:30, 10 or 12; at our Blue Island campus, it’s 10 for English & 12 for Spanish, and in NWI, where I get to sub for the vacationing campus pastors, it’s 10am).  I’m sure your guests will have a good time, they’ll enjoy their gift, and the Word is sure to connect!

I even think somebody will receive Jesus as Savior on Mother’s Day!

Donald Sterling, racism, and CLC

You’d have to be living in a cave not to have heard about Donald Sterling this week. His blatantly racist comments to his mistress/girlfriend were recorded by TMZ and released to the public, which led to the NBA banning him for life and fining him $2.5M, and everybody  is talking about it.

Which means that, once again, racism in America is a front-burner topic, about which everyone seems to have an opinion.  Mine is that despite civil rights legislation and years of sensitivity training and more, racism is still a significant problem in this country.  I further suggest that is true because racism originates in the heart, and no amount of legislation, peer pressure, or anything else can solve that, because what is necessary is a heart-change.

I grew up in Arkansas in the 1960′s.  I know what segregation looks like.  I heard the N-word regularly until I left the South in 1972.

I now am privileged to pastor a majority-black, multi-cultural congregation. And the purpose of this post is really an appeal to our CLC family more than anything else, because this week’s media firestorm has reminded me all over again that just because you attend a multi-cultural church does not make you a ‘multi-cultural person’ (if there is such a term).  

By that I mean it’s entirely possible to attend a church like CLC, and still have your old prejudices in place, whether you’re black, white, Hispanic or Asian.  It’s possible to worship with people of all colors on Sunday, but never spend time or fellowship with anyone who doesn’t look like you.

I believe CLC is not only called to be multi-cultural; I believe we’re supposed to be an  Apostolic model of race relations in the Christian community.  For that to happen, we must get to know each other.  That happens only by spending time with each other.  That time together includes the opportunity to ask honest questions…to seek to understand more than to be understood. It can happen as we pray together, worship together, break bread together, learn to appreciate each other’s differences, and love each other, regardless of the color of our skin.

Today is the National Day of Prayer.  Could we pray for this ugly division to be healed?

I hope you’ll join me on a journey to show America how it can be.

Sex and today’s Christian

Did that get your attention?

I have addressed the subject of sex numerous times at CLC, but I read an article several days ago that is both disturbing and confirming, since it matches what I’ve observed as a pastor in recent years.

I don’t know Pastor Kenny Luck personally, but I certainly agree with his observations and conclusions.  I invite you to read the article, and then I’d love to hear your feedback.

 

We all need help with relationships…

As someone smarter than me has said, “We don’t have to make the Bible relevant, it already is.”

And after a sermon-planning session yesterday with our pastoral team, I’m more convinced than ever of just how relevant the Bible is, as we’re about to tackle what I believe will be one of our most helpful series ever!

‘That Guy!’ is our attempt to put a humorous spin on a very serious issue for so many of us in all kinds of relationships: parents, children, in-laws, spouses,  co-workers, even friends – all of whom can sometimes be hyper-critical, manipulative, or overly-needy.

We’ve not forgotten our ‘DEEPER’ theme for this year – but we’re applying it to more than  ‘spiritual’ topics – we’re digging deeper to help you navigate some of the issues in our relationships that we have been afraid or unable to tackle in the past!

So I’m encouraging you to INVITE your friends & family – EVERYONE needs help with relationships, and ‘That Guy!’ will offer it in lots of practical ways – starting THIS Sunday,  April 27 at Tinley Park, NWI and Blue Island campuses!

Lessons I’m learning in my old age…

You probably heard the announcement on Sunday, but here’s the ‘rest of the story’ behind our purchase of a building for our Blue Island campus.

We had a verbal agreement to buy a different building about 2 months ago, but the owner kept dragging his feet on finalizing the contract until we received word last Tuesday that he was taking the property off the market until he could decide what he wanted to do.

I was devastated. Even though I should know better by now, I got so depressed, thinking that I had led folks into the wilderness and now had no place to go.  It was not pretty.

By Wednesday I scrambled to look for other commercial properties online, saw this ad, and scheduled an appointment to see it on Thursday with 2 of our other pastors.

Friday afternoon we returned with some elders and trustees who have experience in construction and real estate, and made a verbal offer. Saturday that offer was presented in writing, and after some brief negotiating, we settled on a cash price that means the Blue Island campus will be debt-free from day one!

In other words, in less than 4 days a situation that looked hopeless turned into a situation that caused all of CLC to rejoice!  Just because you don’t get what you want is no reason to despair, especially when you know a God who went from the Cross to the Resurrection in 3 days!

I sure hope I remember this the next time something doesn’t go as I want.

I hope you remember this the next time you don’t get what you want.

blue island bldgTomorrow I’ll tell you why this is such a God-thing…..stay tuned.

 

Kingdom VIOLENCE

NOT the kind of violence that’s on our nightly news broadcasts – we’ve got TOO much of that already.

But I am in favor of ‘Kingdom Violence’, which is the subject of this Sunday’s message as we go deeper in the subject of spiritual warfare in obedience to the prophetic word we received in January.

In case you’re thinking that ‘violence’ is never a good thing, take a look at what Jesus said about it in Matthew 11:12 to see if that changes your mind.  (After all, this is the year of deeper, when we agreed to,”FIRST, let’s find out what the Lord says!”)

The Bible makes it clear that we have been given some ‘mighty’ weapons with which to be violent (see 2Cor. 10:3-5).  This Sunday we’ll look at some of the ‘mightiest’ of those weapons, and how YOU can put them to use in your own life.

I can’t wait.  Hope to see you here Sunday!

P.S. Who are you inviting to one of our 11 Easter weekend celebrations?

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?

 

Easter explained

Eas·ter noun \ˈē-stər\ : a Christian church festival that celebrates the return of Jesus Christ to life following his death; also : the Sunday in early spring on which this festival is observed

What the dictionary doesn’t tell you is that Easter is The Event that even non-Christians often consider going to church.  And for that reason alone it becomes the “Super Bowl” for The Church – the one time we should go all-out to reach people with the Good News.

And to celebrate the 25th Easter at CLC, we’ve set an audacious goal to reach 3,000 people in one weekend, the same number who met Jesus on the Birthday of the Church in Acts 2

There are 11 opportunities to do that across our 4 campuses, and here’s the strategy, using tickets for each service:

1.    We want to be sure to have seats for you to invite friends & family. If everyone showed up to same service, we wouldn’t have near enough seats. Offering tickets will help spread out the crowd so we have more seats for more people.

2.    Tickets will make it easier to invite your friends. By far the #1 reason a person attends a church is because a friend invited them. Having a ticket with all the info on it will make it easier for you to invite your friends.

3.    Tickets communicate value.  When you invite your friends, you’re saying, “I have reserved a seat just for you.”

4.    Tickets communicate that Easter at CLC is open to the community. Believe it or not, many of your friends who do not attend church do not assume they can come anytime. Many of them feel like they need to be invited in order to attend…not just Easter, but any Sunday.

So here’s what you need to do:

1.    Pick the service you and your family will attend.

2.    Get tickets for you & your family. Yes, we need you to get tickets for yourself, too. (6 services to choose from in Tinley Park, 2 in NWI, 2 in Blue Island & 1 in South Bend!)

3.    Get tickets for friends you want to inviteYou can do so at the Information Desk at each campus OR at our website via the internet!

4.    Invite, invite, invite and pray, pray, pray – ask God to move powerfully in the lives of those you invite!

By the way, when we worked on the Easter message in our sermon planning meeting, all but one of our pastors wanted to get saved (we’re still praying for Pastor Matt) ;-)

Have you reserved your place?

This weekend is a BUSY one at CLC (maybe I should say, ‘busier than usual’), so I want to remind you to reserve your place if you haven’t already done so:

  • Retirement Planning seminar - Saturday,March 23 from 9-10:30 a.m. in the Youth Auditorium at our Tinley Park campus.  This informational seminar will be conducted by a certified financial planner AND an insurance agent (the same men who are coaching me) to help you be aware of the financial issues and healthcare-related issues for you to consider in planning for your retirement.  Reserve your spot here so we are adequately prepared.

  • “I Was Broke, Now I’m Not” seminar on Sunday, March 23 at both our Tinley Park campus (10 a.m.) and our NWI Campus (12 noon). This seminar will help you get started on the road to financial freedom, using proven principles from God’s Word that have helped others eliminate credit-card debt and manage their finances wisely.  You’ll also have opportunity to get personal coaching from a trained IWBNIN coach afterwards.  Sign up today so you don’t miss out!
Finally, not only are we celebrating 24 years of blessings on CLC with comedian Michael Jr. as our special guest for all 3 services in Tinley Park, but there’s still room for you and your guests at the ticketed comedy event at 6pm this Sunday, March 23.  (It looks like this could be a sold-out event, so I recommend you don’t wait until Sunday to get your ticket – reserve your seat by purchasing here!)

P.S. You’ll also hear on Sunday about another ticketed event that promises to be the biggest thing we’ve ever done in 24 years….but you have to wait until Sunday to find out.

God@the Movies!

No, it’s not time for that popular series at CLC – we save that for summer!

But I can’t help but notice that God is the theme of a lot of Hollywood movies these days:

  • Son of God is already out on the big screen, and I’ve heard both rave reports & criticism (isn’t that how it usually goes?).  This movie is primarily taken from The Bible TV Miniseries that was released last year on the History channel.  In my humble opinion, the producers sincerely wanted to make a movie/TV series that would communicate the Gospel to those who don’t know the Lord, but earned some criticism for changes they made to the Biblical accounts.
  • Noah is a retelling of the Biblical story, and, as usual, Hollywood takes the liberty of making a number of changes to the Biblical description.  For that reason I’ve already heard some criticism by Christian leaders, but, hey – it’s drawing attention to the Bible for some who never read it!
  • Heaven is For Real – based on the true story of Colton Burpo, who had a near-death experience and later shared with his parents some amazing stories of his experiences with Jesus in heaven.  (We used his story a few years ago on Easter Sunday).  Some CLC staffers saw a preview screening recently & highly recommend it for anyone!
  • God’s Not Dead - from what I’ve heard, this one may have more potential for witnessing to the unsaved than any of the others.  It’s based on an apologetic book by a charismatic pastor/missionary, Rice Broocks, and provides factual arguments for the existence of God in an atheistic, college setting.

So, whether ‘yer fer or aginst’ as they say down South, I’m encouraged by the potential to get folks interested in God and the Bible.  If you choose to watch any of these in the theater, I’d love to hear your comments afterward-

P.S. For our ‘God@the Movies’ series, we’ll stick with non-religious flicks that still enable us to communicate truth to today’s audience, and I’m already looking forward to it this summer.  (If you want to nominate any non-religious films, I’m all ears!)

