Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ask the Pastor

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Today I’m reposting this question from 2008:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ask the Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of our newer CLC’ers writes, “My question is the role of grandparents in the family. As a grandparent, I oftentimes wonder whether I am doing more than expected for my children and grand children or whether the provision and/or my role as the grandparent aligns with the Word of God.”

Great question, and one that I’m sure many other grandparents are asking. I’ve never addressed it before, so let me dig a little:

  • Proverbs 13:22 directly addresses one aspect of your question, by tell us that good people leave an inheritance to our grandchildren.  Reading that verse a few years ago in my devotions challenged me, because I want to be a good man!  And while some might argue that an inheritance can be the godly example of character, integrity, etc. – there is no doubt in my mind that it definitely refers to a financial inheritance as well.
  • Another verse that deals with grandparenting is Deuteronomy 4:9, which encourages grandparents to pass on what they have seen and known about the Lord to their grandchildren.
  • 2Timothy 1:5 gives us the example of Paul’s apprentice, young Timothy, whose faith had been handed down from his grandmother.  Later, in 2Timothy 3:14-15, Paul reminded him that he had been taught the Scriptures from his childhood (some translations say “infancy”) What a privilege for any grandparent to pass on their faith to their grandchildren by sharing the Scriptures with them!
  • Finally, in Genesis 48:9, Jacob wanted to speak a blessing over his grandsons – and how powerful it can be when a grandparent speaks positive, life-giving words over their grandchildren!  Those words could be prophetic, speaking to their future, or they could be strategic, addressing their bents by describing how talented or capable they are, to encourage their future development.

I haven’t found other specific verses that deal with grandparenting, but we can summarize that our role as grandparents includes:

1) Being an example to our grandchildren.  They learn by what they see us do!

2) Sharing Scripture and our experiences in the Lord with our grandchildren, thus passing our faith on to them.

3) Blessing our grandchildren with life-giving words.

4) Leaving a financial inheritance for them.

I hope that helps!  Would YOU care to leave a comment about other ways that a grandparent can fulfill our role in the lives of our grandchildren?  Please join the conversation below, or ask your own question for another post-

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, There’s a question I’ve wanted to ask for a long time, but felt it was silly. Gen. 16:15 says that Abram was 86 when Ishmael was born.  Gen. 17:1 says Abram was 99 when God promised him a son. 17:15-19 says specifically that Sarah would have a son and they should name him Issac. In Gen. 21:5 we are told that Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. 21:9-10 Sarah saw Isaac and Ishmael playing…and sent Hagar and Ishmael away. 21:14 says that Abraham put Ishmael on Hagar’s shoulder and sent them away. If Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born, and 100 when Isaac was born, that means Ishmael was at least 14 when he and Hagar were sent away. Isn’t 14 kinda big to be on Hagar’s shoulder????

Yes, I would say it is.

But there’s no such thing as a ‘silly’ question, especially when it comes to Scripture.

Unfortunately, that’s not what the Bible says in any translation I consulted except the King James. If you look at any other translation (at least of 6-8 that I looked at), they all indicate that Abraham put some food and some water on Hagar’s shoulder, and then sent her and the child away.

I’m confident the KJV translators did an excellent job of translating the Hebrew text into English back in 1611 – the problem is always that English has changed in the last 405 years, which is why I always encourage CLC’ers to get a Bible translation they can understand.  Here’s Genesis 21:14 in several translations:

NIV

NKJV

NLT

ERV

MSG

Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Leave your question or comment below, please-

Ask the Pastor

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My favorite questioner writes, “I always have questions when I read Revelation. Here is just one of them: who are the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth and were the only ones who could learn the new song in Revelation 14:3?

Great question!

I don’t know the answer.

(That was just partially tongue-in-cheek.  When it comes to end-times prophecy, I feel woefully inadequate.  Twenty-five or thirty years ago, I could answer any question you asked about future prophecy.  But over my years of ministry, I’ve seen so many ‘interpretations’ fall by the wayside, as world events unfolded.  So today I’m much more cautious and have more questions myself than answers.)

Nonetheless, you asked, so I did a little digging to see what ‘the scholars’ have to say:

  • The identity of the 144,000 seems to be determined by Revelation 7:1-8 and Revelation 5:9-10 – the former because it seems beyond coincidence that John would list two different groups of that number, and the latter because they also were said to sing a new song that no one else could sing.
  • Having said that, it still depends on your view of prophecy as to WHO these people are – with some holding it literal; i.e., they were all Jewish followers of Christ and others taking a more symbolic view that they represent The Church, primarily comprised of Gentile believers.  I honestly don’t know which view is correct, although at this stage of ministry and my understanding of Israel’s role, I lean toward the literal view that these were Jewish Messianic believers.  
  • The reason no one else could sing the song seems to be that no one else had their experience, and out of their suffering and their deep commitment to the Lord, they had received a song no one else could truly sing.

I doubt that satisfies anyone who really wants to know, but I’m afraid that’s as good as I can do.  As we watch world events unfold, it’s possible we’ll get better understanding of this and other passages.  But one thing I do know is that when we are reunited with our heavenly Bridegroom, we will understand (1Corinthians 13:12).  And as the song we sang when I was young says, “What a day, glorious day, that will be!”

Would you like to join the conversation?  Leave your comments below on this passage, or ask a question of your own to be discussed in a future post.

 

Ask the Pastor

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No one submitted a question this week, but instead of re-posting from the past, I’m going to ask YOU – do you have a question for me?  It could be about:

  • a Bible verse or passage that you don’t understand-
  • a doctrine you’ve heard taught but still have questions about-
  • a personal situation that has you puzzled

C’mon, ask what’s on your mind.  I promise to give you a Biblical answer if there is one, and if not, I’ll give you my best guess!

What do you have to lose?  Leave your question below-

Ask the Pastor

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This week NO new questions were submitted, so I’m re-posting one from 2013:

Today’s question comes from a faithful CLC who writes, “Keeping in tune with our current sermon series, I decided to step out and up and be a better steward of God’s money. I set my tithe up for auto debit for the proper amount and not what I have left over each pay week. In doing so, I was sharing with another believer (non-CLC’er) what I am doing. She stated that she “felt paying via auto debit or in a lump sum says that you are no longer “presenting” your tithes to God but are paying him like a bill. He has the right to reject or accept your offering”. I was attempting to explain that in my opinion as long as you are paying / presenting your tithes with a clean, open and loving heart it shouldn’t matter (how) they are paid. I too was raised in the traditional church she currently attends and understand the logic behind what she is saying, but also believe that times are changing and paying by auto debit is the same as bringing my check / cash into service on Sunday as long as it is done in reverence to its true purpose. Am I wrong?”

I’m so glad you asked this, because I’m sure other people struggle with the same worry and it gives me a chance to help them as well as you.

The quick answer is, ‘No, you’re right! I pay my tithes thru an automatic debit online! I certainly don’t think online giving violates in any way the OT concept of bringing my tithes to the Lord. What it does do is insure that I don’t forget to write a check or get sick or go out of town on weekend and as a result get behind on giving to God first.

As you’ve probably heard about my past, I came out of a very legalistic denomination, so I think I can spot “religion” a mile away, and honestly, when I read your email about your friend’s response and the church that you used to attend, that was my first thought: ‘religion’ strikes again. I’m saddened that she (and a million others like her) is caught up in a legalistic, religious way of doing things that says “my way or the highway”, based on the tradition of men only – when the reality is that the main point of Scripture is that we give to God first; not how we deliver it.  In fact, when the Bible spoke of tithing, there was no such thing as writing a check or putting cash in a church offering envelope & bringing it to the Lord!  Their tithes were literally newly-harvested crops and the firstborn of their livestock, which they brought to the priest.

If we were to take the attitude or approach that we shouldn’t use technology to accomplish tithing today, we probably need to re-think a lot of things we do in church: let’s see: how about no air conditioning in the summer; no audio/video system; no indoor rest rooms, etc. – since they obviously didn’t have any of those modern conveniences in the Bible either.  Wonder why no churches teach against those practices?

Now, I will tell you one thing that I do – not because I need to feel like I’m ‘presenting’ my tithes to the Lord, but because I’m conscious of the fact that others are always watching me as pastor and I want to be an example: I fill out an offering envelope each week and write in the amount that I’ve given online & what it was for (tithes, missions, Kingdom Expansion, etc) and then in the box where it says “total”, I write “ONLINE”. I then submit my offering envelope along with everyone else during that part of the service. That way I am participating in the offering along with everyone else, even though my monies have in reality already been transferred to the church electronically. If you have any misgivings about not ‘presenting’ your tithes, you could always do that as well.

Bottom-line: I think we should take advantage of technology wherever we can to be more effective in the Lord’s work, and this is certainly one of them.  By giving tithes & offerings electronically, we free up our volunteers from hours of counting & recording our gifts AND we enable the Church to more accurately project our income for budgeting purposes, since the gifts are consistent instead of haphazard.  I encourage every CLC’er to consider online giving!  In fact, you can enroll here right now.

Hope that helps.  

Now what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted this week, so I’m reposting this one from 2011:

Some long-time CLCers wrote, “we were reading in Exodus 4:24 where it talks about God all of a sudden wanting to kill Moses..I’m confused..first He has all of these plans for Moses then out of the blue He tries to kill him..Did I miss something? Is it possible to explain this..?”

Great question!  It’s a strange passage of Scripture, but I think there is a great explanation for what initially appears to be downright weird.  In fact, it’s a great example of how important context is when we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Notice verses 25-26 in the Amplified Bible, and it immediately becomes clearer.  It seems that Moses had failed to circumcise his son, even though God had plainly told His people the necessity of circumcision, in order to enter into a covenant-relationship with Him, and Moses knew this. (Genesis 17:9-14; Exodus 12:47-49)

I’d say if God comes after you, intending to kill you, it’s pretty serious.  And obeying His word is a serious matter – far more serious than most American Christians realize.

Keep in mind that in the New Testament, the ‘sign’ of our covenant with the Lord, indeed our ‘circumcision’, is water baptism (see Col. 2:11-12).  So, while the Lord won’t threaten to kill you if you’ve not yet been baptized in water after coming to faith in Christ, it IS the ‘next step’ of obedience that every child of God should take.  If you’re reading this and you have never been water-baptized as your own choice since coming to faith in Christ (I’m not talking about a baptism that your parents may have chosen for you in childhood), then I would URGE you to contact your campus pastor TODAY and schedule your baptismYou won’t regret it!

By the way, our NWI campus has a special ‘baptism at the beach’ THIS Sunday, August 7 – so you can join them by contacting Pastor Sam now.

Before I step off my soapbox, since we’re talking about your parents or family members, I should probably also remind you of what the Amplified Bible said about Moses’ failure to obeyI don’t think I’d let my parents, my wife, or any other family member keep me from doing what God has said!

Hope all of that helped.  Now, what would you like to ask the Pastor?

Don’t forget JOE McGEE is at the Tinley Park campus THIS weekend:

  • Saturday’s “Laugh & Learn about Marriage” – 4pm-6pm
  • Sunday – all 3 services, 8:30, 10, 12
  • Sunday’s “Laugh & Learn about Parenting” – 4pm-6pm

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite ‘questioners’ wrote after last week’s question to ask specifically about Matthew 13:11 and in a broader sense,  the idea that God seems unfair by rejecting some people arbitrarily, with Romans 9:10-14 being a good example of that.

Wow; not gonna play softball this week are we?

If I were smarter, I’d just say, “I dunno’ and leave it at that.  But since this post is supposed to provide answers to your questions, I’ll wade in:

  • First, as I’ve often said when this type issue arises, this is one of those questions that Christians have disagreed on for hundreds of years, so I’m not likely to settle that debate between Calvinists and Arminians in one blog post.
  • Secondly, according to all the scholars I researched, the discussion in Romans 9 is about nations, not individuals, as Paul explains how God rejected His people Israel and chose to show mercy on Gentiles, by using representative names for them both.
  • Finally, and most importantly, as Romans 9:14 quickly declares, it’s not possible for God to be unfair!  The key to understanding that (to me) is to recognize that no one deserves mercy (Rom. 3:23).  I can’t say God is unfair because if we received what we deserve, we would all die and spend eternity in hell (Rom. 6:23)  
  • Another example of that truth is found in the story of Pharaoh which seemed unfair when we read that God hardened his heart. But if you read the full story, Pharaoh hardened his own heart first, and it was later that Scripture says God hardened his heart.  My point is simply that no one deserves anything good from God, so even when it  appears that God is unfair in rejecting someone, the reality is that ALL of us deserve to be rejected and NONE of us deserves to be accepted or receive mercy!

I don’t know if that makes you feel any better about this difficult subject, but it leaves me again praising God for His amazing grace!  I’m thankful today that HE chose me even though I deserve to be rejected and to spend eternity in hell.  As the old preacher used to say, “Thank God for Jesus!”

This is definitely a question that begs for others to leave their insights and comments below-

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “In Genesis 26:23 God reminds Isaac of promises made to his father. I see the chain, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, but it got me to wonder why isn’t Esau mentioned? Was God not his God, or was it just the lineage in which Jesus descended from?”

