Ask the Pastor

 

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, In Hosea 2:22 and Joel 2:19 it mentions about God giving to the people grain, wine and oil.  What does grain, wine and oil represent in these 2 verses?  Does it mean the same in both Hosea and Joel?  I think they mean increase (grain), possession (wine) and anointing (oil) but would love to get your take on it.”

Wow…that’s one that I’ve never been asked before…and frankly, hadn’t thought about, either – so I had to do a little digging myself.  (One of the things I love about this Friday feature – questions that make me dig!)  Here’s what I got:

  • Most of the scholars that I consulted seemed to ignore the ‘grain, wine & oil’ in their focus on the meaning of the verses, but I did find a few who simply mentioned the fact that those 3 (grain, wine & oil) are the “Mediterranean triad”, the main agricultural products in ancient Israel and the major components of the ancient Israelite diet.
  • While it’s not the question you asked, I did find Hosea 2 interesting, in that the poetic language of the prophet pictures (a) Israel will cry out to the crops of grain, wine & oil  and (b) the crops will respond by calling to the earth that produces them and (c) the earth in turn will look to the heavens, the source of the rain which makes the soil productive and (d) the heavens will then call to the Lord, the One who ultimately controls the agricultural cycle; and (e) He will respond by providing the rain that is necessary for the crops to prosper!  It seems that all things in heaven and on earth depend on God, as John Calvin said, “so that without His bidding not a drop of rain falls from heaven, and the earth produces no germ, and consequently all nature would at length be barren, unless He gave it fertility by His blessing”.  That certainly agrees with Deuteronomy 28:12there is a system and order to the universe, and God rules over it all!
  • I find no reason to think that the grain, wine and oil means anything different in Joel than it does in Hosea – those 3 are mentioned in other places (e.g., 2Chron. 32:28; Deuteronomy 7:13) and seem to be that ‘Mediterranean triad’ mentioned above.
  • Finally, I guess I’ll admit that I don’t have any insight into what the 3 products might symbolize, beyond the literal meaning – so your suggestion is as good as any.

Hope that helped (a little).  Perhaps someone reading this has an opinion on the possible symbolism of the grain, wine and oil – if so, please share with us below, along with your reasoning.

Meanwhile, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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One of our elders writes, “In the parable of the Three Servants, Matthew 25:14-30,  I noticed the master said to the servants who doubled their talents “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” To the other servant who buried his talent, the master said to him “You wicked and lazy servant.” I noticed the contrast of “good and wicked”, also “faithful and lazy.” Why did the master call him wicked? Are we wicked when we don’t use our gifts and talents for the Kingdom of God?  At the end of the parable the useless servant was thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That’s a pretty heavy consequence for not using your gifts & talents. Can you comment on this?”

Good question, although I’m not sure that I can add much to what you’ve already observed:

  • The Master called him wicked because he was.  After all, Proverbs 18:9 gives us another look at God’s view of slothful or lazy servants. (Destroying property is considered “wicked” by almost everyone).
  • So the answer your second question, yes, we are wicked when we don’t use the gifts & talents God has given us.  After all, they were given to us by the Lord for the specific purpose that we would use them for others (1Peter 4:10).
  • Besides, his explanation to the Master shows his bad attitude (verse 24and that he was motivated by fear (verse 25), and the fearful actually lead the list in Scripture of those who will ultimately be cast into the lake of fire! (see Revelation 21:8)
  • Finally, I agree with you that it seems like a heavy consequence to us, but perhaps that’s because we need to come into agreement with how serious the Lord views our disobedience to use the gifts He has given us so freely.

Hope that helps.  Do YOU have anything to add, or an additional question to ask?  Please join the conversation below-

Ask the Pastor

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A favorite CLC’er writes, I’m reading 2Thess. 2:1-4. Verse 3 refers to the ‘man of lawlessness’. Is this an actual person or perhaps a system of organized sin (for lack of a better phrase)?”

Great question, especially for all those ‘prophecy buffs’ who like to study end-time events in Scripture.  (I’m not one of those, but I can give you my understanding of the passage)

  • To the best of my knowledge, even the scholars are pretty much in agreement about this ‘man of lawlessness’ (‘man of sin’ in some translations) who is perhaps best known as “the AntiChrist”.
  • Again, in my understanding of prophetic scriptures, just as Jesus is God manifest in a human body, it seems the Antichrist is Satan in a human body.  He is the  ringleader for Satan’s efforts to oppose God’s people, especially the nation of Israel in the last days.  He will have unprecedented powers and exercise rulership over much of the world, at least before he is overthrown (Daniel 11:45) and thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20)
  • Obviously, we could talk much more about the AntiChrist or even join the ranks of those who like to speculate as to who he might be and whether he is already in a position of power on earth today.  Just in my lifetime, I’ve known those who predicted the AntiChrist was Mikhail Gorbachev, or Muammar Gaddafi or the Pope or even President Barack Obama!  So I think I’ll stay away from predictions-
  • If you want to read more on the subject, I suggest Daniel 7 as a good starting place.

Hope that helps.  Join the conversation today – if YOU have a question or comment, please leave it below.

 

Ask the Pastor

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A friend of CLC writes, “Here is my question. I know many people who feel with all that is going on they are saying America is finished we are doomed. That God sent 9/11; that he sent Katrina and now we will get earthquakes and God will pour out his wrath because of the Supreme Court and all the other issues.”

Ahhh, yes: The Question of questions these days.

Since the Bible obviously doesn’t address these issues directly, let me give you my  ‘sanctified opinion':

  • First, in my experience over the years, it seems many Christians always see God’s judgment – either in current tragedies, OR, perhaps even more often, in their own predictions.  Some people just seem to gravitate to negative, judgment-is-coming-type-of-pronouncements.  As a pastor friend of mine says about the controversy regarding the tribulation period spoken of in prophecy, “some folks just gotta tribulate a bit!”
  • Second, this is not a new development.  It seems even when Jesus walked the earth that people often wanted to connect tragedy with judgment of sin (see Luke 13:1-5 and John 9:1-5, for just two examples of this).  As Jesus taught us in that last example, we need to be doing what He’s called us to do instead of speculating about judgment on someone for something!
  • Having said that, I cannot deny that God does send judgment on mankind.  2Samuel 21:1 is just one of many instances of this in Scripture. However, I also believe the truth of Job 1:9-10; namely, that God puts a hedge of protection around us; otherwise, we can’t even imagine the catastrophe’s and horrific judgments that Satan would gladly unleash upon us.
  • In fact, that would probably be my personal concern after recent events in our nation  – that God would remove His hand of protection, His covering, from America, which would allow the enemy to bring all sorts of pain to our world.
  • But the overriding truth that I hold to is that God already judged our sin – He did so at the Cross, when He placed His wrath upon Jesus (Isaiah 53:4-6)  Thank God that He isn’t looking to judge us; He’s looking for opportunities to save us! (2Peter 3:9)

Hope that helps a bit.  Now, it’s YOUR turn: do you have a comment to add, or a question of your own to ask?  Please join the conversation below-

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I want to know know why some people call themselves apostles when clearly the Bible says that in order to become one, you had to have been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry and also to have seen the resurrected Christ. Please explain.”

Great question.  The passage you reference in regards to qualifications is Acts 1:17-22.  It is true, as we read there, that the first 12 Apostles (sometimes called, ‘the Apostles of the Lamb’, as in Revelation 21:14) had to have been with Jesus from the beginning.  I believe those Apostles are also referred to in Ephesians 2:20.  These men laid the foundation for us, and many of them were used by God to give us inspired Scripture.

However, a careful reading of the New Testament also shows that the ministry-gift or office of apostle continued beyond those first 12 apostles (see Ephesians 4:11-14).  Since those gifts were to continue until the church was in such unity and maturity that we measured up to the full standard of Christ, I must say I don’t think we’re there yet, so those gifts must still be in operation.

Some scholars even include the Apostle Paul in that latter category, while others say his Damascus Road experience allowed him to meet the Acts 1 qualifications.  This much I know, Paul himself believed in apostles who were not part of the original group, including some women as well as men (see Acts 14:14; 1Thess. 1:1 with 2:7Romans 16:7 – and note that Junia is a feminine name!)

At CLC, we definitely believe in the ministry of apostles and prophets today, as well as in Bible times.  While I must close this post before it becomes a book, let me simply say that, in my understanding of Scripture, an apostle is a ‘sent-one’ who has a fathering ministry; i.e., other pastors & churches will look to that apostle for spiritual covering and oversight.   (I thank God for men like Bishop Joseph Garlington and Pastor Eddie Cupples who have served in that role for me at CLC.)

Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Feel free to leave your question or comments below-

Ask the Pastor

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I’ve been doing a Friday post to answer questions submitted by readers for over 10 years now, and I must say, I enjoy giving a practical Biblical answer to your questions.

However, for the past few months, I’ve not had a single question submitted :-(

Rather than continuing to use previous posts to questions from the past, I’m wondering if it’s time to drop this regular Friday post.

Would you weigh in?  If I don’t hear from you, I can safely assume it’s ok to drop this feature.  If you do want it to continue, help me by asking a question – it can be a verse that you don’t understand, a question about what the Bible might teach regarding a subject or even something in life or culture that’s troubling you.  I just need to hear from you.

Thanks!

P.S. Don’t forget – this Sunday concludes our annual “God@the Movies” series and my wife & I have a ‘word’ for you through the delightful musical, Annie!  Invite a friend-

Ask the Pastor

For the past 5 weeks I’ve been answering questions about “speaking in tongues”.  Today’s questions are a variety that didn’t fit neatly into another category:

  • Can you pray in the spirit without speaking in Tongues?  I don’t know what that would look like, since in the Bible those two terms are synonymous – notice 1Cor. 14:14-16
  • What is travailing in tongues? I once had a strong strenuous prayer in tongues.  Travailing in the spirit is a fulfillment of Romans 8:26-27.  It is the most  intense form of prayer that I’ve ever experienced personally.
  • If this is something we should do privately, when someone on the platform tells everyone to begin to speak in their heavenly language, why is that ok? It’s not ok, if unbelievers are present, according to 1Cor. 14:18-25, and I don’t think we’ve ever done that at CLC.
  • Does speaking in tongues mean you are receiving a prophetic word? No, it means you’re praying in a language that you’ve never learned, as the Holy Spirit enables you to do so.  A prophetic word is given to you in your own language by someone who is gifted to speak prophetically.
  • When you speak in tongues does God answer your prayers more than if you don’t speak in tongues? The Bible doesn’t say.  My opinion would be that answers have nothing to do with the language we used while praying, but whether we had faith when we prayed that what we asked would come to pass! (see Mark 11:22-24)
  • Can you explain Acts 1:8?  Jesus promised that we would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses, and that we would take His gospel to our city (Jerusalem), our region or state (Judea), across cultures to people who live near us but may not be like us (Samaria), and to the ends of the earth  (the Nations).  That verse embodies our missions strategy at CLC.  If there is a ‘tongues’ connection to that verse, it would be my opinion that we receive a ‘power’ when we baptized in the Holy Spirit that we didn’t have before even though we may have been a born-again believer.
  • Can you sing in tongues? A lady did it on the radio. She’s not the only one! Not only have I experienced it (along with millions of others), the Apostle Paul wrote about it in 1Cor. 14:15.
  • So, when speaking in tongues, I often feel stronger. How would you explain that phenomenon? Feelings are subjective – meaning, we all have them, but they vary from person to person.  Isaiah did prophesy that speaking in tongues brings us rest and refreshing, so perhaps that’s why you feel stronger.  (see Isaiah 28:11-12)

Perhaps you’re still not convinced.  Why not take your question to the Lord, and tell Him that you truly want everything that HE has for you.  (Don’t be surprised when He answers that request!)

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

Ask the Pastor

Well, it’s been almost a month since our LIVE Q & A about ‘speaking in tongues’, and I’m  still answering questions that we didn’t have time to cover in service that day.  One of the big ‘surprises’ for me was how many questions/concerns were submitted on May 31 about the possibility of Satan being involved:

  • Is it possible to mistake tongues for possession of a demon? Satan counterfeits EVERYTHING. How would I know that I’m speaking in tongues from Holy Spirit? There is so much about false preachers imparting false tongues. How can I be sure?  How would someone know the difference of speaking in tongue and speaking from the devil? Because there is difference?

Yes, because anything is possible. However, Luke 11:11-13 gives us assurance that our Father is good and there’s no way He would allow the enemy to override our sincere prayer to be filled with His Spirit!  I think these ‘worries’ are just a trick of the enemy to keep people from receiving the wonderful gift that God has promised them!  You do not need to worry that if you ask God to fill you that somehow the devil is going to answer your prayer with a false tongue! I do not understand the comment about “false preachers imparting false tongues”, as I’ve never heard of that happening & certainly there’s no record of it in the Bible.  

  • When speaking in tongues can the devil interpret your prayers to God? Is it true that when you pray in tongues that the devil does not have a clue as to what you are praying about?

Interesting – I’ve heard that said most of my life, by many well-meaning preachers.  However, there is NOTHING in the Bible to indicate that to be true.  To the contrary, since Satan has been around for 6,000 years and has demons in every country on earth, I’m pretty sure he can understand any earthly language, and since he used to be an archangel in heaven, he probably can understand the tongues of angels, too.

  • Do people fake speaking in tongues?

I feel certain that some have.  In fact, I’ve heard some people say that they faked it when they were part of a church like I described on May 31, where they were encouraged to repeat the same phrase over and over again until their tongue got twisted up or some other such attempt to ‘help’ the Holy Spirit.  Some people have said they faked it just so they could quit praying & get out of there! Bottom-line: just because someone may have faked it at some point in time, does not mean that the gift is not real or that God hasn’t promised it to you!

Still not sure? Why not tell God that you want everything HE has for you – and that IF this experience with the Holy Spirit is real, you want to receive! (I think He’ll honor that prayer!)

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

Ask the Pastor

I’m still answering questions that I didn’t have time to cover in our May 31 LIVE Q & A on “speaking in tongues”.  Today’s questions from each campus and our online audience have to do with the “language”:

  • Is there something that determines what dialect someone speaks in during prayer?  Is a prayer language comparable to a language that is newly learned or is it comparable to one’s native tongue? If you have been filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues can you ask The Lord to change your language? When you talk in tongues is it always different words?

Yes, the Holy Spirit provides the language (or dialect) according to Acts 2:4.  I’m not sure what you by “comparable to a language newly learned or one’s native tongue” – and Scripture is silent about those details – but in my experience, it varies from individual to individual.  I’ve heard some people speak fluently as soon as they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, and I’ve heard others who started hesitantly, almost like a baby learning to talk, with only a few words in the beginning, and seen them grow in their experience later.  As to asking the Lord to “change your language”, in my experience, our prayer language does change from time to time, as the Spirit prompts and provides.  Just as you often use the same phrases when praying in English, you may use some of the same words or phrases in tongues – after all, it is a language.

  • How do you explain the tongue in reference to most sounding like babble vs diverse tongues , as like what was done and heard on the day of Pentecost? What about the gift of tongues, speaking in a language you don’t know but others understand?

I’m not sure how many languages you are personally familiar with, but in my travels to 25-30 different nations, I’ve often heard languages that sounded like ‘strange babble’ to me – but the people in those countries certainly understood.  As I shared on May 31, I’ve known of numerous cases where someone spoke in tongues and someone overheard them who understood everything they said – including some where English was the language the Holy Spirit gave someone in another country.  What happened in Pentecost was never repeated again in the Bible, but certainly has happened in modern times – so in my opinion, it’s neat when it does occur, but certainly not necessary.  And as you can see in Acts 2, the fact that the tongues were known to the hearers only resulted in amazement  and confusion and ridicule (note especially verses 12-13).  It wasn’t until Peter stood up and preached in one language that people heard the Gospel (notice Acts 2:14-41).

  • What is speaking in tongues? I never did and don’t understand if it Is an actual language or feeling that comes out in your language.

It is an actual language that you have not studied or learned, but the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to speak it as (a) a sign of His coming to you (Acts 2:4, or Acts 10:44-46; or Acts 19:1-6); or (b) as a privatepersonal aid to enhance your devotional life (1Cor. 14:2, 1Cor. 14:4, 1Cor. 14:18, Jude 20); or (c) as a public gift to be used in conjunction with the companion gift of ‘interpretation of tongues’ to encourage the entire congregation in a public gathering of believers (1Cor. 14:5, 1Cor. 14:26-28).

I may not have answered all YOUR questions, but I know ONE who can.  Why not make it a matter of prayer, and tell the Lord that you’re not convinced, but that IF He has more for you, you want it all! (I believe He will answer that prayer)

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

 

Ask the Pastor

If you read this post from last week, you know that I’m trying to answer questions that we didn’t have time for in our recent LIVE Q & A that closed the “God Breathed” series.  Here are several questions that were submitted about ‘how’ to receive a prayer language:

  • Why is it so difficult for me to receive my gift of speaking in tongues? I know that I’ve been baptized in the Holy Spirit. I’ve been praying and asking for the gift of my prayer language for MONTHS… Nothing yet. Am I doing something wrong? I sincerely desire to enhance my relationship with God. I have never spoken in tongues before. Is there something missing in my spiritual life? What if you’ve prayed multiple times for your prayer language and you’ve yet to receive it, what does that mean?

First, it’s impossible for me or anyone else to know why someone has not received their prayer language.  It is a gift that God wants you to have.  I will give you some possibilities, not that I’m accusing you, but for your consideration:

(a) have you truly trusted Jesus to be your Savior & made Him your Lord?  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is only promised to those who have received Jesus:  Acts 2:37-38; Acts 8:14-17Acts 19:1-6.  (b) Have you refused to forgive anyone?  (Unforgiveness creates a blockage in your heart to receive anything from God) –  Matthew 18:21-35(c) Do you have persistent, unrepented sin in your life? –  2Corinthians 6:14-18.

If you’ve met all of those requirements, then I would say it’s either a matter of hunger (Matt. 5:6or faith (Gal. 3:2or your cooperation with the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  HE promised to give you this gift, but YOU must do the speaking – so give a voice to the new language that the Spirit provides you.

  • I have been a born again believer for 16 years but I still do not speak in tongues. I have asked God for the release to speak in tongues and have had others pray for the release but I am still waiting. However, I feel excluded when CLCs congregation is asked to use their prayer language. I will continue to pray and wait, but is there anything else I should be doing while I am waiting?

I would urge you NOT to passively wait – Matt. 7:7-8.  I honestly believe that if you truly want to receive your prayer language, you should take every opportunity to pray for that experience – come forward at every service if necessary.

However, I also want to address your feeling of exclusion.  I have wracked my brain trying to recall when we have ever asked CLC’ers to use their prayer language in a public Sunday service, and I can’t recall that we ever have.  We have on a very few occasions where there were no unbelievers present for a midweek gathering or a prayer meeting encouraged everyone who has a prayer language to use it, but because of 1Cor. 14:18-25, I would never want to encourage everyone to pray in the spirit with unbelievers present.

If that last paragraph is not clear, let me quickly say I do not see a Biblical problem with anyone speaking in tongues during congregational prayer or worship so long as they are not drawing attention to themselves or disturbing others.  My understanding is that the cautions of 1Cor. 14 apply to times in a public gathering where someone would ‘speak out’ in tongues – NOT if someone spoke in tongues while everyone was singing or worshipping.

  • At my old church someone said that I didn’t have the Holy Spirit because I didn’t speak in tongues. They all spoke in tongues but no one ever translated & when I asked why they never translate they ignored me.

It sounds like your former church was out of order, according to 1Cor. 14:27-28.  And if they didn’t make a distinction between the Holy Spirit indwelling every born-again believer and the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a subsequent gift, then it sounds like they don’t understand the Biblical teaching of 1Cor. 12:13.

  • How do I speak in tongues?

First, don’t make that your objective (or obsession).  The Holy Spirit will give you the ability (Acts 2:4), but notice it was “everyone present” who did the speaking.  In other words, the Holy Spirit will give you the new words to say, but YOU must cooperate by giving voice to that language!

If you still have questions, perhaps my BEST advice is to simply encourage you to pray & say, “Lord, IF you have more for me, I want it – I want everything you promised me.”  From what I’ve observed over the years, God loves to answer that prayer!

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

Ask the Pastor

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As you probably know, last Sunday we closed the “God Breathed” series at CLC with a live Q & A on the subject of ‘speaking in tongues’.  We were overwhelmed with questions from all 3 Chicagoland campuses and our online audience, so I wasn’t able to answer them on Sunday.  So, I’ll be taking the next several Friday’s to address each of the questions you asked that weren’t covered on Sunday.  (Here’s the video if you missed)

God Breathed SHow Ben and Jerry from Christian Life Center on Vimeo.

There were actually more questions about the gift of “interpretation of tongues” than anything else, so let’s start there:

  • When praying for someone in tongues, how can the other person understand you are truly praying for them?  I can speak in tongues but I don’t know what I’m saying-how can i know/discern what I’m praying for? How do you even know what you’re saying when you speak in tongues?  In order to speak the prayer language do I have to understand it?  Do people who speak in tongues understand you when you do it?

1Cor. 14:2 is very clear that speaking in tongues is NOT for people to understand, but rather is a language that we speak to God.  That’s why we usually call it a “prayer language” at CLC, since it’s intended purpose and benefit is for the individual in their personal, private times of devotion – NOT for public use, since no one understands.

  • How does the gift of interpretation of tongues manifest at CLC? What is the protocol? Can you talk about the apostle Paul’s teaching about the accompanying interpretation of tongues for public edification? How do you interpret the prophetic spiritual tongue? What does it mean to interpret tongues? Who can interpret? Why in some cases would you need a translator for those speaking in the holy language?

The gift of interpretation of tongues is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to interpret what someone has said in tongues; i.e., the ‘interpreter’ does not understand the language, but is given the interpretation on that occasion by the Holy Spirit, so that the entire congregation can receive benefit.

The “protocol” or rule for the use of that public gift to benefit the entire congregation is given in 1Cor. 14:27-28, as follows:

(a) at least 2 or at the most 3 people would speak to the congregation in tongues, one at a time (not all at once); (b) then one of them or another individual who has the gift of interpretation of tongues would tell the congregation the meaning of what had just been spoken in tongues; (c) if no one is present who has the gift of interpretation, then there should be NO speaking to the congregation in tongues, but rather quietly to oneself.

  • Can you speak and interpret your own tongue? (Praying with someone) Not if you’re following the Biblical instruction in 1Cor. 14:27-28, which requires at least one or two other people to be involved in an orderly fashion.  Is there praying in tongues, and can God hear and answer, or can gifted others interpret this prayer?  There is certainly ‘praying’ in tongues, since that is the primary purpose & use of this gift (see 1Cor. 14:2Speaking in tongues is a language that is different than any other. The interpretation and representation of what is said is not known by the speaker. Why is this? I’m not sure what you mean by a “language that is different than any other”, since the Bible word translated as “tongues” simply means “languages” and there are examples in Scripture and today of people who spoke in tongues by the power of the Holy Spirit, yet it was a known language that was understood by some others who overheard them.  As to your second question of ‘why’ the language is not known by the speaker, well, that’s the point: it is a  supernatural gift that is given by the Holy Spirit to enable you to speak a language that you have not studied and do not know; it’s a miracle!

I hope this helps, but I’ve got a suggestion if you have any questions about the Holy Spirit.  Why not ask God if HE has more for you, then tell Him if so, you want it.  That’s a prayer HE delights in answering.

Next Friday we’ll tackle the next set of questions, but in the meantime, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Unanswered questions from Sunday’s Q&A

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Yesterday at CLC we closed our “God Breathed” series with a LIVE Q & A about speaking in tongues, and there were more than 60 questions submitted from all 3 Chicagoland campuses as well as our online audience.