Testimonies keep coming!

This Sunday will be the finale of our ‘Stewardship 2.0′ series, but the testimonies keep coming!  Yesterday I heard from a new attender who started worshiping at CLC just a month ago.  She accepted the 90-Day Tithe Challenge on March 2 (along with a few hundred other CLC’ers) and she learned yesterday from her employer that when she receives her paycheck this Friday she’ll also receive a $3500 BONUS!

As I’ve said before, sometimes God blesses our obedience with financial increase (like hers) and sometimes He blesses us with stuff that money cannot buy!  That’s some of what we’ll talk about this Sunday when Stewardship 2.0 comes to a close with “Living Generously”.  I hope you’ll be here – and invite a friend!

One more financial tip that could change your life!

Not sure how I forgot this yesterday, because it may be the most important tip I could give for those who are hurting financially!

It’s certainly not original with me – the idea has been around for years, and many of us have used it successfully, it’s perhaps best explained by Dave Ramsey here.

I pray you’ll get that debt snowballing rolling AND, if you haven’t already registered for our  ”I Was Broke, Now I’m Not” free seminar on Sunday, March 23 or the “Retirement Planning”  seminar on Saturday, March 22 at 9am, you can do so here.

By the way, I’ve already received an email from one of the people we prayed for Sunday during the message – she got a job on Monday!  I’d love to hear from any of you who have a tithe testimony or an employment testimony from Stewardship 2.0!

Help for hurting finances

As every pastor knows, there’s always more material than you can possibly cover in any one message.  For sure, that was the case yesterday at CLC, so I want to pass on a few resources to help anyone who’s hurting financially:

  • if you just want to enjoy the best-selling book on credit card debt again, take another look!
  • don’t miss THIS Sunday when we’ll close the series with “Living Generously” (it has less to do with your finances than you might think – it’s about living as God intended)

Financial freedom or an hour of sleep…

That’s the choice many CLC’ers will have this weekend.

(For the record, I hate the fact that the Daylight Savings Time Change occurs on Sunday morning.  I’ve watched for years as a pastor in different churches that no matter how much we announce it in advance, many folks inevitably wake up an hour late & when they discover that, just don’t bother coming to church that day.  Or maybe they decide in advance that it will be a day to sleep in – can’t say for sure; I just know it’s historically one of the lowest-attended Sundays of the year, every year!)

But I especially am disturbed about this weekend.

You see, last Sunday I taught the first of 3 keys to having “Worry-Free Finances”.  Some CLC’ers told me afterward it was the clearest presentation on tithing they had ever heard, and a few hundred people took the 90-day tithe challenge at the end of service.

But THIS Sunday is just as important to your financial freedom, because no matter how consistently you tithe, if you don’t practice the 2nd key, you will still not enjoy the blessing of worry-free finances as God intended.

Yesterday I met with our sermon-planning team of about 10 pastors & leaders, as we do each Tuesday, to discuss this Sunday’s message.  More than one of those leaders told me afterward that they were going home to discuss some changes with their spouse to improve their finances.  I know this Sunday’s teaching WILL help folks who want to get out of debt and enjoy life as God intended.

But before we can get to that teaching, we have to choose to lose an hour of sleep on Saturday night (or go to bed an hour earlier, which takes even more discipline).

Which will it be for YOU?  An hour’s sleep, or 75-minutes at CLC that could change your entire financial future?  It’s your choice.

Those who need it the most…..

One of the things every pastor learns is that “Sunday’s a’coming”; i.e., there’s little time to fret over a poorly-delivered sermon or to celebrate a great day of preaching, because in a few days it’s time to do it all over again.  I get that.  And usually by Sunday night, I’m already moving on to the next week in my head.

But today I’m still reflecting on yesterday’s topic, and especially the first example from Exodus 6:5-9.  Simply put, these people who were struggling in slavery couldn’t receive the 7-fold promise of God because they were so discouraged.  Those who needed it the most, couldn’t receive it.

That’s almost a given in ministry.  Those who need help with their marriage seem to not hear the teachings on marriage.  Those who are tempted morally seem unable to receive the Word on victory or purity.  Those who need help with their finances seem to not receive God’s instructions about money.

As I prayed this morning, I wept over the fact that so MANY in the body of Christ and at CLC still struggle in this area of finances, and I SO want to change that!  If you know someone who really needs this, give them this link to yesterday’s message.

More importantly, join us these next 3 Sundays as we explore 3 keys from Scripture that will enable any believer to have worry-free finances!

Financial worries

I need your help in answering a few questions today, because I want to be more helpful than ever in our ‘Stewardship 2.0′ series:

  • What is your biggest worry when it comes to finances?
  • Do you & your spouse ever argue about money?  What usually prompts it?
  • Do you ever use credit cards to pay for normal expenses (not as a matter of convenience, but because you don’t have the money?)
  • Do you have credit card debt?
  • Are you paying the minimum balance on your credit cards?

Feel free to remain anonymous if you wish, but your honesty will help me to help you and many others who may be struggling in the same way.

I can tell you this already: you do NOT want to miss this Sunday, when we introduce the series with THE single most important principle to help you be worry-free when it comes to finances!

Thanks in advance for your help in answering one or more of the questions-

Quotes to chew on

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first module of the National Institute of Christian Leadership these past couple of days. Not only is Dr. Mark Rutland a brilliant leader, but his experiences in ministry and in turning around three institutions that were in grave danger when he arrived have given him some wonderful ‘war stories’ that (in his words), “make th elephant dance”.

Here’s a few quotes from the opening session:

  • “Legalism is the reduction of your theology to a set of “if/then” propositions”
  • “For Management-bent folks (legalists), moving toward Leadership-bent (grace) feels like compromise.”
  • “Life and leadership will change you more than you think!”
  • “Everything you do, you’re doing that thing, but you’re also being prepared for the next thing in life.”
  • “If you can’t negotiate the changes, you will always only have the business you used to have”
  • “Try as much as possible to turn every staff confrontation into a teaching moment!”

  • “If you can’t think of 50 people to thank, it’s because your life just revolves around you”
  • “Quality is meeting expectations” – (Philip Crosby)  ”The responsibility for meeting expectations is on senior management!” (Dr. Mark Rutland)
  • “A brand is not a logo; it’s a promise!”

Can’t wait to hear what he’ll have to say this morning, and I really can’t wait to get out of this 30-degree weather in Dallas to get back to God’s country in Chi-beria!

Family traditions

My wife has trained me well through the years, and this is probably the biggest one: the importance of family traditions!

Growing up, I don’t think I recognized any specific traditions in the McQuay family – it seems we did a lot of random stuff, but even holidays like Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas were observed in different ways, and nothing stood out to me as ‘special’.

My wife’s family was much different, and she brought that into our home, so that we were able to ‘make memories’ with our kids (and now, our grandsons) that we all can look forward to, year after year – and I can testify that it really does make the holidays more special.

I encourage you to try it this year – and you can begin by including our Candlelight Christmas Eve service as one of your Family traditions.  It’s going to be a great way to begin the Christmas celebration tonight, and I hope you’ll join us at 5pm as we remember together what this holiday is all about!

Dreaming, NO – Believing for a White Christmas!

It’s not a dream.

I am believing God and expecting a White Christmas at CLC.

Not on the lawn.

In our hearts!

Your responses are in, and they’ve brought tears to my eyes as you’ve shared your stories of abuse, rape, humiliation, betrayal, and more.  I personally can’t even imagine the pain that some of you have experienced for years.  But God has an answer!

I hope you’ll be here these next 3 Sundays to learn how God can wash the hurt & anger away and replace it with a pure, clean heart that is forgiven & free.

One last thing: do you know someone who’s still hurting over the past?  Please invite them to join you here.  It’s time to settle this!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Like that song?  Me, too.  And everything about the holidays that prompts the song.

But for many people around us, it’s NOT a wonderful time of the year.  Some are homeless.  Many are unemployed.  Some have been abused by their own husbands or fathers.  Many have lost hope.

That’s why CLC is observing a “Season of Hope” between now and the end of 2013, when each Sunday, as our closing act of worship, we’ll receive a special offering to make the holidays brighter for a lot of folks here in the South Suburbs AND the thousands of people displaced from their homes in the Philippines after the super-typhoon there two weeks ago.

You can also give online here by simply choosing “Season of Hope” on the drop-down menu.  Every penny you give will help us to make this Christmas season better for many needy people around us – we’ll have a listing of projects in this Sunday’s bulletin.

Of course, it’s also time for our “A CLC Christmas: THE CENTER” this December 13-15    (Friday at 7pm; Saturday & Sunday at 5pm) and you can purchase your tickets online for just $5 – so invite some friends or family members and treat them to a great show!

“It’s the most wonderful time, of the year!”

Rules of Engagement

That’s the new series we begin at CLC this Sunday, October 20, and for the next 3 weeks we’ll look at relationship rules whether you are single, married, or part of a family.

So here’s my question this morning: what is one of your biggest struggles/questions when it comes to relationships?  My wife & I would love to keep this series as practical as possible, so if you’ll tell us where you’re struggling, we’ll try to address it during one of the Sunday messages.

Leave your comments/questions below, or if you prefer not to go public, shoot me an email here.

I can already tell you it’s going to be a FUN and HELPFUL series – and since everybody you know has some relationship issues, I hope you’ll invite a friend to join you!

Honoring MY Pastor

Chris & I head to Pittsburgh this afternoon for the annual ‘PRESENCE’ conference at Covenant Church – but the real reason we’re going this year is to honor our pastors, Bishop Joseph & Pastor Barbara Garlington.

This week is their 60/40 celebration - 60 years of ministry, and 40 years as pastor of the same church!  I can’t even imagine how many lives he has touched for the Kingdom of God through those years, but I know he’s made a difference in mine, so I’m looking forward to telling him so (again) and just being in the same room with him for a couple of days.  After all, it’s not the length of days that matters, but the use we make of them that counts.

We’ll be back in time for Wednesday’s H2H & Iron Men, but first things first – and this man deserves every honor he’ll receive this week.

Singles: don’t wait anymore!

I don’t often link to someone else’s blog here, especially if I don’t even know the person who wrote the post.

But when I saw this, my heart was touched.  And since our next series, “Rules of Engagement” (which opens on October 13) is all about relationships, including one message specifically for the single adults of CLC, I felt I should offer this to my readers.

Don’t be in a hurry.  Read this one slowly.  Savor each line.  And please, don’t wait anymore.