Interesting question…and one I hadn’t given any thought to until you asked.  Here’s my opinion based on Scripture:

  • in a related-and-similar way, Genesis 21:12 points out that Isaac is the son through whom Abraham’s descendants would be counted.  In fact, that truth is repeated in Romans 9:7 and Hebrews 11:18, to emphasize that even though Abraham had other children, Isaac was the chosen one.
  • the principle holds true with Jacob and Esau as well, for in Genesis 25:23 God informed Rebekah before her twin sons were even born that the younger son, Jacob, was chosen over the older son, Esau.  And this prophecy was also quoted in the New Testament, in Romans 9:11-13.  We also see a little more clearly in Malachi 1:2-3  that God chose Jacob over Esau.

So, in some ways I suppose it would be correct to say that God was not Esau’s God – since Esau despised his birthright and missed out on the lineage of Jesus, as you also pointed out.

One thing is for certain: as I looked into this a little deeper in order to answer your question, I became even more grateful that we live in a time of God’s grace, and that today anyone who will can come to the Father, and He promises to be our God! (see Revelation 22:17 and 2Corinthians 6:16-18)  If Jesus is not your God today, He wants to be – all you need to do is invite Him in to be your Lord!

Hope that helps.  Do you have further insights on this question to share?  Leave a comment or a question below and join the conversation!

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were NO new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting from 2011.  Since this doctrinal error is still circulating, I thought it might be helpful to you today:

A longtime, faithful CLCer writes, “Please explain what the Grace Covenant teaching is. I know what Jesus did on the cross for us. I was told that you do not have to confess your sins because of what Jesus did on the cross, but it clearly states in 1 Jn 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Confused!!!!”

Interesting question.  I suppose ALL of us should be confused as to why any born-again believer would teach a doctrine that so clearly contradicts Scripture – so if that’s why you’re confused, let me help you easily by saying I John 1:9 is still in effect, and it IS part of our covenant under grace, too!  So if anyone ‘tells’ you that you don’t have to obey a clear instruction from Scripture (and a wonderful promise, I might add!), then you can simply quote Acts 4:19 and Acts 5:29 to them!

Back to your first question as to the “Grace Covenant”, you might be interested to know that those words never appear together in Scripture! So, while I understand the meaning behind the term, the truth is that the New Testament never refers to the covenant relationship that all of us as believers enjoy today as a “grace covenant”.

Nonetheless, all of us who have received Christ do live in covenant relationship with Him, and we are all recipients of His AMAZING, incredibly-wonderful grace, which is generally defined as “unmerited or undeserved favor”I get chill-bumps just thinking about it! In other words, we did nothing to earn it or deserve it; it’s a free gift from God to us made possible by the death of Jesus Christ!  Those of us who once were lost, bound in our own sinful habits, headed straight for eternity in hell, are instead now forgiven & free, walking in His marvelous favor and on our way to an eternal reward with Him in heaven — all because of what Jesus did for us at the Cross almost 2,o0o years ago! (see Gal. 2:15-16; Eph. 2:8-9; Eph. 1:3-8; Eph. 2:1-7)

That ‘covenant’ also means, as the late Dottie Rambo put it in one of her songs, “He sees me through the Blood”; i.e., when God looks at us today, He doesn’t see us as hopelessly messed-up in our own failings and weaknesses; He sees us as the “righteousness of God in Christ”, made blameless in His sight — again, all because of the blood of Jesus!  (Rom. 3:21-22; Col. 1:21-22)

That is the Grace Covenant, as I understand it in Scripture.

The problem that sometimes occurs is when people go beyond the words of Scripture and start adding their own interpretation to it (or diss the Bible altogether), as in the situation you described, when someone told you we no longer have to confess our sins to God.  That concept/teaching is found NO WHERE in Scripture, either in the first covenant or the new covenant!

In fact, some false teachers have gone so far as to embrace an age-old heresy known as “universalism”, that has ALWAYS been rejected by The Church. Universalism basically says that, in the end, God loves everyone so much He just cannot send anyone to hell, and so everyone is saved (some just don’t know it yet). That teaching resurrects every once in a while, and has gained some steam in recent months with the publication of a book called, “Love Wins” – but I repeat, that teaching has NEVER been accepted by the New Testament body of believers as Biblical truth.

I could go on and on, but hopefully you see my point.  I hope this helped.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted this week, so I’m asking my own, which has been on my mind for the last 3 days: “What can I do about racism in America?”

I’m guessing you’re asking that question, too. I’ll admit that I don’t have all the answers, and that you may not like the ones I’m going to offer below – so feel free to join the conversation by leaving your comments after reading mine:

1.  PRAY.

I know some are saying that “praying isn’t gonna cut it” or that “prayer isn’t enough” or even “what good is that doing?” – but from my perspective prayer is the starting place:

  • Pray for the families of those who are grieving today: all those who knew & loved #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile and now the five Dallas police officers who were gunned down last night.
  • Pray for your heart to not become bitter over the injustice and systemic racial division that this week’s incidents have exposed, like ripping a scab off a sore before it could be healed.  You have a right to be angry, but Scripture tells us “do not sin by letting anger control you” (Eph. 4:26).
  • Pray against fear that the enemy would seek to exploit in the face of this week’s developments.  Read 2Cor. 10:4-6 in the Message paraphrase.  Or to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
  • Pray for God’s love to fill your heart for people who don’t look like you.

2.  Seek to understand more than to be understood.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, I think most racism is a result of ignorance.  Many whites have never spent time around blacks on a personal level.  Many blacks have not had personal friendships with whites.  We’ve not shared meals or our dreams or our hurts with each other.  We have heard stories about the other race.  We have listened to stereotypes about each other.  And the result of our ignorance is fear, which causes us to withdraw into the safety of our “own people”.  I’m challenging you to take the risk to reach out to someone of another culture and get to truly know them; to understand them and where they’re coming from, instead of just wanting them to understand you.

3.  Speak up in love, to heal rather than divide.

Too many of us have been silent for too long.  The racist actions of this week (on both sides) are NOT the feelings and actions of MANY of us.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and let others know that you are against injustice and hatred.  I’ve been proud of our CLC pastors this week who have gone on social media to express their thoughts in sincerity and vulnerability, to heal these wounds.

Let me give just one example: #BlackLivesMatter.  Like most whites and perhaps most  believers, the first time I heard that expression I immediately wanted to respond with, “no, All Lives Matter”.  However, by listening to my brothers and sisters of color, I’ve come to understand that the real point of the first hashtag is not to deny that all humans have worth and that their lives matter; it’s simply to emphasize in the face of systemic injustice that  “black lives matter, too!”  Surely as Caucasians and as Christians we can agree with that – but it took me listening to my black friends to understand.

I’ll quit here before this post become a book.  I hope YOU will join the conversation below.  And I look forward to worshipping with my CLC family of blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics this Sunday – we need each other now more than ever before.

Ask the Pastor

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Again this week we had no new questions submitted, and since we’re away on vacation, I completely forgot to do my usual early-morning post.  In the spirit of “better late than never”, here’s a post from 2011 that is worth repeating, especially since we’re about to launch the most ambitious ALL-CHURCH campaign in our history:

A faithful CLCer writes, “Let me start off by saying: That I love this church and my walk with Christ has grown tremendously since I started going here. I have never attended a service here where I wasn’t able to extract something from the message and apply it to my life. That being said my question is this: Why doesn’t CLC have a singles ministry? I know there is a singles lifegroup that I am a part of and enjoy dearly, but there are other issues that singles, divorced, and widowed individuals go through that need as much attention as those issues that face the family unit. I believe that the enemy’s attack on families begins with the attack on singlehood; singles are not taught to treasure this season and nurture their relationship with God and then they get married and long for this period of their life back again. Singles are often times made to feel that something is wrong with them and even worse, they are made to feel like a disease that needs to be cured. The feelings of inadequacy is not cured in marriage , it’s only exaggerated even more. Family ministry is a big part of CLC, but is there an urgency to minister to this population? Thanks for your time and all you do to make this a wonderful church home!!!”

Hmmmm…..interesting question.  While I completely agree with your description of the attack on singles and the need to counteract it effectively, I’m not totally sure I understand what you’re asking, but I’ll give it my best shot:

Every church operates by some sort of philosophy or strategy (even a lack of strategy is a strategy!) At CLC, one of our guiding core values is the importance of relationships, and the fact that we grow best in relationship with others.  For that reason, we try to incorporate small groups into virtually every area of ministry – as opposed to having people just come to listen to a lecture by Bro. or Sis. Wonderful.  We’d much rather they connect with others, interact together over a particular area of interest, and build friendships for life!  I’m NOT opposed to large gatherings or great conferences (we have sponsored some in the past, and will likely do so again) – but that’s not where we choose to focus our efforts.  We believe people grow best in relationship, so we try to create environments (small groups) where they are most likely to make those connections and build those relationships.  As you said, we have a great single’s small group with a passionate leader, not to mention other groups with a tighter focus on single parents or divorce recovery, etc.

So if the question is why we don’t have a single’s “ministry” in the sense of large gatherings on a weekly or monthly basis, I would say that if you look around, we don’t have a married’s ministry or a men’s ministry or a women’s ministry either.  All of those important segments of the congregation also meet in small groups, for the same reasons I listed in the paragraph above.  Probably the closest thing to a traditional ‘ministry’ would be Heart 2 Heart, but even there, the real focus of the ministry is the break-out times with a small group of ladies who apply the teachings, connect with each other, and hopefully build great friendships that extend far beyond the midweek gathering.

As pastor of CLC, I certainly value single adults.  We may not always do the best job of making sure each message has application to the challenges that singles face today, but I can assure you that it’s not for lack of effort.  I haven’t run the numbers on our database, but my eyeballs tell me that perhaps a majority of CLCers would be in the ‘singles’ category: widowed, divorced or never-married.  So singles are a HUGE part of our family, and certainly we feel an urgency to minister to the needs you describe so well in your question.

What I say to you I say to all: if you have specific requests or suggestions to enhance our efforts to effectively minister, by all means, share them with usWe’ve never offended to get ideas from the congregation, and some of our best ideas have come from people who saw a need and a way for us to fill it.

I hope that helped.  If I missed the point of your question entirely, please let me know, and I’ll try again.

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

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “As a divorced woman looking to remarry someday, I’m curious about a passage of scripture that has always puzzled me. Can you explain Luke 16:18 please?

Oh, boy.  The dreaded divorce/remarriage question.  This is one of those questions where I probably should take the easy way out and just say, “I don’t know” – but I’ve never been known for doing things the easy way, so here goes:

  • As someone smarter than me has said, “A text without context is a pretext”, and when you look at the context of Luke 16:18 it’s quite obvious that Jesus was chastising the Pharisees for ignoring what Scripture said in order to do what they wanted to do.  (The discussion started about money and materialism, but then Jesus abruptly used divorce and remarriage as another example of the same issue – ignoring what Scripture says to please ourselves.)
  • What is clear in Scripture is that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), although that statement also must be explained further.  God does NOT hate divorced people!  And He doesn’t hate divorce arbitrarily.  He hates divorce because of the effect it has on people, much like He hates cancer for what it does to people, or He hates car wrecks because they hurt people, etc.
  • As far as I can see, every time Jesus mentioned divorce in Scripture, it was in the context of how people had abused God’s allowance of divorce.  In other words, God’s clear intent from the beginning is that marriage is meant to be lifelong!  (see Matthew 19:3-9, and especially notice verse 8)  Instead, with the blessing of some rabbi’s in Jewish history, a man could divorce his wife for virtually any reason – even if he just didn’t like her cooking!  (Oh, by the way, ONLY a man could get a divorce; women were not allowed to divorce their husband for any reason!)
  • So, in Luke 16:8 and Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:3-9, Jesus made it clear that divorce was not what God wanted for marriage; He still wants a lifelong commitment! (To which his listeners responded in Matthew 19:10, but I digress.)
  • As to your specific question about remarriage, I not only read each NT passage and looked at what the commentators have said about them through the years, but I also read the conclusions of some contemporary pastors about this thorny subject, to prepare my answer today.  I found that some men absolutely believe that ANY remarriage after divorce is sinful.  I learned that some pastors submit any case of remarriage after divorce to a council of elders at the local church to determine whether the remarriage is ‘acceptable’ under the ‘rules’ of their congregation. Of course, it also depends on one’s ‘status’  at the time of the divorce, since sins we committed “B.C.”, before we came to Christ were already forgiven and judgment begins from the time of our conversion – so a person who divorced prior to knowing Christ would be treated differently than a believer who divorced his or her spouse.  There are also differences made for whether the believer sought the divorce, or was put away by their spouse.  It seems the possible scenarios are endless, which has led many pastors, including myself, to judge each situation on its own merit.
  • I know that this issue is a slippery slope, lest we also fall into the Pharisees practice of doing what we want without regard to what God has said – but as a pastor, I cannot find agreement that God would require a man or a woman to spend their lifetime alone simply because of a failed marriage in their past.  All have sinned.  But Jesus paid the price for our sin.

I hope this helps, although I realize it may still be confusing, because there are so many factors involved that, in my experience, each situation must be judged on its own merit.  Bottom-line: I have personally known godly believers who were remarried after a divorce, and I do not believe they are living in adultery as a result of their decision to remarry.

Feel free to join the conversation below, especially if you have insight from Scripture on this complicated subject.  OR just Ask the Pastor your own question in the ‘comments’ below-

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “In my devotional reading of 2 Samuel 24:1, it sounds like in his anger God told David to sin in order to bring suffering to Israel.  To confound my inability to grasp that, the commentator pointed out 1 Chronicles 21:1 which seems to give Satan credit for causing David to sin.