Since I was only able to answer about 10-12 of those questions in each service, lots of you were probably disappointed that your question didn’t get addressed publicly.

So I’m encouraging you to check back here each Friday for the next few weeks, as I’ll try to provide answers to all of those that we didn’t have time to cover live.  Thanks!

Last call for your questions

Tongues

I’ve already had several responses from people outside of CLC for this Sunday’s Q & A about “speaking in tongues”, and I’ll admit, there have been some that I’ve never been asked before.  (That’s surprising to me since I grew up in a Pentecostal church and after 42+ years of ministry, I thought I’d heard it all!)

We WILL be fielding live questions from each Chicagoland campus of CLC as well as from our online audience this Sunday, May 31, at 8:30am, 10am and 12 noon – but you can help me get prepared by submitting YOUR question now.  Just leave your question in the comment section below, or, if you’re reading this on Facebook, by posting a question below, or via email.

Our pastoral team has some great ideas to make this a FUN experience for the entire family on this Family Sunday, so invite a friend and let’s see what God will do.

Ask the Pastor

Tongues

I didn’t have any questions submitted this week, but we’re gonna do something next Sunday (May 31) that we’ve NEVER done at CLC – a Q&A Sunday!

Here’s the deal: the entire month of May has been/is our Holy Spirit emphasis with the  God Breathed series. To close it off on May 31, I want to answer every question you’ve ever had about ‘speaking in tongues’ but may have been afraid to ask.

We plan to do that live, with questions texted to us from all our Chicagoland campuses and online audience (hey, like they say: “high-risk; high-reward”!) – but to get the message started, I would love to get some questions in advance so we don’t have an awkward delay while we wait for the first texts to come in.  Even if you’re not able to join us physically or for the livestream that day, we’ll get the video online afterward so you can watch it on demand and get the answers to all your questions.

No question is taboo and all the questions will be anonymous – so please leave your question below on this blog, or in the comment section of Facebook, or even via email to me – anything you’ve wanted to know about speaking in tongues or what we usually refer to as “a prayer language” at CLC.

I can’t wait!

Ask away…..

Ask the Pastor

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A friend writes, “I was walking from work with a friend recently. We encountered a woman with some type of physical disability which caused her to walk differently. It was a tad windy and she “seemed” to really labor.  I had the urge to want to put both my hands on her and say, “IN THE NAME OF JESUS, BE HEALED”…….But I did nothing….said nothing….This has happened several times in my life.  My question is…..WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON?”

Good question.  And I’m sure you’re not alone, in your experience or in your question.  Let me try to make some sense of it for you.  If there’s an example in Scripture of a similar situation, I’m not aware of it.  So I’m left with trying to find some Biblical principles that could apply:

  • The urge to pray for someone and see them healed is (and should be) very normal for any believer.  After all, Jesus Himself said this is one of the ‘signs’ that should accompany us as believers (Mark 16:17-18)
  • There are plenty of examples in the book of Acts of believers who did that very thing, with wonderful results: Acts 3:1-8; 5:15-16; 8:6-8; 9:17-18; 9:32-34; 14:8-10, etc.
  • One thing is certain: 100% of those you don’t pray for will not be healed. (Well, at least not through your prayers.  I’m sure God is able to bring someone else to pray for them and see them healed.) 

Perhaps your real question is whether the ‘urge’ you sensed was God moving on you to pray for the woman, or was it ‘just you’?  To that question, I must confess, ‘I don’t know’.  Your urge may have been nothing more than the normal compassion that any believer feels when we see someone in need.  In my humble opinion, there’s nothing wrong with responding to compassion even if we don’t know that God is directing us.  Let’s suppose you did lay hands on her and pray for healing (after getting her permission, of course), and nothing happened.  You still did what you thought was the right thing to do, and your action was born out of compassion and concern for a fellow human being. What’s the harm in that?

On the other hand, what if you had prayed for her, and God answered that prayer?  Both of you would have experienced a miracle, and both your lives would have been impacted for good – perhaps even changed forever!

I’m saying, it’s never wrong to say ‘yes’ to God.

Now, let me quickly add that your question may have already been born out of a sense of guilt or shame that you failed to act when prompted.  If so, do not let the enemy beat you up with his accusations!  Remember Romans 8:1.  Repent to the Lord and purpose in your heart that you’ll respond different if HE prompts you again.  Then walk in freedom, knowing that you are a child of God and that your Father loves you!

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

Ask the Pastor

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A former CLC’er who now lives in another state writes, “I have a biblical question: can you tell me the difference between when a person has a breakthrough vs. when they are delivered?”

Hmmmm. In all honesty, I’m not sure that is a Biblical question, because I don’t think the Bible uses either term explicitly.  In fact, I did a concordance search and as I see it, neither term is used in the sense that we normally use them today.

Having said that, I can give you MY thoughts about the difference between the two terms, as commonly used in today’s “Christianese”:

  • Breakthrough, as I’ve heard it expressed, seems to imply a blockage of some sort has now been removed; e.g., “I’ve had a financial breakthrough, Praise God!”, meaning that whatever was hindering my finances or holding me back or keeping me in debt has now been defeated, and I’ve overcome it.  That breakthrough could be in regards to prayer or family relationships (i.e., communication, etc.) or finances or worship or even in regard to spiritual warfare.
  • Delivered, on the other hand, usually refers to being set free from a habit or behavior, whether through discipline or prayer or even by casting out a demon.  For example, “I’ve been delivered from gambling”.

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

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “a group of us CLC’ers recently met at a local restaurant, and as we were walking out we passed a table of people where a lady was reading Tarot cards. I was shocked to see that(especially in public) as were the others in the group. Our question is, how would you (we) witness to such a group or anyone that was in a group like that?”

Interesting question.

More than anything else, I think it’s a reminder that our world has changed.  America is now what many are calling a “post-Christian nation”, which means the average person in our country hasn’t been brought up with the Judeo-Christian values that many of us have. They didn’t hear Bible stories in Sunday school.  They don’t share our understanding of right and wrong, good and evil, from a Biblical worldview.  Of course, it’s being played out in much larger circles with same-sex marriage issues that seem to be in the media almost everyday now.  My point is, we can’t assume anything about the people we meet these days, and, to be effective, we must adopt a missionary mindset.  We would never expect a missionary in another country to try to reach people without learning their language and seeing to reach them using methods that were relevant and effective in their culture.

So to answer your question, I’m not sure there would be a way, on a chance visit to a restaurant, to reach Tarot card readers (or participants).  In my mind, it would be far better and so much more effective to get to know some of the participants individually – building a friendship with them first.  After developing a genuine relationship, I’m sure the Lord would open a way to discuss the Gospel with them.  After all, the issue is not the Tarot cards; the issue is that they don’t know Jesus!

Meanwhile, you can certainly pray for an open door.  That’s not a cop-out on my part; unless the Lord open their heart, we can’t reach them.  So pray that HE will open a door for you to have influence with one or more members of that group, and be alert for those doors when they open.

I hope that helps – it’s definitely a complex issue.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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Two faithful CLC’ers both asked the same basic question this week, with one writing, “I received the gift of tongues at CLC. My question now is about someone interpreting what is being said. I have not observed someone interpreting when someone is speaking in tongues. What is CLC’s stance on this?” and the other commenting on her question, “I am with you on this one. I came from a church that sometimes during a Sunday service or whatever event, the Holy Spirit would come and speak through someone & It would be so quiet and calm, no matter what was going on – baby crying, preaching, whatever – the person who was being used to speak in this Heavenly language would be loud and clear, then shortly after this, usually the pastor, but sometimes someone else will reveal the message that was spoken. I am by no means being negative by asking this question, Why hasn’t this happened at CLC during any service since I’ve attended in 2 1/2 years?”

Great questions.  My best answer is “I don’t know”.

Here’s what I do know:

  • The gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues are different in purpose than the “prayer language” that we usually talk about at CLC.  Our prayer language is given to us for our personal edification, and can be used in our private devotions daily.  (see 1Corinthians 14:2, 4-5, 18).  For that reason, there is no need for a public interpretation of what we’re saying when we use our prayer language.
  • However, you certainly can ask for the interpretation in your prayer times (see 1Corinthians 14:13, 28)
  • The gift of interpretation that always operates in conjunction with a ‘message’ in tongues is for PUBLIC use, as my questioner describes.  Growing up in a Pentecostal church as I did, I have witnessed this many, many times – some of which were nothing short of amazing instances of God communicating a message to His people for a specific purpose.
  • The Biblical principle for the order in which those gifts are to be used publicly is found in 1Corinthians 14:27-28.  In other words (as I read that passage), at least two people, or a maximum of three people would speak out in a public service in a language that they have never learned (through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), one at a time, and then another individual (or even one of those who spoke in tongues), would then give the interpretation of that message, even though they didn’t understand the language naturally, but interpret by the inspiration of the Spirit.  Perhaps the easiest way to understand that is to say that the gift of tongues and interpretation operating together would be equivalent to the gift of prophecy – that is, that those in the room would have received a message from the Lord by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Now, back to the question at hand as to why this gift isn’t being seen in operation at CLC:

  • My answer of “I don’t know” is accurate because I don’t.  My observation is that this combination of gifts (tongues followed by interpretation) seems to happen primarily in Pentecostal churches, whereas churches like CLC that aren’t necessarily classified as Pentecostal, even though we embrace the full ministry of the Holy Spirit and His gifts, would primarily or typically experience the gift of prophecy instead.  (While I have no idea why that is true, it has been my observation over the past 40 years of ministry.  I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of times I have witnessed tongues & interpretation in CLC or other churches that were not classified as ‘Pentecostal’)
  • One possibility is that our approach at CLC to a Sunday worship experience in which we apply the principles of 1Corinthians 14:18-25 to try to make our services  understandable and relevant and convincing to unbelievers makes it difficult to exercise those gifts – just as it affects our service length (believers might enjoy a 2+ hour worship experience, but unbelievers would likely never return); our approach to teaching, and even the use of media, comfortable chairs, etc.

I hope this helps a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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One of our newer CLC’ers writes, I have a question about the Prayer Language. I think I received mine. It is me speaking or saying not words but utterances sometimes when I feel led (not often-fear of not doing it right) –  its like something takes over and I have no control over how fast my mouth is moving when I’m praying. I was once on the phone with a friend and we were disconnected. I felt like something was wrong because he didn’t call back for hours. I couldn’t rest, so I took it to God. I expressed how I felt and God led me to pray in tongues. I felt an anxiousness in my body and spirit while praying in my prayer language. My lips were moving fast, with utterances and my voice was getting sort of loud, like taking authority. Later my friend called and he said that he had been held at gun point (he is a tow truck driver for Chicago police) to release the car that he’d just towed. But he was able to call for police help and they came and apprehended the gunman. Did the prayer that was prompted by God in my prayer language save my friend? What was the purpose of it being in tongues? What is the purpose and significance of praying in tongues?”

Wow. I think I counted 4 questions there, and all of them are great questions that have been asked by many others.  Let me tackle them one at a time:

  • First, your description of what sometimes happens when you pray certainly sounds like you have received a prayer language.  The “utterances” that you refer to may in fact be words in a language that you don’t know, because that’s the miracle that happens when we are baptized in the Spirit and receive a prayer language that enables us to speak languages we’ve never learned!  (see Acts 2:4-11; 1Cor. 14:2)
  • While I suppose there may have been several factors in your friend’s situation, ‘yes’, it certainly sounds to me like your intercession was prompted by God and helped to save his life.
  • As to the purpose of that particular prayer being in tongues, the best explanation I can offer is found in Romans 8:26-27.  In the example you asked about, you didn’t know what was happening to your friend, or how you should pray for him – but the Holy Spirit did (and does)!  So the words that He gave you in prayer, and even the sense that you were taking authority, were used by the Lord to make intercession for your friend at the very time he was in serious need.
  • Finally, the purpose and significance of praying in tongues, I’ve written about that here and here and here.  If you have the time to check out those posts, I think you’ll see both the purpose and the significance of this wonderful gift!

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

Ask the Pastor

Once again, no one submitted a question this week (I’ll be glad to field some new ones!) so I’m reposting this question from 2009:

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A faithful CLCer writes, “I would like to know if I have the legal right/authority to repent on behalf of members of my immediate family that have not committed their lives to Christ?”

If I’m understanding the question, or more importantly, the desire behind it – the answer is ‘no‘.  Turning from sin and receiving Christ is an individual and personal decision.  The word repent literally means, ‘a change of mind’ (see Matthew 21:28-30 for Jesus’ own illustration of repentance).  Once you understand that, it’s easy to see that no one could have a ‘change of mind’ on behalf of someone else, no matter how much we wish we could.

Probably all of us have loved ones that we earnestly and deeply want to come to repentance so they can receive Christ and enjoy a relationship with Him.  We can, and should, pray for them, and do our part to make the Gospel attractive to them by our lifestyle and our love – but we cannot make that decision for them.  Scripture is quite clear that each of us is responsible before God for our own choices.

Now, in case I misunderstand your intent, there is an “identificational repentance” championed by John Dawson and C. Peter Wagner in some of their writings – but that is a method of spiritual warfare, not a repentance intended to bring forgiveness for someone else.

Again, let me be perfectly clear – you CAN certainly pray that God will give them the gift (or ‘privilege’) of repentance (Acts 11:18) or that He will soften their heart or help them see things differently, etc., etc.

Job offered sacrifices on behalf of his children (Job 1:4-5), just in case they had sinned, but nowhere does Scripture teach that we can repent on their behalf.

I’d certainly NEVER discourage anyone from praying for loved ones, I’m just trying to keep those prayers focused so they can be answered in God’s time!

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I hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

I’m sorry to report that we had NO questions this week (maybe we were too busy celebrating CLC’s 25th Anniversary).  So I went into the archives and retrieved a question from almost exactly four years ago, in March of 2011:

One of our newest attenders writes, “I am considering membership, but the requirement to tithe is a stumbling block for me. It feels like bondage to be required to follow an Old Testament order, and just this one out of many. I thought that we are free from the law, as New Testament Christians. I thought the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Giving under compulsion is rarely cheerful.

I do feel that members of a church should support that church through regular giving, but that the amount given is between the individual believer and God. Certainly, if you love God, no one has to require you to give, you will do it out of love.

Other than this, I feel at home at CLC and have already established some wonderful relationships. But if I do not agree with this aspect of CLC’s practices, do I belong here? I am conflicted. Please help.”

Great question! And I’m so glad to know that you have felt at home at CLC and have already begun building relationships here with our wonderful family of CLCers.
This type of question is probably best answered in person, but since there are probably lots of others with similar questions, I’ll try to at least begin answering your concerns, in order:

1.  It would definitely be ‘bondage’ if we required anyone to follow an Old Testament order, for we are indeed free from the Law, and living under Grace.  However, tithing is NOT just a part of the Law; it actually began 400 years before the Law in Genesis 14, and it was born out of a heart of gratitude for God’s blessings.  It was practiced by others who loved God as well (Gen. 28), long before it was incorporated in the laws that God gave thru Moses.  And of course, Jesus Himself said that tithing is something we “ought” to do in Matthew 23:23.  (Personally, if I didn’t have any other verse in the Bible to encourage tithing, the fact that Jesus said I ought to tithe would cause me to tithe!)

2.  The book of Hebrews describes tithing as an ongoing practice, many years after the Law had ended and the Church came into existence.  All of the history of the early church also indicates that tithing was their practice.

3.  Another often overlooked fact is that while we are ‘free’ from the Old Testament Law, the teachings of Grace actually require a ‘deeper’ obedience than just outward compliance.  If you read Matthew 5:17-48 carefully, you’ll see what I mean.  The Law only said, “don’t murder”, but Grace says, “if you have hatred in your heart, you’ve already murdered”, etc., etc.  So for us to think that Old Testament believers gave 10% of their income to the Lord faithfully, but that we would do less than that in the New Testament just doesn’t make sense.  After all, “to whom much is given, much shall be required”, Jesus said, so it would seem that tithing is just the starting point for a New Testament believer who has received so much because of the Grace of God!

4.  Taking that Law analogy a step further, if a Christian murdered someone today, would we say, “well, that’s ok, since murder was under the Law”?  Just because something was included in the Law doesn’t in and of itself make it invalid for today.  In fact, if you notice Malachi 3 (which is the primary passage that many use regarding the tithe) – just the placement itself would make it seem quite strange that tithing would be done away with – since Malachi was written at the END of the Old Testament, just before the New Testament age of grace would begin (after 400 years of ‘silence’, when there was no word from God).  Yet Malachi 3 opens with prophecy concerning the coming Messiah, and chapter 4 closes with prophecy concerning the last days – and right between those two prophecies is a detailed passage about tithing.  That doesn’t make sense if it would soon be ending – why would God take the time to include it in that last book of the Old Testament if it would be done away with shortly?

Now, regarding the rest of your comments, I couldn’t agree more – God does love a cheerful giver, and personally, I’m thankful to give my tithes to the Lord each week, and I believe millions of believers around the world agree with me.  (I love Genesis 47:23-25, where the Egyptians faced starvation during the famine, so Joseph required them to give 20% of their income to Pharaoh, and the people thanked him!  I guess it really does depend on one’s perspective, how they feel about giving God 10%, considering all He’s done for us)

I also agree that the amount we give in offerings (which Scripture would indicate is anything given freely after the tithe) is strictly between the believer and God – and we would never make it a requirement that anyone give offerings to missions or to a building program, or for any other reason at CLC.

I hope this helps explain our position regarding the Lord’s tithe.

As to whether you belong at CLC, only God can answer that question, since HE is the one who ‘plants’ believers in the church where they can flourish and grow (Psalm 92:13).  I know that we want you here, and we want you to be able to use your gifts to minister here.  As a pastor, I feel certain we have members and regular attenders who do not tithe, probably because they’re afraid they won’t be able to cover their own expenses if they put the Lord first with their finances, which is why we often issue a “90-day tithe challenge” in which we encourage people to “try it” (we got that idea from Malachi 3:10, where God says, “let me prove it to you”).  We say, try tithing 10% of your income faithfully for 90 days, and at the end of that time, if you honestly don’t see that God has blessed you as a result, just notify our office, and we’ll cheerfully refund 100% of the monies you gave during that time.

I hope you’ll believe me when I say, “it’s really not about the money”.  I’ve lived long enough to see that tithing really is a trust issue.  And if any believer will trust the Lord with their finances, they soon see that God’s plan works, and His blessing is worth far more than the 10% they give.  I would encourage you to try that as well, with a money-back guarantee, so you really can’t lose.

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

Ask the Pastor

My apologies for not posting early today, as is my custom.  Actually, there were no questions submitted this week, except for one of the strangest comments ever received on the blog.

That comment was so grammatically incorrect and preposterous that I chose not to publish it here.  However, since there are no other questions this week, I’ll respond to part of it’s assertion:

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An anonymous person asked why we baptize people in black?  (I think they meant black robes), as they asserted that people are supposed to be baptized in white, which is the color of purity (“white like snow”), and they felt we were deceiving thousands of people in the process.

After I stopped scratching my head, I responded to the inquirer privately that the Bible is silent on what color of clothing we should wear when being baptized.  In fact, I can’t find any record in Scripture of anyone being baptized in a robe of any color, which leads me to believe God doesn’t care what color of robe we use in baptism, or even whether we use a robe.

However, I’ve learned from experience in my 40+ years of ministry, that a white robe, once immersed in the waters of baptism, has a tendency to become transparent, revealing the person who was just baptized in their undergarments (or lack thereof).  So, since the Bible doesn’t specify any color for a baptismal gown, but white has proven to be immodest, and since the Bible does have some things to say about immodest dress (see 1Timothy 2:9, or1Corinthians 12:23) we have chosen to baptize people in black or dark clothing, so as not to reveal what’s underneath the robe.

(In case you’re wondering, my tongue has been firmly planted in my cheek as I type this)  Truthfully, I’m convinced what happens in you at baptism is much more important than what color of cloth is on you!

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

Ask the Pastor

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Someone wrote to ask, “Strange flesh”, What is it? As I read Jude 1:5-8, that word keeps jumping out at me. How I am receiving the word is that it means transgender’s. I would like to know what your interpretation of it.”

I must admit, when I first read the question, I immediately smiled, because the last time I heard the term ‘strange flesh’ (indeed, the ONLY time I recall hearing it) was many years ago in Arkansas, when my father explained to me his views about inter-racial marriage, and tried to apply the term ‘strange flesh’ to his racial prejudice.  I’m sure that’s NOT what it refers to, but it’s an interesting question that I’ve never been asked before.  Let’s consider what it does mean:

  • For certain, I don’t think ‘strange flesh’ can possibly refer to transgenders, since there is no record of people living as transgenders until possibly the 1800’s.
  • The passage itself speaks of “the angels that sinned”, which some scholars believe refers to Genesis 6:1-4 (‘sons of God’ thought to be ‘angels’ who had sexual relations with women).  I don’t personally subscribe to that interpretation, but some students of the Bible do.  If that’s indeed the case, then Jude is definitely describing what could only be called unnatural  sexual relations.
  • The direct referral to ‘strange flesh’ in verse 7 has to do with Sodom & Gomorrah, which undoubtedly refers to the homosexual relationships for which those cities were known, as indicated in Genesis 19:1-13.
  • So, my conclusion is that ‘strange flesh’ is a reference to unnatural sexual relations, such as those described in Romans 1:24-27.  I suppose transgenders could fall under that category in our day, although I don’t think such practices existed in Jude’s day.

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

Ask the Pastor

Once again, I had no questions submitted this week, so I’m going back in time 6 years ago today when I posted this:

It seems my recent post about a ‘prayer language’ brought on more questions: What is the difference between being baptized in the Spirit and receiving your prayer language; the gift of interpreting tongues for public assembly; and Tongues – I. in the spiritual gifts definitions answer key for the test you take in the membership class?

1.  Being baptized in the Spirit is normally (in my old days, I would have said ‘always’, and I still don’t have any Biblical proof otherwise, but to eliminate arguments, I just say ‘normally’) accompanied by the gift of speaking in tongues (see Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 19:1-6), which we refer to as “your prayer language”, since the primary purpose of that gift is to assist us in prayer (see 1 Cor. 14).  So, some would use the terms interchangeably, ‘baptized in the Spirit’ or ‘having a prayer language’ being pretty much two ways of saying the same thing.

2.  The gift of interpreting tongues is a separate and distinct gift altogether, and is a supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit that enables a person to interpret what someone has said in tongues, even though they don’t understand the language.  This gift is used in a public assembly.  For example, perhaps the Holy Spirit would inspire me to ‘speak out’ publicly in a foreign language that I don’t know (I would be speaking in tongues) and then He would enable you to interpret, or tell everyone in the meeting what I had just said by the Spirit.  So the gift of interpreting tongues would always work in conjunction with the public gift of speaking in tongues, which is not the same purpose as the private devotional gift of praying in tongues.  (When I say different, I don’t mean that they would ‘sound’ different, but that they serve different purposes – one being to give a message to a public assembly, and the other being to assist you in personal prayer) Almost all of the regulations given in 1Cor. 14 refer to this public use of tongues and interpretation, and that’s why so many non-charismatics who haven’t experienced a prayer language get so confused and think that tongues should not be used today.

3.  The questions in our membership manual primarily refer to the devotional use of a prayer language.

I hope that helps clarify – to me, the important thing is that we use our prayer language to enjoy the benefits that God intended when He gave us this wonderful gift!

Hey, don’t forget to turn your clocks forward this Saturday night – I’d love to see you at CLC on-time this Sunday!  In fact, we’ll look at “I <3 my Spirit-Filled Church!” this Sunday, and provide an opportunity for you to be baptized in the Holy Spirit!

Now, what would you like to ask the Pastor?