Blessed are the flexible…

Ok, this time (unlike yesterday) I am writing about the government shutdown.

Last night I came home from church & watched about an hour of the news networks.  I alternated between CNN and Fox, figuring the truth was somewhere in between the two.  After that hour or so, I was sure so frustrated & disgusted with both parties and for that matter, our entire government that I just went to bed.  This is not a proud moment in American history, folks!

This much I know: in life, in missions, in marriage, in ministry, in parenting, and yes, even in government, the ONLY way to succeed over the long haul is to be willing to listen.

No one is right 100% of the time (except Jesus, and they crucified Him!)

So today I’m praying for both houses of Congress and for Democrats, Republicans and Independents to truly listen to each other instead of only being interested in their own party line.  And while I’m praying that for them, I think I’ll try to practice it myself.

Got baggage?

No, I’m not talking about your next trip by plane?  

I’m talking about what happens as you go through life.

It’s a dumb question, really – because my observation is that we all do.  Some more than others, no doubt, but as we go through life we all experience some hurts, some hang-ups, some habits we can’t seem to shake, etc.  You know what I’m talking about.

And every one of those ‘bags’ weighs us down & hinders us from becoming the person God designed us to be – unless we find a way to get rid of them.

The BEST way I’ve found for any Christian to get freed from the baggage of their past and walk in the liberty that God intended is through a ministry called Cleansing Stream.  It’s international in scope, but it’s as close as THIS Tuesday night at CLC-Tinley Park.  The group meets weekly for 10 weeks, plus a weekend retreat.

It’s also the best method of deliverance from demonic oppression that I’ve personally seen.  Old-school methods still work, but I’ve seen too many people in my time who got free momentarily through a power encounter, only to fall right back into the same trap soon after.  Cleansing Stream helps you to get free and stay free.

If you live in Chicagoland and want more info, contact our leaders here.  Better yet, show up at CLC this Tuesday night at 7pm and get started unpacking!

It’s your choice…..

I’m still thinking about yesterday at CLC (as Pastor’s are prone to do on Monday mornings) and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think yesterday was a great life lesson for all of us.  (If you haven’t read my recap of yesterday, I suggest you read this before you go on)

As I see it today, the fact that yesterday was such a mixed-bag of positives & negatives is really true of life for each one of us.  Probably every day of your life you will experience frustrations, setbacks, mishaps and negative news that could potentially ruin your day.  And, on most days at least, you’ll have moments that go better than what you deserve, moments when God or people in your life show you favor, speak good things to you, and give you reasons to celebrate.

The LESSON that each of us need to learn is focus.  Because as I’ve learned the hard way through the years, it really doesn’t matter how many blessings or good things come my way, if I focus on the negatives or the stuff that didn’t go the way I wanted it to, before long I’m down in the mulligrubs, discouraged & depressed & feeling like I should just go eat worms.

On the other hand, if I choose to focus on the positives in my life, no matter how many setbacks or obstacles come my way, I can keep whistling while I work, feeling good about the blessings of the Lord!

There’s no better example of this in Scripture than Numbers 13.  In life, just like in Canaan so many years ago, there is both luscious fruit AND giants living in walled cities – you can see whatever you’re looking for.

It’s your choice.

Broken dreams…

Few things in life are more painful than a broken dream.  

You know what I’m talking about.  You had such high expectations.  It looked like your ‘ship was about to come in’.  You met someone who seemed to be everything you wanted in a relationship.  You started your new ‘dream job’.  You looked at an open door that would fulfill all your hopes for your own business or your own ministry.

Then the crash.  Totally unexpected.  He abandoned you.  She left you for another man.  Someone started an ugly rumor.  You got fired.  Everything you had ever wanted seemed to be going down the drain, and there was nothing you could do about it.

That’s one of many subthemes in Les Miserables, and you can feel it here in one of the most well-known songs from the Musical.

I’ll bet you know someone whose hopes have been dashed and whose dreams have been broken.  And if you’ll invite them to church this Sunday for ‘God@the Movies’, they’ll come.

It could be a life-changing day for someone you know.  Will you invite them today?

Can a person really change?

I mean, let’s face it: how many smokers have you known who ‘quit’ cigarettes, but eventually went back to smoking?

How many alcoholics have you known who ‘went off the wagon’ despite the best efforts of family & friends to help them stop drinking?

Have you ever read the stats for drug addicts who get clean, only to go back to their habit again?

Why not make it a little more personal: how many times have you gone on a diet-and-exercise-regimen to lose weight, only to fall right back into potato chips & chocolate cake (or whatever it is that keeps you overweight)?

Isn’t that really what Jeremiah 13:23 is all about?  Can a person really change?

That’s just one of the big questions that we’ll answer this Sunday during our “God@the Movies” series at CLC, as we look at that question through the lens of the award-winning Hollywood Musical, “Les Miserables”.

If you know someone who needs to change, get them here this Sunday!

Sights of Russia

Today was our only time this week for some ‘tourist’ stuff (sightseeing & shopping) as we spent about 5 hours this morning/early afternoon on an adventure in metro Moscow with our interpreter, Kerina.

The only way to describe being at Red Square in Moscow is surreal – never in a million years did I ever expect to be here to see these postcard views, but I can tell you it’s even more beautiful in person than I had imagined from the media.

We’ll be teaching at a thriving church in Moscow tonight and leaving at the crack of dawn for Perm and probably won’t be able to post again until at least Friday, so enjoy these pics of our day:

view from our hotel

even the Moscow subway was ornately decorated – reminded me of NYC last week

the subway was cheap, safe & reliable transportation from our hotel to central Moscow’s Red Square (Chris & Kerina)

Surreal is the only word to describe standing here

the beauty of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square

The Kremlin was closed to the public today, but we could see portions from outside the gate

Because of the Kremlin’s closing, we walked thru a nearby shopping Mall to get to the rest of Red Square & discovered this beautiful fountain inside the Mall

and came out on the other side to more government buildings & another Russian Orthodox Church

The circle I’m standing on in Red Square is the ‘zero’ point for all of Russia – every street begins from this point.

Red Square has a huge central area that reminded me of our Capitol Mall

The eternal flame memorial to Russian soldiers who died in WWII

A beautiful lady in front of anther beautiful fountain just off Red Square

behind our hotel is a tourist destination of restaurants & quaint shops

or maybe I should say ‘quaint restaurants’ and shops

Russia is known for it’s “nesting dolls”, but this is the first time I’ve seen an entire nesting Village!

Introducing the iCan Dream Center

One of my greatest thrills in ministry is seeing the dreams of others come to pass, especially when those dreams include serving people and blessing the Kingdom of God.  

My suspenders almost pop because my chest swells with pride when I think about CLCers like Alan & Terrilyn Franklin and their ministry with Selah Worship Conference (that I wrote about here last week)and others like our new Consumed Student Ministry Directors, Robert & Evisha Sills.

Last Sunday Rob & Evisha celebrated the Open House of their new venture, the iCan Dream Center in Hazel Crest.  The Center specializes in working with students with intellectual disabilities, communication disorders, and various learning difficulties.

In recent years, probably everyone reading this blog has known a “special needs child”, perhaps in your own extended family.   I know my heart has been touched so many times at CLC hearing from our parents who are daily dealing with the challenges of autism, learning disabilities, and other special needs of their children – and I only see them on Sunday, while those challenges continue 24/7 for the parents of those children.

That’s why I’m SO thankful that Dr. Evisha Sills not only has the educational training and experience to operate the iCan Dream Center, but she and Robert have the heart to serve this overlooked area of our society as well.  I know that their work at the iCan Dream Center is going to be a cup of cold water to many, many parents throughout the South Suburbs, and their reward will be abundant!

Watch this video of their dream, see how YOU can be involved and then help me spread the word about the iCan Dream Center!

Help for the tornado victims in Oklahoma

I’m sure your heart has been saddened as mine has by the reports & pics coming out of Moore, OK.  Having lived through a tornado in 1968 that destroyed the church my family attended and took the lives of 44 people in Jonesboro, AR, I can especially relate to the devastation.

Certainly our prayers go out to the families who have lost loved ones (several of them children who died in the 2 elementary schools destroyed by the twister), but if you, like me, feel compelled to do more than pray, you can also make a donation to help the recovery efforts.

You can make a donation through one of our partner churches, a great Spirit-filled church led by Herbert Cooper, People’s Church, OR you can make a donation online at CLC and we’ll forward the funds to People’s Church next week.  You can also make a donation in our services this Sunday – just be sure to designate your gift for “OK tornado”.

As always, thanks for your compassionate and generous response!

ser-uhn-dip-i-tee

Serendipity is a word I learned many years ago and is always fun to use – not because of how fun it is pronounce, but because of what it represents.  According to Wikipedia, it simply means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it.

I had 3 serendipitous moments yesterday in the space of 4 hours:

  • while planning a major CLC initiative, a friend reminded me of an incident from over 3 years ago that is just now being fulfilled in a remarkable way!
  • as our pastors dissected my Pentecost Sunday message (May 19), the conversation went in a whole different direction than I had planned and resulted in what I believe will be a God-moment for many CLCers - totally unlike where I thought we’d go!
  • during a meeting with a CLCer who’s come through significant pain, we discovered ministry potential that will likely result in a new staff position – even though the meeting was intended to help her, not us!
All of those separate incidents reminded me again of John Tiller’s message last Sunday, especially from John 9:3, where Jesus said, Look instead for what God can do.”  
I suspect if we keep an open heart as we go through our day, not looking for someone to blame, but looking for what God can do, we’ll find some ‘happy accidents’!
Have YOU ever had any serendipitous moments?  I’d love to hear about it below:

Burn the ships!

Still can’t get Sunday morning off my mind.

We didn’t just have an emotional response to a handicapped boy Sunday; I believe we heard a ‘word’ from his father that applies to each one of us.  If you missed it, I urge you to go online today and watch it here. (It may not be up yet, but it should be later today)

Here’s the thing: life goes “off script” for all of us.  Yesterday I had a series of meetings with several CLCers whose life has not followed the ‘script’ they had envisioned, but instead of wallowing in self-pity or looking for someone to blame, each of them has/is looking to see what God can do (see John 9:1-3).

I saw another great example of it last night in the Bulls-Heat game.  Talk about life going off script?  Your #1 player has to have surgery after a serious injury.  Ok.  The second-best player is hospitalized with possible meningitis, has to have a spinal tap during the playoffs. Ok.  Your third-best player has plantar fasciitis which makes it painful to run.  Ok.  Your best defensive player goes down before the first-round of the playoffs.  Ok.  The shortest guy on the team (maybe the league) is sick, so he pukes in a garbage can and gets back on the court in one game, then gets stepped on, cuts his lip & has to have stitches in the next.  Ok.  The rag-tag group of has-beens and wannabes who are left all must play heavy minutes since there’s no one left to substitute.  Ok.  That #1 star is cleared by doctors to play but chooses not to do so.  Ok.  You’re up against the defending world champs and NOBODY gives you a chance to win.  Ok.