In order to tie these two verses together, my logical conclusion is that God in His anger used or permitted Satan to cause David to sin in order to punish the nation of Israel.  But now I have the difficult problem of attributing that action to the same God who so loved this world of sinners that He sent His only Son to die for us.

 I have always relied on 2 Timothy 3:16 as I study the scripture, but I have no idea what these verses are teaching me.”

Great question, and I’ll start by acknowledging that this scenario of David’s census of Israel certainly can be confusing.  In fact, it’s usually listed as one of the most difficult passages in Scripture to explain….but you know me, I’ll try anyway:

  • Every scholar I consulted indicates that ultimately, everything in Scripture goes back to God and that even Satan is fulfilling His purpose.  So in that very broad sense the 2Samuel passage attributes the instigation of this census to be God.
  • For sure, the Chronicles passage wording of ‘Satan’ is also translated, ‘adversary’, or enemy, so it can simply refer to David’s adversary, much like Job was tempted by the devil only with God’s permission and express limitations.
  • So your interpretation of the happening, using both passages, is as good an understanding as I can come up with – leaving us with your original problem as to how a loving God who gave His Son to save us could also seek to punish His people for their sin.  The only answer that makes sense to me there is that this incident happened prior to the grace of God appearing in Christ in the fulness of times – and just as innumerable other sins were punished in the Old Testament, this sin also received God’s punishment.
  • By the way, although you didn’t ask, almost every scholar I researched also addressed the reason that a census would have been sinful – since there are times that God Himself instructed Moses to count the number of the people of Israel.  While the commentators gave several possibilities, the one that makes the most sense to me is that David had Joab count the military men of Israel as a matter of pride, and indicated that he was trusting in his military strength instead of the God of Israel – so the warning to us, even in this generation, is not to place our trust in our own strength or ability, but rather to put our whole trust in the Lord!

I hope that helps, but I suspect other readers can add to our understanding.  Won’t you join the conversation by leaving your comments below?  Feel free to include your own questions for Ask the Pastor, too!

Ask the Pastor

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Once again, no new questions were submitted this week (perhaps because you knew I’m on vacation & didn’t want me to work) – but I’ve decided to post this Q & A from 2010:

One of our young minister’s in training asks, “I’m reading John MacArthur’s Twelve Ordinary Men and my question is in regards to the title of Apostle.  Jesus gave the twelve disciples this title and Paul also held it.  My questions are: were they the only thirteen with the title of apostle in that time?  Do you think that it is a title that has been just thrown around in the church?  Is it a title that should be used at all?  It seems like a very prestigious title, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Thanks for your time and insight, pastor.”

Good question.  I’ve not read that book, so I have no idea if my thoughts will agree with the author’s or not.  But here’s my best shot, in order:

1.  In my understanding of the Scripture, there were definitely other apostles besides the 13 you mention.  For instance, Acts 15:22 certainly implies that Barsabas and Silas were among the apostles and Romans 16:7 names Andronicus and Junias as well.  My view of Ephesians 4:11-13 is that the ministerial gift-office of “apostle” also continues even to this present day.

2.  That’s my understanding of the title “apostle” in Scripture.  Assuming that your second question has to do with local churches in America, I’m afraid that my opinion is similar to yours.  Personally, it’s almost a joke to me how so many have assumed/acquired the title without “doing the stuff” (meaning they don’t have the necessary fruit of an apostle in their life).

3.  As to whether the title should be used today, I have mixed-emotions.  From a Biblical standpoint, there’s no reason why the title can’t or shouldn’t be used.  However, and this is just my personal opinion, it seems that so many have taken the title without having the fruit that it is now ‘tainted’ in my mind.  For instance, part of the ministry of an apostle seems to be ‘fathering’ other pastors and congregations.  Some have even suggested that I am an apostle because of the work we’ve done in fathering other pastors, here at CLC and abroad.  I have received numerous prophetic words in the past that I am called to that role.  But I have specifically resisted the title, because in my mind, to take it to myself seems presumptuous and egotistical.

However, having said that, I’m not ready to throw out the title completely, and I definitely recognize other men of God who fit that role AND have the fruit to prove it.  (My pastor, Bishop Joseph Garlington, would be one such example).  Most of the men that I know personally who qualify for the title have taken a similar stance and don’t want the title – so it’s easier to refer to them as “having an apostolic ministry” or “serving in an apostolic role”.  As I have stated publicly at CLC in the past, I would much rather “do the stuff and not have the title” as to “have the title and not do the stuff”!

I hope this helps – although I recognize many will disagree – these are strictly my own opinions.

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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Well, no one submitted a question this week, so I chose a post from 2010 that I hope will be helpful to someone:

One of our Shorewood CLCers writes, “Could you please explain 1 Peter 3:18-20. I have heard that Jesus went to the bowels of the earth or some say Hell after his crucifixion. Did Jesus really go to hell to preach to the unsaved??? If not then why did he go to preach to the spirits in prison? Will those who heard be saved? Can you explain these confusing verses please?”

Great questions, from an admittedly difficult passage.  Here’s my understanding:

  • First, when it comes to any difficult or confusing verse in Scripture, always remember: “context, context, context”!  I’ve heard a lot of strange ideas from this passage, but in my humble opinion, the key to understanding it is found in the passage itself.
  • After consulting several translations, I chose the NKJV above because it seems to clarify best.  Notice that verse 18 says Jesus was made alive by “the Spirit” (obviously referring to the Holy Spirit). Then verse 19 gives us a major key to understanding the passage – “by whom” – i.e., it was by the Holy Spirit that he preached to imprisoned spirits. Verse 20 then gives us the time frame this preaching took place: in Noah’s day, while the ark was being built!
  • So, in putting all of that together, I don’t see this passage saying ANYTHING about what happened to Jesus after He died or as being a reference to Him preaching in hell.  Rather, I see this passage teaching us that while the ark was under construction, Noah was warning the people about God’s judgment, and the Spirit of Christ was working through him to try to reach those people.  I think the “imprisoned” reference is a figurative, poetic way to say that God had assigned this period of time that He would deal with them through the Holy Spirit.  Genesis 6:3 tells us that God would not always strive with man by His Spirit – but that man would have a limited time to respond to Him (generally, at that time in history, 120 years). 2Pet. 2:5 and Hebrews 11:7 both speak of the important role that Noah played in warning people of the coming judgment.
  • Now, IF this passage is about Jesus going into hell after his death (as Acts 2:31 and Revelation 1:18 and Eph 4:7-9 indicate) I can tell you for certain that He did NOT preach to people in hell to give them a “second chance” after death, for that would violate Hebrews 9:27 as well as numerous other verses.  The Jewish understanding of “hades” prior to the Resurrection of Christ is that it was the place of departed spirits and was divided in two compartments, one for the wicked and one for the righteous, which they called, “Abraham’s bosom”.
  • If Jesus went to hell after his death, during the three days His body was in the grave, it would have been only to visit the righteous dead and announce to them the good news of His death, and then take them with Him at His resurrection.
  • Everyone in the Old Testament looked “ahead” to the death of Christ in order to be saved; everyone in the New Covenant looks “back” to the death of Christ in order to be saved.  The passages I have cited above certainly ‘fit’ with that interpretation.  But it is not possible that He preached to someone after their death and they were then able to be saved, for that would contradict Scripture.

I think sometimes the problem is with us preachers who take poetic license in a sermon and describe Jesus going to hell and demanding of Satan, “give me the keys”.  It’s dramatic, and it’ll preach”, but I’m not really sure we can prove that encounter ever happened in Scripture.

What I DO know is that Jesus IS victorious over death, hell and the grave – and that all those who put their trust in Him will have everlasting life!

Hope that helps!  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Join the conversation below by leaving your comments or question-

Fun questions

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No one submitted a question this week, so I’m reposting some fun questions from 2008:

Someone new to CLC is asking some really fun (personal) questions, to get to know more about me & Chris:

What do you like to do in your personal time?   To be honest, that is one of my biggest weaknesses, that both my wife & our Board of Directors have been on my case about for years.  I really don’t have any particular hobbies to occupy my leisure time.  I do enjoy travel (well, not the traveling part, folded up into an airplane seat in the cattle-car section of the plane) – but I love the part of meeting new people and trying new foods, etc. 

How do you spend your time when you are just being Jerry?  On my regular day off each week, you can usually find me hanging out at Border’s with a fattening beverage and some books (I love to read!), and we like to catch a movie now & then. *This was posted 8 years ago when Border’s was still in business*

What’s your absolute favorite meal, place to travel to for fun?  I’m too much of a foodie to have one favorite, but here’s a list in no particular order: steak & baked potato at Saltgrass (I’d give anything if they’d bring this chain to Chicago!); pizza from either Pasquale’s (my wife’s old stompin’ grounds and the scene of our 3rd date, when she finally ‘fell’ for me) OR BJ’s Chicago Pizzeria in LaHaina, Maui (I don’t know if it’s the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, or if I’m swayed by the view of the Pacific Ocean right across the street in our favorite spot in Maui – but you seriously have to eat there!); lettuce wraps from P.F. Chang’s; barbeque ribs from Hickory Log (my wife disagrees, because she prefers the more traditional ones rather than these ‘dry’ ribs, but I say you haven’t lived until you’ve tried Hickory Log – and we pastored there for 5 years!  Every now & then one of my favorite CLCers even brings me some back when she returns from a visit there); most anything on the menu at Bubba Gump’s!  (Hey, this was fun – I like talking about food!)  I also love fresh-baked pita bread anywhere in the Middle East, and the Turkish kebob’s are wonderful!  Oh, and as far as travel, Maui is our favorite spot to relax….for something more affordable nearby, we really like New Buffalo, MI and the Harbor Grand.  *Since then we’ve discovered several restaurants in Pigeon Forge, TN where we’ll be vacationing again soon, including Alamo Steakhouse, Applewood Farmhouse, Big Daddy’s Pizzeria (yes, it IS better than Chicago Pizza), The Old Mill Restaurant,  and Huck Finn’s Restaurant (wow, am I salivating after listing those additions!)

How many children do you have?  We have 3 terrific kids: Chad, the eldest, will be 40 this November, and he just moved to Brooklyn, NY with his wife, Dorothy and the twins, Lincoln & Riley, to be the producer of the TV show, Blind Spot.  Our only daughter, Jen, is 38, and she’s just completing her first year as the Director of En-Theos, a great leadership academy here at CLC.  Our youngest son, Brent, serves as Campus Pastor at our Blue Island location, along with his wife, Sol and their brood: Jaeden, Bennett and Kelsey.

How long have you been married?  Chris and I have been married since December 16, 1972, which means we’re moving toward 44 years.  It’s a miracle she’s put up with me for that long!

Where and how did you two meet?   Ahh, our favorite story: in Troy, MI, on my first day at the first church I served after Bible School (it was her home church in suburban Detroit) I saw her picture on the church bulletin board and (believe it or not) something said to me, “that’s the girl you’re going to marry”.  It was a few days later, at the end of the Youth Revival I had preached there, that I asked her out, and the rest, as they say, is history.

That’s probably TMI as the kids say, and more than anyone really wanted to know, but I had fun…..can’t wait until next Friday’s edition of “Ask the Pastor”, especially if YOU will leave your question and join the conversation below-

Ask the Pastor

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Someone wrote, “I have a question for you. It has just been on my mind the last few days.
We know that perfect love, which is God, casts out all fears. So, there is NO fear with Him.
The question is, what does it mean when it says we are “fearfully” and wonderfully made?”

Great question, because it’s one that made me dig a bit, as I’d never been asked about it or even considered it myself before.  Here’s what I learned:

  • The verse in question is Psalm 139:14.  While several translations use the word  “fearfully”, I did notice that many modern translations refer to the ‘complexity’  or ‘wonderful’ way that God has created us.
  • The Hebrew word for “fearfully” is ‘yare’ (pronounced ‘yaw-RAY’) and it’s primary meaning has to do with “awe’, as in “to be awed” or “to be awesome”.
  • From that, it seems the fearfulness has nothing to do with the kind of fear that is cast out by God’s love, but rather refers either (a) to God’s awesomeness as our Creator; or (b) to the awesome, complex being that He made us to be.  Either connotation is literally true, but neither has anything to do with the kind of fear that brings torment.

Keeping all of this in mind, then, I like these translations of Psalm 139:14, which seem to express the ‘fearfulness’ in a more easily understood way:

Hope that helps.  Now YOU can join the conversation, either by leaving your comments below OR asking your own question for a future Friday post:

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers asked this question this week: “I know in Psalms 34:18 it says God is close to the broken hearted, but why then does He feel so far away?”

Ouch…..I feel the pain coming through that question.  I’ll try to answer in a moment, but let me begin by telling everyone who’s ever asked that question (and I suspect that’s a HUGE number of people) that I pray right now that you do sense and experience His closeness, despite your broken heart.

As to WHY does He feel so far away when our hopes have been dashed or our hearts broken by a deep disappointment or loss, I think there are several answers:

  •  We live in a broken world ever since the Fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and as a result, bad things often happen to good people.  When we suffer a loss or deep disappointment, especially when as believers we have prayed & believed God for a different result, it’s very normal in our humanity to feel that God is far away.  In fact, even as believers, we can often feel hurt and even anger at God for allowing such loss or disappointment in our lives.
  •  Our emotions are not necessarily based in reality, and they are both changeable and unpredictable.  Just because we feel in our pain that God is distant does NOT mean that HE is.  In fact, it’s entirely possible that HE is trying to draw even closer to us in our pain, but because of our deep disappointment we have closed ourselves off from His comfort.
  • I love the Voice translation of Proverbs 13:12!  All of us know the pain of “hope deferred” or “delayed” or “postponed”, but sometimes we forget that delay does not mean denied!  Our timing is seldom in sync with God’s timing, and that sets us up for great disappointment, which then can cause us to feel HE is far away.