Ask the Pastor

Again this week I had no questions submitted, so I’m re-posting this from  June of 2009:

A CLCer recently asked, “Where in the Bible do people get the notion that disease and illness is due to lack of faith?”

Great question, even though it’s so sad that it needs to be asked.  It’s perhaps the most hurtful extreme that has come out of the ‘faith’ movement among Spirit-filled churches, and that is the ‘pronounced judgement’ that if a believer has an illness, it must be because of their lack of faith.  There is NO Scripture in the Bible that pronounces that judgment upon a believer – it’s simply faulty theology.

Having said that, I will say that I don’t believe the Bible agrees with some of the statements in the original question; namely, I do not believe that God ever places sickness on us.  From my understanding of Scripture, all sickness and disease is a result of the Fall, and is further complicated by afflictions from the evil one – but NEVER from God.

Furthermore, the idea that sickness is a ‘burden’ for us to bear (as was implied in the statement about Paul’s thorn in the flesh) is also NOT Biblical.  (We can’t be certain what Paul’s ‘thorn’ was, but he indicated it was a “messenger of Satan, to torment me and keep me from becoming proud”) Again, there is NO Scripture that would ever teach that God puts sickness on us as a burden for us to bear, or to teach us some lesson.

I believe the correct and safest Scriptural position for us to take as believers is to always assume that it is God’s will to heal – every sickness and disease – and to ask Him to do so, in faith.  That does not preclude us from seeking medical treatment in the meantime, even as we continue trusting God for complete healing.  But if that healing does not manifest, there are a myriad of possible reasons, and the last thing any of us as believers should do is point a finger of judgment against someone who is not healed and tell them that it’s because of their lack of faith.

Hope this helps – it’s a subject that needs fuller treatment than this forum allows.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers from our Blue Island campus writes, “I had a question during your message a couple weeks ago:

I’ve read Proverbs 13:22 before and always had one interpretation of it, but I began to question it during your message. Does this passage mean that
1) a good man leaves his children enough money to pass on to their children (hence the good man’s children’s children) OR 2) a good man lives long enough & plans well enough that he leaves his inheritance to both his children AND his grandchildren?

There are several biblical references to fathers having inheritances for their sons. So I will skip the option of the father only leaving an inheritance to his grandchildren (and bypassing his children).”

Great question.  Honestly, I hadn’t given much thought to which of the two possibilities was Solomon’s intent, so I dug a little bit with the scholars, and it seems that option #2 was probably what he had in mind; i.e., that we should plan well enough to even include our grandchildren in our estate.  One commentator mentioned specifically that the good man manages his money so well that he also passes on that wisdom to his children, so that they can follow his example and be a blessing to their children.

Hope that helps.  Either way, I want to be a ‘good’ man in the eyes of God!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

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For the second week in a row, no one submitted a question for me, so I’ll ask and answer my own: “why does CLC focus money & attention on international missions?”

There are many valid, Biblical reasons for our missions emphasis at CLC, but here’s one of the latest: while my wife & I are in Davao City, Philippines, ministering at our campus here, I received a report and picture from Aby Vargis, our partner in India.  Get this: in the last 2 years since we began investing in a specific church-planting project in one of the most unreached areas of India, our partners there have planted 45 churches!  Here’s the latest picture of one of the buildings that CLC has also provided there:

india church

As you look into those faces, knowing that just a few weeks or months ago they did not know Jesus and had not heard the Gospel, but today they worship Him as their Lord & Savior, because YOU gave – then you understand why we emphasize missions at CLC!

Thank you for making all of this possible!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

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Since no one submitted a question this week, I’m re-posting a question and answer from February of 2009:

babel-ziggurat

A CLCer writes, “When the people were building the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:4-6, they really were trying to reach heaven, however, did the Lord really think that they would succeed? Because it sounds to me like God really felt that they would actually build the tower to heaven. How is that so? Also, is heaven really above or is heaven another dimension?”

Great questions.  First, if you read this passage in the King James Version, I can certainly see why you’d be a bit confused, since it uses “heaven” instead of “sky” as the New Living Translation above.  Obviously, it’s not possible for anyone to reach heaven by human effort. But God’s language here is a fine example of hyperbole.  God employs that figure of speech for the same reason we do: to make or emphasize a point.  In this particular case, you can really ‘preach’ (and I have) any number of lessons: the power of the human will; the desire of man to get to heaven his own way; the incredible power of unity, and more.  But to answer your question literally, no, God did not think they could actually get to heaven by building a tall tower.  They could, however, build a tall monument to themselves, and gain quite a reputation in the process – and since they were determined to stay in one place and make a name for themselves rather than spreading across the earth and populating the planet as God had commanded, He put a stop to their plans.

As to the second question, my understanding of Scripture is that there are several ‘heavens’ (Paul spoke of being caught up into the third heaven), and that they are definitely ‘above’.  To explore that subject would be a Bible study in itself, so we’ll save that for some other time.  I hope this helps-

Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?

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Naaman's leprosy is cured

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “While reading recently I noticed in the story of Elisha and Naaman that after Elisha refused Naaman’s gift he asked to be given as much “earth” as a pair of mules can carry (2Kings 5:15-19).  I had never noticed this before.  Do you think that to Naaman the earth he was asking for from Elisha was to be used by him to sacrifice to God of Israel instead of the God of his master?  Was this some sort of atonement or covering for him?

Good observation (a lot of folks never notice that detail) and a great question, too.

From the text and the various scholars who commented on it, I would say that Naaman didn’t plan to offer the earth as a sacrifice, nor was it an atonement for him.  Instead, he now confessed that there is no God but Jehovah, and that he intends to worship Him only (2Kings 5:15).  The earth he asked for was most likely to be used in building an altar (see Exodus 20:24)  so that he could worship the One True God.

Some of the scholars expressed the idea that he was following the superstition of that day that said the god of a country could only be worshipped in that country and that he wanted ‘earth’ from Israel in order to worship the God of Israel, but I don’t buy that because of verse 15.

I think the simplest explanation is just that Naaman was grateful for his healing and wanted to build an altar to continue worshipping the One True God.

Aren’t you glad that we can worship the only True God anywhere, anytime?  (Hebrews 10:19-20)

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

 

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editorial_header

One of my favorite, faithful CLC’ers writes, “What would you say is the “highest achievement” for every human being to achieve in this life?”

Great question.  One that’s easy to answer, too, because the Bible directly answers it:

Jeremiah 9:23-24 makes it clear that the highest achievement is NOT in gaining  wisdom (whether through education or experience) OR in obtaining power (whether through politics or position or status) OR in gaining riches (whether through hard work or great ingenuity).  Before I move on to what God says IS the highest achievement, take a Selah break to consider how many people are pursuing one of more of those as if it were the most important thing in the universe!

Instead, God says, the ultimate achievement is that we know Him.  The word ‘know’ there is the exact same Hebrew word as in Genesis 4:1“and Adam knew his wife”, which clearly refers to the intimacy between a married couple.  So the ultimate achievement in life is for us to truly know God and have an intimate relationship with Him.

Best of all, ANYONE can attain that, because HE wants us to know Him!  All of us cannot attain the wisdom that comes from higher education or years of experience.  All of us won’t know what it’s like to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company or President of the United States.  Few of us will ever know what it’s like to be a multi-millionaire.  But every person reading this post CAN know Jesus and enjoy an intimate relationship with Him, and that’s my prayer for you today!

In fact, THIS Sunday (Jan. 25) at each Chicagoland campus of CLC, we’ll be looking at HOW you can attain that kind of intimate relationship with the Lord – hope you’ll join us!

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

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One of my favorite CLC’ers asks, “Is denial or the inability to see things a form of a stronghold?”

Hmmm.  Interesting question.  And for the second week in a row, a question I’ve never been asked before.  Let me dig a bit to see what Scripture says about that:

  • Judges 16:19-21 gives us the example of Samson, who certainly lived in denial that he could ignore God’s word about marrying a non-Israeli (not to mention adultery and other sins) without repercussion.  Verse 20 shows the depth of his deception when he awoke thinking he would shake himself free just as he had done before – and didn’t even realize that God had left him.
  • 1Sam. 15:10-29 shows us the sad tale of the first king of Israel, Saul, who disobeyed a clear order from God in the matter of the Amalekites, yet was in such denial that I think he even convinced himself that he was innocent (notice verse 13  where he cheerfully announced that he had obeyed, and verse 15 where he blamed others for his own failures, and especially verse 20, where he still insisted that he had obeyed).  How very sad that he couldn’t see himself!
  • 2Sam. 12:1-5, which took place just one chapter after David’s sin with Bathsheba and his cover-up, which included the murder of her husband, Uriah, yet he was in such denial of his own sins that he became incensed over the imagined wrongs of a fictitious character invented by the prophet Nathan to confront him.  He committed adultery, used deception and lies to cover-up even with top leaders in his administration, and finally murdered – but couldn’t see his wrongdoing until confronted by a personal visit from the prophet – that’s got to be a picture of someone living in denial!

So, based on those Biblical examples, I would have to say, ‘yes’, living in denial can be a stronghold. I can’t quote chapter and verse to prove that, but I can’t imagine that the men I mentioned above could be so deceived without demonic influence.  In fact, denial is clearly someone living a lie, and in John 8:44, Jesus makes it plain that Satan is the “father of lies”.  While Scripture is relatively silent on the subject of “stronghold”, I still like the first definition I heard of it long ago: “a mindset impregnated with hopelessness that causes us to accept as unchangeable situations we know are contrary to the will of God”.  Obviously, each of the examples above knew that their actions were contrary to the will of God, but they accepted them as unchangeable (at least, they made no effort to change) and they embraced a lie rather than submit to the truth.

My prayer is that anyone living in denial would somehow come to their senses, and do what David did immediately after being confronted by Nathan.  Rather than lashing out at the messenger, David received the message and humbled himself with genuine repentance.  In fact, it was immediately after this encounter that he wrote Psalm 51.     May your loved ones have a similar experience with the Lord!

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

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A great friend who lives too far away to attend CLC writes, “I have a question.  It may be too hard.  Why is it that multiple times in the Bible the person seemed to be on a good roll and they turn around and say the very thing that ticks off the people they are talking to?  For example, it seems Stephen is doing great, then he launches into the “stiff necked tirade.”  Paul and others do this.  Even Jesus does it.  It is a deliberate provoking of their hot buttons.  As a seasoned communicator I cannot figure this out.  Most importantly, am I to follow this?  I could tick off some hypocrites and some judgmental Christians real fast.”

Wow.  That’s one I’ve never been asked, so I had to do some digging on my own to give you an answer, and, to be honest, I’m still not certain of WHY, since I couldn’t find a direct explanation in Scripture.  Here are a few thoughts:

1.  In the example of Stephen in Acts 7:51-55, a few things stand out to me:

  • Stephen knew that his audience had a long history of rebellion against God (notice vv. 51-53).  It seems to me that their track record of hearing the Word but not obeying may have played into why he deliberately went after them with such strong language – in an effort to shake them up and get them to see themselves.
  • While the language definitely incited the crowd to great anger, verses 54-55 make it clear that Stephen was not angry.  Instead, he was full of the Holy Spirit, which makes me suspect that his use of such strong language had been Spirit-led and definitely not just a result of him being angry or upset with his hearers (and deciding to “give them a piece of his mind”).
  • Those same verses also indicate that Stephen saw God’s glory when he looked up, and had he just launched into a tirade out of his own anger & frustration, I don’t think God would have been pleased to manifest His glory!  (He also saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God and since every other reference in Scripture to Jesus at the right hand always shows Him sitting, someone has suggested that Jesus was so pleased with Stephen that He rose to give him a standing ovation!)

2.  I noticed Jesus using strong language against the Pharisees in Matt. 15:1-9, after which his disciples asked Him if He knew what He had just done (see Matt. 15:12-14). From his answer to the disciples, notice:

  • He says the Pharisees were not planted by His Father; i.e., they weren’t really saved.  (We know from other references that the Pharisees were hypocrites)
  • He also pointed out that the Pharisees were leaders, and since they were hypocrites, they were actually leading others astray.
  • Those facts lead me to think that (a) Jesus intention was to confront the Pharisees with the truth in order to bring them to repentance; and (b) the truth of God’s Word is sharper than a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12), so it can bring life or death, depending on our response.  Hypocrites are offended by the truth.  Sincere hearers obey the truth (see Acts 2:41, which followed some pretty strong language by the Apostle Peter); and (c) that strong language is an acceptable tactic when others are likely to be led astray unless the hearers are confronted (see Gal. 2:11-14 for an example of this.)

3.  SO, if we can extrapolate principles for ourselves from those facts (that’s a big ‘if’),  then I’d say that communicators like you or me can choose to use strong language that we know (or at least anticipate) will ‘tick-off’ our hearers, providing:

  • we know that our audience has a track record of stubborn disobedience to God’s Word (that may rule out most occasions in itself, since most audiences will be a mixture of ‘saints’, ‘aints’ and people who know little about God’s Word)
  •  we are NOT giving in to our own anger or frustration, but are being led by the Holy Spirit in our approach-
  • that the ‘hot-button tirade’ we go on is NOT our personal conviction or opinion, but  clearly an unmistakable truth from God’s Word-
  • that other ‘innocent’ people will likely be led astray if the hypocrites are not confronted with strong language;
  • and that our motive is not to ‘tick-off’ people, but to confront them with the truth so that they must make a decision to repent or else go on in their stubborn disobedience

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

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the-meeting-of-jacob-and-joseph-in-egypt-1-GoodSalt-prcas0947

A faithful CLC’er asks, “i have a question i would like to have an answer to: In Genesis 46:26 The Word says the number of Jacob’s sons/people was 66. Then in the next verse It says with Joseph and his two sons included the total was 70. By my math skills that should be 69 not 70. Do you know why this occurred and if so what is the significance?”

Great question, since this is a great example of verses that skeptics sometime use to try to discredit the Bible – saying that it contradicts itself or isn’t accurate in some way.

The ‘key’ to these 2 verses and the numbers mentioned is in the wording:

  • Verse 26 speaks of Jacob’s descendants who went with him to Egypt, 66 in total
  • Verse 27 mentions the total number of Jacob’s family in Egypt, 70 in total, because Joseph was already there with his 2 sons born in Egypt (Ephraim, Manasseh) and  Jacob himself is included in the family, although obviously not a descendant.

Unfortunately, from everything I can tell, there is no significance to the numbers or the way they are listed – but at least this explains that there is NO contradiction or error.  It also shows us how important words are – I’ve seen SO many doctrinal errors result from people overlooking or misunderstanding the precise wording of a passage.  Every word counts!

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

 

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Today’s question comes from a faithful CLC’er who writes, “What does Luke 3:8 mean, especially the part about the stones?

Great question, and one that’s easily answered by comparing some more modern versions of Scripture, such as the New Living Translation or even The Message paraphrase.

As you can see from those translations, Jesus was preaching to the crowds of people who flocked to hear John the Baptist that their religious heritage was of little importance – i.e., that the fact they were physical descendants of Abraham didn’t ‘earn’ them brownie points with God because HE looks for changed lives, not religious pedigrees!

Then to emphasize His point, Jesus said, in effect, if God wanted to, He could create more children of Abraham from these stones.  I don’t think there was any particular significance to the stones, much like Luke 19:40, where Jesus told the Pharisees who objected to the loud praises from the people that if they held their peace, the stones would cry out.  The significance is not the stones; it’s the fact that the circumstances of our birth or our heritage doesn’t make us right with God – only faith can do that!  (see Eph. 2:8-13; Gal. 2:15-16 and Gal. 3:26-29).

The Good News is that no matter what your background is – no matter what religion your parents observed – no matter how many sins you have committed – you can come to Jesus and receive His free gift of salvation by grace through faith!

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

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sonya-set-free-article

Here’s this week’s question from one of my favorite CLC’ers: “is it ever appropriate to introduce deliverance to a child (1st – 5th grade)?  I am sure it would depend on their maturity level but what if you can see that they are having a very difficult time dealing with a traumatic experience?”

Interesting question; one that I can’t recall ever having been asked before.  But here’s my honest thoughts about ministering deliverance to an elementary-aged child:

  • Jesus did!  Matthew 17:14-18 is the record of a man who brought his son to Jesus because he was demonized, and the son was referred to as “the boy”.  The Greek word used for ‘boy’ indicates ‘a young child’, and is the same word used to refer to Jesus when he was 12 years old.  So, clearly, Jesus ministered deliverance to an elementary-aged boy.
  • Jesus also endorsed deliverance ministry for children in Matthew 15:22-28.  In fact, I used that passage last Sunday as the final example of a ‘door’ that can allow the enemy to gain access in our lives; in this case, the occultic involvement of the mother was the apparent cause of her daughter being afflicted with an evil spirit.  Not only did Jesus evict the demon, but He later referred to deliverance as “the children’s bread”.  While his point was certainly that deliverance is one of the benefits of the covenant-relationship we enjoy as believers, I don’t think we should overlook the fact that He specifically said it was the children’s bread!
  • My wife made a missions trip (without me) several years ago in which she and a small team of adults conducted a camp for children in Nepal.  During that camp, about 100 of the children received Jesus as their Savior and about 80% of them received deliverance!  (Chris was there during the Nepalese observance of “festival of lights” in which they placed candles on the path leading to their homes, in order to guide evil spirits to their house!  Their desire is that those spirits would enter their homes to protect them from other, more-evil spirits!)
  • So, I know from Scripture and from personal experience that children are able to receive deliverance.  However, I’m not aware of any ministry that focuses on bringing deliverance to children, probably because, as you point out, the difference in maturity levels and understanding.  My suggestion is that, if you know children that have been traumatized or otherwise show signs of being demonized, that you seek counsel from a pastor or ministry leader so that our response could be done properly and in order, per 1Corinthians 14:32-33, 40.

Another possibility for children is for them to participate this Sunday (November 30) when we pray deliverance prayers over the entire congregation.  Since it’s a 5th Sunday designated as “Family Sunday”, our elementary-aged kids will be in the auditorium, and I know the power of the Lord will be present for them just the same as for us!

Hope that helps. Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave your question or comments below-

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lightstock-35347-tithes-and-offering-being-passed

One of my all-time favorite CLC’ers writes, “I have a question about tithing. What about people who faithfully tithe…but to ministries that are not good stewards of the funds. Are the people protected because of their obedience to tithe? Examples might include pastors who gamble, do not properly care for the needs of the church, pastors who have no accountability and use funds as they please.  Would it be better if people found other ministries to attend or tithe to?”

Excellent question.  It’s one that I’ve never addressed in public, but I know from previous conversations through the years that it’s one that many Christians have asked.  Here are my thoughts:

  • As a general rule, I do believe that God blesses the individual for their obedience in tithing, while the leaders of the ministry are held accountable for how they handle the funds received.  The Biblical basis for that last statement is 1Cor. 9:8-10 where the Scripture is quite clear that ministers are to be financially rewarded for their service – but as my pastor back in my early days liked to point out, “if the oxen overeats, he gets the bellyache!”
  • However, IF (and that’s a BIG ‘if’) the church member knows (that’s different from ‘heard a rumor’, or ‘suspects’) that the pastor and/or leaders of their church are guilty of any of the examples you gave (gambling, not caring for the needs of the church, not accountable, or misusing funds), then I would say it’s time to do one of two things: (1) respectfully bring this matter to the attention of the governing leaders of the congregation for their response; or (2) seek the Lord as to where He would have you be planted in another local church.
  • Having said that, I do not believe that you need to ’cause problems’ or ‘seek to influence anyone else’ to leave the ministry with you, lest you become guilty before God – knowing that “two wrongs don’t make a right”!  But neither do I believe any sincere believer should remain in a church where the Lord’s tithe is being misused by those in authority.  I say that NOT just because of money mismanagement, but because that mismanagement is always an indication of more serious issues that would make it advisable for you to find another spiritual home.
  • Oh, in regards to the wording of your question – I do NOT believe anyone should  attend one church but tithe to another.  The Scripture indicates that we ‘bring’ our tithes to the Lord, and part of the purpose is “so there will be food in my House” – so it wouldn’t make sense to tithe somewhere other than where you eat.  (You don’t eat at McDonald’s & pay Burger King, right?)
  • Since I’ve stated my opinions here, let me give you some Scriptures to read and consider: 1Samuel 2:12-17; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:1-10; Psalm 92:13; 1Timothy 5:17-18; 1Peter 5:1-4; 2Corinthians 8:18-21; Malachi 3:10.
  • I suspect that someone reading this has a story to share about how the Lord led them to a healthy church after a bad experience with other churches who abused the financial gifts of the people.  If so, please leave your comments below-

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

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satansfall

This week’s question comes from one of my all-time favorite CLC’ers, who writes, “Was the fall of angels from heaven before Adam or after?”

Great question, especially since the Scriptures are not compiled in chronological order, and oftentimes (as in this case), we must compare passages from different books/writers in order to get the complete picture.  So let’s take a look:

  • The short answer to your question is, angels fell from heaven before Adam.  I base that on Genesis 3:1-6, where Satan clearly appears (in the form of the serpent) to entice Adam & Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  Since Satan initiated the conversation with Eve, he must have already been in the garden.
  • But to see how and why he got into the garden, we need to look further:  Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 give us two different descriptions of how Satan, who was originally “the anointed cherub who covers” (Ezek. 28:14), perhaps the highest of all the angels that God created, was lifted up with pride and thrown from heaven.  Many scholars believe that the mention of musical instruments (“timbrels and pipes”) in Ezek. 28:13 is an indication that Satan led worship in heaven prior to his fall.
  • Jesus indicated that He saw Satan when he fell from heaven (Luke 10:17-18) and one possible description of that is found in Revelation 12:3-18 (although some scholars see this as a later occurrence)

The GOOD news is that while Satan is still the god of this world and very much active in the earth today, WE have been given authority over ALL the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19).  In fact, this weekend at CLC, I’m expecting many people to receive emotional healing & be set free from the enemy’s strategies!

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

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happy

One of my favorite CLC’ers from our praise team writes, “Jesus performed numerous miracles and then told people, either the recipient of the miracle or the disciples, not to tell anyone. Why?”

Great question.  I don’t know the answer.

LOL.

Let me try to guess, since the Bible doesn’t give us a clear answer to that question:

  • One such incident is found in Mark 7:32-36 and verse 36 may give us the reason why Jesus told them not to tell – maybe it was ‘reverse psychology’.  I don’t really think Jesus was manipulating people that way – but whatever the reason, it definitely was the result!
  • In other instances, such as Mark 9:8-10, it seems that it was a ‘timing issue’ – that Jesus knew they wouldn’t fully understand until after His resurrection, so He asked them to keep it quiet until they had understanding of who He was and what He had come to do.
  • Perhaps the most reasonable answer is found in a similar situation in John 6:14-15, where Jesus recognized that the crowd was so enthusiastic about what He had done that they were actually going to try to force Him to be their king.  Of course, He couldn’t allow that, since His mission was not to rule them, but to give His life for them (and us!).  Even at the age of 12 He knew what He had come to do (Luke 2:49)  and He couldn’t allow people to short-circuit that plan.

There may have been other reasons that I haven’t thought of, but that’s the best I can do.  Anyone else have an idea?  Please leave your thoughts below-

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

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I guess this question from one of my favorite CLC’ers is perhaps the most appropriate one  I could answer on Halloween: “As I was sitting in service [for the opening of ‘Break Every Chain’] I thought of a question.  What is an exorcism?  How does it relate to deliverance and spiritual warfare?”