Final score: Bulls 93, Heat 86.  Ok.

How are you going to respond when your life goes off script?

The UNLIVED life

Pastor Brian Houston from Hillsong in Australia spoke at the ARC conference last night, and was as entertaining as usual. (At one point in the message, after telling us he was about to turn 60 and that he wanted to be a “lean, mean, Gospel machine”, he dropped to the floor & did 31 push-ups while continuing to preach!)

But far more than the push-ups, what stayed with me was his subject: that there is a gap between the life that we’re living and the life we’ve dreamed of-’the unlived life’.

Near the close of his message he read to us from a paper he had written 20 years ago, an incredibly large vision of what he saw for the small church he pastored. Long before any of it happened, he had a ‘dream’ of what Hillsong could become…..and 20 years later, even his vision was too small, seeing what God has done with their ministry.

It really made me think. I’m still thinking about it this morning. Do you have an ‘unlived’ life? What book have you not yet written? What venture have you not yet started? What is God calling you to that you haven’t yet begun?

I don’t want to leave this world with unfulfilled potential.

Jacksonville, Boston & Chicago

We had completed a couple of “Apps” (workshops) at the All-Access Conference here in Jacksonville & went to grab a quick bite before the evening service when we heard the news from Boston last night.

I don’t have any answers. I’m not sure anyone does. We live in a fallen world, and evil exists alongside good. But I pray for all those affected by the terrorism in Boston and for the churches in that area that they may shine bright during this difficult time – knowing that what happened there could happen in Chicago, or anywhere in this fallen world.

I came here to Jacksonville in hopes of being preached

    to
      and it’s already happened. The host pastor for the conference, Stovall Weems, brought the opening message last night and basically dealt with the Sabbath principle – and I heard more than Stovall’s words; I heard God’s Word.

      I’m determined to ‘leave it’ weekly, and even more importantly, to learn to say, “it is good” each day. There’s always room for improvement, and there will always be more stuff that needs to be done, but on a daily basis I must say with God, “it’s good enough for now”

      I suspect I’m not the only one who needed that word, so I just passed it to you. Will you say, “it is good” today?

Just had to share this…..

Call me blown-away.

No, call me proud.

I just read an article that hasn’t generated any interest in the national press, but it sure blessed me….and I think it will bless you, too, whether you like Chick-fil-A or not.

Here’s the article.

Here’s the blog post where I heard about it.

All I can say is that it’s SO refreshing to know that Christians can stand on the Biblical side of the thorniest issue in our nation without caving in to society’s pressure, and yet still show the love & grace of Christ!

Can I get an ‘amen’?

Stop surviving & start THRIVING!

Really excited about our new series, “Thrive” and hoping that you’ll invite someone to join you for these next 3 Sundays:

  • February 10 - now that we’ve established who we are (stewards or managers), I’ll teach how to be a GOOD manager.  You can also sign-up for the “I was broke. Now I’m not!” group study on February 24 at 5pm.
  • February 17 is our Generosity Sunday” when we’ll not only look at the blessing of generosity in Scripture, but we’ll demonstrate generosity at the close of service with a giant giveaway (as we did last year) – house payments, car payments, notebook computers and more will be given away to bless people in each service!
  • February 24 we’ll close the series with a look at “A Financial Miracle” and our guest will be Joe Sangl, author of “I was broke. Now I’m not!” at all 3 services.  Believe me, Joe will inspire your faith to believe God for your financial miracle!
  • February 24 at 5pm Joe will lead the IWBNIN group study to give you the practical tools and help you need to get out of debt & begin THRIVEing in your finances!  You can register here now.

WHO should you invite?  Your invitation could change their life, both now & for eternity!  More changed lives!

Super Bowl entertainment

No, I’m not blogging about the halftime show with Beyonce’ (the game hasn’t even started as I’m posting this).

Instead, it’s a video I saw today that I found amusing – not sure if the guy’s facts are accurate, but it’s definitely entertaining.

Enjoy!

And may your favorite team win tonight-

Do you REALLY wanna change?

The parties are over; the football bowl games have come & gone; ready or not, we’re into a New Year.

As much as we say we want to lose weight, get back in the gym, eat right, etc., etc., the reality is that most of us stay the way we are.

And there’s a clear reason for that.  In fact, even when we truly want to change, we often fall back into the same habits and patterns of behavior that keep us in the ‘same ole, same ole’.

But there IS a way to change, and I’m excited to share it with you each Sunday in January as we dive into our ‘Treatment’ series.

Invite a friend.  It might change their life, too.

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.

Jesus wept.

Jesus wept.

It’s one of the shortest verses in the Bible, and one that many of us learned at a young age, especially to use in any memory contests in Sunday School.

In our Saturday morning prayer at CLC, someone prayed those two words in regards to the Newtown, CT tragedy, and it really seemed appropriate to me.

I think Jesus is weeping today, along with parents & grandparents whose kindergartners didn’t come home yesterday; in fact, He weeps with the people of that community, still stunned that such a nightmare could happen in their town.

Really, He weeps with all of us, for as a pastor I highly esteem said last night, “Tonight, we are all from Newtown, CT”. 

Jesus wept.

Putting Christ in Christmas this December

I posted here about our plan for this Christmas, but I’m excited today to bring you some more specifics:

  • one of our members (Gail Matson) who works for Chicago Public Schools informed me that she has about 50 preschoolers who need winter coats.  (She says many of them come to school with several layers of sweaters to try to keep warm.)  So here’s our plan: if you have gently used coats to fit preschoolers, you can bring them to any service at CLC between now & Sunday, December 9.  We will also receive an offering on December 9 specifically to help with this need, and Gail will distribute the coats that week, fulfilling Matt. 25:34-40 for 50 shivering preschoolers in Chicago!
  • We also know that our local food pantries are stretched to the max at this time of year, you can also bring your staple food donations (non-perishable items only, please) to any CLC service between now & Sunday, December 16 and we’ll get them to hungry families in need.

I’m excited about the church being the Church!

After the election, now what?

You’ve probably noticed that we don’t talk politics at CLC.  I’m not interested in dividing the church family over political issues, or get our focus off of what God has called us to do.

But I do have some concerns for our nation and how we treat each other – whether we’re rejoicing over President Obama’s reelection or we’re mourning Governor Romney’s defeat. I think Pastor Rick Warren expressed that concern as well as I possibly could, so let me post his comments here:

“The coarsening of our culture and the loss of civility in our civilization is one of the things that concerns me most about our nation. We don’t know how to disagree without being disagreeable. The fact is, you can — you can walk hand-in-hand without seeing eye-to-eye. And what we need in our country is unity, not uniformity. There are major differences, politically, religiously, economically in our nation. We have many different streams in our nation . . . What is solvable is how we treat each other with our differences . . . In fact, the Bible tells me in I Peter, show respect to everyone, even people I totally disagree with. So I’m coming from that viewpoint in that we must return civility to our civilization in order to get on. But the reason I do that is because of the deeper reason, there’s a spiritual root to my reason for civility.”

CLC, let’s walk out the Word as we go forward from here.  Let’s treat each other with love & respect as believers.  Let’s keep our focus on fulfilling the Great Commission by reaching others with the gospel, both around the corner & around the world.

And Let’s PRAY for our President, regardless of your political views, knowing that ultimately God promotes according to His plan (Psa. 75:7).  Pray that he would be surrounded by godly counsel, and that the Lord would give him wisdom to lead this nation. The words of Jeremiah 29:7 may have been given to Israel while captive in Babylon, but the principle remains the same: as we seek God’s blessings on our nation, we are blessed!

Signs of the times

Yesterday at CLC my wife received a prophetic ‘word’ through some traffic signs enroute to service, and I thought it was profound, so I decided to share it with you today:

  • “No passing zone” – some of us have/are growing impatient with how things are, and our impatience & frustration has us considering ways that we could move ahead by just going around whatever is it causing us the frustration.  But God sees further down the road than we do, and it’s just not safe for us to take matters into our own hands and try to speed up the process.  No passing!
  • “Bump” – seems a little strange to see a sign announcing a bump, when the reality is that we only slow down for a moment and then keep going.  Sometimes we think that this situation is a major crisis and that it’s going to cost us so much loss and perhaps even prevent us from getting where we want to go – but God wants us to know that in reality it’s just a ‘bump’….it’s no big deal.  You’ll have to slow down for a moment, but then you’ll be able to accelerate again and proceed to your destination – and the bump isn’t going to make any difference at all in the long run!  It’s just a bump!
  • “Weight Limit on Bridge” - we can’t carry some weight where God is trying to take us, so it’s time to let go of the past, release the hurts, and discard all the things that have/are weighing us down.  Sometimes the baggage from our past gets so heavy and we put it down for a while, only to pick it back up again later.  But we can’t get over to our destiny with these weights, so LET GO!

I know I’m biased because I love her so much, but whether you even know my wife or not, I think you’ll be able to see that any one of these ‘signs’ could be a ‘word’ for you!

The book I wish I had written

I met Pastor Philip Wagner several years ago when he came to Chicago for a pastor’s conference I was attending, and just this week I was introduced to his newest book,  “How to Turn Your Marriage Around in 10 Days”

After reading through it, I just have one thing to say:

OMG!

This is the book I wish I had written!  It’s that good.  It’s that helpful.  It’s that practical.

Chris & I will have been married 40 years this December.  We just taught the most popular sermon series of our ministry last month by sharing what we’re learned in 40 years together about “Love, Sex & Marriage”.  We saw God use that teaching to literally save marriages from divorce.  Honestly, I think we’ve learned a little about marriage in 40 years.

But Philip has written in such easy-to-understand terms with such insight that I honestly believe the title of his book is NOT just an advertising agency’s come-on or just more marketing propaganda – read my lips: I believe if you’ll read his book and apply it, you can really turn your marriage around in 10 days!

You can order your copy online now.

And just for the fun of it (and Pastor Philip’s generosity), I’m offering a free digital copy of his book to one couple who will let me know WHY you want a copy in your comments below (or if you prefer to keep it private, by emailing me here).  I’ll announce the winner next Wednesday, November 7.

Vacation of a lifetime…

…and even that’s an understatement!

Chris & I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary for the last 2 weeks with a Mediterranean Cruise that took us to 10 cities in 4 countries over 12 days (with 2 days in Rome at the end) – and I literally don’t have words to describe how wonderful it was!