Let me encourage you with a couple of verses that I heard while listening to a sermon on the treadmill time one day this week.  I think it could be a ‘rhema word’ for someone reading this today:  “That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”  Romans 8:24-25 Message

So if your desire is not happening as soon as you had thought or wanted, let those words help you understand that perhaps God is growing you through this delay – and that HE indeed is very close to you when your heart is broken.

Does that help?  Why not join the conversation – feel free to add to my answer by leaving your comments below – or even Ask the Pastor a question of your own!

 

Ask the Pastor

My most faithful questioner asks, “I have a question regarding Genesis 32:24.  Who was this angel who wrestled with Jacob and what was the reason? The scriptures reads like this was something common and happened to people all of the time, but I think that I would have been horrified to try and wrestle with an angel. And obviously Jacob knew it was an angel because he would not let the angel go until the angel blessed him. And how was he able to overpower an angel?  Am I missing something here?”

All great questions – let me try to answer them, in order:

1.  The angel who wrestled with Jacob was, in my understanding (and with the agreement of Bible scholars) what we call a “theophany“.  By that, I simply mean that God Himself appeared to Jacob in the form of a man, or an angel.  (Notice that in most Bible translations, the word ‘angel’ in this story is capitalized, ‘Angel’, to designate that this was no ordinary man, but God Himself).  Probably plainer still, this angel was Jesus, God-in-a-human-body, prior to Bethlehem.

For further proof of this, notice the wording in Hosea 12:3-5, which recounts the story from Genesis 32, and tells us that Jacob met God there, “face to face“.

2.  As to the reason Jacob wrestled with the angel, the Bible doesn’t exactly say – but it’s quite obvious that this was a meaningful encounter with the Lord that changed Jacob’s life.  From that day forward, he walked differently, literally, but he also was a different man – no longer the conniving, scheming, cheater that he once was.  Personally, I love the way Eugene Peterson put it in his Message paraphrase of Hosea 12:

In the womb, that heel, Jacob, got the best of his brother.
When he grew up, he tried to get the best of God.
But God would not be bested.
God bested him.
Brought to his knees,
Jacob wept and prayed.
God found him at Bethel.
That’s where he spoke with him.
God is God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
God-Revealed, God-Known.

3.  Not sure if this was a question, but I think it’s safe to say that this was NOT an everyday occurrence.  Initially, Jacob probably thought he was wrestling a man, a stranger who came to harm him – before later realizing that it was the Angel of God.  At least, that’s my opinion.

4.  Your next question is very insightful, and I think a lot of us miss it when reading the story: how could Jacob overcome an angel? Remember, one angel killed 185,000 men in one night (2Kings 19:35) and one angel will be strong enough to bind the devil and throw him into the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:1-3).  So the only conclusion I can draw is that the Angel allowed Jacob to prevail – much like a father might ‘wrestle’ with his young son and ‘let’ the boy win.

As I see it, God initiated this encounter with Jacob and then allowed Jacob to prevail, so HE could bless the ‘changed’ Jacob as HE wanted – just as HE loves us, reaches out to us, encourages us to trust Him, and then rewards us when we do believe!  What a wonderful God He is!!!

5.  I’m sure you probably are – seems like there’s always more in God’s Word that we haven’t discovered yet!

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

Ask the Pastor

q_a

There were no new questions submitted this week, so I’m re-posting this one from 2010:

A faithful CLCer writes, “Within the last month, I have had two friends lose relatives to suicide. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there an inference that those who take their own lives are going to spend eternity in hell? One of my friends is really struggling with the death of her mother and I think a lot of her struggle has to do with the above inference. How can I offer comfort to her during this? What are your thoughts?”

Wow.  My first thoughts are, I’m so sorry for the pain that your friends are experiencing.  That’s perhaps the most cruel aspect of suicide: the aftermath for those loved ones left behind.  I add my prayer for comfort and God’s peace to your own for your friends.

As to your question about the ‘inference’ that suicide means someone is lost for eternity – there is definitely that assumption in much of Christendom.  However, I’m not sure that such a statement can be supported by Scripture.  There are several references in the Bible to people who took their own lives, perhaps most notably Judas Iscariot in his remorse for having betrayed Jesus – but in all of those references there is NO blanket statement that suicide results in eternal damnation.

That inference can only be made from man’s logic, asserting that suicide is akin to murder, since you are taking a life, and that since there would be no opportunity to repent or seek forgiveness after death, then it must be a sin that would consign us to hell.  And while that makes logical sense, it’s simply not stated in Scripture.

To the contrary, we can certainly make a case that anyone who commits suicide has temporarily taken leave of their senses; i.e., they are not in their right mind, and therefore, God will be merciful to them.  The real issue then becomes, did this individual receive Jesus as Lord & Savior prior to the act of suicide? The one sin that will cause anyone to spend eternity separated from God is the sin of rejecting His Son.

Probably the only real comfort you can offer your friends (besides your care & your presence, which means more than we ever realize), is that our God is a merciful God.  None of us really knows the outcome of their loved one’s death, so we must leave that in God’s hands and trust Him who does all things well.

I hope that helps a little…..such a painful subject.  If you’d like to join the conversation, please leave your comments (or YOUR question) below- 

Ask the Pastor

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Since no one submitted a question this week, I’m reposting this one from 2012:

A brand-new CLCer writes, “I have a question about women in ministry and pastoral positions. Since the scripture says in 1st Timothy 2:11-15. “Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: 15 but she shall be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.

I understand each of our “gifts” are a unique form of ministry to others; however, I am referring to a leadership position in a church or ministry.

What’s your take on this?”

Excellent question – one that’s been hotly debated in different church circles for years, and that I’ve answered several times through our history at CLC.

Let’s start with what I know: the Bible never contradicts itself.  NEVER.  Otherwise, it loses its authority and we are left without a rudder – we don’t know what to believe.

And since I know that the Bible never contradicts itself, I personally don’t see any way that 1Tim 2:11-15 (or the only other passage in Bible that seems similar, 1Cor 14:34-35) could possibly mean what some have interpreted it to mean; i.e., that ministry or leadership positions in the New Testament church are reserved for men only.

I say that because there are so many other references in Scripture to women who obviously ministered publicly: John 4:39; Exodus 15:20; 2Kings 22:14; Acts 18:24-26, Acts 21:9; Romans 16:1-2, Romans 16:7; Joel 2:28 w/Acts 2:17-18

Think of women in the Old Testament who influenced nations, like Deborah and Esther.  Or how about the “ministering women” who defied the custom of the day in Palestine to follow Jesus, and  their names have been recorded for us as a memorial of them. (Luke 8:3; 24:10).  These women were among the last at the cross (Matt 27:55-56) and the first at the His tomb!  (Mark 16:1-2)

Or how about these women in the New Testament Church, who obviously had a ministry: Mary (Acts 12:12); Tabitha (Acts 9:36); Priscilla (of Acts 18 and 1Cor 16:19); or even Euodia & Syntche (Phil 4:3).

Personally, I’m convinced that Gal 3:28 makes it clear: women can fulfill any ministry that a man can fill.  In fact, my experience in ministry over the last 43 years tells me that the real issue is usually gender-bias or male chauvinism!  And in my mind, the only thing worse than human prejudice is when we try to use Bible to justify it.

I’ll get down from my soapbox long enough to try to address the specific passage you asked about – 1Tim 2:11-15, and I can tell you that ‘silence’ in verse12 is the same Greek word as ‘quiet’ in verse 2.  According to Greek scholars, it does NOT denote a verbal quiet, but a quiet as in peaceful.   (I’m not a scholar, but I’m told that there are 2 Greek words, one which indicates ‘tranquillity arising from without’, and this one, indicating ‘tranquility arising from within; meaning, ‘causing no disturbance to others’, and this word was also used in 1Pet 3:4, so it is often associated with ’meek’, to characterize the spirit or disposition of a person.

Finally, IF that one verse of Scripture is to override all the rest of the Bible and truly forbids a women to minister publicly, then why has God blessed so many women in ministry through the years, including just a few that I’ll list here:

  • Sojourner Truth –  an ex-slave, mother, evangelist, abolitionist, author, women’s rights advocate, temperance activist.  Those who knew her remembered her as a “dynamic woman with strength, integrity, poise and wit.  She was a powerful public speaker and knew large portions of the Bible by heart, but never learned how to read or write.  Sojourner Truth spent more than 50 years on the front lines.
  • Aimee Semple McPherson started a church, the Foursquare denomination, and a Bible School.  She applied for and received the first FCC license ever issued to a woman and was the first person to ever operate a Christian radio station.  In her lifetime she composed 175 songs & hymns, preached thousands of sermons and graduated over 8,000 ministers from L.I.F.E. Bible College.  It is estimated that during the Depression, some 1.5 million people received aid from her ministry!
  • Bertha Smith was a missionary to China for nearly 42 years. She retired at age 70, returned to USA where she had another ministry of almost 30 yrs, awakening American Christians to their need for revival and inspiring them to pray for an awakening in their land.  During her travels and constant speaking engagements she touched thousands of lives.  She died just five months short of her 100th birthday.  She left a legacy in the form of the Peniel Prayer Center, a retreat center for spiritual life conferences.
  • Kathryn Kuhlman was known for a worldwide ministry that began to develop in 1950. Her messages were heard all over the United States and overseas. Most of us remember her as a woman of miracles.  However, although there were thousands upon thousands of miracles, the greatest miracle to Kathryn was when a person became born again.  It was common for tumors to dissolve, cancers to fall off, the blind to see and the deaf to hear.  Migraine headaches were healed instantly.  Even teeth were divinely filled.  It would be impossible to list all the miracles that took place during her prolific ministry.

Sorry to wax eloquent on this subject, but I do feel passionately about how the Church has oftentimes gone into battle with one hand tied behind our back as it were, because of a refusal to allow women to fulfill the calling that God has placed upon their life to minister, simply because of their gender.

I do understand the authority that God has delegated to the husband in his household and the principle of men in leadership even in the Church.  But as I’ve explained in the past about our ministry here, my wife is not “usurping” authority at CLC; I have given it to her, knowing that God has gifted her to pastor here alongside me.  In addition, we sometimes invite other women pastors and leaders to minister here, including Pastor Sarah Bowling, who will minister at our NWI campus on May 22!

Hope this helps a bit.  Would you like to join the conversation or submit YOUR question below?

Ask the Pastor

Business question

A faithful CLC’er writes, “What does 1 Kings 17:11-16 mean?  I mean, what message is it trying to convey?”

This is another question that makes my heart glad, because it shows that you’re seeking to understand, not just speed-read your way through the Bible.  Here are my answers:

  1. One of the best rules for reading/interpreting Scripture is to always interpret the Bible literally, unless the context makes it obvious that you should not do so.  (Revelation 9 would be a good example of a passage that cannot/should not be interpreted literally!)
  • So the story in 1Kings 17 is literally true: a destitute widow was about to prepare one last meal for herself and her son, before they would starve to death.  The prophet Elijah was supernaturally directed to visit her in order to provide sustenance for them and himself, miraculously!  So the meaning is clear: God provided a miracle to take care of both His prophet and this poor widow and her son.

2.  As to what the story might mean to us today, there are MANY messages (that’s one of the things I love about God’s Word!), but I’ll list just a few to get us started:

  • Elijah’s obedience tells us to believe God, even if He asks us to do something that doesn’t make sense (why go to a starving widow in a foreign country to feed a prophet?)
  • The widow’s plan before Elijah arrived warns us about letting negative circumstances affect our thinking – she had given up hope and was ready to die, while God has a much better plan for all of us!
  • Elijah’s initial request shows us the importance of serving others, especially when we’re down or discouraged – it always helps to get our eyes off of ourselves and help others whose needs may be greater than our own!
  • Elijah’s message reminds us all not to fear, because fear paralyzes us from doing the very things we need to do (besides, God has not given us a spirit of fear, so debilitating fear is always from the enemy!)
  • The instructions to the widow teach the principle of tithing, as she was told to give to Elijah first, and the promise was that then her needs would be supplied.
  • We also see the principle of start where you are instead of waiting for something to change.  See Ecclesiastes 11:4 for more about that)
  • Finally, I see a lesson for all of us that after we’ve done what we can, we should expect God to do what we cannot do!

That’s 7 lessons for today that I see in the story.  How about YOU?  What other lessons do you see from reading this story?  Please share them with us below:

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful CLC’er writes, “Why does in some case when the Bible talks about someone…it often mentions who their father or mother is or was? Is there a specific reason, other than the obvious?

Great question, and one I’ve never been asked before.  I wouldn’t say that Scripture clearly answers this question, but here’s what I think:

  1. Identification – you’ve probably noticed that last names were not used in the Bible – so instead of just saying ‘Peter’ or ‘John’, when there could have been hundreds of men with that given name, the individual’s father and/or mother was mentioned to help identify about whom the verse was written.
  2. Tribal or ministry qualification – in order to function as a priest, for instance, it was necessary to descend from the lineage of Aaron.  So in some cases, the individual’s father would be named to let us know that they were legitimately qualified to serve.
  3. Historical significance – there were also rare instances where someone’s parentage would be listed in order to help us connect them with someone from the past.