Great question, especially in light of our current series.  Here’s my take on it:

  • Exorcism is simply a ‘formal’ term for deliverance, and the word normally used by Roman Catholics, whereas most non-denominational churches use the word, ‘deliverance’ instead.  Exorcism does NOT have to involve a head spinning around backwards, green vomit, physical gyrations or any of the drama usually attached to it in Hollywood horror films.

exorcism

  • Instead, when a person is demonized – that’s the correct way to Biblically describe someone who has come  under the influence of a demon, whether it’s reflected in physical sickness or ailment  OR through addictive behaviors OR emotional problems – the solution is not just to discipline their fleshly nature.  No, if the problem is caused by a demon, the answer must include evicting (“exorcising” the demon by using our authority in Christ and commanding it to go, in the name and authority of the Lord Jesus!
  • Remember Pastor Jack Hayford’s quote, “You can’t disciple a demon and you can’t cast out the flesh!” – I say we need both discipleship AND deliverance.  Exorcism is the deliverance part.
  • At CLC, I’m determined that we won’t get obsessed with demons or allow our services or small group ministries to be hijacked by demonic manifestations – BUT I’m just as determined that we won’t put a bandaid on someone’s problem by not offering them deliverance from evil spirits, just because some in our ‘enlightened’  country reject the notion that demons exist, or the ‘religious’ folks who insist that a Christian can’t have a problem with a demon.  One-third of Jesus’ ministry was  casting out demons, and I know that even today HE wants to ‘break every chain’!

If this seemed like a shameless plug for our current sermon series at CLC, perhaps it was – but I know that THIS Sunday, November 2, we will deal with the second major open door through which the enemy gets access to our lives, and it’s the ONE spirit that I think is the biggest attack in our nation and in The Church today.  I hope you’ll join us at any Chicagoland CLC campus this Sunday in “Fighting for your Life!”

Hope that helped.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Just leave your question or comment below-

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “Last month, I had to attend cultural sensitivity training on my job regarding the LGBT community.  I was reluctant but went with an open mind. It was very informative but I noticed how much they push tolerance.  If you do not agree with them, they label you as an enemy and assume you are coming from a place of hatred.  How must we navigate through this with love?  Because I have to process employee’s life event changes, I am aware of their sexual orientation.  I keep my views/beliefs to myself.  How do you love/reach out to/minister to those in the LGBT community when they are so defensive once they find out that you are not tolerant?

Wow. THE question of our age, I’m afraid.  Let me give you my views.

  • First, this issue is SO fraught with danger, as Hillsong’s leaders recently demonstrated with the firestorm caused by one report of tolerance that made it necessary for Pastor Brian Houston to issue a follow-up statement to clarify.
  • I read a book by an award-winning journalist-turned-pastor last year which documented the rapid changes in our nation in regards to same-sex issues, and I think the author is probably right in his conclusion that we can’t say anything publicly on this issue without being misunderstood and labeled as bigoted ‘haters’.
  • Not only do I think he’s correct, but I think that’s why conservative Christians who have a platform to reach people try so hard to couch their response in language that avoids passing judgment, yet it always seems to backfire.  (Besides the Hillsong reports above, think of Joel Osteen, other celebrities including the World Vision flip-flop, and perhaps even Rick Warren, although his comments score best with me).
  • So, my answer as to how we navigate this thorny issue is say little publicly (better yet, nothing) but serve much“!  In other words, let’s demonstrate to the LGBT community our genuine love for people (remember, Jesus died for all, regardless of sexuality) by practical and individual loving acts of service whenever possible.
  • Then, when individual opportunities arise – after having demonstrated by action that we care, we can address our views based on God’s Word and our love for them.  (By the way, the results of this lifestyle are anything but ‘gay’, as numerous studies have shown – so my desire is for LGBT individuals to find the freedom and abundant life that Jesus offers!)

This has become the defining issue of our day and we all need God’s wisdom to respond for sure.  Hope this helps a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers submitted a question from his adult daughter: “Do we go to heaven immediately after we die or are we waiting for Jesus to return and raise us from the dead as it also says in various scriptures like Revelation?”

Great question, and one that I’m sure many believers are confused about. I’ll try to help:

  • Prior to the resurrection of Jesus, I believe that all the dead were waiting for the day they would be resurrected and then sent to their eternal ‘home’, whether it was heaven or hell.  In fact, the Jewish teaching was that all departed souls were in a place they called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) or “Paradise” (Luke 23:43) or simply the Greek, “Hades”, or grave.  Even though both the righteous and the wicked dead were there, they were separated from each other (v. 26while they both waited for their resurrection and final judgment (see Rev. 20:12-14).
  • I see nothing in Scripture to indicate that any of this has changed for those who do not know Christ; i.e., when unbelievers die, they still go to a place of rest to await their resurrection and final judgement.
  • However, when Jesus conquered death and the grave when He was raised on the third day, ALL of that changed for the believer!  Now, when those of us who know the Lord dies, we are immediately in the Presence of the Lord! (see 2Cor. 5:1-9 and Phil. 1:21-23 and 1Thess. 4:13-18)
  • Some people get confused by the last passage I cited, when it speaks of the dead rising from their graves to be with the Lord, but in my understanding of the whole of Scripture (especially the verses cited above), I think Paul was only referring to our  body rising from the grave, while our spirit was with the Lord immediately at the time of death.  Of course, 1Cor. 15:35-56 goes into great detail as to the fact that our body will be transformed into a glorious body at the Resurrection.

Hope this helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor? Please leave your comments or questions below-

Ask the Pastor

Judge-Not

 

 

Last week’s question/answer prompted this question from a faithful CLC’er: “Are we supposed to judge, dislike, and condemn a hypocrite?  Or should we love them as God loves us?  A FB friend judged a celebrity by using the words “dislike” or “hate” him because he sinned.  I made my comments about religious people hate, shun, and judge, and it started quite a on that post.  I just don’t understand how another can be high and mighty when they/we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Great question, but one that is difficult to answer because there’s a fine line that can easily be misconstrued in either direction.  Still, let me try:

  • First, just in case you are using words literally, there is NEVER a reason for Christians to “hate” any person.  We can hate sin or the devil, but never people for whom Christ died.  (“Dislike” is different; I can love someone with the love of Christ without “liking” them as a person or “approving” of their actions)
  • The fine line comes with judging someone else.  Many, many Christians (in my humble opinion) struggle with a critical spirit, where we ‘judge’ others by finding fault with their actions, or even calling into question their motives, etc.  As Zig Ziglar said,  “some people find fault like there’s a reward for it”. 
  • However, the Bible does teach that believers are to judge.  Surprised?  Read 1Corinthians 5.  If that wasn’t clear enough, read it in the Message paraphrase.  Contrary to what most of us have heard and to what almost every church practices, the New Testament calls on us to judge hypocrisy within the local assembly, and exercise appropriate discipline.  (NOTE: the purpose of that discipline is NOT merely to ‘condemn’ a person, but to bring them to their senses, which is exactly what happened in Corinth, as the church excommunicated the man in accordance with what we just read, which caused the man to repent and ask to be reinstated to their fellowship, so Paul wrote in 2Cor. 1-8 that it was time to forgive and receive him!)
  • In my experience, there are very few churches that practice such discipline – and I say that to our shame.  My opinion is that, in this country, if churches put someone out for hypocritical behavior, they would just go to the church down the street and be welcomed into membership without any regard for their behavior.  But that’s not what The Book teaches.
  • Before someone objects, let me add that Jesus addressed ‘judging’ in Matthew 7, and when He told us not to judge, many people have taken that as a blanket command to never enter into judgment about anything.  But the context make that interpretation obviously wrong, if you continue reading verses 3-5 (which make it clear that our ‘view’ of others can be distorted by our own ‘issues’) and especially verse 6 (you must judge what is ‘unholy’ and what is a ‘pig’ in order not to ‘waste’ or ‘cast pearls’ before them!)  It’s always best to let Scripture interpret Scripture, and the ‘judging’ that Jesus told us not to do is explained in James 4:11 where ‘judging’ clearly refers to ‘speaking evil or criticizing’ a fellow believer, and Romans 14:10, where it refers to ‘condemning’ a fellow believer by ‘looking down’ on them!  That’s the judging that Scripture speaks against, and I suspect many of us reading this should say, “oh, me” at that!  May God help us to do away with our critical attitudes and judgmental spirits toward our brothers and sisters in Christ!  But to ‘judge’ someone’s behavior as wrong (when it is clearly wrong in Scripture) may be the most loving thing you can do (James 5:20)

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

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “Who in the Bible lived a double life?  Was supposed to be living for the Lord but wasn’t.”

Hmmm, there’s a question I’ve never been asked before. But I’ll give it a try:

1.  The Biblical term for what you describe is ‘hypocrite’, and there must have been people in the Bible who lived a double life, because Jesus Himself used that term 6 times to describe the Pharisees in Matthew 23 alone: (v. 13, v. 15, v. 23, v. 25, v. 27, v. 29).

2.  Jesus also described false prophets and false believers in Matthew 7:15-23, which is more evidence of people who were thought to be living for God, but truly were not.

3.  If you’re looking for specific individuals instead of groups, how about Judas Iscariot?  Luke 22:1-6 describes him as a disciple, yet he betrayed Jesus.

4.  Paul speaks of two men that must have lived a double life, Hymenaeus and Alexander, in 1Timothy 1:19-20.  Later he wrote about Demas, who “loved this present world” according to 2Tim. 4:9-10. If you compare that with 1John 2:15, probably he would qualify to be considered a hypocrite.

5.  Finally, Paul prophesied that there would be hypocrites in the last days (1Tim. 4:1-2), and James urges hypocrites to purify their hearts (James 4:7-9), so I know it’s an issue for believers in our day.

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

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I have a question: several times this year I’ve had some interesting conversations about whether a Christian can lose their salvation. I’ve done my personal study and have what I believe to be the answer, however, I would love to get more wisdom from you as well.”

Well, you’re certainly not alone.  I’ve been asked this question probably more than any other single question, so I’ve written about it here and here and most recently, here.

Let me quickly say that, at CLC, we do not make this a test of fellowship, and we have members on both sides of the issue – an issue that has been debated in Christendom for hundreds of years, so we’re not likely to resolve it in this post.

In my 46 years of ministry, my views on many Bible subjects have changed, sometimes more than once on the same subject! But in my study of this particular subject in Scripture, I personally remain convinced that our salvation is not as ‘irresistible’ as some have taught, nor as ‘easily lost’ as others seem to think.  Like SO MANY doctrines of the Bible, the truth is somewhere in the middle of two extremes.

I don’t think I can improve on what I’ve written before (if you want to read those earlier posts to which I linked above), but I will once again add some verses that I think might be helpful for your own study and consideration:

On this particular topic, I hope I am wrong!  If so, there will be more people in heaven than I expect, and that would be a good thing.  But I prepared this document in the past, giving a number of pertinent Scriptures with a few comments that I think would be good for your personal study of this subject.  Then, I think the principle of Romans 14:5 applies.

I Cor. 10:1-12   this passage would be meaningless if it were not possible for us to fall from salvation.  The obvious conclusion from Israel’s example (they did not enter into the Promised Land) is that we, too, can fall after having known the Lord.

I Cor. 9:24-27   even the Apostle Paul could become a castaway!

2 Pet. 2:20-22   how could the latter end be worse than the beginning IF the person is still saved?

2 Pet. 1:4-10   why would Peter say IF you do these things, you will never fall” if it is impossible to fall from salvation anyway?

Mt. 25:1-13   this parable is generally interpreted as believers (‘virgins’) awaiting the return of the Lord.  Oil throughout Scripture is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  All of them had oil in their lamps initially; but the foolish virgins did not replenish their supply and were thus unprepared when the Lord came.

Luke 17:32   why should we “remember Lot’s wife?”

Read Jude 3, 4 in “The Living Bible”

Rev. 2:4-5   the threat to “remove your candlestick” sounds pretty serious (they would cease to be a church!)

I Tim. 4:1-2   can someone who has “departed from the faith” still be saved?

Luke 15:11-24   this parable of Jesus demonstrates the Father’s love for even His wayward children (here represented by the younger son).  Notice in v.24 that the prodigal was said to be “lost” and “dead.”  He had once enjoyed fellowship in the Father’s house, but because of his own choices, he was now lost!  (The GOOD NEWS is that, thru repentance, he did come back home and was accepted by His Father!)

Heb. 10: 19-39  notice especially vv.27-29

Mt. 25:14-30  (v. 14 – who is this parable about?  Then read v. 30)

Whew!  Hope that helped a bit in your own study.  

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Leave your questions or comments below-

 

Ask the Pastor

A former CLC’er writes, “Several months ago you had discussed three habits/behaviors that helped married couples achieve an extraordinary level of success in their marriages. You also cited a statistic that said when couples employed those particular habits their divorce rate was 1:1200 compared to society at large of 1:2. Can you share what those three habits are? What are your thoughts on why those habits bring such success?”

Great question & even better timing, because I just mentioned this stat again last Sunday!

The original quote that I used came from a Harvard study, but I have been unable to find the documentation for it in my original notes.  In their study, the 3 habits were: (1) praying together; (2) eating together; and (3) attending church together.

In my research last week, I found 3 other relevant studies.  One found that if couples read the Bible together their divorce rate dropped to 1:1,100; and another found that if couples prayed together, their divorce rate was only 1:1,200.  My favorite was a study done by the Southern Baptist Convention that found among born-again couples who had received premarital counseling, that if they (1) prayed together and (2) attended church together, their divorce rate dropped to the amazing rate of just 1:39,000 marriages!

As to why I think those habits bring such success, it’s simple: if we are praying and worshiping together as husband-and-wife, chances are pretty good that we’re trying to live by God’s Word and follow His instructions, including those concerning our marriage.

The Bible really is the “owner’s manual” for how to enjoy life – as someone else has noted, it’s the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, and all His instructions to us were given,  “that we might have a good life forever!” (see Deut. 5:29)

Hope that helps!  And I really hope each reader will join us THIS Sunday, September 14, when we expose some ‘Marriage Myths’ – I believe it’ll help both married’s and single’s alike!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

church_attendance

A favorite CLC’er who has to work most Sundays writes, “Is it ok to miss church because of work/career?  And…What does one do if they miss the worship environment?”

Excellent questions in today’s world!  Let me give it a shot:

First, I think we should differentiate between “get to” and “got to”.  If church attendance becomes something I “got to” do, chances are I won’t receive the benefits it offers anyway.  In my mind, the reasons Hebrews 10:23-25 tells us not to neglect meeting together are clearly spelled out in the passage:

  • attending church helps us hold tightly to our hope, which is under attack throughout the week-
  • attending church helps us to motivate each other to love (I’m challenged when I see others serving the Lord with joy to do so myself!)
  • attending church gives me an opportunity to use my gifts to serve (“good works”)
  • attending church provides mutual encouragement, especially in view that the coming of the Lord draws near.

So, there are some great reasons to attend church, in addition to “being fed” the Word and the joy & strength that comes from corporate worship (that differs from any of my personal worship times).  All of those benefits, to me, make church attendance very high on my list of priorities as a believer.

Now, to the question, ‘is it ok to miss church because of work’, I find the Bible is rather silent.  One principle that stands out to me is when Daniel was assigned to eat food provided by the Babylonian king, but he proposed an alternative and was able to be excluded from doing so (see Daniel 1:3-16).  Here’s my suggestion:

  • Pray before you do anything else.  Nehemiah 1:11-2:6 is a great example of this  (although he prayed for several months before doing anything, I think you can let the Lord lead you as to when it’s time to do more than pray)
  • Get an appointment and speak to the highest authority in your employment possible (that might be your boss or his boss or his boss’s boss!) and politely explain how important church attendance is to you.
  • Seek an acceptable compromise – if you cannot be excluded from Sundays, could you start later in the day, after attending the service.  Could you work before and after service, but have time off for the actual service itself? Could you have 2 Sundays a month off work?  Seek an acceptable compromise with management.
  • If management refuses any compromise, then you have a decision to make: is this job more important to me than being able to worship with my fellow believers?

I suppose the way I worded the last question tells you how I feel personally.  I could not remain in a career that prevented me from attending church.  If that’s the decision you reach, you would not be the first believer who quit a good job for ‘spiritual’ reasons, and I’ve seen the Lord honor that decision many times thru the years by providing other employment, usually even better than the job left behind.

As to the second question, I’d say seek other alternatives.  In Chicagoland, there are probably worship gatherings happening somewhere just about every night of the week.  Many churches, like CLC, also provide a live-stream of their services on the internet, which opens up even more options.  And, while the corporate worship aspect may be lacking, the encouragement of a Life Group is a wonderful option that every believer should enjoy.

Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave your question below-

Ask the Pastor

Last week’s question about life after death prompted another: “In Luke 24:39 is Jesus saying in  that there are spirits…ghosts…? In Matthew 14:26, His disciples thought He was a ghost…Jesus did not correct them? This passage confuses me about ghosts.”

Great question…I never thought of Luke 24:39 in that way before, because most translations use the word ‘spirit’, so I just thought of it in terms of our human spirit. My understanding of Scripture is that ALL of us are tri-part beings: body, soul and spirit (see 1Thess. 5:23).  It would perhaps even be accurate to say that “I am a spirit; I have a soul and I live in a body”.

However, to answer your question, it seems that the disciples did follow superstition on these occasions and thought they were seeing a ghost – BUT let me quickly say that Jesus did not.  In fact, in the Greek, they thought they saw a “phantom” (best translation of the Greek word they used), but Jesus answered them with the word ‘pneuma’, which is the word used in Scripture for breath, wind or spirit – not at all the connotation of ‘ghost’.

The Bible is clear that when we die, we do not wander the earth as ghosts or spirits, but that we rest, either in the Presence of Jesus (for believers – see 2Cor. 5:1-8), or awaiting our resurrection and eventual judgment in hell.

I couldn’t help but notice that this post is coming out on the 30th anniversary of “Ghostbusters”! I hope this helped bust that myth once and for all!

ghostbusters2

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave your question below.

Ask the Pastor

As a follow-up to last week’s question, the same CLC’er writes, “Also, after a loved one has died, I have heard people say that they have been visited by the deceased loved one in a dream or they have felt their presence. Is that possible? Can the dead be seen and heard by those still living? I think the answer is no because of Luke 16:19-31 but just wanted to know for sure.”

Great question, especially since so many people have similar questions about life after death.  Let’s address them one by one:

  • I’m sure that people can ‘see’ a deceased loved one in a dream, because when we sleep, our subconscious is often at work.  “Ernest Hartmann, a doctor at Tufts, focuses on the emotional learning that happens in dreams. He has developed the theory that dreaming puts our difficult emotions into pictures. In dreams, we deal with emotional content in a safe place, making connections that we would not make if left to our more critical or defensive brains.”  (See point #4 of this scholarly article)
  • As to “feeling their presence”, since the Bible doesn’t address that topic, we’re left to our own reasoning.  Personally, I suspect that this is again like our dreams – an emotional response to the fact that we’ve lost that loved one through death.  Scripture is clear that our spirit returns to God at death (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7), so it doesn’t seem to me that we could truly feel the presence of a dead loved one, other than some kind of emotional response.
  • Finally, as to whether the dead can be ‘seen and heard’ by the living, there is one possible example of this in Scripture, although the interpretation is quite controversial.  I refer to Saul’s experience with the so-called “witch of Endor” in 1Sam. 28:3-24.  Many Bible scholars believe that Samuel’s appearance was merely the result of witchcraft and that he did not actually appear from the dead to Saul.  My personal opinion is that Samuel did appear, based on verse 12 (the witch seemed surprised to see him, which possibly indicates this was beyond the power of her witchcraft) and verse 15 (where Samuel claims to have been disturbed from rest),  and verse 19 (where he predicts Saul’s death and says ‘tomorrow you’ll be here with me‘).  So I do believe the dead was seen and heard in this one example.  Whether a medium or psychic could cause a similar appearance today would strictly be conjecture, and the Luke 16 passage you cite in your question seems conclusive to me that it’s not likely.

This is beyond the scope of the question, but let me add for anyone who longs to see a deceased loved one, the real hope we have is the one David expressed after the death of his son in 2Sam. 12:21-23 – “I will go to him one day”.  If our loved one was a believer who is now in the Presence of the Lord, we have that same hope, for someday we will be reunited with our loved ones in His Presence!

Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave your question or comments below-

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “There has been so much news coverage and discussion about the unfortunate death of Robin Williams. It hits home because I had a young cousin commit suicide some years ago at the age of 17. I always hear people say “they are in a better place” and “they now have peace in heaven.” What happens to a soul when they commit suicide? I thought that death by suicide cancels your option to go to heaven. Is that true?”

Great question, and one that many others have asked.  Let me quickly say that like so many, I was very saddened by the news about Robin Williams, whose talent & gifting to entertain was nothing short of amazing.  The unnecessary death of such a celebrity serves to spotlight the reality of depression and how important it is for all of us to be aware of friends and family who may need to seek help.

But as to your question, let me emphatically state that the Bible is silent in regards to those who commit suicide going to heaven.

So, since Scripture makes no explicit statements, we are left to apply Biblical principles and draw logical conclusions.  In that regard, I would ask, what qualifies anyone to go to heaven when they die? Is there any activity or deed that enables us to go to heaven?

Surely the answer is NO!  The ONLY criteria for admission into heaven is placing our faith in Jesus and His death on the cross for us – Romans 1:17 and Ephesians 2:1-9.  Since the Bible is silent about suicide, the real question is: did this individual place their trust in Jesus for salvation before they died? 

I have known of people who walked closely with the Lord but for whatever reasons, found themselves in a pit of depression and despair, and in a desperate moment took their own lives.  My opinion is that, in that moment, they were not in their right mind, because I can’t imagine anyone thinking rationally choosing to end their own life and cause so much pain & grief for their loved ones in what has been called the ultimate act of selfishness.  And my knowledge of our Great God and Savior cannot imagine that He would disregard the years that they walked with Him and refuse their entrance into heaven because of that one moment of insanity.  That’s my opinion.

Now, if the individual who commits suicide had not placed their faith in Jesus as Savior prior to death, then comments like “they’re in a better place” or “they have peace in heaven” are not consolation; they’re lies not based on Scripture (see John 3:16-18).

Let me close by PLEADING with anyone who might be depressed and considering suicide – do NOT use this post as encouragement!  There ARE many people in your life who would forever be impacted by your short-sighted decision.  Please get help.  Talk to a trust counselor or mental health professional.  CLC has pastors and counselors who are here for you, so if you need help, call us today!

I hope this helps.  NOW, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave your question or comment below-

 

Ask the Pastor

For the 3rd consecutive week, no one submitted a question to me (is it summer vacation, or are y’all just going easy on me?), so I’m re-posting a question originally asked back in 2010:

A faithful member writes,  “I am curious, with the new covenant of Jesus Christ… what is Israel’s future? Some say they are the chosen people and are saved without Christ… others they are lost and only saved if they know Christ. What is the truth and what is Israel’s future for salvation?”

GREAT question!  Much misunderstanding about this!  Let me try to make it simple: there is NO salvation outside of Jesus Christ. Period.

The Jewish people ARE God’s chosen people.  Without them, we wouldn’t have a Bible, or most any of the revelation of God that we enjoy.  But they, like us Gentiles, are lost without Christ (Rom. 3:23Rom 6:23Rom 5:8-11Rom 10:1-4).

Yet God has not rejected them forever, and in these last days He has a plan to bring them back to Himself! (see Rom. 11:11-15)  Too many of us believers, including CLC, have neglected the evangelism of Jewish people in the past, but God is turning our hearts toward His earthly people again, and I’m pleased to say that Israel has become our first priority in world missions!  (Can’t tell you how disappointed Chris & I were by the forced cancellation of our planned trip to Haifa last week, because of the FAA ban on flights into Tel Aviv for those few days.)  We have several Messianic partners in the Land, including the entire Tikkun network, with ministries like Revive Israel, Return to Zion, and Tents of Mercy, and we anticipate greater partnerships with opportunities for CLC’ers to serve in the days ahead.