The favor we enjoyed on the entire trip was amazing, starting with the fact that the cruise line offered a “2 for 1″ sale just one weekend this year & we ’happened’ to book our trip that weekend, instead of waiting until 2013 as we had originally planned, so we literally paid half the normal price.  Then we were able to use credit card points & miles so that the cruise & the flights literally cost us nothing!

We oohed and ahhed our way thru Venice, Dubrovnik , Athens, and the Greek Isles, with each day’s highlights seemingly better than the day before.  But honestly, the best part of the entire trip was having this extended time together, just the two of us, to reconnect and celebrate our love for each other.  Our marriage is better after this trip!

The final two days in Rome was just one serendipitous moment after another, as we made memories in the Eternal City that we’ll never forget.

I may post more pics later, but here’s a couple from my phone from the beginning & end of the trip:

A gondola ride in Venice on the first day!

The Roman Coliseum is nothing short of amazing

CELEBRATING 40 years!

I’m writing this post from the United lounge at O’Hare….as Chris & I are headed to Europe tonight for a 12-day Mediterranean Cruise.  It’s a long story, but this has been on our ‘bucket list’ for several years, and we decided over a year ago that our 40th would be the time to do it.

Of course, taking a cruise in December (our actual anniversary is the 16th) wouldn’t be much fun, so we had decided we’d go next Spring or Summer.  But then a few months ago we received an offer from the cruise line we’d chosen, offering the same cruise we were planning to take next year for half-price!

In addition to that blessing, we have saved our miles & credit card points for a few years, so we were actually able to book the flights AND the entire cruise at no cost(We’ll be paying for the excursions to some of the sights along the way, but otherwise this trip was a blessing from the Lord!)

I’ll admit it’s a little tough for me to leave during such an exciting season of ministry at CLC, but I have every confidence in the wonderful team of pastors & leaders at CLC that you guys won’t miss a beat while we’re gone.  It’s even more difficult for Chris to leave during the health crisis with her father, but since we don’t even have a date for his open- heart surgery yet (to replace a defective valve), her family insisted that we go.

So say a quick prayer for us to truly be able to disconnect, enjoy the sights and celebrate each other for the next couple of weeks.  I just realized that I forgot to pack our camera, so I’m not sure how much we’ll post (if I can keep Chris’ hands off of me long enough to get to a computer, that is) or whether we’ll have any pics, so no promises – except that we’ll be back refreshed & recharged, ready to kick off our new series for November!

Oh, one more thing – we love you!  What a privilege to pastor this church!!!

Perry Noble’s book, UNLEASH!

Disclaimer: I like Perry Noble.  Shared an elevator with him once at a small gathering of pastors in Michigan a few years back, although he wouldn’t remember that because I was silent while he talked with one of his teammates.  I’ve enjoyed his blog since I first discovered it several years ago.  His passion is contagious & I love how he loves his church, that was recently ranked #16th largest & 13th fastest-growing in America by Outreach magazine. 

Perry’s first book, UNLEASH!, is a lot like Perry – it bleeds evangelism on every page.  As I read through it (beginning in Russia & finishing up last night) I marveled at how he addressed virtually every excuse or objection that people have about fully surrendering to Jesus.  And better yet, he answered those objections convincingly, with a combination of Biblical logic and a whole bunch of side-splitting stories from his own past.  (Perry has more stories from his own life than most preachers have illustrations, period!)

If you’re not satisfied with the ‘Christian life’ you’re living, and need a raw challenge from someone who has been where you are and is now enjoying the abundant life that Jesus promised, I highly recommend UNLEASH! to you.

What God has done at New Spring is absolutely amazing, and this book will give you real insight into why.  Read it and remind yourself that God doesn’t play favorites, and what HE has done for Perry, HE is able to do for you!

You can get your copy here.

9/11

Funny how 3 simple numbers can hold so much meaning….or such vivid memories.  Our world was forever changed 11 years ago today with the terrorist strikes in New York City and Washington, DC, and I doubt any of us will ever forget where we where when we first heard the news and saw the pictures at Ground Zero.

I’m calling on everyone reading this post to PRAY for our nation today, not only because of the anniversary of that horrific day or even the threats of more terrorism on this anniversary – but especially because our country has some serious needs – needs so serious that no politician has the answers.

The threats to our nation’s welfare are not all man-made, and they can’t be solved by mere human wisdom.  In fact, let me take this opportunity to announce that CLC will participate in a 40-day prayer focus from September 28 until election day, November 6.  We’re not praying for a specific candidate; we’re praying for our country, and for God to again ‘shed His grace’ on us as a people.

If you’re on FaceBook, you can sign up here to participate and receive daily encouragement and specific prayers each day of the prayer focus.

Lord, have mercy!

Pastoral road trip!

This morning most of our pastoral team (Ben, Tony, Sam, Eduardo & me) plus our Filipino pastors Herley & Jonathan are leaving CLC at 5:30am for a one-day conference in Lebanon, Indiana (near Indianapolis). It’s being led by Matt Keller, who’s on the Lead team for ARC, and I’ve found those guys know what they’re doing.

We’ll absorb as many church growth principles as possible, ask a lot of questions, enjoy lunch, then load back up on the van to return to CLC by about 3:30 this afternoon.

Now you know what preachers do when they’re not preaching or eating fried chicken.

fun, Fun, FUN!

I’m coming up on the most intense weekend of my life, with 3 funerals, 3 leadership talks, a wedding reception, and 3 sermons to deliver this Friday-Sunday.  (Think I’ll sleep in Monday!)

But I’m thankful for a little diversion beforehand:

  • last night’s Bible study of “You Asked for It!” was fun.  Here’s the outline for any of you that missed it, or who want the answers:

You asked for it_answer key.08.08.12

  • today is our weekly day off, so spending the day with my wife will be Fun(Not sure what we’ll do yet, but I’m sure we’ll laugh a bit – probably at ourselves!)
  • then tonight, I’m gonna do something I’ve never done: meet up with my son, Pastor Ben, and Pastor Tony to head to Soldier Field to watch the Bears-Broncos first preseason game of 2012!  It’ll be FUN to hang together in that atmosphere, and who knows, we may even get to see Peyton Manning hand the ball off 3 times before turning it over to Caleb Hanie!

I’ll be serious all weekend, but today is all about FUN!

 

my thoughts about a very special lady…

It’s her big day!  It was on this day several years ago that she first entered the world in Detroit, MI.  I was toddling around my parent’s home about 600 miles away at the time, and it would be almost 18 years later before I’d have the chance to look into her beautiful blue eyes for the first time – but I’m so glad the Lord orchestrated events in our lives to bring us together!

Honestly, I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without her:

  • She is my best friend.  I’d rather spend time with her than anyone else on earth.  I value her thoughts and opinions more than anyone else I know.  I love to make her laugh, and I love laughing with her.
  • She’s an incredible cook.  I wouldn’t have near the struggle with my weight if I’d married someone else, but her home-cooked meals have been wonderful from Day 2 of our marriage until now (we’ll save the Day 1 story for another time) - I never get tired of sitting down to a table that she’s prepared, whatever it is.
  • She’s an amazing mother to our children and ‘Nonnie’ to our grandsons.  Oh sure, we didn’t get everything right through the years (no one does), but we got a lot more right than wrong, and mostly because of her.  Her fierce love for Chad, Jen and Brent has given them an advantage that millions of kids in our world never had.  (And Jaeden & Bennett are already the most-loved-on little boys in the universe!)
  • She’s one of the most creatively-gifted people I’ve ever met, and it shows every time she teaches, preaches or writes almost anything.  (and to think it all started with Harry the Lion puppet she found in that Sunday School cabinet back in the 70′s!)
  • Speaking of preaching & teaching – I’ve teased for years that I couldn’t let her speak very often at CLC lest I be out of a job, but the honest-to-God truth is that she is an excellent communicator, and the anointing that she brings into the pulpit, whether she’s teaching or prophesying, has blessed and encouraged and challenged not just our CLC family, but thousands of pastors and leaders from Almaty to Zagreb and from Dakar to Davao, and lots of places in between.
  • She is a lover – and I’m not just talking about our intimate moments together (this blog is ‘G’ rated) - I’m talking about the way she genuinely and passionately loves others – as I’ve seen her do in country after country, not to mention her precious Heart 2 Heart ladies, and even the children and teens she has ‘adopted’ through the years, starting with Leslie in Troy and then Martha in Mt. Morris and, well, I’ve lost track of how many folks call her “mom” now.  She’s easily the most unselfish person I’ve ever known, because love gives, and that’s her.
  • She’s the epitome of growth and change.  I’ve watched her re-invent herself time and time to meet new challenges.  She is constantly becoming more of the person God always intended her to be, and that motivates me to keep improving myself, lest she outgrow me.  Suffice it to say, she’s not the shy young teenager I was first attracted to back in 1972 – she’s a woman of God who’s getting better with age!

I’ll close, because this is supposed to be a blog, not a book, but not before I say Happy Birthday, ChrisI love you more than ever!

 

My skydiving sweetheart

Mark Batterson NEXT week!

Well, as frustrated & angry as I was this morning about the comedy of errors (that wasn’t funny at all), I am pleased to report that everything has been straightened out with the radio station and we should now be on track for next week. (If you weren’t aware, not only did they not air the correct broadcast via radio, but their web stream wasn’t even from their station, so instead of airing an incorrect CLC broadcast, web listeners were hearing a talk show about Obamacare!)

Nonetheless, I’m hoping you have already marked your calendar for Sunday, July 8 when Mark Batterson will be speaking at CLC in all 3 morning services.

But to whet your appetite a little further, on Monday, July 2 from 10:30-11:00 a.m., I’ll be interviewing Mark about his newest book, Circle Maker, on AM 1160 during my regular radio broadcast.

If you don’t have a radio available at that time of day, you can download the WYLL app here and listen to the broadcast anywhere that you have internet access!

The interview went so well, we actually had enough material for another broadcast next Tuesday (July 3) as well – so mark your calendar and listen to both days.

AND we’ll be giving away 4 copies of Circle Maker (2 each broadcast) to some blessed callers, which is another reason for you to tune in.  (Of course, if you don’t win, you can purchase a copy at the Welcome Center this Sunday for just $12 – so you can’t lose)

Let’s try it again!

RMI Team Meeting (Monday night)

Yesterday was one of those crazy travel days that make me question why I ever go anywhere – but it’s too long a story for this blog.

Nonetheless, I managed to pull into Liberty Church just a few minutes after the opening “Harp & Bowl” prayer time…and then got to enjoy Bishop’s teaching on prayer.