Hope that helps a bit – I love questions like this, because it tells me that you are reading the Bible to understand, not just to ‘check it off your daily to-do list’!  Keep it up.  And if you don’t have a modern translation that’s easier to understand than the King James Version, try one out today.  You can find plenty of translations to choose from and also find great reading plans here. 

Join the conversation – what would you add to my answer?  Or what question would you like to ‘Ask the Pastor’?  Leave your comments below-

Ask the Pastor

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My favorite questioner writes, ” The recent death of a dear sister at CLC has renewed my questions as to why some people are healed & others are not. I can personally testify about God’s healing power & rejoice in it every day.  However, I’ve also received prayer for healing without any change in my condition.  My friends have read books written by men of God who have very successful healing ministries & they are convinced that God wants everyone to be healed & the only reason they aren’t is that there is “double-mindedness” or doubts. They feel that my body is healed but I just haven’t accepted it yet in my mind & spirit. They believe because Jesus healed everyone who came to him for healing that it isn’t God’s will that any should suffer. You have been in the charismatic movement much longer than me, so I hope you will be able to shed more light on this subject for me.” 

What a great question – and one that MANY people through the years have wondered about.  Let me give it my best shot:

1. From my study of Scripture, I also operate from a position that God is still a healer & that He WANTS to heal people today.  That is my default position and I always begin there, based on Exodus 15:26, 1Peter 2:24, Mark 16:17-18, James 5:14-15, to name a few.

2. However, I also know that God is sovereign and He sometimes doesn’t do what I think He should do.  There’s even an example of that in 2Tim. 4:20, where Paul tells us he left behind at Miletus one of his key co-workers, Trophimus, because he was sick. If anyone in the New Testament had faith for healing, surely it was the man who wrote over half of the New Testament and who by his own modest testimony was the “greatest of the apostles”!  Yet he had to leave behind one of his fellow laborers because the man was too sick to travel!  I don’t pretend to know why Paul didn’t get him healed, but he didn’t.  I also can’t imagine that Paul didn’t pray for the man to be healed – but evidently, in this case, God chose not to do so.

3. Having said that, I am not willing to negate my faith and pray the prayer that some evangelicals pray, “Lord, if it be your will, please heal so-and-so”.  To me, that’s a cop-out that really requires NO faith – it’s simply asking God to do what He already wills to do.  I don’t see any example of that in the New Testament, unless you point to Jesus in Gethsemane, and I see that as an entirely different matter.

4. So I will always assume that it is God’s will to heal those who are sick, and I will pray in faith, expecting Him to hear and answer.  But when those prayers are seemingly not answered, I will not resort to blaming someone for a ‘lack of faith’ and thus add insult to injury – because I don’t ever see Jesus blaming anyone.  In fact, Jesus healed more than one person who was unconscious at the time (even dead!) -so their faith was obviously not a factor in their healing.  I strongly recommend that no believer blame a sick person for failing to be healed, lest we become like Job’s comforters (if you recall, Job said they were ‘miserable comforters’

5. So the bottom-line for me, is that I always ask in faith for God to heal – even persistently and with great determination.  If the healing does not manifest, I search my heart to see if there’s anything I need to do differently in order to see God answer my prayer.  But I do not blame the person who needs the healing.

I hope that helps.  Perhaps other readers would weigh in for additional suggestions – feel free to join the conversation by leaving your comments below.

Ask the Pastor

Business question

A faithful CLC’er writes, “It appears to me that whenever Jesus did some healing or other miracles, he often said ‘don’t tell or say anything’, but the people still did. Is that what He wanted them to do…was that part of the plan? An example of this is in Mark 1: 40-45.”

Good question; and one that I’ve been asked before by others who read the Scriptures carefully and notice that apparent disconnect.  Here’s my best answer:

  • First, the Bible never explains why this happened, and you are correct that it happened several times (Matthew 9:30 and Matthew 17:9 being just a couple of examples).  Since the Scripture is silent about why He did this, we are left to reason it out for ourselves, and your thought is as good as any I’ve considered.
  • By that I mean, knowing human nature as He certainly did, Jesus must have known that telling people not to report what He had done would make them ‘burn’ all the more with a desire to spread the good news.  (You know how hard it is to keep a secret, right?)
  • There is at least one other possibility, though.  Several times in Scripture Jesus was concerned about timing (see Matthew 26:18; John 2:4; John 7:8).  Perhaps the clearest example of that is when a mob of people wanted to make Him a king and Jesus slipped away (see John 6:14-15because He knew it was not yet time for Him to be King; He first had to die for our sins.  Another example is in John 8:57-59, in the opposite extreme, when some people wanted to stone Him to death, but since He knew that was not the way He was supposed to die, He slipped away from them without harm.  So, putting all of that together, it’s quite possible that Jesus told people NOT to tell what He had done because He didn’t want the multitude to get ahead of God’s timing for His eventual death on the Cross.

Hope that helps!  Speaking of His death on the Cross, since today is Good Friday, aren’t you thankful for what He accomplished for us on that awful day!

If you haven’t already made other plans, I hope you’ll join us tonight at 7pm for the first of our five Easter experiences at CLC-Tinley Park!  Meanwhile, if you have anything to add to my answer, or if you have questions of your own, please join the conversation below-

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful CLC’er writes, “Pastor Jerry, I’m not understanding why the Gentiles were despised or looked at as second class citizens in the Bible. Can you explain?”

Good question!  Sometimes we take for granted that everyone knows the culture and customs of Bible times, and this question is a good reminder to never assume that.  Here’s my best explanation:

1.  Please understand that from the beginning of Creation, God has always been interested in the salvation of all of mankind.  In fact, from the Fall of man in the Garden (Genesis 3) until Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, God worked with the whole world, seeking to bring man back into relationship with Himself.

2.  Starting with Abraham, it almost seems that God changed His strategy (He didn’t really change, but from our human perspective it may seem that way) and focused His attention on one man and the nation that would descend from him – but as Genesis 12:3 makes clear, even then His plan was to reach the whole world through that one nation.

3.  So for all the rest of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, God’s focus is on the nation of Israel.  Everyone on earth who was not part of the nation of Israel was called “goyim” in Hebrew, from which we get our English word, “Gentiles” and it literally just means ‘nations’.  So ALL the nations of earth except Israel were Gentiles.

4.  Since the Jews (Israel) was different than all other nations (Gentiles) in that they worshipped the one and only true God, whereas Gentiles worshipped a multitude of false gods, and since Israel received the Torah (God’s Word given through Moses) and Gentiles did not, eventually there seems to be a feeling of superiority – as though Jews were better than Gentiles.  (I don’t think all Jews felt that way, and certainly the Bible didn’t condone such feelings – but it seems to have been a natural outcome – and led to the common idea that Gentiles were “dogs” – a term that even Jesus used in Matthew 15.)

5.  Please don’t miss this: God’s plan was ALWAYS to use the Jews to reach the Gentiles, and in Acts 10 it finally began to happen when Peter was supernaturally directed to the house of Cornelius.  The mystery that Jews and Gentiles would be members of the same body of Christ is explained more thoroughly in Ephesians 2 and 3.

Hope that helps.  Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please jump into the conversation below-

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful CLC’er writes, “Has our country become more racially divided and why? What can we do as believers do to change things?”

What great questions.  Let me tackle them, one at a time:

1.  In my opinion, our country may have become more racially divided than at any time in my memory – even though I grew up in the South among whites who used the ‘N’ word regularly.  OR it may just be that the media (television news and social media, especially) have brought it to the forefront, whereas in the past, the racism was there but not so much as a news item. Honestly, one of my biggest surprises in living in Chicago for the past 27 years has been the racial divide – I wasn’t expecting that in the nation’s third-largest city.

2.  Why the racial division?  Sin.  I know some will think that’s a preacher’s cop-out, but personally, I think that’s the true explanation.  We live in a fallen world, and the sin that produced the first murder between two brothers is still at work in hearts today, to divide brothers from each other based on the color of their skin or other such minor differences.

If you want a fuller answer, I would say that ignorance breeds suspicion and fear.  The fact that many people have no real relationships with people of another color or culture and because they have no relationship, they believe rumors or stuff they’ve heard from others and that becomes fuel for their fears.

3.  As to what believers can do to change things, I can think of a few simple things:

  • realize that we can only change society one person at a time
  • build genuine friendships with people of another culture.  Step out of your comfort zone to initiate such relationships.  Don’t let initial failure keep you from continuing to reach out. Embrace your differences!  My relationships across racial & cultural lines have enhanced my life greatly, and give me greater appreciation for God’s wisdom in creating such diversity!  Invite others to join you in building relationships across racial and cultural lines.
  • Stand with our brothers and sisters of color in righting the injustices that occur in our society.  No one should live in fear of our police or of those in authority.
  • Understand that cultural diversity is God’s plan and that He will use His multi-colored church to display to all His greatness!  (see Ephesians 3:8-11, and note that the Greek words in verse 10 specifically refer to God’s “multi-colored” church! In other words, when the world sees black and white, red and yellow, all worshiping and serving together in unity, it becomes a powerful witness of God’s power & grace!
  • Pray that God will continue to use churches like CLC to make a difference in our society.

Hope that helps.  What would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?  Please join the conversation below-

Ask the Pastor

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Again this week I had no new questions submitted (c’mon, folks – surely you have questions you want to ask), so I’m re-posting from 2011, a question that may fit since our “My 2 Cents” series and Joe Sangl’s visit to CLC last weekend:

One of my favorite CLCers wrote about the “Growing in Generosity” message from Feb. 6, and asked, “Does the Biblical principle of firstfruits/tithing mean that we should be tithing a 10th of our pre-tax income? Is there a Biblical mandate that the complete 10% tithe is to go to our local church?  Are parachurch organizations and missions, etc., a legitimate giving of our tithe?”

Great questions, especially because I know from past experience that many others are asking the same thing.  Let’s take them one at a time:

  • Since the concept of gross versus net was unknown in an agrarian culture, such as existed in Israel in Bible times, the Bible is somewhat silent on that particular issue.  I say ‘somewhat’ because it is certainly true that in addition to their tithes, the people of Israel did also pay taxes – so the principle would certainly indicate that they tithed off their gross (pre-tax) income.
  • The logical answer to that question is that our taxes are actually paying for services that we receive from our government – services like police protection, fire protection, unemployment benefits, etc., etc.  If we give 10% of our income after those taxes are paid, it would seem to me that we aren’t giving God the first-fruits, since the government received their share first.  At least that’s how I see it.
  • For sure, if one tithes off their net income, they would need to tithe on any income-tax refund, whereas if one tithes off the gross income, there is no need to tithe on the tax refund, since it’s just that – a refund – on monies that were already tithed on earlier.  Personally, I practice tithing on my gross income, and I did so before I became a pastor.
  • For the second question, I think the Scripture does give us an answer, in more than one place.  The clearest indication is found in Malachi 3:10, where various translations say, “all the tithes” or “the whole tithe” should be brought into the storehouse.  While the ‘storehouse’ is not specified there, every scholar I’ve ever read seemed to agree that the storehouse would be equivalent today to the local church where one is fed spiritually, since the purpose as stated in Malachi 3:10 is “that there is food in my house”.
  • There are other verses that indicate part of the purpose of tithing is to support the ministry (Numbers 18:21) and that failure to do so was considered ‘neglecting’ the house of God (Nehemiah 13:10-11) – so again, it would seem that a believer should give the full 10% of their income to the local church where they receive.
  • I am NOT saying that all of the tithes belong to me, as the pastor of our local church.  At CLC, we use the tithes of God’s people to support ALL of the ministry we do, from the salaries of our entire staff, to the buildings and grounds, etc.  In addition, like many missions-minded churches, we choose to tithe a full 10% of everything that we receive (undesignated gifts) to missions, since we’re convinced that God will bless a congregation that tithes outside it’s four-walls, just as He blesses an individual for giving to their local church.  So, you can be certain that one dime of every dollar you tithe to CLC actually does support para-church ministries and missions efforts that we partner with.
  • However, I don’t find any support in Scripture for the idea that we can choose where to give our tithes – dividing it between various para-church ministries or media ministries or benevolent causes that we might favor.  The tithe isn’t mine to control; it belongs to the Lord (Lev. 27:30), and He has already given instruction that it is to be brought to “the storehouse” (Mal. 3:10).
  • Let me quickly add that I do honor para-church ministries and organizations that serve the body of Christ or seek to help evangelize the lost – and they are worthy of our support.  At CLC, we partner with a number of those ministries every month.  But that support comes in the way of a free-will offering, not a part of the Lord’s tithe.  I also will honestly say that if believers around the world would truly give a tenth of their income to the local church, there would be no problem supporting all the ministries that currently exist and more besides – our problem is not a lack of money; our problem is a lack of obedience.

Sorry for such a long answer; it’s time I climb down off my soapbox now – but I hope this helped with your questions.

Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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This was another week with no questions submitted, so I’m reposting this one from 2011:

One of my favorite CLCers writes, “I am reading through Job right now and I’m stuck on job 1:8.  It’s confusing to me that God would present Job to the devil for testing. Satan didn’t bring him up and ask permission. God brought him up as being righteous, almost as if He were boasting about one of His children. Satan challenged Him and He then allowed the testing of Job to take place.