Hope those answers helped.  Now, what would YOU like the Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

Wow…must be summertime, because for the second week in a row, no one submitted a question for me to answer.

So, please indulge me by reading this post from another pastor (I agree with every point!).  Thanks, Ron Edmondson!

And don’t forget “God@the Movies” closes THIS Sunday with the movie most-requested by CLC’ers for this series, “Man of Steel”!  It’s gonna be good!!

Anything YOU want to Ask the Pastor for next Friday’s post?  You can leave a comment below, or drop me an email.

Ask the Pastor

For the first time in quite a few months, there were NO questions submitted this week.  

You don’t have to be a member or even attend CLC in order to ask a question.  I’ve devoted a post every Friday to answer Bible questions, family questions, really any question that you might want to ask a pastor – so feel free to submit yours.  You can do so in the comment section below, or by sending me an email.  I hope to hear from you soon.

What I did receive yesterday was a note that made my day! It was on one of the ‘Connection Cards’ we ask people to complete in our services, and it said, “I feel so thankful, empowered and understood now that I have received a prayer language!  We’ve attended CLC for 10 years, and on Pentecost Sunday, for the first time, I received my prayer language.  Praise the Lord!”

We often talk about the full ministry of the Holy Spirit at CLC, and, really, it’s one of the  primary reasons we exist as a church – so reports like this are what keeps me going!

If you’ve haven’t received your prayer language, I’ve answered questions about it here and here and here – hope you’ll take a moment to check it out.  It’s a promise for YOU!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite ‘questioners’ writes, “Why has God not show himself to us? seems it would remove any doubt of his existence.”

Interesting question!  It’s also one I’ve never been asked before, so you made me dig a little deeper to think of a Biblical answer.  Here goes:

So, in reality, God has done exactly what you asked – He showed Himself to us when He came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ.  He walked among us for over 33 years before giving His life as a sacrifice for our sins.

While that may not satisfy your desire to see Him yourself, we do have the eyewitness account of the four gospels, plus other historical works from that period that also refer to the historical person of Christ.

Finally, we have Jesus’ own words in John 20.  Notice especially verse 29 and verse 31.

I hope this helps!  (I can also encourage you to join us for the final installment of ‘God@the Movies 2014′ on July 27 when we look at a Hollywood example, ‘Man of Steel”)

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?


Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite new CLC’ers writes, I have learned a lot about the Holy Spirit in this series. You and your pastoral staff have really put the some pieces together for me as to what the Holy Spirit means.  I have always thought the Holy Spirit part was just God in our hearts. I see that it was that, but much more. It is the promise Jesus made to us that he will return and be inside all of us through the Holy Spirit. The question I have now is, during the last few weeks I heard the Pastors say if we want to be baptized with the Holy Spirit to come forward and the pastoral staff will pray for us, but I also heard of the water baptism. What is the difference?”

Can I just say, I love this question!  I love helping people understand the gifts & experiences that God has for all of us!  So let’s try to make the difference between the two baptisms clear:

  • Water baptism is the burial of our old way of life after we come to faith in Christ. It’s kinda like a ‘coming out party’ to announce publicly that we have turned from our sin & received the gift of salvation that Jesus died for. (By the way, Romans 6:4 calls it that – a ‘burial’ with Christ, and when we arise from the water, it is symbolic of his resurrection and that we are now living a ‘new life’).
  • The Holy Spirit baptism is a gift that we receive to empower that new life (Acts 1:4-8). It’s usually accompanied by what we call a “prayer language” (referred to as ‘speaking in tongues’ in the Bible), which adds a whole new dimension of intimacy in our prayer times with the Lord. (see 1Cor. 14)
  • According to Acts 2:38, every believer should experience both of these baptisms, and that’s the example we see throughout the history of the early Christians in Acts 2, 8, 10 and 19.
  • In some expressions of Christianity, it’s quite possible that your parents had you baptized as an infant. That baptism is NOT the same as the water baptism that I’m talking about, since it was your parent’s decision, not yours. I’m sure parents choose that in a sincere desire to raise their child as a Christian, which is commendable. But water baptism in the New Testament is a choice made by a person who is old enough to repent (turn from) their sin, and believe on the Lord Jesus as Savior (neither of which an infant is capable of doing).
  • Contrary to what some in the American church seem to practice, in the New Testament water baptism was always done immediately after a person turned from sin and believed on Christ (Acts 16:25-33 describes one in the middle of the night, and Acts 22:16 declares, ‘why wait?’) Water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are separate, wonderful experiences that I urge every reader to enjoy!

In our ‘RUACH II’ series that just concluded, we saw perhaps 25-30 people receive their prayer language (unfortunately, we didn’t get accurate records for each, since some received at the altar & others just walking through the ‘fire tunnel’ – so if YOU are one of those who received that gift in these last 4 Sundays, please leave a comment below so we can send you additional information to help you understand & use your new gift), and at least 10 people were baptized in water.  If you want to schedule your water baptism, you can also leave a comment below, or notify your Campus pastor.

I hope that helped.  NOW, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

One of our most enthusiastic CLC’ers writes, “This current series, RUAH II, is amazing.  It made me think about a term that heard my former pastor say all the time.  He would invite people to come to the altar for a “refilling of the Holy Spirit”.  Is that biblical?  Also, I know that the Holy Spirit is a person and He resides in us.  Does He leave when we are in a backslidden place or is His presence dormant?  Thanks for this teaching!!!”

Two excellent questions! Here’s my take on both:

  • Coming from a Pentecostal background, I’ve heard many ministers use the term,  “refilling of the Holy Spirit” (and probably been guilty of saying it myself).  But more importantly, in Acts 4:31 we read of a prayer meeting in which many of the same disciples who were present in Acts 2 were filled with the Holy Spirit again – so it seems to me that we could say they were ‘refilled’.  
  • In fact, Ephesians 5:18 is an imperative (command) that all of us are to “keep on being filled” with the Holy Spirit.  The original Greek text indicates an ongoing, continual action – “be always being filled”.  So, YES, I’d definitely say it’s Biblical for us to be refilled with the Spirit!
  • Your second question, in my study of the Scriptures, is not so clear.  On the one hand, in Hebrews 13:5 the Lord emphatically declares that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us, but in Psalm 51:11, after his sin with Bathsheba, David pleads with God to not take His Holy Spirit away (which would indicate that the Spirit could leave us because of willful sin).  So whether the Holy Spirit leaves the backslider, or remains within, but in a dormant state, is not really clear to me.  (Having said that, I will quickly add that I do NOT believe the Spirit withdraws ‘at the drop of a hat’, per some Pentecostal traditions.  In the first church that Chris & I pastored, one of our leaders would question his Sunday School class each Sunday as to whether they still had the Holy Spirit, with the implication that He would come and go easily, depending on their level of consistency in their walk with the Lord.  I do NOT believe that is Biblical, but instead I want to live my life so as not to quench the Spirit’s fire in my life (see 1Thess. 5:19)

I hope that helps.  Let me tell you for sure that THIS Sunday at each CLC Campus we’re expecting the full ministry of the Holy Spirit as we conclude our “RUAH II” series with a free-flowing ‘encounter’ service.  There will be lots of prayer, anointed worship, baptisms and even a ‘fire tunnel’ – so if you want an infilling (or a ‘refilling) of the Holy Spirit, don’t let anything keep you away!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

Someone asked, “How did killing Jesus remove our sins? We made the sins, not him.”

GREAT question.  I think sometimes in our desire to address ‘felt-need’ issues in our Sunday messages, we perhaps neglect the core of the Gospel, and that’s the heart of your question.  Let me try to answer it simply, but systematically:

1.  God told us from the beginning, that if we sin, we shall die. (Gen. 2:15-17; Rom. 6:23)

2.  However, God’s mercy provided a substitute (the life of an animal for the life of a person), so that mankind wouldn’t perish. (Leviticus 17:11)

3.  But it wasn’t possible for the blood of animals to completely take away our sin, since the life of a bull or goat isn’t equal to human life (Hebrews 10:1-5)

4.  Jesus could be the perfect sacrifice, because His blood was of greater value than ours, as the sinless, perfect, Lamb of God! (1Pet. 1:18-20; Heb. 9:13-14)

So, yes, we committed the sins.  But HE willingly took our place on the Cross and died the death we should have died!

But His death, in and of itself, doesn’t remove our sins (otherwise, everyone on earth would be saved, since He died for all).  It’s only when we place our trust in what He did rather than on any of our works, and trust Him for salvation, that our sins are removed. (Galatians 2:15-16; Ephesians 2:8-9)

I’m SO glad that Jesus took MY sins away!  By the way, this Father’s Day at every CLC campus we’ll take a look at what our Heavenly Father has promised you – and you’ll have an opportunity to receive His gift of eternal life.  Hope you’ll join us-

 Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

A newly-baptized CLC’er writes, “Sometimes I feel like doubting Thomas, like I need proof Jesus is real. How can I get past that?”

Great question – because I’m sure you’re not the first who’s felt that way (or even the second, after Thomas!) So let me try to help you and those who struggle with doubts:

  • First, I think some doubts are normal.  As humans, we depend on our 5 senses  (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) so much that when something is beyond those senses, we find it difficult to accept.  Especially in the West, we exalt intellect over  spirit to the point that most people don’t even acknowledge the spirit realm.
  • Not only that, but in my experience, most Christians face a ‘crisis of faith’ at some point in their lives – for many who were brought up in the faith, it occurs when they are in college and have to contend with skeptical, cynical professors who mock their faith with a pretense of superior intellect.

So what do you do about your doubts?  Here’s my suggestion:

1.  Acknowledge them.  (God has big shoulders, and HE can handle your doubts!)  Notice how honest Abraham (the father of the faithful) and David (a man after God’s own heart)  were throughout the Scriptures, expressing their fears, their complaints; and, yes, their  doubts: Gen. 12:12, 13; 15:8; 18:12-14; 19:30; 20:2, 11; 26:7;  Psalm 22:2.  Don’t hesitate to take YOUR doubts to God – HE has an answer!

2.  Study the Scriptures.  Not only does hearing the Word bring faith (Romans 10:17), but the Bible can stand our scrutiny – notice Acts 17:10-12 where we read of the open-minded Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily AND, as a result of their study, believed!  I’m convinced the same result happens when anyone sincerely studies the Word.

3.  Be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:32-33, 36 indicate that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit should convince us all that Jesus is Lord!  Eph. 1:13-14  describe the gift of the Holy Spirit as the “guarantee” (actually, the ‘earnest’ of our inheritance, like the earnest money that we put down on a real estate transaction as proof that we will complete the purchase) of our inheritance; i.e., once we’re filled with the Spirit, we have God’s guarantee living inside of us.  If you haven’t yet been baptized in the Holy Spirit, I hope you’ll join us THIS Sunday (June 8 – Pentecost Sunday) when we’ll focus on Him and expect Him to be poured out at CLC!  HE is your personal witness of the Resurrection of Jesus, and HE will be living inside you!

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

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “If we were created in Gods image, can we assume God looks like us?”

Great question, and one that perhaps many people have not considered.  Here’s my understanding in that regard:

  •  When the Bible says that we are made in God’s image and likeness, it was primarily referring to qualities & attributes, not a physical resemblance.  I say that because Scripture indicates that God is invisible (Col. 1:15; John 1:18; 1Tim. 6:16)
  • This ‘likeness’ is readily seen in that, just like God, we have intelligence, creativity, personality, and more.  We can get angry or sad or feel joy, we can experience love, we can exercise choice – all attributes that we share with God!
  • However, Romans 5:14 speaks of the fact that Adam was the figure of one to come (Christ).  While I think that primarily means that Adam was a type of Christ (1Corinthians 15:45-49 speaks of the “first” Adam and the “second” Adam), there may be ‘wiggle room’ to interpret that to mean that when God fashioned Adam from the dust of the ground, He looked ahead to see what Jesus would look like, and then made Adam to resemble Jesus.  (It’s an interesting thought, anyway)

Hope that helps a bit….if not, chalk it up to jet-lag today!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er from our Blue Island campus asks, “How can know if someone is a real prophet?  I am skeptical when I have seen them.”

What a great question!  I’m sure you’re not alone, because for many years The Church in America has basically only recognized two of the ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11-12  (that’s 2 of 4 as I read the verse; or 3 of 5 if you understand “teacher” to be a separate gift from “pastor” instead of the hyphenated gift of “pastor-teacher” as I understand the verse).  Basically, I’m saying the vast majority of Christians, at least in this country, have only known pastors and evangelists.

So the idea of Apostles and Prophets today is foreign to most believers, and when something is new to us, most of us are skeptical by nature.  Not only that, but I would be the first to admit that in the last 20 years or so there has been a proliferation of men and women claiming the title of “Apostle” or “Prophet” in some segments of the body of Christ, without really showing the fruit of those ministries.  (As I’ve said on numerous occasions at CLC, I would rather ‘do the stuff’ without a title, as to have a title and not ‘do the stuff’!) But I digress.

I would also freely admit that there have been shysters and frauds who claim to be prophets, perhaps out of a love for money or the ‘power’ they attain by claiming to foretell someone’s future or bring them a personal word ‘from God’.  But make no mistake: just because some are frauds does NOT mean that all are fakes!  In fact, the presence of counterfeits is a sure indication that there is also the real deal!

Off my soapbox and back to your question: how can you know if someone is a real prophet?  There are 2 simple tests in Scripture:

Deuteronomy 18:21-22 is the simplest test: did the prophetic word come to pass?  If not, then it’s not a word from God, but something from the prophet’s own imagination.

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 is even more stringent: even if the prophecy came to pass, is the message in agreement with the written Word of God? God never contradicts Himself, so if the prophet speaks contrary to the revealed Word and will of God, even if his sign comes to pass, he is not a true prophet!

Both of those are Old Testament requirements, where false prophets were stoned to death.  In the New Testament, the consequences are not quite as severe, but 1Cor. 14:29 tells us to ‘evaluate’ the prophetic words that go forth. Today, if someone ‘misses it’, we don’t take them out and stone them.  However, as pastor of CLC, part of my responsibility for the flock is to guard the sheepfold and I am very careful about who we invite into our pulpit.  In our 24+ years as a church, I have never put someone in our pulpit for prophetic ministry who is not proven and accepted in the wider Body of Christ as a genuine prophet, and I never will.

There are SO many benefits and SO many reasons for us not to throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to receiving prophets, but I’ll save that message for another day.  Let me close by encouraging every reader to join us this Sunday at 9 or 11am (don’t forget our ‘Summer Schedule’ experiment starts this Sunday, May 18!) or 6pm  for the ministry of Prophet Alan Ross from Glasgow, Scotland.

Come expecting, and I believe you’ll see that he is a true prophet of the Lord!

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

Ask the Pastor

Last week’s post about spouses who do not share our faith brought an interesting question from an anonymous reader: “What do I do if husband and children want to worship here but I don’t? Is it so bad for me to feel this way?”

So glad you asked, because I’m sure you’re not alone as a spouse who doesn’t want to attend the church that your family enjoys.  Here’s my best advice:

  • It is definitely NOT wrong for you to feel that you don’t want to worship at CLC.  After all, it’s a free country and each of us has the right to choose where and how we want to attend church. God has created each of us with a ‘free will’ to choose for ourselves.
  •  However, IF you are a Christ-follower, (I say that because not everyone who goes to church on Sunday is truly submitted to the Lordship of Christ.  Many Americans have confessed Him as Savior, but do not follow Him as Lord in their daily lives!) I would point out a few things for you to consider:

1.  Psalm 92:13 indicates that God wants us to be “planted” in the house of the Lord – which implies putting down roots so that we can grow, rather than just moving from one church to another. And 1Cor. 12:12, 18 makes it clear that GOD is actually the One who chooses where to place us.  So I think the real question for you is NOT where do you want to go to church for worship, but where does GOD want you to be planted?

2.  Since God loves unity and you & your husband are to be “one” (Gen. 2:24), I would encourage the two of you to seek the Lord about the answer to that question – where does HE want you to be planted?  (While it’s ok to consider where your children will best learn & grow, the decision really is up to you & your husband – as the parents, it’s your job to lead your children (read Gen. 18:19, Psa. 127:3-4Prov. 22:6, Mal. 2:15), so you should make this decision).

3. I have learned from experience with others that it is NOT healthy for you to attend one church while your family attends another.  So I would encourage you to consider that in your decision, and do your best to get on the same page as a family – whether that means attending CLC together or all of you attending elsewhere – I believe your family will be much better by worshiping together. (I hope you’ll read and consider the implication of each of these verses: John 17:21-22; Rom. 12:4-5; 1Cor. 10:17; Psa. 133:1)

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

Ask the Pastor

An anonymous reader asks, Have you ever encountered skepticism from individuals raised with a different religion? How did you deal with it? I am going through this with my spouse and do not want to push him into anything, but I would love for him to join the kids and I in our faith.

Great question, and one faced by numerous spouses through the years.  Here’s my best take on what you can do:

assume that by “a different religion” you actually mean a “different expression of Christianity”, like Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc., as opposed to a different  religion, like Islam or Buddhism.  (I am MUCH more familiar with the first than the second, although I suppose most of my suggestions would be similar).

The single-best advice I can give comes straight from God’s Word in 1Pet. 3:1-4, where we learn that your loving conduct in the home will do more to win your spouse than  anything you might say to them!

Once you’ve ‘covered that base’ by sweet, loving, Christ-like behavior in front of them, if your spouse hasn’t already initiated the conversation about your faith by asking questions, I’d say it’s time for you to broach that subject.  Here are my tips:

  • Bathe this whole situation and your spouse in prayer!  That should go without saying, but 2Cor. 4:4 makes it clear that the reason your spouse doesn’t believe is because the god of this world has blinded his/her eyes to the Gospel! That’s the real issue – not their background, culture, upbringing or anything else – they don’t believe because Satan has blinded them – so the answer is for you (and others you can enlist) to pray fervently and persistently for the Lord to open their eyes!
  • Make sure your spouse is not in a defensive posture before you begin the conversation – in other words, look for a time when he/she is able and willing to talk, rather than during a heated discussion about something else, or when they are occupied with other pressing matters (whether live or on TV).
  • it’s always best to answer their questions, instead of trying to force the conversation.  This is the method that Jesus used consistently (study John 4:4-29 to see how He tactfully yet effectively led the Samaritan woman to truth)
  • Beyond that, especially if you have a good marital relationship (meaning your spouse genuinely loves you and your children), then a gentle (not nagging, but loving)  conversation in which you explain how important it is to you that he/she would at least attend church with you as a family, can be a great beginning!  I’ve known of lots of unsaved spouses who started attending church to support their children’s participation in a holiday presentation or came to visit just because of their spouse’s invitation, only to eventually find that they enjoyed the services, felt drawn by the Presence of God, and gave their life to Christ!

I’m sure there are some folks reading this who won their spouse to the Lord despite dissimilar backgrounds: what would YOU add to this list?  Please leave your suggestions in the comment section below.

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

Ask the Pastor

current_sermon_series

A faithful CLC’er asks a question I’ve never been asked before: “Where does the church get the different series that we follow during the weekly services?”

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “I have not received my prayer language yet and I don’t want to be fake and just copy what I hear others speak. What are your thoughts about that?”

Great question, especially for this Easter weekend.  Here are my thoughts:

1. I’m glad that you specified “yet” after saying you haven’t received your prayer language – because I’m 100% convinced from Scripture that praying in the Spirit (using your prayer language) is a privilege & promise for every believer.  I sometimes hear from others who haven’t yet received their prayer language but they mistakenly conclude that “it must not be for me” or “maybe it’s only for certain people and not for others” or even “maybe that was just a gift for Bible times that no longer happens today”.  I think these verses make it quite clear that this is an experience that God wants for every believer: Isaiah 28:11-12; Acts 2:1-4, 38-39; Acts 10:44-47; Acts 19:1-6; 1Cor. 14:1-5; 1Cor. 14:18-19; Jude 20-21.

2. I’m also glad that you don’t want to be a fake, since that’s never advisable.  Just  ‘copying’ what you’ve heard others speak would shortchange you and likely keep you from going on to experience the reality of this wonderful gift for yourself. Furthermore, there’s NO need to ‘fake it’, since this experience is real and what God wants for you, as the Scriptures above demonstrate.

3. However, it is important to notice that when this gift first occurred on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:4, it is quite clear that the Holy Spirit gave the ability, but it was the people themselves who did the speaking! (I say that because some people have mistakenly supposed that the Holy Spirit would do ALL the ‘work’ – causing them to speak in a language they had never learned.  That’s NOT what happened anywhere in the Bible, and Paul’s clear teaching in 1Cor. 14:27-33 is that we remain in control even when the Holy Spirit is moving upon us. Because of this, here are some ‘tips’ I’ve given to those who want to receive their prayer language:

  • Be sure that you have invited Jesus to be Lord of your life (since the Holy Spirit is only promised to believers) AND that you have forgiven anyone who has wronged you (since unforgiveness blocks us from receiving anything from God). 
  • Then begin to worship the Lord aloud, since receiving a prayer language in Scripture always occurred in the context of worship.
  • Expect to receive (since all the gifts of God are received by faith!) Keep in mind that it is NOT possible to speak in two languages at the same time.  In other words, if English is your native tongue, for instance, you cannot speak in English and in a prayer language at the same time.  So you should expect that when the Holy Spirit gives you a new prayer language, it won’t be English (if that’s your native tongue).  
  • Some people have told me that they actually ‘heard’ strange-sounding syllables in their mind, and then spoke them aloud.  Others have noticed that their lips were quivering and stammering so that they weren’t speaking praises clearly anymore, and that’s usually a result of trying to force themselves to speak in their known language while the Holy Spirit was prompting them to speak in another language.  So relax – there’s nothing to fear, and you don’t need to force yourself.  Instead,  give in to the Spirit’s promptings and speak aloud the syllables & phrases that HE will give you.  Enjoy it! You can whisper, sing, shout & speak in your new tongue!

I hope that helps. In fact, I pray that someone reading this will put the computer or tablet aside and receive this free gift from God now!  If you do, please leave a comment below so I can celebrate with you!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Can’t wait to celebrate the Resurrection with you this weekend – 11 different options at the 4 campuses of CLC – choose the one that works best for you!

If you’re visiting CLC this Easter…

I’ve been praying for & thinking about the folks who will visit us for the first time this Easter. I know that going into any church or public event for the first time can be intimidating, especially if you’re not sure what to expect.

So with a nudge from fellow blogger/pastor Ron Edmondson & his excellent post yesterday, I thought I’d answer some questions our guests may have.

Here are 7 frequently asked questions about visiting Easter Sunday:

What should I wear?

Any Sunday at CLC, you’ll see all styles of dress. Some will wear suit and tie and dresses for women. Some will wear jeans and t-shirts.  To answer your question, choose an outfit you already own, one you feel comfortable in, and join us.

What will we do? What can I expect?

We will have a fairly typical worship schedule. We will sing some songs, have a short greeting time, I’ll share a message (my intent will be to share hope), we will sing again. In case you’re wondering, we will receive an offering to support the full range of ministries we offer in the church, community, and around the world. However, you are not required or expected to participate in the offering unless you choose to do so.

Will you embarrass me?

I certainly hope not. We really try to make you as comfortable as possible! You WILL NOT be singled out as a visitor. We don’t make visitors stand, raise their hand, or even fill out a card if you choose not to do so.

How long will the service last?

About an hour and 15 minutes. Of course, you may stay longer to chat with the new friends we’re hoping you’ll meet, but that would be your choice.

What time should I arrive?