I’ll be back at it again this morning – looking forward to more from my pastor, as well as fellowship with some pastor friends in the network.

And, in an unexpected bonus, former CLCers, Ramon & Candice Gordon, saw yesterday’s post and offered to meet me for dinner tonight.  Can’t wait!  (Bahama Breeze will make up for yesterday’s travel woes!)

Memorial Day

I don’t always get sentimental around US holidays, but yesterday’s video tribute at CLC got me thinking of what a privilege it is to live in this country.  Sure, we have our issues, but I’m just as sure that I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world!

Next time you’re tempted to complain about something in our land, remember that even your freedom to speak your mind is a privilege that is not enjoyed in many parts of the world.  We’ve been blessed with so many freedoms, and perhaps the main reason is so we could bless others ala Genesis 12:2.

And those blessings have not come cheap…..they have been bought & paid for in the blood of precious men & women who have served this nation.  It’s only fitting that one day a year we would pause from our busy schedules and take time to honor those who have and are serving.  Next time you see a soldier in uniform, give him thanks!

Playing with Fire

Last night’s session with Pure Life Ministries reminded me of my recent Bible reading about the life of Samson.  Even though I’ve read the story so many times, first hearing it as a child in Sunday School and later preaching it myself, I was still struck at how this strongest of strong men was so weak around women!

Judges 14:5-18 should have given me a clue about his weakness, when he couldn’t stand against a woman’s tears, and Judges 16:1-3 again showed us the connection between his enemy & his weakness for women.

But it was his interactions with Delilah in Judges 16 that just didn’t even make sense to me.  It seems almost unbelievable that he wouldn’t put 2 and 2 together when she begged him 3 times to know the secret of his strength and when he awoke, she had done to him the very thing he said would make him weak (see Judges 16:6-9; 11-12; 13-14)Are you kidding me?  Could he possibly have thought that was a coincidence?

And YET, after he finally told her his innermost secret (verse 17), he still fell asleep in her lap (verse 19)!

SELAH.

If you know this woman is asking about your strength and every time you tell her something, it happens AND your enemy just ‘happens’ to be in her house at that same time, why, oh why, would you put your head in her lap???

But that’s the nature of sin’s deception.  Even though Proverbs 6:27-28 is clear, logical and entirely predictable, we still think ‘I’m the exception; I can do this & not get burned’.

May each of us be men & women of purpose (as we discussed last night) and continue to walk softly before the Lord. 

Hope to see you at CLC tonight for the closing session of “A Call to Purity” event – 6:30pm!

PURPLE: When Blue & Pink come together

After Tuesday’s planning session with my favorite team of pastors, I gotta tell you, I’M EXCITED ABOUT THIS SUNDAY at CLC!

Whether you are male or female, you face daily temptations in our not-so-godly world. Even Jesus said we were being sent forth as lambs in the midst of wolves (Luke 10:3). Not a pretty picture, is it?

But the Bible gives us practical answers, and I can’t wait to share some with you – hope you’ll INVITE a friend to join you as we take another look at the unique needs of both men & women who want to please HIM in these strange times!

Speaking of unique needs – PLEASE mark your calendar for May 6, when we’ll host a guest ministry that is tackling an issue being ignored by many churches, while both male & female believers are falling victim to it daily! You won’t want to miss this no-holds-barred, but hope-and-life-giving weekend!

Money, money, money

Did that get your attention?

I’m not surprised.  Money seems to be always on our mind.  Even Scripture says that “money answers everything”.

We recently spent 4 weeks at CLC trying to motivate & inspire you to be led out of the bondage of debt into prosperity (Psa 68:6), and saw how important it is that you picture it and plan it and persevere for it.  But talking about it for 4 weeks really only helped us picture it – now we need to make specific plans to make it happen.

That’s why I’m excited about an opportunity this Saturday to host the Dave Ramsey “Total Money Makeover” simulcast.  You can register here now and then join us Saturday from 11:45am to 5pm.

It just might be your first step toward financial freedom and you won’t regret it!

Win-Win

You’ve heard the term before, probably in regards to a negotiation strategy, to insure that both parties come away feeling they ‘won’ something.

But I’ve been thinking lately about how it truly is a win-win in the Kingdom of God, whenever God asks us to do something.  For example: when we tithe, God is honored (Prov 3:9-10), so He wins.  Then He blesses us for our obedience (Mal 3:10), and we win!

I’ve been hearing how true that was this past Sunday when we closed our “This Little Piggy Had None” series with the big giveaway.  In fact, when you include the other campuses, we gave away over $10,000 on Sunday.  (When we planned this service, we didn’t know if God would bless it; we just felt it was something He was asking us to do in faith, that as we blessed His people, He would bless us as a ministry.)

Guess I shouldn’t have been surprised then when our Finance Director informed me that our church family gave more than $35,000 above the normal total for a Sunday!  In other words, you can’t outgive God!  We blessed about 50 people (counting all the campuses), and we got blessed in return.

That’s also WHY I’m so excited about the new sermon series we begin this Sunday: “Life Support”.  We’re going to talk about the ‘Key to a Fulfilling Life’, and the reason why I can’t wait to share it is that when we do what God asks us to do, we end up being fulfilled in the process.  And, come to think of it, this ministry also gets blessed – so I guess it’s a “win-win-win” – God gets honored by obedience; we get blessed; and the Church is able to fulfill its mission!

If you will set your clock ahead one hour this Saturday night and come to church on time Sunday morning, I promise it will be a win-win!

Inspiration AND practical tools

I confess: that ought to be true of every message at CLC. 

Tools without some inspiration can be an awfully dry Sunday.

Inspiration without some practical “how-to’s” can actually be frustrating, since we’re motivated, but don’t know how.

That’s why I’m really excited about this Sunday at CLC when we continue our new series, This Little Piggy Had None.  Because we’re not only going to look at Scriptural principles about breaking the curse of debt, but we’re also providing practical tools to help you and your family to make good plans to do just that.  Inspiration from the Word; practical tools to help you figure it out at home.

(I’ll try not to yell so much this week, but no promises.)

Coming home different

I don’t like hype. Besides, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. But I believe something happened to me at Global 2020.

John Maxwell said the Lord told him that HE would pour out the spiritual gift of leadership Tuesday morning, and I believed. Later he laid hands on me & dozens of others at the altar & imparted the anointing that’s on him, and I believed.

This much I know: it’s an honor just to be associated with the ministry of EQUIP, and with all my heart, I want to be a transformational leader, both at CLC and in the Nations where I’m privileged to serve.

I can’t wait for this Sunday!

Please read this

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve just passed along something someone else wrote, but this was just TOO GOOD to not do so – thanks, Pastor Steven Furtick for reminding us all how to really face our problems!

(honorable mention to our Student Ministries Director, Sam Hamstra for pointing this one out to me!)

AND for those of you who asked if we could get the prophetic word online that my wife gave at our weekend celebrations, here it is:

Many are thankful that we are at the end of 2011 for it has been a year of loss and death.  Death of hopes, dreams, plans, thoughts, and identity.  All of which was preparing us, pruning us for what God wants to do for and through us in 2012.  For this year will be a year of birth and NEW LIFE.  Now it’s been a while, but what I remember of childbirth is that it is painful and messy.  But we endure knowing what it will give us, a precious new life.  So it will be this year.  Things might be painful and messy at times, but we will not be discouraged for we know that we are giving birth to precious new life.  The Lord gave me one word to describe 2012 for CLC and that is “WILD”.  When I asked what that meant, because I didn’t know if I really liked the word, He said, “FULL OF GOD.”  He then gave me three pictures…

1.        Picture was of a man with a child on his lap reading a large story book, and as he turned the pages he was reading, “and this I my personality, this is my gifts and talents, this is my plan and my goals.”  Then God said, “Put the book down, it’s fantasy, fairy tales.  It’s based all on you.  What I want to do in you and through you this coming year goes beyond you, what you can do and what you can accomplish, into my territory, miracle territory.  What I want to do through you is so big that your personality and gifts could never accomplish it.  Give me your life.  Don’t just say “no.”  Ask me, go to me for direction.  I am going to take you in a totally different direction than what you think, but it’s part of the journey that will ultimately lead you to your heart’s desire, the desire that I have placed in you.  Look to me for direction for every aspect of what you say and do, wear and go.”  God says “I know the plans for you, and they are not where you would go on your own, but they will take you to my purposes and you will be lead by joy and peace.”

2.        The second picture was of a boardroom.  The men and women around the table all had their heads bowed in prayer, there was someone praying in the corner, rocking back and forth and someone laying on the floor before the Lord.  And I heard the Lord say, “More prayer, less planning, more dependence on God, less dependence on human reason.  This is not just for the church or ministries but also for businesses, and relationships.

3.       The third picture was of people on fire…totally engulfed in flames.  But they were not running around panicking like one would expect, because they were consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, walking with purpose, touching people and things with intent…lighting fires where ever they went.  And I saw then the map of the Chicago area and the little flames grew until they totally engulfed Chicago.

SPECIFIC WORDS FOR PEOPLE

  • There are people in music, business and ministry that will go international this year.  God says, no borders, no boundaries, no limits.  Take the limits off and see what God wants to do through you internationally.
  • There are Sarah’s here that will give birth in their old age.  Seasoned saints don’t panic.  It’s not necessarily in the natural.  People who are settled, have life all figured out, and think that it’s about time for them to slow down, are going to start all over.  Scary yes.  But if you surrender to the purposes of God your youth will be renewed, your joy will be restored and your strength will be reborn.  It is not time to slow down.
  • There will be some who will be ministering to the physical, emotional and spiritual  needs of those with aids, and in the process, there will be two people healed of aids.
  • There are those God is going to lead into the political and higher education arena as influencers in these fields.  We are not just to shake our heads at what is happening.  God is commanding us to make a difference, to be an influence in these areas.
  • Lastly, we are to raise up an army of militant intercessors of radical faith, not afraid of radical surrender and sacrifice.  For all that God wants to do in and through CLC in 2012 it must be first birthed in prayer.  You know who you are.  No one has to tell you that this word is for you.  God has already been dealing with you about this very thing.

IT WILL NOT BE BUSINESS AS USUAL!

Year-end giving at CLC

Happy New Year!

Actually, I’m hoping you’re able to read this before the New Year, since some CLCers are always interested in year-end giving and receiving tax credit for their donations.

In order for us to give you credit for the 2011 tax year, it’s necessary for us to receive your contribution before midnight on December 31, OR for your contribution to be postmarked by December 31.