I always had this image that God allowed for trials to take place in people’s lives for their sanctification, but I never thought God would actually mention us to Satan, as in… “have u considered this servant of mine?” I’m really confused. If you could shed some light on this for me, I’d appreciate it.”

Wow……great question.  Not sure I can answer it fully, but one thing I know: it wasn’t that God ‘almost’ boasted about one of His children; like any earthly parent, He was flat-out bragging about His son!

My late pastor, F.R. Reed, used to preach a wonderful sermon he called “Consideration from the Devil”, and it was his contention that whenever a believer goes through difficult tests from the evil one, it was for this same reason: that God was so pleased/proud of us that He boasted of us to the devil.  (It was great sermon fodder, although I’m not sure of all of the theological ramifications)

Back to the question at hand – in my humble opinion, God indeed can and does ‘boast’ of us to the enemy.  However, keep in mind that He does so knowing that Satan is always limited in his response toward us, as the story of Job illustrates (1:12; 2:6) – see also 1Cor. 10:13 and Revelation 2:10.

Let me close with this thought: we are only tested when God wants to show us off, just as a good teacher who takes no pleasure when students fail their test, but instead love for students to experience the thrill from seeing how much they’ve grown/learned and how good they’re doing in school.  We can be assured that God only talks to the enemy about us when He has good things to say!

Hope that helped a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?


Ask the Pastor

 

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This week’s question has come numerous times from numerous CLC’ers over the last nine months or so: “What’s going on with the building we bought for the NWI campus?”

Great question, that can finally be answered.  As of just a few minutes ago, a judge in Hammond, Indiana ruled that the building is rightfully ours!  The judge gave the other group 10 days to vacate the property, and we can move in and begin the extensive rehab on February 22!

Praise God for EACH & EVERY CLC’er who prayed and stood with us in faith over these past nine months (seems like that’s about how long it takes a baby to be born!)  Make no mistake: this victory was birthed through your intercession as we now can possess the miracle God gave us last May!

I’m writing this from Romania, where I’m thankful both for the technology that allowed me to get the news moments after it happened in court, but most of all thankful to God for the VICTORY that this will mean for (I believe) hundreds of people who will come to know Jesus in that building in the months and years to come!

There WILL be a ton of work to do now to prepare the building for our Grand Opening, and we plan to do everything in our power to make that happen on Easter Sunday, March 27!  (In my best Bishop Jakes’ voice, “Get ready, get ready, get ready, CLC!)

nwi

Ask the Pastor

Business question

I didn’t receive any questions this week prior to leaving for our getaway in Cancun, so I’m re-posting this from 2011, in hopes that it will still speak to someone in need:

A faithful CLCer writes in response to this previous post, “Pastor, I have a situation like this, and cannot approach the person because she is unapproachable.  She stopped speaking to me because of something that I still don’t understand.  But all the damage was done by her. She told a multitude of lies and really tried to damage my reputation at work; oh, by the way, I got her the job.  I pray for myself and her, but through this post and several others I guess I might still be holding on to some unforgiveness.  My question is how do you reconcile with a person who is unapproachable?”

What a great question…..one that I suspect many readers have asked in the past or perhaps could ask even today.   Let me try to offer a little help:

First, don’t beat yourself up about this situation!  The enemy is the accuser of the brethren, so you don’t need to do his work for him by thinking negatively of yourself for not being able to reconcile this situation.

Remember (as I said in the previous post), Romans 12:18 is part of the Bible for a reason – and it begins with “IF”!  In other words, there are those situations where others just will not allow you to live with them in peace.  Obviously, I don’t know the situation that you describe – but if you are honest before God that you have done everything possible to reconcile, and the other person still refuses, then you have only 2 options that I know:

  • pray for the other individual.  As you pray, confess aloud that you forgive them for the hurt they’ve caused, and that you release them from any responsibility in the matter.  Ask God to bless them.  (In my personal experience, you may have to say those words thru gritted teeth for a while – but if you’ll continue to do so regularly, eventually your emotions will catch up to your will, and you will find that you have released them and that you truly want God to bless them.)
  • Simply let go.  By that I mean accept the fact that they are irreconcilable UNLESS God changes their heart.  Remain open to the possibility of Him doing that, but release the hurt in the meantime.

I sincerely hope this helps.  This kind of conflicts bring great pain to all of us – but God is able to be your healer, as well as the great Reconciler!

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I recently read about missing verses in the NIV and NLT translations and question if that is a violation of the warning in Revelations about adding or taking away from scripture. I wonder why they have hidden those verses? If some manuscripts include them, then why not include them in the translation instead of skipping that verse number? Do you think it is a violation of the warning in Revelation?”

Interesting question, although one that I’ve rarely been asked.  Let me state a couple of facts before giving you my answer:

1.  I am a pastor, not a scholar.  I’m sure others could give more precise and thorough answers in matters such as this, but my ‘bent’ is always toward helping people in their relationship with the Lord, more than giving them more ‘head-knowledge’.

2.  Just as importantly, I am personally convinced that God so wants everyone to be saved (1Timothy 2:4-7that He watches over His Word through the generations, to insure that anyone who wants to be saved will be able to find the truth.  In other words, I believe in his Providence with the various translations, that He would not allow someone to sincerely fall prey to missing on important truth because some scholarly translator accidentally or deliberately omitted a verse!

3. Having said that, let’s understand that we do not have any original manuscripts of the Bible.  (I might add, “thank God”, because if we did, someone would have made a shrine to it and some people would no doubt be worshiping the manuscript instead of the God who inspired the manuscript!). The versions of the Bible we have today are based on copies from these original manuscripts. We have thousands of fragments and copies of the original manuscripts (some dating before 100 A.D.) that are surviving today. The various translations of the Bible are a result of scholars using what they consider the best manuscript evidence available at the time of their translation.

As Christians, we believe that the original manuscripts are infallible.  However, because fallible man has been involved in copying or translating what God originally stated, MINOR errors have occurred (none that concern any major doctrine). The “missing” verses you ask about would fall into this category.

When the KJV Bible was translated in 1611, the scholars primarily used what is called the “Textus Receipts”, a highly regarded source at the time. However, since 1611, other, older source texts have been discovered that were not available to those KJV translators (i.e., the Codex Sinaiticus – found in the mid 1880’s). When these different sources are compared they sometimes (but rarely) disagree. Regarding the “missing” verses, nearly all of the ancient manuscripts we have today do not contain the “missing” verses. Therefore, scholars believe they were not part of the “autographa” and are removed from that version (the NIV places them in footnotes with an explanation). Some versions include them, but with a warning that “early manuscripts do not contain this verse”.

Since you’re asking me for my opinion, I do NOT believe that this is a violation of Revelation 22:18-19.  There are some cult-like branches of Christianity who teach what is often called, “KJV only” – that is, that the King James Version is the ‘true’ Word of God and the only Bible by which a person can obtain salvation.  I think such arguments are ludicrous, and remind me of the legalistic views of my past.

Instead, I believe God has preserved His Word for us!  He promised in Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23-25 and Matthew 5:18 that He would do so. The Bible is the most tested, scrutinized, proven and enduring book in history. While there may be differences in different versions of the Bible, we can rest assured that God’s word is preserved, and I have no problem in using the NLT or the NIV or even the Message paraphrase in our services at CLC – to help people today who don’t use 1600’s Elizabethan English to understand the plain truth of God’s Holy Word!

Hope that helps.  Would YOU like to join this conversation?  Please leave a comment below – or feel free to ask a question of your own:

 

Ask the Pastor

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There were no questions submitted this week, so I’m reposting a question from 2011:

This week’s question is one that I think many people are often confused about: “The Bible states that when one truly repents to the Lord and asks for forgiveness, your sins are then “cast into the sea of forgetfulness.” How is it then that we will all be judged by Jesus for our sins if the sins are cast into the sea of forgetfulness? Also, if God remembers our sins no more, why are there still sometimes consequences for what we’ve done such as with David and Bathsheba when God allowed their child to die because of that sin, even though David repented?”

Great questions.  Let’s take them one at a time, in order:

  • To my great surprise, the phrase you quoted about “the sea of forgetfulness” is NOT found in the Bible (at least in any translation I have access to).  I’ve even said it myself, so this was a real shocker – not sure how that particular phrase came to be so accepted and used by preachers!
  • Of course, the concept you’re referring to, that God forgets our sins when we repent and ask forgiveness is found throughout Scripture, and is certainly plainly spoken in Hebrews 8:12 and Hebrews 10:17.  Thanks to the blood of Jesus, when we repent, God forgives AND forgets!
  • The confusion in part arises from your idea that “we will all be judged by Jesus for our sins”.  As a believer, you will NOT be judged by Jesus for your sins!  Your sins were already judged at the Cross, and Jesus took that judgment upon Himself by giving His life in your place! (insert “Hallelujah” here). (see John 12:31-33 and 1Tim. 5:24-25, where Paul explains that some people send their sins ahead to judgment [by confessing], while others follow along behind them [if unconfessed, our sins will condemn us at the final judgment].
  • Let me explain that a little further: as believers, our sins are already judged – we were found guilty, but Jesus took place and served our sentence of death at the Cross, so that we can be forgiven and free!  The judgment where WE will appear is called the “Judgment Seat of Christ” (see Romans 14:10; 2Cor. 5:10).  This is NOT the same as the “Great White Throne Judgement” seen in Revelation 20:11-15.  Instead, the judgment seat of Christ is the word “bema” in Greek, which refers to the platform in the Olympic games where the winners stand to receive their medals!  So the purpose of our judgment as believers is for the administration of rewards for the work we did here on earth, as shown in 1Cor. 3:10-15(The Bible speaks of various rewards, or ‘crowns’ that we can receive for our efforts in the Kingdom of God).  That’s a HUGE difference than being judged for our sins!
  • Now, your final question about consequences for our sins is a whole different topic.  Please keep in mind everything above in regards to judgment for our sins, because it’s all true in Scripture.  But consequences falls into a different category that we know as “sowing & reaping”.  Just because God forgives your sin does not mean that there are no consequences for your sin.  For example, if one of your children borrows your car and wrecks it, you would certainly forgive them for the accident, even if it was caused by them texting while driving or drinking alcohol, or whatever.  But the fact that you forgive them doesn’t change the fact that the accident caused damage – perhaps to your car, to another vehicle, or to someone’s property.  And that damage will have to be repaired, not because you’re judging them for borrowing your car, but because it’s a consequence of their actions.  Put another way, a believer could fall into the sin of adultery and then repent and get forgiveness from the Lord.  But if their adultery caused a pregnancy and a child to be born, there would obviously be consequences of their sin that they might have to deal with for a lifetime – even though God forgave them the moment they asked.

Great questions!  Hope the answers helped a bit.  Now, what would YOU like to ask the Pastor?

Why is my HARVEST delayed?

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I’m still living in the afterglow of our First Love Conference (best-ever, hand-down!), but as always, Sunday’s a-coming, and we’re in the middle of the ‘Harvest’ series that I believe is God’s theme for CLC this year.

That’s why I’m so excited about teaching this Sunday the single-most-asked-question I ever get from people – ‘Pastor, why is my harvest delayed?’ (Actually, they usually say stuff like, ‘I’m tithing, but it’s not working for me’, OR ‘I’ve prayed and prayed, but I’m not getting an answer’ OR ‘I’ve tried doing what the Bible said, but I’m not seeing any results’)

We’ll address all of those questions THIS Sunday and also share the passage of Scripture that jumped off the page at me in our prayer room one day to inspire this entire series.  Don’t dare miss this.  And if you know someone who’s ever asked those type of questions, invite them to join you this Sunday at any CLC campus -it’s gonna be good!

Ask the Pastor

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Today’s question came from the 11-year old daughter of one of my favorite CLC’ers: “When we die, when are we judged? Is it soon after death or at the second coming of Christ?”

Great question for someone of any age, let alone a child – and one that I’m sure many people reading this want to know as well.  Here’s my answer:

I think it all depends.

By that, I mean it depends on whether you are a born-again believer, or if you are someone who has not trusted Jesus to be their Lord and Savior.

In my understanding of Scripture, a born-again believer who dies is immediately with the Lord.  I base that on Paul’s comments in 2Corinthians 5:1-8 (especially vv. 6 and 8) and Philippians 1:21-23.

In fact, as I understand Scripture, the only judgment that true believers will experience is what some refer to as the “Bema” of Christ (bema is the Greek word for the winners platform in the Olympic games), or, more commonly, “The Judgment Seat of Christ” (see Romans 14:10 or 2Corinthians 5:10).  This judgement is not about sending someone to heaven or hell.  Our eternal destination was already determined when we truly trusted Jesus for our salvation and the Scripture clearly says we ‘have’ (present-tense) eternal life.

Instead, the Judgement Seat of Christ is for the administration of rewards.  The ‘Bema’ in Bible times was the platform where the judges would lead the winners of Olympic-type games to be crowned.  (Think of the award ceremony for gold, silver & bronze medalists today).  So when believers are judged, it’s actually for the purpose of distributing rewards we can receive for the way we served Christ here on earth before we died.  I think Scripture lists about 6 or 7 different ‘crowns’ that we can receive for our reward.