That’s a great question. And, I’m really trying to help when I suggest you get here a few minutes early. Maybe even as many as 10 or 15 minutes early. It takes a little while to make your way through our building, especially if you have children to check into our children’s areas or this is your first time. We especially want you to find a seat where you are most comfortable (some want up close — some want in the middle), and you’ll feel more comfortable if you have a few minutes to adjust before the service begins. We have a special Easter bulletin you can be reading while you wait for the service to start.

Do you have something for children?

Absolutely. Birth through 5th grade have their own activities designed especially for them. They will enjoy a worship experience that will engage them at their level. Of course, we don’t keep you from bringing children with you in the worship service if that is more comfortable on a first visit, but our experience is that they truly do enjoy the service designed for them. On Easter Sunday, their service will include an Easter Egg Hunt with some terrific prizes & other activities – we want them to have FUN and learn about Jesus, too. Either way, we love when entire families join us Easter Sunday.

Can I only come one time? Really, for what am I signing up when I come Easter Sunday?

There’s no obligation beyond Easter Sunday. We do ask you to fill out a connection card and, if you do, we will follow up with you, but we won’t come visiting you at home or pester you with junk mail. And I hope you do fill out the card, because I love seeing who God brought to us as visitors. I love meeting visitors. We won’t put any unfair pressure on you to ever come again. We hope you will, and we’d love if Easter triggered that desire in you, but that’s your call — not ours.

I hope that answers some questions of those who think about visiting our church. I’d be honored if you are our guest, this Sunday or any Sunday.

P.S. If you’re a ‘regular’ at CLC, today is your LAST CHANCE to invite a friend, co-worker or family member to join you this Easter (preferably on Friday or Saturday evening, as we expect all 3 services on Sunday to be FULL!) Just think: the last person you invite might be someone whose life will be changed forever – all because of your invitation!

Ask the Pastor

No one submitted a question this week, so I’ll take this moment to post an article by my Jewish friend, Jonathan Feldstein, who serves a great organization in Israel called “Heart to Heart”.  His article could go to the heart of a question that many may be asking about some recent prophecy teachings about end-time events.

You can read his article here.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

The latest question submitted to me is gut-wrenchingly honest: “I struggle feeling disgust towards homosexuals; is that wrong? I know nowadays it’s not politically correct to openly express that, but what does the Bible say regarding that?”

Wow.  Not only is it not ‘politically correct’, but you could probably go to prison for ‘hate speech’ or face other criminal charges for such homophobic views today in this country.  Nonetheless, you were brave enough to ask the question, so I’ll be brave enough to answer from Scripture:

  • It is never wrong to struggle with our feelings, because that’s all they are, feelings.  BUT it’s VERY important that you do recognize how wrong those feelings are and continue to battle against them until you win!  Having feelings or thoughts that you know are not pleasing to God is part of our battle against our flesh, and Jesus made it clear that the only way to win is to crucify our flesh; i.e., die to our own natural tendencies, thoughts or actions in order to please Him! (see Matthew 16:23-25)
  • The Bible is VERY clear that we are to LOVE all people, regardless of their lifestyle choices, sexual preferences, race, religion, etc.  In fact, we’re even told to love our enemy! (see Luke 6:27-30)
  • The phrase that many Christian leaders use in this regard is “hate the sin, but love the sinner!”  In other words, in our heart and in our actions, we are called to love  everyone, even though we should hate how sin prevents them from being all that God has created and called them to be.  That’s true whether we’re talking about addictive behaviors, poor choices, or lifestyle decisions that are contrary to God’s Word and His good will for us.

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

Ask the Pastor

This week’s question is “How come we only hear about Jesus as a baby and the last few years of his life ? What about the time between those periods?”

Ahhh, someone’s been reading their Bible!  Let me try to answer:

First, the Bible itself promises that it contains everything we need to be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2Tim. 3:16-17)and we also know that God has given us  everything we need for living a godly life (2Peter 1:3), so perhaps the BEST and most accurate answer is that God didn’t feel we needed to know about the period in Jesus’ life between age 12 and age 30.  (I understand your curiosity, but I also know that God knows best and He chose NOT to give us this information)

Second, your question is not entirely accurate, because the Bible does give us glimpses  into his life between his birth and his ministry: read Luke 2:39-52, and notice specifically:

  • Jesus grew up healthy & strong in Nazareth, and God’s favor was on him.  Since his adopted father (Joseph) was a carpenter (Matt. 13:55), we can safely assume that he learned carpentry as a boy as well, after the custom of that day.
  • He must have made an annual trek to Jerusalem from his home in Nazareth, and by the age of 12, he already knew His mission on earth(Luke 2:49)
  • Even though he knew his mission, he submitted to his earthly parents, and continued to grow physically, mentally, spiritually and socially (Luke 2:52)
  • That’s all we’re told until he began his public ministry at age 30 (Luke 3:23)

Finally, one of the Gospel writers, John, does shed light on WHY God gave us the information about Jesus that we do have – read for yourself in John 20:30-31.  Simply put, the Gospels didn’t attempt to give us a full biography of Jesus, as some historian might, but instead gave us what we need to know in order to put our trust in Him as Savior and Lord, and receive the eternal life that He provided through His death on the Cross!

P.S. There are some ancient books that claim to offer (among other things) an account of the boy Jesus, but each of those (sometimes called “Gnostic Gospels“) was rejected by the leaders of the early Church as not being inspired by God, and thus they are not included in the Canon of Scripture.

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

Ask the Pastor

A CLC’er who has recently joined our Blue Island Launch team asks, “What is God’s response or what does the Bible say regarding illnesses? Does praying really help? And why does God allow it to happen? (Like a baby who has cancer?)”

Great questions!  Especially because these questions are often asked by skeptics and even sincere unbelievers who struggle to believe in a good God in view of some of the pain and heartache in our fallen world.  Let me try to answer, briefly and in order:

  • Sickness and disease is part of the curse that resulted from Man’s Fall in the Garden of Eden. So keep in mind that sickness did not come from God; it came from Satan and is a direct result of man’s sin.
  • However, the Bible is filled with promises that God is our Healer! (see Exodus 15:26; Deuteronomy 32:39; 2Chronicles 30:20; Psalm 103:3, 107:20; Isaiah 38:20, 53:5; Jeremiah 30:17; Matthew 8:1-3, 10:1, 10:8; James 5:14-15)
  • In view of those verses and others like them, ABSOLUTELY prayer really helps!  I’ve personally witnessed people healed instantly of such afflictions as broken bones, blindness, deafness, and more, as well as progressive(i.e., greatly accelerated recovery from sickness & disease after prayer) in my years of ministry.
  • As to why God allows it to happen, the only answer I can give you is that we still live in a fallen world.  As I said above, sickness did not originate with God, who created man to live forever – but resulted from Man’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden.  Our fallen world includes hatred, racism, violence, wars, cruelty, abuse, rape and many things besides illness that God never wanted or designed for any of us to experience – but they are part of this fallen world – and really are a reflection of the enemy who came to stealkill, and destroy (see John 10:10)

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

Ask the Pastor

There were NO questions again this week, so I’m re-posting this “Ask the Pastor” from November of 2008:

Someone asked about this verse this week, specifically, why do pastors and believers try so hard to draw people to salvation, or even warn them of the danger of not accepting Christ, if the Spirit is not drawing them?  It’s another important question, and I hope my simple answer will suffice.

As I understand Scripture, Jesus was simply saying that salvation is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.  We can and we should be a witness to unsaved people, both with our lifestyle and with our words, and we can pray and encourage and challenge people to be saved – but ultimately it requires a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to change someone’s heart and draw them to Him.

So even though no one can come to Christ unless the Spirit is at work to draw them, the truth remains that the Holy Spirit does use our hands and our feet and our mouths as His instruments to do that drawing.  Otherwise, there would be no need to send missionaries (I’m writing this from India, and I assure you that I wouldn’t go to all of this trouble and physical inconvenience unless I knew that my efforts were making a difference!) or conduct evangelistic campaigns or do almost any of the things that we do as believers in order to reach out to others.  Thank God that we can be His representatives to help bring people to God!  In fact, He has given us that privilege and responsibility!

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

Ask the Pastor

NO questions were submitted this week, so I’m re-posting this one from 2007:

Last Friday’s post got piqued some interest on the subject of tithing – here’s today’s question: A lot of people feel that tithing was something that was done in the Old Testament and we don’t really have to tithe anymore. Can you give me some scriptures in the New Testament that shows that we are still obligated to pay tithes?”

Such a great question.  Like you, I’ve heard all those comments, and I know good people who’ve bought in to that error, and thus miss out on God’s promised blessings.  Here are a few New Testament Scriptures regarding tithing:

  • Matthew 23:23 – notice that our Lord Jesus Himself said about tithing, we “ought” to do.  That’s a strong word – tithing is something we are morally obligated (ought) to do!
  • 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 – here is the New Testament pattern (Paul was teaching all the churches to do this) – their giving was to be done “in proportion” to what they had received.  That means they were to give a set percentage of their income.  What would that percentage be?  Obviously, the entire Old Testament had prescribed 10%, so there was no need for Paul to repeat that information again – they already knew that!
  • Hebrews 7:7-15 – please note that Paul speaks of tithing in the present tense (‘we pay tithes’) which means tithing was still being practiced in the New Testament Church and his argument is that Melchizidek never died, so he’s still receiving tithes.  (Since Melchizidek is a type of Jesus, you could say that Jesus is receiving our tithes!)

Matthew 5:17-22, 27-48 addresses that whole argument better than anything.  Whoever says that we are not under the law anymore obviously doesn’t understand – Jesus didn’t come to destroy or contradict the law; He came to fulfill it!

Would any Christian today commit murder and then say, “well, I’m not under the law anymore, so it’s ok for me to kill someone.” NO!  Would any believer commit adultery and then say when confronted, “I’m not under the law, so I don’t have to live by that commandment anymore” – Of course not.

In fact, as you notice in those verses from the Sermon on the Mount, while the law of Moses had imposed several requirements on God’s people, Jesus emphatically added more – instead of “don’t kill”, in the New Testament, it’s “don’t hate”; instead of “don’t commit adultery”, in the New Testament, it’s “don’t look with lust”; in other words, in this New Testament time of grace (remember grace and truth came by Jesus Christ – John 1:17), Christians do more than the minimal requirements of the Law.

When people tell me that they’re not under the Law and don’t have to tithe, I say, “oh, so you give more than 10% out of love for what God has done by His grace”!

The real issue behind those objections and arguments is a lack of trust in God’s Word and/or a stronghold of mammon.  I don’t have time in this post to develop that further, but the truth is, we don’t tithe to the Lord because we have to, we tithe our income to the Lord because we want to honor Him for what He’s done for us! (Prov. 3:9-10; Exodus 13)

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

Ask the Pastor

A long-time friend of our ministry writes, “Pastor, if a man’s wife really likes people like Elvis, is that ok? What if there are singers that she goes to their concerts; swoons over them;  listens to their music, etc.? What if her newfound artist brings her husband more sex but then he wonders who she is thinking about? At what point is it idolatry or even adultery (in her mind) (maybe in her body if she could). Does that not leave the husband trying to compete against an unfair standard?”

Wow.  Double wow.  That is a first for me – but I can imagine that other couples have faced similar concerns, so let me try to apply some Scripture to it:

  • first, this sounds like a real problem, in which case I would certainly recommend some no-holds-barred, honest conversation between husband & wife – and if that didn’t resolve the situation, probably seeing a marriage counselor is best.
  • I don’t think there’s anything in Scripture that directly addresses which artist we are allowed to enjoy or whether we can attend a concert, etc.
  • BUT, you bring up very real Biblical concerns regarding both idolatry (an idol can be anything or anyone that comes between us and God – Exodus 20:3 – and that could include entertainment artists.  Seems like one TV show is called, “American  Idol“) and adultery (Matt. 5:27-28 is pretty clear!)  Only your wife knows if she has crossed those lines.
  • Here’s the deal: in my limited experience with marriage counseling, in situations like this it’s usually a spouse being concerned while their partner thinks it’s no big deal, and that’s where the rub comes in.  The bottom-line for me is 1Cor. 7:33-34 – in marriage, we are called to please our spouse.  So if the husband feels he is competing against an unfair standard, his wife needs to respect that and they must make some compromises to insure the health of their marriage.
  • I think Jimmy Evans said it as well as it can be said during our Valentine’s weekend message about “Becoming One”: marriage only works when it’s first! If a husband or wife is NOT priority to their spouse, there will be problems. My prayer is that you & your wife can come to an acceptable agreement about this issue – and  please each other!
Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “It’s been a while since I’ve written. A friend of mine brought something very disturbing to my attention. Before I get too bent out of shape about it, I wanted to share it with you. Please review the segments on the following links:

It seems as though the devil is trying to snare our young people through “pop” music. I’ve started to turn it off in our house but get the eye roll and “I’m over reacting; it’s just a song thing.” Help!

Ouch.  I feel your pain as a parent, and I want to help.  Unfortunately, I did NOT have time to review the two videos in their entirety, so my response is more about my pastoral advice than about the specifics raised in the videos:

  • Sinners sin, and we shouldn’t expect anything different.  I’m not a fan of Christian websites that ‘blast’ specific individuals for sinful behavior – so I am not encouraging anyone to view the two sides you cited.
  • For far too long, most churches have been known for what we are against, instead of what we stand for.  As Jesus Himself pointed out in John 3:17, our role is to reach the world, not to condemn it’s behavior!

Having established those 2 important considerations, there is NO question that today’s entertainment world is pushing the envelope beyond ANY reasonable believer’s ability to accept.  I personally would not subject my own spirit to such defilement OR allow my eyes to cause my mind or body to sin through the influence of such performances as you listed (see 2Pet. 2:7-8) – AND I’m a 61-year old pastor – so I promise you that NO vulnerable, impressionable teen (or pre-teen) should ever be allowed free access to such entertainment if we parents are really trying to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

So the real question becomes, ‘how do we handle this with our children?’ and I think the verse I just cited contains an important key, as Eph. 6:4 opens by warning parents not to ‘exasperate’ their children by coming down hard on them. When our approach to these issues becomes shrill, argumentative, or defiant, we are losing the battle.  Instead, the Message translation says ‘take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master’. In other words, talk to your children about this issue personally, with love, explaining why this music is (a) corrupting God’s design for our bodies; (b) opening the door for immoral behavior; and (c) displeasing to the Lord who bought us with His own blood.

I would especially encourage you to have a real conversation – a dialogue – with your children, instead of lecturing them.  Let them ask questions.  Encourage them to express their views.  But give them the benefit of your maturity and wisdom in answering their objections with grace and sound reasoning.  Granted, that approach is more difficult than “because I said so”, but it’s your best chance of persuading them to follow you instead of their peers.

Finally, I would encourage EVERY parent reading this to help your teens (and pre-teens) to get active in your local church and youth ministry.  As I’ve said before from the pulpit, your local church is a parent’s best friend when it comes to raising teens!  Not only does your Youth Pastor reinforce what you teach your children at home, but they will also make friendships with other youth who seek to live godly, rather than following mindlessly in the ways of our increasingly perverted culture.

Any parents who have successfully dealt with this challenge with your teens, PLEASE leave your comments below, to help those who are still in the fight!

I hope this helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers in Atlanta (once a CLC’er, always a CLC’er!) wrote, “Well, since we are on the subject of Matthew and the parables, the one that got me a little confused yesterday was the woman with the leaven. I’ve read that the leaven (i.e. yeast) is what is making the kingdom grow but then I also read that while leaven is mentioned about 88 times in the Bible, it never refers to good, only evil. And therefore the leaven in this parable is actually evil being grown. But I guess the thing that stumps me the most is the parable starts “the Kingdom of Heaven is like”. So is Jesus saying the kingdom of heaven is this big vat of growing evil? Or (revelation perhaps?) The woman who hides the leaven where it grows is in fact the evil being sown while the parable right before that one where the man sows the mustard seed is the good being sown? So maybe while separate, they go hand in hand? I don’t know, maybe I’ve confused myself even more. Pastor, please untangle my lines.”

Wow.  Great question that almost got me confused for a moment.  Let me try to straighten this out for all of us:

  • although it may sound counter-intuitive, the expression “kingdom of heaven”  usually refers to the visible kingdom on earth, which is comprised of both good and bad, as we see in the parable of the weeds (‘tares’ for those of us raised on the KJV) in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 and the parable of the fishing net in Matthew 13:47-51.  In other words, the visible Church includes both saved & unsaved folks  (everybody that goes to church isn’t a child of God!).
  • Anyone who knows me or who reads this blog should know that there’s not a male chauvinist bone in my body and that I’m an outspoken advocate for women in leadership – BUT, I must say that when women are used in Scripture in a prophetic way (such as this parable), it almost always speaks of wickedness, as if something is out of order.  So the woman in the parable, in my understanding, speaks of a religious system that is not godly.
  • You are correct that leaven speaks of evil, and specifically can refer to deceptive teaching, as in Matthew 16:5-12, when Jesus warned His disciples of the doctrine of the Pharisees.
  • So, the prevailing interpretation of this parable (and the one I lean toward) is that Jesus was warning us that false teachings would enter His Church and, like yeast,  could quickly permeate the whole.  (Most scholars see that fulfilled in the church of Rome who introduced false teachings like the Immaculate Conception, purgatory, trans-substantiation, etc. that quickly turned the true Church into a state religion)
  • However, other scholars believe that the leaven in this story is not an evil reference, and instead focus on its ability to quickly spread.  Their interpretation is that the Gospel of the Kingdom, like yeast, is unstoppable, and they see this parable as a triumphant declaration that the Word of God would spread rapidly, just as we saw in the book of Acts, so that in a few short years the Church expanded beyond the Roman Empire into all of the then-known world.
  • Bottom-line is that this parable can either serve as a warning about the danger of false teachings, or as an encouragement about the power of the Gospel to spread throughout the earth.  Both are true!

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

 

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, I was reading in Genesis about Noah and the ark.  What is the significance of the raven and the dove that were sent out when the waters began to recede?  I am mostly curious about the raven.  He sent the raven only once but sent the dove twice?  Why?  What does the raven symbolize?”

Great question.  Let’s take a look at the full story in Genesis 8:1-12.  Then note:

  • verse 11 gives an indication of why Noah released the 2 birds; namely, to see if the floodwaters were gone (since apparently there was only one window in the top of the boat, he couldn’t see the surroundings).
  • The raven was said to have flown ‘back & forth’ (verse 7).  Since the raven was a bird of prey, we can assume that it feed upon carcases that floated and returned to rest on the Ark, but never came back inside.  (No wonder the raven was included in the list of ‘unclean’ birds in the Old Testament, forbidden for the Jews to eat – see Leviticus 11:13-15 and Deuteronomy 14:11-14)
  • The dove on the other hand, doesn’t feed on dead things, but is symbolic of purity(it was the ONLY ‘clean’ bird in the Old Testament, acceptable for sacrifice – see Leviticus 12:8; Luke 2:21-24and innocence(Song of Solomon 6:9; Matt. 10:16)  and is even a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:22).  So when Noah released it and it could find no rest (since the waters were still high), it returned to the Ark (verses 8-9).  When he released it a week later, it returned with a fresh-plucked leaf in its mouth (verses 10-11), a clear indication of fresh vegetation beginning to grow after the Flood, and when he released it another week later, the dove never returned (verse 12), which let Noah know that it was now safe to disembark and begin life in a new world, cleansed by the Flood.

I still remember a sermon I heard about 45 years ago from one of my heroes (he ordained Chris & me in 1974), T.F. Tenney, father of the author, Tommy Tenney of “God Chasers” fame.  He called the sermon, “Lord, Give Us Dove’s Feet” and exhorted us to not be satisfied with the unclean things the world has to offer, but seek the fresh & new things that fit us as God’s new creation!  I don’t think I can improve on that message as far as what this story could symbolize for us.

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

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “During my daily devotional I came across Matthew 13:31.        I was really stumped by this parable. Please help me understand how the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed planted in a field?

I’d love to.  Matthew 13 is such a neat chapter, in that it records not only the most important of all Jesus’ parables (the one we’re using as our text for the “Deeper” series),  but it also includes six other parables, including this one.  Let’s get the full text first – Matthew 13:31-32 in the Amplified version.

So Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God starts small, like the tiniest of seeds – but it grows large (the tree he referenced can grow to be 15′ tall, according to the experts).

There are two popular interpretations of this parable (since, unlike the story of the seed and the sower, Jesus did not explain this one for us):

  • some think Jesus was simply emphasizing the historical truth that the Church started quite small (He chose only 12 disciples, and one of them was lost; at the birthday of the Church there were only 120 present) but it has grown into literally millions of believers around the world today.  As He told us in other passages, the mustard seed may be the smallest of all seeds, but it has great potential (see Matthew 17:20).  In fact, even in the life of any believer, the Kingdom starts small like a seed, but can & should grow in us as we become all that God planned!
  • other commentators get a different message, primarily because of the birds mentioned as “lodging in it’s branches”.  Their contention is that the birds represent evil, as we saw in the first parable when the birds spoke of the enemy who quickly stole the seed from the footpath (see Matthew 13:4, 18-19).  So their interpretation of the mustard seed parable is that while the Kingdom of God starts small, as it grows huge there is room in it for evil to co-exist (e.g., for wolves to get inside & ravage the sheep; for false teachers & false prophets to lead many astray; for religious institutions that have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof to be included alongside the truth church).

Since you asked me, I guess I have to take a position – but I’m inclined to say both interpretations are true.  There’s NO question how the Kingdom of God has grown into a huge enterprise, but it’s just as true that the enemy has infiltrated and that we can see evil alongside the good, not only in the invisible Kingdom of God, but even often times within denominations and local churches. (You can see this clearly in the parable of the weeds – Matt. 13:24-30, 36-40)

I hope this helped.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

P.S. I hope everyone reading this will join us this Sunday for the final installment of “Deeper” when we’ll examine what I believe is the most dangerous category of hearer and how all of us can become ‘good ground’ for the Word!

Ask the Pastor

There were no questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2008, when a CLCer asked: “What is the difference between praise & worship?”

Good question.  In my humble opinion, you’ve hit on one of those areas where preachers sometimes make more out of something than Scripture does.  By that I mean that I’ve heard teachings about this and read a lot of different opinions about this (Google it and you’ll see what I mean) – but I do not find such clear differences in Scripture, so I think the terms are at least somewhat interchangeable.

Probably the best I could do from a Biblical standpoint is say that all praise is worship, but all worship is not praise.  Worship in Scripture would include acts of service or sacrifice; in fact, our daily lives, whether on our job or interacting with our family or whatever – all of it can be worship unto the Lord, because worship means we are showing reverence to our Maker.

Praise, on the other hand, is an action of giving God honor: singing, praying, lifting hands, bowing before Him, etc.

I’ve sometimes heard preachers say that “praise is thanking God for what He has done; worship is honoring God for who He is“.  Others say praise is what we do to get into God’s presence and worship is what we do once we’re there.  I think it was the late Judson Cornwall (one of my favorites on this subject) who wrote, “You can praise God at a distance, but you cannot worship Him from afar”.

Bottom-line: the differences between the two at best would be subtle and I don’t know that there’s much value in trying to split hairs about it.  What is important is that each of us as believers practice a lifestyle that includes praise & worship – for reasons that can easily become a Bible study in themselves.  In fact, I’d encourage you to do a study of the benefits of worship – it will change you!

Now, what would you like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

A pastor friend who read last week’s post writes, “Follow-up question, and one that thirty years ago I really didn’t expect to deal with in North America: A person comes to Christ. That person is in a long-term monogamous relationship and has children but the couple has never had the benefit of a marriage ceremony. The new Christian’s partner, who has not come to Christ, says “No need for marriage ceremony, don’t want one, won’t do that.” What counsel would you give the new Christian?”