So if you wish to make a year-end gift to CLC and receive credit for this tax year, there are three ways you can do so:

  • mail your contribution to any of our 3 locations before midnight this Saturday-
  • give your offering at the New Year’s Eve service in Tinley Park this Saturday (service begins at 5pm)-
  • donate online before midnight this Saturday (you can do so here)

By the way, it’s not too-late to be a part of our “Gifts Outside the Box” project this year.  We’ve already received over $13,000 to help make Christmas a lot brighter for our partners from Chandighar to Chicagoland, including a number of needy people right here in the South Suburbs and some in our own CLC family.  If you wish to designate a gift for those needs, you can do so here.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for your generous & faithful giving throughout 2011.  Because of people like you, we were able to see lives changed, both here and in the Nations!

Chris & I declare the favor of God over you in 2012!

Christmas Eve TRADITION…

It’s Christmas Eve!

Don’t know what’s on the agenda for you or your family today…..maybe it’s a mad dash to the Mall for some last-minute shopping…..or a visit to Grandma’s house for dinner…..or maybe even this is the day the kids get to unwrap the gifts under the tree.  Whatever your tradition is, I’m sure there’s something warm & nostalgic about it, that makes this time of your special for you & yours.

I’d just like to propose another tradition – whether this is the first time, or whether it’s already established in your household.  Why not join us at CLC for a special Christmas Eve Celebration at either 4pm or 6pm today?

We’ll sing some familiar carols (and some worship songs, too); enjoy a video or 2, and dig deeper into the Christmas story to find some uplifting truths, thru the stanzas of more “Christmas Classics” carols!  I’ve got a ‘rhema’ Word to share, and I’m convinced someone’s life will be changed for eternity!

There’s even time left to invite a friend or family member to join you!

On this date…

On a snowy December 16, 1972, a little teen blonde just 6 months after her graduation from high school joined me (just 2 days removed from my teen years) in standing before our pastor and a small church crowded with family and friends to pledge our love and our lives to one another.  In the 39 years that have followed, we’ve seen everything that we vowed that night: both better and worse, both richer and poorer, both sickness and health.  We’ve experienced incredible moments of joy and we’ve had to work our way through some awful times of sorrow.  But through it all, the one constant is that she has always been by my side.

I’ve watched her grow and develop from that shy teenager into an incredible woman of God.  I’ve marveled at how she has stretched herself and found her own calling and purpose that has enabled her to minister to others in several different congregations that we’ve been privileged to serve.  She’s endured the rigors of travel and the challenge of cross-cultural ministry in over 20 different nations, and I’m a witness as to how she is loved by women from all those nations and cultures as a result.

The greatest moments in my life are making her laugh, and the hardest times for me are seeing her cry (especially when I’m the cause).  She’s a great mom to my three children and the wonderful ‘Guys’ (his term for her) to our grandson, Jaeden.

I’m looking forward to growing old with her, because she’s still the woman of my dreams.  Happy 39th Anniversary, Chris – I love you today, and I always will.

CHANGED testimonies

I think ALL of us were touched and moved during the CHANGED series by the real-life, true stories of people just like you and me at CLC who have been changed by the Lord Jesus.  That’s why I’m excited to tell you that you can now download one or all of those testimonies, to listen again, or better yet, to send to a friend or family member that you want to encourage.

After all, it really is a Biblical principle: when the virgin Mary asked the angel ‘how’ she could possibly be the mother of our Lord, part of his answer to her was to consider her own cousin Elisabeth, who had been barren until her old age, but was now 6-months pregnant (Luke 1:34-36)There’s something about seeing God do it for someone else that inspires faith that He can do it for us, too!

You can get each of the testimonies here and pass them on to your family and friends – it just might make someone’s Christmas even more special!

Thanks-living!

I’ve said it publicly before, so I’ll say it again: today is probably the most “spiritual” holiday on our calendar!

I said that because of all the commercialization of Christmas and Easter (still trying to figure out chocolate bunnies in the Resurrection story) – it seems that we Americans have figured out how to ‘ruin’ what should be the 2 biggest days on the calendar: the birth of our Savior and His triumph over death, hell & the grave!

But THANKSGIVING is pretty special.  Oh, I know some resort to calling it “Turkey Day” and for others, it’s all about stuffing their face while watching non-stop football on the tube.  But think about it: what other day of the year do we spend surrounded by family and expressing our thanks for the goodness of God?

What are you thankful for this year?  I promise you: no matter how difficult or painful this year has been for you, you still have a LOT to be thankful for – if you just think about it.  One of my favorite stories from past Christian heroes is that of Matthew Henry (perhaps you’ve read from his commentary of the Bible) – who was once robbed.  After the robbery, he wrote in his diary:

“Let me be thankfulFIRST, because I was never robbed before. SECOND, because although they took my wallet they did not take my life. THIRD, because although they took my all, it was not much. FOURTH, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

That’s what I call ‘Thanks-living”, which is far better than just one day of the year!

If you’re still not sure what you have to be thankful for in 2011, click here.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The power of YOUR story…

I did a little recruiting before the “CHANGED” series began, but it’s clear now that I must have communicated poorly – so I’m scrambling now to try harder.

I’m still excited about this series, in which we want to focus on several Bible characters whose life was CHANGED by the power of God – primarily because I believe the series can be a tremendous encouragement to both members and prospects who desire a ‘change’ in their life.  But I’m also convinced that just sharing Bible stories alone won’t have near the impact of supplementing that Word from the Bible with a flesh-and-blood example of someone whose life has been changed here-and-now.

Our goal was to enlist at least 6-8 CLCers who could share their story either in person or via video this weekend, and an additional 75 or more who could share via a ‘cardboard testimony’ on November 20.  However, the response isn’t even a fraction of that.  I suspect that I wasn’t specific enough as to what we’re looking for, which caused most of you to not realize that YOU have a story to tell.  Please answer these questions:

have you ever been:

  • homeless?
  • in prison?
  • healed of a serious illness or condition like cancer, heart trouble, etc?
  • a recreational drug user?
  • a drug dealer?
  • bankrupt?
  • foreclosed upon?
  • unemployed?
  • an addict?
  • broken-hearted?
  • addicted to porn?
  • addicted to sex?
  • involved in a gay lifestyle?
  • a racist?
  • in overwhelming debt?
  • an alcoholic?
  • troubled with low self-esteem?
  • abused: physically, verbally or sexually?
  • severely depressed?

If you answered ‘YES” to any of those conditions, your story could become God’s way of encouraging others & changing their life!  That is, if you would be willing to share.  I know the enemy would tell you that revealing your past will bring shame & embarrassment – but that’s simply not true.  The truth is, sharing your story will empower others and give them hope that what HE’s done for you, He can do for them!

I’m pleading: would you contact us today with a detailed description of how you were changed by God’s grace?

OR, if you just cannot bring yourself to share publicly, but would be willing to reduce the details to a few words on a piece of cardboard, tell us here.

I’m praising God for you already.

Dealing with death

As I’m sure most of our congregation knows, we lost an excellent young man this week.  Shaun Thomas was one of those guys you had to like: always smiling, never-met-a-stranger, just the kind of guy you enjoy hanging out with.  He was only 33 years old and the heart attack that took him from us made his wife a young widow and left behind 4 precious children.  He served CLC well the past few years, both in our junior high and senior high Consumed Student Ministries, and as one of the leaders of our new CLC 1929 service.

As a pastor, I can tell you that this makes no sense and there are no explanations that satisfy, so you can stop looking for them.  Ever since the Fall of Man in the garden, we live in an imperfect world and death is a reality that we all must deal with.  Let me say “thanks” to all the CLCers who are praying for Shaun’s family, even as you process your own grief.

One of my main purposes for writing today is to pass along some VERY frank, non-traditional, but oh-so-right-on words from Pastor Perry Noble.  For the last 40 years of ministry, I’ve observed everything that Perry writes about in his blog today, and I couldn’t agree with him more.  I hope you’ll take his post to heart and apply it this week and in the weeks to come, not only with Shaun’s family, but with the death of any person you love.  Read and heed.

off to Jonesboro

Chris & I will be boarding a flight at O’Hare in a little while as I return to my hometown for the first time since my mother’s funeral.  It will give me an opportunity to visit my siblings and their families since I wasn’t able to attend my oldest brother’s funeral a few weeks ago.

It’s also been on my calendar for almost a year now, because tomorrow night is the 40th reunion of my high school class! (Am I really that old?)

Get this: it’s actually been 41 years since I’ve seen any of my classmates.  When I completed my junior year of high school, I only needed one credit to graduate, and because I was so sure that Jesus was coming soon (back in 1970), I felt I really needed to get started in ministry – so I skipped my senior year and went to Bible College in Houston, Texas instead.  I completed that last credit by correspondence, but was then informed by the JHS administration that I would not be able to participate in the graduation exercises with my class, contrary to what my counselor had promised the year before.  I suspect that’s why I never got on the mail list for reunions at 10, 20 or 30 years – but Facebook came to the rescue for this one, and I decided to go!

It’s a strange mixture of excitement and wondering ‘why in the world am I doing this’ as we leave today – but I’m hoping for the best.

And we’re skipping out on the main event Saturday night because we just can’t miss this Sunday at CLC, and the most creative presentation we’ve ever made (I’m a LOT more excited about it than the 40th reunion, for sure!).  Would you take the time time time right now to invite someone to be your guest as we focus on “Vintage Jesus: His Message” – you won’t forget it, and it just might change your friend’s life!

Prayer among friends…

In the last 3 days I’ve heard from 3 different friends in different parts of the world who each mentioned that they were praying for me.  I’m not talking about the many CLCers who assured me of their prayers in the recent loss of my oldest brother in Arkansas – I’m talking about friends who just felt prompted to pray.  One of them was even awakened before dawn to pray for me, and give me some Scripture that was given to her for me. I am blessed to have such friends.

Do you have friends like that in your life?

I so want that for you.  It’s part of the reason that I want every CLCer to experience the benefits of being part of a small group of like-minded believers, who will support you in prayer, perhaps when you don’t even ask.

Know what else came to my mind this morning as I reflected on those friends and their prayers for me?

I want to be that kind of friend.

Selah.

 

Miracle stories…

Yesterday was a busy day at the office, filled with sermon prep, phone calls, meetings and all the usual random stuff that happens in a typical work day.  EXCEPT for the lady who stopped by, unannounced and without an appointment, asking to speak with me.  Our efficient staff wasn’t even sure if they should send her to my office, since she had no appointment.  But I decided to give her a few minutes of my time, and boy, am I glad I did.