But for unbelievers, it’s a much different story.  While there is some debate on this, I tend to believe that all unbelievers at death go to a place of rest, to await their final judgment.  Then, in the end, after the Second Coming of Christ, they will stand before God at the Great White Throne judgment before being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15)

I hope that helps.  Would you like to join the conversation?  Please leave your comments or questions below and l look to next Friday’s “Ask the Pastor”.

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers who now lives in Atlanta (once a CLC’er; always a CLC’er!) writes, “What did Jesus mean when he said in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is sacred”?

That’s a great question about a puzzling passage of Scripture.  The best answer I can give you is I don’t know.

I’m not being flippant; I searched the commentaries and read what scholars have written about that verse and nothing that I read made a great deal of sense in terms of this verse having a valid application to us today.  I do suspect that Jesus’ hearers knew exactly what He meant – but let me give you just a few possibilities:

  • Dogs in Bible times were definitely not the lovable house pets that so many of us enjoy today.  They were unclean in Scripture (Exodus 22:31; Leviticus 11:26-27) and were known as wild animals who were always searching for food.  I know Jesus is NOT teaching that some people don’t deserve the hear the Gospel, because that would violate the whole of Scripture (2Peter 3:9, for just one example)
  • One possibility mentioned by the scholars is that we should not rebuke those who strongly oppose the Gospel, since such rebuke would only harden their hearts further and enrage them like a wild dog.  In other words, we want to give them every possible chance to respond to the Gospel later, so don’t rebuke their unbelief now.

This is, for me at least, one of those verses in Scripture that I simply do not know the full meaning and application of, but I do know how it is misapplied – I’ve heard self-righteous Christians use this verse to justify their harsh treatment of others, or to criticize people who didn’t agree with them.  I think if we read the context of the verse, it’s obvious that’s NOT what Jesus had in mind (Matthew 7:1-5).

I’m afraid that’s the best I can do today.  Have YOU read or heard an explanation of the verse that makes good sense and fits the whole of Scripture?  If so, please share it with us below-

If you have a question you would like to Ask the Pastor, please leave it below as well-

Ask the Pastor

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I love this week’s question from one of our KidsLife boys.  His mom writes: “I was reading devotional with the kids last night and we read Genesis 1:26 and it began “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us…” Andy my 11 year old said, “Mom, why did God say “us” if He is the only creator?”

Tell your son how great it is that he noticed that!  It shows that he’s reading/listening carefully, which is important for all of us when we approach God’s Word.  Now let me try to answer his question:

  • Probably the simplest answer (although I must admit, it’s not my personal view) is that the Trinity (The Father, Son and Holy Spirit) were speaking together, so the plural pronoun was used.
  • (In case you’re wondering, the reason I don’t take that view, in part, is because the Hebrew word ‘Elohim’ which is translated “God” in that verse and many others in the  Old Testament, is always used with singular verbs – and the clear understanding of the Jews is that their God is one (see Deuteronomy 6:4)
  • I personally think this is a case of the “Majestic plural” (often called the ‘royal we’).  You’ve probably heard some important person say, We are glad to be here”, even though only one person was speaking.
  • The good news is that each one of us is truly made in God’s image – and because of what Jesus did on the Cross for us, we can become more and more like Him!

I’m SO glad for children like this young man who receive God’s Word with careful attention and a curious mind!  How about you?  Do YOU have a question for me?  Please join the conversation by leaving your comments or questions below-

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “There are references in scripture to Jesus’ brothers and sisters and James who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem is identified as Jesus’ brother. If that is the case, why do you think Jesus would ask from the cross for John to look after his mother, Mary, instead of one of his siblings? We also know Peter was married (Jesus healed his mother-in-law from a fever), but I haven’t seen any reference to Peter’s wife in scripture. Are there any theories about what happened to her?”

Both great questions!  Since Scripture doesn’t answer either directly, I’ll give you my speculation (which is worth about as much as yours):

  1. After reading John 19:26, I think it’s likely he chose John because he was Jesus’ closest follower.  It’s pretty clear from the Gospel that bears his name that John, even in humility, recognized that he was the closest follower of the inner 3 of Peter, James and John. (see John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20) Couldn’t that be reason enough for him to be chosen to care for Mary?
  2. The only Biblical reference to Peter’s wife (other than the healing of her mother that you cited is 1Corinthians 9:5.  I checked some of the scholars and the only thing I found is that one of the Church Fathers, Clement of Alexander (150-215 A.D.) reported that as they led Peter away to be crucified, he encouraged his wife by saying, “Remember, dear one, the Lord”.  If that account is true, it would indicate that she outlived Peter, but I couldn’t find any references to her beyond that.

Hope that helps.  If any of my readers can add to this conversation, please do – why do you think Jesus chose John over one of Mary’s own children?  Leave your comment below-

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

 

 

Ask the Pastor

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No one asked a question for me this week, so I’m using one of my own: Who are the featured guest speakers at our annual First Love Conference in 2016?

So glad you asked – take a look here:

I hope you’ll mark your calendar now for January 16-18, 2016!

 

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful CLC worshipper writes, “I’ve read the story about the Pool of Bethesda in John 5 many times but it caused me to wonder, how did the man who was healed get to the pool? The Bible says he didn’t have anyone there with him so did he stay there day and night? The waters could have been stirred at anytime so I could believe someone would stay and never leave hoping for healing. Or did family bring him everyday so he could eat, sleep in his own bed and be cared for?

Interesting questions, all.  I can see that you really gave the passage some thought, which is great for us to do when we read Scripture.  Let’s take your questions one at a time:

1.  The Bible doesn’t say how he got to the pool, so we can only speculate that his friends or family must have brought him there.

2.  Verses 3-4 indicate that the waters were stirred “at a certain time” when an angel visited the pool.  We don’t know if that was annually or monthly or sporadically.  If you read from a modern translation, that part of the story is omitted because it does not appear in some of the ancient manuscripts.  (Personally, I believe it should be part of the story and was probably left out only because some scribes found it hard to believe and chose to omit).  I agree with you that it’s entirely possible he stayed there day and night.

3.  We simply don’t know if his family brought him each day so he could rest at home – so it’s possible, but not certain.

Boy, I wasn’t much help on this one, was I – because the Bible simply doesn’t give us those details.  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with family & friends, anyway-

Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

 

Ask the Pastor

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Another week went by with NO questions…..which has me questioning:

  • does that mean I’ve done such a great job of answering questions that you don’t have any more questions?
  • OR could it mean that I’ve done such a poor job of answering questions that you don’t see the need to ask any other questions?
  • OR does it just mean that you’re too busy to write a question in the comment section below?

I’m here for you, every Friday, so let me hear from you….

Meanwhile, don’t forget that THIS SUNDAY is the close of our “Choose Life” series, and, as usual, we’ve saved the best for last!  Join us at any CLC campus for the finale-

Don’t forget – leave YOUR question(s) in the comment section below:

 

Ask the Pastor

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No one submitted a question for me this week, so I’m re-posting from November of 2011, in hopes this Q & A is still relevant for someone reading today:

A faithful CLCer writes, “My friend and I just discovered the pagan roots of the celebration we call Christmas and were thinking about not celebrating it the conventional way and time. But by doing that are we acting as those under the law or are we just being responsible for what we now know?”

Interesting question.  Let me begin by applauding your sincerity in wanting to please the Lord fully, as evidenced by your willingness to go against peer pressure and all of our culture in order to not do something that might be displeasing to the Lord – I wish every believer were so motivated! (It also fulfills 2Cor 5:9 and 1Thess. 4:1)

As to whether you are being legalistic or responsible, I’m not sure I could answer that, since only you would know your true motive.

However, in my humble opinion (since you asked me), I think you may be starting down a slippery slope IF your motivation is to avoid the ‘pagan roots’ of Christmas.  I say that because virtually everything has some pagan roots – (including our calendar & the days of the week!) and 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.

My personal practice with my own family (and my suggestion to you) is that you observe the holiday according to your belief’s; i.e., just because someone somewhere at sometime in the past observed Christmas in a certain way doesn’t have to dictate to me how I celebrate.  For instance, I understand that colored eggs and marshmellow bunnies don’t have anything to do with the Resurrection of Jesus, but as long as I know the meaning of the holiday and celebrate His Resurrection (actually, every day!), then I don’t see the harm of allowing my children or grandchildren to enjoy the festivities — and I do know that some well-meaning Christians have ‘scarred’ their children by requiring them not to participate in similar activities, causing the children to feel they were missing out and making them feel isolated among their classmates, sometimes even to the point of ridicule, etc.

That’s my opinion.  Pastor Mark Beeson has this great post on his blog about observing Halloween, which may have some similar principles to what I’ve stated here.  The only Scripture that comes to mind that might have some bearing on this whole issue is Romans 14, so I’d encourage you to read it carefully to see all the principles involved.

Hope that helps.  Let’s keep the conversation going: what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor? Please leave a question or comment below-

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful CLC’er writes, I’ve struggled with these bible verses especially in the AMP version; Matt 7:7-8. My struggle is with the ‘ask and keep on asking part’ especially. Do we really have to ask over and over for the same thing? Doesn’t that mean you don’t believe that God has heard your prayer? Or that you don’t trust that if the answer is No, then He knows best concerning the matter/request? Doesn’t it become a bit like manipulation where you keep asking because you’re hoping the answer will change to what you want it to be if the answer is No? And if the answer is ‘Yes, but not right now’, and you keep on asking, isn’t that just….. pestering? For instance: The church in Senegal that prayed for a keyboard, and God spoke to you in America concerning going to Senegal about the same time they made the initial request. (you shared this in a post a few months ago) Years later they get the keyboard from you. If they had not kept praying, would it really have made a difference to what God had already responded to?”

Phew!  Excellent questions – and it’s a topic that many believers wonder about. Let’s tackle all six questions, one at a time:

  1. There is no question that Jesus did teach the value of persistence in prayer in this passage. The Greek verb form used here (in the King James Version it always ends in “eth”) definitely refers to a continuing action; asking again and again as opposed to asking only one time.
  1. Having said that, let me add that perhaps a ‘key’ to each of your questions has to do with the absence of a ‘word’ from the Lord regarding your request. In other words, IF the Lord speaks to your heart in prayer that (a) He has already heard your request and the answer is on the way, or (b) He has heard your request but the answer is ‘no’ and that He doesn’t want you to pray for it anymore, then of course, you should quit asking – and praise Him for His answer.
  • But in the absence of that kind of direction from the Lord, I do not believe your           continued seeking is an indication of a lack of trust at all. The parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18) also sheds light on this question – and it’s not (as some believers have supposed) that God is compared to an unjust judge who needed to be pestered into answering the widow’s request; it’s that God is contrasted with the unjust judge – God doesn’t require our continual begging! However, often times we need to be persistent, because it’s our desire that wanes. (I’ve prayed about some things in the past and a day or two later forgotten that I even asked for them – so fickle can we be as humans. I think God wants to give us those things that are truly our heart’s desire!) Persistence is one way we can prevail over our own lethargy and mediocrity in prayer! 
  1. I don’t think a repeated request indicates we don’t trust that God knows best, because we have the example of the greatest of the apostles, who sought the Lord three times for his ‘thorn in the flesh’ to be removed and God said ‘no’ – finally telling Paul that “my grace is sufficient” (2Cor.12:7-10).
  1. I don’t think that’s manipulation because we’re not in a position to manipulate God, since He does all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11) and He won’t be intimidated or manipulated by any man!
  1. It wouldn’t be pestering if you didn’t already hear God’s ‘yes’ in your heart – but it certainly sounds like childlike faith that keeps asking for God to do what we need.
  1. As to the Senegal example, I have no way of knowing whether their prayer would have prompted Him to speak to me in a dream had they not continued seeking – after all, He knows the end from the beginning! (Isa. 46:10)

Bottom-line?  Let’s pray in faith & expectation, and persist in prayer until God tells us to stop asking or that the answer is on the way!

Hope this helped a bit.  Perhaps YOU have additional insight on this question about prayer – if so, please join the conversation below-

Meanwhile, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite CLC’ers writes, “I’ve meant to ask this for ages – 1Cor. 11:7-10 – context, please?”

Oh, my.  You have stumbled upon a passage that was a major part of the legalism in which I grew up.  My former denomination used that passage (actually verses 5-16 of that chapter) to reach that women should not cut their hair, ever!  And most of those churches taught it as a salvation issue: if a woman cut her hair, she would be considered unsaved.

So, when I began making the transition from the legalism of my original faith family and into the ‘non-denominational world’ of which CLC is a part, that passage of Scripture was difficult for me.  My heart knew that it couldn’t really mean what I had been taught all those years, but my head couldn’t explain what those verses do mean.  It’s one of the reasons that my personal transition was not an overnight decision, but actually took several years.

I’m still not sure that I know exactly what Paul tried to teach the Corinthians in those verses, but I’ll give it my best shot:

1.  This is the ONLY passage in Scripture that deals with this subject, so I’m inclined to believe that it primarily dealt with a local issue in Corinth in that period of time (as opposed to a principle or problem that applies to all believers everywhere today.)

2.  The clear issue is that of authority; the application has to do with a veil or head-covering or one’s hair.  

3.  In Paul’s words, because man was created first, then the woman, a man should not cover his head since he was made in God’s image.  But a woman, who came from man (referring to Eve being made from Adam’s rib)should wear a covering to show that she is under a man’s authority.  I’m not sure exactly how this is to be interpreted for our day, since veils or hats or hair length do not carry any connotation regarding authority in our society.