I’m sure this is more than a hypothetical question, but it’s also one that all life-giving churches will probably face in the future.  Here’s my best shot:

  • While we must always approach people in love and kindness (“wise as serpents but harmless as doves”, Jesus said), I don’t see how we could excuse this situation, new Christian or not.  So my counsel would be to speak to the couple, either together, or, if circumstances dictate, to the new believer and give him/her the Biblical position that I outlined last week.  I would seek to insure that he/she  understood God’s Word on this subject first.
  • Then I would counsel that believer that he/she should sit down with their partner, in love – not in an emotional, tense appeal (I can’t over-emphasize that!) and explain to their partner why this is important to them because of their intent to please God by walking in obedience to His Word, and ask that they get legally married as soon as possible.
  • If the unbeliever persists in his/her feeling that this was all unnecessary, then I would lovingly counsel the new convert to separate in the spirit of Acts 5:32.

That’s what would do.  How would you recommend handling this issue?  I’d love to hear your thoughts below-

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

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I have a friend who has lived with her significant other for over 10 years. They are in an exclusive, committed relationship, but they have never formally married. They also have a son together and her sig has been instrumental in raising her children from a past marriage. According to the law of the land, they have a “common law” marriage, but what does God say about their relationship? Does he honor it as a marriage, too?”

Interesting question, especially because (surprisingly enough) I’ve never been asked it before.  And in a country where couples living together before marriage is the new norm, with much higher percentage than couples who marry first, then live together, you would expect that other believers would be asking this same question.  So for all of you who haven’t asked, but perhaps are wondering, here goes:

  • Call me old-fashioned, narrow-minded, or out-of-touch if you will, but I’m convinced that even the kind of long-term, committed relationship you described above is still adultery in God’s eyes.
  • If not, then when would pre-marital sex ever be considered wrong?  Only after we wait to see if the couple sticks together for several years?  After all, if it’s not sin  because they’ve been committed for a long-time, then how and when would anyone determine when it was sinful behavior for unmarried couples to have sex?
  • Lest anyone think all of that is just an old tradition that no longer applies to our modern culture, let me list just a few verses where God expressed His disapproval of sexual relationships outside of marriage to New Testament believers: Gal. 5:19;  1Cor. 6:9-11; 1Cor. 6:18-20; James 2:10-11; Heb. 13:4

Having said this, let me quickly add that I do think it’s commendable that the couple has been committed to each other long-term, and especially that the man has been responsible to provide for the family.  It seems they have practiced the basic principles of a good marriage, without making things right in the sight of God.  I’ve personally faced situations like that numerous times in ministry, and often it’s simply because the parties involved did not know what God’s Word said on the subject, or had allowed some misunderstanding to prevent them from getting married.  I’ve had the privilege in numerous cases to officially join them together as husband-and-wife, and it’s always a beautiful thing.  I pray that your friends will soon experience God’s grace for their lives as well.

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

Ask the Pastor

A favorite CLC’er who missed God a few years ago and moved away from Chicago (just kidding) writes, “I want to ask a question about Hannah in 1Samuel 1:12-14.  As I was reading this chapter I found myself going back to this part.  My question is did Eli not hear a sound or did he hear a sound he didn’t know?  Could this be viewed as a prayer language?”

Great question, especially because it helps explain one of the Rules of Interpretation when it comes to understanding Scripture. In fact, it’s the first rule to apply; namely, the literal rule of interpretation says that we are to follow the customary usages of the language.  In other words,  unless the passage says otherwise, or is clearly using metaphorical language, we must give and accept the literal meaning of scripture. It is a well stated rule, “If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense.”

In Hannah’s case, there is no reason to think that when the Bible says Eli didn’t hear a sound that it might mean something else.  In fact, other translations of verse 13 make it clear: Hannah was praying in her heart, but although her lips moved, no sound was coming from her mouth. That’s the literal and obvious meaning of this verse.

Now, your second question is even more interesting.  The correct answer is ‘No’, this could not be an example of a prayer language, because the practice of speaking in tongues (which we usually call ‘a prayer language’ since some people get freaked out at the idea of speaking in tongues) did not begin until Acts 2. In fact, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit (who enables any prayer language) could not be given until after Jesus was glorified (see John 7:38-39).

However, I do know that preachers often use a good bit of ‘dramatic license’ to make a point, and I’m guessing some preacher has used Hannah’s story to illustrate the idea of a prayer language.  (Personally, I get uncomfortable when preachers stretch the Bible in that way, because I’m not sure their listeners always understand that they don’t mean it literally, but are using dramatic license to make their point.) Sometimes that practice makes for great sermon fodder and can move a crowd emotionally, but please keep in mind that it is drama, and not a valid interpretation of Scripture.

That was fun – hope it helped!  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

I recently received this question from a CLC attender: “I have enjoyed the experience at CLC, I have attended on and off for about two years and am now ready to cement my commitment to the ministry. My issue is that my family (wife and three daughters) are not used to the worship experience there. They prefer the traditional black church, the gospel music, and order of service that goes with it. What can I do to get them to see all that CLC has to offer to a family?”

Hmmm.  That’s a question I’ve never faced before, which is surprising, considering our racial make-up at CLC.  Personally, I’m so hard-core & passionate when it comes to being a multi-cultural church, I’m convinced that in an area like Chicago where the demographics include people of different races, it’s flat-out wrong for a church to only appeal to one race.  (I’ll exclude churches that conduct services in other languages, like our Spanish congregation.) I really feel that to have an all-black or all-white or all-Asian congregation smacks of racism, or at the very least, an unwillingness to get out of your own comfort zone, to reach people who are different from you.  I could give you many Biblical reasons why I feel this way, but honestly, I doubt my approach will help at all if your family has already insisted that they prefer an all-black experience.  So I asked our Worship Pastor, Jon Jones, and our Tinley Park Campus Pastors, Tony & Angie Gilmore, to help with answering this one.  (I’d also encourage any African-American members of CLC to weigh in with your comments below)  Here’s their thoughts:

  • Pastor Jon felt the best approach would be to ask your family as head of the household to ‘try this’ on a consistent basis for, say, three months of faithful attendance, to really get the heart of the ministry and participate in the specialized ministries.  (I think that’s an excellent idea, since every church has good days & bad days, so by attending consistently over several weeks like that, you really get an accurate view of the ministry.)  He added, I know that sometimes making a decision for the family may not be popular… But if you feel it’s HIS leading you must do it… & HIS results will come!”
  • Pastor Tony  says, “I want to piggy back on Jon’s answer and encourage your family to give us a real look by truly getting involved. You could try a Life Group, serve on one of our teams, and get your kids involved in KidsLife or Consumed to take a look under our hood. Basically, you need to do more than just Sunday morning services to get a real feel. I believe we offer one of the best ways to do church in the country but it requires more than Sunday morning to experience it. Although I know every church isn’t for every family, you could at least get the full experience before making your decision. Ultimately, we want you to be where God wants you to be, because in that lies the blessing for both you and us!
  • Pastor Angie added, “First, I must say that I’m very excited about your interest in CLC and your desire to cement your commitment by becoming a member. Although, I do understand your challenge. As the leader of your household, you are responsible for the spiritual growth of your family. This can be somewhat of a challenge if you and your family have different preferences concerning which church to attend.My suggestion would be to ask both your wife and daughters to participate in some of the groups and activities that are offered to help them get engaged. We have a Heart to Heart ministry for women which will enable your wife to connect with other women, including some who have also experienced the same transition from a traditional black church to more of a contemporary church.

    It sounds like your daughters may be a little older since they’ve formed a preference as well. We have Consumed which is our ministry for 6th grade to 12th grade. We also have The Link which is for our young adults ages 18-29. Both groups are in place to encourage the spiritual growth of the individual while at the same time creating God friendships that the students can pull from for a lifetime.

    The most important advice I can give as you walk through this decision is to engage your family in daily prayer. Seek God and ask him for clarity, an open heart to new people, places, and ideas.

So there’s our thoughts.  Hope it helps!  Pastor Tony also recommended this article.    If any other CLC’ers has a story or suggestion to share, please do so below.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “What would God say if I think a family member is engaging in destructive behavior but I don’t want to push him away? Should i confront him or investigate on my own, even though there are a chance i could be wrong?”

Good question, and one that probably many others have asked.  Here’s my thoughts, since I’m not aware of any Scriptural examples dealing with this:

  • The Biblical principle is found in both Old Testament (Lev. 19:18) and New Testament (James 2:8).  So ask yourself, “if I were engaged in destructive behavior, how would I want my family to respond?”
  • The Golden Rule is my best advice: treat them as you would want to be treated.  Personally, I doubt that would be a dramatic confrontation or so-called ‘intervention’, especially when all you have is suspicion.  I would instead suggest you approach that family member, in love, to express your concern, based on what you’ve heard or observed, and ASK them some questions, rather than accusing them.  Then respond accordingly.
  • Love is risky.  There is always a chance that when you try to bring correction to anyone for any reason, that they will not receive it and that you’ll lose the relationship.  That’s why I wouldn’t investigate on your own – too many chances that it could get back to the family member, and that’s worse than a direct confrontation.

I hope this helps, and, even more so, I pray that the family member receives your love and concern, and changes their behavior.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

Once again, I’m reaching back to 2008 to re-post this question, which I thought might be helpful as we enter into the Christmas shopping season:

i was wondering, now that times are getting harder with everyones funds… i know God does not look kindly on debt, but He also doesn’t look kindly on being disobedient and not tithing 10%. so i find myself wondering would God rather have me in no debt with less tithe money or tithe regularly and accrue more debt. maybe later on i will be greatly blessed and be able to pay off the credit card bills? is that what i should expect? or maybe its a blessing from God that i have the option to move back home? what do you think pastor? i know you will say keep tithing but then is debt okay????

I think perhaps you’ve missed the main point about tithing – and I don’t think you’re alone; I think many of us often reduce tithing to a math formula of giving God His 10%.  Please think about this with me: does God need your money?  Obviously, the answer is no.  Tithing, as I understand it, is not (never has been) a financial issue.  It’s a trust issue.  It’s a faith issue.  You might even call it a test (Jesus did in Luke 16)

As my pastor used to remind us regularly, “It doesn’t work just because it’s in the Bible; it works when you believe it!”  Your question as to which is worse (so to speak), debt or not tithing, tells me that you are looking at your situation from a human viewpoint, rationalizing that you simply cannot afford to tithe without going into further debt.  My response is (assuming that you’re obeying other Biblical principles about wise management, etc) if you truly put God first in your finances and trust Him to provide for you better than you can provide for yourself, His BLESSING will amaze you and you’ll discover that you don’t have to incure further debt.  I say that from 40 years of personal experience and countless testimonies of people I’ve known and pastored.

Each story is different: sometimes, God blesses with unexpected income.  Sometimes He opens a new door of employment or promotion at the current job, that significantly increases income.  Sometimes He provides by having other people give us stuff that we don’t have to pay for.  Sometimes our dollars just seem to stretch in ways we can’t even understand.  Sometimes we can’t even figure out how it’s working; we just see that it is.  That’s what happens when we trust Him with our finances, as Lord of our lives.

The question about “God doesn’t like debt, but neither does He like our not tithing” reminds me of people who quote the verse in Malachi that “God hates divorce” – in that I think both quotes have missed the point.  God doesn’t just dislike debt or hate divorce, per se; He hates the effect each has on us – the heartache and trauma that result to the individuals involved, the bondage we find ourselves in, the damage it does to us.  It’s US He cares about, not money.

In one sense, you’re correct: I would encourage you to keep tithing.  But I’d just as quickly say, don’t just tithe….TRUST.  Believe that God’s word is true, and that it will work for you.  Confess your faith in what He’s said, even as you write your tithe check and place it in the offering, and then start looking for how He’s going to provide for you.

Now, what’s your question?

Ask the Pastor

No new questions were submitted this week, so I’m re-posting a question from 2009:

A reader asks, “I have heard people say that when we die, we are only asleep until the resurrection and judgement, and that our spirit knows nothing. On the other hand, I have heard that when we die as believers, our spirit goes straight to be with the Lord, and that we know exactly what is happening on earth. Some people say that our loved ones who died in Christ are even rooting for us to make it. I’ve been reading Job 14:10 and 14:12, and it seems he makes some reference to what goes on after death. Can you shed some light on this for me? Also, if as believers, we go straight to be with the Lord, when is the judgment for us and on the day of the resurrection, aren’t our bodies suppose to rise? If so, where will our spirits be?”

Allrighty then…no softballs from this crowd!  All great questions; just hoping my answers will satisfy!

Let me begin by saying that (at least in my mind) it can be difficult to sort all of this out, because the Bible gives bits and pieces of information regarding what happens after death in numerous different places.  However, my understanding of Scripture is as follows (taking your questions in order):

1.  Keeping in mind that humans are tripartite beings; i.e., we are body, soul and spirit, the verses that speak of us being asleep are referring to our physical bodies (Isa 26:19; Dan 12:2;Matt. 9:23-25; John 11:11-13).  As far as our bodies are concerned, we are at rest after death, awaiting the Resurrection.

2.  When a believer dies, our spirit goes immediately into the Presence of the Lord  (2Cor 5:6, 8; Luke 16:22)

3.  As far as us knowing what is happening on earth, the only Scripture that may shed light on that is the story Jesus told about the poor man named Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 – I say ‘may’, since I’m not sure if the rich man saw from hell what was happening with his brothers, or if he merely requested for them because of prior memory.

4.  The only Scripture that might imply that our loved ones in heaven are ‘rooting’ for us would be Heb 12:1, although I really think this concept is more ‘preacher-talk’ than a literal Biblical interpretation of that verse.

5.  Regarding Job 14:0, 12, I would simply say that I’d hesitate to build a doctrine around Job’s statements.  I don’t think he was trying to teach us about the afterlife; I think his statement was intended to convey the preciousness of life and the finality of death.

6.  Finally, one that I’m certain about: as born-again believers, the only ‘judgment’ we experience is the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is not about heaven or hell, but rather the administration of rewards.  There are at least 5 different ‘crowns’ mentioned in Scripture that we could receive at that Judgement Seat (the Greek word, ‘bema’), which was used to describe the Olympic judging stand where the winners stand to receive their medals! (see Rom 14:10 and 2Cor 5:9-10)

7.  At the Resurrection, our spirits (which went to be with the Lord at death – Ecc 12:7) are reunited with our bodies – in fact, that’s how Resurrection happens: our dead bodies are brought back to life when the spirit returns.

Hope that cleared things up at least a little bit!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

Well, there were no questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting a question from 2009, when one of my readers asked, “In the Old Testament, did God speak to people in a human voice or did He speak to their hearts?  It seems like He would carry on a whole conversation, and when he spoke with the prophets, they acted like it was something not uncommon. Does God still speak to His people like that?”

Excellent question!  Unfortunately, the Bible does not specifiy how people heard God’s voice, in most instances.  (There are passages like Acts 9:4-7 and John 12:28-29 which leave no doubt that there was an audible voice.) It’s certainly possible that the prophets of the OT heard him in a conversation-style dialogue.  It’s also quite possible that some heard Him through dreams, visions or impressions in their spirit – which seems to be the most common way He speaks today.

I know people who say they have heard God’s audible voice, although I’ve never had that experience myself.  But I know that I know that I know He does still speak today.  I’ve “heard” Him so many times through the years, usually in the form of thoughts that I just knew did not originate in my brain, and at other times when I’ve just had a ‘sense’ or ‘impression’ that I should take certain actions.

And of course, He can speak to us through other people.  Many times I’ve ‘heard God’ through some other believer, or an anointed prophet.  But without a doubt, the #1 best way that He speaks to us today (and the ONLY way that is infallible and without possibility of error) is through His written word (Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21)

The bottom-line? I don’t need to hear God’s audible voice today, because I have His written Word that is forever settled in heaven (Psa. 119:89; 1Thess 2:13; Heb. 4:12; Matt. 24:35)

Now, what would you like to Ask the Pastor?

P.S. I believe anyone who comes to CLC this Sunday for the kick-off of “Honor U” is going to hear from God!

Ask the Pastor

No one submitted a question this week, so I’m re-posting from July, 2008:

i was wondering, now that times are getting harder with everyones funds… i know God does not look kindly on debt, but He also doesn’t look kindly on being disobedient and not tithing 10%. so i find myself wondering would God rather have me in no debt with less tithe money or tithe regularly and accrue more debt. maybe later on i will be greatly blessed and be able to pay off the credit card bills? is that what i should expect? or maybe its a blessing from God that i have the option to move back home? what do you think pastor? i know you will say keep tithing but then is debt okay????

I think perhaps you’ve missed the main point about tithing – and I don’t think you’re alone; I think many of us often mistakenly reduce tithing to a math formula of giving God His 10%. Please think about this with me: does God need your money? Obviously, the answer is no. Tithing, as I understand it, is not (never has been) a financial issue. It’s a trust issue. It’s a faith issue. You might even call it a test (Jesus did in Luke 16)

As my pastor used to remind us regularly, “It doesn’t work just because it’s in the Bible; it works when you believe it!” Your question as to which is worse (so to speak), debt or not tithing, tells me that you are looking at your situation from a human viewpoint, rationalizing that you simply cannot afford to tithe without going into further debt. My response is (assuming that you’re obeying other Biblical principles about wise management, etc) if you truly put God first in your finances and trust Him to provide for you better than you can provide for yourself, His BLESSING will amaze you and you’ll discover that you don’t have to incur further debt. I say that from 40 years of personal experience and countless testimonies of people I’ve known and pastored.

Each story is different: sometimes, God blesses with unexpected income. Sometimes He opens a new door of employment or promotion at the current job, that significantly increases income. Sometimes He provides by having other people give us stuff that we don’t have to pay for. Sometimes our dollars just seem to stretch in ways we can’t even understand. Sometimes we can’t even figure out how it’s working; we just see that it is. That’s what happens when we trust Him with our finances, as Lord of our lives.

The question about “God doesn’t like debt, but neither does He like our not tithing” reminds me of people who quote the verse in Malachi that “God hates divorce” – in that I think both quotes have missed the point. God doesn’t dislike debt or hate divorce, per se; He hates the effect each has on us – the heartache and trauma that result to the individuals involved, the bondage we find ourselves in, the damage it does to us. It’s US He cares about, not money.

In one sense, you’re correct: I would encourage you to keep tithing. But I’d just as quickly say, don’t just tithe….TRUST. Believe that God’s word is true, and that it will work for you. Confess your faith in what He’s said, even as you write your tithe check and place it in the offering, and then start looking for how He’s going to provide for you.

Whew….sorry for being long-winded, but hope it helps.  Now, what’s YOUR question?

Ask the Pastor

When I announced our newest series here, I received several questions that we may not have addressed last Sunday in the message, “Living Single”, so let’s try here:

  1. One question had to do with “the church” as a place to potentially find one’s future mate – if the church is not a welcoming environment, then where & how can a Jesus-follow look for their mate? 
  • Personally, I don’t think there’s any better place to find a mate.  Chris & I met in church, and so have innumerable other happy husbands-and-wives.  If the church you attend frowns on that, I’d have a respectful conversation with the pastor to find out why.  Of course, there are cyber options out there – but be careful!
2. Another reader wrote, “I’m 38, never married, no children, professionally successful & a home owner…..how do I present myself as not being “too independent” to a suitor while still continuing to “handle my business” for my home?
  • Honestly, call me naive I guess, but I can’t imagine any ‘Mr. Right’ having an issue with a successful woman.  And if he is intimidated or scared-off by your facts, in my opinion, he’s not the man of your dreams.  For sure, I wouldn’t go ghetto’ to try to attract a man!

3.  Another CLCer said, “We have been together for 10 years,have children together, joint bank accounts, live together,etc…but he won’t marry me!”

  • I don’t see a question there.  Probably because you already have your answer: if he’s getting what he wants without making a commitment to marry you, he’s not likely to ever get married.  Quit putting out and see what happens.  As I said last Sunday, God’s “rules” are for our good.  Living together outside of marriage may be culturally acceptable, but it’s NOT God’s plan, and it won’t lead to what you want in life.

4.  A faithful CLCer wrote, “As a single woman who’s never been married & doesn’t have children, I struggle constantly with the “why not me, God?” question. Honestly, I feel as if God blessed me with this immense compassion & ability to love, yet I haven’t met the right man to share that love with & have a family with. I’m 35 and every year that passes, I become more & more discouraged & feel that I will forever be single. It’s frustrating because I ask God & myself why did He build my heart this way & not lead me to the one earthly man that I could share it with?

  • This is the kind of heart-cry that gets to me.  I feel your pain; I’ve heard it from so many singles thru the years.  I really only have 3 responses: (1) 1Cor. 7:17 that we opened & closed with last Sunday.  Your marital status does NOT define your life!   (2) I do NOT believe the Bible teaches that there is “one earthly man” for you; i.e., I don’t find the concept of “soul-mate” in Scripture.  Instead, I believe that there are potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of loving, godly, male followers of Christ that you could build a happy life with – not just one.  In some instances, that may have been the problem – that you’ve been looking for Mr. Perfect, instead of Mr. Right. and (3) Don’t give up!  Keep praying & stay hopeful.  I’ve known many believers who married the person of their dreams later in life, and found true happiness together – perhaps in part because they were each more mature, more complete in themselves and more ready to share their joy with another.

I hope this helps a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

P.S.  Hope you’ll join us this Sunday when we’re going to try to help married couples AND everyone else with some more ‘rules of engagement’.  In fact, our introduction to the message could be life-changing for many – married, single or whatever.  Join us!

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, Please explain what it means to be ‘unequally yoked’, in your opinion. Does this mean that a person who has been saved since childhood should not consider dating and/or marrying a “new” Christian? Or is it more your walk with Christ vs. Their walk with Christ? In other words, someone could have been saved for years but their spiritual walk stagnated vs someone who hasn’t been saved long but is growing by leaps and bounds. This has come up in singles discussion so I would like a better understanding, please.”

Great question, because it affects so many.  It’s actually a question that I wish more people were asking before getting so emotionally involved that they can’t look at things rationally anymore.

First off, as you asked, this is my opinion.  I say that because that term is only used one time in the entire Bible, namely 2Cor. 6:14.  Please note that it specifically says we are not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever.  That’s all.  The additional phrases used for the next few verses maintain that same emphasis: lawlessness; darkness; Belial; unbeliever; idols – each of which speaks of someone who has no relationship with God.

So, from a Biblical standpoint, that’s the prohibition: no Christian should marry an unbeliever. Period.

I know. I know.  I’ve heard stories of people who practiced what I call “missionary dating”, where they courted someone who was not a Christian and through their influence were able to lead that unbeliever to the Lord, and have had a happy marriage ever since.

But for every ONE story like that, I can tell you dozens of believers I’ve known (usually women, but not always) who have been ‘stuck’ in a difficult, unhappy marriage because they cannot share with their spouse the most important thing in the world – their relationship with the Lord, or worse, they face ridicule, threats or resentment from their unbelieving spouse about their church and their faith.

For that reason, as a pastor for the past 40 years and having observed enough heartache and difficulty in the marriages of those that I serve, I’d like to offer additional guidelines besides “don’t date an unbeliever”.  Based on my experience: I think it best to date those with whom we are spiritually compatible.  In other words, it is about both parties relationship with the Lord.  If you are a committed believer who puts Jesus first, and the person you’re dating is a nominal Christian or perhaps a carnal believer, the chances are it will only get worse in marriage, and you’ll find yourself constantly torn because you do not have similar values about church attendance, child-rearing, financial management, or any other number of daily and weekly decisions.

I don’t think the length of time that someone has been a Christian necessarily has a lot to do with it (as you asked) – it’s really all about their relationship.

Obviously, you probably can’t detect that prior to dating or even on the first date.  But, in my humble opinion, once you recognize the discrepancy between their walk and your walk, I think it’s time to walk. (pun intended)

By the way, THIS Sunday, October 20 my wife & I begin a new series, “Rules of Engagement” and the opening message is all about ‘Singles Rules’.  I think it’ll be helpful and fun, too.