She quickly began to share her story – a story that included several major health issues and an unbelievable string of losses – including her job, her home, her marriage, tragic death of a close friend, bankruptcy and more – all within the past 3 or 4 years.  The result was that she was so severely depressed that she could hardly function and had no will to live.

But then a friend invited her to our Empower Conference, and she attended on the last night.  When Pastor Bob Yandian invited people forward for healing, she wanted to come, but was too shy to do so.  But after he prayed for everyone, he said, “you may not have received an instant healing, but you may receive your healing on the way home tonight, or a couple of days from now.  Just receive!”

Two days later she noticed that all her depression had lifted, and she felt normal again.  In fact, she told me that she had struggled with depression for most of her life (although never the deep depression that had settled on her recently) – but that it had been two weeks now since the Conference, and she had never felt JOY like this in her entire life!  Then she said, and “today, I just thought I should stop by and let you know”.

Just had to share that with you-

But I’m also wondering – what other ‘miracle’ stories are out there that we haven’t heard about?

If God has done something wonderful in your life recently, whether at Empower, or at Charged (our youth camp) or through some other ministry at CLC, would you take a moment to tell us your miracle story below?  Let’s encourage each other in the Lord today!

checking out……

When our Board of Directors was here a few weeks ago, they asked Chris and me some very pointed, very personal questions (that’s actually one of the benefits of being accountable to someone who has your best interests in mind).  After hearing our answers as well as the schedule we’ve kept this year at CLC, they gave us a strong recommendation (and then revisited it several times during our discussions to make sure I heard them) that we needed to take some extended time away from CLC, in order to maintain our own emotional health and recharge our batteries for the future.  They actually insisted on six weeks, but Pastor Eddie Cupples came to my rescue and finally agreed that I could return to speak on some of those Sundays, since 6 weeks out of the pulpit is a tough pill for any pastor to swallow.

At any rate, our “6-weeks” actually started about 10 days ago when we went away for Memorial Day weekend with our entire family, to celebrate my in-law’s (I posted about that here).  I’ll confess I cheated some last week, but I did spend a little less time in the office than normal.

But today we’re “checking out” for a few days – not gonna be in the office; not gonna answer email; not even gonna write any posts for this blog.  (Call it an ‘E-cation’!)

We’ll be back Friday for Ryan Royall’s funeral.  Maybe I’ll have more to say then……but no promises.

Thanks for praying for us – we FEEL your love & your prayers, and we want to be emotionally-healthy pastors!

more on the Joplin tornado

I just learned this morning that one of our CLCers from the South Bend campus (Mark Bishop) was personally affected by the Joplin tornado, as his father’s house was destroyed.  His father survived, but is understandably quite shaken, so Mark requests our prayers.

I also saw a news clip featuring one of our partnering churches – here’s the link to the interview with Pastor Heath Mooneyham of Ignite Church.  Thanks to folks like you all around the country, his church fed 3,000 people yesterday, and 200 are being housed inside the church.

As I’ve already said, CLC will match every online donation CLCers make through this Saturday, May 28 (in effect, doubling your gift!).   Just be sure to designate your gift for “Joplin tornado relief or use this link.

Thanks again!

God@the Movies!

Probably most “churched” folks have heard of the “7 last words of Christ” (maybe as part of a Good Friday service).  But do you know the ’7 last words of The Church’?

We’ve. Never. Done. It. That. Way. Before.

I’ve been around churches like that.  I’m SO glad CLC is not one of them.  But this summer, we’re pushing the envelope, even for us. 

We’re planning a 4-week series this July 10-31 that is TOTALLY designed to interest your unchurched friends.  It should be the most FUN and most INVITE-friendly series we’ve ever done, as we will teach Biblical principles found in 4 popular movies!

If you think that’s a cheap gimmick (or worse, a ‘compromise’ with ‘worldliness’), may I point out to you that the Apostle Paul himself used references to popular culture of his day, including direct quotes from Greek poets! (see Acts 17:22-28, among others).  Personally, I think 1Cor. 9:19-23 makes it clear: we have a responsibility to use every means possible to reach people with the Gospel, including getting into their world & seeing things from their point of view, so we can lead them to Christ.  And surely we all recognize this: we have friends that might not ever visit a church service, but they DO go to movies.  Maybe they’ll consider your invitation just to see what a church has to say about God@the Movies!

That’s why I’m EXCITED about this sermon series.  We’re going all-out, with lots of promotional tools to help you reach your friends & neighbors.  We’re even decorating the building for our theme, and offering free popcorn to help folks ‘get it’ – and I promise ALL of us will see God through the lens of popular movies.  Who knows…..the person you invite just might be one of those who gives their life to Christ as a result. 

Mark your calendar for July 10, 17, 24 and 31 – and plan to bring friends with you each Sunday!  Stay tuned for more details-

Joplin tornado relief

I’m sure you’ve been just as shocked by the images & reports coming out of Joplin, where the death toll is already at 117 and expected to go higher – making it the deadliest tornado in American history.

I lived through a tornado when I was a freshman in high school, as-44 people were killed in Jonesboro, AR and the church my family attended was completely destroyed.  A few years later while I was in Bible College, another tornado demolished the high school I had attended.  So I know first-hand the devastation these storms can cause, but I’ve never seen anything on the scale that Joplin experienced this weekend.

I’m pleased to tell you that CLC actually already has multiple partners on the ground in Joplin through our network of churches, and they’re already providing emergency shelter and assistance to those who survived.  If you would like to help with this outreach, CLC will match your online gift from now thru this Saturday, May 28Just be sure to designate your gift for “Joplin tornado relief or use this link

Thank you in advance for being such a generous people.

Church Diversity

My friend Scott Williams recently wrote his first book, “Church Diversity”, with the subtitle, “Sunday The Most Segregated Day of the Week”, and I hope it becomes a best-seller.  Actually, I hope pastors & churches all across America read it and apply it to their ministries!

[Full disclosure: Scott was kind enough to talk to me about the book prior to publication and invite me to participate.  CLC was one of eight churches featured in Chapter 6.] I’ve been saying for years, “we can’t expect our society to get it right until the Church gets it right” – but Scott proves me wrong, as he builds a strong case that our culture and certainly corporate America has actually made significant progress in regards to diversity, while the Church still lags behind.  It seems this is one more case where the Church is actually behind the times, and I pray that his book helps to change that.

Most importantly, I pray that the quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he declared in 1963 that “11 o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week … And the Sunday school is still the most segregated school” would finally become obsolete, as ‘red and yellow, black and white’ across this nation would embrace the fact that ‘we are precious in His sight’!  Then and only then this video could have a much different ending.  (take about 90 seconds to watch), and stuff like this would never happen in America again!

Thanks, Scott, for calling us to task.  At CLC, we’re with you, and we will model diversity down here until we all get up there!

Teamwork!

It’s amazing to me how many of us try to go it alone.

I talked about that some this past Sunday from 1Cor. 7:17, Psa. 68:5-6 and Rom. 12:13, 15-16 in reference to single adults – but the sad truth is that so many of us, pastors & leaders included, oftentimes function as “soloists”, instead of working with a team to get more done.

Case in point: this past Monday, like almost every year for as long as I can remember, our Board of Directors counseled me against some plans that I had made.  (In other words, they shot down some of my ideas!).  Instead of pouting about it or complaining about them disagreeing with my ideas – I embraced the wisdom and safety that comes from a multitude of counselors. (Prov 15:22).

In fact, I’m thankful to be part of a team that can help me avoid pitfalls that I might not see AND redirect my attention to areas where we can bear even more fruit!

Who’s on your team?

Selah.

What makes a person great?

As I was reading the Word this week, I noticed 2Sam. 23 contains David’s “last words”, which makes them significant, since he was ‘a man after God’s own heart’. So I sat up a little straighter and read with more than normal interest.  I soon discovered his list of his “mightiest warriors” (verse 8). For sure, Jashobeam impressed me, since he killed 800 warriors in a single battle!

Now read verses 9-12 about the next 2 ‘mighty men’ and see if it jumps out at you like it did me-

Do you see it? What made these guy’s exploits so remarkable is that it happened when the entire Israelite army had fled!

Made me think: what makes one person (or a whole army) flee while another stands firm & does remarkable things?

More importantly, do YOU ever feel like running, when faced with a BIG challenge?

As I pondered that, I came back to my office and read this post from John Maxwell about quitting.  I think it’s worth your time to read.

Let me know your thoughts-

This much I know: I don’t want to be a quitter; I want to be a mighty man!


(The Real) Modern Family

Watched the BULLS finish off the Pacers last night (DRose is a beast, and everbody helped, too) – but as exciting as that was, I think I’m even more excited about this next sermon series!

After spending the first 4 months of this year with GROW and iKnow, we’re going to concentrate on the FAMILY for the entire month of May.  What I’m especially excited about is that the modern family isn’t “one size fits all” – I mean, there’s nuclear families, blended families, single-parent families, never-marrieds, divorced, widowed, married without kids – and ALL of us are facing challenges like never before.  The family is under attack in 2011!

But get this: God’s Word still has the answers.

So we’re going to dive in deep these next 5 Sundays, with practical applications for each family – regardless of your status.  I mean it: this is NOT going to be a marriage series….or a parenting series…..we’re working hard to make sure we bring out God’s Word for each person, regardless of marital status or situation.

MOST-IMPORTANT: every family in America needs help. This will be the most guest-friendly series ever, so I’m pleading with you to INVITE, INVITE, INVITE!  Your friends and co-workers will appreciate these teachings.

If you had a guest here last weekend for Easter, please talk to them & invite them to return!

If you invited someone for Easter who didn’t show, get in touch this week & invite them again!

Grab some more of those invite cards, make some phone calls, send an email blast to your friends – whatever it takes, let’s help some families & see what God will do in the month of May!

Do you believe in hell?

That’s probably a strange question for this blog, but it certainly has become an issue, at least among contemporary Christians.  Some of that controversy is being fueled by the latest release from popular pastor and author, Rob Bell – a book called, “Love Wins”.

I just read a post from Perry Noble about this controversy, and instead of re-inventing the wheel by expressing my thoughts here, I’m just going to encourage you to read Perry’s – he said it so well here.

I do believe in a literal hell, and I do not want to see anyone spend eternity there.  That’s part of the reason WHY I’m pleading with you to continue inviting your friends and family to join us THIS weekend for the greatest Easter celebration ever at CLC – “iKnow What Easter is All About”.

Remember – we need to free up parking spaces & chairs for our two later services on Sunday, so join us on Saturday at 6pm for our Children’s Choir and enjoy some Culver’s ice cream afterwards!  Or come early on Sunday (pancake breakfast at 7am) and stay for the 8am service.  Can’t wait to see what God will do!