This may be where some folks have insisted that young men should not wear a cap or hat in church.  I don’t teach that at CLC because I don’t believe that’s an application for today.

4.  When Paul mentions in verse 10 that women must show that they’re under authority “because the angels are watching”, I think he’s referring to the fact that heaven recognizes order, and that the angels are always in submission to God.  If Christian women were to disregard or rebel against the authority over them, they would become bad examples to any angels who observe that behavior.  In my understanding, it’s really not just about women; it applies to all of us as believers – that we must remain “under authority” lest we tempt or discourage heavenly angels from likewise being submitted to God – or worse yet, attract attention from fallen angels who would interpret that favorably, since they also rebelled against God’s authority over them. (see Matt. 8:8-10 for an example of the benefit of being ‘under authority’)

I hope that helps a bit, although this is two weeks in a row that the question was better than my answer, I’m afraid!  Perhaps YOU would like to join the conversation and give us your understanding of this passage – if so, please leave a comment below.

Or, if YOU have a question for Ask the Pastor, please leave it below-

Ask the Pastor

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My favorite CLC ‘questioner’ writes, “Even Christians sometimes question why God allows bad things to happen to good people. I have come to terms with that over the years, but when I turned to the 20th chapter of Leviticus a few days ago, for the first time in my life I had trouble even reading a passage from the Bible. God didn’t just allow bad things to happen to sinners, He ordered that sexual sinners be put to death in a very cruel manner. I have a problem reconciling that with the God I love and serve today.”

Great question.  Hard question.  You’re certainly not alone in struggling with those aspects of the Old Testament in contrast with the love & grace of the New Testament, and I’ll admit it can be difficult to reconcile.  But let me try anyway:

1.  God was determined that HIS people live differently than the heathen nations around them, and by expressing His abhorrence and recommended public punishment, He was certainly giving the Jewish people a strong deterrent to sexual sins.

If you want to know how wicked those heathen nations near Israel were, from my research I learned that in 1930 archeologists discovered the Ras Shamra religious epic literature from Ugarit in North Syria. Thousands of clay tablets stored in what seems to be a library between two great Canaanite temples dating from the fourteenth or fifteenth century B.C. give a full description of the Canaanite religion.  Much of what was unearthed in this library would be “X-rated” even by today’s standards.

Besides that, Leviticus 18 gives details of many of the sinful religious practices of the Canaanites, which included child sacrifice to the god Molech, incest, bestiality, homosexuality and cultic prostitution.  The bottom-line is that these Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, which no doubt justifies God’s instruction to destroy their followers, and harshly judging the Jewish people whenever they adopted those pagan sins because of the danger they represented to corrupting God’s chosen people, Israel.

2.  Whereas the problem today with capital punishment is the difficulty in our society of making a righteous judgment (consider how many innocent people have been condemned to die) – keep in mind that the One who is altogether righteous, the Holy One of Israel is completely qualified to judge – so He is not being morally unjust to take human life as He sees fit.

3.  Most importantly, we must never forget that God’s judgment is always tempered with His mercy, as demonstrated when God pronounced judgment on the very first sin in this world, that He did not do so until He first promised mankind that a Redeemer would come (Genesis 3:15), AND, when Jesus did come, He took the curse of all our sins upon Himself; indeed He became a curse for us, in purchasing our salvation (Galatians 3:13-14)

know that explanation doesn’t remove all our difficulty with the passages you cite, but I hope it helped some.  Perhaps YOU would like to join the conversation by leaving your comments below-

Meanwhile, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor?

Ask the Pastor

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One of our CLC leaders writes, “Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur just passed. Are we supposed to honor the feasts? Are there any other Jewish practices that we should honor? If so, do we do them, or why don’t we do them at CLC?”

Great questions, especially because SO many believers are largely unaware of our Jewish heritage.  Let me tackle your 4 questions, one at a time:

1.  I would say, “NO”, if by “supposed to” you mean “required to” in Scripture.  I don’t see any New Testament teaching or example that would indicate that Christians are required or expected to observe Jewish feasts.  However, I would also say that I don’t see any teaching or example in the New Testament that would forbid us to do so.  To the contrary, I find the Apostle Paul continuing to observe Jewish feasts and customs even after he came to faith in Christ (1Cor. 16:8, Acts 18:18, Acts 21:24)

2.  As to whether we can honor other Jewish practices, I would say ‘YES, if we clearly understand that we are no longer under any obligation to the Old Testament laws, but we  choose to celebrate the fact that Jesus fulfilled those practices.  There are 7 major feasts in the OT calendar, besides other practices that I think could legitimately be observed – again, providing we understand that we are doing so as a choice, not an obligation.

For example, I would say that ALL of us could benefit from the weekly observance of a Sabbath – it’s a healthy way to live!

3.  There are no Jewish festivals that we currently observe at CLC, primarily for the reason stated above.  We have on several occasions scheduled a seder meal during the Easter season, and it is a wonderful experience to look back at all the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled and were foreshadowed in the annual meal observed by Jewish families.

This is a much larger subject than I have time to cover in this post, but I’ll close by saying that our heritage in the Old Testament observances of Israel is incredibly rich, and most Christians simply don’t know the beauty of what Jesus has done for us, in light of those Old Testament practices.  Feel free to dig deep and study for yourself!

I hope that helps.  Perhaps you would like to join this conversation by leaving your thoughts about Jewish festivals below.  Or, maybe YOU have a question that you’d like to Ask the Pastor?  Please leave it in the comments below, or on the Facebook post-

Ask the Pastor

 

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For the first time in several weeks, no one submitted a question for me to answer today.  So I’m reposting this from January, 2011:  A CLC member writes, “Is there such thing as a ghost?” I asked this question because my son is away at school and he mentioned to me that they have ghosts in his dorm. He said that certain items flew off their shelf; they hear someone screaming in the room and someone is running down the hall late at night. I told him that he must be dreaming and there is no such thing as a ghost, except the Holy Ghost. He told me that he sleeps with his Bible every night next to his bed.”

Good answer, mom – both about the existence of ghosts with a little ‘g’, and the Ghost with a capital ‘G’!

To be more specific, there is nothing in Scripture that would indicate the existence of ghosts, at least in the normal definition of that word. Instead, the Bible teaches that at death, our spirit returns to God to who gave it (Ecc. 12:6-7), while our soul goes to what the Jews called “Abraham’s bosom”, to await the resurrection. (Since the Resurrection of Christ, now the righteous dead are taken immediately into the Presence of the Lord, while the wicked still must await their final punishment – see Luke 16:22-23, 2Cor 5:4-8, and Phil. 1:20-25)

As to the ‘manifestations’ that your son is reporting from his dorm, while I can say without hesitation that they are not caused by ghosts, I’m not saying that he and his dorm mates are imagining things. It is quite possible that there are natural explanations for the things they’re seeing and hearing. It’s also quite possible that there are supernatural explanations; i.e., demonic activity that is causing your son to be frightened. Demons are real, and they can and do manifest here on earth.

Regardless, sleeping with his Bible isn’t really the answer – having Jesus in his heart is!

As believers, we have authority over ALL the power of the enemy – and that includes frightening demonic manifestations – see Luke 10:19-20.

Hope that helps (your son, especially).

Would you like to join the conversation by adding your comments below?  Or do YOU have a question for the Pastor?  Please share with us below-

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful young CLC’er writes, I was reading in Matthew 6:22-23 in the Amplified (Classic Edition) it talks about the eye being ‘sound’. The wording doesn’t make sense to me. Could you give some clarification as to what the author was trying to communicate?”

I’d be glad to try.  The Classic Edition of the Amplified is the only translation I found that uses the word, ‘sound’ in those verses, so I think perhaps the simplest way to get a handle on the meaning is to compare it with other English translations:

ESV, NIV – “healthy”

HCSB, NLT, NKJV – “good”

KJV – “single”

TLB – “pure”

MEV, AMP – “clear” (AMP adds [‘spiritually perceptive’])

So I think Jesus is saying that, since our eye is the primary gateway into our lives, if what we take in is healthy and good, then our entire being benefits.  But if we take in information or pictures, etc. that are NOT healthy or good for us, our entire being is affected negatively.

To me, it’s an echo of Proverbs 4:23.

I especially like how the ERV puts it, “Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.”  

(Sounds like Solomon knew about Crashing the Chatterbox before Steven Furtick wrote the book!)

Hope that helps.  Would you like to join the conversation by adding your thoughts below?  Or perhaps YOU have a question you’d like to Ask the Pastor.  Please do so now-

 

Ask the Pastor

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One of my favorite new CLC’ers writes, “First, I read Romans 1:6 and then a few days later as I began to read Crash the Chatterbox, Jeremiah 1:4-5 also seemed to point toward  predestination, which is not my understanding of Scripture.  Can you explain?”

Great question, especially since I’m sure many other readers have similar thoughts.  Here are a few of mine on that subject:

  • First, let me point out that the doctrines of predestination versus free will have been debated by born-again believers for hundreds of years, so I’m not likely to settle the issue in this blog post! 😉  In fact, this whole discussion is part of the larger debate between CalvinismArminianism, if you care to read or learn more about those distinctives.
  • Personally (and keep in mind that I am a pastor, not a theologian – there’s a big difference!), it’s my opinion that, like many other debates among Christians, there are Scriptures that support both views, which explains why there is a debate in the first place.  I think we are predestined to have a free will, if that makes sense.
  • In other words, free will and God’s sovereignty (another way of describing predestination), are not opposites, but run parallel with each other. For example, imagine that you are a slave on a ship.  You are chained to the deck, and it is predetermined that you row for the captain of the ship. You have no choice but to be chained to this ship. This is like God’s sovereignty. But even so, you have free will, because you are free to row or not to row. (Of course, if you do not row, you choose to receive beatings by the quartermaster, but if you row, you choose not to be beaten.)Predestination does not diminish man’s freewill. God never twists anyone’s arm into heaven. Sometimes we confuse predestination with God’s foreknowledge. He alone knows what we will do. God knew that I would be saved in Jonesboro, AR in 1965, but it was still my choice to believe on Him for salvation.
  • As to the specific question about Romans 1:6, yes, all of us who are believers have been chosen by God, because we answered His call to salvation. The very fact that you are reading this may be an indication that He is or has called you for salvation. You have free will to either reject Him or to accept His saving grace. Either way, He knew it, He planned it, He purposed it, He desired it, and He predestined the very thing that you are now reading!
  • As to Jeremiah 1:4-5, the same principle applies.  I believe I could say that before I was even born, God had chosen me to be a minister of the Gospel.  But I’m just as confident that I had the free will to either accept or reject His call.  (I’m SO thankful that I accepted that call in 1968, even though I had no idea what I was getting into!)

I hope this helped a bit.  My prayer is that those of you reading this could come today to the Savior and not reject the free give of His grace that is found only in Jesus Christ. You are free to choose it or you are free to reject it. The point is that the will of God will be done either way.

Please leave a comment about today’s post, or ask YOUR question for me below-

Ask the Pastor

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A faithful, young CLC’er writes, “I’ve been studying 1 Kings 13 – the story of the old and young prophets. I don’t understand why there wasn’t a consequence for the old prophet’s lie that costs the young prophet his life. Could you share your thoughts on this?”

Great question, and one that I’m surprised no one has asked me before, because it’s certainly one of the strangest stories in the Bible.  Let’s reason together:

  • For those not familiar with the story, a young prophet gave an amazingly specific prophecy which came to pass almost as soon as the words left his mouth, and he also experienced a miraculous answer to prayer almost immediately thereafter.
  • When the king saw all of this, he offered the young prophet a gift if he would visit the palace and share a meal – but the young prophet quickly refused, because God had ordered him not to eat or drink anything while on his mission.
  • Then an old prophet heard about all of this, and went to intercept the young prophet on his way home.  When they met on the road, the old prophet lied and told the young man that “an angel told me to bring you home to eat and drink with me”.
  • When the young prophet accepted this instruction (and disobeyed what God had told him earlier), during their meal together the old prophet prophesied that because of the young prophet’s disobedience, he would not die peacefully.  Sure enough, after leaving the old prophet’s house, the young prophet was attacked by a lion and killed. (I told you it was strange!)

Now, to answer your question as to why there was “no consequence” to the prophet who lied, I would simply say, we don’t know that.  Just because the Bible narrative doesn’t mention any judgment or consequence to the lying prophet doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any.  In fact, we know that lying is a sin, as it’s not only mentioned in the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:16), but it’s also listed with other sins that will not enter heaven  (Revelation 21:8) – so I’m pretty sure the old prophet didn’t escape unscathed by God’s judgment eventually.  According to Ecclesiastes 8:1, the fact that God doesn’t always bring judgment quickly, causes some people to mistake his mercy and sin all the more.  In reality, 2Peter 3:9 shows us that God delays judgment because He wants all people to be saved, and He’s giving us more time to repent!

I realize your question was not about the young prophet, but I’ll venture on regardless – it would seem to me that he was judged because he put the word of man (the older prophet) above the word of God that had been spoken directly to him earlier.  It always comes down to obedience, doesn’t it – as the old timer’s used to sing, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!”

Hope that helps a bit.  Would you like to join the conversation, with some additional thoughts or a question of your own?  Please leave your comment below-

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-

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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

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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?

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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?


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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?

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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?

Ask the Pastor

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?

Ask the Pastor

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-

Ask the Pastor

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?