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

Ask the Pastor

One of my favorite CLC’ers asked, “Does the bible say anything specific about events such as Halloween? My daughter asked me the other day, “is Halloween from the devil?” I was not sure how to respond to this in a correct, appropriate and Christian way. I want to make sure that I am giving her accurate information. I’ve talked to other Christian’s about this but I am getting mixed reviews.”

Great question, because certainly many have asked before you – and I’m not at all surprised that you’re getting ‘mixed reviews’, since I don’t think the Scripture gives us a clear, definitive answer on this subject.

Instead, at least in my understanding of the Bible, this is one of those topics that is left for us to decide upon.  Of course, there are passages like the entire 14th chapter of Romans that provide us with principles, but I’m not aware of any direct prohibition or affirmation of Halloween in Scripture.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Surely we can agree that some Halloween festivities are not God-honoring, but rather honoring to stuff that Christians cannot endorse (witches, goblins, vampires, demons & the like – none of which are laughing matters).
  • Some believers would try to point out Satanic or occult origins of the holiday, but personally, I think that’s a slippery slope, since there are pagan origins for virtually everything in our world, including the days of the week, our calendar, etc. if we start “majoring on minors” it won’t be long until you can’t observe any holiday or enjoy almost any tradition – because almost all of them have some kind of pagan roots somewhere.  Most of this is so because after the Roman Empower Constantine declared himself a Christian in the early 300’s A.D., the Roman church made it a ‘strategy’ whenever engaging in missionary activity among the heathens to incorporate any of the pagan’s holidays & beliefs into their practice of Christianity.  That strategy or practice is usually called syncretism.
  • For these reasons and more, I think Romans 14:21-23 will have to be a parent’s guide as to how to handle this holiday with their children.
When our own children were small, we chose to allow them to participate in what we considered ‘non-offensive’ ways (no spooky or demonic-type costumes, etc.) and to collect candy from house-to-house (as long as they shared with their dad).  At CLC, we’ve always provided some fun alternative for our kids around that time of year, so they don’t feel deprived.

Pastor Mark Beeson from Granger Community Church took a different approach with his family, and has a great post on his blog about this very issue.

Bottom-line?  Be fully persuaded in your own mind.

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

Ask the Pastor

No new questions were submitted this week, so I’m reposting a question from August of 2008 when a faithful CLCer asked, “Is there Biblical criteria for how sheep can know their shepherds are on track? How should concerns be addressed?”

(Those questions are so good and so valid, I only hope my answer will be as helpful!)

1.  I think church members (sheep) have a right to expect each of the benefits we see in Scripture – it’s the shepherds job to feed them, to care for them, to protect them, etc.  Most of those needs should be met through the public ministry AND the way the church is led and administrated.  (By that I mean that it is the pastor’s job to insure that the sheep are being cared for, not that the pastor personally does all of that care himself!  Even literal shepherds employ ‘sheep dogs’ to assist them, as well as the use of various tools such as their staff, in order to care for the sheep).

My observation through the years is that many times when sheep are truly not getting their needs met, it’s simply because the pastor was unaware.  (Sometimes we pastors get supernatural insight from the Lord, but not always, so it’s much safer for you to communicate so we know if there’s a need not being met.)  Regardless, if those biblical needs are being neglected, I would encourage any member to communicate with their pastors to express their need.

As to Biblical criteria as to whether shepherds are ‘on track’, here are a few: John 10:41Cor. 11:1Col. 3:15.  Putting those verses together, the questions are:

  • am I hearing the voice of Jesus through my pastor’s ministry, or does his teaching seem contradictory with Christ;
  • is my pastor following the example of Christ, or is his/her conduct or is his/her life contrary to Christ’s example; and
  • do I have peace in regard to all of this?  While the enemy can and does plant troubling thoughts and fears in our mind, the ‘umpire’ in every decision is peace, and if I just cannot get peace about my pastor’s teaching or lifestyle, then at best it’s time for a personal discussion with them.

Which leads to the final question as to whom those concerns should be addressed.  As someone who has pastored for over 40 years, I can certainly give you my preferences in that regard:

1.  Make an appointment.  I’m never at my best when I’m caught in the hallway between services, or even just before or after a service.  (I’ve heard from enough fellow-shepherds in this regard to know that after we have ‘delivered our soul’ as the old-timers put it, by preaching or teaching and praying over folks, we are usually spent, physically and emotionally, so the last thing we need is a difficult conversation or a demand that we defend ourselves against some accusation.)

2.   Approach your pastor with love and respect.  We know we’re not perfect, and, if given a chance, we’re more than willing to repent, apologize, receive correction, etc. – but when attacked in anger or self-righteousness, we’re probably human enough to react in the flesh instead of responding in the Spirit!

3.  Express your concerns specifically.  If it’s a teaching you’re concerned about, ask for Biblical support or share specific verses that caused your concern.  If it’s a practice or lifestyle issue, ask for clarity.  (I couldn’t tell you how many times through the years that someone has been concerned over something that wasn’t even true – but they had heard something somewhere and pre-judged the situation without inquiring.)

4.  Seek to understand, more than to be understood.  Have an open mind to receive your pastor’s response to your concerns.  Consider what he/she says in reply, or any requests he/she may make.  PRAY.

5.  If you’ve sincerely done all of that, and your concerns remain, it’s probably time to find another shepherd. If so, don’t just ‘disappear’.  Inform your pastor of your decision, and ask for his/her blessing as you leave.  (That doesn’t mean you cannot leave if your pastor refuses to bless you – I’ve known too many insecure shepherds who could never release someone from their flock, and that’s their problem, not yours!)  Just as importantly, seek God’s guidance as to where you should be planted, and do NOT try to influence others to leave your former church to go with you.  That kind of behavior always brings division and strife and puts a smile on the devil’s face as much as it saddens the Lord and rips the heart of any honest shepherd.

I think that’s it for this week.  Now, what would YOU like to ask the pastor?

Ask the Pastor

This week’s question comes from a faithful CLC’er who writes, “I have been very hesitant to date a person who has been through a divorce, based on Luke 16:18 & Matthew 19:6. I’ve always believed that just because someone decides to end their marriage legally in the eyes of men doesn’t mean that the marriage is over in the eyes of God. Can two people who took vows to become one flesh become two separate people again? Would I become an adulterer if I marry someone who is divorced (Luke 16:18) or am I taking this all out of context? Can the marriage covenant (Malachi 2:14) really ever be broken?”

Finally.  The. thorniest. question. anyone. can. ask. me.

Seriously, questions about marriage & divorce, and this issue in particular, are most difficult for me, in part because so MANY people are affected.  The statement you referenced in Luke 16:18 seems so cut-and-dried, but here’s what I do know about interpreting Scripture: no verse of Scripture stands by itself.  In fact, the BEST way to interpret Scripture is to let the Bible interpret itself, by comparing all the passages on a particular topic, to get the whole message.

In this case, while Luke 16:18 sounds so adamant that divorce is never permitted, other verses do give us exceptions to that rule: Matthew 19:9; Matthew 5:32, 1Cor. 7:15 list some; namely, sexual sin and abandonment.  So, in my understanding of Scripture, if a spouse commits sexual sin or abandons their partner, a believer has a Biblical ‘right’ to divorce and remarry.

Now, let’s tackle your specific questions, in order:

  • yes, I believe 2 people who took vows to become one flesh can become 2 separate people again, either by means of death or sexual immorality or abandonment. See 1Cor. 7:15, 39 as well as Matthew 5:32, 19:9(By the way, I have heard some reason that even though the Bible says we are ‘loosed’ from our marriage by such actions, we do not have the right to remarry – but that makes no sense to me at all, given my understanding of the goodness of God.  Why would He ‘punish’ the innocent spouse by insisting they remain celibate & alone for the rest of their life when their marriage partner violated their vows?)
  • no, I do not believe you would be an adulteress if you married a divorced man, especially if he had a Biblical right to a divorce (meaning, his wife committed adultery or abandoned the marriage).  
  • The context of Luke 16:18 is interesting, in that Jesus had just talked to them about the importance of the Law, and then uses marriage as an example (verses 17-18).  From my study, it seems that some Pharisees taught that a man could divorce his wife for just any reason – Jewish history even gives the example of a man divorcing his wife because she burned his food!  Some men were using divorce as a license for their lust, putting away their first wife simply because they saw another woman they wanted, and thus by divorcing the first they thought they technically were not committing adultery.  So Jesus combated that popular idea by insisting it was not so.
  • Yes, the marriage covenant can definitely be broken, just like ANY covenant can be broken, if one of the partners chooses not to abide by the covenant agreement.

Having said all of this, let me close by reminding you of Colossians 3:15 & Romans 14:23.  I’ve given you what I believe the Bible teaches about this issue, but YOU must have peace and confidence that this is ok for you.  If you do not have peace in your mind & heart, no matter how logical or Biblically accurate my answer has been, then you should not act.

I hope this helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

 

Ask the Pastor

This week’s question comes from a concerned mother who writes, “The older I get the more I seem to recognize the evils in the world. My kids think I’m over the top with my warnings and pleadings to be careful what they listen to and expose themselves to. How were you able to keep your children informed but not scare them at the same time?”

Great question.  My first thought upon reading it was, “what makes you think we didn’t scare our children?”  [just kidding]

Seriously, I think your question is one that more parents need to be asking.  Besides the clear teaching in Scripture (especially the book of Proverbs) about the influence of friends (which often has a LOT to do with the music & media that our kids choose), it’s just becoming so obvious in our culture that the computer slang, ‘garbage in; garbage out’ is true of us humans, too!

While I fully understand your desire NOT to be ‘over the top’ or scare your children (while also not have them turn you off) – I think the Bible indicates that one of your primary responsibilities as a parent is to provide the very guidance and warning that you’re talking about. (see Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 15:4-6; Proverbs 23:23-25; Eph. 6:1)

Finally, my wife & I had conversations with our kids about these issues (not lectures; conversations where they could also talk & we could discuss the issues.)  This was especially effective when there were items in the news (the recent incident with Miley Cyrus would be a great example) or even stories from their own peers that help make your point.  These kind of conversations provide ‘teaching moments’ that will be much more effective than any lecture you could give.

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

Ask the Pastor

This was another week with no questions submitted, so I’m repeating a post from 2008, when a new attender of CLC asked, “how is CLC different than a Pentecostal church?”

In some ways, it’s difficult or impossible to answer that one, because “Pentecostal” churches come in such a wide variety of ‘flavors’ – but since you asked, I’ll take my best shot at it. Please keep in mind that I was born & raised and ministered for over 20 years in one ‘stream’ of Pentecostalism – so my views will not apply to all others:

In general, Pentecostal churches place a great deal of emphasis on the ‘second work of grace’; i.e., after salvation, one can/should be empowered by receiving what is usually known as “the Baptism of the Holy Spirit”, and almost all Pentecostal churches would insist that the ‘initial evidence’ of that baptism is “speaking in tongues”. There is certainly a lot of Scriptural basis for these beliefs: Acts 2:1-4, Acts 10:44-48, Acts 19:1-6 and others.

While CLC wholeheartedly espouses that everyone should receive that empowering of the Holy Spirit, we prefer to focus on the many benefits of having a ‘prayer language’ rather than debating whether ‘tongues’ is the initial ‘evidence’ – mainly because my experience with such arguments is that it usually only resulted in arguments. The bottom-line is probably the same, both Pentecostals and CLCers want people to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, but how we get there might be a little different.

Another area of difference has to do with denominational affiliation. Most Pentecostal churches have an allegiance to one of the many Pentecostal denominations (Church of God in Christ, Assemblies of God, Foursquare, Church of God – Cleveland, TN, United Pentecostal Church, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, etc, etc, etc). For the 23 years that I officially served as part of a denomination, there was a great deal of loyalty to the denominational programs and promotions, some of which dictated to a certain degree how we operated within the local church.

At CLC, because we are not part of that heirarchy, we are ‘free’ to pursue whatever path we feel led by the Lord, and our church is autonomous and self-governing.

Finally, from my observation from the 23 years that I served my denomination, most Pentecostal groups have some culture and legalisms that, in my humble opinion, cannot be substantiated from Scripture, but rather was handed down to them by tradition or history.

At CLC, since we are not part of that denominational heirarchy, our culture is what we ourselves have created and our legalisms are our own – be that good or bad :-)

Finally, let me say that we certainly embrace Pentecostals as our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ and thank God for the incredibly wonderful things they have contributed to the work of God around the world. At CLC, we simply believe that what God is doing today transcends denominations, and we prefer to place our loyalty only in God’s Word. I hope nothing I’ve written will be misunderstood – we certainly aren’t interested in throwing stones at any Pentecostal church, or for that matter, at any Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching church that is seeking to reach the lost – we want to link arms with you!

I hope that helps – now: what would you like to ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

An anonymous reader writes, “I’ve been enjoying visiting and worshipping with CLC. I understand that CLC is a non-denominational church, but I would like to know more about the church beliefs. What does CLC teach as it relates to a “oneness” or “trinitarian” doctrine? What is your mode for water baptism? Does the church teach holiness and sanctification as a way of life? Can you expound on this?”

It’s unfortunate that you didn’t include a name or email where I could have tried to give you a more satisfactory answer personally, because based on my previous experience, I’ve got a feeling you won’t like my answer here, regardless of your background.  Nonetheless, I’ll give it my best shot, in order:

1.  In over 23 years as pastor of CLC, I’ve taught on the ‘Godhead issue’ about two or maybe three times, and what I’ve said each time is that, in my humble opinion, the debate between the ‘oneness’ view and the ‘trinitarian’ view is a matter of semantics.  I was raised and spent the first 22 years of my ministry in the Oneness camp, and during that time, plus the last 23 years at CLC I’ve listened carefully to Trinitarian views, and I have yet to hear any Christian leader truly disagree about the Biblical truth that there is only One God.

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

2.  At CLC, because of our understanding of Scripture, we only baptize by full immersion.  We believe that is the only Biblical practice and we encourage those who were baptized thru sprinkling or pouring water to be re-baptized by immersion.  (If your question has to do with what some call a ‘baptismal formula’, we use the name of Jesus in all our baptisms – BUT, we do not view that as a ‘test of fellowship’, and we accept into membership those who were baptized by immersion after coming to faith in Christ, regardless of what ‘formula’ the minister baptizing them used.) Again, we refuse to be divisive over non-essential issues.

3.  We certainly teach holiness and sanctification as a way of life at CLC, since the Bible does.  My guess is that your question has to do with specific applications of those teachings, and since I couldn’t contact you to learn what specifics you have in mind, it’s impossible to answer this question.  My understanding of Scripture is that every believer is to be sanctified (“set apart”) from the world and walk in holiness, since those who are not holy will not see the Lord (see Hebrews 12:14)

I doubt this helped much, but I’d be happy to address your specific concerns if you’ll call the office (708.429.7729) or email me directly.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

A faithful CLC’er writes, “Does a promotion (more title, more responsibility  more income) always mean “this is what God has for you” OR “This is where God wants you”? Can a promotion keep you where God doesn’t want you? If so, what real steps does one take to be sure?”

Great questions, especially since so many believers have asked themselves that same question about their career or workplace.  Let’s try them in order:

1.  Definitely NOT.  I heard a story once about a certain harbor in Italy could only be reached by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked there, and navigation is extremely hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely turn to begin navigation up the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two or three lights separately, he knows that he is off course and in danger! He must continue to maneuver his vessel until the lights perfectly line up before he can safely turn into the harbor.

For our safety in navigating our ship of life, God has provided three beacons to guide us. The same rules of navigation apply to us as to the harbor pilot. The three lights must be perfectly lined up as one before it is safe for us to proceed up the channel. The three harbor lights of guidance are:

  • The Word of God (objective standard)
  • The Holy Spirit (subjective witness)
  • Circumstances (divine providence)

So the fact that a promotion or pay raise is offered is great, but that’s only one light!  And of the three, circumstances is probably the one that can lead us astray most easily.  My favorite example is Acts 27:13 where circumstances appeared to be favorable, but just one verse later, everything had changed drastically.  Circumstances alone are not reliable because they are so changeable!  Make sure your decision doesn’t violate God’s Word or the direction you receive from his Holy Spirit.

2.  In my opinion, yes, a promotion could be the enemy’s trick to keep you from God’s best(see 1John 2:15-17)  For instance, I’ve know people were happy and fulfilled in ministry and their family was growing in the Lord, but they left that church in order to take a promotion or new job offer, only to not find a spiritual home in the new city and suffering real harm to their relationship with Christ.

3.  The #1 best counsel I can give anyone in regards to decision-making, including a job promotion, is Colossians 3:15.  The world ‘rule’ there means ‘umpire’ and if you follow baseball at all, you know that whatever the umpire says is all that matters – ball or strike, safe or out – it doesn’t matter what you think, it’s whatever the umpire calls it!  In other words, the question is: do you have peace about this decision?  If you do not, no matter how attractive it might be financially or geographically or logically, if you don’t have peace, I say don’t do it!  On the other hand, if you do have peace, no matter how illogical it seems, you can’t go wrong by following the peace of God in your heart.

I’d better stop before this becomes a book, but I hope this helped a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

No question was submitted again this week, so I’m reaching back to 2008 for this one:

How exactly do you fulfill the Commandment to ‘honor your father and mother’, when your parent is seemingly undeserving of honor?  I know the Godly thing to do is to forgive, seek peace within and continue to pray for the individual.  But because it is your parent is there some obligation that you need to have them be a part of your life?  Even when that involvement is not healthy mentally and causes stress on your family?  Is it possible to “honor” them from afar?  And if so how do you do that?  What exactly does honor mean?

Great question, especially because so many people have similar stories.  The word ‘honor’ there in Hebrew literally means “to be heavy”, and, interestingly enough, has both negative connotations (‘burdensome’) and positive connotations (honorable).  Everything that I know of Scripture would tell me the primary purpose of the commandment was to let us know in our youth the importance (weighty) role that our parents play in our lives, and our regard for them because of that.

However, when parents have abdicated or abused their God-given, God-intended role, and actually caused emotional harm to their children, when we grow into adulthood we can certainly choose to protect ourselves from further harm.  Please understand: I say that in the context of what you’re written about ‘forgiving, seeking peace, and praying for them’ – that’s a must!

But as an adult, if your continued involvement with that parent only causes you (and your own family) more stress and grief, I think you have a right to kindly but firmly withdraw yourself from that harm.

Having said that, I will also quickly add that we never outgrow the desire for good relations with our parents – and my experience has been that, despite all the hurt, when it comes to significant events like graduations and weddings, etc. – there is still a hunger to have the family participate – so be very cautious about closing that door completely.  (Besides, God still does do miracles, and I’ve known of more than one abusive parent whose heart was changed, even late in life!)

Bottom-line: if your heart is clean before God (and you know if it is, or if you’re harboring ‘stuff’), then as an adult I don’t think you have to worry about ‘honoring from afar’.  Leave it in God’s hands and let Him work it out for His glory and your benefit.  Hope that helps!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

No one submitted a question to me this week, so I’m reprinting a post from September 23, 2011.  Enjoy!

A faithful CLCer writes, “We got into a philosophical discussion with some friends the other night and wanted your opinion. The discussion centered around the existence of Heaven and Hell. Knowing that God is a loving and giving God, many questioned how so many horrid, painful, and devastating events happen in our world. The question then became, “Is the world in which we live really “Hell,” and the task set before us, a testing ground to get into Heaven?” Are these trials and tribulations placed in our path to challenge and build our faith? Are there really coincidences in life, or are these events merely parts of the ultimate plan for our lives?”

Excellent question – and one that many people have asked.  Let me try to shed a little light:

  • First of all, on the assumption that your friends were serious & not speaking in hyperbole, NO, I assure you that the world we live in is NOT hell – not by a long shot.  The Bible clearly speaks of hell as a place of everlasting torment, where the fire is not quenched and yet where no one dies (Mark 9:43-48; Luke16:22-24)
  • Secondly, and most assuredly, there is NO “testing ground” to get into Heaven, because there is NOTHING that we can do to ‘earn’ or ‘deserve’ entrance there.  What determines who gets into heaven has nothing to do with our performance; it’s solely based on what Jesus has done for us.  It’s ONLY because of His shed blood that we can enter heaven, and ONLY because we place our whole trust on Him, not on any works of our own.  (I know; I’ve heard all the jokes about Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates offering various ‘tests’ to see if souls can enter heaven – but those are just misguided jokes, with no basis in reality. Scripture could not be clearer on this subject – see 1Corinthians 15:21-22 or Ephesians 2:8-9 or Galatians 2:16)  There is NO salvation except through Jesus Christ! (Acts 4:12)
  • The third question is a bit more difficult, in that many believers will disagree as to the source of “trials & tribulations”Some Christians would see them as God’s way of building our faith, while others would argue that only Satan would send trials & tribulations in our path.  There are Scriptures that seem to support either view.  Personally, my opinion is that there are 3 possible sources of trials for the believer: sometimes God allows; sometimes the devil sends; and sometimes life happens – keep in mind we do live in a fallen world, and some things, in my humble opinion, are just the result of sin that entered the world thru Adam & Eve.  What I can say with assurance is that regardless of the source, it is God’s plan that our trials would strengthen our faith! (see 1Peter 1:6-7 or James 1:2-4)
  • The final question is also debatable, so I will give you my opinion again: while some would argue that everything happens for a reason, I’m not sure that Scripture backs that up.  Again, I’m convinced that some things happen simply because we live in an imperfect, fallen world.  However, for the believer, that’s NOT discouraging, because the truth of Romans 8:28 trumps it all!  It may have originated with the enemy, or it might be an ugly coincidence of our fallen world, but my God promises to make it work together ultimately for my good!  (By the way, the ‘good’ He has in mind is that we would become more like Jesus – see Romans 8:29)  For more on how God can take even the worst of situations and turn it around, look at Genesis 45:3-8 and Genesis 50:14-21.

Whew….heavy stuff.  I hope this helps a bit.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

 

Ask the Pastor

My favorite questioner is back!  She writes, “In Matthew 4:1-11 it speaks of Satan trying to tempt Jesus.  So why did the devil think he could tempt Jesus when Jesus already had everything He ever needed? Since Jesus came to earth as a regular man, was there any chance that He could have fallen into temptation? And if so, what would that have led to? Considering Luke 10:18, what gave the devil the audacity to even go there with Jesus when he knew he would never succeed?”

Interesting questions, all.  Let’s take them in order:

  1. Scripture doesn’t necessarily give us insight into the devil’s thinking then, but for sure he was probing and testing Jesus’ relationship (“IF you are the son of God…”), just as he challenges us today.  And his efforts seem to be intended to get Jesus to take a shortcut; i.e., to gain the world’s allegiance without having to experience the Cross.
  2. Again, the Bible doesn’t say, but hypothetically, if Jesus had fallen into sin, it would have destroyed God’s plan for our salvation, for it was only as the sinless, perfect Lamb of God that His death is able to take away our sin.  So in the plan & will of God, I don’t believe He could ever have succumbed to temptation – but that didn’t prevent the enemy from trying.
  3. Satan is not omniscient.  (We sometimes give him more credit than he deserves).  According to Paul, the ‘rulers of this age’ (referring to the devil & his forces) did not know God’s plan, for if they had, they would never have crucified Jesus!  (see 1Corinthians 2:7-8)  I’m concluding from those verses that Satan did not know that he stood no chance against Jesus.  (No wonder the Bible says pride goes before destruction!)
Hope that helps.  And I especially hope for each reader that you are able to overcome every temptation of the enemy in the same way Jesus did: thru the Word of God!
Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Leave your question below-